The Social Network is a masterpiece—does it matter that it bent the truth?

It’s become widely accepted that a movie adapting a novel should use its source as a guide rather than a strict blueprint. If a change would improve the film, then that change should be made. The book isn’t sacred, nor should it be. This becomes more complicated when it comes to nonfiction. It’s one thing to tweak the…

With BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee turns a dull memoir into an energetic crowd-pleaser

A few years ago, I wrote an essay bemoaning the way Hollywood explores the subject of prejudice. Too often, I argued, the films it makes are uplifting period pieces—Race, Get On Up, 42, The Help, Loving, Hidden Figures, etc.—which together suggest a world where racism is not only a problem from the past, but also one…

Spielberg’s Jaws adaptation cut the mafia and sex subplots—and made movie history

For all the variety in summer blockbusters, the category has a few attributes that seem pretty much mandatory whether you’re talking about the latest special-effects extravaganza, a broad comedy, or any other genre of crowd-pleaser. First, there’s a high-concept premise, something easily summarized in a couple of…

Neither Death Wish film dares to grapple with the anti-vigilante stance of the novel

Brian Garfield’s 1972 book Death Wish was written as a challenge to audiences. The impulse behind its premise is understandable, even sympathetic: A man craves revenge after his wife is killed and his daughter raped in a horrific attack. With the NYPD unable to catch the perpetrators and seemingly powerless against…

Blade Runner translated Philip K. Dick’s sparse mindfuck into Ridley Scott’s overwhelming vision

Shortly after the election, there was a minor debate in literary circles about which classic dystopian novel better reflected and anticipated the Trump era. Readers voted for George Orwell, sending 1984 back atop the bestseller lists, while critics generally opted for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The choice, as