Friday, September 30, 2011

The Graduate and its Similarities with The 400 Blows

For this week’s blog post, we were asked to read a chapter from Closely Watched Films by Marilyn Fabe. In the chapter it focuses on Fran├žois Truffaut’s film The 400 Blows. This autobiographical film was made by Truffaut when he was twenty-seven years old and helped launched the French New Wave, a national film moment that flourished between 1959 and 1963. While I have not seen The 400 Blows or any film that is considered part of the French New Wave era, I have seen other films that reminded one of many of the principles and styles of these unique films.

French film critic Alexandra Astruc argued that cinema was a language and could potentially be an art form as powerful as poetry or literature. Traditionally the “author” of a film is the screenwriter but New Wave theorists believe the script was only a blueprint and that the director is the artist that puts his vision into the film. However many of these New Wave films like The 400 Blows were directed by the screenwriter. This reminds me of one of my favorite writers/directors, Charlie Kaufman. While he is mostly known for his writing, his film Synecdoche, New York, which he wrote and directed, is a bizarre film about a theater struggling director attempting to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play. This movie’s title is also similar to The 400 Blows’ title because both have double meanings. The 400 Blows not only refers to the adventures of a rebel teenager but also the actual blows dealt by his parents. Kaufman’s title not only means the city of Schenectady, where much of the film is set but also the concept of synecdoche, wherein a part of something represents the whole or vice versa. Another Kaufman film, Adaptation, is similar to this Truffaut film. While The 400 Blows was autobiographical to his life, Adaptation revolves around a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman and his actual struggle of adapting the novel The Orchid Thief into a film. In case you could not tell it was based on Kaufman’s actual struggle from his life!

Reading about The 400 Blows also reminded me of the movie The Graduate. While not a perfect match there are some striking similarities between the films. First there is a shot in Truffaut’s film that focuses on the character of Antoine as he runs through the country toward the sea. The shot is all in one shot in order to be dramatically effective. The audience sees him running for a long time without the least indication of fatigue thus, we are able to experience the pure adrenaline-fueled sprint. In the ending of The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character is seen running down the street in two long shots (the shots start 30 seconds in). He is determined to stop the wedding of his dream girl. Nothing will get in his way! Another similarity between the films is with both the film’s endings. In Truffaut’s film, as he is making his dash for freedom he runs to the sea. When he finally gets to the ocean he accomplishes his goal but he realizes he is trapped. In The Graduate, Benjamin succeeds in stopping Elaine’s wedding and both of them make it on to the bus to run away. But as the bus drives away their smiles fade (skip ahead to 3:40). Even though there is no dialogue some people interpret this quiet ending as both characters realizing what they just did and perhaps thinking they may have made a huge mistake. But the ending can be seen in two ways depending on the audience. One final similarity between the films again involves The Graduate’s end. Supposedly the “sobering” ending is actually from the directions the director Mike Nichols gave the actors in the moment. He was actually shouting at them to laugh during the scene but the actors were so scared that after the laughing they stopped, with looks of worry. He liked it so much he kept it in the final film. In The 400 Blows Truffaut wanted a certain actress for the part of the psychiatrist but since she was unavailable he decided to never show the psychiatrist but instead only hear her lines. Another decision made in the moment by the director!

While different people made these films during different times, there are very similar. This just proves that powerful and inspirational films can help influence future directors and filmmakers with their works just like Truffaut’s The 400 Blows influenced many movies to come.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Super 8 & Optical Flares

This past summer was one of the biggest blockbuster movies that I can remember. It was one of my favorite from the summer and made me feel like a kid again.

It's the story of a group of young boys who witness a train accident and all these strange events begin to occur. Granted a lot this seemed far beyond realistic since it was about aliens but I truly appreciated the story because it truly captured a kid. All kids want to do is play and explore. In the movie, all they wanted to do was explore and create their own movie based around what was happening

Another thing to point out were all the lens flares. For a few years, lens flares have become a very stylistic attribute to the image. These were seen in the 2009 Star Trek, which was also directed by Super 8's J.J. Abrams. Since learning After Effects, has a package called Pro Presets, which contains Optical Flares. The person created Optical Flares, Andrew Kramer, worked on both of Abrams' movies to create these futuristic flares seen on screen.

I very much felt like I was watching ET since it was produced by Spielberg. These kids had some sort of a connection with this alien creature since they are sheltered as children like alien in previous time. All in all it was one of my favorite movies from the summer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Moth

My all time favorite television show is Lost and I am currently re watching it from the beginning. For anyone that hasn't watched it, every season is available on Netflix instant watch so you have no excuse. I can remember back to 2004-2005 when the show had just begun and having to download episodes off of Itunes for the brand new Ipod Video. We've come a long way. For the Lost haters out there I'd like to let you know that as I see the episodes for a second or third time it just reconfirms to me how powerful the show actually is, so go watch Glee or something and leave me alone.

Anyway I recently watched episode 7 of Lost season 1, it is titled "The Moth". The whole episode deals with two of my favorite characters in the series; John Locke, a once wannabe adventurer and an armchair general restricted by a spinal injury who has all his dreams fulfilled on the island, and Charlie, a church boy turned rock star who has always been in the shadow of his older brother and turned to heroin as a crutch.

The characters of Lost have just found freshwater and a series of caves on the island, two resources they needed dearly, shelter and freshwater. Also in the cave is a small chunk of the survivors downed plane with more supplies they may need. Locke and Charlie both volunteer to stay and survey the caves for two very different reasons. Charlie wants to be able to use the very little heroin he has left in peace, and Locke wants to "get to know Charlie better". But the wise Locke knows Charlie uses drugs and wants to break him of his addiction.

Every time Charlie goes to use his heroin Locke interrupts him warning that the jungle is dangerous and he shouldn't venture off. Eventually Locke confronts Charlie and convinces him to hand over his drugs in exchange for Locke to search for Charlie's guitar, which he misses being a rocker. Being an addict Charlie starts going through terrible withdrawal and asks for his drugs back. Locke tells Charlie to have faith and that if he wants his guitar back from the island Charlie is going to have to give the island something. So he agrees and Locke points up to the sky, where you see a guitar case trapped in a tree. Locke also tells Charlie that if he asks him three times for his drugs back he will return them.

The second time Charlie asks for his drugs is what is in this video I have added.

I found these quotes very powerful and inspirational. The moth metaphor is very clever. I thought it must have been said before, or at least a reference to something. But after scouring the internet I could not find a quote just like the one in this clip. Good job Lost writers. But what I did find that I believe is more powerful and intelligent than remixing scenes from other television shows or movies, is the similarities between the philosopher John Locke and the character in Lost of the same name. We owe John Locke respect because many crucial decisions in the Declaration of Independence were based on the 17th century philosopher. He has several quotes that I believe the writers of Lost used to come up with this piece of dialogue.

"It is one thing to show a man that his in an error, and another to put him possession of the truth."

A drug addict does not believe he is in the wrong, especially someone addicted to heroin. Even if he knows he is wrong he still needs his fix. But to show him the truth by explaining how giving up drugs will make him a stronger individual, a strong moth, could fix the issue.

"To prejudge other men's notions before we have looked into them is not to show their darkness but to put out our own eyes."

You learn later the extent of Locke's own pain before he was on the island, but I won't spoil that for you. I will just assure you it is way more intense than a drug addiction.

"What worries you, masters you."

As all the other survivors are panicking, demanding drugs, starving, dehydrated, wounded, consumed by fear, Locke is chilling there cutting up his fresh kill, the happiest he's ever been. He has faith, no worries, he is his own master.

I admit I need to watch a lot more old television and movies to get the references that are brought up in class that influence all modern day media. But I find it refreshing that Lost goes very big with its references. It draws from philosophers, scientists, multiple religions, as well as classic tales.

Doctor Who: Closing Time

What, you thought I was going to review something different?

In this episode, the Doctor pays a visit to Craig, his old friend from "The Lodger" just to say a final goodbye before his death. (This isn't a spoiler.) Instead of saying hi and leaving, the Doctor gets caught up in a nasty row with the Cybermen. Not only that, but Craig refuses to leave him alone, causing the Doctor to put another friend in danger after leaving two behind to keep them safe.

Strong writing and delivery carry this episode. James Corden, a great comedic actor, reprises his role as Craig; and he does a bang-up job, as to be expected. Quick banter between Matt Smith and Carden gives the episode a good pace and keeps the dialogue snappy and interesting. There are sentimental moments among the funny, including when the Doctor spots Amy and Rory as a successful couple out for a day of shopping. After all their adventures, all the times they nearly died, it's good for him to know that they're happy and safe. And of course, let's not forget the baby. The baby makes everything better.

As far as aesthetics and direction go, nothing was absolutely stunning; but that's not to say that it didn't deliver the same good quality that viewers have come to expect out of the new series. Everything was well rounded and worked together. There were a few moments where my trained eye caught some shot discrepancies; in one scene, River was turning her head to the right, while in another she was turning to the left. The glitch barely registered though. I bet that only a few other viewers actually cared.

Next week: The finale. Then I'll shut up for good about this. ...Yeah right. I've still got the classic series that I could throw at you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Wave's Affects

Between the years of 1959 and 1963, a national film movement known as The New Wave flourised all of European film makers. Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows was the autobiographical feature to kick off the movement. It gave other young french film makers influential ideas about technology and economic factors that go into movie making. A famous director that came out of that era was Jean-Luc Godard, with is work resembling the Soviet's cinema of the 1920's. He was told that his movie Breathless was too long and needed to be shortened. So instead of cutting scenes, he just made them shorter and used jump cuts to go from one location to the next. This brought a fresh new look to the cinema world, and would shape some movies created today.

The New Wave made its way across the ocean to American cinema, starting with a popular movie Bonnie and Clyde. This generation of young film makers would be known as New Hollywood, and would last into the last 70's.

Most recently, director Quetin Tarantino would be the latest victims of the new wave with his movie Reservoir Dogs. He used similar techniques that Jean-Luc Godard, (jump cuts, improvised dialogue,) which would shock the audience watching it. He even dedicated his film to Jean-Luc Godard, and named his production company A Band Apart.

Last year, I remember taking in class about how movies today are just variations of previous movie themes, styles, and ideas. The New Wave was a huge boom to the industry and definietly supports this idea. It almost impossible nowadays to create something that we haven't seen or done before. It just makes me wonder where the movie industry is heading

Red Queen

I was looking up stuff about what Fellininesque was when I came across a website. This website is about a movie called Red Queen, Fellininesque Players. Pretty much what I got out of it was that it was a musical film with surrealistic features. I found it interesting that they got all of their songs from different Bands on Myspace. This looks like an interesting idea based on Fellini's works.
On the flip side Alice in Wonderland is a well known example of Felliniesque material. Here is a good example of the creepy feeling that Fellini brought to the film world.

Catching Up

Having just gotten cable in my apartment (yes, I realize I'm a little behind the times,) I've been taking the time to catch up on my favorite shows that I've been missing. The one that has me the most hooked is Showtimes "Nurse Jackie." The show follows the life of Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco,) a drug-addicted nurse working at New York City's All Saints' Hospital. Jackie, who struggles to balance her addiction, a family of her husband and two daughters, a pharmacist boyfriend, and difficult patients and co-workers, manages to somehow deftly avoid serious conflict in every episode.

Although, like every other show out there, "Nurse Jackie" is guilty of some faults, (my personal issue with the show is how stereotypical some of the characters can be,) the one thing that stands out to me is the complexity of the plot, and how in literally every episode, something manages to take you by surprise. In the shows pilot episode, Jackie seems to have one life throughout the entire thing. It is only at the very end that it revealed otherwise, making you re-think everything you have just seen. As the seasons go on, Jackie's life seems to get impossibly more complicated, while somehow, she still manages to skate by avoiding all of the real major problems. The show has just been given the okay for it's fourth season, and I am anxious to see how some of the problems that are finally coming to the surface in a big way will be solved.
At the moment, I'm just finishing up season two, but I can already tell I'm hooked on it for good. If you're looking for a complex show with an unusual storyline and even more unusual characters, make sure to check it out.

Spielberg brings Jurassic Park to FOX

There are a lot of good shows set to premiere this fall, but the most expensive one by far is the Steven Spielberg produced Terra Nova. While the two hour series premiere (airing tonight) has been critiqued for it's choice in actors, the acting itself and the premise of the show, one aspect that has been raved about is the dinosaurs. The future is in environmental dismay and their only hope of restoring society is to take select individuals back 85 million years to live in colonies. Terra Nova expands on the realistic dinosaur effects Spielberg pioneered in Jurassic Park. He is breaking boundaries on what the audience expects from a network show, with a budget of almost $20 million for the pilot alone (the rest of the 13 episodes range around $4 million each). Each episode racks up about six to eight weeks of extra production time for the advance CGI needed to create the realistic dinosaurs that become the main focus of the show.

I think that even if the plot and writing is excellent, bad special effects can really take away from a good show. Primeval is a show that started airing in 2007 on ITV, it is about a magnetic anomaly that opens up and allows dinosaurs to freely roam between their home in prehistoric times and present day Britain. I love the show but some of the times I find myself distracted by how ridiculous some of the dinosaurs end up looking (mainly the larger ones).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reality+Fantasy= Fellini’s 8 1/2

Fantasy is defined as the activity of imagining things that are impossible or improbable. Because fantasy is based out of our imagination, there is no way to prove an event can or cannot happen. We as audiences then begin to wonder what is real and what is fantasy. This tactic is evident in Fellini’s 8 1/2.

Fellini’s uses dreamlike sequences that involve many complex and jarring shots. This technique allows for the audience to take their mind away from the narrative of the film and bask in the fantasy world of Fellini’s mind.

While the main character Guido Anselmi is struggling to find the courage to tackle his new task of making a wonderful film, he finds himself wondering if it is possible. Instead of writing a specific script that follows a linear plot, Fellini placed Guido in this confusing world of complex mise-en-scene and cinematography. The story of 8 1/2 does follow a slight narrative structure, but Fellini shys away from this because he wants to portray that Guido is having a very difficult time juggling the production and his complicated personal life.

The first sequence of this film shows this better than any. With the slow, wavy camera movements the audience is shown right of the bat that the man stuck inside the car is going to have some troubles. We can only see the faces of the people inside the car as they look at him struggle inside the car. This only intensifies the chaos going on inside of Guido’s head as he tries to escape. We are kicked out of this dream world only to realize that it is in fact a dream. This first sequence, paints a picture of the battle Guido faces with his mind and foreshadows the battle he has with controlling it.

As I continued to research this film and read more and more about it, I found myself trying to find a comparison to today’s film industry. I found myself thinking that Fellini’s use of dreams in this film allowed for audiences to enjoy the fantasy world that Guido finds himself in. Instead of placing these outside sequences into the film as flash backs, he splices them into the story as dreams, which to me invokes a much more intense sense of confusion. It’s almost as if his dreams are taking over his life and what Guido discovers is that these dreams can be used to help him to take the film in a different direction. This allows for Guido to scratch the ideas he couldn’t remember about his current film and turn it into a movie about the struggles he was facing.

It makes one wonder, was this the first early look into the dream world in film that lead to the creation of fantasy blockbusters like Inception.

8 1/2

I was really confused after watching 8 1/2, but after reading the lecture I came to appreciate Fellini's work. I gained another perspective about movies like these which change the world of film making. The way the movie is formatted made me feel like I was in a dream. It was hard to tell the difference between reality and dreams. Fellini succeeds in creating a world in which the inner conflicts of the main character crash with his real life by the use of flashbacks and dream sequences. This takes more in depth with the essence of this character. It think was really interesting to see the way Fellini portrayed the inner conscience of a character. Putting it in context with film history, the use of stream of consciousness in this movie is really innovative. It revolutionized the way stories were told in a movie, from just watching the action, to actually get into the character's through symbolism camera movements, and editing techniques. One of the examples I would like to use to show the way Fellini's technique can bring the audience inside the character's head is in the movie "American Beauty":

We see that by breaking the continuity of the movie, the desires of this character are revealed to us. This other example from the movie "500 Days of Summer" shows us the state of emotion of Joseph Gordon Levitt's character by including a dance sequence in what in real life would be this character only walking to work.

I think it is really cool that films can make people accept these conventionalities. It is also pretty cool that we can break some of the rules in film to innovate the storytelling of a story.

Contagion and Filming

This past Wednesday I saw the movie Contagion in theaters. So often we are consumed by fears of alien invasion or a tremendous cataclysm like 2012 with whole cities falling into the ground that we forget about the real threat of epidemic and I feel as though Contagion showcased this threat well. Whole montages of shots at door handle height with populations displayed in text at the bottom of the frame caused me to shiver as I thought about how quickly a deadly virus could be spread as our population continues to boom. Combine this with the fear mongering of news stations about Swine Flu and you have a psychological that deals with many real world things. One concept of the movie I found interesting was a blogger character who served as a fairly good villain. Alan Krumwiede played by Jude Law spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories on his blog "Truth Serum" as the disease spreads, and also urges his readers to not take a vaccine, a direct jab at Alex Jones and other anti-government bloggers.

Contagion also did a good job at showing very little but also getting the point across. Some examples I liked were a shot of monkeys in a lab immediately followed by hundreds of biohazard body bags being carted away. Later in the movie there is looting and violence as fear consumed the population and u see a shot from an upstairs window looking into another house. You see 2 masked men run in and then flashes of light that were obviously gun shots.

In other news my group filmed our scene in the campus center. It turned out pretty well and we were able to accomplish our scene in under an hour. All 8 of our actors had clothes very similar to the original subjects and followed direction very well. Because it is a wide shot the most difficult thing was timing while having multiple actors in the frame. It was very obvious if one person was on time and another was not so it took many takes to get everything down. The way we rehearsed was to train two actors at a time and build onto the scene in 4 parts. We also had 2 team members outside letting actors know when to go and also blocking off the doors which was another issue. As everyone knows those stairs have a good amount of traffic. I was happy with the way the scene turned out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

8 1/2

I have not watched 8 1/2 but I have been searching youtube for videos of the movie. I have noticed, just like everyone else, similarities to this movie. One of the movies that really stuck out to me was Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. It is a movie that Woody Allen made that parodies Federico's 8 1/2. Woody Allen is no stranger to existentialism and and mocking other films. However he does a job paying homage to the original films he mocks. Take a look at the the openings to both of the films.

You can easily see the similarities in both of these openings.

Also an added bonus

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moneyball Behind Scenes Fan Footage

So the movie Moneyball came out today, which I have been waiting for since I first saw the trailer. The film takes place in 2002 about the Oakland A's having the lowest payroll in all of baseball but still managed to win 100 games in the season with a bunch of washed up players.

I found this footage and was astounded at the sparse amounts of people at the stadium and how long they were there for. Granted getting multiple angles and having visual effects teams, I could understand why there was a small crowd there. Since they are reenacting one of the most famous games of that season when they beat the Royals to win their one hundredth game, it had to be a night game it was going to take a long time for set up and shooting. This game was shot from the beginning of dark hours to the crack of dawn, making sure that all time was put to use.

The movie is based of a book and it is an excellent read, short and sweet. Even if you're not a baseball player, you don't need to be to understand the principle of not judging a book by it's cover. This is a miraculous story that I have been waiting to see on the big screen because it stands for a lot of my beliefs. You don't have to look amazing to be considered the best, you just have to show you can by your numbers or even your awards. Each individual player from that 2002 team got on base more than they struck out, allowing to produce more runs. Same thing goes in life, if you can be patient and get on base, you'll need someone to bring you in to complete your dreams.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The God Complex

After a big, emotional episode like last week's "The Girl Who Waited," it seems like "The God Complex" was in a bit of a lower key. The story was okay, but it seems like Toby Whithouse and Steven Moffat cobbled it together in order to lead up to the end, which is a major plot point in the story arc. This series has had its fair share of standalone episodes, where the story has nothing to do with the overarching plot; and that's fine. That's what Doctor Who is famous for, little science fiction diatribes that all link together.

But this story seems forgettable, if not for the ending and the look deeper into the Doctor's and Amy's characters. The technical work was, of course, beautiful; camera shots looking straight down a spiral staircase, a giant minotaur roaring down a hotel hallway, special effects giving the illusion of a creepy 80s hotel. But that's obvious from the show at this point. Technical brilliance has become a staple, much unlike the show's classic years as a low budget production.

Where the show really shines is in the subtleties of its writing. The ending and the way this episode ties into the arc is pretty brilliant, if heartbreaking. There's also a scene where the Doctor finds what scares him most; and although we don't see it, we know that it's someone whom the Doctor fears. "Of course it's you," he says, as the TARDIS cloister bell rings. This small detail blew the door open for fan speculation, and provide a piece of great writing and camera work in an otherwise average episode.

Not much else to say this week. Next time, the Cybermen make a return as well as an old friend. From the preview, it looks like it'll be a good one. See you then.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Breaking Bad" Should Be Called "Breaking Great"

Breaking Bad is a drama on AMC about Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher from Albuquerque, New Mexico, played by Bryan Cranston. After White is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, he turns to a life of crime producing and selling methamphetamine (crystal meth) with a former student named Jesse Pinkman. It has been nominated for numerous awards including winning three consecutive Emmy Awards for Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Cranston. Now in it’s fourth season it is less about Walt and his cancer for he is in a way the cancer in other people’s lives. He is bringing them down with him and putting them in danger as well.

Breaking Bad is one of the most suspenseful shows in television. Most shows play it safe and never put their lead in to much danger. Walter White’s brother-in-law even works for the Drug Enforcement Agency and is at times unbeknownst to him looking for his own brother-in-law, Mr. White. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan said in an interview that they try to paint themselves into corners that seem impossible to get out of. This forces them to be creative and new. Some of their creativity comes from editing. From the time lapse cutaways to actual unusual cuts during the scene, Breaking Bad is willing to take chances and break a lot of the “rules” to help show the effects of drugs or to make a symbolic point. A great example was in a recent episode from the latest season where Jesse is playing a violent video game and is getting haunting memories from when he had to shoot an innocent man named Gale to protect himself and Mr. White from dying.

The show also forces you to pay attention to every detail. This show is not most shows where if they want the audience to see something they will make it blatantly obvious with a cut of a close up or a musical cue. Breaking Bad is more of a puzzle. For instance in last Sunday’s episode Gus, who doubles as Mr. White’s boss and an owner of Los Pollos Hermanos, a fast food chain, attempted to poison the entire cartel in Mexico by poisoning their alcohol he gave them as a gift. To not drawn suspicious he was forced to drink to. However we did not know he poisoned it. In a scene afterwards we see him seemingly throw food or something in his mouth (it was an anti-dote) and then minutes later the cartel started dropping like flies. There is also suspicion and many freeze frames online that think that Mike, one of Gus’ men, was going to surprise and shoot Jesse in the back before he was shot himself from an alive member of the cartel. A lot of this I did not catch the first time and I can’t wait to watch episodes again and catch new things I never saw before.

Finally, there is a conspiracy online about Breaking Bad and its connections to color. My friend and I have noticed this but we went online to see if we were not crazy in thinking this. Others agree but are not quite sure yet what it all means. For example Mr. WHITE wore a lot of green and there was a lot of green in the set when he was cooking the original meth product, which omits a green gas. However after a new type of chemical was added and changed their product to blue he has wore a lot of blue and the set pieces became very blue. His wife Skylar and sister-in-law wear colors off of blue (light blue and purple respectively). Gus wears a lot of gold and forces his employees to wear a lot of gold either at Los Pollos Hermanos or even when Walt and Jesse cook meth for him. They trade in their colors for Gus’ as if Gus then owns them in those scenes. Even Jesse’s last name of PINKman is about a color. Only time will tell if this is just is fans conspiring or a deliberate detail in the genius show that is Breaking Bad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Catch the "Big C"

If you are a fan of anything on Showtime—especially “Weeds” then you should definitely be watching “The Big C.”

“The Big C,” currently on its second season is about 40-something Cathy Jamison, played by the lovely and Emmy nominated actress, Laura Linney who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Well, if you tune in you can expect just as many, if not more laughs than tears. Although the show deals with a heavy subject and themes of life and loss, the writers skillfully turn most of the tear-jerker scenes into something you can smile about. Cathy is far from a victim—she responds to cancer with nothing but her strong-no-bullshit-attitude that makes her healthy from within—no matter how sick she actually is. Her character is what gives the show its edge—she doesn’t want to die and so she is using all of her strength to fight for her life.

The series, still relatively new, follows Cathy from the beginning of her diagnosis, to finally informing her family and friends about her illness to her actual treatments and everything in between.

Oliver Platt plays her quirky and concerned husband, Paul with whom she has marital issues in the first season, while newcomer Gabriel Brasso plays her troublesome and temperamental teenage son, Adam. John Benjamin Hickey plays Sean, Cathy’s bipolar, homeless and radical brother who chooses to “live of the land.” While Cynthia Nixon and Hugh Dancy guest star for several episodes, Gabourey Sidibe, the Oscar-nominated actress plays Andrea, one of Cathy’s students.

The writers of the show are outrageous—consistently creating crazy situations that no cancer patient should ever have to deal with, keeping the audience emotionally involved and entertained simultaneously (without overly sentimental.)The characters create their own dilemmas and they often find themselves faced with unfortunate yet hilarious circumstances such as an unexpected pregnancy, racy love affairs and even several deaths. The storylines not only moving the story forward but challenge the characters’ outlooks on life.

The show explores what it means to really live and enjoy your life while you are still lucky enough to have it. And while you all have time, I would highly recommend watching this fantastiC show!

The second season's finale airs Monday, September 26th at 10:30pm on Showtime.

"8 1/2": Inspiration for Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"

While I may have not seen the entirety of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, upon reading the chapter on it in Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique, the first thought that popped into my head was, "I think I've seen this before." Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult classic Brazil is remarkably alike from both a stylistic and thematic standpoint.

According to its storyline synopsis, Brazil is about the following:
Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. While trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Harry Buttle, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has fingered him responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, and both Sam and Jill's lives are put in danger.
While this may not sound so much like Fellini's classic, the main point of each movie is ultimately the same: a man is entangled within his dreams. Both films make use of vivid and often extensive dream sequences from the mind of the main character to illustrate his deeper desires. Guido, the star of 8 1/2, and Sam both have visions "of a beautiful girl in white [that] hold out an illusory promise of salvation and release from his mental stagnation" (Closely Watched Films, 155). The first dream sequences even bear a striking resemblance:

8 1/2 (sequence starts around 2:10)

Brazil (sequence starts around 8:59)

None of this is particularly surprising, though. Gilliam has consistently cited Fellini as a tremendous source of inspiration for all of his work. The actual working title, before Brazil became "Brazil," was "1984 1/2," a reference to both Fellini and George Orwell.

This all brings me back to our class's past discussions on how Fellini's film has impacted modern movie making. His influence is clear in the case of Gilliam, but if you take a look at IMDb's movie connections for 8 1/2, the extensive and diverse list of famous films (including The Godfather, Eraserhead, All That Jazz, and Pulp Fiction) further proves its powerful place in film history.


A short of Terry Gilliam talking about Fellini's 8 1/2:

To read more, try these links:

Awkward.....a real-ish high school story

I have lost pretty much all respect for MTV since they stopped actually playing music. I've been saying for a while that they should change their name to RTV (Reality Television). They hit on something good when they blazed the path for reality, but it became their new "thing". For the longest time they relied on reality tv's cheap trick of voyeurism to get viewers, so I was skeptical when I heard the they were now starting to venture into the field of fictional programming. I did not think that the minds who thrust Jersey Shore on the world could come up with anything of merit, but I was soon highly surprised. After some praise that my co-workers gave the pilot I was curious to see if there could be any creative minds left working at MTV. Low and behold I believe they have stumbled upon the best teen drama in a while.

Their new high school drama, Awkward. is about an average-ish girl navigating the awkward terrain that is high school. It is surprisingly funny and more accurate then most shows set in high school. One of the things that adds to their believability is that they have a you cast (in comparison to most shows that are based in high school). Though the cast is not actually of high school age, they are the youngest cast portraying high schoolers on tv today. Many shows now a day cast people in the mid to late 20's or even in the their ealy 30's to play high school characters. These actors aren't too far separated from those awkward years of discovering themselves and making mistakes in the hell-ish place people call high school.

The show is seen through the eyes of the main character Jenna sharing her life with her blog readers (MTV actually goes the extra length to publish the blog as a form of interaction with the audience to add to it's growing sense of reliability). The show starts off when Jenna has sex with the popular guy days before school starts but he wants to keep his feelings for her secret from the world. Later that night she has an accident that makes the world think she tried to commit suicide and the rest of the show is the comic incidences that follow after she gains her new title of "That Girl".

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Emmy Losers

A lot of people talk about who won the Emmy's, but I'm here to talk about some notable actors that went empty handed this year. I'd like to start with the leading actor from one of my favorite shows, Michael Hall. Hall is Dexter in the show Dexter. Connie Britton also missed out. She plays, Tami Taylor on another of my favorite shows Friday Night Lights. It was good to see Coach Taylor win but I think that Britton had a much better performance then her male counterpart. Finally, Steve Carell walked away empty handed. Carell has repeatedly put up stellar performances as Michael Scott in the Office, however he has never won. I know the people who won the Emmy's deserved it and there are others who should have won that didn't that I didn't mention but that is just my opinion on the topic.

The Use of Flashbacks in 8 1/2

I have never seen 8 1/2 so my first impression of the movie was what they described in chapter 9 of "Closely Watched Films". I am really interesting in seeing it now, mostly because of the way they described Fellini's unique style of editing.

By seamlessly conjoining shots through match cutting (also referred to as continuity cutting), film viewers were encouraged to become involved in the illusion that they were watching, not a film made up of multiple bits and pieces of celluloid, but an unmediated reality. (165)
Fellini used the editing, not to create an objective sense of reality, but rather to inv
ite the audience into Guido's mind. He throws continuity out the window and the film becomes a actual memory, with choppy edits and changing backgrounds to symbolize the distorting process of a memory and how uncertain they may be. It mirrors the wishful thinking and dreams of Guido as well as the visions of a traumatized child. It is a psychological ploy to step directly into the mind of the character.

In many films, a fantasy or flashback is preceded by a ripple effect or a fading of the outline to distinguish the difference between reality and illusion. A look into the characters dilemmas through blurry images, harping music and an echoing subconscious. It distances the audience, rather than what Fellini intended to do in 8 1/2. It might be done by a particular repeating sound, such as in the show LOST, or maybe through a flash of lighting. But in many of these cases, the editing of

the flashback either follows that of the movie, or is flawless and almost dreamlike. For example, the movie Big Fish, which is predominantly told through the main characters flashbacks. However, whenever we do get a glimpse into his mind, it is a whole different world, mostly distinguished through the use of bright, fairytale like colors.
Another example from a black and white movie would be Orson Welles, Citizen Kane. The movie alternates between the present and the past after the death of Kane and this clip shows on the first flashbacks to Kane's childhood. When the scene goes into the flashback of the main subject as a child, much as it does in 8 1/2, the shots fade into one another and the document we once saw slowly becomes a snowy day. The music also becomes louder and more involved, but the scene continues in a very cinematic manner.

Nine comes after 8 1/2

After reading chapter 9, Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, a light went off in my head like I have read or seen something like this before. I couldn't figure it out for a while, so i called my dad back at home and read some of the plot points and characters to him that the chapter described. He told me it sounded a lot like the movie Nine. So i did some research to find out that I did in fact
see the movie, and that 8 1/2 did intact have an influence on the 2009 hit movie.

Reading further into the chapter, the author kept using the term "double mirror construction," and what that refereed to was how the movie was portrayed. Unlike Hollywood films where each scene leads into the next and you can make connections, this new style of cinema took the audience into the mind of how a human really thinks, and put that on the screen. From dreams and emotions, to thoughts and ideas, you never knew what was coming and what was what. In one scene, Guido Anselmi, the director in the movie (not of the movie) would be doing something and the screen would radically change to what he was thinking of in his head. Whether it was a problem with his life, or something he didn't like in the film. Nin
e did similar cinema style, creating images of the on the screen to what the character was thinking.

As crazy as it seems, I can also relate 8 1/2 to a recent film called Inception. Both movies have similar themes finding true personal happiness in a difficult, fragmented life. In one, Guido Anselmi is trying to create the perfect film through all of his mishaps and life problems, and in the other Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trying to go through mazes and his life problems to get back to his kids. All of these movies are considered to be "second time movies" because you have to watch them twice to really understand what is going on.

If anyone has any comments or something to add, please do

steve kinslow

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Manson's Music Videos

So, I have a confession to make: I am a complete music video junkie...and my latest obsession is Marilyn Manson videos. While I realize that he might not be the most loved person in the music industry, I have immense amounts of respect for him for speaking his mind, and the combination of shocking (but most often, true) lyrics and images in his videos. His videos always manage to be incredibly interesting, often not only telling the story of the lyrics, but somehow managing to tie in commentary about current issues, and past issues that he himself has dealt with.
My personal favorite has to be, "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)." The first time we see Manson, he is pinned up on a cross made of televisions, dressed in all white, in between shots of people with huge eyes peering out of falling-apart buildings. This is all going on while he sings the lyrics:

"Norm life baby,
We're white and oh so heater
And our sex is missionary...

Norm life baby,
We're quitters and we're sober
Our confessions will be televised..."

Next, the camera switches between Manson on the cross and the people inside, huddled around a television and learning simple words from flashcards, indicating societies isolation of children and teaching them a narrow range of subjects. This is all while these lyrics are said:

"You and I are underdosed and we're ready to fall,
Raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all,
We're taught to be nothing at all..."

At this point, Manson finally gets off the cross, and is being chased by headless police officers, portraying that the law has become less about what is right and wrong, and more about doing as you are told. He runs from the officers into an emergency room, complaining of a hurt arm, while he sings:

"Norm life baby,
Our God is white and unforgiving
and we're piss tested and we're praying...

Norm life baby,
I'm just a sample of a soul
made to look just like a human being..."

While he continuously talks about "norm life," the video shows flashes of different scenes, all in white. Two more verses of "norm life" later, Manson finds himself armless, trying to represent being forced to live without an essential part of himself. He runs into a Jerry Springer-ish talk show set, where looking around, he sees the madness of the entertainment industry, touching on everything from doe-eyed pageant girls being primped by their mothers to the sexualized fights that occur nowadays on "trash TV." In the midst of all of the chaos, the lyric, "Raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all," in sung.
As the video concludes, Manson finally "escapes" from the insanity, only to find himself wandering around aimlessly, all while still being chased by the headless officers. Law enforcement seems to be a common subject in almost every Manson video, which could be attributed to the amount of issues he has had with it in real life. Just like he has said in many interviews, at the end of the video, Manson is faced with a decision to surrender himself and face silence, or death. In the end, he chooses death over silence, and jumps off the building that he has been cornered on top of.
Once again, I realize that Marilyn Manson's music may not be everyones cup of tea, but I encourage you to at least check out some of his videos. They all hold a staggering amount of symbolism pertaining to not only the lyrics and the tone of his music, but issues that he (and many other people) are facing in everyday life. Below is the link for, "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)," be sure to check it out!

Molly Boekenheide

Editing and Acting!

Given that this week we have gotten really in depth into acting and ways actors should express emotion in front of a camera, I decided to make my post on the Kuleshow effect. Over the summer I decided to watch 2001 Space Odyssey again (last time I watched it I was 13, of course I didn't like it) because I felt that analyzing this movie would be really beneficial for me. After watching the movie I decided to research more about it, and this is when I found out about the Kuleshov effect. This effect was "discovered" by russian director Lev Kuleshov (hence the name). It is basically a technique of editing in which he alternated an emotionless shot of famous russian actor, Ivan Mozzhukhin, with three other different shots. After showing the same different montages with the same shot of Mozzhukhin to different audiences, Kuleshov demonstrated that in film acting the audience is the one to attributes an emotion to character, depending on the different shots the director decides to cut to.

According to the different audiences, in the first shot Mozzhukhin looks hungry when he the shots cuts to the plate of soup. on the second shot he looks sad, and on the third one they said he had desire for this woman.

Here is Alfred Hitchcock explaining the effect. I feel he makes a better job trying to explain the effect.

I think it is really interesting how this effect has influenced the acting and direction in the history of films. Going back to 2001 Space Odyssey, we found the effect in most of the shots of the computer Hal. Given that he is a computer he cannot show any kind of emotion, but the audience gives the computer human emotions by the way Kubrick intercuts between him and the crew members of the Discovery one.

The last part this video reveals to us that Hal feels betrayed and angry with the crew members just by the way it was edited. The shot of Hal is just a red dot, We don't even see any facial expression, but when it is intercut by Hal reading the crew members lips, the shot of Hal is more powerful. I feel that we can take this kind of editing in mind when we direct our actors during a scene.

The Mile High Club comes to Prime Time Television

As the cold weather has reached us here in upstate New York and night is getting sooner everyday, I found myself wondering what new show would peak my interest during the cold nights of an Ithaca winter. Last year it was The Office. This year I am excited to see what the first season of Pan Am brings.

Ever since I viewed the movie Catch Me If You Can, I have been intrigued with the "Jet Age" of the 1960's. It was a world that is so foreign to me and I have found myself wondering what it would be like to be a part of it.

The show started as an idea from the producer Nancy Hult Ganis, who was a Pan Am stewardess during the Jet Age. She wanted to exploit this time period and turn into a show that would be watched by the masses.

This show has really peaked my interest personally because it has a similar motif that many of my favorite movies share. The world of the stewardess during this time was one filled with drugs, corruption, sex, and more.

In Goodfellas, this was a central motif because the way the drug sales were completed were through stewardess's and staff on the plane. This is the same idea in the movie Blow. This show has picked a topic that is interesting to many audience types. However if the show doesn't follow an interesting storyline, it could really tank and not make it through this first season. I hope for the best.

8 1/2: Different Perspective Viewings

After reading about 8 1/2 for class, I could not help but realize how different of a perspective I have now. When I first watched it, I was only 17 and did not understand all the intricacies of film. Being of absorbed by confusion prevented me from comprehending the bigger picture instead of noticing little things that make this film so "genius."

The story is was really made me so confused, all I saw were random patterns of events but now after reading it from an objective perspective, it all made sense that he was running out ideas and didn't know where his life was going. The fact that he was a catholic schoolboy and then becomes a lost creative soul truly highlights what it takes to be a director or apart of the industry. You have do somethings that no one has ever thought of.

Going off of what no one has ever thought of, reading about the editing scheme contributed greatly to causing confusion inside of Guido's mind. I thoroughly enjoyed how the walls did not match to give the sense that everything is changing and his life is just one big confusion while he blames his past for not being so creative. A story is a start but the editing is where all the ideas come together to create what Fellini was trying to say the whole time.

While everyone enjoys going to the movies and seeing movies, sometimes you need to think more in depth and see the little things that bring the full picture out of confusion in Guido's thoughts.


Fear has always been a mystery for humans. What causes fear and why are we so interested in this? Fear is a negative sensation from a perceived threat. It is hardwired in our brain with the "Fight or Flight" response. Fear has been within the human condition as long as any other emotion.
This is a really odd reference but I like it anyway.

As much as we claim we hate being scared we still go to the movies to watch these heart wrenching films. It may be because of our morbid fascination to these things, our curiosity to the grotesque and the unknown. Stephen King explained that we love horror movies because it gives into our cruel impulsions.

We know why we find horror movies interesting but why are they scary to begin with? What makes a guy in a rubber suit scary or someone's arm being ripped off a hair raising experience? Instead of searching the internet for an answer I am going to try my best with my own explanation. Horror movies show us something that we usually do not see everyday, and sometimes shows us things we never want to see. The idea that a creature can enter your house at night while you sleep to drain all of your blood is terrifying. However even though the emotional side of our brain is paralyzed with fear our logical side can ease our mind with a rational explanation that vampires and werewolves do not ex
ist. That is why I think the more recent horror films do a better job with causing us fear. Movies like Hostel are scary because of a strong chance of them happening...well stronger chance than zombies knocking on your door for tea and cerebellum. What is scarier, a creature that can not physically survive in the real world due to scientific reasons or getting kidnapped in a foreign country then tortured to death?
Travel the world they said...

Just like anything else in our world, horror movies have evolved in order to keep up with viewers today. Our concept of fear has changed. Or maybe we have just become desensitized by traditional horror due to its over use. I think a crucial element of horror is the shock factor of some of the scenes, and the frankenstein monster can only be created only a certain amount of times before it becomes stale. As I stated earlier these new grotesque horror movies like Hostel or Saw show the viewers what they normally do not see, people getting tortured in sick ways. Thanks to special effects we can see a more realistic and brutal gore scene now without hiding in shadows and claymation.

Horror movies scare me for more than one reason, besides me being easily scared the future of horror movies can take an interesting turn. If what I said is true about the desensitization of fear than in the future we will see movies that will make Saw look like Nosferatu.

Now that's a scary thought.

8 1/2: Breaking the Rules and Paving the Way for the Future

For this week’s blog post, we were asked to read a chapter from Closely Watched Films by Marilyn Fabe. In the chapter it focuses on Federico Fellini’s film 8 ½. This unusual film broke a lot of the “rules” of cinema and helped pave a road for creative pieces of entertainment in the future. Overall after reading this chapter I came away with that certain “rules” of cinema could be broken with good reasons and intentions like how Fellini broke many of them in his strange and baffling film 8 ½.

8 ½ is a film about “director’s block” and tells the story of Guido Anselmi, a film director, who during the filming of his latest film, suddenly loses inspiration and worries he will not be able to finish and fail. One of the first “rules” Fellini “broke” was the non-linear story. The linear plot is constantly interrupted with Guido’s dreams, fantasies, and childhood memories that are triggered by present problems. This helps create a world of fantasy and makes it clear to the audience that this film is not about life but the make believe world of film. When first reading about this it reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s film Memento. That film is about Leonard Shelby who has anterograde amnesia searching for the killer of his wife. The film’s events are told in two separate narratives. One is told in chronological order in black and white and the other is told in color in reverse chronological order. As each sequence begins the audience is unaware of the preceding events just like the main character. Finally at the end the film’s narratives converge and everything makes a lot more sense. Memento in comparison seems a lot easier to understand and follow than 8 ½ and since I was confused during Memento I can’t even comprehend my level of confusion if I watched 8 ½.

Another “rule” 8 ½ breaks is with editing. For example objects in the background and the orientation of people in the room move from shot to shot. This disrupts the viewer’s illusion of “reality” because in real life these kinds of things would not happen. However it makes perfect sense in the film because it helps capture the disoriented process of recalling memories, which the main character is doing. Try it yourself. It is hard to pinpoint the exact location of people and objects when recalling memories. In other words “rules” are meant to be broken but only with good reasons like Fellini had.

Like Memento, 8 ½ reminded me of a lot of other movies and television shows I have seen. First it reminded me of Six Feet Under when sometimes Fellini creates dream sequences or fantasies that are not really happening. Six Feet Under would use this method all the time to show what was really going on in their characters’ heads. Overall the plot of the film reminds me of two movies; Adaptation and Tropic Thunder. Adaptation is a Charlie Kaufman film about Charlie Kaufman’s difficult struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief novel into a film. It turns out it is based on upon his actual struggle when hired to write the film’s screenplay. Tropic Thunder is about a bunch of prima donna actors who are making a Vietnam War film based on the fictional novel Tropic Thunder. When their director becomes frustrated he decides to skip the script and drop them into the middle of the jungle to survive real action and danger. In the end the making of the film becomes the actual film in the film’s reality and is a worldwide smash! Sound familiar? Between these four movies and shows it is clear to see that Fellini’s movie paved the way for future strange and creative projects. It can take just one person to change the way we think and Fellini was definitely one for many people.

The Beauty of Soap Operas

In an industry where Showtime and HBO television series get all of the spotlight (with good reason), sometimes we forget how to appreciate all of the “bad” television there is out there. More specifically, I am talking about soap operas. Yes, you read correctly.

Now, I am not an avid soap opera watcher, in fact, I think I may have seen only one episode of General Hospital and that was because James Franco was on it—but I must admit that over the summer, I became obsessed with a Spanish soap, una novella called “La Casa de al Lado.”

This is not an entry about the differences between Spanish and English soap operas, but rather about soap operas themselves. With so much fantastic television out there, soap operas get the short end of the stick and don’t get as much recognition—particularly by us students who are preparing to enter this industry or some variation of it. I believe it’s important to take a close look at soap operas and see why sometimes they’re so good, and sometimes why they’re just so darn awful.

Here is what stands out to me:

1. One of the best things about soap operas, in fact the most admirable—is the short amount of time that it takes to put on the production of one episode. Usually, it’s one day per one episode. Now that is just crazy! When you think about it in context, it is quite impressive. After all, how long does it take us to shoot a scene that is merely five minutes?

This creates an atmosphere of constant pressure because of the lack of time. This is the reason that a lot of soap operas aren't that visually exciting or impressive. A lot of their scenes are shot once, using three cameras so the lighting has to be able to work for all three angles simultaneously. Also as a result of the quick production time, the settings aren't always as believable as they could be if it were a production on a larger budget. Take a look below at the hospital scene and awful car crash in La Casa de al Lado.

2. The actors on soaps of course may not be the most groundbreaking actors to ever have been on television, but, they are very good at what they do. Since soaps have such a short production time, the actors are usually in the position of having to memorize their lines in an incredibly short amount of time-sometimes a day before the actual episode or scene is shot. This presents a huge challenge to the actors and it is highly respectable that they take their craft so seriously. After all, how many times do we hear of “serious” actors in Hollywood showing up to sets and not having their lines memorized?

Also, soaps feature up and coming actors quite frequently, usually giving a completely new actor their first role. Many times, great actors have had their start acting in a soap opera. Some examples include: Demi Moore who worked on General Hospital, Meg Ryan (As the World Turns), Christopher Reeve (Love of Life) and Susan Sarandon (A World Apart) – all of these actors have had successful careers after their initial soap-spot. They are just a few of many.

3. The best aspect of soap operas in my opinion is the writing (yes, I really did just write that.) Now, let me explain myself. When I say writing, I am well aware that there is far better writing on television than what ends up on One Life to Live, but that’s not my point. Soap opera have absolutely no limitations. None whatsoever. There is nothing impossible within the realms of a soap opera. Characters can die and come back from the dead because in fact, they were never really dead at all. Characters have shady pasts and can end up being evil even when they’ve been pretending to be good. It must be pretty fun to work in a writers room for a soap opera. Anything you suggest or think of can actually happen.

Granted, not much of it might logically make sense but that’s why it’s fun—it’s creative.

Like I mentioned before, I do not watch soap operas, however, I think it’s important to take a look at the shows that we truly admire and the kind of series that we don’t because we can learn a lot from both. Soap operas are extremely popular all over the world, with even their own award shows (Daytime Emmys). They last for years, even decades so even if it’s not something that you ever want to get into, it’s still interesting to know their production process.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

101 Acting

After watching the video today, I realized that acting is not so much a talent, but more of an art. Michael Cane went on to talk about how simple you have to look in front of the camera and that less is more, especially on close ups. I did some researching of my own and found some other helpful tips that might help the rest of the class with their replication project.

1. If your scene has dialogue, tell your actor/actress to make sure he/she knows the character they are playing. if the character is serious, then the dialogue shouldn't come across funny or sarcastic. IF your having trouble keeping your actors from laughing, go through the scene a couple times until the laughter dies out. It is too easy to spot out on screen actors holding in their laugher, and it only ruined the shot.

2. If you have characters in the background or just simply not speaking, give them something to do while on camera. What I mean by
that is to make sure he/she isn't doing something to just get T/V time. They should have a purpose to the shot and should be doing every day kind of things.

3. Last, be aware of overacting. Make sure you understand what the scene's purpose is and that you don't exceed or miss the point. A lot of the time, beginner acts feel like they need to stand out from the others so they feel obligated to try and make more of what they are suppose to do. This mistake is easily avoideable and shouldn't be seen in any of our projects.

I hope this helps to all that read. Give me any feedback you got or anything else that I should maybe add to the list.

Steve Kinslow

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Music and Script of Inception

After talking about the spinning hallway in Inception during class it got me thinking about this complex and intriguing movie. Underneath the effects there are many other great things this movie has including its music and story.

First for those who have not seen the film, Inception is a 2010 film written, directed and co-produced by Christopher Nolan one of my favorite directors who has done movies like The Dark Knight and Memento. It was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Leonardo DiCaprio stars and plays Dom Cobb, a specialized thief. Instead of robbing, banks he steals ideas from the unconscious minds while they are asleep and dreaming. This is called extraction. Cobb has been on the run and unable to go home to America to visit his children because he is wanted for his wife's murder. Cobb is offered a chance to go home and have his old life back if he could perform the impossible task of inception; the planting of an idea into someone's subconscious. That is Inception in a nutshell. It is a lot more complex and a definite watch for anyone who loves science fiction, action or heist movies.The music from Inception is just beyond epic. Hans Zimmer, who has worked on movies like The Lion King, The Dark Knight, and Rango, completed the score. Now the score is described as a very electronic score but the coolest part about Zimmer's Academy Award nominated score involves Charles Dumont's 1956 song "Non, je ne regrette rien." In the movie this song is used as a "kick" to wake up them up. To know they are running out of time in the dream the song softly starts as headphones are placed on the dreamer's ears. The music builds and then they are awakened.

Now as explained in the film, time moves differently when people are dreaming or when they are dreaming within a dream. ("It's a week the first level down. Six months the second level…"). Zimmer used this information and incorporated this into his soundtrack. Listen carefully to "Non, je ne regrette rien" and then to Zimmer's "Half-Remembered Dream" from the soundtrack. Do you see what he did there? When slowed down the song, like it would be in the dream world for the characters. Check out this video for an audio comparison. Another user also did the opposite and sped up "Half-Remembered Dream" to have it sound like Dumont's song!

Two final points, one small and one large, I want to bring up involve the story and the script, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Let's start small first. Nolan was so detailed when writing the script that some of the character names are allusions. Ellen Page's character Ariadne is an "architect" who creates the various dreamscapes, which are designed like mazes. The name alludes to a princess in a Greek myth who aided by the hero Theseus by giving him a sword and a ball of string to help him navigate the labyrinth, which imprisoned the Minotaur. Ariadne in the movie aids the hero Cobb and the rest of the characters on how to navigate the dream mazes.

The other point I must bring up when talking about Inception is the ending. The ambiguous and controversial ending involves a spinning top wobbling. For the characters in the movie they each have a totem that allows them to find out if they are dreaming or in the real world. For Cobb if the top stays spinning he is dreaming but the ending fails to show if the top falls or not because of the abrupt cut. In other words the audience is unsure if the final sequence of the film is reality or just another dream. While many of speculated and even came up with theories involving Cobb only wears his wedding ring during dreams and that is your clue to look for, Nolan has denied this. When I first saw the movie I was a little confused and looked for clues to find out what happened but after my second viewing I realized how it doesn't matter what happened. Whether he is dreaming or not, Cobb is not looking at the top for the answer but is looking at his kids. If he doesn't care, neither should we. Nolan has backed this in interviews but the audience is free to believe whatever they want. Maybe they should sleep on it and dream their own ending to this wild movie.