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BASED ON: The Best Film/TV Adaptations of 2019

,, | December 31, 2019 | By

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies. Here, he reviews what impressed him the most in 2019. Click on the bold movie titles to read Father Vince's in-depth review.


A Hidden Life written and directed by Terrence Malick inspired by Franz Jägerstätter: Letters and Writings from Prison

Translated with commentary by Robert A. Krieg. Edited by Erna Putz. Hands down, the best saint/martyr film ever made. That the New Yorker reviewer hated the film for the same reasons I loved it is a good sign.

Father Vince also reflected on writer/director Terrence Malick here.

Jojo Rabbit written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

Finally, a Nazi film for the whole family. The film works as a nice lead-in to the novel, written for an adult audience.

The Irishman written by Steven Zailian and directed by Martin Scorsese based on the book, I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.

A relative of mine was a “lieutenant” in the Chicago Outfit. The film became a personal one for me—hitman Frank Sheeran shows God’s mercy remains for even the worst of sinners.

Joker written and directed by Todd Phillips based on the comic Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore.

The most mature adaptation of a comic-book character fittingly depicts the most Catholic interpretation of evil … one’s free will to choose good or evil.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood written by Noah Harpster and directed by Marielle Heller, based on the Esquire article, Can You Say…Hero? by Tom Junod.

Fred Rogers and his message of kindness receives full resurrection in Tom Hanks’ portrayal.

TOP FIVE ADAPTATIONS -- TV AND STREAMING (first seasons, unless otherwise noted)

The Mandalorian created by Jon Favreau based on characters by George Lucas.

Essentially, the subtext of the show retells the story of St. Joseph and his protection of the Christ Child. It’s no coincidence the season one finale streamed the week of Christmas.

Big Little Lies (season two) created by David E. Kelley based on the novel of the same title by Liane Moriarty.

(Spoiler alert)

Season one and the book ended with the principal characters getting away with murder. Season two treads new territory and the new character of the mother (Meryl Streep) of the slain son (Alexander Skarsgård). Her incessant poking around leads the conspirators to understand little big truths are better than big little lies.

The Handmaid’s Tale (season three) created by Bruce Miller based on the novel of the same title by Margaret Atwood.

The third season assumes a more hopeful tone, with June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) helping to spirit away young girls from the ruling theocracy.

Altered Carbon created by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel of the same title by Richard K Morgan.

Catholics form the background antagonists as the only group of people with a formed conscience asking the question of whether transferring one’s brain and memory from “sleeve” to “sleeve” is ethical.

The Looming Tower (limited series) created by Dan Futterman, based on the book The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright.

The series more delicately handles FBI agent John O’Neill’s (Jeff Daniels) complicated Catholic faith journey on the years leading to 9/11.

And one Father Vince didn't care for ...

Bottom one adaptation: The Laundromat screenplay, written by Scott Z Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, based on the book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers, Illicit Money Networks, and the Global Elite.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning book admits both liberals and conservatives shielded money from taxes through shell “companies." The silver-screen adaptation narrows the story to mislead the audience that tax evasion is a right-wing sin. Politics aside, the handling of the material came off ham-fisted. Meryl Streep’s character ends the film by breaking the “fourth wall” and delivering a secular homily about as bad as anything you might hear at church.

Image: Walt Disney Company/Fox Searchlight/Netflix

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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