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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress 
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Peter Scott wrote:
Uh, how so? Mebbe I don't have the eye for reading scripts, but that's not what I thought.

It's a relatively plodding scriptification of the superficial center story, with too many thin little side bits sopping to the left-out parts. It would make one dull movie for anyone but intense fans of the book - those who will take one line, one sign on the wall, one arch comment as standing for whole missing sub plots.

It's very much a first draft.


Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:40 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Jack Kelly wrote:
I do think a faithful 2-hour theatrical adaptation could be made if one were to, as Jim suggested, focus on a third of the book.

Can you say "trilogy," boys and girls?

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Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:15 pm
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
dh490311 wrote:
Jack Kelly wrote:
I do think a faithful 2-hour theatrical adaptation could be made if one were to, as Jim suggested, focus on a third of the book.

Can you say "trilogy," boys and girls?


Uh, no... please. I detest the movies that leave you hanging because they've basically told only half the story and you have to wait two years for the rest. That's the shape of the modern trilogy: one really good movie comes out, the bean counters get dollar signs in their eyes, and then a mediocre sequel comes out that is spread across two movies to form the trilogy as though there were something sacrosanct about the number three. I even place The Empire Strikes Back in this category (I still remember my sinking feeling at the last scene, realizing, "Hey, they're going to finish this thing here, with all these dangling threads). The latter two movies of The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean fall into the same trap. Back to the Future is the only trilogy I can think of that did the same thing without pissing me off.

Mini-series is the way to go. The recent thoughtful adaptation of the first few Dune books shows it can be done. Unfortunately, TMIAHM would look sooo much better on a theater screen, especially, say, a rock impact.


Fri Jun 19, 2009 12:24 pm
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Peter Scott wrote:
Unfortunately, TMIAHM would look sooo much better on a theater screen, especially, say, a rock impact.

'Minds me of a New Yorker cartoon that has made me laugh for some time now. Shows a couple coming out of a theater: "We should have waited for the DVD. Our screen is bigger."

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Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:36 pm
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Ok, boys and girls, after all the griping about bad scripts, let's see if you can name one film adaptation of a book that you thought turned out just as enjoyable as the written page.

When I think about it, it pretty universally tracks to which medium I consumed first being my preference. I read Gone With the Wind first, and found the movie inferior (hurried, less poignant). I read The Shawshank Redemption second, and found the story inferior (less dramatic); same with Runaway Jury. But there are very few instances where I can say that a movie was better than a preceding book, and the only times where I may have read the book first (can't remember; I was very young) and still thought the movie was better are The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

And that's it. Proof by exception. Every other translation of book to screen has disappointed or at least been inferior, even James Bond and The Saint. Especially when considering anything made after 1970. So maybe we're all chasing a will-o'-the-wisp, a collective snipe hunt for a movie adaptation that will make us grunt with approval.

Maybe it just can't be done.


Sun Jun 21, 2009 5:54 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I read "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" before I saw the movie, and liked the movie better. I liked the films Godfather I and II more than Puzo's novel (but in that case, I saw the movies before I read the book). I liked the movie On the Beach more than Shute's novel, which I read many years before I saw the movie. I've tried a couple times to read Tolkien's LOTR trilogy, and never get through the first book. But the movies were wonderful. 2001 was a better movie than the story on which it was based. I like the Tom Selleck made-for-TV movies of Robert Parker's Jesse Stone novels better than the novels (although both are good). I'm sure I could come up with more examples, and I realize that this is all subjective.

I think you are right that there is usually a bias towards what you are exposed to first -- the written word or the screen version. But not always, and at least in my experience, there are enough counter-examples to go beyond "proof by exception".


Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:59 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I'm with Bill on LOTR - I have tried to read it through at least four times in my life and at best I run out of gas right around the beginning of the third book. I've never had a taste for straight fantasy so it's an effort even though I can clearly see the quality of the work. I thoroughly enjoyed the movies, however - we went from the original DVD release to the ultra-extended set, and Audrey watches the set through about three times a year. I don't have the patience or butt-pads to watch 12 hours of film, so I just sit in on some of the good parts.

Silence of the Lambs is an almost perfect translation from book to film - not identical, but very much the same story, just as creepy in both forms. I think it's the best example of translation to the screen yet done.

I was pleased with the translation of Watchmen to the screen and am looking forward to the director's cut - oh, exactly a month from today! I know just enough about what additional material goes into the longer take to believe the rough edges and gaps will disappear.

By the way, Bill, 2001 book and movie were created more or less simultaneously - Clarke got to revise his story after watching the film's dailies and of course had significant input into the developing screenplay. The book is rather dry, yes, but up against that film, what wouldn't be? :)


Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:58 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Peter Scott wrote:
Ok, boys and girls, after all the griping about bad scripts, let's see if you can name one film adaptation of a book that you thought turned out just as enjoyable as the written page.

When I think about it, it pretty universally tracks to which medium I consumed first being my preference. I read Gone With the Wind first, and found the movie inferior (hurried, less poignant). I read The Shawshank Redemption second, and found the story inferior (less dramatic); same with Runaway Jury. But there are very few instances where I can say that a movie was better than a preceding book, and the only times where I may have read the book first (can't remember; I was very young) and still thought the movie was better are The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

And that's it. Proof by exception. Every other translation of book to screen has disappointed or at least been inferior, even James Bond and The Saint. Especially when considering anything made after 1970. So maybe we're all chasing a will-o'-the-wisp, a collective snipe hunt for a movie adaptation that will make us grunt with approval.

Maybe it just can't be done.

Oh, it can be done. The screen adaptation of both of Robert Harris's books, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal were better, more tightly organized, more economical with materials than the books. And in fact, you could argue that Harris wrote the wrong ending to Hannibal, and the screenplay ending might not be the right one, but it was certainly better. the screenplay for Silence of the Lambs was particularly ingenious. Ted Tally invented that business with the anagram clue to the storage locker to speed along a procedural subplot in the book. Now this is not to say Harris' writing was particularly loose -- it was book fiction writing. For example, he has two visits to the Smithsonian, one near the begining; the other near the end. Tally collapsed them together and got everything taken care of at once.

But this kind of thing only happens by accident, as story structure is simply not on the radar for big Hollywood studios. Once in a great long while you get a perfect match of cast and director and writer (like Bull Durham), but it doesn't happen very often because the production companies have their eye on other factors.


Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:15 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
2001 doesn't count, because the book was created contemporaneously with the movie and is arguably an adaptation. This exercise only matters for books that were written first.

Do not get me started on Bored of the Rings. I tried several times to read through that because it is such an effing classic, don't you know, and I wanted to take an elf-knife to the author's wattled throat until the ichor ran in the streets. HHGTTG was honest enough when picking alien names to make them ridiculous. LOTR renames virtually every noun in the dictionary for the sake of torturing the reader and tacks "elfin" as a prefix on every other noun. And the friggin' pages of description about every place, plant, animal, building, person, and insect encountered made me want to stick a fork in my eyes.

This will get a price on my head in certain quarters, but I found The Sword of Shannara better. At least I could finish it.


Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:42 am
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Post Re: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
James Gifford wrote:
By the way, Bill, 2001 book and movie were created more or less simultaneously

I wasn't referring to the contemporaneous novel, but the short story from the 1950s (?) called "The Sentinel" or something like that. I don't know if I've ever read the novel.

[quote= Peter Scott]Do not get me started on Bored of the Rings.[/quote]
Actually, the book Bored of the Rings by the Harvard Lampoon is about as funny as text on paper gets. Even the map ("Bay of Milhous", "Land of the Knee-walking Turkeys") is good for chuckles. Well worth reading.

Another "movie is better than book" is The Bourne Identity. And All The President's Men (but I saw it before I read it). The Caine Mutiny (but I can't remember which I got to first). Deliverance (again, saw it before I read it).

I'm sure I could find another dozen or so, but don't want to completely derail this thread. So I'll close by saying that I liked Aliens more than Starship Troopers, and let you guys battle it out if the movie is properly viewed as a more legitimate adaptation of the book than the Verhoeven's movie.


Sun Jun 21, 2009 12:22 pm
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