Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kevin's 10 Most Desirable Film Adaptations

I was looking at some of books today, and started thinking about how there are thousands of great novels yet to be made into movies. Names like Rushdie, Amis, McEwan, and Coetzee really haven't had their best work translated to celluloid, just their most accessible. I'm still holding out hope that the failed (and altogether scraped) Cronenberg adaptation of Martin Amis' hilarious and brilliant London Fields will come to fruition. It was then that I realized once upon a time I started a list of novels I would love to see made into adaptations. One can dream right? So it's with that very thought that I indulge myself and post the list with comments, whether or not the film is in production or in talks of being made, and who I would consider for the job of making the film (if it's not ever set to be released). If you feel the urge to trek through these indulgences of jumbled thoughts and murky sentence fragments, then please post your desired adaptations in the comments section. And away we go...

In alphabetical order with who I think could direct, and possibly star:

The Book of Evidence, by John Banville - I find it odd that this title is on my list because I really didn't get into the book all that much, but it's a hell of a story; one that could, cinematically speaking, be on par with "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer". The everyday, nonchalant attitude of the books main character Freddie Montgomery is something that a great actor could make a career off of (think Hopkins as Hannibal). It's not that Montgomery is evil -- he is as startled by his own amorality as the reader -- but it's that he is someone we could picture knowing: neatly dressed, well educated, likable. Through the testimony of Montgomery we see not an excuse or reason to why he murdered the girl, but the story of a mans life, that surprisingly we come to find some form of sympathy in. I felt Banville's writing to be a little too matter-of-fact at times, as I mentioned I thought it was a little difficult to get through, but the overall experience is memorable, and if we're talking movie adaptations here -- well The Book of Evidence would make for an interesting film experience. Director: Mike Hodges. Lead role: I could see someone like Ray Winstone (too easy?) or if you want to make it real paradoxical I guess you could cast someone like Clive Owen.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley - Universally beloved and known by millions, this story of a future Utopia is often connected to the similar, and just as popular Orwell masterpiece 1984. Even though Brave New World has been adapted into a few poor;y made television movies, I think we could all use an adaptation that has a budget and a cast that is worthy of the material. The themes of the novel are timeless, and although Michael Bay sorta did an adaptation of the novel with his film "The Island", I think we could use something that is fully committed to the idea. I think a perfect director would be Steven Spielberg. Not only can the man balance a large budget and effect and still make an the audience care about the story (see "Minority Report") he has the vision to pull this off beyond the conventional 'futuristic drama' realm. I'd imagine if Spielberg did the film then we'd have one of the Tom's as Bernard, the lead character.

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Okay so I was already to write about this, but a simple search on imdb shows that there is already a pretty big film adaptation of the famous Russian novel. But I keep it in here in hopes that you'll click on the link to see who played Alexi....brilliant, just brilliant. But hey, they should still remake it today.

Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee - Professor David Lurie's journey throughout the post-colonial masterpiece Disgrace is the best thing I've in a long, long time. I came late to the party in regards to Coetzee's work, but boy am I glad I finally found my. One of the most brilliantly paradoxical novels written it's at once: beautiful and ugly, dark and optimistic, poignant and repugnant. And through all of that, more than anything it's a celebration of life; one of those rare books that the moment you put it down you immediately thumb through it again to glance over some of your favorite passages. The novel has been made into a movie starring John Malkovich as Lurie (great choice) and directed by Steve Jacobs. Set to be released in 2009. I'm officially excited.
Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey - This re-imaginig of the Dickens character Magwitch (from Great Expectations) is one of the most enjoyable readings I've ever had. A page turner in the truest sense of the phrase, the novel is rich with memorable characters and distinct locations. Carey is one of the best novelists working today. I actually wouldn't mind seeing someone like Jim Broadbent try his hand at this character, but he seems to be much too old for the role. Now that I think about it, Daniel Day Lewis would be awesome in this role. I can see any number of competent directors taking on this pretty straight-forward novel.
Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie - pshaw! I know, I know....but like I said, this is a dream list. This is probably the most impossible novel to screen adaptation there is. Although, it would be fun to see someone try, as it would most likely result in a Francis Coppola-like breakdown....and if you don't know what that means, then you need to watch "Heart of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse". The only person I could see making this movie is Rushdie himself.

Money, by Marin Amis - The most important novel of the 80's as it pertains to postmodernism (as well as Reagen's America and Thatcher's England), Money is so darkly comic and perverse that it's wishful thinking to ever hope for a film adaptation. Sure, there have been films that have pushed the envelope, but none that make you laugh out loud like Amis' novel does comparable to a film like "Man Bites Dog", Money is just as ruthless in using the seedy elements of life (violence, drugs, and pornography) to try and get a laugh. Hell, even suicide is a means for a punch line. John Self is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. I could see Ian McShane trying his hand at the character with Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges") directing. I did notice on IMDB that they are making a film version of Night Train, Amis' attempt at the American detective novel, you can see my thoughts on the novel here. I think Sigourney Weaver as Detective 'Mike' Hoolihan is a great, great casting choice; plus the fact that Nicholas Roeg is directing rules...."Don't Look Now" is one of my favorite movies.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro - This fantastic novel has all the makings of a compelling art house/sorta sci-fi film ala "Children of Men". As a reader, every vague observation, every unsure sentence by its unreliable narrator keeps you guessing as to what the whole mystery of the novel is. It's amazing how Ishiguro's simple, yet elegant and nuanced, prose keeps you absorbed throughout, when really there isn't a whole lot happening. It took me awhile to warm to this novel, but after the 100 page mark, it flies. Rumors are that the film is in production, and that the writer of "28 Days Later" is at the helm of the adaptation. Ishiguro's prose reads so smoothly it's like a knife going through warm butter (hey, there's a metaphor lifted straight from the Arnie classic "Commando"!), and I don't see why it wouldn't transfer well to screen. His most famous novel The Remains of the Day was a pretty decent film (not as good as the book of course). I would love to Keira Knightley as Kathy H., the novels narrator. But then again, of course I would like to Knightley in that role. Looking forward to this film, if the rumors of its production are true.

The Powerbook, by Jeanette Winterson - Winterson's steamy celebration of storytelling and simulacra could probably never be produced (at least not with an 'R' rating) and would probably fair well in the hands of someone like Bertolucci, who at least some experience with mature and adult love stories that are about more than the sex that occupies them. Winterson's stop-and-go and repetitive style of writing mirrors the way we may live our lives and what we may or may not remember about love, sex, passion, loss, and just life in general. Her work seems like it would be extremely hard to transfer to the screen since so much of it is about the art of storytelling (read: the process of writing) and the act of inserting ourselves within those stories. See the adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement for a perfect example about how a novel about letters and the how we manipulate narrative is almost impossible to translate to the screen.

Saturday, by Ian McEwan - It does look like there has been an informal announcement about the prospects of McEwan's brilliant novel about terror and post-September 11th livelihood being made into a film. Hooray! I'll cling to anything I can at this point. I so badly want to see this done right after the so-so effort (content-wise) of the film version of "Atonement" (it did look gorgeous). Easily a top three novel for me, Ian McEwan is a god, and if you haven't read anything by him than you are really depriving yourself of great literature. I always envisioned the main character of Perowne to played by someone like Jeremy Irons, but upon second reading I think it could work with an equally capable actor who is, here in the states, lesser known: Bill Nighy. Nighy was most recently in "Valkyrie" and "Hot Fuzz", but his last 'significant' role was in the 2006 thriller "Notes on a Scandal", which I quite liked. Interesting note, the writer of that film, Patrick Marber, is (apparently) adapting Saturday for the screen. Looking forward to this....if it's true.

Well that does it here. I'm excited that some on this list have been made into movies or are in the process of being made, and if you haven't read any of these novels than consider this a good list to begin compiling for some Summer reading. Be back shortly with my best films of 2008.


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