Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cigarette? Smoking!

Before this unit, I didn't even know film noir existed, but I have been opened up to a whole new world of darkness, gloom, crime and unjust deeds! As if high school wasn't enough...but seriously, despite it's depressing tone, film noir was probably my favorite unit so far, which was very unexpected, here's why I think I like it.

The plots of all the movies were so addicting, they draw you in and you can't look away, no matter how horrible it is. One sadistic action goes on to the next and so on, until we reach the exciting conclusion, which is unpredictably predictable, meaning, you know it's all gonna turn out bad in the end, but you hope it won't. So plot is great, enticing, but not amazing in that I probably wouldn't want to watch any of the movies more than twice.

I think this particular fact is mostly because the characterization is weak. I get pulled into the story, but I have no interest in the main character's well-being. Maybe this is because the whole time I know he's gonna die anyways, or maybe it's because he's not a very intriguing character in general. Either way, the characters are a little dull, in contrast with the lighting, which is brilliant.

The strategically placed shadows and the Venetian blinds are thrown onto the screen and it is SO satisfying. There is always something to notice about the lighting in the films, it constantly keeps your eyes busy, trying to decipher what's what and who's who in the shot. Basically, it makes me feel pretty smart to talk about how much I like the lighting, not to mention I actually really do like the lighting, so it's all a good situation in general.

In conclusion, film noir=good because of the above stated reasons.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome to the Wild Wild West!

In regards to westerns, I enjoyed the films in general, the themes were pretty basic and classic, the cinematic elements were interesting, the characters fun, but I have to say that the dialogue and plot line gets pretty tiresome after awhile. I do spose watchin' a western once in awhile'de be okay, but three in jus'a few weeks, well, that there's a lil' much.

The thing I really liked the most about these films is the emphasis on the power of the land. The extreme long shots in both of the movies is classic, but I had never thought of the reason for all of them in westerns. But I realize now that the director is trying to point out how the land dwarfs the people, and how man is trying to command this vast, powerful nature, which is much harder than it seems. Man did not know how to handle this challenge, so chaos ensues. I really liked how obvious this message was, especially in "Unforgiven".

Now just a few comments on the characters of "Stagecoach". I have to say that I really loved the character development in this film, these guys were hilarious! My favorite characters were Doc Boone and Bucky. Doc Boone because he just does what he wants and nobody says anything because he's a doctor, or even if they do say something, he basically gives them a big "screw you", especially to the 'upper class' characters. And I love Bucky because he tries to be that 'does what he wants' character, but his fear gets in the way, I find him very real and easy to relate to. Now I just want to take this opportunity to say that Hatfield and Mallory were obvioulsly in a relationship! This is why Hatfield came on the stagecoach in the first place-to protect his pregnant woman! Mallory was apparently very lonely and missed her husband who was in the military, so she gave into temptation, I mean, who can turn down that Hatfield with his jalepeno-looking face and everything? Not Mallory, that's for sure! seriously though, it actually makes sense as you watch the movie and think about them specifically.

In conclusion, gittyup lil doggies!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Motorcycle Diaries

"The Motorcycle Diaries", set in 1952, depicts a young Che Guevara-known as Ernesto or Fuser in the film-(Gael Garcia Bernal) as he and his close friend Alberto Granada(Rodrigo de la Serna) travel across South America on a leaky, broken-down motorcycle which they call "The Mighty One". Their original goal is to reach the very-most southern point of the America's, have fun and pick up women along the way. Although once they witness the deep separation of rich and poor (specifically in Peru) their motives change awfully quick. Directed by Walter Salles’s, this film was touching, beautiful, heart warming, funny and inspiring.

The film is full of extreme long-shots which show the majesty that is South America. This affects the characters as well as the viewers. The shots of the open scenery, the abandoned Incan ruins, and the impoverished towns throughout are generally shot in high-key lighting with many colors and vivid images, indicating that these scenes are ‘the good guys’ of South America, the underdogs if you will. Whereas the scenes depicting the big cities are very dull in terms of color.

Nature also played an important role with symbolism in this film. For example, Ernesto and Alberto get overpowered by nature early in the film, when they are trying to set up a tent in the rain, and the wind sweeps the tent away into a river. Another example of this is when they run into snow while driving through Chile and afterwards end up having to let The Mighty One go. These specific examples seem to show how powerful nature is, but later in the movie, once Ernesto and Alberto become less ignorant to the problems of unity throughout their trip, they and the viewer start become aware of how man uses this power of nature to his advantage. The most obvious illustration of this is how a river is used to divide the people infected with leprosy from those who are taking care of them. Ernesto breaks this barrier by swimming across the river to stay and celebrate with his friends with leprosy on the other side.

Another aspect of the film that I found particularly interesting was the camera movement. A great deal of the movie is shot with a hand-held camera or a steadicam. This gives the audience the feeling that they are in the movie, or that they are an outside observer of these two friends, almost as if the audience is filming their journey.

Overall, this film was wonderful. I enjoyed the clever writing and acting that carried it out so well. I also appreciated the symbolism, the awe-inspiring scenery, the story in general, the choices in cinematography and the significance of the film’s message as a whole. Bravo a Salles para esta pelĂ­cula hermosa.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Snakes, why'd it have to be snakes?"

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first of three incredible films starring Harrison Ford, and this one is directed by Spielberg (not so sure about the others). In The Lost Ark, Indian Jones (Ford) plays a boring college professor by day, studly archaeologist by night...and any other time he takes off from his day job. In this film, Indie finds himself in an endless struggle to get the chest which supposedly holds the original slates of the ten commandments sent from God himself. The struggle is, the Nazi's of the late 1930's are also trying to get this same chest for Adolf Hitler, which creates quite a conflict. This is definitely your typical action film, only so much better. Most of the plot line of the story is Indiana searching for the lost ark, which all seems to have a doomed feeling about it. In fact, at one point one of Indiana's closest friends says that "the ark is not something that men deserve", of course, Indie will find is anyways (because he's a stud like that).

I'd have to say that my favorite thing about this film was the characters. Indiana Jones obviously, is simply incredible, a classical hero beyond belief. But then there were so many other characters that made the dialogue and general action of the film dramatic, hilarious, creepy and suspenseful. Mary (Karen Allen), Indiana's love intrest (who he apparently has quite a bit of a past with), is simply wonderful. She is not your typical damsel in distress, she is a whisky drinkin', fist fightin', bar owin' hard ass with a voice to match, basically, she's my hero. Oh, and the nazi's, oh the nazi's...they are just some of the creepiest characters I've laid eyes on. The actors just hit the mark, every time I saw their faces, I just got the shivers. Let me just say, it's a good thing they get what's coming to them. Oh man, there's even a nazi monkey!! This film has everything.

The cinematography is also very entertaining. The film opens with a shot of a mountain, then Indiana comes into the frame, and he appears the same size as the mountains themselves. He then procedes to ever so smoothly places his hands on his hips and stare the mountain down with the sillhoute of his hat and whip clear against the red sky, as to suggest he is in charge of whatever he may encounter. I also noticed that during every action sequence of either boobie(sp?) traps, a horse/car chase or whatever it may be, the shots are all very short, usually no longer than a few seconds. This keeps the viewer engaged and on the edge of their seat, since at some times there is no establishing shot, it gives this feeling of chaos and disorder, but Indie always seems to figure it out. The music contributes to this chaotic feeling also, constantly switching between Indie's anthem when the camera is on him, to the demonic sound of the nazi's tune when the camera is on them.

Overall I felt this movie was very entertaining, but did get a little long. If you are in the mood for a stright forward action movie, this is for you. In conclusion, I approve, and highly reccomend this film.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Today is a Good Day to Die"

I recently stayed at home to on a Friday night, and stumbled upon this movie on AMC, and may I just say, I am impressed! Little Big Man, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Dustin Hoffman(Jack Crabb/Little Big Man), who was so young in this movie, definately surpassed my expectations! The plot is that Jack is about 120 years old, and is flashing back to the early years in his life. He starts when he is ten and his family is murdered by Native Americans while trying to go West across the US, and Jack and his sister are left alive and taken in by the "human beings" as the Native Americans call themselves. Throughout the movie, Jack goes back and forth from being a "human being" and a "white man". During this exchange, Jack ends up fighting in General Custer's army more than once, taking up gun fighting, getting married to a Swedish bride, searching for his Swedish bride, having children, and hunting buffalo.

The movie has a great mix of comedy, tradegdy, sarcasim, drama, and an overall interesting message...Although I'm not really sure how to state it. I guess you could say the message is: agression, hatred and violence towards one ethnicity(on both sides of the argument) is simply stupid and unnecessary because it only causes more pain for both sides, and we are all the same anyways. So I'll stop being philosophical now, and encourage you to watch this clip the whole way through, it's really good, especially at the end!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Alvin and the Chipmunks...Yes please!

I was weary first heading into the theater, but Alvin and the Chipmunks captured me right from the start with its amazingly awesome rendition of “You Had a Bad Day”, the song made popular by American Idol; Which in the movie, is sung in three parts by Alvin, Simon, and Theodore (the cutest one). That was it for me, if there was going to be more sweet trios, I was in for the long haul! I only became more impressed as the movie went on, Stephen Hunter on the other hand, did not feel the same way, he describes the chipmunks as,
“Alvin and his buddies, Simon and Diseased Scurvy Rodent -- oh, sorry, folks, I
mean Theodore!”

I simply could not disagree more! These rodents happen to be some of the cutest things I have ever seen, and their antics are not only loveable, but hilarious as well. When Dave (surrogate Father to the chipmunks) first rejects the chipmunks and literally throws them out in the rain-a little dramatic, I know-even he cannot deny their loveable nature and is forced to take them back in.
The acting in the film is actually done pretty professionally as well. First of all, I just really like Jason Lee, who plays Dave Seville. I think he did a very good job becoming a believable character, regardless of the ridiculousness of the movie. David Cross on the other hand, well, I agree with Hunter on that point,
“…David Cross's hammy over-acting as the record exec who wants to corrupt the
I own some of David Cross’s standup, and let me just say, it is VERY far from the humor in Alvin and the Chipmunks. I believe that Cross knew what he was doing with his “hammy over-acting”, either way, it was still “hammy over-acting”. The chipmunks on the other hand, were computer animated; soo…their acting was great (?). I can’t decide if I liked the computer generated chipmunks or not, I guess I would like them more than actual chipmunks, but maybe plain old cartoon would be good as well. Hunter appears to dislike the computer animated chipmunks, he elaborates,
“--is new computer technologies. So this film features what look like living
plush toys.”
Overall, I truly enjoyed this movie a lot. It was fun to be a kid again for that hour and a half, and I say you should not listen to Hunter when he says,
“But youngsters who love the shrieky singing and don't notice the tapioca of the
story will probably get their money's worth. Parents: Bring earplugs.”
The singing is actually pretty good, I mean, besides the shrieking, they sing in perfect harmony to tunes you can sing along to. And if you’re not enthralled with the music, then I assure you that your heart will melt during the scene when Theodore curls up in Dave’s bed, watch for it! It’s so cute, it’s almost comic, which is what makes it so amazing!