Category Archives: Introduction

5/2 4:55

Our final recitation of the semester began with that irritable Ryan Trecartin short, titled “Tommy Chat Just Emailed Me”, followed by the presentation on Wayne Koestenbaum’s article. I still can’t get over that it has 45,000 views on youtube, or the fact that Bruno had to watch it three times in one day.


We, then, focused on this week’s topic of digital special effects, beginning with David Fincher’s use of it in Zodiac. We suggested the idea that perhaps, with the mise-en-scene used, and without the dating of the crimes, the special effects, and the known actors, audiences would believe that this film was actually made forty years ago.


Moving onto the ending of Speed Racer. Is this a huge step into the future of cinema? At  many times, the shots weren’t even filmed with a camera. With talking heads being used as wipes, and very exclusive camera positions, or lack-thereof, CGI could be the birth of a new era in film.


But then we discussed if audiences will in fact enjoy this new style of filmmaking. Some viewers complained of the new Hobbit film, shot at 48/fps, saying that it was too real.


We also briefly went into the problems of preservation of films in the future. Now that VHS is obsolete, we can’t help but wonder when the next generation of technology will cause issues with transferring our current works over.


We wrapped up the class with the presentation of Stephen Prince’s article on film theory and digital imaging and a brief discussion on the recent craze over 3D films. Hope you all have a nice summer.


The Boondock Saints

This is a clip from Troy Duffy’s 1999 film “The Boondock Saints.” This film has always interested me from a film culture point of view as it was met so overwhelmingly with negative reviews, and yet generally loved and well received by audiences. The film itself doesn’t exactly deal with a broad cultural zeitgeist in the way that “The Manchurian Candidate” does, but rather a small subset of the population in the Irish area of Boston. Being a Boston native myself, I’m always interested in the way the city and its’ streets are portrayed. It is true that Boston is widely regarded as having one of the most corrupt and ineffective police systems in the country, thus understandably lending itself to the subject matter of many films from “The Town” to “Mystic River” to “Gone Baby Gone.” However “Saints” presents the question of ethics; if a few regular citizens take on the job of patrolling the streets in the way that the police are not – choosing who lives and who dies based on their own debatably Irish Catholic system of morality – are they in the right? This scene serves as a good indication of that struggle, as the violent brutality of their acts of revenge are contrasted both with the picturesque images of suburbia (albeit a blood stained utopia), with William H. Macy’s tempered false recollections of the events as they transpired, and with the incredibly gruesome images of the mobsters deaths. 

Animatrix – A Kid’s Story, Freedom or Paranoia?

From one of my favorite animated series, ‘A Kid’s Story’ follows the character of a teenager in the Matrix, after the events of the first Matrix film. Though the short was directed by a Japanese filmmaker, it was written by the great American directors, the Wachowski brothers, and is one of nine animated shorts in the Animatrix collection.

Briefly put, the video follows the story of an unnamed ‘Kid’ as he becomes aware of the Matrix. The frustrated teenager feels that there is something strange about the world, and comments on his dreams being realer than the world he lives in. For those who are familiar with the Matrix trilogy, it is apparent that the kid gets in contact with Neo, ultimately setting himself free from the Matrix, and entering the real world.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Matrix, the kid seems…well, delusional. The animated short does a great job of toying with themes of paranoia and suicidal obsession, forcing us into the mind of this confused teenager. The combination of a disconcerting aesthetic, and robotic voice overs, makes us believe that this kid is unable to view the world like the people around him. At the ‘Kid’s’ funeral, we hear comments that his suicide was a ‘typical mental delusion’ and that ‘reality can be a pretty scary thing to some people.’ The irony is that his insanity was in fact more rational than the narrow perspectives of those around him.

My initial response to the video was to consider what mental illness really is? If this kid is mentally ill, then mental illness must be relative, and not an absolute state. What do you guys think?

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning psychological thriller Black Swan(2010) seemed very much related to the mental illness we saw in Manchurian Candidate. Black Swan tells a story of a ballerina, Nina, who suffers from the pressure to achieve perfect performance with the dual leads in Swan Lake. Her fragile disposition well suits her role of White Swan but is less powerful in acting out the sensual Black Swan. Nina’s obsession over perfection causes her to struggle with her inner demon, eventually blurring the line between the reality and fantasy. In the end, her subconscious fantasy overtakes her reality, having stabbed herself instead of her rival dancer.

This is the scene in which Nina realizes that she has been dominated by her subconscious and that she has stabbed herself with a broken piece of mirror. Raymond and Nina share a common trait in that they harbor another identity which they are not aware of and that subconsious state of mind comes out randomly, taking control of the physical body. This subconcsious mind is followed by self-destructive behavior, having Nina stab herself and Raymond commit suicide. Moreover, the ultimate end the two tragic characters face also resemble each other. Nina fixes her make-up after realizing that she has been mixing reality with her fantasy and then dances her supposedly last performance, ending the finale by throwing herself off the cliff. Similarly, Raymond wears the Medal of Honor after assassinating his stepfather and mother and commits a suicide by shooting himself. Nina fixing her make-up and Raymond wearing the medal both serve as unique scene that displays how the mentally ill characters face their end. Both Nina and Raymond exemplify how subconscious mind threatens to overtake the sanity and eventually lead to self-destructive conclusion.

Across The Universe – Strawberry Fields Forever

“Across The Universe“ is a 2007 film directed by Julie Taymor. It is a fictional love story set in the 1960s amid the turbulent years of anti-war protest, the struggle for free speech and civil rights, mind exploration and rock and roll. At once gritty, whimsical and highly theatrical, the story moves from high schools and universities in Massachusetts, Princeton and Ohio to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Detroit riots, Vietnam and the dockyards of Liverpool. A combination of live action and animation, the film is accompanied with many creative interpretations of songs by the Beatles that defined the time.

In this scene, one can observe the three protagonists Jude, Lucy and Max. They feel alienated, disillusioned about their unsuccessful protests against the war, lonesome and aimless. I think that the editing and the multiple layers in one shot are fantastic. The director used to be a painter, too, and in my opinion the mixture of animations, drawings on the material and documentary elements of the war evoke an eclectic representation of that time. In another scene in the film, Max and other Vietnam soldiers carry the statue of liberty through the devastated Vietnam War landscape singing the line “She´s so heavy“, a line from the song “I want you (She’s So Heavy). It symbolizes the younger generation’s frustration with American Imperialism and ridiculous orders from the authorities. All in all, I think that the film employs a creative and innovative approach in depicting the 1960s in the U.S. and the state of mind of the younger generation at that time.

The Deer Hunter

An emotionally heartbreaking look at the Vietnam War and its tragic affects on a community, The Deer Hunter (1978) focuses on a small industrial town in the U.S.A. that is greatly changed by the war.  The film focuses on a group of friends whose lives are altered drastically for the worse after being drafted for the war.  It is both iconic for its historical look back to this era, as well as its sentimental and personal look into the lives of the men who fought in it.  Whether it is an anti-war film or a pro-war film can be argued strongly.  In an extremely haunting and eerie ending, the group of friends who still remain sing “God Bless America” as the film comes to a conclusion.  Either way the pain and anguish portrayed through powerful acting from Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and the rest of the cast depicts exactly what the film intends to; the horrible affects the war had.  The importance of this film lies in its history as well as its mental approach.

The russian roulette scene above is possibly the most iconic of the film.  In it De Niro as well as Walken’s character are faced with what seems to be certain death.  After luckily escaping bullets on their first two attempts with the game, De Niro now then has the ability to take out each one of his enemies.  A couple important things for the movie come out of this scene.  The strong hatred for their Vietnamese enemies is created, as well as this being the scene that utterly changes everything for the characters.  Mentally, Walken’s character can’t and doesn’t ever get over the traumatic moments that had occurred here.  The mood for this scene is built up and intensified with the close up shots, as well as the repeated screams of the main Vietnamese attacker.  You are emotionally drawn to wanting and almost needing both Americans to survive.  When Walken manages to escape death by finding the last empty chamber in the gun, he lets out a cry of happiness almost.  It is an epic scene in the movie, as well as in film history.

The Machinist

In Brad Anderson’s dark psychological drama, an emaciated Christian Bale plays Trevor Resnick, a man in the midst of a psychotic breakdown. Like most people who have lost their minds, Trevor is oblivious to what is happening to him, yet paranoid about other things which seem to be of little consequence in comparison to his obviously failing health. With his shrunken and vacant appearance, it is obvious that Trevor Resnick is wasting away not only physically, but mentally as well. Anderson illustrates this loss of lucidity by painting his film’s canvas with a strikingly dull and gaudily fluorescent palette. The garish lighting only makes the curves of Trevor’s ribcage and bruised eye stand out all the more, as the audience witnesses Trevor’s sanity slowly slip away.

In this particular scene, Trevor—paranoid and delusional—seems to have found a photograph of a certain mysterious and malevolent man he has seen on multiple occasions—one whom no one else seems to also be able to see—in the apartment of the woman he is dating. By showing us the photo from Trevor’s perspective—with the mystery man in place—we experience his frustration and confusion at the revelation that it is in fact a photo of himself that he is looking at. It’s not a good feeling to realize you’re seeing things that aren’t really there, and with this use of pathos Anderson offers the audience a chance to feel sympathy—and possibly even empathy—for his anti-hero.