Final Post

This class has actually ended up being among one of my favorite classes. In all honesty I registered for the class due to the fact that it sounded intriguing, who does not like movies, and I was in need of a course that would help fulfill the writing credit. Now, at the end of the semester, I find myself walking away with more than I could have ever bargained for. I’m not sure I will ever look at movies in the same manner. There is no doubt in my mind that when I sit down to leisurely view a film I am going to end up critiquing every second of it. Hopefully my family and friends do not mind me talking throughout the film from start to finish. I also could not be more thankful that this class forced me to watch several movies that I would never have picked up to watch on my own. It really helped broaden my horizon in terms of cinema and has made me more willing and likely to watch a movie despite the have negative preconceived notions I may have formed. Before this semester, I automatically assumed that black and white films were not ones that I would enjoy because of their age and lack of technology. However, this class definitely cured that ridiculous assumption. Silent films are probably the types of films that I attempted to avoid at all cost before taking this class. I did not think that my attention span and interest could last long enough to pay attention only to things moving on a screen. However I have come to thoroughly enjoy such films after viewing multiple of them during in class screenings. As a result of watching the silent films, my appreciation for sound integrated within films has increased tremendously. Needless to say, I am taking away things from this class that I never expected to and I could not be more thrilled.

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Hugo

I was actually very impressed by the film Hugo. It is my favorite film that we have watched in this class throughout the semester. The way it was digitally constructed and the messages behind the narrative drew my attention towards the film even more.

The digital construction gave the film a very crisp, detailed appearance. The preciseness of the setting, along with the characters, elicits the same imaginary feeling one undergoes while watching fantasy films. Digital manufacturing allows for these intricacies due to the enhancement of technology. This method of production adds to the message behind the film, in that even though people are living in a machinery world, it is important to not loose sight of who he or she is and where they belong in this “machine.” In the end we all function as one unit, helping one another, creating an even more efficient world.

This film contained several hidden messages both explicitly and implicitly. This is done explicitly through the use of props like the clock. One of the initial shots of the film depicts a clock in which you can see Hugo’s face peeping from one of the numbers. Hugo actually winds the clocks at the train station daily. He thoroughly enjoys working with machinery, evident as he sets the clocks everyday and strives to mend the metal women. Time is capable of fixing anything and just because something is in the past does not necessarily mean it has been forgotten or lost its importance. The metaphor verbalized by Melie at the end touches upon this perfectly. He mentions how Hugo fixed himself (Melie) and his machine both metaphorically and physically. With that being said, one may grant Hugo with the archetypal role of a hero.

Extra- diegetic sound is found through out the vast majority of film. This helps guide the viewer’s emotions and reactions toward what is occurring on screen. For instance, towards the latter portion of the film when Hugo is racing through the train station attempting to run away from the station inspector, frantically fast pace sound is being played I the background. This gets the audience to sit up towards the front of their chair as they become anxious, hoping that Hugo will make it out before being caught.

The incorporation of history added another extremely interesting point to the film. At several points during the film, it would touch back to historical moments in time of film like the Lumiere brothers. I think the historical aspects just function to show us that no matter how dated something may be it still plays an essential role in society.

This goes without say, but the detail in this film is extraordinary and I am sure there is plenty that I did not even catch or understand.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a spectacular Japanese anime film that centers around the importance of love and staying true to oneself. These themes are extremely common of Japanese motion pictures, as they tend to go off the idea of avoiding solitude. In an attempt to not loose those she truly cares about, Chihiro sets out to save her parents. She is willing to do whatever it takes to turn them back into human beings. She earns the archetypal role of a hero as she overcomes all odds, breaking the powerful spells placed on both her parents and Haku by Yubaba.

The aesthetics of Japanese anime is very distinct. Spirited Away utilizes the art of hand animation. The intricacies of the drawings are impeccable as they give such attention to detail. For instance, as Chihiro is traveling on the train her profile is shown as she stares toward the front of the train and her reflection is shown on the window, along with the glistening water in the background. The preciseness of the drawings place even more emphasis on each aspect.

The lighting and incorporation of creatures in this film gives it the feel of a film of the genre fantasy. The soft edges give it a fanciful feeling that is commonly associated with fantasy films. The lighting is extremely superficial as the film demonstrates a stark difference from daytime to nighttime. It is used to emphasize the mood of the film. Creatures are yet another typical aspect of anime that is found in Spirited Away. These creatures consist of animals, humans, a combination of the two, and made up beings. The creatures work to criticize humans and their greedy, materialistic mentalities. This is extremely evident as the lust for gold in the bathhouse leads to the downfall of individuals. It clearly shows how people loose sight of who they are and what they will do for material things.

Horror

Horror is a main genre that can be found cross- culturally. The story line may differ from movie to movie but the overall paranormal mood remains unchanged. Similar to every other genre, it only appeals to a certain audience. This idea stands out a lot with regard to horror because it is only tolerable to some. The two versions of Pulse (Japanese and American) that we viewed in class ultimately follow the same story line but are executed differently. The variations between the two films are what make the Japanese version more favorable than the American version. I did not have a clue what to expect, but I was extremely intrigued by Kurosawa’s Pulse.

The color red plays a dominant role in both versions of Pulse, as it does in the majority of horror films. However I found it extremely interesting that while red is generally representative of death in most horror movies, in this movie the red tape is what corresponds to safety. In the American version it is explicitly said that the red tape is the only thing that will repel ghosts.

I am not too familiar with Japanese films, let alone Japanese horror films. It is explicitly different from common American horror films. In turn, this elicits a different reaction in the audience. The Japanese version takes a very discreet approach to unfolding the story, insinuating almost everything, opposed to the American version that is extremely explicit and in your face. Kurosawa’s version takes the everyday life and adds an unexpected, unfavorable element. This makes his motion picture scary because the viewer may feel as if the story has potential to occur in his or her own life. The jump cuts commonly used in the American film aid in the scare tactics, while the Japanese version is almost completely devoid of these. The lack of establishing shots in the Japanese picture also enhances the feeling of disarray within the film.

Week 11

At the beginning of Blade Runner, I thought for sure it was going to end up being my favorite of the semester. However, horror found in the latter part of the film made me debate it to some extent. It was definitely different than anything we have watched during class thus far. Without a doubt Blade Runner should be classified under the genre of film noir. Right from the beginning any viewer would notice the darkness portrayed in the scene. This dark, eerie vibe is one that is extremely typical of film noir. It remained continuous through out the entire movie while establishing an unsettling mood. Immediately following this, the second thing I noticed was all the futuristic elements this movie encompassed. The few lights this movie did have were superficial and allowed one to believe this is taking place in the future. Not to mention the flying vehicles, which almost everyone imagines when he or she envisions life in the future. Man-made people (people constructed as indestructible machines) are another aspect our society associates with the future, and in turn with film noir. The makeup done to perfection on these recreations led me to believe they were superficial in nature. The machine used to detect whether an individual was indeed a recreation or not by the dilation of the eye is futuristic in itself. The Chinese man making eyes is yet another feature of the future- human made organs. It is common for film noir to contain ideas parallel to that of German Expressionism and Blade Runner did just this. Contortions of the face are seen frequently in German Expressionism and arise during this movie. I thought the idea of one man constructing these “perfect” people was a German Expressionist thought. He rises to power due to this and people look at him essentially as his or her master, being superior to them. I enjoyed this film despite a few freaky scenes that made me cringe. Overall Blade Runner encompasses too many aspects of film noir to overlook.

The Western

Western films are probably one of the easier genres to pick out. The distinct setting and costumes alone can be used to classify the film as Western. The setting generally consists of an abandoned town in the middle of a desert. Typically these towns are quite small and tend to be run down in nature. The town consists solely of two rows of aged houses (more like bars) that run parallel to each other with a muddy dirt road in between. On the outskirts is simply empty land that serves mostly as fighting grounds. However, some slight variation may occur. We experience this almost negligible disparity in the two movies viewed today in class. Django follows more of the traditional Western setting, while Sukiyaki Western Django exhibits a more stylized backdrop.

Costumes and props also denote a Western film. The costumes found in these types of motion pictures seem to relate to that of a cowboy. The classic cowboy (almost always black) hat is always a part of the characters costumes. The hat casts a shadow on his face, giving him a mysterious front. In Django when he takes off his hat behind closed to interact with the young woman, he takes on an entirely different character- one filled with compassion rather than revenge. The props consist of their means of defense. This mostly encompasses guns and knives. In both Sukiyaki Western Django and Django, a more modern revolver aids the outnumbered man in killing several other men.

A coffin is always seen in these types of movies. This is probably due to the fact that these films pretty much center around fighting and ultimately death.

Sukiyaki Western Django is not exactly what I had expected. I actually like it better because it follows more of a narrative outline and incorporates some humor in between the endless gory scenes. The use of flashbacks also helps to follow along. On the other hand, I found Django to be just another Western film. I thought it too was relatively good, but thus far I have enjoyed Sukiyaki Western Django more.

Week 9

Mephisto was not one of my favorite movies. I felt like the movie was really dragged out and took a while to actually unfold. Also, it was not among the easiest of movies to follow. However this may have been due to the movie being in German and having to read subtitles instead of listening. This is not to say that the movie was not well constructed.

The scene that stuck out to me the most was actually the final scene. Heinz is asked to meet the Nazi general alone, and does so. While walking down that hallway up to the arena where the general suggested would stage future plays, we hear the echo of their footsteps. As the men are walking down this hallway, this echo is diegetic sound that the actors are able to hear as well. It sounded very similar to what it would sound like if individuals were marching in a concentration camp.

Following this, Heinz is instructed to go down into the center of the “stage.” The Nazi general shrieks Heinz’s name. The echo it makes functions to show his dominance over not only Heinz, but all those surrounding him as well. Here we see one long cut with Heinz attempting to escape the lights shining down on him. Meanwhile, the power of the Nazi general is depicted with him looking down on Heinz. Heinz is helpless in the middle of the stage, running from one corner to the next. The bright white lights are sucking everything out of him as we see the color being drawn out of his face as well. He continues to struggle and cannot make this stop. He soon comes to the realization that he has been left absolutely devoid of any power he may have once had. Heinz gives one last yell as he admits that he is just an actor, meaning that he does not make his own decisions. He simply does as told, playing the role assigned to him. The camera then goes and freezes at a close up of his white, helpless face.

Week 8 Sound

A Clockwork Orange definitely did not settle well with me. The film is definitely disturbing to say the list. However, this is not to say that the movie is not well constructed, directed, scripted, etc. Sound plays an integral role through out the entire film. During the two and half hour screen time, the amount of time there was music playing in the background greatly exceeds the handful of times no sound is heard. This is true right from the very beginning of the film where we first hear extra-diegetic sounds. Generally in films extra-diegetic sounds are used to emphasize what is occurring on screen. Usually it adds to the spectators’ senses and creates a mood that parallels that of the movie. However, this film really does quite the opposite. It takes Classical music and pairs it with extremely unsettling images and movements. This creates a sense of confusion and– in my opinion– just adds on to the disturbance factor. We see this as Alex belches “Singing in the Rain” while him and his buddies shamelessly harass an innocent couple. He rapes the mans wife right in front of his very eyes, conditioning the fellow to recall this terror every time he hears that song. To be honest, I am not sure if I will ever look at that song the same way. Diegetic sounds are heard here as well: as the couple squeals as Alex beats them. It is obvious Alex is fond of music seeing as he possesses a countless number of records in his room. Not to mention he picks up two women in a record store. That scene also uses music in a brilliant manner.  As the scene is put in fast-forward, the music also quickens in pace. In the end when Alex is being beaten by the police, the sound of the bar hitting him yielded a different unique sound every time. I am not quite sure what the meaning behind this was but maybe it is just to show that his life is in complete disarray? Also, because there was usually some sort of sound present in the background, when there wasn’t you knew something serious was happening. For instance, when there were serious conversations whether it was when he was in jail or eating dinner at his previous victims house, no sound existed.

Editing

For this weeks blog post I chose a scene from one of my absolute favorite childhood movies: The Parent Trap (1998). I limited myself to about the first minute and fifty seconds because it is chalk full of editing. The latter half of this clip is just as spectacular with a significant amount of editing as well, but I will only discuss the first. It appears that this clip begins with a wipe, as the camera travels across the screen in a line while creating a separation between shots. This technique was used primarily in films pre 1960 because they did not have the plethora of technology we have today. Even though The Parent Trap is a 1998 film, the wipe works perfectly at the beginning of this clip. As the girls begin to reminisce about their parents, the viewers gain a sense of where they are, what time of day it is, and are able to see exactly whom they are talking about. Immediately after the picture of their parents is shown, we see a black screen– that should be referred to as a fade– followed by an image of the girls laying in bed talking. It is evident that several cuts are made while the girls are talking, creating a direct change from one shot to the next. A spatial relationship between shots is created via spatial manipulation and intraframe editing.  The spatial manipulation utilizes Kuleshov’s effect. The shots are cut in a way that forces the viewer to create a spatial whole themselves. When considering that the two actresses on the screen are the same person, one would assume intraframe editing aided in producing this scene. The rhythmic relations between cuts play a significant role. It starts out with long shots, extending the length of the frame. Once they begin talking about their scheming to switch places, the shots get shorter. This accelerates the clip, creating a feeling of urgency and excitement in the spectator.

Week 6 Assignment

Contempt is an outstanding film at face value, but an even more remarkable piece when broken down. This film should be applauded its use of cinematography and mise-en-scene. It really puts to use everything the film industry has to offer in one movie. Not only does it encompass a vast array of techniques, it does so very well. For this reason, it undoubtedly is a work of art.

In almost every scene there is something that may be used to discuss cinematography because each scene plays with the audiences eye in a new way. The very first scene for instance, with Camille and Paul lying in bed, conveys more than one can even understand. The framing of this scene is magnificent as it only captures the room partially, leaving only the couple in bed in our viewing range. The closeness of the characters bodies, along with the camera lead us to believe that they posses a strong bond. The use of a middle focal length adds a more traditional perspective to the scene. I felt it made it seem very realistic, apposed to superficial or distorted. The deep focus provided the picture with lots of clarity as we could see definition even within the bed sheets. The camera focused on Camille’s body and the different parts individually as she questioned Paul if he loved each and every part of her. Having the couple in the frame, followed by certain assets of Camille, and finally returning to the couple together was attention-grabbing. I also found it interesting that the first color used was red because red occurs on several occasions throughout the entire film. Red has varied meanings because it can suggest anything from love to death. However when thinking about it like that, the color red could not suit the movie any better. Because Camille was facing Paul and not the camera we are unable to see her face, and because her shadow is covering Paul’s face we are not capable of fully seeing any of his expressions either. This really  plays on the idea that their relationship is in a sort of blur and there is no real emotional connection to be had between the two.

I know that was a lot regarding one scene but truthfully it encompasses so much and everything is note worthy.