Weekly Roundup: July 26 – August 1 Zany Comedies and Dropping off Library Books

The book drop pile at my local library.

Welcome to the weekly roundup on Ink in the Archives! Every week I will share what I’ve been up to and interested in and ask you to fill me in on your week too.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

After several months of saying that there was no need to return books, the library finally wanted their books back this week. I should have taken a picture of the pile of books and DVDs that I had ready to take back for months by the side of my reading chair. They reached up almost to the chair arms. The book drop was open when I got there, but there was no basket down below, so there was a mountain of books piling up on the floor–the danger of avalanche appeared to be imminent. This, coupled with a trip to the post office and a stop for boba on the way home was my big outing for the week.

This was a good week for baking: sourdough pizza, sourdough crackers, chocolate chip cookies and an raspberry almond cake that was so lovely, especially with a little whipped cream and some chopped nectarines on top.

Books Read

Underland by Robert Macfarlane For whatever reason I read very little this week, but I definitely enjoyed the one book that I managed to finish this week. It’s a journey into the underworld in many different ways through caves and glaciers, beneath the forest floor and the city of Paris. More than the underland itself, the book is about the ways humans have and continue to interact with this space–to explore, bury, secure–and what our huge impact on the planet means for spaces like these and for our future on earth. It’s a big book with a huge scope and I like the back and forth between information and memoir.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movies Watched

I have a lot of free time this summer. So I thought I’d use it to work down my ever-growing movie backlog. This is what happens when you’re a film student–you’re so busy reading philosophy and criticism there’s no time to watch the movies everyone is referencing. I’ve challenged myself to watch one movie from this list a day.

Blithe Spirit (1945) Rex Harrison stars in this Noel Coward film about a seance that actually manages to summon the spirit of his first wife who tries to break up his second marriage. Are there notes of white superiority as well as patriarchal attitudes in this film? Yes, there are. There’s also some really witty dialogue, a fun situation, and some really great shots.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sex and the Single Girl (1964) Tony Curtis stars opposite Natalie Wood in this comedy about an undercover magazine writer who is trying to expose a female psychologist who has just written a bestseller about, well, sex and single girls. This is a metafilm based on the real book and author (they don’t change her name). When I was watching it, I realized that this must be the original that inspired Down With Love (2003) with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. An idea that was seconded by this article from the New Yorker I read that talks about the obsession with the late 60s style and how it’s used in film and television.

This movie is largely a joke, but it’s hard to laugh nearly 60 years later, because it feels like the joke is mostly on women and their brains, ambition, feelings, and rights. The punchline has worn thin, and the over the top acting does nothing to help. The wit and glamour I loved in Down With Love is missing from this film, though I did love Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda as a couple with marital problems. It’s kind of a waste of their considerable talents, but they count for at least 2 of the 2.5 stars I’m giving this film. The other .5 stars comes from the ridiculous chase scene at the end of the film where they hop in taxi cabs to race away and one driver is concerned about the speed limit and the other is all “this is my chance!” It’s hard to believe that this was one of the highest grossing films the year it was released…

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
This is from the very beginning of the film. If you’re curious, which I was, the film she’s talking about is Beyond the Forest — I had to look it up.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) This adaptation of Edward Albee’s play follows George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) in a drunken battle of wits as they use their young guests as pawns in their ultimate game of truth and deception.

Martha: Truth or illusion, you don’t know the difference.

George: But we must carry on as though we did.

Martha: Amen.

This film is so good. Partially because the play and the writing are so good. But it’s more than that. The cinematography is so spot on in this film, making you feel isolated or trapped alongside the characters. And Burton and Taylor play drunk so well unlike their young foils. It’s just all a little too loud, a little unsteady, a little off kilter, but not overdone.

More than just a husband and wife getting back at each other, this film is really about truth and illusion–what we believe, what we can get others to believe, and how this deception is ultimately really hurtful. In our time of alternate facts where we doubt things even when we can look them up, when we don’t know what sources of information to trust, this feels even more poignant. In my mind, the young couple represent something like the American dream (the I made it on my own with nothing but my white male privilege)–young and ambitious–while George and Martha represent how illusory that dream really is.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
A clip from the beginning of the film.

The Snake Pit (1948) Anatole Litvak’s film starring Olivia de Havilland is a portrait of a woman being treated in a mental institution by a caring physician who treats her as more than just a number. Since Olivia de Havilland died this week at the age of 104, I thought I would watch a few of her films over the next week or so that I hadn’t seen. My favorite of her films is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), where she plays Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. This film is much more serious and gives de Havilland an opportunity to display real acting ability. For its time, I think it’s a really sympathetic and ultimately hopeful depiction of mental illness.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Rains Came (1939) Tyrone Power stars (along with Myrna Loy) in this dramatic film about love and disaster in the made up area of Ranchipur, India. This expensive movie won the Academy Award for special effects over The Wizard of Oz, which should give some idea of how impressive they are. I’m not going to lie, this is kind of a white savior film in which none of the actors are actually South Asian and many perform in brownface, but it is nice that one of the characters, Tom Ransome, really does care about the culture and customs of the region and is respectful and interested. However, even Tom has a rosy view of Queen Victoria and her role in the empire. It may still be watching though just for Maria Ouspenskaya’s very memorable performance as the maharani.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
In this scene, Alfredo pays for Salvatore’s (Toto) day at the movies so that he won’t get in trouble with his mother.

Cinema Paradiso (1988) This award-winning Italian film is a love letter to movies and what they mean to one young man and his friend, Alfredo, who runs the movie projector at the Cinema Paradiso. I don’t know how to quite put it in words how much I loved this movie and its flawed characters, including this island of Sicily, which is very much a character in the film. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see it, but I can’t wait to watch it again. (Streaming on HBO)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor star in this sweet and silly romantic comedy about a young man who finally stands up to his parents. This movie was light and sweet–exactly what I needed.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Please know that I’m not paid for my opinions about anything. I just like to share things that strike me as interesting, useful, or engaging.

If you’re looking forward to a future in which this time will become an important part of history (and not a painful present), you might think about supporting this Kickstarter. It’s a campaign from Tupelo press to create a collection of poetry from a range of poets written in and about the pandemic. It’s only got a few more days, and it’s close to funding, so I thought I’d share in case there are any poetry lovers reading this.

I really loved this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about Bay area cooks that are baking in order to raise money for antiracism causes.

How was your week? Let me know in the comments!

Books that Would Make Awful Films


The other day, I read this article on LitHub about books that would make terrible films. It’s an interesting concept, especially when you think about how many books are made into movies and how many stories seem perfect for this kind of adaptation.

I’ve only read one book on the author’s list, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I agree that the film has a mystical, lyrical quality  that would be quite difficult to capture, but I’m not sure that the resulting film would be horrible.

In my opinion there are several things that make a book difficult to film:

  • When the book rests on the interior head space of the main character (there’s not that much happening except thinking). Some films are good at capturing inner struggles, but there has to be something visual to hang the film on.
  • A book that relies too much on its own intelligence. When the allusions, references, and larger literary conversation define the writing, it’s not easy or maybe even desirable to adapt the work.
  • When the book’s time has passed. There are some books we read because they define a time, but I think that most films (even when they show a different time) help reflect our own. If there’s nothing timely, it probably won’t interest people or the filmmaker enough for it to get produced.


But now I’ll turn the question over to you–what book(s) do you think would make a terrible film?

Remake Review: The Philadelphia Story and High Society


“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

There may be no type of adaptation more tricky to pull off than a remake. Unlike a more subtle retelling, a remake matches its subject–sometimes line for line and scene for scene. In many ways, remakes have more riding on them than an original film. An original film has to stand on its own, but a remake must do that and also contain within it some sparkling effervescent quality that contains the reason for its existence.

There’s a lot that can bring down a remake–nostalgia for one thing. Take a film that’s good, but not necessarily a shining example of movie brilliance like The Ghostbusters or The Karate Kid. These films are fan favorites and redoing them, however well, means that you’re putting a beloved film into competition with a film that simply doesn’t have the rosy glow time adds. Its imperfections are not the ones we remember fondly, its strengths are different and sometimes jarring.

Some remakes are done to take advantage of advances in special effects or new perspectives and social attitudes. Some are done to capitalize on successful stories (hello SpiderMan and Robin Hood adventures), and some–well some you don’t even know what people were thinking.

No story is safe from the remake bug, and I honestly think that’s okay. Remakes are part of a process of self invention and adaptation that keeps Hollywood films interesting and engaging not just with current trends but also with its own history. It’s an art form that is constantly engaging with itself and with other disciplines like theater, music, and fine arts.


Now let’s look at one:

I rented The Philadelphia Story from the library. I didn’t realize that it was the original and I had already seen the remake (it does say it on the back of the DVD case that I own–but who reads the back of the DVD case? I mean, except me out of curiosity or to find out the run time). This I quickly ascertained from the first few minutes of the film.

Before we get into the pros and cons of each film, let’s take a look at some of the pertinent stats:

The Philadelphia Story:

  • release year: 1941
  • director: George Cukor (also well known for My Fair Lady and Les Girls)
  • stars: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, & Jimmy Stewart
  • reception: won 2 Oscars (best screenplay, best lead actor-Jimmy Stewart), nominated for an additional 4), 5th most popular box film of the year
  • genre: screwball comedy (or remarriage comedy)

High Society:

  • release year: 1956
  • director: Charles Walters (also known for The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies)
  • stars: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra
  • reception: nominated for 2 Oscars, both for music–it almost received a third nomination for best story, which was one of the academy’s more famous gaffes considering that 15 years earlier they gave an Oscar to the original screenplay. It was the 10th highest grossing film that year.
  • genre: musical
  • fun fact: This was Grace Kelly’s final screen performance before marrying the Prince of Monaco.


Here’s the basic plot of both films: The divorced Tracy Lord is getting married again. To save her father’s reputation, she is allowing two reporters from Spy magazine to report on her nuptials. What follows is a comedy with plenty of love triangles and emotion before Tracy ultimately decides what’s important and who she’s going to spend the rest of her life with.

While High Society is definitely the more comical of the two, the original black and white film will always be the greater of the two for me.

Here’s why:

  • Both films have a great cast, but no one can steal Katharine Hepburn‘s show. The root of both characters is a seemingly goddess or queen-like disposition, but Hepburn shows much greater range of emotion than Kelly, who often comes off as a little more immature rather than complex.
  • The original film also plays up all the relationships more, so that you can really feel the tension as Tracy Lord flits between Dexter, George, and Mike.
  • Both films are well cast, but I feel that as a musical it would have done even better if they’d picked an actress who could sing. Too much of the romancing is left to the gentlemen.
  • I also think that Miss Imbrie is played better in the original film–instead of being light and comic she is observant, serious, and engaging. Her dilemmas hold more depth and her relationship with Mike becomes more nuanced. We actually see more of the background of both characters–even though they work for a gossip magazine they’re both artists–Mike is a writer with a full-length, published book, and Elizabeth is a painter. Their talent and work becomes another, deeper way of looking at the class struggles that are bared in the film.

However, I really love the relationship between Tracy and her sister as portrayed in the newer film. They have more of a good-natured rivalry going on that’s fun to watch.

Favorite moments:

My favorite stand alone scene (i.e. one that isn’t repeated in the remake) in the original is where Mike goes to the library to do research and finds Tracy there reading his book. This scene goes a long way to challenging both character’s perceptions of each other.

My favorite part of the remake is without a doubt the flashback scene to Dexter and Tracy’s honeymoon aboard the yacht, the True Love. In the original film, you don’t see any of the once-loving relationship between Tracy and Dexter, so it’s nice to have Bing crooning to Kelly.

One of my favorite sequences in both films is when the reporters come to the mansion and see the room full of silver presents and meet Tracy’s sister who has made a pact with her sister to give the reporters a show.


All in all, while both films have something to offer, the first is more nuanced–even the cinematography (full of close ups) signals that. The characters tend to be more dynamic and display a greater range of emotion. While Cole Porter’s songs make a lovely addition to the remake, they don’t do all that much to spur the plot along or bring much insight (aside from the ‘True Love’ song).


But now I’ll turn it over to you: have you seen either or both of these films? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments.

Fairy Tale Adaptations Perfect for Halloween Viewing


As a companion to the post I did yesterday, I thought I’d share some Halloween appropriate movies for the less horror-inclined. There are many to choose from, but to narrow it down, I choose only fairy-tale adaptations. However, I have lots of suggestions, so I’ll have to do another one (maybe a musical post?) next year too.

Here they are, in no particular order (synopses from IMDB)

  • Mirror, Mirror (2012): This is one of my favorite Snow White adaptations because it’s colorful, lighter-hearted, and witty. I yearn for the nectar of your skin… Anyway, I think this version is underrated.

Synopsis: An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.

  • The Thief and the Cobbler (1993): One of my favorite animated films growing up, this film has plenty of wit and some really great artwork. A spin on the Arabian Nights, this movie is, as Paul says, “weird,” but it’s also so, so great.

Synopsis (there were two, but I liked this one best): Designed in the ’60s, this Arabian Nights fantasy uses expressive animation to detail the story of a shy, near-silent cobbler who tries to win the affections of a distant princess. Meanwhile, the entertainingly evil, rhyme-speaking Grand Vizier Zig-zag tries to win the Princess’s hand, and wages war on the peaceful Golden City. It’s up to a rather odd, unspeaking local thief to set things right by accident.

  • The Red Shoes (1948): A classic! If you haven’t seen this movie, you really should. It’s a great movie at any time, but it’s just the right amount of creepy for Halloween.

Synopsis: A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.

  • Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998): Probably the best film adaptation of Cinderella–at least in my opinion. I mean that adorable Leonardo da Vinci, Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston and those gorgeous costumes…what more could you ask for?

Synopsis: not even worth pasting here. Just think Cinderella, but better, and you’ve got it.

  • Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre (1982): Another holdover from my childhood, these are great if you’re having company, because there are enough bad effects to laugh at, with enough good actors and humor to keep it interesting. They’re also short, so there’s plenty of time to eat and talk in between. Some of my favorites are “The Princess and the Pea,” with Liza Minelli and “Sleeping Beauty,” starring Bernadette Peters. I think you can check these out from libraries, and apparently you can watch them on Hulu.

Synopsis: At a time when most other shows for children were either low-budget productions or product-inspired cartoons that were little more than half-hour commercials, this program set out to produce high-quality classic entertainment that children would enjoy. Much inspired by an earlier children’s program, Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958) (also known as “Shirley Temple Theatre”), Shelley Duvall hosts this program featuring some of the best-known in Hollywood performing adaptations of traditional stories.

  • Willow (1988): Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a fairy-tale adaptation, but it’s got all the good fairy-tale ingredients and it’s one of my mom’s favorites.

Synopsis: A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen.

  • Stardust (2007): Again, not an adaptation of a specific fairy-tale, but just think of it as a fairy-tale for grown ups based on Neil Gaiman’s enchanting book.

My synopsis: A young man will gain more than a present for his beloved when he ventures over the Wall to retrieve a fallen star.

  • Princess Bride (1987): I don’t even know how to describe how much I love this film. It’s inconceivable. Side note: the book is great and worth reading too.

Synopsis: While home sick in bed, a young boy’s grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride.

  • Labyrinth (1986): Three words. David. Bowie’s. Pants.

Synopsis: A selfish 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King.

  • Penelope (2006): Okay, so it’s more of a modern-day take on a fairy-tale concept. There’s still a curse. And self-discovery. And a masquerade.

Synopsis: A modern romantic tale about a young aristocratic heiress born under a curse that can only be broken when she finds true love with “one who will love her faithfully.”

  • Finding Neverland (2004): There are a lot of Peter Pan adaptations that would be great Halloween viewing. But if you’re all alone with a cup of tea and a warm blanket, this might be more your Halloween weekend speed, moving and mellow.

Synopsis: The story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013): I think this film mixes its suspense and story elements pretty well for a bounty hunter film. Just good fun.

Synopsis: Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

  • The Wizard of Oz (1939): I mean when there’s a movie like this, what else do you need? You owe a lot to Margaret Hamilton if you’ve ever dressed up as a green witch for Halloween.

Synopsis: Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.

Did I leave out your favorite fairy-tale adaptation? What will you be watching on Halloween?