August 2008



We read and we watch for different reasons.  Let’s get this straight: I have a



Masters in English and I am a devoted, lifelong film fan.  But I know that a line separates the two.  There are great movies made from great books.  There is the short list of ones that belong on both a 100 greatest novels of all time and a 100 greatest films of all time (Lord of the Rings, Maltese Falcon, Greed, A Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, Apocalypse Now, A Passage to India, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence).  There are also films on that list made from great non-fiction works (GoodFellas, All the President’s Men), fantastic children’s books or fairy tales (Wizard of Oz, La Belle et Le Bette), or brilliant drama (A Streetcar Named Desire, Branagh’s Henry V).  However, the idea that the film must stay faithful to the book is absurd.  True, it can be nice when a film takes a book and puts it perfectly on the screen (Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club), but, on the other hand, when that does happen, you can just see the movie and you don’t really need to read the book.
It can be a struggle to truly love a book and then watch the movie.  Just read many of John Kovalic’s Dork Tower strips from 2001-2004 dealing with a number of comic book movies as well as with the Lord of the Rings films.  Yes, they changed things.  Yes, they left out Tom Bombadil–because it would have been idiotic to put him in!  It interrupts the narrative flow of a film, introduces a character who will have little to do with what happens later on, and he’s so hard to characterize without making a caricature.  So, you slice him out.  It’s a good choice (my wife is of the opinion it would have been a good choice to slice him out of the book as well).  It works, because the films are brilliant.  They disconnected themselves enough from the books that they could do what was right on film.  Other films have not been so adept with that. (more…)


We have made it to San Jose. Today we are hanging out with Erik’s brother and his family and taking a tour of Pixar. Tomorrow I will be at the Society of American Archivists conference in San Francisco for three days. Saturday it’s off to the San Diego area.

So, we’re in Wisconsin, but I’ve saved up a few posts to put up while we’re out of town.  We’re on our way to San Francisco for SAA (Society of American Archivists) and to see family.  Yesterday, I did the drive from Arlington to Veronica’s Dad’s in Larsen, WI.  Only 1178 miles.  20 hours.  No problem.  Next week, we do 2200 miles from here to San Jose.  No problem.  Still better than flying.

There are some movies that are ridiculously difficult to categorize (what the hell are Fargo and Trainspotting?), but there are also movies that fall across the board into several categories.  For my database (of course I have a database – these lists don’t spring out of nowhere, I have all 5206 films I’ve seen listed), I assign one genre to each movie.  And for some films that can be tricky.  The Wizard of Oz is a fantasy film and a traditional musical, but I list it as a kids film.  But when I sorted out the Animated films, that only left a handful of kids films that were really worth mentioning.  And so, I am cutting this list off at 5, and here they are:

#5 – Babe (Chris Noonan) – 1995

I almost cut the pig and went with Enchanted, but even Amy Adams’ performance and the wittiness couldn’t overcome the pointlessness of her falling for Patrick Dempsey.  So, I went with the pig, even though I think he’s somewhat overrated.

#4 – The Miracle on 34th Street (George Seaton) – 1947

A true Christmas classic, which AFI classified as a Fantasy for some reason.

#3 – The Muppet Movie (James Frawley) – 1979

We played “Rainbow Connection” at our wedding.  Kermit uses the worst pun ever (“I was almost gone with the Schwin.”).  Big Bird has a hilarious cameo (“No thanks, I’m on my way to New York to break into public television.”).  It even has Orson Welles.  And of course, the fork in the road.

#2 – Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson) – 1964

A film I grew out of, then grew back into.  A perfect performance by Julie Andrews.  Magnificent songs.

The best Kids / Fantasy / Musical ever made

The best Kids / Fantasy / Musical ever made

#1 – The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming) – 1939

How much more can I say about this than has already been said?  This would be on the top of the list for almost any genre it can be placed in.  The book is enjoyable, a great children’s book, but the film is for everyone and it’s the performances in the film that truly make it come alive.  Judy Garland spent the rest of her life making films, but she was never as vibrant, as alive or as beautiful as she was in this.

please make me into a film

please make me into a film

When I was still working at Borders, I once said “I own almost every Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on CD.” My co-worker Paul replied, “You might be the only straight male who could possibly say that.” I have always enjoyed musicals, both Broadway and on film. The strange thing is that my lists don’t overlap particularly well. I am a big fan of ALW musicals, but only Evita made a worthwhile film (I was so livid at what Joel Schumacher did with Phantom of the Opera that I actually screamed coming out of the theater). I love the Boublil-Schonberg musicals (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), but no one has filmed them. One of the most enjoyable musicals is Return to the Forbidden Planet, but it requires audience participation and wouldn’t translate well to film. I love A Little Night Music, but the film is one of the worst ever made (though not as bad as Grease 2, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Back to the Beach or Human Highway, the worst of all Musicals). (more…)

We just launched a new website and blog at work on Friday. We have a rotating schedule of who writes posts, and my name came up first, so here is the link to my Tufts Olympians post.

We’re pretty proud of the website as well.

In honor of my dad’s birthday (August 13th), I’m posting his favorite picture of him and Thomas. It’s from the week Thomas was born and shows my dad holding him after riding his bike from Wisconsin to Oregon (non-stop) to see his first grandchild.

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