Dogma 95 & The Celebration

Vinterbergs 1998 film The Celebration was not only one of the most disturbing films we’ve watched in class, but also one of the most twisted films I’ve seen in general. One of the interesting qualities of film is that it presents a reality that is portrayed through performance. I was highly disturbed after researching the avant-garde style Dogma 95 manifesto to realize that this cinematic movement required films to be as real as possible, meaning all actions including beatings etc. are not faked and edited in post production.

The issues and topics that the film dealt with were very real and sensitive including sexual abuse, and family decay so to discover that the director strived to reenact these scenes as realistically as possible is problematic. The scene that mostly comes to mind as being highly distasteful is the beating of the woman. In this scene, I have an issue understanding why its necessary to have the man actually carry out an action that could easily depicted through various camera angles and good acting which takes more skill and creativity. The Dogma 95 argument that it makes the scene more realistic if the action is completed versus edited and altered in postproduction is not credible to me if it means causing harm to an individual for the purpose of entertainment. Many films have successfully depicted harm, sadness, and gruesome action without literally performing the act, and it does not take away from the authenticity of the scene. Film is not a direct representation of reality and should not try to imitate it in this manner.

Linda Williams and Stella Dallas

Linda Williams focused her studies on the female spectator pleasure by analyzing melodrama classical Hollywood films. She uses the film Stella Dallas as a test case to support various concepts of feminist’s film theory including maternal sacrifice and identification. In the film we see a hardworking lower class mother sacrificing her relationship with her daughter as the daughter climbs the social ladder and marries into an elite upper class family.   In the crucial Final scene of the film, Laurie is getting married inside the family’s mansion while Stella stands alone outside the gates of the house observing the ceremony through a small window that was cracked open.

Williams also talks speaks to the dynamics of looking and identification within a film. The audience does not identify with a single character or viewpoint throughout the duration of the film. In Stella Dallas Viewers see the isolation and separation Stella faces as she watches her daughter depart her former role but we also are taken inside the house into the wedding, a privilege her own mother does not receive. Another example, is when they’re on the train and at the point when Stella decides to give up her daughter after overhearing her friends joke about Mrs. Dallas. Both Stella and her daughter heard the conversation and hoped the other hadn’t.

By viewing the film from multiple perspectives, Williams argues that the audiences is exposed to the desires of all the characters including Stella, her daughter, her daughters new husband, and even Helen. We as the audience are seen as the ideal mother because we see identify with all the conflicting points of view. At the final scene of Stella Dallas, the viewers identify with the loss that Stella has faced despite the films intention of convincing us that this action was necessary on her behalf.

8 ½

8 ½

This post modernist film presented a director’s insight and viewpoint into the process of filmmaking. When comparing this film to the same theme highlighted in Truffaut’s work that was screened in the beginning of the year, the two films differ greatly in many ways. After watching 8 ½ in its entirety, it was not immediately obvious what was going on in the film because of the discontinuity that displaced the narrative. In some ways, this characteristic deterred the quality of the film for me because I often found myself feeling frustrated and confused , which inhibited by ability to thoroughly enjoy the film as a whole. Unlike Truffaut’s La Nuit Americaine, in 8 ½ it was extremely arduous to differentiate between the two films within the film. In hindsight, although at first I saw this observation as being a destructive trait about the film, looking back it adds to the theme of the protagonists inability to distinguish his personal reality and his desires as well as his reality from his work. Overall, I think watching this film a second or third time would greatly benefit my understanding and appreciation of the piece.

Aside from rejecting a metanarrative by drawing attention the the cinematic apparatus, 8 ½ is also self-reflexive. A major criticism of the film was,

“What happens,” asks a Web-based critic, “when one of the world’s most respected directors runs out of ideas, and not just in a run-of-the-mill kind of way, but whole hog, so far that he actually makes a film about himself not being able to make a film?” (

The irony referred to in this criticism is not ironic at all, but completely intentional. A key component of postmodernism is self-reflexivity, and Fellini not only draws on the construction of a film physically (i.e. casting, film sets, script writing), but also mentally. Guido’s struggles in the film may as well have been Fellini’s, but irregardless of whether or not art is imitating life, Fellini’s art is begging for attention to the constructs of film, making it postmodern.

Judge Judy

The article about Judge Judy and court setting talk shows really would have tied in well with the week we discussed race and perpetuating stereotypes, because the TV show really does perpetuate/uphold stereotypes about women.

A big thing discussed is Judy’s morals as a person, being carried over into her work as a judge. She believes that women should be independent, yet they continue to victimize herself. She generally rules in favor of women being independent (whether that means the women wins the case, or has to pay rent to her ex, etc.). On the flip-side, she also looks down upon women who are not a part of a nuclear family (living with a man without being married), because she believes in a 2 income household.

I found this article very interesting, because it also discusses how the TV show is meant to feel candid — everything is honest, and unlike regular talk shows, honesty and confessions can be brought out with the  use of “the law.”  However, obviously, cases are hand selected to be the most interesting, both the case itself and its eventual ruling. Most cases are petty squabbles and it makes a case that the courtroom is the best place to solve any sort of dispute. It also looks down on lower class individuals because they’re the ones who tend to end up on Judge Judy.

The question I was planning on asking in class had to do with the perpetuation of sexist/classist/racist stereotypes (Question 2 in the book). If anyone has any input, feel free to comment!

RW, Revived by Lessig

Lessig starts off with an analogy, describing how the elite spoke in Latin during the Middle Ages, while the masses did not. Instead, they spoke in local, or vernacular languages such as French, German, and English. Today, according to Lessig, text is today’s Latin, and the masses use different forms of media (TV, film, music, music videos). Relevant to this discussion, Lessig also writes about Read/Only (RO) and Read/Write (RW) technologies. RO technology is a one-way interaction, seen as an extension of older forms of communication, such as newspapers or books. RW technology, however, is a more dynamic, two-way interaction. An example of RW technology includes remixes, or the creative “mashing” or re-creation of music and videos to produce variations/re-interpretations of original material. Because of the tehcnological age we now live in, “you can do

almost for free on your own computer” (1086). Essentially, economic barrier that once limited the masses from performing remixes has been removed given the digital age.

According to Lessig, the remix makes arguments “far more effectively than could words.” Rather than asserting the truth, a remix is able to show it. He makes the argument, that it is the usage of familiar, original content that gives remixes their power. As explained by Victor Stone in an interview, “When you hear four notes of the Beatles’ ‘Revolution,’ it means something” (1088).  Lessig also uses examples of a remix of George Bush, titled “Hard Working George,” and a remix by the band Negativland, which faced legal action after using tapes of Casey Kasem from the band U2. In response, Negativland said , “Why did we have to use the actual original…the actual thing? Well, it’s because the actual thing has a power about it. It has an aura. It has magic to it. And that’s what inspires the work” (1088).

Furthermore, Lessig argues that remix creates two good: community, and education. Remixes occur in a community of remixers, members of which create in part for one another. He uses the example of people who create anime music videos, discussing Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Creators of these videos aim to both learn and show off, according to Lessig. Shifting more towards the discussion of education, Lessig writes “‘Entertainment’ is separate from ‘education.’ So any skill learned in this ‘remix culture’ is ‘constructed oppositionally to academic achievement” (1090). He continues to argue that “internet-based learning is learning driven by found interests” and that kids learn more effectively when they work with something they feel passionate about, as is the same for adults.

Discussion Question: Lessig views using remix technology drives community, and is an important educational tool. In the context of Lessig’s argument, what role should media, specifically remixes, hold in the academic environment now and in the future?


8 1/2 as a Postmodernist Film

In class, the question was raised whether or not 8 ½ (1963) is considered a postmodernist film. Given what a wide category postmodernism is as a school of thought, placing the entire film under the umbrella of postmodernism seems dangerous and potentially misleading. However, there were certainly elements of postmodernism in the film that, I would argue, were the driving forces of the film as a whole.

When discussing postmodernism on Monday, both in terms of the chapter in UFT and the Jameson piece, the conversation centered on whether or not films produced today can be completely original and whether or not they can point to a specific truth. Metanarratives, as we discussed in class, point to specific rules that govern the world and inform the decision-making in society. Modernists see metanarratives as influential to their work; such truths not only can be obtained but also can adequately be translated to screen. However, as UFT explained, “postmodernists are dubious of such concrete ideas” (UFT 121).

I believe that much of the existential crisis that Guido faced in 8 ½ drew on this tension between the existence and nonexistence of metanarratives. As Guido stated towards the beginning of the film, he sought to make a film that offered a solution to a problem, that offered a universal truth, that created a metanarrative; through film, Guido believed he could make sense of the absurd world. However, as the film progresses and Guido delays making any definite choices on casting or even script structure, it becomes clear that he is unable to articulate any metanarrative. At the screen test, a producer calls Guido’s script vague and superficial; this is clearly the exact opposite of what Guido is trying to attain. Thus, by showing Guido’s struggle, and ultimate failure, to make a film that showcases any metanarrative, 8 ½ points to the hopelessness at understanding the world in terms of a universal truth. Thus, the central narrative (for lack of a better word) of 8 ½ is postmodernist.

8 1/2 response

While the plot of this film is clearly pretty confusing… I love when I see a movie that has clearly influenced generations of subsequent filmmakers. Fellini’s second great master piece, (the other being La Dolce Vita), is pretty brilliant when you can get past the shaky plot structure and just take it is the moving painting, dream logic filled existential crisis that it really is.

I love how this is the plot description on wikipedia: “Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a famous Italian film director, is suffering from “director’s block“. Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality.”

Firstly, I though the cinematography and shot style was as interesting and perfect as you can ask for. The first shot in the tunnel followed by the man floating above the beach were not only advanced for their time, but also hauntingly beautiful. Inception’s director Christopher Nolan clearly felt a similar reaction since his subconscious creatures that inhabit our minds also feel the need to stare at the trapped subject. That’s one already.

Next, let’s look at Mastroianni’s character. Guido Anselmi, a famous film director played brilliantly by Mastroainni, is like the actual Italian Don Draper of the 60s… Weiner did say that he based a lot of his 60s base Ad show on the Fellini film. But now that I have seen it, I totally see why. Like Draper, Guido is heralded as a brilliant man, but he has reached his limit in a sense. Mad Men is the American prequel to 8 1/2 (and perhaps will end similarly to 8 1/2). But Guido has hit the end of the road and is now finally reflecting on his life through his own personal lens (that of his mind, through his memories and dreams). That’s a difficult thing to face when you have lived your entire professional life through the cinematic apparatus creating falsified dream pictures and spent your entire childhood being challenged by the Catholic church.

The style of the film is undeniably attractive. Not only the costuming and beauty of the leading characters, but the city spots they go to are also gorgeous, the beaches, the flashbacks… They all have a beauty to them that is ineffable. Also, the subtle psychological hints he gives us in the dream scenes delivers us the proper bits of info needed to understand why he looks at women the way he does. I though the dream with his parents was particularly telling as he literally kisses his mom in Oedipus fashion until she turns into his wife and buries his Dad. His existential crisis doesn’t have a sense of Hollywood urgency. The pacing is slow deliberately and the timing of events is disjointed. There is no reason why we should care about this man. But, we do. This film is an undeniable masterpiece for what it does with it’s images. I could watch this film on silent and still get the same effect.


And now… Some influence that the film has had

Beyond Burton and Taratino, you have Nolan, David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, and even Scorsese who clearly feel a connection to the film via their disjointed narratives, psychologically troubled protagonists and dream logic.


8 12 camerawork


In Fellini’s mind… sometimes you feel like your floating, and just want to let go. If we’re to take the film as a book end, then he really did end his life and was heralded into Heaven as if it were an orchestrated circus… just like life

What Did I Just Watch?

As I said in class, 8 1/2 confused me. That doesn’t mean however that I disliked the film. I didn’t love it, or hate it, I just tried to figure out what was going on the whole time. What I gathered was that we were entering the mind of a filmmaker who didn’t know what to do with a film he was making. I believe he (Guido) had some sort of mental blocks that came in the form of the women from his past and future. The question that came across my mind was why these women kept coming into his life. It seemed at first that these were past lovers that he had wronged, or people that he may have taken advantage of (the woman who danced on the beach for money.) But then we see them in screen tests for the movie (at least I’m pretty sure we do.) This could be a representation of how he wronged them, or maybe they’re all actresses he feels that he wronging that he manifested into a type of nightmare.

I had a few things that I couldn’t figure out about the film. I understand why the lack of continuity seems to come into play, but I cannot understand why the film was dubbed the whole time. It was kind of irritating to not have any dialog coming from the actors in the shot.  I also don’t understand the ending, but I think that he killed himself, I don’t believe the film would’ve shown him shoot himself if he didn’t actually. What does everyone else think?

Revisiting Indiana Jones

Watching Indiana Jones for the first time in class since I initially saw it as a child was an interesting experience because it essentially caused me to re-evaluate whether all my favorite childhood films were also filled with dangerous stereotypes and problematic content. Like Indiana Jones, there are other films I have recently revisited to watch for a second time in order to find out whether these films which I was enthralled by as a child were still as entertaining and enjoyable to watch as an adult, and unfortunately in doing so I found that many of my other childhood favorites, namely Major League and The Last Samurai, also were filled with racist content and scenes. The racist issues in Temple of Doom are easy to see: In the second scene of the film Indiana Jones, a white hero, falls from the sky into a Indian village where he is welcomed as the town’s savior and is asked to save their sacred stone along with their children. Right off the bat it becomes evident that there is a pro-colonialist message within the film that is suggesting that in order for the village to thrive and remain safe there needs to be a white foreign presence and this message only becomes stronger as the film progresses and the colonists actually come and save the villager’s children at the end by helping Indiana to fight off the Kali Cult. As a kid I was completely oblivious to these concepts and was simply enthralled by the cool visual effects that Spielberg employs throughout the film, like the mine cart chase scene, but after watching this film in class it’s become evident that Spielberg’s portrayal of Indians as either helpless or religiously dangerous is incredibly problematic because it sends the message to future generations that we either must fear different cultures or try and help them because they are unable to help themselves. I thought that maybe Temple of Doom was an outlier in this regard, but after rewatching parts of Major League and The Last Samurai its clear that there is a pattern of racist misrepresentation within hollywood that still is continuing to this day. In Major League this racist stereotyping comes in the form of the player Pedro Cerrano, a black latino baseball player who relies on voodoo rituals to give him the power to play well and is deeply entrenched in spirituality. Pedro’s character is clearly suppose to be a caricature of a foreigner whose religious customs are alien to American society and he is often mocked in the film because of his cultural practices. The Last Samurai also features a message that is racial problematic because Tom Cruise’s character, an imperialist, is captured by Japanese Samurais and then adapts their culture and takes on the challenge of having to preserve their way of life, which is incredibly confusing because it sends the message that a white man is once again need to come to the rescue and solve societal problems. Before I never thought much about the messages these films were sending and just enjoyed them for their action sequences and story lines, but after discussing the implications of these misrepresentations I’ve realized that films like these can instead be dangerous because they lead us to develop unfair stereotypes and views.