Blog Writing Assignment-Adaptation

1. Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief is a non-fiction book about John Laroche and his hunt for rare ghost orchids in Florida preserve. The book’s focus is on Laroche, and functions almost like a profile of him in his hunt for the orchids in a swamp in the preserve, with the help of a local Seminole tribe. Laroche, a plant dealer, is motivated in his attempt to find the orchids by profit, as he plans to clone them and sell them.

2. The film Adaptation follows Charlie Kaufman’s attempt to turn the book into a screenplay with the help of his (fictional) brother Donald. In the film, Kaufman struggles with writer’s block while trying to adapt the book into a film and eventually meets with Orlean to try and get some inspiration to write the film. From that meeting, a fictional narrative built for the film begins, one where Orlean and Laroche are in love and masterminding a scheme to turn the orchids into a psychoactive drug. The Kaufmans uncover the plot at the cost of Donald’s life, but the experience resolves Charlie’s issues–both his writer’s block and his personal ones.

3. Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of the Orlean’s book isn’t a true adaptation, but like Tristram Shandy, is more about the adapting of the text into a film. The film is more about Kaufman struggling to turn the book into a film, rather than a profile of Orlean and Laroche. The film includes fictional, slightly depraved versions of Orlean and Laroche, who eventually become the film’s villains in the Hollywood-ized final act of the film, one where Kaufman uncovers a drug-dealing plot (wholly written for the film). That ending serves as almost a parody of the film industry.

4. http://www.pheasnt.demon.co.uk/mudge/cmudge/adaptation.htm
This critique of the film called it the most “self-referential film since Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories.” The author said that just as Orlean intended to write a book about Laroche but ended up writing about herself, Kaufman intended to write a screenplay about Orlean but ended up writing about himself. In his critique the author called the book “unadaptable” because of its structure and because Kaufman wished not to Hollywoodize it, only for him to create a Hollywood-style, surreal second half of the film.

http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2011/07/great-character-charlie-and-donald.html
This article looks at the relationship between Charlie and Donald, comparing their relationship to the relationship of Orlean and Laroche in Orlean’s novel as the same thing.

http://threegeek.blogspot.com/2008/05/orchid-thief-vs-adaptation-jeremiah.html
This review called the film “the most original and bizarre adaptation in the history of adaptations,” pointing to the characters of Donald and Charlie being split personalities and the commentary on adaptations and writer’s block as reasons for the bizarre nature of the movie.

5. In Adaptation, Jonze and Kaufman are saying that some kinds of literary works may be impossible to film, but are the works that filmmakers should try to adapt. The film is a look at the process of turning an unfilmable book into a film, a process that was apparently wrought with bouts of writer’s block and a lack of faith in converting the text to film. Kaufman may have said he wanted to keep his adaptation devoid of the murder and violence normally seen in films in the film’s universe, but it was precisely the ending his film took on, likely as a tongue-in-cheek way to wrap up a film that would be impossible to adapt based on its source material. Kaufman likely recognized the structure of the story and its obsession with Laroche made for a compelling narrative on paper, but would be difficult to transition to the screen, so shooting a Hollywood-style ending to a film he didn’t want to Hollywood-ize was a way to parody the idea of an unfilmable film.

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Blog Writing Assignment-The Hours

1. Michael Cunningham’s novel the Hours is set in three time periods, with each one using Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as the common thread in their time period. Each character is unhappy in their settings; in the first, the 1920s, Woolf tries to write her novel, despite suffering from a severe mental breakdown. In the second time period, the late 1940s, a housewife reads Woolf’s book and finds herself bored with her life as a housewife, causing her to think about committing suicide before deciding not to take that route. In the final time period, the 1990s, a character meant to embody Mrs. Dalloway plans a party for a friend stricken with AIDS. Her dedication to throwing the party causes her to miss the signs of emotional pain her friend shows over her dedication to taking care of her, causing him to throw himself out of a window.

2. The film version follows the same plot as the novel, with three intercut stories connected by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Very little is changed from the film, if anything at all. The characters in the film are copies of their literary counterparts, and the film retains the same jumping structure as the text does. The film also begins with the suicide of Virginia Woolf, as the book does.

3. The adaptation of the Hours into a film stays faithful to the text it is derived from. Few changes were made to the film version of the book, with the only notable one perhaps the updating of the two later time periods. Just as Clarissa Vaughn is meant to be an embodiment of Mrs. Dalloway in the novel, the versions of the novel’s characters on film are the exact embodiment of their literary counterparts–complete with the unhappy feelings about their lives and circumstances and the contemplation of suicide some of the characters in the book have.

4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/01/the-hours-michael-cunningham-book-club
I used this link to answer a part of my critical response question because Cunningham, in an interview with the Guardian, explained the significance of the title of his novel. He got “The Hours” from Woolf, who used it as the working title for “Mrs. Dalloway.” Cunningham said
he chose to use the title because all the events take place in a single, ordinary day, with the times of each day (the hours passing by) giving the book its structure.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2003/feb/16/7
The Guardian article, written after the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, posits that the characters in the movie are pinned down by family and social obligations and simply want to break free; in Virginia, Laura, and Richard’s mind, breaking free of those obligations mean death.
http://www.helium.com/items/2281028-the-hours-virginia-woolf

This article analyzes the characters in The Hours, talking about the courage each character had; while Laura had the courage to live, Virginia and Richard had the courage to die, with Richard wanting to die on his own terms with dignity rather than letting his condition wither him away.

5. The title of the Hours refers to the hours that pass each character by during the one seemingly ordinary day the book is set in. Cunningham has stated in interviews the book is centered around that minutiae in those characters’ lives, so the title is meant to evoke “The Hours” each character watches pass by. Almost all of the characters in the novel and the film are unhappy in their seemingly happy lives and are unhappy letting those hours draw out–Virginia, despite having a loving husband and being a successful writer, is hampered by her mental state; Laura, who on the surface is in a happy marriage, feels stuck in her suburban housewife setting; and Clarissa, who is so determined to pull off a party for Richard she misses the signs of pain. Eventually, three characters take action to hopefully release them from those hours and their unhappy lives: Virginia commits suicide, releasing her husband from constantly caring for her, Laura leaves her family to make herself happy, and Richard throws himself out Clarissa’s window, releasing her from constantly caring for him.

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.

4. http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/the-bartitsu-legacy/the-fighting-arts-of-sherlock-holmes-part-2/
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.

http://gawker.com/5330061/how-gay-is-guy-ritchies-sherlock-holmes
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.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/05/ritchies-sherlock-holmes-wont-skimp-on-action-humor/
http://thatmoviebloggerfella.blogspot.com/2012/01/deerstalker-cap-mightve-helped.html

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.

4. http://www.teknocalypse.com/?p=541
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.

http://entertainment.indianetzone.com/films/1/bollywood_vs_hollywood.htm
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.

http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0705/06-mathur.php
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.

4. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5172762
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.

http://www.playbackstl.com/content/view/1753/
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

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/mar2006/tris-m16.shtml
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.

Blog Writing Assignment-Alice In Wonderland

1. Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland features a much younger protagonist, with an Alice around seven entering Wonderland. Carroll’s Alice seems to be about the protagonist growing older, as she continually goes through physical changes that sadden her, most of which make her larger. Although Carroll’s Alice seemingly goes through a nonsensical, dream-like journey, she is also confronted with danger and threats of death, like the “off with its head” calls of the Queen of Hearts.

2. The film is a modified take of Carroll’s original work. Burton’s Alice is an older version of Carroll’s Alice, while the themes of the original are changed, although the film does keep the lost innocence idea in its initial stages. Instead of Alice’s physical changes in Wonderland alluding to her physical changes and growth over the years, Alice’s pending marriage against her will serves as both the device to get her into Wonderland and the driving force behind her change. In the original story, Alice is only under the threat of danger, while in the film Alice confronts danger by fighting the Jabberwocky in combat.

3. The 2010 film very loosely adapts the original story in the transition to film. In the film Alice is much older, but this decision and the artistic style of the film are done to cater to a wider audience. Because of this the movie had to undergo significant changes, such as the aging of Alice and the addition of action scenes like killing the Jabberwocky, and ideas of marriage and independence. Those more adult themes and content dilute the amount the film functions as a true adaptation of the book.

4. http://www.genderacrossborders.com/2010/03/21/tim-burtons-alice-in-wonderland-is-almost-a-great-feminist-fairytale/

This article tackled the notion that Alice in Wonderland was feminist; despite criticism over the general structure of the film, the author noted that the strength displayed by the character and their status as a hero without marriage as signs of a feminist movie.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100303/REVIEWS/100309990

Ebert’s review of the film noted something I found strange as well–most of the species seem to only have one member, which he looks to believe is a decision by Burton to make them more obnoxious and peculiar.

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/68/68alice.php

This article talks about a common vein of “living backwards” and retreating to innocence and imagination in Burton’s films. Burton’s films feature characters with stable identities that run into disturbing differences and Alice in Wonderland is no different than his other films. Alice quite literally runs into those disturbing differences in her journey through Wonderland, which she previously experienced when she was younger (innocent) and free-spirited (imaginative). The author also believes Burton’s teenage Alice is meant to resemble the current generation–that she is part of the “me” generation and eventually comes to realize everything is subject to her will.

5. If removed, Burton’s engagement party framing device would change the way the film would be interpreted, because with the device the film serves as more of a reboot than an exact adaptation, and without the device the “daddy issues” and development Alice goes through during the film wouldn’t make sense. In the film, Alice has lost her father and leaves her engagement party (to a man she dislikes) when she falls down the rabbit hole; the set-up of the film to use an older version of serves the film to make it more of a reboot or sequel because it features a much older, more world-weary character than the younger Alice of Carroll’s story, who is simply bored of sitting near a riverbank. Her development through the movie culminates in her stand against her family when she returns to the party, but her development would be lost without the “daddy issues” caused by her father’s passing and the engagement party framing device, because it wouldn’t make sense for her to realize she controls her own destiny and make a stand without the animosity shown in the early stages of the film.