All posts by Frankie Illuzzi
When is a Film Complete?
It was recently revealed that the new Avengers film will be released as an extended edition on DVD, presumably with the original cut listed at a running time of about 3 hours. This brings into question the idea of a film ever really being complete and the idea of director’s cuts/extended editions in general. There are famous examples of these, such as the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, Blade Runner: Final Cut, Apocalypse Now Redux, among many others. When is a film truly a complete film? Can the director edit a film as many times as he/she wishes and consider it to still be the same piece of work? Take, for example, the Star Wars special editions. Many fans consider the special editions to not even be “Star Wars,” as many scenes are completely changed or altered. It’s a complex question and one that most likely doesn’t have an answer – more of an opinion.
Why to Tell a Story
For an english course I’m taking, our professor had us read an article entitled The Inside Story. It’s written by a producer, Peter Guber, who has produced the original Batman andThe Witches of Eastwick, and more recently, The Kids Are All Right and Soul Surfer. It goes into detail on how stories for films are picked – I found it fascinating how Guber wasn’t interested in Soul Surfer until he met the “soul surfer” herself, Bethany Hamilton. Her personal story touched him so much, that he just knew he had to make the film. While it was for monetary reasons as well, (he knew many people would come see the film), this brings up the idea of passion in film. If someone doesn’t have a passion for storytelling or doesn’t find the story they’re telling compelling, they will not be successful in film. The reason why you’re telling a story and your interest in that story is just as important as the act of telling the story.
The Act of Killing
One of the most interesting documentaries I’ve seen is The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, 2012). The film is centered on the Indonesian killings of 1965-66, specifically on Anwar Congo, one of the perpetrators of the killings. Anwar is invited to recount his killings through film, however he would like to do so. The film follows him as he creates this retrospective look at his atrocities. It’s incredibly moving and disturbing in parts, but fascinating nonetheless.
Star Wars’ Legacy
Since the new trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film was released today, I thought I would bring up Star Wars and it’s influence on film and pop culture in general. Star Wars is one of the few franchises that has almost universal appeal – pretty much everyone has at least seen a Star Wars movie and if you haven’t, you’re met with what could only be described as incredulity. Everyone knows what Star Wars is and this most recent trailer hinges on that fact – literally every line/frame in this trailer is a call back to the original trilogy of movies. From Darth Vader’s destroyed helmet to Harrison Ford proudly proclaiming that he’s “home,” this new Star Wars seems to be incredibly aware of it’s place in our culture. Time will tell if it lives up to everything that has come before.
Dante’s Inferno: The Original Ending to Kevin Smith’s Clerks
I wrote the following post for one of my writing courses – I figured it would be of interest to people in this course:
Kevin Smith’s quintessential 90’s slacker comedy, Clerks, originally contained a somewhat nihilistic and frankly depressing ending, in which a robber murdering the main character, Dante Hicks. This completely alters the tone of the original film and if it were included in the final cut, would have no doubt changed people’s opinion of the film.
Clerks, while somewhat existentialist in nature, was simply a love letter to the care free age of early to late twenties. Around that time, most people are still trying to find direction in their lives. The characters have pointless conversations about Star Wars, the people that surround them, relationships, drug use, and simply everyday life. However, by the end, Dante has found a semblance of purpose or at least been driven to find his purpose. He decides that he’s in a rut and it’s implied that he will try to move on. The ending, while not necessarily “happy,” provides hope for Dante. And in the broader sense, it provides hope for humanity. It confirms that while we may have the tendency to slack off and sometimes fall into mediocrity, we still have the ability to raise ourselves up.
If the original ending had remained, with Dante being gunned down immediately after he decided to make an adjustment, the film would have contained an entirely differentmessage. It would no longer be a satiric, yet oddly uplifting look at slackers; it would have become a tragedy. The message would have been that there is no point to trying. You could die at anytime, so why attempt to change your life?
Ultimately, Kevin Smith decided to remove this dramatic ending. This was generally accepted as the right move; Brian O’Halloran, the actor who played Dante said that he hated the original ending, providing the reasoning that it “was too quick of a twist.” This was for the best, as it provided Smith with the basis for the rest of his filmography: the idea that while slacking off may be fine sometimes, there’s always an opportunity to change and improve.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Because we’ve been focusing on documentaries, I wanted to share one of my favorite movies, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
It examines on street art in general and eventually decides to focus on Banksy, a well known street artist. It’s a really well made film that plays with our perceptions of documentaries, specifically the fact that we always assume what we see in a documentary actually happened. It’s on Netflix – I highly recommend watching it.
Prejudices in Looney Tunes
I brought this up in class briefly the other day, but I was curious to find more information about it so I did a bit of research. Many old Looney Tunes cartoons featured very racist depictions of various stereotypes and, as a result, many of these cartoons are very off-putting and quite offensive, while still being very interesting pieces of film history. When released on DVD, these cartoons were preceded by the following quote.
The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S. society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.
I also found this other disclaimer, presented by Whoopi Goldberg, which is in the same vein as the previous disclaimer.
I find this fascinating, as the cartoons themselves are incredibly well made, despite containing very offensive material. I think it’s admirable of Warner Brothers to admit their past faults, while still preserving the artistic side of these creations.
Absence (of Sound) Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Since we’re talking about sound this week, I was reminded of the 2012 Best Picture winner The Artist. For those who haven’t seen it, The Artist is an homage to old silent films of the 1920s. Throughout the film, it’s completely silent diegetic sound-wise with just an orchestral backing track, except for some very key scenes. It feels claustrophobic throughout the film and this is evident in many of the scenes as the characters experience distress over the concept of sound. One of the best movies about sound and the effects of sound in cinema.
Don Hertzfeldt’s IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY
I’ve been thinking about Moth Light, the experimental film we watched in class on Thursday, and I realized how much it reminded me of Don Hertzfeldt’s IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY. (The capital letters are a stylistic choice.) I wouldn’t say that it’s like Moth Light – for starters, BEAUTIFUL DAY has a cohesive story, is animated, and is around an hour long. But many of the shots in the film are reminiscent of Moth Light. There are countless lingering shots of nature, manipulation of the physical film, and a sense of other-worldliness throughout. I highly recommend watching it if you were intrigued by Moth Light – BEAUTIFUL DAY is a gorgeously made film and has a surprisingly emotional story for a hand drawn animated movie starring a stick figure. It’s currently available on Netflix for those who are interested in watching it.