Much Ado is Mucho Amazing

I saw Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare so I was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. I’m a big fan of Kenneth Branagh’s version that came out in 1993 and Joss Whedon’s movie is just as good. I love the choices Whedon made. In fact, he blew my mind when he cast Conrade as a female role. The conversation between Don John and Conrade is done as foreplay and I couldn’t believe how sexual the language was in that situation. It was perfect, yet it never occurred to me how sexual it was when the scene was between two men. My mind exploded and it made me look at everything with a fresh eye. My favorite scenes where when Benedict and Beatrice overheard the staged conversations where their friends spoke of how they were dying of love for one another. Beatrice, in particular, had me almost on the floor. Her perfect comedic timing and antics were a delight to watch. Benendict, too, did so much with his body language that he didn’t need to say anything. The other change that makes this version rise a tad above Branagh’s for me was a tweak to Claudio’s character. It has always bothered me that Claudio could dismiss Hero’s death so easily because he thought her sullied. Then, when he finds out he was wrong, his sudden repentance never seemed sincere to me. Yes, I know I’m bringing a modern view of virginity and applying it to a 16th century culture, however, if you love someone one...

Expect Your Audience to be Smart

I recently saw “A Good Day to Die Hard.” I’ve enjoyed all of the Die Hard movies. In particular, “Live Free or Die Hard” was my favorite and I was looking forward to the latest installment. I felt that they had done a good job of reinvigorating the series by bringing his adult kids into the storyline. “A Good Day to Die Hard” had a good premise—John learns his son is in trouble in Russia so he rides to the rescue only to find out that his son purposely got himself arrested so that he could free a Russian prisoner. His son is not the screw-up he thought, but rather a CIA operative. That worked, especially when John shows up in time to mess-up the escape. The corresponding plot double cross worked, too, though it was a bit predictable. The dialogue was okay and the action was good. The movie, overall, was shaping up to be an okay addition to the franchise, until the climax. The location moved to Chernobyl, site of the reactor disaster in 1986. I can only think the people behind the movie figured a nuclear disaster that took place almost 30 years ago would be far enough away in people’s memories that they wouldn’t remember exactly what happened there. News flash, it doesn’t matter if people remember or not. They will remember nuclear disaster and the accompanying radioactivity that necessitated the complete evacuation of the area. Did they really think they could have John and his son go into the area without any protective clothing/equipment and then dismiss it with a joke? “Hey, am I’m...

Success?

I saw White House Down yesterday and throughly enjoyed it. I thought it had great dialogue, good action, some plot surprises, and a strong cast of actors. The review in the paper gave it 4 stars and I thought it was well-deserved. Imagine my surprise when I read in today’s Huffington Post that the movie was a flop. It only made $25.7 million on it’s opening weekend. It came in behind Monsters U ($46.2 million) and The Heat ($40 million) and World War Z ($29.8 million). The  real kick in the pants is that it’s the second weekend for World War Z It wasn’t that long ago that a movie making $25 million it’s opening weekend was a big deal. Now movies have to make $40 or $60 million the first weekend to be successful. It seems a shame that a movie has to be a hit from the beginning or it’s considered a flop, no matter how good it is. Movies aren’t allowed time to gain a following. It’s the same for books. For big publishers, if a book doesn’t make its numbers in the first quarter of its release, then it’s likely to be remaindered. The world has gotten so fast. Gratification has to be instantaneous. What’s wrong with taking a little time to appreciate a good story? To let word-of-mouth do it’s job and bring an audience to a movie or book that’s worthwhile? Is short term return really more valuable than long time investment? I think of all the stories in books and movies that would never have been written, filmed, printed, or appreciated. Goodnight...

Sending Queries

My agent retired at the end of the year so I’m sending out queries again trying to find a new one. I had to give myself a pep talk in order to start a new round of querying. I know I’m in store for a lot of rejection. If I added up the number of agents I’ve queried since I started writing (35 years ago) I’d be in triple digits, easily. I really hate having to start this all over again. Hence, the pep talk. “If you want other people to enjoy your writing, Anna-Maria, you need to show it to them.” Why can’t agents and editors find me while I’m holed up in my writing cave? Shouldn’t my brilliance attract them, like magnets to iron ore? I’ve got three novels I’m querying on so I had to write three query letters. One is bad enough, but three? Ugh. Synopses and queries are my least favorite thing to write. Needed another pep talk. “Once you get these done, Anna-Maria, you can use them over and over… and over (thinking of all the rejections headed my way) with just minor tweaks to personalize the query letter.” Just grin and bear it and get it done. So I did. (Actually, they came together fairly smoothly. I stressed about nothing. Or else I’m finally getting better at writing these things. I’ve had a lot of practice, after all.) Next, I put together a list of agents. I had done some research on agents about a month ago, so I dug that out. Then I added some agents who had given me some...

Historical Research in the Future

I was going through some boxes of family stuff over the weekend. Most of it was legal documents and letters. Lots of letters. So many letters that I doubt I will ever read them all. But the one thing that came through very clearly in the ones I did read was a picture of the times. Casual references to popular songs, news items, things bought or made. They painted a picture for me. My great aunt talked of all the canned fruit she and her mother (my great grandmother) had just put up. This was in the 40s, during WWII. She mentioned that she wanted to put up some pears, too, but that they were too expensive. It would be interesting to look up the price of pears back then to see how much they cost, which I could probably find out with a bit of Google searching. Dad mentioned a new song he liked by Xavier Cugat. A note from my great grandmother worried about Dad being posted overseas during the war—”What could he have possibly learned in a month of training that would make him qualified to fight a war?” My great grandmother died before I was born, but I felt I got to know her a little bit through these letters. All of my letter reading made me wonder what people in the future will do to discover us since people don’t write letters anymore. How will great granddaughters learn about their ancestors? Blogs have kind of taken over from diary writing. How will these musings be preserved? Will descendents go through a box of old...

Too Complicated?

I saw the animated film “Epic” last Friday. The one review I saw said it was a bit complicated. Sometimes I wonder if I see the same movie as critics. The plot wasn’t complicated. In fact it was pretty straightforward. It had some depth and character growth and maybe that was the problem for the reviewer. It wasn’t shallow, one-dimensional. The characters were fun and the artwork was AMAZING. See it in 3-D. It’s an experience. I thank God that the computer is now a tool for the animator/artist. It allows the filmmakers to create scenes that couldn’t be done with hand animation. The drama created by the way the camera moves through a scene is all thanks to the computer. Plus the ability to create multiple crowd scene images also depends on the computer. The “complication” the computer allows the director to add to those scenes multiplies the emotion created by the images. I wonder if reviewers think a children’s movie has to be simple for the audience? They couldn’t be more wrong. Simple movies don’t become classics. Simple movies that lack dimensional characters and plots that matter to the characters, aren’t memorable. Epic is memorable because it offers emotional depth, characters you understand and empathize with, and imagery that takes your breath away. Go see...