While it should come as news to absolutely no one that Sony is readying Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons (IMDb) for the big screen (Would it surprise anyone if Dan Brown’s grocery list fetched an eight figure deal?), what might come as a shock is the price paid to screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. That price, $4,000,000, is a new record for a “for hire” project, and ties the payday Shane Black received for “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (IMDb) for most money ever paid to a screenwriter for a single writer credit. Goldsman secured this filthy lucre despite tepid (read hostile) reviews of his adaptation of The Da Vinci Code (IMDb). With this record-setting paycheck, and kudos from the ever-fawning LA Times column “Scriptland,” does this signal a new golden age of screenwriting? Not according to this LA Weekly article “Screenwriters in the Shit“. It’s articles like this that make me want to move to the sticks and take up animal husbandry.
I saw an incredible movie on Friday night, The Triplets of Belleville. It's a very odd French, animated film. Barely two words are spoken the entire film; instead it is all raucous song and a canvas that is blissfully full of movement and energy. It was a joy to watch. Here's the trailer.More WoodyAs was discussed in the comments of my recent "bookfinding" post, it turns out that all three of Woody Allen's humor collections are available in a single volume entitled Complete Prose of Woody Allen. Or they were available, anyway. This one appears to be out of print, although used copies are for sale. Meanwhile, Ms. Millions has been attempting to read Without Feathers and has been unable to get very far because she can't stop laughing. Every time I look over she's silently guffawing, too winded to hold the book in front of her face. It reminds me of that old Monty Python skit about the world's deadliest joke.
Adapting a short story is a different animal from novel-to-movie adaptations, as both stories and movies are meant to be consumed in one sitting. Jeffrey Eugenides' “Baster” is a good opportunity for an adaptation; it’s funny, with a high-concept plot, and it’s not impressionistic or experimental.
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James Cameron’s new movie Avatar is well on its way to becoming a global cultural phenomenon. The director’s latest mash-up of romance, action, and big-budget special effects has, like his previous film Titanic, drawn in record setting audiences across the globe. From New York to Shanghai, people have waited for hours to immerse themselves in Avatar's 3-D fantasy world, an alien planet called Pandora. In the West, Avatar has been praised more for its feats of technical ingenuity than its unsophisticated stance on such social ills as corporate greed, environmental degradation, and colonialism. But in China, Cameron's depiction of the struggle between ruthless developers and the alien Na’vi has opened an unexpected Pandora's Box. The film has provoked both praise and criticism from Chinese viewers, who see parallels between the movie's plot and one of the nation's most prominent social issues: the forced removal of Chinese citizens from their homes for government development projects. With few exceptions, land in China is owned by the state. Although private citizens can lease land for varying periods, the government retains strong privileges of eminent domain, and it often exercises its power to claim prime pieces of real estate for development. The reasons for these seizures range from the benign to the corrupt. While some lands are claimed for essential public works projects, others become shopping malls and vacation resorts, cash cows to line the pockets of China's elite. Public opposition to these seizures has always existed. But as Chinese real estate values skyrocket and land confiscations cost residents more than ever, the number and visibility of protests have shot up. Passive resistance has become a popular strategy for those threatened by eminent domain, and the Chinese media is increasingly filled with stories of brave homeowners facing down bulldozers. In a recent case that galvanized public opinion, a woman set herself on fire rather than allow developers to force her from her home. In this environment, Avatar has set off a firestorm of controversy. Across the Chinese blogosphere, debate has focused on the parallels between the movie’s story and recent incidents in China, prompting some to wonder if Cameron’s film might be intended as an attack on the Chinese government. Others have rallied behind the film, arguing that it has raised public awareness of the unfairness of China’s eminent domain laws. Writing in the government-run newspaper China Daily, Raymond Zhou noted, “[Avatar has] inadvertently hit... a nerve in a country where the bulldozer is a sign of both progress and threat.” While in the U.S. controversy often translates into increased ticket sales, in China, it is equally likely to get a movie banned. Chinese officials have become increasingly worried about domestic instability arising from public dissatisfaction with government policies, and they have moved to quash potential sources of disquiet, censoring social networking sites, gagging novelists, and applying pressure to foreign events that feature Chinese dissidents. Now, as the debate surrounding Avatar heats up, prominent media critics are speculating that the film might disappear from Chinese theaters. If that were to happen, the decision would no doubt come as a shock to Cameron, who is more often criticized for his films’ enormous budgets than their political content.
There is something notable about the backlash when a television character is killed: fans take the opportunity to tear apart the writers’ choices beyond the decision to bump off an individual: across the show, all the indignities they’d have suffered through if everyone had been permitted to live.
By the standards of most “historical” documentaries, The Civil War lacks a certain testicular fortitude. It boasts neither flashy 3-D maps nor live-action re-enactments; what few live shots there are of battlefields were mostly taken after dusk, giving them a surreal, almost dreamlike quality. Its scoring is simple, its narration restrained. It is, well, rather bookish.