Category Archives: page to screen

Through a Glass, Brightly: Marrakesh

Peter Brantley -- June 26th, 2013

Teen Read Week
This week, Pew Internet Research released a study on young readers, their library habits, and reading preferences. Although ereading continues to grow, the eye-opening part of the survey for some has been the high percentage – 75 percent of those aged 16-29 – who have read a print book in the past year.

Count me among the surprised. I would have thought the percentage of print readers would have been lower. Print has an interesting stickiness – it’s still available nearly ubiquitously, both in book- and general stores, as well as through Amazon – and it has one other gainful characteristic. It is a self-contained media package. Unlike walking around with an LP, CD, or DVD, which are useless in-and-of themselves, most of us can stick a book in our purse, bag, or jacket and not require anything else to go forth and ponder the world’s mysteries or plumb an imagination. (Except reasonably dry weather).

Of course, there’s a fly in the ointment. Well several, but I personally came across one the other day in a jarring fashion. Last month, I wound up purchasing two print books: one, a mass market paperback, and one hardback. Both purchases were driven by vexations with the clumsy, overly-corporatized digital transformation of publishing. First is the continuing gnash-the-teeth frustration that my partner and I have figuring out a way to share our ebooks, which we are wont to do, since we have overlapping interests in literature. We will probably wind up sharing a single Amazon account, but it’s a stupid solution that grates. Second, the rights associated with the pocket book have not been adjudicated for digital; for the hardback book, which is older, and concerns itself with political diplomacy with a scholarly bent, a digital reprint must represent a questionable source of income for its publisher.

I couldn’t read either one of them. It was a purely physical, I’m-getting-older experience, but I found the contrast of type on paper for both the mass market paperback and the better-manufactured hardback rather execrable. The paper stock in both volumes was darker than I would expected, and appeared rough. The printing itself was not very sharp, and the apparent fuzziness of the font’s strokes made the experience more tiresome. I reached for reading lamps to no avail. The fact of the matter is that I am now used to high contrast, highly controllable screens. Putting aside all the endless stupidities of DRM and the inane restrictions on access that prevent my family from enjoying books together, reading digitally is simply superior – it is more customizable, and extends more control to the reader.

It is this basic, raw accessibility of digital reading that makes the recent WIPO Marrakesh agreement on the right to read for people with reading disabilities so damn important. The treaty won’t help me (yet, anyway), but for the first time, it will be possible for accessible editions to cross borders without needless restrictions, and for a reader to be able to access global reading-impaired library platforms built from books from many different countries. Up until now, for example, it has been impossible for the Internet Archive to make available its DAISY-formatted and protected modern books to blind or dyslexic readers in Canada or other Commonwealth countries.

As James Love of Knowledge Ecology, one of the foremost advocates for greater access by the disabled, comments in a statement:

The treaty will provide a dramatic and massive improvement in access to reading materials for persons in common languages, such as English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic, and it will provide the building blocks for global libraries to service blind persons. On the issues that mattered the most for blind persons, such as the ability to deliver documents across borders to individuals, and to break technical measures, the treaty was a resounding success.

Shame on the MPAA, GE, Disney, and Viacom, among other corporations, for resisting the treaty. Their intransigence in gracefully acknowledging the greater access that digital technologies make available to the blind and dyslexic should be widely noted.

Will the Most Important ‘Housewife’ Get Real In His Book?

Rachel Deahl -- August 23rd, 2011

There’s always been something a little depressing, and a little fascinating, about Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. The recent suicide of Russell Armstrong, fleeting cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and husband to full-fledged cast member Taylor Armstrong), got me thinking about why I’ve been watching the series for so long…and why I haven’t been able to fully turn away.

On some level I think it’s the Gatsby-esque quality of the show that’s kept me tuning in. Sure it’s crass, but the “real housewives” are strivers, just like Gatsby. While none of the Housewives are in search of something pure, like love—even the single ones admit the most important thing in a man is the size of his bank account—they are all searching. The Housewives feel like bastardized versions of Jimmy Gatz living the lifestyle of Jay Gatsby. (Gatsby, after all, did make the money he spent, even if he made it in an unsavory way.) This has been the brilliance of the Real Housewives and, while it didn’t take Russell Armstrong’s suicide to point it out, the fact that he hanged himself in a rental apartment after moving out of his McMansion in the midst of a dissolving marriage and a mounting pile of debt, certainly does highlight it.

I’ve watched more episodes of the Real Housewives than I care to admit, on and off, since the series launched in Orange County and began spinning off across the country–New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, DC. As the seasons wore on, and the “characters” became more shrill and despicable, the real joy of the show was watching these women—most of whom had married into new money—deal with the elephant in the room: they were going broke while they were getting paid to look rich. The irony! The hilarity! The anguish! It was a brilliant and lucky moment for Bravo, which had unknowingly tapped into the zeitgeist: it had a suite of reality shows about Americans who’d been living on easy credit and trumped-up housing values just as the bill was coming due.
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PW at the Movies: A Review of ‘One Day’

Rachel Deahl -- August 17th, 2011

I know what you’re thinking: PW stopped going to the movies! It’s a fair assumption-the last time we got all critical on a cinematic literary adaptation was, cough, 2010. But we have been going to the movies…and we’re still as critical as ever. We’ve kept you waiting too long so, without further ado, your favorite book-review-editing-and-news-covering-and-sometime-movie-reviewing duo, Rachel Deahl and Mike Harvkey, give you the skinny on One Day:

Rachel says: I have a love-hate relationship with romantic comedies. Love-hate might not even be the right term—it’s more Jekyll and Hyde. I love a cloying love story as much as the next gal, and I’ll watch drivel in the name of a decent meet-cute, but the bar with romantic comedies has been set so low that most genre offerings these days feel like an affront to female actresses and female viewers. Romantic comedies entered a dark age somewhere in between the time John Cusack ruined teenage girls for all other men in the 1980s as Lloyd Dobbler and Julia Roberts convinced us that hookers really could be carefree and downright buoyant, in the early ‘90s. That Hollywood has issues with women being funny—see the myriad stories about all the producers in Tinseltown who said Bridesmaids would never make a dime because it was headlined by an all-female cast and, gasp, features chicks doing such dude-like things as being sexually aggressive and flat-out gross—is one problem. The other problem seems to be laziness: if audiences already know what’s going to happen (boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy regains girl) what’s the point of filling the gaps along the way with multi-dimensional characters or, you know, humor?

By the aforementioned standards, One Day, which some people might classify as a romance more than romantic comedy—I say it’s the latter—is a joy. It’s not terribly inventive, the plot device of following a friends-to-lovers couple over the same day for 20 years is particularly forced, but it works. The second feature from Random House Films (after the disappointing 2007 film Reservation Road), One Day, based on David Nicholls’s novel of the same name, shows a surprising amount of humor and depth.

British university classmates Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) have a brush with a potential one-night stand on a boozy night after graduation but, instead, start a decades-long friendship that is always skirting the line between friendship and something more. As their lives diverge but continue to cross—the bookish and self-deprecating Emma blossoms while the womanizing Dexter slips into an indulgent life of drugs and B-list celebrity-dom—the snapshots provide a glimpse into the evolving relationship as well as the changing characters.

Although the structure is contrived, it sets a welcome pace. The jumping-around also offers a bit of relief for some unexpectedly dark, though also pat, episodes involving Dexter’s downward spiral.

Nicholls wrote the screenplay and one of the strongest elements of One Day is that, even at its most expected turns (and there are a few), it maintains an air of legitimacy through above-average dialogue and nuanced characters. One Day also does a fine job of subtly capturing the ‘80s and ‘90s, through a British prism. Director Lone Sherfig, who skillfully evoked the London of the ‘60s in An Education, ably brings us through the years of mix tapes, combat boots and coke without losing sight of her focus: Dexter and Emma.

Mike Says: Being a guy, though not necessarily a dude (or, yet, a man, sadly), I don’t really have a love-hate bond with the rom-com. Basically I ignore the genre entirely until the wheat separates naturally from the chaff and one movie more than all others simply must be seen this fall, spring, etc.—or I go all selfless and suggest to my wife that we see that nice fluffy flick playing around the corner, a flick she may have mentioned in passing, a flick that she will not exit crying at the horrors of humanity, as typically happens when I make selfish cinematic choices, as films like Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, or The Killers are more my speed.

Thus, my take on One Day differs a bit from Rachel’s, though ultimately I agree: it works. Boy, does it work. It’s the Million Dollar Baby of Romantic Comedies; its efficacy simply won’t be denied. Resistance is futile. George Lucas once said, “Drama is easy. Grab a kitten, hold its head in a puddle,” or words to that effect. Love him, hate him, or both, he’s right, and it is this level of drama—and nuance—that One Day achieves. Which is fine. Not everything has to be subtle, deep, profound. The book wasn’t, and Lone Scherfig has captured its spirit in her medium. One Day is a Tragic Romance. A film told in a year at a time can’t capture subtlety; it’s simply not in its DNA. It exists to capture the big events, the major successes, the crushing defeats. Life! Catharsis means “to purge” and One Day is like an emotional Heimlich maneuver.

For me, it’s the details that make One Day break down (though it hardly matters). Why does Lone Scherfig continue to cast Americans to play Brits? In An Education, Peter Sarsgaard could actually speak the Queen’s English without looking like he’d just come from the dentist. He actually did a great job. The same can’t be said for Anne Hathaway, whose accent veers wildly and never seems to settle. And look, there’s Patricia Clarkson, doing it too, and achieving the same level of unease. Scherfig is Danish, not British, and like many outsiders, seems to lack the ear for the subtleties of the English accent. Finally, I simply don’t get Jim Sturgess. Why is he having such a great career? I’ve never seen him in anything where he didn’t appear to be acting. In The Way Back, Ed Harris swept the forest floor with him. He and Hathaway don’t really have much chemistry in One Day, which in any other film would be deadly; in One Day, which is more machine than film, we accept that the chemistry they obviously have is a foregone conclusion. Because it is.

Vintage has 265,000 copies the movie tie-in edition in print, and 400,000 copies of the non-tie-in edition.

Rachel Deahl is senior news editor at PW; Mike Harvkey is deputy reviews editor.

The Bugs, the Bugs! Does Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” Really Need a Movie?

Gabe Habash -- June 30th, 2011

This July, principal photography will start on a modern adaptation of Kafka’ Metamorphosis, the most famous name attached being Nick Searcy (TV’s Justified). Here’s a promo.

In this version, Greg is a teenager in the suburbs, with a decidedly cockroachian transformation (which, if you’re a Kafka nut, is somewhere between acceptable and blasphemous, depending on your interpretation of the word ungeziefer).

Knee jerk reaction, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of justification for this to happen. Director David Yohe and producer/writer Jason Goldberg are definitely enthusiastic about the project in the video, but something about this whole thing conjures up images of a sweaty guy in a rubber bug suit. And lots of blood (“Our take is a fresh modern horror version,” says Yohe). Maybe it’s the snazzy production quality that’s missing from the video and website. This is definitely a low budget production, which would probably be less worrisome if the story being adapted didn’t hinge on creature effects.

But far be it from snarky bloggers to put down what is clearly a project borne out of a love for the source material. Here’s hoping they can pull together enough funding to create a believable bug, which is likely what’ll make or break the movie. Hopefully it’ll be a better adaptation than Outer Dark.

And even if it’s not, thinking of gross bug movies has brought to mind Society, the cheesy 80s masterpiece starring Billy Warlock! Watch the incredible trailer here!

The PW Morning Report: Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Calvin Reid -- June 1st, 2011

Today’s links! And please check out our new Facebook Page.

DC Comics Reboots the Universe! Well, maybe the DC Universe: DC is relaunching its classic titles with new numbers and simultaneous day and date digital/print release.

Amazon vs. NACS. College bookstore Association seeks to dismiss Amazon suit over ads for discounted textbooks.

The saga continues. Borders asks court for more time for turnaround plan.

Cave books. Her fans rejoice as Jean Auel returns with a new book set among prehistoric cave men and women.

Buy this F***ing Book! Go to the the Bookstore already!

The case of the purloined trailer! Sony maybe has the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tatoo removed from the web.

Let’s hope so. Does reading make us better people?

Natalie Portman Stars In Ayelet Waldman Adaptation; Watch the Heartrending Trailer

Craig Morgan Teicher -- January 4th, 2011

Maybe I’m just a sucker for tearjerkers and movies about kids, but this trailer, for The Other Woman starring Black Swan‘s Natalie Portman in another intense dramatic role, and featuring Lisa Kudrow of ‘Friends’ fame, tugged hard at my heartstrings.

The movie is based on Ayelet Waldman’s 2006 novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits,  which PW called an “honest, brutal, bitterly funny slice of life” in our review.  Watch the trailer below.  What do you think?  Does it move you, too, or does it seem like another cheesy flick about guilt and redemption, etc.

[via GalleyCat]

Harry Potter and the Midnight Special

Claire Kirch -- November 19th, 2010

It’ll probably come as no surprise to any of my book industry colleagues, but I was the parent deputized to accompany my 13-year-old daughter, Rachel, and her two friends, Ella and Elise, to see the 2-1/2-hour film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) at 12:01 a.m on November 19.

Excited phone calls and text messages pinged back-and-forth between the three families’ households after school Thursday afternoon and evening, solidifying plans for the movie and sleepover afterwards, a rare treat for seventh-graders on a school night. By 10 pm, the three girls – each sporting a Hogwartesque-tie under their winter coats – were ready to go. We drove to the Duluth 10 theater complex in downtown Duluth, Minnesota, where a noisy crowd already stood in a huge line snaking throughout the lobby and beyond for the midnight showing, which had sold out three weeks previously.

It was a joyous crowd, and a friendly one, as we all clutched our tickets and buzzed excitedly with those around us, when not people-watching. The three girls were among the youngest in line, while I was among the oldest. Most of the 700+ ticketholders appeared to be in their late teens or early 20s – the readers who literally grew up reading Harry Potter from the beginning, since the first book was published in the U.S. in 1998. And were they dressed to impress! We saw easily recognized characters, ranging from Harry to Hermione Granger and Professors Trelawney and Snape, as well as numerous audience members dressed simply in traditional British boarding school attire – ties, skirts or dress pants, and blazers. Even the refreshment stand attendants had gotten into the spirit of the evening, dressed as witches, wizards, and elves, as they served up popcorn, candy, and soft drinks to the multitudes milling about the lobby.

It felt like a Halloween party with a Harry Potter theme, or a Harry Potter convention.

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PW at the Movies: A Review of ‘127 Hours’

Rachel Deahl -- November 1st, 2010

Brought to you, commercial free, by PW news editor Rachel Deahl and online reviews editor Mike Harvkey.

Spoiler alert: the review below may, depending on your opinion, contain spoilers

Rachel: 127 Hours is, ostensibly, about Aron Ralston, the outdoorsman who earned his 15 minutes after, in 2003, he hacked off nearly half of his arm because he got it caught behind a rock in Canyonlands National Park. But director Danny Boyle’s film isn’t really about Ralston, it’s about that arm.

Based on Ralston’s 2004 memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Atria), 127 Hours—the title refers to the amount of time Ralston was trapped with limited water (and even less food)—initially seems like something of a cinematic experiment. How do you create an arc, and dramatic tension, in a story about one character, stuck in one place, where viewers, by and large, know the outcome? To his credit Boyle, and his charismatic star, James Franco, do a more than serviceable job on this front. 127 Hours moves at a steady click and never feels boring or claustrophobic.

Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), who’s known for frenetic camera work and bright pops of color, brings that trademark style to bear here. And, surprisingly, shots that might have come off as canned vistas of the American West—there are more than a few swooping takes of a blue sky against the dramatic browns and reds of the breathtaking Utah desert—work to good effect, reinforcing the bleakness of Ralston’s ‘in the middle of nowhere’ situation. (His hand got caught, on a lark, when a rock fell and trapped him as he was descending into a cave-like area.)

And Franco is excellent as Ralston. Talking at turns to himself and into the video camera he’d brought with him—it’s perched on the rock that looks likely to cause his death—Franco brings a sense of playfulness and levity to the film. He also gives the seemingly flat Ralston—an engineer who works in a camping store and moonlights as a search-and-rescue volunteer—some depth, focusing on the 26-year-old’s painful realization that his selfishness put him in this fatal situation. (It was the fact that Ralston told no one where he was going that ensured no rescue team would be sent to find him.)

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James Franco, Adaptor of Literary Works

Craig Morgan Teicher -- October 1st, 2010

This week James Franco announced that he has optioned Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries, but this hardly marks the first time Franco has put his name alongside a literary author’s.  And not just Allen Ginsberg, but also the wonderful contemporary poet Frank Bidart.  Turns out Franco also created a film adaptation of Bidart’s early masterpiece “Herbert White,” a poem written in the voice of a murderous sort of necrophiliac-type that begins:

“When I hit her on the head, it was good,

and then I did it to her a couple of times,–
but it was funny,–afterwards,
it was as if somebody else did it …

It’s a grim poem that tries to probe, with as much honesty and integrity as it can, the mind of somebody on an extreme edge of the crazy continuum.  Certainly it must make for a grim film, though hopefully compelling film.  Anybody seen it?

[Thanks to our reviewer Danniel Schoonebeek for the tip]

Stephen Elliott on James Franco

Craig Morgan Teicher -- September 30th, 2010

PWxyz got in touch with Stephen Elliott as soon as we heard the big news that James Franco has optioned The Adderall Diaries and plans to adapt, direct, and star in the film version of Elliott’s book.  He told us “It’s very exciting–I’m flattered.  I think Franco’s a real artist and a writer so I’m really excited that he’s the person who optioned the book.”

Of course Elliott is also a practical guy and rather than fantasize about film and fame, he’s focused on the good old paper edition of his book: “Mostly I’m hopeful that this will convince more people to read the book, especially since it just came out as a paperback two days ago and is a lot more affordable now. Films take a long time to make.”

Seems like Elliott has lots of faith in Franco, though shortly after the news broke, Elliott wondered aloud about Franco on Twitter: “But is he handsome enough?”