Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bad Book, Great Movie

Laura Miller, for Salon, argues that bad books can make for great movies.

From the piece...

Yet it’s a truism in Hollywood that bad (or, at least, not especially good) novels make better films than great books do. There’s sense in this: A filmmaker may feel more obliged to subordinate his vision to an author’s if the book is a patent work of genius, and creative people become less agile when they approach a project on bended knee. Furthermore, what makes a novel great — the elaborate architecture of the characters’ inner lives in “The Portrait of a Lady,” say — is often what’s hardest to capture in a dramatic, visual medium, precisely because those are the things that novels do best.

Still, the computer programmers’ slang GIGO (for “garbage in, garbage out”) remains a reliable rule of thumb: Did anyone really expect the film versions of “The Da Vinci Code” or “Marley & Me” to transcend their source material? The most commonly cited examples of good films made from not-good books are “The Godfather,” “Jaws” and “The Bridges of Madison County.” Many critics were surprised at the quality of the first “Twilight” film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Others point to “Children of Men,” which was based on an indifferent science fiction novel by mystery author P.D. James.

It’s notable, though, how the same handful of titles comes up over and over again when you ask for examples of bad books that became good films.

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