20 October 2007

Quills Awards Produce New Bafflement

The Quill Awards ceremony has always exuded the desperate desire of a party designed in the hope that the cool kids might come, if only for ten minutes. The cool kids are the bringers of "Hollywood glitz," as the awards' website says. Cleaning up at the end of the evening, trying not to think about whether they've compromised their standards, publishing pros can tell themselves that books really are cool after all!

Even so, there was something baffling about this week's report from Publishers Weekly:

Winning the Quill Variety Blockbuster Book to Film Award is Universal’s Jason Bourne trilogy. The action blockbusters, all based on Robert Ludlum’s series, were selected for the honor by a committee of Variety staffers.
This is a new award. (Come to our party!) It's selected by Hollywood people for other Hollywood people. (Come to our party!) It seems to reward making hit movies, which is usually reward enough in itself, but the real aim is to show that hit movies can be made from actual, yes, books. (Come to our party!) Even though the hit movies have little in common with those books besides their titles and a premise.

The Bourne movies are known for being very good action-spy thrillers, and for deviating tremendously from their source material. The first movie started that trend, and each sequel has moved further away from Ludlum's storylines. (Carlos the Jackal is just not hot news anymore; no one would come to a party just to see him.)

Indeed, here are the sort of critical blurbs that the second movie in the series, The Bourne Supremacy, really gets in the "Blockbuster Book to Film" category:
  • "Tony Gilroy's screenplay [is] adapted liberally from the potent novel by Robert Ludlum!" --Cincinnati Enquirer
  • "...has a completely distinct (and contradictory) plot to the novel!" --Wikipedia
Of course, the character of Jason Bourne does make books look cool--by using one as a weapon in hand-to-hand combat! He also fights with magazines and pens. (See More Than Fine's Top Five Jason-Bourne-Improvised Weapons list.)

I suspect the real target of this award is the actor who plays Bourne, Matt Damon. He actually reads books. He recommends them to the public. He options them. And he's a good-looking Hollywood celebrity.

Come to our party!

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