January 16, 2017

First Film Comment

Here’s the sample film comment I had promised. It is meant to serve as a model. Your comment should be about the same length as mine. Notice that I’ve been specific about what I liked and disliked about the film. I have also provided some background information. Remember that your comment can be on any film of your choice, it can be an answer to my own evaluation of the movie, or to a fellow classmate’s comment. The important thing is that you support your opinion with arguments, that it be your own (not copied from another source) and that it be lengthy enough to merit the 25 points for the activity. Be aware that our blog is public and that anyone in the cyberworld can read what we write. So check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes before you place it in the blog. I recommend that you write your draft in a Word document and then copy and paste unto the blog instead of writing your comment directly unto the blog. In this way you have a backup copy of your work in case accidents happen. Also remember that you will probably not see your comment immediately after you submit it. This is because I have to approve it. After I do this, you will be able to see what you wrote. This will take some time since I usually check my mail in the morning.

Somehow it’s difficult to surmise that this obnoxious character, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, created the highly successful Facebook. If the purpose of the initial dialogue by Mark and his girlfriend Erica was meant to annoy the viewer, it achieved its purpose. I felt like turning off the film at that very moment. However, since this is probably one of the films that will be nominated for the Oscars, I decided to be patient and give the film a chance. From the beginning the film establishes some of its main themes through that initial irritating conversation. Issues of class and power, who belongs, who has social skills, and how you deal with success surface from the beginning.

The main character, Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student who got a perfect score on his SATS, is obsessed by his desire to belong to the prestigious fraternity Porcellain.  He knows that being from a wealthy family will not get you into this exclusive group. So he wants to do something special that will prompt the fraternity to invite him to be a member. During the course of the initial conversation, Mark angers Erica and she breaks up with him. Because he is angry at Erica, he first blogs nasty information about her and then hacks the university’s profiles, takes all the girls photographs and asks guys to rate their hotness. The page he created receives  22,000 hits within two hours and causes quite a commotion within the Harvard community. It also calls the attention of the Porcellain fraternity who ask him to become part of their group to help them create a social network similar to My Space. His dream achieved, Zuckerberg fools them into believing he will help, but develops what we now know as Facebook. And this is where the story really begins.

The film combines the hearings of Zuckerberg’s case with vignettes of what supposedly had happened in flashbacks. Mark Zuckerberg, as played by Jesse Eisenberg, is disagreeable, arrogant, unregretful about any of his actions, and it seems unprincipled. This character is remorseless and for me had no redeeming qualities. Except maybe for Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), none of the characters in this story is likable. In fact they are all, in my opinion, despicable. On a personal level, they represent everything that is wrong in this world. I’m sorry if I offend-but I hate fraternities and the misuse and abuse of power. I have always felt that with great wealth and power, comes great responsibility. None of these characters are worried by their responsibility as citizens; they are just greedy.

Well, the question is Do I recommend this film? I certainly do. It is too long and dialogue driven so maybe this is not a film for those who like action. Though, it made me angry and made me question having my Facebook account.  It tells a great story. The fact that it angered me was precisely the film’s objective. It exposes the greed and immorality of our times and the superficiality of our relations with others.

January 16, 2017

Second Film Comment

I finally had the opportunity to watch Darren Aronofsky’s The Black Swan. In fact after watching it twice, I confirmed that I had understood well what the film was trying to say. Before watching this film, you should read about The Black Swan ballet because it will provide many clues about what is happening.

Most people have focused on the lesbian scene, which lasts only a few seconds, and not on this ballerina’s gradual descent into madness. The main character, Nina (Natalie Portman), is a perfectionist who has been overprotected by her mother. She is twenty-eight-does not seem to have any romantic liaisons , or other interests besides her career. Because her dancing technique is so perfect, her teacher Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) thinks that she would be the perfect white swan, but that she lacks the passion to become the black swan. That established, we see how her sexual repression, her family situation, and her rivalries with other dancers affect her. As she becomes more unstable, we see her becoming the black swan, but losing her life in the process.

A deeper look into the story will uncover what I think is the most disturbing situation. Is the ballerina’s sexual repression caused by her mother’s sexual abuse? The film provides much evidence that would point to this possibility.

If you like “feel good”movies, don’t watch this one. This is by far the best film this year in terms of its thought-provoking story, originality, performances, and cinematography. It’s simply outstanding. Natalie Portman truly deserved her Oscar for best performance, she gave it her all. I give this film a thumbs up.

January 16, 2017

Third Film Comment

gerard-butlerI don’t know what’s happening, but I feel that there aren’t too many films out there worth watching. So I’m going to write about a film I have watched, but haven’t loved.  I find that American cinema doesn’t cast  foreign actors well. Actors like Penelope Cruz, Gerard Depardieu, and even Antonio Banderas lose some of their screen persona when they act in American films. All these first-rate actors, who are impressive in their native countries do for the most part second-rate work in the USA. I’m saying this because I love Gerard Butler, the Scottish actor. I first saw him in a British film called Dear Frankie. He had a small role, but  he caught my eye. Then, I identified him as the phantom of the opera in the film of the same name and as Beowulf in Beowulf and Grendel. I thought he was a striking phantom of the opera, preferable to the blond leading man. Then as King Leonidas in 300, a film where he was perfectly cast, he was catapulted into fame. And that’s when the problems began.

Though a very attractive man, he doesn’t seem to do well in romantic comedies. I hated P.S. I Love You, mainly because the plot was so improbable and because Hillary Swank was miscast as a romantic figure, and they kill him at the beginning of the film. Well, that wasn’t his fault. After that, I enjoyed his character in Rock’nRolla, but this was a British production. Then I saw him in The Ugly Truth, another run of the mill romantic comedy. It has nothing new to offer. Katherine Heigl is very pretty, but there’s something about her that doesn’t click with me. As far as the romance, I found this film too vulgar for my romantic taste. The love triangle is badly developed. Except for being handsome, the young man who plays the doctor, doesn’t do much…and he’s no competition for Gerard Butler. There’s really not much in the story which leads to the romantic ending.  So, as you can see, the ugly truth is that you should skip it. The Bounty Hunter was even worse than The Ugly Truth. There was absolutely no chemistry between Aniston and Butler, and though cruel, while I was watching all I could think of was that I could  understand why Brad Pitt left her for Angelina Jolie. So it was, at least for me, a disaster.

However, since he’s become very popular with both men and women, he has many films out there now. I  haven’t watched Gamer but I did watch Law Abiding CitizenLaw Abiding Citizen begins with an interesting premise about how a criminal can get away with a crime if he/she has the right lawyer. Unfortunately, at least for me, the director and writers took the easy way out and developed an action packed ultraviolent film with no heart.   Butler has several films which will be released soon, the most promising being Coriolanus about a Roman warrior. Hopefully, he’ll do better in this. Anyway, I’ll watch anything he’s in-I just like him.

January 16, 2017

My Favorite Director

Hi students! One of your first assignments is to write about your favorite director. The following is a comment on mine. Notice that I’ve been specific about what I like, I’ve provided titles for films, and dates. You might need to research a bit before you write. The Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com is an excellent source of information. Your comment should be about the length of mine to be able to get the full 25 points.

Four years ago, Martin Scorcese, one of the greatest American film directors, finally received an Oscar for The Departed. He had waited patiently and graciously for the Academy to recognize his life-long achievements as a director.  I do accept that The Aviator and Gangs of New York were not his best films, but they were very well-made and well-acted. Clint Eastwood , who received the Oscar for Million Dollar Baby the year The Aviator lost, had already received an Oscar for directing. Though Million Dollar Baby is an excellent film, the movie is full of clichés and not very original. Eastwood, much like Robert Redford, makes interesting low-budget films-but not films that will last forever.

Scorcese’s body of work is much more engaging and varied. His films are studied at colleges and universities all over the world, but the Academy had failed to acknowledge his talent. I guess they were waiting to give him a Life Achievement Award, after all Scorcese is sixty-five. His best work, in my opinion, is Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino, and of course The Departed. These films span almost four decades of significant films that have impacted and enriched our lives. My favorite film, however, was not critically acclaimed in any way. But, it’s a film that I love and have watched many, many times- The Age of Innocence (1993). Because it is a period piece, very different from the topics Scorcese usually works with, it wasn’t well received. This film, based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton-one of my favorite authors, recreates the Gilded Age wonderfully. The main characters played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Winona Ryder are outstanding. This, of course, is not an action film-and there are no gangsters around. Nevertheless, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film for those who enjoy classic tales of love. Scorcese also made a film in 1988 about the life of Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ, which was panned-basically because this Jesus got married to Mary Magdelene. This is one movie I disliked-not because of Jesus and Mary Magdalene-but because it seemed artificial and contrived.

In 2005 Scorcese was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contribution to cinema and in 2007 he was honored by the Kennedy Center. So, after The Departed, the Academy HAD to award him the best director Oscar-one he has deserved for a long long time. So who’s your favorite director?