Monday, November 16, 2009

UNFORGIVEN

Unforgiven (1992) is one of my dad's favorite movies. It is a western set in the late 1800's. After finally seeing the film, I now understand why my dad liked it so much. The western scenery is beautiful. The movie fits the mold of a western pretty well, with the depiction of the main characters as cowboys. Munny is shown to live on a small, solitary farm. This gives us an idea of the development of the frontier at the time. The town of Big Whiskey is a typical one-horse type town. There's a saloon where the men go to drink and there are prostitutes that live and do business upstairs. And of course there is a sheriff, Little Bill. Little Bill isn't the typical sheriff though. The common portrayal of the sheriff is one that is tough but fair, and that gets along with most of the towns people. In Unforgiven, Little Bill is a bit power-crazed. He doesn't seem to enforce many laws except that against guns in the town. And he is pretty wary of newcomers. In this film, as in many westerns, the main character is often what some would consider "the bad guy". He is trying to serve justice to the women in the brothel, however, doing so requires being an assassin. The audience is made to sympathize with the character who's main goal is to kill. That is a big part of westerns. Justice is usually served by killing wrong-doers. But Munny is shown to have a good heart. When one cowboy is dying after Munny shoots him, he begs for water. Munny tells his friends to give him some and promises not to shoot. He shows sympathy, even though he is the one inflicting the pain upon the young man. Also, when the Kid kills his first man, he freaks and says he never wants to kill again. Munny sympathizes with the Kid, surely remembering his first time, and offers the Kid a drink of whiskey. Unforgiven has been said to be one of the greatest westerns ever made, and I have to say it is a pretty good one.

CRASH

Crash (2004) is one of the most thought-provoking films that I have seen in a while. This film is one about racism and how every day, people are confronted with racism. Although racism supposedly isn't as widespread anymore, I think that people just don't realize that it really still is. People don't realize that although they don't necessarily act as hatefully towards certain races as they did in the 1960's and earlier, they still have ideas of certain stereotypes, and expect certain traits from certain races. In the movie, when a black man gets a ride from a police officer, he notices that the officer has St Christopher on his dashboard. When the man reaches in to his pocket to show the police officer, the officer thinks that the man is reaching for a gun, and shoots him. The stereotype of black men carrying around guns and killing cops causes an innocent black man to be killed. Although it wasn't a hate crime, it was done out of fear because stereotypes are what keeps racism going strong. In another part of the movie, two thuggish-looking black men are offended that a woman clung to her husband when passing them. They then hijack her car to get back at her, feeding the stereotype that the woman was probably thinking when she grabbed on to her husband. Although racism is a nasty thing, people act as though it is with out cause or justification. When people reinforce a stereotype, they are not helping their case. This is two-sided though. When someone expects another person to act a certain way, they often will. This is called self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone vandalizes a man's convenience store, calling him an Arab even though this man is not an Arab. However, he grows so angry, he finds the locksmith that didn't fix his door and pulls a gun on him. The racism of the vandalizers causes the shop owner to act in a way that a stereotype might expect him to act. This film calls to attention a lot of social stigmas that are often ignored. It causes you to stop and think about the way you act yourself.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BRICK LANE

Brick Lane is a film about an Indian woman living in a bearable but unsatisfying life in England. She was set up to marry her husband by her father without ever meeting the man, and her husband has no sympathy for her feelings or happiness. The film has a feminist vibe to it, as the main character is a woman, and the movie is made to instill frustration and empathy in to the viewers. At first, Nazneen, the main character, simply sits back and lets her husband walk all over her. She is trying to save money for a plane ticket home to visit her sister, so she buys a sewing machine. Her husband, who doesn't approve of his wife making perhaps more money than he, buys a computer and doesn't tell her that she will be the one paying it off. There is nothing Nazneen can do but work harder to pay off the computer. This film makes the audience so frustrated with Nazneen's situation. She is trapped in a situation with no easy way out. She has an affair with a younger man, but when things start getting too serious, she realizes this is not what she wants. To the surprise of everyone, she works things out with her husband, and although they stay somewhat together, he moves back to India, and she stays in Brick Lane with her two daughters. This is the most shocking part of all, since all through the film, she wants to go home to Bangladesh, but in the end, she realizes that England is her home now. This film is not what one would expect. It has feminist themes, however, she resolves her problems in a very unextreme way. The audience is expecting her to leave her husband and make some sort of feminist statement. However, she stays true to her values, and the audience finds out that she actually does love her husband. He turns out not to be the horrible guy everyone thinks he is. This film was a very emotional film, and the filmmaker did a good job engaging the audience and call attention not only to feminism, but also to the importance of family.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Portfolio

The final portfolio is a terrible thing for the national board to institute. Having taken English 1101 over the summer I took for granted how long it would take me to finish that final assignment and it almost cost me my grade. This assignment takes several hours and is very much a pain in the ass. With the amount of reading and writing involved it would be best to start this project right now. As you are reading this blog you could be reading through one of your essays and finding part of your portfolio instead of just wasting time. As you start you should read all of the questions and then skim your paper seeing as how you wrote it therefore you should know what is going on and should remember all of the points and thus you would be saving time by skimming.

The business of fancydancing is a tribute to homosexual life. The movie is covered in secrecy though. Not only in the fact that the two men are hiding their gay ways, but also the fact that they are an interracial couple and so the movie almost seems to hide the fact that its about gays and not about interracial love.

Redefining Cinema: The Documentary

Since the beginning of film, there are two greater categories of division that separate all productions: fictional and factual. Sure, cinematic experiences have been divided by genres, sub-genres, categorical movements, and historical movements, but the primary breakdown of films is into two categories. This is according to John Izod and Richard Kilborn's article, "The Documentary". For most, it is obvious what films fall into the fictional category, for they are typically mainstream features with success to some scale that are meant to entertain. Documentaries, however, are often underappreciated pieces of film meant to instruct or inform. As John Grierson, the man credited as being the forerunner of British documentaries, put it, documentaries are "a creative treatment of actuality." In other words, documentaries need to be more than just raw film of real life, for they must uniquely educate or be culturally enlightening. Critics do not necessarily agree with Grierson's as a whole, though, because they believe that it is hard to present reality with the intentions of moving an audience's thought process in a specific direction without the use of artifice. Where does storytelling meet actuality, and if it does, then is the film still a factual account? Many key technological developments and changes in the general audience's mindset have led into a more refined documentary style.

One point of debate for the accuracy of realism in documentaries is dramatic reconstructions, or scenes recreated because footage of the original event could not be obtained. The development of cameras that were hand-held and lightweight allowed documentarists to film on location for nearly any event, which helped lessen the use of re-enacted scenes. However, dramatic reconstructions are still used because cameras are not allowed access in all locations. For instance, scenes involving courtroom events must be re-created because cameras are not allowed in the court of law. The problem with dramatic reconstructions is that they are sometimes not used for an accurate portrayal of an occurrence, but rather to increase the dramatic appeal of a scene to an audience. This is where the question of credibility comes into play with documentaries.

Documentarists must also keep in mind perspective when attempting to stress the importance of a lesser known truth about a generally known reality. A documentary becomes spectacular when it uncovers or captures facts that lye underneath the surface of the obvious, but authors must be careful not to skew reality because of their own preconceptions. For instance, Michael Moore is technically called a documentarist, but his work is specifically made to expose weaknesses or faults in the Republican party, so his films are based on preconceived ideas favored by the filmmaker. It is often easy to get swept away by the strong narration and "value-laden language" of documentaries that coincide with strong selective imagery, but a viewer must inquisitively approach documentaries. Spike Lee is another prominent documentarist of modern times. Most of his films are meant to uncover and educate masses about race relations, urban life, and political issues. His films appeal to a wide audience because he exudes relation to his subject matter.

Documentaries are a quizzical form of film and raise many questions from critics and audiences alike. However, they are effective because they have no limitations on theme or topic. People sometimes look down upon the invasive methods used by documentarists to uncover "the truth" or the unknown, but it is an effective style of film that will evolve and exist in many forms.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gay and Lesbian film: The Birdcage, The Business of Fancydancing. But classical Hollywood cinema? I thought they were all about the ideal society, where men work and lead the household, while the innocent women raise the kids and cook. Apparently, there actually was homosexuality to be found in older films, and a lot more than I had ever expected or imagined.

However, this homosexuality, as per movie industry regulations, had to be subtle, in secrecy, and often only detected at the time by those who were seeking homosexuality–gays and lesbians themselves. It went by often unnoticed, or in fact humored upon. A very funny scene of this subtle humor can be found in the last scene of Some Like It Hot, in which Joe E. Brown seems to be okay with the fact that the woman he’s fallen in love with is actually a man.



In addition, many instances in which gay men were shown in classical Hollywood film involved the “sissy,” or the effeminate man who clearly went against the ideal man of the first half of the twentieth century. Although this was and still may be a very comical character, it slowly demoralized and degraded the self-esteem of those viewers who were truly gay, because it portrayed them as something less than normal; a people to be ridiculed.

Watching The Celluloid Closet and hearing the guest speakers commentate on the true impact of classical Hollywood films opened my eyes to an entirely different view of the humor that I had never thought about in a criticizing manner. I realized because almost every instance or mention of homosexuals in older films involved humor and ultimately ridicule, it only served to instill fear and resent into the already closeted and embarrassed gay population of the time.

Nevertheless, in today’s world, homosexuality is becoming increasingly acceptable, and so it seems to me that gay humor now may not be quite as malevolent or alienating as it used to be, since there is less to worry about, so to speak, today. I know for sure that one of my gay friends is fine laughing at his own sexuality, because it’s ultimately about confidence; as any people are more socially accepted, they become more confident, and are more comfortable with laughing at themselves.

The Evolution of the Homosexual Character in Hollywood Film

Homosexuality has evolved very similarly to all other racy subjects in film, but it is still a topic that the general public is working to find acceptance for. In its beginning, it was discussed only subtly and its extreme cases were exploited for laughter. In other words, it was not viewed as an actual state of being for humans, but more as an underlying joke to the general public that cannot possibly describe something true. Characters flamboyantly gallivanted across the screen, usually as men with overly girly characteristics. The audience would laugh because they felt as though the subject matter being portrayed was not serious in itself. After a period of parodying gay life, Hollywood began to treat this lifestyle as being villainous or sinful. As time progressed, filmmakers began to deepen their focus on sexuality, which included homosexuality. Scenes became more graphic and audiences were drawn in by the erotic imagery produced. The raciness of film seemed okay to most viewers until that also included homosexual subject matter. Not a large percentage of the general audience wished to see the relationship or romantics of two males on the big screen. Due to this and other factors, Hollywood became handcuffed by censorship and was forever changed.



The documentary-style film The Celluloid Closet discusses in full the transgression of homosexuality into movie productions and how it has adapted and evolved overtime in Hollywood. Many prominent actors, actresses, producers, and directors, who are almost all gay or lesbian, are called on to discuss their take on homosexuality in Hollywood. It is interesting to view homosexuality as a subculture that is minimally represented by film, for the general audience is assumed to be straight. An entire group of people are then left unrepresented by animation or film that is supposed to connect all people and stories. In order to combat the general audiences dissent for this subject and Hollywood's implementation of censorship, directors and producers began slipping subtle messages or moments representing or alluding to homosexuality within their films. For example, in the movie Red River, two cowboys exchange their guns in order to get a feel for the other's weapon. It is a simple exchange, yet a gay innuendo of homosexuality can be gotten from in between the lines. Unfortunately, Hollywood has also created a stereotype of the prototype gay male as being an advocate of fashion, cooking, or gossip. This stereotype is subtly built in movies such as the 1961 film Lover Come Back, where the boss of a fashion company complains about the general public not liking "lilac" flooring and not having a decorative touch. The Celluloid Closet also details that seeming gay was almost worse than being gay, for masculinity ruled Hollywood. A man must walk a certain way, be involved in masculine affairs, and always be woman-crazy because otherwise he might be gay. The ironic aspect of this theory, though, is the unfair bias against homosexuality held by a lot of men. It is uncomfortable and inhumane for two men to have sexual relations with one another such as in Sunday, Bloody Sunday, but it is "sexy, palatable, erotic, or titillating" for two woman to have sexual relations. Hollywood has even gone as far as painting homosexual beings as monsters.

Ultimately, straight men propel the movie industry forward, so it is hard for homosexuality to dominate a production as a central theme. The documentary The Celluloid Closet details the growth of this subject in Hollywood films and exploits unfair or biased criticism against it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Amélie and the French New Wave


Amélie is one of the most impressive movies I've ever seen, not just in its production quality as a movie, but as a major accomplishment and progression of French cinema. Fifty years ago, the French New Wave presented a unique and rebellious film style that gave the French a true identity in a world highly proliferated and controlled by American movie conglomerates. It set a certain standard for French films, whether it’s the quirkiness of the camera angles, long shots depicting simple matters of life (often not essential to the plot of the movie), or the recurring themes such as the common, not too poor but certainly not wealthy family.

Amélie shows a clear evolution from the French New Wave. Watching Les Quatre Cents Coups and Amélie afterwards reminded me of seeing a small child, and then seeing her twenty years later as a matured adult. While she’s obviously physically substantially different, she clearly resembles herself from her youth, and even her personality shows a progression from a more primitive stage. Amélie includes scenes about topics which, in American cinema, would be considered irrelevant and unnecessary to the plot. An example of this would be the introduction to Amélie and the scenes describing the characters’ various likes and dislikes in life with few connections, save for those of Amélie’s mother and father.

Like many French movies, especially those of the French New Wave, Amélie is not just about plot and character development, it’s a leisurely paced story that makes the audience enjoy life’s little perks and wonders just as Amélie does. Similar almost to French culture, the movie is laid back but saturated with detail, curious spectacles, and even some witty humor that makes it an all around pleasure to watch. Amélie is truly a French masterpiece of film, in that it takes modern film and the French New Wave, and sews the two into a genuinely memorable motion picture.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fight Club and The Sixth Sense: Deception of Reality

video

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

French Filmwork Represented by The 400 Blows


The 400 Blows, a film directed by Francois Truffaut, is a prominent example of the quote on quote "French New Wave" of films that occurred in the 1950s and 60s. This new wave of French films were inspired by Italian Neorealism, the Auteur theory, and Hollywood cinema. The main lot of directors associated with the French New Wave all shared iconoclasm as a link between their films. Truffaut was one of the directors at the forefront of the movement and his domestic and international success with the movie The 400 Blows shed light onto the French New Wave and propelled it into the public eye throughout the world. Even the opening credits of the film seemed to reflect the artistic uprise and creative style of the French Revolution, for it consisted of a very long shot that moved through a city from a bird's eye view.
The film tells the story of young boy by the name of Antoine who gets himself into trouble from the very beginning of the movie. In class, Antoine is a class clown that loves to bring about the laughter of his fellow students at the expense of respecting his teacher. He and his best friend, Rene, is often the instigator of Antoine's troubles. Antoine lives with his mother and step father in a tiny house that is quite cramped for the three of them. Antoine's mother is very uptight and often stressed out, and she takes out her frustrations on Antoine's stepfather. The concept of producing a film centered around a family that is somewhat poor and hardworking is representative of the French New Wave, too. The 400 Blows is essentially a string of stories put together about the antics of Antoine and his growing experience through these things. Among many other things, Antoine skips school, pronounces his mother dead as an excuse for missing school, and runs away from home. One of the most important scenes of the movie, perhaps, is the scene in which Antoine's stepfather takes Antoine and his mother out for a night at the movies. Despite the fact that Antoine's mother is always so uptight and his father is so bitterly sarcastic because of it, the family is able to come together for a night to be fun-loving with another and just purely enjoy one another's company. Eventually, Antoine is forced to go to a camp that is some sort of juvenile delinquency reform program. He feels out of place with the other troublemakers, for their acts seem so much more extreme than his own. He had previously admitted to never having stepped foot in the ocean, so to end the movie he escapes the camp and runs until he finds the ocean. The audience is left with Antoine putting his feet into the ocean and then looking into the camera before it fades out.
The film was at the forefront of the French New Wave because it was free form and flowed to its own melody. There was no great problem presented and there was not a climax for the audience to hinge its viewing experience on. However, the film was filled with enjoyable anecdotes and gave everyone in its audience something to grasp as a part of their own respective life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Christopher Nolan's Memento

Memento: Rewound to the Truth

Christopher Nolan's Memento is a perfect example of Post-classical Hollywood. First of all, it breaks the trend of the generic classic Hollywood movie because it is completely backwards in its unveiling of the plot. The opening scene of the movie tells you the end result of the plot, but it remains completely ambiguous to the audience because they know nothing of the characters involved or the actions that are taking place. The movie is also a post-classical film because it does not give its audience the answers to all of the questions that the plot sparks. "Does Leonard's insanity jade his narration? Were Leonard and Sammy Jenkins the same person? Does Teddy actually care about Leonard or is he completely using him? Did Natalie have anything to do with Leonard killing Teddy in the end? Is Leonard in an unconscious vicious cycle that he involuntarily must forever exist in or does he mandate the continuation of the cycle himself with false clues?" These questions are all explored, but none are definitively answered or intuitively solved. This is exactly how Nolan intends it to be, though. The ending makes the audience piece together each scene and infer how the story actually occurred for themselves. It is a movie that harnesses suspense and puts a twist on the art of revelations.

Memento is incredibly powerful because of its sequences of flashbacks. The movie has scenes in color that slowly go back farther into the sequence of events that led up to Leonard's killing of Jimmy, but at the same time has scenes in black and white that depict Leonard telling a parallel character analysis of Sammy Jenkins over the phone to an unknown listener. The scenes ultimately intertwine together to create a "present" time encasement. The black and white flashbacks master the art of lighting and shadows and set the tone for a dreary plot. Nolan creatively develops a new method of filming and storytelling in this masterpiece.

Perhaps the most confusing twist in the entire movie, though, is when Leonard nearly consciously decides to choose Teddy as his next victim in his series of murders to avenge the "murder" of his wife. It is the only point in the movie that the audience shifts from pitying Leonard and accepting his amnesiac handicap to wondering if Leonard controls his own twisted fate. It is ironic because every character in the movie takes advantage of Leonard's memory loss to carry out their lowlife needs, but Leonard himself takes advantage of his own condition because he leaves clues for himself that point to avenging his wife's death over and over again. In effect, Leonard uses himself, too. He is never content with killing his wife's murderer, for he is not able to remember the emotion of having even completed this task. It is a twisted movie that is left open for interpretation to this day. Its unique film style transcended the films of its time and went on to inspire films like The Sixth Sense or Vantage Point.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Charm of Classic Hollywood Cinema

Casablanca is a classic Hollywood film. It aligns with just about every stereotype you could imagine about old Hollywood cinema, conforms to all the standards of its day, yet has a charm that few movies possess.

The combination of the classical music, black and white film, stoic men and overemotional women made me stare at the TV screen with a gaze I usually don't give to most movies. I was falling in love with classic cinema, making me think about to the joy I'd get every time I watched Some Like It Hot.




Of course, not the entire film is made with lovable elements. Sam, the black piano player, is portrayed as a happy black man, who is content with and even seems to enjoy being the subordinate to his white boss, Rick. Though this is inherently stereotypical and could easily be classified as a racist character, it was only typical for the time that this film was made. Just because of this however, I don't think it would be right to discount this movie as racist. It ultimately adds an unpleasant but reinforcing element of the classicality and antiquity of this film.

Even though Casablanca has all the elements of a classic Hollywood film, and in the end may not differ from many others of its era, it provides a viewing experience unparalleled to any movie in recent decades. Its age not only gives it a unique charm, but makes the viewer himself feel like an observer from a different time all together.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Hollywood and the World"
It was definitely interesting to have read "Hollywood as an Industry," but its content became even more interesting when it was followed by the reading of "Hollywood and the World" by Toby Miller. Where as "Hollywood as an Industry" explains the growth of Hollywood since its beginnings and the overwhelming control of industry by so few companies, "Hollywood and the World" took a look at the influence of American films throughout the world. In the year 1993, America produced eighty-eight of the one hundred films that grossed the most money. Even more astonishing is the fact that American productions made more money just one year later, in 1994, overseas than it did domestically. The success of American films has most likely stemmed from the following two things: English is a big international language and the United States' multitude of diversity has established a wider array of storytelling and productions than in most other cultures. Hollywood has even helped America in times of economical need. Film is essentially a commercial market in itself, and American film that travels around the world advertises American products to foreign markets. Because of this fact, the United States movie industry has had to regulate producers' inclusion of other country's religions, history, and prominent people. Who would have thought that Hollywood had so much pull on foreign politics and foreign markets?

In my opinion, the most interesting thing about "Hollywood and the World" is its discussion of Hollywood no longer being geographically constrained. Yes, Hollywood, California exists as a concrete representation of the film industry, but film has expanded far beyond the limits of California. American films, therefore, also takes on a broader meaning. As discussed before, 90-95% of films are produced or controlled by just six or seven main production companies. Since such a limited number of companies control such a large industry, "American" film has begun to encompass films that do not have to be entirely American. For example, a film may be trademarked and produced by MGM, but it might have been written in France, directed by a German, and might have included Spanish born actors. In fact, most modern day Hollywood film production is done by smaller, independent production companies that use the major producers to facilitate, market, and distribute films around the world.

It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for American film. As of now, the American Film Industry is concerned with American film losing its culture due to concerns of broadcasting to a larger international audience. Only time will tell what truly happens with Hollywood and its Americanized identity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Hollywood as industry"

Reading "Hollywood as industry" by Douglas Gomery has given me a new insight on the structure and the history of Hollywood. To be honest, I had never even learned about the history of the motion picture industry, besides knowing about the slow progression from silent movies to more fluid ones with vocals and soundtracks, to the eventual color films of the last forty to fifty years. The most surprising thing, I would have to say, was the early formation of the enormous, fully integrated production studios that, in the early days, went as far as controlling and/or owning theatres.


Furthermore, watching the video in class about how the seven main movie studios own about 90 or 95% of the entire motion picture industry was astounding–it’s not that I didn’t realize that few of these companies existed, but that every time I go see a movie, it’ll really hit my head, that just a few monster corporations produce almost, if not every movie you can see at the theatre.