“Smiley shrugged it all aside, distrustful as ever of the standard shapes of human motive, and settled instead for a picture of one of those wooden Russian dolls that open up, revealing one person inside the other, and another inside him. Of all men living, only Karla had seen the last little doll inside Bill Haydon. When was Bill recruited, and how? Was his right-wing stand at Oxford a pose, or was it paradoxically the state of sin from which Karla had summoned him to grace?” (p 316)

My Top 10

  1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  2. The Descendants
  3. Hugo
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  5. The Ides of March
  6. My Week with Marilyn
  7. Jane Eyre
  8. Moneyball
  9. Incendies
  10. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

note:  A solid Top 5 and Top 10.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. Moneyball  (432 pts)
  2. The Descendants  (328 pts)
  3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  (120 pts)
  4. The Ides of March  (112 pts)
  5. Hugo  /  The Help  (112 pts)

note:  Moneyball is the first Consensus winner since Adaptation in 2002 to win without winning the Oscar, WGA or Globe.  It’s the first since Reversal of Fortune to win without those three or the BAFTA.

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

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


  • The Descendants
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball

Golden Globes:

  • The Descendants
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball

Nominees That are Original:  Midnight in Paris, The Artist


  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • The Descendants
  • The Help
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball


  • Moneyball
  • The Descendants
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Help
  • Hugo


  • Moneyball


  • Moneyball


  • The Descendants


  • Moneyball

My Top 10

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

ttssThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film when I wrote about the book as a Great Read.  It’s a first rate film, a magnificent spy film that hinges on actual intelligence work instead of a lot of action and thrills.  It has a magnificent British cast that hits all the right notes across the board.  What’s more, it does a magnificent job of compressing a book that has enough story in it to cover a six episode mini-series (that was also brilliant) and having it come in at feature length without compromising either the original story or the complications of the plot.  The BAFTAs at least had the measure of the film right by nominating it for Best Picture.

ttss-bThe Source:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré  (1974)

Well, the fact that I reviewed the book as a Great Read should tell you enough.  It is in my Top 200 novels of all-time, the absolute master-piece of how to do a spy novel (rather than a thriller).  It’s even more rewarding on later reads and you realize how much the novel is constructed to slowly you bring in to everything, opening and closing with a character who, in some ways, isn’t even part of the main plot.

The Adaptation:

The vast majority of what we get on screen is straight from the book including a lot of the dialogue.  But while the original mini-series could be more straight forward in its adaptation, the film moves things around, cuts down on some more minor characters, omits a lot of scenes and yet still makes it all flow.  There are certainly differences from the book (Jim is shot in the city not the woods, Ricki is in Istanbul instead of Hong Kong, the final death is by gun rather than by broken neck and it’s made explicit who did it rather than implicit) and some more modern changes (Peter is gay rather than just having a lover) even though it’s still a period piece.  A great example of differences is the scene that describes Smiley’s meeting with Karla which actually gives us a visual image in the mini-series (a rather brilliant one) and instead we just get the fantastic Smiley speech in the film (that scene alone earned Oldman his Oscar nomination).  There is a lot less about Ann in the film than in the book and the mini-series.

The Credits:

Directed by Tomas Alfredson.  Based on the novel by John le Carré.  Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan.

The Descendants

descThe Film:

In my full review of the film I talked about the performance of Shailene Woodley (it really deserved an Oscar nomination) but I didn’t talk about the key scene.  It’s a difficult thing for a child to suddenly be forced to grow up, to deal with things they are not supposed to be ready to deal with.  And she’s there, floating in the water when her father tells her that her mother won’t be waking up, that they need to start preparing for that and she sinks below the water and screams and cries and all her anguish, all her pain, all her anger comes to the surface in a startling moment that makes it clear how good the performance is.  Apparently Clooney thought so as well because after witnessing it he told her that her career was set.

desc-bThe Source:

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings  (2007)

An interesting novel that grew out of a short story (the short story has the same title as the first part of the novel which covers until they leave to go get Alex so I assume that’s the part that was the story) about a man who’s trying to deal with his two unruly daughters while his wife lies in a coma (and moving towards death) while also wondering what to do with his inheritance (a large chunk of land in Hawaii that his family owns and which he is the one who controls).  It’s funny and moving all at once and deals with family ties that can both bring us joy and pain.  It was a solid novel – better than I feared in my original review given how much an improvement Payne had made on previous novels he had adapted.

The Adaptation:

The vast majority of the film comes straight from the book, although, sadly, not my favorite line, which in the book is “She’s dying.  I thought I’d give you a chance to say goodbye” but gets changed in the film to “Elizabeth is dying. Wait … Fuck you!  And she’s dying.”  Other than that, almost every memorable line in the film (such as “I’m going to hit you now”) comes straight from the book.  The first scene with Kai is actually with a different couple in the book and the book has more of a subplot dealing with Sid and his mom but it’s a very faithful adaptation.  Hemmings herself is in the film, playing Matt’s secretary when the cousins show up.

The Credits:

directed by Alexander Payne.  screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash.  based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.


hugo - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpg

The Film:

The irony of a French director winning the Oscar for making a film about Hollywood when the two most prominent New York directors make films about Paris is thick.  I don’t begrudge the Oscars for The Artist because it is just about on an equal footing with Hugo (as is clear from a recent Top 1000 post) and because, thankfully, the Academy had already done right by Marty back in 2006.  It is still, however, the best of a slightly weaker year than normal in film (Hugo would have been #3 in 2010 or 2012).  It is a film with a deep appreciation for the history of film and by that, I don’t mean Hollywood at all, but the brilliance of George Melies.  Yet, it’s not just a history lesson and it’s a great story of a boy and a girl and their journey together in a Paris unlike the real city but so like the city of Amelie and Remy that we would wish we could live in.  Full review here.

hugo-bThe Source:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick  (2007)

This magnificent novel won the Caldecott Medal, an award given to the best picture book of the year.  That’s because this book was something like nothing before it.  It is a novel that tells the story of young Hugo Cabret and how he lives in a train station, on his own at a young age after the death of his father and how the legacy of his father leads him to the world’s first great filmmaker, who has been forgotten before his own death.  But the novel bounces back between pages of narrative and full pages of illustrations that don’t just amplify the story but actually tell bits in-between the narrative.  It fully showcases Selznick’s ability to tell a story but also his wonderful illustrations, as they take up nearly half the pages in the book.

The Adaptation:

Not only did Marty not have to change much (the film is very faithful) but the style of the book basically created storyboards for the look of the film as well.  A beautiful example of book in conjunction with a film.

The Credits:

Directed by Martin Scorsese.  Screenplay by John Logan.  Based on the book entitled “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

hpdh2The Film:

This script is not necessarily that much stronger than the script for the first part but that one came in sixth in 2010 and this one comes in fourth.  That’s the luck of the year.

A fantastic finish to what, at the time, was the highest grossing franchise in film history (it’s now down to 3rd or 4th depending on whether you want to count the Disney Live Action Animation films).  The entire second half of the film is dominated by the Battle of Hogwarts and the magnificent visual effects but it also makes room for the very real human emotions of the film.  Boyhood was heralded a few years after this film’s release because Linklater kept coming back to the same story over the years but what this series did, getting the right actors at the right time and managing to stick with them through all the films is really remarkable.  Full review here.

hpdhThe Source:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling  (2007)

Like I mentioned in the post for 2010, I already covered this book when I wrote about it for my For Love of Books post about the entire series.

The Adaptation:

I actually don’t even really need to discuss this.  I spend considerable time in my review of the film discussing the ways in the which the film is considerably different from the book, so just look there.

The Credits:

Directed by David Yates.  Screenplay by Steve Kloves.  Based on the novel by J. K. Rowling.

The Ides of March

ides_of_marchThe Film:

I am a political pragmatist.  I have preferences when it comes to ideology but in the end, what matters is winning.  I agree with Tom Hayden in the exchange between him and Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7: ““Winning elections, that’s the first thing on your wish list? Equality, justice, education, poverty and progress, they’re second?”  “If you don’t win elections, it doesn’t matter what’s second.”  It’s never quite clear what the underlying philosophy is for Governor Mike Morris.  Morris is running for president and he says a lot of things that often don’t get people elected but he believes in the Constitution and he believes in the people.  Partway through the film he refuses to give a cabinet position to a prominent senator because he doesn’t buy into that senator’s priorities.  Yet, by the end of the film, he has compromised himself much more severely, not only because if he doesn’t he won’t become president but also because he won’t be anything in politics at all.  This film, in some ways, is made for me, because I believe in good politics, I believe in good government, but I am also extremely cynical about all of it.  I wouldn’t do what Stephen Meyers, the press secretary for Morris who will manipulate himself out of being fired and into a higher position by the end of film does to keep his job but I know that I would do certain things to try and play the game to make certain that the side I wanted to win would win.

The Ides of March functions as a film at two different levels and I believe that it’s both levels that interested George Clooney as a director.  The first level is probably why he wanted to make the film in the first place and the second level is probably why it is so different from the original source material (see below for more on that).  To get himself involved with the second level, Clooney needed to make significant changes to the plot and I absolutely understand that.  He doesn’t give himself the lead role (like with Good Night and Good Luck, he was happy to fit himself in as the important character role rather than the lead) but he gets in on the action.

The first role is that this film is about how the political process plays out.  It’s true that most campaigns (hopefully) won’t hinge on the sexual relations of the candidate (especially sexual relations that would lead to tragedy) although it is certainly not unheard of.  But campaigns play against each other even when they are supposedly on the same side of the political spectrum.  They try to sabotage, they get greedy and desperate and they work the press into that.  Reporters are often happy to play the kind of role that Marisa Tomei gets in this film, being handed scoops on the side, because it allows them to make their own play and be involved and gives them a sense of power in the process, even if they know (or don’t) that they are being manipulated by one campaign or another.  This film is very cynical about every level of presidential politics and doesn’t hold back on that and when we see the lead character come out on top, we have to wonder if that’s what we really want given what he did to get there.

But then there is the other level of the film and that is simply the way that complex, intelligent characters interact with each other.  In making changes from the original play, the film allows not only for more characters but for a greater level of depth to the characters.  That also allows for a great complexity in the acting performances, something that Clooney as a director seems to have no trouble with.  While Ryan Gosling (who is great and just misses out on a Nighthawk nomination) is the only lead, we get an array of great supporting performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman (Gosling’s boss), Clooney (the candidate), Paul Giamatti (working for another candidate), Jeffrey Wright (the man who could make the endorsement), Marisa Tomei (the reporter) and Evan Rachel Wood (the intern whose personal issues will make the plot take its final turns).  The original play had some good scenes but this film really allows these characters (and the acting) come alive as they interact with each other.

fnThe Source:

Farragut North by Beau Willimon  (2008)

This is an interesting play that covers a couple of days in the early stages of the presidential primary.  It deals with a press secretary who is sounded out by the opposition, the way that plays him against his boss, the intern that is involved with all of this and how cut-throat politics is not so different than any other business.  It has a cynical ending that deals with the press secretary being ousted but also managing to take down his boss and the final words we get are actually from the ambitious assistant to the press secretary who is now in his boss’s old job.

The Adaptation:

That may sound very different than the film and it is.  First of all, there are far fewer characters in the original play.  You might (correctly) guess that someone like the Senator played by Jeffrey Wright wasn’t in the original play and is just discussed but would you have guessed that the governor himself isn’t actually in the original play?  That’s right – every line Clooney says in the film is actually written by the screenwriters.  What’s more, all of the issues with the intern are much more compressed in the play and it’s the boss, not the actual candidate that she slept with (and she’s not pregnant and she’s still alive at the end).  Several of the scenes from the original play made it intact to the screen with a lot of the original dialogue but there are massive changes to the story as a whole and of course the ending bears almost no resemblance to the original ending.  The story is probably what intrigued Clooney but it was far too short (the play runs just 63 pages) and even with all the additional scenes the film runs significantly less than two hours.  And as I said – I feel like Clooney wanted a chance to interact with his actors and that’s why he made the part of the governor (and the complexities that make the film more morally ambiguous and lead to the ending) so prominent in the film when it wasn’t even a part in the original play.

The Credits:

Directed by George Clooney.  Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon.  Based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon.

My Week with Marilyn

my_week_with_marilyn_ver2The Film:

I sat there watching this wonderful film for the third time and had the sudden realization (certainly not possible to have on my first viewing, when it was first released on DVD) that Hermione Granger was snogging Newt Scamander.  It’s funny how movies work like that, especially to think that Newt was working for one of the worst Hogwarts professors ever.  I somehow think that Hermione would have been okay with snogging Newt if not for the fact that he was about eighty years older than her (though this film, set in 1956, fits almost halfway in-between).

That of course gets away from the real crux of the film, which is the making of a film itself.  Or what being a star is all about.  Or about being young and falling for someone so far outside your league that you wonder that you even share a planet.

There have been quite a number of films about the making of films and they seem to be growing, as the year after this there was Hitchcock (about the making of Psycho) and the year after that Saving Mr Banks (the making of Mary Poppins).  But those films were classics while the odds are that you haven’t even heard of The Prince and the Showgirl, let alone have seen it.  This isn’t about how a classic was made but about the aggravations that ensured when the height of classical acting, Laurence Olivier, tried to act opposite and even to direct someone who not only came from the Method but seemed incapable of doing without it or even of doing it.

I am not a big Monroe fan but I am a massive Olivier fan.  I am also a massive Kenneth Branagh fan and to watch Branagh play Olivier himself was something I couldn’t be more enthused about.  And if someone were going to play Monroe, why not Michelle Williams, certainly one of the best actresses at work today and one who certainly is bound to win an Oscar at some point and really should have won one for this film.

But perhaps the real discovery in this film is Eddie Redmayne.  I had no idea who Redmayne was when this film was released, had only seen him in a small role in one film (Elizabeth: The Golden Age).  But he’s a natural here, not so good looking to be easily desirable but interesting looking enough that he’s believable as a young man that Monroe might be interested in (and that Emma Watson would be willing to snog, at least a bit, even if she won’t let him undo her blouse).  Redmayne slips easily into the role of Colin Clark, the young man who grew up in a privileged family, had the good luck to know the Oliviers and was determined enough to work in film that he managed to get a job on the film and then naive and lucky enough that he ended up spending some time with Monroe herself at a time in filming when everyone else was ready to do away with her.

This film seems to rise every time I have seen it.  The first time, I had it as the highest rating for ***.5 but when I saw it again before doing my actual 2011 awards, I bumped it up to ****.  Part of it, aside from the magnificent performances of Williams and Branagh, is the very natural performance from Redmayne.  It doesn’t surprise me now that he would become a star and quickly win an Oscar though I really wish his co-stars had won theirs first since they have both deserved them for so long.

mwwmThe Source:

My Week with Marilyn  (2000) and The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me (1995) by Colin Clark

These two books, originally published separately (in the first book, that week is simply skipped and he makes some mention of what happened, but they are just about the only days in the period of months when Clark worked on The Prince and the Showgirl which have no entries) can now be purchased in one volume as My Week with Marilyn (9781602861497).  If you have any interest in film they are definitely worth reading.  psandmActually, it’s really the diary that is worth reading for the interest in film.  The other one is the basis for most of the film (not all of it, as is mentioned below) but is really interesting for those interested in Marilyn Monroe or about celebrities in general.  But Clark, who already lead a pretty privileged life (his father was a famous art historian and he was family friends with the Oliviers after all) got to lead an interesting life on the set of the film and was honest about all of it.  While The Prince and the Showgirl is the least interesting of Olivier’s films as a director, that a detailed account of it exists like this, especially given the people involved, makes it worth reading about.

The Adaptation:

I originally assumed that there had been some creative license in the making of the film but was stunned to find that there was almost none.  Almost everything in the film, from the early scenes (covered in the diaries), to the dating of the wardrobe girl (the part I definitely thought would have been added for the film) to almost all the details of the actual week with Marilyn all come straight from the book.  The only thing that really isn’t in the book is that Clark didn’t stay in a boarding house near the studio and thus that scene (and the scene at the end where Marilyn comes to say goodbye to him there) are created for the film but almost everything else is exactly as it was described in the original books.

The Credits:

Directed by Simon Curtis.  Screenplay by Adrian Hodges.  Based on the diaries by Colin Clark.

Jane Eyre

jeThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film from when I reviewed the novel (see link below).  After three earlier film versions of variable quality (except the 1933 – it’s utter crap and should always be skipped) this version finally managed to get it perfectly right.  It’s got great casting, great direction (it reminds me of how Ang Lee managed to perfectly step into Austen with Sense and Sensibility) and it looks just right from start to finish.  So of course it was ignored for subpar filmmaking like The Help.  Part of the magnificent 2011 for Michael Fassbender that moved him from mostly unknown to star.

janeeyreThe Source:

Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, Edited by Currer Bell in three volumes  (1847)

Yes, that’s precisely how it was published.  Bronte used a pseudonym (as would her sister when she published her masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, just two months later) when she first published this magnificent novel which I ranked at #20 all-time.  Sitting at #20 ranks it 4th among 19th Century novels and 1st among British 19th Century novels, making it the crowning achievement of the Victorian Novel, beating out Great Expectations (#35) and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (#60).  The full review of the book can be found here.


The book is very straightforward with Jane’s story, beginning with her as a child and leading past her marriage to the birth of her own child.  The film itself actually begins with her having fled Thornfield and her time with Rivers before giving us her story in flashback.  The film greatly truncates her early years and especially her time at school in order to focus more on her relationship with Rochester.  Though the film cuts enough of the book that it can fit into a two hour timeframe, it doesn’t greatly altar anything, mostly just cutting details and sticking to the core of the story.  There are a few differences between what it shows and what’s on the page (obviously Fassbender is more handsome than Rochester is described and he doesn’t lose a hand in the fire) but it is a mostly faithful adaptation that actually gives enough of the Rivers story that so many adaptations often truncate or leave out entirely.

The Credits:

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.  Screenplay by Moira Buffini.  Based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte.


moneyballThe Film:

I have already written about my issues with the film and since I will address those issues again in the next section, I’ll skip them here.  I’ll simply focus on the fact that this film does a great job of telling its story, gets the first great use of Brad Pitt as a leading man and makes strong use of Jonah Hill.  It’s not at the level of Field of Dreams or Bull Durham, of course, but for a (mostly) true baseball story, it’s as good as it’s ever gotten (or likely to get).

moneyball-bookThe Source:

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis  (2003)

As mentioned in the original review, this book is full of crap.  Lewis had a story that he wanted to tell (how the A’s managed to compete so successfully for so long despite having one of the lowest payrolls in major league baseball) and he decided to tell that story no matter that it wasn’t actually the story of why the team was successful.  If it had been, the team would have managed to compete after their trio of star pitchers had left but it didn’t and they didn’t.  It’s a perfect measure of the bullshit of Lewis’ book that the actual chapter “The Science of Winning an Unfair Game” does not mention any of their three star pitchers even once.  If I wanted to be even more churlish I could point out that most of the players that Beane drafts in this book didn’t end up working out either, in spite of Lewis playing up what a great strategy Beane has.  Let’s be fair – Beane has been a great general manager for a long time, managing to find a lot of success in spite of a low payroll.  But Lewis’ book is an inaccurate description of how that functioned.  It had an agenda and it told it.  He would do it again a few years later with his football book but, since that wasn’t nominated even once for its script (because it’s crap) in spite of being nominated for Best Picture, I didn’t have to tackle reading that one or watching that dumb film again.

The Adaptation:

The film hearkens even more to the idea of Beane going with the ideas of “Peter Brand” (really Paul DePodesta, but he wanted his name changed for the film), seeming as if his manager hates the idea (not true) and as if all the success is based on what they are doing with not a single mention of their trio of star pitchers.  Those pitchers, by the way, went 57-21 in the 2002 season portrayed in the film.  Zito won the Cy Young.  Miguel Tejada, barely mentioned in the film, won the MVP.  That’s why the A’s won the division.

The Credits:

Directed by Bennett Miller.  Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.  Story by Stan Chervin.  Based on the book by Michael Lewis.


incendiesThe Film:

A woman dies from a stroke while swimming.  She is living in Canada, but it turns out her past is in the Middle East.  Much like the events in the film Missing, the country from which she emigrated is not named in the film, because it could be one of a number of countries.  The pain in the path she has trod has more than one simple origin.  Her past becomes vital to the story, because she makes her children walk in it.  Her will explains that her children need to find their father, whom they have never met, and their older brother, who they did not even know existed.

This was the last film directed by acclaimed Canadian director Denis Villenueve before he left Canada and the French language behind and came to the United States and started being given big stars (Hugh Jackman) and big projects (the Blade Runner sequel).  But in this film, we see the groundwork for the films that would follow in the English language, for dark penetrating dramas like Prisoners that plunge the depths of the human soul, or the pain we inflict across international borders, like in Sicario.

To even talk more about the plot of Incendies is to deny you the pain or amazement at discovering the journey which these characters walk upon.  People turn upon themselves, they seek for death and find only life.  What the mother endured before she had her two later children reminds me of a line from Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, which deals with some of the same kind of political suffering: “When she had nearly achieved her goal, her Grandmother Clara, whom she had invoked so many times to help her die, appeared with the novel idea that the point was not to die, since death came anyway, but to survive, which would be a miracle.”  That miracle happened, and she managed to survive, and when she does die, she wants her children to understand what this miracle entailed.

This is not a film for the light of heart.  Villenueve brings an intense pain to what happens, but the characters find enlightenment, and in the end, what they learn is the kind of thing that people sometimes learn when they are born in the pain of war, even if that was has never been declared.

One interesting note about this film and how impressed I was by it: I wrote this review back in 2016 because the play wasn’t available from my local library and I needed to take advantage of working at the Tufts Library before I lost ILL privileges there.  So, when I wrote about this film, Villeneuve was not yet an Oscar nominee, was not yet the foremost director of Sci-Fi films and had yet to make Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 or Dune.

incen-plThe Source:

Incendies by Wajdi Mouawad  (2003)

If the film is a brutal walk through the things that people do to each other, the play is no less relentless.  It contains 38 different scenes, but there is no act structure and it almost seems to be designed to be eventually turned into a film, the way it moves from short scene to short scene, with so many settings.  It’s the story of twins who discover their mother’s past after she sends them on a tour of discovery in instructions that are printed in her will.  The play is actually the second part of a tetralogy, but it’s a spiritual tetralogy and the actions and characters do not carry over from one play to the next.

The Adaptation:

The film stays very close to much of the action in the play.  Much of the action is expanded upon, because there is so much more that you can do in a film that you can’t do on stage.  The son is also much more violent (not physically violent, but emotionally and verbally) in the play than he is in the film and that makes him harder to take.

The Credits:

Un film de Denis Villeneuve.  D’apres la piece Incendies de Wajdi Mouawad.  Scenario et dialogues Denis Villeneuve.  Avec la collaboration de Valerie Beaugrand-Champagne.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

the-adventures-of-tintin-the-secret-of-the-unicorn-filmThe Film:

I have already reviewed this film here (way down towards the bottom).  It was the film for 2011 that I most wanted to watch and thus one of the few I saw in the theater (and indeed on opening day, taking the day off work for it).  I had wanted a Tintin film for basically my whole life and this one finally came through for me, especially in those glorious opening credits that are an homage not just to brilliant original artwork (and font) but also the full series of adventures of which I hope there will still be more.  It absolutely should have been the Oscar winner and they didn’t nominate it because the animators branch is prejudiced against this kind of animated work.

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_11_-_The_Secret_of_the_Unicorn (1)The Source:

Le Secret de la Licorne by Hergé  (1942-43)

One of my brother John’s favorite Tintin books and as I explain here, it’s not very hard to see why.  The rest of that post (already linked above as well) pretty much tells you far more than you ever wanted to know about Tintin or either of these books unless you’re European.  The dates are from the original serialization with several other dates listed in the other post.

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_12_-_Red_Rackham's_TreasureLe Trésor de Rackham le Rouge by Hergé  (1943)

This is the single biggest selling book of all the Tintin adventures which is quite surprising since it’s a sequel.  But it is pure adventure (there’s no real villain) and it does have what might be the most glorious cover of all the Tintin books.

The Adaptation:

The film not only makes use of the plot from both films (though much less of the second one) but also manages to bring a considerable portion of The Crab with the Golden Claws (all-important if you are going to introduce Haddock in the first film).  I detail it all in the review linked above.

The Credits:

Directed by Steven Spielberg.  Based on “The Adventures of Tintin” by Hergé.  Screenplay by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wrgith & Joe Cornish.

Consensus Nominee

The Help

helpThe Film:

Oh how white people love to solve racism.  They desperately want it to be solved and the world keeps proving that it hasn’t been solved.  So white filmmakers continue to make films like this to make themselves feel better.  As mentioned in my original review (because this was nominated for Best Picture), this is a film that is a triumph of acting (two great performances and one very good one) over a script that alternates between maudlin, annoying and downright obnoxious.  But, hey, it allows people to feel better about the way that racism continues to be unsolved and then allows them to move on to other things.  Just enjoy the performances if you feel the need to watch this (or watch it again) and ignore the actual story.

help-bookThe Source:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett  (2009)

What a load of sanctimonious shit.  Stockett, a white woman raised in the South decides to write a book about a young white woman in the South who, not being hired for an editor’s job in New York because she doesn’t have any experience (or knowledge of the world) writes a book about the local black help and it becomes a sensation.  She gives a voice to the all the black women who haven’t been given a voice because, you know, it’s the South and it’s 1963, and Southern society is too busy oppressing them and everyone of their race.  Obnoxious right from the start (because it’s actually written from the point of view of the help themselves and Stockett tries her hand at authentic regional modes of speaking) and somehow this book sold amazingly because people want to read a story that makes them feel good rather than something that is actually well written.

The Adaptation:

Most of the film comes from the book but it was hard for me to determine exactly how much because I just couldn’t take reading the stupid book anymore and I put it down.  I will quote one line on Wikipedia that actually suggests that the film even makes things worse: “In the original novel, Pascagoula, the Phelan family’s maid, is the one watching the Medgar Evers address, introducing her into the narrative, whereas, in the film, Skeeter is at the forefront, placing her as the primary audience of civil rights news.”

The Credits:

Written for the Screen and Directed by Tate Taylor.  Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett.

WGA Nominee

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

girl_with_the_dragon_tattooThe Film:

Mikael Blomkvist is in a bad spot.  He’s just been found guilty of libel (in spite of having his facts correct) and that is damaging him both professionally and personally (he co-owns a magazine run by his sometime lover).  That’s the moment when Henrik Vanger decides to hire him.  Vanger hates the man who successfully sued Blomkvist but he also admires Blomkvist’s journalistic abilities and he wants to get to the bottom of a mystery.  Some forty years ago, his niece disappeared, probably murdered, and he wants to know who is responsible and why they continue to torment him by sending him the same kind of cut-flower displays that his niece gave him back when she was alive.

That alone would make for an interesting story and a full film but what is added in is an investigator.  Her name is Lisbeth Salander and she is not what almost anyone would consider normal.  She dresses to stand out, she has severe anti-social tendencies and she has a very dark past made worse when her court-appointed ward brutally rapes her.  Salander is the title character, the girl with the dragon tattoo (more on that here) and she kicks the film up a notch, not only because of her involvement as a researcher (and her own dark story) but because of the fantastic performance from Rooney Mara that helped make up for David Fincher making great use of her in The Social Network the year before but only for (essentially) the opening scene.

This film makes for an interesting look at the rating system and the way it was originally designed.  The original system was G, M, R and X and the idea of an X rated film was that no one under 16 should see the film.  The rating, of course, was later co-opted by the adult film industry and was mostly dropped.  But in the early days it was meant to signify films for adults (as opposed to “adult films”) which is why a film like Midnight Cowboy earned an X (definitely an R today) but so did A Clockwork Orange (definitely deserved it).  This film is definitely an X film.  It’s a serious film, one with a well-told mystery at its core (in which they eventually get to the answer), with fantastic direction, Oscar winning editing and top notch performances all around.  But it’s also disturbing to the nth degree, filled with murder and rape and brutality and without a single moment to really lighten things up.  It relies on our interest in the actors and the story (but of which are in full force thanks to the quality of the film-making) to keep us going because so much of it you want to flinch away from.

gwtdtThe Source:

Män som hatar kvinnor by Stieg Larsson (2005, tr. 2008)

I have already reviewed this book (for the previous post in fact – the link above about the title goes there) because the 2009 Swedish film was nominated for Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs.  Very disturbing book.

The Adaptation:

The film doesn’t actually change that much of the book so much as cut things out.  Most of the extraneous members of the Vanger family have been cut or characters have been combined to make things easier.  A lot of the details have been trimmed.  But at its heart, it really is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel, keeping the core storyline and almost all of the things having to do with Blomkvist and Salander intact or with minimal changes.  The ending is much more compressed in the film after the villain dies but it dragged far too long after that point in the book anyway (some 100 pages including over 50 after they know the status of the niece).

The Credits:

Directed by David Fincher.  Based on the book by Stieg Larsson, originally published by Norstedts.  Screenplay by Steven Zaillian.

CC Nominee

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

elaicThe Film:

If I hadn’t hated the film enough the first time, having now at last attempted to read the book (see below), I hated it even more.  It’s such fucking arrogance to take this insipid piece of crap and marry it to an event like 9/11 in the hope that it will provide a deeper meaning to it.  I, for the life of me, can not fathom how anyone thought this film was worthy of a Best Picture nomination.  Full review here.

el&icThe Source:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer  (2005)

As mentioned in my full review of the film, I had read Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated and hadn’t liked it even though I would eventually like the film that came to be made out of it.  I hadn’t bothered to read this and kind of it missed it (thankfully) because it came out in the short stretch between when I left Powell’s in early 2004 and started at Borders in late 2005 when I didn’t work in bookstores so I ignored it.  I wish I still had.  To end your book with the falling man from 9/11 but then put the images in reverse in a way of trying to what, save him, I guess, well, then fuck you.  This event was beyond your ability to deal with in your insipid fiction, Foer.

The Adaptation:

Don’t know.  Don’t care.

The Credits:

directed by Stephen Daldry.  screenplay by Eric Roth.  based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

note:  This list drops a couple of spots and only one other film would be here but is reviewed above (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is #11).

  • As If I Am Not There  –  A very good, harrowing film that was submitted to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film (from Ireland) and of course was not nominated.  Based on the novel by Slavenka Drakulić with a very good performance from Nataša Petrović, the answer to the question, what if Felicity Jones was Macedonian.
  • War Horse  –  Spielberg makes about as good a movie as you can make about a horse.  Based on the play.  Full review here.
  • The Skin I Live In  –  The rare Almodóvar adaptation, from the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet.
  • Only Yesterday  –  Twenty years after debuting in Japan, Isao Takahata’s adaptation of the 1982 manga makes a U.S. debut.  Ten years after I already owned it on DVD.  Mid ***.5.
  • Winter in Wartime  –  Low ***.5 for this Dutch film that was at least short-listed by the Oscars in Foreign Film (in 2008).  Based on the 1972 novel by Jan Terlouw.
  • Potiche  –  Francois Ozon adapts the French play.
  • A Dangerous Method  –  Cronenberg teams up with Viggo for a third time but it’s not at the same level as their previous two collaborations.  Based on both a play and a non-fiction book about Jung and Freud.
  • Puss in Boots  –  Looking good never looked so good.  Maybe my favorite tagline ever.  Puss gets his own spin-off film.

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

note:  The adaptations go way up from the year before.

  • Kung Fu Panda 2  –  Low ***.5 but like all Animated films in this position, is it really there to give me another Animated Film nominee?  Should it really be a few points lower?  Either way, the sequel is fine.
  • Coriolanus  –  At a 75, the highest film without making my Picture cut-off.  Very solid modern adaptation by Ralph Fiennes of one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays.
  • Drive  –  Solid Crime film with one of the more unexpected death scenes that I can remember.  Based on the novel by James Sallis.  The only English language film between 2001 and 2020 to land in the Top 10 in Awards Points with only a single Tech Oscar nomination to show for it.
  • In Darkness  –  Oscar nominee from Poland.  Based on the book In the Sewers of Lvov about a sewer worker who hid Jews during the Holocaust.
  • The Mill and the Cross  –  A Polish-Swedeish co-production filmed in English (and some Spanish).  Based on a book by Michael Francis Gibson about characters in the painting The Procession to Calvary.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger  –  Chris Evans begins his almost decade long run perfectly embodying the character.  A film that has continually grown on me, especially as so much of it paid off more in later films.  Makes good use of the original origin as written by Joe Simon (with art from Jack Kirby) back in 1940 but also a lot of use of later Marvel ideas that were being prepared for the later Marvel films, including the first use in the MCU of the Infinity Stones.  Of course, even at high *** that makes it one of the weaker MCU films.
  • Montevideo: Taste of a Dream  –  Serbian Oscar submission about the Yugoslavian team that competed in the first World Cup based on a novel about it.
  • The Muppets  –  Only adapted in that the Muppets already existed as characters (and it makes use of their past history).  It can’t ever quite live up to the pure joy and magic of the opening (and closing) number “Life’s a Happy Song” and I can’t fathom how anyone could listen to that song and not nominate it.
  • X-Men: First Class  –  Another film with one scene that rises far above the rest of the film (the scene with the Nazis in South America) but still an effective film and a nice restart to the franchise without actually rebooting it.  Takes some of the characters very far from their comic origins (like Sebastian Shaw) and changes what we know of Mystique considerably from the first films.
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives  –  Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes from acclaimed Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul inspired by a book by Phra Sripariyattiweti.
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol –  Brad Bird moves from Pixar to M:I and bumps the franchise back up to a level it has continued to maintain.
  • The Adjustment Bureau  –  A Philip K. Dick short story becomes a solid, entertaining film.
  • Carnage  –  The play by Yasmina Reza becomes a dark comedy from Roman Polanski.  This is kind of like if this past year’s film Mass had been funny instead of deathly serious.
  • Life, Above All  –  Oscar submission from South Africa, based on the book Chanda’s Secrets.
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas  –  Another Ghibli film I already owned, this one from Isao Takahata and originally released in Japan in 1999.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows  –  The second run for Downey as Holmes has a better villain but still is a far cry from the original Doyle.
  • Fright Night  –  A Horror remake that’s actually well worth watching thanks to David Tennant’s hilarious performance.  I rate it 19 points higher than the original.
  • Brighton Rock  –  Not as good as the 1947 version with Richard Attenborough but a solid cast plus Graham Greene’s excellent story make it worth watching.
  • Alois Nebel  –  The Czech Oscar submission is an Animated film based on a comic book trilogy.
  • We Bought a Zoo  –  Much better than its terrible title would have you think.  Cameron Crowe adapted this from the memoir by the real dad in the story.
  • Arrugas  –  Also known as Wrinkles, the Spanish Animated Comedy that was based on the comic book and earned an Annie nomination.
  • Thor  –  Like Captain America, it takes some liberties but mostly stays true to the original comic concepts (in this case from Lee and Kirby) and it has a perfectly cast Chris in the lead.  This brings us to mid ***.
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within  –  Brazilian Action film, sequel to the 2007 film and actually the Oscar submission from Brazil in 2010.
  • Black Bread  –  Spain’s Oscar submission, based on the novel by Emili Teixidor.
  • Omar Killed Me  –  The Moroccan Oscar submission, based on two different non-fiction books.
  • Winnie the Pooh  –  After various individual character movies (from DisneyToons), Pooh Bear returns to the forefront and to Disney’s Animated features with this charming film.
  • Gnomeo & Juliet  –  A good soundtrack from Elton John and the silliness of combining Romeo and Juliet with garden gnomes helps compensate for a mediocre script.
  • 13 Assassins  –  Solid remake of the 1963 Samurai film.
  • The Princess of Montpensier  –  French period piece based on the 1662 novel.
  • The Housemaid  –  South Korean remake of the 1960 South Korean film.
  • The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner   –  Bulgarian Oscar semi-finalist from 2009 based on the novel by Ilija Trojanow.
  • Of Love and Other Demons  –  The Costa Rica Oscar submission for 2010, based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  • Mysteries of Lisbon  –  If The Help were on this part of the list (where it belongs), it would go right after this film.  This Portuguese film based on a 19th century Portuguese novel is actually directed by acclaimed Chilean director Raul Ruiz.
  • Dasepo Naughty Girls  –  South Korean adaptation of a webtoon series.
  • Higher Ground  –  Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, based on a memoir by Susan S. Briggs.  Farmiga cast her (much) younger sister Taissa to play her younger self.
  • Submarine  –  Coming of age Comedy based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne.
  • Everything Must Go  –  Will Ferrell is not a natural fit for the protagonist of a Raymond Carver short story (“Why Don’t You Dance”) but he is actually solid.
  • The Way  –  Somewhat adapted from portions of Jack Hitt’s back Off the Road.  Emilio Estevez casts his father to play… his father.
  • Happy Feet Two  –  Down to low *** with this drastically inferior sequel to the Oscar winner.
  • Under the Protection of Ka’Bah  –  Indonesian Oscar submission based on the 1938 novel by Hamka.
  • Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame  –  The first of three films (so far) in a series based on the 19th century character Judge Dee.  A big awards hit in China.
  • Sonny Boy  –  The Dutch Oscar submission based on the novel by Annejet van der Zijl.
  • Amigo  –  Low *** is good for many directors but quite weak for John Sayles.  Also odd for Sayles to adapt his own then-unpublished novel.
  • If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle  –  The Romanian Oscar submission from 2010 based on the play.
  • The Hedgehog  –  I’ve never actually read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the source novel for this film, but it was a big seller when I worked at the Booksmith.
  • 7 Khoon Maaf  –  Hindi Black Comedy based on a short story by Ruskin Bond.
  • Bad Day to Go Fishing  –  The 2009 Uruguayan Oscar submission based on a short story by Juan Carlos Onetti.
  • Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster  –  The Ip Man films are all pretty predictable and not much in the way of story or dialogue but they all also feature Donnie Yen kicking the crap out of people and that kind of balances it out.
  • Albert Nobbs  –  With the exception of The Big Chill and Dangerous Liaisons it’s kind of depressing to look at the films that earned Glenn Close Oscar nominations for how much they fail to utilize her performances.  Okay film based on the novella by George Moore but solid performance from Close (even if she doesn’t earn a Nighthawk nom).
  • My Afternoons with Margueritte  –  French film based on the book by Marie-Sabine Roger.
  • Queen to Play  –  Kevin Kline shows he can act in French in this film based on the novel La Joueuse d’échecs.
  • The Music Never Stopped  –  Based on one of the essays in Oliver Sacks’ brilliant book An Anthropologist on Mars.
  • United Red Army  –  Drop to high **.5 with this 2007 Japanese film based on the book about the real 1972 incident.
  • Cars 2  –  Pixar pulls a Soderbergh and does one just for the money in between all their artistic brilliance.
  • Sarah’s Key  –  The hit novel from Tatiana de Rosnay becomes a mediocre French film with Kristin Scott Thomas.
  • The Rum Diary  –  Hunter Thompson held off on publishing the novel for a long time and this film version kind of shows why.  Down to mid **.5.
  • Prince of the Himalayas  –  Hamlet as set in ancient Tibet.
  • The Big Year  –  Bird-watching is a solitary, quiet hobby so it doesn’t really make for an interesting film.  Based on the non-fiction book.
  • Miral  –  Julian Schnable’s follow-up to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly looks at a young Palestinian woman in 1948, based on the novel.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes  –  Reboot of the series is really incorrectly titled (this should be Dawn and the next one should be Rise).  I don’t think these new apes films earn their plaudits (except in Visual Effects, though like the Oscars and unlike the VES, they don’t win Nighthawk Awards).
  • Ready  –  Hindi Action Comedy that’s a remake of a Telugu Action Comedy.
  • The Flowers of War  –  Zhang Yimou deals with the Nanking Massacre (based on a novella) but, even though it’s the Chinese Oscar submission, it isn’t all that good, especially when you consider that it’s from Zhang.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan  –  Another big selling novel that I haven’t read.  Wayne Wang’s adaptation brings us down to low **.5.
  • Real Steel  –  Rather surprising Oscar nominee for Visual Effects.  Based on a short story by Richard Matheson (more known for I Am Legend).
  • Scream 4  –  The franchise comes to a conclusion, at least for a decade, until it’s brought back to life.
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins  –  Example of a wonderful Children’s book being turned into a sub-par film by adding plot where the original just had charm (the most recent example of this is Clifford the Big Red Dog).
  • Cracks  –  British Suspense film based on the novel by Sheila Kohler.
  • The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch  –  French Action film based on the Belgian comic book.
  • Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance  –  An Anime series gets a feature film.  This happens a lot from here on out.
  • The Debt  –  Remake of a 2007 Israeli film.  One of six films in 2011 that catapulted Jessica Chastain to stardom and this, in some ways, is the most impressive acting performance as she plays a young Helen Mirren and has to act opposite Sam Worthington.
  • Water for Elephants  –  Yet again, big seller, didn’t read it, mediocre film.
  • The Sleeping Beauty  –  Catherine Breillat brings her own adult version of Perrault’s fairy tale to life.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer  –  Lame Suspense film based on a series of books which inevitably lead to really obnoxious Lincoln commercials with star Matthew McConaughey.
  • Kill the Irishman  –  True life Mafia story based on the book by Rick Porello.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  –  Even Penelope Cruz as a pirate couldn’t make this fourth film in the series good, coming back to the screen without Bloom or Knightley.
  • Conan the Barbarian  –  Even at high ** this might be a surprise.  But when I re-watched it to write a review for my Great Read, I found myself enjoying it much more (almost certainly part of which is having watched Game of Thrones and Aquaman in the interim).  Full review here.
  • Mars Needs Moms  –  A wonderful children’s book from Berke Breathed (of Bloom County fame) which was killed by Zemeckis’ uncanny valley in animation (even though Zemeckis produced not directed) and was one of the biggest box office bombs of the era.
  • Spy Kids: All the Time in the World  –  Jessica Alba and Joel McHale instead of Gugino and Banderas?  Bad idea, Rodriguez.  Down to mid **.
  • The Rite  –  A non-fiction book about an exorcist becomes a lame Horror film.
  • Cowboys & Aliens  –  Cursed with a stupid title (based on a graphic novel of the same name), the film grossed $100 million but so did 29 other films this year (and 91 others from 2009-2011) so it was still considered a bomb.  And it’s rather dumb.
  • The Devil’s Double  –  Mediocre Drama based on the memoir by Latif Yahia.
  • The Hangover Part II  –  One of nine sequels at the top of the box office (12 if you count Thor and Captain America), most of which were creatively bankrupt as this one was.  The first was funny but this one wasn’t.
  • Soul Surfer  –  Just below this should be Extremely Trite and Incredibly Contrived but I reviewed it above.  While working at Borders, I and a co-worker called this book Chomp because it’s about a surfer who is bitten by a shark and uses Christianity to go back in the water.  Personally, I would have decided that I didn’t need to do a sport that could end up with me being eaten but then again, I’m not a Christian.
  • One Day  –  Big selling romantic novel, schmaltzy lame film.  Big letdown from the director of An Education.  Low **.
  • Unknown  –  Action thriller starring Liam Neeson based on a French novel and not just a sequel to all the other action thrillers that he made after his wife died.
  • Johnny English Reborn  –  Rosamund Pike was an actual Bond girl.  What the hell is she doing in this dumb parody sequel?
  • Don 2  –  Hindi Action film.  Described on Wikipedia as “the second and last of the Don series” which means Wikipedia has a different idea of “series” than I do.
  • Burnt by the Sun 2  –  The original was one of the better Foreign films of 1994 but this was just terrible and a box office flop to boot.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules  –  The books are good for kids but the films are just blah.
  • Limitless  –  Bradley Cooper treading water in lame Sci-Fi film (based on the novel The Dark Fields) before exploding with his acting in Silver Linings Playbook in 2012.
  • Bloodworth  –  Kris Kristofferson and Val Kilmer play father and son in this Drama adapted from the novel Provinces of Night.
  • Beastly  –  Fantasy film based on the novel by Alex Flinn based on “Beauty and the Beast” but without intelligence or talent involved.
  • Monte Carlo  –  All the books get their names changed.  This lame Rom-Com is based on the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass (of Rankin/Bass fame).
  • Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil  –  The first film misunderstood Rashomon and this second one lost most of the talented voice cast.
  • The Thing  –  Whether you are of the cult that loves the Carpenter version or, like me, think it’s overrated, we probably agree that this prequel was unnecessary.
  • Salvation Boulevard  –  Satire is hard to do well.  So these filmmakers went with a novel by Larry Beinhart, whose American Hero was made into the very good Wag the Dog.  But Beinhart’s novel was terrible and it was the filmmakers who triumphed there.  Nothing like that happens here with this religious satire.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked  –  Another Alvin movie, another execrable time at the movies.  This made $10 million more than Oscar winner Rango.
  • The Eagle  –  Down to high *.5 with this boring Roman story based on the novel The Eagle of the Ninth.
  • Machine Gun Preacher   –  Oscar nominated director Marc Forster directs totally crappy actor Gerard Butler in this true story based on the real life guy’s book.
  • What’s Your Number?  –  Chris Evans gets to act in Boston in a lame Rom-Com based on a Chick lit book called 20 Times a Lady.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark  –  Guillermo del Toro didn’t direct but he did rewrite this remake of a 1973 ABC television movie.
  • The Three Musketeers  –  We get to mid *.5 with this insanely dumb version of the Dumas classic.  It tries the Sherlock Holmes (2009 version) idea of steampunk but it’s centuries before steam and it has no punk feel.  It’s just bad.  Very bad.
  • From Prada to Nada  –  A loose version of Sense and Sensibility starring one kid from Practical Magic and one from Spy Kids.
  • Dylan Dog: Dead of Night  –  Brandon Routh stars in an adaptation of an Italian comic.  He was better off with American comics.
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It  –  Now we hit low *.5 with this adaptation of the novel by Allison Pearson.
  • Red Riding Hood  –  Interesting idea to make an adult Horror version of the fairy tale but terrible execution.  That and Amanda Seyfried’s giant eyes keep staring at me.
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer  –  The kids books become a very annoying film.
  • Madea’s Big Happy Family  –  Tyler Perry’s big annoying ego.  I wish people would stop paying for Madea films so that he would stop making them.
  • Final Destination 5  –  Down to * with this fifth version where you wonder how it exists because all of the characters should have already been killed off.
  • Seven Days in Utopia  –  A Christian Sports Drama based on a book called, I kid you not, Golf’s Sacred Journey.  Terrible on many levels.
  • Something Borrowed  –  The novel was a big Chick Lit seller.  The movie is very bad.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin  –  Quite good performance from Tilda Swinton in a wrongfully misguided film (based on the novel by Lionel Shriver) about a woman dealing with her psychopathic son.  Mid *.
  • Priest  –  The title character fights vampire.  Based on a Korean comic.
  • The Green Hornet  –  Directing a script from Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry directed a film in my Top 200 all-time (Eternal Sunshine).  Here, working with a script from Seth Rogan, he can’t crack the Top 200 for the year (or even Top 350 for the year).
  • Quarantine 2: Terminal  –  The first one had zombies.  This one has more.
  • Just Go With It  –  A remake of a film that won Goldie Hawn an Oscar (Cactus Flower) wins Adam Sandler a Razzie.  Low *.
  • Paranormal Activity 3  –  Things still aren’t normal.  I still don’t care.
  • Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son  –  It’s not any funnier when Martin Lawrence does it than when Tyler Perry does it.
  • Killer Elite  –  Not a remake of the Peckinpah film but rather an adaptation of The Feather Man, a novel by famed explorer Ranulph Fiennes.
  • Fast Five  –  At a score of 14 and a domestic gross of $209 million, that’s $14.98 million per point, the fourth largest of the year.  The three above it are all below.  I know a lot of people like this series but they’re very badly acted and pretty dumb and having a multi-cultural cast doesn’t make up for those.
  • I Am Number Four  –  James Frey hid his name and wrote crappy YA Sci-Fi and it became a crappy film.
  • Footloose  –  To be fair, this isn’t a terrible remake of a classic.  It’s a terrible remake of a pretty bad film.  But this is still terrible.
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I  –  A whopping 18 spots lower than the previous one in spite of really being no worse.  But it’s also 9 spots below the lowest film in 2010 so there are clearly a lot more adapted films in 2011.  It made $20 million per point.  As I write this sentence, Kristen Stewart is my #2 in Best Actress (and a very deserving Oscar nominee) and Robert Pattinson is hours away from me seeing him in The Batman.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon  –  Some decently fond childhood memories becomes utter noisy shit on screen.  $27 million per point as it was the second highest grossing film of the year at the domestic box office.
  • Arthur  –  The original character was obnoxious but also charming in his own way.  So, let’s remake it with Russell Brand?  We have now dropped to .5 films.
  • Atlas Shrugged Part I  –  The Fountainhead has at least semblances of story and character while this novel was just her crap philosophy about making the world a worse place to live by thinking of yourself.  It made for a total shit film.
  • You and I  –  This one is a mess.  A nationalistic Russian politician wrote a novel that’s a series of text messages about the Russian band t.A.T.u. which a former Oscar nominee (Roland Joffe) made into a film in 2007 then got a Cannes release in 2008 and then finally got a tiny U.S. release in 2011.  Like most Joffe’s post-80s films, it’s very very bad.
  • The Smurfs  –  The grand winner for 2011 in terms of dollars per Nighthawk film point ($28 million, which is 19th all-time with the caveat that zero star films get their gross doubled since you can’t divide by zero).  Unlike Transformers, I never liked the Smurfs, so this doesn’t ruin childhood memories for me.  It’s truly awful though.
  • A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas  –  The first one was crass but had a lot of funny moments.  This one, like the second one, is very crass and has no funny moments.
  • Straw Dogs  –  To do truly horrific violent and traumatic scenes just right you need a good director.  Sam Peckinpah was a good director for this material in 1971.  Rod Lurie was not.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen

  • none

Here is where my OCD runs up against my heart.  Of the over 17,000 films listed at Box Office Mojo, I have seen the vast majority and what I have seen accounts for 99.85% of all the box office from 1977-2020.  Of the films which have grossed over $5 million, I have seen all but 9 of nearly 6000, all but two of which are preachy Christian films.  But the real problem film is Green Lantern.  I have never seen it and in spite of numerous opportunities to see it (I could watch it right now on HBO Max if I wanted), I continue not to watch it.  Their decision to cast a wise-ass in the role of Hal Jordan pissed me off so much that it overruns my OCD in spite of the following:

  • It is one of just 6 Oscar eligible films in this year I am missing.
  • It is the only post-1974 Warner Brothers film I haven’t seen.
  • It is the only Oscar eligible film from a major studio released in the 2010s I haven’t seen (and one of only two after 1987).
  • It is the only film to reach the Top 25 in box office in its year I haven’t seen.
  • It is the highest grossing film I haven’t seen ($116.60 million).
  • Which also makes it the only $100 million domestic grosser I haven’t seen.  The next highest film I skip is God’s Not Dead which made $60 million.

Fuck you, Warners and DC for making this film and fuck you, Ryan Reynolds for being in it.