Category Archives: Movies

The Most Famous Christmas Villains

alex atkins bookshelf moviesOn Saturday, December 22, a day after the U.S. government entered a partial shutdown, the New York Daily News featured a cover photo of President Trump rendered as the mean old Grinch, from Dr. Seuss’ well-known holiday story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The copy on the newspaper reads: “How the Trump Stole Christmas! Shuts down government over wall to put coal in stockings of 800,000 workers. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But we think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.” Touché!

It’s ironic that when we think of Christmas, imbued with goodness and generosity, that we also think of its polar opposites: evil and greediness. Indeed, literature, television, and film have created some of those most enduring and evil Christmas villains that have become so embedded in our culture that they have entered the English lexicon. Calling someone a Scrooge, a Grinch, or a Mr. Potter instantly evokes the most miserable, misanthropic, and miserly curmudgeons. Bah, humbug!

Without further ado, here are some of the most famous villains of Christmas, in chronological order (character, appearance in film or book, followed by evil deed):

Ebenezer Scrooge: appears in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843); the quintessential Christmas villain. In Dickens’ memorable prose: “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Scrooge is a truly wretched curmudgeon; listen to his bitter response to his nephew’s cheerful holiday greeting: “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Henry F. Potter (known as Old Man Potter): appears in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946); the Scrooge of Bedford Falls who is hellbent on either destroying or gaining control of George Bailey’s building and loan company. Potter has a heart made of ice — check out his response to Bailey’s plea for help: “Look at you… you used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me “a warped, frustrated old man!” What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk… crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No security, no stocks, no bonds; nothing but a miserable little five-hundred dollar equity and a live insurance policy. Eh he he he! You’re worth more dead than alive!Why don’t you go to the riff-raff you love so much and ask them to let you have eight-thousand? You know why? Well, because they’d run you out of town on a rail! But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do for you, George. Since the state examiner is still here, as a stockholder of the Building and Loan, I’m going to swear out a warrant for your arrest!”

The Grinch: appears in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957); steals the decorations and gifts of all the adorable Whos of Whoville

Bumble: appears in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964); the abominable snowman who terrifies all those who venture through the icy north pole

Bürgermeister Meisterburger: appears in Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970); bans toys for tripping on a toy duck

Heat and Snow Miser: appears in The Year Without Santa Claus (1974); use their weather powers for evil

Scut Farkas: appears in A Christmas Story (1983); a bully who regularly ambushes Ralphie and his friends

Frank Shirley: appears in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989); cancels employee bonuses and instead gives them a membership in the jelly-of-the-month club

Marv and Henry: appear in Home Alone (1990); two career burglars that scare and attempt to rob a young boy who is left alone in his home

SHARE THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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A Life Lived Without Principle and Virtue is Empty

alex atkins bookshelf moviesThe Emperor’s Club (2002) is a powerful, inspirational movie written by Neil Tolkin based on the short story “The Palace Thief” by Ethan Canin. The film presents us with two diametrically opposed characters: William Hundred, a disciplined and very principled classics professor, William Hundert, and Sedgwick Bell, an iconoclastic, arrogant, and ambitious student who will stop at nothing to win. While the first character values integrity and virtue (Hundert is fond of quoting Socrates: “It is not living that is important… but living rightly.”), the other disdains it. At the end of the film, which occurs many years later after graduation, when the characters are now in their 30s, Hundred catches Sedgwick cheating to win a history trivia competition. They run into one another in the bathroom; Hundert confronts Sedgwick in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, that is so relevant to what we are witnessing in America’s current leadership: 

“I have no doubt you’re more clever than I am and would find some way to discredit me. ‘We live in an age’ as Seneca said, ‘where successful and fortunate crime is called virtue.’ But as a student of history, I know there will come a moment after the noise and the parties, not tonight but sometime when you will be forced like all men to look at yourself, really look at yourself, Sedgwick. And in that moment you will be confronted by the emptiness of a life lived without principle and without virtue. And for that, I pity you.”

Sedgwick looks at his former history teacher with scorn, and snarls “Can I say, Mr. Hundert, who gives a shit. Who out there gives a shit.. honestly… about your principles and your Seneca and your virtues. I mean, look at you. What do you have to show for it all?… I live in the real world. Where people lie and cheat and scratch to get what they want. And I’m okay with that, so… I’m going to go out there and win that election. I’ll worry about my contribution later.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Movie Props
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For further reading: The Emperor’s Club: The Shooting Script by Neil Tolkin


The Most Beautiful Movies of All Time

alex atkins bookshelf moviesWhen discussing the most beautiful movies of all time, we mean the most visually beautiful movies of all time — that is to say, ones with stunning cinematography, art-direction, composition, and use of light and color. The litmus test for a beautiful movie is quite simple: if you turned off the sound, would it be compelling and entertaining to watch? Here are ten of the most visually beautiful movies of all time (name of film, followed by year, director, and cinematographer):

1. Samsara (2011): Ron Fricke, Ron Fricke

2. The Tree of Life (2011): Terrence Malick, Emmanuel Lubezki

3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962): David Lean, F. A. Young

4. Hero (2002): Zhang Yimou, Christopher Doyle

5. The Fall (2006): Tarsem Singh, Colin Watkinson

6. The Conformist (1970): Bernardo Bertolucci, Vittorio Storaro

7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Stanley Kubrick, Geoffrey Unsworth

8. Citizen Kane (1941): Orson Welles, Gregg Toland

9. Manhattan (1979): Woody Allen, Gordon Willis

10. Russian Ark (2002): Alexander Sokurov, Tilman Buttner

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: youtube.com/watch?v=kj73aDoeFdk


Which Author has the Most Film Adaptations?

alex atkins bookshelf movies“All writers dream about their book becoming a movie,” writes intellectual property lawyer Matt Knight, “But moving from book to screen is a complicated [and protracted] process.” In his post “From Book to Screen: How Dramatic Rights are Sold,” Knight explains that the first step in developing a project for the big screen is purchasing the control of the story rights — the option contract. The option contract essentially pays the writer, anywhere from $500 to $50,000, for placing the book rights on hold during a specific time period spelled out in the terms. If the project gets approved, the next step is to purchase the dramatic work via the purchase agreement. Knight states, “The purchase price will vary considerably depending on the project. Usually it will be based on a percentage of the film’s budget with a cap. A good gauge is 2-4% of the production budget. If the budget grows, the producers have the insurance policy of the cap. So if the budget is $5 million, then the purchase price might be $150,000 for a 3% of budget price with a cap of $225,000 should the budget grow.” Another part of the purchase price can be net profits or gross profits options, which are negotiated percentages of a film’s profits. And of course, that can get complicated, which we will not address here. Although authors typically earn $25,000 to $50,000 for TV movie adaptations, really fortunate authors can rake in millions for blockbuster films, especially successful franchises.

In order to answer the question of which author has the most film adaptations, the staff and readers of Slate analyzed the data on — where else? — the Internet Movie Database. If you guessed that Great Britain’s greatest writer, the legendary Swan of Avon, was at the top — you are absolutely correct: William Shakespeare tops the list with 831 TV and movie adaptations. Note that their data was from 2011; as of December 2017, the Bard can take credit for 1,297 film adaptations. Below is the list of the authors with the most television and film adaptations:

William Shakespeare: 831
Anton Chekhov: 320
Charles Dickens: 300
Alexandre Dumas: 243
Edgar Allan Poe: 240
Robert Louis Stevenson: 225
Arthur Conan Doyle: 220
Hans Christian Andersen: 217
Edgar Wallace: 214
The Brothers Grimm: 212
Molière: 208
O. Henry: 201
Oscar Wilde: 181
Fyodor Dostoevsky: 177
Leo Tolstoy: 154
Victor Hugo: 150
Jules Verne: 143
Stephen King: 127
Georges Simenon: 127
Agatha Christie: 126
L. Frank Baum: 124
Mark Twain: 121
Somerset Maugham: 121
Noel Coward: 101
Miguel de Cervantes: 101

The literature-loving folks over at the Literary Hub had a slightly different approach to this topic. They asked, what living authors have the most film adaptations. Since their dramatic work has existed for a short time — as opposed to more than 450 years like Shakespeare — the list is much shorter, and the adaptations are smaller numbers. However, thanks to globalization and technological advances that did not exist during Shakespeare’s time, an author’s reach and commercial value have increased astronomically. Consider when it comes to income for movie adaptations, J. K. Rowling is at the top of the list. It has been reported that Rowling sold the movie rights for the first four Harry Potter novels for $2 million; then next four were sold for much more than that; however, if she had negotiated a typical 10% net profit participation for all eight novels, that would have earned her at least $650 million! Here is the list of living authors with the most film adaptations:

Stephen King: 34
Nicholas Sparks: 11
Johnn Le Carre: 10
Ian McEwan: 10
John Grisham: 9
J. K. Rowling: 9
Clive Barker: 8
Dean Koontz: 8
Philip Roth: 8
Nick Hornby: 7
William Goldman: 7
Stephanie Meyer: 6
Larry McMurtry: 6
Thomas Harris: 6

Let’s turn now to the trivia-obsessed folks over at the Portable Press (they produce the popular Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers series; since 1988, they have printed more than 16 million books — hashtag prolific). The Top Ten of Everything series was created by Russell Ash in 2002 (published by Dorling Kindersley); Paul Terry took over the helm in 2015 (Portable Press began publishing the series with the 2017 edition). In the 2018 edition (November 2017), they published their list of writers with the most TV and movie adaptations:

William Shakespeare: 1,195
Anton Chekov: 442
Charles Dickens: 365
Edgar Allan Poe: 338
Hans Christian Andersen: 281
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: 273
Alexandre Dumas: 267
Robert Louis Stevenson: 263
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: 260
Moliere: 260

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: Uncle John Presents Top 10 of Everything 2018 by Paul Terry http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2011/03/23/the_most_adapted_authors_revised_and_expanded_edition_infographic.html
https://www.sidebarsaturdays.com/2018/01/20/from-book-to-screen-how-dramatic-rights-are-sold-you-know-you-want-it/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_William_Shakespeare_screen_adaptations
http://lithub.com/the-living-authors-with-the-most-film-adaptations/
nytimes.com/2016/11/24/business/in-the-chamber-of-secrets-jk-rowlings-net-worth.html


Famous Actors Who Started Out in Commercials

alex atkins bookshelf moviesAll famous highly-paid actors had to begin somewhere — including in the humble world of commercials, hawking products that they probably wouldn’t want to be promoting today. But — hey — you have to start somewhere. Recall what Constantin Stanislavski, one of the most influential theatre directors and father of the Stanislavski method (known as method acting), declared to his acting students: “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Of course, many stars would never want to admit to doing commercials because they have reached such lofty heights; ahem, commercial work is beneath them. For example, before he was cooking blue meth in an RV, Bryan Cranston was smearing Preparation H on his bum. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, possesses a certain amount of humility. During her acceptance speech for Best Actress SAG award, Lawrence graciously thanked MTV for helping her get her start in showbiz with a promo for My Super Sweet 16, a reality TV series about privileged (read: spoiled) teenagers. Back then she earned a pittance; today she commands $10 million plus per film. That’s the meteoric trajectory of showbiz… Inspired by her proud admission, here is a list of famous actors, and the products they hawked, long before they became famous.

Ben Affleck: Burger King

Brad Pitt: Pringles

Bruce Willis: Seagram’s Wine Coolers

Bryan Cranston: Preparation H

Dakota Fannin: Tide

Drew Barrymore: Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dustin Hoffman: Volkswagon

Elijah Wood: Pizza Hut

Elisabeth Moss: Excedrin

Evangeline Lilly: Canadian singles phone chat lines

Jodie Foster: Coppertone

Jason Bateman: Golden Grahams cereal

John Travolta: Lifebuoy soap, Band-Aid

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Pop Tarts

Keanu Reeves: Corn Flakes, Coca-Cola

Kirsten Dunst: Baby Dolly Surprise

Kristen Stewart: Porsche

Leonardo DiCaprio: Bubble Yum

Lindsay Lohan: Jell-O

Matt LeBlanc: Heinz ketchup

Meg Ryan: Aim toothpaste, Burger King

Mila Kunis: Lisa Frank

Morgan Freeman: Listerine

Naomi Watts: Tampax

Paul Rudd: Super Nintendo

Tina Fey: Mutual Savings Bank

Tobey Maguire: Doritos

Tom Selleck: Close Up toothpaste; Pepsi

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: The Super Book of Useless Information by Don Voorhees
https://www.ranker.com/list/young-celebrities-in-commercials/celebrity-lists
http://mentalfloss.com/article/22677/10-famous-actors-who-started-out-commercials


The Best Movies with Twist Endings

alex atkins bookshelf moviesThere’s nothing better than watching a movie with a great plot twists — and M. Night Shyamalan is the O. Henry in the world of cinema, known for his surprise twist endings. We don’t need to discuss any spoilers to make a compelling case — you know the ones: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and The Village. Ranker.com asked its reader to rank the best movies with twist endings — not surprisingly M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (“I see dead people”) was voted number one. Here is the list:

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Fight Club (1999)
The Usual Suspects (1994)
Seven (1995)
Primal Fear (1996)
Psycho (1960)
The Others (2001)
The Presitige (2006)
Memento (2000)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Saw (2004)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Unbreakable (2000)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The Game (1997)
American Psycho (2000)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Friday the 13th (1980)
The Village (2004)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
The Crying Game (1992)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Chinatown (1974)
April Fool’s Day (1986)

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For further reading: http://www.ranker.com/list/best-movies-with-twist-endings/anncasano


What is the Longest Movie Title?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesFilm directors know that although a long movie title stands out in a list as an outlier, it does not necessarily translate to success at the box office. The constraints of marketing material, and the mindset of the average moviegoer, prefer shorter, more memorable movie titles. Besides, the film will be referred to using an abbreviated title anyway. But that hasn’t stopped movie directors from releasing films with really long titles — perhaps, to prove that they can. Here is a list of notable movies with the longest titles:

Night Of The Day Of The Dawn Of The Son Of The Bride Of The Return Of The Revenge Of The Terror Of The Attack Of The Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating, Crawling, Alien, Zombified, Subhumanoid Living Dead — Part 5
Directed by James Riffel; released in 2011
41 words; 177 characters

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes
Directed by Ken Anakin; released in 1965
20 words; 85 characters(85)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Directed by Sacha Baron Cohen; released in 2006
12 words; 72 characters

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Directed by Stanley Kubrick; released in 1964
13 words; 56 characters

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Directed by Migeul Arteta; released in 2014
10 words; 50 characters

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Directed by Christopher Monger; released in 1995
12 words; 47 characters

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For further reading: http://www.imdb.com


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