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Adaptations: Are They Meant To Be?

Film adaptations are the result of taking a story, usually a text, and adapting it to, well, film. Adapting a piece of work for the screen is not easy. A novel, for example, was created with specific detail. Taking a 300-page novel and condensing it into a 120-minute film is challenging. You are forced to remove or adjust certain characteristics to fit concerns, like financing. Otherwise, you may have a short story with hopes to create a full feature. That’s just the beginning. Imagine if there is a verbal story carried on through generations. What does a screenwriter do then?

Can something that was created for another medium successfully "work" as a film, narratively and stylistically?

  • Optimally, art should be as protean as possible, and the borders between the various art media should be as porous, permeable, and flexible as possible, so as to foster dialogue (meta and otherwise) between media. Film adaptations at their best are a great reflection of this ideal, but it begs the question: why are the inverses--film novelizations, say--not nearly as prominent? Novelizations do not have nearly as great a critical reputation as adaptations; they are usually hastily written cheap paperbacks, sold as tie-ins and/or for franchise-building, out of print quickly. If filmmakers have frequently been able to distill novels into films--into effective unions of image and sound derived from text--then why can't (or don't) authors expand images and sounds into text that can interact meaningfully and/or provocatively with the film by addition, subtraction and/or alteration, as film adaptations do with their source texts? If novels are used as source material for other media but films aren't, what does that say about how our culture values (or not) those media in terms of art and entertainment? Of course films can expand upon novels, so could novels not expand upon films by, for instance, coloring in the characters' psychological states? Novelizations, qua adaptations, provide (I believe) a ripe opportunity for artistic renaissance, if there are any authors out there willing to consider it and take the plunge! – Alec Johnsson 1 month ago
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  • Coincidentally I have recently watched 'Ten Canoes' (2006), an Australian film entirely in the Aboriginal languages used by those who appear in it. It's a morality tale told during a hunting expedition, which attempts to address the verbal story carried on across generations theme you suggested. Well worth watching. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different. – Amyus 4 weeks ago
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  • I think the worst decision you can make is to try to copy and paste a book scene for scene and make it a movie. With a completely different medium, screenwriters and directors need to make conscious cuts and changes because the books were never intended as a blueprint for a film. Changes have to be made. To see successful adaptions, I suggest you look at how screenwriters and directors make conscious changes to the source material. Example: Both Godfather book and film are successful but Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola make decisions about cutting material from the book and changing some things. L.A. confidential by James Ellroy was another successful adaption in 1997 by Curtis Hanson (with Russel Crowe, Kim Bassinger, Kevin Spacey, and Guy Pearce. In order to adapt the 500-600 page book, clear changes were made to the source material, entire storylines were cut, but the movie captured the essence of the book and it was an impressive creation on its own right. Another fascinating adaption is Blade Runner, which is vastly different than its book counterpart (Do Androids Dream...By Philip K. Dick) yet was a huge influence on many films and books and has surpassed the popularity of the film. – Sean Gadus 4 weeks ago
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Love in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar

Analyze the lack of on-screen romantic love, as the spouses/love interests of the two main adult characters (Cooper and Dr. Amelia Brand) have both died. However, there is an incredible amount of love between Cooper and his daughter Murph, which allows for there to be love within the story.

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    Story vs. Plot

    Discuss the difference of story and plot, and how each contribute to the film experience an audience has. Many people think that story and plot are the same thing; however, the story consists of any events that impact the characters, while plot consists of what we see on the screen.

    • A good idea for a topic sugestion, Sarah. After all, how often to people generally misunderstand the difference between story, plot, summary and synopsis, even exposition for that matter? You have my vote. – Amyus 2 months ago
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    • I think it's a good topic, too, but I don't share your definitions of story and plot. You write: "the story consists of any events that impact the characters, while plot consists of what we see on the screen." For me, it doesn't matter if something happens on screen or off screen. What matters is whether or not there is causality. E.M. Forster famously wrote: "‘A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality – “The king died and then the queen died” is a story.’ But ‘“the king died and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.’" Forster's definition isn't the only one out there, of course, but it's a standard one. As I understand it, "story" has simply to do with the telling of events in time. This happened, and then that happened, and so on. When we talk casually to a friend about what happened the previous day, for example, we often tell a story but often are not thinking at all about plot. We usually haven't plotted out a chain of events that leads to some resolution. We're usually just telling what happened -- that happened, then that, etc. -- over the course of the day. Maybe a specific example or two from film would go a long way toward convincing me! :) – JamesBKelley 2 months ago
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    7

    Black Panther: Not the First Black Superhero in Film but is most Impactful

    With the hype surrounding Marvel’s latest film Black Panther, there is a lot of focus from word of mouth and marketing that this is the first black superhero on the big screen. That is not true however as many have been shown in tv and films before such as Blade and Luke Cage. Yet Black Panther’s role for POC representation in film is much more culturally significant than the other african-american superheroes that appeared on the big screen before the King of Wakanda. By comparing how the others were represented in comparison to Black Panther today.

    • An important part of this needs to be the discussion occurring around the film in relation to social and cultural issues that did not occur when other Marvel films were released. No one sat around discussing the importance of Thor being blonde (god I hope they didn't), but many people are discussing what Black Panther means and what it reflects about American society. I think this is an important topic to get up on The Artifice. – SaraiMW 2 months ago
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    • @SaraiMW That's what I mean for this idea, I was just giving a summary and you just got the exact purpose of this topic. – Ryan Walsh 2 months ago
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    • Something worth considering is that in 1998 (when Blade was released) superhero movies were far from being the pop culture touchstone that they are today. Prior to the launch of the MCU in 2008, the whole genre was a niche with limited appeal beyond the comic-nerd subculture and fans of action blockbusters. Though Blade (along with the first X-Men and Rami's Spider-man trilogy) is considered to be an ancestor of the contemporary dominance of the genre, what makes Blank Panther such a big deal is that it is the first POC lead in a (feature) superhero movie SINCE superhero movies have been the biggest thing in the world. This is a good enough topic, but I think it fixates too much upon the media narrative's unfortunate misuse of the world "first," and thus fails to see the forest for the trees. It consequently forces those of us who like to nitpick (myself included) to jump into "corrector-mode," which may distract from what a monumental moment for diversity/representation in mainstream media this really is. Just my two cents. – ProtoCanon 2 months ago
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    • @ProtoCanon So then what would be the best way to make sure that this topic doesn't devolve into nitpick territory about technicalities? – Ryan Walsh 2 months ago
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    • Hard to say, since this whole subject can be a bit of a minefield. I think the important point would be to stress precisely what makes the release of Black Panther a big deal, DESPITE it not being technically the first of its kind. This includes things like historical and cultural context (as I mentioned above), but can also pay attention to the film's commentary on colonialism, globalization, and diplomacy, as well as the uniqueness of its Afro-Futurist aesthetic being so uncommon in the landscape of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking. You're addition of "but most impactful" is the more crucial point, so it might be wise of the author to spend more time exploring that than the more salacious "not the first" talking-point. – ProtoCanon 2 months ago
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    • Great topic! Don't forget Spawn (1997), Steel (1997), Catwoman (2004), and Hancock (2008). Maybe not great films, but still relevant to the discussion. In the short entry "Comic Books/Superhero Films" in Race in American Film: Voices and Visions that Shaped a Nation (2017), I made the argument that Pootie Tang (2001) and Black Dynamite (2009) are also superhero films with a black character as the lead. If you want to glance at that entry, you might be able to find and read it by searching for: kelley "race in superhero films" – JamesBKelley 2 months ago
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    • This is a really interesting topic and one that really says a lot about our current political environment. I think another crucial part to discuss would be the social media reaction to the movie, as well as the fact it was released by such a major and high-budget brand as Marvel. And the fact that the poc characters depicted are pretty unique in that they are royalty- not criminals or people in poverty but powerful, charismatic people. – JoanneK 2 months ago
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    9

    Rebuilding The Future

    The year 1960 saw the release of George Pal’s imaginative production of H.G.Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, considered by many to be a classic. At the end of the film, the main character ‘George’ returns to the distant future to help the newly liberated yet child-like Eloi build a new society, taking just three books with him to aid his venture. As his friend comments to another character ‘…which three would you have taken?’. Considering the wealth of knowledge we have access to in the 21st Century, which three books (factual or fiction) would you choose and, more importantly, why?

    • A great topic to consider as it will require addressing the roles of particular texts - do you take manuals, do you take "great literature", do you take religious texts? What is most valuable in literature in relation to history and cultural change and how do we measure this? – SaraiMW 2 months ago
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    Technical Competence Vs. Quality in Classic Cinema

    I recently re-watched Tod Brownings 1931 adaptation of Dracula, along with the Spanish language reshoot made the same year. Later, I watched an analysis of both films that was arguing the english language version was superior due to the technical proficiency of the camera operator. They compared the number of tracking shots, pushes, and dolly shots, then judged the quality of the film based off those numbers.

    Personally, I find this to be somewhat of a silly way of judging a film’s quality, but I couldn’t help that agree with the author of the video that the English version looks much better than the Spanish one. Should the technical execution of a film, especially classic film, play a role in our subjective judgement of it?

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      America, Can You Really Do Anything?

      In America, the commonly known ‘American Dream’ ideal exists where if you put in hard work and with a little "bit o’ luck" you can accomplish anything. Discuss the socio-economic and political barriers to this ideal. Examine social issues such as racism, sexism, and white-privilege, noting how their effects promote or dampen the possibility of this ideal becoming a reality. Use examples from media, books and film in order to argue your point.

      Book Suggestions: Of Mice and Men, McTeague, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Passing (Nella Larsen).

      Movie Suggestions: Citizen Kane, Pretty Woman, La La Land, Good Will Hunting

      • This is actually too big a topic, especially considering the breadth of time frames that you are suggesting in the texts. I think this is actually a very interesting discussion, but it needs to be reduced down into a more narrow aspect - perhaps even something more niche, such as the concept of the American Dream perceived through an African American lens, or through a feminist lens. Or even pick a particular time frame, such as the 1970s or now and look at how the AD has been depicted then. – SaraiMW 2 months ago
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      • So the suggestions we're just as they are suggestions, I would never expect anyone to use all of them or even any of them it was just ideas. With that in mind do you still believe the topic to be too much? – alexpaulsen 2 months ago
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      • I would also use recent modern examples of film or political issues to help tell this article. – BMartin43 2 months ago
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      • I agree with SaraiMW. If you'd like to do a feminist lens some excellent novels from the start of the 20th c. (when the frontier myth started shaping the American Dream) are: My Antonia, American Indian Stories, and Sister Carrie – Mela 2 months ago
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      Tree of Life and Melancholia:Opposing Perspective on Life

      What Tree of Life by Terrence Malick and Melancholia by Lars Von Trier have in common is that they are two films that are poetic in their imagery and dialogue. With nuanced characters, each film seeks to explore the human experience and provide its own answer to question of life’s ultimate meaning. Analyze each film in depth. Discuss differences and similarities between the characters of each film, and how each affirms the films central themes. Also examine the differences and the possible similarities in the messages of both films.

      • This is a very interesting subject when it comes to two entirely different filmmakers. I would be very interested in approaching it from the angle you propose. – caryleiter 4 months ago
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