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The best and worst of book-to-film adaptations

Last week, Water for Elephants, based on Sara Gruen’s best-selling novel, hit theatres in all its 1930s-era circus/forbidden-love spectacle, to mixed reviews. Did Robert Pattinson escape the Twilight zone and prove himself a respectable leading man as runaway veterinary student Jacob Jankowski? How was the chemistry between him and on-screen love interest Reese Witherspoon (despite the fact that he played her son in an ultimately deleted scene in 2004’s Vanity Fair)? We’ll discuss all that — plus how we feel when movies depart from the novel’s source material — in our online chat today at 2 p.m. EDT, where we’ll answer your questions about Water for Elephants. Register with the widget on the left side of our homepage (<— just over there!), or visit this page at 2 p.m.

But this got us thinking about some of the great and not-so-great adaptations we’ve seen in the past. Tim Burton’s made some interesting choices with beloved children’s classics, right? Well, to each his own. In this video posted by Knopf Doubleday, Ian McEwan (Solar, Atonement) shares his pick for best adaptation: Director John Huston’s 1987 take on The Dead, a short story by James Joyce. “Deep, deep, deeply moving; a work of genius,” McEwan says. “And I think there’s been no translation of a literary text into a movie that comes anywhere near The Dead.”