November 2005

Liz Miller

hollywood madam

Holiday Movie Guide 2006!

The air's cold, the horror movies have flopped -- time to review the 2005-6 holiday adaptations! This is, I think, the third year I've done this overview, and it always involves a lot more work than I anticipate. So, this year, I focused on films that Bookslut readers
were likely to see. Sorry, Breakfast on Pluto, Freedomland, and Zathura. I wish the drag queens, abducted children, and space monsters all the best.

We've got the usual mix of fantasy and literary adaptations, but this year's line-up also features hard-hitting political commentary, geishas, Jesus lions, and everyone's favorite: gay cowboys. Ready to get started? I know I am!

Jarhead

RELEASE DATE: November 4

THE SOURCE: The memoir by Anthony Swofford, a Marine sniper during the first Gulf War. I remember seeing him on The Daily Show when the book first came out; you wouldn't think he was the sniper-ing type.

THE MOVIE: Directed by Sam Mendes and written by William Broyles Jr. (A former Marine!) Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, and Chris Cooper. What is it with war movies and attractive men? Not to mention talented men?

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? From all trailer
indications, adapted from. There even appears to be some voice-over, which, given that Mendes's first two films were American Beauty and Road to Perdition, makes a fair amount of sense for a memoir adaptation.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? A great cast, a controversial and
significant topic, and tons of talent behind the camera? This is why
film nerds suffer through the other ten months of the year.

Bee Season

RELEASE DATE: November 11 (limited)

THE SOURCE: The novel by Myla Goldberg, which is currently only two books away from the top of my reading list. The focus is on that bedrock of modern drama, a semi-typical American family, but topics explored range from Kaballah to mental illness. I could make a cheap Madonna joke here, but I'm above that sort of thing.

THE MOVIE: The semi-typical American family certainly comes off as a whole lot more hot when the parents are Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, written by Naomi Foner (who's Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's mother, for those who like to connect dots). The story revolves around a young girl who discovers a hidden talent for spelling bees, which sends her father on a search for why. Like Spellbound but with more Jewish mysticism.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? The premise
doesn't seem totally altered (though I'm fairly certain that the mother in the book isn't French). Could be an adapted from.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? As a young lass cutting my teeth on
Pretty Woman, I never thought that someday I'd be excited about watching movies in which Richard Gere plays fuddy-duddy dads in sweaters. But, first Unfaithful and now Bee Season. What's a girl to do?

Pride and Prejudice

RELEASE DATE: November 11 (limited)

THE SOURCE: Oh, for God's sake. Do we need to go over this? Seriously? Fine. There was this writer who died a whole bunch of years ago. She wrote a whole bunch of books. A few of them have been href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0116191/">adapted href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt011438 ">into href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0178737/">films. href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0414386/">One href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0032943/">in href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0155051/">particular href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0078672/">more href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0112130/">than href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0366920/">the href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0361411/">others.

THE MOVIE: href="http://www.bookslut.com/hollywood_madam/2004_09_003110.php">I wrote about this adaptation last year, when it was scheduled to come out Spring 2005. And my thoughts remain the same. I will say that casting Rosamund Pike as Jane is a great choice, as she is actually prettier than Keira Knightley. Will this stack up against the other adaptation Pike is starring in this fall, the instant classic Doom? Only time will tell.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? On the one hand, they're wearing old-timey dress and certainly using the dirt-under-the-fingernails approach. On the other hand, we're grading on a curve here and last I heard, this wasn't six hours long and true to every chapter of Austen's work. "Based on."

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? Despite all my protesting, I'm weak, and this story pushes all my girly buttons. No matter what incarnation it might take. I just hope Judi Dench doesn't screw it all up.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

RELEASE DATE: November 18

THE SOURCE: You need a lowdown, seriously? Well, I've got, like, ten of these things to write. I don't have time to explain things to the Amish.

THE MOVIE: New cast members include Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter and Brendan Gleason as Mad-Eye Moody. Both of whom are fine actors indeed. But maybe we should consider exercising some caution in casting the adults of the Harry Potter universe. After all, distinguished British actors are not a renewable resource. It takes thirty years and two Academy Award nominations to create a new one, and at this rate, we'll run out by the year 2009. And then who will play Flemenda Graves, Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor and The Older Woman who finally makes a man out of Neville?

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? If it were
anything less than "adapted from," the sheer force of fan rage would rip the Earth in twain. Though, in order to fit the beast into something resembling a reasonable running time, they've cut a large chunk of the book, including everything to do with the Quidditch World Cup. So maybe the Earth will be ripped in twain anyways. Neat.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? Are there support groups for Anglophiles? If the answer to that is no, then yes. Damn it.

Rent

RELEASE DATE: November 23

THE SOURCE: The musical by Jonathan Larson, which was in turn a modern-day adaptation of La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini, which in turn was based upon the novel Scenes de la vie de Boheme by Henri Murger. An English translation of the novel is available here. Don't say I never taught you nothing.

THE MOVIE: Chris Columbus brings his subtle genius to a musical with
lyrics like "Rent, my amigos, is due/Or I will have to evict you/Be
there in a few."

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? I imagine that
Henri Murger would be pretty confused by what he'd see on screen, were he to accidentally stumble into a movie theater. Then again, dude's from the 19th century. Who knows what kind of brain damage time travel causes?

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? According to my college roommate, who listened to Rent nearly as often as she listened to the Dawson's Creek soundtrack, it's an amazing theatrical experience. Whether that translates to film or not is unclear -- I'll wait for the critics to pass judgment before I slap down my moneydollars.

Syriana

RELEASE DATE: November 23

THE SOURCE: "Suggested by" See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism by Robert Baer. The hot sex starts on page 103, if you want to skip the political stuff.

THE MOVIE: Written and directed by Stephen Gaughan (who wrote
Traffic and seems very eager for us all to forget that his first
directing effort was href="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt026724 ">Abandon), starring
George Clooney, Chris Cooper, and the guy who played the hot doctor on
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Oh, and Matt Damon.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Loosely inspired by, but it's loosely inspired by a nonfiction memoir. Which is kind of like buying all your research and then making a narrative out of it.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I sure do love the hot doctor from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Oh, and it also has the potential to be a searing look at the Middle East, its oil, and how we exploit it. All in all, a good time at the movies.

Brokeback Mountain

RELEASE DATE: December 9

THE SOURCE: The short story of the same name, from the collection Close Range, by Annie Proulx. You used to be able to read it at Amazon, as they had the complete story up as an excerpt. But now, you'll have to pay for your gay cowboy love.

THE MOVIE: Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly loved Ang Lee's not-very-heterosexual western, but in his Toronto wrap-up, he said that to call it "the gay cowboy movie" was to diminish its heartbreaking beauty. As someone who's read the story, I have to say: The gay cowboy movie is going to be heartbreakingly beautiful. Especially if Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger manage to master both Wyoming accents and man love.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? I recognized
every single scene from the trailer as a moment from the short story. The story itself isn't very long, but it does condense large chunks of time -- thus, I think this'll definitely be an "adapted from."

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I'm not kidding when I say that I'm
counting the days. And not just because gay cowboys are hot.

(But they totally are.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

RELEASE DATE: December 9

THE SOURCE: C.S. Lewis's epic fantasy series/Christian allegory, which most kids of the past fifty years grew up with -- willingly or otherwise.

THE MOVIE: Directed by Andrew Adamson (whose only other real credits are co-directing Shrek, Shrek II, and Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party), written by Ann Peacock (whose specialties seem to be TV movies and movies about South Africa), and CGI-ed by the fine folks who worked on Lord of the Rings. Moments in great casting: Tilda Swinton plays the White Witch and Liam
Neeson is the voice of Jesus. Um, Aslan.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? I'd like to say "adapted from," but all I can remember about the first book is the constant Turkish Delight product placement*. So, I guess that'll be the litmus test.

(*Edmund is willing to sell his soul and his family for Turkish Delight. What better endorsement is there?)

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? In case it's not clear, I'm not a big
aficionado of the books. But large-scale CGI battles are like candy for the mind, and once Brokeback Mountain finishes breaking my heart, I might need a little pick-me-up.

Memoirs of a Geisha

RELEASE DATE: December 9

THE SOURCE: The novel by Arthur Golden, detailing the lost art of geisha-ing. The classy Japanese Pretty Woman, if you will. With catfights!

THE MOVIE: The hot geisha catfights of fiction come to the big screen. Directed by Rob Marshall (who's pretty good at directing pretty catfights), and starring Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, and Li Gong. (Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, if you want to be all Western about it.) Everyone's speaking English, which is probably for the best -- Michelle Yeoh had a hard enough time learning Mandarin for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Be a shame to make all these Chinese women learn Japanese.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Based on, if only because of the massive ethnicity-switching. All those Asian people look alike, after all. But there are good reasons for casting the cast they did -- for one thing, they're a-fucking-mazing.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? The trailers are beautiful and it'll probably be a story that plays a lot better on film (the book was a little too dry). When this was a script written by Akiva Goldsman (my most-hated nemesis), I was still interested in seeing it. But now that the writing credit goes to Robin Swicord and Doug Wright, who have strong credits to their name and aren't the dreaded Goldsman, I'm extremely excited.

And that's the best part of this season. The chance to see good stories done even better.