Tag Archives: Movies

They’re coming for you!

As I mentioned on an earlier post, I took a film making class during my last undergrad semester. One of the assignments was doing a shot for shot reproduction of a scene from a theatrical film. For mine I did the opening graveyard scene from Night of the Living Dead. It was fun to shoot but there were a couple of important cuts that acted were out with the camera off unbeknownst to me, an unpleasant discovery made when I was editing the footage in Adobe Premiere. This was frustrating because we didn’t have time to reshoot those missing scenes, so we had to make do with what was shot.

And here is the original scene for for reference:

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Even Hitler hates Trump

One hobby I’ve picked up during my last hiatus was YouTubing. I took a film making class during my last undergrad semester, so I launched a channel to show people outside of class the videos. Since then I got into making untergangers which are videos with fake subtitles for the film Downfall (Untergang in German), which chronicles the last week of Hitler’s life. One famous scene has Hitler receiving bad news about Berlin’s defense, which results in him having a meltdown in front of his inner circle. This scene is the basis of most untergangers, and they have him have rant about practically anything you can think of. My first two had him flipping out over Trump naming Mike Pence as VP and Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

My new one, however, features him very upset over Trump being elected. Enjoy:

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Disney Racism is Still Racism

As I have noted in earlier posts, whilst in Tanzania we spent a good amount of time with the orphans and schoolchildren that lived at the convent. The school library had a suprizingly decent selection of movies and we would often screen movies with the kids. Our group would decide which movie to watch, and one time we watched the Disney Princess and the Frog which everyone else said they loved. I had never seen it before, but did want to see it since I had heard so much about how it was incredibly racist (like Disney tends to be with animated films not set in generic Europe.) It was worse than I thought. For one thing it had every single thing stereotypically associated with New Orleans and Louisiana I can think of short of bared breasts, Katrina, and oil spills. Gumbo, frogs, jazz playing alligators, Mardi Gras, Voodoo, the bayou, and even more was just crammed together in the most contrived way imaginable. That’s not even getting into the “racist” part of it.

Much like Aladin and Mulan, the racism lies in its depiction of the primary antagonist. This film taking place in Louisiana Disney predicatably chose to make the villian, Dr. Facilier a top hatted “Voodoo Man.” Like any other depiction of voodoo in mass media, Dr. Facilier is shown as black magician in leage with evil spirits and scamming innocent people. What is so troubling about that? Well Voodoo (also spelt as vodou or vodun) is a living religion that along with the related faiths of Santeria and Cadomble claim several million adherents on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the only time it is ever seen in the media is a dark, sinister cult practiced by dirty con artists. These misrepresnations have their origins from the fear many Westerners felt after the Haitian Revolution, and became cemented in popular imagination when Hollywood started attempts to depict voodoo following the Marine Corps intervention in Haiti during the 1920s.

What specifically was wrong? Let me explain. For one thing Dr. Facilier wears a feathered tophat and torn tail coat, with a shirt that is too small and a claw necklace. In reality tophats are strictly associated with spirits of the dead, and are worn with full formal dress because the death spirits are supposed to be wealthy; yet most pop cultures portrayals show all “witch doctors” wearing them along with generally primitive looking attire. No specific deities were named, probably because Disney didn’t actually do any research and couldn’t even contrive to use a very basic spirit like  Samedi, Damballah, Legba, Erzulie, or Shango (it would be like omitting Zeus et al from Hercules). No Catholic iconography appeared either: this is a huge error since slaves who brought their religions from Africa were forced to disguise their spirits as Catholic saints, usually ones that are remotely similiar. Instead just generic “friends from the other side” were used, and they looked more like poorly made Hawaiian Tikis than African entities. Most importantly they clearly had voodoo confused with Palo/Nganga, a seperate religion which is notorious for having unregulated priests who will do anything to make money.

<img src="charms” alt=”charms” /> shango erzulie

After the movie was done and the kids left someone on our team remarked that she was worried that maybe the movie might have scared children, since “voodoo is still practiced in some tribes in Tanzania.” Except that it totally isn’t. It’s about as prevelant in Tanzania as Shinto is in India. Complete absent if you were wondering. I corrected her and said that voodoo doesn’t exist in Tanzania or anywhere in East Africa, and that it only exists in West Africa. Actually that’s not even true, it really only exists in Haiti, Louisiana, and a few other Francophone areas, what they have in West Africa is Vodun has differences. I went on to say that its clear Disney didn’t do any research, and when another asked what made me think that I gave them an answer that was sufficiently watered down from what I have been posting. That individual informed that “there’s different kinds of Voodoo, and what they had in the movie is how it is in Louisiana.” Um no it isn’t, and besides in Louisiana it has been completely sold out by the tourist industry and weird white people who like stealing nonwestern religions. I didn’t say that, tactful Tom that I am. After I was done explaining what was wrong, yet another said that “most people wouldn’t know the difference.” I even attempt to explain that the movie was racist, since some people don’t even see racism in Peter “What makes the Red Man Red” Pan.

For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Vodun

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/matters-of-taste/

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Classic Film Review: Z (spoiler warning)

I have recently viewed Z, directed by Costa Gavras. Z is a political thriller about the assassination of a Greek presidential hopeful named Grigoris Lambrakis who was running on an antinuclear and Nonaligned platform. Lambrakis was a real Greek politician though the story told in Z is highly fictionalized; interestingly it begins with a disclaimer saying that “any resemblance to real persons or events is intentional.”

The opening dialogue discusses methods used to prevent mildew in French vineyards, and it is revealed to be a lecture given by a general to several other uniformed officers; the general goes on to explicitly link this with preventing the spread of Communism in Greece. I knew what he was getting at from the first mention of mildew. This sets the stage for the rest of the film. Before Lambrakis even appears, several of his campaigners are shown preparing for a rally and are inform that someone is out for him.

Much of the suspense of the film is whether he will be killed, and when he is killed then the focus on just who was responsible. Was it the Communists? Nationalists? Army? Police? Random act of mob violence? Unfortunately even before seeing the film I knew that it was the military responsible. A group of street thugs are followed and shown instigating riots, and it is later revealed that they were planted by the military, which reminded me of all the other examples of astroturfed resistance against democratic leaders like Arbenz and Mossadegh. Interestingly absent from Z is the USA and USSR. Both are mentioned on numerous occasions and Lambrakis made it clear he opposed either side having the bomb and that he would make Greece neutral, but no Americans or Soviets are anywhere to be seen. I really liked this because it helped to focus in on Greece, which is portrayed as being heavily partisan.

Not only does this movie give an excellent look at pre junta Greece, it is also an excellent film on an artistic level. The cinematography is naturalistic, not obviously staged like most Hollywood films. Because it depicts contemporary events, the clothes seen are totally authentic and not costumes. One thing that interested me is that many of Lambrakis’ young supporters are shown wearing clothes very similar to those worn by the mods, teddy boys, and beats of Britain. Filming was done in Algeria, though I couldn’t tell it wasn’t Greece. One thing that annoyed me was that all of the dialogue is in French and not Greek, and signs and documents shown are written in French and English. Not using Greek really distracted me from the fact it was supposed to be Greece and somewhat took away from the realism. Other than that the film is excellent storytelling.

The impression I got from Z was a cynical portrait of Greece as a heavily troubled place where people got killed for not being extreme enough. The sympathy of the film is definitely given to the Left, but it hardly glamorized them. Admittedly I know little about Greece during this period, but I feel that after seeing Z I understand the situation much better. All of the significant factions that vied for power are present, and their interactions are entertainingly shown. Overall I would say that Z is an excellent work that succeeds on all counts.

Zed

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Review of Häxan

During this weekend I went home and caught up on my DVR. One film that I watched was a 1922 Danish production called Häxan or Witchcraft Through the Ages. Häxan is a docudrama providing an in depth look at Medieval beliefs about witches, which is dramatized though a series of vignettes. The conclusion about these beliefs is that witches and people suffering from demon possession are merely misunderstood sufferers of mental disorders. Contemporary sequences about the now discredited disease “hysteria” are added to draw parallels between ancient superstition and modern quack medicine. Each segment is wondrously realized with stunning visuals, brought to life with costumes, makeup, and visual effects. Do be warned that Häxan is silent, if you wouldn’t watch a movie simply because it doesn’t have sound than this isn’t for you. However, if you have watched any silent classic (Charlie Chaplin doesn’t count) like Metropolis or Nosferatu you will understand just how visually arresting silent era movies can be. Highly recommended and available free online via public domain.

haxan

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Review of Adanggaman

I have just finished watching Adanggaman, an indie film from Cote d’Ivoire. Adanggaman provides an unforgiving look at the slave trade as it existed in late seventeenth century West Africa. While countless Hollywood films have looked at slavery, very few have dared to touch the Transatlantic Slave Trade; a noted exception being Amistad, which depicted it in a completely anachronistic manner. There are many things about Adanggaman that make it very different from mainstream films. For one thing it was clearly shot on a limited budget, so it focuses far more on dialogue and characterization than it does on creating a visual spectacle. Still, the props, sets, and costumes are good enough, and the movie takes full advantage of the scenery of its film location (an American film with this budget could not afford to film in Africa). What I liked best about Adanggaman was is that the slave trade is portrayed in a matter of fact way without passing a moral judgment or making it painfully obvious what emotions we are supposed to feel. Showing this tragic era from a solely African perspective also makes it unique, even though White people are frequently mentioned none actually appear. Overall I would say that while it could be better, Adanggaman is definitely worth viewing.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0262210/

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Review of The Battle of Algiers

Today my political science class viewed the film The Battle of Algiers. The movie is fact based account of the Algerian War, where the National Liberation Front rebelled against French colonial rule and resulted in Algeria’s indpendance. We watched the movie because we are currently discussing terrorism and what causes people to resort to terrorism in the first place. Despite wholeheartedly siding the the FLN, it is made clear that there activities fall neatly within the confines of terrorism. Numerous bombings, murder of police officers, and various other acts pf terror are shown. That is balanced with by depicting the human rights abuses carried out by the French as well. The FLN is clearly made to be heroic, but the French are hardly villinized even after it was established they resorted to torture. So rather than reduce the Algerian to a simplistic black and white tale, The Battle of Algiers makes it clear how complex the conflict was; meanwhile it is still an easy to follow film.

Another thing that makes this film expeptional are the artistic merits. Almost no proffesional actors were cast. Instead the FLN members were all played by real life members, and many of the French soldiers were played by actual French veterans. Such an approuch gives so much authenticity, and it took advantage of an opportunity not always present. The cinematography is stunning, it was filmed on location in Algiers and the decision to film in black and white was executed beautifully.

The Battle of Algiers is a film I recommend to everyone. It is ranked fairly high in “all time greatest film” lists, so that is a concensus. It is especially relevant to modern American viewers as many see parallels between France’s struggle and America’s involvement in the Middle East. With Syria’s future in the balance watching it now is esspecially timely.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058946/

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The Life and Times of djgarcia94

First of all, let me make it clear that NOBODY (except for maybe some very kind friends and family) would want to watch a movie about my life. My life as I have had it so far, anyway; who knows what may happen down the road. I challenge you to find something that would be film worthy:

I lived in Japan until I was six, which was far too young for me to know the difference between there and America; living on a US Army base especially blurred that. I actually did some modeling for Japanese magazines as they have a big demand for gaijin children so readers will want to get these clothes because Americans supposedly wear them. The first few years following my family’s return to Washington is excrutiatingly dull. After then I was involved with Boy Scouts for several years. My original troop dissolved because my dad was the scoutmaster but he got deployed to Iraq and there was no one to replace him. That was followed by a few years where I was very lonely and depressed much of the time, most of my time was spent playing PC games. Then I joined another troop and while it was very rewarding it would make a horrible movie.

The last few years have been a bit more film worthy. My time at junior college was much like my time in the second troop I was in. I won far more accolades though. I have allready blogged quite a bit about my time in Costa Rica and Montana, so click on those catagories if you want to know more about all that. Here I am now, I have left my Theological literature class and am killing time until my African Civilization class. Every hour seems like a juggle between reading Boethius, Gogol, and the Epic of Sundiata.

If anyone could make a rough concept of adapting any of these events into a film I will be highly impressed.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/daily-prompt-superstar/

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Film Review of Ugestu Monogatari

I have just finished viewing Ugetsu Monogatari, directed by Keji Mizoguchi. Japanese films have been an interest of mine for some time so I was really excited to see this one, which is considered to be rivaled only by Seven Samurai to be the greatest Japanese film; and it is also considered to be one of the greatest films period.

Ugetsu tells the tale of two potters living in the 16th century who leave their village. One wants to become a samurai, the other hopes to sell his pots hoping to make a larger than usual profits to conflict. The film is most remembered for its presence of ghosts but it is much deeper than an average ghost story. Rather it is a delicate fable with a message delivered very effectively. What I find enjoyable about watching Japanese movies is that they provide insight into another culture, one Westerners usually find very alien. However, Ugetsu does much more than that; the message is universal which I think make it timeless.

Visualy the film is equally compelling. The sets, costumes, and props are all very well designed. I’m not someone who prefers black and white, but I can tolerate it and I feel Ugetsu is perfectly fine in that format. Had it been originally filmed in color I’m sure it would have been some pukey technicolor that would have taken away from the film, and colorizing rare comes out very well. It is also fortunate that it is subtitled and not dubbed, for simililar reasons. Films like Ugetsu are perfect just the way they are, and any attempt to “fix” their technological shortcomings would be too risky.

Overall I would say Ugetsu Monogatori is an excellent film and I highly recommend it.

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Review of Monsters U

I just got back from Monsters U. Pixar has been at the top of the animated film game ever since they started but I’m afraid now they’re starting to lose their footing. Monsters U wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the original; or any of their original films for that matter. Without giving too much away, the story was very predictable (there was one decent plot twist) and I didn’t feel it was necessary to explain how Mike and Sully became friends. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s certainly not the kind of film that put Pixar on the map.

Thankfully they have stated that they are laying off sequels and prequels and will be returning to original films. That is the right decision, sequels rarely live up to the original but most studios still turn to them as a reliable source of income. Can’t believe the original Monsters Inc. came out twelve years ago, I still have a fresh memory of going to see it.

Overall I give Monsters U three stars, which is on the generous side.

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