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Worst movie I've seen in a long time
"Shaft" is a sorry combination of stereotypes, cliches, and unbelievable plot turns. Every few minutes, while watching the movie, I found my head in my hands, dumbfounded at yet another moment of stupidity. Though I must say it is an accomplishment to make a film without one recognizably human character. Without question, "Shaft" is the worst movie I've seen in the last several years.
Read the book instead
Despite the fact that the movie version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" has been critically acclaimed, and despite some memorable performances, especially by Nicholson, Fletcher, and Dourif, I consider this film to be in the end a failure. It totally fails to convey the message and meaning of the novel. I found the end of the film to be depressing, while the end of the novel is anything but. I can understand the filmmakers not wanting to make a film heavy with voice-overs, but without the narrative voice found in the novel, the story is a hopeless and despairing one, which was surely not Kesey's intent. I saw the film before I read the book, and after seeing the film I avoided the novel because I didn't want to be depressed again; after reading the novel I almost wished I hadn't seen the travesty of a fine novel that is the movie version of "Cuckoo's Nest."
The Music Man (1962)
About as perfect a transition from stage to film as any musical I know of. Everything about it works, as far as I'm concerned. Robert Preston's Harold Hill is the definitive performance of that character, and Shirley Jones is a delightful Marian. And, as is often not true in stage productions of the show, the ending works like a dream.
Still the best film Woody Allen has made (and he's made plenty of wonderful ones), "Manhattan" is to my mind practically flawless, from the brilliant writing and acting to the stunning black-and-white photography and the delightful Gershwin-filled soundtrack. It's certainly one of the ten best films of the 70's (a decade with plenty of great films), and one of my favorite movies of all time.
The World According to Garp (1982)
A textbook example of how to adapt a novel for the screen
Adapting a novel to the screen is fraught with difficulties, and "The World According to Garp" meets those difficulties brilliantly. It is not slavishly faithful to the book as far as details go, but it omits those elements which will not translate well and makes whatever changes are needed to make the story work on film. Robin Williams is a fine Garp, Glenn Close is absolutely perfect as Jenny Garp (her performance was one of the few times I've seen the exact character I'd pictured in my head when I read the book up on the screen), and John Lithgow is funny and touching as transsexual Roberta Muldoon.
The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)
A textbook example of how not to adapt a novel for the screen
Unlike "The World According to Garp," which was translated to the big screen brilliantly, "The Hotel New Hampshire" (which is probably my favorite John Irving novel) is a disaster. The filmmakers are much too faithful to the novel, which causes them to rush through the story in an attempt to get everything in. Consequently, not enough time is given the parts of the story which are essential, and everything of value is lost. A number of good actors are badly served by this film, which could have been so much better than it turned out to be.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
A moving, underrated film
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is one of those films that seems to divide people. Some feel it is a brilliant, deeply moving film while others consider it a failure. Many of the disagreements seem to focus on the performance of Matt Damon in the title role. There are those who found his performance lacking in depth and believability, while others, like myself, found it to be expertly subtle. I feel that those who disliked Damon's performance either misunderstood what he was doing with the character or simply failed to pick up on the subtleties.
The other source of disagreement stems from the feeling that Ripley was another stereotypical gay psychopath instead of the deeply conflicted and troubled man who feels the need to live a lie that I believe the film presents. "Mr. Ripley" shows the danger of the closet, whether due to ones sexuality, social standing, financial status, ethnic background. etc. And in that it should be counted a total success.