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Directing Movies Against the Grain

10 Aug

movie - 28 days later02

The movie industry has given up making films for the sake of creating pure art in exchange for the opportunity to make a lot of money. Films that could be more authentic and compelling are commercialized and predictable. Movies that should be darker and grittier become languid and transparent.  Every movie that is being made is rated PG-13 to appeal to the largest audience possible rather than being completed where it is the best full project. Directors are being handicapped instead of being encouraged to create the best movie that they are capable of submitting. Pushing directors to explore their artistic expression could reinvigorate an industry that is now failing to captivate its audiences through its craft. In the time periods where art is suffering most, directors should be forced to attempt movies that fall outside of their comfort zone.

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh’s films usually deal with the interaction and societal repercussions of the human condition. Movies like Traffic, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and Erin Brockovich showed his ability to display the physical and emotional ties that bond people while developing his plot. This is why Soderbergh should try his hand at a romantic comedy. With the right actors and a good script, Soderbergh could make a compelling, intelligent comedy like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Love Actually. He excels at converging separate story lines into a flowing conclusion, and he is adept at showing the effects of peoples’ relationships with one another. Comedy would suit him.

Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky has a visually stunning style that mixes harsh emotional distress into awkward social situations. He uses flawed characters to drive his stories, and his resolutions are always spectacular but often bittersweet. Aronofsky needs to direct a western with the screenplay written by Clint Eastwood. The dark way that Aronofsky directs and the way that he displays sex on film would be perfect for the old west. The Old West was a difficult, dirty place to live. It was place where prudishness and lasciviousness walked hand in hand. Sex was taboo, but could be found on the streets. Darren Aronofsky uses both stressful and contrasting situational cues and the consequent emotional turmoil of his characters to create tense scenes and dramatic finishes. In the Wild West, people faced death on a daily basis.  Gunfights, sex with unclean prostitutes, and the lack of proper medical treatment caused high mortality rates and created stressful environments for people. This setup is perfect for Aronofsky. Plus, Clint Eastwood grew up starring in westerns so he could write a compelling storyline in his sleep. He could write a story about honor and respect that Aronofsky could shape into a darker, moving film.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg needs to direct an “end of days” movie. His eye for cinematography and his capacity for telling the entirety of stories would serve him well. Spielberg is one of the few directors who excels at parlaying the human condition through his camera while giving a great, entrancing plot line. He shows his characters’ moments of awe, despair, hopelessness, and amazement through close-ups and changing camera angles. He connects his audiences with those characters through great dialogue and sound plot development. Where other directors have failed because of focusing solely on the situation of the characters, Spielberg would succeed by telling the story of the characters in the situation. Plus, his ability to move between the gut-wrenching and heart-warming moments in his movies stand unparalleled amongst his peers. Only Steven Spielberg

Guiellermo Del Toro

Guiellermo Del Toro should try his hand at Greek mythology. His ability to give an authentic and realistic scope to fairy tale stories would serve him well in Greek Mythology. Very few directors can make a fluid connection between normalized characters and fantasy creatures. Del Toro is one of them. His work in movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hell Boy series express the humanistic approach that he takes in telling stories about things that are decidedly supernatural. He could make an epic story from a mythological storyline. Greek mythology shares the tales of the Gods who behave like men despite their divinity. Because Del Toro relays the emotion of his characters well and could probably create believable adaptations of the Greek Gods, he could also appropriately espouse the bickering that the Gods in Greek Mythology have amongst themselves and the resulting difficulty that their followers have serving them.

Peter Jackson 

Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, needs to try his hand an epic like Alexander or anything that is Grecian or Roman. He has shown a real affinity towards storytelling and displayed a talent for choreographing battle scenes. Jackson creates powerful and layered characters through dialogue and plot and drives his story with those characters. His protagonists in Lord of the Rings were flawed, but their distinct good and bad character traits also carried them through their trials. With these types of apropos plot lines, Jackson ties together ideas of destiny versus direction and makes his movies more than just a simple story about complex characters, but an allegory to life. In Grecian and Roman history, most of the great leaders were flawed characters who achieved greatness. And, they each had several lessons that are still applicable in modern times. Jackson could make a great biopic that stands above all the movies that were made before it.

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle should direct a movie about the Inquisition or a movie about the Salem Witch Trials. Boyle is adept at showing the human condition when stressed under uncertain conditions. In movies like 28 Days Later, he showed the chaos that spurns from a rage virus that was accidentally released onto the public. The rage virus infection was extremely contagious and caused people to become irrational, violent, and most importantly cannibalistic. This zombie virus was spread through the exchange of fluids, specifically through bites of the infected, and the result of the epidemic spread of the virus was the abandonment of physical residence and of culture. People fell into a primal, carnal state when their government failed them and began to turn on each other. In the end, the panicked public killed nearly as many people as the zombies. The Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials were both marked by widespread panic. Each was set in a time when people followed their leaders blindly and were exploited because of that. Boyle could lucidly show the chaos that explodes as a result of fear and ignorance.

Movies That Need to be Re-Made

26 Jul

i am legend

Every year, there are countless movies that have a great premise, good actors, and decent directing but somehow fall short of movie greatness. The following are movies that need to be re-made so that they fulfill the promise of entertainment and the reasons that they did not meet expectations.

1. I Am LegendI Am Legend was very engaging and entertaining. Will Smith showed the entire gamut of his emotions, including despair in losing his family, aloofness when finally interacting with humanity again, mourning the lost of his dog while having to kill it which was also a connection to his past, anger, frustration and confusion when dealing with the zombies, and courage under dourest while saving his surrogate family. There was an adequate storyline and plot in the movie, but several mistakes stopped the movie from reaching its full potential. The first major error in the film was the major use of computer generated images. CGI destroyed the authenticity of I Am Legend. Monsters that should in theory be terrifying, were reduced to caricatures of ideas of monsters. Any movie with imaginary beings is only as believable as the actual imaginary beings. Secondly, there were a few discrepancies in the story. The zombies were supposed to be devoid of any higher level thinking, but one zombie not only began mimicking Smith’s character, but also set a trap for him. He tied the same knot that Smith used to procure zombies and caught Smith in a similar trap that also stunned him (a clever addition to the trap that Smith set), and held him suspended until the zombie could reach him. This behavior that was fully in contradiction to what was stated earlier in the movie went completely ignored and unexplained. In addition to this, the same zombie seemed to have trained a few infected dogs and released them onto Smith and Marley, his dog, once the sun went down. That is one smart yet mindless zombie. The final error in the movie was a tactical error by Smith’s character at the end of the movie. In an act of valor, Smith stayed behind to kill the zombies, while his new family escaped. In theory, this bravery should be the last attempt of Smith to save humanity. He held on to a bomb while the “genius” zombie broke through the last defense system in the house. The mother and child that were staying with Smith escaped through a chimney as this was happening. However, Smith did not have to stay in the house and give his life. He could have escaped and dropped the bomb down the chimney. Yes, it is a simple solution, but it is also the right one.

2. BlindnessBlindness had great actors in Danny Glover and Mark Ruffalo, and was anchored by Julianne Moore, and Gael Garcia Bernal. It had a great plot and storyline. A “white blindness” epidemic affected the world. Among the first affected was an ophthalmologist. The government began capturing and quarantining those affected by the blindness in an abandoned mental hospital. He was one of the first to be taken, and his wife, though unaffected, pretended to be blind to be close to him. When quarantined all of the people placed in the hospital quarrel at first and then form a small family. The doctor leads them and his wife facilitates since she can see (though the others do not know that she is unaffected). Characters are added and the power shifts. Criminals are quarantined into the facility and they soon take over the quaint food and medical supplies by force. They sequester themselves and soon begin to starve the original people in quarantine. In exchange for food, they have the men send their wives to their bunks. The women go resistively, are assaulted, and then returned to their husbands. Once one of the women is killed while being assaulted, the original affected group attack the criminals and burn down the compound. The remaining prisoners realized that their captors had fled, because the world outside was in chaos. The “white blindness” reduced the world into a primal, survivalist state. The movie is supposed to be about man under duress. It is supposed to be about what happens when all normal convention breaks down, what people become when faced with extreme diversity and how relationships devolve in those life-threatening situations. Instead that gets lost in the director exposing the emotions of the characters and in the director’s style. There were a lot of scenes that take place in complete darkness. In some scenes, it builds suspense. In others, ironically, it takes away from the emotion of the scene. Blindness also suffers from an extreme lack of character development. Because the characters are not fully developed, the audience can not empathize fully with them.

3. ConstantineConstantine entertains fully, but is damaged from poor writing. It is a dark movie about a fallen angel seeking redemption. The plot is great, but the writing too often attempts to be clever and comedic, and inadvertently distracts the audience from the darkness of the content. The main character Constantine spews lines that trivialize the story, and though the movie is full of great actors and strong themes, it is handicapped by an underlying campy feel. Constantine is entertaining, but never serious enough to be great.

4. Signs – M. Night Shyamalan, the director, developed the characters well in Signs. He connected the audience with his characters and created a tense, suspenseful atmosphere throughout the movie. By giving small glimpses of the aliens in silhouettes and and shadows, Shyamalan created an image in his audiences’ heads that was far worst and scarier than anything that he could put onto the screen. So, when the monster was finally revealed and it resembled an oversized praying mantis rather than some horrifying creature, the movie lost its intensity. When the family finally decided to stand up to the aliens, they found that water was dangerous to them. They literally repelled one alien with a glass of water. When you add the image of the alien with the idea that the aliens were afraid of water, you have one of the most anti-climactic movies ever made.

5. SawSaw was great until the very end. There was a theme of self-motivation and self-preservation coupled with enough violence and gore to satiate a sadist for a few years. Saw was intriguing until they showed the murder. It had the worst plot twist in recent movie history. The idea of having the killer unsuspectingly in the room for the entirety of the movie was genius. The problem with Saw was the execution of putting him in the room. At the end of the movie, it was if the director said, “Surprise! The killer’s been here the whole time!” This is a great idea if we had any prior knowledge of the killer, but giving a brief explanation of what he did at the end of the movie is lazy directing and unforgivable.

6. The Happening – M. Night Shyamalan is a great director that has a small history of really intriguing plots and poor choices for endings. All over the northeast coast mass suicides began happening. The nation thought that some airborne neurotoxin had infiltrated the major cities and caused this behavior. People thought that a terrorist organization was behind the hysteria and killings. People leave large cities only to find that the suicides have followed them to the country. At first, only large groups of people were being attacked, then smaller groups were targeted. Once, individuals began killing themselves, the people realized that this was no terrorist attack. After almost two hours, it was revealed that the plants were causing people to kill themselves. The movie was just a big, two hour “Go Green” campaign.

7. WolfmanWolfman had two great actors in Anthony Hopkins and Benecio del Toro. It had a good storyline and a lot of mystery surrounding the actual werewolf. In the first encounter with the werewolf, people were torn asunder without ever fully revealing the appearance of the villain. This technique is probably the best to use in a scary movie. When the director does not show the monster, the audience’s imagination fills image of the monster as whatever they find most frightening. In Wolfman, when the monster was finally revealed, it looked like a Jim Henson muppet. Grover and Cookie Monster are not scary. If the werewolf looked remotely canine or scary, then the movie could have worked.

8. War of the Worlds – They died of the common cold? Really? Was another movie mentioned in this article as having the most anticlimactic ending in cinema history? This is by far one of the most ineffectual movie endings ever made. The storyline was weakened by the computer generated images of the aliens, but the action was so quick and intense that the technical shortcomings could be over-looked. Several subplots within the story drew the audience into the interpersonal interactions of the family around which the story revolved, so the movie worked right up until the end. The mistrust of Tom Cruise, who played an absent, divorced father, by his son was one of the most interesting smaller story lines. Ironically, the son’s similarities to the father drew them further apart. This all played in the background as the world was being attacked and gave the film some depth. War of the Worlds built all the story lines to a crescendo, and then had the aliens that were killing humans mercilessly, simply keel over and die. Just as soon as they had attacked, they were dead themselves. That was a mistake.

9. 30 Days of Night30 Days of Night used one of the best premises for a scary movie, particularly a vampire movie that anyone has ever conceptualized. The plot set the characters in Barrow, Alaska, during their winter. Barrow, Alaska is so far north that during a certain period in the winter, the sun does not shine for 30 days, hence the title, 30 Days of Night. Vampires, which burst into flames when in direct sunlight, traveled to Alaska for 30 days of indiscriminate killing and feeding. The idea for the movie was great and the story was suspenseful and well-thought out. More so, physically, the vampires appeared just as scary and intimidating  as they were expected to be. That is, until they talked. The first rule of dialogue is that dialogue is only used for character development, meaning that what is said in a movie should reflect who that character is. When the vampires appeared to be mindless killing machines, the suspense of the movie reached its peak. They looked frightening and acted like unchained monsters.  The vampires talked purposelessly and continuously throughout the movie and ultimately killed the suspense faster than they killed the townspeople.

How to Make a Movie

10 Jul

movie - matrix

Despite the struggling economy, watching movies are still one of America’s favorite pastimes. But, the quality of movies have steadily declined with the economy. The blueprint of a good movie is simple and should be followed in order for guaranteed movie success.

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1. Have a clear storyline - The storyline is the basically the path that the protagonist, your hero will take. And, the storyline is one of the most effective ways to connect your audience with your hero. For instance, the truncated storyline of the movie Gladiator is mentioned near its conclusion. It is the story of a general that became a slave, and the slave that became the savior of the people. Because the storyline of Gladiator is so intriguing, the movie is great.

2. Create a villain without a conscience - Villains almost create themselves. The only character trait that is necessary to make a great antagonist is the willingness to do anything to accomplish a goal, whether that goal be to make money, to suppress a group of people, or to just create chaos. The villain must be willing to steal from people, terrorize them, or even killing them. And, the best villains do all three indiscriminately.

3. Have a Likeable Hero - Your audience has to like your protagonist or at the very least be able to connect with him or her. This means that the author has to make him easy to relate with. There are several different ways to make a likeable character and numerous archetypes for heroes. There is the classic hero that always does the right thing regardless of the situation and the consequences. There is the lovable loser that makes good in the end. There is the tortured hero that fights in response to great loss caused by the antagonist. And, there is the accidental hero that is thrust into leadership. The protagonist also needs to be capable of showing multiple emotions. The efficacy of the movie rests on the hero’s ability to consociate with the audience.

4. Have great supporting characters - The supporting cast carries the storyline. They supply the smaller stories that build and move the story along. Having a colorful, diverse characters is equally as important as having a hero that can engage the audience. Supporting characters are the difference between movies like The Lord of the Rings and 300. Though both had cleanly choreographed fight scenes and strong heroes. But, The Lord of the Rings had terrific smaller roles.

5. Have at least two interconnected subplots – These stories involve and develop the supporting characters, and ultimately help the hero in the end. The subplots tie the story together and give deeper meaning to the underlying themes. Backstories of love, loss, and redemption are common relatable motifs that all people have experienced.

6. Your hero must have a bittersweet victory - Make sure that the hero wins against the villain, but loses something dear to him as a result of his struggle. In life, people very rarely achieve everything that desired to do or have, so good cinema should reflect that.

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7. Tie everything into a lesson or a moral - The best movies serve as a metaphor for life. People are intrigued by the storyline, they connect to the characters, and they are engaged in the plot. But, the movies that stand above the rest give their audience a message that relates directly to their lives. The Matrix was loved by so many viewers because the message of stepping out of your mundane, day-to-day patterns reached the audience. It had an enduring theme of freeing your mind and taking control of your own destiny. The best plots transcend the movie.

Must See Movies About Race

26 Jun

race - a time to kill

American History X – America (especially suburban America) has been convinced that racism no longer exists. People want to believe that at worst, racism is tucked far away from most civilizations in the back woods of rural Bible Belt states. American History X portrays racism in its current form which strangely mirrors the same hatred of past generations.

Roots – Roots is the first cinematic portrayal of slavery in its true horrible form. It showed the the essence of one of the darkest times in American history from the forced changes of the names and thus the identities of the slaves to make them more pliable for their owners to the savage beatings and murders of the slaves for mistakes, insurrections, and sometimes for no reason at all.

Amistad – Amistad is one of the few recent films that accurately shows slavery as it was, a brutal, gory part of American history.

Glory – Glory shows the role of African Americans in the Civil War. It is full with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick. It gives a realistic depiction of both the country and its treatment of slaves and former slaves.

Crash – One of the few movies that focus on the roles that stereotypes play in people’s perceptions of various other ethnic groups and how that perception differs from reality.

Higher Learning – Higher Learning exposes several different issues that involve race on college campuses while focusing on the social experiences of specific college students.

Mississippi Burning – Staged in the volatile small country towns of 1970′s Mississippi, Mississippi Burning deals with the racially charged lynchings, hangings, castrations, and murders by the Ku Klux Klan.

A Time to Kill – A Time to Kill reveals the treatment of colored people by the police in the rural old south when faced with crimes against them. Since African Americans were considered subhuman, crimes against them were often excused. It uncovers a man’s fight to seek justice from a country that has long ignored his people.