Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Magic and make-believe

I'm glad I waited a day before writing something about the movie Coraline. I loved Neil Gaiman's book because it was as good as the fairy tales and fables from my childhood. (Maybe that point is irrelevant... I love to read fantasy, so I haven't exactly outgrown stories of the uncanny.) Anyway, I was very excited to see the film adaptation. I'll watch any kind of stop-motion animation I can, so I was even more excited to see this film. As if the cake needed extra icing, there was this glowing review by Peter Howell, of The Toronto Star.

Then I watched the film yesterday afternoon. Hoo boy. I thought Howell got this one wrong. (Ahem, possible spoilers ahead.) I always argue against people who want a film to be more like the book it was adapted from--as if the two mediums are comparable--and there I was, feeling like I was being cheated by the changes from the book. Wybie? "Mom's snow globes"? An extended sequence through a fancy garden that was probably just there to show off the film's stop-motion and 3D capabilities? Ok, the stop-motion and 3D were very, very good, but showing off takes away from the story. Or so I thought.

I thought the film redeemed itself with the second-half, though it still wasn't as creepy as the book, but I wasn't experiencing the same instant thrill I had with The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Corpse Bride. I needed to let it sink in.

30 hours later, I find certain scenes flashing upon my inward eye. The visuals were so astounding, I want to see it again to catch all the stuff I know I missed. I want to know how they created, shot, and produced every stitch of the film. Plus, the story's really good. I can't believe I got so hung up on the book vs. movie argument that I cheated myself out of the feeling of wonder for the artistry. Conclusion #1: This is a damn fine movie. Conclusion #2: Despite my best intentions, I am sometimes an ass. (An ass who enjoys a good split infinitive.)

Moving on. E-books. Are they the future? Are they the present that the masses aren't accepting yet? Where there's a will, there's a way, and the electronics dudes are working on a way. Does the Amazon Kindle 2 look cool enough to tempt you (assuming you can find one)? Perhaps you like the look of the Sony Reader better. There are more things to factor than looks, but it's all pie in the sky for me. At $359 US for the Kindle 2, and $299 for the Reader, I can't afford to splurge on either one. So, unless I get one as a present...

Last topic. Steroids in baseball. I cannot describe how disappointed I was to learn that Alex Rodriguez did indeed use steroids. The man is far from my favourite player; he's a jerk by several accounts, but his demeanour isn't everything. He may be the highest-paid player in baseball (or in any sport I can think of), but he sort of earns that by being the best player around. The only other current player I would rank with him would be Albert Pujols, and only because Pujols is younger. But back to the steroid thing.

Barry Bonds owns the single-season and all-time home run records, but many people believe steroids helped him get part of the way there. His records are tainted by allegation and scandal, and it doesn't help that he's perceived as a jerk by everyone outside of San Fransisco. Here's where A-Rod comes in. The man is a hitting machine. He's the perfect player, if there is such a thing. I didn't like him much, but I admired him. I cheered as his great seasons continued because I got the sense that history was being made by someone who would get there because of hard work, not because of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. When I watched him bat against my favourite player, Roy "Doc" Halladay, I struggled between wanting to see A-Rod hit one out, and wanting Doc to get the swing-and-a-miss, strike-three call. Now all that's been ripped away. Rodriguez is like Bonds because both were already-gifted players who cheated to become even better. The silver lining (and you really have to want to see it) is that A-Rod admitted to it, while Bonds still denies using. I applaud the belated honesty, but I feel like that nameless kid in Chicago, all those decades ago. To paraphrase his line:

"Say it ain't so, Alex. Say it ain't so."

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