Good movies based on good books

Twelve years a slave – Solomon Northup
A beautiful mind – Sylvia Nasar
Aftershocks – by Ling Zhang
Alf layla wa-layla (One thousand and one nights) – [Anonymous]
Amadeus – Peter Shaffer
Anna and the King of Siam – Margaret Landon
Anne of green gables – L.M. Montgomery
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Band of brothers – Stephen E. Ambrose
Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ – Lew Wallace
Biruma no tategoto (Harp of Burma) – Takeyama Michio
Bu bu jing xin – Hua Tong
Coffinman: The journal of a Buddhist mortician – Shinmon Aoki
Dances with wolves – Michael Blake
Eine zeit zu leben und eine zu sterben (A time to love and a time to die) – Erich Maria Remarque
Emergence: Labeled autistic – Temple Grandin & Margaret M. Scariano
Empire of the Sun – J. G. Ballard
Forrest Gump – Winston Groom
From emperor to citizen: The autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi – Pu Yi
Gone with the wind – Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone – J.K. Rowling
Hart’s war – by John Katzenbach
Hou Gong: Zhen Huan Zhuan – Liu Lianzi
Hónglóu mèng (Dream of the red chamber) – Cao Xueqin
Hương rừng Cà Mau – Sơn Nam
Inside Hitler’s bunker: The last days of the Third Reich – Joachim Fest, Margot Dembo (Translator)
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Jaws – Peter Benchley
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer
Lady Chatterley’s lover – D. H. Lawrence
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) – Alexandre Dumas, père
Le tour du monde en 80 jours – Jules Verne
Legends of the Fall – Jim Harrison
Les misérables (The wretched) – Victor Hugo
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Little Lord Fauntleroy – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Lu ding ji (The deer and the cauldron) – Jin Yong (Louis Cha)
Memoirs of a geisha – Arthur Golden
Midnight Cowboy – James Leo Herlihy
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest – Ken Kesey
Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen & Karen Blixen
Papillon (Papillon) – Henry Charrière
Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation – John Carlin
Prayers for Bobby: A mother’s coming to terms with the suicide of her gay son – Leroy Aarons
Pride and prejudice – Jane Austen
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank redemption – Stephen King
Schlinder’s ark; Schlinder’s list  – Thomas Keneally
Sense and sensibility – Jane Austen
Sān guó yǎn yì (Romance of the three kingdoms) – Luo Guanzhong
Under the hawthorn tree – Ai Mi (author), Anna Holmwood (translator)
Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories – Sholem Aleichem
The boy in the striped pajamas – John Boyne
The bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller
The Elephant Man and other reminiscences – Frederick Treves
The fault in our stars – John Green
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
The Green Mile – Stephen King
The greatest gift: The original story that inspired the christmas classic it’s a wonderful life – Philip Van Doren Stern
The longest day –  Cornelius Ryan
The run of his life: The people v. O. J. Simpson – Jeffrey Toobin
The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare
To kill a mockingbird – Harper Lee
When Heaven and Earth changed places – Le Ly Hayslip
Child of war, woman of peace – Le Ly Hayslip, James Hayslip, Jenny Wurts
Where the heart is – Billie Letts
Анна Каренина (Anna Karenina) – Leon Tolstoy
До́ктор Жива́го (Doctor Zhivago) – Boris Pasternak
Тихий Дон (And quiet flows the Don) – Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov
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The unknown soldier – Väinö Linna
Wonder – R.J. Palacio
Mudbound – Hillary Jordan

Preamble

A good movie based on a good book will ensure better success while enhancing greatly the book value, through image and sound and setting. In contrast, it is regrettable to see a movie that cannot show the sentiments, the spirit of a good book.

I present below my own perception, with reference to the views here and there.

For books, the Goodreads Rating is referred. Of course, this is for reference only, since I sometimes give a different rating.

Books are rated up to 5, and can be evaluated as follows:
4.5 and above   : masterpiece
4.0 to below 4.5: excellent
3.5 to below 4.0: very good

For movies, the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) Rating is preferred. This is also for reference only, since sometimes I cannot enjoy a movie of high IMDb rating!

Movies are rated up to 10, and can be evaluated as follows:
9.0 and above: masterpiece
8.0 – 8.9: excellent
7.6 – 7.9: very good
7.0 – 7.5: good
6.0 – 6.9: pretty good.

Due to various reasons, this compilation for this non-profit site cannot give reference sources. If you enjoy an introduced film and/or its source book, then I hope my plagiarism could be tolerated.

A beautiful mind – Sylvia Nasar

Goodreads rating: 4.1

A bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated non-fiction book. John Nash was one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiraled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash’s name inevitably came up – only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.

Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash’s Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print

A beautiful mind (2001) IMDb Rating: 8.2

Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer

A beautiful mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The story begins in Nash’s days as a graduate student at Princeton University. Early in the film, Nash begins to develop paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brings on wife Alicia and friends.

The film won four Oscars, for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Leading Actor, Film Editing,Makeup and Original Score.

Aftershocks – by Ling Zhang

Goodreads Rating: 3.6

Aftershocks paints the many faces of the survivors of the Great Tangshan Earthquake in 1976. After an earthquake people die, structures crushed and crumbled, and land and seas altered. Then the dead are buried, structures are rebuilt, and we move on. But the process of the survivors’ physical and emotional recovery takes on many arduous paths.

Aftershock (2010) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Feng Xiaogang
Stars: Zhang Zifeng, Xu Fan, Zhang Jingchu, Chen Daoming, Lu Yi, Zhang Guoqiang and Li Chen

The film depicts the aftermath of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. It was released in China on 22 July 2010, and is the first “big commercial film” IMAX film created outside the United States. The film was a major box office success, and has grossed more than US$100 million at the Chinese box office.

The film receives the prize of Best Film in Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Alf layla wa-layla (One thousand and one nights) – [Anonymous]

Goodreads rating: 3.8

This is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English-language edition (1706), which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.

The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian and Turkish folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (Persian: هزار افسان‎, lit. A thousand tales), which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.

Aladdin (1992) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Directors: John Musker, Ron Clements
Voice cast: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale

Aladdin is an American animated comedy musical romantic fantasy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation for Walt Disney Pictures. The film follows Aladdin, a street urchin, who finds a magic lamp containing a genie. In order to hide the lamp from the Grand vizier, he disguises himself as a wealthy prince, and tries to impress the Sultan and his daughter.

All of the film’s best moments come from the genie and the other supporting characters, which include a plump little sultan, his scheming vizier, an angry parrot named Iago, a chattering monkey, a friendly flying carpet, and even a magic cave that turns into a fearsome face so that Aladdin has to venture down its throat.

Aladdin 2

Ever since Jiminy Cricket first danced onto the screen, Disney animators have created entertaining supporting casts, and the magic carpet is one of the most ingenious: with only tassels and body language to work with, it somehow possesses a complete personality, whisking Aladdin and Abu, his monkey, on terrifying swoops around the kingdom.

Lyricist Howard Ashman first pitched the idea, and the screenplay went through three drafts before then-Disney Studios president Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to its production. The animators based their designs on the work of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, and computers were used for both finishing the artwork and creating some animated elements. The musical score was written by Alan Menken and features six songs with lyrics written by both Ashman and Tim Rice, who took over after Ashman’s death.

The film became the most successful film of 1992, earning over $217 million in revenue in the United States, and over $504 million worldwide. The film won many awards, mostly for its soundtrack.

Composer Alan Menken and songwriters Howard Ashman and Tim Rice were praised for creating a soundtrack that is “consistently good, rivaling the best of Disney’s other animated musicals from the ’90s.” Although fourteen songs were written for Aladdin, only six are featured in the movie, three by each lyricist.

Amadeus – Peter Shaffer

GoodReads rating: 4.2

Ambition and jealousy all set to music. Devout court composer Antonio Salieri plots against his rival, the dissolute but supremely talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The 1981 Tony Award winner for Best Play.

Amadeus (1984)  IMDb Rating: 8.3

Director: Milos Forman
Writers: Peter Shaffer (original stage play), Peter Shaffer (original screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hulce (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), F. Murray Abraham (Antonio Salieri), Elizabeth Berridge (Constanze Mozart), Jeffrey Jones (Emperor Joseph II)

Milos Forman, that pioneering Czech director who gave the world One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, set out to create the greatest music film ever produced.

This film is based on the play script Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, with , and with the Tony Award for Best Play.

The movie of Salieri’s life, through which Mozart played an integral part, is told in flashback mode, beginning in around the year 1822. An old and perhaps emotionally disturbed Antonio Salieri attempts suicide, and in doing so, apologizes for killing Mozart some 31 years earlier. He survives and is admitted to an insane asylum, where he tells a young priest his tale of jealousy and mediocrity.

The priest is fascinated and alternately troubled by the lengthy and emotional story. Salieri tells of growing up in Italy with a father who did not care for music; and how he rejoiced for the chance to go to Vienna after his father’s untimely death. He tells of how he first had met the young Mozart, and how immature and dirty minded Mozart was. He confides in the priest that he learned to hate God for giving him a deep love of music, only to deny him the talent to create truly memorable music. Salieri’s heart filled with such rage, such hatred and such jealousy, that he vows to himself to make God an enemy and to kill the young Mozart.

amadeus-milos-forman--644x362

Historical accuracy aside, Amadeus is a great story from the entertainment viewpoint, covering the last ten years of Mozart’s massively prolific yet unusual life. The picture is one of fantastic color and scale, crammed with lavish costumes and wonderful architecture. On the negative side, it would benefit opera buffs more than concert goers, because opera is the dominant musical genre of the movie. It’s also probably because on the screen the scenes and colors for operas are much more impressive compared with Mozart’s symphonies and sonatas which are pleasant to the ear only.

Anna and the King of Siam – Margaret Landon

Goodreads Rating: 3.8

In 1862, recently widowed and with two small children to support, British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens agrees to serve as governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (present-day Thailand), unaware that her years in the royal palace will change not only her own life, but also the future of a nation. Her relationship with King Mongkut, famously portrayed by Yul Brynner in the classic film The King and I, is complicated from the start, pitting two headstrong personalities against each other: While the king favors tradition, Anna embraces change.

As governess, Anna often finds herself at cross-purposes, marveling at the foreign customs, fascinating people, and striking landscape of the kingdom and its harems, while simultaneously trying to influence her pupils – especially young Prince Chulalongkorn – with her Western ideals and values. Years later, as king, this very influence leads Chulalongkorn to abolish slavery in Siam and introduce democratic reform based on the ideas of freedom and human dignity he first learned from his beloved tutor.

This captivating novel brilliantly combines in-depth research – author Margaret Landon drew from Siamese court records and Anna’s own writings – with richly imagined details to create a lush portrait of 1860s Siam. As a Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical and an Academy Award–winning film, the story of Anna and the King of Siam has enchanted millions over the years. It is a gripping tale of cultural differences and shared humanity that invites readers into a vivid and sensory world populated by unforgettable characters.

Later, a dozen more of musical and films were produced based on the book.

The King and I (1956) IMDb Rating: 7.5

Director: Walter Lang
Writers: Ernest Lehman (screenplay), Oscar Hammerstein II (book), Margaret Landon (from their musical play based on Anna and the King of Siam)
Stars: Yul Brynner (King Mongkut of Siam), Deborah Kerr (Anna Leonowens), Rita Moreno

This is the popular and elaborate musical and story of the tutoring of the stubborn, King of Siam’s wives and children by widowed English school teacher Anna Leonowens in 1862.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s opulent Best Picture-nominated film (with choreography by Jerome Robbins) was an adaptation of their own 1951 Broadway musical version.

The film is memorable for the timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein music and songs (Kerr’s voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon), including the famed scene in which Anna and the King danced energetically and joyously in the memorable number Shall We Dance? Other famous tunes included Getting to Know You (sung with the King’s children), Hello, Young Lovers, and I Whistle a Happy Tune.

The King’s two most familiar refrains and phrases are: “Hah,” and: Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

They eventually come to love, admire and respect each other, however.

She agrees to stay on to offer help and advice to the new ruler and Crown Prince of Siam (Chulalongkorn) following his death.

The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Picture, Director, Actress and Color Cinematography, with five Oscars including Actor, Music Score, Color Art Director/Set Decoration, Color Costume Design, and Sound.

Anne of green gables – L.M. Montgomery

Goodreads Rating: 4.2

This is a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town.

Anne of Green Gables (TV series 1985) IMDb Rating: 8.4

Director: Kevin Sullivan
Writers: L.M. Montgomery, Kevin Sullivan, Joe Wiesenfeld Stars: Megan Follows (Anne Shirley), Colleen Dewhurst (Marilla Cuthbert), Richard Farnsworth (Matthew Cuthbert), Patricia Hamilton (Rachel Lynde), Marilyn Lightstone (Miss Muriel Stacy)

2 episodes, totally 3h 19min.

More than 40 years after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s death, an aspiring Ontario-based producer has an idea: Anne of Green Gables — the miniseries. It took Kevin Sullivan four years to sort out the rights surrounding Montgomery’s most famous book, and another year to audition more than 4,000 actresses for his ideal Anne.

Anne Shirley proved to be the most difficult role to cast. Thousands of actresses from Canada and the United States were auditioned for the title role in open auditions across the country. After a year of looking, they finally gave Megan Follows a chance.

Anneofgreengables_02

Filmed amidst the spectacular scenery of Prince Edward Island, these Emmy Award-winning productions span two decades, from Anne’s struggles as an orphan in a small maritime community, to her triumphs as a young teacher and as a volunteer searching for her husband on the battlefields of Europe.

The success of 1985’s series pushed Montgomery’s work into the cultural spotlight in a way it hadn’t been in decades. P.E.I.’s tourism board claims that tourist traffic to the island increased by 30 per cent in 1986.

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Goodreads Rating: 3.9

This is a 2001 British metafiction novel concerning the understanding of and responding to the need for personal atonement. Set in three time periods, 1935 England, Second World War England and France, and present-day England, it covers an upper-class girl’s half-innocent mistake that ruins lives, her adulthood in the shadow of that mistake, and a reflection on the nature of writing.

Atonement was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for fiction. It was also shortlisted for the 2001 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 2001 Whitbread Novel Award. It won the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the 2002 WH Smith Literary Award, the 2002 Booker Prize and the 2004 Santiago Prize for the European Novel. In its 1000th issue, Entertainment Weekly named the novel #82 on its list of the 100 best books from 1983-2008. Additionally, Time named it the best fiction novel of the year and included it in its All-TIME 100 Greatest Novels. The Observer cites it as one of the 100 greatest novels ever written, calling it “a contemporary classic of mesmerizing narrative conviction.”

Atonement (2007) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Ian McEwan (novel), Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Stars: Keira Knightley (Cecilia Tallis), James McAvoy (Cecilia Tallis), Brenda Blethyn, Saoirse Ronan (Briony),

The film chronicles a crime and its consequences over the course of six decades, beginning in the 1930s.

Atonement opened both the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival and the 64th Venice International Film Festival, making Wright, at the age of 35, the youngest director ever to open the latter event. A commercial success, the film earned a worldwide gross of approximately $129 million against a budget of $30 million. Critics gave the drama positive reviews, praising its acting performances, its cinematography and Dario Marianelli’s score.

Wright, who also directed Knightley in his first film, Pride and prejudice (2005) shows a mastery of nuance and epic, sometimes in adjacent scenes. In the McEwan novel, he has a story that can hardly fail him and an ending that blindsides us with its implications. This is one of the year’s best films, a certain best picture nominee.

Atonement won an Oscar for Original Score, and was nominated for six others, including Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Ronan. It also garnered fourteen nominations at the British Academy Film Awards, winning both Film and Production Design, and won the Golden Globe Award for Motion Picture – Drama.

Band of brothers – Stephen E. Ambrose

Goodreads Rating: 4.4

Stephen E. Ambrose’s iconic The New York Times bestseller about the ordinary men who became the World War II’s most extraordinary soldiers: Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, US Army.

They came together, citizen soldiers, in the summer of 1942, drawn to Airborne by the $50 monthly bonus and a desire to be better than the other guys. And at its peak – in Holland and the Ardennes – Easy Company was as good a rifle company as any in the world.

From the rigorous training in Georgia in 1942 to the disbanding in 1945, Stephen E. Ambrose tells the story of this remarkable company. In combat, the reward for a job well done is the next tough assignment, and as they advanced through Europe, the men of Easy kept getting the tough assignments.

They parachuted into France early D-Day morning and knocked out a battery of four 105 mm cannon looking down Utah Beach; they parachuted into Holland during the Arnhem campaign; they were the Battered Bastards of the Bastion of Bastogne, brought in to hold the line, although surrounded, in the Battle of the Bulge; and then they spearheaded the counteroffensive. Finally, they captured Hitler’s Bavarian outpost, his Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

They were rough-and-ready guys, battered by the Depression, mistrustful and suspicious. They drank too much French wine, looted too many German cameras and watches, and fought too often with other GIs. But in training and combat they learned selflessness and found the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They discovered that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.

This is the story of the men who fought, of the martinet they hated who trained them well, and of the captain they loved who led them. E Company was a company of men who went hungry, froze, and died for each other, a company that took 150 percent casualties, a company where the Purple Heart was not a medal – it was a badge of office.

Band of brothers (TV series 2001) IMDb Rating: 9.5 (Highest at present for TV series]

Director: Phil Alden Robinson, Richard Loncraine, Mikael Salomon, David Nutter, Tom Hanks, David Leland, David Frankel, Tony To
Writers: Stephen Ambrose, Erik Bork, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna…
Stars: Scott Grimes (Donald G. Malarkey), Damian Lewis (Richard D. Winters), Ron Livingston (Lewis Nixon), Shane Taylor (Eugene G. Roe), Donnie Wahlberg (C. Carwood Lipton), Peter Youngblood Hills (Darrell C. “Shifty” Powers), Matthew Leitch (Floyd M. “Tab” Talbert), Rod Strohl (himself)

10 episodes, produced by HBO.

This is a 2001 American war drama miniseries that won Emmy and Golden Globe awards in 2001 for best miniseries.

The series dramatizes the history of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division, from jump training in the United States through its participation in major actions in Europe, up until Japan’s capitulation and the war’s end. The events are based on Ambrose’s research and recorded interviews with Easy Company veterans. The series took literary license, adapting history for dramatic effect and series structure. The characters portrayed are based on members of Easy Company. Some of the men were recorded in contemporary interviews, which viewers see as preludes to each episode, with the men’s real identities revealed in the finale.

To preserve historical accuracy, the writers conducted additional research. One source was the memoir of Easy Company soldier David Kenyon Webster, Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich (1994). This was published by LSU Press, following renewed interest in World War II and almost 40 years after his death in a boating accident. (Ambrose had in his 1992 book quoted liberally from Webster’s unpublished diary entries, with permission from his estate).

The series was nominated for twenty Primetime Emmy Awards, and won seven, including Outstanding Miniseries and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, American Film Institute Award for TV Movie or Miniseries of the Year, Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television, and the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries, and Specials. The show was also selected for a Peabody Award for ‘… relying on both history and memory to create a new tribute to those who fought to preserve liberty.’

Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ – Lew Wallace

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

This is a novel published in 1880, and is considered “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century”. It became a best-selling American novel, surpassing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) in sales. The book also inspired other novels with biblical settings and was adapted for the stage and motion picture productions. Ben-Hur remained at the top of the US all-time bestseller list until the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the wind (1936). The 1959 MGM film adaptation of Ben-Hur was seen by tens of millions and won 11 Academy Awards in 1960, after which the book’s sales increased and it surpassed Gone with the wind. It was blessed by Pope Leo XIII, the first novel ever to receive such praise.

The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the first century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah’s narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, from the same region and around the same age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion.

The development of the cinema following the novel’s publication brought film adaptations in 1907, 1925, 1959, 2003, and 2016, as well as a North American TV miniseries in 2010.

Ben-Hur (1959) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: William Wyler
Writers: Lew Wallace (novel) (as General Lew Wallace), Karl Tunberg (screenplay)
Stars: Charlton Heston (Judah Ben-Hur), Stephen Boyd (Messala), Martha Scott (Miriam), Cathy O’donnell (Tirzah), Sam Jaffe (Simonides), Finlay Currie (Balthasar /), Frank Thring (Pontius Pilate), André Morell (Sextus), Terence Longdon (Drusus), George Relph (Tiberius Caesar), Jack Hawkins (Quintus Arrius), Haya Harareet (Esther), Hugh Griffith (Sheik Ilderim)

Director William Wyler’s film was a retelling of the spectacular silent film of the same name (director Fred Niblo’s and MGM’s Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ (1925)). Both films were adapted from the novel (first published in 1880) by former Civil War General Lew Wallace. Wyler had been an ‘extras’ director on the set of DeMille’s original film in the silent era. MGM’s Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ (1925), featuring a cast of 125,000, cost about $4 million to make after shooting began on location in Italy, in 1923, and starred silent screen idols Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman. This figure is equivalent to $33 million today – it was the most expensive silent film ever made.

This remake of the novel was inspired by the fact that three years earlier, Cecil B. DeMille and Paramount had remade the 1925 version of his film as a successful 50’s epoch Biblical tale titled The Ten Commandments (1956). The heroic figure of Charlton Heston (an iconic and righteous Moses figure) would again be commissioned to play the lead role in this film of a Jewish nobleman (the Prince of Judea) –  after the role was turned down by Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson and Paul Newman. In the plot, prince Judah Ben-Hur was enslaved by a Roman tribunal friend (with a homosexual subtext provided by co-writer Gore Vidal), but then returned years later to seek revenge in the film’s centerpiece, a chariot race. Ultimately, he would find redemption and forgiveness in the inspiring and enlightening finale.

The colorful 1959 version was the most expensive film ever made up to its time, and the most expensive film of the 50s decade. At $15 million and shot on a grand scale, it was a tremendous make-or-break risk for MGM Studios – and ultimately saved the studio from bankruptcy. [It was a big dual win for MGM, since they had won the Best Picture race the previous year for Gigi (1958).] It took six years to prepare for the film shoot, and over a half year of on-location work in Italy, with thousands of extras. It featured more crew and extras than any other film before it – 15,000 extras alone for the chariot race sequence.

Ben-Hur proved to be an intelligent, exciting, and dramatic piece of film-making unlike so many other vulgar Biblical pageants with Hollywood actors and actresses. Its depiction of the Jesus Christ figure was also extremely subtle and solely as a cameo – it never showed Christ’s face but only the reactions of other characters to him.

It was one of the most honored, award-winning films of all time. It was nominated for twelve Oscars: Picture, Actor (Charlton Heston – his sole career Oscar), Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Director (William Wyler), Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound, Score, Film Editing, Color Costume Design, Special Effects, and Screenplay (sole-credited Karl Tunberg). It was the first film to win eleven Oscars – it lost only in the Screenplay category due to a dispute over screenwriting credits (Maxwell Anderson, Christopher Fry, and Gore Vidal were all uncredited). Titanic (1997) and The lord of the rings: The return of the king (2003) are the only films to tie this phenomenal record, although unlike this film, they came away without any acting Oscars.

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The chariot race sequence in the Circus Maximus (an amazing replica of the one in Rome) is one of the most thrilling and famous in film history. [Homage was paid to it with George Lucas’ pod-race in Star wars: Episode I – The phantom menace (1999).] The site of the race, the Circus Maximus in Jerusalem (Judea), was constructed on over 18 acres of backlot space at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome, and the filming of the sequence took about five weeks. Except for two of the most spectacular stunts, both Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd did all their own chariot driving in the carefully-choreographed sequence. There are contradictory reports about the fatality of a stuntman during the dangerous scene in the film, yet no published discussions of the film mention the accident, and Charlton Heston’s 1995 autobiography In the Arena specifically stated that no one was seriously injured (beyond a cut on the chin) during the filming of the scene.

The film won a record 11 Oscars and became the top-grossing film of 1960. Heston won the Oscar for Actor, and called it his “best film work”; Wyler won the Oscar for Director. In 1998, the American Film Institute named Wyler’s film one of the 100 best American films of all time.

Biruma no tategoto (Harp of Burma) – Takeyama Michio

Goodreads rating: 3.6 [4.0]

Harp of Burma is Japan’s haunting answer to Germany’s famous requiem for the First World War, All quiet on the Western front.

Winner of the prestigious Mainichi Shuppan Bunkasho prize and the subject of an acclaimed film by Ichikawa Kon, Harp of Burma portrays a company of Japanese troops who are losing a desperate campaign against British forces in the tropical jungles of Burma. The young soldiers discover that the trials of war involve more than just opposing the enemy. The alien climate and terrain, the strange behavior of foreigners, the constant struggle to overcome homesickness and nostalgia, and the emotions stirred by the senselessness of war – all of these forces, new and baffling to the soldiers, contribute to their distress and disorientation.

In the midst of these overwhelming challenges, they discover the power of music to make even the most severe situations tolerable – through their commander’s ability to lead them in song. Even though they face the inevitability of defeat, singing the songs of their homeland revives their will to live.

Through the story of these men and of the music that saw them through the war, Takeyama presents thought-provoking questions about political hostilities and the men who unleash them. Harp of Burma is Japan’s classic novel of pathos and compassion in the midst of senseless warfare.

Biruma no tategoto – The Burmese harp (1956) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Writers: Michio Takeyama (novel), Natto Wada
Stars: Rentarô Mikuni (Captain Inouye), Shôji Yasui (Mizushima), Jun Hamamura (Ito)

An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist monk and stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment. Magnificently shot in hushed black and white, Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese harp is an eloquent meditation on beauty coexisting with death and remains one of Japanese cinema’s most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan’s wartime legacy.

There are moving scenes, like when a Japanese soldier buries the corpses of his Japanese fellows, or when the Japanese inmates behind barbed wires sing Home, sweet home while outside a boy then a monk accompanies them with a harp.

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The film received the San Giorgio Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and was nominated for the Oscar for Foreign-Language Film.

Bu bu jing xin – Hua Tong

Goodreads Rating: 4.4

This was Tong Hua’s debut novel. Originally published online in 2005 on Jinjiang Original Network, it was later published by Ocean Press, National Press, Huashan Arts Press, Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House, and Yeren Culture Publishing. Tong Hua revised the novel in 2009 and 2011. The latest edition contained an additional 30,000 word epilogue.

Twenty-first century woman, Zhang Xiao, encountered traffic collision after work that sent her back in time to the Qing Dynasty during the Kangxi Emperor’s reign (in the year 1704). She found herself trapped in the body of a young daughter of a Manchu aristocrat, Ma’ertai Ruoxi, younger sister of Ma’ertai Ruolan, who was a concubine of the emperor’s eighth son, Yinsi. Stranded in the past, Ruoxi became acquainted with Kangxi’s other sons, including the fourth prince Yinzhen and his full brother, the fourteenth prince Yinti. She forged a close friendship with the thirteenth prince, Yinxiang. Using charm and wit, Ruoxi won the emperor’s favor and became his lady-in-waiting, attending to the monarch and his family.

Bu bu jing xin – Scarlet Heart (TV series 2011) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Lee Kwok-Lap
Writer: Hua Tong
Stars: Cecilia Liu (Zhang Xiao), Nicky Wu (Yinzhen, fourth prince), Kevin Cheng (Yinsi, eight prince), Ye Zuxin (Yin’e, tenth prince) Yuan Hong (thirteenth prince, Yinxiang), Lin Gengxin (Yinti, fourteenth prince) Lin Gengxin, Damian Lau (Kangxi Emperor), Shi Xiaoqun (Gogoro Minghui)

40 episodes

A pioneer of the time slip genre in Asian television, Scarlet Heart is a commercial and critical hit, both in China and across Asia.

The series remains mostly faithful to Bu bu jing xin, the novel on which it is based, except for some difference.

Zhang Xiao, a young woman from the 21st century, suffers a near-fatal accident that sends her back in time to the Qing Dynasty during the Kangxi Emperor’s reign. She finds herself trapped in the body of one of her previous incarnations: Ma’ertai Ruoxi, the teenage daughter of a Manchu general. In this new timeline, she has an elder sister, Ruolan, who is a concubine of the Kangxi Emperor’s eighth son, Yinsi. Ruoxi initially tries to return to the future, but she soon adjusts to life in this era. She meets some of Kangxi’s other sons, including the fourth prince Yinzhen, tenth prince Yin’e who falls in love with her, and fourteenth prince Yinti. She also forges a close friendship with the thirteenth prince, Yinxiang.

Ruoxi attracts the attention of the emperor with rumors of her brashness and bravery, and manages to charm him with her intelligence and wit. Later, at the imperial palace’s “beauty draft” (during which concubines and wives are chosen for the princes or the emperor himself), conflicting arrangements are made by Yinsi and his first wife, Gogoro Minghui, leading to Ruoxi being drafted into the service of the dowager empress to keep the peace. Ruoxi is given an appointment as a servant to the emperor himself, specifically to prepare and serve tea to him and those he hosts.

Coffinman: The journal of a Buddhist mortician – Shinmon Aoki

Goodreads Rating: 3.7

This story looks at one man’s very personal struggle to engage his Shin Buddhist faith to make sense of his experiences with the dead and dying. Shinmon Aoki is forced by extreme financial circumstances into a job in one of the most despised professions in Japanese society, that of the nokanfu, one who washes and prepares dead bodies for burial. Shunned by family and friends and burdened by his own initial revulsion for his work, Aoki throws himself into the job with a fervor that attracts the attention of the townsfolk and earns him the title of “Coffinman”. In this spiritual autobiography, Aoki chronicles his progression from repulsion to a gradual realization of the tranquility that accompanies death. He assists the uninitiated in gaining an understanding of the basic principles of Shin Buddhism and its concepts of death and dying. Also included are definitions of key terms and phrases and a bibliography.

Okuribito – Departures (2008) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Yôjirô Takita
Stars: Masahiro Motoki, Ryôko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Takashi Sasano

This is a Japanese drama film with its title Okuribito meaning “one who sends off”. Loosely based on Coffinman, a memoir by Shinmon Aoki, the film follows a young man who returns to his hometown after a failed career as a cellist and stumbles across work as a nōkanshi—a traditional Japanese ritual mortician. He is subjected to prejudice from those around him, including from his wife, because of strong social taboos against people who deal with death.

burmese-harp1The film is simple and touching. Simple because there are no twists and actions, no irregular expressions, and touching because the film is close to our heart by presenting humane view to the departure, which is viewed by the Japanese as just a trip to another place.

This is an humane realm of philosophy that is for you to explore.

Dances with wolves – Michael Blake

Goodreads Rating: 4.2

Ordered to hold an abandoned army post, John Dunbar found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization. Thievery and survival soon forced him into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever.

Michael Blake, whose novel became a hit film that earned him an Academy Award for the screenplay, wrote the book at the urging of his longtime friend Kevin Costner at a time when he was short of money.

Dances with wolves (1990) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Kevin Costner
Writers: Michael Blake (screenplay), Michael Blake (novel)
Stars: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney Grant

A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to be with them. Having observed him, they give the name Dances With Wolves. Soon he is a welcomed member of the tribe and falls in love with a white woman who has been raised in the tribe.

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Dances with wolves thrilled audiences way back in 1990 because people had forgotten the pleasures of the long narrative, the Western genre, and movies that weren’t special effects schlock-fests. It remains an inspiring and moving experience.

Costner’s direction is first-rate. He’s able to blend intimate drama with big, sprawling action that covers a huge canvas. It’amazing to watch how smoothly the film segues from movement to movement — action, alienation, suspense, social commentary, romance. He also gets great performances out of his cast.

The movie is beautifully shot, has an unforgettable score, and is very well-written. It is not only a Western, but also a modern action picture/character study that avoids all the boring cliches of the Western genre. Here is a movie that stands for something, means something, and deserves at least as much respect as some of the overrated dreck we’ve gotten saddled with lately.

With a total of 12 nominations, Dances with wolves became the first Western film to win an Academy Award for Picture since 1931. The movie was also awarded Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, and Original Score.

In addition, the movie received the Golden Globe for Motion Picture, Director and Screenplay. A Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement and various recognition from the American Film Institute. In 2007, the Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Eine zeit zu leben und eine zu sterben
(A time to love and a time to die)
– Erich Maria Remarque

Goodreads rating: 4.4

After two years at the Russian front, Ernst Graeber finally receives three weeks’ leave. But since leaves have been canceled before, he decides not to write his parents, fearing he would just raise their hopes.

Sirk_ATtLaaTtD2Then, when Graeber arrives home, he finds his house bombed to ruin and his parents nowhere in sight. Nobody knows if they are dead or alive. As his leave draws to a close, Graeber reaches out to Elisabeth, a childhood friend. Like him, she is imprisoned in a world she did not create. But in a time of war, love seems a world away. And sometimes, temporary comfort can lead to something unexpected and redeeming.

A time to love and a time to die (1958) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Douglas Sirk
Writers: Orin Jannings (screenplay), Erich Maria Remarque (novel)
Stars: John Gavin, Liselotte Pulver, Jock Mahoney

It could be one of the best romantic war films ever made. This is mainly because the fabulous director Douglas Sirk doesn’t allow it to become a soppy schmaltz. Also, the film is incredibly moving, especially in a scene at the beginning where a young man, unable to live with the guilt of having shot a woman, shoots himself. John Gavin is good as Ernst Graeber and his beloved is adequately played by Liselotte Pulver, but the most outstanding performance could be by Charles Régnier as Joseph.

In short, this is an important film of significant value. Not because it is about history, but because it is about the redeeming quality of humanity.

Emergence: Labeled autistic
Temple Grandin & Margaret M. Scariano

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

A true story that is both uniquely moving and exceptionally inspiring, Emergence is the first-hand account of a courageous autistic woman who beat the odds and cured herself. An intelligent child with a thirst for knowledge, but unable to properly express herself or control her behaviour, Temple struggled through grade school. Eventually moved from a normal school to an educational program for autistic children, she began to suffer nerve attacks. Now Temple tells the story of how she went from a fear-gripped, autistic child to a successful professional and a world leader in her field. A chronicle of perseverance and courage, Emergence gives new hope and insight into the tragedy of autism and the vast potential of the human spirit.

This searingly honest account captures the isolation and fears suffered by autistics and their families and the quiet strength of one woman who insisted on a miracle.

Temple Grandin (TV Movie 2010) IMDb Rating: 8.3

Director: Mick Jackson
Temple Grandin (based on the book Emergence), Margaret Scariano (based on the book Emergence)…
Stars: Claire Danes (Temple Grandin), Julia Ormond (Eustacia), David Strathairn (Dr. Carlock), Catherine O’Hara (Aunt Ann), Stephanie Faracy (Betty Goscowitz), Barry Tubb (Randy)

The film follows Temple Grandin’s life, providing background through a series of flashbacks. As a child, Grandin is uncommunicative and prone to tantrums and is diagnosed with autism. The medical consensus at that time was that autism was a form of schizophrenia resulting from insufficient maternal affection. Despite recommendations to place her in an institution, Grandin’s mother hires therapists and works to help her daughter adapt to social interaction.

The movie is captivating not only for the exceptional acting but providing us with a glimpse into the world of autism. Everything about this movie points to excellence: the writing, the direction, the cinematography and the acting of a superb cast featuring Claire Danes in what must be the role of a lifetime.

The movie is moving in its emotional impact without becoming maudlin. The pace of the movie is quick and takes us through a number of years in the fascinating life of Temple Grandin without losing us or boring us.

The film won 1 Golden Globe, another 33 wins & 34 nominations. It won seven Emmy awards and ranking second behind the World War II miniseries, The Pacific, in number of Emmy’s earned.

Don’t miss this movie. You will be glad you saw it. It does a great job of letting you see the world through the eyes of Temple Grandin.

Empire of the Sun – J. G. Ballard

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

This is a 1984 novel by English writer J. G. Ballard; it was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It is essentially fiction but draws extensively on Ballard’s experiences in World War II. The name of the novel is derived from the etymology of the name for Japan.

The novel recounts the story of a young British boy, Jamie Graham (named after Ballard’s two first names, “James Graham”), who lives with his parents in Shanghai. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan occupies the Shanghai International Settlement, and in the following chaos Jim becomes separated from his parents.

He spends some time in abandoned mansions, living on remnants of packaged food. Having exhausted the food supplies, he decides to try to surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army. After many attempts, he finally succeeds and is interned in the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center.

Although the Japanese are “officially” the enemies, Jim identifies partly with them, both because he adores the pilots with their splendid machines and because he feels that Lunghua is still a comparatively safer place for him.

J.G. Ballard waited 40 years before writing about his experiences in a Japanese internment camp.

Empire of the Sun (1987) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Stars: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Joe Pantoliano, Leslie Phillips
Director: Steven Spielberg
The protagonist is only a boy but the film is wonderful for all ages.

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The movie is wonderfully staged and shot, and the prison camp looks and feels like a real place. But Spielberg allows the airplanes, the sun and the magical yearning to get in his way. Jim has a relationship, at a distance, with a young Asian boy who lives outside the prison fence, and this friendship ends in a scene that is painfully calculated and manipulative. There is another moment, at about the same time in the film, where Jim creeps outside the camp by hiding in a drainage canal and escapes capture and instant death not because of his wits but because Spielberg forces a camera angle – placing his camera so that a person cannot be seen who would be visible in real life.

The screenplay was filmed by Steven Spielberg, to critical acclaim, being nominated for six Oscars and winning three British Academy Awards (for cinematography, music and sound). It starred a then 13-year-old Christian Bale, as well as John Malkovich and Miranda Richardson; it also featured an appearance by a 21-year-old Ben Stiller, in a dramatic role.

The film was nominated for 6 Oscars, and got another 12 wins & 10 nominations.

Forrest Gump – Winston Groom

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

In this 1986 novel, the title character retells adventures ranging from shrimp boating and ping pong championships, to thinking about his childhood love, as he bumbles his way through American history, with everything from the Vietnam War to college football becoming part of the story. Forrest’s simplicity is almost zen-like.

Throughout his life, Gump views the world simply and truthfully. He really does not know what he wants to do in life. Despite his low IQ, Gump is full of wisdom. According to him, he “can think things pretty good”, but when he tries “sayin or writin them, it kinda come out like Jello”. His mathematical abilities, as an idiot savant, and feats of strength lead him into all kinds of amazing adventures.

After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon – as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape.

Before the film Forrest Gump was made, 30,000 copies of the book had been sold. After the film won an Oscar for Best film, the sale all over the world rose to 1.7 million copies.

Forrest Gump (1994) IMDb Rating: 8.7 (Top rated movies #12)

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Winston Groom (novel), Eric Roth (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson

Quite simply, one of the greatest films ever made.

Humor, sadness, action, drama and a Vietnam film all rolled into one. This is a powerful yet charming movie; fun for its special effects and profound in how it keeps you thinking long after it’s over.

Forrest Gump has been added to the Congress National Registry.

From emperor to citizen: The autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi
Pu Yi

Goodreads Rating: 3.7

“Important and fascinating.”  – The New York Times

From emperor to citizen is the autobiography of Pu Yi, the man who was the last emperor of China. A unique memoir of the first half of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of one born to be an absolute monarch, the book begins with the author’s vivid account of the last, decadent days of the Ching Dynasty, and closes with an introspective self-portrait of the last Ching emperor transformed into a retiring scholar and citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

In detailing the events of the fifty years between his ascension to the throne and the final period of his life as a quiet-living resident of Beijing, Pu Yi reveals himself to be first and foremost a survivor, caught up in the torrent of global power struggles and world conflict that played itself out on the Asian continent through many decades of violence and upheaval.

Becoming emperor and then forced to abdicate with the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911, all before he is seven continues to live in Forbidden City for another decade still treated as the Son of Heaven by the moribund Ching court, but in reality a virtual prisoner, with little genuine human contact apart from his beloved nurse Mrs. Wang, his teacher Chen Pao-shen and his English tutor Reginald Johnston.

When at the age of nineteen Pu Yi is finally forced to vacate his isolated existence within the Forbidden City, he begins his long odyssey as the dependent of the occupying imperial Japanese regime, first in Tientsin, and eventually installed as “emperor” of the Japanese puppet state styled Manchukuo in China’s northeast provinces. With the defeat of Japan and the end of the Second World War, Pu Yi faces a very uncertain future as he is shunted off to Russia for five years before returning to a new China transformed by revolution, where he is confined in the Fushun War Criminal Prison. Here he undergoes several years of rehabilitation, “learning how to become a human being,” as he calls it, before receiving an official pardon and being allowed to finally live as an ordinary citizen of Beijing.

This autobiography is the culmination of a unique and remarkable life, told simply, directly and frankly by a man whose circumstances and experiences were like no other.

The last emperor (1984) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Mark Peploe (screenplay), Bernardo Bertolucci (screenplay), Puyi (autobiography) (uncredited)
Stars: John Lone (Pu Yi – adult), Joan Chen (Wan Jung), Peter O’toole (Reginald ‘R. J.’ Johnston), Victor Wong (Chen Pao Shen), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Amakasu), Ric Young (Interrogator), Vivian Wu (Wen Hsiu), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Chang), Richard Vuu (Pu Yi – 3 years), Ruocheng Ying (the governor), Dennis Dun (Big Li), Maggie Han (Eastern Jewel), Jade Go (Ar Mo), Fumihiko Ikeda (Yoshioka), Tsou Tijger (Pu Yi – 8 years)

This firsthand description of the dramatic events of Pu Yi’s life was the basis for the internationally acclaimed film The Last Emperor which was named Best Picture of the Year by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. From emperor to citizen readily lends itself to cinematic adaptation as a personal narrative of continuously significant and revealing episodes.

The film won 9 Oscars: Picture, Director, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Cinematography, Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design, Sound, Film Editing, Music, Original Score; and 4 Golden Globes for Director, Screenplay, Original Score – Motion Picture, Motion Picture – Drama.

Gone with the wind – Margaret Mitchell

Goodreads rating: 4.3

This novel was first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty following Sherman’s destructive “March to the Sea”. This historical novel features a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson.

Gone with the wind was popular with American readers from the outset and was the top American fiction bestseller in 1936 and 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.

Written from the perspective of the slaveholder, Gone with the wind is Southern plantation fiction. Its portrayal of slavery and African Americans has been considered controversial, especially by succeeding generations, as well as its use of a racial epithet and ethnic slurs common to the period. However, the novel has become a reference point for subsequent writers about the South, both black and white. Scholars at American universities refer to, interpret, and study it in their writings. The novel has been absorbed into American popular culture.

Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the book in 1937.

Gone with the wind (1939) IMDb Rating: 8.2

Director: Victor Fleming
Writers: Margaret Mitchell (story of Gone with the wind), Sidney Howard (screenplay)
Stars: Clark Gable (Butler), Fred Crane (Brent Tarleton), Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton), Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes), Evelyn Keynes (Suelle), O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), Hattie McDaniel Butterfly McQueen (Prissy), Thomas Mitchell (Gerald O’Hara), Carroll Nye (Frank Kennedy), Barbara O’Neil (Ellen O’Hara), Oscar Polk (Pork), George Reeves (Stuart Tarleton)

Surely this film is a masterpiece that nobody dares to remake! This film shows the best of the American cinema. Whether we like the film, or not, one has to recognize the greatest achievement, perhaps, of the creative talent of the people working in the movie industry. Gone with the wind represents a monumental leap, as well as a departure, for the movies, as they were done prior to this film.

This movie will live forever because it reminds us of how this great nation came into being, despite the different opinions from the two stubborn factions in the war.

Gone with the wind 3Gone with the wind brought together the best people in Hollywood. The end result is the stunning film that for about four hours keep us interested in the story unfolding in the screen. Of course, credit must be due to the director, Victor Fleming, and his vision, as well as the adaptation by Sydney Howard, who gave the right tone to the film. The gorgeous cinematography created by Ernest Haller gives us a vision of the gentle South before the war, and the Phoenix raising from the ashes of a burned Atlanta. The music of Max Steiner puts the right touch behind all that is seen in the movie.

One can’t conceive another Scarlett O’Hara played by no one, but Vivien Leigh. Her beauty, her sense of timing, her intelligent approach to this role, makes this a hallmark performance. Ms. Leigh was at the best moment of her distinguished career and it shows. The same thing applies to the Rhett Butler of Clark Gable. No one else comes to mind for playing him with the passion he projects throughout the movie. This is a man’s man. The other two principals, Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard, give performances that are amazing to watch.

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone – J.K. Rowling

Goodreads rating: 4.4

This is a fantasy novel, the first in the Harry Potter series and Rowling’s debut novel. The plot follows Harry Potter, a young wizard who discovers his magical heritage as he makes close friends and a few enemies in his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With the help of his friends, Harry faces an attempted comeback by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents, but failed to kill Harry when he was just 15 months old.

The novel won most of the British book awards that were judged by children and other awards in the U.S. The book reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling fiction in August 1999 and stayed near the top of that list for much of 1999 and 2000. It has been translated into at least seventy three other languages, and has six sequels.

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone (2001) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Chris Columbus
Writers: J.K. Rowling (novel), Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Fiona Shaw (Petunia), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley)

Thanks to the magic of the cinema, Harry and his companions fairly leap from the pages of the novel to the silver screen in the phenomenal motion picture. What a monumental undertaking to even think of attempting –  translating and transferring this passionately beloved work from novel to the screen. Because to millions of people, Harry and his companions are so much more than merely characters in a book; these are characters for whom people have made a special place in their hearts, which puts a great burden of trust upon the man who would attempt to bring them to life. And Chris Columbus, it turns out, was the right man for the job. More than rising to the occasion and with some magic of his own – and a lot of help from an extraordinarily talented cast and crew – Columbus has delivered a film that is not only true to the story, but true to the very spirit that makes Harry Potter so special. The special effects are absolutely beyond astounding.

Even having the best special effects do not a great movie make, what catapults this one to the top are the performances, beginning with Radcliffe, whom you quickly forget is an actor playing a part. And that about sums up what kind of a job this young man does here. Without question, he IS Harry Potter, physically and emotionally. Also turning in excellent performances are Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson as Hermione. As with Radcliffe, the casting here could not have been more perfect.

To be faced with the challenge of adapting Harry Potter for the silver screen must have been any director’s nightmare – the chance of directing possibly the biggest film of this decade, but also the hardest audience – the millions of fans of the book who know every line and will pick up on every mistake. Christopher Columbus and all of the team working on Harry Potter did marvelously.

If you do not like fantasy movies, nevertheless you should watch this one. Then you can decide if you should watch the rest in the series.

Hou Gong: Zhen Huan Zhuan – Liu Lianzi

Goodreads rating: 4.6 for Volume I, 4.3 for Volume 2.

A historical fiction of enormous popularity which won the first prize of http://www.qq.com sponsored, reader voted, writing contest. The novel is set in the 18th century Qung dynasty. A beautiful girl of 15 was chosen as one of a few dozens of the emperor’s concubines. Thrown in with these women in the huge Forbidden City, she learned the tragedies of the lives of concubines.

Hou Gong: Zhen Huan Zhuan – Empresses in the Palace (TV series 2011)

Directed: Zheng Xiaolong
Writers: Liu Lianzi and Wang Xiaoping
Cast: Sun Li (Zhen Huan, Niohuru Zhenhuan), Chen Jianbin (Emperor Yongzheng), Ada Choi (Empress Ulanara Yixiu), Jiang Xin (Nian Shilan), Leanne Liu (Uya Chengbi), Li Dongxue (Aisin Gioro Yunli), Lan Xi (Shen Meizhuang), Tao Xinran (An Lingrong)

IMDb rating: 8.4

This is probaly the best TV series of Chinese historical fiction, based on a popular contemporary novel.

What a gorgeous work this is! It just never stops filling the eyes with beauty, whether in the costumes and jewelry or the sets or in the actresses themselves. It’s just a constant delight to watch. And the story never becomes dull.

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The series centers on the schemes between Emperor Yongzheng’s concubines in the Imperial Palace during the Qing Dynasty. The innocent 17-year-old Zhen Huan (Huan Huan) is chosen for the Emperor’s harem, and after entering the palace finds herself caught in the fierce infighting between the Empress and the concubines. Realizing that the palace is a cruel and harsh place, she has to learn to survive on her own, sometimes by unorthodox methods. The plots and intrigues, conspiracies and poisonings never end. She has her setbacks but learns to survive and outlasts even the emperor.

With her wits and talents, Huan Huan fights her way through and wins the Emperor’s affection, ultimately becoming the most influential concubine in the imperial palace, and she ascends to unparalleled glory and wealth. However, she also becomes a woman with few real friends at her side, even after she is rid of all her enemies.

The attention to detail in costumes and sets is astonishing, and hopefully the storyline is also accurate. We certainly get a detailed, wonderfully colorful look into what life must have been like in the Chinese court during the Qing period.

Westerners will occasionally become confused over names and titles, but usually things become clear, given a little time and patience. Certainly the story and the eye candy make it worthwhile.

The drama was split into three parts for its Japanese broadcast and was aired under the title Women Vying for Power in the Palace <宮廷の諍い女>.

For the U.S. market, the series was edited down to 12 episodes each with a 45-minute duration. In order to enjoy all details of the plots and sentiments and if you have patience, it is advisable to watch the original series of 76 episodes.

Hónglóu mèng (Dream of the red chamber) – Cao Xueqin

Goodreads rating: 4.1

One of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, it was written sometime in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. Long considered a masterpiece of Chinese literature, the novel is generally acknowledged to be the pinnacle of Chinese fiction. “Redology” is the field of study devoted exclusively to this work.

Red Chamber is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the rise and decline of author Cao Xueqin’s own family and, by extension, of the Qing Dynasty. As the author details in the first chapter, it is intended to be a memorial to the damsels he knew in his youth: friends, relatives and servants. The novel is remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese society.

Dream of the red chamber is a masterpiece that has been called the ‘book of the millennium’ and it is high time it receives the attention it deserves.

The critic Anthony West called it “one of the great novels of world literature … to the Chinese as Proust is to the French or Karamazov to the Russians”.

A dream in red mansions (TV series 1987) IMDb Rating: 8.8

Director: Jia-qi Ma, Gui-zhen Sun, Fulin Wang
Writers: Xueqin Cao, Geng-lu Liu, Lei Zhou, Ling Zhou
Stars: Ouyang Fenqiang as Jia Baoyu

Chen Xiaoxu (Lin Daiyu), Zhang Li (Xue Baochai), Cheng Mei (Jia Yuanchun), Dongfang Wenying (Jia Tanchun), Guo Xiaozhen (Shi Xiangyun), Ji Yu (former name Ji Peijie) (Miaoyu), Deng Jie (Wang Xifeng), Jin Lili (Jia Yingchun), Zhang Lei (Qin Keqing), Shen Ling (Ping’er), An Wen (former name Zhang Jinglin) (Qingwen), Yuan Mei (Xiren), Gao Liang (Jia Lian), Zhou Xianzhen (Lady Wang)

36 episodes, with English subtitles.

The TV series is regarded by many within China as being a near-definitive adaptation of the novel as it gained enormous popularity for its music, cast, and plot adaptation.

Red Mansion 3

This 1987 TV version can lay claim, after more than two decades, as perhaps still the finest TV series ever produced by Mainland China. It really lifts TV series (usually the domain of soap operas and clichéd dramas) to the realm of art. The authenticity and the precision the producers, set decorators, art designers and the director have in realizing the classic novel is astonishing for that age. The entire Prospect Garden was built from scratch and actresses handpicked from thousands of applicants to choose the ones deemed most suitable for the roles. The actresses lived together for a year in a cloistered environment, underwent extensive training to learn how to walk and conduct themselves, to laugh, drink tea and to read the novel. The hairstyles, the make-up, the clothing and the sets were all meticulously researched. The result is a Dream of the Red Chamber series that will unlikely ever to be matched, let alone surpassed.

Regrettably, the best broadcast recordings were still a far cry from what HD can do nowadays. Another more likely criticism (the only probable shortcoming of the series) is that it really is still too short – it adapts almost all the major incidents in the earlier 80 chapters of Cao Xueqin’s novel, but for the later (probably 28 chapters), it does not use the Gao E and Cheng Weiyuan version. The screenwriters extrapolate the story’s ending, but do so in only 6 episodes or so. Considering it takes about 30 episodes to cover 80 chapters, it should take about 11 or 12 episodes instead of the 6 to cover the remaining 30 chapters. Some of the more supernatural episodes are also passed over because of the political climate of that time.

A TV remake of the novel started airing in 2010; however, much objection was raised over the unorthodox costume design and other contested interpretations.

Hương rừng Cà Mau – Sơn Nam

Goodreads Rating: 4.3 (for entire collation of short stories, 2013)

This is a collation of 66 short stories by the writer that has special knowledge of the rural southernmost area of Viet Nam. If you cannot find an English translation of the book to read, you should watch the following film.

Mùa len trâu – Buffalo boy (2004) IMDb Rating: 7.1

Director: Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh
Writers: Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh, Sơn Nam (short story)
Stars: Kra Zan Sram, Lê Thế Lữ, Nguyễn Hữu Thành, Nguyễn Thị Kiều Trinh

This film was the official entry from Vietnam for Oscar of Best Foreign Language Film. It was filmed in Cà Mau Province, Vietnam’s southernmost province.

Set along the southern coast of Vietnam during the French occupation in the 1940s, water is everywhere, giving life and bringing decay and rot. Kim is 15; his father and step-mother have two buffalo, their lifeline as subsistence rice farmers. During the rainy season, there’s no grass and the buffalo are starving. Kim volunteers to take the beasts inland to find food. On this coming-of-age journey, Kim sees men mistreat women, men fight with men, and French taxes rob the poor. He works for Lap, a buffalo herder whose past is entangled with Kim’s parents, and he makes friends who will lead him to his place in the world.

We are shown a land and a culture of savagery. We travel with rogues, rapists and murderers. Even the lead character is vulnerable to lapses in moral character. But through it all, he maintains the utmost dedication to his buffaloes and to those kind humans whom he encounters along the way. It’s one of the most honest portrayals of moral conflict in human beings.

With this debut of a stunningly beautiful film, the director combines riveting action/adventure, poignant relationships, powerful performances and excellent photography. He immerses us in a way of life that requires more courage in order to survive one day than most of us will have to summon in a life-time.

The symbolism, the poetry, and the commentary on the conflict of the human condition is absolutely enthralling. You have to be looking for it, though, because it’s quite subtle.

The movie got 7 wins and 1 nomination.

Inside Hitler’s bunker: The last days of the Third Reich
Joachim Fest, Margot Dembo (Translator)

Goodreads Rating: 3.9

Fest describes in riveting detail the final weeks of the war, from the desperate battles that raged night and day in the ruins of Berlin, fought by boys and old men, to the growing paranoia that marked Hitler’s mental state, to his suicide and the efforts of his loyal aides to destroy his body before the advancing Russian armies reached Berlin. Inside Hitler’s Bunker combines meticulous research with spellbinding storytelling and sheds light on events that, for those who survived them, were nothing less than the end of the world..

Der untergang – Downfall (2004) IMDb Rating: 8.2

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writers: Bernd Eichinger (screenplay), Joachim Fest (book)…
Stars: Bruno Ganz (Adolf Hitler), Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl Junge), Corinna Harfouch (Magda Goebbels), Ulrich Matthes (Joseph Goebbels), Juliane Köhler (Eva Braun), Heino Ferch (Albert Speer), Ulrich Noethen (Heinrich Himmler), Rolf Kanies (General Hans Krebs)

Traudl Junge, the last secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator’s final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.

The movie balances well between large-scale effects of bombs exploding in ruined streets and depictions of different persons going through the experience from Hitler and his staff in the well-protected bunkers to the principal military commanders torn between reason and loyalty and German civilians trapped in an inferno. The movie is neither pro-Nazi nor does it depict all Nazis as mindless monsters. It gives an impression of utter realism.

Der untergang is certainly the most impressive, depressive and realistic dramatic movie about the World War II ever made. It is awesome and comparable to Apocalypse now.

Watch this film if you like to study history.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

The tale of a feisty orphan-girl-turned-governess who finds true love in a spooky mansion and ultimately redeems a tormented hero has made it to the top of every “Best Love Stories” list since it was first published in 1847, and with good reason. It’s the perfect Gothic novel, melding mystery, horror, and the classic medieval castle setting with heart-stopping romance.

This novel is a first-person narrative, set in the north of England, late in the reign of George III (1760–1820), and provides perspectives on a number of important social issues and ideas, many of which are critical of the status quo. It contains elements of social criticism, with a strong sense of Christian morality at its core, but is nonetheless a novel many consider ahead of its time given the individualistic character of Jane and the novel’s exploration of classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism.

In 2003, the novel was ranked number 10 in the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

Nearly 30 movies have been made based on this novel. The following two movies are considered the best.

Jane Eyre (TV series 2006) IMDb Rating: 8.4

Director: Susanna White
Writers: Charlotte Brontë, Sandy Welch
Stars: Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre), Toby Stephens (Rochester), Lorraine Ashbourne (Mrs. Fairfax)

A masterpiece TV mini-series, 3h 50min long. A young governess falls in love with her brooding and complex master. However, his dark past may destroy their relationship forever.

A wonderful adaptation of this classic Jane Eyre. A lavish production in all the right ways (script, cast, direction, location, details), this is a perfect literary adaptation. This is a compelling series, each episode leaves you anxious to see the next. The casting is excellent, the set designers, costume designers have excelled themselves and the lighting in particular is superb.

Jane Eyre (2011) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Cary Fukunaga
Writers: Charlotte Brontë (novel), Moira Buffini (screenplay)
Stars: Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (Rochester), Jamie Bell (St John Rivers)

A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret.

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre_movie 2

This is a beautifully filmed, engrossing, and haunting version of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel. This film is worth seeing and it will leave you thinking about it long after you have left the theater. It captures that otherworldly and isolated environment that Jane inhabits in her lonely life. After you witness the unloved childhood and brutal boarding school you can understand how Jane cannot only adapt to her isolated employment but revel in a world where the absence of abuse is a relief.

The cinematography is beautiful particularly for the poetic rural England scenes, the sets and costumes look accurate, the screenplay handled well, and the directing outstanding.

Jaws – Peter Benchley

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

This novel tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town and the voyage of three men trying to kill it. The novel grows out of Benchley’s interest in shark attacks after he learned about the exploits of shark fisherman Frank Mundus in 1964. Doubleday commissioned him to write the novel in 1971, a period when Benchley struggled as a freelance journalist.

After first publication in February 1974, the novel was a great success, with the hardback staying on the bestseller list for some 44 weeks and the subsequent paperback selling millions of copies in the following year. Reviews were mixed, with many literary critics finding the prose and characterization lacking despite the novel’s effective suspense.

Jaws (1975) IMDb Rating: 8.2

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley (screenplay), Carl Gottlieb (screenplay)
Stars: Roy Scheider (Martin Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Matt Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Larry Vaughn), Peter Benchley (interviewer)

Film producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown read the novel before its publication and bought the film rights, selecting Steven Spielberg to direct the film adaptation. The Jaws film, omitted many of the novel’s minor subplots, focusing more on the shark and the characterizations of the three protagonists.

Jaws became the highest-grossing movie in history up to that point. The film quickly became a blockbuster of Steven Spielberg when he was just 29 years old.

Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them – for a price. Until something goes wrong…

A previously unknown variety of three-toed lizard begins attacking children in Costa Rica. A sample carcass of the lizard is sent to a lab at Columbia University, where a lab technician, believing it is a dinosaur, calls the renowned paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant. When Grant receives a fax of the lizard’s skeleton, he is shocked to see that it is in fact a dinosaur. Before he can investigate any further, however, Grant and his research partner, Dr. Ellie Sattler, are flown to Isla Nublar, an island off Costa Rica, as consultants for InGen, a bioengineering firm.

John Hammond, the owner of InGen and an important financial supporter of Grant’s fossil digs, has turned Isla Nublar into a zoo called Jurassic Park, which is stocked with dinosaurs that Dr. Wu has cloned by means of a breakthrough genetic engineering technology. Donald Gennaro, Hammond’s lawyer, is concerned about the safety of the park. Gennaro brings Grant, Sattler, and the mathematician Ian Malcolm, who is also acting as a consultant for InGen, to tour the island in an attempt to determine whether the place is safe enough for visitors.

Malcolm is particularly convinced that the island is doomed, and makes repeated reference to a mathematical principle called chaos theory as he predicts disaster. Another visitor to the island is Dennis Nedry, the computer technician who designed the park’s complicated computer network. Unbeknownst to Hammond and the others, the Biosyn Corporation, a rival bioengineering company, has enlisted Nedry to steal fifteen dinosaur embryos from the island for their own purposes.

Jurassic Park (1993) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Michael Crichton (novel), Michael Crichton (screenplay), David Koepp (screenplay)
Stars: Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant), Jeff Goldblum (Dr. Ian Malcolm), Laura Dern (Dr. Ellie Sattler), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond), Joseph Mazzello (Tim Murphy), Samuel L. Jackson (Ray Arnold), Bd Wong (Henry Wu), Wayne Knight (Dennis Nedry)

The film centers on the fictional Isla Nublar, an islet located off Central America’s Pacific Coast, near Costa Rica, where a billionaire philanthropist and a small team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs. During a preview tour, the theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

A great science fiction action adventure film of all time, it is an underrated movie according to the IMDb ratings; it isn’t even in the top 250. The special effects creating the dinosaurs are fantastic. They are still good today, but they were revolutionary for back in 1993. The dinosaurs look very real in forms and movements. To showcase the film’s sound design, which included a mixture of various animal noises for the dinosaur roars, Spielberg invested in the creation of DTS.

The acting is good, and the ensemble cast is great. All of the action sequences are perfectly executed, creating plenty of suspense and tension.

Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

The book tells the stories of two men born worlds apart. They have nothing in common except the same date of birth (18 April 1906) and a zeal to succeed in life. William Lowell Kane is a wealthy and powerful Boston Brahmin while Abel Rosnovski (originally named Wladek Koskiewicz) is a Pole who was born in a situation of great poverty and eventually migrated to the United States. Their paths destined to cross in their ruthless struggle to build a fortune.

An unputdownable story, spanning sixty years, of two powerful men linked by an all-consuming hatred, brought together by fate to save―and finally destroy―each other.

The book was an international success. It reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list. It is among the top 100 list of best-selling books in the world, with a similar number of copies sold as To kill a mockingbird and Gone with the wind.

In 2003, Kane and Abel was listed at number 96 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

Kane and Able (TV series 1985) IMDb Rating: 7.9

Director: Buzz Kulik
Writers: Jeffrey Archer, Robert W. Lenski
Stars: Peter Strauss (Abel Rosnovski), Sam Neill (William Lowell Kane), Ron Silver    (Thaddeus Cohen), David Dukes (David Osborne), Fred Gwynne (Davis LeRoy), Thomas Byrd (Richard Kane), Alberta Watson (Zofia Rosnovski), Reed Birney (Matthew Lester), Vyto Ruginis (George Nowak), Jill Eikenberry (Susan Lester), Richard Anderson (Alan Lloyd), Kate McNeil (Florentyna Rosnovski)

Kane and Abel are born on the same day the same year on each side of the Atlantic. William Kane is born in one of the richest families of Boston and grows up to be a banker on Wall Street. Abel Rosnovski is born in the Polish countryside and has to spend many years in Siberian prison camps before he travels to New York and eventually creates one of the world’s largest chains of hotels. The confrontation between these two men, both striving for power and success, will make the finance capital of the world tremble.

This series is considered to be the best of all times up to 1985, and now collectors find hard to get it. (The movies are uploaded onto YouTube but the image quality is low.) The cast is good, the image is beautiful, and the music is nice.

The drawback is that the series are short and cannot show all important details of the book, leaving the audience perplexed. For example, we do not see William and Kate get married or have children, and suddenly they have a 12 year old son at St. Paul’s. We do not know that many years have passed before Abel and Zaphia are divorced, but it only takes one scene for the movie to do it.

Lady Chatterley’s lover – D. H. Lawrence

Goodreads rating: 3.5

This novel was first published privately in 1928 in Italy, and in 1929 in France and Australia. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books. Penguin won the case, and quickly sold 3 million copies. The book was also banned for obscenity in the United States, Canada, Australia, India and Japan. The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.

The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence’s own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. According to some critics, the fling of Lady Ottoline Morrell with “Tiger”, a young stonemason who came to carve plinths for her garden statues, also influenced the story.

The story concerns a young married woman, the former Constance Reid (Lady Chatterley), whose upper class husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, described as a handsome, well-built man, has been paralyzed from the waist down due to a Great War injury. In addition to Clifford’s physical limitations, his emotional neglect of Constance forces distance between the couple. Her emotional frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.

Lady Chatterley’s lover (TV series 1993) IMDb Rating: 7.0

Director: Ken Russell
Writers: Michael Haggiag, D.H. Lawrence…
Stars: Joely Richardson (Lady Connie Chatterley), Sean Bean (Mellors), James Wilby (Clifford Chatterley), Shirley Anne Field, Hetty Baynes

4 episodes, total length 3h 25 min, enough to present all dialogs. The image is excellent. The actors Joely Richardson and Sean Bean did a superb job at presenting to the audience the sexual intimacy and how they were affected by the social ramifications of their relationship.

This is a good quality love story that includes all the social politics, the old-world class distinctions, and the many other elements that make up the relationship of the couple involved. If you liked the books, you will most likely enjoy this movie as well.

Lady Chatterley’s lover (2006) IMDb Rating: 6.8

Director: Pascale Ferran
Writers: Roger Bohbot, Pascale Ferran, D.H. Lawrence (novel)
Stars: Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h, Hippolyte Girardot

If you want to see a film about a beautiful but bored, aristocratic woman whose sensuality is suddenly re-awakened by her meeting with a sullen, unsociable but virile gamekeeper, then this film is for you. Pascale Ferran seemed to have focused her film on the love-story between Lady Constance/Connie and Parkin, and the discovery or re-discovery of one’s senses. That is why there are beautiful shots of nature, of magnificent trees in spring and why you have many scenes in which Constance is walking in the forest and just listening to the songs of birds. The forest is also the place where she discovers her own sensuality. The actors are brilliant, they magnificently show all sorts of emotions on their faces and the love-making scenes are all made with much reserve, with subtlety… It is all refined and very beautifully-done.

The film got 10 nominations and 11 wins including 5 César Awards (French Oscar): Best Film, Bess Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design.

Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) – Alexandre Dumas, père

Goodreads rating:
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, père: 4.2
The Count of Monte Cristo, translation by Beatrice Conway: 4.2
The Count of Monte Cristo, translation by Clare West: 4.5

An adventure novel. The story takes place in France, Italy, and islands in the Mediterranean during the historical events of 1815–1839: the era of the Bourbon Restoration through the reign of Louis-Philippe of France. It begins just before the Hundred Days period (when Napoleon returned to power after his exile). The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book, an adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness. It centers on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune, and sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. His plans have devastating consequences for both the innocent and the guilty. The book is a story of romance, loyalty, betrayal, vengeance, selfishness, and justice.

The book is considered a literary classic today. According to Luc Sante, The Count of Monte Cristo has become a fixture of Western civilization’s literature, as inescapable and immediately identifiable as Mickey Mouse, Noah’s flood, and the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Kevin Reynolds
Writers: Alexandre Dumas (novel), Jay Wolpert (screenplay)
Stars: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Michael Wincott, Luis Guzmán

Great performances, exciting story, and a fun wit, this film has everything that was terrific in Dumas’ original novel and then twists it all up to adapt perfectly to the screen but doesn’t stray to far.

To adapt a 1,000-page book into a 2-hour film, this film is really a success. Great performances, exciting story, and a fun wit, this film has everything that was terrific in Dumas’ original novel and then twists it all up to adapt perfectly to the screen but doesn’t stray to far. Full of lavish costuming, sumptuous sets, beautiful locations, dashing men, a gorgeous damsel, dank dungeons, the ever popular swashbuckling etc., all supported with a classic story makes for solid entertainment.

Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (TV series 1998) IMDb Rating: 8.0

4 episodes, total length 6h 40min.

Director: Josée Dayan
Stars: Gérard Depardieu (Abbé Busoni), Ornella Muti ( Mercedes), Jean Rochefort (Fernand De Morcerf), Pierre Arditi (Villefort), Sergio Rubini (Bertuccio), Florence Darel (Camille De La Richardais), Christopher Thompson (Maximilien Morrel)

This is considered to be the best adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo since 1934. The veteran Gérard Depardieu is fabulous as the Count, a man who, as the reviewer from Amazon says, exchanges one prison for another, a prison of his own hatred. The cast is general is very good and convincing, with Ornella Muti certainly the definitive Mercedes. Set design and production values are excellent.

Bearing in mind the great length of the original novel, simplification of the sub-plots are inevitable in any screen version, although the extended running time of this TV series allows much of the text to be brought to the screen faithfully.

One of the most powerful films of any venue ever made. If you have the patience to view the extended version here, it is a rewarding and finally well crafted adaption of a most difficult subject.

Le tour du monde en 80 jours – Jules Verne

Goodreads Rating: 3.8

The story starts in London on Tuesday, 1 October 1872.

Phileas Fogg is a rich British gentleman living in solitude. Despite his wealth, Fogg lives a modest life with habits carried out with mathematical precision. Very little can be said about his social life other than that he is a member of the Reform Club. Having dismissed his former valet, James Forster, for bringing him shaving water at 84 °F (29 °C) instead of 86 °F (30 °C), Fogg hires a Frenchman by the name of Jean Passepartout as a replacement.

At the Reform Club, Fogg gets involved in an argument over an article in The Daily Telegraph stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days. He accepts a wager for £20,000 (£2,075,400 in 2017)[5] from his fellow club members to complete such a journey within this time period. With Monsieur Passepartout accompanying him, Fogg departs from London by train at 8:45 p.m. on 2 October; if he is to win the wager, then he will have to return to the club by this same time on 21 December, 80 days later.

Around the world in eighty days was written during difficult times, both for France and for Verne. It was during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) in which Verne was conscripted as a coastguard; he was having financial difficulties (his previous works were not paid royalties); his father had died recently; and he had witnessed a public execution, which had disturbed him. Despite all this, Verne was excited about his work on the new book, the idea of which came to him one afternoon in a Paris café while reading a newspaper.

Around the world in eighty days (1956) IMDb Rating: 6.8

Director: Michael Anderson
Writers: James Poe (screenplay), John Farrow (screenplay), Jules Verne (book)
Stars: David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), Finlay Currie (Andrew Stuart), Robert Morley (Ralph – Bank of England Governor), Fernandel (French coachman), Charles Boyer (Monsieur Gasse – Thomas Cook Paris clerk), Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda), Charles Coburn (Steamship Company Hong Kong clerk), Marlene Dietrich (Barbary Coast saloon owner), Frank Sinatra (Barbary Coast saloon pianist)

Michael Todd’s screen adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel is a masterpiece.

Beautifully shot in over 100 different locations around the world, it is one of the few novels which actually benefits from big screen treatment. No longer do we have to imagine these fine exotic places in our minds, they are presented here in full cinematic and Technicolour brilliance.

The great David Niven, always a joy to watch, plays the quintessential English gentleman to the hilt as Philias Fogg, the well to do bachelor who after calmly announcing that it was possible, accepts a £20,000 wager. In tow on this marathon voyage are newly appointed man servant Passepartout played by Mexican entertainer Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine as Aouda a recently rescued Indian Princess, and the lovable and ever watchable Robert Newton as Mr. Fix the detective who is convinced Fogg is a master criminal.

Yet what adds flavor to an already wonderful story and fascinating movie, is that no matter what corner of the globe our intrepid Fogg appears, he is helped, hindered, slowed down, befriended and attacked by a myriad of world renowned movie stars. Never before or since has a film boasted so many top named stars in cameo appearances.

In spite of negative comments that it’s long, it’s a fantasy rather than true-to-life, it’s spectacular rather than deep drama, it’s also (like the book) a hilarious send-up of Englishness as seen by a Frenchman.

The film won 5 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Screenplay – Adapted, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Legends of the Fall – Jim Harrison

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

The novell Legends of the fall, an epic tale of three brothers and their lives of passion, madness, exploration and danger at the beginning of the Great War, confirms Jim Harrison’s reputation as one of the finest American writers of his generation.

Legends of the fall (1994) IMDb: 7.5

Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Susan Shilliday (screenplay), William D. Wittliff (screenplay), Jim Harrison (novel)
Stars: Brad Pitt (Tristan Ludlow), Anthony Hopkins (Col. Ludlow), Julia Ormond (Susannah), Aidan Quinn (Alfred Ludlow), Henry Thomas (Samuel Ludlow)

Three outstanding stars do not disappoint the audience: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins và Julia Ormond.

Legends-of-the-fall

Legends of the fall is the sort of epic melodrama that only Hollywood can do this well. It’s a spectacle more than a show, with soaring moments of triumph and tragedy. Words like “restraint” and “subtle” are meaningless in this context. The latest offering from Edward Zwick, the director of Glory, is the kind of movie that doesn’t require much effort to surrender to and enjoy.

At the center of Susan Shilliday and Bill Wittliff’s script are the three Ludlow brothers: Alfred, the oldest and most straight-laced; Tristan, the middle child with a special affinity for nature; and Samuel, the youngest and most idealistic. The family’s patriarch is Col. Ludlow, an officer who left the U.S. army when he disagreed with the treatment of the Indians. The four men, along with an assortment of friends, live in the Montana Rockies, away from the trappings – if not the presence – of civilization.

It would be difficult to find any more affectionate and caring brothers than Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel – until one woman turns all three lives upside down. Hailing from Boston, Susannah is engaged to Samuel. However, the impending marriage can’t prevent both of his brothers from falling for her, and she for at least one of them.

The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound, and won the category for Best Cinematography. In addition, the film was nominated for the Golden Globes for Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Drama (Brad Pitt), Best Director, and Best Original Score.

Les misérables (The wretched) – Victor Hugo

Goodreads rating: 4.2

This French historical novel first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. Apart from the translation title, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The miserable ones, The poor ones, The wretched poor, The victims and the dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.

Les misérables (2012) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: William Nicholson (screenplay) & Alain Boublil (screenplay), Alain Boublil (based on the original stage musical Les misérables) (as Boubil), Claude-Michel Schönberg (based on the original stage musical Les misérables) (as Schönberg), Victor Hugo (based on the novel)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Cavin Cornwall, Josef Altin, Dave Hawley, Adam Jones, John Barr

A well-executed and powerful musical. Tom Hooper’s direction and the cinematography, costumes, art design and editing are nothing short of genius.

Hooper’s idea to have the actors sing live really brings a deeper emotion to the film not seen in other movie musicals. Hugh Jackman is absolutely incredible as Jean Valjean and carries the film with spectacular grace. Anne Hathaway is magnificent in her fleeting role as Fantine – the film’s sequence in which she goes on a downward spiral is one of the its best moments, and her rendition of I dreamed a dream is absolutely incredible heartfelt.

The film received 3 Oscars: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Hathaway), Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Sound Mixing, another 81 wins and 172 nominations.

Les misérables (1958) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Jean-Paul Le Chanois
Michel Audiard (writer), René Barjavel (writer), Victor Hugo (novel), Jean-Paul Le Chanois (writer)
Stars: Jean Gabin (Jean Valjean / Champmathieu), Bernard Blier (Javert, cha và con), René Fleur (Đức Hồng y), Julienne Paroli (Madame Magloire, Fernand Ledoux (Monseigneur Myriel)

Those do not like musical should watch this French-made film. Patience is required: the film is 3h 30min long.

In this movie adaptation, much effort is made in accuracy to not only the plot of Victor Hugo’s novel, but the atmosphere and characters. Scenes are filmed as near to where they actually took place in the book as possible, and characters reflect the Hugo’s original intentions. The plot is concise enough to be understandable, but full enough to give the viewer a true sense of Hugo’s message. Overall, it is a wonderful adaptation and an excellent film.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Goodreads rating: 3.9

This is a Canadian fantasy adventure novel published in 2001. The protagonist is Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry who explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The novel has sold more than ten million copies worldwide. It was rejected by at least five London publishing houses before being accepted by Knopf Canada, which published it in September 2001. The UK edition won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction the following year. It was also chosen for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2003, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee.

Life of Pi (2013) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Yann Martel (novel), David Magee (screenplay)
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gérard Depardieu.

Life of Pi received highly positive reviews, with praise directed towards the visual effects, Ang Lee’s direction, David Magee’s screenplay, Mychael Danna’s musical score, and the editing.

Life-of-Pi-IMAGE 2

Life of Pi emerged as a critical and commercial success, earning over US$ 609 million worldwide. It was nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards which included the Best Picture – Drama and the Best Director and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. It had 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won four (the most for the event) including Best Director for Ang Lee.

Little Lord Fauntleroy – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Goodreads rating: 3.9

This is the first children’s novel written by English-American playwright and author Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was originally published as a serial in the St. Nicholas Magazine between November 1885 and October 1886, then as a book by Scribner’s in 1886.

In a shabby New York City side street in the mid-1880s, young Cedric Errol lives with his mother (known only as Mrs. Errol or “Dearest”) in genteel poverty after the death of his father, Captain Cedric Errol. One day, they are visited by an English lawyer named Havisham with a message from young Cedric’s grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, an unruly millionaire who despises the United States and was very disappointed when his youngest son married an American woman. With the deaths of his father’s elder brothers, Cedric has now inherited the title Lord Fauntleroy and is the heir to the earldom and a vast estate. Cedric’s grandfather wants him to live in England and be educated as an English aristocrat. He offers his son’s widow a house and guaranteed income, but he refuses to have anything to do with her, even after she declines his money.

However, the Earl is impressed by the appearance and intelligence of his American grandson and is charmed by his innocent nature. Cedric believes his grandfather to be an honorable man and benefactor, and the Earl cannot disappoint him. The Earl therefore becomes a benefactor to his tenants, to their delight, though he takes care to let them know that their benefactor is the child, Lord Fauntleroy.

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980) IMDb: 7.4

Director: Jack Gold
Stars: Alec Guinness (Earl of Dorincourt), Rick Schroder (Lord Fauntleroy), Eric Porter (Havisham), Colin Blakely (Hobbs), Connie Booth (Mrs. Errol), Rachel Kempson (Lady Lorradaile)

Filmed in England with virtually no other American in it than Ricky Schroeder, it has the proper Victorian feel to it. Ricky brings his brash but honest Yankee personality into this staid atmosphere and shakes up his grandfather’s long-held prejudices against the Colonies and his own family and tenants. Schroeder was the ultimate child actor; no other would have done this role justice as he is perfect for the part. His beautiful blond hair, in the requisite pageboy required for a Victorian Lord Fauntleroy, frames his angelic face and visually sets him on a plane above every other actor, even Alec Guinness. Guinness is superb as the bitter and self-absorbed grandfather. The rest of the supporting players are excellent, especially Colin Blakely as the opinionated Mr. Hobbs, the American grocer.

Little Lord

The English countryside and architecture also have their own role to play here. The landscape is lush and beautiful, and the enormous estate that Lord Fauntleroy will inherit is magnificent, adding much to the atmosphere.

The pace of the film is also excellent, events happen and characters develop with interesting detail but without over emphasis or very drawn out scenes.

Far and away the best version ever made, this is in top 20 or even top 10 family films.

Lu ding ji (The deer and the cauldron) – Jin Yong (Louis Cha)

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

This is novel by Jin Yong is the last and longest of his novels, also his favorite. This is really a big book, not only in pages, thousands, but also in scope. Although the book is often referred to as a wuxia (martial hero) novel, it is not quite typical of the genre: the protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, is not an adept martial artist, but rather an antihero who relies on wit and cunning to get out of trouble.

Set in the 1600’s after the Ming dynasty of native Hans has been replaced by the Manchu dynasty of conquerors, the book chronicles the exploits of Trinket, a bastard born in a whore house. There are many themes in the book, including the origin of the Triad Societies formed to revolts against the Manchus, the brutality of Chinese life, i.e., whole families would be wiped out if one offended the emperor, the complexity of life in the Forbidden city, Eunuchs who managed it, innocence and joy of boyhood friendships, intrigue by concubines, and of course blazing kung fu, defined here elegant execution through practice. Trinket was almost a coyote figure, doing silly, egotistical things, but always landing on his feet. The plotting was excellent, making the coincidences of Trinket falling into being best friends with the boy emperor or becoming a master of a Triad society plausible. Also Yong’s ability to be extremely descriptive of settings.

Lu ding ji – Royal tramp (TV series 2008-2009) IMDb Rating: 6.3

Director: Jian Zhao

Stars: Huang Xiaoming (Wei Xiaobao), Wallace Chung (Kangxi Emperor), He Zhuoyan (Shuang’er), Shu Chang (Princess Jianning), Liu Yun (Mu Jianping), Cherrie Ying (A’ke), Qiao Zhenyu (Zheng Keshuang), He Jiayi (Jiunan), Tan Feiling (Songgotu), Elvis Tsui (Oboi), Ning Jing (Chen Yuanyuan), Li Chengru (Xingchi, Shunzhi Emperor), Zhong Liang (Wu Yingxiong), Tu Men (Wu Sangui), Yu Chenghui (Feng Xifan), Li Xintong (A’qi), Li Zefeng (Gui Zhong), Shen Baoping (Gui Xinshu), Yan Guanying (Fat Monk), Qin Weidong (Thin Monk), Wang Jianguo (Qi Qingbiao), Chen Zhihui (Li Zicheng), Huang Gexuan (Galdan Boshugtu Khan), Ren Baocheng (Shi Lang), Zhao Guixiang (Gu Yanwu), Hu Qingshi (Zha Jizuo), Chen Zhou (Lü Liuliang), Wang Bing (Bayan), Dong Zhigang (Yu Lin), Carrie (Sophia Alekseyevna), Henry (Fedor Golovin)

50 episodes

In comparison with the previous versions, this one has good casting, attractive actresses, and elaborate setting and beautiful costume, while the book story is adhered to. The versions later deviate too much from the book, causing dislike among the audience.

Overall, this version is better balanced in quality in all aspects compared with previous and later versions.

Memoirs of a geisha – Arthur Golden

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

This novel, told in first person perspective, tells the story of a fictional geisha working in Kyoto, Japan, before and after World War II.

It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction – at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful – and completely unforgettable.

Memoirs of a geisha (2005) IMDb Rating: 7.4

Director: D.J. Caruso, Rob Marshall
Writers: Robin Swicord (screenplay), Arthur Golden (book)
Stars: Ziyi Zhang (Sayuri), Gong Li (Hatsumomo), Michelle Yeoh (Mameha), Suzuka Ohgo (Chiyo), Togo Igawa (Tanaka),

Ironically, the director is American, the three main actresses are Chinese and the story is Japanese. Nevertheless, the film is a great success. All three are fine actresses and they more than proved that in this film. All three just light up the screen. Marshall made good decisions: he has not slighted Japanese culture too much, but he has made a suspenseful, captivating, enchanting film that does something a lot of films haven’t in recent years.

All in all, the movie is fantastic, and if people can just look beyond worrying about the nationality of a character who is supposed to be Japanese, they will enjoy the movie.

The film won 3 Oscars: Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design, and got another 27 wins & 44 nominations.

Midnight Cowboy – James Leo Herlihy

Goodreads Rating: 3.9

Joe Buck, naively charming Texan cowboy, seeks his fortune in the Big Apple, but encounters Ratso Rizzo, a sleazy, small-time con man with big dreams. Living on the fringe of society, these two outcasts develop an unlikely bond.

Midnight cowboy (1969) IMDb: 7.9

Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles

This film is gritty, rough, funny, poignant and fantastic. And because it’s filmed on-location, it’s got lots of great shots of the way things looked and the way people lived back in the late 1960s. From Joe Buck’s solid-state radio that he loves so much to the Cadillacs and old Checker cabs on the streets of New York, it’s like a time capsule waiting to be discovered.

Midnight-cowboy-1969

This is one of the greatest movies ever made in America and it deserves every single award it won and its place on the AFI Top 100 list.

The film’s direction is masterful; the casting is perfect; the acting is top notch; the script is crisp and cogent; the cinematography is engaging; and the music enhances all of the above. Deservedly, it won the best picture Oscar of 1969.

In 1994, the film was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Midnight cowboy is a brave, moving film of magnitude, influence and importance that has lost absolutely none of its impact over the years, so if you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out on a true American classic.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest – Ken Kesey

Goodreads Rating: 4.5

From the 1962 Jacket:

Like George Orwell and Philip Wylie, Ken Kesey is concerned with man’s battle to be himself in a world of increasing controls, the battle of joy and freedom against a society which fosters guilt and shame. His first novel, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, tells the story of a struggle between a man and a woman for the spirits and hearts of a group of people who have been defeated by the world.

The setting for these defeated lives is a mental institution. The teller of the story, a half-Indian and a long-time inmate, has made the most complete retreat from life of all of them; he will not talk, and he has fooled the staff into thinking he is deaf and dumb. But through his self-imposed protective fog he is an acute observer. His vision of the life around him seems to have a truth which is beyond the definitions of sanity or insanity.

Into this gray world comes McMurphy, a brawling, gambling man, full of spirit and a glorious lust for life. He is horrified by the docility with which the other men accept the rule of the Big Nurse and decides to fight her on her own terms. The battle begins, for him, as a lark – a way of winning the bets he has made with the men. And then, as he becomes more aware of the terrible dangers in it, and more committed to the others who have come to count on him for their own survival, his decision to go on is a heroic act of sacrifice and compassion.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (1975) IMDb Rating: 8.7 (Top rated movies #16)

Director: Milos Forman
Stars: Jack Nicholson (Randle Patrick McMurphy), Louise Fletcher (Điều dưỡng trưởng Ratched), Will Sampson (“Chief” Bromden), Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit), Michael Berryman, Scatman Crothers, Mwako Cumbuka, Danny DeVito, William Duell

The film portrays the horrible truth about how patients were treated in mental institutions back then, and tells the story of someone who desperately wanted to break out, to rebel, to change things, for himself and for the others.

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We can see excellent storyline, top notch acting, painfully bleak visuals, perfectly setting the tone for the movie, and alternates between being truly uplifting to devastatingly depressing.

The film set a record that time: it grossed USD 109 million in the American market whereas the total expense was only USD 4.4 million.

The film got 35 wins including 5 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material. These five most important prizes constitute the “Oscar Grand Slam”, and only two other films got it: It happened one night (1934) and The silence of the lambs (1991).

Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen & Karen Blixen

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

This is Isak Dinesen’s memoir of her years in Africa, from 1914 to 1931, on a four-thousand-acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi. She had come to Kenya from Denmark with her husband, and when they separated she stayed on to manage the farm by herself, visited frequently by her lover, the big-game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton, for whom she would make up stories “like Scheherazade.” In Africa, “I learned how to tell tales,” she recalled many years later. “The natives have an ear still. I told stories constantly to them, all kinds.” Her account of her African adventures, written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark, is that of a master storyteller, a woman whom John Updike called “one of the most picturesque and flamboyant literary personalities of the century.”

Out of Africa (1985) IMDb Rating: 7.2

Director: Sydney Pollack
Writers: Karen Blixen (based upon Out of Africa and other writings), Judith Thurman (book)…
Stars: Meryl Streep (Karen), Robert Redford (Denys), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Bá tước Bror Blixen), Michael Kitchen (Berkeley), Malick Bowens (Farah), Joseph Thiaka (Kamante), Stephen Kinyanjui (Kinanjui)

The breathtaking cinematography and transporting musical score would make a viewing worthwhile.

Out of Africa 5

Meryl Streep is great as Karen Blixen. She manages to maintain the realistic Danish accent through the whole film. Redford is great as Denys Finch-Hatton, the Etonian hunter who keeps companion in her loneliest and hardest. But the real attraction of the film is the outstanding photography of the African landscape together with the sweeping John Barry soundtrack that is probably the most beautiful movie soundtrack of the 1980s. Out of Africa will be regarded as Sydney Pollack’s asterpiece and a Classic of our times.

The film got 7 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Music, Original Score. Meryl Streep got nomination for Best Actress but lost it to Geraldine Page in The trip to bountiful.

With a production budget of some USD 31 million, the film grossed more than USD 258 million. This is beyond imagination, because a love movie seldom has such attraction.

Papillon (Papillon) – Henry Charrière

Goodreads rating: 4.2

This novel details author’s incarceration and subsequent escape from the French penal colony of French Guiana, and covers a 14-year period between 1931 and 1945.

The book was an immediate sensation and instant bestseller, achieving widespread fame and critical acclaim, and is considered a modern-day classic. Upon publication it spent 21 weeks as number 1 bestseller in France, with more than 1.5 million copies sold in France alone. 239 editions of the book have since been published worldwide, in 21 different languages.

Although Charrière always maintained, until his death in 1973, that events in the book were truthful and accurate (allowing for minor lapses in memory), since the book’s publication there have been questions raised about its accuracy. However, there are a number of facts which are not in question, which do validate Charrière’s novel. In any case, the book is fascinating.

Papillon is perhaps best regarded as a narrative novel, depicting the adventures of Charrière and several fellow inmates.

Papillon (1973) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Writers: Dalton Trumbo (screenplay), Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay), Henri Charrière (book)
Stars: Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Victor Jory

A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.

Steve McQueen is fantastic in the lead role. Dustin Hoffman is at his finest as Louie Dega. Very memorable, unforgettable performances, shocking action scenes and psychological thrills and twists. This is the kind of movie that you can watch again and again and continue to see things you’ve never noticed before.

Despite most of Henri Charriere’s incredible feats of survival, this film is above average and basically does the book justice.

Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation – John Carlin

Goodreads rating: 4.1

A thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history – Nelson Mandela’s decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.

In 1985, Nelson Mandela, then in prison for twenty-three years, set about winning over the fiercest proponents of apartheid, from his jailers to the head of South Africa’s military. First he earned his freedom and then he won the presidency in the nation’s first free election in 1994. But he knew that South Africa was still dangerously divided by almost fifty years of apartheid. If he couldn’t unite his country in a visceral, emotional way – and fast – it would collapse into chaos. He would need all the charisma and strategic acumen he had honed during half a century of activism, and he’d need a cause all South Africans could share. Mandela picked one of the more farfetched causes imaginable – the national rugby team, the Springboks, who would host the sport’s World Cup in 1995.

Against the giants of the sport, the Springboks’ chances of victory were remote. But their chances of capturing the hearts of most South Africans seemed remoter still, as they had long been the embodiment of white supremacist rule. During apartheid, the all-white Springboks and their fans had belted out racist fight songs, and blacks would come to Springbok matches to cheer for whatever team was playing against them. Yet Mandela believed that the Springboks could embody – and engage – the new South Africa. And the Springboks themselves embraced the scheme.

Invictus (2009) IMDb Rating: 7.4

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge

The film tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.

Prayers for Bobby: A mother’s coming to terms with the suicide of her gay son – Leroy Aarons

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

Bobby Griffith was an all-American boy …and he was gay. Faced with an irresolvable conflict-for both his family and his religion taught him that being gay was “wrong”, Bobby chose to take his own life. Prayers for Bobby, nominated for a 1996 Lambda Literary Award, is the story of the emotional journey that led Bobby to this tragic conclusion. But it is also the story of Bobby’s mother, a fearful churchgoer who first prayed that her son would be “healed,” then anguished over his suicide, and ultimately transformed herself into a national crusader for gay and lesbian youth.

As told through Bobby’s poignant journal entries and his mother’s reminiscences, Prayers for Bobby is at once a moving personal story, a true profile in courage, and a call to arms to parents everywhere.

Prayers for Bobby (TV movie 2009) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Russell Mulcahy
Writers: Katie Ford (teleplay), Leroy Aarons (book)
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Henry Czerny, Ryan Kelley

Prayer for

Prayers for Bobby is an emotionally and physically tiring film that entertains from start to finish.

The film is just so clever at times. While it is thin and bland too, it is brilliantly played out and executed in the sense that you actually care what’s going on and what’s going to happen to these characters. They keep you interested with problem after problem and therefore they don’t have enough time to let you get bored. Sigourney Weaver plays an amazing role as well.

It was a truly spectacular film; one of the best made for TV’s, and it was a splendid job well done for all the cast and crew.

This film is more than about homosexuality. It is also about people, family, love, friendship, and understanding.

Pride and prejudice – Jane Austen

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

One of the world’s most popular novels. It tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.

Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and prejudice is as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”

This novel has s strange feature in that the first one-third is boring such that the reader may want to stop, the next one-third is more interesting, and the last one-third is really fascinating. Those who do not have enough patience to read the book should watch one or both films below.

Pride and prejudice (TV series 1995) IMDb Rating: 9.0

Director: Simon Langton
Writers: Jane Austen, Andrew Davies
Stars: Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet), Colin Firth (Mr Darcy), Susannah Harker (Jane Bennet), Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet), Alison Steadman (Mrs. Bennet), Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet), Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley), Polly Maberly (Kitty Bennet), Lucy Briers (Mary Bennet), Anna Chancellor (Miss Bingley), Lucy Robinson (Mrs Hurst), Adrian Lukis (Wickham), David Bamber (Mr Collins), Lucy Scott (Charlotte Lucas), Lucy Davis (Maria Lucas), Emilia Fox (Georgiana Darcy), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Tim Wylton  (Mr. Gardiner), Rupert Vansittart (Mr Hurst), Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner), Nadia Chambers (Miss Anne de Bourgh), Christopher Benjamin (Sir William Lucas)

P&amp;P 36 episodes, total length 5h 27min.

This version, made by BBC, receives mostly comments positive. It is faithful to the book, particularly capturing the spirit of the book and the energy and constant tension of the story. It excellently portrays the world of the book as it relates to the story, with keen attention to the details of costume, the furniture, etc. The women who were of higher stature were properly attired in their jewels and every costume fit the character and situation beautifully. This and the musical score are two of the biggest highlights

This writer, also a translator of the book, thinks Elizabeth looks too serious, even too old for the girl of 20 years old. Yes, she is witty, yes, she is sharp-tongued, but she should not look so serious. One weak link in the chain of superb acting is Alison Steadman who over-acted, turning her Mrs Bennet into a nerve-grating, neurasthenic caricature to the point of ridiculous. Otherwise the series excelled in every other aspect.

Pride and prejudice (2005) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn

The common audience may find this film fabulous if they do not compare this “modernized” version with the BBC 1995 series.

The write thinks Elizabeth through Keira Knightley is too aggressive, to the point of insolence, espetially when Mr Darcy expressed his love to her. Elizabeth is strong-minded, but not insolent.

After seeing the film or re-visiting 1995 BBC TV series, read the original novel for its classic storyline, memorable characters & Austen’s brilliant writing style, wit and humor.

Schlinder’s ark; Schlinder’s list – Thomas Keneally

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

Thomas Keneally (1935- ) wrote the book winning the Booker Prize from a story told by Poldek Pfefferberg (1913-2001), the holocaust survivor.

In 1980 Thomas Keneally was in Beverley Hills returning from the Sorrento film festival where a film based on his book had been showing. Looking for a new briefcase, he walked into a leather-goods store. The proprietor, an elderly Polish Jew named Poldek Pfefferberg, hears that Keneally is a novelist and so tells him “the greatest story of humanity man to man”. It is about Schindler, that “all-drinking, all-screwing, all black-marketeering Nazi”.

From his Sydney home, Thomas tracked down the main players in the story of Poldek and of Oskar Schindler, who is to Poldek like a Noah. He and Poldek travelled across the US, Germany, Israel, Austria and Poland interviewing survivors and discovering extraordinary stories.

The improbable meeting of a Polish survivor and an Australian novelist inspired a Booker winner Schindler’s Ark. First publicized as fiction so that it might enter the Booker, from 1993 onwards the book has been published under the title Schindler’s List, marketed as a true story.

Later, Poldek served as a consultant for the production of the film Schindler’s List.

Schindler’s list (1993) IMDb Rating: 8.9 (Top rated movies #6)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Thomas Keneally (book), Steven Zaillian
Stars: Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler), Norbert Weisser (Albert Hujar), Friedrich Von Thun (Rolf Czurda), Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goeth), Mark Ivanir (Marcel Goldberg), Caroline Goodall (Emilie Schindler)

The film follows Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten German businessman, who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II.

The film was made in black and white, except for one scene showing a little girl in a red coat. She comes from the memories of a camp survivor who, while interviewed by Spielberg before the movie, talked about a little girl in a red/pink coat who was shot in front of him by a Nazi officer.

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In the movie, she represents the horrible reality that comes to Schindler’s mind when he sees her body (with the red coat around her) in the pile of all the dead Jews. When before he wasn’t really concerned, after seeing the body he takes a big hit of the reality around him and that’s probably when he decides to turn around the Nazis and try to save Jews.

Often listed among the greatest films ever made, the film Schindler’s list was also a box office success, earning $321.2 million worldwide on a $22 million budget. It was the recipient of seven Academy Awards (out of twelve nominations), including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards (including seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globes). In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked the film 8th on its list of the 100 best American films of all time. The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.

Sense and sensibility – Jane Austen

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love – and its threatened loss – the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Sense and sensibility (1995) IMDb Rating: 7.7

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Emma Thompson (screenplay)
Stars: Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood), Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood), James Fleet (John Dashwood), Tom Wilkinson (Mr. Dashwood), Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood), Gemma Jones (Mrs. Dashwood), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), Alan Rickman (Colonel Brandon), Robert Hardy (Sir John Middleton), Greg Wise (John Willoughby), Elizabeth Spriggs (Mrs. Jennings), Ian Brimble (Thomas)

This BBC production is one of the best of the recent Jane Austen films. Emma Thompson has done a fine job of the script, not slavishly remaining faithful to the book but not abandoning it either.

The cast are uniformly excellent, especially Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. Emma Thompson’s performance is almost good enough to make you forget that she is far to old for the part. The supporting cast are all excellent.

Ang Lee’s direction is skillful, while the scenery and costumes are beautiful, perhaps too beautiful.

This is more romantic and less comic, and Thompson’s script wisely stays away from the kind of set-piece gags seen in the recent films. All in all, this is a very good adaptation.

Sense and sensibility (TV series 2008) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: John Alexander

Stars: Dominic Cooper (Willoughby), Charity Wakefield (Marianne Dashwood), Hattie Morahan (Elinor Dashwood), Janet McTeer (Mrs. Dashwood), Lucy Boynton (Margaret Dashwood), David Morrissey (Colonel Brandon), Linda Bassett (Mrs Jennings), Mark Williams (Sir John Middleton), Claire Skinner (Fanny Dashwood), Rosanna Lavelle (Lady Middleton), Dan Stevens  (Edward Ferrars), Mark Gatiss (John Dashwood), Daisy Haggard (Miss Steele), Anna Madeley (Lucy Steele), Leo Bill (Robert Ferrars), Tim McMullan (Mr Palmer), Tabitha Wady (Charlotte Palmer)

3 episodes, 2h 54min.

Comparisons with Ang Lee’s splendid film version are inevitable, yet somehow the somewhat greater length gives this a deeper dimension that the albeit very entertaining film version.

Even though this version gets higher IMDb rating, the writer still loves the 1995 version better. You should watch both versions to make a conclusion for yourself.

Sān guó yǎn yì (Romance of the three kingdoms) – Luo Guanzhong

Goodreads Rating: 4.6

The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” With this characterization of the inevitable cycle of Chinese history, the monumental tale Three Kingdoms begins. As important for Chinese culture as the Homeric epics have been for the West, this Ming Dynasty masterpiece continues to be read and loved throughout China as well as in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The novel offers a startling and unsparing view of how power is wielded, how diplomacy is conducted, and how wars are planned and fought; it has influenced the ways that Chinese think about power, diplomacy, and war even to this day.

Three Kingdoms portrays a fateful moment at the end of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) when the future of the Chinese empire lay in the balance. Writing more than a millennium later, Luo Guanzhong drew on often told tales of this turbulent period to fashion a sophisticated compelling narrative, whose characters display vivid individuality and epic grandeur.

The story begins when the emperor, fearing uprisings by peasant rebels known as the Yellow Scarves, sends an urgent appeal to the provinces for popular support. In response, three young men – the aristocratic Liu Xuande, the fugitive Lord Guan, and the pig-butcher Zhang Fei – meet to pledge eternal brotherhood and fealty to their beleaguered government. From these events comes a chain of cause and consequence that leads ultimately to the collapse of the Han…

As a trivia, the book served as a warfare reference for the Manchurian generals who defeated the Ming army and overthrew this dynasty, thus establishing the Qing dynasty that ruled China from 1644 to 1912.

The romance of three kingdoms (TV series 1994) IMDb Rating: 8.6

General Director: Wang Fulin, partial directors: Zhang Shaolin, Shen Haofang, Sun Guangming, Zhang Zhongyi, Cai Xiaoqing

Main cast: Sun Yanjun (Liu Bei), Tang Guoqiang (Zhuge Liang), Bao Guo’an (Cao Cao), Lu Shuming (Guan Yu), Li Jingfei (Zhang Fei), Wu Xiaodong (Sun Quan / Sun Jian), Zhang Guangbei (Lü Bu), Li Po (Dong Zhuo), Chen Hong (Diaochan), Li Qingxiang (Yuan Shao (older)), Zhang Shan (Zhao Yun (younger)), Wei Zongwan (Sima Yi (older)), Pu Cunxin (Sun Ce), Hong Yuzhou (Zhou Yu / Yuan Shao (younger)), He Jing (Xiaoqiao), Hu Zhanli (Meng Huo), Li Yunjuan (Lady Zhurong)

84 episodes.

Due to the time taken to complete the project (four years), there were some instances of (1) multiple actors playing the same character or (2) the same actor taking on multiple roles.

Usually the movie does not do justice to the novel, but this series does it justice and more. Romance of the Three kingdoms is a must see for anybody who is interested in this period of Chinese history. Love, drama, war, loyalty, and trickery all make their presences felt in this epic.

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No matter if you have read the book or not, you should see this film that depicts all heroic and tragic features that the book may not show. For instance, you would be deeply moved by the solemn funeral scene of one commander-in-chief general, but in the book you do not see a word about this scene.

One drawback is shown in the battle scenes: for a story of tens of thousands soldiers we see like only a hundred, and for the heroic fighting skills of great historic generals we see a little bit like child plays. With more extras and with a little training on fighting, the film would show a true epic.

The romance of three kingdoms (TV series 2010) IMDb Rating: 8.2

Main cast: Chen Jianbin (Cao Cao), Yu Hewei (Liu Bei), Lu Yi (Zhuge Liang), Yu Rongguang (Guan Yu), Kang Kai (Zhang Fei), Nie Yuan (Zhao Yun), Ni Dahong (Sima Yi), Yu Bin (Cao Pi), Luo Jin (Liu Xie), Lü Xiaohe (Dong Zhuo), Peter Ho (Lü Bu), Chen Hao (Diao Chan), Zhang Bo (Sun Quan), Ruby Lin (Lady Sun), Victor Huang (Zhou Yu), Sha Yi (Sun Ce), Liu Jing (Da Qiao), Zhao Ke (Xiao Qiao)

95 episodes

This version sets a record as the most expensive small screen series so far in China’s television history, having been sold to four regional TV broadcasters at the price of 160 million yuan. It has also been sold to over 20 countries, earning an estimated 800 million RMB (133.3 million USD) in total as of May 2012. The series was a commercial success in China and dominated ratings, but has caused controversy among fans with many commenting that the TV series has veered too far from the classic novel.

The cinematography is beautiful, and the battle scenes are much grander and more impressive than the 1995 version. The characters are more natural and realistic.

Some reviewers complain that there is too much woman in the story, since the original novel never mentions much about woman.

My only objection is that no matter what the natural scenes are, the producer makes the film mainly in various degrees of grey, reducing to the air of solemnity rather than epic.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Michael Rosen (story), Jane Ray (illustrations)

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

The original play The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet gets a Goodreads Rating of 3.7 only. The new version by Michael Rosen and Jane Ray gets a higher Rating as it is easier and more exciting to read.

In his play, Shakespeare creates a world of violence and generational conflict in which two young people fall in love deeply. The story is rather extraordinary in that the normal problems faced by young lovers are here so very large. It is not simply that the families of Romeo and Juliet disapprove of the lover’s affection for each other; rather, the Montagues and the Capulets are on opposite sides in a blood feud and are trying to kill each other on the streets of Verona.

What is so striking about this play is that despite its extraordinary setting (one perhaps reflecting Elizabethan attitudes about hot-blooded Italians), it has become the quintessential story of young love.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) IMDb Rating: 7.6

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Franco Brusati (screenplay)…
Stars: Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery, Milo O’Shea, Pat Heywood, Robert Stephens, Michael York, Bruce Robinson

This was the first time we actually saw the teenage love Shakespeare intended. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Houssey gave life to the story told in this ancestral tale, revamping it without betraying it, making it accessible to a 60s audience without updating it. Leonard and Olivia were so beautiful that Shakespeare became trendy again. The real, stunning, dusty locations, the costumes, the faces, the music made the whole thing a totally new Shakespearean experience. Here everything reeked of youth underlining the story in the most cinematic way. Another important point is to confirm that in 2007 the film still feels young and fresh.

The film won 2 Oscars: Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, plus another 14 wins & 15 nominations.

Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories – Sholem Aleichem

Goodreads Rating: 4.2

Of all the characters in modern Jewish fiction, the most beloved is Tevye, the compassionate, irrepressible, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka, who has been immortalized in the writings of Sholem Aleichem and in acclaimed and award-winning theatrical and film adaptations.

And no Yiddish writer was more beloved than Tevye’s creator, Sholem Rabinovich (1859–1916), the “Jewish Mark Twain,” who wrote under the pen name of Sholem Aleichem. Here is Sholem Aleichem’s heartwarming and poignant account of Tevye and his daughters, together with the “Railroad Stories,” twenty-one tales that examine human nature and modernity as they are perceived by men and women riding the trains from shtetl to shtetl.

Fiddler on the roof (1971) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Norman Jewison
Writers: Sholem Aleichem), Arnold Perl
Stars: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, Paul Mann, Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh

Epic in plot, setting and length, Fiddler on the roof tells a surprisingly tight and focused story that has “universal” poignancy – in a nutshell, it’s about trying to maintain strong cultural traditions and identity in the face of a continually changing world, partially fueled by the youth, that doesn’t necessarily share the culture’s values or self-assessment of worth.

Aleichem’s Tevye stories were first turned into a Broadway musical, which began its initial run in 1964 with Zero Mostel as Tevye. Producer and director Norman Jewison was asked around early 1970 by United Artists to helm the Fiddler on the roof film. To their surprise, Jewison wasn’t Jewish. He got the gig anyway, and in August 1970, began an arduous shoot–much of it done in a small village in Yugoslavia that refused to cooperate when it came to weather (Jewison couldn’t get the snow he wanted). He ended up getting a lot of pressure because the shoot went over time and over budget – this was one of the most expensive films of its time, which was an era of economic woes for Hollywood – but of course we know it paid off in the end.

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Zero Mostel was out as Tevye, and Israeli actor Chaim Topol, or just “Topol”, was in, based largely on Jewison seeing him in the role of Tevye in the London stage production of Fiddler. Jewison had said that he was shooting for more realism in the film, as opposed to what he saw as a kind of campy humor in the Broadway production.

The film won 3 Oscars: Best Cinematography; Best Sound; Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score, together with another 6 wins & 13 nominations.

The boy in the striped pajamas – John Boyne

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

Berlin 1942. When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own.

The boy in the striped pajamas (2008) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Mark Herman
Writers: John Boyne (novel), Mark Herman (screenplay)
Stars: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend

Set during WWII, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a German concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with another boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling consequences.

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Perfectly weighted film in every way, from pace to acting and all framed with a wonderful score. The actors are great and the story is very touching.

The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller

Goodreads Rating: 3.6

The story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for the fulfillment of a girlhood dream, The bridges of Madison County gives voice to the longings of men and women everywhere – and shows us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.

Quietly powerful and thoroughly credible, Waller’s first novel (he previously wrote two books of essays) describes the profound love between a photographer and an Iowa farmer’s wife who, together for only four days, never lose their feelings for each other. In August 1965, 52-year-old divorce Robert Kincaid packs his pickup truck and travels to Iowa’s Madison County, the location of seven covered bridges he is to photograph for National Geographic. There, he asks directions of Francesca Johnson, alone at home while her husband and two children visit the Illinois State Fair. Initially, neither Robert nor Francesca expects their random encounter to lead to seduction, yet their mutual desire is undeniable.

Waller tells their story as though it were nonfiction, claiming to have heard about Francesca from her children after her death, read her journals, seen Robert’s relics of those four days and interviewed a jazz musician who knew the photographer.  – Publishers Weekly

“Waller knows the secret of romance novels. He writes the way people feel and think when they are first in love – as if every emotion had the force of God’s creation, as if such shivers had never been experienced before.”  – Time

“Lyrical… sensuous and sensitive… a tale of lasting love.”  – San Francisco Chronicle

“It glows… Bridges proves that wondrous things can be wrought by chance and candlelight.”  – Miami Herald

The novel has been translated into 25 languages and over 12 million copies have been sold worldwide. On The New York Times Best Seller list for 3 years (and number 1 for 38 weeks), it topped Gone with the Wind in 1995 as the best-selling fiction book of all time.

The bridges of Madison County (1995) IMDb: 7.6

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Robert James Waller (novel)
Stars: Clint Eastwood (Robert Kincaid), Meryl Streep (Francesca), Annie Corley (Carolyn Johnson), Victor Slezak (Michael Johnson), Jim Haynie (Richard Johnson)

Kincaid is a photographer for National Geographic, shooting a story on the covered bridges of the county. Francesca’s husband and children have left home for several days to go to the Illinois State Fair. Photographer and housewife meet, and an awkward but friendly conversation leads to an offer of iced tea; then she shyly asks him to stay for dinner.

The Bridges of Madison County is not about love and not about sex, but about an idea. The implication is: If they had acted on their desire, they would not have deserved such a love.

Almost everybody knows the story by now. Robert James Waller’s novel has been a huge best-seller. Its prose is not distinguished, but its story is compelling: He provides the fantasy of total eroticism within perfect virtue, elevating to a spiritual level the common fantasy in which a virile stranger materializes in the kitchen of a quiet housewife and takes her into his arms.

The Bridges of Madison County is about two people who find the promise of perfect personal happiness, and understand, with sadness and acceptance, that the most important things in life are not always about making yourself happy.

The Elephant Man and other reminiscences – Frederick Treves

Goodreads Rating: 3.9

“There stood revealed the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I have ever seen. In the course of my profession I had come across lamentable deformities of the face due to injury or disease, as well as mutilations and contortions of the body depending upon like causes; but at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure displayed.”

So said Sir Frederick Treves of the Royal London Hospital regarding the first time he laid eyes on the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick.

Merrick was born in Leicester, England on August 5, 1862. His deformity began developing by the age of 21 months and grew worse with time. Regardless, Merrick went to school until the age of 12 and began working in a cigar factory by 13. Sadly, his condition made him more and more clumsy, until he eventually could no longer handle the job. Ultimately, he ended up being exhibited as a freak in London.

The Elephant Man’s sideshow career was ended by Treves, who convinced Merrick’s showman, Tom Norman, to allow him an examination at the hospital. Although Norman continued to tour with Merrick afterward, the exhibition was short-lived. People were too appalled by his appearance and profits waned. The show closed and the Elephant Man found his way back to Treves. By 1886, after some internal negotiations, the doctor was able to secure a permanent room for the Merrick to call home.

“Merrick had now something he had never dreamed of, never supposed to be possible – a home of his own for life,” Treves wrote in The Elephant Man and other reminiscences.

The Elephant Man (1980) IMDb Rating: 8.3

Director: David Lynch
Stars: Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Frederick ‘Freddie’ Treves), John Hurt (John Merrick), Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones (Bytes), Michael Elphick

You must watch this film of high humane value.

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.

The Elephant Man 2David Lynch is a remarkable director and The Elephant Man is a remarkable film. Inspired by a true story in the streets of London during the Victorian Age, the film is based entirely around the life of John Merrick, an individual dubbed by his ‘owner’ Bytes and others as “The Elephant Man” because of his hideous deformities. With this film, Lynch grasps his audience and stretches them to a new parallel of an emotionally capturing film. And what makes this so daunting and so intriguing is the fact that The Elephant Man is a true story, no part of it is fictional.

In one powerful scene of tension and curiosity, John Merrick screams out, “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!” This particular sequence ties in with the whole focus of the film itself, human dignity and emotion.

The Elephant Man is a film about where our empathy stems from, a film that asks you to feel sorry but rebukes you for your blind pity. It asks you to respect Merrick, not cry for him. The Elephant Man is a film that treks you through despair and asks for your hope in the end. It asks you to hate humanity but to love the humane. It asks you to look at a man who appears sad and know that inside, he’s okay.

The fault in our stars – John Green

Goodreads Rating: 4.3

The story is narrated by Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with cancer. Hazel is forced by her parents to attend a support group where she subsequently meets and falls in love with 17-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The fault in our stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

The fault in our stars (2014) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Josh BooneStars: Shailene Woodley (Hazel), Ansel Elgort (Gus), Nat Wolff (Isaac), Laura Dern (Frannie), Sam Trammell (Michael)

Hazel Grace Lancaster – a 16-year-old with cancer that has spread to her lungs – attends a cancer patient support group at her mother’s behest. At first, she hesitates because she feels like it has done her nothing. She thinks attending the support group could be the worst part of her life, until a particular support meeting, Hazel meets a 17-year-old boy named Augustus Waters, whose osteosarcoma caused him to lose his right leg, which was replaced with a prosthetic. Augustus is at the support meeting to support, Isaac, a boy Augustus’ age with eye cancer. Upon catching Augustus staring at her, Hazel suddenly feels self-conscious.

It should be agonizing, this tale of doomed love between cancer-stricken teens. It should be passionate, engrossing, suspenseful, something – even unabashed melodrama would have been appropriate, given the subject matter.

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Instead, the film version of the best-selling novel The fault in our stars feels emotionally inert, despite its many moments that are meant to put a lump in our throats. Perhaps it’s trying so hard to bludgeon us over the head and make us feel deeply that the result is numbing instead. There’s something just off about it for the vast majority of the time – an awkwardness to the staging, framing and pacing in director Josh Boone’s adaptation of author John Green’s tear-jerking, young adult phenomenon, and a need to spell everything out.

The fault in our stars was released to positive critical reception, with praise for Woodley’s and Elgort’s performances as well as the script. The film was also a blockbuster, grossing over $307 million worldwide against a budget of $12 million. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD and grossed over $42 million in total domestic video sales.

The fault in our stars is definitely one of the best romantic movies ever. You must watch this film of high humane value.

The Godfather – Mario Puzo

Goodreads Rating: 4.4

The Godfather – the epic tale of crime and betrayal that became a global phenomenon. A searing portrayal of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and their powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor. The seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed, and the allegiance to family – these are the themes that have resonated with millions of readers around the world and made The Godfather the definitive novel of the violent subculture that, steeped in intrigue and controversy, remains indelibly etched in our collective consciousness.

The Godfather (1972) IMDb Rating: 9.2 (Top #2 IMDb)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo (screenplay), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Stars: Marlon Brando (Don Vito Corleone), Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), James Caan (Sonny Corleone), Richard S. Castellano (Clemenza), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Sterling Hayden (Capt. McCluskey), John Marley (Jack Woltz), Richard Conte (Barzini), Al Lettieri (Sollozzo), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Talia Shire (Connie)

This is a masterpiece. A timeless masterpiece. The acting from everyone involved is great, Marlon Brando comes across perfectly as the head of the family, and James Caan and Al Pacino are excellent as his sons. The soundtrack by Nino Rota is also very memorable, bringing back memories of the film every time we hear it. The song Speak softly, love lives forever in the audience’s hearts. The plot has to be excellent for it to get ten out of ten, and it is, it’s far from predictable and the film is the definition of a great epic.

There is nothing weak about this film, except for those who are not accustomed to watch low-lighting scenes.

The film receives 3 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), Best Screenplay, plus another 24 wins & 28 nominations.

The Godfather: Part II (1974) IMDb: 9.0

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writers: Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay by), Mario Puzo (screenplay by)

Stars: Al Pacino (Michael), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay), Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone, John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V. Gazzo (Frankie Pentangeli), G.D. Spradlin (Senator Pat Geary), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Tom Rosqui (Rocco Lampone), Bruno Kirby (young Clemenza), James Caan (Sonny Corleone), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Mario Cotone (Don Tommasino)

This is both a sequel and prequel showing the rise of the young Vito and moral decline of Micheal. Both characters are brought to life with uncanny ability by Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino .

Simply put: Great ensemble acting, great story, greatest sequel ever made.

The film receives 6 Oscars: Best Picture (The movie became the first sequel to win this award), Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Screenplay Adapted from other Material, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Music, plus other 11 wins & 20 nominations.

The greatest gift: The original story that inspired the Christmas classic It’s a wonderful life – Philip Van Doren Stern

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

The short story was privately printed as a Christmas card to the author’s friends in 1943. This deluxe edition of The greatest gift marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of It’s a Wonderful Life. Specially commissioned artwork and an afterword by the author’s daughter, Marguerite Stern Robinson, reveals how this enchanting story inspired the beloved movie.

It’s a wonderful life (1946) IMDb: 8.7

Director: Frank Capra

Stars: James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy), Henry Travers (Clarence), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Bailey), Frank Faylen (Ernie), Ward Bond (Bert), Gloria Grahame (Violet), H.b. Warner (Mr. Gower), Frank Albertson (Sam Wainwright), Samuel S. Hinds (Pa Bailey), Mary Treen (Cousin Tilly), Virginia Patton (Ruth Dakin), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey)

Watch this old film and you may agree with one reviewer that it is a life-changing experience. It is better to leave it all to you to explore, so no summary is given here.

The Green Mile – Stephen King

Goodreads Rating: 4.4

When it first appeared, one volume per month, Stephen King’s The Green Mile was an unprecedented publishing triumph: all six volumes ended up on The New York Times bestseller lists – simultaneously – and delighted millions of fans the world over.

Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk the Green Mile, keeping a date with “Old Sparky,” Cold Mountain’s electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities in his years working the Mile. But he’s never seen anyone like John Coffey, a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. In this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about Coffey, a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs… and yours.

The Green Mile (1999) IMDb Rating: 8.5

Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse

The Green Mile is a masterwork. This is film as art, at it’s very best. This wonderful story was adapted by Frank Darabont, who did such a magnificent job bringing King’s Shawshank Redemption to the screen. He does the same high quality work with The Green Mile. The story is faithful to the book, only losing details that were not important to the story anyway. The casting is superb – every actor is perfectly suited for his role and does an excellent job, although we may single out Doug Hutchison. His portrayal of the detestable Percy is right on the mark and suggests complexities in this character not discovered in the book. The film never drags and is never dull, and it certainly didn’t feel three hours long. The length is needed to tell this story the way it should be told, and the story is so very engrossing. Best of all, Darabont and the actors bring so much emotion to the screen.

The film receives 15 wins and 36 nominations.

The longest day – Cornelius Ryan

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

The longest day is Cornelius Ryan’s unsurpassed account of D-Day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.

This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth..

The longest day (1962) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Ken Annakin (British & French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), Bernhard Wicki (German episodes), Gerd Oswald (parachute drop), Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited)

Writers: Cornelius Ryan (screenplay), Cornelius Ryan (book), Romain Gary (additional episodes written by), James Jones (additional episodes written by) David Pursall (additional episodes written by), Jack Seddon (additional episodes written by)

Stars: Paul Anka (Private, 2nd Ranger Battalion), Henry Fonda (Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Assistant Commander, 4th Infantry Division), Henry Grace, dubbed by Allen Swift (General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces), Robert Mitchum (Brigadier General Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division), Robert Ryan (Brigadier General James M. Gavin, Assistant Commander, 82nd Airborne Division), Robert Wagner (Private, 2nd Ranger Battalion), John Wayne (Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort, CO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Richard Burton (Flying Officer David Campbell, Royal Air Force fighter pilot), Sean Connery (Private Flanagan, 3rd Infantry Division), Peter Lawford (Brigadier Lord Lovat, Commander, 1st Special Service Brigade), Trevor Reid (General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Armies), John Robinson (Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief), Irina Demick (Janine Boitard, French Resistance), Jean-Louis Barrault (Father Louis Roulland, parish priest of Sainte-Mère-Église), Hans Christian Blech (Major Werner Pluskat, 352nd Artillery Regiment, 352nd Infantry Division), Wolfgang Büttner (Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel, Chief of Staff, Army Group B), Paul Hartmann (Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander, OB West), Ruth Hausmeister (Lucie Rommel, Rommel’s wife), Werner Hinz (Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, Commander, Army Group B), Curt Jürgens (General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt, Chief of Staff, OB West), Wolfgang Preiss (Generalleutnant Max Pemsel, Chief of Staff, 7th Army)

This is the masterpiece of all times that no war movies can surpass, except perhaps the TV series The band brothers.

The movie is filmed in the style of a docudrama. Beginning in the days leading up to D-Day, it concentrates on events on both sides of the channel. The film pays particular attention to the decision by Gen. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of SHAEF, to go after reviewing the initial bad-weather reports as well as reports about the divisions within the German High Command as to where an invasion might happen or what the response to it should be.

Numerous scenes document the early hours of June 6 when Allied airborne troops were sent in to take key locations inland from the beaches. The French resistance is also shown reacting to the news that an invasion has started. The Longest Day chronicles most of the important events surrounding D-Day, from the British glider missions, the counterattacks launched by American paratroopers, the infiltration and sabotage work conducted by the French resistance, to the response by the Wehrmacht to the invasion and the uncertainty of German commanders as to whether it was a feint in preparation for crossings at the Pas de Calais.

The run of his life: The people v. O. J. Simpson – Jeffrey Toobin

Goodreads Rating: 4.2

Called by The Wall Street Journal “the pick of the litter” among books on the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, this is the definitive commentary on the most famous trial of this century.

This is a fantastic true crime book. Jeffrey Toobin is one of those rare people who can take complex legal issues and explain them to laypeople, while also writing fantastic descriptions and crafting a good narrative.

American crime story Season 1: The People v. O. J. Simpson (2016) IMDb Rating: 8.5

Directors: various

Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr. (O.J. Simpson), Sarah Paulson (Marcia Clark), John Travolta (Robert Shapiro), Courtney B. Vance (Johnnie Cochran), Sterling K. Brown (Christopher Darden), Kenneth Choi (Judge Lance Ito), Nathan Lane (F. Lee Bailey), David Schwimmer (Robert Kardashian), Christian Clemenson (Bill Hodgman), Bruce Greenwood (Gil Garcetti)

This is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s account, The run of his life, about the murder trial of the African-American O. J. Simpson and the events leading up to it. But this film diverges from the mostly legal and characterological view that Toobin took at the time. It adds some things, intimate conversations, solitary acts, some of them certainly fabricated, and eliminates some of Toobin’s more cynical observations.

The case of O.J. Simpson is one that received wide-scale media coverage and attention with the events being closely followed by many and is now the topic of biographical crime drama, American Crime Story. However despite this, this show manages to remain just as gripping and haunting as the case was in real life.

The acting is across the board incredibly strong with not a weak performance among the main ensemble; Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Travolta in particular stand out. The writing is sharp, never is it overly formulaic or mundane but understandable and real, tension is built tremendously from the dialogue alone. But above all the direction is excellent, the tone is established straight from the beginning and it is crafted to such a high quality.

There is rarely a dull or wasted moment throughout, the story and pacing remains tight with no parts lacking in comparison to the soaring heights. The show, as said in the title of this review, is both evocative and powerful.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank redemption – Stephen King

Goodreads Rating: 4.5

This is a novella by Stephen King, from his 1982 collection Different Seasons, subtitled Hope Springs Eternal.

In 1947, in Maine, Andy Dufresne, a banker, is tried and convicted for the double murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. He is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary to serve a double life sentence. There, he meets Red, a prisoner who smuggles items from the outside world. Andy, who had been an amateur geologist before being imprisoned, asks Red to get him a rock hammer for shaping rocks he collects from the exercise yard into small sculptures. One of the next items he orders from Red, is a large poster of Rita Hayworth. Over the ensuing years, Andy regularly requests more posters from Red, including pin-ups of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. When asked, Andy tells Red that he likes to imagine he can step through the pictures and be with the actresses.

The novella was adapted for the screen in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption, and for the stage in 2009 as the play The Shawshank Redemption.

The Shawshank redemption (1994) MDb: 9.3 (top rated for movies)

Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne), Morgan Freeman (Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding), Bob Gunton (warden Norton), Joseph Ragno (Ernie), Neil Giuntoli (Jigger), James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen), William Sadler (Heywood), Clancy Brown (Captain Hadley), Mark Rolston (Bogs)

The film tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne, who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, contraband smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding, and becomes instrumental in a money laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton.

The Shawshank

While the film received positive reviews, it was a box office disappointment, earning only $16 million during its initial theatrical run. Many reasons were cited for its failure at the time, including competition from films such as Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, to the general unpopularity of prison films, lack of female characters, and even the title, which was considered to be confusing for audiences. The film was nominated for 7 Oscars but won none.

The film is now considered to be one of the greatest films of the 1990s. As of 2017, the film is still broadcast regularly, and is popular in several countries, with audience members and celebrities citing it as a source of inspiration, and naming the film as a favorite in various surveys. In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

To kill a mockingbird – Harper Lee

Goodreads Rating: 4.4

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To kill a mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To kill a mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior –  to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

To kill a mockingbird (1962) IMDb Rating: 8.3

Director: Robert Mulligan
Stars: Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch), John Megna (Dill Harris), Overton (Sheriff Heck Tate), Rosemary Murphy (Maudie Atkinson), Ruth White (Mrs. Dubose). Brock Peters (Tom Robinson)

This is the movie based on the Harper Lee novel of the same name about Scout, Jem and their father, Atticus Finch who is an attorney in a small southern town. It is both a coming of age story about the children as well as a hard-hitting drama, as Atticus defends a black man who is on trial for the rape of a white woman.

Of course, the defense of a man wrongly accused of a crime is a common story line, but To kill a mockingbird stands out as an exceptional example for several reasons. Among them, the date that the film was released: 1962, on the cusp of the civil rights movement in America, and the fact that it takes place in the south in the 1930’s. It is also far from the first film to explore the experiences of children and their own personal growth, but To kill a mockingbird stands out because of its sheer honesty and natural performances by the child actors portraying these rich characters.

To kill a mocking bird_movie 3

One of the things that makes To kill a mockingbird a truly great film is the love and respect everyone involved in bringing Harper Lee’s novel to the screen had for the original source material. It shows up on screen in every single frame. Each performance in this film is beyond reproach. Gregory Peck had many fine performances over his career, but none every approached the perfection he brought to his portrayal of Atticus Finch.

Do not miss this film whether you have read the book or not.

Twelve years a slave – Solomon Northup

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Twelve years a slave, sub-title: Narrative of Solomon Northup. A citizen of New-York, he was kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana. This is a memoir by Solomon Northup as told to and edited by David Wilson. It is a slave narrative of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped in in 1841 in Washington, D.C., sold into slavery, and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana, until 1853. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, as well as describing at length cotton and sugar cultivation on major plantations in Louisiana. Note that 10 years after Solomon is free, on January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

12 years a slave (2013) IMDb Rating: 8.4

Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: John Ridley (screenplay), Solomon Northup (based on the book)
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about 12 years a slave is the way that it portrays slavery itself. Instead of taking the easy way out and limiting his exploration of the topic solely to the slaves, Steve McQueen increases the scope and we see how it affects those who profited by it. To watch 12 years a slave is to be confronted with the grim reality of slavery in a way that’s never been done before.

Under the hawthorn tree – Ai Mi (author), Anna Holmwood (translator)

Goodreads Rating: 3.6

Yichang municipality, Hubei province, China, early 1970s. High-school student Jingqiu is one of many educated urban youth sent to the countryside to be “re-educated” under a dictate from Chairman Mao. Jing’s father is a political prisoner somewhere in China, and her mother, a former teacher branded as a “capitalist,” is now reduced to menial work to support Jing and her two younger siblings.

When Jing arrives with a group at Xiping village in the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges region, she meets geology student Jianxin, nicknamed “Old Three,” who is the son of a high-ranking military officer, but whose mother committed suicide after being branded a “rightist.” Despite their disparate social backgrounds and a political atmosphere that forbids the relationship, Jingqiu and Jianxin fall desperately in love. But their budding romance is cut short by fate…

A sensitive and searing love story, Under the hawthorn tree is sure to become an instant classic.

Shan zha shu zhi lian – Under the hawthorn tree (2010) IMDb Rating: 7.1 [7.5]

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writers: Ai Mi (novel), Lichuan Yin (screenplay)…
Stars: Xuejian Li, Taishen Cheng, Dongyu Zhou

Like Steven Spielberg who can turn an average-to-good book into a very-good-to-excellent film, Yimou Zhang can do the same, and this film is no exception. It’s about a romance between a young woman and a young man from different economic backgrounds during China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s.

Under the thaw hornThe film is yet another example of Yimou’s products: simple but delicious. The acting is wonderful. The two leads tell just as much with their eyes, their laughs and their expressions as with their words. Take for example the scene where Jing gives her goldfish to Sun, and the camera lingers on their faces to show us how they feel. Wonderful film making.

Another scene tells all about the social setting: due to the restraint regime the girl has to hide her face when riding on a bicycle with the man she loves, but the two young do not want to hide their happiness.

It appears that some reviewers unfairly under-evaluate this film that, to me, deserves a rating of 7.5. Simply put, it’s exquisite.

When Heaven and Earth changed places
Le Ly Hayslip, Jay Wurts

Goodreads Rating: 4.1

It is said that in war heaven and earth change places not once, but many times. This book is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down.

The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters landed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the government and Viet Cong troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as spies and saboteurs. Le Ly was one of those children. Before the age of sixteen, Le Ly had suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members – but miraculously held fast to her faith in humanity. And almost twenty years after her escape to America, she was drawn inexorably back to the devastated country and family she left behind. Scenes of this joyous reunion are interwoven with the brutal war years, offering a poignant picture of Vietnam, then and now, and of a courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War – and survived to tell her unforgettable story.

Child of war, woman of peace
Le Ly Hayslip, James Hayslip, Jenny Wurts

 Goodreads Rating: 3.7

The inspiring story of an immigrant’s struggles to heal old wounds in the United States, this is the sequel to When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, Le Ly Hayslip’s extraordinary, award-winning memoir of life in wartime Vietnam.

Heaven & earth (1993) IMDb: 6.8

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Le Ly Hayslip (book), Jay Wurts (book), James Hayslip (book), Oliver Stone (screenplay)
Stars: Hiep Thi Le (Le Ly), Bussaro Sanruck (Le Ly – Age 5), Tommy Lee Jones (Steve Butler), Haing S. Ngor (Papa), Joan Chen (Mama), Thuan Le (Kim), Dustin Nguyen (Sau), Mai Le Ho (Hai), Vinh Dang (Bon), Le Ly Hayslip (jewelry broker), Doan Chau Mau (monk Chau Mau Doan)

Oliver Stone creates a powerful tale of the devastation of the Vietnam War. What makes this movie so unique, both from Stone’s earlier work and virtually every other American movie about the Vietnam War, is that this film is told from the perspective of a Vietnamese woman.

Heaven and Earth 2

The film inspired some of the audience to read the two books (When Heaven and Earth changed places and Child of war, woman of peace) it was based on, and these book are really commendable.

Where the heart is – Billie Letts

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

Seventeen-year-old, seven-month pregnant Novalee Nation is heading for California with her boyfriend. Then she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with just a few dollas in change. But Novalee is about to discover hidden treasures in this small Southwest town – a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people willing to help a homeless, jobless girl living secretly in a Wal-Mart. From Bible-thumping blue-haired Sister Thelma Husband to eccentric librarian Forney Hull who loves Novalee more than she loves herself, they are about to take her – and you, too – on a moving, funny, and unforgettable journey.

Where the heart is (2000) IMDb Rating: 6.8

Director: Matt Williams
Stars: Natalie Portman (Novalee Nation), Dylan Bruno (Willy Jack Pickens), Stockard Channing (Sister Husband), Ashley Judd (Lexie Coop), James Frain (Forney Hull)

Pregnant 17-year-old Novalee Nation runs away from her Tennessee home toward the bright lights of California, accompanied by her boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens. But Willy gets cold feet and abandons her at a Walmart in Sequoyah, OK. Novalee’s life savings amount to a few dollars, so she moves into the Walmart, sleeping there at night and venturing out during the day.

Immediately we are introduced to a whole host of vivid characters. There is nurse Ashley Judd who is rearing five young children of her own, department store photographer Keith David, and shy librarian James Frain who is taking care of his alcoholic older sister (Margaret Ann Hoard).

With the help of the eccentric Sister Husband and Lexie Coop, a nurses’ aide, Novalee tries to get her life in order for the sake of her expected child, Americus Nation. Eventually Portman experiences life, tragedy, love, triumph, and everything in between.

The film is inspirational: in the midst of the violence and profanity that occurs in life, it reminds you that there are still good, honest and decent people.

Анна Каренина (Anna Karenina) – Leon Tolstoy

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, Anna Karenin provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature – with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author’s own views and convictions.

Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch. As Rosemary Edmonds comments, ‘He leaves the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope to bring home the meaning of the brooding words following the title, ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.

The movel has been made into more than 30 movies, not only in Russia but also in Argentina, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, USA. In spite of this high number, there is no theater film masterpiece like Doctor Zhivago (1965).

The following films are noteworthy.

Anna Karenina (1935) IMDb Rating: 7.1

Director: Clarence Brown

Greta Garbo 1935_5

Stars: Greta Garbo (Anna Karenina), Fredric March (Vronsky), Freddie Bartholomew (Sergey), Basil Rathbone (Karenin), Maureen O’Sullivan (Kitty), May Robson (Countess Vronsky), Reginald Owen (Stiva)

The film earned won the Mussolini Cup for best foreign film at the Venice Film Festival. Greta Garbo received a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her role as Anna. In addition, the film was ranked #42 on the American Film Institute’s list of AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions.

Despite the numerous remakes of Tolstoy’s story that followed, the 1935 version continues to resonate because of its impressive performances. On the whole, it is a picture of merit. It is decorative, well-meaning, and full of neat encounters, and it certainly presents a Garbo in the high summer of her maturity, richer and more mellow than she has ever been before.

Anna Karenina (1967) IMDb Rating: 7.2

Director: Aleksandr Zarkhi
Stars: Tatyana Samoylova (Anna Karenina), Nikolai Gritsenko (Alexander Alexandrovich Karenin), Vasiliy Lanovoy, Maya Plisetskaya (Betsy Tverskaya)

After several previous attempts by foreign directors that some critics consider to miss the mark, this Russian film version of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina most accurately follows the Tolstoy novel, considered by some to remain superior to all other versions to date.

Starring in the title role was the famous Russian actress Tatiana Samoilova (The cranes are flying, in Russian Летят журавли). Nikolai Gritsenko and the internationally known ballet dancer Maya Plisetskaya also contributed to the film success.

Anna Karenina (TV mini-series 1977– ) IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Basil Coleman
Writers: Leo Tolstoy, Donald Wilson
Stars: Nicola Pagett (Anna Karenina), Stuart Wilson (Vronsky), Eric Porter (Karenin), Robert Swann (Levin), Davyd Harries (Stiva), Caroline Langrishe (Kitty)

10 episodes, total length of 8h 20min.

In its performances and dialogue and sheer emotional highs and lows, this version is considered to be superior to any previous ones. Nicola Paget was simply smashing – she will simply break your heart with her portrayal of Anna veering from thoughtless frivolity to total despair. And Count Vronsky is played by the dashing charming Stuart Wilson, who looks every bit the part of a man a woman would give up so much for; while Eric Porter is perfect as Karenin, strong, tormented, and complicated. The trio of superb performances includes Eric Porter as Anna’s rigid and emotionally devastated husband, who is hiss-worthy in many scenes, yet manages to convey the emotions boiling inside of him, giving one pause to totally hate him. In support the rest of the cast are excellent too, especially Sheila Gish as Betsy and Mary Morris as Countess Vronsky.

The scenes, costumes and music (quite a lot of Tchaikovsky) are also satisfactory.

This mini-series is well worth your time and doesn’t have a dated feel at all – the space given to the story means this version has more weight than those with Garbo or Vivien Leigh.

Anna Karenina (1997) IMDb Rating: 6.4

Director: Bernard Rose
Stars: Sophie Marceau (Anna Karenina), Sean Bean (Vronsky), Alfred Molina (Levin), Mia Kirshner (Kitty), James Fox (Karenin), Fiona Shaw (Lydia), Danny Huston (Stiva)

This film is the only international version filmed entirely in Russia, at locations in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The careful direction and art direction, the St. Petersburg backgrounds, as well as the exquisite cinematography, make this movie a real feast for the eyes, with magnificent plastic compositions and lighting in every shot. The costumes were the best for 19 century, designed by the internationally well-known Italian designer, Maurizio Millenotti.

Music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev was performed by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, with the Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” of Tchaikovsky served as background music in line with the story.

This is one of the most well-known version, also the most controversial: while critics think the movie is like a storyboard for Anna Karenina‘ with the life and subtlety still to be added, the common audience like it because it’s faithful to the novel and a pleasure for the eyes and ears! Of many versions of the Tolstoy novel, this is the one that really reflects the scope and social observation of the book.

Sophie Marceau plays a very young Anna, and makes her credible all the time. Sean Bean and James Fox, as Vronsky and Karenin, are admirable. And even if the screen play by director Bernard Rose is a little too literary, the complete story was told, and the result was the best Anna Karenina the screen has offered.

Anna Karenina (2012) IMDb Rating: 6.6

Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Cecily Morrissey, Freya Galpin, Guro Nagelhus Schia, Aruhan Galieva, Jude Law

In Joe Wright’s daringly stylized new version of Anna Karenina, he returns to use Keira Knightley as his heroine. She is almost distractingly beautiful here and elegantly gowned to an improbable degree.

To the common audience, this film is elegant like an opera, with splendid, vibrant spectacles full of classic colors. To the critics, this is a sumptuous film – extravagantly staged and cinematographed, perhaps too much so for its own good. There are times when it is not quite clear if we are looking at characters in a story or players on a stage. Productions can sometimes upstage a story, but when the story is as considerable as Anna Karenina, that can be a miscalculation.

The film got 4 Oscar prizes and won 1: Costumes.

До́ктор Жива́го (Doctor Zhivago) – Boris Pasternak

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak’s complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller.

Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak’s alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic nature makes him vulnerable to the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks. The poems he writes constitute some of the most beautiful writing in the novel..

Doctor Zhivago (1965) IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: David Lean

Stars: Omar Sharif (Yuri), Julie Christie (Lara), Geraldine Chaplin (Tonya), Rod Steiger (Komarovsky), Alec Guinness (Yevgraf)

Even though there are two TV series of 2002 and 2006, the movie of 1965 is most preferable, and is considered to be a classic of all times.

It is a British-Italian epic romantic drama film set in Russia between the years prior to World War I and the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922, and is based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name. While immensely popular in the West, the book Doctor Zhivago was banned in the Soviet Union for decades. For this reason, the film could not be made in the Soviet Union and was instead filmed mostly in Spain.

Contemporary critics were generally disappointed, complaining of its length at over three hours, and claiming that it trivialized history, but acknowledging the intensity of the love story and the film’s treatment of human themes. Over time, however, the film’s reputation has improved greatly. Doctor Zhivago won five Oscars: Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design; it was nominated for five others (including Picture and Director), but lost four of these five to The Sound of Music. It also won five Golden Globe Awards including Motion Picture-Drama and Actor-Motion Picture Drama for Sharif.

Doctor-zhivago-poster 2

Lara’s theme is added with lyrics to become the song Somewhere, my love, nominated for Grammy Award the Song of the Year but lost to Michelle of the Beatles, even though it is enjoyed still today.

As of 2016, it is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada, adjusted for ticket-price inflation. It was ranked by the American Film Institute in 1998 as the 39th greatest film on their 100 Years… 100 Movies list, and by the British Film Institute the following year as the 27th greatest British film of all time.

Doctor Zhivago (TV Mini-Series 2002) IMDb Rating: 7.5

Director: Giacomo Campiotti
Writers: Andrew Davies (screenplay), Boris Pasternak (novel)
Stars: Hans Matheson (Yury Zhivago), Keira Knightley (Lara Antipova), Sam Neill (Victor Komarovsky), Alexandra Maria Lara (Tonya Gromyko Zhivago), Daniele Liotti (Misha Gordon)

3h 46min

Like its predecessor, this BBC miniseries follows the tumultuous romance of poet and doctor, Yuri Zhivago, and his tormented nurse and muse, Lara Antipova, amidst the upheaval and turmoil of the Russian Revolution. While the 1965 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak novel is rightly regarded as a classic, the remake brings the novel to life with a grittiness and realism that highlights the tragedy of the lovers’ doomed affair as well as that of the world that is crumbling all around them. The miniseries also utilizes location shots, as well as authentic Russian music and historically accurate costumes that bring the distant world of the characters to vibrant life. Beyond the aesthetics, the film also utilizes a miniseries length script that allows the characters time to evolve and adds additional insight into each character’s backstory. Thus, while less glamorous than its predecessor, the BBC miniseries of Doctor Zhivago relays all the romance and tragedy of the original novel with a truly epic scope.

Tuхий Дон (And quiet flows the Don) – Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

And quiet flows the Don or Quietly flows the Don (Russian: Тихий Дон, literally “Quiet Don”) is an epic novel in four volumes, the first three were published in 1928–1932, and the fourth was finished in 1940. The English translation of the first three volumes appeared under this title in 1934.

The novel is considered one of the most significant works of world and Russian literature in the 20th century. It deals with the life of the Cossacks living in the Don River valley during the early 20th century, probably around 1912, just prior to World War I. The plot revolves around the Melekhov family of Tatarsk, who are descendants of a cossack who, to the horror of many, took a Turkish captive as a wife during the Crimean War. She is accused of witchcraft by Melekhov’s superstitious neighbors, who attempt to kill her but are fought off by her husband. Their descendants, the son and grandsons, who are the protagonists of the story, are therefore often nicknamed “Turks”. Nevertheless, they command a high amount of respect among people in Tatarsk.

In 1965, Sholokhov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel.

Quiet flows the Don (1957) IMDb Rating: 7.8

Director: Sergey Gerasimov
Stars: Pyotr Glebov, Elina Bystritskaya, Zinaida Kirienko

3 episodes, total length nearly 7 hours and a half.

The first two parts of the film were released in October 1957 and the final third part in 1958. In 1958 the film won Crystal Globe award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Best Picture Award at the All-Union Film Festival. The film also won an Oscar for Foreign-Language Film.

An epic about the life of Don Cossacs in a village in southern Russia between 1912 and 1922. The leading character Grigori Melekhov is a rugged Cossac, who is torn between his first and true love Aksiniya, and his wife Natalya. Grigori Melekhov’s personal life is shown as a rough journey through the experience of World War One, the Russian Revolution, and the following Civil War. The Cossacs are shown as traditional farmers and warriors, who are suffering through the most dramatic events in the history of Russia.

The film causes a long-lasting impressions on love which is depicted truthfully and deeply. The music is nice, in line with the cast feelings, and the scenic is splendorous. The film is compared to, or even is considered better than, Gone with the wind.

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The unknown soldier – Väinö Linna

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

The Unknown Soldier is a story about the Continuation War between Finland and Soviet Union, told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers. Gritty and realistic, it was partly intended to shatter the myth of the noble, obedient Finnish soldier, and in that it succeeded admirably.

* * *

Most people outside Scandinavia hardly even know what happened to Finland during World War II. Initially, the Russians had a non-aggression pact with the Germans, so that left their hands free to attack Finland. The Finns defended doggedly, but it looked like it was just a matter of time. Then the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, and the Russians were suddenly fighting for their lives. The Finns, operating on the “enemy’s enemy” principle, coordinated their counter-attack on Russia with the Germans. Both phases of the war were horrifyingly savage. At the end, since the Finns were technically classed as an Axis power, they had to pay enormous reparations to Russia, basically for the crime of having been attacked, and then defending themselves robustly.

This book presents a matter-of-fact account of what it was like to be a low-level Finnish soldier in this hellish little corner of WW II. It’s pretty good.

* * *

This book is hallucinatory, odd, strange. The men depicted are human: cowards, patriotic, afraid, horny, confused.

* * *

Without pathos, without philosophy and another bla-bla-bla. The book describes important moment of Finland history.

* * *

The title of this edition was “Unknown Soldiers” not “The Unknown Soldier” as many other English translations use. “Unknown Soldiers” is a much more apt title.

There is no single central character as it describes the men through their various backgrounds, social, political views, geographical and language. It gives a sense of the variety of the people of Finland. The various characters are either brave, or scared, blase, eccentric, loyal, ambitious, idealistic, cynical.

Tuntematon sotilas = Unknown soldier (2017)  IMDb Rating: 7.9

Director: Aku Louhimies
Countries: Belgium, Iceland, Finland
Stars: Diana Pozharskaya (Vera), Eero Aho (Rokka), Johannes Holopainen (Kariluoto), Jussi Vatanen (Koskela), Aku Hirviniemi (Hietanen), Hannes Suominen (Vanhala)

A film adaptation of Väinö Linna’s best-selling novel The Unknown Soldier (1954) and the novel’s unedited manuscript version, Sotaromaani.

Wonder – R.J. Palacio

Goodreads Rating: 4.5

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others.

* * *

It’s an upbeat, humorous, life-affirming story that deserves to be read—and it’s one that may just change its readers, too.

Wonder (2017)  IMDb Rating: 8.0

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Countries: U.S., Hong Kong
Artists: Jacob Tremblay (Auggie Pullman), Owen Wilson (Nate), Julia Roberts (Isabel), Izabela Vidovic (Via), Rukiya Bernard (Nurse), Mandy Patinkin (Mr. Tushman), Noah Jupe (Jack Will), Bryce Gheisar (Julian), Elle Mckinnon (Charlotte), Daveed Diggs (Mr. Browne), Ty Consiglio (Amos), Kyle Breitkopf (Miles), James A Hughes (Henry)

Wonder4

Auggie is a brainy 10-year-old boy with a congenital facial deformity. He has been home-schooled by his mother, Isabel. But now that he’s 10, she and Auggie’s dad, Nate, have made the decision to send him to middle school. They know they can’t shield him from the world forever, and they have no desire to.

Mudbound – Hillary Jordan

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

In Jordan’s prize-winning debut, this is a story of two families, one black and one white, living in post World War II Mississippi and farming the same land, one as a landholder and the other as a tenant. The literary structure of this book is very compelling, telling the same story from the perspective of the different characters really brings out the emotion of this novel. A good book, well written and enjoyable despite its uncomfortable subject matter.

Mudbound (2017)  IMdb: 7.4

Director: Dee Rees
Writers: Virgil Williams (screenplay by), Dee Rees (screenplay by)
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund

The film is a historical drama with epic sweep and big emotions. Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. A good and well acted film. The cinematography is crisp. The story line unfolds in a way that keeps you captivated with nostalgia and wonder of what will happen next.

– – – – –

This post is still open, to be updated when new information is available

Compiled by: Diep Minh Tam – Updated: 01-Dec-2018

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