Fantastic Mr. Fox: Adaptation Paper

13 Jul

The Book

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is perhaps not Roald Dahl’s most famous work, but it might be the most beloved by those who know his writing well. It is a short children’s novel that leads readers into a fox’s den and asks larger questions about man vs. wild. Of course, in this book which is geared to children, the fox is the hero, outwitting the farmer at every turn. Mr. Fox faces an insurmountable challenge to protect his family. Interestingly, this book was written during a particularly difficult time in Roald Dahl’s life. After losing one of his sons to the measles, “[u]nderstandably, the book that resulted was a portrait of a father as family protector” (Foundas, 2009). Like Dahl, Mr. Fox tried desperately to save his family. However, unlike in Dahl’s actual life, Mr. Fox succeeds in this invented story.

Throughout the book, the farmers use increasingly challenging methods to remove the foxes from their home and the foxes simply react for the first part of the novel. They face guns, fires, farming machinery and even a siege! Dahl’s story is somewhat dark, although insanely humorous. The tail-shooting incident wherein Mrs. Fox cleans up her husband and soothes him saying that it was “the finest tail for miles around” is ridiculous (Dahl, 1970). As Mr. Fox went to bed “feeling very glum,” most readers could not help but let forth at least the tiniest giggle.

The a-ha moment arrives when Mr. Fox (who is, of course, insanely clever) exploits the stupidity of the farmers and devises a plan to tunnel into the chicken coop and “rustle up some dinner”. After this successful exploit, the foxes and their animal friends tunnel all over the farm to acquire food. The book ends without ending. Mr. Fox has outwitted the stupid farmers who continue their siege of his den while all the animals are fat, happy and mobile in their underground tunnels. The ending that leaves readers (and those pesky farmers) hanging on, maybe forever adds an aura of cynicism and even magic to children who might possibly conceive that the farmers could be waiting out the foxes… at this very moment.

The beauty of this book is how wonderfully clever and suspenseful it is, especially for its audience. Young children are drawn to the personification of animals and their accompanying traits. It also sends a broader message about changing farming methods of the 1970’s when this book was written. This was the age of a major shift in farming culture. Previous agrarian cultures were dependent upon a family that owned property and farmed it as their means of income.

Over time, larger corporations began purchasing these smaller plots of land, combining them and the corporate farm was born with ever-larger machinery and a disconnected personality from the goods they harvested. These corporations were responsible for the increased use of insecticides as they strove to make the highest amount for their products. During the 1970’s, it became clear that these toxins were having an adverse effect on local wildlife and many movements were underway to abate these practices. In short, the 1970’s saw the beginning of corporate farming and consumer backlash to a changed agrarian landscape. Amidst all of this, Mr. Fox faces down a group of idiot farmers and succeeds. The underdog – or underfox – rules the day.

The Film

Fantastic Mr. Fox was a wonderful movie that was received well by both families and critics. Released in 2009, this film garnered major attention due to its all-star cast, who, no doubt loved this book and agreed to star in it. Who would turn down such an opportunity? George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Owen Wilson truly shine in this movie. Their voices give the characters depth and excitement as the audience is drawn into a spectacle of stop-motion animation which is surprising and amazingly wonderful. Edelstein believes that “stop-motion animation and Wes Anderson were made for each other” (Edelstein, 2009). Wes Anderson masterfully captures the wonder and childlike plot of Dahl’s original book with this technique, reminding the audience all along that this is decidedly a family movie.

As with most modern family movies, humor abounds to keep both parents and children entertained. One humorous moment included Mr. Fox explaining to the possum about paranoid chickens and how you always have to kill them in one bite. Then, of course, Clooney falls into a sarcastic rant about whether or not his words are having any impact on the possum who stands there, eyes wide, with no response. “Are you listening to me? I look into your eyes and I can’t tell if you’re getting anything I’m saying.” Children find it amusing as possum stares back blankly at Mr. Fox who becomes increasingly annoyed. They get it – the possum is stupid which is pretty funny for a child. But it is mostly hilarious for parents who probably have felt this way at least a thousand times with their own children. In fact, Mr. Fox repeats this line during many similar moments throughout the film, giving an even greater comedic impact.

Critics jumped on the bandwagon praising this film, its actors and mainly, its director, Wes Anderson. Scott Foundas called it “the film is a marvel to behold” (Foundas, 2009). The Fantastic Mr. Fox is fantastic on so many levels – its perfectly suited music, amazingly lovely settings and dabbles of humor amalgamate into this wonderful spectacle. The amazingly visual experience of this movie is captivating. Steven Rea remarked that “the texture of the fur, the glow on the faces from a dusky light, the cut of the suits (of course these creatures wear clothes!) [are] simply mesmerizing” (Rea, 2009). This attention to detail gives this film about animals a wonderful, human quality and draws the audience into a sense of wonder and intrigue – just as Dahl does in his books.

Not all critics lauded this movie in its entirety. Todd McCarthy did acknowledge that this film “boasts some of the most gorgeous autumnal color schemes devised by someone other than Mother Nature herself,” yet in the next breath argued that the film’s style is “paradoxically both precious and rough-hewn…[It is] …the season’s defiantly anti-CGI toon, and its retro charms will likely appeal more strongly to grown-ups than to moppets” (McCarthy, 2009). Sadly, McCarthy cannot have it both ways – and who would want to remove one from the other? The beauty inherent in the film is its humanity, longevity of story and its humanity – even through the eyes of these furry creatures.

The Adaptation

One of the most interesting issues of adapting this work was the brevity of the original work. Clearly, much needed to be added. Yet, it was what was removed that made some critics uneasy. McCarthy worried that Anderson moved too far away from the plot into more of the “family issues” (McCarthy, 2009). Others have expressed concern that the amalgamation of all four of the Fox children into one – Ash – was misguided and too far from the original. And yet, without some logistical changes, this movie would lack the power and watchability that it carries. Audiences need to identify more with characters than issues. Additionally, much needed to be added to this film to ensure it created an entire storyline, not simply a regurgitation of a short, children’s novel.

Anderson not only brought much of his own talent to this film, he and “Baumbach make plenty of embellishments, including a third act that’s invented whole cloth, the spirit of Dahl’s story is faithfully rendered” (Tobias, 2014).  Anderson chose this book for a reason. He knew that he could bring these characters and issues to life in a beautiful, exciting and nostalgic manner. Berardinelli believed that Anderson had “unearthed his calling” in this “smooth and effortless” adaptation (Berardinelli, 2009). In fact, most Dahl purists appreciate this film and herald it “alongside Matilda as a motion picture that ‘gets’ the book and transforms its essence to the screen” (Berardinelli, 2009).

Works Cited

Anderson, Wes, Noah Baumbach, Allison Abbate, Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric C. Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, and Roald Dahl. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, 2010.

Berardinelli, James. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Reel Views. Nov 23, 2009. Web. July 2, 2015.

Dahl, Roald. Fantastic Mr. Fox. New York: Knopf, 1970. Kindle Edition. Page 14.

Edelstein, David. Fox and Friends. New York Magazine. Nov 9, 2009. Web. July 2, 2015.

Foundas, Scott. Wes Anderson Brings Wes Andersonness to Fantastic Mr. Fox. Village Voice. Nov 10, 2009. Web. July 2, 2015.

McCarthy, Scott. Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox. Variety Magazine. Oct 14, 2009. Web. July 2, 2015.

Rea, Steven. Fantastic Mr. Fox; More Than Just A Terrific Kid Flick. Philly.Com. Nov 24, 2009. Web. July 2, 2015.

Tobias, Scott, Nov 24, 2009. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Feb 17, 2014. Dissolve. Web. July 2, 2015.


Why No One Should Watch the Watchmen

13 Jul

The Book

The Watchmen was a comic book series that provided an alternate history of superheroes. Instead of the traditional “Dare The World To Stop Me,” these heroes were for an older crowd. Perhaps, what is most interesting about this comic is that it read much like a novel. There was even “a story within a story” and time was fluid.

The Film

Not unlike some more modern superhero movies, including Disney’s The Incredibles, this film centered around a group of superheroes who are forces out of retirement to counter a global threat. But, unlike a children’s movie, the superheroes face challenges to their self-concept and even their own sense of right and wrong. The lines are continually blurred. This differs from most other comic movies that have a very clear sense of good vs. evil.

The Adaptation

This was a ridiculously long adaptation and still left a great deal out of the original series. What is most lacking are the additional characters that could not possibly have been included as they would have detracted from the character development of the Crimebusters, themselves. The film did do an excellent job of presenting the dichotomy of beliefs surrounding “superheroes”. Sure, they are wonderful, but f they truly existed, their surveillance by government and even their control would be imminent.

The Critics

Adam Nayman enjoyed the Watchmen yet felt somewhat ripped off upon leaving the theater. He argued that inner morality struggles had been shelved in favor of “rabble-stoking bloodlust” (Nayman, 2009). He also argued that the apocalyptic ending of the comic series was shelved in favor of “bad things happening to bad people” thus trivializing the original series (Nayman, 2009). Kutner explored this idea of the architects of fear and if it was right to sacrifice many lives for the sake of peace. Connelly hated the film except for the opening montage arguing that the film “devolves into an ugly, simple-minded, and punishingly long excuse to fetishize the violent acts” (Connelly, 2010).

The Critical Argument

I would argue the Tristram Shandy was the most unfilmable text, yet the most successful movie. The story of Tristram Shandy is true “cock and bull” with little substance and a ridiculous series of events and motivations. Tristram’s inability to truly connect with those around him would make this text a very difficult sell to any screenwrite. And yet, despite being the most unfilmable, director, Michael Winterbottom, was able to capture the spirit of Tristram, if not all of the events of the original text.

Works Cited

Connelly, Matt. Two Cents. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 12 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 May 2015.

Gordon, Lawrence, Lloyd Levin, Deborah Snyder, David Hayter, Alex Tse, Zack Snyder, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie E. Haley, Jeffrey D.  Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Tyler Bates, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2009.

Kutner, David. Reagan, Watchmen, and The Architects of Fear. Bright Lights Film Journal, 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 16 May 2015.

Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc, 1987. Kindle Edition.

Nayman, Adam. Watchmen. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 17 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 May 2015.


13 Jul

The Book

Mr. and Mrs. Fox live together with their fox children right by three mean men; one has a stock of chickens, one a stock of ducks, and one apple cider. Mr. Fox is very clever in stealing from one of these men every night, and never gets caught, despite the men’s best efforts and plans. The men finally decide to smoke Mr. Fox out by waiting for him to emerge from his hole and shooting him. They succeed in shooting off his tail, but Mr. Fox gets away. They then decide to try digging the foxes out, but again Mr. Fox outsmarts them by having all of his family dig faster and deeper than they can reach.

The Film

This movie is done in stop-motion animation with whimsical colors and shapes. Most of the events in the book are preserved, but with many creative additions. The voices were mostly recorded outside instead of in a studio, so that they would sound more authentic to the scene. Clooney was brilliant in this film as Mr. Fox.

The Adaptation

This movie goes a long way to expand upon Dahl’s famous book. Characters including Mr. Fox’s lawyer appear to “set the stage” for a longer movie. Additional scenes are also included to give the characters and the plot more depth. Clooney is quite believable in this role and no doubt, drew audiences to this adaptation. The movie’s style contributed to its Dahl-like essence.

The Critics

This film fared well amongst the critics. Guerrasio praises the film that “dazzles children and adults alike”. He acclaims George Clooney’s voice role of Mr. Fox. Overall, the imaginative look of this movie sit well with this critic. Sabo lauds Anderson’s “most mature film to date”, complimenting Clooney’s performance and a strong script.

Condon also enjoyed the film, calling Mr. Fox a “perfect hero”.

The Critical Argument

Both Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Fantastic Mr. Fox are adaptations of British fantasy children’s novels; additionally they both rely on special effects. In the Harry potter series, CGI ruled the day. Yet Fantastic Mr. Fox led the audience down a more nostalgic path of stop-motion animation. Some were skeptical that Fantastic mr. Fox might be overshadowed “in this age of CGI and big special effects, but it was actually the perfect medium; the jerky motions adding to the story’s overall quirkiness and the simplicity of the settings giving it a hint of nostalgia” (Katie B., 2009). This differentiates the movie from the slickness of Potter. Yet, both remain to to the author’s vision. Potter is a slick series. Fantastic Mr. Fox was childlike and a little clunky. Barnes remarked that “Fantastic Mr Fox is one of very few adaptations of classic British children’s literature that moves a story into our era, while remaining faithful to the original author’s vision in both look and feel” (Barnes, 2009).

Works Cited

Anderson, Wes, Noah Baumbach, Allison Abbate, Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric C. Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, and Roald Dahl. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, 2010.

B., Katie. Fantastic Mr. Fox—Film and Book Review. First Book. Dec 22, 2009. Web. July 9, 2015

Barnes, Henry. Wes Anderson’s Urbane Mr Fox is Truer to Roald Dahl than Most. The Guardian Film Blog. Oct. 20 2009. Web. July 9, 2015.

Condon, Emily. Reverse Shot’s Best of 2009: Fantastic Mr. Fox. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 7 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 May 2015.

Dahl, Roald. Fantastic Mr. Fox. New York: Knopf, 1970. Kindle Edition

French, Phillip. Fantastic Mr. Fox. “The Observer”. The Guardian. Oct 25, 2009. Web. July 9, 2015

Geurrasio, Jason. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Filmmaker, 23 Mar. 2010. Web. 16 May 2015.

Parker, James. Outfoxed. Slate Magazine. Nov 24, 2009. Web. July 9, 2015.

Rybin, Steven. The Animated Auteur: Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Global Cinema. n.d. Web. July 9, 2015

Sabo, Lee W. Inimitable Charm: Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Bright Lights Film Journal, 31 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 May 2015.

Zacharek, Stephanie. Fantastic Mr. Fox: Better Than Pixar. Salon Magazine. Nov 11, 2012. Web. July 9, 2015.

The Darker Side of Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban

10 Jul

The Book

Harry goes into his third year at Hogwarts and learns that a mass murderer, Sirius Black, has escaped from Azkaban and is after him. Because of this, dementors guard the school. Unfortunately, because of Harry’s dark past, they affect him greatly. He asks the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, professor Lupin, to help him make a patronus charm. He is successful. Harry learns that Sirius Black was his parents’ best friend, and betrayed them, resulting in their deaths. Later on, Harry, Ron, and Hermione encounter Sirius in the Shrieking Shack. Harry learns that he is actually innocent and that Ron’s pet rat is actually Peter Pettigrew, and the one responsible for Harry’s parents dying. Harry also learns that Sirius is his godfather. As they take Pettigrew up to the castle to get him arrested, Lupin transforms into a werewolf. Pettigrew escapes. All of a sudden, hundreds of dementors close in on them. An unknown patronus from afar sends them away, and Harry mistakenly believes the caster to be his dead father. Sirius is captured and sentenced to the Dementor’s Kiss. Dumbledore tells Harry and Hermione to go back in time to save Sirius using her time-turner. In the midst of their time travel, Harry realizes it was he who drove all those dementors away and conjures his most impressive patronus yet. After this, they release Sirius from his holding cell.

The Film

This was a brilliantly executed movie with wonderful effects. One of the most moving scenes of Patronus past and present featured excellent music and seamless, creative effects. This movie was much more weird and whimsical than the first two (in a good way).

The Adaptation

This novel translated well to the screen and the screenplay was faithful to the source text. Harry, Hermione and Ron are entirely convincing. Additionally the scenery is breathtaking – much like the novel.

The Critics

Hornaday liked the movie, but thought it lacked something, that it was a bit bland at times. She appreciated the spice that some of the older actors and Emma Watson brought to the movie but felt that Daniel Radcliffe’s acting fell flat.  Like Hornaday, Scott felt that Watson’s acting outshone Radcliffe’s. Travers’ review glows with praise for the “dazzler” of a movie and for Radcliffe’s acting.

The Critical Argument

The genius of Alfonso Cuaron is his ability to adapt the Potter films to both a changing audience and a maturing cast; he does this by making Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a darker, more complex film than the earlier ones in the series. Alfonso Cuarón, himself acknowledged that “[t]his film is concerned with confronting [the characters’] innermost fears” (Joffe, 2007). This is a far cry from earlier Potter movies which emphasized childhood worries. Some felt that this new take on Potter film is “increasingly baroque and complex and pregnant with its own self-important Tolkien-esque seriousness and ‘darkness’” (Bradshaw, 2004). Yet Cuaron stands by his choices to mature the series and brought

“dazzling and artistic sensibility to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban…Cuaron [is] the ideal candidate to move the previously solely youth-oriented series into the darker and more mature territory that was to come” (Johans, 2007).

Works Cited

Bradshaw, Peter. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Guardian. 28 May 2004. Web 4 June, 2015.

Cuarón, Alfonso, Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe, Steven Kloves, Steven Weisberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Michael Seresin, John Williams, and J K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Burbank, Calif: Warner Home Video, 2004.

Joffe, Robyn. Harry Potter and the Adaptation from Novel to Film. Web 4 June, 2015.

Johans, Jen. Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Film Intuition. 2007. Web 4 June, 2015.

Hornaday, Ann. Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban Review. Washington Post. Web 5 June, 2015.

Movie Web Team. EXCLUSIVE: Director Alfonso Cuaron talks Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Movieweb. 1 June 2004. Web 4 June, 2015.

Rowling, J K, and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999. Print.

Scott, A. O. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New YORK Times. June 3, 2004. Web 5 June, 2015.

Travers, Daniel. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Rolling Stone Magazine. May 27, 2004. Web 5 June,2015.

Zacharek, Stephanie. Prisoner of Azkaban. Salon. 3 June 2004. Web 4 June, 2015.

A Scanner Darkly: Or is it Oddly?

2 Jul

The Book

The characters are all very abrasive and bitter, frequently swearing with very biting tones. The drugs drive them closer to utter insanity. These characters are all very disconnected and frustrated with the situation, snapping at everyone who talks to them.

The Film

This was a non-traditional film; considering its cartoon format, the characters displayed a surprising degree of depth and interest. Perhaps, the most enigmatic character was portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. who shone in his role as an unfeeling drug-dealer. Keanu Reeves suited the role as a double agent although seemed lacking to some degree. Winona Ryder shone as both herself and Keanu’s one night stand.

The Adaptation

This is nearly a direct translation of the book –  of course, without the combination of characters. This is the joy of the cartoon format – the book can jump onto the screen even without the difficulty the CGI or staging that would be required. All characters seemed true to their abrasive form, especially Ernie and James as the relaxed friend and psychopath respectively. Keanu Reeves did well in the main role, although was somewhat unexpected considering the original novel.

The Critics

Kosub was hesitant about applauding this film feeling that it was too superficial and even “a disappointment as a film about drug addiction and paranoia” (Kosun, 2006). He also criticized the film’s theme of paranoia as unrealistic. Although, he did appreciate the love story between Bob and Donna, referring it to as a “remarkable, unheralded love story, buried in a brief and unfulfilled relationship, played out in loss and sadness” (Kosub, 2006)..

Bright Lights Film Journal’s Kutner praised the film’s actors as “ creative and engaging. And funny. “

Crawford was dismayed that this movie would be unappreciated by fans despite the depth of the story and its screen portrayal.

The Critical Argument

In “A Scanner Darkly”, the line between reality and delusion becomes blurred for both the audience and the characters – perhaps, because reality is more of what people believe than what is actually true. This post-modern vision dominates this film “in which drugs predominate and reality tends to be a big question mark” (Dargis, 2006). in fact, the film’s emphasis on the brain’s two competing parts gives it a further “paradoxical identity” (Romney, 2006). This is illustrated well in the main character, Arctor, is a challenging character to define given his propensity to allow himself to be seen as “an empty page who lets other people define his identity, and doesn’t seem to have much personality of his own” (Robinson, A.V. Club Staff, 2006). At the end of the film, audiences are left wondering what is real and what is imagined in this film  which is its ultimate brilliance.

Works Cited

A. V. Club Staff, . “A Scanner Darkly: thoughts on the film adaptation and the unfilmable.” Books. A. V. Club, 1 July 2010. Web. 1 July 2015.

Crawford, James. A Scanner Darkly. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 28 July 2006. Web. 15 May 2015.

Dargis, Manohla. “A Scanner Darkly Review.” Movies. New York Times, 7 July 2006. Web. 1 July 2015.

Dick, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1977. Kindle Edition.

Glenn, Joshua. “Watching the Detectives: A Review of Scanner Darkly.” Summer Movies. Slate Magazine, 27 June 2006. Web. 1 July 2015.

Kosub, Nathan. Clearly, Clearly, Dark-Eyed Donna: Time and A Scanner Darkly. Sense of Cinema, Nov. 2006. Web. 15 May 2015.

Kutner, Jerry. A SCANNER DARKLY – Linklater Gets PKD Right. Bright Lights Film Journal, 13 July 2013. Web. 15 May 2015.

Linklater, Richard, Palmer West, Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder, Shane F. Kelly, Graham Reynolds, and Philip K. Dick. A Scanner Darkly. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2006.

Romney, Jonathan. “A Scanner Darkly Review.” Reviews. The Independent, 20 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 July 2015.

Russell, Mike. “THE CULTUREPULP Q&A: RICHARD LINKLATER.” Culturepulp. whoa is (not) me , 1 July 2006. Web. 1 July 2015.

No Country For Old Men

1 Jul

The Book

This story moved fairly slowly, and rather differently than other novels. The sense of impending doom pervaded events, as did the stream of consciousness included from Llewellyn, The book was nearly comical in its handling of such dark subject matter as it described events without becoming overly emotional or rhetorical. It was as if doom and a snide laughing grunt appeared hand in hand.

The Film

The Coen brothers certainly left their stamp on this film as the absurd is celebrated with the slightest of nuance and ridiculosity. Llewellyn was well portrayed and allowed the audience to “feel” his thoughts, even when they were not audible. This is the genius of this movie; it represented the events the way they were meant to unfold without “beating it into the audience”. Hilarity ensued.

The Adaptation

This adaptation was fairly true to the original book, although it seemed to “jump the shark” during Tommy Lee Jones’ extended closing which was not included in the original novel. In some ways, this book was nearly written to create a movie. It presented the action carefully, but without an over-emphasis on emotion. All of this was left up to the viewer to decide.

The Critics

In Reverse Shot, Churner was quite positive about this film and praised its adaptation from the original text. He noted several wonderful attributes of the film including Coen humor and the superb acting while also not getting too hung up on any one part. He posited that this film is “greater than a sum of its parts” (Churner, 2007).

In Bright Lights Film Journal, Kutner appreciated the unconventional ending, but realized most people wouldn’t like it (Kutner, 2007).

Also in Reverse Shot, Rowin noted that  this movie was a seamless adaptation with wonderful actors (Rowin, 2007).

The Critical Argument

Some might argue that this movie is the ultimate man’s movie.  It harnessed the strong, silent, Eastwood type. Yet, all the while, “[the] Coens… amplify the material’s dark, rueful humor (Scott, 2007). Without the stellar performances, this would have been impossible. Moss’ portrayal as “man attuned to the land’s rugged ferociousness” is a man at his purest form – attuned with nature and hardship (Schager, 2007). Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff is a celebration of the righteous man – the savior. The audience is drawn to his quiet strength. And finally, there is the villain – the unharnessed violence of men. All of these characters are a salute to “real men” everywhere.

Works Cited

Butler, Isaac. “The Politics of No Country for Old Men.” TypePad. Parabasis, 15 Nov. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015. <>.

Churner, Leah. Best of the Decade #17: No Country for Old Men. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 27 June 2015.

Grossman, Lev. “A conversation between author Corman McCarthy and the Coen Brothers, about the new movie No Country for Old Men.” Time Magazine, 18 Oct. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015. <,9171,1673269,00.html>.’

Kutner, Jerry. No Country for Old Men – Breaking The Rules. Bright Lights Film Journal, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015.

McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. New York: Knopf, 2005. Kindle Edition.

Partosa, H A., and K Caringal. “No Country for Old Men: A Valuation of Humanity Within Desolation and Despair.” Blogspot. Politics and Film, 27 Feb. 2010. Web. 27 June 2015. <>.

Robinson, Tasha. ““Book vs. Film: No Country for Old Men” .” Movies. AV Club 27, Nov. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015. <,10236/>.

Rowin, Michael J. No Country for Old Men. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 4 Nov. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015.

Rudin, Scott, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin, Mike Zoss, Tommy L. Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald, and Cormac McCarthy. No Country for Old Men. Burbank, Calif: Miramax Home Entertainment, 2008.

Schager, Nick. “Review of No Country for Old Men.” Movies. Slant Magazine, 8 Nov. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015. <;.

Scott, A O. “He Found a Bundle of Money, and Now There’s Hell to Pay.” Review of No Country for Old Men. New York Times, 9 Nov. 2007. Web. 27 June 2015. <>.

American Splendor – In All Its Splendor

27 Jun


The Book / Comics

Harvey becomes obsessed with small issues in life (and then eventually the larger issues including cancer). The premise is that a comic can be more than escape from real life; it can be a celebration of the good, the bad and even the ordinary. While this is somewhat surprising and interesting, to some, it might completely defeats the purpose of reading. In this comic, reading is no longer an escape; it exists to encourage self-reflection and celebrate the ordinary.

The Film

How a movie like this was approved by the studio let alone made any money is a wonder. Some might consider walking out on this movie…  even if they were on an airplane. Those unfamiliar with the comic series would have difficulty appreciating the unique perspective of Pekar and his wry humor. This was a sad man working at Veterans Affairs; without this comic and inciteful graphic novel about his cancer treatments, he made no difference whatsoever.

The Adaptation

The movie was a nice spin on the book. The interplay between the characters was excellent and the staging of both the commentary, Pekar’s life and his works was seamless. Giamatti was brilliant in his portrayal of Pekar and was one of this movie’s most redeeming features.

The Critics

Pinkerton enjoyed the wit of this movie. He appreciated the intense look at Pekar’s life and encourage movie-goers to see it. He referred to it as “melancholic meditation”.  Taubin agreed with this emphasis on personal reflection and referred to this movie as “hyper-reflexive”.  Axmaker was similarly moved by the film, noting that the romance between Joyce and Harvey was well portrayed and moving on screen.

The Critical Argument

Pekar is a typical man with typical problems. However, it is his “Debbie Downer” or “Eeyore” attitude that draws audiences to his comics. He expresses the world as only he can see it. This honesty is refreshing… albeit depressing. The books are somewhat less depressing than the film, although both celebrate Pekar’s unique spin on life. Mitchell referred to this movie as “moody and cantankerous” and most other critics agree.

Works Cited

Axmaker, Sean. “‘American Splendor’s’ working-class hero more paunch than panache.” Movies. Seattle PI, 21 Aug. 2003. Web. 25 June 2015.

Hope, Ted, Robert Pulcini, Shari S. Berman, Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak, Earl Billings, James McCaffrey, Maggie Moore, Vivienne Benesch, Terry Stacey, Harvey Pekar, and Joyce Brabner. American Splendor. New York, NY: HBO Video, 2004.

Pekar, Harvey, Kevin Brown, and Gregory Budgett. American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar : Stories. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003. Kindle Edition.

Pinkerton, Nick. American Splendor. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 5 Sept. 2003. Web. 16 May 2015.

Taubin, Amy. Sundance 2003: Splendor in the Margins. Film Comment, Mar. 2003. Web. 16 May 2015.