23 December 2011

Werckmeister Harmonies

Dir. Bela Tarr
2000

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Merry Christmas everyone.

08 December 2011

Young Mr. Lincoln

Dir. John Ford
1939

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The opening image's composition leads our eyes to the store made of logs in the background, recalling the story of Lincoln's own mythic birth in a log cabin in the woods. We are immediately cued in to recognize both the reality of Lincoln and his legend. The final shot shows an almost comical iconic image of Lincoln, top-hat and all, but portrayed with dignity ready to face the looming storm.

06 December 2011

Best Music List 2011

Hello All. Time to get back on the bandwagon. So, like I did earlier, I'll post my top music lists for 2011. It turns out that 2011 has been, like 2010 before it, a great year for music. I've found some amazing new artists and some of my favorite acts have released some great material. Don't know what it is, but I'm looking forward to 2012!


Top Albums of the Year:
1.     James Blake – James Blake
2.     Blanck Mass – Blanck Mass
3.     Bjork – Biophilia
4.     …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
5.     The Antlers – Burst Apart
6.     Bon Iver – Bon Iver
7.     Cant – Dreams Come True
8.     Adventure – Lesser Known
9.     Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
10.  Moonface – Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped

Honorable Mentions: Radiohead - King of Limbs, Panabrite - Frequency Bath II, Justice - Audio, Video Disco, Emika- Emika, This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket, Tycho - Dive, Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place, The Field - Looping State of Mind, Wolf Gang - Suego Falls

Top Tracks of the Year
1.     The National – Exile Vilify
2.     Moonface – The Way You Wish You Could Live in the Storm
3.     Adventure - Rio
4.     James Blake – Unluck
5.     Rustie – Surph
6.     …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Summer of All Dead Souls
7.     The Strokes – Machu Pichu
8.     M83 – Midnight City
9.     The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out
10.  Bon Iver – Perth/Rest

And for fun, here's some of my favorite music videos from this year:





01 September 2011

Wild Strawberries

Dir. Ingmar Bergman
1957

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We are left to ponder a life. Does the finality of that image haunt us or give us hope? Or is there a sort of hope in the knowledge that one cannot changed a life now lived? What emotion is on that face? Is it fear, pain, sorrow, satisfaction, happiness? I can't tell; but I think that when we feel it, we know.

31 August 2011

Lonesome Dove

Dir. Simon Wincer
1989


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Yes, it's a television miniseries; but one with extremely cinematic roots and imagery. Wincer, no slouch in compositions nor in recognition of the tropes of the genre, frames the beginning and ending of the entire series with very similar shots. Both are from the Hat Creek Cattle Creek Company side of the little gully looking onto the "main drag," as it were, of Lonesome Dove itself. Yet our perspective has shifted completely. We have moved from left to right, as if reading in a book.

An entire journey has been undertaken; thousands of miles and many dead left in its wake. The ending shot is beautiful, yes, but notice that we can't see the iconic saloon. When Gus died, did the saloon burn at the same time? What was one, without the other? And we ask that question of Call as he turns back and walks across the bridge. What is he without his friend? Yes, there was a "hell of a vision" that drove them on the cattle drive, but what to make of the vision now that the one who had it sees no more?

25 May 2011

The Thin Red Line

Dir. Terrence Malick
1998

I guess I'll go ahead and work through the rest of Malick's films in the lead-up to his latest, The Tree of Life.

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24 May 2011

The New World

Dir. Terrence Malick
2005

This is from the DVD (Theatrical) Cut. I'll post from the "Extended Cut" when I can get access to it.

Sorry for the inordinate amount of time I've been away from this project. In honor of The Tree of Life taking the Palme D'or this year I'll restart this series with one of my favorite all time films.


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Water serves an important purpose in The New World. We first see the "Naturals" frolicking in it. John Smith, similarly, attempts to cover himself with water as he looks up at the sky from his place in the brig. Later, John Smith has a violent confrontation with the "Naturals" that will eventually lead to his acceptance into their village while fighting in knee-deep water. At the end, Pocahontas explores her new world in England and frolics around a large man-made pond on the grounds of the estate. After her death, the camera moves across the great waters to return to the Americas. We see more images of streams, lakes and rivers all before finally looking hopefully upwards; almost an inverse of the opening image, looking clearly at the real image of tree and sky that were only reflected in the beginning.

07 April 2011

Favorite Music 2010

My Favorite Songs from music released in 2010

1. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire



2. known(1) - Autechre



3. What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way) - Wolf Parade



4. Rope & Summit - Junip



5. Anyone's Ghost - The National



6. Madder Red - Yeasayer



7. Airbrushed - Anamanaguchi



8. Ásinn - Amiina



9. Nobody's Perfect - Wolf Parade



10. Window - PVT

06 April 2011

Full Metal Jacket

Dir. Stanley Kubrick
1987

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Opening with multiple future-marine grunt's heads being sheared, Kubrick establishes his theme of de-humanization by the military machine. Over and over again in the film the individual is de-emphasized and punished. At the end, when all innocence has been lost (symbolically represented by the pre-pubescent girl sniper) all the marines march together, shadows against flame. They whistle the mickey-mouse club theme in unison. Personality burned away until they are perfect copies of one-another.

05 April 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Dir. Werner Herzog
2009

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Water has both a destructive and redemptive quality in Herzog's universe. McDonagh is symbolically baptized at the beginning of the film as he jumps into the water to save a forgotten prisoner. But this is not a baptism of purity; he jumps into the filthy, snake-ridden flood water of the Hurricane Katrina calamity. We watch as McDonagh sinks lower and lower throughout the film. In one of the first post-prologue sequences he chastises a fellow officer for using rough interrogation techniques on an informant. Several days later McDonagh himself deprives an old woman of her oxygen tank to get the information he wants. He sinks deeper and deeper. During the last act, as things miraculously fall into place for him, we are forced to question the veracity of the film. Are these coincidental events real? Are they simply the product of his drug-addled mind? No clue is given in the last shot, but we are reminded both of how far McDonagh has sunk and of his cleansing baptism in the muddy water.

04 April 2011

Stalker

Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
1979

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In honor of Andrei Tarkovsky's birthday; he would have been 79 today. Images from my favorite of his films.

17 March 2011

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Dir. Ken Loach
2006

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An image of freedom contrasted with a profound image of loss.

What has been lost during the Irish "Troubles?" Loach demonstrates the cost of the violent civil war that has ripped this family apart. A sense of innocence that can never be regained and a sense of freedom that can never again be found.

16 March 2011

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Dir. Jim Sharman
1975

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What does it all mean? What does anything mean? Sharman depicts the underlying existential futility of Rocky Horror by starting the film on a black screen. We're introduced first to a singular body part. And then those lips start to sing. He uses this image to foreshadow the utter ridiculousness of the plot while at the same time pointing out that it's actually quite a disturbing visage. Those red lips, white teeth, pink tongue surrounded by nothing but blackness. The film is a comedy, for sure; over-the-top in almost every way. But when he ends the film on a similarly dark screen, with only a glowing representation of our Earth in frame, you wonder what he wants the audience to take away. That life is both funny and disturbing? That life is both over-the-top and meaningless? Maybe that's the real horror.

15 March 2011

Solaris

Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
1972

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Tarkovsky is far more interested in Earth than he is in any form of outer space. The theme is reflected at the end in Kris Kelvin's "Island of Memory" home. Looking down just as gently; the horizon framed completely out, the island drifts along like reeds in a riverbed. The things worth remembering are those things that are tactile--just beneath the water.

14 March 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Dir. Carl Th. Dreyer
1928

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Starting with the hands that orchestrate her death, by the film's final frame Dreyer has fully implicated the dogmatic Church in the demise of Joan of Arc. The last shot is also a slow tilt up, the flames rising above the cross to empty sky, showing that, whatever her contemporaries thought of her, Dreyer shows she has a different destination than they had planned.

11 March 2011

Ponyo

Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
2008

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Starting the film with a frame neatly divided between the sea and what lies above, Miyazaki shows how his little Ponyo has progressed by the end of the film. A creature of the depths now risen (floating even!) above her place of origin. A journey undertaken that has now changed her on a fundamental level.

10 March 2011

Patton

Dir. Franklin Schaffner
1970

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Can you have your cake and eat it too? Patton certainly makes this attempt. A film about a hawk American WWII general who tells his soldiers that "Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American," but made during the height of the Vietnam protest, a war America was about to lose.

Who was tilting at windmills?

09 March 2011

El Sur

Dir. Victor Erice
1983

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Erice gives us extremely enigmatic images to open and close El Sur. A window, frame left, gradually brightens to reveal not a brand new day filled with possibilities, but the death of Estrella's father. Just out of frame at the end await Estrella's taxi to the titular south. Implied is that out that window lay opportunity that her father could never fully give her and even tried to hide from her. Only in his tragic guilt-ridden death could Estrella fully engage on her journey to discover him.

08 March 2011

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dir. Frank Oz
1988

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Here they go again. The object of desire located center frame. For these conning scoundrels, only one thing matters, and Oz makes sure to represent that right up front and re-emphasizes it again during the closing sequence. To the protagonists, the human figure represents not beings with souls and personalities, but simply the amount of jewels and money they carry--and can be scammed out of.

07 March 2011

Mother

2009
Dir. Joon-ho Bong

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Though the opening image of this film occurs chronologically towards the end of the film, it's amazing the shift experienced from beginning to end. The sedate, wide-angle camera movements and the slowly impassioned dancing contrast with the drive-by hand-held work of the end, with Mrs. Yoon letting go completely. Perhaps she is envisioning her dance in the field? Perhaps she's forgotten her sins completely? Or maybe not. These frames suggest all those possibilities and invite the viewer to contemplate all consequences of those possible iterations.

06 March 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

Dir. John Ford
1940

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Despite the positive note the film ends on with the "We're the people speech," Ford ends the film on with a negative image; a subtle inversion of the uplifting speech (reportedly added at the behest of the producer Darryl F. Zanuck). Where the film opens at a crossroads, implying at least a few possibilities, it ends with a bleak single path progression. Ford implies that The People have been so downtrodden as to have been denied their crossroads and only given one option.

A Brief Mannifesto

I believe in the power of the image. I believe especially in the power of the moving image. I believe most of all in the power of the image pieced together with other images to create meaning. I believe in cinema.

That’s my overly pretentious way of introducing this blog/project/depository of ideas. I’ve been somewhat exposed to cinematic criticism and my basic training has lead me to a few standard analysis techniques. The one that has been most rewarding has been the exploration of images chosen by the filmmakers. In particular, the images that the filmmaker chooses to being and end their work. The opening and closing. The alpha and omega. The First and Last.

I don’t find that this exercise always uncovers deep or inner meaning relating to the meaning of the film; sometimes it appears as if the images are completely arbitrary and pointless. But even that discovery has something to offer in respect to how a film can be viewed. How a filmmaker chooses to introduce his film and what he chooses to leave with the audience, whether well thought out or not, can reveal important insights into the process.

I have taken to study these images, the first and last, and find it incredibly rewarding, regardless of the quality or even value of any given film. I haven’t yet found online a blog devoted to this kind of investigation, so, here it is! As such, I should note what sort of criticism I intend to convey: as much as I feel like.

Sometimes I may simply post two images from a film.
Sometimes I may give details on how these images relate to the narrative.
Sometimes I may go into discussion for how these images relate to each other and the overall symbolism of the film.
Sometimes I may not discuss the film at all.

But rest assured; I will always present images.

Unless I decide to do an occasional post about music. Which is possible.

But, for the most part, I’d like to allow this to be a place where I can put up these pictures to demonstrate the power of the image. With that in mind, I may also occasionally post images from the film proper, though, in those cases, I’ll discuss the reasons.

I hope to post images from all manner of films; some perhaps more critically discussed and worthwhile than others; but always with the focus on presenting the power (or lack-thereof) of those images.

On the legal side of things, I intend to follow Fair Use in my posting of images: none of them are for my commercial gain and I only post to provide critical commentary that I hope myself and others in the film community will find uplifting and beneficial.

I hope that this can be a project that inspires others and myself and even engender some discussion. I believe in the power of the image and believe that through its examination, especially in this context, we stand to gain meaningful insights into the meaning of film.