Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Posters

I made a post on the SNC/FA art blog, about the art of the movie poster. Check it out for many examples and links.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A place. A person.

There is this place on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is called Punakaiki, translated in English it means Pancake Rocks. The coastal rock formations are literal visual pancakes with water blow holes varying with the ocean tide. Punakaiki is a Rugged and small coastal settlement,  Jurassic in landscape, lush, wet, and inhabited by flightless birds and creatures with hairy quick legs.
Most locals are employed by either THE local pub/ hotel, Department of Conservation or the RV camp park all situated within walking distance of each other. Punakaiki is shadowed on one side by the steep temperate rain forest and dwarfed on the other by the rough and constantly moving Pacific ocean.
When it rains, it pours and the sky can easily be traded for a T.V any day.
The locals seem to be well acquainted with drink and play many a game of darts at the end of a long work or fishing day. Donning shorts in all weather and deep creases around their eyes, the drink is Queen, but the ocean is Lord and hard work is expected.

 A Fisherman in his early 30's (on the weekend he cleans the local campsite kitchens and Bathrooms) He owns a small humble shack on the outskirts of town. He lives there with his wife and young child in modest comfort. One weekend He comes across a trinket left behind in the shower. Looking like an Aztec artifact or even a decorated Maori arrowhead, he puts it in his pocket, not thinking of it for the rest of the day.


Class is cancelled today (2/16), due to the snow. So enjoy, slide down a hill on your favorite childhood sled -- or maybe have a cozy indoor day and catch up with the two movies for your midterm project. TODAY'S SNOW DAY HAS NO EFFECT ON THE DUE DATE FOR THE FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR MIDTERM PROJECT, DUE A WEEK FROM TODAY. Below is a recap of info on that project, from a previous post (that I was going to review today in class). If you haven't already, please go to the post with the listing of current indy film directors (here), and in the comments section, pick a director who hasn't been claimed in the "comments" yet.

Next week, at the beginning of class, the first draft of your midterm assignment is due. More info on the content for the midterm is in this previous post. The word count for your first draft is a minimum of 2,500 words. This draft can be very rough -- I'd rather you just sit at a computer and vomit out your ramblings than sit stalled looking at a blank screen. The idea is for me to have a chance to edit and push your manuscripts with comments and questions. Of course, make it as good as you can, but don't trip yourself up trying to make it perfect. Give some thought to images you'd like to include (screen captures that may be online).

While the final draft is going to be due on the eighth week of class, the submission of the first draft is an assignment unto itself, that will be graded on its own terms. Failure to turn in a rough draft on time will affect your midterm grade negatively, even if you manage to turn in a good final draft by week eight. I want a hard copy of your rough draft -- if you want to insert some images with the printout, feel free to do so. Do not post your rough draft to the blog -- your final draft will be posted to the blog.

Because the rough draft is due next class, I'm not assigning the usual short writing assignment for the blog this week -- just concentrate on your midterm project.

Anza, California

Anza is an unincorporated community in Southern California. It’s a desert at high altitude, which gives the landscape some strange characteristics. There are long stretches of nothingness with wide, gaping holes opening up in the sand, while other areas are lush and green. There are dry patches of brambles and cacti mixed with flowering trees and grass. The dryer ground is littered with thorns that stick in the soles of your shoes.

On the outskirts of town, there are small, dilapidated houses and motor homes spread out through the wilderness. Some are encircled with barbed wire to keep out trespassers. There are certain areas and roads that most locals know to avoid, because the people there tend to be strange and hostile. On front porches throughout the town, people sit creaking audibly in the sun and glaring at tumbleweeds. There is a sense of nothing happening and nothing continuing to happen.

A character I might set in this place is a young man who is just passing through town on his way to visit family. His car breaks down and he’s stuck there a while. Maybe he does something to accidentally upset the more unsavory folks who live here.

Roberto Rossellini: Rome, Open City/Guy Maddin: My Dad is 100 Years Old

Editing: Hitchcock explains the Kuleshov effect:

Medium Cool: Fictional Characters in Present-tense History:

My Dad is 100 Years Old:

Required Writing:

Next week, at the beginning of class, the first draft of your midterm assignment is due. More info on the content for the midterm is in this previous post. The word count for your first draft is a minimum of 2,500 words. This draft can be very rough -- I'd rather you just sit at a computer and vomit out your ramblings than sit stalled looking at a blank screen. The idea is for me to have a chance to edit and push your manuscripts with comments and questions. Of course, make it as good as you can, but don't trip yourself up trying to make it perfect. Give some thought to images you'd like to include (screen captures that may be online).

While the final draft is going to be due on the eighth week of class, the submission of the first draft is an assignment unto itself, that will be graded on its own terms. Failure to turn in a rough draft on time will affect your midterm grade negatively, even if you manage to turn in a good final draft by week eight. I want a hard copy of your rough draft -- if you want to insert some images with the printout, feel free to do so. Do not post your rough draft to the blog -- your final draft will be posted to the blog.

Because the rough draft is due next class, I'm not assigning the usual short writing assignment for the blog this week -- just concentrate on your midterm project.

Recommended Viewing/Reading:

On Rossellini and the emergence of Neorealism:

On the evolution of Rossellini's style, and where his desire to transcend traditional cinematic narrative lead him:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bangkok Dangerous

Bangkok has been a very special place to me for the longest time. I've experienced it in both the rich tourist fashion, staying in hotels big and small with bottles of water filtered and bottled by the various beer companies, and in more of an everyman fashion, staying in a muggy attic in my grandmother's house, with only the open window to keep me cool enough. Likewise, I have traveled in both air-conditioned taxis and under the open canopy of tuk tuks, although most of the time has been spent on foot. Taking that dichotomy a bit further, the city also has a much more urban area in the center of the city, populated by large malls and smaller convenience stores.

Either way you go about it, though, Bangkok is quite a nice place to be. The city has a nice charm to it-various vendors are set up on street corners, alleyways, and busy streets, filling the air all around with savory smoke as they sell soup, pad thai, and drinks like others sell hot dogs in New York. Drinking Pepsi out of a watertight bag filled with crushed ice is certainly an interesting experience, and my brother and I considered it one of the highlights of our stay. And of course, there are the attractions that immediately come to mind whenever the word Thailand is spoken, such as the Emerald Temple and Reclining Buddha.

The character I had in mind is an American who is weary of taking responsibility for America's various follies and, seeking an escape, flies to Bangkok to stay there for an undisclosed period of time. At first, the person might grow a bit annoyed at Thailand as well, struggling to cope with the heat and culture shock. As time goes on, though, they learn to appreciate and even love everything about it, and possibly even look for somewhere to live there.

Woodbridge, California

Woodbridge, California. A small town where everyone knows everyone. It is surrounded by Vineyards and Wineries. With many farmers in the town, every week there is a Farmers Market in nearby downtown Lodi. There is a small lake nearby with a nature trail and river that flow from it. During the summer many people enjoy the local restaurants and kayaking in the lake. In the neighborhoods you will find many people outside with kids playing.

On thursday nights you'll find much of the town in downtown Lodi for the Farmers Market. Kids playing while their parents shop around for the freshest local produce. Many wineries will have booths selling their wine and socializing with friends. Downtown you will find many local shops selling services of products. Another popular hangout is the movie theater. From young children to young adults, the theater is always packed.

A fictional character I see in this town is a mother who has lived in Woodbridge her whole life. She has a husband who is a farmer and makes his own wine. She is a stay at home mom who is busy with her kids. She lives in a neighborhood with many close friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oberammergau, Germany

Oberammergau is set in a valley of the Bavarian Alps. It’s a fairly small village surrounded by beautiful mountains including its signature mountain Kofel. In the spring the mountains are covered in green grass and beautiful spring flowers, with lots of hiking trails for people. Down in the village, you see the river Ammer running through with trails to walk along side.

Walking through town, you’ll see businesses covered in pictures of scenes from all types of stories; fairy tails, religion and history. You’ll walk past shops selling woodcarvings because this village is the home of the woodcarving school. There are clothing stores selling lederhosen and dirndls of all sorts. There are tailors and shoemakers. You’ll also walk past some of the most amazing cheese and meat shops as well as bakeries and restaurants.

A fictional character I imagine in this place is woman who used to be a local. She moved to United States and has lived there for about five years. She is coming back to Oberammergau because her father is very ill.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fight The Power - Do The Right Thing


My color was pink. This color was repeated through out the film in several scenes. I believe my color was more of a wardrobe color rather than one that actually gave meaning to the film. There was only part in the film were I saw it in the background; I can not recall exactly were but it was one of the buildings. After reading Cynthia’s essay, she confirmed my connection to the color. I see pink as being hot and that is the feeling I get from the building. As I stated the color was in the wardrobe of many of the characters. For instance Smiley had a pink shirt, Mookies girl friend also had a pink shirt, as well as his sisters dress and hat. There were several other instances were this color showed up, but I feel that they are not worth mentioning.


I really do not understand why Mookie did that. I believe it was misguided, he should have backed Sal up. Sal was a good guy trying to help Mookie out. It made no sense to me because it seemed as if Sal stood up for Mookie against his son. I understand the tension between Sal’s son Peno and expected to see them get in a fist fight, but that never happened. I really do not understand why the movie went in that direction. Ya, Radio was murdered by the police but I do not see that being Sal’s fault.


In my eyes, I believe the film was not a political film. Yes it obviously dealt with race and the tensions between them. I do not believe it was supposed to spike a real world race right. Rather, I see the film as being entertaining and about a tight nit Brooklyn neighborhood. The one thing I found to be a little political was the theme song, Fight the Power. This song was played through out the movie, but as the video essay stated; there was no real connection to fighting the power. Besides the Police,at first they seemed to be on the side of the African American community. In the end, they killed Radio. Thus they need to fight the power that be!

Response: "Do The Right Thing"

1. The color I was assigned was brown. I noticed that most of the steps, front porches, streets, doors and many of the buildings were this color. The interior of Sal’s pizzeria was also mainly brown.

2. I completely disagree with Mookie’s actions at the climax of the film. I was very surprised by what he did, which leads me to wonder why it caught me off-guard; after all, the entire film focuses on his negative qualities (irresponsible parenting, laziness, lack of work ethic, greed). I think that up until that point, he was shown as a self-absorbed character who didn’t seem to care much about taking sides, as long as he got what he wanted. His reaction to Radio Raheem’s murder was the first time we see him jolted out of his own disinterest, which made it hard to predict what he might do.

3. I didn’t necessarily see this as a political film. It felt like more of a commentary on how personal grievances can get out of hand, and how they affect the way people interact with each other.

Do the Right Thing...Nick

1…Blue, the acronym for the police force of New York was my color. It appeared a few times when the radio DJ was cooling from down in the evening from the sweltering day. We were also confronted by a vivid dark blue “D” on Mookie’s Dodgers jersey. But for the most part the color blue appeared when New York’s finest came through the neighborhood. I’ tried to make some abstract conclusions or symbolism but came up short given the inconsistent usage of the color.

2….(Wow Chris lots of adjectives to chose from there…) My Feelings about Mookies reaction at the end of the move were strong. He was not a hero he was not pre disposed to his actions nor were they inevitable. I felt his choice was self righteous, short sighted and ignorant. I can understand where Mookie’s emotions resided, the driving force behind his actions, but as humans we strive to achieve an intellect capable of of mitigating and our emotional reactions.

3…In “Do the Right Thing” we are presented with the circumstances prevalent in inner city New York. While the assertion that Spike lee is not taking a side, only presenting a problem is true, the movie is non-the-less a political film. It is political film because it spotlights a hot bed of issues that the political machine must navigate. Spike lees film “Do the Right Thing” put issues of racial tension and injustice center stage for mainstream society to view.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Do the Right Thing

1. To me, the use of the color black in the movie seemed to symbolize general frustration. Early on, Samuel Jackson's character jokes about wearing black to help absorb extra sunlight on a particularly sweltering day. On top of this, Pino, one of the more outwardly frustrated and angry characters throughout the movie, is seen dressed in black fairly often, and the riot scene is non-tinted and unlit, leaving the inside of the store and the people within nothing but silhouettes. Aside from scenes involving frustration and anger, black doesn't seem to appear at all.

2. I believe Mookie's action at the climax of the movie was more sympathetic than it is generally seen. When looking at the way the crowd reacted to Sal's perceived indifference towards Radio Raheem's death, it's not unreasonable to assume Sal and his sons would have ended up viciously killed in the ensuing riot, if Mookie had not drawn their attentions towards the pizzeria instead. Beyond that, it's understandable that Mookie would react the way he did even disregarding that... witnessing a murder could definitely shake him enough to want to incite a riot in retaliation.

3. I think that the movie was not a political movie. While dealing with various arguments popular at the time, the movie takes no stand behind any particular one, and focuses more on the out-of-control confrontations that have little to nothing to do with said arguments. By the time the various fights climax, the people involved have forgotten whatever argument got them involved in th first place, and involve themselves more on a personal level-putting on a show for peers, redeeming one's hurt pride, and the like.

Response to 'Do the Right Thing'

1. I had the color yellow. In the beginning of the movie, there are many bright, vibrant colors. I immediately noticed that their was a yellow hue in the film. I also noticed that their were a few shots where the sun would peak through windows and create a yellowish color. It gave the movie a feeling of realism and made the summer heat feel real. Another time when i saw the color yellow on the buildings. They had an old yellowish look which made them feel old and rundown.

2. I thought the scene where Mookie threw the trash can through the window showed a lot about his character. Mookie seems to be a good guy for most of the movie, but when he is with his friends I believe he got influenced by his peers to join in uncalled for activities. I think the act was somewhat misguided because under any other circumstances I don't think he would have done that.

3. I think the movie definitely about arguments but also has some political presence. Throughout most of the movies their are arguments, but certain scenes definitely has some politics in it. One of those scenes is when the policeman killed someone who didn't deserve to die. It raised a political issue that some people may take personally. Overall I think the movie was more about arguments in general rather than just politics.

Response to Spike Lee's 'Do the Right thing'

   The color I was assigned was Orange. Orange is a signifier of aggression, desire, action and heat.  Although it is not as intense as red, orange has a bold effect. Orange is used throughout the film well  to convey all these emotions and actions. The use and variation of orange in the film is also signified as strength and endurance; of the community, the individuals and their different plot lines and their turmoil coupled with the rising heat of a summers day. All these symbolic color meanings are used effectively through the film. Examples of orange concretely used are: lighting of interior rooms and exterior scenes, painted walls, clothing, flowers, accessories accented on people such as ribbons, hats and lycra!

   I was irritated at what Mookie did.   Mookie's character was stuck in an emotional developmental stage that was infuriating to me.  So it wasn't such a shock that he did something so destructive with no apparent concern for the consequences. His whole character embodied a frustrated downtrodden individual, trying really hard to deal with an uninspiring life. I think if he had had inspiring mentors he might have made better decisions overall with his life. Thus I am caught between sympathy and 'we all make our own choices' in regards to Mookie and his action at the climax of the film.

  'Do the Right Thing', is a political movie. It is political because of some of the issues chosen. For example, the police killing a detained suspect and the intricacies of that scene leading up to the political 'rioting'. The neighborhood dynamic has underlying unrest due to what could be blamed on political choices that lead to inequality and poverty. What the characters are acting out in the day are not political but, yes, are personal grievances hidden inside the facade they deem as political. This is in my opinion, to hide their actual similarities and humanness to one another. Because somehow through the tribe and culture vs culture mentality  they can quell the scared, tenuous emotions each culture and family hides from one another as a defense mechanism.

Agnes Varda: Cleo de 5 a 7

Assignment: Required Reading and Writing

Read these two pieces on Varda, which give some insights into her philosophy and process.

A recent interview:,29840/

How Varda Invented the New Wave:

What I want you to write in response to these articles isn't a direct critique, but a sort of creative response to some of Varda's film-making methods. In one of the below "recommended" readings, Varda is quoted as saying Cleo from 5 to 7 is "“the portrait of a woman painted onto a documentary about Paris.” You can get a sense from "How Agnes Varda Invented the New Wave" that this was a method that is also related to her first film, La Pointe Courte, where she inserted two fictional characters into an almost ethnographic portrait of a fishing village. You couldn't really reduce it to a formula, but in these films there is an interchange between a real place, closely and scrupulously observed, and a character who passes through or inhabits that place.

I'd like you to write two or three paragraphs about a place you know well, that you could imagine being an interesting setting for a film. What is the place, and what are the small, authentic details you would include, to give a realistic feel of that place? Who are the sorts of people you'd ordinarily encounter there? What are the sights, sounds, smells, social rituals there?

And then, in a final paragraph, I'd like you to imagine a fictional character who might find herself/himself there. I'm not asking for you to spin a whole plot for a film -- just describe a real place, and give a sense of who this fictional visitor to the place might be. We can let the rest of this "movie" play out in our own minds.

Recommended Reading/Viewing

A Varda overview:

Cleo and time:

Cleo and Vagabond (this might be a good reference as a comparison of two films, the sort of thing you'll be doing for the midterm):

A Varda-directed Black Panthers documentary (in french -- it can be seen in English at the link below, for $1):

A short film by Varda, Plaisirs d'amour en Iran:

Varda on Netflix instant view:

The Beaches of Agnes
The Gleaners and I
Cleo from 5 to 7

Varda on (many of her more obscure films can be seen here, from $1 to $3 bucks a pop):

Do The Right Thing

1. The color I was assigned to look for in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was green. I found that the two most significant appearances of green were in Sal's shirt and the shirt of the man with the bike (who gets Buggin Out's shoe dirty), both of whom are white characters. Also, the outside of Sal's Pizzeria was painted a green similar to Sal's shirt. Obviously green is also present in any foliage in the movie, but I chose to ignore this since it seemed as irrelevant as the sky being blue. There is no significance, it is just a fact of life.

The significance of Sal, his store, and the bicyclist having the color green is not entirely clear to me. My first thought was green being the color of money and wealth, which at first seems to make sense since Sal owns the most successful business of all the main characters. However there is no indication of the status of the bicyclist, after all he does live in the same neighborhood.

2. I was surprised by Mookie's actions at the end and I did not feel like he was justified by any measure. Throughout the film he seemed to play under the guise of being one of the more responsible characters because he was one of the few with a real job, but by the end it becomes plainly obvious that he doesn't really care about his job so much as he does getting paid regardless of the work he does (or doesn't do). Even after he incites the destruction of Sal's Pizzeria he expects to get paid for his previous day of work, which was half-assed at best.

3. I would agree that Do The Right Thing is about arguments in general, but to me that doesn't eliminate the presence of politics in the film. I think the Spike Lee means to show how relatively minor personal grievances can easily and rapidly escalate into violent conflicts when not reconciled appropriately, and he does so in the context of race.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thoughts on 'Do the Right Thing'

The color I was assigned was orange. I saw this color quite a bit in the film. There was lighting that used the color, or at least lighting that was used that created this color against the walls in the homes and outside on the buildings. This particular lighting also caused Tina’s skin color to appear sort of orange in a few scenes. When I noticed this it was in the beginning when she was dancing and also in the scene with Mookie and her on the bed with the ice cubes. There were also a few women who were wearing this color in their clothes; mainly tank tops but there was one girl wearing a whole outfit colored orange. One girl was wearing orange bracelets. There were also signs in the window of the Pizzeria that were orange and some of food trays were too.

This color seemed to be used in the places where it was hot, which was everywhere in the movie. They kept talking about how hot it was this day in New York, and the use of this color really seemed to intensify this point. I was sitting next to an open window while watching the film and I was hot. The use of this color and all the talk about how hot it was, actually affected me physically. I think this was really effective.

I was really disappointed in Mookie’s actions towards the end of the film. I was definitely shocked and surprised when he threw the garbage can through Sal’s window. I definitely couldn’t believe that he expected to get paid the next day after what he did. I felt like he turned on the two people (Sal and Vido) who really liked him and wanted to help him. I felt like he stooped to the level of a lot of the others in the neighborhood and gave up on being peaceful with everyone.

After watching the video essay, my feelings about Do the Right Thing, did not change. I never really thought of the film as being political. The word political never came to mind while watching it, anyway. I guess the issues that it touches on are considered political, but I just thought of it as people being sensitive to change. I felt that a lot of the individuals were stuck in the past and could not get over the fact that times were changing. It’s sad to think that color and race were such issues, and still are in a lot of places. It was sad to hear people talk about how they wanted to be treated, but then they would just turn around and treat his neighbor who was different from him exactly how he hated being treated. It’s a vicious cycle, that I think the movie was trying to convey, that needed to be broken.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Response to Richard Linklater's, 'Before Sunrise'

 As quoted by Price in his article on Director Richard Linklater, 
           'Linklater’s camera follows whatever person happens to walk into and participate in the ongoing conversation. The camera then follows one of the characters on their way to another meeting/conversation'

The unifying aspects of Linklater's films which Price observed are the following. A lack of a typical story line structure of a film.  The characters meander through a philosophical conversation landscape sometimes seemingly spontaneous. This ability for the film to delve into such spontaneous and deep dialogue is also set up by the following aspects. The characters are in their early 20's, and younger teens, more of an age group that is at a transitory space philosophically, dealing with the 'I am'.  There are characters that seem to 'happen' into the films which deepen the character development by introducing banal interaction that spurs conversation and dynamic energy. The intersections of interactions with other characters that 'walk into' the conversation that further build upon scenes and sub plot/ plots.

Style is the world in which the film maker lives, and in turn his representation of his world through his medium, in this case through film.  The angle and gauge at which the film maker takes the viewer deeper into the rabbit hole is all style. The eyes in which he sees, is conveyed through a lens .
2# B
Collaborative approaches to creating an artistic vision seem like a natural approach to this style of film.   When a film relies heavily on dialogue the dynamic sparkle disco effect between the characters needs to be charged. How to get this genius? by collaborating with different age appropriate creative folk and different genders. Some accidentally believe that the muse of creation comes from inside, but the muse is every where around us, our environment, other people.

Through film we can have cathartic experience. Through film we can also become so viscerally involved in the visual stimuli,  that we are enveloped in time and space. We are invited to participate in seeing through the film makers eyes.

Contemporary Independent Film Directors: the start of the midterm project

Here's some info on your midterm assignment, which will have two phases: a "rough draft" phase, due on week 6 of class (Feb. 23), and a "final draft" phase, due on week 8 (Mar. 9).

The basic outline of the project is this: I want you to choose at least two films by a currently-working independent film director, and write about them, trying to define what the director's personal stamp is. What are some commonalities of theme and style between the films? How would you describe the director's personal "vision?" The first article on Linklater's films, two assignments ago, does a pretty good job of this.

Included in your paper, in addition to your "auteurist" analysis, I want the following things included:

1. A brief bio of the director, and some notes on the production history of the films (how was it made, and in what cinematic context did it appear?).

2. A close reading of at least one scene from each film. What was the narrative intent of the scene (what emotions, feelings, and thoughts did the director intend to invoke), and how did the director achieve those ends? Use the language of film-making to describe the formal strategies of the scenes -- how is framing, composition, color, camera placement, camera movement, sound design, and/or editing used to further the aims of the scenes? How do the performances of the actors contribute?

What I don't want to see in your papers is a basic summary break-down of the film, tracing the plot for start to finish, in a sort of junior-high book-review format. Give whatever narrative background you need to explain your points, but I'm not interested in a top-to-bottom summary. Feel free to "spoil" anything in the film, up to and including the ending -- that's fine if it helps you to make your point about the director's relation to style and theme. But don't give plot-summary just to fill space.

Below is a list of contemporary independent directors. It's not comprehensive by any means, and if there's a director not included on the list who you'd like to write about, let me know in the "comments" on this blog post. Plug some of these names into wikipedia (or maybe google images if you want to get a hit of visuals) to get a sense of what their work might be like. I haven't researched availability of the films of these directors -- before you commit to one, see if you can get your hands on a couple of their movies, through streaming, your local rental place, or what have you.

Once you've selected your director, post their name in the "comments" to this blog post -- and make sure no one else beat you to them. I want everyone to be focusing on a different director.

I highly recommend you pick out your director by the end of the week.

chantal akerman

pedro almodovar

alison anders

paul thomas anderson

wes anderson

ramin bahrani

noah baumbach

bong joon-ho

charles burnett

catherine breillat

jane campion

lisa cholodenko

larry clark

the coen brothers

sofia coppola

pedro costa

alfonso cuaron

the dardenne brothers

julie dash

jonathan demme

clare denis

abel ferrara

stephen frears

michel gondry

stuart gordon

debra granik

david gordon green

peter greenaway

michael haneke

hal hartley

werner herzog

nicole holofcener

hou hsiao-hsien

jim jarmusch

jia zhang ke

spike jonze

neil jordan

aki kaurismaki

harmony korine

ang lee

mike leigh

kasi lemmons

terrence malick

lucrecia martel

takashi miike

gaspar noe

park chan-wook

alexander payne

lynne ramsay

robert rodriguez

george romero

david o russell

john sayles

steven soderbergh

quentin tarantino

julie taymor

tsai ming-liang

gus van sant

nancy savoca

todd solondz

lars von trier

john waters

michael winterbottom

You can also choose from directors we've seen, or will be seeing, in class, who are still working (some of these directors have made both indy and studio films -- it might be interesting to compare/contrast their independent and commercial modes. Pick two of their films that aren't being screened for class, if you're interested in one of these)

david cronenberg

spike lee

richard linklater

david lynch

guy maddin

martin scorsese

agnes varda

wong kar wai

The Hangover Can Happen To You

The Hangover

After putting a lot of thought into some of the recent movies I have watched, this one came to mind. As I watched it last night it refreshed my memory from the day after Glitch Mob in Reno last week. The movie is about a group of friends going to Vegas for a bachelor party. They start drinking on a roof along with a time-lapse of the city, then they wake up in there room with no idea what happened last night. This is the scene that seems very real to me, because we have all been there I believe; at least once. The rest of the movie is about the friends trying to find the bachelor and piece together there night. They figure it out in the end after they go threw this life changing journey.

Back to the realistic scene, the actual hangover. We have all been there. Waking up and falling over, not having enough coherency to realize there is a tiger in the bathroom (might not be that realistic to have Mike Tyson’s tiger in the bathroom) but the feeling is shared. Not to mention puking at breakfast. Headaches, Nasuea, dizziness; these were all displayed very well in this scene. There was a part in the scene that actually has the same camera angle we reviewed in class; where the camera is attached to the actor. The actor tries to get up and walk to the bathroom but actually passes out on a couch.

As for the type of realism this film used, I am not really sure which word could explain it. Obviously most of the things they figure out would not happen to most of us so in that sense it is not real. But on the other hand it is possible and not to far fetched. I believe the way in which they dealt with the problems was realistic. You would probably try to talk your way out of stealing a cop car, but in reality it probably would not work. So this is an example from movie and real life. As I stated earlier that the actual hangover scene seemed to be the most realistic. Although I am sure if you were to watch this flick you would find more commonalities than just that scene.

Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing

Assignment: Required Reading, Looking & Writing

For this week's assignment, I'd like you to expand on two of the questions that were on the "Do the Right Thing" questionnaire, and also to make a response to Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on the film, below.

The questions are:

1. Write about the color you were assigned to look at in the film, and explain where the color appeared, and how it was used. (an online essay by Cynthia Scott, which has a few good paragraphs on the use of color in the film, as well as some other stylistic choices, might be a good inspiration -- the article is here:

2. Explain your reactions and thoughts to Mookie's act at the climax of the film. Did it seem justified? Inevitable? Sympathetic? Heroic? Masochistic? Juvenile? Righteous? Misguided?

And here's Matt Zoller Seitz video essay:

Which brings us to question three:

3. Do you think that the analysis of the film here -- as a film that doesn't really endorse a particular political argument, but rather as a film about arguments, and the way that arguments can escalate out of feelings of personal grievance -- make the film seem less "political"? To what extent do you find Do the Right Thing a "political" film?

Here's a transcript of the video essay, for reference:

The end of the video essay quotes liberally from critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1898 essay on the film -- a good piece of writing that can be found here:

Recommended readings:

Spike Lee films on Netflix instant:
Do the Right Thing
Malcolm X

(I haven't seen Clockers since it came out, but at the time, it was my favorite film of his)

Lee has also done recordings of several live performances and stage shows by other artists -- of those Passing Strange and A Huey P. Newton Story are on instant view. The former is quite good, and I've been meaning to see the latter, but haven't yet gotten around to it -- it's a one-man show with the actor who played "Smiley" as Huey Newton. His documentaries 4 Little Girls and When the Levees Broke are also supposed to be quite good.

Further reading:

On Do the Right Thing's confrontational style:

A Spike Lee interview:

An "oral history" of Do the Right Thing, 20 years later, from cast and crew:

Film history: the story of love and hate (the origin of Radio Raheem's monologue, in Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter, about a crazed preacher who terrorizes two young children.

Linklater Reading

1. Linklater's films tend to dwell on ideas and their exchange between people. Along with this one prevalent theme Linklater explores is idleness, which he believes is a key component to the generation of ideas. While most of his films seem to explore the positive nature of idleness the one exception is SubUrbia in which Linklater apparently links the idleness of the characters to their violent, antisocial behavior.

2. In his definition of style I believe wood means that it establishes the way in which information is relayed from the screen to the audience. Style is the personality of the film, it can change how a it is understood by the audience.

I can certainly agree that Linklater's use of heavy collaboration in Before Sunrise works, I would be severely hesitant to believe it should be such a useful method for all, or even most, other films. It seems to me that it has its uses, but I can equally imagine it being damaging to a film. As far as the use of real life encounters in the film, the main example being the actors in the play about the cow, I feel it add minimal if any difference to the film itself. While the film itself certainly exhibits a sense of realism, I do not believe that is a result of such scenes. To me, that scene could easily have been just scripted, in other words it did not feel any more real than the rest of the movie, but perhaps that only attests to Linklater's knack at realism.

3. Film is a medium with a unique position of control on time. Movies can make time move slow or fast, they can skip over years, they can allow audiences to experience the same time in two different locations. The potential to manipulate time in movies is limited only by the ambitions of the person(s) making it.

Linklater Reading Assignment

For reading #1:

According to Price, the unifying theme in all of Linklater’s films is the idea of idleness, particularly the idleness of the young and poor. Rather than glorifying or condemning idleness, Linklater simply explores the effect that it has on people. He is also very interested in time as a concept, and how it can be manipulated through the medium of filmmaking.

For reading #2:

I think that "style is the artist's means of defining the relationship of the spectator to the film" is another way of saying that style encompasses every method a director uses to influence the viewer’s experience as they watch. Everything that a filmmaker does to put their own unique spin on things, or to make separate films feel as if they’ve all come from the same mind or source, is “style”.

As for Linklater’s approach to making Before Sunrise, I think that incorporating elements like improvisation and collaborative scriptwriting do give the film a sense of realism. For instance, allowing the actors to draw from their own personal histories is an interesting way to give the characters a believable back-story. I think that, to a certain degree, drawing on past experience is something that all writers and actors do to ensure a sense of realism.

For #3:

Film definitely has the most unique relationship to time compared to other mediums. You can look at a painting for as little or as long as you want, or you can read a book all in one sitting or spread it out over a period of months, but a film takes a set amount of time to experience the thing in its entirety. And of course, time has to pass within the storyline of the film, which opens up endless possibilities for how time is experienced by the viewer; the story could take place in real-time, or it could be non-linear, or it could encompass the entire life of a character from beginning to end.