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Author Archives: julzsavard

About julzsavard

I'm taking up a summer class in Elements of Screen Arts.

Going Down in History [The Godfather Part 2] (083465)

        After seeing Part 1, it was definitely a lot easier to understand Part 2. The Godfather Part 2 is not only a sequel to The Godfather Part 1, but also a prequel, going back to the story of Don Vito Corleone, and adding flashbacks.

          The element of flashback in my opinion, is one of the hardest things to achieve in film- making. You either make it or break it when it comes to the element of flashback. In some films, you wonder whether it was just a dream or it actually happened, in other films it seems as if the flashback was misplaced or sad to say, really unnecessary and probably should have just been made a deleted scene for features on your DVD. But The Godfather Part 2 film adds them so strategically that not only does it fit, but it pulls it together, bringing you back to Part 1 and the story of Don Corleone, but still keeping you in the sequel, leading you to a better understanding.

          The film still gives off a very much gangster feel, in my own opinion, more so than the Godfather Part, drawing you into the New York crime and mob scene. Positively, it comes off more nitty and gritty but at the same time, I would have to say, it makes Part 1 seem more classic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I actually think it allows a younger audience to appreciate it more.

          What I do think, however, the strength over Part 1that Part 2 consists of is the screenplay which was co- written by previously mentioned (first entry for The Godfather Part 1) Mario Puzo, who I think, with his guidance, and of course knowledge of his own work, made the film a lot better in terms of storyline and plot. The Godfather Part 2 is definitely more complicated than The Godfather Part 1, chronicling the story of the Corleone family and also showing how the young Vito Corleone rose to power. Many things are going on, the cast gets even bigger, and there are so many new introductions of characters and conflicts, but I think not only does it give the film more flavor, but more to dwell on. And speaking of cast, if Part 1 wasn’t powerful enough, in Part 2, we see even bigger, very talented actors.

          With the addition of Robert de Niro (another one of my dad’s favorite actors) and Diane Keaton (one of my mom’s favorite actresses) who was already present in the first film, you realize why the series is such a topic in the movie and acting world. I think these were some of their best performances, and quite shocking ones at the same time. My favorite scene was the fight between Diane Keaton’s character Kay Adams, and the Godfather himself, Michael, played by Al Pacino. For a quick anecdote, when I took acting workshops, this was actually one of the scenes shown to us on what good acting is. And afterwards, we were given an exercise to try and copy the scene.

          The Godfather Part 2 certainly outdid and outshone The Godfather Part 1, which garnered 11 nominations in the Academy Awards (Golden Globes) and bagged six of them, a record in the film awarding ceremony. Again, the film was truly deserving and it’s almost a unanimous opinion that the better film is The Godfather Part 2, which is surprising seeing as it was the sequel, and most sequels are expected and bound to disappoint, but The Godfather Part 2 just raises the bar and gives the trilogy more excitement than I’d say Part 1, again a hard thing to pull off.

          So with that said, all three parts of The Godfather are worthy of mention in any topic about film and will figuratively and literally go down in history as the best trilogy the screen has ever seen.

 
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Posted by on 23 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Father Knows Best [The Godfather Part 1] (08365)

      I’ve been hearing about this film since I was in grade school. People would say it’s a must- see movie. It’s a classic. It’s going down in history. It’s something you should see before you die. Bucket list film. And I always wondered why. I’d see clips and previews of it, and I’d really wonder why, because first impression wise, it looks really boring. Sorry to be so bland.

         So when we were actually required to watch the film, I though to myself, well at least I won’t feel like I’m wasting my time because I have to watch the film. But hands down, I had no regrets whatsoever, at all.

         I was first shocked to see one of my dad’s favorite actors in this film at such a young age, Al Pacino. I remember seeing him in very recent films, movies in my generation at a much older stage in his acting career, doing more supporting roles and father or grandfather characters. But here, he played the son, which was refreshing to see that even in his early prime years as an actor, his skills and talents were already very much well- honed and honorary.

         The Godfather as a whole is based on a book of the same title by Mario Puzo (this I looked up because I was curious)  and I knew the story had to have come from a novel because no screenplay can do this much justice. Drugs, murder, deceit, stealth, and crime all in one film? More substance any film can ever have and even need.

         The Mofia. Any book or film that covers such a controversial subject and pulls it off definitely deserves all the credit and recognition it can get. And the Godfather does it perfectly. The three parts span over ten years, and to put three films together about one family involved in such heinous but well thought out crimes, the viewer is almost given an overview of their entire lives. The film goes about it so well that it draws the audience in to even relate and empathize with the characters, although the audience is well aware that they are all the bad guys. The Godfather is the only film that can make being bad look so good, it is the only film that can have the bad guys be the ones you end up rooting for. It is successful in a sense that after watching it, whether you’d like to admit it or not, you want to be a member of the Mofia.

         The Godfather Part 1 is more of an introduction to the Italian American Corleone crime family. Of course, it’s followed by two parts: Godfather Part 1 and Godfather Part 2, as everyone knows, but everyone also accepts that the sequels can never live up to the first film.

         In Part 1, we see Michael (Al Pacino) the youngest son, who is uninvolved with the mob business, the business of his family, turn around and become the actual Don after involving himself through planning assassinations and is dawned the Godfather when he stands as godfather in the christening of Carlo and Connie’s son. He takes his position and it is in Part 2 that we actually see him take it to the extreme with his Mofia activity.

         I appreciate how the film goes back and forth from their lives to the court, making it almost seem as if it were really happening and that maybe at one point in history, the Godfather actually did happen. I also love how candid they are with the people of the court and how they time and time again, outsmart the police. The Godfather gives off the feel that it is based on a true story, an actual Italian American family that migrated to New York, and continued the Mofia. This besides the fact that it makes Mofia something you want to be a part of rather than just playing the game, is one of its bigger strengths. And all I can say, after having seen Part 1 of the Godfather is I want to be a Corleone.

         There’s no wonder the film won Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay and has actually been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It is truly deserving and I don’t think any other film, especially nowadays, in this generation and time, can surpass it. It’s only something our fathers would know.

 
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Posted by on 23 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Murder Never Looked This Good [Zodiac] (083465)

I’m usually one to snore through detective, crime films because I think they’re absolutely boring. But when you give me a serial killer who professes he’s a serial killer, and seeks for the press to publicize his murders– then, you give me a film that I’m bound to stay awake through and I’m bound to stay on the edge of my seat of.

In Zodiac, Robert (Jake Gyllenhaal) , a cartoonist, works at a newspaper, the Chronicle. where they receive a letter from a killer asking them to publish his murders. Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) head of crime stories befriends Robert, and both proceed to figure out the sent codes and letters from the murderer, seeing as Robert, not only once a boy scout, knows how to decipher code. Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a detective, pieces together evidence from the crime scenes and handwriting of the letters until he comes to a suspect that Robert at the end, verifies through his own research.

The characters eventually get even closer by necessarily working on the same case, and having the same goal, even though they all become targets of the nameless murder for being intently involved. What I like about the film, besides Robert Downey Jr.’s humor that never fails to impress me, is the character of Jake Gyllenhaal and the way he is undermined in the beginning. But once the innocent cartoonist, he becomes the man who finally solves the twenty year case. This film is the weaker man’s story. The main character is the anti- hero. The follower- turned- leader, the undermined- turned- overtaker.

 

Despite being around two and a half hours long, it didn’t feel that way. The search for the murderer and the way the scenes were connected and put in order kept me wondering on who he really was. Zodiac perfectly gives a crime case solved by endless and mind- boggling hints and clues.

 

The one thing I think that could have been improved though was the feel of the setting. I wouldn’t have none it was set or based in the 1960’s unless the subtitles told me. And I felt that the distance of the years throughout the film were too spread apart for the audience to understand how long the case had been going on. At times it didn’t even seem as if the case was already over twenty years ongoing. And at times, things seemed to happen too fast, such as Robert’s marriage to a girl he had been dating, who we only see in one scene before they’re seen married and with kids.

 

Nonetheless, the film still keeps the audience’s attention and interest, and being based on a true story, I think it captured the essence of how a real serial case would be. It came across real life, honest, and believable. In my opinion, one of the best adaptations of a true story, not over- the- top or exaggerated or horror- like. The film had the right amount of suspense and the right amount of “facts” to make it seem like reality. Zodiac not only gives predictions and signs (a perfect name in my opinion for the serial killer seeing as he gives signs and symbols pre- murder) but on-the-edge, what’s-going-to-happen-next, I-want-to-solve-it-myself enjoyment and satisfaction for the viewer.

 

 
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Posted by on 20 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Rebel with a Cause [V for Vendetta] (083465)

V for Vendetta. V for vigilance. V for vengeance. V for violence. V for victorious. V for just very amazing. Because I can’t think of another word that starts with the letter ‘V’ to describe how truly amazing this film is. So when I found out that it would be one of the films the class would be viewing, I was more than ecstatic. Very ecstatic. Even if its not the first time I’ve seen it.

 

Natalie Portman, besides Anne Hathaway, is hands down my favorite actress. And I believe that in this film, she gave one of her best performances, minus Black Swan. The courage it took for her to actually shave off all her hair for the role was solid props to her. But that’s not the only courage that existed in this film. The film was courageous in a sense that it swept over and covered so many beautiful aspects that I think a film should contain.

 

First, the storyline. Set in a time of revolution when all of England is repressed and is literally given a curfew, we already see the significance of the story. It’s not just about one person, it’s about an entire nation and its fight against a cruel government.

 

Second, but the story is actually about a person. And here’s where I think Natalie Portman is put to the test, and it is here that she establishes in the film world the type of role she’s best at and that only Natalie Portman can give justice to and satisfy a viewer: good girl gone bad. We see her working for a powerful news station as an innocent woman and then being taken in by the notorious vigilante who goes by, what do you expect, the name ‘V’ and is dragged through a series of torment and torture until she finds herself free and no longer afraid. Her character is so dynamic and so heart- wrenching to watch and the character ‘V’ matches it right on.

 

Having once been an experimental case, his anger has taught him to lash out on those who enforce pain and suffering into guiltless victims. And even though his way of thinking is purely wrong, he made me believe it was completely right. The only way to stop bad is to kill the people who cause it: the government. I love how their stories intertwine and I even very much appreciate the love you see between V and Natalie Portman’s character. It is one that I found respectful, endearing, and just beautiful in the sense that they didn’t even have to physically be attracted to each other or show any physical acts of romance, but I could feel how much V cared for her, and I could see how much she changed because of him. Despite his vengeance and hatred, his kindness still shown through. So that would be my third aspect. Love in terms of protection, love in terms of teaching and being taught, love in terms of holding on and letting go, love in terms of fulfilling a promise and a purpose. In my opinion, in this aspect, V for Vendetta is a modern Beauty and the Beast–with more significance than just breaking a spell.

 

And that leads me to my last point, the last aspect I think this film covered that makes it a classic example of a good movie. The mask. There are only a few films that use a mask, but never have they used them to save a nation. I appreciate how the film was so logically thought out that not only did V use the most powerful news station to set fear in the hearts of the enemies but how he persuaded an entire country to be with him on his side, to believe in what he believes, and to act upon it. And it is in the last few scenes that the people of England are seen wearing these masks and creating chaos and pretty much saying: we are the people and this our land, we can do whatever we want. And they were successful in showing the government that it is the people who make up a nation, and it is the people who should have a say.

 

Overall, the film gives so much hope and is so significant to society and to the individual. One line that I will never forget from a film is the last line from Natalie Portman when she takes on V’s responsibility after his death. “We are all V.” In that one line, in those four words, she says so much. It wasn’t everything to blow up a historic and meaningful monument, the Parliament, it didn’t heal the nation, but it SAID something. It signified the people’s rights, the people’s power, and the people’s voice. V was just the vessel, the instrument, to instill their hope and fulfill their long awaited desire, V was the people. And with that, I must say that this film is not only plot- driven, but character- driven. It is timeless and one of its own. It goes to show that there is purpose in violence, in revenge, in chaos, in fear, in hope, and in love when you’re fighting for something so much greater than you, just as V attempted and succeeded to do. It goes to show that even the heartless can love.

 
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Posted by on 20 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Enough to Make Me Sober [Punch Drunk Love] (083465)

Having Adam Sandler cast in a movie, I always know what to expect. The deadpan character that finds himself in loads of insane trouble, typical of what Adam Sandler always portrays. And I don’t complain. Just hearing his drawn out, “No, no, no” is enough for me to sit through any movie of his.

Now having “Punch Drunk Love” as a title for a movie shouts Romantic Comedy.

Both of these expectations were fulfilled, but not to the extent that I thought they would. Being a mainstream film, I was surprised that Adam Sandler portrayed such a low and sad character. Although his quirky antics and passive personality were still there, it wasn’t an Adam Sandler character that I was used to. And throughout the film, I felt myself feeling bad for his character. His feelings were so visually expressed that at many times, I was shocked by his sudden outbursts of anger, and I was always anticipating another outburst. This I have to commend him for doing well, building up his emotions to a point that even the audience feels exasperated and wants to act in his place.

As I mentioned, being a mainstream film, I expected the usual storyline. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, something happens that breaks boy and girl up, but in the end, boy or girl saves the day, and kiss. End of movie. This did not happen at all. There were many scenes that for me that felt rather out of place. The piano I did not get, whether it was supposed to symbolize something or if it was really just there for Adam Sandler’s character, Barry, to pick up and fiddle around with. I also could not understand the purpose of his call to a sex hotline blowing out of proportion and leading him to go out of his way and tell off the manager of the hotline. Unless of course, it was a way to show character development and how he was no longer being a pushover and finally standing up for himself. But in my opinion, it didn’t coordinate with the love story between him and the woman other than the fact that he kept this information from her. I thought she was a likable character, but not dynamic enough. Or maybe there just wasn’t much of a conflict between them to resolve.

The parts I did appreciate, however, were the interaction with his family and his collecting of yogurt. I think that without the family and their constant bickering and fussing over Barry, the audience would not have understood how Barry came to be the way he is. Although annoying and aggravating even for the audience, I thought the family was one of the few strong points of the film. His collecting of the yogurt for flying miles was also another important detail in shaping Adam Sandler’s character to show how ordinary he is, and of course, became the only romantic gesture in the film.

The film as a whole, was not a love story in my opinion, it was Barry’s story. It actually struck me as very artsy with the “drunk” colors and sounds coming in every so often and of course, by not focusing on what the audience wants to see which is a romance. But as a mainstream film, I think it lacked a story that would really tug at the hearts of people and make them feel in love. It may just be because it’s Adam Sandler playing the part, but after seeing him in 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer, I know he’s capable of portraying a romantic character and having that charm that moves the audience. I think what really lacked, as I said, was a story. A story strong and relatable enough for the two characters that would have the audience rooting for them to be together. At the end of the film, although I was satisfied, I could care less if they got back together or not. There was not enough interaction or chemistry between them, they didn’t even have enough scenes together; there wasn’t enough of anything to establish that they do love each other, and thus they should fight for their love.

Overall, I think the film was just another Adam Sandler film that you watch because you expect Adam Sandler to deliver. In which he does. But it’s completely about him. It’s not a couple’s film starring Adam Sandler and a woman, it’s just starring him. It’s a film about a character who has a family that’s so overbearing, a senseless job, a seemingly mediocre and boring life with no one to talk to; a character who has issues with expressing himself and who hates the person he is finally allowing himself to let go, to break out of routine, to fall in love, and to stand up for himself. So I wouldn’t watch this film with a boyfriend or even with friends, and sad to say, I probably even wouldn’t watch this film again. I love Adam Sandler and seeing a different side of him, but the film lacked in many areas and failed to give the audience a sense of longing, which “romantic comedies” are supposed to aim for and achieve. I’d study the film, but I wouldn’t get drunk to the film, as it imposes. Just like Adam Sandler’s character needs work, so does the film.

 
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Posted by on 7 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Parallels [Darjeeling Limited and Hotel Chevalier] (083465)

Dargeeling Limited strikes me as a film that goes deeper than what is shown. Although it is obvious that it is a story about three brothers and the journey they take, I appreciate how I can see the parallels of their relationship to other relationships and incidents in the film.

The film is fragmented, and not linear, with things showing up again along the way revealing the connection of the scenes, but if we were to look at in chronological order, we see that everything starts when the three brothers miss their father’s funeral, creating distance among the three and distance between their mother. But everything wraps up in the end at another funeral. Here we begin to see the parallelism because this funeral, unlike their father’s, belonged to a child that they did not save in the river, and the brother who did not save him was the brother that was about to become a father. If we were to look at character development, it is also in this parallelism that we see the brothers no longer being materialistic, but rather very humble and solemn. Here we see the distance close, and the brothers gain acceptance which leads them to finally look for their mother, who in the end, as they expect, abandons them. But it is this pattern of abandonment and repetition in the the film that gives it closure.

We see the parallel relationship of the father to the brothers, the brothers to each other, the brothers to their mother, their mother to the culture, the culture to the kids, and the kids to the brothers, one in particular. All of these relationships are at first distant, but this distance is resolved and is symbolized in another repetition where at the end of the film the three brothers throw their luggage, a seemingly metaphorical way of letting go of their figurative “baggage” their issues, and now have a better relationship with each other and a better understanding of the Indian culture. The story of the film can all really be summed up in what Owen Wilson’s character, Francis, states: “they haven’t located us yet” and how he sees that as being symbolic of life, like a story, thus the reason why he brings around the itinerary, which almost acts as the plot outline. We also see in Owen Wilson’s character, characteristics of their mother, and it is these plot revelations that help us understand the characters more, even Francis’s “major accident” that we find out was actually on purpose.

Understanding the content of the film, I’d like to focus more on the form, and how the story is presented and how different cinematographic techniques used in the film parallel with the emotions that the film evokes and objects. Mi- san- sen (don’t know if the spelling’s correct) pretty much translates to what is seen. What enters the scene, enters the mind through our eyes; framing the way a scene wants to be watched by an audience. For example, the slow motion and background music in the beginning when Adrian Brody’s character is running for the train, or the point of view of the camera when the three brothers see the three young boys in the river drowning, it makes one strange, while the other more emotional. The distance between the three brothers to the kids is the same distance the camera positions itself, but when their focus is suddenly brought to the foreground, we see the quick zoom of the camera, and this parallels the quick pull of the characters’ and the audience’s attention. A camera technique drags us in closing the distance between the brothers and the young boys, and the distance of the audience to the film. So through these elements of screen arts, not only do they tell you what to see, but how it should be seen. And by seeing, not just a sense of sight, but understanding; both physical and comprehensive.

Another example would be the funeral scene of the young boy and how the way it’s shown makes it so significant. It makes you question why certain techniques are used for certain situations and how it’s supposed to make us think or feel. But what is important in watching film is to know that what is placed and what is not placed in scenes is very important, such as Bill Murray’s role. It makes you think, why was he there? What was his significance? And this leads me to my last point. The importance of what is seen.

Before Dargeeling Limited, we were shown a short film entitled, Hotel Chevalier, that included Natalie Portman in the cast. We see how in the Dargeeling Limited, many elements from Hotel Chevalier re- appear, such as the perfume, the Ipod and music, the “fictional” short stories, Jack’s call to his ex’s number, Natalie Portman’s re- appearance in the montage towards the end, and even if we didn’t see the short film, we would have been able to figure this all out, so why was it necessary? Why was it meant to be viewed before the feature film? As a writing major, I know that even if there is more than one main character, it is always and only one person’s story. And I believe in this film, it was Jack’s.

His character seems to have the most substance or internal and external conflict and therefore it is important to get a glimpse of his background or his backstory, because unlike the other two fully developed characters, Jack is the one we know least about, if we were only to watch the feature film. I think this altogether parallels the intention of the film. There is more than meets the eye: film is both honest and lying. It is honest because it is visual, but it is lying because it is artificial and put together. Sequence would not have mattered, but if the short film were to be viewed after, it would have seemed very much like a sideway sequel. And when we see Natalie Portman’s bruises, we again seek for another backstory. But I think that just like literature, film is a medium that is so fragile, because it takes a reaction, it takes a participation, it takes an understanding from the audience to be complete. What is seen is what we’re given, it’s what we’re given that we work with, and it’s when we work at understanding what we’re given that we see beyond what is seen.

 
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Posted by on 7 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Post- Modernism in the 60’s? [Blow Up] (083465)

      Blow Up is one of those films where at the end, you go “that’s it?” And throughout the film, you think, “what was up with that?” Not really based on a storyline, the film can be more appreciated for its visual aspect and surprisingly, its ambivalence. Each scene has a way of easily being recalled and is interesting enough that it makes the viewer think the scenes are connected. However, they aren’t. And this is actually what makes the film, altogether, quite enjoyable to watch.

 

          It is a film that needs no explanation, but when seen, you feel as if you need to give it an explanation. It’s frustrating to watch because the film does have the elements of a mystery thriller, but fails in a sense that there is no urgency. It appears eerie in the beginning with the fashion photographer and the way he treats his models, making you automatically think there’s something more to the story, but the plot tends to just leave things. The photographer himself at many points just leave things, such as the models. The plot is very unusual, and is at many times interrupted by somewhat meaningless or useless things. An example would be the main character buying a propeller for no certain reason at all.

 

          Our expectations get in the way, having been used to seeing films that follow patterns and structures, and what we expect to see next. For example, after the murder photos are revealed, we expect a sudden knock at the door to be a killer, when it is in fact, two other models. This drops the climax and makes it difficult for the viewer because we aren’t seeing what we want to see.

 

          Blow Up is one of the films where although set in the 60’s and filmed in the 60’s is still full of postmodernism. And the viewer can only really analyze it by using New Criticism, which is to look at a work of art without using other theories or the author’s intentions; you can only judge the work alone in itself. Blow Up cannot be depersonalized, it is one of those works of art that is an experience, wherein the audience or viewer is the one doing the experiencing.

         

 

          Blow Up is a film that is both concrete, having a main plot, the supposed murder mystery, and abstract, because it is altogether disruptive. Just like the murder photos are both concrete and abstract, almost similar to the paintings of the photographer’s friend, Bill. Most scenes have no connection to the other, and only at the end do we see that the film is framed. Beginning with the mimes, and ending with them playing an invisible tennis match, it doesn’t strive to have a resolution as most plots do. Overall, Blow Up is one of the films that can’t be thought out, it can only be experienced. And the only way to enjoy it is to put our expectations aside and let the interruptions interrupt us; let the disconnections disconnect us.

 
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Posted by on 23 April 2011 in Uncategorized