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Moe Howard died on May 4, 1975, at the age of 77.

May 4, 2019

Congratulations to Nick Iannarino, the winner of last month’s Third Annual Will Leitch Newsletter NCAA Pool. (Here is his bracket, and here are the final standings.) As is tradition, the winner of the pool gets to dictate a newsletter topic. Here is Nick’s request, in Nick’s words:

Will, thanks for giving me control over this here newsletter! Next to some cold hard cash or free entry into one of those legendary Tim Grierson Sundance hot tub parties filled with hot babes and dogs in sunglasses, this is a great reward. For once, I was happy the NCAA Tournament ended up mostly chalky—not only because it enabled my risk-averse bracket to claw its way to victory, but because we had so many great matchups from the Sweet 16 on. Watching Purdue barely survive Tennessee, and then Virginia barely survive Purdue, Auburn, and Texas Tech made me forget all about the Florida Gulf Coasts and Loyola Chicagos of the world (I won’t complain if my beloved Dayton Flyers make the Elite Eight again soon though). For the newsletter topic, I’m interested in reading about Will’s favorite book-to-movie adaptations. One of my favorite classes at the University of Dayton was Stephen King in Film, and I’ve made an effort to seek out great books that have been adapted for the screen ever since (I’m working on Doctor Sleep right now). Because I’ve found that this practice usually only serves to ruin the movie for me, I’d love to hear what Will thinks makes for a great adaptation of an equally great book.

Thanks, Nick! All right, if I understand this correctly, Nick — an avid Grierson & Leitch listener, like you should be — wants my five beloved book-to-movie adaptations, and, through emails with him after receiving the assignment, I’ve honed in on him wanting examples of great books that were made into great movies. This would eliminate so-so books that were made into fantastic movies (The Shining, The Social Network), and it would also eliminate books I adore that were made into middling movies (The Great Gatsby, The Road, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). We’re talking about books I love made into movies I also love. So let’s see. Here are five. I probably have more than five. But these are the first five that came to mind.



The Dead Zone, Stephen King. I had to honor Nick with a Stephen King pick, and this is by far my favorite novel of his. (The Long Walk, one of the Bachman Books, is a distant second.) I read an old original hardcover copy of this my parents had when I was way too young to be around such a book, and I have probably read it 50 times. It’s real-world connotations are even more powerful now than they were when it was written, but I’ve always thought the love story is underrated as well: King has never been great at writing love stories (though 11/22/1963 has a good one), but this one has a yearning, aching sadness, about years lost that can never be recovered again. And David Cronenberg was the perfect director, matched with Christopher Walken as the perfect actor, for this adaptation. Walken has never been more sympathetic, and thus never more haunting. Is this King’s most underrated novel? It has to be.

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Election, Tom Perrotta. This isn’t my favorite Perrotta novel — Little Children and The Wishbones sit atop this list — but it’s a fun read, but even Perrotta would have to admit that Alexander Payne’s movie turned it into something more epic and eternal than he could have ever imagined. (Perrotta, who wrote the foreword to my Life As A Loser book so many years ago, did in fact admit this: “Suddenly there was this amazing movie out of a book that I considered a failure,” he said years later.) Grierson and I were obsessed with Election when it came out, but it’s long forgotten to history that no one watched that movie when it was released. Critics loved it, but no one else cared. The movie is now going to outlive me, you and everyone involved in it, and I love it when that happens to something wonderful. Also, never listen to any predictions I make, because after seeing this movie for the first time, I was convinced Chris Klein was going to be the biggest movie star in the world.



Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. I’m not sure there’s a director on earth better at literary adaptations than David Fincher — it’s possible there isn’t a director on earth better than anything than David Fincher — so I had to pick one of his movies. So I picked the book from his movies that I like the most. I say this every time David Fincher makes a movie, but: David Fincher should make every movie. Also, never forget that Ben Affleck wears Cardinals gear throughout this movie.

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The Ice Storm, Rick Moody. This is the only movie on this list that I saw first, and then went back and read the book. The movie was my favorite of 1997, and I’ll confess, I do appreciate it a little bit more than the book: I’d argue it’s perfect, whereas the book is a little more judgmental toward its characters, which is sort of a Rick Moody problem sometimes. But man can that guy write. This movie affects me a lot more now that I relate more to the parents than the kids.

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United 93, based on the 9/11 Commission Report. Is this cheating? Probably? But I’ve read every page of the 9/11 Commission Report — it remains an absorbing read; my other two 9/11 reads are 102 Minutes and The Looming Tower — and this is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen, so I’m counting it. I’ve always thought this film transcends movies, or art, or entertainment: It’s instantly transporting in a way that gets me shaking the minute it starts. It’s important to watch this movie every few years. This is what it means, I think, to never forget. Also: It has Cheyenne Jackson in it before anybody knew who he was.

Also, I’m sorry Nick’s whimsical concept got us all going down the September 11 road. THANKS A LOT, NICK. Anyway, lemme know your favorites, all. I’m just about done with my own book edits, which means I can start reading books by other people again. I’m eager to get back on the horse.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.

1. Technology Is Trying to Solve Sports, But You Can’t Solve Sports, New York. This is exactly the sort of piece I love to write. I’m so fortunate New York lets me keep doing them.

2. Data Decade: The 10 Best Third Basemen of the Decade, MLB.com. David Freese didn’t crack the top 10, but he’ll always be No. 1 in my heart.

3. Charlize Theron Movies, Ranked and Updated, Vulture. Updated with Long Shot. She really needs better comedic leading men.

4. Debate Club: Best Blumhouse Movies, SYFY Wire. We picked the right Paranormal Activity movie.

5. The Thirty: Best Throwback Jerseys, MLB.com. I feel uniquely qualified to write this particular column.

THE WILL LEITCH SHOW



David Cross! We talked about how I used to go see “Mr. Show” tapings in Los Angeles. (You can see me in the background of a couple of shots, with my very floppy 1998 hair.) Watch on Amazon or on SI TV.


PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, now a proud member of the Starburns Industries podcast network, talked all sorts of “Avengers: Endgame” business. And also a little “Goldfinger.”

Seeing Red, the Cardinals are in first place, Bernie and I are happy.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week.

Also, I spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Don Van Natta for more than an hour on his Sunday Long Read podcast this week. It’s a fun listen, I think. Listen to it here.

GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL POWER RANKINGS

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Michael Bennet joined the race this week. Is it wrong to say that I might be more likely to vote for this Michael Bennett? Also, it is kind of amusing that Bennet’s brother, James Bennet, is editorial page editor for The New York Times and now has to recuse himself from any campaign coverage as long as his brother is in the race. Fortunately, the editorial page of The New York Times usually doesn’t touch on the presidential campaign in any meaningful way and therefore James should have plenty to keep himself busy.

1. Kamala Harris
2. Elizabeth Warren
3. Beto O’Rourke
4. Joe Biden
5. Cory Booker
6. Kirsten Gillibrand
7. Pete Buttigieg
8. Julian Castro
9. Bernie Sanders
10. Amy Klobuchar
11. Seth Moulton
12. Jay Inslee
13. John Hickenlooper
14. Tim Ryan
15. Michael Bennet
16. Eric Swalwell
17. Wayne Messam
18. John Delaney
19. William Weld
20. Marianne Williamson
21. Tulsi Gabbard
22. Andrew Yang

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

I just filled up my first box, to the brim, with letters. You people made me get another box! Let’s fill this next one.

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO



“Wise Up,” Aimee Mann. Paul Thomas Anderson has done some amazing work in his career, and his best three movies all came after Magnolia, but if he had called it a career after making Tom Cruise sing an Aimee Mann song, it still would all be worth it.

We had some visitors in my office this week for an upcoming television project.


I am certain this is the most scintillating project these television professionals have ever worked on.

Have a great weekend, all.


Best,
Will