Pontypool Changes Just Enough

PontypoolI’ve been wanting to write a post about Pontypool for some time now, and I’ve put it off because a) I’ll never do the damn thing justice with my ramblings and b) procrastination FTW! But it’s time I at least brought it to the attention of everyone I know who loves zombies because, seriously, you have not seen zombies like this before.

Writers and filmmakers have tried to freshen up zombies in a variety of ways, and I don’t mean by hanging those little cardboard pine trees from their ears, although that would be hilarious and needs to be filmed immediately. They’ve made it a about speed, science, or just coming up with different reasons people might have for craving the brains of other people, which are probably delicious with the right sauce. But as far as I’m aware, no one has ever made zombies about LANGUAGE.

In this version of (non)zombie lore, certain words are infected and using them leads to stuttering, confusion of meaning, confusion of sounds, just… confusion in general. And then you try to eat through other people’s mouths in order to steal their words. Ya got that? It’s not about getting their brains. You eat their faces in order to steal their language, in the most physical way possible.

The entirety of the film takes place in a church basement/radio station with a relatively tiny cast. Anything outside the basement is experienced through aural avenues. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like an interesting watch, but believe me, it is. If you had told me, after I watched this film for the first time, that the cameras rarely left the basement, I wouldn’t have believed you. It just doesn’t feel that limited. At all. The actors do an amazing job of convincing you that the world outside is real, that the community suffering from this new kind of disease is far from fictional.

Pontypool Changes EverythingAfter I saw the film, I tried to learn more about it and discovered it was originally a novel called Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess. I started reading the first few pages and had to quit. It gave me flashbacks of Ben Marcus’ The Age of Wire and String, which I recall thinking was kind of brilliant, at first, until the innovation overwhelmed me. I just couldn’t stick with it because everything in it meant so little to me, and I fear Pontypool Changes Everything would have the same effect.

This may be one of those rare times when the movie does more for me than the book. I think the actors really sold this one—really, really sold it. So if you’re looking for a truly different take on the whole zombie fad that seems to be happening right now, give Pontypool a look. It’ll make you think, but not at the cost of the story. It challenges the boundaries of its genre without ignoring them completely. It is absolutely worth a watch, if only to discus what the hell was going on with that out-of-nowhere ending.

What Makes a Game?

I’ve always been strangely fond of any art that challenges my ideas about its medium. And this isn’t an easy thing to do with me. I’m the sort of person who walks past a painting called “Red Rectangle on White Canvas” and thinks there’s a sucker born every minute. Still I’ve seen art, read poetry and stories, and heard music that challenged my definitions of art, poetry, stories, and music. But never before have I had this kind of experience with a game. Yes, a game.

DearEsther

I can’t recall how I first heard about Dear Esther, but I understand it began as a mod for Half-Life 2 (which I still need to play). The version I played is the revamped 2012 version. And oh. my. god. is this game gorgeous. I can’t even begin to go into it. The caves. If you start this game and don’t at least get to the caves, you’ve not even begun to play.

Okay, so I’ve heard the complaints about Dear Esther. I had them, too, at first. No, really. I finished the thing in one night, got to the infamous black screen, and said, “Wait. That’s it? That’s it! You just walk through it and look at stuff, and you don’t even get any answers? Oh, no you don’t, game. I’m getting SOMETHING out of this—a story, at the very least, since you couldn’t even give me the (admittedly false) sense of accomplishment I usually get from finishing a game. Bad game. Bad. I payed how much for this? Oh, for the love of…” Yeah, I get emotional about things.

Lately, my answer to infuriating art is to find out as much as I can about author intention, reader interpretation, and the process of creation. I often end up doing this with David Lynch films (which will become relevant a few paragraphs down). And I learned some things when I read up on Dear Esther. So when it came time for The Other Lamm to play, I was ready with hard-won insight. He reached the black screen, fiddled around because he was sure the thing had a glitch, and when he discovered it didn’t, he said the words I knew he would say: “That’s it?”

“Okay,” I said. “The game starts now. Ready. Set. Go.”

Once you finish what I’m calling the “walk-through” of Dear Esther, you’ll find you’ve been given an array of puzzle pieces. Your job is to put them together. Build a story. And that’s the game. Each person’s story is different because each person is going to get different pieces of the puzzle, focus on different aspects of the story, and notice different visuals in the walk-through. And each person is going to bring aspects of their own lives, experiences, and knowledge to their interpretation. Once you’ve built a story, the fun, of course, is sharing it. I’m going to share mine below, after the spoiler warning, so if you haven’t played the game, don’t read past the warning. You really do want a chance to piece this together on your own before the interpretations of other people change the puzzle for you. And they will. And that’s fun, too. But getting that first idea will tell you some things about yourself.

One last thing before I go into spoiler zone: I was given the option to purchase the soundtrack in a bundle with the game. I scoffed, thinking why should I buy a soundtrack I haven’t even heard yet? I should have taken the deal. The music in this game is over a good third of the experience, and it is gorgeous. The soundtrack really should be singing to you while you’re playing the REAL game. In fact, I kind of think it would be far more fair to automatically bundle the soundtrack with the game, simply because the game you’re paying for is played during and after the first walk-through.

Now…

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Spoiler Warning: the following is my own interpretation of Dear Esther.

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lost highwayOne day, at a friend’s party, I found myself watching my first David Lynch film: Lost Highway. I was awestruck, disturbed, unraveled by the thing. I spent the next week reading everything I could find on it. I finally saw an article that talked about the film’s intention to put the viewer in the position of the protagonist, who is suffering a fugue state. That information completely changed my understanding of the story. It all came together for me. And in Dear Esther, when I was given a monologue that implied a fugue state, I couldn’t help going back to that idea.

Here is the monologue that changed my interpretation:

“The pain in my leg sent me blind for a few minutes as I struggled up the cliff path: I swallowed another handful of painkillers and now I feel almost lucid. The island around me has retreated to a hazed distance, whilst the moon appears to have descended into my palm to guide me. I can see a thick black line of infection reaching for my heart from the waistband of my trousers. Through the fugue, it is all the world like the path I have cut from the lowlands towards the aerial.”

So my final interpretation of this story is that it’s about a man who had a few drinks the night he crashed his car, and his wife was killed in the accident. He is trapped in a fugue state, wherein he identifies as a stranger trying to assign blame. He assigns blame to the other driver, to himself, to the drink, to the seagulls, to the paint on the road. He wants desperately to make meaning out of a meaningless tragedy. He is on a variety of medication, painkillers etc. He is not himself. Maybe he’s dying. Maybe he just wishes he was. Every once in a while, he becomes lucid and remembers who he is. But the fugue state always draws him back because he cannot deal with reality. The ending can be either happy or miserable. I toggle between them, and I think that’s okay. Interpretation doesn’t have to be precise to be meaningful.

Now I’ve read interpretations that are so different from mine, and yet these people had very similar information with which to build. I’ve read someone’s idea that the person wandering the island is Esther, who is in a coma and listening to the letters her husband reads to her as her dreamscape is influenced by those letters. And I’ve read an interpretation where you, the player, are an infection traversing the body of a dying man and hearing the thoughts that haunt him. These are all beautiful interpretations, and I don’t think any of them are right or wrong. They just are, and the people who came up with them have now beat the game, as have I. My prize is a story I pieced together, good memories of beautiful landscape and music, and new ideas about what makes a game a game.

Films That Make You Go Hmmm…

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Takashi Miike’s Audition.

I don’t mean for this to become a horror movie blog, but I guess it’s sort of heading that way, isn’t it? Probably it seems weird that a person who writes fantasy and young-adult, contemporary retellings of Romantic Era novels would be into horror films, but I am. I always have been, as long as I can remember. I read fantasy and I watch horror (well, horror and anything animated). And I just saw a horror film people assured me would seriously mess me up. It didn’t. What it did do was make me think. A lot. And after reading up on other people’s interpretations, I’ve finally come to a place where I think I just might get this film.

AuditionThe film in question is Takashi Miike’s Audition. My immediate reaction after seeing it was to discuss it with The Other Lamm, look up other people’s interpretations online, and then discuss it some more. I felt very strongly that there was more to it than The Other Lamm’s mostly literal interpretation. There seemed to be so many subtle and not-so-subtle hints that we were dealing with an unreliable narrator. I was damn near sure virtually none of the third act actually happened outside Aoyama’s head, and much of the first two acts were colored by his skewed perception of reality.

One of the very first detailed interpretations I read not only agreed with my initial response to the film, but identified the film’s heavy use of symbols and changed how much of the “dream sequences” I took at face value. For example, I believed the dream-assistant when she suggested she had slept with Aoyama one time and that, while it was a mistake, she had expected more from the relationship. My reason for taking this at face value was the scenes in the first act in which the same assistant talks about her impending marriage as though she wants Aoyama to stop her. And because I took the dream-assistant’s admission at face value, I also took Aoyama’s implied sexual relationship with his son’s girlfriend at face value. I now feel very differently.

There are three main ideas that are pivotal to my interpretation:

1. This story is told from an unreliable perspective. We’re seeing events through the eyes of a man who’s decidedly out of touch with reality. The evidence for this is pretty plentiful. He has several conversations throughout the film, and we see each one occur multiple times, but every time one occurs we find it’s changed. His memories of past events are shifting. Also, he knows things he shouldn’t know, like the way Asami’s apartment looks and the sack she keeps, which shows up in Aoyama’s delusions as well as the “reality” portion of the film. But he’s never been to her apartment, so why is he imagining it exactly as it is? The answer, of course, must be that he’s never seen her apartment and so neither have we (the audience). We’ve just been shown what he imagines in both instances.

2. I’m convinced this is a story about the “Madonna–whore complex.” Aoyama sees women as objects. He holds an audition for his new wife, compares looking for her to buying a car, and when his son walks in on him looking through their head shots, he reacts as though he’s just been caught looking at pornography. Asami is dressed only in white when Aoyama sees her as his ideal. She’s shy, submissive, and “obedient” (which is another indication Aoyama is not seeing the real Asami: he cannot possibly know whether she is obedient without having ordered her to do anything, but that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly insisting she is). She is absolutely, one-hundred percent pure—extra virgin even. Then he finds out about her abuse. And shock shock, he blames the victim. He imagines her allowing and then enjoying her abuse. He imagines her abuser as another victim. To him, there’s no way a good girl could have gone through what she went through. She’s damaged. And since a woman can only be one of two things to him, she goes from perfect to monstrous. Not only that, but all the women he knows turn into sexual deviants in his mind, which is why he dreams about them all aggressively molesting him. After his initial disillusionment, we see Asami wearing other colors: first a red coat, and finally black leather. But this isn’t the only instance in which color is used to indicate a dichotomy. All throughout the film, scenes are set in bright red against pure white. And while black might be the obvious opposite to white, red is the color of passion, of desire, rage, sexual maturity, blood, etc.

3. My third idea is not one I saw in the other interpretations, but I think there’s a very real case for it. That is, I think this film is meant to be incredibly meta. I don’t think this is just a story about one man’s misogyny and how he deals with the cognitive dissonance it creates. I think this is a story about art, about the portrayal of women in film. I think that’s the reason the casting call repeatedly mentions becoming a heroine and Asami talks about becoming a real heroine at the hotel. The director is examining our quintessential heroine, delving into the dichotomy much of society tries to impose upon women, both in the real world and in art. This is a self-examination, and that’s what makes it brilliant. Art that examines art in such a way that doesn’t call attention to its purpose is definitely doing it right.

If you read this post despite the spoilers and haven’t yet seen the film, I recommend seeing it, especially if you’re one of those people who loves to find meaning in story-puzzles. You won’t be disappointed… that is unless you’ve seen the god-awful trailers and are expecting straight-up torture porn. So you know, this film probably won’t shock you, it won’t mess you up (especially if you’re familiar with the horror genre), and you won’t be hanging on the edge of your seat (at least not through the first two acts). You may get a bit squeamish in parts, but that’s all. What this film will do is make you think. And think. And think… I get the feeling there’s so much more to Audition that I haven’t even examined, so many different possible interpretations, and so many uncovered clues. This was just my brief analysis of an incredibly complex film after the first viewing.

For Wendy’s Mother, Peter Pan Is a Horror Story

Excuses are my speciality. For example, part of the reason I’m the worst blogger in the world this month is I’m working on a challenging revision. And part of the reason the revision is challenging is a new point of view I’m having to write from. I chose to write from this point of view both because it was challenging and pivotal. The character is central, a catalyst, and I think he’s freakin’ adorable. But that’s neither here nor there. Mostly, I’m using him as an excuse to lead in to a blog post about a film I love and how point of view changes everything. Sorry, Kaspar. You are freakin’ adorable, though.

I first saw The Orphanage after watching an incredibly disappointing horror movie and deciding to begin a new quest for high quality horror. The Orphanage was the first film I tried, and I didn’t have to look any further. It was chilling and powerful in that way that keeps you up all night, thinking.

I was so haunted by the film, I started looking up interviews and extra information on it, and what I learned about its conception taught me something about my own writing: story may be king, but point of view is… the pope or something. On his inspiration for The Orphanage writer Sergio G. Sánchez said, “My influences were more literary. One of them was Peter Pan. Basically, it was just that picture of Wendy’s mother sitting by the window waiting for her child. That’s the spark that ignited everything. I was thinking, it would be really interesting to tell the story of Peter Pan from the point of view of the mother.”

Think about that for a second. From Wendy’s point of view, the story of Peter Pan is a great adventure, sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilarating, but an adventure still. From the point of view of her mother, Peter Pan becomes a horror story. Can you fathom how terrifying it would be for any parent? You brush off your children’s stories about an imaginary friend who comes to visit them through their window every night as normal childhood whimsy, only to find, one night, their window flung open, their beds empty. I can’t imagine it, but that’s exactly what Sánchez does. Never mind the little classic “horror” moments sprinkled throughout the film; The Orphanage is terrifying because of the point of view.

If you can handle any amount of horror, I highly recommend you see The Orphanage. It is beautiful, touching, terrifying, and strange. I’ve not seen another film quite like it. I even question whether marketing it as pure horror really did it justice. It’s not your classic teen slasher flick. It’s more elegant than your typical supernatural horror movie or your psychological thriller. There are moments where you can feel the not-so-subtle hand of someone who said, “let’s make this appeal to horror movie fans, K?” but overall, the piece is stunning. And if it doesn’t make you think about the story of Peter Pan in a whole new light, you just weren’t paying attention.

Real Vampires Get Knocked Down, but They Get Up Again (You’re Never Gonna Keep Them Down)

Nosferatu

I’ve been thinking a lot about vampires. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m watching the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I’d only ever seen from season four on), or it may be that I’m feeling the temporary loss of True Blood (it’s gotten to be a kind of family tradition ’round here). Whatever the reason, I’ve realized something has been bothering me about modern vampires.

I know vampires are folkloric creatures, and it’s kind of ridiculous to grumble over what is and isn’t supposed to happen with “real vampires” (I actually heard that phrase blurted outside the theater after a showing of Blade). I’m probably one of the only people who didn’t love Twilight and yet wasn’t bothered by the sparklepires… vamparkles? I actually thought it was kind of cool that Stephenie Meyer made her version of the undead into a kind of on-land Anglerfish. That’s not sarcasm; I truly thought it was awesome. Anglerfish are scary as hell.

But there’s one common change that actually does bother me, and that’s due to my preference for the old idea that a wooden stake through the heart is not supposed to kill a vampire. I’ll say that again, in case you missed it. A stake through the heart should not kill a vampire. You don’t shoot a toothpick at them and have them melt into a pile of guts. You don’t drop them onto a fence post and have them explode into ashes. It’s not that simple. The stake is only there to hold them down. Remove the stake, and the vampire gets back up and kills your stupid ass.

You may say I’m splitting hairs about this, but let me make a case for it.

There’s one very important thing I love about vampires: they’re the commingled representation of sex and death.

Vampires traditionally seduce and corrupt young “virgins” by exchanging um… fluids with them. And if you don’t think that’s a representation of sexuality, try to remember the last time you heard an on-screen vampire victim scream the way you might if your date suddenly stabbed you in the neck with two pencils. Close your eyes and just imagine it for a second. Two pencils. Getting stabbed into your neck. You’d howl like someone was holding your hand to a red-hot stovetop. You wouldn’t make slight-discomfort-plus-pleasure noises while you were getting bitten. I promise.

But vampires also represent a part of our existence we don’t particularly like to think about: death. And not the lacy, quiet, romantic death you read about in poems. I mean the kind of death you see when you find a dead animal in the road—a shriveled thing that used to be full of movement and thought and decision. You can’t just kill a vampire; it’s already dead. It is death in the flesh—undeath, in other words. All you can do is incapacitate it by tearing it apart.

So all the religious, holy-water, scared-of-crosses nonsense aside, vampires are a folkloric symbol of the ultimate creative act and the ultimate destructive force existing in the same body. They’re the walking, talking circle of life. That’s why it’s important to me that a vampire sleep in its coffin during the day. And when you drive a stake through its heart, you do it so the unholy monster doesn’t get up and kill you while you’re decapitating it.

Our folklore is there to remind us of every aspect of our lives, even those we don’t like to think about. I don’t think a representation of death should be romantic or convenient. It should be terrible, like opening a coffin, finding a corpse, and driving a stake through the heart of someone you loved so they stay dead.

What do you think?

“Hello… Gordon.”

It’s weird. I have different genre preferences for different mediums. For books, I prefer fantasy; for films, horror; for music, moody folk. One thing I noticed about a lot of the art I love is that most people I know have never heard of it. But I’m not a hipster! This so isn’t working for me. How am I supposed to gush about how Vermillion Lies’ “Shark Serenade” is likely my freakin’ theme song and should probably be played at my funeral if no one I know has heard of it? I’m just going to have to share this stuff more, I’ve decided. So share I will, and I’m starting with a horror film because it was already on my list of stuff to write blogs about.

Session Nine Cover ImageMy first impression of Session 9 was that it probably had a low budget. And I was pretty sure it was going to be one of those films I mildly enjoy, easily predict, and then forget about a week or two later. I was wrong. Not about the budget. I mean it does look somewhat raw, but I think that might be a result of the digital filming, which is something I’m only used to seeing on home videos. It’s just that this movie refused to be what I thought it was going to be. And that’s what made it brilliant.

Two things you should know about Session 9: 1) It’s about a crew cleaning up asbestos in an old mental hospital, which is terrifying in itself because asbestos is scary; and 2) the movie was shot in an actual old, falling-apart, haunting-as-all-get-out mental hospital. So it has automatic win on atmosphere.

What do I love about Session 9? It’s subdued. It’s not about the deaths (though there are deaths because, come on, it’s a horror movie). It’s about the characters and the hospital, which I believe is a character in itself. It’s about the darkness that lies in all of us. It’s all-over mood and atmosphere. It takes its time, but it’s never boring. Just watch this scene and tell me it doesn’t give you shivers. That voice! It’s not like your usual monster voice, is it? There’s no mistaking that voice for the comparatively tender-hearted Freddy Kruger. The voice sounds human, although slightly distorted—warped even, which I’m sure was intentional.

The other thing I love about Session 9 is it actually acknowledged the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic of the 1980s, which made me swoon all over it like it was the most adorable puppy in the world. Most horror films perpetuate the idea that SRA was “for real, you guys, and that sort of thing is still prevalent today!” But Session 9 took the high road, discussed the kind of psychological abuse that resulted from the panic itself, and still managed to make a terrifying film. It didn’t thrive on ignorance, in other words. It managed to use the truth to its benefit.

Finally, though I went through the whole movie feeling fond, I didn’t actually adore it until the last line. One line—that’s all it took—and the whole story came into focus and rooted itself in my memory. That’s a pretty powerful piece of writing, and it’s only eight words. I won’t tell you what the line is, but you’ll know it when you hear it. Oh, you definitely will.

So see Session 9 if you like slow-burning, atmospheric, intelligent horror. While it may not be quite as polished as some of the films I fawn over, it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before. And you will remember it. I promise.

On Anchor Characters

In my last post I mentioned anchor characters, but then I realized it was a thing I kind of made up, and I hadn’t really rambled on about it yet. Such a wasted opportunity. I am so prepared to remedy that.

So what is an anchor character? Well, if you’re like me and have a snow-pea sized attention span, an anchor character is any character that anchors you to the story. For me it’s usually an anti-hero, a flawed and funny protagonist, or a romantic antagonist. Mystery is the all-important element, I’ve found. The right amount of mystery drives me crazy with curiosity, and I’ll read through any amount of descriptive world-building or random essay chapters (ahem, Victor Hugo) just to learn more about one person. I’ve tried to explain to those who don’t understand that what Lord of the Rings lacked for me was an anchor character. I might have read it otherwise. I might have even loved it. As it was, I couldn’t even get halfway through.

My first anchor character was so precious to me, I actually locked him in a hope chest to keep him safe. When we’re children, we’re pretty sure losing whatever our favorite thing is means we will never ever see it again. And I was most afraid of losing a tall, whimsical man called Uncle Morris. Uncle Morris was a secondary character in Silvia Cassedy’s Behind the Attic Wall, which was the favorite book of my childhood self. If you asked me what I loved about that book, even in those days, my answer would have been the characters. All of them. But the cake-taker, without a doubt, was Uncle Morris.

After Uncle Morris, I fell in love with characters like Gaston Leroux’s poor phantom Erik (me and a billion other girls, right?), Captain James Hook (he’s so damned prim), The White Witch (anyone who doesn’t love her is just wrong), Severus Snape (best dark horse I ever rooted for), and Victor Hugo’s tortured priest Dom Claude Frollo (more on that later). Most of characters I love are antagonists (because of the mystery, y’all). And I love them still.

When writing, of course, my favorite character has to shift for every scene. If I didn’t adore something about each of them, I wouldn’t be able to put them to paper. But as a reader, I usually find my anchor, and I am loyal to the bitter end.

Mysterious Horror and Paranormal Activity

I admit I’m a bit of a horror junkie. Good horror relaxes me. I know that’s probably weird, but it’s true. I’ve tried to analyze why (because analyzing is what I do), and I’ve come up with a few ideas involving the release of endorphins, complete emotional occupation, and catharsis. In other words, it’s a mystery. But when I’m down and completely out, nothing soothes me like an unhealthy dinner, a strong drink, and a good old-fashioned horror movie.

Most recently, I saw Paranormal Activity. I’d been meaning to watch it for some time. People said it succeeded in doing what The Blaire Witch Project attempted to do, and having been somewhat disappointed by that romp-through-the-woods-with-angry-teenagers, I was eager to see what the “home video” sub-genre could really do. This time around, I was not disappointed.

Paranormal Activity is a slow burn. I never leapt from my seat screaming or clung to The Other Lamm, who puts up with my horror addiction with open-minded awesomeness (I should tell you sometime about how he turned me down for a first date because, as he put it, “I don’t like horror”—yeah, I didn’t get it either). I watched it in the dark, and then turned it off and calmly went to bed. I didn’t notice the effect it had on me until the wee hours, when I realized the sun would be coming up soon, and I hadn’t slept a wink. Because I was still thinking about it. It was glorious. THIS is what horror is supposed to do: keep your mind occupied; give you a vacation from your own problems; and let you experience a hint of mankind’s ancient, everlasting fear of the dark.

I went on to see the sequels, hoping they would be as good as the first. I read reviews of the second movie that praised it as being superior to the first. I have to say I disagree, although it wasn’t a bad film by any stretch, and it definitely had its moments. My guess as to why people find the second film more frightening than the first is it toys with human protective instincts by involving an infant. But to me, it removed a lot of the first film’s delicious mystery by sharing too much backstory.

We didn’t need to know what the malevolent entity was. In fact, it was MUCH better not knowing. Our fear of the dark is a fear of the unknown, and that’s what the first film touched upon in such a remarkable way. Once you give a history and motivation to the dark, it becomes less frightening. The third film exposed even more of the entity’s motivation and history, and in the light of understanding, it became almost silly—an overdone cliché.

After watching these three films, I’ve decided to pay closer attention to the horror I watch and read. I’m going to pay attention to the moment when the threat feels less threatening, and I’m going to pay attention to the amount of information I was given shortly before that moment. I bet I see a pattern.

Some might say the genre that loves the unknown most is mystery, but I don’t think that’s true. Mystery, as a genre, loves uncovering the unknown; horror, on the other hand, loves drowning in it.

Why I Already Know the Book Is Better

With all the talk about the upcoming Hunger Games movie, especially some people’s understandable nervousness over whether the story will be crushed under the heel of Hollywood conformity, I thought it would be a good idea to weigh in with my own optimism. And if you’re a person who knows me in real life, you probably just fell out of your chair. Because I’m not optimistic. Ever. In fact, I have a very strict policy on why pessimism is superior (every surprise is a pleasant one when you expect the worst), and movies are no exception. Of course, I can’t help getting excited about some. I admit I’m drooling to see The Hunger Games on a big screen. I LOVED the books (yes, the word love needed to be in all caps), and I’ll probably be the first person out of the theater who utters the words, “The book was way better.” But I want to look at why that’s not just inevitable, but also perfectly fine.

No matter what the story, the book is almost always better than the film. There is the rare anomaly, of course, which is usually because the film improved upon the actual plot. But as far as visuals, acting, special effects, set design, etc., nothing is going to quite measure up to a book you really loved. A lot of people will tell you this is due to the boundlessness of the human imagination, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. These days, any great special effects team is capable of creating just about anything you can imagine, and if a film is completely animated, even more is possible. Other people will mention that a book really gets into the characters’ heads and no film can do that. While there’s no denying that’s true, I think our capacity for empathy brings us pretty close to understanding what any reasonable character is going through.

I think the real reason the book is usually better is that every book has not one, but many authors. The writer is just a guide. The readers are the architects of the world, characters, music, everything. Every book you read, you build to your preference, as long as you’re given room to do so. So it is perfect for you, and no filmmaker is going to be able to match that. They are building their story for a wide audience, not just you. In seeing any film version of a book you loved, you’re going to have to sacrifice the look you gave to your favorite character, the way a certain scene was laid out, or the choreography you carefully crafted.

But here’s the thing. I still enjoy watching someone else’s vision of a story I loved, even if they don’t see it in quite the same way I did. I think it’s amazing how two different people can be told the same story and see such incredibly different things. And unless The Hunger Games movie is nauseatingly bad, I know I’m going to enjoy experiencing another person’s vision of the books. If all I wanted was my own vision, I’d just read the books again.

In conclusion… check out this trailer! It is NOTHING like how I pictured it, and that makes it awesome.

Also, team Peeta FTW!

No, seriously. I think the only part of these books The Other Lamm didn’t like was how they compelled me to cry, “Peeta! You’re so damn cute, Peeta! Don’t DIE, Peeta! Peeeeeeetaaaaa!” every other page.

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