Monday, February 28, 2011

Huzzah for Hollywood Roundtable

This year marked the 83rd Academy Awards and I thought we might have a little bit of fun. The title of this post is a nod to The King's Speech which won Best Picture. Before the awards ceremony, I read a reviewer's post that favored Speech over The Social Network because in contrast, Speech had one central, very likable character with whom people could identify. We love well-defined, sympathetic characters who rise to inspire us. We need them.
That said, we know that books don't always translate well to the silver screen, but some movies are able to capture story nuances where others aren't so successful. I've laid out several options for this Roundtable today. We get to answer as many of the following as we'd like, and we hope you will jump into the fray with your answers:

1. What book-turned-movie was the most successful in your opinion and why? Least successful?

2. What book would you love to see made into a movie and who would you cast in the major roles?

3. Which book-turned-movie do you think was an improvement over the book?

4. Is there a movie that inspired you to read the book?

Okay, I'll g
o first.

#1 I think
To Kill a Mockingbird would be my choice for most successful movie version. The casting was excellent. Whenever I pick up the book, I hear Gregory Peck speaking through the character of Atticus Finch and the essence with the story was treated with great care. I understand that Snow Falling on Cedars was a cinematic flop. I really enjoyed the book, but I won't spend money on the video unless it's shows up on Redbox for $1.

#2 I would love to see the movie version of
Peace Like a River. I think Cameron Bright (& up & coming younger actor) would play Reuben Land and Jeff Bridges would play his father, Jeremiah. I see that a movie version has been 'in-development' since 2005 and it currently has a release date of 2011. Billy Bob Thornton is the only cast member listed right now. I still think Jeff would be a better Jeremiah (no offense, Billy Bob).

#3 I thought The Painted Veil was better as a screenplay. I think they stayed really close to the story but improved the ending. It was also a movie that inspired me to read the book.

Thanks for asking question #3, Debbie. I read The Horse Whisperer after seeing the movie, and I was sooooo disappointed in the book. First and foremost, I considered the female protagonist of the book weak and sniveling. She didn't feel fulfilled. She was married to a nice guy who loved her and was a terrific father, and yet the cowboy--strong and silent, of course--totally got her. Ack!!! And the ending in the book was very, very contrived. Redford not only added spectacular vistas (including his face), but while the two main characters were definitely attracted (dance scene!), the wife left the ranch with the intent of saving her marriage, and the cowboy didn't have to die to make that happen, like the good father and husband was the woman's consolation prize. In short, Redford added nobility to the story.

As for #2, I can't wait for Hunger Games to hit the big screen.

After reading
"The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," by Rebecca Wells, I watched the film and loved every minute. To understand the finer points of character motivation, you'd want to read the book, but I thought the film was wonderfully cast. The characters were so much like old friends, I felt like waving.

I'd love to see
"The Help," by Kathryn Stockett, on the big screen. Also, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

#3 & #4:

My all-time favorite film is "Chocolat." I read the book after (by Joanne Harris), and was stunned to find that the film was such an improvement. The book is much darker, with little of the humor and wonder found in the the film, and (it's been a few years since I read it, so this is from memory) less compassion.

What a great Roundtable topic, Debbie. As I read Question #1, the first thing that came to mind as the most successful was To Kill a Mockingbird, then I saw it was your answer too. I don't mean to duplicate, but it tops my list, so I'll let it stand. The least successful, hmm ... I'll have to give that some thought.

#2. Again, I don't mean to duplicate, but like Patti, I'm so anxious for Hunger Games to come out. I'm a huge fan of the series. Hailey Steinfeld (True Grit) is being considered for the role of Katniss Everdeen. That would be terrific. I'd also love to see What We Keep made into a motion picture. I'd want Rene Zellwegger to be Ginny, Diane Kruger to be Sharla, and Helen Mirren to be their mother.

#3. I enjoyed reading The Notebook, but I loved the movie. I thought all the principle actors were terrific, especially Ryan Gosling.

#4. Circle of Friends inspired me to read the book, which led me to become quite a fan of Maeve Binchy.

I tried to read the Lord of the Rings and felt like I was pulling my feet through molasses. Then I saw the first film and a fire broke out in the theater and it was evacuated ten minutes before the ending of the film. But it didn't matter, I hated it. Not until I was hosting an eleven-year-old when his parents were in divorce court for three days did I learn to appreciate Tolkein. To distract the young boy, I had him talk me through all three films and now they are among my favorites.


Nicole said...

(leave it to me to be the oddball. Only read To Kill A Mockingbird last year. Never saw the whole movie. I know, I know.
Loved Chocolat but never read the book and so glad it exceeded the book.)

I want so desperately to see Redeeming Love on film. Johnny Depp as Michael Hosea and either Nicole Kidman as Sarah or Keri Russell. It was optioned several years ago but nothing yet, and thank the Lord Francine Rivers has to okay the script.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

That deleted comment was me. Sorry. It's too early to make sense! I'll try again.
Nicole, I loved Chocolat, too, and never read the book. I trust Katy's recommendation and I probably won't read it. Too many books on my TBR stack that look promising!
Johnny Depp and Nicole Kidman would be great in Redeeming Love. I'm afraid their fan base would expect a PG-13 or R rating (especially considering the topic) and I don't think Ms. Rivers will let that happen. But who knows? We all know it could be done with such sensitivity to the topic that it's not necessary to earn that rating, especially with the author's input in the script.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Latayne, I felt the same way when I first read The Hobbit. Took me a few tries, but then I was hooked.
I think the movies did a fantastic job of telling the story and where they couldn't fit it all in, they included scenes in the extended version for LOTR 'fan'atics or made small adjustments that pleased us overall- for example, the way they beefed up Arwen's character was entirely acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, LOTR trilogy was thrust on me by a woman I go to church with (who is my mother's age). Said I must read it, that I would love it. I expected to read a few pages, tell her I just couldn't get into it, but I fell instantly in love. Return of the King was in theaters and I decided I desperately wanted to see one of the films in the theater, so I hurried through book 1, rented the DVD -- loved it. Hurried through book 2, rented the DVD -- liked it. Hurried through book 3, saw it at the theater. I'm such a fan. Often when Rick is gone I'll watch all 3 DVDs over a 2-day period.

Anonymous said...

We loved LOTR. It's nice to be able to get the sweeping overview of the story that taking the time to read the books gives. (Though watching the movies takes long enough! lol) But it's nice to take the time and savor the stories by reading. Love 'em both.

I'd love to see Dee Henderson's series (is the plural of series, series?), but I'm afraid the deep relationships among her characters might not translate well to screen. It would also be a blast to see Jan Karon's Mitford series on screen. But a big part of the charm of Mitford is the curling up with a book part, so, I don't know.


Henrietta Frankensee said...

The movies were an improvement on LOTR in two directions. First, all the women were meatier and more believable. I am very sorry the Green lady didn't make it in. Second, the relationship between Arwen and Strider seemed more complete. Now, I have only read the books once through. Perhaps in my maturity I will see these things in the pages that I did not see before (still waiting for maturity.....)
I loved the movie Stardust. Is the book any good?
The movie I can't wait for is The Horse and His Boy with Andrew Saks voicing the horse.

Marian said...

I love watching Gone with the Wind and I love the book as well. They add a richness to each other.

Kathleen Popa said...

If any of you guys wanna come over and spend ALL DAY at my place, I have extended versions of all three LOTR films. That's nine hours of movie. Doesn't that sound perfect for some cold lazy day?

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Kathleen, The Help is being made into a movie - check out this blog post. I think it's so cool that the author gets a cameo in the film!

As for the my opinion, one adaptation in which book and film complement each other perfectly is the classic Western Shane. Another favorite is Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Oh, and the classic Alfred Hitchcock version of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

I don't think I could properly cast a film adaptation, because I'd be more inclined to pick classic actors and actresses of years ago, which would hardly be practical. :)

I've read quite a few books because I'd seen the movies. Interestingly enought, two that stick in my head as being an improvement over the books are both fantasy - The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I very well may be shunned for this...but, oh well. I was very disappointed for the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath. I think Steinbeck did such a great job describing the dust bowl and migration and with such poetry. But the movie was lacking. However, for my Grandma's generation I'm sure it sufficed. And I don't fault the directors and producers. They had limits. And they were also under HUGE limitations as far as the censors were concerned.

Please don't hurt me!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Elisabeth, I have to agree with you about Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins.

Susie, no condemnation here. We have to take into account how far film has come in the last 50 years or so. It would be interesting to see a remake, I think.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, for sure! I would love to see a remake...but I'd be so picky about how it was done.

You know, I've been thinking about what book would make a good movie...I think I've figured it out!

"Embrace Me" by Lisa Samson. That would be an amazing movie.

Kathleen Popa said...

Elisabeth, judging by the pictures, they are doing a fantastic job with "The Help." Thanks for letting me know - I'm thrilled.

Nicole, I only read Mockingbird a few years ago, so I'm an oddball too. And I agree - the film was perfect. I understand there's an audio-book with Sissy Spacek reading.

Nicole said...

Debbie, I think Redeeming Love, if done with honesty and sensitivity, should rate an R. I'm amazed at some of the films which rate a PG-13.

R-ratings don't exclude films from being excellent. For those who are sensitive to the reasons for the rating (i.e. violence, sexual parts, language), it's important to know if all of these factors permeate the film or are incidental. Some amazing films carry an R-rating, not to mention The Passion of the Christ, and yet they deserve the R-rating in acknowledgment of the sensitivities of viewers.

Some of each of the factors mentioned above must appear to make the particular film honest, but if they're done because they can be done and appear in excess with graphic clarity, then the value of the film is usually forfeited.

I would want to see Redeeming Love done with the impact of the novel. Without an honest approach the message would lose its power. JMO.

Anonymous said...

Katy, I have the audio book and it's wonderful. Rick and I listened to it on one of our long road trips. Such a pleasure.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Nicole, I don't have a problem with the R rating if the story is well done and has redeeming value and the qualities that earned the rating aren't gratuitous. Life is sometimes R rated, unfortunately. But I think it would release a firestorm of criticism if that beloved story came out with the R rating because many devoted fans would not go to see it and feel extremely cheated of the opportunity.

Nicole said...

Debbie, I don't doubt you're right, but isn't it sad that those who love and admire the book IF it was done with same honesty and respect on film, that the hypocrisy of not viewing and supporting it on film would prevail simply because of the "R"?

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Fun post ladies.
Kathleen - my daughter and I did watch LOTR atraight through one very snowy saturday. It is totally the way to watch them.

Which leads me to say LOTR for my first anwer. I talked to so many people that actually read the books because of the movie. I thought about reading them again, it was a time issue for me. I thought Divinci Code didn't live up to any of it's hype. I actually loved the book, but the movie was so busy trying to prove a point that it ruined a really good storyline.

#2 the Book Thief - Markus Zusak Still recommend this book and I think it would be a very interesting storyline for a movie. I don't know any actors names well enough to pick out actors/actresses. (most days I have a hard time remembering my kids names)

#3 Maybe the Harry Potter movies but I liked both the books and movies equally. (see answer #4)

#4. This has never happen to me. I either like the book better or the same as the movie. The only time I usually like a movie better is when a book releases afterwards based on the screnplay. I guess I am just a book sort of gal. :-)

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I have to add 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Zafon to my list of books I would love to see made into a movie. I see Frank Langella playing the shadowy character, and maybe James Franco playing the main character.

Kathleen Popa said...

Kris, I just watched a Russian film called Stalker (my son made me do it), and if they did a film of The Book Thief, I would want it done all dark and surreal like that. I can't imagine it as a standard Hollywood film. But WHO would play the narrator??

Kathleen Popa said...

Little taste of Stalker here:

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Kathleen the narrator would have to be one of those voices that can make you relax with out knowing the a bad thing is going to happen. I agree that the movie would have to film is a bit darkness I felt the whole book read that way. (ok that sounds a bit crazy I know, but what can I say I read a lot. :-)