Monthly Archives: January 2014

Blog 1, The Virgin Suicides

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Chapter 1 of Looking at Movies introduces all of the main aspects and details put into making a movie work and portray the idea it was meant to portray as well as create the proper mood and make it understandable to the audience.  It mostly looks into the way its filmed and what tools it uses that most of us don’t notice.

I decided to analyze the movie The Virgin Suicides, which premiered in 1999 featuring Kirstin Dunst, James Wood, A.J. Cook and more.  The movie is about five sisters who are entrapped by their parents very strict rules.  A young group of boys obsess over them and their mysterious ways, and become even more intrigued when the youngest of the five sister commits suicide.  By the end of the movie we learn that the remaining four make a pact to kill themselves together as well.  The movie is mostly given to us in the perspective of the group of boys, one of them being the narrator the entire time.  This helps create the proper mood for the audience because we’re allowed to experience the same air of mystery the boys feel towards them.  The movie narrator’s monologue is also written in a continuous manne, so we are never lost throughout the story.  This movie is also based off the 1970’s time period. This comes through because of the girls’ lifestyle. They also make it a point to show how grand of a deal it was that the youngest had killed herself because in that time period suicide and adolescent struggles were very much undermined.

I believe this movie is a good portrayal for the idea of how to look at movies because time concept plays an important role in it.  Also point of view plays a major role, in the understanding of the movie and how a viewer perceives it.

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Lioniemar Reyes: He’s Just Not That Into You

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As a theater major, movies have been kind of ruined for me for a long time now.  Friends hate that I can alway figure out “who done it” or basically how a movie is going to end.  I’ve been taught a basic structure, and even if I don’t remember the exact way it was taught to me, I know that by the time the first 15 minutes of a film has passed a problem will present itself.  Subsequently, roughly about 45 minutes is spent solving the problem, and another 10-15 minutes is spent forming the “happy ending” or pulling together any looseends.  The minutes may not be exactly right, but it’s that timing and clues that I’ve learned to pick up on in classes based on directing and writing that help me figure out the ending.  Clues like, if something like a gun is on stage, you know that gun should be used by the end of the show, and someone is likely going to be killed.  It usually works that way in film as well.  For instance, in one of my favorite movies, “He’s Just Not That Into You” cigarettes are mentioned in passing when a wife, Janine, confronts her husband, Ben, if he’s been smoking.  She says he smells funny, possibly noticing that he may have been with another woman, then diverts the situation by telling him that he knows smoking is a big deal to her because her father died of lung cancer.  This already foreshadows that the issue of cigarettes is going to come up again, and almost trump a further issue of him inevitably cheating on her.  That is exactly what happens at the end of the film.  He confesses to cheating on her, and she says she want to work it out, BUT, when she finds that his hidden cigarettes she completely looses it and decides to leave him.  It was great to have this sort of touched upon on the book and how editing sort of leads us into focusing these things.  While I know about hidden clues, and I knew editing plays a huge part in how we see things, I didn’t know it was basically down to a science. 

What i mean about not knowing that it was basically down to a science, I mean that I knew fading in and fading out was used to show passage in time, but I never really thought about the fact that we just know that because I boiled it down to being a convention of movies that people just know.  I never would’ve figured out on my own that it’s related to the sun rising and setting and that we subconsciously then know that time has passed.  The same goes for low angle shots showing characters in a more powerful light, as mentioned in the text-book.  I don’t have this “cinematic language” mentioned in the book and I find it cool and interesting to learn.

It was also actually fun for me to learn about Implicit meaning and Explicit meaning in movies.  There are so many things you look over that make up these movies and as a performer it’s amazing to me to see how well-developed and in-depth these characters are formed with simple use of things like what they wear.  You don’t realize how much that forms a character and a perception in one’s mind until you dissect it.  For example, the same couple mentioned earlier Ben and Janine are clearly not happy.  To be more specific Ben seems bored with Janine so he cheats on her with a woman who appears to be all around more fun and less serious.  Janine is a writer for a magazine who publishes articles on things like nutmeg while the other woman, Anna, is a yoga instructor.  In a scene where, Ben and Anna are interrupted in the middle having sex there is a clear juxtaposition on this implicitly.  All the things mentioned earlier are explicit.  If you take a look at their costumes, both woman were attempting to have sex with Ben.  However, Janine shows up business clothes with lingerie on underneath that is just black and beige and looks generic.  It’s still sexy, but it looks generic.  She’s also very awkward and uncomfortable showing that the act of having sex in an office is out of the ordinary for her.  Anna, on the other had, has on bright red lingerie that looks like she could’ve gotten from Victoria Secret and is completely comfortable having sex in an office.  First off, the color red on its own sort of subconsciously puts a target on Anna’s back as being scandalous and wrong, which she is because she is the other woman.  It also makes her more vibrant and alluring compared to Janine who is in mostly black. subconsciously you see why Ben is like a fly to a flytrap to the other woman and betrays his wife.

I can go on and on about this movie and how this first chapter relates to it which just further excites me for further chapters.  While I said in the beginning, classes like these have sort of ruined movies for me, I actually find it fun to dissect them.  Yes, it makes it hard to get out of my head, and not over analyze, BUT it makes me feel like a detective trying to figure out what will happen next and why certain things were done a certain way.

Blog 1: Inception

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Chapter 1 of “Looking at Movies” introduces us with various ways to analyze movies in order to fully understand the various meanings within it. Movies can be interpreted from various angles such as conceptually, critical, formal, Freudian, etc. Using the tools and basics from Chapter 1, I decided that this week I would look at Inception. Inception is a movie by Christopher Nolan starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Elllen Page, and Marion Cotillard. It is a sci-fi thriller in which the protagonist, Dominick Cobb, steals vital information from his client’s targets through their dreams. Cobb inserts himself and his gang within the dream of the target and looks for the information that is locked within a vault or safe. Cobb also has to deal with the reappearing figure of his late wife who committed suicide and implicated him as her murderer. This has made Cobb flee the United States and unable to see his children. A new client, Sato, is a powerful oil manufacturer who hires Cobb to implant an idea into his competitors subconscious to disband his company so Sato can be the only remaining oil producer. Sato promises Cobb to fix his legal problems and return to the US to be with his children.

Much of the film took place in the dream world so the filmmaker used allot of cinematic tools to portray the dream realm. the use of slow motion, inverted worlds, explosions, and zero-gravity are just some of the few tools used to convey this narrative. When a character first entered and explored the dream world the director would use close ups of the characters face so that the audience would see their reaction to their new and surreal surroundings. Much like the Juno lesson, Nolan used his camera to dolly in and capture the faces and reactions of his characters throughout the movie. 

In the final scene of the movie the use of point of view and dolly-in is very explicit because it is when the main protagonist, Cobb, realizes his final task had been accomplished but looks at other members of his crew to verify this because he is is still very dazed. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_0S3vqw7tY Continue reading

Blog Post 1: The Wolf of Wall Street

Over the weekend- after weeks of anticipation, well written reviews, and a bunch of friends asking if I was ill for not yet seeing it- I finally made it to the theater to see “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This movie, directed by Martian Scorsese starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Johana Hill, and Margot Robbie, gives viewers an in depth look inside the inner workings of Wall Street corruption and greed. More or less.

As a finance major, after viewing all of the commercials and trailers, I was obviously skeptical when I read the line on each: “based on a true story.” After all, Hollywood is known to stretch the truth and this can be seen in even the most serious of movies that are “based on true stories” and a simple Google search. Needless to say, I gave this movie a chance, due simply to my love for entertainment.

 Entertainment was exactly what “The Wolf of Wall Street” was. After research, not only did I find out that a great deal of the movie was indeed based on a true story, the real protagonist, Jordan Belfort, actually wrote the book that led to the screenplay while he was serving his drastically shortened prison sentence. Now, many authors stretch the truth, especially in what was basically an autobiography, but not only did former associates and even family back his story up, the FBI agent who followed Belfort for ten years, just like in the movie, was able to confirm most of it was spot on. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was an outstanding movie, and while rather long at around three hours, was well worth the time and money spent. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys comedy, action, and thrills.

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If anyone has watched this movie and is interested in the film v. reality, here is one of the links that I looked at: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/the-wolf-of-wall-street.php

Ryan Augustowski

Blog Post #1 Rough Analysis – Spartacus

Chapter 1 stresses the importance of movie analysis, rather the analysis of an art form. Despite this chapter being quite broad, it points out some key points that greatly affect how one consciously and sub-consciously views a film. To better emphasize these topics I choose a cinema classic, Spartacus. 

I’m sure the majority of you are very familiar with the story of the historical figure Spartacus and this movie is about exactly that. The movie beings with Spartacus a slave and ends with his death due to his rebellion against the Roman Empire / Republic.

This film is the perfect example of epic American Hollywood cinema. There are loads of extra in almost every scene that help to bring a sense of realism into the fray. There are rarely scenes where Spartacus is alone and shot up close. Instead the camera is often times recording from a distance as Kubrick tries to include more than one person in almost every shot. This helps to recognize that Spartacus is really not that important of an individual, he is in fact just a slave.

It is the dialogue that lets the viewer see Spartacus as the protagonist he really is. He doesn’t speak often, but when he does he does it slowly and forcefully. This makes him seem stoic and impressive, characteristics of a leader of a rebellion.

The music is very loud and epic (can be related to modern day Nolan, just slower and more drawn out). This gives a sense of scale to the film. It must be large and grandiose if it calls for such epic instrumentals. Proving that going to see this film in 1960 when it came out was more of an event than the way we go to see movies today. Synonymous to the way we view Broadway shows in the 21’st century.

Lastly the way the scenes were shot was pretty revolutionary and is used in almost EVERY modern film today. It is called the rule of thirds and it became truly popularized during this period of cinema. The rule of thirds affects the scale of the shot and makes the setting and anything else in the shot seem larger and more epic. It can also help express the emotions of the characters better and encapsulate more meaning and information in a single shot. It is a very simple principle and I guarantee you have seen it before. 

The Rule of Thirds– This a simple principle used in filming and editing. Simple divide the shot into thirds, much like the French flag is divided into thirds. Now you want to position the focal point, whether is be a character, object, or anything else on either of the lines that divided the shot into thirds. This leaves two thirds of the shot open to encapsulate a landscape or anything else for that matter. This technique allows for shots to look larger and more pleasing to the eyes. This is such a simple yet critical concept that movies like Spartacus helped to popularize to the point where it is used in almost every shot of blockbuster films today. I have attached a picture for reference.Image

Blog Post 1 – (500) Days of Summer (2009)

(500) Days of Summer is an American romantic-comedy film directed by Marc Webb, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.  The story is based upon its male protagonist and his memories of his failed relationship.  Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently works as a greeting card writer.  Tom met Summer (Deschanel), his boss’ new secretary.  He discovers that they have plenty in common despite that the fact that she is out of his league.  Before long, he fell in love with Summer.  Tom believes in the concept of soulmates and thought he finally found his.  Unfortunately, Summer doesn’t believe in love and isn’t looking for romance.  Tom tries to convince Summer that their love is real while Summer pushes him away whenever he gets too close.  A 500 days of roller coaster ride of their story.

Instead of using a conventional chronological continuity, Marc Webb presented this film in a nonlinear narrative – jumping from various days within the 500-day span of Tom and Summer’s relationship.  The nonlinear structure of the film symbolizes the complex relationship of the pair.  Also, this structure connotes that a person doesn’t remember a certain event in his or her life chronologically.  What fascinates me in this movie is the random musical number.  It happened after Tom and Summer had sex and Tom showed his emotion dancing to Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams.  Everyone that he saw on the street was congratulating him for hitting a homerun.  He even hit a ball with a bat to show that he did hit a homerun.  They even use an animation near the end of the musical number to exaggerate his joy.

(500) Days of Summer feels fresh and unique without being too cute.  While no movie could make you love or stop you from loving someone, (500) Days of Summer portrays this experiences accurately.  This is not another love story as Tom says in the opening minutes.  It is a story of love and heartbreak.

Margaux Paras

Blog 1; Cast Away

One of my top 3 favorite movies of all time is Robert Zemeckis film Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. Although there is not a whole lot of action shots, dialog or setting change for more than half of the movie, it still conveys a message of perseverance and personal growth.One of the best scenes is when Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland has finally made fire after trying and fail multiple times. Not only is it great because it adds humor but it shows how he was so ecstatic that he had made fire and was going to survive after experiencing such a traumatic accident; it gave him hope. The movie does have a big plot twist after he is finally rescued that the audience was not expecting. Exactly what the book explained about Juno and the clinic scene; right up until he is rescued, Chuck is seen with the picture of his wife in the pocket watch that she gives him right before the plane. As part of the audience you can feel that more than half of the reason he wants to survive is to be with her again, but when they reunite after 3 years she has a new life (new husband,house, job, etc.) because she thought he was dead. The director was also able to show Chuck’s loneliness on that island, although he was talking to wilson the volley ball there was a lot of silence in the film, that added to the formal analysis to the scenes. As I watched this movie again I see it from a different lens now that I can relate to it, which is most likely what the director’s intentions where. At the end of the film Chuck is stuck at a crossroads which is a metaphor to his actual life now that he basically has to start over, I feel the same way as a graduating senior having to start over after May. Just like Chuck I was thrown into unknown territory September 2010 as a first generation student, not really knowing what to expect from college. I’ve hit highs and lows in my career here and just like in the movie I was able to celebrate little victories like making fire.

— Marcy Rosa