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  • Kat Rosenfield 4:45 pm on 2016/07/08 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, , , ,   

    Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep Will Be the HBO Prestige Comedy We Need and Deserve 

    Between True Blood, Game of Thrones, and The Leftovers, HBO has officially established itself as the network where good books go to become great television—even if (as with George R.R. Martin’s series) it takes them a decade or two to get there. And now, a hit novel from the early aughts is headed to the premium cable channel: Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep is officially in development as an HBO comedy series, according to Deadline.

    Released in 2005, Prep tells the story of Lee Fiora, an observant and self-conscious 14-year-old from the midwest who struggles with issues of class, identity, and adolescent embarrassment at an elite New England boarding school. Ten years ago, it was hailed as a painfully accurate and intimate portrait of teen angst (and was the subject of endless speculation as to which IRL school might have inspired its setting. Groton, perhaps?). Here’s why it should be at the top of your most-anticipated literary adaptations list.

    It’s a character-driven drama.
    Like Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, Prep seems at first glance like a surprising choice for a TV series: a loosely plotted story that’s much more driven by interpersonal relationships and a sense of place than by heavy, screen-ready action. But if The Leftovers taught us anything, it’s that a novel like this makes for a great adaptation precisely because there’s room to play with the plot, even to a wildly inventive degree, without changing the fundamental feel of the source material.

    There’s a comedy veteran in charge.
    In charge of Prep‘s development at HBO is Colleen McGuinness, who won an Emmy for her work on 30 Rock. In other words, the experts on all things awkward and hilarious are in the house, on the case, and ready to make Prep the best and cringiest comedy it can be.

    …Not to mention a Game of Thrones alum to bring its politics to life.
    Sittenfeld’s novel isn’t just a coming-of-age story; it also examines complicated issues of race and class, not to mention the social minefield of being a less wealthy, less worldly kid at a school full of privileged teens and their adult enablers. Fortunately, producer Carolyn Strauss—whose last task was adapting Game of Thrones and its complex web of intrigue for the small screen—is the other half of the development team, which means that all the power-grabbing, money-grubbing, long-simmering tensions that plague Sittenfeld’s Ault School are in highly capable hands.

    Best setting ever, or best setting ever?
    From Dead Poets Society to Vampire Academy, it’s plain that every drama is more dramatic when it plays out within the ivy-covered walls of a mega-classy boarding school.

    And all hail the difficult heroine.
    In a world full of Strong Female Characters™ who are defined as such primarily by their ability to kick butt a la dude, Lee is the real deal: complex, multidimensional, and flawed in ways that made her deeply polarizing on the page. Much like the girls of another critically acclaimed HBO series, viewers may not necessarily like Lee, but they’ll be fascinated watching her grow up.

     
  • Nicole Hill 8:00 pm on 2016/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, , small screen, ,   

    Stephen King’s Must-Read Novel 11/22/63 Just Became Your Newest Must-Watch Miniseries 

    Even the central plot device of 11/22/63 screams Stephen King: a portal to the past, located in the storage closet of a Maine diner. For many the name Stephen King conjures images of human behavior at its worst—enough rereadings of Misery will do that to a person. But the master of horror is equally capable of probing the best parts of human nature, like the fact that the only two men who know about the existence of this time-travel gateway use it for a mission they believe will better the planet: saving President John F. Kennedy from an assassin’s bullet.

    That’s the premise of King’s monolithic book, and it’s where we begin with the J.J. Abrams–produced, eight-part adaptation that premiered on Hulu yesterday, lightly renamed 11.22.63. If you’re not hooked after this first episode, I don’t know what to tell you. Boasting an all-star cast (with James Franco and Chris Cooper at the helm), the miniseries is fast-paced, beautifully shot, and stocked with King easter eggs. And if it stays at all true to the book, which producers have promised it will, there are a hundred more reasons to tune in. Here are just a few.

    Genres for everyone!
    At first, diner-induced time travel would seem to put this one squarely in the realm of science fiction. And there are certainly significant elements of it, including a fascinating twist on the mechanics of time travel. Every time mild-mannered English teacher Jake Epping (Franco) steps into the past, he wipes away whatever he did on his last trip. Additionally, no matter how long he stays in the ’60s, when he returns to our time, only two minutes have passed.

    That aside, the sci-fi machinations are just one genre King wades into here. 11/22/63 is also equal parts historical fiction, mystery, and thriller, with a dash of romance propelled by the Lindy hop. You never quite know what you’ll be hit with next, and unfortunately for Jake, neither does he.

    Nostalgia without the glossy sheen.
    What so often happens with period pieces, particularly set in the “halcyon” days of the ’50s and ’60s, is sanitization. It’s easy to get caught up in all the great clothes, stately cars, and retro music, and forget about the myriad unpleasantries of the past. King doesn’t do that, and judging from the first episode, neither does the miniseries. In one memorable moment on Jake’s road trip from Maine to Dallas, he encounters the ugliness of the era when he almost uses the wrong option between the segregated restrooms.

    The past doesn’t want to be changed.
    Beyond the suspense of Jake’s Lee Harvey Oswald espionage, the primary driver of suspense is the past itself. You see, it knows how things are supposed to happen, and it goes to great lengths to derail our hero’s quest, whether it’s through a messenger’s verbal warning or a violent catastrophe aimed squarely at him. Jake’s not just fighting the clock as it ticks toward the moment in 1963 when everything changed, he’s fighting the resistance of time itself. It’s a remarkable complication to what already might be a fool’s errand, and it adds a level of eeriness characteristic of a King story. All of that is to say: Jake shouldn’t be here. But you should.

     
  • Melissa Albert 4:47 pm on 2015/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, , ,   

    Great Books on the Big Screen 

    Winter is the perfect time to hit the movies: the theater provides respite from the cold, it’s the perfect family escape in between holiday meals and cookie bakeoffs, and it’s way easier to sneak in snacks when you’re wearing a parka. Before you see these 10 film adaptations—high-octane thrillers, thoughtful dramas, and everything in between—read the books that inspired them, stories so moving they just had to be retold onscreen.

    The Revenant, by Michael Punke
    This adaptation of the amazing semi-true story of fur trapper Hugh Glass will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy as two men on either side of a dark vendetta. When Hugh (Dicaprio) suffers terrible injuries in a bear attack, the assumption is that he’ll soon be dead, so the leader of his expedition orders two men to stay with him, and bury him when he dies. The men instead abandon Glass, stealing everything he’d need to survive. And yet Glass does survive, then sets out for revenge. A gripping, tense story anchored by peerless research and rich descriptions of early 19th-century life in the unsettled wilderness of the American Northwest.

    Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
    Award-winning Irish author Tóibín nabbed his dream hometown cast—including Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent—and no less than Nick Hornby to pen the screenplay for the adaptation of his 2009 novel about a small-town Irish girl in the years after World War II who dreams of a better life in Brooklyn. The film, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, was directed by Irish theater veteran John Crowley (who also directed several episodes of HBO’s True Detective).

    Trumbo, by Bruce Cook
    Emmy winner Bryan Cranston stars as legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the film adaptation inspired by Cook’s 1977 biography. Trumbo was a celebrated, highly paid talent in Hollywood during the Golden Age of movie-making—until the 1940s, when, with the Red Scare in full swing, Senator Joseph McCarthy made Tinseltown ground zero for a Communist witch hunt. Refusing to reveal the identities of other Hollywood players involved in Communist organizations, Trumbo was placed on the infamous “black list,” and barred from working in the industry for more than a decade (at least under his own name—films he wrote won two Oscars during his period of exile). The film, by Jay Roach, who previously adapted the 2008 election drama Game Change, follows the arc of Trumbo’s life and career and also stars Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, and Louis C.K.

    The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff
    Eddie Redmayne brings his post-Oscar glow to the story of Lili Elbe, artist and transgender pioneer, told in this adaptation of Ebershoff’s 2000 novel. The natural drama of Elbe’s life-altering journey, and its effects on her marriage, are well-suited to the big screen, but also make for a compelling read. Her story is one of love, ambition, and identity, and an unconventional look at an unconventional 20th-century woman.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    Weir’s debut novel is possibly the biggest self-publishing success story of all time, going from a self-published release, to a best-selling hardcover, to theaters in less than two years. Anyone who gripped the armrests watching Sandra Bullock struggling to survive the cold indifference of space in Gravity will get a similar thrill watching Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet, forced to endure the tortures inflicted upon him by director Ridley Scott.

    In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    Academy Award–winning director Ron Howard brings his sure touch to this adaptation of Philbrick’s harrowing true-life account of the 1820 sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale, the incident that inspired Herman Melville to pen a little novel called Moby-Dick. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, and Ben Whishaw.

    The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
    Nobody does sexual obsession like Patricia Highsmith. In the forthcoming adaptation of her cult classic novel The Price of Salt (to be released in theaters with its alternate title, Carol), Rooney Mara’s dissatisfied shopgirl has a chance meeting with Cate Blanchett’s elegant housewife, and love, dreams of escape, and blackmail follow. We can’t wait to see what Todd Haynes, known for his incredible direction of women, does with this one.

    Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
    Antonio Banderas stars in and Patricia Riggen directs this taut real-time drama, adapted for screen as The 33 from Tobar’s 2014 book. Both tell the story of the 2010 mining incident in Chile, in which 33 miners were trapped underground for more than two months, at a mine infamous for its safety violations and previous fatalities. They survived a disastrous collapse and, starting 17 days after the accident, managed to communicate with the surface, first by notes and then by video. The telling of their trials underground, their courage under fire, and the events leading up to their rescue will star Banderas as Mario Sepúlveda, who served as spokesperson for the miners throughout the ordeal.

    13 Hours, by Mitchell Zuckoff
    On September 11, 2012, terrorists attacked a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Lybia. What happened next has been the subject of endless investigation, speculation, news articles, even hearings. Over the course of the 13-hour attack, six security personnel fought back, saving lives and serving as the primary subjects of Mitchell Zuckoff’s thrilling nonfiction account. Big-screen vet Michael Bay directs cast including John Krasinki and Pablo Schreiber.

    The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis
    The latest film adaptation from The Blind Side and Moneyball author Michael Lewis is a darkly funny account of the 2008 financial crash, told through the story of a handful of finance world outsiders who saw it coming before anyone else did. Come for the all-star cast (Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell), stay for the sharpest, most entertaining explanation of how it all went down that you’ll ever get (outside of reading the book, of course).

     
  • Jenny Shank 3:00 pm on 2015/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, , ,   

    5 Songs That Need Book Adaptations 

    Part of the reason we book fiends devour novels is because once our interest is piqued by the premise of a story, we just have to see how it plays out. But have you ever found yourself wondering about the characters in songs, longing for a story that would explain more about their situation? Here are five songs that deserve a book adaptation, because curious minds need to know what happens next.

    Once in a Lifetime,” by Talking Heads (The Best of Talking Heads)
    The narrator of this song finds himself with a beautiful wife, a beautiful house, and a large automobile, and asks himself, “How did I get here?” If that isn’t a setup for a novel, I don’t know what is. Did he lead a virtuous life or did he lie, cheat, and steal to gain those spoils? Did he start out from a position of privilege or raise himself up? Maybe he doesn’t remember because he has amnesia. I’d also like to see the sequel to this book, because nothing that perfect ever lasts—where does the trouble start first: with the car’s transmission, dry rot in the house, or the wife’s out-of-control betting on fantasy football?

    The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” by Prince (Sign ‘O’ The Times)
    In this Prince puzzler from 1987, Dorothy Parker is not the famous satirical writer, but “a waitress on the promenade.” Prince comes to her diner to cool off after a fight with his lover, and orders a fruit cocktail, which prompts Dorothy to inexplicably tell him, “You sound like a real man to me”—with a cherry on top! She invites him to take a bath. Prince agrees, but only if he’s allowed to keep his pants on. He takes a pants-on bubble bath, and then removes his pants because they are now wet. So do he and Dorothy get even better acquainted at that point? Well, no. “She didn’t see the movie ‘cuz she hadn’t read the book first,” Prince informs us. So Prince takes another bubble bath with his pants on and then the song ends, and I’m thinking, don’t stop there! What on earth is going on with this bizarre relationship? I’d need a whole novel to better understand this woman who’s turned on when a man eats fruit cocktail, and this man who insists on bathing in his pants.

    Hey Mama,” by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj (Listen)
    I’m amazed at the workload Nicki Minaj sets for herself in this song. She promises to do all the cooking and all the cleaning for her man and to keep him pleased in a variety of ways, all while being both a lady and a freak. All he needs to do in exchange is call her name like “hey Ma Mama.” I am exhausted just thinking about this. I want to know more of the story of this couple—is Nicki a frazzled superwoman like Kate Reddy in I Don’t Know How She Does It, or is this more of a Fifty Shades of Grey situation? Agreeing to do all the cooking and cleaning qualifies as masochism in my book.

    The River,” by Bruce Springsteen (The River)
    I’d like to see a book from the perspective of the wife of this song’s narrator, who explains the trajectory of his life in this way: “I got Mary pregnant, and man that was all she wrote. For my nineteenth birthday, I got a union card and a wedding coat.” Perhaps Mary divorced that whiner, who was always going on about the old river where they used to make out as teenagers. Mary probably never liked it, with the muddy banks, biting insects, and perpetual risk of discovery. And yet her husband kept talking about going down to the river, constantly, even though they had bills to pay and he always claimed he didn’t have much work “on account of the economy.” Really, he was just lazy. Now Mary is married to a dentist who takes her to a nice hotel for romantic interludes instead of a muddy riverbank.

     

    The Girl from Ipanema,” (Girl from Ipanema: The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook)
    This classic Brazilian bossa nova song leaves listeners with a cliffhanger and multiple questions only a book adaptation could answer. The girl from Ipanema goes walking, causing men she passes to sigh, and the singer to pine, unable to tell her he loves her as she stares straight ahead not sparing him a glance. Who is this lovelorn man, and does he ever work up the courage to speak to her? Perhaps we could follow the girl ahead in time, to when she’s no longer so tall and tan and young and lovely. What did she learn from her years as a heartbreaker? Did she find the guys looking at her all the time and sighing heavily to be kind of creepy?

     
  • BN Editors 8:49 pm on 2015/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, ,   

    Fall Adaptations We Can’t Wait to See 

    Fall is the most wonderful time of the year for movie buffs, as this is the season when studios release the prestige films they’ve been hoarding through the summer doldrums,. Inevitably, that means it’s also the time of year when some of our favorite reads make the leap to the big screen. Here are the books we can’t wait to buy a ticket for this fall.

    Room, by Emma Donaghue
    It’s a gift when the screenplay adaptation of a beloved novel is written by the author, especially when that author is Emma Donaghue, who can spin a thought-provoking yarn better than most. The story of Room, both book and film, centers on Ma, kidnapped and confined in a 10-by-10 room, and her son, Jack, for whom “Room” is the world. Ma’s built a life for 5-year-old Jack in this prison, but the time has come to escape. But how do you acclimate a child whose whole life has been encompassed in a single, isolated space to civilization? That’s the heartbreaking challenge explored in this book, which is ultimately an uplifting reminder that a good mother can help you survive anything.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    There’s been a robust publicity campaign for the Matt Damon-starring film adaptation of The Martian—NASA even went and found water on Mars for the occasion! Once you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s version, it’s imperative you get your hands on Weir’s novel. On the page, you’ll get even more insight into the mindset of Mark Watney, the star-crossed, foul-mouthed astronaut who finds himself abandoned on the red planet, but still very keen on remaining alive. There’s a new space race: to get to the thrilling end of the book. 

    Bridge of Spies, by Giles Whittell
    Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks in a historical espionage drama centered on a 1960 incident in which a U.S. spy plane was shot down over the former Soviet Union and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was captured. Initially the U.S. tried to disavow the incident, until the Soviets came forward with hard evidence of their culpability, igniting an international firestorm and leading to a high-profile prisoner exchange. The story of the Russian agent American intelligence was forced to relinquish is just as exciting as a secret mission in an experimental plane. The film adaptation stars Amy Ryan and Alan Alda.

    Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
    Award-winning Irish author Tóibín nabbed his dream hometown cast—including Oscar-nominees Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent—and no less than Nick Hornby to pen the screenplay for the adaptation of his 2009 novel about a small-town Irish girl in the years after World War II dreaming of a better life in Brooklyn. The film, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, was directed by Irish theater veteran John Crowley (who recently helmed several episodes of HBO’s True Detective).

    Trumbo, by Bruce Cook
    Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston stars as legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the film adaptation inspired by Cook’s 1977 biography. Trumbo was a celebrated, highly paid talent in Hollywood during the Golden Age of movie-making—until the 1940s, when, with the Red Scare in full swing, Senator Joseph McCarthy made Tinseltown ground zero for a Communist witch hunt. Refusing to reveal the identities of other Hollywood players who had been involved in Communist organizations, Trumbo was placed on the infamous “black list,” and barred from working in the industry for more than a decade (at least under his own name—films he’d written won two Oscars during his period of exile). The film, by Jay Roach, who previously adapted the 2008 election drama Game Change, follows the arc of Trumbo’s life and career and also stars Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, and Louis C.K.

    The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff
    Eddie Redmayne brings his post-Oscar glow to the story of Lili Elbe, the artist and transgender pioneer, to the adaptation of The Danish Girl. The natural drama of Elbe’s life-altering journey, and its effects on her marriage, is well-suited to the big screen, but it also makes for a compelling read in Ebershoff’s novel of the same name. It’s a story about love, ambition, and identity, and an unconventional look at an unconventional 20th-century woman. Romance and heartbreak go hand in hand, just like books and movies.

     
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