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I have been working on this challenge, but silently. Time to wipe the buttered popcorn grease off my fingers and report on what I’ve read and seen so far this year:

1. An Angel At My Table (1990) 3-part miniseries, directed by Jane Campion. Based on the three-volume autobiography (To The Is-Land, An Angel At My Table and The Envoy From Mirror City) by New Zealand author Janet Frame.

Which did you prefer, the book or the movie?
The book, but only just slightly. Campion does a good job of sticking with the text without seeming slavish to it and there’s that gorgeous New Zealand scenery, but some of Janet’s actions puzzled me and the book helpfully provided her thought processes and insights.
2. The Painted Veil (2006) Movie starring Edward Norton and Naomi Campbell. Based on the 1925 novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham.

Which did you prefer, the book or the movie?
The book, by a long shot. Maugham’s prose goes down smoothly like nicely aged sherry. Also, he kept the hostile tension going a lot longer between Walter and Kitty than the movie did. I understand that moviegoers had to see Walter-the-hero at work rather than seeing everything through Kitty’s point-of-view so that we’d care about what happened to him, but they didn’t have to do that “patch things up” stuff so quickly and so thoroughly. With so much attention paid to turning Walter and Kitty into a couple again, a lot of good scenes from the book were cut and Kitty’s change from spoiled brat to reflective, caring woman didn’t seem believable. Norton and Campbell did their best and the photography was beautiful, but it was a bit of a slog to sit through.

3. The Way West (1967) Movie starring Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum. Based on the 1950 pulitzer prize winning novel of the same name by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

Which did you prefer, the book or the movie?
The book! It’s true that the novel was a shade predictable and there was that sudsy residue of soap opera clinging to it, but the movie took out some decent dramatic bits and threw in silly bits to pump up Douglas and Mitchum’s parts. The screenwriters could have saved their energy since both of those actors seemed to be merely calling in their performances — especially Mitchum. Mercy, played by young Sally Field, was crudely drawn as a hillbilly bimbo. Richard Widmark was left to struggle along valiantly, but there’s only so much one man can do. What a mess!
4. Crazy Heart (2009) Movie starring Jeff Bridges. Based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb.

Which did you prefer, the book or the movie?
This was a hard call. I loved them both. Since the story’s about a musician, I’ll have to give the edge to the movie and its brilliant, dark, slightly moody soundtrack. The movie followed Cobb’s novel very closely and changes made to Bad Blake’s story were intelligently done. I was blown away by the book’s ending, but knew that there was no way that audiences would accept such a likeable actor as Jeff Bridges being left stranded at such a low point. The compromise worked though. As a bonus on the DVD, the deleted scenes included one that faithfully reproduced the book’s ending which left my own crazy heart full of bittersweetness and twang.

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