Look, I’m going to make this pronouncement on this site until someone comes after me: When it comes to literary adaptations, sometimes the movie is better than the book!
Shawshank Redemption? The movie is better! Snow Angels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining. Better movies than books.
To Kill a Mockingbird.
Damn right I went there.
What’s wrong with you literary cowards! Attack me! Throw a Nook at me! Do something!
Now, I’m not saying that these hypothetical adaptations would be better than their source material, but these works could make a nice intersection for some of our favorite literary authors to provide a creative loan to some of our favorite film artists.
Let’s get started.
12. The Long Walk by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman
There are dozens of film adaptations of Stephen King’s work. But only a small fraction have realized their potential. For a such an immense body of quality work, that ratio just doesn’t work for me. This oft-unmentioned novel from the Bachman collection is almost forgotten. In the hands of a patient director like Craig Zorbel (Compliance), this slow-burn story and its eruptions of disruptive teen gundowns might hold up as a uniquely unsettling existential horror film.
11. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
While this novel looks at modern Japanese life, politics, love, war, and explores the dark corners of human impulse, long passages have the protagonist(s) sitting at the bottom of a well, remembering or hallucinating. A creative director would take you into the mind of the person at the bottom of the well, an exploration with Apocalypse Now potential. Well suited for a native Japanese director, or possibly Kelly Reichardt (Meek‘s Cutoff), who has a gift for capturing the setting as a psychic landscape.
10. Incognegro by Mat Johnson
Aside from having a name that would cause strokes in seven FOXNews pundits, Mat Johnson’s graphic novel might prove to be an adventure and résumé builder for Ryan Coogler, whose Fruitvale Station established itself to be 2013’s best film tool of investigation toward modern race relations. Here, the familial, stylistic, and historical would further license his skill as a filmmaker.
9. The Collected Works of Billy The Kid by Michael Ondaatje
Ondaatje’s sparse, colloquial poetry applied to a humanized Billy the Kid would make perfect voiceover scriptwork for the likes of David Gordon Green (George Washington) and Terrence Malick (Badlands), either of whom would thrive with Ondaatje’s lyrical tone, perhaps creating a Western like none other. It proved a successful formula (in terms of criticism and awards) for The English Patient.
8. Big Machine by Victor Lavalle
Victor Lavalle’s darkly comic novel presents fully realized characters and a plot that you avoid when trying to explain to others why the book works: A sketchy recovering addict and suicide cult survivor with mysterious invitations, paranormal investigation, and talks with God. Perhaps a return to old form (or at least 12 Monkeys form) for Terry Gilliam?
7. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
The Tiger’s Wife has the wide-eyed vision exhibited in great young artists– a self-supportive mythology, a distinctly painted but unnamed culture, a human/animal marriage straight from fairy tales. The perfect material to train Tarsem Singh back into his top form, as all of these things were found in his great film The Fall.
6. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Stephen King’s son and Guillermo Del Toro could tag-team this absurdist horror about a skeptical, retired metal musician who purchases a ghost through an internet auction site. Pacific Rim licensed Del Toro’s knack for playfulness and The Devil’s Backbone exhibited his more than passing interest in horror.
5. Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. by Rob Delaney
In 2011, Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up routine was presented as a narrative film and it ended up being one of the most rewarding features of the year. My suggestion is we afford Twitter king Rob Delaney the same opportunity to move his part-memoir in that direction. The film could have three appeals: One: Delaney’s patent delivery of quickshot humor. Two: An amusing yet serious and helpful look at addiction and recovery. And Three: Surely we can find a scene worthy of exposing that glorious hairy chest. I offer this under the condition that all lines of the script be reduced to 140 characters
4. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris has had a script in production before, but openly admitted his skepticism. Eventually he asked to be pulled out of the project and the movie was scrapped over his concern about the potential portrayal of his family. A justifiably sensitive concern, and perhaps one best addressed by Phil Morrison, who, with 2005’s amusing Junebug, has proven himself capable of framing backwoods, working class cultures with simplicity and genuine sweetness. Anything to set to free this amazing modern humorist from the page to a new format.
3. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
This one is a bit unfair since it has been technically adapted already (1985’s misguided and empty Smooth Talk). But I’ve always had a thirst to have the Coen Brothers venture into horror, and Oates’ short story provides a great opportunity baited with their favorites: loaded, plain-and-simple dialogue, a brooding storm of undeserved bad fortune; and an antagonist who as at once figuratively and literally devilish: Arnold Friend, who stalks the innocence out of our young heroine.
2. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
There’s been a sort of southern gothic resurgence in literature as of late. Bookstores could build a dedicated section of hick-lit novels with landscape shots backlit by a sunset, but Wiley Cash’s searing take on the formula stands out in its intensity, its heartfelt human drama, a respectable presentation of the working class culture, and its movie ready pacing. A stripped down rewrite of this novel would provide the perfect script for up-and-comer Jeff Nichols to exhibit his full potential. Nichols’ staple Michael Shannon (Shotgun Stories) and newcomer Matthew McConaughey (Mud) could adopt the roles in any order– Carson Chambliss, the sinister, meth-burnt, snake-handling preacher and the quietly enraged father whose family has been torn apart.
1. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
It all starts and ends with the King. This one has been in limbo for years, film rights passed back and forth between major studios. Dedicated fanatics of Stephen King’s seminal fantasy series have been tortured by reports of the involvement of Russel Crowe and Javier Bardem being in the cast. J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard have both been announced as director, but in February, the project was shelved yet again. Personally, I find the parallel worlds and genre bending to be a perfect playspace for an Alfonso Cuarón experiment, but at this point, I’ll take whomever I can get. Let’s move the wheels on this Hollywood!