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Author Archives: browyong

Zodiac

I’m a fan of most David Fincher films, from Se7en, Fight Club and the more recent The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. Zodiac however, just didn’t do it for me like the others did. I found the movie slow and boring even the first time I saw it before this time in class, and Robert Koehler’s shared a lot of points that helped me articulate why exactly I wasn’t as drawn to this film as I thought I’d be (being a huge fan of crime/killer flicks).

First was the Village Voice review by Nathan Lee. I was disappointed as well by the fact that I wasn’t given a more traditional film of its genre. Although I understand another point made by Koehler, that the mystery of not being provided omniscience makes the audience feel more involved and invested in the solving of the crime, I don’t think enough payoff was given for this to be done successfully. Though it was an interesting take on the traditional crime film, I think this wasn’t the perfect crime story for it. This made for a very slow, uneventful film in which the audience was just left as clueless as the investigators were, following them find nothing. The only action the audience was provided with were the murders and the initial appearances of the ciphers, but other than that nothing interesting seemed to happen. I would have personally preferred the slow, gradual revelations provided in more traditional crime films as opposed to how nothing seemed to ever be revealed in Zodiac. Considering if the film was meant to make you feel sympathetic towards the characters and their frustrations with solving the case, I don’t see how the audience would appreciate not being given any payoff for the effort we seem to have been compelled to invest as well.

Although I often find veering away from the usual interesting, I feel as though the film would have been better if it had just stuck to its genre. Other creative ways could have been utilized to add color to an already established genre without leaving the audience in the dark. I think the intention was worth giving a shot, but the outcome just wasn’t so great. I also didn’t like the idea of not having closure to the ending. As with any other crime flicks, the audience may feel involved and invest in the finding of the killer, but without the triumph of actually catching the killer and putting him away, it makes it seem like it was all for nothing. I feel that this is exactly what Zodiac offers, a deceiving journey that leaves you just as clueless and eager as the characters in the film were.

I don’t completely understand what about it I didn’t like, or why it didn’t work for me, but I can say that the experimentation Fincher did with the crime film genre on this one could have worked but sadly did not. The idea was there, it just wasn’t for Zodiac.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Hotel Chevalier/The Darjeeling Limited

Hotel Chevalier was an interesting short exactly for the reasons given by Matthew Foster in his article. The mystery from knowing almost nothing about these two people and their relationship except that they were both broken as their relationships appeared to be made me curious to find out what was going on. As it did Foster, Hotel Chevalier was very vague and mysterious but at the same time strangely satisfying. I say this because I agree with how he put it – not knowing made it interesting, but did not make you want to know more. It was enough for what it was. Seeing The Darjeeling Limited immediately after however, completely changed it for me. I agree with Foster with regards to Hotel Chevalier standing on it’s own, but the spilling over of Natalie Portman’s character in The Darjeeling Limited sort of contradicted this. Her continuing involvement in the Darjeeling Limited seemed to have been too much more than enough from Hotel Chevalier and made me wish it was more a part of the story than it ended up being. As far as the connection of these two films goes, I think they both stand better on their own instead of being seen as part of each other.

The Darjeeling Limited was also an interesting film on its own. The colorful portrayal of India and its life made for a very visually experience. This paired with the signature Wes Anderson quirk found in each of the three brothers and their differences made for a pretty enjoyable experience. Also common to Wes Anderson films was the light, somewhat easygoing portrayal of things over the heavier, more serious issues. This made for a great combination of comedy and drama delivered only as Wes Anderson does. I have encountered Wes Anderson films many times because one of my friends credits him as his favorite director. I remember always hearing him say that this bittersweet style of storytelling is one of Anderson’s trademark styles. I felt that this was very evident especially in this film as seeing the three brothers interact with each other; you can tell that there are serious issues between them. On the other hand, their silly way of dealing with one another makes for a lighter presentation of their underlying issues.

Wes Anderson’s quirk was also evident in this film, as explained by Richard Brody, in the different material objects and behaviors characteristic of each of the brothers. They each appear to be very different from each other, and putting them all together to go through this seemingly silly adventure through India seem to provide a light comedy to the film, making it quite easy to watch. On the other hand, the reconciliation of the three brothers with each other, with their mother, and the resolution of their issues throughout this journey also make for a touching story along with this comedy. Bittersweet perfectly describes this film, as just the right amount of touching and just the right amount of funny are combined to make for an enjoyable adventure.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II, along with the first, is largely considered as one of the greatest films of all time. As I mentioned in my previous entry, I think this can rightfully be called so because these two films set the bar for what a mafia film should be.

Like the first Godfather film, great acting is seen here as well. Another great performance from Al Pacino, as the continuity and growth from his Godfather I performance is highly evident here. Other than that, Robert De Niro also provides a praise-worthy performance in this film as the young Vito Corleone. I think it was the Godfather that made Pacino and De Niro staple names when it comes to mob movies, later appearing in films like The Goodfellas, Scarface and Donnie Brasco to name a few.

What’s even more interesting about the second Godfather film is how different it was from the first movie. The Godfather Part II features a far more complex and intricate plot as it weaves two stories – those of the young Vito Corleone and his struggles through childhood and growing up, and of Michael Corleone following the events of the first Godfather film. This makes for an interesting movie because it ends up serving as both a prequel and a sequel to Godfather Part I. The article by Robert William Berg explains how this is made interesting by the contrast of Michael’s growth with that of his father Vito. It was interesting how the two stories seemed to bounce off of each other, constantly switching from one to the other. This seemed to perfectly complement each other while at the same time developing the main story arc of Michael’s reign as Don. While all of this is happening, the flashbacks also provide us a lot of insight on the histories of each of the other characters, especially that looking back at them as children help us understand the characters that they have developed from and into from the first film to this one. The second Godfather film takes advantage of the first so well that put together, the continuity from first to second is incredible, almost as though the film was shot as one. This makes for a great sequel and prequel at the same time, as all 3 stories seem to merge, keeping the audience immersed in the lives and workings of the Corleone family from beginning to end.

Though many complain about the length of the movie, as it is very long (at over three hours, divided into two parts) and extremely eventful, I don’t think it could have nor should have been done any other way. As stated by Berg, it’s like having two films merged into one. What makes it even more interesting is how the two films work together to form the whole that is the Godfather Part II. Either way, I think The Godfather Part II is a great film on its own and as both a prequel and a sequel to the first.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Godfather Part I

I’ve always been a fan of the first two Godfather films, the Puzo book, and pretty much all things mafia. For any fan of mafia movies, I would expect that the Godfather Part I, more than the second, should have a place in the top 3 ever made. For the purposes of this entry however, I’ll try as much as I can to avoid simply going on and on about how much I love this movie.

I’ve seen the movie a couple of times and have read and seen a lot of other resources on it. Nothing gets me quite like the very first appearance of Don Corleone in the first few scenes of this film. Perfectly put by Jonathan Rosenbaum in his article, it is this worship of power that is so appealing about this film and about organized crime families in general. From the very beginning, Don Corleone is shown to be somewhat compassionate and helpful towards the fellow Italian-American man asking him for favor. He is immediately depicted as a man of power, shown by how the man pleads for his help. He is also shown to be generously helpful with the power that he has, making him appear as though he is the good guy, disregarding the fact that he is the head of a major crime family. Also perfectly stated by Jonathan Rosenbaum, this sets the tone for the entire movie as it gives us a look at corruption from the inside. I think the appeal of The Godfather franchise can be attributed to this fact, seeing how mafia families are so secretive and that not much is really known about their workings.

Another good thing about this movie is the incredible performances from Marlon Brando and a very young Al Pacino. I remember watching a documentary about the making of the film, wherein Francis Ford Coppola explained that he really wanted an unknown actor to play the role of Michael Corleone. I remember reading that this caused the crew to be skeptical about what he would bring to the table, but were instantly blown away after shooting one of his killing scenes. And of course the unforgettable portrayal of Don Vito by Marlon Brando, with his puffed cheeks and raspy, soft-spoken voice.

Though the plot structure of the first Godfather film is much simpler than that of the second, I still always liked this one a little bit more. It may simply just be one of those things as when a cover song is made but can never be better than the original, absolutely puristic I admit, but there’s just so much more to it. The controversy surrounding this film makes it seem all the more credible as the team had actual run-ins with the New York mafia during the filming of this movie. Mostly, this will always just have a special place in my list simply because it will always be THE mafia movie. It will always be the movie that laid down the foundations and set the bar for the next two Godfather films and for many other mafia films that followed.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Spider

Spider provided a disturbing yet interesting look into the mind of a man plagued by schizophrenia. I had initially felt the same as I did when I watched Blow-Up, as the lack of understanding for what was going on, accompanied by the lack of dialogue made it difficult to watch. However, because no interesting premise was provided, as with the murder scene in Blow-Up, paired with the nonsensical rambling and mystery from the character of Spider, I found myself intrigued enough to want to find out more.

It took awhile to get rolling, but once Spider’s memories were introduced, the film instantly became a whole lot more interesting. It felt as though the first 30 minutes of the film were there simply to establish intrigue in the audience through how strange Spider was with no clue whatsoever to what was in his head. The scenes of Spider’s memories began to provide payoff for this, however little, and seemed to be just enough for the moment as the film began to pick up from here on. Finding out about his past, as with Spider trying to complete a puzzle, seemed as gratifying (if at all) for the audience as the puzzle was for Spider. As the movie progressed, as did Spider’s puzzle, the revelations from his childhood memories began to become frustrating as no real answers were being given.

Things started to get really interesting, however, when the characters started changing. It might not be something you’d immediately notice, but these discrepancies are key to understanding what is or might be going on. I really liked how this was used as a means to depict the lapses in Spider’s memory, not only providing the audience a first-hand view of the workings on Spider’s mind, but also making the audience more involved by leaving us to explore the different possibilities posed by what we are shown.

This also highlighted how great the actors were, especially Miranda Richardson, playing the three different roles of Mrs. Cleg, Yvonne and eventually Mrs. Wilkinson. This accompanied by Ralph Fiennes’ indifference to the changing of these characters made it all the more confusing and all the more convincing at the same time.

By the final scenes of the film, where everything is seemingly revealed – that it was actually Spider who killed his mother, and that it actually was his mother that he killed and not Yvonne – you still seem to be left confused, as Mark Fisher perfectly puts it, the other interpretations are not closed in effect still leaving it open ended. This works perfectly, I think, as the realities or perceptions depicted in the film are left to the audience’s interpretation all throughout the movie.

These things are what I think make the film so great. The director was able to creatively make the audience feel as though we were all schizophrenic like Spider was. The depictions of his memories along with the changing characters were able to confuse us as much as Spider was confused, but also left us with the multitude of possibilities from our own memories of what we as viewers saw in the film.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Primer

I think mostly everyone would agree that Primer was a difficult movie to watch mainly because it was so difficult to understand. I didn’t understand the film myself, until I read the explanation from http://qntm.org/primer, after which I still didn’t seem to understand it completely. After getting a clearer picture of what the film is actually about, I’m still unsure about whether I liked it or not. But before that, here are a couple of reasons why the film was so difficult.

What was actually happening in the film didn’t seem to match up with the dialogue. Not because the dialogue was unrelated, but because the dialogue didn’t help make things any clearer. The scientific terminology accompanied by the confusing doubling of Abe and Aaron made for a mess of a film. I honestly reached a point where I wasn’t sure if I was trying to follow what I was hearing or what I was seeing. This made it seem impossible to understand what was going on, admittedly causing me to feel as though I wanted to just give up and not watch. More importantly however, I didn’t stop watching. This might have been simply because I didn’t have the option of just stopping the movie to do something else, but I also know that a part of it was my curiosity to understand anything really. Second was the presentation of the plot. From when I had finally picked up on the fact that they were hiding in the hotel to avoid encountering their duplicates, I began to wonder which versions of the characters I was seeing. I looked for clues and started thinking that maybe something was different when were being shown the originals from when we were seeing the duplicates. Aside from how confused I already was, this seemed to distract me even more. I couldn’t tell if I just understood more or less.

By the final scenes of the film I still felt that I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know which versions of the characters I was seeing, I didn’t understand what happened at the party, I didn’t understand why Granger was following them and why he was different. After reading the explanation, I still feel that I don’t understand what really happened and I feel that the things I learned from the blog entry, I couldn’t have figured out from seeing the film.

I feel that Primer was just too difficult and too tiring to enjoy. It is undeniable however, after trying so much to understand it, that there is a story in there somewhere. The idea of time travel in this film was actually interesting, and the story as it was written could have actually been a good one. I just don’t think it was presented in such a way that made it accessible to the audience. I feel that it could have been a lot easier to understand if visual cues were made use of more creatively as in Punch-Drunk Love. Although the other versions of Aaron for example, were shown wearing different clothes, it still wasn’t clear that there were 3 different versions of him.

I think so much could have done to make the movie easier to understand, and that would have actually made for a better film. If the presentation made it more easily accessible, I think the intricate plot could actually have stood out more and have made the film more enjoyable.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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La Jetee

I really liked La Jetee because of how pleasantly surprised I was after seeing it. When I heard that it was a 30-minute slideshow type film in black and white, part of me was intrigued by the idea, but for the most part it didn’t seem to appeal to me very much. It being different from what we’d normally expect a film to be seemed to affect my going into it in both ways. I was interested in seeing it but almost to simply decide that I didn’t like it anyway. I was surprised however, that after the first few scenes (Photographs? Segments?), I seemed completely immersed in it. I found myself looking closely at every image and following every line.

I think more than the images, what really made the film was the narration. It was an interesting contrast from Blow-Up wherein dialogue hardly played a role in the development of the movie. In the same way, it was also interesting in constrast to Punch-Drunk Love which made use of visual cues to communicate most of it’s subtext. The narration in La Jetee seemed to have been purposefully done in such a way that made the audience feel as though a book was being read to us. Even with the lack of visuals provided by the film, it didn’t fail to hold my attention as the story itself seemed to have this certain mystery to it that just made me want to see what would happen next.

Also contributing to this was the strange setting of the film. It made for an interesting “science-fiction” film, being set in post-apocalyptic France, with the conditions of underground societal hierarchies wherein those from lower levels were experimented on with time travel technology. It was interesting how the feel of the film seemed the opposite, with black and white still images of dark sewers where people were being injected with some sort of formula which would allow them to travel through time. I don’t know about other people, but when I hear science-fiction, what comes to mind are strange looking machines and unrealistically imagined technology.

I’m usually uninterested in films like these – science-fiction, still photographs, black and white – but this film I like. The underlying philosophical ideas didn’t make it better either, as I don’t really care for philosophy. I was surprised however, that considering how short my attention span is, I actually felt that La Jetee ended prematurely. It left me wanting more, not cause of its open-endedness, but because of how interested I was in it. It might have done the job it was made to do in its 27-minute entirety, but I felt that so much more could have happened. The story and the characters could have developed so much more. In the same way, I think this also makes it so great. It built me up and disappeared at its peak. Imagine if a series finale ended with a cliffhanger, except with La Jetee, you’re only as invested as you can be after 20+ minutes and you couldn’t have expected any more anyway.

 
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Posted by on 23 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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