Hello, guests and friends! The excellent Michael the Leopard13 from It Rains…You Get Wet and I welcome you to the July 13 discussion about authors whose books frequently are made into films. Exclude plays today and save them for the near future–sorry, William Shakespeare, although your stories have been adapted to film more than any other author, you’re out.
Film adaptations and their sources represent a fascinating intersection of two longstanding favorite genres that have taken up much of my time. Books and movies. The former habit bequeathed to me by my mother through sheer example — never did I see the woman who bore me without some book nearby. The latter care of her sisters and brother who were always heading to some cinema, I observed (having grown up in their orbit).
Though, as a kid, it really didn’t click how the two had merged. No surprise for this late-Baby Boomer, “Pop Culture” for awhile now has held me in its grasp. Mom or my wife would guffaw at the obviousness of that. Still, the printed material and the moving picture in many ways point back to the other as a comparative exercise amongst fans of either. Especially today. My favorite definition of popular film, by the Florida International University, stated it more clearly:
“Popular film as we know it is essentially the result of applying the conventions of cinematography to the conventions of fiction (short story, novella, novel) and/or drama. The differences between a novel or play and the movie based on it often arise from the demands placed on the material by the conventions imposed by the art form or by the expectations of an audience concerning that art form.”
The sources for many of my favorite film adaptations have come from three of my preferred authors. No surprise, they’d germ starting in my teens, even as I left those years well behind. And easily, they’ve covered horror, thrillers (tech and otherwise), drama, the western, and of late, crime. Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Elmore Leonard.
Shockingly, or not, Hollywood’s grab for even a smidgeon of their literary magic…or just popularity with the buying public…has produced some of the best and worst for each when put to film. That’d range from Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, and Stand by Me (aka “The Body”) to the dregs of Dreamcatcher, Bag of Bones, and The Mangler.
Michael Crichton’s have faired similarly, what with the cream of the crop that is Jurassic Park (let’s agree to not speak of any sequel, even Steven Spielberg’s, shall we?), The Andromeda Strain, and the growing appreciation of The Great Train Robbery. Only then to be slapped with the likes of Congo, Sphere, and the mess that is Timeline.
Last, but certainly not least, Elmore Leonard has held the title for some supreme crime and western novels that have successfully made their way to celluloid. I speak of Out of Sight, Jackie Brown (aka “Rum Punch”), and 1957’s 3:10 to Yuma. The less said about the disappointing distillations of Be Cool (the sequel to the sublime Get Shorty), Burt Reynold’s Stick, and drum roll please……3:10 to Yuma (2005); what surely is the most antithetical Elmore Leonard adaptation out there.
Tell us who is your favorite author. Which adaptation did you approve? Which did you find embarrassing?
How is it that the British spinster, Jane Austen, has had the authoritative say about love for almost 220 years, and she is still quite popular today? What’s her secret? One, television has been kind to her. There seems to be a PBS/BBC adaption every decade. With film, her principal novels: Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice have been reinvented to please traditionalists (like me) and new twists and angles to engage younger audiences. It is the central theme of the precarious state of females that intrigues me about her stories. When I read or watch a Jane Austen story, I want to save the heroine from her circumstances. To marry was the primary occupation of mothers. Families tried hard to train their daughters to appear an ideal mate. A women’s looks, charms, and talents were equitable to a male considering the physical countenance of a horse. A kind disposition, good teeth, and firm haunches help the cause, don’t they? Jane Austen was an idealist whose stories centered around sin and virtue. All her heroines struggled and suffered, but eventually, they get their man. Love is not so kind in real life. It’s the hope she instills that holds an audience captive. I do not claim to know the ins-and-outs behind Jane Austen or the authenticity of the film Becoming Jane (2007), in fact, it was a mediocre film, but it shed an insight about Austen that I believe must be true. Unrequited love and bad timing are common companions to many who ache for love. People read her stories and admire the goodness of her heroines and feel good for the happy ending. The best film adaptation is still Pride and Prejudice (2005).The setting, the acting, and the score still can’t be beaten. I preferred Alicia Silverstone in Clueless (1995), over the traditional Emma(1996) with Gwyneth Paltrow. Love and Friendship(2016)was charming. The worst adaptation would be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).
(I am this momement at a hookah bar in Turkey. I have no opportunity to finish up with Cormac McCarthy and W. Somerset Maugham. Please forgive me.)
Michael, thank you for running the show! I will comment Friday.