The following blog is a chronicle of the films I'm studying for my Spring 09' semester of school. As per teacher's request, it also includes most of what I watch between assignments. Feature films I'm assigned to watch for my "History of Film 2" class require a 150+ word review. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


"Dogville" (feature)
Dir: Lars Von Trier
Premier: 2003
Viewed: 5/3/09
Review: "Dogville" made some really interesting cinematic choices. This is yet another film to challenge the morals and beliefs of the viewer. Narrated a lot like a fable, this film started out pleasant enough. Looking back, it seemed like it was going down a well-beaten path. A damsel in distress, on the run from a dangerous group of thugs is rescued by small-town citizens with hearts of gold. During her stay, she learns to appreciate simple-life values in contrast to big-city living. But gradually, like boiling a live frog, the situation turned ugly and awkward.

To be run over by a large city, the reason it may sting had to do with feeling insignificant, or small. In a small town, the sting comes from a more personal variety of feelings. Once again, the inter-character relationships are very well established. By the end of the film I couldn’t honestly stop Nicole Kidman’s character from ordering the slaughter of the entire town. That sounds horrible to say, but when I actually LOSE COUNT of the amount of times her character was raped, I’d say that town has pretty much begged for their fate. Also when the townsfolk were dying, I couldn’t help but remember that one kid begging to be spanked. I wonder If that was meant to foreshadow the fate of the entire town.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dogme 95'

"The Idiots" (feature clip)
Dir: Lars Von Trier
Premier: 1998
Viewed: 4/27/09

"Julian Donkey-Boy" (feature clip)
Dir: Harmony Korine
Premier: 1999
Viewed: 4/27/09

"My Own Private Idaho" (feature clip)
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Premier: 1991
Viewed: 4/27/09

"Freeway" (feature clip)
Dir: Matthew Bright
Premier: 1996
Viewed: 4/27/09

"The Celebration" (feature)
Dir: Thomas Vinterberg
Premier: 1998
Viewed: 4/30/09
Review: That was probably one of the most unsettling films I’ve watched all semester. But it was unsettling in a good way. I’ve read that one of the main reasons a story can lack “heart” (that intangible quality that causes audiences to truly warm up to the film and be satisfied by it) can from underdeveloped inter-character relationships. During this film’s exposition, we’re “trusted” with an all-too-candid look into the players in Christian’s family. It doesn’t take long for us to empathize (and in some cases, recognize) with the usual suspects of the average family reunion. Like a demolitions expert, the cast and crew must set the explosives in just the right places in the viewer’s mind. You know this is done sufficiently, when the main conflict is finally revealed, and the viewer crumbles from within.

I also have to mention one character in particular: Gbatokai. I didn’t envy that man. How would you feel to be talked into an international trip to meet a family in Switzerland, all of whom speak little to no English, and may or may not be blatantly hostile towards your social group. And how would you feel if one of those people took it upon themselves to turn the party into your own personal hell. It seemed to me that, as an innocent visitor, everything that happened in the film was also happening to that character. Way to stir the pot, though!Also the one lesbian/swinger character was a great strip of much needed comedy relief.

Having this be a Dogme 95’-style film was perfect for the subject matter. It served the exposition, in that we almost meet the characters through their eyes. Also, every terrible thing that happens in the later parts of the film is made that much more candid. Dogme 95’ films remind me of documentaries. The lighting and handheld cameras are similar to the equipment of an average person immortalizing a true moment. I hardly noticed the absent studio soundtrack. What a challenge it must be to produce a film this way. And yet how fulfilling it must be to have pulled it off.

The 1980's

"Heathers" (feature clip)
Dir: Michael Lehmann
Premier: 1988
Viewed: 4/20/09

"Blade Runner" (feature clip)
Dir: Ridley Scott
Premier: 1982-1991-present?
Viewed: 4/20/09
Comment: Possibly the birth of "Cyberpunk"

"Walker" (feature clip)
Dir: Alex Cox
Premier: 1987
Viewed: 4/20/09

"Stranger than Paradise" (feature clip)
Dir: Jim Jarmush
Premier: 1984
Viewed: 4/20/09

Sunday, April 19, 2009

High Tension

"Even Dwarfs Started Small" (feature clip)
Dir: Verner Herzog
Premier: 1972
Viewed: 4/13/09

"Heart Of Glass" (feature clip)
Dir: Verner Herzog
Premier: 1977
Viewed: 4/13/09

"Picnic at Hanging Rock" (feature clip)
Dir: Peter Weir
Premier: 1975
Viewed: 4/13/09

"Ali: Fear Eats The Soul" (feature clip)
Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Premier: 1974
Viewed: 4/13/09

"The Wickerman" (feature)
Dir: Robin Hardy
Premier: 1973/75
Viewed: 4/13/09
Review: Personally, when it was revealed that no little girls were going to be burned alive in this movie, most of the tension in this film went away. I’m not sure what that means about me. I didn’t even raise an eyebrow for the sergeant. I guess the idea of harming a woman or child in a story strikes a nerve with me. I wouldn’t have been able to leave the island, knowing that a girl was to be murdered in mere hours.

And what was with the unarmed sergeant!?

“Oh, I think I’ll fly all the way to Sommerisle to investigate the kidnapping of this little girl! But I hope I don’t actually MEET the kidnapper, or I’m pretty much screwed!”

I understand a lot of European police officers tend to go without firearms, but this guy couldn’t even defend himself in a barehanded tussle! Could you imagine if the Oakland P.D. was involved? That big bearded Scottsman would be a big bearded Scottsman with a broken jaw and matching fractured femur! And Lord Sommerisle would have a sizzling hole in his forehead, right between the soliloquies. But I digress…

I should consider the name and literary role of “Punch” when developing characters. His story seems to be one of hubris and deception. I probably should’ve guessed that the sergeant was being lured into a trap. When the girl he was supposed to be rescuing was running yards ahead of him, it made me question who was in control of the “rescue”. The acting must’ve been a challenge. The actors were charged with playing townsfolk who seemed eccentric, but were playing an elaborate game with their prey.

Dir: Woody Allen
Premier: 1983
Viewed: 4/19/09
Review: The plot of “Zelig” was really cool to see after Film History 1. I think the period was portrayed especially well. The gags were funny, but played with an air of subtlety. The subtext about people yearning for the approval of others made me look back at my earlier years. For that matter, it also reminds me of my current years. It’s actually a profound plot idea to have a man who feels so out of place that he becomes those around him. The blue screen effects were fantastic. The clips looked authentic because for all intents and purposes, they were.

The acting was great. The way Woody Allen delivers lines would have you believe he naturally speaks in one-liners. Every time a recording of Zelig in therapy came up, I leaned in, trusting that the clip would end in a laugh.

“I have an appointment to teach the ‘Psychology of Masturbators’ seminar! If I’m late, they’ll start without me!”

Cult of Personality

"THX 1138" (feature)
Dir: George Lucas
Premier: 1971
Viewed: 4/6/09
Review: The word “minimalist” had been used to describe the visual design. Not only do I agree, but Id also say that their use of color was tough to look at. When I first saw it as a High School student, I remember being depressed that I didn’t have my Game Boy Advance with me. The film was minimalist on pretty much everything except concept and running time. I feel like the film didn’t have to be that long. Perhaps the average viewer’s attention span was more flexible back then.

“THX 1138” was an admittedly influential film. Though I found it impossibly dry at times, I often forget what wonderful stories could not have happened without films like “THX” being released. One of my favorite story genres, Cyberpunk, and the "Star Wars" films would come much later after films like “THX” and “Blade Runner”. The concept of a world beaten numb by conformity is pretty compelling. I also noticed, when SEN ends up getting caught by the enforcers, it brings up thoughts of an animal breaking out of it’s cage, only to panic by the lack of security and overwhelming freedom of the outside. SEN Breaks down and practically begs them to take him back.

"Female Trouble" (feature clip)
Dir: John Waters
Premier: 1984
Viewed: 4/6/09

"Forbidden Zone" (feature clip)
Dir: Richard Burton
Premier: 1982
Viewed: 4/6/09

"Eraserhead" (feature clip)
Dir: David Lynch
Premier: 1977
Viewed: 4/6/09

"Sins of the Fleshapoids" (feature)
Dir: Mike Kuchar
Premier: 1965
Viewed 4/6/09
Review: The plot of “Sins of the Fleshapoids” is one that could have translated to a watchable film. I can assume it’s pretty easy to even accidentally make a social commentary about the environment. I still have to give the film makers props for the commentary about vanity, sloth and greed.

As far as acting is concerned, camp runs wild in this movie. Even in pantomime, one could attempt to act out concepts convincingly. I understand that the players in this production aren’t trained very well (or at all).

It must have been fun to film this though. The “outside-the-box” dialogue techniques are worthy of praise. This was before you could do the same effect in half the time, with a fraction of the mess and risk with AfterEffects. The lighting was dark and hazy, possibly in an attempt to draw attention away from the low-rent sets. With that said, I feel it worked pretty well their advantage.

"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (Feature)
Dir: Luis Bunuel
Premier: 1972
Viewed: 4/12/09

This movie had interesting choices for the plot. It was a bit difficult to follow, but for Luis Bunuel, I was expecting something off-center. I heard of this guy from Art History 3, and how he worked with Salvador Dali. That information was repeated in Film History 1. It was to be repeated again in Film History 2. The ghost stories were unexpected, especially the one of the bloody sergeant. I couldn’t really tell at a certain point which story was the true story.

The Characters were superfluous to their own stories, which I guess is how they should be in this film. They talk constantly, when all they say is really small talk lost in so much polite jargon. The fact that the “fabricated” moments were so similar cinematically to the true moments made it really hard to separate the two and comfortably follow the plot. By the end of it all I couldn’t even tell if the characters were alive or not. They were walking down a road at the end shot, which leads me to believe they continue down their helix of a life.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sinking the Boat!

"Putney Swope" (feature)
Dir: Robert Downey Sr.
Premier: 1969
Viewed: 4/3/09
Review: As it turns out the story of Putney Swope was also a satire of Robert Downey Sr.’s early work environment. There was a line where one employee asks his boss for a raise. The boss explains that if he gives the worker a raise, he’ll have to give the other workers a raise. And if he gave the others a raise, etc. Apparently that was a line directly lifted from Downey Sr.’s boss decades ago, when a black worker asked for a raise.

The film was in black and white, which was strange since the commercials were in full color. I found out in the special features that the voice for Putney Swope was actually Robert Downey Sr.! The actual actor was often too quiet and kept forgetting his lines. As a joke one of the crew members said that the director could do the ADR himself if it simply doesn’t work. Smash cut to the premier, where Putney’s voice sounds strangely familiar…

Chowder: "The Party Cruise" (tv series)
Dir: Eddy Houchins
Premier: 4/2/09
Viewed: 4/07/09

Monday, April 6, 2009

"And day breaks, and the night bird calls out."

"Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" (feature)
Dir: Mamoru Oshii
Produced: Toshio Suzuki (Studio Ghibli)
Premier: 2004
Viewed: 4/3/09
Comment: The film was finally given a decent DVD release since Dreamworks' gaffe back in 2005. A lot of this blog is a reference to "GitS" in one form or another. It happens to be one of my all-time favorite animated franchises. It's heavily influenced by films like "Blade Runner". I saw this dubbed, and was glad I did. During the theatrical release, I was too busy reading the heavy and layered script at the bottom to notice the famous visuals. I didn't even recognize half of the shots... The English voice cast was the same from the rest of the franchise, which I consider a personal favor.

And now for some name-dropping! As it turns out, Steven Speilberg aquired the rights to the franchise for live-action. I should've known from the Dreamworks release, but I'm glad things worked out that way. Especially after seeing "Minority report" and "A.I.".