Monday, September 5, 2011

30 More Days Book Challenge: Day 27

Time to go to the movies.  After all, it's Labor Day.

Day 27: Favorite Book-to-Movie Adaptations


I hate to start this blog off with a devastating story, but it's topical.  Colleen Devine Ellis is a main character in this story and as you may know, those are always worth telling.  About six or so years ago, my house was burgled. Those sons a bitches took all of my DVDs, half of my CD collection (I will never alphabetize again, they took A-M), speakers, cameras--you know, the works. They also got into Colleen’s room and took some CDs and movies, even sort of ransacked her room.  [The way I heard the story, Colleen's room may actually have been straightened a bit by the thieves.] That wasn’t really the hard part for Colleen. What was really hard to process for poor old Devine was the fact that those bastards had the nerve to leave behind the BBC mini series of Pride and Prejudice. Her comment was (oh and I remember it clearly), “ Why would they leave this? Do you know how much I paid for this? This is the one with Colin Firth!” She was really pissed off. She printed out the cover of the DVD set and put it on our front door with a sign that said “Dear robbers, This is all we have left.”

We haven’t been burgled since.

 I pretty much have The Color Purple memorized…i'ts not annoying to watch that movie with me, not at all. Now having said that, I wouldn’t put this movie on my top 20 (or more) at all. It's not as bad as, say (oh, I hope I don’t open a can of worms here…), Girl Interrupted. Loved the book – truly hated the movie.

Pretty much any movie made from a E M Forster book has been good--magic touch, I guess.  Stephen King novels have been turned into some excellent films (some of which are also quote worthy… “You're just another lying ol' dirty birdy”), as were Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. Love those two. My mother accidentally took me to see Barry Lyndon when I was … well, too young; I think we left early (like just four hours in…).

Anyway, I think I will list my top five book-to-movie faves. Note – I did not put any film on the list in which I have not read the book. For example, The Wizard of Oz, Princess Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( the original, Willy Wonka) , Drugstore Cowboy, In the Name of the Father, Year of Living Dangerously and  Full Metal Jacket – I love all these films but never did read the books.

Also did not list anything that had a book post film… in other words, my beloved Harold and Maude is not on this list.

I also did not include short stories that were made into films. For example, three of may favorite films are Brokeback Mountain (really excellent Annie Proulx story), In the Bedroom by Andre Dubus (great story and great film), and of course the beautiful story The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro, which was made into a gorgeous film by Sarah Polley called Away from Her. [I love all of these stories and movies.]

And still, getting all that our of the way…the list was difficult to make:

Terms of Endearment
Larry McMurtry – Novel
James L Brooks – Screenplay and Director

I actually love this film more than the book…by a long shot.  This is one of those movies that I will always top on if its on television. I just can’t pass it up. [I agree; the movie is significantly different, and significantly better.  Can't beat Shirley MacLaine in the role of Aurora.]

It's past ten. My daughter is in pain. I don't understand why she has to have this pain. All she has to do is hold out until ten, and it’s past ten! My daughter is in pain, can't you understand that! Give my daughter the shot!”

 Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris – Novel
Ted Tally - Screenplay
Jonathan Demme – Director

 I read three Harris novels after seeing this film; Red Dragon (my favorite of his), Silence, and Hannibal.  The films sequels got bad quickly, didn’t they?

“You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition's given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you've tried so desperately to shed: pure West Virginia. What is your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars... while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI.”

No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy – Novel
Joel and Ethan Coen –  Screenplay and Directors

 I was pretty shocked when I read this book – and I am pretty sure I sat stunned watching this really excellent film as well.  This is one of those films you just can’t shake. It's also one of those films where you really don’t want to walk to your car alone in the theatre parking lot… yeah, I made the mistake of seeing this alone.

Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity.”

Sense & Sensibility
Jane Austen – Novel
Emma Thompson – Screenplay
Ang Lee – Director
First of all…I love Jane Austen.  [That makes one of us.  I do like this version of the novel as a film, though.] I think Emma Thompson’s adaptation is phenomenal – it  really has everything.  And yes, Colleen, I would put it up against your precious Pride and Prejudice. While it doesn’t have Colin Firth, it does have Alan Rickman.  And, you know, nothing wrong with Emma and Kate either. Emma Thompson kept a journal during the making of the film; I HIGHLY recommend it.  Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries.

The Godfather
Mario Puzo – Novel
Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola – Screenplay
Francis Ford Coppola - Director

This is it for me. You can have your Goodfellas…I will always choose The Godfather (I and II I pretend III never happened).  One Saturday morning a few weeks ago I turned on the television to watch the news … I left the sofa about five hours later after watching both Godfather I and II, which some fantastic network was showing back to back the way God intended.  I read the book after seeing the movie by the way. Movie is much better.

Okay here it is…..

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”


I feel some pressure in compiling my list.  I think Gianna's is superb and I easily could have chosen any one of those books-to-films for my own list.  I have Terms of Endearment memorized; I've seen it so many times that I could tell you the name of the classical music piece playing on John Lithgow's radio when he runs into Emma (Debra Winger) in the parking lot.  I'm going to attempt to come up with five picks of my own, though.  There are lots to choose from, after all.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson--Novel
Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg--Screenplay
Niels Arden Oplev--Director

I know that the American version of this book-to-movie adaptation will be the blockbuster movie of the fall, but I don't know how director David Fincher could possibly improve on the excellent Swedish version.  Neither book nor movie are for the faint of heart, but this movie is one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever seen and Noomi Rapace, the actor who played Lisbeth Salander, SHOULD have one an Oscar for her portrayal.  She's simply brilliant--both fragile and tougher than any other character in the movie, and so terribly, understandably damaged.  I love this character, and I love the screen version of this character.

Laurie Halse Anderson--Novel
Jessica Sharzer--Screenplay, Director

I don't even know if this movie was ever in the theater.  I stumbled across it one weekend afternoon when I was flipping channels and it looked like the better alternative to reruns of Fear Factor.  I think maybe it was on Showtime or something?  Anyway, I was surprised by how much I liked this movie.  Kristen Stewart, who decided to ruin her career with a few Twilight movies, is subtle and moving in the role of Melinda, a girl struggling through her first year of high school after being raped at a party at the beginning of the year.  (For the record, this movie is based on a young adult book, which I have actually read.  I am a snob most of the time about adults reading adult books, but I made an exception for this one after seeing the movie.)

"My English teacher has no face.  I call her Hairwoman."

The Hours
Michael Cunningham--Novel
David Hare--Screenplay
Stephen Daldry--Director

Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel should have been one of those books that it's impossible to adapt, but the film version proved outstanding.  Nicole Kidman is great at Virginia Woolf, and Julianne Moore is even better as a depressed, 1950's housewife.  There is one scene in the movie that differs wildly from the book, but otherwise it's a strong adaptation that should have won the Best Picture Oscar.  Oh, and it has a Phillip Glass soundtrack.  I love Glass.

"Dear Leonard. To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard, always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours."

Ian McEwan--Novel
Christopher Hampton--Screenplay
Joe Wright--Director

This story of innocence lost and the misinterpretation of childrens' eyes weaves together a tense night at an English manor with the horror of the war.  Briony is a 13 year-old girl who wants to be a writer, and one day  she observes an incident between her older sister and the son of a servant.  That night, when another girl is attacked at a party, Robbie, the servant's son, is accused of rape based on Briony's testimony.  Robbie and Cecilia's relationship then becomes the focus as Robbie is sent to war.

"Yes. I saw him. I saw him with my own eyes."

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee--Novel
Horton Foote--Screenplay
Robert Mulligan--Director

Does this pick need explanation?  One of the best books ever, and one of the best movies.  The screenplay is by Horton Foote, for cryin' out loud.  Horton Foote, who wrote A Trip to Bountiful and Tender Mercies.  There's a reason that schools watch the movie along with reading the book, and I don't think it's entirely because the teachers are lazy.  Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch--who didn't want him as your father?

"Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives."


  1. Colleen Devine EllisTuesday, 06 September, 2011

    Reading this, I got mad all over again. Stupid uncultured robbers.

  2. sorry to bring it up my friend....

  3. Wizard of Oz will never be trumped. Fly, fly, fly! It helps that my kids think I'm the WWW. And I've never forgiven Sister Lauren for giving me a C on my 9th grade literature paper about Oz being a political statement. What did she know-oh Dominican nun still reeling from Vatican II.