Category Archives: Consistent Verb Tense Is For Bitches

Concerning Hobbits, Love, and Movie Adaptations

So the other day a friend forwarded me a link to the very first-ever film adaptation of the Hobbit.

It’s only about 10 minutes long, and worth your time. I’m embedding it here as an example of why I’m extremely leery of anyone ever making a movie out of The Name of the Wind.

Isn’t that an absolute trip? They added a princess to the story and everything.

Now it turns out there are good reasons for why this adaptation was bizarrely short and startlingly off-script. But rather than summarize them, I’ll just link over to a post where the guy that made the film explained why it turned out as it did. It’s actually a really interesting story.

After watching it on youtube, I saw a link and followed it over to watch the trailer for the Hobbit movie.

I won’t deny that I got a bit of a tingle watching it. But honestly, my response was half-tingle, half anticipatory dread.

A dread-tingle. Or dringle, if you prefer.

You see, the first video I posted up there was bad enough to be good in a funny train-wreck sort of way.

But the trailer makes me think that the Hobbit movie is going to be good enough that big pieces of it will make me want to vomit pure bile.

“But Pat,” I hear you say, “Why the concern? The Lord of the Rings Movies were good!”

Yeah. They were good movies. I won’t argue that. They were also moderately okay adaptation of the books.

And yes, I’m aware that referring to something as ‘moderately okay’ is the very definition of damming with faint praise.

Without going into it in any detail, (that would be a whole separate blog’s worth of post) my main problem with the Jackson adaptations is that they lose the subtlety of the original stories.

It’s like this: Tolkien’s books were full of subtle tension, drama, action, good characters, and a world of startling and immersive richness.

Jackson’s adaptations had some brilliant action scenes, great special effects, some pointless action scenes, drama, melodrama, a lot of panoramic cinematography, good casting, and an inexplicably Scottish dwarf with all the character depth of a Disney animal sidekick.

So I’ll say it again. Good movies. Ah hell. I’ll even admit that they were great movies just for that fight scene with the rock troll in Moria.  But only moderately okay adaptations.

In the Hobbit trailer, I see the same thing happening. The Hobbit was a lighthearted story about a slightly bumbling average-Joe who goes off on an adventure and discovers hidden resources inside himself. (Spoiler alert.) It was fun. If the book came out today, it publishers would probably market it as YA.

While it had action and drama, it was not an action-packed Hollywood-style dramapalooza where Gandalf and Galadriel have emo makeouts.

I can tell in my bones that the movie is going to be chock full of scenes that were never in the original story. I’m not talking about a little extra dialogue here and there. I’m talking about completely invented cutaway scenes that stuff more action in, and subplots that were only barely alluded to in the book. My off-the-cuff prediction? At least 20 minutes worth.

It will be a good movie. Maybe even a great movie. But it will also be, at best, a moderately okay adaptation of the subtle, sweet book that I grew up loving.

You know that it’s going to be like? It’s going to be like wandering onto an internet porn site and seeing a video of a girl I had a crush on in high school. You probably knew someone like her. The smart girl. The shy girl. The one who wore glasses and was a little socially awkward. The one who screwed up the curve in chemistry so you got an A- instead of an A.

She was a geek girl before anybody knew what a geek girl was. And that was kinda awesome, because you were a geek boy before being a geek was culturally acceptable.

You liked her because she was funny. And she was smart. And you could actually talk to her. And she read books.

And sure, she was girl-shaped, and that was cool. And she was cute, in an understated, freckly way. And sometimes you’d stare at her breasts when you were supposed to be paying attention in biology. But you were 16. You stared at everyone’s breasts back then.

And yeah, you had some fantasies about her, because, again, you were 16. But they were fairly modest fantasies about making out in the back of a car. Maybe you’d get to second base. Maybe you could steal third if you were lucky.

And maybe, just maybe, something delightful and terrifying might  happen. And yeah, it would probably be awkward and fumbling at times, but that’s okay because she’d be doing half the fumbling too. Because the only experience either one of you had was from books. And afterwards, if you make a Star Wars joke, you know she’ll get it, and she’ll laugh….

That’s the girl you fell in love with in high school. You didn’t have a crush on her because she was some simmering pool of molten sex. You loved her because she was subtle and sweet and smart and special.

So you stroll onto this porn site, and there she is. Except now she’s wearing a thong and a black leather halter top. She’s wearing fuck-me red lipstick and a lot of dark eye makeup. Her breasts are amazing now, proud and perfectly round.

Someone’s taught her to dance, and she does it well. She’s flexible and tan. She has a flat midriff and walks like a high-class Vegas stripper. Her eyes are dark and smouldering. She has a riding crop, and she likes to be tied up, and her too-red mouth forms a perfect circle as she sighs and moans, and tosses her head in a performance designed to win any number of academy awards….

And what’s the problem with this? Well… in some ways, nothing. What you’ve found is perfectly good porn. Maybe even great porn.

But in other ways the problem is blindingly obvious. This girl has nothing in common with your high-school crush except for her social security number. Everything you loved about her is gone.

We loved the sweet, shy, freckly girl. We still remember her name, and after all these years she lives close to our heart. Seeing her in lipstick and stiletto heels dancing on a pole is like watching Winnie the Pooh do heroin and then glass someone in a bar fight.

It just isn’t something that I look forward to seeing….

And that’s how I’m going to feel when I watch the Hobbit.

I’ll be one part entertained, two parts nostalgic, two parts irritated, three parts outraged, and one part oddly titillated.

And I’ll watch it, and I’ll enjoy it, and afterwards I’ll go home and feel more than slightly sad….

pat

Also posted in Being a Curmudgeon, boding, movie talk, My High Horse, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat171 Responses

San Diego 2011: Thursday Part II – Wootstock

This is part of my San Diego ComicCon diary from 2011. It’s sort of the middle of the story.

If you want the whole story, you might want to start reading at the beginning. Other parts include: Wednesday, Thursday Part I, and Friday Ad Infinitum.

*     *     *

Before I tell the story of Wootstock, I should give you a little background so things will make sense.

A stab at definition.

For those of you that don’t know about it, Wootstock is….

Wootstock is….

Well, it’s just Wootstock.

It’s sort of like a modern variety show. (Except nobody knows what a variety show is these days.)

Imagine A Prairie Home Companion if it was run by a bunch of sci-fi nerds. (Man, that’s no good either, does anyone else other than me listen to A Prairie Home Companion?)

Okay. How about this. There’s music. There’s comedy. There’s music-comedy. There’s skits. There’s cussing and nerd humor and poetry and, well…

It’s pretty much a big geek performance orgy.

Honestly, I’ve wanted a piece of Wootstock for ages. Ever since I first heard about it, I wanted in.

Now did I get a piece of the action?

I got an invitation from Ernest Cline.

I mentioned his book on the blog a while back. It’s called Ready Player One. And not only did I like it enough to give it a blurb. I liked it enough to dig up his e-mail address and gush to him directly about how much I loved it.

I think the entire content of my first e-mail was, “Your book is fucking awesome.”

I tried to get them to use that for the blurb on the back, (“This book is fucking awesome.” — Patrick Rothfuss) But their marketing people wouldn’t go for it.

Anyway, Ernest got an invite to Wootstock from Wil Wheaton, who is narrating the audiobook of Ready Player One. Ernest, being a generous human being, asked if I’d like to share some of his stage time.

I said yes. I said it in a firm, manly, baritone. Then I hung up the phone and laughed my most maniacal laugh.

Right. So. We all on the same page here?

7:00 – Backstage.

I walk up to the side door of the Balboa Theater in San Diego. Someone was waiting for me at the door, where they gave me this:

My very first All Access pass. It makes me feel like a rockstar.

I go backstage and down into the secret parts of the theater. It’s a magical sort of place. It’s a secret place that only the performers get to see, and it’s electric in a way that’s hard to describe. Everyone there is getting ready for the show. They’re excited, and a little nervous, and happy to see each other. Plus it’s comic-con, so we’re all a little exhausted. And a few of us are slightly tipsy, too… (Though not me, as I’m not much of a drinker.)

There’s a blur of people all over the place. Some of them I recognize, like Adam Savage from Mythbusters. And the guys from Rifftrax (who used to do MST3K.)

I’m introduced to a few people in a whirlwind fashion. I shake hands and nod at names. But they all run out of me like water. If I say, “someone said” or “someone did” I’m not trying to protect anyone’s identity, or snub them. It’s because a lot of the evening is a blur to me. I suck at meeting people, and I only have space in my head for about 5 new names.

Then I turn around and Wil Wheaton is there.

It’s weird meeting someone you kinda already know. And I kinda know Wil from a bunch of different directions. From his blog, from Star Trek, from his books, and from the Guild.

Plus we e-mailed just a little a day or two before Wootstock. I won’t bullshit you, that made me kinda tingly.

Anyway, we’re introduced, and we shake hands. He thanks me for the nice things I said about his book on my blog. And I’m a little surprised that he’s read it, though I shouldn’t be, I suppose. I tell him that I loved it.

That’s all we have time for. The stage manager is gathering everyone up to make some announcements before the show.

We all jam into a room and Liz is introduced. She is the boss. She tells us how it’s all going to work. She tells us we can watch from backstage, and that we should, so that we don’t miss our cues. She tells us to stick to our allotted time. She tells us where the beer and pizza are.

Everyone else nods attentively. There are a few jokes. But all of this is old hat for most of them.

Me? I’m grinning like an idiot. The show hasn’t even started yet and I’m having the best time….

*     *     *

I should explain something. I used to do lots of group-performance type things. I used to sing in choirs. I used to do radio comedy. I used to act a little, and did a few plays, a musical or two.

I even used to do a little improv comedy. Which is like a trial by fire. Once you do improv comedy, no other type of performance will ever truly frighten you.

Now I didn’t do a lot of these things seriously. But I did them. I enjoyed them.

And I miss them.

You see, one of the downsides of being a writer is that it’s a very solitary occupation. If everything is going well with my writing, I’ll spend 10-12 hours a day alone, and the rest of my time sleeping. (Also alone, usually.)

When I do get out to do a reading or a convention, I have a lot of fun. I enjoy meeting fans and signing books. I enjoy doing Q&A and reading stuff to an audience. It’s a nice opportunity for me to go out and be social.

But while it’s social, it’s a very solitary type of performance. I’m up in front of 200-600 people talking. There’s just me and the audience.

I’d forgotten what it was like to be part of a group of performers. To be a piece of a WE.

It feels great.

*     *     *

Liz makes one last announcement. They’ve gone to the worst seat in the house and borrowed the person’s camera. They’re going to pass it around backstage and we’ll all take pictures with it. That way the poor schlub with the worst seat will have a cool memento of the show and, as a bonus, the pictures will go online so everyone can use them.

It’s only because of the photoset that I have a shot of Ernest and me backstage, wherein I am getting my Kawaii on.

The show kicks off, and after cadging a piece of free pizza, I head upstairs we head up onto stage and watch the show from the wings. The theatre is gorgeous. A place with some real style to it.

It’s certainly the biggest house I’ve ever played to, and I’m a little nervous. But despite the fact that I’m anxiously fretting over what exactly I’m going to read, I can’t help but get pulled in by Molly Lewis playing the ukulele.

Her songs crack me up as I watch from backstage, and it helps me relax a bit.

Then, as I’m watching her play, a little motion catches my attention from the corner of my eye. So I look over and see Wil Wheaton dancing.

Before that point, I liked Wil Wheaton. I knew he was cool. I respected him as a writer, enjoyed him as a performer, and admired him as a strong, smart, outspoken member of the geek community.

But backstage in the Balboa theatre, I watched Wil Wheaton do a happy, goofy little dance, and that was when I started to love him.

Soon afterwards, Ernest gets his cue and heads out onto stage. He reads some hardcore geek poetry. Good stuff. He’s a good performer, too. Gets a good reaction from the crowd.

Then he introduces me. I’m a surprise guest of sorts, as I’m not on the program. People cheer when they hear my name, which is kind of a shock. It’s then that I decide what I’m going to read. I’m not going to try to follow Ernest’s poetry with more poetry. I think he’s got me beat in that regard.

I’m not going to read a piece out of my book, either. Too clunky. I even decide against reading a piece of a short story I’m working on.

No. A whole theatre of people cheering and my new man-crush Wil Wheaton watching from the wings means I go straight to my best material. The piece I keep in my back pocket whenever I do a reading. My sure-fire winner. My big gun.

I pull out The Guinea Pig Story.

Those of you who have seen me at a live reading might have heard it. Most of you have not.

It’s one of of the humor pieces I wrote back in college. Theoretically I was writing an advice column, but realistically I was making fun of people and telling incriminating stories about my life.

Here’s the only video I was able to find of the performance. The first little bit of my performance is cut off there, but it’s only about a sentence of the letter someone wrote in, asking for advice about keeping pets in their dormroom.

[Edit: After searching around a bit, I found another video from farther back in the audience that shows my performance AND Ernest's with Wil Wheaton's introduction.]

I got a great reaction from the audience, and left the stage feeling roughly ten thousand feet tall.

8:00 – Random House Party

After hanging around for a while and watching a few more acts, Ernest said he was going over to the Random House party and asked if I’d like to come along.

Though I was loathe to leave, I figured I should go and rub some elbows with some more bookish types. That’s kinda my job in some ways.

So I went to the party, hung out with some folks, and ended up riding a mechanical bull.

Why? No. Why is not the right question. I was at San Diego ComicCon. The proper question is “why the fuck not?”

That party was fun, but after about 45 minutes, I made my excuses and headed back to Wootstock. Because, y’know, Wootstock.

9:00 ish – More Wootstock.

I got back just in time for intermission, where I amused myself by handing out copies of the Chick Tract Dark Dungeons to members of the audience. I hope nobody thought I was serious….

After all my tracts were gone, I used my fancy pass to get backstage, feeling rockstar all over again. I wandered down to the dressing rooms and bumped into Felicia Day, who was also a surprise guest. I got a free hug and we chatted for about forty-five seconds before someone tells her she’s about to miss her entrance cue.

Somehow, someone managed to catch us on film during that brief moment. Proving that I’m not a big fibber.

I hang around and chat with folk, occasionally watching some of the show from backstage. I catch Jeff Lewis (Vork, for you Guildies out there) doing a piece of honest-to-god standup comedy. The man has amazing comic timing and delivery. As you’d already know if you were watching The Jeff Lewis 5-minute Comedy Hour.

11:30 ish – Autographing.

Eventually the show wraps up with a great closing number that I watch from the wings. Then I head downstairs to get my backpack and maybe another slice of pizza before I head out. When I’m gathering up my stuff, someone asks if I want to stick around and sign autographs. I shrug and agree, because I have nowhere else in particular to be.

Now over the last couple of years I’ve done a lot of signings. It’s old hat in a lot of ways. Usually I’m all alone. I’m a one-man-show.

But this one was different. A bunch of the performers were sticking around to sign posters and programs.

What’s more, at Wootstock, most of the people could give a damn about me. They’re there to see Wheaton, or Savage, or bask in the radiant glory of Paul and Storm.

And you know what? It was nice  doing a signing where most folks didn’t care who I was. It gave me a chance to goof off and get to know the people sitting on either side of me. To my left was the aforementioned Molly Lewis. And to my right was someone I didn’t know at all, but I quickly learned that she was Amy Berg, writer/producer for Eureka (among many other things.)

So we hang out and chat as the line of people slowly trickles past. I’m feeling pretty relaxed. I’ve had a good day. I was on a panel with George Martin, had dinner with Jim Butcher, and got to chat with Wil Wheaton. I went to a party with an actual velvet rope, and the bouncer nodded me through even though I wasn’t on the list. I rode the mechanical bull and didn’t hurt myself. I got a hug from Felicia day and made a thousand people laugh….

It’s  been a busy 14 hours, and I’m in that warm, happy place that comes when you know you don’t have to work any more. And, because I’m in a good mood, I start to joke around with the people coming through the line….

And that’s when I *really* start to get to know the people sitting on either side of me.  I draw a picture of a duck on someone’s poster, and they mock me for its utter terribleness. They mocked me with a sharp-tongued viciousness I haven’t experienced since most of my best friends moved away from Stevens Point.

So I abandoned drawing and started signing clever things on the posters. Then my neighbors started writing things on their posters that were clever-er. And I feel really put out by this, because normally *I* get to be the witty one, and they were out wittying me without hardly trying. I felt the sudden need to step up my game, to say nothing of wanting to buy some of Molly’s music and catch up on the current season of Eureka….

The signing went on for at least a couple hours, and it was the perfect end to the perfect day. As I left the theater I felt that strange, glowy feeling that comes when you level up. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out where the XP boost had come from:

Best of all, I’d made it through two entire days at the convention without making an ass of myself in front of anyone.

But then again, it was only Thursday….

*     *     *

Sorry this one was so long delayed. More soon…

pat

Also posted in a billion links, College Survival Guide, conventions, Felicia Day, meeting famous people, my rockstar life, the longest fucking blog ever, videos, Wil Wheaton | By Pat36 Responses
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