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not quite a real blog note

Your Humble Blogger has no actual ideas for a blog note today.

More accurately, YHB doesn’t seem to be able to take ideas for blog notes and make them into blog notes. So here are three things about movies.

Joe Posnanski recently posted a list of 100 movies that were his favorites, or the best, or something like that. I didn’t look at it very carefully, but I did count up that I have seen eighty of the hundred. That seems to me remarkable. I wonder how many movies I have seen in my life… On one level, it makes sense that movies on his list would be movies that were on many other lists, and would therefore be movies I would have heard of and been interested in seeing, and would in fact have seen. On the other hand—eighty out of a hundred? Doesn’t that seem like a lot? I mean, I have never gone on a program of watching Great Movies, not really, so why would I have seen so many of his list? Unless I really have just seen a lot of movies.

Speaking of Great Movies, or at least movies I like a lot, I saw Brick a few months ago and have been meaning to blog it. It is a wonderful movie, or at least a wonderful movie for YHB. The idea is to film an old-fashioned hard-boiled detective movie, very heavily leaning on the old literature and films, particularly Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op stories, but set in a sunny California high school. The gaudy patter is magnificent, and utterly surreal coming out of the mouths of (notional) teenagers (the movie convention that has teenagers played by people in their twenties adds another layer of strangeness). The hard-boiled scenes take place under brilliant sunlight with acres of blue sky behind the actors, utterly reversing the expected closed-in claustrophobia of film noir. While the actual story is reasonably interesting, most of the fun is from watching how they integrate, subvert, reverse and reference their various materials.

Now, I had heard about the movie when it was released in theaters, and I had been at least vaguely interesting in seeing it, but I actually watched it because one of the instructors at my Place of Employment made a copy available for students in an Intro to Cinema class. I sought out the instructor after watching it, both to thank her for the opportunity to watch it, and to ask how she was using it. Because it seemed to me that you had to watch an awful lot of movies, an awful lot of old movies, to get what was going on. She told me that it was the first movie they watched—her students were just out of high school, and would watch it as a movie about a murder in a high school. Then, over the course of the semester, they would keep seeing things that would take them back to Brick. I have to admit, I am skeptical. I meant to ask one of her students about it, but never got a chance.

I have talked to students about two movies from last year that I watched on DVD this summer: Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed both of them, somewhat, but unlike a lot of people (and like, I would guess, more than half of my Gentle Readers) I have read and enjoyed the original texts, as well as some of the film versions. Both of the movies, it seems to me, depend on the audience being willing to enter into a new world in which everything we know about the original text turns out to be wrong. This is a fairly common way of dealing with an old beloved text, of course, and is the first time through it for neither. The difference is that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is a world where the Great Detective is actually a Hollywood action-hero star in addition to being, you know, Sherlock Holmes, and that’s a world that is pretty darned entertaining, what with explosions and chases and preposterous plots of various kinds. In Tim Burton’s Alice, alas, much of the movie seemed to allude to an Underland that actually existed, but didn’t make any sense—and besides wasn’t terribly interesting or entertaining. Oh, the visuals were magnificent, sure, and some of the bits in the actual movie were exciting or at least passed the time in between the visual bits. But—the world of Tim Burton’s Alice was a world where Lewis Carroll’s Alice was never published, and the stuff that we know was a distorted childhood memory. Right? But we never see the undistorted version. We see the remnants of the undistorted version after fifteen years of tyrrany and misery under the bloody big head, but very little of it connects to the book itself.

I could do a whole serious of notes about adaptations, book to movie, book to book, movie to movie. I could do that, if I could take the ideas and make them blog notes. I find the topic endlessly fascinating. But I’ll end this sort-of-note with the line about the new Sherlock Series with Benedict Cumberbatch, from co-creator Mark Gatiss as quoted in The Observer: “there will always be more versions if you don’t like ours.”

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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