In The Shadow Of Adaptation: To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Last year reading To All The Boys I Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You and Always And Forever, Lara Jean  by Jenny Han was one of the great pleasures of my reading project. And Netflix’s adaptation of To All The Boys was a breath of fresh teen rom-com air. Lana Condor and Noah Centino were pitch perfect and Lara Jean and Peter, with a kind of casual and cute chemistry that always makes these kinds of movies better.

I was very excited when it was announced that P.S. I Still Love You was going forward, and even more excited when the adorable John Ambrose McClaren was going to be played by the truly adorable Jordan Fisher, who was in Grease Live and Rent Live and who I’m in a little in love with anyway, so that was going to go great.

Obviously, based on choices made in To All The Boys I knew some changes were coming for P.S. I Still Love You, and some of them I liked. Removing the sex tape subplot’s recurrence was a good choice. There were others that I didn’t like. (emoving the Assasin subplot takes the comic spine out of the story, which exists in the first one by virtue of the screwball fake relationships stuff. Focusing on the emotions was a good call in certain ways, and extending John and Lara Jean’s reunion definitely worked.

As a movie I really enjoyed this, but as an adaptation I wasn’t crazy about it. It took too much of the stuff that I really enjoyed about the book out.

Of course it still gave me Jordan Fisher in a white dinner jacket and Lana Candor in a dreamy fifties ball gown so I can’t be too mad at it.

Apparently, Always and Forever, Lara Jean is coming next year, so we’ll talk about that then. It’s my least favorite of the three books so I’m meh on it, but I’ll be happy to see this cast again, they are completely charming. (I didn’t even touch on John Corbett as Lara Jean’s dad, being totally adorable and stuff.)

The next In The Shadow Of Adaptation will be Emma by Jane Austen which is getting a fancy new movie adaptation and I am SO excited for it.

Magical Movies Tour: The Three Caballeros

What a weird, trippy, again kinda racist, delight of a film! I’ve always been a fan of the Cabelloros, from Disney World and from those Disney Sing-a-Long videos, but had never watched the full film.

Again, we have a series of shorts, this time much more connected than Saludos Amigos. Donald receives a gift and it turns out to be a magical film meant to introduce him to his cousins from South America. He learns about some different birds, before making his way to Brasil, where hey look! Jose Carrioca is waiting for him! The two friends happily dance and sing in Brasil, and then wind up in Mexico, where they meet Panchito Pistoles. They hop on their magical sarape (I said, kinda racist) and fly about Mexico, singing, dancing, Donald hits on lots of pretty girls, and then finds his way home.

It’s just delightful, neon colored, displaying early attempts at integrating live footage and animation and seriously, the songs in this one are so much fun. Also, I just adore Jose and Panchito, and I’ve already explained that Donald is my favorite of the Fab Five. So I was just thrilled to watch the movie.

And as it descended into trippy madness, I was even happier. Singers become flowers, with singers faces, Donald skips around a technocolor wonderland while Jose and Panchito look on fondly. All three fly off on a magical serape.

Again, sometimes things just need to be what they are, and this is a silly cartoon about singing birds with some fun songs sung by Mexican singers. And this executes that conceit perfectly. It’s less “educational” than it’s brother production, and all the better for it.

Next week we discuss Fun And Fancy Free, we’re skipping Make Mine Music because it isn’t on Disney+ (bizarrely) and I don’t feel like chasing it down.

The Series Series: The Old Kingdom Series By Garth Nix

“Does the walker choose the path?” Well, I chose this one and I’m pretty sure that I regret it. This is the first time I’ve pushed through a series I really didn’t care for except in fits and starts. I’m bad about putting down books I don’t particularly care for, but I usually don’t go for the sequels of something that I had to push through. Anyway, let’s dig deeper.

The Books

Sabriel

Lirael

Abhorsen

Clariel

Goldenhand

Author

Garth Nix is an Australian author. He studied literature at University and then worked in the publishing industry before writing Sabriel. He claims inspiration from classical fantasy as well as Middle Eastern and Asian mysticism. And despite my overall dislike of this series it is a nice blend of those traditions as I understand them. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two sons.

Series Structure

This is five books, the first three a pretty solid trilogy, with a prequel and then a sequel following. The initial trilogy actually reminds me a lot of Dune, telling the story of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone, an epic story in it’s own right, that leads to a huge shift in status quo for the world, the restoration of a great royal house, and a return to magic, (in Dune the restoration of an imperial house and a return to tech.) followed by two stories of what that means for their children and the next generation, which is what Lirael and Abhorsen deal with, Sabriel finding her new true apprentice and reaching a detante with the forces of “Free Magic.” Then we get Clariel which tells a largely free standing story about The Old Kingdom before the fall of the royal house, until we learn who it’s lead becomes. Goldenhand wraps a few things up but does end on a cliff hanger and apparently a sixth book is coming next year.

I will not be reading it.

Themes

I think legacy is a big theme here, it’s what I seize on the most. Which, again, it’s so weird that I didn’t like this series much. I love legacy as a theme, the curses and mistakes and triumphs of the past irepparably damaging the future. But it’s all in the execution, Nix’s characters don’t feel like they’re moving in the tides of destiny as so many heroes in these types of stories are, they feel bound by them and not in a fun, I’m gonna subvert that expectation way, just in a resigned shrug their shoulders way. It makes for dull reading.

Also the magic system is practically impenetrable and I was bored every time something got explained. I think I just don’t care for Nix’s writing.

Favorite Book

I liked Lirael best because I liked Lirael best. She seemed do be the only character who was active, who wanted something different than what life was giving her. She eventually swam with the tide, but she at least fought it and swam, didn’t let herself be carried.

Least Favorite Book

Clariel is a real slog. I don’t care how important Chlorr Of The Mask is to Lirael’s development, this book was not fun. Even though it has a DRAGON and a MAGIC SCHOOL and COURT POLITICS all tings that I usually love.

Favorite Character

You’d like Lirael after what I said above, but it’s actually Mogget, a free magic creature bound in the form of a cat who serves the Abhorsens. He rules, he’s surly, sarcastic, annoyed and bent on revenge on the family that bound him, even though he likes them well enough individually. I like cat guides, which is odd, since in life I’m much more of a dog person. But I liked Mogget, he felt in tradition with Faithful from The Song Of The Lioness and Luna and Artemis from Sailor Moon.

Reread Possibilities

I’m not rereading this, I had so much trouble getting into it.

The next Series Series will be on The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis, but there’s some stuff in between. (I’m rereading PS I Still Love You and doing an “In The Shadow Of Adaptation” as well as one for Jane Austen’s Emma.) 

I Like This Chick, She Has Rage Issues

As y’all know, I get emotional at certain things. I can usually see it coming. I didn’t expect any tears during Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn, and they came in one moment. My heart skipped a beat and I burst right into tears when Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) finally let loose and we got a Canary Cry on the big screen.

That made me cry.

Anyway, on to the rest of the movie. It is an incredible triumph. It’s joyously funny, in a great silly way. Feminist without pandering or neutering itself. (Turns out just by centering women and making your villain a misogynist you can make a pretty feminist film even without posturing. Who knew? Oh, every woman ever, that’s right.)

Trying to explain the movie is beside the point for me, here, but it underperformed this weekend so GO SEE IT. Anyway, more thoughts, it’s framed around Harley Quinn trying to figure out what her life is going to look like post Joker. At first, she’s keeping the breakup on the DL, as she knows she’s crossed a lot of people in her career. But she finally snaps and blows up ACE Chemical (and then there’s a whole thing with a Bacon Egg And Cheese sandwich) and all hell breaks loose.

Harley finds herself in the crosshairs of Roman Sionus, AKA Black Mask, played deliciously by Ewan McGregor. Roman employs Dinah Lance AKA Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell, perfect) as a singer and enforcer, and Victor Szasz (Chris Messina) is his right hand man. She’s also being pursued by Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) They’re all looking for young pick pocket Cassandra Caine (Ella Jay Basco) who’s gotten her hands on the priceless Bertenelli Diamond, which holds the key to the vast fortune of an executed mob family.

Gotham’s underworld is also being cleansed by a mysterious Cross Bow Killer, who prefers Huntress, thank you. (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and in the end, in order to survive, all the women band together to protect Cass.

There’s hijinks galore in between, fantastic action, plenty of swears. (The R rating is entirely for the use of the F word and some real bone crunching violence. It’s great) The movie is a brightly colored fever dream in places and totally perfect. Margot Robbie is a dream, the rest of the cast follows suits. (I have to admit hearing Rosie Perez’s actual Brooklyn accent next to Robbie’s exaggerated Quinn voice is hilarious.)

Seriously, this movie is so special. I’m thrilled with how DC movies have turned around in the past year. Aquaman was so fun! Shazam was miraculous, Joker uhhh, well Joaquin won an Oscar! And Birds Of Prey is so much fun. This gets me super psyched for Wonder Woman 1984, and also, as I realized Black Widow. 

All the super hero movies I’m looking forward to this year are about women. That’s incredible, given that a few years ago, no one even knew if Wonder Woman was going to ever happen.

Magical Movies Tour: Saludos Amigos

When I went to San Francisco & Napa last year, I had one morning that wasn’t already scheduled with family wedding activities or something my dad had already put on the books for us. I decided to use it visiting The Walt Disney Family Museum.

The production of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros (The subject of next week’s column) were well detailed in that museum, produced with funds from the US government to promote understanding with our southern neighbors. I don’t know how well they did that, but they are some fun cartoons.

Saludos Amigos doesn’t hide it’s framing device, and is all the better for it. A group of Disney Animators headed on a whirlwind South American trip to get some fresh inspiration. And wouldn’t ya know it? THEY GOT IT.

There’s four shorts. One is Donald learning about life around Lake Titicaca, one is about a little plane named Pedro who flies mail over the Andes. (I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little obsessed with Pedro, he’s super cute.) There’s one where Goofy learns the ways of the Argentine Gauchos. There are few things in the world I love like a Goody cartoon. (If you’re a Disney+ subscriber, watch “How To Swim” or “How to Ski” IMMEDIATELY. They are GENIUS PERFECTION) and then a samba short about Rio DiJenaero where Donald meets the sauve Jose Carrioca for the first time.

All four are delightful, and don’t overstay their welcome and while I’m not sure how much I learned about South America, I very much enjoyed the samba numbers and primo Donald content. (Big fan of Donald around here.)

Next week, we’ll talk about The Three Caballeros, which means even more primo Donald content. And more of Jose!

Ms. Americana: Pop Songs & Finding Your Power

I love Taylor Swift.

I love her music, I love the way she snuck into the void Madonna left behind while none of us were looking because ten other pop stars were vying for the spot (She is not as good as Madonna, I haven’t completely lost my mind), I love that she’s in control of her image as much as she possibly can be. I love that I grew up with her (Taylor is two years younger than I am, but I’ve always been a late bloomer and she’s kind of a old soul.)

All that said, I don’t know if Miss Americana is a good documentary. Taylor is an vulnerable as she can be, I think, but she’s had walls up for so long, and she seems to be doing the hard slow work of taking them down rather than letting them crash, figuring out which ones are useful and which ones are limiting. That’s probably healthier but not nearly as much fun.

The movie builds a complicated picture of a woman is who is just starting to realize who she is, she notes that she’d been frozen at the age she got famous (16) and had a lot of catching up to do. Which is why her devastation that her political stand in 2018 wasn’t enough reads as sincere rather than ego. She was 27, but closer to 18 in maturity and you think your voice can really change the world then, and to be fair, Taylor Swift actually might be able to move the needle. (Apparently after she started insisting on voting young registration in Tennessee went up like 16% or something).

The film really shines when they show Taylor writing music, and working on music. Chowing down on burritos with her producer, giggling with Brandon Urie in dorky icon perfection, shouting to Jack Antonoff that she forgot the words to “Endgame.” She’s herself in that work, and it’s stunning to see.

I really enjoyed this documentary, but as I mentioned up top, I love Taylor Swift. I’d be curious what someone who either actively dislikes her or is indifferent to her and what they’d think. I think it’s just partly having tracked her life for so long that nothing really blew me away. The eating disorder confession is probably the only new information, but even that I got, “Oh yeah, that tracks.” Also her 2016 sit out was mental health related, apparently. After her final dust up with Kim and Kanye she realized her relationship with the media and the public was toxic and she needed to reset, which is marginally interesting.

Also, you remember the curls and the cat eye makeup? That was a whole thing for a while and I’m really glad she moved on style wise because OOF. (I spent HOURS trying to get my hair to do those curls though.) I also totally spent the rest of the weekend listening to Taylor Swift and watched The Reputation concert again.

Magical Movies Tour: Bambi

A full fledged pattern has emerged. It seems, I’m very into every other movie I’ve watched. I wasn’t impressed by Dumbo last week, but this week, well, I just loved Bambi.

Telling the story of a young deer from his birth through several seasons, it’s a charming story and the animation is absolutely gorgeous. The movie is very episodic, moving from Bambi’s birth in summer, to his discovery of his playmates Thumper and Flower in autumn, to his mother’s death by hunters in winter, to finding his own mate in spring, and then the birth of his own child when summer comes again.

The circle of life, one might say, shown here decades earlier in just a cherished a film. I really was breathless at the animation in this one. I’m no expert, but I know what I like, and I know garbage when I see it. (for the most part. I tend to be distracted by pretty colors and story and design I like) This blew my mind, much closer in quality to my now beloved Fantasia, (seriously, y’all! Every film I’m watching from now on has to meet that grand standard) with a stronger story and bigger heart.

The environmental message is clear in this film, between the hunters murder of Bambi’s beloved mother, to the moment of peril when the rest of the animals flee from a man caused forest fire, it’s pretty clear what the point is, “Humans fuck up nature. STAY AWAY.”

But overall I was just charmed by the film. Charm goes a long way with me, I think it’s a much harder idea to get across in movies than people realize. I mean, it’s aided by the use of adorable woodland creatures, certainly, but still.

Next week we’ll talk about Suludos Amigos, half travelogue, and a series of cartoon shorts inspired by that, I think we’ll have some fun.