Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Revised- Clue: from board game to film


You have six suspects, one body. So, who's the killer? Was it Mr. Green with the lead pipe in the lounge or could it of been Miss Scarlet with the candle stick in the kitchen? No matter who actually is the mastermind behind the death of Mr. Body, one things for sure: Clue, the movie, does a great job transferring over to film the circumstances and elements that make the board game original and riveting. 



The Characters
In the board game we have the characters Mrs. Peacock, Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Mrs. White.  An attribute of each of these characters is a specific color that makes their game piece recognizable. In the film, however, each character (although in deed having an article of clothing / item of the color from their board game piece) has a deep and rich backstory.  This backstory acts the same way as the game piece color.  It makes the specific character easily distinguishable. With this additional back story, the characters become more intricate and stronger possibilities for who killed Mr. Body. 

In the film version, there is an addition of three characters: The Butler, Yvette and The Cook. They were all a delight to watch (because they were each just so darn quirky!) but additionally they all aided in the telling of the story. The Butler is a constant aspect throughout the story- almost like a reflection of us, the audience, as players. When playing the board game there is always the possibility that you are the killer (but just don't know it!) As we watch The Butler "help" the 6 guests, there is always the possibility in the back of our heads that he is indeed the killer. 

The Locations
In the board game we have the kitchen, dining room, lounge, ballroom, hall, conservatory, billiard room, library, and study. The film version contains practically all of these locations. The best representation of this board game-like feeling is exhibited in the alternate endings when the butler goes through a step-by-step break down of how all the murders played out.  He, along with the suspects, frantically run from room to room, clearly paralleling their hectic nature to that of the game.




Alternate Endings
In the board game there are many possibilities for who committed the murder, what object, and where. The masterminds behind the film version were witty enough to transfer this ambiguity over to the story version by giving us three possible endings.  These endings were screened at various theaters, therefore making the audience practically a player themselves.

I personally found 2 of the 3 possible endings to be a joke. They were just flat out uneventful and felt like a waste of my time. Part of this is probably because this film is not at all a true mystery: although they are trying to "figure out" who the killer is, they never actually find specific clues that could possibly pertain to one character- thus, the ending can easily be swapped out. Anyhow, the one ending that did work was the most absurd of the bunch: we find out that Professor Plum is an undercover spy who was sent on a mission. Wonderful ending in my opinion! 



Genre
The genre/feeling conveyed through the aesthetics of the board game is seemingly that of a mystery. However, the true nature of a board game, is that of fun which in turn is transferable to the genre of comedy.  Therefore it is not surprising when we find the genre of the film that of a comedic mystery.






All in all, the film version of Clue does a great job capturing the essence of the board game. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jesus' Son: from book to film


Jesus' son is a book (and film) made up of many moments experienced by the protagonist, a messed up druggie, named Dennis Johnson. The book does not present much of a story arc, however, it does convey a certain feeling of passing by through moments quite quickly and people leaving and never being a constant. The film version incorporates the stories in the book, but applies a clearer character/story arc, showcasing his need to be with people and how drugs brought him closer to certain people, then tore him away.

After reading the book I assumed that the film would have a dark morose feeling: this, I was wrong about!  The film adopted a very comedic (yet still sad) outlook, making all of the characters seem almost idiotic. The drugged out sequences were very chaotic and odd- for instance, the scene (taken from the book) where Dennis sees his friend's naked wife parasailing past the window. The film presented this by having it come as sort of a random spur of the moment event, leaving us with the question of both: who is that? -and- what on earth? Like a set up punchline sort of comedic style, these questions are answered when Dennis' friend reveals the woman to be his wife. In the book it is impossible to reveal information as humorously.


In the book there is not much of an arc, but rather, moments of hope. An odd, but life-changing event of his life, Dennis spectates on a Muslim woman's way of life. Additionally, we see him as he begins to go through the process of ridding himself of his drug-bound lifestyle. In the film, more emphasis is placed upon these moments. The film applied more fantastical elements to the story then were eluded to in the book. This is probably because moments of fantasy best summed up the feelings of being high in a visual manner. Continuing off of this- during one of the scenes were Dennis is watching the Muslim woman, we see him [magically] place his hand through the window and onto her head. Although effectively summing up his transformation as a person (now he is fully aware of others and cares for them despite having any real reason), I felt as though this effect was a bit odd. To me it was an awkward moment to see his hand on her head, rather than a sweet and heart warming moment.

In the film (and book) we watch Dennis immerse himself into the realities of how easy it is for something to disappear from ones life.  We see this through the car crash, the death of his friend from a bad drugs (that could of and should of killed him too), the death of his girlfriend, the hospital, the death of the baby rabbits, and the old folks home. The film effectively utilized these stories and additionally found a way to harness them altogether: the film starts with the car crash and later on goes back to it. This applies a sense of closure to his character: he finally seems to realize that things are constantly changing and that one moment you have something, the next you don't.

All in all, I feel as though this film adaptation was quite brilliant. It not only provided a clearer structure/arc to the series of stories and moments, but additionally provided viewers with a deeper understanding of what Dennis was feeling by paralleling the effects of drugs with fantastical imagery. I would suggest watching the film if you have time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clue: from board game to film


You have six suspects, one body. So, who's the killer? Was it Mr. Green with the lead pipe in the lounge or could it of been Miss Scarlet with the candle stick in the kitchen? No matter who actually is the mastermind behind the death of Mr. Body, one things for sure: Clue, the movie, does a great job transferring over to film the circumstances and elements that make the board game original and riveting. 



The Characters
In the board game we have the characters Mrs. Peacock, Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Mrs. White.  An attribute of each of these characters is a specific color that makes their game piece recognizable. In the film, however, each character (although in deed having an article of clothing / item of the color from their board game piece) has a deep and rich backstory.  This backstory acts the same way as the game piece color.  It makes the specific character easily distinguishable. With this additional back story, the characters become more intricate and stronger possibilities for who killed Mr. Body. 


The Locations
In the board game we have the kitchen, dining room, lounge, ballroom, hall, conservatory, billiard room, library, and study. The film version contains practically all of these locations. The best representation of this board game-like feeling is exhibited in the alternate endings when the butler goes through a step-by-step break down of how all the murders played out.  He, along with the suspects, frantically run from room to room, clearly paralleling their hectic nature to that of the game.





Alternate Endings
In the board game there are many possibilities for who committed the murder, what object, and where. The masterminds behind the film version were witty enough to transfer this ambiguity over to the story version by giving us three possible endings.  These endings were screened at various theaters, therefore making the audience practically a player themselves.






Genre
The genre/feeling conveyed through the aesthetics of the board game is seemingly that of a mystery. However, the true nature of a board game, is that of fun which in turn is transferable to the genre of comedy.  Therefore it is not surprising when we find the genre of the film that of a comedic mystery.






All in all, the film version of Clue does a great job capturing the essence of the board game. 


Friday, March 16, 2012

Off The Rez: from story to film- a good choice or a bad one?

    Sherman Alexie, author of Off the Rez, writes a story about the journey of two friends, Victor and Thomas as they set off to fetch Victor's dad's ashes.  The film adaptation "Smoke Signals" follows a similar story line, with added exposition and more character development. Overall, however, I feel as though adapting this story into a film was not a good choice.

    Take a not very well written story, make it into a film, and you will inevitably find it nearly impossible for the movie to somehow be good.  I know I'm being a bit upfront about my opinion, but seriously: a story about two Indian used-to-be friends going on a "view changing" journey to fetch the ashes of Victor's shunned alcoholic father just fails to enlighten us and eradicate from within ourselves the stereotypes of what it means to be Indian.  One may bring up the counter-argument that this story tackles racial stereotypes by placing these two Indian boys into a situation that any American could possibly get themselves into / easily understand (having a love one whom you have not talked to in a very long time pass away.)  However, this argument fails because within the story these Indian stereotypes are clearly accentuated within the characters: odd, seemingly anti-social, not understanding, storytellers.

    The film version's story pushes the bad story elements up a notch (yeah, didn't think that could be possibly, now did ya?) For instance, we have this one scene where we see these two Indian girls who are crazily and cluelessly driving a car backwards.
1) This seems random.
2) This seems stupid- thus accentuating the stereotype of Indian's cluelessness of Western society.
3) Why?
Another instance is the scene where Victor converts odd Thomas into a "real" Indian.  What is that, you may be asking? Well, according to the movie, a "real" Indian is a stereotypical one.  Not only does this movie showcase stereotypes, but it applies it to the characters outlooks on themselves, thus creating a never ending cycle that results in the stereotypes becoming reality.

    On top of a badly written story, the film applies some poorly done cinematic forms of storytelling.  The film does a horrid job of trying to add more meaning in by using on the nose symbols.  First thing that pops into your head when I say: Indian? Did you think 'long hair'?  Well, I did.  And yes, so did this film. In the film we have Victor go through a mindset shift, causing him to cut off all of his hair (and in doing so, give himself a very.... stylish hair cut...)  This was just so obvious of a symbol that I couldn't help but face-palm upon the realization that this film actually contained such easy going material.  On a more technical note, the film uses lots of montage sequences, flashbacks, and cross dissolves.  I don't need to go into depth about any of this because it was just all done in such a manner that it seemed cheesy and unnatural.


    I feel kind of bad for giving such negative feedback about this film adaptation... so, let me provide you with something positive.  The film does a decent job at transitioning between Victor at a yonger age, to Victor at an older age.  In the film this is shown by having Victor walk through a door, switching from a shot of him now, to a shot of him as a young boy.  It was pretty well done.

    Not often do I flat out dislike a movie and/or story, but in this case I find it quite obvious that "Off the Rez" and "Smoke Signals" are just too over rated.  Watch it and you decide.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

American Splendor: From Comics to Movie

"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."
-Harvey Pekar

The much acclaimed comic series "American Splendor" follows the average-man character of Harvey Pekar and spreads light upon how facing everyday struggles can amount to [almost] a form of heroism.  

Let's say were in math class and we are using the law of syllogism (if A = B and B = C, then A must = C). Well, Self Reflexive Nature = Reality; Reality = Heroism; Therefore Self Reflexive Nature = Heroism.

Self Reflexive Nature = Reality
The comics effectively capture the essence of an average man by having the actual average man-character write about himself. It is, in a sense, an odd loop-- almost Inception-like (but instead of it being a dream within a dream, it is a comic writer within his very own comic; catch my drift?) Well, you see, in the film we take this whole self-reflexive nature to a whole nother level. Now, my friends, we have a film within a film about an actor casted to play the role of a comic writer who writes comics about himself.  Seems like a mouthful, so let's break this down into it's pieces.  Throughout the film we cut back to the "documenary footage," which is in a sense: reality.  We have the flesh and blood Harvey Pekar standing side by side with the actor playing himself.  Now, what I have just described to you is a clear parallel to the style taken on by the comics-- they are both self reflexive, thus showing the reality of his world.  

Reality = Heroism
Within this very reality, in both the comics and the movie we follow Harvey Pekar through his everyday routines, conflicts, and sometimes trivial concerns.  In one comic (also put into the film) we listen to Harvey rant on about how there is more than one Harvey Pekar in his phone book.  He begins to question the legitimacy of who he is and the meaning of life.  Another comic follows Harvey through his average weekend-- nothing special, but to the point and real.  In the film (and also comics) there is a section dedicated to Harvey's fight against cancer.  All in all, the comics tackle down every little story that makes up his life, despite how simple and insignificant they may seem.  But, you see, the magic of making his life into a comic book (and have it later adapted to film) is that significance is placed upon the everyday ordeal of a simple man like Harvey.  This medium brings our attention to whatever we choose to show, therefore creating new meaning.  Harvey becomes a hero because we allow ourselves to realize that his simple struggles (and sometimes large ones; e.g.: the fight against cancer), are real and are big in his life.  


Self Reflexive Nature = Heroism
So: this conclusion can now be drawn because we see that it is the medium of having Harvey's life placed within a comic and then Hollywoodized onto film that causes Harvey to become a hero.  No, the comics do not glorify him, nor do they put him in a superman suit.  However, the comics, in their nature, subconsciously bring us to a realm where we know we are about to spectate upon something big.  Harvey Pekar? Not so big.  But through these comics he becomes big.  And through the film adaptation he becomes even greater.  He becomes a hero. 

Harvey Pekar is simple, average, and seemingly not a hero.  He has created himself to be a hero through his comics.  The films further that point.  I hope my "math" helps you see how! 




Monday, February 27, 2012

Freaks vs. Spurs: Interpretation of Characters

    In the short story written by Tod Robbins in 1923, Spurs, we follow the dog-riding circus performer midgit Jacques and his love for normal-sized horse back rider Jeanne Marie.  Upon having his marriage proposal accepted by her, he soon discovers that there is really know love from her and that all she wants is his money.  In the end, he finds a way to seek revenge by killing her ex-lover, Simon.  This story was later adapted into a feature length movie entitled: Freaks.

    In the short story, there is an overall theme of seeking revenge.  The reasoning behind why Jacques must seek revenge is clearly adressed within the story.  For one, there is a strong polarity between Jacques and Simon: Jacques is a dog-rider, pretending to be a brave horse-rider, whereas Simon is the real thing.  This point alone showcases an inevitable and innate jealously and hatred from Jacques to Simon.  So long as Jacques can have what he wants (in this case, Jeanne Marie) then there is no need to pursue this hatred of Simon, correct? Well, soon after the marriage proposal, it becomes evident that Jeanne Marie does not really love Jacques as she begins to make fun of him and take advantage of him at each and every moment.  Because of Jacques want coming into conflict, hatred and revenge towards Simon became an inevitable theme.

    In the film, Freaks, we get more of an odd and appalling atmosphere.  This is created by the addition of new characters who actually possess bodily defects.  The theme of the short film seems to revolve more around defending your kind.  In the short story, there is a sense of disconnect between each individual as they, for instance in the marriage dinner party scene, rant on egotistically about how people come to see only them.  This instills a sense that every character is fending themselves in this world.  In the film, we see the freaks come together as a whole against everyone else.  This is showcased in many scenes.  A great scene that stands out, however, is when all of the freaks crawl beneath the wagons, coming after Simon.

    All in all, the short story and the feature length film present new view points.  In Spurs we follow the story of a midgit seeking vengeance, whereas in the Freaks, we follow an even greater group- we follow freaks, as a whole, and their quest to defend one another in this harsh world where no one can understand them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Smoke: Paul Auster's Use of Coincidence


    Smoke, the film adaptation of the short news article "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story," showcases the great multitude of stories that reside within each and every person and brings forth the question: are these stories true? Whether or not the story is of truth, however, may not completely be of the matter.  What is most important is if you believe in it.
    The author Paul Auster has a deep fondness for coincidence.  This is shown within both the film and the short story.  For instance, in the article, it is highly coincidental that Auggie Wren has a perfect Christmas story for the writer. (However, this can partially be attributed to the fact that Auggie Wren is [possibly] lying, therefore creating the perfect story, rather than relaying it.)  In the short film, Auggie Wren happens to have a picture of the writer's deceased wife.  This serves as a device for us to connect up to and understand the appeal and warmth of Auggie Wren.  Additionally, this is also obviously the authors love for coincidence being played out.
    Aside from the narrative examples of coincidence in Paul Auster's works, the style of both the film and short story showcase coincidence and irony.  The short story is literally the article that the writer character set out to write, thus furthering this process of stories being captured and forever known, regardless of there validity. The film tells the story in "chapters"-- each chapter clearly acknowledging the ark of a specific character's story.  This further emphasizes the feeling that there are many stories to be heard, and many faces to discover (just like in the pictures.)
    In both the short story and the film, the writer has a moment of doubting the truth behind the Christmas story of Auggie Wren.  However, this is quickly replaced with acceptance.  This moment of doubt is a clear representation of Paul Auster's questioning of reality versus fiction.  It seems as though the author implies that we should always accept a story that does no real over all harm, but rather, brings joy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All About Eve: The Adaption


     The film All About Eve (directed by Joseph Mankiewicz) is an adaption of Mary Orr's short story "The Wisdom of Eve." Although there are differences among the two version, the general thrust and plot of the story remains the same: a young, aspiring actress named Eve cleverly deceives and tricks countless people in the hopes of reaching her dream of stardom.
    Within the short story, we begin with a short monologue-esque introduction that sets up the tone of the story, clearly stating that: no, "Eve Harrington" is not a good person.  Within the movie, however, we start off with the opening scene of an awards ceremony, where we cut back among the reactions of the key players in the film.  We see that they all look quite perturbed with the situation- thus giving us a similar feeling to the introduction of the short story, the one difference being that in the film we are given less background information, thus many questions form in our head.


    In the short story, the author does a nice and simple job of skimming over and reflecting the events that occur to cause Margo to become suspicious of Eve.  In the film, we get a better look at this.  Rather than just seeing Eve watching Margo, the film presents to us little things, like: Eve sending Margo's husband a letter without Margo knowing, Eve dancing around with Margo's dress, and Eve being overly on top of things.
    The short story simply suggests that Eve Harrington tried to steal both the lover of Margo and the husband of Karen Richards.  In the film, this is taken a step further.  There is a full on, intense scene, where we see the true nature of Eve as she tries to capture the heart of Margo's lover.  Upon his rejection, she quickly decides to start going after Karen's husband.  Many scenes showcase Eve's determination for her goal.


    All in all, the film expands upon concepts that the short story simply suggests. Additionally, the film gives us a better understanding of the little things that make up each of the main characters.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Exorcist: Use of Sound Design to Create Fear


     The 1973 film "The Exorcist," directed by William Friedkin, is about a mother who is trying to save her daughter who has been possessed by the devil.  There are many cinematic techniques used to create a feeling of creepiness, but one of the main ones that I will address is the film's use of sound design, because throughout the film there are many instances where the sound design is being used to strike up fear.


     A method used within the film is the implementation of a reoccurring sound to cause us to unknowingly feel a sense of fear from recognition of this very sound.  This is used earlier on in the film when the explorer first holds onto an ancient demon relic.  There is this atmospheric, other-worldly, 'hum'-like sound that occurs which is paired with eerie visuals of the man being seemingly entranced.  When this sound later reoccurs, there is this involuntary reaction of fear that builds up within us due to our previous connection of bad things happening when this sound is heard.


     Another method used within the film was allowing us to hear a noise, but not see the source.  A great example of this is when we constantly hear "rats" (or so the mother thinks) in the attic space.  Because the audience never gets a chance to see these very rats, we can not help but begin to become skeptical about this, thus fearful of what could possibly be in the attic.  Later on, when the mother goes up into the attic space, we have built up a fear for her that is based solely on the sketchiness of the noise coming from the attic- and not on any visuals of what is actually producing the noise in the attic.



     Another method used within the film was implementing a voiceover to be placed within something outside of it's source- in this case the possessed girl.  As we follow along side the mother trying to figure out the source of the daughter's newfound "insanity," the one thing that makes it quite evident and obvious that the daughter is not mentally deranged, but rather possessed, is the use of various voices to be implement and synced up to the girl.  It is quite odd and jarring to hear such a low and sadistic voice coming from the girl, thus furthering our very own fear of the situation at hand.

     All in all, this film uses many sound design methods to bring forth a sense of fear.  The film is able to pull off using sound as a tool of recognition, a tool of suspense, and a tool of furthering the odd feelings that make the film as scary as it is.  We would have to assume that a film that has 38 people in the sound design department must have intricate and effective sound design (yes, IMBD says that). Occasionally the sounds and sound design is paired with creepy visuals, but for the most part, the sound design in this film is strong enough to stand alone.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sweeny Todd: Stephen Sondheim's Compositions

 
   Generally we see Tim Burton pair up with the just as dark movie scorer Danny Elfman, but in the film adaption of Sweeny Todd, Tim Burton couples his dark and twisted visuals to the witty and classy songs of composer Stephen Sondheim to create a heightened feeling and extension of the protagonist, Sweeny Todd's, newly found crazed mindset.

     Here are a few examples of the implementation of various songs within the film to reflect the crazed mindset of Sweeny.





"The Worst Pies In London"

     This song practically sets up the premises of this film.  Mrs. Lovett outright tells Sweeny that her pies are the worst in London, but alas, he should still eat them.  This gears the audience towards a mindset of: weird/off things are the norm in this world. Therefore, this is a clear parallel to how although Sweeny was once a normal man and thus is able to determine that killing people is wrong, he still goes ahead with it later on in the film.






"Pretty Woman"

     This song is first performed when Sweeny first gets to give Judge Turpin a shave.  We know that Sweeny intends to kill this man, and yet we hear them singing an almost peaceful and thoughtful sort of song (which further accentuates the insanity of Sweeny.)  Sweeny does not kill the Judge until the second time he gets a chance to give him a shave.  With the visuals of Sweeny slitting the Judge's throat paired with this music, it is quite obvious that Sweeny has lost touch with his old normal self.


"Epiphany"


     This song is quite climatic for it is the only composition that truly embodies the insanity of Sweeny.  The other more peaceful songs clash with the gory visuals, thus making us feel a sense of skewed perspective.  This song just throws his mindset right in our faces as we hear Sweeny preach on about how everyone deserves to die and we see him killing off many people.

     All in all, Tim Burton does a beautiful job pairing off his dark visuals to the brilliant compositions of Stephen Sondheim.