Thursday, July 19, 2007


A few of my friends have been assaulted by my preaching about the inadequacy of nostalgia. It's why I don't see the appeal in the Transformers movie, or this movie:

Yikes. See, just because you remember something fondly, doesn't mean that you're going to like seeing it again. Now granted, I didn't watch much television as a kid, but I have rather neutral, detached reactions to my childhood TV memories, rather than the orgasmic joy the above image is supposed to elicit.

I mean, I could be an anomaly, because my TV watching was restricted by my parents, but I think it's deeper than this. I don't really have many good associations from childhood at all. Not that I had a bad childhood, it's just the stuff that sticks out in my mind is mostly the humiliating or painful stuff: pissing my pants during P.E. class, failing math in seventh grade, being completely confused playing baseball*, and getting run into a row of lockers by a bully, slamming my face into said lockers, and catching my bright yellow braces (they were yellow because the bands or whatever were yellow, not because they were gross) on my top lip, and bleeding all over myself and the band room. So how does an "Are You Afraid of the Dark" movie make me feel good, now?

One really great memory of childhood that I retain are all of the books I read. I'm not sure if these are still in elementary school circulation, but I remember them being the "kids' books" that I didn't graduate from, and still haven't:

1. A Wrinkle In Time
2. Island of the Blue Dolphins
3. Time for the Stars (all of the "Heinlein Juveniles", really)
4. The Homer Price books
5. The Giver

I have only good memories of these books. One set of books that really engaged me, and helped to further my interest, in myth and history, was The Dark is Rising sequence. It has everything: historical puzzles, Arthurian legend, and the main character is named Will Stanton. Which is why I nearly started quaking in my chair when I saw this:

Patience, Joe, patience. It was too complicated to adapt, probably. The Dark is Rising contains tons of puzzles and nuanced mythical references--it'd be hard to express a lot of the things that happen in that book onscreen.

But does Will Stanton have to be American, really?

And what's all this puberty shit? I mean, the book is about a kind of puberty, but it's the kind of puberty where you learn that you are imbued with a terrible power and are forced to make decisions that will drastically effect those you love. I don't remember Will getting all drooly over some other pre-adolescent, ever. He has a world to save. Christ. I guess this is to book adaptations what turning Optimus Prime into the backwards-baseball-cap wearing fratboy is to toy franchise adaptations.

I think there is potential to make great film adaptations of children's books. I'm looking forward to the film version of The Golden Compass**, even though it's the only book in the the series that I've read. I think that a lot of the books that I listed above could be really great movies. I just wish that filmmakers would be ambitious. Instead of making The Dark is Rising into Bratz with horses and magic, why not just challenge viewers with some dense Arthurian legend? It'll be good for everyone, and I won't feel the urge to peel out on somebody's face so often when I'm browsing around You Tube***.

*I'm still mostly confused.
**A lot of this has to do with Sam Elliott.
***No guarantees. Have you ever been on You Tube?


shoetrumpet said...

everything is subjective. the fondness you find for your books is the fondness that other people put in the stuff you think is petty. why reread a book you read that long ago? you've already read it. it's the same thing as watching "the little mermaid" again. you're just too high up on that horse to notice.

have you ever considered anger management classes? i'm worried alvin and optimus prime are working on a class action suit.


Joe Stanton said...

Yeah, I guess I should clarify: I don't necessarily find TV "petty" or less worthwhile than books. I just don't feel nostalgia for it, and if I did, I don't know if I'd want to see Favorite Show X, as a movie, because just being popular at one point doesn't mean that something is good or good for a movie.

A key difference between an 80s TV show or a line of toys and a great book (like The Dark is Rising) is that a book is consistently engaging, in that people still read it and reinterpret it. And I suppose that the same goes for a classic TV show. That's why a Sex and the City movie, which I grudgingly admit is important, if misogynistic and disgusting, would be acceptable. I guess. Alvin and the Chipmunks has exhausted its pool of ideas. Sex and the City hasn't.

That said, we've already seen all those characters on screen, whereas we haven't seen Will Stanton on screen yet. Which is why I'm lamenting that they decided to run him through like a pig and rape his corpse and clean up the body with the original manuscript of this AWESOME book.

Anonymous said...

One important thing to remember is that trailers are edited in order to appeal the broadest audience possible in 100% of the cases. If this is not the aim of the trailer, then what is the point. Try not to judge anything, good or bad, based on a trailer.

More importantly is the point that, while the simple rehashing of film or TV projects is deplorable, it is important. This creative recycling allows for the appeal of "the new" to coincide with a certain level of homage. Basically, if the new work respects the old work and is able to reinvent the story for new audiences, then it has done its job. This is a difficult task if you view the new work through a filter of comparison to the previous work, but becomes easier if you drop the preconceptions you may have and allow the new work to stand on its own.

This is not to say that mainstream film does a great job of this, but that it is possible for new incarnations of these stories to serve a purpose: to continue the cycle of recycling that keeps the most base-level ideas on the playing field for new generations to ponder.

Kit said...

Someone else loved The Dark Is Rising books! Yay! I just saved my copies from the Garage-Sale box at my parents' house. I've pledged to let Callie borrow them, but I shall have them FIRST.

Also, speaking of nostalgia movies: Steve Carell = Maxwell Smart

I laughed so hard during that teaser.

Nick Faber said...

My biggest worry is that, in twenty years from now, there won't be any original nostalgia left to be had.

It will be like, "oh man, remember remembering the 80s?"