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.