Monday, March 22, 2010

Books to Movies: Readers' verdicts

The silver screen and the printed page have been nearly inseparable since the very first black-and-white movies flickered in dark theaters more than a hundred years ago.

And why not?
Novels, short stories and even nonfiction works provide an endless treasure of stories and characters.
That doesn’t mean something isn’t occasionally lost in the translation. For every “Gone With the Wind” or “Lord of the Rings” there’s a “Bonfire of the Vanities.”
So we asked a panel of film buffs and our readers to share their picks of the best and worst adaptations of books into movies.
A sampling of what our readers consider the best and worst movies ever made from books:
The best movie adapted from a book is "The Wizard of Oz" (1939).
Yes, quite a few elements in the movie are different from L. Frank Baum's book (silver slippers anyone?), but the core story of a little girl from Kansas being stranded in a fantasy world of wonder and danger remains.
This movie has stood the test of time and is loved all over the world. When I was a child it would come on only once a year, and I can remember anticipating its arrival almost as eagerly as Christmas morning.
Even when I watched it on my grandmother's ancient black-and-white television --and the movie never turned to color -- it was still a fantastic experience. If you doubt the power of this movie, try watching the eyes of a child seeing it for the first time.
The worst movie adaptation ever may be of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (by Douglas Adams). The film was totally forgettable with none of the whimsy and humor that made the book such an entertaining read.
-- Tim Tribbett, Greensboro
One of the best: The film version of William Goldman's "Marathon Man," although I think it's best to read the book first and then see the movie. Experiencing the movie first could detract from the book's more nuanced tension.
One of the worst: "The Poseidon Adventure," an absolutely mesmerizing book (by Paul Gallico) with a laughably pitiful film version.
-- Mike Clark, Greensboro
The truest and very best: Horton Foote's screenplay based on Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) stands tallest and alone. Reading it is seeing it. And seeing it is reading it.
The absolute worst: Martin Scorsese's rendering of author William Tevis' novel, "The Color of Money" (1986). The only thing they share in common is the title of the book and the names of two of the characters.
-- Joy Shores, Summerfield

The best? "To Kill a Mockingbird." A great read.
I read the book when I was stationed in New Jersey and saw the movie at the base theater.
It was so accurate that I not only was able to anticipate the dialogue but was able to quote along with it.
The actors depicting Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), Jem (Phillip Alford), Scout (Mary Badham) and Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) portrayed their parts on the screen consistent with Harper Lee's writing.
The worst: "The Prince of Tides." Albeit another wonderful read from Pat Conroy, the movie that starred and was directed by Barbra Streisand was an abomination. The adaptation (1991) was an egocentric exercise designed to showcase Streisand. Errors and omissions between the book and the film abound.
-- Chip Durham, Burlington
The best movie adaptation from a book is Steven Spielberg's film version of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple." This movie shows, step by painful step, the character Celie's unlikely progression from nothingness to being. The theme is universal.
-- Joyce Woodbury, Greensboro
The best movie adapted from a book was "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote, based on a real-life event that was chilling and horrifying.
The movie is filmed in black and white to give it a stark, documentary-like vibe.
The actors are relatively new and unknown, including a young Robert Blake.
The film spares you of the awful details of the murders until the killers, now in captivity, give their confessions in graphic detail through flashbacks.
You watch in the finale as both are hanged in a lonely, warehouse-like building. Devastating.
The worst adaptation from a novel: The movie version of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," a totally boring and verbose waste of time. I enjoy Tom Hanks, but please! Ugh.
-- R. Scott Valle, Greensboro

SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 2010

(Updated 3:00 am)

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