Film Analysis: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Posted onDecember 11, 2010 
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The film that is of subject here is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which debuted in 1956 and was directed by Don Siegel.  One of the best science fiction films of all time, this story captured the attention of numerous critics and is well known to have had one of the best remakes as well.  This only further proves what a great story “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is as remakes often fail in their attempts to live up to the original.  The scene I felt encompasses the entire story into a short amount of time is one of the last in the film, in which the main character, Dr. Miles Bennell portrayed by Kevin McCarthy is attempting to escape from his town of Santa Mira that has been overrun with pod people.  As he runs, he attempts to stop the new, incoming residents and warn them of the take over and that humans no longer live their.  Instead, he is simply looked at as a drunk who is out of his mind and is getting in the way of their activities. This scene develops in such a way that it forces the audience to focus on the serious matter that has taken over this small town.  It captures the reactions from the beginning to the end of the film in one small scene and through the camera angles and quick shots, the sensitivity in viewers is raised almost so that we can feel what the actor is feeling.

The scene begins with the main character, Dr. Bennell running from the “Pod People” who have inhibited the bodies of his former friends, acquaintances and colleagues.  As this section of the scene develops we see three seperate shots.  The first is a medium shot of Dr. Bennell which depicts his fear and disbelief of the situation as he stumbles onto a main road.  The director then switches to a long shot which shows Bennell running towards cars that are heading in toward the overtaken town.  Finally, the third shot reverts back to a medium shot, depicting the pod people that are chasing him and discussing how their is no need to worry because no one will believe what he says.  After this, we see a quick long shot that changes the focus back to Dr. Bennell and then a long take of a medium shot in which Bennell is trying to convince the drivers passing by that they should not enter the town of Santa Mira.  As this take develops it lasts for about 30 seconds and allows the audience to see not only the frustration that Dr. Bennell is dealing with the but fear he has for human life.  The camera angles are used in a height advantage, in so that the audience is seeing from a top view the interactions Dr. Bennell is having with the cars and passengers that are passing by.  At this point we are realizing the fruitless efforts he is having and how many people he is attempting to stop without any recognition from the whatsoever.  As his desperation increases he attempts to stop more and more cars but is unable to do so. Once again, the scene switches back to a medium shot of the “Pod People” reminding the audience that they are counting on the incoming people to look at Dr. Bennell as psychotic and they were right in their prediction.  After a couple seconds focusing on the “Pod People” once again the director takes us back to Bennell, in a medium shot, who is now jumping on moving cars trying to grab their attention in any way possible.  As this continues he gets yelled at by numerous passersby until we hit the climactic point of this scene.  A medium shot of Bennell is taken as he runs to the back of a truck, as he jumps onto the back of it, we are taken into a closeup of his face in which we see a reaction shot as his eyes open widely in disbelief.  After this, we are taken to a closeup of the back of the truck which is filled with Pods.  After this, we are again taken back to the closeup, reaction shot of Bennell as he leaps off the truck.  His desire to influence these people has once again gone up and as the camera switches to a medium, low angled shot we see Bennell flailing his arms and screaming in disablieif that the Pod People are taking over and will capture anyone that “we care about.”  The final piece of this scene brings us to a closeup of Bennells face, which is filled with fear and disbelief in the fact that he can’t convince anyone of the “truth.”  Finally we are left with a long, high angled shot of the cars passing by Bennell as he screams “you’re next” over and over without any reaction from the passersby.

In addition to the shots that were taken to heighten the senses of the audience, the way in which it was done, including the setting and the actors depicted advances these feelings much more.  The scene takes place in the rural entrance to the small town that Dr. Bennell resides in.  Since we know he is essentially the last human left from the town, he has now become the last possible savior and as he attempts to save the new incomers, the anger grows because no one will listen to him.  The setting which not only depicts the cars being stopped by Bennel but also, the traditional white picket fence that outline the town the the long winding road leading to the potential destruction of the human race.  The director did an admirable job in encompassing all these aspects into such a short section of the film, raising not only the anticipation in the audience but the desire for Bennell to convince these people that they are driving towards the end of their lives.

This scene was the one that drove home the entire point of the film.  As a conclusion does, it summed up the previous occurences in the film as we realize the Bennell is the last human left and has become known to be psychotic by other humans.  The best part about this scene was the ways in which it relates back to happenings at the beginning of the film.  When the Dr. first comes into contact with patients who are evidently dealing with the takeover of the pod people, he just believes they have been stricken with some sort of disease or virus.  He tries to fix their issues by giving them pills instead of actually believing what they say.  At this point in the film, Bennell is the one that no one will believe and he is trying to convince others that he is serious in his accusations.  The audience sees the film come full circle and the way in which the director portrays it is in near perfection.

Reflection On: Bonnie & Clyde

Posted onDecember 10, 2010 
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Far and away my favorite movie of the semester (besides Psycho but I’m not counting that since I’ve seen it a million times).  It felt like this movie went  by in a blink, I really enjoyed it that much.  I love the way it incorporated not only action but relevant, in  depth dialogue as well.

One of the most intriguing things about this film, in my opinion, was the cast as well.  The two main stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were flanked by Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder.  The only one of these actors who was even an established name at that point was Warren Beatty.  This film not only put him on the star map but all of the others as well who would go on to have great Hollywood careers, arguably two of the best ever for Beatty and Dunaway.

What amazed me the most was how the character of Clyde had trouble with his sex life.  Because Beatty was not as well known at the time as he would become, this character trait went over perfectly with audiences and was completely believable.  However, I wonder, had this film been made a couple years later, after Beatty would become known as one of the most sexually active actors , if not the most, how believable this trait would have been.

Dunaway’s career seemed to catch wildfire right after this film was released.  Starring in classics like Chinatown, The Thomas Crown Affair and winning an oscar for Network, she became an actress to admire.  If you watch her in the role of Bonnie though and see some of her late films as she matured it is easily recognizable that she was still an amateur at this point.  I recently watched a film that she was in with Angelina Jolie called “Gia.”  Although she is much older at this point it is easy to see what skill and range she has as an actress.

Anyways I’ll leave it at that and don’t be surprised if in a few years we see the remake of Bonnie and Clyde.  Could definitely see Johnny Depp taking on the main role.  I’m not a big fan of remakes but it would sure be one I would look forward to as the good original content today is few and far between.  Let’s just hope it’s half as good as the original!

PEACE

Reflection On: La Jetee

Posted onDecember 8, 2010 
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I know I’m a little late to the party here.  I was absent on the day we watched this film in class so I caught it on my own and man did I love it.  First off, I can’t stand long movies so this was right down my ally, 28  minutes and right to the point.  The film was also extremely captivating in its montage style and the plotline was surprisingly awesome.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a film that is quite like this one and this is the type of so-called “experimental” films I believe to be relevant.  The montage style that director Chris Marker used almost reminded me of a graphic novel in story form.  I think that if you had printed out all those images and taken the blurbs the narrator was saying that you could have had one great comic.

One of the most interesting things I think this film proved is the fact that any type of film can be entertaining with the proper story.  At first glance many people would likely not even give “La Jetee” a chance due to the difference in style.  However, once given a chance, the story provides quite an apocalyptic psychological thriller.

It reminded me of a comic book version of the film 12 Monkeys with Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis.  All in all, a wonderful film experience that exceeded the original expectations that I had set for it.  Have to keep reminding myself not to judge a film before I see it!

PEACEEE

Reflection On: Experimental Cinema

Posted onDecember 1, 2010 
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To begin, I am not exactly a huge fan of independent cinema.  I find much of it difficult to understand and as I plan on going into the business side of entertainment, it’s hard to see much money coming from any of this.  I realize that the majority of these films were done for artistic representation and not for monetary purposes.  However, I just don’t feel that some of them should be releveant in today’s society.

My first example of this regards the film “Mothlight.”  Although “Mothlight” may be an exception as it was the first of its kind, it astounds me that this type of so-called film making  does not really take much skill.  If anything it takes patience and time, something, which I admit few of us have but if given could produce something similar.  Contributions in art are relative to each person and their view, however, this is just my opinion and I do not find the pleasure in studying films such as these.

The film “Mothlight” reminded me of a drawing at an art museum that I visited on one of my trips to Washington D.C.  The museum was filled with modern art and one of the “drawings” was of a clock.  It was drawn with a red crayon and was as simple as it sounds, just a red circle with red numbers on the inside.  I was young when I saw this and I still remember to this day turning to my dad and asking him why that was in the museum and he honestly had no idea.  The way I felt about the clock drawing is similiar to the way I felt when we watched “Mothlight” and “Meshes of the Afternoon.”  Both of these films have been studied extensively and given awards for their creative and experimental tactics so maybe it’s just me who’s missing the point but as much as I try to see it I just can’t.

To keep this short and readable I won’t go into depth on my next point but, I did thoroughly enjoy one experimental film from the sequence we viewed.  This was “Kustom Kar Kommados” by Kenneth Anger.  Anger’s film not only brought sense in a class filled with mystery but also I felt showed the true path that led to music videos.  This is the kind of experimental film that is simple to understand and enjoy because it has a purpose.  Not every film method can be experimented with through the feature style, therefore, directors like Anger create short films to test out the success and appeal of these methods.

There’s much more I could talk about on this topic as I am quite passionate, however each person has their own opinion and maybe some of you can see more in most of these films than I can.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them.

PEACE

Reflection On: Pather Panchali – Song of the Little Road

Posted onNovember 22, 2010 
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I felt that this film was comparable to Ozu’s “Early Summer.”  It focused on the little things in life rather than a bigger, and dare I say, more interesting plot line.  I do realize that this “Apu Trilogy” has become one of the most significant pieces of film culture to come from India, however I felt it lacked a true “Bollywood” feel.

Some of the things that were missing from this, in which I feel are the most attractive aspects of “Bollywood” were the colors (mainly due to the B&W) and the song/dance routines that are often featured.  Bollywood may sound like Hollywood but in reality the typical films from each have incredible differences.  The mainstreamed Hollywood films have become plots that can create attractive trailers and are mostly skin deep.  Very rarely do we see a Hollywood styled film that tackles ideals of such depth.  However, I have found that with many of the Bollywood films I watch, that they generally have incredibly complex storylines.  In addition, the films generally run around 3-4 hours and contain choreographed dances along with original songs and exuberant colors.

“Pather Panchali” did not embrace enough of these to feed “Bollywood” hunger as it really only delved into the complex storyline part.  In my opinion, Bollywood has so much more than regular films.  You can almost taste the culture by watching the typical films they create.

Reflection: Written on the Wind

Posted onNovember 8, 2010 
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Honestly, I sat here for about an hour and wrote 2 paragraphs about Written on the Wind.  I then erased the whole thing because I hated what I wrote and it just seemed so scripted or “essayish.”  No one on here wants to read a boring essay.

So I decided to just state my bluntly honest opinion about Sirk and the film that we watched.  In my opinion, Sirk’s films are quite captivating, and it’s also nice to have watched something in color 😉 .  I feel that his usage of color is somewhat over the top as are the personalities of the characters that he depicts throughout the story.  I’ve seen a few Sirk films and they all seem to be very similar, not only in the makeup of the mise-en-scene but in the intended messages as well.

In today’s society I think some of his films would be absolute failures and I think other’s would be successes.  I do believe that if Written on the Wind was made today it would be able to hold up and compete at the box office because it contains so many characters that have such strong and attractive personalities.

Anyways, I’m not much for writing today as for some reason my allergies are going insane and I can’t stop sneezing.  But I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this film!

PEACE

Adam B.

Reflection On: Early Summer

Posted onOctober 21, 2010 
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To begin, I was extremely disappointed in this choice of film to review our Japanese section of the course.  Last year, I actually had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan with an in depth look at their film industry.  The course I took not only studied Japanese film history but also allowed the students to meet some of the biggest directors and other creatives in their industry.

The film Early Summer was extremely boring in my opinion and was completely dragged out.  I realize that Ozu is someone who does not find plot as a necessary aspect of film, but there was certainly an attempt at one in this movie and it lacked any sort of creativity.  I understand that this was his point but to make a film that is 2+ hours and simply follows the lives of a few families who do not really have much going on besides a marriage crisis seems obscure to me.

Occasionally I see the point in why films are considered classics even if I do not enjoy them, such as “Birth of a Nation,” “Chinatown,” “Grapes of Wrath,” etc… However with the amount of movies coming out at this time in Japan and the numerous ones that actually could be considered classics, I am left wondering whether the acclaim was due more to the guy who directed it rather than to the actual context of the film.

After spending some time in Japan and taking a good look at their industry I have seen some films that I really consider great.  One of my favorite directors of all time (any movies, not only Japanese) is Seijun Suzuki.  Suzuki directed in an erratic manner with often surreal and non-accepted styles.  He got in major trouble with his studios and eventually ended up being dismissed and could not make films for numerous years.  The first film I ever saw by Suzuki was “Gate of Flesh,” which I highly recommend to everyone.  Further more if you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films, I’m sure you will love Suzuki.  He is someone that Tarantino has admittedly taken many techniques from and throughout Suzuki’s films you will find yourself saying “wow that’s so Tarantino.”  They are not only fun and riveting but also in-depth and creative.  I could go on for days about Suzuki but I will end here.

I think the reason I was looking forward to this class was because of the amount that I have studied Japanese film.  They have such a rich history there and have produced so many great films that we could have had the option of watching.  From Seven Samurai to Godzilla, to Gate of Flesh and Princess Mononoke it really is an endless list.

I was also surprised by the fact that we did not even briefly review over the Anime culture.  Although I am not interested in Anime (although there are some really great Anime movies) it is such a HUGE part of Japanese culture.  In addition, the transfer that Anime has made into the U.S. mainstream culture is fairly significant.  A few that I would recommend, to anyone, not just anime lovers is “Spirited Away,” and “Princess Mononoke.”

Anyways, I know long posts look intimidating and get boring to read and I could seriously write a complete analysis of my viewpoints on the Japanese film industry (I actually have already lol).  But if you have any questions or comments would love to hear them!

Just a note….the reason that I did not post on the film “Out of the Past” is because I truly did not enjoy it and am not a fan of Film Noir whatsoever.  Therefore I decided to keep my opinions generally to myself since my outlook is somewhat biased on these types of films.  I do believe they can portray great artistic traits from the directors but as a whole I don’t find this style to my liking.

Film Analysis: The Public Enemy

Posted onOctober 15, 2010 
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The film, The Public Enemy, directed by William Wellman (Warner Bros., 1931), portrays a scene in which Tom (James Cagney) argues with his brother Mike (Donald Cook) before he leaves for the war.  This scene depicts the simplicity of camera angles and shots during the time period, but also shows the importance of character direction and how much it relates to making a good film.   Wellman told this story in a simplistic, straightforward method which mainly focuses on delivering importance through dialogue and actions rather than artistic interpretation.  The film focuses around Tom and his struggle to find an identity in a time that was rampant with crime, economic trouble and shell-shocked war veterans.

During this time period in the United States, people were dealing not only with the great depression, but the ending of a war and gangs such as the mafia that ran much of the local cities operations.  As a citizen during these difficult times, many people find it hard to decide which path to take because the options are so limited.  The Powers family is no different as Mike opts to go to war, while Tom chooses a life of crime.

Tom is unlike his brother Mike in almost every way.  At a young age, he chooses to become involved in crime and over time this becomes all he knows and the crimes continuously get worse.  Instead of becoming an honest, hard working man that his brother hopes him to be, he becomes involved with one of the biggest gangsters of the time, Nails Nathan.  Since Tom is bringing home good money and helping to support his mother and there household he thinks what he is doing is correct.  However, Mike sees right through this and constantly tries to stop it and force him to become an honest family man.

The scene that is at focus here magnifies the entire film into a small scope as it not only shows the struggle that Tom faces in finding his identity, but also the influence of family upon him and the inferior role he plays to his brother.  The scene is portrayed in less than 5 separate shots.   Wellman did not try to trick the audience by using cutting or any sort of film manipulation, he instead wanted to display it very straightforward so we could see the relationship between Mike and Tom and how complicated it truly was.

As Tom enters the room, he sits down to talk to Mike who explains that he wants Tom to spend more time at home with their mother.  Immediately, Tom gets defensive and tries to explain how he needs to work and is not out enjoying himself.  Mike continues in his calm manner, however, shortly thereafter sets off Tom my telling him about a “rumor” that has been going around about him.  At this point, Mike subtly accuses Tom of being involved with dirty crime, and Tom becomes extremely angered, explaining that Mike should not believe everything he hears.  As the scene comes to a conclusion, we are shown Tom and Mike elevating there voices to the point where Mike punches Tom across the face and storms out of the room.  Tom does not retaliate but instead begins kicking the door repeatedly, until the screen fades to black, where we continue to hear a few more kicks.

There are only two points in which the camera angle changes in this scene.  The first is when the two brothers are arguing.  This is done to show the serious nature of the discussion between the two and the animosity that is occurring.  The other point is a close up with Tom’s foot when he is kicking the door.  At this point we only see the door and his foot and the back and forth motion that it is making.  I found this part of the scene as the most revealing.  The reason for this is because, throughout the course of the film, Tom shows no emotion or care for others.   The point at which he is kicking the door, I believe, shows the internal battle that Tom is facing.  He does know that what he is doing is wrong, and knows that his main priority should lie with his family, however, he also realizes that the kind of money that he gets from working in the crime business is nowhere near what he would make if he attempted to take part in an honest, blue-collar job.

Tom always acts as if he is below his brother.  Mike is not only the shell-shocked war hero, but has a good wife and is a stand up citizen.  The only way Tom seems to be able to compete with him is by providing money for the family.  From this scene, we not only see Tom’s internal struggle, but the external struggle he has in attempting to compete with Mike.  Initially, Tom stands up to him and defends himself, to the point where Mike punches him and there is no retaliation by Tom.  From the film, we are able to see how much of a hothead and angry man that Tom is, who also, never seems to back down from anyone.  However, at this point, Tom not only doesn’t hit Mike, he simply lets him go and continues to punish himself more by kicking the door.  Tom is alone in the world and realizes that he will never have the life his brother has and instead of the normal jealousy that people would display, he simply is angry at himself and continues to go on with his life of crime.

This scene is extremely vital to the film, not due to its theatrical portrayal but simply because of its dialogue and interaction between characters.  This is one of the few, if not only points in which we see Tom struggle with his identity.  Throughout the film, Tom often is seen as a confident, reckless gangster, however at this point, we see a side of him that rarely comes into view.  After this scene, Tom simply goes back to his reckless ways, even more so than before.  The direction of the characters by Wellman, allows for a minor insight into Tom and we realize that as cold and hard bodied as he seems throughout most of the film, he actually has feelings and is entangled in a tough situation where he sees only one resolution, to continue with his life of crime.

Reflection On: Umberto D

Posted onOctober 14, 2010 
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Umberto D was a captivating, artistic film, which was surprisingly enjoyable.  I am generally a fan of Italian Neo-Realist films, as I studied it for a semester, however my expectations were fairly low for this film because the plotline seemed tedious.  So many different aspects of this film were superb; the acting, set design, the direction, storyline.

As a fan of foreign cinema, I find it interesting how, throughout different time periods, certain cinemas have crossed over to near mainstream but not maintained there stay.  Currently, I enjoy Bollywood and Hong Kong cinema.  I think that they are #2 and 3 behind Hollywood as the largest film industries in the world.  Some films just find a time when they resonate with numerous audiences and that is what Italian Neo-Realist hit on.

Although Hollywood is currently the largest film industry in terms of revenue, I certainly don’t think they produce the most quality films.  Often when I watch films from Indian Cinema, Hong Kong or Spanish Cinema, I am blown away by there intense and in depth dialogue.  Although I do occasionally find a Hollywood film that I feel is strong in terms of originality and dialogue, these cinemas seem to produce them on a regular basis.  The great thing about many of these films is that they are often some of the biggest hits in there country as well.

It’s hard to believe but it seems the Golden Age of films in Hollywood is long past us and each time I watch a decent U.S. film I find myself wondering if we will ever again produce stars such as Bogart, Monroe, etc…

Reflection on: Citizen Kane

Posted onSeptember 30, 2010 
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Citizen Kane was not as good as I expected, however, I kind of saw that coming.  How can you live up to the expectations of being the greatest film of all time, especially to someone who has seen thousands.  To say it wasn’t good would be an offense to filmmakers everywhere so, off a first time viewing I’d probably give it a B-B+, which is pretty high.

I certainly see the possibility as well, that over time, and with some more viewings, I could really come to love this film.  It’s tough to grasp everything from a first time viewing.

My favorite aspect of the film was how it played off current time and told the story of someone’s life throughout the movie.  I feel like these types of sequences is what can make a movie great and truly expose a great actor in a part.  In this case, Orson Welles takes on Kane (or Hearst, however you want to look at it) and does a magnificent job of portraying him not only in his younger years but his older ones as well.

If this film was to be written today, as an agent I think i would only have to hear the premise to be instantly intrigued for one of my bigger clients.  The range that this film offers to its main star is something that is priceless.  Which brings me to wonder, what if this film had been written today, would it have even found its way to the big screen?  The heart in me wants to think yes, but the mind is saying doubtful.  To think of all those original scripts that float around Hollywood and are never made due to the money making minds of studios.

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