Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The Witches

The Witches, is a 2020 supernatural comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, and stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, and is narrated by Chris Rock. It is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl and is the second feature-length adaptation of the novel, after the 1990 film of the same name directed by Nicolas Roeg. The film starts with narration by an adult Charlie Hansen (Rock) as he gives a presentation on witches. He then transitions into talking about his childhood (younger version played by Jahzir Bruno) and how he first came in contact with witches. In 1968, Charlie’s parents die in a car accident and he goes to live with his grandmother (Spencer) in Alabama. While at the store a strange woman with a green snake offers him a piece of candy, but they are interrupted by Charlie’s grandmother. This encounter scares Charlie and that night he confesses to her what happened. She then informs him what he saw was actually a witch and tells Charlie how her childhood best friend was turned into a chicken by one. In an attempt to get away from the witch for a while, Charlie and his now ill grandmother go stay at a fancy hotel where a family member works. The next day Charlie goes off alone to train his pet mouse (Kristin Chenoweth) as his grandmother rests, and he ends up in a ballroom set up for a meeting. When a group of ladies arrives to start their conference they reveal themselves to be witches. The meeting is presided over by the Grand High Witch (Hathaway) as she explains her plan to get rid of all the world’s children by turning them into mice. Drawing Charlie and his grandmother into a fight with the witches they had been trying to escape from in the first place. In this blog post I will look at how the change in setting and character background for the adaptation works in the story. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 gothic supernatural horror film directed by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, and Casper Van Dien in supporting roles. It is a film adaptation loosely based on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The movie is set in 1799 and follows New York City police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) as he is sent to the small Dutch Hamlet of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders that have plagued the town. He is given very little information regarding the town or its victims, besides the fact that they all had their heads cut off. When he arrives, Ichabod is told by the town’s leaders that not only were the victims beheaded, but the murderer also took their heads after he killed them. The townspeople believe the murders to be committed by the apparition of a headless Hessian mercenary from the American Revolutionary War who is looking for his own missing head. Ichabod is skeptical about the paranormal elements of the story and takes a more scientific approach to his investigation. Slowly he unravels a conspiracy against the leading families in the town and also comes face to face with supernatural forces which seem to be trying to drive him away from Sleepy Hollow, if not kill him. While at the same time being forced to confront his childhood trauma and developing feelings for Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), the daughter of one of the town elders. In this blog post, I will look at how the film expanded on the original story and how the character of Ichabod Crane changed between the two mediums. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Stardust

Stardust is a 2007 fantasy adventure film directed by Matthew Vaughn and stars an ensemble cast led by Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong and Robert De Niro, with narration by Ian McKellen. The film is an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman 1999 novel of the same name. The movie opens roughly 19 years years prior to the start of the main character’s, Tristan Thorn (Cox), story with the meeting of his parents in a strange magical land. Baby Tristan is left for his father, Dunstan (Younger: Ben Barnes, Older: Nathaniel Parker) to raise in the fictional English town of Wall. When the story jumps ahead 18 years, Tristan is a rather naive boy who believes himself to be in love with the vain Victoria Forester (Sienna Miller). After seeing a falling star, Victoria agrees to marry Tristian if he retrieves it for her in time for her birthday. The night he is to set off, Tristan learns the origins of his birth in the magical land next to the town of Wall. Using a Babylon candle, which allows a person to instantly travel to the place they are thinking of when it is lit, gifted by his mother (Kate Magowan), Tristan tries to find her. But Tristan gets distracted by his thoughts of Victoria and the star, transporting him into a large crater where he falls onto a young woman (Danes) who he mistakes for his mother. He quickly realizes that the hurt girl is actually the fallen star and sets out to bring her back to Victoria, which leads to a wild journey for Tristan and the star, Yvaine, including run-ins with princes, witches, and even pirates. In this blog post I will look at the backstory established between the two mediums as well as the ways Tristan’s character is developed in the story. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Introducing Adaptation Theory

In the film industry, often when a new movie is being made it is another form of a story that has already been told. Sometimes though this is intentional and is called an adaptation, and most times this is when a movie is made from using material from a piece of text, a book, videogame, another film, etc. When this happens, we can examine it and look deeper into the film with the theory of adaptation. In my first blog of Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen, I will be explaining the ideas of fidelity, the essence of the medium, plot, and characters when it comes to movie adaptations. 

adaptation
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When an adaptation is made most people want the movie to be as faithful to the original work as much as possible. If not, they often get upset about it, which leads to poor reviews. This tends to happen when a film adaption fails to capture what the previous audience felt is the fundamental narrative, thematic, and aesthetic features of the original text. An idea like complete fidelity can be problematic because the medium of telling the story has been switched from one form of text to another, film. Which means there will be automatic differences in the way the story is told or shown and perceived. This brings up the point that film is a multitrack medium, meaning you can play not only with words, but also with performance, music, sound effects, and moving photographic images. This explains the implausibility of complete fidelity and a good reason for the undesirability for literal fidelity. There are things that are told in a book and even explained, but that can be very different than actually seeing that event or thing in a film. This is why the idea of fidelity can be tricky. The movie should remain faithful to the source material to some extent, but it should also leave room for interpretation and what fits with the medium of presentation.

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Michael Lane’s Top 10 Films of 2018

Banner credited to Michael Lane

2018 certainly was a year, wasn’t it? I graduated from college, even landed a job just a handful of months after, and in between dreading school, work, and the awful act of applying for work, I still found an unreasonable amount of time to go to the movies. There was originally a sizable list of contenders vowing for inclusion on this list, and while I’d love to talk about each and every one of them, I unfortunately had to slice this thing down to the resulting 15 you see below. There are so many movies I enjoyed this year, and even more that I missed out on seeing completely (perhaps your personal favorites belong in those categories!). And while I enjoyed a large swath of movies this year, it wasn’t until the very end of the year when I found that one particularly standout entry that I instantly knew would top my list. What film is that? Read on, friend, and find out for yourself.

Honorable mentions:

Really some great films on that list there, but 10 others managed to be just that much better in 2018. So, with that out of the way, we can finally get to what you’ve all been waiting for: My Certified Top 10 Films of 2018. I think you’ll like the list, and I especially hope you may find some new movies to watch. Happy viewing, everyone!

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Student Feature: 3 Student Perspectives on “Donnie Darko”

Found below are three reviews of Richard Kelly’s 2001 film, Donnie Darko, written by Lewis University students Hannah Cross, Megan O’Brien, and Joseph Pryzdia.

Hannah Cross:

Donnie Darko
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Donnie Darko, directed by Richard Kelly, sends its audience down the rabbit hole (almost literally) into a twisted idea of time travel. The movie is suspenseful and brilliant as it alludes to other great works, notably: Alice in Wonderland. Donnie is followed by a white rabbit, which is the basis for his hallucinations and visions throughout the film. This movie’s genre lies somewhere in the spectrum of mystery, sci-fi, and teen angst in the John Waters tradition. The audience can easily relate to the feelings that Donnie has about being the outcast, not only in school but also in his family. Its satirical elements bring out some of the darker and dry humor in the movie. The canted cinematography and jagged editing of this film add to the eerie, chaotic, and unsettling feelings to the audience. While the majority of scenes are bright and colorful, every scene with the rabbit becomes visibly dark and muted by design to foreshadow the impending dark side of the film. Continue reading

Jakob’s From Fact to Film: The Truth Behind “Tombstone”

tombstone
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Welcome to Jakob’s From Fact to Film! Hundreds of films like to boast that their films are based on true stories, but just how true is this? Surely events that are important enough for a theatrical portrayal would be far too boring for an audience to sit through. However, this is rarely the case. In reality, fact can be just as, if not more, interesting than fiction. Despite this, movie companies tend to merely base these films on the barest of truths, keeping the general idea of the historical event intact, though sometimes that can’t even be accomplished. Instead, they focus more on themes and ideals that they believe would draw in bigger audiences. This is where I come in. The goal I have made for this blog is to discover just how accurately companies can keep their movies to reality, while still being able to make an entertaining piece of media. Our first look will be at the 1993 American Western, Tombstone.

*Spoilers Ahead*

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Michael Lane’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Banner credited to Michael Lane

Would it be a cop-out if I were to concede and say that there were simply too many exceptional films this past year? So many, in fact, that even ranking a top 10 is quite near impossible for me? Because in forming this list (which you’re likely eagerly scrolling through to the bottom only to see my number one choice), I’ve had to not only sacrifice a number of extraordinary films, but have also infinitely gone back and forth on where each of these movies fit into the order. Really, in a year with less competition, each of my top six choices could have easily sat atop a year-end list at the number one spot.

As always, I wasn’t able to catch every film that I wanted to — although I did make it out to theaters over 50 times this past year. And it’s because of that that I can safely say that 2017 was the best year for film in recent memory; I was consistently amazed week after week by the incredible work reaching into theaters and beyond. Before we get to the official list, I have included a handful of honorable mentions as well.

Honorable Mentions:

Now that those good (but just not good enough) films are out of the way, below you will find what I consider 2017’s absolute greatest output in terms of motion pictures:

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Strike Three, Mr. Nolan: A Review of “Dunkirk”

More than anything, what I felt walking out of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, was a strong sense of disappointment; almost assuredly the most I’ve felt for any film this year. And I’m as surprised as anyone that I felt this way about it. From the awe-inspiring trailers to the near-perfect critical acclaim, I thought I was guaranteed to love this. I was sure that Dunkirk would be what made me fall in love with Nolan’s work again, following Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, both of which I think are OK at best (and, to be honest, I don’t think Interstellar is much good at all). But instead, and rather unfortunately, Dunkirk continues the sad trend of middling work from one of the greatest directors alive. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever love a work of Nolan’s again, like I do his superb early films Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight.

Dunkirk is set in a time of war, getting its namesake from a major battle that occurred early during World War II. It was heavily marketed as a straight war movie, but it’s really unlike any past examples — and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Actually, Dunkirk’s genre may be more akin to horror than that of which we typically think of as a war movie. We have characters who are at all times in danger, with no hope of defeating an unrelenting villain surrounding them. Their only hope being to possibly escape and survive the tragic event.

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Was He Slow?: A Review of “Baby Driver”

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The summer’s most fun and excitingly fresh film has officially arrived with Edgar Wright’s wholly exceptional Baby Driver. Led by a catchy and calculated soundtrack, the film presents exhilarating car-chase scenes with an ensemble of precisely handled characters behind-the-wheel, gaining traction from its impressively meticulous opener through to its explosive climax. Baby Driver is perhaps Wright’s greatest achievement yet — and with a track record as stellar as his, that’s saying a lot.

Following his remarkable comedic genre mashups with films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, in Baby Driver, Wright strips back the pulpy silliness his work is famous for. Instead, here he exhibits a sense of realism and seriousness he’s not yet shown off, but still finds enough space in the script to place well-timed and often hilarious jokes as well, striking a near-perfect balance of dramatic moments and comedic ones.

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