The Borrowers – Recapturing the Joy

Last night I went with my daughter to see The Secret World of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibly film based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I adored these books when I was a kid. After seeing the movie, I remember why they were so captivating. Who doesn’t want to dream about little tiny people who genuinely could use the dollhouse furnishings? It made so much sense to me. Of course that’s where the stray buttons and spools of thread went when we couldn’t find them. They were borrowed by the little people. And yet, wouldn’t it be a life of adventure, too? All this needing to hide from the big people, encountering insects nearly your size and the borrowing itself, which requires a borrower to combine the hardiness of a mountaineer with the cunning of a spy.

I remember spending hours trying to create my own little borrower homes with items from around the house. Um, sorry Mom, that is where the missing buttons and thread spools went. I bent paper clips and stuck them through an upended cardboard bank check box to try to simulate a closet. It didn’t look great, but I give myself and A for effort.

It was a true joy watching this movie as an adult. As with all Studio Ghibli productions, the animation was outstanding. If ever a movie called for attention to detail, it’s this one. The fields of wild flowers, in particular, caught my eye. I could pick out individual types of flowers – black-eyed susans and bachelor’s buttons.

Though differing from the book in some regards, the movie was faithful to the basic story and the spirit of the original. My only quibble is with the character of the borrower named Homily, who is Arrietty’s mother. I thought the movie made her too panicky and fretful. If I remember correctly (and I do, because I looked it up), in the book it was Homily who sent Arrietty out borrowing. She wasn’t a mom who stayed home and fainted over things.

Still, I love that the movie, like the books, doesn’t go for the cheap, easy, saccharine ending. It keeps the complexities of the relationships between borrowers and human beans.

My recommendation:  see the movie and read the books. I’m going to re-read them myself.

People Do Still Read

Despite the predictions made ever since the advent of television, my observation is that people do still read books. I work in a library, so I’m in a position to see this. Our circulation numbers go up every year. Okay, part of those stats come from dvd check-outs. But our book circulation is going up, too.

One thing I’ve noticed is that movies don’t necessarily supplant books. It’s not an either/or question, whether to see the movie or read the book. A lot of people do both. With the recent release of the movie, True Grit, our library suddenly has a waiting list for the book. The same thing happened with Shutter Island. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, P1 showed up in theaters, we were left with a couple of nearly empty shelves in the “R” area of children’s fiction, as patrons were interested in all of the books in the series.

My anecdotal evidence suggests we are not living in a post-literate society and are not going to be any time soon.

Bad Movies, Worse Descriptions…or An Evening of Cheap Entertainment

Looking for an evening of cheap entertainment? Visit Hulu and read their movie descriptions.

First, let me say that I love Hulu. I’m not intending this as a put-down of the site. I’ve watched every episode of the Dresden Files TV show there. While in bed with bad cold (that turned out to be pneumonia, actually) a while back I fortified my immune system with nostalgic doses of Barney Miller. They have some pretty good movies in their line-up, too. Recently they’ve featured one of my favorites of all time: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?.

But, just as with real television or movie theaters, you’ll find a lot of stinkers, too. Sometimes, I’m not sure if the movie itself would be so bad, or if it’s all in the wording of the synopsis. The other night I was browsing to see what I might watch, and ended up laughing myself silly for an hour over the titles and descriptions without ever watching anything.

A sampling:

Carnival of Souls, Horror/Thriller, 1962. Synopsis: An accident victim becomes a church organist after being drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. What? How are these events connected? Is this a movie plot or a Mad Lib?

And nearby alphabetically is
The Curve, Action and Adventure, 1998. Synopsis: Two roommates plan to kill a third to take advantage of college policy giving a 4.0 grade to a suicide’s roommates. Who wrote this policy? I’ll bet no other evil college student in the history of this school ever thought of gaming the system like this. If my kids apply to this college, I’m not paying dorm fees; they’ll live off-campus – alone.

Or how about
Surf Nazis Must Die, Horror/Thriller, 1987. That’s right – not comedy, not satire, not spoof.  Description:  Few action movies can compare to SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, a gnarly epic of killer stunts, monster waves, and post-apocalyptic mayhem. You can say that again. But wait, there’s more! A major earthquake has devastated the entire California coastline, but as the survivors attempt to put their lives back together, they must defend themselves against the ruthless gangs that have taken over the beaches and the gangs are ruled by Surf Nazis! No one dares to rise up against Adolf, Eva, Mengele, and Hook until the wretched Reich brutally murder Eleanor “Mama” Washington’s son, and now she’s out for vengeance. Ooookaaaay then. Yo, Surf Nazis! Don’t mess with Mama Washington!

Then there’s
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. Know what? I’m not even reading the description. The title is enough.
film reels