movies

The Giver – Official Trailer

The official trailer for the film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel, The Giver, has been released. I read the book soon after it came out and then again a couple of years ago (that experience can be read about here). I’m intrigued by the adaptation and was very stoked to hear that the dude would be portraying the giver.

With that said, I am a little skeptical now of the film after watching the trailer. It seems to be taking a page from more recent adaptations of dystopian futures (The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Divergent) and looks particularly slick and futuristic. These were not feelings I had when I read the book both times. I’m still curious about the film, but I hope the filmmakers haven’t lost the elements of The Giver that made it so great.

Have you read the book? Any thoughts on the film adaptation and the new trailer?


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Plagiarism, Shia LaBeouf, and the Phenomenal Daniel Clowes

The action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one’s own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another.  –Definition of plagiarism in The Oxford English Dictionary

Snapshot from LA Times article

For the past month, there has been a brouhaha over the obvious lifting and plagiarizing of a graphic short story by the artist Daniel Clowes. The story, originally anthologized by Zadie Smith in The Book of Other People, features a film critic and titular character named Justin M. Damiano. The story is fascinating especially for those interested in film/arts critique. Actor-turned-filmmaker Shia LaBeouf adapted Clowes’ story for a short film of his own titled Howard Cantour.com. Both are about an internet film critic who  extrapolates on the notion that film critics can make or break a film. Those familiar with Clowes’ original story will be baffled by the verbatim representation in the film, which was not authorized by Clowes and was a shock to both him and his publisher. LaBeouf didn’t seek the rights or acknowledge Clowes and “Justin M. Damiano” at all in the process.

Plagiarism has always been a touchy subject. When it occurs–or even with just a lisping whiff of it–our opinions are usually quite strong, both personally and litigiously. When I was a college student, in my introductory poetry class we were taught about found poetry, which according to poets.org is: found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. We were essentially given the green light to steal and when the professor was pressed more on the area of plagiarism to create these word collages, she put on a little grin and her pupils broadened.

I suppose the difference between what Shia LaBeouf did and a room full of nineteen-year-old undergrads did lies with the idea of creating something new out of re-purposing. LaBeouf blatantly stole from Daniel Clowes; he was only inspired by him enough to take his story and photocopy it into a new medium.

In the above image, Marcel Duchamp takes the Mona Lisa and adds a bit of a spin to the sixteenth century canvas. This 1919 work was different from his other readymades, but he still transformed a piece of art into something else, adding a commentary and attitude. We all remember that iconic image of Barack Obama by the artist Shepard Fairey. The Associated Press got all hot and bothered because the original photo that Fairey used was not his own–it was taken by a photographer that was on assignment for the AP. The original photographer claimed he held the copyright and enjoyed Fairey’s transformation of the image. Fairey’s main defense was that his own visual had been completely transformed from the original, making it something wholly different (which falls in the realm of fair use exemption).

But coming back to the original predicament: it is clear-cut that LaBeouf plagiarized Daniel Clowes. He purloined the original graphic short story with intent to pass it as his own creation. He was not influenced, for the dialogue and voice-over is either word-for-word or nearly so. I’m not going to delve into the internet freak show that LaBeouf has crowned himself ringmaster of (that’s what Google is for). It’s a shame though. I find it perplexing that LaBeouf didn’t first acquire the rights because the short film itself is very enjoyable and well-made. Instead of taking a foot forward into a potential interesting career as a film maker, he has sunk into some wonderland madness of his own doing. The film has been removed from many places online, but when you’re done reading Daniel Clowes’ original story you can still watch it on YouTube.

Resources…

  • My recommendation for more Clowes readings are the full-length graphic novels Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and David Boring.
  • Reality Hunger:A Manifesto by David Shields is a mash-up of other sources and quotes with the intent being to have us think about art and the way it is re-appropriated.
  • Jonathan Lethem’s article in Harper’s titled “The Ecstasy of Influence” has the subtitle “a plagiarism.” It is a defense of plagiarism and like the subtitle, the sentences are lifted from other sources.
  • The recent court case concerning which of the Sherlock Holmes stories and characters are in the public domain.
  • Howard Cantour.com short film,

11 Books Better Known For Their Movies

Movie ReelRecently, Jay at Bibliophilopolis posited the idea in the comments section of last week’s book review of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin of works that are better known for their film adaptations than from the original book (or short story).

This got me thinking. I’ve come up with a list of the first few that popped into my mind. I haven’t read them all but I’ve seen all of the movies. Are there any film/book combos that I’m forgetting??

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. One of my favorite movies of all time, this Kubrick directed film is loosely adapted from Peter George’s novel Red Alert. At first, George co-adapted the novel into the screenplay with Kubrick but later disapproved of the satirical road it took.
  • The Graduate. Another favorite film of mine, I first learned of the book as a college student, when in the final weeks of my final semester, my Literature & Sexuality class was assigned to read Charles Webb’s The GraduateApparently, the book was given mediocre reviews when it came out but when I read it, I completely connected with the anxiety faced by Benjamin in the book. Just one word, plastics.
  • Soylent Green. Much to my surprise as I read Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! was that soylent green was not people. What a let down. It’s been ages since I read it and I don’t remember much of the book, but I do remember Harrison successfully portraying the sweaty, overcrowded claustrophobia of the setting of the book.
  • Psycho. I’ve never read Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, Psycho, but I can never get enough of Hitchcock’s film adaptation. After once being told that Bosco chocolate syrup was used in the infamous shower scene, my Pavlovian response is to crave an ice cream sundae while Marion Crane is brutally murdered on the screen.
  • Secretary. Mary Gaitskill is a favorite author of mine and, in 2002, a film adaptation of one of the short stories from Bad Behavior was made. Although, many liberties were taken with the adaptation, I highly suggest nabbing up any one of Gaitskill’s books….right now!
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps. A classic “man-on-the-run” story, John Buchan wrote this slim book while he was convalescing due to an ulcer. The book has been adapted several times both into movies and theatre. The most notable film adaption was made by Hitchcock. The novel is available for free through Project Gutenberg. Read the book, watch the movies, see the stage play, if you like to have a good time.
  • The Illusionist/The Prestige. Okay, maybe it’s not fair that I’m lumping two very different texts into one point but the film adaptations came out around the same time and they both concern magicians (or illusionists, if you prefer). Eisenheim the Illusionist is a short story by Steven Millhauser, while The Prestige is a novel by Christopher Priest. I won’t give away the magic behind either text but they are both mysterious and enthralling.
  • Planet of the Apes. Admit it. You love it. I love it. We all love Planet of the Apes (and if you’re like me, find great pleasure in its sequel–Beneath the Planet of the Apes). But, it was first a novel written by Pierre Boulle (original French title being La Planète des singes).
  • Girl, Interrupted. Before it was a movie, Girl, Interrupted was the 1993 memoir by Susanna Kaysen about her time spent as a patient in psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. One of things I liked most about the book is the inclusion of Kaysen’s medical records from her time there.
  • Full Metal Jacket.Private Joker is silly and he’s ignorant, but he’s got guts, and guts is enough.” Kubrick adapted his film from Marine veteran Gustav Hasford’s semi-autobiographical book The Short-Timers. Hasford’s early literary career was concerned mostly with sci-fi, but in the late 1970s, he penned his first novel about his time in Vietnam.