This isn't particularly a list of "the best" -- it's simply a list of adaptations, for which we've both seen the movie and read the book, which stand out for us.
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz -- This is the first series of books I remember falling madly in love with. When I was a little girl, way back in the Nixon years ;-), I pored over these books eagerly, studied the maps, and reveled in the idea of a magical world filled with fanciful characters.
I also have a lifelong love affair with the movie. My children think this is very funny. According to my older daughter and co-blogger Sarah (aka MovieBuff25), "It looks like a Michael's craft store exploded on the set."
O.K., it's a fair point. But it was the first movie I loved.
My kids don't "get it" because they've been reared in a high tech era. First, there were no VCRs or DVD players -- we had to wait all year to see The Wizard of Oz on television. And my parents couldn't afford a color television. We would go to a friends house every year so we could see The Wizard of Oz in technicolor ... and ah! That wonderful moment when Dorothy opens the door and everything is in color!
Pfft. Just what I needed the day before my 40-somethingth birthday. To be reminded that I'm old! :-P
With all due respect to the sanctity of this movie, I think it would be VERY cool if there were a remake, following the book more closely, using modern special effects.
2. Ordinary People -- This movie was released when I was in high school, and while many years have passed, I remember it as being very well made with excellent performances by the whole cast.
Shortly afterwards, I bought the excellent novel by Judith Guest and read it several times. It's a wonderful story about grief, love, and the consequences of repressed pain.
Something about the movie and book spoke to me. Partly because it was a story about teenage depression. While I hadn't lost a brother, oh -- how I could relate! It was also nice to be reminded that I wasn't the only adolescent on the planet who felt like my family was fucked up. That's one of the things I love most about literature and film. That quiet but powerful voice that says "You are not alone."
Even as a teen, I also easily related to the parents. It's a tribute to the author and filmmaker that, even as I was locked in my own adolescent world, I readily identified with Conrad's emotionally damaged, repressed mother and his loving but unassertive father.
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -- I read this novel in high school, and it's definitely one I'll never forget. For one thing, it speaks volumes about power and control, reflected in Nurse Ratched's dictatorial reign over the psychiatric ward.
|"In one week, I can put a bug so far up her ass, she don't know whether to shit or wind her wristwatch"|
The film adaptation is every bit as good as the book, with stand-out performances by Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. According to reviewer Cole Smithey:
The genius of the film is that you never feel you're being preached at, but rather being allowed a fly-on-the-wall view of a systematic crushing of humanity.
4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy -- My co-blogger, Sarah, is not a huge fan of these movies, but I love them. Sarah and my brother-in-law, Mike, poked fun at The Return of the King. They thought was pretentious and the sappy scenes between Frodo and Samwise were over the top. "What's up with all the man-love? Get a room already and get it over with." :-P
Nevertheless, these movies, in all their sappy, over-the-top glory, are among my favorites. Gorgeous imagery, compelling characters, and great storytelling. What more could I need?
Like most people of my generation, I read the trilogy in my early teens, and I haven't picked it up since. Though it's a lot of work plowing through Tolkien's heavy, lavish descriptive passages, they're classics.
5. The Harry Potter Series -- I loved the books -- imaginative and adventurous with unforgettable characters, strong storytelling, and a certain quirky charm.
I thought the movies were just O.K. Much of the book's witty, quirky charm was lost in translation. And despite an impressive array of British stars, overall, I did not think the acting was fantastic.
However, there were performances that stood out for me, including the magnificent Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as Snape, and Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange. Bonham-Carter has a wonderful gift for batshit-crazy. Which reminds me, I need to see Fight Club again sometime.
6. The Butcher Boy -- This disturbing novel by Irish author Patrick McCabe is written almost in a stream-of-consciousness style -- shades of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Fleeting thoughts, obsessions, and schizophrenic visions flow seamlessly into the narrative.
I didn't think this novel would translate well to screen, but overall, it worked well. Like the book, the film smoothly blends ordinary themes related to coming of age with a child's tragic slide into madness.
According to reviewer Anthony Lawrie:
The Butcher Boy bridges the gap between rebellious child and psychopath as if it were a normality ... I'm a big fan of Jordan's anyway, his visual flare and seamless balance of ordinary and extraordinary is always a pleasure.The only part of the movie that didn't work for me was a somewhat cheesy scene in which a vision of The Virgin Mary appears before the protagonist. Some literary scenes really shouldn't be adapted to screen.
7. The Life Before Her Eyes -- I fell in love with the lyrical writing and vibrant imagery in this book, which was one of my favorite novels of the year.
8. Running With Scissors -- I can't say this film really blew me away, but there was definitely something memorable about it. As we saw in American Beauty, Annette Bening can do crazy magnificently, and I especially enjoyed her role as a mom who handed custody of her son over to her insane psychiatrist.
All the controversy surrounding this book and film has cast doubt on the veracity of Burroughs's story, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt. Mental patients cohabitating with their psychiatrists. The family patriarch defending the sanctity of his "Masturbatorium." Gleaning wisdom through "toilet readings" and "bible dippings." It all sounds improbable and bizarre enough to be true.
I really enjoyed Burroughs's writing style and have been wanting to read more of his books, especially Dry and A Wolf at the Table. Incidentally, I was introduced to this writer because of my interest in autism and Asperger's. A friend recommended Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison shortly after it was released. My daughter and I loved Robison's memoir, and this led us to his brother, Augusten Burroughs.
9. I Served the King of England -- Set in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in the period surrounding World War II, this satirical novel follows Ditie from a teenager to an aging man.
While a bit darker that the book, the movie retains its artful, satirical style -- it's tragic, absurd, and funny, all at the same time. In one of many odd, humorously disturbing scenes in the film, Diti's young bride, a loyal follower of The Third Reich, gazes lovingly at a picture of Der Furher as she consummates her marriage. After all, she's striving to produce an Aryan baby for the Fatherland.
Director Jirí Menze also created a World War II film titled Closely Watched Trains, with a similar absurd, funny, and tragic slant, which I also enjoyed.
10. Fingersmith -- Sarah Waters brings modern sensibilities to this
complex novel of upper class Victorian England, exploring the roles of women in that era, the unlikely ways we find love and intimacy, and the conflict between compassion and the desperate struggle to survive.
The movie, which was originally a BBC mini-series, follows the novel faithfully, with a stand-out performance by Sally Hawkins. Like the novel, it does a fabulous job of highlighting the themes of love, yearning, greed,
betrayal and guilt.
On to Part 2