Monthly Archives: June 2012

American Splendor (2003)

Analysis of Book

American Splendor was a series of comics written by Harvey Pekar with a focus on the real world instead of the extended fantasy of more common place superhero comics. Seeking to make a comic book for adults, Harvey Pekar draws on events from his life to find the humor and artful drama of an ordinary American life. Through this he  reveals his morose and angry disposition at having a dead end, blue collar job and a life that seems set to mediocrity. The realism presented in these comics proved to be quite popular as more people could relate to the happenings in his routine American life.

Analysis of Film

American Splendor is a sort of biopic on Harvey Pekar and an adaptation of his popular autobiographical comic series. The film itself incorporates several different film styles to stay true to Pekar’s comics. It is part animation, documentary, biopic and adaptation that come together seamlessly to tell Pekar’s story. Animation in the form of comic panels and dialogue bubbles in live action scenes remind people that this movie is based off of Pekar’s several graphic novels, where he pioneered a realist movement. Interview scenes and documentary footage interspersed throughout the movie reveal the directors’ documentarian roots as Pekar candidly explains his inspirations for American Splendor and his other comics/graphic novels. This is a story about an ordinary person just finding the complexity and drama in simple things that happen all the time to most people. His voice over narration of the seeming mundane events that occur in his life reveal Pekar’s deep insight into his view of the world, which turns out to be a gloomy and miserable one sprinkled at times with happy undertones. For all his pessimism though, Pekar reveals a glimmer of hope and optimism when he reflects about the nature of living at the end of the film, “Sure I’ll lose the war eventually, but the goal is win a few skirmishes along the way, right?”

Analysis of Adaptation

The film adaptation of American Splendor stays true to form to Pekar’s original work by mixing genres. The film manages to keep to the themes and overall feeling of Pekar’s comics even though it isn’t a scene for scene accurate copy. The inclusion of comic elements like panels and dialogue bubbles help remind audiences of the roots of the source material. The documentary parts of the film served to provide a backstory to Pekar’s comics and this combined with his voice over narration turns the story into an autobiographical account of Pekar’s life.  It also serves as a way to remind people that Pekar derived all his stories from his own true experiences and successfully draws humor from the series of unfortunate events in Pekar’s life.

Online Research

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/1839

  • Interview with directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, Harvey Pekar, and Paul Giamatti.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/movies/reviews/n_9082/

  • Review in New York Magazine.

http://movies.about.com/cs/americansplendor/a/amsplendpekar.htm

  • Interview with Harvey Pekar where he discusses his thoughts on the film and how filmmakers handled his material.

Critical Analysis

After reading his comics, some people consider Harvey Pekar a difficult, negative person, while others claim they can see a concerned, compassionate person trying to break out of the kvetch. What did you see? And did you see anything different in the book excerpt as opposed to the film?

Although Pekar’s negative, difficult and morose personality is dominant there are still several instances where he demonstrates that he is a concerned, compassionate person. He is patient, understanding and most of all friendly to Toby and gets defensive when he sees that networks like MTV are exploiting and making fun of Toby and other “salt of the Earth type people.”  A somewhat more noticeable turn around in his negativity seems to turn around when he is diagnosed and treated with cancer. After being close to death, he seems to have reexamined his priorities and tries to do right by Joyce. When he is sick, he sees the joy that Joyce gets from playing with his artist’s daughter so he insists that the artist bring her every time. Although he never gives a reason, there is a subtext that he is doing it for Joyce’s sake because he wants her to be happy. Even though he claims he’s terrible with kids and would never want to have one, he takes in Fred’s daughter after both of her parents aren’t able to care for her.

In his rant on David Lettermen, Pekar demonstrates his compassion for the lower class of America as he talks against the concentrated power of media and government. His compassion and sparse optimism comes out most effectively at the end of the movie when he has this to say about life, “Sure I’ll lose the war eventually, but the goal is win a few skirmishes along the way, right?” In the movie Joyce claims that Pekar had a tendency to keep out the good or happy parts of stories so all audiences ever saw was Pekar as a negative, dark person. I don’t believe that Pekar truly is as morose as he comes off in his work but a fairly balanced person that the public never got to see until it is revealed in this film.

Adaptation. (2002)

Analysis of the Book

The Orchid Thief is a work of creative non-fiction by Susan Orlean, a writer for The New Yorker. The Orchid Thief  started off as an article in The New Yorker about the arrest of John Laroche, a horticulturist and orchid thief from Florida. Laroche and the state of Florida are Orlean’s main focus in this work as Orlean relays her time with Laroche. Nothing too dramatic happens within the span of the book but Orlean’s meandering and meditative narrative provides insights into her life and people’s expectations.

Analysis of the Film

Directed by Spike Jonze, Adaptation is a playful movie that experiments with realism and artistic liberty in movie. There are two stories going on, one about Charlie Kaufman, a screen writer struggling to adapt Orlean’s The Orchid Thief and then another about Orlean’s experience in Florida itself. Charlie’s difficulty writing his screenplay is seen side by side with his finished product as the movie switches back and forth between Orlean at the time of her interviewing Laroche and Kaufman in the present day trying to write a script. It is a self-reflexive movie where Kaufman pokes fun at himself and modern hackneyed Hollywood conventions in screen writing (like the voice over narration and deus ex machina he eventually caves to in his final script). There is an  interesting insight into the writing process with the voice over narration rattling off the frenzied thoughts of Charlie. Kaufman also seems to emphasize the importance of deeply engaging with source material to have a successful film adaptation of written work.

Analysis of the Adaptation

Adaptation embodies the complexities that Orlean’s delves into in her book only with a new story added, that of Charlie Kaufman. Evolution is the central theme in both the movie and the book and it is displayed on film successfully, not only in the way Charlie proposes (his montage of evolutionary stages on Earth) but in the Charlie character himself. In order for his script to work he has to mutate his usual serious, artistic style into somethingthing different so that it can successfully adapt to Hollywood cinema. Although some may claim that Adaptation strays too much from the source material, the movie had to change and evolve into something different so that it’s main message and spirit could translate over entertainment mediums. Orlean herself applauds this approach and agrees that it makes the movie a successful adaptation of her work. Like Tristram Shandy, this movie seems to wrestle with the issue of making an adaptation an artful expression of source material or a shallow Hollywood spectacle filled with overdone plot tools. Kaufman stays true to Orlean’s story and deviates from it at the end when both story lines finally converge physically with Charlie and Donald meeting Orlean herself.

Online Research

http://threemenonablog.blogspot.com/2011/05/film-review-adaptation-2002.html

  • Blog exploring the central themes of  Adaptation.

http://afellinimovie.wordpress.com/2009/03/21/adapting-the-adapted-adaptation-essay-on-adaptation-2002/

  • A blog entry for a film class where the author explores intertextuality and hypertextuality in Adaptation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2003/feb/22/features.johnpatterson

  • John Patterson explains how Nicolas Cage’s acting choices make him suitable for the dual role of Charles and Donald Kaufman.

Critical Analysis

Does the voice-over narration in Adaptation work in terms of presenting the interior lives of the characters? Or is it merely a gimmick, as screenwriting guru Robert McKee (a character in the film) suggests?

The use of voice over narration in Adaptation manages to add something significant to the perception of the characters in this film and is not merely a gimmick as McKee suggests. Although in some instances voice over narration is just a writer taking the easy way out, in Adaptation it gave Charlie more depth and made his struggle much more real to viewers. His socially awkward, tormented, and miserable personality is amplified when his scrambled and urgent thoughts are revealed aloud. People who write or have similar struggles socially further identify with his character knowing that they share the same thoughts.

The Hours (2002)

1. Analysis of the Book

The Hours by Michael Cunningham is a heavily internal, stream of consciousness novel that is centered around three women and their struggles with finding satisfaction in life. Readers are given entry into the characters’ thoughts and feelings into whatever predicament they’re in. Readers are able to identify and understand the struggles of these characters. Cunningham touches on the difficulty of living with AIDS during its first outbreak, suicide, and emotional detachment.

2. Analysis of the Film

The Hours is a film that tracks a day in the life of three women from three different times. Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway is what connects these three seemingly unrelated stories and Woolf is one of the central characters herself. As the movie goes on, scenes juxtapose on top of each other to show a connection in the disjointed narrative. Their depression and dissatisfaction with life also connects their narratives and is a central theme of the film. Daldry seems to explore themes of death (suicide in particular), sexual orientation, entrapment (into a certain way of life), the worth of living, and, to a degree, the negative affect of feminine gender roles and politics toward women. The urgency of time seems to be highlighted in this movie as several scenes throughout the movie include the ticking of a clock is a very audible part of the background music or noise. The Hours demonstrates excellent editing that helped keep the back and forth between stories from being too confusing, abrupt, or incoherent, resulting in a fluid story line that comes together well.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation

Daldry’s adaptation of The Hours is successful in that most of the themes expressed in the Cunningham’s novel are translated well into the film. We see the depression and unhappiness in each of the women shine through in the excellent acting of an all star cast. The narrative voice from the book is also preserved in some small degree because of Virginia Woolf’s voice over narration of her thoughts and ideas. If audiences are receptive enough, certain elements of the film such as a mise-en-scene, can help imply what characters were feeling at the moment since it couldn’t be explicitly expressed through narration like in the novel. One such scene is when Virginia Woolf sits in her study with a desk and paper on her lap and books or papers are shown to be strewn about the room is messy disarray. Looking at her surroundings, viewers can get a sense of the chaos going on inside her head as she tackles several thoughts about not only her book but her life. When Laura is in the bathroom crying as her husband beckons her to bed, we see she is in a small room with the door nearly closed, which makes viewers see how boxed in she must feel from her depression and her her husband’s obliviousness to her condition.

But again these things can be noticed if the audience is attentive enough to these details or cares enough to pay attention to these details, which can be a downfall for the movie with certain audiences who are used to more straight forward films. The film has to rely mostly on the audience’s receptiveness for it to be received successfully.

4. Online Research

http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C0DE6DE113CF934A15751C1A9649C8B63

  • Review from the New York Times where the Stephen Holden points out what scenes or elements of Mrs. Dalloway  is included in Cunningham’s novel and Daldry’s film.

http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=884326e2-ad56-4795-9313-5d610a98b1fc%40sessionmgr4&vid=2&hid=13

  • Article from Sight & Sound Magazine that talks about Daldry’s intentions when shooting The Hours and Michael Cunningham’s expectations for the novel.

http://www.tandfonline.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/doi/pdf/10.1300/J086v15n01_07

  • Movie review in Journal of Feminist Family Therapy that argues that The Hours addresses and criticizes, with its three main female characters, the role that men and a patriarchal society plays on women with mental illness. He claims that The Hours speaks to the struggles of three women in a society “that tends to ignore and marginalize the experiences of women and their right to speak on their own behalf.” He delves in depth into two particular scenes within the movie that demonstrate this: Virginia Woolf’s scene at the train station with her husband (which criticizes the role of her ever vigilant husband and a medical system that robs her of her own free will) and Laura Brown’s scene at the dinner table with her husband and son (which demonstrates her husband’s emotional detachment to her and its effect).

5. Critical Analysis

The Hours deals in intimate detail with the lives of three women characters. But is it a feminist film? Or does it reflect three distinct kinds or stages of feminism?

All of the women in The Hours fight back against conventional women’s roles in their individual stories.

Virginia Woolf is a woman under the control of her husband and doctors, who dictate where, when, and how she can do things like take walks. This was common for women of that time because once they married, they were seen as basically property of their husbands. At the end of the film, Virginia fights back against what her husband and doctors suggest when she runs away to try and catch a train back to London. What she wants most is to move back to London from the stuffy, dead suburbs and she successfully convinces her husband to let her return, taking control back in at least one aspect of her life.

Laura’s story takes place in 1951, after WWII and when the idea of the suburban nuclear family was the general life everyone strove for. Women were stay at home wives and moms whose duties included watching the kids, cleaning the house, and cooking. Laura does all these things but does not seem to enjoy any of it or be particularly good at it. She seems to be suffering from a depression that drives her to almost kill herself to release herself from what everyone thought were her womanly duties. When Laura decides to leave her family after the birth of her second child, she is breaking free from the role that society has pegged her in as a woman, making a feminist statement against the gender role of that time.

Clarissa’s family structure reflects a degree of modern day feminism. Viewers are led to believe that she conceived her child through artificial insemination. Judging by the mounds of papers shown to be on her desk, viewers can also assume that she is a successful editor and the modern day, urban working woman. She didn’t wait around for a man to establish her family and didn’t halt her career for one. She raised her daughter on her own bucking traditional gender roles by just going out and building a family on her own.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

1. Analysis of the Book

Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen’s sardonic and comedic social commentary on upperclass English life in the 1800s, the same time period as the novel’s publication. In this novel, Austen touches on patriarchal marriage politics along with the gender and class disparities present in her time. She pokes fun at the immobility of classes in England and the confinements women faced as a result of their class. Austen centers her story around Elizabeth Bennett, who is supposed to marry Mr. Collins in order to secure her family’s prominence in the English gentry but ends up eloping with Mr. Darcy. Through this novel, Austen highlights the patriarchal and conservative nature of the English upper classes even though more liberal idealogies were emerging in England at the time.

2. Analysis of the Film

Bride and Prejudice is a typical Bollywood movie filled with several musical numbers and a feel good ending. This film tries to explore several contemporary issues such as the effects of globalization, multiculturalism, and to a certain degree, old fashioned marriage politics. Gurinder Chadha’s multicultural background plays a huge influence in the movie’s setting as it takes place in India, Britain, and America. The lack of racial tension and/or discrimination within the film also showcases Chadha’s multicultural identity and tolerance. The overall tone of the film is light hearted, with bright sets, bright clothing, upbeat musical interruptions, and nothing too heavy is made of the issues previously mentioned.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation

Bride and Prejudice tries to reenact Austen’s classical work of literature through an Indian family rather than an English one. It is also in a modern setting as opposed the setting of Austen’s novel in the early 1800s so certain issues presented in Pride and Prejudice, such as gender inequality, does not shine through because of the closing of the gender gap through the centuries. Chadha keeps to Austen’s story line more or less with Lalita Bakshi playing the role of Elizabeth Bennett, William Darcy as Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Kholi standing in for Mr. Collins. Chadha offers a fresh and light version of Pride and Prejudice that has none of the deep and dire consequences presented in the novel (such as the implications of Lizzie eloping with Mr. Darcy). Chadha’s choice of an Indian family is clever because India is a country where social mobility was rigid and marriage arrangements still happen, therefore Chadha can still display the patriarchy and class struggles presented in Pride and Prejudice.

4. Online Research

http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=44a3de59-e7f5-469d-9298-7d686f353a76%40sessionmgr10&vid=2&hid=10

  • Journal article where Sapna Samant argues that Bride and Prejudice is not real Bollywood but a watered down version of it for western audiences. She also explores the western appeal for Bollywood movies such as Bride and Prejudice.

http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=742fd013-5dbd-446b-9a39-9c8268dd80e7%40sessionmgr11&vid=2&hid=10

  • Journal article discussing intertextuality in Bride and Prejudice.
  • An interview with Gurinder Chadha on her experience breaking into Hollywood and how she believed Bride and Prejudice would be recepted in India.

5. Critical Analysis

The character of Mr. Collins in the book is represented by Mr. Kholi in the film. Are they a good match? Why or why not?

Mr. Collins and Mr. Kholi have very similar personalities and characteristics that make Mr. Kholi a good incarnation of Austen’s character. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins is a pretentious man who loves to brag about his less than great status in life and comes off as a little idiotic. In the book, he is a little parody of the shallowness and privilege of the upperclass English gentleman. Bride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Kholi becomes a parody of the Americanization of Indian culture. He is pompous and feels he is privileged because of his “American” possessions and cultural knowledge. He doesn’t seem to care all that much for his native culture or Lalita save for her family’s assets. His over the top, snobbish behavior resonates with the Mr. Collins found in Pride and Prejudice.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

1. Analysis of the Book

“The Mazarin Stone” is a single scene short story that takes place in Sherlock Holmes’ apartment on Baker Street. This setting doesn’t help readers get a feel of the Victorian London that Holmes is located in but the description of his apartment and its contents helps readers get a feel for Holmes personality. From what is shown through the story, Holmes is an eclectic man with varying interests ranging from music, chemistry, theatre, martial arts, and more. Holmes witty, trickster, and intelligent personality shines through in his dialogue with Watson, Billy and the Count. Doyle seems to explores themes of non-violence, self-confidence, teamwork, and the importance of brains over brawn when trying to deal with justice.

2. Analysis of the Film

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes offers a fresh take on the literary works that have become iconic in both American and British cultures. Ritchie offers a dark, dirty, steampunk version of Victorian England, which excellent costume and set design helps to make the film feel like an authentic period piece. One of the highlights of the film is the relationship between Holmes and Watson, whose witty back and forth banter is not only entertaining but offers insight into the depth of their relationship as best friends and investigative partners. The inclusion of a new character, Irene Adler, adds more mystery to Holmes’ background prior to the starting point of the movie because of the allusion to a prior romantic relationship that has had a profound effect on the enigmatic Holmes. Adler also gives audiences another bad guy to focus on for a while, blurring for audiences who the antagonist is supposed to be. Slow motion scenes and voice over narration by Robert Downey Jr. give audiences an entertaining insight into Sherlock Holmes mind, revealing the somewhat mad genius that allows him to succeed in this film.

3. Analysis of Adaptation

Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes weaves a tale that is very much in touch with the Sherlock Holmes canon and makes it his own fresh brand of Holmes that can appeal to more contemporary or younger audiences. Ritchie leaves behind the small scale mysteries that Holmes usually solves in Doyle’s stories for something with global implications, making it a more layered work. Unlike the single setting visited in “The Mazarin Stone” this movie is set all over London with multiple antagonists at play and even a couple of subplots for viewers to chew on (Watson’s dilemma over engagement, Adler’s mysterious reappearance in Holmes’ life, and the introduction of Professor Moriarty). Christopher Bahn claims that “some of the most rewarding post-Conan Doyle works are the ones that wrestle with the canon’s inconsistencies and spin fresh tales out of them” and Guy Ritchie achieves this by not shying away from showing onscreen what Doyle merely implied in his stories, which was Holmes’ fighting experience and expertise and the possible romance with Irene Adler. Ritchie’s Holmes may be a lighter character for the sake of a PG-13 rating and may abandon what are thought to be classic lines or appearances, but the eccentricity, intellect, and comedy that readers love so much still appears on screen through Robert Downey Jr.’s characterization of Holmes. Most important of all, we get to see Holmes’ trademark power of deduction and attention to detail save the day in the end.

4. Online Research

http://whatculture.com/film/how-faithful-is-guy-ritchies-sherlock-holmes-to-arthur-conan-doyle.php

  • Trevor Gentry-Birnbaum analyzes how faithful Sherlock Holmes is to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work by comparing the two. He argues that the film picks up on small hints that may not be immediately understood clearly in Doyle’s stories (like how Holmes’ overactive mind may easily be overloaded and become a burden, as shown in the restaurant scene of the film). He observes how the film is authentic in its dialogue because of the inclusion of conversation almost verbatim from Doyle’s stories. Gentry-Birnbaum takes issue though with Sherlock’s appearance in the film as the original work cites Holmes as being over 6 feet tall, hygienic, and possessing discolored skin. He also believes that although Doyle’s work showed instances where Holmes got on Watson’s nerves, it wasn’t to the degree of exasperation as shown in the film so their relationship was not very in touch with the source material. Overall, Gentry-Birnbaum backs up with literary evidence that Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock is very in tune with the man Arthur Conan Doyle created.

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/12/qa-guy-ritchie-on-sherlock-holmesem

  • An interview in Vanity Fair with director Guy Ritchie, where he explains his choice of casting an American actor for such a British role and Holmes’ costume choices. He also talks about how his version of Sherlock Holmes works well with who Arthur Conan Doyle was and his literary version of Holmes.

http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2011/12/brains-vs-brawn-the-battle-for-guy-ritchie-sherlock-holmes

  • Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is compared to other contemporary versions of Sherlock Holmes in both the TV and movie mediums. Faye comments on why she believes that Ritchie’s action hero Holmes works well with the Holmes that Doyle presented to readers.

5. Critical Analysis

Should Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes remain on the syllabus for this class? Give 3 reasons it should be retained or removed.

Despite what many film critics may believe, this film is very much in the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and the time it is set in and should remain on the syllabus as it turns into a loaded subject to analyze.

  • This film is not a bad adaptation or reboot of Doyle’s work, it is just not like every other Sherlock Holmes TV show or movie that has come before it. This version appeals to a wider audience and gives Doyle’s classic literary work more exposure to that same audience. Seeing the film in theaters and again for this class piques interest in a classic work of literature. Upon actually reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes, I found it to be in touch with what Arthur Conan Doyle had in mind for his character so it is a good reflection of the source material.
  • The source material and the film are really entertaining to read, which can’t be said for most classic works of literature especially those of the British variety. Most people I’ve come across have a misconception of Sherlock Holmes as being stuffy, high brow, British reading that wouldn’t interest them. Having to read Sherlock Holmes for this class along with watching the movie is a good gateway for getting students into other British literature from the period.
  • The controversy around Ritchie’s version of Sherlock can generate a lot of constructive class discussion outside of just the differences and similarities between the source material and the film. Discussions can go deeper and explore the media, history, and psychology of the Victorian era and our post-modern era. Students can also explore how these factors affect our own modern perceptions of the books and film, which makes discussions on this subject very well rounded and worth while.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

1. Analysis of the Book

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a fragmented autobiography of the titular character and the people around him. The novel is written in multiple volumes and starts off with Tristram recounting the tale of his birth but the narrative soon veers off into several tangents recalling events that occurred before and after his birth. The narrator becomes so caught up recounting random events he never quite gets around to telling readers about his birth. The stories are chronologically erratic and the language tricky, which confounds readers as they try to keep up with where the narrator drops stories or picks them back up.

2. Analysis of the Film

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story is very much a critique of the vapidness of modern Hollywood cinema. Winterbottom makes it a point to highlight how cinema has become less about intricate art and more about shallow spectacle. The filmmakers and actors creating this film within the film care mostly about the inclusion of a big battle scene or another typical love story as the central story instead of really getting into the intention behind the original Tristram Shandy novel. With Steve Coogan’s sub-plots, the film explores the issue of male egos and male obliviousness to a woman’s burden with raising and maintaining a family. The “mockumentary” style of this movie and comedic performances sometimes blurs what Winterbottom is ultimately trying to say regarding these themes.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation

Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation was cleverly done because it mimicked very well the jumpy narrative, confusion, and insecurity that shines through in Sterne’s novel. Even if some event or story from the novel was excluded from being shown in the film, it received exposition some other way. Cast and production members discuss several scenes that got cut out of the movie’s original script, Jennie tells Coogan about the Tristopedia, and the hot chestnut scene is shown as a flashback from when Coogan was preparing to audition for the part of Shandy. Although A Cock and Bull Story does not follow the events of Sterne’s novel, Winterbottom captures the spirit of the novel with other plots in the film.

4. Online Research

http://movies.about.com/od/interviewswithactors/a/tristram011506.htm

  • Steve Coogan, in an interview, answers criticisms of the movie, talks about how he came to be on the film and some difficulties that came along with filming a movie with in a movie.

  • Director Michael Winterbottom and producer Andrew Eaton discuss the difficulty in trying to market Tristram Shandy to financiers of the film and their approach towards adapting the novel.

http://muse.jhu.edu.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/journals/eighteenth-century_studies/v039/39.4new.html

  • In this review by Melvyn New, he analyzes why American audiences may not have been receptive to this film because of the lack of familiarity with Steven Coogan and Robert Brydon in American media and tabloids. He also argues that Winterbottom’s version of Tristram Shandy is missing a certain degree of self-consciousness that is ever present in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Because of this and other elements such as casting, New thinks that Winterbottom may not have grasped some points that Sterne was trying to make in his novel.

(This link was obtained through the UMD research port so I’m not very sure if there will be any problems linking to the actual article. If there are, please let me know and I’ll try to find another way to show it.)

5. Critical Analysis

Two characters in the film, Jennie the intern and Stephen Fry (as an academic talking head) say that life is chaotic, driven by chance, and can’t be captured by art. Doe the film argue against this, or does it confirm it? How about Sterne?

In some aspects, Winterbottom’s Cock and Bull Story goes against the argument that life’s chaotic nature can’t be captured by art. Fry’s character claims that “life is chaotic, amorphic, can’t fit any shape,” and this film captures this description accurately because one doesn’t know whether to characterize it as satirical, comedic, or a serious adaptation of a classic literary work. This movie can fit into any of those categories given different perspectives. Both the film and literary versions are good at accurately imitating life’s winding nature because both start off with a set path (the tale of Tristram’s life) with a final goal (Tristram’s birth) that eventually takes the back burner in the narrative because of random problems or shifts in belief that pop up along the way. Life’s chaos is captured in both Sterne and Winterbottom’s Tristam Shandy due to rambling, non-sequential narratives, multiple sub-plots, and diversions in story telling.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

1. 

Imagination and suspended conventional beliefs seem to dominate Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Animals have the ability to talk and potions and food can make a person grow bigger or smaller. Carroll explores the difficulty and confusions of growing older through Alice. Carroll uses tricky wordplay and logic puzzles to entertain rather than tell a conventional story. He abandons a traditional plot line for smaller, connected stories about random events that occur while Alice is in Wonderland. This book has a dual appeal to both a younger and older audience. Children reading this book would be captured and fascinated by the fantastical elements of the story like talking animals and puzzles. Teens and young adults would be captured by Carroll’s allusions to growing larger and death.   

 

2. 

Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland shows a beautifully depicted Wonderland through his liberal use of CG to render the environments of the film. This gives Alice’s adventure an other worldly effect and looks and feels real enough to immerse viewers into a completely foreign environment. Costume and set design also play a huge role in showing the expansiveness of Underland. Each part of Underland has its own look and vibe (i.e. The red queen’s castle and its people are covered in shades of red and pink and adorned with hearts), which helps convey a sense of diversity in this world. Burton’s film emphasizes the importance of believing in one’s own abilities to accomplish things and to challenge contemporary social mores. Although some may argue that Burton’s adaptation may be a little gritty and dark, it still has enough light hearted elements such as comedy to make it appealing to several audiences. 

 

3.

Burton’s film is not a strict adaptation of the original written work as they both different themes and styles. Carroll’s world presents a more pure innocent world, where puzzles and games are abundant and no real problems are presented for Alice. There is no sense of urgency in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland like there is in Burton’s, it’s fun, light hearted and doesn’t undertake anything too dark. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland tries to maintain some elements Carroll’s work but ultimately departs from his nonchalant vision of Wonderland. Burton’s reimagined characters and their back stories have a more visceral and darker origin. There is a sense that something more grave is going on in Underland that makes it a place that is less cartoonish (like in other film versions) and a little disturbing. Burton’s wonderland to me comes across as more realistic because he presents a world with actual problems and evil people, where dangerous things can and will happen.

 

4.

http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2008/10/15/tim-burton-talk/

  • An interview with Tim Burton where he describes several production aspects of the film (animation and casting), his influences for his version of Wonderland, and the intention behind this reboot.

http://www.timburtoncollective.com/alice.html

  • This article argues the merits of Burton’s liberal use of green screen and a CG environment along with his choice in actors and how these elements take away or add from the overall story.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4QSC36sin4

  • Interviews with actors about working in mostly green screen environment along with an interview with Burton where he explains why his choice of using 3D fit well with his version of Wonderland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADTakWsxe2U, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCiAF6fliw0

  • Costume designer Colleen Atwood goes into detail about her process of choosing outfits for characters and how they add to the story being told and the animation technology used for the film.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/03/wonderland-tech-tricks/

  • In this series of interviews, Tim Burton mentions that he chose to shoot in 2D and convert the film into 3D later in post production so he could have more control over the depths and blending of the environment he wanted to create. He decided to use a variety of filming techniques in order to a achieve a proper realization of his creative vision of Wonderland and to make the characters seem more integrated into the CG environment. He also discusses some technical aspects of filming like the type of cameras used and why he chose those specific types of cameras. These interviews reveal how the complete digitization of this movie posed difficulties at all levels of production and gives a bit of insight into Tim Burton’s thought processes while filming.

 

5.

Carroll gave readers a book that was not supposed to have any substantial plot or final moral, which is something Burton was able to provide through a reboot. A film needs to make a statement on something so any one film version cannot strictly abide to the written Alice in Wonderland for the sake of entertainment. Burton had to transform Carroll’s novel into something with a cohesive plot that had a conflict, building action, and a resolution. This film is a reboot because Burton brings a new dimension to Alice in Wonderland by picking up where Carroll left off in his book and introducing brand new story lines and creatures to add onto Carroll’s initial vision. Burton still uses several characters, lines, and themes from the original written Alice in Wonderland only with his own signature creative flair added to them and the storytelling. Wonderland still exists but as a nostalgic place that Alice now identifies as Underland, it went from being a made up dreamland to an actual place. Instead of being childish and filled with light hearted wordplay, there is a darker depth to Burton’s Underland that goes along with the theme of growing up and dealing with the brutal realities of life. Alice’s insistence that she is in a dream is speaks to a person’s reluctance to give up the carefree non-responsibility of childhood for the “real world.” Burton’s quirky, oddball visual style fits well with the oddness Wonderland is presented to have in Carroll’s book but has been tweaked to appeal to a more modern audience and is not meant to be a true adaptation of Alice in Wonderland