tomorrow: (Default)
2009-12-11 02:21 pm

(no subject)

The Laughing Club of India - I feel that this documentary comes off shallow (in the sense that it doesn't probe as deeply as I would have liked) due to the script and subject matter. The film covered origins of the club, testimonials of members, expansion and events. The film is based upon personal anecdotes and recollections. It felt more like a super long marketing video than a documentary. The problem is that there's not much to dig into with this topic. What else are they supposed to talk about in regards to laughing clubs? The only thing I could think of adding is scientific data supporting the proposed theories that laughter helps mentally, physically and emotionally. I became bored because of all the repetitious scenes of people laughing and interview after interview without any new real information. It felt so pointless after a while - laughing makes you feel good, let me tell you how I feel now. I guess I'm used to a different kind of documentary that has more material to explore. This documentary was more focused on documenting a phenomenon rather than educating or persuading the viewer about something.

Accelerated Under-Development
- Dear Travis Wilkerson, I'm really, really sorry that your footage got screwed up and you lost hours of interviews with Santiago Alvaraz. I really am. But that doesn't give you an excuse to make a "documentary" that almost solely consists of clips from someone else's films with you sticking subtitled transcripts from interviews on the bottom and then be all like OMG I'M SO EXPERIMENTAL. Sure, it's fine if a documentary on a filmmaker includes clips from his films. But when that's the only thing in there, I question the right of the filmmaker to call it a documentary.  I saw this merely as a clip compilation of Alvarez's films with a bit of commentary. If I want to watch Alvarez's films, I'll do it without Wilkerson's help. Maybe he should have just written a book about Santiago from the transcripts instead of subjecting viewers to garish, sometimes obnoxiously commercial and hard to read fonts. Didactic my ass, I don't feel informed. This was by far the worst documentary I have ever seen and I'd venture to say incredibly self-indulgent, but Michael Moore takes the cake in the self-indulgent category so I'll let that one slide. I do not feel I learned anything from it and I'm not sure as to its relevance to our lives today other than the scenes of battle and war that we are shielded from through our media and the fact that our current wars take place in other countries, not on home soil, but I could've gotten that by watching Alvarez's stuff straight.

Germany in Autumn - As you have probably noticed by now, I am extremely anti graphic nudity and sex in film and tv (please note the emphasis on graphic. I don't have nearly as much as an issue with the fact that sex is part of a storyline or there are two people having sex but you don't see much and they cut out pretty early on or you see someone's bare back and are meant to understand that they're naked - I mean boobs and softcore porn a la Californication). Some things offend me (offend isn't the right word, it's more like I've been desensitized to these things) more than others, which does not mean that I am okay with them being there, but they don't make me run screaming for the door. For instance, if you had said that there were breasts, I would have stayed. I would have stayed through a heterosexual couple sex scene as well as long as it wasn't too graphic. You mention male genitalia and I am so out of there. I have been desensitized to breasts due to the fact that I'm a woman and thus I've seen breasts (my own), and the fact that female nudity and sex pops up so often in movies that if you're not super careful, you end up seeing it. After several viewings, it doesn't bother you as much anymore. I have not had the dubious pleasure of seeing penises in real life or in film due to American standards, just all those ancient statues. So I guess if I were used to seeing them, I would be somewhat desensitized as well. And there's totally the issue that at least in modern days penises are not seen as aesthetically pleasing as much as breasts are.

I'm not proud of my desensitization. I wish I had the same visceral reaction to seeing female nudity as I do for male nudity. Not from a fear of sexuality but a respect for it, and the fact that it should not be in the public arena. One may say, well sex IS exploited frequently for money. The entertainment and advertising industries are whoring themselves out. MY film is artistic! My film is doing this for a really good reason!! For what, mainly emotional impact? Sex and nudity are taboo for a reason, and I don't believe in breaking taboos just for the sake of "emotional impact" or because it pisses you off. Some taboos should be broken - like child abuse. We should talk about it and make films about it - it's obvious why. But nudity, we should break a huge taboo like this for what, to demonstrate that we are so comfortable with our sexuality that everyone should see it? I'm not saying ignore sex and nudity and pretend they don't exist - these are serious topics of discussion and I don't even object to sex because it is sex, but how it is USED. Society has been desensitized to sexuality. An example: seeing women in tank tops and short shorts isn't that notable anymore, especially to a nonreligious person. But take a religious Jewish man who lives in a society where the women are asked to cover their arms above the elbow, legs below the knee and chest below the collarbone. Stick them in a room with a religious woman wearing a tank and really, that's all it takes because that is pretty sexy to someone sensitive. And it's really sad some people have to resort to more extreme sexual practices to get their kicks because hey, that's boring I'm used to it all the regular stuff. So I don't really care what the reason is to show the graphic nudity. In my eyes there is never a justifiable excuse for graphic nudity and sex. Anything can be accomplished with a more tasteful shot, a more tasteful cut, a fade to black, careful placing of cameras, metaphors, etc. So boohoo you lost out a bit of emotional intensity and your shock value for the sake of the greater good. Make up for it through script and acting and camera. And I don't think a lot of people will even understand the point I am making about desensitization. I mean, Kyle, in class you're all like, I don't remember if there's any nudity in it, because it means so little, you've seen so much of it. Trust me, I remember every single bit. And for me to watch a film in order to be more "informed" about the use of sex and nudity kind of defeats the entire point I have just made.
tomorrow: (Default)
2009-12-06 04:19 pm

(no subject)

(Hate) Machine - According to the official website this film is classified as a satire, which clears up the debate on whether this is meant to be a documentary or not.

The film demonstrates how the media likes to take sound bites completely out of context and recombine them to present a whole new picture that the original speaker never intended. This is such a despicable and disreputable practice and it makes me sick. This is the farthest thing possible from truth, even if this is the 'truth' the filmmaker sees. Truths may be varied and even contradictory, but they MUST be based on FACTS . If the whole statement is "I hate Arabs who blow themselves up and kill other people" but the media decides to skewer it and report that "I hate Arabs" then I think there's a special place in hell for them. For Michael Moore and all those other filmmakers who think that they can present truth by twisting documented reality, think twice. If you want to offer up an interpretation of a series of events and you are able to convincingly back up your version with FACTUAL evidence, that's great. What was presented in (Hate) Machine may have been true in a filmmaker's mind, and an actual reality that does exist for some people, but what was presented was not true reality.

As for news being truly objective, I don't think it's possible, because even by choosing to report certain things indicates bias, no matter how carefully everything is worded. So stfu and stop bashing on Fox News, because you know what? Every. Other. News. Agency. out there is a cesspool of liberalism but they won't admit it. Can everyone just come out of the 'objective' closet and admit that OMG THEY HAVE OPINIONS? If you want don't want a conservative opinion, go watch some other station.

A Girl Like Me
- I take back my statement that I wished that this film had expanded the range of socioeconomic individuals interviewed. I think this film suffered the most in not restricting its topic as much as it could have, because there were actually two different yet closely related topics in this film. A) How young black women feel the urge to conform to white standards of beauty and B) how black children feel that whites are better, as demonstrated by the doll experiment. They're not quite the same - A is a subtopic of B. I think that leaving out the doll experiment would help narrow the topic some more, especially if it's only a seven minute film. The doll experiment almost felt like it was there for shock value (even BABIES think this way! gasp!) and the format of the experiment clashed with the interview format established previously - there wasn't enough time for both formats. The film might have worked better if the experiment was presented first, and they focused on a clip of a child saying how the white doll was more beautiful and went into the interviews from there. It would have also been nice to have seen more actual instances of black women making themselves more white, as shown in the credits with the girl getting her hair straightened, because that image really drove the image home for me. To see that girl ironing her hair, with the steam coming off of it, all I could think of was that she was really burning herself and causing pain in order to measure up to some imagined idealization of beauty.
tomorrow: (Default)
2009-12-04 03:55 pm

(no subject)

Two Men and a Wardrobe - This film was so nonsensical. I get that the story was about two men who don't fit into society and are treated badly because of it, but the addition of the surreal elements of the sea and wardrobe ruined it for me. On the other hand, I can see how the wardrobe is an attempt to take an old topic and make it fresh again, or maybe Polanski was really into surrealism (if that's even the right term for this). I wouldn't be surprised if writer of The Red Balloon based his script on this, especially as the scene with the child not being allowed on the trolley/train seems to be a direct homage to the scene where the two men are not allowed on the trolley/train with the wardrobe. NIce image of the men going back into the sea, like I said in class, very reminiscent of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.


(And a really helpful hint to all students: I know very little poetry, but Prufrock is one of my favorite poems and I've learned if you go around spouting references to it you sound amazingly academic and well read. Go memorize the entire thing, and The Wasteland too while you're at it.)

Obligatory comment on the homoerotic nature of the two men's relationship, although I'm perfectly happy to chalk it off to European behavior, since it's very likely that their behavior was not considered gay in Poland in the 1950's. (See: Middle Eastern customs of men holding hands versus American customs). Or possibly the film is commenting upon how male homosexuality is not tolerated in mainstream society with the wardrobe being the gay closet these two affectionate men have come out of.

I don't understand why this film is considered to be such a masterpiece - exactly what did it accomplish in terms of anything? Why is it famous?

The Morning Guy - Hey, if this film made it into a film festival despite its technical flaws, then so can I. Color correction is your best friend.

I though the man was a really great actor, he delivered his lines so perfectly, and the dialogue was very well written. It sounded exactly like a radio show in the morning. The only thing that irritated me was why did he drive his wife away? Did he do it on purpose? Was he trying to get rid of her? Why? And if he simply couldn't help himself, then why didn't he seem more upset once she had left? Does the character know something that is never revealed to the audience, such as this happens all the time and the wife will come back? I wish the man's motivations had been made more clear, because then this would have been a truly fun and intriguing script for me.
tomorrow: (Default)
2009-12-04 02:25 pm

(no subject)

The Most Beautiful Man in the World - This film wins the award for being the most seemingly harmless flick that is actually dripping with disturbing sexual undertones. I'm surprised that no one else in class really seemed to notice, but then again, this is the kind of thing that many people would not choose to mention and I'm just blunt enough to come out with it. That shot starting on the girl's stomach was really sexual. I thought it was a grown woman until I saw the face, because those shots are usually used to convey sexuality and are never used with children. 

I don't quite know what to do with this film though. So it acknowledges childhood sexuality. But so what? What is the point of this all? We should start encouraging children to act on it? Or is the point that if we understand it, we can deal with it better? The film portrays childhood sexuality in a positive fashion, starting with the name of the film and the fact that the child's home is sterile and dead while the outside 'sexual' world is beautiful and free and seems to just be making an observation, taking a snapshot of a moment in a child's life. Maybe there is no point to it. If this were an adult I don't know if I'd be asking these same questions as much as just accepting the film for what it is. But as this is a child and this is a huge taboo, this film is supposed to be raising questions. Wow. What a loaded topic, and kudos to the filmmaker dealing with it in a subtle respectful way, because I'm sure that lots of filmmakers would prefer to go at it in a far more crass way.

I noticed that the screen was extremely narrow, more so than in standard widescreen films. Not quite sure what to make of that, is it hinting towards a limited childhood perspective, that they 'see' less? Or is this just an aesthetic choice?

Really lovely sound design when the girl is in the grass, and as I have spent like 10 hours sweetening semi crappy audio, I sincerely appreciate the amount of work put into make the grass sound just perfect. 

The Winter People - The biggest problem with this movie was the editing, with a secondary issue of writing. I'm not encouraging speeding up the movie - the tempo was fine - but just snipping off unnecessarily long bits that got in the way of the story progressing and add nothing to the plot would have been helpful. The most glaringly obvious example of this would be the flashback scene on the beach with the mother on the phone with the father. As The Screenwriter's Bible notes, flashbacks are really hard to do properly, and this one in particular didn't add any new information or emotional impact. I would really enjoy watching this movie over again if someone would re-edit it - heck, I'd be happy to do it myself, and that is a NICE OFFER, not me being mean, because I CAN BE NICE!

I also had a problem with the way the story ended. It came off incredibly cheesy like it belonged on the Hallmark Channel. Now, if the writer/director is aiming for that audience then I guess they succeeded, but the story could have been so much more powerful. There are two worlds overlaid upon each other that both explain the mussled bedclothes and lipstick - the fantastical explanation of the winter people and the real life explanation of the father and his girlfriend. In the movie however, the only explanation that is completely confirmed is the fantasy one, and that's what ruins it for me. By having the end scene with the winter people and the ball of light play out without the little girl witnessing it, it establishes that the fantasy explanation, while not being the only explanation, is TRUE. The supernatural DOES exist. There is no corresponding confirmation of the real life explanation, other than the mother's say-so. And that is the crux of the cheesiness of this movie - that the fantasy has not only been confirmed, but has been done so outside of the little girl's perspective, and that the real life explanation is almost dismissed. The writer is either aiming for a story about a girl who tries to rationalize upsetting real life events with a fantasy explanation (which would be achieved through a confirmation of the real life explanation and not the fantasy one), or a story about dead people who come back for the winter in the form of balls of light. Actually, come to think  of it, it's not quite clear what the main story in this movie is: Is it about the little girl or the winter people? Is it a serious and sweet piece about what happens to dead loved ones or an exploration of the effects of divorce on children? Is the movie just about 'loss' in general? The movie's too short and not well-written enough to deal with all these questions.

The way the movie stands, it could be roughly salvaged by cutting the last scene and the scene where the girl learns that the plumber is the dead son, thus confirming neither explanation and toning down the cheese factor, leaving the audience to wonder what happen.
tomorrow: (Default)
2009-11-30 07:58 pm

(no subject)

Wasp - Wasp is an excellent example of using flaws in order to make a character believable, sympathetic and real. The writer could easily have depicted the mother as a negligent slut, but instead chose to portray far more nuanced character who sincerely loves her children but does not do right by them due to her socioeconomic status and lack of support and parenting skills. This is accomplished through contrasting the mother’s negative actions, such as leaving them outside the bar, with her positive actions, like dancing for the children and rushing to them when they scream for her.

The subtext of this film is dripping with questions: Where did the children's father go? What had happened to the boyfriend that he had left the army? What was the mother and boyfriend's relationship with the past? The film offers up these tantalizing questions but refuses to answer them. Generally, I'm a fan of tying up loose threads, but as these questions are not incredibly relevant to the story, leaving them unanswered adds intrigue and allows the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves. Speaking of questions the film raises, the way to distinguish between good questions and bad ones, structurally speaking, is whether the question is a major one that impacts the plot or a minor one that adds intrigue. If I finished watching this film and was left wondering what the mother's motivation for her actions was, then that would be a 'bad' question, as this should have been answered in the film and is an essential part of the plot. However, since I'm left wondering how the mother and the boyfriend's relationship ended in the first place, it's a more subtle question that does not impact the plot. We don't need to know specifics about the end of their relationship - it's obvious that the two had been separated yet still liked each other. Knowing what happened is not relevant to the story.

The title of the film, Wasp, obviously refers to the wasp that lands on the baby's mouth. However according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'wasp' also means "Something that irritates or offends one." I think there's an interesting bit of wordplay going on here, as 'wasp' can refer to both the event with the insect that causes the mother to ultimately choose her children, but also hints to their role in her life as something holding her back and irritating her. (This observation was brought to you by my Romantic Lit class, which consisted of me writing essays on how certain key words have multiple meanings to them and thus reflect a fascinating truth about the text in question. See: Middlemarch and the word/name "Will".)

Some Folks Call It A Slingblade - I'm eternally grateful to this film for providing me with the inspiration to name my final film project for Prod 1. We had just watched SFCIAS in class, and I was thinking of a title for my film when I realized that SFCIAS drew its title from a catchy line in the dialogue that related to the subject matter, and thus I was able to create a title the same way for my film (I Tried to Bribe God).

This film was heavily dialogue driven to the point of having one character speak an extended monologue, which is typically a big no no in script writing but I guess if you know what you're doing, then you can get away with it. This just makes me extremely bitter because my above mentioned film I Tried to Bribe God was also dialogue driven and my teacher was like, 'ok, cut 2 minutes from this five minute film because people are ADD and can't sit through dialogue driven material unless you have a disgusting amount of camera angles and shots' YET people are perfectly capable of sitting through SFCIAS and its dialogue? And then I realized that the "talking heads" on tv shows are no more sophisticated than anything I did in my film, which leaves me wondering what the hell she was talking about, and if she just really meant 'your script sucks' but wouldn't say it? Because I am extremely, extremely disappointed with this shortened version of my film. Um, back to SFCIAS, which is to say I had no problem with the dialogue driven material - in fact, I adore dialogue and the set up of the film was done in such a perfect way that even though exposition was being shoved down our throats, it was fine because it was being told to an outsider who had a legitimate reason for being told this story. Telling exposition to an outsider is always a great way to get away with it, and numerous tv shows and movies start out with a newcomer (the "messenger") or brand new situation ("intrusion") in order to capitalize upon this tactic (See: Mulder the believer explaining the supernatural to Scully the young naive skeptic or Neo the literal newcomer).

Great job raising a really controversial issue and leaving the audience to chew on it. The reporter models a form of behavior for the audience to follow: she initially comes in hostile to the murderer, and leaves far more sympathetic and thoughtful. There are a couple of questions being posed, namely "Are murderers born or made? (nature vs nurture)" and "How should we deal with murderers who have been released?" What's also nice is that it isn't blatantly obvious as to what the writer thinks the answers are. I wanted to say that the writer believes that murderers are made, but upon thinking it over, I don't think that's the full answer. There's a bit of a sadistic streak in Carl that hints at his being born that way.

Oh, and the lighting was pretty.
tomorrow: (Default)
2009-11-29 01:57 am

(no subject)

Mothlight - On a purely aesthetic level I enjoyed this movie. However, I probably would have enjoyed it just as much as a series of still photographs or as pieces of leaves glued onto textured paper, so it wasn't the 'moving' part of it that did anything for me really. I found it very interesting that although there was no narrative element to the film, many students in the class felt that the film did express some sort of story, and the quote at the beginning by Brakhage can support this. If this film is the birth, life and death of a moth, then I want to say that this is deep and meaningful and a fascinating look at life experienced through a bug's eyes. On the other hand, I want to condemn it in my capitalistic fashion as a meaningless piece of art that doesn't follow any traditional or nontraditional narrative structure, and without some sort of narrative structure, meaning or message, I find it hard to see the worth of the piece, unless the whole point is seeing the film as an empty vessel waiting for a viewer to project some sort of meaning onto it, a concept that vaguely appeals to me but ultimately I reject. Why, I'm not quite sure. It seems almost lazy, the artist throwing together a couple of images and asking you to provide meaning. I mean, with this excuse ANYTHING can fall under art. This red blob? How do YOU feel about it? Don't ask the artist why they put it there! By the very act of DECLARING xyz art, the artist states that it is MEANINGFUL. There is nothing wrong with a viewer putting their own meaning onto something, but the artist should have a meaning present to begin with. Isn't art also about communicating with other human beings, trying to give over something to someone else, whether it be an actual meaning or a feeling? Again, we come back to my feelings on contemporary art. At least Mothlight is beautiful in a way, which is more than I can say about some of the crap in the UCLA sculpture garden (Can you believe it? That weird structure in the right hand corner is a sculpture - it was this big thing you could walk inside. No clue what it was for, rather boring piece of art) I was forced to walk through to reach my film classes at UCLA (much UCLA <3 though)

Fireworks - So at least this film tried to get a meaning across, despite lack of narrative structure, so I can't rip into it for that. I WILL diss it though based on the pretentiousness of the voiceover and the sometimes in-your-face symbolism. I find it hard to relate to this film as I am not into homosexuality, BDSM or fantasies about hot young sailors, but I loved the hand with the finger broken off (my mother was like, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? and I'm like, CASTRATION IMAGERY MOM, AND BTW THANKS FOR PUTTING PHALLIC CURTAIN RODS  IN MY BEDROOM. Oh yes, I have been in the humanities department too long). The firecracker in the pants was disturbing because I question the sanity of anyone who would want to put that anywhere near their genitals, but it was an effective image.

The thing that did catch my attention most about this film was the lack of explicit sexual content. I mean, Anger totally got this points about sexuality across without resorting to flapping flacid dicks around or showing the poor sap getting raped other than his facial expressions, and I totally appreciate that (I got the impression that his later films were more explicit though, yes?). Even though I may stand in opposition to this film on so many levels - morally, aesthetically, narratively - fillmmakers should take note that it is possible to convey meaningful and powerful sexual concepts without resorting to graphic, explicit, gratuitous or titillating sex and nudity (and yet I feel like this totally wasn't Anger's point, but hey, as a viewer I can put my own interpretation on this ha). I have yet to watch a film or tv show that was made better by the addition of such things. Seriously, if you want boobies, get some porn. Don't screw up my favorite tv show. I found Anger's depictions of sexual issues far more meaningful and creative than, say, all the prostitutes showing off their lack of boobs on Dexter. Hey, if Anger can do it, then Showtime can tone it down a bit, yeah? FADE TO BLACK is your best friend.

tomorrow: (Default)
2009-11-15 12:48 am

9

I'll Wait For the Next One - First off, the title of this short is absolutely amazing - it's what the woman wishes she had done in the first place, or is muttering to herself afterward. I think this was one of the shortest fllms we've watched so far, yet it packed one of the most powerful punches of the entire semester. I certainly felt like I'd been socked in the gut by the punchline of the film, I felt the pain and embarrassment of that woman. The director did an amazing job getting the viewer drawn into the story within minutes by using scenarios that we have all experienced - riding down an escalator and checking out the people going up, observing voyeur-like the people making out around us, standing on a crowded bus or subway as some crazy person makes an announcement.

The story takes an abrupt turn when the man begins to make his announcement on the train, and from then on the film is a series of forwards, starting with the very first word of "Hello." Each sentence further defies the stereotype of a random guy making an announcement on a train - you would assume he wants money, but the man says he does not. He reaches for his pocket, and it looks like he may be going for a gun, but no gun ever appears. The withholding of information is excellent, especially since it's so masterfully accomplished only within a few minutes.

I found the man completely sincere and if I had been on the train I would have believed him. I wouldn't have gotten off the train for him, because as sincere as I found him, I'm not a fan of looking for love in all the wrong places with random strangers, but I know that floats some people's boats. I guess I thought he was sincere because what he was doing was so outlandish and potentially embarrassing that you don't do it unless you're serious/desperate/seriously desperate. The bit with the heckler furthered the ruse as well.

And ug, I hate to say it, but he hit that disgustingly romantic part of my soul that I like to pretend doesn't exist unless I'm watching Stargate SG-1 and rooting for Sam and Jack to get hitched and have loads of cute and brilliant babies while they cavort around the galaxy and save the world. (Oh gawd, I have a romantic soft spot, I won't elaborate upon my feelings for Mulder and Scully here because that would just take up the rest of the next week). This is very interesting though, particularly as I hate the majority of romantic and romantic comedy movies (except Casablanca), and I wonder what it is about this short that hit me so hard. Maybe because I find most love stories outlandish and silly, and this was just incredibly sincere, hopeful, tightly written, heartbreaking, and makes what should have been a conventional ending get into a very uncomfortable headstand. A far more devastating critique and blow to the concept of true love than anything else I've ever seen.

Dog - Kind of silly, but when I saw in the opening credits that the film had been made by Australians, I assumed that the movie was about the whites and aborigines in Australia, so I spent the first few minutes confused til I realized the boss's name was Johannes and that it was so very Afrikaans. But I do like how the filmmakers don't spoon feed the setting and time period to the audience and make you figure it out through cues like the boss's name, the accents and the subservient blacks. For someone like me who knows history and whose mother is from South Africa, I was able to quickly place the film, but for a younger audience who can barely locate neighboring states of the US on a map, forget about Afghanistan, this may present a problem: "Oh, a British accent and black slaves - it must be set in the Civil War in the US South!" (I seriously hope it's not that bad).

My favorite thing about the movie was the fact that there were so many possible interpretations of both the motivations of the boss and the ending. The boss beat the dog to teach the dog who's boss, to teach the boy who's the boss, to show the boy how worthless he is, the filmmaker representing the oppression of apartheid through this exchange, to make the dog loyal to the boss, to take something away from the boy that he loved (casual cruelty). I love ambiguous endings, they're basically "choose your own adventure stories." One of the best examples of this ever is in the book "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, with an ending that can be interpreted in three different yet equally valid ways (he lives, he dies, he hallucinates) that reflect the worldview of the reader. Dog allows this same flexibility with a crazy amount of different emotional and psychological ramifications. Does he shoot the dog due to loyalty to his boss? Does he let the boss die due to loyalty to the dog? Does he shoot the dog due to blindly following his boss's instructions? Does he let the boss die because he had it coming and he hates the boss? Does he refuse to shoot the dog but still attempt to reach the boss? Does he shoot the boss? The bullet sound does not necessarily have to be one occurring in reality - it could have been in the boy's mind, the bullet signifying the decision that he makes - or it could have been an actual bullet shot and the sound was overlaid on top of the video as a transitional cut leading to the next scene of the dead dog.

The other great thing about this film was the way that it had multiple endings. The film could have ended after the dog had been beaten and after the dog chases the friend away as well, and I would have been content. This is really nice, especially in contrast to some movies that seem to have reached endings but then forge on ahead for another hour (Case in point: Minority Report). This film reaches multiple endings and is still able to keep on going without overstepping its boundaries because each story that comes after adds on a new dimension that enriches the previous scene.

A Guy Walks Into A Bar - Ahhhhh what a fun film!! I knew from the moment I saw the title that I'd love it, even if I didn't know who Fred Savage was. It was still funny even without that piece of information. Everything was brilliant about this film, from the casting (the girl with the bikini and the tattoos - her name is Texas Terry lol) to the locations (apparently everything was shot on location in SoCal? I think - I tried to pay attention to the credits) and the way the opening sequence was cut. I usually get annoyed when a movie or tv episode starts with a sequence from the end or middle and then retraces the steps it took to get there, but this was done very well by mixing up the timeline, throwing pieces of the past, present and future all together in a nontraditional opening sequence. I loved how this was a homage/parody of the Western genre, especially the way they had Josh walk into the bar like a real badass cowboy. Most of the Western bits were spot on, but the hooker with a heart of a gold has always raised my hackles, especially since Josh is some pisher white Jewish kid from Ohio suburbia and he hooks up with a hardcore prostitute on the road and they live happily ever after? And how is this desirable whatsoever? Hahaha, this is some teenage boy fantasy that works only if I don't think too hard about it.

This is also a coming of age tale which starts out with Josh and his overprotective parents, and culminates in Josh being able to single-handedly kick ass while looking manly and getting the girl. Josh leaves his sheltered home and is exposed to "real life" and "love." He learns and experiences many adult skills such as being resourceful, having incredibly unwise sexual intercourse, dealing with seemingly overwhelming odds and how to deal with an overheated car in the middle of a desert. Just your average skill set. Hey, if he can handle this adventure, I'm sure he'll do great as an actor in Hollywood. He can kick ass while he waits tables.

Everytime I try to forget about 80's and 90's fashion we have to watch another movie with some tart dressed up in a miniskirt and tacky top with puffy hair. Sluts are so much more fashionable these days.

And honestly, I need to stop using up all my good stuff in class and save some for the blog!

tomorrow: (Default)
2009-11-12 01:10 am

8

Gridlock - This short wasn't bad at all! The twist at the end is fantabulous, and the pacing and buildup of the story is very well done. The director strategically withholds information from both the audience and the father by having the father on hold as the little girl goes to do his bidding, and having the little girl take her sweet time telling the story of what happened. An older person would have gotten back on the phone screaming, "He's dead, Jim," and only a little kid could realistically stretch out the story that long.

I didn't like the fact that both the 'uncle' and mother died by accident within minutes of each other. Highly implausible, and kind of ruined the short for me. I'm all for suspension of disbelief, but as this short is supposed to take place in a real world setting with a semi serious tone, I have limits on number of people randomly dying within 5 minutes. If this had been a horror, comedy or even a sci fi, then that number would have been much higher. Also, the nudity was rather unnecessary and tasteless - it added nothing to the film other than cheap "shock" value. The story would have played exactly the same had the mother held a shirt over her breasts as she ran instead of having them exposed. Don't get me started - gratuitous (read: most) sex and nudity in film and tv holds a special place on my top 10 list of "Things that Cause My Blood Pressure to Rise." If you really want to hear more about my thoughts on this, I have an 8 page paper devoted to the topic of sex on tv and how tv shows don't require sexual content to be wildly popular hits ("Bitch please, I Love Lucy IS STILL IN SYNDICATION.")

I think the song at the end was a bit too much. It was very helpful in informing the audience as to what had really happened, which was a bit confusing - I originally thought that the daughter was in someone else's home and the father was thinking "How am I going to find her with her mother and Wim dead?" - but the song cleared that up fast. However, the tone of the song felt completely off to me - it was very silly and childish, and almost obnoxiously shoved the answer of 'wrong number' into your face.
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2009-11-07 08:05 pm

7

La jetée - I had to watch La jetée one and a half times, because I zoned so far out that I too woke up in the future it was so utterly profound that it took two viewings. It was fascinating to find out that upon my first half viewing I saw the film as incredibly slow, but on the second viewing somehow it had miraculously had sped up. Time is relative!

I both enjoyed and disliked this film. I love this film because it is a work of art. Each shot is stunning, well framed and artistic. The soundtrack is mindblowing - I loved the whispering (wonder why they were whispering in German though?) and the chorus of voices. At first I didn't like how the movie consisted solely of still shots (I was going to argue in class that this didn't qualify as a movie because it was just a series of images, but I had to give in because movies consist of images strung together albeit a lot faster) , but it grew on me, and I actually appreciate the statement it makes on time. The film makes you feel like an observer through the narration and the still photos. As someone not involved in the action, you are able to realize that all time is a collection of moments strung together. We exist in the here and now, moment to moment, in pieces of time. We do not exist in the past or future, only the present, and this holds true even when the character goes to the past and future - when he is in the future, he exists in the present of that future. The past and future are only memories and imaginings.

The idea that the past and future only exist in one's head is further reinforced through the method of time travel described/not described in the film (this is the part that I disliked).  I was thoroughly confused by the film's method of time traveling. There were no machines or scientific explanations - time travel is this mystical psychological method achieved through control over one's thoughts and memories, and that really pissed me off even if it's philosophically pleasing. You can't just hop through time because you willed it, which leads me to believe that one possible interpretation of this film is that it's all about mind games and brain experimentation, and that the entire movie took place in his memories during the present day ruins of Paris, including the memories of the child. Far fetched, but it's one of the only ways I can reconcile the events of the movie in a way that makes sense to me. 

Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life
- I want to say Kafka is rolling in his grave, but I haven't read enough of his work to distinguish what 'kafkaesque' truly means and whether he would be pleased or not by this film, but I don't think it means cheesy and silly. I'm a fan of parodies, but this was just ridiculously nonsensical, cheesy and over the top. Somebody was high when they made this. I love parodies - I thought George Lucas in Love was great - but this so didn't deserve Best Live Action Short at the Oscars. Kafka singing Christmas carols and grieving over smushed bugs? Gooey sentimentality might have worked for Jimmy Stewart, but to throw in a respected literary figure who certainly didn't write that kind of dreck tears me apart. The plot is vaguely based on Kafka's search for a muse but is really a thin excuse to throw in random nonsense that I wish had something profound beneath it but which sorely escapes me. This is altogether sad because I adore literary parodies and I think this could have been magnificent if taken more seriously. A shining example of everything I find utterly unbearable about post modern art, or maybe I'm just interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.

Interesting tidbit: The Metamorphosis is not necessarily about an insect.

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2009-11-04 11:58 pm

6

An Exercise in Discipline: Peel:  I didn't really like this film as I felt it had very little to offer. I would consider this film a "snippet" of life, where a filmmaker either takes a small, seemingly insignificant event out of everyday life and makes it meaningful or tells a story without using traditional beginnings and endings, which is not to say there isn't a beginning and ending, but if we were to look at the movie in a greater context, then the beginning and ending of the story would be harder to spot as they are less defined. For example, a traditional beginning and end can be found in The Sixth Sense which opens with a shooting and ends with the realization that the main character is dead - very significant life events. In other movies, like A Serious Man, the movie starts out of nowhere, just by introducing the family, and no clearly definable plot ever develops all the way to the ending that cuts off in medias res (I hear The Sopranos ended that way too and it broke loyal fans' hearts). Sometimes that really works for me, but the key is that there is still a clear idea of what will happen after the screen goes blank. I don't like endings that just END, although I think I can accept that the point of the film was that for this family, nothing will change, nothing will continue, they will stay stuck in the stagnating depression of life, in a loop, not a line. That brings up the question really of 'what is resolution?' For me, resolution is closure and should be different from the beginning, not the same. I don't think the majority of people enjoy watching films that do not change from beginning to ending in some way. Even films that start and end at the same point usually do some from different perspectives.

In Peel, the short is clearly just touching the tip of the iceburg of backstory. The father was looking to buy a plot of land but had no wife with him, only his sister - was he buying a place to bury his wife, which would explain his erratic behavior towards the other characters. Other people in class made good suggestions as well, all of which I could totally buy. The characters' behaviors were clearly ones that had happened before, and I love the little mystery of it all.

The family chart seemed very superfluous to me. I don't think it changed the story much if the woman had been the mother and not the aunt. Either way, it's kind of obvious why the kid is dysfunctional. Also, it would be very easy to identify the man and woman as father and aunt without a family tree or resorting to blatantly obvious dialogue such as the child crying "Auntie, auntie!" For example, they could have had the sister yell something like, "I'm glad I never had any kids so I don't have to deal with a brat like yours," which indicates that the man is the father.

Also, Jane Campion ought to be shot for dressing her cast the way she did. Or tarred and feathered. And I really ought to stop blabbing my mouth off in class because I have no new comments to make on my blog as I used them all up already.

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge: I respect this movie because Rod Serling thought it was good enough to be a part of The Twilight Zone. But I'm not really a fan of it. It went far too slowly. I blame that more on changing tastes in film history though. I mean, once upon a time, people were fascinated by watching a clip of a train chug along. We have far more sophisticated tastes today. If a filmmaker did a remake of this film in today's day and age, it would probably be 5 minutes or less, which totally makes me want to remake this for class.

They did a wonderful job playing around with the concept of relativity, one second for a dying man is a whole lifetime. It is pretty uncommon to see films that attempt to expand time, as most films are devoted to cutting away time in order to get along with the story.

I love the way the film uses black and white high contrast images, it's visually stunning. A lot of the shots could pass as still photography, especially the nature ones with the white spiderweb against a black background. Filming in black and white is a whole different way of thinking, as colors that stand out in nature often look the same in black and white.

As for the main character being of mixed race, maybe he's Creole (mixed French, African American and/or Native American ancestry) or something? I recall the character Rene Picard in Gone With the Wind, described as "a dark, grinning little monkey of a man," dark and swarthy, and he was of French descent from Louisiana, that could explain the appearance.
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2009-10-30 04:28 am

5

New York Stories continued
  • Life Without Zoe - I don't understand the title of this movie. Life With Zoe makes more sense, unless they're referring to the fact that the parents live life without Zoe. Very cute piece obviously based on the Eloise series (god, I LOVED those books) that spirals out of control by the end, which oddly enough works as this is a children's fantasy piece. Thus, it make sense that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that her parents reconcile and her mother takes an interest in Zoe's life. I loved the way the short satirized the socialite life of New Yorkers through the little girls that dressed and acted just like obscenely wealthy adults. The return of the jewel earring is a blatant plot device that felt unnecessary to me - I don't see how the movie would have been much different without it. I feel like the movie comes of as self indulgent due to a bit of a long winded script - they could have easily cut ten minutes - and a plot that felt almost childishly simplistic at some points and undefineably vague at other points. After watching the movie, I can totally envision Coppola and Sofia chilling together and randomly deciding to write some script based on Sofia's child fantasies with high production values and extravagent costumes. I did enjoy the movie, but there is something missing from it for me. I think that something is a more tightly woven storyline. Lol at the last scene where the father is playing flute in front of what looks like a cheesy backdrop and for some reason it makes me laugh to know that the actor is SO not playing that flute.
  • Oedipus Wrecks - BEST. TITLE. EVER. I'm running out and renting every movie Woody Allen has ever made. Which so doesn't excuse the fact that he's a sick perv for marrying Mia Farrow's daughter, but whatever, I admit to still watching Roman Polanski movies (MACBETH FTW). The casting was amazing. Woody Allen is a fantastic actor. Great stab at fake psychics with Treva!! I only have one quibble about this movie, but it's a huge one: the movie should have ended right after the mother ended up in the sky, with Sheldon realizing that his mother will be watching and nagging him from the heavens forever. A much more climactic and psychologically devastating ending in my opinion than getting engaged to a woman just like his mother, even if that relates better to the title. Plus, the movie just seemed to drag on and on for no good reason after that point. Again, I point to a script that meanders all over the place, like a ball of tightly woven yarn that the cat is dragging around and unraveling. I was wondering what genre this piece would be considered, maybe magical realism or just pure fantasy? This movie makes for a fascinating analysis of Sheldon's goal, wants and needs. Goal: to get married. Wants: to be free of his mother. End reveal: Needs - his mother, or a woman like her.
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2009-10-29 12:54 am

4

New York Stories

I really enjoyed these three shorts, to the extent that I was rather tired when we started watching them, but woke up completely 5 minutes into Life Lessons because I liked it so much. I think these pieces are all absolutely wonderful in terms of showcasing the location of New York City. Since the location is a well known one, it helps the audience digest the backstory of the shorts as there are many stereotypes and expectations associated with NYC that come out within each film. NYC is well known for many communities, including the artist, wealthy socialite and Jewish communities that are explored within these shorts. NYC is the canvas on which the stories are painted on and the characters are popular stereotypes that are made human through the mastery of the directing, casting and acting. Although the official theme linking these shorts is NYC, the unofficial theme joining the three is also dysfunction, as each short features highly dysfunctional characters, families and situations.
  • Life Lessons - Very interesting use of irises. Not only did it tell the audience where to focus their attention, but it also contributed to the artistic feel of the film. There were plenty of beautiful close up shots, especially the shots of the canvases. This short was brilliantly cast and acted. If there is one thing I'm learning to appreciate in film school, it's the importance of casting. I've watched far too many films and tv shows where I just did not buy into the characters one bit (*cough Fringe cough*). For me, good casting can sometimes save an otherwise flawed movie (I'm looking at you and your BIG ASS PLOTHOLE, A Serious Man). The location of the studio was not only an aesthetically wonderful location, but also a location that reflected the life of Lionel. The large looming emptiness of the studio signified to me the emptiness of his soul, the disregard he has for Paulette. His life is a large room with a huge painting, his massive ego, in the middle that calls your attention to it. The hole in the wall of Paulette's bedroom is a window into another space and he constantly reaches through it and tries to drag that space/ Paulette back to his lair/studio. When Lionel refuses to tell Paulette if her art is good, I interpreted that as a statement about what an artist is. In some people's minds, art is not just about what is actually being created, e.g. the physical painting. It's about the ideology, the pain, the suffering, the struggle, and the meaning. Lionel cannot acknowledge Paulette as an artist based solely on her artwork - she has not struggled and won the right to be called an artist in his mind.

TBC with Coppola and Allen's incredible self induglence and wacky plotlines that should have been cut by 10 minutes.

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2009-10-23 04:47 pm

3

  • George Lucas in Love - First short we've watched that I absolutely loved. However, this is not that shocking considering how I just finished filming a short where two teenage boys dressed as a Star Trek officer and Darth Vader duke it out to see who has the better sci fi legacy. Intertextual ftw. I love the concepts of intertextual and metatextual. It feels like you, as a viewer, and the director are sitting on a couch and giggling over in-jokes. Re film intertext specifically, it's a shared cultural experience at this point. We've moved on from shared experiential questions like "Where were you when you heard that JFK/John Lennon had died?" to "Did you see District 9? Wasn't it so awesome?" When I think about it, I guess it's kind of sad that we are such a tv/film oriented culture and have drifted away from other everyday forms of shared cultural experiences (examples: literature, events, religion). On the other hand, I'm in film school, so clearly I don't think it's that sad. On the third hand, intertext can require an extensive knowledge of world history, film, books, and current events depending on the sophistication of the piece, and be very clever ( ("God willing, we'll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money" - triple whammy, referencing Jews, Hollywood sequels and Star Trek: The Search for Spock all at once). I felt that George Lucas in Love did a wonderful job with most of the references. However, a few of the references really annoyed me, such as the Yoda professor. Lol at me quibbling over realism, but if the professor had been some old Asian dude that could hardly speak English, it would have played out better. Ditto for the Threepio and Artoo reference, the beeping was too silly and didn't work in the semi-realistic world of the film. Totally saw the twist with George and Marion being siblings from a mile off, but having them share a mother didn't work for me, as a) a mother would find it much harder to hide a secret like that, and b) there is no mother in the Original Trilogy (the Prequel Trilogy does not exist in my world, kthnx) and it would have been funnier to have their father walk in.
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2009-10-22 01:05 am
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2

  • The Red Balloon - I found The Red Balloon to be a visually stunning and sweetly whimsical. The bright red balloon set against a more neutral colored blue tinged Parisian cityscape was quite striking, along with the shots of brightly colored balloons floating in the sky above the muted brown and white buildings. Visually, the movie is definitely a work of art. A lot of the shots are so well framed and artistically conceived that I wouldn't mind having them captured as still photography and mounted in an art exhibit. I liked how the director used a lot of wide and long shots, showing off the location to its fullest, because this movie is just as much about the location as the little boy and his balloon. This movie would not be nearly as charming if it were set in some other location, say a modern day city. The location seems almost like a character of its own, and this movie tells a visual story of the the city as the little boy runs through it. This is especially poignant considering that the area that this movie was shot in is no more - ninety-five percent of the locations used in the film were razed to the ground in the late 1960's. As much as I liked the visual aspects of this film however, I found the movie somewhat boring due to the pace. As much as it pains me to admit this, I too am a victim of the "fast cutting" syndrome of the 21st century. I wonder how the crew was able to control the path of the balloons so precisely. I also think that the person that is hanging onto the bunch of balloons is not the little boy  As this movie was made in the 1950's, there weren't many special effects, and thus I will have to assume that the shot of the 'boy' flying with the balloons actually took place. Considering all the fuss with the 'balloon boy' in the news lately, I wonder how they managed this safely.
  • The Lunch Date - While I did not adore The Red Balloon as a movie, I still though it was a very valuable piece of cinema history. As for this movie, not so much. I was shocked to find out that The Lunch Date won Best Live Action Short at the 1991 Academy Awards. It wasn't that good. Although we discussed in class how meaningful the ending of the film actually could be by showing how the woman ignored this potential life changing event, I still don't feel like I gained any meaningful message from the film. It was such an anticlimactic ending. I found the plot dry and unoriginal, and the characters didn't strike me as anything amazing. At best, a mediocre film according to my subjective tastes. I also question the director's choice of black and white and lower quality footage. The footage appeared to have been filmed decades earlier, but the film was made in the late 1980's and the director could have made a higher quality color film. The movie itself is set in an earlier decade, but I don't see any reason to regress to earlier filming quality as well. I don't feel like it contributed anything to the film except to make the sound quality worse. The only reason I can think of for this choice was to make a film against racism that appeared to come from an earlier decade to give it a more historical feel. It didn't hurt the film, but it didn't make it any more appealing to me either.


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2009-10-16 04:27 pm
Entry tags:

1

This is the first post for my Short Script Analysis blog. It's so nice to be back in a class that requires intellectual discussion (a lot of me making crap up that sounds amazingly good), debate (oh, that eternal question of "What is Art?" Answer: NOT Marcel Duchamp), and writing (I totally type 90 words + a minute, FYI).
  • The Lumiere Brothers' first films: I find very little that is comment worthy in these early shorts. I mean, it's not like a clip of people streaming out of a building is esoterically profound or significantly meaningful in any way other than HEY this is possibly the first film ever and it's kind of well done! What I did like was how the Lumieres did a good job demonstrating movement. They were smart enough not to pick a slow moving subject. The dozens of people leaving the building do a great job demonstrating exactly how different this new media was from the previously existing still photography. Also, their attempt at comedy is not exactly a demonstration in subtlety or wit, but hey, what else can you do without sound or dialogue?
  • The Great Train Robbery: This film wasn't too bad, except I found it a bit slow for my tastes. That's saying a lot I think, because I'm not a fan of superfast editing unless there is a purpose for it. I feel that using editing to speed up the entirety of a movie is sheer laziness and the ideal technique is to create the pace more through the acting and direction (Slumdog Millionaire, I'm looking at you). The point was that I think the cuts could have been a bit shorter without sacrificing anything, and that they could have added in a few more shots with different angles. The addition of color was a nice touch, although I felt that some of it was a meaningless. Adding color to the gunshots was great, but the little girl's dress didn't mean much to me. I loved the final shot of the film when the guy raised his gun and fired at the audience, breaking the fourth wall and creating a quasi 3D experience that leaves the audience ducking.
  • Anémic Cinéma: Oh my god a world of NO. I rarely find radical experimental films well done, interesting or meaningful, and this was a perfect example. For me, art should either entertain or educate (and if I could remember the original quote from Milton I think? I would sound so awesomely intellectual). I do allow some leeway for pure visual aesthetics, but if that means I have to sit through another six minutes of spirals and nonsensical words that hurt my head, then I'm totally BANISHING art for art's sake. I adore "didactic, moral or utilitarian function." "L'art pour l'art'" pssssh. And I'd totally sit here and argue art theory but I can't remember anything my art history teacher said other then body mutilation and graffiti are totally acceptable forms of art expression. Whatever, long story. The point is that is that I absolutely loathed this film and it would be a really great help to insomniacs. FYI, I think the title of Anémic Cinéma means the same thing in english, anemic cinema. Which is a great palindrome, but it totally works for this film with anemic being defined as "Weak; listless; lacking power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness" - that is definitely how many people feel about the film.