Coraline – Be Careful What You Wish For

Neil Gaiman: Coraline (Bloomsbury, movie tie-in edition, 2009, ISBN: 9780747597308)Coraline is award-winning children horror fantasy novella written in 2002 by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. It is dark yet magical fairy tale about a girl whose end of the summer in the new abode turned out to be everything but ordinary. That new abode was a flat in an old, nightmarish looking mansion, that once might have been a property of some E.M. Forster’s contemporaries (you know, those having tennis courts behind their houses), but now was in disrepair, possibly because of some dark secrets that little girl unwittingly uncovered.

Neil Gaiman: Coraline (HarperFestival, movie tie-in edition, 2008, ISBN: 9780061649691)New surroundings, feeling of loneliness with always busy work-at-home parents and utter boredom silently paved the way through the bricks behind the door Coraline’s mother unlocked at her insistence. First marveling at the discovery that the door actually leads to whole new world that is exactly the same as the one she inhabits, only improved – then wondering, are these changes really for better or rather for worse. Is really better to have everything you wish? Are people really better the way you wish they are? So, Coraline was tempted to embrace that alternate world, but found out that world isn’t near so cool as it seemed to be at first. Naturally bright, courageous and genuinely kind in heart, she has gone through a real adventure of a lifetime, saved a couple of lives along the way and acquired one particularly interesting friend and ally.

Neil Gaiman: Coraline (HarperEntertainment, movie tie-in edition, 2008, ISBN: 9780061649707)

In this story Neil Gaiman gently emphasizes eternal values every child (and grown-up person as well) should be aware of, without being not a least bit patronizing. At the same time, his readers are confronted with some terrifying images that are disturbing to children and to adults alike. Buttons instead of eyes, spidery hands, hallway walls slimy, soft and warm on touch, cocoons with some undefinable creatures — I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those descriptions have inspired also Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Such imagery is part of our human nature (just think about how many times you have dreamed some extraordinarily weird dreams — you would know something was odd even if you couldn’t remember them afterwards!) so I do not think children would be much afraid of this story. Their imagination is more vivid and stronger than ours, burdened with everyday’s trivial worries. I dare to believe even that they would be grateful for such an offer. It would gratify their sense of self-worth if we would think them more mature and more valiant than their age shows, if we would approve them to read it. 

Coraline (2008) — The Film

Henry Selick already had some great experience with The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and with James and the Giant Peach (1996), so the stop-motion adaptation of this story should have been a piece of cake to him. He himself scripted the story and presented it to our theaters 2008. There were three principal posters (see book covers above) for the film – they all look great and appear aimed to different age groups, although I wonder, what was actually the target audience for this film.

Coraline - The Movie AlphabetThe animation was fascinating, and the soundtrack brilliant, but the story on screen was a lot creepier than expected. I did not feel comfortable even with the very first scene, of a rag doll getting full make over as if on surgery table. The story veered a bit from the original source – it was transferred from polite British countryside (remember E.M. Forster earlier?) to casual American (New England?) territory, which does not matter much, but the characters changed manners as well. Although in that new setting that change was curiously fitting, the characters weren’t so appealing as in original, though this might be simply due to my Old World upbringing. I felt also that the introduction to the story and its characters lasted too long. The real action started only after an hour or so… On the other hand, the thrill of suspicion, of a true nature of that alternate world, was suspended too early, so there is no much commitment required of the audience. One just has to passively watch Coraline unraveling the puzzle till the end. If this movie was aimed for older children, they might feel sort of disappointment, as they might need more than just to be mesmerized by beautiful animation, while the younger ones might be frightened out of their wits before Coraline would even utter a first word. Pity – considering The Nightmare Before Christmas, I expected the same charm and sparks, but that didn’t happen – it was more James and the Giant Peach repeat, in a sense it certainly was not suitable for every taste. For me there simply wasn’t magic on the screen, at least not the same I felt while reading the book. It was beautiful movie, undoubtedly, but my heart was not with it.

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Books and Film Sites

A proper way to start blogging would probably be by stating why one started blogging in the first place. To be honest, I hadn’t ever considered blogging as a viable option for me – there are so many brilliant blogs around, about themes and topics I would never think myself not even a bit prolific – so this whole matter came as a surprise to me too.

I love reading books. I love watching movies. I love the way both media move my heart and stir my mind. Well, occasionally, not always, but still. I enjoy making comparisons between different takes each medium has on the same subjects. And from these first impressions I love to go on the Internet playground to learn something more about them, and more importantly, to learn what the other fellow readers and viewers think about very same things.

At first I thought I found my promised land in some of truly great books and movies sites – but no, they satisfy me each in one specific field of their interest. Here, in this one blog you are looking at now, I’ll concentrate my efforts on some particular points of my interest, covering all the fields at the same time. In short, that refers to books adapted on screen, books in some way tied to the motion picture industry, and opposite, movies inspired by and about books. You’ll see what I mean in the next posts, hopefully coming soon. Naturally, since this blog is so narrowly oriented, I intend nevertheless to take part in the sites I’ll mention below as often as I used to till now.

Book Sites

  • Goodreads – my favorite site for books, social-oriented and very customizable. Beside shelving, reviewing and discussing the books and editing their data, one may join some of many fully functional and user-friendly groups about any imaginable topics. You may have noticed one of them on the right sidebar of this blog.
  • LibraryThing – doesn’t look so user-friendly and sociable, but that might be of my sheer laziness to do something concrete to make my homepage look more decent. Also, I own many non-English books that are a hassle to add to the bookshelf. Money donating didn’t attract me either.
  • Shelfari – I like the general looks of the site, especially the homepage shelf, goals and stats. I use it mostly for adding and editing data and trivia about books. The social aspect of the site isn’t quite visible.
  • aNobii – I made an account, but didn’t go further — it just didn’t appeal to me.
  • TheReadingRoom – same. Design didn’t attract me much, but maybe that’s because I am too long with Goodreads to give another site a real try.
  • Booklikes – essentially a book blog, visually nice and functionally at first glimpse same as WordPress. It’s still in beta though. It might be simpler than having a blog made from scratch… but in that case it wouldn’t be really yours.
  • Worlds Without End – quite useful site for finding new books and checking your reading stats in the Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy domain. For me very fun, as I love science fiction and fantasy.
  • BookGlutton — reading digital books together with other people in the same group. Haven’t tried it yet, seems not so practical for digital books that aren’t available for free.
  • My Book Club – still in beta. While colorful and appealing at first glance, I currently avoid experimenting with new book clubs, as I am already a member of a couple of them on Goodreads.

That would be all for the book sites – if you have some other interesting suggestions, feel free to post them in comments.

Film Sites

  • IMDB – I still think it is the best. Design isn’t anymore what it used to be, but it is still enormously useful for browsing data about movies, series, cast and crew, festivals, awards etc. I use it also for rating movies, making lists and browsing forums in search for some answers or curiosities.
  • Letterboxd – while IMDB is the site on which to look for information, this is the right site on which to socialize with other movie fans. It is very user-friendly and has really decent and simple design. I love the way one logs and reviews the movies, as diary entries. All options are pretty cool, but I especially like user-made lists and challenges that everybody can join.
  • FilmCrave  – visually isn’t very stunning, but I like it. Information about movies are basic, but are fine for personal use, such as writing reviews and making lists. The members are also decent and smart, although not very numerous.
  • Flixster – I do rate movies occasionally, but do not really care much for it. Irritates me with offers I can’t use.
  • Criticker – Um… I made an account, but forgot both mail and pass. How lousy is that? Some people like scoring movies from 1 to 100, but I find it a bit tiresome.
  • SeenThat – design is pretty cool and interesting, makes really easy to chatter basically with everyone who posts something, being a review, a quote or a thought. However, I am more of the text than the pictures person, so I am not really won over. Still in beta phase, so there are things that should be improved.
  • Rinema – still in very beta phase, so design and concept aren’t wholly shaped yet. A bit alike SeenThat though.
  • Jinni – something new on the scene! Film and TV recommendations based on moods and words of your own choice. Haven’t tried it yet.

I am sure I have forgotten some other sites, so if you are aware of some others, freely post your own recommendations in the comments. The trouble with such influx of new sites is that sooner or later one has to choose to which sites to stick. I know I can’t be equally active and sociable on all of them!