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.