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What does a score/soundtrack really do?

Over the past few years I have become exceedingly fascinated with the role that music plays in film, and how a movie’s soundtrack can, in many ways, serve as the highlight to the project as a whole. I was inspired recently to talk about this after I re-watched Dazed and Confised (Linklater 1992). If you have never taken the time to analyze how each iconic song in the movie correlates with teenage life and a specific scene that takes place, a really encourage you to do so. Linklater is known for being very masterful when it comes to depicting human emotion and the evolution of the individual, and in many ways this talent is shown through his song choice in Dazed and Confused. By choosing music with a specific angsty side to it, Linkater was able to capture the mood of young teenagers and departing seniors in a well thought out coming of age story that encompassed freshman to senior year of high school. While this is just a small snip it of what music can do for a film, one of the more prominent examples in recent film history is that of Hans Zimmer’s influence on the film industry. After doing much of Christopher Nolan’s film scores, Hans Zimmer has quickly solidified himself as one of the music greats in cinematic history due to his ability to correlate on screen images with sometimes ominous and beautiful orchestral pieces. Whether it is the use of preconceived songs(soundtrack) or an original score, since the outbreak of sound in film, music in cinema has taken on a central role in movie production and has come to serve as one of the determinant’s to a film’s overall quality and effectiveness.



Who is Watching?

Panopticon is an amazing documentary on how technology in society is growing to fast. Through this movie there were so many different moments that truly made you have to take a second to think about what was just said. There were multiple scenes where people were being scanned by facial recognition scanners. I do not understand the need for everyday people to have to go through this. It would be one thing if this was just an in the moment scan to see if there was a missing person or a criminal there but it isn’t. This information is stored into a data base with endless memory. They know every where we have been, every where we are going, and every where we plan to go. I don’t know about you but this is not what I think of when the word freedom comes into play. These type of actions only remind me of the words I once read in the book 1984, “Big Brother is always watching!”

Tiger: Spy in the Jungle

If you are ever interested in watching an expository and observational documentary about tigers, “Tiger: Spy in the Jungle” is a great documentary that was filmed in 2008. David Attenborough narrates the lives of four growing tiger cubs by using footage collected by hidden-camera-carrying elephants in India. Through the two years of shooting this documentary, the elephants ended up catching amazing footage of the most intimate portrayal of tigers. If interested, you can look at the link below.

Red Army

As our documentary segment has finally come to a close I have been thinking recently about what aspects actually make a documentary “successful” and whether or not the story and topics covered in a documentary are the true reason they succeed. So, I decided to research the top documentaries on Rotten Tomatoes and other sites, which actually proved to be an eye opener. I was expecting to find political and social issues at the top of this list, but quite the contrary I discovered that the range of topics tackled in each of the top 50 documentaries varied greatly. For example, the number documentary I found was Man on Wire, which follows the story of Philippe Petit, the man who crossed the twin towers on a tight rope. So, after I looked at a few more of these most critically praised documentaries and their reviews I began to realize that it is not the actual topic discussed in the film that makes them so compelling but rather the way in which they are filmed and mapped out, much the same as any other film genre. It kind of made me realize that documentary film making relies just as much on camera work, editing, and musical scores, as it does the actual story that is portrayed. So, with this in mind, I began to think, are documentaries actually made to solely be informative or do they exist as just another form of cinematic entertainment. In many ways I would guess both, but the question is really interesting because usually we assume that documentaries exist as a way to inform us about an issue rather than entertain us, but in reality entertainment is their main goal; As if a documentary is not entertaining, an audience will not watch it long enough to understand its message. With that said, I thought it might be cool to show a trailer of a recently released documentary that I saw a preview for in theaters, and how the way in which the trailer is shot and edited was the main thing that drew me to watching it rather than the issue that it surrounds.



The Candidate (1972)

Michael Ritchie’s film The Candidate (1972), stars Robert Redford as lawyer unwillingly running for the Democratic seat in the Senate for California. He is not nearly as suave or stable in front of large crowds nor is he as cool and calm under pressure as his opposing candidate. He is giving a speech in a local mall when the microphone begins to whine. The low subtle whine gradually turns into a high pitched squeal. The tension created by this sound is almost palpable. I thought it was interesting that the role sound plays in this film is so strong and adds a lot to the moments.

Ritchie took shots of Redford’s character, McKay giving campaign speeches and doing interviews, giving the film the same vibe and characteristics as a political documentary. This combined with the dramatic portrayal of  how electoral campaigns pander to the media was a shockingly realistic portrayal on the realities of electoral campaigns.

Not much has changed today since the ’70s. Candidates keep their speeches vague and broad to appeal to a larger span of voters and tailor their campaign to what the media wants.

I found this film interesting because it is not a documentary yet the style is similar to that of a political documentary and it has very realistic qualities and reflects realistic events in politics from the past and present.

Trailers, how you get hooked

As this was touched upon in one of the presentations a few days ago, I thought it would be cool to once again touch upon just how great of an impact a trailer can have on the success of a movie. So, I thought a bit about the many movie trailers that I have seen in the past and distinctly remember two that always stood out in my mind. The first of these movies was Cloverfield. If any of you have never seen the movie, it is a rather sub-par gigantic monster flick and raked in a fair amount at the box office. However, in many ways the success it experienced at the box office may have been greatly due to how well crafted its trailer was. Very understated, the whole trailer was very simple and did not reveal much of the plot at all, however it generated interest in its audiences almost solely by the use of  a cliffhanger. I remember watching the trailer and how eager I was to watch the movie after it failed to show the giant monster whose existence was merely implied in the 1 minute and 50 second trailer. However, even though the movie offered an entertaining thrill ride, I was ultimately let down due to myself falling victim to its well crafted trailer.

On the other hand you can also have a movie like Drive, whose trailer  so poorly represented the true style of the film that I was initially repulsed by the film before I even saw it, and did not end up watching the film till a year after its release. If you have not seen Drive, it is a must see, and please, don’t judge the movie by its trailer


Here are the trailers for both movies:



The Hateful Eight and The Auteur Theory

So, last night I just rewatched Inglourious Basterds for the first time in about two years, and as I love that movie, it prompted me to look up any news on Tarantino’s new movie The Hateful Eight. Not surprisingly it is another western that follows eight skillful gun men/women as they are trapped in some sort of snowy frontier. Although not much is truly known about the project yet, much about it is already known solely by the fact that it is directed by Tarantino. Auteur theory has been a fairly prevalent aspect of big budget American cinema for the past few decades, and slowly it has turned the process of garnering attention for movies from being about the film itself, to relying on the director’s notoriety to bring in money. Yes, there is nothing wring with a successful and talented director gaining praise for his works, but this gradually has become a perpetuation and thus has diminished opportunity for new directors to jump onto the scene. If you are shown two trailers and given the choice to pick one movie or the other to watch, your opinion is based solely on the interest the trailer evoked in you. However, if you are then told one trailer is by Scorcese and the other by a relatively unknown  director, chances are you will choose the Scorcese film to watch, regardless of the trailers. My favorite example of this is how M. Night Shyamalan has continued to produce big budget movies and bring in money, even though his past five films have been terribly received. So why do his films keep getting big budgets and continue to see at least some box office success? People remember Shyamalan’s old films like The Sixth Sense and thus go into his more recent films believing they will be just as good as his previous ones, when in reality they are not. So, in many ways it is a double edged sword that somehow should be better understood, and viewers must realize that we cannot watch a film or believe that it is automatically a masterpiece solely by who it is directed by, but rather we must make truly informed decisions based on the film itself.

Special Effects in Interstellar

If any of you have not yet seen Interstellar, let me start by strongly encouraging you all to watch the film. Although our film class covered much ground I thought one area in which we didn’t look at enough was the use of special effects in movies and just how much time is put into making props and characters. Without spoiling the movie I will tell you that possibly one of the most interesting special effects components of a film that I have seen in recent years is how the e-marine robots, TARS, CASE, and KIPP, were constructed and implemented into Interstellar.  So I thought instead of explaining it via a boring account in text, I could show you the actual behind the scenes footage of how this feat was accomplished. Sadly the youtube video was deleted, but it is still up on dailymotion






Films… That aren’t from Hollywood

Since in our last class we spent a fair amount of time discussing the concept of “world cinema” and how this classification is in some ways a little flawed. Personally, I believe that too often people overlook films because they are in another language, or are stylistically different from the traditional American Cinema, and that this not only causes many to miss out on some truly fantastic movies, but it also hinders the development of a greater knowledge of film. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few of my favorite films that are not American Cinema.

Memories of Murder(Bong Joon-Ho): This movie is a product of the South Korean film industry, which, if you didn’t know, churns out some pretty fantastic movies that are often under-appreciated. The movie is a crime/drama based on a true police case that took place a few years before the films production.  Even though comical and goofy at times, the majority of the film is overshadowed by morbidity and hopelessness.

Seven Samurai(Akira Kurosawa): No doubt you’ve probably heard of this film, or Kurosawa. Seven Samurai is one of the most prominent epics in film history and is regarded as a classic.

Caché(Michael Haneke): A French thriller I saw a few years ago that caught me pretty off guard as it is a slow moving movie that gradually begins to disturb you, unlike conventional thrillers that always appear to rely on quick pacing.

Akira(Katsuhiro Otomo):  Possibly the most famous anime ever conceived, it is a truly gruesome and shocking film about a dystopian Tokyo and offers much insight into the production of WMDs.


Let The Right One In

Spirited Away

City of God 

Pan’s Labyrinth 


is social media good or bad?

The takeover of social media is a very serious topic that only continues to grow. This can be a very good or bad thing. The deciding factor of which one it is, is up to the individual. Social media can be used for so many great things you can plan events, you can speak with friends and family that are far away, you can get information on just about anything that you want. These are just some of the good things that can come from it. With all of the good there is bound to be some bad that is not too far behind. Now for the bad that sadly manages to find its way into these things. Some of the bad that comes from social media is cyber bullying, false information, and how once something is on the web it never goes way. What you do is up to you.