Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Adaptations of Classic Literature


It's another Thursday (these come so quickly) and so that means it's time for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks again!  If you aren't playing along you, yet you need to be.  Check out the schedule and get to picking movies, because this is just a lot of fun to be a part of.  So, this week was fun, albeit really challenging!  Challenging in a good way though, since there was a bounty of films to choose from.  The reason for that is the theme.

And the theme for this week is:



EEK!  There are so many films to chose from (I personally can't wait to see what Ruth over at Flixchatter has to say, since this theme is SO UP HER ALLEY), and so because of the many different ways this could go, I decided to color outside the lines a little bit.  I decided to stray away from the traditional 'classic' adaptations and select films that gave us more modern or stylized retelling of a classic tale.  

So, here we have it!

The Phantom of the Paradise
Adapted (loosely, but quite noticeably) from Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, this insanely bizarre rock opera is brilliantly composed and directed by Brian De Palma.  Part musical, part horror story, part macabre black comedy, this film is 100% incredible and a work of cinematic art.

Great Expectations
Many didn't care for this one, but I loved how well the modern setting worked with this particular story, and how the liberties taken never took away from the core themes presented.  It also contains a stunning performance from Paltrow and some of the most sensually captivating cinematography of the year.  Sweaty, steamy and intoxicating.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence
This almost works as a two-fold edition.  First, it's quite deliberately adapted from Brian Aldiss's Super-toys Last All Summer, which was originally published in 1969.  But, many would probably contest that that is not actually a 'classic'.  Well, you know what is a classic?  Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, and this film is clearly a reinterpretation of that classic story.  This film, almost more than any other from the aughts, has completely transcended my initial reaction to it.  It's beautiful and so special.  A one of a kind movie experience, for sure!

32 comments:

  1. I too picked Great Expectations but the David Lean version from the 40s. I love A.I, it's an amazing film. I do kinda wish it ended with him wishing to be a real boy...guess I prefer more brutal endings.

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    1. I just found such beauty in the ending...it brought the film to this place that it hadn't quite reached yet. It made it perfect.

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  2. Hey, 69 is old enough to be a classic! lol AI is a good choice. That one never would've occurred to me. I didn't see the first pick, and I'm one of those who didn't like Great Expectations. ha

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    1. LOL, I just meant classic in the traditional sense...like...beloved or whatever. Like, who has even heard of that book?

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  3. I remember Phantom of the Paradise. I took a whole class on horror cinema and had to watch it at one point, though I wasn't the biggest fan. Fun fact, though: when the movie came out, it was a huge bomb in everywhere... except Winnipeg, where for some reason it was a massive hit.

    I haven't seen the others, though I've heard a lot of mixed things about AI. It probably doesn't help that I'm a Kubrick fan so if I were to see it I'd probably find myself holding it to a high standard.

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    1. That's an interesting fact about Winnipeg, but considering the films I know that have made an impact there...it makes sense.

      A.I. appeals to the Kubrick side of things, I think. It is, in my opinion, Spielberg's most refined and mature work.

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  4. It's been years since I've seen A. I. but I was blown away by it at the time. I thought about checking out Great Expectations this week but passed because of Ethan Hawke and all the people that you mentioned that didn't care for it. I'm regretting missing it now.

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    1. Paltrow OWNS in 98, and this is partially the reason why. It's not a perfect film, but it's a very good one.

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  5. Interesting choices! I liked this version of Great Expectations - Cuaron is always good, and Paltrow always worth watching. Haven't seen Phantom of the Paradise, although I've wanted to for years. I never really liked A.I. I always felt it went on too long. The end with the blue fairy, etc. never felt of a piece with the rest of the film to me. It should have ended when he saw all the boxes of robots. But there's some pretty stellar filmmaking there.

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    1. I just love Cuaron. He needs to give us something new, and quick!

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  6. I love what you did with AI here -- very clever! And I didn't even know there was an adaptation of Great Expectations in a modern setting. I am definitely intrigued.

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  7. I haven't seen Phantom of the Paradise in years and years but what an oddly inventive film it is.

    I haven't seen this version of Great Expectations, even with Anne Bancroft as a lure. I don't care for Paltrow very much at all and Hawke always strikes me as such a dirtbag I can't buy him as any sort of romantic lead.

    I'm cool to A.I. Although it's initial chilly remove put me off I found the presentation assured but then it ended...but it didn't and after that false ending it lost me completely.

    I half expected to see my first pick be one of yours too since I know you liked the film but I like the variety of your choices.
    Here's mine with an extra:

    The Return of the Soldier (1982)-Powerful version of Rebecca West's first novel. A wealthy middle aged man returns from WWI shell shocked and with no memory of his life for the past twenty years. He longs to see his first love, now a dowdy housewife, which his wife, a haughty brittle woman, can't comprehend and reacts to hostilely. Standing by on the sidelines is his cousin Jenny who has complicated feelings for him as well. Richly appointed drama is an acting showcase for Alan Bates, Julie Christie, Glenda Jackson and an almost unrecognizable Ann-Margret who are all superb.

    Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)-Sweeping, gorgeously shot version of Thomas Hardy's dense novel. Julie Christie makes a beautiful Bathsheba, a young woman who has inherited a large estate and whose life becomes complicated by three men. Terence Stamp is fine as Sergeant Troy but the real acting comes from Alan Bates as the steadfast Gabriel Oak and Peter Finch as the tormented Boldwood. Deliberately paced but beautifully done.

    The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)-Diamond hard noir with Lana Turner white hot in both dress and sexuality and John Garfield the poor sap who falls under her spell. Excellent direction and a great supporting cast make this adaptation of the James M. Cain novel one of the classics of the noir era. Avoid the Jack Nicholson/Jessica Lange remake, its trash.

    Honorable Mention-Summer Storm (1944) - Olga, a beautiful young peasant girl brings tragedy to all who surround her including herself. Set in the Russian countryside this adaption of Anton Chekov’s The Shooting Party was one of Douglas Sirk’s earliest American films. Missing some of his signature stylistic touches he still uses shadows effectively and draws excellent work from his cast, especially George Sanders, as the troubled leading man for a change and Edward Everett Horton, in a more complex role than usual, that of a dissipated count. But the real standout is Linda Darnell in the first of the bad girl roles in which she excelled. She digs deep into Olga’s conflicted nature offering a passionate performance of an impulsive girl who is ultimately her own worst enemy.

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    1. Paltrow is GREAT in Great Expectations, so I highly recommend you check it out.

      As for your picks, I had Far From the Madding Crowd on my list, but then decided to stick with modernized or somewhat 'inspired' adaptations, which is why I took it off. You know how I feel about it though, and how I feel about Return of the Soldier. Beautiful films. I also love that you highlight to correct version of Postman. Turner is at her absolute best in that film. The remake was, as you put it, trash.

      I've never seen Summer Storm, but I'm intrigued!

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    2. I was sure that Carey Mulligan's Madding Crowd would show up somewhere but perhaps it's too new. I still haven't had a chance to check it out but that's partly out of a nagging worry that it just won't be able to measure up. The vastly shorter running time gives me pause.

      I remember sitting through that abominable piece of swill that is the Nicholson/Lange Postman slack jawed with incredulity that the filmmakers had so little understanding of the material so that they could get everything wrong. I had to go back and watch the original immediately to cleanse my palate.

      Jessica Lange is surely a better actress then Lana Turner was but not here, if ever a part fit an actress's specific gifts this one fit Lana's. Garfield is just right as the conflicted drifter too and their chemistry is scorching, despite the less clothed pairing of Nicholson and Lange they shared zero heat.

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    3. Yeah, Turner was certainly limited, but this part fit her like a glove!

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    4. Lana had her limitations there is no question, however she could be quite good at times, but one of her strengths was that she understood them and knew what worked for her and how her fan base wanted to see her. Even after she left Metro she chose the more soapy melodramas that had been her bread and butter there and suited her more florid style. That awareness along with the unfortunate Stompanato affair, which would have killed many a career but gave hers an unexpected boost, enabled her to maintain a successful career far longer than many of her contemporaries. Too bad she couldn’t apply the same smarts to her extremely messy private life!

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    5. Oh, I'm a fan for sure, and think that she worked VERY well with what she had.

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  8. Wow, I didn't know that A.I is an adaptation.

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  9. Yes, to A.I. Such a great twist on Pinocchio. Haven't seen the other two. I like Dickens, but somehow haven't read Great Expectations. I've never even heard of Phantom of Paradise. Sounds intriguing.

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    1. Great Expectations was such a chore to read, but on the screen it's a far easier follow.

      You need to see Phantom of the Paradise. It's insane, but in the best possible way!

      Check out my 74 Fisti Awards, if you haven't. It racks up a slew of noms/wins!

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  10. I have not seen the film with Paltrow nor have I seen the full film of Phantom of Paradise although that is just nutty but i truly enjoyed A.I. I think that is a great reworking of Pinocchio. You nailed it with A.I. and what it is about. It's a shame it did not do so well as it should have. My picks would be Nosferatu (1922)-this is based on Bram Stoker's Dracula and it is chilling how this Vampire looks and moves regardless that it is a silent film. My next would be "The Good Earth. When I saw this film I was astounded by Louise Ranier's performance. She was perfect as the long suffering wife. My 3rd would be 1939's "Hunchback of Notre Dame". This is the best version for me. I loved Charles Laughton's performance who falls for the beautiful Maureen O'Hara. It is an epic romance for sure. I have to say one more which is H.G. Well's "Time Machine" I love that machine that Rod Taylor uses to go through time and those underground dwellers are just ugly as hell.

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    1. I love your love of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! You've mentioned that a few times. It's such a well worked classic. I also love Nosferatu. Great choice there. I liked The Good Earth, but I didn't love it.

      I haven't seen The Time Machine since I was, like, four.

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  11. Dude. That still from Great Expectations got me, like, dayum!!! That is honestly the only adaptation I ever wanted to see, and I still haven't seen it. A.I. is great! I really need to re-watch that soon. Haven't heard your first picks! Good ones!

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    1. DAYAM is right. See that movie, for the scene if nothing else...but really, it's better than most people say it is :-P

      And A.I. is borderline masterpiece for me. SEE IT!

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  12. I love love this version Great Expectations. Seen more times than I can remember. I love the score/music, the gorgeous art featured, the green thing that Cuarón has going on and just how they took this Victorian tale and plants it in the 20th century. Just so beautiful.

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    1. YAY! I'm glad to find a fan. This film is certainly beautiful.

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  13. OMG!!! Like, YESSSS to all of these! Especially thrilled to see A.I. and Great Expectations - both criminally underrated - on here.

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    1. I was really shocked at how much I liked Great Expectations, considering that so many people talk smack about it.

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