Flippin Sweet Dude

November 24, 2014

Nastalghia

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , , — erika @ 8:46 pm

Nostalghia is a foreign film written in Italian by a Russian director. I had a hard time deciding what was actually going on in the film, between reading the subtitles fast enough to understanding the plot of the film. This is not a dialogue based film, it relies greatly on other background sounds in the film and lack of sound. In fact to me, I felt that the actors were constantly “breaking the fourth wall” while talking. You couldn’t always see they were talking to someone because they were the only one in the shot and sometimes I thought they may actually be talking to themselves while looking at the camera. That made the editing for me seem really disjointed. I understood that Andrei was from Russia and was visiting Italy to research a Russian composer who lived in Italy for a while. I didn’t understand why it was so intriguing to the other characters to know he was from Russia doing research.

The lighting in the film changed from feeling stark black and white to having some color come through in certain scenes, like when Eugenia is in the hall and Andrei tells her she is beautiful, you can really tell that she has red hair. There were plenty of instances where the camera would be a medium close up and then it would pull focus and move farther away helping you to see just how far away someone was or making it seem they were really lost in thought. When Andrei is talking to Domenico the scene changes multiple times making you wonder if you are still in him dilapidated home or outside. The images were not always clear when you would move to a different scene and it would take a deliberate amount of time to come into focus and really let you know what you were looking at.

The sounds and music in the film were not comforting to me in any way. They seemed harsh and at some times I thought it sounded like a circular saw going off in the background which was grating on my nerves. It was hard for me to follow and completely know when the characters were reminiscing about their lives and what was currently happening. The film seemed to jump back and forth from the past to the present. I think Andrei was homesick for his wife and children, but wasn’t very proactive in getting back home soon. I want to know where the dog fits in. The dog seemed to be in past and present scenes and in both Domenico’s and Andre’s dreams. I don’t know what his specific importance was though.

In the final scenes where Domenico was preaching and shouting the ramblings of a madman, most of the other people in the scene were stationary and I felt that they were statues. It was as if he was invisible to them, but it also felt like time was standing still for everyone else. It was a very dramatic ending with him pouring fuel on himself and lighting himself on fire. The one man on the ground that mimicked his actions made me wonder if he was part of Domenicos imaginings of what he was to do next. Why do we not see what exactly happens to Andrei as he finally makes it across the bath with the lighted candle? We just hear a thud making me assume that he dies too, not returning home to his family. Then you end the film with Andrei sitting on the ground with his home in Russia behind him as the focus is pulled through again and makes it look farther away and his home is left in between the streets of Italy.

October 20, 2014

Jaws

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , , , — erika @ 5:06 pm

I haven’t watched Jaws since I was a kid and it was showing on television. I must say that when this film came out, the special effects were awesome for the time and technology. I was and still am to a certain extent terrified to swim or be in the ocean due to the fear instilled in me as a child of man eating sharks in the water. The scenes when you see Jaws, the great white shark, come out of the water with mouth open wide ready to devour everything in his path were very real to me as a kid. Watching it now, I can see that it is not real and was a mechanical shark. You could not have convinced me of that as a kid, but as you can compare it to what can be done with graphics and editing I do see a difference now. The cinematography for this movie was done in a way to help the story flow and most times now when I watch any film, it there are any underwater shots of people swimming or playing in the water I find myself wondering when the shark attack will be. That is part of the setting up of the shots in this movie showing us as the viewer where the action will be coming from, down below the surface of the ocean. The director does a good job at showing you a conversation of the little boy pleading with his mother for just 10 more minutes of play in the water. Then he goes and grabs the yellow floatation device and heads out to the water. Everyone else is just playing and splashing around, so the focus is on this one child floating and splashing. Add to that the iconic music of the two off sounding notes that always lead to the shark attacking and you find yourself on the edge of your seat thinking, get out of the water all of you crazy people. How do they not know the shark attack is about to happen.

When movies can play on our own real life fears it makes them seem more real and you become sucked into the suspension of disbelief. Even though logically, I can tell myself that this shark can’t break up a boat that size, my fear of sharks in general helps to fuel this film into more of a reality than it is. The music is well known and you would have to have lived under a rock to not know that da dum, da dum, da dum sound means you are going to be shark food. The fact that this shark keeps coming back after being harpooned, shot, stabbed and many other things is now when I see it jumping out of reality for me. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the nature I think they have. I think once it eats someone, it’s not going to turn right around looking for another person, but that is just my opinion. I did enjoy the finale as Jaws comes charging towards the boat with the tank in his mouth, knowing full well that this is going to end explosively. My favorite line being “Smile, you son of a bitch” as the police chief fires his gun and the shark explodes magnificently. Now the threat has been neutralized and the waters are safe once again. Of course you really can’t convince my mind of that, therefore, to this day I still will only dip my toes in the ocean water.

September 22, 2014

Rear Window

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , — erika @ 8:50 pm

I have watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window a few times and enjoy the way his films are so different from what I now watch. He has a unique way of building tension or suspense in a film. It is not the usual dramatic music or edge of your seat suspense, but it can still make your heart speed up while hoping the innocent people get out of harms way fast enough. Hitchcock doesn’t use a lot of music in the background. You will hear the whistling of a bird, a dog barking, someone playing the piano or the nagging wife. This leaves your brain free to concentrate solely on what is really happening in the picture. When you hear the woman scream you are shown a shot of the courtyard where nothing seems amiss. It isn’t until almost an hour later that you see his neighbor Mr. Thorwald leave his home at 2 am with a silver briefcase. It is pouring rain and he comes and goes a few time through the night leading Jeffries’ and us as the viewers to assume what has happened. His wife was always nagging him and we assume that he finally had enough and murdered her.

In this particular film, the whole film can be seen from the “rear window” of L.B. Jeffries’ apartment. This overlooks a courtyard filled with many other rear windows of many other apartments. Jeffries is a photographer recovering from an accident which has put him in a wheelchair for the last seven weeks. He has nothing better to do with his time than to watch all of his neighbors through their windows and get a peek at what they do in a day. Most of us would consider this being a peeping tom. I can say we are curious human beings and will listen or watch when the opportunities present itself. (not that it is right) Jeffries’ takes it to a different level when he starts using his binoculars and camera lens to get a better picture. He starts to stereotype all of his neighbors based on what he can see. Because this film has such a compact set and scene, Hitchcock is able to show us an entire film based on one character’s point of view. This makes the directing style “subjective” because we only see what Jeffries’ sees, whether it is in his own apartment or out in the courtyard. We are focused on his opinion and the script revolves around his observations. Even when one of the neighbors finds her dog dead she end up addressing the whole courtyard about how they should all be better neighbors and look after one another. This puts Jeffries’ back on the trail that Thorwald killed his wife because he had to be the one that killed the dog for digging around in his flowers.

I am not sure that this film would be as much of a success today as it was when it came out in theaters. I think we have become a fast paced society that wants lots of action and keeps us on the edge of our seats when it comes to suspense thrillers or mysteries. This film doesn’t move fast enough for that and I enjoy seeing a story from multiple points of view. I do like this movie and have watched many of Hitchcock’s movies just to see older films and how this genre has evolved over the years.

September 15, 2014

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , — erika @ 11:08 am

As I started watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid I was sure I hadn’t seen it before. Then the credits at the beginning started with words on a filmstrip about the “hole in the wall gang”. I have watched this film before, but remember the actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford from the movie Sting which I have watched several times. I think that these actors play well off of one another and make for a great movie. Butch is portrayed as the older and smarter of the two. He is good at thinking according to Sundance. Sundance is a superior shot with a gun and has a temper that Butch seems to be able to sooth so as not to get into too many brawls.

I am not usually a fan of western movies, but have found a few exceptions. This movie held true to the style of criminals and lawmen of the old west. You have the opening scene where the main characters are seen gambling in the local tavern and of course they are winning. Someone is accused of cheating and the guns come out. But what I enjoyed from this movie is that the shooting doesn’t start right away. All Sundance wants is to be invited to stay, then he will move on peacefully, no harm done. The other card player knows he is in serious trouble only after Butch slips of who Sundance is. Their reputations precede them but he still asks how fast Sundance really is in drawing a gun. He receives his answer as he loses his gun and belt across the tavern floor. They leave without anyone getting hurt which isn’t the usual case in the other western films I have watched. You know the type I mean, shoot first, ask questions later.

I enjoyed the added touch of hearing the old sound of a filmstrip clicking away as the movie begins and showing the sienna tones of the days when film was first being introduced. The producers use of montage sequencing in this film helped the film flow and not drag on during the long trips. When they finally decide to go to Bolivia, I liked how you just saw photos put together with music to document the long journey. It would have been boring otherwise. The editing done while they are being chased after the return train robbery helped move the scene along. They went from grassy desert hills, to mountains and sand with rock ledges. This starts in the day and goes through the night and ends on the ledge of a cliff overlooking the choppy river water. I enjoyed the humor of the biggest reason Sundance didn’t want to jump and fight it out was because he couldn’t swim. He was more afraid of drowning than being shot to death.

All in all the movie flowed well for me. It didn’t have too much dialogue that would get in the way of the story just being played out on screen through the acting and body language. I have found that most western genre movies don’t go through a lot of effort to put in too many words. They tend to state the demands and follow through with a good old fashioned shoot out. Sometimes that is the best way to tell their story. I did do some research that leads me to believe that although Butch was a thief he really didn’t shoot anyone. So I guess there is an upside to being the “gentleman” robber.

September 8, 2014

The African Queen

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , — erika @ 1:04 pm

The African Queen is set in the German occupied part of Africa in 1914. Mr. Allnut is a steamboat driver who delivers the mail and news to the British missionaries there in Africa. This movie starts with the missionaries trying to get the native people to sing hymns. It turns into a cacophony of noises, the missionary singing trying to be louder than the droning monotone syllable of the natives. Mr. Allnut comes into the village and causes a disturbance to end the church session. He is invited to stay for tea where he has an embarrassing scene of his stomach growling and making Rose and her brother uncomfortable. As an afterthought Mr. Allnut lets them know as he is leaving that he won’t be bringing any mail for a while as they are at war with Germany back home.

The ominous sound of drums can be heard in the background announcing the arrival of the German soldiers rounding up the natives to go to war for them and burning their huts so they have no where to return to. This sends Rose’s brother off the deep end and he goes crazy with fever and dies making this the catalyst to push Rose into action. Mr. Allnut comes back to see the village in ashes and Rose sitting devastated on the porch. The bleak scene portrays that there is nothing left to stick around for prompting Mr. Allnut to offer to take Rose with him and hide off of an island until the whole war blows over. The music leading up to getting on the African Queen is foreboding and I thought for sure they would be caught right there. It quickly changes to a jaunty little tune fitting for a peaceful trip down the river.

Rose comes up with a plan of action, she is not content with waiting out the war, she wants to do something to stop the Germans because she blames them for her brother’s death. The idea to go down the river that only one other person has ever survived shows how desperate she is. The use of close up shots in the film really lets you see not only the obvious reactions to each other, but you can see how much more of a story can be told just by reading the body language in each of the actors. Between the close up shots and the music played you can see the distaste that Rose has for anyone who chooses to lose himself to drinking.

The framing of the steamboat in the shots going down the river rapids is large to help make the effects seem bigger. There are some wide shots where it looks like a toy boat being tossed down the rapids put together with some close up shots to show the actors reactions to being thrown down the river. Compared to the quality of editing today, it was very clear at points what was added to the film. You can see the outline of the actors is clearly in front of a picture behind them and when they encounter the swarm of mosquitoes it looks as if there are just floating particles edited over them with the sound of bugs. Even my boys laughed at that. There was the charming B story in the film of falling in love, even though they were complete opposites.

To me the ending was wrapped up a little too neatly. They are captured, about to be hung and then they crash into the sunken African Queen to still blow up the Louisa. That was too much of a Hollywood ending where everything turns out just right in the end. Maybe that was how people liked watching their films in the 1950’s. I usually enjoy them more when there is a dash of reality to the film. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a happily ever after once in a while too.

August 30, 2014

Batman Begins

Filed under: FlippinSweetBlog — Tags: , , , — erika @ 7:49 pm

As I started to watch Batman Begins this week I realized that I had not watched it before. I haven’t been a big fan of Batman movies in general, as I find them to be dark and depressing. The lighting used in previous Batman movies I have watched leaves me feeling depressed after watching a couple of hours of dark, dismal Gotham City. That being said I found that I quite enjoyed watching this movie to see how the story of Batman began. I enjoyed the use of flashbacks/nightmares to be able to see Bruce’s point of view growing up.
This is the first movie I have watched after discussing what screenplay beats are and how they work through the movie. Batman Begins starts with a rich, privileged Bruce Wayne who is afraid of bats due to the trauma of falling down an old well. He feels guilty for the death of his parents and you can see that the theme is going to be him finding himself and becoming a legend. He doesn’t care for crime and sees that there is plenty of injustice going on where he lives. His parents being killed in the alley is what starts him on this journey along with not being able to have vengeance on their killer.
The B story starts with introducing new characters like Dr. Crane. You are not aware of how he is going to tie into the story until closer to the end. You also have the lack of romance that Rachel feels for Bruce. She doesn’t see a change in him and just sees him as a playboy. I enjoyed watching him try to see what kind of disguise he was going to use and all of the gadgets and toys. He has kind of an high point when he catches Falcone and his goons, but he is still not accepted as part of the “good guys”.
Then there is the lurking detail of who Dr. Crane really works for and what the real end goal is supposed to be for the criminals. Ra’s Al Ghul shows up as really being the mentor who taught him quite a few of the tricks and fighting skills Bruce now uses to try to help restore Gotham into a good city again. Ra’s was always commenting on how Bruce would never look at his surroundings and that his compassion was not a good thing. He is left for dead in his burning house while Ra’s is about to unleash his terror on the city of Gotham to bring about it’s destruction.
Alfred comes to be his cheering section and shows he hasn’t given up on Bruce as a person. He quotes Bruce’s father from the beginning of the movie, “Why do we fall?, so we can learn to pick ourselves up.” To me that is the kick in the butt Bruce needed to remember he wasn’t finished and could still keep trying to make the city a better place. It was the “dark night of the soul” part of the movie. Obviously he is able to save the city itself from complete destruction that night. He is the hero and on his way to becoming a legend. In the final image you can see him boarding up the old well where he fell years ago and Rachel is now seeing him in a new light. There are no big romantic fireworks, but he has changed. He isn’t looking for revenge any more. He is doing what he can to help rebuild a better Gotham City.

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