Upcoming Books Into Films

Looking for book suggestions for yourself or your book group in the coming year? The following is a list of books being planned for a movie adaptation. Books turning into movies always generate a lot of debates and discussions.  Better still, read the book then watch the movie together… I’m sure more debates will ensue.

Hope the following list can furnish you or your group with some ideas. Do note that these titles are in various stages of development, meaning some may come out in the next year or two, some may take longer if they get started at all.  Click on titles (links) for more details.

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1984 by George Orwell

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Adjustment Team (short story) by Philip K. Dick (Film: The Adjustment Bureau)

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Hergé

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Daniel Radcliffe)

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Keira Knightly)

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant (short story)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Ivan the Fool by Leo Tolstoy

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Middlemarch by George Eliot

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

One Day by David Nicholls

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Paradise Lost by John Milton

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (A new take: Jane Austen Handheld)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (My Fair Lady, Carey Mulligan, Emma Thompson script)

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (A Latina spin: From Prada to Nada)

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Matt Damon, Keira Knightly)

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Tiger by John Vaillant

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré (Colin Firth)

Water for Elephant by Sara Gruen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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For a more updated list, click here to “More Upcoming Books Into Movies”.

If you know of any other titles, you are welcome to add to this list by leaving the info in the comment section.

CLICK HERE for WordPress Tag: Book Into Film.


The Great Gatsby: A New Version

UPDATE: To read my review of The Great Gatsby (2013), CLICK HERE.

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Well… not yet.  But seldom has a movie generated so much buzz even before it is made. The debates take on several fronts.

First off, there’s this argument of whether we need another Gatsby adaptation. There have been three full feature film versions of the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as early as 1926, then in 1949. The most familiar for us modern day viewers is the 1974, Francis Ford Coppola screenplay, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow version. So more than thirty years now.  It would be interesting to see what a 21st century interpretation is like.

Then there’s the cast.  It’s been reported that Leonardo DiCaprio is the new Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire the narrator Nick Carraway, and stirring the frenzy, director Baz Luhrmann’s announcement of Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.

I’m totally delighted with the cast selection.  While he may not be very convincing as an aging Howard Hughes (The Aviator, 2004), DiCaprio could make a very natural Jay Gatsby. Tobey Maguire’s quiet, observant demeanor, like his role in Cider House Rules (1999), would be a suitable Nick Carraway, although he might not have the poise as Sam Waterston back in 1974.

I’m all for Carey Mulligan, but still I feel she would have to fight against type to play Daisy Buchanan. Far from the innocent school girl in An Education, or the caring and sensitive Kathy in Never Let Me Go, it could be a challenge to portray a frivolous and capricious Daisy.  But if she could beat out names such as Natalie Portman, Abbie Cornish, Michelle Williams, Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall and Kiera Knightly in her audition to get the part, I trust she has what it takes to deliver. I’m excited to see her given a chance to extend further her acting talents.

That leaves us with the debate of whether the new interpreter could do Fitzgerald’s novel justice.  Director Baz Luhrmann’s previous works seem to embody a Gatsby house party: Moulin Rouge (2001), Strictly Ballroom (1992), Australia (2008), and his very postmodern take of Romeo + Juliet (1996), which, I admit, is one of the few movies that I had to quit watching after the first 15 minutes.

The online arguments against Luhrmann’s directing surround his over-the-top and superficial renditions of his previous movies.  His ability to translate the layered and nuanced descriptions of this literary classic into film is challenged outright.

That leads us to a more fundamental issue.  In my review of the film The Hedgehog (2009), one reader has left this thought-provoking question in the comment:

Is it possible that, no matter how well or poorly the job is done, there are some books that simply don’t make the transition from print to film with their essence intact?

As the postmodernists would have it, books and films are two different textual entities.  Fidelity is no longer something to strive for, but the appreciation of intertexuality.  Both ought to be taken in its own right, can’t be literally tranlated, can’t be compared.  And if Barthes has the final say, you just have to take it as is with whatever Luhrmann brings us since that’s his interpretation.  The author is dead… here literally and metaphorically.

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No matter what, I won’t judge before it’s even being made. Nonetheless, I do have a few words to appeal to Mr. Luhrmann:

Please don’t waste a talented cast, and a brilliant literary work. Offer us quality and depth of interpretations and not just the frothy splendour of the Jazz Age.  Consider lines like these and create the complexity and ambivalence in your characters:

I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair.  Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering.  I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

While there’s no doubt you are capable of capturing the “gleaming, dazzling parties,” reveal also the undercurrents of anxiety, sadness, and ennui.  And in the midst of the seeming conviviality, give us the nuanced actions of inner quest, the search for real relationship in a mansion of party crashers, and the lingering hope of love:

A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby’s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still glowing garden.  A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host, who stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.

And above all, do justice to Jay Gatsby, honor his deep devotion for his love and not mock his attempt.  For behind the façade of materials and wealth, he is the one with the heart.  Show us how “the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man.”

Remember, it is the heart that gratifies your viewers, not the glitz and glamour.

And please, not a musical.

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Revolutionary Road: Book and Movie

There’s a story that goes like this.  The Times once asked its readers to send in their answer to this question: “What is wrong with the world?”  The writer, scholar, and theologian G. K. Chesterton sent them this reply:

Dear Editors,

I am.

Sincerely,

G. K. Chesterton

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Here’s a lighter version from Groucho Marx:

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.”

 

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Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961)

If only the Wheelers had had a conversation with Groucho Marx, maybe invited him to tea in their little white suburban house on Revolutionary Road, probably they could have avoided a tragedy.

In her mind, April Wheeler has dreamed of a club like this:

“I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere… people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job becasue it never occurred to them to do anything less than perfectly the first time.  Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along…”

The problem with the self.  What had taken G. K. Chesterton two words to identify, Richard Yates has shown with 463 pages (my pocket paperback).  No, I’m not complaining.  What has driven me to go on and finish the book, despite the ominous cloud hanging over its pages, is Yate’s marvellous prose leading me every step of the way, through every fight of the Wheelers’, every sardonic description of Frank’s New York office, their suburban social circle, and their self-delusion.  And even amidst the dark and grey overtone, the undercurrents of humor could sometimes make me laugh out loud (Having read the book, I’ll have to ask myself: am I being a snob for not using the acronym?)

Humor and irony are only ways of delivery, the message is still poignant.  I’ve enjoyed every visit John Givings goes to the Wheelers’ home during his half-day out of the insane asylum.  John’s mother Helen, the realtor who sells the Wheelers their house, only means good, bringing her son to meet some normal people to help improve his condition.  Yates is superb there in these scenes. As expected, the fool often comes out as the wise, the insane pointing out the truth. But you still want to go over the lines.

Knowing that Frank doesn’t like his job, John responds:

“Whaddya do it for then?   Okay; I know; it’s none of my business.  This is what old Helen calls Being Tactless, Dear. That’s my trouble, you see; always has been.  Forget I said it. You want to play house, you got to have a job.  You want to play very nice house, very sweet house, then you got to have a job you don’t like. Great… Anybody comes along and says ‘Whaddya do it for?’ you can be pretty sure he’s on a four-hour pass from the State funny-farm; all agreed.  Are we all agreed there, Helen?”

“Oh look, there is a rainbow,” Mrs. Givings said…

But of course the problem is complex.  While we are all free agents of our own actions, we are also products of our circumstances and our past. The setting of the 50’s is a time of suburbanization, post-war peace and affluence. But the story could take place anywhere, anytime. When offered a promotion at work, Frank chooses to stay rather than opting for a loftier dream.  Substitute now for the 50’s, who would notice?

Frank and April Wheelers and their two children are the perfect example of the young and wholesome family enjoying the good life, in appearance that is.  What’s troubling them is legitimate, of course. What’s the point of being a nut screw in the machine of Big Business and a willing hostage of conformity and suburban ennui?  April might be fulfilling a self-serving and snobbish desire to move the whole family to Paris, but she could be right that Frank needs to be given the chance to ‘find himself’.  What she fails to see though is that she’s the one who could benefit from such self-reflection even more.

John Givings has more pointed words for the Wheelers in his next visit, which ultimately leads to the collapse of everything.  Yates’ writing has taken me captive.  The last hundred pages of the book have me glued to the seat.  It was already dark outside, I was sitting on a couch reading, alone in the house.  The feeling I had while going through those last chapters was no different from my experience of watching The Silence of the Lambs some years earlier, also sitting alone one night in the same spot… although there’s no similarity between the content of the two.  Haunting, eerie, disturbing…. now this is with me having watched the movie before reading the book.

Revolutionary Road is my first Yates book.  While I’ve admired his writing, I’m not so sure I’ll seek out his other works…  You see, I’ve always thought The Silence of the Lambs is a first-rate movie, but I would not want to see it again and again.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, First Vintage Contemporaries Mass Market Edition, January 2009, 463 pages.

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Revolutionary Road: The Movie (2008, DVD)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunited since Titanic (1997) to play the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road.  On the outset, they are perfect for the roles: Frank the charmer, April the golden girl.  And to top it off, the movie is directed by Sam Mendes, who has brought us the Oscar Best Picture for 1999, American Beauty, another brilliant suburban commentary.

Supporting roles are well performed by Kathy Bates as the talkative realtor Mrs. Helen Givings.  And Michael Shannon deservedly got an Oscar nom for his portrayal of Mrs. Givings’ son John, the lucid lunatic on a day-pass out from the insane asylum.

But somehow I feel there’s a significant discrepancy in the characterization that has shifted the dynamics between Frank and April.  As a result, the movie offers an altered view.  April here is a victim of circumstance.  She is portrayed as the courageous one who sticks to her goal, even heroic as Mendes says in the Special Features.  No suggestion of smugness or self-delusion, but rather, she is clear as crystal about her situation. Winslet has such cinematic appeal that her April is a much more amiable character than the controlling and self-serving dreamer and schemer I see in the novel.  And here, Frank is the conforming realist, the bully that needs anger management, the one who lacks the guts to embrace change.

While the storyline and scenes are faithful to the source material, the altered characterization of April Wheeler has subtly changed the premise of the novel.  What we have here is simply a love relation gone wrong.  A tragic drama of incompatible expectations, the conflicts between the progressive, idealistic and unfulfilled suburban wife, and the temperamental, gutless husband who has given in too easily to ordinary life.  The complexities which Yates has so marvellously detailed are absent here:  Was there any love to begin with?  Are dreamers necessarily superior than realists?  And, on what do we base our choices and actions?

What initially sparks off the romance between Frank and April and which sustains their façade can be summed up in this sentence from the book, and which, of course, is absent in the film in any nuanced form:

“Sometimes there was a glint of humor in these embraces of the eye:  I’m showing off, they seem to say, but so are you, and I love you.”

All the more reason to read the source material after watching a movie.

DVD Special Features include commentary by director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe, and Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road.

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