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Good and bad books can make ugly films

Read any good books lately? How about any bad ones? In either case, the novel you read could be coming to the big screen shortly.

We critics have griped for years that Hollywood seems strapped for good story ideas (not that the number of movie sequels or TV shows made into films is any sort of tipoff). But the number of movie projects that are based on published novels is swelling to ridiculous proportions.As of this weekend, there are 19 films playing in the Salt Lake Valley that were adapted from books. And we're not talking timeless classics like Dickens (though his "Great Expectations" was also given the cinematic mistreatment recently).

Some of the worst ones include "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (spawned from the equally vapid "young-adult" book), "Phantoms" (Dean Koontz, no further comment needed) and "Kiss the Girls" (no more serial killer books or movies ever again, please). And the big-screen "Sphere" was even worse than the convoluted Michael Crichton novel.

What's frightening is that Hollywood can't seem to judge a good book by its cover (sorry). Studio executives seem to be every bit as clueless as to what makes a great novel as they are about what constitutes a quality movie.

So for those frustrated wannabe screenwriters who are trying to break into the business, here's your big chance. If you can get your manuscript published as a novel first, odds are it will be made into a movie sometime down the road.

- AND VICE-VERSA: On the other hand, there have been a handful of books published lately that prove some movies can make for good reading, as well as viewing.

Probably the best among them are Ted Schamus' script for "The Ice Storm" and a tome that combines Kevin Smith's original screenplays for both "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy."

The former contains scenes that were cut from the final print of the movie, as well as one that was never shot. The book also contains Schamus' illuminating explanations on why the scenes weren't included (either for time considerations or because they were considered redundant). It's surprisingly readable.

And for Smith's fans, the "Clerks" screenplay contains the movie's shocking original ending, which was actually shot but was later replaced at the request of distributor Miramax Films. The "Chasing Amy" portion also contains the shooting script, including dialogue that was changed.

But for those wiseguys who are wondering why Smith's "Mallrats" script wasn't included, it's because it was already released in book form (for all four people who liked that awful movie).

For the truly curious, Smith's rejected script for the now-aborted Superman movie (the one that was set to star Nicolas Cage, with director Tim Burton at the helm) is available online. Check out the"View Askew" Web Site ( for more details.

- FROM THE WHAT'S UP, DOC? DEPARTMENT: There's good news for devotees of that Warner Bros. wascally wabbit Bugs Bunny. As part of its 75th anniversary, the studio is compiling some of its most beloved and classic cartoons, starring Bugs and other Looney Tunes characters, including Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird.

The "Bugs Bunny Film Festival," which kicked off its North American tour on Feb. 13 in Edmonton, Canada, is coming to the United States for a series of weeklong showings this spring.

The program will be broken into two separate programs of 15 cartoons each, titled "Best of the Fest" and "Taz Gone Looney." They will play on alternate calendar days during the run.

Some of the cartoons included in the festival will be "A Wild Hare," which features Bugs' debut, "What's Opera, Doc?" the Oscar-winning "Knighty Knight Bugs" and "For Scent-imental Reasons," another Oscar-winner, starring Pepe Le Pew.

Also showing at the festival will be "Another Froggy Evening," a new cartoon short from legendary animator/director Chuck Jones, which stars Michigan J. Frog and Marvin the Martian.

And for those real Warner Bros. aficionados, other directors whose cartoons will be featured are Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson.

Specific dates and locations have not been announced, but festival organizers are taking the tour to the top 80 markets across the United States, so Salt Lake City could be among the lucky ones to host the event. Stay tuned.

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I'm completely astonished. I'd actually forgotten the awards were being announced, and I was in a basement in Prague having a lot of difficulty setting up a shot on a commercial I was shooting. The producer of the commercial came in and told me the film had been nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director. I said, `If you're joking, I'll never speak to you again.' " - Peter Cattaneo, director of "The Full Monty," reacting to the recent Oscar nominations

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: "If I didn't have a dime, I would still make movies. I would just make them without money. And I would cook for them!" - movie producer Ismail Merchant (of Merchant Ivory fame) and a gourmet chef in his own right