Friday, September 3, 2010
The strength of the story is the complex weaving of character depth manifested through intensly quirky dialogue. The speak of the film is very off-putting at first, due to the common usage of slang and shortcuts. Once the film gets going and the story begins to develop, you really become drawn to the language of the story. Surprisingly enough the intensity of the film is helped along by the way that the characters of the movie relate to each other through their language.
Inception is a great example of the sleek sensibility of Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. In Brick it is evident that he is starting to develop his "cool" and hundred yard stare. He expresses so much anxiety, intensity and raw emotion in his eyes and jaw line. He is able to help not only the story to move along, but the co-stars with whom he stars are able to feed off of his uncanny acting abilites. He is able to build the story, through his unique screen presence. You are not sure if he cares or if there is a deeper sense of purpose to his character in relation to the story. He maintains a distanced, very calloused perspective on the characters as he pieces together the intricate story line. As unrelateable as he is to the everybody in the story, I really found myself bonding to his cynical perspective. Everyone has motivation and not all of it is for his benefit.
The story of this film is a predatory gyro. You are never sure who is the prey and who is on the prowl. The setting of the film is rather fascinating. A film noir in a high school? Very unique. It really adds to the complexity of the characters and the way that they navigate through the turmoil. I hope that my kids are not within fifty miles of any of the characters in this film. Frigging crazy! The whole time I watched this film, I had to keep thinking this is all from the perspective of adolescense and not that of veteran old-doggism. That is not even a word. Good. Good.
Go see this movie or borrow it from me, because it is fantastic. And IIIIII helped! But seriously this movie rocks. Great Indie flick.
The movie that I have chosen to analyze is Spies Like Us, one of the greatest 80’s comedies ever. If you haven’t seen it, rent it or buy it and watch it immediately. I would classify this film as a satirical comedy with lots of Chevy Chase slapstick. Much of the comic situation is narrative as Aykroyd and Chase build a relationship in which plays off the other. Remember when Chase was funny, well until Community; it seems like so long ago. Fortunately his talk show worked out….
This movie is great from top to bottom. Each character has some great lines and the supporting cast really puts in to words what the audience sees as we watch their interaction. Just after the testing center scene, which is filled with gag humor, the General comments that they are,” a couple of absolutely self-involved bullshit artists who got caught cheating on a departmental exam” this is a perfect summation of the prior scene, helping the audience to articulate what they had just seen.
It really is a great satirical comedy on the state of government espionage and deniability. You get a couple of douchers to play the fall guy for the government on a secret mission; all the while putting themselves in to harm’s way under the pretense they are serving their country. Despite all of the situations in which they find themselves, they somehow bumble their way through the mission successfully accomplishing the assignment. The physical humor is fantastic, during their training phase they are put through the rigors of threshold testing which creates some great gag humor, all of which is totally ridiculous and hilarious. The faces they make and the one-liners they spew have really made this a total classic, right up there with Three Amigos, What About Bob?, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.
The best comedies are definitely the most well-rounded, that have nothing to do with Adam Sandler, which seamlessly involves all aspects of comedy. This movie has gag humor that plays off the observational set-up that was done between the two main characters and the secondary characters, all while poking fun at the issue of our Cold-War beast of a government.
This film is one that was brilliantly edited and put together. The story of the Zephyr Skate Team, the team that forever changed skateboarding, is one of high adventure and real danger. They did things on boards that no one else had even imagined, translating surfing moves and form, to the pavement. They did everything bigger, faster, higher and more powerful, first. This movie is their documented history.
This film was directed by Stacy Peralta, an original member of the Z boys, edited by Paul Crowder. Vans produced the film and it was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. This film went from start to finish in 6 months, and was highly successful in the Indie film circuits. Peralta won Best Director at Sundance, in 2001, and the film won an Audience Award at both Sundance and the AFI Film Festivals. This film inspired the film Lords of Dogtown, and inspired stylizing of the skate industry.
Description: this film has a very different feel to it. There was so much old surf footage and skating shots, mixed with interviews, graphics, stills and a superb soundtrack. Sean Penn narrates this gritty film, and does so with such a natural feel. I was curious as to why he was such a perfect fit as the narrator, in the director’s commentary Peralta states that,”he was from Venice, about 30 minutes from where the film takes place, as well as being a surfer/skater himself.” (Dogtown) The stylization of this film fits so perfectly together, giving it an unpretentious feel, immersing one in to this unique culture.
The form of this film, shots and historical, is so unique. They limited computer editing in this film as far as adding stills to the film, and filmed them with the video cameras. The zoom ins and pull outs on the maps are all done with the camera, not the computer. Many of the stills have the Burns effect, pans and lifts on the pictures, with obliquing and tilts. There is a sequence of stills used to describe the once Coney Island boardwalk feel of Venice, and it paints a unique history of this seaside community.
Peralta and Crowder use the graffiti of Venice as a landscaping for this movie, really creating powerful visuals. It helps to give a feeling of hostility that these young men had for outsiders and visitors. I have never seen a documentary that relied so much on old footage to set the scene of what happened to create the topic of the film. The footage is mostly that of the 70’s, archiving the scene that the interviewees are describing. Margaret A. McGuirk says,”Mr. Peralta's filmmaking style is charged with driving, video-style energy, frantic cutting, intense music, and a strong dose of romantic nostalgia.” (Cincinatti.com) Much of the footage is overlaid with old reels and post-production blips, adding to an archived aesthetic.
Many of the interviews are fast-forwarded, getting that person to the point of emphasis. There are a lot of footage transitions and stills that are fast-forwarded maintaining an interesting uniformity throughout. I think that it helps to drive home the final point, or theme of what is being shown. Several of the interviews were shot in black and white, which is a strong contrast to the bright colors of the old footage and stills from back in the day. This film feels like urban warfare. The skaters were so hardcore dedicated to their craft they didn’t give a shit about anything but skating, and that raw passion translates through gritty imagery, both moving and still.
Between the archival footage of surfing, many of the interviews had the sound of the tide overlaid on it, tying in the visuals and words to a common theme. With the sounds of the surf, the jump cuts from the interviews to the corresponding surf and skate footage, creates a memoir or visual diary of a time long since passed, yet maintains a commonality with the viewer. The obliquing of the surf and skate footage gives it a hard edge, an extreme feel and puts the audience at unease. At the end of this sequence of footage, it clicks like film separating from the movie reel and then appears to catch on fire. Brilliant. With this editing and footage it helps to reinforce the sense of urban warfare that this group of young men declared on the streets and swimming pools of southern California.
The way that the film was put together reflects the people whom it depicts. Stacy Peralta really captures a rough guerrilla feel that defined this rag tag bunch of athletes. Many of the Z boys came from broken or damaged homes and used skating as an escape from the difficulties of growing up in the community known as Dogtown. Skating offered them the chance to leave tough circumstances and become something more, and the raw footage, language and interviews really gave me a sense of that desperation. Skating was their lifeline and most let it slip through their hands, while a few succeeded and overcame the perils of this existence.
Two of the interviews took place in a junkyard, signifying decay and difficulty, while establishing a style of triumph and dignity; and others took place in surf shops or at homes, removing the pretense and self-importance that one would expect in a biographical documentary. I was watching people that had an effect on millions of people, but I was able to connect with the humility and individualism portrayed in their interviews. As they talked about some of the struggles that each of them had, it helped to reinforce the humanity that they have and proved that no matter what the success or recognition, everyone can slip and fall; but those that get back up and move forward are heroes and icons.
The graffiti and vulgar language really helped me to entrench myself in the rough side of town. It gave a dimension to their life that I would not have experienced but for the graffiti of hate and negativity for outsiders. In bold letters the words, “Not Welcome” and “Go Home” were common place on walls and buildings. This hostility towards those looking in was something that disconnected me from them, but reinforced the importance of the barriers that are now gone. When I say vulgar language I do not just mean obscenities but syntax and verbiage. They speak without education and yet the honesty with which they speak touched me as a viewer, enabling me to remove judgment and build appreciation. How is it that young men and women from a poor area in a rundown, forgotten community could change the world? Amazing. They were real life Lost Boys, sans the vampirical hunger.
The surfing footage and the old stills that were used really reminded me of a scrap book. Like I stated Peralta filmed the stills, and the camera work gives it such an eclectic feel. This method demonstrates honesty and keeps in line with the subtle humility that this movie sustains. It would have felt completely different had he gone with fancy computer editing and effects. The bare bone, simplistic edginess is what defines this documentary as ground-breaking and iconic. As I watched this over and over, in order to prepare myself for this paper, I could not help but reminisce about the old skater videos that I watched as a kid. This was no mistake and much of the feel of this film was derived from those early amateur videos.
Like Skip says in his interview, “Little blond chicks named Buffy weren’t my scene.” (Dogtown) The culture that is reflected is heavily influenced by Hispanic and Polynesian heritage. Being in a poorer community, they had access to alcohol and drugs from a young age, and for some that transformed in to a life of crime and waste. Jay Adams, arguably the most talented of the bunch, was in prison for his interview where he has been for quite some time. He has several tattoos and his hard life was visible on his face and in his voice. He shunned the big money for the purity of “just skating” but this seemed to have damaged him. Peralta on the other hand seized the day and was the highest paid skater of all-time pre Tony Hawk, who he discovered and sponsored. The strong contrasts portrayed in this film, really helped me to visualize the battles that many of them faced while on top of the world; fame and fortune or anominity and passion?
This film had such an impact on the world of extreme sports. Mainstream surfers and skaters came from fairly affluent backgrounds, and this group of young scallywags tore down barriers and stereotypes. When Stecyk wrote his first of the Dogtown articles for “Skateboarder Magazine”, kids from all over really connected to them. This type of athlete no longer had to be white and clean cut, but they could be street urchins with talent, what mattered most became the love of something. Tom Sims was a professional skateboarder in the 60‘s and is the proprietor of Sims Snowboards and Skates and had this to say about the Z boys [at their first competition],” They were unconventional and they didn’t care if they got judged well.” (Dogtown) This mode of thinking helped to establish the beginning of skateboarding as we know it and shaped countless other extreme sports, both winter and summer.
This film was received at Sundance with a lot of fan and celebrity gusto. People began to really look at this sport as one that was truly American. Skating is a sport that spans the globe, and it was started and perfected here.. This film is truly the story of America, kids with not much hope in the future, grabbing a hold of something and changing the world forever, through passion and guts, living an impossible dream, attainable it seems for almost anybody. Shogo Kubo states,” We were treated like kings at every place that we went to.” (Dogtown) Allen Sarlo states,” We were all hungry for recognition, so we all put forth our maximum effort.” (Dogtown)
Stacy and Paul had both spent considerable time in television, and in their own words, “Were not really forced to be creative.” (Dogtown) They had a schedule and an expectation for TV that they had to meet, and they really had worked for quite a while with little or no artistic freedom. This was a challenge that they faced, as Vans gave them $400k and zero supervision. During the director’s commentary Stacy and Paul said that Vans never asked to see any daily’s or had any timeline structure, but left everything up to them. The amount of discipline that one must have to complete a project with little if any accountability is pretty considerable. One of the biggest concerns that they had while completing this film was purchasing music rights and finding those songs that best maintained the integrity of the old footage and stills. $400k is not that much money to work with if you consider the purchase of music and old surf and skate footage. Rounding up and editing all of that footage was pretty difficult as well. Paul said that he went through hours and hours of old Z boy footage and random surf footage to capture the right images in the film. What a marvelous job he did in editing it together to create a seamless documentation of SoCal history.
Stacy stated in the director’s cut that locating everybody on the original team was pretty difficult, because he had lost contact with several of them. He said that he had flown in to Hawaii to interview the founder of the Zephyr team, Jeff Ho, and had gotten totally lucky in contacting Shogo Kubo, who reached out to him in the eleventh hour. (Dogtown) Up until I heard this it had never occurred to me the problem of rounding up people that one had not seen in twenty plus years. So, picture all of these struggles. Now imagine from start to finish you collect all of these pieces and have a finished product in 6 months! That is unbelievable!
This film used a lot of footage shot by onlookers and third party members of the Z boys. Those with the cameras had hopes of becoming part of the team, and filming the competitions and swimming pool scenes were the sure ways that they could be involved with their hometown heroes. The stills of the Z boys were shot by craig Stecyk who wrote many articles about their exploits for skateboarding magazines. Through the images that he captured as well as the stories he wrote, the boys became legendary and he perpetuated their success.
Meredith Brody states,” Stacy Peralta incorporates interviews with the grown-up boarders, and his accomplished (if occasionally overcut) film combines nostalgia for the group's artistry with a poignant examination of the inevitable loss of innocence: lucrative deals with skateboard manufacturers swiftly broke the group apart.” (Chicagoreader.com)
This documentary would be considered poetic, expository, observational and participatory. First, Poetic: This film has many aesthetic qualities that make it standout from so many documentaries that I have seen. There are intense cuts between rough skate and surf footage, sandwiched between black and white interviews, strung together with intense, harsh music. Peralta uses graphics and shot manipulation to intensify the experience of the audience, throw in some editing tricks and you get a mashed array of vivid images that sticks with the viewers. The colors in this film help to clarify time periods and attitudes of those individuals and settings being filmed.
Second, Expository: Sean Penn as the narrator really gets in to some of the nitty, gritty details of the way things were in Venice. He describes the creation of Venice, its rise in Americana, its fall and the rubble that remained, both physically and emotionally within the community. The way that he explains that segment of history sets the scene for the attitudes of the young people being portrayed. When their story begins you feel like you know them better based on the circumstances that were previously discussed. Like I mentioned earlier Penn brings honesty to the narration, because of his roots in the area and culture.
Third, Participatory: during the interviews you can hear the cameramen laugh and react to the dialogue of the interviewee. The archived footage of the Z boys was very hands on and they were aware of the “objective” party filming. They gesture and speak in to the camera, and those filming react to the tricks and circumstances being documented. There is a unified feeling between those being documented and those documenting, and this awareness supersedes the two dimensional nature of the film, it is palpable.
Fourth, Observational: this is interesting because participatory is the preceding subject. Much of the footage is filmed from a distance or in the background and it captures the natural setting that the boys and surfers had with their environment. In much of the footage you can sense the oneness that the individual felt with his/her environment, much like watching an animal in its natural habitat. The reactions and events are completely unscripted, and the athlete doesn’t realize the observational value of what he/she is doing, allowing the individual to perform at high level.
The mixture of all of these elements is what defines this film as such a marvelous documentary. Peralta created a film that mimicked many of the attributes of those that were documented, and really what made them so great; intensity, focus, raw, passion, tough, hard-edged, to name a few.
This show is so money it is redonkulous! The opening is really a unique mixing of everyday objects, shot in a startling array of colors, angles and lighting. The first scene is of a mosquito landing on Dexter’s arm, symbolizing immediately his thirst for blood. He swats it and splatters the mosquito full of blood on his arm, and watches with a morbid fascination. The title than appears as splattering blood, evoking more of this blood thirsty imagery. He then looks in the mirror, but the image is very blurry, helping to establish his skewed sense of self. He then prepares his neard, neck beard, to be shaved and then he cuts himself the blood running down his throat splattering in the sink. I believe that this is representative of his almost self inflicted sense of pain, emotional and physical. It is very self masochistic, he has hurt and cut himself due to this insatiable appetite for blood.
Slicing in to the pork chop is the next scene and it represents that preparation for the hunger about to be temporarily filled. He then rams the chop in to his mouth taking great pleasure in each large bite. You get the feeling of his relishing the fleshy texture of the pork, as he thinks of his next victim. Very raw and animalistic. The egg cracks open, similar to a human skull, and they are cooked in a searing pan, maybe representing the heat of hell, and then it is consumed with Tabasco sauce dripped on like blood with identical splattering occurring. Coffee is grinded and the close-up shot gives it such a violent feel, like a drill is being pressed in to someone’s temple. As he cuts in to a blood orange, representing both a human heart and possibly his own, juice squirts everywhere, really playing on this violent theme. As he juices the orange, I cant help but think of his own heart/feelings being drained of all their juices/emotions leaving an empty rind/shell that is Dexter. As he flosses and ties his shoes and puts on his shirt you really get a sense of how meticulous he is in preparation for the day and his killing. As he leaves his apartment he smiles and you get a feel for his sick derivation of happiness.
Cider house Rules
Michael Caine does a fantastic job expressing the message of the film. In this film he has been created to be a father figure, not just to the orphans, but the audience as well. He is a wise man with what seems to be infinite love and patience; if a man like this has dedicated his life to an orphanage and its occupants, how then can he be in support of abortion?
The director has effectively created a scenario where, as an audience, we can buy in to the debate of abortion, due to the character creation in this film. Wally in this film gives a look in to the emotional trauma that one must feel as they go through this difficult procedure. Especially in an era when abortion was such a taboo subject, one broached only through desperation. The window that this movie looks into is a difficult one, abortion when it was illegal at a mid-century orphanage? Let’s put as many social issues dealing with children as we can in one movie.
Charlize Theron has red nails, lies in a convertible with red leather, is this a warning or sign about her character? Mr. Rose explains to Homer the importance of picking the apple, minding the spur, for if the spur is picked then you have inadvertently picked the apple for next year as well. Homer has educated hands that do not betray him, all a metaphor for the work that he did at St. Cloud. If you do not do the abortion right or your hands betray you, you could destroy the womb of a woman and any future progeny.
Wilbur makes a comment to Homer as they are driving in the car, that is the perfect metaphor for this movie, as they argue about abortion. He says,”happy to be alive no matter what the circumstances?” as the movie progresses you can see his growth and experience grow, arguing his point about the importance of life. The movie they see is Wuthering heights, which is interesting because in the novel they have children and in the movie they don’t. the connection that Homer has and the atmosphere that is created in this movie is a mimicking of the womb, fuzzy and his bronchitis compartment, the orphanage and migrant workers quarters; many of the characters form such deep emotional bonds and have habitat in such close proximity with one another.
King Kong may be a representation of this principle as well, ripped from his natural environment to meet his demise. The back and forth that homer and Wilbur share is a very compelling as well as strongly emotional. The love that they have for one another is a great thing. That one could be raised by the other and have such differing opinions about such an important theme. I love the dichotomy in this movie and the creation of good and evil, black and white; yet they mix and weave, leaving a rope of entangled stories and characters. And of course we see the impossible happen, Mr. Rose was sleeping with his daughter and got her pregnant, so now what with the illegality of abortion. Life is not an easy thing; decisions are to be made at times that conflict with our deepest sets of moral standards.
It seemed like Wilbur had a tough time coping with what he felt like he needed to do, I realized it at the end of the movie, the ether helped him to sleep or to remove him from that in which he was engaged. Destiny and the rules by which we abide don’t necessarily apply to who we are or who become. Before Mr. Rose dies he says, “Sometimes you gotta break some rules to put things straight.” The many themes on which the movie touches make it an interesting study on many of life’s circumstances, but I think that the major message of the film is just as simple as,” life is not in black and white, there is uncertainty and doubt, and sometimes you gotta break the rules to make things straight.”
One of the interesting pieces with which this movie corresponded is David Copperfield. The new life and change that is wrought upon many of the characters in this movie, this movie speaks of journey and the lost or orphaned finding themselves and their path. I loved this movie, very compelling plot and written with strong metaphors about life in general. This film is chuck full of societal themes and topics ranging from abortion to self-discovery and moral conduct.
The opening shot is that of a Middle Eastern market filled with people and objects. There are large baskets and bags being carried by the citizens and they are surrounded by brightly covered textiles and rugs, and of course the frame is divided in to threes by two large support beams holding the awning above the street scene. The lighting is shining through thee awning creating a very busy feeling, as well as revealing the dirt in the air, creating a very claustrophobic sense. The establishing shot is from a crane, tilting downward upon the masses. The music is from a Middle Eastern wind instrument and the bustle of the crowd is overbearing further adding to the claustrophobia of the scene.
This is a shot from a steady cam tilted up at four Arabic men, three in the foreground and one in the background. The depth of field or dof is focused on the three in front, each with a hammer, striking in to shape some metal. There is a fire creating a distinct heat on the right side of the middle third, emitting an almost palpable heat. The man in the back is working a billows making the fire grow, only adding to the heat of the scene. There is much filth and grime in this scene, creating a feeling of sweaty discomfort. The sound of the hammers banging adds a sense of chaos as the music drones on. It is a very agitated scene, and the lines dividing the scene in to thirds are very harsh. There is a very distinct rhythm to this scene as they hammer and billow in sequence with the terrible music.
The man in white is lit through a slatted roof and his white clothing reflects the glint on to the beans that he is measuring, very carefully. There are many interesting textures and shapes in this scene, the round, smooth beans, the reed slatted walls, the woven baskets, the fabrics on the people, and the colored textiles in the background. His eye line, outstretched arm and baskets create the horizontal thirds; and the bamboo roof supports and scale create the vertical thirds. The bustle of the people gives off a sense of chaos which is very contrasted to the meticulous manner in which he weighs the beans. Being in the foreground of the shot, this contrast helps to calm the viewer, helping one to see that there is order among chaos. The music drones on and the diegetic sound really adds effectively to the chaotic crowd
There is a gentleman walking through the shot carrying a bamboo pole with three water jugs hanging off it, walking past a barber shaving the head of a client. The shot is a tripod shot just below eye level of the passerby, but right at the eye line of the barber. Texture is huge in this scene many lines both horizontal and vertical, shiny and smooth pots, more bright cloth, and the fabric and color of the clothing and the biggest one in this scene the smooth texture of half a shorn head against the hair that remains still. The white fabrics that these men wear are a representation of cleanliness and purity, possibly stimulating a religious response. The lighting draws the eye directly to the fabric and the process of shaving the head, which is a symbol of stripping off the old and worn and starting a new, both fresh and clean.
Downward tilt of the camera with lots of background lighting, creating a dimmed out foreground and frame subject. There is so much texture in this scene, many latticed wood pieces and chairs, add to feeling of chaotic busyness. The main subject is carving the leg of a chair using an antiquated technique, but he somehow maintains his focus in all the hustle and bustle around him. This says something about his craftsmanship.
This is a straight on shot of the market pathway. That same damn instrument is still playing and for the first time you see the musician in the scene, that racquet now has a face. What they have done is textured the lighting in this scene and it looks fantastic, especially with the bright colors and designs of the clothing. The merchants are checking their products, almost for quality assurance and they are oblivious to the sea of humans passing by, reiterating the importance of their craft. The diegetic sound has become more frantic and seems to be growing louder in each scene.
Now this is an interesting shot. The music and diegetic sound is still blaring, and you can still feel all of that chaos, but the visuals help calm. The two shot is of a man sewing and a young boy watching. The man is very focused on the task at hand, while the boy is fixated on his mentor?, watching his every move. They have separated them from the market by using a bamboo screen, giving off a unique lighting texture on them both. It is a downward tilt on the camera, giving an intimate feel of a boy and his master.
Back out to the market the music has quieted in this scene but the diegetic sound has grown in intensity. You hear some of the men yelling, as if to barter with one another, as well as two men washing some blue cloth in a large bin. Most everyone in this scene is wearing white robes and turbans creating a sense of unity. The lighting is that of the midday sun, and all of the white creates an intensely bright scene, brighter than what we have seen. The two men that are washing the material, one is black and the other is your standard Middle Eastern color, creating a bond between them, they are facing each other, wearing the same clothes, washing the same material.
There are two blind soothsayers on the outskirts of this shot, and they are standing by themselves, no one aware of them. This unique placement has changed the feeling of unity in the previous shot to one of a disenfranchised loneliness. The one man is wearing a red turban and a white shirt with black stripes, creating a sense of imprisonment, and with the red turban it is almost a warning, like stay away! The lighting and texture of the large clay bricks creates a very harsh texture that not even a mother could love.
As it pulls across there are more of these blind men, and they are all saying something, but6 the interesting thing is that they are all lined up, like in front of a firing squad. As it cut to this scene the first thing I noticed is that they are all wearing striped shirts and most have the colored turbans. The large clay bricks behind them give off this really hard texture, it looks like a prison wall, and there is really very little light. I assume that these men are blind as well because they have the weird eyes, and they are looking around but it is obvious they can’t see. The one interesting thing is that even though these men are outcast, there exists a sense of unity betwixt them.
This is a great shot. There are people in the background, but they are not the focus of this scene. As I look at it I believe the textures are what’s important about this shot. You have the camels on both sides and their backs are laden with baskets and bags of grains maybe, creating a wonderful array of lines and shadows. The lighting is very bright in this scene, and you can see wisps of smoke against the background wall. This shot really immerses you in to this busy market, and really creates a three dimensional feel to the movie
Back to the market. Now this is a three shot, with fantastic texture. The camera has pushed in close, really adding to the intimacy of this scene. All of the men are wearing different colored turbans and striped shirts, and they are all looking forward at some very large instruments. The circular cookware, adds some create parallelism to this shot, keeping the eye focused on the left of the screen as it over takes the shot. The background is very well lit and out of focus, but the three men in this scene are dulled out and in focus, excellent contrast.
Now as it cuts away the men were actually playing those instruments as part of a larger group of men, all seated around a snake charmer. The snake charmer is using this same damn droning music to charm the snake in a medium sized wooden box. All of the men are in under a tent which creates this dark and rich feel contrasted against the brightly lit background. The shot look to be on a steady cam, because as it pulls back the snake charmer comes closer and you are looking up at him, as if seated in the audience.
Finally some women in this sausage fest, all of them old and ugly, but the men are less than special themselves. The center of attention is this brightly dressed man smoking a pipe that is covered in decorations. His clothes have stripes and bright red with a colored sash, as compared to everyone around him who are wearing either whites or earthy tones. They are all focused on this man as he smokes his large peace pipe, and breathes out the smoke. What a great texture in this shot! The camera is positioned to feel as an audience member, and the lighting is really focused on this terrible looking, no toothed man. The crowd is really dulled out due to the lighting used.
This is a great shot. Everything is brightly lit and wide open, completely opposite from the boxed in cramped feel of the other scenes. All of the men are wearing bright whites or bright stripes and they sit around in a circle. There is a man on the right of the shot smoking a pipe and the man on the left is playing with small birds. There are white doves and flowers in the foreground, all brightly washed, creating a totally different feeling then the dirty crowded market place. The shot is from a low angle and catches not only the enthralled men and boys but the city walls, jutting forth with geometrically perfect teeth. I love this shot, it really gives a very clean feel, and the shapes in the background are a great contrast to the people.
Ok this is a three shot, but the dude is wearing mother effing scorpions on his damn face! There is a man on the right of the shot smoking a pipe and the man on the left is playing with small birds. There are white doves and flowers in the foreground, all brightly washed, creating a totally different feeling then the dirty crowded market place. The shot is from a low angle and catches not only the enthralled men and boys but the city walls, jutting forth with geometrically perfect teeth. I love this shot, it really gives a very clean feel, and the shapes in the background are a great contrast to the people.
Ok this is a three shot, but the dude is wearing mother effing scorpions on his damn face! This is totally nutso! The two men in the background are just chilling casually nutso! The two men in the background are just chilling as if nothing is happening. The diegetic sound is very loud, and the camera angle is tilted pushed in on the face of this man. What in the shit is going on?
The camera angle on this shot is very low and the lighting is coming from the background and the camera is pushed in on a young kid with the background being the guy playing that cursed instrument, as well as others in the background playing instruments. There is an interesting texture created by the overheard thatched roof, and there are tons of colors in this shot. The contrast between the colors and the lighting is excellent and really gives a sense of intimate community.
There is a man in the center of the shot drinking boiling water and wearing interesting clothing. What in the hell is going on with these people? Everyone is looking intently on this man waiting for him to do whatever it is he does. The flute is still playing and the diegietic sound has been washed out a little. There is lighting coming from the right and little to none on the left, creating a very light to dark scene. The background shapes are very different as well. The geometric shape of the wall on the left and the tent/awning on the right with the reeds or bamboo, the camera angle is low again as to be looking up at the people in the shot.
This a very dark shot. The foreground has no lighting and you can barely make out what is going on and you rely on the outlines of the people and objects to tell what is going on. The background is very well lit and is focused on the large city wall, and the texture of this wall is outstanding. You can see the towers of the city and the decaying bricks and clay of the walls. The tree in the middle of the shot gives off a unique shape, being that it is not lit and is starkly contrasted against the city wall. The flute is still playing but you can hear the horses and the carriages go by very clearly.
the first scene not of the market. This is an establishing shot of a building. That damn flute has finally stopped, and now there is quiet music, almost soothing. It is night time and there is light that you can see in the windows, creating an interesting texture in the windows. There is some overhead lighting that can be seen coming from the top left of the frame that gives a really eerie feeling, to the whole shot. The wall is very symmetrical and geometric, and looks really great. The camera looks to be on a dolly and pushes in very close on one of the windows right before we enter.
The Depahted! Those f#$^in firemen were a bunch of f%$#in homos. This line is the reason that I love this film. Perfectly delivered by Matt Damon, what a versatile bad ass, he is such a crass Southey and I frigging love it. I love Scorsese, I love Leo, I love the whole damn cast, Alec Baldwin’s fast talking fiendery, Wahlberg’s dirt sensibility and unique style “that we all have to get used to.” Honestly Scorsese doesn’t film this movie he paints it, the shots, cuts, music and colors. This movie is a masterpiece and I think that it is bullshit that many of the critics and audience said that his win for Best Director was more of a lifetime achievement award then a legitimate win, this was the best movie of the year and he was the best director of the year. The intensity with which this movie is played out is more similar to a David Mamet film; normally Scorsese doesn’t punch from scene to scene, plot point to plot point. Similar structure as far as story and character, but the way that the movie was crafted is much more different than his other crime stories. I love that this movie is a “remake” from a great Hong Kong trilogy known as “infernal Affairs” but it is not a remake. It has a totally different stylization than the corresponding Asian films. The music so perfectly meshes with the film, when it hits hard and is intense the music goes right along with it and when there is intimacy the music only enhances the moment.
What the film is saying to me is that The Departed is not only representative of the deceased but those that have departed from their path, transformed into an outsider or an Other. It speaks of deception, vulnerability, and most importantly that everyone leads a double life in one way or another. We all tell lies to keep things on an even keel, to maintain balance.
The message that Mr. Scorsese is saying that life has surprise endings, you think things are going one way and bam! Life does some crazy shit.
The Departed like I said is very tightly crafted. The characters are more than can be defined by a simple type cast. Each of the main characters has more facets than one would expect in a crime thriller. The underlying theme of each character is that of deception, whether for a just cause or one of self preservation, etc. Jack Nicholson is the main antagonist or is he? He is just a representation of our shadow those things that creep up in our minds, those desire of the natural man that we all put off to maintain order and a moral code. Is it bad those thoughts make their way in to our mind, or is it more a question of the conscious effort we put forth to extinguish the devilish side of who we are? Scorsese personifies the evil that surrounds us all. Similarly DiCap is that struggle that we go through to put off that evil, he is the battle that we face in human form. The depth of emotion that each of the main cast goes through is a powerful means of communicating to the audience the dichotomy of good and evil, yet they fit together like yin and yang. One cannot exist without the other.
Vera Farmiga as the doctor states to Matt Damon, “Without the criminal you wouldn’t have a job.” Even during the most intimate of discussions between the characters in the movie is about being somebody else and the deceit used to create a façade.
The jump cuts in this movie are seamless and fit so well together. It jumps from one action to another, and it is done so beautifully. In the Departed he builds tension by cutting from one shot to another in the same scene, showing one guy with a gun and then a different guy with a gun.
Something that I had never before noticed is that his shots have such a geometric feel. Many of the shots are framed by columns, squares or symmetrically placed parallelograms. The ability that he has to frame a shot and create a visual depth in such a unique way, at the same time he maintains the intimacy on the character in the scene. Question why does Jack Nicholson’s hair look like cat sex?
The relationship with the psychiatrist that Leo has is his internal monologue, all of these times watching this film and I finally understand that there dialogue is explaining the purpose and direction of the movie. He has been narrating the Departed this whole time and I never effing noticed it.
My favorite scene in the movie is one of the sessions between Leo and Madolyn. Just before they start talking he and the gang blow up a car, and after the scene he meets up with his undercover handlers, and he tells them this double life is killing him. The scene after is key, he is breaking down and you can see the beginning of the end for Billy Costigan.
The scene in the psychiatrist’s office is essential to this story. As they are speaking you begin understand that the relationship they have is the most important in the film, and it seems that it is the only thing holding him together. It is an out loud confession of his doubt and anxiety, and it is the one chance that he has to be honest throughout the film; interestingly enough the conversation always centers on deceit and the building of a double life. Their conversation foreshadows his demise in the story, and you can see that he starts to slip, he is cracking.
So the frames are beautiful in this scene. First you never see Madolyn or Billy in the same frame, every time they speak it cuts to the one speaking. It is an angled shot from the side as if the camera is an astute observer. She is framed in the shot by her degrees, psychiatric books and her computer. What this states to me is she is driven, successful and a complete professional. The way she sits in her chair behind her desk gives her an air of authority and power, and the lamp behind her head signifies ideas or brilliance, validating to the audience her diagnostic ability.
Now Leo is slouched in his chair, desperation painted on his face and body language. He is framed by a bookcase with some interesting titles, “Violence in the streets” and “Wounded Innocents.”
It cuts to an empty hospital bed, with boxes of things spread around on the floor, signifying loss, and trauma and moving on. This was the room of his sick mother who is recently departed. Another cut to a room with what I estimate to be her belongings, picture on the floor, blankets folded, china stacked nearby, the metaphor is one of change and the moving forward of life or evolution of it. The close-up on the china is saying to me, Mother, as if representing her fading voice as she turns to dust. He is framed in the shot by her things, constantly reminded of his loss. He looks at photos of him and her, painfully reminded that his once vibrant mother died a very sick woman.
Cut to Billy and French busting through the door of a fat guy, Billy with a bat and French with a 2 liter bottle and gun. The room is one covered in opulence, representing the gaudy tastes of a wise guy. The guy is in wife beater and is eating a bagel with other food, a funeral bouquet to his side, signifying his quick demise. Cut to Leo looking at the pictures, wearing the guilt of his actions on his face, his mother reminds him of his once innocent nature? The guy who gets killed is a family man and right before he gets shot, French pores out the bottle, emptying its contents on the floor, a metaphor of the life he is about to take.
As it cuts back to Billy in the office, the thought of a church confessional rings loudly in my head, this is Billy’s chance to make peace with the things that he is doing to hold the hand of justice. Madolyn just stares, cut to Billy staring at the body in disbelief until brought back to reality by Frenchie. More conversation between he and the therapist, building the story of deception and coping with those actions that we do in order to maintain balance.
Then one of the greatest shots of the movie, the close up on the Oxycontin bottle, the sure fire way to numb the pain of a chaotic life; Interesting that the song Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd makes its way in to the movie as he and the therapist sex their way in to forgetfulness. He opens the bottle and pours the contents in to his hands quickly swallowing them. The next shot is that of the words probation on his file, in red of course. Warning! Warning! This represents the movie in one word. His life as a double agent is closely monitored as he walks that fine line between good and evil, struggling to cope with certain decisions and choices. The rhythm of the cuts is so brilliant, not just timed by their conversation but by pauses or lulls that give a deeper clarity to his struggles, filling the audience in with images.
The dialogue like I stated earlier is the definition of the film as we are able to get inside his head, and become a part of his character. This is so brilliant, now that I am able to see it, because it helps me to feel emotionally connected to Billy not through pity, but I feel his anxiety and his sense of loss. When their conversation starts there is no background music, the diagetic sound is turned up, as they move and shift the audience can hear the discomfort. The music then starts with the first flashback and remains prevalent throughout the entire scene. The music is a soft guitar which helps to create calm during intense dialogue and actions.
The diagetic sound is turned way up so that you can hear the guy who dies stumbling, Frenchie pouring out the water and even the pouring of the pills in to the hand of Billy. With that sound it really immerses me in to the film and gives it a really great dimension, surrounding me as the viewer. The pauses by the doctor help to give a sense of confusion, as you can almost hear her brain running around trying to take in everything she is hearing. As he looks through the pictures for the first time all you can hear is the soft guitar, enforcing the memories and bringing them to life emotionally for me.
As I watch this film over and over it really only gets better, especially as I understand things not understood previously. He really has painted this film, with his unique ability to frame his characters, the strong syntax of the dialogue and the strength of his well placed score. The message that sticks out in my mind is one of coping with the double lives we all lead and realizing that as we deceive others we deceive ourselves. We cannot be two people at once and not expect the consequences of those actions to not beset us. The path we walk leads somewhere, whether we see it or not, and where it takes us may not be to place that we originally intended. This is one of the most compelling films that I have ever seen, and picking it apart has only helped me to love it more.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Why are action movies so damn entertaining? Because we as Americans have a direct lineage to rebellion and defending principles and an intense loyalty to freedom, which happens to be the exact principles to which the good guys in our action movies are loyal. I love the amount of bullets in this movie. Let me explain my favorite cinematic equation: # of bullets fired is directly related to the amount of deaths in a film; therefore the more bullets that are fired, the more deaths that we see. As we see in any great action flick, the best good guys are surrounded more by bullet casings then bad guys, women and legitimate dialogue.
What makes this movie so special is that you have 98% of the swinging Dicks( as in private eyes) in any action movie worth a damn, and they work so well together on a team of bad @$$ mothas. I think the most telling part of this movie is the role to which Mickey Rourke is assigned. He is the spiritual leader of this modern day “Wild Bunch”, giving appropriate guidance and healing when necessary. Good. His face looks like the after effects of a Viking rading party, with much raping and pillaging. He looks so terrible. Stallone of course plays the good guy who is a bad boy with a big heart, who predictably risks the integrity of the mission in order to save the tasty Spanish heroine. Who the hell would risk the safety of themselves and their team for a fat girl? Not this guy.
The thing about this movie is there are a couple of minor twists and turns, but it is obviously predictable as could be. Who cares! It is filled with blood and gore, foul language, an awesome montage or three, guns, buff heroes, a great double conflict, Eric Roberts and some gnarly vehicles. You really couldn’t ask for anything more. I was laughing out loud the ENTIRE movie because it was that fun. I frigging loved it and so did my sweet @$$ wife, who turns out is the coolest woman of all time. Go see it as a Saturday matinee, you will not regret it.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Check out geekingoffpodcast.blogspot.com It's frigging great!
Monday, June 7, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Independent Nation; Independent Film
The Sundance film festival has just ended; the stars and directors of America’s favorite art form have all gone back to the warm L.A. air or the bitter cold of the New York winter. Why is it that directors and actors, who make millions per picture, sacrifice money and sometimes their reputation for an event nestled in the mountains of Utah’s Wasatch front? What significance do independently funded films bring to them as professionals ? In what ways have independent films shaped our lives and society?
Defining independent films
What is an independent film? An independent, or indie, film is one that is primarily funded outside of the major studios, i.e. Paramount, MGM, Fox, etc. Indie films are seen as being mostly character driven with gritty visuals and simplistic techniques used for lighting, audio and cinematography. Scripts for independent films are meticulously written and have the ability to reflect certain societal struggles and issues; an example is the film Moon starring Sam Rockwell. In this film, Rockwell plays an astronaut sent to the moon on a three year mission with the responsibility of overseeing the mining of rocks used as fuel on Earth. Without giving anything away, this film is a character study on identity, self worth and the definition of humanity. The best -- and probably the most difficult --part about art is conveying a message to the public without taking away from the entertainment aspect of their experience. Moon is enjoyable to watch and provides one with pure entertainment, but tackling the definition of humanity is no easy feat, especially in two hours.
Independent films have the freedom to explore many subjects in society that are seen as taboo or unmarketable. Oftentimes studios don’t have the capability to explore these same thematic elements, giving rise to a culture of cinematic independence. This type of film emerged in the early 1900’s, during the era of the silent films, and have since steam rolled their way in to the lives of nearly everyone. The pioneers of indie films were seen as risk-takers in their time, leaving the guaranteed money of the large studios to walk their own creative path. United Artists was founded by Charlie Chaplin and three other silent film stars specifically for the purpose of controlling their own futures and the pictures of which they were a part.(Siklos) Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, two of the most acclaimed directors and producers in American history , founded American Zoetrope, the production company of films such as Apocalypse Now, The Good Shepherd and Lost in Translation.(Zoetrope) As these examples show, independent films are a great avenue for the expression of ideas, and also have the ability to succeed financially, even without big budgets and cookie-cutter formulas.
Why do stars, both directing and acting, choose indie films?
While attending the premiere of the movie Get Low, starring Bill Murray and Bob Duvall, I asked,” Why did you both decide to do this film? What was it that attracted you to it?” Mr. Murray responded,” It looked like it would be a good time. No, I joined on to this film to be a part of this unique script and story, one that was very well written and different from anything that I had ever been a part of.” Mr. Duvall then responded,” The director was very good and I was excited to work with him. The story was amazing, but the cast is why I joined this project. It was a very special opportunity.” These two men are two of the most respected and popular actors in our time, and they can do any “project” that they choose. Why then was this film such a special opportunity? In Mr. Murray’s words “the script and story were unique… and different from anything else I had been a part of.”
When asked, the director of Get Low, Aaron Schneider said,” This has been my dream for years, since college, to create a project as unique as this, with such an amazing story inspired by true events. I have dedicated everything to the making of this movie and I am deeply moved that you appreciated it.” Aaron Schneider won an Oscar for best live action short, but he worked mostly as the Director of Photography on TV shows and the occasional movie; he was not some wunderkind who was handed every opportunity. Yet, he attracted two of the biggest stars in film history to his project, because of hard work and a great idea, independent of a large studio. The beauty of technology today and the avenues created by the indie film industry, is that anyone can bring their idea to life no matter how far-fetched. What I learned from these precious moments of dialogue is that a great idea is a great idea and even the biggest names in an industry will take a chance on an independent film maker.
The impact of independent films on our society
In this technological age, the flow of ideas and messages between people has never been as important or prolific. One of the most poignant examples of an independent filmmaker with a message is Michael Moore. Never before has a filmmaker stirred such controversy and created such fervor by taking on some of the most talked about political and moral topics, filming them in a way that appeals to the masses, helping to shape the discussions and opinions of many people.
Many aspiring independent filmmakers are also able to successfully convey their own messages through internet videos, blogs and message boards . YouTube is one of the most popular avenues for this type of filmmaking , having a market share of around 43 percent in the United States with more than six billion videos viewed in January 2009.(comScore). This is a testament to the popularity of video and the role that it plays in our culture allowing Average Joe and his buddies the ability to become titans of entertainment
One of the cornerstones of our society, and the most basic of rights, is freedom of speech and the ability to express our individuality. Independent film has become an important outlet for this freedom of expression. The Sundance Film Festival is viewed as the leader in independent filmmaking and innovates ways to help small productions gain mainstream notoriety. This festival alone last year brought Utah $92 million dollars in economic revenue, further cementing both the importance of the festival and the films that it showcases. We are in an age where our society--through festivals, access to technology, and the internet—allows anyone to affect many different audiences with any number of issues and themes, helping to shape our unique culture through an independent perspective.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I am reinvigorated by the thought of blogging. I will be posting video, audio as well as the pieces I write. Expect mostly movie and film oriented posts. Zombies and free-writes will be included. This re-energized post is dedicated to Craigers and his general awesomeness.