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. 

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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

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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”

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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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A Girl Walks Around In The Desert: A Review of “The Bad Batch”

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One of my absolute favorite indie films of the past five years is Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish vampire-noir, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It tells a subdued, atmospheric tale of romance and horror while approaching genre conventions with a feminist take, all the while treating its viewers with striking visuals and an unforgettable soundtrack. It’s a film I love, and a debut that presented Amirpour as a visionary in the indie filmmaking scene; the film garnering an almost exclusively positive reaction from the larger film community including critics and fans alike.

Although Girl is her debut film, Amirpour’s expert work on the film gives the impression that she’s a veteran filmmaker; the film is just that impressively well-realized and notable. Which is why it’s surprising that her new film, The Bad Batch, comes off as amateurish by comparison. Amirpour serves as both the film’s writer and director (as she did on her first feature), and while her incredible aural and visual sensibilities translate over from Girl, it’s her writing that stumbles, lacking meaningful character development or a storyline worth investing in.

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Family Still Comes First: A Review of “The Fate of the Furious”

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Over the past several weeks, I embarked on a cinematic journey through the Fast and Furious franchise, watching them in order, each for the very first time. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but I fell deeply in love, especially as the series progressed and switched from being prominently about street racing to being big-budget action capers, becoming all the more ridiculous and over-the-top in all the best ways. Despite what you might expect from an eighth entry in a franchise, with The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel and his family of street-racers-turned-government-agents still manage to up the ante and deliver one of the absolute best movies in the series.

F8 picks up with an opening scene that calls back to the good ol’ days of Fast & Furious (circa 2001-2006), complete with trash talking, street racing and a tropical pop hit setting the scene. Dom (Vin Diesel) has settled down in Havana with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but it isn’t long before he’s dragged back into the increasingly explosive life he’s lived for the past 16 years. What sets this entry apart from its seven predecessors, is that this time Dom’s playing for the wrong team, and betraying the family he loves. Gasp!

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Student Double Feature: Courtney Dial and Ahimme Cazarez Review Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook”

Below are two Lewis University students’ perspectives on the 2014 horror film The Babadook.

Courtney Dial:
You can also visit Courtney’s own blog at Horror Film Mondays.

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Raw, creepy, and thought-provoking: The Babadook is designed to give the viewer an inside perspective on what depression feels and looks like, and it succeeds. In The Babadook, there is no romanticizing this disease, which is cleverly disguised as Mister Babadook. Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film was not wasted with this incredible picture. Beautiful cinematography and allegorical expression are used brilliantly to cover a subject that is sometimes kept in the basement, under lock and key.

We are introduced to Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), and instantaneously, due to the superb misè-en-scene, it is painfully obvious that this is a tense household. The feelings that are presented through the use of these elements give such believable verisimilitude that it is hard not to imagine yourself in Amelia’s situation.

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