Monthly Archives: June 2012

Adaptation

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

http://ojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/SSE/article/view/638/680

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.

http://journal.ufsc.br/index.php/desterro/article/view/1500/1240

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.

http://eprints.qut.edu.au/1954/1/1954_1.pdf

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.

Advertisements

The Hours

1. Analysis of the book

In the book, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses literary allusion as structural metaphor, archetypes from folklore and myth and a multitude of social environments to criticize the social system and reinforce the underlying theme of continuity between past and present. She writes about how class, wealth and sex, among other things, determine one’s fate—focusing on the fate of each of the women in her three main stories. While the problems that affect Woolf’s characters are indeed personal, they reflect problems embedded in the fabric of society, such as the diminution of life over time and how death, particularly suicide, might be seen as the only way out and a way to liberate people of their burdens. This notion of individual consciousness, along with the other complex themes, forces the reader to really think about what he or she is reading.

1. Analysis of the film

The Hours, which was released in 2002, contains many interesting elements, including a superb cast highlighted by Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep, and a unique stream of consciousness-like filming technique. The film does an exceptional job of transitioning between stories and portraying the themes that make the story so compelling. In the end, the stories converge quickly and fluidly without creating any holes in the narrative, a testament to the quality of the filmmaking. The Hours also has numerous poignant demonstrations of homosexuality, which is a significant in itself, but also symbolizes years of suppressed feelings hiding behind a false identity.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

The film is a faithful representation of the book, in that the characters are set up the same way as in the book and Woolf’s narrative and psychological interiority are understood and accurately portrayed by the combination of Cunningham, Hare and Daldry. The stream of consciousness-like filming is very precise and seemingly impeccable, until the end of the film when Laura Brown shows up at Clarissa’s apartment. This unpredicted conclusion makes the story snap into place, but one has to wonder if there was even a need for closure. Ultimately, this shouldn’t take away from the film’s credibility, as the main themes of death, distraction and romance were well executed and benefited from several award-winning performances.

4. Online research on the film

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/461415?uid=3739584&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56260199663

This essay describes Virginia Woolf and her criticism of the social structure, which was one of her main purposes in the film.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/461524?uid=3739584&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56260199663

This essay describes the concept of literary allusion as structural metaphor in The Hours.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14942.Mrs_Dalloway

This website is the Goodreads page for Mrs. Dalloway. I didn’t know about this website before, but it’s a very useful tool to see what people rated the book and their reviews. The users on this website are book and literature lovers and it’s very interesting to read what everyone has to say because there’s a lot of difference of opinion, besides the fact that almost everyone tends to agree that Mrs. Dalloway was a good book.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

What is the attitude of the film towards books and writers? Is it respectful or does the film suggest that literature is being replaced in our society by visual media, such as film?

At its core, the film deals with books and writers, portraying them as holders of great power and influence over people and situations. For example, the film shows how the book, Mrs. Dalloway, significantly affects the lives of the main characters, even planting—or furthering—the idea in Laura Brown’s head of suicide being the only answer to her inescapable reality. Meanwhile, visual media and film are basically absent from the film, forcing the viewer to consider the toll of writing or reading a book, becoming emotionally invested in it, and how books affect people. Such an emphasis on books in the film represents the value of books, particularly Mrs. Dalloway, to the writers, producers and directors of the film.

Pride and Prejudice

1. Analysis of the book

The novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, which was originally published in 1813, is a satirical comedy about life in the gentry rural society in England in the late 18th century. The book focuses on class, gender and marriage, which were all contemporary issues during Austen’s time. Ultimately, those three issues that span the entire book are seemingly resolved all at once with two separate “I do’s,” when Bingley and Jane tie the knot, followed by Darcy and Elizabeth becoming engaged. These marriages are significant because Austen is showing how the power of love and happiness can transcend class boundaries and prejudices—the class boundaries between families and the prejudices (and pride) of the main characters, especially Darcy and Elizabeth, that mislead their opinions of the other.

2. Analysis of the film

In the same manner as Guy Ritchie’s commitment to making “cool” films, Gurinder Chadha has been known to produce feel good flicks and Bride and Prejudice is certainly one of them. Bride and Prejudice, conceived from Chadha’s interpretations of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, draws from Chadha’s multicultural background. The film is interesting in that it contains some Bollywood elements, some Hollywood elements and the main conflict is centered around when traditional India meets Britain meets America. It’s important to note, however, that the film offers a narrow view of multiculturalism, in that there’s an absence of discrimination and racial conflict. The overall poor acting and observable hastiness in shooting scenes (both the quality of shots and length of scenes) hurt the film’s legitimacy.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice is an interesting adaptation because it contains some elements that are very similar to Pride and Prejudice and some elements that are very different. For example, the characters are set up the same way, but instead of everyone being British, some are Indian, some are British and yet some are American. This is the underlying difference between the novel and the film—as discussed in lecture—that the book deals with issues of gender and class, while the film deals with issues of culture and economics. Therefore, the audience can assume that the multiculturalism in the film was influenced by Chadha’s upbringing—a factor that distances Chadha’s interpretation of Pride and Prejudice from the real thing, along with her spurning of Austen’s language and sardonic narrative voice.

4. Online research on the film

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARWfCBr0ZDM

This is a trailer of the 2005 film, Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. Although the trailer is shorter than three minutes, it allows one to compare the movie to the book and to Bride and Prejudice.

http://146.230.128.141/jspui/bitstream/10413/505/1/Avershree%20Maistry%20-%20Masters%20Dissertation.pdf

This paper, titled, “Representations of Indian Female Identity in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice,” explores the formation of multicultural identities in the postcolonial world in relation to Indian women depicted in mainstream media, which furthers one’s understanding of the role of women in the movie.

http://ojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/SSE/article/view/584/552

This paper is a fantastic source because it tracks the surge in popularity of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the 2005 film and then the multiple television versions of the book. It also examines which adaptation contains the greatest significance for our contemporary understanding of Austen, which, according to the paper, is one that forces the viewer to examine and re-examine the novel. The paper is very detailed and provides specific examples and quotes, which is a more than adequate substitute for watching the versions of Pride and Prejudice being discussed.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

Is Bride and Prejudice too entertaining? How does the “feel good” nature of the film distract audiences from more critical issues presented by the film? Or are those critical issues missing? If so, why is this important?

Fist, it’s important to distinguish the purpose of the film, along with Chadha’s style. Bride and Prejudice was meant to be a “feel good” movie to entertain, become a cross-cultural hit and turn Aishwarya Rai into a Hollywood icon. This is evident early and often in the film, as there’s a noticeable emphasis on plot development and fun scenes like the musical bits instead of good acting, many shots aren’t well thought out, resulting in hasty execution, and the film is so fast-paced that it tends to skip key details in its race to the end. For example, one second Wickam and Lucky are hanging out in India and the next second they have run away to another country. The feel good nature of the film doesn’t distract audiences from more critical issues like culture and economics, but the film’s portrayals hardly are the case in real life. For example, it’s very unlikely that a large family in a rural Indian town would fly all over the world at whim. The feel good nature of the film is also what makes the film so special in its own right, as a unique interpretation of Pride and Prejudice.

Sherlock Holmes

1. Analysis of the book

Sherlock Holmes, the popular story by Arthur Canon Doyle, which spanned four novels and 56 short stories, in addition to an estimated 25,000 continuations produced since the story was written, concerns an uber-detective named Sherlock Holmes. Doyle’s stories, such as “The Mazarin Stone,” revolve around Holmes’ innate ability to solve mysteries with help from his friend, Watson. There are a few aspects that make Sherlock Holmes so timeless, which include the eccentricity of Holmes’ character, the supreme duo of Holmes and Watson and the humor infused in the stories, which usually comes from Holmes and his witticisms.

2. Analysis of the film

The 2009 film version of Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie, titled “Sherlock Holmes,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law as Dr. Watson and Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, has style, energy and a Hollywood appeal from its quick pace and violence over its running time of two hours. The film takes place in the Victorian era and the plot hinges on Holmes defeating an evil villain in Lord Blackwood and saving the world. Overall, the movie benefits from the great chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law, while McAdams also plays her role well. Through nonstop action, loud scenes and catchy background music and a story line that seems to set itself up for a sequel (which came out in 2011), Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is certainly watchable and entertaining.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes is his own spin on Doyle’s popular series, which ultimately falls short of recreating the excitement of a Sherlock Holmes mystery because of Ritchie’s commitment to making “cool” films that resonate with the public, instead of paying homage to the original. As covered in lecture, Ritchie’s attempt at Sherlock Holmes can be called a reboot, not an adaptation. First, Ritchie takes the movie in an interesting direction by placing it in the Victorian era. Also, violence is prevalent in the movie—seemingly an attempt to appeal to the youth and those interested in action movies—while violence, certainly not to the same extent, isn’t incorporated into Holmes’ sleuthing in Ritchie’s stories. Another new aspect is the save-the-world plot, leaving it up to Holmes to take down Lord Blackwood and his followers. Yet, the film captures Holmes’ eccentricity from the stories, as well as his witty humor. However, even the relationship between Holmes and Watson seems off—resembling too much of a “bromance”—not to mention the creation of the characters, Irene Adler and Mary Morstan, which is just one of the reasons why Ritche’s Sherlock Holmes should be considered a reboot and nothing else. 

4. Online research on the film 

http://www.sherlock-holmes.org.uk/society/society.php

This website is about the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, which told me how much of an influence Sherlock Holmes has on society, but you can also find monthly newsletters, news, events and the history of Sherlock Holmes in cinema, radio and television.

http://dspace.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/854/1/Sherlock-Holmes-and-Expertise.pdf

This essay offers an interesting perspective on the expertise of Sherlock Holmes.

http://www.sherlockian.net/

This is another Sherlock fan website, but there’s so much information and links on here, making it a valuable resource for anyone interested in, or interested in learning more about Sherlock Holmes. For example, some of the tabs on the website include, “The original Sherlock Holmes stories,” “Sherlockian resources on the web,” “Pictures, sounds, games,” “Books, reviews and libraries,” “Pastiches, parodies, new stories,” and “Frequently asked questions.” Browsing this website, I came across the address for another website, http://sherlockholmes.ning.com/forum, which is an active Sherlock Holmes forum and another useful tool to increase one’s knowledge of Sherlock Holmes.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

We see twice in the film Holmes’s clinical application of violence. Which does it show better: Holmes’s brilliant intellect, or his masculine physicality? Or does it show both equally well?

In the film, there are many instances of violence, but there some that are unique from the rest, which display Holmes’ clinical application of violence and tell the viewer about Ritchie’s intended tone and purpose of the movie. In a couple physical altercations with opponents, Holmes, before actually fighting, visualizes (in a narration) the physical maneuvers he will use and then in real time, executes the moves flawlessly. This shows both his brilliant intellect, in how and where to strike an opponent and masculine physicality, because without his strength and instincts, those moves couldn’t be pulled off. He would have never been able to bring down his half-naked adversary in the Fight Club-resembling ring fight. These examples and the many other instances of violence in the film indicates the importance of violence and “cool” factor to Ritchie, who created a modern film for today’s youth and action-craving audience, as well as one reverent enough for Holmes devotees that hopefully they could appreciate.

Tristram Shandy

1. Analysis of the book

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, is an experimental book, from its release in installments over an eight year period to the narrative of the book, which is disjointed and focuses on a story about writing a book. The narrative, which includes passages in Greek, Latin and French at times, deals with fracturing the sequence of stories and adding between them ideas, memories and anecdotes, giving the novel a sense of thematic significance. According to lecture, Tristram Shandy has been said to anticipate modernism and postmodernism in literature. Perhaps this is why it’s considered an unreadable book, because of everything about it—while this might seem broad, it’s true—and that today’s audience can’t relate to the book because it was written in the mid 18th century.

2. Analysis of the film

Michael Winterbottom’s film adaptation of Tristram Shandy, titled, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, follows in the same footsteps of Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Believed to be an unfilmable book, the movie even pokes fun at this when Steve Coogan’s character says, “Why Tristram Shandy? This is a book many people say is unfilmable. Well, I think that’s the attraction…” Winterbottom’s film operates like a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie, capturing the essence of the original Tristram Shandy and taking it one step further with idiosyncratic actors in the movie that play themselves and actors in the movie within the movie. Without an understanding of Sterne’s book, however, it seems like it would be difficult to fully appreciate Winterbottom’s effort because its disjointed nature, the main feature of the film, can also be a confusing concept to grasp.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

The fact that Winterbottom was able to adapt Sterne’s book to film is incredible, because how can you make an adaptation of an unfilmable book? Winterbottom somehow pulled it off. Unlike Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy is as close of a real adaptation to the novel as you can get, which is a testament to his creative genius and ability to do more with a small budget, although in this case, the small budget actually helped the movie become more like the book. Winterbottom also compensates for some of the book’s unique features, such as the black page appearing after Parson Yorick dies, by putting the black page in the film, along with other quirks an intelligent and convoluted mess.

4. Online research on the film

http://nmalbert.hubpages.com/hub/Bertrand-Russells-Tristram-Shandy-Paradox

This website talks about the mathematics involved in the original Tristram Shandy scenario, in particular the Cantorian principle of correspondence. 

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/tristram+shandy

This tumblr on Tristram Shandy contains interesting tidbits people have shared, such as favorite quotes and pictures.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/460093

This essay, The Self-Conscious Narrator in Comic Fiction before Tristram Shandy by Wayne C. Booth, describes how a historian perceives the novel, as well as Sterne’s writing methods. Booth specifically talks about the effect of narrators, which furthers the reader’s understanding of Tristam Shandy, providing clarity about the narrative and Sterne’s writing. Overall, this is a very worthwhile source to read.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

After seeing Michael Winterbottom’s film version, would you agree that Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is unfilmable? Does Winterbottom’s film capture the essence of the book, or not?

After seeing Michael Winterbottom’s film version, I would agree that Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is unfilmable, not in the sense that it’s incapable of being reproduced, but that a film version of the book, like Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy, is too quirky and convoluted—only being able to be understood or appreciated by a select few—excluding myself. In other words, it doesn’t make a good movie. Winterbottom’s ability to reproduce the book and mix in some extra ingredients is quite amazing and a feat in itself. However, the narrative, humor and plot progression makes me believe that only a niche audience, who have either read and enjoyed the book or are into this type of movie, can appreciate the film. Therefore, yes, Sterne’s unfilmable book, Tristam Shandy, can be filmed, but its recognition will be capped.