August 08, 2007

Books I Wish Came in a Fine Powder, So I Could Snort and Become One With Them

(Not really, but not too far off.)

In honor of my finishing three books in one week (which I’m sure will never happen again) and my recent fascination with the new Crackbook site, I’m pinching a topic from Doppelganger’s booklist: Books That Should Be Made into Movies.

The Gun Seller – Little known (but best-selling) book by Hugh Laurie. I read it in two days on a college trip to Northampton, and I’ve been glitter-writing HL on my Trapper-Keeper ever since. Funny without being too light, it’s the equivalent of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, minus buddy comedy but a shade darker—Bertie Wooster thwarts terrorist crime. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that. [Update: Apparently Sir Hugh, bored of flying between continents and stuffing his backpack with Emmys, has written another book. It drops in September; read his quotes and tell me you’re not going to buy it.]

Done Well: James Bond Lite; True Lies with a hotter lead, better dialogue, British accents

Done Shittily: TNT Original Movie; Under Siege; True Lies

The entire Terry Pratchett Discworld Series – With the LOTR trilogy on its ninetieth DVD boxed set and only two more Harry Potter films left in the franchise, what can fill the fantastical, three-hour bildungs-roman gap? Ankh-Morpork, of course: enough trolls, werewolves, vampires, golems, and Death (an actual character, in the flesh—um, so to speak) to sate the most avid D&Der, and the perfect amount of tongue-nowhere-near-cheek satire to keep the plot relevant. Also, they’re brain-spasmingly, inhaler-needingly, pants-changingly funny.

Done Well: Endless sequels; as long as the man keeps writing, you’ve got a new film every summer.

Done Shittily: I rage at the abuse of something I love, spout feral frothy diatribe in this here space, general psychotic rampage (sort of a win/win, really).

A Christmas Carol – Yes it’s been done, and done to death, yet never done absolutely well. The Hamlet of Christmas stories,* fans of the text have favorite scenes, Scrooges, ghosts and interpretations from a handful of versions and not one that combines them all. Sure, George C. Scott brings the perfect assholish ire to the screen, but David Warner (and I love him, mind) kind of phones it in. And the Ghost of Christmas Future is not all that scary in any version—except, interestingly, the Muppets’. Sure, we can watch every adaptation each Christmas and cobble together the perfect version in our heads—but why should we have to?

Done Well: As much as you can make a definitive version of a classic, at least one you can hand down to your children’s children’s children (along with, you know, the book, which you read every Christmas anyway).

Done Shittily: It’s well established that every Tom, Dick and Patrick Stewart will keep making a new version every year until the planet explodes; at worst, it’s one more to throw on the pile.

Books That Should Be Made into Movies, where they should change the ending: Vilette
Your typical Bronte schoolmarm meets a gruff, unattractive man and several thousand chapters later, they fall in love. Except this time, he kinda-sorta dies in a shipwreck in the last five pages. The chapters translate perfectly to scenes (although some snipping could be done), and the characters are textual Oscars; without the looming, unnecessary downer, this book could have been another Jane Eyre. I don’t approve of changing endings generally, but his death made no sense and added nothing to the book, so I say let them lead their life of sensible happiness dowdily ever after.

Done Well: May help injured fans forgive the recent, total shitheap Pride and Predjudice. Like, a little.

Done Shittily: See above.

Books That Should Be Made into Movies, where they should not change the ending: The Scarlet Letter
I fully support the tragic ending here. Really, there’s no other way this could have ended: priest knocks up married woman, feels guilty, dies. Husband, who has been feeding off the priest’s guilt, dies as well. Woman lives to be a hundred. There’s no other way to shake that out, because they’re not going to live happily ever after in a Puritanical new world colony, no matter how much I enjoy seeing Gary Oldman naked (also, subplot about praying Indians? Not in the book at all. The book starts as Hester leaves the jail with her baby, which is two hours into the film). The John Heard version is better, since it stayed true to the text and still managed to be hot without backing the story up so we can watch Hester and Dimmesdale doing the Sweaty Sacrament of Sin. There are ways it could have been worse, but… not many.

Done Well: Colonial Titanic: women cry, guys score; tortuous and inescapable radio hit.

Done Shittily: Modern day, Catholic priest, Hester re-imagined as either a ten-year-old boy or crack-addicted lesbian. Directed by Baz Luhrman.

Books That Shouldn’t Be Made into Movies:
Anything by Stephen King. They just don’t translate well, so please stop trying.

* I’ll spare the rant on Hamlet, because the internet isn’t big enough.


Anonymous said...

There has indeed been a good version of Christmas Carol - by the Muppets. Harumph. :-P

~ Norah

mamaclsn said...

I concur with Norah, and as you know, "I'm USUALLY trustworthy".

And what about Alistair Sim?

JRP said...

You say in a footnote: "I’ll spare the rant on Hamlet, because the internet isn’t big enough."

I'm sorry, but that won't do. I need to hear about Hamlet. Please.

~Uncle John

Sarah Beedoo said...

UJ: Sure. I'll just do a little stretching, slam a Powerade, and quit my job.

Jen: I love the Alistair Sim CC; it's the only one that feels as creepy as the book intends it to, and all round stay pretty faithful to the text. But Ghost of CP is, like, eighty (he's supposed to be childlike) and "Tiny" Tim is the picture of strapping, foppish health (and somehow I still want to beat him with a tire iron).

Norah: The Muppets are my favorite version; don't get yer knickers all twisted.

crdrue said...

We watched the '79 version of Scarlet Letter in high school. For contrast, I would like to see you test your directoral chops with the 10 y/old Hester version, though it is so very wrong.