Happy Octave of Christmas and almost New Year! Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called Based On, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies. As the year closes, he picks his top 5 in several categories. Links lead to any longer pieces he’s written on the projects.
Top Fives of 2018
Top 5 source materials that were made into television shows: the ranking considers the quality of the novel.
1) MY BRILLIANT FRIEND — First novel of the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante.
The period setting of the series requires the creative forces behind the series to eek out sexual tension and romance without peddling flesh.
2) LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL — Novel by John le Carre
AMC’s adaptation improves upon one of le Carre’s more engaging spy thrillers. That Becker and Charlie for a time postponed their budding romance because it’s bad for spy business, was the cleverest of updating choices.
3) THE ALIENIST — Novel by Caleb Carr
The serial killer’s coordinating of murders on Catholic feast days was the highlight of the TNT TV series for me.
4) THE SINNER — Novel by Petra Hammesfahr
I loved the sinner (Jessica Biel plays Cora Tannetti). I didn’t hate USA Network’s adaptation of her sin.
5) 13 REASONS WHY — Novel by Jay Asher
This page-turning book I found overly stylized in Netflix’s streaming adaptation, especially given the sensitive content at the heart of the series. There’s more match cuts (in which a shot visually and/or thematically echoes the one before it) in the show than any other TV series.
Top 5 source materials that were made into feature length films: the ranking considers the quality of the novella, non-fiction work or graphic novel.
1) YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — Novella by Jonathan Ames
The terse, plainsong style of the novel sets the tone for the main character, Joe, who also goes about his day uttering little in terms of words. It reminded me of another silent man named Joseph who looked after a certain Child.
2) FIRST MAN — Neil Armstrong biography by James R. Hansen
The real Neil Armstrong, facing the incredulity of moon-landing deniers, said the only thing harder to do than landing on the moon would be to realistically fabricate it. The Oscar-winning director of La La Land proves just how difficult that task indeed is.
3) BLACK KkKLANSMAN — Ron Stallworth memoir
The real-life Stallworth rose above partisan politics, living out his profession in terms of right and wrong, the
criminals and the innocent, irrespective of whether they wear police blues or not.
4) ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD John Pearson (non-fiction)
The Gettys attract more of my attention than they deserve. It’s probably because two of my favorite Los Angeles museums bear their namesake.
5) THE DEATH OF STALIN — Graphic novel by Fabien Nury
The film couldn’t pull off the absurdist tone that could only be pulled off, it seems, through the graphic novel medium.
Top 5 feature or television adaptations: the ranking considers the quality of the television show or film.
1) YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — Directed by Lynne Ramsay, based on a
novella by Jonathan Ames
2) MY BRILLIANT FRIEND — Italian-language television series based on the first novel of the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante
3) LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL — AMC mini-series based on the John le Carre novel
4) THE HANDMAID’S TALE — Hulu television series based on the Margaret Atwood novel
Season one encompasses the events of the novel. Season two continues the story, with all-new content. The fundamentalist theocracy long since banned the Catholic Church and executed its priests. This doesn’t prevent the main character, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) from arriving at a Catholic truth. She lights votive candles for Boston Globe journalists also massacred by theocracy henchmen.
5) DAREDEVIL Netflix television series based on the Marvel comic book
Daredevil inhabits this neo-noir look well in the TV series (which, unfortunately, Netflix has axed), surpassed only by the character’s red costume piercing the utterly dark monochromatic world of Mark Waid’s Eisner Award winning comic book series from 2012.
Image: HBO, Universal Pictures/Dreamworks, Focus Features
Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.