Mr Grey Will Not See Me Now

By some bizarre coincidence, just over a week after I wrote about my disgust towards the upcoming ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ soon to be vomited on to cinema screens, CinemaCon kicks off and presents us with teasers concerning the much unwanted monstrosity. At the moment the public only have posters and more plot details, if plot isn’t too heavy a word to use, and we’re assured actual footage of the film is soon to be released into the public domain. This has already sent fans of the book into a frenzy of excitement, claiming it will be one of the best films of all time. After nearly choking on my tea, readjusting on my seat and re reading the comments I think I’m ready to pick up from where I left off; the film has the potential to be absolutely awful.

I know fans of the book are already defending it, saying it will be good and it will have some level of depth to it, but honestly I think those people are being far too optimistic. It’s the equivalent of people being stuck on the Titanic as it was sinking, but not actually panicking because they’re convinced the ship will sprout wings and fly off in to the sunset. In reality, they’re stuck clinging to the barriers on the main deck listening to Kate Winslet recite everything that’s happened between her and Leo so far.

Do people honestly think it’s going to be artistic? Based on the source material and how good that is, I think people need to lower their expectations. A word that I’d use to describe what I think the film will be like would be something more along the lines of “tedious” or “uncomfortable”, seems to have a certain ring to it. I think the reason I’m not a fan of the book is because I’m not middle aged and looking for a bit of thrill whilst sat on a sun bed on holiday.

Various words are already being thrown about to describe the film, all of which are a little unrealistic. I’ve actually taken the time to compile a list of words that people are using to describe the film, just so I can show how annoyed I am at people:

#1 “exciting” – the last time I checked the definition of the word was a little different from watching two characters who are based heavily on stereotypes, locked in a relationship that no one cares about.

#2 “romantic” – it’s not exactly going to be Casablanca is it?

#3 “dramatic” – based on how the plot of the book runs I’d say there’s more tension in the opening sequence of ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ than there is going to be through the entirety of the film.

#4 “sexy” – now as I’ve explained before when I talked of ‘500 Days of Summer’ a couple of weeks ago, I hate the use of this word when describing a film. It suggests to me that there is nothing else to say about a film, there is no other merit to it other than the possibility of frontal nudity. If a film is described as “sexy” then I try to avoid it at all costs.

#5 “erotic” – see now this is the one that confuses me, because it makes it sound more complex than it actually is. I think a better term you could use to describe it is “sexually frustrated”. Some of the things described in the book sound like they’ve been taken directly from a teenage girl’s tumblr page. Equally it sounds as thought it was written by someone who writes fan fiction on a regular basis. Just replace the names of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele with character from ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Sherlock’ or ‘Supernatural’ and that’s essentially what you’ve got here.

So as you can probably tell I’m still quite bitter about the whole situation and I still maintain the opinion that the film shouldn’t be made. In today’s world, where we are striving for gender equality, why would we want to see a film based on such stereotypical characters that are actually quite demeaning to both genders? You’ve got the male character who sees himself as dominant in every scenario and likes to assert this dominance as often as he can, and then the female character who sees this dominance as acceptable and then acts accordingly based on the out dated idea that sexual favours are the only way to please a man.

It just makes me think back to the James Bond films from the sixties, with Sean Connery spanking women on screen and telling them not to talk, or taking their bra off and using it to strangle them. That sort of behaviour was looked down upon and quite rightly so, and yet a film that’s going to show a billionaire asserting his dominance in an openly sexual fashion appears to be fine. I cannot comprehend why people find the character or Christian Grey as interesting as they do. He sounds like you’ve taken Richard Branson, filled him with the arrogance of a footballer and then given him the sexual frustration of a teenage boy with an internet porn addiction. That person sounds as repellent as Christian Grey actually is. But apparently because the book became a best seller we can forgive all of the monstrosities presented in the book. I think not.

And as if I’m not annoyed enough already, I can already tell that the film is going to ask me to do at least one of the following things:

1. Forgive Mr Grey for all of his deviant acts – not going to happen I’m afraid. If I could throw bricks at him I would, alas he is but a name on a piece of paper.

2. Sympathise with Miss Steele – also not going to happen. Her character is but another one added to a long list of characters who learn what true romance is the hard way by falling for someone with a poisonous personality. As if we haven’t seen that before countless times.

Neither of these are going to happen I’m afraid. You’ve got a male character who reminds me of Jordan Belfort, treating women in a disgusting manner and then indulging in whatever sexual activities he sees fit because he has so much money. Then a female character who reminds me of Daisy Buchanan from ‘The Great Gatsby’, presenting women as frail and easily manipulated by men. I don’t know if the writer of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is aware of this but times have changed. Presenting such outdated caricatures whose character development relies on stereotypes is not only infuriating, but it’s bordering on offensive.

If people want to see a film that’s based on uncontrolled sexual behaviour, the challenging of social norms, an uncomfortable story line and a collection of characters you dislike then I would refer them straight away to Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights’. I will admit that it is one of my favourite films but it’s because it was written and directed by someone who has a good sense of film and understands that visual style and careful writing are at the heart of a good film. The writing behind the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film would have to be completely reworked and change almost every element of it, most importantly the characters, so it can start from scratch and attempt to make a half decent piece of film.

So in response to what the posters are saying (“Mr Grey will see you now”), I’m afraid he shan’t be seeing me any time soon, and nor will I be seeing him soon. Because while other people are going to be sucked in to it and fuel the film’s success at the box office, I’ll avoid it as best as I can to ensure myself that I have some form of dignity in this life.

Like I said last week, I want to be proved wrong on this. I want the film to actually be good to show me that I should stop being judgemental and that I should actually give things a fair chance. I want it to prove me wrong and give me a good cinema experience because it’s one of the best feelings for someone who is a fan of film. But at the moment it is looking very doubtful. If there is a constant media trail for a film then I start to lose faith quite early on, but it’s just because the book is so badly written, so uninteresting, so utterly without merit, that I fail to see how a good film can be made from it. But I still have hope that I will be proved wrong.

As it stands, the very idea of the film is making me think back to when I watched ‘Cloud Atlas’. It’s making me think that maybe there are worse books out there to make in to a film. Maybe ‘Cloud Atlas’ had something after all.

 

The Perfect Guide On How To Turn A Book Into A Film – Oil! vs There Will Be Blood

Recently I’ve been getting quite caught up in a frenzy of ranting about books being made into films and why certain adaptions annoy me more than others. This means that I’ve only really been discussing the films that make me annoyed, and I’m angry at myself for this. I’ve once again gotten so caught up in a state of negativity that it’s lead to me coming across as a horrible person who finds no joy in life. I would still like to think that this isn’t the case, but the evidence continues to expand.

I find that much like with most things in life, if you focus too much on the negatives you soon fail to see the positives that are right in front of you. It is all well and good me spending time discussing how much a film annoys me, but I think it’s time much better spent if I talk about the films that had a positive impact on me.

As I said before, I’ve been writing a lot about novels being adapted for the big screen and how it’s difficult to get this right. As per usual I’ve talked the hind legs off a horse about ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Hobbit’, but if there’s one film I know I will always appreciate as well as the book, then it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece ‘There Will Be Blood’.

Based on the novel Oil! written by Upton Sinclair in the early 1920s, the film tells the story of a businessman navigating his way to the top of the oil market in early 20th century America. It shows how his greed and his lust for power control his personality and have lasting impacts for those around him, including family members. The film may not follow the book directly, but I admire that.

The book is very complex, switching from second person narrative to third person narrative and following a range of different characters as they encounter conflict, political changes and the questioning of religion.  The social issues are explored in great depth and it draws an intriguing comparison to how society is nowadays to how it once was. At its core the novel has characters that are consistent to the plot, but whereas the novel focuses more on Daniel Plainview’s son and the people he interacts with, the film strips away a lot of the padding and leaves us with just Mr Plainview himself and his actions.

The book moves on quite quickly from the events surrounding Daniel Plainview and soon become focused on his son moving away and becoming tangled in conflict and political struggles, but with the film Paul Thomas Anderson stuck to the events surrounding Daniel Plainview. It might annoy others who like the book because it does detract away from the topics the book covers, but I like it because it keeps the film simplistic. Stylistically PTA keeps his films simple so that they focus on the characters, which I think he achieved perfectly with ‘There Will Be Blood’, the character of Plainview was so complex. I went from thinking he was a good business, to hating him, to feeling some sympathy for him, before hating his guts again.

There was a bold changing of the character presented in the novel, taking someone who was essentially a family man who wanted to do the best for his family and turning him to a sinister, cold hearted shell of a man. It kept the flare for business and passion for making money, but it twisted it and made it show more about what happens when greed is left to manifest itself. The film is very simplistic and does centre on one man, but that is what made it so chilling. It left us following a man we in all likelihood hate as we see his greed completely change who he was.

There’s always a popular complaint from people when a big screen adaptation is released, because people will always compare it to the book and say that the film doesn’t follow the story of the book. In some cases, such as Harry Potter, I don’t care because I wasn’t engaged enough in the books to care about what happens with the films. In the case of The Hobbit I care because it’s one of my favourite books and I care about what happens to it. In the case of Oil! I admire the changes that PTA made. I like the fact he respected the source material, but then made it something different. I think it’s so admirable that a film maker who is the writer and director can take a fine piece of literature and be inspired. That was the key thing with this film, it inspired Paul Thomas Anderson.

It’s all well and good taking a book and directly transferring it to screen, much like a lot of film makers do nowadays anyway, but it shows something special when they can be inspired by a book and use that inspiration to make it in to something different. PTA took a source that he respected, took the elements that inspired him the most and made a film that was tangential to the novel, but worked not only as a piece of cinema but as a solid narrative. He took an idea, a character, a made an entire film out of it, questioning what it is that makes us human.

As a screenplay writer as well, PTA tested how far a character can be strengthened by speech. The film takes a full nineteen minutes before speech is heard, before that it’s footage of Plainview digging and discovering oil. It was chilling to see such vast desert landscapes with just one man walking across. It was the sort of shot that made me reflect on how small my existence is, it made realise that I am such a small part of this enormous planet we live on. That was chilling.

The correlation between the film being one of my favourites and the novel being one of my favourites is not clichéd, nor is it coincidental, I appreciate both for different reasons and I will always hold them close to me. The film was the first film I saw by Paul Thomas Anderson who has grown in to my favourite screenplay writer, and the novel kept me company over a series of lunch breaks at my part time job and two days ill in bed whilst on holiday in Tunisia. It will always means something special to me and be a book I can look back on a remember how it made me feel after reading it for the first time.

As the title suggests, I believe this was a perfect example of how to turn a book into a film, and it is. It showed how a film maker can appreciate a piece of literature, be inspired by it and make a piece of film from that spark of inspiration. It showed how you don’t just have to copy and paste a book to the big screen, you don’t have to follow a book just like a rule book, and you certainly do not have to add things to influence the pace of a film. That wasn’t a dig at The Hobbit. Not in the slightest.

If you haven’t read the book then I would heavily recommend it, it’s a classic novel exploring greed and jealously and how they affect us as humans. I may dislike the character of Daniel Plainview but in the end I know he represents all of us. He is a physical representation of the deeply pitted greed that hides in all humans, and is a display of what happens when this greed is set free.

Jay Gatsby – If We Hate Him, We Hate Ourselves

As regular readers will know I have talked many times about The Great Gatsby in regards to the film from last year. It’s nearly been a year since I saw the film and my opinion still remains the same, but I think it’s high time I spoke about the novel.

I will start by saying that the novel is excellent. It is one of the finest pieces of literature I’ve had the pleasure of reading and I would regard it as one of my favourite books. F Scott Fitzgerald manages to comment on the idea of love and desire but connects it to such intriguing characters, none more so than the title character of Jay Gatsby.

Initially he appears as a mysterious millionaire who likes nothing more than to hold extravagant parties for everyone but himself. Even this was intriguing for me, seeing a man who has so much money appears to be so hollow was fascinating. As members of today’s society we’re all drawn in to the idea of financial gain and material possessions but I think the first sighting of Gatsby shows what happens when you achieve this ideal. Money leaves you quite literally having everything and nothing.

But as the story develops we see that there is more to this gentleman than meets the eye, moving from something of a sixties James Bond villain to someone more third dimensional. If you look past all of the expensive clothing and lavish property ownership you see that he is a man who is very conflicted. His history is obscure and complicated and he tries his hardest to hide many things from people but, none more so than his love for the young Daisy Buchanan.

The plot develops to show how the one thing that Gatsby actually wants is the love of the one he desires. He wants to be reunited with the person he fell in love with at a very young age. His first love, something that some people would look back on with fondness but can accept that it was always going to end, but in the case of Gatsby he clings to this and keeps it in the front of his mind. Some would say that he goes too far to achieve this but personally I feel that he does exactly what any human being would do, and it’s not something worth hating him for.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me but I don’t think he is a character worth disliking, because in the end he represents humanity. He is a physical representation of the desire all human beings have. The desire to be somebody, the desire to be accepted,  the desire to be accepted by those around us but most importantly the desire to be with the one we love. Now people approach this in a manner of different ways, some write poetic letter and some sit in a room crying and trying to make everything seem fine, and then there’s Gatsby. The sporadic approach. The approach that wants that one person at any cost, without seeing barriers or limitations.

He’s sporadic because he is quite literally all over the place, he cannot control his emotions. One minute he’s a grown man with a strong heart and his head held high, the next he’s a flustered teenager who doesn’t know how to handle raging hormones. It’s love that makes him as conflicted as he is, as happy as he is, and most importantly as angry as he is. He blames himself and knows that inevitably it is his own actions that cause him to be unhappy.

That’s not something worth disliking him for, because he’s constructed as such an intricate and complex character, surrounded by lies and deceit and such lavish lucre but it’s all part of the hole left in his life. The material possessions, the house with the swimming pool, the yellow Rolls Royce, the clothing, is all just to plug the hole in his life left by Daisy. As a young man who was unsuccessful and had nothing to his name he felt that being poor was his mistake. It was what lead to him eventually being alone, so money was a way to fix this. That isn’t distasteful or something to dislike him for because we all do it. When we get upset or annoyed we buy things, be it comfort food, clothes or a limited edition blu ray steel book of Total Recall (yes, this happened to me last year) we all plug emotional holes with material possessions. Gatsby is us.

In regards to the lying it’s just the same, he was a nobody to one person, so he lies to become a somebody to everyone. The lies he constructs are to build an identity worth noticing and to quite literally buy friends. It’s admirable that he only has Nick Carraway as a friend because it shows how much a true friend really means to him. It shows a clear distinction between the two sets of friends we all have as humans: the ones we try to impress by being someone we’re not, and the ones who accept us for who we are and stand by us. Carraway was right, he was worth the whole damn bunch.

In the end I think Gatsby is us. He is a subversive look on the human condition and how we all try to be something we’re not. He represents how love impacts us all and what it does to us. If you dislike Gatsby then essentially you dislike yourself. Because he is a physical representation of all the jealously, lust, anger and self loathing that humans contain. Gatsby takes all of the raw emotions that we try to hide and brings them to the surface. He is someone to be feared because he is what all humans are capable of. We hate him because he is everything we hate in ourselves.

At the end of the day we are all Gatsby, stood on the end of a pier reaching out to the light on the other side. Close to it, and yet equally so far.