Top Ten Tuesday: book adaptations

Some films or television programmes are sad shadows of their literary counterparts. Coriolanus comes to mind. It should have been epic and all I couldn’t stop thinking how badly the actors delivered their lines and how I can’t stop thinking of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. It was timely; it had some powerful messages to deliver. It could have been superb. In the end, all it came to was a load of actors who really struggled delivering the Shakespearean lines, or delivered them with the kind of unemotional delivery you expect with UPS, not a valiant warrior who refuses to kow-tow to the masses.

And in all truth, most people who read a book say the adaptation is nothing on the original. Harry Potter – ‘nice’ films for kids, but not really of the same calibre as the books themselves. Redford’s The Great Gatsby – shockingly lacking in any sex appeal whatsoever. But some adaptations are genius. Several have Jack Nicholson in them, and I make no apologies for that!

1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The novel is great – Ken Kesey created a masterpiece. But Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, the inmates – great cast and great retelling. I always cry when I watch this movie. I know Ken Kesey didn’t like it and reputedly never watched it, but he should have done. There’s a reason it won so many Oscars! Kesey didn’t like that the narrative had been messed with, that McMurphy wasn’t really the centre of the novel as much as he was in the film. When I read the book, McMurphy seemed – with all his followers – like a modern-day Jesus Christ, with his disciples. And the novel is a bit like the gospel according to the Chief. The film makes less of that, but then I guess point-of-view is such a lot harder to convey in films.

2. The Shining. Jack Nicholson’s forte – playing crazy men. Stephen King books – especially the later ones – don’t usually make good films – they’re so long and complicated it’s hard to reduce them to movie time. I’ve another one coming up – because when they’re done well, they’re epic. You just can’t beat Jack being crazy, though. Stephen King didn’t like it – same as Ken Kesey with Cuckoo’s Nest because Jack Nicholson isn’t supposed to be crazy – but it works for me.

3. The Green Mile. Genius novel, genius film. Stephen King films are hit and miss. Some of the best are Misery, The Shining or Carrie – dark and twisted visions from a dark and twisted mind. Some of them are distinctly average – Needful Things for instance is one of my favourite books – but the plot is so very complicated that it’s hard to film and get down to a sensible time limit for the movies. It’s more like Dickens in plot complexity. A dark, dark Dickens. So it’s no wonder his shorter novels or short stories make easier films. Salem’s Lot  – whilst not particularly a good film – did scare the bejesus out of me when I was 15. That’ll serve me right for reading scary stories late at night. Of course, The Shawshank Redemption is an epic movie – brilliant in its own right.

4. Of Mice and Men. Great story. Great casting. John Malkovich is a tremendous actor. If you see this and then you see him as Cyrus the Virus in Con Air, you’d be forgiven for thinking they weren’t the same person. Gary Sinise does a great job of playing George too – and Sherilyn Fenn was a superb Curley’s Wife. Am I putting this in at the expense of East of Eden? Why yes I am.

5. Brokeback Mountain. The Annie Proulx story is fabulous – and so short. The movie is amazing. I don’t care what issues it raises for men who feel a bit icky about it, or all the jokes that have subsequently come from it, it’s a tragic story about love and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are perfect. Just perfect. I wish I knew how to quit you. Best line ever about unrequited love.

6. Romeo+Juliet. Baz Luhrman – usually hit rather than miss. Shakespeare isn’t easy to do on the big screen – witness Coriolanus. But if anyone could turn it into something uber-cool, Baz would be that person. I’m still in awe of Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom. He’s currently doing The Great Gatsby and I’m waiting with longing. Leo was perfect, as was Claire Danes, and it took this play – which I don’t like very much in general – too much weeping and wailing – and turned it into something beautiful. Fab soundtrack too. Baz rules!

7. American Psycho – super-cool book. I remember when one of my students submitted a monologue based on the book which freaked me out for days. And Christopher Bale, the 80s soundtrack, the crazy killings, the sex with the mirror scene – just brilliant. I like films about crazy people.

8. Pride and Prejudice. I think this is the only Jane Austen I like. And I mean the one with Jennifer Erhle and Colin Firth. It rocketed Colin Firth to super-stardom. It was witty and clever. Alison Steadman was a perfect mother. Lydia – perfect. Wickham – perfect. The Bingleys – perfect. Amazing casting. What I liked most was the fact that I really didn’t think Colin Firth was suited to the role. He grew on me – just as he grows on Elizabeth. And you see all that cold snobbery to be an aching shyness. The scene with the swimming – just perfect too. Brilliant. I could watch this over and over and never get tired. Forget anything with Keira Knightley, Miss Wooden, and give me Jennifer Erhle’s heaving cleavage any day.

9. Game of Thrones – this really should be number one if only for its amazing casting, setting and performance. Yesterday, I confessed my secret.

“I have a crush on Tyrion Lannister,” I said to a fellow lover of all things fantasy.

“So do I,” he said. He’s about as supremely heterosexual as you can be, which made it all the more amusing. Tyrion Lannister could have us all.

10. Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins was exquisite and divine as Hannibal Lecter. Nobody could be Hannibal after him. So perfectly creepy yet such a gentleman. A wonderful, wonderful adaptation.

(Don’t make the list: Atonement, Anna Karenina (Keira!) Reacher (Tom Cruise!) Interview with a Vampire (Tom Cruise!)

And a big Oh Yes to Baz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby

There are two actors who are destined to ruin everything I watch. One is Keira Knightley. I loved Atonement – great novel and I loved James McAvoy. I loved the score and I loved the film. I hate her. I hate her open-mouthed, wooden expression. I hate her inability to have an emotion. She’s the least good actress ever. She has zero sex appeal. A stick has more sex appeal and ability to act than Miss Knightley. If ever a woman was destined to ruin a film, it is she. I wish she’d die in every movie, like Sean Bean does. I don’t wish for him to die, he just does. Keira should be that person. I’m tired of her gaunt, vacant expression.

She does this expression ^^ in every film. Urgh. How did she win a BAFTA for Atonement when she does no acting? She just stands in various positions doing this expression. 10th Most Sexy Woman according to FHM. Do they not have eyes??! Atonement? Ruined. Pride and Prejudice? Ruined. Never Let Me Go? Ruined. And now she’s going to ruin Anna Karenina. Why doesn’t she just take all stories I like and ruin them? I bet she’ll do Madame Bovary next. Bah. I know Samantha Brick would say I’m jealous. I’m not. I don’t find Miss Knightley attractive – though I appreciate she could be a model. I dislike her because she ruins films that I’d quite like otherwise because she pulls this dumb open-mouthed face and can’t act. It’s like she’s had too much Botox, though I know she hasn’t. She just has no emotion in films – ones where she should have emotion and is just awful. Dreadfully wooden.

And the other one – destined to ruin another good adaptation? Tom Cruise. Awful in Interview with The Vampire – vampires should be all raw sexual energy, even if they’re not handsome, like Kiefer Sutherland or Gary Oldman. Tom Cruise has as much sex appeal as a used tea-bag. And he’s about to ruin Lee Child’s Reacher. Bah.

I will watch it, but only to say how I despise it. And I don’t dislike TC. I think he’s a fine actor. But he’s a bully who lands parts he shouldn’t by bossing people to cast him when there are others who are infinitely more appropriate. Anne Rice might have changed her mind over her objection, but I didn’t. Brad Pitt should have been Lestat. End of.

 

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4 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: book adaptations

  1. Yes, really, someone should tell her that standing around with her mouth hanging open just makes her look gormless, not sexy. I was interested to note a few years ago that Victoria Beckham had obviously been told and stopped doing it, greatly improving her credibility.

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