Tag Archives: movies

Field of Female Dreams: Reimagining Films

There has been a flurry of “gender-swapping” in movies lately. In particular, women are now playing superheroes and more active roles in action films – roles that would formerly have been taken by men.

The most obvious example is the recent Ghostbusters movie, in which the heroes played in the original 1984 film by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson were in 2016 reenvisioned and played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.

(It’s beside the point whether the film should have been remade, when the original film is now a classic and was nearly perfect just the way it was. I hate movies that are treated like that: See Bedazzled, Psycho, Ben-Hur, The Pink Panther.… but I digress.)

Action and comedy films seem to be the usual targets of this treatment, and there’s a reason for that. Action and broad comedy are at heart fantasy movies, about things that could never happen in the real world. When you’ve got things that can’t happen anyway, the gender of the person they can’t happen to is largely irrelevant.

But let’s take a look at a more “serious” fantasy movie – Field of Dreams. To recap briefly, the story involves an Iowa farmer who is suddenly compelled to build a full-size baseball field on his property so that the ghosts of a baseball team can play out their redemption. There is a small part for a female, who gets one incidental subplot as an activist at a school board meeting. But her main role is to be supportive and say things like, “I don’t know, honey,” but quickly come around to enabling his ridiculous dream, even though it means nearly losing their home and land.

It was a wildly popular movie, especially with men and baseball fans.

And it could never be gender-swapped.

Imagine a film in which a wife has a crazy fantasy dream that requires giving up everything the couple has been working for all their lives, with no guarantee of ever getting it back. Now imagine that the husband stands steadfastly by, encourages her, signs the mortgage papers, and supports not simply her decisions, but her fantastic delusions.

You can’t do it. The movie couldn’t be made. No one could write it and make it believable (even within the parameters of a basically unbelievable plot).

A man with a crazy dream is an underdog hero who deserves a stand-by-your-man woman. A woman with a crazy dream is – just crazy. She wouldn’t get past turning under the first crop before being carted off for psychiatric help. At some point in the movie, divorce would ensue.

Of course there are women in real life who accomplish great things and men who support and encourage them – take Amelia Earhart, for example. But these are different situations from Field of Dreams. Wealthy magnate bankrolls wife’s brave struggle is a different trope altogether, especially when it happened in real life.

Nor can female “Cinderella” movies be gender-swapped. Just try to envision Pretty Man instead of Pretty Woman. You can’t argue that American Gigolo is the opposite-sex version, either. Richard Gere’s motivation in that one is clearly not to find an ideal wife (or to find a woman and make her into a perfect wife). It’s a gritty murder mystery with lots of sex, not a lighter-than-popcorn whore-makes-good success story. Richard Gere is the fantasy “prize” in Pretty Woman, not an accused murderer.

Note: This is not true of all rom-coms. You could make a case for Working Girl/Working Boy, in which the mailroom clod gets a makeover and lands a top job and the luscious female reward. In fact, it’s been done.

But do this exercise: Take any of your favorite movies and see if they could even remotely be envisioned gender-swapped. Lord of the Rings? Chicago? Beauty and the Beast? It tells you something about the movie.

Of course, there are plenty of movies that could be gender-swapped: It’s a Wonderful Life has been. Avatar, possibly could be. Beverly Hills Cop, hell yeah!

Not that I’m saying all these films should be gender-swapped. I’m just asking you to think, “What if they were?”

 

BOLO: The Word Crimes Just Keep Coming!

“Word Crimes” was a big hit for Weird Al Yankovic, ttto “Blurred Lines,” a song that needed the Weird Al treatment if one ever did. But there are lots more word crimes that never made it into the song, likely because to get radio play, a song has to be under four minutes long. In my life as an editor, I see word crimes that are 182 pages long.

Now back to that “ttto.” It may be fairly easy to decode that as “to the tune of,” just from context. IMHO, AFAIK, BTW, and IIRC are becoming common enough online acronyms, but what are we to do with TH:TBotFA? Or THGttG (sometimes written as THHGttG). I know we all could sit here for hours and make up things that they could stand for, but there are better things to do, like petting the cat or helping the needy.

If you are at all familiar with geek culture, you may know that these acronyms are movie and book titles – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, respectively. It’s bad enough that you sound like a noob (newbie) (neophyte) if you ask what ST:TOS means (Star Trek: The Original Series – you know, the one with Captain Kirk). But we fancy literary types don’t inflict acronyms on others. We don’t say FftMC when we mean Far from the Madding Crowd or TCoL49 for The Crying of Lot 49.

Perhaps the most annoying acronym of all is STFUATMM (or more politely, SUATMM. STFU is familiar to all but the most genteel, who abbreviate it as SU, but ATMM is more problematic, since this time no one bothers with lowercase letters to help you guess articles, conjunctions, and the like. No, this phrase is “Shut (the fuck) Up And Take My Money,” which means, “You don’t have to say another word; you had me at ‘buy.'”

Full disclosure: I must admit that in my other blog (bipolarjan.wordpress.com), I do use the acronym YMMV, or “Your Mileage May Vary,” to indicate that my experiences should not be generalized to everyone.

Another language trend which has gotten out of hand is “portmanteau words” –two words squashed together to make a new word with a meaning that combines them both.  (A portmanteau is a cross between a trunk and a suitcase.) Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, was, if not the inventor, surely a most prolific coiner of portmanteaus. The appear everywhere in his classic poem “Jabberwocky” – “slithy,” meaning “lithe” and “slimy,” for instance, or one that the English language has retained: “chortle,” from “chuckle” and “snort.” It’s just so damn useful.

“Brunch” and “motel” are useful portmanteaus too, but advertising has taken such words too far. I suppose it’s too late to kill off “sale-a-bration,” but can we call a moratorium on “transfarency” (airline usage) and “unjection” (prescription medicine)? Bon appe-cheese? Trucksicle?  And anything that ends in “-licious” or “-tastic”?

And while we’re on the subject of advertising, can we please stop having Washington and Lincoln dancing around for Presidents Day sales? It’s undignified, first of all, and there is no known connection between the leaders of our country and linens, unless you credit the rumors that Washington slept virtually everywhere.

You could, I suppose, make a connection between Washington and nurseries that sell cherry trees, but even that would be bogus and nurseries’ advertising budgets are not huge. (They spend it all on catalogues.)

Not to worry, though. Even if we manage to eliminate these heinous crimes, there are plenty of others in existence and soon to be created. Among the ones that make me shudder are weather-related portmanteaus like “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowmageddon”; “gifted” to mean “gave someone a present”; and most words that end in “ize.” And don’t even get me started on the way my husband pronounces “foliage” when he reads those nursery catalogues. Or how “catalogue,” “dialogue,” and “doughnut” are spelled these days. Or…or…or…

 

Sometimes the Movie IS Better

Фильм (film). Концепция изменения выбора

It’s a truism that the book is better than the movie. And like all truisms, it’s not entirely true. In a few, rare cases, the movie is actually better than the book it is based on. Some films don’t just adequately portray a book. There are times when the film outshines the book.

Let me start by saying that The Hobbit was not improved by being made into a movie. It might have been okay if they had made it into one movie, but three movies? No. I have written about this before. (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-1n) Sleigh-bunnies. ::shudder::

That said, as I see it, there are two factors that can make a movie better than a book: length and depth.

Length. Most books are simply too long to translate exactly into movies. Most of the time this means that excellent – even necessary – material will be left out of the movie. The Lord of the Rings, for example, required three movies and still left out significant parts of the three books. I know there are people who still regret the loss of the Tom Bombadil and Goldberry scenes and I think that the Scouring of the Shire should certainly have been included.

Other books, however, have long stretches of text that do not translate well into evocative visuals or scintillating dialogue. Leaving them out can be a good thing. For example, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, is a long and complex book with lots to say about race, sociology, and economics. The movie (1968) trims out much of that content and focuses on the tender, evolving relationship between the two deaf-mutes and the young girl. The challenging intellectual and political content would pull attention away from the emotional center of the movie.

Gorky Park (1983) is another wonderful movie that has advantages over the book. Martin Cruz Smith’s novel has a long section in which Arkady languishes in a sanatorium, and it drags a bit. While this episode may be relevant to developing Arkady’s character, using it in the film would not improve the tempo of the movie, which after all is a murder mystery/thriller.

Depth. Occasionally a book, although it may have sold well, is emotionally flat. This could happen when a writer is inexperienced, or even too experienced –when he or she simply “phones it in.” The film version – if it has a good director, screenwriter, and/or outstanding actors – can take the story to a much higher level.

Twice I have had the experience of seeing a movie that I liked very much, then getting the book it was based on, only to be profoundly disappointed. One of these was the little-known spy-comedy Hopscotch (1980) which, although it sank without a trace, is a fun little film that has long been a favorite in our household. The novel was nothing special. The writing was uninspired, and the characters not well developed. All it really had was a plot. The movie, on the other hand, was vastly improved by the addition of Glenda Jackson’s character – who did not even appear in the book – and by the comedic range of Walter Matthau’s portrayal of the lead character. Or, as Rotten Tomatoes put it,

As written by Brian Garfield, Hopscotch was a conventionally serious espionage novel. As adapted for the big screen by Garfield and Bryan Forbes, Hopscotch is a lively exercise in cloak-and-dagger comedy, even when the pursuit of Matthau turns deadly towards the end.

The movie dialogue was wittier, the characters far more interesting, and the resolution more satisfying. I wish I had never read the book.

I had the same reaction with the movie and book of Three Days of the Condor (1975). (Actually, the book, written by James Grady, was Six Days of the Condor. That was part of the problem.) The movie compressed the action to heighten the tension and make the chase elements more compelling. At the same time, Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway’s characters had more complex personalities and revealing interactions than the stick figures in the book. I would never recommend the book, but heartily recommend the movie. Sydney Pollack’s efforts as director are certainly a major contributing factor to the film’s superiority.

Admittedly, most of the time it is a mistake to try to translate good literature –or even simply entertaining stories – to film. Even now that CGI makes possible depictions of events and characters that would formerly have been disappointing at best or even impossible, some things are simply better left to the imagination.

Usually books are one of those things.

But not always.

Whitewashing: Where’s the Line?

Native American Iron Eyes Cody touched the conscience of America when he appeared in the iconic “crying Indian” anti-litter campaign.

One problem: He wasn’t a Native American named Iron Eyes Cody. He was Tony Corti, a white American born of Sicilian parents.

Nowadays we call that “whitewashing” – hiring white actors to portray Asians, Native Americans, or other races or ethnicities. It is a practice that has outlived its day and is decried as an insult as grievous as blackface and minstrel shows.

Take Mr. Yunioshi, the character in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, played by Mickey Rooney – he’s not funny and is offensive to everyone of Japanese ancestry.

But where do we draw the line?

When Jennifer Lawrence was hired to play Katniss Everdeen in the film The Hunger Games, there was grumbling that she required makeup to darken her skin to the olive shade specified in the book.

Was that whitewashing? Couldn’t they have hired an actor with naturally olive skin to play the role? Almost certainly.

But where’s the offense? Actors wear makeup all the time to perform their roles on stage and screen. Also wigs, hair color, padding, breast implants, cotton balls in their cheeks, prosthetics, and digital edited everything. David Carradine (6’1″) played Woody Guthrie (5’7″) in Bound for Glory, before the days when camera angles and special effects could make Legolas taller than Gimli.

Couldn’t the casting agents have found actors that had the “right” hair color, breast size, facial contours, height, plus the requisite acting talent?

Sure they could.

I mean, I get it. Height, hair color, and so forth are superficial physical traits, not cultural or racial identities. Halloween costume that misappropriate cultures (“Seductive Squaw,” “Harem Girl”), ethnicities (“Tequila Shooter Dude”), and even religion (“Rasta Imposta”) are just another appalling example of insensitivity and racism as inaccurate as stereotypical or whitewashed portrayals on film.

Opinions may be changing, though race in movies is still controversial. Black American actor Louis Gossett, Jr., played Anwar Sadat (half-black, half-Arab) on film and the only notable complaints were from Egyptians. But there was pushback against lighter-skinned Afro-Latina actor Zoe Saldana playing the very dark-skinned black singer Nina Simone in a biopic.

(Surprisingly, I found during my research that Sir Ben Kingsley was not a totally inappropriate choice for the title role in Gandhi. He’s part-Indian and his birth name is Krishna Pandit Bhanji.)

While, we’re on the subject, what about voice-washing? Does it exist under somewhat the same umbrella as whitewashing? Isn’t there a real Polish-speaking actress who could have played in Sophie’s Choice? A Danish woman for Out of Africa? Meryl Streep is the go-to actress for “foreign” accents. Maybe you get a pass if you’re a mega-star.

And how about a little accuracy in accents, while we’re at it? Not all Southern accents are alike. The speech of a Texan, a Georgian, and a Louisianan are not interchangeable, yet we see movies all the time set in the southern U.S. with actors speaking in a hodgepodge of different “Southern” accents.

Listen, I’m just saying that the conversation over whitewashing may not be as simple as it at first seems. Terrible things have been done to Native American persons and culture on film, from farcical stereotypes to accepting Italian or Hispanic substitutes for Native actors under the theory, I suppose, that brown skin is brown skin, and even olive isn’t too far off with a little help from Maybelline.

Admitting that Katniss Everdeen and Mr. Yunioshi represent opposite ends of a spectrum would be a place to start, though.

Books, Etc. – Books as Mashed Potatoes

Books are like mashed potatoes.(1)

Some books are like mashed potatoes.(2)

Mashed potatoes are warm and creamy, oozing with butter or redolent with garlic, or chunky with fiber-filled shreds of skin, if that’s your thing. They’re yummy and atavistic, a taste that tugs at the link between memory and taste and smell and emotions.

For me, a used bookstore taps into the sensory-emotional link – the scent of dust and aged paper, the warmth of an old heater, the motion of a rocking chair, the calming voice of the owner of a store I went to in my childhood and teens.

Books themselves and the act of reading are less sensory and more intellectual. But just as mashed potatoes are comfort food(3), some books are comfort books.

When I’ve been on a serious reading jag(4), engaging with books that leave me pondering or wrung out, or even sobbing(5), when I’ve overdosed on nonfiction that punches me in the gut or heart(6) I need reading material that’s familiar and soul-satisying without being overwhelming.

I need a comfort book.

I’ve had comfort books since I learned to read – books I’ve returned to again and again, that I never feel I’ve had too much of.(7) My first were Dr. Seuss’s immortal Green Eggs and Ham in my childhood and Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase, in my early teens.

Later, my go-to comfort books were the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman – fairly lowbrow adventure/cozy mysteries starring a little old lady working undercover for the CIA. Each book took place in a different country and served up a travelogue more intriguing than the plot and as appealing as the quirky characters and the practicality of the heroine.(8) Also, I know that nothing really bad is going to happen to any of the main characters – none of this “relative dies at the hands of a serial killer” or “best friend is kidnapped and tortured” or “haunting memories of the main character’s dreadful past,” the stuff of much modern crime or spy fiction.

Nowadays my comfort books are largely those by Lois McMaster Bujold. She writes intelligent, witty, engrossing science fiction and fantasy novels, the best-known being the Miles Vorkosigan series. The Vorkosigan books take on sf genres including military sf, space opera, interstellar intrigue, and more, all with solid backgrounds in fields as disparate as biology and engineering.(9)

Of Bujold’s fantasy books, I find most comforting the Chalion trilogy (The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt) or the first of The Sharing Knife series (Beguilement). Falling Free, a mostly stand-alone novel, is also a comfort book, nicely blending the possibilities of technology and humans.

And then there’s Tolkien. Don’t get me started on Tolkien. I’ve read Lord of the Rings dozens of times. My husband, a more visual person than I, has seen the movies dozens of times. As with comfort books, comfort movies no doubt exist. But we won’t get into those. Unless you really, really want to.(10)

Nonfiction comfort books are harder to come by. Familiar but dramatic stories (The Right Stuff), biographies of interesting people (
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

by Robert K. Massie)(11), and accounts or diaries of exploration do it for me. Ernest Shackleton’s diaries are particularly comforting in the summer. The vivid polar prose actually seems to lower my body temperature.

Your comfort books may be entirely different; in fact, they are almost certain to be, given our differing experiences and reading histories. My friend Leslie returns to the Catherynne Valente Fairyland series (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the first), an excellent choice, but also joins me in nearly yearly Bujold binges.

The best thing about comfort books is that I can curl up with them in bed, on rainy or snowy days, with a cat, and lose myself. After eating a big bowl of mashed potatoes.

Now, that’s comfort!

(1) No. No, they’re not. Let’s try again.
(2) There. That’s better. Let’s continue until the analogy breaks down.
(3) Mac-n-cheese. Fried rice. Club sandwich. Grilled cheese with tomato soup, the way my mother used to make it.
(4) Trying to remind myself that I was once an English major and an aspiring member of the literati.
(5) Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Melanie Benjamin’s The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb were the most recent to make me cry.
(6) Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster by Melissa Faye Greene or And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, for example.
(7) Hence mashed potatoes = comfort.
(8) There are only a few I could probably read now – the first of the series (The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax) and a couple of ones from the middle of the series that featured characters or settings that appealed to me (Bulgaria and Turkey come to mind).
(9) Of the series, the most comforting is A Civil Campaign, described as A Comedy of Biology and Manners. Memory is the best of the novels, but isn’t always comforting, given my experiences with memories and memory lapses.
(10) Hint, hint.
(11) Avoid Prince Albert, unless you suffer from insomnia. The dullest book ever about the dullest person ever was a biography of Prince Albert. Comfort books are soothing, not boring.

Currently Reading:
Fosse, by Sam Wasson
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Mars Look

Apparently I am out of sync with much of the world when it comes to humor. I often find find things funny when no one else does. Sometimes this is understandable, as when my martial arts group went to a Jackie Chan movie. The rest of the audience laughed at the funny lines and we laughed at the martial arts.

I also had the opposite experience when I went to the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. The rest of the audience laughed at what to me were inexplicable times. My theory was that they all had been in the Peace Corps and this was the Jackie Chan thing in reverse.

Sometimes people laugh when I say things that to me seem simple and obvious. Once I wanted to leave a business meeting gracefully and said, “I think we’ve reached that point at which I cease to be helpful.” Hilarity ensued.

But those instances aren’t really examples of The Mars Look. That’s the one when, after I make a statement, silence descends and everyone looks at me as though I’m a two-headed Martian in a sequined Elvis jumpsuit. Crickets chirp. A tumbleweed rolls by.

For example:

I wonder if there are beech trees around here?

Me: Probably. This area is known for truffles, and they only grow around certain trees, including the beech.

[chirp, chirp]

The guitar strings squeaked. I guess you can do that on purpose to annoy people.

Me: Strings squeak when they’re brand-new. After you’ve played them a while, the oil on your fingertips eliminates the squeak.

[enter tumbleweed] [exit tumbleweed]

I guess I’m not supposed to provide information unless someone asks me directly. Or something. I’m not all that good at social situations.

The best Mars Look I ever got was in church. The musicians and the choir struck up the Hallelujah Chorus. At the first note sung, I stood. I was prepared to stand there through the whole thing, even if no one else did. Even my husband gave me the Mars Look.

Behind me I heard murmurs. “I guess we’re supposed to stand.” Slowly, the people in the two or three rows behind me started to stand too. The people in the front heard the murmuring and rustling, turned and saw the people standing, and rose as well. It was like doing the wave at a ball game, only different.

At least that time, there were no crickets and tumbleweeds. Just music.

Time Flies Like an Arrow

…and fruit flies like a banana.

But right now I have a different kind of arrows on my mind – the kind you shoot from a bow.

Thanks to Brave and The Hunger Games, archery is gaining a reputation as an acceptable pursuit for young women. And I say yay to that!

(Let’s be clear here. I’m talking about shooting arrows at non-living targets. Ted Nugent can have the bow-hunting, as far as I’m concerned.)

It would be wrong to say that archery is my favorite sport. It is, in fact, if not the only sport I like, pretty close to it.

I was introduced to archery pretty early. A man who lived down the street set up a target in front of his garage and shot at it from the end of his driveway. The neighborhood kids, including me, gathered to watch. It was way more interesting than watching someone’s dad practicing putting.

My father, being a proponent of target shooting (with firearms in his case), approved and supported my interest. In fact, he bought me a bow and some arrows.

It was a child’s bow. In point of fact, a girl-child’s bow. Pink-swirled fiberglass like a candy cane, with a red handle. And though pink was never my favorite color, I loved it.

I practiced with it and actually improved. I acquired accessories: a shooting glove and an arm guard. (The arm guard is to keep you from whanging your delicate inner arm with the bowstring. Doing this will result in intense pain, bright redness, and ice packs. And then you get an arm guard and make sure your arm is bent just a little at the elbow.)

My mother, who was given to sewing and whimsy, made me (at my request) a forest green wool cape and jaunty matching hat. No, no pictures exist.

When I got to college, I discovered that students were required to take four semesters of gym. One of them had to be swimming, which I faked my way through, but among the other offerings was Intermediate Archery. There was also Beginning, but no Advanced. So I took Intermediate. Twice.

It was lots of fun. On rainy days we stayed inside and learned to make arrows – one, a fancy kind that would fly a certain distance then suddenly turn straight down with its point embedded in the ground so you could find it easily by the colored streamer-like fletching (feathers).

If you know me, you know what came next. I had my mother send me the cape and the hat, and wore them to class. The teacher, who after two semesters was used to me, just rolled her eyes and said not a word.

But for one brief hour, I was Robin Hood.

Why I Won’t See the Hobbit Movies

People who have known me since I was a teenager would be shocked to hear me say that. I was/have been/still am one of the most devoted Tolkien fans ever – since back in the 1970s when the first wave of Hobbit hysteria hit.

I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I sat in the theater reciting my favorite lines along with the actors. I curled up in my seat in a fetal position and sobbed when the characters left to sail West. These were my friends and they were leaving.

I knew that Peter Jackson had to make some choices in order to film three books. He could not possibly put in everything. Indeed, some fans were upset that favorite scenes didn’t make it in (Tom Bombadil, for example). I was upset by what they put in that wasn’t in the books (the whole Arwen-is-dying nonsense).

Which brings me back to The Hobbit. At first I fully expected to see it. Then I started hearing things that made me doubtful.

It was going to another trilogy. You make a trilogy of films from a trilogy of books; that’s fine. You make a trilogy of films out of a single book and a short one at that, no good can come of it. You will have to add and pad and then Gad! Stuff that Tolkien never wrote – lots of stuff.

It was another dramatic epic struggle between Supreme Good and Primal Evil. The Hobbit was a children’s story, for crying out loud, that Tolkien wrote for his young son. A simple quest story – There and Back Again.  The Lord of the Rings came later, featured more complex and grown-up themes, including sweeping battle scenes with thousands of extras. The Hobbit was not a “prequel.” It was a stand-alone book. But The Lord of the Rings, which was and needed to be a sweeping dramatic epic struggle between powerful, apocalyptic forces, made money and lots of it. So let’s do it again, whether that’s what the first book was about or not.

The characterizations and tone had been changed to make the films more dramatic and serious. My husband was watching it in another room, and I asked him what was up with all the screaming and yelling and battles. He said, “I was watching The Hobbit.” My jaw dropped.

Conflict, sure. Danger, sure. But so much yelling and screaming that I thought it had to be a war film (or Robocop without the guns)? Much of the book was sweetly comic, with just enough threat, suspense, and fighting to keep its intended readers – children – interested. Millions of us as teens and young adults loved the book as it was. We recognized the value of children’s literature, and still do. The Harry Potter books and films had a massive following that included me and my friends in our 40s and 50s and beyond. We don’t need the works revised for “mature audiences.”

The last straw for me, though, was Radagast the Brown, a brother wizard of Gandalf’s. He was mentioned ONE TIME in The Hobbit and had only a tiny role in The Lord of the Rings. He was essential to no plot, subplot, or theme. He was, as they say in opera, a spear-carrier. Or in this case a staff-carrier.

At first I shrugged. More padding. So what? Then I heard what they did with the character.

They PUT A BIRD’S NEST ON HIS HEAD and had him drive a SLEIGH PULLED BY BUNNIES.

There is no excuse for that sort of thing and I am not paying money to see it. I’ll stay home and re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read the book.

Sleigh-bunnies. Feh.