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Thread: Literary Biopics?

  1. #1
    Member ObtainGnosis's Avatar
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    Literary Biopics?

    Does anyone else notice that when people try to make literary biopics in film it almost invariably fails?

    I feel like the characters always become embarrassingly pretentious caricatures of the people they're supposed to represent. They try to make them exude the same depth as the author in question and it always comes off phony.

    Same thing seems to happen with rock star and artist biopics as well.

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas being the ultimate exception.
    "Remember me as you pass by.
    As you are now, so once was I.
    As I am now, so will you be.
    Prepare for Death & Follow Me."


    -- Common Epitaph of Victorian-Era Gravestones

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the most beautiful movies. It's about the writer Jean-Dominique Bauby, who became paralyzed after a stroke, and the movie goes back and forth between claustrophobic shots that show his perspective during his diving bell state, and shots that show his 'flights of imagination'-- the cinematography is amazing.



    Have you seen Capote? It's also really good-- I highly recommend it. It is a bit caricatured (despite excellent acting), but it's also very moving and disturbing.

    I heard that The Hours is good but I never saw it, partly because I found Kidman's fake nose (politically and visually) offensive and how can it be a good movie if she has that nose.



    So those are a few you might like. But yes, I agree, there are a lot of terrible literary biopics. Writers must be boring.

    oh, and I also think The Motorcycle Diaries was worthwhile, but I don't remember it very well

    I think what makes these biopics stand out is that they don't try to be too literal. In each movie, the writer is just the starting point, and the filmmakers aren't afraid to take artistic license with the tone and content.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Spartan26's Avatar
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    A few years back, I saw Timothy Sexton speak. He was one of the writers of Children of Men and did some decent biopics. He said the biggest problem is usually when films try to encapsulate too much of a person's life. They're better off focusing on a narrow period and going deep or broad with that. Like for his movie about the Memphis bus boycott, most was centered around two weeks. Even though it was just over a year, which really isn't too long to house a movie, the decision was made to go as short a period of time and use small, pivotal moments of Dr King's life rather than show the totality of his life as an activist.

    Off the top of my head, I thought What's Love Got to Do With it was very good. I also enjoyed Shine. Biographies are often my favorite types of books to read. Most haven't been made into movies. Many of the ones I've seen I've not read the source material. Oh Goodfellas, that was quite amazing.

    I think it's hard to know who's most to blame for some of the embarrassments. There's a tendency for studios and production companies to try to impose present day sensibilities on the past or just use the known entities and title and force feed a genre on the masses ala the last Emilia Earhart movie they tried to turn into a modern romance flick. I've never heard so many people in on a creative team speak so negatively on prospect and guidelines they were given to work with.

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