All posts by Angelina Mercedes

Movies to Watch

As we reach the final week of classes, I’ve always noted some of the films that have been brought up in class (that I have/haven’t seen) and have made a list, enjoy! (Feel free to add as well)

  1. Thin Blue Line
  2. History and memory
  3. Paris is Burning
  4. RENT
  5. Expendables
  6. A Street Named Desire
  7. Pride and Prejudice
  8. Dance, Girl, Dance
  9. Strangers on a Train
  10. The Help
  11. Inception
  12. Birdman
  13. Celluloid
  14. Misrepresentation
  15. Psycho
  16. Do The Right Thing
  17. Bamboozled
  18. The Shining
  19. Klute
  20. Seven
  21. Fight Club
  22. Citizen Kane
  23. Children of Men
  24. It follows
  25. The Great Beauty
  26. Be kind, Rewind
  27. Tree of Life
  28. The Man Who Fell From Earth
  29. The Dual
  30. Slasher in The Woods
  31. Die Hard
  32. Brand New world

Brokeback Mountain Reactions

While watching Brokeback Mountain (2005) I noted the ways in which Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s character’s masculinity were reinforced after an act of homosexuality on screen. I know I mentioned something about the landscape in relation to their masculinity and how it was used to reinforce their masculinity. Having both men out in the mountains acting as brave warriors of nature and under the genre of the western there’s no way that this film can be depicted as non masculine.

Character interactions: For starters, when Jack Twist played by Gyllenhaal is seen as the observer to Ennis Delmar played by Ledger, he is automatically given a razor in order to toughen his image. Through this act, he “distracts” the audience thinking  anything beyond the gaze of interest he gave to Ennis-but who are we kidding, we knew he was checking him out! 

After the first time that Jack and Ennis shared an intimate moment, we see how the morning after, Ennis storms out of their tent in what seems confusion/frustration and then there is a jump cut to the bloody opening of a dead sheep. This juxtaposition was one of the greatest ones in the film because it was to make a comment on how what they shared is considered deathly and controversial. To even bring this point further one can comment on how his masculinity has been destroyed and torn apart.

Ennis’ interaction with the men on the lawn while watching fireworks with his family. I saw this as a way of Ennis’ defending his masculinity because he fought against very stereotypical men in order to protect his daughters. This action commented on how masculinity does not necessarily dictate if he is a good father or good male role model for his daughters.

Camera Angles/Techniques: This is also seen in the use of shallow depth of field when Jack is bathing in the background of Ennis. This decision emphasized how homosexuality isn’t something that we expect to see in western films, let alone from two very “masculine men.” While watching, I was expecting him to look over at him, but he didn’t. Not having Ennis look over at Jack shows how he isn’t willing to return the gaze that Jack checked him out with towards the beginning of the film, but also how he has to uphold his masculinity by not checking out other men.

Music: I thought it was an interesting romantic choice of music when the men were working out in the fields with the sheep and the horses. This juxtaposition between their very “masculine roles” and romantic music describes perfectly their situation as homosexual males in a western setting.

Dialogue: Did anyone pick up on the nemonia talk? Was that referring to homosexuality?

Overall, there are many things that I picked up in addition to the things I have discussed in this post and was wondering if anyone had the same observations or different ones. I loved this film because it explored a lot of the flaws with masculinity, homosexuality and fatherhood.

Something Else Besides a Mother

In Williams piece, Something Else Besides a Mother, I was interested in the way she used the concept of motherhood to showcase the way women have been displayed on screen through the role of mothers. In her essay she discusses the cultural contradictions  around women’s roles and psychic conflicts they generate. She also includes psychoanalytic ideas in her essay by expressing that ambivalence in the film portrayals of mother/daughter conflicts and in viewer’s passionate/contradictory responses. In other words, Williams discusses that there are contradictions in the portrayals of mother and daughter conflicts and in the responses from the viewers.

This is seen through her analysis of the film, Stella Dallas, the remake of the Henry King’s 1925 film made by King Vidor in 1937. She uses this film to expose how mothers (Stella) must sacrifice in order to gain some sort of happiness or reach a conclusion. Williams points out on pg.  727, “Mixed messages-of joy in pain, of pleasure in sacrifice-that typically resolve the melodramatic conflicts in “The Woman’s film.” Here she talks about the genre of melodrama, but also the way a resolution is set for a “woman’s film.” This resolution can be seen in motherhood the way a mother sacrifices either parts of her identity, her youth, her career or etc., for the benefits of her daughter. Such that to understand motherhood on camera it is to devalue the other character from her happiness/completeness.

Williams uses the strong example of Stella as a mother and a feminine woman in the film. She is known as always dressed in feathers, jewelry and make up. From these aspects of personality she is seen as someone who likes to cover up the truth from her reality, she likes to overemphasize her feminine look. As discussed in her essay, this can be seen in multiple ways because Stella can be hiding her role as a mother, putting on a good face for her daughter or compensating for the absence of the penis. Overall, her role of motherhood is very contradictory because she can’t be a mother and have it all. I thought it was a great example to discuss what Williams is trying to portray in her article.

Feminism Onscreen

In class on Monday, we were able to see two different clips from films that portrayed, framed, decorated and filmed women in two different ways.

In the first clip, the camera is stationary and records long takes of a woman who is a sex worker. The woman in front of the camera is observed by the camera and the viewers doing ordinary chores and routines. We witness her dull actions of turning on/off the lights, dismissing her customer, placing money in her vase, cooking potatoes, showering, closing/opening windows, closing/opening curtains, cleaning the bathroom and adjusting her bed. All the things she is doing are observed for long periods of time that resulted in uncomfortable feelings. I felt like I was intruding her personal space by watching her doing simple things. The role of women as sexual objects was eliminated completely which is a contradiction considering her job and role in the film.

As opposed to the first clip, the woman is automatically sexualized the second she appears on screen. She is dressed in feathers and appears in silhouette on cue with the weird music in the background. Her costume, makeup and music add more to her than we would ever think because they hint at the ways we are suppose to feel about her and look at her. She then interacts with the man who is perfectly lit as she remains in the shadows. The element of dialogue and mise-en-scene in this clip was central to the understanding of what was happening as opposed to the first clip we watched. Feminism is seen in two very different ways using these two clips because they show how we can break away from the male gaze and use it in some ways to hint at other ideas.

Mamma Mia! (2008)

This was my first time watching Mamma Mia! (2008) and I thought it was a film that focused on the aspect of motherhood, marriage and women.

To begin, Sophi appears on screen along with her loud best friends screaming of joy at the sight of the engagement ring on her finger. We can automatically tell that it’s been a while since they have seen each other because of the way they react. This behavior is later on mimicked by the mother when she sees her two best friends as well. The mother and the daughter are to be seen as mirrored images of each other, but also as approval for William’s thoughts on motherhood and how sacrifices need to be made in order to complete both the mother/daughter’s wishes. The women on screen in this film are both stereotyped and not. For instance, Donna is wearing overalls and appears as head of household on this Greek island, she is the handy woman. In this sense, Donna isn’t your stereotypical mother displayed on screen. But her two purse holding best friends are portrayed in very stereotypical roles of women.

The role of Donna is seen as someone who doesn’t need anyone to take care of her, who dresses in overalls and is portrayed as a handy-woman. She can take care of her own Greek island without the help of a man. I thought her role really made a comment on the way women are portrayed in musicals and how her character battles the flawed representation of sensitive women.  Donna’s character, then gets married at the end of the film, which showcases how marriage is something that all women, even her character, want.

Overall, both women are very different, but end up trading roles because at first Sophie appears as a very traditional woman and her mom the complete opposite, but by the end of it they switch roles. The mother is happily married to the most perfect man and Sophie declares that she needs to find herself. -Ironic, isn’t it?

Justin Simen as an Auteur

During today’s Q&A hosted in the FAMS building, the director of Dear White People (2014, Justin Simen answered audience questions regarding his film and his process. He talked about a variety of things, one including about Auteurship.  Simen argued that although it is a collaborative process  it is important that you realize as a director that you might be able to fit in 70% of your whole work into the frame (maybe), but that it is okay because you should come to the set with a plan and be willing to allow it to change. As a director you will ask questions about details, changes, additions and alterations that may make your work better.

But he mentioned that he is a true believer of auteurism because it is something that he values in a filmmaker. It is the way a filmmaker displays his/her intentions and some of his favorite filmmakers are auteurs. A filmmaker should be able to claim that they are the authors of their own work because if not it takes away from the notion that it is in fact their vision, Simen said “It’s important to craft the vision of the artist as they see it because if not, then what makes them different from just a robot or a machine.” Embracing their vision is to embrace their craft as artists and authors of their creative work.

Another topic of his conversation was how he mentioned that he loves when a movie is a movie. By this he means he likes the precise cuts, framing, elements of a film that make it appear as a movie. He mentioned being a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, and Wes Anderson. His fantascism for these directors was very relevant to the production of his film.

Peace is our Profession

In Kubrick’sDr. Strangelove, (1964) the mise-en-scene incorporated the phrase “Peace is Our Profession” to continue as a motif throughout the movie that revealed a lot about the movie’s genre as a satire. The words Peace and War are complete opposites to each other has they revealed different this about one of the other and being that they are used in the same context makes them even more interesting. The phrase appears about a total of nine times throughout the film as background props to the frames.

dr strangelove

Other elements that emphasized the genre of Satire were done with the dialogues of the characters, the music played in relation to what is occurring in the frame, as well as the props of the playboy magazine, top secret files and so on. The romantic music that plays over the explosion and fires led from bombs that occur in the frame create a strong juxtaposition that is seen in the form of satire.

Overall, I thought this was a great film that played with the four different components of the mise-en-scene wrote about in the Auteur theory chapter in Understanding Film Theory: 1) Set Design, 2) Lighting, 3) Acting and 4) Costume and make up. The mise-en-scene was important to analyzing the film and understanding how it is relevant to the purpose of the film and its genre. It was also a great film about comedy, history and relevant technical designs chosen by the director/crew.

Presentation on Basic Concepts

In my presentation for today’s class I discussed the following:  Siegfried Kracaucer was one of the firsts to emphasize the value of the study of everyday life and was an author of German expressionist cinema. He felt that there was something beautiful about mirroring everyday life.  Overall, the main idea of his article was to express how the nature of the film is the intervention of the filmmaker’s formative energies in all dimensions in addition to creative efforts. The cinematic approach can work together to benefit the medium of film with its concern on the visible world.

Introduction: He discussed in his essay how the photographic film came to be and the craft behind it. (When reading this I thought of the film we watched in class-Man with a Movie Camera) He introduces the idea of recording real life events which is known today as documentaries or newsreels. There were also two tendencies to which he refers to: Realistic and formative. These tendencies must operate in both the medium of film and photography.  The realistic tendency discusses the ways the camera doesn’t have to be still because now they are now moving and editing devices are being used to help get the message across. It has been argued that staging a real life event would be more interesting than filming it as it happens because there is a stronger illusion of reality. The formative tendency discusses how films extend the dimensionality of characters and objects in ways that photography can’t. It explores the physical reality in front the camera, but also on the outset as well as the story and non-story film.

There can be clashes between these two tendencies when a director creates an imaginary universe from freely staged material and obligated to draw on camera reality. However, they are very inter-related because they need to be balanced when worked into a film.  Both tendencies shouldn’t overwhelm one another, but instead “follow the lead.”

Lumiere and Melies: These two directors pictured everyday life after photographs. Lumiere believed that cinematography was meant for scientific curiosity and didn’t focus on the artistic aspects of film. On the contrary, Melies began to make more artistic driven films that changed the everyday life genre. He focused on the attractive compositions and not the explorations of nature.

Connections to Run, Lola, Run and Reading

In Understanding Film Theory, the author writes about Run, Lola, Run (1998) in the context of placing all of the characters in an archetype/spheres of actions list. The list was composed of 7 characters who felt into the categories accordingly:

  1. The Hero: (the character who seeks something)
  2. The Villain: (opposes or actively blocks the hero’s quest)
  3. The Donor: (provides an object w/ magical properties)
    LOLA *has magical/supernatural powers-shattering glass, healing man from heart attack*
  4. The Dispatcher: (ends the hero on their quest) MANNI
  5. The False Hero: (Disrupts the Hero’s success by making false claims) Everyone who gets in her way?
  6. The Helper: (Assists and rescues the hero) MANNI/Man in ambulance who gives her a ride to where she needs to go.
  7. The princess/the father

These categories were helpful to see, although they don’t necessarily fit hand-in-hand with the film completely, but it was a nice skeleton to see on the relation of the characters in comparison to the hero, who in this case was Lola. The characters are far more complex than the traits they are given above, but they come to be complex with the help of plot and climax. For Lola, she is complicated by her connections to Manni, Her Dad and even the security guard at the bank. In addition to this, when the writer mentions that she has supernatural powers, I quite didn’t see it much as her powers, I saw it more as an editing technique used by the director in order to create a surprise or connection between the three chunks of footage.

The form of the film was done very well and it was nice to see how the changes impacted everyone’s life, not just lola’s. In addition to form,  Tykwer included many different visual effects (also mentioned in understanding film theory) that moved along the illusion of time and space. As well as the visual effects there was also the inclusion of music that created a fast paced atmosphere which we were fully engaged with because of its connection to the scenes.

Overall, the connections of form, sound and editing brought this film together to a place where the form made the film what it is. As said in Chapter 3, “Form is privileged over content”

Run, Lola, Run Reactions

When watching Run, Lola, Run (1998) in class on Wednesday I was very interested in the overlapping of the characters, the contrasts and the connections; especially by its construction and edits. While watching the film I took notes on the things that changed every time the scene began again. (I’m pretty sure it was obvious to all who watch this film, but I thought it was well done.)

The central character, Lola, is constantly on a run in order to save her boyfriend’s life from his Drug-dealing boss. But while she runs she interacts with many different characters, who at the time seem meaningless and trivial because we are all focused on the bigger picture: her getting the money in time to save her boyfriend. The whole concept of this made me think about the reality of life that Tykwer achieves because as we go on day by day we don’t realize those who surround us. We are all on a mission and its very easy to make it about us and forget about the world around us.

For instance, towards the first chunk of the film, Lola is just focused on one thing: running as fast as she can to save her boyfriend (Manni) and while she does so, her interactions with people seem careless and not important. But there is a big contrast from the first chunk and last two chunks, such that she is aware of the lady in her way, so she moves, aware that holding the gun while she escapes the bank she just robbed probably isn’t a good idea, so she chucks it. Overall, the additions and changes to the chunks, prove how life works. By this I mean, everything happens for a reason and this case its fate. Everything that is meant to happen, will happen.

Apart from this metaphor for life, the film was one of my favorites I have seen while studying film because it was a combination of things that we have read about like the concept of music in a film, editing, composing a frame, mise-en-scene, etc. All these aspects are what make a film relevant and purposeful because if they didn’t we wouldn’t watch them.