1. I went to see Atonement, the film based on Ian McEwan’s great novel. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was worried it would be.
I was most impressed by director Joe Wright’s treatment of the book’s first sequence, the chaotic and ultimately disastrous dinner party at the Tallis household. The film follows the book closely in these early scenes (the actress playing Briony Tallis even looks exactly like the girl on the paperback cover), but embellishes the story with lush photography and languid summery pacing. The younger actors aren’t great (it actually is possible for a child actor to cry realistically; just watch Little Miss Sunshine), but the male and female romantic leads James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are quite good, and the sexual chemistry between them is palpable.
The Dunkirk battle scenes and London hospital scenes are captivating and well-intentioned, though they draw short of capturing the full wartime horror depicted by Ian McEwan in the book. The story’s big finish is then completely blown off, inexcusably, by this film version. Vanessa Redgrave is fine enough, but what Hollywood lunkhead made the decision to replace that great family party with a cold, mechanical television interview? The family party ending certainly struck the better note. Still, every movie is allowed to make some mistakes, and overall I’ll happily recommend Atonement to anybody who either has or has not read Ian McEwan’s novel. Please let me know what you think if you’ve seen it.
The first episode seems to aim for a Larry David/Sarah Silverman kind of vibe — quirky through the roof, sexually outrageous — and actually Jonathan Ames seems to have a good shot at following in Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s wake and finding an enthusiastic audience for this series. I won’t judge the show based on the first episode (which involved a “mangina” and a boxing match) except to say that I didn’t like it as much as Wake Up, Sir!. But the television screen presents Ames’s unique rodent-like visage to memorable effect, and I have a feeling future episodes of this show will grow on me.
3. Ed Champion, easily one of the best litbloggers on this planet, is closing up shop. I trust that this is more of a rethinking than a retreat. I think it’s a good idea to shake things up every once in a while, so I applaud Ed’s resolve to seek his muse to the fullest here, and I eagerly await his next moves, whatever they turn out to be.
5. The first phase of the return of Action Poetry on LitKicks is about to begin! I’ll be putting up a review of all the poems published on LitKicks in 2007 in the next couple of days. New poems will be accepted again shortly after New Years Day.