Monday, February 8, 2010

Books and Movies

I love to watch movies adapted from books I've already read. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the book is better. Recently, I've read two World War II novels, and over the weekend I watched the movies that correspond with each.

Late last year I listened to The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I enjoyed it, but found it just a bit harder to follow the story via audiobook than I'd hoped. Over Christmas this year, I read The Good German by Joseph Kanon and I just could not put it down. Because of this, I was especially interested in the movie version that came out in 2006.

I liked that The Good German movie was filmed in black and white. I really think that added so much to the destruction of Berlin and the hopelessness felt by many of the characters. Thumbs up for that. Also thumbs up for Cate Blanchett. She is especially glamorous filmed in black and white. Thumbs down for most everything else, though. I like Tobey Maguire just fine, and I liked his performance a lot in Seabiscuit, but I thought he was terrible in this movie (and not just because he plays a jerk). Thank goodness the audience doesn't have to endure it for too long before his character is killed (I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying that; it's an integral part of the story). There is a lot from the book that is left out of the movie. Unfortunately, all of them are things that gave such depth to the novel, and wove a complex tale of amazing interconnectedness. Very little of this comes through in the movie. It's too bad that the movie left me feeling so unfulfilled after reading such an excellent book version.

The English Patient, however, was a great movie. I would go as far as saying that I liked the movie version better than the book, though I realize I might have liked the book better having read it rather than listened to it. The scenery was gorgeous and so is the story. I liked the book, but the movie really made the story come alive for me. I thought the casting was excellent. And, I didn't realize until I started watching the movie that Colin Firth played in it. I was also surprised to see that Naveen Andrews, who plays one of my favorite characters on the TV show, Lost, had an important role. Definite bonuses!

I'm not the only one who thought this movie was great. It won Academy Awards in 1997 for Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music Score, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress, and it was nominated in several other categories. It also won five Golden Globes in 1997, including Best Motion Picture.

So, I highly recommend reading both books and watching the movie version of The English Patient if you haven't already. I have to say that I'm fascinated by World War II stories. Between these two and hearing of Miep Gies' death, I think I should probably reread Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl soon, especially as the PBS adaptation is coming in April.

As a side note, my husband and I are headed to Las Vegas for a few days in March. I've done some research, but can't seem to find any fiction or interesting non-fiction books where Las Vegas is the setting. I'd love to be reading something Vegas-related on the plane ride. Does anyone have any suggestions? To cover all our bases, we watched Rain Man over the weekend, and Honeymoon in Vegas and What Happens in Vegas are both coming soon via Netflix.


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