Miles Raymond: Come on, man. You know. Hemingway, Sexton, Plath, Woolf. You can’t kill yourself before you’re even published! Jack: What about the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces? He committed suicide before he was published. Look how famous he is!

My Top 10

  1. Sideways
  2. A Very Long Engagement
  3. Closer
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  5. Finding Neverland
  6. Million Dollar Baby
  7. Shrek 2
  8. The Motorcycle Diaries
  9. Baadasssss!
  10. Spider-Man 2

note:  A solid Top 5 but a much weaker second 5.  The rest of the list is down below with none of them among the award nominees that are fully reviewed.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. Sideways  (800 pts)
  2. Finding Neverland  (144 pts)
  3. The Motorcycle Diaries  (120 pts)
  4. Before Sunset  (80 pts)
  5. Million Dollar Baby  (80 pts)

note:  Sideways sets a new nom and win record (11 each – the only clean sweep by any script, original or adapted) but comes up just barely short on Consensus percentage with 58.14% to L.A. Confidential‘s 58.45%.

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

  • Sideways
  • Before Sunset
  • Finding Neverland
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Motorcycle Diaries


  • Sideways
  • Before Sunset
  • Mean Girls
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Motorcycle Diaries

Golden Globes:

  • Sideways
  • Finding Neverland
  • Closer

Nominees that are Original:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Aviator


  • Sideways
  • Closer
  • The Chorus
  • Finding Neverland
  • The Motorcycle Diaries


  • Sideways
  • Finding Neverland

Nominees that are Original:   Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Aviator, Kinsey


  • Sideways


  • Sideways


  • Sideways


  • Sideways


  • Sideways


  • Sideways

My Top 10


sideways_ver3The Film:

I have already reviewed this film, of course, as one of the Best Picture nominees.  Was there ever a question it would be one of the nominees?  It is the ultimate critics film, all about what it is like to be a critic in real life.  It is magnificently written and bitterly funny with very real characters doing stupid things because that’s what those people would really do.  In some ways (still unpublished), it’s become harder to watch over time but in some ways (I’m much more in control of my life than Miles) it’s actually become much easier to watch.

SidewaysThe Source:

Sideways by Rex Pickett  (2004)

I first mentioned this book an eon ago (more precisely, back in August of 2008 in one of the earliest posts I did about film) as an unreadable book but a great film.  I will repeat one sentence from that piece: “Sideways is not even a particularly good novel and if I can’t read a book about flowers written by Susan Orlean, a beautifully talented writer who wrote a haunting, poetic book, I certainly wasn’t going to finish a mediocre novel about wine.”  Well, I finished it this time, but it wasn’t easy.  This is a terrible book and perhaps it can be seen in the fact that it was published in 2004.  My guess is it only got published because somehow Payne heard about it and bought the rights.  It’s boring, the characters are extremely unlikable and it’s got way too much to say about wine.

The Adaptation:

Almost all of the good stuff in the film comes from Payne and Taylor and not from the novel.  Yes, the basic plot of the story comes from the book and the outline for the characters (they are actually still kind of unlikable on screen but the performances help mute that).  But a lot of the specific actions are very different (for instance, Jack’s nose isn’t broken by being hit by a helmet, Miles tells Maya by accident) and almost all of the dialogue is different (especially the brilliant lines about writers who committed suicide – that scene at the top of the page is only in the film).  Payne and Taylor vastly improved the ending of Election, made a great film out of a mediocre novel in About Schmidt and turned this into magnificence.  I’m not looking forward to reading The Descendants.

The Credits:

directed by Alexander Payne.  based on the novel by Rex Pickett.  screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor.

Un long Dimanche de Fiançailles

avle-pThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the best of 2004.  It’s to France’s shame that they didn’t submit this film for the Oscars (they submitted the mediocre The Chorus instead) but it’s also to the Academy’s shame for having that set-up wherein only one film can be submitted by a country in a single year.  With most of the same cast and crew as Amelie, this shows how much range everyone involved had as instead of a whimsical romantic Comedy we get a movie about the utter brutality of a country at war and the way it punishes its own citizens, yet wrapped up in a romance that pulls at your heart.  It’s a reminder that while Audrey Tautou didn’t come to Hollywood for long (and when she did it was for the stupid Da Vinci Code) but she’s a brilliant French actress.  It’s also a reminder that it took me far too long to realize how brilliant Marion Cotillard is, as she’s magnificent in a small supporting role three years before she would win the Oscar.

The Source:

avleUn long dimanche de fiançailles by Sébastien Japrisot  (1991)

This is a very good, very moving novel about a woman whose fiancee has been killed in the war, or so it is reported to her.  But she refuses to believe that, even when she discovers the circumstances of his death (he was ordered to be thrown out into no man’s land for deliberately injuring himself to get out of the war).  Instead, she moves on, even as the years pass, convinced that he has survived the war and that she can find the truth about him.  It tells a great story, not only in the romance that it gives us (flashing back to their time together) but also as a meditation on what a country does to itself during war (especially a pointless war).

The Adaptation:

This is a very faithful adaptation.  Indeed, one of the very few notable things that is changed is that in the book Mathilde is from Brittany while in the film they are from southwest France.  There are a few other changes (Mathilde never actually meets Tina, only getting a letter from her after she has been executed; she lives with her parents in the book but the book mostly ignores them) but for the most part it is a very faithful adaptation and certainly doesn’t change the spirit of anything.

The Credits:

un film de Jean Píerre Jeunet.  d’ après le roman de Sebastien Japrisot (check spelling an accents on book).  Scénario: Jean Píerre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant.  Dialogues: Guillaume Laurent.


closerThe Film:

Nothing takes the suspense out of Boy Meets Girl like your knowledge that Boy Has Already Met Star”.  That’s Roger Ebert writing about the scene with Jude Law and Natalie Portman in Cold Mountain.  And in the context of the film he was right, even though I would have preferred Portman because I have always been more partial to brunettes than to blondes.  But there’s no such problem here.  Yes, Boy will meet Star, but it’s after he meets Girl and in this case, the film doesn’t structure things like that.  What’s more, he’s already entranced by Girl.  Everyone is.  She walks down the street, brilliantly to the tune of “The Blower’s Daughter” with the echoing phrase “Can’t take my eyes off of you” which could easily be the soundtrack inside Law’s head as he stares at her.  Everyone is staring.  She’s not just the sexiest thing on the street, she’s the sexiest thing on any street, with her short hair dyed red and the way she brings the outfit to life and enjoys the eye contact she makes with Law and the instantaneous flirtation.  Unfortunately, she’s also walking out into the street and that’s when she gets hit and the real story starts.

Law plays Dan in perhaps the best performance of his career.  Dan’s not sure what he wants but he seems to be constantly trying to upgrade to the next level.  He’s an obit writer and he seems to just fall into his relationship with Alice, played by Portman in one of the sexiest performances in film history.  Dan’s not quite sure what to make of Alice at times but then again, we’re not quite sure what to make of Alice at times and she will late in the film have a devastating scene that lays bare all her truths and we won’t know it until the end and the character to whom she bares them will never know it.

But this isn’t just the story of Dan and Alice, as messed up as their relationship is.  It’s also the story of Anna, the devastatingly beautiful photographer (she is Julia Roberts after all) that takes Dan’s picture when his book is published and eventually ends up in an affair with him because Dan can’t seem to be happy with what he has.  There is also Larry (Clive Owen), a doctor that Dan sucks in through a sex chat online, pretending to be Anna, which only ends up with Larry and Anna married.

All of this could be classified as people being horrible to each other and be a misery to watch if not for, first, the brilliant dialogue that Patrick Marber had written for his original play and which makes it to the screen pretty much intact, second, the fantastic direction from Mike Nichols that was a fantastic bounce-back from the career bottoming out of What Planet Are You From and third, the fantastic acting from all four of the stars which earned Oscar noms and Globe wins for Portman and Owen and still could be argued wasn’t properly appreciated.

Closer is an interesting title because we continue to look closer and still we struggle to understand.  These four get as close to each other physically as is possible and still can’t seem to fathom the emotions that the others are feeling.  We watch the film and find ourselves emotionally devastated but appreciating the powerhouse that we have just seen.  That becomes even more stated in the final scene when we finally learn that truth about a character that has been eluding not just us, but the other characters in the film and we wonder what the point of looking closer is when it just brings such pain.

closer-playThe Source:

Closer by Patrick Marber  (1997)

It would have been interesting to see the original stage play which also starred Clive Owen but had him in the role of Dan instead of Larry.  Would that make his scathing, sexually abrasive performance as Larry all the more impressive if we had seen him as the more under-stated Dan who seems to luck into relationships with two women that he can’t hope to understand?  It’s a really good play with some interesting technical work (the sex-chat scene, for instance, was projected on screens in the theater to give a feel for the actual chat).  The Broadway version with Rupert Graves, Anna Friel, Natasha Richardson and Ciaran Hinds ended up being nominated for the Tony for Best Play.

The Adaptation:

For the most part, almost everything in the film was in the original play.  The film opens things up, allows us to see things that are only discussed in the film (the entire opening shot, for instance, is just described in the hospital scene in the play).  The only actual difference is a major one and I want to say that Marber (who wrote the play and the script) decided he could make the news easier to discover without axing one of his characters.  So, the big truth revealed at the end of the film comes in the play through that character dying and the news getting back to the other characters making that reveal.  I rather like the way Marber and Nichols do it in the film instead and the poetic closure it gives the film.  I am, of course, a big fan of films that open and close in the same manner (see also Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire).

The Credits:

directed by mike nichols.  screenplay by patrick marber.  based on the play by patrick marber.
note:  Only the title is in the opening credits.  These are from the end credits.  And I’m officially done with listing that since so many films from this point forward are like that.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

hpThe Film:

I have actually already reviewed this film twice.  The first time was when I wrote about the film as the example film for my great director post for Alfonso Cuarón (well before he won two Oscars, I should note).  The second time was when I covered the film as part of my For Love of Film post on Harry Potter.  I talk about how it’s pretty much universally acclaimed as the best of the series (with one commenter who dissents).  That’s because Cuarón is such an amazingly gifted director who really brings a sure hand to it as well as the numerous cast additions (most notably David Thewlis as my, and many people’s, favorite Hogwarts teacher as well as Gary Oldman in the performance that opened up the second half of his film career).  It’s also one of the best films in a film year that is very tough to break into the Top 5 and yet it does.

hp-pThe Source:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling  (1999)

I have actually already written about the book as well having covered all of the books in my For Love of Books post.  This book was a big step up, longer than the first two and much more complex, especially in its use of characters.  It probably helped my own love for the series that I first read them right after this one was released in the States (when all three were on the New York Times best seller) and the super cute manager suggested I read them (before I went on to marry her).  I often, in fact, skip the first two books when I reread them (because they are aimed much more at kids) and start with this one instead.

The Adaptation:

Though there are some notable changes (the most notable being that in the book the Firebolt is given to Harry early on and is a plot point while in the film it instead makes for the brilliant final shot), almost everything in the book makes it to the screen intact (unlike all of the films after this, all of which have significant subplots that are dropped for the sake of time).  The ending of the film does feel a little bit rushed because we have to get in all of the information in the scene at the Shrieking Shack but it all fits together perfectly.

The Credits:

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.  Screenplay by Steve Kloves.  Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling.

Finding Neverland

fnThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the Best Picture nominees.  I addressed it as being typical Oscar bait, the heart-warming true story (with considerable alterations – see below) with really good performances, a stirring score and very solid writing and direction.  Miramax pushed it hard (it was originally supposed to be a 2003 release but they had to push it back so that Columbia would let them use scenes from the play) and it made the Oscar nominations.  It was interesting, after a nomination for Johnny being as Johnny as he could be, to see him get nominated for a much more standard Oscar bait role.  Also interesting to see Kate Winslet in a true story which kinds of meshes fantasy with reality given those same kind of scenes in Heavenly Creatures.

The Source:

The Man who was Peter Pan by Allan Knee  (1998)

While this play was actually produced in 1998, as far as I can tell it has never been published so I was unable to read it.  As such, I can’t tell what changes from reality (like that Barrie met the boys first in 1898 then Sylvia, that Sylvia’s husband didn’t die until 1907, four years after the play was published and that she didn’t die until 1910 – the film really compresses all the actions into a short period of time) were in the original play (I suspect most if not all).

The Adaptation:

Not being able to read it, I can’t really comment on what might be different from the original play.

The Credits:

directed by Marc Forster.  based upon the play “The Man who was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee.  screenplay by David Magee.

Million Dollar Baby

mdbThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the Oscar nominees but not as one of the five best films of the year (in fact at the moment I have it as #11).  It is a **** film but in the lower reaches of **** without the style (Aviator, Prisoner of Azkaban, House of Flying Daggers, Kill Bill) or depth (Very Long Engagement, Eternal Sunshine, Closer, Sideways) of the best films of the year and you’ll notice it doesn’t earn a Nighthawk nomination for Adapted Screenplay.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s got great acting, is well written and well directed.  It’s also interesting to go back after all this time and see how many people I didn’t know at the time that I know now (Mike Colter, Riki Lindhome, Anthony Mackie, Jay Baruchel, Michael Peña).  It is continuous proof that while I loathe boxing, it does make for great cinema.

ropeburnsThe Source:

“Million $$$ Baby” by F.X. O’Toole  (2000)

Technically the credit is to Rope Burns, the entire short story collection of which this is just one part but glancing through the other stories, I didn’t see anything in particular that was used in the film (though I didn’t look that closely).  The main plot of the story is straight from this title story anyway.  It’s a decently written story though not at all to my personal taste and I don’t need to explain the plot because it’s all there in the film.

The Adaptation:

Just because the plot is all in the film doesn’t mean the plot is all the film.  Almost every scene in the film between Eastwood and Swank is straight from the story, including much of the dialogue.  But the Freeman character and everything about him (and really the stuff with the priest as well) is not in the story (I supposed they could be from other stories in the book).  And it’s good that they are because they add more depth to the film than just the Swank story would have.

The Credits:

Directed and Produced by Clint Eastwood.  Screenplay by Paul Haggis.  Based upon stories from “Rope Burns” by F.X. O’Toole.

Shrek 2

shrek2The Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the nominees for Best Animated Film.  Though this is a better film than the first one (which won the Oscar) this one rightfully didn’t win the Oscar because it was up against The Incredibles.  This takes all the fun of the first film and ups the ante as a film by having much more in the way of character development and as entertainment by introducing Antonio Banderas as Puss.

shrekThe Source:

Shrek by William Steig  (1990)

Technically, according to the credits, this film is, like the first film, based on the book.  Of course, that’s not really true but then again the first film wasn’t all that much based on the book anyway.  I’ve already discussed the book here when I covered the first film and this film is really based on the first film which is also reviewed there.

The Adaptation:

This film doesn’t do anything that contradicts the first film but simply adds in back story (explaining why Fiona was in that castle to be rescued in the first place).  It’s only an adaptation in the sense that the characters already existed.

The Credits:

Directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon.  Based upon the book by William Steig.  Story by Andrew Adamson.  Screenplay by Andrew Adamson and Joe Stillman and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss.

diarios de motocicleta

motorcycle_diariesThe Film:

Our experiences shape us.  The vast majority of those in political power on the right are rich, either because they were raised rich or because they managed to pull themselves up.  The former often just don’t understand what it’s like to be poor and the latter think that because they pulled themselves up others should be able to as well.  Most of those people don’t care about the poor.  But other people do care for a variety of reasons.  In the early 50’s, a young middle-class intellectual medical student in Argentina decided to travel across South America with a friend (who mostly wanted to have an adventure and get laid) and do some work at a leper colony before finishing his studies.  But what started out as an adventure became a tour through the brutal poverty of the continent and a mission that would become imbued in the medical student’s mind.

There are often posters or trailers with a phrase that goes something “after that summer nothing would ever be the same again”.  That’s a tagline for a story but it’s true that after this journey, not only would nothing be the same for this young man, but for all of Latin America as well.  No matter whether you approve of his actions or deride them, there’s no question that Che Guevara was one of the most remarkable men of the 20th Century and one of the most important in Latin American history.  He was simply headed towards the life of a middle-class intellectual doctor until this trip.  This was the trip that made him realize what the world was like outside of his Buenos Aires home.

This is a quite good film that gives us a dramatization of that journey.  As our guide, playing Guevara, we have Gael Garcia Bernal, who had emerged over the previous few years in films like Amores Perros, Y tu mama tambien and El Crimen del Padre Amaro as one of the most talented actors Mexico had ever produced.  We also get great cinematography from Eric Gautier and wonderful music from Gustavo Santaolalla (who didn’t write the Oscar winning song for the film which is ironic since he would win the Oscar for Best Score in each of the following two years) and solid writing and direction from Walter Salles.  All of this combines to make what could have been a bland documentary type film that simply wants to show how important this was to Che, or a bit too adventurous of a film that just wants to focus on two boys having a good time and miss the social impact on Guevara and makes for a solid drama that really provides the full impact of the extreme poverty that he witnesses and makes us understand how it shapes him into the person he would become.

diariosThe Source:

Diarios de Motocicleta by Ernesto “Che” Guevara  (1993)

This diary was originally kept by Guevara on his journey in 1952.  It was left unpublished at the time of his death in 1967 and his daughter has noted that he did not intend for it to be published.  However, among the trove of works that were published after his death, it eventually found its way to publication.  It’s a solid work that really shows the changing thoughts of a young medical student as he first finds himself on the road to discovering the world of poverty and how it changes his outlook on the world.

The Adaptation:

Like so many books of this kind, there is very little dialogue in the actual book and so most of what we hear in the film is actually created by the filmmakers.  In addition, a number of smaller anecdotes aren’t in the original book though they certainly work within the spirit of the book.

The Credits:

dirección: walter salles.  guión: josé rivera.  basado en los libros “notes de viajo” por ernesto che guevara.


baadasssssThe Film:

I first saw Baadassss! because it had been nominated for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards.  At the time I had never seen a film by Melvin Van Peebles, even his seminal film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the making of which was the inspiration for this film.  I had never even seen a film by his son Mario, the star and director of this film (playing his father), even the famous New Jack City.  What can I say?  I’m a white guy from the suburbs and none of his films, films like New Jack City, Posse or Panther, had ever appealed to me.

After this film, of course, I would track down Sweetback and watch it.  It’s an important film in film history but far from a great one.  But what was so impressive was that his son, in making a film about his father’s film, had made a great film.  There have been a number of films made about the making of films.  Most of them are like White Hunter, Black Heart, and no matter how good the film is, the original film that it was about was better (which, of course, is why it was worth making a film about making the film).  But every now and then you get a film like this, where the original inspiration gets left behind a bit and something really incredible shines through.

Mario Van Peebles has a mixed reputation.  New Jack City was widely regarded but many of his other films have not done so well with the critics.  Even more, his place in culture is all but assured (just look at how he was talked about in Boondocks).  So it’s impressive how much he does while wearing assorted hats during this film.  He is intense and focused when playing his father, determined to succeed on his own and make a film that people really want to see even if no one wants to pay for it and definitely want to throw hurdles in the way of it getting made.  He would get money any way he could, he would go around the unions, he would put his own son in the film (and let him get laid at way too young an age).  Like his father, Van Peebles also produces, directs and writes the film and it has a visceral energy to it.  It is edited in a similar manner to the original film, with strange dissolves, psychedelic lights and a level of fun that seems out of place to how determined he is.

ssbThe Source:

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: A Guerilla Filmmaking Manifesto by Melvin Van Peebles  (1971, 2004)

This is a book that is interesting to a number of different groups.  First, there are the people who are interested in Blaxploitation and its rise.  The original film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song presaged the Blaxploitation genre and if you want to see how it developed, you not only need to see that film, but also need to read this book and see how it came about.  But aside from that, there are those who are interested in making their own films.  Van Peebles made this film entirely outside the regular film system and this describes both how and why he decided to do that and managed to succeed.  But most of all, for serious students of film history, this is a useful book for those same reasons.  It’s not a great film (unlike his son’s film about the making of it), but it is an important film.  This book contains the complete screenplay (which isn’t very long because of the way Van Peebles designed the film), as well as a long piece by him about the film, as well as several retrospective pieces from the time when his son made his film (it was reissued in 2004 with more essays).

The Adaptation:

When Mario went to make his film, he wasn’t remaking his father’s film (though, there is a moment where his father thinks that’s what he is asking to do).  But it does use portions of the original film, and the latter film follows the script from the original (it’s certainly interesting to watch the two films back to back and see how well Mario fits into his father’s footsteps).  But there is the whole process of making the film, explained in the essays, that Mario follows.  Almost all of what is in the film comes from somewhere in this book, either the process of making the film (explained by Melvin), the original film itself (in the script) or in Mario’s memories of his part in making the film (explained by Mario).

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Mario Van Peebles.  Based on the book Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song by Melvin Van Peebles.  Screenplay by Mario Van Peebles & Dennis Haggerty.

Spider-Man 2

spider_man_two_ver4The Film:

I knew I was in great shape with this film from the opening seconds, even before I got to Michael Chabon’s name in the credits.  It was that whole opening credits sequence, with fantastic art doing a brilliant job summing up what had happened in the first film, reminding me of what Superman II had done, except that this film was fully embracing the comic book notion by giving us great comic book art (from Alex Ross, one of the greatest artists to ever work in the field).  The first film had been fantastic, rivaling the first Batman film as the best comic book film made so far, but this film would instantly take things to another level.  (Actually I knew I was in good hands from the brilliant trailer).

This is the Peter Parker from the post-Ditko days in the comic books.  He’s smart, he’s handsome, he’s gifted with amazing powers.  But he can’t seem to make these works together.  The girl he loves is going after other men because Peter can’t commit to a life with her because of his life as Spider-Man.  His studies are falling apart because he can’t manage his time.  He finds men that he looks up to (something that has been missing with dead parents and uncle) and they continually fail him and he has to face off against them.  The first film had a bit much to do getting in the origin and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin was a bit cartoonish.  This film has no problem like that.  We can dive right into the story (with Peter distracted by MJ when he’s supposed to be working) and with Alfred Molina we have a villain who is absolutely up to par.

This film manages to balance all the kind of things that always made Spider-Man such a fantastic comic.  It’s got the drama between the characters.  It’s got a great villain who is brushed in shades of gray (that’s why he only ranked at #10 on this list because he wasn’t evil enough).  It’s got humor (most notably the use of Bruce Campbell and the scenes with J.K. Simmons (“Caviar?  Who are we expecting, the czar?”)).  It’s got a hell of a lot of action with two fantastic fight scenes with Doc Ock, the second one also leading to the suspense on the subway.

And then there is the ending.  So much of a film can rely on the ending.  I saw this film with Veronica, the first time she left Thomas alone (he was a little less than two weeks old and my parents watched him for our first movie together after his birth) and we were riveted at the end and we get that fantastic moment that shows what MJ always was about in the comics as she realizes who he is and what he needs to do and gives us that great line to go out on: “Go get ’em, Tiger.”

afThe Source:

Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko  (1963)

Spider-Man is a great character, of course, and he had already been adapted for television and this was the second film.  There is the long history of the comic character (at times running in as many five series at the same time), plus the Ultimate Spider-Man comic that rebooted things for the present (and provides some of the basis although more of that is in the Garfield films).

The Adaptation:

There is no specific storyline used in this film but it takes elements from a number of different stories.  It’s notable that the first time Spider-Man fought Doc Ock way back in Amazing Spider-Man #3, he lost and almost quit.  In Amazing Spider-Man #12 he was defeated by Doc Ock and Ock took his mask.  The famous image of him taking off the mask and throwing it away that is shown in the film is from Amazing Spider-Man #50.  The film also gives potential for more storylines (the Harry storyline does get used in the third film) including Curt Conners (who is the Lizard in the comics and would be used in the first Garfield film) and Man-Wolf (Jameson’s son).  Most importantly, the film makes great use of the characters as they had been developed over the years.

The Credits:

Directed by Sam Raimi.  Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  Screen Story by Alfred Gough & Miler Millar and Michael Chabon.  Screenplay by Alvin Sargent.

Consensus Nominee

Before Sunset

before_sunsetThe Film:

I was not a fan of Before Sunrise as can be seen below.  It wasn’t a bad film, just a rather banal one and had the misfortune of starring Ethan Hawke not long after Reality Bites, the film that turned me firmly against him as an actor and having some crossover with my life.  Then came this sequel.  In the time between I had come to know more about the films of Richard Linklater (and not think much of them), my own life had changed considerably (which colored my perception of the film) and the film had received a number of plaudits for its writing, even earning an Oscar nomination over such far superior scripts as A Very Long Engagement and Closer.  So none of that was exactly going to win me over.  But what about the film itself?

There are some personal things that no one can overcome when reacting to art.  In my novel in your most frail gesture, which is still unpublished (because apparently it’s my destiny to be an unpublished writer) but which was completed in June of 2003, I have a writer at a bookstore giving a reading and the woman who is the real version of the fictional one in his novel, shows up at the reading.  So I should have been impressed that a similar scene starts this film except that I don’t find Ethan Hawke believable for one second as a writer and I felt like my own idea was dead because of the scene.  Don’t try to argue that Hawke really is a published writer because a scene I thought of including in the novel but didn’t was a real scene where he gave a reading at Stacy’s (the same store used in the novel) to a bunch of teen girls while upstairs the manager read the book to the staff and they howled at how bad it was.  He’s a published writer for the same reasons lots of people are: because he was already famous.

So we begin with a scene that was basically the same as the one I had already written.  But my writer had grown from his experience and was working his way through things and not just rehashing his life into fiction.  These two characters, who had a banal conversation in the first film, merely meet up and continue it, nine years later, but in an even more gorgeous city.

So you can feel free to count any of those things against this review.  Erik hates Ethan Hawke (true – but I can admit it when he’s good like in Tape or really good like in Boyhood – both films also directed by Linklater).  Erik doesn’t like Linklater.  Erik was bitter that his novel was unpublished and the idea made it to the screen first.  All of these things are true.  But I also think the story isn’t particularly interesting – two not very interesting people, played by not very good actors (Delpy is good in Europa, Europa and White but not so much in English).  But somehow people think there’s great writing in these films so wait until the 2013 post and we can do this all over again.

before_sunriseThe Source:

Before Sunrise, Directed by Richard Linklater.  Written by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan  (1995)

Given the longer video release times in the 90s than today and my intense dislike of Ethan Hawke after Reality Bites (see the review here), I think it’s unlikely that I had seen this film before I went to Vienna in January of 1996.  As I think about it, I can say it with almost near certainty since what I knew about Vienna before going there came from having watched The Third Man and from the fiction of John Irving.  So, if anything, my reaction to this film, other than that I pretty much loathe Ethan Hawke (as an actor and a “writer” though cheating on Uma Thurman doesn’t win me over on him as a person either), would have been colored by the fact that I had already spent a week in Vienna in the company of a young woman that I was more than half in love with (not to mention that I was there partially to escape the pain of a young woman I was much more than half in love with and my cratering relationship with a young woman who I wasn’t nearly in love with as I should have been).

In the 2003 post, I discussed the banality of comic books.  In this film we have the banality of youth.  Two reasonably attractive young people meet on a train to Vienna.  He’s headed to the airport to catch a flight back to the States (ironically, I cashed in my flight back from Vienna because I wanted to take the train back to London instead) and she’s connecting on to Paris.  They get off together and don’t quite manage to get off together.  They talk through the night and in the end, he gets on his flight.  Gene Siskel had his famous mantra about whether or not a film was as interesting as the same two actors having dinner.  That’s kind of what this film is, except instead of dinner, we get an hour and a half of their ramblings counter-acted by the gorgeous sights of Vienna, one of the most fantastic cities in the entire world.  It was a decent enough film and the kind of film I absolutely knew I could have written but I was also 21 at the time and if you’re writing a film a 21 year old could have written perhaps it’s not your best work.

The Adaptation:

This story continues nine years later with the same characters.  It doesn’t do anything to counteract what we saw with the characters in the first film except, with Hawke and Delpy now contributing, it makes the dialogue even more banal.

The Credits:

Directed by Richard Linklater.  Screenplay by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke.  Story by Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan.  Based on Characters Created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan.

WGA Nominee

Mean Girls

mean_girlsThe Film:

We live in a world of unrestrained masculinity, when a cowardly scumbag has just tried to burn democracy down to show how manly he is and from which we have just barely escaped.  Given the kind of damage men like him have done over the course of history it is a little surprising to be reminded that at some levels, female teenagers have a level of bitterness and pettiness that can rival anyone.  Mean Girls is a satire, of course, and designed to take things and push them just a little beyond reality to make us laugh.  But it is satire and not parody.  It doesn’t have to push things that far beyond reality because reality is already dangerously close to this.

Mean Girls is the story of Cady Heron, a teen who is being put into public school for the first time after years of being home schooled by her parents while living in Africa.  Cady is played by Lindsey Lohan who was just emerging from her child star phase and seemed destined for stardom and the escape from the tragedies such stars often have, even being directed again by Mark Waters who had directed her the year before in Freaky Friday but sadly, in spite of her talent, Lohan ended up as one of the most prominent cases of self-destruction.  Cady is unused to other females her age.  She is pretty enough to join the most popular clique but at first is definitely not cruel enough.  She’s simply a nice person and what she undergoes becomes partly an experiment and partly an example of what Vonnegut once wrote: “We are who we pretend to be so we should be careful who we pretend to be.”  In trying to expose the clique for the heartless bitches they are she just becomes another one of them.

Mean Girls is a smart, funny film, well-written by Tina Fey who also plays Cady’s most heart-felt teacher and one of the two roles in the film that feels like an actual genuine adult (the other is Tim Meadows in his best film role as the beleaguered principal).  But Mean Girls falls considerably short of a film like Heathers and it makes me wonder if it’s because it lacks Winona Ryder and wasn’t made when I was actually a teenager or because it really does fall short and it’s not just my subjective pull towards a film that meant so much to me from such an early age.  I think it actually does fall short.  It rises to a solid *** but can’t quite make the leap and I think it’s first, because it doesn’t quite have the same cutting edge of satire and second, because it peters out when it goes for a more traditional happy ending (something Heathers absolutely didn’t do).

queenbeesThe Source:

Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman  (2002)

I would think this would be a very useful book.  I don’t happen to have a daughter, of course, and my son is autistic so much of it is irrelevant to me.  But Wiseman has good advice about interacting with your teen.

The Adaptation:

I’m impressed, first, that Fey even read the book, since her first daughter wouldn’t be born until over a year after the film came out, second, that she thought it would make a good film (and it did) and third, that she would actually give screen credit to the book when it would have been easy enough to call this an original screenplay since it’s only the basic concepts of how groups of teen females interact with each other, not a plot or dialogue, that come from the book.  But she did, she did and she did and that’s why I read it.

The Credits:

Directed by Mark Waters.  Based on the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman.  Screenplay by Tina Fey.

BAFTA Nominee

Les Choristes

chorusThe Film:

An old man returns to France for his mother’s funeral.  Afterwards he is visited by a man he knew as a child.  It turns out they both went to a boarding school for disciplinary problems and that they had an inspirational teacher.  At this point, who didn’t have an inspirational teacher?  I admit that Dead Poets Society hit home for me when it first came out, but that’s partially because I was a teenager and because at the time I had my own inspirational teacher, still one of the most influential people on how my life turned out aside from my family.  But, after a glut of films about inspirational teachers, many of them based on real life (which this film also is, sort-of), the idea has gotten tiring.

Of course the old men are the framing device, not the story, and it’s all about remembering how this man came into their school, found a way to reach them with music and inspired all of them to do more with their lives.  This is a full review, not a capsule like I write below, so you would think I could write more, but why bother?  It’s based on a 1945 French film (see below) and that film, while having kind of a Hollywood type story, still always felt like a French film in the way it was shot and the dialogue.  Aside from the fact that this film literally is in French, it feels like it could have been a carbon made copy of any of the Hollywood versions of the story of the inspirational teacher.

The real problem with this film is not that it’s so forgettable or that it’s so boring, though both of them are pretty serious sins when it comes to films.  I find it much easier to deal with terrible films that are memorable than decent films that are forgettable.  No, the bigger problem is that the BAFTA voters somehow thought the cliches of this film were worth nominating over Prisoner of Azkaban and A Very Long Engagement.  What’s more, multiple groups nominated it for Best Foreign Film, including the Oscars, who decided it was more worthy of that nomination than House of Flying Daggers was.  These kind of films are a dime a dozen and they can be forgotten but I can’t forget them if I have to rewatch them for such a project.  Do better, voters.

Cage_of_NightingalesThe Source:

La cage aux rossignols scenario de Noël-Noël et René Wheeler, D’après un traitement de G. Chaperot et R. Wheeler, Adaptation et dialogue de Noël-Noël, Une réalisation de Jean Dréville

Oh, the complications the Oscars used to have.  This film, better known as A Cage of Nightingales, is a 1945 French film that was Oscar nominated two years later (no longer allowed) for its “story”, a screen category that barely exists anymore and which hasn’t been a separate Oscar category since 1955 and, honestly, good riddance, because it just complicated all the writing awards.

Those old rules being part of the film is appropriate since this is an old-style film, although the concept, which is tired now, was much more interesting then and the film at least provides an interesting spin on it.  It’s the old story, which if it wasn’t tired then, at least wasn’t new either, because Goodbye Mr. Chips had come out in 1939, is that of a teacher who gets through to his kids.  In later years, in films like Dead Poets Society, Stand & Deliver, Lean on Me and Dangerous Minds (and numerous other examples – those are the first ones that sprung to mind) you can fill in the blanks as to what kind of students are involved and what the subject is.  Part of what makes this film a little more original (at least back in 1945) is that the kids involved are actually juvenile delinquents living in a boarding school.  Added to that, it’s music that is being used to get through to the kids.  We also get a bit of a different take on how to approach the story in the first place with a novelist trying to sell the story (to no avail) and then getting it published in a newspaper.

Honestly, it’s amazing that this film got made at all, coming as it did in France at the tail end of the war.  But it was the kind of uplifting story they needed at the time and it’s done fairly well and it’s really far superior to the remake.

The Adaptation:

Apparently Barratier wanted to make a film that made him feel like when he was a child (he remembered seeing the original as a kid) and wanted something to do with music, so he remade the original film.  His script wasn’t working so he got someone to work on it with him.  You actually could possibly watch this film and never really see the original in it, which had a different kind of framing device and a more interesting style.


un film de Christophe Barratier.  scénario de Christophe Barratier.  D’après le Film La cage aux rossignols, realisé par Jean Dreville, dialogues Noel-Noel, adaptation René Wheeler at Noel-Noel, scénario Georges Chaperot et René Wheeler.  adaptation et dialogues Philippe Lopes Curaval, Christophe Barratier.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

note:  As with every year from 1989 to 2005, you can find more about every film I saw in the theater on the Nighthawk Awards.
note:  This list is much much longer than the 2003 list.

  • The Manchurian Candidate  –  Not up to the level of the original but a more than solid remake with a great performance by Meryl Streep.
  • Bright Young Things  –  Stephen Fry slyly adapts Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies with a fantastic young cast years before they became better known (Tennant, Sheen, McAvoy).  Except for Merchant, the rest of these films are all high ***.
  • Being Julia  –  Annette Bening again lost the Oscar to Swank, this time in an adaptation of one of Somerset Maugham’s lesser known novels (Theatre).
  • Ella Enchanted  –  Based on the kids novel by Gail Carson Levine (which was a Newbury Honor book) which is a clever retelling of Cinderella, it really is the first time Anne Hathaway shines on film.
  • The Woodsman  –  Kevin Bacon is really good in this film based on the play by Stephen Fechter.
  • Vanity Fair  –  The original Thackerey novel is one of the over-rated “classics” but the film by Mira Nair and starring Reese Witherspoon is quite good.
  • Ocean’s Twelve  –  Sequel to the 2001 hit isn’t as good and doesn’t have as much charm but slides low onto this list.
  • The Ladykillers  –  This remake of the Ealing classic probably would have been considered a fun, odd film if not for the inevitable comparisons to the original (which was brilliant).  The weakest Coen Brothers film and it still makes my list.
  • We Don’t Live Here Anymore  –  Strong Drama based on two short stories by Andre Dubus.
  • The Merchant of Venice  –  Low ***.5 for this film version of Shakespeare’s least funny Comedy.
  • Friday Night Lights  –  Solid film with solid writing but I’m glad I don’t count the USC Scripter Award for the awards up above because a book about high school football in Texas is very very low on my list of things I want to read.

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

note:  The adaptations go up for the second straight year (go up considerably – by 16 films).

  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence  –  The one ***.5 film on this part of the list.  Solid sequel to the original but the writing isn’t the strength.
  • Young Adam  –  If you don’t see Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton in an erotic Drama then you lack the vision of David Mackenzie.  Based on the novel by Alexander Trocchi.  High ***.
  • Ned Kelly  –  I was surprised and disappointed that this wasn’t based on the acclaimed novel The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey but having seen the film that was adapted from that novel, this film was better off being based on Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe.  The best film version of the famous Australian outlaw.
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events  –  The later Netflix series would better flesh out the books, giving them their just due but this film deserves solid credit for a fun performance from Jim Carrey, great makeup, a magnificent score and a performance from Emily Browning that did not at all prepare me for her later much more erotic work.
  • Zelary  –  Czech Romantic Drama that earned an Oscar nomination for Foreign Film in 2003.  Based on the novel by Kveta Legatova.
  • The Seagull’s Laughter  –  The 2001 Oscar submission from Iceland, a Drama based on the novel by Kristin Marja Baldursdottir.
  • Carandiru  –  Brazilian Drama from former Oscar nominee Hector Babenco based on the book by Drauzio Varella.
  • The Bourne Supremacy  –  Paul Greengrass takes over the series and this installment is solid but in no way will prepare for the greatness of the next film.
  • Hellboy  –  Mike Mignola’s visionary comic book hero gets the proper film treatment from Guillermo del Toro with Ron Perlman as the title character.
  • The Twilight Samurai  –  A 2003 Oscar Foreign Film nominee from Japan based on a short story by Shuhei Fujisawa.
  • Zatoichi  –  Another Japanese samurai film.  This one is the 27th film in the series but the first since 1989.
  • Springtime in a Small Town  –  Chinese Drama that’s a remake of the 1948 film.
  • P.S.  –  One of two 2004 films about resurrected loves, this is the one that doesn’t star a creepy kid (that’s Birth) as the resurrectee and the one that’s adapted (from a novel by Helen Schulman).
  • Orient-Express  –  The Romanian Oscar submission for 2004 based on the novel by Tudor Teodorescu-Braniste.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants Movie  –  When this film version of the television show came out my friend Tavis assured me it was best watched while stoned but I don’t smoke pot.  Still, it was fairly solid and entertaining unlike the horrible, horrible 2015 film which I had to endure in the theater.
  • Alfie  –  Jude Law clearly wants to be Michael Caine which would be more obvious three years later when he starred in the remake of Sleuth.  Not bad but not as good as the original.  The Mick Jagger original song won the Oscar but failed to earn an Oscar nomination, kicking off a stretch of years where that would happen.
  • The Polar Express  –  The film is solid enough (my son loves it but because of what it expresses and because of an actual ride connected to it in Massachusetts and a literal train ride we went on one year in Rhode Island which was nice and fun but stressful as well) but count me among the people who find the process makes the characters look a bit creepy.  Zemeckis would clearly love this though, making more films like this.  Based on the picture book which is now considered a classic.
  • Kaena: The Prophecy  –  Started as a video game which makes it adapted.  Not bad French-Canadian computer animated film but was a massive bomb with audiences and critics.  We move here to mid ***.
  • The Notebook  –  I’ve never read the novel by Nicholas Sparks but I feel safe saying it’s complete crap.  The film is solid enough because of the acting but it’s beloved because people watch the super sexy scene in the rain and imagine themselves either fucking Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams depending on their gender and/or orientation and that’s why people are so obsessed with this film and don’t you try to deny it.  You know you want to be fucking Gosling or McAdams or both.
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason  –  Sequel to the big hit is mainly known for the scene where Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fight in a fountain but it’s fairly entertaining and not bad.
  • Stage Beauty  –  Interesting Drama with Billy Crudup and Claire Danes about the point in British stage history when the rule disallowing women was lifted.  Based on the play by Jeffrey Hatcher.
  • The Door in the Floor  –  John Irving adaptations have been all over the map in terms of quality.  This one just uses the first third of A Widow for One Year and renames it after the picture book being drawn by the father in the story.  I’m surprised to realize, looking at the cast list, that the daughter is played by a very young Elle Fanning (just her third film role).
  • Olga  –  Brazilian Historical Drama (their Oscar submission) based on a biography of the real Olga Benario Prestes.
  • Woman Thou Art Loosed  –  Based on a self-help book and somehow not a bad film although we are now down to low ***.
  • Zhou Yu’s Train  –  Chinese drama based on the novella by Bei Cun and I have to remind myself that Zhou Yu is the character and not the author or the director and that it’s okay for his name to be in the title like that.
  • The Keys to the House  –  Italian Drama based on the novel by Giuseppe Pontiggia.
  • Untold Scandal  –  South Korean adaptation of Les liasons dangereuses.
  • Red Lights  –  French Crime film based on the novel by Georges Simenon.
  • Strayed  –  French Drama from Andre Techine based on the novel The Boy with Grey Eyes by Gilles Perrault.
  • I’m Not Scared  –  Italian Drama based on the novel by Niccolo Ammaniti.
  • Criminal  –  American remake of the Argentine film Nine Queens.
  • The Phantom of the Opera  –  I’m somewhat torn on this.  I’ve actually never been able to bring myself to see it again since opening weekend at the theater where it infuriated me so much I literally screamed coming out of the theater.  I am one of the devoted fans of the original stage production and have seen it with Michael Crawford.  And I remember parts of this as being good (great costumes and sets, good supporting performance from Minnie Driver, solid singing from Emmy Rossum who was suitably gorgeous in a way that original stage star Sarah Brightman never was) but Patrick Wilson was a milksop and Gerard Butler was fucking awful.  What’s more, in the stage production, Christine pulls Raoul back because he’ll probably get killed in a duel with the Phantom.  In this film, Raoul actually beats the Phantom and can end all the killing right then and there and it makes no sense for her to pull him back at that point.  And Joel Schumacher was a shitty, shitty director and he fucked this up.  When I first started tracking all awards, this was the film that made me give up on the Satellites with their nomination for Butler long before the film was even released showing that they clearly went on trying to be ahead of the game and not the actual film itself.
  • The Far Side of the Moon  –  Canada’s Oscar submission, based on the play by Robert Lepage.
  • A Home at the End of the World  –  Colin Farrell stars in the Drama based on the novel by Michael Cunningham.  This film is a far cry from The Hours but so was the book.
  • The Dreamers  –  It looks nice and it was a “holy shit” moment the first time I saw Eva Green.  But the film is a narrative mess and Michael Pitt (the answer to the question “What if Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t act?”) is just terrible.  Based on the novel The Holy Innocents by Gilbert Adair.  We’ve dropped to **.5.
  • Thérèse: The Story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux  –  Biopic based on the autobiography.
  • Around the World in 80 Days  –  I’ve knocked the 1956 film for people’s incorrect assumptions about the book (a book I love) based on watching that film but at least that film had some fidelity to the book unlike this one.  Not bad, just silly.
  • Enduring Love  –  Based on an Ian McEwan novel so you know it won’t be fun but this film, directed by Roger Michell, is just a bit too unbearable to even qualify as good.
  • Pornography  –  Polish World War II Drama based on the novel by Witold Gombrowicz.
  • The Last Tunnel  –  Canadian Crime film based on the autobiography of Marcel Talon.  Now we’re into mid **.5.
  • The Reckoning  –  British Medieval Mystery based on the play Morality Play by Barry Unsworth.
  • Mind Game  –  Experimental Japanese film based on the Manga.
  • Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen  –  Lindsey Lohan Comedy based on the novel by Dyan Sheldon.
  • Shall We Dance  –  U.S. remake of the 1996 Japanese film.  The best thing about it is the cover “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel that would be used so well in the finale of Scrubs a few years later.
  • The Mudge Boy  –  Michael Burke expands his own short film Fishbelly White.
  • The Snow Walker  –  Canadian Drama based on a short story by Farley Mowat.
  • Swades  –  Acclaimed Indian film which I found rather dull.  Inspired by a previous film, a novel and a television series.
  • The Child I Never Was  –  German True Crime film based on the book by Paul Moor about a serial killer.
  • Secret Window  –  Stephen King’s first novella collection, Different Seasons, produced two great films and a very good one.  His second, Four Past Midnight, produced this mediocre film and a television movie.
  • The Day After Tomorrow  –  Watch a non-fiction book (The Coming Global Superstorm) become a disaster film.  We drop to low **.5.
  • Clifford’s Really Big Movie  –  A sequel to the beloved kids show and a conclusion as well as John Ritter, the voice of Clifford, died before the film came out and they stopped making the show.
  • Alien vs Predator  –  The two franchises were first hinted at being combined in a 1989 comic (before Predator even had a sequel) and then a bigger hint came in Predator 2 in 1990 and then this finally came out.  Still better than almost all other Predator films.
  • I, Robot  –  Very loosely derived from Asimov’s short story collection (if you thought it was a novel then you’ve never read it).
  • The Saddest Music in the World  –  Kazuo Ishiguro wrote a script and then Guy Maddin used that script to write this film.  Given how talented Ishiguro is maybe they should have just made the original script.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie  –  A film version of the Manga.  There will sadly be more and more of these.
  • Teacher’s Pet  –  For the third time (after Doug’s 1st Movie and Recess), Disney releases a film version of one of their animated shows.  Thankfully they seem to have stopped that nonsense.
  • Undertow  –  This is listed as adapted in my spreadsheet with no obvious reason.  I think the less obvious one is that the old listed it that way.  The story is by “Lingard Jervey” and if that sounds like a made-up name that’s because it is and Jervey is really Terrence Malick.  This article explains how that happened.
  • Close Your Eyes  –  Suspense film based on the novel Doctor Sleep by Madison Smartt Bell.
  • Man on Fire  –  Denzel Action film based on the novel by A.J. Quinnell which had already been made into a film in 1987 (which I also rate at a 52).
  • A Slipping-Down Life  –  Romance with Guy Pearce and Lili Taylor based on the novel by Anne Tyler.
  • Machine Gun Molly  –  Canadian Crime film based on the non-fiction book about Monica Proietti.
  • Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorh : Giant Monsters All-Out Attack  –  Let’s get all the Toho monsters together in one battle.  The 26th Godzilla film and 3rd Millennium film.
  • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement  –  The future Catwoman is romanced by the future Steve Trevor.  Do Bruce and Diana know about this?  Silly but not quite bad enough to be bad.
  • Straight-Jacket  –  Now we’ve reached bad films (**).  Annoying Comedy written and directed by Richard Day, based on his play.
  • Barbershop 2: Back in Business  –  Sequel isn’t as funny as the original and the original wasn’t all that funny.
  • The Grudge  –  Just because you get the original Japanese director to remake his own film in the States doesn’t mean it will be good.
  • Dawn of the Dead  –  Now we’re remaking sequels.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick  –  Sequel to Pitch Black.  Because, you know, who can get enough of Vin Diesel “acting”.
  • I Am David  –  Down to mid ** with this Drama based on the novel by Anne Holm.
  • Alexander  –  I was excited to go see this in the theater and then the film itself proved me very wrong and so I haven’t seen it since.  Farrell is just awful and Stone has lost it.  Based somewhat on the non-fiction book by Robin Lane Fox.  Good supporting performances from Kilmer and Angelina as Alexander’s parents.
  • Anatomy 2  –  German Suspense sequel.
  • Garfield: The Movie  –  The beloved (but not to me) comic strip character gets a feature film.  Not as awful as it could have been.
  • A Love Song for Bobby Long  –  Based on the novel Off Magazine Street and with a good performance from ScarJo.  I’m betting, in those days before Under the Skin that there was a lot of pausing on the moment where she is walked in on while getting dressed and a lot of squinting just to see if you really see her breasts.
  • Troy  –  Similar to Alexander.  Good production values.  Good supporting performance (Sean Bean as Odysseus who remains my visual image when reading books like Song of Achilles).  Saw it in the theater and haven’t seen it since.  Formerly talented director.  Similar setting.  But while Farrell was bad in Alexander and Jared Leto was worse, they weren’t nearly as bad as Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom or Diane Kruger.  What’s more, Alexander was interesting history whereas, I grew up with these myths.  And Petersen idiotically decided to remove the myths from the film which just makes the characters idiots (it’s one thing when you cause a war by running off with someone’s wife and another thing when you do that because she was literally promised to you by the goddess of love).  Based on the Iliad, except for, you know, removing the gods.
  • Flight of the Phoenix  –  The 1965 film (both based on the novel) wasn’t great but it was much better than this.
  • Dans une galaxie pres de chez vous  –  French Canadian film based on the television series.
  • Benji: Off the Leash!  –  Do we need more Benji films?  No.  Down to low **.
  • The Passion of the Christ  –  Because isn’t extreme violence and anti-semitism why everyone reads The Bible?
  • Fat Albert  –  I never particularly cared for the cartoon so it’s not a shock to me the live action version is pretty bad.
  • Elvis Gratton XXX  –  The third Elvis Gratton film.
  • Walking Tall  –  The original 1973 film was very loosely based on real life but after two sequels and this remake even “loosely” is too much.
  • Van Helsing  –  This mash-up of various Universal monsters was supposed to kick-start a new franchise but didn’t because it sucked.  I saw it in the theaters and haven’t seen it since.  It wastes Kate Beckinsale in black leather and makes terrible use of David Wenham.
  • Napoleon Dynamite  –  An expansion of a short film from writer-director Jared Hess.  Desperately unfunny.  We had heard good things about this film, even from people we trust but Veronica and I just hated it.  Hated it.
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.  –  The 28th film and the 5th in the Millennium series.  We’re down to *.5 films now.
  • Meet the Fockers  –  I don’t like uncomfortable Comedy and this was as uncomfortable as it gets.  Much worse than the original and I hadn’t liked that.
  • The Stepford Wives  –  Terrible remake of a film that wasn’t very good to begin with.
  • Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights  –  So thoroughly forgotten in my brain that I looked at the poster and said “Wait.  Diego Luna and Romola Garai are the stars of this?”
  • Blade: Trinity  –  With Guillermo del Toro gone this series sank badly and it was over-rated to begin with.  Down to mid *.5.
  • Starsky & Hutch  –  Wilson and Stiller in a remake of a television show.  Why would anyone want to make this film?
  • The Big Bounce  –  More Owen Wilson, another re-make, this time of the 1969 film which had been adapted from what, at the time, was an unpublished Elmore Leonard novel.
  • Pride & Prejudice  –  Terrible (low *.5) version of the Austen novel that updates it to modern-day Provo.
  • Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London  –  Good child television actor fails to make transition to film stardom.  In other news, water is wet.  Sequel to a film that didn’t need one.
  • Exorcist: The Beginning  –  Paul Schrader’s prequel to The Exorcist was becoming such a mess that the studio dropped it and allowed a much, much worse director (Renny Harlin) to retool it into this instead.  This was so bad (we’re at * now) they actually allowed Schrader to release his version (that will be in 2005) which was still pretty bad but which is 13 points higher than this shit.
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse  –  This is some number in that series but they’re all pretty much the same so who cares?
  • Riding the Bullet  –  The world’s first best-selling e-book, a novella by Stephen King, becomes just another crappy King adaptation on film.
  • Wicker Park  –  Remake of the French film L’Appartement but when you put Josh Hartnett in a role originally played by Vincent Cassel you wonder why you bother.
  • Anatomy of Hell  –  Catherine Breillat makes a sequel to her film Romance (technically it’s an adaptation of her novel Pornocratie but she has said it should be considered a sequel to Romance).  This is 61 points weaker than that film which has to be at least close to a record for a writer-director making a sequel to their own film.  Mid *.
  • The Punisher  –  That this shit came out the same year as Spider-Man 2 shows how messed up the Marvel film rights used to be.  Film version of a character I don’t care about.  Low *.
  • Taking Lives  –  Angelina and Ethan Hawke, so screaming out that it’s not for me.  Thriller based on the novel by Michael Pye.
  • The Whole Ten Yards  –  The original had one good scene (the funny nude scene with Amanda Peet).  This sequel has none.
  • Thunderbirds  –  Let’s remake a puppet television show as a live action film.  You know what, let’s not.
  • Taxi  –  Another remake of a French film, this one stars Jimmy Fallon and that says enough.  This drops us into the .5 films.
  • Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed  –  At least the first live action film hilariously dissed Scrappy.  This sequel’s got nothing.
  • Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid  –  At least the first film had Jon Voight eaten by a snake.  This sequel’s got nothing.
  • Catwoman  –  The 2001 awards season was a glorious time for comic book fans.  Halle Berry and Jennifer Connelly would win Oscars and Connelly and Jennifer Garner (television) would win Globes.  All three of them were set to star in comic book films.  But Connelly wasn’t used well in Hulk (which is flawed) and Daredevil, Catwoman and Elektra were all shit.  In fact, casting Berry was the only thing this film did right and even that didn’t work because everything was such shit.
  • Christmas with the Kranks  –  John Grisham writes a Christmas book and it turns into a shitty film.  Big shock.  The highest grossing film for the year in terms of dollar earned per Nighthawk point at $18.4 million, beating out White Chicks.
  • Seed of Chucky  –  The doll won’t die.  The franchise won’t die.
  • Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2  –  Scott Baio and Jon Voight in the same film and it’s a Comedy.  No wonder it’s such shit.  Kelsey Grammar as Sideshow Bob and Frasier is what Republicans cling to in the hopes that someone on their side of the aisle can be funny.  This film, which earns a 1, outgrossed Saved, Being Julia and A Very Long Engagement.  It outgrossed Vera Drake and The Merchant of Venice put together.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen

  • none

Without clicking on the 15 films above it that I haven’t seen to confirm (though only one, Les Aimants that earned over $500,000 and that’s definitely original), Crimson Rivers 2 is the highest grossing adapted film I haven’t seen (#329, $152,148).

Of the 7 Oscar eligible films I haven’t seen, two are adapted: Alila and Kate – The Taming of the Shrew, the latter being an animated film with only 9 votes on the IMDb.