Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category
Over the past four years, we’ve been witnesses to a pretty significant phenomenon. We’ve gotten to watch a studio endeavor to create several different films of a single universe in an effort to release a crossover film that collected these films’ main characters into a team. I’m of course referring to Marvel Studios and its efforts toward making The Avengers a reality.
The road to The Avengers has been anything but a smooth one. In the four years since Iron Man, the first film planned for this Marvel Movieverse amalgamation, its films have seen changes in cast and crew, which were often caused by internal power struggles, while they tried very hard to make the universe work as a whole. Did Marvel succeed in the end? In my opinion, the only way to really answer this is to break down Marvel’s efforts film by film.
In order for a horror film to be affecting it must accomplish an array of feats that manipulate its audience in a way that steers it toward a desired end, which is usually one of disenfranchisement, disgust, dismay, or paranoia. But one key element to effective horror that goes largely unmentioned is the importance of pity. When a horror film does not take seriously this pivotal aspect, or neglects it altogether, what usually results is a campy flick that allows, if not promotes an audience to react with disinterest or laughter instead of shock, terror, or other sorts of psychological distress. In order to properly convey the importance of a scary movie’s ability to make an audience pity we must first examine precisely what pity is and how it works to assist a movie’s efforts to jar its viewers. From doing this we can hopefully discover the major faults of modern American horror, and see what needs to be done to revive it.
If you haven’t already, read Part 1 here to see our interpretation of the film’s ending.
Part 2 – Taking a Leap of Faith
Being able to visit dreams is no doubt a concept that is difficult to grasp, especially once you try to consider all of the philosophical possibilities attached to such an idea. That this concept forces us to adapt the foundations of our methods of critical thinking, and indeed logic itself, because we are no longer dealing with the “real” but unbridled cognitive enterprise, we must resort to a manner of thinking that requires pure conjectural reasoning and rationality. By this I am suggesting that it would behoove our intentions to successfully explore this movie by thinking more abstractly about it (theoretically, conceptually, etc.), in addition to relying on concrete cues provided by the film’s text* (details observable in some form or fashion that lead to confirmed or implied conclusions). By doing this it may be possible to discover the film’s main goal and purpose. Read the rest of this entry »
With over a week now passed since the opening of Chris Nolan’s Inception, which is perhaps the most cerebral mainstream movie released so far this year, we thought it would be rewarding to analyze it a little further. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a neuroscientist who visits other people’s dreams (along with his own) and has a complex relationship with his late wife through these dreams, the film’s story is rife with philosophical quandaries and interpretive possibilities. Below, we try to take a look at some of both. To further appreciate any film you must look more intently at it and focus on the finer details, because sometimes these details can change how you view the bigger picture. Not that we would be so presumptuous to say that we are about to unveil some monumental factor that will knock your socks off, but taking the following analysis with a grain of salt might cause you to reconsider what you think you already know about this mind-blowing film.
Caution: It is highly recommended that you see Inception before reading any further Read the rest of this entry »
Writer/Director Joss Whedon’s 2005 film Serenity combines genre conventions of both Westerns and futuristic science fiction films. Though the events of Serenity and the Fox television series that inspired it, Firefly, take place a little over 500 years in the future, everything from the character typology and dialogue to the stories and costuming are more akin to classic Westerns than sci-fi films. However, though series-creator Whedon more heavily utilizes elements from Westerns, he does not simply transfer them unchanged. Instead, Whedon rewrites traditional Western conventions in order to make them more reflective of and relevant to contemporary society.
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The Dark Knight: Batman Becomes a Westerner
The character of Batman as presented in director Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight represents many of the iconographic elements that comprise what is known as the Westerner. The caped crusader can more accurately be distinguished as being more medieval (that is, consisting of character traits more attuned to medieval literature) in most of his filmic representations, such as Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), and such a connection does not completely stop with Nolan’s most recent feature as even the film’s title outright labels its hero a “knight.” But despite this, Nolan has introduced the character of Batman to the world of cinema in a new way that displays him more as a western idol reminiscent of the days of John Wayne. American audiences gorged themselves on this newest version of the classic superhero, amassing a domestic box office revenue of over $530 million (second only to Titanic‘s $600 million+), and the reason for this may be found in the social structure of its viewers. Read the rest of this entry »
When released on June 25th, 1982, director John Carpenter’s The Thing made a little bit of noise with critics, but did little else to make a name for itself. That little bit of noise was not even positive however, as critical consensus was that the film gave away too much and yet harbored very little. Packed with gore effects of a quality that made even the most hateful reviewers concede to their brilliance, it was nevertheless those very effects which caused those reviewers to look upon the film with disdain and disgust. Since its lousy release, though, The Thing has slowly become more critically renowned and is a prideful source of entertainment and reverence for many horror and sci-fi audiences. It proves that in some cases, like some people, some films are simply made outside of their times.
The Thing (1982) is a quasi-remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World, but is more so, as claimed by Carpenter himself, an aspirant adaptation of their source material, which is the short story titled “Who Goes There?” (1938) by writer John W. Campbell Jr. Hawks’ version had long since been revered by fans and critics alike when Carpenter’s film was made, and by that very token could have ostensibly doomed any hopes that Carpenter might have had about making his film more successful on all levels. But Carpenter himself is an admitted fanatic of Hawks’ film, with Howard Hawks being one of his favorite directors of all time. So then, why do a remake? Carpenter’s version, written by screenwriter Bill Lancaster, is unlike Hawks’ in that the thing itself (i.e. the monster/alien) is not a man in a suite parading around like an alien (Hawks) but is actually as it is described in Campbell’s story; an organism that possesses the ability to occupy and imitate life forms of any shape and size (Billson, p.14-16). This differentiation in the makeup (that is, the physical and philosophical makeup) of the alien being is what Carpenter hoped would make his film much more frightening. Read the rest of this entry »
The topic of images and our (the viewers) perception of them is one that presents itself as rich in analytical possibility and theoretical elucidation. Two different yet correlated approaches are those of post-colonial thought and hyper-reality theory (named here in their broadest titles), which identify and define images differently while also suggesting/arguing diverse receptions and consequences according to their respective perspectives. Their common ground lies primarily in the consumers of the images themselves, the viewers, which regardless of their state of mind or contributive intensity (based on any one perspective) prove essential. Film, the image’s most vibrant source, provides itself as a perfect subject for which to project the different approaches to the topic of imagery, and an example of a film that invitingly lends itself to such discourse is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). Through such an examination, the real role of the viewer/audience will be ascertained. Read the rest of this entry »
Understanding a Gruesome and Controversial Cinema
In an essay by author Rick Altman titled A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre, he distinguishes the semantic and syntactic approaches to defining genres while stressing the importance of their cooperation. Otherwise known as the contextual and visual elements in a film, the analysis and interpretation of each and/or both help to, among other things, distinguish one genre from another. Regarding contemporary horror cinema, the subgenre “Torture Porn” has become rather controversial in terms of its content and tone, however the real controversy should surround the title of the subgenre itself. Presumably dubbed “Torture Porn” because of its visual and contextual consistencies, it is important to challenge this popular label and investigate the legality of it. Also, and with no lesser importance, it is necessary to defend the subgenre’s artistic merit so that it can stand reasonably amongst its horror brethren. Read the rest of this entry »
The gangster genre, arguably birthed by Howard Hawks’ 1932 film Scarface, has long since been a favorite target for discussions about violence and controversiality in cinema. Brian De Palma’s remake of Scarface in 1983, though made 51 years later, did/does nothing to stem this allusion. This was of course deliberate, as De Palma attempted to capture what he may have felt the original wanted to but could not because of censorship restrictions by the Hays Code adopted in 1930. Exemplary of the differences found between the two versions are their respective endings, which also reflect the strictness of each era’s censors. And the differences in the films’ conclusions prove to be great enough to allow for vastly different messages to be read from them.
In covering differences and controversiality let us, as suggested, consider the different endings to Hawks’ and De Palma’s versions of Scarface. In the 1932 film, the protagonist Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) pleads for his life just before he is punished by law enforcement by being shot and killed in the streets of a raging city. Due to censorship restrictions at the time, Hawks was forced to display the despicable character of Tony getting “what he deserved” so as not to endorse his kind of behavior. Meanwhile, the conclusion to De Palma’s film showcases the protagonist (newly named Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino) being shot to death in his own home, and not by law enforcement but by his competitors. These two endings elicit completely different meanings because of these incongruences. Hawks’ ending does what the censors intended by showing that even though one can have success through murdering and breaking the law, such a lifestyle ultimately leads to an appropriately violent and untimely death that will result from the hands of societal justice. Also, the mere fact that Tony Camonte displayed a cowering disposition right before he decided to make his final escape attempt works to imply that even though a man may be evil enough to do all that Tony did, it nevertheless does not prove anything about his manhood or courage. So, the message becomes that a violent climb to the top results in an equality violent fall back to the bottom, proving such a plan’s redundancy and futility. Read the rest of this entry »