Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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Casting Coup: Slaughterhouse-Five

When your first exposure to anything is through an oddly enjoyable but nonetheless pretty lame 80s dance flick, you don't expect to fall in love with whatever it is. At least, not without irony. Yet Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is more than just a random example of Kevin Bacon's rebellious flouting of small-town conventions (take that, church and state!). Mind-bending and time-bending, witty and woeful, Vonnegut combines fact and fiction in telling the story of Billy Pilgrim, who is unstuck in time.

To go along with our reading, Ms. Arena decided to show us the film version. Directed by George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), the film was even approved by Vonnegut himself, and is said to be the best possible adaptation possible. Unfortunately, we did not get to finish the film. I think Ms. Arena taped over it accidentally or something. Anyway, I never got to finish watching it, so all I could do was imagine what it must have been like.

And then I decided, Hey! Why not do a Casting Coup of it! That, plus Gemma requesting it on the Request Post, made it worth my time--AND YOURS--to do CCT.

Quotes from SparkNotes.
Who Are They: Dad tries to teach Billy to swim by throwing him into the pool. Mom nails a crucifix to the wall, but never goes to church due to her inability to choose a denomination. One demonstrates "the illusory nature of free will".

My Choices: One is an Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (The Killing Fields)

Sam Waterston (TV's Law & Order, Hannah and Her Sisters)

Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands, The Jane Austen Book Club)

Who is She: A young trophy wife who meets Billy as he rooms with her husband in hospital. Lily is scared of him, and she silently in the room.

My Choice:

Natasha Lyonne (Everyone Says I Love You, Party Monster)

Who is He: Laid up by a skiing accident, he occupies the hospital bed next to Billy's. A history professor, he refuses to believe Billy's less-than-heroic accounts of the Dresden experience, as they do not gel with his own presumptions.

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Actor (Amadeus)

F. Murray Abraham (Scarface, Finding Forrester)

Who is He: Billy's son, a young delinquent who finds order in Vietnam when he joins the Green Berets. Billy is unable to effectively communicate with him.

My Choice:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick, 10 Things I Hate About You)

Who is She: Billy's daughter, a young bride who becomes frustrated with her father's war trauma and mental breakdown.

My Choice:

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Bobby, Black Christmas)

Who is He: During the War, Werner is a guard at the prison camp where Billy is held. He and Billy get a first glimpse of naked female together, and the two opposing soldiers find a common bond.

My Choice:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising, Paris je t'aime)

Who is He: An American soldier at the prison camp, he has become sympathetic toward the Nazis. He tries to recruit people in fighting alongside the Germans against Russia, seeking to claim new recruits to his ideology.

My Choice:

Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club, Edward Scissorhands)

Who is He: Like Rumfoord, he occupies a bed beside Billy in a hospital. In this case, it is the mental ward of a veterans' hospital. He introduces Billy to the work of Kilgore Trout.

My Choice: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Chicago)

John C. Reilly (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Magnolia)

Who is She: Billy's pleasant, fat wife. She adores her husband, but he remains distant.

My Choice:

Lori Beth Denberg (TV's All That, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story)

Who is He: A handsome, likable soldier in Dresden who is sentenced to die. Instead of sorrow, Billy feels that it was inevitable.

My Choice:

New favorite actor John Krasinski (Leatherheads, TV's The Office)

Who is He: A delusional colonel who has lost his entire regiment, Wild Bob befriends Billy en route to the prison camp.

My Choice:

Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense, Hudson Hawk)

Who is He: A bloodthirsty POW who avenges the death of Roland Weary by assassinating Billy Pilgrim later on. In the middle of the book. Because time is nonlinear.

My Choice:

Giovanni Ribisi (Lost in Translation, The Fast and the Furious)

Who is He: "A stupid, cruel soldier" who sees war as his chance to be heroic. Delusional and hungry for glory, Weary "heroically" toughs out the gangrene that later claims his life.

My Choice:

Ethan Suplee (TV's My Name is Earl, TV's Boy Meets World)

Who is She: An "actress" in "independent" films, Billy mates with her in the zoo on Tralfamadore. Young, sexy, and trusting, Billy fathers a son with her.

My Choice:

Drew Barrymore (Lucky You, Batman Forever)

Who is He: "A bitter, unappreciated author of several cleverly ironic science-fiction novels that have a great influence on Billy."

My Choice:

Frank Langella (Superman Returns, Good Night, and Good Luck)

Who is He: "A World War II veteran, POW survivor of the firebombing of Dresden, prospering optometrist, husband, and father. Billy Pilgrim is the protagonist...who believes he has 'come unstuck in time.' He walks through a door at one moment in his life and suddenly finds himself in another time and place. His fragmented experience of time structures the novel as short episodic vignettes and shows how the difficulty of recounting traumatic experiences can require unusual literary techniques."

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (Half Nelson), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actor (Lars and the Real Girl)

Ryan Gosling (Fracture, The Notebook)

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