Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Adaptations, Part Deux

The first snow fell today, making it the kind of day you want to stay home and watch movies.

On that note, the Onion's A.V. Club, always a source of high praise, delivers a list of twenty-one books worthy of adaptation to film, which contains several odd but interesting choices. I think Jonathan Strange is utterly unfilmable but I could be wrong; some people say that about Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games and I think that would make an outstanding cop movie. People would be shoveling down popcorn for King Dork and World War Z, granted. But please don't invite me to see another bitter Cormac McCarthy adaptation or anything starring those freakish hobbits.

Surely we can do better than that. Here's my nominations for screen adaptation off the top of my head, ignoring books that have already been slated for production (Bangkok 8) or that have been simmering in movie purgatory for years (Ender's Game).

Miniseries: It will never get made because HBO's Rome has already stolen its thunder but I think Conn Iggulden's Emperor trilogy about Julius Caesar would have been tremendous. Starring Gerard Butler (300) as Caesar and Clive Owen as best bud Brutus. Also in this category would be an inspired adaptation of Charlie Huston's slow road to hell, the Henry Thompson trilogy, marking the former baseball player's escape with the Russian mafia's cash in Caught Stealing, his progression to becoming A Dangerous Man, and concluding with the violent denouement of Six Bad Things. Maybe you could do them as two hour films the way the British handle the Rebus novels.

Cinema, comedy category: The top of my own list will almost always include Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller. Starring Paul Bettany as the Kawasaki-riding mercenary Thomas Lang. Laurie wrote a screenplay for the film for United Artists but whether it, like its theoretical follow-up The Paper Soldier, sees the light of day is anyone's guess.

Alternatively, I’d put good money down on a film of Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter, starring a Grosse Point Blank-era John Cusack as beleaguered secret service agent Doyle Coldiron.

Cinema, crime: Hands down, Anthony Bourdain's vignettes of violence, redemption and cookery in Bobby Gold. The Open Critic thinks along the same lines. “The thought hits around page 75; Bobby Gold is perfect movie fodder….this collection of vignettes is perfect, each in their own low-life noir type of way. Jim Jarmusch would be a natural. Bobby Gold busting his uncle’s arm. The corpse in the bathroom. Nikki, tall and beautiful and sweaty at her chef station. They’re all cinematic. I’m guessing, Anthony Bourdain was seeing pictures in his head when he wrote this book.”

I’m having trouble picturing an actor in the role, though. Bobby’s a big dude, and you definitely need someone who pulls off that New York leather jacket, bone-breaking presence.

Cinema, uncategorizable: Anything by Warren Ellis. Hell, pick one. Transmetropolitan, which has reportedly been acquired by Patrick Stewart, who has made some noises about voicing the character as played by a virtual avatar. The debut novel, Crooked Little Vein, which would require a director with the visual acuity of Luc Besson, the temper of Sam Peckinpah, and the visceral sensibilities of David Fincher. Global Frequency even made it, briefly, as a television pilot and it’s still stunning to me that that idea – a global anti-terrorism force made up of whoever’s available at the time – didn’t pass muster.

Any other ideas? While you’re thinking, you can peruse these great fake movie posters by graphic artist Rob Kelly.

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