Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?


A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart? The brilliant professor from Bethel University? Or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Books and Movies--Which is Preferable?

Well, which is preferable for story telling--books or movies? I've never been an avid book reader myself, opting for movies, but that might be the result of many different reasons. Most people, I think are like that. Meaning, most people watch movies rather than read books. And I would guess the main reason is sheer laziness. It takes more of an effort to read a book than to watch a movie. In addition to that, the dazzling visuals in movies make it a preferred medium. You don't have to come  up with any visuals in your mind for movies, despite how well a book may be written in the description of like events. In movies, it's all automatic. Varoom, the visuals are there, the scenes, the action all laid out for anyone to simply watch.

Reading books takes an effort, but people who prefer reading books might say it's because their imagination is unlimited, and, unlike movies, events and characters in books can be whatever they want them to be. For instance, a character will look like however a reader will want him or her to look like, within, of course the parameters of the author's description of the character. And this could very well be, in my opinion, at least, the one thing that does make books better. That is, movies often get it wrong. By that I mean characters in movies are often miscast. They get the wrong actor to play the part.

And I can think of several examples of movies or TV shows that got the wrong actor to play the part, but, on the other hand, I can think of several where the actor was perfectly cast.

Let's start with positives, and one of my all time favorite characters, James Bond. It is universally agreed that Sean Connery was the perfect actor to play James Bond. But on the other hand, none of the actors since Connery were anywhere close to being right for the part. At least, not compared to Connery. As for one of my other all time favorite characters, Conan the Barbarian, described so perfectly by Conan's creator, Robert E. Howard, neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Jason Momoa were right for the part of Conan. Nor were those Conan movies anywhere close to representing the real Conan as written by Howard. They were horrible movies, as opposed to the books, which were nothing short of magnificent.

As for TV shows--I'll refer to some of my all time favorites. William Shatner was perfect for the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek. Ditto with Leonard Nimoy as Spock. But the reboot movie Star Trek? Nope. I'm sorry, but Chris Pine as Captain Kirk? Wrong. He portrays nothing of the character traits that were Captain Kirk. But Zachary Quinto, interestingly enough, was the right call for Mr. Spock.

Let's move on to another childhood favorite. The Wild, Wild West. Robert Conrad was the perfect actor for the role of James West. But the movie version? Will Smith? It's like WTF? What were they thinking? I don't even want to begin with all the many reasons why that was just plain wrong.

But take a classic book like Moby Dick. Who could have been better for Captain Ahab than Gregory Peck? And an even better example might be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Every actor for every role, to me, seemed spot on. The LOTRs movies were movie making at its best.

Lastly, I'll mention another childhood favorite. The comic book X-Men. I loved that comic book, and it was my favorite of all comic books, topping Superman, Batman, Captain America, the FF, Ironman and all the rest. But the movies? Every single part was miscast. Well, two were acceptable. The first was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He wasn't perfect. He was too skinny, too tall, and too handsome. Wolverine was supposed to be a short guy, stocky, and very rugged looking. Hugh Jackman is the opposite of all of that. But even so, he did carry the part well. He worked as Wolverine.

And the second was the villainess Mystique, played by Rebecca Ramijn-Stamos. Actually, the movie take on Mystique was even better than the comic book. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos nailed the part. And the studio decision for her costume, or lack of costume was brilliant. A rare example of something the movie people did, not just right, but even better.

But none of the other characters worked at all. Not even close. James Marsden was too short and too soft looking for the part of Scott Summers, (Cyclops) and Famke Janssen was too tall and too old for the part of Jean Grey. Halle Berry was too short and too American-looking for the part of Storm, who was supposed to be a tall and regal looking African woman. Patrick Stewart was too old, and too British for the part of Charles Xavier, and Ian McKellen was too old, too skinny, and too short for the awesome character that was Magneto.

Back to books. In books you don't have to worry about any of that. Every character will look just right, act just right, speak just right, and portray every trait just right. Every scene will look just right and sound just right. That's because in your mind, nothing can look, act, or sound wrong. And it's the winning argument that, overall, books are better. Maybe I should start reading more. Maybe.

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