Ghost World vs Ghost World


I recently discovered the Ghost World Anniversary Collection at my local library and could not resist. I remember when the film came out in 2001 and thinking it was not bad, but not amazing. I liked the characters, but didn’t really get who they were, why we were following them and what was going to happen. But nonetheless, I wanted to revisit it.

I loved the graphic novel. I loved the characters of Enid and Rebecca with all of their disillusioned, self-centred, misfit teenage angst. Each strip was about five or six pages long and told a self-contained story whilst sticking with a broader overall narrative. Reading the original graphic novel, I felt like I was entering into a special world.

The Anniversary Collection consists of the original along with other artwork (posters, advertisements, magazine covers and the like), interviews with Daniel Clowe and others involved in the motion picture and the full script of the film. I liked the script because it reflected a lot of what had occurred in the strip, but modified to be a dramatically interesting film.

Ghost World-01

Of course, I then had to watch the film. I was so disappointed, and I cannot explain why. Only a few scenes from the script in the book deviated from the book, and the portrayal of the characters was very close to how I had imagined them. The actors were great, in particular Thora Birch as Enid, Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca and Steve Buscemi as Seymour Somehow, though, the film lacked heart. Suddenly, Enid was as much of an annoying, angsty teenager as Caulfield Holden in Catcher in the Rye, and I could not bear her self-centred actions and disregard for anyone but herself. It was as though what came across in the book as silly mistakes that had unfortunate consequences seemed, in the film, to be heartless and cold. For me, I’m going to stick with the comic strip in the future.

The film of Ghost World was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.

American Beauty (1999) Film Review


Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells us in the opening of the film that within a year, he will be dead. He is a loser; stuck in a disintegrating marriage with Carolyn(Annette Bening), with a grumpy teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch) who has no respect for either of her parents and a job he hates. He is deeply unhappy. Then he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend, Angela(Mena Suvari), who he develops an infatuation with. Also, a new family moves in next door, and the strange teenage son starts selling Lester pot. Before you know it, his life is turned around and then, true to his earlier statement, he dies.

I taught this film over several years and found that each time I watched it, I enjoyed it more and more. It is such a beautiful film – every second is perfectly constructed and every shot contains a wealth of information to tell the story. The performances are beautiful, with each character’s strengths and vulnerabilities revealed.

American Beauty won Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Annette Bening) Best Film Editing and Best Music (Original Score)