Monday, December 2, 2013

Space Assignment Test

Hello my dear class! Thank you for coming to this lovely test today. Here you will embark upon relaying back to me the extent of your knowledge in regards to the usage of space within film. You will have 1 hour to complete the test. I wish you luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Let the test begin!:

Before I ask you any questions, I'll give you a bit of help... here are examples of the four types of space in film. I won't tell you which is which, but, hey, it helps limit it down to something, does it not?! Thank me for my good-hearted nature, okay?





A. So there are four types of space... what are they?
1.  _____________
2.  _____________
3.  _____________
4.  _____________

B. Draw an example scene of each type of space. Include at least three depth queues for each type of space and label which depth queues you are using.

1.





2.





3.





4.






C. There are 5 types of surface divisions that we discussed... what are they?
1.  _____________
2.  _____________
3.  _____________
4.  _____________
5.  _____________

D. What is closed and open space and how do you achieve them?
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________


E. Why would a filmmaker use a specific type of space and use surface divisions?
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________


Great job, student! You have successfully completed the test. Have a lovely day and stay hydrated!


How it will be graded:
I will go through the answers and see if they got them correct. For the drawings I will be relying on their labeling as a means to determine their understanding. As you can imagine, sometimes drawing space can be very difficult, so I will not take points off for poor drawing skills.

Question A is worth 8 points (2 points an answer)
Question B is worth 12 points (3 points an answer)
Question C is worth 10 points (2 points an answer)
Question D is worth 5 points
Question E is worth 5 points
...Bringing us to an overall possible total of 40 points!


Monday, October 28, 2013

American Splendor: Cinematography reflecting the comic book style


"American Splendor," based off of the highly acclaimed comic book series, follows the average-everyday-man character of Harvey Pekar and spreads light upon how facing everyday struggles can amount to your average joe being a, well, hero! The cinematography of the film reflects the original form and nature of the story: the comic book-style.

In an article conducted through CreativePlanet, the cinematographer of American Splendor, Terry Stacey, talks about how he manipulated the film stock to give it a grittier 70s pop kind-of-feeling to reflect the style of a comic book. On top of that the colors are quite dull throughout the film, reflecting on the fact that this is the story about a real, normal, (occasionally somewhat dull) guy.

The color scheme of the film focuses on dulled out shades of the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. Occasionally in the film there were moments where they popped a bit more. For example, in Harvey's work place all of the files are lined with those colors and it amps up the monotony of his life. These primary colors are very reminiscent of your standard comic book.

The film occasionally cuts back to the documentary-style footage of the real Harvey Pekar. The setting is in a white room, amplifying the contrast of realty versus the retelling of reality. In the article the cinematographer stated:

"Eventually we decided it would be more interesting to shoot this material on 24P HD and composite it as if it were in a real comic book, with 'reality' floating in a white frame. It was a more sharp, surreal world, with that comic strip depth of field where everything's in focus."

Through the shot design we are continuously shown a contrast of the self-reflexive nature of a comic book. A few times in the film we see interludes that take place as a comic book and then real footage, again, showcasing the conversion of comic to film.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Queen: The Old Ways Versus The New


The Queen, a 2006 film directed by Stephen Frears, follows the struggle of the Queen to maintain and uphold her appeal to her people during a time of grief: Princess Diana has died. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, does his best to direct her towards a more modern approach. The main theme of this film is about letting go of old ways and making room for modern change. This is reflected quite well in the dichotomy of setting: the royal fancy lifestyle (The Queen's home) versus the public normal lifestyle (Tony Blair's home.)



The Queen lives in the royal palace, a large, expansive, proper home. Because of it's size, we get a feeling of just how sparse and lonesome it is to live there. In fact, that largeness which conveys loneliness reflects how the Queen is stuck in the same mindset of her childhood: she was destined for this lifestyle and has followed through with it, unchanging, and never knowing anything else.  At one point in the film the Queen states that hiding her feelings is all she has ever known. The concept of "being proper" and how it is reflected into the setting of the Queen's home can be paralleled to hiding her true self in order to appeal to onlookers. She is trapped in only knowing one way and she is hiding herself in her large, "protective," dominating home.






Tony Blair lives in your everyday middle class home. The setting is slightly cramped and chaotic due to his family lifestyle: he has a wife and kids. The interactions between the children and the home setting are much more natural and clumsy, but Tony and his wife are lenient towards this. This setting reflects how most people live and accentuates the disconnect between the Queen and her people. Additionally, the children who live in the royal palace are much more controlled- we never really see a crazy childlike moment present itself with the royal children. This is because they are confined with the properness (or in other words, confined by the inability to adapt). A home of slight clutter and disarray is comparable to a collection. When one collects, they continue to add new things, expanding their knowledge on a given topic or item. For Tony Blair and the rest of the public, their homes and lives are essentially collections of the adapting ways and cultures. Because the Queen is stuck in a forever unchanging home, it is hard for her to grasp on to the new way. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Dogville: Setting and Theme


Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier in 2003, is a dark film focusing on the immorality and complexity of all people and situations. Utilizing a unique setting style, the director chose to have the set be completely staged on a sound stage. There are no walls, nor completely furnished rooms- everything is to the bare minimum. Not only does this desolate and scarce setting reflect the poverty and isolation of the town and people of Dogville, but it additionally opens up opportunities to shed light on the strange dynamics of the town: although everyone has the ability to know everything about everyone, the people choose to remain ignorant to the injustices of immorality directed towards Grace as they arise.

Upon the first instance of Grace being raped, we see wide shots of the whole town, with poor Grace in the background of the shot helplessly being taken advantaged of. Without the openness of the set, we would not get this same effect. For instance, Tom Edison is right outside the door from where Grace lays- we see them both in the same shot- but he is unaware of her state of being. It is a sad moment, but it reflects the mindset of the people of Dogville:  they are obscuring their own sight of being aware of the way they behave and the things that are happening around them (despite it being quite morally obvious).

Because they are confined only to their town, the people of Dogville are living in a warped reality of their own "morals" and values. This is reflected in the use of a limited set. By keeping us entrapped in this one soundstage we are able to suspend our disbelief and indulge in the idea that this is how their world is. When Grace tries to escape our longing to have a glimpse of the greater world grows and our curiosity becomes uncontrollable, only for her to be brought right back to Dogville. Upon seeing the limited and scarce town of Dogville again, the sense of entrapment is amped up.

Overall Dogville effectively utilizes this unique setting. In most cases I don't think this set would work to the advantage of the filmmaker, but because it clearly reflects the themes of this film, I think it is a perfect fit for what the filmmaker was going for.  Whether I would suggest this movie or not?... well, that's up to you.... do you want to be emotionally battered? If yes, take a watch!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life Lessons: Character Dynamics Reflected in Shot Composition


Life Lessons, a 1989 short film directed by Martin Scorsese and included in the collection "New York Stories," follows obsessive New York painter Lionel Dobie as he guilts and tricks Paulette, a girl "working" for him, into staying with him. A story centered around struggling to maintain control and power, many of the film elements showcase Dobie's stages and feelings in regards to the power he has (or power he doesn't have!) I specifically found the shot composition to do an effective job at reflecting the power dynamics.

At the start of the film Dobie brings Paulette to his car. There is a shot where Paulette is in the foreground and Dobie is the background. It is obvious that Paulette does not want to be with Dobie and does not want to get into his car. But, Dobie is going to get what he wants. Intruding her personal space bubble, Dobie comes into the foreground, creating an awkward and tense feeling for the viewer, as though Dobie is popping our space bubble too.

Later on in the film Dobie, just like usual, is unable to resist his temptation to be with Paulette. He decides to go upstairs into the room of sleeping Paulette. As we see Paulette in bed, Dobie's shadow slowly creeps in on top of her. The composition of this shot not only feels intrusive, but it also metaphorically reflects the circumstances of the power dynamic: Dobie is like a monster. The use of shadow is surreal and not natural, just like the way Dobie views his relationship towards Paulette.

During the film Paulette meets a young painter named Reuben. She brings him over the Dobie's place. When Dobie gets back home, he sees the silhouette of Paulette and Reuben getting down to business. This can also be attributed to the choice of location and set design, but the windows are small in the frame, and don't really allow for any privacy. With Dobie big the foreground looking up at the little framed silhouettes of Paulette and Reuben, we are painted a clear picture of how Dobie is a control freak and needs to watch over her and know of her business. He is almost god-like looking at them as though they are a movie to be watched and reacted to.

Finally power dynamics begin to shift as we start to see Paulette using Dobie just as much as Dobie is using her. While on a staircase talking, Paulette manages to stand a step above him, making her framed slightly above him. This reflects how she is using him in order for her own excelling in the art world.

Two or three times in the film we see a quick-cut surreal fantasy of what Dobie is thinking. Each time this happen we are shown quick cuts of close ups of the girl's bodies (necks, lips, feet, profiles, etc). This reflects how Dobie views the girl's in a merely lustful way. They are things rather than talented individuals. Throughout the film he will never tell Paulette that she is actually talented, and to nail the hammer on the head, he quickly throws her away upon meeting another attractive artist right at the end of the film. The choice of showing many close ups amps up the facts that Dobie is fueled by sexual lust and attraction rather genuine feelings for these individuals.

Overall practically every scene is shot in such a way that it purposefully reflects the power dynamics of the characters. Because of this, the shot design acts as overall metaphor for the spine of the whole film. Good job (as usual) Scorsese!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bugsy Malone: Gangster Kids!


Bugsy Malone is very unique take on the classic gangster film. Not only does it converge with the genre of musical, but additionally it creates a world of only children. Thus this stereotypically dark genre is immediately lightened up by it's uncommon interpretation.


In gangster films some common themes are The American Dream, struggling for power, the corruption of society, etc. The theme of Bugsy Malone definitely ties into some of these ideas, but it creates a more positive twist on things; the theme is more about how because we can choose our own paths, we might as well go down a good one! I think this theme allows for some comedy to the film, because by going against the normal convention of a darker toene /theme to gangster films, as the audience we are surprised to watch a gangster film containing children and child-like elements (rather than killing one another with actual guns, the guns shoot out pies...)


Another unique idea that this film presents is that the destruction presented in gangster films is child-like. We are shown imagery / scenes of children parenting other children and children struggling to get jobs. This establishes that children are an equivalent to adults in this world. Furthermore, when the children sing we hear an adult's voice rather than a child's  This makes the separation between children and adults lessen even more. So upon viewing the finale of the film (the scene with the massive pie war), we realize the absurdity of it all. Thus the film presents a theme of "killing/being a gangster is silly and wasteful."

Just the fact that the film is a musical outright implies that it will be lighter than if it weren't. Because the genre of musical inevitably slightly breaks out of the world of the film, it is hard to take anything to seriously or to heart. The song "Bad Guys" is a great example of this; if we didn't have this musical break (which showcases just how foolish and young these "gangsters" are) then the children gangsters might be taken a little more seriously.

All in all, although the characters of the film are "gangsters" and there are many moments in the film that directly reference classical gangster films, Bugsy Malone presents a theme generally not shown in other gangster films. This, as said before, is a mixture of it's odd usage of children as adults and the fact that it is a musical.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Annie: a wonderful musical!


As a kid I saw many theater productions of Annie and always felt myself compelled by her strong-willed and beautiful-natured character. Oddly enough, I'm not sure if I had ever seen the film version up until now. Anyhow- I think the reason behind why I felt so compelled by her character can be greatly attributed to the strifes/hardships that she must face. This is reflected into the theme of the film.

Annie is such a lovable character, but due to her persistent attempts at escaping, Miss Hannigan has developed a deep hatred towards her. Miss Hannigan is the head of the orphanage. Through the daily chores and joyless lifestyle hammered into them, the theme of poverty and prosperity become very apparent. These little girls all share the dream of having a family to call their own, but in their impoverished state find themselves without much hope for this sort of thing. Additionally, the prosperity of the girls also lies within the hopes of this dream. However, later on in the film when they all decide to help save Annie, they join together forming their own sort of little family, allowing for their own sense of prosperity to be created in the confines of their worlds. 

The transition from being a part of the orphanage to being a part of the Warbuck's household clearly paints the picture of the have and the have-nots. Annie, being the beautiful-soul that she is, upon the prospects of Mr. Warbucks wanting a boy and not her, appreciates everything they have presented to her and thinks that just being able to be a part of this world even for a moment is enough. This breaks the greedy barrier of Mr. Warbucks and then he decides that Annie will do. 

Throughout the film the theme of greed is shown within all of the characters. Annie is the personification of having no greed at all. Then there is Miss Hannigan, her brother, and her brother's tricky gal, that will stop at nothing to get riches. Miss Hannigan is a lonely drunk, so she can be pitied. But as for her brother and his gal- well, they truly are just greedy yucky individuals.  Mr. Warbucks undergoes a transition from being completely greedy, rich, and unaware of human emotions to appreciating love and family. 

The musical numbers of the film all present different themes. "Hard Knock Life" showcases the strife of a failed American Dream, plus the effects of poverty on their livelihood. "Tomorrow" reflects the hope for prosperity that will surely have to come. "Maybe" reflects the arc of what Annie yearns for: a family. The song reoccurs throughout the film, starting from when she has no family, to her finally being a part of one. It presents the theme of the American Dream and prosperity. 

The film is lovely and the acting is cute and entertaining. The film does a great job at clearly relaying these themes through the acting, story, and music. If you haven't already, I would definitely suggest checking out this film! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Scarface vs. Miller's Crossing


The Two Gangster Films: 

Scarface, a 1932 gangster film contains both similarities and difference to the 1990 gangster film Miller's Crossing. The main similarities include their settings, the struggle for power, and the dynamic of family. Some of the main differences include: the protagonists want, the theme of the films, and role of government in society.

Similarities 

Settings:
Scarface takes place in Chicago and Miller's Crossing takes place in some sort of city (which is undefined). The city-setting of these films allows us as the audience to feel like we are getting the inside scoop of everything that is happening. Rather than being outsiders to the situations and events as they are unfolding, we are a part of them. The fast-passed nature of this setting allows for an added feeling of intensity. Word can spread quickly, and there never seems it be a place or chance to hide.

Struggle for power: 
In both films most characters have become corrupt due to their desire for power/money. Nobody can be trusted because of this. Rather than prioritizing morals over power, characters in both Scarface and Miller's Crossing do what ever they have to do in order to climb the power ladder. The struggle is that there is no one who can be trusted. Everyone is running off of self-interest. Although in both films there is at least one character who says something along the lines of "my friendships with others are important" it can be realized that this statement falls flat, because there are no true friendships.

Dynamic of family:
In Scarface Tony will do anything to protect his sister. As we gather throughout the film, his relationship to his sister is actually quite close... too close! He has some incestuous feelings towards her. None-the-less, the only human connection he has that is strong and true is the one he has with his sister. In Miller's Crossing we see a similar sort of dynamic between Verna and Bernie. Verna wants to make sure that her brother is safe. Furthermore, a clear parallel between both the films is that while having a conversation with Bernie, Tom discovers that they have had some sort of incestuous encounters...

Differences 

Protagonist want:
In Scarface Tony finds himself becoming more and more corrupt as he strives to climb the power ladder for riches. In Miller's crossing we find ourselves examining a more intricate and complicated protagonist. By the end of the film Tom doesn't seem to of wanted more power, but rather, it seems as though he is just trying to play the game, and play it well. This difference among protagonists is a big one. The only redeeming quality about Tony is his love towards Cesca, but, unfortunately, that is his sister.... Because Tom isn't out to gain ultimate control, there is something more mysterious about his character. It is harder to get a handle on his motivs, thus it is harder to discern whether or not Tom is really a bad guy.

Theme of film:
Reflecting the protagonist wants of both films, the themes additionally differ: Scarface reflects the turmoil of society of the time, showcasing that the corruption for power and money will result in an inevitably poor outcome. In Miller's Crossing the story reflects a theme of how there is no black and white in regards to an individual. Scarface doesn't really present the redeeming qualities in the characters. For instance, there is nothing that would of stopped Tony from killing Cesca's lover, even though he happens to be one of his "closest friends." But in Miller's Crossing we see how Tom stays on the side of Leo throughout the film- he never actually turns on him. This loyalty of Tom showcases how there is no black and white to the individuals. Although one could easily say he is immoral, there are aspects of him that are good.

Role of government:
In Scarface the presence of cops works as a device to show the "good guys." In the end of the film they kill Tony, which because of Tony's immorality, is the just sort of thing to do. In Miller's Crossing the presence of cops / government officials serves a different role: because the government/cops don't do much to oppose the gangsters (aka: the bad guys) they blur with the gangsters. Now, rather than having an antagonist force of upholding justice, Miller's Crossing presents the idea that everyone in society blurs together: no one can really be distinguished as completely bad or completely good.

So overall both of these films showcase similarities and differences, but in the end they are both just great examples of the gangster film genre. If you are interested in a more riveting film I would suggest watching Miller's Crossing. I wasn't much of a fan of Scarface... but maybe you will be? Check them both out and you decide!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shaun of the Dead: Screwball Comedy Meets Zombies!


Shaun of the Dead, a British 2004 film directed by Edgar Wright, follows Shaun as he tries to get back his girlfriend while battling the onset of a zombie apocalypse alongside his lazy couch-potato friend Ed. Mixing both the genres of screwball comedy and classic zombie flick, this film does a good job of working with and against genre stereotypes in order to produce a riveting, action-packed film.

Zombie film aspects:

In Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead many classic zombie film traits are established. Within the film the characters gain knowledge on their circumstances and what they can do through the radio/television set. This means of communication becomes a really important and sought-after object. In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun and Ed are completely oblivious to all of the information that the television shows them. In fact, while flipping through the channels, the zombie apocalypse is essentially spelled out for them, word for word- but once again, this is to no avail. This lack of realization of the zombie film motif adds to the comedy.

At the end of Night of the Living Dead the protagonist comes to a tragic end. He has managed to escape from the zombies, but ends up being killed by one of his own kind. In Shaun of the Dead, all of the humans are shooting away at every moving thing in sight. A heavy weight was in my gut as I realized: Shaun and Liz were probably going to come to the same fateful end of Ben- they would be shot by the humans! But, rather than that happening, for some odd reason, Shaun's friend immediately recognizes them, so they do not get killed! This twist of what is to be expected helps add to the comedy of the film.

Screwball comedy aspects:

In Billy Wilder's 1959 film Some Like it Hot many classic screwball comedy traits were used. Screwball comedies deal with specific relationship dynamics that cause characters to get themselves involved in sticky situations. In Some Like it Hot Joe, who is disguised as a woman, falls in love with Sugar, deciding that the only way to get her is to present himself as a rich man. In the end she figures out that he is not rich, but they still end up together because she discovers she loves him too. Another relationship motif in screwball comedies is having an already divorced couple come back together. This dynamic is reflected into Shaun of the Dead. At the start of the film Liz, Shaun's girlfriend, breaks up with him. This is because Shaun is just not mature enough and is not being a good boyfriend. But throughout the film he learns how to take charge and get things done, thus redeeming himself and winning back the heart of Liz, just as would happen in any screwball comedy with these sort of circumstances.

All in all the film does a good job of using these well-known motifs in order to trick us into feeling certain ways, adding to the comedic feeling throughout the film.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead, released in 1968 and directed by George A. Romero, follows the story of many different individuals and their quest to stay alive during the onset of a major world-wide zombie attack. Through it's usage of reckless killing and uncertainty, different people have examined that the film is a metaphor for the Vietnam war. The Museum of Modern Art said the film was releasing "the suppressed trauma" that the war caused.



All of the main characters in the film die. Some from the disease, some from being eaten by the zombies, some killed by other humans- but the point being, anyone we could possibly root for is dead. They all try very hard to stick together (except for Harry who is extremely obstinate) and in the end, one by one find their fate. This is same as what took place in the Vietnam war. Despite sticking together like a family, many soldiers died. Of course due to fear, just like Harry, there were probably individuals who lost control of their morals, but in the end morals didn't matter because death was the path they were heading down. Additionally, just like the assassinations of two important figures of the time (Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy), the movie showed how even important figures (in this case the heroic Ben whom keeps everyone together and seemingly safe) can be killed when you least expect it.... which leads me to:

Ben, the hero of the film and the one who survives till the end, dies from a completely different cause. Rather than the zombies killing him, tragically he meets his final moments as a man who is trying to help eradicate the zombie issue mistakes him for a zombie and shoots him. This is symbolic of how in war people make mistakes and kill people who either a) don't deserve to be killed, b) fought extremely hard, or c) are on the same side! The ending ruminates inside your gut, knowing that he was just so close to making it out alive! This is the same for many of the individuals who fought in the war. It is inevitable that some of those soldiers had a moment of relief thinking: I've made it! to which they were killed.

Night of the Living Dead was definitely a political statement made my George Romero. It was an effective statement, seeing as it shocked the viewers who were not used to this sort of thing taking place in a film. Through it's usage of reckless killings and being unsure of how things will end up, Night of the Living Dead succeeds in presenting a clear allegory.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some Like it Hot- Screwball Comedy!


Some Like it Hot is a 1959 screwball comedy directed by Billy Wilder. In the story Joe and Jerry, two musicians, lose there current gig due to some sketchy business dealings. Witnessing the killings of some men due to a gangster group, Joe and Jerry are on the run and discover there is only one way to escape: the one job available is a girls only gig in Florida, so they both decide to pretend to be women. Joe and Jerry, in their female states, befriend the beautiful singer Sugar. Falling in love or having people fall in love with them, Joe and Jerry find themselves in very crazy mixed up situations while trying to hide themselves from the gangster group. Some Like it Hot incorporates the screwball comedy elements of having male central characters whose "masculinity is challenged" / having mistaken identities, trying to keep a secret and mismatched relationships.

Male central characters whose "masculinity is challenged" / mistaken identities / characters trying to keep a secret

When Jerry suggests the idea to Joe that they should dress up as women in order to get the job, Joe is at first very resilient. But then, triggered by the fact that they are being pursued by the gangster group, Joe realizes that this may be the only way. This whole scenario is a great example of both the aspects of a screwball comedy where a central character (in this case two) has his "masculinity challenged" and the aspect of having mistaken identities. The theme of mistaken identities leads Jerry and Joe into some crazy situations. For instance, later on Joe, in order to win the heart of Sugar, pretends to be a rich millionaire heiress to a famous oil company, while Sugar lies and pretends to be something she is not in order to get Joe.

Another major aspect to screwball comedies is having characters who struggle to conceal a secret. While pretending to be this rich man, Joe is keeping the secret from Sugar that he is actually not only not rich, but additionally he is Josephine. On top of that, Jack and Joe continuously struggle to hide the fact that they are not actually women. For one, if people find out they are men, they will lose their jobs. Two, their secret identities help protect them from the gangsters. If their secret is revealed, the gangsters will have a much easier time of finding them.

Marriage to the rich /  mismatched relationships  

Sugar wants to marry Joe not really because of his personality, but rather, because he is rich. Alongside this, Osgood would like to marry Daphne. We know that Daphne is actually Jerry, but due to the fact that Osgood is filthy rich, Jerry, in a money daze, fantasizes about the amazing possibilities. Both of these "relationships" showcase the screwball comedy theme of characters marrying people who are rich.

The boy working at the hotel has a little crush on Josephine. This is obviously quite the mismatched dynamic. He is, what? 14? And Josephine looks like she is 40. This running joke is a great example of the screwball comedy theme of mismatched relationships.


Overall

Some Like it Hot is a hilarious screwball comedy film that will keep you wondering how on earth Joe and Jerry will get through this whole situation? Will they be able to keep their identities a secret? How will things turn out between Joe and Sugar? How will things turn out between Daphne and Osgood? All of these questions stem from the absurd situations that will only occur in a screwball comedy film! Watch it! 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Firefly: a Western in... Space!

Firefly, a show created by Joss Whedon, is a space Western that follows the adventures of rebellious Captain "Mal" Reynolds and the rest of his crew. In the pilot episode Serenity we are introduced to all of the key crew members plus Simon and River (a mysterious doctor who is on the run with his sister.) Throughout the episode, although set in space, it is evident that Firefly utilizes the conventions of both western and sci-fi in order to amp up the action and tension of the plot.

When responding to Simon's question of how he can trust that Mal will not kill him, Mal responds with something along the lines of "I won't shoot anybody unless they have a gun in their hand and are facing me." This response is a clear example of the Western hero archetype. In Westerns, the intense fights generally occur as a two person shoot-out, where the fairness is clear, for both opponents are facing one another and have no advantages. The fact that Mal holds this sort of standard can only be traced back to the Western.


In Serenity, they elude to is a mysterious antagonist force called the reavers. At first glance, their mystifying descriptions of the reavers cause us to draw connections from them to the sci-fi element of unknown entities or aliens.  But with further speculation it is seen that these "reavers" are also like the Western's view and usage of Indians. The crew members speak of how the reavers will capture a ship and in their savage state of being, kill everyone. In many Westerns the Indians serve as an uncontrollable antagonist force with no mercy.



At the start of the episode we are given backstory as to who these crew members are. They all fought during the War of Unification, on the rebel side. Continuing off of that, at the present time of the film they are now like outsiders or outlaws. This is just like the usage of the Civil War in Westerns. Often times the protagonist is an outlaw on the run due to some sort of contribution they made during the war. 

An obvious example of Sci-fi is the setting of Serenity. It is in space... how much more sci-fi can you get? BUT, space is also similar to the feelings conveyed in the settings of Westerns. Space is far from civilization which is just like the distinction in Westerns between being in the wild versus being in a town/civilization. 

All in all Serenity does a beautiful job of molding together the two distinct genres of Sci-fi and Western. 


Friday, February 22, 2013

Outland - Western in disguise?

Outland follows a space police marshall, Marshall O'Niel, as he tries to figure out the mystery behind the sketchy mining space station that he has been assigned to. Known to be an action space thriller, many people believe the film to bear many similarities to the Western film High Noon- the main difference being that Outland is set in space. 


In many Westerns the protagonist finds himself in a situation that calls for a decision to either stay home or fight. In Outland, Marshall O'niel's wife leaves him to travel to Earth. She is not leaving him because her love for him is gone, but rather because she can not deal with anymore wasted time spent in Space. Thus she prompts Marshall to travel to Earth with her and their son. Marshall decides to stay on the space station because he is filled with a sense of duty to follow through with him personal mission to fight for justice. This is similar to Martin in The Searchers when he consistently denies Laurie due to his need to complete the quest of finding and returning Debbie to where she belongs.  


In The Outlaw Josey Wales, Josey Wales utilizes the "wild west" environment to his advantage. For instance, when the antagonists are crossing the river by boat (which is on a rope levy, Josey Wales shoots the rope, causing the antagonists to be stuck. Similar to this, Marshall utilizes his environment to his advantage. Some examples include: he strategically plants his guns into hidden areas of the station for later usage, and he lures the bad guys into certain locations of the station where he can use the forces of space to kill them. 




In addition to fully utilizing one's environment, an important aspect of Westerns is the feeling of isolation from town to town. In Outland the space station serves a similar purpose. It is isolated and later on becomes a trap for Marshall. He is unable to leave. On top of everything a time countdown for when the on coming ship is arriving helps to build tension. Everyone on the ship knows that they people arriving are coming to kill Marshall. But even with this information Marshall can not leave.



When Marshall presents the doctor with the blood samples, at first she is skeptical that they will discover anything. But because this is a sci-fi, the technology is smart enough to detect the drugs in the blood. The whole concept of hiding the drugs in this massive corrupted scheme is similar to the corruption of bad guys in a Western.


Adding to the tension, Marshall is not only on an isolated ship, but when the people assigned to assassinate him arrive, everyone congregates in the bar, leaving Marshall all alone (except for his one trusted friend, the Doctor) with the assassins. 


Outland definitely effectively utilizes both stylistic aspects of sci-fi and western to create an intense, action-packed film. 






Friday, February 15, 2013

Ethan and Josey as Western Heroes


John Ford's The Searchers and Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales are both Western films which when you take a quick gander at, seem to have quite similar story lines. In an article by Robert Sickles, it is suggested that these two films both have similarities but for the most part, they differ dramatically due to their differing moral, social, and political views. Additionally, Sickles shows how the time difference greatly affects the perspectives and biases. I agree with Robert Sickles in thinking that these two characters and films reflect the cultural values of the time periods they were made in.






Josey Wales is like an updated version of The Searches. In his article, Robert Sickles says: "Josey Wales is not so much a rehash of The Searches as it is a response, a detailed reworking of a twenty-year-old film in the context of 1970s liberalism." In The Outlaw Josey Wales, when Jamie dies due to his wounds, Josey finds a new friend to replace him: the chief comanche. Josey Wales, obviously angered about the death of his whole family, agrees with the chief that no one can trust the white man. In this interaction we see a clear reversal (siding with the Indians, versus being completely against them) of what takes place in The Searchers- and this reversal is definitely fueled by the change in social views of the 1970s.

Sickles presents how both films have similar revenge motifs, but the biggest difference is thematic perspective: Ethan is the pursuer whereas Josey is the one pursued. I feel as though Josey is a much more relatable character because we have access to his emotions and having him play the character who is danger (rather than being in a position like Ethan) makes us worry for him. I feel as though Clint Eastwood must of been aware of this major difference in his film rather than the Searchers because this having access to Josey's emotions seems almost like a fix to Ethan's character.


In many instances Josey Wales is able to trust and believe in  the situations around him whereas Ethan rejects everything. Some clear examples that Robert Sickes present include: Josey willingly allows Jamie to join him in his adventure, whereas Ethan tries hard to get rid of Martin. Another example is that in both films we see the characters have dangerous interactions with hillbillies. Josey and Jamie work together to escape, while Ethan utilizes Martin as a bait. Having Josey be a softer, more accepting character seems to be fueled by the changing view of how a heroic man should appear.