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by
Hannah Sternberg

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May 10, 2013 - 9:00 am
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The critics are chattering about Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated The Great Gatsby. They fall into two camps: those who watched the movie for itself, and those who closely compared it to the book. Even though I appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work, I’ll be going to the theater as a member of the first camp. Adaptations are rarely successful when the goal is a strict translation of the book to the screen. Even if a movie’s based on a book, I try to judge it as a movie in its own right, as if the book had never existed. Just to prove how unimportant The Great Gatsby’s faithfulness to the book is, here are four examples of absolutely amazing, beautiful, gripping, classic movies (and a TV show) that took an existing story and threw expectations out the window to make something completely original.

5. The Adaptation Most People Don’t Know Is an Adaptation: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Did you know that O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ rollicking adventure comedy through the Depression-era South, is a loose retelling of Homer’s Odyssey? If you didn’t, pick up the DVD and rewatch it (well, you should rewatch it anyway even if you did already know because it’s that good) and see if you can recognize the sirens, the cyclops, and the hydra.

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All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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How about Forrest Gump?

A conservative-hating book becomes a conservative love-letter when put to screen.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Of the above 5, I would pick Oh Brother.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Tempest/Forbidden Planet.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Under the Greenwood Tree" starring Keeley Hawes.

I'm a huge Thomas Hardy fan, and I usually get all cranky when screenwriters and directors make massive changes, but that is one seriously beautiful movie! I recently re-read the book and it stank up the room. Horrid plot. Cardboard characters. Very bad book! Very good film!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like Keeley. I'll have to check that out.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
you didn't include "lonely are the brave / the brave cowboy"
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The biggest improvement in moving from book to screen I've ever seen was the way in which (Director) Van Dyke and (Writers) Hackett & Goodrich took Hammet's dreary, depressing, overlong "The Thin Man" and turned into one of the very best movies ever made.

Hey, and where's "Clueless," the best modern updating of any 19th century classic ever?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Heinlein's "Puppet Masters" came across in film very well indeed.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cold Mountain. Maybe the only time I've ever thought a movie better than the book it was based on.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've seen that movie. If that was better, how could anyone stand the novel?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Walter Hill's The Warriors was an adaption of Xenophon's Anabasis. Can you dig it?

49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ok, I remember the sirens, but who was the cyclops and the hydra? (it's been a while and I'm pretty dumb).
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
John Goodman was the Cyclops. The Hydra wasn't in the Odyssey. That's Hercules.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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