Apr. 3rd, 2009

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I'd spent the early part of the week with too much socializing or meetings, so last night I just hit bottom and put on my pjs, made a pot of tea, and curled up with S J. Rozan's THE SHANGHAI MOON, which I'd been saving for just such a moment. and it's just lovely! I've only managed 90 pages but lots of twists. And best of all, Lydia Chin is back. It's been too long since the last chin/Smith book.

Last night I was torn between wanting to put it down so it would last longer and reading right through it in a single sitting.

Today, alas, I didn't get to grapple with this dilemma, since while I was at lunch with some friends, I got a call with a ridiculous rush translation assignment. Ridiculous because it was over 5000 words and they wanted it by tomorrow. clients never have any understanding of what's feasible or reasonable.

But I must be as foolish as they are, since I agreed to do it, at my rush translation rate, and have just emailed a draft of the finished translation to the client, so they could look it over and we'll discuss tomorrow morning.

So today was a lot of typing, since on the metro to my friend Sofia's house I also wrote 400+ words on a new short story I started a few days ago. (I had brought my laptop with me, thinking we might have a work session after lunch, although with the new rush translation I came right home to get to work.)

I can't just go right to bed, as fuzzy as my head is after so much translating, so am in my cool-down period.

I've been meaning to post about going to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, but I think that typing more (such as LJ posts) is not quite what I need just now. (Aside form the fact that coherence and I are not on speaking terms just now.) So perhaps more on this tomorrow, once I've slept.
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So, earlier this week I went with my friend Jesus to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. It was interesting (if often difficult) to watch, but I have been upset ever since by a number of aspects. And why else does one have a blog if not to rant about these things? :-)

If you haven't seen the film, I'll give you a chance to skip the rest of this post if you want to avoid spoilers. (For the triggery, you should know that the film includes numerous scenes of torture and violence, which is certainly NOT what I was expecting from what everyone keeps calling a "feel good" film.)

In fact, I think only in America could this film be considered a feel good film, because it is such a facile retelling of the rags to riches story, which happens through pure luck. Only in the US is this considered a viable plot (and a commercial one at that).

I was a bit surprised when it ended because to me, the only interesting part of the story STARTS there. It's hard not knowing before going in to the film that a boy from the slums wins 20 million rupees on a quiz show (can we say "deus ex machina"?). And the structure of the film, interleaving between the quiz show present and his growing up past, also makes this quite obvious. You root for him, but you also know all along that he's going to win. And that's it. It's all just so flat.

I knew all this before going in. What I what to know is what does he do with the money. What happens now that he's won the girl, after they've suffered so much to find each other again? Can they overcome those scars and find happiness together? We don't know; the curtain is drawn there, just where things get interesting. How does he react when he hears about what happened to his brother? How does he feel?

It was all so frustrating for me.

We suffered through all the scenes of torture and the difficult childhood. Yes, he triumphed, a mix of luck and loyalty from friends/family, although a loyalty which stabs him quite often as well.

And there was just no payoff for all of that, at least from my point of view.

We don't know what sort of person that made him into, because he's never allowed to do anything. Things happen to him, and that's it. He wins 20 million rupees and that's it. End of story.

This is one reason I have such problems with commercial movies, in general, and how its stories are told, and therefore wind up going so seldom to the cinema; it's about how I consume narratives, and what works or doesn't for me. (I no doubt will see the new Almodovar at some point, although I'm in no rush. His VOLVER was structurally so flat as well; 20 minutes in I knew exactly what was going to happen throughout, yawn.)

In many ways, I can stomach American TV much better than its film, because the format is tighter: 30 minutes, with breaks for commercials, it's structured in little story arcs with an overall arc to hold the episode together but still leave things open enough for next episode(s). It's a tighter, cleaner format in a lot of ways. And it doesn't have the forced endings of so many films.

The only director I find interesting these days is Turkish-Italian Ferzan Ozpetek, whose LE FATE IGNORANTI I (with the horrible English title of HIS SECRET LIFE) think is just superbly structured, with each scene setting up resonances for later scenes in addition to the surface action, and ending in such a way as to give us closure but leave everything open. But many of his other films are juicy and interesting, even if (like HAREM SOARE) they ultimately fail, or fall short of their ambitions.

As my friend Jesus pointed out, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is probably the first film with a Muslim protagonist to win an Oscar, and that's a data point in its favor.

But I still found it a very frustrating and ultimately unrewarding viewing experience.


Apr. 3rd, 2009 05:58 pm
desayunoencama: (Default)
I heard from my editor today that BOS BRAL KNJIGO Z MANO?, the Slovene translation of my picture book ┬┐LEES UN LIBRO CONMIGO?, has been published, and my copies are en route to me. How exciting! :-)

Skuc did a lovely job with their edition of my picture book AMIGOS Y VECINOS last year.

┬┐LEES UN LIBRO CONMIGO? was published by Panamericana in Colombia and was chosen by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People With Disabilities 2007.

When the copies arrive, I'll post photos. :-)


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Lawrence Schimel

July 2009

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