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Great Adaptations...

 ...But A Greater Gatsby? Six movies that might be better than their books on the debut of the highly anticipated Fitzgerald remake.

Pretending time allowed for the late Francis Scott Fitzgerald and the quirky Baz Luhrmann to sit down over pre-Prohibition cocktails and compare their Gatsby renditions, any bets on who’d get a drink to the face first? Perhaps neither and instead the two would toast like burly men’s men celebrating a success across two storytelling genres. Alas, the day is here and the roaring masses flock to theatres to witness a catastrophe or masterpiece in adaptation. If nothing else, at least audiences will find solace in the fact that the dapper DiCaprio transitions through his wardrobe of Italian-cut suits fabulously well. In the spirit of optimism, here’s a recap of several noteworthy paperback to silver screen reworks over the years.

James Bond: Casino Royale
What’s more heroically kick-ass than the depiction of the premier spruce gentleman knocking out a muscled guard three-times his person after two vodka martinis, “shaken not stirred”? This image certainly reinforces the power of a good handcrafted and the inherent strength of a little liquid confidence. But since we can’t credit both book and movie for providing the ultimate in both of-age and action categories, perhaps we can thank each for what they do best. The film, for its expert staging and seamlessly engineered special effects to knead our desire for action. And the book, the ultimate guide to on par cocktail recipes and groomed pointers on moneyed drinking. Heedless to say, if you find yourself a recovering alcoholic or don’t take your whiskey neat, perhaps you’ll find comfort in explosions and assassinations in the film. 

The Notebook
Let’s face it, as much as you love to hate this Sparks novel gone romance blockbuster, you don’t, and the truth is, none of us do. Maybe we’re just upset that we’re drawn to such a sappy, love-conquers-all cliché, but reality is we’re all mainstream softies when it comes to this fairytale ending, book or film. Although the original page-by-page story strikes a cord , I rank the movie in the number one spot for, if perhaps nothing else, Director Nick Cassavetes’ heart-wrenching depiction of Ali and Noah’s traumatic farewell after the ultimate summer of love. In the original story, a much more cushioned goodbye just doesn’t make the pair’s reunion hit home quite like the harrowing departure in the film. I’m sure Ryan Gosling’s chiseled core doesn’t hurt the verdict either.

Into the Wild
Which is better, the film or the book? This is a question that basically comes down to the hair on your chest: are you emotionally groomed or a speculative shaver. Unfortunately, there’s no occasional trimmer seated at this debate, or perhaps far and few. Those who honor the book find it necessary to do more than simply explain their allegiance. They must go on to engrain the book’s triumph into the minds of their peers, while those who find a more emotional connection to the film plea the value of perspective and the lack there of in the novel.  The development of Chris McCandless’ story from novel to film rests solely in the hands of old-fashioned storytelling. Where the book reports and speculates, the movie soaks in identity and point-of-view. The winner of this page to screen adaptation skirts back and forth between supposition and an emerging self. 

No Country For Old Men
Besides the fact that Javier Bardem proves the most terrifying materialization of a character from written word to flesh, the variations of the story from book to film are, for the most part, hollow in occurrence. Leave the big screen sociopath with the most elegant Bob in the history of hairstyling, there are few inconsistencies to fever over. Although minor in scope, the Cohen Brothers make an important choice to filter out Sheriff Ed Tom Bell’s ongoing narration from book to film adaptation. This move certainly allows for any first time movie viewers to form a unbreakable alliance early on with Llewelyn Moss, the story’s cowboy on the run. Unless you consider hair envy a major source of opinion bias, my vote sticks to the film for its clean cut ending and drawing in what the novel often drew out. 

The Road
Originally written by Cormac McCarthy and later adapted into Director John Hillcoat’s borderline Indie-Art house picture. The majority of double-dippers will argue that although notable differences between script and the original pages exist, the dismal misery that is the backbone of this story emits from both like a curtain poked with holes. The only pragmatic debate for which of the two is better carries on between those who like devastation and those who prefer take devastation a step farther with a bleak ending already afoot. I find myself clinging to the latter of the two groups, i.e. the book worms. The fact that the film is so plagued with flashbacks also causes a bit of a headache too. If so many trips to the past are necessary, why not create a more sequential story order from beginning to end? As I’m sure both viewers and readers will agree, the book holds the mojo in the battle between the two. 

Howl
Ah, back to San Francisco’s glory days. When hippies all dressed up in flower headdresses took Haight-Ashbury by storm with proclamations of free love, groovy music and, dare I say it, unprotected sex. What literary masterpiece could forecast such a movement better than Allen Ginsberg’s longwinded poem, Howl? Perhaps the 2010 retell of Allen Ginsberg’s life and the obscenity trial that sought to close line his typography might do the trick. Admittedly a big fan of Mr. Franco’s (Director Epstein and Friedman’s casting choice for Ginsberg), and an even bigger fan of Wayfarer style eyeglasses, such a duo has the power to steer me right, and, for that, the award goes to. This is not to say that the poem doesn’t do a fine job encapsulating an atmosphere of freethinkers under oppression, it certainly does. Perhaps more fulfilling than the poem is a story telling the thoughtful motives behind it and the changing winds that jostled it.

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