Novel Ideas By Jesse Nelson. If you’ve taken notice of what our pals in Hollywood have had to offer lately, then you’ve probably been avoiding the movie theatre as much as I have been...
If you’ve taken notice of what our pals in Hollywood have had to offer lately, then you’ve probably been avoiding the movie theatre as much as I have been. Don’t get me wrong. I love to pay $8 to get into a theatre only to be shaken down for another $10 for snacks and then have some chucklehead behind me talk on his cell phone for two and a half hours while I try and watch a movie.
Why should we, as consumers, accept the sub par warmed over tripe that Hollywood is serving us? Have they run out ideas in Tinsel Town? Is a feature length Charlie’s Angels movie the best they have to offer us?
No matter how many lame-brained folks talk about there being no such thing as original ideas (“Good artists create, great artists steal”), there are plenty of fresh ideas around. A good number of them can be found in the great books that have not yet been made into movies. Granted, there are many bad movies made from great books (and vice-versa), but there are a tremendous amount of cinematic books that would ignite the screen when provided with the right screenplay, director and cast. Listen up, Hollywood, here is what you are missing:
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Those of you that have read this book know that it is the funniest book ever written, and I will fight you if you say any different. Those of you that haven’t read it are missing out. Unfortunately, we are all missing out on what could be a hilarious movie. More times than I can remember, I read that this was finally going to be made into a movie. Why hasn’t it? My guess would be screenplay problems. The book is brilliant, but transferring this into a screenplay is a Herculean feat. In the wrong hands, this movie would be undoubtedly abysmal.
Toole’s Ignatius J. Reilly is a thirty-two year old buffoon of the highest order. He’s a slacking, do-nothing with no ambition and a lot of gas. What happens when his mother makes him get off of his enormous ass and get a job is inspired beyond belief. From one ridiculous scenario to the next, Reilly screws up royally without ever realizing just what he has done, but leaving no doubt in anyone else’s mind that he is a walking disaster.
In what has to be the biggest kick in the ass of all time, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction eleven years after Toole killed himself. One must suspect that the book is more about his life than anything else is. The greatest pity in the world is that he is not here today to prove me wrong, although I doubt he could. The world is a lesser place without more novels from this genius. On second thought, forget the movie; go the buy the book.
Throne of Bones by Brian Mcnaughton
Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft wrote the Lord of the Rings in a series of somewhat inter-related short stories. Well, Brian Mcnaughton has a created a complex fantasy world of hideous flesh-eating ghouls in a sort of quasi-medieval world where you don’t dare enter a cemetery at night, or walk through the sewers... ever. Simply the most breathtaking horror I have read in recent years and fresh enough to satisfy even the most jaded reader of fantasy novels. I look every week on Amazon.com to see if there is a new volume of stories coming out. At the very least, I pray for the day when this book is released in a mass-market paperback so that the friends I recommend it to don’t balk at the $40.00 price tag. At that cost, I don’t dare lend mine out.
Being that Throne of Bones is a series of stories; the title story is definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, this would be a hard sell to Hollywood. I doubt that anyone would want to invest in a movie that has such a limited audience appeal (needless to say, this would not be a good date movie) but maybe with the upcoming big budget Lord of the Rings films there will be some interest in this type of book. Although with the sad, sad state of horror movies today, it would almost certainly have to star Jennifer Love Hewitt and be written by some one trick pony in order to make even a few dollars. Oh, and lets not forget the top forty soundtrack.
Flood by Andrew Vachss
Pick up an Andrew Vachss book and flip it open to the author’s picture. Gruff look, eye patch, trench coat, giant dog at his feet- the kind of guy that you would expect to see running a seedy crime organization. Would you believe that he is a New York attorney who works almost exclusively to help children? Well, its true and that is the focus of many of his books as well. Most of Vachss’ ten plus books contain the same motley assortment of characters led by Burke, the scheming, tough guy who has a soft spot for kids in trouble. I have had the pleasure of meeting Vachss twice at book signings. The question that fans seem to ask him the most is whether or not Burke is his alter ego. Vachss claims that he is not, but you have to believe that the books are some sort of release from the demons of his job.
Although Flood is not my favorite of his books, it would be hard to make a movie from another book in the series first. Most of his books are very short, initially establish a brief setup, and the launch right into the plot. He doesn’t need to spend much time defining characters that he has already taken so much care with in Flood. After Flood, there is a certain progression and there are always references to characters from past books, but it would be easy to pick any other book and not be too lost. The characters are what really make Flood such a great novel. Amongst the gang you will find a street talking prophet, a genius who lives under a junkyard (who could easily build you just about any type of electronics you need), and Max the Silent-the most deadly martial arts master in the underworld. Filled with all the gunfights, tough-talking dialogue and all the car chases you could take, it is amazing that nobody has brought this brood of motley criminals to the silver screen yet.
Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn
Absolutely the most fun and cinematic a novel can be. Incest, Satanism, Snuff Films, Bikers, Surfers, Murder and one naive boy from the desert who is plunged into it all. What would you do if a stranger showed up one day and told you that he knows your runaway sister and is pretty sure she is now dead? Well, if you are Ike, you take what little money you have and head to California circa early-mid ’80s punk scene to find out what happened and maybe take some revenge. From there, all hell breaks loose. And it doesn’t stop until the blood-soaked finale that has been running in my mind like a movie since I first read the book 15 years ago (this is one of only three books that I have ever read twice).
My secret dream has always been to make this movie myself. I have a cast and the outline of the screenplay in my head already. At one time, I read that the film rights were floating around the studios, and I honestly think that Poiint Break was originally a script for Tapping the Source. Rather than a kid looking for his sister amongst drug dealing surfers led by an aging guru type, we have an FBI agent looking for bank robbers amongst surfers lead by an aging guru type. This only means that some Studio Hump decided that the screenplay needed some gunplay and other dopiness, so he made the screenwriter make some changes. Probably just enough changes that they either wouldn’t have to credit the book or the author would want the credit removed. Unfortunately, it also means that if they ever did make a movie of it, everyone would compare it to Poiint Break. By the way, if you are looking for the book, it has been out of print forever, but I recently read that it will be re-released in the summer. Bring it on!
The List of 7 by Mark Frost
Marvel Comic’s “What if...” was always one of my favorite comic books as a kid. I couldn’t wait to find out what kind of warped realities would occur if David Banner’s wife was not killed, or if Peter Parker had never been bitten by the radioactive spider. Well, The List of 7 is a kind of “What if...” What if Arthur Conan Doyle lived the type of adventures that he later wrote about in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Written by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost, The List of 7 is a brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed adventure book that dwells into the supernatural throughout. Without a doubt, this book could make a fantastic movie. It has big budget, summer special effects spectacular written all over it. It would be nice, for once, to have a summer movie that actually had a plot along with great action scenes and lots creepy special effects. Hollywood, what are you waiting for? I guess you think we would rather see Wild Wild West 2 or a remake of another classic horror movie à la The Haunting.
The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
A very good friend recommended this book to me. Luckily, he knows me well enough to know that I would love the book. I, on the other hand, would never recommend it to anyone. Never have I read a novel with such gut wrenchingly horrible scenes. The story concerns a young boy during World War II whose parents pay a woman to look after him right before they are taken away to a concentration camp. After the woman dies, the boy is forced to wander from village to village accepting humiliation and torture from the villagers in lieu of being turned over to the Nazis. Every action is described in gory detail and leaving nothing to the imagination. The book is supposedly semi-autobiographical, but there are many critics out there who doubt that this is true. Nevertheless, it is work of a profound madman.
So, why even make this into a movie? Well, in this day an age, I doubt it could be made into a movie. However, in the ’70s, in the hands of say, Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), I could see how brilliant this would be. I picture a grainy washed out look with short animated sequences depicting some of the more bizarre hallucinations of the book and with all of the gore intact. A sort of artsy, trippy, gore film such as Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre. Oh well, some things are better off unseen.
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