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New Year’s Resolution

Hi.  My name is Eliza and I am an addict.

I am addicted to making lists…Grocery lists. To-do lists. Shopping lists. Lists of TV shows I need to watch. Lists of quotes I one day want to put on T-shirts. Lists of lists I should make.

As part of my 12-step recovery plan for the New Year, I’m gathering together all my scraps of paper and post-it notes in an attempt to step more solidly onto the road of organization. I would like to share with you now the first result of this de-cluttering process…

Objects owned by fictional characters that I wish were mine

1. Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast’s 1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

Riding around in style, Pendergast is the hero of 15 Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child novels. Don’t let his albino undertaker appearance and smooth southern New Orleans’ accent fool you…his genius is on par with Sherlock Holmes and you do NOT mess with the people he cares about.

writer vest

 

 

2. Richard Castle’s “WRITER” Bulletproof Vest

Seriously, is there really any explanation necessary here?

 

 

 

 

3. Kitty Katt’s Ipod

Heroine of Gini Koch’s Alien series, Katherine “Kitty” Katt has been saving and protecting the Earth for a dozen novels now. She never goes anywhere without her ipod because you never know when a battle with bad-aliens-who-intend-to-take-over-the-world will ensue, and you need to have your best butt-kicking playlist on hand. (And yes, for each book I’ve made a list of the songs mentioned…she has awesome taste!)

4. Mississippi’s Hat (from the film El Dorado)

One of my favorite characters from an John Wayne movie (who isn’t the Duke himself), Mississippi (born Alan Bourdillion Trahern) avenges the death of Johnny Diamond, the man who raised him, all while being mocked for his (I think) awesome top hat.

5. Alexia Tarabotti’s Parasol

Soulless heroine of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, Alexia’s parasol inspired me to buy my own…all I need now is to find someone who can modify it to shoot sleeping darts, silver bullets and add the retractable blade. Hey, when you’re defending yourself against werewolves, vampires and ghosts…you gotta have all your bases covered.

6. Dr. Johnny Fever’s Coffee Mug and/or T-shirt

Early morning radio DJ from the world of WKRP in Cincinnati, Dr. Fever is rarely seen without his mug or wearing his Black Death Malt Liquor T-shirt. Until I have either of those items, I guess I’ll just have to be content to quote him constantly. “I’m telling you, free coffee is a constitutional right! Just look it up – Juan Valdez versus the state of California!”

7. Charlie Aleph’s Under-the-Cuff Spring-Loaded Silver Ball Shooters

Golem (though he prefers the term “Mineral-American”) Charlie, is the best partner that a human who’s pulled into an alternate universe could hope to have. A featureless black bag of sand animated with the essence of a T-Rex who dresses like a Film Noir hero – seriously, what’s not to love! Check out D.D. Barant’s Bloodhound Files series to enjoy Charlie’s sarcasm. (And please write the publisher requesting they make a Golem action figure line…I want them all!)

macgyver8. MacGyver’s Bag

Because it isn’t for what he brings, but for what he finds along the way…like the bars of chocolate that really can stop a sulfuric acid leak.

 

 

9. Dave Lister’s Leather Jacket (After it is thoroughly cleaned at least twice to rid it of the Chicken Vindaloo smell)

Lister was just a lowest-ranking crewman aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf until he was marooned three million years in the future. Now, he is the only human floating around in a galaxy far, far away with the hologram of his dead bunk-mate, a humanoid creature that evolved from his pet cat, and a Series 4000 mechanoid servant robot. Lister is pretty lazy, slobbish and unmotivated… until he encounters things that wish to kill him, then hilarity ensues. Admittedly, the British sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf is an acquired taste but if you only watch one episode, I recommend “Meltdown” from Series IV…it’s my favorite.

10. Judy Garland’s Brown Dress

Summer Stock is my favorite MGM musical because it has the two greats: Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. In one of the best dance duet scenes of the movie, where a simple small-town square dance becomes the scene of an awesome “dance-off”, Judy Garland is wearing this brown dress with orange/red accents. It’s very 1950, not flashy at all and probably by today’s standards, if you were at a party, it’d be boring…IF you weren’t dancing. The flare of the skirt is perfect for spinning around a dance floor.


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The Book Isn’t Always Better Than The Movie

Have you ever been involved in a conversation about a particular movie with a group of friends, when that one friend inevitably posits, “the book was better than the movie,” or “well, see, in the book…,” or, possibly the worst of all, “have you read the book”? If you’re an avid reader maybe you have read the book, but it’s more likely that you’ve only seen the movie and must therefore capitulate to the friend with the almighty book knowledge; but what’s the deal with that? Is the book always better than the movie? It seems like that’s always the case, but if you’ve read the title of this post then you know my possibly controversial stance on the issue. I’ll even agree that most of the time the book is better, but not always.

I recently picked up a book copy of The Prestige, Christopher Priest’s fantasy novel about two feuding magicians at the turn of the 20th century. The book was made into a film in 2006 by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and holds an 8.5/10 ranking on IMDb.com, as well as the prestigious (see what I did there?) honor of being “Certified Fresh” by RottenTomatoes.com. While in theaters, this movie went under the radar for me but when it was initially released on DVD I picked up a copy. It has since become one of my favorite movies, so when I decided to read the book I was hopeful that it would enrich my enjoyment of the film. However, the book emphasized different themes than the movie and had an altogether different tone and form of storytelling — this is not my complaint, but it is worth noting.

Ultimately, the book was less than the sum of its parts; it told its story mostly through the diaries of the two main characters. It’s an interesting approach but it separates two sides of the same events by sometimes more than a hundred pages and in some instances can invoke confused back-and-forth page flipping. The movie version of The Prestige excels by intertwining the viewpoints of both characters into a single narrative causing the “big reveal” at the end to be effectively shocking, whereas the book splits the “reveals” between the two characters in a segmented and less graceful fashion. The book is actually quite enjoyable and stylistically is written quite well, but in what seems a practically impossible task, it serves as a rough sketch of story and characters for the movie version to distill and refine into masterpiece.

Lest you think me a bibliophobe, I have to say that McCarthy’s The Road is a much better read than the movie is to watch. The film serves as a good facsimile but with so much of The Road’s substance being in the prose, the book easily overshadows the film version. To my original point however, Palahniuk has said that he thinks Fight Club was improved by David Fincher, and having read the book (once) and seen the film (several hundred times), I’m inclined to agree. And then sometimes, going back to Cormac McCarthy, you get a book like No Country For Old Men, adapted to film by the genius Coen brothers, and the book and film versions are both so good that they are virtually equals in their respective medium. You just have to know that films and books are both equally valid forms of art, and comparing them can sometimes be like comparing apples to oranges.

I say reject the notion that books always possess intellectual superiority over films, but know that there’s a good reason that mindset exists. So the next time that friend tells you “the book was better than the movie” know that it really depends on which book and movie, and consider that each is its own iteration of the same story.


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Tyler’s Top Five Favorite Comedy Films

5. Blazing Saddles

This Mel Brooks joint is easily one of the funniest movies of all time, and also one of the most overtly obscene. Taking place in the “Old West,” this movie tells the story of a corrupt political boss who, in an effort to ruin the town of Rock Ridge, appoints a black sheriff to the town. Rock Ridge’s presence is impeding the progress of the railroad, but Sheriff Bart soon becomes a formidable adversary to Governor Lepetomane and the owner of the railroad, Hedley Lamarr. Blazing Saddles has many iconic gags and memorable lines, the recreation of which are definitely not suitable for polite company.

4. Office Space

A cult favorite since its release on home video, this movie has spawned a lot of pop culture mainstays, namely the “mmm, yeah…” of Bill Lumbergh, or Milton’s plaint about his Swingline stapler. This movie is funny in an “a-ha!” kind of way, drawing on the frustration with the nine-to-five office job lifestyle, every ounce of which is exhibited through Peter, Michael Bolton, and Samir. Just mention “the copier scene” and anyone who’s seen the movie can relate to wanting to take out their aggravation on an ill-functioning piece of technology they’ve been forced to interact with at one point in their career.

3. The Blues Brothers

They’re on a mission from God, but that doesn’t stop Jake and Elwood from raising all kinds of hell. This film is a classic by any means, and features cameos from James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles – giants of Soul music, in this fittingly music-centric movie. The black suit & tie look with black fedoras has now become iconic, and the nigh-indestructible car (which apparently has superpowers because it was kept parked near a power station) is a character in its own right. A lot of the comedy in this movie is big and over-the-top, but there’s comedy in the subtle moments too, such as when Elwood inquires stiffly about the Cadillac the brothers used to own but is placated when Jake explains that he traded it for a microphone. Great movie – but avoid the sequel.

2. Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

A masterpiece of British cinema, this comedy is one for the truly nerdy. Chronicling King Arthur’s quest to attain the Holy Grail, and his acquisition of knights along the way, the journey is replete with zany characters, ridiculous situations, and danger every step of the way (sometimes with sharp, pointy teeth). This movie is the model of British humor, including the highest of the high-brow to the lowest of the low and levels of absurdity that border insanity. You’ll know you’re in good company if you ask a friend if a swallow can carry a coconut, and their response is to ask “African swallow or European swallow?”

1. The Big Lebowski

Of course this is on my list – it’s probably on yours, too. Endlessly quotable, the Coen brothers struck gold with this comedy film that’s since become a cult favorite. If you know what happens when you “find a stranger in the alps” or if you enjoy imbibing White Russians, chances are this movie has infiltrated your life in some way. There are so many bizarre, hilarious moments in this movie that it’d be pointless to attempt to fit them all into this post. It’s definitely the funniest movie in Los Angeles county, which puts it high in the running for funniest worldwide, and if you don’t agree, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.