Author Archives: tomsontee

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.


-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.

Jaap’s Recitation at 12:30pm: 3/28

Jaap opened the class with a film from the classic “Back to the future”. In the clip, Doc unveils his time Machine to Marty, and makes his dog the first time-travelling organism in this history of the human race. Their celebration is cut short however when the Libyans show up in search of Doc, looking for compensation for the plutonium that Doc stole from them in order the make the time machine.

Jaap went on to lead a discussion in class about how this film is characteristically a 1980s blockbuster. One of the bigger points he brought up was the racial contrast between the good guys and the bad guys. The Libyans are the foreigners, the people we find ourselves rooting against even though Doc had technically stolen their property. They are also cast in a negative light right from the get-go by requesting that Doc make them nuclear weapons, which he of course was unwilling to do. This justifies our distaste for them and naturally causes us to cheer on Doc and Marty in their escape.

Jaap also discussed the fascination of technology clearly present in 80s Blockbusters, such as Back To The Future and Star Wars

We then had a presentation on the Sklar reading, discussing the culture of 80s blockbusters, primarily the culture of franchising movies and turning them into action figures, comic books and so on. They also discussed how for a period of time, the ripped and hard-bodied male(Rambo, Rocky, The Terminator) was deemed as ideal. But that quickly gave way to more relatable and ordinary characters such as Marty in “Back To The Future”.

They also discussed the advent of the multiplex, which allowed for the highest profits as they could screen films that catered to all different types of tastes.

Following a screening of the gory genesis of Robocop, we discussed how we saw again the recurring theme of fantastical technology, but opening it up with a somewhat moral question as we see him barely conscious and aware of the scientists in the police department discussing how he was legally dead and his body was official their property.

I followed that with a presentation on Robin Wood’s essay, discussing how many big films of the 80s were very simple in plot, and were prone to just take you from one step to the next to the next. Audiences began to be babied and people favored such linear plots to more difficult films such as Scorsese’s “The King Of Comedy”, as seen by box office sales.

We wrapped up the recitation by discussing “Body Double”, and how it clearly parodies several other films, such as the famous rotating dolly shot, but making it ridiculous by doing it way too fast and for way too long.




3/21 Jaap’s recitation 12:30 – 1:45

Jaap opened up the class with a clip of Rocky, and postulated to the class that there is a racial subtext to the fact that Rocky’s ultimate adversary, Apollo is black and clearly labelled as the antagonist while Rocky is white and is who the audience naturally sides with. Some people in class agreed. Others were a little more skeptical.

One person astutely pointed out that boxing is a sport that is often dominated by the working class of it’s time, be it the Irish, Black, and now Hispanic races. Said person argued that at the time of Rocky’s release, the boxing world was dominated mostly by Black athletes and the choice of having Apollo be black was more likely to be a reflective of the time, rather than racist.

Following a hilarious clip of Eddie Murphy’s standup about Italian’s seeing Rocky, we were given an excellent presentation of the racial undertones of Batman. The presentation detailed how, had certain batman villains been black rather than white, it would have been so blatantly racist that people would have spoken up. The Joker’s costume for example, is in clear resemblance of a ghetto pimp suit.

After another informational presentation about black exploitation in film and an exposition on the meaning behind sweetback, we watched the intro scene of Malcolm X. Jaap informed the class that although well put-together, many critics deemed the introductory scene as unnecessary and unrelated to the rest of the movie. The class however, unanimously agreed that the scene very much added to the rich-ness of Malcolm X’s character, and seeing him in his environment when he was younger made him more relatable as a genuine human being.



Afterschool is an experimental narrative that follows Robert(played by Ezra Miller), a troubled teen who struggles to fit in to his elite East Coast boarding school.

Robert becomes increasingly obsessed with the need to feel real human moments, and does so gradually from watching shock porn to increasingly dramatic gestures, which implies mental instability by the end of the film.