Monday, October 28, 2013

La Jetee

La Jetee- Directed by Chris Marker- 1968

Easily my favorite movie we have watched this semester, La Jetee is an eerie, romantic psychological, sci-fi, time traveling film set post-World War 3 in the underground of Paris. Composed mostly of still photography director Chris Marker blends and cuts frames of heavy contrast black and white film gracefully; perfectly capturing the dreary setting and dream-like tone of the story. La Jetee has a very fluid visual field despite having a still photography composition. The main character is a prisoner who is subjected to experiments due to his ability to connect to a prominent memory as a child. The experimenters know this because they have been spying on his dreams. The thought of the experimenters is perhaps the prisoner can connect to a past experience and change his actions to detour the war and change the way things are in the present time. The prisoner is subjected to sedation while being monitored connecting to moments and dreams with a significant woman, in his dream state the two share romantic moments in various places. He appears and disappears; she does not understand his relationship to her world, referring to him as her ghost. The experiments are done and the prisoner fears his own execution, he is sedated and back to his first memory as a kid where he sees himself get killed. The story has now come around 360 degrees, we are back where we started but now we have much more information.

 The whole story of La Jetee is abstract but complex; the exact same thing can be said about the cinematography as well. La Jetee is as close to sci-fi noir as I’ve ever seen, it has a very artistic, psychological feel, there are no space ships or aliens but the scientific experimentation on the human psyche as a way of time travelling proves to be just as out there as any type of space flick. La Jetee is as bizarre as it is beautiful.

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes- Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner- 1968

Planet of the Apes is another one of those “classic” films whose reputation precedes itself. Everyone knows the title and a little bit about it, but a lot of people haven't watched it. A few one liners, overall aesthetic and of course talking monkeys from outer space seem to be what people remember the most. Released the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes explores a much different thought process on evolutionary possibilities in the future. The journey starts with three time traveling spacemen careened on an unknown earth-like planet in the future with only 3 days supply of food and water. The banter between the time travelers is hysterical, Charlton Heston plays George Taylor an over the top alpha male type and like a big brother karate chopping his way through the dialogue, he seems to belittle his counterparts and push their buttons just because he can. This behavior continues even after the three men are captured by the apes. The roles as they know are reversed, apes have evolved into human-like creatures and humans have devolved into an ape-like being; losing their ability to speak and running around in wild packs. They are seen by the Apes as dirty, stupid animals, this turning of the tables asks the viewer to think about what animal behavior is and are we no more barbaric than the ape? Are we not as irrational as an ape?

 One of the Apes is a female scientist and takes interest in George Taylor who she calls “Bright Eyes”, she believes he is different than the other humans. Bright Eyes can’t speak because he was shot in the throat during his captivity but even silent Bright Eyes (Heston) is a bit of an over actor. The ape civilization has a social pecking order typical to our own; there are workers and overly suppressive authoritative figures. The old and young clash on opinions; this is our own culture disguised as another and thrown back in our face. Bright eyes continues to shake things up and is the unexpected variable throughout the film, with his two companions dead or brain dead, Bright Eyes gets some guidance from 2 ape scientists. Bright Eyes behavior and resistance towards authority leads to his escape and exposing the authoritative Apes as oppressors of knowledge and freedoms.

Planet of the Apes has some very interesting concepts regarding important social behaviors but didn't visually represent the strong content and at times had some poorly executed scenes and dialogue along with some really bad music too. Planet of the Apes definitely has some fun, weird moments and has an interesting way of turning the tables on human social behavior, exposing a reflection of fears of the late 60's, set in a false utopia in the future. Planet of the Apes story delivers unfortunately the rest of the film does not, perhaps it is a better book been a movie.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Mid Term Paper (2001 vs Gravity)

2001: A Space Odyssey/ Gravity- Compare and Contrast.

Comparable to the deepest reaches of Earth’s deserts, rainforest and seas, space, as far as Earthlings are concerned is a largely unexplored and unexplained mystery that draws on our intrigue and wonderment; an unknown territory that seems to push the human imagination to the limits of brilliance and insanity. The vast darkness of space, void of sound, gravity and human sustainability seems never ending but full of undiscovered places and possibilities. The vastness of space happens to be the setting for both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity; space exploration and related sciences remain to be a cornerstone but also a limitation of the human imagination. Is it our desire to explore and search for other technologies and life forms or is it simply exploring the unknown that seems to pull man towards it? Either way space definitely makes an exciting and interesting setting for both of these films. Both movies also embrace the wonders of modern and advance technologies while exemplifying the human’s curiosity, mentality and reaction to the frightening unknown elements of space. These movies have also pushed the technological boundaries on both sides of the camera, each making groundbreaking advances in filmmaking by allowing the viewers an opportunity to submerge themselves into the setting unlike many other space movies. This report will look to explore, compare and contrast the similarities and differences surrounding 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity, while both films obviously share many topical and visual aspects they each provide very different outcomes and experiences on both cinematic and social levels

Starting with the critically acclaimed classic 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1968, this film starts out in darkness surrounded by the sounds of an orchestra building and building, leading into a colorful long shot of the Earth, Moon and Sun aligned beautifully with a black monolith. Soon a title “The Dawn of Man” flashes on the screen, a bright sunshine fills the screen, slowly panning down to a view of apes scattered across a bare, mountainous landscape. Through a series of sequences the apes are seen searching and fighting for water and food, these scenes are shot in a documentary style, Kubrick’s straight forward way of displaying ape’s strengths and weaknesses. This opening sequence is often filled with loud guttural ape grunts and moans, Kubrick showing the apes’ slow but steady evolution into modern man. According to sources the original narrative dialogue was cut by Kubrick after his first viewing of the film; Kubrick felt the narration was too straightforward and guided the story far too much, not allowing the viewer the opportunity to think for themselves. The next scene is filled with a very eerie human hum / chant, the group of apes is curiously surrounding a monolith, touching and inspecting; it would appear that the monolith rose during the night while the apes were asleep. The apes’ evolution continues in the next scene, the apes’ discovery of tools is a pivotal moment for them; they can hunt and defend their own territory now; they are becoming more and more significant to their own survival. The flip side is they can also destroy and kill now too, the thorn in man’s side is always his own ability to destroy. This interesting prelude comes to an end when the main ape throws a bone into the air, Kubrick blending the frame perfectly with the frame of a spaceship swimming through space. The apes have learned how to adapt and change the environment, evolving into space traveling civilized humans. The Blue Danube Waltz accompanies the dark, open vision of space, it seems to move, float and set the pace of the scene perfectly. The story picks up as chairman of U.S Council of Astronauts; Dr Heywood Floyd is docking at a space station in between the Earth and the moon. Floyd is informed casually by Russian travelers that there have been problems in communication with his destination on the moon. Floyd simply denies the conversation to carry on any longer. Soon enough Floyd is with his crew on the moon uncovering a huge monolith that has been buried in the moon's surface for over 4 million years. The shots and angles used by Kubrick in these moon scenes are geometric, balanced and lit to emphasize every detail of the set, each of the men’s spacesuits are streamlined and Kubrick masterfully shows the viewer that no detail is too small. Kubrick is and always complicated with simplicity, nothing is over the top or unbelievable and times he even makes us feel as though we are there on the set. There is a pretty intense scene following, the sun starts to fill the sky just over the monolith, beautiful shot, and this shrill resonance starts to get louder and louder, it is quite ear piercing eventually and goes on for a good amount of time, making the scene overwhelming and difficult to sit through. This scene works in contrast with the previous segment, the discovery of the monolith signals that man has developed skills worthy of technological progress.

“18 Months Later” and Discovery-1, a beautiful, futuristic spaceship is on a long journey headed for the surface of Jupiter. Astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole are inside the spaceship that is controlled by a sophisticated computer system called H.A.L 9000. A do all, see all, hear all human-like computer system that interacts and converses with Dave and Frank. It is said that the H.A.L 9000 is incapable of miscalculations or making any kind of error. H.A.L 9000 is a personification of Kubrick’s belief that “the machine is beginning to assert itself in a very profound way, even attracting affection and obsession.” H.A.L is functional but heartless. The inside of the ship is also very streamlined and geometric, balanced and symmetrical; Kubrick's vision in these scenes still seems futuristic, even in 2013. Conversations between Dave, Frank and H.A.L are minimal and the point, the dialog gives us the impression that Frank and Dave might just be robots and H.A.L might be the human. The story starts to pick up once H.A.L informs Dave and Frank that a communication panel outside of the ship is failing. Frank and Dave decide to replace the panel only to find nothing actually wrong with it. Frank tells Dave in a space pod for secrecy from H.A.L that he has growing concerns about H.A.L’s ability to lead the mission and that if need be they must find a way to bypass H.A.L’s memory system and take control of the spaceship. All the while H.A.L’s red glowing sensor flickers in the background; always observing and responding to the ship’s environment, but nothing is a secret on this spaceship. As Frank goes out to replace the original communication panel in order to see if it would fail as predicted by H.A.L, Frank mysteriously is detached from his space pod by a set of killer robotic arms; his body is seen drifting away into the open space, air hose severed. This scene exposes H.A.L as the deviant making a great turning point in the film, the premise of a psychotic, killer computer system is exciting and unexpected. As tensions begin to build and build a curiosity is piqued as to what H.A.L is going to do next. Dave takes a space pod out to retrieve Franks body, when he attempts to dock the pod back in the spaceship H.A.L  informs Dave that he can't let him back in and that he knows about their plot against him. H.A.L in his calm voice is very insistent not to let Dave back in, H.A.L claims he won't let Dave compromise the mission and stops talking to him. Isolated and frustrated, Dave starts to get crafty, aligning his ejection seat with an alternative entry point on the ship; Dave ejects himself into the spaceship with no helmet. Kubrick sure knows how to build up the intensity in this scene putting Dave in an all in, up against the wall scenario, intensified with the dead silence of space. Once on board Dave b-lines it to the room at stores H.A.L’s memory and start pulling several cards from a board, all the while H.A.L in a hurried but calm voice starts asking “What are you doing, Dave? ”, “Will you stop, Dave?” H.A.L’s voice starts to get slower and deeper. In the creepy last moments of H.A.L he slowly sings a song called “Daisy”, beautifully prolonging his psychological/ technological meltdown. Dr. Floyd flashes on screen and delivers a prerecorded message about the true reason of Discovery -1's mission, that evidence of intelligent life outside of our planet has been discovered and the frequency resonating from the monolith discovered on the moon was aimed at Jupiter, but that the honest truth is that the end result is completely unknown, the mission has been a complete experiment. Dave uses a space pod to escape Discovery- 1; he sees a monolith along the way and starts heading towards it, the monolith once again a symbol of man's journey through evolution. Now colors are speeding past the pod in some sort of psychedelic tunnel, shifting views of the parading lights and Dave's face. This particular scene is unlike any other in the movie, quite strange and cerebral, eventually the view changes to a landscape, his space pod stops, the scene changes and now Dave is in a bright, futuristic, Victorian-esque room. Soon  a series of symbolic shots that include an elderly Dave in a bed with accompanying music and the monolith at the end of the bed, followed by the final shot of the film, a fetus suspended in outer space amongst the Sun, Earth and Moon. Kubrick claims this is the birth of a “superhuman”,” returning to Earth prepared for the next step forward in man’s evolutionary destiny.” It has been an incredible journey.



               Next is the 2013 blockbuster Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. The hype surrounding this film was big, the previews were meant to be intense and intriguing but a space movie in 2013 has a lot to live up to in order to be significant. So the executives at Warner Bros. spending 80 plus million dollars on cast, crew and special effects. Buying big named actors like Sandra Bullock and George Clooney to give this movie the star power it would need to get instant attention. The film starts out in space where we hear some radio transmissions between NASA in Houston and Matt Kowalski played by George Clooney, a veteran astronaut on his final space walk, out with his jetpack having some fun darting around and telling stories over the headset. Eventually we see Dr. Ryan Stone played by Sandra Bullock, a mission specialist in space for her first time and working on some maintenance/ repairs to the Hubble telescope. Her physical demeanor is the opposite of Kowalski’s, she is nervous and intense in for most of the film a big contrast to the smooth talking, relax Kowalski. While working on the Hubble, NASA reports that a Russian satellite has been destroyed and debris from the satellite is speeding through the orbit. Soon enough the debris starts coming straight for the crew, sharp fragments of satellite start whizzing by and it feels so believable, the cinematography and camera work is so rich in perspective, depth of field and angles. (I'm there, dodging shrapnel, feeling the rush.) The debris has passed and a different sense of chaos is occurring, another member of the crew had his head smashed in, Dr Stone has been detached from her tether and now is spiraling into the void. Calm and cool Kowalski retrieves both Stone and the other astronaut's corpse. Stone and Kowalski now tethered to each other head back, the in helmet shots give the full perspective and personal experience of weightlessness in space, giving a great sense of having little to no control of motion. Stone and Kowalski discover the Hubble and their spaceship has been destroyed by the debris storm. Everyone is dead but them. All the visuals up to this point have felt so spot on, it is so easy to lose the sense of your own reality, i.e. this is really just a movie theater enough space. (A couple times I forgot I was sitting next to people.) The plan shifts, they have to propel themselves to the International Space Station on low oxygen and fuel. These scenes are saturated with personal dialogue, slowing the pace of the film. The dialogue doesn't really add much to the direction or plot, in fact it starts to feel very secondary to the overall story. When they arrive to their destination there is some damage to the ISS and there is no crew. Almost out of thrust Kowalski makes a move towards the ISS. One last thrust and the two are bouncing off the exterior of the station attempting to grab a hold of anything they can to stabilize themselves. A parachute has deployed and is entangled around a large portion of the ISS; a parachute strap is the last hope before the two go off careening into the empty space. Stone’s boot is caught on in the strap but Kowalski’s perpetual motion is too strong and keeps pulling them farther away from the ISS. In a very Titanic moment, the two have to detach from each other so at least one of them has a chance to survive. Dr. Stone ricochets back towards the ISS and once again barely grabs a hold of the station in her last chance. Still in communication with the drifting Kowalski, he advises her to take one of the pods in from the ISS to the Chinese Space Station and catch a ride back to Earth. No matter what Kowalski keeps his cool, he serves as her voice of reason, guiding her every moment up to this point. Dr Stone is now alone, lost, obviously vulnerable and scared; at times she seems defeated. Her voyage is far from over, Stone attempts to launch the pod from the ISS but the parachute is still entangled so she can't go anywhere. She has to take a space walk in order to release the parachute from the pod. As she is detaching the chute the debris storm makes another orbit and starts ripping through the ISS. Stone barely gets out alive, again. It isn't until she's detached and ready to go to the Chinese Space Station that she realizes that there's no fuel for the thrusters. Dr Stone appears as though she is finally had enough, stuck in the pod, hopes drained, accepting death as she cuts the oxygen and begins to fall asleep. All of a sudden Kowalski is back; he lets himself into the pod with all his charismatic nature, he strikes up a conversation and once again cracks wise for a moment to lifts the spirits. He describes a way to get the pod to move but it turns out he's just a figment of her imagination and in a blink of an eye, he's gone. Now she's rejuvenated in spirit and knows how to propel the pod, again we are on the edge of our seats with Dr Stones last chance efforts to get on the Chinese Space Station; ridiculously she ejects from the pod and uses a fire extinguisher guide her direction. Surprise, surprise the station is vacant, she attempts to establish communication with Houston but no luck, just random noise. Soon the station is on fire, she rushes to the space pod barely escaping the doom of fire, just in time, again. Dr Stone is launched towards Earth; everything around her is burning up as the pod and debris enter the Earth's atmosphere. This scene in particular is similar to the ending space travel scene of 2001, in that they both capture sense of finality, the end of journey and we are left unsure if the end result is going to be good or bad. They're both intense, fast paced and utilize an abstract soundtrack to build atmosphere. Dr. Stone’s pod barely makes it through the atmosphere almost burning up; the pod crashes into a body of water on Earth. Dr. Stone is for the first time in the entire film under the influence of Earth's gravity; Stone makes it to land and begins to rejoice. As a viewer it has been an anxious, edge of your seat 90 minutes. The visuals were stunning and the personal voyage of Dr Stone was compelling, the dialogue was silly at times but Gravity while not super thought provoking is indeed very entertaining experience.

            Perhaps at first glance 2001 and Gravity seem like similar movies, big budget sci-fi, space flicks with futuristic sets and visual. Space movies seem to always fall right into the sci-fi category but both films push the boundaries of a typical sci-fi space movie. In fact it can be argued that Gravity is more of a survival thriller film, based in realism. Gravity is more of a personal voyage set in space whereas 2001 uses space as the unknown/ undiscovered setting for man's evolutionary journey. Gravity utilizes strong character relation in an attempt to make the audience connect with the main character, Dr. Stone is the center of attention throughout the film and we are long for her ride the entire time. 2001 uses several characters to further develop the story and message. The audience doesn't get too much personal information or character development, with the exception of H.A.L 9000 who provides a very interesting conflict adding a nice dramatic twist to the film. As important as H.A.L 9000 is to 2001, he is just a supporting character for the larger concept.

One of the biggest contrasts between these two films is the overall plot development, 2001 develops slowly, taking time to build up essential individual components that together unveil it deeper conceptual premise. There is a build up to the adventure, a long road to the destination. The audience is not given all the information at once and have to rely on a lot of visual storytelling and symbology in order to put the pieces together. Kubrick keeps dialogue to a minimum as to not give too much away, really allowing the audience a chance to think for themselves. Gravity has a straight to the point set up, the audience is dropped right into an in-progress scene, dialogue throughout is plentiful but secondary to the physical acting and visual settings. Gravity makes up in visuals and special effects what it lacks in storytelling and dialogue, 2001 on the other hand is rich in both visual and conceptual components, making a much more dimensional film. Visuals and special effects would be what these two films sure most in common. Both films for their time have pushed the visual experience boundaries not only for sci-fi but for film in general. In 2001, Kubrick used Super Panavision 70 film which sharpened shots and advanced colors; unique set designs in collaboration with interesting camera angles and compositions give 2001 a very sleek, specialized look. Kubrick's now retro, futuristic, stylized aesthetic really took this film to a unique visual realm. Gravity’s visual aesthetic is based more in present day realism than 2001, but the attention to detail in Gravity is reminiscent to that of 2001 in that no detail seems too small to focus on. Fragments of shrapnel, the exterior and interior of space ships and space suits are so well rendered that there really isn't much room for questioning the aesthetics of Gravity, it feels and looks incredibly real. The use of depth of field is another big attribute to the visuals of Gravity, like in 2001 using long shots of the overwhelming aspect of space really gives the audience the perspective of just how vast open space might be, adding to the terrifying sense of being lost in space. Another shared element between these two films is the use of dramatic, emphatic soundtracks; music adds so much emotion and tension to both of these films. The use of big orchestrated compositions during critical scenes is nothing new but films like 2001 masterfully utilize the soundtrack to add feeling so well that it feels sometimes that other movies are just trying to imitate Kubrick's genius. Kubrick is simply a master at lining up the right music with his visual components. Gravity seems to fall into this category of imitation, while the music does add to the visuals it never elevates the intensity of the scene quite like 2001 does.

These films have settings in space, characters who cross significant thresholds and emphasize a man vs. technology dynamic, but the way each films utilizes these components is very different. 2001 is unexpected, man molds and craft science, advancing our collective creativity and ability to develop greater technology, only to have that same technology turn on us. Hal seems to turn on Dave and Frank, no longer taking their orders, killing Frank and trying to abandon Dave in space. The computer has a mind of its own now, whereas Gravity exposes man's own dependence on technology and the potential downfalls of that dependency. Gravity becomes a fish out of water story whereas 2001 is in search of the precipice of mans understanding of technology in attempts to surpass it.

2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity share some general categorical elements but have a lot more differences than similarities. The abstract components of 2001 carry a lot of weight giving it a level of complexity and depth that Gravity simply does not have. However, Gravity is way more effective in establishing personal connections with the main character, making Gravity a far more emotional film. In the end, 2001 has the artistic significance and content that gives it leverage to stand up to any modern day eye candy, blockbuster film like Gravity.
Ciment, Michel. "2001: A Space Odyssey." Kubrick. [Paris]: Calmann-Lévy, 1980. 126-134. Print.
"Gravity." IMDb., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.                                                                  <>.
Morgenstern, Michael. "Gravity Review: In Space, Nobody Can Hear Your One-liners."The Huffington Post., 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.          <           n_b_4086012.html>.
 Nelson, Thomas Allen. "Reputation & Rhetoric, The Ultimate Cinematic Universe."Kubrick, inside a Film Artist's Maze. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1982. 1-19, 99-132. Print.
 Phillips, Gene D. Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey. New York: Popular Library, 1975. 131-152. Print.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Day the Earth Stood Still- 1951- Directed by Robert Wise

The Day the Earth Stood Still- 1951- Directed by Robert Wise

This is a very cool movie, felt a bit long in time but still really enjoyable. The promise of this film is interesting as well; a spaceman (Klaatu) comes to earth to warn the earthlings about our destructive ways in regards to our use of atomic weapons. The space man claims that we are a threat to the safety of the entire universe and therefore must be stopped or be destroyed.
Opening scene, a flying saucer descends onto a Washington DC park, the spaceship door slides open and a man in a spacesuit walks out and in a matter of moments he is shot by a soldier. Soon after a huge robot walks out of the spaceship and begins to melt the military’s firearms and tanks. Klaatu asks the robot to stop and then is taken to a hospital. His gunshot wound is completely healed by the following morning; the doctors are stunned and baffled. Meanwhile the robot (Gort) is as still as a statue in front of the spaceship. This spaceship is very smooth, seamless, shiny and very solid it also makes up for the bulk of special effects used in this film. The U.S military can't even get into the spaceship at all, they chip, they weld and bang but nothing seems to work, unmovable the spaceship and Gort remain in spot and are under constant military supervision. Under questioning Klaatu reveals he has a message that must be told to all of the earth’s leaders but only at the same time as to not give any one country leverage with his message. Klaatu is informed by a US government official that his request is impossible due to political tension all over the world. Klaatu escapes his containment in search of Earth’s most intelligent beings, meanwhile Klaatu blends right in with the natives, which delivers a bit of comic relief because Klaatu is eventually seen at a dinner table with other normal people discussing the alien’s potential reasons for coming to Earth, All the people at the table are suspecting of Klaatu’s true identity, he is even trusted enough to babysit one of the other tenant’s child. Klaatu and the boy spend the day with each other sightseeing, they unbelievably visit the spaceship site and oddly no one can tell that he is the alien from another world that everyone is on the lookout for. Klaatu eventually meets a scientist and explains the reasons for his Earth visit. Klaatu asks the scientist to organize a meeting of the world's smartest scientists and inventors to help deliver his message of the Earth’s potential destruction; he also offers a demonstration of his powers by shutting down all mechanized objects for 30 minutes around the world. If that were to happen in our modern day I’m quite certain mass hysteria would ensue after about five minutes, twitter withdrawals would follow. So everything is building up to Klaatu’s meeting to deliver his message and as he is on his way to the meeting his secret location is compromised and he is shot down in the middle of the street. Gort is signaled to retrieve Klaatu and bring him back to the spaceship where Klaatu is temporarily brough back to life so he can address the masses assembled outside the spaceship. Klaatu tells the people of earth that they are in danger of being destroyed if they continue their explorations into weapons and space. It feels like Klaatu is not just speaking to the characters in the movie but the viewer as well, leaving us with something to think about in regards to our own actions and decision.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gojira- 1954- Directed by Ishiro Honda

Gojira- 1954- Directed by Ishiro Honda

            Shortly after atomic blasts off the coast of Japan claim two fishing boats leaving only a few survivors behind, a small coastal city experiences a terrible storm that destroys homes and kills a few of the villagers too. At this point the director alludes to Gojira’s presence but chooses not to show the creature, tension is built up by using close up shots of very expressive faces, they get to see Gojira but we don’t. The destroyed village is examined after the storm passes and a scientist determines that the creature is of an atomic species and incredibly old, as he discovers a trilobite within one of the creature’s foot print. The scientists are using hand held radiation meters; this scene is the first hint of any type technology or science in the film. It isn’t long until Gojira is officially terrorizing Japan, the first glimpse of Gojira comes as he if fleeing back into the sea. The perspective shot of Gojira towering over a mountainside. He is a massive reptile/dinosaur, beast hybrid. His signature, deafening squeal resonates throughout most of these scenes. It seems to be man versus beast at this point. The Japanese military starts dropping depth charges off the coast in attempts to kill the beast, eventually they decide to build an electric fence around the entire coast to keep Gojira out, after he destroys another town. The scenes of Gojira destroying sky scrapers and squashing skylines are powerful in contrast to deeper, underlying content of American nuclear attacks on Japan at the end of World War II, attacks that leveled several large Japanese cities. There happens to be a young scientist that holds the solution to destroying Gojira but he fears the social and scientific repercussions of such a powerful weapon, his Oxygen Destroyer is capable of removing all the oxygen in water making it incredibly destructive. His fears are that his creation could be used by the wrong people to cause more destruction and maintain stronghold based in fear. After another Gojira attack the young scientist is convinced that he has to use his Oxygen Destroyer, but insists he must be the one to release his own creation and only after destroying the written plans. The young scientist goes on to release the Oxygen Destroyer off the coast of Japan, killing himself and Gojira. The flesh sizzles off the beast leaving nothing but his skeletal remains. Japan is safe once again, the end.

            Gojira is an entertaining, weird and exciting film all while posing interesting moral and social questions along the way. The dialog allows some characters to question what is right or wrong in regards to their actions on larger social implications, they question what might happen later on and whether those actions are worth it. Gojira even has a bit of a love story woven into it and really touches on some human emotion and frustration. The atomic content in this film is what makes this a successful sci-fi film instead of just a monster or horror movie. Gojira is successful in exposing contemporary, real life fears and behavior through imaginative and progressive imagery.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Star Wars- 1977- Directed by George Lucas

Star Wars- 1977- Directed by George Lucas

            As someone who was born into a post Star Wars world, it only seemed natural to encounter and even wear Star Wars shirts, hats, action figures, models, costumes and accessories. This saga was infamous way before my awareness of it actually being a movie; it took years before I realized the true impact this one movie and its sequels had on the pop culture that I was exposed to as a kid and on through my teenage years.

First off we all know the plot of Star Wars so I will spare you the plot summary, I would like to focus on the creative impact Star Wars has had on pop culture since its inception. The use of special effects in this movie was undoubtedly ahead of its time, even though it seems simple now, Star Wars raised the bar for other blockbuster fantasy/ sci-fi movies, it often seemed as though it was the new standard to live up to in terms of special effects. I think of movies like Blade Runner and Dune that were nothing like Star Wars but attempted to live up to the visual quality of Star Wars by pushing the new technological side of movie making. Now Dune and Blade Runner were big hits but still didn’t reach the masses quite like Star Wars. The Star Wars empire is almost like the Beatles of modern cinema, everyone seems to know about it and the cultural impact is unlike anything we have ever seen before or since. Another really cool aspect of Star Wars is the soundtrack, the orchestra compositions in contrast to the plot and visual components of the movie blend so well that they get stuck in your head just like any good pop song. You may even hear the “Imperial March” composition in your head right now, I know I do. The last topic I would like to touch on is the iconic cast of characters, names like Princess Leia, Hans Solo, C3P0 and R2D2 have become legendary characters that have been imitated and replicated in film and television. One might think of Space Balls or even the new Family Guy remakes, both of which take on cartoon or satirized versions of these characters. It seems that every year there are always people still dressing up like Star Wars characters, it simply does not get old. Older generations pass it on to the newer generations and it seems to just have a perpetual motion that can’t be stopped, well at least until Disney got its hands on the rights, who knows what will happen now. However, the original Star Wars seems as though it will never get old, the classic format of good versus evil makes the plot relatable, the characters are awesome, the sets are still pretty cool after all these years and the special effects still seem to hold their own too. Simply put, the legacy of Star Wars continues on and on, it is nothing short of iconic some 30 plus years later.


So it seems that I did not read the sylabus as well as I thought I did. So, the following blog posts are reviews for movies we watched in class up to this point.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Them- 1954- Gordon Douglas

Them – 1954 – Gordon Douglas

The opening scenes of Them take place in what looks like a southwest American desert where two police officers find a little girl who is lost, speechless and in shock. She won’t say a word she just stares blankly into nothing, as though the last images she saw were burned into her retinas. The two police officers head out to find the little girl’s parents and they end up finding a trailer that is in shambles, there are huge holes in the walls and eventually they find a man who has been killed in a very suspicious manner. The officers’ investigation uncovers a weird foot print outside of the trailer; this print is obviously not from a human and is from some sort of large creature. The FBI is informed of this strange finding and they send out a couple of entomologists by the name of Dr. Medford and his daughter, Pat. Dr. Medford is quite surprised when he sees the print and is unsure of the origin of such a creature. The autopsy report of the dead man uncovers that he had the doctor along with his daughter and two officers seek out the unknown nest of the creature, they find an incredibly large ant; using the doctor’s knowledge of ants he instructs the officer to shoot the antenna of the ant in order to blind it and eventually kill it. The nest is gassed in order hopefully kill the rest of the ant of the nest. The doctor and his daughter fear that the ants might have mutated due to nuclear bomb testing in the area and that there could potentially be a lot more of these mutated ants. It is figured out that some queen ants have migrated elsewhere; one place is a U.S Navy ship. The mutated ants are shown destroying the ship's vessel and killing the crew members; the special effects in regards to the ants is well done and somewhat believable, they appear to occupy the set space well enough to get the point across without seeming too fake and set up. The ship full of invading ants is eventually destroyed and sunk into the depths of the sea. Another ant is reported near the Los Angeles River and ends up killing two men, one being a police officer while rescuing the sons of the other man killed. More cops and officers show up to destroy the nest and burn the queen to death.

Atomic fear and imagination fuels the plot of Them, while this movie wasn’t fantastic it was creative and entertaining at times, the atomic ants exemplify the potential hazards and fears of continued atomic use in a creative, imaginary way. The cast is at times a bit of dramatic and lengthy in their dialog but the sets are decent and effective . Atomic giant ants would definitely be terrifying; unfortunately, my mind couldn’t escape a certain scene from Honey I Shrunk the Kids where the son and daughter of Rick Moranis are riding a regular sized ant in their backyard after being shrunk by their dad’s shrinking ray.