Category Archives:Writing Class

Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin (1936)

I am always pleasantly surprised and impressed by silent films and especially those of Keaton and Chaplin. Of the Chaplain films I have seen, many seem particularly political and this one was probably the most interesting to me in that regard. It reminded me a comedic approach to Metropolis at times, my favorite silent film so far.

I immediately loved the metaphor concerning the machine of industry and the cogs that make it work. Factories and most companies naturally want to get as much labor for their dime out of a worker and in a time where workers rights were not always a company’s first concern, I think he did a good job of expressing what workers might go through

Do the Right Thing, The Right Thing? (1989)

My impression of Mookie’s action, throwing the can through the window, is one of confusion most of the times I see this film but I usually settle in the idea that he did do the right thing. I feel like he started the riot to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. Had the people not had an outlet for their anger it may have been directed at Sal and it seemed it was going that way. “Do what you gotta do” was like Sals admittance that he no longer had control over the situation and felt remorse for what had happened to Radio Raheem. Spike later claims to Sal that his actions were out of anger over Raheems death, and although I think in part they were, he really cares about the other characters in the film and Sal was no exception

Requim for a Dream (2009)

There are many, many addictions addressed in this film, Coffee, food, cleaning, TV, heroine, weed, pills, sex, money, dieting, attention, love all of them pretty much equal when it comes down to it. They all control some aspect of your life and choices – and all have consequences, especially when indulged in quantity. Most of the repercussions of addictions we are all aware of and have experience ourselves so more so than the addictions themselves I think the film makes a good point on their relation to one another and how the high and mighty over the “addicts” may only be unable to identify their own addictions as negative. An old woman can be a drug addict as easily as her derelict son. Some addictions definitely ruin lives, others only make you unhealthy or unhappy but by definition they are all counterproductive. we all have them.

The best thing about the film is the visuals. The camera work is really experimental, the angles throughout are really fascinating. The camera attached to the actor in front, on the floor of the car looking up, looking down at a stretcher, from security cameras, obstructed by a blurry shoulder, blurry eyed, fish eyed, shakey

The Candidate (1972)

I thought “The Candidate” was a fairly realistic portrayal of a political campaign in regards to my impression of the campaign process. Throughout the majority of the film it seemed that the campaign was for the gain of others and only backed by strong words and lofty ideas. Although McKay seemed like a fairly down to earth “in touch with the people” sort of man, the intention of action behind his claims for change seemed improbable. His entire campaign was almost a joke on the people of California. Giving them hope for a representative for the younger generation and faith that someone sympathetic to their issues will be fighting for them. It was unfortunately a highly calculated set of speeches of what people wanted to hear. This isn’t too far a jump from what I see most politicians doing. They choose a support group and they run with the majority, playing on the hopes and fears of the masses. McKay is driven by favoritism, the fear of losing face, embarrassing his father and disappointing his campaign members. While he wants to win, he wants even more to lose and avoid the responsibility that comes with all the promises he has made. I can say though that I too would have supported him given his opposition, a man who represented none of my beliefs or desires for my ideal society, but is nevertheless probably more reliable.

I think the film is fairly blunt about why people enter American politics. McKay was inadvertently able to use his father’s name and reputation as a successful Senator as well as ride off the reputation and support of his father’s colleagues and reputable friends. This went both ways as people were able to use the success of his campaign to further their own careers, especially his campaign manager who seemed unaffected during the win while McKay was shocked.

I definitely thing McKay is corrupted by the electoral system. He underestimated its power and the power of his campaign team. From the beginning of the film to the end McKay turns from a happy young lawyer to a stressed out candidate to a lying politician. The horror in his face when his father says “son, you’re a politician” says he never intended for that to happen but it was already too late.

The Graduate (1967)

The setting for The Graduate is interesting in that it takes place right as American society was moving from the post-WWII boom and the idyllic days of the ’50 and early ’60’s into serious cultural conflict. Vietnam War protests were on the rise, and the “Hippie” culture of free love and self-expression was about to explode. It would seem that a “directionless” college graduate was possibly acting as a stand-in for a “directionless” society.

I was relieved to read someone else pointing out the boardinghouse guy as the only person in the whole movie who seemed to really take Ben´s behavior at face value. Choosing that particular character was interesting to; Mr.McCleery is perhaps the only reoccurring working class character in the film. One might argue that there is a point being made about the working class keeping people in check- but the point is undermined by the gas station attendant who stands by while Ben phone stalks the wedding and lies about being the Reverend.

Citizen Kane (1941)

This is not my first time seeing or writing about this film but I definitely see different things in the film each time I watch it. I was especially interested in seeing “The Battle for Citizen Kane”, a film I had not heard of. It was especially revealing of the life of Wells and how his life related to that of the Kane character and even Hurst.

I did not see the film as an insult to Hurst though I´m sure the man himself would know better than I would. I always end up feeing fairly sorry for Kane, a man full of motivation – who knows what he wants and is especially destroyed by some ruder complications of life; Rejection, love and massive amounts of money. His innocent intentions turn into something much different over time and things somehow jump into the future and it´s too late – no one saw it coming.

The technical aspects of the film are always impressive to me. Something about the style of the film, possible the low angles, reminds me of elements in “M”. One scene in particular, brought up in the documentary as well, was at a party at the newspaper office. There are girls dancing in the background with a strange light shone on them while in the foreground Kane´s friends are talking. The deep focus draws your eyes to Kane dancing with the girls while you can listen and see with your perriferals the men in the foreground. When Kane throws his jacket at them, like a 3D movie, your eyes are again pulled to the foreground just long enough to remember the men are there – more so, you are getting to know Kane´s character better. He´s a fun loving modern guy who is not crass nor egomaniacal – though at the same time celebrating his own accomplishments.

Throughout the film the camera angles make you feel particular things and as the chapter that mentions the film says, a lower angle does not always mean the character has power. It can also show instability, vulnerability – a man about to topple.

The documentary definitely revealed things about Wells and Hurst that were in fairly equal portions. Young highly motivated men running quickly towards success and finding it quite easily. Wells personal issues with his own childhood revealed in the childhood and hangups of Kane, a man raised by a banker, made Kane a character with a hole the size of Xanadu. This is not a characteristic of all people with childhood trauma but everyone deals in different ways. Kane having no affection for the majority of his childhood – and like Wells, maybe only verbal motivation from others, gave him issues with closeness to others and could quite possibly cause the depression Kane seemed to suffer later in life.

The only reason I can think that the film would choose to portray Susan Alexander as talentless was maybe to emphasize the joke the career of Marion became as Hurst shoved her shows down the public´s throat. Hurst may have tried to make up for his inability to love by giving gifts and smothering with public attention and his own power – that is how it seemed when Kane did the same to Susan. When Susan said “you never gave me nothin that ever really mattered to ya (or close to that)”, It made me really think about what he had given her and what it really meant. Was it all just stuff and unearned public attention – a way to buy her love? or did he giver her things because he loved her. Same goes for the flashback where he lost his political campaign – he wants the public to love him and on his terms but he has nothing to return. If these are personal characteristics of Wells I think it a key reason the film did so incredibly well (eventually). Everyone wants a character with great weaknesses they can relate to or be fascinated by and Kane had exactly that.

Gilda (1946)

I really enjoyed this movie for several reasons. I was surprised to see it was in Buenos Aires, I lived there for a year and although they stated a few things concerning laws, the only other thing that seemed like Buenos Aires to me was the Germans but it was a cool random place for the movie to take place. In a few ways the film reminded me of Casa Blanca. Maybe it was the plane, Americans in an exotic location and difficult romantic situation.

Gilda was a pretty interesting character to me. I suspected early on that she only aimed to torture Johnny because of the love/hate game she knew she had mastered. She seemed to think that this game was somehow working to her advantage though it seemed to only make Johnny hate her more. The Freud article was really interesting for this situation too because Johnny was obviously intimidated by her power over him. She made him feel weak and helpless and he wanted to control her actions to pacify his own insecurity, even when she was not his. Even when they were together they showed no ability to communicate. I dont even understand how people end up together who dont/cant talk to each other about anything significant. I guess if it stays simple, Johnny doesn’t have to worry about a woman surpassing him at anything or challenging him. It was sad that Johnny found out from a detective that Gilda wasn’t cheating, and even sadder that Johnny and Gilda had to play games to end up together and realize they “love” each other. I actually found this to be a pretty realistic story because so many people dont communicate or trust each other, and many people do end up playing games. It was a pretty great movie overall for touching on that subject, though Im not sure that it was really complaining about it as I am.

Milk/ The times of Harvey Milk (1984)

I agree with many other students that the films are very different in their portrayal of a political figure and important social activist vs, the personal portrayal of the man. I watched the documentary first, then Milk (2008) and at first I didn’t like Van Sant’s style, but I also felt the need to point out things like the portrayal of the police (as mentioned before) and other things I would have thought significant for the documentary even, like the suicide of his partner and the breakup of him and Scott earlier in his career. I don’t remember hearing anything about those things in the documentary, understandably they are personal things but I would have thought the news might mention at least the suicide. Either way, the films were definitely different but I dont think one film can do without the other if a viewer wants a good story about Milk. Overall I like the documentary better, even only seeing footage of Milk, hearing about him from coworkers & friends, and hearing his voice from time to time were a peek into his personality and humanity.

I did though like elements in the Van Sant film that were not expressed in the documentary, for whatever reasons, like the fact that he was not a political miser but a passionate man with meaningful relationships, close friends and more “footage” of his sense of humor and ability to calm crowds. I also appreciated the way the film showed the respect people had for him, how he could calm down a huge mass of people on the verge of violence. Although many things in the Van Sant film made him into an angel, it really worked towards further regretting his demise. I left the film feeling that had he not been shot many more positive changed for gay people, and human rights in general would have happened since. It also made me realize that almost nothing has changed (in the order of gay rights) since then either.

One thing the Van Sant film also did was portray White as having a progressive downslide into murdering the two men rather than a sudden *snap*, which was much of the impression in the documentary. I think this was useful but also encouraged the possibility of sympathy whereas the documentary made a statement about the unfairness of White’s sentence and didn’t care about his personal life because it was in no way an excuse and irrelevant. I really missed the reaction, both from his friends and community to the sentence in the Van Sant film. I think it was a really important message about equal justice that was sadly missing. Another reason the films should both be seen by any interested viewer.

What I didn’t like about Van Sant film was mostly stylistic qualities and occasionally scenes where live footage would have been better than reenactment, or at least better acting would have been. (like the “seems like new years eve” scene which was really weak in reenactment). Although I didn’t really like the inclusion of original footage intermixed with scenes of reenactment I eventually got used to it. The film qualities just didn’t mix and people and footage from the past always look just so, and no one has successfully imitated this quality, that Ive seen. There were some creative devices used but so randomly they almost seemed to be thrown in rather than part of the style of the film. It went from fairly basic scenes that offered little originality to a scene like the phone call with 20+ mini screens of people on phones, then back to nothing special. It seemed forced and overplanned rather than a “style” to me. I haven’t seen any other Van Sant’s films so maybe that why I cant see it as a style yet.

Overall both films have their qualities but for me the Van Sant film wasn’t enough like the documentary to stand on its own.

Vertigo (1958)

It took me a long time to post just because I didn’t really get into the abstract, philosophical and overly complicated interpretation in Sans Soliel and didn’t know what to write in relation to it. I understand what the video was saying but I felt that the way it was presented inflated its meaning to an epiphany when it was merely another way of seeing as the lecture spoke about. I guess that was the point of watching the video.

I have had this film show up in a few classes and I’ve tried to see it from many different angles. I usually choose to see films as far from “the preferred reading” as possible just to keep my defiance of society active. This time watching, I mostly felt many of the emotions Scottie felt while also feeling a little sorry for him -empathy and sympathy I suppose, but mostly I focused on his vulnerability. I tried to put the film in the context of the time in which it was made, an era of this country struggling to portray itself as an upstanding moral society where couples meet in highschool, marry and stay that way. I tried to keep that in mind to understand why Scotty was so smitten with “Madeline” , but couldn’t stop thinking of Scotty as being naive and weak minded for going completely insane and filled with guilt over tragedies he was not to blame for. It was hard for me to feel sorry so weak and creepy a character. I saw Madeline lacking personality, depth or any basis in reality

The Life Aquatic (2004)

I love this movie, it’s one of my top 10 favorites. I have never seen a Cousteau film before this class, although this movie made me want to see them all.

Even never having seen Cousteau films, I knew almost immediately that the film was a parody. Both in the theater and when they were watching an old video of their arctic explorations in the rec room, they style of the video was very 70’s, the font, tone of the film, music, and just knowing documentary history, it could be no one else but Cousteau. It has definitely helped to see more elements of the film in relation to an actual Cousteau film. Anderson really put his imprint on this film as he does all his films. I love his work because it often represents characters who have little to no money issues, something that I think limits many stories both realistic and fictional. In Darjeeling Limited, none of the brothers issues in their adventure had anything to do with how much money they had or needed, were spending etc. In this film they had some funding issues but his characters are still so unconventionally related to money that the methods of getting it were humorous though not made a big issue in the film, when some films would make the issue of “obtaining money for a mission” a major subplot and one used for comic purposes. It may have been included to really paint a portrait of how Anderson imagined the life of Cousteau really was, doing whatever he had to do to fulfill his explorations, seeking out huge sums of money that always seem to be available somehow through funding, “borrowing”, selling off of equipment etc, while they effortlessly own things like Deep Search, the helicopter and their huge ship the Belafonte (a parody of Cousteau’s ship, a Calypso singer). Unfortunately for Zissou, his effortless and careless ownership of things ultimately ended the life of his supposed son.

I think Zissou’s journey throughout the film was another of Anderson’s fingerprints on the film. His carefree, life loving though self destructive, “no-consequences” character, really started to become human by the end when he dealt with the death of his friend and son and shut off the “I’m a documentary film maker and world explorer” mode , in essence, turning off the cameras long enough to mourn. The film was also a parody of Moby Dick in a way, his white whale ruined his life but taught him to switch off and be human. I think the end with him and his family walking to the ship was the perfect ending.

Cousteau’s films were also full of rule breaking and “adventure at any cost” that Anderson really portrayed. I think those elements in Cousteau’s documentaries were one of his marks as the auteur. He lived to discover and push the limits, just ad Zissou did. Life risks were a part of his and his crew’s daily life and to viewers, these men were heroic and rare 20th century explorers. This brings the element that so many people have already mentioned, the child like colorful world, paint colors, outfits and strange and amazing animals (of which I’ve been planning to get tattooed on my arm haha), all with curious colors, patterns or abilities. Just as a child watching Cousteau may have been awed by the creatures he filmed, seeing these new and amazing creatures is the closest thing that adults like us (who probably know most of the existing sea life, in general) can come to seeing these discoveries like a child again.

This movie is a masterpiece that I could write about for days, and now I’m set to acquire all of Cousteau’s films as well.

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

I really enjoyed The Man with the Movie Camera for its lack of almost everything conventional. It almost read like an early “guidebook to movie editing techniques”. There was such a large number of experimentation’s, split screen, speed up film, awkward angles, complicated shots, long shots, etc, that at first it almost seemed like he was just seeing how many things he could fit into one film. I think that while the ‘story’ was of the city and its people, unity through Marxism and the beauty of everyday life and people the editing and all its changes was reflective of the diversity of life and the city. I really liked his close up on people who were not actors, acting natural, especially the woman making cigarette boxes. The cuts to her face were sometimes fractions of a second but every time she was doing something different. I also like the scene in the movie theater and the viewer’s reactions to parts of the same film essentially. It was like watching ourselves see the film. We could relate to the viewers because we were one too and appreciate their joy in the interesting editing techniques they were seeing. The entire film was true to our voyeuristic nature, with the eye in lens, him letting us see the camera man shooting, satisfying our curiosity about how shots were being made and scenes like the theater. It seemed the entire film was basically the people watching the people as art homage.

I have been totally in love with Battleship Potemkin for a long while now and the stairs scene is one of my favorite scenes ever. I make even “too impatient for old films” people watch that scene if I can. It was really interesting to see it portrayed in different films, especially the De Palma scene. There was definitely a different mood to the scenes, Potemkin was brutal and shocking, fast cuts and close-ups of the same few people making dramatic expressions of fear, shock or agony. In the Untouchables there was some effective slow motion and use of cutting to each character and where they were looking or going. De Palma also used time very effectively making the cuts quick to heighten suspense and dram. I made my roommate watch the scene from Untouchables and Potemkin as well and he pointed out the sailors in Untouchables maybe being related to the uniformed men in Potemkin. The one who dove to stop the pram the bit of humanity you waited to see in the faces or actions of the gunmen in Odessa. The sailor got shot trying to stop the pram in Untouchables but ultimately it was a happy ending for the baby, unlike what can be assumed about the Odessa baby, a symbol of why the revolution had to happen I think. There were many great shots in both scenes. One major difference in the scenes was in Potemkin you hardly saw the faces of the shooters where in Untouchables it was important for us to see them I think. Not seeing them in Potemkin showed what horrible faceless, heartless men they must have been. My favorite shot that emphasizes that is when the woman with the child walks towards the soldiers and their shadows grow and loom over her like death- a really awesome and effective shot. There was some use of shadows in the Untouchables but not so dramatic. When Costner’s partner heard the shots in the dark hallway it became an unseen suspenseful moment, will he make it in time to help? Of course when he did arrive they truly became untouchable. De Palma replaced the innocent people in Potemkin with men with guns who could fight the undiscriminating evil.

All the Heaven Allows (1955)

I agree that the TV did seem to be a symbol for “it’s not ok to be alone” but I also saw more in the scene to note on. In her reflection, she looked at herself, (i liked that reflection was used several times in the film) she seemed to be both picturing her life as an old widow ,with this new false friend, while also not seeing herself that way at all. She still had hope and knew she was a changed person since she met Ron and with or without him, so much that she never turned it on in that scene or after.

I really loved that the film was about a woman who transformed from a society type to one with her feet a little closer to the ground. She started to see people for what they really were thanks to Ron and let herself believe she was worth love and being loved, whether or not it was by someone younger and of a different “social class”.

Ron was an amazing character too, mostly because I am such a huge fan of Thoreau. He was someone that Cary admired and was curious about. It seemed after the death of her husband, she realized she had never gotten to know who she was or what she really wanted. She has always done everything for her family and been who her husband; kids and “friends” wanted her to be. By the end of the film I was pretty happy for everyone, something I didn’t expect at all by Cary’s attitude at the beginning of the film. She was still in the early stages of shedding her snobbery for a while but I was glad to see her separate herself from the horrible people at the cocktail party.

As far as mise-en-scene , I saw it pretty often. My two favorite parts were the scene with the screen between Cary and her son when they argued; a division between family but still semi transparent, just as his motives were and his love for her at that moment. Both of her kids were kind of spoiled little socialites in the making themselves. It was heartbreaking to find out that her kids were just throwing selfish fits and soon enough got over it, leaving her to have made a horrible decision for their sake. My other favorite scene was at the very end with the deer in the window, a sort of beginning to their blissfully simple Walden quality life to come.

Walden is my bible too.