Friday, May 9, 2008

This Summer's Movies: The Books They're Based On

Savage Grace

The Book - Savage Grace: The True Story of Fatal Relations in a Rich and Famous American Family

By Natalie Robins and Steven M Aronson
Published - 1985

A spellbinding tale of money and madness, incest and matricide, Savage Grace is the saga of Brooks and Barbara Baekeland --beautiful, rich, worldly -- and their handsome, gentle son, Tony. Alternately neglected and smothered by his parents, he was finally driven to destroy the whole family in a violent chain of events.

Savage Grace unfolds against a glamorous international background (New York, London, Paris, Italy, Spain); features a nonpareil cast of characters (including Salvador DalĂ­, James Jones, the Astors, the Vanderbilts, and European nobility); and tells the doomed Baekelands' story through remarkably candid interviews, private letters, and diaries, not to mention confidential hospital, State Department, and prison documents. A true-crime classic, it exposes the envied lives of the rich and beautiful, and brilliantly illuminates the darkest corners of the American Dream.

The Movie

Starring: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Dillane
Director: Tom Kalin
Release Date: May 30th, 2008

Fugitive Pieces

The Book - Fugitive Pieces

By Anne Michaels
Published - 1997

Fugitive Pieces is a story of World War II as remembered and imagined by one of its survivors: a poet named Jakob Beer, traumatically orphaned as a young child and smuggled out of Poland, first to a Greek island (where he will return as an adult), and later to Toronto. It is the story of how, over his lifetime, Jakob learns the power of language -- to destroy, to omit, to obliterate, but also to restore and to conjure, witness and tell -- as he comes to understand and experience what was lost to him and of what is possible for him to regain.

Profoundly moving, brilliantly written -- as sensual and lyric as it is emotionally resonant -- Fugitive Pieces delves into the most difficult workings of the human heart and mind: the grief and healing of remembrance. It is a first novel of astonishing achievement.

The Movie

Starring: Stephen Dillane, Rade Serbedzija, Robbie Kay, Rosamund Pike
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Release Date: May 2nd

Brick Lane

The Book - Brick Lane

By Monica Ali
Published - 2003

Nazneen arrived in the world in an exceptional way. The day of her birth, the bleak village midwife pronounced Nazneen stillborn. Nazneen's mother pleaded for God's mercy, and good fortune was granted her when the baby's cheeks flushed with color. Nazneen grew to be an obedient girl, unlike her sister, Hasina, who ran away from home with a "love match," defying her parents' wishes for an arranged marriage. Nazneen accepts her father's marriage match, and Chanu takes her from Bangladesh to a Bangladeshi community in London. Though he is not intentionally cruel of heart, Chanu is an old man and Nazneen cannot help but feel trapped by the restrictions of her Muslim society in a land teeming with opportunity. When she ventures into the city, she is overwhelmed but animated by the hedonistic appearance of women carrying briefcases and smoking cigarettes
in flimsy clothes. In an extremist male society, Nazneen must grasp at flecks of freedom, and Ali is extraordinary at capturing the female immigrant experience through her character's innocent perspective.

The Movie

Starring: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik
Director: Sarah Gavron
Release Date: June 20th

When Did You Last See Your Father?

The Book

By Blake Morrison
Published - 1996

When did you last see your father? Was it last weekend or last Christmas? Was it before or after he exhaled his last breath? And was it him really, or was it a version of him, shaped by your own expectations and disappointments? Blake Morrison's subject is universal: the life and death of a parent, a father at once beloved and exasperating, charming and infuriating, domineering and terribly vulnerable. In reading about Dr. Arthur Morrison, we come to ask ourselves the same searching questions that Blake Morrison poses: Can we ever see our parents as themselves, or are they forever defined through a child's eyes? What are the secrets of their lives, and why do they spare us that knowledge? And when they die, what do they take with them that cannot be recovered or inherited?

The Movie

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson
Director: Anand Tucker
Release Date: June 6th, 2008

Diminished Capacity

The Book

By Sherwood Kiraly
Published - 1995

Kiraly's second novel after California Rush traces two characters with diminished capacity-Cooper Zerbs (closed head injury) and his Uncle Rollie (leaning toward Alzheimer's)-as they take a very valuable baseball card from small-town Missouri to Chicago with hopes that some rabid Cub fans will buy the card and preserve Uncle Rollie's independence for a while. The play between the outwitted and the dimwitted, between the expected forces of evil (bad guys, faulty memory) and some unexpected forces of good (Cooper's high school sweetheart, more memory deficit) help hurtle man, uncle and card toward engaging resolution.

The Movie

Starring: Mathew Broderick, Alan Alda
Director: Terry Kinney
Release Date: July 4th, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

The Book - Brideshead Revisited

By Evelyn Waugh
Published - 1979

As a comic writer, satirist, master of English prose, Evelyn Waugh has been admired more than any other novelist of his generation. Of his many achievements Brideshead Revisited is most acclaimed. This is the story of the aristocratic Marchmain family. Rich, beautiful and fatally charming, they struggle with inherited weariness, generational fatigue. Sebastian and Julia, of the youngest generation, are vivid and palpable. Their pain is ours, their dilemmas engage us and we share in their fate. The novel, a symbol of England and her decline, mirrors upper-class decadence at Oxford in the 1920s, the abdication of responsibility in the 1930s. It has become shorthand for a fantasy era of titled elegance, dead-end hedonism and fatuous wit.

The Movie

Starring: Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi, Matthew Goode
Director: Julian Jarrold
Release Date: July 25, 2008

The Book - Towelhead

By Alicia Erian
Published - 2005

The year is 1991. When Jasira's mother finds out what has been going on between her boyfriend and her thirteen-year-old daughter, she has to make a choice -- and chooses to send Jasira off to Houston' Texas, to live with her father. A remote disciplinarian prone to explosive rages, Jasira's father is unable to show his daughter the love she craves -- and far less able to handle her feelings about her changing body.

Bewildered by extremes of parental scrutiny and neglect, Jasira begins to look elsewhere for affection. Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and high school has become a lonely place for a "towelhead." When her father meets, and forbids her to see, her boyfriend, it becomes lonelier still. But there

is always Mr. Vuoso -- a neighboring army reservist whose son Jasira babysits. Mr. Vuoso, as Jasira discovers, has an extensive collection of Playboy magazines. And he doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with Jasira's body at all.

Painfully funny, tender, and sexually charged, Towelhead is that rare thing: a gloriously readable novel unafraid to take risks. The story of a girl failed by her parents and by a conflicted America, Towelhead is an ultimately redemptive and moving work that none of us can afford to ignore.

The Movie

Starring: Summer Bishil, Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, Maria Bello
Director: Alan Ball
Release Date: August 15, 2008


The Book - Choke

By Chuck Palahniuk
Published - 2001

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk's controversial and blazingly original debut novel, introduced a fresh and even renegade talent to American fiction, one who has retooled the classic black humor of Terry Southern and Kurt Vonnegut for the lunacy of the millennial age. In his new novel, Choke, he gives readers a vision of life and love and sex and mortality that is both chillingly brilliant and teeth-rattlingly funny.

Victor Mancini, a dropout from medical school, has devised a complicated scam to pay for his mother's elder care: Pretend to be choking on a piece of food in a restaurant and the person who "saves you" will feel responsible for the rest of his life. Multiply that a couple of hundred times and you generate a healthy flow of checks, week in, week out. Between fake choking gigs, Victor works at Colonial Dunsboro with a motley group of losers and stoners trapped in 1734, cruises sex addiction groups for action ("You put twenty sexaholics around a table night after night and don't be surprised."), and visits his mother, whose anarchic streak made his childhood a mad whirl and whose Alzheimer's disease now hides what may be the startling truth about his (possibly divine?) parentage. An antihero for our deranging times, Victor's whole existence is a struggle to wrest an identity from overwhelming forces. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.

The Movie

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Angelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad William Henke
Director: Clark Gregg
Release Date: August 1st, 2008


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