Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

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*This post contains spoilers*

The first time I heard about The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was on Twitter the day after it won the highest honour – the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize- at Sundance Festival. The person who had posted about the announcement tagged on their own declaration of “why is nobody talking about the fact that a YA adapation with a female/female relationship in just won the biggest award at this massive film festival?” And rightfully so: why exactly was no one talking about it? This lead to discussions in the online book community about the differences in how YA stories with Queer female relationships are marketed in comparision to Queer male relationships. When the film finally had the rights bought off the back of its big win, I eagerly picked up the book – of the same name- by Emily M. Danforth and started to read. Sadly, the limited showings meant there wasn’t one in the vicinity and so I was left waiting for a DVD release. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to my Netflix account to see it staring right back at me.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post follows a girl  called Cameron who is sent to a christian gay conversion institution after being caught having a sexual moment with her female best friend, Coley Taylor.

The book is told in linear and spends over 300 pages delving into Cameron’s family life and how her relationship with Coley starts to blossom. Over half of the book is done before Cameron even steps foot into the center whereas the movie is entirely set in this place, using flashbacks to filter in the backstory the viewer needs. I absolutely understand why this conscious decision was made. Films have time constraints and with a 500 page book being turned into a 90 minute film, of course amendments will happen. I ended up loving both the book and its adaptation for different reasons. I like the angle of the movie and how it leaves a lot of things open to interpretation; instead focusing mainly on the moment Cameron and Coley got caught as a return point throughout. It feels a lot more present. I also love the book for the depth of backstory given and how readers grow to love and care for Cameron that when she ends up being sent away it feels like the reader is experiencing the betrayal too.

The only real issue that I had with this film comes down to the framing that, coincidentally, I just praised. Cameron links her parents death to  her first kiss with Coley and punishes herself a lot for it as religion plays a part in her daily life. Cameron is given a lot more sexually and Coley doesn’t want anything in return which builds up a cycle of constant rejection the protagonist feels, there’s Cameron’s boyfriend Jamie; all of which don’t play a part in the movie. Cameron becomes more of someone who thinks the system is rubbish than something who takes the process seriously. I just felt that a lot of what makes her such a well-rounded, detailed character was lost in that translation.

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While I went into this experience slightly biased as I pictured Cameron as Chloe Grace Moretz, she does an amazing job of holding the film together. Every scene she’s in has the viewer hanging on her every word and movement and the emotional scenes had my heart just aching. I’ve seen a few of Chloe’s films and this is definitely one of her best performances. The surrounding cast is also perfect. Sasha Lane as Jane Fonda and Forrest Goodluck as Adam were just wonderful at bringing the side actors to life; to created that outlet for Cameron to talk to someone who was on her side without fear of repercussions and their friendship felt natural; like one of those destined to last for years to come. A personal favourite for me with Erin played by Emily Skegg. I adored Erin in the books and it was impossible not to feel for Emily’s potrayal of this character so desperate not to admit that she’s struggling.

The bitter pill to swallow with this story is the realisation that gay conversation places still exist. It makes the particularly graphic book scene with Mark (which is very toned down in the film) have even more weight to it than just a fictional character viewers have grown attached to, A lot of the film is centered more in what isn’t said than what is; creating a depth of its own.

Aside for characters, the cinematography is gorgeous and the lingering frames allow plenty of time of time for viewers to feel familiar with the surroundings. The screenplay is so well crafted that scenes just flow into each other perfectly and when the film reaches its conclusion, there’s a sense that something really special has been put out into the world.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is a gem I will continue thinking about for a long time.

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Posted in adaptations, children's fiction, discussion, review

Book To Movie Talk | Wonder

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*This post contains spoilers*

Wonder is another one of those books that I’ve heard about on and off over the past few years but never really had any desire to delve into it… until I saw the trailer for the film adaptation.

The story follows ten year old August Pullman who has been living with a facial disfigurement from the day he was born. He’s been home-schooled but his mother can only teach him so much and decides to enrol him in fifth grade as August will not be the only new kid starting. August battles through stares, whispers and outright abuse while gaining true friends along the way.

Having just read the book, the content was still very fresh in my mind. So straight away from an accuracy point of view, Wonder is the most accurate book to movie adaptation that I think I’ve ever seen. It can seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but straying too much from the source material is the easiest way for an adaptation to lose me completely. Wonder was also directed by Stephen Chbosky who wrote and directed The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and there are many stylistic similarities between the two.

A film with a focus on child actors always makes me nervous as  a bad child actor can really derail a film. The role of Auggie is played by Jacob Tremblay (known for his lead role as Jack in Room) and he blows the part out of the water. He captured the true essence of Auggie’s personality and in the sadder moments, it was almost impossible to believe that he was just a child acting and now actually crying his heart out.  The absolute standout actor for me was Noah Jupe who took on the role of Auggie’s best friend Jack Will; who was my favourite character from the book. Noah did a brilliant job of facial acting and his chemistry with Jacob made the friendship between these two characters feel believable.

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I had a lot of issues with the use of multiple perspectives in the book and that’s one of the few aspects where I think the film did a better job of executing the intention. The different narratives are explored through voiceovers while the characters go about their day and the combination of that with the aerial, third person view of the film aided the experiences of the characters. For example, it was a lot easier to pick up on Viv being pushed aside as her parents focused on August in the film than in the book because the viewer can physically see Viv being side-lined and lounging around in the background.

Other actors that surprised me were the Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts who played the parts of Auggie’s parents. A clip of Owen Wilson in the trailer, along with an interview he did, are what really pushed me to devour this story and he pleasantly surprised me in this film. He is the typical, almost cliché “funny dad” there to break the tension at just the right moments and he really portrayed the loving father just trying to do the best to help out his child, along with paying Viv some attention unlike the preoccupied mother. When I looked into casting, Julia Roberts was the first one that I wasn’t I recognised but wasn’t too bothered about. Again, she surprised me and I found myself caring out – and appreciating the efforts of – the mother a lot more. Her chemistry with Owen did a great job of projecting that happy marriage and it was nice to see scenes of them together without the children.

I know that I’ve focused a lot on my thoughts surrounding the character portrayals, but in a heavily character driven story it’s too easy to focus on their efforts than anything outside of that. I will mention that I did love that the helmet featured a lot more in the film as it was an extra little thing to reflect Auggie’s character development throughout the story.

I left the cinema feeling emotionally drained but also overwhelmingly happy and satisfied. This adaptation keeps the real spirit of Wonder alive and showcases the importance of just being kind to others.

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Posted in adaptations, Dystopian, review, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | Allegiant

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*not spoiler free*

When I saw the first trailer for Allegiant, my expectations were low. As more trailers and teasers were released my expectations continued to sink. I doubted the film itself would be good let alone accurate. I knew going into the cinema screen that this adaptation would not be the Allegiant I hold close to my heart so of course I was apprehensive.

Here’s a breakdown of the important new characters added to the cast for this part of the series:

David played by Jeff Daniels

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Matthew played by Bill Skarsgard

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Nita played by Nadia Hilker

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Starting off with the existing characters, Theo James failed to impress, yet again, as Four. I’ve always found Four to be a painfully boring character in the books so if Theo intended to transfer that to screen then I guess you can say he was successful. I used to enjoy Shailene Woodley as Tris but in this film she is surprisingly underwhelming. Despite the fact that the existing characters find out in Allegiant that everything they know is a lie and that people have been watching them through cameras their whole lives, they seem content with this in the film, while the book versions go through a massive adjustment period. It just completely threw the tone off in the film, getting rid of any possible tension.

The new characters don’t leave much to be desired either. Remember Nita in the book and the role she played? She might as well not exist in the film. David didn’t seem nearly as desperate and evil, appearing laid-back more than anything else, and Matthew plays a considerably smaller role with the humour and charm that made me appreciate him in the book vanishing into thin air.

The only actor to give a good performance was Miles Teller, returning to the role of Peter, who had screen presence and made the terrible dialogue he was given funny, even eliciting a few laughs from me.

But the lack of emotions from any of the characters led to the events of the film not feeling believable which is key to a story with this kind of concept at its core.

I was already aware from the promotion prior to the film’s release that things would be different; the main factor fans picked up on being the changes to the “world beyond the wall.” That 21st century, modern day Chicago from the book seems like a pleasant dream when you set your eyes on what they have done to the world.

 

Everything beyond the wall is a wasteland. The world is split into 4 places:

Chicago – the city ruled by factions that the characters believed to be the world

  • The bureau – genetic welfare headquarters
  • The province – essentially the government that the bureau has to report to
  • The fringe – a place where those who survived what ravaged the world are living in poverty.

Neither the fringe nor the province exists in the book and I am still trying to understand why they needed to add it. I would have found this slightly bearable if the locations looked real and less like a soft play centre. The source material doesn’t lack the information or action to make this watchable and not seem stagnant so why the creators felt the need to include such massive plot changes just seems redundant to me, unless they were trying to purposely destroy this series, in which case they’re doing a fantastic job.

Natalie’s diary is given to Tris by Matthew to help her understand the important role her mother played and come to terms with her new surroundings. In the film, David gives Tris memory tabs that allow her to relive parts of her mother’s life in the fringe, before she willingly entered the Chicago experiment. Another unnecessary change.

The only part I saw of book Allegiant depicted on screen was the trials.

 

This scene opened the film and showed a sense of madness that had taken over the city as everyone rallied to see the deaths of those that had persecuted them. I will admit, the only moment that elicited any emotion from me other than disappointment was when Caleb was in the cage waiting for his trial and screaming to Tris “please don’t let them kill me.” Even Evelyn with the devastating fear that crippled her in the book fell utterly flat on screen.

There just seemed to be a lack of conviction in all the information given and it felt that none of the cast really wanted to be there, not that they were given much good direction in this script.

I reached a point during the viewing process where I tried to look at the film as if I hadn’t read the book before and even then it just didn’t make sense. Making Tris out to be someone who is a “chosen one”, not fully explaining what makes people genetically damaged or pure. Frankly, it’s just a mess.

But in the end, I am a fan of this series and I will see the final part titled “Ascendant” when it is released next year. I just hope to the book adapting gods that the ending stays the same.
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Posted in Non-Fiction, review

The Disney Book

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Blurb: “For more than 90 years, Disney has captured imaginations with pioneering entertainment and storytelling for all ages. From Sleeping Beauty to Frozen, Mary Poppins to the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and Disneyland to Tokyo DisneySea, explore the world of Disney in this exciting guide.”
Did you know that Walt Disney originally want to call Mickey Mouse, Mortimer until his wife said the name sounded too pompous?

Did you know that the Hawaii location backgrounds in Lilo & Sitch are actually watercolour paintings and not CGI/Animation?

Did you know that the first Disneyland Park opened 17th July 1955 and seven weeks later celebrated its one millionth guest?

No? Well now you do. And that’s just a snippet of what you will learn in this book.

Also, each copy of the book features a 35mm filmstrip from Brave. So that’s just a little extra to tempt you.
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This book is split into three parts:

 

The first part is titled “Drawn Disney” and covers everything from Walt Disney in the early years to Mickey Mouse, to the Silly Symphonies cartoons, to some of the classic films we know and adore. As a lover of animation and how it’s made, it was a real treat seeing some of the concept art, the cameras used to make the films, and how the voice actors would actually act out scenes to give the animators an idea of how the characters should move on screen to make them look more human.  This section shows little surprises/links to other Disney productions to look out for in their various films, which I’ll definitely look for the next time I give them a watch. I greatly underestimated the work that went into some aspects of these creations, for example: sound. Bambi (1942) has fewer than 1000 words of dialogue. The rest is just sound. But it provides an excellent example of how much information can be conveyed just through putting sounds together.

The second part is titled “Disney In Action” which you can probably guess covers the live action side of Disney. There are mentions of Walt’s love for Jules Verne which lead to him creating his first made-in-Hollywood blockbuster “20,000 leagues Under The Sea”. A model of the Nautilus can be found next to Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was inspired by the classic Disneyland park attraction. Again, the detail of the design for the Dead Man’s Chest is something really overlooked on screen, but really appreciated when you’re aware of it.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a section on live action Disney without mentioning the incredibly fun “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” starring Angela Lansbury and Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Both of which combine live action with animation, creating two of arguably the best Disney live action films.

The third part is titled “Experience Disney” and focuses on the Disneyland theme parks. The idea for to expand Disney to this area came to Walt when he was sat in a theme park watching his children on a ride. The first Disneyland Park opened in July 1955 featuring 18 major attractions. By the end of its first year, 3.6 million people had visited. But Walt didn’t want to stop there and began making plans for a four-part theme park in Florida, also featuring the Magic Kingdom park. Sadly, he died a year after plans were publically announced. His co-partner and brother Roy gave a speech stating that the new accumulation in Florida would be named “Walt Disney World” so that no one will forget the man behind the creations. Two months later, Roy died.

This book combines all kinds of wonderful information and facts with colourful images and photographs that stop it  becoming just some old boring textbook.

This is an absolute must for any Disney lover!

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