Category Archives: IB Film Studies

epic and the Annoyance of ‘Fairy-tale’ Endings

***  Spoiler Alert!  ***  The ending of the movie ‘epic’ will be spoiled in this post.  If you wish to see the movie unspoiled (and I do recommend that you go to see it, it’s a cute and refreshing tale of adventure; if you like 3D, see it in 3D, I wish I did, it seems like it’ll be fabulous, especially in theaters), don’t read any further.  ***

As for the first part of this post:  epic was a great movie 😀  Sure it’s a kid’s movie, but it has humor that everyone can appreciate, and it’s nice to sit back and enjoy a good old-fashioned ‘epic’ adventure every now and then.  It was a very pretty movie, that’s for sure- lovely contrast between the greens and greys/browns in the settings.  The attention to detail (I thought) was superb- as were the special effects (I’ve always loved how animated movies can have great ‘camera’-work).  The plot, though childish in many ways, was layered.  And yes- I shed a tear.  It was this one line that got to me….  I’ll admit, sometimes I over think some things, but that one line had so much in it!!

Anyways, for the second part of this post- yes, I know that epic is a kid’s movie, and in kids’ movies, the main good characters that we’ve gotten to know through out the movie aren’t supposed to die and stay dead, unless absolutely necessary to the plot (Mufasa, Queen Tara)- but recently it’s seemed like movie makers have been wanting to up the stakes by letting characters be more mortal- Flynn Ryder for one.  He actually died in Tangled.  And then he came back.  Now, normally I’m not one to complain about movies actually trying to keep something relatively close to the tale it’s inspired by- but really?  Does no one see the beauty that can be found in the tragedy of death?  I mean, there was a moment while I was sitting in the theater watching Tangled and I thought to myself ‘oh my gosh, they’re going to let him die.  Wow.  That would be so tragic.’ and then he came back.  And that agonizing moment when you see a hero’s mortality just went to the dust and meant absolutely nothing.  His coming back cheapened his death, made it seem fake, almost as if there was no point.  To be fair though, I don’t complain about Beauty and the Beast….  Maybe that’s just because it wasn’t overdone back then.  Or I didn’t notice it as a child.
How this relates to epic:  okay, so Ronin didn’t actually die, but it was super unrealistic to have expected him to live.  And yeah, it would have sucked for Nod to have lost TWO father figures to the same evil, but I was totally ready to make my peace with that, and accept the tragic loss with all of its melancholic beauty.  And then he came up and said that he fought his way out of all of them.  Again, cheapening the moment, making it insignificant.  What is this teaching children?  That people you love can’t possibly die no matter what odds?
It probably won’t happen, but in a weird way I’d appreciate my heart being tormented by a children’s movie by having a proper death with no cheating.

National Film Registry

So, found out a cool thing today while looking at stuff on the movie Jaws. The Library of Congress has a National Film Preservation Board that chooses films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” to specially preserve. These films ‘are not necessarily the ‘best’ American films of all time, but rather…works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation.’
I just found this, as a concept, most interesting. I like the idea of having things specially saved for future generations to enjoy. Furthermore, after looking at the list, I’m quite happy with some of the movies that have managed to find a place: Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, Star Wars, Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, E.T., West Side Story, Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Sound of Music, Schindler’s List, Rocky, Groundhog Day, Stand and Deliver, and of course Jaws.

If you want to take a look for yourself and find out more: http://www.loc.gov/film/filmnfr.html

IB Film Documentary Ideas

So, I’ve already said that I want to do something about the revival of fairytales for my Film Documentary script.  This lovely morning of term break, when I was laying in my bed being a lazy slug and letting my mind wander, I had a little bit of a revelation.  There are three different types of fairytale adaptations in film: the type where the ‘fairytale feel’ is preserved (and most of the plot), such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937 Disney animated feature), the type where the tale becomes more goofy, or modernised, or both, such as 7 Dwarves (2004, original German title: 7 Zwerge) Snow White: the Fairest of them All (2001, British tv movie), and Mirror Mirror (2012 American), and then the type where the tale is made into a darker bold epic, with stunning special effects, such as Snow White and the Huntsman (also 2012).  Now, there are many many more movies that go in these categories, and there are sort of in-betweens that are possible (For example, I’m unsure of where the American TV Show Once Upon A Time would go.  Probably in the first category, though there is still a modern aspect to it half of the time.  Grimm, another American TV Show, is also an in-betweener.  It’s modernised, and darker, though the darkness could be argued as keeping the real fairytale feel, instead of the not-so-accurate ‘fairytale feel’ brought to us by Disney happy endings).  I was just using examples of Snow White adaptations, because it better illustrates how a single story can be retold in these different fashions, but other movies have done the same with other fairytales, the most prominent right now being Jack the Giant Slayer, out in theatres- cinemas- now, and is stylistically incredibly similar to Snow White and the Huntsman.  Most other Disney adaptations of fairytales preserve their happy ending ‘fairytale feel’.

So, to wrap it up, I feel more confident now that I’ll be able to have 4 different movies (7 Dwarves, Snow White: the Fairest of them All, Snow White and the Huntsman, and either Mirror Mirror or Disney’s Snow White), from 3 different countries, and have a starting place of something to talk about.  🙂

Les Misérables Movie pt. 2

Les Misérables pt. 2
**more spoilers**
So now other miscellaneous comments chronologically-
Again, this is all my opinion, my wonderful 0 readers are free to disagree. I promise I’ll keep it down to only a couple comments per song, so it hopefully won’t be as long as the last.
One of my favourite moments of watching Les Mis in the cinema (which incidentally is my one of my favourite moments of watching the musical live as well) was the moment you hear the first two chords. That moment when the anticipation of seeing the musical is brought to realisation. I absolutely adore helicopter shots in movies, and the opening shot of Les Mis was just…. Such a beautiful moment for me.
I’ve already doted on Colm Wilkinson, but again I’ll say I love the fact that he was the bishop. There’s so much symbolism in the fact that the original Broadway Valjean passes on the candlesticks to Hugh Jackman…. Ah so amazing!!
I think the camera work during Valjean’s Soliloquy was marvellous.
At the End of the Day was also really well done, except for the part where Valjean sings the lines in a different order an I get thrown off ;P
I Dreamed a Dream was very emotional, very moving, and the orchestration was simply gorgeous!!
One of the coolest things about Les Mis being a movie was how they recorded the songs, and they were able to change the orchestration. I also really liked the way they did Fantine’s death, with the shadow/ghost figure of Cosette there. Confrontation I really enjoyed as well, though I wasn’t quite sure why they took out Valjean’s last verse, except to emphasise Javert’s origin story.
So…. Master of the House…. Oh the Thénardiers…. The movie definitely took the Thénardiers up a notch. They were much more…. Everything. Much more repulsive, much more humorous…. However, it was interesting how much their relationship with each other was emphasised. Mme. Thénardier’s solo in Master of the House is normally her complaining to herself, or to the women guests of the inn. So when she started in with her bit, I was really confused as to what she was doing. Then you see she’s scamming the poor guy, and it made complete sense to me, it fits very well into her character to use anything and everything she has to get money off of someone. She also mouths ‘Love you’ to Thénardier, which I don’t know if is really in character or not. But I’m fine with it, it’s an interesting twist on them.
Suddenly is a very cute song, and I think it’s very nice, but honestly I think I would have liked a little more from the original musical than an entirely new song.
Look Down was extremely well done and put the entire revolution into context, which was very helpful.
Stars- now I’ve already said I love that song. And I loved the way they foreshadowed his suicide- I got chills when I watched it in cinema.
Skipping a bit- On My Own was spectacular, splendid, superb. 🙂
Love that towards the ending, where most people would tend to speed up singing (‘a world that’s full of happiness….’), Samantha Barks had a nice rit., which I thought brought out the emotion more.
One Day More- easily one of my favourite songs from the musical, I was most excited to see this one on screen. And I was not disappointed at all. it was wonderful to have everyone singing together, even from completely different places, different situations. I particularly appreciated being able to see Eponine prepare to go to the Barricade.
On that note, I appreciated that Eponine died protecting Marius instead of just from a wound at the barricade, even if that’s not what ‘really’ happened. It’s a nice change.
In Drink With Me, I liked that Gavroche sang the echo instead of the women around the barricade. I always thought the women were a bit random, and it gave Gavroche a pseudo-solo 🙂
GAVROCHE’S DEATH WAS SO SAD!!! Javert’s reaction to Gavroche’s death was interesting as well…. It added depth to his character unexpectedly. I still don’t know what to think about it.
My only comment on Javert’s suicide is that the unexpected sound of bones breaking when he hit made everyone in the cinema cringe.
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables- while the singing was beautiful, the film element could have been better. I was hoping for a ghostly/shadowy visual of Marius’ memories coming to life…. And I didn’t get it…. I can visualise perfectly the camera turning around Marius, and as it does so the images of his memories come to life (like those transitions where someone walks in front of the screen and the scene changes as they walk across, like a wipe transition) with Gavroche running through among the students, the camera follows Gavroche for a bit (with Marius staying in the shot, watching Gavroche nostalgically) until Gavroche gets back to Marius, and fades away, and the camera turns around during the climax, where all the images fade, leaving Marius completely alone. I think that would have been so cool, especially since it’s something you can’t do in the musical (in the musical the students and Gavroche stand at the back of the stage in white, then move steadily closer to Marius until the climax, when they go back to the back of the stage….). I dunno, they missed an opportunity there.
Finally, the finale!
When I first saw it, it came to the part where Eponine normally joins in, and she didn’t, and I was so in shock that she wasn’t there, I stopped thinking about the story. And then the Bishop came in and there were insta-tears. It makes much more sense for the Bishop to be there with Fantine welcoming Valjean into heaven, and it’s just…. The movie starts with a beautiful moment and ends with one, with many many beautiful moments in between :’)

And again this has gone much longer than I originally intended. I hope you enjoyed reading my opinion despite the length, oh my faithful 0 readers ;P

Les Misérables Movie!

Les Misérables Movie

**spoilers will be present in this post**

As anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, the first musical movie version of Les Mis was created!! In the US, it was released Christmas 2012, in the UK 11 Jan 2012. (And the poor people in France won’t be able to see it until late February 😥 I am so sorry, that’s just cruelty)
Of course, I saw it opening night, as soon as I could. Now, I am someone who has seen the musical both in NYC and London, has the CDs from the original Broadway cast recording, the London cast, the 10th anniversary concert, and the French version (which came out BEFORE the English- and no, I don’t actually speak French- yet) on her iPod, and has the 25th anniversary concert. Suffice it to say, I know that musical inside out practically. (Not to mention I’ve listened to an audiodrama adaptation as well)

First off, to anyone who complains about the fact that the entire movie is singing…. It’s an adaptation of a MUSICAL. A 3 1/2 hour long musical, throughout which there are probably only 6 spoken lines. If you’re going to see a musical movie, know what you’re getting into…. In the movie, they did cut a LOT of singing (the movie is only 2h 38m, they cut nearly an hour of singing!) and added several spoken lines. So…. Anywho.
I absolutely adored the movie!! Being a HUGE fan of books that have been turned into movies, and having studied film, I understand that things have to be adapted, things have to be changed to make the story work through a different media than originally created. One of the things I liked most about it is the fact that, while it was the musical, it was different, it was its own entity, which I think brings depth to the Les Misérables franchise (my mom also assures me it was true to the book, which is AWESOME. I really need to read the book…. That’s my one failing as a Les Mis fan….).

So first I’m going to run through my OPINION on each person’s singing/performance. (These are my opinions only, feel free to disagree)
Everyone- was very sad about the lack of long phrases. But that’s not a huge deal.

The Bishop (Colm Wilkinson)- WONDERFULLY MARVELLOUS!! So nice to hear Colm Wilkinson’s voice again! Wish he didn’t speak so many phrases when he was talking to the policemen though…. Ah well.

Valjean (Hugh Jackman)- now personally, I love Colm Wilkinson and Alphie Boe’s Valjean; that is, the deep, resonant voice of a man who’s seen pain, (not to be confused with Norm Lewis’s Javert, who has the deep, resonant voice of a man very firm and unmoving in his beliefs) and also a light side, that though high, is still very controlled and elegant and beautiful. I felt as though, while Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job, especially with the acting, his singing just didn’t capture the Valjean that I am used to and love so much. Bring Him Home didn’t have the same floating elegance, but sounded a little strained to me. Hugh Jackman, you did a wonderfully FANTASTIC job, I love your acting, and I enjoyed your singing, just not my favourite Valjean out of the history of Valjeans. Then again, that’s not a bad thing, you’re in good company. 🙂

Fantine (Anne Hathaway)- very wonderful, very moving. I love how she gave herself to the role so much, however, I get annoyed with fans because I feel like it became more of ‘look how much Anne Hathaway suffered for this role’ than ‘look how much Fantine suffered’. The singing was truly superb, one of my favourite renditions of I Dreamed a Dream. I am also extremely impressed with the ability to be sniffling, crying, blubbing words, yet still being very clear with your pronunciation (Hugh Jackman was incredible with that as well, but it’s more obvious with Fantine’s songs)

Javert (Russell Crowe)- I really don’t see what everyone else is complaining about his singing. I personally, in terms of comparing this cast to past casts, had more disappointment with Valjean than with Javert. Not that I thought Javert entirely lived up to prior versions, but I guess I was expecting more with Valjean. It also helps that there were moments when Javert had really deep notes that had what I would say would be that deep resonant ‘Javert sound’, and it was very calculated, and measures, which I feel is very true to Javert’s character. Stars especially was gorgeous, absolutely adore it. When it comes on on my iPod I tend to listen to it over and over again. 🙂

Eponine (Samantha Barks)- I LOVE YOU. SO MUCH. YOU ARE A MAGNIFICENT SINGER AND YOU DO A FABULOUS JOB WITH THE ROLE OF EPONINE. And thank you for having longer phrases than most of the rest of the cast! Wonderful performance!

Marius (Eddie Redmayne)- Loved his singing, loved his performance, just overall very good job. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was sung incredibly, it’s another track I listen to over and over again when it comes up.

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried and Isabelle Allen)- Isabelle Allen I thought did a wonderful job for being so young, very impressive 🙂
Amanda Seyfried I was very happy with, as the higher notes came up I started to get worried, however, she got the note (though it wasn’t held for very long). Cosette always has a very high voice, and most singers who do Cosette’s part have the ability to make a note sound high even if it isn’t. Amanda Seyfried continues this tradition.

Enjorlas (Aaron Tveit)- I was quite pleasantly surprised with all of the barricade singers, they were very impressive. Enjorlas particularly was very good, however that cut in Red and Black (from ‘don’t let the wine go to your brain’ to ‘we need a sign’) gets to me everytime.

The Thénardier’s (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter)- I’ll comment more when I talk about plot/movie adaptation stuff…. Here, I will only say- the singing didn’t disappoint, but it was slightly unnerving in Master of the House when Cohen’s voice would switch from having a strange fake French accent randomly to not…. I dunno, did anyone else notice this? And though first surprised by the difference with Mme. Thénardier’s solo bit, I enjoyed it.

Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone)- another very strong performance by a younger member of the cast!! Loved that there were more singing opportunities for Gavroche, and that they were done well! 🙂

And I’ve gone on for much too long. Look for pt. 2 to this post, coming soon!

Brilliant Movie Idea!

We all know there are movies that just better to see in theatres, and movies that as you watch the preview you think ‘eh, I can wait until it’s out on DVD to see that one’
But what if there was a movie theatre that only showed movies that are great to see in theatres? Not just the movies that are out now, but movies that have left the theatres, or been out of theatres for a while. For example, wouldn’t it be great to go see classics like Casablanca on the big screen? Or recent movies that you may have missed in theatres but then discovered would’ve been great to see in that theatre setting- The Artist, Hugo, Avatar, the Avengers LotR and the Hobbit…. Older movies that aren’t yet classics, but you weren’t alive to see in theatres- Indiana Jones, Star Wars, The Mummy, Titanic, The Matrix….
I think it would be a great idea. People would go to the theatre to see these movies, especially if the theatre was nice. Not necessarily nice in terms of being super up to date technology wise (though that would be helpful), but nice as in well taken care of, clean, good atmosphere, caring people running it.
I would love to put this idea into action…. It would be a fantastic 🙂
Anyway, here’s to dreaming 🙂

Fairytale Films!

So, as many Americans know, there has been a huge kick in fairy-tale related tv shows and movies recently.  Shows like Grimm and Once Upon A Time have become very popular, and there were 2 or 3 movies that came out just last year relating to Snow White (Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman….  I swear there was another too…).  These movies and shows are all putting new, interesting, and sometimes extremely modern takes on classic stories.  I personally, am very happy with this trend, as I have always loved fairy tales, and love hearing stories being told in new and original ways (but I despise the opposite, which is exactly why there is a certain books series that will never be mentioned positively in any way, shape, or form on this blog.  I digress, moving on).  So, as I’m finding such an interest in these new shows and movies and have IB Film class….  I’m hoping to do some research/project/writing on this trend.  However, one of the main things about the International Baccalaureate program is….  It’s very internationally inclined.  Go figure.  So anyways, the point:  While I know plenty of American films and tv shows that are fairy-tale inspired, I need to know of foreign films as well.  And technically speaking, I need British films as non-foreign films, because I’m in Britain….

Or I might not use this particular subject for IB Film, and just have fun doing this in spare time or something.  We’ll see what happens.  If you know of any Non-American fairy-tale films, please leave comment!

(For the record, the other ideas I’m tossing around for the IB project are looking at animated films and how they utilise techniques such as camera angles without actually having a camera, or how the classical world is portrayed through film.)

Musings on Short Films

Well….  Short Films.  The most complex thing about making a GOOD short film, is- well everything about it.  In many ways it’s a good deal easier to make a feature length film than making a short film, much like writing within a word limit is more difficult sometimes than being allowed to just write freely.  With a short film, you need to make sure that the pacing is flawless, that the characters and setting are easy to understand in such a short time, and that the plot is comprehedable without being completely obvious.  You need to be able to establish and relieve tension and captivate your audience, all in the space of 2-10 minutes (or however long your short film is).  Also, making sure all the mise-en-scene fits, that nothing is out of place is CRUCIAL, but something that can unfortunately be overlooked if someone just fails to pay attention momentarily to certain details of the setting, especially in short films made by students not in a studio.

Having already taken part in making a class short film in the States, I can personally attest to the difficulty of putting a film together.  Both the production and post production stages are difficult, each in their own way.  The filming itself can be tedious, and having to work with kids is sometimes not the greatest thing in the world.  Again, the attention to detail in filming must be spot-on.  If even the slightest thing is out of place, it can ruin the shot when the editors have to deal with it for continuity.  Post production also has to deal with details and intricacy in the actual stitching together of the film.  Especially if shots aren’t quite right, if noises come through that shouldn’t have, if there is simply not enough good footage, it can be an enourmous task to edit a decent short film.  The amount of effort it takes to make sure that everything matches up and makes sense, that the story is told correctly, with enough information to make sense, but without any extraneous information that may confuse the audience, is incredible.  It can take a half hour or even more to iron out a few seconds, and staying 3 hours after school everyday for a week is tough, even with good company.

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows is a French film made in the French New Wave era that we watched in Film class.  The movie is about a French schoolboy, and his troubles with the adults in his life, namely his teacher and his parents.
My personal reaction-  well, I’m not the biggest fan of the French New Wave.  One of the main things I did like about the film was the fact that there was the contrast of while he had problems with the adults in his life, he could easily make his way through life as an adult, that is, living without having elders take care of him.  The movie seemed to emphasise how little anyone, except for the main character, changes.  The teacher would always pick on the same students, the parents were never looking out for the interests of their son, his friend was always assisting him in causing trouble or causing trouble himself.  There was no real character arc for any character other than the main character.

With my personal rating system:

Entertainment value:   7

Well, It was a bit slow paced, and there was not a tremendous amount to the story, in my opinion.  Feel free to disagree on this.

Filmmaking value:   13

I did watch this in Film class after all.  It portrays the characteristics of the French New Wave.  Also, there’s one shot I personally really liked; when the schoolboys were doing the excercise, running through the city and slowly the group of students gets smaller and smaller as groups of three would just peel off and do whatever they want.  I found this shot particularly interesting because it was one continuous shot, that was really long and nicely done.

Classic value:  11

It is good to watch if you’re interested in the French New Wave, otherwise, you can happily live without having seen this movie.

In My Opinion….

First off, please note that basically EVERYTHING on this blog is ‘in my opinion’ unless otherwise stated.

Okay, moving on.
Movies can have varying levels of value in two different categories:

Movies that have entertainment value
Movies that have value from a filmmaking stance
Movies that have ‘classic’ value

For Example: On a scale of 1-20

Lord of the Rings Trilogy:
Entertainment: 14
Would be higher, but it can be a bit slow paced for those who aren’t avid fans of the series.
Filmmaking: 15
Props, costuming, make-up, use of sound etc- amazing.  The amount of time and effort put into this movie is astounding.  The scaling work is fantastic, the attention to detail is superb.  The sweeping helicopter shots do a beautiful job of making the most of the setting and set the Middle Earth mood.
Classic:  11
This movie series is too young to be classic.  However, I believe that it /will/ become a classic, and that there is value in watching it ‘just to watch it’; to get the references, etc.

The Mummy:
Entertainment:  17
Wit and humour interspersed with action, drama, and romance.  What more could you want?
Filmmaking:  13
Though there were some humorous, witty shots to match the tone of the movie, aside from the screenwriting, the technical aspects of the movie didn’t stand out.  Well, except for editing, which by not standing out is doing its job.  The editing helped emphasise tension when necessary, but didn’t distract from the movie overall.

Classic:  6
Just not a classic.  Though it does have a ride at Universal Studios.

I am really liking this rating system, so get use to seeing it.  🙂