Monthly Archives: April 2014

Blog Post 6 – Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

STRANGER THAN PARADISE

Stranger Than Paradise is an American semi-neorealist black-comedy film by Jim Jarmusch and starred by John Lurie, Richard Edson, and Eszter Balint.  The film is a three-act story that follows the interactions of Willie (Lurie), his cousin Eva (Balint), and Eddie (Edson).

In the first act, Willie’s cousin Eva comes from Hungary and stayed with him for ten days.  At first, Willie made it clear that he didn’t want Eva to be with him but as the days went by, he started to enjoy her company.  The second act started a year later showing Willie and Eddie winning a large amount of money by cheating at a poker game.  They decided to leave the city and go to Cleveland to see Eva.  The last act was when Willie, Eddie, and Eva went to Florida.  Willie and Eddie lost their money and bet in horse race.  Eva decided to return to Hungary and left a note for Willie and Eddie.  Willie and Eddie won all their money back and they returned to their hotel, they found out that Eva left and went to the airport to bring her back.  Willie went on the plane but Eva was not there because Eva decided to take the flight the next day instead.  The ending scene was when Willie saw the plane leave and realized what just happened and Eva returning to their hotel.

Stranger Than Paradise is filmed in a series of shots; the picture fades in and when the scene is over, it fades out to black – the story is told in fragments.  Scenes were contained within a single shot and were separated by short period of black screen.  They were presented in chronological order yet independent from one another.  Most of the shots were static while some followed the characters.  Also, each act was shot in different parts of the United States.  The first act was filmed in New York, the second one in Cleveland, and the last one in Florida.  Though each act was filmed in different location, there was still sameness with the lighting, filtration, and composition of shots.  By filming in black and white, it eliminated the color that was not necessary in the film and giving uniformity throughout the film.

Margaux Paras

Blog Post 7 – Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013)

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For people who are into watching Korean dramas and movies just like me, stories that are heart wrenching and tear jerking are nothing new. Korean dramas are even known for sad endings and separation.  Out of last year’s movie releases in Korea, one movie stood out among the biggest hits. Nothing is as much of a household name as Miracle in Cell No. 7.  A film by Lee Hwan-kyung and starred by Ryu Seung-ryong, Kal So-won, and Park Shin-hye, it was the 2013 highest grossing film in Korea and third highest grossing domestic film of all time.

The film revolves around the story of a daughter and her father with developmental disability who was imprisoned for false accusations of murder. He was scorned and hated by the society for his perceived crime of not only murdering a child for revenge but also kidnapping and sexual molestation.  Due to the fact that the victim is a daughter of a high-ranking police official, a just and fair investigation was never done.  With the crooked justice system, he ended up incarcerated in cell no. 7 where he met his cellmates who became not only his friends, as they try to sneak in his daughter to the prison, but also a family as they try to help him prove his innocence.  The film is a masterpiece with a lot of heart in a sense that it will make you doubt the existence of humanity as it unravels how unjust and infuriating this world can be, yet in the end it will still revive your faith as it unfolds the hidden and buried goodness in the nature of man as shown on how everyone strived to save an innocent man from a wrongful verdict.

One major factor that contributed to the film’s success is that it prides itself of having A-list actors in its casting roster. The actors who played, as cellmates are veterans and well respected in the industry that even with just the introduction scene of their character in the film, you can already empathize with each and every character.  The gem of the film though are the characters who played Yong-gyu, the father, and Ye-seung, the daughter namely Ryu Seung-ryong and Kal So-won respectively.  Playing a character that has a developmental disability is never an easy job.  It takes a great talent for acting.  What makes Ryu Seung-ryong great is, that he made the character Yong-gyu respectable and someone to look up to amidst his disability.  His acting will not only make the viewers sympathize with the character but empathize.  His portrayal will pull you into the film’s world that you would feel rage that he was deprived of justice and you would feel the desire to set him free and save him from his verdict.  He will make you laugh so hard, get touched with his paternal love and cry your hearts out.  On the other hand, Kal So-Won played the role of a devoted and dependable daughter.  You can really feel the love that her character Ye-seung has for his father. Amidst being a famous child actress having a list of child characters in her credentials, you will only see Kal So-won as Ye-seung, a little girl who is adorable and lovable as she tries to stay with her dad against all odds, yes, all odds; even staying with criminals in the prison.  Even without the backstory of how the father and daughter ended up with just themselves, you are easily convinced that the father and daughter tandem is so deep and their love for each other surpasses any height. That’s how good the chemistry of Ryu Seung-ryong and Kal So-won is.

Margaux Paras

Jurassic Park – Sound

Sound effects often make the unbelievable believable. They help navigate a story and guide emotions from its audience. No other film is better known for this then the ever so classic Jurassic Park. The film takes place on a fictional island in Costa Rica; in which a billionaire philanthropist and a team of geological scientist have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs. The film begins after a park worker is killed and investors demand that experts go visit the park and label it as safe. The story unravels after the theme park experiences a power break down during a tour for visitors.

Jurassic Park uses the element of sound and tells a story by incorporating the concept of fear. The audience is visually connected by the sounds used in Jurassic Park. If it weren’t for the sound, the scene would often not have the same meaning. For example; there is one scene in the movie where the T- Rex attacks a woman on a dark and stormy night. If the element of sound was not available; the audience would not have the notion of fear. Sound is often recorded in the background. It is an important concept but is sometimes not noticed. Rain is an example of background sound; In the movie Jurassic Park there are several scenes in which it is raining ; the noise of rain is heard and is important but may be secondary to the story of the film.

Jurassic Park was a revolutionary film that used the concept of sound to emotionally stimulate its audience. If you haven’t done so already, I definitely recommend you see it.

Mohammad Ahmad
History of Film

Saved!: Film as Social History.

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It’s almost easy to forget how far we’ve come as a country when it come to LGBTQ representation in media.  It’s 2014 and if I wanted to watch a film with LGBTQ character representations, I would be able to name at least 5 off the top of my head.  10 years ago, while it was still possible to find representations of the LGBTQ community in media, it wasn’t as easy at it is now.  You can see the social historical change that has occurred concerning the LGBTQ community by following one show that has been around long enough.  For instance, Glee which started in 2009 has a representation of what it is like to be gay in a small town and if you follow the show you get to see the growth of that character from a scared bullied young gay man in high school to now a strong confident gay man living in New York.  We can see the change not only in him as a character but also a change in how others treat him and a sense of growth in attitudes when it comes to LGBTQ community just in this one television series.

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This leads me towards the movie Saved!. Saved! is definitely a social representation of the U.S. in 2004 when it come to the topic of religion and the LGBTQ community.  I remember getting the movie Saved! for my birthday in 2004.  I was only 14 and I’m convinced I got it by accident.  Those who gave it to me probably thought it was a religious film judging the film completely by it’s cover.   Saved! however, was a satirical film.  It hit, what I think, was erupting around me as a teenager.  I was starting high school, and even at 14 I was surrounded by young girls getting pregnant, and young classmates exploring their sexuality.  While it what was going on wasn’t a shock to me,  it was a shock to the adults around us.  Saved! made a commentary on teen pregnancy, religion, and LGBTQ issues.  It questioned how those so devoted to “God” and peace and love could treat people who have made mistakes or who are different so horribly.

You have a girl who is ostracized for getting pregnant by her gay boyfriend.  She gets pregnant because she tries to “fix” her gay boyfriend.  He tells her he’s gay and she thinks she can fix it by having sex with him.  This is satirical to the times because as silly as that would sound today,  it was a common thought and assumption not only made by teenagers but adults as well.  The thought that one sin is worse than another is also a common thought.  The main character Mary, also thinks it’s acceptable to have sex with her boyfriend, despite her religious values, because she believes it’s for a good cause.  It is a clear representation of the times and what people thought was worse at the time.  People were viewing being gay as worse sin than having sex before marriage. She thought she was saving him from damnation.

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Eventually her gay boyfriend is sent away to a rehabilitation center for his gayness and this girl is dropped by the popular crowd because of her pregnancy.  She wasn’t holy enough to be one of the most popular girls in school and the only person who would befriend her is the only Jew at the catholic school, who is considered to be the biggest rebel and slut at the school.  I think it’s interesting the way that was all set up.  It’s like anyone who isn’t Catholic is a problem and it’s clear when the only non-catholic at the school is seen as the biggest threat to the school.

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Saved! was definitely representation of the times in 2004 and of the change of times.  In 2004, the controversies between religion and the LGBTQ community continuing to erupt as it had been but media was sort of taking a stand against it. Media was taking steps in including LGBTQ characters in films and television and how they were being represented.  Media like Saved! was making fun of the close minded views and ridiculous approaches to LGBTQ people.  Later, we start getting media like The L word which also came out  in 2004 like Saved!, and Broke Back Mountain which came out in 2005.  I think it’s pretty interesting how we can follow the growth of the gay character and their struggles using film and looking at it in the lens of social history.  Today, just 10 years later, we went from having monumental films like Brokeback Mountain and film which send a message like Saved!, to now having an entire genre of LGBTOQ films for the LGBTQ community.

Sound in Film: Gravity

For this week’s blog post, I decided to write about Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris. This film takes place in the vacuum of space. In fact, only one scene shows the actors on Earth. I decided to use this film to explore sound because the amount of silence in this movie is almost deafening. 

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Space is a vast vacuum. There is no way for sound vibrations to travel unless one is touching another to pick up the vibrations, or using the radios. The entire opening scenes of this movie were breath taking. I first saw this film in IMAX and can still remember how powerful the silence was and how large the director was able to portray space on the big screen. This was no easy task by any means. At first I believed the film’s sound was actually glitching in the theater until I realized they were really portraying the reality of sound moving through the vacuum of space. 

 

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Throughout this movie, you see realistic examples of how sound travels through space. First of all, there is no music in the film. The film makers wanted this to seem as real as possible. There are various cues I didn’t even realize the first time I watched this film, until i saw it again and everything to make sense. The explosions in space are even silent, and the audience hears many of the sounds faint at first, until the person or object gradually gets closer. I believe this was an extraordinary use of sound in a movie. It took the director’s knowledge and what must have been painstaking work of actors and sound editors to make this film truly remarkable and as real as can be.

 

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Ryan Augustowski

Sound|Inception|Jay A. Patel

That noise has become a staple in film trailers for the past few years. It all started with Inception. The film itself was great, a cinematic marvel to say the least. Sound wise, it was phenomenal. The sound editing done for the film gave the story and the world that Chris Nolan created depth and a type of reality that makes the film believable. However, one sound is all that comes away from the film. BWOOOOOOOOOM.

This noise is famous with this film. This sound was used throughout the film to create a sense of danger, a sense of wonder, and a sense of excitement. The sound meant that something was about to happen that would shock audiences or cause the heightened level of emotion in viewers. Good movies are made of good sound. Not only the dialogue that is spoken but also the sound and music that cover the silent aspects of film. If we watched a movie where only dialogue was heard but there would be no crash or bang when two cars collided, viewers would pan the film and it wouldn’t be all that great.

This specific sound that was created for the film Inception has been repackaged and reused by many films, Prometheus being one of them. The reason behind this is because the sound does what all good sounds are meant to do, make you feel. Hearing the now iconic, reverberating boom, gives off this sense of danger and high octane action. While the Prometheus film uses a quieter version of the Inception sound, it uses it for the same purpose that it was used in for the Inception film.

Sound makes the movie. Visual, acting, and dialogue all play a part but in the end the viewer needs to feel like they are there. Even if it’s only for a minute, the viewer needs to get this feeling that what they are seeing, actually happened and the only way to do that is with proper sound. It needs to be real for the situation presented or the whole things loses its value and interest in the eyes of a film goer. When Inception came out in 2010, it introduced this sound to audiences, not only in the trailer but also the film. Now, nearly four years later, that same noise is tied together with Inception and known as the Inception sound. That is what good sound is, something that is so good that it sticks, that it gets reused, and that it is easily recognizable.

Editing|Pulp Fiction|Jay A. Patel

For those people that know films, they know that Quinten Tarantino has a way of telling a story that is esoteric in nature. One of his early works, Pulp Fiction, takes the cake on this subject matter. It is not only the ensemble cast that he uses or the story that he tells, it’s also the manner in which he tells the story. It’s no wonder that the editor Sally Menke was nominated for Best Film Editing during the 1995 Academy Awards.

In a movie where the story is farfetched and so out there that it demands multiple viewings, an audience requires some form of visual cohesion so as to follow the storyline. Pulp Fiction follows multiple different storylines happening at different aspects on the timeline of the films. Editor Sally Menke jumps that timeline multiple times and relies on the footage provided to make sense of it all. That’s where visual cues come into place. Any movie can follow a script start to finish and follow a set timeline of events. Certain films will tell the story backwards of from the middle. Pulp Fiction jumps the timeline throughout the film.

Visual clues play a huge factor when it comes to editing a film like Pulp Fiction where timeline goes out the window. When the film starts, Travolta and Jackson are wearing the clothes in the bottom image. When the film “officially” starts, they are wearing matching black suits. Halfway through the film, they are wearing casual t-shirts again. Towards the end, Travolta is seen existing the bathroom in a suit, where he gets gunned down and killed. And back at the end of the film, they two men are wearing casual t-shirts in a diner. Even reading that causes a level of confusion. How does a guy get killed in a suit towards the end of the film but end up alive in a diner wearing a t-shirt at the very end of the film?

This is where the timeline comes into play. On paper, it’s very confusing. On screen, this kind of timeline jumping can also be very confusing but it takes a great editor and few visual clues to inform the audience that a time lapse or flash back has occurred. This is one of the many reason why Pulp Fiction is such a great film to portray proper editing techniques. Sally Menke uses very traditional forms of editing to tell an esoteric story on what can arguably be the most confusing timeline every created by a filmmaker.