California Literary Review

Literary Themes

Trailer Watch: Les Misérables

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May 30th, 2012

This is, in showbiz terms, the textbook definition of “a big deal.” After all this anticipation, it will almost certainly become the definitive film version of the show, for good or ill. And so it must be done right the first time. We are a long way from Spider-Man now.

The Weekly Listicle: Method In Our Movie Madness

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October 7th, 2011

The practice of blessing mass entertainment with the bard’s prose confers a kind of loftiness upon it, or at least that must be the idea. A quick glance indicates that Shakespeare has provided titles for an alarming number of Star Trek episodes, just for starters. This week, lend your ears to Brett Harrison Davinger and me (Dan Fields) as we look at some of our favorite films to borrow a title from the works of Shakespeare.

Book Review: Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion by Janet Mullany

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October 3rd, 2011

At root, the novel seems to rest on a misapprehension: that the world of Jane Austen would be more exciting if it had vampires in it. During it, we discover that in the first draft of Mansfield Park, Fanny was, in fact, one of said bloodthirsty beasties. Did anyone ever read Mansfield Park and think “Not bad, but it could do with more of the undead”?

Trailer Watch: Martin Scorsese’s Hugo

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July 15th, 2011

Martin Scorsese, Hollywood titan, enjoys a special reputation for directing violent, foul-mouthed crime flicks. Admittedly, he does this very well, but the notoriety of movies like Taxi Driver, Casino, and most recently The Departed tends to eclipse the true diversity and scope of his body of work. Even when his choice of material seems misguided, […]

Book Review: Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr

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July 6th, 2011

Except for a (thankfully) brief, unscientific use of Google metrics, Orr beautifully shares instances of why one might fall in love with poetry. He recounts his life-changing discovery of the poet Philip Larkin, and his experience of helping his father, a stroke victim, improve his speech through readings of Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

Bloody Sexy Things: Adapting Clive Barker

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June 28th, 2011

Clive Barker has lent his eyes and hands to virtually every medium, from page to the screen to the stage to the canvas to the console. However, film fans know him particularly as a horror master. There is so much undermined material for gifted fantasy filmmakers that perhaps we could dispense with further Candyman sequels and retire the Hellraiser juggernaut with contented hearts, and enjoy a Clive Barker renaissance clad in all new colors.

The Weekly Listicle: On Adapting The Classics

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March 11th, 2011

With the arrival of Jane Eyre from Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, we see another standard of the English-class bookshelf put to the screen. Mia Wasikowska, lately of Alice In Wonderland, headlines as the eponymous Jane, in a very Gothic-looking version of Charlotte Brontë’s best known novel. As I recall, it is quite a dark […]

The Weekly Listicle: A Question Of Identity

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February 18th, 2011

Identity is a wonderful device for deception and suspense in storytelling. In some cases a whole plot hinges on whether or not someone is who they claim to be. The quest for identity, whether inwardly or outwardly direction, may lead to all manner of obsession, danger, and mischief.

Brighton Rock Rises Again. Graham Greene Abides.

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December 20th, 2010

Acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffé will try his hand at the directing game next year. For his debut, he has selected an auspiciously high-profile story. Brighton Rock, adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, is a captivating crime thriller and a chilling exploration of the human capacity for love, betrayal and violence. If all goes right, this will be one beautiful and scary film.

A Watchful Eye On… Sherlock Holmes

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December 15th, 2010

Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.

The Weekly Listicle: Misleading Movie Titles

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December 3rd, 2010

Sometimes a movie’s title appears to be a secret known only to the writer. Sometimes it is based on a very subtle detail in the story, which only becomes clear after multiple viewings. Sometimes a flaw in the film’s execution simply fails to bring out the significance of the title. And sometimes movies just have stupid titles. This week, William Bibbiani and I (Dan Fields) meditate upon the sticky subject of Movie Naming.

The Weekly Listicle: Worlds Of Fancy And Other Wondrous Places

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November 19th, 2010

A cleverly rendered fantasy world has the power to make us believe astounding things, and to transport us to places we may never have imagined ourselves. In the history of film there have been countless attempts to take real-world places and performers outside the realm of what has been seen before, and into far-off lands where the amazing, the terrifying, and the marvelous lurk around every corner.

Movie Time Nostalgia, Part 4: We Are All Children Of Paradise

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November 9th, 2010

A movie can do a lot of things to an audience. It may move them, amuse them, disgust them, terrify them, or in all too many cases bore them. One thing only a handful of films can do is inspire wonder. Every once in a while, a winning combination of writer, director, designers, composers and cast meet in perfect harmony. Such, I feel, is the case of Marcel Carné’s 1945 epic romance, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise).

Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein

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September 29th, 2009

It was on the level of popular culture that the vital “center” of life in the United States held firm during the Great Depression. Weekly trips to the neighborhood movie house, looking at photos of a revitalized nation in Life Magazine, listening to President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats on the radio, following the home team in the still vigorous daily newspapers, these rituals of daily life were the principal means of keeping faith in America’s future, of believing that the only thing to fear was fear itself.

Erskine Childers and The Riddle of the Sands

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January 27th, 2009

Set against the backdrop of a yachting trip to the German coast, the story weds a tale of adventure with the reality of Britain’s imperial overreach thus beginning a genre that – as continued by the likes of Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, and John le Carré – has matured into one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the literate world.

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