American Splendor

1: Analysis of the Book

In “American Splendor,” the source of the movie is a series of comic books authored by Harvey Pekar and illustrated by a series of artists. Pekar is a unique author who practically created his medium, the adult comic book. Now deceased, Pekar created his art form during the ‘70’s and continued through the release of 2004’s American Splendor: Our Movie Year. His creation is unique in its field: a literary comic book for adults. The rise of the graphic novel today can trace its roots to Harvey’s fevered genius. Harvey took his inspiration from his own life, from his love of jazz music, from his Jewish heritage, and from his study of modern writers such as James Joyce. In American Splendor, Harvey chronicles his own “quotidian” (a word he used) life in Cleveland, Ohio. As a file clerk for the VA, Harvey led a “normal” American life. He was a working man with much more to offer than his job or his daily life required. What he had left he put into his art. Harvey’s legacy is the comic books themselves, which are his reflections on his life, and on life in general. We are left with an autobiography of an “everyman” who retained his integrity as a person and as an artist. Pekar’s persona in his comics is that of a depressed underdog whose small triumphs over life’s hassles and issues form the narratives of his “life from off the streets of Cleveland.” The appeal of these stories is that Pekar lets us in on his feelings and thoughts as he goes through his unglamorous life. Of Pekar, Roger Ebert writes, “What we also discover is that Harvey is not entirely a dyspeptic grump, but has sweetness and hope waving desperately from somewhere deep within his despair.”

2: Analysis of the Film

The film was a really good biographical comedy-drama film, considering that it had a very, very small budget of $2,000,000. The movie is also in part of an adaptation of the comics themselves. By having the pictures in those comic squares be of real people rather than drawings,  the adaptation comes alive the moment the credits start to roll. The movie took home 10 awards, which included a Best Screenplay from the Boston Society of Film Critics, a Most Promising Filmmaker from the Chicago Film Critics Association, Best Actress and Best First Film from the National Society of Film Critics, and Best Screenplay – Adapted from the Writers Guild of America.  It also was nominated for 16 awards, which included Best Screenplay – Adapted from the Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture from the Golden Globe Awards.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

This film adaptation of Pekar’s comic series, American Splendor, has been called an almost perfect adaptation. One can hear in Roger Ebert’s review a rare, almost reverential tone, “Movies like this seem to come out of nowhere, like free-standing miracles. But “American Splendor” does have a source, and its source is Harvey Pekar himself–his life, and what he has made of it. The guy is the real thing.”  This movie, like its source, the comic books of Harvey Pekar, is unique in its mixing of genres. Harvey appears as himself, the narrator, and is played perfectly by actor, Paul Giamatti. The movie also contains scenes with the actual comic book drawings, segueing back into the fictional movie. Finally, Pekar narrates some of the film in a voice over. The filmmakers, Shari Springer and Robert Pulcini, worked hand in hand with Pekar to create something that is as unique as Pekar’s comics. Unlike many of the adaptations of books we have seen thus far, this adaptation maintains the crucial spirit of the original. Although it is in the film medium, it retains the central characteristics and message of its source, and is enjoyable to watch at the same time.

4: Online Research

This is part of AMC’s Movie Guide. It gives a description of the movie, who it was directed by, who produced it, who the cast were, and a trailer of the movie. It is also part of the Best Comic Book Movies of the ‘00s list at number nine.

This site is an AMC Blog that gives the top 10 comic book movie adaptations out there. The cool thing about this blog is the fact that they do not use movies based on comics that do not have any superheros in these movies. The first line of this blog, “Comic books are the homes of just Batman, Spider-Man, and other men who dress in tights and  is very catchy and hooks the reader very well. Not only does it give you a top ten list of the movies, it also goes into detail by talking about the movies and giving some information about them.

This is actually a movie wiki page, even though it doesn’t have wiki anywhere in its url. It has examples of characters, locations, and a couple of film reviews.

This site lists details of the film, which include the cast, a summary of the movie, movies that might be related to it. He also gives info of the film including the release date, the MPAA Rating, the Genre of the movie, the running time, and its earnings at the box office.

This is a movie review. It gives a very good review of the movie and it also has a couple snipit reviews on two other movies in the article. The interesting thing is that it says it was written and directed by a husband-and-wife team, who are Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all about ordinariness: we use them to record the mundane events of our lives. How would an American Splendor blog (or Facebook page, or Twitter feed) look like? How would it be different than Pekar’s comic book?

An American Splendor Twitter feed would be different from Pekar’s comic book because the feed would be showing what the characters at a certain time would be doing. It’s not the same in the comic book where on one page, it shows the characters doing things like shopping at a Grocery store. Using a twitter feed, you would see what the person was doing at that particular time. Unlike a comic book, you would not see a “then later” to mark a break in between sets. Instead, you would just wait a while and then the poster would post something at a later time. I think that a twitter feed of Pekar going through his day, live, would be fun to follow, however a lot would be lost without the artistic drawings.


Film Treatment Paper: Firebase Phoenix

1: Concept of Paper

The movie, Firebase Phoenix, is an action-packed war movie with an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how regular soldiers live and fight in Afghanistan. Like the book that inspired it, the movie takes place “on the ground” and inside the armed conflict with an elusive and highly ideological enemy. The movie aims to familiarize the movie-going public with the methods, weapons, and fighting goals of our regular troops in Afghanistan. While there is a “hero,” the lieutenant, the main interest lies in the relationships of this particular platoon. The movie takes place over a few weeks while the squad of men led by the lieutenant tries to protect a river valley road from the Taliban who live in the area. A thankless task, the troops face daily threats of car bombs, snipers and mines as they patrol the road night and day. The excitement of brand new technology grabs the viewer as the soldiers try to outsmart and outgun the Taliban guerillas on their own turf. UAV’s, night-vision helmets and armed robots are the everyday tools of the trade of this technologized army. The good news is that unlike Platoon Leader, our troops are actually winning this time. The climax comes when the well-equipped Americans mow down the Afghan fighters who cannot withstand the superior information and fire-power of their enemy. The movie show-cases the new American soldier who can almost single-handedly take on a group of dedicated terrorists due to his advanced gadgets. However, even though the American forces are triumphant in the short term, their efforts are as doomed as our troops were in Vietnam. The Taliban simply moves on and starts a new fire-fight down the road, leaving the soldiers and the viewers with a feeling of hopeless despair.

2: Characters

James R. McDonough

McDonough is the Lieutenant in command of the platoon. He leads the platoon that is stationed at Firebase Phoenix.

SGT. Hernandez

Hernandez is the first squad leader in the platoon. He leads one platoon on the daily patrols of the river valley, ever aware of the presence of the enemy.

SGT. Bradshaw

Bradshaw is the other squad leader in the platoon.

Corporal John Killigan

Killigan is one of the Non Commissioned Officers in the platoon. He leads a fireteam, which is a unit of four soldiers. His job is to help protect the squad leaders whenever they are ambushed by the enemy.

Mahmood “Leader of Those Whose Limbs are Radiant” ali An Najmuththaaqib:

Mahmood is the leader of the Taliban gang who start firing on the US soldiers up atop Firebase Phoenix.

Mateen “Big Bang” bin An Najmuththaaqib

Mateen is the stupid idiot who eventually runs out into the open to shoot at the RQ-8 Fire Scout, only to be killed in the process.

3: Themes

The five most common themes that a war movie like Platoon Leader will have include Heroism, Cowardice, The absurdity of war, The brutality of war, and The underdog. Some other classic themes can include rare moments of irony and the occasional humor. Most of the movie will go along with moments of Heroism, Cowardice, and how absurd and brutal the war in Afghanistan really is. 

4: Locations. Pictures of the locations are in the Appendix

United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The Military academy is situated on 16,000 acres of land in West Point, New York with all of the campus being located on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River.

New York JFK International Airport

New York JFK International Airport is one of the main airports where soldiers fly out to the middle east. They will either fly commercial or via a military charter.

Bagram Airfield

Bagram Airfield is the main base of operations for all American and NATO forces arriving into Afghanistan. From there, the forces go to their corresponding areas of operation to maintain a presence for however long they need to be.

Firebase Phoenix: Overlooking the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Firebase Phoenix is a small firebase overlooking the Korengal Valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. The valley in which it is situated is 20km from the Pakistani border, northwest of the Khyber Pass and northeast of Tora Bora. One of the purposes of this firebase is to guard and help facilitate the rebuilding of the Pesh River Road.

5: Action Scene

As the United States Army troops are sleeping at FireBase Phoenix, overlooking the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, a couple of Taliban fighters are preparing to fire a couple of RPGs at the direction of the firebase. They fire them, not intending for them to actually hit the base, but to actually wake the troops up and get them fighting, which they eventually do. They then start firing at the base with their AK-47’s and the American forces respond back by firing their M240 and Browning .50 Caliber Machine guns and Grenade rounds. Eventually, Taliban reinforcements arrive and the US soldiers need help for the added fight against them. So they call in a drone in the form of a MQ-8 Fire Scout, armed with a nose mounted camera that the soldiers can view on TV sets in camp to help locate the enemy. One Taliban fighter notices the helicopter and comes runs out of his hiding place firing his AK-47 at it. This proves to be a stupid mistake on his part as an American soldier notices him and guns him down. The rest of the Taliban fighters stay concealed until they have to stop firing as they have run out of ammo. The fighters retreat and the Americans prove victorious, thanks to the help of the Fire Scout.

6: Dialogue Scene

Mahmood (In Arabic): OK, lets wake these infidels up from their slumber.

Mateen (in Arabic): Allah Ackbar, as he shots off a RPG

McDonough: Incomming RPG, everyone down, take cover!!!

BOOM!! the RPG explodes over the camp.

Hernandez: Lieutennant, where is that fire coming from??

McDonough: I don’t know Hernandez, we need to call in a RQ-8 Fire Scout!

Bradshaw: Anyone in the area, we need a Fire Scout ASAP, under attack by Taliban fighters!!

Killigan: Here comes that Fire Scout… Now where are those Taliban?

Mateen (Arabic): O look, a Fire Scout, I’m going to go out and shoot at it.

Mahmood (Arabic): Get back here you stupid idiot, don’t blow your cover!!

Hernandez: Taliban fighter shooting at the Fire Scout at 8 o clock and 2 miles downrange. Take him down!

Mateen: (Arabic): Allah Ackbar!!!

He is shot in the head by a well placed sniper shot.

Mahmood (Arabic): Nice going there genius, way to give our position away! OK guys, since idiot over there gave our position away, lets retreat to the hills!

Hernandez: Lieutenant, they are retreating! The battle is ours!

McDonough: True, but they will be back for more killing. You can count on that!

7: Pitch

This film is totally unique in that it will show exactly what our troops are facing in this endless conflict with Taliban fighters. Unlike the Vietnam war which was shown on the nightly news, the American public has viewed very little of what goes on in the Afghanistan conflict. The book, Platoon Leader, was made into a “B” movie and received less than stellar reviews from critics, mainly because of its low-budget feel. “Firebase Phoenix”, on the other hand, will have the same gritty feel of the “Platoon Leader” movie, but with far more finesse as our budget (attached) will attest. Also, the cast of this movie will be of a much higher caliber than that found in the original adaptation of this book. That said, the reason for the adaptation is that the book Platoon Leader had a realistic style, yet was not a true documentary. It focused on the American soldier of that time, the relationships among the men, and the heartbreaking challenges of leadership in an unwinnable situation. The basic situation in Afghanistan is parallel to this situation in Vietnam. Additionally, without exaggerating the blood and gore aspects of fighting, the book nevertheless subtlely conveyed its anti-war message. There is a true need for this film and the book Platoon Leader provides just the right kind of template to tell it. Again we will have the handsome, well-educated, naïve young lieutenant who is sent out to manage a battle-weary crew of men in a frightening and unfamiliar terrain. We will show the futility of war in this situation as the same conflicts erupt over the same disputed territory again and again. The contrast of cultures that defined the Vietnam war is again present; once again our troops find themselves fighting people they have no way to understand. Finally, we will show how the men bond with each other during the stress of this highly technological fight and how they too experience the hopelessness of their situation.

8: Appendix

United States Military Academy




New York JFK International Airport



Bagram AirField



Firebase Phoenix: Overlooking the Korengal Valley



Double Nicolas Cages!! otherwise known as Adaptation

1: Analysis of the Book:

The movie, “Adaptation,” is based on an article turned into a book by journalist, Susan Orlean, called, The Orchid Thief. The story in the book is about an odd, slightly criminal plant thief, John LaRoche, who steals rare orchids from a swamp/state preserve in Florida. His obsession and plan is to grow these rare plants for sale to collectors. After being caught, he brings  a court case to the State of Florida, challenging the ruling on rare plant theft. Often thought of as a tale of passion, greed, and obsession, this true narrative is also an interesting human story. One book reviewer (a blogger calling himself “Mr. Seeds,” makes the interesting point that another theme of the book is “dependency” as depicted by LaRoche, who is dependent on capturing orchids for his well-being, and Susan, who is dependent on others’ stories for her livelihood.

2: Analysis of the Film

“Adaptation,” came out in 2002 with an all-star cast of Meryl Streep in the leading role, Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufman, filmmaker and maker of this film, and Chris Cooper as  John LaRoche, the man whose actions inspired the movie. The cast is as wonderful as one could hope them to be. Each one embodies their role and gives an interesting and compelling performance.  In fact, Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Kaufman won the BAFTA award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film’s best moments are when the story of the Orchid Thief unfolds. This is a fascinating tale of adventure, obsession and passion that takes place in an exotic and dangerous setting (Florida Everglades). The less compelling moments involve Kaufman’s (Nicholas Cage) inner dialogue about how hopeless his life is and how insecure he feels. The final third of the movie veers away from the docu-drama tone and takes flight in a frenzy of action, tragedy and death. This departure from the feel and pathos of the earlier part of the film is both jarring and perplexing. It makes what seems like an interesting adaptation of a book into a bizarre series of nightmarish events. It is at this point that one has to ask, “What is this an Adaptation of?”  

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

Charlie Kaufman seems to like to make movies that are “self-reflexive” meaning that he makes movies that include or are actually about his process of making movies. This idea is taken to the extreme in “Adaptation” where Mr. Kaufman is actually played by an actor, Nicholas Cage, as he watches and ruminates about the making of this film and his earlier film, “Being John Malkovich.” In fact the opening scene is a piece of that film where John Malkovich is holding forth amongst the cast and crew of that film. As a film adaptation of the book, The Orchid Thief, this movie is a strange take on the book. I guess a Charlie Kaufman movie is a Charlie Kaufman movie. He seems to take material, in this case a book with a quirky story, and turn it into a quirky Charlie Kaufman film.  At times it works to give the Orchid Thief story more depth and complexity, but at other times his self-reflexive style seems to have a life of its own that has almost nothing to do with the book. While there are “no rules” for adapting a book to film, it is annoying that Charlie Kaufman seems to feel free to grab any interesting material and turn it into a movie about his own creative process. I wonder if people viewing this film had any idea of what to expect; I know I didn’t.

4: Online Research
This website is basically a fact website giving information about the movie. Some facts include “budget intake” of $32,000,000,  “The distributor” being Columbia Pictures, and when it was produced, which was 2002.

This film site gives the “Best Film Speeches & Monologues from 2002. Adaptation is in that list, and its best monologue is “Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life”, which happens to be the very opening voice-over monologue by self-loathing screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage).

Mike Clark, who is a film reviewer for USA Today happens to like the movie with giving it a rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars, which is a good rating. The only place where the movie is a let down to him is the ending of the movie, where he basically pans the whole ending. He basically said that the ending is “irritating and indulgent”. He further goes on to say that the movie is “Too smart to ignore but a little too smugly superior to like, this could be a movie that ends up slapping its target audience in the face by shooting itself in the foot.” It’s odd for a reviewer to give a movie such a good review and end it by making the movie’s ending look bad. 

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

In Adaptation, the twins Charlie and Donald are opposites in many ways. How do they respectively represent film as art and film as (Hollywood) entertainment? And is this a crude dichotomy that the film subtly undercuts?

One of the sub-motifs of the film “Adaptation,” is the opposition of types. This is portrayed by Charlie and Donald Kaufman, twin, middle-aged men, who are both practicing the profession of screen writing. Instantly, one feels that Charlie is the authentic artist; he is a writer struggling with the difficult task of adapting a serious piece of literature to a saleable movie script.  He is serious, haunted by his personal demons, and truly sincere about his work. Donald, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky guy who is looking for an easy way to make a living and casually tries his hand at his brother’s life-long profession. Donald’s charm and superficial views lend themselves to easy success as a Hollywood hack. He is able to churn out successful scripts by adapting clichés to lurid stories. Donald is able to entertain audiences with his formulaic scripts while his serious brother, Charlie, struggles to stay true to his craft and ethics while writing a worthy, artistic film treatment of a book. The film “Adaptation” subtly undercuts this dichotomy by veering off its more serious attempt at a true adaptation of the book, Orchid Thief, and plunging into over-the-top sensationalism at the end. This throwing over of “art” for entertainment is one of the messages of the film.

The Hours (nice name for a confusing movie!)

1: Analysis of the Book

The Hours by Michael Cunningham received rave reviews when it was published in 1988. It not only won the Faulkner Prize, but it also won the Pulizer Prize for Fiction The book is a tour de force in that it presents the lives of three women from three different eras. The connection between the women is slowly made apparent as each is linked through the writings of Virginia Woolf. One of the women is reading Wolfe’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, and the Meryl Streep character is called “Mrs. Dalloway,” by her ex- husband, Richard, who is dying of AIDS. All three women are dealing with their own identity crises as they try to reconcile their social roles and limitations with their sense of their inner selves. The women mirror each other as they struggle with husbands, lovers of both sexes, depression and suicide. 

2: Analysis of the Movie

Naming a movie “The Hours” is a good way to make money, but it’s also a good way to confuse the heck out of the viewer, as it did me. But apparently, the movie, directed by Stephen Daldry, was able to keep most viewers in the mix of the followings and able to keep them from being confused. 

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

In this case, unlike the other adaptations of books we have seen in this course, the movie adaptation of the book was consistent and clear. The movie, in this case, follows the structure, plot and style of the book.  In fact, although the medium of film is limited by not being able to show interior dialogue as is possible in print; this movie does an excellent job through direction and editing of showing how the characters feel. This is important to this adaptation because so much of the meaning has to do with each character’s feelings and interior dialogue. There is so little action in the book/film that the movie feels slows at times, but the richness of the acting keeps the viewer interested most of the time. Since this adaptation is so faithful to the novel, it is not quite as challenging to analyze from that point of view. Perhaps this pairing of book and film is in the course to show us a congruent example.

4: Online Research

In this review, David Putnam gives an extremely good review of the movie. He not only talks about how good the main characters are portrayed, he also goes on to compliment the supporting characters as well. In fact, he gives a thorough summary of the entire movie in all of its complexity. In fact, I would recommend reading this review before seeing the movie, as it explains clearly who all of the people are and how they are related, information which is difficult to discern from just seeing the film.

In this Rolling Stone movie review by Peter Travers, he not only talks about how well the actors do their part, he raves the movie. In fact, he says that “Director Stephen Daldry interweaves these stories with uncanny skill, “which goes to show how good a director Daldry is.

“Three women, three times, three places. Three suicide attempts, two successful. All linked in a way by a novel.” In this Roger Ebert review, he starts off the review with a very catchy and interesting opener, as that is basically what the whole movie was about. He also goes to show how fast paced this movie actually is, by saying that it took place in only a day, which might explain the title of the movie. 

5: Critical Analysis

Each of the three story-lines in The Hours occurs during a single day. Did this structure (which was also the structure of Cunningham’s book, as well as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway) work well in the film, or did it cramp the story and make the action seem compressed and contrived?

The three story lines happening during a single day made the movie very confusing. It also made the movie really cramped, seeing how the whole thing was set to take place in 24 hours, and it seemed like it couldn’t be followed unless watching it two or more times. In my mind, not a good way to make a movie!

Bride and Prejudice

1: Analysis of the Book

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the best-known and best-loved English romantic novels. After years of neglect, Austen’s work has enjoyed a revival in movies, on stage, and in television mini-series. Readers have enjoyed this book for decades because of the romantic love story and because of the well-drawn characters. The book is known for being a period piece, but its longevity stems from the language, the deeply romantic themes and the strong female protagonist who seemed ahead of her time. As a subject for adaptation to other media, this book is a great one. It appeals to adults of all age groups and has a love story that even young women today can appreciate.


2: Analysis of the Movie

Bride and Prejudice is a film very much in the Bollywood tradition. The movie made me feel a sense of Indian culture, even though I realize that its depiction of India is not entirely accurate. It was a bit surprising when Ashanti , an American singer, made a cameo appearance to sing two songs called “Take Me to Love” and “Touch My Body,”which had no role in the storyline of the film whatsoever. While it was a colorful and entertaining film, the story suffered from a poor script and poor acting. However, the movie had a pretty low budget of only $7 million, which made it a smash hit as it garnered $24million at box offices around the world.



3: Analysis of the Adaptation

This film is perhaps one of the oddest adaptations of a book ever made. To take a 19th century romantic novel of manners and turn it into a Bollyhood-style Hollywood movie is certainly a daunting proposition. While the plot and love story of two people from different classes in society is the same  in both the book and movie, it is difficult to tell much about the social classes in the film. For one thing, the “poor” family of girls look richly dressed and coifed. They don’t portray any sign of being of a lower class than the young men they are after. What makes the book especially enjoyable is the satire of the upper class. In the movie, there isn’t enough difference between the classes to make a satire stick.  Another similarity is the likeableness of the main characters Lolita and Elizabeth. However one likes Lolita because of her spectacular looks, and one likes Elizabeth because of her brains. In fact the entire tone and feel of the book and movie are so different that if it weren’t for the movie’s title, one might not even the connection.



4: Online Research

This review from the movie-gazette site is another panning of the movie. It shows off what needs to be taken out of the movie, which includes “those god awful musical numbers”. The summary of the movie pans the whole thing by simply saying that it is “a lively attempt at adapting Bollywood for the masses and all you need is a set of ear-plugs and you’re good to go.”

In this review, Ebert gives a review that basically pans the movie. As he says, Bollywood musicals are like the “Swiss army knives of the cinema.” He doesn’t like the movie much, though there are some scenes that help the movie out.

This review is about one of the only reviews that actually doesn’t pan the movie, and gives it a good review. While the author, named Jayne, says that the purists are appalled by the movie, she clearly isn’t. She loves the movie because “The story is shown to be eternal and translatable to any country or time.”

This review by David Cornelius not only pans the movie, it basically throws everything overboard and he goes on a review oriented killing spree. He hates the movie so much that he basically ends his review by saying ““Bride” trips all over itself as it tries to blend genres and it falls face-first into the mud. This is a dreadful movie experiment. And yet, like Chadha’s previous failures, people seem to like it. I just don’t get it.” 

5: Critical Analysis

Is Bride and Prejudice too entertaining? How does the “feel good” nature of the film distract audiences from more critical issues presented by the film? Or are those critical issues missing? If so, why is this important?


I agree that “Bride and Prejudice” has a “feel good” flair, although I am not sure I would go so far as to call it entertaining. This movie is a light love-story filled with healthy, mostly well-meaning if socially awkward people, set in an upscale “rural” village in India. While the issues of poverty, class, and women’s place in society provide background for this film’s story, none of them are explored in any serious way. It is obvious from the heightened style of the clothing, setting, and song and dance numbers, that this movie is meant as pure entertainment. While Chandha could have used this film as an opportunity to deliver a message about the place of women in Indian society today, or perhaps pointed out the vast disparity in wealth between rural Indians and those who have emigrated to America, she chose very clearly not to do so. As a musical with several exaggerated song and dance sequences, the movie keeps a rapid pace of over-the-top jokes, smarmy courtship scenes and embarrassing family moments. Nowhere is there an indication of an attempt to further the viewer’s understanding of India or deeper interpersonal themes. It seems that the movie does what it set out to do: entertain Bollywood style, and nothing more.

Sherlock Holmes

1: Analysis of the Book

The story by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mazarin Stone, is classic Sherlock Holmes. In it we have all of the familiar elements; a straightforward villain and non-violent crime, Holmes fully immersed in deducing the answer to the case without ever leaving his apartment, Dr. Watson visiting Holmes and fussing over his friend’s health, a member of the British government implicated in the crime and then “pardoned” by Holmes, the successful resolution of the case without aid of Scotland Yard. In essence, we have a perfectly satisfying Holmsian experience.

2: Analysis of the Movie

The movie was well made for a film that is set in 1890’s London. The film crew used mainly green screens to get around the historic setting, but for the street scenes they actually used cobbled alleyways in Chatham and Manchester, England. The British director, Guy Ritchie, wanted his version of Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., to play against the popular image of the character, which might be the reason for all the negativity directed towards the film. Ritchie still kept several traditional details such as Holmes’ apartment being quite messy. These details notwithstanding, the special effects and action sequences were what made the movie appealing to younger audiences. Additionally the movie was well received by critics who nominated it for several Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Empire Awards. To its credit, Robert Downey, Jr. won a Golden Globe for Best Actor with this movie.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

Trying to adapt an old time book, like Sherlock Holmes, into a modern day movie that this generation of kids will like is not an easy task. Judging by the movie reviews, die-hard Holmes fans did not appreciate Ritchie’s updated version at all. On the other hand, younger, less well-read viewers seemed to appreciate the period movie with the action hero. On the positive side, Ritchie breathes new life into his subject and converts a new generation to the mythos of Sherlock Holmes, the independent-minded great detective. For this, Guy Ritchie is owed a debt of gratitude. The fact that he did not portray Sherlock with the same gravity and depth older fans might be accustomed to should not diminish his revival of a traditional literary character. Even the most jaded reviewers noted that the special effects were seamlessly done and the setting and costumes were rich and evocative. In essence, this film is a successful adaptation in that it remains true to the essential characteristics of the original while updating the style to be in sync with today’s sensibilities.

4: Online Research

In this online review of Sherlock Holmes, the website is almost like the Screenit Movie Review site. It gives a paragraph of information at the top, then it goes into facts about why a parent might not want their kid to watch this movie. Sex and Nudity score 4 out of 10 on a 1 to 10 scale, Violence and Gore scores a 7 out of 10, and Profanity scores a 2 out of 10. It also gives the cases of each kind of thing that is bad with the movie. Overall this site was not too negative about Sherlock Holmes, the movie, however it did warn parents to talk with their kids before and after viewing it.

Roger Ebert gives his usual movie review  being very informative and interesting. But he pans the movie, seeing how bad it really is, which is the case with almost every other reviewer of this movie. In the end, Ebert relents and says that even Ritchie’s heretical view of Sherlock Holmes cannot tarnish his legacy.

This blog review about Sherlock Holmes is about the only review on the web, that I can even find at the time of writing, that doesn’t pan the movie, but actually raves about it. While this person (who happens to be someone named Juanita) does have some problems with how Robert Downey Jr. played Holmes, “Especially because of his terrible English accent.” She actually likes the movie very much, and rates it higher than the other adaptations, which is quite surprising.

5: Critical Analysis

Did the period detail in the film put you (mentally) in Victorian England? Or did the flippant, postmodern tone pull you out of Victorian England? Or did they somehow work together to create a feeling of immersion?

The period detail in the film did help me feel like it was in Victorian England. I feel that the clothing from that period was replicated or even reproduced very well for it being a modern day movie. The fact that the director was able to obtain firearms for the movie from that time period also went well in making the movie  feel Victorian in style. The mode of transportation, which happened to still be horse drawn carriages and buggies, was also very well replicated to keep the film in that time period. Even though the postmodern tone of the actors was enough to be a distraction to some viewers, and it didn’t help me for that matter, I felt that the rest of the movie was able to keep me immersed in the time period. In fact, the movie was so true to the time period that it got nominated for an Academy Award in the form of Best Art Direction.


1: Analysis of the Book

Tristram Shandy, written in the latter part of the 18th century was a breakthrough novel of its time. Like many artistic innovations, this one was not universally applauded when it was first published in 5 installments and 9 volumes. Today it reads like an oddity of times and mannerisms long forgotten by modern civilization. What seemed chaotic and exotic in its day seems no more fashion-forward than the idea of random-access-memory. The novel consists mainly of a simple story, that of Tristram’s conception, birth, and childhood misfortunes. The manner this story is told, its discursiveness, random time shifts, and inconclusive interruptions, is what makes this novel a notable departure from the conventional narrative novel form of its time. Today the novel is still slightly amusing as Tristram narrates his own story of his “misfortunes” as a baby and child amidst his “opinions” as a man. To add to the confusion, a second sub-plot emerges about Tristram’s Uncle Toby and his misfortunes and escapades. The novel is far too long and digressive to be read on its own merits, but is rather something to be studied in the context of the development of the novel form in English or in the context of a book adapted to film.

2: Analysis of the Film

Throughout the movie, our main character, Steve Coogan, plays himself and Tristram Shandy as well as Walter Shandy, Tristram’s father. While he is doing this, he is speaking directly to the audience, which will definitely confuse the viewer. Originally, this movie is like an interview of sorts, but then it eventually becomes a film within another film. The story line moves back and forth constantly between the story of Tristram Shandy’s miserable childhood and birth and the actors’ personal and professional lives. This all becomes confusing and muddled such that the viewer doesn’t know what is going on in the movie. The final product of this incredibly stupid and boring movie is almost as useless as reading the book. How this unreadable book was adapted into an unwatchable movie is anyone’s idea.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

Michael Winterbottom chose a difficult task when he took on the 18th century Tristram Shandy to make into a film. He chose two well-known English comic actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon to hold the main plot lines while he endeavored to give modern viewers a taste of this very eccentric novel. Like the book, the movie is narrated by the main character, Tristram Shandy, who is played by Coogan. The story of Tristram’s conception, birth and childhood accident are the main action pieces in the movie as in the first few volumes of the book. The Uncle Toby part of the story is also addressed in full costume, accent and mannerisms of upper class English society. The entire feel of the film, like the book, is of a spoof or comedy of manners. What makes this adaptation work is that the present-day actors also present their lives and conflicts almost like an added sub-plot. The confusion begins when the editor jumps us from the 18th century back and forth to our own time. The main characters of the 18th century story are also the main characters of the modern day relationship story between the actors, their girlfriends and the movie producers.  Stating that the film is much more complex and chaotic than the novel is a vast understatement. The “feel” of the movie is well in line with the “feel” of the book. Both are intended to obfuscate and confuse their audience while raising questions about the purpose of their art form. Both successfully raise the question of whether life is a continuous chain of events or if life is a series of disconnected moments that we remember according to their impact on us. This self-reflective style is far more familiar today than it was in the 18th century. The final question of whether either of these artistic pieces is worth the effort to engage with is possibly the most important question one could ask.

4: Online Research on the Film

Roger Ebert writes his usual straightforward, intimate review of the movie in this review. But this review is not a usual good review, as he bashes the movie on how bad it really is and how it can’t possibly be filmed from the book that its based off of. He even mentioned on the first line that he started reading “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” in 1965, and has not gotten done reading it since.,0,171714.story

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writes a very interesting review of this movie, where he actually praises Michael Winterbottom, calling it “Winterbottom’s luckiest project yet”. He also reviews the novel, which he called “The world’s strangest memoir” in the review, which is a bit unusual, as this is a more of a movie review and not a book review.

This site is more of a review for parents about the movie. However, it is incredibly interesting. It is interesting because it points out many things that parents don’t want their kids to watch, such as Alcohol/Drug content, Profanity, and other things like that. If I were a parent reading this, I would definitely not allow my child to watch this movie, considering how bad of a Rated R movie it is. For example, Screenit does an example of everything that would put off a parent from letting their kid or even teen watch this movie. For example, the site says there are 36 “f” words, 3 “s” words, 11 slang terms using male genitals, 1 slang terms for the female anatomy, 3 asses (all used with “hole”), 2 damn, 1 bollocks, 1 hell, 1 S.O.B., 3 uses of “god” and 1 use each of “Christ”. They don’t give analysis or any merits of this movie, and only are informing the viewer of problematic contents. 

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

The producers of this film within a film being made as a “mockumentary” appear to love the battle scenes and love story that goes within the movie. What makes this film very strange is the fact that there are two love scenes that go on simultaneously, which makes it very hard to figure out who Coogan in a relationship with. At the end of the film during the closing credits, there is a crazy, but funny, scene where Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan battle to see “who is a better Al Pacino.”The person who does the better Al Pacino, I believe, has got to be Steve Coogan. Coogan is able to emulate Pacino nearly word for word which is very impressive. Although the movie is built as a British Comedy, there is nothing funny or interesing in the movie, besides the aformentioned Al Pacino war between Coogan and Brydon.