Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just Leave Her, Jules

So, is Jules and Jim considered to be film noir, because if it is that explains why I did not enjoy this movie. At all. The storyline was so scattered, and the character of Catherine annoyed the crap out of me. Also, I couldn’t quite get my head around why in the world Jules would sit back, although saddened, and watch his wife sleep with other men, but not do a thing about it. Ridiculous.

The character of Catherine stood out to me most in this movie. This is mostly because I couldn’t stand her. But at the same time I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I was always watching for her next move. What would she do next that would be more unbelievable? She is impulsive and dies for attention at all times. This is apparent in the scene where she is talking about the wines and the 2 men are trying to have a serious conversation. I was thinking to myself, “SERIOUSLY? Shut up, woman. No one wants to hear what you have to say right now.” I guess I’m getting tired of all the weak, pathetic, evil, and now annoying females in the movies we watch. Not all women talk that much (although, I can’t say the same for myself). But what I originally expected out of Catherine was this strong, classy woman who couldn’t help but fall in love with 2 great men. Wrong. Those 2 men just happened to miraculously fall for the same unbearable woman.

The other part that stood out in the movie was the fact that Jules could just sit back and accept the fact that his wife was unfaithful to him. I felt so bad for the man, but at the same time he never tried to make the situation right. He never confronted Catherine about it, and even said he would allow Jim to marry Catherine so that he might have the chance to preserve whatever type of relationship he and Catherine still possessed. I would get so frustrated that he just let her walk all over him. Yes, I have feminist tendencies, but the guy needs to stand up for himself every once in a while. In the scene where Catherine randomly says “Catch me” and runs off in the middle of Jules and Jim’s conversation, I was hoping so much that the two men would continue their conversation and let Catherine run off and be bitterly disappointed when neither man tried to chase her down. Alas, Jules follows his heart, or his desire, and chases Catherine down. Actually, running seemed to be a common theme throughout. When the men first meet Catherine, they have a race on a bridge. Still, why can’t film noirs ever work out the way I want them to?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Guess I Am A Closet Emo

I’m slowly getting a grip on what this film noir thing is. However, in class last Wednesday I was hesitant to say anything when asked what modern movies come to mind that represent film noir. Because I had virtually no idea what constituted a film noir movie, I didn’t want to put up a movie and be wrong. I hate being wrong.

But now is my chance. I can put my movie up for nomination without fear of being shot down or seen as ignorant (which, in reality, I was). For modern film noir I nominate, ChicagoWhy? Because it has everything that constitutes film noir as described by my last post. The dark theme? Well, seeing that murder was in the plot of Double Indemnity, I would say ‘check’. The femme fatal? A sexy nightclub performer caught for murdering her adulterous husband and sister by the name of Velma Kelly, so, ‘check’. The already corrupted lead who only become more so? Roxy Hart. A wannabe singer who can’t quite break into the business but is willing to do anything to get there…‘check’.

Granted, I realize that film noirs usually do not have happy or satisfying endings, but Chicago does. The two murdering rivals collaborate to become enormous successes. The fact that film noir focuses so much on doom and gloom made me wonder how people could even want to watch the movies. Why would you purposefully choose to watch a movie that starts off in a bad situation when you know it’ll only end up worse? I would never subject myself to that over and over. But, I had to reconsider. I actually DO subject myself to that, only not through film. 

Much of my music is about heartbreak, or losing someone you love, having to say goodbye, or things simply just not going your way. One could characterize my repertoire as including a lot of the film noir of the music industry. Dare I say emo? Except it has more of a pop-rock sound to it. 

One of my favorite bands ever is The All-American Rejects, and just by looking at their name you can guess they write a lot about, well, rejection. Their first CD included lyrics like, “I know moving on is easiest when I am around you,” “You wish for love, you pushed me away. Your love for me was everything I need, the air I breathe,” “(Swing) Swing, Swing from the tangles of my heart is crushed by a former love,” and “Now we're too far gone. Hope is such a waste. Every breath you take you give me the burden’s bitter taste.” Basically every song but 1, possibly 2, is about a break up or having to let someone go. One track is even titled One More Sad Song. At least they realize their own trend. We can give them that.

So, I may not recognize film noir in film form. But I’m definitely an expert when it comes to depressing music. Not that I’m depressed, for anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m pretty much the opposite. It’s not very often that I don’t have a smile on my face (even the goat is happy to see me!). I have learned to appreciate what those sad songs have to say, and they are cathartic at points in life. Perhaps my affinity for sad music will transfer over and I can find a new appreciation for what is film noir.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Doctor and a Bloodhound...and a Cop and a Judge and a Jury and a Father Confessor All In One

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like what makes film noir is so specific, that it makes it hard to find sometime. In our class discussion after watching Double Indemnity, we discussed other movies that could be classified as film noir. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen any of the movies mentioned (though I had heard of a few), which made me doubt my ability to recognize film noir. Therefore, I was hesitant to voice my thoughts on movies that might be considered as such. So, film noir involves dark themes, a femme fatal, an already corrupted lead who becomes even more so. Why then is it so hard for me to recognize? Perhaps I see it, but then question whether it is truly film noir because I don’t believe I have a full grasp on the characteristics it entails. 

I agree with most of our class in that Mr. Keyes is arguably the coolest character in the movie. What attracts me to him was his wittiness, his ability to solve a case before anyone else, and his refusal to slip over to the dark side. Even lighting-wise, Keyes is kept pure; his office is always well lit, and his face never falls under shadow when he speaks, unlike the characters of Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson. He is a smart man, and has this gut feeling (literally) when something about an insurance claim isn’t right. I guess you can’t say Keyes in completely admirable. He deals with money, and his job is to separate the real claims from the phonies to prevent having to give away any more money than absolutely necessary. So, Keyes positive qualities are not built from his desire for justice or to help to common good, but rather to save his business money and earn him a bigger paycheck. But I’ll consider this excusable, especially when FURTHER corrupt people surround his character.

The character of Phyllis Dietrichson especially stands out in this movie, because her character introduces a new direction taken for female leads. Unlike female characters in the movies we have already viewed, who are desperate without a man, needy, weak, and beautiful, Phyllis is both beautiful and dangerous. The defining quality that makes her different is independent. Throughout the movie, as she woos different men and convinces them to do her bidding, she is planning on getting rid of them one way or the other. Ultimately, she plans to end up alone with a ton of money. I’m assuming the film noir era introduced us to the independent, strong-willed, manipulative females leads we have become so familiar with today. Even though I may not fully understand the constant sadness and darkness of film noir, I can thank it for bringing forth a stronger female character, even though during this period their morality is questionable. One step at a time, I guess. One step at a time….

Saturday, February 14, 2009

That Voice Inside His Head

In Play It Again, Sam, Allan Felix is a slightly neurotic divorced man determined to find love while listening to the ever-present voice of Humphrey Bogart to guide his decisions. What stood out to me during the movie was the constant stream of consciousness from Allan Felix’s thoughts that narrated the movie where there was no dialogue between characters. This is unique, because many movies do not let you hear the characters thoughts at all. 

I couldn’t think of a movie like Play It Again, Sam where the main character guides the direction of the film with his thoughts. However, in The Holiday (I guess this movie just fits with the theme of both my blogs this week), Iris Simpkins begins the movie with a monologue about love, her running thoughts about the different kinds of love, especially that which is unrequited. But she does not keep it up throughout the movie, and the only way we can understand what is going on in the heads of the characters is by analyzing their movements and decisions.

During our class discussion after watching the movie, I said that one of the traits Allan Felix admired in Humphrey Bogart was his inhibition. While pondering what I would write my blog over this weekend, I wanted to find a character who shares Bogart’s inhibition, who possesses a confidence and doesn’t care what other people think.

How perfect then that when I was watching ABC Family (yes, I do watch that station) an advertisement would come up for the movie A Walk to Remember. In one of the scenes, Landon asks Jamie, “You don’t care what people think about you?” Jamie responds with a confident “No.”

 I had found my character. Jaime’s confidence is what attracts Landon to her and causes him to fall in love with her, despite her telling him not to. Jamie is a quiet Christian goody-two shoes, who “sit[s] at lunch table 7. Which isn't exactly the reject table, but is definitely in self exile territory. [Who has] exactly one sweater. [Who likes] to look at [her] feet when [she walks]. Oh, oh, and yeah, for fun, [likes] to tutor on weekends and hang out with the cool kids from ‘Stars and Planets’.” Obviously the girl does whatever she wants, despite what is cool. And in the end everyone loves her for it. She shows that she can be cool and remain herself in the school play, where she sings “Only Hope”. Her confidence is incredible.

It’s too bad that Allan Felix has to have the voice of Humphrey Bogart guide his every decision. Perhaps if he possessed the confidence of Bogart or Jamie he would not strike out on love every time he looked for it. He does say goodbye to Bogart in the end, I’ll give him that. But he walks off alone, no girl, no friend, no voice in his head but his own. At least the movie will still have his voice to narrate. I’ll admit, I found his stream of consciousness amusing. It’s nice to know someone’s life is a little crazier than my own.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good Moring, Allan Felix?

Allan Felix is a WEIRD dude. There’s no denying that. But his idolization of Humphrey Bogart may not be as weird as it seems. We all have people we looked up to, or do currently, as the epitome of cool for our life. For me, cool is Katie Couric and the anchors on Good Morning America. 

I "discovered" Katie Couric about a year ago, when she transferred to CBS. I can't say that I listen to her necessarily, but whenever I see her on television, I am encouraged to try my hardest in the broadcast industry. I am a Broadcast Journalism major, so naturally Katie Couric inspires me. The woman became the first solo female news anchor of CBS weekly evening news. Talk about climbing up a ladder. Couric is cool because she did something no one else had done before. Even after CBS ratings fell after her initial move to the evening news, she still does not regret the choice. And she’s not afraid to ask tough questions…or keep asking them when they are not answered. Remember the disastrous Sarah Palin interviews

Other news anchors that are cool in my book are the cast of Good Morning America. I don't know when I discovered them, but I do know that I would LOVE to be an anchor on their show. They report what needs to be reported, but they have a good time too! I think it is cool when people can have fun at their job. The Good Morning America Crew got to go to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics and do their job! Traveling the world is incredibly appealing to me, and that job would take me everywhere. This is the same as Katie Couric, in that I don't really listen to the voices of the Good Morning America crew everyday, but what they do in their job everyday inspires me to find a job that is similar. I want a career that offers variety every day. I don't want to be stuck in a corner office with no windows filing files and staring at a computer screen. I want to be OUT there.

The anchors of Good Morning America are cool because they make their show interesting. I like to see people having fun, and because they can make mornings more interesting than a bland cup of coffee and overcooked eggs, they are instantly cool. Anyone who can brighten my mornings gets to be in my cool book. I also find the anchors to be cool because they are not afraid to make a fool of themselves. This goes along with that sense of confidence that cool people have; what makes you cool is not what you do, but can you pull it off? During the holiday season, the anchors put their faces on, and showed America. They did the Papaya Dance on live broadcast, and didn’t seem to care if they looked ridiculous. People like this are cool to me, because sometimes I find that I care way too much about what people think about me. The Good Morning America anchors are cool because they have a certain inhibition that inspires me to just be myself and have a good time.

Heck, Good Morning America invited Britney Spears to perform on their show. That takes guts. And bravery is cool, right?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beyond the Beast

It’s a nice thought to know that even ugly guys can get the pretty girls. And, for those of us of the female persuasion, that ugly girls can get the pretty boys. My favorite part of our class discussion Wednesday night was when we noted how that even though Humphrey Bogart is not the most attractive of men, he still manages to become the love interest of the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. Now that I think about it, there are quite a few unattractive men who make a name in Hollywood.

Often comedians are the ones to earn leading roles despite their lack in the beauty area. I think, Jack Black in The Holiday. He’s weird looking, but his sense of humor and sensitivity makes him an obvious choice. I mean, look how happy he makes Kate Winslet. 

It’s encouraging to see that Hollywood chooses to show true love between more than just beautiful people. But sometimes I can’t help myself thinking, “How in the WORLD did she get him?” Or, “she is far too pretty to be with that guy.” I guess the world is only being fair. Then again, many times, birds of a feather flock together.

The best depiction for me of loving someone for more than their outward appearance is my favorite Disney movie of all time: Beauty and the Beast. In the beginning Belle is terrified by Beast’s appearance, but she learns to love him despite his monstrous form (which he seems surprised about). She sees that he is caring, will give her anything her heart desires, and is willing to let her go when he needs her the most. Maybe these are the winners. For so long, society has saturated the media with advertisements, TV shows, movies and more with gorgeous guys and model-esque girls. Maybe we girls should be looking behind those baby blues for the man underneath, for the intellectual, for the comedian, for the father figure. When we do this, we find the prince inside. And by golly is he BEAUTIFUL. When I was little I didn’t find the Beast post-transformation to be attractive at all. But I watch it now, and I find him to be the hottest prince of them all. Perhaps when I was little, I had no idea what made a man attractive beyond his outward appearance. Perhaps it was the long hair. But, to quote the song Something There from the movie, there was “something in him that I simply didn’t see.” I guess true love and beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Here's Looking at You, Kid

I think he did the right thing. I think Rick made the best decision by letting Ilsa go. I had never seen Casablanca until last night, and it was everything I imagined it to be. Rick is one of my new favorite movie leads, simply because he seems to be everything admirable in a man. He is neutral when it comes to arguments, has relationships with someone of every race in the movie, is generous to others when they are in need, and does the right thing, even if it’s not in his best interest. Like letting Ilsa go. 

Something that struck me in the conversation last night was the comment that Ilsa is symbolic of Paris, of a different time and life, for Rick. And by letting her step on that plane to Lisbon, he was letting that part of his life go. Finally. Not gonna lie…she annoyed me. 

I understand that back when Casablanca was filmed, the leading lady role was that of the dependent women, an angel who no one could get mad at. This was early into the war, so the feminist movement hadn’t exactly come around yet.

 But the constant look of sadness? The single tear rolling down her perfectly powdered cheek? Her inability to make huge decisions that involve her for herself? The constant halo that surrounds her? It’s a little much for me. I have grown up in a time where women are looked at as more than a trophy wife. But, I still can’t understand how women could accept Ilsa’s role in this movie without a little disgust, when it was so…PATHETIC. Even when she pulled a gun on Rick, viewers can see that she won’t go through with shooting him. Rick even knows this. Perhaps I lack the ability to appreciate the early leading lady’s role. But if a woman is going to be in a starring role, I want her to be someone I would be proud to admire. I want a baller. I want THIS gal

Another thing that caught my attention was how war and politics invaded absolutely everything in the movie. The politics of “it’s now what you know, but who you know” were in the very rules of living in Casablanca. To avoid being arrested for some crazy crime, you had to be friends with the police. To get a ticket out of Casablanca, you had to know Signor Ferrari. To get into Rick’s CafĂ© AmĂ©ricain, you have to know Rick. War also is found throughout the movie, in more than just the setting around the characters. There is a war between the police and Rick. There is a war between Rick and his past. There is a war between Ilsa and her desires to be with Rick and her desires to stay with Laszlo. In one scene, 2 police officers have just left a conversation at a table with Laszlo, and one says to the other, “a very tactical retreat, sir.” War even invades their conversations. It’s not surprising, however. When a world war is being fought across multiple continents, it is nearly impossible to not have it affect some part of your life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cool Criminality Corrupting City Life?

Sex, lies and violence sells. This must be the mindset of the film industry, because lately every movie I see has an abundance of one or each. Worshipping the criminal isn’t a new fad, however. The movie “The Public Enemy” showcased the life of a mob man, a lifestyle full of sex, lies and violence. 

Although the movie establishes its goal as being “to honestly depict an environment that exists today in a certain strata of American life, rather than to glorify the hoodlum or the criminal,” it seemed to me that they did exactly the opposite. The way the film is shot, every scene encourages the lifestyle of the mob. Humor is thrown here and there, like when mobsters push a baby stroller full of alcohol down the streets or throw the flowers out of a flower truck to make room for multiple kegs. Even the swagger of James Cagney is mesmerizing and does little to deter the audience’s attraction to the mob lifestyle he leads.

 Because film often glorifies the criminal life, reality is beginning to reflect that admiration. Normally people would not react with awe to the story of an inner city drug dealer being shot 9 times. In fact, most would think, “He had it coming,” especially considering his surroundings and choice of profession. But give said drug dealer a publicist, a contract, and the liberty to make catchy beats full of curse words and sexually explicit lyrics, and you have a hero. I give you: 50 Cent.

However, the life of crime does not always end in success. The prominence of violence in movies, music, and video games does not reflect well into society. Lately, crime rates in cities have been on the rise. Thankfully, Arkansas’ crime rates have fallen slightly since the 1990s. Still, crime is always present. The city of Little Rock just reported its 8th homicide in the month of January. I don’t know about anyone else, but the criminal life is only interesting (in a rebellious sort of way) until it gets that close to the place I live.

The criminal lifestyle has slowly become intertwined with that of the thug. We expect rappers to live a life of luxury, full of dollar bills, expensive cars, and beautiful women. For us ladies, the option of being provided with whatever our hearts desire is nothing less than intriguing. However, criminality should not be worshipped. Even though Cagney’s character in “The Public Enemy” lived a life a luxury, his life ended prematurely in the hands of yet another criminal.

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