Saw a tweet by Judy Blume about the forthcoming film adaptation of her book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – “I love this trailer” – and right away that upped my interest in this adaptation (I’m a simple girl when it comes to these adaptations: happy writer, happy me).
I will, of course, judge the film for myself but her positive vibes are contagious if you are someone to whom this book was meaningful when you were coming of age (that’s me again, I’m talking about me). I want good things for Margaret and Blume, whom I was fortunate to see live at an event in New York about 10 years ago. In honour of this moment of another beloved literary classic getting the big screen treatment (not TV series like Roots or Lonesome Dove), I thought I’d revisit some of my faves – not a definitive list because I don’t remember everything I’ve seen and read but I figure if I can remember it, that counts for something. Also, I may have seen the movie but not read the book or vice versa. So, once I’ve read the book and seen the film based on the book, and liked both for what they were, I’ll consider them. And since we can’t go on forever, let’s make it a top 10. List your own in the comments.
The Godfather – Mario Puzo’s book and the Francis Ford Coppola film it inspired (or films counting Godfather Part II) are near-perfect, especially so the films in their execution of story; a story of family within the framework of a mafia/crime novel.
The Outsiders – The Francis Ford Coppola adaptation of the S E Hinton book is one of the movies of my pre-teens which in the 80s was the brat pack years, and the gang (Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze) were all here, and I was swooning. I didn’t know it then but the intersection of Hinton and the Brat Pack also includes another movie in the same universe which I remember liking (Tex with Matt Dillon). Another Dillon film in the Hinton verse Coppola’s Rumble Fish is on my to-watch list because somehow though I knew of it, I missed it back then. I loved the poetry (Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold can Stay”) and the music (Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky”) of The Outsiders, and listening to the audio book recently-ish was just the nostalgia kick needed to bump this teen/YA modern classic up this list.
The Terry McMillan verse – Speaking of author verses, this African-American author ruled the 90s with three damn good book to film adaptations especially Waiting to Exhale, directed by Forrest Whittaker (future Black Panther producer and Oscar winning actor) and starring Whitney “The Voice” Houston, Angela “shoulda done ha wan Oscar for playing Tina Turner” Bassett, Loretta “she is so” Devine, and Lela “Sunshine” Rochon, all in career best performances. Not the better film but my favourite book the Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan starrer, Disappearing Acts, and Angela again with Taye Diggs in the Caribbean – with Whoopi Goldberg and Regina King in supporting roles, How Stella got her Groove Back are more mid as films but good enough to give me an opportunity to give this author her props for bringing Black stories in to the mainstream on page and screen.
The Stephen King verse – I’m going to cheat again and just drop the prolific master of horror right here for his multitude of book to film adaptations, faves of which include Misery (which won Kathy Bates a best actress Oscar) and was just as tense and entertaining on screen as on page.
Malcolm X – Spike Lee’s tour de force which should have picked up awards for director and actor (Denzel Washington) both is based on Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the epic documentation of the slain civil rights activists transition from Malcolm Little to the fiery X, and his enduring impact on the culure. Spike had to shake the pockets of monied Black celebrities to realize his dream/vision fully and it measured up to the book beautifully.
Interview with the Vampire – the Anne Rice novel and Tom Cruise as Lestat film had to be here because I love me some vampire chronicles (up to and including any book in which Louis appears since I have a soft spot for him and the current TV series which alters the original story in interesting ways), and because Cruise surprised even the doubting author with how he bodied this role.
The Grisham verse – I have to throw in this author verse because there was a time, somewhere between The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client, though it tapered off after that, that Grisham’s books and movies were my jam. Of these, The Firm with Tom Cruise was perhaps most tautly executed.
Bridget Jones Diary – call it chick-lit if you want but this book and the rom-com it inspired was endearing and is arguably Renee Zellwegger’s best inhabitation of character (which is a neat trick considering that the American actress was playing a love hungry, chronicly dieting, awkdorable modern British woman)
The Colour Purple – The Steven Speilberg adaptation of the Pulitzer winning Alice Walker novel has the distinction of being one of the most snubbed Oscar films ever with 11 nominations and nary a win. Both book and film are certified classics though and, more importantly, deeply embedded in the culture as evidenced by the number of quotes and other references that are shorthand among Black people. Quincy Jones, the GOAT of music producers, was also a producer on the film and his hand is obvious in the memorable music associated with the production as well.
Little Women – The Louisa May Alcott YA novel is an enduring classic (one of my faves) and one of the most adapted classics ever with six or seven feature film adaptations of which I have seen the one with Elizabeth Taylor (I think) and the Greta Gerwig directed one with Saorse Ronin (which I liked but didn’t love). But Winona Ryder’s, directed by Gillian Armstrong, is my fave for being from my time (each LW, despite re-telling the same story, being a window to the time of the film’s re-telling).
I think those, though Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (the one with Sidney Poitier), Joanne Harris’ Chocolat (when Johnny Depp was still dreamy), Passing (the criminally overlooked Rebecca Hall adaptation of the Nella Larsen Harlem Renaissance novella), and so many others (World War Z, Holes, Push/Precious, Girl with a Pearl Earring, I know why the Caged Bird Sings, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Secret Life of Bees, incidentally directed by The Woman King director Gina Prince Bythewood, even the Dan Brown Robert Langdon books especially Da Vinci Code which are escapist fun) could have made the list but these, I think, start with strong books and not only don’t diminish them in adapting them for a different format but are top tier themselves in their way.
This is also my Sunday Post (referring to the book blog meme hosted by the Caffeinated Reviewer); so let’s get caught up.
Saturday, by buyer’s request, I signed three copies of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, which is technically out of print – buyer is on another island but reached out and was able to access the books through a local bookstore which still has some in stock. I also did some mailings to bookstores about To be a Cheetah, my latest/forthcoming children’s book (with local illustrator Zavian Archibald) which is available for pre-order – publisher is Sunbird Books in the US. One last writerly thing, I just found out that a contest I thought was closed was pandemic delayed and I may still be in the running – fingers crossed. After being announced as the winner of this year’s Anthony N Sabga Arts and Letters prize, and receiving so many good wishes (with people in particular saying how “deserving”), I’m going to try to rewire my brain to expect good things instead of steeling myself for the worst possible outcome – it’ll take some work, as I grew up with a mother who constantly reminded us that my grandmother (a sweet, god fearing woman who succumbed to cancer when I was a child – my first real heartbreak) always said to “leave room for disappointment”. It’s a helpful mindset in the working class community from which I come, on the small island where I grew up and live, a reminder that so much is out of our control. It’s real. But I want to sprinkle a little fairy dust on reality and prime myself for good things. So, I’m going to try, emphasis on try. Because it’s a more healthy way to live, I think.
New and Top Performing Posts on the Blog and Vlog this past week are –
5 – vlog – “Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023” + blog – “CREATIVE SPACE #21 OF 2020 – A BRIEF HISTORY OF CALYPSO IN ANTIGUA“
4 – vlog – “CREATIVE SPACE YOUNG WOMEN TALKING” + blog – “Media updates (re Anthony N. Sabga Award for Arts and Letter)“
3 – vlog – “Observer Radio Big Issues Sabga segment 050323” + blog – “BOOKS“
2 – vlog – “Presentation Antigua Barbuda Conference 2022 (on New Daughters of Africa)” + blog – “New CREATIVE SPACE uploaded…at the end of a very long day“
1 – vlog – “CREATIVE SPACE – BACK TO AFRICA”
+ blog “CREATIVE SPACE #6 OF 2023 – BACK TO AFRICA“
Finally, as for recent watches and recent reads –
Watches are the Chris Rock: Selective Outrage comedy special (I’m not outraged but I had one real bellyful laugh), Creed III (which was entertaining and I’m happy that Michael B Jordan’s directorial debut is performing so well but after I found I hadn’t connected as much as others), and the Luther: The Fallen Sun, the full length adaptation of Idris Elba’s second definitive series (after The Wire) – which had an in universe moment of people watching the worst thing that had me wondering who are these people watching this…as I watched them watching it. I’ve also started the Station Eleven series and am about three episodes in; there are differences from the book, of course, but I’m liking it so far. I’ve also been following but not really watching The Last of Us – the video game and TV series, and it’s quite good, both the game and TV show. Looking forward to season 2.
Reads include Station Eleven by Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel, which I started listening to last Sunday and finished early in the week, and What start Bad a Morning by Caribbean writer Carol Mitchell, due out later this year, an advanced copy of which I finished reading back in January 2023. Both blogged about in my Thrifty Thursday post. My reading since has been limited to the Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell (both of the Caribbean) edited Reclaim Restore Return. I’m only one story down, “FallenAngel.DLL”, but what an interesting (terrifying and oddly hopeful) story it is – existing as it does in a sort of hybrid afro-futurist, sci fi dystopia, Caribbean post-modernist space. The anthology of speculative Caribbean fiction is a free ebook published by the Caribbean Futures Institute in collaboration with the Bocas Lit Fest.
5 thoughts on “Favourite Book to Movie Adaptations (and Sunday Post)”
I can’t wait to go see Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret with my 12 year old.
I am definitely looking forward to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret!
Reblogged this on Wadadli Pen.
Great list of book to film adaptations there! I really was impressed with Little Women too, I actually loved that one which surprised me since I love the classic. I loved Chocolat, that is my favorite film of Johnny Depp honestly. He was just gold in that one and so normal haha
Which of the classics? The Winona one is still my fave…I guess that’s classic now. Yes he was…different time. Thanks for stopping by.