Adaptations – Accomplished and Atrocious

It’s that magical time of year when I (almost) wish I had cable. Awards season!

Although the Golden Globes happened last week, and with it the dynamic hosting duo of Poehler and Fey at that, I have my eyes set on the big one. The behemoth. Oscar.

My favourite golden guy.

My favourite golden guy.

And yes, you read that right – it’s the 85th. The nominations were announced on January 10th which left me with exactly 45 sleeps (or until February 24th) to get caught up on what I haven’t seen and fill out my nomination form with predicted winners.

About this time you’re probably thinking “Isn’t this a book club blog? What’s all this talk about movies?” Well, I’m glad you (probably) asked.

Many of the most well-loved books eventually become movies, of course. Gone With the Wind. The Wizard of Oz. American Psycho. Harry Potter. (Clearly, an unbiased list of examples). These are referred to as adapted screenplays. For some fans of the originals, they are known as the worst idea ever.

Exhibit A: The Golden Compass

Exhibit A: The Golden Compass

There are those who believe in their very souls that there are no circumstances, anywhere, anytime, or with any director that a movie will be better than the book. I belong to a more flexible crowd – sometimes a movie can be just as good as the book, and sometimes the visual medium can enhance the original. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects that contribute to the value of each.

1. Characters

When you read a novel, most people create an image in their mind of what the characters look and sound like. If the ‘wrong’ actor is cast in the role, there is no saving the film. In addition, movies seldom cast an average-looking (I mean truly average, not Hollywood-average) person in roles even when it’s called for. Not everyone in life is bright and shiny and that’s part of what makes people and their stories interesting.

Seriously? I'm just offended.

Seriously? I’m just offended. OK so “She’s All That” was never a novel…sue me.

2. Internal Dialogue

In a novel the author can utilize their tool of inner dialogue to their great advantage. Being able to know what a character is thinking without voice overs or some eye-roll-inducing journaling scene is not something that can be overlooked. It adds a richness to the life and development of a character that is difficult (but not impossible) to achieve on film.



3. Scenery and Production Value

A good author can bring you into their world and let you live there for awhile. Some people prefer being able to let their imaginations take them there, while others enjoy being able to actually see it. This can be a matter of personal preference, but I would personally argue that it has a lot to do with production value as well. If the scene in your head is more impressive than what a multi-million budget could produce, nobody wins.

In some cases, you really couldn't get much worse....

In some cases, the original sets a low bar…

When February 25th dawns many people will be discussing best and worst dressed, best picture, the merits of the host (Seth McFarlane) and who made the best speech. I, for one, will have paid a lot more attention to the often-overlooked category of Best Adapted Screenplay.

And the nominees are:

  • ArgoChris Terri
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi, David Magee
  • Lincoln, Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell


Which nominee do you think produced the best adaptation?

What’s your favourite adapted screenplay?

Are there any books that you think should be made into movies?

Is anything you consider sacred ground?

Tweet at me (@echezick or @unputdownablebc) or get busy in the comments! I want to hear from you!


About Erin Chezick

Experienced Information Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Strong education professional working towards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Management and Change from Carleton University.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, General, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Adaptations – Accomplished and Atrocious

  1. Julia Kent says:

    I totally agree – the best movies often start as books!


  2. Silver Linings Playbook — amazing.


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