Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Writers on the Big Screen

Hollywood routinely returns to writers for characters because, unlike superheroes, they're observant, witty, flawed and vulnerable—qualities a main character must have to woo an audience.

While it's easier for Hollywood to realize other creatives (artists, musicians and dancers, for example), the absurd and scary nature of the writer's life never loses appeal.

My list of the top movies depicting writers (in chronological order) comprises: 

The Lost Weekend (1945). An alcoholic writer's weekend plans are dashed when he decides to drop into Nat's Bar.

In a Lonely Place (1950). Screenwriter "Dix" Steele can't manage his anger. His mean streak make him a murder suspect, when a pretty coat-check girl is found strangled. 

Beloved Infidel (1959). A gossip columnist falls for F. Scott Fitzgerald, who's working in Hollywood so he can afford the asylum where he's put his crazy wife.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Holly Golightly drags her neighbor, the writer Paul Varjak, into her crazy life.

The Front (1976). Blacklisted TV screenwriter Alfred Miller persuades his bookie to sign his name to Miller's scripts in exchange for a percentage.

My Favorite Year (1982). TV scriptwriter Benjy Stone tells of the summer he met his idol, swashbuckling actor Allan Swann.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). A foreign correspondent assigned to Indonesia gets caught up in a political coup. 

Out of Africa (1986). Memoirist Karen Blixen discovers what matters, while she learns to run a coffee plantation.

Stand by Me (1986). Author Gordie Lachance recounts a trip with three childhood buddies over a Labor Day weekend.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). The family and romantic entanglements of three sisters, one a budding writer, unfold between two Thanksgivings.

Barton Fink (1991). A playwright's Broadway hit propels him into a $1,000 a week job in Hollywood.

Shakespeare in Love (1998). The Bard struggles with his new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, and falls for a wealthy merchant's daughter.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). A drug-addled journalist is assigned to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race.

Wonder Boys (2000). A drug-addled novelist attends a writer's conference with his agent and two students from the college where he teaches.

Adaptation (2002). A high-minded scriptwriter asks his twin brother to interview the author of the book he's desperate to adapt.

As Good As It Gets (2003). Best-selling novelist Melvin Udall discovers a waitress may be the only person in New York who can stand him. 

The Human Stain (2003). Novelist Nathan Zuckerman receives a visitor one dark night. The stranger, a down-on-his-luck college dean, wants him to write a book about his life.

(2004). An aspiring writer joins his soon-to-be-married former college roommate on a road trip through California wine country. 

Finding Neverland (2004). Scottish writer J.M. Barrie meets a widow and her four young sons in Kensington Gardens and a friendship begins. 

Capote (2005). A writer's masterpiece also proves his undoing.

The Squid and the Whale (2005). Husband and wife novelists decide to call it quits. Their divorce doesn't go over well with the kids.

Miss Potter (2006). Spinster Beatrix Potter becomes an international celebrity and falls in love with her publisher.

HOWL (2010). Poet Allen Ginsburg's colorful verses land his publisher in court, charged with selling obscene material.

Midnight in Paris (2011). An unfulfilled screenwriter vacations in Paris, where he discovers that a 1920 Peugeot lets him travel backwards in time. 

Saving Mr. Banks (2013). P.L. Travers resists the Disneyfication of her creation, Mary Poppins.

Papa (2015). A young journalist goes to Havana to meet his idol, Ernest Hemingway, on the eve of the Cuban Revolution. 

Trumbo (2015). Hollywood's top screenwriter finds himself in deep kimchi for his pinko leanings.

The End of the Tour (2015). David Foster Wallace goes on a book tour with a Rolling Stone reporter. 

Genius (2016). Novelist Thomas Wolfe finds he desperately needs an editor; Max Perkins complies.

Paterson (2016). A bus driver records his responses to the beauty that surrounds him in poems he keeps secret.

Their Finest (2017). A scriptwriter adds "a woman's touch" to a teary propaganda film during the Battle of Britain.

Rebel in the Rye (2017). J.D. Salinger loses his mind, but finds his voice.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2018). Desperate for cash, Charles Dickens tries his hand at a ghost story.
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