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.