Bilge Ebiri

  • culture March 16, 2012

    Inception and Philosophy: Because It's Never Just a Dream edited by David Kyle Johnson

    When a newspaper reports that a liberal arts college somewhere is teaching a seminar on the hermeneutics of Lady Gaga, do we feel outrage, relief, or both? As the philosophical treatment of pop culture gains currency, it's easy to be tempted by contradictory reactions: We long for a serious consideration of the seemingly frivolous, yes, but also for the deflation of academic self-seriousness. Inception and Philosophy is the latest entry in Blackwell’s Philosophy and Pop Culture series (previous titles have included The Daily Show and Philosophy and Mad Men and Philosophy, among many more),

  • culture July 23, 2010

    Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield

    Music critic Rob Sheffield’s memoir Talking to Girls About Duran Duran appears at first to be founded on a fallacy—that Duran Duran are still huge, and that their ongoing fame speaks to something ineffable about . . . well, not so much the female psyche, but at least something that males want to know about the female psyche. (And which, one hastens to add, they never will: This is the band that sang, “All she wants is, all she wants is,” but, as Sheffield notes, never told us what “she” wanted.)

    Luckily, the book’s title and prologue notwithstanding, the governing musical theme turns out to

  • culture April 02, 2010

    The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann

    Many of the pieces in David Grann’s fine collection of articles, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, read like detective stories, and it would be tempting to categorize this book, whose subtitle promises us “tales of murder, madness, and obsession,” as a work of true crime, albeit one without the breathless exaggerations of that genre. In his first book, the best-selling The Lost City of Z, the writer offered up a true tale of deadly obsession for the ages: the attempts to find a legendary city in the Amazon, and the explorers who vanished searching for it. If that earlier book possessed a certain

  • Growing Pains

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will seem curiously lonely when it arrives in theaters this July. For the first time since the film series premiered in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, no one is anticipating a new Potter novel by J. K. Rowling, the books having run their course two years ago. The films still have a ways to go; after Half-Blood Prince, Warner Bros. plans to split the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two films and release them in 2010 and 2011. The stated reason is that the company wants to do the book justice, but one might be

  • Second, Third, and Even More Acts

    This past holiday season, F. Scott Fitzgerald went from being considered a curse on Hollywood to the flavor of the month practically overnight. For decades, adaptations of Fitzgerald’s fiction were seen as surefire failures, but that all seemed to change with the release of David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the announcement that two new films were in the works: The Great Gatsby, to be directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge), and something called The Beautiful and the Damned, which will be either an adaptation of Fitzgerald’s ambitious second novel or a biopic of the author

  • The Change Biopics Need?

    The Barack Obama era will bring us many things, including, no doubt, a major motion picture. That may at first seem counterintuitive: After all, the story itself is certainly nowhere near completion. Asked during a Frost/Nixon junket interview in December, producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard agreed it was too early to talk about an Obama biopic. But the onetime Illinois senator’s acclaimed 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, remains a much-discussed potential movie property, and with good reason: It’s a self-contained bildungsroman, written before Obama entered politics. While the

  • The Road Taken

    John Hillcoat is trying to ignore the pressure. Although the Aussie filmmaker admits that the opportunity to bring a Cormac McCarthy novel to the screen was “a dream come true,” he didn’t quite expect that audience anticipation would reach such a fever pitch. When he agreed to helm The Road in 2006, Hillcoat was coming off the critical success of the moody outback western The Proposition (2005). That effort attracted the attention of producer Nick Wechsler (Quills, We Own the Night), who had bought the film rights to McCarthy’s postapocalyptic drama in advance of publication. McCarthy is one

  • Spy Kid

    He had rarely paused to consider matters of class; as a

    pervert he was above such vulgar forms of definition.

    —Peter Jinks, Hallam Foe

    Making drastic changes to a novel while adapting it for the screen is one thing, but doing so when the novelist is a close friend can induce new levels of anxiety. Scottish director David Mackenzie found himself in that situation when he decided to tackle Peter Jinks’s acclaimed Hallam Foe, an offbeat story about a young Peeping Tom’s decidedly odd journey to self-knowledge. Mackenzie and Jinks had known each other since

  • Flick Lane

    But much of the time she felt good. . . . It was as if the conflagration of her bouts with Karim had cast a special light on everything, a dawn light after a life lived in twilight. It was as if she had been born deficient and only now been gifted the missing sense.

    —Monica Ali, Brick Lane

    MONICA ALI’S BRICK LANE is certainly one of the most acclaimed novels of the past few years. The 2003 debut was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and its author was named one of Granta’s best young British novelists based

  • Penn. and Paper

    DAVID GORDON GREEN’S haunting and melancholy drama Snow Angels stands alongside his earlier George Washington (2000) and All the Real Girls (2003) as yet another of the young director’s very personal, uniquely big-hearted portraits of typical American communities. So it comes as something of a surprise not only that Snow Angels is based on Stewart O’Nan’s 1994 novel but that it didn’t even originate as a film for Green to direct.

    Green was first approached about Snow Angels in January 2003, when his friend Jesse Peretz, director of The Château, asked him whether he would consider writing a

  • Paranoid Allusion

    The idea of indie auteur Gus Van Sant filming a young-adult novel might seem odd at first, but a closer look suggests more than a little destiny at play in the director’s latest, Paranoid Park, adapted from Blake Nelson’s 2006 novel of the same name. The film, which advances the dreamy, elliptical style of Van Sant’s recent work by adding noirish elements to it, opens with a haunting image of Portland, Oregon’s St. Johns Bridge, set to the eerie strains of Nino Rota’s score for Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits. It’s a perfect way to kick off the proceedings––not only because Portland

  • Conversation Resumed

    TRUE, FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is the legendary director’s first film since an adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker in 1997, but one would have to reach back even further to find an appropriate comparison in his oeuvre. A remarkably challenging and absorbing film that Coppola paid for himself, Youth Without Youth is a return to the intensely personal work that characterized his early career. (Its portrait of technology and alienation echoes much of 1974’s The Conversation.) So it may come as a shock that Youth Without Youth is also a rather faithful adaptation of Romanian

  • Boys to Men

    THE STORY OF HOW AUSTRALIAN WRITER Michael Noonan’s 1963 novel December Boys became a feature film begins over four decades ago, in rather surprising fashion. Writer/producer Ronald Kinnoch, fresh off the success of the 1960 cult horror film Village of the Damned, optioned the rights to December Boys and wrote a relatively faithful script, but he wound up shelving the project. Flash forward nearly three decades. In 1990, the Walt Disney Company decided to relaunch Walt Disney Pictures, its storied family-oriented live-action studio, as a more active producer of high-profile nonanimated family

  • Drawing Circles

    Neither the seventy-million dollars that Zack Snyder’s adaptation of 300 made on its opening weekend nor the more than two hundred million dollars it has grossed in the United States alone as of this writing can be attributed primarily to the readers of Frank Miller’s original graphic novel. (Miller’s book, while a cult item among comic aficionados, was never much of a crossover success, but even for best sellers, the number of viewers for a hit adaptation is far greater than the number of readers.) And yet within weeks of the film’s release, Hollywood studios green-lit other graphic-novel

  • Best Adaptations


    HOUSEHOLD SAINTS (Nancy Savoca, 1993) Perhaps it’s narcissistic, but I have to say that my favorite adaptation is of my novel. By now, the book and the film have so melded in my mind, I picture Lili Taylor and Judith Malina when I think of the grandmother and granddaughter I created.

    WISE BLOOD (John Huston, 1979) This adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s novel features the great Harry Dean Stanton as the blind preacher.

    THE TIN DRUM (Volker Schlöndorff, 1979) The little boy is amazing, and the eel and horsehead scene is just as upsetting as it is in the novel.