Popspotting Podcast Producer
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Posts by Ryan
Jen’s preview of”Cloud Atlas,” starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Huge Grant, directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, in theaters Oct. 26, 2012.
I read the 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell in four days. Spurred on by Ryan, who was reading with me, I devoured the book like I had no other title before it. We wanted to finish it before the screening of the feature film at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Sure, it was gimmicky, but it was also fascinating. Cloud Atlas is a collection of six short stories with common themes, all tied together. The narrators of the stories are from all over the world, in both the past and the future. Mitchell was able to deftly create six different, distinct voices.
I realized that a film adaptation of this novel would be very, very tricky to pull off. I had high hopes, though. The film is written and directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogy). I was somewhat confident in their collective ability to translate the novel into a coherent film.
They did pull it off. Mostly.
The writing team cut a few corners and made a few changes that made me scratch my head. They completely discarded the structure of the novel. I was able to follow along with the characters, but I can imagine how someone not familiar with the novel could be very confused. Some of the novel’s loose ends are tied up a little too neatly, and the filmmakers’ choice to use only a few actors for so many roles was maybe not a good one.
The film stars Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), among others. Halle Berry is Halle Berry, but I have to say, I am impressed with Tom Hanks. I never saw him as a serious actor before and considered him very overrated, especially in Forrest Gump, a role which still earns him praise. He sheds his movie star skin in this film and truly inhabits his characters. Hugo Weaving, of The Matrix Trilogy and the Lord of the Rings franchise, appears in drag in one story and is frightening every minute he is onscreen.
The team struggles, I think, with tone. There are quite a few genuinely funny moments in the novel that just aren’t funny onscreen. One act involves a senior citizen (Broadbent) who is accidentally imprisoned in a retirement home and enlists some of his fellow residents in his escape. This part of the novel is quite funny, but feels dark and surreal onscreen. Another act takes place in the 1970’s, and feels much too modern. A little more attention to how the original stories feel could have made this film seem more than just an exercise in dress-up.
And the makeup required to turn some of the Caucasian actors into Asian characters is truly awful. Watching these actors in their makeup made me forget about the story entirely.
I appreciate what the filmmakers were going for. I truly do. The idea of the novel is that throughout one’s lives, he meets the same people over and over again, throughout history. Seeing the same small cast appear as different characters underscores that idea, but it’s not necessarily successful.
The film does succeed, though, in its epic scope and especially it’s brain-twisty-ness. It’s dense and confusing, in the best way possible. The lack of a structure allows the audience to make connections that they might not make with the novel. Scenes blend into each other, lines of dialogue highlight themes. It is an achievement in filmmaking.
Maggie Mack (@ilea02) is a long-time podcasting friend and Thanksgiving Popspotting guest from Northern Virginia. In this Listener Edition, she shares another podcast worth checking out: PodQuiz. PodQuiz is a weekly trivia quiz podcast. Each week there are twenty questions, some music as an interlude, followed by the answers.
Jen has been a fan of PodQuiz for years, and even shared it as a “Pith of Pop” pick back in 2006! It’s good to see he’s still going strong.
Updated to correct link! Two podcasters from the golden age of “LOST” come together to share five post-”LOST” picks in a new Popspotting Listener Edition. Anna (@echobase77) and Wendy (@bunnieslrnow) recommend:
- The Booth at the End (on Hulu)
- Castaway on the Moon (on Netflix)
- Twin Peaks (on Netflix)
- Bone by Jeff Smith (on Amazon)
- Five Year Mission
We’re honored to have been a small part of the reasons Wendy and Anna got into podcasting. And this great contribution, as with all Listener Edition contributions, is absolutely an inspiration and cherished treat for us. As we navigate through this craziest of years, with your support, we are confident that a return to Popspotting lies ahead!
Today, two good friends join forces to bring you yet another episode of “Popspotting Listener Edition.” Listen in as Heath Solo (@HeathActor) of “The Film List” and musician Matt Murdick (@musicalconcepts) of the “Musical Concepts Podcast” discuss Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series “The Newsroom” and the BBC reboot of “Sherlock Holmes.”
Pete in Rockford, Illinois is a long-time contributing member of our podcasting family, and this week he steps forward along with his wife Laurie to contribute a special Popspotting Listener Edition. Today they chime in with their take on board games (Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride), a book series, and a summer blockbuster movie.
We’re thrilled to have another Popspotting Listener Edition come in from overseas. Today, Josva in Norway recommendations three beloved European films. His picks are “District B13,” “troubledWATER,” and “Troll Hunter.” They should be available for American listeners through Amazon.com.
Josva is 24 years old, and is studying to be a priest in the church of Norway. You can follow him on Twitter @josva, but when he tweets, he tweets in Norwegian.
This week’s Popspotting Listener Edition comes from Rob Valois and Bryan Lipsitz of “The Geek Generation.” Rob was our PopTalk & Trivia Thursday guest back in October, and distinguished himself in many ways. Among them, by being our show’s first (and so far only) professional wrestler.
Today, Rob & Bryan share their top five television shows that were gone too soon. Among the notable series they mourn are “Undeclared,” “Dark Angel,” “Sports Night,” and of course “Firefly.” But there are surely many more deserving shows that never got the lifespan they deserved. Which would make your list?
Paul Fox and Kevin Ma of “East Screen / West Screen“ [iTunes Link] bring us our first international Popspotting Listener Edition, in which they each highlight two of their favorite Asian films from 2011 that are now available video in some form that will work in the U.S. Their picks were:
- My Own Swordsman (China – 2011)
- Ra.One (India – 2011)
- When Love Comes (Taiwan – 2011)
- Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (Hong Kong / China – 2011)
Also featured, a song from Ra.One, called “Criminal.”
We are of course fully aware that these Listener Edition shows are only making our to-do lists even longer. But we continue to be awestruck by the generosity and creativity of the Popspotting community. We do look forward to returning, and are still planning to head to San Diego for Comic-Con. But perhaps its best we’re taking a break, at least this week… Jen wants to see “The Three Stooges.”
She’s a mom of twins. A teacher of film students. An editor of videos. And a blogger of lots of stuff. She’s Faith McQuinn (@fbeemcee), the latest generous contributor to the “Popspotting Listener Edition” series of shows.
Her topic for this Easter Sunday? “Top Five Lost Gems of the ’80s.” Faith goes beyond popular classics like “Ferris Bueller,” “Breakfast Club” and “Fast Times,” instead highlighting less celebrated favorites.
Your support has been invaluable to us throughout the run of Popspotting, and what we’ve valued most is hearing your thoughts on your favorite movies, TV shows, books, music and more. So we’re so grateful to the Popspotting community for contributing personal, thoughtful episodes to share with everyone while Jen and I focus on her health.
Thanks again to Geoff for kicking off the “Popspotting Listener Edition” project. We look forward to hearing from more of you!