Blog Response – The Hours (ENGL329B)

1. The Hours is a book that closely mirrors Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. The novel follows three women, one of whom is Virginia Woolf, and analyzes their thought processes. The novel also takes from Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness, a style that follows the thought processes of the characters, and can be viewed as insane, but is something we all do. The novel also ponders issues pertaining to straight/LGBT relationships and mental illness, such as the real affliction that VIrginia Woolf almost certainly faced.

2. The Hours, the film, is a very successful film that won several awards. The most notable piece of Hollywood’s influence in this film is Nicole Kidman’s prosthetic nose. She plays Virginia Woolf in the film and this is viewed by her as having the infamous nose and a perpetual scowl. Her unhappiness ultimately culminates in suicide which is furthered by her acting, which won her an Oscar for best actress.

3. The adaptation is fairly close when we compare it to the films we have previously viewed. The three women are followed throughout a single day and their lives are chronicled from their point of view. The film is pared down from the expansive novel, as is the case in most adaptations. The most worthy facet to note is how the performance of the actors makes the movie much more depressing than the film. It is one thing to read about the effects of AIDS on the human body and then it is very different to actually see it play out.

4. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2004/oct/31/features.review

This interview with Nicole Kidman has her talking about how the negative experiences in her life have given her the inspiration to transform herself for her roles, most notably her role as Virginia Woolf. What one should consider is that Virginia Woolf’s sadness was influenced greatly by her mental illness. She most certainly suffered greatly (sexual abuse) but Nicole Kidman derives her motivation solely from her experiences, or at least that is all we are given.

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-hours-2002

The late and great Roger Ebert reviews the hours, and notes that the ending shows an emotional vortex is created for those that do not have love in their life.

http://catholicexchange.com/movie-review-dont-waste-time-with-the-hours

While obviously biased, this review does make the interesting argument that the film wraps the points it tries to make in such suffering and sadness that it is difficult to create a conflicting opinion.

5. How does homosexuality (including lesbianism) function within the film?

I think the most critical homosexual character in the film is Richard Brown, as he subtly controls Clarissa to the point that she cares for him, regardless of her commitment to her partner. His illness (AIDS) is such that the repugnancy of his control over her is castrated by his immense suffering and impending death. But that begs the question of whether he would hold her to his side through the memory of their relationship or not if he was healthy. Regardless, their homosexuality and lesbianism reflects a rejection of what they once had, but somehow Richard creates a sinkhole that keeps Clarissa on his side, even when he ends his own life, removing himself from the possibility of another shared moment of happiness. The complexities of his character (namely his homosexuality and continues relationship with Clarissa) and the way he controls Clarissa show the critical nature of sexual identity and its interaction with the lives and relationships of these characters.

Blog Response – Bride and Prejudice (ENGL329B)

1. The themes of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are based in English society, namely the facet that Mr. Bennett’s estate is entailed, which means it could only go to a male heir. With five daughters, he would leave his property to Mr. Collins, which bypasses his daughters and leaves them to fend for themselves. This aspect of the English gentry sets forth the entire sequence of events of the novel, and it can be deduced that without this initial prerequisite, there would be no story. The absolute adherence to these rules and regulations at the expense of the (seeming) good of the people is harped upon by Jane Austen throughout her novel.

2. From the initial scenes, the difference between the West (Britian/USA) and the East (India) is hammered home by every aspect of the film. When Mr. Darcy and the gang get off the plane in India, they are wearing very Western garb (it should be noted that the men are not wearing ties, which is a common style for businessmen in “non-Western” countries), but a few minutes later in the film, they are wearing traditional Indian dress. This serves as a visual cue for how the societies are going to be separated. It should also be noted that there is a subtle filter change between the scenes in “India” and “Los Angeles.” “India” is reddish and “LA” is more blue.

3. The film is much happier and light than the book, as there are no real implications for anyone to get married or not married. Mrs. Bakshi’s biggest fear when Lalita refuses to marry Mr. Kholi is that she will miss out on his large LA spread and be kept from moving on. This is in stark contrast to the fortune and entire life the Bennett’s stand to lose if the marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins does not happen. Granted, it is difficult to find a predicament akin to the aforementioned in the affluent parts of the modern world (something tells me that the poor in Mumbai do not have the resources to perform large dance numbers) with the change of laws and societies, but regardless the stakes are not adapted in a way that is believable.

4.

http://www.movieposterdb.com/movie/0361411/Bride-And-Prejudice.html

This website contains the posters used to promote the film, and by looking at them we can construe what the producers hoped to advertise the movie as containing, and what they pushed for during the creation process. The posters for the US market (the most lucrative movie market in the world) cut out the family (which is present in the UK and Indian posters) and has Lalita looking back at Mr. Darcy, which is not seen in any other poster. This gives the film a more “romantic-comedy” image and would further the assumption that the book’s themes were pared down (or augmented) to fit this genre.

http://www.tvsa.co.za/showinfo.asp?showid=766

The “fun facts” in this link say Aishwarya Rai gained 20 pounds for the role so she would look more realistic, perhaps because Elizabeth would have been under large amounts of stress which could lead to a weight gain.

http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/ehost/detail?sid=ee822e2c-f279-431f-8258-4bc09da3b454%40sessionmgr113&vid=1&hid=119&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aft&AN=505106929

This review talks about Kholi and says he is “scene-stealing…[and] endearing,” which is a curious thing to say when it could said that his role is a racist stereotype of Indians who find financial success in the US.

5. Mr. Kholi stands in for Mr. Collins in the film, and the implications attached to Mr. Collins character are so unfavorable that the nature of Kholi’s character makes the entire role a very negative stereotype. It is well known that Jane Austen did not like clergyman of her time that subscribed to a certain dynamic in their daily work. She made Mr. Collins a meddling fool to give her opinions on the clergy (but the novel was published under a pseudonym so she was not attempting to start a dialogue). Mr. Kholi is a foolish Indian man who moved to America to make more money and approaches Lalita in a very ungentlemanly and overtly uncouth way. He is childish and no other character really likes him. To have him as the doppelganger for Mr. Collins invites the comparison between the intent for these two roles, and such a comparison makes Kholi’s inclusion seem to be a negative commentary on Indian people who decide to move to the USA. I sincerely hope this is not what the crew intended when making the film, but it is hard to deny that the potential for such an intended effect exists.

Blog Response – Tristram and Shandy (ENGL329B)

1. Tristram and Shandy is a whimsical journey through a man’s quest to write about life, namely his own life and those closest to him. Akin to a Mrs. Dalloway kind of exploration of the journey of the mind, it careens from an autobiographical story to the exploration of religion to the discussion of the history of Hebrew circumcision practices. It can be read as a commentary on the very unfocused nature of life and the mind of the individual setting out to make something. It brings up an interesting take on the eternal “is art created by the artist or found by the viewer” question by examining the process of one man’s attempt to create such a masterpiece.

2. The humor in the film, in fact the entire concept behind the film, is very British. The film comments on the state of the film industry throughout its 94 minutes. There is very little time for the viewer to acknowledge the wry and subtle jokes (and there are a lot of them) and evokes the memory of the recent Simon Pegg films, albeit with very different subject matter (it is useful to bring up this example to illustrate to US audiences the type of jokes that are employed). The costumes are at times lampoons of realistic period pieces (Doctor Slop’s wig comes to mind) and the actors professionally play actors that are, at times, unprofessionally acting in a film that is destined for failure. This movie could very well have been a television series in the way it goes from problem to problem with creating the adaptation of this “unfilmable” book. It is also worthy to note that Steve Coogan plays a director directing a movie in Tropic Thunder and also plays a crazy doctor named “Ramsbottom” in Despicable Me 2.

3. The obvious difference in the adaptation is how it is about the filming of the writing of the book instead of just about the writing of the book (like the book). The book conveys to the reader that the writer is enjoying his work and the light-hearted nature that underlies the text is faithfully translated into the movie. The jokes from the book are pared down for contemporary audiences and not everything is put into the movie. For instance, the movie stops recreating the book at around Volume 6ish and goes into its own exploration of the filming of the “unfilmable.” It is very humorous to see the ponderances of the book fleshed out visually in the film, one such example is the creation of the womb and the tests to see the feasibility of filming it.

4.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2011/06/questions_for_steve_coogan.html

Steve Coogan goes into detail about how the improvisation between he and Rob Brydon was filmed to get the feel that they were having fun, much like the novel.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/tristram-shandy-a-load-of-cock–bull-755283.html

This is a very informative article that goes through (literally) ABC’s of Tristram and Shandy.

http://www.coogans-run.co.uk/h/steve-coogan-newsitem.php?id=654

Steve Coogan is interviewed and the very first question the interviewer asks requests that he explain the plot of the movie. To this Steve Coogan answers, “Oh, that’s a cop out, frankly.” This sets the tone for how the crew approached the movie, that it is not about a subject but more about a process that is meant to entertain. Tristram Shandy happens to be the vehicle that is used to fulfill this vision. Mr. Coogan says that Michael Winterbottom, the director, saw the “unfilmable” nature of the book to be a challenge that he accepted. And Mr. Coogan then says that his experience with Mr. Winterbottom convinced him that success was possible.

5. How is the film a mockumentary (a documentary parody) and a parody of a “making of” film? And is such a project within the spirit of Sterne’s novel?

The novel can be seen as an implied parody of the grand expedition that is creating the quintessential novel, much like the often parodied quest for the “Great American Novel,” and the film follows suit with the more contemporary take that is to make a sincere box office smash. The novel seems to take itself quite seriously, but Laurence Sterne infuses the transcript with a lighthearted nature that allows the reader to see beyond the words and sense the author’s true, benignly satirical intentions. The frequent tangents and esoteric allusions play upon the style of writing that was so prevalent in literature at the time. The film works to the same effect with its camera style and script. By keeping the camera cinematic, as opposed to the “shaky cam” filming style that was used in The Office, it retains its status as a film that is supposed to be taken seriously, but the ever-vaunted “serious” script calls for ridiculous scenes, like when adult Steve Coogan is to be inserted into a womb, nude, and then talk to the audience. This dichotomy of sober and absurd aspects keep in line with the similar tone of the novel.

Blog Response – The Tempest (ENGL329B)

1. William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, was the author’s (probably) last play. Shakespeare, perhaps aware of his inability to continue writing, imbued Prospero with several abilities that seem to coincide with the abilities that the Bard himself wielded. Prospero’s “magic,” or lack thereof, commands the characters in The Tempest akin to how Shakespeare commanded the emotions, feelings, and attention of the audience. The differences between the character and the writer seem to disappear by the end of the play when Prospero gives his monologue directly to the audience. No fairy dust or magic wands are necessary when Prospero gets the audience to fill his sails with their applause. In the same vein, Shakespeare uses the control Prospero has over Caliban, Ariel, and the rest of the island’s inhabitants to analyze and very minutely comment on the English Crown’s doctrine and methods of colonization (keeping in mind that negative speech directed towards the King was a very serious offense at the time).

2. The film version of The Tempest seems to focus on stylized visuals to intrigue the viewer. An emphasis on the varied locales (Caliban and Trinculo’s rocky meeting place, the strange stairway/door structure Prospera lives in, etc.), well-known actors, and a female Prospero all lend credence to this idea. Ariel’s magic is shown through computer generated images and its asexuality is prominently depicted with a mixture of female breasts and (relatively) masculine facial features. Caliban’s makeup and mannerisms make him a spectacle of a character and interesting to watch.

3. Shakespeare’s injection of his “powers” into The Tempest via Prospero’s “magic” are lost in the adaptation. It is difficult to subtly influence the viewer to feel or think certain things in this day and age when the industry has the capability, and more importantly the precedence, to show true magic. In fact, judging by the marketing for the movie it would seem that the movie focuses on the fantastical capabilities of the players as opposed to the implications and control Prospero asserts over his minions. This could have been caused by the production company determined the best way to make money from the film was to capitalize on CGI or some other factor. But the end result is that the theme of the film shifts from Shakespeare showing off his mastery of the medium to a film that reproduces the play with a 20 million dollar budget.

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/movies/index.ssf/2010/12/the_tempest_review_a_gender_switch_and_other_changes_nearly_sink_shakespeares_seaside_story.html

This is from a New Jersey news website and acknowledges the obvious racial implications of casting an actor whose breakout role was as a slave in Amistad.

http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131853967/helen-mirren-twists-shakespeare-in-the-tempest

There is a quote in this review from Helen Mirren where she says Prospera, is “a human woman … who dabbles in the black and the white arts of mysticism and of magic,” which completely negates any chance that Prospero/a’s powers are figments of the imaginations of the other characters.

http://www.impawards.com/2010/tempest_ver3.html

This site has three posters for advertisement campaigns in the USA, Russia, and Japan. The focus of the US poster is on the visual aspect of the movie. The three most “radical” characters (visually) are shown with hyper-stylized visuals and beg the inference that the movie has loads of CGI. This was most likely done to draw a loose demographic, earning more money. So it is not a leap of logic to assume that the creation of the film was plagued by similar interference from the powers that be to make the movie more commercial, drawing it from the source material.’

EDIT: Answer 5 added

5. The increase of celebrity awareness due to the information sharing aspect of the Internet forced the creators of the movie to focus on the visual aspects of the film, drawing it away from the source material. Julia Taymor in an interview talks about how the information-sharing of the Internet had plagued her production of her Spider-Man Broadway show, because when the Internet did not exist, her production of the Lion King did not suffer the same scrutiny, even though it went through similar troubles. The public’s knowledge base of celebrities and their movie roles led the crew to pick actors that were well-known and well-known for their flair. Julia Taymor goes on to talk about how she came to choose Russel Brand for Trinculo, but starts her story with an admission that she did not know him from anything but his chat show interviews on the Internet. She chose him based on the character he portrays outside of movies, which he is expected to continue when actually acting in movies. This then leads the audience to now focus on Russel Brand’s comic nature as opposed to the original purpose of Trinculo, which was to comment on the layman’s perception of the colonization of foreign people. The same can be said of Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, as his breakout role in Amistad leads the audience to think of Caliban as representing the colonized peoples of Africa, when in the play Caliban could have very well have represented the people of Ireland.

Caliban’s Master

When Stephano and Trinculo reunite, with the feral Caliban wondering what is going, they share wine from a barrel Stephano used to survive the storm (I imagine like John Jameson in the commercials). Caliban also gets a few drinks, becomes very drunk, and starts making up some songs. He references leaving his current master, Prospero, in an explicit fashion and it goes unnoticed. I understand Stephano and Trinculo are intoxicated as well, but seeing as how these two washed up on an island that they just though was inhabited by monsters and devils, one would imagine they would focus more on situational awareness than having a good time. Why don’t they seem more cautious regarding this strange and new land they stumbled upon?

On that same note, Gonzalo is very optimistic in his dealings with everyone else. Stating how great it is to survive, how his garments are clean, and how he’d rule the island, one would expect different speech from someone who just survived a tempest. Even when attempting to raise morale, happy speculation is not a normal human reactions to such a traumatic event. I wonder if his happiness is derived from a secret “ace in the hole,” in regards to some magical power, akin to Prospero and Ariel.

Caliban’s Master

When Stephano and Trinculo reunite, with the feral Caliban wondering what is going, they share wine from a barrel Stephano used to survive the storm (I imagine like John Jameson in the commercials). Caliban also gets a few drinks, becomes very drunk, and starts making up some songs. He references leaving his current master, Prospero, in an explicit fashion and it goes unnoticed. I understand Stephano and Trinculo are intoxicated as well, but seeing as how these two washed up on an island that they just though was inhabited by monsters and devils, one would imagine they would focus more on situational awareness than having a good time. Why don’t they seem more cautious regarding this strange and new land they stumbled upon?

On that same note, Gonzalo is very optimistic in his dealings with everyone else. Stating how great it is to survive, how his garments are clean, and how he’d rule the island, one would expect different speech from someone who just survived a tempest. Even when attempting to raise morale, happy speculation is not a normal human reactions to such a traumatic event. I wonder if his happiness is derived from a secret “ace in the hole,” in regards to some magical power, akin to Prospero and Ariel.