By Ezra Stead
Well, here we are again, folks! Every year since 2001, I’ve made it my self-imposed obligation to see at least 100 new movies (104 in 2016) and then attempt to rank my ten (or more) favorite ones against one another. Notice I didn’t say these were the “best” movies of the year, but my favorite ones; the distinction is important, lest anyone mistakenly expect a shred of objectivity herein.
Anyway, this year, in the interest of championing underdogs and holding a light to some movies you might not have been constantly hearing about since November or so, I have decided to exclude any of the Academy’s Best Picture nominees from my top ten. If you want to know how I felt about those films, you can find my favorites, unranked, in the Honorable Mentions just below the main list, and if you want to know more than that, there’s always the annual MoviesIDidntGet.com Oscars Podcast, which you can listen to on this very site, very soon. Read More
Posted 01 Nov 2016 — by Ezra Stead
By Ezra Stead
Few authors in the 20th century (or any time, for that matter) have been more frequently adapted for the movies than Maine’s favorite son, Stephen King. This Halloween season, instead of presenting a cross-section of my month’s viewing as I have in years past, I thought I’d offer a look at some (not nearly all) of those movie adaptations and the ways in which certain elements were changed from page to screen. More importantly, we’ll be exploring why those elements were changed (at least, to the best of my speculation). Specifically, many of these movies tend to tone down two things: violence (especially directed at children) and overtly supernatural elements.
Let’s start from the beginning. Carrie was King’s first published novel and, within two years’ time, the first movie adaptation of his work. Brian De Palma’s 1976 film is still the best adaptation that has been made of the book, and one of the best of all S.K. movies in general. However, even bloody Mr. De Palma softened the blow of Carrie’s destructive rampage a bit, though probably more for budgetary reasons than anything else. In the movie, we see Carrie burn down her school and blow up a car on her way home, but in the book she pretty much destroys the whole goddamn town on that walk home. The novel actually includes an official body count of 409, “with 49 still listed as missing,” which seems significantly higher than what we see in the movie. Read More
By Mike Shaeffer
I was totin’ my pack along the icy frontier of Hoth, when along came a wild-eyed pistol waver a-ridin’ on his tauntaun. He said, “If you’ve heard of the Millennium Falcon, with me you can ride,” then he sliced open the tauntaun, and then I settled down inside.
He said he made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I told him that a parsec is not a unit of speed but a unit of distance equal to approximately three and a quarter light years, and then I looked right into his frostbit face and said, “Han, ol’ buddy… I’ve been everywhere, man.
“I’ve been everywhere, man. I’ve crossed the deserts bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere. Read More
By Ezra Stead
If I had to pick a favorite month, it would most likely be October. The weather is perfect and I have all the excuse I need to watch practically nothing but horror movies for a month. This year I watched or revisited 25 films of varying quality, and I’m passing along the recommendations to you. I’ve broken them down into three basic categories, with a fourth “Other” category for those that don’t fit any of the big three. The Undead includes zombies, vampires, Frankensteins, and of course the immortal curse of the Candyman; Mutants & Monsters covers genetic freaks, giant animals and other Things That Should Not Be; Werewolves is pretty self-explanatory. All films are ranked from highest recommendation to lowest, ***** being the highest rating and * being the lowest. Happy viewing! Read More
By Ezra Stead
This is one of the most persistent clichés of film criticism: that the book is always better than its film adaptation. More often than not, it’s true, as the novel is generally able to provide a richer, more nuanced character study, not limited to only two senses the way films are. However, in some cases, less is more. Here are seven films that I would argue are even better than the books on which they are based.
1. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – Dashiell Hammet’s original 1930 detective novel is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film. However, eight simple words improvised by Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade make all the difference. When asked what the titular bird sculpture is at the end of the film, Spade says, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.” This classic, oft-quoted line of dialogue has become the most memorable moment of the film, a subtle commentary on filmmaking itself, especially of the Hollywood “Dream Factory” variety, of which The Maltese Falcon was itself a part. The line is nowhere to be found in the book, and that alone is enough to warrant the film’s inclusion on this list. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Carrie, USA, 2013
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
To justify its own existence, a remake of a classic film doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the original, but it is crucial that it be different in some substantial way. For example, though I prefer the original French film Love Crime in many ways, Brian De Palma’s Passion more than justifies its existence by adding a third-act fever dream to the original source material, as well as being strikingly unique in several other ways. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is another good example of a filmmaker taking a markedly different approach to an already great film, in this case by adding psychological and moral complexity to what was originally a very cut-and-dried good versus evil story. In the horror genre, John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly update classic B-movies to horrifying effect, to my mind managing to surpass the original films in quality and memorability.
Though I would like to evaluate Kimberly Peirce’s new film version of Carrie on its own merits, without comparing it to De Palm’s 1976 adaptation, it is just too similar, and everything good the new Carrie does with the material, De Palma’s film already did better. This is evident from the very beginning, in the famous shower scene in which Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first menstrual period and, not knowing what is happening and believing that she is bleeding to death, is mercilessly taunted and humiliated by her classmates. In De Palma’s film, the horror of this moment is forefronted, with the performances and shooting style heightened to a surreal, nightmarish pitch. The vulnerability of Sissy Spacek’s performance in particular sells the moment, and it is a truly disturbing scene to watch. Peirce, conversely, shoots the sequence in a relatively flat, ordinary way, and though the content is still rather shocking, it lacks the emotional power of the original. Read More