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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for July, 2013

Johanna Enlists ; 1918

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Director: William Desmond Taylor
Actors: Mary Pickford, Anne Schaefer, Fred Huntley, Monte Blue, Douglas MacLean, Emory Johnson, John Steppling, Wallace Beery, Wesley Barry
Country: U.S.A.

Johanna Enlists is a cute film to watch and I enjoyed it very much but it was also a film that made me all too aware of the role women play in American society. It made me realize how little things have changed, despite the feminist revolution, from the 1910s until now.

In this movie, Mary Pickford plays Johanna, a country girl who is seen as ugly but she dreams of having a beau. After being upset after finding out that her crush is married with children, she prays to God to send her a beau… and Johanna ends up getting the American army. This leads to Johanna having crushes on a few men and she learns from magazines, newspapers, and books on how to be a lady. This leads to one of those transformations where the girl suddenly becomes hot after she does her hair differently and wears different clothes (similar to how current movies use glasses to make the girl ugly and the girl becomes attractive after she takes them off) and I was a bit surprised to see such a movie trope being used even back in the days. I loved how Pickford’s hair was used as the turning point for Johanna’s transformation because Pickford’s curls were so famous. I love seeing her hair having importance in her movies’ plots. I guess some things just don’t change. After Johanna makes a transformation, men become attracted to her and she has a slew of admirers with three in particular. This leads to a little trouble and in the end, Johanna gets a beau.

The ending is very old-fashioned for current viewers and despite being aware that things were different back in the days, I still find it a little weird when people use the explanation of, “We’re the same kind” to get the girl. Another movie example that I can think of at the top of my head is Ashley’s reason for getting married to Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Even though it is off-putting that a girl goes through so much trouble to get a guy, what I love about Pickford films is that she works with the system to get her way. In the paper that I wrote during my final semester in college, I wrote about how Pickford subverted society’s expectations of females, and I think that this movie is a perfect example of doing so. Sure, Johanna goes through a lot of trouble trying to get the guy (and I enjoyed her trying to change her looks and behaviour, especially dancing à la Isadora Duncan) but it is her scheming to get the men and the males in this movie are flat and are like toys controlled by Johanna. I love it when I see Pickford acting in a coquette-ish behaviour because it becomes another example as to how she wasn’t always portraying innocent characters and how wide her range was.

Another thing that I found highly enjoyable in this film were the effects used in regards to images + texts (ref. Picture 2). I always like seeing these in silent movies and these days, we don’t really see much of it outside of Quentin Tarantino’s films. I had a good chuckle when I saw “Solid Ivory” next to Pa Renssaller (Huntley). There are also some great intertitles in this film, which had me in stitches. A personal favourite was one that said, “Oh, Lordy — when I prayed for a man — WHY did you send me a thousand?”

Pickford was wonderful as an actress in this movie and I loved how there was nothing beneath her to get the desired comedic effect. One of my favourite moments was when she had a clothes pin on her nose because I couldn’t help but think that she was adorable (ref. Picture 3). After getting to know more about Pickford, I am surprised that she is known for playing “little girl roles” rather than being known as a comedienne. She’s wonderful in comedic and dramatic roles and it’s a shame that people aren’t giving her more credit for her acting talent.

I should really get going with a Pickford marathon as well. So many marathons to do and so little time (erm… patience, hahaha. Who am I fooling?)

IMDb Link: Johanna Enlists

Duran Duran – My Own Way ; 1981/1982

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Directors: Russell Mulcahy

I was a bit unimpressed with this video because “Girls on Film“‘s video was so elaborate. This video seemed like a combination of “Careless Memories” and “Planet Earth“‘s video with the German Expressionist-like background and the focus on band members. Not only that, but the dancers were also reminiscent of the dancers in “Planet Earth”, but I guess this is pretty explainable since the director is the same.

What I did like was the editing for this video and the Mondrian-esque bits added a fun effect to the video, which complemented the song. The quick cuts matched the beat of the music, so I thought that was pretty neat. Other than the editing, there weren’t any references to the lyrics in the song.

I like to imagine that this video isn’t much of a marketing tool (unless the goal was to sell eye candy, in which they did succeed, in my opinion) but something you’d watch while dancing to the song and eventually, it will just be playing in the background.

Hm… I think that’s really it. I feel rather underwhelmed and don’t know what else to say.

I was happy to see Nick smiling a lot in this video because he looks so cute when he does. As he gets older, he seems to smile less and less in the videos, which makes me feel pooped. Everyone looks better while smiling!
I was also amused by the parrot strutting on his synth and also making an appearance next to Roger’s drum set. I wonder what Nick would have done with the parrot took a dump on his synth. Immature thought but it was a thought that crossed my mind for a second while watching the video.

As Good as It Gets ; 1997

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Director: James L. Brooks
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Country: U.S.A.

I watched this movie on television in either middle school or high school and I remembered enjoying the movie a lot. I came across it again so I decided to watch it and I found it highly enjoyable this time around as well.

I have a weird relationship with Jack Nicholson in that I admire his acting but I find him scary. It isn’t scary in the Boogieman scary but Nicholson has his own weird vibe that I can’t shake off. Even in this movie, all I can think of is, “It’s Jack Nicholson. It’s Jack Nicholson.” while enjoying the movie.

What I liked so much about this movie was the way the actors worked with each other. It was as if the characters were written for them and no one else could play them the way they did. Even though I didn’t think that there was any romantic chemistry between Nicholson and Helen Hunt, I didn’t find it weird either. Speaking of Helen Hunt, I thought that she was wonderful in this film. While Nicholson’s character, Melvin, is the protagonist and it is his story in regards to how he changes by helping other people, it was Hunt’s performance that I found to be most touching. Her scenes with Greg Kinnear were so sweet and she seemed so genuine that I couldn’t differentiate Helen Hunt, the actress, and the character she was playing. I love it when I watch a movie and I forget that it’s a movie; it’s as if I’m no longer here and I’m just a fly on the wall observing real life people. I guess this is why Brecht came up with his idea of theatre, but I really do love this feeling of total immersion when I watch films and in regards to this film, I’m happy that I can pinpoint why I felt this way. Helen Hunt, you are an amazing actress.

And another thing… Verdell is so cute!!! (ref. Picture 2) I know that animals that perform for movies are highly trained but I couldn’t help but wonder how many takes it took to get the right shot. Verdell was so perfect in every moment that I was astounded by how well he conveyed the necessary emotion to complement the other actors. Verdell and Melvin were the best couple in this movie, I swear. Ugh Jack Nicholson… WHY ARE YOU SO TALENTED?!

I’ve decided that this movie is one of my favourite feel good movies; I wouldn’t be surprised if I come back to it every now and then to cheer myself up.

IMDb Link: As Good as It Gets

The Shining ; 1980

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel
Country: United Kingdom, U.S.A.

This entry is dedicated to my friend Stephanie, who is the only one who knows how much I dreaded watching this movie and was willing to do a Kubrick marathon with me. Thank you for being an awesome friend!

***

Finally, Stephanie and I were able to watch The Shining and resume our Kubrick marathon. I was scared since I do not like horror films at all and I am so glad that we got this movie out of the way. It was worth the watch, but no way am I rewatching this again! (Unless it is with bunnies.)

What made the movie most frightening for me was the use of sound, particularly the score. It complemented the actions on the screen perfectly and created the most unnerving atmosphere. For example, towards the end, when Wendy (Duvall) is looking for Danny inside the hotel, the chant-like music seemed to reflect the hotel’s ghosts coming to life but it also added drama to the scene. I felt very scared watching that scene due to the music and what Wendy was going through. Although I haven’t watched many horror films in my life, I do know that sound plays a large role in the genre, but Kubrick’s use of synth music did a great job in evoking eeriness, claustrophobia, and tension. It was the music that made me jump and feel like I was on the edge of my seat, more than the actions on the screen.

A few things that caught my attention was the exterior shot of the Overlook Hotel (ref. Picture 2) and the acting. When I saw the shot of the hotel, at first, I didn’t even see it until I looked closely at the shot. I wondered why Kubrick chose this hotel because it blended with the surroundings and the shot looked weird. After thinking over it a bit, I thought that the shot worked because it made the hotel look ghostly in the “is it there or is it not there?” sense, which seems to foreshadow the supernatural things that are to happen later on in the movie.
As for the acting, in the beginning, I thought that Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall’s acting was incredibly hokey. It was if I was watching a B-movie and I thought that Nicholson in particular was hamming it up. In retrospect, I wonder if this was intentional and if it was, maybe it was an indicator for Jack’s (Nicholson) descent into madness as the hotel takes a hold of him. When Jack is interviewing for the caretaker position and when he calls his wife about it, something about him seems off and inauthentic, but when he decides to do his best to “correct” his wife and child, there is nothing about him that seems fake. As the movie progressed, I stopped thinking this and thought that the chemistry between all the major players in the movie was perfect. I stopped thinking that Nicholson was being hammy and I started to find Duvall to be less and less grating and was rooting for Wendy. Often times when I watch movies, I’m thinking, “YOU IDIOT, WHY AREN’T YOU DOING SO-AND-SO?!” but Wendy was sympathetic and perfect in portraying a loving wife and mother who is frazzled but doing her best to survive and save her son. When Jack is breaking through the bathroom door and talking/singing about little piggies (brilliant moment in acting, by the way), Wendy looks horrified due to what is happening, but when she finally acts and slashes her husband’s hand, her face expression is a combination of fright and guilt over having to hurt her husband. I loved how Wendy was very active and how you could see that there were many thoughts racing through her head, and she tried to think of what she can do to get out of the situation that she is in. She wasn’t some useless woman who gave up and wailed about her woes, but she tried her best to save herself and her son.

What I found enjoyable about The Shining is that it’s not a horror film that’s all about screaming and being scared. There is nothing wrong with movies like that since it’s a completely different experience, but The Shining made me become invested in the plot and the characters rather than watching out for the next scream moment. I’m a fan of straight forward endings, but after watching this movie, I had fun thinking about what certain scenes meant and I have to give props to a movie that let’s me enjoy thinking about something. It also seemed that it was a film that was fully aware of the nature of films in regards to how they are watched and how there is no right interpretation in regards to a movie or any artistic work. I have never been so aware of the mise-en-scène until this movie — the amount of red used in this movie makes you even more aware of its usage. In regards to interpreting film, it reminded me of my early years in college and how I struggled with the idea of what’s the “right” way of looking at a movie until a professor told me to stop stressing and that there is no right or wrong. A person can have their own views and if they can support it, then all is peachy keen. It doesn’t mean that others need to agree or that one needs to agree with others’ points-of-view, but these various perspectives can lead to discussions and further thinking.

Stephanie told me about The Shining re-enacted by bunnies and showed me this wonderful video. I found it absolutely hilarious and adorable and had to watch it on repeat. What amazed me was how successful the video was in capturing all the key scenes and I didn’t find it scary at all. I thought that the “staring” part (ref. Picture 3) was really funny because I didn’t expect to see that within the 30 seconds. It’s impressive how much information can be crammed in 30 seconds.

I would love to watch this movie again, but since I’m a big fat chicken, it’s going to be one of those movies that I admire but can’t rewatch. I can see why so many people are a fan of this movie and I have great appreciation for it as well. I’m really enjoying the Kubrick marathon and so glad that a friend is partaking in it as well. The next film we’re going to watch is Barry Lyndon!

IMDb Link: The Shining

Duran Duran – Girls on Film ; 1981

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Directors: Godley & Creme
Original air date: July 13, 1981

For some reason when I rewatched this video, it left me cold. Maybe I ate too much lunch so my brain was dead, but I remember my first impressions when I saw the video for the first time. I remember thinking that it was quite funny, was a bit shocked by the suggestive scenes, and loved the model acting like a sumo wrestler because her hairdo amused me. However this time around, I felt nothing. Maybe I’m just thinking too much these days, which is taking out the fun in watching anything. Lately I’ve been feeling quite a bit of indifference to things that I’ve watched.

I liked how the video showed the camera and the band members back-to-back so that the viewers become aware that it’s not just girls who are on film, but the boys as well. I loved how John Taylor was getting primped up and Nick Rhodes was checking himself out in the mirror; I thought it was quite appropriate and was sort of like a role reversal in regards to how these behaviors and actions are stereotypically attributed to women. Sadly (for me), there are more instances of seeing other people than the band members, which means that my attention is drawn away from the band members (let’s not kid ourselves, all I wanted was Nick) and onto the characters doing various things. I thought it was quite hilarious how these women were shown as dominant and yet they are still subservient since they are playing these roles in front of the band members. It doesn’t help that the band members said that all they cared for was checking out the models — you can’t really blame them since they were in their late teens. Hell, I’m in my early twenties and I still fangirl. Interestingly enough, the males who are doing the “looking” aren’t the band members (they’re just performing) but they are the men who are eventually beaten up by the women. It’s a little bizarre how the set design makes it appear as if these female models and male actors are performing for the band members and yet it also appears to be that the show piece are the characters and the band members are just there to provide music for the scene. I guess everyone wanted to play the decoration role in this video.

I know that music videos don’t need to complement or have anything to do with the lyrics to the song, but I thought it was pretty tongue-in-cheek to show these one-dimensional female models/characters when the song (from what I understood) is sympathetic towards female models. The following lyrics

“Girls on film (she’s more than a lady)”

“There’s a camera rolling on her back, on her back. And I sense the rhythm humming in a frenzy all the way down her spine.”

“The diving man’s coming up for air cause the crowd all love pulling dolly by the hair, by the hair. And she wonders how she ever got here as she goes under again.”

made me think that the song was about how female models are seen as objects without any substance and how they are used by photographers. Yet here we are watching this video that shows women being objectified for our pleasure and we don’t really care for the women and what they have to go through. At the end of the video, we see these women retreating behind the scenes and having a good time so why should we really care for these women anyway, right? In this sense, I do think that this dichotomy created by the video and the lyrics is quite brilliant.

One more thing: I love Nick’s hair in this video! I am loving how his hair changes from video to video, although I am going to assume that his hair is going to be same throughout the travelogue videos. And I never understood why people thought John was so handsome until I watched this video. Look at him in the screencap!!! What a dreamboat.
I’m just going to give up using last names and refer to the band members by their first names from now on. I’m so inconsiderate, presumptuous, and rude, hahaha.