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The Results are In…and the Fauxscar Goes to…

February 24, 2013 in Fauxscars, Fiction, Film, Literary Movies

As the stars begin to primp and prep for the Academy’s big night, here at Literary Traveler we are still sipping coffee in our pajamas as we announce the year’s big winners.  While the results of the Oscars may be kept under wraps for a couple more hours, we won’t keep you waiting any longer.  The fix is in and while some of these adaptations may not be receiving accolades from the Academy, we think they deserve acknowledgment for their spot on representation of some of our literary favorites.

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While Jennifer Lawrence may be cleaning up in the awards department for her portrayal of Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook, our voters have spoken and decided that Bradley Cooper deserves his share of the spotlight for his humorous and endearing portrayal of Pat Solitano, Jr,

Which is why our first Fauxscar, for “Best Character Portrayal by an Actor” goes to Bradley Cooper!


Best Character Portrayal by an Actor: Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano Jr. (Silver Linings Playbook)

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Luckily for Jennifer Lawrence, the acting nods at the Academy Awards are split into “Leading” and “Supporting” categories, because audiences can agree that Anne Hathaway’s Les Miserables‘ performance, however brief, was the ray of musical sunshine in the adaptation of the popular classic.  Here at Literary Traveler, we believe some of the best characters written are not necessarily the main protagonist in the work, which is why we chose not to split the category in two.  Sorry Jennifer! (Editor’s Note:  Good luck, Jen, fingers crossed for you!)
The Literary Fauxscar for “Best Character Portrayal by an Actress” goes to Anne Hathaway as Fantine!
Best Character Portrayal by an Actress: Anne Hathaway as Fantine (Les Miserables)
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The selection of Literary Love Stories portrayed on film this year has been wide ranging and dare I say, epic.  From an unrequited high school crush, a sweeping nineteenth century extramarital affair, an unbeatable team forced into a dystopic death match, a couple crazy kids vampires living happily ever after and a couple facing tragedy and finding humor and each other.  We couldn’t choose just one if we tried, and turns out neither could anyone else.  We have a tie!  It all comes down to the ill-fated affair portrayed in a long-loved classic and our favorite baker and badass, joining forces in a contemporary young adult juggernaut. (Which is sure to be a staple in the Fauxscars for the next couple years)

So we are excited to award the Fauxscar for  ”Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story” to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky  AND Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark!  May the odds be EVER in their favor ;)

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Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story: Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky (Anna Karenina)
AND with a tie!

Best Portrayal of a Literary Love Story: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games)
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As Literary Traveler contributor, Antoinette, put it so eloquently:  ”Every scene [of Life of Pi] is a visual indulgence. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I could have watched the thing on mute like a 2003 Windows Media Player sound Visualizer (you remember those right?)… It was, in addition to being a thoughtful and thought-provoking film, a display of artistry.”  It appears that voters agreed!

Therefore, the Fauxscar for “Best Visual Representation of a Novel’s Setting” goes to Life of Pi.
 Best Visual Representation of a Novel’s Setting: Life of Pi
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While the movie captured (a little too well) the expanse of time and space Pi felt on the open sea, the movie is almost an acceptable alternative to reading the book…after all, author Yann Martel, is in the movie, playing the interviewer who becomes friends with grown-up Pi, played by the amazing Irfan Khan.

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The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Almost as Good as the Book’ Film” also goes to Life of Pi.

Best “Almost as Good as the Book” Film: Life of Pi
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 Beating out the final installment of Twilight  to take this award would be a huge feat, had this been an MTV award show… but here at Literary Traveler, it was no contest.  The Hunger Games may be a YA series, but it is thought provoking, exciting, and presents a female protagonist that we can all be proud of.
The Fauxscar for Best “Young Adult” Adaptation goes to The Hunger Games.
  
 Best “Young Adult” Adaptation: The Hunger Games
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The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Family Fun’ Adaptation” goes to The Lorax.
Best “Family Fun” Adaptation: The Lorax
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We love ourselves some Tolstoy, and reading his original masterpiece, Anna Karenina,  is a commitment all bibliophiles should make at some point in their life, but alas, pushing 800 pages, it is a commitment.  In the meantime, check out the 2012 film version as a teaser — it seems that our readers agree that it is one of the best adaptations of the year.
The Fauxscar for “Best Adaptation of a Classic” goes to Anna Karenina.
Best Adaptation of a Classic:  Anna Karenina
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Sweeping the first annual Fauxscars like Katniss with a cross bow, The Hunger Games is a force to be reckoned with.
The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Guilty Pleasure’ Adaptation” goes to The Hunger Games.
Best “Guilty Pleasure” Adaptation: The Hunger Games
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Literary Traveler contributor, Amanda, would not stop gushing about this film until the entire staff agreed to see it.  It appears that voters are on her side (or she is somewhere maniacally stuffing the ballot box — just kidding, this film definitely stands on its own merits!)
The Fauxscar for “Best ‘Stand Alone’ Film” goes to Silver Linings Playbook.
Best “Stand Alone” Film: Silver Linings Playbook
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Looking forward to the fabulous adaptation coming in 2013, from a new YA favorite, Beautiful Creatures, to a Helena Bonham Carter led Great Expectations reboot.  While both sound fabulous, this award was nearly unanimous and it seems that we are not alone in our uncontainable excitement over the 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age masterpiece.
Without further ado, the Fauxscar for “Best Anticipated Literary Adaptation of 2013″ goes to The Great Gatsby.
Best Anticipated Literary Adaptation of 2013: The Great Gatsby
On that note, until next year… Let us know in the comments section if you agree with this year’s winners, or if your favorite was snubbed. Thanks for joining us and we will be tuning in to the Oscars tonight to see how our favorites fare with the Academy!

Fauxscar Nominee: Les Misérables

January 7, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, European Writers, Fauxscars, Film, French Authors, History, Literary Movies, Literature, Movies, Political History

Strictly speaking, Les Misérables is not a Literary Adaption; it’s based on the musical, not the Victor Hugo novel. The story has traveled far since it was first published in France. It’s always been a big, hulking phenomenon, and it’s always had its critics. What demolishes the criticism, however, is its emotional forcefulness. And the funny thing about the criticism of each successive adaption, is that it tends to focus on the new version’s faithfulness to the original, despite the fact that the novel was criticized at the time for being sentimental – unfaithful to reality itself. Flaubert deemed it “infantile” and Baudelaire privately called it “tasteless and inept.” But in the preface, Hugo outlined a social purpose for his book that was greater than literary accomplishment:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

In 1862 when Les Misérables was published, the American civil war was being fought over the emancipation of slaves. The noble hero of the book, Jean Valjean, is an ex-convict whose unnatural strength reveals his identity as a former galley slave. He is on the run for most of the film, trying to build a better life as a factory owner, and then stepping up to the role of adopted papa of the orphaned child Cosette. The film of Les Misérables, though based on the musical (it uses all the songs from the 1985 musical bar two) goes where the stage production cannot in portraying the misery of the poor peasants – and in this it rejoins the book. I’ve rarely seen a ‘costume’ production, where the cast is made to look as filthy and downtrodden as this. Most of the characters’ teeth are blackened – though I did notice that Hathaway’s angelic Fantine flashes a cleaner set than some of the lesser cast members. Also Helena Bonham Carter is allowed to get away with her usual steampunk, hallucinatory version of historical costume. This role finds her once again as a flouncy, amoral proprietress of a low dive establishment, even making sausages out of suspect bits of meat, just as she did in Sweeny Todd.

Aside from the comic filthiness of Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, there’s no getting around the sentimentality of the movie and its antecendents, the musical, the book, and numerous film adaptions. But because it’s a musical, a version of willing suspension of disbelief sets in. Call it, “willing suspension of cynical running commentary” (we’ll wait ‘til the movie’s out on Netflix to relax our standards on that). But it’s more than that. The movie packs real emotional weight, especially through the performances of the leads. No one could fail to be moved by Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.” While they’re delivering their soliloquys, the shots are trained on the characters’ faces – often from above, as if to capture the desperation and abandonment which makes them invoke a higher power. By the time Hathaway’s Fantine bows out of the film, she is a broken woman, shorn of her locks and her dignity; the camera does not flinch from describing the dirt and tears on her face.

Hugh Jackman is also a great, sympathetic lead as Jean Valjean, and Samantha Barks is a sad, forlorn Eponine.  Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried are fairly wooden, but as the fairy prince and princess characters, they don’t have much to do besides adorn the happy ending.

Overall ‘Les Miz’ works because of its great cast rather than originality – but really, who was looking for that? It manages to stay true to the form of the musical - and to the intentions of the book: to portray the victims of poverty. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of those soliloquys bag a few Oscars for the leads.

Fauxscar Nominee: Cosmopolis

January 6, 2013 in American Authors, Contemporary Literature, Crime Novels, Economy, Fauxscars, Literary Movies, Pop Culture

By Antoinette Weil

When I chose to watch Cosmopolis as part of our Literary “Fauxscars” segment, I went in with a clean slate. That is, I had never read the book it’s based on by Don DeLillo. I didn’t know the story. As such, it could have qualified to be in the running for the sought-after “Best Stand Alone Film” category. But it won’t get my vote.

The film follows Eric Packer, played by Robert Pattinson, a 28 year old billionaire/finance wiz throughout his stretch-limo-capsuled journey across Manhattan to get a haircut. Most of the film, including a sex scene, a doctor’s appointment, a loss of millions (or more) of dollars resulting from a risky financial bet against the Chinese Yuan, takes place inside the comfort of Packer’s over-the-top custom stretch limousine.

What happens inside the car is what matters to Packer. He meets with his finance manager, his physician, his tech guru. The dialogue is intensive, thick, unwelcoming. While watching you’re wondering (at least I was) what the characters are actually saying, what it means, and whether it’s all very interesting or just jibber jabber.

And what happens outside of the car is the world; all of Packer’s encounters with his young wife (played by Sarah Gadon), a traffic jam in the city caused by a visit from the President, a charged anti-capitalism street protest, a massive funeral procession for a fallen rap star, who happens to be beloved by Packer, and eventually a potentially deadly encounter with a disgruntled former employee.

David Cronenberg’s direction on this film was impeccable. There is something to be said for shooting almost an entire movie inside of a car with hardly any action or changes in scenery. And his dark, psychologically introspective style fit perfectly with Don DeLillo’s original novel. Should we have a “Best Director” category, I will vote Cronenberg for Cosmopolis.

Pattinson was believable, vivid, and genuinely good in the role of Eric Packer. He has a certain smoothness and a dark quirkiness that made him well-suited for the part. That said, the character is a dry, jagged, unpleasant pill to swallow. He seems to be a morally damaged, self-centered, downright bad human being. He has sexual encounters with two women in the film, neither of whom are his wife. He tries to persuade his art consultant (played by Juliette Binoche) to bid on not a single painting but on on the entire museum, so that he can lock it up in his apartment and keep it from the public. He calls one of his employees to an emergency meeting in his limo on her day off, and kills another in cold blood. All around a pretty loathsome guy.

And yet, I didn’t hate him. I ended up having so little emotional investment in this movie, and in Eric Packer, that even his most shameless sins didn’t produce the type of dislike one typically has for a “bad guy”. Perhaps this is because none of the other characters were “likable” either. Perhaps the beauty in it is that the audience feels for him exactly what he feels for every human in the film (yes, including himself): nothing.

I found myself looking for the real world political/socioeconomic parallels easily apparent in other movies (V for Vendetta, Avatar, even Hunger Games) but ended up, instead of relating, wondering if those parallels were there to be found, or if this was to be taken at face value: a movie about the fall of one arrogant, brilliant, young billionaire.

Cosmopolis is not for the lazy viewer. Simply processing the dialogue is an intellectual achievement  But it’s not enlightening, or, by any means, a “feel-good” film. Quite the opposite in fact; you may, as a viewer, find yourself feeling low when it’s over, scratching your head and wondering what exactly just happened.

But here’s what it is: smart. So while I didn’t like the film, I couldn’t help but respect it.

The original article is featured in the Books section of Literary Traveler!

2012 – 2013 Movies Based on Books

July 11, 2012 in Literary Movies

2012 Movies Based on Books

Savages (6 Jul 2012) – Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively
Based on: Savages by Don Winslow

The Bourne Legacy (3 Aug 2012) – Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz
Based on: The Bourne Legacy by Eric Van Lustbader

Total Recall (3 August 2012) – Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale
Based on (Short Story): “We Can Remember if for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick

Goats (10 August 2012) – David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga and Keri Russell
Based on (Novel): Goats by Mark Jude Poirier

Cosmopolis (17 Aug 2012) – Jay Baruchel, Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti
Based On (Novel): Cosmopolis: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Lawless (29 Aug 2012) – Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman
Based on (Novel): The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant (Based on True Story)

Gangster Squad (7 Sept 2012) – Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Based on (Novel): Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (20 Sept 2012) – Emma Watson, Paul Rudd and Nina Dobrev
Based On: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Killing Them Softly (21 Sept 2012) – Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta
Based on (Crime Novel): Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgin (1974)

The Paperboy (5 Oct 2012) – John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey
Based on: The Paperboy by Peter Dexter

Alex Cross (19 Oct 2012) – Tyler Perry, Rachel Nichols, Edward Burns and Matthew Fox
Based on: Cross by James Patterson

Cloud Atlas (26 Oct 2012) – Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and Halle Berry
Based on (Novel): Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Anna Karenina (9 Nov 2012) – Keira Knightley and Jude Law
Based On: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II (16 Nov 2012) – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner
Based on: Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

Silver Linings Playbook (21 Nov 2012) – Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
Based on (Comic Novel): The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Great Expectations (30 Nov 2012) – Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Jeremy Irvine
Based on: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Les Miserables (7 Dec 2012) – Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Helena Bonham Carter
Based on: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (14 Dec 2012) – Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom
Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Life of Pi (21 Dec 2012) – Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Kahn and Tabu
Based on (Novel): Life of Pi by Yann Martel

World War Z (21 Dec 2012) – Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox and Eric West
Based on (Novel): World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

The Great Gatsby (25 Dec 2012) – Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire
Based on: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Lincoln (Dec 2012) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field
Based on (Biography): Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

On the Road (2012) – Kristin Stewart, Viggo Mortenson and Garrett Hedlund
Based on: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

2013 Movies Based on Books

Romeo and Juliet (2013) – Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth and Ed Westwick
Based on: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The Company You Keep (Feb 2013) – Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf
Based on (Novel): The Company You Keep by Neil Gordon

Beautiful Creatures – Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum and Viola Davis
Based on (YA Novel): Beautiful Creatures (The Caster Chronicles series) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov 2013) – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Based on: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Oz: The Great and Powerful – Mila Kunis, James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz
Based on (Prequel to): The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Host – Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger and William Hurt
Based on (Science Fiction Novel): The Host by Stephanie Meyer

The Mortal Instruments (2013) – Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower
Based on (YA Novels): The Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare

Ender’s Game (2013) – Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis and Hailee Steinfeld
Based on (Science Fiction Novel) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Eat, Pray, Love Hits Theaters Friday

August 11, 2010 in eat pray love, elizabeth gilbert, julia roberts movies, Travel Writers

As I’m sure everyone haImage via Amazons heard, Eat, Pray, Love hits theaters this Friday.  In case there is anyone unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, Eat, Pray, Love follows the protagonist, played by the always gorgeous Julia Roberts, as she travels around Italy, India, and Bali.  She starts a “no carb left behind” project, she consumes copious amounts of delicious pasta, she learns to pray and discover herself in India, and she finally finds love in Bali.  But here’s the thing: Julia Roberts isn’t playing some random character – she’s playing a real woman.

The woman in question is author Elizabeth Gilbert, who penned the 2006 memoir/travel narrative/food porn extravaganza that quickly became a best seller.  The book has inspired numerous readers to search within themselves for a deeper strength, and to reexamine their lives, looking closely at what makes them truly happy.

Gilbert starts the book – and the movie – unhappy.  She has just gone through a messy affair and a subsequent divorce.  She’s educated and wealthy, but she is just not satisfied.  Something, an elusive something, is missing from her life.  This realization prompts her to drop everything and begin traveling.  She is lucky enough to have the funds to undertake a project many of us can only dream of, but her story is still relatable.  Gilbert is lacking something, and through risking everything, she finds what she needed the most: herself.

In honor of the movie’s release, I’d like to suggest we all take a moment and think about what it is that makes us truly happy.  For some people, it’s the thrill of travel, or the calm of mediation.  For others, it’s creamy, indulgent pasta or freshly made sausage.  For me, it’s fresh basil, old cotton t-shirts, used books, and red wine.  What makes you feel blessed?