This didn’t come straight from the book but neither did anything else in the film.

My Top 10

  1. Ed Wood
  2. The Shawshank Redemption
  3. Quiz Show
  4. Nobody’s Fool
  5. Grave of the Fireflies
  6. The Madness of King George
  7. Little Women
  8. Death and the Maiden
  9. Vanya on 42nd Street
  10. To Live

note:  There will be more to say about this in the Awards post which comes next.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. Forrest Gump  (232 pts)
  2. Quiz Show  (192 pts)
  3. The Madness of King George  (120 pts)
  4. The Shawshank Redemption  (112 pts)
  5. Ed Wood  (40 pts)
  6. Little Women  (40 pts)
  7. Nobody’s Fool  (40 pts)
  8. The Browning Version  (40 pts)

note:  For the first time since 1988, there are no critics awards for an adapted screenplay which is why the point totals are so low.

Oscar Nominees  (Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium):

  • Forrest Gump
  • The Madness of King George
  • Nobody’s Fool
  • Quiz Show
  • The Shawshank Redemption

WGA:

  • Forrest Gump
  • Little Women
  • The Madness of King George
  • Quiz Show
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Ed Wood  (nominated in Original)

Golden Globes:

  • Forrest Gump
  • Quiz Show
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Nominees that are Original:  Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral

note:  There was a 44 year stretch (1965-2008) where there were 5 Globe Screenplay nominees and 5 Oscar Picture nominees.  This is the fourth and final year, joining 1966, 1982 and 1984, in which the five films are the same in both categories.

BAFTA:

  • Quiz Show
  • The Browning Version
  • Forrest Gump
  • The Madness of King George  (1995)

note:  The other BAFTA nominee was The Joy Luck Club which was from 1993.

My Top 10

Ed Wood

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film, not just because it is the best film of 1994 (which it is and that’s saying something when you’re the #1 film in the same year as Pulp Fiction and Shawshank) but because it was my representative film for Tim Burton when I placed him in my Top 100 Directors.  This is a great film and I knew that when I saw it in the theaters, which far too few people did given that it landed at #136 for the year, behind The Road to Wellville, Mixed Nuts and The House of the Spirits (sadly, I saw the first two of those in the theater as well).  This might also be the best performance in Johnny Depp’s career and that is also saying something because no matter what you think of him as a person, as an actor he’s been amazing for a long time.

The Source:

Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. by Rudolph Grey  (1992)

Grey just missed being able to interview Wood, with Wood dying just as Grey was getting interested in his work.  But Grey was able to catch a lot of Wood’s contributors and friends and family and created this loving oral biography of Wood’s work and life.  It’s not as good as the film because it doesn’t have the loving performances of Depp and Landau and because the film had more focus to it (see below) but it is still a vital and important book on film history for being willing to shine a light on the kind of director that was ignored by most writers (though, for good reason).

The Adaptation:

In the DVD commentary, writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski talk about how they used Grey’s book as background but wanted to craft their own film.  Specifically, they wanted to craft a film that focused on the friendship between Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi which is why the film begins just before their first meeting and runs through the release of Plan Nine.  They even deliberately ignored the work that Wood did during that time that didn’t involve Bela (most notably the film Jailbait).  They also freely acknowledge that not only was the meeting between Ed and Orson Welles completely made up but that it also wasn’t fair to Charlton Heston since Heston was the only reason Welles got that job in the first place.  But it’s such a brilliant scene and works so well, I don’t really mind, especially since they are willing to admit that they made it up.  A lot of other parts of the film do come straight from pieces in the Grey book though, as they say, they focus on the friendship between Ed and Bela (even removing Bela’s wife from the film).  A good example of having good reasons to alter what really happened for the good of the story.

The Credits:

Directed by Tim Burton.  Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski.
note:  Only the end credits mention the source: Based upon the book “Nightmare of Ecstasy” by Rudolph Grey.  Published by Feral House.

The Shawshank Redemption

The Film:

It’s one thing to have been in on Star Wars from the beginning.  It’s another thing to have seen a film before almost anyone else and know how great it was and wait for the rest to catch up.  They did, of course, a few years later, when this came out on video and when the IMDb debuted and it immediately moved up to the top.  That’s because the more people saw this film, with its great technical work, two magnificent acting performances and the feeling that hope can triumph after all, the more it became clear that everyone loved it and absolutely no one disliked it.  It was the film that everyone could agree on.  Fully reviewed here.

The Source:

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King  (1982)

This was actually written in 1979 just after he finished The Dead Zone but like all of the pieces in Different Seasons, wasn’t published until King decided to put this book together in 1982.  It’s the opening story in Different Seasons, the section called Hope Springs Eternal (which was my title for the script that I started writing for it and let’s face it – everyone agrees the title is terrible and was part of the reason why the film didn’t find a good footing at the box office).  It’s a fascinating story of poor Andy Dufresne, who spent years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit before finally managing one hell of an escape.  In spite of the brutality of some of the descriptions and poor Andy’s situation, by far the most hopeful of the works in the book and possibly the most hopeful thing King has ever written.

The Adaptation:

The first thing everyone notices (it certainly seemed strange to me at the time) was the casting of Morgan Freeman as a character described in the book as a red-headed Irishman but everyone forgets that Andy is described as quite small (it’s how he got through the pipe to freedom), not at all like Tim Robbins.  Aside from that, there are some significant differences (the guy who can help prove Andy’s innocence is killed in the film instead of transferred, the warden and the guard aren’t taken down by Andy, the money he goes to Mexico with is his, secreted away with his new identity instead of stolen from the warden) but all of those differences I think are part of what attract people to the film – awful things happen but the most awful people get their just desserts at the end of the film.  It’s also the right move to show Andy and Red reuniting in the film and another reason why people like the film so much.  The film also considerably cuts down Andy’s time in prison, moving his escape up eight years while Red is also around for the more important scenes instead of just giving us second-hand information.  The film is surprising in how many differences there are from the book while still keeping quite close to the story itself and the themes.

The Credits:

Directed by Frank Darabont.  Based on the Short Novel “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King.  Screenplay by Frank Darabont.

Quiz Show

The Film:

I went to see Quiz Show on opening weekend.  There weren’t a lot of people there and they never really showed up later either.  That was unfortunate because it turned out to be one of the best films of the year, although thankfully the Academy noticed that.  As a result, I have already reviewed this film.  It’s a great film, tells a compelling story (with a few changes – see below) and has absolutely magnificent acting.  The Academy might have noticed the film itself but somehow they overlooked Ralph Fiennes just a year after overlooking him for the Oscar win for one of the greatest supporting actor performances of all-time.

The Source:

Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties by Richard N. Goodwin  (1988)

I looked for this book for quite a while after originally seeing the film and I eventually found it in 2007 at a fantastic used bookstore along the Boston / Brookline line that is no longer there.  I remember reading it and being fascinated by it.  I had been interested in it because of it being the source for the film but really the book is a fantastic first-hand document of the Kennedy White House, the LBJ White House and the RFK presidential campaign.  It has a sentence that to me perfectly summed up not only JFK but Barack Obama before Obama even made it to the presidency: “Style is the archway through which power enters into historical memory: the judicious, dignified Washington, the poetic Lincoln, the ebullient Franklin Roosevelt.  Kennedy has not yet won a place in that company, but if he does it won’t be because of the space program or the missile crisis.  It will be because what he was helped remind us of what we could be.”  (p 237-238)

But the quiz show scandals only take up one chapter of a 27 chapter book (the real heart of the book starts in 1960 when he starts to work for JFK).  It is a thorough and detailed chapter that gets into Goodwin’s role in investigating the scandal (he really did push for this investigation after reading a piece in the Times about the results being sealed).  But if you go to the book for the scandal, you should stay for the rest of the book.  I’ve read lots of books by people who worked for JFK and of the ones not written by Schlesinger, this is the best.

The Adaptation:

Robert Redford will be the first to tell you that they changed things for dramatic effect in the film because he was making a film and not a documentary (there had actually already been a documentary which Redford acknowledged).  Some of the details in the film are extremely accurate, including the way Goodwin started the investigation but there are certainly things that are different, from the judge actually sending the information to Congress (he didn’t turn Goodwin down) to Stempel being introduced on the show as being from Brooklyn when he really was from Queens (the film just has him introduced from Queens) to a wider array of scenes between Van Doren and Goodwin (though they did meet several times and did have dinner together, the film expands their relationship).  It also compresses all of the actions (Van Doren had actually already left the show long before Goodwin began his investigation and most of the quiz show actions took place from 1956 to 1958 and that’s the investigation that was sealed before Goodwin got involved in 1959).  By the way, I don’t think Goodwin, even when young, was anywhere near as handsome as Rob Morrow, but I did ask his wife, Doris (who is not the wife portrayed in the film – that’s his first wife) if he looked like Morrow when he was young and she said he did (she might have been stretching things a bit but she’s also a brilliant writer and you should read all of her books if you get a chance).  It is true that Goodwin really tried to let Van Doren off without having to testify and that the telegram he sent made certain that they would have to subpoena him.

The Credits:

Directed by Robert Redford.  Based on the book “Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties” by Richard N. Goodwin.  Screenplay by Paul Attanasio.

Nobody’s Fool

The Film:

When I saw this film, when it was first released and I was in college, I had never heard of Richard Russo.  I had no idea that this would be the start of my interest in a writer whose works transport them me every time I pick them up, one of my absolute favorite writers.  I simply knew I was watching a really good film, one of the best performances from Paul Newman in a long time (by this time I had already watched most, if not all of Newman’s Oscar nominated performances) and one that showed how brilliant he could still be even as he was approaching seventy.

Donald Sullivan, Sully to most who know him, is kind of a mess.  His knee is a disaster from a fall, he lives alone above his old eighth grade teacher, is constantly broke and has a crush on the wife of the man he often works for.  He’s the kind of man you can find in most small towns, the man who people like and enjoy his company, while also realizing he’s kind of an asshole and who is viewed as a good example of what not to be when you grow up.

We follow Sully through just a few days over the course of one Thanksgiving when his estranged son (that Sully didn’t raise) returns home with his own pending disasters (not having gotten tenure and a wife that’s about to walk out of him).  In that time, Sully will insult the man he works for, steal his snowblower (more than once), alienate his best friend and even punch a cop in the face (after goading him to the point where the cop shoots at him).  And yet, for all of that, he is kind of likable.  Is it because he’s the kind of man, even with only one working knee and without his boots on, will go chase down an old woman in the snow and then, without even pausing for coffee, help out in the local diner while the woman’s daughter returns her home?  Is it because he knows his limitations and tries to work within them even when he knows they are pinning him in?  Or is it because he’s just a likable guy and when he’s played by Paul Newman, he has the kind of roguish charm that Newman was always so brilliant at portraying?

Of all the actors who came to film trained in the method and working in the shadow of Brando (though they were less than a year apart in age), Newman was quite probably the best actor and he was certainly the one who had the best career with his seven Oscar nominations spread across almost 50 years.  He’s so good in this role as Sully that you almost don’t even realize how good the people around him are, from Jessica Tandy as his caring landlady to Bruce Willis as his obnoxious boss to a young Philip Seymour Hoffman as the idiotic cop.  And you fail to even realize what category the film belongs in which is why, after all these years of classifying it as a Drama and having just read the book for who knows how many times I have finally changed it to be a Comedy.  It’s just a wonderful film, falling just short of being a great one for reasons that I can’t really explicate very well.  But it’s one I keep returning to and I doubt I have watched it for the last time.

The Source:

Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo  (1993)

Was Paul Newman waiting on this one?  Russo had written two fairly well regarded books (one of which, The Risk Pool, is in my Top 100) but neither had been made into films (in spite of rumors, The Risk Pool still hasn’t been made) yet, Nobody’s Fool was published in 1993 and was already a film in time for the 1994 awards season.  Perhaps Newman saw the perfect role for himself and he would have been correct.

I love this book, love returning to it and the town that is created here and yet, I can honestly say that this is, at best, my fourth favorite Russo novel.  Russo brilliantly knows how to create a place, coming perfectly to life in the first line: “Upper Main Street in the village of North Bath, just above the town’s two-block-long business district, was quietly residential for three more blocks, then became even more quietly rural along old Route 27A, a serpentine two-line blacktop that snaked its way through the Adirondacks of northern New York, with their tiny, down-at-the-heels resort towns, all the way to Montreal and prosperity.” and can also create a character within two sentences: “He was a careless man, there was no denying it.  He was careless with cigarettes, careless, without ever meaning to be, about people and circumstances.”

I have written about Russo before because not only The Risk Pool but also Empire Falls are in my Top 100 and his Straight Man is one of my favorite books but this is the only time he will show up in this project because his other books haven’t been made into films (though his Empire Falls was a magnificent HBO film with another fantastic Newman performance).  If you have never read him, I can not recommend these books highly enough.  There’s even a very enjoyable sequel to this book, Everybody’s Fool, which is also well worth reading, taking things up twenty years later.

The Adaptation:

How to make a faithful adaptation (which this is) of a novel that runs well over 500 pages?  Take out all the characters not connected to the main plot.  In the book, Ruth, Sully’s long-standing lover, is probably the fourth biggest character and there are whole subplots that revolve around her family.  They are all eliminated.  By focusing on what is going on with Sully and his son (even eliminating some of the subplots there, such as his son’s mistress or that his son is sleeping with Toby at the end of the book) and streamlines things.  Almost every line in the film comes straight from the book (and even those that don’t feel like they could have) but by just narrowing the focus, everything fits nicely into less than two hours.  Time is also compressed a bit (in the book it runs almost to New Year’s) but the opening and ending are exactly how they are in the book as are almost all the characters.  It’s one hell of an adaptation.

The Credits:

Written for the Screen and Directed by Robert Benton.  Based upon the Novel by Richard Russo.

火垂るの墓
(Grave of the Fireflies)

The Film:

I have often lamented that Leaving Las Vegas is the most depressing film ever made and yet I have watched it more than once.  But if that is so, what does that make this film?  The saddest film ever made, made even more unbearably sad because it is based on the real story of the man who wrote the original short story this film was based on?  Is this film one of the most potent anti-war films ever made, or, if it’s not an anti-war film specifically as director Isao Takahata claims it is not, does it just make it one of the most potent films ever in making us feel?  That’s perhaps even more powerful.  There have been a lot of films over the years that have shown the horror and waste of war, perhaps none so poetic as that final shot of All Quiet on the Western Front.  But this film, like many great stories, takes things a step further and becomes universal.  It is the vivid and tragic story of what happens to two young children, but we can take a step back and say this kind of thing happens not just because there is a war going on but because of the lack of basic human kindness.  When children like this die, it’s a failure for all humankind.

Or perhaps you don’t know what I am talking about, perhaps, in spite of this being one of the greatest animated films ever made, certainly one of the greatest animated films ever made that is not actually a Kids film, perhaps you have never seen it.  If that is the case, perhaps because you could not bear to watch it, or because you perhaps have never even heard of it, here is the story in a nutshell.  A young girl and her teenage brother are left on their own when their mother is killed in the Kobe firebombings in the last year of World War II (their father is away in the Navy).  At first they are taken in by their aunt, but eventually they just become two more mouths to feed to that aunt and are cast out to survive on their own (see – maybe the Dursleys weren’t that bad!).  Two children, left on their own, in a country losing the war, beaten into submission, with fire dropped from the sky, hoping, desperately to just find enough to eat.  There is often debate around the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan but this is a reminder that there were other horrible things happening to the people of Japan before Hiroshima.  Without taking a side on whether to blame the Japanese for not surrendering before it got to this point or my own country for dealing death from above, these children are abandoned by the people around them who are too concerned with their own survival to spare anything for those who are clearly dying.

And so they die.  First the little girl, dying in front of her brother even as he returns with food to try and keep her alive, then the brother, abandoned, forsaken, dead on the floor of a train station in the opening shot that sets up the film.  But it sets up the film of two ghosts, looking back, at the fireflies gathering around them in the gloom and we are reminded of the artistry of this film.  Even in the horrifying images (the destruction of a city, the death of a child), the animation is incredible in how vividly it brings the tale to life.

Though I am not religious, this film makes me want to believe in some sort of heaven.  From those opening moments, where we see the two ghosts reunited, not yet knowing what has brought them there, to the final shot of them in the gloaming, surrounded by the beauty of the fireflies, even the potential chance that they could be reunited, that they could find some measure of happiness in some sort of afterlife that was denied to them in this life, can help push at least some of the sadness away before it overwhelms you.  But then again, remember my essay about Why We Cry and you can understand why, not just for the brilliant animation, the fantastic writing and direction, you should be watching this film.  It makes you feel and in those feelings, it gives you a chance to remember that you are human.

The Source:

火垂るの墓 Hotaru no haka by Akiyuki Nosaka  (1967)

The best I was able to do was to get an illustrated short version of the book to go along with the film, clearly designed to help people learn English, as there are notes in Japanese about certain English phrases.  This follows very closely to the film, of course, because it’s designed to go along with it, and was printed in 1988.  The original story was translated for a magazine in 1978 but I wasn’t able to get hold of it.

Adaptation:

Even though I couldn’t find the source to read it, this page mentions that the film follows very closely to the source.

The Credits:

Written & Directed by Isao Takahata.  Original Story by Akiyuki Nosaka.
note:  As with all Japanese films, I am forced to rely on subtitles for the credits.

The Madness of King George

The Film:

I watched this film originally back in 1995 at some point, I think, probably around the time of the Oscar nominations.  I then had it on videotape for several years (it had been my grandmother’s, I think) without watching it but I watched it again in mid 2016 partially as preparation for the 1994 Nighthawk Awards (I watched several other films again as well) and partially because, since Veronica had never seen it and really loves Sherlock, that she might like to see a much younger Rupert Graves.  I had thought it a very good film the first time I saw it but it had grown in my estimation when I watched it again and it ended up as a high ***.5.  Watching it again now, in the middle of 2018 (a long time before this review will run but I needed to make use of the Boston libraries that had the play), while my admiration for the film has not dimmed, I wonder how I feel about the lead character.

Must everything come through a prism now?  Is that the way the world has to work?  I watched this film two years ago and saw a king stricken by madness.  It is a fantastic performance from Nigel Hawthorne, playing the poor, mad king, stricken down when his own mind won’t support where it is going.  The British situation is a messy one, with someone mad at the top, not enough support for the next in charge and in some sense none of them really matter because there is still Parliament to contend with.  In one sense, this is all just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

But let me deal with the elephant in my room, the man who acts like a madman while running rampant over the country.  When George III ruled over England, there was still a question of what royalty meant and there were even more questions about what was involved with madness.  So there were different attempts to make and in the end, it is Dr. Willis (played with rigid compulsion by Ian Holm), supported by the young soldier Greville (played by Graves) who manage, with the help of a sympathetic wife (the Oscar nominated Helen Mirren) to bring the king back around to his senses and forgo a major crisis at the same time that much of the world was changing (the end of the film takes place just three months before the fall of the Bastille).  Today, we have a much better idea of sanity, an idea of what is just idiocy and we live in a democracy so we have no one to thank but ourselves (and Russia) for the situation we find ourselves in.  But just look at the way that George acts at the beginning of the film, how he reacts to everything by bizarre instinct, how he snaps at everyone, how you never know when he might just declare war on another country or obsess about the past.  Does that sound like anyone else?

Thankfully, that passes as the king moves over solidly into madness and is taken out of the seat of power.  What we see now is a clash of personalities between the king and Dr. Willis and the only winner that matter is sanity.

This is a well-written film (see below for more) and it’s the first foray into film directing from Nicholas Hytner, who had directed the play on stage and was very well respected as a stage director.  It has wonderful sets and costumes and a well-rounded cast.  More importantly, as George III, the man who has long been reviled in this country for repressing the colonies and bringing about the revolution in the first place, Nigel Hawthorne somehow manages to arouse our sympathy in ways we never could have expected.

The Source:

The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett  (1991)

Alan Bennett flat out admits in the introduction that he had been obsessed with George III ever since his days at school, even before university.  But it took until well into his professional career (he had been known as a playwright for almost 30 years) before he tackled the Regency Crisis of 1788, the months when George’s madness overtook him to the point where Parliament considered handing things over to his son.  By this time, Bennett was well known enough that he could get Nigel Hawthorne as the King and Nicholas Hytner to direct it for the National Theater and it was a big hit on stage.  A very good play that at times deviates from the history because it works best for the storytelling, which Bennett is all too willing to admit (many of the events in the play come from the diaries of the real Greville who was not there for many of the scenes that Bennett places him in).

The Adaptation:

The film, adapted by Bennett, follows his original play very closely.  It adds a few small scenes and moves the locations of a lot of scenes (the original play was mostly two long acts with no real scene distinctions) but other than that stays very true to the original play.

The Credits:

Directed by Nicholas Hytner.  Screenplay by Alan Bennett.  Based on his stage play The Madness of George III.

Little Women

The Film:

There had been several versions of this before this one, either on film or on television.  There had never been a group of actresses this talented (it’s not a coincidence that the two youngest, Claire Danes and Kirsten Dunst, would go on to such strong careers) and even Katharine Hepburn hadn’t given a performance like Winona Ryder’s as Jo or Susan Sarandon’s as Mrs. March (although this cast has nothing on the one coming in just two months).

Do you not know the story of the March girls by now?  Have you never read the book or seen any of the other film versions?  They are all in their teen years (well, Amy is a little younger), with Jo the most spirited and literary one.  They deal with their father being off in the Civil War (they are well out of way of the war living in Concord, MA), their mother joining him after he is wounded and the attention of their next door neighbor, young Laurie (who falls for Jo pretty much right away, which is easy to see, not only because she is smart and fun and clever but because she is a beautiful young Winona Ryder).  But she doesn’t want to be tied down (at least until she meets the handsome older German tutor who has as much an interest in her mind as he does in her body).  She wants to be free.

This version of the novel is the best, not just because it has the best acting (though that is a key reason), not just because it has the best direction (Gillian Armstrong, the first female to direct a version of the novel has a sure hand) but because it makes it a strong story and not just a saccharine sweet version of it.  We care about these girls and this film makes a strong, mature version of the story.  It has good cinematography, a very good score (Oscar nominated) and fantastic Oscar nominated costumes.  But most of all, it comes down to that rightfully Oscar nominated performance from Ryder, coming right in the heart of her prime.

The Source:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  (1868/1869)

I have already reviewed the book once before because the 1933 film version with Katharine Hepburn (one of two versions – along with this one – that vies for the crown of best version of the novel although the new version from Greta Gerwig might put that to the test).  I’m not a particular fan of the book but if you’re going to get a copy, I recommend the copy linked above and picture to the right, the very copy I own because the Norton Annotated Editions are fantastic.

The Adaptation:

This version follows the book quite closely and makes more use of the war and Laurie’s love for Jo (and his eventual love for Amy) than previous versions do.  It’s the most faithful adaptation to date.

The Credits:

Directed by Gillian Armstrong.  Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.  Screenplay by Robin Swicord.

Death and the Maiden

The Film:

This was a strange year for Best Actress.  The leading contenders already had Oscars (Jodie Foster, Jessica Lange) with a couple of strong performances from terrible films (Miranda Richardson, Susan Sarandon).  But most of the best performances weren’t nominated and were sometimes barely noticed.  Linda Fiorentino’s performance in The Last Seduction wasn’t Oscar eligible.  Julianne Moore in Vanya on 42nd Street and Natalie Portman in Leon were ignored.  Jennifer Jason Leigh in Mrs Parker didn’t earn an Oscar nomination perhaps because the film made so little money.  Irene Jacob and Isabelle Adjani had to deal with being in foreign language films.  And of all of those, the best performance of the year in my mind was Sigourney Weaver in Death and the Maiden, a film released so late that it took me a long time before I eventually got hold of the Oscar eligibility list and was able to confirm that it even could have been nominated.  Weaver is a fascinating actress; she was Oscar nominated three times in three years in the late 80’s before she did most of her best work.  She didn’t earn a single Oscar or SAG nomination in the 90’s in spite of her amazing work in The Ice Storm, A Map of the World or this film.  She doesn’t act in nearly enough films but she is one of the best and most under-appreciated American actresses in film history.

In this film she plays Paulina, a woman who is still dealing with trauma.  She was tortured and raped by the recently toppled regime in the country she lives in (an unnamed South American country) and though her husband has now become important in the new democracy (he has just been asked to oversee the commission to look into the crimes of the previous regime), she is nervous enough that when a strange car pulls up at night she has a gun in her hand, ready to defend herself.  It’s just her husband, getting a ride home from a stranger because his car got a flat.  But when that same stranger returns for dinner, she steals his car, dumping it off a cliff and after he is asleep, ties him up and is prepared to kill him.  She is certain, from his voice, from his mannerisms, from his laugh, that he is the man who tortured and raped her, even though she had never seen his face.

What happens from here is a cat and mouse game that has a heightened degree of tension, not only because of what has happened to Paulina but because we are never quite allowed the full knowledge of truth.  This film is a reminder that Roman Polanski, whatever his faults and crimes, is a masterful director who is at much at home with adapting a chamber play (and never making us feel claustrophobic like a chamber play adapted to film can do) as he is with a wide open epic like Tess.  The tension is heightened, not only by a brilliant screenplay (adapted from the first rate play) and magnificent direction but by the performances at the heart of the film, most notably of course Ben Kingsley (who is always magnificent) and Weaver, who really should have won the Oscar and was rewarded for her magnificent performance with just a nomination from the Dallas-Forth Worth Critics Association.

The Source:

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman  (1990)

A fascinating play that springs from life, though not from autobiography.  Dorfman was raised in Chile (after living several years in Argentina) and witnessed the Pinochet regime (though not for long, becoming an exile soon after the coup).  This play is set up well with the statement at the beginning: “The time is the present and the place, a country that is probably Chile but could be any country that has given itself a democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship.”  With a woman who was tortured and raped now married to a man who will oversee the commission that will investigate such crimes from the regime, she meets a man she thinks might have been her torturer and rapist and we have a long dark night of the soul as they play off against each other without us ever really knowing what the truth of the matter is.  A powerhouse three person play (I wish I could have seen the 1992 Broadway premiere with Glenn Close, Gene Hackman and Richard Dreyfuss that you can see pictured on the book cover).

The Adaptation:

In Roman Polanski Interviews, Polanski is asked why he added a conclusion that did not appear in the play: “To make the story more coherent.  The play is ambiguous right up until the end, but I’d say this ambiguity is more accidental than by design.  Though I like the idea of a story where you don’t know who’s guilty until the last minute, this works only if it fits with the theme.  This wasn’t the case with Death and the Maiden which, quite simply, was in need of a third act, otherwise I felt it would be frustrating for the audience.”  (p 154)  In another interview, Polanski says that he’s faithful to the play outside of adding the conclusion.

Well, it is mostly faithful (Paulina steals the car much earlier forcing the doctor to stay in the film while he has already stayed and been tied up in the play by the time she gets rid of the car), I don’t necessarily feel that the ending of the film lacks ambiguity.  I suppose, with the conversation with the colleague (which doesn’t happen in the play), it is less ambiguous an ending than was in the original play, but it’s still not a clear ending, which is part of the strength of it.  But, for the most part, aside from that, it is fairly faithful.

The Credits:

Directed by Roman Polanski.  Based on the play by Ariel Dorfman.  Screenplay by Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman.

Vanya on 42nd Street

The Film:

I had put off watching this film for a long time because I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  Not that I wouldn’t have an interest, but if I wasn’t going to classify it as a feature film, it was a much lower priority.  Like My Dinner with Andre, I was unclear as to whether I should count this.  It seemed similar to Looking for Richard (which came out two years later but I saw that in the theater and didn’t see this until years afterwards) but the cast wasn’t quite as intriguing and though Chekhov is one of the world’s greatest playwrights, I am not immersed in Chekhov like I am in Shakespeare.  In the end, of course I watched it (though possibly not until I was covering all of Louis Malle for my Great Director project or possibly when it got released on Criterion) and it was an interesting experience.  Like My Dinner with Andre, I also wasn’t quite certain how to rate it.  It had some strong performances (most notably Julianne Moore, but that’s to be expected now as she is by far the best actor involved in the production but would have been a surprise in 1994) and it was an interesting way to stage the play (on essentially a bare stage in modern day dress).  In the end, like other films that end up in this quasi-space (including the already previously mentioned My Dinner with Andre), I gave it a 75.  That’s the very highest rating that still earns just *** which means it is not in consideration for my Best Picture award but it means there is a lot about the film to admire.

Some friends gather together on a New York street and discuss Chekhov while they are walking.  But then we are in a theater and the dialogue has changed slightly and if you know your Chekhov, you will realize that you have actually entered into a reading of the play Uncle Vanya.  If you were to discount that opening scene, it would be easier to realize that you are watching a film version of the play.  Yes, as mentioned, it is set on a bare stage and in modern day dress but the actors involved are no less committed to the project for all of that.  The main actors involved are Wallace Shawn (who is good but a key moment is undermined because his anguished cry is so similar to the one he used in The Princess Bride when it was used for comic effect rather than the dramatic one here), Larry Pine (much less known) and Julianne Moore (much less known at this time but this was one of the key roles in the 90’s that helped establish her as one of the best film actresses of all-time).

In the end, it’s an interesting way to approach the text, to see it broadly and plainly acted before us.  Unless you are serious about theater, it’s likely that you have never read Uncle Vanya (I have a Masters in literature and I never had to read it) and this is a way that allows the story to be a bit more accessible by stripping away the settings.  On the other hand, it also takes away from the scenery that really could be so much part of a filmed production.  But then again, I have seen a film production of it (the Konchalovsky 1970 version) and it wasn’t very good.  So maybe this was the right way to do it.  And it’s dithering like that, that is part of the reason that I rate this film at a 75.

The Source:

Дядя Ваня by Anton Chekhov  (1898)

Shakespeare scholars may disagree but the general consensus is on Hamlet.  For Tennessee Williams, it’s A Streetcar Named Desire.  Arthur Miller fans can debate over The Crucible or Death of a Salesman.  But what is Chekhov’s greatest play?  He is one of the greatest playwrights who ever lived and I can sit here and look at my Penguin copy of his plays and think to myself “Is it Uncle Vanya?  Or maybe Three Sisters?  No, maybe it’s The Cherry Orchard.  Oh, wait, it’s totally, The Seagull.”  And I could go on and on.  In the end, I would personally probably pick The Cherry Orchard but I would not try to talk anyone out of thinking it was Uncle Vanya.

Like many of Chekhov’s plays, it takes place on a rural estate.  Vanya manages the estate and he is the uncle to Sonya, who is supposed to inherit the estate one day from her father.  Her father, a well known professor, lives in town with his new, young, beautiful wife, but they are here for the actions of the play.  There is also Astrov the country doctor and it doesn’t help that both Astrov and Vanya are attracted to the new wife.  Over the course of the play, we’ll have arguments over the past and the future of the estate and we will have grievances brought forth and never really resolved.  It’s the actions of the people and the way they interact that makes it so great.  If you have never had a chance to see it or at least see this film, then at least go back and read the play (and while you’re at it, read the rest of them as well).

The Adaptation:

This version uses the David Mamet adaptation but it really isn’t all that different from the Elisaveta Fen translation that I have been reading and re-reading for well over 20 years now.  It’s a fairly faithful adaptation.

The Credits:

Directed by Louis Malle.  From Andre (right accent on e) Gregory’s ‘Vanya’.  Based on Anton Chekhov’s Play.  Adapted by David Mamet.

To Live

The Film:

While Chinese film had existed before Zhang Yimou, it had not been great and indeed, from the end of the Civil War in 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 it seemed to be nonexistent.  So Yimou seemed to emerge out of nowhere.  His decision to make a film version of the novel To Live, which covers the unfortunate events in the life of one man from the Revolution through the leaner years and straight on past the end of the Cultural Revolution seems an inspired idea.  In fact, it inspired China to ban the film itself.

Fugui is a cad.  He’s rich (he both comes from money and married into money) but he keeps wasting his time and money gambling while ignoring his parents, wife and children.  He loses his property to a friend of his and both of them ended up conscripted into the Army (and then ending up on the other side due to a series of events).  He eventually is able to make it home to his wife who is now deaf.  A series of unfortunate events wouldn’t begin to describe what he has been going through, enduring horrible realities as his country changes before his eyes.

Yet, somehow, none of this gets Fugui down.  He watches as the land is burned by its new owner (for which he is shot by the authorities) and eventually he will endure the accidental (but somehow absurd) death of his son and yet, he somehow manages to go on.  He lives, in the middle of all of this.

This film, as the novel before it, is the triumph of the desire to live in the middle of all the reasons why life is not worth living.  The horrible things continue to mount up,  Fugui’s daughter dies in childbirth when the doctor is unable to attend to her because he has eaten too many buns and can’t get up.  Yet, somehow he goes on.

This film doesn’t quite ever achieve the level that Yimou had set for himself (and his constant star, Gong Li) in Raise the Red Lantern, another film that deals with the attempt to keep living when everything around you is collapsing and it doesn’t have that level of vibrant color and detail..  But somehow this film inspires in the way Fugui just keeps managing to push himself forward, just looking for whatever next thing life will bring him to because it is still life and it is still the only thing that there is.

The Source:

活着 by Yu Hua (look for Chinese characters)  (1993)

Hua was inspired by the folk song “Old Black Joe”, a song “about an elderly black slave who experienced a life’s worth of hardships, including the passing of his entire family – yet he still looked upon the world with eyes of kindness, offering not the slightly complaint” and decided that his next novel would cover that same kind of character.  So we get Fugui, the man who starts out not really caring about life but eventually endures war, starvation, horrible misfortunes as all of his family die and yet is still pushing on at the end of the book, taking a break with his ox, the only thing he has left, and thinking that the break will end soon and they both just keep working.  It’s a good book, a celebration of life and a history of what China endured during the middle of the 20th Century, a fascinating social statement and social history at the same time.

The Adaptation:

If you look at the Wikipedia page for either the film or the novel you will see it mentioned that the film adds the shadow puppetry (Fugui in the film is a shadow puppeteer) and cuts the narrative device and the ox that Fugui has at the end of the film.  But whoever edited those clearly only read page 242 where the translator (Michael Berry) mentions those and not page 243 where Berry really clarifies the difference between the film and the novel: “After tracing much of twentieth-century China’s tumultuous history, the film ends with Fugui, Erxi and Kugen gathered around Jiazhen in bed, an image that suggests the possibility of a post-Communist utopia.  The novel, by contrast, closes with Fugui prodding his ox, showing Yu Hua’s version to be darker and more existential, with survival and end in itself.  Compared to the novel, Zhang Yimou’s film also allows more room for the hand of fate to hold sway; here Youqing’s death is attributed purely to accident, while in the novel it occurs after his blood is literally sucked dry to save the life of an important cadre.  Yu Hua’s reality is much more brutal, as is his social critique.”  And Berry doesn’t even mention that Fugui’s grandson and wife are still alive while both of them are dead by the end of the book (the grandson choking on beans that Fugui left for him to eat).

The Credits:

Directed by Zhang Yimou.  Adaptation from Yu Hua’s novel.  Script: Yu Hua and Lu Wei.  Screenplay: Lu Wei.

note:  One DVD release had no subtitles for the credits.  The other (the MGM DVD release) lists the ones above for subtitles.  I can’t recreate the original Mandarin characters.

Consensus Winner


Forrest Gump

The Film:

I think I have already said enough about this film in my review of it.  There is no denying its popularity, both with audiences (third biggest film of all-time upon initial release, #26 all-time adjusted for inflation as I write this) and the awards groups (the second most Oscar points in 33 years, the most Oscar nominations in 28 years, 4th most nominations from all groups together to that point).  But the critical consensus already was that Pulp Fiction was far superior and while this film has a brilliant soundtrack and two really interesting ideas (ripped off from superior films), it is never really equal to the parts that make it up.  I think, once those who watched it in the theater and couldn’t get enough eventually start to age, the next generation will pass this film by.  Actually, the best thing to do is listen to Weird Al’s “Gump” which is funnier than this film and much better than the stupid song it parodies.  It does have a truly fantastic soundtrack though, even if, bizarrely, “Running on Empty” isn’t on it when it’s one of the most prominently used songs in the film.

The Source:

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom  (1986)

Groom is lucky this film was made because his book wasn’t very good and he probably never would have become as successful as he did become had the film not suddenly made him a best-selling author (he would do two more books dealing with Gump, one of them just a collection of Gump sayings).  This is a book about an idiot (though not as dumb as the film makes him) who manages to become a success through a variety of circumstances.  It’s not very good and it does seem to be kind of a rip-off of Being There, which is a far superior book.

The Adaptation:

This is a good example of staying true to the idea without staying true to the details.  Did you know Gump was an astronaut and never kicked off a running craze?  If you did then you’ve actually read the book.  They tossed a lot of details and changed several characters (though keeping Gump’s longing for Jenny) but always stayed rather true to the ideas that Groom wrote about.  Faithful without being faithful.

The Credits:

Directed by Robert Zemeckis.  Based on the Novel by Winston Groom.  Screenplay by Eric Roth.

BAFTA Nominee


The Browning Version

The Film:

There have been a lot of inspirational teachers through the years of film history, from Chips to Brodie to Keating.  Then there is Mr. Crocker-Harris, the disliked Latin and Greek teacher at an English boarding school who is an inspiration to almost no one.  He began life in a well-regarded short play by Terence Rattigan (who was already well regarded for The Winslow Boy, produced two years before) but was adapted into a film in 1951 starring Michael Redgrave.  That film version, the easier to find and generally more well regarded was also written by Rattigan and he expanded his play including a key scene at the end.  In the original play, the teacher is leaving the school but we don’t hear his farewell speech whereas in the film version, he is inspired by the gift he receives from a student (the Browning version of the Agamemnon, thus the title) and gives a rousing speech that ends the film on a high note.  But it leaves us with a curious dilemma of how to view the film.

This is a teacher who has not been well regarded by either the students that he has taught or the school where he has been teaching or even by the wife that he has made miserable.  He has been played, in this version, by Albert Finney with a sad, resigned lack of dignity.  He knows he is disliked, he knows he has been cheated on, he knows that he is being forced out without dignity, grace or warmth.  What he learns over the course of the film is that he perhaps might have done things differently, even though it is not in his nature and that perhaps his life might have played out with more to show for it.  The gift is handled a bit awkwardly and it comes with an inscription that is meant somewhat with kindness but also can be seen as a gentle rebuke for a man determined to run things in a manner that is firm and honest if rarely gentle or kind.  Should this man have a farewell speech that will inspire?  It was a curious thing of Rattigan to make this change and it seems at odds with what we have been watching.

I don’t know that it lets the film down.  It is filmed with grace and dignity even if the Finney character is not allowed that.  Finney is really very good and there is a solid performance from Gretta Scachi as the wife who has made his life as miserable in a different way as he has made hers.  But I don’t know that the script really deserved to be singled out (it did not make my list but was BAFTA nominated and thus I am reviewing it).  But, if for no other reason than Finney’s performance and because it is often overlooked and because it is a solid film version of a well-regarded play it is worth seeing at least once.

The Source:

The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan  (1948)

A very solid one-act play, generally regarded as the best of his work.  It’s the story of a disliked teacher who is being forced into retirement because of health issues and must deal with the indignity of being denied a pension, asked to speak at the graduation after a teacher who has only been there a few years (but is a cricket hero at the school) and his wife having an affair with another teacher.  It was a success in London though not much of one on Broadway.  Nonetheless, as a very British play, it has been filmed twice and done for television on numerous occasions.  It provides an excellent role for a British actor to deal with repression and firmness without having the benefit of grace or even dignity (sorry, I keep repeating myself, but it’s really the best way to describe the character).

The Adaptation:

The credits acknowledge the original play, of course, but should really also make acknowledgement to the 1951 film version because the original play lacked the speech that Crocker-Harris makes at the end of the film that earns the admiration of the school; that was added for the initial film version.  There are still several variations made to this film (the teacher that his wife is having an affair with is now an American, things have been updated to 1994, though without many changes on that front, there is more to the way the students interact with each other)  This film version also takes a lot of the scenes in the original play and distributes them throughout the film, changing the locations and moving characters around for them.

The Credits:

Directed by Mike Figgis.  Based on the play by Terence Rattigan.  Screenplay by Ronald Harwood.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

note:  The following two lists are a bit different from all the other years in that all I mention is the source.  Full reviews will be found in an upcoming post (which is also why there are no links above or below – since they will all be linked in that post and it takes a lot of time to do all the links).

note:  As with every year from 1989 to 2005, you can find more about every film I saw in the theater in the Nighthawk Awards.

  • Interview with the Vampire  –  Based on the novel by Anne Rice.
  • The Crow  –  Adapted from the comic book.
  • Colonel Chabert  –  Adapted from the Balzac novel.
  • Queen Margot  –  Adapted from the Dumas novel.
  • Oleanna  –  David Mamet adapts his own play.

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

  • The Bride with White Hair  –  Loosely based on the novel Baifa Monu Zhuan.
  • Savage Nights  –  Cyril Collard, who also directs and stars, adapts his own semi-autobiographical novel.
  • Neo-Tokyo  –  Anthology film based on three short stories by Taku Mayumura.  Normally wouldn’t be included on this list as it is less than an hour.
  • Imaginary Crimes  –  Based on the novel by Sheila Ballyntine that was inspired by her own childhood.
  • L’Enfer  –  Based on the screenplay from an unfinished Clouzot film.
  • Sátántangó  –  Adapted from the novel by László Krasnahorkai.
  • Silent Möbius  –  Based on the manga series.  Normally wouldn’t be included on this list as it less than an hour.
  • Moondance  –  Based on the novel The White Hare by Francis Stuart.
  • Star Trek: Generations  –  The seventh in the series, reviewed in full here.
  • Rice People  –  Based on the novel No Harvest But a Thorn by Shahnon Ahmad.
  • Bitter Moon  –  Based on the novel Evil Angels by Pascal Bruckner, originally published in French as Lunes de fiel.
  • The Castle of Cagliostro  –  In spite of the alternate title Lupin III, not in fact, a third film, but the second about the manga thief Arsene Lupin III.
  • Sara  –  Iranian version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, one of the great plays of all-time.
  • Maverick  –  Adapted from the 1957-62 television series that starred James Garner.
  • True Lies  –  Remake of the French film La Totale!.
  • La Vie de Bohème  –  Loosely based on the Henri Murger novel.
  • Police Story 2  –  Sequel to the 1985 film.
  • Legend of Drunken Master  –  Sequel to the 1978 film which is actually also included in this year.
  • A Shadow You Soon Will Be  –  Adapted from the novel by Osvaldo Soriano.
  • The Jungle Book  –  Also known as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book which is ironic since it’s a very loose adaptation.
  • In the Heat of the Sun  –  Based loosely on Wild Beast by Wang Shuo.
  • Wes Craven’s New Nightmare  –  The seventh in the franchise.
  • Principio y Fin  –  Based on the novel The Beginning and the End (the translated title of this film) by Nobel winner Naguib Mahfouz.
  • Woyzeck  –  Based on the 18th Century play by Georg Büchner that had been left incomplete when he died (see more here).
  • Once a Cop  –  Spin-off film from the Police Story franchise.
  • I Only Want You to Love Me  –  A television film and normally not listed.  Based on a story from the non-fiction collection Lebenslänglich – Protokolle aus der Haft.
  • That Night’s Wife  –  Based on the novel by Oscar Schisgall.
  • Clear and Present Danger  –  Based on the novel by Tom Clancy which was the fourth Jack Ryan book but the third film.
  • Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid  –  Based on the novel by Junghyo Ahn.
  • December Bride  –  Based on the novel by Sam Hanna Bell.
  • Asterix Conquers America  –  The seventh animated Asterix film but based on the 22nd book.
  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Die  –  Loosely based on the novel by Lars Saabye Christensen.
  • The Wedding Gift  –  A British television film and normally not included.  Based on the non-fiction book Diana’s Story by Deric Longden.
  • What Happened Was…  –  Tom Noonan directs, writes and stars in the adaptation of his own play.
  • Project A Part II  –  Sequel to Project A which is also included in this year.
  • White Badge  –  Based on the novel by Ahn Jung-hyo.
  • Second Best  –  Based on the novel by David Cook.
  • Nell  –  Adapted from the play Idioglossia by David Handley.  Good move to change the title.
  • Once Upon a Time in China II  –  The second in the film series.
  • Cradle Song  –  Adapted from the play by Gregori Martinez Sierra.
  • Legends of the Fall  –  Based on the novella by Jim Harrison.
  • Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses  –  Sequel to Leningrad Cowboys Go America.
  • Ciao, Professore!  –  Inspired by the book Lo speriamo che me la cavo.
  • Disclosure  –  Based on the Michael Crichton novel which came out only 10 months before the film did.  It was the dividing line among the Crichton novels for me apparently because I read all the ones before it but didn’t read this one or any of the ones after it.
  • The Shadow  –  Based on the character that was originally created for radio in 1930.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  –  Based on Mary Shelley’s fantastic novel which made my Top 200.  The most faithful of some 50 films adapted (in some manner) from the novel.
  • Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult  –  The third and final film in the series.
  • Foreign Student  –  Based on the novel by Philippe Labro.
  • White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf  –  Sequel to the 1991 film with only bare connections to the original London story.
  • Lassie  –  The 10th Lassie film, though the first since 1978.
  • Two Small Bodies  –  Based on the play by Neal Bell.
  • Swordsman III: The East is Red  –  The third in the series and at this point only loosely based on the novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.
  • A la mode  –  Based on the novel by Richard Morgieve,
  • The Swan Princess  –  Loosely adapted from Swan Lake.
  • Dr. Bethune  –  Based on a non-fiction book about the doctor.
  • Just Like a Woman  –  Based on the novel Geraldine, For the Love of a Transvestite.
  • The Beans of Egypt, Maine  –  Based on the novel by Carolyn Chute.
  • Angie  –  Based on the play Angie, I Says.
  • The Secret Rapture  –  David Hare adapts his own 1988 play.
  • Miracle on 34th Street  –  Based on the original 1947 classic.
  • Prince of Jutland  –  Though the story of Hamlet this goes back to the 12th century Saxo Grammaticus rather than Shakespeare.
  • Wicked City  –  Based on the first novel in the Wicked City series, Black Guard.
  • A Simple Twist of Fate  –  Film version of George Eliot’s Silas Marner.
  • My Girl 2  –  Sequel to the 1991 film.
  • Angels in the Outfield  –  Remake of the 1951 film though that one was originally about the Pirates and this is actually about the Angels.
  • Safe Passage  –  Based on the novel by Ellyn Bache.
  • The Princess and the Goblin  –  Animated version of George MacDonald’s 1872 novel.
  • A Million to Juan  –  Modern day film version of the Twain story “The Million Pound Note”.
  • The Cement Garden  –  Adaptation of Ian McEwan’s first novel.
  • Felidae  –  Animated adaptation of Akif Pirincci’s novel.
  • Thumbelina  –  Animated version of the Hans Christian Anderson tale.
  • D2: The Mighty Ducks  –  Sequel to the 1992 film.
  • The Trial  –  The 6th greatest novel ever written gets a new film version.
  • The Client  –  A much, much, much shittier source: John Grisham’s 1993 novel.
  • The Flintstones  –  The first primetime animated television series gets a live-action film.
  • Endgame  –  Not really a film but a filmed stage version directed by Samuel Beckett himself which makes sense since it’s his play.
  • Love Affair  –  Another remake of the 1939 film.
  • City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold  –  Sequel to the 1991 film that I saw multiple times in the theater while I didn’t see this until this project.
  • Cobb  –  Film version of Al Stump’s book on one of the greatest players and biggest assholes to ever play baseball.
  • Andre  –  Based on a book that was based on a true story.
  • The House of the Spirits  –  Great Isabel Allende book as is made clear here.
  • It Runs in the Family  –  Also called My Summer Story because it’s a sequel to A Christmas Story, adapted from the same Shepherd book.
  • The Scout  –  Derived from an article by Roger Angell.
  • Tom & Viv  –  Based on the play by Michael Hastings.
  • A Good Man in Africa  –  Adapted from William Boyd’s novel.
  • My Father the Hero  –  Remake of the 1991 French film with Depardieu in the same role.
  • The Little Rascals  –  Feature length film version of the gang that had been in shorts and on television.
  • The Next Karate Kid  –  Fourth film in the franchise, though with a new kid in the title role.
  • Paris, France  –  The only NC-17 film of the year, based on the novel by Tom Walmsley.
  • 3 Ninjas Kick Back  –  Some films are filmed first and released later.  This is the third film in the franchise but released before the second because, well, honestly, who cares?
  • The Road to Wellville  –  Terrible T. Coraghessan Boyle novel becomes terrible film.
  • Major League II  –  Sequel to the first film, most notable for using the big line from the trailer of the first film (“that ball wouldn’t have been out of a lot of parks”) that hadn’t actually been in the first film.
  • Mother’s Boys  –  Based on the novel by Bernard Taylor.
  • Body Snatchers  –  Third film adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel.
  • House Party 3  –  Third in the series.
  • The Puppet Masters  –  Adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s 1951 novel.
  • Timecop  –  Based on the Dark Horse comic series.
  • Richie Rich  –  First it was a Harvey Comics series then it was a Saturday morning cartoon then came this.
  • Necronomicon  –  Loosely pulls together several Lovecraft stories.
  • The Specialist  –  Loosely based on a series of novels by John Shirley.
  • Night of the Demons 2  –  Sequel to the 1988 film.
  • No Escape  –  Based on the novel The Penal Colony.
  • Intersection  –  Remake of the 1970 French film The Things of Life.
  • Beverly Hills Cop III  –  Third in the series.
  • Double Dragon  –  Based on the video game series.
  • Even Cowgirls Get the Blues  –  Adapted from the Tom Robbins novel that I hated so much I literally threw it out a window.
  • Street Fighter  –  Another video game adaptation.
  • Mixed Nuts  –  Remake of the French film Santa Claus is a Stinker.
  • Surviving the Game  –  Latest adaptation of the short story “The Most Dangerous Game”.
  • Police Academy: Mission to Moscow  –  The seventh and thankfully last film in the franchise.
  • Car 54, Where are You?  –  Adaptation of the 50’s television show.
  • North  –  Adaptation of the novel North: The Novel with Too Long a Subtitle by Alan Zweibel.
  • Death Wish V: The Face of Death  –  The last in the original series though there would be a remake in 2018.
  • Leprechaun 2  –  Nominal sequel to the 1993 film.
  • Exit to Eden  –  Adaptation of Anne Rice’s erotic novel, published under the name Anne Rampling.

Adaptations I Haven’t Seen

  • The Hawk  –  Based on the novel by Peter Ransley.
  • Mr. Write  –  Based on the play by Howard J. Morris.

The only film BOM lists for 1994 that I haven’t seen is Bulletproof Heart (now listed on BOM as Killer with the switch over to IMDbPro) which is original (and is eligible in 1995).  The Hawk is listed (in 1993) but it only made $8906.