May 2020


A Century of Film

Adapted Screenplay

It didn’t take long for screenwriters to realize that what had been successful in other mediums could be successful in film as well.  After all, what is probably the first great film, A Trip to the Moon, came from H.G. Wells before Melies visualized it. (more…)

A Century of Film

Original Screenplay

It’s a bit difficult to write the history of original screenplays on film.  First of all, it’s been hard to determine, a lot of times, over the years, if a film truly is original or not.  When the old oscars.org site existed they listed films by a source author which was really helpful for determining if something was adapted or not but not perfect as sometimes the “source” was just a screen story or an idea.  There were also occasions where they didn’t list anything, the same way that sometimes the IMDb or Wikipedia don’t list a source material and I end up considering something original until someone points out that it’s not. (more…)

Hulk

  • Director:  Ang Lee
  • Writer:  James Schamus  /  Michael France  /  John Turman
  • Producer:  Avi Arad  /  Larry Franco  /  Gale Anne Hurd  /  James Schamus
  • Stars:  Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Award Nominations:  VES
  • Length:  138 min
  • Genre:  Action  (Comic Book – Marvel)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG-13
  • Release Date:  19 June 2003  (#14 – 2003)
  • Box Office Gross:  $132.17 mil
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #108 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none

Perhaps the first thing to point out about Ang Lee’s Hulk is that it was the fourteenth highest grossing film of 2003 but it had the sixth largest opening weekend of 2003.  Hulk earned 47% of its total domestic gross in its opening weekend.  Today, that’s not a surprising number and it happens several times each year and several films with far higher opening weekends have had a higher percentage of their total gross come from that number (mostly comic book films and Twilight films).  But back in 2003, it was unheard of.  Indeed, up until 2009, it continued to be almost entirely unheard of (that was when a film with a higher opening weekend (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) finally broke Hulk’s record).  How bizarre was it that Hulk opened so well and then faltered so badly?  I haven’t finished my own spreadsheet so I can’t properly do a comparison like this and Box Office Mojo’s new site doesn’t allow for an easy determination for that answer, but before Hulk, no film with an opening weekend over $20 million had ever earned that much of its total gross in its opening weekend.  Given its massive opening weekend (the 16th largest ever at the time, larger than any pre-1997 film and larger than any pre-2001 film except Lost World and Phantom Menace), it was expected to do much more.  Of the 15 films above it, the next highest percentage was 39.8% and only two films were above 35% (a number, that if Hulk had reached, would have been a domestic gross of $177 mil instead of $132).  What all of that says (with interesting statistics) is that lots of people went to see Hulk initially but either they didn’t tell their friends to go see it or they didn’t go back to see it again.  And I suppose I can relate to that.  Of the 15 higher grossing opening weekends to that point, I saw 10 of them in the theater and six of those I saw multiple times including the other two comic book films on the list, both of them Marvel (relevant in a minute).  Hulk had been an interesting film but it wasn’t a compelling film and it didn’t draw me back to the theater like Spider-Man and X2 had. (more…)

A Century of Film


Film History Through 1929

I’m certainly not going to discuss all of film history through 1929.  That has been done in numerous books in far more detail than I could ever discuss here.  There are some important dates that should not be ignored like 1912 (the release of Richard III, the oldest surviving feature-length film), 1915 (the release of The Birth of a Nation), the formation of the major studios (remember that what you think of as major may not meet that definition – it’s the five studios that both distributed films and owned theaters to which they could distribute the films and those were Fox, MGM, Warners, Paramount and RKO Radio, the last of which began releasing films in 1929, thus cementing the status of the five majors) and the double whammy of the introduction of sound with The Jazz Singer and the inception of the Academy Awards. (more…)

Astonishing X-Men

(4 volumes or two larger volumes or one omnibus)

  • Author:  Joss Whedon
  • Artist:  John Cassaday
  • Published:  2004-2007
  • Publisher:  Marvel Comics
  • Pages:  656
  • First Line:  “Mommy is screaming.”
  • Last Lines:  “You take what you can get.  Cause it’s here, and then gone.”
  • Film Version:  none, although elements from the first volume were used in X-Men: The Last Stand
  • First Read:  Winter 2006 and then ongoing until it ended

Back in 2007, I wrote a piece entitled “Whedon, You Stupid Bastard” with the intention of sending it to one of a couple of websites that I occasionally contributed pieces to, but in the end, I didn’t.  But I still have the piece sitting on my computer and parts of the piece below are straight from that piece (the parts in red), written back when things in my life were a lot different. (more…)

Frankenstein

National Theatre Live

  • Director:  Danny Boyle
  • Writer:  Nick Dear  (from the novel by Mary Shelley)
  • Stars:  Jonny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris
  • Designer:  Mark Tildesley
  • Lights:  Bruno Poet
  • Music:  Underworld
  • Length:  118 min
  • Genre:  Horror

Back in 2011, Nick Dear wrote a stage version of Frankenstein that was produced at the National Theatre in London.  A quick digression: if travel ever lets up and you can move around again, put seeing a play at the National Theatre on your bucket list.  I saw A Little Night Music there in 1996 with Judi Dench in the lead and it’s one of the greatest stage experiences of my life.  End of digression.  Dear’s stage version (at least the seventh in history according to Wikipedia) is an interesting take on the story; for all intents and purposes it divides the story in two and for the first half, we get a limited third person (if this were prose) from the Creature’s viewpoint and in the second half, limited third person from Victor’s viewpoint.  So, it provides two plum roles but balances them off against each other, as we spend the first half watching the Creature’s emerging humanity and in the second half, Victor’s descent out of humanity.  It proved once again that the stage can be a new and interesting way to reinterpret classic works. (more…)

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am somewhat limited in what I can post.  First, I don’t have the books for some of my posts (if I can find an online version of The Pianist, I can do the 2002 post but I’m pretty stuck after that for Adapted Screenplay) and second, because I am lucky enough to still be working full-time, I don’t have unlimited time to work on the posts, which do take a very long time.  I am working on at least five different posts: the next category (Original Screenplay – which needs a lot of spreadsheet work), the next studio (Miramax – I won’t have some books, I may not have the films to review, but I want to get it done in case Weinstein dies because I want it posted before then so it doesn’t seem like a celebration of him), the next genre (Action – one of the more complete but still at least two weeks out I would say), a piece on the Golden Globes (working through categories one at a time to include interesting stuff you wouldn’t find anywhere else) and a piece on film history (held up as I try to watch a lot more movies from the period).  At the same time, I am trying to work through a lot of spreadsheet work, spending time with Thomas, watching things in the evening with Veronica, trying to look out for my mother, and of course, working. (more…)