Django off the chain!

Anthony Thalassinos

Over the years there have been a number of films that have caused shock and awe from around the world. The Asian nations such as South Korea and Japan have proven with movies such as Old Boy, Ichi the Killer and Battle Royale they are on top of the mountain when it comes to shocking audiences. However, despite the disturbing plots, sadistic bloodshed in all these movies, I still did not find myself uncomfortable watching these types of movies.

As an enthusiast of the “cringe worthy film” I expect that type of film being shown to Asian audiences therefore never found myself uncomfortable watching western films as I believe they cannot compete with the shameless story-telling available in Asian Films. However in 2012, Quentin Tarantino released his latest film being “Django Unchained,” and despite how much I adored the film, I found myself squirming in my seat as some scenes pushed me into an awkward state. 

 As I sat in my seat anticipating the screening of this great movie, I thought what can the master of shock to western audiences come up with next, Tarantino did not disappoint. From the very beginning  we are spectators to the degrading and shaming of another race as African-American slaves in chains walk along the sizzling outback with scars displayed on their backs and blood running from their ankles, slowly we begin to realise that this will be Tarantino’s most shocking film to date. As I sit there with a slight grin across my face ready to encounter anything Mr Tarantino is prepared to throw at me, I hear something I have never heard on a movie screen so freely used before. “Nigger don’t you touch my brother’s jacket” all of a sudden my smile changed, my seat became less comfortable to sit in, I could not quite grasp it but despite the gore at the gun wound and the profanity used, the n-word really got to me! Is it that simple? Had Tarantino’s installation of a minor phrase catapulted him to a whole new offensive level? I believed so.

 As the film continued, the word continued to be used and used and used until another moment of shocked awaited the audience. Leonardo Di Caprio (as dreamy as he is) was gazing upon two African-American’s beat each other to death. The sheer brutality was too much for me and despite wanting to leave and close my eyes, I could not! I did not allow myself to miss what could be the movie of the year but also the most shocking film seen in cinemas in 2012 or the past decade. As the blood gushed from one competitor’s eye and another’s flesh hanged off their shoulder, I could not believe the boundaries Tarantino was willing to push in this day and age; did he not care about the ramifications that would eventuate from a western audience? Or did he think the world was ready to bear witness to America’s disturbing past? Either way, the movie had it all.  

 The continued racism without any restrictions and the relentless violence within the film makes Django Unchained not only a difficult film for western audience to watch but also audiences around the world! Tarantino is known for pushing the boundaries but this time he showed a confident man who believes his above Hollywood and could get away with it and funny enough, he did! With multiple accolades won at the Academy Awards, Django Unchained indicated that with the right artistic touch, you are able to push the boundaries of Hollywood, but only if your Quentin Tarantino. 

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Mad about Mad Men!

Anthony Thalassinos

Since premiering in 2007, Mad Men has catapulted becoming one of the greatest television dramas of all time, with a sophisticated cast, impeccable wardrobe and enchanting soundtrack, Mad Men has built a rapport with audience all around the world. Whether your connection begins with the great Don Draper (Jon Hamm) or the uneasy Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) Mr.Draper’s young secretary or the ambitious Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) audiences are immediately given a personality they can connect to, and hopefully step into the shoes of as they try to make it big in the big city!

 

From the very start, audiences are romanced by the music played to set the stage as old classic jazz and crooner music echoes throughout the opening scene, immediately displaying Don Draper smoking a cigarette an act usually associated with an individual who is ‘cool.’ For those interested in fashion you cannot help but take in the attire worn by Don Draper as well as the rest of the men at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. The traditional American Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren suits are displayed by all characters however all worn differently to say the least, Mr. Draper tends to wear patterned colours and nothing to obscure in a way to prove his superiority as well as his individualism and age, furthermore, his masculinity as a proven man in the business and not someone that has to prove himself in the office. On the other hand, the ambitious and young Pete Campbell leans towards more of an edgy style at the time, initially with a navy blue suit and an obscure tie and tie clip, Pete Campbell projects himself as a young showman, someone looking for his big break giving all those in the audience who have wanted to still the show a real character to seek their teeth into.  But it is not just the wardrobe that allows the male demographic to find a connection with the characters, its also the psychological issues endured by each men subtly in the first episode which also gives individuals an avenue to discover a connection. 

 

Whether it is the slow dissolving of an aspirin or fixation with a fly stuck in a light, Don Draper is a character trapped in a jungle.  As Mr. Draper focuses on the dissolving of an aspirin, feeling as if he should be the one in that glass of water instead, the audience is dragged into Mr.Draper’s world of stress and uneasiness as he prepares himself for the deal of a lifetime. However when he does succeed, Mr.Draper’s masculinity and confidence is regained displaying to not only the people in the meeting (particularly Pete Campbell) but also to the viewer’s that Don Draper is still the top dog in the business and consequently the television series. Where as Pete Campbell projects confidence early on but once Don Draper shows his superiority, we are shown an individual with a fake sense of confidence one that knows he cannot compete with such a man like Don Draper. Pete tries to indulge and regain his manliness through the use of sexually harassing women and continues his attempt to commit adultery (in which we are left to believe he succeeds by the end of the episode) to reassure his role as a man yet we still know he plays second best to Don Draper. 

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However, it is not only the Men that make this television show what it is, the Women particularly the young Peggy Olson gives women an avenue to connect with and hopefully aspire to as she differs from the other women displayed in the episode. The women of Mad Men initially are shown as sexually desired objects, using their looks and charm to get higher up corporate ladder, an image women of today’s society would outrage over if having to be such an object. However with the inclusion of Peggy, the audience can almost certainly mark out the differences and realise in the upcoming episodes she is a girl who is ready to shake up the place of Mad Men and not follow the sexually desired stereotype cloned by each woman in the office, this allows not only respect for the character of Peggy but an interest to watch her grow and evolve to see how she does intend become different from the others.

 

Whether it is the wardrobe, soundtrack, or sophisticated and very attractive characters, Mad Men gives audiences an avenue to really take in the lifestyle of the 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, with the abundance of personalities in reference to the television show’s characters, spectators can put themselves in the shoes of those involved in the show, to feel like they are going through these struggles and successes seen throughout Mad Men.Image

Fred and Ginger, Why they are the best!

Okay, so if you don’t know that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are deemed to be the best dancing couple in cinema’s history. Here is a lesson for you. THEY ARE JUST COS!

But I do have arguments to why they are, so be prepared to be wowed!

Roberta 1935 cover

Let’s start with my favourite dance sequence. It is Roberta (1935), so it is one of the few films that the Astaire and Rogers are playing secondary characters, and bring some humour relief with fun dance moves. The “I’ll Be Hot to Handle” is the best singing and dancing scene in their entire 10 years of film (in my opinion). This is one of the scenes that they include dramatic acting through their dance. As it is a ‘spontaneous’ dance sequence, the characters make fun of their past love for each other and their competitions they had in the past and bring that competitiveness in their dance.

Ginger, who is playing as a Scharwenka, a countess of some sort, but, to everyone except Huck (Fred) as she is actually an American named Lizzie. Their story is sweet and funny, as Scharwenka is trying to make a name (fake name) for herself, as she pretends to be an European Countess. Huck has travelled from America to Paris with his American band being hired for a job at a nightclub. However, there is confusion with their name the “Wabash Indianians” and what the manager of the nightclub wanted “Indians”.

As Lizzie and Huck’s paths crosses, Scharwenka, a nightclub singer, gets the band a job. The exact same job they were fired for at the beginning of the film. The “I’ll Be Hot to Handle” scene is the first time Astaire and Rogers dance together in the film and it seems spontaneous as they are in their rehearsal for the club’s entertainment for that night. Like many other Fred and Ginger movies, they make the dance seem effortless, both laughing and over emphasising each and every movement to tell a story. For instance, before they are dancing they are involving dance in their every day walk. When Huck talks about how they got the votes by showing Lillian Russell’s photo, Huck uses taping instead of a drums ‘da dum chee’ sound effect, illustrating how dancing is part of his life. They competition within the dance turns into a fight with no words, just dancing and over dramatic acting. It would take an entire blog post to try to interpret what they are saying, but here it is short hand.

They both use complete one dance sequence and continuously speed up the tempo each turn that they get, then Lizzie gets annoyed for Huck is showing off, then Huck is confused than sorry for whatever he did. Lizzie doesn’t accept the apology and then is bothered by Huck pestering her to forgive him. So she ‘slaps’ him and stomps on his foot, illustrating that she has won. And she has. Then they start dancing together with more joy than before. I recommend watching just this scene if any. The movie itself is a bit slow, and the only funny bit is when Fred and/or Ginger are in the scene. As they brighten the mood and give the audience a reason to stay, as they often finish films with a dance sequence, making the movie bearable to watch until the end, because you will watch a fun and happy dance before it finishes. So on the link, go from 30secs, if you want the singing, dialogue and dancing. If you just want the dialogue and dancing (which is needed to understand their relationship) go from 2mins 20secs. It is worth a watch.

Okay so I know I promised to give you more arguments as to why they are the best dancing couple in cinemas history and go through each movie that has made a big impact on me. But I will finish off with how this movie has made an impact on cinema and television, via FUN FACTS!!!

Fun Fact #1: The “I Won’t Dance” number that is in Roberta was remixed and used in Step Up 3 (2010), where Moose and Camille dance down a street in New York, using all the objects on the street as tools within their dance, making it seem spontaneous as Camille is apologising to the bystanders and being dragged by Moose. They then start competing with each other than dance together, but not hand in hand, but side by side. This can easily be deemed as homage to Roberta, but just Fred and Ginger, as their movies have influenced how cinema has depicted dancing to a mass audience.

Fun Fact #2: Irene Dunne’s sings “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, this song title is the title for the pilot episode of Mad Men (2007). This song is relevant to the episode as the ad agency is trying to cover up the fact that smoking is bad for you and that the audience shouldn’t expect the expected, because it doesn’t happen.

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) – Scene: A Boy’s Best Friend

Psycho 4 Norman

– Brittaney Petsinis

Norman’s hand rests on the stuffed bird above him as he sits in the dark corner, speaking in front of his mimicking shadow. What appears to be a rather long stretch, perhaps conveys the idea of burden; one that could be understood as the burden of his mother, whom he proceeds to talk about with extreme mixed emotions. As intended, we are indeed bewildered by Norman’s fascination for stuffed birds as we watch them with intrigue as they hang around the hotel. No proportion of Hitchcock’s audience can possibly think this is normal in any way. Here, we are forced to consider Norman’s intentions which, at this point, we acknowledge may be rather sinister. Despite this, we cut him some slack, and allow Norman a chance to prove us wrong, which he does do at times. In response to Marion’s question, “is your time so empty?”, Norman responds with an evident hesitation and a quickly fading smile. At this point, his eyes wander as though he attempts to seek an appropriate answer, which we inevitably question when he has one. We don’t quite believe him, though also cannot help but pity him.

When Norman speaks the words, “well, a boy’s best friend is his mother”, he speaks them with commitment, largely emphasised through the nod of his head and direct attention as he answers the question. Through this we are perhaps forced to wonder whether his mother is the most important person in his life, or if he speaks the words out of mere obligation. Our confusion is further initiated through the rather long pause prior to his response and his unsupportive body language as he sits with a straight posture and with his hands in his lap. Here, there is a clever depiction of nervousness and hesitation and we cannot help but wonder why. Norman’s shadow on the wall behind him as he speaks, is perhaps a representation of his mother; the woman that he could not escape, even if he wanted to. It also cleverly serves to portray a dominant figure over Marion, and indeed, the idea of ‘two against one’.

Marion’s vulnerability is largely conveyed through her softly spoken voice and her delicately resting hand that hangs off the side of the table she sits at. Despite this, there is a clever depiction of cautiousness particularly obvious through the regular pauses before she speaks. Her eyes wander, portraying a sense of nervousness, confusion and fear of Norman’s ability to accurately assume Marion’s life. The set of the room, additionally allows for a rather accurate interpretation of the differing characters. Behind, and to the right of Marion, is a well-lit lamp and neatly placed ornaments, and in front of her, delicate ceramic objects; one, decorated with painted flowers. Despite this, the unmissable clutter in the room, and the dark curtain behind Marion, through its repetitive, busy pattern, could indeed be said to convey the idea of approaching complications.         In contrast to the surroundings of Marion, there is nothing ‘delicate’ about what surrounds Norman. Beside Norman is a clutter of birds in what appears to be a decorative plant. As this indeed helps to portray Norman as a sinister character, it cleverly sets up the idea of Marion as a victim.

There is an evil and engulfing nature about the room, largely supported by Norman’s words, “we’re all in our private traps”. In acknowledgement of Marion’s escape, he evidently speaks the words through experience; one that seems to have tormented him throughout his life. As he continues to speak, each of his fingers on his two interlocked hands, fidget with the remaining nine. He evidently speaks in reference to his mother who he claims to be his best friend, though is conveyed as such a burden. Hitchcock cleverly delivers the idea that Norman’s mother has him trapped, which we later establish, is quite literally the case.

As he speaks such evil words about his mother, he appears to be engulfed by a haunting, large winged bird that hangs from the ceiling, again metaphorically conveying the harshness of his mother, watching his every move in a dead and helpless state. Despite the haunting nature of the surrounding creatures, there is an evident love that Norman holds for the dead, stuffed birds, cleverly suggestive of the love that he too, holds for his mother, despite her apparent harshness.

 

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Jonathan Rosenbaum – An analysis of a film crtic

By Sarra Jabbour

Jonathan Rosenbaum is an American born screen critic who is arguably best known for his long career as head critic for the Chicago Reader.  Although he is a film critic, his work is not just about films. He tends to focus on a film’s relationship to the media quite often in his pieces. He also draws on his American background by digging into American films and finding how they speak to (and about) American history, politics and life.

Rosenbaum analyses and critiques by talking about films in relation to other films. Often, he refers to films he has written about in the past and compares them in order to highlight specific characteristics, similar themes and, analyse their effectiveness in relation to each other.  This is part of what makes Rosenbaum such an influential critic. He possesses this amazing ability to see beyond what is on the screen, analyse its characteristics, and compare to films that on the surface seem to be on a completely different spectrum (and therefore almost incomparable) to the average person, or even the average film reviewer.

His style of writing is interesting in that he combines his personal and professional opinions in his work. He generally writes in a sophisticated, semi –formal manner but occasionally slots his more casual personal opinions in brackets among his pieces. Adding his personal opinions in occasionally lightens the mood of his pieces which can tend to be slightly dense at times to the average person. Of course many of Rosenbaum’s pieces were written for the Chicago Reader which is known for its more literary approach and assumes its audience is of a certain calibre of education.

Rosenbaum tries to make a point of writing about world cinema films and films that are less well known. This idea, among others, was the reason for his now famous article: “List-o-mania. Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love American Movies” in response to the American Film Institute’s (AFI) 1998 list of 100 greatest American movies. Accompanied by a copy of the AFI’s list and a list of 100 greatest American films according to Rosenbaum, the article analyses the AFI’s list and suggests that it is merely a product of the commercial film industry and its ‘dumbing down’ of film culture to increase profits the easiest way they know how- reselling familiar goods. He condemns the AFI’s list as well as other lists and commercial film organisations who share the same motives. The purpose of this article was not written solely to criticise the work of the AFI but to point out that the American film industry focuses on only commercial films and disregards non- commercial American films which has created a close-minded American film culture. Rosenbaum suggests that it is the responsibility of the film industry, especially organisations like the AFI to promote more alternative films as these are the real masterpieces of American cinema. Rosenbaum places his list and the AFI’s list side by side at the end of his article so audiences can compare. He adds that unlike the AFI’s he presented his list in alphabetical order so as to not suggest any sort of ranking because it would be like “…ranking oranges over apples and declaring cherries superior to grapes” (Rosenbaum, 1998).

One thing demonstrated by the long list of Rosenbaum’s great works is his substantial amount of knowledge and understanding for film and all its intricacies- he definitely knows what he’s talking about. More than this is his great passion and appreciation for high-quality film which comes across quite loudly in each piece of film criticism. This is something which makes his writing appealing and engaging for readers. Work like Rosenbaum’s is quite difficult to come across; screen criticism that goes against the grain of commercial American cinema.

 

Works Cited                                                                       

Rosenbaum, J 1998, List-o-mania. Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love American Movies, Chicago Reader, viewed 18 September 2013 < http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/list-o-mania/Content?oid=896619>

Rosenbaum, J 1994, Stupidity as Redemption [Forrest Gump], Chicago Reader, viewed 18th Septemnber 2013, < http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=6960>

Rosenbaum, J 1997, The Human Touch [Men in Black & Contact], Chicago Reader, viewed 18th September 2013, < http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=6639>

Rosenbaum, J, Jonathan Rosenbaum. Com, Viewed 18th September 2013 <jonathanrosenbaum.com>   

 

Mad Men – Season One Episode One

By Sarra Jabbour

Mad Men is genius. The first episode “Smoke gets in your eyesets the scene for what is a complex and clever series set in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. For many viewers, this series is nostalgic of a time when life seemed much easier, more exciting, a time of discovery. For others, Mad Men is an exciting and stylised insight into the corporate (specifically advertising) world, post World War Two.

Aesthetically, Mad Men works quite well. The costumes are a beautiful rendition of 50’s and 60’s fashion; A-line skirts, shift dresses, tie-die and paisley prints, double breasted jackets and grey and navy pin stripe suits. The script is witty and interesting and, the acting is realistic and believable. The characters are well thought out, complicated and realistic in a sort of dream-like way. They seem to have this kind of third dimension of complexity that characters from other television series don’t. The protagonist Don Draper is the first character we see and it’s love at first sight for us as audience members. Don is witty and charming and has a sense of mystery about him; there’s something more going on underneath those green eyes, but what is it? Betty Draper is the perfect 1950’s housewife; attentive yet glamorous is the way she is portrayed in the first episode. She too hides more beneath the surface of her loving wife and mother persona. Peggy Olsen is a young, pretty yet conservative woman who lives in the suburbs and has just begun her new job as secretary to Don Draper at Sterling Cooper advertising agency. The first episode shows the beginning of Peggy’s journey of self-discovery which leads her down a very different path to what it first seems. Joan Holloway is the star attraction of the office at Sterling Cooper. She is beautiful, intelligent and she knows it and uses this to her advantage.

This episode alone raises many moral issues and dilemmas and exploring these issues is really what the series is about. Mad Men is a man’s world, a world where women are objectified and are lower in the social and workplace hierarchy than men. Characters like Joan Holloway and Peggy Olsen are depictions of the different ways women dealt with the way they were treated by men. Joan uses it to her advantage, using her looks to get where she wants in her career and the rest of her life. Peggy seems to be more conservative in her approach to life in the first episode. She seems quite uncomfortable at the many remarks from her co-workers on her first day Sterling Cooper about her body and image. She comes across as innocent and naive in the beginning; however the first episode gives us a hint that there is something more to Peggy after she is shown at a doctor’s clinic asking for a prescription for contraceptive pills without being married.

Don Draper seems to be a pure and good man at first. The first episode depicts Draper in bed with a woman. The two seem to know each other quite well and it is suggested that this ‘relationship’ has been going on for a while. This scene doesn’t seem to be of any significance until the very last scene of the episode where it is revealed that Draper is in fact married with two children. And so the many layers of the complicated Don Draper begin to be revealed.

Somehow we are made to feel sympathetic towards most of the main characters in Mad Men, even when they are in the wrong. This is the beauty of Mad Men. Nothing is black and white; there are many grey areas in the moral issues that are brought up. These grey areas create a more realistic representation of life which may be the reason why the series has been so successful. Although it is set more than six decades ago, most of the moral issues that are explored within the series are relevant to audiences today. Mad Men’s “Smoke gets in your eye” is a delight to watch from start to finish. It poses many questions and which are yet to be answered by the end of the episode which urges you to keep watching. It has been quite a while since a series has intrigued me so much. 

What is screen criticism?

By Catherine Falalis

The craft of screen criticism focuses on the critique, evaluation and review of screen based texts. These texts are not only limited to films, but can also include television series and web series. The work of screen critics can be used by audiences to determine whether or not to watch a text, or to conclude whether it is suited to their viewing taste. Alternatively, this kind of criticism can be sought out by film or television enthusiasts to discover the different views surrounding the text before or after viewing it themselves. Delving deeper into such discussion surrounding a text can be an interesting way to pick up things which otherwise may not have been noticed within the text and can open the mind to alternate ways of interpreting a text.

The role of a good screen critic is not only to analyse the plot of the given text. While this is a very important aspect of screen criticism, attention and discussion should also be given to elements of mise en scene, coding and motifs, the director’s cinematic traits, character relationships and developments. The screen critic must delve deeper into the text’s context and surrounding factors to give the audience a sense of how the text fits into a historic cinematic and social frame.

The critic’s reaction to the text is paramount to convey within their review. Stating whether they laughed, cried, or were just plain bored can really cause audiences to emotionally relate to what they’re trying to say. Having the courage to say what they honestly feel about a text is what sets some critics apart from others.

A trap that some beginner critics fall into is the act of writing too formally. While it’s important to not ‘dumb things down’ for your audience, it is also wise to get straight to the point when writing a review. A review can be closely likened to a piece of journalistic opinion writing rather than a predominately fact based news piece. Critics can also convey their reviews through broadcast avenues such as radio or television.

The new age critic has found a voice in the online forum. The internet has changed the way screen criticism is communicated, mainly because global perspectives can be sought out almost instantaneously. While this is a great archive for different opinions, criticism has been made on the quality of these reviews, due to anyone with a computer being able to voice their opinion. Sometimes, rather than an in depth analyses of a text, what audiences see and base the judgement of a text on, is a short review about whether to go and watch the text, provided with not a lot of context.

However, arguments have been made that it is about looking in the right places online, to sort out the professional reviews from the ones which are just written by hobbyists. I personally predict that one day, most good and long-form screen criticism will be found online on purposely built websites for such discussion. Due to dwindling numbers engaging in the print media industry, and critics and journalists forced into other avenues of communications, such as online, this will be the likely outcome for new age screen criticism.

I do however believe that film and television magazines are still a popular print option amongst some audiences. Therefore, magazines may stick around for a little longer than their newspaper counterparts for the role of critics.

Whatever forum the communication of screen criticism is fed through, there are a few factors which should remain the same. A passion for film and television, knowledgeable opinions based on feeling or fact, quality writing or reporting and the courage to reveal ones true reaction to a text, provide all the elements for a great screen critic and review.

Russian Roulette – Rihanna A Critical Response

By Catherine Falalis

The music clip for singer Rihanna’s song titled Russian Roulette, received negative responses from critics for being ‘too dark’. The clip which was released on October 26, 2009, was a change from Rihanna’s usual lighter toned music clips, known for being full of colour, carefree scenes and sexually explicit images. The soundtrack underscores dark videography within this music clip, but the unnerving tone created by these scenes is exactly what makes this video a refreshing change for the singer.

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARK IMAGERY

Stylistically, dark and earthy tones consisting of greys, blacks and browns encapsulate the screen. From the padded grey gas chamber, to the small, dimly lit brown room in which she and her ‘lover’ play Russian roulette with a gun as they contemplate suicide. The scene in which Rihanna stands in the middle of the road as a car accelerates rapidly towards her also takes place at night, allowing for a very dark mise-en-scene barely lit by street lamps. The only time the audience sees any vibrancy of colour is in the form of red gas and blood.

All these elements of style within the mise-en-scene and the selective choice in colour set the mood throughout the entirety of the clip. Due to the predominance of dark colour, the audience is in a sense ‘left in the dark’ about what the characters are going to do. Will they pull the trigger? Will she escape the gas chamber? Will she be run down by the speeding car? Lighting resembling a strobe light is the only thing which offers the audience a glimpse into the answers to these questions. But as everyone who has been to a party or club knows, the strobe only offers a limited timing worth of visual aid, usually only a second before it turns off, again leaving you left in the dark. All these elements work together to provide not only an interesting complexity within the clip, but also create an unnerving feeling, similar to that of many good thriller or horror films. The audience can only assume what happens next because they are never shown the full picture.

THE DARKER SIDE OF LIFE – THEMES

The video clip should also be commended for not shying away from realistic themes which many turn a blind eye to because of their dark nature. While Rihanna has openly stated that she does not want to be a role model, the clip does offer some valuable elements to take away.

Firstly, an overwhelming sense of vulnerability within this clip is depicted by the male dominated force thrust upon her in the gas chamber scenes. Given the clip was released after her abusive relationship with singer Chris Brown had ended, one can assume that elements of the song relate to this tumultuous relationship. Sometimes, women can feel entrapped within their abusive relationships, almost suffocating not knowing a way out, just as Rihanna feels within the realms of the gas chamber. Other scenes show her drowning and being shot, again, there seems to be no escape. This feeling of vulnerability and feeling of entrapment will be relatable to many women in a domestically abusive situation. Although unnerving, it’s worth drawing attention to so others know that they’re not alone.

The music clip also depicts suicide as Rihanna’s lover pulls the trigger, ending this game of Russian roulette and ending the song. In a world of searching for an escape route from life’s difficulties, whether it be an abusive relationship or other matters, many turn to suicide as a way out. A very difficult topic for many to think about, but it’s a reality some people face. The clip is not crafted in a way to glamorise suicide but to instead create an unsettling atmosphere for the audience to watch. Ending with this scene also allows for the issue to stick in the audience’s mind after having watched the video clip.

What the critics who negatively critiqued this clip failed to note was that it was constructed in such a way of stylistic and visual complexity that while it is dark and unsettling, it’s exactly what Rihanna was aiming to do in order to convey difficult themes. Therefore I believe the clip achieved doing so at a high level of competency.

Mad Men (Pilot Episode) – a close analysis

-Catherine Falalis.

The first episode of Man Men, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ is a well-crafted pilot in terms of its use of metaphors and motifs, which sets the tone for the rest of the series. There are two notable thematic elements within this episode. The first takes form in the role of the women, whereby not only do they explore a new sense of sexual liberation, but the men also treat them as sexual objects. They are treated as though they are beneath men in regards to the workplace. The second thematic element which stands out is a sense of living a double life and making excuses for bad habits. The audience are given small hints throughout the episode that this may be the case for many of the characters, and this is confirmed by the end of the episode.

A striking comparison of two types of women is seen through the characters of Joan and newly employed secretary Penny. Through costuming alone, we can see a distinct difference in personality types. This styling depicts Joan in a knee length, tight fitting, green dress, her hair neatly pinned in an up-do. Peggy on the hand wears a demur coloured ankle length skirt with an unflattering yellow sweater. These differences in styling lead the audience to assume that Joan is of the new-age sexually liberated type of woman, while Peggy is a good, innocent girl from Brooklyn, new to a busy city and the workings of an advertising office. The audiences thoughts are confirmed when Joan shows Peggy around the office stating if Peggy follows her lead, she’ll avoid the mistakes she made, at which point a male co-worker says hello to Joan, to which she says “like that one.”

When Peggy later visits a doctor recommended by Joan to get the contraceptive pill, further judgement is cast on each of the women. “Even in our times, easy women don’t find husbands… I’m sure you’re not that kind of girl, Joan on the other hand.”

This notion of womanly sexual liberation is also seen through the woman advertising executive Don Draper is sleeping with. She sits on the bed provocatively flirting while unbuttoning her shirt. She claims that she “doesn’t make plans or breakfast.”

Overall, the men’s views on women throughout the episode are predominately derogatory with many stating they wouldn’t want a nice girl and in order for a woman to know what kind of girl to be, men need to let them know what kind of guy they are.

This not only takes shape in a sexualised form but also through the workplace with Draper refusing to co-operate with Jewish store executive and client Rachel, dismissing the meeting early as to not let a woman speak to him in a challenging manner.

Its seems as though the women endorse this behaviour when Joan makes a comment to Peggy about not being confronted by the technology of the typewriter because the men who designed it made it simple enough for women to use.

It is again seen when Draper stands over his tobacco researcher (another woman), before throwing away her research report. He greatly belittles her and the styling of camera angles created to look up at Draper assist in creating the tone of the scene.

The second thematic element of this episode is best summed up within this quote.
“People are living one way, but are secretly thinking the complete opposite? That’s ridiculous!” the irony of this stems from the sense of the double life many of the characters are living, particularly Draper. Keeping shirts in his draw at work suggests he often doesn’t go home.

The tobacco campaign metaphor in itself and the Freudian relation to humanity wanting a death wish is exactly what Draper grapples with, making excuses for bad behaviour and living like there’s no tomorrow. “Happiness is that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay,” is what Draper lives by, whether it be smoking, sexual affairs or lies.

Just the like the close up shot of the fly trapped within his office light, Draper is entrapped within the spotlight of his work and the entanglement of his secret love life. Everything rides on him.

Sure enough, the conclusion of the episode reveals Draper is indeed living a secret double life – a suburban family home with a wife and two children.

Animal Kingdom

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-Brittaney Petsinis 

The director of Animal Kingdom (2010), David Michod, conveys the many intended ideas of the film through an incredibly clever manipulation of a range of film elements and qualities. As we are introduced to the character of Joshua ‘J’ Cody (James Frenchville), following the death of his own mother, his disorientation becomes apparent. Next to his mother’s dead body, J ironically appears distracted by the television, which plays the game show, Deal or No Deal. Through the character’s limited expression and rather blank face as he stares at the television, we are exposed to the idea that the character appears somewhat disconnected, from both his mother and also the world itself. This idea is further expressed through the phone call that J makes to his grandmother, particularly when he asks her if she remembers him. The conversation between the two is incredibly awkward, informing us of the lack of communication between himself and his family. The introduction of J’s grandmother, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jackie Weaver), allows the audience to automatically develop the intended assumption that J will be safe. As she walks up the stairs of J’s flat, we are introduced to what seems her vibrant personality, portrayed particularly through her speech, in which is cleverly supported by her bright, blue attire. She addresses J as sweetie and love, allowing audiences to fall under the impression that she will play the motherly figure in J’s life. Despite the affection and vibrancy that Smurf portrays, Michod wonderfully develops the idea that J will be entering a world of crime as he is welcomed into Smurf’s ‘world’. This idea becomes rather apparent through the mafia/criminal sounding music, largely initiated by the deepness of the violin instrument, which begins immediately as J and his grandmother hug.     

The title of the film, Animal Kingdom, is clearly suggestive of the animal world and the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’. The director has evidently encapsulated this idea throughout the film, through the constant human “hunting”, establishing suspense and anticipation upon audiences. Brilliantly reflective of this, is Natalie’s dead body as she is carried outside by her killer, Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody (Ben Mendelsohn). The expressive, hard lighting in this scene highlights parts of her body and helps to portray her character as the victim. The trees on either side of the frame develop the metaphor that Pope is an animal walking out of a jungle with its helpless prey. Michod has further explored and established this through Smurf’s attempt to set up J’s death. The conversation that takes place between Smurf and Randal in regards to the situation, allows for the realisation of Smurf’s capability of criminal behaviour. Weaver’s brilliant acting in this scene, allows for the establishment of an authoritative, manipulative character, largely through her direct and focused attention as she stares Randal in the eye while she speaks with a calm, yet powerful voice. Her straight posture and limited movement combined with the constant raising of her eyebrows as she speaks her powerful words, indeed, belittles Randal, and here, the domination of Smurf over Randal is made prominent, through the many well manipulated elements. In this scene, Smurf is established as an emotionless character. As she wipes her nose with a tissue while she speaks, it becomes evident that there is a falsely expressed sadness about the planned death of her own grandson. Smurf’s sinister side and mind, is further established by the cold, low-key lighting, casting shadows on her face and thus, highlighting her expression. This creates a sense of distrust upon the audience as we become aware of her criminal capabilities.

In the closing sequence, the camera manipulation is incredibly effective in communicating a range of ideas.  The point of view camera shot from J’s perspective, as he walks into the house and toward Smurf, initiates the idea that he is perhaps creeping up on her, thus creating a rather sinister interpretation by audiences for a short moment. It appears that the camera is unsteadily held, which wonderfully supports this idea. We are able to acknowledge J’s growth and progression as we witness a more confident character in comparison to the character we are first introduced to, who expressed an extreme disorientation and lack of confidence. The point of view camera shot, from J’s perspective allows us to develop the idea that he is now, somewhat in control.

Cleverly, the wide camera shot of the men, whilst they stand in the backyard, indeed conveys the distance between them and creates a sense of tension and unease upon the audience. The camera shot allows us to make this interpretation as the positioning of the men is inevitably noticed. J stands at the door as he speaks to the two remaining brothers from a distance while they stand at the sizzling barbeque.

In this scene, we are at first introduced to a rather upbeat, positive atmosphere, particularly with the softly played music of Sun in Cuba, the sizzling barbeque and the chirping bird bells. The director has very effectively created a feeling of comfort and ease for the audience. This is turned drastically through the absence of sound when Pope sits on a chair next to the window in J’s bedroom, while J lies on his bed. Here, there is an extreme initiation of suspense and tension, brilliantly building up to the unexpected sound of the gun shot. 

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