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Project #2 Documentary

Our second group project was focused upon my pole dancing instructor Nikki Craven, or known by her stage name as The Descending Angel. She has been pole dancing for 11 years now and watching her dance is always a joy. Nikki was incredibly forgiving of the time dedicated to setup for her dance and interview. She was patient and kind and allowed us to utilize her studio for quite awhile after hours.

The easiest part of the whole process was getting the dancing. Nikki didn’t use any specific choreography, just following her sense of dance and rhythm she had built up over the years. She did follow a specific song we picked, but because her movements were not specific it allowed us to choose other songs potentially and fit them in.

One of the more difficult parts of it was getting Nikki to talk. She is typically a very talkative person, but not much of a story telling person, the kind of stuff we were looking for, so it took some prodding but we were eventually able to get her to open up more and explain more with better questions and more understanding of them.

It was awesome to hear Nikki talk about her history with Pole dancing and the perceptions around it, because a lot of it was relate-able and  could understand. I hoped that my perceptions and thoughts, even though I was pole dancing myself, would be reflected by the audience and they would get the same understanding and appreciation.

Working with truth can always be difficult as reality may not always be as interesting as fiction can be. You cannot benefit truth with fiction and thus must rely that the subject will spin an interesting tale. I believe that we achieved that with Nikki, and hopefully more people will be interested in the art and fitness of Pole Dancing.

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Film Critique Fiction

For this film critique I watched The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese. This film was one of the most frustrating things I have ever watched, and I don’t want to give any spoilers… but THAT ENDING! Scorsese had with him an all star cast of Leonardo di Caprio, Mark Whalberg, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, and so many more. And not only did he have a slew of hot Hollywood names but all of them put on fantastic and entertaining performances.

The movie is set in Boston where Billy Costagan, a failed police academy rookie, goes undercover to take out the notorious gang organization led by Frank Costello. While Billy is incorporated into the gang and finds himself too far into a very dangerous life Colin Sullivan goes undercover in the police department to report for Frank. When the two discover that there is a rat in each other’s organizations Billy and Colin do everything they can to discover the rat, and stay alive.

So one of the most iconic parts of this movie is the accents that the actors take on. When I say that we are in Boston for this film, the actors make it extremely clear we are in Boston. Brash bostonian drawls assail our ears right from the get go, and at least for me never having been in Boston before, I immediately was drawn into the place. The accents were so good in fact I had to put in subtitles because I couldn’t understand all of Mark Whalbergs character. This movie made it very clear to me that little things like the accents of characters can be just as important as any look they could have for a location.

Another great part of this movie is the character dynamic of Billy and Colin. Both are the same, trying to be cops in Boston, and are pretty similar looking actors, but they lead such vastly different lives. The power dynamic between them is clear and the danger associated around both of them is palpable. Scorsese does a great job of keeping the audience on the edge with these two, always causing us to wonder who will actually win in the end. And it’s clearly not clear who will win until the very very end. Billy will make a gain and Colin will start to feel the pressure. Frank pushes Colin back into gear and makes Billy fear for his life. The battles between them span the whole movie. Both of the characters struggle with their identity throughout this, trying to maintain their cover while also trying to hold on to their own self-identity, both identies merging by the end of the movie.

Overall this movie wasn’t captivating, exciting, down and dirty, and bloody. It actually made me storm out of the room because I was so frustrated, and dumbstruck because of its surprises. Well executed and beautifully done, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys crime dramas, or the super attractive Hollywood boys.

 

Film Critique Documentary

For this film critique I watched the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb. This compelling narrative features the life and work of Jiro Ono, a three Michelin star restaurant owner in Japan. His restaurant only features eleven seats, is reservation only, and has the best sushi in the world. What is even more fascinating than the actual circumstances of the restaurant is how it came to be and how Jiro became the greatest sushi chef in the world. David Gelb does a fantastic job at revealing the story in snippets, not giving away too much, but giving enough for just a bite until the next roll is given.

When you first meet Jiro you find out that he is a perfectionist. He is 85 years old, had been making sushi for most of them, and when it comes to sushi he is absolutely perfect. After this context clue we are awarded with gorgeous and mouth-watering shots of sushi so good it makes you want to cry, or lick the TV screen. Then its back to Jiro, discovering about how he raised his kids, or really didnt, but they stilled skipped college at his call and followed him into the sushi world. And then more shots of sushi, lots of shots of sushi.

This back and forth narration, broken up by the crafts of his trade was really well executed. The story of Jiro is not shoved down your throat, but like sushi is consumed right after it is prepared, and like in Jiro’s shop, is done one roll at a time. Hearing about how Jiro came to be the methodical sushi genius is a pleasure. At first he is perfect, and then he is an imperfect father, thrown out at the age of seven, working hard everyday of his life to survive, seeking always to be better, striving for new sushi feats. It’s a sort of double edged sword life he leads, pushing onward to a perfection that he can never achieve, while really holding a public perfection that everyone admires.

And all the while we are also learning about his sons along the journey, how they will pass him and shape or break the sushi future. We learn about his vendors and how they are also all geniuses in their crafts. We see how the best ingredients are found and brought to Jiro, how apprentices work extremely hard at preparing, apprentices must train under Jiro for ten years at least to be considered a chef, and how the customers feel about this tiny wonder.

I think the most compelling part of this film was constantly wanting to see and know and understand more than i did the previous minute. The time truly flew by on this one and now I have aspirations to go to this shop one day to experience real sushi. I would highly recommend this movie for anyone. Beautiful food, beautiful shots, and a interesting story would keep anyone compelled for the full 83 minutes.

Film Critique – Prior to 1970

Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, is the tragic story of George Milton and Lenny Small, two ranch workers who are just trying to get by. They migrate from farm to farm, George taking care of Lenny, a very large and mentally disabled man, during the years of the depression. Both of the dream of better lives and one day hopefully owning their own ranch. They find a ranch in California and settle down, where a series of antics follows that cause Lenny to crush the ranch man’s sons hand,  killed a puppy, and ultimately Curley’s wife. Though none of this is actually Lenny’s faults as he is not aware of his own strengths or the deeds that he did, George still ends up putting down Lenny in the end and moving on with his life.

I had read the book in high school and had fallen in love with the sad tale, but I had never seen the movie and thought that this would be a good opportunity to see the style they chose to go with and if they stayed true to the book. Being from 1939 the entire movie is in black and white, but because of this many parts of the movie came out really dark. I’m not sure if it was actually the quality level that I was watching, I watched the whole thing on YouTube, but everything kind of blended into a dark background, with things in the background indistinct from anything else. Bright, outside scenes were easier on the eyes, but anything that required a dark background or backdrop caused this issue.

In most scenes there are hard shadows cast across the face, indicating to me that there was, in many cases, only one or two light sources on the actors, and only from one direction. They did not try to balance the light to make the faces more clear, but instead focused on a much more natural like look. If its dark outside, well the scene is going to look like its actually dark outside. The dark shadow becomes even more apparent in scenes featured inside where a harsh black outline is cast against the walls of the character, overall unrealistic compared to the natural light available, and it makes me feel again that there really only one light cast upon the actor to brighten up again. For scenes that are outside on the ranch I don’t think any lighting or barely any lighting was used at all, though I really might not be able to tell with how dark the movie is overall. But outside scenes rely heavily on the bright sunlight from outside that casts is shadows and lights up the cast.

Confusing lighting outside for a film shot before 1940 I thought it was really well done. The scenes looked real and pretty and authentic, the acting was awesome, and I still cried at the end of it like I did when I read the book. I was highly recommend this version, and I would be interested in doing a comparison with the 1992 version of this film.

Experimental Film Critique


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/190986464″>Pattern of Life</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3946359″>john butler</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

So I watched Pattern of Life by John Butler on Vimeo, and I can honestly say that my understanding of it has only become more muddled the more I watch it. This piece, I believe at least, is a dedication to the dynamic between the mobbed crowd and the ones who standout and become leaders. Though the processes and trials may seem strange, it is also built up to give strong realizations about reality to the child who is becoming this said leader. The whole thing is made in an amazing, and slightly creepy, world of 3D animation filled with bright colors and much use of blank spaces.

The very first shot is of a pair in full jumpsuits, made with extremely bright colors, watering a garden and admiring a fresh orange. The slow zoom through the grass feels as though we are sneaking in on the scene, and this is the beginning of a presumably normal routine.  The best way to describe the color use in this world is that everything is distinct and standout against everything else. This is important as the next shot is of a crowd walking towards a unknown destination. The crowd is brown, faceless, with only enough distinct shape to make out the people but no features. The sky is near to the same color of them, blending them into the world more. A series of medium shots show the movement of the crowd, and that they do indeed actually have some place to go instead of mindlessly wandering. A overhead shot shows the true size of the crowd, while again diminishing their actual size and scope with the color blending and the way its angled.

Disjointed and unsettling music brings us back to the bright and vivid experimentation room where we are treated to the actual testing of the leader child. This is where they lost me. I’m assuming that everything was a metaphor for something, but I’m just not getting it. Through the testing we get a series of tracking shots, dolley shots, close-ups, and overhead shots. All of them are used to emphasize the room, which seems to be the only real space they interact in, and the horrifying toy object in the room. The overhead shots are interesting. It really emphasizes the child parent role the narrator and these children have, the narrator sternly, though somewhat kindly, lecturing the children on how to survive in a harsh world.

Probably one of my favorite shots is the low angle shot of the… floating blog thing. It creates a strong advisory for the children that is intimidating. Then medium panning shots seem to be the children and the blob on the same playing field before the blog eventually died, another overhead shot turning a possible victory in another stern lesson from the narrator. In the end though the children have seemed to gain an advantage over the crowd as an over the shoulder shot puts one of the children on a pedestal over them.

I would actually love for other people to analyze this and comment their thoughts on this piece. It’s engaging, confusing, vibrant, off putting, and unsettling, but very interesting overall.

Distracted Driving PSA

 

Creating the sound design for this PSA was actually very interesting. I used quite a few different pieces of sound effects and music and adding each piece made my stop motion really come to life. The only issue I really had was with the time constraints, as music had to be cut off somewhat sharply, though a transition effect took down the harshness. Overall I feel my execution was pretty good and I am proud of my project.

The very first sound starts off with the Start Screen. I wanted to use opening game music, but throughout my entire search of FirstCom I could only find a few songs that were close to matching the kind of arcade feel I was going for, and even then it didn’t flow with the actual game music that I chose. Instead of having mismatched, and disjointed music I went with the sound effect of a quarter dropping into a slot. This emphasizes that arcade feel I emphasized earlier.

The next step was the setup to the actual race. For the countdown buzzer I used a alarm clock off of the sound effect library. The first three buzzes for the 3… 2…. 1 are all the same, and the Start buzz is actually the same with the pitch adjusted. I wanted all of the buzzes to be the same tone so they all matched. I also found drag racing sounds in the sound effects library to make the car sound like it was getting ready to take off.

The music for the actual game I was pretty happy with. It got that peppy, excited, racing feel that I wanted without being too obnoxious. I’m not sure if there is an actual video game/arcade game playlist or library on FirstCom because finding this type of music was extremely difficult. If there is one that anyone knows of then please leave the name of it in the comments, I would greatly appreciate that.

While the actual game is going on I used a person hitting a car sound effect for when the dinosaur characters are being hit by the race car in the game. Along with that I found a sound effect of a man moaning to emphasize the fact that these dinosaurs have been hit, and it was very painful and overall not cool. The sound effects here should hopefully raise the sense of guilt, especially associated with the fact that you are killing these dinosaurs in order to gain items that would distract you while driving.

The final piece of sound is for the actual PSA part of this video, the white text and somber mood. I found a piece of music from a documentary playlist, the music reflecting somber thoughts and reflection. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite piece of music for it, not because of the feel, but because of the awkward length of it. Trying to get it to fit in my time frame was a bit frustrating, but I was unable to find another piece of music that matched what I wanted.

Film Critique 1 – Animation

I have always been a fan of stop-motion animation, enjoying the hi-jinx of Wallace and Gromit, the harrowing tales from Tim Burton, and the heartwarming family films like Chicken Run. Being someone who has seen many stop-motion films I had no clue what to see, and that’s when I found Kubo and the Two Strings. I went into this movie knowing almost nothing about it. I had heard the hype awhile ago but had never had the opportunity to actually see it.

Let me start by saying that this movie was absolutely gorgeous. This was the first time that I actually say claymation flow so smoothly. Along with that the story line was heartwarming, the villains were frightening, and the characters were enjoyable in every way. Kubo is a storyteller, playing his Shamisen and causing paper to actually come to life and act out his stories. Kubo lives a happy life with his mother in the mountains, though she struggles from memory loss caused by a blow to her head. Kubo soon finds himself in danger from his grandfather the Moon King and his mothers evil sisters. He sets out with his companions Monkey and Beetle in order to find the sacred armor, learn about the past of his father, and stop the moon king.

Probably the best part of the movie is when Kubo plays his Shamisen. Throughout the movie Kubo must use this instrument in order to manipulate his environment. Every time he plays the melody is always different and captivating, starting typically with just Kubo and his instrument before being mixed into a larger soundtrack. Every song that was used was absolutely beautiful and very fitting for the environment of the film.

Another thing I admired was the smoothness of the dialogue with the claymation animation. Typically with claymation it is obvious that the voice, though connecting with the character, falls behind when it comes to syncing up with the actual human movements of the mouth. That was not the case here as the dialogue seemed to literally emerge from the characters mouths, even though they are only simple puppets.

I do have a favorite scene sound wise. It’s at the beginning of the movie (don’t worry, no spoilers). The previous scene a baby Kubo and his mother wash up on a rainy beach. The music is beautiful and intense, throwing in that Shamisen that I have fallen in love with. The favorite scene features Kubo waking up and beginning his day. As essentially the first real scene of the movie there is no music in it. As someone learning folley this is a scene rich in it as Kubo makes breakfast, getting ready to go out, and taking care of his mother. There is no music to enhance of distract, only rich sound effects that enhance the scene. I caught it immediatly when I watched it and I admired the skill that was put into it.

I would highly recommend this movie who has ever been a fan of stop motion or claymation. This movie is aesthetically pleasing, musically gorgeous, and just overall interesting and engaging. I’m using a lot of positive descriptors here but this movie is actually a really good movie. I would also say that this may be a children s movie, but it is fun to watch for anyone at any age.