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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Silent Light

Silent Light's not a normal movie. It is different. It shows the transcendental filmmaking style at its peak. The film allows for a lot of moments to reach the unattainable or at least it provided me ample amounts of opportunities for it. Even in the individual shots and moments are there moments of transcendental style- not just on a level of the movie as a whole. A prime example of this shot where three different levels of understanding are reached, for example, would be the shot that dollies in towards the lone flower at the end of a scene which sheds a tear- or a droplet of water. The moment is a moment within itself which isn't necessarily connected to the movie, but because of it the events before and after it took on a slightly different meaning than it would have without it, I believe.

The film plays similarly to Dreyer's film "Ordet" but is allowed to have freedom and move on in a different direction which allows for more thought and beauty, in my opinion. I did have a hard time, however, at the beginning of the film getting into it. The pacing was so deliberate and slow as well as the moments that I did not fully emerse myself into the film until the scenes leading up to Johan's wife's death. Watching myself, I noticed that a lot of the devices that the director uses took me out of the movie sometimes. For example, the lens flaring up when Johan kisses his mistress reminded me that I was sitting watching a movie- but it did nothing more than that. However, the rain on the camera lens when Johan's wife is dying was beautiful and a great moment for me. First, I saw the rain. I accepted the rain on the lens, then I imagined it to be a representation of the sadness and spiritual death she was undergoing while later on and at the same time I accepted that it was also just in fact the weather. It was truly a weird feeling to experience while watching the scene.  

Overall, I can say that looking back I did enjoy the movie. It was able to stir something in me by the end. However, while watching it, I did not enjoy it. It was a trek- and I understood that I had to be willing to undergo all of it in order to reach where I was at the ending of the film. In this sense and with the style of the film, I can say that the movie played like a book. It was able to take on multiple meanings and tones all while maintaing a simple and basic one underneath everything that was taxed onto it by me, the viewer.

Bold. Brash. Covergirl.

Bold. Brash. Zombies?
Oh, grow up, Shaun!
Edgar Allen Wright's Shaun of the Dead from his blockbuster trilogy celebrates both the Screwball and Zombie genres. It plays with each of the genres and their conventions much like the other films in his blockbuster trilogy, Hot Fuzz and The World's End. The film's tone and pacing is directly taken from the Screwball genre. It is very comedic and light. It still allows for the potential for some horror and drama, but it makes light of it all at the same time. It takes Screwball sensibilities and throws them into a zombie apocalypse. Our protagonist Shaun is forced into a situation of which he is grossly underprepared and ultimately has to learn and lead on the fly on his way towards success. It is in this situation where nobody is prepared that Shaun is able to shine. 
The face of a hero?

It brings into light many of the conventions of the zombie film and even acknowledges and pokes fun at them. The first introduction to a "zombie" we see isn't a zombie at all- it's Shaun! We see Shaun slowly lumber out of bed and let out a long unintelligible moan. It's very clear that there isn't much life here, but then the camera jibs up to reveal that what we just saw and assumed was a zombie was in fact a person, albeit a slacker going through life in the day to day grind. The line between the living and the dead in the film, like in many Zombie films, is intentionally blurred; however, this time it is done in a more apparent and comedic way.

The film deals with a zombie apocalypse. Recently, the zombie genre and the scenario of a zombie apocalypse has became all to prevalent during the early 2000s- this prevalence actually contributed to Wright making the movie in part of his three part trilogy. A large part of the film is about trying to figure out and execute a plan to get to a safe house. This is a very clear goal in plenty of zombie films. However, the safe house itself is actually a bar- the bar that Shaun originally took his girlfriend to at the beginning of the film much to her dismay! It also shows life after the zombie apocalypse- which is often neglected. In a very comedic way, using the television, a convention of the genre to relay information, we can see that life is pretty much the same as it was before.  Shaun doesn't even notice the Zombies when they first appear! The message is comedic and almost eery because it shows how brain-dead certain aspects and people in our society can be. Life continues to move on even in the absence of such!

Who's up for some racquetball?
Of course, let's not forget how it was only due to the blending of the zaniness of the Screwball and the horror of the Zombie genres were we able to get this stellar scene! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Alright, I know what you are thinking what's up with the title? Is snow a commentary on the cold effrontery shown in the film highlighting the decay of mankind? Is it just a commentary on the snow on the ground in SPRING (I know, it's ridiculous). Is it just a nice image to symbolize the film? No. No. No. You are always wrong! It is instead just a random word. There, I said it. Random. It truly shows the mood of the times and the film. Life did not appear to have meaning during the time the film was made with such events as the assassinations of MLK and JFK. It seemed like life did not have a distinct shape- war was going on with Vietnam at the time. It was all very heavy.

Romero's "The Night of the Living Dead" is widely acclaimed as a landmark cultural piece in cinema. Museums even have had pieces about it recognizing its impact. However, in a filmmaking point of view, nothing technically seems revolutionary. It is a fairly cheaply produced B movie. Looking at the images, it is hard to believe it had any impact at all. However, what made the movie so successful was not the film itself by a long shot- it was instead the significance of the film and the symbolism of it. It really paralleled the time it was made in and shows the moral decay of man- people eat each other alive (there is not one mention of the word ZOMBIE in the film at all!). The whole world is seen falling apart within a group of survivors. Even in the group, it shows the folly of man and the times. People fight and kill each other for power over one another within this small group even! But rather the biggest and hardest hitting piece of the film was its scary message that life was in fact quite random...
As a feminist, I am insulted by her one dimensionality.

In the film, not once is it explained how these people are coming back to life. We get into the movie right as it begins to happen. We do not know these characters at all or their backstories further distancing ourselves from them and becoming all the more confused. The same character we start with, who is easy to anticipate as the protagonist at first while watching, ends up in hysterics shortly into the movie no longer adding much the plot or taking much action- however, she does slightly turn it around in the end only to be eaten by her brother.

The heaviest- there's that word again- thing for me in the entire movie, however, had to be the abrupt ending. The movie ends with the lone survivor in the group coming out of the house after having survived these hordes of monsters only to be killed immediately on sight by one of the 'rescuers'. It really parallels what is going on at the time the movie was made- it shows that death is random. It also shows the bleakness to life; he goes through all of this only to be shot at the end. It is very indicative of the morale at the time of Vietnam as well. An armed man coming to liberate him accidentally ends up killing him. This ending is one of the eeriest I have ever seen as a result. It comes out of nowhere which is why it works so well. It stays with you, the audience, due to how bleak and random it is. It can almost been seen as something which was able to even spark up some social activism against the war, since it showed what the horrors this front of "liberation" could bring. However, since the movie was finished, people could not change the outcome of it; instead, they could focus on preventing this from happening further in real life.

This is actually NAM.

La passion de Jeanette d'Arc

Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc conveys an interesting transcendental story.
It is religious in nature and tells the story of the trial of Joan of Arc- a heroic French religious icon. The movie plays like the artwork of the sistine chapel almost- the dialogue itself comes from the actual trial.

In the movie, I was able to really sink into it due to its accessible straight forward narrative. However, at times, it became overbearing like it was with Joan at the time. I appreciated this because it helped me connect with the character in addition to setting up what I consider the final great moment of the film- where it achieved or rather I was able to achieve complete transcendance:

The ending of the film, we are presented with an image of the stake on which Joan of Arc has been burned. All the conflict has been resolved in the film. It is over, yet we are left to linger on this image. Then, the camera tilts up towards the heavens- for me, I saw this working as if I was able to transcend by going into the heavens and out from the physical world with her. There was nothing going on other than this- which really worked for me and made it all the more strangely serene and effective. It made the entire film really come together.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, which I will now refer to as "A Man Escaped" in order to avoid any unwanted pretentiousness, is a film by French director Robert Bresson. It is a more comparatively narrative movie than most of the films we have seen thus far in the class. This is not to say it is any less effective. On the contrary, these more narrative transcendental films have affected me much more than the more artistic/experimental ones. With this film, it is all about living in the normal life of a man held captive during WWII. The fact that it is WWII is even nonessential to the film. It is truly just about life on the inside. 

Such a visceral image. It spotlights the door- bringing out your primal urge to escape.

The film does a great job at reflecting the memoirs of a jailed man, which it is in turn based off of. The character doesn't really have any characterizations other than that he is the physical manifestation of man's primal urge for freedom and to escape. This to me makes it all the more transcendental. Due to this lack of character, I was allowed to toss myself onto him. He became a part of me- my desire to escape with him in the movie from his cell. I became fully enamored in all the minor things he kept on doing, which we would continually cut back to. I lived the life of a man trapped in a cell for the duration of the film. The film was able to have an almost meditative quality over me, which I found myself consciously aware of while watching it. By being so much with myself, I was able to explore my own inner thoughts and transcend through them through the invocation called about by the movie. 
I am doing these things with you as an audience member

It held my attention and even more than that- it held my heart. I was connected to the character and situation on a personal level. All the inserts of him doing things really helped me get into it- it was almost as if those were all POV shots, because of how drawn in it took me into the story. It was even more capable of doing so than normal POVs would be. Overall, it is safe to say that the film and style were fairly successful to me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some Like it- What?!

               Some like Screwball Musical Gangster Comedies? Now, that's just absurd!

Who would in their right mind think to watch or even less likely make that? Well, Wilder's now very successful and critically-acclaimed opus "Some Like it Hot", starring the famed Marilyn Monroe, simply as 'Candy', alongside funny man Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, is exactly that! It is a film that yearns for a simpler time. It's a Screwball Comedy created after the prime of the genre itself was had. It sees the conventions of the genre and romantically recreates strong elements from it into the film.

The story follows two musicians, Joe and Jerry, who have to dress up in drag in order to avoid the gangsters hunting them down for witnessing The Valentine's Day Massacre. It's set during the Prohibition era, which lends itself heavily to the story and the gangster aspects of it. All these characters have their hidden sides of themselves- such as Candy's vice, drinking. There are even homages to various gangster bits such as characters themselves and even the bit where an actor is seen flipping a coin, which he did in a previous gangster film.

The film plays heavily on the idea of gender roles and identity. These men, who can be seen as womanizers, have to experience things from a woman's perspective as they attempt to pass a women in an all-girl's band. It's full of sexual puns and innuendoes like many Screwball Comedies. These characters at times, well mostly Jerry, almost get lost comedically in their assumed identities or lack thereof with a running motif of repeating to oneself "I'm a girl. I'm a girl" or conversely "I'm a boy. I'm a boy".

"This may even turn out to be a surprise party"
There is a tangible sense of sexual tension between the two genders in the film, which both of the guys experience first hand. This can be largely seen when Candy sneaks into Jerry's bed for a late night party to which he responds "This may even turn out to be a surprise party". The two boys need to maintain their assumed identities at all cost lest they want to be killed- once they arrive in Florida, the gangsters hunting them down coincidentally show up. This whole coincidental method of maintaing stakes melodramatically is very indicative of the genre itself.  The boys face a challenge as they struggle to keep up their facade.  Candy's character serves as a chief seductress to the boys. Jerry struggles very much not to identify himself to her because she, in a very stylistic way of the genre, relates onto him her struggle with saxophone players- like himself. He even uses his insight gained from her to create an almost perfect 'wealthy' man in a veiled attempt to sleep with her.

Overall, Wilder creates a beautiful post-Screwball-era Screwball Comedy. He is able to brilliantly identify the conventions of the genre and uses them in a way that makes coherent sense to his story and tone without being at the mercy of the genre. Everything feels natural and light. The audience is truly in for a ride up until the last moment of the film, when after being informed that the girl he is in love with is actually a man, Osgood Fielding III, played by famous character actor Joe E. Brown, replies, "Well nobody's perfect"!

Roll Credits.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bears. Beats. Battlestar Galattica.

Firefly. Firefly. Firefly.

The Firefly in Space
Joss Whedon carefully blends together the Western and Sci-Fi genre in his tv series, Firefly. One of the very first scenes of the series is a heist. Right away, we get this idea that these characters are bandits trying to make a living outside of civilization. Firefly's opening sequence (ignore the music- there isn't any version faithful on youtube) feels directly out of a Sergio Leone film. It takes its time, is bold, and has a strong musical theme underneath it all. This makes it very clear for the audience to understand what to expect with the show, since they are already pretty clear with the Western genre itself.

Specifically, the crew themselves are prime examples of members of the Western genre. They are entirely a group of outlaws on the edge of civilization. All the characters are pretty much directly taken out of the genre. There's the doctor, the prostitute, the brawn, the child, the preacher but more specifically, their leader Malcolm Reynolds is a prime example of a Western archetype. He is a member of a dying breed. He is a soldier from a fallen cause- just like Josey and Ethan. However, instead of being an exConfederate, he is an exRebel, which is also what the Confederates were- rebels. He has a strong sense of pride and isn't afraid of confrontation. He sees the glory in battle. Compared to Ethan and Josey, he is, however, more talkative as a character. He is a little hard to identify than either of them; however, he does share a strong sense of loyalty to those he cares about much like the other Western heroes. Similarly like Ethan, Malcolm Reynolds feels more comfortable 'in the woods'- that is to say that his only true place in society where he belongs is no on the outskirts of it. He is a reminder of the old ways. 

Space- the new Desert?
First of all, the setting and issues are all very futuristic. It is a much more dystopian view than any Western could yield. There is a secret organization- or part of the government- which voluntarily commits horrors against its people who have been deemed as gifted. Due to all the technical progress, society has been able to decay much more than before. Everyone is able to spread out across the universe thus giving an endlessly vast outland. The more dystopian tropes of the series makes the Western elements all the more complex and layered. The society truly is faulted- like how Malcolm sees it- and because of it, it is much easier for Malcolm to become a straight hero- one that the audience roots for and believes in the same principles as. 

The reference in the title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-POY08-Mro

Black and White New York Vignettes

Simply put, this is art. It is art in its purest form.

The screen shows various shots of and around New York City for around 10 minutes. The narrative is loose if even existent at all. All the shots stand by themselves and are connected solely by their location as well as some moods or tones.

We open with a long wide shot of a group playing a game on a square. It is from overhead slightly. This helped set up my expectation for the piece. I struggled at first to get a better understanding of what was going on and to try to piece a story together, but after a while of nothing happening expect some movement within the frame, I allowed myself to lose this thought.

I tried my best to just appreciate the moments for what they were- well composed shots with various moods and aesthetics. The silence amplified them. It was all very minimal.

In between each shot, there is a segment of slug. This allowed me personally to reflect and just enjoy this silence. To me, it was a very zen filled piece. I could easily imagine this as something being played in an art gallery.

The audience loses their hold onto narrative and life by surrounding themselves onto these images of stark black and white contrast. It is very poetic in a way to think of such. However, I did not really feel much for the piece. I might have lost my hold onto such a structure, but I didn't have anything to replace it with no matter how hard I tried to take something from the short. A lot of the time without a solid narrative, I am not able to connect deeply to what is going on, which is why I suspect Tokyo Story to be my favorite screened film thus far- I'll make sure to cover that in more depth in my later post on such.

I was brought back to my memories while watching the shots. It was introspective, which is often nice, but my qualm with it afterwards is that it didn't leave me with anything new- any experience really attained other than what I had within myself, which I am more than capable to do on my own without the need of a piece like this. If anything stood out to me such much as to make an impact it would probably have to be the visual of the vortex along with the black slug. There was a constant motion- a force and then it was gone. I feel like that in itself may have influenced my mood subconsciously in a very zen way.

The lack of pictures is to play with the idea of a minimalistic pairing of the black upon white with the text.

Friday, February 22, 2013

You're in Outland Territory, Son.

Outland like many science fiction film borrows a lot of elements from the Western genre. It specifically takes stuff from the earlier Westerns where the protagonist was more often than not the sheriff of the town. It was not until later on in the genre's development did the outlaws start becoming the heros. 

The bulk of Outland plays out as a chase between the law and the unjust. In the film, the Sheriff character has to use his surroundings in order to defeat his enemies, which is a common aspect of Westerns. He is creative and even shoots the glass of a greenhouse to kill somebody pursuing him. 

Furthermore, Outland's setting is eerily similar to a common Western's setting. Outland's setting is on the frontier- or rather the space frontier. It is a mining town in space. The entire town, including the mayor as the kingpin, is corrupt. It is only the single new Sheriff that has a sense of justice and takes action against what is going on. The entire action is isolated and is on the outside of civilization. The area surrounding the town is the Wild. Since it is Sci-Fi, they take it to even more of an extreme. The outside will kill you without proper preparations and precautions.

This film keeps with traditional Sci-Fi conventions in the way that it deals with technology and progress, though. The film shows the corruption and human decay that is capable with the discoveries of new technologies to supposedly improve quality of life. The entire reason things start to decay in the population is the introduction of a new completely synthetic drug. This is a physical manifestation of what horrors and decay technological progress is capable of bringing out. 

All of the elements blend together to build suspense- particularly the location. There is nowhere for him to really run away to. He cannot escape the threat. It is a kill or be killed situation. He is trapped within his town.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Western- That'll be the day...

Sickle argues about the numerous parallels between John Ford's "The Searchers" and Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales". Despite these films being made decades apart, both films share numerous conventions. After all, they are both Western films dealing with similar issues and characters. Sickle mentions that both characters deal with this issue of civilization and a place to belong. It is the ways the characters deal with these issues that separate these movies. 

Compare the way both Indian women were portrayed in each movie
Obviously, "Josey Wales" depicts a capable and important character
"The Searchers" was and definitely still is a great Western; however, the movie is notably dated and marked by its time period just like Eastwood's film. "The Searchers", a film made in the conservative 1950s, reads as quite racist and not just because the protagonist is motivated by racism and revenge. Many of the comedic beats in the film simply do not hold up anymore. Looking back on the film, these moments now are easily identifiable as racist. The jokes Ethan cracks at Martin's expense for accidentally marrying an Indian are just unsettling now. Also, the way the film deals with Indians and how "Look", a very expendable Indian woman, is easily sold as a wife for a few goods to Martin just makes you look away from the screen. On the contrary, Clint Eastwood updates this Indian woman character. She becomes a capable force and Josey needs her in his posee to succeed- she saves him on numerous occasions.  

A facet covered in the Sickle's article, yet not in as much depth as I would prefer, is the fact that both of these characters, Ethan and Josey, are ex-Confederates. Granted, their reasons for fighting the war are likely very different: Ethan by racism and Josey by revenge not bound to any culture- a more liberal viewpoint. However, the article does not go into as much detail as to how much of a natural leader both Josey and Ethan are. The article does deal with how they both had a group and how Josey Wales even made light of this by saying that the "mangy red-boned hound might as well ride with us. Hell, everybody else is" (Sickles 223). It does not really mention how much a lone wolf these characters are, though. It is because of their powerful sense of self sufficiency that they are both able to have this magnetism for others to follow- particularly in the case of Josey. 

To me, I feel like Sickle's article is very well written and has plenty of solid points to support his thesis. Watching the film, it even feels as a more updated- yet new version of "The Searchers" brought into the 1970s. The liberalism of the time with the Civil Rights movement allows Eastwood to focus on a more sentimental side of the Western. It delves into the battle between peace and revenge within Josey Wales. The movie starts with Josey's family being taken away from him creating this desire for revenge. However, instead of this desire for revenge translating to a hatred towards the types of people who caused this suffering, Josey instead targets specifically those responsible, a single Union man and troop, which makes him a very likable and relatable character as opposed to Ethan "even though he leaves a far greater body count than Ethan does" (Sickles 225). Unlike Ethan, Josey Wales is able to walk away at the end and go back to a peaceful life at the ranch by leaving his former Confederate officer, who betrayed him. Josey Wales is able to have this redemption and come back to peaceful life; whereas, Ethan is forced to remain at the outskirts of society, an outlived reminder of what once was.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Transience of "The Tree of Life"

This being my first post, I'll try my best, but I cannot promise if I'll be able to tackle such a personal and very subjective topic which, like comedy, once described is often lost.
(See... "It's funny because" theorem)

For the entire first half of the film, I was lost. I don't mean that in a transcendental way. I was just not really able to connect at all with what was going on and watching myself watch the movie, I could see I was not able to hold all my focus on what was going on onscreen. The beginning felt too abstract for me to connect to.

It was only the second half of the film, where I was able to experience something. Trying to figure out why I had a response only to the second half I can pinpoint it to this: I was able to connect with the human drama. These moments or almost vignettes in childhood were very effective to me. I could feel and connect to what they were going through and relay it back to my own experiences and reminisce with the film.

Then, once the film started to end with its beach sequence, I was took out once again. I understood what was going on and how I was supposed to feel in theory, but to me, I had the same problem as I did with the beginning half of the movie and only could focus on counting the minutes until the movie was over. I wasn't able to get this emotional cleansing I felt the ending was going for and as a result, I felt almost cheated.

Just some thoughts on the experience.