Sunday, 10 January 2010
Daydreaming the Perfect Adaptation Or Adventures in Masturbatory Cinematic Fantasy
By Blair Stewart
Hello everybody, today Alan was kind enough to indulge me with a favourite past-time of mine that doesn't involve staying on the good side of a German hausfrau.
I often fantasize about a filmmaker matching up with a worthy subject and the wondrous results of their meeting as "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" recently showed when great source material (the Kingpin of my early childhood reading, Roald Dahl) met a skilled director (Wes Anderson) in a stop-motion animated world. Predictably, the crowds all went elsewhere for crap like "Old Dogs"($41 million at the U.S. box office *shakes fist at sky*).
Below is a compilation of novels, TV shows and other narrative possibilities matched up with top directors and the reasons behind the union. And feel free to drum up your own dream cinematic concoctions and 'what ifs' in the comments section.
Anyone who puts down 'Coen Brothers' + "True Grit" will receive a punch in the nuts.
Christopher Nolan directs Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian: Or an Evening Redness in the West"
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Tom Noonan, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe and Aaron Johnson as 'The Kid'
What: An evisceration of the myths of the Wild West in the 1800's, McCarthy's epic follows the indoctrination of a rawhide boy when he joins a pack of blood-caked scalp-hunters laying waste along the border sands of Mexico.
Why: The finest book I've read, rich with symbolism and a truly great villian in Judge Holden, a brilliant 7ft tall hairless albino child-murderer. After molding the perfect Joker for a darker Batman and creating a modern Hollywood diamond in the relentless "The Prestige", Christopher Nolan has the chops for a Biblical Western in a vast 70mm frame. And the sight of Johnny Depp as the ear-less bandit Toadvine would be a career-high.
Likelihood: Presently being adapted by Todd Field of "Little Children" and "In the Bedroom" acclaim, the rights to the book have exchanged hands between Ridley Scott and a smitten Tommy Lee Jones (who starred in McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men" for the Coen Bros). After the lackluster response to John Hillcoat's take on "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's savage prose might be too much for filmgoers. Clint Eastwood would also make a damn fine film of this but he's already covered some of the same pathos in "Unforgiven".
Martin Scorsese directs Michael Lewis's "Liar's Poker"
Starring: Paul Dano, Frank Langella and Paul Giamatti as Lewis Ranieri
What: An again-relevant expose of the 1980's Wall Street machine from the perspective of a 'Geek' (rookie trader) in the world of the 'Big Swinging Dicks' (think Gordon Gekko Jr.'s). A humorous morality play of the young, dumb and full of greed having a billion-dollar pissing match with real currency. Cue the autumn of 2008.
Why: The old master Scorsese works best in testosterone-drenched environments like law enforcement and the Mafia, and Wall Street was most certainly macho in 1987. A script by the likes of David Mamet would be a swell foundation built on the cornerstone of the word "fuck".
Likelihood: Oliver Stone is fast-tracking "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" to cover the sub-prime meltdown as we speak, damn him.
Michael Winterbottom directs Aravind Adiga's "The White Tiger"
Starring: Dev Patel, Naseeruddin Shah, Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai as Pinky Madam
What: A lower-caste entreprenuer works his way up the tax bracket using his skills in eavesdropping, sly improvisation and other questionable tactics in the New Indian economy.
Why: Relevant but overpraised, "The White Tiger" won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for its critical stance on the juggernaut Indian continent that will soon rule us all. Winterbottom's cinema-verite approach, global outlook and chameleon nature to dive into new cultures could pay dividends similar to Danny Boyle's success with "Slumdog Millionaire".
Likelihood: As you read this Winterbottom made two features, a documentary on North Korea and a mini-series for the BBC concerning football hooligans. It could happen.
Hayao Miyazaki directs Roald Dahl's "The B.F.G."
Starring: Patrick Stewart and Carey Mulligan as the voices of the Big Friendly Giant and Sophie
What: Alongside "The Witches" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", Roald Dahl's tale of a dreamland populated by a young girl and her trustworthy Big Friendly Giant versus his man-eating brethren delights with bone-crunching glee.
Why: A children's tale with dream-catchers and erudite English behemoths? Miyazaki and the cell-animation titans at Studio Ghibli of "Spirited Away" fame would nail this.
Likelihood: Possessing one of cinema's true Midas touches, Miyazaki's once-retired pencil is set to create a further two features in the near future. There's still hope.
Harry Selick directs Yann Martel's "The Life of Pi"
Starring: Alan Rickman as the voice of Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger
What: The stirring yarn of an Indian boy surviving the sinking of a rustheap in the Pacific only to find himself on a lifeboat with a toothsome Royal Bengal Tiger for company.
Why: A religious allegory with the power of a Grimm's tale on the adult imagination, "Pi" has a great story caught in a tricky narrative that would challenge the best of screenwriters. A vast fanbase would hopefully turn up at the box-office for the underappreciated format of stop-motion where Harry "Coraline" Selick plies his trade.
Likelihood: Since passing through the hands of Shyamalan and Cuaron "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" creator Ang Lee is now leading a live-action version. But a mature stop-motion world would best invoke the desperate landscape Martel creates.
Woody Allen directs Jonathan Letham's "Motherless Brooklyn"
Starring: Casey Affleck, Zooey Deschanel and Sean Penn as Gerald Minna
What: A love letter to an elder Brooklyn of 'family' Italian hangouts and hoodlum orphanages, Tourettic gumshoe Lionel Essrog seeks the killer of his mentor while making taffy out of the English language.
Why: Featuring an Allen protagonist as memorable as Emmet Ray in "Sweet and Lowdown", and with a keen melancholy for a lost New York that "Stardust Memories"/"Manhattan" fans could identify with, the salty language in "Motherless Brooklyn" would give the ol' Woodster a kick in the ass. This would make for Allen's triumphant return to American filmmaking after his recent European exile with "Match Point" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona".
Likelihood: The humourless Ed Norton is likely wearing all the crowns of writer-director-star for his version of Letham's defective detective.
Neill Blomkamp directs Katsuhiro Otomo's "Akira"
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Michelle Williams and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tetsuo
What: In a Megalopolis on the cusp of anarchy a troubled cyberpunk discovers he has immense psychic powers as his gang leader hunts for him high-and-low. Based on the manga series and the seminal 1988 anime that birthed the likes of "The Matrix", with much of the dialogue only involving screaming the names of "Kaneda!" and "Tetsuo!".
Why: Following the high-return box-office success of Blomkamp's "District 9" and Cameron's "Avatar", the bidding for the rights to Otomo's property reached seven figures with good reason. Every fanboy who showed up for the last few sci-fi blockbusters in costume would mark off opening night on their calendars and break out Sunday's best for "Akira". Blomkamp has been mentored by Peter Jackson already so he can handle the action.
Likelihood: Leonardo DiCaprio bought the rights to "Akira" last year, and the story has been moved from Neo-Tokyo to Neo-Manhattan with Gordon-Levitt a fine choice to play the rampaging Tetsuo. At one time talented Irish shorts director Ruairi Robinson was attached to direct but the adaptation is stuck in development limbo.
Michel Gondry directs "Dr. Who"
Starring: Jim Carrey as the Doctor
What: The longest-running science-fiction show in history, "Dr. Who" concerns the time-leaping adventures of a humanoid alien known as "the Doctor" who rights wrongs with the help of his wormhole contraption T.A.R.D.I.S. disguised as a 1950's English police telephone box. It's so British it makes my teeth hurt.
Why: While old bits of pop-culture flotsam have been brought to the big-screen
("Thunderbirds" or "A-Team" anyone?), "Dr. Who's" fanbase is as passionate as the Star Trek crowds, and with two films in the 1960's they should get a third. Carrey is an outrage to play a British institution and yet no one said a peep when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Sherlock Holmes. A time-jumping reunion of Carrey with the DIY craft of Michel "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" Gondry would bare eccentric and watchable fruit.
Likelihood: BBC Films is working on a script as we speak but no further announcements have been made.
Matteo Garrone directs "The Wire: The Movie"
Starring: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Sondra Sohn and Jamie Hector as Marlo
What: American television's finest series, David Simon's "The Wire" burrows along the rot of modern corruption from the grimy streets of Baltimore through the corridors of the Law and up into the halls of power. The fifth and final series tolled the bell on the dying medium of newspaper journalism as life went on for our Dickensian cops and criminals.
Why: Garrone's "Gomorrah" has grown on me since first viewing, gutting the underbelly of criminal life in Naples, Italy. Think "City of God" without the music-video flash. His probing documentary sense and sharp framing in the ghetto would suit the likes of Marlo, Bubbles and Jimmy McNaulty well and I'd like to see Maryland through European eyes.
Likelihood: (spoiler alert) Omar and Snoop are dead and McNaulty's left the force, this is a sleeping dog that should likely be left alone. But Brother Mouzone lives on...
Michael Haneke directs "The Josef Fritzl Story"
Starring: Ulrich Tukur as Fritzl
What: A monster of incalculable evil, Josef Fritzl of Austria imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years in his basement as she bore him seven children. Meanwhile the family and community went about their business.
Why: If anyone can make great drama out of an outrage it's the auteur Haneke coming off his career-high with "The White Ribbon". He has a knack for picking at the scabs of Europe and our modern society.
Likelihood: I'm a big fan of Haneke's work, but even I would be leery of entering the theater if he made this. It would make Korea's "Oldboy" look like a zippy romantic-comedy.
Spike Lee directs "The Sam Cooke Story"
Starring: Terrence Howard as Cooke and Don Cheadle as an older Bobby Womack
What: A staple in my household growing up, Sam Cooke possessed the finest pipes of the 1960's soul era. Over 8 years Cooke stormed the charts with such classics as "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Bring it on Home to Me", scoring 29 hits during his reign. His impact would also be felt in the civil rights movement at its height. Sadly, Cooke would be found dead under baffling circumstances in a motel office in 1964. (imagine the furor if it was Justin Timberlake)
Why: A brilliant, complex life that burned out far too quickly, Lee finds himself in similar waters to that of his awesome bio-pic of "Malcolm X", both crossing lines of fame, race and politics. Terrence Howard is in need of a big role and a great director quickly.
Likelihood: Why the hell hasn't Lee made this already?
Clint Eastwood directs "The Eddie Shore Story"
Starring: Mickey Rourke as Shore and Michael Fassbender as a young Toe Blake
What: The toughest, meanest, orneriest son-of-a-bitch in sports history, period.
Eddie Shore dominated professional hockey with the skill of dancer, the strength of a heavyweight and the will of a cornered animal. In his rookie season he had an ear nearly hacked off by a teammate's stick in a scrum and shrugged it off. That's one of the reasons why the Hanson Brothers in George Roy Hill's "Slapshot" regarded 'Old Blood and Guts' with awe.
Why: The red-blooded Canadian male in me would love to see the same restraint, dignity and storytelling ability brought to the last days of Shore's professional career in the Golden Age of Hockey as Eastwood did with boxing in "Million Dollar Baby". Mickey Rourke is a glutton for punishment and as an ex-pugilist would likely have better insight into the mind of a terrifying athlete than most soft-touch thespians.
Likelihood: Here's hoping Eastwood has a few movies left in him about faded glory yet, the magnificent old bastard that he is.
Thanks for reading, feel free to share your own hopeful adaptations.