Thursday, March 26, 2009

Summary 404

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into Span 404. I have always had an interest in watching movies and figured it would be kind of interesting to be able to learn how to analyze film. At first I found it a little intimidating to express my own thoughts about a film because I wasn’t really sure where to begin. But as the term progressed I felt more comfortable about it. I had a better sense of direction in terms of what to look for and how to convey these interpretations via the ‘blog’ or in class. The first half began with analyzing films created in Mexican cinema and it was interesting to see the progression of the film history and the fact that it had so much history. It was great to see that the quality of filmmaking rivaled with that of Hollywood. My favorite movie that we watched in the first half would have to be Los Olvidados. It was my first time watching it and don’t think it will be my last. These movies allowed the filmmakers to share their visions of Mexico through film and allowed viewers, such as myself, to understand a little better the struggles and achievements Mexico has done over the years. The second half of the course allowed me to view the perspective of a filmmaker from outside of Mexico. The ‘s’ word was introduced at one point as it became more prevalent of the attempts some filmmakers made to try and construct a Mexico using ‘stereotypes’ in some cases. It is important for these movies to be accurate because these films get across to foreign cinemas that reach a much larger audience. Many people don’t get a chance to visit Mexico so the only perspective they have of it is through the movies. Overall, I found Span 404 to be very enjoyable and fun. It’s not everyday where you can go to class and watch a movie. But the nice thing about it was being able to discuss it later and to get the different perspectives and opinions that other people had about the films. Thanks Jon for making it a fun class and I wish everyone all the best!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Traffic

This is my second watching Traffic and like the first time I really enjoyed it. What I find to be really interesting is the many different stories going on at the same time; you have all different sides of the drug trafficking problem being brought to light. The film deals with issues of cross border drug smuggling, the dilemmas facing the justice system and the end results of the people affected by the drugs. It provides an insight on the aspect of the justice system and fighting crime to the rehabilitation and counseling of drug users. On the one side you have the law enforcement agency in Mexico having to deal with corrupt police and army officials. Because the police earn less wages they resort to making some extra on the side with ‘entrepreneurial activities” as Benicio Del Torro had said in one if his scenes. Benicio’s character struggles with his conscience of being involved with corruption and upholding the law. And on the other side you have the main stories going on with the judicial aspect and their priority to tackle the drug problem. They have to deal with fact that they are dealing with very creative and resourceful criminals that know that the law can end up siding with them. You have the US police who do the ground work to enforce these laws as they take down the drug dealers. They show the struggles they deal with to bring these criminals to justice as they put their lives on the line only to see that their work was in vain as they are let off. You also have the drug dealers themselves with their families living like one of our neighbors and how they deal with this lifestyle. And ultimately you have the end users and their struggles; in this case the drug czars own family. It shows the ugly side of the issue of drug use and how it breaks down a person and a family. Ultimately one of the film’s messages comes down as Mexico being the origin of the problems in the US and that they are the only ones that suffer which isn’t true. The movie fails to show that the people in Mexico (and in other countries for that matter) are also affected by these problems and suffer the same reality occurring in any place where drugs are readily available.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tres Amigos

It has been a long time since I have seen The Three Amigos and I really enjoyed it again! It kind of brought a lighter side to the films that we have watched so far as many of them centered on difficult themes. I find that this film was the comedy version of the Wild Bunch because of the many elements that were in that movie found their way into the Three Amigos like the Germans being involved in the gun smuggling who are seen as tough gunslingers. The film also has some common plots like the villagers in distress who seek out the help of outsiders and also rescuing the girl in distress. But as they attempt to rescue her they’re plan at first fails and the girl seems to give some better ideas to plan the escape out. It was interesting to see the contrast of the portrayal of the women in the , which they seemed to be strong and respected, but at El Guapo’s they are not as respected and seen as object to El Guapo and his gang. The movie does exaggerate quite a bit with the Amigos wardrobe and also the scenes where they break out in dance, which obviously indicates the distance they are trying to make between a real western and the comical version. Another shot was the background that was obviously a canvass of a sunset during the scene where they are outdoors gathered around the camp fire joined by some animals.. As many of the westerns always have a character that is the ultimate bad guy in Three Amigos El Guapo is portrayed as the clumsy hardened criminal who is the leader of a gang who are just as clumsy. The villagers seemed to need direction and courage to stand up to El Guapo and are given a plan by the Amigos to confront their fears. A great part of this scene is when Martin Short delivers the battle cry to get everyone motivated about conquering an individual's personal "El Guapo".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wild Bunch

This is my first time watching the Wild Bunch and I thought it was an excellent movie. It’s the type of movie that keeps you interested from start to finish because of the strong acting and storyline along with great action and suspense. The movie showed a lot of violence that must have been quite graphic for its time in the 60’s as the director tried to give a realistic portrayal of how they used to live in that era, which was set in the early 1900’s. From the beginning sequence when they robbed the bank to the general cutting Angels throat which subsequently leads into the graphic gun battle of the soldiers massacre and their own death at the end of the movie, there was no shortage of violence. I found an interesting element in the movie when they decide to deal with the general to steal American weapons from the train. It kind of brought to the forefront the issue of arms dealing and how it can affect a regions stability. The idea that money can impair Pike’s conscience to decide to equip an army after he has seen first hand the abuse Mapache has done to his own people such as to the villagers in Angel’s town. But also as he provides weapons to the general he does agree to Angel’s terms to allow him to take some weapons for the villagers for his share of his money as Pike sees the town’s right to defend themselves. And as the terms of the sale are spearheaded by the German advisors it shows that all parties are interested in attaining advanced weaponry to later get the upper hand in their agendas.

I read that the film used some cinematography that was advanced for its time with the use of multi-angle editing with wide angle camera lens which was central for the live action and outdoor shots, such as the scene where just after Pike threatens to blow up the weapons the camera later pans above the canyon to capture the generals soldiers ride off on both sides to retreat back to the camp. This scene captures the grand landscape in the background and the canyon below as you see the soldiers ride quickly. And also the shot of the “long walk” as they make their way back to Mapache’s to get Angel. Another element in the movie was the kind of feeling that the end of an era was upon Pike and the gang and the sense that they new it as he was looking for his last big job to call it quits. He uses a great line “We've got to start thinking beyond our guns. Those days are closing fast” which sums up what they are feeling and coming to the realization that times are a changin. You kind of sense it when Pike has kind of lost his touch as he tries to mount the horse he looses his footing, but also when they check out Mapache’s automobile as they inspect it with such fascination and also the new form of weaponry they find intriguing when they first see the machine gun. Along with the “old ways” was that loyalty that Pike finds so important. The way Pike decides to agree and help the general to steal the arms in order to avoid a confrontation for Angel with the general, or when the four decide to go back to save Angel from being killed, when Pike mentions Deke’s loyalty to the railroad as he pursued him and when Pike has the dream when he realizes he had dishonored his fellow gang member Deke after he leaves him behind during the raid. They all had a sort of ‘code of honor’ among them which was fading with the times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Touch of evil

Touch of evil had a few clichés from the old style sleuth and caper movies of the 50’s. The dialogues seemed to be more complex and dramatic as the use of different filming styles such as the angles and crane shots. Made it seem definitely a more American style of filming compared to the other films we have watched. Even the sheriff, Quinlan, tends to get the odd close up of the camera on him, sort of a way of showing his size and intimidation. Also, seems to be a limited use of film score as more audible background music such as the car radios are heard when the cars drive by. Mike Vargas was an interesting character. He attempted to solve a bombing case during his honeymoon and the real story ends up being his attempt to bring down Sheriff Quinlan and at the end they don’t even find out who planned the bomb. Even Quinlan had his own agenda as he felt threatened by Vargas as he was cramming his style as his reputation was taking a hit. A lot went unanswered and too many different scenes going on without much explanations. What I found interesting was the fact that they made Charlton Heston look Mexican and when he spoke the director made the attempt to drown him out with ambient noises, like loud music or people talking out loud so as to not hear his accent when he spoke Spanish. He would say a couple of words but you wouldn’t hear him say much else. There was also the cue used by the other characters to tell him to speak in English as a way to cut off his Spanish speaking lines. What I also found rather interesting was the methodical approach the gangsters took. They seem to take their time and like to play around with Mike Vargas’ wife Susan. They seem to be preoccupied with involving the wife into the affairs when they could just go right to Mike. Like when the gangster tells her to follow him also at the hotel where she stays by herself. What I found to be really weird is that hotel clerk who kind of acted and sounded creepy. She is in a strange place and why would she want to stay by herself and why her husband would leave her alone…so much for a honeymoon. What was hard to follow was to the extreme lengths they went to try and frame the wife as they tried to frame her and also take her credibility away. Why didn’t they just take Mike Vargas out of the picture as they had so many attempts?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Que Viva Mexico

I found the Que Viva Mexico to be an interesting film even though it seemed a little disorganized in terms of the storyline. It appeared to be made as a documentary in the first half which showed the traditions and lifestyles in Mexico and the other half about a story of a man trying to get his fiancée back and fighting alongside the other peasants against the landlords. As a soviet production it seemed as though they focused on showing the strength of the Mexican people as they banded together when needed and showed they’re solidarity and loyalty amongst themselves during a time of necessity. In a way I felt that the filmmakers were trying to find a common ground in order to be able to relate this as a form of communism. Because the film was essentially made for a Russian audience, it was almost an attempt to show their countrymen that communism exists in different places and in different forms and that there should be a sense of pride because of that. It can almost be considered as a form of propaganda. Another interesting element was the way the film depicted a kind of Mexico where the men and women worked and were found side by side; that a sense of equality was shown, except for the second part of the movie where the upper class took advantage of the girl. Compared to the other movies that we have watched where either the man or woman were depicted as dominant or weak, in this one they showed each other to be alike. Like the one scene where the guy’s daughter went alongside with the other cowboys to hunt down the rebels. She was out there firing that gun showing that she can be just as effective and courageous as the others, although she does end up getting killed.

An interesting component in the Que Viva Mexico is the limited use of dialogue and when there was some, mainly from the narrator in Russian; sounds seemed to be re-produced in the studio. The presenter did mention that the movie was incomplete and that some elements had obliviously been added such as the scene during the bullfight as a camera was mounted on a bull to produce the sensation of bulls’ perspective and that the viewer was riding the bull. One last thing to mention is my curiosity with the fascination with the skulls and faces and as to why the camera seemed to do a lot of close ups of them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Batalla en el cielo

Overall, I did not like Batalla en el cielo. The fact that is it was almost a border line pornography film kind of helped with determining my opinion because it lacked dialogue and overall story telling; you didn’t really know what people were thinking or why they were acting the way they were. The movie mainly relied on the cinematography with the visual shots as there were many facial and body close-ups. It’s like the director wanted to put you in the persons place to see what one would see in real life. Like when Marcus would lose his glasses and all he saw was a blur, then the camera would become blurry. And when that would happen the focus was then on the audio as certain sounds would resonate louder than others, such as the clocks to possibly act as symbols to give clues or hidden meanings the filmmakers wanted to use. The director looks like he wanted to use a different style to maybe have a shock value to get audiences talking. With a lack of script you were focused on trying to read peoples body language and use the environment to help set the mood. In a way, the audience would be the one making up the storyline as they interpreted it themselves. This film, as a few films we have watched so far, has again centered mainly on a negative story from start to finish. It showed the misery of a couple living a miserable life when their kidnapping victim ends up dead. The constant close-ups of Marcus and his wife kind of made things eerie as it first gave an impression that they were desperate people, along with the long pauses of them staring at each other, kind of made things awkward as you weren’t sure what to make of it. It didn’t help advance the storyline as it didn’t help explain why they did the kidnapping or how the child died and kind of put us in a moment in their lives as we interrupted their misfortunes and watched their life unfold.

A few scenes that I did not quite understand were when Marcus ends up killing Ana. He leaves her place and walks into the hallway and pauses where he wets himself and then decides to walk back into her place and kills her. Because there is no reasoning why he did this one could only assume that maybe when she used the words when she was seeing him off, “you will always be in my heart” that maybe that angered him as that was the same thing his wife used and that his wife meant more to him than her and felt betrayed by the girl. Another possibility could be that when he said that he was going to turn himself in that he expected a better reaction from her, because it looked like she didn’t care much and sort of wanted him to leave the apartment quickly with not much concern.