Allie Dawson

Allie Dawson

Allie Dawson got her BA in Philosophy from Ave Maria University, M.Litt in Shakespeare from Mary Baldwin University, and her love of fairy tales from Tolkien and Chesterton.

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    Latest Topics

    9

    Motion Capture and the "Uncanny Valley"

    Since its technological and artistic breakthrough in the character of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, filmmakers have experimented with the possibilities and limits of the technology, with varying success. From single characters (like King Kong) to whole races and worlds (like Avatar and several Robert Zemekis films), motion capture elicits anything from wonder in the face of its breathtaking realism, to criticisms that overuse of the technology dumps the audience smack dab in the center of "Uncanny Valley." Why does motion capture draw from critics and audiences such polarizing responses? What films use the technology wisely, and which overuse it to the extent of alienating its audience? Look at both the original instances, like Gollum, and more recent instances, such as Alita in Alita: Battle Angel, and analyse how the different instances work and how they avoid or encapsulate "Uncanny Valley" in their films and characters.

    • I wonder if this is an issue with veracity, a sense of truth in what we're seeing. One of the most unerring examples I remember was 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a film with such weirdly photo-realistic animation it made little sense that real actors were not simply used. It's different with physical creatures or aliens, or say Caesar in the Planet of the Apes trilogy, as they can benefit from strong motion capture, but humans? I suspect it feels like a blurred line. – A J. Black 1 year ago
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    • Interesting topic. It would be topical to tie it into the upcoming "Cats" adaptation. I suggest you check out Patrick Willems' recent YouTube video essay on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1nQoWnFBSw&t=1264s – Matt Hampton 1 year ago
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    • I think it's important to define a "wise" use of technology. How much is too much? Is it possible to draw a line applicable to all films or do we have to take it on a case by case basis? We rush to embrace technology for all of its spectacle and newness, but do how often do filmmakers ask themselves, "Is this really necessary?" I'm of the opinion (for what it's worth) that technology should be used as sparingly as possible. As an audience member, too much technology overwhelms me and creates an emotional distance from the narrative. – fspinelli 10 months ago
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    Ophelia as Protagonist: Elsinore (2019) vs. Ophelia (2019)

    The recent film Ophelia (2018), starring Daisy Ridley, and the crowdfunded video game Elsinore (2019) marks the latest in an increasingly popular trend of adapting Hamlet by shifting its focus from its conflicted titular character to his doomed lady love. While adaptations focusing on supporting or minor characters in Hamlet are by no means uncommon (with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as the most notable example), the focus on Ophelia in particular is something new. Ask: why the especial focus on Ophelia, ever-popular in art, as a protagonist? What about Ophelia made it universally panned while Elsinore has been almost universally praised? Which version offers a more compelling take on the character and the story of Hamlet?

    • I'm not familiar with either of these particular works, but one reason why Ophelia in particular is a popular character might have something to do with the way her situation reflects those of girls in general, throughout history. For instance, there is a fairly well-known nonfiction book called Reviving Ophelia, which talks about the toxic messages that young girls receive in modern times. Simply put, there's something relatable about Ophelia to a girl living in a patriarchal society, where the men in her life try to use her as an object or a pawn. – Debs 1 year ago
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    • This is an excellent time to examine this question, as there seems to be renewed interest in the perspective of the character, as well as Ophelia's overall depiction within Hamlet. – Sean Gadus 1 year ago
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    10

    "Alice in Wonderland" in Adaptation: What Makes it so Difficult?

    Lewis Carroll’s nonsense novel has seen endless variation in adaption across all forms of media, but how many of these are actually successful? Look at both the more faithful adaptions (Disney, the 1999 TV Movie), and the "darker" or somehow radically different ones (American McGee’s Alice, The Looking Glass Wars). Compare some of the adaptions which are similar in tone, like Tim Burton’s recent film and American McGee, or the Disney film and the TV Movie, with an eye for determining, which one does what it’s trying to do better (e.g., a faithful translation from book to film, a darker take), while examining what makes adaptation of this novel so difficult.

    • One of my favorite adaptations is actually the 1999 TV movie. That's likely an incredibly nostalgia-based opinion since I watched it a lot during my early childhood. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorites because it still retains the intelligence of the book. I wasn't a huge fan of the Tim Burton version (although I still haven't seen the sequel yet) since it was more of a fantasy action-adventure story involving good versus evil. For me, it lacked a bit of Lewis Carroll's signature wit whereas the 1999 version did a good job of showing just how ridiculous and nonsensical the adult world can be through the eyes of a child. – aprosaicpintofpisces 4 years ago
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    • You could also reference the difficulties of crafting a screenplay, which follows many story rules, compared to the wandering nature of Alice in Wonderland. Think of The Wizard of Oz--it has a similar path, but the character journey and story structure are quite traditional. ALICE takes more liberties. – Nate Océan 4 years ago
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    • You read my mind... Been thinking about a way to make Alice reverberate to contemporary minds, as I, like you, first experienced it as young child. It's a tale that always prods and pokes at the right strings in the pivotal moment. Meaning, I walked away from Alice as soon as first grade was over, only to find that Wizard of Oz was faithfully waiting in the wings of second grade. Third grade weighed in with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, just as I figured I'd seen it all. (High school brought the MTV variety, with Tom Petty's Alice.) Can it get any meaner? Peter and the Wolf? Write this one as a classic, in and of itself, shouldn't be hard to do, with such a fan base. – lofreire 3 years ago
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    1970's Film and the Failure of the Studio System

    Known as the "maverick" or "auteur" era of American film, the 1970’s represented a unique era of American film-making, perhaps the most experimental since early silent ear. Traditional musicals, melodramas, and epics were no longer drawing in audiences, and, desperate, studios began giving money to fledgling directors often fresh from the brand new film schools cropping up, leading to far more daring and unusual films, such as Taxi Driver, the Godfather, and Star Wars. Well documented as this period is, take some time to examine the period just preceding, and how it enabled these films to exist at all.
    That is, look back, first at the Paramount Decision in 1948, which ended the studios monopolies on theatres and film distribution and enabled independent filmmakers to gain foothold in the American film landscape, and the rise of television in the 1950’s, which forced to make going to the movies far more of an event, with big-budget epics, full color, and features such as 3-D and widescreen. By the late 1960’s, the mediocre performances of the anachronistic Hello, Dolly! and plodding Cleopatra rendered tried and true money makers impotent. Examine how changing audience expectations, over saturation of the market, and other such factors allowed movies like Bonnie and Clyde to set the scene for the New Hollywood of the 1970’s. If the studio system hadn’t failed, would the 1970’s era of film-making ever been allowed to happen in the first place?

    • I would include certain film and TV examples that defined where the Studio System was heading towards. – BMartin43 3 years ago
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    Fairy Tales in Film: A Lost Cause?

    Despite its popularity in the written world, fairy tales are notoriously difficult to adapt to the big screen, especially live-action film. While the fantasy epic can see great success (though even that took decades of box-office failure), why is it so rare for a live-action fairy tale film work while animated fairy tales are among the best movies studios like Disney have ever made?
    Analyze both the successes and failures, and discuss: why do fairy tales fare better in animation (such as Disney films) then they do in live-action? How is that a fantasy epic like Lord of the Rings succeeds while the Hobbit, by and large, fails? Address the curious case of the Narnia films, beginning strong with the relatively faithful Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, before crashing and burning with Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Is there something about animation that lends itself better to the relatively smaller scope of the fairy tale, as opposed to the more expansive world of an epic?

    • Hi! I would be careful and clear about how you categorize success and failure. The Hobbit, while not critically as successful as Lord of the Rings, was a commercial success making almost 3 billion dollars worldwide.In writing this article, I would also try to get a clear definition of a "fairy tale". Is LOTR a fairy tale? It depends on your definition.https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2015/02/11/the-hobbit-trilogy-grossed-almost-3-billion-and-no-one-cared/#c9d1b3148382 – SeanGadus 3 years ago
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    • I would be careful with writing this. Narnia, LOTR and TH are not fairy tales. Yes, they are adaptations but they aren't fairy tales, they are fantasy, like Harry Potter. These film series are more compared to the Harry Potter series than fairy tale ones. I like that you want to look at the lost cause from animation to live-action films. I suggest looking into the Grimm's Brothers Fairytales, hopefully that will help you understand what fairy tales are. Do some more research into understanding fairy tales :) http://www.surfturk.com/mythology/fairytaleelements.html https://www.reference.com/art-literature/characteristics-fairy-tale-3fae6bcb14080f7e – meganstalla 3 years ago
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    • Fairy tales are absolutely not a lost cause. In fact, I wish we had more and better adaptations of them, because they are so often the building blocks for modern literature and other media. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
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    4

    Evolution of the Elf in Fantasy Literature

    The tall, noble and beautiful elf has become almost a cliche in fantasy at this point, but this was not always so. As Tolkien traces in his landmark essay, "On Fairy Stories," from Spenser’s "The Faerie Queene" and Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" up to his time, elves had been diminutive creatures of mischief, cutesy and not worth taking seriously. Beginning with Tolkien, and his reliance on Northern European mythology to craft his legendarium, analyze this shift in the treatment of the Elf, and what it meant for fantasy as a genre. Also, compare Tolkien’s Elf with a more modern one, and look at recent deviations of the now archetypal elf.

    • Great topic! A portion of this article should definitely be devoted to the portrayal of Christmas elves, as a complete 180 deviation from the kind seen in Tolkein. How did the archetype of a tall, noble, immortal warrior turn into the short, subservient toy-makers (or tree-dwelling cookie-makers, or nocturnal shoe-makers, etc) that's become so ubiquitous in our contemporary lore? – ProtoCanon 4 years ago
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    • The writer could also stand to look into pixies/imps/brownies and other fae folk for this topic. More than a few of them have gotten mixed together. – Mariel Tishma 4 years ago
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    • Oh, the possibilities.... I'd highly suggest devoting a whole section of the topic to the Christmas elf, since they have about 1000 incarnations themselves. I've seen them as whimsical humans (Buddy in "Elf"), a Nordic-looking stop-motion troupe ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") and as children with silver-specked cheeks (The Santa Clause franchise). – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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    6

    Updating Jane Austen: When Is It No Longer Worth It?

    Take a specific case, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: one of the most popular of the classic novels, it has been subject to various reinterpretations which of course include the occasional modernization. But updating such a novel comes with a hefty set of challenges, not the least being this: is there anything Lydia could do in our time which would ruin her sisters prospects as completely? That is, the social norms and stigmas from Austen’s time to ours are so different, is it possible to construct a modern analog for this novel? Is it worth it?

    • I think this topic could also be written contrary to your title, as one could make the argument that there is always a way to update the classics, maybe even essential to update the classics in order to make them accessible. I LOVE the way the new BBC Sherlock Holmes updates Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's stories. I think the change from pipe to nicotine patches and the updates to Dr Watson being a soldier in Afghanistan in the 21st century instead of in the 19th century are some examples of great updates that lead audiences to want to revisit the classics while still enjoying the new interpretations. – Kevin 4 years ago
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    • The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (youtube series) did a good job of updating the story, including Lydia's story line. I think as long as people feel like women should be shamed for their sexuality, people will use it against them. – chrischan 4 years ago
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    • This is a very interesting topic. If I was to write it, though, more time would be spent probably on the "why things shouldn't be 'modernized'" in the first place. I've seen Much Ado about Nothing set in 1940s Argentina performed in the West End of London- even David Tennant and Katherine Tate couldn't save that one. Even locally here, we've had Cabaret set in a Kabuki Theatre because Nazi Germany is too offensive, and not to forget the all-white version of The Wiz. I believe great art, whether movie, TV, theatre, or what have you, should be left alone. There's a reason it's known as great art, or classics. Sorry for the rant, but as you can see this is something near and dear to my heart. Cheers! – NoDakJack 4 years ago
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    Film and Television After 9/11

    9/11 was the most devastating terror attack on American soil, and consequently its repercussions are still felt 15 years later. Examine how 9/11 influenced American media, in both the immediate aftermath and more long-term reflections. Don’t focus just on films and TV shows about 9/11, but look more at how it informed film aesthetics, story-lines, and how we depict terrorism and political issues in film and television (e.g., how depictions of destruction changed in the advent of 9/11, analyzing the 9/11-like imagery of films such as Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and the DC Cinematic Universe). Focus on specific themes these films tackle in the wake of 9/11, such as PTSD, fear of the unknown threat, and, again, the proper response to terrorism.

    • This is a hugely broad topic. Is there a way to narrow this down? As it stands, this could be like at least five or six different articles. I could write one just on Spiderman. – Christen Mandracchia 4 years ago
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    • This topic is a good one, but it covers a lot of ground. I would focus on just a certain movie or just include some of the films and TV shows from the years right after 9/11. There have been a lot of movies and TV shows that display the affects of 9/11 in the past 15 years. – TaylorNCampbell 4 years ago
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    Latest Comments

    Allie Dawson

    Great analysis! I confess, I never understood the widespread distaste for subtitles. Maybe I read fast, but I never found them distracting. Besides, if modern actors insist upon mumbling their lines, for home viewing at least, subtitles are going to be a necessity.

    Subtitling for Cinema: A Brief History
    Allie Dawson

    Adaptation is such a tricky topic, liable to make everyone mad, at some point. I liked your dexterous handling of these often thorny issues and questions. There really are no easy answers. For myself, I find I don’t mind loose adaptations of fairy tales (considering their multitudinous variation) or frankly mediocre novels/stories, but the better something is the trickier the issue becomes (though as regards fairy tales, I think even the darker ones can be more nuanced than most people assume). At bottom, I think, even if you veer widely off from the narrative events of your source material, it is important to respect the major themes of the work, and what the author was attempting to convey (hence, my hatred of Frozen). But again, a thorny issue deftly handled.

    The Art of Adaption
    Allie Dawson

    What a fascinating analysis! I’m not a gamer myself, but your thorough and philosophically informed examination of these games made me wish I was. Having majored in philosophy myself, I appreciated how clear, accessible, and yet thorough and precise your discussion of these often esoteric topics was.

    Video Games That Ask Deep Philosophical Questions
    Allie Dawson

    Hey there! I’m sorry for neglecting your comment for so long–my life has left little time for the Artifice. But, since I love spreading the greatness of Chesterton, here is a link to a PDF version. The essay is ina collection of his works called Generally Speaking, and is entitled “On Sentiment” and found on page 94 (it’s from a more obscure collection, so it’s a bit difficult to find. However, the collection is on Amazon, with many more of his wonderful essays): http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Generally_Speaking_scan.pdf.
    Hope that helps!

    The Problem of Peter Pan: Should Choices Hurt?
    Allie Dawson

    I’m just getting into to Studio Ghibli, but I think your piece provides a nice introduction for anyone wanting to begin getting into it.

    The Magic and Artistry of Studio Ghibli's Films
    Allie Dawson

    Thanks for this most informative piece! I knew some about Bollywood film, but that all that much, and I like how you gave a historical context for Bollywood, something most who discuss Indian cinema neglect.

    Bollywood 101: A FUN Guide to Indian Cinema
    Allie Dawson

    My dad and younger sisters watched it, and I sat in for the last episodes of season 2 and, holy crap, was it painful. My brother loves it, but we found the cheesiness and overdoses of DRAMA almost too much to endure. None of us could fathom how such a cheesy, cliche-riddled and cheap-looking show could be as popular as it is. But your comparison, if this to the 60’s Batman, sheds some light on the phenomenon. I still think it’s a crappy show, but I can respect now a little bit more for what it is, and understand the appeal at least a little bit better.

    "The Flash" as the Modern Equivalent of 1960's "Batman"
    Allie Dawson

    “Carrie” could almost be considered a modern take on the ‘Revenge Tragedy’ (i.e., Hamlet), honestly.

    Carrie White: Horror's Most Relatable Anti-Heroine