Saturday, September 26, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009

Today is the start of Banned Books Week 2009. To kick off the week, here is an awesome video done by the Gottesman Libraries at Columbia's Teachers College. It features the 100 most frequently banned books from 1900 - 2000.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sorry I Haven't Posted in a While

I try to post at least once a week, but last week my efforts were thwarted because of the flu. Sadly, it has been five days, and I am still sick. For now, I have quarantined myself in my apartment and am drinking an absurd amount of water. Stupid flu...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review: "10 Things I Hate About You"

I was very skeptical when I first heard that ABC Family was going to air a television series based on the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. I asked, "How can this possibly be any good?" Besides the fact that the movie was released 10 years ago and had an excellent cast and witty writing, how could a station owned by Disney do anything worth watching? And isn't this the same station that brought us the mawkish drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager?

However, after seeing several (okay, all) of the episodes, I am ready to eat a little crow and admit that I was wrong (at least about this series). While 10 Things is similar to the movie, the writers and producers have made things different enough to keep viewers on their toes and to make the characters and the situations more believable. For instance, Bianca and Kat are the new students, thus setting up an interesting dynamic. Kat is not angry over a failed relationship; instead, her status as a rebel comes from her political and social awareness. It isn't that she hates all men, it's just that, in her mind at least, she has better things to do than date and fawn over boys. Lindsey Shaw, the actress playing Kat, is sort of awesome; I'd actually take her over Julia Stiles any day (this is probably not saying much). She makes the character a believable, albeit angry and self-righteous, crusader, and her interactions with Larry Miller, reprising his role as Mr. Stratford from the film, are priceless. She also manages to have great chemistry with Meaghan Jeatte Martin (Bianca), and their relationship is very believable. Last, but certainly not least, she is able to generate a great deal of chemistry with Ethan Peck (Patrick), who is hot but doesn't have Heath Ledger's charm or charisma.

Bianca's character has undergone some minor but important changes as well. Rather than being the established princess of the high school, Bianca is a relative outsider and is desperately trying to work her way into the "in" crowd, which is ruled by Chastity, who manages to be bitchier and more sympathetic than she was in the movie. Aiding Bianca are Cameron, the geeky boy who adores her, and Joey, Chastity's rather dim and vain boyfriend.

With the exception of Cameron (we'll get to him later), this new dynamic really works. Not only is Bianca not the spoiled princess of the movie version, she is actually pretty darn likable, and her desire to become popular is much more easy to relate to than movie Bianca's place as queen bee. Furthermore, I love what they (whoever they refers to - the producers, the writers, etc) did with the character of Joey. No one can deny that the character of Joey in the movie was a complete jerk. However, new Joey (Joey 2.0 if you will) is actually a pretty good guy. Despite his good looks and his work as a model, he is definitely Chastity's doormat (or, if you prefer, he's the Jon to Chastity's Kate). Although he is ridiculously vain, he is obviously a good person underneath all of his hair product, and he has won me over because he wants to be a good friend to Bianca. Between helping Bianca stop her out-of-control party and standing up to a fellow student who wants to seduce her , Joey has proven to be an anomaly in the teen movie/ television world: he's the cute, popular, vain guy who actually has a heart.

Now for the less than great aspects of the show. Oh Cameron. I loved you when you were played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the movie. You were funny and smart and obviously in love with Bianca without being creepy about it. Unfortunately, Cameron 2.0 is one of the weaker characters in the television series. His obsession with Bianca is creepy rather than endearing, and someone (the actor? the writers?) decided that he needed to be a complete dweeb rather than a normal teenage guy. Ethan Peck's take on Patrick is also lacking something. While Peck has a more formidable task than the rest of the cast since his character was originally played by the phenomenal Heath Ledger, we haven't gotten a chance to really see Patrick do anything besides smirk and talk in a very low voice.

All in all, 10 Things is a fun and mindless way to spend thirty minutes on Tuesday nights. Yes, it is pretty fluffy, but like the best brain candy, it is good-natured and provides instant uplift and some witty writing. The season finale is just around the corner, but if you haven't seen the show, you can watch full episodes on the ABC Family site.