Saturday, April 28, 2012

So I Finally Watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy...

Last night, after the family went to bed. Not how I wanted to do it, I wanted everyone (especially Andrew!) to be able to see it.
But then the movie went and got itself rated R, and for good reason, too. The language was vile, and the bedroom scenes were, though skip-able, uncomfortably and un-family-friendly-ly explicit. I suppose, anything to get viewers, but I don't see the purpose of making the movie worse than the book.  Not that there wasn't . . . stuff, in the book, but it went mostly unstated; and stating the unstated really cheapens the affect.
So I watched it all by my onesie, bore the language, and skipped the gratuitous love scenes.
The main complaint I've seen about the movie is that it's unbelievably difficult to follow. I'm sure that people who have made this complaint would be surprised to learn that it was much, much simpler than the book. It was put in chronological order, several sub-plots and back-stories were shortened or cut all-together, and some minor characters, though having a place of honor in the book, were marginalized. The movie was much less . . . subtle, than the book; which is, I guess, okay. Four-hundred page book to two-ish hour movie, there's going to be some slicing and dicing. It's okay, as long as you hang on to what really matters, which, for the most part, they did.
On the topic of subtlety, two things about the movie really impressed me. One: They never showed Ann's face. George Smiley's lovely, enigmatic Ann, his idealized, idolized, adulterous wife; who keeps him from ever being really, completely rational: the movie very intentionally never showed her face.
Two: The possibility that Bill Haydon and Jim Prideaux had ever been more than best friends went completely unspoken. In the book, in order for it to exist at all, it had to be hinted at in somewhat-specific terms: in the movie, the possibility was there without ever parting with a little bit of delightful ambiguity.
One thing that was handled really well was the atmosphere. Atmosphere was one of the biggest and best parts of the book, and the movie captured it thoroughly. Ugly, nondescript buildings; dark little back rooms absolutely choked with cigarette smoke, gentlemen in expensive, seventies-era suits and leather gloves, drippy gray London afternoons,  sad, sporadic piano music. It was perfect.
Casting, more than anything, is make-or-break with book-to-movie, and in this case, was fantastic. I thought Toby Jones as slimy Percy Alleline would be over-the-top (think: The Dream Lord), but it wasn't. After loving Tom Hardy's Heathcliff in a Masterpiece Classics Wuthering Heights, I did not expect to like his Ricki Tarr, but I did. Loved it, actually, it was like watching a completely different actor, which is impressive. Gary Oldman played George Smiley as cold and reserved and thoroughly competent, but still with the tired and hurting undercurrents from the book. And Colin Firth as the suave, charming, down-to-earth Bill Haydon was nothing short of inspired.
The same kind of inspired the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch for Peter Guillam could have been, if Guillam's character hadn't been, well, shrunk. In the book, he has a couple of really great scenes, scenes where his complexity really comes through. He drives a sports car, and he's young and dashing, which becomes something that Smiley envies. And yet, under the cool exterior he's tortured. He's hitting a bit of a mid-life crises, and he's scared, and he's doubting himself and questioning his actions. And his Camilla, many years his junior and probably not being faithful to him, keeps him distracted and injured. But no. His scenes were trimmed back and scaled down, his part was simplified, and his all-pervading girlfriend was replaced with a one-scene boyfriend. Not that that's the part that bothered me the worst, it wasn't just that I don't want to see my favorite actor play gay. If that was the character, if that was the challenge, then so be it. But that wasn't the character. Mr. Cumberbatch was thoroughly capable of making Guillam everything he was in the book, but I don't think he was given the chance. And depth in characterization is one thing that this movie could not afford to sacrifice. Or maybe I'm just grouchy because my favorite character in the book was not as cool in the movie.

I liked the movie, don't get me wrong, I really did. It was well-done and entertaining and enjoyable and very "grown-up," to quote one of the stars. But, I have to say it, I liked the book a whole lot better.
And I think I'm gonna go start reading the sequel.

Monday, April 16, 2012

......I might've just gotten my first rejection letter.
Okay, I did just get my first rejection letter.
From a magazine I sent a story (funny, I don't even remember which story) to a couple months ago.
"...We appreciate that you think enough want your work to appear in our pages, and we reviewed your submission respectfully and with care but decided not to accept your work for publication..."
It's funny, my little brother is asking me to explain to him why this is a good thing, and I can't entirely explain it, but it definitely, definitely is.
May it be the first of many. Meep!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Listen to Music

Thank you, Adam Young, for saying something I've been trying to say for ages.
In case you don't know, Adam Young is the mind and the talent and the heart behind the beauty that is Owl City (maybe an acquired taste, but I'm getting to that...). He's a very talented musician and lyricist, and incidentally a great blogger.
And in a post last month (this post, actually), he hit on something that's been bugging me for a while.
I get a little neurotic about the music I listen to. Actually, I'm downright self-conscious. I'm really bad about getting into a band on my own, usually I just steal from someone in my family, or occasionally a similarly-minded friend. And when I do discover a band I like, I'm petrified to own up to it. I feel like I have to learn absolutely everything about a band before I admit to liking them, and I'm scared that if I admit to liking them, somebody will have beat me to it, or know something about the band or the music that I don't know and I wind up looking stupid. And if I do discover something on my own, I share it everywhere, try to get my parents and siblings into it, anything I can do; I guess just because I want somebody to tell me that it really is good and it's not just me and it's okay that I like it.
This has been harder here lately, as it would seem that my tastes in music aren't lining up with my families as often as they used to. Mumford and Sons gets on everybody's nerves, Snow Patrol is "dramatic and annoying," come to find out, nobody can take The Feeling seriously because, "But...he's gay!!" and Fleet Foxes (which I listen to more because they're pretty and relaxing than because I actually adore them), well, I haven't been brave enough to play them in front of anyone yet.
Are you staying with me here? General theme=being brave enough to like what I like without caring what other people think. And here's where Adam Young comes in:
"Sometimes people ask me what’s on my iPod that I consider a “guilty pleasure” and I never know how to respond because what I listen to is what I enjoy and I don’t care about deciding something I like is “awkward or uncool” because of who or what it associates me with by default. The whole idea of having a “guilty pleasure” musically has always been weird to me. Why should I feel guilty about liking something I genuinely enjoy?"

I read this, and in my head, it's just like "click!" Okay. I get it now. Thank you, Mr. Young, for making sense.
And all that to say, well, read his blog post. And you know, check out the rest of the blog while you're there. Good stuff. :)