Saturday, 7 April 2012

Movies for the Bookish

I'm sure that even the biggest bookworm likes to remove their nose from behind a book every once and a while to watch a movie. While movie adaptations of books are well and good, everyone knows a book lover who hates adaptations that don't follow the book by the page (and what movie really does?) While some of these films are adaptations, most of them are just for lovers of books. When you're looking for an excuse to eat some popcorn, one of these movie might be worth checking out.

1. The Dead Poet's Society (1989) A popular choice by English teachers everywhere. Starring Robin Williams, this film follows a group of school boys who attend an elite boarding school. In their senior year, they meet their new English teacher, Mr. Keating, who is unlike anyone else at their school. He teaches them the value of poetry and has them stand on their desks to see things from a different point of view. Keating was a former student, and the boys learn that he was a member of the Dead Poet's Society. Lead by charismatic Neil, the boys revive the Dead Poet's Society and begin to meet in secret. Neil and his roommate Todd are both pressured by their parents to pursue specific careers, but they can't help being drawn to more creative outlets. Neil wishes to be an actor and Todd wants to write. Their friend Knox is in love and tries to use poetry to impress his crush. While the different members of the society are each inspired by Keating's approach to literature, his unique approach puts him at odds with other members of the staff. No matter what happens, the boys will not forget how he taught them the importance of carpe diem and of poetry.

2. Beauty and the Beast (1991) Chances are you've seen this one before, but who doesn't love Belle? If you didn't grow up in the early '90's and have never heard of this film before, Beauty and the Beast is disney's musical retelling of the fairy tale. It was also the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. With a heroine who visits the library every day and rereads books like a fiend, it's no wonder this movie made the list. It also features the prettiest library ever and Belle and the Beast reading Romeo and Juliet together in the newer versions of the film (x). In my opinion, this is Disney at its best. The score is done by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Also, if you listen carefully in "The Mob Song," you can hear a line from Macbeth ("screw your courage to the sticking place.")

3. Matilda (1996) Based on the book by Roald Dahl, this film follows six year old Matilda, who is a very gifted girl who seems to have been born to the wrong family. While her parents and her brother enjoy watching TV and living in a nice house bought through illegally obtained money, Matilda enjoys books. When she starts school, she finds a kindred spirit in her teacher Miss Honey. However, the principal, Miss Trunchbull, is one of the few adults who is even worst than Matilda's parents. But Matilda might be even more extraordinary than anyone thought: what if she could do magical things with her mind? And what if children could punish adults when they misbehave? This idea could change everything for Matilda. This film features a brilliant young lover of books and shows a beautiful library. As an adaptation of the book, it's fair. Like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), it takes place in the States instead of England. I've always loved this one since I was Matilda's age when it came out, despite some of its flaws.

4. You've Got Mail (1998) You could argue that this movie started my obsession with owning a bookstore. Directed by Nora Emphron and starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, You've Got Mail follows two people who connect over the internet but despise each other in real life. After having met in a chat room, Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly anonymously correspond through e-mails, without knowing anything about one another. Their paths cross outside of the Internet when Kathleen's children's bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, is in danger of going out of business when Joe's chain bookstore opens nearby. While this one does feel a bit dated (are there still chat rooms?) I still love it. Kathleen's bookstore is based on New York's Books of Wonder (x) and Meg Ryan actually worked there for a day to prepare for her role in this film. In the movie, Meg Ryan's character references a few children's books, including Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace and Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl.

5. Notting Hill (1999) I considered not including this one, but I figured what the heck: I'm sure owning a bookstore and meeting a celebrity is a lot of people's dream. Will Thacker (Hugh Grant) owns a travel bookstore in Notting Hill, when one of the most famous women in the world walks into his shop. Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is a successful actress who is constantly under scrutiny from the public. Although they might live worlds apart, they form an unlikely romance as Will discovers the person behind the famous face. I've heard people say that Julia Roberts basically plays herself in this film, while Hugh Grant plays one of his two different characters (awkward but charming as opposed to a charming ass.) However, they both play the parts very well and it really is a worthwhile Romantic Comedy. The shop in the movie is based on the real Travel Bookshop, but I think it may have recently closed.

6. Finding Forrester (2000) Starring Sean Connery, this film follows sixteen-year-old Jamal, who dreams of a being a writer. A writer named William Forester lives in his neighbourhood, and Jamal accepts a dare to sneak into his apartment. After he accidentally leaves his backpack in Forrester's apartment, he finds it later, with his notebook full of editorial notes. Jamal writes an essay for Forrester and begins to spend more time with him. Under his tutelage, Jamal's writing improves and he enters a competitive writing contest. He learns more about Forrester's writing career and what lead him to become so reclusive. I first saw this movie in my Writer's Craft class in high school. It's directed by Gus Van Sant, who also directed Good Will Hunting. 

7. The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) Based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler, the film follows five women and one man who form a book club that only reads Jane Austen novels. Meeting monthly, each member hosts a discussion about one of Jane Austen's six novels. As the members of the book club struggle with love, loss and heartbreak, they look at how each novel can relate to their lives, while using the novels to cope with the difficulties life throws their way. In the end, they have to ask themselves: what would Jane do? I like this film not just because of the ties to Jane Austen, but also because I love book clubs (I wish I was in one.) Becoming Jane (2007) is also a good choice for fans of Jane Austen.

8. Midnight in Paris (2011) I literally just finished watching this one and I thought it was amazing. Directed by Woody Allen, this movie fallows Gil (Owen Wilson) as he visits Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) while her parents are there for business. Gil dreams of leaving his job as a screenwriter in LA to finish his first novel in Paris. He sees Paris in the 1920's as the Golden Age and regrets not moving to Paris earlier in his career. Inez does not hold these romantic views of Paris and doubts that Gil's career as a novelist will take off. After a night at a wine tasting, Gil separates from his girlfriend to walk through Paris' streets at night and ends up finding the perfect inspiration for an aspiring novelist. While definitely worth watching for anyone looking for beautiful shots of Paris, this film also follows a writer and examines the 'Lost Generation.' There is also a quick shot of the famous Shakespeare & Company, a world famous English bookshop in the Latin Quarter.


  1. Love all your recommendations!

  2. My favourite has to be Matilda ;) I still haven't gotten round to reading The Dead Poet's Society.

    1. I love Matilda! I started first grade a month or so after the movie came out, so I've always felt an affinity with Matilda, even though my school didn't have a chokey or a Ms. Trunchbull.
      I haven't read the Death Poet's Society book, but the movie's really good!

  3. I've seen all the movies you listed and they're some of my favorites! I was really surprised to find that the Jane Austen Club movie was actually better than the book in my opinion. That never happens! You've Got Mail and Dead Poet's Society are both so good!

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