Thursday, November 17, 2011

Countdown Part 4: The Book

View my outline for this "countdown" here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Aren't you so proud of me? In between reading Paradise Lost, Moll Flanders, Ken Brosky's Grendel (which is positively depressing), The Jungle Books, Mrs. Dalloway, and some James Joyce, I still managed to read the first half of Breaking Dawn. That is, I read Books One and Two and the first chapter of Book Three; this is what I expect the first movie will cover. (I'm going to finish the rest, but this was all I could get through before the movie.)

Now I have the daunting task of deciding what I think the movie must include. The thing is, as a whole, Breaking Dawn isn't really my favorite book--Twilight probably is. So I know that the movie must give proper attention to the wedding and the honeymoon, etc., but those aren't exactly things I'm looking forward to seeing in, er, so much detail. (Things like feathers make me glad I'm planning to see the movie alone the first time--that'll give me a chance to get over my embarrassment. These books are just so personal . . . which is what I like about them, but that complicates things when you bring the plot onscreen. To me, at least.) So Part 1 should include these two things, plus the pregnancy, the wolf-pack politics, and the birth scene. Interesting.

But let me get into themes here. One of the entertaining things about Book Two is the friendship that slowly develops between Edward and Jacob; that needs to be in the movie because it sets things up for Book Three/Part 2. This is very vague-sounding, but we also need to understand everyone's perspectives to what is happening. By this point, three books have established who the couple dozen main characters are: now we see application of their different natures. Bella keeps Renesmee because of her ability to make strong attachments. Edward doesn't want to do the same at first because he is too caught up in his worry about Bella. Rosalie helps Bella because she still mourns what she lost with her own life. Sam calls for the attack on the Cullens because his foremost priority is protecting his people. Seth joins Jacob because he has developed a friendship with the Cullens (which the last movie didn't get a chance to show). Leah joins Jacob to be free from Sam. It goes on, going into more detail. My point is that the plot of this book in particular seems very dependent on the individual perspectives of these groups of characters: understanding them is crucial to understanding the plot properly.

The books also draw connections between characters who belong to different groups. Alice is something like Jessica and also like Jane. Carlisle and Sam share similarities. Emmett and Felix. Rosalie and Leah. Emily and Esme. Some of these, especially Rosalie and Leah, come in most in Breaking Dawn. They help us understand the characters as individuals and also to move toward the final book moment when everyone is able to draw together on one side, realizing that their differences aren't so very great.

Some concerns I have about the movie are, of course, about how it will deal with the "mind" thing. More than any of the previous books, Breaking Dawn includes many conversations that take place either half or fully in the mind. You can present a little of this onscreen very simply with voiceover, but too much voiceover would be weird; unless they found a different way to convey it, I can't see that the movie will be able to keep these conversations quite the same. And that would take away from the tone a bit, I think.

Now a note on the Part 1/Part 2 thing. I think it's slightly awkward to split up a book like this. But I guess I should just be glad there's a market to do this for this book; the only other books that usually get a similar treatment are the classics BBC makes into miniseries. Indeed, my favorite version of Jane Eyre is in two parts, each a full movie length; yet I always watch both together as one movie. I felt there was some incongruity with the first of all these Part 1/Part 2 movies floating around right now: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Hillywood Show did a good job of expressing this in their parody. Part 1 was done well, but didn't really have the moments most people were looking forward to. Part 2 did, but it ended up being almost a whole movie devoted to a finale. That's great when you're a fan, but it gets hard to watch and rewatch. Will Breaking Dawn be similar? In Part 1, will we just be looking forward to Bella waking up to her new life, to our favorites from the piles of characters that will come in Part 2, to seeing the Volturi in action again? In Part 2, will we just get to see the events leading up to the final confrontation?

Even as I write these things, I begin to feel that the splitting won't be much of a problem. The book is already divided into three parts, with a more distinct division at the halfway point. It reminds me of The Lord of the Rings: with all this movie-splitting that's going on, I love to think about how there could have easily been six of those movies instead of three given enough time, money, and energy to do so. Because Breaking Dawn, as I think I mentioned before, is something like the sequel to the trilogy of the first three books; it is separate in its plot and its themes. Even whether or not it was necessary to make two movies out of it, it should work.

These are very random thoughts. I don't think I even addressed very specifically what the movie should include. But sometimes it's better to be more vague, isn't it? If I say, for instance, that I really want the quote on page 284 to be in the movie, I'll just be setting myself up for disappointment. You can't get your way with all the details, so you have to remember what is most important.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Countdown Part 3: The Parodies

View my outline for this "countdown" here, Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

I've mentioned how much I like The Hillywood Show. If you don't believe me, here is a picture of the corner where my desk is:

Yes, above my shelves of textbooks and notebooks, to the left of my stickie notes of Latin grammar leftover from the last two years, and to the right of my calendar (yes, it says October: this picture was taken a month ago) are three autographed Hillywood Show pictures and an autographed prop (Ron's sling from their Harry Potter Friday Parody). I just love to support them.

The focus of this post is on their three Twilight parodies. Though each one is around ten minutes long, I like it when I can take the time to watch all three in one sitting. This was a big time for The Hillywood Show: Twilight Parody was the first of their videos to reach a million hits. This was also the time that they made major headway in makeup, costumes, and locations (not that these weren't always good: they just got even better). I remember all the excitement waiting for New Moon Parody: it was as much as for the movie itself, some people even said they were more excited for the parody than the movie. By the time Eclipse Parody came (along with a helpful new HD camera), their work truly (if anyone had any doubts before) moved into the realm of professional (what does professional even mean?).

Does any of that story sound familiar? Isn't that a lot like what happened with the movies? Catherine Hardwicke liked the story of Twilight and made sure it got made and was as good as she could make it; this ultimately led to the indie movie's mainstream attention. New Moon, then, had a great deal of hype set up around it--and a more reasonable budget to work with. For Eclipse, people began to forget that these ever were supposed to be small movies.

But there is more than that. When The Hillywood Show parodies, they really get into the tone of the movie and what makes it what it is. So while there are already significant stylistic differences between the Twilight parodies and the Harry Potter or Vampire Dairies videos, the three individual ones are also unique. Twilight Parody is light-hearted and fun, relying on blue and white colors. New Moon Parody is rather pretty: you notice such things as cinematography and warm colors. Eclipse Parody is sleek, with flawless hair and makeup, going a little edgier. These all reflect the movies on which they are based.

There are even unconscious, probably coincidental things. Twilight Parody has something almost impromptu in its feel that matches the movie. New Moon Parody has potential pacing issues: it's the longest of the three and can start to drag slightly three fourths or so in; similarly, I think the movie does have pacing issues, including some rough cuts between scenes. And while Eclipse Parody is, well, sleek, it doesn't feel like it offers much we haven't seem before (I'm thinking about how MTV called this video a little predictable, as compared to New Moon Parody, which they praised highly). So very interesting!

But let me say it again: I love The Hillywood Show. I love that I found out about them through Twilight. I love their work, and I love their style.

Now the only thing left in my countdown is to read Breaking Dawn again. I'm disappointed I haven't been able to start it yet. But somehow I shall find the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Countdown Part 2: The Soundtracks

View my outline for this "countdown" here and Part 1 here.

I have really enjoyed what the Twilight movies have done with their soundtracks. The first one allowed me a way to get back into the mood of the movie while I waited for the DVD--it's impossible to listen to a song like "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," for instance, without picturing the scene it's featured in. Now, I know that listening to a movie score can do the same sort of thing, but it's different to listen to a score than a soundtrack. When you listen to a score, you are hearing point per point (or note per note, as the base may be) what you hear when you watch the movie. That helps to picture the movie, but I think it can also ultimately take away from the affect the score has on you when you actually are watching the movie. You start to get used to the music, so to speak, and it no longer can so powerfully set the tone of the scene. But with the songs on the soundtrack, you never hear the whole song in the movie; the only time you may hear the whole thing will be in the credits. So if you listen to that song over and over, you're not really spoiling the affect it has on you in the movie.

But besides this ramble, I love that these soundtracks have gotten me to listen to new music. I was introduced to Paramore through "Decode" and Florence + the Machine through "Heavy in Your Arms." Even for some of the artists whose other albums I have not bought, I still love what they bring to the soundtrack. Sia's "My Love," Blue Foundation's "Eyes on Fire," and Sea Wolf's "The Violet Hour" are some of the songs that come to mind as ones that I simply like listening to. I like that, in general, the three soundtracks mix classical music, pop music, and indie music--not only does that mean that there are favorites for everyone, but also that it gives us a chance to listen to things we might not have approached on our own.

To me, the Twilight soundtrack is raw--you can feel all of what it's bringing. New Moon gave a more somber tone, as fits the subject matter; as a whole, I think it is my favorite of the first three. Frankly, the songs in Eclipse start to drag after a while and not to distinguish themselves enough from each other, in my view.

The way that Twilight incorporated the songs into the movie was interesting: sometimes you didn't even realize these were separate songs instead of just parts of the score. The bit of "Eyes on Fire" that we hear in the movie doesn't include any lyrics, so you have to hear the whole song by itself to recognize it in the scene. This works to an advantage: the movie doesn't get weighed down by too many songs in addition to what the score brings.

New Moon has some of my favorite song moments (even while it has some very iffy score moments). "Slow Life" and "Hearing Damage" are two notable ones: they make their scenes perfect.

For Eclipse, I felt like the soundtrack was trying too hard. It seemed like we were constantly getting two seconds of a song just so that it could be in the movie just so that it could be in the soundtrack, like the bit that plays when Edward drops Bella off with Jacob. That isn't to say there weren't moments I did like; "My Love" and "Rolling in on a Burning Tire" I did. Could it also be that this soundtrack had less of an indie feel than the other two? I don't listen to a huge amount of popular music, so I hesitate to consider this too much. But if it's true, maybe that's why I feel a little lukewarm about this soundtrack.

Anyway, Breaking Dawn has the chance to include aspects of all the previous three soundtracks. There are joyful moments like in Twilight, sad moments like in New Moon, and tense moments like in Eclipse.  From my two listens (which I already feel is too much before seeing the movie), it seems like these are all there. It's hard to resist, while listening, guessing about which scene everything will go in. In fact, it doesn't seem too hard to do: all the songs have a definite tone. It seems like there is a varied mix in the type of song, as well. And listening to the new version of "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" and the song from Carter Burwell's score was emotional: it's good to have some hearkening back to the beginnings. The movies really aren't, up to now, very musically linked; that's regretful to me. So I'm excited to see what Carter Burwell does with the rest of the score.

And that's really all I have to say for now: the Breaking Dawn soundtrack proves to be at least on par with the others, with the songs seeming as fit for particular scenes as they have been previously.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Countdown Part 1: The Movies

As previously outlined, I will now proceed with Part 1 of my countdown to Breaking Dawn and briefly talk about the first three movies. Note that I am not reviewing them; I am only giving random thoughts about them as a pre-Breaking Dawn exercise.

Each of these three movies is very different, and each one scores in different ways. As much as I would love to have all the positives put together and to have everything work perfectly in one movie instead of just some things, that is asking much for any book to movie adaptation. What I am slowly learning is that movies can only score so much for deep fans of the books from which they derive. So with Twilight, I have tried to sit back and enjoy the different pieces each movie brings for each segment of the series: if one doesn't give me something I want, at least I know that another probably does. And we all know that Summit did a pretty good job of assigning directors to the right movies. Catherine Hardwicke was the one to launch the project and to prove what it could be. Chris Weitz was willing to take the story where it needed to go, despite what critics would (and did) say. David Slade let us enjoy the action bits and just have fun with it before the story gets heavy again.

What I loved about this latest movie viewing of mine (I watched Twilight Tuesday night, New Moon Wednesday night, and Eclipse tonight) were the reminders of the good things in these movies. When I write posts on them, I try not to dwell on the negatives: is there any real point in doing so? I am never writing professional critiques of them and no one of import is reading my thoughts (meaning someone who would consider my opinions and apply them to the making of the next movies). Focusing on the negatives would only frustrate me, and I don't want to associate frustration with something I like (although I do feel the need to say that, yes, this is a situation where I would say I like the movies because I like the books first).

Watching Twilight, I was reminded of how much the tone of that movie matches the book. Although it probably isn't the closest adaptation, the tone is what I enjoy most in the books, so it is one of the most important things for the movies to get right. I can't thank Catherine Hardwicke enough for what she brought to this series.

New Moon has cinematography that is sheer perfection, isn't it? There are the shots we're meant to notice, like the ones of Victoria running or Sam cliff-diving. But even in the "normal" shots, there is such a coherency and artistry. This is a lovely movie to watch. And I always thought it evident how much Kristen Stewart put into her performance for this one; she doesn't care what she looks like, but what Bella is thinking. The score, though pretty, I felt from the start sets the wrong tone most of the time, yet there are wonderful moments with the soundtrack. But I'm supposed to have a separate post about soundtracks, right?

Eclipse is the most removed from Bella's mind and the most like a standard, Hollywood movie (which makes it easier for some people who are most used to standard, Hollywood movies). I have a hard time moving away from Bella's perspective (which is, again, one of the important parts of the story for me), yet I enjoy the scenes with Riley and Victoria in Seattle. I also love the three flashback scenes with Jasper, Rosalie, and the Quileutes. The action bits are fun, though I wonder if it isn't emphasized too much sometimes--if it's only action I crave, there are other places I can go besides Twilight.

Where does that leave us for Breaking Dawn? Cautious.

I like to assign these personal journey stages to the four books, respectively: innocence, initiation, chaos, and resolution. Since Breaking Dawn is like its own sequel to a trilogy, it manages to contain all the stages clearly inside of itself, even if resolution is the main one. Twilight's focus on the falling in love certainly fits in with the innocence side. New Moon's expression of sadness does initiation justice, and the action bits and such in Eclipse showcase chaos well enough. But Breaking Dawn will be in two parts, thus tearing its emotional journey apart into two pieces. I will talk more of my thoughts on this popular trend of splitting later, but for now I'll say that I wonder to what degree we can keep the theme of resolution when only telling the first half of the story.

I haven't been watching interviews or reading much more than headlines, for fear of spoilers. Rather than getting pieces one at a time, I prefer to wait to see everything in its proper place and put together as it is meant to be watched. But there are two things I have heard about Breaking Dawn that are worth noting. Robert Pattinson said that it returns to the tone of the first movie, about which he is glad--if there is one thing I could ask for this movie to do, that's it. I'm trying to not get to excited over this, though, lest I set up expectations. The other thing comes from the Twilight Lexicon's supposedly "spoiler free" review, which I just read minutes after watching Eclipse tonight, of an early screening. To call it the best book adaptation of the four is very big. It leaves me with hope.

It would be wonderful if Breaking Dawn could take all the best parts from the previous three movies: the tone of Twilight, the artistry and boldness of New Moon, and the appeal and polish of Eclipse. Honestly, I don't think it is too much to ask.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Movies & the Countdown Plan

My thoughts on a few movies I've seen recently:

1) Five Weeks in a Balloon - A little boring at times, especially considering that Jules Verne (on whose book it is based) wrote adventure stories. Not so bad, but not leaving me without much to remember it by. And you know I only watched it in the first place because Barbara Eden is in it.

2) Inkheart - This one was like a play arena, a setting for all the goodness of stories that we love to take in. And I didn't even realize Andy Serkis was in it, so getting to see him in a non-CGI (Gollum) role was nice. So escapism, heart, all of that sort of thing are in here in a very non-heavy way.

3) X-Men: First Class - About time I watched this one; it seemed like I had been waiting to forever. I don't know if you can go wrong what with having James McAvoy play a younger Patrick Stewart: now that was entertaining. The plot itself didn't draw me in much; it was much getting to see these characters at an earlier stage and the start of the school that was fun. But, then, I'm not sure majority of people do care more about the plot than the characters in any of the X-Men movies.

4) Nosferatu - I watched this one on Halloween. Unfortunately, though, I started it late at night when I was already more tired than usual, so I couldn't take it in as much as I wanted to. Watching a 1929 silent movie (it had a music score, but that's different) when you're falling asleep isn't the best idea. But it drew me in when I could keep my eyes open. There is something amazing about watching how acting, cinematography, and all were so different eighty years ago. Dracula/Nosferatu himself was that combination of creepy and funny you get from watching a full-blown out horror movie from decades ago.

5) Season of the Witch - Now this is the movie I ought to have watched on Halloween if I wanted to get scared (which I didn't--that's why I just watched what I did). I'm not exactly sure what made me want to watch this movie in the first place, but there it suddenly was in my Netflix instant queue, so I turned it on one night. I thought the "action movie" thing about it would be a comfortable way to spend my evening. I recalled that the trailer seemed a little creepy, but since it was only PG-13, it couldn't be that bad, right? But the thing is, I'm terrible about the scary elements, even too heavy suspense. So at some point during this movie, I asked myself why I was watching it or why I hadn't at least had the sense to watch it during daylight instead of alone in the dark in the middle of the night. But I had to see it through to its end, lest the monsters be allowed to live, so to speak. When it was finished, I went off and watched a couple of videos by The Hillywood Show to clear my mind before going to bed. The verdict on the movie? It's that combination of historical, supernatural, action, horror, not-exactly-spiritual thing. It was okay, I guess. It probably could have been a little better; I certainly don't think I'd be interested enough to see it again.

And now for my plan to countdown to "that movie" that is coming out in less than two weeks. In order to prepare for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 I will be posting on the following:

1) Sometime in the coming week, I will watch the first three movies again. Then I'll talk in general about their successes and shortcomings, in terms of what I think the latest movie will or should do.

2) The soundtrack comes out on Tuesday, which I just pre-ordered. Although I did have a chance to listen to it once when it was on the official Facebook page a couple weeks ago, I will listen to it again, just once more. I'll then compare it to the others, guessing at what these differences/similarities mean for the final movie.

3) I will watch all three Twilight parodies by The Hillywood Show. I think the differences among these three coincide with the differences among the three movies, so I will expand on this idea.

4) I will reread Breaking Dawn. I don't expect to have the time to read the whole thing (please give me a break--we're reading Pardise Lost in one of my classes: I just don't have the time or energy to do too much reading of my own), so I will set my goal at the first two sections. Everyone seems to think that's where this movie will stop, anyway. Like I did for the last two movies, I will make up my little list of what I think the movie will need to do.

Until then.