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Adaptations

  •  Sparklers

    If you’re anything like me, you have a million books that you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet. The New Year is the perfect time to recommit to reading those books that you’ve always meant to get to, and the library is here to help! We’ll have a display all month stocked with various classics, best sellers, and other books that might be outstaying their welcome on your “to read” list. Listed below is just a small sample of our offerings:

    Classics

    1.4 Wuthering HeightsWUTHERING HEIGHTS
    By Emily Brontë
    (1847) 

    Cathy is fascinated with the orphan that her father has taken in. While her brother Hindley despises him, Cathy becomes Heathcliff’s constant companion, and he falls wildly in love with her. Despite their feelings for each other, Cathy will not marry Heathcliff and this proves to be their downfall. 

     

    1.4 The Great GatsbyTHE GREAT GATSBY
    By F Scott Fitzgerald
    (1925) 

    Jay Gatsby is as mysterious as his parties are wild. His Long Island mansion is filled day and night with young people drinking and dancing and discussing their host. Gatsby always seems to be alone, waiting for something—or someone. 

     

    Best Sellers

    1.4 All the Light We Cannot SeeALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
    By Anthony Doerr
    (2014) 

    Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives in Paris with her father. Werner Pfennig is an orphan in Germany who is fascinated by the radio. As World War II strikes, both children will have to figure out how best to survive. 

     

    1.4 Go Set a WatchmanGO SET A WATCHMAN
    By Harper Lee
    (2015) 

    Twenty years after the events in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to her hometown to visit her father. While her town struggles to adjust to the civil rights movement, Scout struggles with her own personal issues as she learns things about her family that she never knew. 

     

    Books-to-Movies

    1.4 Ready Player 1READY PLAYER ONE
    By Ernest Cline
    (2011) 

    The year is 2044 and the entire world pretty much lives in the OASIS, which is a massive online game. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he releases an OASIS-wide scavenger hunt. Whoever can find his easter eggs will inherit the OASIS and all the money that comes with it. When teenager Wade Watts solves the first riddle, he’s thrown into the spotlight—and not necessarily in a good way. 

     

    1.4 Crazy Rich AsiansCRAZY RICH ASIANS
    By Kevin Kwan
    (2013) 

    Meeting your boyfriend’s family is hard enough, but when he didn’t tell you that his family is worth millions if not billions of dollars, it can quickly turn into a disaster. Rachel Chu is about to find out how hard it really is to fit in with people who regularly spend millions of dollars on jewelry. And that’s nothing compared to winning over her boyfriend’s mother.

     
  •  Eliza

    May 20th is a special day for me. No, it’s not because it’s World Metrology Day or the feast day of Saint Ivo of Chartres. It’s because it’s Eliza Doolittle Day!

    As any musical or classic film fan knows, Eliza Doolittle is the aspiring “lady in a flower shop” and star of Lerner and Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY. The original 1956 Broadway production won seven Tonys, with the 1964 film going on to garner eight Academy Awards, and a current revival is up for 10 more possible Tonys. It’s an almost guaranteed critic and crowd pleaser.

    MY FAIR LADY has been my favorite film for nearly 20 years now, and as an Audrey Hepburn obsessive, I have a soft spot in my heart for the song “Just You Wait.” Unlike most of the songs, which were dubbed by Marni Nixon, it features Hepburn’s actual singing voice with only a small section of dubbing. Skip to 1:31 for the establishment of this important international holiday.

     

    So here are a few options for celebrating Eliza Doolittle Day:

    Watch the film

    5.17 My Fair LadyMY FAIR LADY
    Directed by George Cukor
    (1964)

    Number 8 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Greatest Movie Musicals, Number 12 on their 100 Years … 100 Passions list, and number 91 on their list of the 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. It’s just that good. 

     

    Listen to the original cast recording

    5.17 SoundtrackMY FAIR LADY: ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST RECORDING
    Music by Frederick Loewe
    Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
    (1956)

    Even half a century later, there’s still a surprising amount of controversy over the casting of Audrey Hepburn in the film over Julie Andrews, who originated the role. Luckily, you can still listen to the original Broadway cast recording in all its undubbed glory. 

     

    Play or sing along

    5.17 Piano VocalMY FAIR LADY PIANO/VOCAL/CHORD SELECTIONS
    Music by Frederick Loewe
    Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
    (2007)

    Why not try your own hand (or voice) at classic tunes like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” I’d argue that Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics for MY FAIR LADY are some of the cleverest ever written for Broadway, and Loewe’s gorgeous, sweeping score stands the test of time. 

     

    Read the original

    5.17 PygmalionPYGMALION
    By George Bernard Shaw
    (1913)

    MY FAIR LADY is based on this classic play, inspired by Greek mythology. Nearly every clever line from the musical comes straight from George Bernard Shaw’s original, but be prepared for a very different ending. 

     

    Read about the Elizas

    Though many women have played Eliza, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn are inarguably the women who defined the role. They are fortunately both exemplary role models in their own rights, and these biographies will give you wonderful insight into the women behind the role.

    5.17 HomeHOME: A MEMOIR OF MY EARLY YEARS
    By Julie Andrews
    (2008)

     

    5.17 Audrey HepburnAUDREY HEPBURN: AN ELEGANT SPIRIT
    By Sean Hepburn Ferrer
    (2003)

     
  • chapter books to films

    Children who can read chapter books independently open up a whole new world for themselves—and provide enjoyment for the whole family. I remember thinking that when my oldest son learned to read, it was equally as magical as when he learned to speak. As a family you can have extended activities that go along with reading. It can add some variety to the normal routine or inspire a child who doesn’t particularly love reading. You can create a family book club where each child reads the book, and after having a discussion about the book, everyone can watch the movie. You can also choose a fun read-aloud and as a family when you finish the book, watch the movie. Of course, the book and movie might be very different, but the discussion that comes will be enjoyable, and everyone can participate because they read the book or had the book read to them! Last year I wrote a post on movies inspired by picture books. Consider today’s post a follow-up with a list of our family’s favorite longer chapter books that have inspired movies.  

    3.9 Charlottes WebCHARLOTTE’S WEB
    By E. B. White
    (1952)

    Fern saves the runt of a litter of pigs and cares for it as her baby. When Wilbur, the pig, gets big enough, she takes him to her uncle’s farm. It’s easy to fall in love with both Wilbur and Fern. She is easy to relate to and the reader can feel happy and sad right along with her. Wilbur has to find a way to prove to the farmer it is worth keeping him around and he finds a true friend to help him on his quest. 

     

    3.9 Charlottes Web DVDCHARLOTTE’S WEB
    (1973)

    This cartoon classic is perfect for younger chapter-book readers. There is some sadness, but children can gain empathy for future experiences from both books and film. There is also humor throughout. The characters are lovable and it is an inspiring story of friendship children can learn from as they go through their elementary school years. 

     

    3.7 The Tale of DespereauxTHE TALE OF DESPEREAUX
    By Kate DiCamillo
    (2003) 

    This Newbery winner begins when a kingdom famous for its marvelous soup encounters tragedy. A rat falls into the queen’s soup, causing her to have a heart attack and die. Soup and rats are then outlawed. A smaller-than-average mouse with large ears, a big heart, and incredible bravery starts his adventure to return happiness and peace to the land, save a princess, and do other heroic things brave mice usually end up doing. 

     

    3.9 The Tale of DespereauxTHE TALE OF DESPEREAUX
    (2009)

    It seems that children identify with small creatures that defy the odds and are courageous in fighting for what they believe in. Despereaux is just such an inspirational character. Adults and children will enjoy this family friendly adventure. 

     

    3.9 HolesHOLES
    By Louis Sachar
    (1998)

    Yet another Newbery winner is perfectly crafted to include a mysterious curse that spans generations. Stanley Yelnats is framed for a crime he did not actually commit, but he serves the time at a camp for troubled youth. The campers dig holes to help build their character. Stanley meets a fellow camper who helps him solve the mystery of Kissin’ Kate Barlow and the real reason they spend every day digging those holes. 

     

    3.9 Holes dvdHOLES
    (2003)

    The film has something for everyone. It can be tricky to find a movie that everyone in the family truly enjoys, but this is it. Mystery, romance, and humor are all there and well done. There is seamless transition from present to past and back again. All the characters are well-developed and my favorite, of course, is Sam the onion seller. 

     

    3.9 The Lion the Witch and the WardrobeTHE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
    By C. S. Lewis
    (1950)

    Four siblings are sent to live with their uncle. They play hide and seek one day and find a mysterious world, Narnia, on the other side of the wardrobe. The people of Narnia are under the terrible reign of an evil queen. The children go on a crusade to bring peace back to the land. 

     

    3.9 The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe dvdCHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
    (2006)

    It seems every child has an inner hope to enter a magically secret world and escape the mundane regular world. The characters, costumes, scenery, and especially the music of this film bring to life the land of Narnia. It truly feels magical. 

     

    3.9 The BFGTHE BFG
    By Roald Dahl
    (1982)

    I remember reading this in the fifth grade, and it’s a classic that continues to make my kids laugh. Dahl has created characters that readers can really relate to. He understands what school-agers find hilarious. The detail he uses really helps the reader create a picture in their mind. 

     

    3.9 The BFG dvdTHE BFG
    (2016)

    There are some amazing things about technology. Creating a computer-generated Big Friendly Giant is definitely one of them. The giant really comes to life in a way that previous technology would not allow. My favorite is definitely the scene where the giant visits the queen. The magnitude of having a giant come to dinner is so fun to be a part of.

     
  • period dramas

    Although I am working to expand the type of books I read, my favorite place to be is always in a Historical Fiction or Historical Memoir book. It gives me the ability to time travel a little and appreciate the qualities of another time without having to deal with an outbreak of disease or not having indoor plumbing.

    Naturally, my favorite shows to watch are Historical Period Dramas. As a result of watching these I have read the books they are based on and have found some that I love. Here are the best 4 adaptations I have seen and read:

    3.23 Lark Rise to CandlefordLARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD: A TRILOGY
    By Flora Thompson
    (2009)

    Adaptation: LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD
    Directed by Susan Tully
    (2008- 2011)

    This show is based on the semiautobiographical series from Flora Thompson. She grew up in a small hamlet, but she begins the memoirs as she moves to a nearby village for her first job in a post office around 1899. Both the show and the books are focused on the changes that occur during this pivotal time, and the difficulties that can draw village and country together.

     

    3.23 Call the MidwifeCALL THE MIDWIFE: A MEMOIR OF BIRTH, JOY, and HARD TIMES
    By Jennifer Worth
    (2012)

    Adaptation: CALL THE MIDWIFE
    Directed by Emma Sullivan
    (2012 - )

    Many have probably heard of CALL THE MIDWIFE. A fair warning, if you read the books you will shed even more tears after all the ones that have poured out from this show. Along with the birth stories, I appreciate Jenny’s focus on the aftermath of the workhouse in her memoir and series.   

     

    3.23 North and South DVDNORTH AND SOUTH
    By Elizabeth Gaskell
    (2003)    

    Adaptation: NORTH AND SOUTH
    Directed by Brian Percival
    (2004)

    NORTH AND SOUTH was written a few years after the Great Exhibition of 1851, so the setting is very accurate even though Milton is a fictional place. The focus is on social classes, and although this took place long ago it is good to remember these social injustices still exist. We also own a book club set of this, so read it with your friends!

     

    3.23 PoldarkROSS POLDARK
    By Winston Graham
    (2015)

    Adaptation: POLDARK
    Directed by Edward Bazalgette and Will McGregor
    (2015 - )

    There is a whole series from Winston Graham that Poldark is based on, but I have only read the first. Ross is returning home from the American Revolutionary War, and things are very different back home. He has to now cope with his father dying while he was away, and the woman he loves is married to his cousin. His political views along with his reflections from the war are wonderful to read.

     
  • russian folk

    There’s a reason why folktales today remain popular even though the oral storytelling traditions of the past have faded. Folktales have enchanted people for centuries and they help us understand human nature and explain our world.

    Russian and Slavic mythology contain a rich vein of folktales with their dark and often tragic stories of Baba Yaga, Father Frost, Vasilisa the Beautiful, Rusalka, and more. Recently, many of these stories are being explored and made into modern day adaptations, which are told from new angles or set during historical, real-world events such as the Bolshevik Revolution or the Soviet Union.

    Here are five of my favorite recent Russian or Slavic inspired folktales.

    11.10 The Bear and the NightingaleTHE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE 
    By Katherine Arden
    (2016)

    For generations, the noble Vladimirovich family has lived a difficult but peaceful life on the edge of a Russian forest. The family and the local villagers praise God in church on Sunday and leave offerings for the magical household who watch over their homes and stables throughout the week. Young Vasilisa Vladimirova has a peculiar gift, however. She can see and talk with these friendly spirits. When her new, fiercely devout stepmother arrives shortly after a captivating young priest, they demand that the villagers stop their idol worship and abandon their traditional practices. But as a particularly harsh winter sets in and the village nears starvation, Vasya knows she must ignore the wishes of father, stepmother, and priest to embrace her own power and seek the help of creatures from deepest folklore to help in her fight against the growing strength of the Bear.

    11.10 UprootedUPROOTED 
    By Naomi Novik
    (2015)

    A mysterious wizard known as the Dragon selects a young woman from a rural village near his tower every 10 years as payment for protecting the region from the malevolent influence of the evil Wood. Agnieszka, always muddy and disheveled, never thinks that she will be chosen, but when she is selected to serve the Dragon, she soon discovers she has a rare and powerful talent for magic. As Agnieszka's magic grows, her journey sends her on a deadly quest where she will experience the terrible intrigue of the royal court, a true and unbreakable friendship, and even a little romance.

     

    11.9 The Crowns GameTHE CROWN’S GAME 
    By Evelyn Skye
    (2016)

    In 1825 Russia, with unrest among the Kazakhs and the Ottoman Empire pressing from the South, the Tsar needs more help than his army and advisors can provide. Though few still believe in magic, Russia still has the ability to call an Imperial Enchanter. The problem is there are currently two enchanters, Vika Andreyevna who has been training her entire life to become Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai Karimov, best friend to the Tsarevich, Pasha, but who does not know of Nikolai’s ability. Because their powers come from the same source, only one can become Imperial Enchanter and wield this incredible power. To decide who will become Imperial Enchanter, the Tsar sets in motion the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill where each enchanter must show his or her inventiveness and strength. The victor will be declared the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. For the loser—instant death.

    11.10 Vassa in the NightVASSA IN THE NIGHT
    By Sarah Porter
    (2016)

    Set in a darkly magical version of a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, Vassa’s mother is dead and father gone. She lives with her uncaring stepmother and two stepsisters. In Vassa's neighborhood, magic is to be avoided and the nights have mysteriously started lengthening. One night after all their lightbulbs burn out, Vassa is sent by her stepsister to buy more. Baba Yaga, known as Babs, owns a local convenience store known for its practice of beheading shoplifting customers. So when Babs accuses Vassa of stealing, Vassa makes a deal to work as an indentured servant for three nights. During her time in the shop, Vassa begins to suspect that Babs’s magic may be connected to the growing imbalance between day and night affecting the city.

    11.10 Shadow and BoneSHADOW AND BONE 
    By Leigh Bardugo
    (2012)

    Alina and Mal were orphans, raised together after their parents died in the constant border wars in Ravka. Now they are in the army where Mal is an expert tracker and Alina a mediocre mapmaker. Their once great friendship isn't what it used to be. Their land is surrounded by enemies and divided by the Shadow Fold, a mysterious, magical darkness that seethes with flesh-eating monsters known as volcra. When a perilous mission takes them into the Shadow Fold, Alina manifests a powerful and rare ability to summon light that sets their whole world spinning and catches the attention of the Darkling, the head of the magical Grisha. Although Alina refuses to believe she has any power, she is taken to Os Alta, the capital, to learn to use her special gift. As her distance from Mal grows quite literally, she finds herself pulled into a more complex situation than she ever expected and must find if the light within her is strong enough to combat all the powers of darkness.

  • not original

    Unless you live off-grid, it’s no news to you how sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots seem to dominate the box office, TV schedules, and even bookshelves. According to an article written in June 2015, only 39% of the high-grossing films released between 2005 and 2014 were fully original, non-derivative content. Three years later, it seems like the trend has only grown. But I’m not here to bash remakes, adaptations, spin-offs, etc. because if truth be told, there are plenty of great ones that deserve to be celebrated. 

    I’ll share some of my favorites from the library’s shelves with you in a series of posts, of which this is the first. Today’s list will focus on movies whose plots are actually adapted from/inspired by classic literature - and you may not have even noticed: 

    10.10 10 Things I Hate About You10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
    Directed by Gil Junger
    (1999) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
    Starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.

    This modern take on Shakespeare is anything but a bland teen rom-com. Along with the mishaps of teenage romance, this film offers much more, exploring coming-of-age themes such as forming identity, evaluating priorities, navigating social and familial expectations, reputation/image, and the importance of self-respect. Oh, and Heath Ledger does a musical number, in case you still needed persuasion. 

    10.10 CluelessCLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995) 

    Adapted from Jane Austen’s EMMA.
    Starring Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd. 

    Really! Austen gets a 90’s makeover in this film, where the English countryside society is swapped for the 90210 – Beverly Hills, that is. And for those of you who have a hard time liking the meddling Emma in the original story, her antics are more endearing coming from a pampered 16-year-old. Which of us didn’t think we knew everything at that age, right? Despite the peak 90’s styles, tech, and culture, the movie still holds up; you’ll envy Cher’s closet-organizing software - I sure do! And then there’s the question of how Paul Rudd hasn’t seemed to age since 1995…  

    10.10 O Brother Where Are ThouO BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
    Directed by Joel Coen
    (2001) 

    Adapted from Homer’s THE ODYSSEY.
    Starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson (all with honey-sweet southern drawls).

    Mythical adventure gets down-to-earth in this adaptation of Homer’s epic poem. Hilarity ensues as three jailbirds in in 1930’s Mississippi dodge the law, unsavory folk, and more as they seek “The Treasure.” This is one of my all-time favorites for several reasons; you’ve got loveable scamps on a passionate quest, rich historical setting, flawless soundtrack (featuring the stars themselves), and laughs galore. It pulls you in so well you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Homer even gets credited as co-writer! 

    10.10 Shes the ManSHE’S THE MAN
    Directed by Andy Fickman
    (2006) 

    Adapted from William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT.
    Starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.

    I make no apologies for including another Shakespeare play on this list, particularly when Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum are involved. Bynes is at the top of her game in this hilarious tale of love triangles (seriously there’s about five…five and a half…I tried to chart it out once, it’s a mess) and mistaken identities. While definitely a comedy, there’s also a good dose of warm fuzzies with themes of going after your dreams and being yourself. 

    10.10 The Scarlet PimpernelTHE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
    Directed by Clive Donner
    (1982)

    Adapted from Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and ELDORADO.
    Starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Sir Ian McKellen. 

    I know this may seem like a stretch, but hear me out – this movie totally belongs on this list. The reason I’m including it here is…drumroll please…The Scarlet Pimpernel is not just a book, it’s a series! Okay, that is a bit of a stretch, but I for one had no idea there was a whole series of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s adventures. This film version is based on two books in the expansive series written by the Baroness, mostly drawing from the book Eldorado rather than The Scarlet Pimpernel. Mainly though, this made the list because it is a great flick; it’s just plain fun and ever so quotable. “Sink me,” I love it so!  

    What titles would you have put on this list? Stay tuned for more adaptations and remakes worth your time!

     

  • austen ranking

    Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of incredible authors through our AuthorLink events, but there’s only one I’d completely geek out over. Unfortunately, she’s been dead for nearly 200 years.

    I’m one of those people. Janeite, Austenite, actual crazy person, nerd – whatever you want to call me, I have to confess that when it comes to Jane Austen, I’m more than a casual fan. After reading each of her novels countless times, researching her life extensively, poring over Austen scholarship, and writing a master’s thesis about Austen adaptations, I’ve come to two conclusions:

    1. I’m WAY too invested in the life and writings of a dead person

    2.  Austen 100% lives up to the hype

    If you’ve never read an Austen novel, I’m begging you to do it, even if you’ve seen the film adaptations and think they’re not your thing. The humor, rhythm, and genius of her writing never completely transfer to the screen, and you don’t quite know Austen if you’ve never read her books.

    That being said, Austen adaptations are prolific, ranging from the merely okay to the brilliant, and most of them are worth watching at least once. Fortunately for you, I’ve seen them all, with one notable and a few not so notable exceptions, so I can save you time in choosing where to start.

    Austen nerd that I am, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing my favorite and not-so-favorite Austen adaptations (except for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and a handful of obscure adaptations from the 50s and 60s that I still haven’t seen. Whoops.) 

    Miniseries, films, and YouTube adaptations are all up for grabs, but there are a few films I won’t be ranking. Here's why:

    4.26 Death Comes to PemberleyDEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY
    Directed by Daniel Percival
    (2013)

    Because it’s a sequel, not an adaptation of the original. It is on Netflix, though, if you like your Regency period drama with a dash of murder.

     

    4.26 Becoming JaneBECOMING JANE
    Directed by Julian Jarrold
    (2008)

    Because it’s a (romantic, but not terribly accurate) biographical film, not an adaptation of an Austen novel.

     

    4.26 Miss Austen RegretsMISS AUSTEN REGRETS
    Directed by Jeremy Lovering
    (2008)

    Because, again, it’s a biopic, not an Austen adaptation. Maybe it's good that it's not on the list, because our library doesn't own it, and neither does the Orem Public Library. I definitely don't own it, so how did I ever watch this in the first place?

    It's a mystery.

     

    4.26 AustenlandAUSTENLAND
    Directed by Jerusha Hess
    (2014)

    Because, though this film is a joy, it's a Shannon Hale Adaptation, not a Jane Austen adaptation. It is, however, a hilarious homage to Austen, Austen fans, and people who think Austen fans are ridiculous. You should watch it.

     

    4.26 The Jane Austen Book ClubTHE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
    Directed by Robin Swicord
    (2007)

    Because, though it draws on Austen in its plots, it's in that fuzzy territory between Austen-inspired and a full-fledged adaptation. Feel free to disagree.

     

    4.26 EligibleELIGIBLE
    TBA

    Because, regrettably, I am unable to time travel into the future, even for a modernized Austen adaptation. In the meantime, the book is available.

     

    So, with those banned from the competition, now’s the time for guessing. I'll try to be diplomatic in my analysis, but you don't have to be. Which adaptation do you think deserves the number one spot? Which adaptations are an abomination, defiling all that is good and holy and Austenesque? Let us know in the comments.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

    Well, readers, it's that time again. It's time to talk Austen. We've already established where I've failed in my Austen adaptation viewership (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, nearly every adaptation pre-1970), which leaves us with roughly 25 adaptations to rank.

    I'm ready. Are you ready?

    Let's begin.

    6.6 Lost in Austen26. LOST IN AUSTEN 
    Directed by Dan Zeff
    (2008)

    Jane marries Mr. Collins. Darcy ends up with someone besides Elizabeth. Gemma Arterton (an excellent casting choice for Lizzy) is barely on screen. The very attractive Elliot Cowan somehow manages to look unattractive as Darcy. I hate this movie very much. That is all.

     

    6.6 Scents and Sensibility25. SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by Brian Brough
    (2011)

    This movie is decidedly not great, but it does inexplicably have magic, healing lotion. I'm in favor of magic lotion that cures disease, and I would like the recipe, thank you (take that, angry thyroid!). SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY is fluffy and enjoyable, if a little bit silly.

     

    6.6 From Prada to Nada24. FROM PRADA TO NADA
    Directed by Angel Gracia
    (2011)

    I love the idea of a Latina take on Jane Austen, but this one falls a bit flat. There are a few too many stereotypes and clichés, and the script could have used some work. Overall, it’s predictable, lighthearted rom-com fare and an okayish effort at a transcultural adaptation.

     

    6.6 Aisha23. AISHA
    Directed by Rajshree Ojha
    (2010)

    The production quality of AISHA is better than that of KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN, but it lacks the spark of BRIDE AND PREJUDICE. EMMA adaptations are tricky because the main character is so hard to capture – both likeable and frustrating – and this Emma solidly falls in the frustrating category. Austen famously described Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” but for me at least, AISHA takes that a little too far.

    Even though I saw this movie only a couple of years ago I remember very little else about it, which is not a great argument in its favor. I think Aisha was tall? She maybe goes to the beach with her friends as some point?

     

    6.6 Mansfield Park22. Every Austen Adaptation Made for TV in the 70s and 80s

    I have watched them all, and I can confidently say that these are... adequate. They are extremely faithful to the original plots, sometimes at the expense of visuals, music, acting, washed hair, and cinematic timing. In short, they are a little bit dull. Of the lot, however, the 1980 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the 1983 MANSFIELD PARK are the best.

     

    06.6 Emma9621. EMMA
    Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence
    (1996)

    I love Kate Beckinsale. The woman is aging backwards, and I’d consider murder to have skin like hers (maybe she has access to magic healing lotion? Discuss). BUT I do not love her as Emma Woodhouse. Where Gwyneth Paltrow manages to make Emma charming in all of her selfishness and absurdity, I just can’t like this Miss Woodhouse.

    Note: This is based on my totally unanalyzed gut reaction to the film, and critics completely disagreed with me. I've tried to be objective in the rest of my rankings, but I'm probably wrong on this one. Insert shrugging emoji here.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

    Now that we've covered the not-so-great adaptations of Jane Austen's classic novels, it's time to move on the the merely okay! Ummm... yay?

    Whether it's altered characters, terrible kisses, or unfortunate placement of manholes, each of these adapatations had something about them that was just a little off. They aren't the worst, but they definitely aren't the best. Here's why.

    6.27 Mansfield Park 200720) MANSFIELD PARK
     Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
    (2007)

    Billie Piper's performance is such an odd take on Fanny. She never quite meshes with the historical setting, and the hair and costume choices don't help (why does she keep wearing her hair down?!?!). Though the 1999 adaptation, which we'll get to later, makes serious departures from the book, those alterations at least feel intentional and carefully thought out. The changes to the characters here, particularly in making Fanny lively and playful, just don't make sense. Plot points are also rushed or skipped over entirely. While MANSFIELD PARK is certainly Austen's most serious and difficult novel, this adaptation feels frothy and frivolous.

    To be honest, I probably should have put this on the "Not So Good" list, but I temporarily forgot it existed and have since had to renumber everything in that post. Whoops.

    6.27 I Have Found It19) KANDUKONDAIN KANDUKONDAIN (I HAVE FOUND IT)
    Directed by Rajiv Menon
    (2000)

    This Tamil film, the first Indian adaptation of an Austen novel (correct me if I’m wrong), is a movie I wish I liked. The tone is uneven, with a jarring mix of war scenes and music video-style montages of dance and song. And then there’s the unintentionally hilarious fact that (spoiler!) instead of falling ill near the end of the story, the Marianne character instead falls into a manhole. Nevertheless, the songs are fun, Aishwarya Rai is lovely as ever, and it’s the film that eventually led to BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, so I can’t complain too much.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice18) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A LATTER-DAY COMEDY
    Directed by Andrew Black 
    (2003)

    AKA “the Mormon one.” This movie isn’t quite good enough to stand on its own as a film or an Austen adaptation, but if you’ve ever experienced an LDS singles ward, it resonates. The transition of an early 19th century England to early 21st century Provo is surprisingly smooth, given the shared obsession with early marriage. It’s mildly entertaining in a slapstick sort of way, and I’ll never stop thinking the scene with heartbroken Lizzie and Jane in the grocery store is funny: “Triple choc-choc-choc-chocolate chunk? Or Uncle Bubba’s Big Belly Batter Brickle?”

     

    6.27 Bridget Jones17) BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
    Directed by Sharon Maguire 
    (2001)

    Is it fair to call this an Austen adaptation when it’s already the adaptation of another book? I’m not sure, and I struggled with its placement since it’s so popular but not a personal favorite. It’s funny and satirical and very British, and it makes some clever nods to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (including the casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy). I think my main hang-up with this one is Bridget as the main character. Where Elizabeth Bennet was clever, charming, and witty, Bridget is a lovable hot mess. It’s easier for me to like her and the film if I separate it from Pride and Prejudice altogether.

    I know that fidelity is a nebulous, unattainable goal, or whatever, but don’t mess with my favorite characters (I’m looking at you, every LITTLE WOMEN adaptation I've ever seen).

     

    6.27 Persuasion16) PERSUASION
    Directed by Adrian Shergold
    (2007)

    This movie would have been much, much higher up the list but for one thing: MINUS ALL THE POINTS FOR THE WORST KISS IN CINEMATIC HISTORY. Anne’s out of breath from running through the streets of Bath, and she’s left with her mouth gaping open like fish while Wentworth waits an absurdly long time to bend down and meet her kiss. *shudders*  

    I need to watch the final scene from NORTH AND SOUTH as a palate cleanser after even thinking about it.

     

    6.27 Pride and Prejudice 194015) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
    (1940)

    If you’re obsessed with fidelity, this is not the adaptation for you, but as a stand-alone film and piece of cinematic history, it’s charming. Released in 1940, producers worried that the film would make our British allies seem stuffy and prejudiced, so certain characters (*cough* Catherine de Bourgh *cough*) were significantly altered. The time period was also moved forward to capitalize on the popularity of GONE WITH THE WIND in its flamboyant costume design.

    So, the storyline is a far cry from Austen’s original, but Lawrence Olivier was destined, both in appearance and manner, to play Fitzwilliam Darcy. In fact, I think he may actually be Darcy. Can a fictional character be reincarnated as an iconic movie star?

     

    6.27 Emma Approved14) EMMA APPROVED
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2013-2014)

    Bernie Su’s creative follow-up to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES is unfortunately not quite as good, though I still enjoyed watching it. The production quality is better (this is a very pretty adaptation) but the setup feels forced. Where Lizzie was a vlogger, Emma is simply recording videos for posterity, and it stretches credibility a little too much. The storytelling isn't as clever and insightful as THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and the characters felt less real, but the series grew on me over time.

    Why? The chemistry between Alex Knightley and Emma is a major redeeming quality. The rest of the plot struggles initially, but the sexual tension is A+.

     
  • austen ranking 1

    Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 5

    Well, my friends, the Austen obsession continues, and this week we move on from the tolerable to the amiable. This adaptations are good, but they just missed being included among the best of the best. Here’s why.

    7.13 2008 Emma12) EMMA
    Directed by Jim O'Hanlan
    (2009)

    I found this adaptation enjoyable, but forgettable. Bonus points for Johnny Lee Miller playing his second Austen hero and bonus, extra, super points for casting Ramola Garai, who is a gift to us from the period drama gods.

     

    7.13 Bride and Prejudice11) BRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Gurinder Chadha
    (2004)

    I think the bland male leads and a slightly disjointed storyline are what hold me back from loving BRIDE AND PREJUDICE completely, but the film is still a whole lot of fun. The best known cross-cultural Austen adaptation, it’s frothy and colorful and a little bit whacky, and it’s hard not to enjoy it. And it’s a MUSICAL, which few other Austen film adaptations can claim. Plus, Aishwarya Rai is a delight.

     

    7.13 Persuasion10) PERSUASION
    Directed by Roger Michell
    (1996)

    We're finally getting to the point where I feel guilty ranking the adaptations, because from here on out, I love them all deeply.

    This is a quiet adaptation that doesn’t get as much fanfare as many of the others, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Amanda Root is absolutely perfect as Anne – her subtle performance manages to capture Anne’s pain, her exasperation with her relatives, and her quiet determination as well as her shyness.

    I do have to confess something, though. As a teenager watching this movie for the first time, I found myself wondering where all the pretty people were. The cast of this film is surprisingly normal looking, which is a refreshing change from typical Hollywood casting and seems particularly appropriate for the time period.

     

    7.13 Mansfield Park9) MANSFIELD PARK
    Directed by Patricia Rozema
    (1999)

    A lot of people hate this adaptation (my mother among them), but I’m a fan. Fans of other Austen adaptations are sometimes thrown by just how dark and gritty this version is, and by, well, the brief nakedness (there’s understandably not much nudity in most Austen adaptations). In addition to showing that Fanny was pulled out of serious poverty by her not-always-kind cousins, this version also addresses MANSFIELD PARK’s elephant in the room: the Bertrams earned their money in the West Indies, which means that slaves earned it for them. It’s not always a pretty adaptation as a result, but that honesty adds a depth and context to the adaptation that I really appreciate.

    I’ll add that Fanny Price is the only Austen heroine I don’t like very much, so I don’t really mind that the film turned her into a completely different character.

     

    7.13 emma8) EMMA 
    Directed by Douglas McGrath
    (1996)

    This adaptation of Emma and the adaptation of Mansfield Park I just wrote about are a study in contrasts, and I love them for completely opposite reasons. Emma holds a special place in my heart for simply being so PRETTY. The costumes, the sets, the hairstyles, the script - they're just so fluffy and beautiful and charming, much like Emma herself. Gwyneth Paltrow annoys me as a human being, which is probably why I adore her as Emma.

    If you enjoy period dramas, it’s hard to hate this one. And the score by Rachel Portman is delightful. All the fluff, very little of the substance.

     

    7.13 Sense and Sensibility7) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by John Alexander
    (2008)

    This adaptation didn’t get as much attention as I think it deserved, and I hope you’ll watch it if you haven’t already, as it's certainly the best of the 2007 and 2008 ITV/BBC Austen reboots. The opening scenes are surprisingly scandalous for an Austen adaptation, but don’t let them scare you away from the miniseries.

    It pains me not to include this as one of the best of the best, since it's a personal favorite. As great as Emma Thompson is, Hattie Morahan is exactly how I pictured Elinor, and Charity Wakefield is lovely as Marianne. It's a full-length miniseries, which allows it time to cover plot points that the 1995 adapation didn't have time for. And it does it so very well.

    Note: For fans of the "Darcy emerges from the pond" scene in in the '96 Pride and Prejudice, this Sense and Sensibility gives you Downton Abbey's Matthew revived from the dead and angstily chopping wood in the rain. Enjoy.

     

    Join us soon for the best of the best!

  •  Austen ranking

    We're finally here, reader. The time has come to declare the best of the best Austen adaptations, and I'm wordier than ever. What can I say? I get a little effusive when talking Jane.

    Missed the earlier posts? You can find them here, here, here, and here.

    These final adaptations aren't necessarily in the order I most enjoy watching them, but I stand by my claim that they're the best. Why? Each of these final six revolutionized Austen adaptations in one way or another, influencing adaptations to come in profound ways. They've defined Austen in our popular imagination more than anything besides the novels themselves.

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 20056) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Joe Wright
    (2005)

    You either love this adaptation, or you hate it, and I’m mostly on the loving it side. I was wary of Keira Knightley playing Elizabeth Bennet, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, but I am a fan of Matthew McFadyen’s vulnerable take on Darcy. Social anxiety is an interesting and plausible explanation for the character’s behavior. In general I LOVE the casting, especially Rosamund Pike as Jane and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (that woman can play uppity old lady like no one else). And it even has a baby Carrey Mulligan!

    This film is in the running against the 1995 Sense and Sensibility for most gorgeous cinematography, and I think it ultimately wins. And that score! The shot of Elizabeth standing on the cliffside, skirts billowing in the wind while "Liz on Top of the World" plays is seared into my memory in the best way possible. I also love that it brings a little bit of the grit back into period dramas – pigs and dirt and a recognition that the obsession with marriage was born out of a legitimate fear of poverty.

    This version does dumb down the language in places and spends a little more time explaining Regency culture than some other adaptations, which the egalitarian in me approves of and my inner snob is annoyed by. BUT for that very reason, if you ask a millennial about Austen films, this is the one they're most likely to have watched. It's accessible for period drama lovers and period drama newbies alike.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to a new generation.

     

    8.10 Love and Friendship5) LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
    Directed by Whit Stillman
    (2016)

    In general, I feel like modernized adaptations have done a better job than period dramas of showing just how funny and biting Austen was, but this one is the exception. It’s a darkly hilarious period piece, and it perfectly captures the social awkwardness and subtle human cruelty that Austen delighted in laughing at. If you enjoy THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and the novels of P.G. Wodehouse, you'll likely enjoy this comedy of manners.

    The novella on which the film is based is Austen at her meanest and also her cleverest, turning the stories of Samuel Richardson on their head by depicting the scheming libertine as both a woman (shocking!) and the most engaging character. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP glories in that subversion, and Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan is my favorite casting in any Austen adaptation, hands down. 

    Side note: watch this movie and then the Beckinsale version of EMMA and then try to tell me the woman isn’t Benjamin Buttoning the heck out of life. I suspect she actually became a vampire for her role in VAN HELSING. Method acting at its finest.

    Why it earned a top spot: for embracing Austen's satirical side.

     

    8.10 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries4) THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES
    Directed by Bernie Su
    (2012 - 2013)

    I’m a little biased in favor of this series, having spent two years researching it for my master’s thesis, but I’ll stand by my claim that it’s a brilliant modernization. The series breaks with Austen on certain plot points as a way to remain faithful to her feminist themes, social commentary, and humor in a modern setting. It modernizes the characters in compelling ways. It's funny and fresh and revolutionized online, immersive story telling as well as the world of Austen adaptations. If you’d like to hear all my thoughts on the subject (and really, who wouldn’t?), I’d be happy to loan you a copy of my super hard-hitting, very important, not at all frivolous master’s thesis.

    Since it’s a Youtube series, it’s not something you can check out the library, but we do have a novelization by the series creators, THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET.

    Do yourself a favor and go watch THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES on Youtube. You can return many hours later to thank me.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen into the digital age.

     

    8.10 Clueless3) CLUELESS
    Directed by Amy Heckerling
    (1995)

    Unless you’re a super nerd like me and read articles like “The Surprising Fidelity of Clueless” for fun, this one might surprise you, but hear me out. Austen novels, though often marketed as romances, are first and foremost satires. I’ll say it again, louder for the people in the back – AUSTEN WROTE SATIRE, NOT JUST ROMANCE. She was insightfully commenting on and criticizing the world in which she lived, and it’s freaking hilarious.

    CLUELESS is one of the few adaptations to bring that satire to the forefront, and it brilliantly critiques modern life. It exaggerates human behavior just enough to make us laugh, but not so much that it’s unrecognizable. It pokes holes in the self-importance of the rich and socially elite. It's not just the story of a rich, meddling girl; it's a commentary on consumerism, wealth, teenage culture, and more.

    Why it earned a top spot: for modernizing Austen, wit intact

     

    8.10 Sense and Sensibility2) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
    Directed by Ang Lee
    (1995)

    For me, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility has the best screenplay of all Austen adaptations, and Emma Thompson (who also starred as Elinor), made excellent calls about what to cut and include in a film-length storyline. Along with a fair amount of humor and romance, she captured Austen’s social commentary about the limitations placed on women by Regency society in a compelling way. And she even won an Oscar for it.

    Beyond that, the film is visually gorgeous, the score is one of my favorites of all time, and the casting is excellent. More than any adaptation before it, Sense and Sensibility goes beyond just repeating Austen's words on camera to instead explore how visuals can tell the story when the script alone can't. That moment when Marianne, Mrs. Dashwood, and Margaret all go sobbing into their rooms and Elinor sits down to calmly drink a cup of tea perfectly encapsulates who the characters are. It gets right to the heart of the plot in a few moments of screentime. It's perfect.

    Premiering just a few months after my number one pick aired on television, the 1995 Sense and Sensibility shares the honor of ushering in an era of excellent Austen adaptations. More than 20 years later, it still doesn't feel dated.

    Why it earned a top spot: for bringing Austen to the big screen, in a big way.

     

    8.10 Pride and Prejudice 19951) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
    Directed by Simon Langton
    (1995)

    Okay, okay, you knew this would be number one, didn’t you? I’m not sure it’s actually my personal favorite, but it takes the cake because it’s the one that started them all. It defined Austen adaptations as a genre, and I really didn’t have a choice but to give it the top spot.

    Though earlier Austen adaptations had been produced for TV and film, this BBC/A&E made-for-TV miniseries launched the “Austen Renaissance” of adaptations that beautifully blended fidelity to the original novel with general viewer appeal. Lovely cinematography, a great score, good acting – it set the standard for every Austen adaptation to follow.

    And it also brought us Colin Firth, so...

    Why it earned the top spot: for showing us how to do Austen right.