Thursday, December 08, 2005

Movies And Books, Movies And Books...

Pony-boy (C. Thomas Howell): “All I did was walk home from the movie.”

Darrel (Patrick Swayze): “Movies and books, movies and books! I wish you could concentrate on something else once in a while”

Sodapop (Rob Lowe): “Try girls and cars. Works for me.”

From Francis Ford Coppola's movie adaptation of S.E. Hinton's 1967 novel THE OUTSIDERS.

A recent Time magazine article titled Books Vs. Movies (I'd link it but it's premium content - greedy corporate bastards!) again put up the ancient argument - "which is better" in the context of such event movies coming out before this years end like THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA as well as the already released HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, SHOPGIRL, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and even WALK THE LINE which was based on two Johnny Cash autobiographies, Man in Black and CASH: The Autobiography.

I've only seen a few of the movies I mentioned above (SHOPGIRL and WALK THE LINE) but lately I have noticed I have a tendency to read or re-read the book before I see the new movie version.

Anticipating CAPOTE a couple of months ago I bought a paperback of Truman Capote's 1966 true crime novel "In Cold Blood" and also watched the 1967 movie version - I guess as a way of doing some homework on the subject or maybe just a geeky habit of wanting to know all the source material available. Sigh. This makes me recall that back in '92 I read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" a few months before Spike Lee's epic cinematic rendition hit the screens. Jeez! I guess I got it bad.

Despite the old cliche "the movie is always better than the book," there are a number of notable exceptions like BEING THERE, THE GODFATHER and FIGHT CLUB. Many people love certain movies never knowing there was a book and vice versa. I, for years, never knew that HAROLD AND MAUDE was originally a novella written by Colin Higgins who adapted it into the screenplay for the hal Ashby film.

A few movies I've seen lately that were based on books:

COLD MOUNTAIN  (Dir. Anthony Minghella, 2003)

Yes, I know just about everyone, especially here in N.C. read the 1997 Charles Frasier novel at the end of the last decade and then saw the movie a couple years ago, but I only just caught up with both. The book was elegantly written, with details that were almost too much to absorb (the food descriptions were crazy!), all of which I enjoyed immensely. The movie not so much. While well cast (Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zelleweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman were all perfect for their roles) was icky, overly glossy, stupidly reducing the love story elements into romance novel fodder. Dammit! They TITANIC-ized it!

(Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1983/2005)

I read the S.E. Hinton book of this way back in Jr. High School in the early 80's like most people in my demographic I guess and was interested to hear that Coppola had restored footage to the movie to make it closer to the book. It does work a little better though despite its boys-club cast (Swayze, Cruise, Lowe, Estevez, etc) its still the feminine cheesy melodrama it will always be in our hearts. Or at least my demographic's hearts.

THE WARRIORS (Dir. Walter Hill, 1979) 

This is another one that I didn't realize til now was based on a book (by Sol Yurick) until recently. Though it was originally a pulp novel, the new Ultimate Director's Cut has wipes and transitions added to make the film look more like a comic book - characters morph into still frame cartoons contained in black border boxes at the end of sequences and then we are whisked away to another panel. 

The effect doesn't bother me but on this here internet there are many fan-boy complaints about Lucas-like tinkering and some such spoiling of a masterpiece. Yeah, its like someone painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, sure.

More later...