All posts by goldfarr

It’s that time of Year… Movie Binge time that is

I’ve had the fortune of getting a lot of my essays out of the way, so I have been passing the time by watching movies non-stop. I’ve hit some pretty good ones along the way that I’d like to share with you all.

In case people haven’t seen these… go watch them right away. The Richard Linklater Trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight are some of the most subtly brilliant films I’ve ever seen. The major highlight in each is the script… Written by Linklater and the two lead actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, these films are some of the few that come class to true authenticity. Yes, they certainly feel like they are a part of the ideological cinematic apparatus, but the dialogue flows so naturally between the leads, many thought it was improvised upon initial release. The film also hosts 20 plus minute talking scenes where the camera doesn’t cut, meaning the actors memorized EVERYTHING and delivered it with an authentic touch that makes it seem like they’re saying it all for the first time.

Next, I switched it up and watched the Ocean’s Trilogy and don’t have too much to say other than they are fun, escapist heist movies.

I also just watched the new HBO documentary on Kurt Cobain which was really well done. It was very similar to the doc we watched in intro to film years ago called Tarnation, which is Jonathan Caouette’s self made autobiography told in trippy, terrifying fashion. Both films really succeed in dissecting troubled adults live’s through artistic imagery matched with candid records.

I also watched the new Avengers, Fury, and Saving Private Ryan. Plus, I had gone to the movies a few weeks ago to see a new low-budget horror flick called “It Follows.” I know Brian would love it since he’s into that type of thing. I’m not a big horror fan, but this film was extraordinary. 2 million dollar budget… beautifully shot, incredibly scary, well acted and it has stuck with me to this day. Highly recommend it to everyone if they want a thrill.

I also want to comment on how great the presentations have been. Everyone is doing a really good job and I’ve enjoyed everything we’ve talked about so far. Michael, I’ll always watch Fight Club like it’s a Fincher style, hyper masculine Calvin and Hobbes from now on. Angelina, seeing the various takes on Macbeth really do speak to the power of adaptation… I could put Romeo and Juliet in Space and it could still tell the exact same story as the 15th century England version.

This was a great class and I’m really glad I was able to take it. Since we’re all gonna be busy this summer, here are 10 must see movies to relax to if you have some down time:

1.) The Graduate

2.) All Quiet on the Western Front

3.) Breathless

4.) Rebel Without A Cause

5.) The Departed

6.) Life is Beautiful

7.) Inception

8.) Birdman

9.) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

10.) The Elephant Man

And many more


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

King Kong, Tarantino Response

Alex brought up an awesome point in his post regarding the Inglorious Basterd’s scene where the SS guard talks about the journey of King Kong to America being synonymous with that of the African American. Heres the link again:

Thinking about this further, Tarantino makes a really interesting point in just a few simple lines of dialogue. I also found it really interesting that Tarantino makes one of the great modern analogies of Slavery while African American filmmaker Spike Lee claims Tarantino is a racist who throws around the n word without understanding what it means. I’ve always been in the camp that Tarantino could care less about race… he cares about characters. If those characters happen to have a certain racial or religious background, he will use it to his satirical advantage and explain their hardships through absurdist, intricate dialogue that allows the character to be larger than life, break the mold of other similar characters, and point out issues going on in America. Like he did in Django with Jaime Foxx, Django is the protagonist and Dicaprio is the antagonist. Tarantino goes to great lengths to make Django appear smarter, faster, and tougher than his white counter parts, but also juxtaposes images with the brutality of slavery and the fear of slaves who were subjected to torture. Perhaps a better representation of slavery is found in 12 Years a Slave, which takes a hyper-realistic historical approach to the true story of Solomon Northup.

Back to the original point that Alex brought up in his post, Tarantino’s best skills lie in his ability to use dialogue to express his points even more loudly than his images. Words can change the entire conversation. When you look at the simple scene above in Inglorious, a disgraceful SS guard makes such a relevant point about one of the great cinema characters of all time… King Kong is quite simply a 1933 commentary on America’s dark past… traveling to a place they were unwanted and unrightfully taking something pure and subjecting it to indentured pain.

Color Adjustments Today

First and foremost, I found Color Adjustments to be an extremely well made documentary that  and incredibly relevant issue with modern television. Furthermore, the fact that the film was released in the early 90s makes matters more interesting since the last 25 years have seen multiple attempts to accurately portray African Americans on screen.

I thought it was wild to see clips from Amos and Andy. The show was originally quite popular on the radio dating back to the 20s,  but white actors played black. When the show hit the air in 1951, Black actors took over their rightful parts, even though those parts were self-depreciating and perpetuating of social stereotypes. While the show did not last, it was eventually shown again in 2012… perhaps because the country was ready to address the racial issues perpetuated in the media in the previous century. Today, one of TV’s biggest hits is a show called Black-ish. The show, like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the Cosby Show, tackles a more contemporary approach to upper-middle class Black families. Black-ish, which follows the Modern Family slot, tries to create a sitcom society that addresses the nuclear family from the black perspective in a similar fashion to its time slot predecessor. The problem, is that the Black characters are still treated as black… Why? Because entertainment is a business and the industry labels African Americans with particular attitudes. Sure, shows like the ones mentioned above treat the characters humanely, place them in recognizable settings for both races, and offer respect to the leads… but they still focus on the fact that they are different than their white counterparts. THAT right there is the problem and it is a problem that Hollywood LOVES to perpetuate.

The only way we are going to move into a post-segregated society fully is when entertainment and society start looking at both races as one in the same, or unique for their own, ineffable reasons that don’t need to be explained. We don’t satirize white characters to the same extent that we do for Black characters. Of course, there are moments when satire is funny and necessary to point out the absurd and obvious. Satire is its own genre and often succeeds in addressing problems (though it too perpetuates the stereotype by doing so). The fact of the matter is, it’s really up to us, as the next generation of media story tellers, to treat African Americans in the same light as White characters… not only that, but perpetuate what this country is founded on… E Pluribus Unum. From many one. There are a ton of examples of films/shows treating blacks and whites the exact same and that is an excellent start. And there is always room for historical films/shows like Twelve Years A Slave or Mad Men which address history (hopefully so it will never be repeated) – but media needs to move forward. That doesn’t mean Spider Man needs to be black or Shaft needs to be white… it means that the only thing that should matter is story and characters… whether they are black or white should never be the issue. It’s a dream to think it’s possible, but I really believe we are already headed in that direction. Just look at Furious 7… the cast is a great mix of latin, black, and white and it just raced to 800 million dollars at the box office in 12 days. Why? Because they are a family, no matter what ethnicity they come from. That’s where we need to head.

Brokeback Mountain Reaction and Masculinity

I had never seen this film before we started it on Wednesday – This film definitely deserves its praise from a cinematic and psychosocial perspective.

Firstly, the performances. I was truly impressed by the leading men (and women) in the film. This type of role takes guts, research, and vulnerability that is incredibly difficult to portray on screen. Heath Ledger (speaking in a voice similar to Tom Berenger in Platoon, the height of masculinity), dances between masculine detachment to loving happiness when he lets his guard down with Gyllenhaal (Jack). The moment that really stuck out to me above all else was when they reunite for the first time after their first time on Brokeback and Michelle Williams (Alma) sees them kissing. The moment really captures the gravity of the situation the two (or 3) are in. Ennis had never really showed that kind of joy and raw sexual energy with his wife (minus the one scene where he flipped her on her stomach to be in the same sexually dominating position he was in with Jack in the tent). Building off that moment, Williams does an extraordinary job throughout the film of showing her pain at seeing her husband is gay – but the way she portrays it is NOT out of disapproval for his sexual preference, but out of her feeling dejected and lied to… The fact of the matter is, she did love the father of her children and just wanted a normal marriage and life. Jumping back to the male leads, the pent up aggression, frustration, and energy they expose in the solitude of the wilderness juxtaposes their home lives so bluntly and makes their situation incredibly clear.

One of the questions surrounding these men, is, if they are gay… how do they manage to consummate their heterosexual marriages? Do they have bisexual tendencies or does their wish to stay closeted in a bigoted society enable them to perform sexually in their normal home lives? It’s another layer to a complicated narrative that looks at this micro relationship in solitude while examining the macro relationships in the social context in the stark mid-west towns they call home.

Next, Ang Lee, who took home the best directing statue for his film, does an excellent job of capturing the starkness, bluntness, and loneliness of middle America. It reminded me of Malick’s Badlands or Payne’s Nebraska. The shots color structure, visual spacing, and phallic nature  allow the naturalness of the male relationship to unfold more realistically. Furthermore, the costuming is masculine but neither man is overly fit, leading to characters disguised as classic men, though hiding their true feelings beneath the clothes. Fitting (no pun intended) that the final shot in Jack’s shirt, covering Ennis’s shirt in the closet as the starkness of the country waits outside the window with a storm looming in the distance.

There’s also a TV show on Showtime called Shameless where two of the main characters in the ensemble are teenagers who are gay and in love. The show treats their relationship as having one of the characters be open about their homosexuality while the other is a gun touting south-side Chicago hoodlum who would rather use violence to cover up his homosexuality than admit it to the world (or his father) and face the backlash. By the most recent season, however, the hoodlum character has come out and has declared his love for the other. Now, the show treats their homosexuality the same way it treats it heterosexual relationships on the show, which is an incredibly impressive feat.

People have been talking about ebert’s review of the film. Here is an excerpt that I completely agree with:

“But it’s not because of Jack. It’s because Ennis and Jack love each other and can find no way to deal with that. “Brokeback Mountain” has been described as “a gay cowboy movie,” which is a cruel simplification. It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel. Their tragedy is universal. It could be about two women, or lovers from different religious or ethnic groups — any “forbidden” love.”

That’s why the film works. It’s because this is a love story. A love story that travels through time, societal change, and family life that could happen to any one, gay, straight, or bi. It doesn’t matter. These are two people who loved each other, but society said it was wrong. Maybe that’s the best way to simplify.

Mamma Mia Reaction

Fun fact, ABBA has sold over 380 million records… Their music is pretty well liked. I love when popular music is adapted to conceptualized story form. This was a fun attempt, but certainly nothing game changing.  I was one of the few kids in the class who had never seen Mamma Mia all the way through until today. Gut reaction? I still don’t know. I think the film was horribly miscast, but the actors themselves have enough talent that it ultimately wasn’t too big a deal. I thought the supporting characters stole the show and were far more musically talented than the leads, but that being said, Seyfried can really sing.

The direction of the numbers were sometimes quite captivating and other times just so over-the-top and nauseating that I couldn’t get into it. BUT, damn they put you in a good mood. I attribute that partly to the beauty of the scenery, the likability of the cast, and the brilliance of the ABBA tunes.

In terms of this being a feminist film in the modern wave? I’m torn. This was a female dominated production. Director, writer, producers, and stars are all female and the men are presented as the objects of the “gaze.” The women revel in their own sexual and emotional freedom and ability to just be themselves, using the male gaze for fun and pleasure. But, it didn’t really break new ground. The female characters are certainly strong and charismatic, but what I think worked is that fact that the story itself doesn’t dwell on the male/female power issues. The men are enjoying the chaos just as much as the women. The decisions almost always end up being made by the women, which is a solid step forward for cinematic stories. Seyfried called off the wedding, Streep ultimately takes the leap of faith for marriage, and the best friends find their men.

The script itself is pretty weak. The dialogue could have been a lot stronger, but the musical numbers were so fun I didn’t care. The music speaks for the characters far louder than their words. It was a little campy at times, but again, this was a feel good movie so it’s irrelevant. Finally, THIS is one of the few stories that is probably better suited for the stage. For such an emotionally intertwined story, locking the characters to the small confines of a stage actually does a large amount of justice to the development of everyone. That being said, the film took advantage of its landscape and had a lot of fun with the extra space. This really isn’t a brilliant film or musical adaptation. It’s just fun and allows people to get lost in the world of the music and the greek island where the women run the show as bachelorettes pondering their independence. I have a feeling we will see a remake of this in our lifetime, my only hope is they push the drama and enhance the script!

And yes, I am listening to the soundtrack as I write this post… this music is so good it’s addicting.


Upon reading chapter 6 of UFT, I found a newfound interest and respect for realism filmmakers/artists/performers. There is a great story in the book about Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier filming Marathon man where Hoffman took the method, internal approach to create his character while Olivier took the external, histrionic theatrical approach to external acting. His response to Hoffman’s weird performance techniques was “Try acting, dear boy.”

I’m of two camps when it comes to realism. I don’t want to sound like a pretentious art-house loving cinema goer who refuses to support big-budget Hollywood material because it manipulates images and presents typical effects driven, popcorn fun. I love movies like that and often NEED them when I just want to escape and be entertained. But there are certain stories, subject matters, and projects that really need attention to realism and verisimilitude to succeed. Most Oscar films we see attempt the realism approach, which is why they are rewarded at the ceremony. A recent example, American Sniper, works because Eastwood wants to create images that reflect middle east warfare and Cooper trained 12 hours a day for months to truly transform into a believable Chris Kyle. Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List are two Spielberg examples of candid, realistic images exposing the rawness of the story far more than a commercial friendly approach to warfare or the horrors of World War II.

I’m looking forward to discussing realism in class. Most of my favorite performers are method actors. I prefer truthful, realistic performance style to over-the-top, theatrical delivery. Dicaprio, De Niro, and Nicholson are good modern examples of method actors who will go to great lengths to ensure accuracy in their performances. That’s why when I watch (certain) films of theirs, I am amazed at how they can transform themselves into these characters. That comes from within. For Dicaprio to go from a Rhodesian diamond smuggler to Jordan Belfort believably is nothing short of ridiculous.

Ghost Dog and Genre Hybridity

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Ghost Dog. It was certainly an interesting film. It definitely was made by an artist who was knowledgeable of film, genre, and narrative arts. But something never really clicked for me. It could be as simple as I think Forrest Whittaker was completely wrong for the role. Or it could be the fact that I never really connected with the story. I’ll rest in terms of my critique, but the film did offer an interesting look into genre theory.

I don’t want to herald this film as a genre defying or film redefining because it is not the first nor last film to play with genres and make them something completely unique. In fact, this hybridity is pretty common now a days and it is actually rarer to get a pure traditional genre narrative where the film structure hits every single elements necessary to be considered a “fill in the blank.”

The film tackles the hit man genre, the Italian Mafia genre, the philosophical and eastern martial arts style films, and the crime thriller genre to form a unique tale of a samurai practicing contemporary black hit man working for the decaying, comical versions of the italian mafia in the dying post industrial “any town USA.” The story is simple… botched job, mob wants to kill the man responsible, the man responsible is a bad ass, and the bad ass takes down his pursuers until reaching his end. The film STRUCTURE isn’t anything new. What is unique, however, is the relationships between the characters who not only fall into different genre categories and represent separate syntax and semantics, but also play them in an out of place context. The mobsters are not the opulent, powerful, terrifying leaders were used to from the godfather… They are goons, thugs, degenerates who are late on their electric bills. Ghost Dog has the mindset and dialogue of an Asian samurai from 1732 but instead he is practicing his tradecraft with contemporary weapons in a modern setting. The match up leads to sub funny genre playing and an even funnier (if not depressing end). Ghost dog, who views his allegiance to his master as undying, gives his life to a man who barely understands Ghost Dog’s prerogative. They are from completely different worlds, genres, lives yet they come together to form a coherent story.  It’s pretty interesting. Perhaps what really bothered me is these people just wouldn’t exist in the real world and they were so over the top in terms of their caricature portrayals that I was taken out of the story. Obviously, however, that was Jarmusch’s intent and I have to respect the man for being original. I personally think a man like Tarantino takes Jarmusch’s approach so much further and executes his genre defying/mutating stories with so much more brass, subtly, better structure/dialogue, and better acting that I am almost never sucked out of his stories even when the scenes border on and surpass absurd.

Dr. Strangelove and Auteur Theory

Firstly, Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite Kubrick films – it is expertly shot, written and performed. Each time I watch, I pick up something new. Kubrick is no stranger to brilliance… Paths of Glory, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, 2001 to name a few establish him as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. But is Kubrick an auteur filmmaker?

Perhaps the answer to that question is based on personal opinion. Honestly, if we are looking at the classic definition of auteur filmmakers, where there is an overlapping theme, element, or motif that appears throughout the auteur’s life work,  then Kubrick might not fall into the classically defined category. But let’s avoid definitions… The man does bring a common theme to his films… they just don’t glare at us like Hitchcock’s films might.

Obviously, Paths of Glory is quite unlike A Clock Work Orange which is very different from 2001 which does not even come close to the Shining. But what Kubrick does so masterfully is create stories that are character driven, playing off against a strange, yet recognizable world around them. He also begs each of his protagonists (or Anti-heroes) to question their own morality, question the world they live in, and bask in the unique alternative cinematic reality they have found themselves in. Perhaps that is why Kubrick is an auteur. The absurdity of the punishment in Paths… or the lunacy of the War Room in Strangelove does go hand in hand with the dystopia London Alex De Large resides in during Clockwork or the spaceship Dave calls home in 2001. None of these characters react to the world they live in. That satirical approach to the absurd, often masked in not only beautiful images, but hyper violence, intense sexuality, and aggressive language only forces the illusion to go further. His characters stand out even more given their vast backdrops.

Thus, I would argue Kubrick is an auteur. He made 13 films in his career, nearly all of which are critically acclaimed. Whether we look at the opening 40 minutes of Full Metal Jacket or the final scene of Spartacus, Kubrick’s common theme throughout his films is how his characters (often larger than life) respond to the world around them (often so riddled with troubling absurdity) that we can’t help but see the point glaring us in the face. Coming back to Strangelove, the satirical characters allow us to see the scary absurdity of nuclear war or even war in general! Kubrick basically asks us to look at these people and say “Really? What the hell is the point?”

Auteur Theory

When investigating this theory, can we really call certain directors the true author of the film? Do they handle the camera like a pen, controlling all aspects of the finished product. Honestly, the answer is yes and no.

Looking at music, rather than cinema to start – let’s use Bruce Springsteen as an example. Bruce is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player and pianist. He does not play the saxophone, drums, bass or countless other instruments that appear in his music. However, the final song that we hear is perfected by Springsteen. Every single instrument is orchestrated by Springsteen to sound exactly how he wants it to. He would often spend months recording one song. Band members hated him, but respected his talent so much they couldnt walk away. He was such a perfectionist, that when his manager, Mike Appel played him the finalized version of the Born to Run Album, he chucked the record out the hotel window and told him he never wanted it released. Springsteen is an auteur of music. He perfects his musical vision and controls all elements, even if he isn’t actually capable of playing certain positions.

The same is true for many directors in Hollywood. I would like to argue that it is important for a director to write the screenplay for the film they direct in order to be considered an auteur, but there are exceptions to even that rule. Thus, I feel the only way to accurately define an auteur in the truest sense is to use Springsteen as an example. Does the director sit with the cinematographer, the editor, the actor, the crew, and the writer and have final authority over every single element? Are they able to work with each collaborating team member and instruct them to create his vision so perfectly that the final product is from the director’s mind (thus making his team members his employees rather than colleagues)? I think when a director has that kind of control, they really are an auteur. But there is more to it… they need to have distinction to their work. You know a fincher film when you see it. You know a Kubrick film, a Tarantino film, etc. But do you know a Michael Bay film? A Joss Whedon film? NO. Why? Because ever though those directors may have incredible authority for the final product, they have yet to distinguish themselves as having a recurring thematic aesthetic and tone to their work. Thus, I feel it is only fair to classify a director as an auteur when they meet the criteria above. To make matters more complicated, however, I think there are directors throughout history who have produced incredible films, consistently, that don’t have a DIRECT element that makes it truly theirs. My favorite example is Mike Nichols. He directed my favorite movie of all time… The Graduate. Is he an auteur filmmaker? I honestly might not classify him as such. Which is really interesting because he is one of the greatest creative talents in history (EGOT winner). So in conclusion, I think you can be a great director without necessarily being an auteur filmmaker and I think you can be an auteur filmmaker without necessarily being a great director.