The Kite Runner is a nearly perfect example of why great books don’t make great movies, even if it isn’t that great of a book. Books can be both messier and neater; a novel can tie its story up in a nice little bow because after 300 or 400 pages, it’s essentially earned your trust, but it can also leave pointless but enjoyable loose ends dangling like jewelry off of the main story.
The novel of The Kite Runner became a best-seller because it sells a sentimental redemption story that happens to take place in the country we annihilated before we annihilated the other one. Everyone was curious abot Afghanistan, but nobody was about to buy a plane ticket. The book is full of asides about Russia and the Taliban and nifty little historical flourishes that make it seem important and relevant, and it walks down some fairly well-tread if trusty territory of personal redemption and lost childhoods and losing it all during the war, etc, etc. I have to admit, it’s a decent yarn that kept me entertained.
But the point is that after this long sad story full of sunshine and sorrow, Khaled Hosseini can be forgiven when he whips out a Rambo climax and closes his tale with the kind of hokey predictable ending usually left for children’s stories. It must have seemed tailor-made for Hollywood.
The movie, of course, includes this same climax and this same ending, and there’s just no forgiving director Marc Forster or writer David Benioff for it. They haven’t earned a thing because two hours isn’t nearly enough time for what the story doles out, and the darting back and forth in time that is supposed to make it feel like a life lived simply makes it feel like an episode of Quantum Leap as it bounces around willy nilly through the space-time continuum. Luckily, or unluckily, nobody wears any drag.
There is a lot of story to tell, and so the filmmakers plow through it point by point. There is no room for the story to breathe, no room for the characters to breathe. So the main story feels forced and we don’t get the joy of the little jewels hanging off.
The cuts are quick, the editing sharp, as if to say, “hey, Americans, don’t give up on us just cuz of the subtitles!” So while it takes place on the other side of the world, it feels like it was made in LA.
This is the second major problem. The pleasures of the book are all about being an outsider to a culture you don’t understand, being the lucky recipient of someone explaining to you from the inside what you’d never know otherwise. So why would you hire two rich white dudes to write and direct?
Now, it’s not like I know Marc Forster or David Benoiff, but the IMDB tells me the former is a German-Swiss son of a doctor and an architect and the latter is a NYC born, Dartmouth bred son of a world-famous economist and partner at Goldman Sachs. I have no problem with well-coifed well-to-do people making movies, but the story here seems to require a more intimate knowledge of this part of the world than someone can pick up on Wikipedia, and it calls for some experience living through grand tragedy. Just because you can get away with superficiality in Troy, doesn’t mean it’s OK here. The only part of the movie that feels remotely true is the cancer, perhaps because it’s something a little closer to home.
Otherwise, The Kite Runner the film might as well have been directed by Michael Bay. Everything is fine tuned, like a machine designed to wrench your heart, but after a while, it feels rote. It’s so blatantly manipulative that it’s numbing.
There are some fantastic filmmakers from the middle east, including Siddiq Barmak, who made that Osama film (not about that Osama) and whose soft touch was missing here. Iranian cinema is world-reknowned. Where was Abbas Kiarostami? Jafar Panahi? Samira Makhmalbaf? There are so many others, it’s really a sin none of them were given a shot at this. Granted, The Kite Runner is about both Afghanistan and America, so maybe Iranian directors wouldn’t know this part of the world, but would that have been so bad? Isn’t there an Afghani-American in Hollywood somewhere?
I can’t imagine what Kiarostami or his contemporaries would have done with this story because their films (e.g. Under the Cherry Tree, Kandahar, White Balloon, Crimson Gold, The Wind Will Carry Us, The Apple) are generally so subtle and so languorously meditative that the wham-bam story here would have felt out of place.
It’s doubtful, but not without possibility, that The Kite Runner could have been a great movie, but at the very least, it could have been so much more than a forgettable slice of middlebrow sop.
It’s been a long week, reaching a high point with catastrophic laptop failure on Wednesday night. I spent trying 24 hours trying to revive the bastard, but it appears that Windows ate itself. The likely culprit: Windows Update. So for a little Friday morning diversion, I pieced together this little job to keep me sane. Maybe later, rather than finding someone to stab in the neck, I will wander down to the river and look for a few pelicans making their way back north.
Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.
That’s what I get for not buying that MacBook Pro when I had the chance. Blue screen of death followed by an inability to start XP. Awesome. I can’t even get the Windows Recovery Console to boot from CD because of some unknown Administrator password that was never set. Double Awesome. Now I’ve got to run Ubuntu Live from CD to get my data off the drive, the only problem being that at 700 Megs, it’s going to take forever to download. Good thing 8.04 was released today, thus ensuring tragically busy mirrors. It should only take about 4 hours to download. Triple awesome.
Also, I burnt this morning’s granola. Quadruple Awesome.
In the interest of science, I’ve devised a scale of makeup intensity, from least makeup worn to most makeup worn. Where on this scale do you fall?
Infant Gym Teacher Indigo Girl Housewife Secretary - Day Secretary - Evening Model Supermodel Suicide Girl Little Pageant Girl Cindy McCain Whore Amy Winehouse New York Secretary Mime Katie Couric Corpse Clown Corpse Clown Lucy Corpse Lucy Jillian Barberie The Joker Blue Man Chelsia from Big Brother 9
"Perhaps a sex-advice column isn’t an appropriate place to eulogize an articulate, elegant woman, a practicing Catholic named for the patron saint of hopeless causes and, perhaps consequently, a Cubs fan. I mean, really. Eulogizing my mother back here with the escort ads?"
“By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to “export democracy,” and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, “no thank you.” Because that was no way to promote democracy.”—Will Bunch, An open letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanapoulos
Frightened Rabbit was one of my favorite bands of 2007 and now they’re one of my favorite bands of 2008. Last year saw the U.S. release of their first record Sing the Greys, and yesterday was the digital street date for their new record The Midnight Organ Fight. Now, this ain’t a band for everyone, but if you are into the old Mark E. Smith belief in repeat, repeat, repeat and you are into the slow build of Snow Patrol and you are into the strumming percussive acoustic guitar of the Mountain Goats and you are into the Glaswegian accent of The Twilight Sad and you are into clever but unironic lyrics and the heart on sleeve rock and roll confessional, well then I’ve found your fucking pie right here, mister.
Is this a comedy? A drama? A dramedy? A coma? Is it satire or not? The slick name droppin’ trailer screams Thank You For Smoking, but I’m just not feeling it. Movies like this need to dance fleet of foot across the thin ice that separates political satire from the cold death below, where sludgy lecturing and pompous preaching await. Something tells me this thing is going to skate like a cinderblock.