Fantastic Mr. Fox

1. Analysis of the book

Fantastic Mr. Fox is Roald Dahl’s third book for children and it’s a very short, illustrated story, but with a poignant message for his young readers. The book focuses on Mr. Fox and his battle against three mean farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox grows accustomed to a life of luxury, stealing poultry with ease, however, the farmers soon develop a plan to end their fox problem once and for all. The themes of this story are centered on the farmers, who are depicted as clowns and clueless figures of fun. It’s also possible to glean from the book that stealing, or a misdeed, is okay as long as it’s done to curtail evil and evil people. This is a bold message for kids and whether or not Dahl is telling them that it’s okay to steal, it’s certainly a message on morals and actions that is worth reading.

2. Analysis of the film

Wes Anderson, indie movie extraordinaire, wrote and directed the film adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 on a budget of approximately $40 million dollars. The stop-motion animation is visually stunning and seems to click with the story, while also representing Anderson’s quirky filming methods and techniques. In the film, essentially the only distinction between characters is that some are animals and some are humans. The animals talk and act like the humans, but they steal from the humans, the tyrants. On the discussion board for this movie, I asked a question about the most noticeable theme to me, which is the role of masculinity in the film. One of the prevailing themes is fatherhood and Ash is always trying to win his father’s admiration, as Kristofferson overshadows him in anything physical. Ash feels the need to prove in sport or thievery that he’s worthy of being the son of such a noble fox. In addition, the male characters are largely expression-less throughout the film and the voice of George Clooney as Mr. Fox seems to reinforce this notion of masculinity.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

Perhaps the most glaring difference from the book to the film is that the film expands upon Dahl’s story, which ends when the animals burrow into the farmers’ storehouses. According to lecture, Anderson invents a hostage and hostage rescue plot, involving Kristofferson and the rapidly coming-of-age fox, Ash. It’s hard to get mad at Anderson for this ending, as it would be nearly impossible to make a feature-length film on Fantastic Mr. Fox, stopping production after the last sentence. In his feature-length film, Anderson is able to incorporate themes from the book and end the film in a manner that relates to the book. Ultimately, the animals have the last say, as they follow through and succeed in an epic attempt to rescue Kristofferson and the farmers are left empty-handed, a result of their head-hunting and evil disposition. Overall, Anderson and his quirks were the perfect match for Dahl’s story.

4. Online research on the film

This paper, titled, “Fidelity, Felicity, and Playing Around in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Adrienne Kertzer, looks at the discourse of fidelity in the production and marketing of Anderson’s film and argues that Anderson plays around with the notion of fidelity.

This paper, titled, “Wes Anderson: a ‘smart’ director of the new sincerity?” by Warren Buckland, identifies elements in Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox that make it a smart film.

This website, the official website of Anderson’s film contains a plethora of information to further one’s understanding of the film. I found the behind-the-scenes video section to be the most useful information on the website.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

Is the film nasty in its depiction of humans, particularly adults? Or does it reflect the way a child would view the situation (war against animals)? 

The film, much like the book, has a realistic portrayal of humans. Naturally, a threat to a farmer’s crops is taken very seriously and in real life, animals are exterminated if they come in the way of crop growing and distribution. There’s a need to defend when faced with a threat to someone’s way of life. For the farmers in the film, the only way to save their poultry from being plucked is to exterminate the animals. For children, they might not understand the complexity in this and instead see a ruthless attempt by the people to kill the animals. The child is more likely to resonate with the animals and see matters from their point of view, as they are small animals against large humans and are largely defenseless.

Adaptation paper

The book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series, was first published in 1999 and is 435 pages long—almost 100 pages longer than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While Rowling spent much of her two previous books developing the plot and characters, this third book, although it does advance the plot and introduce new characters, is more of a transition piece, linking the conception of Harry Potter and the wizard world to the clash between Voldemort and Harry. Once again, as can be said for the entire series, Rowling’s excellent writing skills are on full display. Few authors are able to write a story with mass appeal and potential for a film adaptation. Children and adults alike have been mesmerized by the world of Harry Potter, latching onto the story and themes, such as those that appear in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: injustice and trust.

One of the recurring themes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is injustice, both on a moral and legal level. The opening setting of the book is set at number four, Privet Drive, also known as the Dursley’s household. For multiple reasons, Harry is treated poorly by the Dursley’s, who pride themselves on being perfectly normal. For example, Harry has lived under the stairs, half-starved and half-clothed, subjected to psychological abuse. According to Professor Roni Natov in her paper titled, “Harry Potter and the Extraordinariness of the Ordinary,” “Harry embodies this state of injustice frequently experienced by children, often as inchoate fear and anger—and its other side, desire to possess extraordinary powers that will overcome such early and deep exile from the child’s birthright of love and protection. That every child experiences himself as special is obvious, if for no other reason than that everything that happens to him is inherently significant.” This notion of fear that Natov touches on is apparent throughout the book. Harry is constantly faced with different obstacles and situations that no other young wizard has experienced, and his only choice is to face them front on or fail and die. After all, he is the boy who lived. One specific example that Natov mentions is the Boggart, which takes the shape of whatever the wizard fears. For Harry, the Boggart represents fear itself and it takes the shape of a Dementor.

In terms of legal injustice, Rowling uses multiple examples, such as the widespread belief that Sirius Black is connected to Voldemort and the assumption that Crookshanks killed Scabbers, but perhaps the one that elicits the biggest response from readers is the extermination of Buckbeak caused by both Malfoy’s. Draco is at fault when he ignored Hagrid’s instructions and was harmed approaching Buckbeak and Lucius Malfoy effectively lobbied for Buckbeak’s killing. The death of this innocent creature represents the corruption of a legal system, when power is placed in the wrong hands. However, Buckbeak is saved during Harry and Hermione’s time travel, signifying that maybe good overrides evil in the end, although time travel is a rare and fictional occurrence.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban also deals directly with issues of trust, which is seemingly part of the maturation process for Harry. The book’s title and story focuses on the one who escaped Azkaban, which is thought to be an impossible feat. That man is Sirius Black. At the beginning of the novel, everyone seems to think he’s connected to Voldemort and is out to get Harry. Furthermore, he is supposedly connected to the killing of Harry’s parents, making the prospect of trusting Black seem implausible. However, as is Rowling’s strong point, she does a fantastic job of piecing things together and creating the scene where Harry, during his encounter for the first time with Black, finds out from Lupin that Black was a close friend of Harry’s father and is indeed not out to kill him. The notion of trust is revisited again when it’s discovered that Scabbers is actually Peter Pettigrew, loyal follower of Voldemort. According to Julia Rose Pond’s essay, titled, “Divine Destiny or Free Choice: Nietzsche’s Strong Wills in the Harry Potter Seres,” “Rowling creates Harry as a character with whom many readers identify in his maturation and naivety. She also raises him from a person of average potential to the strong willed young man, successful in his adventures.” This quote is accurate in noting the characterization of Harry Potter and how Rowling created a character that readers could relate to and grow up with. Harry might be a wizard, practice spells instead of arithmetic and go to Diagon Alley instead of Disney World, but he still deals with human issues and the trials and tribulations of growing up in a society that demands quick maturation.

The film

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the first and only Harry Potter film to be directed by Alfonso Cuarón, a revered Mexican filmmaker. Immediately, whether the viewer is a cinematography buff or not, he or she notices the filming techniques of Cuarón that makes this film stylistically different than the two that precede it. For example, Cuarón uses wide-angle lenses to increase the size of the shot and the amount of detail in each frame. It’s clear that Cuarón labored over each and every shot to obtain the desired dramatic effect. Also, for the sake of comparison, the two previous Harry Potter films have a lively mood and are flushed with color. This third film is a leap in the opposite direction. Darkness is ubiquitous in the film, which is realistic and naturalistic. The darkness conveys the story’s shift towards evil, as Voldemort’s momentum is building despite his absence in the story. Instead, Dementors, extra large, terrifying, soul-sucking creatures that are perhaps portrayed too intensely in the film for children, have a large role and are responsible for a portion of the obscurity.

According to “The Prisoner of Azkaban: A New Direction for Harry Potter” by Cara Lane, Cuarón’s focus on darkness and a somber reality is reflected in the portrayal of Hogwarts. “In addition to the somber tone created through atmosphere, music, and shadow, Hogwarts and its grounds undergo a dramatic physical transformation. Ruins feature prominently in several scenes; most notably, Hermione, Harry, and Ron look down on Hagrid’s hut from behind disintegrating stones from an old part of a castle and the courtyard where Buckbeak’s executioner sharpens his blade is overgrown and rundown.” This gives the castle a feeling of antiquity, which is the nature of Hogwarts—an old, historic school.

One of the most poignant elements of the film is the point of view. There’s a lengthy time travel scene where Harry and Hermione go back in time to save two innocent lives: Buckbeak and Sirius Black. Cuarón portrays the time travel perfectly in the film, managing to show the past and the present transpire in the same frame, eventually syncing the two together. Along with time travel, the movie also uses magical devices such as the Marauder’s map and Harry’s invisibility cloak to play with the point of view. According to Lane, the film constantly juxtaposes these extraordinary tricks with mundane actions and artifacts, which allows the viewers to see the interconnections between the muggle and magical worlds.

Lastly, Cuarón’s film ends in a most peculiar, abrupt fashion. In only a couple minutes, it’s made known that Professor Lupin resigns and leaves, declaring, “No one wants, well, people like me teaching their children,” he hands back the Marauder’s map to Harry and Harry receives a new Firebolt broomstick in the mail and zooms off into the open sky. This ending is a direct contrast from the ending of the book. It gives viewers the sense that the story is in transition—just like how the film is a transition from childhood to basically adulthood and from one plot to another—but the cheerful, hope-filled ending is ineffective and doesn’t conform to the rest of the film. Perhaps this letdown of an ending is what drew most of the ire from critics, as just like news articles and literature, I believe people are more likely to remember the beginning and ending of a film than what comes in between.

The adaptation

Throughout this class, we have looked at film adaptations of literature, examining what parts of the book the film left out, what parts were included and if the film was a faithful adaptation of the book. As I’ve learned, which is stated in lecture, it’s impossible to include every element, every bit of dialogue and every minute detail of a book in the movie because literature allows that—there are many things that words and writing can convey and accomplish that film can’t. Each medium should be respected in its own right for what it brings to the table. However, as is the case with Harry Potter, the book series will always be favored over the films because quite simply, they are a hundred times better. There’s no way Cuarón could have incorporated close to all of the plot twists, character developments and dialogue found in the book. Perhaps his focus on producing a visually stimulating film with focused concentration on detail in every frame led him astray in his adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

As stated above, there are things the film does well and there are some things the film doesn’t do well. Most notably, there’s a significant amount of dialogue and scenes from the book missing in the movies. To highlight on a couple, in the movie, there’s no conversation between Harry and Professor Lupin about Harry’s Patronus, a stag, which was James Potter’s Animagi. Also, the film doesn’t provide any dialogue about Lupin’s condition, until indeed the moon is out and he morphs into a werewolf. Just as, or even more, detrimental, only one Quidditch match is shown in the film. Not only that, but the match isn’t played out. Instead, the match is used to show a Dementor attack and Harry’s flirting again with death. Quidditch is essential to the plot and a key component of the Harry Potter books, so its apparent exclusion renders the film un-Harry Potter-like. Another travesty appears in the development of some characters. For the most part, the movie develops the main characters well, however, it seems like the lesser characters are hardly touched. Professor Trelawney, an eccentric character in the book, appears on film as overly spastic and a nut in her teaching and the foreseeing of death. On the other hand, Michael Gambon replaces the deceased Richard Harris as Dumbledore and puts on an admirable performance.

Maybe it’s too easy to focus on the film’s negatives instead of its positives and it does have its positives. Cuarón’s film is a good movie—some people think it’s a better movie than an adaptation. And they might be right, as the amount of attention paid to detail is astounding and it’s filmed very well. However, Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is also a good adaptation because it captures the essence of Rowling’s novel, the themes and the story as a transition from childhood to adulthood and from one story to another.

Works cited

“The Prisoner of Azkaban: A New Direction for Harry Potter”

Cara Lane

Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies



“Harry Potter and the Extraordinariness of the Ordinary”

Roni Natov

The Lion and the Unicorn



“Divine Destiny or Free Choice: Nietzsche’s Strong Wills in the Harry Potter Series”

Julia Rose Pond

Georgia State University Digital Archive

17 April 2008

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1. Analysis of the book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series, succeeds in furthering the story of Harry Potter and having a universal appeal to children and adults. Once again, Rowling’s uncanny ability to stack mystery on mystery and piece things together is on full display in the book. Also, the book stands out because it introduces readers to important characters central to the development of the story, such as Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. The characters are very well written, which makes the story that much compelling—always a quality of Rowling’s writing. In terms of the plot, while it turns out that Sirius Black is on Harry’s side and not a follower of Voldemort, and Voldemort remains largely absent from the novel, the reader notices the ascension into darker matters, as Harry will no doubt have larger obstacles in the upcoming books.

2. Analysis of the film

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the first and only Harry Potter film to be directed by Alfonso Cuarón and it’s fair to say that he succeeded in his only attempt. The film was a successful change in direction from the previous two films directed by Chris Columbus. Perhaps the first thing the viewer notices is the stunning visuals and Cuarón’s methodic keenness to detail in every frame throughout the film. Along with the detail, the film is noticeably darker than the two previous films and one indicator of which is the Dementors—large, scary, soul-sucking creatures that are perhaps too intense for children. The film works the time travel angle quite well and accurately portrays the main characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione) during a time of maturation, which enhances the validity of the film.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

As is the case when examining a book’s adaptation to film, one of the first things to be examined is what the film included and more seriously, what it left out. In Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there seems to be significant detail excluded from the novel. For example, according to lecture, there’s no “Owl Post,” no equivalent to the different books and forms of writing in the book, barely a Quidditch match—actually, its purpose is for a Dementor attack—and more. On the other hand, it’s tough to incorporate every detail from a 435-page book into a movie. There has been debate whether Cuarón’s film was truly a good adaptation and I believe it was, as he stayed true to the story, developed the characters and set the story up well for its fourth installment in theaters.

4. Online research on the film

This website is an interesting read because it describes what worked and flopped in the Harry Potter movies and how they compare to the books.

This paper, titled, “The Prisoner of Azkaban: A New Direction for Harry Potter” describes the elements of Cuarón’s directing and the new direction in which he chose to take the film.

This particular page on the Leaky Cauldron website contains analysis of all the adaptations of Harry Potter books to film. According to the website, it’s “the largest Harry Potter Social Network on the Web.” With currently 86,900 people who like The Leaky Cauldron on Facebook, I can’t disagree.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

To many critics, Alfonso Cuarón did a good job in the film in steering the Harry Potter series in a darker direction. How is Prisoner of Azkaban “dark”? And how does this relate to the growing maturity of both the main characters and the actors?

Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is dark in a way that probably few saw coming, as the movie was filmed with this dark tone and background. First, if you Google search the title of the book, the movie posters are all dark and the characters appearing in them either have a serious or scared look on their faces. It’s a microcosm of the movie, which portrays darkness in the return of Sirius Black and the ongoing presence of the Dementors (Voldemort too is also rebuilding and not out of the picture). The darkness also symbolizes the maturation process for Harry, Ron and Hermione, who encounter more and more real issues and face a nearly constant threat of death that even the walls of Hogwarts have trouble repelling. The state of the wizard world is about to shift to the darkness of Voldemort and his dark army and this movie portrays that. In many ways, the film does a good job of setting up the fourth movie.

A Scanner Darkly

1. Analysis of the book

Philip K. Dick’s book, A Scanner Darkly, is a unique piece of literature because it was written during a time of widespread drug abuse and anti-government hysteria, but most of all, Dick himself was a drug addict, having experimented with myriad drugs. The book explores many themes including the interdependency of law enforcement and criminals, government surveillance and privacy issues, drug abuse and addiction and mental illness. Perhaps the most interesting aspects in Dick’s writing are the prevalence of paranoia and schizophrenia and reality as an ideological construct. Paranoid schizophrenics are interchangeable in A Scanner Darkly because they are figures of hybridity that are associated with unstable boundaries between the self and the world. Ultimately, the boundary between the self and the world is exposed at the end when Bob, now Bruce, is a vegetable working at New Path. Thus, the story ends on a sad and depressing note, although black comedy is sprinkled throughout the novel.

2. Analysis of the film

Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly reflects a surveillance society and drug paranoia in the not too distant future. Watching this film, the first thing that immediately stands out is Linklater’s use of rotoscoping, which, according to lecture, gives the impression that the characters’ skin is crawling upon their bodies. The rotoscoping is also visually appealing so the film doesn’t lose anything from not being shot live and it boosts the projection of the scramble suit, which is quite stunning. The actors, Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder, all play their roles very well, making it easy to follow the story and how humans are humanized and dehumanized by schizophrenia.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

As mentioned in lecture, Linklater’s version of A Scanner Darkly is considered a faithful adaptation of the book because it follows the story so closely. In this case, you would think it might be hard to adapt the book, as it was largely influenced by Dick’s former drug use and the drug and anti-government hysteria going on at the time when the novel was written. However, Linklater does a fantastic job of capturing the tone and essence of the book, even making the issues contemporary. In particular, Linklater’s skill is on full display with Bob Arctor’s descent into identity confusion and crisis. Dick would’ve been happy with that and also the ending of the movie, which was the same sad, depressing ending of the book—Arctor is essentially turned into a “slave” working for New Path, when he stumbles upon the Substance D flower.

4. Online research on the film

This paper, titled, “Rotoscopy-Handwriting Interface for Children with Dyspraxia” is an interesting paper on the use of rotoscoping in A Scanner Darkly and also an introspective look at the general technique of rotoscoping and its application for children.

This article on, titled, “Trouble in Toontown” isn’t a review, but is instead a look at the making of the movie and has a lot of good information, such as Linklater’s unfamiliarity with rotoscoping, as well as issues with scenes.

This website, which is devoted to Philip K. Dick is, according to the home page, “An online community for fans of Philip K. Dick, old and new, along with the promotion of his work and the sharing of information, text, audio or visual that pertains to his life, his work and his legacy.” This website is useful because it provides news, criticisms of Dick’s work, interviews, biography, reviews, links and more. Users of this website even produce a newsletter. One of the problems with these types of websites is that they often fall by the wayside, as websites are a chore to maintain and update, however, this website is consistently managed, with the last post on May 24, 2012.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

To adapt A Scanner Darkly to film, the director Richard Linklater uses the “interpolated rotoscope” animation technique. What are the effects on the viewer of such a technique? Was it an appropriate technique for the film, in terms of its themes and story?

Richard Linklater’s decision to use the interpolated rotoscope animation technique instead of regular live filming was unconventional, maybe bordering risky, but it paid off and it enhanced the film’s meaning and aesthetic appeal. First, it’s important to note that the rotoscoping is efficient because it’s very well done. I have seen other products of the rotoscoping technique without nearly the amount of detail and accurate framing of A Scanner Darkly. That’s what makes it truly great and a marvel to watch. Next, the rotoscoping works because it fits the narrative and mood of the film, which is a sad depiction of someone’s descent into identity confusion through schizophrenia and a loose grasp on reality. Also, Linklater ingeniously uses the rotoscoping to convey a crazy web of drug-induced, or governmentally imposed illusion hovering on the surface of everybody’s appearance. For these reasons, rotoscoping was the right filming technique for A Scanner Darkly, which improved the film overall and connected it to Dick’s voice and themes in the book.

No Country for Old Men

1. Analysis of the book

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy is a masterpiece novel that has acclaimed success and sticks out because of McCarthy’s voice, the settings, the very real characters and the deeper meaning in his writing. McCarthy uses stereotypes to tell his western story—the old sheriff who has stayed too long and seen too much, the normal, everyday man until he is undone by greed, even if it’s to provide a better life for his family, the dutiful wife who sticks by her man no matter what and the relentless villain who kills at will. Describing the characters with those stereotypes is simply grazing the surface. For example, Anton Chigurh is a bloodthirsty villain and sociopath devoid of any moral code, but he walks around distributing justice Old Testament style. His character raises the debate between free will versus destiny, one of the themes in the book. The many layers of the characters certainly carries the book, but it’s just one of a plethora of things that have made No Country for Old Men a classic.

2. Analysis of the film

The Coen brothers’ adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is strikingly real and beautiful, yet extremely tragic. The movie is very much character-driven, focusing on uncompromising and uncompromised characters played skillfully by Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald and others. Perhaps this focus on the characters is intentional, considering the slow, unrelenting pace of the movie and the lack of background music, faithful to the setting. There are even instances of black humor that momentarily stagnate the violence and thrilling build-up of the film. Overall, the film excels on every front, even the unsuspected and fast-paced ending, starting with Llewelyn Moss’ sudden death and ending with Chigurh’s rise from a car crash, injured, yet conscious and composed.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

According to lecture and film critics, the Coen brothers’ take at McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a very good adaptation. This is because there isn’t much variation between the two and the film seems to be playing out McCarthy’s intentions of a western drama mixed with suspense and violence. Of course, no piece of literature can make a seamless transition to film and the Coen brothers’ film isn’t without its deviations from the text. For example, moments of black humor, the comical tone, the secondary character status and reduced role of Sheriff Bell, the interiority replaced by dialogue, the slow pacing and Chigurh’s haircut that comes off as a joke, are all new aspects of the story. However, as is the case when examining film adaptations, it’s easy to dwell on the differences, maybe because our eyes are trained to look for them. Critics and viewers alike must appreciate how closely the film follows the scenes from the book and manages to capture the heart of it, even with its most unusual ending.

4. Online research on the film

This video, “No Country for Old Men in 30 seconds (and re-enacted by bunnies)” is a humorous parody of the film played by bunnies and compressed into 30 seconds. It’s remarkable how it manages to get the gist of the story in 30 seconds. I always find it interesting which scenes the makers of trailers or parody videos select, as those are the ones that they feel most represent the film.

This website is an open debate about the ending of No Country for Old Men that has probably at least a hundred responses from users. Open discussion is a great way to discuss film.

This book by Lynnea Chapman King, Rick Wallach and Jim Welsh, titled, “No Country for Old Men: From Novel to Film” is truly the go-to source for anything related to No Country for Old Men. The book is over 219 pages of essays and articles about the book and movie and it provides theories about meaning behind the book and movie. The writing is very detailed, organized into interesting chapters, such as “You are the battleground: Materiality, Moral Responsibility, and Determinism in No Country for Old Men,” “Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” and McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men: Art and Artifice in the Novel,” “Oedipus Rests: Mimesis and Allegory in No Country for Old Men” and others. Browsing through this book certainly made me want to watch the film again.

5. Analysis of the adaptation

No Country for Old Men is undeniably violent and yet it is somewhat reticent about two killings, that of Llewelyn Moss and later his wife Carla Jean. Why would the film-makers decline to film their killings when so many other killings in the film are graphically shown?

In No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers don’t shy away from filming killings—they are abundant and gruesome—but the killings of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean aren’t shown and this is intentional. There are a few possible explanations. First, by declining to show their killings, the mind undoubtedly wanders. The intent is to make the viewer think about why the murders aren’t played out and then fill in the blanks. Also, there’s no closure surrounding their deaths, which plays into the overarching theme of freedom versus fate. This lack of closure lasts until the end of the film when Sheriff Bell realizes that a country of old men, with old values, no longer have a place. Also, while this explanation might be less likely, it’s possible that Llewelyn and Carla Jean are spared having their killings filmed because they are the archetypal good guy and dutiful wife, too innocent and undeserving of a gruesome murder scene. Overall, the Cohen brothers’ decision to not film their killings is justified because it doesn’t detract from the story and if anything, adds to the mystery of the movie and makes the viewer think more.

American Splendor

1. Analysis of the book

American Splendor by Harvey Pekar is a reflection of his life, describing, in comic form, the poignancy of the mundane. What makes these comics so great is that they are candid, honest looks at a real and ordinary American life, from a guy born and raised in Cleveland who just wrote about what he knew. It’s kind of hard to believe that so much humor, wisdom and familiarity can be found in Pekar’s stories, even through his overt pessimism and existential view of the world, which enhances the narrative. But his stories, like the one with the multiple Harvey Pekar’s in the phone book, have a mass appeal, describing the subtleties of everyday life and those that are often overlooked.

 2. Analysis of the film

American Splendor is a unique film for many reasons, including perfect execution of the different aspects of the film and postmodernism, which most films today can’t replicate. The film sporadically switches from one guise of Harvey Pekar to another: Pekar is portrayed by Paul Giamatti, as himself and as an animated black and white figure. When combined, these elements somehow all work, telling the story of a rather ordinary person, albeit a major complainer, who has found success writing comics in an otherwise dull life. Most of the movie focuses on Harvey Pekar as Paul Giamatti, who pairs up with Joyce Brabner to convey the humor and peculiarity of everyday life, as well as the relationship between true life and fiction.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

American Splendor is a very good adaptation of the comic series because it captures the essence—the comic, offbeat nature and postmodernism—of Harvey Pekar and his work. The documentary and comic book filming aspects make the movie multi-dimensional and are conducive to the story being told. That’s just the beginning of the list of things the movie does well. American Splendor blends fact with fiction. Fact looks the same as fiction, fiction looks the same as fact and sometimes both are featured in the same shot. Also, sometimes it feels as if the viewer is watching a comic strip being played out, like the scene of Pekar stuck in line behind an elderly Jewish woman at a grocery store, and at other times—most of the time—the viewer is watching Pekar’s life unfold in a stirring way that captivates the audience.

4. Online research on the film

This article is an interesting read because a journalist explains why American Splendor is her favorite film, highlighting the movie’s mixture of documentary and drama, truth and humor.

This paper, titled, “Removing the Experience: Simulacrum as An Autobiographical Act in American Splendor,” goes into great depth on the autobiographical narrative of American Splendor.

This paper, titled, “Style, Voice, and Authorship in Harvey Pekar’s (Auto) (Bio)Graphical Comics” by Thomas A. Bredehoft, is a well-organized and informative piece on American Splendor. Bredehoft’s main argument is that the structural position of “author” is at least sometimes occupied by the author and artists in comics. Furthermore, he offers an explanation for the autobiographical trend in recent comics that are both written and drawn by the same person.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all about ordinariness: we use them to record the mundane events of our lives. How would an American Splendor blog (or Facebook page, or Twitter feed) look like? How would it be different than his comic book?

Web 2.0 applications are a form of personal expression and the manner in which they are used varies from person to person. Some people rarely post new updates, only doing so in the circumstance of a big event or even at random, whereas others post around the clock and feel the need to tweet about how they just went to the bathroom. An American Splendor Facebook page or Twitter feed would be a source of comedy. On Twitter, I envision tweets would come every couple of days, as I think Harvey Pekar would have adopted Twitter as a forum to vent. The tweets would be similar to the comics content: they would describe an ordinary experience or thought in a funny way. For example, the grocery store and phone book stories would translate seamlessly to Twitter. You could expect the same on Facebook, except the posts could be longer, allowing for links or video related to the post’s content. I don’t think Pekar would have held anything back using social media—the posts would be unedited, uncut and have the same type of humor as his comics.


1. Analysis of the book

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean is odd in that it covers a variety of things: tracing not simply John Laroche’s theft of the wild ghost orchid, but the history of orchid collecting, the science of orchid growing, the history and place of the Seminole tribe and Florida’s culture and environment. It’s interesting to think whether Orlean intended it this way, or as the book appears, originated from her piece in The New Yorker about Laroche and his obsession with the ghost orchid, but diverts ubiquitously from the topic and soon turns into Orlean filling the pages with fodder gleaned from her experience researching and writing the book. Although the book is basically a collection of different pieces of information, it’s indeed readable—at some points very captivating—with Orlean’s exploration of how an obsession can dictate a person’s life.

2. Analysis of the film

According to lecture, Adaptation has been described as self-referential, experimental, metafiction, postmodern and a “High” art film, and it’s also a film that benefits from great acting and a well-written script. The film is influenced by Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, borrowing bits and pieces from it, as well as merging Orlean’s and Laroche’s world with that of the polarizing Kaufman twins. Part of Adaptation’s genius is that it constantly parodies Hollywood films, subtly and quite obviously, concluding with a spectacular series of events where the Kaufman twins travel to Florida, cross paths with Orlean and Laroche, engage in a night-long standoff in a swamp, Laroche is killed by an alligator, Donald is ejected through the car’s front windshield and dies, Charlie returns home filled with sadness, although that sadness soon turns into a greater vision and promise for the future, as he finishes the movie script and reconnects with Amelia. This ending signifies the successful attempt of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman to make the film “un-Hollywood” by “Hollywoodizing” it.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

The title of the film might be Adaptation, however, it’s anything but an adaptation of Suslan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief. Adaptation borrows the story of Laroche and his orchids from The Orchid Thief, using it as the basis for a movie that Charlie Kaufman is designated to write the script. Interestingly, Adaptation parodies Hollywood films and focuses on Charlie’s inner conflict surrounding screenwriting and writing scripts that conform to Hollywood standards. This and the presence of the Kaufman twins represent the influence of the writer, Charlie Kaufman, on the film. His ego freely finds its way into the film and to some critics, the film comes off as pretentious due to the extent it’s based on the writer. Also, the film appears to mock Susan Orlean, portraying her as vulnerable, insecure, unfaithful, a drug user and someone who will resort to murder to protect her secrets and reputation. In this sense, the film isn’t a faithful adaptation and is more of a product of Jonze and Kaufman’s collaboration and imagination.

4. Online research on the film

This essay examines Adaptation in relation to Charles Darwin and the theory of natural selection, however, most of it is extended summary of the film.

This paper examines whether Adaptation is a true adaptation, concluding that it’s an adaptation because just like Kaufman who followed the motto, adapt or die, the film also adapted because it didn’t want to die.

This is an interesting paper because while it analyzes Adaptation, it talks extensively about the process of adapting films to books, which is the foundation for this class. According to the paper, “This paper outlines some concerns about using film adaptations in the English curriculum, by examining reading/viewing practices, and offers some strategies for developing cineliteracy in theoretical and practical and terms in the classroom.” Also, it lists methods for analyzing movies, such as applying social, symbolic, technical, conventional, representational and ideological codes to the film, which helps viewers unpack text constructedness.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

In Adaptation, the twins Charlie and Donald are opposites in many ways. How do they respectively represent film as art and film as (Hollywood) entertainment? And is this a crude dichotomy that the film subtly undercuts?

 Charlie and Donald Kaufman are different in many ways. For example, Donald is outgoing, has more success with women and writes scripts without considering their Hollywood appeal. Donald is introverted, masturbates a lot, is intelligent and a good writer, but is so concerned about the content of his writing that he always finds himself back at square one. Essentially, as is the case with some twins, he lives in Donald’s shadow. Only when Donald dies are Charlie’s ambitions realized and suddenly he’s a new man with promise, the girl, and a finished script. Sometimes the presence or absence of someone enables people to see things clearer, gain a different perspective on life. Also, they represent film in that screenwriting is about luck, a script that isn’t inherently “good” will be picked over another because it conforms more to Hollywood standards. True art is respected, but there’s a place for it and most times it’s not in the mainstream. Society tends to gravitate towards the commercial, the corporate, the superficial and the extremes of Hollywood. The film portrays this quite well.