Wednesday, December 15, 2010

IRP Adaptation Blog

My version of "Once Upon A Time"


If I were to adapt "Once Upon A Time" into a film, I would elaborate further into the plot of this story. I would keep the original context of its frame-story structure, but I would go into much more detail when describing the lives of the fictional "fairytale" characters. While they are deciding what extra safety measures to take, I would show them browsing through different catalogs and going to different stores to find the latest and greatest gadgets. I would exaggerate the process of them growing more ridiculous with all the over-precautions which are added to their house. In the beginning, I would spend more time introducing the narrator to the audience. The scene of her waking up in the middle of the night and hearing footsteps would be highly suspenseful and drawn out. I would really want the audience to feel the fear and paranoia that she feels in order to understand the meaning of the work more clearly.

Point of View

In terms of point of view, I would probably keep this fairly consistent with that of the short story. The narrator would remain the character at the beginning, but I would also spend more time introducing her. Because this story is originally told as a satire, it is critical that those watching the film understand the sarcasm of the narrator. If this parodied style of writing is not sensed, then the work will lose some of its significance. I think it is important to leave the point of view as an objective perspective so that the audience can decide for themselves what they decipher the meaning to be. If the narrator inserts her thoughts and feelings on the characters, then those watching may not sense the ambiguity for themselves; instead, they might take on the opinion of the one telling the fictional tale.


Oh boy, time for characters! In my adaptation of the film, I would definitely expand on the depth of the characters in this story. By giving them more dialogue, displaying their interactions, and showing them in their everyday environment, it would allow the audience to get to know them on a more personal level. Furthermore, if the characters were easier to connect with, then the context of the story would be more interesting and even more powerful. For instance, if I began to care about the little boy in the story, then I would be heartbroken to watch his bloody demise at the ending. The parents' noble intentions to keep their family safe would be clear, but their failure to recognize the danger they in turn created would be understood as well. It is my belief that the more a character is elaborated on, the more an audience grows to empathize with them. Also, I would be sure to make clear connections with the characters and their alternate "fairytale" identities. There would be a mother-in-law/wise old witch comparison, and the it would be evident that the little boy was trying to act like a "knight in shining armor" at the end.


While I think it is important for this film to remain modernized, I would probably move its setting to a more famous area where extensive safety measures are truly taken. Perhaps Hollywood, or say, the Hamptons. By moving the setting to a realistic location rather than a fictional one, I think that the irony of the story would be much greater. Showing the real paranoia and fear that society creates would heighten the idea that people often imprison themselves trying to protect their lives from danger. Oftentimes, people are completely oblivious to the fact that they are the greatest danger to themselves. Therefore, if the film setting of this story was realistic, I think that the concept would be equally realistic. As for the characters' house, I would want it to distinctly resemble a castle - complete with a pond, or "moat", and a large gate surrounding it. In other words, "castle walls". These resemblances would amplify the parallelism between the modern-day family and a fairytale family.


Throughout "Once Upon A Time", the irony that the mother and father destroyed the life that they were trying to protect was the greatest theme. I really liked this concept because I found the author's satirical approach to a normally dreary subject matter to be witty and humorous. Granted, the theme was not necessarily a happy one, but I thought it was a clever all the same. Therefore, I would want the theme of my film to be how a person's greatest fear is fear itself. The characters in this story spent so much time worrying about how to ensure their own safety that they forgot how to actually look after themselves on their own. They let go of their common sense and depended entirely on technology and security devices to do their parenting for them. At one point in the story, they were inspecting their neighbors' new security gates and they failed to realize that their little boy was running away from them in the street. He could have been hurt, or kidnapped, or worse! It is important for people to remember that they cannot allow themselves to get caught up in society and forget about what they know. Ironically enough, it is the essence of safety that ends up being what is most dangerous to this family. It is an unexpected twist to a normal child's story, and an even more valuable lesson.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Shawshank Redemption", Cinematic Adventure Style


Throughout the course of this movie, I was fairly shocked at how closely tied it was to the original elements of the short story. Its plot was probably the element that strayed the most from its initial foundation, and even then, it wasn't too far off course. The varying details I found seemed to be fairly subtle. To start, one character that differed from the short story was Brooks. He was the old man in the prison who had a pet bird that he fed and nurtured from a previous injury. When he was eventually released, the story didn't elaborate much on what happened to him in his life beyond prison. It did, however, mention that his bird ended up dying after he set it free because it wasn't capable of taking care of itself. In the movie, Brook's troubled adjustment period back into society is shown. In fact, he comes to the point where he can no longer cope with his new life and he ends up hanging himself to end his misery. He said that he was "tired of being scared all the time" in the outside world and just wanted it all to end.
Another larger variation involved the character of Tommy Williams. In the short story, Warden Hadley had Tommy transferred to a different prison while Andy was in solitary confinement so that he wouldn't be able to testify for him. I wish that was the case in the movie as well, but sadly it transpired contrastingly. Warden Hadley lured Tommy to the grounds to talk to him, and it was there that he had Tommy shot and murdered by prison guards. That way he knew for sure Andy's innocence couldn't be proven. After this took place, he lied and told Andy that Tommy was shot because he tried to escape. Due to the warden's evil character, I can't say that I'm surprised.
The last and most significant difference I chose to analyze was the whole escape-ending of the story. Because the narrator in the short story is Red, he could not be sure about some of the details of Andy's escape. How he had changed from his prison clothes to regular clothes for instance, was a mystery. Contrarily, this is accounted for in the movie. The movie showed Andy with a plastic sack filled with clothes and essentials tied to ankle as he crawled through his man-made tunnel. Also, in the short story the ending was crafted as a cliffhanger where the reader is left to wonder if Red ever ended up finding Andy. The movie ends a little more certain and more optimistically than the original story. According to the movie, Red completed his journey and was reunited with Andy in the end. Andy was exactly where he said he would be, meaning he was in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
In my opinion, these differences made the story stronger rather than weaker. I thought they added to its overall value and made it even better than it was to begin with. I liked the differences in the characters because it made them seem that much more real, or complex. Brooks' inability to cope, the warden's sheer cruelty, the unraveled mysteries of Andy's escape; all of these were significant added elements to the blueprint of the plot.

Point of View

The point of view remained unchanging between the short story version of "The Shawshank Redemption" and the film version of the story. Red was the narrator in both, and it was through his insight that the reader gained information about Andy and those surrounding him. However, in the movie some parts were shown that could only be conjectured upon before. Andy's escape would be my greatest example of this. Whereas Red could only imagine the level of repulsion Andy must have experienced crawling through the sewage tunnel, in the movie the audience got to see Andy wretching inside the tunnel and pushing himself to keep going.
Once again, I liked this small change because it made the story slightly more effective. Since I am a visual person, being able to see events that had only been described to me before heightened my understanding of the story and allowed me to empathize with the characters.


I think that the characterization remained the same in both the written and film versions of this story. Andy and Red acted exactly as they were portrayed to, and there were even times where conversations between the two of them were directly quoted from the story itself. That was one of my favorite aspects of the movie; the fact that it didn't try to change any details or alter the characters as they had been written. Because of this, I thought that the movie remained effective in its storytelling. I was appreciative that the producers had maintained the characterization so well, and I could often tell who characters were supposed to be before they were referenced by name. To an extent, I was sort of surpised by this. If I had to guess, I would have thought that the characterization would have been an aspect that varied more greatly between the two before watching the movie.


Identically, the setting was kept consistent in both the story and film production of "The Shawshank Redemption". This contributed to the value of the story because it added to its accuracy and strengthened the links between the two. Perhaps most important; however, was the fact that the hidden box that Andy left behind for Red remained in the city of Buxton. It was nearby a haystack and northern stone wall, just as he'd said it'd be. Furthermore, Andy traveled to Zihuatanejo, a factor I didn't leave unnoticed. I think that the consistency between the settings made the story have more validity and made it seem more real to the reader. The time period was also well portrayed; the advancements made in society during that time period were evident and accurate.


While I still found hope to be a prevalent theme in the film, I also picked up on some religious themes as well. At one point, Warden Hadley instructed Andy, telling him that "salvation lay within". In the most literal sense, I found this ironic because his salvation actually lay within his own prison cell, the very means by which he was supposed to be confined. On another note, Andy also came up with the idea to hide his rock hammer between the pages of his Bible. This was significant because salvation was literally held within the texts of his faith. The Warden never thought to question it, and for that reason his hiding place was ingenious. I especially liked how the Warden got what he deserved in the end. He was an incredibly cruel man, and for all the religious talk he gave he was certainly one heck of a hypocrite in my opinion. Either way, I saw religious references sprinkled throughout the movie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Popular Mechanics" by Raymond Carver

After reading "Popular Mechanics", I can honestly say that it was the first time the term "short" story has truly applied in this class. I couldn't believe that it was only a page! But now on a more analytical note, I'd like to address the style of this story. Carver narrated this story in the third person objective point of view, meaning that it gave the effect of distancing the readers from the characters. By doing this, Carver's lack of detail and ambiguity between dialogue and action demonstrate the lack of identity of the characters and also the universality of the story. The biggest concept I took from this piece was just how common physical and verbal fights have become between separating couples, and oftentimes, how they use their children as ammunition in the process. I thought the story was a good piece for illustrating divorce or separation, especially since it is becoming more customary by the day.

"You're Ugly, Too" by Lorrie Moore

In class, we were asked to decide whether or not we liked the character of Zoe. Personally, I found her to be rather humorous and I enjoyed her character a lot. Zoe was someone I could relate with because she is incredibly sarcastic, a quality which I myself seem to acquire. At times, she was so completely blunt and honest that I was caught off-guard. For instance, when talking to Earl, she gets annoyed and says "Tell me, Earl. Does the word fag mean anything to you?" (page 369). You can't get much more straightforward than that! Also, her overall cynical view towards love was pretty humorous. Usually women fantasize about finding their one true love, and spend their whole lives looking for their "knight in shining armor". Not Zoe. She made it perfectly clear that she didn't believe in the magic of love like everyone else.

"The Drunkard" by Frank O'Connor

6. What is the principal irony in this story?

While this story was filled with humor and irony, I would have to say that the principal irony would be the fact that the little boy became drunk rather than his alcoholic father. One of the most humorous parts of the story occurred when Larry's father was walking him home and he was drunkenly yelling at old women, saying "Go away, ye bloody bitches!" He also snapped at his father asking him "Ah, Jasus... Why the hell can't you leave me alone?" (page 350). I found this part of the story comical because it was almost as if he was trying to act like an adult. Elevating the level of irony further was Larry's mother's reaction to his drunken state. Rather than getting mad at her son for drinking alcohol, she praised him instead, calling him his father's "guardian angel". This is highly ironic because the way he "saved" his father from drinking was by getting drunk himself. His mother, not realizing his mistake, thought that he did this on purpose and accoladed his wit.

"The Lottery" by Shirely Jackson

1. What is a "lottery"? How does the title lead you to expect something very different from what the story represents?

In Jackson's short story, a lottery is much different than the present-day definition of one. Whereas winning the lottery today is seen as lucky and exciting, the lottery in her story is quite the opposite. "Winning" the lottery in this small village means that that person who draws the marked slip of paper is the one who gets stoned. The villagers believe that they have to continue this tradition in order to produce good crops each year. As Old Man Warner says, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (page 268). In this way, I viewed the villagers as primitive and somewhat barbaric. By sacrificing someone to their rain god, they believed that they were ensuring a bountiful harvest. Because of this, I viewed the characters as stuck in an unrefined and rudimentary mindset.