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Final Adaptation Paper-Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox

            When film makers are given the task to adapt a novel into a film, it is no small task.  In order to truly create a successful adaptation, the film must include similar plots and characters that capture the spirit intended by the author.   While many directors do an excellent job of creating box office hits, they often fail to duplicate the true spirit of the book they are adapting.   Instead they create a film that is full of political agendas, current popular culture themes, and personal motives.  They often fail to create a true literary adaptation and instead focus on creating a film that will draw in big audiences.  However, once in a while a real attempt is made to create a film that directly reflects the pages of the book.

            One director who has made such an attempt is Wes Anderson.  In the film Fantastic Mr. Fox, he attempts to recreate Roald Dahl’s story about a fox that outwit’s three of the meanest farmers around.  However, because Dahl’s novel is under a hundred pages, Anderson had to make some changes to the film.    “To fill out a feature-length movie, they’ve had to expand upon and embroider Dahl’s story, but they’ve done so without bloating the picture or overloading it.” Because Anderson “has a quirky, off-beat narrative and visual style in his films,” he was able to understand and duplicate the” quirky and off-beat style” of Dahl’s book.

            After reading the book and seeing the film version of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” I question whether or not a true literary adaptation is possible when creating a film from a novel.  Can the rich language of a book truly be transferred from paper to screen?  Can the viewer of a film truly understand a character without voice-overs?  Can an image on the screen truly capture the essence of the imagery that is created in a beautifully written piece of literature?   If anyone has made a great attempt at accomplishing this feat, it is Wes Anderson in his version of “Fantastic Mr. Fox.    “Through the expansion of the original narrative, Anderson amalgamates the story into modern thought, meticulously transfusing both Roald Dahl’s original message and his own artistic vision, proving once again that the auteur is still at the top of his game.”

            Now it is time to  take a moment to compare the novel and the film for similarities and differences.  First of all, in the book version of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” the Fox family lives in a hole under a huge tree in the woods.  Mr. Fox is married and has four small children to care for.  Each evening when it turns dark, Mr. Fox turns his wife to say, “Well, my darling, what shall it be this time?  A plump chicken from Boggis?  A duck or a goose from Bunce?  Or a nice turkey from Bean?”  While aware of Boggis, Bunce, and Beans’s dislike for thieves, and the danger he faces if he’s caught, Mr. Fox dutifully heads out each night to find food for his family.  He heads out to the valley towards the farms that are owned by the meanest farmers around.  He is driven by his duty and need to care for and feed his family. 

In the film version, Mr. Fox is also a married man but one that is feeling bogged down by his responsibilities of being a husband and father.  Unlike the book, he only has one child instead of four and yet fatherhood seems to completely overwhelm him.  At the beginning of the film, Mrs. Fox tells her husband he is going to be a father.  Once he is aware of his new role, he promises to give up his life of crime and to make an honest living for his family.  However, after a time it is obvious he can no longer make good on his promise.  He tells his wife he wants to live above ground in a tree.  He says he is tired of working and never having the things he wants.  He moves his family to a tree house in the center of the wood that surround the Boggis, Bunce, and Beans farms even  when he is warned not to do so.  After he and his family are settled in their new home he begins sneaking out each evening to steal food for his family.  This time he is motivated by the need to steal rather than to provide for his family.  In doing so, he fails to think about how his actions will directly affect his family.  He is selfish and self-centered and his actions eventually bring about chaos to all the animals in the woods.  The changes made in the film are an attempt to create a more modern take on the film. “Anderson adds to the mix even further through a Darwinist delivery, categorically rallying the group of animals by their Latin names.  The director takes notice of his own contemporary interpretation, even giving one of the characters a credit card (possibly poking fun at his own American Express commercial.)”

            Another difference that should be noted between the book and the film is the overarching tone.  In the book, the farmers are upset when they realize Mr. Fox is stilling from their farms.  They devise a plan in which they will use tractor trailers to dig out Mr. Fox and his family.  They intend to not only catch Mr. Fox but to kill him and his family when they finally reach them.  After days of digging the farmers grow angry and weary.  Yet instead of quitting, they decide to taunt the fox with the smell of warm chicken.    After three days of digging their way further in the ground, the foxes begin to starve.  The young foxes want desperately to leave the hole so they can snatch the chicken out of the hands of the farmers.  They are told it is a trap and must resist any attempt to go above ground.  They cry “But we’re so hungry!  How long will it be till we get something to eat?”  While all the family begins to grow weary, Mrs. Fox grows the weakest and is soon unable to dig any further. It is at this desperate time we see Mr. Fox’s motivation and family obligation once again kick in. 

In the film version, Mr. Fox and his family, like the book, are being forced by the farmers to dig deeper underground.  While the time frame is similar to that in the book, the pacing is different and it does not seem that much time has passed as in the book.  Due to this pacing change, the tone does not appear to be as dire as it does in the book.  While the film, like the book shows hungry fox, a blend of humor and pacing make the situation a little less desperate.  My guess is Anderson made these changes in the film in order to make the film family friendly.  Additionally, the pacing in films will naturally be different than the pacing in a book.

In the film version, there are other changes Anderson has made.  One of the changes is in the Fox family size.  In the film, Mr. Fox has only one child instead of four.  Yet, he feels overwhelmed by his responsibility of being the bread winner.  While he struggles to come to terms with the end of his youth, his son has entered adolescence and is trying desperately to please his father.  He wants his father to think of him as athletic and to take notice of him.  He is reminded daily by his school coach about his father’s athletic abilities.   He is reminded that his father is one of the greatest athletes his school has ever known.  Unlike his father, Ash is awkward, clumsy, lacks self-confidence and has no single athletic bone in his body.  To add insult to injury, his cousin comes to stay with his family and is everything Ash is not; athletic and mild-mannered.   His father connects with his nephew Kristofferson in ways he does not with Ash.  This further creates tension between him and his father and becomes a back story in the film that is not in the book.   At the end of the film, Mr. Fox finally realizes the changes his son is going through.  He tells him son it is OK to be different and that he accepts him just the way he is.  In finally accepting his son, Ash is able to gain the confidence he desperately needs. “The main theme is the group coming to grips with what makes them unique.”

In looking at these differences, it is clear many liberties were made by Anderson to create a modern twist to a classic tale.  Does this mean it is not a true adaptation? Because books and film are two different media outlets, there is no such thing as a true adaptation.  The very natures of the words on the page that can never make it to the big screen make every book inadaptable.   However, even with the obvious differences, Anderson has done a remarkable job of adapting this tale into a film while sticking to Dahl’s original spirit.  While critics will always have a difference of opinion, many positive reviews have been written about this adaptation.  One reviewer hails the film as “the best movie about family, community and poultry thievery ever made.”  After viewing the film for the first time, Dahl’s widow exclaimed, “I could feel him smiling, I was thinking, he’d love this.” So, while there were obvious differences between the film and the book version, Anderson managed to remain true to Dahl’s story for children and to create a film for families.   

While many find Anderson’s version of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to be witty and clever, others would not agree.  One critic says “one prominent problem of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is its complete failure to pitch its inherently adult humor to the proper demographic.”  “For example, the literal use of the word “cuss” as a stand-in for any and all swearing in the dialogue betrays the innocence of a child, but what child will understand Fox’s referring to his dilemma as a “complete cluster cuss?” Even with this obvious flaw, Anderson has managed to create a great “film with the welcome addition of stop-motion animation and children’s themes.”

In closing, the film and book versions of “Fantastic Mr. Fox were enjoyable.  The book is quick moving with drama that leaves you at the edge of your seat.  Mr. Fox is likeable and the reader will be rooting for the Fox family and all of his friends.  While Dahl’s writing has a dark edge to it, his writing manages to create a world accessible to children everywhere.  Like the book, the film is full of quick moving drama that will leave you at the edge of you r seat.  While Mr. Fox has created this mess for his family one still can’t hope to see the little guy win in the end.  The film adds humor and human characteristics to the animals making them more relatable.  While the film is not animated as successful Pixar films are, his stop-motion animated approach is a big success.  “As a work of animation, and of art, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is wily, clever and mischievous, without ever being too arch or knowing. It also has the distinct aura of something that’s been made entirely by hand with care and affection — a few misshapen nubs here and there only add to the charm.”

Works Cited

“Fantastic Mr. Fox”: Better than Pixar (review)
Salon.com
Stephanie Zacharek
November 11, 2009
http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/review/2009/11/11/fantastic_mr_fox/index.html

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” More than lives up to its name (review)

Helium.com

Donald Lind

December 15, 2009

http://www.helium.com/items/1682340-fantastic-mr-fox

 “Outfoxed” (feature on Roald Dahl)
Slate.com
James Parker
November 24 2009
http://www.slate.com/id/2236156/

Wes Anderson’s fantastically foxy Roald Dahl adaptation

Michigan Daily.com

Timothy Rabb

November 25, 2009

https://www.michigandaily.com/content/fantastic-mr-fox

 Why Adaptations Still Work (When Done Properly): FANTASTIC MR. FOX(blog)

The Brattle Theater

William Benker

January 29, 2009

http://brattleblog.brattlefilm.org/?p=735

Watchmen

1.  Film Analysis

I first saw this film in a theater without any background knowledge about the comic book.  I neither understood the film nor cared for its use of such bloody violence.  The main themes were murder, nuclear detruction, and a power struggle between the government and a world of retired vigilante “super-heros.”  While a brief history of the Watchmen and their predecessors are part of the opening monlogue, an insight to each characters is left out.  In the film there are brief flashbacks to shed some light on each of their lives.  However, unless one has already read the comic book series, there was a real disconnect from knowing who the characters really are.  Additionally, what originally made the book brilliant, its use of intertextuality, is impossible to include in the film version.  By omiting the stories within the story, much of the story is lost.  Finally, the film differed from the book in its ending.  In the book, a utopian society was created when an explosion of an alien life form occurred in Manhattan.  This alien’s head was full of images that caused the survivors to seek solice in one another. In the film, the society was created after a nuclear explosion occurred in several cities and in several countries.  The change in the ending forced the director then to change other aspects of the story.

2.  Book Analysis

The Watchmen series is a series of graphic novels written by Alan Moore.  The series was written to  be unfilmable  and includes the use intertextuality, which is when text is used to intermingle with other text in the book.  This intertextuality is what makes this novel a literary genius.   As for the characters in this novel, they are nothing like super-heroes we typically see in a comic series.  Each of the  characters have complex psychological issues that are described in detail throughout the series such as a psychopath, a sexually impotent has-been, and a vigilante. Its main themes include embedded political themes such as nuclear destruction and the United States war on Vietnam.  What makes the novel unique and interesting is that it is a cross between a murder mystery and a political drama slowly unfolding.

3.  Internet Research

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz7e1V6QOlo

This link is an interview with Zack Snyder on his making of “Watchmen.”  In the interview he gives credit to his friends and family in helping make this film successful.  He says he loved making the film and while it was difficult he would do it again for free.

http://www.watchmencomicmovie.com/index.php

This is a fun site about the movie version of Watchman.  It offers movie photos, intervies, movie clips, and cast information.  Further down the site there are 12 chapter summaries from the comic book series.  It’s a great site to get background knowledge on the making of Watchmen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w14DoxRIXW4

This was a really great fan made “Watchman” short.  It is a recreation of the opening scene in the film and is well put together.  I loved the voice over and the cinematography in making the film.  It is a film more for the purpose of entertainment than informative.  Yet, it was a good find.

4. Critical Analysis

At the end of the film, when Dr. Manhattan arrives at Carnac (Antarctica) and confronts Ozymandias, Ozymandias grabs a television remote and Dr. Manhattan says: “What’s that? Another ultimate weapon?” This is meant to be ironic, but in what ways is it true? That is, in what ways is television (and other visual media like film) problematic in the world depicted in Watchmen?

In the world depicted in “Watchmen”, television and other media outlets are problematic.  For example, throughout the film, there is a countdown to destruction clock that is constantly being shown to the viewing audience.  Another example, of media being problematic  Dr. Manhattan is depicted as being angry and aggressive.  He is filmed on a talk show, where he shows the only sign of being human and is caught in a highly emotional state.  This is the image that is later used to show Dr. Manhattan as being the responsible party for the destruction of cities throughout the world.  The media ultimately has a hand in the destruction of a super-hero (Dr. Manhattan) while at the same time supports Ozymandias’s plan for a false peace.  The film ends with a tabloids discovery of Rorschach’s journals implying that media will once again be the ultimate weapon to shatter the false peace created by Ozymandias’s  lies.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

1.Book Analysis

In the book version, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, the main theme is survival.  Each night Mr. Fox has to provide dinner for his children.  He asks his wife what she wants for dinner each night and each night he goes and kills their dinner.  Once the farmers become aware that they’re being robbed, they set out to destroy the Fox.  They become so obsessed with saving their farms and their own livelihood that they don’t care about the survival of any of the creatures in the woods.  Mr. Fox remains obsessed with providing for his family and surviving that he continues to outfox the farmers. The difference between the book and the film version is that in the book Mrs. Fox encourages Mr. Fox’s wily ways.  In the film version, she continuously tells him that stealing isn’t  a good idea.

2.Film Analysis

In the film version of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, the main theme is tolerating differences.  We see this throughout the film as Ash continuously tries to find a way to please his father.  We also see this when Ash doesn’t accept his cousin because he’s different from him.  At the end of the film, Ash apologizes to his cousin for the way he treats him throughout the film and promises to treat him better.  We also see his father telling Ash that it’s OK that he’s different and that he loves him the way he is.

3. Internet Research

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_kva9j3K7k

This link is a fabulous interview with Wes Anderson and his role in the filming process.  In the interview his wife also talks about how this movie came to be.  It shows how Anderson stayed in Dahl’s home and replicated the furniture in the movie based on Dahl’s world.  It’s a fun interview with a little behind the scenes footage.

http://www.roalddahl.com/

This site is the official site of Dahl.  It’s a fun site for fans with games for kids relating to books of his.  The site also has great tips for teacher’s using Dahl’s books in their classrooms.  Finally, there is a color wheel to spin to take you to different Dahl books.  It’s a fun and interactive site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLtEzpFoBJQ&feature=fvst

This final site is an insight into the world of Dahl and how his stories came to be.  Many of his stories reflect his own life or situations that were part of his life.  Many of his stories though made for children were often censored for their dark side.  More information about his books turned to films can be found on this site.

4. Critical Analysis Question

The film introduces a character not present in the book: the son of Mr. Bean, who is always seen stuffing his face and watching TV. How does this character compare/contrast with other characters from Roald Dahl adaptations (such as Mike TV and Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)?

In the film “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, the character of Mr. Bean’s son has similar characteristics to Mike TV and Augustus Gloop in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  One of the main similarities is that each of them is a glutton.  For example, Mike TeeVee dislikes chocolate but is addicted to television.  He is so addicted that he wants very much to become part of the television and then does.  Augustus Gloop likes candy but especially loves chocolate.  He becomes so obsessed with eating chocolate that he is eventually taken away in a tube after falling into a chocolate river.  Mr. Bean’s son is Gloop and TeeVee combined.  In every scene he is sitting in front of the television while stuffing his face with food.  Another similarity is their disregard for others.  Gloop and TeeVee are rule breakers and refuse to listen to Willie Wonka because by doing so they will not get what they want.  Mr. Beans’ son doesn’t outright disobey anyone but he has no regard for the situation between his father and the fox and laughs at the sight of his father wearing Mr. Fox’s tail as a tie.

A Scanner Darkly

1. Film Analysis

The film like the book focuses on identity confusion. However, it also focuses on living in a police state.  In one scene we see two of the characters talking and in the background there is police gathering trouble makers from the street.  We also see this theme recurring throughout the film as Arctor and other narcotics agent’s watch footage from the streets, work places and Arctor’s home.  Because of this society that watches ones every move, it adds to the paranoia that is already prominent because of the drugs.  Is it because of this society that drugs are so prominent to begin with?  Are people trying to forget or did the government purposely drug others as they’ve done to Arctor in order to better control their lives?

2. Book Analysis

The main theme in the book “A scanner Darkly” is identity confusion.  We see Arctor’s character as having three different identities-Artcor, Bob, and Bruce.  There is a constant confusion about which identity is the real person.  This theme also comes into play when we see Bob in the scramble suit.  The suit is designed to create confusion by the viewer and to only pretend to understand the man under the suit.  With the suit comes the identity of a family man that we see later to be untrue.  The idea is that what people perceive to be ones true identity isn’t always true.  In life, everyone wears different masks made to fit different situations.  The difference is that in the book there is an added element called Substance D.  It effects are meant to affect the user to such a state of confusion that even they are no longer sure which mask fits their true identity.

3. Internet Research

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ewcp6Nm-rQ

This is a great you tube video which includes excerpts of an interview with Phillip K. Dick.  We learn about his personal experiences with government take-over.  We also see in this video an excerpt from the film’s director and what he’s up against in making this film.  The video tells a bit about the sci-fi genre and how that was limiting to Dick.

http://www.philipkdick.com/films_scanner.html

While this site is titled philipkdick.com I’m not sure if it’s an official page or not.  It is a cool site though that offers a photo gallery from the film, a book synopsis along with a review, a biography page on Dick, and information about other books of his that have been adapted to film.  It’s a fun site that gives you greater insight to the author and his popularity.

http://syd-film-blog.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-movie-comparison-scanner-darkly.html

This final entry is a blog about A scanner Darkly.  It appears to have a few followers but only one person has posted.  The site owner has given her take of the book adaptation and welcomes any imput from followers of her blog.

4. Critical Analysis

To adapt A Scanner Darkly to film, the director Richard Linklater uses the “interpolated rotoscope” animation technique. What are the effects on the viewer of such a technique? Was it an appropriate technique for the film, in terms its themes and story?

The animation technique “interpolated rotoscoping” was used in the film adaptation  of “A Scanner Darkly.”  This technique in the film is appropriate in adapting the book into a film in that movements appear  to be slow and fluid like.  Additionally,  in one scene, the furniture appears to be floating in the air giving a sense of dissonance.  Finally, this technique is useful in showing Jerry’s hallucinations of being infested with bugs.  In the scene his skin is crawling with bugs and his slow fluid movements make the hallucinations real to the viewer.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1. Film Analysis

In the third film installment of Harry Potter, the tone  is much darker than in previous films.  Prior to this film, there is lots of talk about Voldemort and the evil that he brings.  However, Voldemort is not in this latest film and yet the fear is much higher when the dementors take the screen.  Through great cinematography and directing, the dementors  make this film equivalent to any horror film.  Their distorted faces, and “the kiss of death” we see on the screen are nail-biting fear.  When the dementors have gone and Harry has recovered, Ron says they make him feel as if he can never find happiness again.  They represent what is most evil and vile and once in their clutches it almost seems impossible to escape.

2. Book Analysis

One of the main themes in the book is betrayal.  In the beginning of the book Harry learns that Sirius is his Godfather and that he betrayed Lilly and James Potter.  He feels so betrayed by Sirius’ actions that he doesn’t fear Sirius but wants to kill him.  We also hear the story of betrayal later when the real story comes out that Pettigrew was the real secret keeper and that he betrayed the Potter’s.  We see betrayal when Buckbeak is beheaded simply because Malfoy exaggerates his injuries.  Hagrid feels that sting of betrayal the most until the time-keeper makes it possible for Harry and Hermoine to save BuckBeak.  This theme is intertwined with the theme of growth and change.  We see Harry grow and learn from each time he is faced with betrayal.  Harry learns to never take words at face value.  He learns that his father’s courage and kindness live on through him.  For the first time we see Harry as having extended family and with this he gains a new sense of pride and belonging.

3. Internet Research

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

This is a cute interview with Harry, Hermoine, and Ron(Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint and their take on Prisoner of Azkaban.  Additionally, the interviewer asks each of them about their lives since Harry Potter.  The actors talk about how reading the books affect their role expectations. It’s a cute interview with the 3 main characters.

http://www.harrypotterfanzone.com/

This site is fan site about all of the Harry Potter books.  It does have photos about the movie premiere of The prisoner of Azkaban and it has a synopsis of the film.  There is also a link for YouTube videos associated with Harry Potter.

http://www.shmoop.com/harry-potter-3-azkaban/resources.html

THis is a great site that gives great information about the film.  One can find themes, quotes, and study questions on the site.  Because this is a site about the book, you can find information about each of the characters.  Additionally, there is a great section that gives a book analysis.

4.Critical Analysis Question

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is considered by some critics to be the best Harry Potter film adaptation. It is considered by other critics to be the worst. What do you think? (This question implies familiarity with both the books and the films).

While the Prisoner of Azkaban is more visually stimulating than the first two films in the series, it is not an accurate adaptation of the book version.  In the book version, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, there are several critical storylines that are left out in the film.  One of the big stories essential to the plot is the relationship between Sirius Black, Lilly and James Potter, Professor Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew.  In the book Rowlings describes their relationship when they were young and attended Hogwart’s .  We go on to read about how they acquired the names Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.  The book gives the reader background information about the strong relationship they shared with one another.  In the film there is no mention of these names or of the history they shared together.  This is important in the plot of the story and in understanding why Snape despises Black as he does.  It’s important in understanding how they all came to be animagus and why that was important in their relationship.  While this film was very entertaining, it leaves a lot of critical information out.  Many stories are left undeveloped and therefore the viewer who has never read the books is left a little in the dark about the true spirit of Rowlings book.

No Country for Old Men

1. Film analysisThe main theme of the film is that little can be done to change the dark side of human nature.  While  Sheriff Bell is seemingly chasing Chigurh throughout the film, he knows there is no way he will really be able to stop him.  In his career he has seen his share of evil, more so recently and realizes that no matter how hard he tries to keep his town honest, there is nothing that can be done to change evil.  He tells a story about a 19-year-old boy he met early in his career that killed his girlfriend simply because he could.  He had been planning to kill someone for as long as he could remember and if let out he’d kill again.  He said while he did not know how to respond to a man with no soul, it was only the beginning of what was coming later in his career. 

2. Book analysisOne of the main themes of the book is the conflict between freedom and fate.  Throughout the film Chigurh decides the fate of death for many people he comes across.  He believes it is their fate to die once they meet him.  In some instances he allows them to choose head or tails to decide their fate.  If they win the coin toss then it is their fate to live.  If they lose, they are suddenly killed. We see this conflict as the main theme between Moss and Chigurh.  Moss’s story could have had a different ending if he had not taken the money.  Yet, he freely took the suitcase and therefore decided his own fate of death.  Had he left things as he found them, his life story would have had another ending.  Sheriff Bell is also faced with this conflict in his career.  Early in his career, he believed all law enforcement officers were good and freely chose to abide by the law.  However, as he reaches retirement, he realizes corruption can occur even with police officers.  He has witnessed officers getting rich by dealing with narcotics.  For him, this is the biggest abomination there is.

3. Internet Research

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=didCgKFbX5Y

This you tube video shows clips from the trailers as well as interviews with Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem.  Through this video one learns why music wasn’t the main focus of the film.  Tommy Lee says how the language is powerful enough that music is not necessary.  Additionally, I learned the weapon Bardem carried around was a cattle gun so that was an interesting bit of information.

https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9039484737#!/NoCountryForOldMenMovie?sk=reviews

This is the link to the Facebook account for No Country for Old Men.  It has a pretty large fan base with over 600,000 likes.  The site has dialogue between fellow fans where there are basic comments but also quotes about the movie.  Fans have also established a star rating system where they can review the film.  There is also a variety of film still shots available from the movies for the fans to relive their favorite scenes.

http://www.funtrivia.com/en/Movies/No-Country-for-Old-Men-18411.html

This site is very simple but includes fun trivia.  There are about 20 questions included on this site that the true fan will be able to answer.  It asks questions about the book and the film.  The says it’s a quiz but really the answers are already posted when you look at the site.

4. Critical Analysis Question

What is the title No Country for Old Men supposed to signify? Is the “country” the land of the American Southwest, the United States as a whole, or both? And why do the “old men” no longer belong there?

The title “No Country for Old Men” refers to the law enforcement officers as a whole and the changing of the American west.  In the story, the sheriff is getting ready to leave law enforcement and enter retirement.  He is suddenly exposed to a crime spree that is unlike anything he’s ever known.  He is faced with so much death that is not only impossible to understand but also impossible to stop.  In the beginning of the film when Chigurh is caught by a younger officer, it becomes very clear that handcuffs aren’t enough to hold him down.  Later, when we see Chigurh’s interaction’s with random victims then later with the bounty hunter, we see he is a force to be reckoned with.  The sheriff is aware of the difficulty in stopping these crime sprees and in the early narration he says,  “The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure.”  Additionally, Bell says In forty-one years this country (where he is sheriff) has not had one unsolved homicide.  Now in on week we have nine.  With this statement he is comparing the way life was when he was younger.  Now as he faces retirement, he’s not sure these nine crimes will ever be solved.  Because Bell is retiring, he represents the old men in the title.  Like his father before him, he has paved the way for a new generation of officers.  With the changing times and  new crime sprees, it clear there is no longer room for an old relic like Bell.

American Splendor

1. Film Analysis-

American Splendor is an adaptation of Pekar’s comic book with an added documentary element.  The documentary aspect is important for the viewer to have background information about the story.  The documentary aspect of the film was created in a linear fashion in order to show how the order of events unfolded.  By adding narrative to the film, the documentary aspect of the film was successful. One thing that makes this film so brilliant and successful is the artificiality of the film.  The director of the film shows the documentary aspects of the film as over the top and fake.  This is done in order for the viewer to separate the story being told and the  lives of the real people.  By using this artistic format the director makes no distinctions about genres being portrayed.  This postmodern approach works with this film and can be seen when the characters in the film interact with the real life characters.  This approach is meant to be dramatic and creates an added comedic aspect to the film.

2. Book Analysis

Harvey Pekar  has considered himself a literary scholar and has cited Henry Roth, Daniel Fuchs, and James Joyce as a few of his literary influences.  He also credits Jewish Stand-up comedy and underground comics as some other influences in his “American Splendor.”  When Pekar first came into the comic scene, most comic books focused on super heroes and escapism.  Because his work focused on realism, and was different from the mainstream comics, Pekar had a difficult time selling his book to comic book dealers who were out to make a buck.  His work focused on every day issues such as the mundane life of a working class file clerk.  While many have referred to Pekar as finding negative in everything, he actually takes a comedic approach to everything he writes.  Dry humor is used to describe the characteristics of his friends, family, and  ex girlfriends. The genius of  his work is that he has taken the ordinary events of his life and created a comic book.  Some of his earliest work included stick figures with dialogue boxes.  He later teamed up with Crumb and other artists to bring his characters to life. 

3. Internet Research

http://www.smithmag.net/pekarproject/

This is a site in which Pekar teamed up with Sean Pryor to create a webcomic series.  The site have weekly comic strips on the site, gives information about books by Harvey Pekar, and videos with Pekar.  The last blog entry in 2010 when Pekar passed but appeared to have been active prior to his passing.  What makes this site interesting is that Pekar never owned a computer and yet his comic strip is on the web and reaching a whole new audience.

http://troublewithcomics.com/post/806518446/harvey-pekar-interview

This is an interview with Harvey Pekar from 2005.  In the Interview Pekar discusses how his life has changed since American Splendor was made.  He also discusses his writing styles and which he enjoys doing more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G35olFFs-zk&feature=fvst

This is a youtube video (short) where Pekar answers 10 questions.  What is great about this is that it shows he lighter and comedic side to Harvey Pekar.

4. Critical Analysis Question

Think about the film (and the book if you like) in terms of jazz. How does the music work in the film? How does the film re-create the sense of a jazz riff, or improvisational solo?

Jazz Music is unique in that it consists of short rhythmic phrases or riffs, improvisation, and complex styles .  The film American Splendor, does a great job of re-creating the sense of a jazz riff by showing the complexities of Pekar’s life through quick-moving scenes.  One of the central riffs within the film is when Pekar talks about his name.  Like the He talks about the other Harvey Pekar’s in Cleveland that have had an impact on his life even though he never met them. Like jazz, the scenes are presented with artistic complexities that blend comic book taglines and discussions with the real Pekar and the actors in the scenes.  In addition to the scene complexities, the music in the film helps to support the onscreen action and includes a combination of acoustic jazz and string bands.