Thursday, April 30, 2009

I've Been Busy...

I'm well on the way to completion of my latest work, MC. Those are the title's intials only. I thought I'd be a tease. :) For anyone wondering, no, it does not have anything to do with Peter Pan. At least not in a direct sense. Oh sure, there's magic and a boy adventurer in the book, but then, I write Urban Fantasy. Archetypal elements such as those are bound to show up.

As I've mentioned before, this particular novel is extra heavy on the research required. It's been a blast. And a pain in the ass. All in all, though, I enjoy that aspect of the writing process. This time around I've learned a great deal about this wonderful world of ours. But there's still quite a stack of 'looking up' to do to finish.

I'd say I'm just over three-quarters done. And something surprises me. I've also mentioned a penchant for verbosity before. Well, Peter Pan's NeverWorld not included, MC will be my shortest novel to date. I'm surprised, for it seems it should be larger because it's taking so much time to write it. Yet I am pleased. It's good to know I'm not always excessive. Not that I had such a fear. But knowing that I am indeed able to relate a story in no more than it requires to be told is quite satisfying.

And I must say this book is quite satisfying. The rest left to be written will be a joy, especially since I just got you know what out of the way... oh, you don't know. But there are also some bits I don't know... and I can't wait to find out.
There are just as many notes, Majesty, neither more nor less, as are required.
- Mozart, Amadeus Peter Shaffer

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Get "Cross" with Me...

You might recall my April Fool joke: Peter Pan vs. Tom Sawyer. I’ve been thinking more about it. No, not terribly much. And especially, no, I don’t mean as a viable project. Just in general. It would be be quite the pairing, good for a lark. I then recalled my other match-up for Peter Pan: Mary Poppins. Also a crazy-cool meeting of characters. Again, not to be written in actuality. Just the playful entertainment value. So, naturally, I began to wonder who else might be intriguing to befriend (or pit against) Pan. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get further than one other idea before writing this post.

Quite frankly, he just may be the most logical pairing. One of my absolute favorites: Jim Hawkins of Treasure Island. Why logical? Besides the quite obvious reasons that Hawkins loves adventure and has had more than his share of a run-in with pirates, there’s the fact that the books are already purposely connected. (Via Barbecue and Hook.)

I’d love to see Jim and Peter battling pirates together. But I also don’t think I would ever try to manifest it beyond internal amusement. For one thing, it just seems “wrong.” For another, it doesn't actually work out. Peter Pan lives forever whereas Jim Hawkins does not. Even if their match-up adventure were placed immediately after the end of Treasure Island, it seems to me that the timeline is off. (In terms of what stage of development Peter would be experiencing then.) But it IS fun to think about!

Next I wondered about this very subject - “crossovers.” It happens in the comic world quite often. Another set that springs to mind: television shows. I think as with much, I am on the fence. It depends, of course, on the merits and execution.

How do you feel about the crossover of tales/characters?

And -- just for fun -- anyone else you’d like to see Peter Pan run into?

(Don’t worry, it won’t show up in anything I write in earnest!)

Addendum: Reading through my "Pan vs. Poppins" post again, how could I have forgotten THIS match-up? I might want to see that one more than Hawkins. Even better - Peter Pan and Jim Hawkins teaming up against the character in the picture!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bloody Smashing Performance, eh what?

Quite a bit I’ve seen the fact that Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan in the 2003 film) is not British called into question. The objection being that Peter Pan is British, of course. Some are turned off that he therefore did not have an accent. Which is, really, the actual argument. Sumpter could have inflected as such in the movie. By the same token, I have seen just as many have nary a qualm with it. I thought I’d put in my two cents on this issue.

In my review of Hogan’s movie, I made it clear how much I enjoyed Sumpter’s performance. He’s Pan, no question. So… did the lack of British accent bother me?

Let’s consider Peter’s history. Yes, born in the United Kingdom. So it stands to reason that he would speak with an accent. However, he did not stay very long in his house. The actual duration depends on which version of Barrie’s works. (I’ll save the details for another post. Suffice to say that Peter stayed no more than a week in his house.) We know for a fact that he heard his parents talking. Their conversation launches Peter into the adventure of a lifetime. But would he adopt the accent in so short a time? Possibly, but not likely. For when next seen, Peter is speaking with birds (as he had not forgotten the bird language.) Soon after he speaks with fairies as well. Who are we to assume fairies have a British accent? (Surely, fairy accents [if these exist] could be indigenous around the world as they are with humans.) I cannot say for sure, of course. But I’m inclined to believe the fairies would not want to associate themselves with such human silliness and complication. Thus, I’d imagine if they have an accent at all, it would be their own.

Peter Pan had little interaction with other humans before arriving in the Neverland. One Maimie Mannering, namely. But he does not spend much time with her, either. So again, it’s doubtful he would pick up the inflections.

The Lost Boys, well, they might have British accents. But by the time Peter Pan had become captain of a band of boys, he would already have a manner of speaking. He might pick up some from them. However, it's just as likely that they would lose their accents. Either by forgetting or emulating Peter Pan, who would be their model.

Some of the pirates in the Neverland would have British accents, surely.
Yet the pirates had different accents as well.

So, the eternal boy would not have any real model for how to inflect his speech.

And there you have it. I don’t think Peter Pan would have a British accent.

And if anyone still has the idea that the actor picked for Pan should have been a native of the United Kingdom, I say this: I support the widespread search for an unknown. And given the unnecessary accent and the performance captured on film, it makes little difference. I mean after all, Peter started off being played by the opposite gender.

Bravo to P.J. Hogan on this issue.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life Imitates Art, again.

Sometimes Life throws you a mix of random events that turn out to be seemingly orchestrated. This past evening I experiened this phenomenon again. I'll try and keep it organized as I explain. It's chart-worthy.

Earlier in the day, I 'texted' our friend Banky, to see if he wanted to do the proverbial "something" later that night. He wrote back that sure, that would be fun. Clara would also be coming by... and they had planned on playing Scrabble and watching Bill Maher. Banky rather enjoys Maher and turned us on to him. (I liked him previously, but Bart and I don't have HBO so we don't see his show. Thus, it's a good excuse to hang out at Banky's.) Well, Bart isn't fond of Scrabble but knew he'd have fun just being there, so... we headed on over later.

Clara, to clarify, is a sheer delight of a woman who is Banky's 'lady friend.' We'd met her before and instantly took a shine to her, wondering where she's been all our life. When we first met her, she told of us her various theatre gigs. She mentioned a famous theatre here in Chicago. Our friend Dragonfly worked as a public relations and fund raiser manager there at one time. Yes, Clara met him, loved him. (It's hard not to love Dragonfly.) Small world.

About to get a little bigger.
Clara phoned and said she'd be bringing a friend. Banky had never met this guy, but he's very fun loving and happy to meet new people. (Thank goodness, or else he'd not be in our life. A conversation struck up on the El* when he rode with Bart one evening. We've been getting together ever since.) Okay, so eventually Clara arrives with Cowboy. [Note: This psuedonym is not based on his attire.] Before she came over with him, she apparently had asked him if he knew Bart and Peter. Nope. Didn't ring a bell. So, we met in the usual way, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries.

We never made it to Scrabble, but a decanter of wine (Banky's first use of it) flowed copiously. Not so very long into the night, we discovered Cowboy also knows Dragonfly. Clara knows who he is and has seen him around, so to speak. But Cowboy hangs out with him. We'd not known about Cowboy (or so we thought) but it's not surprising, for Dragonfly has a plethora of people he partakes of, as he is a social Dragonfly, both personally and professionally. Okay, so Cowboy mentioned that he's the one who accompanied Dragonfly to the So You Think You Can Dance! Tour. Neither Bart nor I are fans of that show (not not fans, just never watched it) and it seemed like something to tease him about. He must have mentioned Cowboy. But he certainly mentioned Bart and me to Cowboy, as now that bell rang. "You're that Bart and Peter?!" Yep.

I couldn't help but wonder about this group of people. Suppose, for instance, that Bart had not met Banky on the train. We then wouldn't know Clara. Nor Cowboy. But wait. Obviously, Dragonfly could have navigated his friendship to introduce me and Bart to Cowboy. But Cowboy knew Clara from college. Thus, we could have met her through him, and if Clara's meeting of Banky remained intact, it could have been Bart and me going to a stranger's house and meeting Banky for the first time. In other words, would 'Great Spirit' have stacked the cards so that this group of individuals would have met in this configuration no matter what? It's almost Dickensian.

We had plenty of fun that evening. Banky's a musician, so he treated us to some guitar playing which prompted some singing along. But not campfire stuff... more like "Pork and Beans" by Weezer (yes, again), some Phish, Tenacious D and The Cranberries. Reminded me a bit of my freshmyn year of college. And such spontaneous crazy behavior seemed just what the doctor ordered. We also had some references back to topics that had been brought up during the course of the day for Bart and me, but we were not the ones who instigated talking about them during our soiree. You know..."coincidences."

Much later in the evening (or morning, depending on your perception) Cowboy took his leave. Clara, Bart, Banky and I chatted away, then...bumfcht. The power went out. Banky seemed eeriely cool with it, in a refreshing sort of way. He just lit a few more candles and we continued along. (He'd said it happened once before, to the whole block and it seemed like this had been another case of that as the whole building had shut off.) The fun continued, a little more mellow and thrilling in the darker room. (We had also been diving into the "virtues" of YouTube earlier, so it also proved a nice change from the previous activity. Suddenly you couldn't look up "just one more thing...")

So there we sat, talking, playing a game akin to Mad Libs but far more creative and wacky. Banky and a friend back home invented it. At one point, nature called for Bart so he traversed down the hall by bringing a candle with him. He returned and asked Banky where he got the candle. From one of his clients, it seemed. He elaborated. A bit of a sad story: The client lost a daughter in an untimely death and the candles and other items had been part of a collection on a website to raise awareness or money, or some such goal...Banky couldn't remember for sure and did not get all of the details. He did, however, know the name of the "organization." [We'll call it Amanda's Wish] Bart's red flag waved! I didn't remember it, but apparently Amanda's Wish had a large function recently, which, yes, Dragonfly had handled all the arrangements for at his current job. Another unexpected and strange connection for the night. But what makes this funnier...

Dragonfly "hates" Banky. Note the quotes. Actually, Dragonfly has never met Banky. But Dragonfly adores being ornery, in the most delightful ways. Suddenly you and he are "in a fight" because you like, say, cucumbers over tomatoes. He's not serious, of course, but his delivery provides entertainment value. Dragonfly is a very quick wit, quite fond of pushing the envelope. Trust me, you'd want his shenanigans to occur. Dragonfly, Tall Boy, Bart and I had planned to see a movie, but it took a while before our schedules matched. By then, Banky had expressed an interest. So I texted Dragonfly and said Banky might come. (Just days before, Dragonfly, in an imaginary huff, inquired about "this Banky" Bart and I had been talking about. The sparks of the "hatred" for hanging out with "this guy" so much.) Well, Dragonfly did not take kindly to Banky trying to barge into the scene...and hoped that he didn't get into an unfortunate accident on the way to the restaurant. [Turns out Banky could not make it, but didn't mind us going without him.] So...when it's revealed that the two of them are separated only by this woman's campaign to help the ill, it's almost too much. Especially since Bart related that Dragonfly worked very hard on the project and it began to wear on him. Another reason to hate Banky? Nah... For the record, the two of them will meet for the first time, today. For it's Lage's anniversary of her birth. The Earth has gone around three decades since she's been on it, and we're celebrating with a big party.

Looking back through it again, it all seems fictional. Almost like someone wrote it up. The connections, the random events... concocted. But by whom? Well, whomever it is, I'm enjoying this chapter very much.

* The Elevator Train

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No, That's Not Right.

I’ve been thinking how upsetting it would be if the popular perception of one of my characters turned out different from the actual presentation.

For instance, thanks to the musical and Disney, many think Peter Pan wears tights, has a little triangular cap with a feather and pointy ears. None of those are true.

And I could be wrong, but don’t the movies of the famous boy wizard change how he normally dresses at school? He’s not always in formal school clothes (when at school/on campus) in the books, right?

Jeepers. I certainly hope nobody puts an altering spin on my creations that whirls into accepted, but erroneous, “facts.” I know Jeremy Strache would be QUITE distraught over it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Samuel Clemens... we hardly knew ye?

Love the wit and down-to-earth magic of Mark Twain? Wish he had more for you to read?
He does.
HarperStudio just released Who Is Mark Twain?, a collection of 24 “new” writings by the master American storyteller. Yes, work never before read by the general public.

I’m quite likely to go obtain a copy myself. Why not very likely? It’s kind of creepy, isn’t it?
Putting myself in Twain’s place, would I really want the scrawling I have lying around published posthumously? Not that there is anything to hide… but just on principle, if I didn’t bring it to the light of day, then should it be seen at all?

And then, of course, where would I be without rummaging through what Sir J.M. Barrie left behind? Who is Mark Twain? could be considered a bit different, since they are completed pieces and not just notes.

So, I’m on the fence once again.

You can find out everything at Harper Studio’s site, Who Is Mark Twain? It includes a fun video of sketches being drawn to illustrate one of Twain’s “new” pieces and it’s narrated by John Lithgow. You’ll also find quotes about Twain from other writers. Clicking on “more” next to Twain pointing will take you to Twainia, where even more fun stuff awaits, including a link to a contest:

There is one incomplete piece in the book. HarperStudio is looking for someone to finish Conversations with Satan. I just might try my hand at it. After all, it’s not like I don’t have practice in the sincerest form of flattery.


ENJOY.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Say What?


Someone asked me if the last episode of Heroes: Fugitives airs tonight. I said no, it’s the penultimate.* (Simultaneously exciting and sad.) Naturally, my mind went on to the word ultimate. I next heard “The ultimate episode of Heroes.” My next thought - the return of a pet peeve of mine. Before I say specifically what the peeve is, know that I am also guilty. For it’s difficult to avoid.

All too often, a word like "ultimate" is not used correctly. “The Ultimate in Fine Dining!” Uh, no, it is not the final meal nor even the very last restaurant that you will ever come across. But it’s said anyway, trying to convey how terrific the meals taste. Uh, no, the meals are not terrific. They do not fill one with terror. Furthermore, how did terrific come to mean good? I suppose I can see it… a sudden jolt of startling goodness. Maybe?

I’ve touched on this idea before, both here and here.


Take notice of what words you and others use and when. What are we actually saying?

*One of my favorite words, and also one which people tend to use erroneously.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Myth Take?

I've gone off about remakes before, but here is yet another I want to comment on... don't worry, I'm not going to bend your ear - yet. I'll save that for when I actually see the film.

When I first heard they planned on a remake of Clash of the Titans, my usual question popped up: WHY? Okay, truthfully, I would like to see the miracles of current Hollywood take a stab at this mythological movie. But that's just it... why THIS one? I couldn't fathom remaking the same story over again just beefed up. As we all know, stories abound in mythology. There are stories and backstories within each, too. So why taint the first film by simply doing it again? Let's also not forget it's the last film Ray Harryhausen worked on and I've talked about how much I admire his work. So why tinker with a marvel? It has been pointed out to me that "name recognition" is part of the 'game' but then, it also seems like cheating. If you don't believe your myth movie will attract attention and stand on its own merit, then don't even try. You know?

Well, it's been a couple of years since I first heard of plans to remake the moive. A lot has happened - to change my mind.

First of all, someone must have heard me grumbling. For as of now, this Clash will not be a straight remake. It's not just the same story over again, as they are in fact using other bits of myth. Already the characters of Io, Hades and even Theseus have been cast. None of them were in the first film. And how cool to have Theseus (my favorite.) Perseus is the only hero seen in original. So...okay, two heroes? Buddy pic? Could be. No real story details have emerged. But with both heroes, other gods and characters... won't that be a lot to fit into a movie?

Which brings me to point two. As with many films these days, an epic fantasy franchise is expected to appear. They are reportedly already writing a set of movies, interwining the adventures of mythology. Sign me up!

Let's hope it takes a place on the shelf of the greats.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Notes" for a Book

Back in this post I explained how I found a song long after writing which fits just about perfectly with the character Michael Pan, from Peter Pan's NeverWorld. I didn't base him on the song at all. It's just hindsight.

Well, it seems that I might be influenced by songs more than I realize. They have a tendency to rattle around in my head and leak into my story ideas.

I'd been three-quarters through with What If It's a Trick Question? when I noticed how freakishly the song "Mad World" (originally by Tears for Fears and a grand version also exists by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews) fit with Jeremy's plight. Did my subconscious interweave it into the plot? It might have. But I can assure you it had not been intentional. I did, however, pay homage to the freakishly fabulous find by inserting some of the lyrics into the text. Very recently, I found another tune that sounds quite like what Jeremy would say and think, "Pork and Beans" by Weezer. Granted, Jeremy doesn't normally listen to such 'contemporary' music, so he might not know about it. But I feel pretty confident that he'd like it over other current hits.

I'd been well into MC (initials of the title of the book I'm currently working on) upon discovering that "Nature Boy" miraculously describes scenarios in the story. So much so that ZJ, the main character, now sings along, coming to the same conclusion of connectivity himself. (His portable media player had already been established.)

I wonder what else my subconscious is developing out of the musical depths...
I'll just have to take note...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More from the Files of "What on EARTH??"


Okay.

This one...

Nope, I can't explain it.

(My only thought is Peter Pan's motherhood obsession.
But it's such a stretch, why bother?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From the files of "What on EARTH??"

It’s amazing what can be found stuck in the annals of the Internet.
There’s a Legoland in Windsor, Berkshire in England. It has many subdivisions of fun: Imagination Centre, Miniland, Duplo Land, LEGO City, Land of the Vikings, Kingdom of the Pharaohs, Wild Woods, Knights' Kingdom, Adventure Land.

But there’s also a bit of fun they once presented which doesn’t quite fit in the way that LEGO blocks should. Check out this description of a stage show:

Peter Pan’s Christmas Adventure
Performed in the Imagination Theatre, this was an adaptation of the story of Peter Pan, in which Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee try to prevent Peter and Wendy from reaching the North Pole to meet Father Christmas. The show included a number of musical pieces, a lot of wire work, and a number of theatrical effects including snow.


The truly scary part? It’s not inconceivable as having happened.
It’s entirely possible that during her stay in the Neverland Wendy told Peter about the mysterious, wonderful and magical Father Christmas. Knowing Pan, he’d have to see the Holiday Head Honcho for himself and set out right away. Captain Hook would likely follow, but I’m curious as to why he’d just bring Smee along. Hook knows Smee is not the brightest bulb in a string of Holiday lights and would probably want some other help. (Perhaps it’s to cut back on the amount of actors needed?) I say “likely” because it’s not a foregone conclusion that he would chase after them. After all, he doesn’t follow Peter Pan to the mainland normally. Maybe seeing the boy fly off with Wendy intrigued him enough to enter a longboat? Furthermore, why would it just be Wendy who goes? I’d imagine she would want at least her brothers (if not all the Lost Boys) to see the North Pole and Father Christmas. Then again, it’s very like Peter to forbid it. Or else it’s the less actor factor again? I suppose I won’t ever know without having seen it. But then again, I’m not sure I’d want to.

I certainly hope it entertained the youngsters (and maybe even some adults.)

(I suspect the "Peter Pan" picture is actually a Robin Hood figure - note the little pouch.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Most Successful Character of All Time?

Even though you'd think I would pick Peter Pan for this honor, I believe the most successful character of all time is the creation of a contemporary of Barrie: A.A. Milne. That's right, Winnie-the-Pooh. He's ubiquitous and people love him. Translated into every so many languages (including Latin), he's known worldwide. Not that other characters aren't, but I think you'll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like Pooh. (Whereas I know people who are turned off by say, Mickey Mouse.) And truthfully, "Classic Pooh" or "Disney Pooh" are equally endearing.


And who can forget the marvelous The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
If you haven't read it, you're missing out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Random House Seeks Kids' Peter Pan Artwork!

I wish I could enter this one!

If you’ve got artistic youngsters at home aged 7 to 12 , you might want to have them break out the paper, supplies and turn on their thinking cap.

Random House wants a kid’s drawing to grace the cover of their latest printing of Peter Pan.

There’s plenty of time to enter, the contest started March 30th but runs through July 24, 2009. But don’t let your chance go out the window!

The link that will start you naviagting to more info is here.

Have fun!

* The picture used here is artwork by Jen Singh. I found it surfing one day and loved it. No, she's not a child of 7 through 12, but her style is appropriately child-like. (Meant as a high compliment.) Find out more about her here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Don't Be Afraid of the Trash

Perhaps when people think of writers, they imagine cloistered individuals amid stacks of paper clacking away constantly on a keyboard. Maybe even an “old school” typewriter. Not entirely accurate, but then, maybe not so far from the truth.

But there are times when there’s very little click of keys at all. Instead, it’s a pondering of what’s to come. Such as the past few days. I’ve been re-reading and revising the last chapter over and over again. [Not the final chapter, the last one I have written.] Each time it’s that much better, but I’ve also been reading it in conjunction with the rest of my notes, skimming through my Malleable Outline, seeing what I need to fit in and how it plays out.

Well, sometimes, that includes not including. What I mean is, weeding out what will no longer be necessary. Yes, it happens. Not everything one conceives makes it into the book. It’s possible that ideas just don’t factor in anymore, for any number of reasons, such as other events rendering them useless or the realization that it’s becomes akin to stuffing 2 pounds of baloney in a 1 pound package. The trick is knowing what to eliminate and when. I consider this editing a bit different from overall revisions, as in most cases, it alters the storyline before completion of the novel. And that’s precisely the case here.

In my revisionist musings I discovered that a whole sequence of events is totally not needed. And you know what? It’s quite a relief! I can’t say I looked forward to concocting that part of the tale. Not because it didn’t interest me, but because it’s a load of research I don’t need to do. I don’t shy away from research. It’s part of the fun. But this book has been quite demanding in that department, so any rest from it is welcomed. And no, it’s not laziness that eliminated the line of story, that’s just a fringe benefit. I’ve retooled the outline and can achieve a less convoluted but just as engaging rest of the novel without it. Plus, it means I can finish the book sooner, too. I’m guessing I’m three-quarters done.

So don’t be afraid to trash ideas. Just because they showed up among the building materials of the work doesn’t mean they’re not spare parts. I do save them, though. Sometimes they’ll fit into another narrative, maybe a sequel. But this novel, MC (initials of title), is a stand alone book to the best of my knowledge. And I prefer it that way…meaning I hope the characters don’t inform me I’m wrong. It’s happened before. Twice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Willy Wonky

I had been avoiding the latest film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For a number of reasons: Frankly, I did not like what I saw in the previews. I'm on the fence regarding Tim Burton. The Gene Wilder Wonka lives in my heart.

Regarding the previews, I felt the visuals tried too hard to be outlandish. (Not that Wonka isn’t outlandish.) To me it seemed as if they felt they HAD to be different from the previous movie, to the point of nausea. There's a difference between exotic and outlandish. As for Burton, I greatly admire his work. But on more than one occasion, I needed more from elements of the story. Half-baked, I find myself saying. The attention to details seems to go to the wrong places – with delightful results, to be sure. Like many, Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka for me. It's kind of hard to live without “Pure Imagination.”

Thus, I chose not to watch it. I didn’t see the need to taint my memories of it with a crazy-cool-slick version. Rather recently, however, I learned that Burton had never seen the Mel Stuart masterpiece. Jeepers! Having been so influenced by the film myself, I found it hard to imagine. What would Dahl’s masterpiece look like to someone who had never seen Wilder's factory? Given this light, I changed my mind. Besides, I had heard that Burton stuck closer to the book and that meant the wonderful nut-shelling squirrel room would be in it. (And I do so love Johnny Depp in general.)

So, I watched.
At this point I will admit that I had made the sin of seeing the Stuart/Wilder movie before reading Roald Dahl’s novel. Dahl, however, also wrote the screenplay to the film. He wanted to fix a few aspects of it, to give it a little more plot and drama. The full character Slugworth, for instance, is not in the book. I prefer Dahl’s movie script. Although the golden egg geese are a marvelous substitution, I do so love the squirrels!

And Burton’s presentation of them – just as marvelous. On the whole, I found much to enjoy in this film. And bravo for sticking so close to the book. But true to form, I found a quite a bit that left me sour.

In general, I did like the production design. It might be more correct to say that, based on having just the text to go from, I did not hate it as I thought I might. As usual, I’d prefer a happy medium ground between it and the original film.


Opening with the (typically Burton) movement through the factory and showing the placement of the Golden Tickets – couldn’t love this enough. Although I liked seeing the rise of Wonka, so to speak, I prefer to not see Wonka himself in any capacity until they go to the factory. True, the prince’s chocolate palace and such are in the book as told by Grandpa Joe, but somehow Wonka is best shrouded in mystery. After all, Charlie cannot see Wonka but in his imagination. The “upgrade” for Mike Teavee to video games is understandable, arguably a necessary commentary, as it combines his guns and television obsessions. Let’s face it: Charlie finding the Golden Ticket and running home is ever so much more powerful and uplifting in the original. Otherwise, for the most part, the sequences up until the factory are quite amusing. Now the factory… well, that’s where it started to melt. (I had to.)

The song performed by the singing puppetronics is deliciously annoying and invasive in the good sense and in fact a charming way to present Wonka in a tricky fashion. However, like the Charlie running home scene, it’s tough to beat the impact of Wilder’s impromptu* falling down. Besides, the effect had also been negated by having already seen Wonka, as I stated earlier. The Oompa Loompas, I’m sorry, just did not work for me. The clone aspect – even though it must have taken a good deal of work, it seemed like a cop-out. No mention of them being identical is made in the book (and they are supposed to have long hair.) To be fair, Stuart’s are alike and do not have long hair, but something about the friendly-creepiness of Stuart’s cannot be beat. Burton’s Oompa Loompas are a bad Broadway show and blackout cannot come soon enough. Showing us the Loompaland scene from the book turned out to be a treat, but not a savory one. Every so often the factory teetered on the edge of that over-outlandishness I had feared. But teetered, it never fell over before the next delight came along.

The Great Glass Elevator – possibly the best part of the movie. YES.

Willy Wonka. Where do I begin? At the beginning, I suppose, which is precisely what I disliked the most. Giving a back story to Willy? I’m sorry, it’s not only presumptuous and unnecessary, but tedious. His precious patriarchally oppressive non-candy childhood. Really? I don’t know about you, but for me Willy Wonka just is in the world. He’s an enigma. He could be a god, for all we know. I’m not saying he is, just pointing out that he embodies a magical, otherworldly quality. Knowing where such a power originates is just no fun. Especially not something as dull as a plain donut. [They did this for the Grinch in the live action film as well. Contradicting other Seuss writings about the Grinch, I might add.] I veto the boo-hoo past. It also disrupts the flow of the film.

Johnny Depp is amazing and can do anything. And (as always) he’s quite good at convincing me he’s not just Depp in another role. Bravo. But I’m afraid I cannot fully applaud the portrayal of Willy Wonka. Yes, I prefer Wilder. But not entirely for that reason alone. Incorporating the back story that I so object to, we receive a Wonka who is self-tortured, a Wonka trying to fill a void, an insecure and socially awkward man. Being reclusive might account for the awkwardness, but this combination of traits doesn’t add up to the self-assured Wonka I’ve come to know through film and book. When Wilder (or book) Wonka shuts up a question with a quip, it flows as smooth as churning chocolate, with nonchalance. Grand confusing made simple. Depp’s Wonka is agitated and snaps back like a kid insulted on the playground. But the common denominator among Wonkas, it would seem, is exuberance. Curiously, both versions left out his goatee. (As did the cartoon Wonka for the candy franchise.)

I didn’t find it necessary to show us the altered children at the end. But I’d not remembered that this scene is also in the book. Perhaps Burton’s jarred me more because their transfigurations could actually be seen. Or more likely, it’s because in the book, Dahl has Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe commenting on how the other children have been changed, whereas Burton does not. Dahl's has substance over shock.

I must again commend it on the overall accuracy to the novel. Bravo. (But that "bravo" does not include the haircut scene at the end, either.) The twist of Charlie’s acceptance worked well enough, even if it does mix in with Wonka's sluggish daddy issues. But again, I must compare it to the returning of the Gobstopper in the original film. Stuart wins…for after all, that twist from the book came from Dahl himself.



So that’s what I think. A valiant attempt, and quite successful at times. Overall, it lacked the richness and flavor of the original movie…and while it did have the texture of the Dahl book, it didn’t have quite the same “smell” as one. I think too many nuts went into this batch.

I’ll have you know that while writing this review, I had to go out and get a chocolate bar.




*Gene Wilder came up with the idea of Wonka falling down and somersaulting, so that from the first moment his trustworthiness is called into question. (And, oh, how well it works!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pan Inspires Me YET AGAIN...

Thumbing through the play of Peter Pan, a little bit of it leapt out at me. Truthfully I am not as familiar with the play as the novel (as I worked with Pan in that medium) so some of the minor details go out of my head from time to time, much like Pan’s own memory skills. Thus, when perusing, sometimes it’s a big adventure all over again.

The bit that “leapt out” hit the part of me which writes. Suddenly a little trickle of story cried out to be written. Sorry, I’m going to keep which part inspired me a secret, but the passage shows up near the beginning. But I will tell you what it inspired.

I had a vision of the “mother” in Peter Pan’s NeverWorld, Amy Alexis Richards. I explored the possibility of her exploring the possibility of the eternal boy. From my novel, we know that she’s a firm believer in Pan and is quite versed in stories about him. But when did she first hear of the Boy Who Never Grew Up? There had to have been a moment when she encountered the “legend.” Fortunately, Barrie provided the answer. (If I had a moment in mind while writing the book, this new idea supersedes it.)

And so, at some point (although I cannot say when) I will be writing a companion piece to NeverWorld, based around Amy, delving further into her backstory and giving us a richer understanding of her character other than her becoming the latest acquisition to playful motherhood of the Lost Boys. I do not expect it to be novel length. Nor do I envision a short story. Besides what I have said in this post, it seems like a shorter piece cannot do justice to the unfolding events in my head. By the same token, a feature-length seems like overkill for the idea. A novella, perhaps?

My current plans are for it to be an online-only text, one that can be accessed for free. The story will (or should) be able to be read with or without having read Peter Pan’s NeverWorld, enriching the text either way.

I’ll update, of course.

In the meantime, when did YOU first hear of Peter Pan?
And aren’t you curious how it happened for Ms. Richards?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

21st Century Storytelling 2.0

Another inventive narrative form which could only have been done in these modern times has the added benefit of being a rather crafty parody/homage, too.

Tomas Nilsson created this video for a school assignment. It's a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood through the lens of the music video for "Remind Me" by Röyksopp. I did not know of the song or the music video prior to viewing Mr. Nilsson's project. I believe this might have helped entrance me - the freshness of the method used to convey a story. Even parodying the idea of "details." Naturally, viewing the Röyksopp song's video brought a whole new appreciation. Mr. Nilsson found a different but similar song (a feat not so easy in and of itself, I would imagine) and flawlessly recreates the style to his own ends. Bravo.

A few words on Röyksopp's song and video: Their tune stuck in my head. Bravo. The video reminded me of the film Koyaanisqatsi. Quite well done.

I'll leave it up to you which one you want to experience first. [As if I could have really stopped you from making your own choice anyway. :) ] Enjoy.

"Remind Me" - Röyksopp

All of the YouTube links I could find said 'Embedding disabled by request' so I will just give you a link here.

Little Red Riding Hood - Tomas Nilsson


21st Century Storytelling 1.0

Saturday, April 4, 2009

SuperSILLYous Censorship

On Senator Wafflepoop's (yes, really, but keep reading) LiveJournal site, an incident of censorship is described. In short, a nine year old boy's science project had not been allowed to go on display because adminstrators did not like the results of his study. Specifically the part where he said that what he really learned from this project was that some people don't want to be called boys or girls, and that those people need an "other" option. The post goes on to explain how many people are fascinated by the survey and that you can have a different gender identification and still be considered and counted and included. It seems the boy had been very understanding, ready to roll with the idea, accepting. The "worry" is that his good-natured, loving and freeing mentality is being squashed by the narrow-minded. You can read the whole post here.

Besides wanting to applaud and boo as necessary, one aspect of this "story" intrigued me. It prompted this posting. The lad also found those that classify themselves as 'other' tend to prefer blue to green. Why did that strike me? Here, have a look:

[Fairies:] the mauve ones are boys and the white ones are girls, and the blue ones are just little sillies who are not sure what they are.

- Peter and Wendy, Sir J.M. Barrie


It's almost as if Barrie had been a prophet. Or else he really knew about fairies and androgyny. I'm not really supporting either of those statements. Just being silly.

As for referring to the 'others' as sillies, I do not construe any offense in that word at all.

Consider my thoughts on silly in this post. Take note of Meyers saying that society oppresses "silly" and Dr. Seuss's notion that there has to be another way of looking at the world.

Friday, April 3, 2009

21st Century Storytelling 1.0

My cyber travels led me to an inventive new form of storytelling. And I mean 'form' literally. It's the brainchild of David Nygren, and it's a novexcel. An Excel spreadsheet novel. Yes, a story told using one column for the action, another for dialogue and separate columns for each character's thoughts.

He created a short story (at least so far) called Under the Table.

It's rather clever. And it's not just the novelty [pun noted]. It works rather well. I found myself quickly adapting to the lateral narrative. You can read about its origins and also find the link to download it here.

Word of warning, however. Under the Table is about relationships and is rather explicit, as well as contains foul language.

21st Century Storytelling 2.0

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Peter Pan vs. Another Scholar

I've begun reading the latest entry into analytics of Peter Pan - Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination by Allison Kavey (Author, Editor), Les Friedman (Editor).

That is to say I've just begun it, not even out of the Introduction yet. So far it has delighted me with the way it handles the issues. I think Sunshine just might appreciate this passage:

Wendy always made me faintly ill with her prim manners and fondness for darning socks.

Despite the fact that is she the only genuinely nice character in the entire story, I can say nothing but nasty things about Wendy. She tries not to be selfish, she takes care of other people, she has emotional range. But she trades so much for so little, and that ultimately makes me both sad and angry.


Yet I have also been quite annoyed with it. First, the title. Star? Really? (See the explanation in this post.) In its defense, yes, it does specifically state "in the Popular Imagination." Well, that might justify the use of it. But then, she goes on to have actual facts wrong. Such as [twice] dating P.J. Hogan's movie as 2001. She lists the Wendy-daughter-line as Wendy, Jane, Moira. It makes it a bit difficult to take it seriously when accuracy is just not there.



I've had it in my possession since its February release, but I have not been in an academia mood when it came to reading. But since I've finished my book of short stories, I thought I'd give it a go.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The New Novel!


Well, folks, you know that novel I've been working on...
Yes! I'm tackling another tempered boy hero, but this time - from American culture!
What happens when the craftiest kid this side of the Mississippi
done hears of a way to ne'er grows up?
BULLY! It's one powerful adventure!
Coming Soon!