Snowden: Why Filmmaking Differs from Novel Writing

The Snowden movie is based on many sources, including The Snowden Files by Luke Harding, Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena, and director Oliver Stone’s own research. The two books are non-fiction accounts of Edward Snowden and the events that led to him perpetrating his smuggling and leaking of a large portion of data that demonstrated the NSA’s massive surveillance capabilities on American citizens and the world at large.

Snowden follows not only the events leading up to Snowden’s NSA leak, but also some of the aftermath of the leak as well, with Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) holed up in a Hong Kong hotel being interviewed by Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto), Laura Poitras (documentary filmmaker), and Guardian Washington correspondent Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), who help break the story to the world.

When I’ve seen movies based on non-fiction books (or even fiction, for that matter) in the past, I’ve often heard people complain about the details that were left out. One friend even told me that such movies should simply be 100% faithful, event for event re-tellings of the book since the books are usually perfect.

Unfortunately, movies and books are different mediums with different capabilities, audiences, and demands. Since the movie Snowden appears to be heavily based on The Snowden Files, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look at why movies based on books are not (and should not be) completely accurate to their source or reality. (Please note: I will be discussing the film in its entirety, so, spoiler warning).


Reconsidering Paul W.S. Anderson

Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t get a lot of respect for his work. It’s easy to look at the collection of films that he’s made and look down on them. There are cliches in the dialogue, a lack of heart and empathy built into the characters to make us care about them (which extends to characters not having reasons to care about each other), and uninventive plots. People look at his body of work and assume he just makes movies for the paycheck.

And yet there’s still a vast audience who enjoy his movies — even re-watch them. So I took a closer look at his work to unearth his films’ value and in my research I found a man who loves making the movies he makes.

Here are six reasons to reconsider Paul W.S. Anderson and his work.


Grosse Pointe Blank: Revisited – 5 Things I Didn’t Notice the First Time Around

Grosse Pointe Blank revisited. In this series I re-watch a movie I haven’t seen in a long time to look at it with new eyes, and (hopefully) more experience. This time I revisit Grosse Pointe Blank.

Grosse Pointe Blank is about a professional assassin Martin (John Cusack) who decides to go to back to his home town and attend his ten-year high school reunion. This is stressful for Martin. Not just because he doesn’t know what he’ll tell people he does for a living, but because he left town suddenly and with a lot of unresolved issues, including his ex-girlfriend Debi (Minnie Driver) whom he stood up on prom night. While Martin is good at his job, he seems unhappy. He visits a therapist (Alan Arkin) he half-jokingly threatens into keeping him as a client. His therapist advises him to go to the reunion: “Go see some old friends, have some punch. Don’t kill anybody for a few days. See what it feels like.” So Martin must confront his unresolved demons and Debi so he can figure out how to be happy while trying to survive his competition (in the form of fellow assassin played by Dan Aykroyd).

I haven’t re-watched the whole movie since I initially saw it back in the 90’s, so here I go again. Here are five things I didn’t notice the first time around in Grosse Pointe Blank. (Also, heads up: Spoilers.)


The Ever-Present Theme of Privacy in Mr. Robot

The show Mr. Robot subtlety adjusts our mindset to think about privacy as we watch the show. In most cases when we’re introduced to an important character that furthers the plotline, we see an intensely personal moment for that character. Because Mr. Robot is about hacking, I believe that it wants to remind the audience that nothing is safe or private in Mr. Robot‘s world — that it is all at risk of being revealed.

In traditional storytelling, you don’t reveal something unless it will have importance later. Mr. Robot, however, plays with this concept in that it will show you something intensely personal about a character that provides insight, but its true purpose is to show you what is intimate and vulnerable about that character.

Here are five ways that Mr. Robot keeps privacy at the forefront of the audience’s minds:


Top 10 Survivor Seasons

A few years ago I started getting back into Survivor and was looking for a good season to watch. I’m fairly certain this was before the Survivor Reddit community ranked seasons and certainly before the other resources you can easily find today. At the time I found a blog (that I can no longer seem to find) that I used as my guide to watching seasons. It had a starry background reminiscent of old web designs, and while it was fairly in line with my own Survivor tastes, it sometimes recommended seasons I didn’t enjoy as much as others and often revealed who won the season in the write-up. I actually don’t mind knowing who wins since a lot of what makes Survivor great is how a winner got there and all the crazy strategies and players along the way. But at the time I wished there had been a “Best Seasons of Survivor” list more in line with my own opinions that didn’t reveal the winner of the season. And so here it is.

I’ve broken it down into overall top ten, and marked the seasons with returning players in case people either don’t want spoilers for other seasons or just prefer seasons without returning players. Then, I’ve added four seasons to supplement those returning player seasons in case you don’t want to watch them (look for the line separation).

Here are my top ten Survivor seasons (in no particular order):