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Book Analysis

The Orchid Thief is a novel written by Susan Orlean that follows her real-life experiences with Mr. John LaRoche, an eccentric and very intelligent man whose passions often border on the obsessive. The book documents the arrest and subsequent trial of Mr. LaRoche in response to his involvement and orchestration in “orchid poaching” which he committed so that he may clone the flowers for resale to collectors. The most prominent themes throughout the novel include the rediscovery of passion in the world, and the notion of one’s obsessions. These themes are seemingly intertwined with one another as one’s obsessions can merely be a heightened sense of passion and passions may often move closer to obsessions; the distinction is highly subjective.

Film Analysis

The film Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze, is one that falls under the category of a “meta-film” as it relays the tale of a screen-writer’s efforts to adapt Susan Orleans The Orchid Thief into a film. The movie stars Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation’s actual writer) as he struggles with the concept of translating Orlean’s narrative onto the silver screen. It should be noted that the film serves as a sort of satire to the adaptation process in creating a film from a book as Kaufman (Nicholas Cage) refuses to subscribe to the Hollywood methods that he sees as being overly simplistic, and strives to make his product as faithful to the book as possible. Jonze rapidly cuts between different perspectives which include Susan Orlean’s New York, the Kaufman brothers’ Los Angeles, and John Laroche’s Florida which affords the audience a look into three different settings; each supporting the film’s themes. Adaptation, like Orlean’s original novel, has a reoccurring theme of “passion” which shows itself through the original narrative involving LaRoche as well as in Kaufman’s strife in putting out a flawless product (which proves to be an impossible task).

Adaptation Analysis

Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of The Orchid Thief is an effective translation in that it maintains (albeit loosely) one of the major themes from the novel: passion. In addition, Kaufman’s rendition of Orlean’s work takes a subtle page from her book (so to speak) by working himself into a story which, at a glance, would have had little to do with him. However, the parallels between the book and film end there as what was supposed to be a collective effort between a satire of the film-making process and the themes of the novel became a product that drew heavily from one and sparingly from the other. Adaptation is predominately a satire on the process of “adapting” books into different mediums and shares close to nothing with Orlean’s narrative aside from the characters and settings. 


3rd Party Sources


  1. A.      An interview between About.com’s Ed Saxon and author Susan Orlean about the process leading up to the movie and her feelings on Kaufman’s Adaptation.


  1. B.      An in-depth summary of both Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief and Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation that summarizes both while including commentary (mostly regarding the film) about the difficulties faced by Kaufman when attempting to adapt such an information-heavy novel into a Hollywood film.


  1. C.      A blog entry detailing (and compiling) analyses and theories about the character of Donald Kaufman and what role he truly plays in the film as well as what Charlie Kaufman’s ultimate intent was in including his fictional twin into the film.


  1. C.      This blog entry, written by Scott Myers of “Black List” gives some very insightful analysis as to what Charlie Kaufman’s intent was in including his “twin” (Donald) in the movie. Aside from serving as a sort of foil to Charlie in that their personalities are practically polar opposites, Myers brings forth the theory that perhaps Donald represents a side of his personality/ creative being that he has recently come to terms with. Myers, as well as a number of contributors in the comments section, suggests that Donald may represent a side of Charlie Kaufman that, in writing Adaptation, Kaufman learned to embrace. In the words of Jack Benjamin in the comments section, “Charlie is seduced by Donald’s structured, safe, rote writing style and in the end he succumbs to it”. Given Charlie’s aversion to said writing style (as introduced during McGee’s seminar), Donald would serve as his perfect foil in a narrative sense. Gaining this perspective, viewing the film while viewing Donald and Charlie as two sides of the same coin can grant the audience access to a rather subtle theme as introduced by Kaufman in his writing.

Critical Analysis

In many ways, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred in Adaptation. Give an example or two of this, and make a case about whether this blurring makes the film more, or less, of a cohesive and compelling work of art.

Within Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, there are a number of instances that call into question what is real and what is merely a perception of Charlie’s that he projects onto the world, creating a sense of consistency with the rest of Kaufman’s writing. An example of this is Charlie’s initial perception of Susan Orlean which he forms from reading The Orchid Thief. At first, his expectations of Orlean seem borderline whimsical which, at a glance, causes the audience to join in his sentiments that paint her in a fantastical light. The reality, unfortunately, is not nearly as endearing as is often the case and viewers are “brought back down to earth”, so to speak. This “blurring” between fantasy and reality, in my opinion does not take away from the film’s status as “art” at all. In fact, one could argue that this plot device adds depth to the film in the form of an additional theme: shallow expectations. Charlie bases his opinion of Susan solely from her writing which results in an overestimation of her character whereas his very low opinion of his own brother, Donald, misses the mark yet again being that his twin turns out to have a bit more depth than he initially thought.




The Hours

Book Analysis

Michael Cunningham’s book, The Hours, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written in 1999 that surrounds the lives of three women as they struggle with the satisfaction (or lack thereof) that they feel about their lives. The three women, Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, and Clarissa Vaughan are each shown to have deep regrets as to what their lives have become, and all three have very obvious struggles with depression. It should be noted that these struggles are a connection between the three as much as they are palpable disconnect between themselves and the surrounding world. The themes expressed in Cunningham’s book are suicide (contemplated by all three women), dissatisfaction with one’s roles in life, and the notion of not living for the benefit of one’s self but instead existing for the sake of others.

Film Analysis

The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry and based from the book of the same name, follows the same plot and structure of the book and shows the events of just one day for each of the three women. Thus, like the book, the reader (or viewer in this case) is shown the parallels between each of the characters’ lives, even though the events taking place are decades apart. The film maintains the same thematic elements as Michael Cunningham’s original novel as it shows each of the three women being held captive by their societal roles, obligations to others (e.g. their families) and the resulting depression that these notions bring about. Suicide, again, plays a very large role in their stories as they contend with the readily available option of escape. The film also affords the audience a visual representation of the changes in setting and atmosphere as it shifts between characters (and time periods). Most notably is the change in wardrobe between periods, from the 1920’s English garb and pronounced application of makeup worn by Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, to the more modern apparel of Meryl Streep (Clarissa Vaughan) in 1980’s New York. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Philip Glass, adds a very somber tone to each scene, heavy with strings and slow rhythms whose rhythms remain largely consistent throughout, despite the change in periods.

Adaptation Analysis

In adapting Michael Cunningham’s novel into a more visual medium, some obvious issues that must have arisen were those associated with the difficulty in relaying the lives three different women from three different times into a coherent and watchable story, without the advantage of textual. Whereas the book had plenty of time to develop the lives of the three characters, the movie had a more finite period to work with which, due to a lack of narration, relied on the audience’s abilities of perception to grasp the concepts put forth. I feel that this film may have translated better into a mini-series consisting of perhaps, four episodes, each an hour long that would give the writers (and audience) more time with the characters. If this were the case, I believe the final scene in which Laura is revealed to be Richard’s (Richie’s) mother would not have been necessary as the connection between the two women would have had the opportunity to be a bit more fleshed out.

3rd Party Sources

a.      http://rhetoricalrepresentationsinbooksa.blogspot.com/2007/09/hours-book-vs-movie.html

A blog entry analyzing the parallels and differences between the book and film adaptations of The Hours including character analysis and the overall effectiveness of Daldry’s translation to the silver screen.


b.     http://tech.mit.edu/V123/N1/michael_cunning.1a.html

An interview conducted between MIT Arts Editor Allison C. Lewis and author Michael Cunningham that delves into his inspirations for writing and his feelings on Stephen Daldry’s film adaptation of The Hours.


c.      http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2003/feb/12/oscars2003.oscars

An interview conducted between The Guardian’s Michael Billington and The Hours director Stephen Daldry, detailing the process of drafting the script and the difficulties in pulling three stories into one film.


*B. Reading this particular interview with Michael Cunningham is a very worthwhile endeavor as it grants a behind-the-scenes (or rather, behind-the-pages) perspective as to what his intention was when writing The Hours. During the interview, Cunningham reveals that, being a gay man, he is “absolutely a feminist” and was seeking empowerment on behalf of his “sisters” (not literal). In addition, he discusses the characters of Clarissa and Laura, the latter of which was loosely based on his own mother. Thus, after reading the interview, one can watch the film adaptation with these things in mind and know that, as admitted by Cunningham himself, it was indeed an effective translation that he was satisfied with.

Critical Response

Madness and suicide are central themes in the three intersecting stories in the film. Is it all too much, leading to over-heated melodrama, or does the film give us three nuanced and unique views of these themes?

In both the book and film adaptations of The Hours, each of the three characters faces their own respective frustrations with their lives which lead to the contemplation and in the case of Virginia and Richard, the act of suicide and although this theme is heavily dramatic, it is absolutely essential to the understanding of all three characters. The ever-present theme of one’s life as a prison and death as liberation speaks of the plight that each of these women faces and, more importantly, the distinction between them shown in the choices they make. For example, the first scenes following Virginia Woolf reveal a woman who is suffering from bipolar disorder and feels as though she is not in control of her own life. Her husband Leonard keeps a watchful eye on her and, when confronted by him, she states that if she is to live, it must be according to her own choices. Later, we are shown her eventual suicide, a fact which suggests that her inability to live for herself was too much to bear. In contrast, during Laura’s attempted suicide, as she looks in the mirror she realizes her commitments to the people in her life (such as Richie) and decides that because of others, she must go on. In Richard’s case, he spends the final period of his life being cared for by Clarissa and even though he is finally lauded for his artistic talents during the award ceremony, he still decides that an escape from his life stricken with AIDS is his only viable option. It is then revealed, in the final, scene that Laura’s leaving Richard as a child had a deeply impactful effect on him. Thus, without the weight that is carried with the themes of suicide and madness (in Virginia’s case), the impact that one’s life and actions has on the life of another could not have been relayed so effectively.






Bride and Prejudice

Analysis of the Book

Pride and Prejudice, a novel written by English author Jane Austen in the early 1800’s, was a book that served as a sort of a satirical social commentary on a multitude of subjects. The plot surrounds the same period as the book’s own publishing and touches on subjects such as gender roles, disparities in social class, and marriage. The story follows the wealthy and arrogant Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his courtship to the charismatic and witty Ms. Elizabeth Bennett; a relationship that serves as the main conflict of the book as a result of the class differences between the two. The major plots explored in Austen’s novel include the development of mannerisms (or etiquette) in relation to social standing, the development (and subsequent abandonment) of unfounded pre-conceived notions between characters from different social classes, and as the title might suggest, the associated pride that comes with the aforementioned phenomena.


Analysis of the Film

Bride and Prejudice, the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s original novel of [similar] name, is filmed in the style of “Bollywood”, the film industry known to the Hindi-speaking people that reside throughout much of India. The film, directed by Gurinder Chadha, follows the same basic plot as Austen’s book and maintains much of the same cast, despite being set in a completely different cultural backdrop. The themes of the novel also remain largely intact (marriage, being judgmental), with the exception of a change from conflicts stemming from “class” differences to those resulting from cultural differences as the courtship between Mr. Darcy and Lalita (Elizabeth) is one that reaches across ethnic boundaries. Another notable difference is the film’s inclusion of musical performances (a lyrical mix between Hindi and English) which add a degree of emotion, enthusiasm, or simply emphasis to a number of pivotal scenes that would be difficult to capture in literature. The change in the cultural setting results in a change in garb from that that was worn in 19th century England, as the whole cast was outfitted with traditional Indian garb; adding a very festive and colorful tone to the film as a result.


Adaption Analysis

Bride and Prejudice is an effective adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel in that in captures its major themes despite being in a drastically different setting (both in place and time). However, it could be argued that the impact of the film’s message surrounding the relinquishment of prejudices for the sake of love, did not translate as well. The premise of overcoming prejudice that was seen in Pride and Prejudice was so remarkable because of the negative preconceptions that stemmed from a notion as seemingly insignificant as one’s social standing. On the other hand, Bride and Prejudice modernizes the idea today’s context in which globalization is supposed to have dissolved class disparities in democratized nations and much of the conflict in the modern era instead results from major cultural barriers in areas such as customs, religion, and especially language. Thus, although the message remains largely the same, the ridiculousness of the initial tension loses much of its impact to more relatively more justified disparities (those being cultural not gender-related). In addition, despite Jane Austen’s sardonic style of writing, the book still had a degree of seriousness and definite believability. The film, however, loses these traits during the musical scenes which add a much more fantastical experience and take a degree of realism away from many of the scenes.


3rd Party Sources

A-     http://movies.about.com/od/brideandprejudice/a/bridemh020905_2.htm

The script of an interview between about.com’s Rebecca Murray and actor Martin Henderson (Mr. Darcy), that gives a western actors perspective on acting in a new cultural setting.

B-     http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2004/09/16/gurinder_chadha_bride_and_prejudice_interview.shtm

An interview between Jamie Russell of BBC Movies and director Gurinder Chadha that covers a variety of subjects including the difficulties in adapting a movie across language and cultural barriers.

C-     http://www.bollywhat-forum.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=d1ec95914b9b00b08c9ec60a3644d950&topic=10363.0

A forum thread dedicated to Bride and Prejudice on a blog site dedicated to Bollywood films as a whole and events occurring in the film community.


  1. B.      It is often the case that an interview conducted with the director of a film will give one more insight into the creative process that occurred in its creation and this particular interview is no exception. The dialogue between Russell and Gurinder Chadha affords readers the opportunity to step away from the “Austen-to-Bollywood” question, and enter the “Bollywood-to-Austen” perspective. First and foremost, the interview specifies that Bride and Prejudice was filmed and written as a Bollywood movie first, and an adaptation second which is, I feel, an important thing to know when watching as you can clearly see that the demographic that Chadha was reaching out to was one familiar with foreign cinema (as opposed to Western cinema). Chadha goes on to discuss his casting decisions for the lead roles, difficulties he faced with the Indian members in his cast who were not acquainted with Jane Austen, and the reaction of the Bollywood community to the finished product. Perspective when watching any film is key, and gaining it from the Bollywood perspective makes viewing the film an even more fruitful experience.

Critical Analysis

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?

Gurinder Chadha’s Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one that draws on the novel’s basic themes and inserts them into the tradition and tone of a modern Bollywood film which causes a disconnect for fans of the book. This tradition, rife with song and dance, is largely characterized by a melodramatic approach to acting in which emotions and body language are exaggerated; much in the same spirit of early Western cinema which is far from the understated realism of modern films. As such, Jane Austen’s original novel is somewhat diluted in the translation which is tempered for a Bollywood audience, and as a result adds too much whimsy in the over-exaggerated acting and dance numbers than was ever felt in Austen’s original novel. It is not so much the insertion of new culturally distinct music as it is the insertion of music at all that ultimately distracts one from the original (rather serious) messages surrounding real prejudices and discrimination between classes. In the end, the message does remain intact as Mr. Darcy and Lalita (Elizabeth) forsake the differences between them for the sake of their love and are wed. However, I feel that the flashy music serves as a not-so-needed addition that detracts from more than it adds to the message; a notion that isn’t surprising when considering Chadha’s decision for Austen’s influence to take a backseat to the appeal of the Bollywood audience.




Sherlock Holmes (2009)

  1. Reading Analysis: Sherlock Holmes and the case of the Mazarin Stone is a short story that surrounds the exploits of the renowned detective as he dodges plots of murder while solving the case of a missing stone for a Lord Cantlemere. The dialogue within the story is very colorfully written with a dry wit that paints Holmes as a seemingly jovial individual with a marked certainty in his abilities and a profound intelligence (as narrated by Watson). The detective, who is seldom found laughing, brings a degree of humor to the story through his rather unconventional methods of investigation which include but are not limited to starving himself, “because the faculties become redefined when you starve them”. As with many of the plots involving Mr. Holmes, the most perplexing part of the story is the eventual reveal of the strategy being employed by Holmes, at which time his previously haphazard behavior is shown to have been part of a grandmaster scheme to solve the case all along. One recurring theme in these stories is Holmes’ use of deception to achieve his ends. In this case of the Mazarin Stone, Holmes utilizes his own effigy to fool the suspected criminals a number of times throughout the case, and uses it as a means of distraction so that he may reclaim the missing jewel in the story’s climax.
  2. Film Analysis: The 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie, stars Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary sleuth and Jude Law as his faithful assistant, Watson. The film is set in London at the close of the 1800’s, and plays heavily on the themes of the industrial revolution that was occurring at the time; utilizing cinematography that showcased set-pieces and scenes with very dark, muted colors and an ever-present, albeit subtle layer of soot on the town (likely due to factory smoke). The soundtrack for the film, composed by Hans Zimmer, had a very mixed instrumentation that included violins, saloon pianos, and even banjos during certain scenes that gave the entire film a debonair atmosphere that was well-suited for the character of Holmes. The film was not narrated and its dialogue and story-progression was carried forth by way of conversations between Holmes and Watson as they discussed the case (a man seemingly returning from the dead, complete with a murderous vendetta), a series of flashbacks in which Robert Downey Jr., as Holmes, answers questions posed by crime scenes through an internal monologue type of analysis, and a plethora of action sequences rife with gunfights, explosions, and fisticuffs.
  3. Adaptation Analysis
    Guys Ritchie’s film adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes books did not seem to be based on any one of Holmes’ cases but instead utilized the themes, characters (all were present in the books aside from Lord Blackwood), and overall feel that accompanies the reading (or viewing in this case) of the sleuth’s adventures. Overall, I feel Ritchie did a fantastic job translating the Sherlock Holmes experience to the silver screen and did so while fulfilling his directorial obligations to Hollywood by including numerous action sequences with the typical Holmes narrative. A marked difference between the books and Ritchie’s adaptation was the opportunity for the audience to enter the mind of Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) as he dissected crime scenes and replaced the seemingly supernatural with logical conclusions. Being that the film had no narration, this method was a fantastic way to keep the audience on the heels of the detective (although always a half-step behind), as well as emphasizing Holmes’ genius through his process of analysis, which was seldom shown in the books until the end of the scene or case. Ultimately, I believe the Sherlock Holmes series is better suited for a television show than a full-length film, if only because the books themselves are themselves relatively brief and numerous. The show was adapted into a television series in the 1980’s which ran for a full ten years before cancellation. The “case of the day” style of the books seem better-translated in a medium with lower production values than Hollywood requires, and would give the audience the opportunity to experience each case; not requiring directors to pick the best or most interesting of them due to budgetary or time limitations. In the end, Guy Ritchie’s film served its purpose without sacrificing the elements that make the Sherlock Holmes mysteries what they are for the sake of an audience that is becoming increasingly averse to literature.
  1. Outside Sources
    1. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2009/12/hans-zimmer-on-his-sherlock-holmes-score-real-life-takes-place-in-pubs.html

An interview with composer Hans Zimmer who scored the entire film where Zimmer discusses his motivations and strategies in the instrumentation.

  1. http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2011/12/sherlock-vs-sherlock-robert-downey-jr-or-benedict-cumberbatch/

An article written by BBC America that compares and contrasts the performances of Robert Downey Jr. in Ritchie’s adaptation, against Benedict Cumberbatch who starred as a young Sherlock Holmes in a BBC television adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in 2010

  1. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/825270-what-is-better-book-or-movie-the-1-with-robert-downey-jr

A discussion board on goodreads.com that poses the question “Which Holmes is better: the book, the film, or the television series?”

C.  This source, a message board that spans nearly 40 comments from different users of goodreads.com, gives very interesting insight as to how Guy Ritchie’s film stacks up to the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as other mediums such as the films starring British actor Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s. Those who are relatively new to the adventures of Holmes and Watson would do well to observe this fruitful discussion between adamant fans of the book and film series. Discussed in this message board is the contrast between the acting methods/talents of each actor who has played Holmes, the original character from Sir Doyle’s books as he was supposedly meant to be portrayed, praise and criticisms of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the detective, and how well they feel Guy Ritchie’s film does against the older films as well as the television series. Following this dialogue can grant a very insightful perspective when watching Ritchie’s adaptation as one is afforded the opportunity to compare it with many of the other forms of the Sherlock Holmes mythos.

 5.       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?

Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. arguably does a very clever job of emphasizing Holmes’ intellect through his combat prowess. It should come as no surprise that Hollywood, today, has a distinct interest in violence and most films incorporate physical conflict in some form in order to appeal to the more diverse audience of the modern era. First and foremost, Sherlock Holmes is an intellectual and is best known for his ability to quickly analyze a situation, whether that be a crime scene or an individual, and come forth with a solution or resolution. In this sense, some may be disconcerted when watching Ritchie’s 2009 adaptation which shows Holmes entrenched in numerous (at least three) fight scenes which, on the surface, may seem like an appeal by the director solely to an audience that loves the mindless violence that the silver screen has grown so accustomed to. However, it is the method that Ritchie employs during these sequences that keeps the focus Holmes’ intellect intact. During these scenes, the audience is afforded the opportunity to enter the mind of the detective, complete with narration, while he very strategically observes his opponent, his surroundings, and the most prudent way to go about dispatching the ruffians. I believe this could be seen as a mere translation of Holmes’ sleuthing skills onto the battlefield and not a simple display of masculine physicality.


Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

1.      Book Analysis

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is an autobiography that surrounds Tristram in which he narrates segments of his own life as well as those surrounding him. Aside from Tristram himself, the novel follows the exploits of Uncle Toby, a veteran whose time is spent reenacting his adventures at war, and Walter, Tristram’s father. The precise chronology of the events discussed is amusingly erratic as the narrator jumps between events both preceding and following his own birth that may or may not have involved him at all. It becomes apparent that Sterne, through Tristram, is parodying traditional narrative as much of his commentary involves the fact that even as he writes it is questionable whether or not the story has progressed at all. The themes involved in the book include the intentional use of a digressive style of writing, the inconsistent order of events or history, and the supreme authority that the author possesses within their own story.


 2.     Film Analysis     

             A Cock and Bull Story, directed by English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, was a 2006 adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy which is structured as a “meta-film” (a film within a film) and follows the exploits of Steve Coogan (as himself) in his attempt to create a film based off of Sterne’s original story. The theme of disorder is ever-present throughout the film as Coogan reveals to the audience that his personal life mirrors the maelstrom of Tristram’s more closely than his best efforts at acting it out could possibly have achieved. As a stand-alone film, A Cock and Bull Story is an amusing stroll through the film-making process, granting perspective into a world that, according to Winterbottom, does not take itself entirely seriously. However, when held beside Sterne’s book, a whole new experience is had by the audience as they become cognizant of the links between Coogan and his character.



3.      Analysis of Adaptation

      The movie parallels the book in an unconventional manner in that it satirizes the film-making process much the same way Sterne’s book satirized the writing process.  Similarly, Coogan’s “acting” throughout is so comfortable and subtle that at times it seems more of a documentary than a scripted narrative, despite the hybrid mix of dry and over-the-top humor. Winterbottom’s chosen method  of film-making is once again (and likely intentionally) reminiscent of Sterne’s unconventional writing that sometimes falls nearer to an impromptu monologue than a drafted piece of literature. A Cock and Bull Story effectively delivers the experience had in Sterne’s novel during the “off-screen” segments in which Coogan unwittingly echoes his character when the camera (in the film) isn’t rolling.

4.       3rd Party Perspective

a.       http://www.damaris.org/content/content.php?type=5&id=494

An in-depth analysis into the themes present in A Cock and Bull Story which draws comparisons between Winterbottom’s method of filming and those present in other mediums of story-telling (e.g. books, other films).

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

An exclusive interview with actor Steve Coogan in which Rebecca Murray recounts his answers to questions posed by critics and audience-members alike regarding the film.


c.       http://www.cinemalogue.com/2006/03/10/tristram-shandy/

Commentary by Rubin Safaya which begins with a detailed summary of the events within the film which includes input from the actors themselves and is followed by Safaya’s own critical analysis.

B.     Reading through Rebecca Murray’s interview, one gains the perspective of a lead actor regarding the troubles, challenges, and miscellaneous goings-on involved in filming the “un-filmable”. Coogan recounts his experience working with Michael Winterbottom before, during, and following filming of A Cock and Bull Story and as he explains his eagerness to take the role as a result of the seemingly insurmountable challenge posed by accepting an incomplete script, playing multiple roles, and being asked to play the role of himself acting in a film with no prior knowledge of Sterne’s book. Reflecting on the film with his commentary in mind, one is able to fully grasp the hurdles Coogan faced and appreciate the flexibility required of him to have performed under those circumstances. In addition, Coogan’s commentary on the experience of acting in a film within a film, in a sense projects to the difficulties that Laurence Sterne must have faced when writing the original story.

5.      Critical Analysis

How is the film a mockumentary (a documentary parody), a parody of a “making of” film, or a satire of reality programing? And is such a project within the spirit of Sterne’s novel?

Michael Winterbottom’s film A Cock and Bull Story is what is referred to as a “meta-narrative” which means it is a story within a story. As such, the audience is given two different worlds to observe within a single film in that they witness a retelling of Laurence Sterne’s tale of Tristram Shandy, in addition to the events supposedly behind-the-scenes which details the lives of the film-makers. Being that the entirety of the film is scripted and often pokes fun at the players involved (mocking them), Winterbottom’s film can indeed be considered a “mockumentary”. This term refers to any parody on any events in reality where the supposedly script-less participants further the story or plot in often exaggerated and humorous ways. These phenomena can clearly be seen in A Cock and Bull Story as Steve Coogan and co-star Rob Brydon dramatize the filming process with their constant bickering, colorful dialogue, and over-the-top displays of emotion. Delving further, it is this notion that makes the film such an effective adaptation of Sterne’s original novel in that Sterne himself spent almost the entire book satirizing (mocking or ridiculing) the entire authorial community with his disjointed commentary on writing his own (from the perspective of Tristram Shandy) autobiography.





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Alice in Wonderland Assignment

1.    Lewis Carroll’s novel, Adventures of Alice in Wonderland , written and published in the mid-1800’s is a story whose narrative, despite being thematically subjective, surrounds a young girl who finds herself awake in a world that would seem better suited to those asleep. Disregarding interpretations not directly visited by Carroll himself, Wonderland, the world that Alice literally falls into is a realm built on the logic of a dream where wordplay reigns supreme and reality is intertwined with feverish imagination. Carroll’s original story is markedly different in some respects from the more recent Disney adaptation in the 1950’s in that the book contains a degree of darkness mingled with madness that would be difficult to achieve in a film that is predominately directed toward a younger audience. However, even those who have not read the novel are mostly familiar with Carroll’s original characters that remain largely intact throughout most interpretations as well as the themes of dreaming, maturation or loss of innocence, existence as a puzzle or riddle, and madness itself.

2.    Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s original book, titled Alice in Wonderland, employs Burton’s own personal brand of cinematography to achieve the unique thematic elements of the book. Burton, known for his directing style that mixes the dark and the surreal, utilizes visually dark (if not overtly colorful) set-pieces to represent “Underland” (Wonderland), and takes certain creative liberties in creating the characters that populate this world. The music in the film is not overemphasized and instead works to bolster Burton’s quirky script that is heavy with wordplay and mostly subtle humor.

3.    Tim Burton’s success in adapting Lewis Carroll’s work to his own design is debated among critics but from my perspective, Burton succeeded in some respects but faltered in others. According to some, Burton succeeded in achieving a fantastical tone to Wonderland, but unfortunately made this tone too established and neglected to add a degree of reality intertwined with the madness. The film had a focus on action where the book itself had very little, and failed to differentiate itself from many other Disney films which rely heavily on visual stimulation rather than the mental stimulation found in the book. Overall, Burton kept most of the characters in place as well as a hint of Carroll’s mad narrative, but could not capture the spirit of ambiguity between fantasy and reality that made Adventures of Alice in Wonderland so unique.



A.http://www.boxofficeprophets.com/column/index.cfm?columnID=12642: An in-depth comparison between Lewis Carroll’s original novel and Tim Burton’s adaptation

B.http://designingsound.org/2010/03/the-sound-of-alice-in-wonderland/: An interview with Steve Boeddeker, the sound designer and supervisor for the film that explores his     motivation and strategies for the film’s soundtrack and sound design.

C.http://www.genderacrossborders.com/2010/03/21/tim-burtons-alice-in-wonderland-is-almost-a-great-  feminist-fairytale/: A critical analysis of the film from a site that explores gender roles and themes in   multiple forms of media.


A: This article, taken from boxofficeprophets.com, gave invaluable insight into the similarities and differences between Lewis Carroll’s original story and Tom Burton’s live-action film adaptation. Whether or not you’ve read the book recently, this article does an excellent job in relaying the obvious links and disparities between the two mediums as well as introducing new ideas that are a bit more in-depth in the realms of theme, plot, and character motivations. Overall, this 3-page article written by Russ Bickerstaff is an excellent supplement to viewing the film and allows you to see Burton’s interpretations alongside Carroll’s story without having to go back and re-read the entire book.


5.    Is Burton’s Alice an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s book, or could it more properly be understood as a reboot of the Alice franchise, as it introduces new story lines and characters? So then what is the difference between an adaptation and a reboot in the case of this film?

Tim Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland serves a curious role with regard to Lewis Carroll’s original book. While most of the characters remain the same as well as Wonderland itself with its many settings, Burton does take creative liberties in his sculpting of Carroll’s narrative. Some critics wish to call Burton’s film adaptation a “reboot” of the original story due to the introduction of new characters such as Leo Bill, Alice’s fiancé but I would suggest instead that Burton’s film be viewed as a sort of sequel or continuation to Carroll’s Adventures of Alice in Wonderland being that she is now an adult. In fact, as suggested by Russ Bickerstaff in his article comparing the two versions, the film could be seen more as a reboot of the book’s sequel Through the Looking Glass in which Alice revisits Wonderland as an adult. In most cases, a reboot is a re-envisioned version of a story which keeps certain aspects of the original intact such as characters, themes, and plot while putting their own unique “spin” on their portrayal. In the case of Burton’s Alice, the same cast of characters taking part in a completely fresh plot sounds more reminiscent of a sequel than a reboot.  

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