I slowly get back on my feet….the city slowly gets back on its feet…
I had a very interesting conversation with TJ Fox the other day. We were discussing reviews and rating systems and I said I never give a one star review (or five star for that matter), and I usually discount one star reviews as well. TJ asked- “Don’t some things warrant a one star?”
And I got to thinking…
Is there anything so bad that it should be given the lowest star count on a rating system?
What would make a book so bad that it would deserve only a star?
My thought process is that a book would need to lack in all areas. The plot would need to be ridiculous, the characters one dimensional, the dialogue unbelievable, the setting mundane and lifeless. There would be no rhyme or reason to the chapters or structure. it would need to make no sense. And the grammar would need to be completely off the mark. I have yet to meet a book that lacks in all these criteria simultaneously.
When reviewing something, what goes into it? When you tell someone “Don’t read” or “Do Read” or “Must read” on what basis are you setting that? How much of that is personal preference?
I have a really good friend S. Her taste in books is opposite mine. She never enjoys the books I like. Is she wrong? Am I wrong?
No. Because that’s the problem with reviews: you can be biased by what genre or style you like or don’t like.
I recently read Taylor Jenkins Read “Daisy Jones and the Six”. The story unfolds in an interesting way: from the perspective of someone making a documentary of a band. So the story is told in snippets of how interviewees answered questions. I thought it was a brilliant way to tell a story of this sort. I love quirky ways of telling a story. Others don’t. How fair is it to give this book a one star review because you don’t “like” the method? (I saw one star reviews of this book, so this is a legitimate concern)
I don’t like science fiction. Just don’t like the genre. Would it be fair of me to rate a sci fi book one star?
I did not like the TV show “Breaking Bad”. I stopped watching after season two. I also only watched one episode of “Game of Thrones”. Is it fair for me to say DNF (did not finish) or one star because it’s not my taste?
This week I talked about book to movie adaptations: plot changes, characters eliminated or changed, miscastings…. To someone who has read and loved a novel, the adaptation of it just falls short. But what if someone never read the book and just watched? I never read the Inspector Lynley books, but I thought the series on PBS was pretty good. But Jane Fritz thought that it was totally miscast. We would rate it differently because we are viewing it from two different angles. Would it be fair for Jane to give it a one star because it’s not what she wanted to see based on her preconceived ideas?(to be clear, Im using this as an example- I don’t know what she actually would rate the series) Just like me with the Malkovich Poirot: I thought it was HORRIBLE because I am a Poirot purist. But what if I had never picked up a Christie? Would I still think it was horrible?
How does one write an impartial review? How do you divorce personal preference and just look at the bones of a work? What should a review be based on?
We all agreed that John Malkovich was by far the worst Poirot ever. Though to be fair, I saw a movie with Tony Randall playing the detective, which was just…..indescribable…. It was done in the sixties, so I’ll forgive it to a point…. But what other roles have been horribly miscast?
I love Tom Hanks. He is one of my favorite actors, and he actually seems like a really great guy. Fine actor. I can’t tell you how good I think he is. Except, you know, he can’t play everyone. For example- “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Not only was this a horrible adaptation of a book, it was just a horrible movie. I mean horrible. And miscast is an understatement. The last person who should have played the arrogant prick of a main character was Tom Hanks.. (In hindsight Kevin Spacey would have been perfect actually…)
And how about the iconic Dan Brown character, Robert Langdon. I remember reading DaVinci and was casting the movie in my head. I immediately thought Liam Neeson. Maybe Russell Crowe. Tom Hanks never entered my imagination. I have no doubt that Tom Hanks is a brilliant guy- but he doesn’t play as an elbow patch wearing Harvard academic. Not. at. All. And they keep making the movies with him, and I keep watching them, and I keep shaking my head…..why oh why?
This is one of my problems with film adaptations of books. As a reader, you get a mental picture of a character. This week a couple of people had very interpretations of what Jack Reacher should look like. And that’s great, because we all bring our own interpretations into things. But when you have imagined a character one way, and then see them on a big screen as something else….well, it’s hard to change your mind.
Sometimes you have the perfect casting. Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy. End of discussion. I will never read P and P again without picturing Firth. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth Bennett. David Suchet is Poirot.
It’s a wonderful thing when an author writes such a brilliant character that we all “know” what they will actually look like. We know how they would act, we know how they would react. Some authors have the innate ability to bring a character to life. Things like this are what makes a great book: iconic characters and settings. And a literature purist just doesn’t want to see the dream fade. They want the character to live on in their memory.
If I overthought this subject a little more, I could probably argue that there is some psychological component to this. We imagine something and then the reality is quite different. Maybe we want to keep our fantasies safe…..but this is a blog for another day…
But anyway….worst miscastings?
I love books.
I love movies.
I don’t always love books made into movies.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when characters are eliminated or melded together. I understand why it’s done: keep production costs down by reducing headcount, keep storyline cleaner, save time. I understand the practicality- I am all about the practical. But….
The first time I encountered this daunting character thing was upon reading Gone With the Wind. SPOILER ALERT: In the book Scarlett has three children, Bonnie is her third. The movie adaptation of this book only has her having one child.
Even at twelve, I was incredulous that this had been allowed to happen. It was a 9 thousand hour movie, with 8 billion people in the cast. Really? They couldn’t cast two kids? The additional kids were a great way to really look at Scarlett’s character as a whole person. Being a Mother changes you, or should change you? Did we miss integral parts of the story because they weren’t included in the movie? Did the premise change? How much of the integrity of the book was compromised by cutting out these characters?
Not long after my disillusionment with the movie/book dilemma of GWTW, I encountered another slight- “Rich Man, Poor Man” (SPOILER AHEAD) In the movie there is a sister character and a girlfriend character. In the mini series, these characters were combined.
What? Combine a sister and a girlfriend to make one character? Madness…
Now, I admit that RMPM is not a classic of literature- it’s a page turning soap opera of a story. But you take any lesson or value or literariness out of the book by melding these two characters together. If the book had melded these characters it might not have gotten published- that’s how strong the need is for there to be two separate characters. Nature/nurture was a strong foundation of the novel, and it was completely reduced to cheap and tawdry in the mini series. But I guess even back in the seventies we just wanted cheap and tawdry…
So- which book/movie adaptations annoy you the most regarding eliminating or melding of characters? These were the ones that came to mind because these were the first time I recognized the phenomenon. Which characters were integral to the storyline of a book but ended up in the vast black hole of unused characters?
Another week in the books! Here’s a little wrap up of my week:
What I Listened to:
Claude Debussy: Treason- Oriental Influences for Flute and Piano
Lucy Dacas- Historian
Grateful Dead- The Best of The Grateful Dead (Live- remastered)
Borns- Blue Madonna
Esa-Pekka Salonen- Memoria
My Fair Lady soundtrack
What I Watched:
“Call the Midwives” (I know- I’m late to the party. Love)
Queer Eye (I miss the original Fab 5, but still love the concept)
New York International Children’s Film Festival- Shorts Program 3. My daughter and I have been going to this festival since she was three. We love voting on our favorite movies. If I find the program I will list the films we saw. Our favorite was “Negative Space”. I know “Geneva Convention” won the category though. (technically last week, but…)
“Instinct” This could become my new favorite show. I know it’s a golden age of TV, but I like my TV light and easy. I have home ADD- I can’t just watch TV, I have to watch along with doing something else, so thoughtful TV shows are out of my realm. This is a nice. cozy mystery starring Alan Cumming. Seriously perfect for me.
“Keep the Change” I love indie movies, my Husband doesn’t. Recently, he found out about an amazing Italian place across the street from one of my favorite indie movie theaters. Sometimes it’s a win/win.
What I went to:
Angela Hewitt performing Bach’s :Goldberg Variations”. She is an gorgeous pianist, but I have to say the first two thoughts after the 90 minute no intermission performance were 1) Wow. She has that all memorized. and 2) look at how stiff she is when she got up from the piano. That takes a lot of stamina
Cooper Hewitt Saw “Access and Ability” exhibit which was a cool exhibit about the functionality of design and “Bob Greenberg Selects” which was just his curation of tech objects in our world. This is just a fun space and cool if you have kids and are visiting. (technically this was last week but I didn’t mention it because I was in a lousy funk last week and didn’t feel like writing about it
What I’m Reading:
Finished “Portrait of a Lady” ( I actually liked this book when I first read it 30 years ago. Not so much on the reread)
“A Piece of the World” Christina Baker Kline (remind me not to have my two book clubs meet within days of one another…)
Funnyish part of week:
My daughter has applied for three summer internships so far (the other four are in the works of being sent out). I thought she would definitely get called back for one of them: she didn’t. I thought she had no shot at another: so of course she got an interview. So another moment that I literally know nothing. But- she did get an interview with the one she really wants, which was almost a disaster because she didn’t get the first email they sent….
Random Question (getrandomthings.com)
Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous? Infamous maybe… But, my cousin plays lead guitar for a fairly popular singer, but that’s borderline if he’s famous or not. Otherwise, no. My family is utterly unremarkable.
Yay! Very happy to love my box. Yes- I am obsessed!!
I love movies and I try to see at least one movie a week. Seeing movies is probably my favorite pastime, and is not something I do out of boredom: I look forward to my movie time. So with that in mind, I present my Oscar choices. If I am picking a category it means that I have seen all the nominees. Let me also clarify: these are my favorites, not necessarily what I think is going to win- there are so many other factors involved in that.
Best Picture- Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
Best Actress: Margot Robbie
Best Actor: Gary Oldman
‘Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell
Best Director: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
Best Original Song: This is Me (The Greatest Showman)
Best Original Score: Dunkirk
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best original Screenplay: The Big Sick
Best Cinematography: Dunkirk
Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child
Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Sound Mixing: Star Wars
Best Production Design: Dunkirk
Best Make Up: Darkest Hour
Best sound Editing: Star Wars
Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)
If you couldn’t tell, I did not like The Shape of Water. I thought it was a movie trying to accomplish a whole of things and actually accomplishes nothing. If (when) it wins a bunch of awards, I feel it will go the way of Birdman (which I did not like either) and no one will ever talk about it again.
Would love to hear about what other people love!
I’m still in the weeds here in NYC- full calendar today, book to be read, words to be written, house to keep going. But I made a commitment to myself, that if I had internet, I would post 5 days a week. So here’s a quick story.
On Saturday, I went to the movies with Husband and Daughter. We went to buy movie snacks, popcorn, iced tea and cookie dough bites. Our local theater has the fountain drinks that you serve yourself, so Husband took stuff and went into theater, I took stuff and I went to get our drink. I grabbed napkins and straws, filled up cup, grabbed popcorn and went into theater. As I was walking towards them, I noticed they were eating popcorn. And I was holding popcorn.
I had stolen someone’s popcorn. Unintentionally, but still. I went to my family, who were laughing at me. I handed them the drink. I walked towards the lobby both mortified and laughing. How stupid am I ?
I went to the woman behind the concession stand. I explained that I stole someone’s popcorn and handed her the bucket. She was trying not to laugh in my face, which was hard, because I was trying not to laugh as I said, “Well, someone is going to say that they lost their popcorn, so here it is…..”
And that’s my story for the day!
Another week has come and gone. New York experienced a little bit of humidity this week- not a fan of humidity. Also thwarted with some subway issues this week, and trust me, waiting underground in humid weather is not fun. But here’s the run down- Ratings 0-5. I’ve received no compensation for any of these things!
“The Little French Bistro” Nina George The heroine is 59 years old. I don’t think I can say much more than this- it is refreshing to see an adult women in a novel. This is a feel good book about overcoming adversity. While not a great book, it is a fairly easy read. 4
A story about a 40 year old woman getting her life back together after she separates from her husband. (are you sensing a theme? Middle age women overcoming adversity- yes- and I want to see/read more of it) Movie is light and cute, if predictable (again, a theme) 3.8
“Suits”- Season Finale. I didn’t love the finale. My Suits friends, please give me opinions.
New York Historical Society
“The Duchess of Carnegie Hall: Photographs by Editta Sherman” I loved this exhibits. Portraits of celebrities- many from the 40’s and 50’s. Absolutely gorgeous. What was a little dismaying was how many people were photographed smoking, but it was a different time. 4.7
“American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” Amazing photos of JFK. Beautifully curated exhibit. 4.2
“Eloise at the Museum” Exhibit that explores the beloved book character Eloise. Cute exhibit, but really much better for children. 4
Ofrenda Delicious Mexican food in a lively (loud) cozy (ridiculously small) place. Appetizer called Queso Fondido, which is basically a Mexican fondue. Yummy. Killer, and I mean that literally, Margaritas. 4.3
Island Burger and Shakes- I used to love this place- but the quality of the burgers has gone way down. No worth going to anymore. 2.8
Levain- This bakery has about the best cookies known to man. So big they more closely resemble muffin tops. And I love the chocolate brioche. Ridiculously yummy!
I have narrowed down my WordPress issues. On the app, my reader does not always work correctly. I sometimes miss certain hours of the day, so for example, if someone posts between 11 and 2 pm, I will miss all of the posts- I am not receiving the “Load More Posts” prompt. Let’s see how long it takes to fix it now that I’ve isolated the issue
Thanks again for all the amazing commentary this week- your feedback is amazingly valuable as always!
So, even though summer doesn’t officially end for a few more weeks, this weekend makes it fall for me. Daughter will finally reenter the school building on Thursday. The next two months will see me run to the Bronx, and far reaches of Manhattan to attempt to see her play tennis (there aren’t many tennis courts in Manhattan- and no public high school boasts a bunch of tennis courts, so it’s sort of guerilla tennis- one school uses a court that sits aside the West Side Highway. Imagine playing with constant traffic to your left, and random New Yorkers filing by on your right) And so the pattern of my free time will change slightly. As my daughter has an awesome reading list for school, I will probably be rereading a lot of books, cause they will be in the house, and I enjoy discussing literature with her- and she’s going to read Gatsby for the first time- YAY. But here’s what happened on my “last week” of summer. Reviews 0-5. NYC unless otherwise indicated. My money- no freebies.
“Reading Lolita in Tehran” Azar Nafisi I first read this book 15 years ago, and I enjoyed it more then. It’s a memoir about an Iranian University professor attempting to teach literature during the early Ayatollah years. She ends up having a female book club which discusses books that are banned in Iran. While interesting, it’s a bit self-serving. 3.8
“Murder on the Orient Express” Agatha Christie. Reread- first read about 45 years ago. I love Christie. I love Poirot (her detective) I love this story. I reread this because my daughter bought it as a fun read and it was on our Nook account, and because there is a new movie version coming out soon. I want a fresh comparison of all the film versions to the book. 4.8
“Leap” Animated. This is an average kids movie. But- it has a strong female heroine, who is resilient. I think this is important for kids to see, because frankly, I don’t think there are enough strong, female heroines. But, OK to wait for DVD or cable or streaming, or however else you get movies at home. 4, but entirely because of message.
“Wind River” This is a thriller based on a Wyoming reservation (But it is not one of those supernatural thrillers that seem to be taking over the box office- don’t get me started on that genre, which is one of very few movie genres I hate) I thought this was a well made movie. Great visuals, great acting, great script, great directing. Every thing about this movie is understated, and it works. But- it is not an easy movie to recommend, because even though there are many things that are done well, there is something stopping me from saying- “Go see this film”, and I can’t tell you why that is. FYI, my movie buddy said the exact same thing. So, if you are still interested, read a review that may contain actual spoilers, and then think about it. I still give it a 4.4.
Sorry- I pretty much watched the US Open as much as possible, and that was about it.
Alidoro This is a little sandwich stand in the Bowery. (there are two other locations, but I don’t know how they are physically situated) They only have 1 or 2 outdoor tables, so this is really a place to grab a sandwich and go to a park to eat. But you really should grab a sandwich here, because they are that good. They only do Italian sandwiches here, but mortadella or not, these are some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. No lie. You get a choice of about 6 different rolls (go with the soft roll- I think it’s called Trapezino) because it just makes the sandwich a bit easier to eat, but seriously, all the bread is perfection. And then the fillings- they slice the deli meats fresh when you order. And sandwiches have exact right filling to bread ratio. Seriously, if they were open now I would go. 4.9
Counter by Chef’s Club- This is a fast casual place in Soho. It’s unique because about 8 or 9 famous chefs have each contributed the recipe for a dish- so the burgers, sandwiches, whatever are slightly elevated, and slightly awesome. My daughter and I split what I can only refer to as hash brown tater tots, served with sour cream. It’s like a tater tot on steroids- salty, crisp and yummy. Warning- we went early on a Friday, and it was not crowded. I can imagine on a weekend this place will be mobbed. 4.5
Oddfellows- Soft serve ice cream. There are only about 5 flavors, and a few toppings, but this is really good ice cream. I’m not a soft serve girl, but it was really good and creamy. And it is conveniently located next door to Counter…. 4.3
You have all become friends to me, to the point where I talk about you all. My daughter will say, “Did you come up with a good recommendation for Tater?” or “How’s Ryder? Did he get his doghouse yet?”. But this week, my daughter asked “Have you heard from Mojo today?” because my blogging buddy Joanna lives in Houston. So to everyone in Harvey ravaged areas, my thoughts, prayers, and a little bit of my money are with you. Stay strong. You got this!
Thanks to all of you and your comments this week! I truly appreciate every one of you! I love keeping the conversations going. I’m learning that so many people share the same feeling and struggles that I often feel. Thanks for the honestly and the stories!
Ok- this week I plan on writing about family (spent Saturday with my parents and we will spend today with my Father in law and Sister in law- I’m guessing there will be anxiety and blog posts stemming from both these things) There might be an non- family rant or two. I can’t imagine not mentioning pumpkin spice……. But who knows- I never blog about what I think I’m going to blog about!!