Oliver Twist

Yikes!  It has been a long time, hasn’t it?  I apologize for the delay.  I was messing around and distracted by a little bit of homework.  Thankfully I’m on summer break and don’t have a thing to do.  In the meantime, I have been reading quite a bit and hitting the movies now and then so I have plenty of book/movies to write about. The trick is pulling myself away from Facebook and daytime TV to write them out.  

Plot Overview

Speaking of homework, today’s feature is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  This Dickens classic was written back in the 1830’s as a serial novel, published in monthly segments.  It wasn’t published as a full novel until 1838.  While many folks haven’t read this book cover to cover, I’m sure the majority of you have read or watched some version of this story and have at least a basic working knowledge of the story line–Oliver is an orphan who gets mixed up with a group of pick pockets–that’s the bare bones version.    

So which movie version will I compare this well-known story to?  How about the one that probably had old Charlie rolling over in his grave: Disney’s Oliver and Company.  I wish you could have seen the look on my friend’s face when I talked about how dark and sad the Dickens story was.  “You mean it’s not like Oliver and Company?” he said.  Let’s just say that Oliver and Company is to Oliver Twist what Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is to the original Brothers Grimm story, “Little Snow-White” or what the Little Mermaid is to — um — “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson.  Disney did what Disney does and added a bunch of cute, cuddly little animals, some catchy songs and took out anything that might be scary, disturbing, or unsettling in any way.  

Plot differences (*spoiler alert!*)

Sooooooo many!!!

Did I mention that Dickens wrote OT as a social commentary about the class system in England?  Somehow, seeing Oliver as an adorable little kitten and Fagin’s group of miscreants as a bunch of biscuit loving dogs tends to dilute Dickens’ message just a bit.  

Even though Oliver Twist is a child, it is hardly what I would call a children’s book.  Physical and emotional child abuse, starvation, childhood deaths all happen in this book.  Supporting character Nancy is more than just a pick pocket, she’s also a prostitute, oh, and she gets beat to death by Sikes.  Why the Walt Disney company ever decided to make an animated musical loosely based on this story is beyond me.  I know, I know, I sound a bit jaded.  Surely this was their way of introducing children to great literature or something like that.  

Superbly Corny lines  (They are everywhere, and I’m such a sucker for them.)

  • “Dead men do not buy dog food!”~cartoon Fagin
  • Really any other part of the movie.  It’s a Disney movie! It’s full of smushy, gushy, super corny lines, and songs!  (warning, they WILL get stuck in your head and you’ll find yourself singing them while cooking, making copies and in line at the grocery store, so proceed with caution.)

Best line

  • I don’t know if this is necessarily the best line, but it is certainly the most iconic from the book:  “Please sir, I want some more” (C’mon!  I know you’ve said this before!)

To conclude, I can’t say that I am a big fan of Oliver and Company.  It’s cute and fun, but hardly a Disney classic.  Although, the Dickens book is a bit depressing for me, so I can’t say this is my favorite Dickens story either.  At the end of class I was asked if I thought that schools should continue to teach Charles Dickens.  I said of course, just like Shakespeare should, since the many of our stories of today are influenced in someway by the works of these great writers.  In fact, there is one version of Oliver Twist that I absolutely love.  It was written by some British writer named J.K. Rowling.  Perhaps you’re familiar with her work?  


The Help

Ok, who has not seen this movie or read this book yet?  If so, let me congratulate you for finally making it out from under that rock you’ve been under for so long.  Just kidding!

I know I’ve been under a rock or behind a fence or  locked in the basement or something because it has taken me so long to get this post up.  Truthfully, I just haven’t found my rhythm with my schoolwork this semester until now.  Did I mention that Spring Break is in four weeks?  I think I’m just resisting this semester as a whole.  But enough about me and my dramas-on with the review!

Plot Overview

This story examines the civil rights movement from an unlikely angle, from the point of view of the help, hence the super witty name of both the movie and the book.  Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, has returned from college and, in her new enlightened mindset, starts seeing a huge problem with the way her old gal pals are treating their African-American housekeepers & nannies now that they are all grown up.  These are the same women who raised these girls, now grown ladies, and now that the ladies have their own families, the mother figures are now nothing more than employees.  Hilly takes that coldness one step further by encouraging her friends to install separate bathrooms for their maids for sanitation purposes, telling her friends that, “They carry different diseases than we do!”  I probably should have put that under the header for dumbass, ignorant lines.  Oh, she’s a good villain.  If you haven’t seen or read this yet, you’ll want to just to find out what’s awaitng her.  Karma is a bigger bitch than Hilly, and she gets “just desserts” for sure.  Lol! Skeeter conspires to write a book in the style of anonymous transcriptions of the maids’ experiences.  Not all are bad, some families treated their help very well, but it’s those other stories that have the entire town reading the scandalous stories and trying to figure out if this was a true life story from their own community.  Funny, and moving, although the book is somewhat anti-climatic and seems to drag on a bit.  It’s a pretty large book, and I found myself saying, “Ok, ok, get on with it,” several times.  Although I can’t say for sure that the movie was a slam dunk winner.  It was missing some of the best parts of the book which you can find below in the Plot Differences section.  

Superbly Corny lines  (They are everywhere, and I’m such a sucker for them.) 

  • “Minnie don’t burn chicken!” ~Minnie.  Of course, this is a foreshadowing line.  Watch out for the first time she does.  
  • Skeeter’s mom, Charlotte~ “Love and hate are two horns on the same goat, Eugenia.  And you need a goat.”

Best lines

  • Skeeter to Stuart~ “I’m sorry, were you dropped on your head as an infant or were you just born stupid?”  Yes!  Go get him, girl!  Stuart’s an ass.  Sorry to ruin your hope about them ending up together in the end.  Nope.  He just stays an ass.  
  • Hilly, when she sees the book of Jim Crow laws in Skeeter’s bag~ “Believe it or not, there are real racists in this town.  If they caught you with this you’d be in real trouble.”   
  • Skeeter’s mom, Charlotte after a long battle with cancer~ “I have decided not to die!”  And she doesn’t, at least not during the span of the book or movie.  
Best scenes
  • When after some reluctance from the maids to participate in the book, a black man gets shot and killed in their neighborhood.  Shortly afterward, Henry tells Skeeter to go to Aibilene’s house and she walks into a houseful of women ready to share their stories.
  • Also, when Hilly goes to Skeeter’s house to tell on her (yes, a grown woman tries to tattle on another grown woman to her mamma) and Charlotte comes out and tells her off instead.  Charlotte wasn’t exactly on Skeeter’s side in the beginning, so this is a big move from her.

Plot differences (*spoiler alert!*) 

  • There is a moment not included in the movie, when Minny is outside and some naked creeper starts coming up on her and Celia beats the crap out of him with a baseball bat.  I would have loved to see that part.  That’s was really the start of a strong relationship between Celia and Minnie.
  •  The miscarriage scene is much deeper and longer in the book.  
  • Also in the book, Celia gets a package that Minnie thinks is beer or liquor.  She follows Celia up to her room and chews her out screaming about how her dad was a drunk and so is her husband and she’s not about to care for another one.  It turns out that Celia is drinking some wacky juice that she thinks will help her newest pregnancy stick after so many miscarriages.  Great scene.  I wish that was included in the movie.  All in all, the movie barely graced over the budding friendship between Minny and Celia, but it is one of the most enjoyable parts of the book.
  • The end of the movie cut off too early.  Just so you know, Aibilene ends up taking over the Miss Myrna column of the newspaper thanks to a recommendation from Skeeter, telling the editor that it was all her advice, anyway.

This was a great book/movie combo.  Watch and read both.  Don’t worry guys, if your girl wants you to watch it with her, you’ll enjoy it.  I promise!  My husband laughed so hard when I made him watch it with me.

Upcoming titles

I think I may have scared some readers when I said I was going to combine my school books with my reviews.  Don’t worry, I’d never make you read a review about Anna Karenina and that horrible film adaptation!  I’ll do one Shakespeare–A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  One, maybe two Charles Dickens’s.  Hey, now, he wrote A Christmas Carol and we all loved some version of that, right?  Don’t be scared.  I’m also reading The Freedom Writers.  Haven’t watched the movie yet, but it’s on my list.  And the last of my school work inspired titles will be Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire.  

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the last movie/book or any of the upcoming titles.  

Thanks for reading, stop by again soon!

Eat Pray Love

Dear readers,

I apologize for my lateness in getting this post out.  Thanks to a nasty freak snowstorm here in the Pacific Northwest, we lost power for several days.  After several nights so reminiscent of my high school years of having trail mix for dinner and couch-surfing, the power came back on only to reveal that our cable internet was down and stayed down until this blogger and web junkie was on the verge of madness.  Now that I’m finished telling you my story, let’s get on with the feature.

In the battle between the book and a movie for Eat Pray Love, the book is a fast and clear winner.  While the movie does bring a few good punches here and there, the book definitely delivers a heavy handed knockout to the movie.  The movie keeps to the general course set down by author Elizabeth Gilbert, but on an accelerated course, almost like the outline of the novel.  Liz has a bad day, and–boom–she’s asking for a divorce–boom she’s in the attorney’s office–boom–she’s dating a cutie, played by James Franco (that guy is everywhere!)–boom–they fight–and–boom she’s on a plane to Italy.  Don’t get me wrong, I own both and love both.  I’ll watch the movie whenever my hubby is off doing manly things with friends and I have an evening to myself.  I love the genre of the female quest or female midlife crisis.  I personally have been going through one every few years for the past decade.

If you want to experience both (my recommendation) see the movie first.  If you like what you see, pick up the book and enjoy the characters all over again.  It will feel pleasantly familiar, rather than redundant.  Both the book and the movie will make you want to pack your bags and start on that journey that you’ve been putting off for far too long, and the book inspired a new love of Naples style Margarita pizza.  (note: If your journey keeps you stateside, there is a great Pizzeria in Disneyland called Naples.  So good!)

Superbly Corny lines  I couldn’t remember anything particularly corny from the book, but a wonderfully corny (but fitting) line came from Liz’s husband during divorce negotiations in the movie: “My client would like to submit a song he wrote…(makes guitar noises with his mouth) QUITTER! QUITTER! QUITTER! QUITTER!”

Best lines (Page 1-  Just Kidding.  There are so many it was hard to narrow down.)

  • Liz’s thoughts: “Ruin is a gift.  Ruin is the road to transformation.”
  • Richard from Texas: “First rule in India: never touch anything but yourself.”
  • Liz’s Italian landlady warns her not to allow strange men to stay the night, citing in Italian, “You American girls when you come to Italy, all you want is pasta and SAUSAGE!” 
  • And the very best line–Liz: “I’m sick of people telling me that I need a man.”
  • To which Felipe responds, “You don’t need a man, Liz. You need a champion.”

Oh, Javier Bardem!  I’m melting just thinking about that line.  Never mind that you played a chilling psychopathic killer in the last movie I saw you in, No Country for Old Men.  (That’s also based on a book and the review will be up in February.)

Plot differences (*spoiler alert!*)

  • I already addressed the speed of the movie versus the book, but one scene in particular rubbed me the wrong way.  When Liz sits in the floor and prays formally for the first time, in the book, she hears the answer as, “Go back to bed, Liz.”  This is an answer she hears is a quite but direct answer to her prayer telling her that there is nothing she can do this moment so she might as well go back to bed and get some sleep.  In the movie, when Liz prays, we immediately hear Julia Robert’s’ voice answering, “Go back to bed, Liz,” which makes her sound like she’s a little crazy and talking to herself.  We completely miss the profoundness of the message she received.
  • In the book’s version of Italy, Liz and Sophie eat a whole pizza each and order another in the birthplace of pizza, Naples.  In the movie, we see Liz and Sophie going to Naples for pizza, but the explanation of why Naples is important is missing.  They also only order one pizza and immediately begin talking about the weight they gained, completely disregarding how amazing this food is.  Gilbert’s original version spends a great deal of time on this meal, and I felt a little robbed at how tiny this scene is in the film.  Seriously, Naples-style pizza is worth talking about! (preferably with a mouth full of it!)
  • In the movie, Wayan is nothing but grateful for the money that Liz raised to build a house for her, but in the book, she’s a bit manipulative and tries to play Liz for more money for a bigger house.  Luckily, Liz realizes what’s going on and puts a kebash on her plan in a tactful way so the two can maintain their friendship.
  • Another enjoyable passage in the book is when Gilbert explains the Balinese method for naming children.  Everyone is given the same four names depending on the order of their birth.  Liz’s medicine man, Ketut, is the fourth born.  The movie sadly doesn’t have room for these pleasing segways about the three cultures in Gilbert’s writing.

I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between this story and another female-quest story, Under the Tuscan Sun (yes, also based on a book.  I haven’t read that one yet, but it’s on my long list.)  The protagonists both get divorced, long for a change, and end up in Italy.  Both ladies are writers, and have one lousy love affair in between finding their soul mates.  There’s even a scene in both of movies where an attractive olive skinned man walks into the bedroom of the protagonist to check on them after a particularly rough night.  Hmm. . . Was Elizabeth Gilbert inspired by Frances Mayes?  I’ll let you know more after I get around to reading that book.

Coming up next is another book I couldn’t tear myself away from this summer: The Help.  Since I’m back in school for the next several months, I’m lucky enough to have a handful of assigned books that also have movie versions, so I’ll have even more books/movies to choose from.  Don’t worry, I read Anna Karenina last semester before I started this blog, so I won’t subject you to that.

Do you have a suggestion to add to my ever-lengthening list of movies and books?  Or do you have an opinion to share about this book/movie or any of the upcoming titles, feel free to send me a comment and join in the conversation.  Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss out any of the upcoming features.

We Bought a Zoo

After a long battle over the computer, I can finally share my review of the movie We Bought a Zoo, and the book of the same name.  I saw the movie over New Year’s weekend with my family.   It stars Matt Damon and after growing his hair out and putting on a few pounds, it’s nice to finally be able to see him as a grown man.  He rocked his Goodwill Hunting haircut for far too long and always looked like a little boy to me. And then there was the Borne Identity hair, but he just looked like everyone else with a military haircut.  This is the first movie where I can actually see him as a husband and father, even though there was absolutely no chemistry between Matt and his leading lady, Scarlet Johansen.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Plot Overview

Based on a true story, the movie follows Benjamin Mee as he relocates his two children to the countryside after the death of his wife, Katherine, only to find out that their potentially perfect new home is actually attached to a zoo.  The adventurous patriarch couldn’t resist, citing this as their greatest adventure.  The movie follows the family as they attempt to settle into their new roles, save a desheveled zoo, and recover from their loss all at the same time.  This is a great feel good movie for the whole family, which left both my son and I wishing we had a zoo, too.  Although, my husband had a far different reaction.  Watching Benjamin try to run the family without his wife seemed to hit a chord with my hubby.  I did get some unexpected pampering after this, so ladies if you want your partner to appreciate you, take him to see this movie.  Definitely expect to shed a few tears, but there is enough humor to counteract the mushy stuff, which I’ll explain in depth later on.

Superbly Corny lines  (They are everywhere, and I’m such a sucker for them.) 

  • In a meeting with Benjamin Mee and his staff over money Benjamin assures everyone that he has enough to open if they’re willing to work together.  Then he addresses the negative gossip Rhonda with:  “And you will be a wonderful fit in Mexico”

             Rhonda: “But I don’t speak Spanish.”

             Benjamin Mee: “Ah well, Adios!”

  • Also the ongoing line of  “I just can’t get a handle on it,” said by several characters throughout the movie, complete with hand gestures.

Best lines

  • Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
  • (The best line in the entire movie!) Peter MacCready to Solomon, the lion: “YOU do NOT want to eat me!  I am filled with Scotch, bitterness and vile thoughts!”

The book is enjoyable as well.  If you’re into perusing the old relics once known as book stores, be advised that you won’t find this in the same area as your typical best sellers.  I found this in the same section where you would find a book about North American bears, because this is a non-fictional nature memoir.  As to which one I recommend experiencing first, I say you’re safe either way, since the book is completely different.  After shouting out all the stark differences while reading the book, my hubby asked the question, “So which is based on a true story?”  The book is, and then Hollywood did what it does to books.  A more truthful statement for the movie should be “Inspired by actual events,” because the movie is nearly a complete work of fiction.  Ok, maybe you should see the movie first, that way you’re not compelled to yell at the screen when you see any of the number of changes, some of which are listed below.

Plot differences (*spoiler alert!*) 

  • First of all, Benjamin Mee is British and the zoo in question is located in Devon, England.
  • Benjamin’s entire family was in on this adventure, including his mother, except for one brother who wanted no part in the endeavor.
  • There was no magical investement made by Katherine for Benjamin’s circus money.
  • Speaking of Katherine, she is alive throughout the first half of the book.  In fact, the book is much tougher on the emotions because writer, Benjamin Mee explains her decline in health and eventual death in great agonizing detail.  Had to put the book down for a few minutes to get a hold of myself at that point.
  • Pete Rearden isn’t the devil, he’s actually a great asset, although one of the crew members does want his head on a stake, similar to the movie.
  • A documentary is being made titled “Ben’s Zoo” while Benjamin worked to bring the zoo up to code which brought a wave of customers to  the zoo after it aired.
  • There are so many things mentioned in the book that you might never even think about, such as the need for molting sheds where the big birds can shed their feathers in private.
  • Soveriegn, the jaguar, was the unhappy escape artist, not a bear.
  • The stare down was with Tammy, the tiger, during a move.  Also not the bear.
  • Katherine was artistically talented and designed the zoo’s logo.
Best line (Benjamin Mee is a clever writer, who left me with no corny lines to report) 
  • In response to Katherine’s death, on page 137, “In the meantime, I felt like I needed a mild sedative, prefrably something organic, made from natural ingredients, like water, barley, hops, and perhaps about 5 percent alcohol by volume.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the reading the story behind the Dartmoor Zoological Park as well as watching the amped up movie version.  Watch the movie or read the book, but be sure to experience this story one way or the other.

For more information on the DZP, and the amazing family behind it, visit http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/

For upcoming projects, I’m taking on the female quest with Eat, Pray, Love and then onto a highlight from last year, The Help.  Don’t worry, gents, I promise to include some more masculine titles in the near future.

Thanks for reading.  Stop by again, soon.


About the Book or the Movie

Maybe there are no more original ideas out there.  So many movies are based on books, among other things.  Transformers was based on the toy after all, and Pirates of the Carribean was based on the Disneyland ride.  This blog focuses on the movies inspired by books (short stories implied).  Some people might argue that there is no need to examine the book/movie relationship because the book is always better.  Au contraire.  Often the movie takes a small story and turns it into something amazing, as was the case for the Iron Giant and The Polar Express, and sometimes the filmakers miss the mark entrirely.  I’ve always tried to see the movie first, that way I wouldn’t feel disappointed that the two hour movie didn’t indclude everything the 400 page novel did, but that’s not always possible, nor is it always the best plan of attack.  That’s what you have me for.  I’ll let you know which to see first or which to not bother with at all.  I also hope to surprise you now and then with a movie you had no idea came from a book, like maybe It’s a Wonderful Life which was based on a short story called “The Greatest Gift,” or We Bought a Zoo, which will be the subject of my first review, coming soon!

Notice I haven’t included books that were based on movies, because I simply have never, ever found a book written from a movie that I could stand, let alone enjoyed.  Do you have a suggestion of one that will change my mind, or do you have a suggestion of someting I should review next?  I will do my best to honor requests, but keep in mind that I’m a poor college students with limited funds and time.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for stopping in and I hope you enjoy The Book or the Movie.