Books to Movies, Movies to Books

I seem to be in a media bashing mood this week. The other night, it was the idiots at CNN, rewriting history to suit their take on a story. Tonight it’s a different set of idiots, this time at CTV, and they obviously can not read. If they could, they would not have come up with this list of “25 Movies That Were Better Than the Book.”

Sandra Ruttan
gives us CTV’s whole list (the goofy way CTV set this piece up, that’s a bigger deal than it sounds):
The Godfather
Jurassic Park
The Return of the King
What Dreams May Come
The Namesake
The Shawshank Redemption
The Princess Bride
Blade Runner
Forrest Gump
The Shining
The Hunt For Red October
Jackie Brown
About A Boy
Brokeback Mountain
The Children of Men
Field of Dreams
The Silence of the Lambs
Gone With The Wind
Fight Club
A Clockwork Orange
No Country For Old Men
The Birds
A couple of these weren’t books in the first place: they were short stories or novellas so, in a way, don’t fit the profile CTV has set out here.

I’ve read most of these and seen most of the movies and while there are a few that I might concede, for the most part, we’re talking pretty terrific books and in some cases, there’s just no comparison: the book wins hands down.

Let’s look at a few of these. How could anyone who has actually read the book suggest that the Hugh Grant film version of About A Boy is better than the Nick Hornby book of the same name? That doesn’t even compute.

And what about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? What film version -- even (or maybe especially) the 1931 version stated -- could be better than the original novel that defined a genre… that arguably created genre in the first place?

And Forrest Gump? To be honest, I have not read the book, but I have a tough time believing it’s not as good as that crappy film I sat through the in the mid-90s, just waiting for the Tom Hanks character to please get hit hard enough that he would not get up. Ever. Again.

And PD James’ Children of Men? Come on. Just come on. The movie was okay. But the book? The book was sublime. It might have changed my worldview. It certainly moved me. Wonderful prose, great story: great book. Still one of my all-time favorite novels.

And The Shining. Don’t even get me started on The Shining. Some people really love the movie, but it’s mostly people who haven’t actually read the book. The book is great. And the film? Well, it’s not based on the book, simple as that. It’s a different story altogether, with different motivations and different characters who happen to have the same name.

Brokeback Mountain? Annie Proulx. Need I say more?

Field of Dreams? The Silence of the Lambs? Gone With The Wind? Crash? Fight Club?All great, great books.

There are some movies that are better than the books that inspired them: of course there are. Just mostly not the ones CTV has included here. Take for example Sideways. The book was self-indulgent. Tedious. The movie was fresh and fun. I might argue for Trainspotting, but that might just be a matter of taste: I find Irvine Welsh to be a bit pretentious and it’s a dense read if you don’t speak fluent urban Scottish and, in that moment, the film took my breath away, though I’m not sure it would now. Oh, and almost anything by Ian Fleming. Taste again, I know, but I never thought much of him as a writer, and the James Bond films have all been so much fun.

I could go on like this, but you get the idea. Clearly, it’s a deeply personal thing. Though each of us will be moved by the work of certain writers and certain films just seem to gel, you actually have to read the book to make these determinations and I’m fairly certain that whoever compiled this list for CTV -- weird ad agency prose and all -- hadn’t actually done that.


Sandra Ruttan said…
The thing that keeps going through my mind is what, exactly, is the point of lists like this anyway?

But this was the proper rant this list deserved. Thanks Linda.

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