Mansfield Film Society
As well as reviewing films I also like to indulge in many other forms of film geekery. These include reading Empire religiously, frequently checking Ellen Page’s IMDb page for upcoming projects (more on this later), and co-running the JCR film society at Mansfield College, Oxford.
This is (at least) partially a ploy which allows us to watch an extra 8 films per term, guilt-free, thinly veiled under the guise of providing entertainment for other students. Whilst I feel we provide an excellent service (this is, of course, a completely objective judgement), the role has also benefited me hugely in terms of furthering my cinematic education, which constantly competes for the mental attention my degree demands.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure my film soc duties have afforded me is the opportunity of introduction to the genius work of Britain’s own Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. We chose the classic 1960 thriller Psycho, and although I spent the majority of the dénouement cowering behind a chair, all vestiges of dignity and professionalism far behind me, I am now a total convert.
Therefore Hitchcock joins my list of film heroes/heroines, alongside the likes of Drew Barrymore (for directing as well as acting), Emma Stone, Christopher Nolan, Nick Hornby (for adaptation and screenplays), Kristen Wiig, Colin Firth (more for his defence of the UK Film Council than his acting), Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman.
Click here for my review of Hitchcock, Sacha Gervasi’s biopic about Hitch’s making of Psycho.
Issues which have greatly vexed me
On one of my periodic checks of Ellen Page’s IMDb I discovered this trailer:
Despite the fact that this US film is now two years old, and stars acclaimed actor Cillian Murphy, it is yet to receive a theatrical or even DVD release on British shores. WHY!? (Coincidentally, it also looks quite similar to Hitchcock’s Psycho).
Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors (just don’t tell my tutors), so I was excited when the big-screen adaptation of her novel My Sister’s Keeper was announced. This excitement lasted approximately until the film’s last half hour, when it became clear that the ending had been changed. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when I later asked Jodi Picoult about her involvement in the making of the film at a signing event she explained the following. The film’s director, Nick Cassavetes, personally promised Picoult that he would not alter the ending of her book (which in my opinion is far more original than that of many other teens-with-cancer plots on the market). Then he went ahead and did it anyway. Picoult was only made aware of this by chance, and when she visited the set in order to confront Cassavetes he had her thrown out. My Sister’s Keeper, however, is a decent film, it just isn’t the faithful adaptation I was hoping for.
Nicholas Sparks and film adaptations
As an English student as well as movie enthusiast, I am particularly interested in how novels are adapted into films. This, as in the situation above, is often a source of anger and frustration for me. But when it comes to adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels I just feel fatigued.
I’ve only read about five of Sparks’ many books, but this is more than enough to note his formulaic plots – for instance, there is usually a character dying of cancer to be found somewhere among the accelerated love affairs and accompanying angst. However, I really did enjoy and admire The Last Song. But sometimes Sparks’ characters fail to arouse my empathy or even my interest (A Walk to Remember and The Choice spring to mind).
I also cannot help but notice the surge of these adaptations in recent years. April 2010, for example, saw adaptations of both Dear John and The Last Song released within two weeks of each other. Overkill. Although I originally enjoyed both of these films they are hardly among my favourites, and I cannot bring myself to enthuse over this year’s adaptation of The Lucky One – I feel I have seen it all before.
So instead of schmaltzy, sugar-coated romance, this summer I’m most eagerly anticipating an adaptation of a different kind; the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.
Most disappointing adaptations of literary works in the last 10 years, according to me
The Lovely Bones (2009) – despite great acting and brilliant period details which really rooted the film in its setting of 1970s New England, the removal of the rape from the plot angered me (as did Saoirse Ronan’s declaration that she would have felt uncomfortable filming it – why didn’t they find an actress willing to do it!?). The watery in-between world was also a strange visual which I felt didn’t fit with the tone of the book.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008) – a decent film in its own right, but the amalgamation of two books from Ann Brashare’s original series into one film is frustrating – as with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011) – I am not convinced the Victorians used the c-bomb so frequently.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) – No matter what people think of the Twilight phenomenon in general, I’m sure I’m not alone in finding this the worst film version of the lot – I wish Catherine Hardwicke had stayed on to direct the entire franchise.
…and the most successful
The Harry Potter adaptations, obvs.
One Day (2011) – Lone Scherfig’s faithful adaptation of David Nicholls’ bestseller captures the setting and characters wonderfully – but couldn’t they have cast a British actress as Emma?
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
Atonement (2007) – so Saoirse Ronan is perfectly happy for others to portray being raped on screen…
Not a film, but the BBC’s 2008 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is AMAZING.