Friday, December 13, 2002
I'm desperate to get my sleeping back on track. I can't funtion as a normal human being if I wake up at 3pm and don't sleep until 7am! I had a chance to see about 25 minutes of Oblivion. I am extremely impressed with what I see. I try to be a hard observer, but I keep finding myself blown away with how everything is turning out! I hope that the Oblivion website is fully up soon. You can check out the shell here. The site was designed by Matt, oblivions script writer. Austin has also informed me that he has decided to give me an associate producer credit on the film, because I fill a non-specific roll, but have been a big help none the less! I really apreciate this and am very honoured, and everyone will see why when Oblivion is unleashed. In the meantime my movie of the day is:
Thursday, December 12, 2002
"Run Don't Walk!"
I had a wonderful cinematic experiance tonight when I rewarded myself for finishing this semester's work at University with a film that I consider to be one of the very best of the year. Far From Heaven is a throwback to all those classic 50's films grown up into modern sensebilities. It features two brilliant performances by Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore. I wouldn't be suprised if both of them win an Oscar let alone get nominated. I have since placed it #4 on my top 10 films of 2002 behind Road to Perdition, Punch Drunk Love and Songs From the Second Floor. I implore everyone to go find this film and cherish it. Here is what a few reviewers had to say:
"What could have easily become a cold, calculated exercise in postmodern pastiche winds up a powerful and deeply moving example of melodramatic moviemaking."
-- Ken Fox, TV GUIDE'S MOVIE GUIDE
"A powerful and telling story that examines forbidden love, racial tension, and other issues that are as valid today as they were in the 1950s."
-- James Berardinelli, JAMES BERARDINELLI'S REELVIEWS
"The film's three leads are extraordinary, but what Moore does with her role is so beyond the parameters of what we call great acting that it nearly defies categorization."
-- Manohla Dargis, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Without resorting to camp or parody, Haynes (like Sirk, but differently) has transformed the rhetoric of Hollywood melodrama into something provocative, rich, and strange."
-- J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE
"From living room furniture to chain smoking at a cocktail party, Haynes gives the film the verisimilitude of a time and place where reflex, ritual and function disguised what people really thought and felt."
-- Duane Dudek, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Considering i have little interest in writing my last essay due tomorrow at 6pm, I am quite happy with my introduciton. Check it out!
An egregious error was committed by Paul Mazursky when he commissioned himself to direct a revisionist film of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. What Mazursky created in his revision was a film that proposed to include the history leading up to the events played out in the original play. That proposal in itself was not what I propose was a significant error, rather a change within the characterization of two of the play’s major players, specifically the King of Naples, Alonso who became Alberto Alonzo, a baron of a casino empire, and Prospero’s brother, also the Duke of Milan, Antonio who was changed into a female character Antonia Dimitrious, an aging actress and Phillip Dimitrious’s (Prospero) wife. Tempest (1982) is not a failure if you contextualize the film by itself, as both Alonzo and Antonia are both well written and played rolls. Unfortunately for Mazursky, Tempest must be considered in relation to the original text, as it is a direct descendent of The Tempest. What this essay will study is the relationships between Alonso and Antonio in The Tempest versus Alonzo and Antonia in Tempest. What I propose is that the alterations by Mazursky subvert the original text’s intentions and hurts the film both within itself and in relation to the original text.
Heres another pic:
"Guess this pic and win a prize! Post in comment section!"
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Here is a nice picture I took and like to look at when Im writing essays!
"Aw nice branches and stuff. You wouldn't knwo by looking but the house behind the picture was being destoryed at the time and is now wiped from the face of the earth!"
Ahhhhh...I am sick of writing essays. I am almost done my fourth in a week, posted below, and I have one more to go. weeee! In oreder to have the context for this essay you will have to read my previous review of the film High School a few posts below! Going to bed now. Tomorrow at noon I finish!
Earlier this week a trite little critique of the film High School (1969), directed by Frederick Wiseman, made its way into my hands. Aptly titled “Practice Review”, the essay contained if nothing else a familiar, and under supported critique of the film, and only hinted at a decision as to whether or not the other actually enjoyed the film. Perhaps he had previously studied how not to have a properly supported point of view from the likes of Rafferty, or Rosenbaum. Never the less the critique had a lot of potential, if it only moved away from the over use of quotes from Oliver Stone films and focused more on the film’s many qualities using formal analysis, semiotics, different ideological critiques, polysemy, and post-modernist theory. What the reviewer would have found was a much deeper film that could justify its reactionary stance, rather than the author’s initial reaction that it was far too methodically put together to be considered a brilliant piece of direct cinema.
When breaking down the original critique into its fundamental arguments it is obvious that the writer spent very little time dealing with a formal analysis of the film or “the elements that constitute the cinematic ‘text’”(Bellour, 28). The review’s second paragraph states “High School does not follow a standard narrative, rather the film jumps between events in the high school over many days” (1), the writer then goes on to state that “the fundamental problem with a High School lies in how it was edited” (3). Unfortunately the writer only pays lip service to one of the film’s most brilliant aspects, which can only be found in a true formal analysis. First he should have dug deeper into the films editing. The way the film was edited is only a piece of the films puzzle. If one looks just at how the film was edited, he would find a subversive, therefore unforgiving and a “look at everyday school life [that] quickly boils over into a raging anti-authority, anti-establishment ethic (3). What the critique should have also considered was sound, shot composition, and shot selection, which translated into the material that would be edited into a final product.
The sound is its own character in High School. The teachers walk around the school as tyrants commanding their students to follow the rules and conform. We hear the gym teacher tell off a bully, and then bully a kid who was simply trying to defend his position against another tyrant (teacher). We see a teacher point out girls’ faults, we see a teacher march down the hallway exacting authority of all those who dare enter the hall without a hall pass, and we see another teacher command his students to conform to the classic Jewish lifestyle, where the women do the banking. We also hear the sound of music in personal training where all the girls dance to what Sammy says. We also hear the sounds of many different languages, be it French, Spanish or English, as well as the language of Paul Simon. What we hear very little of is the sounds of the students. They are given little outlet, and seem to be shut down at every corner by the overbearing teacher authority.
The critique gives no space to shot composition and shot selection. The director followed a distinct visual style. The teachers are shown mostly in close-up, low angle shots, which give the authority figures an ominous look. The students are usually shot below the waist or from behind where they are sitting, grouping the students into a mass, which aids in the films argument that mass conformity is the burden the students are faced with. Students are only given a face when they choose to express themselves. The director then pulls out into a full frame composition highlighting both their faces and bodies, placing them in a far more sympathetic light then the teachers they are facing. It is also important to note the effort that went into reducing the impact that the filmmakers themselves had on the events that took place within the film. The filmmakers spent half a year beforehand integrating into everyday school life so that the situations and scenes would be natural and not reactionary to the camera’s eye. Perhaps if the original critique had noted these formal aspects of the filmmaking process, it would have concluded that the film was extremely well filmed and edited direct cinema piece that effectively captured high school life.
A semiotic analysis of the film, specifically what the film denotes and connotes. Like Barthes’s argument that “each moment in wrestling is [like] algebra which instantaneously unveils the relationship between a cause and its represented effect” (Barthes, 18), Wiseman shows High School as an organism that reveals each moment as a cause and studies its effect. The original critique, “Practice Review” deals with the denotative and connotative effects of High School but does not categorize the film into the two classes. The introduction states that High School is a “raw portrait of an American high school located in North East Philadelphia” (1). I would also suggest that the writer include a more descriptive vision of the school. The school itself is a modern, non-descript brick building meant for maximum capacity, and sticks out amongst the suburban setting. The essay also denotes the every day life of school where “students hurdle through their different classes” (1) and where physical education is where “the girls dance in ordered lines, while the boys run around in a giant group trying to keep a giant ball in the air” (1). The critique also reveals the connotative effect that the film has on the viewer when he states that “what the film quickly dispels is the myth that the high school is a creative and critical outlet for the youth of America” (2). I would also suggest that the reviewer should have gone further and examined the deeper ideological effects of the school, which will be examined below.
Guillory argues in “The Ideology of Canon-Formation” that ideology is conceived “as an unconscious ‘system of representations’” (338) and then goes on to argue that “it is not at all evident what sort of ‘truth’ is produced by a critique of ideology, except that such truth aspires to overcome the philosophical antitheses between fact and value” (338). I argue that the “Practice Review” could not overcome
----------------this is a break where I will be adding ideological crit later-------------------------------------
The most egregious error of “Practice Review” was the complete exclusion of a postmodernist critique. High School can be analyzed using the five principles of postmodernism; 1. A Breakdown of the distinction between culture and society, 2. An emphasis on style rather than substance, 3. A breakdown of high and low culture, 4. Confusion over space and time, and 5. The decline of the Meta-Narrative.
The distinction between culture and society is blurred in High School. Teen culture of the 60’s is shown to be one of greater personal expression, be that artistically, politically, or sexually. The high school system seeks to downplay this expression and grind societal expectations into the heads of the students. The film itself does not breakdown the distinction so much as the teachers and the school system attempts to do so in the film.
Direct cinema is considered to be realist cinema, or a form which places substance above style. I would argue that High School is in fact an exercise of style over substance. When broken down in a formal analysis the film is composed of five minute scenes with random interactions between students and teachers. The film shares no cohesive narrative and asks no questions and provides no answers. The argument that the editing achieves the effect of providing substance is rightly questioned in the original critique: “Wiseman’s practice of editing the way he did undermines his whole attempt at realistically portraying the high school environment and classes himself in the same light as the teachers” (3). Perhaps a shift in technique towards a classical documentary feel would have provided more substance and help express what the filmmaker wanted to say.
The film does represent a breakdown in high/low culture. The movement of direct cinema in the 60’s represented a significant shift in the high culture attitude towards lower culture. Wiseman’s raw portrait of the high school gathers both emotional and ideological responses that could be enjoyed by the “low” culture, or the teenagers and the working class families, as well as the “high” culture professors and film elitists who would appreciate the films significant formal qualities.
The film is assuredly postmodernist in that it confuses space and time. The students and teachers are confined to the school and are not shown outside where they spend the majority of their time. The school is represented as its own living breathing microcosm that seems to never shut down. During the length of the film the viewer is given very few indications of time. Events happen randomly, from the male sex instruction, to the Football rally, to the fashion show, to the conclusion of the space program, we have to guess that the events are assembled in chronological order or blended to represent what Wiseman felt was what he wanted as an account of the high School.
Finally Wiseman’s view of high school is one where the decline of the meta-narrative is at its most rapid pace. Wiseman parallels the blending of society and culture with the decline of the meta-narrative. The original review states that “the film constructs a version of education where children are mass produced under a banner of democratic though and churned out into their ‘rightful’ positions in life” (2). I see that statement as a parallel for religion, where you substitute ‘education’ for ‘god’ or ‘religion’. The separation of church and state seems to be a central struggle within the film, as the teachers try to teach proper ‘Christian’ values, while the students would rather guide themselves with their own voice. The school is shown to struggle with this change as they introduce safe sex, but disallow outfits that rise above the knees.
Monday, December 09, 2002
While I am at it, here are 2 more photos from the series I shot while in my photography class:
"Guess the vehicle and win a prize"
Below is my first paragraph of a direct response to a review a did at the start of my semester earlier this year. The response is actually an assigned essay worth some 30% of my mark in my visual culture class. My Prof did a brilliant thing in subverting our normal expectations of what a final examination is and I decided to subvert as well. As you can see below I poke fun at my own essay. This is fun!
Earlier this week a trite little critique of the film High School (1969), directed by Frederick Wiseman, made its way into my hands. Aptly titled “Practice Review”, the essay contained if nothing else a familiar, and under supported critique of the film, and only hinted at a decision as to whether or not the other actually enjoyed the film. Perhaps he had previously studied how not to have a properly supported point of view from the likes of Rafferty, or Rosenbaum. Never the less the critique had a lot of potentials, if it only moved away from the over use of quotes from Oliver Stone films and focused more on the film’s many qualities using formal analysis, semiotics, different ideological critiques, polysemy, and post-modernist theory. What the reviewer would have found was a much deeper film that could justify its reactionary stance, rather than the author’s initial reaction that it was far too methodically put together to be considered a brilliant piece of direct cinema.
Jim Garrison, the lead character in Oliver Stone’s JFk (1991) summed up America’s mistrust of subversive American authority best in his summation to the jury near the end of the film; “when it smells like it, feels like it, and looks like it, you call it what it is - it's Fascism!” The film High School (1969), directed by Frederick Wiseman, an early practitioner and master of direct cinema, who has made such films as; Welfare (1975), and Juvenile Court (1973), is a raw portrait of an American high school located in North East Philadelphia, which houses inadequate authority figures, the teachers, who show an extreme inability to handle the students who attend.
High School does not follow a standard narrative, rather the film jumps between events in the high school over many days. We are shown only a small glimpse of high school life as the students hurdle through their different classes. In English a teacher is shown trying to deconstruct Paul Simon’s songs as poetry. In physical education the girls dance in ordered lines, while the boys run around in a giant group trying to keep a giant ball in the air. We are also shown preparations for a fashion show where girls show off their dresses and get unflattering comments about their figure from the teacher and a sexual education assembly where the boys are taught about virginity.
We hear mostly from the teachers, as they order their students around school. One administrator walks the halls ordering around all the students who don’t have hall passes. Another teacher reprimands one student for fighting with a classmate, and another student for refusing to workout due to health concerns.
What the film quickly dispels is the myth that the high school is a creative and critical outlet for the youth of America and high school as a place where teens can make individual choices for their future. Rather, the film constructs a version of education where children are mass produced under a banner of democratic thought and churned out into their ‘rightful’ positions in life. The film opens with a set of non-descript automobiles driving down an unknown road to an unknown destination. What the high school in this film produces is the same sentiment, that the youth leaves school having been dictated a single attitude about their society.
The students in the film are given very few opportunities to speak. They are usually only seen expressing themselves when in trouble. Incidents include a boy who believes he was wrongly kicked out of class for having been humiliated by some other students, a girl who wore a little shorter than knee-high skirts, and another girl for going against her parents and teachers wishes and opting to attend beauty school. All these events are the sparks of individualism that are quickly put out by the authority of the school, and the students are quickly shuffled back into line to receive their scripted learning. In fact the only real individuals in the film other than the teachers are a couple of American soldiers stationed in Vietnam, one who visits the school after a tour of duty, and another who has a letter read aloud in memory after having been killed in the war.
The fundamental problem with High School lies in how it was edited. When viewing a piece of direct cinema we cannot be fooled into believing that it is a complete representation of everyday living, in this case the high school environment. Frederick Wiseman carefully builds an extremely pointed view of the whole proceedings through careful editing. What seems at first an honest look at everyday school life quickly boils over into a raging anit-authority, anti-establishment ethic. Vadim Rizov, a critic for Movie-Vault.com praises High School but agrees it is overly sympathetic to the students; “The only really irksome thing is that Wiseman omits just about everything that could have put the school in a favorable light. Wiseman's film is unbalanced to fit what his overall impression of the school was” . While I agree with Rizov’s opinion I will go further in saying that Wiseman’s practices of editing the way he did undermines his whole attempt at realistically portraying the high school environment and classes himself in the same light as the teachers in High School.
As with Jim Garrison I firmly believe that when it smells like it, and looks like it you call it what it is. Certainly High School is representative of the fascist way in which high schools were run and are still being run today, but it is also a study in how to throw the balance of an unbiased eye of the camera through careful editing, which in the end undermines the audience in provoking our deepest sentiment about the treatment of children at school and lessens a mostly well constructed film.
I gotta get some sleep!
I just rewatched Vanilla Sky for the first time in about 6 months. What a brilliant film. It is one of the few films I have seen recently (Solaris as well!) that really captures your attention and bends your mind. Cameron Crowe is on a roll with both Vanilla Sky and Almost Famous. I can't wait for what he has to say next.
"She is the saddest girl to ever to hold a martini."
I would also like to award Vanilla Sky with the best trailer of 2001! My god it is the perfect example of how to draw someone into a film, without revealing the ending "cough" sweet home alabama "cough".
Please do check out the trailer here! It will blow your mind guarenteed!
Oh and a little bit of trivia. Cameron Crowe made a special appearance in a recent summer blockbuster, shown here:
"I need your help. You contain information. I need to know how to get at it. ."
Sunday, December 08, 2002
Here are some pics I took while in my photography class last year. The bottom two I submitted along with my Ryerson application. I got on the waiting list, so they must have done something for them. I will be uploading more in the future.
"ooooo a Swirl!!"
my friend Brent, aka Corran has opened up his own Blog. Chack it out here.
The opening quote is gold: "Welcome to the grand opening, have a nice fucking day. Free watered down koolaid will be served to those who stay."
You really have to be kidding me! Morons! (I.m talking about the justice system)
Man Sentenced for 'Burning Bush' Comment
By Associated Press
December 6, 2002, 2:37 PM EST
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A man who made a remark about a "burning Bush" during the president's March 2001 trip to Sioux Falls was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison.
Richard Humphreys, of Portland, Ore., was convicted in September of threatening to kill or harm the president and said he plans to appeal. He has said the comment was a prophecy protected under his right to free speech.
Humphreys said he got into a barroom discussion in nearby Watertown with a truck driver. A bartender who overheard the conversation realized the president was to visit Sioux Falls the next day and told police Humphreys talked about a "burning Bush" and the possibility of someone pouring a flammable liquid on Bush and lighting it.
"I said God might speak to the world through a burning Bush," Humphreys testified during his trial. "I had said that before and I thought it was funny."
Oh and check this one out:
Berkeley Mayor Admits Stealing Newspapers
Berkeley's new mayor, Tom Bates, has admitted stealing and throwing away copies of the UC-Berkeley student newspaper that endorsed his opponent, the Daily Californian reported today.
About 1,000 copies of the November 4 issue were stolen. Most of them were found in trash cans on Sproul Plaza, the newspaper said.
The Daily Cal had endorsed Mayor Shirley Dean in that issue. Dean, who had served for eight years, lost her re-election bid to Bates the next day.
Bates, who earlier denied stealing the newspapers although witnesses had accused him of doing it, issued a statement apologizing for the thefts.
"There is no question that tossing newspapers is absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable," Bates told the newspaper. "I apologize on behalf of myself and my supporters for our involvement in this activity."
Bates is a well-known East Bay politician and a former Democratic member of the state Assembly
So I helped out on Austin's set today. His website is almost up. You can check for updates here. I was in charge of the boom while Austin directed the one actor on set, and our DP did his thing. The actor, who's name is escaping me right now, was initically a little shaky, and it seemed as if he really wasn't aware of his situation and role. SOme role playing with Austin quickly changed the situation, and the shots we had to do went quickly and without a hitch. You can check out the image below for an example of what we shot. the background image is a place holder for what will be death and destruction in the background once it goes through post.
"My boom (the star of the show) was about 2 inches out of frame!"
Afterwards Austin treated us to lunch at Charcoal burger. We then headed back to Emmedia, where we were shooting the bluescreen and checked out some unfinished edits on scenes done in the summer. I was floored. The acting, mise-en-scene, and camera work was spectacular. I am really looking forward to a finished product, which should show up some time in January.
Until next time.