Monday, March 07, 2005

Their Eyes were watching God

Classic piece of literature and crappy movie made by Oprah and Halle Berry.

On another note North Carolina (UNC) beat Duke yesterday and the Raptors won so it was still a good weekend. Yep, I'm another one of those anti-Duke fans. Cant stand those Duke Blue devils. What is a blue devil anyway were they just not allowed to put the word "eyed" in there? lol :-) I'm just kidding...sorta. Just never been a fan of Duke since the Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill era when they would ruin every NCAA March Madness pool that I entered.

Anyway, that said back to the topic at hand. Like I said Their Eyes were watching God has been known for many years as a classic piece of literature written by Harlem Renaissance woman Zora Neale Hurston. If you've never read it, its definitely worth the effort. After last night though Their Eyes were watching God will also be known as a crappy TV movie made by Oprah starring Halle Berry.

Yep, I guess I'm still sort of one of those elitist types when it comes to literature and movies based on said literature. Actually my stance is if I haven't read the book then go ahead make the movie. If I have read it please stay away. Of course mind you if I ever write anything and Hollywood comes calling I'm going to be hard pressed to say no to the dollars. Oh who am I kidding I'm taking the money and running. Oh like I shouldn't and then I die and Hollywood offers my grandkids the cash and those spoilt brats take it (cant you tell I'm going to make one delightful old person?). The same grandkids who put my ass in a old folks home and never visited. Oh hell no! I'm taking the money, if the grandkids want money from Hollywood let them write their own ish. lol.

To be truthful though Hollywood sometimes does put up a pretty good effort in making books into movies. The Lord of the Rings trilogy instantly comes to mind but unfortunately they screwed up with Their Eyes. It wasn't as bad as they screwed up Walter Mosely's Devil in a Blue Dress but it could be close. I'll have to think on it a while.

I was hoping for the best with Their Eyes even though Summer gave me fair warning a month ago and then again yesterday that Oprah aka the devil herself(oh no, I'm going to be assaulted by hoards of oprah's mindless minions now) was going to ruin it. Sadly I ignored said warnings and tried to think positive. Nope didn't work.

Now I'm sure there was some good about the movie...somewhere. Clearly casting Michael Ealy as TeaCake, the lover of Halle's character Jaine wasn't one of them. I mean the book clearly has Halle's character as this extremely fair skinned person and her lover Teacake as a darker man, and yes that distinction is very important to the book. So how you going to cast a dude lighter than Halle as the lead? Throws off the entire movie right there. Same thing with Jodie, Janie's second husband. The book describes him as 'seal brown' so how you going to cast Ruben-Santiago Hudson another dude lighter than Halle as this character and again yes this is significant. You've just ruined all of the color politics in the movie with those two casting decisions.

And I wont even go into why Halle had to say 'I'm watchin God' like 5 times in the movie when the phrase only occurs about once in the book? I guess its in case the audience forgot what they were watching.

Yea I can knitpick since this book is rather fresh in my memory. Fortunately I wont go on about the release of the pigs or anything like that since Hollywood is allowed some improvisation here and there ..according to them. However Teacake and Jaine's relationship takes up more than half the book why did it feel like such a great rush and why did they skip so many details in this movie?

From their first meeting where Halle was undressing dude with her eyes (I didn't see that in the book) to the storm scenes it just seemed like the movie makers were saying ok lets wrap it up, hurry hurry hurry!

We never got a sense of the community down on the muck. It was reduced to a international traveling street fair. We never got to see Mrs Turner or hear her bad talk Teacake, we never got a sense of how the love between Jaine and Teacake was growing and how Jaine was loving her freedom to be with the working folk. It was all rush rush rush. Wont even talk about why no explanation of Teacake's stabbing or why they cut his being forced to work on cleaning up the corpses after the storm. Rush rush rush! (much like this blog gots to get me to work)

Oh and was that dog supposed to be scary? I mean if anything that scene drove home why good prose can be better than the movies. When I read Zora Neale's account I could see that dog, see the desperation of the situation, really feel the moment. She somehow gave the dog personality. It was scary. What did the movie do? They gave you this dog snarling in the rain. Chupse! Did anyone explain to the dog what his motivation was supposed to be. "Ok dude you're supposed to be like the hounds of hell, you're mean, you're vicious, you're a killer, you're out for blood." "Ummm ok, I aint a killer I just bark alot. How about I growl some and show a bit of teeth?" "Well we're on a tight budget and this scene is rushed so ok that could work."

Oh well, I could go on and on but I'm sure Summer will write something better thought out and put together than I have so maybe you can check her blog for her thoughts on the movie.....assuming she isn't speechless today :-). See I made it through the movie and I didn't even mention Halle overacting the love scene with Teacake. Oops!

Sigh! I hope Oprah don't make no more books into movies. She means well but still....

Addendum: Ok I was thinking about the movie some more on my way to work and well if you read the book alot of it is about color politics. Janie is seen as desirable, beautiful and more of a lady because of her long hair and fair features. She's a 'browning' or a 'red girl' to use some of my caribbean venacular and alot of the book deals with black people's perceptions of themselves and their 'shade of black' using her Janie's situations and what is expected of her by other folks. In fact this is a significant theme throughout the book. However Oprah's movie convieniently and completely ignores this theme.Why? Doesnt that theme play well on tv? Its not like black folks have gotten over their internal color issues? So why ignore such a significant part of the book? Is it still taboo to talk about color amongst black folks?

Addendum 2: Summer's too distraught to post so I'll refer y'all to Safire's review


summer m. said...

thanx for the love. i don't even think i'ma write anything about how wack that shit was. i just don't have the energy.

it's obvious that they didn't even read the cliff's notes.

Campfyah said...

I don't think I've read the book, eventhough I've heard so much about it. But your review is appealing though. Oprah should have learned from her last movie failure (the slave one..I forgot the name) about dewelling into the world of movie making. And Halle is killing herself after winning the Oscar and then making two bad movies back to back.

o said...

I think I'm the only one who thinks Halle ain't a great actress. PFFT. She was good in Dorothy Dandridge but she's not that great, to tell you the truth.

I'm still VEXED 'cause she botched up Storm in the first X Men. How you gon' speak with a British accent one scene and an American one the nex? If I had known they were filming in Casa Loma (someone from my high school played the part of 'Jubilee') then I woulda gone down there and pulled that white wig off her head..

where was I? Oh yes. I tol' Summer I haven't read the novel but I will, oh I will.

And I no big Oprah fan but nuh call her one debil...c'mon now J-did. HA HA. But it IS your blog and just as much as I rag on Beyonce you can chat bad bout everybody else. FREE COUNTRY!!

:) thanks for your advice, BTW.

Mr. Carter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr. Carter said...

Definitely feeling your comments about the movie, I knew it would be wack, so I didnt even bother to watch. I hate Duke too, so we in the same boat. Cant wait to see your next post.

Abeni said...

Having read the book am so happy I did not see the movie.I hate when screenwriters take too much license with the material.One the few movies I found that was close to the book was To kill a Mockingbird

Mad Bull said...

I wrote a post on this movie too, sorta... check it out nuh? Big up on this review too...

Nikki said...

I was soooooo disappointed in the movie. I knew it wasn't going to be good. I don't even know why I expected it to even be just okay.

Melody said...

Jdid, some authors like Ludlum luck out, but there was no way Thurston's story coulda survived this level ov miscastin'. It was Halle when Tisha Campbell or even Vanessa Williams might've done more justice to de character. Ah wouldn't have been surprised if Wesley Snipes had been hired ta play de high-yella fella--their budget prob'ly just didn't find his fees 2 friendly.

Jdid said...

@summer - yep they didnt even read those cliff notes.
@camp - oprah basically watered down the book for her core audience
@soli - you need to read this book. I think you'll like it.
@Mr Carter - welcome, thanks for stopping by. yep i've been hating duke for awhile. I know they've had some decent players over the years and Grant Hill is still kind of cool but put them in thatuniform and I treat em like pulic enemy number 1
@abeni - yep some screenwriters definetly take too much liberties
@mad bull - yep just read your post. interesting question about jaine
@nikki - welcome, thanks for stopping by. I think we all sort of said its going to be bad but it cant be that bad so we actually watched and hoped.

ThandieLand said...

I always seem to post after you have done your round-up but I will go ahead as per usual.

Well first off I have not read the book. I will make an effort to do so soon.

Given that I haven't read the book, I think the movie was good. As good as a Sunday nite network movie usually is.

It may have deserved more attention and time to pay homage to the classical work of Houston. But one has to remember that it is always an interpretation of the book. I have hardly ever seen a movie do a great/exact translation. Waiting to Exhale is one where the three deminsional feel of the women's character that is in the book was not shown but te movie was quite a good interpretation in my IMO.

While from you guys I got the romance between Teacake and Janie to be the central part of the book.. the movie ppl thought it was how a woman of that time fought to define her autonomy, kept on reaching for what she knew love between man and woman should be. That was the central theme in the movie for me.

I will read the book though and then maybe I will be closer to your view then.

Jdid said...

@thandiland - trust me if you read the book you wont even realize that its the same as the movie. this interpretation was watered down to the max.

obifromsouthlondon said...

I've heard of the book but never got round to reading it. advice taken. avoid the movie.

Anonymous said...

Girl you are right on the money, I know I am a day late and a dollar short but I dont care...Both Oprah and Halle need to avoid tv movies...and really what's up with the light-skinded brothers in the flick? the movie did the novel little justice. Is it too late to take back the movie rights from Oprah?...