Book vs Movie: Murder on the Orient Express

Alright, y’all! You know what time it is… It’s clobberin’ time!

Okay okay, the movie really wasn’t that bad. Actually, I really enjoyed it. I just think it was very different from the book.

So here’s how this all went down: I was super excited for Murder on the Orient Express the movie, and as you know from my previous blog on the book, I had never read any of the Agatha Christie novels before, but I was fairly well-versed in Hercule Poirot movies thanks to my wonderful parents (hi guys!). But when I heard they were making a new movie with Kenneth Branaugh as Poirot, I was really excited.

Naturally, I saw the movie at the theatre and I was…. underwhelmed. Not because it wasn’t a good movie, but because I didn’t think they got Poirot quite right. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I’d like to mention the three biggest highlights for me in this movie:

 

  1. The visuals are stunning! For a story about being stuck on a train, this movie did not at all feel claustrophobic, which is a huge feat in my opinion. They had interesting camera angles and they managed to get a whole bunch of really wide beautiful landscape shots.
  2. The acting was great. I think that some of the actors (*cough cough* Michelle Pfeiffer) maybe overacted in some parts. Not to be confused with over-reacting. But overall, the acting was fantastic.
  3. This is more of a sub-note, but Johnny Depp was amazing in this. His portrayal of a bad guy was spot on, and I was genuinely creeped out by his performance as Casetti, which is exactly how I felt about his character while reading the story. Fantastic job on his part!

**Note: I’m not adding anything here with spoilers, I will only add something within the plot that happens, but does not play a role in the ending of the story whatsoever**

Now, let’s get to the dicey bits.

To start, there were some plot points that were not at all in the story that I understood why they were there, but felt either could have been placed better or left out completely. I’ll provide you with

 

two examples because these were the things that bugged me the most:

  1. Problems with Prejudice

It’s made pretty clear in the original story that prejudice plays a role on the train. There is an Italian man, Antonio Foscarelli, that M. Bouc consistently tries to get Poirot to believe is the murderer due to his own personal prejudices towards Italians. M. Bouc is also not the only one who has prejudices in the story – a lot of the British people and Americans have backwards ideas about one another.

However, all of these prejudices are about ethnicity, not race. In this movie not only is Colonel Arbuthnot portrayed by a black man, Leslie Odom Jr. (who is a fantastic singer, by the way; he played Aaron Burr in the original Hamilton on

 

Broadway, and really blew me away in this with his on-screen acting chops), but the Italian has been replaced with its Cuban counterpart, Biniamino Marquez.

So I have some issues with this. I mentioned earlier that there were things I think shouldn’t have been there in the first place and things that should have been arranged differently. I think this should have been arranged differently.

For instance, I completely understand that when this story came out (1934) immigration prejudices were far more talked about than those of race – that was always pretty hushed up around white people. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that the man called “The Italian” in the story would be very stereotypical, and not trusted by M. Bouc and others on the train. I also fully comprehend that we don’t have these specific prejudices in our current society. I am sure there are some who do, but for the most part that is not the focus.

The focus at the present is racial, not ethnic. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have someone take Foscarelli’s place to make it more topical. That is where Biniamino

 

Marquez comes in. Given our immigration issues currently, it would make a lot of sense to switch that prejudice from Italian to Hispanic. WHY DIDN’T THEY?

Instead of taking the smallest, but most effective action, they switched the story entirely and made Colonel Arbuthnot African-American, and made the prejudices about his skin color.

Here’s why that upsets me (and keep in mind that in this story, every person on the train has some connection with the Daisy Armstrong murder [a play on the Lindbergh trial] two years previously *not a spoiler*): This story takes place after WWI. Historically speaking, African-Americans were in their own regiments, and did not fight alongside white men, let alone well-to-do, influential white men. Historically speaking, it makes absolutely no sense that the Colonel would have been anywhere near Mr. Armstrong enough to have made a deep friendship with him in the war… Actually, it doesn’t make sense for them to have any connection at all in battle!

So here’s the thing, I understand that currently in America we need to have a very serious talk about the racial violence and prejudice going on. We need to figure that stuff out, and we need to have an open dialogue. I want to make that clear. My issues here are not prejudicial, they’re historical.

Now, I am not at all a “purist” – I don’t believe that every literary work when put onto the big screen needs to be exact. However, it’s important to keep the context of the story as close as possible so it doesn’t lose the overall atmosphere of the original story. In keeping the time period (1930s) but making the prejudice about the Colonel and not about the Italian (or Cuban in this case), the historical context is lost.

Granted, that’s my opinion. I feel like while it’s important to have a discussion about race in our current society, it cannot be done the way this movie wanted to do it. With keeping the time period, there is no logical way that a Colonel in WWI (or any war at the time) would have been seated alongside any African-American in equality. That would not have happened, and that really bugged me throughout the movie since they tried to keep the rest of the story historically accurate except that one piece.

What would I do differently, you ask? I think it would have made more sense to keep Colonel Arbuthnot a white man, but make the counterpart to Foscarelli (who was just a regular guy and not in the armed forces) a black man or a Cuban man, which would have aligned more accurately with the prejudices of the time.

2. Poirot’s…. Issues

Alas we come to the thing that needed to change completely: Poirot, himself.

Look, he really wasn’t that bad. He just wasn’t Poirot. What I mean is that as a detective – just a regular ol’ Belgian detective – he’s great. But as POIROT, he misses the mark.

First of all, in the movie – the very first scene of the movie, mind you – Poirot keeps sending back a poor little boy who needs to find two PERFECTLY sized eggs in order for Poirot to have his breakfast. Poirot even has a little measuring tape. In what world would Poirot ever send anything back? His manners completely forbid him to do such a thing, he would rather just sit there and be polite to a fault than send something back, especially that many times. To set the air with that first shot just threw me for a loop because it was so uncharacteristic of Poirot and it was the very first thing you see him do. Hrmph!

Then, there’s the matter of his OCD. The movie makes a big deal about Poirot being OCD to the point that they try to imply that for him, his idea that there is only right or wrong in the world is sprung on by his OCD tendencies of having a right way of doing something and a wrong way, and not a matter of his “little grey cells” that the Poirot stories general imply.

The “cells” by the way are basically a way of saying that it’s in Poirot’s DNA to understand that which others cannot in a murder case. Whereas in the movie, the writing makes it sound like he only sees things because his brain – his obsessive compulsive thoughts – are what allows him to be a good detective. While it may seem like a minuscule thing, to me it was a massive oversight. Or rather, not an oversight but a down-playing of Poirot’s natural abilities.

Finally, there is Poirot’s “heroism.” There’s a chase scene here. Poirot chases someone. A chase scene!! Poirot is supposed to be an older man, portly, gentleman in this series – how exactly do you expect Poirot to run? Because I can assure you it will mess up his mustache and if there’s one thing that you don’t mess up, it’s Poirot’s mustache! That’s all I’m going to say about that – just know that I was flabbergasted.

All in all, objectively this is a great movie. If I knew nothing about Poirot and just went in thinking that it was going to be a fun period-piece detective movie I think you’d come out of it really liking this movie. However, as someone who actually read and enjoyed the story and likes Poirot’s character in general, it was a little tougher to get really into it. Again, I also had a very hard time getting past the historical inaccuracies, which I just felt could have been handled in a more effective, less sloppy way.

But like I said, it’s still a really enjoyable movie. It has a lot of plot twists that you don’t see coming (a lot of which they added to this movie that wasn’t in the original story, but nevertheless was entertaining), the acting was great, and the cinematography was spectacular.

Not surprisingly, the book wins this battle once again!! However, while I think you should read the book, I really do urge you to see the movie as well because it really was a fun movie to watch and it’s not that long. If you have time I would say go see it or rent it at home when it comes out because it was very entertaining!

Well, that’s all folks! As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below, or you can e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com!

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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Fairy Tale Fails: Hansel and Gretel

In honor of Halloween, I’m bringing back one of my favorite types of posts: Fairy Tale Fails. The story this time? Hansel and Gretel. I figure if ever there was a story that best accompanies All Hallow’s Eve it is the one that has an actual witch in it.

Reading the Grimm’s Fairy Tale version of the classic tale, not a lot is different about the core story: two kids are idiots and try to eat a house made out of candy and a witch lures them in and tries to eat them. But there are parts of the story that I don’t remember ever reading.

In my mind, the story of Hansel and Gretel goes something like this:

One day a brother and sister were walking through the woods. They were wandering around but didn’t want to get lost so they brought a loaf of bread with them to leave crumbs on their trail so they can find their way home. Once they’re ready to turn back around they find that the crumbs are no longer there, most likely eaten by a bird. Unsure what to do, the siblings keep walking until they find a house made of gingerbread and candy. At this point they have been walking all day and are hungry (plus, candy!) so they decide to go up to the house and start picking off little pieces to eat. Hoping there is more food inside, they break into the house only to find a witch ready willing and able to lock them up and eat them. Once she prepares the oven for the kids to cook in, she lets them out and tells them to look into the oven to see if it’s hot enough. The kids somehow trick her into going over first and they lock her in the oven and leave. The end.

To this day I cannot for the life of me remember if anything happened after that point in the story. Or at least, I didn’t know until recently.

You see, I first started reading all of the original fairy tale stories several years ago. But that was always one of those stories that I honestly didn’t give a rats ass about. I never thought the story was entertaining, I thought the kids were idiots and the idea of a candy house was ludicrous – wouldn’t it melt or disintegrate??? And as for the witch, if you’re a person that genuinely wants to eat children, how did you get suckered into letting these kids run around your house with no ties or anything, and then be stupid enough to say, “you know what, maybe I should check, personally, to see if the oven is ready first. I’m sure the kids will leave me alone while I go near the place that they knew I was going to kill them in.” what??

So no, when I read the Grimm’s Fairy Tales I didn’t read the story. I skipped over the entire chapter and moved along to the next story. But as Halloween was approaching I wanted to get back into the Fairy Tale Fails swing of things and realized that it’s actually kind of the perfect story to tear apart via blog. It appeals to all the creepy things we hate: cannibalism, candy-luring creeps, kids lost in the woods, kids in general (HA! Just kidding, only some kids are creepy and I hate them). So I read the actual story. And it was weird.

The story begins with an explanation, one that I hadn’t actually thought about previously. Why were the kids wandering alone in the woods? According to the Brothers Grimm, the siblings live with their father and stepmother. When a famine strikes and everyone is starving, the stepmother (always berating the children and beating them) tells the father that she is going to take everyone on a walk in the morning and get rid of the two kids so that she and her husband can eat the extra food they’d been giving to the children. He doesn’t like this idea but she wears him down and agrees to the plan. Unbeknownst to them, Hansel has overheard their conversation and sneaks out of his room to pick up some white pebbles to leave a trail back to the house.

The next morning, the whole family goes on the excursion. The father and stepmom leave the kids, but to their surprise they’ve found their way home. Pissed that they survived and used the pebble trick against her, the stepmom talks to the father and says that the plan will work and they will do it again the next morning. In order to make sure they don’t go anywhere in the meantime to get provisions, she locks the children in their room.

On the way out the next morning Hansel grabs a slice of bread for the walk and begins leaving a trail behind. Again the parents leave the children. But when Hansel and Gretel go back to follow the bread crumbs they find that a bird has eaten them and that they are lost. This is when the story is the same:

They wander, find a gingerbread house and eat it’s roof. A witch comes out and lures them into her home with candy and the promise of comfort and sleep. She locks them away. She uses Gretel as her slave and decides to fatten up Hansel so there’s more of him to eat. When she’s finally ready to eat, she lets Hansel out and decides to kill Gretel as well. Still her slave, Gretel is told to go into the opening of the oven to see if the fire is burning well, but pretends that she doesn’t understand the command. Frustrated that the kid isn’t getting it, the witch goes to show her what she should be doing. As she leans forward, Gretel knocks her into the stove and locks it.

She and Hansel find out that theres a large pot of jewels and valuables. They take the jewels and leave. The only problem? Where are they going to go? Well, miraculously, a swan agrees to let the children ride on it’s back and swims them back to their father’s house. Going inside, they realize that the stepmom has died, and that now (with the riches they’ve acquired) they can live happily ever after as a family.

Okay. Where do I begin? Oh, right, I know: the step mom is a total dick and the dad is no better! What the fuck? I can understand the dad being lonely and getting into a relationship with a new lady. I also understand that that lady was a dick to the kids, but the dad is still lonely and maybe doesn’t care much about the kids. But what I don’t understand is how your wife can say, “I don’t want the kids anymore. I’m hungry, let’s drop them off somewhere to starve to death and we’ll live happily again.” and for the husband to say, “you know what, it’s been a tough year, I think you’re right. Let’s drop them off tomorrow.” What??

I don’t know, maybe I’m old fashioned, but I feel like the dad – the biological father – should maybe not want to give up the kids that easy? I know in the story they say that he wasn’t okay with it at first, but that begs the question, what made him change his mind? I just don’t get it.

Second, if Hansel is so smart that he knows to bring small items with him to leave a trail to get home, why is he not smart enough to know he shouldn’t eat a random house in the middle of nowhere made out of candy?

Third, and possibly most importantly, WHERE DID THIS MYSTICAL SWAN COME FROM AND HOW DOES IT KNOW THERE IS A GIANT LAKE GOING FROM THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE TO THEIR PARENTS HOUSE? AND HOW DIDN’T THE KIDS KNOW ABOUT IT? That seems like the perfect landmark to get the kids to know where they are so they don’t need stupid pebbles!

I don’t know, man. This story is just weird and gives me too many things to pick apart (and the majority of the story was the same as what I’ve grown up hearing!)  But thanks to the spirit of Halloween, I can now sleep easy knowing that I understand the original, classic tale of Hansel and Gretel and never have to read it again.

If you like Fairy Tale Fails, or if you have a story you want me to analyze or read, leave me a message in the comments to let me know or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com. 

Happy Hall-ow-eeeeen! MANIACAL LAUGH, MANIACAL LAUGH…

Rachel

One Lovely Blog Award!

lovelyblogger

Hello, blog family! Imagine my surprise when last night I woke up to an e-mail telling me that I’ve been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the tremendous couple on Husband & HusbandI’m so pleased that you two find my blog entertaining and informative (particularly because I absolutely adore your blog) so I’m more than happy to have gotten this award! Thank you thank you thank you to Aaron and Jonathan for showing Books and Cleverness some love. I truly love writing this blog, and any recognition I can get from it is greatly appreciated, so thank you.

Now onto the rules. I’ve looked it up and the rules are pretty simple:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award.
  2. Display the banner/sticker/logo on your blog.
  3. Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5 bloggers that you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

Easy enough, right? So without further ado, here are 7 facts about me!

1. I don’t eat seafood. I’m not going to go into too much detail about it, because my reasons are totally weird and even my family, though they understand, still can’t fully comprehend it. Basically, I love sharks. I’ve always loved sharks, and since I was little I’ve refused to eat seafood because it takes food away from sharks. A part of it is also that I don’t like the taste or smell, and I can’t stand seeing the eyes on lobsters and crabs. But regardless, I eat no seafood. Who’da thunk?

2. I knit! I’m a certified knitting instructor and I work at the local Michael’s teaching beginner and advanced knitting. The best parts about it? A) No one I know will ever be cold. B) I never have to buy Christmas presents, I just knit them.

3. I could eat ice cream for every meal for the rest of my life. I love it that much.

4. The only country outside of the United States I have ever been to is Canada! O, CANADA! OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND!

5. I drink a LOT of coffee. An ungodly amount of coffee. The people at Starbucks not only know me by name but know what I’m up to most days, ask how work is going, etc. When we moved into our new apartment, I went to Starbucks the day after and they said, “Oh hey Rachel, how was the move?” So yeah, I drink a lot of coffee.

6. My goal is to be a somewhat successful book writer. I say somewhat because I’m not a complete idiot, and I know that I won’t be J.K. Rowling level of successful. But if I could be like Jim Butcher or Amy Tan level of successful, I’d be happy. Honestly I’d be happy even if I just wrote one book but made enough money off of it to live. I’ve already written short stories, poems, parts of books, and more. If I put them all together I’d probably have a fairly complete book. But writing is my dream.

7. Last but not least: I love horrible movies. I could watch Ice Spiders every day and never get sick of it. I love disaster movies, Category 5 was amazing. If it’s a bad movie, I’ll see it. And I’ll probably love it.

So that’s some stuff about me. I hope I haven’t mentioned any of that in my blogs before! If I have, I’m sorry. I’m ashamed of myself. You can burn me at the stake now.

Now onto the more important part – selecting the nominees for the One Lovely Blog Award!

1. https://thewritestuff123.wordpress.com/ – this blog is so good! If you’re interested in an eclectic variety of books to read, go visit her and see what she recommends. You won’t regret it!

2.https://errka220.wordpress.com/ – Erika in Bookventureland is awesome. From bookshops to visit to authors she’d want to meet, you’ll find it all!

3. http://publishinginsights.org/ – this is a great blog for people who are curious about how publishing works, how advertising works, best ways to calm down and realize that publishing isn’t going to happen in a day. Everything I’ve learned from this blog I’ll be taking with me when I try to publish my own books. So visit them!

4. https://mztressofallevil.wordpress.com/ – yes yes yes yes. Mztressofallevil is my go-to Disney blog. She has some of the most exciting Disney posts I’ve read, and it makes me happy every single time. Most recently she discussed the Disney Parks, which was extremely helpful with planning my Disney trip!

5. https://notesfromtheboss.wordpress.com/ – Post-it Notes From My Idiot Boss is HILARIOUS. If I’m feeling down, I go straight to their website. I absolutely love it! Example: “How often do we get the quarterly reports?”

So there you have it, folks. Thank you again, Husband&Husband for this award, I’m super stoked about it. And good luck to all of the bloggers I’ve mentioned!!

Until next time,

Rachel