Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Is About My Cat And Death In General

Many years ago I climbed a tree to save a little baby from the cold. We loved him. We kept him warm.

Death is always the same. Body and mind deteriorate. If you're lucky enough someone is around to put you down before madness and pain take you.

Rest now little one. I'll always remember your turquoise eyes squinting at me, your curious calling out in the darkness, and calm meditations in the morning sun. I'll miss my little monk. Whiner, BooBoo Keyotter Boots.. Kitty.

More of my past dies and I feel less and less like myself. I wish I could have been there to hold you one last time but it is only a selfish desire to consume and I cannot keep you.. or anything.

I struggle to hold onto memories but they're just bits of light passing by. When perceived by me, already gone.

I'm a vessel stumbling through the dark. Hurting heart. Heavy lungs. Missing things I thought were living.

On good days they walk with me but mostly they're whispers in the night.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Crazy Jar Jar Binks talk and eerie you-sure-this-isn't-Disney feeling aside, this movie is decent and worth seeing.  I haven't read the book so I wont comment on adaptation, but the story of the movie is an interesting portrayal of reincarnation.  Even if you're not into the idea of an optimistic/organic version of The Matrix, this is one of those movies you have to see to talk about and make fun of.. it has major stars dressed up in all kinds of funny costumes and make-up--talking transgender/ethnicity/species.  It is a clever film, very postmodern.


I feel like they cropped Bond's hair too short in this one.  The theme of the movie seemed to be a battle between cheesy spy flicks of the past and the new action thrillers of today.  The answer seems to be this movie, a hybrid of the two.  There are some beautifully lit sequences that need to be seen by those who look for that sort of thing (this image doesn't do it justice, neither does this one).  This movie has a good case for a film where the villain blows hero outta the water.  I had a great time so I recommend it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Between Grief and Nothing

Auguste and Louis Lumière are two among the founding fathers of cinema and serve as the cornerstone of the French film industry. Their actualities spark a new fascination for moving pictures unlike any of their predecessors. Their cinématographe popularized film worldwide as they screened without regard to class or social status. This notion is important to highlight, as it sets the precedent of film as the art of the common man.

Four firms dominate the early industry; however, George Méliès stood out because he broke the Lumière mold with surrealist films like A Trip to the Moon (1902) and opened the medium to endless possibilities. The industry grew strong until a slump around WWI when funding for film making drops drastically and an import quota of 1:7 must be established to prevent total devastation. This lull in industry activity fosters an era of false myth which gives rise to André Bazin and his Cahiers du Cinéma after WWII. François Truffaut wrote in the Cahiers that these false myths were killing cinema. This threat of death birthed the New Wave and among its’ defenders were the Young Turks, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

The New Wave critics admired classic Hollywood films, but as directors they made films more like the Italian Neorealist with a dash of French experimentation. The New Wave directors had a serious lack of funding pouring in because as critics they were seen as uncompromising nay-sayers who seemed to be making films only to prove a point. This situation forced them into similar constraints of Italian Neorealism, while similarly freeing them from Hollywood conventions; i.e. locations over sets, simple set-up over complex action and camera movements, unknown actors, and spur of the moment shooting in public locations versus studio lots with extras. Agnès Varda’s La Pointe Courte (1955) illustrates all these points. Her film is all on location incorporating real footage of fishermen at work and play. On top of this backdrop are two actors who walk about discussing their relationship in a totally self-absorbed fashion. There isn’t too much experimentation, though the high concept conversations about love and life and the beautiful scenery is very French.

In some cases, like Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, that dash of experimentation was more like the main ingredient. Rivette began later than the other New Wavers and focused on long grandiose improvisational films, like his crazy thirteen hour long Out 1 (1971). Out 1 is full of improvised characters and pays no attention to the notions of efficient story telling. Godard also made grandiose films, but not in scale or complexity, his were high concept. Godard never stopped being a critic and used the film plot as a tool to continue critiquing the industry and society. One of the techniques Godard uses time and again to do this is breaking the fourth wall. He utilizes a number of different wall breaking techniques, such as having the actor look directly into the camera and address the audience, incorporating conversation about the film and film making in the dialogue, and through on screen text.

In Godard’s Breathless (1960), Jean-Paul Belmondo talks directly into the camera addressing the audience about his disregard for their preference in scenery, whether ocean, city, etc. Again, at the end of Breathless, Godard has Jean Seberg turn directly into the camera and blankly question the meaning of the translation of Belmondo’s dying words. This second turn to camera is very Felliniesque, see Nights of Cabiria (1957). François Truffaut more tastefully honors Fellini’s breaking of the fourth wall at the end of The 400 Blows (1959), when a 14 year old Jean-Pierre Léaud reaches the ocean and then hauntingly turns to the camera. Truffaut adds a dash of that French nuance when he decides to freeze the frame and zoom slowly to Léaud’s face. This announces the gaze much more directly. It is possible for one to miss the more subtle variations on the fourth wall break in Fellini or more recent films. The French New Wave directors, Godard in particular, do not want the audience to miss a thing. As Godard continues to make films his announcements become louder and more direct.

Another of Godard’s methods is to discuss the film or other films in the dialogue of a scene. Godard makes direct reference to the films of his New Wave contemporary, François Truffaut, in A Woman Is A Woman (1961). In these scenes Anna Karina comes across Maria Dubois who acts out the title of her film, Shoot the Piano Player (1960), and later Jeanne Moreau who tells Karina that filming on Jules and Jim (1961) has been going well. I’m not sure what the purpose of these scenes are except to plug projects and have fun. Godard continues to have fun throughout this film as it is his attempt to flip both the classic romantic comedy and the classical musical on its head. The subject matter involves a couple who aren’t married, another guy, and babies—no mixing allowed in classical rom-coms, not to mention the nudie dancing. I think the most experimental and strangest parts of this film involve the sound. The sound is all over the place, spliced between vocals is musical score and again awkwardly added as accent to action and dialogue in scenes. There is also a long sequence where characters sit around and listen to music which alters their emotional state.

In Godard’s later film Weekend (1967), the Husband and Wife discuss their frustration with the crummy film they’re in because everyone they meet on the road seems to be crazy and talks nonsense. In this same scene, Godard utilizes another of his methods, on screen text, to clarify and comment on what is happening. The bourgeoisie Husband and Wife become frustrated with a nonsensical Emily Bronte, author of the book Wuthering Heights, who will only answer their questions with logical proofs. So after their complaining on cigarette break, they light her on fire while screaming, “This isn’t a book, this is a film. Films are life!” The scene begins with a title card that reads something like “The Lewis Caroll Way”. Lewis Caroll was a champion of the use of logical word-play and nonsensical dialogue to convey an alternative meaning; I leave the individual to interpret the meaning of this scene.

These methods are clever, humorous, and groundbreaking at the time. However, they are constant in Godard films and become distracting. Truffaut utilizes similar methods in his films but, in my opinion, more tastefully. As opposed to openly and obviously calling out how “shit” the film and society is, he shows images and tells stories. Truffaut talks about his film to the audience subtly in Jules and Jim (1961). In this film, Truffaut uses a narrator to progress the action and make comments about the characters and action while giving us insider information and summations of goings-on. This method reminds the viewer that they’re watching a film in a subconscious way. The effectiveness of either method is debatable. I think both methods are legitimate tools, each with their own purpose. As a cinephile, however, I personally prefer the latter over the former as it is more so a tool of entertainment and less an educational device.

The disturbances go beyond disjunctive storytelling and jump cuts to become a visual and/or audial nuisance. Irritation was apparently Godard’s intention as he thought the film as entertainment was a bourgeoisie concept that served to oppress the viewer. His subject matter became more and more alienating and finally, when political times got rough, he used the cinema like a propagandist to push New Left anti-establishment ideals. He abandoned the New Wavers and circled the wagons with his new New friends. After personally attacked by Godard, Truffaut makes some great points about both Godard and film making as an art. First, he angrily wrote back to Godard telling him that he was being a “piece of shit” and was truly the phony, who merely needed to play a grand role, any one would do. He later discussed film making in comparison to painter Henri Matisse. Truffaut said in hard times, the artist becomes tempted to allow his art to become subservient to an idea. In film, when this happens he becomes a propagandist—obviously referring to Godard. He then went on to describe how Matisse lived through three wars untouched. He completed his art without political influence. He suggests that this is not merely art for arts’ sake but art for beauty, for others, art that consoles. This is the role I see for the cinema as it is the fine art of the common man.

Film being my religion, I wish Godard would have practiced separation of church and state. I think there is a more artful way to convey a message and if it is lost in translation, then so be it. Those people who miss it are the same people you couldn’t pay to see one of his political films. I found Cloud Atlas (2012) to be a very Godardian post-modern film where I think the Wachowskis perfect his techniques. They make reference to other films and concepts through imagery and dialogue while repeating the same narrative over and over without repeating the exact same clip over and over as Godard does in films like Weekend. Another movie I thought of was Atonement (2007) where Joe Wright challenges many things, the reliability of narrative among them. Rodrigo García’s Nine Lives (2005), Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012), all these films do clever things without becoming a nuisance. But hindsight is 20/20, and I suppose this is where I have to admit that none of these film makers would be where they are without the New Wave paving the way. As Colin MacCabe put it, “"From Hollywood to the Third World, from the mainstream, to the Avant-Garde, Godard's name is perhaps the only one that occurs wherever cinema is discussed or produced."

The influence of the New Wave has definitely been a lasting one, especially that of Godard. References are made to his movies and characters in many films beyond the farcical remakes of Breathless, Breathless (1983) and John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Ebert points out the influence on Hollywood’s 1967-1974 golden age, “You cannot even begin to count the characters played by Pacino, Beatty, Nicholson, Penn, who are directly descended from Jean-Paul Belmondo's insouciant killer Michel.” Breathless is directly quoted in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) when the lovers on the run seek refuge in a cinema from the police pursuing them. I think you’re right when you say that Godard’s characters in Breathless and Bande à part (1964) are authentically hip. I think Truffaut has similar characters in Jules and Jim and his films have something authentically hip about them as well, though sentimental, so we refer to it as timeless. The difference in my opinion is the honest outwardly expressed sentiments of Truffaut versus the rebellious vapid characters as fronts for philosophy and pop culture of Godard, which inspire emulation and sentimental feelings. Truffaut allows us to become intimate with his characters while Godard’s are prostituted to ideals and copied.

Though he thought he was necessarily progressing the medium and properly applying film making strengths, I believe Godard became little more than a clever propagandist and delivered a small blow to the New Wave. I think much of this opposing point of view dynamic of Truffaut and Godard comes from their different backgrounds. Truffaut from poverty, without love, comes from nothing and finds salvation in the world of cinema and takes his place amongst the greats. Godard from wealth, has everything he could want, comes to the cinema as a rebellion from the world he once knew, tries to revolutionize the medium and takes his place amongst the greats. I’m no psychiatrist but it seems like we’ve got two man-children externalizing and imposing their own experiences and world views onto the open ended medium of cinema. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing; it is just illuminated because of their dramatic rift. I believe their lasting impressions are an exact reflection of the medium’s true strength—to imprint consciousness and interpret it to the masses. I think it does go awry in the absolutes of Godard. He was a clever propagandist; there is an art to what he does. His plots were good and I think it’s a shame they will never see fruition but I also can’t turn away from his films. Truffaut is my favorite of the two as I appreciate the deeper and longer lasting connections I’m able to make with his characters and storylines. Godard may have wanted to change the world but we can only change ourselves.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Grotesque Circus

If Neorealism had a mascot it would probably be that majestic mythic bird rising from the ashes, the phoenix. The techniques of Neorealism are not uniquely Italian, but rather could have developed anyplace under the same conditions, for instance, with Satyajit Ray in India or more recently with Asghar Farhadi in Iran. However, it was birthed in Italy and is known as Italian. I believe the social conditions of Italy at the time, economic depression and post-war decay, are the main contributing factor in the development of Neorealism. I suppose it is only right to give credit to the fathers of the baby as well. Martin Scorsese described Italian Neorealism like a seed which grew into a tree. The branches, Scorsese said, were made up of the Neorealist directors: Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica, Luchino Visconti, Alessandro Blasetti, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Federico Fellini.

These fathers cradled an ideology of struggle, truth, poetry, and compassion through a post-war environment, beginning a new engagement with reality. These fathers saw their medium as central to reestablishing society. The desperate financial situation forced them to hone in on high-concept story without all the glamor of before. Through mirroring reality they show faith in human potential and teach us that our lessons are just beneath the surface of our everyday numbness. Their existentialist medium, which centered on lack, shows us how to find value in the very act of surviving, of living. A grotesque circus life may be, but if you stand up and direct your own movie, you become a magician who leads others through the procession of life.

Italian Neorealists saw value in remaining true to life. One could almost say their motto was “life as it is”—which happened to be the name of the documentary we watched in class, and I believe a quote from Vittorio de Sica. With this motto in mind, it should not surprise the viewer when a Neorealist film turns tragic, as in Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica in 1948. The family starts off in a bad way and when things are looking up, the father’s bike is stolen, leaving his job and family’s survival in danger. So the father tries to steal a bicycle, gets caught, and is admonished by the crowd. Societal oppression on all of us whittles away our sweet impressions, chipping away our humanity until we become machines, adults, moving slowly through the crowd, each the same as the next. His son saves him from the crowd, but he seems to be sinking into defeat. Then just when you think it’s the end, son and father lock eyes, both in tears, but at the same time seem to move again with a confidence returned now hand-in-hand. Father and son exchange lessons throughout the movie. In this last case, the son must take care of the father.

Neorealist directors tried to eliminate complex camera setups involving cranes and tracking shots. They would allow the camera to watch and hopefully disappear. They wanted the camera to engage with reality. Engagement with reality meant real things like locations as opposed to sets, ordinary people versus actors, and an ordinary modern story. This is all true in Bicycle Thieves. The movie moves slowly through the streets with little happening, though tension builds and we become invested in the story all the same. This desire to engage with reality lead to focusing on concept, as opposed to action and glamor. Central Neorealist themes are lower class people in crisis, poverty, oppression, and transcendence. As opposed to highly motivated action shots, Neorealists show a series of settings, images, and subtle actions without announcing directly their meaning. The action involved with the plot is rather simple and characters have little to say. Again, all of this is seen within Bicycle Thieves.

I think it was only natural for the Neorealists to overturn the star system. It is difficult to follow the canon of Neorealism with a giant personality on screen, sucking up the attention like some dim-witted black hole. But it is also difficult to get a good performance out of amateurs, so, they mix in real people doing real work and cast the star against type—like a homeless prostitute. Vittorio de Sica wanted his actors to be blank canvasses, molded at will. But Federico Fellini broke away from many of these techniques, like simple settings or camera movements, while maintaining the themes or theory behind what each film is “up to”.

If there was a theme tying all the films we watched in class together, I think it would be similar to Matthew 18:3: “And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In the films we watched there was often casual abuse of children. In Bicycle Thieves the man training Antonio nonchalantly kicks a beggar kid, people in the street ignore and bump into Bruno, a car almost hits him, and a creep is into him in the worst kind of way at the market. Children represent innocence. Children are born with nothing, continue to have nothing, but continue and happy nonetheless. They come into a world made by those before them and struggle to survive in the world where they don’t make the rules. But they still play music, sing songs, play games, smile—they keep trying. Children find beauty and awe around every corner. I think they’re right; become children.

In Nights of Cabiria, by Fellini in 1957, Cabiria is left destitute with no motivation to go on, wandering like Antonio in the end of Bicycle Thieves, when all of a sudden, a procession of children come out of the wilderness to join her on the road of life singing and celebrating. The children rejoice in the darkness of night. They call out joyfully, “Let’s get lost on our way home!” It’s not until we are in the throes of conflict with reality, when low and exploited, that we're given an opportunity to see. In Reflections on the Art of Living, Joseph Campbell wrote: "The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness . . .then comes the new life and all that is needed." This is the end of Nights of Cabiria. Slowly the children spread their spirit. Through the passing of the peace Cabiria smiles and seems renewed. She looks into the camera, into our eyes, and invites us to join her.

Fellini does this same thing AGAIN at the end of La Dolce Vita (1960). Marcello, who has given up on everything, kneels in the sand, when a child calls to him from across the water. He is so wasted that he doesn’t recognize her and can’t understand. He gives up and is carried off by the drunken procession of given-up adults who drown out reality and suffering. They are no longer willing or able to see the world through childlike eyes. In this film, even the guy who seems to have it all together, the “intellectual,” successful, REAL writer gives up and kills his children on his way out, probably because he can’t stand to leave them behind to grow up and run the risk of suffering the same trappings of Italian society that he can no longer live through. So he shoots them in the prime of their innocence, gently sleeping in their beds, before he blows his own brains out. So tall he was. . . but only this big. Fellini seems obsessed with “matching the sacred and profane and casting doubts on both,” to quote Ebert.

In La Strada (Fellini, 1954), Gelsomina is like a child whose innocence shields her from the harsh reality of life. But then she meets Zampano, who beats her with a switch, like an animal, to break her of this inconvenient disposition. Gelsomina’s innocence seems to be renewed through the magic and insight of the fool, only to again be stripped away by Zampano through his murder. Zampano, like parents and authority figures, consistently treats Gelsomina like an animal or possession. But there is substance to his character, if you’re looking. This way he lives, his attitude, is learned. He is thinking behind that thick skull as best as he is able. He suffers like the rest of us and escapes in drink, like Marcello. The problem is, these accepted coping mechanisms only compound his suffering and anger, further indoctrinating him into the system of suffering. He misplaces his aggression on Gelsomina, who could love him, but he fears her madness in the end and doesn’t realize what he has lost until he learns of her death. Again, to quote Ebert, “a defeated man turns to the sea, which has no answers.” This scene really connected with me because I’ve been there before. It is painful. This ending shows us that though we don’t know it all, if we look deeper, there are clues. He may have been stupid, but he was smart enough to fit in. He feels, somewhere deep inside. No amount of drink can ever kill that feeling.

Depression, cynicism, anger, stoicism—these things are learned. Things learned by Edumund in Germany Year Zero by Rossellini in 1948. In this story, a boy who has nothing and no future in the aftermath of world war kills his grandfather in an act of mercy. He tries to live on, innocent in a guilty world, only to jump to his death in the end. Scorsese suggests this film is pleading with the nations of the world to have sympathy, compassion for each other, even the enemy. No longer trying to portray their society as superior, they become free to promote equality for all. Some alarmed elites translate this as Marxist propaganda, promoting a redistribution of wealth. After seeing Umberto D. (1952, Vittorio de Sica), an Italian Minister openly opposed Neorealism for “washing dirty linens in public”.

Like the other Neorealists, Fellini is always placing the camera to draw us in deeper. However, he uses more complex set-ups, using POV and tracking master shots that follow action as characters pop in and out of frame. Dancers smile invitingly at the camera as partners enter frame. The camera follows a group of people ¾ shot, tracking, as they walk and eventually turn toward the camera. Earlier Neorealists were probably making the best of a poor financial situation through their simply shot methods. Scorsese points out that later in their careers, most of the Neorealists made slight changes in style that disappointed purists. Fellini never was a purist, though. He was more concerned with substance and often used his own life story as a means to communicate. His soundtracks are dubbed, which is typical across the board, but each director develops a noticeable style in the score. Fellini’s is like a sad carnival mixed with a profound march. In other films, sound is often used as an accenting device which directly clashes with the images. This is true with Fellini to some degree.

Different Neorealist directors utilize these methods in different ways, often boiling down to story selection. For example, Scorsese says that Rosellini directs facts while de Sica directs emotions. Rosellini’s war trilogy, composed of Paisan, Rome Open City, and Germany Year Zero, illustrate this directing of the facts. The first film is about two homeless boys who are thrown into a workhouse, the second about American troops helping Partisans in the middle of the war, and the third is mentioned in an earlier paragraph. De Sica, on the other hand, made movies like The Gold of Naples and Umberto D. where humor, suffering, and transcendence all go hand-in-hand. The first, having physical and situational humor intertwined with death and adultery, and the second includes scenes where an old man struggles to survive and finds joy in his dog, who eventually saves him from suicide.

I feel Italian Neorealism impacting my every thought since I’ve started researching it after our class. It has also influenced documentary and photojournalism. It has supplied the Hollywood machine with sufficient fuel for remakes, spoofs, and re-imaginings. Nine cherry-picks the sexiest parts of Fellini and Italian culture. This alone could serve to illustrate the nature of Hollywood in one comparison, Nine to 8 ½, but I’ll share several examples. In general Hollywood avoids reality entirely, the opposite of the Neorealists, who attempt to stare deeply at reality and suffering as perhaps one does the sun, holding the gaze until blind or revelation is found. They spoofed Bicycle Thieves with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985). In this film, some impacts are still included, but are mocked or made light of at best. Sweet Charity (Bob Fosse, 1969) is a reimagining of Nights of Cabiria, but instead of Cabiria being a true working girl, she is a singing and dancing Broadway fool. I prefer the Cabiria who climbs into truck cabs, gets in fights, and hides in the bushes during police raids. And then there is Under the Tuscan Sun (2004), which seems to highlight our American fascination with these great films, but Hollywood’s inability to articulate anything more than bits and pieces of imagery. They even threw in a glass of milk at the end of the clip we watched, yuck.

We just can’t relate. Scorsese points out that our cultural heritage is young and probably best represented through the O.K. Corral, while theirs is thousands of years old and more like Gladiators in the Colosseum. Maybe the best illustration of our failure to communicate is The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) versus Ossessione (Visconti, 1942). Ossessione is often named as the first of the Neorealist films and is full of raw imagery and dialogue. A hairy man with rips in his clothes and holes in his shoes is having a for-real affair with this depressed-looking woman who wears the same dress. They’re both prostitutes, while in The Postman Always Rings Twice, the woman is the definition of Hollywood starlet and the man is clean and has classic, leading man features.

It seems that Fellini grows more and more towards escapism and grand metaphor, reaching through to the viewer’s subconscious, as opposed to the reasoning frontal lobe. I think 8 ½ (1963) illustrates this. It’s like a magic eye picture, where you have to unfocus your eyes to get the hidden picture. Besides Magical Realism, I think Felliniesque would be described through meaning or the film’s message. He also had many reoccurring characters and themes like the circus, processions, prostitution, voyeurism, exotic nightclubs, musical sequences, the seashore, scaffolding, dream sequences—things that seem to rest in a world of his imagination.

While some argue about Felliniesque or his Neorealist roots, I tend to lean more towards Felliniesque. It feels that he was following his conscious, telling the stories he felt within himself. The reasons for Neorealist connections are in his heritage, his moviemaking DNA. And many of the tools utilized, theoretical or practical, are just that—story telling tools—and quite effective whether pure or convoluted with Fellini mumbo-jumbo. They are sincere, sentimental, and touching, if you’re open to be touched. Fellini once said that Cabiria was the only one of his characters he was still worried about. . .I have to admit, I think about her a lot too. I hope she is okay.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beyond the Black Rainbow

I liked this movie though I don't recommend it for the average movie goer. Only those that study cinema should even attempt it. It reminded me of Tarkovsky. The images seem to be spliced together to say that self improvement, at least that at the hands of "professionals", is self imprisonment at the hands of demented perverts. These same professionals have created two monsters, the more obvious in the vein of Patrick Bateman--he even looked like Christian Bale a bit. The other is an innocent girl with supernatural powers who ends up settling in the suburbs. The images are beautiful. Check it out if you're willing to commit the time and watch it all.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

At first I thought I wasn't going to like this movie for a number of reasons but I was wrong. It was better. I dare you to go see it if you haven't already. Those who don't like it are clinging onto a shoddy past. The previous franchise doesn't need your devotion and they don't deserve it! REMEMBER: TOPHER GRACE WAS CAST AS VENOM! I liked the first two and I'll do my best to honor and rank them accordingly--but not until I see some sequels here. This could end up being George Clooney vs Christian Bale.. too soon to tell. I liked that he had cartridges and I liked The Lizard. I think this series will be better if they keep up the good drama. Sorry Tobey and Kirsten.. Mostly Kirsten ;) ==But I recommend it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the Last Minutes of Thursday, July 12, 2012

We wish for life to be like a film. I find this interesting since film itself tries so desperately, at times, to imitate life--at others theatre, and still others paintings--but all these things life. We try so desperately to make ourselves like these movies, these daydreams.. perhaps because they seem somewhat eternal--to us at least. They have existed throughout our existence and so we mimic them and feel something magical.

They appear this way after preservation through the hands of many master craftsmen. And all these things modeling life...

If only we could look in the mirror--NO, the mirror is inadequate--the eyes of another, or better yet, the eyes of the eternal. Perhaps, if we could see this way we would see things more beautiful than any painting. We are the models which torment these wannabe gods, these painters, these filmmakers. I strive to see all in this light. Those days where things, even just a single object, shines just right.. well, those are the best days.
I watched a movie called Angel-A last night. It is interesting that I started it right after writing this. If you see it you might understand why. I'm referring to the scene later in the movie while she looks in the mirror with him.

To Rome with Love

I think I get it that most people just don't like Woody Allen. They don't like how his character's jump in and out of the reality of the film--it's jarring, confusing, and if you don't get it quick you're left several scenes back trying to catch up which makes you feel stupid.. and now you're quietly insulted BY A FILM! Besides, he repeats and rehashes same or similar subject matter with slight variations on jokes with pinches of new insight. But I guess I'm not most people because I get it, keep with the pace, and I very much enjoyed To Rome with Love. I don't know if it is possible to make an ugly movie in Rome. The setting alone makes viewing worthwhile. There are great commentaries on relationships, fame, family.. I recommend it. I love it when characters don't stay put and do what they're told all the time. Let me know what you think about Alec Baldwin in this one--he was my FAV!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Narrative POV & the Gaze

     While I tend to agree with the professor that Atonement is an unreliable narrative, it is only a partial agreement.  I believe that Atonement, as well as all movies, are only as reliable as you make them.  Films are merely collections of stories and bits of media thrown together to make a new product.  Though Atonement does go in and out of fact and fiction, there are clues in the beginning that let the careful watcher know it is fantasy.  Of course, I’m talking about the non-diegetic sound that kicks in at the very beginning, a typewriter.  The film tricks into believing it is merely an interesting film score.  As a first time viewer we do not realize its alternative function until the surprise interview with grown up Briony sometime later.  I also agree with the professor that there are clues later on, as it was something I noted as well, as Robbie’s story becomes more fantastic as it progresses, until it peaks on the beach—where I wrote, “this must be hell”.
In the end we realize that it is truly an unreliable narrative, in a sense of fact or fiction.  If you ask me, it has been honest as a story and film from the very beginning.  All films are contrived and in their final product an amalgamation of subjective points of view.  In this film we are mostly seeing Briony’s point of view, as well as those of her made up characters.  The film projected to us is made up of multiple points of view; that of the director, cinematographer, composer, and so on.  The final subjective point of view is our own and perhaps the most tricky.  We begin making up our own minds about where it is going from the get-go—we are trained as movie watchers to struggle to make sense of even the most illogical action.  However, each point of consciousness in the audience is its own set of subjective constructs imposing itself on the creative work of fiction before the senses.  Perhaps a movie like Richard Linklater’s Waking Life better illustrates this point.  If you asked the audience what it was about or what they thought a specific scene meant—each might deliver a completely unique response.  The same may be true for Atonement, but I think in this case, director Joe Wright strived to communicate a similar story to each observer individually.
There are several points of view throughout films that are utilized for different types of communication.  The first is the look of the camera, a sort of omnipresent third person narrator.  This look shows the viewer the action happening on set.  These are the sort of mise en scene shots encompassing the larger story in the frame.  Director Stanley Kubrick has many good examples of these types of shots, especially in his use of wide angle shots with long duration—a key part of his style as an auteur.  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick uses this style technique to allow the story of the apes unfold on screen.  The camera patiently waits as the apes discover tools for survival, in this case a bone as a club used for killing, and suddenly a mysterious monolith appears.  This scene illustrates my point, as with Waking Life, the audience may not understand what is happening on screen as—there is no explanation given either through voice over or montage.  Kubrick has used his camera-pen to lay out a series of events left to our subjective point of view to interpret—and a perfect technique to depict primal urge predating language.
This leads to the second type of look, which I mentioned in the last, the look of the audience.  As I have discussed in three examples already the audience is the final subjective point of view and perhaps most important, as movies are created with an audience in mind.  We watch and impose our own perception on the action, making sense, or complete non-sense, of what unfolds.  This look is not utilized by the director or cinematographer, but it is in the forefront of his mind while making choices and attempting to guide them.  If it were left to these two looks alone, films would probably be totally misunderstood and boring.  Even nature documentaries, where action follows this model, have voice over narration to help lead and draw viewers in.  However, there is a third look film makers utilize, the subjective look of the character.  In between the look of the camera they splice in looks of the character and various other subjective shots to lead the observer and help tell the story.  These shots are the dialogue in books, the stuff that progresses action and keeps the reader reading.  A movie has not successfully pulled off a shot list made up entirely of these “POV” shots—as illustrated by Lady of the Lake.  But I believe we are getting closer with films like Enter the Void, where a large portion of the film is done in the floating POV of a deceased spirit.  Perhaps if virtual reality is ever progressed to a more realistic consumer product we will begin seeing more POV films.
                Now we know who is looking, but not why we are looking and where.  We have discussed in depth during class that the typical gaze of the camera is that of a heterosexual male.  This gaze often objectifies women, displaying them in unrealistic poses and sickly proportions, presents them as helpless impediments to the male hero’s action, and perpetuates idealized role—in a man’s world—of servitude to man.  It is easy to explain the reasons, on the surface at least.  The era in which the film industry developed was dominated by man for generations, both in industry and society; so it was only natural for film to mirror that society and its slow but subsequent progression towards equality.  Upon researching the matter further I found some interesting relations to language itself which strike deeper to the root of this inequality.  Letters, words, and sentences are merely symbols used to point to familiar objects and strung together to represent more complex expressions.  There is a desire to encompass all things in symbols and, therefore, all desires themselves must be represented by a symbol.  This is an inferior process of identification—much like that of Lacan’s mirror stage where a child identifies the false projection of himself in the mirror as proper, but is always a false, inferior projection of the self—and being inferior, sets up an unequal structure in the mind.  It is therefore only natural for that structure to be projected into our physical world as we project so many other psychological scars outward; that is unless we diligently realize and work through them.  I think it is only natural that we have imprinted these same projections on film.  Lacan says that a healthy person thrives on a system of symbols and desires and actually needs the imaginary to stay in touch with the real.  This understanding—though it is mine, subjective, and probably false—spoke to me because my happiness has always had a direct correlation to frequenting the movies.
The gaze began very male, but does it explain the continuation of that same or similar gaze today—even in the work of female artist?  Studies have shown that the one looking most intently is actually the female.  It is more than likely the fault of this male gaze which has trained girls early on to self-analyze.  In some overly demented form of the mirror stage, girls not only identify with the false representation in the mirror, but they project that idealized form into the mirror as presented to them through the gaze found plastered all around them.  Mulvey says, "The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure," and through transitive properties into the minds of little girls.  It comes in many forms, magazines, movies, Disney; but whatever we have done, it has now been perfected.  Statistics show that women spend the money and literally hold the purse strings—so now advertising is directed 90% at women.  A man rarely spends, but when he does it is usually under the influence of a woman.  It is said that the mirror stage is merely a stage for boys to reflect on his path to becoming a man.  He must go out and become a man of action or be left behind, as in a wallflower at the middle school dance.  A woman however can perform her idealized function from that stage and often remains there.  Mulvey talks about how film must challenge and destroy this function.
It is easy to blame and more difficult to take responsibility.  I understand that the system is rigged for most and I speak from a privileged white male perspective, but all the tools to help lift yourself out of these narrow corridors are there if you desire them.  Some films have become more responsible while others seem to get worse as they embrace the consumer culture and try to indoctrinate both male and female children into states of eternal infancy.  Corporations would probably love for us to remain thoughtless sheep continually searching for our next shepherd.  We are like an Arbus photo of teenagers in love, posing as a couple—thrusting ourselves into adult scenarios we are unprepared for where we end up looking like little kids in our parent’s oversized clothing.  In the end I do not think that it is film’s responsibility or fault if we end up this way—it is parents, it is ours.  If we cannot raise our children and guide our society into a more mature, sanely self-aware, and self-sufficient one, than we deserve the bed in which we lay.  At least film will be there as an escape for us all.  I do not think the solution is avoiding those mirror stages but learning to transcend them.  We all need to do a little growing up.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Endings: Friends with Kids

While watching the director’s commentary of Atonement, Joe Wright’s final comments articulated something inside of me that had been brewing for quite some time.  Wright said that he used to believe happy endings were weak, but after making Pride and Prejudice, he realized that happy endings were brave.  Interesting commentary for Atonement since Briony struggles to create a happy ending equal to or greater than her crime, setting free the characters trapped inside her mind.  Instantly I reminisced with the most recent movie memory of mine, Friends with Kids, as this feeling with newfound words was all wrapped up within it. Jennifer Westfeldt writes, directs, and stars in the RomCom about a couple of friends who decide to have a baby without all the drama that comes with being in a relationship.   Westfeldt not only gives us a happy ending but, in my opinion, also gives us a lesson in both narrowing and expanding the scope of our perception.  A world without happy endings would be a sad world indeed; days filled with gray skies and only emotions hate and greed.  Though one may say, “That’s the world I see!”  All it takes is a closer look to see a day filled with happy endings.  Whether it’s too narrow or short, wide or far, a quick adjustment of the lens, a new dose in depth of field and our mise en scene becomes filled with new possibilities.
I’d like to begin my analysis of Friends with Kids by referencing a classic, Alfred Hitchcock’s RearWindow.  Rear Window starts with a conversation between Jeff, played by Jimmy Stewart, and his nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter, in which they discuss the intricacies of marriage—a conversation which strikes at the heart of Friends with Kids.  Stella is busting Jeff’s chops because he is afraid to marry the gorgeous Lisa Fremont.  She tries to convince Jeff there is something abnormal about the whole situation.  He isn’t ready for marriage he says, an admission Jason, Adam Scott’s character in Friends with Kids, is unable to reach early on in Jennifer Westfeldt’s film.  However, Jeff and Jason share the same inability to see the perfect woman standing right in front of them.
Stella says, “Look Mr. Jefferies I’m not an educated woman but I can tell you one thing, when a man and woman see each other and like each other, they outta come together, WHAM, like a couple of taxis on Broadway.  Not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle.”  To which Jeff retorts, “There’s an intelligent way to approach marriage.”  “Intelligence,” Stella interrupts, “nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.  Heh, modern marriage,” she scoffs.  “We’ve progressed emotionally,” Jeff begins to reprimand; only to be cut off again by Stella.  “Baloney!” she exclaims, “Once it was see somebody, get excited, get married.  Now it’s read alotta books, fence with alotta four syllable words, psychoanalyze each other until you can’t tell the difference between a petting party and a civil service exam.”  The scene ends for me where Jeff says, “People have different emotional levels,” which, of course, is undeniably true.  Strangely, Jason and Julie in Friends with Kids begin at the same emotional level but suffer from a similar inability to come together in “perfect” matrimony.
Many of the implications drawn from the conversations concocted by Hitchcock are seemingly in full agreement with those implications I find in Westfeldt’s film.  This same battle of common sense and human nature versus intelligence and human will is all throughout Friends with Kids.  The first shot illustrates the intelligence/human will side of Julie and Jason as of the movie opens on a ringing cell phone resting where, on Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion.  Our main character answers the call but who is on the other line?  His female doppelganger reading what, Christopher Hitchens’s God is NOT Great.  I think these should be, but at the very least are subliminal, cues to the wide eyed “modern” audience of young couples all graphed somewhere on this relationship graph of readiness and emotional levels.  It tells us, these characters are intelligent modern people just like us.  They are psychologically stable, heterosexual characters we can instantly agree with—in fact, they seem to be the only sensible ones in each situation.  They disarm us at once, guiding us along a controlled path which eventually leads us to the errors of our modern ways.
After Jason’s immature relationship with a “hot” dancer and Julie’s overly sweet fill in, and opposite, of Jason, we start to realize there is something abnormal about our two heroes’ ability to commit.  I think both Hitchcock and Westfeldt would agree that the real problem lies with the fear of castration, for both male and female character in Westfeldt’s case.  This is probably due to a lot of things, mostly it being a female writer/director, but also because the females of her world are allowed more freedoms.  But I find it interesting that the female characters in her film often choose to fill similar roles traditionally held by female characters.  They are, however, allowed to be openly funny and individual, liberating for both character and observer.
Lately I’ve been studying the hero’s journey through watching lectures of Joseph Campbell and reading some of his books.  I have noticed the story of the hero told over and over again, not only in film, but in everyday life.  Westfeldt’s film is no different but follows it in typical movie fashion.  Act one begins with an introduction to the problem, everyone Jason and Julie know with children are miserable—at least as far as they can see.  But the act concludes with Jason answering the more metaphorical call to fill the hole he and his best friend have been yearning to fill for some time—having a child.  It was actually his idea, as she was the safe choice—being just like him, afraid of castration through commitment.  The second act begins or peaks somewhere around the time where Julie shares her new feelings with Jason who is too blind, like Jeff in Rear Window, to see what is right in front of him.  It isn’t until he has lost everything and in real danger of being alone when he realizes he has to have her.  The third act begins with her moving on and ends with his eventual return into the family fold, truly conforming through his desire to be with her in Brooklyn, like all the other washed up “unhappy” couples.
In this movie Jason and Julie’s dragons are their inability to let go of their over analytical modern dispositions and see the path to love and happiness that have always been in front of them.  A beautiful one at that—a best friend and child.  They tried to fill the hole with all the things that the modern world convinces you to drown yourself with—but stuff and lust fell short and left them thirsty for more.  This is best illustrated through Jason’s constant need to validate himself through new female conquests, especially the self-centered Mary Jane, played perfectly by Megan Fox.  I think that it was only natural for Julie’s dragon to be slayed first, as she actually pushed out the baby.  Maybe there is something in that immense physical pain that brings clarity to life, especially when you realize what you need most is a companion and who better than your best friend and father of your child.
So I’ve rambled on about dragons, but what I liked most about this film is that it really was brave.  It throws our stupid egos in our stupid modern faces.  I thought it was awesome to see Hitchcock doing the same thing many years before and am glad to see Westfeldt reminding us now.  It’s a great spanking there for anyone aware and able to feel it.  I also loved seeing Jon Hamm in a role where the typical handsome guy who seems to have it all gets humbled.  There are all kinds of cues to set the cocky straight.  Jennifer Westfeldt is a crafty film maker.  She reminds me very much of Rodrigo Garcia and Richard Linklater because they take subject matter that seems to torture them and hash it out in realistic conversational dramas on screen; they challenge the observer rather than stroke them.  Westfeldt’s dramas center on relationships and she gives you three different types and resolves them with courage.
It all ends up relatively happy if you’re willing to see it that way.  Even Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig end up in a much better situation, apart.  They were the type that fell in lust and ended up with kids—never meant to be together.  Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd represent a more classic relationship, like those Stella talks about in Rear Window.  They are two that liked each other and work at things to stay together.  Julie and Jason are those rare occurrences, best friends made lovers, who really are meant to be.  If they’re wise enough, if they’re strong enough, they can get through all the trials and make it.  So I think this film illustrates how happy endings can be brave.  In a way, movies like this are instructional videos teaching us how to be happy.  Another one like this, in my opinion, is Jeff, Who Lives at Home.  They are silly at times, but realistic.  Yea, there are a bunch of shitty situations along the way and in the end everyone gets the shaft, I mean, we all die.  But if you choose to invest in happiness, if you choose to put the time in to hone in on it and strive to make things happy—we can all find our happy endings.  It reminds me of a Dalai Lama quote I read recently, "Every one of us is getting older, which is a natural process. Time is constantly moving on, second by second. Nothing can stop it, but what we can do is use our time properly; that is in our hands. Whether we believe in a spiritual tradition or not, we need to use our time meaningfully. If over days, weeks and years, we have used our time in a meaningful way - when our last day comes, we'll be happy, we'll have no regrets."
I think it is easy to just end a movie with ugly and plain “realities”.  It is more difficult to find the good things and write them in a way that translates well on screen.  I think Westfeldt does this in Friends with Kids.  She takes clichés and turns them on their head—she does the same with Ira & Abby where the typical lovers are portrayed as neurotic fuck ups and the climax being a group therapy sessions with generations of fuck ups and just decide to cope.  Friends with Kids uses real comedy and when you get to that big pay off, where Jason finally catches up and slays his dragon, it ends.  They don’t complete the hero’s journey by coming full circle, that retelling is the movie itself—the writer/director is the true hero of this journey.  There is no montage showing them moving in together, leading to a wedding with voice over giving the audience closure through summed up life lessons.  It jars the modern ego, abruptly cutting, BAM, you’re wrong.  We are no longer nihilistic individuals striving to be unique, no—now we are able to see the beauty in conformity.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Index of Consciousness

The nature of cinema is an elusive concept because so much of what defines cinema is subjective.  Leonardo Da Vinci invented the Camera Obscura long before 1588, when Giovanni Battista Della Porta improved upon the idea with lenses and projection, recommending it as a drawing aid for artists.  This invention had limitations; it merely captured the shadow, and later reflection, of objects outside the Camera Obscura.  This is quite possibly the birth of modern cinema; however, it is not the moment of cinema’s inception.  Cinema is a complex method of communication with roots stretching back in time to the earliest moments of man.  Its technological progress has experienced exponential growth since Edison and the Lumiere brothers in the 1890s.  Da Vinci’s invention marks an important moment in cinema’s history because it is the first time where reality is truly recreated.  Before we could only see images through filtered perceptions and the final execution at the hand of an artist.  The Camera Obscura is the first time we are allowed, as viewers, to gaze upon a pure index of reality and use our own constructs to perceive.  This invention freed the artist from realism as we no longer needed them as interpreters of reality.  Artists were finally allowed to experiment with various forms of abstraction and expression.  This paradigm shift, in my opinion, is the root of the ‘what is cinema’ question.  I think artists, photographers, businessmen, and film makers have been fleshing out this argument ever since.
At its core, cinema is about communication or, one might say, storytelling.  When words and gestures alone cannot convey what one wishes to articulate, due to nuances of physical and emotional experience, something more is necessary.  Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams illustrates my point perfectly.  In the film Herzog guides us through a newly discovered cave in France.  As we discover together it seems we are unfolding a prehistoric theatre.  Each cavern is filled with hand painted scenes, each communicating a different story important to primitive man.  The layout of the drawings in the cave itself seems to tell a story.  The cave’s story begins by identifying the authors as human.   We see human hand-prints throughout the cave but an entire wall of hand-prints greet us upon entering.  As we go deeper we see stories about the ways animals behave while gathering around a watering hole, probably a great place to catch dinner.
There are various predators discussed on the cave walls and they seem to increase in frequency the deeper we delve.  That is until the final room, full of lions, and in the center above them all is some kind of mystical creature, half bison and half woman.  Perhaps she is the mother of modern man, the bison merging with her as to lift man up and give him advantage over all predators.  Perhaps the walls teach us how to use our most powerful tool, our brain, to survive in a volatile world so that we may carry on our experiences to future generations.
This cave was at a type of crossroads for prehistoric man, between Britain, France, and Germany.  Inside there is no evidence of people staying long term, so it does not lead one to believe that people were decorating their home.  However, there is evidence of humans continually returning to this location, sometimes generations apart.  This leads us to believe that it is some sort of holy place, maybe a prehistoric college, which might explain the continual pilgrimage as well as the maintenance or painting over of the images by later humans.  Herzog points out that the scenes dance in the light of a flame.  I believe Herzog is correct when he pushes us to accept these ideas as possible truths and I agree with the professor in that this film seems to ask a similar question, why is cinema?  Herzog’s answer seems to be cinema exists so that we may leave some sort of record, or better communicate and share our lives with one another.   Also, by insinuating that these cave paintings are a sort of proto-cinema, we are able to get closer to its definition by stripping away all the technical aspects that seem to cloud our judgments today.
In 1894 Fred P.Ott became the first movie star when Edison filmed him sneezing on cue for Kinetoscope Films.  A year after Edison started making his films in the United States, Lumiere Films started up in France.  Both studios referred to their product as “actualities” though while the Lumiere brothers thought that they should just show things as they are, Edison thought that one should put more effort in producing a film that people want to see.  Edison made films about kissing, dancing, muscle men, funny boxing and cockfighting while the Lumiere brothers made films about their workers leaving the factory or a train arriving at a station.  The Lumiere brothers would go as far as criticizing Edison for misusing the medium and cry out against the moral degradation it would lead to.  Someone forgot to mention to the brothers that some of the first films made were smut.
Whether they were wrong or right, this moment lends understanding to the different aesthetic choices made by French and American schools of thought.  European cinema seems to be more concerned with trying to show reality while American studios have never shied away from creating an alternate universe.  Closer examination of Lumiere films show that the brothers must have made some directorial choices.  When watching the workers leave the factory, I find it hard to believe that all them were dressed in their Sunday best and ignored the film crew on their way out.  These people were working in a factory and had probably never seen a film crew before, it just isn’t natural.  The brothers must have given their workers some instruction at least the day before.
The only way for a film to be actual is for it to break the fourth wall and reveal to the audience that what they see is not reality, but a film.  Otherwise, one merely uses bits of contrived media to persuade an audience to willfully suspend their disbelief and live in the reproduction presented before their eyes.  Edison’s films do not announce that they are films, however, we see actors on sets showing us bits of reality that we love to look at.  The willful suspension of disbelief here is automatic and less demanding as we want to look at and accept those images as real.  They are those parts of consciousness we love to indulge and long to relive.  The medium was born of our guilty pleasures but as time and technology progress, so does the nature of cinema.
 Andre Bazin says that cinema is the art of reality fine-tuned by the everlasting human endeavor to preserve life through a representation of it.  He references a long tradition of preserving the corporeal body through man-made representations.  The religion of ancient Egypt worked diligently to do just this, for those who could afford it.  Egyptians filled their tombs with statues and reliefs of the deceased living on forever in the afterlife.  He also references cave paintings, pointing out that early man would create statues of predator and prey alike and strike them with spears.  A learning exercise or perhaps a ritual ensuring a successful hunt; either way representation of reality created to communicate something transcendent of the object itself.  His final example is Louis XIV, who waived the preservation techniques upon his death because he believed that his portrait by Lebrun was enough of an afterlife.  While I agree that this human obsession leads to the duplication of reality I think it was and still is merely the limited means by which we are able to imprint our consciousness.  We have not yet seen total cinema.
Bazin points out that many see cinema as a mingling of economic and technical elements combined with the media produced through human endeavor.  His genealogical investigation traces its roots to do-it-yourself men, monomaniacs, impulse, and genius industrialists.  Even deeper still we find idealists driven by something deeper; men who would light their own furniture ablaze just for an interesting moving image.  Bazin says, “The myth of Icarus had to wait on the internal combustion engine before descending from the platonic heavens.  But it dwelt in the soul of every man since he first thought about birds.  To some extent, one could say the same thing about the myth of cinema, but its forerunners prior to the nineteenth century have only a remote connection with the myth which we share today and which has prompted the appearance of the mechanical arts that characterize today’s world.”
I agree with Bazin that the what of cinema, 1588 to 2012, is an art formed from the continued pursuit to replicate reality.  However, I believe the why of cinema is to index our human consciousness and pass it on to future generations.  I believe that this why has been a constant.  Therefore, cinema itself is merely an index of consciousness and the methods of imprint are secondary aesthetic choices based in the limitations of time and space. Each person is locked inside their heads. We are merely points in a vast sea of consciousness.  Men before me became Gods, creating an artificial consciousness that zeros in on parallel worlds and people with the intent to communicate something to me. Technologies have changed time and again but the intent remains the same.
Life is a lie.  Film is an imprint of life, therefore, a lie.  If one attempts to make a fantasy of the film it is still a lie, however, if one makes a film saying, “based on true events,” it then becomes true because it is embracing the fact that life itself is a lie.  I think directors like Scorsese and James Cameron embrace the spirit of ever evolving cinema, as Bazin did with the coming of sound, as they embrace 3D.  What is cinema doesn’t really matter in my opinion as long as the why is intact.  Now the cutting edge may be HD3D but tomorrow it will be interactive uploads perceived without eyes or ears but from within while lying in bed.  Maybe someday we will not have cinema because we are finally able to see the holy moment continuously demonstrated all around us and within.  That would take some magic technological leap unlike any seen before or some sort of human evolution.  Either way, I am looking forward. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Titanic 3D

I first saw this movie back when it came out.  Like most kids my age at the time, I saw it as a fancy Hollywood romance.  BUT, you're probably wondering--Is the 3D worth it?  I would say yes, just because I'm a recent convert to the 3D cult B/C after seeing some of the cool things 3D can do, I want to encourage film makers like James Cameron to keep it up.  Scorsese even did Hugo in 3D and that's the stuff I'm talking about.  Using 3D as an extra element to engage the viewer further, draw them in, and tell stories better.  Not typical crap where things fly past your face but subtly.  Now you might be saying WHOA, I saw Titanic and it wasn't subtle, and I agree.. but why I think it is still worth seeing again all these years later--especially if you haven't seen it, like me, since it came out--is because I got a whole new reading on the film.

Now, I see this film is about a lot more than a sinking boat and two crazy kids falling in love.  It's kind of a cheesy play on roles, mostly gender and class.  Anyway, I'm not saying it's revolutionary but that I got a lot more out of it this time around.  Cameron, though he gets a lot of shit--and probably deserves it at times--is a visionary and does some really cool stuff.  It actually reminded me of Avatar in some ways.  Check it out or not, I don't really care 'cause it ain't like he's hurtin' any.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Flowers Of War

The Flowers of War, written by Heng Liu, directed by Yimou Zhang, and starring Christain Bale, Ni Ni, and Xinyi Zhang, is a movie full of pleasures. Though most of the film takes place in a dilapidated church this film really isn’t about religion. The church and Bale are used as connections to the west. The notion that western influence is there to protect and save the innocent is reiterated constantly—the characters literally beg this unworthy and unwilling savior for salvation. Basically, it is my opinion that this movie is not a blatant propaganda film but a loose docu-drama with propagandist overtones that are more than likely placed there to soften the Chinese image in a globalized world. There is enough in there for everyone, but it’s not the best. Some attractive women in some shitty situations. Bale makes a better Batman, but he does have a couple funny scenes while drunk and trying to get laid in a priest outfit. I’d give it 6 out of 10—2 out of 5.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom allows us to take a free look into the tortured soul of a psychopath--and a whole 6 months before Alfred Hitchcock gave us a peek.  It's a shame that Michael Powell, director of The Red Shoes, essentially ruined his career by directing this deep film--commonly referred to as the father of slasher films.  Critics got butthurt and their stupidity spread.  He understood the script so much he put his own son in it and took on the role of the abusive father.  It's worth seeing--not only that--it's worth researching the "what is this film up to" (to quote one of my professors).  The subtext of this film leaps up to bite you in the ass.. if you aren't paying close enough attention, it probably leaves a strange taste in your mouth--which is why I recommend a little research.  You could start here with Dr. Laura Mulvey's short essay on the film.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Everyone should go see Jeff, Who Lives at Home. If the Camera technique bothers you, I think you should take a closer look :) Written and directed by Jay & Mark Duplass. There is always something comforting about seeing brothers come together to produce something.. Someone told me that once. These brothers are no different. In writing, directing, and their actors on screen (Jason Segel and Ed Helms play brothers) these brothers produce something beautiful. I hope to make films like this someday. Funny, thought-provoking, dramatic, a careful use of the cinematic language.. Simply put, a must see. A standard I think other film makers should strive for.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nine Lives

This beautifully painful film picks at the scabs on the soul of the collective consciousness. One continuous shot, separated only by title cards, reminds us that our skin is merely a perceived boundary. This all-star cast pulls off Garcia's conversational drama perfectly; oozing pure emotion leaving you surprised, laughing, crying, etc. Each new scene gives a life lesson. Prisoners, lost lovers, all of us wounded humans yet painfully in love with some facet of life. Well composed. All the cinematic elements push the boundaries until this story reveals our discomfort in looking at reality. I may be biased (because these ghosts dragged chains very familiar to me) but painfully beautiful if you release yourself from the confines of the prison of perception, adjust your lens, and see.


My first attempt at a review for class. We had five minutes to write something that could be used for a short newspaper like publication. I'm obviously not writing for the average viewer here but its honestly how the movie made me feel.