I got to thinking about books and movies after publishing my post on The Hunger Games. There are books where you feel, as you read them, that, as he or she was writing the book, the author was (consciously or subconsciously, I can’t know), writing a screenplay. Like he or she was writing with the ultimate objective that the book be produced for the big screen (or for HBO). That’s exactly what The Hunger Games did for me. As I expressed to a friend, I can imagine that the storyline, coupled with its potential to be a production design and cinematographic spectacle, would have loads of entertainment value on the big screen. A few other books, where I feel the author was writing for the big screen, come to mind: the Twilight series, The Devil Wears Prada (I mean, you’ve just got to get them designer clothes out there for people to actually see), The Lovely Bones (I imagine Alice Sebold’s heaven as delicious to recreate on the big screen), the works of John Grisham, and most Jodi Picoult novels (I picked up “The Litigators” and “My Sister’s Keeper” on separate occasions recently. Both Grisham’s and Picoult’s works are always quick reads. And good entertainment for the nonce). Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven evoked the same feelings (which leads me to assume his other books would as well, assuming they were fashioned from the same “formula” which has reaped him much success; and quite a few movie adaptations). As do the novels of Stephen King (“It” was a longtime favorite of mine). I was hitherto fairly convinced, you see, that there are very few movies that live up to the books they were based on. But in each of the books I mention above, the movie exceeded my expectations and, hence, bested the book (with the exception probably of Stephen King’s “It”; I liked the book a lot more. But that’s probably true for all books of the horror genre. Think Salem’s Lot, late at night, reading by the light of a lamp, and shiver!) “My Sister’s Keeper”, which I picked up because I was curious as to how the moral issue posed by the book was going to be resolved, for example. The book’s ending was disappointing; not so the movie version’s. There are also books I enjoyed thoroughly and the movies that were eventually spawned from them were also quite pleasant rides and, hence, met my expectations (spectacle and all). The Harry Potter series is one such. The classics The Little Prince, The Lord of the Flies, and The Lord of the Rings series fall into this same category. (I never imagined I would see Tolkien’s masterpieces come to life in movies. Never. And never in so grand a manner. I loved both the books and the movies.) I was also hooked on The Game of Thrones series on HBO, as I was hooked on the 5 novels that make up the Song of Ice and Fire series. I have a short list of novels I’d like to see adapted to the big screen. Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (Heard once the movie was in the works but somehow got stalled?), Josh Bazell’s first novel, Beat The Reaper (Highly Recommended; his second book wasn’t as riveting), and Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Absolutely fantastic and highly recommended; would be a mammoth endeavor to make into a film, I know. But what a marvel that would be!). Happy reading.
I picked up the book, “Hunger Games”, last Saturday from a local bookstore. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. You see, the past 2 weeks, the movie’s been screening in maybe 16 of the 20 cinemas in the greater Mandaluyong City malls (my usual haunts). And I didn’t want to see the movie till I’d read the book first.
I finished the book in less than a day. And this much I can say about it: I understand why the book is so popular with the kids. Katniss, the heroine, is Lara Croft, McGyver, Dr. Quinn (Medicine Woman), and a Disney princess, all rolled into one. (To those of you too young to know Dr. Quinn or McGyver … sigh … there’s always Google.) And mushy, heart-on-his-sleeve Peeta’s just one to swoon over, isn’t he? The main protagonists even manage to remain honorable despite their severe circumstances (Katniss kills only 2 of her fellow tributes; one, in defense of another, and the other, out of mercy. Peeta manages to kill only 1; unintentionally at that). To an adult and a parent, that one day in the future we may have to see our kids enslaved and drafted into participating in some reality death “game” is certainly frightening. But the obsessive-compulsive in me couldn’t suspend her disbelief long enough to appreciate the logic of the storyline. (Too many “Argh” moments. Yes, the book was probably much too young for me.) If this had been interactive, I would have raised some serious issues. If I were a tribute whose counterpart got killed off right from the get-go, at the Cornucopia, for example, I would have vigorously remonstrated against the mid-stream rule change that allowed 2 tributes from the same District to win the Games together. How unfair and prejudicial is that? I would have also raised a howl about the Muttations. Hell, if I were a parent of one of those tributes that got “mutt-ated” …. Yes, all hell. Helllll. Would break loose.
The movie could prove to be one of the few exceptions to my general experience that movies don’t live up to the books they’re based on. Thing is, I probably won’t see it.
I learned that a lot of young people have never heard of many of my must-see films that succeeded on plain old good writing, direction, lighting, music and cinematography, and without the benefit of today’s effects technology. Here’s my initial list. Got any to add?
- Gone with the Wind (even with today’s technology, can’t think how this can be improved)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (one of Jack Nicholson’s best)
- Babette’s Feast (love this!)
- Heavenly Creatures (not a pleasant film to watch but very good nonetheless; based on a true story, starring a very young Kate Winslett)
- The Color Purple (a little too long for me, but worth it; Whoopee Goldberg’s first major film, but NOT a comedy; try to spot Oprah Winfrey)
- Remains of the Day (quiet is perhaps the best word to describe it — i’ve seen noisier silent films!)
- Camille Claudel (wonderful Isabelle Adjani!)
- Steel Magnolias (superb ensemble cast)
- Fiddler on the Roof (lovely lovely)
- The Godfather (I like the second one best, but you can’t see it without having seen the first first.)