Thursday, October 30, 2014

John Adams movies

What's the best movie about John Adams?

Young John Adams

My answer would be that it depends on what you're looking for - all the ones I've seen have things that they do better than the other ones. So I'll compare and contrast the ones I've seen, to show where each one is strongest. The ones I've seen are a two-hour PBS documentary (which also talks about Abigail), an eight-hour HBO miniseries (with Paul Giamatti), and an old thirteen-hour miniseries called "The Adams Chronicles."

PBS's "John and Abigail Adams"

The two-hour PBS documentary was well-done, and included interviews with Pulitzer-Prize-winning authors David McCullough and Joseph Ellis, who both depicted Adams in their books. The film made good use of period paintings and other period sources, but after watching the two miniseries mentioned, two hours seemed rather short and inadequate. What it has is excellent, but I would have preferred something longer.

HBO's "John Adams" miniseries

The eight-hour HBO miniseries did an excellent job of dramatizing these events with re-enactments, and it had the largest budget by far of the films mentioned. It overall made good use of its budget, with excellent acting, cinematography, music, and high production values. But the historical accuracy was a bit wanting in parts, and the film's insertion of sex and nudity detracted from its quality, requiring me to make good use of my DVD scene-skipping button.

"The Adams Chronicles"

The thirteen-hour PBS miniseries "The Adams Chronicles" was my personal favorite of the three. Viewers should be warned that it has low production values and budget, and it sometimes looks like it was videotaped. But this is much like a well-done stage play, where nearly all the action is in the dialogue. The first six hours of the series focus on John Adams, but the next four hours focus on his son John Quincy Adams (the sixth president of the United States), and a few other historically important Adamses are depicted as well. The film does drag a bit in a few places, but it is overall a fascinating series about the human drama of politics and diplomacy, including that related to various American wars. And few families in American history are as interesting as this one. I wouldn't recommend this series to everyone, but some true history buffs will find it interesting to watch, and it is completely free of sex and nudity. Highly recommended to anyone interested in John Adams.

Older John Adams

PBS documentary "John and Abigail Adams" at Amazon (2 hours)

HBO miniseries "John Adams" at Amazon (8 hours)

PBS miniseries "The Adams Chronicles" at Amazon (13 hours)

Why John Adams is fascinating

Thomas Jefferson movie

John Quincy Adams: A great statesman in his own right

PBS documentary is
Available on YouTube
(see below)

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