The only emotion that doesn’t deceive is anxiety

[kml_flashembed movie="http://vimeo.com/1458200" width="400" height="302" wmode="transparent" /]The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema

Slavoj Žižek presents his ideas or analyses of films of directors such as Hitchcock, Kieslowski, Tarkovsky, Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Cappola and others in The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. When I watched it I thought this would be a great supplementary material for this class because it offers a different perspective on a number of movies we have seen for this class. In this blog entry I will focus solely on the insights I found fascinating on Hitchcock as a director and his films, however, I would definitely recommend this Guide.
So before I begin I want to emphasize that Žižek uses psychoanalysis as his approach to this movies and some might think that he is seeing sexual themes or underlying motifs where there is not. While I will not argue for the Guide as a whole, I do want to highlight that Hitchcock created his films during the period when Freud and psychoanalysis was growing and given more focus in the U.S. Therefore, it is very likely that Hitchcock used these ideas in his films and intended for the viewer if not identify them, then at least subconsciously experience the effects.
In The Birds the son is split between his possessive mother and the intrusive girl. So the violent attacks of the birds of maternal superego, of the maternal figure trying to prevent sexual relations. The birds are raw incestuous energy. Žižek comments on the first attack that happens and explains that when a fantasy object, something imagined, an object from inner space enters our ordinary reality, the texture of reality is twisted, distorted and that is exactly how desire inscribes itself into reality – by distorting it. At the vocal level, anxiety is silence. For example, when the mother finds the dead neighbor, she runs out of the house with her mouth open, trying to scream but no sound is made. This action is much more effective in eliciting anxiety in the viewer as opposed to her running out, screaming at the top of her lungs. This feeling of the sound stuck in her, the implication of a sound but lack of it is unsettling.
In Psycho, events which take place in the mother’s house are at three levels as if they reproduce the three levels of human subjectivity. Ground floor is ego – Norman behaves there as a normal son; up is the superego, maternal superego because the dead mother is the figure of the superego; and down is the id – the reservoir of the illicit drives. We can see how very interconnected the id and the superego are when Norman carries his mother from the second floor to the basement. Žižek mentions a few things about the scene of Norman cleaning the bathroom after the murder: besides the length, the care and the meticulousness with which it is done and the spectator’s identification with it tells us about the satisfaction we find in work or in a job well done.
According to Žižek, the true tragedy of Vertigo is that it’s a story about two people who, each in his or her own way, get caught in their own game of appearances. For both of them, appearances win over reality. Žižek comments that “the first part, with Madeline suicide, is not as unsettling as it could have been because it’s really a terrifying clause but in this very loss, the ideal survives. The ideal of the fatal woman possesses you totally. What ultimately this fascinating image of the fatal woman stands for is death. The fascination of beauty is always the veil which covers up a nightmare. When you come to close, you see shit, decay… The ultimate abyss is not a physical abyss but the abyss of the death of another person.” In the second part of Vertigo, Scotty attempts to make his fantasy come true. “We have a perfect name for fantasy realized, it’s called nightmare.” This turn of fantasy into reality is always sustained by extreme violence. In order for Scotty to want her, to lover her, he has to mortify her, change her into a dead woman.

In conclusion, the overall sentiment that Hitchcock films evoke is that “it’s not that simply something horrible happens in reality, something worse can happen, which undermines the very fabric of what we experience as reality.”
I hope this brief glance at Slavoj Žižek’s ideas on Hitchcock films peaks your interest, I truly enjoyed watching The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sFqfbrsZbw" width="480" height="385" wmode="transparent" /]

Horror and Comedy in One!

I have recently read an interesting blog post by someone with the username Poppascotch on the website horror-movies.ca.  The post talks about how close the horror and comedy genre is in producing the same effect.  This interests me a lot because in my experience I’ve felt that all the horror comedies I have seen have failed to produce both feelings of fear and moments that make me laugh.  You can read the article at the link below.

http://www.horror-movies.ca/horror_17640.html

The article says that horror and comedy both have similar ways to induce a response from the viewer.  It says that in horror the viewer is set up by such things as a person going to investigate a dark house and it creates a feeling of fear that results in a scare.  In comedy a character is set up with a ridiculous situation that the viewer knows must end in a laugh.  After reading this I can see how horror and comedy work in similar ways, but the question still is for me can they work at the same time?

My answer is no.

I feel that the horror comedies I have seen throughout the year can either be scary or funny.  For example one of the most obvious horror comedies Scary Movie, was not scary at all; in my opinion it was funny either.  One movie I did find very funny was Shaun of the Dead.  This movie works great with the inducing laughs, but lacks in the horror department.  I don’t feel that in this movie I ever felt the anxiety or fear that other films such as Martyrs have created.

I hated this film...

One thing I have experienced while watching horror films is that there are scenes in which a joke is said that has made me laugh.  One example of this is The Last House On The Left, both the original and the remake.  In the original film the police are there as almost a small comic relief and in the remake the father says jokes that I found funny.  These films do not consider themselves horror comedy whatsoever, but still had moments that make the viewer laugh.  I feel this works because there is not an equal blend of comedy and horror; there is a ratio of one laugh to every ten scares.  I feel this works similar to a lot of action films, where there are little jokes said in between all the action.

Zombies haven't been scary since the 60's.

Another thing I thought about while watching both The Last House On The Left movies, is the way they put in the few laughs.  In the original the laughs are throughout the film and in between each seen or horror.  I feel this was done because at the time of its release the subject matter of a teenager being raped was very intense and these comedic scenes were there to lessen the shock.  This is exactly what I felt it did, but towards the end of the film the comedy stops and the film makes the viewer totally forget that there were ever moments they could think of laughing.  The remake takes a different approach where they give some jokes in the beginning of the film, but once the horror starts the comedy ceases altogether.  This I feel makes for a very different experience then the original and a much more horrifying one.

See she's laughing a bit... right?

So all in all what I’m trying to say is that I do not feel the horror comedy genre is very effective at all.  The one exception I have to this is when the film has very subtle and dark comedy, one that doesn’t really have the viewer laugh out loud or have the HAHA moment.  One example of this is the film featured in the article American Werewolf in London, which creates some scares and some what I’ll call giggle moments…yes, giggle moments.  Another one that did this for me was the film we watched in class Doctor Strangelove, but I can’t really consider that a horror comedy.  Well these are my opinions on the horror comedy genre; let me know how you guys feel!

He'll laugh... but then eat you.

Original zombies have lost their luster

I’m taking it way back to the middle of the semester when we had our zombie category. I’ve been waiting to make an argument about how zombies aren’t respected anymore.  They’ve been the butt of all the jokes and they simply aren’t the same zombies from Night of the Living Dead, etc. To further prove my point, and without using too much of the movies Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, here is a classic clip about horny zombies from the well known show Saturday Night Live:

zombies from Amber J on Vimeo.

Zombies have needs too!

The next thing I found were humorous books about zombies. Not only are they making fun of zombies but the authors seem like they’re saying that zombies are so cliche and that they’ve figured them all out and now everyone could survive a zombie attack. The books were found from http://www.thinkgeek.com/

This first book I found really caught my attention. I remember that scene from Shaun of the Dead where they tried to act like zombies to get into the bar.

Here’s some of the description of the actual book:

“Remember that scene in that zombie movie where the people survive by adopting the mannerisms and speech patterns of the zombie horde? They walk right through the undead and nobody even notices them. Totally the best idea ever, right?”

This second book is pretty self-explanatory. I guess humans have finally figured the zombies out. Now if only people in funny zombie movies could whip this out when in need…

Here’s their Top 10 lessons from their book description:

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

  1. Organize before they rise!
  2. They feel no fear, why should you?
  3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
  4. Blades don’t need reloading.
  5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
  6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
  7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
  8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
  9. No place is safe, only safer.
  10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

The last thing I noticed were all the different ways zombies are made fun of, especially on the internet.  I can pretty much guarantee you that there are more sites making fun of zombies than there are praising them.

Here are some of funny pictures I found on http://dailyzombie.com/comic-archive/

The original zombies have just lost their appeal. They’re so easy to make fun of and, in my opinion, could be easily taken care of in movies except all the humans work against each other, thus allowing the zombies to take over the human race.  Also, the original zombies have been overshadowed by the enhanced zombies that we see more often today (the more physically fit ones that can run, especially). I foresee that in another 10 years, those enhanced zombies will be the only type of zombies you’ll see in movies except for when they make parody movies that make fun of original zombies.

IS CHUCKY REAL?

Throughout the semester we have analyzed the various ways fear, anxiety and paranoia are invoked in our minds. We learned that while for some such feelings are triggered by complex psychological scenarios, others can get scared by mere images full of blood and gore. We tried to understand what makes us humans so fascinated with violence and torture of our own species. I consider myself a rather compassionate and humane being, yet I cannot explain the rush of excitement that fills me when I watch another sequel of SAW. I reassure myself that it is mere curiosity, because I could never enjoy such a horrific image if I knew it was real.
But what about young kids who do not yet understand the thin line between reality and fiction? Should they be protected from seeing such movies on TV? Censorship based on age is a big topic in America, as scientists continue to argue whether it really desensitizes kids and makes them more cruel. When I was a kid we played war and pretended to kill each other as a joke. Has media taken it to another level? Or is it all about responsible parenting and the right explanation can prevent a child from drawing the wrong conclusion from what he sees.

Last week my nephew, who is only 5 years old came over our house. He was very excited to show me a new game on the computer. Having the most primitive graphics, the sole effect of the game is its creativity. The premise of the game is to find various ways to release your anger by murdering your boss. The game is incredibly cruel and at time my laughter turned into shock. My nephew on the other hand, was dying from laughter. I wondered what was going through his head and how he perceives the concepts of pain and death. I was sure that he doesn’t have full understanding of what he sees on screen after he asked me if Chucky was real and began to cry asking me to stay by his side.
What do you think? How protected should our young children be? Are we overreacting or on the contrary, should we be taking this subject more seriously? While you’re at it enjoy the game, for the mature adults that we are! And if you have any piled up anger agaisnt your boss, here’s a great way to release it!
Here’s the link!
http://www.freeonlinegames.com/fighting-games/wack-your-boss.html

And here are some beautiful images!

Why Believe in Paranormal Fraud?

I don’t know if you guys are aware of TED talks, but I am a huge fan. I find the website and the talks incredibly thought stimulating, like nothing else.

I recently watched this talk (posted above), by James Randi, a former stage magician and now a paranormal skeptic ( a cool career title, huh?). Since we just had a topic of supernatural activity in contemporary horror, I found it useful in relation to some of the movies we watched and topics we discussed. However, this is a little different, since Randi is not talking about a fiction world of the movies, he is talking about real facts and real people, who actually truly believe in supernatural forces and pay their very real money to come in contact with this make-believe world. And why are there so many people around the world convinced that this works? As Andy suggests, it’s because the paranormal activity is highly publicized to please sponsors.

If you think about it, there is sense in it. We watched all these movies like The Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and the Sixth Sense. Well, just tell me you are not a least a little nervous to go get some water in your house at night in the dark now? Ok maybe you are not like me, maybe you are more sane. But really, would you travel to the woods at night after watching Blair Witch?? And now imagine that the next day after watching this movie you see a talk show, a documentary and read a magazine article about similar supernatural occurrences.In such a case, it’s all around, from different sources, must be somewhat more credible.

This is how psychics work, psychics just like legendary Sylvia Browne. They are publicized all over the place, they are talked about, and most importantly they play on people’s feelings. Just like Randi says, they take advantage of “innocent, naive and grieving” . Unlike movies made for entertainment, these frauds are not fun, he is right. They not only convince vulnerable people that what psychics are doing is true, but they also take fairly earned money for it, for fiction. So where is the line between fiction and reality? Why is it that people are having such a hard time distinguishing this line? Can it be that such movies as Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity work not only to entertain and scare people, but also to deceive and create more room for the multi million-dollar psychic industry?

Whether you believe in supernatural or not, watch the clip, you would not regret it. (James Randi also talks about homeopathy.)

Prosthetics v. CGI

In class, we had a short debate on whether prosthetics or computer generated imagery (cgi) stirred more thrills. After thinking about this after class, I found that I could not come to a decision. Prosthetics are tangible, and subsequently realistic if done properly. CGI is intangible, and while at times may seem less realistic, the technology is constantly improving, with almost possibilities only limited by a person’s imagination.

Prior to the turn of the century, the use of prosthetics was the norm, with CGI seeming like a gimmick. It is during this time that I think prosthetics had the clear advantage in terms of generating the thrills in movie goers, which we referred to in class. To use a science fiction film as an example, I would consider the original Star Wars series to be an example of prosthetics being superior to CGI. Using early technology, George Lucas superimposed various characters into the classic film. Below is a comparison of a physical v. digital Jabba the Hutt. Rather than the character appearing realistic, it seemed cartoony and laughable. Though the original film had relied on antiquated models and prosthetics, they had had a classic feel that was damaged with these digital additions.

Computer generated Jabba the Hutt

Prosthetic Jabba the Hutt

 

CGI techniques have greatly improved since the early days. Now they are taken much more seriously, almost taking the classic “magic of the movies” out of the equation and moving it all to the computer. We see constant remakes of classic films, where directors reimagine the movies using CGI. The King Kong classic that we discussed briefly in class is one such example. Peter Jackson was able to take a claymation King Kong and transform him into a realistic CG-animated beast. This allowed for contemporary audiences to see King Kong in a shockingly realistic light, which was perhaps the same historically contextual experience that audiences had back in 1933. I feel CGI added a lot to the film, giving the movie its long lost thrills.

King Kong 1933

King Kong 2005

Tying back into the discussion on fear and anxiety, I feel that both CGI and prosthetics have their advantages and disadvantages. Right now, horror films use a combination of the two techniques in order to pull off frighteningly realistic effects. The remake of Nightmare on Elm Street uses a combination of effects to show a more realistic and gruesome depiction of Freddy Krueger. The dream sequences are able to tap into CGI technology to pull off astonishingly realistic effects that had not been available back in 1984. The audio is also digitally enhanced, bringing a supernatural quality to the character’s voice.

Freddy Krueger 1984

Freddy Krueger 2010

Finally, I believe the thrills are not generated by CGI or prosthetics in film, but rather in how they are implemented. I think it’s important to note that the remake of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” film had been rated 33/100 by Metacritic. Entertainment Weekly remarked positively on the films use of CG in crafting the character. “The new Freddy, his singed skin more icky-realistic and less latexy than before, has been molded to Haley’s already scary features: the sunken cheeks and pitted face, the mouth that leers like an open wound,” stated reviewer Owen Gleiberman. The New York Times review had a very different opinion of the CG in the film stating that, “The filmmakers’ use of computer-generated effects doesn’t help much, and makes a few of the scenes that should be horrifying look silly.” I suppose the final decision of prosthetics v. CGI is ultimately up to the movie goers.

Our Fascination with Paranormal Activity


While watching the movie paranormal activity for the second time I began to wonder why this film had as much success as it did. Watching the film the first time I felt that it was extremely boring and nothing really happened until the last half hour of the film. The second time around the film was seemed even less eventful. Despite its lack of action and fear evoking scenes, the film had a gross revenue of $192,735,402, not bad for a film made on a $15000 budget, and only released in select theaters. Its hard to believe that a film such as that could be such a hit while a film like the collector, which in my opinion was a far better horror movie, also released in select theaters and had a budget of $3,000,000, only grossed $7,712,114. Although some of Paranormal Activities success can be attributed to it being marketed as the scariest movie ever made, i believe peoples natural attraction to the unknown also plays a big role. Ghosts, spirits, demons and other types of paranormal activity have always been of interest to humans. This fascination can be seen even in children who will say things such as “maybe the ghost took it” or “the ghost did it”. What i thought really demonstrated the extent to which people not only are drawn to but believe in paranormal activity was when i saw this clip shown on CNN in which a transparent figure is seen walking across the room of Michael Jacksons mansion shortly after his death. This clip drew alot of controversy in the United Stated, many people actually believing that they had seen the ghost of Michael Jackson haunting the neverland ranch. It was later explained that the image was created by the shadow of a passing crew worker, but to calm the nerves of Americans CNN had to air a new broadcast explaining what had actually happened. I was surprised to see the amount of attention that this video had received because ghosts are something that i personally do not really believe in, and if they do exist am almost positive they would not be able to be caught on camera. After seeing the attention that this clip brought getting over 3 million views on youtube, the success of the film paranormal activity seems more reasonable. The film drew on societies existent curiosities.

SAW fans say the Doctor lives, and he does

Doctor Gordon is Alive

When I watched Saw when it came out, and again when I watched it for class, I was annoyed at the (dismal) ambiguous ending that makes us wonder, is Dr. Lawrence Gordon dead? We all know he cut off his foot, which would mean massive bleeding and makes it impossible for him to escape. Even if he didn’t die from his self-inflicted injury, Jigsaw would have been on his tail right after locking Adam in the bathroom.

After doing searches along the lines of “saw movie discussion” and “is dr. gordon alive” it was evident that there is definitely a significant amount of people wondering the same. I found several sites, from an unserious and meandering thread on Fearscene (Saw discussion; is Dr. Gordon dead?) to a concise and straighforward answer list on WikiAnswers (WikiAnswers – Is dr gordon from the saw series still alive).

However, thinking outside the box, what really makes this topic legit? Of course, a Facebook group would be necessary. I stumbled upon this amazing group, DOCTOR LAWRENCE GORDON IS ALIVE | Facebook

The group has 183 members and is very active. The latest post happened yesterday night and the earliest post was in July 2009. I haven’t watched any SAW movie after the first one so I was really intrigued by all the fan theories and discussions on this topic. On the Wall tab, one member was antagonized by the movie spoilers on this topic while another writes “I enjoy this group very much (:
I’m going to watch all the Saw movies again soon.” Many posts point out more Dr. Gordon trivia and the discussion is very focused on the film instead of meandering to other topics. The group also brings resolution to the whole debate. Under the News tab, there is a list called “The Proof.” Every instance that Dr. Gordon is mentioned in a SAW film is meticulously labeled. The most recent update states that SAW VII shows that Gordo is alive. In the group’s breaking new, they link an article where a SAW screenwriters says that the Gordon story will be explained in it’s entirety. So, mystery is solved, we’ll finally see what happened to the Doctor.

What the new SAW has in store

We mentioned in class that SAW was planned to be a franchise from the very start. What will keep people coming back to watch each one one that comes out? The latest movie SAW VI grossed $62.09 million worldwide, which is amazing considering their $11m budget, but it’s a far cry from the $164.78m of SAW III. It was smart of the producers and writers to retain viewers by playing off of expectations, even if they didn’t plan to make Dr. Gordon an essential character past the first film. This doctor mystery, along with the thrill of seeing blood and gore, kept people coming back to theaters which no doubt keeps this franchise so popular.

Overall, all these discussions are exciting due to the sheer fact that that so many people care. We know when we watch horror films, there’s a slim chance that anyone survives at the end. The viewers are detached from the characters because we have no hope in their survival. Yet this is a rare instance where people have been attached to the same character’s survival for 6 years, which is a long time to obsess over. For me, Dr. Gordon’s survival is a fleeting thought that I might remark on if I ever talked about SAW with a friend. However, to write on threads/discussions shows that people are truly engaged in the idea (or, they have a lot of time on their hands).

Supposedly SAW VII will be the last film, but with horror movies, we never really know when the franchise will end, or whether there will be spinoffs/remakes. Still, fans want their films done right, and the studio gives them what they want.

A Dash of Elements Incorporated in Contemporary Horror

Before I delve into my Internet material I just wanted to share a quote about Gotham City from the ‘Batman’ comic-series. After looking over the ‘Urban-Decay’ topic, Gotham could be scene as the epitome of cultural decay; dark, full-of criminals & chaos and the evil twin of the glorified fictional city of Metropolis, home to American-hero Superman. In regards to Gotham City here is this beautiful quote:
“Batman’s Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November.” –‘Batman’ writer and editor, Dennis O’Neil

For my Internet material I would like to discuss the official ‘Blair Witch Project’ site. This viral site furthers the anxiety of the film because it presents actual biographies of the filmmakers, timeline of events and a presents a mythological description of the fabled ‘Blair Witch’ all giving the image that this event could have actually happened. Chuck Tryon in ‘Video from the Void: Video Spectatorship, Domestic Film Cultures, and Contemporary Horror’ talks about how contemporary films such as the aforementioned ‘Blair Witch Project’ have a distinct characteristic that ‘blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction.’ Through this viral marketing campaign that portrays the film as actual found footage the knowledge and information that is given to the audience is definitely distorted. When this film first came out in 1999 I wasn’t even ten years old and conveniently just started camping with the Boy Scouts. So with a film about a murderous witch that haunts the forests and hunts those who enter the woods, being heavily involved in an organization that was based around camping in the woods presented a grand set of circumstances for me. There were countless moments at night when I was playing manhunt in the woods and my friends and I imagined what would happen if the actual Blair Witch was in the woods that we were. This film with its vague commercials that left so much up left to the imagination to twist around I believe is one horror film that could define our generation. It can be seen as the first initial segue from the more traditional planned horror films to the a new set of immersive films that focuses on 1st person camera angles, extreme close-up & camera shifts along with a disturbing sense of realism set in a pseudo-documentary setting that states that the film that is being presented is actual found-footage from three doomed students. This could further be connect to the idea of ‘trans-media storytelling’, a technique where there is intentionally little explanation as to what is going on in an effort to increase the level of interest.

Official ‘Blair Witch Project’ site: http://www.blairwitch.com/

And also: Just throwing this idea out there. I also think that after focusing on the contemporary horror film genre for my presentation I also think that there is a reflection of current day society’s interest in investigation and criminal shows & films. In the ‘Saw’ series there is an ever-constant hunt through a detective unit to end Jigsaw’s games, in ‘The Sixth Sense’ Dr. Malcolm Crowe is a psychologist who is trying to help Cole and in ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ there are people either investigating for a supposedly mythical entity or searching for spirits that are in their house.

Se7en of the Lambs…

After watching Se7en, I kept wondering what movie I was reminded of. I had several déjà vu moments while watching the movie and I was really annoyed at myself for not remembering what I was remembering. So I did what most normal people do in times of distress – I googled! Amazingly, I was rewarded with the following link…
http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic/5/se7en-vs-silence-of-the-lambs-film/541208/
If any of you would like to read the blog, feel free. I, however, did not. Just the title did it for me! The movie I was subconsciously comparing Se7en to was Silence of the Lambs. Now, those that know me (and the professor who read my first paper) already know that one of my all time favorites movies is Silence of the Lambs. Why? I am not entirely sure but I watched it with my siblings when I was about 5 and never stopped loving it since. Though the plots of both these movies are drastically different, there are certain moments of the film that scream “Remember me?” Take the following pictures as proof…
Behind bars:

http://poietes.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/silence-of-the-lambs.jpg

Bloody outfit:
http://jet0425.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/seven.jpg
http://img5.allocine.fr/acmedia/rsz/434/x/x/x/medias/nmedia/18/64/43/01/18777945.jpg

Scary looking victims:
http://www.lowerthetone.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/se7en.gif
http://www.best-horror-movies.com/image-files/silence-of-the-lambs-skinned-victim.jpg

Dr. Lecter and John Doe even look similar:
http://i31.tinypic.com/245asxu.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3254/3076954227_b2cc3fe931.jpg

Calm with authorities:
http://www.gonemovie.biz/WWW/XsFilms/SnelPlaatjes/FreemanSpaceySeven.jpg
http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2007/01/29/PH2007012900692.jpg

Besides for the visual similarities, both villains share certain vital characteristics. They are both manipulative with the police, are hardly ever hysterical, are bald (in a creepy way), etc… Wonder if any of you guys grasped a similar comparison when watching the film?

P.S. Though I think both movies are similar, I am not suggesting that Se7en, which was released in 1995, copied Silence of the Lambs, which was released in 1991. I actually think that the psychopathic and calm serial killer is indicative of the fear of the generation of ruthless and unstoppable murderers pervading the streets. Don’t you agree?

Gotham City

Hey, guys, sorry this one is a little late, Relay for Life threw off my circadian rhythm a bit and I’m not sure how long I’ve been asleep in the past couple days.

When we were talking about urban decay in the past few class sessions, I could not help but think of Batman and Gotham City.  It seemed, in many ways, like the epitome of the concept.  It is a morally bankrupt city rampant with crime and super villains, with one beacon of hope, who himself is shrouded in darkness and mystery.  The citizens seem very alienated from each other and this is further compounded by the fact that their hero lives a lifestyle, almost through necessity, that embodies isolation.  Bruce Wayne is housed in a gated mansion and leaves for appearances at events with individuals he has only superficial connections with.  His alter ego, Batman, is also a loner to a large degree and takes time to accept robin as a sidekick.  It is a very interesting society.  Even Harvey Dent, former District Attorney and defender of the law becomes mutated by a horrible chemical to become Two-Face, a criminal with a twisted, extreme view of the justice system.  This is just one example in the city of corruption.  Crime bosses control all, ranging from traditional mob bosses to humanoid villains as a few vigilante heroes attempt to hold them back.  The most organized groups in the city are criminals, not law enforcement.  May such a city never come into existence.

When we spoke about New York and came to the topic of alienation and the distance people feel from one another it really made me think.  I truly believe that physical and perceived distance created from overpopulation and long work hours can be overcome through effort.  We must be optimistic or we would never undertake the actions necessary to change the type of society we find in the city.  I am not saying everyone will be accepting of our efforts, but it is the type of lifestyle and community worth fighting for.

Urban Decay at it’s best

I couldn’t think of anything to post, but I then I got to thinking about the genre of movies we have been doing and there it hit me! So I literally googled “urban decay” to see what I would get, and BAM…this pops up:

http://photocritic.org/urban-decay-photography/

Apparently, this idea of urban decay has not only influenced film, but art as well. The website has 25 of the best urban decay photographs. It was interesting to see how one could find beauty in even the worst situations.


I find it amazing actually! the photographs look beautifully taken, and really allow for the audience to see a difference perspective. The photographs are both enlightening because they show how some parts of not only the country, but neighborhoods both past and present, out of state or around the corner can change over time, as well as entertaining and enjoyable to look at. It’s a modern day twist on the phrase, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” The things is, in relation to these films, I feel like these photographs could have been settings for each story. Take a look:

Couldn’t you picture this in “Se7en” as a setting for one of the deadly sins scenes?  Or these:

This photograph (left) screams “The Warriors.” Those two lights at the end look like trains in a tunnel, like when Swan and Marcy were running away from the cops underground.

I don’t even know exactly what this on the right is, but in some way I feel like its color and lighting have this resounding affect similar to the “After Hours” was filmed.

The thing is that these photographs also relate to other genres we touched on this semester.

When I first saw these pictures (bottom) I thought I was having deja vu or something. They reminded me so much of the nuclear anxiety films we saw not too long ago. We definitely saw similar scenes in movies like “The Day After”.”

Take a look at the website…which is your favorite? Why? Could you see it in any of the movies we discussed this semester?

P.S. do you like the urban decay that is my post? 😉

Citation: all photographs were taken from the link posted above.

South Park’s Take on Paranoia

After seeing the clip from The Simpsons in class, I was curious about other popular cartoons poke fun at widespread ideas about fear, paranoia, and anxiety. I decided to search for South Park episodes that might relate to these topics, partly because the show is so well known for providing humorous social commentary on just about everything, and also because it’s one of my favorite things to watch. I found some clips from an episode in season 6 entitled “Child Abduction is Not Funny.” The clips focus on one of the already rather spastic character Tweek, and his reaction to what he sees in the media and is told by his parents about the safety of children in society.



In the first clip, Tweek can’t escape from news reports that basically send the message that he’s not safe anywhere. When his parents bring him into the kitchen to talk about the recent abductions his mother states, “you can’t trust anybody.” The clip is funny for its exaggerated commentary on the influence of the media in everday life, but it also rings true. The public is very much dependent on the media, but often fails to take into account that the actual danger outside of their homes might not be so severe as they are led to believe. I think it’s interesting how society has made itself a paranoid place. Granted, a lot of crimes happen, a lot of positive things happen that are not reported in the news, and so a certain sense of fear and general lack of trust seems to be prevalent in today’s world.
In the second clip, Tweek’s anxiety is caused by his own father who conducts a “drill” in the middle of the night. He tells Tweek not to open the door even for the police because they may just be pretending to be the police. This instills more paranoia in him, and he ultimately reaches a point where he is suspicious of everyone he encounters. It’s funny how one incident can create so much anxiety in a large group of people. An isolated incident can become incredibly influential, because of how people choose to react to it. The humor in these clips, I think, speaks to a major reality. Though we can’t trust everyone in the world, believing everything the media says to the point where we feel as though everyone around us is out to get us isn’t practical either.
The paranoid character of Tweek reminded me a lot of Harry Caul from “The Conversation.” He can’t even function in his day to day life because he is so unable to trust those around him. The third clip really shows how he becomes completely paranoid as he hears more and more about the “danger” around him. He runs away from the movie theater because he doesn’t know the man at the ticket booth, “what if he wants to kill me!?” he shouts as he runs off. This of course, pokes fun at the way parents tend to overemphasize the “don’t talk to strangers” rule to the point where it can create even more anxiety in children, when the primary goal is their safety. Even though Tweek is a funny character, he does make the viewer feel a little bit stressed out and anxious just because of his complete inability to relax. I think it’s funny how a show like South Park can so accurately represent themes like fear, paranoia, and anxiety that we see regularly in society. I think sometimes it takes humor for people to really step back and consider how effective their approach to the world around them really is.

Graffiti: Vandalism or Art Form?

The Warriors brought me back to the earlier years of my childhood… a New York City covered in graffiti. Now it’s extremely rare to see walls, shops, or subway trains covered in graffiti. Part of the reason for the decline in graffiti art has to do with heavy fines and penalties. Individuals who decide to use the subway as their canvas can face serious charges. In 2007, Alain Maridueña aka Ket faced a $5,000 fine and community service for vandalism. Maridueña is often called one of the “godfathers of graffiti” due to the international recognition he gained for his art. Today he speaks at universities and his work is shown in galleries. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2007/10/05/2007-10-05_despite_fine_graffiti_artist_isnt_sorry_-1.html Maridueña says that he “grew up in Brooklyn in the ’80s. It was a tough time. We had a lot to deal with, including the crack epidemic. This was a positive thing. It gave me a sense of self-esteem.” It is clear, from Maridueña’s statement that he thought of graffiti as a positive outlet. Many people do not share his perspective on this issue.

Graffiti became very popular during the 1970s in New York City. It is considered to be a highly controversial subject. Some people view graffiti as an art form, while others consider it to be vandalism and a cause of urban decay. Often the younger crowds used graffiti as a form of rebellion, communication, and expression. Gangs used it to mark their territories, and others used it to create murals to honor their loved ones.

I think graffiti gave people a sense of self-importance. It allowed them to leave their mark and their influence on a specific location. It also provided recognition and fame. Since, graffiti is more often suppressed rather than encouraged, I would like to know if anyone believes that it should be recognized as a true art form.

Jon Naar

Subway Train

Alain Maridueña's Graffiti

Modern Cold War: A Continuation

So the threat of a cold war is still alive! If The New York Times says so, it must be true. Here’s an interesting article I stumbled upon on my daily perusal of the NYT website:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/world/16memo.html?ref=us

Basically, the article says that there is still a cold war going on right now. Except it is called terrorism. Al Qaeda plays the role of the communists. The middle east is today’s Soviet Union. In the past, America “faced an enemy with ‘no scruples about employing any weapon or tactic'” and feared that they would smuggle nuclear weapons into the country. The threat we face today is terrorists concealing dangerous weapons and “killing tens of thousands of Americans.”

So when did the cold war turn into the war against terrorism? After the murder Israeli athletes in the 1972 summer olympics. Nicknamed the “Munich Massacre,” a group of eight Palestinian terrorists broke into where the athletes were staying and kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes. All were killed. (Steven Spielberg’s 2005 Munich depicts this event.)  Alarm was also obviously heightened after the September 11 attacks.

NYT states that “most security experts believe the focus in recent years on destroying of locking up nuclear material is far more effective than sealing American borders” (like they did during the Cold War era). Do you agree? Has it improved? Does the public feel safer because of this?

SEX SELLS

We often think of ads using sex appeal to sell clothes, drinks, shoes and so much more. But in watching the slasher films for my presentation i realized that a lot of sex appeal is used to gain a bigger audience. When I watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) and its remake from(2003), I saw this more clear then ever. In the images below we see Pam from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, approaching leatherfaces home where she will soon meet her death. Although it is a very tense moment i couldn’t help but look over to my male companion watching the film and notice his goo goo eyes as we see a shot of her short shorts and backless shirt. This even more so when we were watching the remake to Texas Chainsaw Massacre where Jessica Biel is running around escaping death in her white wet t-shirt, which manages to stay neatly tied around her waist showing her flat stomach throughout the whole film. But in the image below we see a omage to the original with Erin approaching the house and another shot of her backside and leather faces home in the background, truly a sex appeal omage to the previous film.I think the directors were clever in their approach to not only appeal to their young audiences through gruesome, gorey techniques but also to appeal to them through sex. I think this is used as often as possible in most films, even though movies have become alot more complex than the simple slasher movies, they still contain the “hot” girl running away from the killer, or a very muscular model looking young man who is supposed to be the “guy next door.” All i can say about this is that it’s a great technique to gain audiences of all ages who not only want the protagonist to survive but to also move next door to them.

Obviously the backless shirt and the view up the short shorts is necessary


Erin

This looks familiar


Three Days of the Condor vs Casino Royale

While watching Three Days of Condor, I almost fell off my seat when one of scenes seemed very familiar. It was the scene towards the end when Turner is in Atwood’s home office, ready to interrogate or even kill him. This scene is very similar to a scene at the beginning of James Bond’s Casino Royale, in which Bond is sitting in the office of an MI6 agent by the name of Dryden. By killing Dryden, Bond would obtain 00 status. In both scenes the man with the gun(Turner and Bond) have the upper hand. They are in control and tell their victims what to do and what not to do. Although they are supposed to be the “good guys”, working for government agencies that are supposed to rid the world of evil, they are the ones who are holding the guns, hinting at the idea of moral ambivalence, which is common in film noir and movies about conspiracy. The two scenes contain other aspects of film noir. In the Condor scene, Turner is sitting in the dark, waiting for Atwood to arrive. In Casino Royale, Bond is waiting in the dark office for Dryden to arrive. Once Dryden arrives, the room is partially filled with sunlight but for the most part, both characters are covered in a shadow. These two scenes play on the use of lighting and moral ambiguity, which is typical in film noir.

A New Threat

I found the following article interesting…#mce_temp_url#

When I first watched this news on TV, I thought it related to our class not only because we covered the Cold War not too long ago but also because there is a new fear involving nuclear weapons. During the Cold War it was Russia the threat, now the threat is even greater. We are afraid of nuclear weapons or materials landing on terrorist hands. Now, this could be devastating! Not only is this a problem, but also it is scary to know that Pakistan and India are involved in an arms race. I feel there is anxiety coming from the US more because it can’t do anything about it. During the Cold War the two countries involved were Russia and the Unites States, the US had direct control and responsibility if a war were to break out as well as Russia, but now the “fate” of the world could be in the hands on these nations who are obtaining nuclear materials. They have not reached an agreement and this is the frightening part! It is easy to feel scared when one is not in control. It is also hard to reach an agreement when many nations are involved. I was surprised to read they found materials in Chile. I feel this meeting is beneficial, but it’s not addressing the problem of Pakistan and India, it is just “seeking ways to better secure existing supplies of bomb-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium.” This is great, but I fee it is not enough. I understand it is hard to reach an agreement, because each country looks out for its benefit. It is hard to convince a country to take a certain action. Honestly, I was surprised to hear about this summit meeting because I took it as a warning sign but it is presented in a friendly and subtle way. Should we be worried? I didn’t really think about nuclear destruction since we discussed nuclear apocalypse in class but it didn’t really create anxiety in me since the threat with Russia was around sixty years ago. But today it is a different story because it is the present age and it is a new kind of threat, more vicious when it comes to terrorist attacks, but with the same consequence: destruction.

Drawing Inspiration from Film and Fashion

For my last round of blogging, I wanted to depart a little from what we’ve been posting to something a little off the beaten path. A little while ago I was reading in the Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section about one of my favorite brands, French Connection, and their launch of a new advertising campaign. The article caught my attention for three reasons 1. I love fashion 2. I love advertising as I am a marketing major and 3. the campaign was entirely inspired by film noir! I know we ventured very far since those noir days (and sorry for going back to there) but I thought this was really cool and wanted to share. The campaign involves both print and commercial advertisements (mostly for international markets so we may not even see them here in the US, and hence the foreign accents on the commercial). Take a look:

French Connection ‘The Woman’ from Fashion Copious on Vimeo.

French Connection ‘The Man’ from Fashion Copious on Vimeo.

As you can see, the commercials are a little odd (definitely seem fit more for the European market than the American market). But I think it’s so great that they drew inspiration from film noir. First of all, “the woman” and “the man” reminds me (and probably deliberately so) of the “femme fatale” and the “hero,” the stock characters of the noir film. The black and white filming of them is clearly noir related, as is the seductive (for the woman) and mysterious (for the man) feel of the commercials. I love when advertisements get creative and wacky, as this is, drawing on the seriousness of noir but with humor (“look at his heart. Or rather look at his shirt…he wears not sequins. He knows not what sequins is”). This also reminds me and gives me a little inspiration for our final project, for being influenced by something, such as in this case a film technique/genre, doesn’t mean copying it entirely, but it means taking aspects of the technique and twisting them and making them your own, thereby creating a whole new entity, and not simply a recreation of something that already exists.

Halloween: Killer Motivation

Scanning the message board on Halloween‘s IMDB page, I came upon a number of interesting topics but one in particular actually puzzled me a great deal. In user RC-Cola’s post titled “Did I miss something?” (which can be found at www.imdb.com/title/tt0077651/board/thread/155539196?p=1), he or she wonders “Did Michael Myers have any motivation for the killings?” and later says “By the end I didn’t really care what he was doing because I didn’t know why he was killing people.” Frankly, I find this take very bizarre and am curious to find out where others stand on the issue. In my mind, at least when it comes to horror, the less you know, the better. I think people naturally tend to fear the unknown. Things you can’t fully grasp or understand bring out anxiety and that’s primarily because you don’t have much of an idea exactly what can be done about them. That’s why you don’t see Hitchcock providing a reason for the attacks in The Birds or Romero explaining how the zombies originated in any of his Dead films or what the structure is in Cube, if you’ve heard of it. Just as if Michael Myers was killing just to, say, seek revenge on someone in Halloween, it would lessen the threat and, in turn, the ability to frighten. This is one of my many issues with subsequent films in the Halloween series. First there’s the sister angle and later an ancient Druid curse is introduced. It plays just as ridiculous as it sounds.

In an entirely different thread on the subject (www.imdb.com/title/tt0077651/board/thread/155601090?p=1), user simest articulates my thoughts on this perfectly. He says, “I think where Michael has a clear, identifiable and tangible reason to kill – seemingly based upon mitigating circumstances – it is far less unnerving because as a society, we can work towards addressing those circumstances and avoiding their recurrence. The implications are considerably less frightening if we know there are measures we can take to prevent them.” And later in the first thread I mentioned above, Sundown 93 quotes Billy Loomis from Scream who says, “…did Norman Bates have a motive? Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lecter liked to eat people? DONT THINK SO! See it’s a lot scarier when there’s no motive.” Couldn’t agree more.

And I suppose this is why Phillips’ reading of the film bothers me as much as it does. Looking at it from the point of view that Myers is acting to “punish the wicked” would ruin a big part of what makes Halloween so unique and effective. If it’s just “the absence of the disciplining parents that calls forth the monstrous bogeyman” then, as simest puts it, we know what measures we can take to prevent his presence. It now boils down to a simple fairy tale and he’s not all that terrifying anymore. Given that Myers is presented throughout as a purely evil, unstoppable force, Phillips’ take seems to be in direct opposition to what the movie intends, making it hard for me, at least, to play along. It doesn’t help that he dismisses/ignores plot elements (the murder of the truck driver and that, despite not being successful, Myers did intend to kill Laurie) as he’s trying to make the point.