The Last Blogging Crusade

At the beginning of the year, I was an incoming freshman psych major who thought it be cool to take a class analyzing film. With that glorious 24,000 word-writing requirement already met, I felt that it was important to continue analyzing and writing because they were both skills I wanted to further in college and for my career. After taking the class, I am happy to say I have achieved just that. However, I’m even happier to say that I’ve come to have a newfound sense of respect for the art of film. The class has truly taught me a lot about not just technique, but what it takes to make an amazing film that will captivate the minds of its viewers. As we all know, so much goes into to making a movie. Although it is very unlikely that I will enjoy watching every film I see, I will most certainly respect all of them because ENG2300 has taught me how much thought and process goes into making each film.

My least favorite film that we have watched was Mephisto. Although I truly enjoyed the story and the message, I was not a fan of its transitions from scene to scene as I found it very confusing. On the other hand, my favorite movie was Modern Times. Chaplain was truly a genius and definitely deserves to go down as one of greatest ever. I was amazed at how much I laughed for a movie way before my time. Comedy definitely transcends all ages. Also, although the majority of the class did not like it, I’d just like to say that I think Sukiyaki Western Django is awesome! It felt good saying that after all this time.

It was a pleasure taking this class with all of you and I wish you the best of luck in the future!

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Hugo

Martin Scorcese’s Hugo is truly a wonderful film that pays homage to the history of cinema. Essentially, the esteemed director is trying to restore the magic of cinema to all of his viewers. Through the eyes of a young boy, Scorcese succeeds in restoring this magic by celebrating the films of one of the greatest storytellers ever, George Melies.

To say the least, the film is visually beautiful as it is able to fill a setting that at times is mostly made of gears and machines with life and vigor. The machines ultimately serve as a strong motif throughout the film as a metaphor can be established between an incomplete Hugo and George and an incomplete/broken machine. Through their encounters, however, both Hugo and George are able to become complete by finding/re-finding their purposes in life. This is ultimately what the automaton represents towards the end of the film.

In terms of special effects and CGI, in a day and age where special effects tends to be overused in film, Scorcese uses it in moderation to perfectly blend it in with the movie.

By the end of the film, Scorcese has also succeeded in teaching Hugo’s audience certain themes that are prevalent through out the film. These themes include among others loneliness and the already established finding meaning in ones life. Although a bit cliché that every character in the film, with the exception of Uncle Claude, has a happy ending, I believe the ending is perfect in order to restore the magic of cinema as it definitely has an old school feel to it. Ultimately, Hugo is meant to restore the audience’s faith in movies and the happiness it can bring them. In my opinion, I believe does just that. With its stunning cast, Hugo is truly a treat for all those who see it.

Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is truly a masterpiece. From its masterful skill in animation to its beautiful storyline, the film captivates both the minds and hearts of its audience. A coming of age story, Spirited Away shows its viewers how to find inner strength and courage through the eyes of a young girl. The plot follows a bildungsroman model of Chihiro as she learns to become independent of her family, gets a job and eventually falls in love. All be it anime, the film relates to audiences of all ages because every person at some point has to grow up. However, the film teaches the audience that although they grow up, they will always have their imagination. Although the film leaves it open as to if Chihiro will ever see Hako and the strange world again, the audience understands that what is most important is following your heart.

Whether hand drawn or computer animated, the setting and eccentric characters make Spirited Away truly mesmerizing. It is the attention to detail that makes the film seem so realistic. For example, the shadows add texture to the settings to the point that fools the eyes of the audience. Personally, I was amazed by the art behind the drawings of No Face as he is certainly one of the most visually memorable characters in the film.

Besides the film’s ultimate message of following your heart and finding inner strength, particular themes also played a role throughout the film, especially in a couple of characters. For example, the parents turning into pigs and No Face becoming ridiculously large heed the warning of overindulgence. Another theme to notice in the film is the way the workers of the bathhouse responded to No Face’s gold, especially those who let their guard down and were eaten. No matter the theme that influenced them the most, the film leaves the audience breathless. Ultimately, Spirited Away is an enchanting film that truly lifts the spirits of those who watch it.

Pulse: Week 12 Blog Post

In regards to the genre, both Japanese and American versions of Pulse portray horror in a fashion that is synonymous with each of their cultures. In the American Pulse, the film is more straightforward as it basically spoon-feeds the audience the context of the film and leaves little room for them to ponder the message of the movie. Consequently, due to the American version’s lack of mystery, the film must rely on graphic images, tense music and jump cuts to evoke fear in the audience. The film also relied on special effects and close up shots to establish the state of fear needed. Essentially, the audience is left feeling that the film tried too hard to scare them.

On the other hand, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Japanese Pulse leaves much more mystery throughout the film compared to its American counterpart. Even towards the end of the movie, the audience is left with much more to ponder, as many questions must still be answered. It is in leaving the audience with such ambiguity that Kurosawa is able to evoke the psychological fear that is common in Japanese horror films. By comparing the loneliness of death with that of a life filled with technology, Kurosawa leaves his audience with a fear of isolation that they can better relate to than a ghost popping out at them while they do their laundry.

Kurosawa’s film is able to better convey this fear of isolation by making the scenes with the highest tension silent and the use of the long shot to show the distance between many of the characters. It makes the audience feel that although people live in the same world, technology isolates them and it is the reason why they never truly connect. Ultimately, Kurosawa proves that true horror does not need graphic, “up in your face” intensity to strike real fear in the audience.

Blade Runner: Week 11 Blog Post

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner certainly exhibits many of the elements that give the film noir genre its unique mood and style. In the film, the lighting and play of shadows serve to give the setting its essential noir mood. With the use of what appears as natural light and shadows casted upon by any nook and cranny created by the film’s complex setting, Scott is able to set an uneasy and mysterious mood to each scene.

As already examined in the lighting, film noir serves to give its viewers an uneasy mood. The film uses rain to do just that by portraying many of the actions and deaths outside when it is present. The eccentric setting itself also carries out this mood as it takes place in a lively future Los Angeles. However, the city is ultimately cold and almost inhumane.

Perhaps the result of combining the genres of noir and sci-fi, the clothing that specifically Deckard and Rachael wear seems out of tune with the futuristic setting that the film takes place in. Instead, their clothes look as if they were taken straight from a noir film of the early twentieth century. This yet again adds on to the vibe of the film.

Also common in many noir works, the theme of femme fatale is evident as well in the film. This idea continues on with the notion of latent sexuality that the film at times evokes. For example, prior to when Deckard kills the first woman replicant, he is distracted by her seduction of him, which leads to her almost killing him. Although they should not be trusted, women that convey this quality seem to always lead the male protagonist to danger. The film’s abrupt ending leaves this notion open because the viewers do not know if Rachael can truly be trusted or even what will happen next. In any case, at its core, Blade Runner is truly film noir and serves to show the originality that genre mixing and film can still have.

The Western: Week 10 Blog Post

The Western Genre certainly has its own unique style when it comes to film. Of all the Westerns seen in class, there are definitely many parallels between each film that unify and give them each its own western vibe.  For starters, Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars, Django and Sukiyaki Western Django (after a great scene with Quentin Tarantino) all begin the same way; the viewers are introduced to the main character with his back turned against the screen, usually walking towards some form of danger and peril. This is perhaps a common technique used by many westerns to establish that its main character, besides a considerable amount of mystery, is an outsider.

Focusing solely on Django and Sukiyaki Western Django, each film has its own form of a desolate ghost town setting that also fits perfectly with the western genre. The town serves as the hub for conflict and action as any western is bound to have a variety of shootouts directly taking place within them. In Django and Sukiyaki, another common western genre aspect is that the main antagonists of the films take refuge within the town. When the antagonists are taken into account with the outsider who happens to stroll into town, the western genre has its prototypical plot.

Ultimately, the most iconic scenes of western movies are its showdowns. In any case, the typical western showdown exhibits the protagonist facing off against the antagonist for a battle to the death. A bit unconventional, the showdown between Django, with two broken hands, and General Jackson fulfill the western’s expectations. Although the class has not seen the ending of Sukiyaki, it can be expected that a showdown is bound to occur. No matter the commonalities between westerns, each film still provides the exhilarating and action packed experience that all viewers want in a good old western.

Week 9 Blog Post-Mephisto

Mephisto

A scene in Szabo’s Mephisto that truly caught my eye was when Heinz and the general meet for the first time. Comfortably sitting in his dressing room, when he hears the news that the general wants to meet him, Heinz instantly feels skittish and fearful. This translates smoothly as he makes his way towards the balcony of the theatre with the film’s use of prolonged close up shots of both the General and Heinz. For Heinz, the close up shots serve to show his fear in the situation of meeting a high ranked Nazi leader. For the General, however, it shows him as almost analyzing him. It is important to remember that while this is all happening, Heinz is still in his full Mephisto costume and makeup.

The scene is quite tense until the General finally says congrats to Heinz. In what can be seen as a quick transition, the tension has passed when the scene fast-forwards a bit later to Mephisto (Heinz), the General and his wife laughing in conversation. The audience is left to fill in the wholes of what happened between the time of tension and later laughter; the director seems to use this through out the whole film in order to condense time.

The most striking part of the whole scene, however, was when the camera panned out and the viewer sees the audience gazing up to the sight of a Nazi leader meeting with what can be interpreted as the devil himself. It is almost as if Heinz’s acting had not stopped and he was performing yet again. The viewer can see this as an almost foreshadowing to the influence that Heinz can have on the people of Germany as a political pawn of the Nazis. It also begs the question of who is more evil: the devil or the Nazis? In any case, it is a truly powerful shot to see the audience of the theatre mesmerized by this sight as if they are almost worshiping both men. Ultimately, Mephisto proves to be a telling story of what man is willing to do in order to gain his greatest desires.

 

Week 8: A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was certainly a cinematic experience that leaves its audience with an array of thought and emotion. In terms of sound, I found the movie to be quite revolutionary, as I had never before seen a movie in which sound played a more integral role. The use of extra diegetic classical music throughout some of the most intense scenes is what truly stuck with me. I believe that Kubrick uses music in order to differentiate between two realities: the reality that is society and Alex’s own reality in which his authority is all that matters.

In the beginning of the film, the classical music (mostly Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) is used when Alex and his gang are up to no good and wreaking havoc. On the other hand, when film lacks music, the audience sees Alex up against society’s reality and rules. For example, there is no music when Alex fist meets Mr. Deltoid or throughout his whole time in prison.

After the treatment, however, Alex can no longer listen to Beethoven’s 9th. This can be interpreted to mean that he is in a way struggling between the two realities. Once he is released, Alex soon comes to understand that his old reality is no more; he has lost his family, friends/gang and, most importantly to him, his autonomy.

This constant struggle for Alex ultimately comes to an end once he jumps out of the window. The scenes at the hospital make the audience believe that he is slowly returning to his own reality. This can be seen by his answers to the psychiatric test; they show glimpses of violence in them. The hospital scene lacks music to the very end making the audience believe that he is in fact better. However, once the government official visits him, the classical music starts again and Alex returns to old thought process. Ultimately, as he states it, he is finally “cured” and has returned to what he considers his normal self.

I also noticed how the film might have been a cornerstone and inspiration for sound in many future films, especially psychological thrillers. For example, the use of friendly music in serious acts of violence can also be seen in American Psycho. Ultimately, A Clockwork Orange is truly a film that requires thought after you’ve seen it. Nevertheless, it is a great film with revolutionary methods in regards to sound.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The boulder scene from Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my all time favorite scenes from any of the movies I’ve watched. Dressing up as Indiana Jones twice for Halloween, this scene hits close to my heart. I was very intrigued to analyze the scene’s editing and discover new subtle nuances within the film.

The establishing shot of the scene begins with Indy trying to carefully remove the artifact from an ancient temple’s stand. He takes his time and rightfully presumes that the tomb is booby-trapped. In terms of editing, the shots in this part of the scene are extended in order to prolong the suspense of what will happen next. The scene also cuts to Indy’s partner to add even more suspense as he vicariously awaits the artifact with seemingly no concern for Indy’s well being. What makes this scene really suspenseful, however, is its music. The music perfectly syncs with the actions of the scene and once Indy finally retrieves the artifact, the music comes to a climatic halt that leaves the viewer with relief and despair all at once.

By removing the artifact, Indy now finds himself in one of the most terrifying obstacle courses ever. As the temple’s traps come alive with anger, the editing comes alive as well. For the rest of this exhilarating scene, the editing moves into fast cuts. It seems as if each shot is never more than a couple of seconds. By doing so, the editor not only succeeds in heightening suspense but also succeeds in construct editing by showing the special relations of the temple.

From beginning to end, the scene is a cinematic roller coaster of exhilaration. In my opinion, this real life version of temple run is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen to a film. After further examination, I’ve come to also value and admire its masterful editing as well.

Contempt

As Paul in the film says, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt is a story about “total, tender and tragic love”. Through the use of mise-en-scene and cinematography, Godard directs a beautiful masterpiece of the French new wave era.

A scene that really caught my eye was when Paul and Camille spent time at their apartment. The whole scene took mise-en-scene to another level. In terms of the setting, the apartment is incomplete in that there are mirrors that need to be put up on the walls and doors that seem to have no glass to the extent that people can walk right through them. This can be seen to symbolize that the couple’s “total love” is actually incomplete. A color that stands out through out the scene is red. As the climax of the film shows, the color could have foreshadowed the deadly car crash in Jerry’s red sports car. The scene’s movement and acting are very casual as well; they need to be because of the scene’s natural mood (they’re just a couple in their apartment).

Throughout the aforementioned scene, in terms of cinematography, Godard does a brilliant job with focal length, depth of field, and motion. Using the walls and their frames, the director adds tremendous depth and length to many of the shots. My favorite shot was when Camille is on the phone with her mother. The audience sees Camille from the viewpoint of another room, which exemplifies masterful framing as Godard uses the walls and the frames of two different rooms to add depth to the shot. The motion of the camera throughout the scene is also very natural as it goes back and fourth between Paul and Camille as they seem to never be in the same place. In a way, it helps show the distance between them.

Another observation I made of the film was the use of its dramatic music in the most normal and ordinary of times. The constant pause and starting of the same music added more tension and awkwardness to the film as it conveyed a sense that Paul and Camille’s love was slowly dying.

Essentially, each aspect of mise-en-scene and cinematography plays with and against each other to deliver an amazing film. Contempt is truly an artistic film experience.