THEBIGSHAVE

Cinema, Nature, and Technology - Video essay - 

Soylent Green - Richard Fleischer - 1973

Articles cited:
"Environmental Nostalgia and the Tragic Eco-Hero"
- Robin Murray & Joseph Heumann

"Speculative Visions and Imaginary Meals"
-Jean Retzinger


fuckyeahjoedirt:

This scene makes excellent use of the dolly zoom technique.  As the camera lens is zoomed in, the dolly is pushed back, giving the odd visual effect of the foreground moving closer, and the background moving farther away.  By stylizing the shot this way, director of photography John R. Leonetti focuses the viewer’s attention on the expression of the four men as they gaze at Brandy.  The men stare slacked-jawed as Brandy approaches, and dismounts her horse. The shot makes it seem as if Brandy is “blowing them away” with her looks, and the effect of the shot is that the viewer gets this same “blown away” feeling.  The sequence is also in slow-motion, which gives the effect that time is slowed down as the men observe Brandy’s beauty.  Perhaps a comment that her beauty is timeless.  

While a very interesting and neat-looking visual effect, this scene is in essence a definition of the “male gaze” in cinema.  While the shot (and the whole film) are intended to be light-hearted, and humorous - this shot is ultimately objectifying the female lead (who does, later in the film, take on more responsibilities).  This shot is an almost cartoonish (think big eyes bulging out of a head) way of depicting a female character - four male characters stare down the sole female character - thus the audience has no choice but to focus their attention on her.  What makes this use of the objectifying shot in question so interesting, is that Joe Dirt is directed by a woman, Dennie Gordon.  Though I don’t know if this shot was Gordon’s decision, or the D.P.’s, or even the producers, I wonder what Gordon makes of this female objectification within her film.  It is a “Happy Madison” production, which is Adam Sandler’s comedy-producing company.  Female objectification is often the subject of comedy films, yet rarely they are directed by women, who would have at least some control over this content.  

I do think that Brandy does have a stronger role than just an object for the film, she is a much stronger character than Joe - and most of the men around her - she finds Joe’s parents, and knows that they are not good people.  Yet, this shot -  almost negligible were it not for it’s nice use of the dolly zoom, still relegates Brandy to being a visual object for the men.  I wonder if Gordon is aware of the connotations of this shot (I’m sure she hasn’t thought twice about it) but I still like to think, perhaps she is aware, and is commenting on the use of the gaze, as Brandy “stuns” the men before her, in a way giving Brandy power over them.  Or perhaps Gordon had no control over this shot, and it was just the result of a combination of countless elements; writing, photographing, directing, and producing etc. that govern a Hollywood production.  Nevertheless, this is an intriguing shot, and while Joe Dirt is just a simple Hollywood comedy, I find it interesting to subject it to more rigorous visual and thematic analysis than is necessary.


When Juno was released in 2007, it gained recognition, in part because of the unique new writing style developed by Diablo Cody.  While I do admire Cody, and some of her writing is appealing, much of the dialogue in Juno comes off as unrealistically quirky, or forced.  Juno’s use of slang is particularly hard to digest, as it seems far-fetched for a young Midwestern teen girl to develop a new vernacular, unlike that of current trends.  While viewing the film in class, it started to seem to me that Cody, or Fox Searchlight - Twentieth Century Fox’s “independent” sub-division - was trying, (too hard) to redefine contemporary teen slang.  What also became apparent to me, was that in addition to the use of the quirky slang, the film made oddly specific references and name-drops to certain “hip” and “obscure” elements of pop-culture; notably: 90s punk band The Melvins, 60s and 70s horror/exploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis, and, from the sequence in these two frames depicted above - a Gibson Les Paul guitar.  While the guitar is in fact a Les Paul, I do not understand the need for the specific name-dropping within the film.  The scene would have made just as much sense, (and flowed better, in my opinion) if Juno had simply said:"Uh… Whoa! You play guitar?"This line expresses almost exactly what Juno is saying with her line, but without the use of a specific guitar name.  The way that the scene is written appears to me to be trying to reach out, and appeal to a certain demographic - teenagers who play guitar, or are in bands, and would recognize the name Les Paul.  However, the line falls flat, because it feels forced.  
Upon viewing the credits, we see that “The Producers wish to thank: Gibson Guitars”, thus, it is revealed that this was specific product placement, which further proves the point that the film is not independent, and that Fox is receiving money from Gibson, or vice versa.  With this knowledge, the line is clearly “forced” as it it written specifically for the purpose of product placement, and thus, unrealistically represents the speech of a teenage girl who would actually be interested in the guitar.When Juno was released in 2007, it gained recognition, in part because of the unique new writing style developed by Diablo Cody.  While I do admire Cody, and some of her writing is appealing, much of the dialogue in Juno comes off as unrealistically quirky, or forced.  Juno’s use of slang is particularly hard to digest, as it seems far-fetched for a young Midwestern teen girl to develop a new vernacular, unlike that of current trends.  While viewing the film in class, it started to seem to me that Cody, or Fox Searchlight - Twentieth Century Fox’s “independent” sub-division - was trying, (too hard) to redefine contemporary teen slang.  What also became apparent to me, was that in addition to the use of the quirky slang, the film made oddly specific references and name-drops to certain “hip” and “obscure” elements of pop-culture; notably: 90s punk band The Melvins, 60s and 70s horror/exploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis, and, from the sequence in these two frames depicted above - a Gibson Les Paul guitar.  While the guitar is in fact a Les Paul, I do not understand the need for the specific name-dropping within the film.  The scene would have made just as much sense, (and flowed better, in my opinion) if Juno had simply said:"Uh… Whoa! You play guitar?"This line expresses almost exactly what Juno is saying with her line, but without the use of a specific guitar name.  The way that the scene is written appears to me to be trying to reach out, and appeal to a certain demographic - teenagers who play guitar, or are in bands, and would recognize the name Les Paul.  However, the line falls flat, because it feels forced.  
Upon viewing the credits, we see that “The Producers wish to thank: Gibson Guitars”, thus, it is revealed that this was specific product placement, which further proves the point that the film is not independent, and that Fox is receiving money from Gibson, or vice versa.  With this knowledge, the line is clearly “forced” as it it written specifically for the purpose of product placement, and thus, unrealistically represents the speech of a teenage girl who would actually be interested in the guitar.

When Juno was released in 2007, it gained recognition, in part because of the unique new writing style developed by Diablo Cody.  While I do admire Cody, and some of her writing is appealing, much of the dialogue in Juno comes off as unrealistically quirky, or forced.  Juno’s use of slang is particularly hard to digest, as it seems far-fetched for a young Midwestern teen girl to develop a new vernacular, unlike that of current trends.  While viewing the film in class, it started to seem to me that Cody, or Fox Searchlight - Twentieth Century Fox’s “independent” sub-division - was trying, (too hard) to redefine contemporary teen slang.  What also became apparent to me, was that in addition to the use of the quirky slang, the film made oddly specific references and name-drops to certain “hip” and “obscure” elements of pop-culture; notably: 90s punk band The Melvins, 60s and 70s horror/exploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis, and, from the sequence in these two frames depicted above - a Gibson Les Paul guitar.  While the guitar is in fact a Les Paul, I do not understand the need for the specific name-dropping within the film.  The scene would have made just as much sense, (and flowed better, in my opinion) if Juno had simply said:

"Uh… Whoa! You play guitar?"

This line expresses almost exactly what Juno is saying with her line, but without the use of a specific guitar name.  The way that the scene is written appears to me to be trying to reach out, and appeal to a certain demographic - teenagers who play guitar, or are in bands, and would recognize the name Les Paul.  However, the line falls flat, because it feels forced.  

Upon viewing the credits, we see that “The Producers wish to thank: Gibson Guitars”, thus, it is revealed that this was specific product placement, which further proves the point that the film is not independent, and that Fox is receiving money from Gibson, or vice versa.  With this knowledge, the line is clearly “forced” as it it written specifically for the purpose of product placement, and thus, unrealistically represents the speech of a teenage girl who would actually be interested in the guitar.


This still frame from Go Fish represents a recurring visual motif in the film.  The overhead shot shows the group of women (which slightly changes members each time), talking.  This motif represents that of the Greek chorus - a group within the narrative that describes characters and events within the story.  This group of women is constantly gossiping about the other characters, or discussing a particular topic.  I found this to be an interesting element of the film, as it gave depth to the action or the characters that appeared in the film.  There are many characters in Go Fish, and the “chorus” fills in smaller details about them that provide background for the audience.  Additionally, it shows how the group of friends talks about one another, which is not necessarily negative.  It just shows that these women are interested in one another, and that they care about each other. 
As a narrative technique, it is somewhat unconventional to see a repeating sequence like this.  Additionally, the shot changed slightly every time, as there was  one different character included in the shot each time.  
This technique added to the “independent” aesthetic that the film created, by utilizing age-old dramatic techniques in a new and unconventional way. View Larger

This still frame from Go Fish represents a recurring visual motif in the film.  The overhead shot shows the group of women (which slightly changes members each time), talking.  This motif represents that of the Greek chorus - a group within the narrative that describes characters and events within the story.  This group of women is constantly gossiping about the other characters, or discussing a particular topic.  I found this to be an interesting element of the film, as it gave depth to the action or the characters that appeared in the film.  There are many characters in Go Fish, and the “chorus” fills in smaller details about them that provide background for the audience.  Additionally, it shows how the group of friends talks about one another, which is not necessarily negative.  It just shows that these women are interested in one another, and that they care about each other. 

As a narrative technique, it is somewhat unconventional to see a repeating sequence like this.  Additionally, the shot changed slightly every time, as there was  one different character included in the shot each time.  

This technique added to the “independent” aesthetic that the film created, by utilizing age-old dramatic techniques in a new and unconventional way.


In this still from The Player, we see the crane shot looming over the film studio.  This monumental sequence is one uncut take, lasting about eight minutes.  In the scene, we see the lives of all the key “players” at the studio.  They are all busy and running around doing their jobs.  But, as they do this, their lives and work interconnect and overlap.  The single-take sequence allows this to be shown, as the camera seamlessly weaves around these people.  The shot parallels their work.  The camera is just a part of their everyday life, like the films that they work on, so it moves all around, recording as it goes unnoticed.
This is also a self-referential sequence, as the single-shot take is highly regarded in cinema as a rigorous and difficult shot, yet one that produces stunning results.  Within the shot, two characters discuss famous long tracking shots from classic films.  Altman was, and is considered a master of the cinematic medium, and this shot is his addition to those ranks. View Larger

In this still from The Player, we see the crane shot looming over the film studio.  This monumental sequence is one uncut take, lasting about eight minutes.  In the scene, we see the lives of all the key “players” at the studio.  They are all busy and running around doing their jobs.  But, as they do this, their lives and work interconnect and overlap.  The single-take sequence allows this to be shown, as the camera seamlessly weaves around these people.  The shot parallels their work.  The camera is just a part of their everyday life, like the films that they work on, so it moves all around, recording as it goes unnoticed.

This is also a self-referential sequence, as the single-shot take is highly regarded in cinema as a rigorous and difficult shot, yet one that produces stunning results.  Within the shot, two characters discuss famous long tracking shots from classic films.  Altman was, and is considered a master of the cinematic medium, and this shot is his addition to those ranks.


Leslie Harris’ film Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. presents a very personal story of a young black girl, Chantal, living in New York City, trying to make the most of her life.  The character of Chantal represents an often unheard voice in cinema.  From her, audiences are able to see a perspective that they would not normally get the chance to see.  We see the events from Chantal’s perspective, and she often breaks the fourth wall, and speaks directly to the camera.  
Chantal and her friends are not perfect, or always admirable. Nonetheless, they are extremely strong characters, and they are not afraid to speak up.  Thus, the viewer always knows what is on their mind.  In this still, we see Chantal and her friends sitting in the park, just chatting.  They are discussing sex, and they each provide their take on it.  As Melvin Donalson states, in his book Black Directors in Hollywood; “the girls discuss sex with both authority and misinformation…they share distorted facts.”(184)  The girls talk as if they know all about sex, and are experienced with it.  Yet, the reality is that they have much to learn about sex, and more importantly, its consequences.  Donalson goes on to say that: “The scene is humorous, authentic in its language, but sad in the ignorance of the streetwise girls.”(184)  This statement is a good summation of much of the film.  Many of the characters within the film project a confidence beyond what they can muster.  Many characters, especially Chantal, fall victim to their over-confidence, and lack of knowledge.  The case in point being that Chantal becomes pregnant, despite believing that she would never fall into such a circumstance.  Despite her situation, Chantal perseveres, and grows stronger as a result of the changes in her life. View Larger

Leslie Harris’ film Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. presents a very personal story of a young black girl, Chantal, living in New York City, trying to make the most of her life.  The character of Chantal represents an often unheard voice in cinema.  From her, audiences are able to see a perspective that they would not normally get the chance to see.  We see the events from Chantal’s perspective, and she often breaks the fourth wall, and speaks directly to the camera.  

Chantal and her friends are not perfect, or always admirable. Nonetheless, they are extremely strong characters, and they are not afraid to speak up.  Thus, the viewer always knows what is on their mind.  

In this still, we see Chantal and her friends sitting in the park, just chatting.  They are discussing sex, and they each provide their take on it.  As Melvin Donalson states, in his book Black Directors in Hollywood; “the girls discuss sex with both authority and misinformation…they share distorted facts.”(184)  The girls talk as if they know all about sex, and are experienced with it.  Yet, the reality is that they have much to learn about sex, and more importantly, its consequences.  Donalson goes on to say that: “The scene is humorous, authentic in its language, but sad in the ignorance of the streetwise girls.”(184)  This statement is a good summation of much of the film.  Many of the characters within the film project a confidence beyond what they can muster.  Many characters, especially Chantal, fall victim to their over-confidence, and lack of knowledge.  The case in point being that Chantal becomes pregnant, despite believing that she would never fall into such a circumstance.  Despite her situation, Chantal perseveres, and grows stronger as a result of the changes in her life.


Jim Jarmusch is a pioneer of American independent film making.  His films exude a hip, cool style, which is practically a cornerstone of independent cinema.  Often in his films, very little happens on screen, in terms of action.  Stranger Than Paradise is an excellent example of this.  As this shot demonstrates, the characters mainly just sit around, not doing much. They watch tv, drink beer, play cards, and converse with one another - that is - when they aren’t just sitting in silence.  In terms of film making, these elements do not add up to a very entertaining film, but Jarmusch finds a way to make his characters captivating.  The writing is solid - each of the conversations throughout the film are poignant, at times hilarious, but mostly just bland, everyday exchanges, followed by silence.  As Suarez states on page 32: “The tone of the film is deliberately flat”.  This is true in many respects: the dialogue, the cinematography, the sparse landscapes and sets, and lack of score.
Stranger Than Paradise could be said to fit into neorealist style.  It’s sparse production value, long takes, and limited action allow its “realist” style to shine through.  ”In a way, this is the apotheosis of Bazanian filmmaking, with filmic duration as the vehicle of epiphany” (Suarez 32).  This is Jarmusch’s (and other independent filmmakers’) style.  In part as a contrast to big-production Hollywood films, but also just because that is all that low-budgets allow.  Jarmusch filmed on the street, and in apartments, to give the film a stronger reality.  This helped to form the ideals of independent cinema.  By showing less, characters - and by extension the films themselves - could say so much more. View Larger

Jim Jarmusch is a pioneer of American independent film making.  His films exude a hip, cool style, which is practically a cornerstone of independent cinema.  Often in his films, very little happens on screen, in terms of action.  Stranger Than Paradise is an excellent example of this.  As this shot demonstrates, the characters mainly just sit around, not doing much. They watch tv, drink beer, play cards, and converse with one another - that is - when they aren’t just sitting in silence.  In terms of film making, these elements do not add up to a very entertaining film, but Jarmusch finds a way to make his characters captivating.  The writing is solid - each of the conversations throughout the film are poignant, at times hilarious, but mostly just bland, everyday exchanges, followed by silence.  As Suarez states on page 32: “The tone of the film is deliberately flat”.  This is true in many respects: the dialogue, the cinematography, the sparse landscapes and sets, and lack of score.

Stranger Than Paradise could be said to fit into neorealist style.  It’s sparse production value, long takes, and limited action allow its “realist” style to shine through.  ”In a way, this is the apotheosis of Bazanian filmmaking, with filmic duration as the vehicle of epiphany” (Suarez 32).  This is Jarmusch’s (and other independent filmmakers’) style.  In part as a contrast to big-production Hollywood films, but also just because that is all that low-budgets allow.  Jarmusch filmed on the street, and in apartments, to give the film a stronger reality.  This helped to form the ideals of independent cinema.  By showing less, characters - and by extension the films themselves - could say so much more.


The Big Shave
Martin Scorsese
1967 

This film - and my Tumblr’s namesake - is a very powerful short film, and a great example of American independent cinema, directed by one of the movement’s most prominent directors. Within its roughly five minute duration, we watch as a handsome man enters a bathroom, approaches the sink, and begins shaving.  He starts off very routinely, applying shaving cream, wetting the blade, and shaving his face.  But within few minutes he is bleeding, and the blood starts to pour and pour, until the man’s face, and the entire sink is covered in blood.  Finally, the man cuts his throat, and blood flows everywhere.  
So with all this gruesome imagery, one must wonder, why?

Well the film is really a very straightforward allegory for the Vietnam War.  A man who doesn’t necessarily need to shave, enters a pristine bathroom, and desecrates the room, and himself.  Pretty basic parallel - the U.S. enters Vietnam, destroys it, and itself.  

Scorsese, at such an early point in his career, has created an extremely simple, and effective short film capturing the feelings about the Vietnam War in the Sixties.  I think it’s brilliant.  And a clever title for a blog about American Independent Cinema. 


David Lynch’s Eraserhead is a film “to be experienced rather than explained” (Rodley 54). That seems to sum up any discussion of this 1977 surrealist-cinema opus.  Viewing the film in class I was able to pick up on more and more details that I had not noticed in previous viewings.  The film overall has themes that range from fear of sex and relationships, to industrialization in the U.S.
In the still above, we see Henry Spencer, looking bewildered, set against a desolate urban landscape.  According to Lynch, throughout the film, Henry “watches things - trying to figure them out” (Rodley 56).  Often, Henry’s visage match that of the viewer.  Henry shares our looks of shock, horror, or confusion to a given situation, while other characters - for example the X family at dinner, seem relatively nonchalant to the events.  While the viewer follows along with Henry through his activities, we are left trying to unravel the mysteries of what they mean.  The film is ripe for interpretation, and Lynch emphasizes that audiences should have different perspectives and different interpretations of films.  And Lynch often states that there are no “right answers” to his films, and he will rarely comment on what he thinks the “meaning” is to one of his films.  As Lynch says of Eraserhead, in a great representation of the film’s surreal nature: “I felt Eraserhead, I didn’t think it” (Rodley 64). View Larger

David Lynch’s Eraserhead is a film “to be experienced rather than explained” (Rodley 54). That seems to sum up any discussion of this 1977 surrealist-cinema opus.  Viewing the film in class I was able to pick up on more and more details that I had not noticed in previous viewings.  The film overall has themes that range from fear of sex and relationships, to industrialization in the U.S.

In the still above, we see Henry Spencer, looking bewildered, set against a desolate urban landscape.  According to Lynch, throughout the film, Henry “watches things - trying to figure them out” (Rodley 56).  Often, Henry’s visage match that of the viewer.  Henry shares our looks of shock, horror, or confusion to a given situation, while other characters - for example the X family at dinner, seem relatively nonchalant to the events.  While the viewer follows along with Henry through his activities, we are left trying to unravel the mysteries of what they mean.  The film is ripe for interpretation, and Lynch emphasizes that audiences should have different perspectives and different interpretations of films.  And Lynch often states that there are no “right answers” to his films, and he will rarely comment on what he thinks the “meaning” is to one of his films.  As Lynch says of Eraserhead, in a great representation of the film’s surreal nature: “I felt Eraserhead, I didn’t think it” (Rodley 64).