Jaynes Your Way

Here are my thoughts about films, life, and what not. If you don't like them I'll give your money back.

Son, you got a panty on your head.

29 September, 2008

I was reading about "Raising Arizona" so I thought I'd look up the trailer.


20 September, 2008

I was getting fairly disillusioned with film reviews, but I've found comfort in this quote:

"Criticism loses its edge if it avoids evaluation, though evaluation dissipates its energy if it becomes dogmatic." --Rob White, editor of Film Quarterly.

Montage? You mean collage, right?

15 September, 2008

(PS- there is some slight nudity, but its artistic and therefore doesn't count)

Don't really pay attention to the first part because it is merely setting up the clips that are about to be played. Montage is a type of editing technique. If you are a Soviet you subscribe to the theory that images collide and create meaning and so forth. Basically you are bombarded with a ton of images that are meant to convey something.

The images in this sequence start out easily enough. You know your home, mother, father... oh wait me? Um, how do you define that? Towards the middle of the sequence the speed of the cuts and the lack of order creates a loss of meaning, sort of. The images force you to think quickly of the relationships of what you just saw, but suddenly we are being confronted with the ambiguity that images have. There is the image of father, the paternal, but there is the image of father the abuser. And image of an America Flag on the First Limo cuts to an image of an American Flag at a KKK rally. Images can have all sorts of meaning, which is why the juxtaposition and speed in the center reveal Truth. Not from what the director has to say, but reaveals what the viewers is thinking or feeling. There is no right or wrong answer, just what you are.

#9 Is that a tire?

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)

This film is absurdly funny. I am big fan of funny writing, but “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” reminds me that films can be visually funny. I would try to describe some of the visual puns, but the images are funny simply because you can’t show how that would happen with words--similar to Charlie Chaplin films.

After the film finished I realized that there was very little dialogue. Jacques Tati, the director, relizes heavily on the slapstick humor. The story, which is merely the vehical to give us the comic situations, revolves around a small beach community of seasonal vacationers. There are no profound realizations about the characters or human nature, but that isn’t the point. It reminds me of the Goofy how-to shorts. We’re not really suppose to be learning how to fish. The how-to simply allows for Goofy to get into trouble by catching himself or a tree that acts as a slingshot sending flying through the air. We’re meant to simply enjoy the visual satire, it’s like a vacation from traditional films. Consider this the anti-thesis to “Juno” where all the laughs come from witty dialogue.

We need to bring back witty visual jokes. Writers have had to much fun, time for some one else to crack the jokes.

#8 What's in the bag?

14 September, 2008

Run Lola Run 1998

Many times a day I think to my self “ If only I had done ______.” I know--really hope-- that I am not the only one constantly questioning their actions. Movies tend to deal with “what if” plots because cinema can allow a glimpse at the possibilities of that answer through editing and other temporal distortions. “Back to the Future”, “Sliding Doors”, “Rashomon”, “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” to name a few. The cause and effect of our choices is similar to a binary search tree (to borrow a computer science term). Decision A leads to consequence B or C that has a two sets of possible events that weren’t available if we hadn’t made choice A. This structure is reductive, of course, but there is comfort in being able to narrow the course of your life to a single moment. “Two roads diverge in a yellow wood.”

“Run Lola Run” is a remarkable example of the seemingly subtle choices characters make effecting the rest of the narrative. It seems that Tom Tywker, the director and writer, couldn’t decide which story line he wanted to make make. Instead of deciding he, as the all powerful author, presents us three “what ifs” of the same situation, all with different endings.

In the beginning Lola receives a phone call from her boyfriend who casualy, at first, mentions he lost a bag filled with 100,000 marks. We see, through parallel editing, that bag, which is left on a subway car bench, is picked up by a homeless man( It really looks like that Geico Caveman makes a came.) The money isn’t his, but mobsters-- and mobsters never like to lose money they have rightfully stolen. Lola has 20 minutes to find a solution to legally attain the large amount of money before her boyfriend robs a grocery store to appease the mobsters. She literally runs to her father, a banker, and pleads for the money. He doesn’t give her the money and Lola doesn’t arrive in time to stop the robbery, which leads to her being shot by policemen responding to the robbery. Wait. What if she didn’t______. Rewind, start over try again. And we do. The same plot, sort of. There are subtle difference in the beginning that seem to snowball into larger effects as the second telling wears on. There is a little more hope that Lola will succeed this time, but events still conspire to kill someone. Game over. Go directly to Jail. Insert quarter for one more life to play. Go.

The third act, or telling, reveals the complexity of timing in movies and life. The same characters we see in the first two version are still in the second one and the hold ups that stopped them are removed and we see the difference it makes. Each interaction with Lola invokes a different reaction from them and a quick montage of what happens to them next. The final version is surprisingly complex, and more suspenseful even though we know what will generally happen. Watching this third take reminded me of Jeff Goldbloom in Jurassic Park. Ian Malcolm tries to describe Chaos Theory. He uses the a water drop on Dr. Sattler’s hand. He drops the water twice wielding two completely different results. Basically if we try an experiment, story, test --even with the same variables-- we’re going to have different results. “Back to the Future” sort of touched on this idea because Marty could never restore history or his life to the way the were pre-Flux Capacitor.

As the plot continues during narrative films the audience is given certain cues that leads us to a plausible ending. Audiences feel that these clues are contracts between them and the director, but sometimes this contract is broken and you hear moans about surprise endings or not-ending endings. Should there be a neat wrap up, or would audiences be content if something unexpected happened? More than likely they wouldn’t be, which is what you hear bemoans of predictable endings. “Run Lola Run” shows how you can manipulate certain story details to achieve the desired ending. So does endings reflect the desire of the director, or his belief of what the audience wants/needs/demands?

I have to mention the frenetic moving of the people and camera in this film. The film title suggests running, and Lola runs for most of the movie. The camera fluidly moves with her in a vain attempt to frame her in a traditional shot. When there is to much going on or people running towards each-other Tykwer utilizes a split screen, which, in the case, is really effective. I don’t like this term: “MTV style editing” because it adds a connotation of being unartistic-- sorry Lauren, Heidi, Whitney and Audrina. Yes the editing is fast and set to bumping techno, but it is also very artistic and stylized. It’s not fast for the sake of being fast.

If I was writing this as a review for the paper I would say something like, "Run out and get this movie," but I'll leave that decision up to you. You can run, walk, or drive.

Late night, hillarity ensued.

12 September, 2008

Every Thursday I have two film classes, which wouldn't be that unbearable, except that each class is four hours long. It makes for a long day. During Historiography--my second class of the day--we we're watching a smorgasbord of pre-1910 films. Surprisingly great, and some what provocative....Anyways, around 9: 30 we watched this short clip, which demonstrates film's original goal to simply show. Narrative be damned!

After this clip, in the fashion of early nickelodeons goers, a classmate yelled out, "was that Sarah Palin?" It's going to be a good semester.

#7 Am I on my feet?

07 September, 2008

On the Waterfront 1954

“On The Waterfront” is one of those movies that, for some reason or other, is always mentioned during any film discussion. Someone might mention Elia Kazan, the director, or the stars Marlon Brando and Eva Maria Saint. Many reasons could bring this film up in conversation, and rightly so. Pauline Kael, the cantankerous film critic, i.e. bitch--I’m really a huge fan-- said, “it’s a near-great film,” which is a pretty strong endorsement, from her.

Kazan takes the camera on location to the waterfront jungles of New Jersey for a gritty independent film feel. This is the world of the pre-Godfather mob, union run rackets, which are worse because they don’t protect their own but feed of the misery of the workers. At least Don Corleone helped his amici when they came to him.

Terry Malloy(Brando) is muscle for hire. He is an ex-prize fighter whose brother is the right hand man of the union president of the dock workers 347, Johnny Friendly. Every time a ship comes docks the men show up for a slim chance to do back breaking work. Mostly they aren’t picked because Johnny Friendly says who is picked and who isn’t. Terry is comfortable and protected which makes staying a hired man a high priority, but he is jolted into self reflection when he sets a guy who might talk up to be pushed off a building. The sister, Edie Doyle (Saint) runs around the dock yard trying to figure out the culprit, but runs into the D&D syndrome that plagues tight knit neighborhoods. D&D is Deaf and Dumb, which is the union fee that is required of all workers.

“On The Waterfront” is a easily accessible film because of the stellar acting, but there are many subtle meanings. Ultimately this film is about cages. Pigeons may just seem like a neighborhood hobby, but they are reflective of the dock workers under control of the union. Terry shows off his prize pigeon to Edie telling her that no other birds mess with him because he fights them off. He is kind of the roost. The pigeon becomes symbolic of Terry who will fight against the caging effect of the union. The movie is shoot in a very cagey effect so we fill what Terry is filling. Characters are always framed by vertical objects similar to noir stylistic. Even outside the characters have no where to go. The camera’s freedom mocks the audience and characters as it gazes on Terry, or any of the dock workers in the claustrophobic situation.

Johnny Friendly stoles keep in him power because they will rough up any trouble makers, but if the masses join together the few and Friendly and his stoles would be out of power. Everyone is scared for their safety. Apparently, people value their heads with out bash marks.

This film lives up to its reputation, and I understand why it won 8 Oscars. I can’t wait to bring it up in my next film conversation.

#6 The teddy bear has been compromised

06 September, 2008

The Nanny Diaries (2007)

A strange one to start back with, but I just watched "The Nanny Diaries." The movie had been sitting in my queue for the longest time because I am a Scarlett Johansson fan, but I am quickly realizing, sadly, that she isn't a very good actress. Her idea of acting is to look mopey and avoid eye contact, which will only work for so long.

The movie, which is adapted from the "popular" book of the same title--and reeks of The Devil Wears Prada-- follows Annie Braddock's summer immediately after college graduation. She graduated with a finance degree and a minor in anthropology, because they obviously go so well together. Annie, at an interview for Goldman Sacs, is asked the seemingly simple question who Annie Braddock is, which, of course, she can’t answer. The movie follows the typical post college searching for meaning in your life, or at least a job phase; though it doesn't reach the successful searching of Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate. I don't think the similar last names is chance.

Annie avoids anything her future might have to offer by taking the "easy way" out, a nanny job. The audience all sees the train-wreck that is about to happen as Annie's voice over narration of the first day on the job begins "I didn't really have any experience." There are some funny lines along the way, and some heart wrenching moments, but the movie tries to hard to bring down high living upper eastsiders. Maybe if we don't pay them any attention they will go away. The movie goes down the typical checklist of the ubber rich falts. It comes to the point that you begin to wonder is there something personal going on here? I’m not defending them, but you don’t have to have a six figure salary to neglect your child. It might even make it easier when you don’t have a job. Bad parenting needs to be the focus of the movies's scorn, which it becomes roundabouly at the end, but the story focus way to much on the over privileged lifestyle to make an application of lessons learned to those on other financial rungs all but impossible

The ending spends a lot of time wrapping up things how they should be, but end up further from the truth, or, at least, what we think should happen. I know happy endings are somewhat hard to believe, but didn't someone wind up unhappy? We don’t even see if the husband got his dues, but I guess we have to be satisfied that Annie has moved on, and so has everyone else to nothing that is particular important. Next.

The Final

All good things come in trilogies, right? Well here is my third and final I'm-going-to-start-writing-again writing. I know, you're thinking: "Chris we've read this before and you've broken our hearts." Well I am sorry, truly. I have been busy watching movies, finally starting class, and my job at the film archive so maybe I will have some interesting flicks to post about shortly (Hint: silent Hitchcock).


Oh, here is what I have watched since my last list:
The Caine Mutiny
Before The Nickelodeon
The Pleasure Garden
Good Will Hunting
Dazed and Confused
Billy Madison
The Man Who Wasn't There
LA Confidential
And the first season of 30 Rock