“Ragtime,” November 19, 2021 (1981), DVD. My book group is reading and discussing E.L. Doctorow’s novel and so we decided to contrast it with the Milos Foreman movie presentation of the book. I loved the book’s sweep, complexity, awareness, and insight into early 20th c. American culture. The movie has a bangup cast, including Mary Steenburgen, Howard Rollins, Mandy Potinkin, Elizabeth McGovern, Brad Douriff, Donald O’Connor, Pat O’Brien, Jimmy Cagney (his last film), and Norman Mailer (!). It drew 13 Oscar nominations, including one for Randy Newman’s soundtrack. And yet, strangely, the film left me remarkably underwhelmed. It’s exclusive focus on racism and white supremacy and the subtle and not so subtle changes in plot led Doctorow to remove himself from the project. He sought a series that did justice to the complexity of his work. That’s not what producer Dino DiLaurentis and Forman had in mind. Their leaned down, more focused story of the things racist injustice can drive its victims to (the book and film were both produced in a different times than our anti-terrorist century) did not do the novel justice. It was and remains a very popular work, but I think that despite the excellent writing and acting, it lost too much in the translation and became vastly less interesting. I saw it with someone who had not read the book and she too found it’s fame perplexing in its presentation of these times so very like our own.