Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The BFG


The BFG is a 2016 American fantasy adventure film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, and stars Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. It is based on the 1982 children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The film takes place in the mid 1900s where a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is living in an orphanage in London. One night when awake during the “witch hour,” when things like the boogeyman come out, she sees a giant (Mark Rylance). Realizing he has been seen, the giant grabs Sophie from her bed and takes the 10 year old girl with him to Giant Country. When they get to the giant’s house Sophie tries to escape, but to keep her with him the giant mixes a nightmare and gives it to Sophie so she will see what happens if she leaves. After Sophie wakes up she agrees not to leave the giant, and the gaint tells her about himself, how he can’t always say what he means, he is the smallest of all the giants, and that he catches dreams to give children. Sophie convinces the giant to show her Dream Country and while catching dreams the giant says he was once called The Big Friendly Giant. Hearing this Sophie decides to call him the BFG. After Sophie accidentally catches a horrible nightmare called a “Trogglehumper,” the BFG takes her back to Giant Country. Fearing that Sophie isn’t safe with him, because the other giants eat humans, he takes her back to the orphanage. He soon takes her back to Giant Country though and the two come up with a plan to stop the man-eating giants. In this blog post I will look at the changes made to the story and Sophie’s character when the novel was adapted into a film.

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Adaptation Analysis: Raisin in the Sun

The 1961 adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s play, Raisin in the Sun, is a close adaptation in terms with a disproportionate ratio favoring kept to dropped or altered. Much of the dialogue, and themes, are maintained, and many scenes are exactly as they are in the play text. The theme Hansberry bases her entire play on is from Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” (A Dream Deferred), and the title of her play, Raisin in the Sun, is taken directly from the poem. The poem questions what happens to a “dream deferred” or a dream that is never actualized. In the play, Hansberry’s characters are vehicles to explore and embody the African American community and the inability to actualize their dreams in a society that’s against them. A moment that perfectly exemplifies such failure is when Walter after he is double-crossed and loses all Mama’s money, decides to settle with Lindner: 

“What’s the matter with you all! I didn’t make this world! It was give to me this way! Hell, yes, I want me yachts someday! Yes, I want to hang some real pearls ‘round my wife’s neck. Ain’t she supposed to war no pearls? Somebody tell me— tell me, who which women is suppose to wear pearls in this world. I tell you I am a man— and I think my wife should wear some pearls in this world!” (143).

Walter’s response to the family is a declaration by the African American community. Walter goes through these struggles which could be seen as his mode of survival in capitalism. He must follow the rules in a world that was not created by him or for him. Earlier in the play, Walter also asserts that money is what is most important in life. In anger, Mama responds that freedom used to be what was most important in life. Walter claims the African American community only recently got freedom and has only been shown the harsh truth that money runs the world. Both of these essential interactions and developments in the story are retained in the transfer to the film adaptation. 

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Meet the Bloggers: Ashna Sran

For our one and only “Meet the Bloggers” post for the semester, we are excited to show off the work of Ashna Sran. For Jet Fuel Review, Sran writes as a film blogger with a primary focus on women in pop culture. If you have the chance, please check out her wonderful blog: Ashna’s Celluloid Scenes: Women in Pop Culture.

Ashna Sran is a senior at Lewis University, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. She was exposed to filmmaking and film criticism early on in high school and has stuck with it ever since. Currently, Ashna is involved in water remediation research in the Chemistry department, and she finds it very interesting. After getting her degree, Ashna wants to attend medical school and become a physician. She has wanted to become a doctor since she was very young, and she is very excited about the next stage in her life. In her spare time, she loves to watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, and spend time with her family and dog. Her favorite titles include Knives Out, The Haunting at Hill House, New Girl, and A Quiet Place. She tries not to limit herself to a genre, so she likes to watch all kinds of movies and TV shows. Ashna hopes to learn more about visual media while writing her blog and expanding her taste in movies and TV shows. 

Below is our Q&A with Sran:

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Musings of a Future Librarian: The Agüero Sisters

Christina García’s novel, The Agüero Sisters follows the lives of sisters Constancia and Reina Agüero, two Cuban women who sit on different ends of the spectrum. Reina is a strong independent electrician and is built like a model, whereas Constancia desires to be taken care of and is much more petite and fair-skinned than her sister.  The novel begins with the death of their mother, Blanca Mestre, and flips back and forth from present day to the past. The piece is mostly told by an omniscient third person narrator, but also uses first person narration in  chapters narrated by their father, Ignacio Agüero. One of the primary conflicts in the novel is the relationship between the sisters, that of which has been affected by their mother’s domineering presence and their father’s submissive nature. To elaborate, Constancia’s disdain for her mother stems from the fact that Blanca once abandoned Constancia and her father, only to return beaten and pregnant with her sister, Reina. We also see Blanca’s authoritarian presence when she sends Constancia away after Reina is born. Blanca does not like how Constancia acts towards Reina and decides she must go. Ignacio does not argue against this decision. Additional hints at Blanca’s strong will can be seen when Ignacio speaks of her as well. He tells us, “The first time Blanca Mestre walked into my biology class…she sent a shiver through the room. There was something about her presence–quiet,luminescent, distracted — that stirred people, although it did not induce them to get close to her” (Garcia 182). 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Rebecca

Rebecca is a 2020 British romantic thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley and stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas. The film is based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, author of many other popular adaptations like My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn, and the short story The Birds. Rebecca starts with the main character, Mrs. de Winter (Lily James), talking about a dream she had the night before about going back to her home, Manderley, which the audience is left to assume is no longer standing. The events of the film take place in the past and are examined through the memories of Mrs. de Winter, starting from her time in Monte Carlo as a lady’s companion to the rich and old Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). Eventually the 20 something year-old meets the older Mr. Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), and widower, and the two start a friendship that eventually turns romantic. When the future Mrs. de Winter’s employer tells her they are leaving the hotel, she goes to see Maxim to say goodbye. Not wanting to lose her, Maxim asks the young woman to marry him. They honeymoon in Europe and then Mr. de Winter takes his new bride home to Manderley, where she quickly begins to feel uncomfortable. This is mostly due to the head housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who was incredibly loyal to the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, having known the dead woman as a child. Though she tries to make an effort to adapt to her new home, it soon becomes clear to the second Mrs. de Winter that she is unwelcome in Manderley and that her husband is keeping secrets from her. In this blog post I will examine the main character, the second Mrs. de Winter, and look at changes made to scenes between the Netflix original film and du Maurier’s novel. 

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Ashna’s Celluloid Scenes: Women in Pop Culture-The Devil Wears Prada

Working hard to succeed in a given career is not a concept new to people, yet why are women villainized for doing so? In a cutthroat, money-generating field such as fashion, every position demands excellence. There is no room for error as millions of dollars are on the line, yet women remain denigrated while putting in the effort to achieve preeminence. Then, when a woman does achieve perfection and attain a position of power, she is regarded as evil and devilish due to her demanding nature. A concept such as this is showcased amazingly in The Devil Wears Prada. Often regarded as THE fashion film, the movie has achieved classic cult status. Patricia Field, the costume designer, had worked previously with David Frankel on Miami Rhapsody (1995) and Sex and the City (1998-2004) and knew that the costume design would make or break the movie. With a starting budget of $100,000, Field enlisted the help of multiple high-end fashion brands, ultimately reaching a final budget of at least $1 million worth of clothing. The enormous costume budget was worthwhile, as all of the outfits have kept their excellence over 14 years. That said, there is a lot that the movie does right. The Devil Wears Prada is a 2006 film directed by David Frankel and produced by Wendy Finerman. The story originates from a 2003 book of the same name written by Laura Weisberger. The author wrote the book after a stint at Vogue Magazine, where she worked under Anna Wintour.

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Adaptation Analysis: Graham Greene’s and Neil Jordan’s The End of the Affair

My film adaptation series continues on my Cinematic Syntax with an examination of Graham Greene’s The End of The Affair and Neil Jordan’s adaptation. Surprisingly, this is the first novel I have written an adaptation analysis on and I am not disappointed with the novel chosen. For useful information, I use John Desmond’s chapter on “The Novel” in his book (Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature) throughout the piece, and make it clear that it is necessary to cut when adapting a novel because of the sheer amount of content. A film sticks to an average run-time of two hours, give or take, so it cannot fully contain the immensity of a novel. Without further delay, here is The End of the Affair.

The adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End of The Affair successfully portrays the story’s general themes. Some themes in both versions are the struggles with religious belief and unbelief, the effect of the miraculous, the power of love, and marriage as safety. In an interesting move, director Neil Jordan omits Greene’s references to love and hate inextricably tied as two sides of the same coin. Although the film opens: “this is a diary of hate,” which is truncated compared to Bendrix, who is the main character, and his constant rumination: “So this is a record of hate far more of love…” (1) it does not seem to connect love and hate as much as Greene’s original.  In contrast to the original, the film’s ending is reordered with scenes that occur earlier in the novel. Although Jordan keeps Bendrix as a writer in the film, Greene’s novel solidifies the writer’s process, lifestyle, and routine. Greene’s reference to many aspects of writing seems to be his personal meditation on the profession. However, for Jordan’s he chose to visually emphasize the style and sounds associated with his character’s trade (typewriter, zooming into a sheet of paper, and clicking). One of the most notable choices for the novel is its use of the temporal. Greene cleverly switches between different stages of WW2— all shown through various stages of an affair. To comment on this, Jordan uses cinematic techniques to interrupt the present with flashbacks of the past. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Interview With the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire is a 1994 American gothic horror film directed by Neil Jordan and stars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and, Kirsten Dunst. The movie is based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Anne Rice. The movie starts in present-day San Francisco California where the main character, Louis de Pointe du Luc (Pitt), is being interviewed by a reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) at nighttime. Louis claims to be a vampire but Daniel does not believe him, until Louis starts telling his story. The vampire’s story starts in 1791 Louisiana after the death of his wife in childbirth, which has thrown him into a deep depression , making him want to die. One night while drunk he is attacked by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Cruise), who sees Louis’s dissatisfaction with life and gives him the choice to become a vampire. Louis accepts but soon comes to regret his decision when he finds out that he must kill humans to survive. Instead, Louis chooses to drink on animal blood. Lestat persistently attempts to make Louis feed on humans, which causes them to get into a fight. After their altercation, Louis starts to aimlessly walking the streets of New Orleans intending to leave Lestat. During this he discovers a young girl named Claudia (Dunst) whose mother has died of the plague, and being unable to resist anymore he feeds on  her almost to the point of death. Lestat finds Louis doing this which causes the younger vampire to run away in shame, but seeing the effect on Louis, Lestat takes Claudia back to their home and turns her into a vampire. He tells Louis she is their daughter now and therefore can not leave them, so the three live together for many years until Claudia begins to realize that she will never age. This makes her curious of vampirism and resentful of Lestat for changing her, which sets in motion a number of events including multiple attempts to kill Lestat, as well as Claudia and Louis’s travels in Europe. The whole time the story is being told the audience is also seeing bits of the present with Louis and Daniel, who is slowly starting to believe that the man is truly a vampire. In this blog post I will be looking at how the filmmakers changed the character of Louis and certain parts of the story.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Image by Ria from FLICKR

‘Tis the season, dear reader! Welcome to Trick ‘r Treat, the Mike Dougherty feature that’s all about the best day of the year. Go stuff yourself, Christmas. Halloween is where it’s at! One of my favorite things I’ve done these last few years is sit down with my older brother and have ourselves a little spooky movie marathon on the 31st. We order some junk food, get cozy and punch up our holiday favs: Halloween, The Thing, Evil Dead 2, The Cabin in the Woods and, of course, Trick ‘r Treat. I’d argue no film since John Carpenter’s 1978 classic has captured the Halloween spirit as wholly as Dougherty’s contemporary classic. Clocking in at a lean 82 minutes, Trick ‘r Treat is all killer, no filler; an anthology feature of five stories all coinciding throughout Halloween night. The vignettes each play out their own story and character arcs while maintaining an overall macabre sense of devilish fun.

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Adaptation Analysis: Rear Window and “It Had to Be Murder”

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s “It Had to Be Murder,” is an intermediate adaptation that transfers Woolrich’s short story into a film that is classically Hitchcock while maintaining its basic story and development. The auteur theory, or film theory that claims the director’s place as the “author” of the film, would categorize Alfred Hitchcock as an auteur because he developed a signature style throughout his career. Whether it be themes, characters, cinematic elements, there is a certain feeling that Hitchcock films evoke, which later was encapsulated by the term: “Hitchcockian.” As a Hitchcock film, Rear Window explores voyeurism, obsession, illusion vs. reality, and an uncertain romance. The film includes the male gaze or the depiction of women through a masculine perceptive that sexualizes and objectifies them. Like the short story, there is a POV through the eyes of L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies, played by James Stewart. Although Hitchcock does not entirely make the film in Jeff’s perspective since the POV is third person compared to Woolrich’s first-person, there are certain instances that we gaze through Jeff’s eyes out the window. Hitchcock’s mise-en-scene seems to be playing with the other worlds with the windows that are portals to other lives which Jeff, and his companions, stare into. When looking through different windows and what is inside, the composition in some of our frames has us stare as though we are peering into a viewfinder into another. Hitchcock’s use of sound also seems to provide subtext to the subject matter; the constant flourish of sound invading Jeff’s apartment is as intrusive as his obsession with Thorwald and the murder. The adaptation strategy that best fits how Hitchcock develops the story into Rear Window is the interweaving strategy. 

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