June 6, 2010
How to Train Your Dragon
Basing it from the title, I was guessing that its one of those boring movies given the boring impression I have on “how to” phrases. I was thinking “What kind of title is that?” I’m sure that this movie isn’t good given the uninspired title. Actually, I didn’t have any intention of watching it but since we have a copy at home I eventually watch it as my brother was watching it first.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed watching the movie. In fact, in contradiction to my perspective on the movie’s title, How to Train Your Dragon is amusing and fascinating to watch. The movie’s story is unique which is a boy (Hiccups) discovering that he is capable of training not dogs, cats, monkeys, or birds, but dragons! Moreover, Hiccups on his first encounter, gets to train a very powerful dragon. It’s a story of a boy who wants to be a Viking but is unfortunately unskillful in it, luckily gets to hit one of the most powerful and feared dragons, a Night Fury, and he names this dragon Toothless. The dragon eventually becomes his loyal companion and helps him save their community and the other dragons from a tyrant dragon ruling over all the other dragons. I got so engrossed watching the movie feeling as if I could possibly experience riding a dragon as well. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s how I felt. I was so entertained and interested by the storyline.
August 13, 2010
Dial M for Muder
The Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder is much like the director’s other movie Rear Window, beginning the film with a series of clips without any dialogue. These series of clips gives bits of information to the audience which helps to imparts ideas on story of the film and establishes the film’s characters.
The first scenes in the movie portrayed two people kissing. It looks like they are a couple since it is seen on screen that they are having a meal together in a house, just like how husbands and wives normally do. The woman looks at the man and continues to read the newspaper. The camera focuses to a section of the paper wherein it is stated that a ship is arriving and a Mark Halliday is in it.
The film then cuts-away to a ship in a port and then to a man who is outside the ship exit. These shots imply that the man shown after the ship is the Mark Halliday in which after this shot he appears to be the woman’s (Margot) boyfriend – given that she’s married, the woman’s other man – as Margot was kissing him.
In these first clips, one may deduce to which man is Margot truly in love with in accordance to what she is wearing. Margot was in white when she was with her husband but is seen in red when is with Mark. White can mean emptiness and red is commonly linked with love and hearts. With this obvious contrast, one could easily refer from this that Margot is in love with Mark and not with her husband.
The characterization of Margot’s Husband Tony Wendice is a victorious tennis player judging from the numerous trophies displayed in their house. He is also in suits always, very well dressed and looks to be professional and rich as he is. Tony is also depicted in the film as someone who is Obsessive Compulsive. He plans things way ahead of him. He planned his plot for murdering his wife a year ago. In his conversation with Mr. Lesgate, his crooked schoolmate in college whom he blackmails to murder his wife for him, his sense of being in control, precise, ready, and well-planned were evident in as he talks him in to doing the job he asks. A certain scene in the film where he arranges their carpet for no reason after the police searches their house; Tony just did it to fix the carpet’s position, to put it back in place. This tells the audience how OC he is.
And of course, in the actual murder sequence, when Tony telephones their house phone to cue Lesgate, the camera focuses on the telephone as Tony starts to dial the number 6 with the letter M on it. This explains the title dial M for murder other than the reason that murder starts with the letter M.
The mise en scene of the Lesgate lying down dead in their apartment floor and Margot is in the far background holding her neck where Lesgate strangled her illustrates that the man was killed by the Margot who is gasping for breath and is terribly horrified by what had happened. Another good mise en scene which I noticed in the film is Margot and Mark sitting and chatting happily in the couch while Tony is at the back, not exactly happy and is precisely in the middle of the two which illustrates that Tony is the only thing going in between from Mark and Margot’s loving relationship.
The presence of lamps in their apartment is hardly unnoticeable. In my perspective, since this is one of Hitchcock’s mystery films, it symbolizes how light is wanted – how much finding the answer to the puzzling mystery of Lesgate’s murder is sought in the movie. Lamps are source of light and light symbolizes truth and wisdom.
And as the camera brought us in the apartment of the couple, the film ends in it as well.
August 5, 2010
Angels & Demons
Dan Brown’s second novel portrayed in cinema, Angels and Demons is a “Church vs. Science” themed film. In the pursuit of Camerlengco Patrick (Ewan McGregor) to strengthen the church’s presence among the people, he revives the Illuminati to pose as a threat to the Roman Catholic Church and alarm the whole congregation, hoping to strengthen and unify Catholics.
The Illuminatis were historically known to be a band of scientists who aims to use technology or science as an instrument to bring down the church. In its attempt to destroy the church, it is seen in the movie that though science was used in numerous ways to obliterate religion, it is also technology which preserves the church’s archives and religious arts.
The aid of a scholar and an agnostic, Robert Langdon, was requested by the Vatican. Similarly, the Vatican sought help from a physicist who was working on the anti-matter which was stolen by the illuminati. The Illuminati which means the enlightened one is portrayed to be always in darkness and also the enemy in the story. There are a lot of ironies in the movie, sending the message that not everything seems to be what it is. True enough, before the movie ends, the audience discovers that the person who asked for Langdon’s help in the investigation and the one who is known to be a devoted follower of the church is the same person who was behind all of the plots of murdering the pope and the other cardinals. The enemy was among them all along. In addition to the ironic factor, Ewan McGregor was the one who was closest to the pope he murdered and he reasoned that what he did (murdering the pope and other cardinals) were for the church’s sake, in belief that he is glorifying God by murdering his people (which is clearly against God’s will).
Statues and sculptures were mainly used as decorative elements in the film. Out of the numerous angel statues and other sculptures shown, the shot wherein a statue which was half an angel and half a burning image was shown stood-out the most. It was unique because it was the only one which shows two opposite personas, one appearing to be angel (good) and the other one looking evilishly ugly (bad). The camera pans from the statues’ angelic side first then ends the panning shot by showing the other half of the statue, the burning image. This depiction is perfect of Camerlengco Patrick as the whole movie firstly shows the good side of Patrick then as it progresses towards the ending, we discover that he was the enemy all along and he even killed himself by pouring gas all over his body and throwing a lamp at his feet, burning himself to death. The panning moment is like the entire movie span first showing the good Patrick then towards the end the same statue, which symbolizes Patrick, is illustrated to be bad and then burning, just like how the statue looked like.
The editing style used was not plainly dominantly POV shots and shot-reverse shot but also cross-cutting. After Langdon, the main character, mentions the next clue, the shot immediately cuts to the clue Langdon referred, making it clear that the next image shown is the clue Langdon just mentioned. The repeated dialogues of Langdon such as the Altars of Science, Shining Star, Path of Illumination, Brandings, and the Four Pillars are obviously important details in the movie which the director highlighted or the camera focuses on so that the audience would keenly observe and identify the clues in solving the mystery. A clear cut presentation to avoid losing the audience’s attention, ensuring that they would understand and enjoy the film because movie goers will only watch good movies they will enjoy; thus, it’s always about the money-making factor. Nonetheless, the editing was still excellently done; it is easier to follow the fast-paced mystery storyline.
Personally, to me, it’s also just another mystery movie. Finding who the culprit it, saving the cardinals and the Vatican City is happy. Much like any Hollywood film, it follows the perfect recipe of a good Hollywood movie sequence as well.
July 31, 2010
Aside from the mind boggling “is this real? Or is this not?” theme in the movie, though I wasn’t able to pay close attention to all of the details in the movie, I have noticed how prevalent buildings are in the whole movie setting.
The use of the idea of structure, creation, dreams, and deception are dominant concepts in the movie.
Inception utilizes the idea of creation something unreal and only mind-existing to seek for something in the real world. It’s a play of what is real and what is not and yet it uses tangible objects which are universally accepted to be real. Buildings or structures are frequently linked to the concept of reality because these are things which are man-made and is supported by the idea that anything tangible is real.
However, the buildings and other man-made structures are repeatedly present in the realm of dreams. Moreover, not only are these man-made objects the ones connected with the concept of creation but the dreams as well. They create the dream, even to the extreme of a dream within a dream. Thus, the dream realm which are supposed to be illusory are intentionally created by man through some sort of machine which then makes these dreams man-made, logically speaking, these dreams are then connected with the idea of reality. This assumption of mine makes inception extremely ironic and all the more confusing.
July 27, 2010
Music is one of the themes in the film Almost Famous, the Rock and Roll scene in particular.
Since the film is about a young aspiring music journalist, William Miller, you would hear a number of songs played in the movie as an intro for the next scenes, in an asynchronous manner, or an actual part of the story, in synch with the video. It’s a film about people engrossed with the freeing music of rock.
There is this one particular scene wherein the use of music caught my attention.
In a room, the young journalist finds his friend, Penny Lane, (Kate Hudson) acting drunk and high, walking across the room, after he follows her when she suddenly left upon seeing the man she likes with his wife. Kate took a number of pills in her dismay that she can never be with that man (guitarist of Still Water). The boy enters the room then Kate talks to him and dances with him until Kate passes out and the boy calls for medical help.
As the medics arrived and brought Kate to the bathroom to treat her, the song “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder suddenly fills the room and time goes in slow motion. A contrapuntal song entry to the scene for Kate is almost dying due to the excessive drug intake and then a love song starts playing. Visuals of a life and death situation are exactly contradictory to a love song singing my Cherie amour.
So why play this song? It is taken from the perspective of the boy who just confessed his love for the girl while they were dancing. Looking at the girl with all beauty and love despite the fact that she almost killed herself because of another man. The boy just smiles while staring at her, hung over of the fact that he did it…he finally told her.
Is it still contrapuntal when looked at it that way? My Cherie Amour becomes parallel and related when the camera shifts focus to the boy, lovingly gazes on the beautiful Kate Hudson.
July 10, 2010
Un Chien Andalou
If there are abstract paintings, I would categorize Un Chien Andalou as an abstract film. The film encompasses a lot of unclear actions which could all be symbolizing one thing or another.
The first part of the short film shows a woman’s face then uses analytical editing as Salvador Dali breaks down the scene into smaller shots, focusing on the woman’s eye and to a finger holding a razor and slitting open an eye. After this scene, it cuts-away to a shot of the dark night sky with the full moon and a cloud passing through the moon which appears to split the moon in half.
This clip was intensely depicted on screen though there were no slash sound effects to accompany it. Its goriness took full effect by just using a series of images. The woman’s eye and an eye being slit through immediately tell the audience that it was the woman’s eye that was slit open. However, I learned in class that it was actually not a human eye which was cut. It was a goat’s eye and I hardly noticed that because of the short shots edited together. This old film worked for a 21st century movie enthusiast like me.
The cut-away editing to the view of a moon is also like the Kuleshov effect. Seeing the moon clip alone will let me feel nothing towards the image. However, connecting it with the eye slit open shot together with the clouds going through the moon effect would still make me think of the later shot of the eye which was cut open, leaving me with “ouch, that should have hurt” feeling.
Furthermore, the part wherein the man was moving forward, with the piano, Ten Commandments tablet could be a depiction of a man wanting to throw it all to the woman. In anger of this man towards the woman, instead of stating that her committing of adultery is wrong, the film maker used this depiction to portray the man telling to her face “how dare you commit adultery”. The Ten Commandments tablets was somehow telling her that what she did was wrong and he has every right to get angry because she committed a sinful act.
The eye which was cut early in the film could be connected as a literal symbol that it’s about time she opens her eyes to the truth that she did something wrong and thus she will painfully pay for it.
June 12, 2010
Watching the first films ever made in history are fascinating to watch. When judged without any given background on the film such as the year they were made and who directed them, you may initially find them boring and pointless. However, these first films suddenly become fascinating upon being aware of the films’ background because one may learn what the very first film makers intend to film. Moreover, given that information, you would understand that at the beginning of anything, all starts from very simplistic ideas.
Aside from this, I find it interesting because even though to us, or at least to me, they were just recordings of normal human activities, for them they were discovering the potentials of film making. They were experimenting how they can utilize the capacities of film in its innovation. As I watched Muybridge, Lumiere’s and Edison’s work, I was entertained by it though it had no story at all because I was enjoying discovering how the film makers just point and shoot at subjects of common forms of human activities and showing the world that they can now record events. Most of the clips they took shots of are mostly the forms of entertainment and past times of people of their time. Furthermore, film thus served the purpose of entertaining the audience. As evident in the works of Porter and Melies, aspects of acting, creation of storylines and adaption of theater in film soon were feature incorporated in film.