Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Short List: Great Movies for Book Lovers

Everyone can use a movie for a gift or stocking stuffer. Better yet, they can use a set! These films, which are either films made from good books or are about writers and their lives, can be found on or Barnes and Noble.Find a title you like and Google for the best prices.

Henry and June: One of the many stories made of this great love affair between the erotic writer and diarist, Anias Nin, one of my favorites, and Henry Miller. 

Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle - About the famous Algonquin Round Table, and all the writers and artists that worked, loved, partied and left it, though the central character is the fabulous Dorothy Parker (well played by Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Wonder Boys - A dark but comedic film,  based on the 1995 novel of the same title by Michael Chabon, based on a writer dealing with his wife leaving him as he tried to deliver the novel he's been working on for 7 years. Starring Michael Douglas.

The Great Gatsby:
There's a new one being made with Leo DiCaprio, but I will forever see Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy...

Deconstructing Harry - A black comedy about Harry (Woody Allen) who is suffering from writer's block.  Characters and scenes from his best sellers come back to haunt him.

Capote: Bennett Miller’s picture from 2005, brilliantly played by the fabulous Phillip Seymour Hoffman -- a role that won him the Oscar. His relationship with - and reliance on - Harper Lee, writer of To Kill a Mockingbird, is explored, and well done.

Howl - Adocu-drama about Allen Ginsberg (James Franco), who talks about his life and art/ His most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.

The Squid and the Whale: A true-story comedy/drama about the divorce of two writers and it's effect on their teenage writer son, Noah Baumbach, and his brother. Takes place in Brooklyn in the 80's. Touching.

Posession: Neil LaBute’s 2002 adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s Booker Prize-winning literary detective novel/love story where 2 hot scholars study a pair of Victorian-era poets who might have had an affair. Between the two parallel storylines, LaBute beautifully captures the eroticism of the written word — in both its writing (in the past) and its interpretation (in the present).

Dead Poets Society: Starring Robin Williams and a host of now-famous actors as fair unknowns. Set at a stodgy boys prep school, the romance of being young and hopeful about the future is awakened by their unusual professor (Robin Williams) and the poetry he teaches. 

Naked Lunch: David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s novel. As expected from Cronenberg and Burroughs, it's a wacky, arty ride. 

Screenwriter Charlie Kauffman’s clever 2002 meditation on writing, film, fiction, and fact concerns his own aborted attempt to adapt Susan Orlean’s nonfiction book The Orchid Thief into a studio screenplay;

Finding Forrester: Sean Connery as William Forrester, a brilliant novelist turned Salinger-style recluse, brought out of a 40-plus year exile by a talented young writer. 

The Hours: A beautiful book made into a beautiful movie. 
The story of three very different people who share the feeling that they've been living their lives for someone else. Virginia Woolf (Kidman) struggles in 1920's London to begin writing her first great novel, Mrs. Dalloway, while attempting to overcome the mental illness that threatens to engulf her. Laura Brown (Moore), a young wife and mother in post-World War II Los Angeles, is just starting to read Mrs. Dalloway, and is so deeply affected by it that she begins to question the life she has chosen for herself. Then, in contemporary New York City, Clarissa Vaughan (Streep) is a modern-day mirror image of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as she plans what may be the final party for her friend and former lover, Richard (Harris), who is dying of AIDS.

Something's Gotta Give: One of my favorite movies - the story of a writer (Diane Keaton) who gets into a love triangle between a man her age (Jack Nicholson) and hot younger doctor (Keanu Reeves) as she writes to deal with it all. Great midlife love story with interesting people to watch. Great sets and wardrobe too.  

Shakespeare: Any movie done by Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, HenryV, Othello, Love's Labour's Lost, and As You Like It) is a wonderful way to discover the plays modernized yet if you have had trouble understanding them or not ever seen a version where the cadence of the actors really conveyed what Shakespeare meant. Branagh is gifted in bringing that out. If you are a classicist, you must see Hamlet with Lawrence Olivier: 
  1. Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Sir Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" continues to be the most compelling version of Shakespeare's beloved tragedy. Olivier is at his most inspired - both as director and as the melancholy Dane himself - as he breathes new life into the words of one of the world's greatest dramatists.
84 Charing Cross Road: A story about love and the love of books, this film features Academy Award winners Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in stellar performances. Helen (Bancroft), a feisty New York writer, mails a letter to a small London bookshop requesting some rare English classics. Frank(Hopkins), the reserved English bookseller, answers her request, beginning a touching and humorous correspondence that spans two continents and two decades. Hanff's aloof British demeanor, but their mutual love of books forms a bond that deepens with each passing year. Their intimate, richly detailed letters draw us into their lives as they develop a lasting and extraordinary friendship.

Would love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

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