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.

500 Days of Summer Results in 500 Minutes of Over-Thinking

It’s only been four months since I turned eighteen and yet there are more signs appearing that I am a fifty four year old man trapped inside a young man’s body. I find myself feeling negative even after watching a film that’s meant to be funny. It’s not negative as in “everything is awful” or “I don’t like living” but it’s more just me thinking about why people are so annoying. 

I’m starting to consider the fact that it might not be films I dislike, but it’s the people in them that I dislike. It sounds silly because I know they’re not real, but I allow myself to get to immersed in to a film that for the time they’re on screen, they’re real people. It’s odd how I develop a bigger hatred over an hour and half running time for someone who doesn’t exist than I do for someone over a number of years who does exist. It’s the reason why films that are loved by everyone else are less enjoyable for me, as I found recently this is the case with the film ‘500 Days of Summer’. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like how the film is written and the style of it is very well delivered, it was a romantic comedy that I was able to sit through and find myself enjoying it, but it made me uncomfortable. It’s curious how romantic comedies are set up to make you like or dislike certain people, and even more curious how I can take this rule and turn it completely on it’s head. I’ve seen the film four times now and after each time my thoughts became more distorted, like so:

First viewing: “I dislike the female character. It was unfair for her to lead the man on and make him feel as bad as he did. It’s her fault that he ended up feeling so unhappy”

Second viewing: “Actually I dislike the male character. It’s his fault that he’s unhappy because she clearly stated at the beginning that she wasn’t looking for a relationship, so it’s his fault for jumping in too quickly and assuming it was a solid deal. His unhappiness is caused by his own stupidity”

Third viewing: “You know what? I dislike both of them. They’re not going to be happy together so there’s no point in them even trying to patch things up. I don’t think either of them actually know what they want because the line between friendship and having casual sex has been completely removed. If they’re going to string it out over a five hundred day period then they deserve to be unhappy quite frankly”

Fourth viewing: “I don’t like anyone in this film. The couple (if you can call them that) are just plain annoying because neither of them can look after themselves let alone another human being so they shouldn’t be trusted with the idea of a relationship, the friends are beyond useless because they’re written to be the stereotypical beer drinking, football watching guys that every American is supposed to know, I don’t even know why Chloe Grace Moretz is in this film because her character is about as important as the football she kicks around, and then the people that the guy works with are beyond irritating. Why do they care so much about stupid greetings cards? All of their ideas on love are so distorted, they just need to take a step back and think about their actions. Or are they all too busy singing Karaoke at the bar? I’m glad they’ve all stopped talking and don’t actually exist”

So when I said my thoughts became a little bit distorted, what I actually meant was that they spiralled out of control and lead to me not wanting to speak to anyone in case they annoyed me as much as people in the film did. It’s annoying how it went from being a film I actually quite liked the first time I watched it to being one that can easily irritate me when I think about it. 

It wasn’t just the whole relationship crisis that annoyed me in the film, it was the fact that Zoeey Deschanel plays the character that’s supposed to be different and mysterious…again. 

The word that is often used to describe the film, and Deschanel’s character in the film is “quirky”. It’s a word that annoys me beyond belief when describing a person, let alone a film. It’s a word that people use to justify being slightly odd, or dressing in a different way, or listening to music that others haven’t heard , or eating hummus in a onesie at three in the morning or blah blah blah. It’s a word that it used by so many people it completely negates the meaning of the word. Now to describe a film as that suggests to me that you haven’t got a lot else to say about it. It’s almost as bas as when a film is described as a “sexy comedy” because that suggests the best the writing team behind it could come up with was cleavage shots, a food fight and then a gag about male genitals.

Anyway getting back to the Deschanel’ issue, it was annoying how she was meant to be “quirky” because it made her character quite irritating, but then it was made worse by the fact they tried to link this behaviour to listening to the Smiths. Now I’m a big fan of the Smiths so it was annoying to see their name being used as another “quirky” interest for the young Summer. I like the Smiths but I’m not anything like Summer. I think the writing behind their lyrics is superb and it reflects so much about Morrissey, but I’m the sort of fan who knows that they have more songs than just “there is a light that never goes out”. 

I think it’s just one of those films that I like and dislike at the same time but I well never truly settle on one side of the argument. I will never go so far as to say I hate the film because it’s not that bad, but then equally I will never go so far as to say I love it because I admit it has flaws. I don’t know if I dislike it because I’m thinking about it too much or because it’s meant to be annoying, but either way it’s allowed the inner old man in me to moan, which shouldn’t be done on any occasion.

In summary the old man part of my mind doesn’t like female characters who flutter their eyelashes and have supposedly “cute” laughs, guys who don’t think properly about situatons, young people not appreciating old music, people who are named after seasons, greetings cards, and the word “quirky”.

After thinking about it for so long I’m worried what my thoughts on the film will be after watching it for a fifth time. 

 

2013 Review – from Music to Film and Everything In Between

It appears the end is nigh. As many customers at my weekend job have reminded me, yes it is nearly the end of the year, and yes I should have a happy new year. And yes they would like the receipt in the bag.

Seeing as though I have nearly had this blog for a year now and how much has happened this year I thought I’d take advantage of this opportunity and sum up all of the best elements of 2013 for me. It’s in the style of an award ceremony, and it branches from elements such as music and film to experiences I’ve had. My year would not have been the same without them.

Song of the year: Do I Wanna Know?, Arctic Monkeys – it was up there with ‘Four Simple Words’ by Frank Turner and Black Sabbath’s ‘God Is Dead?’ but being released in the middle of the year as the first song by the band in well over a year, it was always going to be something special. It was a nice surprise returning from a camping week to hear this song, a nice blend of heavy guitar and bass accompanied by Alex Turner’s incredible vocals. It is masterfully written and presents a clear and strong message based around the connection you have to someone. 

Album of the year: Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man – having not heard of the band before spending a weekend away in Southampton to visit my sister back in July, I was excited to hear what music was produced by the band. Their new album was released and instantly became a favourite of mine, every single song on it is brilliant and makes me want to keep listening. Sure ‘AM’ was brilliant but it didn’t have me as hooked as Portugal. The Man did. If you haven’t listened to them before then I would heavily recommend them. Their music is a little different but beautiful nonetheless.

Best Live Act: shared winners Arctic Monkeys and Fleetwood Mac- I know I’m cheating by choosing two, but despite Reading Festival in the summer nothing compares to either of these acts. Fleetwood Mac performed for three hours straight and were musically perfect whilst still putting on a good show. Then Arctic Monkeys differed from that, being more energetic and making me dance harder than I’ve ever danced before. A particular highlight for me was the blend of their song ‘Arabella’ and the Black Sabbath classic ‘War Pigs’. Both were completely different styles of performing, but either way I witnessed true titans of music.

Television Programme of the Year: Breaking Bad – I don’t think I need to elaborate here. It was insane and there was no Sherlock to compete. Next.

Film of the Year: Kings of Summer – A beautiful, charming, funny and heartwarming film that was probably missed by most people I know. An obscure comedy about three teenagers who decide to live in the forest, reminding us all of the times we wanted to be free when we were younger. It shows the value of friendship, challenges the value of family and makes you laugh out loud in between. It is a genuine treasure of the year and it’s a shame so many people missed it. I would heavily recommend this film to anyone that is human. 

Cinema Shock of the Year : Trance – I came out of the cinema screening and didn’t know what to think. It was how I imagine ‘Inception’ would be if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino. I’m not saying it wasn’t good because it was a very good film, it’s just not one for the faint hearted. Danny Boyle did a terrific job but it should not have a 15 certificate. 

Film Soundtrack of the Year : Silver Linings Playbook – I can’t really say a lot more than it’s a perfect soundtrack for a damn good film. A good blend of old and contemporary songs that link to the mindset of the characters so well. I love it. My review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/rapid-reviews-silver-linings-playbook/

“I shouldn’t like it but I do” Film of the Year : The World’s End – those who are followers of my blog will know how much I thought of this film. Yes it was ill disciplined, yes it wasn’t as funny as ‘Hot Fuzz’, but I don’t care. The use of sci fi humour and the underlying theme of what it means to be a human, and furthermore being proud of being human were enough to make me very happy indeed. Again, my review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/the-worlds-end-review-no-spoilers-the-cornetto-trilogys-worthy-last-installment/

Acting Performance of the Year : Joaquin Phoenix, The Master –  I know it was technically a 2012 film for some but it was nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards so I think it counts. Honestly I cannot give Mr Phoenix enough credit for this role, he was absolutely superb. The scenes that were improvised were chilling and gritty and then the scripted scenes were perfected. This award very nearly went to Jennifer Lawrence for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ purely because of the shock factor but in the end Joaquin really put on a good show and showed us just how unstable a character can be.

Nerd Pleasing Moment of the Year : Doctor Who 50th Special – Star Trek didn’t get this award. Thor didn’t get this award. Superman definitely didn’t get this award. There was only going to be one winner, and that was indeed the anniversary special of Doctor Who back in November. The combination of David Tennant, John Hurt and careful writing (finally) made the episode as good as it was. I was overjoyed when it turned out to be as good as it was and I think it was a near perfect way of celebrating what is one of the best television programmes ever to be made.

I Told You So Award :  shared winners Man Of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – This is again an award that is shared between two films, and it is for the films that I warned people about before but they didn’t listen. What I mean by this is simple: ‘Man of Steel’ was ruined because Zack Snyder concentrates too much on visuals and so the film lacked substance. A secondly, ‘The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’ is still too long and it doesn’t need to be that long. Both films could have been a lot better and it’s a shame because I wanted to enjoy them both a lot more than I did. Incidentally I reviewed the second installment of The Hobbit recently which can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-the-film-is-long-meaning-my-review-is/

Blog Post of the Year : “Tim Burton vs Christopher Nolan – The Batman Argument” – this was always going to be a favourite of mine. It took a long time to write due to the research behind it, but it was worth it. It was a lot of fun to write and to this day it still remains my most viewed blog post. It was my response to an article saying that Tim Burton made better Batman films than Christopher Nolan. In all fairness the article was very well written and they formed a strong argument, however I responded accordingly, and if you haven’t read it then it can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/tim-burton-vs-christopher-nolan-the-batman-argument/

Runners up for my favourite blog post were:

Cloud Atlas review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/rapid-reviews-cloud-atlas-dvd/

Great Gatsby review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/the-could-be-better-gatsby-no-spoilers/

So there you have it, my review of different elements the year had to throw at us. Were they the best choices? Probably not but they were the ones that stood out to me and the ones that had the biggest impact.

On a side note I would just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has followed my blog or indeed anybody who has read it. Even the one time means a lot to me and I’m grateful for anybody who takes the time to look at my work. I started this blog a year ago and didn’t even imagine it would be as well received as it has been so I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout the year. Thank you to everyone who has made this year so brilliant, and I wish everyone all the best for 2014.