Category Archives: Adapt This

Adapt This!

I had to look up American Born Chinese on IMDB because I can’t imagine why it hasn’t been adapted yet. In the case of a book so popular, so cinematic, and so unique, my guess is that the author, Gene Luen Yang, isn’t willing to option it. Good for him. I like when artists are confident in the medium they worked with for a particular piece and don’t want to see it transformed into something else. At the same time, this graphic novel about a young Chinese kid moving to America and dealing with prejudice from others and himself would really make a great film.

What I like about the novel is how sincere and childlike it is, while still being accessible to an older crowd. Yang uses magical realism to access themes more complicated than his title character can articulate in his every day interactions. Disillusionment with one’s own culture is explored through a fairy tale about the king of the monkeys that wants to be accepted by the gods as a human, and a television sitcom about “Chin-Kee” – an awkward Chinese visitor. This fairy tale and sitcom eventually feed into what we thought was the main thread of narrative, creating a fully realized young adult, ready to deal with his own culture in his everyday life.

I would love to see more magical realism in film. Pan’s Labyrinth was so visually appealing because of the mixture, and I could see American Born Chinese being just beautiful.

In fact, I wouldn’t mind Guillermo del Toro directing this one. While he usually creates films much darker than this one should be, I would love to see the visuals he could come up with in the fairy tale scenes. Why not get three directors in on the mix? One to direct each segment. It would be interesting to see the ways they came together in the end to make the film cohesive.

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Adapt This!

I just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s controversial (a word I keep pronouncing con-tro-ver-see-al, despite many admonitions and declarations of self-hatred) Under the Banner of Heaven. And rather than a fictional adaptation of the book (like the recent, smugĀ Into the Wild) I’d like to see a detailed documentary about both the subject matter and the writing/researching/consequences of the book itself.

Remembering the outcry about Under the Banner of Heaven in the LDS community, and reading the reviews on Good Reads, I’ve found that Mormons really hate this book. Which, to me, seems to exacerbate the unflattering thesis Krakauer proposes – namely, that religious extremes can encourage violence and irrational thought. Like Krakauer points out in his notes at the end of his study, secretiveness about Mormon history only seems to further the uncomfortable mystery behind the church and its origins.

While Under the Banner of Heaven was fascinating to me in a lot of ways, I’d be even more interested in the book that could follow: The Making of Under the Banner of Heaven. If only books were like DVDs with hours and hours of extras, making-of docs, and voice-over commentaries. I’d love to hear and see the reactions to the book. Perhaps more detail about how LDS and FLDS members react to the violent incidents in their histories.

Rendition of the "Mountain Meadows Massacre" - a dark spot in Mormon history.

Yes, it would probably be fairly easy to get more than enough information from the internet to satisfy my curiosity. But just like a popular best-selling author like Krakauer has the ability to bring information to light that would otherwise collect dust on local bookshelves, a documentary backed by Krakauer could be just as influential.

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Adapt This!

I read quite a bit. It’s a luxury I have since I usually work about 20 hours a week (sometimes even less), don’t have kids, have very few friends, and am a huge nerd. This month has mostly been occupied by Sundance, a trip to Albequerque, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but I also had a chance to read a few picture books for a children’s book club I belong to.

One of those books, The Curious Garden, gave me an idea for the blog. I love adaptations. I don’t see what’s not to love. If you enjoy a story and enjoy the way that story is told than it seems natural that you might want to see how that story is told in the hands of another artist. I’ll be the first to admit that most adaptations are problematic. But if you can avoid trying to compare the two sources by deciding which is better, adaptations always offer points of discussion.

Unfortunately, I am the least talented person I know, and won’t be able to do the adapting myself. (Plus, I’m poor and it will take a lot of money to acquire the rights to the stuff I read) So this is a monthly – I hope – call to all those talented artists out there to adapt the things I like. Take these stories and spin them into cinematic gold. Please.

On with the show.

The Curious Garden (by Peter Brown) is the story of a little ginger boy who finds a small patch of greenery struggling to grow on an abandoned train track. The boy does the best he can to make his little garden flourish and soon the once grey and industrious city is overrun with beautiful, colorful plant life.

It’s a simple idea, but one that I think might be well-received in a culture becoming increasingly environmentally aware. And even though weeds don’t often look this pretty, the gardening aspects of the story are inspirational.

The art is wonderful. Kind of a 50s throwback:

I think a film version could work great as a short, animated piece. But, as Spike Jonze showed with Where the Wild Things Are, stories in picture books can be expanded – incorporating the same themes – into something really new and thoughtful.

So…you aspiring filmmakers…go out there and make me this movie. But be sure to ask Peter Brown nicely, first.

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