Saturday, October 30, 2010

Days of Heaven




CINEMATOGRAPHY


1. The camera in Days of Heaven is very mobile, and it often moves with the characters through the scene. Some examples of when this happens are as the farmers are walking through long fields or in the opening scene where the Bill is working at the steel mill and the camera follows him from shoveling to the fire. The camera is extremely mobile in the scene where Bill is being chased by the police through the forest, and it moves along with him as he runs through the trees.


2. The camera shoots different characters from different angles. Bill, Abby, and the young narrator are usually shot from higher angles, with the camera looking down on them. However, the farmer is often shot from lower-angle so the camera is looking up at him.


3. These differences in camera angles show the differences in the characters. When the camera looks down to Bill and Abby, the director implies they are of lower class and less importance. By looking up towards the farmer, it shows he is rich and better than the characters whom the camera shoots from low-angles.


4. The camera angles show which characters are from the same class, like Bill and Abby, who are both shot from high angles. In addition, when there are point of view shots from one character looking at another it shows how they view them. When Abby looks up towards the farmer, it shows she feels below him, but the camera looks straight when Abby is looking at Bill so it shows she feels they are equals.


5. As the film progresses, sometimes Bill and the farmer are shot at eye level, showing that even though class and lifestyle may separate them, they have a lot in common and aren't as different as we think they are at the beginning of the movie.


6. Close-ups are used often, and they show a lot more emotions in a scene. They are used in a lot of the romantic scenes, to show the closeness and intimacy of characters. Also, close-ups are used a lot when Bill and the farmer are arguing, to really make the anger and words the focal point of the scene.















MISE EN SCENE

1. The film is set in 1916, in Texas. Most of the film takes place in rural areas, often on a farm, in both the fields and farmhouse.


2. The director uses mostly natural for this film. Almost all of the movie is shot during 'magic hour' where the sun is at the perfect brightness for capturing the right colours and the best appearance of the characters. This natural lighting conveys the thought that the movie is very realistic instead of fake and overedited. It gives the mood of peace and honesty, and helps to relate to the characters because you feel you see them how they really are.


MUSIC & SOUND


1. The music gives cues about what to expect by using certain tempo and volume. Using fast paced music, such as when the locusts attack, gives the feeling of suspense and urgency, which adds the feeling of fear about the locusts. At calmer moments, like romantic exchanges, the music is soft and slow, to create a mood of love, and show us that the upcoming or current scene will focus on quieter and peaceful moments.


2. The music and sound of this movie tells a lot about the plot and characters. When the farmer is in scenes, the music is usually loud and striking, when makes you feel like he is bad or angry. This is especially useful to the audience when he learns about Abby and Bill being together and the music shows his anger. When the narrator is talking, the background music is usually very calm and soft, which shows her innocence as child.















EDITING

1. The director uses different editing styles at different parts in the film to create certain feelings. When there are romantic or sad moments, and mostly when the young narrator is giving her inspirational take on things, the editing is smooth and flows together which makes you listen closely to the words. In more action-packed scenes, like Bill being chased by the police, the camera cuts quickly from character to character, adding suspense and intrigue.


2. Point of view shots are important in every movie. When a character is seen through a point of view shot, we, as an audience,  feel as though we are that character an we are experiencing the same things they are. I think the best point of view shot in this movie is during the fire, where the camera circles around the ring of fire they are trapped in and the viewer feels as though they are standing in that scene trapped by fire as well.


IDENTIFICATION


1.  When we watch a film ,we identify with characters we feel are similar to us. This similarity can be based on emotions, lifestyle, class, experiences, race, and any other factors that make us feel empathy towards a character.  By identifying with a character, we feel for them and often take their side of the story and feel as though we understand where they are coming from and the emotions they are feeling.


2. This identification can have ramifications, because it shows that we judge so much based on appearance. Although identification is sometimes based on emotions, we usually base it on race or gender. By myself identifying usually with white females, it shows a deeper meaning that we are giving in to stereotypes since we believe that to be similar to a person, we must look like them. By not being able to identify with characters of other races, we are in a way perpetrating racism, and saying that people from different races could not be the same.





CLOSURE


1. The film does reach a satisfying ending, because most of the lose ends are tied up. The film does not leave us wondering too much, just simply about what will happen to the characters in the future. The ending is thought-provoking but does not leave you wishing that certain points were cleared up.


2. The film does not end the way I wanted it too! For such a beautiful movie, I expected that Abby would end up with one of the men, and they would live happy ever after. It was very unexpected that both Bill and the famer would die, and Abby would go off to war. In the end, I hoped that it would be more obvious that narrator was happy and had a better life, but they left it so that the rest of her life was still ahead of her, not yet known how it would unfold.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reality Check

One of the most recent films I saw in theatres was the dance movie Step Up 3-D, starring Rick Malambri, Adam Sevani, and Sharni Vinson. This movie is directed by Jon Chu and produced by well-known production companies Summit Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures. Step 3-D was released in over 35 countries, and received praise from critics in terms of its visual appeal and intense choreography. The film cost only $30 million dollars to make, but it's gross product worldwide (as of September 23rd) was over $137 million dollars!





The purpose of Step Up 3-D is entertainment - it is a light, fast-paced movie, watched generally for the 3-D effects and cool dance moves, and not necessary for the storyline or less than average acting. The target audience of the movie is definitely teenagers, both male and female, and some young adults. This product appeals to that particular age group because the characters in the movie are teenagers as well, and therefore the emotions and experiences they go through are very relatable. Also, the movie is about hip hop dancing, which is more of a trend nowadays, and the styles of music and clothing that go along with this "hip hop image" resonate better with younger generations. Teenagers see hip hop as cool and popular, so this movie uses that idea to attract them to watching the film.





Another way of obtaining viewers is the fact that this movie is in 3-D. This technology is the future of the film industry, but since it is new and not yet common, it makes this movie seem more inticing because we want to experience films with another dimension. The scene with dancing in water, as shown in the picture below, really enhanced the 3-D experience, as water drops appear to be flying at your face, and you feel as though you are present at the dance battle. The production techniques of 3-D presentation, colourful lighting and bold, busy sets are used frequently, which make the movie very aesthetically pleasing, an important part of keeping the audience focused on the film.





On the surface, Step Up 3-D is simple and predictable; a cute dance flick, with good looking actors and amazing three dimensional effects. When going to see this movie, people think they know just what they're in for, and even after they leave, some think they got exactly what they were expecting - but I challenge you to think a little deeper. After studying the media, in both English and Media Arts, I have learned to watch movies with a critical eye. Everything contains a deeper message, even the fun and exciting Step Up 3-D. The thing I noticed with Step Up 3-D is that it sent a lot of messages about racial, gender, and socioeconomic stereotypes. In the movie, each of the main characters clearly fits into a "movie stereotype", a specific generalized personality that is found in most television shows and films, and the plot follows a very familiar outline. There is Luke, the leader of the pack, who is strong, shy, and often sensitive - and of course he ends up with the girl, Natalie. She is seductive, stubborn, and, as most lead characters do, has a secret she can't tell Luke, which leads them into a fight. But, as predictable movies go, the two characters work it out and end up together. The other set of main characters are Moose and Camille, best friends who both want to be more, but don't think the other one is interested. They two have a fight because they find themselves in the awkward stage between friendship and dating, but then confess their love for each other and end up happily ever after.





This common plotline is expected in most movies, so it didn't quite surprise me, but the part about the movie that really bothered me was the racial profiling. The dancers were all "from the streets", sending out the message that hip hop is somehow related to being poor or lower class. Also, all of the dancers were tough and used incomprehensible slang, giving an incorrect interpretation that hip hop is for people who are uneducated or have bad attitudes.  Each of the dance crew members were from a different race and all had such stereotypical personalities that movies often use to generalize different cultures. Most of the dancers had form-fitting  or revealing clothes, but the black characters were always in baggy pants and hoodies, trying to give them the "gangster" look. There were Spanish and Asian dancers, both of which had thick accents and bad grammar. In our multicultural society, perfect English isn't expected, but the fact that only the visible minorites had incorrect grammar and that their accents were mocked many times was just not appropriate. It surprised me that a movie all about the language and unity of dance could show such a divide based on unrealistic stereotypes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Truman Show

In class, we recently finished watching the movie The Truman Show. This film is classified under the genre of satire, because it slightly makse fun of ideas that are found in our everyday life and questions what we commonly believe in. It stars Jim Carrey as the main character Truman, whose whole life is actually a TV show that everyone is in on - except for himself. As he goes through his daily life of walking through studio sets, and developing relationships with actors, he eventually catches on to what is really happening. After 30 years of living in this reality show, he musters up the courage to escape from his so-called life. Though filled with funny scenes and laughable dialogues, this movie is really something deeper than it appears on the surface. In short, this film plays with your mind! As the plot unraveled and the I slowly learned the truth about what was going on, I began to question my own life. Truman is a very relatable character, with his easygoing nature and friendly demeanour, and it seems crazy that he didn't realize earlier that nothing around him was real. But maybe I'm just like Truman, too naive to realize the truth, and too nervous to even think about questioning it, simply out of the fear of change. This made me feel as though I should think more about what goes on around me. Everyday, I just accept people or ideas as they are, and make the assumption (through trust or laziness or cowardice, I don't know) that everything is what it seems. This film is very thought-provoking with its themes about deciding for ourselves what is real and what is fake, and I would definitely recommend it to others.


The article "The Truman Show" discusses the idea that in the past there has been no criticism of media, but movies like The Truman Show are moving us in the direction of exposing the truth and giving the population a voice, in turn, granting us freedom. The author Ken Sanes talks about the "media machine", Hollywood, and how so much of what they throw at us is not real. When referencing the The Truman Show, it compares Truman's fake life to our "media landscape...made up of theatrical illusions." The media surrounds our generation everywhere we go, and this article really shows the ways in which some of us are making progress to stand up to its unrealistic expectations. It explains two attitudes that people have towards media; one is that we are absorbed by it and subconsciously let ourselves accept it, and the other is that we distance ourselves from it and use our brains to question what we are being told. Most people switch between the two possible ideas, like Truman, who first loves his life and does not really look into things that seem strange. But later on in the movie as these unusual happenings become more frequent, he resolves to find out the truth. We are all Truman, trying to discover what we can really believe.



I really agree with Ken Sanes' article about the Truman Show and the media in general. I think the point he makes about the two attitudes we have towards media is very true. When watching a TV show, for the first while I always feel so emotionally connected to the characters, and imagine myself going through what they are experiencing. But once something occurs that seems unrealistic, I feel that connection break instantly. For the rest of the episode, I often laugh at the plot or the dialogue, and wonder how at one point I actually went along with it. I think this thought process is good though, because it means we can differentiate between reality and illusions, and even though we suspend our beliefs for a while, we ultimately know where to draw the line. However, although I agree with most of what Sanes says, there is one line I disagree with; where he states that "the movie uses the manipulations of media in order to manipulate us into seeing through the manipulations of media." Yes, this film is a form of media, but I think there is such thing as good media, and we can't just assume that all media is there to purposely manipulate us. The Truman Show does use certain techniques to draw us in or to connect us to the story, but it is for a positive purpose, not about tricks or illusions. I think this movie is an example of media that we should believe in, because it pushes the boundaries of what is typically acceptable in film.


This movie acts as a metaphor to our own lives, because we are constantly being told things by the media that we may know are unreal, but we accept them anyways because that is ofter the easiest option. In this film, Truman represents consumer, and the director of the show represents the media. The director controls and manipulates everything Truman sees and does, much like advertisements, shows and movies tell us what is acceptable in society. The director can change the actors, the plot, and even the weather, but Truman doesn't seem to notice anything strange because this is how things have been for his whole life. In our world, the media is always surrounding us, so we too have become used to it, to the feeling that we should do as we're told and we should believe what we are given. However, as Truman gets older, he becomes more aware of his surroundings and finds the courage to question the reality of what is happening, even with the knowledge that the answers could change his whole life. A similar process happens as people grow up too. We start seeing the holes in the media, the mistakes that reveal the illusions, and we reject the things that we used to allow as the truth without thought. In the end, it becomes up to us; we can leave things as they are and always wonder if they're true, or we can be like Truman, brave and wise, by fighting against what the media tells us, and instead forging our own path into the world ahead of us.