Avatar Motion Capture

Unfortunately when I presented yesterday my media was disconnected, and my clips would not play. One of the clips I wanted to show you all was of the motion capture technology used in Avatar. Although this technology was used to create the fictional Na’vi people in Avatar, in capturing the movements and emotions of real actors, it represents reality. This is problematic because the film presents natives as helpless people who are both conquered and saved by the White man, thereby giving them little agency in determining their own fates.

Summer Internship Opportunity

Hey guys! I personally know how difficult it can be to find production-related internships. If any of you are based in the NYC area and are looking to intern with a Lafayette alumni, here’s some info on an internship opportunity!:

Rebecca Winter, a FAMS major from a few years back, was asked by Kiira Benzing to help find interns for her production company based in NYC (Rebecca interned for her while she was at Lafayette). Kiira graduated from Lafayette in 2007 and now has a production company called Double Eye Productions- she typically produces documentary films. Here’s a link to her website for more info: http://www.doubleeyeproductions.com/.

The internship would be unpaid, and she would prefer students from the NYC area.

Students can email their resume to: rebeccakwinter@gmail.com. Rebecca will then put them in contact with Kiira.

Hopefully this is helpful to some of you. Good luck if you decide to apply!



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

Back to Brokeback

I’ve always known that Brokeback Mountain was based on a piece of literature. After watching Brokeback Mountain, and falling in love with it, I knew that i had to read the book. The library didn’t have it, so I ordered it for 99 cents on Amazon. I found out from Amazon that it was a short story and that it was about 50-60 pages long. When it arrived, I found that it was a very small book, with very little writing on each page, so it easily could have been only about 20 real pages. It kind of blew my mind that a 2+ hour film could be derived from just 20 pages. Naturally, I assumed the movie was very embellished and I set off  to read the book.

It took me about an hour to read. It was such a quick easy read, very straightforwardly written. However, it is so spot on to the book. I understand that the general consensus on adaptations is to not base it off of how well it adhered to the written word, however if we were to do it that way, Brokeback mountain is so well adapted. Most dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book, even though there isn’t much in the book anyways. What I realized is that single lines were transformed into full scenes (an example being when Ennis and Jack are wrestling and the overseer sees them), and a lot of the film has a lot of outdoor/music driven scenes. I just loved how the movie was essentially an elongated form of the short story.

This also reminded me of when I first read “Gone with the Wind” (which happens to be my favorite book and movie, but I’m not going to delve into anything beyond adaptation). I saw the movie when I was young, and fell in love with it. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I found the book at Goodwill and finally read it. It is the opposite of Brokeback Mountain; the book is essentially and more detailed version of the movie.

It’s weird because I’m glad that i saw the movie first in both cases: it allowed me to appreciate each story more. With Gone with the Wind, as I read, I could imagine the precise details mentioned and my affection for the movie grew because it was so spot on in my mind, and i had never known it any other way. With Brokeback mountain, since the short story is so brief, it leaves SO much up the imagination and the movie really enhanced my understanding of the story because it doesn’t go into vivid detail the way that Gone with the Wind does, yet there is so much room for making it your own.

All in all, I think that adaptation is a crazy thing, and  I respect those film makers that attempt to adapt a story in any way shape or form.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Funny with a new gaze

I know I’m a little lat in the game with this, but I just read Christina Shaman’s post on Netflix as a platform for progressive T.V. shows.  In this post, Christina used Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as her example as a progressive show available on Netflix.  I saw this, and got really really happy that I’m finding more and more people who love this show,  because I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while – and not just because it features a cast in which a woman and a gay black man take center stage, but because it is genuinely hysterical.

Following Christina’s post, this post is really aimed at the fact that the show makes me, a white male, laugh.  Why is this relevant or important? I would argue that this is important because after watching a few minutes of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, it became clear that television executives really don’t think that their dominant demographics will enjoy shows featuring scantly represented minorities in major roles unless that role involves making fun of them in some way.  Some rationalize this phenomenon using by declaring that it’s just not what their consumers want to see, and it is a consumer driven industry so they’re required to produce such lopsided representations as to make more money.

However, shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt challenge this notion by packaging and selling a type of goofy, ridiculous and frankly hysterical sense of humor that is dependent on two poor, enterprising roommates that aren’t weighed down by traditional gender roles.  The jokes gently probe at different a multitude of issues that society faces in the modern world, including (as Christina mentioned as well) jokes about race (people are more scared of blacks than werewolves) women (e.g. gold digging) the rich and entitled (Kimmy’s first boyfriend, Logan).  It really spreads the wealth when it comes to humor, and no one is safe from a jab or two.  It’s a lot easier even to respect this type of humor when it is coming from a typically voiceless group.  This reminds me a lot of the style South Park employs (albeit coming from a much different gaze); an open humor forum in which the protagonists are responsible for belittling literally every single demographic or organization of people who is flawed (so truly everyone).  This is a harsh, comedic yet socially responsible roast-model that does a good job of leveling the playing field and allowing stereotypes to move out of the realm of deep-seated hatred and into a world where differences are recognized, ridiculed and ultimately either accepted as silly and insignificant or condemned as cruel and in need of reform.  Kimmy’s gaze is vitally important in this way as she is both a boisterous woman and someone who was literally removed from 15 crucial years of society’s post-millennial development.  I’d love to see even more people give this show a shot and really try to view it objectively.  It’s really funny.

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?” (Rogerebert.com).

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!