2015 Movies That Also Should Be Books

Although cinema has always mined literature to happy effect, 2015 was an unusually good year for adaptations; “The Revenant,” “The Big Short,” “Room,” “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “The Martian,” “Chi-Raq,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and “Carol” are just a few examples. But what’s really striking is how many 2015 films crafted from original screenplays would make great books. It may sound nutty, but only a few decades ago there was a bona-fide industry based on the “novelization” of movies. Remember? That was Diane Keaton’s money gig when she played the Van Gogh-mispronouncing critic in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” (1979).

Here are four recent films that deserve a novelization.

“Grandma” (2015)
Writer/director Paul Weitz’s dry-eyed indie starring Lily Tomlin as a cantankerous lesbian feminist trying to hunt down the cash to pay for her granddaughter’s abortion garnered a lot of buzz on the festival circuit but never got its props in general distribution – maybe because nobody knew what to do with a grumpy old lady rather than a grumpy old man, or maybe because it lacked a soft and gooey center, which moviegoers seem to expect of stories about elders. Both alleged failings would make this a coolly clever novella about women’s liberation and family ties. Although she’s been dormant for decades, Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison could do wonders with this material; she’s always been great at examining the intersection of socioeconomics and queerness. Or why not bring in poet/novelist Eileen Myles? Through her collaboration off and on camera with “Transparent” show runner Jill Soloway, the searingly understated Chelsea Girls author is already enjoying a renaissance. (more…)

Podcasting Better Living Through Criticism

I got a chance to talk with New York Times chief film critic A.O. Scott about his brilliant book Better Living Through Criticism for the podcast Beaks & Geeks. Among the lofty topics covered: subjective versus objective truth, the importance of being wrong, how criticism is art’s late-born twin, and the 2001 Tom Green film Freddy Got Fingered. Listen in, Sirenaders.

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Moon Marching, Clocks Stopped

Today is the Chinese New Year and the beginning of a new moon cycle. I have not talked or written much in a week. Life is difficult in a way that is not aided by narration. It is difficult in a stop the clocks way, though that is not my story to tell. I have been in Massachusetts, and Gracie has been, too. Bringing her with me has proved ill-advised though she behaved beautifully in her carrier. She’s such a polite kitty. Sometimes I speak about her archly but the truth is I never feel alone so long as she is by my side; she is the truest of companions.… Read More