2/28 Aging in Cassavetes’ Opening Night

In 1977, the same year Star Wars was setting box office records; independent film pioneer John Cassavetes released his film Opening Night. Cassavetes distinctive storytelling style brings the emotional crisis of a middle aged actress coming to terms with her age and past to life. After witnessing the death of a young fan, actress Myrtle Gordon confronts her personal turmoil’s as she deals with conflicts in her career. Characteristic of the director’s work, the film utilizes cinema-verite documentary style cinematography charting her struggle in a realistic way (Cassavetes).
In a pivotal scene the writer of the play in which Myrtle has been starring, confronts her about her inability to successfully play the role. Myrtle reveals the issues she has playing a character experiencing menopause and emotions of a much older woman then the actress is in reality. The 65 year old playwright has difficult understanding Myrtle’s inability to properly feel the role and believes she is trying to deny the fact that she is growing older. Myrtle defends her resistance to playing the role by expressing her fear that if she successfully plays the role the public will see her as an older actress and her acting opportunities will be greatly limited. She desires to bring her emotions more to the surface she believes the young girl that died in the accident encompasses.
As this scene illustrates, Myrtle’s struggle addresses fear that actresses have of aging and the limits it will place on their career. Furthermore, it conveys a universal nostalgia for one’s youth which is viewed by Myrtle as a time when she could access her emotional artistic energy easily, as age has buried her feelings deeper within. In another clip in which Cassavetes talks about the film, he rants about why people should go to see an unconventional film like Opening Night. He contends that the film is about everyone’s desire to express their emotions theatrically.

Avengers and Point Break

Hey everyone. So today I was sitting in a theater watching the tent-pole superhero film of the summer (gasp! what ever could it be?), when our dear hero Tony Stark referred to  Thor as “Point Break.” I nearly choked on my popcorn and was the only person in the whole theater who laughed.

The legend of Bodhi and Johnny Utah lives on. And thanks to this class, I can be in on the joke.

Have a great summer everybody.

4/24 Cinema’s Ever-Present Past

Today’s class we started off watching the opening to the Todd Haynes film “I’m Not There” raising issues of identity.  In the film multiple actors portray the legendary rock icon Bob Dylan each depicting a different aspect of his life and personality.  Depicting many facets that make up Dylan’s persona with, Cate Blanchett’s personification perhaps the most interesting of all, challenges the nature of having fixed identity. 

       Next we discussed the Jenkin’s reading discussing modern uses of technology in educational contexts.  The presentation’s overarching questions dealt with the ways technology can be used for student’s to participate in an educational environment by creating an interactive atmosphere. 

   The next presentation covered the McGowen’s analysis of David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” through Lacanian psychoanalysis.  McGowen emphasizes the distinction between the levels of fantasy and desire that film exists on.  The first part of the film exists mainly in the fantasy world of the character Betty and is characterized by positivity.  The second half is the harsh reality of the world of her desires.  Throughout the essay McGowen discusses how the film fits into the classic Hollywood cinema emphasizing the distinctions Lynch makes between elements of storytelling filmmakers have historically blended together.   

4/3 Bruno’s Recitation: Indie’s Heyday

   Our discussion of the growth of independent cinema in the early 1990s began by talking about two documentaries about the life of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.  The conversation focused on the way that America’s first “female serial killer” was discussed in the media especially in terms of gender.  Her story fascinated the media going on to inspire many different book and movie topics just as Wuornos herself prophesized in her last interview before her execution.  Her legacy raises a number of questions about the effects of her being a woman–furthermore a lesbian woman–has on the way her story is portrayed in popular culture. 

      We went on to analyze the ways in which independent films reach an audience. What does it mean to fill a niche audience opposed mainstream appeal?  What subjects can indie films explore the studio system believes would alienate a wide audience?  To illustrate this point we watched a clip from the Todd Haynes film “Happiness” in which a father character talks to his son about “cumming.”  The context of the scene that makes it even more disturbing is that the father is a pedophile unbeknownst to his family. 

  Next we talked about issues of masculinity in “Boys Don’t Cry” related to the way Brandon’s “performance” as a man effects those around him.  Brandon’s murder can largely be seen as a result of him conning those around him and insulting the masculinity of the men that commit kill him. 

Rebels on the Backlot Presentation Summary

I’m terribly sorry for the tardiness, I’ve had this this whole time i promise I just completely forgot to upload it as instructed. I was supposed to present this in class but came to class 15 minutes late and missed my allotted time-slot.

Rebels on the Backlot by Sharon Waxman

Spike Jonze

-Being John Malkovich. Began under Polygram entertainment.

-Producer Lance Acord fended off Producing Chief Matt Kuhn.

-Eventually, in early 1999, Matt Kuhn lost his job. Polygram sold to USA films.

-Did not hear from execs in months. Malkovich was project under USA films under Universal.

-Jonze used the same key crew members he had used for all his previous work.

-Low-key and relaxed atmosphere. Jonze’s brother a PA.

-Tunnel carted 6 different locations.

-First assembly 4 hours long.

-Took 9 months to edit as Jonze went on to act in Three Kings.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura

-Mid 1990s, Traditional blockbusters started becoming less cost-effective. Rising star pay-checks.

-A co-head of production at Warner Bros.

-Opened doors for The Wachowski Brothers and David O’Russell.

Wachowski Brothers

-First Script, Assassins got picked up by di Bonaventura.

-Script fell into the hands of Director Dick Donner and Sylvester Stallone. Movie was a flop.

-Pushed di Bonaventura to sign a 4 script deal with Wachowskis, in effort to be more protective

-Pitched the Matrix in a time where email was barely comprehensible to studio execs.

-Execs placed faith in di Bonaventura’s passion.

-Marketed as action film. Matrix garnered $400 million worldwide.

-Spent Eighteen months doing research and writing Three Kings.

-Secured funding with the help of di Bonaventura.

-Warner Bros. loved Clooney, David O’Russell felt he couldn’t act.

-Studios disliked his decisions, including casting of Spike Jonze.

-Shooting on Ektachrome.(gives weird color palette)

-Shooting schedule was tight, Clooney was shooting ER throughout the week when he wasnt working on Three Kings.

-Spike Jonze would fly out to edit John Malkovich on the weekends.

-O’Russell would make up shots on the go. Tension was very high.

-Escalated at O’Russell getting hands on with an extra who was supposed to push Ice Cube.

David Fincher

-100 day shoot for fight club

-People began to notice that extras and stunt doubles were constantly walking out of the soundstage with fake blood and bruises.

-Fincher wanted 30 takes of fight scenes.

-Practiced bare-knuckle fighting for bare-knuckle fight scenes. Actors and doubles all ended up with broken ribs and dislocated fingers.

-Spiritual experience forPitt and Norton. Found that they were getting the same injuries.

-Right before release of Fight Club, overshadowed by Columbine, started debate on Hollywood Marketing violence to teenagers.

-Execs were appalled when Fincher screened Fight Club for the first time. Fincher thought the movie was funny.

-Fincher felt that being a studio exec meant that they did not have a shred of creativity within them.

-Did not make the effort to converse with the execs.

-Came up with his own trailers. Fake Public Service announcements.

Conclusion

-Critics hated Fight Club, brought in only $1 million opening weekend. Called immoral and irresponsible.

-Critics loved Three Kings. Called brilliantly subversive.

-Fincher envious of this. However, Three Kings wasn’t nominated for anything.

-Being John Malkovich nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Made no money.

Jaap’s Recitation 5/2

Apologies for the tardiness! Finals week and all.

Jaap started off the recitation by showing us a clip from the original movie Tron. Although a couple of us in class were scoffing at how ridiculous it looked, Jaap was quick to remind us that it was the very first film that used actual CGI, which in retrospect was pretty great, particularly the sound design that went with it that really made the crappy models come to life.

We discussed the ethics surrounding the advent of CGI, and how the previous stigma of everything in front of the camera being real and true had been shattered with its invention.

Jaap then compared the clip to another clip from Speed Racer, a present day film that used a lot of CGI. The topic of 3D was brought up. A majority of the class really disliked 3D and felt like it was cheap and that it added nothing to the value of any films. One person said that good cinematography can do anything that 3D can without having 3D involved. Some speculated that 3D was just a passing phase and that its novelty would wear off fairly quickly.

After the Stephen Prince presentation, we talked about Zodiac and how even it(being a film rooted in realism and involving basically no elements of fantasy or sci-fi) employed the use of CGI to replicated buildings and such. We then went around the room and talked about our favorite and least favorite films that we’ve seen in class and wrapped a wonderful semeseter.

Bruno’s 4:55 Recitation, 4/18

My apologies. This is inexcusably late.

Bruno began recitation that day with a clip from Bowling for Columbine. It dealt greatly with the notion that the media is responsible for the incredible amount of fear in America. After the clip we had a discussion about whether Moore developed a sound argument/what problems the film and clip might have had. Some believed that Moore manipulates facts in order to create leftist propaganda. Others agreed but thought that at the same time he does create an interesting dialog between what the media does and what he does. Others argued that it is not Michael Moore’s responsibility to create a fair and balanced film, that task is more left for journalists. Moore is creating a point of view, and a persuasive one at that.

People argued that the issue here is not that Moore should make his films differently, it is the perception his films garner. People believe them as fact. His films are widely accepted and embraced by leftists. Once again, is this the artist’s responsibility? Is Moore being hypocritical? Or does he know exactly what he is doing? One thing is for certain: Moore’s films are widely accepted because they are simply so accessible. He is essentially a Hollywood filmmaker.

Next was the Waxman reading presentation. The piece dealt mostly with the rise of powerful films being made through the hollywood system between the years 1998 and 2001.

A major moment in the events leading up to this was Polygraph folding after being sold to Universal. This was important because Polygraph produced many independent films. Being John Malkovich, a script by a then unknown Charlie Kaufman, gets sent over to Universal, and ends up under the radar for some time.

Shortly after this, what ensues is an interesting balance between independent and  old hollywood style films forming a delicate balance with one another in the film industry. Subversive films are greenlit, and then studios try to extract any subversive qualities from them. We also see a good deal of new unique directors rise to the forefront and get away with a lot with their films. Spike Jonze had a growing reputation as a livewire on set, with an unusual directing style. David O. Russel makes Three Kings and begins to have a reputation of being brilliant but often abrasive. With the film Traffic, director Steven Soderbergh is shockingly allowed to photograph his own film. Also, David Fincher’s Fight Club gets made and is filled with an incredible amount of violence for a mainstream film.

After this clip, Bruno then screened a clip from Fight Club, and we discussed its themes of how consumer culture lessens individuality.

As time was running out in class, we had another quick reading presentation for the Brutalized Bodies article. The article primarily discussed how films Like Fight Club and American Psycho are problematic with the subjects they attempt to address. Ultimately, they take advantage of anxiety and are gimmicky because they are really tackling much simpler issues like masculinity.

Then we ran out of time and didn’t really get to discuss American Psycho. Sorry this is so late!