Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Orson Welles: Big Budget Shakespearean Adaptation Vs. Indie Masterpieces

(Written in December, 2015)

Orson Welles uses many different kinds of film techniques throughout all of his films, but there are some that he uses in both his Shakespearean adaptations as well as his independent productions. In both he uses different kinds of lighting tricks, including using silhouette and shadow. He also uses narration as well as other radio techniques in interesting ways. He also uses different editing techniques to cut for a certain rhythm to the piece. As well as these, there are some differences that will be discussed between these adaptations and independent productions.

            To begin, there are many different lighting tricks and techniques that Welles uses throughout his work. One includes silhouette. When Welles uses silhouette, he usually has the subject backlit and fades out the light in front of the subject. One example of this is as early as The Magnificent Ambersons, when he has the main couple near the door and they are silhouetted as they say their goodbyes. He uses these in several Shakespearean adaptations, such as in Macbeth when he frames the witches in silhouette against the sky near the middle of the film. He also uses it in Othello at the beginning with the funeral procession against the sky. These are used similarly to how a stage play might be lit, and might have come from Welles's experiences on stage plays. Of course with Shakespeare, they can evoke the stage version as well as help increase the tension. With his independent work, it also has a similar feeling to it. Welles uses silhouette in several independent works, but maybe most noticeably in The Fountain Of Youth. There are many transitions from scene to scene where the scene ends with the subject being silhouetted, with multiple times the backgrounds changing behind them or fading out behind them. There is also a scene in F For Fake where Welles is sitting at a park bench and is silhouetted. This technique is used many times by well, and normally evokes the same dramatic feel.

            Welles also similarly uses shadow in both kinds of work. In his adaptation of Macbeth, There is much use of shadow, as in the scene where Macbeth has a speech, and he is looking up at the sky. There is much use of shadow, and it changes throughout the scene and even sometimes is on Macbeth's face. This scene itself is very stage-like, and the lighting reflects that. The use of shadows in F For Fake is also much like that. In the scenes where Welles is sitting in an editing room talking about the story, there are shadows on him and on the background, evoking sort of a set or stage. In Hearts of Age, Welles starts the film by having a shadow of a hand in front of a cross, and there are similar shadows on gravestone crosses later on in the film. The shadows evoke the same sort of lighting as stage, and help create a darkness and mood to the scenes they are used in.

            Welles also has a good use of sound and other radio techniques in both types of works. He used Narration in both, usually of himself. In Othello, there is Narration of the story at many points, and as well there is Narration in Chimes at Midnight. While not Narration per say, there is use of Macbeth's soliloquy being used over other footage in Welles's Macbeth. In the Independent productions, Welles uses narration heavily. The Fountain of Youth is almost all narration by Welles, with pictures being shown over his narration and even sometimes Welles narrating the character's dialogues. In F For Fake There is also a lot of narration, as Welles tells the story, again sometimes over pictures, and sometimes sitting in an editing room telling the story. Sometimes he even has narration, taken from an interview, of one of the people in the story over other pictures or sometimes footage.

            Welles also uses different sound techniques that might have been a holdover from his radio days in both kinds of productions. For example, in his adaptation of Chimes at Midnight, he uses dubbed audio, which works especially well when the character is far away from the camera. He also uses sound to help with the sense of space in Othello, were when the characters go underground there is an echo to their dialogue, and when they are near the ocean waves can be heard in the background. In his independent productions, he uses a similar technique. In The Fountain of Youth, the ticking clock in Mr. Baxter's office reminds the viewer about time, and in F For Fake, Welles does something a little different, and has the sound kind of overlay itself, as footage from Elmyr's party would be under his narration, both giving a sense of the place and explaining the story at the same time, much like could be used in radio.

            Welles uses many editing techniques in both types of productions, and there are some very obvious similarities in the editing style. In the Shakespearean adaptations, Welles tends to use a more traditional editing style, though there are times in Macbeth, Othello and Chimes at Midnight where he uses a more complicated editing. In Macbeth, when Macbeth has his soliloquy where he looks up at the sky, the editing is a little more fast and haphazard. In Othello, during the battle scene where they are firing cannons, the editing is also quicker, with shots of the cannon immediately cutting to other images, and the boats they are firing on. As well, in the scene where Iago kills the man in the bathhouse, there is fast cutting as he stabs to a overlay of the sword going through the floorboards for a few seconds, and the fast cutting and overlay work to add to the scene.
In Chimes at Midnight There are a lot more fast cutting during certain sections where Falstaff and Harry are at the pub area. This shows the fun-loving nature of the scenes, and there is also faster cutting to the trumpets blaring in Henry's court.

            Some of these same cutting techniques are used in Welles's independent productions. He uses it much in Hearts of Age, as there are shots of a bell, a cross, and people's faces, and they switch between these shots and others throughout the film. There is also a part where the same shot is looped three times, and this helps add to the surrealness of the film. F For Fake is full of this kind of editing, as there are shots of the interviewee, then Welles, then the monkey playing around with stuff. Welles uses heavy editing techniques in F For Fake to help add to it, many times using the technique of Soviet Montage to show two elements and create an image in someone's mind, such as when he shows Oja and a picture of El Myr. This helps create images in people's mind and make connections, and he uses it along with quick cutting all throughout F For Fake. He uses it to a lesser extent in The Fountain of Youth, but there are still some times he uses interesting editing techniques. Instead of cutting, many times throughout the production there is a scene transition as if on a stage, with the character changing outfits and a new background sliding in, but then Welles will cut to another view, such as who Baxter was talking to, and then the location has also changed. The same thing is done with transitions, such as when time is being shown to pass, it transitions behind Welles as he narrates. Welles typically uses his editing techniques to help fluidly keep the film going, and with his Shakespeare adaptations and his independent productions you can really see the kind of editing Welles enjoys.

            Although there are many similarities between Welles's independent work and his Shakespeare adaptations, there are also some key differences. In general, the Shakespearean adaptations were a little more Hollywood-style, though done independently. There were large casts, including many extras, which you can see in the armies and background characters in all three adaptations. They are generally larger productions, with extravagant locations, such as a Scottish castle or a battlefield. They also sometimes have poor dubbing, perhaps due to the filming conditions, or perhaps because of a decision on Welles part to help make sure all the lines were understood, but they don't always match up. They still use a lot of independent techniques and shot design, but are generally larger productions than his independent productions.

            his independent productions, in contrast, are usually much smaller. Hearts of Age seems to be predominantly shot in one location, and The Fountain of Youth quite possibly was all filmed on one soundstage. There are more locations in F For Fake, but it never reaches the production value of the Shakespearean adaptations. as well, there are very few, if any extras in these productions. both Hearts of Age and The Fountain of Youth Have a small cast, with no more than ten actors in both. F For Fake has more people in it, but they are mostly from the interviews and documentary aspects, while there are probably still less than ten actors in the acted parts of the film, such as the opening train part and the conversation between Welles and Oja. The dubbing, however, seems better on these productions, possibly because of the small aspect of them, and a more set-based filming.

            All in all, both kinds of productions show the talents of Welles are vast, whether making a small-budget Shakespearean adaptation into a large affair, or making a small, studio-based television show. Welles uses his talents and techniques from radio and stage to help present the stories. Welles seems to have a way with making productions remarkable, and all the while keeping the independent filmmaker's mindset. Shakespearean adaptation and an independent production could be drastically different, but for the most part they are similar when made by Welles, and both seem like something that he had a hand in.

Stylistic Choices in "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Citizen Kane"

(Written in October, 2015)

Orson Welles used many different stylistic choices when it came to images and sounds in his films, but especially so in "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons". Coming from a background of theatre and radio, Welles ended up using many of these types of choices when it came to his films. Specifically, he used some lighting choices in both of these films that could be seen to have been derived from his background in theatre, and theatre lighting, as well as his general way of direction and framing characters. As well, his radio background can be seen by the way he uses sound in both films, as well as his use of background noise. A lot of  examples of both of the kind of stylistic choices that he made in "The Magnificent Ambersons" were cut from the theatrical version, but can be seen in Welle's original cut of the film in it's reconstructed form.
            Citizen Kane has a lot of interesting stylistic choices when it comes to images. A lot of these seem to be influenced by theatre conventions. One example of which is A scene, late in the film, where Kane, played by Welles, is talking to his wife, Susan, from across a large room in Xanadu while she does a jigsaw puzzle on the floor . The scene has interesting lighting going on, mostly bright, but dark in some areas to add shadow to the scene. But for the most part the scene is light much like a stage in a theatre production might be. Indeed, this scene is mostly filmed in long shots, almost as if the camera is set where the audience might be in a theatrical production, and the characters move far away from each other and the camera, creating a sense of space.
             Another interesting image choice used by Welles in "Citizen Kane" is when Kane is adopted at early childhood. There is a scene of his parents sitting down and negotiating the adoption while Kane as a child is playing outside in the snow. This scene is maybe one or two shots, and the camera mostly stays still. You see, in deep focus, the mother and Thatcher in the front, the father arguing with the mother in middle, and Kane, viewed through a window, playing outside. This is very much an interesting image choice, as it shows multiple actions going on at the same time, just how characters in a theatrical production might be doing many different kinds of actions at the same time. The way this is filmed gives the audience time to look around and see all the different kinds of actions going on, and again sort of gives the visual appearance of being an audience on a stage, with things going on in the foreground and background.
            "Citizen Kane" also has some very good uses of Sound throughout the film as well. Welles uses a very interesting sound technique in one scene between Kane and his first wife, Emily. The scene is a montage of different breakfasts over the years, and he has their lines carry on and finish in the next shot, implying passing of time. This helps links the two times together but also lets the audience know that time is passing, as their subjects change and their happiness sours in their voices as the montage goes on. Aurally, the scene ends completely at a different note than it starts, and the change of opinion throughout the relationship is evident from sound alone, which could be thought of as coming from Welle's background in Radio.
            Another scene that has a good audio choice is the scene where Susan and Kane are on vacation in the Everglades and they are in a tent. They are having an argument, but you can tell part of the location as well as how many people are around them from sound.
You can hear a record playing, as well as people singing along. There is a sort of outdoor party atmosphere, and it is used almost as background noise, if you don't pay attention you might miss it. But it helps build the place in your mind, and add some activity around the characters that isn't necessarily seen on screen. You can even hear screaming in the background after Kane slaps Susan. This is definitely a hold-over from Welle's radio days, and especially with radio dramas, as one good way to define a place in a radio drama is to have the sound of the place in the background to help the audience understand where the action is taking place. Welles uses this in the scene for the same reason, and also to help show that this is not an argument happening in a faraway room, it is indeed taking place in a tent very close to the party.
            "The Magnificent Ambersons" has a few good images choices that can be seen in the theatrical version. One interesting choice is that at the end of the Amberson's dance, when Isabel and Eugene are saying goodbye to each other at the same time that George and Lucy are saying goodbye. They are shown in profile, and they are mostly in shadow, almost silhouetted. This is a very interesting lighting technique, and while not exactly lifted from theatrical productions, there is a definite use of light that could be seen as theatrical in this scene. In fact, there is a lot of shadow in that scene, and it is used very interestingly, with both couples moving in and out of it before becoming silhouetted and saying goodbye. It adds to the romantic element of the story.
            Another interesting visual choice that Welles uses in the Theatrical version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" is in a scene where Uncle Jack goes to talk to Isabel and George is watching, and so is his Aunt above him. Much like the scene from Citizen Kane with Susan and Kane in the large room, this scene is shot with the actors being far away from the camera, and framed almost like a stage. But here Welles does something a little different, as he pans up and reveals that George was watching, Then panning up again to show that his Aunt was watching as well. This scene seems to show that Welles was playing around more with what the camera could do and becoming more of a filmmaker, but his Stage influence can still be seen in these shots.
            "The Magnificent Ambersons" also has some good use of sound throughout it. One good example is when the family and friends are going to go to town, and George and Lucy are riding around on a horse-drawn sled. There is a lot of sound going on here, from the sound of Eugene trying to start the engine, to the various family members talking. The whole scene has a lot of talking going on, including the overlapping of different people asking George if he is alright after the sled flips off the road. This adds a bit of realism to the scene, and also adds some comedy too. It also creates the space much more. That scene wasn't shot outside, but the soundscape as well as the atmosphere created by the family members creates a place, much like the tent scene in Citizen Kane. Another good use of sound is a transition at the end of that scene. That scene is pretty happy, with the family driving off singing a song and having a good time, and then there is a fade, and then there is some ominous music that plays, which then goes on to the funeral of George's father. The transition in tone would be kind of odd if not for the use of sound in transitioning the mood of the audience.
            There are a lot of things that were cut out of "The Magnificent Ambersons" for the theatrical release. Orson Welles's original version had some more uses of image and sound than the version released.
            One example of a good use of image in Welle's cut was the buildings in front of the Amberson mansion. According to the reconstruction, there was a scene where The Major and Fanny go outside and see the housing that The Major built to try and get some more money. It is shown that it was not maybe the best investment for him to make. This scene seems to be an almost parallel of the scene where George and Uncle Jack go out in a rainstorm and see the houses being built. These scenes would have added another dimension to the Amberson's wealth decline. Also, the use of the same image, seemingly framed the same way, as can be seen from the storyboards presented in the reconstruction, but at different times helps show the time passing, in much the same way as the breakfast montage in "Citizen Kane" shows the changing moods, those shots would have shown the changing neighborhood where the Ambersons live.
            Another strong visual use that was cut out was the ending scene. In the theatrical cut, there is a scene where George walks around town and sees how the town has changed. In the original cut, the reconstruction shows that a very similar scene would be shown at the end of the film with Eugene, and he doesn't even notice the place where the Amberson mansion used to be. The town has changed that much. This scene would have had a callback to the scene mentioned with George, but also to the whole film to try and show a better vision of the town changing over time, and how things change and people don't even notice after a while. This scene connects logically and shot-wise with the similar scene with George earlier in the film, helping end the film in a more complete way than only seeing it once from one person's point of view did.
            It's a little bit harder to find sound decisions that were cut out of "The Magnificent Ambersons" for it's theatrical release, but there is at least one important omission. The opening scene in both versions has Orson Welles as The Narrator, talking about how things used to be. In the original cut, The Narrator went on about the town some more, and talked about how people thought about money, and savings, and just in general how The Ambersons are, along with how back then luxury was thought of as sinful. This is in the Theatrical Cut, but not so much expanded upon as in the original cut, which is why it's mentioned here. The Theatrical cut in particular goes on about the town, adding in a different way to the scene of place through audio, Welles tells us how people lived, and how they thought, which helps firmly place us in the setting without having to rely on visuals, though visuals are also utilized. The influence from Radio is obvious in this particular scene as it is a narrator setting up the story for the audience.

            Many different kinds of Stylistic choices were used in both "Citizen Kane" and both cuts of "The Magnificent Ambersons", which helped make the films the well-known great films that they are. Perhaps a lot of why they work so well for Welles is because of his background in theatre as well as radio, and knowing showmanship along with a general idea of how things are done artistically.

Film Noir in Orson Welles Films

(Written December 2015)

Orson Welles used many techniques and stylistic choices that could be considered appropriation of film noir, as far back as Citizen Kane. He especially appropriates it in The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai and Touch of Evil. These films could even be classified as film noir, their appropriation of techniques and style is so heavily influenced by film noir. All three films take some of the archetypes of film noir and explore them in different ways or subvert them completely, ranging from the typical "Spider-woman" femme fatale to the heavy use of shadow and distinct light. All three use these and explore them in different ways.

            The Stranger uses several different techniques and things from film noir to appropriate it. This film in particular uses a lot of good use of shadow and silhouette that was common to film noir. In the beginning of the film, when the man is first getting to Mexico, he is framed as a silhouette on the boat. As he leaves the boat, he is followed by a woman, and another woman is seen in shadow above him, spying on him. The film has more of these as well, such as when Mary is walking in the cemetery and there is a slight silhouette on her. Also, from far away the clock tower is shadowy, and when Franz is working in the clock tower he usually has some shadow or silhouette to him. In fact, during the final scene in the clock tower, there is a lot of use of shadow, from the shadows on the character's faces to the shadows being cast in the background as the action ensues.

            The Stranger also appropriates another thing from film noir, subverting it a little bit. The Stranger plays a little with the idea of a "femme fatale", or a female character that is dangerous to the main character. This appropriation can be thought of in two ways: either there is no femme fatale, and Franz instead is the male version of a femme fatale, a secretive, dangerous individual that the main character is in love with. Another way to think of it is that Mary is indeed the Femme Fatale as she is dangerous to Franz, as he is married to her and she has some power of him and could potentially mess up his plans because of that. Either way, there is indeed an aspect to a dangerous, secretive relationship, which is something seen often in film noir. Franz is hiding many things from Mary, such as being an ex-Nazi and having killed a man and a dog. He is dangerous, but Mary loves him and doesn't know his secrets. This sort of dangerous relationship is a constant tension throughout the film, because it causes there to be different ways that the characters could end up.

            Another character type that is played with in The Stranger is that of the film noir detective. the closest analog to this archetype of character from film noir is Mr. Wilson, the man who is looking for Franz throughout the film. He has the typical fedora-style hat and is constantly seen smoking his tobacco pipe. As he investigates, he questions many of the people around town, and is seen as the good guy in the film, trying to root out Franz and stop him from doing anything to the people of the town, even enlisting Mary's brother to help investigate. This character is very much in the know around town, and indeed he plays a very big part in the ending, where he goes to the top of the clock tower to confront Franz. He also has something in common with Franz, That they both have an obsession with clocks and clockwork, which draws parallels between the two of them.

            The Lady From Shanghai also plays with film noir techniques and ideas. One of the things that The Lady From Shanghai does is play with the film noir trope of being followed. in the film, there are several times where characters are being observed or followed. Once such time happens early in the film where the main character, Michael, is being tailed one night, and he realizes and punches the guy and runs away. This is not something usually seen in film noir, as the main character would not know they were being followed, and if they did, would probably not resort to a quick burst of violence and then running away. Also, later in the story George is observing Michael and Elsa from far away, and Michael doesn't notice. But George ends up just talking to Michael about what he saw, instead of  blackmailing them or anything else that would be expected from the way he was watching them from far away. This film ends up almost seeming like a parody of film noir in those ways, as it so drastically subverts the expectations from the tropes it uses.

            The Lady From Shanghai has a lot of different conversations that are very much secretive conversations, much like you would see from film noir. There is a little bit of scheming between the characters, beginning with Michael and Elsa talking about their relationship, and that it shouldn't happen. From there, there are more secretive conversations, such as when George asks Michael to kill him for $500. Michael and Elsa have another secretive conversation at an aquarium, and another at the Chinese theatre after Michael has been framed for George's murder.

            In The Lady From Shanghai, Welles again plays with the idea of a Femme Fatale. Elsa in this film could be considered a femme fatale. She is dangerous, she had killed George, and she was behind a lot of things that happened in the film. However, this is not really revealed until the end. In most film noir films the femme fatale is a character that is constantly playing with the main character, and her intentions while shady and secretive are usually pretty obvious. Elsa in this film plays the innocent, even at the very end when it is revealed that she had killed George. This was helped by the fact that Rita Hayworth, who played Elsa was not thought of as an femme fatale actress. In the end, she even dies in a way typical of femme fatale, trying to finish things up, and trying to get with the main character. She wants to leave with Michael, and she is killed by Bannister, and Michael leaves, being the only one to survive the mirror maze.

            Touch of Evil, as well, uses many things from film noir an appropriates them and plays with them. One such thing that is done in Touch of Evil is the use of location. Locations are very important in film noir, from shady bars and hotels to detective offices. This film is no different. One important location in the film is the border of Mexico and the United States. The first scene takes place there, where a bomb is planted on a car on the Mexico side and when it goes over the United States side explodes. A lot of the action throughout the next few scenes all take place in and around the border, as the investigation starts to take place. There are shady bars that are visited by the main characters, and a secretive conversation between Hank and Joe Grandi is even had in a shadowy bar. Mr. Vargas' wife is staying in a hotel throughout most of the film, and the sense of the location is very strong. It is a very shadowy, run-down hotel, and there seems something a little off about it, and it turns out later that the hotel is run by Grandi and a few of the Grandi family people come and take Mrs. Vargas's wife away from the hotel.

            Another thing that the film does is play with the film noir aspects of being followed and observed, similarly to how The Lady From Shanghai did. In Touch of Evil, very early on Mrs. Vargas is followed by one of the Grandi family, and instead of being followed for a long time, he then comes up to her and leads her to meet with Joe Grandi. She is also observed from across the way in a room through the window by a man with a flashlight. She notices and tells him to stop and throws something at him. Again, instead of simply being observed or followed as in other film noir, the character realizes they are being followed or observed. Even later in the film, Mr. Vargas and his wife are being followed by Joe Grandi, but when they change vehicles, Mrs. Vargas and a police officer are instead being followed, and the police officer realizes, stops and arrests Joe Grandi.

            Talking about Joe Grandi, he is a type of character that is seen in many different kinds of films, but especially noir ones. He is kind of the big bad villain, he is in charge and creates a lot of the trouble that moves the plot forward. He's an interesting character in this aspect however because he is pretty incompetent. As mentioned before, he was caught following Mr. Vargas's car and arrested for it. Earlier in the film, he is trying to intimidate Mrs. Vargas into asking Mr. Vargas to back off from the Grandis, but it turns out that he is not very good at being intimidating, and ends up not doing too much to help himself. Joe Grandi is even double-crossed by Hank Quinlan, which ends up making Hank Quinlan more of the villain after that in the film. The character of Joe Grandi definitely subverts expectations because he is thought of as the main bad guy, but in fact his underlings are more competent than he is, succeeding in kidnapping Mrs. Vargas and intimidating the night man at the hotel.

            There are many different tropes, techniques and stylistic choices in film noir, and these three Orson Welles Films, The Stranger, The Lady From Shanghai, and Touch of Evil show off and subvert many expectations of these choices. From the use of shadow and lighting, to the different archetypes of characters used throughout the films, there are many different ways that these films play with what is expected of film noir. They are both film noir and not, doing things that are different from the genre while still being within the walls of the genre. These films all appropriate film noir in their own way, some choosing to be more noir-like and others barely having a sense of it spare a few techniques. Overall, these films all show Welle's use of appropriation of film noir in many different ways.

Changing Portrayal: An Argument for Women Representation Throughout Film

(Written in 2012)

            Ever since films such as Nosferatu, women have been in cinema. Nosferatu was one of the first films to show a woman as a partial main character, and one who became integral to the plot. According to an article from Penn State's blog on vampire movies,  "early film men were usually the heroes while the woman were damsels in distress. Nosferatu creates a female character that knows that she could be the one that saves the people from her town when she reads that a vampire can be killed by a good hearted and virtuous woman, which Ellen is" (Cramer, 1). Even today, women appear in many different kinds of roles taking on different characters. Scarlett Johansen has appeared in The Avengers, as well as Anne Hathaway playing a woman who ends up being a prostitute in the movie Les Miserables. Though the roles might be different, they both have a impression on the people who watch the films as a representation of women and their place in the world. Some of the roles that women have been given in films over the years have been controversial. Many feminist groups take offense to some of the portrayals of women in film,because it seems to show women in a negative or sexist light. Although these characters may have been written in a certain way to progress the story, the representation of women is shown to every man, woman, and child who watches the film and shapes the way they think about women as a whole.  
            The portrayal of women in these films needs to change so that people don't have a bad impression of women from these films. A child might see a movie and believe that to be a woman you have to fall in love with a handsome man and marry him. Men might believe that women are there to serve them because of some of the submissive stay-at-home women figures that they see in films. Media affects our impression of many things that we can not or have not experienced yet in life, and especially during early life These circumstantial situations portrayed by the media could cause some negative impressions to  be formed. Films need to change to reflect this idea and the problems that it may cause. Filmmakers need to keep their mind on how the characters in their films might have an impact on the audience. The portrayal of women obviously has a very negative view and something needs to be done.
            Women's portrayal in films recently has been very negative. The roles that the women are made out to be in these characters can range from being bad to just being a bad message. Sometimes, women are barely recognized in the film at all. In an article in the International Trade Herald, they talk about the different roles women have in films. One of the things they had to say about women's roles was that "the first decade of the 21st century can be viewed as a singularly male-dominated era in American cinema." (Scott, pg.1) Obviously this is still a problem within recent years. One recent film that may had some problems with the female characters in it was Django Unchained. The only female characters were either slaves or submissive, serving women.The main female character is just a simple damsel in distress. The women in the film are pushed the side to make room for the macho men and the action that they can cause. However, this leaves the women completely out of the action and does not leave a very good impression of how women are supposed to act, or is even really a good representation of how real women act. On top of that, the magazine Death and Taxes raised the point that the film does not even have the excuse of the time period to have written these characters that way. According to the article, " During slavery, many women struggled to define and to defend themselves in circumstances that sought to strip them of their humanity. Women found ways to maintain a sense of family and a belief in the possibilities of future that they could only imagine. These women do not appear in “Django Unchained” (Abrams, 1). Even in college films, the ideas and roles of women aren't necessarily reflective of actual women. There is a good example of this in the student film made by a classmate of mine. In the film, called Love Is Over, the main character is male. He is stuck in a room, after being kidnapped, with his girlfriend. During the time the film takes place, all that the girl does is scream and try and ask for help. Although this was obviously to have the girl be a love interest as well as a damsel in distress, this is not a good representation of women. The character is not strong, and if it weren't for the type of story, the character would seem completely useless and possibly even annoying. The representation of women in the film, as well as Hollywood films, is overall negative and affecting how people think of women.
            For the perception of women to change in films, filmmakers must make an effort to write more independent and strong female characters. The character of Black Widow in The Avengers is a woman amongst many super powered men. However, she still manages to hold her own against the enemies of the film and doesn't need men to look out for her. The director Joss Whedon also directed the television show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which changed some of the gender roles and showed women in more heroic roles than normally shown. In The Avengers, Whedon obviously made a conscious effort to have her be more of a developed character than a the usual sidekick or damsel in distress. By making this decision, Joss Whedon was able to show anyone watching the film that women can defend themselves and don't always have to be saved. A writer for The New Agenda even went as far as to say that the film was a feminist film. When talking about the strong female role of Black Widow, Karrin Vasby Anderson said " She goes toe to toe with the bad guys, keeping pace with her male counterparts, fueled only by girl power" (Anderson, 1). It's obvious that this character is something that is very different for movies, especially action movies such as this. Whedon also shows that the women don't always have to be a side character. Black Widow is definitely a sidekick, but the film follows her for a good portion of time and gives her some scenes alone. This easy solution makes much of a difference to the people who watched the film, including young girls. Young girls who watched the film now have a good role model for a strong, independent woman who is also a superhero in her own right. This gives young women a pretty good person to look up to on the screen and overall creates a different character than most people see in films today.
            Along with this, there are also different ways of writing characters to make them stronger. Though the female character in a film may not be an independent heroine, there are still things that filmmakers can consider. They don't always need to make the women look like they need to be saved. One of the biggest problems that feminists seem to have with the portrayal of women in films is that they need to be saved by a strong man. There are very few independent women throughout film, and the few there are still might fall into the stereotype of being saved by a man in some way throughout the film they appear in. One example is Anne Hathaway's character in Les Miserables. Fontaine is a worker at the beginning of the film. She is mostly strong for herself, and she stands up against the shift manager in the film. Afterwards, she gets fired and has to fend for herself as well as try to get money for her child. She ends up falling into prostitution to get more money. She seems to be a strong character who takes care of herself throughout the film, but then she gets saved by the main character, a man named Jean Valjean. The character who seems to be strong and independent still falls into the cliche of being saved by a male character. According to an article from the site, " in Les Mis, the women are depicted as minor characters, only there to move the struggle forward for the main characters, the men." (Tavaras, 1). To fix this, the filmmaker could have taken this idea and had her stand up for herself some more, and Valjean just could have supported her. Women don't always have to be saved, but the filmmakers don't have to completely make it so that they are independent either. They just need to make it a realistic interpretation of a woman and try not to represent women in a negative light.
            Another solution to this problem is that arts programs in schools could teach kids at an earlier age how to deal with these topics. When you are a young kid, you don't exactly understand much of the world, and what you do know you seem to gather from the movies you watch. If there were programs at schools to teach kids how to react to certain kinds of representations of women in films, then this could help with making kids understand what filmmakers do and also help them not take everything in movies as pure fact. This program could consist of watching movies and discussing as a class what is right or wrong about the characters and if they could happen in real life. This could also give the students a chance to figure out what kind of people they want to be, and know that they don't have to base themselves off of characters in a movie when that movie might not represent them or a group they belong in very well. This would also have another benefit that future filmmakers might have better ideas about what to do and how to represent women in their films in the future.
            Future filmmakers also usually end up getting their training from a university of some sort. There could also be more education, on a college level to people who make these films. There can be more courses on women and women's history throughout cinema to help promote women's roles in cinema and show that women might not always be the role that you find them. Professors in college classes can also concentrate on enforcing the importance of writing female characters as they would actually act in real life. Teaching these things and setting rules for the films that people make will make the filmmakers have more of an active mind on the issue and will make them think more about the roles they write or film in the future. These classes should also offer a history on women in cinema to show what great things women have done in film, to maybe convince some people that it is a good idea to have women in their films be strong. This would also be a great opportunity to offer a class for upcoming filmmakers to learn about portrayals of women and how the media as well as the consumer views these representations. This class could show the differences in characters over the years in film and which ones had the greatest impact. One of the films that could be used as a good example is Silence of The Lambs. The main character is a strong woman who is able to hold her own mentally with a criminally insane cannibal named Hannibal. This was a different example of a woman character at the time, and definitely was a very well-written strong character. She was very much the hero throughout most of the movie. According to an article from the feminist magazine Camera Obscura, The main character, Clarice " risks being victimized and psychologically raped by Lecter, she does not fully assume the role of victim-hero until she enters Bill's lair, and even then she does so only briefly." (Schopp, 2). This is obviously something that was not seen much before this movie.
            Some people might view this problem in a different light. Some people believe that films are a story, and that even though the character might not be realistic, the characters themselves are just a vessel for the story to move through. Therefore, the characters themselves are not representative of anyone in the world, and they do not even necessarily represent the ideas or stereotypes of the people who may be put in the same situation as the movie. However, this is not necessarily true. One film that clearly has some problems with the portrayal of a female character in it is Dead Calm. In the film, there is a lot of odd sexual mix-ups, and even a part where the woman seduces a man just to knock him out. Some of this seems to imply that a woman can only get something through sex, and that sex is a woman's only weapon. Along with that, there seems to be a hint that the female character might have desires other than her husband. Another article in the Camera Obscura states that, "What Dead Calm depicts is the force of Rae's divided drives projected out into a world in which events repeatedly entrap her between the competing demands of two loves" (Schwartz, 4). What this entails is that this woman on the screen, although she is played by an actress and not actually a person making decisions, makes the audience believe, through the power of the movie, that this is what a woman would do in this situation. Indeed, it shows that she has chosen a love triangle of some sort of her own volition. This sends a message to women, as well as men, that women are more likely to cheat, or want to pursue a relationship with another man. Although this might not be true, the film makes it clear to the audience that it is a possibility. Just because the film writes the character this way, it makes the audience believe that perhaps this is a way a woman such as Rae would react in this situation. The film is basing the character's motivations on reality, at least partially, which makes an impression on the people viewing of how the events would actually play out. Overall, the ideas shown in this movie are actually a terrible representation of women. Women aren't all wanting to have a relationship with a man other than their husband, and neither do they use sex as a weapon. This film might show some women who watch it that to get what they want they need to use sex as a weapon. This is, of course, not a good lesson for women, young or old. Of course, this also helps reinforce the stereotype that women are sexual beings. Some men might see this film and believe that women should be seen as sexual objects, since Rae in the film obviously wanted to be thought of that way. Whether the filmmakers meant to or not, they made a film that shows many bad sides of women, and some might say that this does not represent any women at all. Many women in this situation would not do these sorts of these, like use sex as a weapon. The actions of the character are not a good representation, and are therefore still a problem even if the character is just written a certain way to move the story along.
            Filmmakers need to be more conscientious  about what kind of things they put in their movies. They need to be aware that they are representing women in the films they make. As well, there needs to be more awareness in the world that the people shown on screen don't necessarily represent the gender they are showing. Overall, for the negative impression of women to change, there needs to be change with how people see movies as well as how they make them. People need a better understanding of what characters mean. This needs to be taught in different ways all throughout life. There are many different ways of doing this, and although it might not seem like a big enough issue to warrant this, it definitely is. There needs to be things done to make the representation of these women characters much better. People will always take ideas about certain groups that they don't know a lot about from films. This needs to be fixed so that people will have more accurate views on groups, especially women, since they have notoriously been seen in certain negative lights over the years.
            If these solutions are put into action, we can expect to see a lot of change over the years. As more kids grow up knowing what movies tell us isn't necessarily truthful to how women actually are, they will not take it as a representation of women. Also, they will not end up thinking a certain way just because a character in the movie thought that way. Also, the filmmakers would be a little more focused on making sure that the female characters they write are accurate, or at least react similarly to an actual woman. Hopefully this will lead to more women getting jobs in the industry, as it would become a more important issue to make sure that women are represented well in films. As time goes on, the kids who learned about how women actually are and how women are shown in films might go on to make films. Films will just become more and more accurate to the depiction of women, and the film industry as a whole will hopefully become more inclusive and diverse. This will lead to women breaking new barriers in everyday life as well, as people will not judge women based on what they have seen in movies. This would be a very great thing in the world if these solutions were put forth.
            In conclusion, there are many things wrong with film's portrayal of women today. This has been around for some time, but it's obviously starting to change. If this change progresses, along with more teaching about representations of women in schools as well as to filmmakers, the world will become a better place.

Works Cited

Abrams, Brian. "Historian Criticizes Depiction of Women In 'Django Unchained'" Death and     Taxes. January 24, 2013. Web. February 25, 2013.  

Anderson, Karrin. "Why 'The Avengers' Is A Feminist Film" The New Agenda .May 9, 2012:   Web. February 25, 2013.

Love Is Over. By Dominque Williams. 6 Shot Productions. 2013.

Nosferatu. Vampire Cinema. PSU Education blog,  2012.

Schopp, Andrew. "The Practice and Politics of 'Freeing the Look': Jonathan Demme's The        Silence Of The Lambs." Camera Obscura Sep. 22, 2003: 125-152. Print.

Scott, A.O. " Princess? Witch? Sidekick? Object? Star?; Women's roles on film mirror their      times, and these times are confused" International Trade Herald December 8, 2011. Print.

Schwartz, Nina. "Itsy-Bitsy Spiders and Other Pieces Of the Real in Dead Calm." Camera       Obscura Mar. 26 2002: 149-180. Print.

Tavaras, Tye. "Les Miserables Movie: Should Feminists Be Angry About It?" Policymic. Web.             February 26, 2013.

Citizen Kane Scene Analysis: A Vast Distance

Some people can grow distance from the world and people close to them after a while. In Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) slowly withdraws from the world and his second wife, Susan (Dorothy Comingore). This is shown in many different ways in a scene where they are having a conversation near the fireside. The dialogue between the two is strained, making it seem a little tense. The mise-en-scene represents the space growing between them as well as Kane's inner darkness growing. The body language of the actors show what the characters are truly feeling. All of these come together to make a great picture of Kane pushing Susan and the world away.
            The dialogue is very tense. As the scene begins, Susan seems to be slightly bored with her life, as she is not used to so much quiet. Kane seems to be slightly amused by her, and content with how things are going. However when the scene changes, the dialogue is much more strained. Kane seems a little angry at Susan when he talks to her, and she is just being mad back. They are not being angry in their tone, but the dialogue has a feeling of some resentment growing between them. Susan's words seem to have a sting to them, and Kane sounds like he's trying to be controlling and keep her where he wants her.
            The Mise-en-scene of the scene also shows them growing apart. In the first half of the scene, they are standing near each other after Kane walks up to her. In the second half, however, he walks past her and sits in a chair, far away from her. The distance, literally and figuratively, is great between them. They aren't being as personal as they use to be, and Kane almost looks lonely on his chair surrounded by so much empty space. The lighting also kind of shows some shadow on Kane, and much more light on Susan. It shows that Kane may be getting depressed or withdrawing because he is moving away from the light in his life, Susan.
            The body language in the scene also shows a lot. The characters both seem to be very bored from their body language. As Susan throws down the puzzle piece and looks up at Kane, she seems to be getting slightly annoyed and bored at the monotony she has been experiencing. Kane, on the other hand is standing up and looks proud of himself. As time goes on, he ends up sitting on his throne, looking like he is in charge of his life, but is seemingly not even looking directly at Susan. Susan at that point looks almost enraged with her body language, slumped over and obviously being beaten down by the boredom she's been experiencing since she started living in Xanadu.
            This scene obviously shows much of Kane's withdrawal from his public life. He seems to be becoming a loner of sorts, a recluse, which Susan isn't wanting to be. The distance between them becomes immense. The film shows many aspects of how this distance is growing. The tense dialogue, dark Mise-en-scene and the body language of boredom from Kane and Susan truly shows a man withdrawing from everyone around him.

(Written in 2012)

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Analysis (Technical and Review)

(A more technical-focused older review)

The film I chose to write on is Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. It is a comic book adaption film directed by Edgar Wright. The film was shot digitally on a Phantom HD camera. They used a lot of different lenses, mostly consisting of Panasonic lenses. They had a lot of digital work done in a few different places in the US, but most of the editing was done in Canada. It was printed onto 35mm film for release in theatres. During it's time in theatres, it made roughly 31,494,270 dollars gross in the US. The budget was around 60,000,000 dollars, so sadly they did not even get enough money to be considered a hit. Besides this, it is considered a cult hit. The film was shot on location in some areas in Canada, mostly in Toronto. There were also some shots filmed on sets. The film was then sent to different areas, some in the US, some in the UK, but most of the processing and lab work was done by Deluxe in Canada. afterwards, the film was released in theatres to a broad audience along with advertisements running on television and other forms of media. The Cinematographer for this film is Bill Pope. Bill Pope is well known as the cinematographer of The Matrix Series, along with the Spiderman Series of films. overall, he is known for being able to film good action scenes. His approach with this film was to do some interesting shots for all the non-action scenes while also switching up some of the angles during action scenes.
            One scene in the film that really stands out is the last battle scene between Scott and Gideon. The sound design is very interesting in this part of the film. First of all, you have the ongoing music that has to match the pace of the action. Alongside that you also have the grunting or screaming sounds of the actors, along with the digitalized sounds of the weapons and the pixelation sounds that were laid over them. Also, whenever swords collide with something there is usually a video game sound effect for the hit. The sound design during this part is in part supposed to evoke the feeling of a video game, approaching a final boss. The fast-pacedness of the sound design seems to grab your attention and show some tension to the scene- that this an important battle that is leading to a bigger one. The sound designer for this film is James Boyle. James Boyle also did sound design for films such as Batman Begins and the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace.
            The director of the film is Edgar Wright. Edgar Wright is known for comedy action films that end up having cult followings. One of his first popular films was Shaun Of The Dead, followed by Hot Fuzz. He seems to be pretty good at doing action and comedy together, and that is in part his signature. This is obviously utilized in this film, which is in fact based on a comic that has those same elements. He was indeed a fan of the comics when he read them, and was interested in the project to begin with. He wanted to evoke the feeling of video games in the film, along with somewhat of a childhood wonder. He wanted the audience to somewhat feel like they were in the main character's daydream. He directed the actors in a way to make it seem almost hyper realistic for some of the scenes, and made sure that they acted perfectly for it. There is also a lot he did to make sure that the music fit into the overall setting and feel of the movie. Wright had always wanted to make a comic book adaption movie, and I think the stylized way he did it was something that normally isn't seen in film. He tried to make feel and seem like an action-comedy comic book, and it came across really well.
            For the most part, the film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is about falling in love. Scott Pilgrim is dating a girl much younger than him when he meets a girl who seems beautiful to him in an odd place- his dream. It turns out that she's real and she just so happened to wander through his dreams while he was sleeping. He begins to like her and dumps the younger girl. From then on he finds out that he has to fight her seven evil exes in order to be with her. He fights them all with hyper-stylized, almost dreamlike fighting skills, and he learns more about this girl and some of her quirks. He finds out a lot about her past and the way that she treats people while also growing out of his arrested development towards being a responsible adult figure. at the end they are happy and accept each other's problems and he defeats the evil exes. The film has a very interesting way of showing the story of a romantic comedy. It could have been done a lot more down-to-earth and less stylized, but it wouldn't have stood out as such an interesting and entertaining piece of work if it wasn't for the stylization. The comedy is used throughout in different ways, even in the middle of action scenes to keep the audience engaged. The characters are well written and interact well. Every action scene is a visual treat, along with having a solid impact on the story and part of the girl's past. The film even does a pretty solid job of adapting the comic, only leaving out a few things that were not overall too important. The film does a lot of things that haven't been done in film, and relate more to a younger crowd and the current generation watching these sorts of films. I think that it is a very niche film, but it is definitely one that will stay on people's minds for a while.

(Written in 2012)

Short notes on Fritz Lang's Metropolis

(These again are from college. Just some general notes. I hope to revisit Metropolis in format again soon.)

1. Fritz Lang uses colors to show the difference between the elite and worker classes. The elite wear white colors, showing ignorance and being carefree, while the workers wear dark clothes, as if tarnished by their conditions.
            2. There is a symmetry in the worker's space, showing how their area is controlled and even. The elite have great big spaces, with less symmetry to show they are more in control of what they can do.
            3. The elite have areas full of nature, like The Eternal Gardens that they can enter. The workers don't have any hint of nature around them.
            The motif of hands is seen many times. The part where the children were being shown the Garden by Maria, they grab up to her as if she is some divine being. This sets up that she is an important figure. There is also a whole symbolism of the hands touching the heart. If someone's hand is touching their heart in the film, it means they want peace.

Inception Analysis

(This is an older review written as an essay. Therefore it will not follow the format of other movie reviews I will do)

As Christopher Nolan's Inception begins, you are immediately thrown into confusion. The way the director decides to start the movie immediately has you questioning what is going on as far as the story, and if you know the basic premise from the trailer, then you are already questioning which part of the scenes are taking place in someone's dream and which part is real. It's all very confusing, but it's a very good tactic to begin with, as it makes you interested in finding out what exactly is happening. It challenges your brain to figure out what it all means. However, like any great movie with mystery, it seems to promise it will answer all your questions with time.
            The film sets up a complicated premise and idea very quickly by throwing you into the action right away, and then not fully explaining the concept until later. Doing this lets the viewer enjoy the mystery and confusion following the beginning sequence. After Ellen Page's character, Ariadne, is introduced, she acts for the audience, asking the same questions they had been thinking about during the opening sequence.
            Inception does a very good job explaining it's rules fully. However, after the rules are explained, the sense of mystery stays. The main character, Cobb, has a very complicated, and unseen past. as the story goes on, the details of Cobb's past, as well as the secret of his mysterious wife and her presence in the dreams, are explained. So too, are the flashes of his children. But as the movie goes on, The viewer is still interested in what exactly all these things mean, and the mystery isn't fully explained until much later. It makes you much more involved in the complicated character, and concerned of how things will turn out for him.
            The group that is compiled by Cobb and Arthur near the beginning of the movie serves a very specific purpose. They all want to perform Inception, mostly for different reasons. They each have their own jobs, and the way they are recruited as well as the nature of their jobs makes them seem like very good criminals, which you could say they are, as they are professional extractors who get information out of people through their dreams. It's a very interesting cast, as they are the main characters as well as being criminals, but they still end up being heroic in a way, since they aren't necessarily doing anything bad.
            The film plays a little bit with ambiguity. This may be one of my main conflicts with the movie. As it goes on, there are some hints here or there that things might not be how they appear. You start to lose track of what is a dream, and what layer of a dream something is. for a normal viewer, it's possible for them to lose track of what exactly is going on, but I don't think it will take away from the enjoyment as long as they have at least a vague understanding of the concept. There are also slight hints that something that may have appeared to be a dream earlier on in the film was actually reality, and vice versa. This serves to add a layer of complicity to the movie, as well as affecting the overall theme. It also confuses the audience, which if it is done right, such as it is in this movie, could make the audience want to continue watching to make sure they found out what it all means.
            In relation to Christopher Nolan's other films, inception seems quite a bit different. In Memento Nolan messed around with the audience's perception of time by having the narrative run backward. In The Dark Knight, Nolan changed up the superhero genre and took it to a new level in seriousness. However, Inception seems to be one of Nolan's most Hollywood-oriented films. While the concept seems like something out of a good independent feature, the action and overall production value seem to be aiming for the target audience of American filmgoers in theatres. This is a movie that you could go and see with your family on a Friday night and grab some popcorn. Nolan might have done this deliberately when constructing this film to try and lull the audience into a sense of regularness within the film, only to surprise them later on when it all turns a little odd.
            The film also has some elements related to crime dramas. Marion Coutliard plays the femme fatale in this movie, or at least this movie's version of it, which was a popular character in noir movies. Many people have said that this movie is basically Christopher Nolan's take on a noir or robbery film.  The movie also has a bit of a connection to James Bond style action movies, like the final dream layer where there is basically an fortress surrounded by snow that the heroes are trying to break into to finish the job. There is also a little bit of the feeling of a James Bond movie at the beginning of the movie when you realize that Cobb and Arthur are trying to plant an idea into someone's head, with the characters even dressing up in suits and having small guns hidden on their person.
            This film has a few different ways the theme can be thought of. There is an overlaying theme of whether or not it's okay to live in a dream, and what reality truly is. There is some connections to film. You could say that the group that is out to perform inception could be akin to a film production team, and that filmmakers try to incept an idea to their audience, in a way. There are many connections that could be made to the relationship between the group in the film and a group of filmmakers.  Overall, the movie warns against getting lost in any kind of fictional world, whether it be your dreams, or even movies themselves.

(Written in 2012)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random Movie Review: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Superman and Batman. both of DC's greatest heroes. In this movie, a meteor falls to earth in Gotham Harbor and Batman goes to investigate. out of the meteorite comes a girl, who turns out to be a Kryptonian. she is trained by people, and then kidnapped by Darkside, wanting her to become his Honor General in his army. so, Batman, Superman and Wonderwoman go to get her back.

That being said, it was pretty good for what it was. It was obviously a made-for-TV animated special., and I just picked it at random on the netflix animated section. If you're like me, you know some of the background of Superman and Batman. now, I love both, but Batman is my favorite. The story in this movie heavily relies on your prior knowledge of them. you have to understand that Superman is from Krypton, you have to understand Kryptonite is his weakness, and you have to know who Darkside is and Apocalypse. now I didn't know about Darkside before this, and the movie didn't do a very good job of explaining it. there was not as much detective work or mystery to this movie, since the characters already knew the villain they were fighting. The animation was pretty good, as to be expected, but nothing mind-blowing. A lot of the action scenes are just classic DC, like when Batman throws his Batarangs and they explode seconds after impact, or Superman flying towards a fireball and breaking through it.

Superman and Batman make a good team, which makes sense, but in this movie you don't see them as teammates that often. usually they are off having their own battles, and there isn't so much of both of them helping each other, which is what I was expecting from it. the story was very normal for DC, I was expecting almost everything, except for a short scene at the end that I realized was one of the weirdest settings for a epic fight I have ever witnessed. One of the big themes of this movie is finding yourself and growing up, and if this movie is directed towards teens or older children, then I think it's a good message for them. All that being said, this was pretty good for a TV animated feature, and I found myself getting pretty excited at some of the action scenes. If you're expecting something on par with The Dark Knight or one of the Superman Movies, then this probably isn't for you. If you're a fan of the classic Superman TV show, you might find this a little bit more to your liking. Plus, there's a scene where Batman is killing Doomsdays with an axe. so you've got that to look forward to.

(This was written years ago, before the rebooted DCEU. funnily enough, it seems like this short animated film did interaction between Batman and Superman better than Batman V Superman did. They had nice interaction and they fought a bit, but at the end of the day they worked well off each other.)