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


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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

El callejon de los milagros

El callejon de los milagros was a very confusing and sad film. It reminded me of Los Olvidados where the whole film revolved around peoples misfortunes in life. As in the movie Mecanica Nacional, the father shows he is the central figure and mistreats his family by mishandling his son Chava and also his wife Eusebia, whom he verbally and physically attacked after she confronts him about the affair, but then shows his weak side as he cries for his son on her lap after he runs away.

It can be mentioned that the men were depicted as being machismo as they treated the women in their lives and women in general like trash, such as Don Ru who cheats on his wife ,the jeweler Don Fidel to Alma as he tries to marry her, Jose Luis to Alma as he forces her into prostitution, Chava to the landlady, Susanita, for taking her money, Chava to his own wife as he attempts to pick up Alma’s friend right in front of her, the husband Guicho to Susanita for marrying her for the money as he steals from her, and even Alma herself to Abel as she misleads him. It seems everyone attempted to screw each-other over as scandals broke out everywhere. The director seems to have attempted to make a soap opera (like tres destinos) in a film format and made it in a way to serve the appetite of popular culture that are intrigued by the exaggerated and scandalous plots and story lines. The issue of classes and self-worth was a central theme as the mainly lower-middle class characters in this film believed that wealth was important to attain for the purpose of both living well off and also having social status in society as in the case of Alma.

What I found to be quite profound was the very end of the movie. One could sense that Alma did not truly love Abel and that she was misleading him the whole way. She lied when she said that she had waited for him, as she almost got married right after he left and went into prostitution at her own free will. She was promised a good life and was lied to by Jose Luis. It seems that only true person who was loyal was Abel for not breaking his promise but he ends up broken hearted and dead. I think that the director wanted to show that both sexes, not just men, can treat each with just as much disregard.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mecanica nacional

It took me a little while to get into the movie as I wasn’t sure what to make of the style of filming as the camera shots and scenes were sort of confusing. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of dubbing of the characters voices and that a few scenes, especially when they were all at the field having the get together and it also looked like some parts were shot in a studio with some trees and countryside looked artificial.
This film is quite different from the previous movies that we have seen in terms of the women not being seen to be in a powerful role. The men are seen to be macho and controlling of their women and the marchioness is emphasized in the older men showing with typical ball cap, big cars, guns, alcohol, men all gathered around telling their points of views and stories, while women watching and talking about their husbands. And there was sort of a double standard going on where the women get blamed and accused easily of flirting and would end up getting treated badly but it seemed it was ok or defined differently when the men did it so they could get away with it. It also showed an aspect of the father as a hierarchy figure within the family as showing an extreme loyalty to family values and upholding his strictness by scolding the daughter and wife for their actions and also shows his weaker side as being passionate to his mother. The director possibly tried to portray the views he had of how culture and society was being portrayed at the time in the 70’s and used the different generations sharing the same space as a way to compare these differences. The old ways with the older generation and how they try to teach their children, but now these children have more resources and advantages than their parents so they have different views and also the influence of the free spirit 70’s which adds extra pressure on changing attitudes and views. I also noticed a difference in comparing los olvidados where there was not a sense of community or happiness, whereas in Mecanica nacional, it portrays the community as strong and together with concern and respect for each other like in the scene where everyone put aside their differences and came together to give their respects to the deceased mother in the field and on the drive back to town.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Los olvidados

Los olvidados had quite the negative tone from start to finish just as was mentioned at the beginning of the movie. This film depicted a raw and explicit image of the day in the life of impoverished youth in the slums of Mexico City but to an exaggerated extent to possibly send the message to really get the point across to the audience; give something for them to talk about and then the social issues are understood. For example, the film didn't just show youth stealing apples or ripping off stores, it when as far as to show a blind man and disabled man getting pushed around, humiliated, and robbed. This was to show how brutal and heartless these characters really were. This film had a few elements similar to Aguila o sol such as the issue of social class being the central theme, both dealing with the lesser class, but it is important to note that Aguila o sol showed the two social classes of the have's and have not's where in Los olvidados it was entirely the have not's . Also, the main characters in both films not having strong family values, especially the lack of father figures, and the use of dream sequences to act as a sobering experience for change to Polito and Pedro. That would be most of the similarities to the two films as there were more differences in terms of direction and tone. The main difference that sticks out is the fact that Los olvidados has a negative tone from start to finish and has no happy, or at least, positive ending. Polito gets his father and saves his friendships, whereas Pedro ends up dead. The problems that are faced at the beginning are not resolved and just as there was a hope for a positive outcome, such as in the case of Pedro's mother finally accepting her son or when Pedro is attempting to change his life to a positive direction, tragedy and misfortune strikes and no silver lining is considered. The character of El Jaibo is shown to be the consistent and persistent criminal who has a bad intention in every judgement he makes. As Pedro attempts to better himself and to win over his mother, El Jaibo is there to lure him back. An example of this is during the slow motion dream where Pedro is yearning for his mothers' affection and acceptance and when she offers him the meat, there is El Jaibo nearby who takes his food away and ultimately ruins his dream. One last thing to mention was the fact that I did not like Don Carmelo, the blind man. At the beginning of the movie, where he gets roughed up, I felt bad for him and thought he would be a fighter for justice but towards the end he is like the criminals he despises as he did not have any morals in him. The way he treat Ojitos and the girl Meche and his view on justice, which was to kill the criminals, made him just as bad.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Águila o Sol

The film Aguila o sol was filmed in a way that made for some confusing scenes that did not help out with the films storytelling and which aided to disrupt the flow of the plot. It starts off with the three children, Polito, Adriana and Carmelo being abandoned in a convent when they are born and then they later escape at which during this time Don Hipólito, Politos father decides to search for his son. After this the story explains the direction of the lives of the three children which result in them staying together performing in theatre. When the film explains more about their adult lives it is then that some confusion occurs. It seemed that certain scenes focused too much on the great costumes of the cabaret dancers, Adriana singing abilities and the stand-up acts performed by Polito and Carmelo which all took away from the plot. What I found to be poorly filmed were the camera shots when it would turn to the crowd for their reaction of the comedic acts.
The ending was also confusing. The dream sequences where Polito dreamt of losing his friend Carmelo and love Adriana did not fit in well with the storyline as the dream comes about from his concern of losing his girlfriend after listening in on a conversation about her potential as a solo performer. As he wakes up he realizes he did not lose his friends but then also is introduced to his father who was searching for him.
One of the concerns I had during the end of the movie which wasn’t clarified was that whether the Politos father was in awkward position since he had assumingly had shown interest in Adriana. And whether or not Adriana decides to go onto performing alone or would the three of them continue on performing together.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Span404 self introduction

My name is Jordi and I am currently a 2nd year student at UBC.
I am pursuing a BA in arts majoring in Spanish.