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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Great Films Influenced by Acclaimed Written Works

The book review column is in a state of transition.  We are welcoming two new columnists and saying good-bye to two.  Evansville Central Library Reference Librarian DeeDee Shoemaker will be filling the vacancy caused by Lucy Clem's untimely death.  And my husband David – after nine years of writing book reviews – has decided he wants time to read whatever strikes his fancy (go figure!) so is ceding his spot to Sean Davis, also a Central Reference Librarian.  Both DeeDee and Sean are voracious readers as well as good writers, so we are looking forward to their reviews.

Speaking of good writing, today's column is dedicated to screenwriters.  Each year when the movie award nominees are announced, I am always struck by how important the written word is to the film industry.  So even though I will be sharing trivia about the works on which the nominated movies are based, keep in mind that someone had to translate them into screenplays.

The heart-rending film Atonement, based on the acclaimed novel by the same title by British author Ian McEwan, has garnered numerous nominations and won the Golden Globe for best picture.  McEwan's other novels include Amsterdam, Saturday, and On Chesil Beach.

There Will Be Blood owes its existence to the 1927 novel Oil by social activist Upton Sinclair.  Growing up in industrial northwestern Indiana, where Sinclair's meat processing expose The Jungle was required high school reading, I got an early exposure to the author.  Both the movie and its star, Daniel Day-Lewis, are winning rave reviews.

I read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy when it came out in 2005 and found it dense, dark, and convoluted.  I hope the movie will make everything clear!  McCarthy, considered by critics to be one of our best American writers, is also the author of the doomsday Oprah selection The Road as well as the masterful western series The Border Trilogy.

Into the Wild owes its being to non-fiction master Jon Krakauer, one of my favorite writers.  Other Krakauer works include the Mount Everest thriller Into Thin Air and the Mormon exposé Under the Banner of Heaven.

Mystery/thriller/western writer Elmore Leonard Crime wrote the short stories on which 3:10 to Yuma and The Tonto Woman are based.  3:10 is star studded (and already out on DVD) and probably needs no further explanation.  Tonto Woman, about a cattle rustler who meets a woman living in isolation after being held prisoner for eleven years by the Mojave Indians, is nominated for an Oscar for Live Action Short Film.

Away from Her is based on the short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro.  Julie Christie has won both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Actress and is the front-runner the Oscar Best Actress award for her work in this film.

Charlie Wilson's War: the Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by George Crile chronicles American military assistance to Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. The movie has been a success at the box office and with critics, but has been pretty much bypassed for awards.

Four nominated movies are based on biographies.  Paralyzed journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby dictated his life story through blinks in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Fellow French journalist Mariane Pearl wrote of the heartache of losing her husband Danny to Islamic terrorism in A Mighty HeartMarjane Satrapi used the graphic novel format to describe life during the Islamic Iranian Revolution in Persepolis, which is nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.  And The Counterfeiters, nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, is based on a memoir by Holocaust survivor Adolf Burger.

Two of this year's nominees owe their existence to investigative reports in periodicals.  The Return of Superfly, a feature article by Mark Jacobson published in the New Yorker in 2000 was the inspiration for American Gangster.  And The Great Debaters owes a debt of gratitude to an article published in African American journal American Legacy Magazine in 1997.

Finally, novels by Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Ron Leshem (Beaufort), Dennis Lehane (Gone, Baby, Gone), Ron Hansen (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford) and Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass) all generated films by the same titles.

Pam Locker is manager of Oaklyn Branch Library and alternates writing "Check it Out" with other Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library staff members. Readers may contact Locker at (812) 428-8234, ext. 5403. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.