Movies or books? What's your fancy?
Hollywood award’s season came to a close this week and I realized how many of this year’s nominated films I had missed in the theaters. Many of them looked so good I need to find a way to rent or stream over the next months (Lion and Moonlight in particular, although I noticed that the winning documentary – The White Helmets – is on Netflix so I may start with that). I love movies, but I’m not an aficionada. I simply enjoy them. Movies let us enter an unfamiliar world, inhabit the space of another person or culture. Arguable books do the same – as writers we create a world expressed through words on a page that readers can inhabit and interpret. The reader sees and tastes and feels and hears. I asked my fellow MissDemeanors if they turn to movies for things not found in a book or vice versa…..and what about move adaptations? Cate Holahan – The movies in my head that play when reading are often better than the adaptations I see, later, on screen. There are exceptions. Harry Potter was pretty great in both forms, IMHO, probably because the filmmakers took such pains to keep everything true to the book. I tend to enjoy action stories more when watching them on the screen and mysteries more on paper. That said, I think adding Amy Adams to anything makes it better. She’s like the seasoned salt of Hollywood. One of my favorite films is Fight Club which I actually think is a better movie than a book. (I know, sacrilege for a writer to say). It’s not just because Brad Pitt spends half of the flick with his shirt off either. I think Ed Norton played the protagonist in an amazingly believable manner, an incredible feat since the main character is an unreliable narrator. I also think that the script had a fluidity that the actual book, which is broken up into vignettes, didn’t. I appreciated that continuity of story that the movie brought. I LOVE Chuck Palahniuk though. He’s brilliant and his dialogue is carved with an X-Acto blade. I try to read everything he writes. Alexia Gordon – Why choose either/or? Be greedy and choose books and movies. I don’t have a strong preference for one form over the other except action/adventure. I prefer action movies to action novels, with one caveat–the movie action sequences must have awe-inspiring choreography. I like movie adaptations of books. (TV adaptations, too. I adore David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.) Sometimes the movie really is better (Field of Dreams vs Shoeless Joe being a prime example). Seeing the movie before reading the book doesn’t ruin the book for me. I don’t much care for book adaptations of movies. Screen-to-page adaptations don’t seem to have the same depth as page-to-screen. My favorite movie is Casablanca. Laura and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir are in the top ten. So are Hidden Figures and Rogue One. Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Hidden Figures are all based on books and Casablanca is based on a stage play. And Ring Lardner, Jr. co-wrote the screenplay for Laura. Paula Munier – This is a dangerous question because there’s nothing I’d rather do than read books and watch movies. I love books and movies and TV and theater. Which is just another way of saying I love good stories. (But if I had to choose only one, I’d always default to books.)Many of my favorite films are based on my favorite books: Enchanted April, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Maltese Falcon, The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Princess Bride, to name just a few. Just as many are based on screenplays or stage plays rather than books: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Annie Hall, Gosford Park, Amadeus, Moulin Rouge, Singing in the Rain, anything by Shakespeare, again, just to name a few. And of course as a mystery fan I have enjoyed virtually every mystery series on television–from British cozies and Scandinavian police procedurals to New York cops and Los Angeles private detectives.But when it comes to the screen, what I love best are movies about writers: Midnight in Paris, Cross Creek, Barton Fink, Stranger than Fiction, Adaptation, Henry and June, Shadowlands, Becoming Jane, Impromptu, My Brilliant Career, Il Postino, Field of Dreams, Finding Forrester, Out of Africa, and more. These are the stories that inspire me to become a better writer…and they are the best of all! Susan Breen – The other day my daughter harangued me into going to see La La Land because she said she knew I’d love it, which I did. From the moment the story began, I was hypnotized, but part of what I loved so much about it was sitting next to her and sharing the experience. There’s something communal about movies that you don’t always get in books, though perhaps that’s why book clubs are so much fun. On the other hand, I genuinely feel as though some of my best friends are characters from books, and I don’t think you get to know actors in the same way. But the bottom line is, I’ll read or watch just about anything. I love stories. Robin Stuart – I have a go-to movie for reminders not to play games with readers. I practically studied The Departed. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it. The audience is clued into all but one twist within the first 15 minutes yet it’s still fraught with tension. I re-watch Silence of the Lambs periodically to see how Jonathan Demme (a genius) and Ted Tally (the screenwriter) encapsulated so much backstory into compelling scenes without data dumping and just a dash of misdirection. It’s remarkably true to the book, which is one of my favorites, but I like the movie more. I also gravitate to Jake Gyllenhaal’s films because he makes interesting choices that are almost exclusively character studies so I’ll usually see them several times to catch the layered nuances. The same with Ashley Judd’s films with Morgan Freeman, based on books by Joe Finder and James Patterson. High Crimes and Kiss The Girls are two favorites that are great stories where we see the evolution of believable characters. And I second Cate’s feelings about Fight Club. The book is great but the movie stands on its own. Unreliable narrators are tough to pull off in visual form and this movie accomplishes it beautifully. Michele Dorsey – I have lots of confessions here. I have to confess that movie going and television watching were casualties in my legal career, especially since I taught evening courses for thirty years. I’m looking forward to catching up on movies and television series. Of course, I haven’t missed everything and have found reading a book before seeing a movie works best for me. I’m often disappointed by the movie version, but like Paula, I am a book lover first. One of the exceptions was Mystic River, which I thought was very well adapted. And here’s another confession. I love romantic comedies, starting with the Jane Austen movies but anything directed by Nancy Meyers will do. I adored a rocom about a mystery writer called American Dreamer. Finally, my last confession. I love Cinderella movies, especially the ones where Cinderella is feisty. Ever After is my favorite. Whew, that was a lot of confessing. What about the rest of you? Any favorite movie adaptations? Any love lost between movies and books?