Thursday, July 30, 2009

Books on Screen Adaptations

The weekly Books on Screen column that runs every Thursday at 5 Minutes for Books is one of my favorites. Every Thursday, we post our thoughts about a movie that is derived from a book. Recently I had clicked over to redblog as I was checking out some new releases at my favorite video "store," and came across a couple of posts by Erika Olson, who was obviously a film-lover, but also seemed to have a passion for books as well.

Erika Olson is a freelance writer who reviews movies and DVDs and covers film industry news for redbox, the company behind the $1 DVD rental kiosks you’ve probably seen outside your local grocery store. Her posts can be found on redblog. She also runs Long Live Locke, an extremely popular site dedicated to the TV series Lost, and — whenever she has free time -- blogs about completely random topics (including books she’s read) on her other site, According to e.

I asked her if she'd be willing and able to guest post, and it resulted in a nice little Q&A that I posted last week: Adapting to Adaptations. We had so much material that week one dribbled over into week two (posted today), and is now overflowing right here.

If you aren't familiar with redbox, check them out (We love the convenience of it, and you can't beat $1 a night!), and if you are a fan of movies, you'll probably find some like-minded folk over at the redblog community.

Now on with the overflow from our delightful little "conversation" about books and movies:

JD: If you learn that a film is coming out shortly that’s based on a bestselling novel you haven’t yet read, do you feel like you should try to read the book first even if that means it will be fresh in your mind when the film debuts and you’ll be more likely to criticize differences?

EO: It really depends on what the book is about — some stories would never interest me in the first place so I know I’d never read the book no matter what... whereas I might be up for the movie version if it includes some of my favorite actors in the cast or I’ve seen positive reviews or whatnot. But then there are other times when it’s clear that I better get my act together and read a book before having my opinion shaped by a film. For example, I had been totally clueless about the whole Twilight phenomenon. Then as I started hearing buzz about the movies, I knew that I absolutely could not be left out of this pop culture craze, especially since the books seemed right up my alley. I tend to like sci-fi and fantasy and have no problem picking up something that’s targeted at readers half my age, so once I got the gist of the Twilight saga, I gave it a shot. I finished the books about four months before the first movie hit screens, and then I ended up reviewing Twilight for redbox. Needless to say, like many other fans of the series, I was disappointed with several aspects of the film... I felt like it could’ve been great, but they just did it on the cheap and pushed it into production in order to capitalize on the fandom’s fervor. I’m certainly glad I read the books before seeing the movie or else I would’ve written the franchise off entirely and missed out on some good story-telling.

That’s why I’ve also decided to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Shutter Island by Denis Lehane before their respective film adaptations come out this fall. Part of my job entails covering recently released movie trailers, and when I saw the preview for The Road, it reminded me of all of the excellent reviews I’d read for the book back in 2006 (and then promptly forgot about). With Shutter Island I’d actually never heard of the book and have stayed away from Lehane’s other works because they’re a little too sad and dark for my taste. But once I saw the Shutter Island trailer — and realized that it was directed by Martin Scorsese, starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo (which certainly didn’t hurt) and looked kind of trippy and unique -- I thought, “OK, I’ve got to know what happens before I watch the movie or else I’m going to be scared out of my mind seeing this “blind” in the theater.”

Since both of these films premiere in the fall, that doesn’t leave much time for me to get through the novels and then try to let go of expectations and just enjoy the movies separately. But I know that once I’ve seen the movies it will be tough for me to muster the motivation to go back and read the books, so I’m prepared to suffer the consequences!

JD: Do you ever see a movie first, and then go back and read the book it was based on? How does this differ from seeing a beloved book made into a movie?

(Read the first part of her answer in the Books on Screen column "Better than the Book" today)

However, with other books — particularly nonfiction accounts — the movies usually don’t trump the source material even if I saw the movie first. One example is North Country, which I watched several months before reading the book upon which it was based: Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler. The movie was wonderful, but the intricacies of the court case and several other details about Jenson’s personal struggles just couldn’t possibly be captured on film. So when I turned the last page of Class Action I remember thinking, “Wow. This woman went so much more than what was shown in the film!” I was very glad I got the full story by following up and reading the book.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Fun to get some more of the "behind the scenes" of it all. Thanks!