Will You, Won’t You Be The One I’ll Always Know

It’s no secret that I consider Pride and Prejudice to be one of the greatest works of literary fiction ever written.  It was required reading for me in high school and then again in college and I’ve read it a few dozen more times since then.  Its satire and wit engaged me immediately and the perfectly-paced evolution of the relationship between its 2 main characters, 2 of the most complex, interesting characters I’ve ever read, left a profound lasting impression.  A couple of years ago, I decided that since I absolutely adore it as I do, I should read the rest of Jane Austen’s novels, too.  Sadly, since she died at the young age of 41, there are only 6 in all.

Persuasion was the 2nd of Austen’s books that I read.  And while I still preferred P&P, I did really enjoy it.  It was a little less cynical and also less jovial.  More romance than comedy, more heart than humor.  While there were comedic elements, nearly every character was more serious, more sober than farcical, in comparison to the beloved Pride and Prejudice.

Next came Mansfield Park.  And I made one damning mistake before I’d read this one: I watched the movie first.  I liked the film so very much but found myself wanting to root for the so-called “bad guy,” the charismatic playboy who was a little too charming.  I expected to find him less appealing when I read the book.  Boy, was I wrong.  While reading it, I felt even more drawn to him and found the character of Edmund, the “good guy” who eventually wins the girl, much less likable than his on-screen counterpart.  I don’t mean to dog this book; it is definitely worth a read.  I just made the mistake of watching its film adaption first and, as usual, rooted for the wrong guy.

A short while later, I got around to reading Northanger Abbey, a nice, sweet little book that aroused no strong feelings in me one way or another.  I neither disliked it nor did I love it.  It was good.  Charming.  Cute.

Just this afternoon, I finished Sense and Sensibility, probably my second favorite of Austen’s works.  Its characters, though not all likable, are all complicated, detailed characters with personalities so real, I felt as though I knew them intimately by the time I reached the end.  Not quite as snickery as P&P, but nearly as deep, it is an excellent read.  And it showcases what I believe to be Austen’s greatest gift (though she had oh so many): her ability to write people so very well.  She must have been a true student of human nature and behavior to have nailed them all with such precision.  At times poking fun at the folly of humankind, though never maliciously, and at others, revealing the deepest of emotions we’re capable of feeling, she covers it all so acutely, so realistically, you’d swear she could read minds.

I have yet to read Emma, so its place in line remains to be determined, but I’ll keep you posted, since I’m sure you’ll eagerly await my verdict on it. 😉

-Nikki

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Can You Take It All Away? Well You Shoved It In My Face – A Movie Trailer Experiment

Last fall, I was geeked out x infinity for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, and watched every single trailer/teaser/interview/special/ABCFamily-weekend-with-extra-footage that I could.  I’m gonna go ahead and assume that many, MANY fans did the same.  I wanted to see as much as they would show me (always assuming, naively, that they were saving so much more for the big screen).  Most reasonably intelligent adults are aware that movie trailers tend to show a LOT of the film they are advertising, but have you ever stopped to really wonder just how much??  After we saw DH1, even though I really loved the hell out of it, I truly felt like I had seen most of it already.  Which is just frigging sad, when you’re so looking forward to an event for like, years.  And so was born the idea for my Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 Trailer Test.  I chose 3 separate trailers for the films, and compared the content of those, with the actual film.  Now, I need to preface that this was EXTREMELY difficult to quantify, I wasn’t sure how to even measure this, given that one trailer can show many shots, some for a split second, some for many more.  So, I did the best I could, in a way that I thought made the most sense.  I’ll say this:  It was labor intensive (took about 6 hours and gave me a !@$#*ing headache) and the results, as I expected, were surprising and gross.  Without further adieu:

First off, the trailers I used:

  • Trailer 1:  This was the first trailer I ever saw for the film, during the MTV Movie Awards, and it actually contains images for both parts.  In 2:30 running time, it contains 24 total flashes or scenes from the first film, 2 of which weren’t in the film at all.
  • Trailer 2:  A full complete theatrical trailer for part 1 only.  In 2:25 running time, it contains EIGHTY TWO (!!!!) shots, 8 of which were not in the film.
  • Trailer 3:  A full complete theatrical trailer for part 1 only, from the 2010 Scream Awards.  It’s 1:03 running time and contains 30 shots from the film, 3 of which were not in the movie at all.                                                                                                   *(NOTE)* These 3 trailers did share some scenes, so overall, the three combined totaled 5:58 minutes, containing a total of 108 different scenes, 9 of which were never shown in the film. That breaks down to a new shot from the film almost every 3.3 seconds.

Next, limitations:

  • I didn’t measure how many scenes in the film weren’t shown in the trailers, nor did I measure the length of specific shots; I felt certain both of those goals were highly unattainable.
  • My final results are going to actually look a little better than the reality because there were a few things in the film that I know for a fact I’d seen in other teasers, or perhaps as clips being shown when a cast member was on a talk show, so those were not counted in this experiment – I just stuck with what was shown in my chosen trailers.  I chose the ones I did because they seemed to be the most complete and most common.  It would have been almost impossible for me to get ahold of and analyze EVERY snippet of the film shown to the public before opening day.
  • Since quantifying this seemed so intangible to me, I decided to break the film up into the chapters that the DVD was split into.  The disc is divided into 32, however, two of those are for the closing credits, so this is based on 30 chapters.
  • As hard as I tried to be exact, everything ended up being what I hope is close approximations. I can do math fairly competently, but I’m not into splitting seconds and such.
  • Sometimes, a certain scene would be broken into parts and split across different trailers.  I counted each part as one shot.  If the marketing people are going to, then so am I.

And here is the nasty festering herpes sore of truths that I discovered:

  • Of the 30 total chapters of film, the running time is 2:14:40 (this does not include closing credits), which averages to about 4:30 per chapter.
  • Only two (!!) chapters contained no discernible shots from a trailer, so 28 out of 30 or 93.3% of the chapters contained images from trailers.
  • Some chapters contained only one or two shots, while one had up to 11, for an average of 3.6 shots per chapter (or 4:30 of the film) from a trailer.
  • Chapters 1, 2, and 30 (the opening and closing scenes) are shown almost in their ENTIRETY across several of these trailers.
  • Most shots in a chapter were 11 and said chapter was 3:58.  (In case you wonder what scene this was, it was the 7 Potters flying battle sequence)
  • 50% of the chapters contained 3 or more shots from trailers.
  • Almost 1/3 of the chapters contained over 5 shots from trailers.

In conclusion, it seems that the studio marketing people who make these flipping things took snippets from LITERALLY every single scene, broke them up into tiny pieces and sent them out into the world.  I don’t know about you, but about 5 shots, no matter how quick, in approximately every four and a half minutes of screen time, is way, WAY too damn many.  Unfortunately, my little investigation did not provide any sort of way for me to say, BOOM! 73% OF THIS FILM IS SEEN IN TRAILERS!, but I hope I was able to palpably show that a substantial chunk of it was.  Makes me want to obliviate myself to get rid of the trailers I’ve seen for part 2.

~Annie

The rest of my Harry Potter 5-part series:  Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

People Are Strange

Have you seen the new F/X show, Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann?  If not, you are seriously missing out.  When I saw the previews for the show about a depressed guy (Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred, not as the animal everyone else sees but as a man (Gann) dressed up in a dog suit, I thought it looked intriguingly weird.  Needless to say, it has not let me down.

The show is an American adaptation of the Australian TV show of the same name, which also starred Jason Gann as the man-dog.  Gann is co-creator and writer, as well.  And he obviously knows the nature of dogs, since he’s taken the thoughts and behaviors of the canine species and accurately, and hilariously, inserted them into a grown man.  What this all makes for is one tremendously twisted, bizarre and ultra-entertaining scenario after another.  Add Ryan, the depressed young man on the verge of suicide who questions his sanity because he sees this doggie-disguised dude and speaks to him -and drinks with him and smokes pot out of a water bong with him -and you’ve got yourself one richly dark comedy with exponential promise.

Ethan Suplee and Fiona Gubelmann play a couple of interesting side characters, adding even more chaos to the mix.  Wood is super charming and plays the awkward, dejected twenty-something perfectly.  And Gann could not be any better as the beer-drinking, pot-smoking dog with an Australian accent.  The two leads have heart-warming chemistry, quickly forming the bond between man and his canine best friend that makes me, a dog-owner and extreme lover of the furry member of my family, think Gann must own (or have owned) a dog to be able to write the interactions between them so sharply.

I’ve long been a fan of the F/X network.  With shows like Justified and Sons of Anarchy, they’ve proven they’re exceptional at the outrageous and dramatic.  And they’re no strangers to black comedy (Louie and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which I love), either.  And now, they’ve given me one more half-hour to look forward to every week. 🙂

-Nikki

You Put A Spell On Me, I Don’t Know What To Do – Part 4 of 5

And so begins the last week before a Harry Potter movie is released, ever.  I feel comfortable commencing absolute excitement, obsession, and all-consuming sadness.  To honor the emotional roller-coaster and epic cultural event, all of my posts this week are going to revolve around the boy who lived (why yes, I get made fun of constantly).

Part 4: Ahh, Just Right                                                                                                           Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Deathly Hallows isn’t my favorite book, but it’s damn close.  Every storyline, every character, every moment, serves a purpose.  Loose ends are tied up in knots, there’s heart, deaths, tears, enough action to please even Michael Bay … I can’t imagine any series ever being wrapped up so perfectly.

Many people have expressed anger or annoyance that the book was split into two films; I for one cannot understand how anyone who has actually read the thing would feel that way.  If one film had been made, David Heyman (producer) has said himself they’d have to leave out things like Snape’s memories.  You know, the chapter that explained the crux of the ENTIRE STORY.  So leaving out explanation like that I find to be completely unacceptable.  Was Warner Bros. pumped up to make even more money?  Undoubtedly.  However, a creative and integral choice was made when they decided to go with two; it allowed them to be more faithful, explain more things, and do justice to the finale.  How is that bad, in any way?  Who possibly loses in that scenario??  Definitely not me, who gets to see an extra film.  The 5th and 6th installments left out so many plot points, to try to tie the end of the story up, and explain things, even in a “for dummies” way, REQUIRES two parts.  It could have been done, but would have been a travesty and greatly dishonored one of the most cherished, and magnificent, stories of all time.

The film looks crisp and beautiful; here, finally, David Yates’ vision finds a harmony between that level of darkness that’s only visible in a theater, and the light of being out in the real world, not solely in a gloomy castle.  I’m usually averse to wasting screen time adding bits that never would have happened on paper (the Burrow burning down in HBP, I’m talking to you) but the extras here were welcome, even pleasant.  The much-maligned “dance scene” between Harry and Hermione that totally never happened worked on-screen – it was a break from the all the heavy drama that was going down, and provided a nice showcase to see these lifelong friends actually act like it.

Honestly, one of my only complaints with this film is why they failed to explain the trace put on Voldemort’s name – in several scenes, it’s used and Death Eaters promptly arrive, with no explanation.  Although, it might get mentioned in the second part, which means I can’t file a formal complaint yet … so I guess I have no complaints.  The kids acting has never been better, there are dozens of emotional punches packed, everything looks FANTASTIC, and even clocking in at 2 hrs and 26 minutes, this puppy is BRISK.  It moves along, and you don’t want it to end.  They got everything of chief importance in there, which is truly saying something, given how little filler there is.

Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 is a terrific adaptation of about 2/3 of the book, and as a movie, is exciting, sad, and engrossing.  Does it serve to set the stage for part 2?  OBVIOUSLY ( ;)), but what so many fail to realize, is that part 2 means nothing without the groundwork of that stage.

Current rank (verrrry curious to see how I’m going to feel Friday morning!):

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. Deathly Hallows, pt. 1
  3. Goblet of Fire
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. Half-Blood Prince
  6. Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. Order of the Phoenix – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest of the series:  The Trailer Test, Part 5, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

You Are Beautiful, But You Don’t Mean A Thing To Me

I’ll admit it.  I haven’t been a fan of Death Cab for Cutie since day one.  I was never that cool or up on things.  In fact, I didn’t get on board till the Plans era in 2005, which makes me decidedly late to the game.  But over the past six years, I have explored their entire discography, and they have reached the status of a band that I will continue to follow until their very end.  And finally, after three long years, I have something to follow again, with the release of Codes and Keys at the end of May.

I wouldn’t call this post a review on Codes and Keys, so much as a commentary on where the album fits into their evolution as a band.  Let’s be clear on this: I want Death Cab for Cutie, and all bands, to evolve.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when “fans” complain as a band changes over the years.  Now, my heart lies back with Transatlanticism, and I know that I am not alone.  That album encapsulates everything that is wonderful about the band – beautiful melodies, smart and sad as hell lyrics…it just feels right.  Like most things that I enjoy, it is not a thing of happiness.  And, notably, Transatlanticism was released in October of 2003, when Ben Gibbard was 27.  If I’ve learned anything as someone in my 20s, it’s that they’re crap.  And Transatlanticism, as well as their earlier work, resonates with me on that crap-level.

Ben Gibbard will turn 35 this summer.  He’s a married man now, and within Codes and Keys, it is apparent.  There are whiffs of Zooey-Deschanel-induced happiness on songs like “Monday Morning.”  On 2001’s The Photo Album, there is a song called “Why You’d Want to Live Here.”  As in, “I can’t see why you’d want to live in Los Angeles.”  Ironically, that is where Gibbard now resides.  It happens.  You get older, and you do things you never thought you would.  Like being happy, for example.

Codes and Keys is a good, well-made album.  It sounds pretty.  I enjoy it.  But as a malcontent 24-year-old, there is a deep emotional disconnect for me.  I do not wish unhappiness upon Ben Gibbard.  I’d prefer him not to write about it, but there isn’t anything I can do about that.  I can only let my ears, but not my heart, enjoy Codes and Keys, and hope that I will evolve and catch up with the band – that I, too, can one day be 30, flirty, and thriving like Ben Gibbard.  Or that he has a mid-life crisis.  That would be a good CD.

~ X.

Oh la, We’ve Got A Lot To Learn From Each Other, We Have Got To Stick Together

Your regularly scheduled bloggers are on vacation this week, so I was invited to guestblog in their place.  I am neither a blogger nor a writer by profession or even hobby, so please excuse any disparity in quality from the usual posts you get here.  I am, however, a scientist as the blog title suggests (my college diploma says I am, anyway), but more importantly, I’m Annie’s little sister.  So don’t rag on my entries too hard…she’s been known to beat the crap out of me.

Aside from my scientific credentials, I’m also a lover of all things entertainment.  But can I form a coherent, well-written opinion on any of it?  We’re about to find out.

My first shot in the dark is a rather untimely/timely (depending on how you look at it) review of the book One Day by David Nicholls.  I say untimely because this book came out in 2009, and I read it in 2010, but I say timely because it’s going to be a movie starring Anne Hathaway this August.

I make it a habit to avoid books with highlighter-colored text on the cover, as well as quoted reviews by People magazine (the authority on great literature).  Add “love story” into the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for my hatred.  Despite these things, this book is not what it would appear to be.

It is the story of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, two university students in the UK.  The book begins on July 15, 1988, the night of their graduation and the beginning of their friendship.  Each chapter is July 15th of the following year, spanning twenty years of the duo’s friendship.  I may have a special hatred for love stories, but I enjoy them when everyone is mostly unhappy and there is some kind of temporal element to the story (hence my love for movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and (500) Days of Summer).  To me, this book is in that league (whether the movie will be remains to be seen).  Without spoiling anything, I will say that the story has definite surprises, and the chosen day of July 15th is far from random.  Dexter and Emma experience their fair share of ups and downs in their lives and in their relationship; they show moments of abandon and moments of incredible restraint towards each other.  Their story made me laugh, and literally sob so hard that I had to set the book down and take a moment.  And I am not a person who cries.

One Day touched my cold, blackened heart.  It caused me to look at my own young life and ponder all the surprises that may await me in my future.  It was a book that made me stop and think about life, the universe, and everything.  If you like happy stories, read this book.  If you hate happy stories, read this book.  If you’re having trouble seeing the forest for the trees in your life, read this book.  Just read this book!

~X. (Like Professor!…sans the wheelchair, charm, knowledge of genetics, and control over his telepathic powers)

That’s All Right Because I Like The Way It Hurts

I’ve recently decided that Louis C.K. is my new favorite comedian.  His stand-ups excel beyond those of his peers and every time I see him, even in a 5-minute interview on a TV talk show, he makes me laugh my ass off.  Please, those of you who haven’t seen much of his work, watch Chewed Up and Shameless and, if you like what you see, check out his show, Louie, on F/X.  The man is obscenely funny.

The thing about Louis C.K. is that he doesn’t tell jokes.  He tells stories.  And his stories aren’t cute.  They aren’t full of silly hi-jinks or wild predicaments.  In fact, if told by anyone other than Louie, they probably wouldn’t make one person laugh.  What he describes are sad, dismal stories about a depressingly ordinary guy living out his cheerless little life.  But the way he tells those stories is fucking HILARIOUS.  For him, it’s all about delivery.

During the HBO special “Talking Funny,” in which he, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Ricky Gervais all sat around chatting about comedy, Seinfeld told one of Louie’s jokes, a skit about a man who’s going on vacation with his wife and children and after he stuffs all their crap in the trunk and straps his kids into their car seats and gets his wife to stop talking long enough to put on her seatbelt, he closes her passenger door, walks around to the driver’s side and thinks: “That was my vacation.”  I had heard this joke told by Louie during one of his stand ups and I’d laughed at it then.  I laughed at the misery in it – this poor guy who feels like he can’t get a break from the demands of his family and day-to-day life even on his vacation.  But when Seinfeld told it, it just sounded stupid.  Even the other comedians commented on how different it sounded from him, joking that he had “Seinfelded” it.  Because Jerry Seinfeld cannot sell the kind of sad, lonely matter-of-fact misery required to pull off a Louis C.K. joke.

His jokes are bleak, crude and grim to the point that you cringe as you laugh, and he can get away with things other comedians absolutely cannot.  And the reason, I think, is because he’s never trying to gain the audience’s sympathy.  There isn’t one shred of self-pity in his delivery.  He’s just describing his life, as brutally honestly as he can.  He finds humor in his darkest moments and he’s simply sharing that with you.  There’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-pity but C.K. never crosses it, so his audience doesn’t feel bad about laughing.  We don’t want to cry with him or hug him or comfort him, we just want to laugh.

-Nikki