The winter season is always very busy for film lovers. It is around this time of year that studios with aspirations for major awards tend to release their projects. Thus, while we don’t see the big budget sequels and superhero blockbusters of the spring and summer any longer, the winter brings about some of the most impactful projects of the year. 2017 is shaping up to be no exception. In fact, there are a number of highly regarded films that have either come out recently or will be released throughout the holiday season. In this piece I’ll look into some of these movies – and more importantly, some of the books you can curl up with this winter that might enhance your enjoyment or understanding of them.
Most people know this creature solely from film (if at all), which makes perfect sense. Ranking the film The Creature From The Black Lagoon as the worst of Universal’s monster movies, What Culture noted that it’s unusual in not being based on a gothic source novel. It was, however, novelized after the fact by a writer under the pseudonym Carl Dreadstone. An argument can be made that this novel is better than the film (which campy even for the ‘50s). Furthermore, it’s an excellent read if you’re intrigued by Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water. The director has indicated that the idea of a “happy ending” for the Gill Man monster was part of his inspiration for this wildly inventive film.
I’m making an effort not to point to the most obvious book versions of these flims (where there are such books). But in the case of the forthcoming dramedy/biopic on the notorious figure skater Tonya Harding, it may be worthwhile to read a biographical account. Fire On Ice by Abby Haight and J.E. Vader is the preeminent example, and a fascinating read ahead of a film that looks riotously entertaining (and surprisingly interesting).
The Greatest Showman is an original musical starring Hugh Jackman in the role of P.T. Barnum, and depicting the early days of the “Greatest Show On Earth.” Naturally there are books about Barnum himself or the Barnum & Bailey circus that you could read. But I’d steer you toward The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern if you haven’t read it before. This is a very visual book, in some ways simply an endless, captivating description of a magical circus. It gained a lot of attention be being called a book Harry Potter fans should read, and ultimately became a hit. But it may also be good preparation for The Greatest Showman because, despite being a fantasy, it gives you an idea of the pride and perfectionism behind a well-organized circus.
Here too I’m being a little bit more direct with my recommendation. The Post is one of the most hotly anticipated films of December, starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and directed by Steven Spielberg. It will delve into the Washington Post’s famous publishing of the “Pentagon Papers” – a drama that’s written up in accurate and stunning detail in Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous. If this is a chapter of American and journalistic history you’re hazy about, this book should be a must-read.
Molly’s Game is based on a book of the same name, so naturally that would be a fine selection as well. But if you want something a little more abstract, look no further than The Book Of Bluffs, a detailed book that drills down into the nitty gritty of poker strategy (and specifically bluffing). It’s good background preparation for a film about a woman who ran an underground celebrity poker ring that got almost too dramatic to believe. It’s not a “poker movie” in the traditional sense – it was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, so you know it will be character-focused – but it never hurts to know the game before watching any poker-related film.
This is perhaps a slight reach, but it’s difficult to gain a clear understanding of Phantom Thread. It’s a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and telling a dramatic tale about a dressmaker who made projects for royalty. In interviews Anderson has painted the picture of a talented man who’s precise, stuck in his ways, and in many ways a loner on the edges of high society. The book that comes to mind is Kazuo Ishiguro’s legendary novel The Remains Of The Day, which revolves around a butler who could be described similarly. The butler is a softer and more sympathetic figure than Anderson’s dressmaker appears to be, but it could nonetheless be the right book to set the mood.
That’s all for today!