5 - 1
Like his miraculous Se7en, David Fincher’s Fight Club is a pert near perfect film. Ever the considered craftsman, this filmmaker finds ways to both impart important information as well as work in many of author Chuck Palahniuk’s ideas, especially about identity, personal empowerment, and crass consumerism. While not a big hit when it was released, the film has become revered among cinephiles that ‘click’ with what both Fincher and his literary muse were after. To this day, it remains a stunning piece of pre-millennial outrage, and an indication that anything this director touches becomes a standard for cinematic statements to come.
The Coen Brothers are literalists when it comes to adapting famous works. When the remade True Grit a few years back, they went for the novel’s interpretation of events, not the spruced up John Wayne take on same. In the case of the Cormac McCarthy book (which began life as a screenplay, oddly enough), they claimed to have the book open right next to the computer keyboard to make sure they were are faithful as possible to the writer’s designs. It worked, winning the guys Oscars for Picture, Director and Script. Among their many masterworks, it stands as one of their very best.
The book was originally called Schindler’s Ark (thought it was released in America under its eventual movie name) and was on blockbuster icon Steven Spielberg’s radar as early as 1983. But back then, in the days of Raiders and ET, the filmmaker felt too immature to tackle such horrific material. Finally, a full decade later, he stepped onto the sets in Poland and delivered a devastating tribute to the Holocaust survivors and those who braved the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’. Hailed as one of the greatest films on the subject ever created, it’s become the watershed when discussing the past, and how to teach the contemporary viewer to ‘never forget.’
We put this title at #2 for several reasons. #1 - Danny Boyle, who remains one of our most consistently creative and exciting filmmakers, directed; #2 - the incredible cast, including Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle, and; #3 - the unique combination of author Irvine Welsh’s approach to heroin addiction and the movie’s interpretation of same. True, Boyle couldn’t completely embrace the author’s narrative via various short stories style, but he did grip its pure punk rock adrenaline rush, converting page to perfected celluloid time and time again. While Boyle would go on to make several sensational pictures, this is the one that put him on the map.
Okay, okay. Purists need to step out right now. We get it. Jackson went overboard adding in stuff that Tolkien took out or saved from the more slight Middle Earth Bible The Silmarillion. We also understand that you may have issues with the actors, the narrative, or the various plot problems present (let’s not get started on those eagles, all right?). But when faced with the beyond daunting challenge of bringing these beloved tomes to the big screen, Jackson managed something miraculous, he turned his take on the material into its own unique mythos, a visual representation of everything Tolkien was trying himself.