Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bugsy Malone

Who ever came up with the idea to make a musical about gangsters let alone one starring solely child actors? The zaniness doesn't stop there. The children in the movie use marshmallow launchers instead of guns, go out for sundaes instead of drinks, and drive pedaled powered cars instead of full sized automobiles. Through all of its conventions, however, Bugsy Malone is able to create a unique, highly moral, and light-hearted gangster-musical for the whole family to enjoy. 
It deals with the ideas of the gangster genre very interestingly. First and foremost, the idea to use only children in the film really impacts the themes and tone of the entire movie. By using this children's world in place of the darker and grittier real world, the film makes the morality of decisions clearer. It shows the American Dream in a way where there are tons of different possibilities and places to go and it's all based on the decisions that these kids make. It creates a nice ending message for kids watching the movie:

"You give a little love and it all comes back to you, you know you're gonna be remembered for the things you say and do."

Furthermore, the use of dubbing the kid's voices in song with older adult counterparts was a very bold and thoughtful idea. To me, it added to the impact of what these characters were saying in song. It made the ideas they presented, such as the busboy's dream of becoming a dancer, have much more merit and weight. It weighted down the songs almost to stand out from the rest of the film even more. 
The "Real" world

The use of a "backstage" world and a real world in the film also worked really well. There were multiple conflicts in the movie, the one between the mobsters and the one with the performers- the dreamers. The actual songs used for each of these worlds also varied slightly in their themes and style. The "backstage" songs typically had to do about hopes and dreams, such as the dream to go out to Hollywood to be an actress; whereas  the songs in the real world had to deal with solving actual physical problems, like when Bugsy Malone gets together a team of unemployed children to help him steal some marshmallow guns. It becomes really interesting by the end of the film once the two worlds overlap. In addition to this, the fact that Bugsy was able to be a drifter and go between both of these two worlds really allowed for a more educated look on the world of Bugsy Malone.
Worlds collide! Can they be together?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tokyo Story

First, I'd like to apologize that this was not posted earlier.

Ozu's Tokyo Story really shocked me. I did not have any idea of what to expect and by the time the credits rolled by, I had undergone so many different things and was really searching within myself for some meaning in these things and in life. For some reason, which I didn't know at the time and had to really search for as the credits rolled, all of this- everything that had occurred in the movie really had a resonance within me. Tokyo Story was really a movie to me which got better the more I put into it.

I really thought the idea of cutting out to static landscape shots was a really interesting choice like mentioned in the reading. For me personally, it served as a time for me to reflect on what was going on in the movie as well as how it related to me. This action was a very meditative on at least for me while I was watching it. It also helped separate up the actions of the film nicely and really gave a larger scope to the events of the piece- as in they occurred in a realistic time frame instead of all at once.

One of the reasons the movie was so successful for me was the use of the everyday. I was really able to sink myself into the film and grasp what was going on due to how normal everything felt. I really listened truthfully much more and was able to reach my own conclusions and feelings based on what was going on. The movie functioned transcendentally very well for me because of its use of the everyday and the implications of it above all else. I've never seen any movie like this before- it has lots of "imperfections" (it strays from traditional conventions) yet because of it and everything else it is able to impact me in a novel way.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Annie- A Gangster Film. Annie Get Your Gun?

At a first noncritical viewing of the film, it is very hard to see Annie as a Gangster film in the slightest. It seems to just be a story about an orphan girl with the heart of gold who is later rewarded for her good deeds in the form of being adopted by a wealthy tycoon-Rockefeller-type fellow who she changes for the better. It almost appears to be a story about the American Dream and the idea that anyone can move up from rags to riches.

However, that is in fact a theme very common in the Gangster genre itself. The film is set during the Great Depression and prohibition era- a time where amongst all this poverty the fortunate few- which included the gangsters ruled supreme. It was a time where people were allowed to grow massive and greed was able to flourish. There was a notion amongst the elite that "the world is your's" which is seen in Scarface. However, these ideas are ultimately misguided and only lead to suffering down the road. In the gangster films we watched, these ultimately cause the downfall of plenty of men. They had an apetite that could never be filled and ate themselves to death. In Annie, Warbucks originally has a very capitalistic and drive for this American Dream where enough was never enough; however, Annie ultimately helps him see the error of his ways and move past this. During this period of his life early in the movie, despite all of his success, he is depressed and lonely. It doesn't matter how much he had because he doesn't have anyone he loves to share it with. In Annie, he is able to recover from this and change for the better without having to go completely off the deep end in his hunt for more power.

The songs in the movie are a very interesting thing to look at. The film starts off with Annie pining for her parents to come back eventually in a slow and sweet ballad. It truly helps establish the mood of the film along with the tenderness and purity of her character which is pivotal to the story. I think the use of songs actually helps drive the narrative forward. The film would truly be missing something without its songs. Despite the hardships these kids face, they are still able to sing and have fun. It shows that even in poverty there can be fun and happiness and you are true of heart. It helps bring across a sincere message and tone for the film.

It's a dirty world but it's happy!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Stalker really is an interesting film. It establishes an otherworldly Zone in the very beginning and creates a simple set of rules to govern the Zone as the movie progresses. We start the film with an idea of the Zone but that is all it is. Even when we get there, the Zone isn't this crazy place- it just is. The rules still apply that we learn along the journey or at least appear to affect the characters; however, we don't see any real signs of it affecting them. To me, this makes it an even more powerful place or at least idea- it is very similar to life. We, as an audience, are observers to the characters and since the perception of reality is personal, we do not feel the effects the characters may or may not be undergoing. We just see them and how it has a significance to them, which makes it more similar to real life and easier to suck the audience into. What really struck me about the reading was what the director actually had to say about the Zone. I found the Zone to be the strongest part of the movie for me. It had this weird influence while still appearing to have none at all while I was watching it. It really stuck with me how the director said that the Zone has no deeper meaning, since that was what made it stand out and influence me so much. Watching it, I was able to really believe the story or at least reality of the world and it was able to impact me in a more subtle way. I think due to the style and use of a quotation at the beginning, the journey I underwent was able to stay with me longer.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Miller's Xing

The Coen brothers created a very interesting genre film with their fast-talking gangster flick, Miller's Crossing. It celebrates previous classical conventions of the genre all while providing its own unique spin on the age old conventions. However, it is not strictly a nostalgic classical gangster movie. It also takes newer conventions of the genre from its revisionist period. Therefore in the genre itself, it becomes a mixed genre piece to an extent blending two different styles and periods of the genre. By doing so, it is able to provide unique and often unseen perspectives of common themes of the genre such as The American dream, the effects of capitalism,  and outlooks of society.

Time for a good old fashioned American beatdown, right?
In Miller's Crossing, the world of the gangsters is very multidimensional compared to classical gangster movies while still maintaining very rich iconography and archetypes. It presents a similar yet subtler more nuanced point of view on the effects of capitalism. The film shows some of the horrors it can bring about, but it is nowhere near as overt as films like Scarface. It merely presents the events and lets the audience have more freedom to interpret them. It shows that everyone in this world is only in it by themselves. There is truly few that can be trusted and trust can often be misplaced. It is a cold and harsh reality of the capitalist world. People are talk fast and loyalties are tossed around in the blink of an eye. A loyal friend can be killed in a moment's notice if disloyalty is suspected even falsely. Tom is very aware of this and ends up using this to his advantage. He knows the world and how to manipulate it to succeed. He's like a well trained stock broker in a twisted sense- he buys and sells allegiances and people like commodities. He's hardened by this world and his journey during the film only continue to harden him- he chooses to kill instead of give forgiveness. 
Standing up for the little man just comes back to haunt, Tom....
The role of society in the film is very unique. It provides a more morally grey viewpoint. It shows the whole world as corrupt- the gangsters and the law. This is not indicative of the classical period and more so a trait of the revisionist period in the genre. The mayor himself is corrupt and below the gangsters. The true king of the city is the head of the leading gang. The struggle for leadership can almost be seen as a ruthless campaign between two candidates for the office of king of the city. A very surprising moment which reveals the moral decay of the society comes when the police mercilessly shoot down unarmed gangsters when the step outside. It really does paint a good picture of what this society has become and the rules of the world. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scarface- The Original

Scarface is a very interesting film. I'm talking about the original 1932 Scarface- not the recent DePalma version, which is also interesting in its own ways. First, it was one of the few Gangster films during the classical period of the Hollywood Gangster genre which had a gangster as its protagonist. This in itself raised some minor moral battles in America, which is covered in the reading. As a result, restrictions were placed on the genre which ultimately made it more work than it was worth to make the gangster of a film the protagonist. Instead, it became a switch to the more traditional law enforcement heroes with the gangsters serving as the 'heavies'

The start of the film is in fact indicative of the time period. A title card precedes the film calling out the audience to do something about the horrors prevented in the film- to stop them. This notion of a title card prefacing a Gangster film to attempt to deter further crime or glorification of crime is very dated and is no longer used anymore. 
Who'd want to be him?!

Stylistically speaking, the film helps create or aids in the cementation of a solid gangster type/look. All the gangsters wear their 'uniforms' of slick suits with pride and power. They are also fast talkers. Immediately, we jump into the end of a conversation and somebody's subsequent assassination. This helps show the audience what to expect with the movie from the very beginning in terms of style and tone. Another key element in the film is the use of the newspaper. The very second scene of the movie is in a newspaper office where they are discussing a potential headline about gang war based on recent mob related crimes. Newspapers and even a calendar come back later as themes within the movie. It helps create an outcry to the audience in my opinion.

The ending of the film is very indicative of the time. It needs to end bleakly. The righteous must win- even though the protagonist is not on their side. It has to end in bloodshed- in utter violence. A point is even made of this by having Scarface laugh all throughout this at the beginning. It only starts to hit him once his girl gets shot. Even afterwards, his monstrosity continues to an extent. He walks downstairs in a coughing- which sounds all too similar to a monstrous laugh. Unarmed and cornered, Scarface decides to make a run for it- only to be gunned down mercilessly outside by the cops. He falls like a dog in the street, then we pan up to the words "The World is Your's". Slowly, this message then begins to fade to black as the movie ends. It serves as a message to the American people that these men do in fact end up paying for their crimes and will be held accountable for their sins. 

Breaking the Waves

The film itself is very interesting. No matter how much I didn't enjoy the experience of watching it, I cannot dismiss how impressed I was with the actual technique and decisions of Lars Von Trier. First, I really appreciated the film verité documentary style of filmmaking with such large grain patterns. It really made the film much more realistic in a grittier way to me. I found this particularly interesting because to me the film brought up interesting subjects and almost gave a varied and updated story of Dreyer's Ordet- or rather the inclusion of a holy fool type character in this story.

My actual experience of watching the film was definitely a trip. I hated- absolutely hated the film while I was watching it with the exception of the epilogue. Yet- why did the epilogue impact me so much? Looking back on it, I can see that what made the epilogue so hard hitting for me was the almost normal mysticism it had to it. When I saw Jan walking again, a whole stream of feelings came pouring onto me. All up until this point, I had been very dismissive of Bess; however, once I started to see Jan walk again I felt almost guilty for feeling that way about Bess earlier. Did she really end up truthfully sacrificing herself for love and having it work? I became filled with guilt while still at the same time a slight sense of wonder. At the very end of the film. when the Bells came back, I felt this joy. I felt a release to an extent- celebrating Bess's sacrifices for the first time in the movie and rightfully so. I was able to give Bess the burial and respect she deserved. However, then at the other side of the spectrum, I became doubtful or rather maintained some of my doubt, which was very interesting since at the same time I was able to experience a completely different feeling.

The reading really helped broaden my understanding of some parts of the movie. It helped me deal with some of the thoughts that I couldn't necessarily articulate or understand so much. I really liked the idea of how the film related to goodness and transgressing goodness all at the same time. I do agree with the article that it is easy to mistake Bess as a Christ-like/Joan-ofArc figure but that she is in fact different than that. It helped me deal with some of the thoughts I was having while watching the film and even after the film had ended. I think the idea of perception really plays a big role onto what the film is because it does indeed have a lot to do with the perception the audience has themselves to this experience of the film which indeed comes from their own previous experiences.