Daily Archives: August 12, 2010

I Heart Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim

As I sit down to write these words, I just got home from an advance screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Given that Scott Pilgrim is a) a movie, b) based on a comic I love by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and is c) steeped in rock ‘n’ roll, I expect you can probably guess it’s a flick that I’ve really been looking forward to.  OK, to be completely honest, “looking forward to” is kind of an understatement.  I had really high hopes for the movie, and I was rooting for it to capture the spirit, manic energy, tone and, perhaps most crucially, the heart of the graphic novels. I’ll admit that I had some concerns, especially concerning Michael Cera’s ability to believably inhabit the role of Scott Pilgrim as portrayed on the page.

If you share those concerns, or any others regarding the adaptation from the comics page to the screen, I’m here to tell you that you may hereby breathe easily and relieve yourself of any and all fears.  Simply put, director Edgar Wright’s onscreen realization of Scott Pilgrim is a triumph, and one that’s not content to merely succeed on every imaginable level, but which scores bonus points with the greatest of ease. Even when the movie deviates from the graphic novels (which, yes, it does at times, just as any truly successful adaptation of a work from one medium to another must, so settle down, Beavis), it preserves the integrity of the source material.  (And if you’ll permit me a brief aside, I feel compelled to note that Scott Pilgrim shares this trait of deviating from while at the same time preserving the integrity of the source material with Kick-Ass, my other favorite comics-based movie of the year so far.)

In a nutshell, if you’re a fan of the graphic novels, pretty much everything you loved about the books is present in the movie. In addition to the aforementioned spirit, manic energy, tone, and heart, add to the list: the breathtaking pacing; the charmingly visible sound effects; the attention to detail in realizing the visual flair and design sense of the source material; and, yes, those crucially important video game elements that are seamlessly embedded throughout. It’s all there, my friends, and more. If, on the other hand, you’re unfamiliar with the graphic novels, fear not, for if you’ve ever been young and crushing on someone, you’re perfectly equipped with the necessary tools to adore this movie.

Scott Pilgrim doesn’t strike so much as a single bum note, a phrase which is especially apt given the importance of the believability of the original music in a movie whose title character is the bassist in Sex Bob-Omb, a band whose performance in a Battle of the Bands is integral to the plot. Credit for the songs of Sex Bob-Omb goes to Beck, who did a remarkable job of realizing the sound of a band that had previously only existed on the pages of a comic book (and in the mind’s-ear of its readers).  If you’re interested in learning more about the original music of the film, I highly recommend checking out an excellent piece by Todd Martens in Pop & Hiss, the L.A. Times Music Blog.

If you’re a gambler looking to place your bets on the success of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I’d advise you to bet the farm on Scott. Here’s how I know beyond any doubt that this movie is going to be a hit: when I exited the advance screening, some two-and-a-half hours before the opening “day” midnight screening was scheduled to begin, there was a group of teens already camped out at the front of the line … and every one of them was costumed as a different character from the graphic novel / movie.

Joss Whedon blurbed the just-released final book of the six-volume graphic novel series thusly: “Scott Pilgrim is the best book ever. It is the chronicle of our time. With Kung Fu, so, yeah: perfect.”  Substitute “movie” for “book” in that blurb, and Joss could just as easily have been fawning over the movie as, intentionally hyperbolic though they may be, his words are perfectly in tune with the material, striking nary a bum note.

So, yeah: perfect.

Oh, peaches! Oh, woe!

Let me talk to you about peaches. See, I grew up in North Carolina and every summer we’d drive to TN to visit my grandmothers with occasional visits to Georgia.  In the summer, the peaches were cheap and splendid. You’d buy them by the side of the road where they’d just come off the tree and were still warm with the sun. The sweet juice just ran down your chin as the flesh of the peach dissolved in your mouth.

I thought peaches were like that everywhere.

For the past seventeen years, I’ve lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest with excursions to NYC and Iceland. None of these places has decent peaches. I’m reminded of this because I am suffering from the gravest disappointment of a Oregon peach. Grave. Disappointment.

It’s made graver by the fact that I spent last weekend in North Carolina at NASFIC and had real peaches again.  My God. The first one I ate made me sag with relief and sheer sybaritic pleasure.

Coming home, I was excited to see that our CSA package this week had peaches. Fool. FOOL! Oh, what a sorry excuse for fruit this was. Hard and tasteless with more than just a failure to ripen. This was a peach without the promise of rich succulence. The ignominy!

Do you understand the anguish? Have you loved a food only to discover that it was regionally specific? Did you take the morsel for granted?

The Big Idea: Zoe Ferraris

It’s well known that one of the best ways to get someone to do something is to tell them that they shouldn’t do it. In the case of author Zoe Ferraris, the thing she was told she shouldn’t do is write about a particular character — one whose origins are outside the usual experience of her audience. Two books on, this character is alive and well, so there. Here’s Ferraris to tell you about the character, the world he lives in, and why she keeps on with him in her newest novel, City of Veils.

ZOE FERRARIS:

City of Veils comes from a big idea and a small one.

In Jeddah, my ex-husband once brought me to a jacket bazaar. Yes, there was a whole market devoted to outwear in the hottest country in the world. Furs, pea coats, leather, you name it. He wanted to buy a “Columbo coat” – a Peter Falk trench coat – and set off to solve mysteries. He was bored. But I was electrified. It occurred to me that there were no Muslim investigators in crime fiction, and I thought that it might be fun to write one.

That was the small idea.

City of Veils started out as a serial killer novel back in the early 00s. (I go with the Brits and call them the naughties.) I set an American serial killer loose in Saudi Arabia. He was happily killing people but mostly chasing down one American woman whose husband had conveniently abandoned her in the one country on earth where she couldn’t fend for herself, being a woman and an American and someone not very good at wearing a veil. I sent the novel to an agent who said that the story of the American woman was great, but that my little subplot about “that Arab investigator” needed to be ejected into space.

I was so aggrieved at being told what to eject that I went out and wrote a whole book about my Arab investigator, Nayir Sharqi, which turned into my first novel, Finding Nouf.

I guess I’m still aggrieved, because City of Veils is basically that original story, minus the serial killer. We have an American woman abandoned by her husband. We have a brutal murder in which her husband may have been involved. We have a chase through the desert. And most importantly, we have a sandstorm. But still, that Arab investigator persists in taking up most of the book!

I arrived in Saudi Arabia with the notion that women were deeply, darkly oppressed by a conspiracy of ignorant, cruel, patronizing men. Then I started meeting my ex-husband’s friends, basically a bunch of twenty-something guys who wanted nothing more extravagant than to find a decent Friday-night date in a country where they weren’t allowed to talk to women outside their family. What’s a man to do? Turns out that in courtship, gender segregation is just as difficult for men as it is for women.

Nayir’s problem is even bigger than that. He has no experience with women. So when he finally gets to talk to one (putting his religious convictions aside), he tries his damndest not to mess it up, because he’s fairly certain that it would take no effort at all to mess everything up. I really want him to have love, I really do. But the problem is big enough that it’s going to take more than two books to solve it.

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City of Veils: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt from the novel. Visit Zoe Ferraris’ Blog. Follow her on Twitter.