All posts by Jessica Lewy

Back to Brokeback

I’ve always known that Brokeback Mountain was based on a piece of literature. After watching Brokeback Mountain, and falling in love with it, I knew that i had to read the book. The library didn’t have it, so I ordered it for 99 cents on Amazon. I found out from Amazon that it was a short story and that it was about 50-60 pages long. When it arrived, I found that it was a very small book, with very little writing on each page, so it easily could have been only about 20 real pages. It kind of blew my mind that a 2+ hour film could be derived from just 20 pages. Naturally, I assumed the movie was very embellished and I set off  to read the book.

It took me about an hour to read. It was such a quick easy read, very straightforwardly written. However, it is so spot on to the book. I understand that the general consensus on adaptations is to not base it off of how well it adhered to the written word, however if we were to do it that way, Brokeback mountain is so well adapted. Most dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book, even though there isn’t much in the book anyways. What I realized is that single lines were transformed into full scenes (an example being when Ennis and Jack are wrestling and the overseer sees them), and a lot of the film has a lot of outdoor/music driven scenes. I just loved how the movie was essentially an elongated form of the short story.

This also reminded me of when I first read “Gone with the Wind” (which happens to be my favorite book and movie, but I’m not going to delve into anything beyond adaptation). I saw the movie when I was young, and fell in love with it. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I found the book at Goodwill and finally read it. It is the opposite of Brokeback Mountain; the book is essentially and more detailed version of the movie.

It’s weird because I’m glad that i saw the movie first in both cases: it allowed me to appreciate each story more. With Gone with the Wind, as I read, I could imagine the precise details mentioned and my affection for the movie grew because it was so spot on in my mind, and i had never known it any other way. With Brokeback mountain, since the short story is so brief, it leaves SO much up the imagination and the movie really enhanced my understanding of the story because it doesn’t go into vivid detail the way that Gone with the Wind does, yet there is so much room for making it your own.

All in all, I think that adaptation is a crazy thing, and  I respect those film makers that attempt to adapt a story in any way shape or form.

Judge Judy

The article about Judge Judy and court setting talk shows really would have tied in well with the week we discussed race and perpetuating stereotypes, because the TV show really does perpetuate/uphold stereotypes about women.

A big thing discussed is Judy’s morals as a person, being carried over into her work as a judge. She believes that women should be independent, yet they continue to victimize herself. She generally rules in favor of women being independent (whether that means the women wins the case, or has to pay rent to her ex, etc.). On the flip-side, she also looks down upon women who are not a part of a nuclear family (living with a man without being married), because she believes in a 2 income household.

I found this article very interesting, because it also discusses how the TV show is meant to feel candid — everything is honest, and unlike regular talk shows, honesty and confessions can be brought out with the  use of “the law.”  However, obviously, cases are hand selected to be the most interesting, both the case itself and its eventual ruling. Most cases are petty squabbles and it makes a case that the courtroom is the best place to solve any sort of dispute. It also looks down on lower class individuals because they’re the ones who tend to end up on Judge Judy.

The question I was planning on asking in class had to do with the perpetuation of sexist/classist/racist stereotypes (Question 2 in the book). If anyone has any input, feel free to comment!

King Kong and Birth of a Nation

There was a paragraph in the King Kong reading that really stood out to me. First of all, the entire reading made me rethink basically all horror movies, and I realized that “classic” horror movies do revolve around a beast or a disfigured humanoid of sorts.

But there was a paragraph on 846 that really stood out; that is when a scene from the film is described about the couple fleeing from King Kong. The description really made me think of the chase scenes in Birth of a Nation, where a lusting black male chases the beautiful heroine, who ultimately sacrifices herself instead of being involved with this “monster.”

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but the comparison really made me wonder how I never realized the significance of classic horror films.


One of the things that made me so emotional at the end of Brokeback Mountain was the symbolism of the two shirts that Ennis takes from Jack’s childhood home. First of all, the way he smelled them when he picked them up, and felt the fabric of the shirts was just such a nice touch because it showed how much Ennis missed Jack without saying it (because Ennis is a man of few words).

It was also so nice for Ennis to be able to have something tangible to remember Jack, something to take back with him, for Jack’s father would not allow him to take the ashes. For me, it also drew back on the fact that Jack initially took the shirt from Ennis (without his knowledge) so that he could have something tangible of Ennis (though in that case it wasn’t as meaningful with Ennis still being alive).

My favorite thing about it was that Ennis reversed the order of the shirts. It felt as though when Jack put Ennis’s inside, it was as if he was keeping Ennis within him, and potentially hidden from his parents. (However the father  mentions that he knew of Ennis). Meanwhile, when Ennis has the shirts hanging next to the picture with Jack’s shirt on the inside, it’s as if Ennis is keeping Jack forever in his heart, since he is no longer with him. The shirts along with the image of Brokeback, hanging on the back of Ennis’s door, seemed to serve as a memory and a nostalgic past that he could never go back to — which was both oddly romantic and heartbreaking.

The “Celebration”

This movie honestly made me nauseous and squirmy for a couple of reasons. First of all, the plot was sick and the way the story played out was like a montage of every uncomfortable scene in movies/television that I have ever seen. I do like that the title is speaks a little about what is to come, using a title that shows the opposite of what ends up happening.

Secondly, knowing that it was a Dogme 95 film mad me think differently about a lot of scenes. It kind of freaked me out how actors hit each other and and had sex on screen. It was uncomfortable knowing that everything depicted had to be real. This goes along with camera and sound and lighting. In my documentary class, we work a lot with sound and lighting to make sure that it is ideal and not distracting. For me, the home video quality was distracting at times knowing that it is not actually a home video. The grain got very intense and really bothered me, but I do understand the ideas of Dogme 95, and in a way I respect their ideals and qualities to make more realistic feature films.

Questions for Adaptation reading

In the first couple pages, Robert Stam asks if strict fidelity is possible? He also asks what part of literature should film makers be faithful to?

I also had a question about the middle paragraph on page 546 — what does the whole “original” vs. “copy” section mean?

And what are the differences between the five types of transtextual relations?

Back to tragedy

I know we discussed the concept of tragedy last week, but while I was watching Birdman last night, the idea kind of came back to me. (I know we didn’t watch it in class, but I found it relatable). At the Golden Globes, Michael Keaton won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, for his role as Riggan, but I didn’t reaaaally see it as a comedy, but I guess I could consider it a dark, dark, dark, dark, dark comedy.


In the final 20ish minutes of the film, the climax revolves around opening night of Riggan’s broadway debut. He had already spoken with a critic who told him she would tear his show a part, and to him, it seems like his life is falling apart. Cue the dramatic moment where he picks up a gun, instead of his prop gun, loads it, and walks on stage.

The scene continues and eventually ends with Riggan shooting himself, and supposedly killing himself. The following scene is choppy and drastically different from the rest of the seamless film, and I took it to be Riggan’s life flashing in his final moments. Then things get weird — I believe that when Riggan wakes up in the hospital, its the final moments of his dream-like state, or even his afterlife, where everything is just as it should be for him — a good relationship with wife and daughter, a good critique, an already fixed nose, and being able to actually fly out the window.

To me the ending, and movie as a whole, was a tragedy. It ended with the death of the lead, and the whole plot was about strained relationships, struggles with inner demons, and Riggan’s seemingly worthless life.  Though I found some of the dialogue comical, I don’t think I would ever jump to say that this film should be put in the “comedy/musical” category. To me it was very much a drama, and pretty much a tragedy — and I never realized that those could be intertwined.

So, I have a question about this: Is Birdman a tragedy? Can it be both a comedy and a tragedy? Or, does it have to do with hybridity in genres.

Gone with the wind as a tragedy.

According to Aristotle a tragedy is defined as a “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language;… in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.”

He also goes on to say that there are six distinctive elements of tragedy: i) plot, ii) characters, iii) diction, iv) song, v) thought and vi) spectacle.

In class I raised the question…does there have to be death to have something be a tragedy?  I used the example of Gone with the Wind. Branching off of that, I will go through the steps that determine whether or not Gone with the Wind is.

i) plot.  There certainly is a plot in this film and it revolves around big moments and themes — marriage, death, longing, loathing, and of course the Civil War.

ii) characters. There are relatable and strong characters in this film, but maybe this film would have a different outcome if the characters are different.

iii) diction. The diction of the film is that of the time, and there is very dramatic language and tones, which correlates with Aristotle’s idea of diction.

iv) song. There’s a score to the film.

v) thought. Many speeches and monologues reveal the inner nature of the main characters (namely Scarlett).

vi) spectacle. Gone with the Wind is easily one of, if not, the most highly regarded spectacles of all time. It draws viewers in with its flashy sets and costumes, and the amount of people it took to produce such a film.

After going through the pieces that create a tragedy, and the fact the film ends on a heartbreaking/melancholy (yet hopeful) note, I would say that Gone with the Wind is a tragedy.

Wes Anderson as an auteur

While reading the auteur chapter, many directors came to mind: Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, and Werner Herzog were some examples.  However, when I read the words “continuity” and “mise-en-scene,” I felt that Wes Anderson is one of those directors who really drives that point home.

I’m kind of a neat freak (read: I like to keep my stuff organized and clean), and I’ve related so much with the way Wes Anderson movies are filmed, because to me they are perfect (and symmetrical and spotless). Every movie of his that I have seen, has such continuity, that anyone who has every seen a Wes Anderson film could likely pick out another one. Each film of his has such a unique way of using voice overs, presenting characters, and creating a mise-en-scene that resonates so solely with the name Wes Anderson. What I find so amazing is that even his claymation film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, follows the exact same trend, and fits right into his auteurship.

Additionally, on pages 9-10 in Chapter 1, the author lays out a list of an eclectic ensemble that the director works with (cast, cinematographer, writer, and composer). To me, it seems that one reason that Wes Anderson achieves auteurship clearly, is because his team works so well together.

Meta film making

For me, The Man with a Movie Camera, was very, very meta about film making. Not only does the film draw attention to the fact that a man is walking around with a movie camera, but it also made me really think about the man filming the man with the movie camera. There were 2x cameras rolling at once usually.  It seemed to me to be such an homage to film making as a whole, instead of a documentary, but it had so many different things that relate back to that idea.

For me the machinery and the gears turning etc. seemed to have such a direct correlation to film making as a whole, and everything that goes into the process that is seemingly unnoticed, and everything that makes a film what it is. To me, it kind of all related back to the “film apparatus,” and how once the film becomes a film, you forget about all the parts, much like when a product becomes a product.