Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about book to movie adaptations. Oh, this is a hard one. I will start with the best ones. Links go to the movies’ IMDb profiles.

  1. Brokeback Mountain the movie is even better than Annie Proulx’s short story. Proulx doesn’t develop the characters as much, and Innis and Jack’s wives are just window dressing. The movie gives the story much more depth and heart. I hardly ever say this kind of thing. The book is usually better. Which brings me to #2.
  2. The Princess Bride is another case where I think the movie is better. The book gets a little lost, but the movie stays focused. Plus the acting is just great. Easily one of the most quotable movies of all time.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film. Not as good as the book, but really great. Everyone talks about how wonderful Gregory Peck was as Atticus Finch, and he was, but they always forget that Mary Badham was phenomenal as Scout. She was nominated for an Academy Award. She didn’t win. Probably because of her age. She was only ten years old.
  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was famously reviled by Ken Kesey, who didn’t like it that you couldn’t tell the story through the eyes of the schizophrenic Chief Bromden, but the film turned in some stellar performances by some actors often known more for comedy. Great film.
  5. The Color Purple jiggled some things around, but they got the most important stuff right. I love this film all over again every time I see it.
  6. Sense and Sensibility is gorgeously shot and the acting is awesome. I like everyone in it.
  7. Pride and Prejudice, both the version with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and the one with Keira Knightley.
  8. The adaptation of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes was awesome. Pretty much just like the book.
  9. I don’t know if it’s cheating to include plays, but I’m gonna. Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is pretty much the gold standard of Shakespeare in film.
  10. Clueless is a pretty awesome update of Emma. I love that movie.

My choices for worst adaptations:

  1. As much as I love the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hits all the wrong notes from the opening when Harry is practicing spells outside of school in a Muggle house, which everyone knows underage wizards can’t do, to the made up toad chorus and talking shrunken head, to the confusing deletion of the Marauders’ subplot that renders the movie incomprehensible unless you have read the book. And everyone looks scruffy the whole movie long. They don’t have to be as well scrubbed as when Chris Columbus directs, and I don’t mind them looking like normal teenagers, but having parts of your shirt untucked, your tie askew, and your hair mussed in every single scene? Nah. I’m blaming the director for this one because I like the others just fine (except for Michael Gambon’s performance, especially in Goblet of Fire—Dumbledore wouldn’t manhandle Harry like that). It’s a shame because it is easily one of the top books in the series.
  2. Just about every version of Wuthering Heights except this one, though to be fair, I haven’t seen the newest one with Kaya Scodelario. Why on earth people can’t get that book straightened out in film form, I do not get. Some versions cut the Hareton and Cathy part altogether. Others delete Lockwood.
  3. The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore. What were they thinking? We were discussing the scene when Reverend Dimmesdale reveals the scarlet letter carved into his own chest and dies in one of my classes one day, and I re-read it to the class. One of my students said, “Wow, this would make a great movie.” Yeah, you’d think, but no.
  4. This version of Macbeth is pretty heinous, but I do use two scenes from it when I teach the play. They do some neat camera tilt tricks and use mirrors in a clever way in the scene when Banquo’s ghost shows up, and the opening with the three witches dressed like schoolgirls busting up a graveyard is good.
  5. The Rankin/Bass versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King and Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings. Ugh. I much prefer Peter Jackson’s adaptions despite the changes made. He takes the subject matter seriously.
  6. The Black Cauldron was ruined by Disney. I don’t blame you if you didn’t read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles if you thought they were like that movie. I remember dragging my mom to see it and being so disappointed.
  7. And by that same token, The Seeker adapted from Susan Cooper’s novel The Dark is Rising is heinous. I keep using that word. But it’s so true in this case. Take this one together with The Black Cauldron and there’s a fair chance kids won’t give these wonderful books steeped in Welsh myth and legend a shot at all.
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God was pretty bad. Oh, you mean you never even knew it it existed? There is a good reason for that. I love that book. I can’t believe the film is so bad.
  9. Beowulf. Oh. My. Gosh. What the heck was that?
  10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should have been good. Kevin Spacey is in it. Clint Eastwood directed it. The Lady Chablis played herself. Instead it’s terrible. Don’t watch it.

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Musing Mondays—October 17, 2011

Musing MondaysIt’s Monday! That means it’s time for another Monday Musing. This week’s question is Do you judge a book by its cover?

All. The. Time. I know the adage well, but the truth is that publishers spend a lot of money paying people to design book covers. You know who I think does a consistently good job? Source Books. Just take a look at some of their covers. Sometimes judging a book by its cover has led me astray. Check out this gorgeous cover for Blackbird House:

And yet I didn’t care for the book.

I think it’s human nature to check out the package and be attracted to it before we get to know the contents. We do that with potential mates as well as books, so judging a book by its cover is nothing new.

Some covers I just love? The Ruben Toledo drawings for Penguin classics. My favorites are Jane Eyre:

and The Scarlet Letter:

But I love Wuthering Heights, too:

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the cover of Twilight has been influential:

This is probably one of the most iconic covers of all time, and it has such an interesting background, too.

Scribner has a reissue edition, which is pretty, by the way, but not as iconic as the Cugat original.

Here are some books I’ve read, bought, or received recently that I think have pretty covers:

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Top Ten Tuesday: Everyone Has Read but Me…

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday focuses on the top ten books I feel as though everyone has read but me. I went to three different high schools. I can’t remember reading a single book for school during all of tenth grade. In fact, all I remember about that year was doing grammar exercises out of the Warriner’s grammar book and feeling that our teacher hated us. Eleventh and twelfth grade were better, but I still managed to graduate from high school (and college, as an English major no less) without having been required to read a lot of books that seem to be staples in the canon.

  1. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. I actually do want to read this one, and I had every intention of reading it this year, but I think you have to be in a mood for dystopian literature, and frankly, that mood hasn’t happened this year.
  2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I’ve seen the movie many times, and it’s not like it’s a long book. It’s just that, well, the mood thing. At least that’s my excuse for not reading it this year. You know, I put together this reading challenge specifically to address some of these deficiencies, and I read all of one book for it.
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Ditto.
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson. Not sure I want to read it, but man, hasn’t everyone else?
  5. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I somehow never got around to this one. I teach at a Jewish school, but the students tend to read it in middle school now.
  6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Would I like this? I was never sure, so I never picked it up. Now it almost feels too late to bother.
  7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Even my husband has read this book. I never really wanted to, but it sure seems like everyone else has read it.
  8. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I have finally been convinced to put this on my TBR pile, but frankly, I avoid books about the Holocaust mainly because it was such a tragic event—many of my students’ grandparents are Holocaust survivors—and sometimes I feel that books and movies try to capitalize on it. It’s hard to explain how I feel. It’s sort of like writing a college admissions essay that deals with your brother being killed by a drunk driver—the admissions committee looks callous if they pick at your writing ability with a subject so fraught with emotion, but the point behind the essay is to evaluate your writing ability. It’s a form of manipulation. That’s how I feel about Holocaust books and movies—it’s almost impossible to criticize them because you look like a horrible person. Case in point, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas probably couldn’t have happened in reality because of the manner in which the Nazis dealt with children during the Holocaust, and yet, how do you point that out without looking like a complete ass? I should just stop because you probably think I’m a horrible person.
  9. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I started this one, but didn’t get far. My daughter has read it. She said it’s excellent.
  10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. This seems to be some kind of staple of teens/twenties. I don’t know how I passed the threshold into the my thirties without having my book passport stamped with this one, but I snuck by somehow. And now that I’m officially in my 40’s, I’m just not even sure I’d want to bother.

In addition to these books, I haven’t read much Kurt Vonnegut at all (that is, I have read one short story). I’ve also read precious little Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol being the only selections I’ve read).

However! Before the admonitions start in the comments, I would like to add that I have read all of the following books that seem to be cropping up on these lists on other peoples’ blogs today:

So, I am not a complete slouch.

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Reading Update: September 25, 2010

The Kindle Gazer, after Lilla Cabot PerryI am falling behind in my Everything Austen Reading Challenge, everyone. I set aside The House of the Seven Gables for now. I might still dip into it a little bit here and there, but I really need to finish some of the Austen-related reading I committed to. To that end, I picked up Syrie James’s novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I finished the R.I.P. Challenge at my commitment level (two books), so I am going to try to finish two more and meet the challenge level for Peril the First—four books. The two books I’ve chosen are Dracula, My Love, also by Syrie James, and Wuthering Bites, by Sarah Gray. Wuthering Bites is, of course, a mashup of Wuthering Heights and a vampire story. If you have read this blog for a while, you’ll recall Wuthering Heights is my favorite book, so it will be a test of my sense of humor to see how I deal with Heathcliff as a vampire, but then, if you think about it, it’s not much of a stretch.

I’ve added a new plugin that allows you to share your Twitter handle when you comment. There is a box beneath the text box for entering your comment that invites you to input your Twitter username. You don’t need to enter the URL for your profile, just your username. It should save the information and will work each time you comment unless you change your Twitter username. If you don’t have Twitter, you can safely ignore it. I thought it might be a fun way for commenters to discover great new Twitter feeds to follow. If you prefer not to put your Twitter username in the space, feel free to leave it blank.

So what are you reading? How are the reading challenges going?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Booking Through Thursday: Current Reading

Lost in Literature

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks readers what they’re currently reading and what they think of it. I posted a reading update just a few days ago, and nothing has really changed since my update. I’m still reading The Heretic’s Daughter, The House of Seven Gables, and Great Expectations. I haven’t started Jamaica Inn on audio yet.

However, I will say that while I find The Heretic’s Daughter interesting in its historical detail, and even a good and fair account of the Salem witch trials (at least the part of the book which I’ve read), it’s not grabbing me, and I am not itching to pick it up. I think it’s suffering unfairly from my just having finished The Hunger Games trilogy. That kind of action and edge-of-your-seat reading is rare—after all, the novels have rightly become a publishing phenomenon for that reason. I think I always knew The House of Seven Gables would be a slower read for me, and it’s not suffering from any discrepancy regarding my expectations.

What I’m more interested in talking about is the fact that I’m reading three or four books at the same time. I didn’t used to be the kind of person who could do that, or I suppose I should say I didn’t *think* I could, so I didn’t attempt it. However, I have discovered the ability to juggle several books at once in the last couple of years. It depends on the way I read. I usually have one book going in DailyLit, which is very slow going with just a five-minute portion of the book each day; however, I have managed to read five books in the last couple of years in this way, and I think at least three of them, I never would have finished had I tried to read them any other way. I usually try to have an audio book going, too. Aside from that, I’ve discovered I can read two other books either in print or on my Kindle. But four seems to be my max, and I can only read four if two are in some format aside from print/e-book.

It turns out NPR’s Talk of the Nation recently ran a story about folks who read more than one book at a time. The story calls them polyreaders. Interestingly, the story mentions that some folks frown on reading more than one book at a time. I found that curious because I have never met anyone who frowned on the practice. Have you? It seems a strange thing to be disdainful about!

What do you do? Do you read one book at a time or several at once? Why?

Creative Commons License photo credit: truds09

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Reading Update: August 29, 2010

Reading a book at the beachI set aside Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, which I am reading as part of the Everything Austen Challenge, because everyone I know is reading Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, and I hadn’t even read The Hunger Games. Well, I’m about 200 pages in now, after borrowing it from a friend, and I have to say it’s real page-turner. I have been trying to talk my daughter into reading it because Collins’s writing style actually reminds me of Sarah’s. I think Sarah would like it. I might finish it today (after all, I read more than the amount of pages I have left yesterday). If so, I’ll post a review later.

I do have a couple of theories that I can’t wait to discover whether or not I’m correct about. District 13, believed to be destroyed by the Capitol, reminds me of the group of readers in Fahrenheit 451, and I am wondering if they’re not really destroyed but secretly carrying on some form of resistance. Don’t tell me! I want to find out. Also, it’s obvious to me that the Romeo and Juliet move that Peeta pulled is no act, whatever Katniss has decided to believe. But I guess I’ll find that out.

I am still reading David Copperfield on DailyLit. The infamous Miss Havisham has just been mentioned for the first time. I picked up Jane Mendelsohn’s American Music at Audible after hearing Mendelsohn interviewed by Valerie Jackson on Between the Lines. The book sounded interesting. After listening for a short time, I think I would have put the second chapter of the book first. It seems a little disjointed. But I haven’t been listening long, so we’ll see. It is short for an audio book. Of course, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables is still on my Kindle, though I haven’t even finished chapter 2 yet. I bought The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent and Juliet by Anne Fortier on the Kindle with my Amazon Associates gift card. Also subscribed to The New Yorker on Kindle. I’ll let you know how it is. It’s my first Kindle magazine subscription.

What are you reading?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Simon Cocks

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Re-Reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Katherine Howe and MeAfter my trip to Salem in July, I have been reading books set there, and I just finished a re-read of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I found the book as enjoyable the second time as I did the first. I’d really like to read some more books set in Salem, but aside from The House of Seven Gables, I don’t have any on hand. I decided to go forward with the Everything Austen Challenge and read Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I’m looking forward to reading her newest book, Dracula, My Love. Anyone reading that one?

My students seemed interested to hear about my trip to Salem. Many of them had read The Crucible last year, and they remembered the characters. I told them I had seen Judge Hathorne’s grave and all the memorials for each of the people who were executed. I think I’ll have a lot of fun teaching The Crucible this year.

I think I’ll try to start both The House of Seven Gables and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen tonight.

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