Blog Writing Assignment-Sherlock Holmes

1. Arthur Conan Doyle’s short “The Mazarin Stone” is a short story concerning Holmes’s search for a Crown diamond called the Mazarin Stone. The short is unique out of Doyle’s portfolio in that is written in third-person, while most Holmes stories are written in first-person. Most of the short story takes place within Holmes’s Baker Street Residence and is dialogue between him and Count Negretto Slyvius, who he suspects took the Crown diamond. Watson is almost completely absent from the short story, appearing only in the very beginning of the story before reappearing at the end with the police.

2. The film version of Sherlock Holmes pits the sleuth against Lord Blackwood, who seeks to destroy Parliament with the use of black magic and dark arts, which he used to apparently rise from the dead. The Holmes in the film is equally as logical as his literary counterpart, but is more witty and womanizing than Doyle’s literary version. He also is portrayed as more of a fighter than his literary counterpart, engaging in bare-knuckle street fights in the film, but Ritchie’s film sticks true to Doyle’s recipe, as ultimately Holmes’s logic allows him to save the day.

3. Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes is a loose adaptation of the texts. The plot of the movie is an original story, with the two heroes (Holmes and Watson) adaptations of the literary heroes. Aside from those two, just two other characters are from Doyle’s texts: Watson’s bride-to-be Mary and Irene Adler, Holmes’s romantic interest. Adler, a one-off romantic interest in another short story, was chosen to be Holmes’s romantic interest in the film. Her backstory remains mostly the same from the short story, but Adler’s profession is changed to be a thief and she is divorced rather than married—making it appropriate for her to show romantic feelings toward Holmes as well.

This article was a breakdown of the polarizing fight scenes in the film, which some saw as an unnecessary addition to the film and Holmes’s character. The fighting style, bartitsu, was actually used as a reference in a Holmes short story, erroneously called “baritsu,” which Holmes used a tactic from the style to slip out of an enemy’s grip and send him over the edge of a waterfall. The film’s fight choreographer Richard Ryan said the fight styles were modeled off of a type of kung fu Robert Downey Jr. practices, Wing Chun, which has vertically oriented punches like the film style used. Ryan said they added in the scenes of Holmes breaking down his attacks as way to show how logical Holmes is, even in fighting.
Gawker went and found the script for the Sherlock Holmes film after a quote from Robert Downey Jr. set off the blogosphere with rumors that Ritchie’s adaptation was going to be a gay love story, equally causing praise and horror over the supposed decision. The scene in question Downey’s comment referenced was the one where Watson lets Holmes know he is getting married.

I put these two together because they both make reference to the changes in Holmes’s appearance for the film—the lack of a Deerstalker cap and magnifying glass, and the addition of his long hair, five o’clock shadow, and his fighting prowess. The Wired article posed the question if people were ready to see Holmes like that, and the blogger’s review of the article felt the characterization was too much of a departure from the text.

5. Ritchie’s addition of fighting scenes are meant to be a refreshing addition to the Holmes character and function like that in the film, but purists would find it a desecration of the Holmes character. Purists would find the fight scenes an unnecessary addition because he is not a brawler like the Holmes of the film; Doyle rarely wrote scenes where Holmes would fight. However, Ritchie uses them to show Holmes’s skill and logic, while also playing on Downey’s masculinity. Holmes is shown to be an expert fighter in the film, and uses his logic and knowledge of the human body to inflict maximum damage in his strikes. Ritchie’s transitioning of Holmes’s customary logic to the fight scenes is fresh, albeit Hollywood-esque take on Holmes and his intellect (after all, violence is a moneymaker) but it’s not enough of a true departure from the Holmes character for it to be a desecration of the character.


Blog Writing Assignment-Bride and Prejudice

1. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth Bennet and her relationship with  Fitzwilliam Darcy, making social commentary on marriage and society for young women. The novel’s title comes from the attitudes both Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam overcome in the novel before they end up together; Fitzwilliam’s demeanor is interpreted as excessive pride, while Elizabeth’s thoughts on Fitzwilliam, other suitors and the idea of marriage is interpreted as prejudice. Elizabeth eventually warms to the off-putting Fitzwilliam and he curbs his attitude, so as the novel ends the two end up together.

2. Bride and Prejudice replaces Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam from Austen’s novel with Lalita Bakshi, an Indian, and Will Darcy, an American. Set in India, the film follows the same storyline as the novel, with the two overcoming their bad perceptions of one another to connect and fall in love. Much like the novel is a social commentary on its contemporary England, the film is a commentary on society in present-day India, in the sense that Indian identity is being lost among Western ideals (seen through Mr. Kholi and Darcy’s initial attitude towards Indian culture).

3. Bride and Prejudice takes Austen’s story and applies it to present day India; Lalita finds Will annoying and ignorant of her culture, while Will is portrayed as an arrogant American uninterested in her culture; both eventually get past those ideas and fall in love, copying the same basic story as Austen’s novel. The film adds in musical dance numbers and elements typical of most Bollywood films, but those elements, as well as the change in time period and scenery, don’t detract from the story at all. As far as the basic framework goes in the film, it’s a faithful adaptation of the film, just used in a different setting.

This article referenced a column written by Rajal Pitroda, an Indian film critic, who blasted Chadha’s film. Pitroda said the crossover film was asking for “American acceptance” and asked what had happened to the Bollywood that celebrated Indian culture. The author of the Teknocalypse article agreed with Pitroda, asking “what good is a film that is not original, or at least pretends to be” and that Indian films should stick to making films romanticizing Indian culture, rather than trying to cultivate Hollywood-style blockbusters.
This article points out that Gurinder Chadha is of Indian origin but doesn’t live in India; as she earned her stripes in Western cinema, her film is more of an interpretation of the Indian traditions for a Western audience.
This lengthy analysis of the film looked at the colonial and postcolonial ideologies of Austen’s novel and finds and compares the “neo-colonial” and imperialist undertones in Chadha’s modern day film version.

5. Like Lalita says to Darcy the film, Chadha turns India into a theme park, for two reasons: on the surface, to appeal to Western audiences, and deeper, to make a statement about Western influences on Bollywood film. Although the film contains large Bollywood-style musical numbers meant to appeal to the Western moviegoer, her comment to Darcy can be interpreted that Western influences are turning India into a “Little America” theme park and stripping away Indian traditions, evident through Mr. Kholi’s character. His character, a version of Mr. Collins in the novel, emulates the same idea Collins does in Austen’s novel; where Collins failed to grow through education and English society, Kholi replaced his Indian culture and society with Western ones. Both are the comic relief in their versions (both Elizabeth and Lalita are astounded someone could marry them), but Kholi represents the caricature of a Westernized India–and the fears that further acceptance of Western culture could turn India into Western “theme park.”

Blog Writing Assignment: Tristram Shandy

1. In the same way A Cock and Bull Story is a film-within-a-film, Tristram Shandy is a book-within-a-book. Sterne’s novel follows the character Shandy as he tries to write an autobiography of his life. The nature of the book is quite surreal–the first chunk of the text is primarily a recount of his birth–but his story is filled with stories of misfortune and disappointment (mostly regarding his physical appearance and disappointment from his father). Shandy’s long-winded autobiography essentially becomes a stream of consciousness-esque story filled with long tangents about other parts of his life and family history, nonsensical nuggets of information interspersed around his (rather unimportant) life story.

2. The film version of Tristram Shandy is more mockumentary than true film based on the book. The film follows the making of a true Tristram Shandy adaptation into film, with the majority of the actors playing petty, vain caricatures of themselves, with almost all of the actors having little interest in the text the film is adapted from. The characters featured in the film are a copy of Sterne’s Shandy in the novel, in the sense that they are as uninterested in the text as Shandy’s story is meant to be found uninteresting. Winterbottom’s film uses the mockumentary device as a tool, incorporate parts of the book around his behind the scenes shots by including them as finished scenes for a true Tristram Shandy film.

3. Although it isn’t a true adaptation, instead being more about the making of the film based off the book, Winterbottom’s adaptation of the book into his film is at most, the closest anyone will get to making an adaptation of Sterne’s novel, and at least, a spiritual adaptation of Sterne’s work. The text as it stands would be too hard to take and turn into a film on its own, but the structure of the film is clearly influenced by the structure (more like lack of structure) of the novel. Although the story might not be an exact copy of the novel, parts like the structure of the film or the attitudes of its characters make it a good adaptation of Sterne’s work.

NPR interviewed Winterbottom and Coogan when A Cock and Bull Story first released in 2006. Winterbottom joked that no one had read the book, and none of the actors could get more than five pages deep into it–filming the movie, he said, on the basis that no one had read it. The interview also focused on the difficulty of adapting novels with tough language into films, noting several other films had failed where Winterbottom’s film had succeeded.
A review of Tristram Shandy; the author says the film does a good job of pointing out the problems of making an unfilmable film, but the
Another review of the film, this one criticizes the banter between Coogan and Brydon but points out some of the film’s successes in referring to the book; it also says Sterne’s novel influenced some of Karl Marx’s early theories as a revolutionary journalist.

5. Winterbottom’s film-within-a-film structure and the disjointed narrative used in the movie mimic Sterne’s style and plot device in his novel, creating a film out of unfilmable text by employing the same style device Sterne did in his novel. Like the novel, the film uses a disjointed narrative over its length, using cutaways to show filmed scenes of parts of the book, in the same way the book features tangents and breakaways from Shandy’s man life story in the text. While the narrative in the text serves to further complicate Shandy’s character and minimalize his story among the other stories he has, the film uses the disjointed narrative structure as a tool, using it to minimalize the characters in the film, but also show those parts of the text to make his film a real adaptation of the text. A true adaptation of the novel would be impossible, thanks to its length and context, but Winterbottom is able to capture the essence of the book by using an updated version of Sterne’s disjointed narrative and the same plot tool he uses to tell Shandy’s story–a “making of” story as he writes his autobiography.