Archive for June, 2010


Yesterday we finally saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at Sundance.  In short, it was well done and faithful to the book.  They edited a lot from the book, but everything they took out made a lot of sense to me.  They added a couple of things, but the things they added made me think, “Wait, was that in the book?” as opposed to, “There’s no way that would ever have happened!”  So, again, it was a very faithful, respectful adaptation.

It’s interesting when really popular books are made into movies.  It can’t be easy.  I remember an interview with Emma Thompson in which she was talking about the difficulty of adapting Sense and Sensibility.  She said that while she was on a plane, the passenger next to her was going on and on about her favorite scene from the book and couldn’t wait to see what Thompson had done with it on the screen.  Well, it turned out, Thompson had cut that part altogether.  Oops.

Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility is a good place for me to start with my books-to-movies pontification.  I have always wanted to slap the criminally wanna-be elites when they moan on about how movies are never, ever as good as whatever book that spawned them.  I think this is a horrifically ignorant stance and just, well, nonsensical.  Why would a book be inherently better than another art form?  Because reading is somehow just ‘better’ than film?  Why?  I don’t buy it.  What I do buy, though, is that when a director and screenwriter are making a movie out of a beloved book, they are treading on dangerous ground.  But it can be exciting ground.

Sense and Sensibility is a much better movie, in most ways, than it is as a book.  Thompson’s S&S is made as if Austen had written her story at the end of the career, as opposed to the beginning.  It is more sophisticated, cleaner and more polished than Austen’s first novel.  I truly think that Austen would not only approve, but applaud.

A River Runs Through It is a great book.  It’s a compelling, and short, autobiography of Norman Maclean and his life in western Montana.  The thing is, though, as beautiful as the words in the book are, and as artfully as his sentences are constructed, a major character in the book — if not the major character — is Montana.  Seeing the story on the screen brought everything into sharp focus.  It became clear that the book was not only the unfolding story of the tragic figure of Maclean’s brother, but a love poem to Montana.  And Redford captured this brilliantly.  It is magic to behold.

Now, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a good book to be sure.  But it is not A River Runs Through It and it is surely not my beloved Jane.  But I think some of the points are the same.  It is a wildly popular modern book that has been eagerly anticipated in film-form.  As I said, the story that we saw yesterday was very faithful to Larsson’s story.  For the most part, I really liked the film. 

Lisbeth Salander is beautifully played by Noomi Rapace.  I think people were probably most worried about the portrayal of Salander since she is by far the most compelling feature in a thoroughly compelling book.  But Rapace really nailed her.  Though she looked a little like Marilyn Manson at times, which scared me, I think that was probably the point.  Blomkvist was also perfectly cast in Michael Nykvist — he looked almost exactly as I thought he should look.  Aaron thought he looked like Mayor Dave.  I can see that, but more if Mayor Dave lived a much harder life. 

For me, Sweden was a really big part of the book and I wanted more Sweden in the movie – more shots of Salander walking down the streets of Stockhom.  Aaron pointed out that maybe for Swedes, Sweden didn’t seem to play as big of a role in the novel so that the film didn’t need to reflect it.  It’s a good point.  I don’t know.  I know that I did want, though, an ariel shot of the Vanger island.  I wanted a map of it in the book, which I didn’t get, so I was really hoping for a better sense of it in the film, which also didn’t happen.  That said, I loved the buildings they chose to represent this space.  They were truly brought to life and I felt like I was seeing into a world I’d been able only to imagine before.  Mainly because that’s what I was doing, really. 

What really struck me about the film, though, is the violence.  I hadn’t really prepared myself for that.  Obviously I was aware that the book was violent, but just as I had been aware that A River Runs Through It is about Montana, I wasn’t ready for what that would mean when I would see it brought to life.  I could not watch — and I mean I literally did not see a single part of — the scene in which Salander’s guardian assaults her.  I could barely stand the sound of hearing it.  I closed my eyes, put my head in my shirt, put my hands over that and clenched down on a rolled-up napkin.  It hurt.  It was nauseating.

Adapting a film from an iconic book can be a great thing.  It can be great to see all of those characters as actual people.  And it can be awesome to see the scenes unfold before your eyes.  And it can be terrifying, too.



Warning: this blog post is rather personal and slightly sappy.

One of my many shortcomings is my insecurity.  I feel like I’ve made great strides in this regard since, say, eighth grade, but there’s a lot still going on.  One of the ways this manifests itself is in the field of love.  Bear with me here.  It’s not that I’m one of those people who can’t imagine someone loving me, or that I don’t feel like I deserve love.  It’s more that I’m somewhat uncomfortable with it.  Let me explain.

I was watching ‘Dan in Real Life’ this weekend, while getting ready for the barbeque.  There’s a scene in which one of Dan’s three girls is demonstrably heartbroken when her father sends her teenage beau away.  She screams and cries and calls her dad a traitor to love or something.  I mean, she SCREAMS and CRIES about how much she loves said-teenage boy and how he’s perfect and dreamy and blah blah blah.  Now, we all know I can cry.  And I have definitely shed a tear or two over love lost or confused, but I have never had a breakdown of that magnitude.  I just have never felt that, “He’s perfect, we’re perfect, what I have is perfect.”  Or maybe, if I have, I’ve just never let it to the surface.

Sure, I’ve had my giddy moments of glee over the years and I feel like I’ve been very blessed to find love not once, but twice.  I still, though, think that I put up a wall that I don’t allow myself to go through.  I don’t want to shout from the rooftops or sing at the top of my lungs or click my heels together in the rain.  I worry about drawing that kind of attention to myself.  I worry that I will look vain or silly or smug.  I worry that only super attractive people are allowed to be open about love.  I worry that drawing that kind of attention to my relationship, my feelings, will make them both disappear.  I worry that there will be some sort of karmic force that will say, “Bam! You lose!  You should have kept it to yourself!”

And I felt this way when Ben & I got married.  I wanted to throw a really fun party for everyone, but I didn’t want to spend time on myself.  I bought my dress (a bridesmaid’s dress in white) online for about $200.  I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have a dress I really wanted because I wouldn’t look that good in it anyway and it would be silly to spend money on something that wouldn’t look very good.  But it’s not as if the wedding was cheap.  Far from it: we had a great band, an open bar, tons of food, an afterparty, a fun rehearsal dinner, etc.  But when it came to me, I didn’t want to go to a store to go dress shopping.  I didn’t want people looking at me, thinking that I was trying to have some sort of day for me.  The day was about our families and friends and trying to make them happy.  That’s not to say, of course, that I was entirely selfless or anything.  I made the reception a heavy hors d’oeuvres party — instead of a plated dinner — because that’s how I like to eat.  But still, the fact remained that I had a very hard time ever saying, “But this is my day and I want to look pretty.”  The truth is, I felt extremely nervous and unattractive on my wedding day.  My dress didn’t fit all that well and I hated my hair in that updo.  I had fun at the reception and loved seeing my friends.  But, honestly, I was really relieved when it was over.

Now that it’s the second time around, I feel even more nervous.  I feel like no one wants you to celebrate a second wedding.  I worry that people think, “Hey, you failed the first time, you should probably be quiet about this one and just hope no one says anything.”  So, I’ve struggled as of late.  Since Aaron and I decided that we should get hitched, I’ve felt very uncomfortable.  I feel uncomfortable when people are so excited because I wonder if it’s sincere.  I feel nervous when people are blase because I worry that they are skeptical about our ability to make this work.  I worry when people don’t say anything at all.

As I said, I’ve struggled.  Should we just run off to Vegas; should we just walk down to the courthouse; should we throw a party; should we have a ceremony; should we invite no one; should we invite everyone?  You get the picture.  We started thinking that what we really wanted was to have a small party with our closest friends and family.  We want something intimate and friendly, easy and relaxed.  We want something, though, for us.

I have decided that while I’m still uncomfortable with people looking at me, and while I still worry that things may come crashing down, I am going to make an honest effort to recognize that this can be about me.  This celebration can be a celebration about me and Aaron and that there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s not hubris; it’s love.  And as a very wise friend recently reminded me, love is something that is always worth celebrating.

Weird people

You know how some people are just weird? Like those people that make you wonder how they get by in everyday life? Those people that make you question Darwin’s whole thesis? Well, I am hear today to vent about one of these people.

Last night I played an epic tennis match. Let me back up. Yesterday I was in a pretty foul mood. Some of it was probably hormonal, but I was just feeling very out of sorts and cranky and, well, sad. Said bad mood led me to leave work early for some cuddly Gracie time and to pray for rain so that my tennis match would be canceled. Tennis is at 6 o’clock and last night’s match was in McFarland, which — while not exactly as far away as Malta — feels like a ridiculous place to play. The weather was threatening, but not menacing enough to justify me staying put in the bed with the pup. So off I went. As I was driving, big raindrops started to fall. They continued to fall sporadically on the whole drive over to the wee little town, but weren’t quite enough to make me feel like I could turn around.  In fact, as soon as I finally found the sole tennis courts in town, the rain stopped. The skies were still gloomy, but there was no rain. Just super humid, heavy conditions. Yuck. I realized I would have to play afterall. At that point, I also realized that playing may be good for me and might help ameliorate my craptastic mood. And then I met the woman against whom I would play for the next two-plus hours. A total weirdo.

Now, in hindsight, it was probably good that she was so weird. In my bad-mood-state, I should have appreciated that I didn’t have to do a lot of small talk and smiley stuff given that she was too weird to engage in such socially expected behavior. At the time, though, this fueled my bad mood as I became increasingly irritated with her. What am I talking about, you ask? Give me examples, you say. Ok, ok. I’ll try. But when I tried to explain it to Aaron, I failed rather miserably. Maybe in writing I’ll have better luck.

We pick our court and pretty much the first thing she says to me — no pleasantries, though she had already admitted that she’d forgotten my name — is, “Do you have scorecards?” Um, no, I don’t. There are people who carry their own scorecards and, frankly, I think they’re a little weird. For those of you who dont know, scorecards are exactly what they sound like. They’re plastic numbers on rings that you hang over the net and flip them when you switch sides to reflect the game score. They’re cool in high school when you want to see how everyone’s doing, but as an adult they strike me as pretentious and unnecessary. And, if you want to use them, fine, but I’m not bringing them. Ok, that was a long-winded story, but my point is just that she started out weird and it didn’t get any better.

She would never say, “Thank you” when I tossed her a ball, she would never smile between games on the changeover, she never asked me a single question about myself, etc. Now, you’re probably thinking, maybe she was really focused and in her zone and didn’t have time for pleasantries. Maybe. But she was also kind of an idiot when it came to tennis. She played ok, but she had no tennis etiquette or no, I don’t know how to say it, tennis practicality. In tennis, when you are not say, Serena Williams, you have to carry the balls with you in your pocket. You don’t have a ball boy or girl to assist you. Because you get two serves, the server carries one ball in her pocket and serves the other ball. Should the first serve be out, the server reaches into her pocket and retrieves the second ball. This is not a rule, but it is pretty much what every player in the universe does. Because there are three balls, it is common practice for the non-server to hold that ball in her pocket. Some servers like to have all three balls with them, but that’s pretty uncommon. What’s my point? This lady would make me take all three balls every time I served. She never offered to hold one and didn’t seem amenable to doing so. Ok, that’s weird, but it’s more just insensitive and out of touch. What’s weirder, though, is that throughout the match, when I was serving, she would then keep the balls. Not just one, but two. Say, it’s 30-love and I’m serving. There are two balls on her side of the court so I have just one. She would go and retrieve those two balls, put them both in her pocket, stand behind the service line and wait for me to serve. I would then say, “Could I have a ball, please?” And she would then reach into her pocket, take out a ball and hit it to me — without saying anything.  This did not just happen once. This happened over and over. And over. And over! There was absolutely no learning curve. And we had a loooooooooooooong match. [I won, but it was 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3.] There was plenty of opportunity for her to catch on to the notion that I wanted to have two balls handy when I was serving, but she just refused to do so.

Anyway, I realize this is probably not capturing my supreme frustration with her. Well, maybe it is, but I fear it’s not reflecting how severely odd this woman was. She just had zero social skills, I suppose. I should probably feel some sympathy for her, but instead I just wanted to smack her on the head with my racquet.

Another Gracie?


Summer is here!

This is probably old news to most of you, but it just sort of hit me today.  It hit me in the weirdest possible way, too.  I was biking into work and shortly after passing Camp Randall, I got a craving to go to a football game.  It occurred to me, then, that I would not be going to any football games until summer’s over.  Which means that summer is here!  Hooray!

So, what are you kids up to this summer?  I’m playing on a tennis team (as usual and, as usual, not playing very well) and taking the annual family trip up north to Presque Isle for a week of lounging by the lake, reading crappy novels, taking naps, kayaking, playing Scrabble and eating yummy food with family.  We’re also headed out to Colorado at the end of this month for my friend Ingrid’s wedding.  I’m so excited about this because it’s a part of Colorado I’ve never been to — Durango.  Not easy to fly to, either, I will tell you.  At least from Madison.  We are flying Madison to Milwaukee to Denver to Durango, which — incidentally — was significantly cheaper than flying out of Milwaukee.  I digress.  I am really looking forward to the wedding because I know it will be a blast, but I’m also really looking forward to checking out some national parks in the area that have all sorts of preserved Aztec ruins.  Ruins!  Love them.

Anyway, so that’s about all that’s scheduled, I think.  I’d like to get some state park action in, as well as maybe some canoe time out on our lovely lakes.  Right now, though, I’m enjoying biking into work and hitting the tennis ball around.  Life is pretty good.

Except for this craptastic oil spill.  Ugh.

June 2010

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