(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Snow White And The Betrayed Writer

I have just returned from seeing Snow White And The Huntsman at the movie theater, and I felt compelled, even obligated by duty to blog about it.  Not because movie reviews are in any way my job, but because I have an opinion on this movie specifically as a writer.

First, I didn't like the movie.  I hated the movie.  It angered me.  I still liked seeing it once for the thinking it provoked.  I was struck very early on while watching it by a disconnect.  I was idly evaluating the writing, because even in a bad movie there are lessons to be learned.  What I noticed was that the dialog and events did not seem to belong to the actual movie I watched.  As the movie went on, my opinion crystalized.  Snow White And The Huntsman is a well written movie directed horribly.  The story is a classic fairy tale, padded with lots of new fairy tale stuff to make it movie length.  It has monsters and birds that lead the innocent girl to a snowy white horse, and a dark forest, and a wicked enchantress.  The story is grand and fantastic, as in 'a fantasy', wholly unrealistic and aiming at dramatic and archtypal instead.

The movie is directed like Braveheart.  Actually, the director seems to have seen a number of movies he liked, and scenes that as written could be depicted any number of ways became eerily reminiscent of LOTR, the Narnia movies, and a very blatant rip from Mononoke Hime.  But mostly he arranged costumes, music, makeup, and directed the acting to be gritty and realistic.  Lots of dirty, tangled hair, very little background music, stuttering performances where people stop to have moments of weakness.  This does not combine well with a fairy tale story.  The most fantastic and magical moments, with the troll and the White Hart, and the fairies, and so on, and a fair amount more so on, look utterly ridiculous and out of place.  Similarly, you can't get interested in or process the human drama of the actors' portrayals, because every once in awhile someone will give a ridiculously hokey speech, or do something as unlikely and stylized as finding a white horse waiting for her outside the castle.

In some cases the directing and writing didn't just clash, the director didn't seem to know what he was reading.  When a dwarf dies, he's all gasping and panicking.  A single tear falls from Snow White's cheek onto his, and he calms down.  He still dies, but he dies bravely and at peace.  Except the director didn't get the memo, and while it happened, I had to be looking for it.  I was looking for it, because they'd just had a scene where the originally surly and almost evil dwarfs warm up to Snow White around a campfire.  The scene as written was one where Snow White's beauty and purity compelled them to love her, as it does everyone in the movie.  It came off as a random and squalid dwarf party, made worse by one dwarf being really stalkery and pressing his face to her breasts.  And how do I know what it was supposed to be like?  Because, after sitting there noticing all this, a couple of scenes later the blind prophet dwarf explains specifically that Snow White has this effect on people.  It had been going on all through the movie, it was just hard to see because the director either didn't figure it out, or his determination to make the actors behave like vulnerable and realistic human beings obscured it.

When Snow White rises from the dead after being poisoned, the blind dwarf turns to look before she walks out the door of the church.  Except the director already had background people moving around, and the process goes so fast it looks like she's already left the building.  Then she gives a grand and symbolic speech that's wildly out of character that everyone acts like is totally wise and moving even though it's glaringly weird.  She mentions in passing in the speech that when the evil enchantress killed her she learned all about her magic and destiny and stuff, but it disappears in this speech that seems awkward because Snow White delivers it in a mud-colored courtyard, in the rain, surrounded by filthy and haggard people, in a cracking voice.  If the director had so much as added a white glow or cleaned her up to her white dress, it would have been delivered wisdom from beyond the grave.

To sum up:  A well written movie ruined by an incompetent director who seemed to want to make a different movie.  Actually, several different specific movies.  As a writer, this interested me, so I am sharing my reaction.

Monday, June 11, 2012

As For My Writing


Every time life goes 'pbbbt' on me, I stop blogging for awhile.  Tres bad habit.  I'm tryin', folks.  I had a particularly bad week there where every friend I've got had an emotional meltdown, and while it's a good thing I was feeling just fine and able to support them, boy did it tire me out.

Finished editing Quite Contrary, I don't know, about a week ago?  I'm so bad at time.  The line edits took very little time on my part.  I did the first round, the biggest round where the book came back covered in little yellow and red notes, in a single day.  Curiosity Quills' editors remain friendly and easy to work with.  Vicki, it was truly a pleasure, but I confess you did not beat out Verity for the title of 'favorite editor ever'.  Still, 'it was a pleasure to work with you' is not a compliment many editors deserve, and you should feel truly chuffed.  Quite Contrary was much more raw than Sweet Dreams.  I'd only proofread it once myself.  Much more needed fixing up, and Vicki and I went back and forth several rounds on some issues until one of us convinced the other.  To my fellow writers out there, if that sounds distinctly un-terrifying, it was distinctly un-terrifying.

So Quite Contrary is done.  I haven't gotten the 'official' manuscript back, but since the last email consisted of 'remove this one entire page and we're through' I've bloody well got the unofficial manuscript, if you know what I mean.  I haven't heard about Wild Children yet.  I insisted on no story level edits, but I'm sure the line editor is even now wreaking havoc on the stilted language and incomprehensible comma strategy of three books ago.  I haven't heard much of anything from Curiosity Quills, but this is no surprise or worry to me.  It's been strongly hinted that I'm well ahead of the normal editing schedule, so they might have nothing TO say to me for a month.  That would be a month to get back into Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain, which would be a relief.

Speaking of Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain, editing blows the spoot out of my inspiration, but my brain is back on track and I'm loving it.  Have another chapter!

Chapter 9: Welcome To The Community

Review: Whitechapel Gods

So, as a writer, apparently it behooves me to review the books I read!  Of course, the hooves are specifically for the dark horse independent books, but what's good for the pony is good for the clydesdale and if I review independents, I should review mainstreams.

Which leaves me having just (for a given value of 'just') read Whitechapel Gods by S.M.Peters.  I'm going to give it five stars on Amazon, no question.  My enjoyment was fulsome and invigorating.

For those wondering if they should read it, I'll summarize the theme, but not the story:  Victorian Whitechapel is in the grip of two mechanical gods, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock.  These steampunk deities are not fanciful or pretty.  They are corrupting, merciless, and alien, grinding up humanity in the gears of the new world they're creating or, worse, loving us to death.  The story follows British Crown spies, mutated revolutionaries, a psychotic ex-whore, and an Oliver Twist Fagin figure of diabolic evil.  It is, as it sounds, a moderately dark book with few survivors and much blood and oil spilled.  On the other hand, it nowhere tries to be depressing, just rough.  That fit very well with me.

Technically, I was very pleased and mildly impressed.  This is relevant, because my professional standards are brutally high.  The bizarro world of steampunk Whitechapel is immersive and believable.  You are dropped straight into it with damn few explanations of anything and forced to cope, which puts you well into the mindset of the main characters.  The PoV switches around at a carefully measured pace, giving you empathy with all the major characters without being disruptive to immersion.  Descriptive text is vivid without being purple, and just specific enough to make you fill in the details in your imagination.  The story was tight, and I was particularly impressed how Peters included several points where the good guys seem to fail, but keeps the story dragging by immediately switching PoVs to show that the fight is not over and move you straight into the tension of the next plot arc.  Good stuff.

I have one single complaint, and it's quite minor.  The descriptive text, so excellent in Whitechapel itself, is too nonspecific in what I will call the 'mystical' sections of the book.  Those are very brief, but I found the action hard to follow during those scenes.

All in all, a great book, and one of a very unusual style that suits me well.  S. M. Peters is a skilled author and I'm now making a note to see what else he's written.