> Chapter1-Take1: October 2017

Top Ten Scariest Book to Movie Adaptations: Happy Halloween! #book2movies

Happy Halloween! I shared this list of the top ten scary horror novels adapted for the screen back in 2011. Surely we've seen some scary new screen adaptations since then. Any suggestions? Does this year’s Gerald's Game based on the Stephen King book belong on the list? How about the Babadook? I'm dying to hear your point of view. 

In the meantime, turn the lights down and settle in with a bowl of candy corn and popcorn and enjoy the scariest season of the year!

1. “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty (1971). The film based on the book was released in 1973, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. Many people view the book as one of the most frightening horror novels of all time.
2. “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin (1967). This bestseller was adapted into a film starring Mia Farrow in 1968. The popularity of the novel and movie inspired the author to write a sequel in 1997. 

3. “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson (1959). This is one of the horror novels on the list to be adapted into not one, but two films. Both of the movies are called “The Haunting,” and the first, from 1963, is fairly similar to the book. The second movie, made in 1999, is quite different from the novel.

4. “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris (1988). The film adaptation of this wildly popular novel was critically acclaimed, winning all five of the top Academy Awards in 1991.

5. “Misery” by Stephen King (1987). One of the few non-supernatural horror novels on the list, “Misery” became a movie in 1990. Kathy Bates received an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes.

6. “The Shining” by Stephen King (1977). Yes, Stephen King gets two entries on the list of 10 best horror novels made into movies. Even though the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film adaptation was very different from the novel, they are both terrifying. The book was also made into a mini-series in 1997 that was much more faithful to the original story.

7. “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley (1818). The oldest of all the horror novels on the list, “Frankenstein” introduces one of the best-known characters in history. The book has been adapted into countless film versions over the years.
8. “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham (1957). “The Midwich Cuckoos” was the basis for the 1960 film “The Village of the Damned.” The original film was even remade in 1995.

9. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker (1897). Even though this novel did not introduce the concept of the vampire, it has had widespread influence on popular culture. The title character has been featured in innumerable movies; perhaps most notably the 1931 film “Dracula.”

10. “The Stepford Wives” by Ira Levin (1972). The second of Ira Levin’s horror novels to make the list, “The Stepford Wives” became a movie in 1975, which was remade in 2004.
Credit to Harper Beckett on manmade.com. What would you add?

Alias Grace: Our next big binge is just 5 days away #book2movies

I’ve just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace which means I’ve got a few days to spare before the six episode series comes to Netflix on November 3rd. Canadian writer/actor Sarah Polley wrote the adaptation. 
Based on the true story of Grace Marks, a housemaid and immigrant from Ireland who was imprisoned in 1843, perhaps wrongly, for the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear. Grace claims to have no memory of the murder yet the facts are irrefutable. A decade after, Dr. Simon Jordan tries to help Grace recall her past.

Sarah Gadon stars as Grace, just a 13 year old Irish girl when the book begins, a 16 year old teenager when the crime is committed, a 26 year old young woman when Dr. Jordan interviews her. The 20 year old Gadon seems to straddle those ages well.

The very handsome Edward Holcroft plays the handsome Dr. Simon Jordan. He loves to listen to her tales. So do we.

Jeremiah (Zachary Levi) is one of the few men Grace trust

I enjoyed the book tremendously and have to wrap my head around my thoughts before sharing them with you. One thing I will say: after a few hundred pages, mostly reading Grace’s side of the story I believe she is innocent. And at the same time I believe she could very well be guilty. Ay, there’s the rub.

Have you read the book? Do you feel the same way? Here’s the trailer for the Mary Harron directed series. I’m curious to see if this screen adaptation ends up with a more definitive view.

A Discovery of Witches: A Vampire & a Witch Walk into a Bar #book2movies

Actually that never happens. In case you didn’t know, vampires and witches would never walk into a bar together. They trust each other like the fabled scorpion and the fox.  Unless of course, they’re Diana Bishop (Theresa Palmer) the witchy woman who warms vampire Matthew de Clairmont’s (Matthew Goode) heart in A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. As you likely do know, (not just because you read the news here, but you may have) the first book in Harkness best selling All Souls trilogy is currently being made into a BBC television series starring Goode as the vampire and Palmer as Diana the witch. The series has just added some exciting new cast members.

Lindsay Duncan who has a long history in mainly British film and television, including a stint on Sherlock, is set to play Ysabeau, Matthew de Clairmont’s snooty vampiric mother. 

Lindsay Duncan cast as Ysabeau de Clairmont

(seen here in The Honourable Woman)

“Still, you need him as much as you need the air you breathe, and he wants you as he’s wanted nothing and no one since I made him. So it is done, and we will make the best of it.”~ Ysabeau de Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches

I remember Alex Kingston from E.R. (and I don't mean Elizabeth Regina) but if you don't go back quite as far as I do, you may know the British actor better from Dr. Who or even the TV series Arrow. Kingston will play Sarah Bishop, Diana’s (overly?) protective aunt. Who happens to be a witch.

Alex Kingston cast as  Sarah Bishop

(seen here in Upstairs, Downstairs)

“A note in Sarah’s dark, decisive handwriting was taped to the staircase’s newel post. “Out. Thought the house needed some time alone with you first. Move slowly. Matthew can stay in Em’s old room. Your room is ready.” There was a postscript, in Em’s rounder scrawl. “Both of you use your parents’ room.” A Discovery of Witches

Also onboard, Valarie Pettiford (The Blacklist) as Em, Sarah’s less micro-managing partner. 

Valarie Pettiford cast as Em, Sarah’s partner

Have you read the wildly popular series? Deborah Harkness was a history professor at nearby USC—her historical background gives the novels the extra heft they’re praised for—and the hope is that all the books in the series will make their way to the small screen as well. 

Sophia Myles cast as Rebecca Bishop

(seen here in Tristan and Isolde)

I started paying attention when first learned that Theresa Palmer was playing Diana because my husband worked with Palmer on The Message from the King. And now, checking the credit list, I see Sophia Myles, (who my husband also worked with on Tristan and Isolde) joined the cast recently as fellow witch Rebecca Bishop. What a small and crazy world, eh?

The film is shot largely in Wales, as well as Oxford and its’ Bodleian Library so I know my fellow Anglophiles playing along with Joy’s British Isles Friday will be following the film as closely as I am.

Pablo Picasso was born on this day in 1881: Let's watch the movie starring Anthony Hopkins. #book2movies

Picasso—born on October 25, 1881—proves that the genius of a man—whether he is a great artist or a film producer—doesn’t make him a great man, as a human being. From what we know, when it comes to women, Picasso was a bit of a pig. 

Portrait of Dora Maar/1937

But we can’t deny his genius with a canvas. Today marks the great artists’ birthday. You can celebrate by streaming Surviving Picasso based on the biography Picasso: Creator & Destroyer by Arianna Huffington. The James Ivory directed film stars the great actor Anthony Hopkins (who I hope is, if not a great man in his personal life, at least a decent one) as Picasso. While the 1996 movie was not well-received, Hopkins of course, gave his usual excellent performance. 

he disappears into the idea of Picasso. As Hopkins creates Picasso, he is cruel, abrupt, vain, stingy, a sexual glutton, and yet we can see the dazzling charm and effortless confidence--the certainty of greatness--that inspired new lovers to pursue him, brushing aside all warnings. (“Listen,” says Picasso's servant as Gilot falls into the net, “it would be better for you to go home.”) Roger Ebert, 1996

Portrait of Françoise Gilot, Picasso, 1947

Natascha McElhone stars as Françoise Gilot, the woman who survived her relationship, Joan Plowright as her grandmother, Julianne Moore as Dora Maar, and Joss Ackland as Henri Matisse. 

I missed this movie when it hit theaters back in 1996 as I was first time mother to a three year old. If I went to the movies it would have been to see James and the Giant Peach or 101 Dalmatians. Happily I can stream Surviving Picasso for a few dollars on YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes and GooglePlay. How about you? Have you seen it? Thoughts?

The Snowman: My take on the movie starring Michael Fassbender #book2movies [review]

‘‘I didn’t think it was that bad. Not as bad as I was expecting.’’ That’s what I tell my husband when we leave the 1:45 pm showing of The Snowman starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson. My husband says something along the lines of  ‘that’s not much of an endorsement’. 

I have to admit, based on buzz, we wouldn’t have gone to see The Snowman if I wasn’t both writing a blog about movies based on books and if I wasn’t a Michael Fassbender fan. And if we didn’t have MoviePass, which enables us to see a movie every day at select theaters for just $9.95 a month. That doesn’t hurt either.

But honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It was just a bit ... meh and hard to follow.

A Norwegian travelogue 

The Atlantic Road Coastal Highway/Copyright: Fjellfjord

On the plus side. It was amazing to see Norway, all the snow and ice, the architecture of Oslo, the seafront of Bergen. The strangeness of Vigeland Park sheafed in snow (you get a peek through the window about 58 secs into the trailer below). The scene where we travel over a gently curving elevated road across this spellbinding white swathe of snow and ice (the 112 second mark). Later there are acres of spindly skeleton-like trees bathed in snow. But that’s me, I love that stuff.

Val Kilmer overlooking Vagen, the bay at Bergen, Norway

I loved seeing Norway,’’ I say. ‘‘Besides Fassbender, that was the real star of the movie. I’m glad we saw it just for that.’’

‘‘Well,” he says, his critical thinking skills unhampered by his affection for the star,“that’s hardly a reason to recommend it. You can go online and see pictures and video of Norway.’’

He has me there. So. I come back to my default position. I really didn’t think it was that bad. It was okay. Fassbender—in a role that demanded little of him—was perfectly natural and believable as an alcoholic who passes out in warming huts and police department benches, plods through the snow swept landscape, a once brilliant detective, now a fuck-up, halfheartedly turning his crime solving skills to the job at hand. 

No sex

Rebecca Ferguson, as a new member of his unit was fine. She’s beautiful but there’s no chemistry, intentional or not. Shortly after they begin working together, she says to him ‘you’re not going to try to sleep with me, are you?’ he looks at her mystified. ‘No,’ he answers. And that really is the end of that. That’s a problem because you don’t have to have sex but you do need sexual energy. 

An old acting teacher used to tell us every scene is, at its core, about sex. That life force is the driving force. Maybe that’s part of the problem. There’s no sex in the movie. Literally and figuratively. Even in a scene where his former girlfriend tries to get something started with him, lifting up her woolen dress, mounting him, there is nothing happening. When she moves away to answer her phone—he’s given her no reason to stay—he gives her the same mystified look as he gave Ferguson. It’s as though there’s something dead, empty inside. True, Harry Hole (Ah, there’s a clue) seems to be missing something, only coming to life around his former girlfriend’s son. Even then he can’t keep it together, live up to his own desire to be a father figure. He’s a disappointment to the boy, to himself and to us.

The elements of the crime, a serial killer decapitating women and leaving snowmen as a clue, is as hole-filled as Harry’s empty-feeling inner self. Flashbacks you don’t realize are flashbacks until the movie’s over. Improbable situations and the like. 

Still, I could forgive those issues if Fassbender had hooked me like he usually does. Did he play Harry Hole by the book? Is that depressing character he displayed the man he wanted us to see? While I love a flawed character—Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, Stellan Skarsgard in River, there needs to be something about them to fall in love with. While The Snowman didn’t leave me ice cold, I have to grudgingly admit, I didn’t feel the heat.

The Snowman is based on the book by Jo Nesbo, the 7th in the hugely popular series. Maybe that's the ticket. Go back and read the books in order, get to know Harry first. Fall in love. 

The Snowman, directed by acclaimed director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) was scripted by Hossein Amini (Drive, Ronin, Wings of the Dove) and includes Martin Scorsese as Executive Producer with his longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker listed along with Claire Simpson as editor. Cinematography is by Dion Beebe (The Edge of Tomorrow, Mary Poppins Returns) In addition to Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson the cast includes Charlottes Gainsborough, Jonas Karlsson,Toby Jones, Chloe Sevigny, James Darcy,Val Kilmer, and J.K. Simmons.

Oh, by the way ... the director has answered critics saying the reason the film has been so poorly received is that he didn’t get a chance to shoot everything.
“Our shoot time in Norway was way too short,” the Swedish filmmaker told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (translated by The Independent). “We didn’t get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don’t see the whole picture.”
That’s a bit bizarre. Not to know until you arrive at the cutting stage that so many pieces are missing is more than a mistake, it’s a mistake in judgement. He knows what he shot, he should have known what he got.

Also, the glimpses of Norway I fell in love with? Apparently they’re geographically incorrect. On that score I agree with Alfredson, ‘‘If not everything is geographically correct, I don’t give a shit.’’

Happy 70th Birthday Kevin Kline: let’s watch Sophie’s Choice again! #book2movies

I highlighted Sophie’s Choice as our Saturday Matinee awhile back but seeing today is Kevin Kline’s birthday, let’s take another look. 

Thinking of Sophie’s Choice, it’s hard to grasp it was Kevin Kline’s first feature film. He had been working as a stage actor, a member of John Housman’s acting company, performing Shakespeare around the country. He’d had a couple of television roles in the late 70’s but it wasn’t until he played Nathan in Sophie’s Choice that he really broke out. The Golden Globes nominated him for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture. He was thirty five years old. Late to get started in the movies. 

After that came The Big Chill, Dave, Silverado, French Kiss, A Midsummer Nights Dream, In & Out. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for one of his most memorable roles, Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. Looking back, you can see all those characters encapsulated in his multi-layered performance as Nathan, at once charming and hilarious, passionate and domineering, manic and larger than life. 

I wonder if it’s that larger than life quality, which works so well on stage, that’s prevented him from being a major, major movie star like Meryl Streep. Instead, he’s had a great, long-lasting solid career and rather than drama, we most often saw his shiniest self in comedies. Last year we saw him as Maurice, Belle’s father in the movie musical Beauty & the Beast

Happy Birthday to Kevin Kline, born October 24th, 1947 in St. Louis, Mo. 

To celebrate we’re watching Kevin Kline in a dramatic turn as Nathan in Sophie’s Choice, available on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu and GooglePlay. As always, check Netflix.

Do you have a favorite Kevin Kline performance? 
Tell me about it!

Dreaming of France: Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour #book2movies

“I grow irritated, nervous, very tense but never bored.’’

Catherine Deneuve, shown here reading Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, turned 74 today, October 22nd. For those of us Dreaming of France, let’s take a look back at Deneuve in Belle de Jour from 1967, when the young actress, born in 1943 was a mere 24 years old. 

The logline: A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.

Deneuve was nominated for a BAFTA, while the acclaimed director Luis Bunuel, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and Best Film from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The film is considered his masterpiece.

About the book:

Belle de Jour, published in 1960, sounds like dangerous ground even today. 
The startling and groundbreaking novel that inspired Luis Bunuel's film by the same name, Belle de Jour remains as vital and controversial today as it was in its 1960 debut.

Severine Serizy is a wealthy and beautiful Parisian housewife. She loves her husband, but she cannot share physical intimacy with him, and her vivid sadomasochistic fantasies drive her to seek employment at a brothel. By day, she enacts her customers' wildest fantasies under the pseudonym “Belle de Jour”; in the evenings, she returns home to her chaste marriage and oblivious husband. Famous for its unflinching eroticism, Joseph Kessel’s novel continues to offer an eye-opening glance into a unique female psyche.

Frankly, I wonder why wealthy men like the Harvey Weinsteins of the world bother innocent women when there are prostitutes they can pay to do pretty much anything they want. 
In the end it comes down to power though doesn’t it? How much more powerful to force a woman to give you a massage or let you masturbate while she watches you shower, rather than pay for services rendered. 

Are you as done with these pigs as I am? 
Parents, are you educating your sons about their own behavior when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex?

Posted for Dreaming of France via An Accidental Blog

Read Margaret Atwood's 'Alias Grace' before you watch it on Netflix #book2movies

257 pages in to Margaret Atwood's 467 page work of historical fiction, Alias Grace may be my favorite of Atwood’s books. Written in 1996, Atwood takes convicted murderer/murderess Grace Marks from the 1850’s and uses her to shine a light on a world ruled by men, even today.

Grace Mark’s guards never fail to make crude comments

November 3rd when Alias Grace makes its debut on Netflix, can’t come soon enough, and for those of you who haven’t read the novel, the hefty book flies by surprisingly quickly. I’m loving getting to know this woman who we first meet as a very young girl from an impoverished family in Ireland, forced by financial circumstances to sail across the sea to Canada, in the hold of a ship.

 Edward Holcroft as the handsome Dr. Simon Jordan

Atwood thoroughly and lovingly renders the girl’s story of her life as a servant, who while famously convicted for murder, is judged to be insane and therefore confined to an asylum.

Alias Grace, scripted by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho), stars Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks with Edward Holcroft (Charlie in Kingsman) as Dr. Jordan—the man she tells her story to—Anna Paquin and Paul Gross as the victims, the housekeeper and the master, Nancy Montgomery and Thomas Kinnear, that Grace and James McDermot (Kerr Logan) are convicted of killing. Rebecca Liddiard plays Grace’s beloved friend & protectress Mary Whitney.

Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard) watches out for Grace (Sarah Gadon)

Saturday Matinee: Postcards from the Edge starring Meryl Streep & Shirley Maclaine #book2movies

We are absolutely watching Postcards from the Edge for today’s Saturday Matinee. The screen adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel was written by the book’s author, Carrie Fisher, who would have celebrated her 61st birthday today, October 21st. 

The logline:
A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment
The 1990 film was directed by Mike Nichols and earned two Oscar nominations: a Best Actress nom for Meryl Streep—the 9th of her historic 20—plus a Best Song nomination for Shel Silverstein for I’m Checkin’ Out.  Did you have any idea that Shel (The Giving Tree) Silverstein was a composer? Because I definitely did not. The score by the way, is by Carly Simon. So many multi-talented people here!

As for Carrie Fisher, her script earned her a BAFTA Best Screenplay nomination in the Adapted category. 

About the book

When we first meet the extraordinary young actress Suzanne Vale, she’s feeling like “something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, and not even someone interesting.” Suzanne is in the harrowing and hilarious throes of drug rehabilitation, trying to understand what happened to her life and how she managed to land in a “drug hospital.”

Just as Fisher’s first film role—the precocious teenager in Shampoo—echoed her own Beverly Hills upbringing, her first book is set within the world she knows better than anyone else: Hollywood. This stunning literary debut chronicles Suzanne’s vivid, excruciatingly funny experiences inside the clinic and as she comes to terms with life in the outside world. Postcards from the Edge is more than a book about stardom and drugs. It is a revealing look at the dangers—and delights—of all our addictions, from money and success to sex and insecurity.

Postcards from the Edge which also stars Shirley Maclaine and a ridiculously young Dennis Quaid is available to stream on Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu and GooglePlay.

Mark Ruffalo to star in "I Know This Much is True" for HBO #book2movies

Thanks, HBO, for adding another book to my teetering bedside pile. Today’s news that Mark Ruffalo is set to star in an 8 episode series based on Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True has me putting the title on my hold list at the public library right now. After all the book, published in 2008, is 901 pages. That’s going to take a minute to read. 

Ruffalo, shown here in Now You See It 2 will play a pair of identical twins, Dominick and Thomas, the latter being a schizophrenic. 

On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother, Thomas, entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut, public library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable. . . .
One of the most acclaimed novels of our time, Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True is a story of alienation and connection, devastation and renewal, at once joyous, heartbreaking, poignant, mystical, and powerfully, profoundly human.
Mark Ruffalo himself has been working with the author to develop the script for the past couple of years, now Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Light Between Oceans) has signed on to direct. I’m a fan of both Ruffalo and Cianfrance’s work so this is definitely one for the must watch list. Just hoping I can get that mammoth book under my belt first.

Have you read the book? Do you plan to?

Mudbound: My take on the book by Hillary Jordan [review] #book2movies

I shared a clip of Hillary Jordan reading the first chapter of her 2011 debut novel a couple of months back. Now the movie is about to come out countrywide in November and I’ve just finished the book. I find myself awed and humbled by the grace of Jordan’s writing.

It’s not an easy subject—an ugly band of racism forms the core—and the characters she has created are so deep and complex, it makes an aspiring novelist like me want to run and hide under the floorboards. 

Here’s how the publisher describes Jordan’s novel
In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm -- a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not -- charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion. 
 "They called us “Eleanor Roosevelt’s nigger.’’~Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) with Jamie (Garrett Hedlund)

The key word here is inexorable. Inescapable, unstoppable. In the environment that Jordan writes about, the rules for society are set in stone. No one—not the black sharecropper family and certainly not white farmer owners—would dream of changing them. One does not cross the color bar. The two men who do, Ronsel and Jamie, have both been to Europe, fighting in the war. They’ve seen the world can work a little differently, with white women and black men dancing together, and probably more. Neither one of them believes it will ever be that way here in the states. Especially not in the Mississippi Delta. 

They are both aware of the stakes when they cross the boundaries, entering into a kind of friendship in an era when just that, friendship between the races, is an impossible dream.

“When I think of the farm, I think of mud.’’~Laura (Carey Mulligan)

Jordan writes from several character points of view in alternating chapters although it is Laura’s voice that resonates the loudest. We want what she wants, a decent home for herself and her children, a husband who appreciates her, a husband who fulfills her. Since we relate to Laura, we project our feelings, our values on to her. That’s part of the heartbreak of the book too. Like the title Mudbound infers, the characters, including Laura, are all stuck in their notions about how the world works. Its sadness lies in the fact that none of them, even those that want to, can see how to change it.

“I answered the only way I could, by starching his sheets till they was as stiff and scratchy as raw planks.’’~Florence (Mary K. Blige) 

Mudbound is a beautifully written novel about racism, about ptsd, about love, about denial and delusion. A book that makes you hurt and makes you think. From what I hear, the film will do the same.

Mudbound is set for release on November 17 on Netflix. So many good movies coming to our TVs! Plenty of time for you to read the book, if you haven’t already. 

Let’s watch the trailer...

Are you in?
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