Actually, it is only written in the screenplay. The book is very different.

My Top 10

  1. Slumdog Millionaire
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. Revolutionary Road
  4. Doubt
  5. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
  6. Let the Right One In
  7. The Reader
  8. Iron Man
  9. A Secret
  10. Appaloosa

note:  Not the strongest Top 5 and a fairly weak second 5.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. Slumdog Millionaire  (496 pts)
  2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button  (248 pts)
  3. Frost/Nixon  (184 pts)
  4. Doubt  (144 pts)
  5. The Reader  (112 pts)

note:  Slumdog has the 8th highest points total ever and the 7th highest percentage total (39.24%) but, stuck between No Country for Old Men and Up in the Air, it’s actually the lowest of the three in both.  Its seven wins are tied for 4th most all-time.

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

  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Doubt
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader


  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Doubt
  • Frost/Nixon

Golden Globes:

  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Doubt
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader

note:  For the first time since 1980, none of the Globe nominees are Original.


  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader
  • Revolutionary Road


  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Doubt
  • Frost/Nixon

Nominees that are Original:   Milk


  • Slumdog Millionaire  /  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


  • Slumdog Millionaire

My Top 10

Slumdog Millionaire

slumdoglarge1-482x358The Film:

I have already reviewed Slumdog Millionaire as the best film of the year, a position I have held since the day I saw it in the theater and which continues unchanged.  It has a great story to tell, tells it with magnificent attention to every technical aspect of the film and tells it poetically, with a magnificent ending that loops back around to the beginning, one of the great endings in film history and one made all the more better by the song that we get in the end credits and the dance during that song.

q&aThe Source:

Q & A by Vikas Swarup  (2005)

This is a decent book, the story of a young Indian man who wins on a game show called Who Will Win a Billion.  Suspected of cheating because he has no education, the novel takes us through the story of how he knew all the answers and the circumstances of his life that brought him there as he tells the story to his lawyer.  The book has a rather unsatisfying ending as it turns out that his lawyer is no such thing and his motivation for getting on the show was revenge but the overall concept and structure is interesting.

The Adaptation:

It was clearly the structure that appealed to the filmmakers because they immediately dropped almost every detail, from the individual details on each answer, to the motivation, to the fact that he has already won (the producers of the show need him not to win because they don’t have the money to pay out) and the show hasn’t aired yet to not having any siblings (he was abandoned as an infant) or a love of his life (there is a prostitute that he wants to free).  A few similar details are left in (fleeing as a child to avoid being blinded).  It’s all about the overall concept with everything else created by the filmmakers.

The Credits:

Directed by Danny Boyle.  Co-Director (India): Loveleen Tandan.  Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.  Based on the novel “Q&A” by Vikrus Swarup.

The Dark Knight

TheDarkKnight_quad_UK-1The Film:

I have already reviewed this film as part of my For Love of Film series when it came to Batman.  However, I would have reviewed it anyway because it’s easily one of the five best films of the year in spite of the idiots in the Academy who were unwilling to accept that notion.  In spite of all the great work done in the MCU (including finally landing a film in the Best Picture category) this is still the greatest Comic Book film of all-time, not the least of which is because of the magnificent array of supporting performances, lead by Heath Ledger in the greatest Comic Book villain performance ever.

BobKaneDetective27The Source:

Batman created by Bob Kane  (1939)

Technically, that is the only source and to some extent that is true.  This is a mostly original story that takes ideas from the Batman mythos and applies them to the film to follow the first one and work within its world.  But it does also make some use of The Long Halloween, one of the greatest of all Batman stories, which I wrote about here.

The Adaptation:

The film works with the first film, doesn’t contradict anything and continues the story on, mainly when it comes to Bruce, Rachel and Gordon.  What comes from Long Halloween is the idea of an alliance being formed between Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent, how the alliance is broken in part because of corrupt cops and how Harvey’s scars ruin the chance to do something more for Gotham.

The Credits:

Directed by Christopher Nolan.  Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan.  Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer.  Based upon characters appearing in comics book published by DC Comics.  Batman created by Bob Kane.

Revolutionary Road

revolutionary road - cinema quad movie poster (3).jpgThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film when I wrote about the novel (see below).  Even had I not done that, I would have reviewed the film as one of the Top 5 films of the year.  Indeed, I can’t see how anyone could consider it anything than one of the five best films of the year, certainly far better than Benjamin Button (and for Leo to be passed over for Pitt’s bland performance is even more puzzling to me).  In an extra bit of karma, it’s able to essentially make statements about the more fairy-tale romance of Leo and Kate Winslet in Titanic while exploring what kind of shadows exist in a suburban couple who seem like they have it all but have darkness that is eating away at their souls.

rrThe Source:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates  (1961)

I have already written about this book back when I listed it at #96 among The Top 100 Novels.  I actually had never read the novel before the film came out, but it was easy to see how brilliant it was, how much ahead of its time it was to be written back in 1961 before people started realizing that perhaps the quiet life in the suburbs was not as perfect as so many made it out to be (though, full disclosure, I have basically always lived in the suburbs and prefer it that way).  A brilliantly constructed novel, but you can read more about that in the review.

The Adaptation:

A superbly satisfying and faithful adaptation of the novel.  The vast majority of what was in the novel makes it to the screen intact (we get less of certain scenes, such as why things were such a disaster at the play at the beginning) and almost everything that we see onscreen comes straight from the novel, including the vast majority of the dialogue.  Exactly what you would hope for when getting a novel adapted to the screen, especially a great one.

The Credits:

Directed by Sam Mendes.  Screenplay by Justin Haythe.  Based on the novel by Richard Yates.


doubtThe Film:

Why do we doubt?  For that matter, why do we have faith?  Both things are tied up in the notion that there are things that cannot be proved in life.  To express an opinion about something that cannot be proven involves the very concept of belief and the dual sides of that are faith and doubt, the very things that are at the core of religion.  This film could have been deep enough just dealing with that notion but there is something more here and it’s interesting, that by choosing to set it in the past (1964), it takes a concept that has been one of the biggest news stories of what was then the present (2004 when written, 2008 when the film was made) and reminds us that it had a long history before it became widely known.

This story deals with Father Flynn, a man who has had some dealings with a young black boy, in fact the first black boy to attend the parochial school.  Is Father Flynn abusing the boy?  What there is not, in this case, is any proof.  There are suspicions, first raised by Sister James, a young nun, and then firmly believed by Sister Aloysius, the rather tyrannical nun who rules over not only the nuns but also the students.  They bring in the boy’s mother to talk to her but the mother, concerned with her son’s homosexuality, her homophobic husband and what options there are for young black boys, is more concerned with making certain that her son is able to stay in the school and that sometimes the price you pay is worth the outcome.

It’s a disturbing story, not just in the potential content, but in that we never are certain.  Aloysius seems convinced but the final moments of the film are a reminder that sometimes even the most fervent faith in an idea can not perfectly block out all of the doubts.  But the story is lifted as well by the masterful acting among the primary cast (ironically, I started re-watching this film for this post minutes after re-watching Proof and in both cases, a four person play added characters for the film but the film is all about the strong performances in those primary four roles).  This is the very rare (four to date) film to earn four acting nominations at the Oscars without earning a Best Picture nomination.  There is Meryl Streep, in yet another powerhouse performance as Aloysius, so fervent in her believes.  Amy Adams, earning her second nomination, perfectly encapsulates a young nun who isn’t certain what she is supposed to believe.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, who would earn an Oscar nomination four years later for playing Adams’ husband, here is the priest that we have grave doubts about and whose actions at the conclusion of the film seem to suggest that he was right to be questioned.  Then there is Viola Davis, earning the first of her now numerous Oscar nominations as the mother who feels that giving her son a chance to succeed in life might be worth the cost, not realizing that sometimes that cost is actually what prevents someone from succeeding in life.

doubt-bookThe Source:

Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley  (2004)

Like Proof (mentioned above), this is a film that won both the Pulitzer and the Tony.  It’s a very strong four person play about a priest who may be abusing students, two nuns who suspect him and the mother of one of the boys.

The Adaptation:

Even more than Proof, this play is opened up, with more dialogue added for other characters.  We also get to see some of the people who are described in the play (like the kid with the nosebleed and we do discover that Aloysius is right to be suspicious of him).  Shanley not only adapted the play (like David Auburn had with Proof) but also directed it, so it’s very clear that he’s fine with all the changes from the original play.

The Credits:

Written for the Screen and Directed by John Patrick Shanley.  Based on the play by John Patrick Shanley.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

oss_one_one_seven_cairo_nest_of_spiesThe Film:

This film actually has something in common with the 2012 version of Anna Karenina.  Before you strain yourself too much trying to think what that might possibly be (rising actor-director collaborations with Dujardin-Hazanavicius here and Knightley-Wright in that film?), it’s a personal connection.  When I first started to watch Anna Karenina, it was by myself because Veronica said she had no interest in watching it.  But, I got a few minutes in and then decided that she had to watch at least the first 10 minutes before deciding whether to finish the film.  She watched the whole thing.  With this film, which I started to watch because Hazanavicius had been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, I got to a point where the special agent OSS 117 is about to make love to a woman.  The camera starts to pan away, just like it would have if this film had actually been made in the mid-50’s like it pretends to be (aside from the art direction and costumes, many of the effects in the film make it seem like it’s from that era, including a blatant model airplane in one scene and the use of back projection while driving).  All of a sudden, as the camera starts to pan away, it starts to move across a mirror and you realize, in spite of the shy camera, you’re going to see the love scene.  Then the camera realizes this as well and suddenly starts to move in another direction.  That’s when I really began to realize how hilarious and well-made this film is and decided that Veronica needed to give it a try.  We ended up watching the whole thing together and mostly laughing our asses off.

On one level, this is a straight spy film.  Jean Dujardin, who would later become much more famous when he would win the Oscar for The Artist, is OSS 117, a French spy who is debonair, handsome and talented (that he looks like a young Sean Connery helps with that).  He is trying to find out what happened in Cairo that got his best friend Jack killed.  We get a lot of spy dialogue, a plot that would seem like it could come from Fleming, some great escapes and close calls, some fun action, some wooing of the ladies and a whole lot of fun.  But a lot of the fun comes from the fact that 117 is a French buffoon.  He doesn’t know anything about the world he’s trying to investigate (upon seeing the Suez Canal, he notes how amazing it was that Egyptian culture could have developed this 4000 years ago; when it is pointed out to him that it is only 86 years old, he says it must be a source of national pride).  When told that millions of people speak Arabic, he laughs and says “Do you know how much a million is?”  He says things that just make people stare at him.  Watching it again, I was reminded of Down with Love, another very enjoyable film that managed to satirize the kind of film it was (a Rock and Doris light comedy) while also making that kind of film at the same time.

Watching this film when I first did (after The Artist was nominated for Best Picture and Hazanavicius, Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were all nominated for Oscars but before the ceremony itself), I suddenly realized that The Artist didn’t just spring out of thin air.  It’s not just that the people involved were all monumentally talented, even if I had never heard of them before The Artist was released.  It’s that they also clearly had a love for film history and knew exactly how to incorporate it.  It’s possible to watch this film without ever having seen a Bond film and realize how enjoyable a spy movie it would be even if it wasn’t a comedy.  But it takes all of the things that make the Bond films so enjoyable and turns them on their side, making you laugh in almost every scene.  Look at the way that Dujardin returns to his hotel room to find an asleep Bejo on his bed.  He undresses, then suddenly picks her up and places her on his couch before getting into bed himself.  You’d never see Connery do that, but somehow it feels just right.

ossThe Source:

OSS 117 Novels by Jean Bruce

To his credit, though Ian Fleming would be the master of the spy novel genre, Jean Bruce came first, with his OSS 117 spy being introduced in the first novel in 1949.  So, while Bruce seems like a pale imitation of Fleming, he is not an imitation at all.  There are a ridiculous amount of these novels, written at first by Bruce, then, after his death, by his wife, then even by his children.  This film wasn’t based on any particular one of the books, so I just simply chose one and read it.

The one I chose was Pole Reaction (OSS 117 Répond Toujours), published originally in 1953, the same year that Casino Royale, the first of the Bond books was published.  There isn’t much to it – it has some of the same misogyny that would mark the Bond books but doesn’t have nearly the same level of characterization – it’s all just story.

The Adaptation:

The film takes the basic concept of the agent and pretty much puts him up there on the screen without changing much.  That’s part of why it works so well as a parody – because it really just takes the original concept and doesn’t change anything.  It’s the 1950’s as viewed from the irony of 50 years of change.

There is one major difference though.  The original agent in the Bruce books actually works for the OSS and that is his agent number.  But in the film, he is a French secret service agent and OSS 117 is simply his code-number.

The Credits:

Un film réalisé par Michel Hazanavicius.  Scénario: Jean-François Halin.  D’Aprés Les Romans OSS 117 de Jean Bruce.  Adaptation et Dialogues: Jean-François Halin, Michel Hazanavicius.

Låt den rätte komma in

let_the_right_one_in_ver2The Film:

A child, Oskar, is being bullied.  This is not a surprise as he’s been bullied throughout the film, at one point forced to walk home in the snow in a pair of flimsy shorts after his own pants have been stuck in a urinal.  What it is, though, is terrifying, because the older kids who seem determined to make his life a complete hell, are now stepping things up.  They distract a teacher with a fire and order the other kids out of the pool then force Oskar underwater.  This is one of my greatest fears; as a child I would panic badly if dunked and I deliberately never played tackle football because the thought of being on the bottom of a pile and being unable to get up because of all the people on me chills me to the bone.  We want these kids to be beaten down for their pitiless cruelty.  We are with Oskar under the water with that hand forcing him down and then suddenly the hand is gone.  Then the head of one of the bullies lands in the pool.  That forces a whole new reality of the film to set in.  We wanted the bullies to get their comeuppance.  Did we want them to be decapitated?

That’s the kind of tricky thing you get with Let the Right One In, not only one of the greatest vampire films ever made, but one of the most interesting.  Yes, it has some of the same tropes that you deal with (eternal life and the burden of it, the need to drink blood and what that means in relation to killing) but while there is an adult involved in some truly awful deeds, the vampire itself is actually a child.  Or was a child at one point and is stuck there like poor Claudia in Interview with the Vampire.  This would make for a complicated friendship when Oskar and the vampire (Eli) eventually becomes friends but we learn that Oskar has been plotting murder as a form of revenge against the bullies and this is the ally he’s been needing.

This film has a brilliant moodiness to it.  We see Eli stricken under a bridge, having been unable to feed and a friendly man tries to help, and suddenly there is a flurry of movement and Eli is feeding.  Later, another adult is emerging from a stairwell and Eli is on her in a flash, tearing open her throat (which will also lead to a terrifying moment when she is later exposed to sunlight and suddenly bursts into flame, a far more violent reaction than we get in most vampire films).  It’s not a surprise that after making an international name for himself with this film, Alfredson would also go on to make a Spy film unlike a Spy film in its moodiness and atmosphere rather than action and suspense (Tinker Tailor).

There is also a hidden layer of fascinating subtext to the film that is directly relevant to the adaptation process and the pointlessness of the American remake.  Of course there would be a remake and it isn’t a bad film but there’s no point to it.  What’s more, there is an ambiguity to Eli (which is why I don’t use a pronoun) in spite of being played by a female.  When asked to go steady with Oskar, Eli replies “I’m not a girl”, a line that was used in trailers to imply that Eli is a vampire but there’s more to it than that.  Eli is beyond gender now.  That was never going to happen in the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz being cast and indeed the American version drops all pretense that there is some ambiguity to be had there.  Personally I’d rather have the director who made this film making the next Batman film rather than the director of the remake.

letriThe Source:

Låt den rätte komma in by John Ajvide Lindqvist  (2004)

I’m a fan of vampire books.  I’ve read much of Anne Rice (though they go steadily downhill), love Stoker and Le Fanu and have even read the first Sookie Stackhouse book.  But this book is something special.  As I’ve downsized a lot of books (my LibraryThing page lists almost 5000 books but I don’t delete books when I get rid of them and I’m done below 3000 at this point), especially genre books, I’ve still held on to this one.  I actually picked it up off a bargain rack a couple of years after I first saw the film but was fascinated when I read it.  It’s moody and interesting and the focus is more on the boy than the vampire and there are more characters that are important than you initially expect coming from the film.  If you have even the slightest interest in Horror books and especially vampire fiction, this should be near the top of your list.

The Adaptation:

The film really streamlines the book and does it in a magnificent way.  It reduces characters (there’s a whole subplot dealing with Oskar’s father), it reduces the use of characters (the book is limited third-person for the most part but with one of the characters being one of the bullies), it reduces some plot points (Hakan doesn’t just die in the hospital – he actually escapes and is on the run and partially turned) and it leaves to ambiguity a couple of points that are made more disturbingly clear in the book – that Hakan is actually a pedophile and that’s what lead to his being connected to Eli and that Eli really isn’t a girl, that in fact Eli is a boy who was castrated a long time in the past.  The film is moody and disturbing enough without those two points and it made for interesting reading the first time I read the book and went “Holy shit, Eli really isn’t a girl.”

The Credits:

Regi: Tomas Alfredson.  Manus: John Ajvide Lindqvist baserat pä hans roman.

The Reader

reader_ver3_sThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film once.  It was the film that managed to sneak in, managing the Picture / Director / Adapted Screenplay nominations that a large contingent of people hoped would go to The Dark Knight.  For all that, it’s a very good film and certainly far better than two others that also earned those noms but had more solid support from other groups (Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon).  Of course, it also won Best Actress for Kate Winslet and it’s a very good performance but her other performance was better and this was really a supporting role.

readerThe Source:

Der Voleser by Bernhard Schlink  (1995)

Reading this again after having originally read it around the time that the film came out, I am not nearly as negative on it as I was in the original film review.  I don’t think it’s a good book by any means because Schlink’s novel takes such a simplistic approach to the atrocities of the war and the way a younger generation reacts to them so that he can have his fantasy of the 15 year with the older woman.  It’s also not very well written, although of course the translation (by Carol Brown Janeway) could play into that.  A young man, born around the middle or end of the war, has an affair with an older woman who later disappears.  Afterwards, he will discover that she worked at a camp.  She ends up taking responsibility for an atrocity (leaving women locked in a burning church) rather than admit she’s illiterate, a plot point I found so absurd I’m stunned anyone would have made a film from it.

The Adaptation:

Other than what Michael is suffering from at the beginning (in the book it’s hepatitis while in the film it’s scarlet fever), much of the film follows pretty closely on what we got in the book.  It does give a bit of a coda at the end by having Michael tell the story to his daughter (which wasn’t in the book).

The Credits:

Directed by Stephen Daldry.  Screenplay by David Hare.  Based on the book DER VORLESER by Bernhard Schlink.

Iron Man

iron_man_ver2The Film:

Marvel Comics was all over the place on film.  The Spider-Man franchise was at Columbia and just wrapped up a trilogy and there were doubts if there would be a fourth film.  The X-Men franchise had also wrapped up a trilogy over at Fox and individual character films would be coming.  Fantastic Four was over at Fox as well and had made for two awful films.  There had been one Hulk film, a second one was coming (partial reboot, partial sequel) and various other characters were all over the place.  Marvel wanted to set things right, to put their universe that had existed for almost 50 years up on-screen and they looked lost, especially since the biggest film of the year (and one of the biggest of all-time) would be the forthcoming Batman film that showed that DC was strong on-screen.  But Marvel pursued a plan of getting their characters in order and proceeding with a series of hopefully successful, inter-connected films that would launch their major Avengers characters before a forthcoming Avengers film.  All of that would hinge on Iron Man, one of the original Avengers, but not known outside the comic book world to the same extent as Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America or the main DC heroes.  They would be doing it with Robert Downey, Jr., in the midst of his latest comeback and director Jon Favreau, who had made Elf but who also shown he could handle special effects with Zathura.

All of that is to remind you that before the film actually came out, before it was judged a major success (and, honestly one of the best comic book films to be released to that point), before it managed to score $300 million when that was still rare, falling just outside the Top 20 all-time (today it’s #74) and bringing fans back clamoring for more, there were actually serious doubts about this film.  But Marvel clearly had faith that it would all work out, not just because they made the most of what they were doing, but because they were already planting the seeds of the future with SHIELD agent Coulson and a surprise, post-credits appearance by Nick Fury, ready to talk about something called the Avengers Initiative.  They even snuck Downey into the end of the Hulk film coming out a couple of months later.

Tony Stark is a man who makes war.  He doesn’t just make weapons to fight wars, but he makes war against the world, fighting, living, fucking like there is no tomorrow and then suddenly there is no tomorrow.  He has been captured in the Middle East and he is badly wounded and when forced to make a weapon for the terrorists, he responds by building himself life-saving armor, blowing the terrorists to hell and then making his way back to the West.  What comes over him is partially a lesson learned painfully as he is hoist on his own petard, but also the very human touch of his assistant, Pepper Potts, the one woman it seems he hasn’t slept with and the one person it seems like he really loves.  That lesson and that touch will put him back into a new suit of armor that he makes for himself when he is forced to face off against his partner to keep the technology from creating more weapons.

Iron Man works, partially because it’s a great story.  Tony Stark is a man living high and then crashes and has to find a new way to exist.  It’s also a great superhero story of a man who needs redemption and who gives himself the means to achieve that.  It’s also well-directed, has a fantastic star role from Downey and a script with a lot of wit to it.  It didn’t have the level of The Dark Knight, but like the first two Spider-Man films it was a reminder that a superhero film could be fun and action filled and be a very good time.  What’s more, it artfully laid the foundation for a cinematic universe that has become a franchise juggernaut that shows no signs of even slowing down, let alone stopping.

tos39The Source:

Iron Man, created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby  (1963)

Iron Man was just the latest hero to come along in what was a very quickly growing Marvel Universe.  He was the industrialist who made weapons, was almost killed by them and then built himself a suit of armor.  He clearly wasn’t considered a first tier character because he wasn’t drawn by Kirby but he took a big step up when he became a founding member of the Avengers and has generally been one of the big three in that team and has continued to play a central role in the MU ever since.

The Adaptation:

As with most comic book films, the film stays true to the characters (somewhat) while not using any particular storyline.  It does make use of the original appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, but updates it to the present and to the Middle East rather than Indochina.  Pepper, who married Happy in the comics back in the 80s, is used more with Tony and made much smarter and more capable than she ever was in the early comics at least.  Obadiah Stane was a later villian who bought Stark out in the 180s, then faced off against him in that Iron Monger suit in #200 and finished the issue by killing himself.

The Credits:

Directed by Jon Favreau.  Screenplay by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway.  Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby.

Un secret

secretThe Film:

François Grimbert is young and sickly, a far cry away from the magnificent athletes that both of his parents are.  His parents love him but he feels alone and he has the strangest feeling like he has a long lost brother out there in the world somewhere that he hasn’t been able to connect with yet.  This is how it goes for him until he reaches the age of 15, when he suddenly learns that this is not just a feeling.  He did have a brother.  A half-brother, actually, who was dead well before François was even conceived.  But he’s been pushed away, erased, not just from life but from ever having lived and with that knowledge that he existed comes the knowledge about his parents lives as well.

This film, like The Reader, deals with the things that a younger age, born during or after the war, learns about what happened with their parents in regards to the Holocaust.  Of course, they are on opposite ends of what happened (aside from being in different countries) but both speak to the hidden past, the desire of many people in Europe to forget about what had happened during the war and try to move on with their lives.

It will turn out that François’s parents were originally in-laws.  They met when his father married his first wife, the sister of his mother’s husband.  But at that wedding, he first spots his new sister-in-law.  He is immediately captivated by her, a desire he must repress.  Of course, he is only able to repress it for so long and at the time when it finally overwhelms him (and her) and rises to the surface is at the same time that both her husband and his wife are being hunted because they are Jewish.  At the same time that he is sleeping with his wife’s brother’s wife, his wife is being questioned by the Nazis about who she is and in a moment of either insanity or complete lucidity, she seems to choose death over what she thinks her husband will bring her and not just death but death for their child as well, as her real ID is handed over and they are both carted away to death at Auschwitz.

This is the story we slowly learn the same way that François learns it, gradually, over time, years after he has been wondering about the past.  We move back and forth between a teen François, an adult François and the story of how his parents actually met and what became of the families they had before François.  Like The Reader, it is a film that acknowledges the trauma of the present that comes, not just because of the trauma of the past, but because of that attempt to make the past stay in the past and not acknowledge the ways in which that past becomes our present and haunts our future.

unsecretThe Source:

Un secret by Philippe Grimbert  (2004)

This book is certainly described as a novel but it is unclear how much of it is Grimbert applying a novelistic style to what was actually the true story of his life (he certainly uses his own name and the jacket does describe his parents having killed themselves as they do in the film) and what was actually fiction.  Either way, this small (a small format that still barely runs 150 pages) but powerful book explores the way that the post comes to dominate the present even when you refuse to acknowledge that the past ever existed.  In that sense, it’s very much like The Reader except it’s a much better book and of course it’s dealing with the other side of the Holocaust.

The Adaptation:

The film follows quite closely to the book, from the way that the 15 year old François slowly learns about the past to the way it unfolds to the final, horrifying moment when the real papers are handed over in seems like it can only be an act of suicide and yet one she doesn’t take alone.

The Credits:

un film de Claude Miller.  scénario, adaptation et dialogue de Claude Miller et Natalie Carter.  d’après le roman de Philippe Grimbert, UN SECRET Editions Grasset & Fasquelle.


appaloosaThe Film:

For a consecutive year, the #10 spot goes to a Western that didn’t really get the plaudits it deserved.  Appaloosa received no awards nominations and couldn’t even manage to finish in the Top 100 at the box office for the year, barely outgrossing one of the year’s biggest disasters, The Spirit.  It easily could slip under the radar and be completely forgotten except that in a year that’s not particularly strong in Adapted Screenplay it manages to land in the Top 10 and is considerably better than two films whose screenplays were continually nominated.

In some ways this is a standard Western.  The sheriff has been killed so a new sheriff has been brought one, one who will whip the town into shape and bring the villain to heel.  That will involve outsmarting him and his men, there will be a chase and in the end there will even be a shootout with the villain lying dead of course and the hero continuing to run the town and even getting the girl.  From that description, you might think it was worth ignoring as so many people did.  But that description really only scratches the surface of a more interesting film that is waiting beneath.

First of all, of course, there is the quality inherent in the film.  Most Westerns didn’t have a cast as good as Ed Harris as the sheriff, Viggo Mortensen as his sidekick, Renee Zellweger as the girl or of course Jeremy Irons as the villain.  That alone makes the film stand far above the vast majority of Westerns even before we get to the quality cinematography, sound mixing, editing and score.  But then there are the bits that lie underneath the bare surface.  Harris, for instance, is a sheriff, but one who makes the town bend to his will.  He makes Irons bend to his will as well, partially by only using force when necessary (early on he and Viggo do kill some of Irons’ men) and later by knowing when he doesn’t need to use force, like when he snags Irons coming out of the outhouse and uses Irons position to manage to stand off a far larger force.  Or there is the relationship between him and Zellweger, far more complicated than you would have been allowed to see in most older Westerns and she flits not only between Harris and Viggo in her affections but clearly has an interest in Irons as well when it becomes apparent how much power he is now wielding.

That latter bit also is part of what makes the film so complicated.  There is the long chase and the complications of Zellweger’s loyalties but in the end, Irons rides back into town, pardoned by the president, gaining in power and it looks like this won’t be anything like this older films.  So how do we get from that to the ending that seems cliche?  Well, precisely because it isn’t cliche, seeing as how the final duel not only comes about but the result.  Yes, the villain is dead and yes the hero is triumphant but not in the same way that a different film might have shown that.

Appaloosa isn’t a great film but is a strong, under-appreciated genre film that helped show, like 3:10 to Yuma the year before (which is a great film) just how much you can still do with a Western if you bother to make it properly and to make it interesting.

Appaloosa-bookThe Source:

Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker

Apparently after getting enough mileage of out of Boston with his Spenser books (which I have never read though I caught a couple of episodes of the show back in the 80s – actually mostly what I remember about it was the suggestion that the three networks could have a crossover by having Spenser having a drink at Cheers and then getting in an accident and being taken to St. Elsewhere), Parker decided to write a Western (actually he ended up writing a series of four books but I only read the first one and I don’t know how he brings the characters back together in the later ones if he even does).  It’s a decent book in a typical genre format (less than 300 pages, a whopping 59 chapters).  What gives it some interest is that it’s written from the point of view of the sidekick to the sheriff (the Viggo character) and so we see all of the action in the film through his eyes.

The Adaptation:

The film really follows the original novel very closely.  We get a scene at the beginning that is only described for us in the book while it is dramatized in the film but almost everything else just pretty much moved from the page to the screen, complete with the majority of the dialogue.

The Credits:

Directed by Ed Harris.  Screenplay by Robert Knott & Ed Harris.  Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker.

Consensus Nominees

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

curious case of benjamin button - cinema quad movie poster (5).j

The Film:

I was excited about this film when it first came out.  I wasn’t a Fincher fan, but the reviews were very strong, it had a great source, a fascinating idea and of course it had Cate Blanchett.  I was massively disappointed especially since I kept reading various Oscar prognosticators who absolutely loved it.  I thought it was utter bullshit, that Eric Roth, who has also written the script for Forrest Gump, had basically done it again, ignoring the original story to try and tell history through one man’s eyes.  You can go here to read my full original rant (I mean review).

Tales_of_the_Jazz_Age_1922The Source:

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Originally published in Collier’s (27 May 1922).  Collected in Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)

Fitzgerald’s very strange short story was written in response to a Mark Twain quote about it being a shame that the best part of life is when we are young and the worst is when we are old.  So he wrote this little fantasy about a man who is born old and de-ages into his youth.  It’s a satirical fantasy that covers the years from 1860 to 1930 as Benjamin continues to look younger and younger, a problem when he marries and he gets younger while she gets older, or as his son eventually comes to treat him with contempt, ordering him about, once their ages have passed.  Benjamin is born as a five foot eight seventy year old man and nothing is said about what this might have done to the mother but the confusion is evident on every page.  There is an amusing scene where he tries to enroll at Yale but is forced to show up without his hair dye and they don’t believe his age.  It is a charming, yet odd story, one of the strangest among Fitzgerald’s output, especially as it ends: “Then it was all dark, and his white crib and the dim faces that moved above him, and the warm sweet arome of the milk, faded out altogether from his mind.”

The Adaptation:

This can hardly be considered an adaptation of the Fitzgerald story.  Aside from the title (and thus, the name of the title character) and the concept (a man who is born old and gradually grows young), nothing is the same.  The film changes almost everything else.  It moves locations from Baltimore to New Orleans.  It shifts the time forward, so instead of beginning just before the Civil War (barely mentioned, except that it distracts society from the oddity of the birth and allows the Buttons to settle down more quietly), it starts with World War I (rather dramatically – in the story, Fitzgerald jokingly suggests that there might be a connection between the fact that Benjamin is born in a hospital decades before that was the custom and the oddity of his birth, whereas in the film, his birth seems to be connected to the clock that runs backwards) and runs through to Katrina.  Instead of a society wife who believes he is much older than he is when they meet, Benjamin has Daisy, his love across decades and who will grow into maturity as he ages out of it.

The Credits:

Directed by David Fincher.  Screenplay by Eric Roth.  Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord.  From the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


frost nixon - cinema quad movie poster (multi).jpgThe Film:

I mentioned in my full, original review of this film, that it really needed to cut down on the talking head moments.  That my opinion hasn’t changed was made even more clear when I was trying to copy down the credits for this film, which start and stop, because they insert the talking heads so early, that the two things get in the way of each other.  This is one film where everything but the title should have been saved for the end credits, or, as I originally suggested, they should have dumped the talking heads.  The film has strong performances from Langella and Michael Sheen (who can now add Michael Sheen to the list of real-life people he plays very well thanks to Staged) but the writing is too determined to give us a history lesson rather than a work of drama.  Maybe that’s on Peter Morgan.  I write this as the funeral for Philip is all over today’s news and Morgan made me care about the story in The Queen even though the only person in the royal family I ever gave a shit about was the one who never appears in that film because her death creates the story.  But Morgan is also British and maybe that’s why he felt the need to give us so much context about Nixon instead of just letting Frost and Nixon be the story.

The Source:

Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan  (2006)

For a Tony nominated play this is surprisingly difficult to get hold of.  So, I was forced to watch the film without the play as a comparison.  The play is supposed to be quite good and I wonder if it focused less on the history lesson and more on the two men and their interactions.

The Adaptation:

I can’t make the comparison though Morgan did write both the play and the script so I assume changes are because he wanted them made (he’s also one of the producers so he obviously had more power than just a screenwriter for hire).

The Credits:

Directed by Ron Howard.  Based on the stage play by Peter Morgan.  Screenplay by Peter Morgan.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

note:  After increasing years, this part of the list has seven fewer films than the year before.

  • Paranoid Park  –  Low ***.5 for Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of the novel by Blake Nelson, who lives in the same city I used to live in (Hillsboro, Oregon).

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

note:  The adaptations go back up with 17 more than the year before.

  • Quantum of Solace  –  An under-appreciated Bond film.  Yes, the weakest of the Craig outings, but that still makes it better than most of the Bond films that came before it.  Fully reviewed here.
  • Gomorrah  –  Low ***.5 Italian Crime film based on the non-fiction book.  Globe nominee in Foreign Film but not even short-listed at the Oscars.
  • Tell No One  –  Solid (high ***) French adaptation of a Harlan Coben novel.
  • Defiance  –  Daniel Craig again, this time in an Edward Zwick adaptation of a non-fiction book about Jews in Belarus in World War II.
  • I Served the King of England  –  Czech Comedy from Jiri Menzel; the sixth time Menzel adapted a work by Bohumil Hrabal.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day  –  Based on the 1938 novel by Winifred Watson.  One of those films my mother mentions a lot but I’ll be honest that the only scene that really stuck with me (in spite of being quite good) is when Amy Adams lounges naked on the bed.
  • The Blind Sunflowers  –  Spanish Drama based on the novel by Alberto Mendez.
  • Get Smart  –  Thanks to a winning lead performance from Steve Carrell and a hilarious supporting one from Dwayne Johnson, a remake of the television series could have been terrible but is instead very enjoyable.
  • Katyn  –  A 2007 Oscar nominee for Foreign Film.  Polish film about the famous World War II massacre.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian  –  My review of this film, because we were able to see a preview screening, was one of the first reviews I wrote for the blog, over 13 years ago now.
  • The Home of Dark Butterflies –  Finnish Drama based on the novel by Leena Lander.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  –  I must admit this might be rated too high.  I haven’t seen it in over a decade because in spite of really enjoying parts of it, there is the whole Shia LeBouf (don’t care if it’s spelled right) swinging with monkeys thing.  Down to mid ***.
  • The Duchess  –  Oscar winner for Costume Design.  Based on the biography by Amanda Foreman.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army  –  Guillermo del Toro follows up Pan’s Labyrinth by returning to Hellboy for this fun sequel.
  • Beaufort  –  Oscar nominee in 2007 for Foreign Film, submitted by Israel.  Based on the novel by Ron Leshem.
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time  –  Fun anime film based on the 1967 novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles  –  Following on from Golden Compass (and followed the next year by Inkheart), a film made from a children’s book series that wouldn’t get sequel films to continue the series.  Stars former Nighthawk winner for Supporting Actress Sarah Bolger.  Also see City of Ember, below.
  • Body of Lies  –  Part of the string of Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott films, this one based on a thriller by David Ignatius.
  • The Incredible Hulk  –  Louis Leterrier takes over as director, Edward Norton as Bruce and Liv Tyler as Betty.  A better story than the first film but it doesn’t have Lee’s vision.  A post-credit cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. made this the second MCU film and it still ranks as one of the weakest in the series.
  • The Karamazovs  –  A Czech film about a group of actors who perform Dostoevsky in steel mills, only adapted in the wide use of the novel.
  • Jar City  –  A 2006 Icelandic film (Oscar submitted in 2007) based on the 2000 Icelandic novel.
  • The Counterfeiters  –  A solid enough Austrian film based on a World War II memoir.  But it won the Oscar in 2007 over four better films and the best two films (by far) weren’t even short-listed (4 Months, Persepolis).
  • Che  –  Soderbergh released it as two films but it was Oscar submitted as one and that’s how I list it.  Based on Che’s memoirs.
  • Ben X  –  Belgian-Dutch film based on the novel Nothing Was All He Said.
  • Kings  –  Irish Drama based on the play The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.
  • XXY  –  Down to low *** with this Spanish Drama based on a short story by Sergio Bizzio.
  • The Fall  –  Tarsem Singh reimagines the 1981 Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho.  If nothing else, it’s looks great.
  • Miracle at St. Anna  –  A decade before he would win an Oscar, Spike Lee directs this adaptation of a novel by Jim McBride, written a decade before he would win the National Book Award.
  • Savage Grace  –  True Crime story based on the real life murder of Barbara Daly Baekeland by her son with Julianne Moore as the mother and Eddie Redmayne as the son and Stephen Dillane as the father.
  • How About You   –  Irish film based on a short story by Maeve Binchy.
  • Fugitive Pieces  –  Dillane again, this time as the adult version of a boy orphaned in Poland in World War II and saved by a Greek archeologist.  From the novel by Anne Michaels.
  • Brick Lane  –  The novel earned Ali Smith a solid name when it debuted in 2003 but the film flits out of my mind without any memory of it.
  • Elegy  –  One of the relatively rare films made from a Philip Roth novel, this one from The Dying Animal.
  • The Duchess of Langeais  –  Depardieu is the star in this adaptation of the Balzac novel.
  • The Pool  –  An odd film, made in Hindi by Chris Smith (who didn’t speak Hindi) and only sort of derived from a short story by Randy Russell.
  • Towelhead  –  Between his two hit HBO shows, Alan Ball wrote and directed this adaptation of Alicia Erian’s novel.
  • I Can’t Think Straight  –  British lesbian Drama based on the novel by Shamim Sarif.
  • Tinker Bell  –  The first in the series of fairy films from Disneytoon starring the character from Peter Pan.  Often listed as video releases and they have no box office listing but many of the later films would be Oscar eligible so I’ve seen them and counted them as films.
  • When Did You Last See Your Father?  –  British Drama based on the memoir by Blake Morrison.
  • The Last Mistress  –  Asia Argento stars in Catherine Breillat’s adaptation of the 19th Century novel by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly.
  • The Sky Crawlers  –  Anime film based on the novel by Hiroshi Mori.
  • The Class  –  Undeserving Oscar nominee for Foreign Film, a French Drama based on an autobiographical novel by Francois Bgeaudeau.
  • Illusion of Fear  –  Ukranian Oscar submission based on a book by the former Ukranian Minister of Defense (and later President for a very brief time).
  • Kit Kittredge: American Girl  –  The American Girl book series gets a feature film instead of a television film.
  • The Yellow Handkerchief  –  In an early reminder that Eddie Redmayne gets all the actresses, he’s an outcast paired up with Kristen Stewart when they give William Hurt a ride home from prison.  Remake of the 1977 Japanese film.
  • Brideshead Revisited  –  It’s got brilliant source material and a very solid cast (Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw) but we’re down to **.5 with this flat adaptation of the Waugh novel.  Skip this and watch the 1981 mini-series instead.
  • Bob the Builder: On Site: Roads and Bridges  –  This really shouldn’t even count but it had been listed at the old site and I tried to get all listed animated films but it’s really a video and a short and who really cares anyway?
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars  –  I resisted this for a long time, finally watching it a decade later when I was watching my way through the show.  This film does all the things the show does wrong, with the annoyance of Ahsoka, who wouldn’t be a tolerable character really until The Mandalorian, the aggravation of the plot (a Hutt baby?) and the not-very-good voicework for the major characters.  Unlike the films directly above and below, it was Oscar eligible but bizarrely not submitted for Animated Film.
  • Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery  –  See what I wrote on Bob the Builder.
  • $9.99  –  Four in a row subpar animated films with a stop-motion film based on short stories by Etgar Keret.
  • Nim’s Island  –  Kids adventure film based on the children’s novel by Wendy Orr.
  • Married Life  –  Drama based on the novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth  –  Brendan Fraser adds some fun to this mediocre (we’re down to mid **.5) very loose adaptation of the Jules Verne novel.
  • High School Musical 3  –  The first two had just been Disney Channel films (so I thankfully haven’t seen them) but they released this one to theaters and in the first year of the “no more than two Oscar nominations for Song for one film” submitted 11 songs at the Oscars (no other film submitted more than three).
  • City of Ember  –  Basically the same as Spiderwick Chronicles except a lesser film and the star is former Nighthawk winner for Supporting Actress Saoirse Ronan.
  • The Tale of Despereaux  –  Because the Newbery winning novel is from 2003 (long after I read all the winners), I haven’t read it but it’s supposed to be much better than this mediocre computer Animated adaptation.
  • Snow Angels  –  I’m not a fan of star Sam Rockwell or director David Gordon Green which didn’t bode well for this film even before I saw it and thought it was mediocre.  Based on the novel by Stewart O’Nan.
  • Ghajini  –  A Hindi Action film which was based on the 2005 Tamil Action film by the same director which was derived from Memento.
  • The Express  –  The Oscars didn’t list it as the full title The Express: The Ernie Davis Story but that pretty much tells you what it is.  Based on a 1983 non-fiction book about the football player, the first Black player to win the Heisman.  With this film we reach low **.5.
  • Choke  –  I still don’t much like Sam Rockwell but I am more mixed on Chuck Palahniuk.  But it’s not his best book and it’s not a very good film.  One of just two films directed by an actor I do like, Clark Gregg.
  • Adam Resurrected  –  Paul Schrader adaptation of the novel by Yoram Kaniuk.
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa  –  A relentlessly mediocre sequel that proved the money on the main voice cast was poorly spent.  There is one genuinely hilarious moment which of course doesn’t use any of that high-priced cast.
  • Horton Hears a Who!  –  Mediocre version of the classic Dr. Seuss story that did prompt this hilarious Dork Tower cartoon.
  • The Secret Life of Bees  –  The book by Sue Monk Kidd was much more of a success than this film version.
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe  –  Did we need a new film several years after the television show had concluded?  We did not.
  • Then She Found Me  –  Helen Hunt takes on quadruple duties, directing, writing, producing and starring in this adaptation of the Elinor Lipman novel.
  • The Stone Angel  –  Adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s 1964 novel.
  • Blindness  –  The novel is a key reason that Jose Saramago won the Nobel Prize but the film, even from a former Oscar nominee (Fernando Meirelles) was mostly quickly forgotten.
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2  –  The second film but apparently based on the fourth novel with bits from the second and third novels.
  • Marley & Me  –  Gaah!  This book was inescapable for a long stretch of when I worked at Borders.  The film, in spite of being dumb, was a big hit (it made more money than Slumdog).  The only good thing was that it lead to this cover of GQ where Jennifer Aniston looks absolutely amazing but there was much discussion at work trying to figure out her odd posing (other than shielding her breasts) until it was suggested she was begging like a dog because of Marley & Me.
  • The Eye  –  U.S. remake of a Hong Kong Horror film.  Yeah, that always works.  We’re down to **.
  • Inju: The Beast in the Shadow  –  Former Oscar nominee Barbet Schroeder directs this adaptation of a 1928 Japanese novel.
  • Dark Streets  –  I don’t much like Jazz but it’s the quality of the film why it’s down here.  Based on a play.
  • Good  –  Viggo saw the original C.P. Taylor play on stage in London in 1981 but the film version of a literature professor who ends up going along with the Nazis is a dud.
  • Sex and the City  –  The hit television show gets a film epilogue (and later another one that’s much worse).  I’m gonna go ahead and guess that the show was as insipid as the film but I’m not female.  Down to mid **.
  • How to Lose Friends & Alienate People  –  Or, how to make Simon Pegg unlikeable.  Based on the memoir by Toby Young.
  • Wendy and Lucy  –  Kelly Reichardt adapts Jon Raymond Part II.  Michelle Williams is good but the film is boring as can be.
  • Yes Man  –  Sort of based on a humorist’s memoir.
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist  –  The original YA novel ripped off Dash Hammett’s names but couldn’t find his magic.  The film has a winning performance from Kat Dennings but is the start of Michael Cera being almost insufferable in almost everything.
  • The Women  –  Disastrous remake of the 1939 film which has achieved classic status without quite meriting it based on quality (but was important for being all female driven).
  • Killshot  –  Former Oscar nominee John Madden ruins an Elmore Leonard novel.  Listed in several places as 2009 but does anyone care enough about it to quibble?
  • Step Up 2: The Streets  –  Bad sequel but could be remembered more fondly if In the Heights is as good as it could be since this is the directorial debut of Jon M. Chu.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still  –  Keanu stars in this crappy remake of the Sci-Fi classic.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas  –  All the problems that Life is Beautiful had as a fable about the Holocaust with none of the good qualities that made it a good film.  Based on the Mark Herman novel and he even directed it.  Down to low **.
  • Mamma Mia!  –  Yes, the musical on Broadway was a big hit.  Yes, the film was a big hit.  But aside from Streep, everyone in it is pretty bad, the singing is terrible and, well, just this.
  • Dragon Hunters  –  Western European (three countries) Animated film based on a tv series.
  • Nights in Rodanthe  –  My mother recently mentioned this film as her go-to film when thinking about Richard Gere.  My response: how about An Officer and a Gentleman.  Or Chicago?  Or Pretty Woman?  But, no, this piece of shit Nicholas Sparks adaptation is her go-to.  The third Gere-Diane Lane film and the worst of the three but she picks this.
  • Meet the Browns  –  Another Tyler Perry play becomes another bad film.
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor  –  I always forget there’s a third Mummy film since it doesn’t have Rachel Weisz.  But it actually grossed over $100 million in the States.  Only the seventh worst $100 million film of 2008 (some of which were original).
  • Mother of Tears  –  Some 30 years after Suspiria, Argento gives it another sequel.
  • The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything  –  Those super annoying Christian vegetables, the VeggieTales return to torture me again in a second feature film.  As if it wasn’t enough torture when my niece and nephew sang the songs as they grew up.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera  –  The stage Musical becomes a crappy film that tries to have a cult following.
  • The Tracey Fragments  –  Ellen Page (as she was then) stars in an adaptation of the novel by Maureen Medved that’s non-linear and never bothers to untangle it all and make sense.
  • snapeTwilight  –  We drop to *.5 with this crap, the highest-grossing bad film of 2008.  I accept that I don’t get Little Women as much as if I were a female but this book is just bad and the films are just as bad.  Do you really want to invest that much in either Jacob or Edward?  Just wait until Edward and Bella finish the series and remember how to act again and ignore Jacob entirely.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl  –  Speaking of actors forgetting how to act.  This film has three future Oscar winners (Portman, Rylance, Redmayne) and two other future nominees (ScarJo, Benedict) and yet it’s a disaster.  I lay part of the blame on director Justin Chadwick and part on Philippa Gregory’s historically dubious novel.  I first saw this not long after Redmayne won the Oscar over Benedict and the irony is that in this film, Benedict is married to ScarJo and dies and Redmayne ends up with her, so he wins again.  It was also after I saw Wolf Hall where Rylance attacks some of the same material (in a different role) with vastly superior results.
  • 21  –  I didn’t mention Jim Sturgess in the previous film because he’s not as good of an actor as the others and he proves it again here.  Mostly fictional adaptation of a “non-fiction” book by Ben Mezrich that was mostly fictional to begin with.  I’ll metaphorically slap Mezrich and his crap again when we get to 2010.
  • Shutter  –  American remake of an Asian Horror film except the original was a Thai film and not a Japanese or Korean film.
  • Rome & Jewel  –  How not to do Shakespeare.
  • Prom Night  –  But, hey, American filmmakers badly remake American Horror films as well.  We don’t discriminate.  Down to mid *.5.
  • Quarantine  –  And Spanish films (in this case REC).  We remake those as well.
  • The Midnight Meat Train  –  Not a remake, just a crappy Horror film based on a Clive Barker story.
  • Babylon A.D.  –  Bad Van Diesel Sci-Fi film based on a 1999 novel.  Low *.5.
  • Cthulhu  –  People just shouldn’t make films based on Lovecraft.  They’re always a disaster (and yes, I’m including recent films in that declaration as well).
  • Speed Racer  –  When my brother was a kid this was just about his favorite television show.  I’ve never asked him what he thinks of what the Wachowskis did to it.  Down to *.
  • Wanted  –  Only the fourth worst $100 million film of 2008 but Four Christmases, Step Brothers and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan are all original.  My article linked in the Mighty Heart review here was about this film being lauded for having a female star when the point should have been to get people to see a good film with her in it.
  • Rambo  –  Indiana Jones got a sequel after almost 20 years because the films were huge.  Some 20 years after the last Rambo film (which barely made the Top 20 in that year) it gets a sequel that doesn’t make the Top 60 and it still would continue to get sequels.  What the fuck, people?  Mid *.
  • The Ruins  –  Somehow the Horror novel this crap was based on is by the same guy who wrote A Simple Plan.
  • Jumper  –  Adaptation of a Sci-Fi novel gave the reuniting of Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson that no one was asking for.
  • Sex Drive  –  YA novel becomes a crappy Sex Comedy.
  • The Lodger  –  Awful remake of the Hitchcock film set in modern day Hollywood.
  • Postal  –  Uwe Boll makes a terrible adaptation of a video game.  It’s what he does.
  • House  –  Down to low *.  Bad Horror film from two bad Christian genre writers.  Save me, Jeebus.
  • In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale  –  Uwe Boll’s previous terrible adaptation of a video game.
  • Funny Games  –  Michael Haneke would later be an Oscar nominee.  His original version of this film (made in 1997) is critically lauded by some but I hated it.  This one is even worse, a straight remake that is completely pointless.
  • The Spirit  –  The original Will Eisner comic strips were some of the most magnificent work in the genre during the Golden Age.  But this film version is just a disaster.  It’s amazing that this has both ScarJo and Samuel L. Jackson before they became Avengers.  Part of me wants to watch it again to see if there’s something worthwhile in it but the rest of my brain says there isn’t.  Just read the original strips which are readily available.
  • Punisher: War Zone  –  It’s like comic book creators were trying to counter all the good will being created with Iron Man and Dark Knight.  This third Punisher film is appalling but I never liked the character anyway so it doesn’t bother me that much.
  • Saw V  –  More people die.  The film is bad (.5).  Lionsgate makes more profits and releases another film.  A cycle that never ends.  Hell, the latest installment is the #1 film in theaters as I write this.
  • Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay  –  The first one was tasteless and dumb but it still had some funny moments.  This one has nothing.
  • Mirrors  –  Another Horror remake, this one of a South Korean film.
  • One Missed Call  –  And this one is a remake of a Japanese Horror film.
  • House of Usher  –  Such a forgettable Poe adaptation that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
  • Max Payne  –  Another video game adaptation, this one with Wahlberg and a poster designed to make you think of a better film (Sin City).
  • Death Race  –  Fully reviewed here because it was the worst film of 2008, just beating out two other zero star films (Zombie Strippers, The Hottie and the Nottie).  Though it’s a remake of the 1975 film it actually feels like an adaptation of a video game.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen

  • none

The only two films in the Top 250 at the box office I haven’t seen I deliberately skipped because of their right-wing inanities: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (#156, $7.72 mil) and An American Carol (#161, $7.01 mil), the latter of which should probably be considered adapted.  The highest grossing sequel I haven’t seen is Goal 2: Living the Dream (#304, $225,067).

I am only missing 5 Oscar eligible films which annoyingly includes an adaptation of Singer stories (Love Comes Lately).