Exploring Film Criticism with a New Perspective

 

Initially, movies and film as a whole were a way to pass time. I never really analyzed what I liked about a movie or more importantly what I didn’t like, and why. This was until my first opportunity to look at film critically and think about what I am watching rather than just stare at the screen. Once I started to analyze the reasons I liked or disliked a film, my perspective shifted, and I was exposed to so many things I had no idea about regarding cinematic arts. Cinematic art was one of the studies that I just never really thought of until I was exposed to the detail and art behind film through critically analyzing it. However, I could not be more pleased with having been exposed to cinematic arts and changing my perspective on film.

Among the things that I was exposed to were some elements of filmmaking that I realized are crucial in my enjoyment of a film. Things like music, dialogue, visuals, and resolution I found to be elements of filmmaking that had to be right for me to really dive into the rest of the film. By realizing this, I was more critical of those aspects of a film and I could learn to appreciate different styles of filmmaking and using the elements of filmmaking. A great example of this was after watching the documentary about Mr. Rogers. The film had great music, dialogue with the interviews, visuals from Mr. Rogers life and career, and a resolution that I knew. The music was emotionally moving, the visuals of the animated tiger and past videos of Mr. Rogers incited feeling and described situations, the way that the people being interviewed were tied into the film and the resolution of his life issues. Were all aspects of that film that I enjoyed so much, but would not have recognized without the knowledge and skills I gained from exploring film and film criticism with a new perspective. Because of the knowledge, I gained in regards to filmmaking and criticism, I am able to think of films differently. A few of the new thoughts that I have from my new perspective on film and film criticism include pre and post-viewing thoughts. Before a movie, I like to think about what I might see, what I might like, and what draws me into a film based on the title or trailer. After watching a film, I think about what lived up to my expectations and provide a reason for why I liked or disliked an aspect of a film. These new thoughts and processes that I have found myself going through before and after a film could only have stemmed from my new found knowledge and perspective of film and cinematic arts as a whole. My perspective and knowledge of film and film criticism is something that goes beyond class and is a lifelong application of knowledge for someone like myself who enjoys watching films.

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Tombstone, To Die For

“Good, that’s real good”, the stunning western “Tombstone” is a gun-slinging film that’s very closely related to the true stories of Wyatt Earp.  The filming, acting, gunfights, and story are all classic western material. It all begins with Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan. They move to a town called  Tombstone, Arizona where Earp and his brothers plan to settle down with their families and retire from the law. While he is in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp is reunited with his good friend, Doc Holliday.

Holliday informs Wyatt Earp that a gang of some outlaw cowboys run things around Tombstone and are a tyranny to the town. Multiple confrontations lead Wyatt and Doc to the infamous meeting at the OK Corral. This has to be one of the best film shootouts of all time. Long black trench coats, awesome mustaches, cool cowboy hats, and the classic walk up the middle of town to have a shootout. Some good guys get hurt, and some bad guys die, but it just isn’t enough at the OK Corral from Wyatt and his men.

After Wyatt and his men get a leg up on the outlaw cowboys, the outlaws naturally lash back. After a few attacks and ambushes by the outlaw cowboys in retaliation, Wyatt Earp decides that the best thing for the people of the town would is to leave. They are ambushed on their way out of turn and in a great scene of determination and vengeance, Wyatt returns to Tombstone and vows he will kill each and every outlaw that threatens them and the town. One thing leads to another and in a classic western fashion it all ends up with the last bad guy and a good guy in the final gun sling. The final gunfight is full of oneliners you want to use, tense anticipation, and the raw and natural feel of the encounter you’re witnessing.

If you’re looking for a western movie that has tense and powerful scenes in classic western style. Along with gunfights, triumph, revenge, and justice, then “Tombstone” is the movie for you. Though the film fits a pretty run of the mill plot, and storyline, the film overall is still quality. The encounters with the bad guy, the emotion portrayed by the good guys, and the tense feelings just before the gunfights are portrayed with natural colors, lighting, and scenery. This just gives the whole film a more realistic feel and highlights its quality. It is the kind of western movie that has all the generic components of that genre, but they are all done so well that it is just a pleasure to watch. An A+ of a movie that is sure to bring you back to the wild west.

“The King’s Language”

The King’s Speech, is a historical and fact-based drama film that has some strong bouts of bad language, some drinking socially, and has quite a few “F” words used in a few scenes. However, the messages that can be drawn from the film are stronger and more compelling than the adult language and acting are. Things like winning over your fears, and realizing that there is more to people than might meet the eye, especially a public figure, can be easily taken away from this film. From a younger person’s perspective, King George VI and his severe speech impediment might not seem like the most thrilling movie for them. However, this film is not one you want to judge by its cover. “The King’s Speech” is an incredibly entertaining movie that comes from acting that just grips your attention. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush show emotion, struggle, and friendship through some incredible acting and conflict. The film begins with the future king and Duke of York, or as his friends call him “Bertie”. He is in line for the crown behind his older brother, and father. This is until circumstances far out of his control lead to his taking of the throne and all its duties. This is the inciting incident that reveals King George VI as the person he is, and the struggles he faced as king, and as an individual. As the new king, some of Bertie’s duties include speeches to the United Kingdom which we know is an issue considering his intense stuttering. Having gone to various different experts, Bertie has failed to find help with his speech impediment which leads him to his last resort of speech counsel, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The relationship that Bertie and Lionel form together include some of the most exciting and important character conflicts. So, in summary, what all do you need to know about “The King’s Speech”? This film is most likely for ages 14 and up. It is rated R, has foul language, adult scenes of casual drinking, anger, and real-life emotion. However, this is not in comparison to the A+ acting, life messages, filming, and movie as a whole.

280 character review: Colin Firth and Geoffrey show what acting of royal magnitude looks like. The powerful fact-based drama shows the life of a king, but more importantly, an individual. The messages you can take from this movie are as compelling as the acting. “The King’s Speech truly is a strong, gripping, and inspiring film we can all relate, and learn from.

The Pull of “Gravity”

“One hell of a ride”, Sandra Bullock took the words right out of my mouth. “Gravity” is a seat-gripping science fiction, drama, and disaster film all rolled up into one. Set in orbit around the earth, and on an American space station, this film will keep you wondering, “What is going to come of this”? Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), accompanied by rookie astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). Are tasked with repairing the Hubble telescope. However, veteran astronaut Kowalski’s remark to Houston “I have a bad feeling about this mission”, is an inciting incident to the danger they will face. While working on repairs, Kowalski and Dr. Stone are informed by mission control of an impending explosion of a Russian satellite. With little warning and time to react, the shrapnel hurls towards the team and the space station obliterating the station as well as the entire crew except for Kowalski and Dr. Stone. The damage knocks out communication with Houston and amidst the carnage, Dr. Stone is untethered from the space station, free-floating in space with little oxygen left. In a heroic effort, Kowalski risks everything to make his way to Dr. Stone so they can formulate a plan to get to a nearby Chinese space station. From this moment on they are stranded in space in a journey to survive and make their way home. Interestingly, that is the whole plot. Instead, this film focuses on the characters development and the situation they are stuck in.

Antagonistic at first, the wisecracking optimistic Kowalski who loves to hum tunes. Is paired with the uptight, all business, Dr. Stone, who finds Kowalski’s antics irritating. The two characters personalities conflict during their survival, and communication over their intercoms, but through each radio discussion and event they learn to like each other while also learning of past events that explain their respective personalities. Learning about Dr. Stone’s loss of her young daughter offers reasoning behind her personality. All while enjoying the comic relief and calm demeanor of Kowalski. Their quickly formed character relationship is summed up in a dream by Dr. Stone. Beaten down from the journey to survive and thoughts of her struggled past, Dr. Stone is guided to success by the sarcastic remarks of Kowalski’s and the character developing remark to Dr. Stone that “you’ve got to learn to let go”. The calm, joking personality of Kowalski is appreciated by Dr. Stone now more than ever

With little face to face character contact and only seeing their face. You might wonder what stands out about this film. The film shows epic colorful shots of earth beaming with light representing the yearning to go home, and the pitch black of the deep dark space that you can feel the characters fear. It’s a color wave of immense proportions that truly reflects the beauty and danger of space without actually being there. Pair that with seamless shots of floating in space and 3-D like action shots that burst out at you in a proper zero-gravity fashion, and you have an epic space survival film that is both thrilling, and beautiful to look at. “Gravity” is not an acting knock out, nor does it have a plot or storyline with immense complexities. Rather, its success comes in the focus on the relationship of the two astronauts, the allure and danger of open space, and the idea that one of these astronauts might not make it home. Leaving all factual space knowledge at home, this movie is not intended for those who chose to dissect each law of physics. Instead, this sci-fi disaster drama between two contrasting characters in a terrifyingly impossible situation is for those who seek pure visual entertainment, good character dialogue and development, and constant danger in survival. Worthy of appraising, “Gravity” is one of those movies you just want to keep watching.

Dazed and Amused

How do you remember high school? Was it agonizing, fun, or maybe confusing? However you might have perceived that period of life, it is usually regarded as the glory days. Days filled with boys, girls, hanging out, and exploring the adolescent aspects of life. “Dazed and Confused” is a film about just that. A movie set in Austin Texas in 1976, “Dazed and Confused” is a comedy that follows the lives of a large group of kids that drive around town in their cool cars, drink beer, smoke pot, and live a socially driven romanticized teenage life. Starting on the last day of school the teens are ready to get out and enjoy the first day of summer. The seniors are anticipating the future, but more so the incoming freshman. Waiting outside the junior high school the seniors are anxious to haze the freshman and welcome them to the high school life. Talks about a party, what to do after school, and how to avoid hazing consume conversation amongst the teens. Once school lets out everyone is out on the town. Aimlessly driving around smoking pot, drinking beer, hanging out, looking for the next party. Including a few stars like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. Each character is as involved as the last, all taking part in the fun and interacting with each other in the typical teenage fashion.

Contrary to the name of the film, there is no daze or confusion as to what the plot or meaning behind the film is. The plot isn’t just about the jocks or the popular kids. The nerds and socially awkward are seen struggling with adolescent life as well. “Dazed and Confused” offers a refreshing perspective on every facet of popularity and personality in high school in comparison to the typical high school love story about the hero who gets the girl or the nerd with potential. The characters and their conflicts are important in the film as they run into each other around town and are evenly introduced and talked about for a while, then it’s on to the next. However, not one, in particular, is the most important. Just like high school itself everyone is seen and talked about, people fight, love, and talk about life. But in the end, just like the party at the end of the film, it is a culmination of every personality and popularity that comes together to make up life itself. It’s a nostalgic lesson into what high school actually was. Though people had their differences and personalities, in the end, it was just a bunch of people with a common want to hang out and interact.

A very 70’s and radical film, “Dazed and Confused” is a great film about the life of a high school teenager of all walks of life. With no in-depth plot or scheme behind it, it’s just entertaining to watch the shenanigans and reminisce a bit on what life used be like back in high school. Whether you were a jock, nerd, popular, unpopular, or somewhere in between, there is most likely a character to latch onto and resonate with. Sprinkle in a few life lessons and minor takeaways about adolescent life and you have an A+ movie that is both funny, entertaining, and somewhat realistic into the life of a teenager. With the amount of cursing and drugs in the movie, it may not be for someone younger than a high schooler. However, if you’re looking for a movie with little confusion and loads of amusement, this is the one for you.

 

Stand By Me

Originally a novel called “The Body” by Stephen King, “Stand By Me” is a compelling adaptational film about four friends who embark on a journey together leading them to learn more about themselves than their end goal. The story is told and narrated by Gordie Lachance in his adult years after having read about a man stabbed to death in a restaurant. Reading this story Gordie is compelled by nostalgic feelings to write the story of when he had first seen a dead body. Flashback to Castle Rock Oregon around the late 1950’s. Twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance spends most of his time with his best friends Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio. Gordie is an insecure kid who lives in the shadow of his older brother Denny who died in a car accident in the recent past. Gordie’s parents are still grieving over Denny and overlook Gordie and his writing and storytelling talents. Vern is the dim-witted comic relief of the group. A little chubby and naive, he is still a part of the group and loved by the rest. Teddy is the crazy kid of their friend group. His father is a world war two veteran and violent towards Teddy which is reflected in his reckless actions. Last but not least is the leader and the cool kid, Chris Chambers, Gordie’s best friend. Chris somewhat bit of a father figure to Gordie and comes from an infamously troublesome family and sees himself as having a concrete future of being like his family.

One day while looking for a jar of saved milk money, Vern overhears his older brother Billy talking to his friend about the missing body of a local kid Ray Brower and its location. Having left to tell the boys, Vern fails to hear the fact that Billy and his friend are skeptical to report that they know the location of the body and instead decide to tell their friend group. Lead by the psychotic antagonist Ace Merrill, Billy and his friend group decide to go find the body. Kicking off their adventure, Vern eventually tells Gordie and the boys of what he overheard about Ray’s body. The boys plan a trip to find Ray’s body themselves and return it as heroes, while also seeing a dead body for the first time. Compelled by their delusions the boy’s adventure thrusts them into various trials and tribulations that test their individual personalities while also strengthening them and the group. While on the road to the location of the body Gordie and Chris’ friendship is strengthened greatly while Vern and Teddy’s comic relief and antics make the overall experience that much more memorable for the boys. Through each experience, each character’s strengths, weaknesses, and importance to the group are revealed. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Gordie and the boys, Ace and his friend group with Billy are inching closer to finding the body and it becomes a race that neither side is aware of. The race to the body and its eventual discovery leads to a conflict between Gordie and Ace’s group of friends. This final conflict between the groups shows the strength and loyalty of Gordie’s group as they barely make it past the wrath of Ace and his sadistic friend group. After finding the body and returning home the boys go their separate ways and you learn of their futures and who they become. On top of that, it is revealed that the man in the beginning who Gordie had read about which compelled him to narrate this story is no other than Chris Chambers.

Family Video Trip

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It has been a long time since I had been into a video store. When I was a kid it was an event to go to Blockbuster and pick out a movie with my family. Every weekend when there was nothing to do my brothers and I got the opportunity to roam around and look at R rated movies and see what was out there even if we couldn’t watch it. So, when I went into Family Video in Shelby North Carolina it was a bit of a flashback. I can remember a time when my family and I would roam around the store looking at all the different sections of movie genres, arguing about which few to pick out, and my brothers and I begging for a box of candy. Though I might not have always got the movie I wanted, everyone was able to find something they wanted to watch. This more recent experience visiting a video store was a bit different considering it has been at least ten years since my last time in a video store, and Netflix and Amazon type platforms rule the home video world. However, I found that the difference between my trip to the video store and scanning films on Netflix and Amazon is not what one might expect. The initial discovery or interest in movies I would like to watch is easy with an online platform because I can search for it. With a video store like Family Video, I got to relive the now archaic experience of looking at movie covers, roaming sections of genres, and finding movies I might not find online. This is the big difference for me between my trip to Family Video and using an online platform like Netflix. In fact, I preferred the ability to find other movies and roam around the store because it is easier to search for something in my taste rather than scanning the “most popular” section on Netflix. I found movies in the video store that I would never find on Netflix simply because Netflix doesn’t have it, or I have to go down some internet rabbit hole in order to find it.

The online platforms offer loads of movies without a doubt, but only movies that are popular with other people. It makes sense that Netflix, Amazon and other platforms would put those types of films there because they make more money from it and gain more interest. Though, this is the reason I think that video stores like Family Video still survive. Old movies, new off camber movies that I might not find online, and movies you know that you can’t find online are in the Family Video and I find that to be relevant to people today. Movies that come out on Netflix are either from the recent past, or the really big hits from way back, but that’s about it. Family Video offered entire sections of past and recent movies that cover the entire spectrum of possibilities, and I think that people still enjoy that. Not to mention the ability to ask the movie buff at the front what he thinks about it, and get some candy on your way out.

I really enjoyed going to the Family Video store. I found it to be a bit of a reminiscent joy to go through the aisles and pick up movie after movie and most of the time decide what movie I want to watch based on how cool the cover looks or the section I got it from. The movie store offers that kind of personal browsing and experience. It almost made it more enjoyable for me to go out of my way, roam around the store for a while and get some candy before I left just because I got to reap the rewards of my efforts in a sense. I think that there is a place for this old style of film selection and one that I hope doesn’t die, at least not in the near future. Sure, it is hard to beat the convenience of Netflix and Amazon, but just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it’s better. I like to compare this experience to my Jeep. A silly comparison I know, but my Jeep is loud, awful on gas, and the stick shift is a pain in traffic and super steep hills, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I could easily swap my jeep for some Toyota that is dead silent, parks for me, and does everything but makes me coffee, but I don’t want that. I want to hear the motor rumble, I want to switch the gears around as I please and feel the bumps of the road. Just like I don’t want to have a movie put in my face because it’s the “most popular” and I don’t always want to sit on the couch and press a search button. Sometimes, yes, but most of the time I would rather deal with the “inconvenience” of driving to the store and roaming around until I found a film just as I would rather drive my “inconvenient” Jeep. The easy way doesn’t always mean the best way and after my trip to the Family Video store, I was reminded of that.