Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lessons From Horror Films: Why People Do Stupid Things In Horror Films

The mask of Michael Myers, the villain of Halloween. Why is this an effective villain? We should start with a "formal analysis," that is, stating everything we see, then deducing WHY those characteristics were chosen. First, the mask is white; secondly, there are large gashes/scars. The eyes are "hollowed out." The eyebrows are either bleached or painted over and the lips are noticeably pale also. What do we make of it? We know that white, the color of the skin, positively symbolizes the virtues of faith, innocence, purity; contrariwise, white symbolizes the ABSENCE of these virtues because, when a person dies, the corpse turns white, so white illustrates for us, in this case, a SOUL that has died (because symbols illustrate for us what we can't see with our eyes, in this case, the state of the soul) and Michael Myers' soul has died because faith, purity and innocence have died within him. How did this happen? The scars on his face might give a good indication, as well as the pale lips. We know the mouth symbolizes the appetites, and the mouth is white--so his appetites are dead as well (there are good appetites to have, because that's how God leads us, but this indicates that the appetites have led him; for example, sex is good when it is within the context of marriage, but not when it's practiced outside marriage; Mike has failed to see this). The hollowed out eyes reveal to us his empty, dark soul and how "darkness" is a good metaphor for evil because the Light of Christ does not dwell there. So Mike Myers is the exact opposite of what God is, and knowing what the devil is, and that the devil is going to create us in his own image with sin, should prompt us to choosing God instead, but that doesn't always happen, does it? Ultimately, the violence that takes place in a horror film reflects how the evil destroys identity.
Sometimes, the most ridiculous questions to ask are actually the most pertinent to understanding human behavior, so let's start by asking, "Why do Americans traditionally watch 'scary' movies during the month of October?" Because Halloween is October 31, which is the Eve of All the Hallowed, or all those who have lived before us who have been recognized or not recognized by the Catholic Church as being saints, i.e., they lived the Life of Christ on earth and exemplary behavior and heroic virtue were witnessed by others to be a living example of the Temple Of God this side of Heaven. Really, this IS important. November 1 is the feast of All Saints while November 2 is the Feast of All Souls, or at least, all the souls who have made it into Purgatory/Heaven, i.e., the rest of us who are not saints. So, how does this answer our question?
Watching someone else get mutilated isn't the purpose of horror films, but it has a horrifying element and that question is, "Why?" Why does it bother us to see someone we have no relationship with (a fictional character) get completely destroyed? Because we DO have a relationship with them on at least some level, even if it's in the sins we share with them, or the hope of escape and redemption. Ultimately, the lesson of every horror film is the same: if you don't want to end up like the people in this story, don't do the types of things they did.  
There are at least two things which makes a horror film scary: the viewer's being removed from the action taking place, and the terror the villain inspires in the viewer. A good villain--that is, an effective villain--is, basically an accurate reflection of the devil; the action of a horror film reflects in some realistic or at least some believable manner in which the devil actually tempts us in our daily lives (this has changed over the decades, because, like all films and art in general, each generation makes their own art). What's important is, ONE DOESN'T HAVE TO BELIEVE IN THE DEVIL to interact with a horror film (even though more people report believing in the devil than in God). This is why scary films "precede" the feast day of All the Hallowed: so we will see the devil for who he really is, and what he wants to do to us, and resolve to at least fight for our eternal souls against the devil because imperfect contrition is better than no contrition at all for our sins.  
A hotel makes a great setting for a horror film (like in The Shining) because, as we will discuss below, the house is a symbol for the soul, and since a hotel is just a temporary house, it puts us in the situation of a soul that is in flux, or in-between where it should be. In The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, Clary has to go to the Death Hotel which is a vampire lair, in order to find her friend Simon, and they end up being confronted by vampires in the banquet hall. It's not just that the house/hotel is important as an overall symbol, but the exact location within the structure that will convey even more information about what exactly the film makers want to communicate to the audience.  

This summer, before the release of the highly anticipated box office hit The Conjuring, Yahoo! gave us this summary article on Lessons From Scary Movies and learning what NOT to do if you find yourself in a horror film. Now, it's perfectly reasonable that we should assume that scary movies teach us lessons; it might seem ridiculous, however, to find yourself in a scary movie and then act as if there are things you can do or not do so you are still alive at the end of the film. But, quite frankly, that's life, we are all in a scary movie with the ultimate villain, the devil, out to catch us at every temptation he can get. I am quite aware of the mockery I will receive in the comments section from those liberated, intellectually superior and insufferable atheists who will be unable to find words sufficient for expressing their hopes that my nightmares are plagued with Freddy Kreugers or worse, but the real question for them to answer is, why do they watch horror films? October is the month for self-examination, when we really look at how we have failed in not only avoiding sin, but have failed to make acts of virtue and love, which builds us up and strengthens us. The people in horror films are almost universally people who are in moral danger because they have failed in these exact regards; what differs is what film makers determine to be the ills of society and what people must be warned about. So who are the heroes?
Scream really is a great horror film, not only because it starts out by validating the lessons we are to learn from horror films, but because it utilizes the very motifs it tries to debunk. This isn't an official poster for the film, but it's an effective one. One of the devices in a horror film is the "ringing phone" and in any film, when we hear the ringing phone, it's the "call" in life that character is supposed to answer, the call of destiny. Either we have answered God's calling in our life to be virtuous and life the Life of Christ, or we have answered the "call of the wild" and lived as we have wanted to, getting further and further from God every day. Windows symbolize self-reflection, and that this window is broken refers to the characters who didn't learn the lessons they were supposed to have learned because they didn't reflect on their lives, or they didn't reflect soon enough for it to do them any good. For more on scary films lessons and horror film devices in general, please see Decoding the Decoding: Scream fore more. 
We generally feel sorry for the hero: they are enough like the viewer that we are generally going to identify with them, at least as long as the plot allows. There are only three types of characters in a horror film: there is the villain, there are all those who are going to die because they don't believe the villain exists, or they are so bogged down by sin they never had a chance, or they can't quite make enough virtuous acts to make it to the end of the film, and the third kind of character is a hero, the one or ones who can and will make it alive to the end of the film. There are various devices, which the story above referenced, which allows us to know exactly why a character dies--which is important: horror films have the most rigid and conservative moral codes of any other film; so what are these codes?
In the article, Shonuff @ 5oodaysofautumn says: "jason, michael myers and leatherface are all long distance runners, so sign up for a long distance training class." The villains are "long-distance runners" but signing up for a running class won't help unless that is a Bible study. There are two types of time: eternal time and temporal time. Temporal time is when Jesus was hung upon the Cross at noon, and died at about 3, that happened on the earth and the time span could be measured by a watch. Eternal time deals with prophecy, so when the Bible gives prophetic details, and names a certain number of years, for example, that isn't calendar years, that is a symbolic reference to God's time in eternity. Like God, the devil is eternal because he is one of God's created angels, so the characters representing the devil have the devil's "fortitude" in that they don't get weary the way we temporal beings get exhausted from running up a hill in the rain after seeing the body of our best friend mutilated. When we see the devil, as the female does in the image of Jason above, of course she can run for her life because she is scared to death of Death, however, as we discuss, that is not sufficient to help her outrun Death because she is burdened by the weight of all her sins.
The first lesson which horror fans want viewers to learn from scary movies is: DON'T TRIP OVER THINGS. Why are people always tripping in horror films? You can't see someone running in a horror film and legitimately expect them to make it to their intended destination without falling at least once. Now, everything we discuss hereafter holds true to this idea: the makers of horror films are fully aware about the devices other horror movies have used, and that they keep using them--like tripping in every film--is intended to convey a message to us, a message we have all ready seen and, in some way or another, understand unconsciously. The reason characters are always tripping in horror films is first because they are not morally/virtuously strong enough to "run the race" as St. Paul encourages us to do in 2 Timothy 4:7 and the second reason is, something in their life--an attachment to some one or some thing--has gotten in their way to getting to the destined safety.
"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" from one of my favorite horror films of all time, the original, Night Of the Living Dead. In the scene above, the first zombie has just appeared, but they don't realize it's a zombie; Barbara's brother Johnnie will die in his struggle with the zombie--because Johnnie is all ready dead--and Barbara will be killed by Johnnie's zombie self towards the end. But what happens next is a classic horror film because Barbara runs and falls, loosing her shoe. An even better way of describing why characters in horror films fall is because of "The Fall" of original sin: we are all inherently weak, we have a tendency towards sin, which is why we have to constantly be going to church and living the virtuous life so we will be fortified in Grace (God's own Life force He gives to us to strengthen us). When Barbara gets to the safety of the farmhouse in Night Of the Living Dead, she sees a dead corpse at the top of the stairs. Stairs symbolize a higher intellectual level, something to which we are called to ascend, and for Barbara, because she had started to pray a Rosary earlier, she knows this is the Life Of Christ she has been called to, but the corpse she sees is how she sees the Christian life, a life of death with no Life in it, all sacrifice and nothing in return, which is why she can't be converted and saved: she refuses to be saved. Please see My Favorite Zombie: Night Of the Living Dead for more.
Now another Tweet contributing to the Lessons From Scary Movies article, makes the key observation of "not looking back" as you are running because that's going to cause you to trip. That's an excellent point; why? Because who else "looked back?" The wife of Lot who looked back at the destruction of Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. Why such a horrible death for her curiosity? It wasn't "curiosity," rather, the punishment fit the crime: Christ commands us to be the salt of the earth, because salt preserves food, it is essential, and we are to preserve the teachings of Christ in our own life; Lot's wife (and the fact that she doesn't have a name is a definite bad judgment upon her character) in looking back at her old home of Sodom was preserving the bad things, the worldly and earthly sins she had picked up in the damned city Lot's wife, and any character in a horror film who dies from falling and looking back, do so because they have preserved the worldly things rather than those spiritual things which would have kept them out of the horror film to begin with, which leads us to the next point,... 
We know, from Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho, that Marion was planning on giving the money back and paying back what she owed, so she is in a state of repentance,.. isn't she? How can she die, if I am correct, and Norman is basically the devil, because she's sorry for her sins? Let's look at it this way: let's say you were going to get into the shower, but there was a huge blob of black oil and mud you had no intention of washing off from your body, even though you were going to wash off the dirt and some oil? That's what Marion is doing, because she's sorry for taking the money, but she hasn't repented of her adulterous affair with Sam which opens the show. The moral lesson isn't, "Don't bother to repent because it won't do you any good," the point is, "If you want to save yourself, don't save any of your sins" because they will kill you. It's not that cleanliness in a scary film will get you killed, it's thinking you have cleansed yourself when you really haven't that will get you killed. Please note, this is a hotel, and the bedroom is adjacent to the hotel; the film opened in a hotel bedroom where Marion had met Sam for her "lunch break."
According to the article, cleanliness is a bad thing in horror films: Brad Rhoden @BradRhoden1 sums it up well, posting, "when taking a shower smack the curtain open and jump back every time bc you never know when a killer will be there." And HockeyIsLife @Leafs_Fan_Chick offers: "Always lock the door when you're in the shower." But this is really missing the point. We know that water is more than just "cleansing" the body, it's also cleansing the soul, it's a symbol of grace, it's a symbol of  repentance (and if it rains, it can also symbolize that God is helping that person to overcome the situation, then again, it can also be the rains of destruction which caused the Flood Noah had to flee from, so you have to pay attention to the rain motif). So, if a person dies in a shower, it's because they were NOT in a state of repentance, instead of repenting and being cleansed of their sins, they were getting ready to commit more sins or will still inclined to commit sins (please see caption above and below for additional commentary upon this). So what else do we not do in a horror film? 
The Evil Dead is just a great, classic horror film and several important scenes take place in the bathroom. Mia takes a scalding shower AFTER she has become possessed because she's an extremist: she went "cold turkey" from heroine at the start of the film, then she scalds herself in the shower in hopes of cleansing herself from a contagion that has all ready entered, in other words, Mia hasn't found the balance to really be truthful with herself. Neither does she have perfect contrition (which is what the shower is supposed to symbolize): contrition is sorrow for one's sins; "perfect contrition" is when a person confesses the sin they have committed and recognizes that they are sorry because their sin has separated their self from the Goodness and Greatness of God and His Love; imperfect contrition is when a person confesses because they are afraid of going to hell; imperfect contrition is still contrition, but the person advancing in the ways of holiness will realize they have weakened the Light within them. In the scenes above, which take place in the bathroom, Olivia and Eric have both had some sense of contrition--Eric admits that he should not have opened the book, and I have never seen such an imperfect character survive so long in a horror film as Eric--but the film makers clearly demonstrate their sins and why they have to die and which sins they are "paying for" in the various scenes. Please see Cutting Your Face With Glass: Evil Dead fore more.
It's ridiculous to politely yell out, "Hello? Is there anyone there?" because the killer will not answer back and politely let you know he is there. Why not? Because this is the prayer of one who hasn't prayed. We tend to pray when things get really bad, like when we are in a bad situation and "darkness" symbolizes that well in a horror film. For a character to politely call out, "Hello?" is like them thinking it's a good time to start praying and--because they haven't prayed in a long time (maybe never) they don't know that God IS there listening to them but someone else is there, TOO, the devil. Calling out to the killer isn't calling out to the killer, it's a failed attempt at calling out to God, but it doesn't fail because God isn't going to answer their prayer, it fails because this person hasn't sufficiently prayed in the past to be able to pray in the present so they will be delivered from the evil that is coming. 
Halloween's Mike Myers; why is this an effective image? Because it's the exact opposite of what we want to see. If you were in this horror film, wouldn't you rather see Jesus standing in the doorway, rather than Mike with a knife to carve you up? Revelations 3:20: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock," Jesus says, and anyone who hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in with them and sup with them, and them with me. Yea, it would really suck to see Mike there instead. Remember, "Mike" stands for "Michael" which in Hebrew means, "Who can compare to God?" because the archangel casting Satan out of heaven said that as he defended heaven and God's Glory, so "Mike" showing up is like a telegram that says, if you had praised God instead, you wouldn't be seeing me right now. Instead of the pearly gates of heaven, Mike shows you the doors of hell and the sad thing is, this is by free will, every single choice the characters made (those who will die) they made by abusing the greatest gift God could give us, freedom to love Him or reject Him and accept the consequences. Horror films, by showing us our fate with the devil if we persist in our sins, tries to convince us that engaging in immoral behavior--be whatever it is--is ultimately self-destructive. So why isn't everyone holy? We fail to see ourselves in the characters in the story. We fail to identify our own sins when we see them being enacted by someone else and that comes from a lack of self-knowledge and self-reflection. We can't become strong if we don't know what our weaknesses are so we can overcome them, and that's part of the value of horror films if we make that act of humility and dare to look into the dark abyss of our soul before it's too late.
Why do people stay in the haunted house? Haunted houses make great "characters" in films, they take on their own personality; why? Because the house IS that person, a house symbolizes a person's soul (just as a body houses the soul, so a home houses the body), so a house that is haunted reveals a person who is haunted by someone, by something: it could be someone they once had and lost, or it could be some lingering sin within that person, but ghosts from the past (be that whatever form they take) reflect for the audience some dark corner within that character, and either they will be able to overcome those ghosts and cleanse themselves, or the ghosts will win and that person is lost. Which leads us to another "stupid" thing people do in horror films: going into the cellar.
Poltergeist is, perhaps, the ultimate haunted house film because the "Beast" lurks in the closet; why? The mom, Diane, got pregnant with their first child when she was just a kid in high school, and Carrie Ann could be headed down the same path of sexual promiscuity her older sister Dana is all ready on if Diane doesn't "clean out her closet" and be active in helping Carrie Ann avoid the pitfalls of becoming a loose woman so heavily advertised on television and popular culture (The Family Graveyard: Poltergeist).
 You hear something in the dark cellar and, of course, there are no lights, so you go down into the cellar to investigate what made that noise. Why? The character can't help but go down into the basement because that is their own inner, deepest-most self that has made that noise, their own repressed feelings, struggles, disappointments, fears, inhibitions, etc., and they have to "go to their self" and discover who they really are. The problem is, again, the character is rarely strong enough to be able to withstand the shock of seeing themselves as they truly are, seeing their sins and the toll they have taken upon that person and survive. Which leads us to what people DO look like in horror films and how that determines whether or not you are going to make it out alive.
Carolyn Perron looking into the dark cellar in The Conjuring. She will end up down there, when she's possessed, so the feeble match, all the "light of faith" she is capable of summoning up, isn't enough to enlighten her of where she is going in the film (the road of possession) and how her own characteristics are the vehicle for the witch to use against Carolyn. The Conjuring is a strongly pro-socialist film but, regardless of the politics, Carolyn looking into the dark cellar is basically what every character in a horror film does: they look into the darkness of their own soul. If the Light of Christ were brighter in the world, we could argue, there would be no darkness because we would all realize what is good for us and discipline ourselves to doing only what is genuinely good for ourselves and others, rather than being deceived by what is easiest to do or think is in our best interest, that's why some of the most important scenes take place in the kitchen, the place of the appetites (for food but, usually, for sex or money or material "possessions"). Please see The Devil's Hour: The Conjuring and Demonic Possessions for more discussion on this film.
According to some of the Tweets contributing to the article, being sexy or flirty is a definite no-no: "Never engage in sexual activity in the woods. You will die first," or, more bluntly, "don't be the hot white girl, you'll die first." Why? That's easy, actually. This isn't meant to be a stereotypically statement that horror films make, and the next item we review regarding fat people and black characters in scary films is the same, rather than making "politically incorrect" statements about people, these characters are teaching us about the types of faults these characters are apt to display and what can lead them to death. For a pretty girl, she probably likes depending upon her good looks to get boyfriends and doesn't consider the beauty of her soul, only what she can get by using her looks. So the contrast is made between the physically good-looking girl and whatever sin she is guilty of (usually sexual) and how gross that really makes her spiritually because she's allowing herself to be abused rather than having a genuine love for herself that would prevent her from becoming a slut through being loose.
If you doubt me about the devices used in horror films, you obviously haven't seen The Cabin In the Woods. Here we have Jules who is going to make out with the wolf stuffed on the wall. She pretends she's one of the three little pigs, and tells the wolf, "You don't have to huff and puff, I'll let you in," and that's a sexual reference without a doubt. As The Cabin in the Woods makes clear, the Control Room can't do anything that these people wouldn't do to abuse their free will on their own, so even though the Control Room was contributing--like the devil enhancing temptations to adapt them to our own individual weaknesses--Jules knew exactly what she was doing and what she wanted to do. The case in point is that the real heroine of this film is Patience: in her patience and virtue, she alone is morally strong enough to overcome the depravity of the Director (Sigrouney Weaver). For more, please see The Cabin In the Woods: Free Will, Husband Bulges and Jim Carrey
Why do black characters seem to always die in horror films (I personally can't think of any, but I have heard this cited before)? We have recently seen this in the Oscar-nominated film Beasts Of the Southern Wild and the character of Wink. Throughout the film, Wink commits random acts of "self-sabotage" that slowly destroys him and prevents him from having a healthier, happy future. Given that black children are least likely to grow up with a father in the household (72% of black children are with unwed mothers), abortion rates are highest among black children and--as of 2011--there were more black men in prison that in slavery in 1850; one article even suggested it's a rite of manhood for blacks to go to prison because it has become such an epidemic of self-sabotage and this self-destruction that sadly manifests itself in the black community has been a form of commentary in horror films, a warning that, if you don't want to end up like this guy, you better not do what this guy was doing. So, what about the fat guy? 
Sue Snell (Amy Irving) in the original Carrie who is my favorite heroine of any horror film because she is such a perfect example for all of us. She was just as terrible as anyone else for making fun of Carrie, but she took it to heart, and decided that she would pay off the debt she owed to Carrie with her own prom date. What happens to Sue is, being good becomes more desirable to her than doing bad, so even when it comes to sacrificing her own best friend so Carrie won't be humiliated at the prom, Sue doesn't hesitate to do the right thing, regardless of what it might cost her personally. That's why she's the only one to survive because each person, to some degree or another, even Carrie, has committed sins. We could say that a good depiction of hell is what that prom becomes.
Well, I can't think of any films where a fat guy dies, but it's pretty obvious that they have eaten of the goods of the world, but specifically failed to eat the Body and Blood of Christ, which is what happens in vampire films. "I do not drink,... wine" Dracula (Bela Lugosi) says, and it's true, he doesn't drink consecrated Wine that has been transubstantiated to become the Blood of Christ because Dracula is a demon, so he drinks the blood of humans to prevent them from being able to drink the Blood of Christ and be saved. Likewise, with an obese character, it emphasizes what they have NOT been eating, rather than what they have eaten. Which leads us to some pretty important points about the last issue: the villain never dies.
No matter how many times you stab, burn, shoot, put the blender on high and mail the slush to different corners of the world, the villain will come back. Why? No, it's not franchises, it's because that's how it actually happens. Evil is eternal, it doesn't die, and that these villains don't die validates us viewing them as incarnations of the devil. Whereas Christ died but was resurrected, and will never die again, the devil can die an infinite number of times, but is punished to be resurrected, never escaping from his self-imposed torment and trying to take as many people as possible with him. But once the devil has you, he has you, but as long as you are still alive, you are still fair play and he believes he has a chance to drag you into hell with him. Years and years ago, I was at a friend's who had South Park on, and it was the episode where Jesus had come and Jesus and the devil were going to have a boxing match; everyone in town bet that Jesus would lose the match, but one person bet that Jesus would win, and Jesus knocked out Satan and the whole town looked foolish for making the wrong bet, but it ended up that the winning bet was Satan, because the devil knows who the real King is and that the devil can never win.
It's not that an evil character will ever actually die, it's just that our understanding or our fear of evil changes and so, too, do the horror films to more accurately reflect that shift in our psychology and spirituality.
There are many more devices we could discuss, however, the next time another horror film comes out, don't be too quick to dismiss it as pulp fiction. But please don't also forget that many of these devices show up in other genres as well, and mastering the story-telling techniques of one type of film will increase our talents in watching other types of film. So, happy Halloween, tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation, when we pray and ask the Lord to strengthen us to "run the good race," keep our eyes on Him, and not trip as we run....
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trailers: X-Men Days Of Future Past, 47 Ronin, The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, We Are What We Are

This looks so good, I am getting chills watching it. The painting behind the young Magneto at 1:08 (Michael Fassbender) is Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, probably the most beloved painting in France as it commemorates the French Revolution (however, if you click on the link, you will see how the little boy holding up the gun in the air is actually on the left side of Lady Liberty in the original, so they have "mirror-imaged" that part and I am sure there is a good reason for it). There are only two, quick items we are going to discuss regarding this trailer and one of them is in the caption for the X-Men poster below.
The first item is individuality. As we see in the poster above, all the robots are exactly alike, they have no personality, no singular characteristics; why? That's what socialism values, everyone being exactly alike with no one being any different than anyone else (again, just like Seneg in World War Z who had no lines and no personality). The reason these robots would fight a "mutant threat" and are the villain in the newest film is because who is more individualitistic than a mutant (please remember, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are being remade as well, starring Megan Fox)? The very definition of mutant involves something different, unexpected, unique and even irreplaceable. Who else is like Logan? Who else is like Storm, or Mystique? No one. That kind of intense individuality means two things: first, power, secondly suffering. Who has power like Magneto? Having that power means he is a threat, unless, of course, you are made of plastic, which leads us to the second point: suffering. Socialists want people to fear suffering so they will surrender all their freedom for the security the government promises so they won't have the threat of having to suffer; we saw this directly challenged in Beasts Of the Southern Wild with little Hushpuppy. At 1:49, "I don't want your suffering," and who does? No one wants to suffer, but it's one thing not wanting to suffer while still recognizing the "value" of human growth that comes from our suffering and thinking that suffering is inherently evil. Without the discipline of suffering that someone like Charles Xavier undergoes, he wouldn't posses the wisdom to teach other mutants the good path to take to responsively use their gifts, and wisdom, as Scripture tells us, is worth more than gold because--just as gold has to be refined in the fire before it gains value--so we must be refined in the fires of suffering before we gain that greatest of all gifts: wisdom. We generally don't associate wisdom with Logan: we think of strength, courage, intelligence, wit, sarcasm, but wisdom? Not really. We know Logan will always do the right thing, but we also know, even through the last film The Wolverine, that Logan was burdened by his gift of being a mutant and the claws and not reconciling what he is and what he can do increased Loga's suffering; of all the people to have to convince someone else that being a mutant is good, and that there is positive meaning to suffering, Logan is a surprising choice, but perhaps the only choice, not only because Logan has to take the final steps towards accepting his own life and destiny, but also articulate it in such a way that he can convince someone else to take the same path. This is the sign that this is going to be an incredible story!
The second item we are going to discuss is,... the 1970s. We know that Wolverine goes back to this decade because we have seen at least one photograph (pictured below) and those clothes cannot be mistaken for any other time. Why? Anti-Capitalist films such as The Conjuring, Dark Shadows, Argo, Rush and the upcoming American Hustle are all situated in the 1970s to mock individuality in America (I mean, Hugh Jackman is one of the sexiest men alive, and even he can't pull off looking good in 70s attire, who can?) and our clothes are one of the ways we express our individuality (please note how the robots above don't wear clothing, they are all just alike). This is probably the reason, however, that Xavier tells Logan to tell himself to hope again, but we will have to wait to find out more. Moving right along,...
We have all ready spoken at length on 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves, and the second trailer as been released which gives us a more definite sense of which side it's going to fall on, the same side as the rebellious Spartans of 300, see if you can catch the specific references:
Now, when something in a film reminds you of something you have seen in another film (Come and take it, there army is infinite and we are but 47) it's because it's meant to, the film makers intentionally want to invoke the other film, usually for one of two reasons, or both: first, because the film makers want to create an homage to a film they specifically liked or influenced them, creating a bond with the audience who catches the reference, like director Guy Ritchie using the theme song for Two Mules For Sister Sarah in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. Ritchie rewards the audience members who have seen that film and pick-up on the insight, so the person who knows the theme for Two Mules For Sister Sarah is playing is the "implied viewer" as opposed to the viewer who has no idea that something "more" is taking place in the scene, which leads us to the next point.
We can't deny that we see Reeves' character enduring a tremendous amount of suffering even just in the trailer; why? It's universally accepted that those who have suffered the most, have the most wisdom, and those who have the most wisdom make the best leaders, that's why socialist parties are always so poorly led, organized and corrupt.
Invoking something in another film let's the viewers know that the film they are watching is aware that there is a world outside the world of the film, or, the "boundaries" of the film are being extended to include the "real world" of the viewer and not just the world of the characters the viewer watches in the film. Why is this important? Because it validates the intuitive need viewers have to understand what is happening in the film, that what they watch on the screen is a reflection of something going on in their own lives, so, the more films you have seen (like 300), the more often you are going to be rewarded because you will be able to pick up on more and more of those references. And here is the final trailer for The Hunger Games Catching Fire:
The purpose of Catching Fire is for Katniss to destroy the arena in which The Hunger Games take place so there won't be anymore reapings and Games, rather like Truman in The Truman Show (Jim Carrey, Ed Harris). In essence, what Katniss and the film makers want, is the end of capitalism, because capitalism is so closely related to a "game," which brings us to this week's big opener, Ender's Game that I am quite excited about:
We have all ready seen a film wherein "thoughts" and dreams of two or more separate beings are mixing: Pacific Rim and "drift compatibility." This provides a great entrance into psychoanalysis: there are many "spring boards" for psychoanalysis, but anytime you see a character falling asleep, it's possible, that everything thereafter in the narrative is that character's dream. Dreams are the realm of the unconscious, so devices like "reflecting" (when a character looks into a mirror or we see them looking through a window) become a gate way into the character's deeper subconscious. I am going to see Ender's Game Friday--but it will probably be in the evening--Tweeting my initial reaction to the film Friday--and getting up the full post sometime later in the day on Saturday. Promise.
Some film news: Ben Kingsley has finally revealed, to some degree, his ultra-top secret Marvel film project: the real Mandarin will be revealing himself and accosting Killian and the pretend-Mandarin. In other film news, the cast of Olympus Has Fallen will be reuniting for London Has Fallen. The Walking Dead has been renewed for a fifth season. The first trailer for The Amazing Spider Man 2 will be attached to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Just because a film is going straight to DVD doesn't mean it isn't one we should ignore, especially when it involves cannibalism.
We have actually seen cannibalism at least one other place, in The Lone Ranger, when Tonto cooks a rabbit he then feeds to a pack of rabid rabbits that turn into monsters as they eat one of their own and in the villain of the same film who eats the organs of those he kills and in the people-eating giants from Jack the Giant Slayer and all the zombie films, such as Warm Bodies and World War Z,... We Are What We Are is just a bit more decisive about it.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Trailer 1

"This isn't freedom, this is fear." Oh, yea,...
The story line is, it's after the events depicted in The Avengers (Loki blowing up New York City) and Steve Rogers is trying to adjust to our century. Bucky (Rogers' friend James Buchanan, also known as The Winter Soldier, shown at the very end of the trailer above grabbing the shield Rogers throws at him, with his face covered, more on that below), after World War II and Rogers' crash into the ocean, became a Soviet assassin and still is an assassin in modern Washington which is filled with villains trying to kill Rogers at every turn as the conspiracy keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,...
So, what does it mean?
I'm glad you asked.
Captain America exhibits the trademark "Avenger" problem: he's out of place. Just as Tony Stark lost his real heart in Iron Man (when the shrapnel entered his heart) and was a living human without a real functioning heart, and just as Thor was out of place one earth, belonging in Asgard, and the Hulk being,... well, you know, two guys at once, Captain America is really old. There is a negative and positive way of accepting this: the negative way is, it sucks to be a superhero because you never feel like you belong and you can never have a "normal" life wherever you are; everything you do is for others, never yourself. On the positive side, we can see how each person has taken their gift/talent and is turning it towards a positive end of helping others, rather than letting it destroy their own self. If Captain America is going through some soul searching, we shouldn't be surprised: isn't that what The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was all about? Rogers will probably face similar questions as Logan did, and have to make a gift-affirming decision just as Logan had to affirm his gift of immortality. There is a lot to be said about how this trailer sets up the plot, and expands upon what we saw in the first film, but we will only touch upon some topics for the time.
You, dear faithful reader, have had me ramming the importance of the "political identity" of modern Russia in American cinema since Oblivion (Tom Cruise) came out earlier this year, and that will pay off for all of us in April when we see The Winter Soldier. As we have mentioned previously, the "Winter Soldier" means that Bucky is a soldier of the "Cold War," suggesting that the Cold War was never won, but--like at the border between North and South Korea--there was just a silent but deadly "stand-off" between capitalists and communists (recall, of course, the big Cold War film of last year, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy where so many Englishmen sacrificed so much for even one small victory against socialism). In the trailer above, at 1:01, we see 42 written on the side of one of the ships; this could be a reference to the film 42 and the Jackie Robinson story, reminding us of the victories and sacrifices Americans have made to stay capitalism and how it was capitalism that was the very vehicle that made it possible to overcome other social problems.
When the first trailer and posters for Thor the Dark World came out, we were able to note that nothing had really changed or was missing in the posters: everything we expected to see of Thor was present (his armor, his good looks, his cape, his muscular frame, his hammer, the thunder in the background) but that's not the case with Steve Rogers. The image on the left and center are from Captain America: The First Avenger and the left image shows us the first shield Rogers used; what's wrong with it? The first shield was in the shape of the traditional European Coat of Arms which signified the carrier was of noble birth (or at least rich enough to purchase a coat of arms); the shield doesn't work for Captain America because he doesn't want to place himself above anyone else out of his humility, which is one of the reasons why he was chosen to receive the serum (the other reason is discussed in a moment). The round shield, shown in the middle image, is like King Arthur's round table, where all the great knights are equal in their own ways with their own talents and gifts (Cap didn't go and fight the Nazis by himself, he has that whole team behind him). Even in the center image (click on the picture anywhere and it will expand) you can see the chipping red paint; in the image on the right, the red paint is nearly completely worn off, and this is a definite change; why? Red, as we know, symbolizes our blood (rather ironic since Captain America doesn't seem to be able to die) and we either give our blood for someone we love more than our own self--the ultimate proof of love, which Captain America made at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, because he believed he was going to die when he crashed the ship--or red can symbolize an appetite, such as spilling the blood of another out of anger (the opposite of love) or giving up one's life in pursuit of world pleasures/power (which we will probably see quite a bit of in Washington DC where the film takes place). So, why has the red disappeared from Cap's shield? Peggy. In the trailer above, they take quite a bit of precious time to show Black Widow telling Cap that one of the girls wants to date him and he completely shrugs it off; why? He's lost his heart, he has lost the very thing which qualified him to become Captain America (remember in the first film when he jumped on that grenade? Remember how he met the challenge of the flag pole? He did that because he wanted to be with Peggy, and making a date with her was the last thing he did in his "natural" life and now all his friends are dead). So, when we look at the shield in the right image, the red that has "drained" from the shield illustrates how love has "drained" from Rogers' heart and THAT'S WHY Bucky can grab the shield at the end of the trailer: Rogers' love was what propelled that shield and made it a weapon, and now that the love is gone, it doesn't have power anymore. We have seen a similar device in Talia's Tree in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (the barrier that protected Camp Halfblood, and the barrier that protected the people of Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful) because these are "shields" just like Captain America's shield that has been weakened. Why should we care about a dead girlfriend? It's a political statement on at least two levels. First, in not having anything to look forward to, or a particular person to defend, or even a sense of personal happiness to defend, Steve Rogers is just clocking in like anyone of us in our cubicle jobs. Rogers might think that it's more virtuous not to forget his devotion to Peggy, but he's the one ultimately being hurt by it, and that is ultimately hurting the world BECAUSE INDIVIDUALS MATTER. Socialism doesn't hold to this, that's why Bucky's face is covered up when we see him in the trailer: he has become, like Seneg in World War Z, an anonymous being, devoid of personal ambition (like Darth Vader in Star Wars, with his whole identity being consumed by the Dark Side like his black armor and suit). Even though love hurts and causes us pain, it reminds us of how human we are, and that reminds us of how human others are which strengthens our bonds to other people (consider, please, that after Black Widow tells Rogers about asking out the girl from statistics, that he jumps out of an airplane without a parachute; that's far more preferable to him than carrying on a discussion about going on a date with some girl he doesn't have an emotional investment in). The second political statement is POSSIBLY, as we have seen in some other films like Oblivion, that England (Peggy is English) is a dead ally because they have become so consumed by socialism, rather than capitalism. I don't know that anyone could love the English more than I do--being primarily from English ancestors myself--but this is an issue given the financial situation and political unrest in the country. That this is an accurate issue in the film--although the film will obviously develop Rogers' emotions and psychology more in-depth--we have the dilemma with Black Widow being Russian and Bucky being a "convert" to communism just as Black Widow (her through her father?) was a defector from communism.
Two opposite things have happened in the Captain America plot line: in the first film, Steve Rogers went from being the scrawny kid to the ultra buff all-American soldier after he received the injection; in the second story, Bucky goes from being a great American soldier to a communist assassin. Whereas Steve progressed, Bucky has digressed. 
Captain America: The First Avenger,... what a very humbling memory this is, and yet, this reminds us of why Steve Rogers was chosen: he was weak physically, but he was fearless in his heart (like Mike in Monsters University). Like Steve possibly forgetting "where he came from" and the true source of his strength, America faces the same problem today (I think we will see this in X-Men Days Of Future Past as well, which comes out not long after The Winter Soldier).
"I thought the punishment usually came after the crime," Rogers tells Nick Fury, and the reason this line is important (it might remind you of Minority Report) is, as Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky put it, "In America, you are innocent until proven guilty; in Russia, you are guilty until proven innocent." Dostoevsky said that even before communism hit his homeland, but The Winter Soldier makes a timely case because of how the NSA has spied, not only Americans, but also upon world leaders. "We take the world as it is," Fury tells Rogers, "not as we would like for it to be." This isn't the first time Rogers has been disappointed in the plottings of Fury and SHIELD (he found all those weapons on board the SHIELD ship in The Avengers and confronted him about them) but Fury illustrates the point we the audience are meant to get: it's not how the world is, it's how we ourselves are. Captain America isn't strong because of an injection, he's strong because of his heart, and that is true also of America (please recall in Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones, how the Japanese soldier is compared to the American soldier, but it's the American soldier who wins and gives the Japanese the compassion they so desperately need even though they didn't show that same compassion to America). Without American ideals, there isn't a single war we--or anyone else--can fight. Film makers promised us a political thriller, and we are going to get it! 
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The First Step Toward Oscars 2014: The Hollywood Film Awards

Why are the Oscars important, anyway? Well, to establish it, the Oscars are of great importance because film is to America what the Louvre is to France: our art, our collection of interpretations about ourselves and who we think we are, who we want to be and become, how we want others in the world to see us, how we see others in the world and where we want to go, etc., so there's a lot riding on every single film made--it might not seem like it at the time--but as a collective, films are the conscious of America, and Hollywood is the biggest producer of films in America. So the winners of awards means two things: that is the standard of film making excellence that has been set for the next year, and, secondly, that those who have won the awards are likely going to be in demand to make more films (nothing achieves success like success) so those are the types of films that are going to be made. Case in point: Robert Downey Jr., Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence have been named as Hollywood's most "valuable" actors. This means that more films are going to be made that can "tap into" those three actors, and all those films will be competing with each other to get their films made and those actors starring; for example, more heat and pressure will probably be applied to necessary parties to get the third Sherlock Holmes film made for RDJ, as opposed to, for example, if he hadn't been named; Jennifer Lawrence will be offered a greater variety of roles that she might not be offered otherwise to "cash in" on her marketability, which means she will be able to sustain--is she does a decent job of choosing roles--her reputation because the greater number of roles, the greater the average of income for those films should be. Let's face it, we all know that an ageing actress in Hollywood sees fewer and fewer roles, so this has extended the "life" of her career (please recall, she was the seventh choice for Gravity, a long list of much younger actresses were all ahead of her; this "award" of her value will help keep her competing with those younger actresses for roles). We will be discussing this topic again, but this is just part of the reason why the Oscars are important: movies help us to know who we are, and Hollywood is the gatekeeper of those films, and the Oscars promote the gatekeepers.
The 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala is mostly a Gala, friends voting for friends, which includes sympathy votes, support votes, popularity votes and pats on the back; in other words, it's Hollywood talking about itself and voting for itself and getting decked out for itself with no one else really paying attention but those in attendance. Case in point: Julia Roberts won the Hollywood Supporting Actress Award: the awards are given to an individual with no specific film tied to the award, just awarding the person for the person, not their work. But this, we can say, is Hollywood sentimentality exercising itself for itself.
So, why bother?
Sandra Bullock accepting her award.
 Well, it gives us an idea of Hollywood's mood: Lee Daniels, director of The Butler, won for Best Director; Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave, won for Best Break-Out Director. On the other hand, Monsters University won for Best Animated while Star Trek Into Darkness won the Hollywood Movie Award. So, what are we to make of that?
August: Osage County. Storyline: A family crisis brings back the strong-willed women of the Weston family to their Midwest home to face the woman who raised them, and their dysfunctional family. The film is scheduled for limited release on December 25, by the way, Monuments Men (George Clooney, Matt Damon) has been moved to 2014, sometime. Supposedly, the special effects were not going to be done in time for the original release date. Moving on, one reviewer wrote: " I don't think I'd call "August: Osage County" a bad film, but I'm damn sure I wouldn't call it a great one" while another wrote, "without the humor, August: Osage County would still feature interesting characters and worthwhile subtext, but the ugliness would be too much to bear." Yea, looking at that poster, that looks like too much to bear, especially on Christmas Day, especially when that ugly film American Hustle is being released on the same day.
Hollywood recognizes the simple reality audiences have been experiencing the whole year: 2013 has been an epic year for film! I think there are going to be highs and lows, ups and downs and plenty of surprises the whole awards season (case in point: Tom Hanks is expected to have a two-point lead in the Best Actor category for the Oscars, for Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, but wasn't recognized at the Gala; big deal). 
Studios had high hopes for The Conjuring and audiences didn't disappoint: new to own this week, and you can watch/rent it on Amazon Instant Video, I received several emails from people saying they wanted to watch it again, so if you didn't catch it the first time around, it would be worth your while, as the film is done exceedingly well (it's always difficult directing children, and six children is even more difficult, but they do such a great job, you really forget you're watching a film). My next post is on the genre of horror films in general, and understanding the traditional devices employed in order for the film makers to communicate to audiences; two films we have all ready discussed will aid you in this forthcoming post, specifically, the film that tried to out-do all other horror films, Scream (please see Decoding the Decoding: Scream for more) and The Cabin In the Woods (please see The Cabin In the Woods: Free Will, Husband Bulges for more) because both films intentionally make the audience aware of how horror films work, what it takes to make a horror film and what it takes to survive a horror film so we will be discussing these and their takes on the horror genre.
I will be keeping you up-to-date on the awards season; why? Why not just cover the Oscars? Hollywood makes movies, but making movies is a business, and business must continue, they can't wait for the Oscars, so what they do, as time is money, even in Hollywood, is use the Critics' Awards from various groups to guess who has the best chances, and then they cast them or hire them to work on their pictures, getting them at a "lower price" before they win an Oscar, but hoping to profit if they do (because, of course, you can give yourself an automatic pay raise after you have taken home the gold statue, but that doesn't mean a studio wants to pay you for winning the Oscar).
Harrison Ford stars as Branch Rickey in 42, the Jackie Robinson story, which I loved. I a hoping that the Hollywood Career Achievement Award given to Ford signifies his chances for an Oscar for the veteran actor. We all know I am terrible at picking Oscar nominees, but I am also pulling for Tommy Lee Jones for Emperor, in which he plays General Douglas MacArthur at the end of World War II in Japan. I think Nicole Kidman has a good chance of picking up at least some critical awards for Stoker, as does director Park Chan-Wook. We have to keep in mind, however, that studios setting the bait to get Oscars for their films have intentionally withheld them until the late fall-winter so those films/actors are in the perfect position to capitalize on buzz the film generates and overshadow other films released earlier in the year, such as Stoker, 42 and Emperor. 
The awards were given as follows:
Hollywood Career Achievement Award
Harrison Ford

“Hollywood Legend Award”
Jerry Weintraub

“Hollywood Actor Award”
Matthew McConaughey

"Hollywood Actress Award"
Sandra Bullock

"Hollywood Supporting Actor Award"
Jake Gyllenhaal

"Hollywood Supporting Actress Award"
Julia Roberts

Hollywood Breakout Performance Award”
Jared Leto

“New Hollywood Award”
Lupita Nyong’o

“Hollywood Spotlight Award Presented By Dodge”
Michael B. Jordan, Sophie Nelisse, David Oyelowo

“Hollywood Breakout Director Award”
Steve McQueen

“Hollywood Director Award”
Lee Daniels

“Hollywood Producers Award”
Michael DeLuca

“Hollywood Screenwriter Award”

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater

“Hollywood Visual Effects Award”
John Knoll, “Pacific Rim”

“Hollywood Animation Award”

Dan Scanlon, “Monsters University”

“Hollywood Ensemble Acting Award”

Cast of “August: Osage County” including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, and Misty Upham

“Hollywood Song Award”
Coldplay - “Atlas” from the film “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

“Hollywood Costume and Production Design Award
Michael Wilkinson, Judy Becker

Hollywood Movie Award

Star Trek: Into Darkness

First and foremost, ALL THE AWARDS that will be given out are PUBLICITY: the covers for STID might not say, Winner Of the Hollywood Movie Award, but it has positive consequences for the franchise, as does winning any award for any film. For big-budget action flicks like Star Trek Into Darkness, The Avengers and Skyfall, winning critical awards is beyond awesome; why? By demonstrating that a "formula film" can achieve something more on the level of the sublime, it not only enhances the talents of the participating film makers--they did what is considered to be "the impossible" in Hollywood, making an action-thriller that "means something" and "says something"--but it increases the chances of getting really talented film makers to work on future films by demonstrating that this is a franchise worth investing in, not only monetarily, but in terms of your professional reputation. When an award like this has been given to a film like STID, or Skyfall, the production studio(s) are willing to recruit the talent of directors like JJ Abrams and Sam Mendes because they can prove these are projects worth their talents; likewise, directors of this calibre can tell the studios they need to take "artistic risks" that will pay off (maybe by taking a character in a certain direction, or more daring editing) because the plot will benefit from it. Yes, it is all a self-feeding circle of talent and risk, investment and rewards, but isn't everything? 
On one last note, there is an important reason why an award like the Hollywood Film Awards (and other critical awards) DO MATTER: little films, aka, "indie films" probably don't have much chance for an Oscar nomination, but that doesn't mean those indie films aren't good nor important. If they have an award, such as this one, when those film makers want to make future films, they have some glitter on their resume showing that they can achieve a standard of film making that captures an audience (because the point of making a film is that people are going to see it) so, the films and winners of awards like these might not have instant success, but attaining such an accolade does give them the hope of a continued career in the film industry.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Up Next

Due out in April, the newest poster for Captain America: Winter Soldier shows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) getting ready to jump out of the bay area of a cargo plane, "looking down" on Washington DC (the Washington Monument is near his right hand). Just try and tell me this one isn't going to be political,... The first teaser trailer comes out this Thursday, so I will post it ASAP and we will be sure to examine what is going on! The main plot line is that Bucky, Steve's friend from World War II, became a Soviet--as in communist--assassin while Steve was frozen at the bottom of the ocean, and now Steve has to fight his best friend in modern day Washington as he turns around and finds a new villain lurking in every corner. This will be Robert Redford's first time in a super-hero film, and it's my personal prophecy that he is a double-agent and actually working for the Soviets, who are no longer Soviets,... please remember, Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, is also Russian, and she's the primary force helping Steve, so all the various lines of analysis we have been keeping track of regarding Russia's political identity today (is Russia capitalist or still communist?) will bear fruit in this film.
I think we are all kind of burned-out on the capitalism-socialism critiques, so even though I am so far behind, let's just take a break and do something topical--this is October and countless theaters are hosting "oldies but goodies" for Halloween vintage viewing--but also fun and just totally different. Before Evil Dead came out this summer, Yahoo movies posted this article on what not to do if you find yourself in a horror film.  The horror genre is full of devices and codes that horror fans recognize when they see it--like someone running for their life and then tripping over something--but they haven't articulated WHY that belongs in a horror film and why it "fits" in the plot; but we will. 
Why is this image of Michael Myers from Halloween scary? We will do in-depth analysis on Michael's mask--very impressive for a villain--and this image in particular. What is so important about horror films is, they are incredibly rigid and moral worlds: in other words, if a film maker REALLY wants to get a point across about something, chances are, they are going to turn to the horror genre to make that point. However, numerous films will incorporate a horror-film device here and there without the audience really noticing unless we are paying very close attention, so even if you don't like horror films, the decoding we will be doing will have their rewards in other films as well, like Skyfall, Fast and Furious 6 and Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters.

When I was watching The Conjuring at the theater, and Carolyn Perron looked down into the dark cellar, I understood and knew why she had to go down there, but the lady sitting next to me obviously didn't, and she yelled out at the screen, "Don't go down there you idiot!" which made everyone laugh, except me, so she's lucky I didn't turn to her and bust a lecture on her right then and there,.... :( So, don't be the idiot sitting next to me at a horror film. Take a moment to read this funny article linked above and try to figure out for yourself why film makers do the things listed in the article.  
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oscar News 2014

And the Oscar goes to,...
There have been two bits of news regarding the Oscar Awards ceremony for 2014, when the Academy rewards the year's best films and actors: first, Ellen DeGeneres will be host; for this reason, I am boycotting the Oscars and will not be watching. The second bit of news is that the first in a very, very long line of award-submissions has begun, starting with nominees in the category of Best Foreign Film; a record of 76 films have been submitted for consideration as nominees for the prestigious Oscar (you can read the complete title list of all applicants here). Why is this important? First, it increases the revenue for that country's film industry because--knowing that film must be good or it wouldn't have been nominated--the potential winner has a far greater audience than otherwise, therefore, more people watch the film, which means the filming industry (be it great or small) gets quite a boost, especially in countries where film making has never really been a priority (such as Moldova and Saudi Arabia, who--for the first time in history--have made entries; Montenegro has, for the first time in history, made an entry as an "independent" country, and this is historically important for them because it emphasizes that the message and artistry of their film is going to have a specific/unique Montenegro flair to it that has perhaps been missing from previous entries).
The Iranian film A Separation was of  2012 won that year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. While many people, including my mother, thought this was a celebration of Iran's political rebellion against the United Nations (Iran was making nuclear threats against all its neighbors at the time of the Awards) and Hollywood celebrating Iran's militant Islamic against Christians and the US, Iran as a country does not fare well at all in the film and, if one didn't see it, one wouldn't notice the critique the film makers tried to "sneak in" through symbols and plot, but this is the purpose of art, to provide a means of communication and critique, and A Separation did that exceedingly well (for my review, please see A Separation: Sacrificing the Future).
There is, however and indisputably, a political overtone manifested by the Academy's final nominee choices: the films usually reflect a more international disposition to the film's home country than might be expected. In other words, while Hollywood tends to be more liberal than the mainstream, when it comes to international politics, the Academy tends to be rather conservative and more reflective of what the international community thinks (although, arguably, Hollywood doesn't chose the films because they reflect what everyone else thinks of that country, but the makers of the films themselves feel the same way about their country as the rest of the global village and that tends to come across in the final nominees because those film makers say it with so much passion and insight).
Amour provides an excellent case in point. From France, Amour totally undermines what most people think of France, and what people think the French think of themselves, but demonstrates a harshness towards the home country that would probably never come out in an American-made film about France. Amour won last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress. So, does this undermine what I just said about the Academy being more conservative in choice of Best Foreign Language Film? No, because as Anne's dementia and physical disabilities increase, it's apparent that she symbolizes France itself and her husband, Georges, the government that can no longer emotionally or financially provide for her care, which debunks the myth of a successful socialist state (especially given that a government figure recently condemned the drain of wealthy people to tax because the richest in France were leaving the country so they could keep their money,.... which is what capitalists have always said is what always happens). So, Amour basically teaches us that "there is a limit" to what can be given and expected from one who takes and never gives back (an entitlement society [as a Christian, I see the relationship in the film from the perspective of redemptive suffering for both husband and wife, but because of the ending, I think it's clear there is a political message; for my review, please see Without Music: Amour and the Morality Of Love]).
So, who gets nominated from this list of 76 potential films is imperative to the film markets and industry in other countries (if it weren't so important, the number of films being submitted each year would not be increasing) not to mention the artistic impact here in America (for example, I expect to start seeing more films imitate Amour's use and non-use of music because it adds so much non-verbal communication to the audience about a character's state of mind). The final nominees (not the short list, I don't know if they do a short list for foreign films) will be announced Thursday, January 16 for the 86th Annual Oscar ceremonies and I will be posting on all Oscar news as well as all those critics' circles that come up with their winners in hopes that someone will notice they exist (the Oscars air Sunday, March 2).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trailers: The Hobbit 2, Monuments Men (#2), Hercules the Legend Begins & Film News

I much prefer starting out with good news and happy thoughts. Here is the UK trailer released for The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug (filled with tons of new footage and moments) which, in a year of ultimate films (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, The Wolverine, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, etc.) is going to be at the top of this list:
Again, I promise you that before December, we will not only review JRR Tolkien's book The Hobbit (which is nearly done, but as you can imagine, I get off on tangents and can't control myself) as well as The Hobbit (film part 1 which is amazing; so, if for some accursed reason you have neither read the book nor seen the first part of the film, you have been given fair warning). This important note now: Benedict Cumberbatch (who played Kahn in Star Trek Into Darkness) not only played the role of the Necromancer (the shadowy figure at the mountain all the wizards thought was securely dead) but he also plays Smaug the dragon, yes, that's his characteristic voice you hear in the trailer talking to Bilbo. Why is this important? It's a technical device for linking up the two villains, that what is true of the Necromancer is also true of Smaug and vice versa (in the book, Gandalf leaves the dwarfs and Bilbo to go and fight the Necromancer while they fight Smaug, so we don't know if that will happen or not in the film, however, it does produce a nice symmetry between Gandalf and Bilbo both fighting the same enemy, but both using their unique character to overcome that evil). Now, on a sad note,...
Due out in theaters December 18, Monuments Men has a stellar cast and, an unsettling question: aren't all these actors basically socialists? Why would they be making an anti-Hitler film if they are trying to bring socialism to America? And that answer is so easy, it's disturbing: they think we are stupid. If the socialists in America tell us that Hitler wasn't a socialist, they expect us to believe it, and they are probably right (at least up to a point) because so few people are educated at all in history: Nazis aren't socialist, they might quip back, they are Nazis (but, in German, NAZI stands for the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party). What better way to make yourself look innocence--and distance yourself from your biggest blunder, namely, Hitler and Nazi Germany--than by making a anti-Nazi film. Socialists have one agenda and one agenda only: control. Which leads us to a bit of interesting information,... 
Sadly, Steven Spielberg is producing a new Martin Luther King Jr biopic that has Oliver Stone directing and Jamie Foxx slated as the lead. First they ruined Abraham Lincoln, now they have to ruin Dr. King. This is the pattern they take, though, socialists remake EVERYTHING in their own image by re-writing history, and they do it through art and the press, it's that simple.
Finally, someone is making a World War II (or at least, is rumored to be making a WWII film) that will be anti-Nazi: Michael Bay. After getting the fourth Transformers completed, Bay is in talks to make Sabotage (due out in 2016) about a suicide mission of Norwegians who set out to destroy Hitler's nuclear capabilities. In other news, Alex Pettyfur (Magic Mike) will be playing a gay hero, yes, homosexual, in Lee Daniels' (of Oprah Winfrey's The Butler film) version of a Mr. and Mrs. Smith with two gay men leads,... and it's an action film. Is it going to be intense living room decorating?
Am I being homophobic? No. We have been chronicling a detailed and deliberate attack by socialists against white males; why would they do that? Because, in any society where socialists want to take over, they target those who hold real power, in the case of America, that's the population of white males (there are many other power holders, this is America, but they are still the dominant ones). IF this film gets made, this isn't about "supporting" gay rights or anything like that, this is about undermining masculinity, plain and simple, that's all it is. Because the 6% of the American population that is gay, feels they have no one to support their quest for political power and recognition, they are willing to let themselves be used because they think they will positively gain from it in the end; they won't. They are being prostituted to drive the Christian majority away from their moral base, to divide popular culture and erode marriage; as socialists achieve these ends, so they think, resistance to socialism will wane, and they will be able to take over. Roles such as this "action film" are meant, just like Armie Hammer's wimpy portrayal of The Lone Ranger, to make white males look sick and weak, to mock them and therefore distance ourselves from them, like the Founding Fathers who were all white males (we see the same attacks made in the animated film The Croods). Just as we discussed the effects on Obama's popularity against seeing leaders like Captain Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness, and Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, so socialists hope that seeing George Clooney as an anti-Hitler hero will raise support of Democrats in the 2014 elections, and pathetic "male leads" like Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger will sway voters from voting for white males to vote for minorities who are more likely (so socialists believe) to be in favor of socialist reforms.
Here is a snippet of what to expect in Hercules: the Legend Begins (formerly, Hercules 3D, as opposed to the Dwayne The Rock Johnson version, which is coming out next summer, titled Hercules and the Thracian Wars). Please, please, look closely at what this clip shows us:
Yes, that's it, the ARENA.
Why is this important?
We know, in November's releasing of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, that Katniss (and I believe one other character as well) is going to try to destroy the arena in which the Hunger Games takes place (symbolic of the destruction of capitalism in general in America). Why does that matter? The Hunger Games series undermines competition--to put it mildly--but capitalism is built upon competition (for my original review, please see The Hunger Games: Hitler & America's Anti-Socialism for more). Films such as The Internship (Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan), Monsters University, 42 (the Jackie Robinson story), Battle Of the Year, Planes, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, etc., all support and uphold competition because it brings out the best in us (when competition brings out the worst in someone, it was always there to begin with, but the arena gives them a chance to self-destruct). In 42, for example, if it weren't for the baseball arena, where famed player Jackie Robinson shined, how could the Civil Rights movement have been held back because he wasn't able to contribute his part to overcoming those racial divides won by sportsmanship? Again, this is what is at stake with these films.
We have all ready discussed the Angelina Jolie 2014 Maleficent once (please see Maleficent Starring Angelina Jolie) but it appears the entire start of the film is being re-shot. First time director Robert Stromburg (set designer for Avatar and Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland) was given a whopping (!) $200 million budget, but Disney isn't happy with the opening so they have asked writer John Lee Hancock (Snow White and the Huntsman) to come and help with the re-shooting,.... funny, the worst part of Snow White and the Huntsman was the lousy writing. This doesn't bode well for the film, and--in proof of that--the opening date as, once again, been changed: originally scheduled for a May 2014 opening, it was then pushed to the summer blockbuster date of July 2 (for the big holiday weekend) but has again been moved to the more humble May timeline when it will be competing with X-Men Days Of Future Past. I doubt Disney is going to fare well with this film. From what is being reported, Hancock has re-written some scenes that have proven "problematic" but the story-line is still largely intact, which is why I am forecasting this to be a pro-socialist film.
Originally, we noted how Lutz's physique isn't really a Herculean-ideal, that someone like The Rock would be better suited to playing the famed strong-man (before it was announced that The Rock was doing a Hercules film); there could have been grounds for interpreting Lutz's less,... bulky body as a counter-cultural statement about how body-types are hyped in media, and that would be fine, but--has "Hercules" been "dumbed down?" It's just too obvious of an interpretation to see Hercules--rather The Rock's or Lutz's--as competing ideals of the American economy and political machine, and if you were deciding what America was going to be, would you see America as being strong like The Rock or far weaker and, dare I say it, maybe even effeminate, like Lutz? 
I wish the first trailer for the film would have featured Sullivan Stapelton (above) more, so the audience would identify with him (his character was born in poverty but raised himself up through hard work and study to become a leader in Athens and the hero of the war against the Persians). In this image, he's not as physically imposing as Leonides was in 300, but Stapleton also isn't cast as Hercules. We know from the trailer that all the actors therein uphold the masculinity we encountered in 300; why is this important? Two reasons: first, white males--traditional power holders in America--still have both the moral authority of the country (which socialists despise: capitalists appeal to moral integrity whereas socialists appeal to appetites, like sexual promiscuity, abortion, homosexuality, free health care, free cell phones, welfare and food stamps, etc.) and  white males still have the power to uphold that moral authority (the socialist petty attacks and celebrating homosexuality--like the Liberace Behind the Candelabra bio with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon--have not been able to damage nor discredit white males). But we can say, as well, that a film like Thor the Dark World or 300 Rise Of An Empire also threaten punishment and justice for those disrupting the political balance for greedy ends (it's not prohibiting minorities from sharing political power, rather, it's recognizing those who would shut-out others from being represented/taking away of rights and liberties). If you will notice in the image above, Stapleton's character wears a blue cape whereas Leonides wore red; why the change? The Spartans of 300 were willing to spill their blood (red) for love of country; Stapleton and this generation are willing to endure MORE than that, which is why his cloak is blue, symbolizing both depression and wisdom that he will be forced to gain from the struggles and war presented in this film.
This isn't mere speculation: Hercules the Legend Begins opens in May against 300 Rise Of An Empire and, I have to tell you, I don't think anyone could be happier than myself to see the Spartans making another stand. Before 300: Rise Of An Empire comes out, we will review 300 (I was looking for a reason to do it and this is it, perfectly!) but it's clear that King Leonides (Gerard Butler) and the other Spartans had imposing physiques because they had imposing moral standing: if their spirit wasn't strong, their bodies would have been weak; if they were not devoted to their political cause, they would not have been invested with the necessary muscle to fight the war they vowed themselves to. So what am I saying? In presenting us with a Hercules that doesn't resemble Hercules, we are being presented with an America that isn't America, and a character (Hercules) that doesn't have the will power nor the moral standing to uphold and inspire traditional American values and goals.  No one else is excited about Enders' Game, but I am really looking forward to this, and the confrontation and clash in this newest snippet certainly promises to explore important issues and 
We have seen several pro-socialist films target children because children generally don't have any material possessions nor social standing which will be lost if there is a socialist revolution like adults will (consider, for example, Moonrise Kingdom, The Conjuring, and several animated films like Ice Age 4 and Hotel Transylvania that reach out to children to "falsely alter" their sense of justice). Enders Game appears to honestly examine the clash between an older generation that knows they can't win the war (Harrison Ford) and the younger generation that doesn't quite understand what is really going on (Asa Butterfield). I have the very highest expectations for this film, personally.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--LOL, this is an international version of The Hunger Games Catching Fire, lol, I think it's funny!