Monday, May 14, 2012

Adaptations...a final word

For your final blog post entry, please go back through your blog posts and pick one to revise based on the comments you received. DO NOT erase the original post - copy and paste your text and revise (or however you want to do it) and post it as a NEW POST. That way I can look at your original and your revision and you won't lose any comments either.

You should be sure to pick one that has at least two comments. (See me if you can't find one with two or more.) Since I am still reviewing your Jesus' Son posts please choose from one of the others. They are:

Blog About Eve
Auggie and Paul
Freaks and Spurs
What is American Splendor
Off the Rez
Who Dun It?

Please post it up by the last class day - Wed, May 23. No comments required. You should also read this for Monday, May 21st:

Orchid Fever

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jesus' Son

In class we talked about the difficulties of adapting the work Jesus’ Son into a film, and also what we were expecting or hoping for in the film. What choices were made by the filmmakers that you thought worked well? Were there choices that you thought didn’t work well? What aspects in the book were left out of the film, or aspects added? What about the idea of the arc of the story – did you find it more definable in the film? Were there different choices that you would have made? Remember to think about not just content, but film style (and that can include acting choices). Please be specific with your examples from both the written and film text.

For this blog post there is a 500 word minimum, due Friday, May 11th.
Please be sure to comment on at least 2 blog posts by Tuesday, May 15th (100 word min).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Extra Credit Blog Post! - What board game SHOULD be a movie?

Are there any board games (or the like) out there that you think could be inspiration for a feature length film? Why? What would that film be about and look like? How would a filmmaker stylistically or plot-wise reflect aspects of the game? 

Please keep in mind that this is NOT an opportunity for you to make a joke, though certainly the film could be a comedy. Real thought and consideration should be put into the idea (still 300 word min) for actual extra credit points - but it is worth 100 points total!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who Dun It? Who made a board game into a movie...and why?

Yes, Hollywood will adapt anything, including board games. Whatever you think about this tendency, the one thing to consider with Clue is it inherently has narrative elements in it already: character, a dramatic question, scenes of confrontation (and possible conflict). It also relies heavily on a particular narrative genre. So it doesn't seem quite as crazy as possibly some of the other game to film adaptations.

What are your thoughts on the approach that the filmmakers took to bring this game to life on the screen? How did they handle the content (characters, story, tone) and how did they handle it cinematically? How would you have done it?  Please remember with your writing to be specific and fully explain any examples, and make sure you are writing analysis and not just opinion.  Here are some resources you may want to check out:

NY Times Review from when the movie was first released.

A fan site dedicated to the movie. Though the film did NOT do well at the box office, it has gained a bit of a cult following.

Original Post is due by Tuesday, April 17th. Comment on at least two others by April 20th. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Off The Rez

As Stephanie Harrison points out in her introduction, Smoke Signals is the first movie written, directed, produced and starring all Native Americans in Native American roles (or Indian Americans, the term Sherman Alexie prefers).  At the same time, it was essential to the filmmakers that they create a film that would be appealing to a wide audience, and not just for Native Americans. They wanted to illuminate the life and dilemmas of the modern Native American to every American (which includes a staggering statistic of alcoholism and substance abuse among those that live on Reservations), rather than sustain the old western stereotypes of "The Noble Savage."  Yet, a part of their response was also living in the shadows of that stereotype (I think you can definitely see this in the character of Victor, the song about John Wayne, and their discussion on what a "real" Indian is supposed to look like). 

Knowing that "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" is only of the texts that was the source material for the film adaptation (there were other shorts stories in the collection that were sources for the story in the film), what do you think about the use of film conventions (or dare I say "formula") to help shape the story.  Was it a noticeable change from the writing in the short story, or was it similar to other adaptations we've looked at (like how All About Eve changed a lot from the original text simply for the medium of feature film)?  I guess part of what I'm asking is do you think the "Hollywood Storytelling Conventions" were apparent and did they help or hinder the film? 

A great example to counter this film, and its Hollywood conventions, is Sherman Alexie's film directing debut The Business of Fancy Dancing, which uses very non-traditional film storytelling conventions.  It's worth a look if you have access to a Netflix account (unfortunately it's not on Instant).  We watched it last year in Film Genres and some of your classmates have seen it.  Interesting to note, Alexie also utilized a very non-traditional filmmaking method to make the film - they had an improvisational shooting style day to day (did not use conventional shot list) and everyone on set, including the grips, were asked their opinions on what types of shots to get to capture the scenes.  Alexie also tried to hire as many women filmmakers as possible, in response to the issue of how few women filmmakers there are in the industry.

For those interested, an amazing documentary exploring the historical portrayal of Native Americans in American film is now available on Instant Netflix. I saw it at the Traverse City Film Festival two summers ago and it was fantastic.  It's called Reel Injun, and many of the filmmakers involved in Smoke Signals are interviewed.  Extra Credit to anyone who watches it and writes a blog post (no due date - anytime before end of semester).  But it's worth a watch in general!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is American Splendor?

From Stephanie Harrison's Introduction:  Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the team who cowrote and codirected American Splendor (the film), were only vaguely familiar with Pekar's comics when they were approached about the project. When they settled down to read, the two became fascinated by the various artists' incarnations of Pekar and decided to use this shifting perspective as a device. The film intertwines Pekar as played by actor Paul Giamatti, Pekar as cartoon, Pekar as seen on David Letterman's talk show, and Pekar as himself. "It felt appropriate to call attention to the artifice of the filmmaking in American Splendor," Pulcuni says, "because it...[is] in spirit with the character and the rebellious nature of the comic book."

For your blog post please reflect on the filmmakers' approach and the self-reflexive nature of both texts.  How does the stylistic approach of the film (think cinematic tools, too) also help to explore the questions of identity that can be found in Pekar's writing?  Did they capture the "comic book style" in the film as well?  And what about this quote from Pekar himself: "I want to write literature that pushes people into their lives rather than helping them escape...I think the so-called average person often exhibits a great deal of heroism getting through an ordinary day, and yet the reading public takes this heroism for granted." Did you find a hero in Harvey? 

You don't need to answer all those questions - but please use them as jumping off points for your post.

As always a minimum of 300 words for your blog post, due Friday, March 9th.  Please also be sure to comment on TWO other blog posts (and yes, if you check the syllabus there is a min word count of 150 for comments, though I'd be okay with only 100 - I'm looking for QUALITY more than anything) by Tuesday, March 13.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Freaks and Spurs

In 1970 Ivan Butler wrote about the film Freaks: "Browning has turned the popular convention of horror topsy-turvy. It is the ordinary, the apparently normal, the beautiful which horrify - the monstrous and distorted which compel our respect, our sympathy, ultimately our affection. The visible beauty conceals the unseen evil, the visible horror is the real goodness."

Do you agree with this interpretation of Tod Browning's film and the characterization of the characters in it?  Do you think that Tod Robbins (the writer of "Spurs") had a similar treatment of his characters?  Write a post in which you examine how the "author" of each text presents to us their characters and how that presentation affects our feelings towards the characters, keeping in mind the different themes that each piece actually explored.  Be sure to back up your ideas with specific examples from the texts themselves.

Minimum 300 words. Due by Tues, Feb 28th.  Response to two other blog posts by Fri, March 2.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Film Genres - Auggie and Paul

In her introduction to "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story" and the adapted film Smoke, Stephanie Harrison points out that "many of Auster's narrative tics are present in his screenplay, including his fascination with coincidence, his fondness for digression, and what he has called the 'force of contradiction.'" Can you trace these tendencies in both the short story and the film?  Are they merely in the narrative, or can you trace them in any aspects of style as well?  Why does Harrison point out the "self-reflexive" nature of both pieces, and how does that relate to Auster's "inherent questioning of reality and fiction, truth and lies?"

Definition of self-reflexive from Merriam-Webster Dictionary online:
marked by or making reference to its own artificiality or contrivance 

Please write a post spurred from these questions, minimum 300 words, by Tues, Feb 14th.  I don't necessarily expect you to answer all the questions, but please make sure you address them as much as you can.

Please also make sure to comment on at least two other blogs by Friday, Feb 17th.  Please make sure you don't comment on the same blogs each week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Film Genres - Blog About Eve

Even though she wasn't given screen credit it's obvious that the film All About Eve is adapted from Mary Orr's short story "The Wisdom of Eve" (which was actually taken from a story she heard from someone else).  The story within a story approach is a similarity between the two works, though there are many differences.  In your opinion (backing up with specifics) what adaptation choices did Joseph Mankiewicz make that were driven more by the medium (film versus fiction) and what were more individual choices he made as an artist.  Be sure to think about both similarities and differences.

Minimum 300 words, due up by 2:30pm January 31st.
Please be sure to respond to two other blog posts by Friday, Feb 3.