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.


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...


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.