Reefer Madness

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30th, 2008 by daflo05

I had mixed reactions about this movie. On one hand, I can see how this could have been effective in the 30’s, b/c it does address how scary the effects of being a pothead can have on someone. On the other hand, the overacting and the bad filmmaking gives you no choice but to laugh at the movie and take nothing serious from it. My mixed reactions on this, though, are reflective of Hollywood’s interpretation of narcotics in the United States – they see both sides. However, it seems that lately, the films released have emphasized the humor behind marijuana and other drugs. Seth Rogen-written films (Pineapple Express, Superbad) have used this as a vehicle for his movies’ successes. Unlike films in the late 70’s and 80’s that seemed to focus on the downfall of drug-users (take the Al Pacino-led films Scarface and The Panic in Needle Park), Hollywood has been glamorizing the pot-smoker. Whatever Hollywood’s stance may be, Reefer Madness is one of a kind and rarely does a film become resurrected by a cult the way this movie has.

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Born on the Fourth of July

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29th, 2008 by daflo05

I think comparing this film with Best Years of Our Lives is very appropriate. Both films focus primarily on the impacts of a soldier’s homecoming, emotionally and politically/historically.

While BYOL was a bit ahead of its time in addressing PTSD as a common and severe symptom of coming home from war, BOTFJ took it to another level and was expressed stylistically by Oliver Stone (for example, the scene where Tom Cruise/Ron Kovic was giving a speech and the sound of the baby crying led to the character reminiscing vividly and reluctantly about the war).

At the same time, Stone’s movie addresses the difficulties of coming home as a paraplegic. BYOL tackles that same issue but through a different character, but its implications are just as effective. Both characters go through humiliation, de-masculination, and fight through their respective relationship problems (Homer struggles to re-connect with his gf, as does Kovic with his high school fling and his family).

Another issue both movies do a good job of addressing is alcoholism. In these two movies (as well as many others), it seems that alcohol and drug use are prominent escapes for an ex-soldier whenever an attempt to forget about the war is needed. Fred in BYOL exposes his drinking to his family, and Kovic takes this to another level by going to Mexico and using his disability checks to finance his alcoholism. Of course, resorting to alcoholism affects the person and everything around them and exacerbates the life of the individual.

I thoroughly enjoyed both movies because they express the same issues, yet stylistically they are different because each movie is a product of its time. While this has an effect on how the director expresses these issues, in the end they are perceived virtually the same way: a soldier’s homecoming is not all parades and nurses-kissing-the-sailor in the street – the transition is difficult, for lack of a better term, they need all the support they can get.

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The Long Walk Home

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15th, 2008 by daflo05

By far the most poignant film we have seen this semester. We covered a lot in our class discussion, from differences/similarities in gender roles between blacks and whites, the specifics about the bus boycotts, and the difficulties of being a black or white person during this time period.

One thing I was hoping we would go into more detail, though, was the choice to have the film narrated by the Sissy Spacek’s daughter. Roger Ebert said on his website that the narration was pointless and it didn’t add anything to the plot or the emotional aspects of the film. I disagree with this. I don’t think you can get a more objective point of view, considering the time period. The daughter has no concept of race or discrimination. She only sees the love and care of her family and Odessa (Whoopi Goldberg). I find the daughter as a narrator effective because it allows us to be immersed into the shoes of Odessa and the mother, while also giving us the opportunity to step back and analyze the struggles from both sides.

The Long Walk Home was beautifully made, and did well with incorporating fictional characters into a specific historical event. Instead of telling the story of the main historical civil rights leaders (MLK, Rosa Parks), we got to see what life was like during the bus boycotts from one of the 40,000 people who protested it, as well as the whites who were caught between supporting and opposing the boycotts.

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Glory

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8th, 2008 by daflo05

My initial reaction to Glory upon finishing the film was that this was a powerful portrayal of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.  The movie does great in moving the story along with Robert Gould Shaw reading his letters and serving as a narrative.  Glory captures all the complexities of the situation, from Gould’s personal struggles with being in charge of the most prominent all-black regiment to the character division among the blacks themselves; from the battle scenes that convey the emotion of both the black and white Union troops to the blacks’ attempts to re-defining themselves; and how racism was used as both a tool for insult and motivation for the black soldiers.  While Gould’s letters to his parents serve as the primary source about this army, Glory is an excellent secondary account about the past that worked hard in creating the most accurate story for history-enthusiasts.

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Last of the Mohicans

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15th, 2008 by daflo05

Really?  Are we really supposed to believe Daniel Day Lewis to be a Native American?  A white person to be a mocha-skinned Mohican?  So much about this film distracted me from its intended purpose (which is to give, based on the adventure tales of James Fenimore Cooper, the most profound insight possible into the Native American-British alliance during the Seven-Years War).  There was poor acting, lack of continuity, some historical inaccuracies, and on top of that…it was flat out boring.

In class, Dr. McClurken gave a riveting blurb on his thoughts about the film.  One of his main points was how this movie captured the dualism that Cooper implemented in his novels, specifically the perception of the Indians (those allied with both the French and the English) as noble savages vs. evil savages.  However, I what I liked the most about his speech was his argument that Last of the Mohicans is more of a primary source for the time period (1990’s) rather than a secondary source for the 1700’s and the book.  What I felt he was basically saying was that the movie (and I am of course referring to Fenimore’s books as well) took a historical event, developed fictional characters, and created a storyline out of it.  The difference between the book and the movie, McClurken says, is that the film is a romance novel (for the 90’s) that was meant to deviate from the book.  I agree with him because I feel that his points correlate with my main point in my last post (about Pocahontas) that the film industry’s primary purpose is to entertain, and then educate (if necessary).  Unfortunately, Last of the Mohicans struggled to do both.

N.B.  McClurken made a very clever joke about the movie during his speech.  When he said the movie was a primary source for the 90’s instead of a secondary source for the book, he followed that that was like having George Washington throw out the first pitch of a Washington Senators baseball game in the 1800’s:  there was a GW, there was baseball, there was a Wash. Senators, and there was an 1800’s.  Hilarious.

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Pocahontas

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7th, 2008 by daflo05

So the first movie we watched in this class was Disney’s Pocahontas. Before last Tuesday (Sept. 2nd) I had not seen this children’s classic since I was about 8 years-old. I know I don’t have the most accurate memory, but I think it is safe to say this film provided a different perspective about Native American life than when I was a grade-school kid trying to sing-along to the lyrics of the popular soundtrack. Furthermore, it would be an understatement if I said that in class, we just bifurcated the movie into what was accurate about it and what they got wrong. We actually focused more on the inaccuracies and pretty much denounced Disney for their attempts at making a film about the English settlement in America.

One thing that gets me, though, is are we really justified in calling out Disney’s inaccuracies? What I mean is, was Disney’s original intention to tell the true story of Pocahontas, John Smith, Jamestown, etc.? Or did they just want to take two historically significant figures, develop a romance story between them in the context of a historical event, and make it animated so it’s targeted towards kids? If the former is true, then I think it is everyone’s duty as Americans to point out every minuscule flaw we see (even if it is outrageous as a talking tree). However, if the latter was the way Disney wanted to go, then we should think twice about our criticisms. After all, do kids really care about whether or not Ratcliffe was technically a captain of the ship and not a governor of London? I would think they were more concerned about Mikko being funny and cute enough and songs catchy enough to sing along to. I think it is great that we as movie-goers and history-buffs are keen and aware not to be fooled by a false story when we see one; but we should look at why a movie about specific historical event was made. Not everyone enjoys history, so movies are a great way to go about teaching it. Maybe the errors movies make were on purpose just so the film as a whole could be appreciated by a specific audience. Then it is up to the audience to delve deeper into history and find out its true story.

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