Taking a Break

With the semester approaching its end, I must decide whether or not I would like to continue on with Origifilminality. Unfortunately, I will refrain from continuing this blog due to my pursuit of making films that, hopefully, others will write about in their blogs. But this does not necessarily mean it’s the end of the blog. Who knows? Maybe I will get back to this blog and keep it going if I feel the need that the film community needs my input on movies. So, instead of saying it’s the end, I would define this as more of an indefinite break. Although I will be taking a break, there are so many great blogs on film that are written by really knowledgable people. One blog that I highly recommend is Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys). These guys are great with their reviews and they have great taste in movies.

 

Who Likes Old Films Anyways?

Seriously, who likes old films? Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith, and Murnau. All colorless crap. No words too? How am I supposed to know what is going on?

Chaplin: the Hitler-looking, unamusing Tramp. His films are pathetic attempts at social commentary through dumb slapstick. And what does he sound like?

Keaton: “The Great Stone Face” or should it be “The Great Stone Head?” Not only because he was hit on the head so many times but his attempts at humor were truly saddening.

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D.W. Griffith: the greatly overrated silent filmmaker. Racist and pretentious. One of the first filmmakers to utilize the close-up so we can see the actors’ ugly, colorless faces. Thanks a lot. Huge, elaborate sets that were wastes of money. Thanks a lot.

F.W. Murnau: the “great” German filmmaker. Expressionism, Kammerspielfilms, and melodramas? Pick a genre and stick with it. Also, thanks for popularizing camera movements like tracking shots, pans, and tilts. You influenced filmmakers that now give me motion sickness.

This is why I’m calling for a burning of all old nitrate film. Let us, as a society, rid ourselves of these outdated pieces of junk so future generations won’t know about these. On top of ridding ourselves of old silent films, we can give the nitrate film to people who truly need it to stay warm like the homeless. We must have future generations know that the beginning of film started with the special-effects filled films of Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, and Jerry Bruckheimer. Because, who likes old films anyways? I DO.

A Single Story: Expecting Closure in Cinema

People who watch films in America (which is just about every person that I’ve ever met) can be extremely susceptible to falling victim to a single story. This single story of film is the acceptance of American cinema’s form of ending a film with closure and happiness. Most mainstream American films find themselves having a happy ending so that the viewers can walk away from a film without being able to meditate on what may happen to the characters and viewers are unable to make their own interpretation which, in turn, inhibits them from making the story their own. What about foreign cinema? Not so much.

In the words of acclaimed Italian filmmaker, Bernardo Bertolucci, “I left the ending ambiguous, because that is the way life is.” This quote sums up the type of thinking that many foreign (and some American) filmmakers have when creating their moving pictures. Ambiguity. No closure. Uncomfortable. Life itself.

Realism is so important to foreign cinema. These filmmakers want you to feel that you are watching real life unfold in front of your very eyes. Films such as Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Even some American films like A Serious Man, Mulholland Drive, and Blade Runner. These films make you think. These films have no closure. They beg for re-watching. They are life.

The denouement of American cinema takes away from the realism of life. It gives viewers the facade that life is supposed to have happy endings when we all know that is untrue. Life doesn’t always have happy endings. Life goes on. There’s good, there’s bad, there’s everything in between. That is why many American film-goers have such a hard time watching foreign films. They only know one story.

Move past the one story that feels comfortable. Watch a movie that makes you want to pull your hair out from thinking so hard about what happens after the end credits. Make your own story. Just know that it is not the only one.

To get a good start, watch some of these films that are referred to in the video below. You won’t be sorry.

 

 

True Journalistic Filmmaking

Andrew Jarecki achieved something extremely important with his 2015 HBO documentary miniseries called The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. He covered the life of real estate heir, Robert Durst, and the three suspected murders that he supposedly performed. Jarecki was able to interview Durst and get his side of the story before he was retried for the murder of one of his good friends. Jarecki paints a vivid picture of Durst through addressing his upbringing and getting Durst to speak about everything that happened.

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Jarecki did what few can do. He made me feel like I was talking with Durst. He made me feel like I knew him. He made me sympathize with him. I, like Jarecki, liked Durst. He was a “poor little rich boy” who never got the attention he deserved. He was misunderstood. But, unfortunately, he also was a murderer.

Jarecki painted this picture of Durst through six installments that all covered different areas of Durst’s life and the people around him. He made this miniseries with the suspense that documentaries rarely possess. It is impossible not to be on the edge of your seat as the series progressed. The dots started connecting. My opinion of him transformed from sympathy to disgust. Jarecki was fortunate to create this series before Durst was convicted. In fact, Durst was arrested for first-degree murder the day before the series finale aired. What could be better.

The final scene contains Durst admitting to murder while in the bathroom, unaware that his microphone from the interview was still on. One of the greatest endings for a film that I’ve ever seen. This was used in the case for his first-degree murder charge.

This is true journalistic filmmaking. This is making a movie that not only tells a story but has a motive. Although Jarecki’s motive for making this series changed as he uncovered more about Durst, he made something that was important. He is partially responsible for justice being served. He investigated and discovered things that authorities could not. Like Errol Morris did with The Thin Blue Line, Jarecki helped people with a film.

He exhibited that documentary filmmaking is more than just storytelling. It’s investigating. It’s creating. There’s always luck involved but it’s changing the world.

 

The Contemporary Relevance of Do the Right Thing (1989)

After the recent passing of extremely talented actor, Bill Nunn, I began to think back on one the most iconic characters that he played. Radio Raheem. The man with the boombox blasting Public Enemy’s sonically jarring protest song “Fight the Power.” This brief but powerful review of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) speaks of the film’s controversial nature and its examination of race relations.

As those who have seen the film know, Radio Raheem gets choked to death by police after a racially-fueled altercation with pizza shop owner, Sal. Although the altercation was defused and Radio Raheem was no longer a threat, an officer continues to choke him much to the chagrin of the onlookers. The profound relevance to race relations in modern-day America is startling since this movie was made almost 30 years ago.

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My immediate reaction upon reacquainting myself with this powerful scene was African American citizens are still being killed by police officers without having a weapon. Although Lee was addressing problems of the time with this scene, Radio Raheem’s death is more relevant than ever, especially since a man named Eric Garner was killed by police in an eerily similar fashion two years ago. What about the ones that didn’t receive the media attention that Eric Garner’s death did? This is what Lee was speaking about with this scene. The people whose unjust killings are not known to the masses. The ones whose deaths fade into obscurity.

Great films reflect reality. Although they may be fictional, they are factual representations of real life. This is why great films are timeless and visionaries, like Spike Lee, can create these lasting pieces of art.

Brightness in the Dark

The Bronx 1977. Buildings are burning down, gangs are running rampant through the streets, and Ed Koch is fighting to win the New York City mayoral election over Beame who has run the city into virtual bankruptcy. When all seems so dark, what can give the “city that never sleeps” a bright light of promise? Hip-hop.

This is what Baz Luhrmann is currently undertaking in a new Netflix original series aptly named The Get Down. The story surrounds a group of high school friends who are making their way in the emerging hip-hop scene. Does the series have a dark, dilapidated atmosphere that would be representative of the time? Not really.

How Mr. Luhrmann? How do you make such vibrantly colored sets and enable the viewer in recognizing the unrealistic backdrop of the city? Where’s the grittiness? Why do I feel that I’m watching an elaborate musical being performed on screen?

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Because he has a vision that I could not see at first. He is a man of musical theater. He creates well choreographed dance pieces with songs that makes one want to get up and dance. This is what hip-hop was. The bright spot.

When all was dark, a bright aura surrounded those contributing to the emerging culture. Kids got away from gangs. Kids wanted to make something of themselves the legal way. Hope.

The colorful sets and costume are the hope. The graffiti covered sets give beauty to the squalor. This is 1970’s New York. Beauty in the struggle.

This approach is a change from the typical darkness and dull colors that create the inner-city atmosphere in cinema. Only Baz Lurhmann. The man who placed Romeo and Juliet into contemporary times. The man who used hip hop to score the glitz and glamour of the Gilded Age of The Great Gatsby.

This is genius in cinematic approaches. Doing something different. Merging two things unalike and making them a cohesive ONE. This is originality in cinema.

 

One Perfect Place for Film Lovers

 

One Perfect Shot is a place that all cinephiles should be familiar with. It is a website with a great Twitter account that I greatly suggest you follow. The website is a database of the best “shots” from a superabundance of films. It is almost like a website full of pictures from films that truly makes one appreciate the mise-en-scene of a shot. Even movies that aren’t particularly good get their chance to show off their ability to make a wonderful frame of film. That is one thing that I truly admire about this website.

This website isn’t all just frames from movies though. It also has a ton of other things that any film lover would enjoy. It has a great section that is all about news in the world of film. Another section is various features that the website contains like videos on the art of video effects. Another feature is interviews with different people from the film industry and a section on what was just added to Netflix’s stream service.

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My favorite section of the site is its videos. These videos contain everything from essays to mashup trailers to fan-made trailers. One video could be an essay on the change of Japanese Cinema from Ozu to Kurosawa while another video could be Luke Cage transformed into an 80’s sitcom. The website also has an array of behind the scenes photographs and storyboards from films. It is a truly great and unique website. It is a website that a person can easily spend hours on without even realizing how much time has passed. You will not be disappointed.

Update: One Perfect Shot’s website is now included in the website Film School Rejects. Check it out!

Cinephiles Rejoice: Anderson and Day-Lewis 2nd Go-Round Is Official

Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis’s rumored film is official! According to Variety, Focus Features has bought the rights to the film that will team-up the auteur and 3-time Oscar winner for the second time. The movie is set to be based on the 1950’s fashion scene. The movie is set for a 2017 release.

I think that I speak for cinephiles everywhere when I say that this is amazing news. Paul Thomas Anderson has been one of the most (if not the most) consistent filmmakers for the past 20 years. Daniel Day-Lewis has nabbed the Academy Award for Best Actor three times in the past 28 years. On top of all of that, they are teaming up after Anderson’s epic masterpiece, There Will Be Blood, which won Day-Lewis his second Best Actor Oscar. It looks like Day-Lewis will be wiping off the oil and immersing himself into the flamboyant fashion scene of the 1950’s.

When people assert that cinema is dying, it is news like this that shows that cinema is alive and well. There are filmmakers, like Anderson, who are extremely skilled and keep a level of auteurism that distinguishes themselves from the crowd. Stay tuned as more information will come out and a better timetable for its release will be announced. Stay patient film lovers, it’s coming.