Radical Makes: Red Dead Remption (part 1)

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I recently picked up one of my favorite video games, Red Dead Redemption, an open world action game that takes place in the early 1900’s. Acquiring artistic directions from the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, the noir of the Coen Brothers, and even the pessimistic satire of geo-political issues, this epic story sweeps you from the plains of the midwest to the deserts of Mexico and north east of America. The rich characters and detailed setting elevates this video game above it’s peers in storytelling and entertainment, so much to say that even a relatively know independent filmmaker, John Hillcoat, created a western short film out of Red Dead Redemption‘s cutscenes (The Man from Blackwater – John Hillcoat).

It has honestly made me wish for some more quality, modern western films and reminded me of how scarce a well made one is anymore. Some of the rare current hits include Open Range (with Robert Duvall and Kevin Kostner), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (with Brad Pitt and Casey Afleck), 3:10 to Yuma (technically a remake), and True Grit (another remake).

 

Replaying Red Dead Redemption revealed a glaring opportunity for a feature film by a major Hollywood studio (even with Rockstar currently owning all copyrights). With the huge array of characters, plotlines, and background work within the game this seems like a perfect well of creativity to grace the silver screen.

So now I will attempt to breathe some life into turning a video game into a mainstream feature film for fans everywhere to enjoy.

Who Should Direct: Quentin Tarantino

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This may seem cliche (ha!) but please allow me to explain. Obviously, Red Dead Redemption is not meant for kids. There is violence, strong language, nudity, and sexual themes throughout. I do not atone for this content, but it does serve a purpose at times. The characters in its fictional world are sinful, selfish, stupid, strange, violent people and scarily all relate to examples in today’s world. Tarantino’s work has never veered from shining a light on the errors of man and exaggerating them to almost controversial levels. He has more than once been seen as a vulgar director known to promote extreme violence and spit racial slurs at an absurd level. However, within the filth lies a critical view of society that may only appear ugly because it’s true.

A Red Dead Redemption film would thrive on a director that could bring alive the strange quirks of its characters, a balanced satire, and action scenes that connect the strong narrative. Tarantino would know how to tie together the wild wilderness of the game to exaggerated but relatable characters within an entertaining backdrop. He also is known for having strong soundtracks to his films but this aspect would need some dialing down. There is room for a british pop rock song without taking away from the tone, however he’d need to stick with a more instrumental sound. Your first arrival into Mexico is one of the best uses of song I’ve seen in a video game.

Quentin Tarantino would be a logical choice to adapt this material in a successful way without compromising the quality or darkening the themes to almost comically moody tones (looking at you Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan Superman).

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The New John Marston

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When you hear “experienced gunman/emotional baggage/cowboy” you immediately think of Justified‘s Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). In many ways Raylan, and Red Dead‘s main anti-hero protagonist, John Marston, are the same fictional person just in different periods of time. Both have a strong sense of justice, firm hand of discipline, and silent authority that make for such intriguing character developments. On Justified, Raylan is a Federal Marshall that has a knack for shooting his targets, even if he deems them as “justified.” He is steady in moments, passionate in some, and always running with a sense of purpose even if he’s unsure of what that purpose is.

John Marston’s strategic yet empathetic journey of protecting his family at all costs because of the danger his past ignites draws you in from the very beginning by creating it’s own purpose for the player. We aren’t simply roaming the Wild West lawlessly, but pushing our protagonist forward as we desire to see everything to a closure. Red Dead‘s Marston is a constant in a sea of strangers and freaks, dynamic life events, and side roads. He doesn’t waste words and even speaks with a specific intent. He also has experienced life a good bit which Olyphant represents well on the screen. By always walking with a cautious swagger, his character knows the confidence of youth grounded by lessons learned in maturity. Olyphant as John Marston would be a quickly believable character in an exciting story.

The New Abigail Marston

Sandra Bullock

Coming soon! Come back for the rest!

 

 

 

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Radical Remakes – The Grapes of Wrath

•October 15, 2013 • 1 Comment

With Gravity now out in theaters and being one of the most original films in recent memory, let’s hop back into the world of studio executives who love to hash out remakes every year instead of searching for fresh content. Some of these remakes have been strong (Star Trek: Into Darkness) and some of them have been bombs (The Lone Ranger).

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Recently I watched The Grapes of Wrath (1940), directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, which focuses on a family in midwestern America during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Seeing as our current economy isn’t doing so hot, it was very interesting to compare the messages within The Grapes of Wrath to what we are going through now as a nation. It’s also fascinating to view the remake of this movie through the eyes of the one medium that tends to profit during harsh economic periods: cinema.

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Why It Should Be Remade:  

As I stated above, this film is ripe for a remake due to the similarity between the economies of the 1930’s and late 2000’s. While most audiences desire to escape the darker aspects of reality at the movie theater, sometimes people need to be reminded of the truth in which they are living in. Unfortunately, instead of fighting giant Kaiju with a motorcycle gang member, most people have to get up and work two jobs or spend the day applying for employment. Also, there is a ripe picking of a myriad of directors right now who are making excellent films consistently. Every once and a while even the most shallow cinema goer needs a strong dose of reality and why not use one of the most creative and artistic mediums of our time? The Grapes of Wrath also helped  solidify the legitimacy of Henry Fonda and there are also numerous talented actors in their prime right now that would be perfect for roles in a remake. This remake should stick heavily to the source material (the original novel) and really establish the setting visually, a’la how the Coen brothers crafted the feel of the old west by using the written work as the core of the script in True Grit (2010).  grapes-fonda-carradine-qualThe tone and setting should not be modernized with coarse language or weakly rely on a sex scene to advance the emotional depth of the film. Embracing an organic, purposeful cinematography and slower paced, character driven editing would be the best route to breathe new life into a reused idea while still honoring the original style.

Who Should Direct: Darren Aronofsky 

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Darren Aronofsky isn’t known for being too lighthearted or afraid to delve into the harsh realities of a sinful human nature. His take on abusing prescription medication and using other dangerous drugs in Requiem for a Dream is intense, dark, sorrowful, and impacting. In modern media, it can be easy to sugar coat recreational drug use through comedy or a lack of consequences for the users on screen. Aronofsky truly revealed the nasty interior of human morality through a trippy, claustrophobic cinematography, strong actors, and an unsettling soundtrack that only intensified the tone.He also recently took on a well known ballet and turned it into a sharp look at controlling familial relationships, unhealthy desires for success, and emotional manipulation.
Grapes of Wrath would need a director that could establish a touching connection with the audience through relatable characters and settings that are reflective of today’s culture but masked by period appropriate mis-en-scene and music. With Aronofsky’s soon to be released Noah, the director reveals that he is astute at presenting timeless philosophical and moral issues with deep characters supported by method acting which would be necessary for a gut-wrenching remake like The Grapes of Wrath.

The New Tom Joad: Michael Fassbender

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Henry Fond gave Tom Joad a violent, powerful, firm visualization in the original and Fassbender would do the same for the remake. Fassbender is known for intense roles, as seen in Hunger and Shame, and would naturally bring the dangerous confidence of a man fresh out of prison who has to survive in an economic collapse. Most of his films require him to be a multifaceted character that may be a protagonist with flaws (or anti-hero, such as in Shame) or an antagonist with empathetic motivation (X-Men: First Class). By portraying a complicated character like Tom Joad with a bold demeanor that Fassbender typically displays in most of his onscreen counterparts, Steinbeck’s original representation of the social and moral pressure facing men during the Great Depression would shine. My only worry about Fassbender would be harnessing the midwestern dialect and being able to escape some of the celebrity status that he now brings to his roles. However, I don’t think there is any other actor that can successfully and simultaneously bring charm and danger to the silver screen like Michael Fassbender.

The New Reverend Jim Casy: Christian Bale

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Now, I’m a little wary about casting such a high profile actor in this supporting role as well, but I think he would work more on screen than he sounds on paper. I know the “cool film blogger” would’ve used a more indie or lesser known actor that’s on the rise or something. First of all, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME, second of all, I get it but I think that this film needs the highest caliber actor, just as Star Wars needed Sir Alec Guinness. Even though everyone automatically thinks of Batman whenever Christian Bale is mentioned, let’s take a look at some of his work that would support his role in the remake of The Grapes of Wrath. Jim Casy, in both the book and the 1940 film adaptation, is a preacher that has lost everything and given up on his spiritual beliefs. He quickly admits to acts of sexual seduction during his time as a reverend and personifies the internal moral dilemma that existed in many people at the time.

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During the 1930’s, Christianity was still a large influence on culture and was especially prevalent in rural, agricultural communities, so the fact that Jim Casy so strongly denounces his religion and shows an active sin life as a pastor reflects that many at the time really had serious theological issues due to external circumstances. Bale has shown his acting prowess at being a character that struggles with doing what’s right and doing what’s necessary. Having Bale play Casy would allow for a deeper take on the ex-preacher instead of tending to portray religious figures with doubt as being unintelligent or wholly selfish. In The Fighter, Bale plays Dicky Eklund, a low class boxing trainer that struggles with drugs, and provides a character with many extreme flaws a smart and likable side as well. I could write more about how he has recently been taking supporting roles (The Fighter, American Hustle, Out of the Furnace), his history of method acting (Rescue Dawn, The Machinist), his experience in playing a minister (The Flowers of War), or the depth at which he plays all of his characters (American Psycho) , but I feel like enough has been said already.

The New Muley: Garret Dillahunt

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This guy is most definitely a character actor as he plays similar versions of the same role in almost every movie he’s in. He does play a more typical role in Raising Hope yet he always brings that awkward sympathy to his on screen personas. In Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Muley is the epitome of disillusioned, desperate, and dejected (and apparently attracts accurate alliteration) (wow, thanks Mrs. Mills)) and Dillahunt mastered the nervous, emotionally wrecked type in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford (whew!). Garret+Dillahunt+Tribeca+Film+Festival+2012+x7rBdJNpTKXlMuley gets hit with the reality that no matter what he does, he has no control over the fate of his livelihood and land. This is extremely traumatic due to the individual association with freedom that the midwest of the United States usually connotates and the forceful way the American dream was shattered during the Great Depression that should resonate with movie goers today. Dillahunt is fantastic as Ed Miller in Jesse James and truly creates a character that is sympathetic, broken, and pitiful.  The delivery and timing of lines by Dillahunt is also very similar to the demeanor of John Qualen, the actor playing Muley in the original film. I believe that an actor as used to these character types as Garret Dillahunt would be the perfect supporting character to nail the serious tone of the remake.

The New Ma Joad: Kathy Bates

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This is an obvious one. I mean, is there any role more naturally suited for Bates? Ma Joad is a very tough yet tender character and is a reflection of how the women had to adapt and endure to be an emotional anchor for families facing hard times together. Bates automatically brings that sternness and quiet strength to almost all of her characters, yet she also has the talent to be kind and understanding. In Fried Green Tomatoes, Bates plays an emotionally vital role that required deep sadness mixed with a strong, forced hope for better times, similar to how women of the Great Depression felt when their possessions were gone and the protected homestead had been violated. Actually, Bates filmography in general mirrors a tendency to play strong women in tough situations, such as Revolutionary Road and Midnight in Paris and show her light comedic side in work like Rat Race and The Office. Kathy Bates would bring a likable, brave, real Ma Joad to the screen as the emotional core of the Joad family.

There you have it. That is my official take on remaking John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (while I was writing this I started thinking of how I would remake this with an update and have the same story take place with an African American family that’s affected by the auto industry in modern day Detroit, but I’ll write that later if I get enough good feedback). And I do realize it’s been almost 2 years since my last post, but don’t worry. I hope to keep this as a semi (notice I said semi) frequent hobby. Stay safe out there and Godspeed.

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The Human Condition in Melancholia

•April 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Melancholia is one film with two, intertwining narratives which both support each other thematically and visually. Through the focus on the two sisters, the disaster plot versus depression, and the unique visual style, Lars von Trier paints a dark picture about the frailty of mankind. This personal page from the director’s diary allows him to fully embrace the emotions behind an “end of the world” film and ground it in universal concepts that apply to humans’ daily lives.


Because the film is divided into two separate acts, Melancholia provides differing outlooks on the value of life and how to respond when faced with the idea of certain death. Justine is bi-polar and already struggles with maintaining functionality in everyday life, so she views the end of the world and man’s existence quite differently than those around her. Just as the opening visuals reveal the slow ending of the world, Justine shows her trek into depression through her actions at the wedding. When the wedding scene first begins, Justine is happy, joyful, and expressively in love with her soon to be husband.

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However, this is only the outer layer of her being, a facade for someone who deeply struggles with depression and the heavy thoughts of a manic-depressive personality. This false sense of security is mimicked by the harmless appearance of the planet Melancholia which is first taken to be a star in a constellation by Justine and her brother-in-law. As the night progresses, Justine slowly slips into a conflicting sense of being, as she smiles and dances at one point, and then disappears for hours on end at another. The planet Melancholia acts in a similar fashion as it the closer the planet is to the main characters the more ominous the situation becomes for life on earth.

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Even though the film is shot through the perspective of Justine for the most part, the audience can also relate to the helplessness felt by her sister Claire. No matter how hard Claire tries to make Justine happy or normal, she can physically do nothing. She knows that her sister’s depression is an innate trait that cannot be fixed, but only treated. In the midst of this inability to affect her sister, Claire still struggles with all her might to help and never gives up. Her determination and false sense of control is dynamically related to Justine’s depression and acceptance of earth’s demise. As the foreign planet looms closer to earth, Claire grabs her son and tries to escape to some other part of the earth, which is useless but reveals man’s constant urge for control and inability to accept death. The irony of this situation is that Claire, who has so far been the most rational and stable of the two sisters, is acting the most irrational, as it is impossible to escape the doomed planet. Von Trier shows the ups and downs of a manic-depressive visually through the actions and reactions of the sisters. Claire and Justine act as polar opposite ends of one character, almost as two sides of the same coin. Without Claire’s frantic escape plans and emotional response, Justine’s acceptance of death would not seem as unnatural.

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One of the strongest aspects of the film is the comparison of the initial wedding scene and the second act which focuses on the collision between Melancholia and Earth. The wedding seems very awkward and bi-polar, as it quickly cuts from Justine being happy to her being depressed. Using the shaky camera gives the feeling almost of a documentary and that the audience isn’t watching an end of the world type film, but the last few days of a family on earth. This sense of truth allows many of the characters to relate to the audience and appear as though they are a premonition of how humans may act if the end of the world were to ever come. The documentary style coupled with the science fiction idea of the world ending at once heightens and decimates the conventions of realism on which those genres depend while simultaneously acting as a symbol of Trier’s personal struggles. This film is hard to put in a genre, however, due to the imagery of the opening scene, the subject matter, and its two act format. The images from the beginning are surreal both visually and conceptually, which not only draws attention from the audience to the aesthetics of this film, but also to the true point of this film. By showing the world ending through a series of beautiful slow motion images, von Trier sets the tone and reveals that the actions of the characters that the audience is about to see really have no meaning. This extends to von Trier’s own struggles with depression as he coped with understanding the meaning of life, why things happen the way they do, and the overall purpose of mankind. Having the world suddenly end as the film wrapped would have made many of the character’s actions much more meaningful, but they weren’t supposed to have meaning. Knowing the world ends makes the frivolous spending for a wedding, sitting around waiting for events to happen, and even the idea of companionship seem pointless and unnecessary.

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Justine words about the earth ending seem to be the most relevant to someone, such as von Trier, who suffers from depression or issues with existence. She mentions that the world ending didn’t matter because there is no one else out there that cares or is affected by it. The large, cold universe goes on even without the survival of mankind, so she cynically questions the superiority complex that humans have had since the dawn of time. Her words and dead pan delivery appear to be straight from von Trier’s diary as he ponders the worth behind his work and the point of it all since he, as everyone else, will one day die. This is one of the main reasons that Melancholia works as a compilation of genres and ideas instead of simply a “end of the world” thriller or study of depression. The film is a personal expression from a filmmaker that discusses questions that every single person has thought about at least once in their life, making Melancholia actually more about human existence than about human death.

The end of the world is something snowmen experience every year. 

Sound and Adaptation in Blade Runner

•January 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Through the futuristic, science fiction score, sound effects, and use of dialogue, Ridley Scott successfully creates a realistic society that is similar to the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but still unique to the cinema medium in Blade Runner. By taking advantage of modern advances in sound editing, Blade Runner fully develops many of the themes presented in the book while adding a new sense of film genres with a heavy neo-noir influence. While the aesthetics of the setting play a vital role in establishing the tone for the story, the sounds allow for many of the working parts of the fictional society to appear realistically functional and add to the ambiguity that surrounds the idea of the true definition of existence.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? begins with the main protagonist Deckard in bed with his wife as they argue over morality issues regarding murder, his job as a hired killer of androids, and their manufactured sheep (Dick, 4). This immediately presents themes of whether or not the engineered androids should be considered equal with humans or not and begins to explore the idea of what truly defines human existence. Even though Blade Runner opens on a wide shot of the sprawling metropolitan area, it still initially brings about a discourse on the relationships between humans and machines and how existence cannot simply be defined by what people are physically made of. As the text on screen describes the setting for the rest of the film, an electronic soundtrack begins to play that appears to be void of any stereotypical music that accompanies human narratives. Once the screen fades from black, the sound of fire bursting in the air from one of the many, generic factories explodes on screen and gives a feeling of mechanical prowess (3:06). This scene gives no indication or sign of personal human identification due to the lack of both visual and audible mortal interference as the sounds resemble working machines and computers. The musical score contains many bursts of noise that do not quite fit into any pattern, once again reflecting mechanized motion and its auditory output.
Instead of having to introduce characters through descriptions and adjectives like in the book, the first important character in Blade Runner is revealed through an unseen speaker informing a man of his arrival (6:08). The voice coming through the speakers appears robotic, once again commenting on the normality of artificial life and its place or usefulness in a new, futuristic human society. Having the voice come off screen also implies that the space around the two characters is much larger than what the viewer is seeing. The placing of the camera within the proximity of the characters is very tight which contradicts the environment and provides the tension between them to become even more amplified.

Similarly, where Deckard is getting food on the streets, a blimp over head blares advertisements about the off world where life is better and there is opportunity for improvement (8:18-8:31).  Where the book focuses more on the thoughts behind the characters to portray various themes, the film heavily relies on sound to play on the similarities and differences between mortal beings and manufactured creatures. Scott uses noises and sounds to argue that besides the physical make up of the androids, their existence is still equal to humans and should be considered lives worth living, instead of held down to forced slavery simply due to genetic makeup. He also implies that reality may not be held down to certain concrete devices such as that truth simply exists in what the eye can see or that the wakened state is the only truth. As Deckard begins to slowly slip into a dreamlike state, he plays a simple note on the piano that begins as a diegetic noise but transitions into non-diegetic as the piano notes morph into the musical soundtrack (41:39-42:00). The continuous piano key plays as his dream of a unicorn galloping starts, revealing that many times truth can transcend the standard reality of the awakened being and flow through the subconscious.

While Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? covers this same thematic plot, it cannot convey the aspects of dream and reality through well placed, technical devices like blending sound and having noises off screen. However, the book does provide insight into Deckard’s mind in a more thorough way that strongly differs the from the sounds and dream sequences in the film. In many instances it is easier to understand his mindset and his motivations as a character through simple inner thoughts that comment on most of his actions throughout the entire narrative of the book. These inner thoughts do resemble the dream sequences in some ways as they flow seamlessly from simple descriptions of the environment to his own questioning of the events around him (Dick, 113).

This type of inner monologue comes back in the film at the end when he reflects on Gaff’s sympathetic words towards Rachael’s advancing end to mechanical mortality as he says “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does”, which only increases his new found understanding of existence (1:52:02-1:52:07). By using the sound clip of dialogue, Scott re-emphasizes what it means to truly live beyond the physical boundaries of the world and experience life with empathy, joy, love, and understanding, many of which, ironically, Deckard had forgotten until he formed a relationship with the android, Rachael. Having the sound of Deckard’s dream state play while he’s functioning in reality both with the unicorn dream and the remembrance of Gaff’s words show that other realities can exist and correspond simultaneously on numerous levels.

To address Deckard’s own personal struggles with his feelings towards killing the androids, his final retirement scene with the Nexus-6 Roy acts as means in which Scott can project Deckard’s inner turmoil onto another character. As he wanders through the darkly lit home of the genetic designer Sebastian, Roy initiates a game of cat and mouse where he attacks Deckard mentally and physically. Roy plays on Deckard’s struggle with killing as he says “I thought you were supposed to be good, aren’t you the good man?” but the android is not on screen when he delivers these lines (1:35:34-1:35:40).

This mirrors Deckard’s earlier interaction with his conscience, instead this time Roy is acting directly as his inner voice. Having the dialogue come off screen also creates a feeling of tension and suspense because the audience does not know where Roy is and it is apparent that one of these men will not survive the conflict.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the psychological aspect in the final fight between Deckard and Roy is largely reduced and merely comes to an end with a few shots from a gun (Dick, 223). The environment plays a large part into this ending as well, as the sound of continuous falling rain creates a strong neo-noir aesthetic and reinforces the idea of the struggle of the anti-hero Deckard. A strong downpour of rain also sets up a strong scene of exposition where Roy reveals his past and why is existence, android or not, still is just as important as Deckard’s. As Roy sits on the rooftop, looking back on the vastly unique experiences that most humans have not enjoyed, he sums up the significance of the loss of being by saying “all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain” (1:46:41-1:46:58).

Without the sound of heavy rain persistently drenching the background, those words would not have had the full effect of allowing the audience to understand how quickly life can end. This rain storm calls forth a questioning of how many other individual experiences have been lost or destroyed simply because of their genetic make up or the prejudiced social class system.

Many times the sound represents the ongoing society that exists outside of Deckard’s storyline with the androids and help support the believability of the futuristic world. Something as simple as a police siren that is familiar to modern day audiences grounds the science fiction aspects in reality and also reflect the continuing social deviance that has persisted throughout the history of the world (35:07). The book has to rely on textual descriptions to try and present a society in the future that is still relatable to current audiences, which works well but is strengthened in the film adaptation by sound. Sound itself acts as a character, in some places as a gritty reminder of the evil in human nature, other times to show that no matter how far society advances, the natural world is still a vibrant part of everyday life. The constant sound of rain and wind reminds the audience that even the completely mechanized world cannot overcome forces that did not derive from human creation.

Unfortunately, the only thing we have close to a blade runner in our time is this guy.

A Lesson in Love

•November 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So I just completed another short film for school. I had to story board (draw) all the scenes first before shooting and stayed pretty true to the original. If it wasn’t for friends who were willing to risk embarrassing themselves, this wouldn’t have been possible. This film is not just a simple made up story, but a valuable lesson for many that are looking for love out there.

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Self-Documentary

•November 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

For class, I had to create a documentary about myself and it had to be under 3 minutes in length. It didn’t have any criteria on style so I decided to try something “artistic” and unconventional to see if I am really cut out for this film stuff. My approach focuses on the ambiguity in life and how our own subjective perceptions shape and mold a large portion of our lives. I also wanted to comment on the subjective nature of the documentary itself and how I am altering reality while still driving home a real, true message. Part of me also wanted to show how we can all interpret events or parts of life in our own unique way. So feel free to ask what themes I’m trying to show if you don’t get it or just tell me what you thought of it.

Adaptation in Adaptation

•October 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I recently got to write about a specific scene from Spike Jonze’s Adaptation that takes place during the beginning of the film and introduces the relationship between two of the main characters. Unfortunately, this clip from the movie isn’t online anywhere so I tried to describe the scene as much as possible to make my analysis as coherent as possible. We’ll see.

Susan Orlean’s article in the New Yorker about plant enthusiast and overall eccentric John Laroche is a titillating story about the theft of a rare Orchid that also embodies his unique personality. The film interpretation of the article, aptly named Adaptation, plays on the idea of what adaptations really are while simultaneously fleshing out Laroche into an even more intriguing character. Through the courtroom scene where Susan Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, is first introduced to John Laroche, played by Chris Cooper, Adaptation reveals its faithfulness to the article while still creating a character using some artistic liberties. This scene demonstrates the realistic personality of Laroche while foreshadowing the fictional world the film will delve into as the narrative progresses.

By lingering on the shot of the wild Ghost Orhcid and cutting to Laroche in court, director Spike Jonze is making a visual comparison of the two oddities that are central in both Orlean’s article and his interpretation (15:07-15:13). Having Laroche’s voice appear before he is seen also plays on the idea that the Ghost Orchid and he share many of the same characteristics. In Orlean’s article on Laroche, she immediately begins with this same scenario of him talking in front of the court about his accomplishments and knowledge in the botany world. Her take on the courtroom scene has Laroche appear like a man who is confident in his actions and abilities, talking to the judge like he would one of his colleagues or friends. Similarly, Jonze has Laroche rambling on about his achievements, almost verbatim to the article, but with a setting that Orlean did not mention. During this scene in the film, the camera pans around the courtroom, highlighting the actions of various legal players and their lack of attention paid to Laroche.

The attorneys are seen having what appears to be private discussions that are irrelevant to the case at hand and give the sense that no matter how much Laroche talks, he is not the most important subject in the room (15:27-15:43). This depiction of the courtroom scene also reflects the contrast between Laroche and his environment, similar to the rarity of the Ghost Orchid. Laroche’s personality is completely unique yet seems out of place when compared to the formal environment and severity of the situation he is in. One of the lawyers even seems to be annoyed with his long, verbal resume’ and only responds with a forced “thank you” after Laroche admits he may be the smartest person he knows (15:38-15:44).

Susan Orlean’s article does not mention the courtroom environment in this manner which reveals the changes that Spike Jonze made while filming. While Orlean was trying to depict a man comfortable with his own quirks, Jonze was showing Laroche as a man that comes across as insignificant and almost too smart for his own good. This difference in portrayal of Laroche alters how the reader or viewer perceives and therefore accepts him as a character. Jonze did decide to give Laroche the same attire that Olrean describes in her article, with him wearing sunglasses around his neck, a patterned shirt, and very casual pants; all of which are very out of place in a courtroom.

The physical appearance of Laroche is very important in establishing his character and how he relates to the world around him, as he is very set apart. Also, his attire comments on Orlean’s description of Orchids and how some people make judgements based on looks alone and sometimes cannot tell rare flowers from common ones (Orleans, 42). Just like the Orchids, Laroche is much more than his lowly appearance and is a man that has adapted to many scenarios over the years.  However, the beginning of this sequence (15:08-15:46) does not overtly reflect how the rest of the film will play out, nor does it include any mention of Charlie Kauffman who is trying to write the screenplay adaptation for Orlean’s article. This is important to note because it initially grounds the film in reality that is almost wholly pulled from Orlean’s words, where as the end of the film changes Orlean’s story for the sake of change and to comment on interpretations.

Once the scene cuts to Laroche outside the courthouse as he is about to get into his van, the interaction between he and Orleans is initiated (15:46). While this conversation is not directly mentioned in “Orchid Fever” it sparks the relationship that will further be explored and exploited later on in the film. When Orlean mentions she’s from the New Yorker, he retorts with the motto of the paper as if to say that he already knows who she is based on her affiliation alone (15:49-16:01).

This once again plays on the idea of judging as both Laroche and Orleans make initial assumptions that end up being incorrect. After Laroche asserts that he didn’t do anything and that he’ll take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, he mentions that the judge can go screw herself (16:10-16:17). This reflects Orlean’s discussion on how Laroche likes to balance the line of morality between good and evil as he committed a crime but still defends his innocence (Orleans, 46). Jonze’s use of this scene to reveal thematic principles shows how interpretations of literature do not always have to exploit the material, but can still be true to the original narrative without a word for word recreation.

This scene also reveals the connection between Laroche and Orleans for the first time as he admires her willingness to listen and she admires his blunt honesty about how he feels (16:24-16:31). Orleans depicts this admiration in her article from the very beginning as she focuses on the way Laroche openly says what’s on his mind and has no problem about who he is as a person. Even though they just met in this scene, their fleeting glances foreshadow a relationship to come that becomes very intense as Jonze fictionalizes their interactions later on in the film. Without this revelation of character between Laroche and Orleans, the rest of the film would have lacked emotional depth and tension that grounds a heavy hitting ending. Once Laroche learns whatever he says will be put into print, a piano themed soundtrack begins to play that is reminiscent of horror music and hints at things to come (16:27).

Even though the clip ends with Laroche putting on his sunglasses and smiling, the music connects the tone of this scene to the following scene of Charlie Kauffman frantically working on his screenplay of “Orchid Fever.” Kaufman’s eratic movements visually contradict the calmness and confidence of Laroche in the scene before, creating character foils that give the film another layer of depth that Orlean’s article does not cover. Also, having Kaufman adapting her article for the big screen also gives the sense of self-reflectivity as the audience is simultaneously witnessing what he is writing about and his writing process. This plays with the idea of truth as the audience is not always certain what is real and what Kaufman has changed for entertainment’s sake.

No matter what I say, Nic Cage is always right. At least his hair is.