Back, baby. Back to not wanting to read all of these student stories and so blogging instead. I couldn’t help but feel a bruising of my ego when everyone’s comments on the last post amounted to, “you should see this film,” as though I were a cinematic idiot. There are 100 films on both of these lists. I’ve seen 79% of the best original screenplays from the last 20 years, and 72% of best adapted. Yeah. I guess that is only a C. But with grade inflation/a curve I give myself an A-. Anyway, feel free to comment and tell me which of the films in asterisks I must see.
One last thing. I’ve streamlined the listing process. I neglected to include author’s names this time, because this shit takes forever to type out. Forgive. Secondly, the winner is always listed first, my choices are in bold, and as before, films I have not seen are thus.*
Dances with Wolves
Reversal of Fortune
The Silence of the Lambs
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Prince of Tides*
A River Runs Through It
Scent of a Woman*
Sorry, Montana! I thought A River Runs Through It was way boring.
The Age of Innocence
In the Name of the Father*
The Remains of the Day*
The Madness of King George
The Shawshank Redemption
See also the Murder by Death song, “Holy Lord, Shawshank Redemption is such a good movie!”
Sense and Sensibility*
Leaving Las Vegas
RIP Nicholas Cage.
The English Patient
Um… don’t get me wrong, I love this version of Hamlet, but you shouldn’t get a fucking Oscar nomination for adapting a Shakespeare play for the screen. “Look at all the artful cuts I made.” Wow. Not.
The Sweet Hereafter
Wag the Dog
The Wings of the Dove*
This was tough. All these movies were wonderful, except the one I haven’t seen, which I’m sure sucks.
Gods and Monsters
Out of Sight
A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line
Elmore Leonard = Detroit hero.
The Cider House Rules*
The Green Mile
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
There’s no such thing as a writing program student who doesn’t love the film Wonderboys. It would be like being an 80′s guy who doesn’t love Wall Street.
A Beautiful Mind
In the Bedroom
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Enid in Ghost World is one of my favorite literary/film characters of all time. Although I will say that the book version of A Beautiful Mind is wonderful and graceful and nothing at all like the film. Nash is much more fascinating and complicated IRL. Also give me a break, schizophrenia doesn’t work that way.
About a Boy
I always go with Kaufman as a general policy.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
City of God
Million Dollar Baby
The Motorcycle Diaries*
The Constant Gardener*
A History of Violence
I couldn’t choose just one; both these films are devastating. Capote is even better than you remember it being. Rent it today!
Children of Men
Notes on a Scandal*
The first time I went off on a buddhist retreat, I had a two hour session where I watched the entirety of “The Departed” in my mind, with crystal focus, and it was surreal. Also it’s just a really good movie.
No Country for Old Men
Away from Her*
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*
There Will Be Blood
Again, I can’t choose. Both of these films are stuck in my brain. Atonement is so lame and shut up, I know the Divine Bell movie is supposed to be good but I’m afraid of it; it looks depressing.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Most of these movies suck. 2008 was the worst year on record, both for the cinema and life. Seriously, check your records and think about it. The year of the mortgage crisis, the year the banks failed, the year GM went under, the year The Detroit Lions failed to win a single game, the year I graduated college, the year of personal domestic horrors I can’t go into right now, the year Benjamin Button was made…
In the Loop*
Up in the Air
The Social Network
Toy Story 3*
I’m afraid of failure and so pathologically engage in distractions from doing schoolwork. Here’s a list of all the best original screenplay academy award nominations from when I was in first grade to the present.
You’ll need a legend:
Bold indicates winner.
Italics denotes my preference.
Asterisks* means I have not seen this film.
Ghost – Bruce Joel Rubin
Alice – Woody Allen
Avalon – Barry Levinson*
Green Card – Peter Weir
Metropolitan – Whit Stilman*
Ghost isn’t actually that good but I can’t deny the fact that I loved it as a kid.
Thelma & Louise – Callie Khouri
Boyz n the Hood – John Singleton
The Fisher King – Richard LaGravenese
Grand Canyon – Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan
I feel racist not choosing BntH. On the other hand, girl power.
The Crying Game – Neil Jordan
Husbands and Wives – Woody Allen
Lorenzo’s Oil – Nick Enright, George Miller
Passion Fish – John Sayles*
Unforgiven – David Webb Peoples
This is my favorite of all of Woody Allen’s films.
The Piano – Jane Campion
Dave – Gary Ross
In the Line of Fire – Jeff Maguire*
Philadelphia – Ron Nyswaner
Sleepless in Seattle – Jeff Arch, Nora Ephron, David S Ward
Harvey Keitel’s dick. Not in the script but nevertheless.
Pulp Fiction – Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary
Bullets Over Broadway – Woody Allen, Douglas McGrath
Four Weddings and a Funeral – Richard Curtis*
Heavenly Creatures – Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh
Three Colours: Red – Krysztof Kieslowski, Kryzstof Pieslewicz
All of the movies that I have seen in this category are great. Also this is the year I became cool.
The Usual Suspects – Christopher McQuarrie
Braveheart – Randall Wallace
Mighty Aphrodite – Woody Allen
Nixon – Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Oliver Stone
Toy Story – Joss Whedon, et al
Fargo – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Jerry Maguire – Cameron Crowe
Lone Star – John Sayles*
Secrets & Lies – Mike Leight*
Shine – Jan Sardi, Scott Hicks*
I really like Jerry Maguire too. Otherwise, looks like I was all “fuck movies” this year.
Good Will Hunting – Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
As Good as it Gets – Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks
Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson
Deconstructing Harry – Woody Allen
The Full Monty – Simon Beaufoy
I just rewatched this and it holds up. Boogie Nights and Deconstructing Harry are also good.
Shakespeare in Love – Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard
Bulworth – Warren Beatty, Jeremy Pikser*
Life is Beautiful – Roberto Benigni, Vinzeno Cerami
Saving Private Ryan Robert Rodat
The Truman Show – Andrew Niccol
American Beauty – Alan Ball
Being John Malkovich – Charlie Kaufman
Magnolia Paul Thomas Anderson
The Sixth Sense – M. Night Shyamalan
Topsy-Turvy – Mike Leigh
Senior year of High school. What a happy time. Not. Thank God for Charlie Kaufman.
Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe
Billy Elliot – Susannah Grant*
Erin Brockovich – Susannah Grant
Gladiator – David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
You Can Count on Me – Kenneth Lonergan*
Gosford Park – Julian Fellowes
Amelie – Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
Memento – Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Monster’s Ball – Milo Addica, Wil Rokos
The Royal Tenenbaums – Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Talk to Her – Pedro Almodovar*
Far From Heaven – Todd Haynes
Gangs of New York – Jay Cocks, Kenneth Lonergan, Steven Zailian
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – Nia Vardalos
Y tu mama también – Alfonso Cuaron, Carlos Cuaron
Lost in Translation – Sofia Coppola
The Barbarian Invasions – Denys Arcand*
Dirty Pretty Things – Steven Knight*
Finding Nemo – Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
In America – Jim Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman
The Aviator – John Logan
Hotel Rwanda – Terry George, Keir Pearson*
The Incredibles – Brad Bird
Vera Drake – Mike Leigh
Crash – Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
Good Night, and Good Luck – George Clooney, Grant Hesloy*
Match Point – Woody Allen
The Squid and the Whale – Noah Baumbach
Syriana – Noah Baumbach, Stephen Gaghan*
Little Miss Sunshine – Michael Arndt
Babel – Guillermo Arriago
Letters from Iwo Jima – Paul Haggis, Iris Yamashite*
Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro
The Queen – Peter Morgan
Juno – Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl – Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton – Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille – Brad Bird
The Savages – Tamara Jenkins
A three-way tie between the top contenders. 2007. Senior in college. Best year for films ever.
Milk – Dustin Lance Black
Frozen River – Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky – Mike Leigh
In Bruges – Martin McDonagh
WALL-E – Andrew Stanton, Jim Readon, Pete Docter
Here’s an idea. Remove “Happy-Go-Lucky” and give Synechdoche, New York an Oscar for breaking my heart.
The Hurt Locker – Mark Boal
Inglorious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino*
The Messenger – Alessandro Camon, Oren Moyeman
A Serious Man – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Up – Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Tom McCarthy
Another tie! Not to be controversial, but I seriously hated Up. I hated a beautiful film about a house that floats through the world holding an old man who comes to know real values. I know, I’m a monster.
The King’s Speech – David Seidler
Another Year – Mike Leigh*
The Fighter, Scott Silver, et al
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg*
I can’t choose a winner, I need to see the one about kids first. I heard it was good.
So there you have it. If later, I’m still trying to avoid the crushing weight of my thesis, maybe I’ll come back and do best adapted screenplay. What a blast.
Take a shot any time James Franco smiles and the broadcast cuts to a smiling actor in the audience. Watch for it. Remember Freaks and Geeks? His beam is infectious.
Don’t necessarily bother watching all the films. Research Vegas odds and film bloggers to make informed Oscar predictions.
Vow to give everyone at the party a hand job if something unlikely happens. (Past example: If Seabiscuit wins best picture…) Doing this adds a new dimension of hope and excitement. Save it for halftime, when the technical awards drone on and energy lags.
Take a shot anytime the winner doesn’t thank God in her speech. (I’ve tried it the other way, and the problem is that it doesn’t happen as often as you might think; you won’t get drunk.)
Question the celebrities’ horrible taste in fashion. Speculate as to whether or not they have a mirror at home. Compare someone’s dress to a multi tiered cake, disparagingly. Talk about their bodies.
Grow wildly jealous of the vapid stars and the glamorous yet undeserved lives you imagine they are living. Pass sweeping judgments on people you’ve never met. Call them mean names for no reason and laugh maniacally with your friends about it.
Know that you are an excellent judge of acting, directing, cinematography and every other facet of cinema. Realize that you alone know what true talent is and the academy is filled with idiots.
Pregame: drink a beer for every MFA degree James Franco holds. (It’s actually only one.) Ongoing: take a shot whenever one of your friends mentions that James Franco has at least one MFA degree.
Discuss whether or not James Franco is a good writer. Find out if anybody in the room has ever read anything he’s written, because I would like to know. Take a shot if anybody makes the joke “don’t quit your day job!” or its variation.
Be wary of a too drunk girl who promises blowjobs if Colin Firth wins best actor. Maybe get her a glass of water.
Take a shot anytime anyone says the following about Natalie Portman: Did you know she’s pregnant? I used to like Natalie Portman and now I hate her. I want to have sex with Natalie Portman. Drink a glass of water if someone says something genuine about her acting talent.
Talk loudly about any of the more obscure films you happened to see, particularly in the foreign, documentary, and short film categories. Insist that whatever you saw should win.
Dream about a time when you will win an academy award of your own, however unlikely it is given your life/career path/future goals. Imagine who you would thank and feel genuinely grateful. Allow yourself to be handsome or beautiful and speak with a supernatural grace.
Dress up for the party. Don’t be a stick in the mud; it’s fun.
If you’re still not drunk and you want to be, take a shot every time a white person wins something.
1. The appliance repairman that came to my mother’s house this week.
A spry, wily guy, he looked like a Milk Man more than anything. He was very enthusiastic about our particular dryer model, the one that wouldn’t shut off and apparently had caught fire several times internally. From inside the front panel he pulled out charred lint, a bunch of sewing needles, and about 10 dollars in change. He told me a needle pricked him and I said, “I’m so sorry” and he said, “It’s part of my job.” It was an easy repair, he assured me. “It’s the older models that last,” he said. I said what anyone in their right mind would have said, which was: “they don’t make them like they used to.” When it was over, he shook my hand and said, “It’s the best dryer ever made.” He loves his job so much!
2. My mother doesn’t understand anything about technology.
I might as well be a Sorceress in a hooded robe sent from the future to set up the wii fit. How does the TV know where the remote is pointing? I don’t understand the technology either, Mom, I just go with it! The flipside is that she has unreasonable expectations, like if the Internet acts up for a second then the whole thing is broken. “Let’s call a repair man over here,” she says, after about 9 seconds. She also doesn’t understand why they don’t make an 80’s shit metal version of Karaoke Revolution, which, fair enough. I’m not saying that wouldn’t be fun to play, just that market forces are not on her side.
3. There’s no place for me in this world.
You can’t go home again, and other truisms as well. My friends treat me like an over educated science experiment, like a floating brain in a jar that is radioactive. It might sound great, but really I dislike it.
4. I saw Black Swan twice already and I have to conclude
That I do not want to be a ballerina.
5. What I’ve read so far from the winter break reading list:
a. Alice Fulton, “If it’s Not too Much to Ask”
b. Ann Beattie “A Vintage Thunderbird”
c. Charles D’Ambrosio “The Point”
d. Thom Jones “Cold Snap”
e. Lydia Davis “Kafka Cooks Dinner”
f. in progress: Samuel Beckett’s novel, Molloy
And I’ll tell you what: they were all great. Every single one of them. And again, in reference to number 3 on this list, I can assure you that the general public couldn’t give a fuck. Nobody cares about literature outside of the university system. You knew it was bad, but I assure you, it’s worse than even that. I’m not saying that people don’t read, but they all read the same five authors. The Girl with The Fucking Airport Book Trilogy, David Sedaris, etc. We’re doomed. The world is doomed. All plants will die. All vegetation will die. Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men…
Sorry I snapped.
I just want to go back to my little mountain town where everybody is a pretentious fuckhead, instead of here in Waterford, Michigan, where it’s just me.
6. This New Year I resolve to be less narcissistic.
I told someone this and he reacted with genuine bafflement. He seemed to think it was a necessary feature of being a writer. Here at mollylaich.com, we respectfully disagree.
There are places you don’t and can’t know about. People are trapped there and God has forgotten them. No one knows anything about them. If anything, the statues are made out of them. There are worlds where damned children eat cereal made of maggots – worlds where you might watch your hands turn into hooves. Beware also ordinary horrors. Blood in your saliva, a bus stop and swollen feet, dropping your children off at school or a loveless marriage: imagine it. Know that other terrors lurk. Know that a person can dig a hole down into their stomach and then crawl inside of it like an imploding star. I talk to you from there.
This is a fun little prose poem I’ve been writing in my journal that never seems to end. I don’t want to publish it here, but I have to. The uglier the update, the more urgent the need to archive. I’m not saying I wasn’t influenced by this David Lynch film.
Things are going well for me in the writing world, except for the writing part. I believe I have the lifestyle pretty well down. There’s the crippling loneliness, the medicating, the fasting and repenting. I feel a little sick. I want to love but don’t always know how. Yes. I think I’ve got a great portion of it figured out, and the rest? Well, how important is the writing really? They’re just words. Writing is okay but what I’d really love to do is love.
I compiled this winter reading list from friends and lovers in the English department at the university of Montana. Please be assured that notable writers in the community may well have recommended some of the items on this list. I tried to make a new page for it but wordpress confuses me. You will find the list in the “comments” section of this post.
What the Hell’s it doing out there, Christmas?
You might be surprised to learn that I hate Christmas, but I love my mother, and the point is that I’m headed to Detroit for a couple weeks. Last I heard from the D, they were shooting disaster films and carrying one another to heaven. Is it true that you can’t go home again? With any luck, I will talk to you from there.
5. At a screening of The Blair Witch Project at a megaplex.
Sassy black woman: “Man, if I were those kids, I’d just get out of those woods.”
4. At a drive-in theater, about 30 seconds after The Village ended.
Some kid: “That movie sucked!”
3. At an art theater during the sex scene in Brokeback Mountain.
Woman: “Oh no. Oh no he did not. Oh my lord. That is disgusting.”
Another Woman: *Sighs dramatically.*
2. In a packed theater, just before Dude, Where’s my Car? is about to start:
Young kid: “Dude, where’s my seat?”
(That’s not actually funny, is it? Oh.)
1. During Patch Adams, directly after Patch declares, “humans are the only animal who kills its own kind.”
Man yells, very loudly: “COMPLETELY UNTRUE!”
Seeing a movie by oneself is always, for me, magical. I regard it as a religious observance, and I guess doubly so when the movie is so religiously themed, as was The Coen Brother’s latest film, A Serious Man.
The Book of Job is my favorite book in the bible, and possibly my favorite piece of literature in general. The film is said to be a loose adaptation. I think so. Inexplicable things happen, characters have weird motives and there are unexplained plot lines. The Jewish God and his actions can’t be explained, not by Rabbi’s, not by weird Yiddish folklore, tornados, or anything else thrown at us. The movie never mentions Job. Not once. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Coen brothers try to claim in interviews they’ve never read it.
I want to believe in God. Save a brief period in high school when Atheism was bad ass, I always have. But God seems so paternalistic, so made up, simple, imaginary and illusive that believing in him seems to me as arbitrary as believing in … I don’t know, something similarly unprovable. People in other universes. Pragmatically though, a world governed by some other agent, where unrelated events have meaning and hint at deep truths about the course that your life should take, or that you have your own personal destiny, this seems to me better than the world as a cold, dead place. And I know it’s asking a lot, and I’m not trying to be the female version of Job here, but does she/he have to be so mysterious? Couldn’t we catch a glimpse? Wouldn’t it make the game more fun?
I practice buddhism, poorly. I once meditated for ten days, and in buddhist meditation, the idea is to think of nothing, or the breathe, which is like nothing, but secretly I wanted to think of God. I wanted him/her to give me a brand new insight, something I didn’t already know or hadn’t already felt intuitively before, and it didn’t happen. If when I sat down to meditate, I was actually trying to think of “God” instead of nothing, would it be any less frustrating? I wondered if the things I was supposed to realize during those ten days never came to me because I already know them, and always have. It’s a little egotistical, maybe, but the thought persists.
So I saw the movie by myself, and it was sort of wicked, because I have friends that will want to see it, and I know that later they’ll all go without me, and I’ll be sad and they’ll be sad, but I needed to be by myself. The indie theater in my neighborhood is right after a bridge that goes over a river. I rode my bike there and back and I was all by myself, and on the way home I thought of these words, and now I’m typing them out, and thanks to the Coen brothers, I’m a secret Jew. The end.