January 19, 2017

Great Summer Read: Watch a movie or TV show based on a book

What's everyone watching for this challenge? From the reports, lots of different movies and three TV shows.

For the TV shows, I suspect the only suspense may be the ranking. And the order is:

1. The super popular and super costume drama Poldark, based on Winston Graham's historical novels set in 18th century Cornwall, which I have yet to see but intend to!

2. War and Peace, which I'm assuming is last year's magnificent BBC mini-series starring Paul Dano as Pierre and -- just one tiny fault -- someone as Natasha who tries a bit too hard, but it could be the 1972 BBC mini-series with a young Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, or the 2007 Russo-European mini-series with Malcolm McDowell, not as Pierre, a role it would be hard to imagine him in even when he was in the right age group, but as the cruel and controlling -- or to put the role firmly in Mcdowellian territory, let's say monstrous -- Prince Bolkonsky. 

3. Last year's hit series The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, which I have just been notified is waiting for me at my library, based on the book by John le CarrĂ©.

And for those who have already seen all of the above, or who are simply looking for something new, may I suggest the Inspector Montalbano TV series based on the crime novels by Andrea Camilleri. The 91 year old Sicilian writer is a literary treasure in Italy, perhaps the only literary treasure after the recent loss of Umberto Eco, whose medieval mystery The Name of the Rose sparked a hit film adaptation starring Sean Connery which you could also watch for this challenge!

Inspector Montalbano lives in corrupt modern Italy, where he is a thorn in the side of both his superiors and the shady types he pursues, an idiosyncratic loose cannon whose greatest satisfaction, besides getting his man, is enjoying a good meal. 

The movies

Movies people have been watching for this challenge include (besides various Harry Potters and Narnias) RoomThe lady in the vanThe MartianGone girlThe book thiefMr PipMe before you, and Love, Rosie, all from books of the same name. Also Carol, from Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The price of salt, pretty much unknown until the movie came along, as she had published it under a pseudonym, presumably for being a story of two women in love in the conformist fifties -- although Highsmith aficionados have postulated that it could also have been because someone who was on her way to becoming famous as a writer of crime novels did not want her name associated with a romantic novel, period. And how about this one -- Home, from The true meaning of Smekday, a book described as being for children, catlovers, and anticipators of alien invasions, so presumably that holds true for the movie as well. For the movie you could add in Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez fans, since they are its stars.

Three older movies which I was happy to see named, as they belong to that category of book-movie duo where both are truly great in their own right, were Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, from the books by Roald Dahl, Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun from  J.G. Ballard's novel inspired by his experiences of growing up in Shanghai during World War II, and Milos Forman's masterpiece One flew over the cuckoo's nest, from the book by Ken Kesey.

Here are a few more (not in order) recommendations for movie/book combos which I put in that same double-win category:

1 and 2. The big sleep, based on the book by Raymond Chandler, and  The Maltese falcon based on the book by Dashiell Hammett, two masterpieces of film noir starring the best trenchcoat wearer ever, Humphrey Bogart. You can get them both at one fell swoop with Humphrey Bogart: the essential collection

3. Or even better, get Murder Mysteries from the Greatest Classic Films collection and you'll get them both PLUS the original and unsurpassed The postman always rings twice, with Lana Turner and John Garfield, also in the noir pantheon along with the original novel by James M. Cain.
4. The Shawshank redemption based on the novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" (originally titled "Hope Springs Eternal") in the collection Different seasons by Stephen King. Simply, on my honour roll of perfect films. And it has a happy, if bittersweet, ending!

5. A Clockwork Orange, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the book by Anthony Burgess. Revolutionary when it came out and nothing that came later has dulled its edge.

6. The 1962 Lolita, the definitive one, Stanley Kubrick again, from the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which some people have chosen for their banned book challenge.

7. I should have just made a Stanley Kubrick section! The terrifying The shining, from the book by Stephen King. "Wendy, I'm home!"

8. Trainspotting, mentioned above, directed by Danny Boyle, based on the book by Irvine Welsh. "Choose life!". This is the book/movie where one of the characters illustrates his creed on aging by arguing that Sean Connery's star turn in The name of the rose, mentioned above, was "merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory".

9. Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott from the book Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K Dick. I confess that in this case I haven't actually read the book, but I'm putting it in anyway because sci-fi cognoscenti all say it's a great read. For sci-fi lovers. Whereas the film is for everyone.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird, from the book by Harper Lee, starring Gregory Peck from my hometown, Gregory Peck who can never not be Atticus Finch for you once you've seen this movie, no matter how many times he buzzes around Rome with Audrey Hepburn on his vespa.

11. Fight club from the book by Chuck Palahniuk. I'm thinking this could be the one time where the movie might actually be better than the book, but don't jump on me if you don't agree, I'm not sure-sure!

12. All Quiet on the Western Front - an oldie, way back from 1930, from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque published the year before, another banned book for your Challenge 13. Yes, it was not allowed to be published in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, for its pacifism, or as some might say, its realism.

13. No country for old men, by Joel and Ethan Coen, from the book by Cormac McCarthy. For me this was one of those movies that was not at all what you had pictured, but then it becomes your vision too. I simply hadn't been able to imagine the levels that 'menace' could ascend to.

14. My Father's Glory and its sequel My Mother's Castle, directed by Yves Robert, from the autobiographical novels set in the south of France by Marcel Pagnol. These should be better known! I laughed and I cried. 

15. The remains of the day, directed by James Ivory, from the book by Kazuo Ishiguro. As always with Ivory, every detail is in tone. But I include it above all for Anthony Hopkins's performance. Which reminds me, I should put The silence of the lambs here too, from the book by Thomas Harris. 

16. Change of mood to silly, heartwarming, magical Babe, from the book by Dick King-Smith called The sheep-pig, reprinted after the movie under as Babe: the gallant pig.

17. Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee, based on a short story by Annie Proulx, a format which I suspect was responsible for her being able to say “I may be the first writer in America to have a piece of writing make its way to the screen whole and entire.”

18. The man who laughs, from the book by Victor Hugo. If you enjoy an occasional high tragic drama, this is for you. A young man who was disfigured as a child by a band of misfits who gave him what I discovered is called a "Glasgow smile", and the beautiful blind girl who thinks, from touching his face, that he is always happy.

19. LA Confidential, based on the novel that won James Ellroy his place among the gods of noir. Some changes to the plot in the movie don't change that.

20. What did I choose for this challenge?  I watched The lady in the van, which I thought was superbly done.  It turned out to be one of those movie versions where the characters as brought to life are very different from how you had imagined them, but nonetheless completely compelling. I had pictured Miss Shepherd as more petulant and more faded than the dogmatic and disdainful Miss Shepherd which Maggie Smith gave us, but I liked the greater toughness and thus more startling vulnerability.

But I also decided to re-watch the most terrifying movie I have ever seen, the one I can't believe my parents took their kids to see, even if it was showing at their favourite little art house theatre which usually showed Ingmar Bergman-type movies which might have gone over our heads but certainly not traumatised us. It's the 1946 black and white version of Great Expectations, directed by David Lean.

Two things happened. One was that watching it now as an adult, having seen hundreds of films, I found myself constantly thinking how it was one of the most perfect movies ever made. And two, the scene when the huge, scary, escaped convict Magwitch jumps out from behind the tombstone in the cemetery thick with mist almost stopped my heart, again. On the other hand, it was interesting to see that while for all these years I have remembered seeing Miss Havisham burn up, down to her terrified eyes, it turns out that actually we are only shown the log rolling out of the fire and starting the hem of her cobwebby old wedding dress blazing. It's her horrible screams that let us imagine what later I was sure I had seen.

Ah, movies.


Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 18:06


  1. The TV series I watched for this challenge was Poldark, Season 1 (which matches your # 1 for the TV shows, and I can honestly say that I didn't read your blog before doing the challenge :-) Really thoroughly enjoyed it and am now waiting in the holds queue for Season 2.

    I watched your # 3 The Night Manager, on TV last year, and also recommend.

    Having not read the books on which these TV shows were based, I suspect my next challenge, with or without The Great Summer Read challenge to inspire me, will be to go back, read the books and then compare. I've heard it said that the book is usually better than the film, so definitely can't wait to see! :-)

    1. Hi Merrilyn,
      I've always been one of those people who finds the book version better, but I've started to think instead that maybe they are just different and suit different moments and moods. Books definitely allow you more room to use your imagination, in a sort of creative act which is one of the great pleasures of reading. On the other hand, movies can pull you into someone else's vision in a very exhilirating way. I hope you'll watch and read War and Peace too!

  2. I watched the sci-fi film Arrival for this challenge, which is based on Ted Chiang's novella, Story of Your Life. I read the book back in the late 90s, so my memory of the details isn't super sharp, but I think they did a fantastic job of bringing the story to the big screen.

    The story is full of big, but not terribly cinematic, ideas about linguistic relativity, determinism, and cognition, and the film does a wonderful job of explaining and discussing the themes without sacrificing the exciting mood of mystery and suspense. I highly recommend both the film and book for fans of smart sci-fi.

    1. Hi Adrian
      This sounds good even for people who don't think of themselves as sci-fi fans, of the smart type or otherwise! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I very much enjoyed watching (and listening to the audio book) of the Water Diviner. The movie didn't leave out too much and it was wonderful to see the scenery and historic places. It has made me interested in increasing my knowledge of the area, and hopefully I can visit Turkey one day.

    1. Hi essjaynz
      The visual is of course the prime experience where movies are concerned and it sounds like you picked a good one for that! I know some people feel that the movie glosses over some dark aspects of Turkey's history, but if it left you with the desire to fid out more, it sounds as if that might have been more about not being able to fit everything in. I'm always a fan of movies and/or books which spark our curiosity!

  4. For this challenge I rewatched The Help, and cried yet again. Such a powerful movie but I have not yet read the book.

    Netflix has a movies based on books categories with plenty of very good options.

    1. Thanks for this good suggestion which had completely escaped me! I haven't read the book yet either (it's on my TBR list though!) but I see the customer reviews -on our catalogue often mention crying and laughing - always a good sign. Many thanks also for the Netflix pointer!

  5. Surprised to not see 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Hobbit' trilogy up as suggestions. Both have been largely popular in both book and movie/tv form. Although 'The Hobbit' might be better suited for the 'Reading a Classic' challenge.

    However, for this challenge I watched the Room (which was on the list) and found it very gut wrenching and emotional. Not sure if I would want to watch it again but would recommend.

    1. Ha ha, good point, actually The Hobbit was chosen most frequently of all for the "Reread a childhood favourite" challenge, followed by "Read a classic", "Read from your TBR list" and "Watch a movie" all equals! And Game of Thrones was indeed a frequent choice but I didn't highlight it for two reasons: one is that there were six seasons which is a lot of episodes compared to a miniseries of 5 or 6, so it didn't seem quite right to compare. And the other is that I figured it was the first thing that would come to everyone's mind and so it would be rather superfluous to highlight it! Thanks for the recommendation for Room- very insightful tie-up at the finish!


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