4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

The Hunger Games was released in theaters on Friday, March 23. Like many others, I saw it on the same day. The reviews have since been rolling in. I personally enjoyed the film and give it a hearty thumbs-up . . . yet I still believe that reading the book is a superior experience.

As I pondered this question again, I decided to re-run an early post of mine for Deep-Fried Friday. I have tweaked the post slightly, but here it is.

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months! You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews. The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back. I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote: The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that? Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License. The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains. If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original. If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting. If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood. Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen. I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles. It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing. Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours. One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books. Well, of course. Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words). Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words). That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But not really. Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen. Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality. Imagine your perfect man. (Didn’t we do this back in high school?) He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious. Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real. It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality. Our imaginations are wonderful things. When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be. Then someone renders a reality version. And it isn’t the same. It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!). But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book. If you still remember specific dialogue, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation. Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time. You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate). It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book. I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

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Speaking the Queen’s English (Or At Least Her Servant’s Bloody English)

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

George Bernard Shaw

If you’ve watched BBC comedies or attempted to look for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in a British bookstore, you quickly discover that there are language differences between the two major countries that speak primarily English.  We mostly understand one another – even with thick Brooklyn or Cockney accents – but the words aren’t always the same. 

For instance, you’d better change your search to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone since that is the original title of J.K. Rowling’s first book.   A friend of my mother’s read the British edition with its references to Harry and Ron receiving home-knit jumpers from Mrs. Weasley.   The British “jumper” is the American “sweater.”  There were several word changes made for the American edition to clear up those terms that don’t make a lot of sense to us in the States. 

Here are some other British words with American descriptions: 

A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese as Barrister

A lorry is a truck.

A pram is a baby carriage or stroller.

A biscuit is a cookie.

A nutter is a crazy person.

A barrister is a lawyer.

A flat is an apartment.

A lift is an elevator.

A bonnet is a car hood.

A chip is a French fry.

A queue is a line.

A bum is a behind.

A holiday is a vacation.

Daft is stupid.

Telly is the television or TV.

The loo is the bathroom. 

But you may have known most or all of those.  How about more obscure ones? 

Ask for a rubber to get an eraser.

Antenatal is prenatal.

Braces are suspenders.

A chemist is a pharmacist.

A dummy is a pacifier.

A wally is a nerd.

A rubber is an eraser.

A spanner is a wrench.

An estate agent is a realtor.

A waistcoat is a vest.

Cheers means thank you.

A mobile is a cell phone.

A torch is a flashlight.

A jumble sale is a yard sale (called garage sale where I live).

Trainers are athletic or tennis shoes.

Pants are underwear (say trousers in the UK instead).

A people carrier is a minivan (sounds right to me).

A banger is a sausage.

A brolly is an umbrella. 

 

T.R. Wolf has quite a few more examples in his UK vs. US English videos.  The English Club online also has a BritSpeak dictionary with American-British translations. 

The slang of our two countries is even more difficult to decipher!   Hugh Laurie played a game on Ellen Degeneres’s show trying to figure out the particular jargon of the other’s home country.

By the way, I knew absolutely none of the slang – American or British.  

Can you think of any other English words that vary in American and British usage?  What do you think about the differences in our language?  Do you find Brits or Americans had to understand at times?  Do you watch British television shows or movies or read books with word variations?

Friday Fiction: Getting Hooked

If not for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Carolyn Keene, would I have become such an avid reader?  I don’t know.  But my memories of books as a young girl include hours delving into the lives of Laura in the Little House series and Girl Detective in the Nancy Drew series.  It was finding topics I liked and characters I could identify with that opened me up to the worlds that an author’s words create.

Whenever I hear a kid say that he doesn’t like reading, I think, “You just haven’t figured out what you like to read yet!”  Everyone agrees that the key to making a reader out of anybody is finding an author, a topic, or a genre that they enjoy.  If the successes of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have proved anything, it’s that kids and teens still enjoy reading if you give them something they like! 

Frankly, this is true with adults as well.  Sometimes, we think a reader is a person who picks up classic literature, current bestsellers, or book club selections. But people who visit bookstores (or download titles onto their ebook reader) might enjoy graphic novels, cookbooks, magazines, online newspapers, self-help books, thrillers, or romances.  The important thing is to get people reading!

We all started somewhere – often with a Dr. Seuss book or an Archie comic in hand.

A few of my own suggestions for getting kids to read these days:

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park (ages 4-8) – I admit to never having read a single Junie B. Jones book.  But I enjoy this author, and this series comes highly recommended by many of my friends with daughters.

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne (ages 9-12) – I volunteered in my kids’ school library for two years, and these books were checked out all the time.  They are quick reads, but the author takes children through history in a fun way.

Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker (ages 9-12) – I fell in love with Clementine on page 1.  She’s a spunky elementary girl with excess energy, creative thinking, and a few stories to tell.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney (ages 9-12) – A combination of text and pictures, these books chronicle the life of a wimpy kid whose experiences are easily understood by most children.

The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka (ages 9-12) – Boys in particular will love the adventures of three time-traveling friends and their humor.  Let’s just say that the first book includes a giant with giant-sized snot.

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen (ages 9-12) – This is the hilarious tale of a young boy just trying to make a little extra money and finding himself an illustrious entrepreneur.

Piper Reed series by Kimberly Willis Holt (ages 9-12) – Both girls and boys will love this daughter of a Navy officer with two sisters, a dog, and a fresh perspective on childhood.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (ages 9-12) – Greek mythology can seem dull to most kids, until you read Riordan’s retelling of the Greek myths with teens as demigods. Then hold on for the fantastic ride!

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (ages 9 & up) – Yes, I would still recommend this series to any child who hasn’t read it.  I love how the author weaves the average challenges that all kids face in school with a wizarding world and the fight of good vs. evil.

 
Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (ages 12 & up) – Tweens, teens, and adults will find these dystopian books to be page-turners. Collins creates an intriguing world and has us rooting for the main characters from the beginning and throughout.

 

 

What books got you reading as a child or an adult?  What books or series would you suggest to non-readers to get them hooked on reading?

Friday Fiction: 4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months!  You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews.  The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back.  I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote:  The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that?  Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License.  The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains.  If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original.  If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting.  If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood.  Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen.  I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles.  It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing.  Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours.  One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books.  Well, of course.  Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words).  Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words).  That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But not really.  Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen.  Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality.  Imagine your perfect man.  (Didn’t we do this back in high school?)  He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious.  Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real.  It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality.  Our imaginations are wonderful things.  When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be.  Then someone renders a reality version.  And it isn’t the same.  It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!).  But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book.  If you still remember specific dialog, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation.  Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time.  You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate).  It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book.  I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

(And while we’re at it, how is Water for Elephants?  I read and liked the book, and now I’m wondering whether to see the movie.)