Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Western Journal: The Magnificent Seven

I'm posting some short entries from the journal I keep for a class called Wild Wild West. It's a film analysis class that centers around westerns, natch. Despite that, I think there are topics raised that can be of interest to anyone who likes to delve into film, regardless of their feelings about westerns in particular. I'm mainly doing this in the hopes that the ensuing discussions will help me generate a topic for the long paper due at the course's end. Please share your thoughts!

Naturally, as I write these for the class I write them with the knowledge that the professor has SEEN the films. That shouldn't always matter, however, to the ideas I bring up. You know me - always looking for the abstract angle.




I’ve often said that people who hate westerns don’t really understand what westerns are about (especially those who hate westerns but love Star Wars, a western in sci-fi clothing). Rather than just rustic, violent stories about men who work with steers, I see a reflection of most Americans' most flattering and untrue images of themselves.


In most westerns, you can find a variation on one basic theme. People are struggling for their lives, their rights, or both. They have to deal with their problems themselves; either there is no authority to go to, authority is beyond reach, or the protagonists are the authorities and thus are responsible for the situation themselves. In the western, the hero stands on his own two feet and makes no apologies for doing what needs to be done.


Americans are raised with that attitude to some degree. The little kid that runs to his mommy or the teacher every time there is a conflict is not respected by his peers. We all reach a point when help is denied in an effort to teach us self-reliance. Afterward, we pride ourselves on our ability to do things for ourselves, to take the bull by the horns. The frontier itself stands for such do-it-yourselfness. Anything a man had on the frontier, he had because he got it for himself.


On the other hand, that same self-reliant toddler likes to know that mommy is available when things exceed his ability to cope. Societies like that as well; few of us feel confident to deal with fires, floods, or armed maniacs without trained and equipped authorities to help. Religion by its very nature requires submission to a greater authority, even while simultaneously telling us that God helps those who help themselves.


Given that, it’s easy to see the appeal of The Magnificent Seven. As members of a developed society with 911 at our disposal, we can relate to the villagers, even if we don’t really want to. They need help with something that is beyond their means, and seek men who know how to deal with it. Sometimes, as we do ourselves, they distrust the same authorities they call upon. We can also, however, imagine ourselves in the gunfighter’s shoes where we would like to be – cool, in control, and capable. The one that people come to for help- the professional. The Magnificent Seven gives us both our reality and our fantasy in one neat package. In the end, however, it assures us that it is the villagers – the people who we relate to in reality, like it or not – who are the only ones to win.







Thursday, June 4, 2009

ST Reboot

I was satisfied with the explanation of changes to the back story. The canonical history is no longer canon and that's okay.

But is no one else bothered by the idea of a fresh Academy grad captaining a starship? Sure, he has talent and instincts. But without years as a junior officer making his way through the ranks, serving as mate here, captaining a smaller ship there, he is surely set up for career failure. Same for the others. That they all take their familiar roles bang out of school is a serious distraction from an otherwise quality reinterpretation of one of our current world's most enduring myths.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Farewell to One of the Funniest


Dom Deluise Aug 1, 1933 - May 4, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Priapus Productions Presents!

My favorite class this semester has been Technical Intro to Video Production, which is just what it sounds like - basic film making. I've really enjoyed the creative outlet this class has provided as well as the hands-on approach. I'm sorry that this is the only such class available to film minors, because I'd really like to expand on what I've learned.

Our first few weeks were spent learning the basics and getting into groups. No one in our group was experienced in this at all, so we had to figure out how to use the cameras (with no manuals) and so on and so forth from scratch.

We began to do one project a week. The first was simple Edison/Lumiere type stuff to show that we could actually point a camera at something and let light into it. The next few weeks were spent with exercises in different types of shots, different camera angles/movements, and various vectors. Most of them did not have storylines and the one that did isn't worth reviewing. In fact, I don't have copies of those early projects.

This film is the first one where nothing in particular was requested, but we had to show several things that we'd learned by then. We had one week to do it, and of course we all had other classes and lives, so the whole thing,throughout the week, was cobbled together over six or seven hours total. We did all the shooting in one afternoon, with few second takes. This is the second project where we had to edit, and the first where we put a lot of work into it. We not only edited the scenes together, but we also replaced all the sound with music and "special effects." We still were kind of groping in the dark, though, as will be obvious to you when you see the title!!!!! You see, while editing is essential to success in this class,it isn't actually part of the curriculum, so we had to figure it out with minimal instruction. Whee! It was fun and the professor was impressed with the progress we'd made since the lame early projects from just a few weeks before when we were still figuring the camera out.

The next project will be done in a couple weeks and has been in progress for over a month. It has a lot more time and effort going into it, but I'll talk about that when I have it finished and can post it.

In the meantime, here is my directorial debut, No Smoking.



video

Thursday, April 23, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Final Standings

Better late than never!

(Bolded names are the ones who picked Meryl Streep to win it all)
Stephanie 25 20 20 18 16 10 109
Paula O. 26 26 20 12 8 10 102
Kirk 26 18 20 12 16 10 102
Nat 21 24 20 12 8 10 95
Robin 25 18 20 12 8 10 93
Brad 27 26 20 18 0 0 91
Dave S. 26 18 12 18 16 0 90
Ross 23 16 12 12 16 10 89
John 25 20 16 6 8 10 85
Keith 26 22 16 12 8 0 84
Julie 22 18 16 6 8 10 80
Paticus 23 18 20 18 0 0 79
O'Tim 24 22 20 12 0 0 78
James 22 10 12 12 16 0 72
Alan 24 14 12 12 8 0 70
Jim M. 24 14 16 6 8 0 68
Cody 21 12 20 12 0 0 65
Dave B. 21 16 16 12 0 0 65
Emma S. 21 16 16 12 0 0 65
Jorge 25 18 8 6 8 0 65
Tanya 26 20 12 6 0 0 64
Paula L 27 18 12 6 0 0 64
Harris 24 14 12 6 8 0 64
Jim R. 22 18 12 6 0 0 58
Nancy 20 16 8 6 8 0 58
Michelle 18 10 8 6 8 0 50
Bahar 22 12 8 6 0 0 48
PJ 21 14 12 0 0 0 47
Delmer 20 12 12 0 0 0 44
Sheri 20 10 8 0 0 0 38

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Champion



Meryl Streep 8
Daniel Day-Lewis 3

Congratulations to Stephanie, who finished with 109 points!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Semifinal Champs

Here it is, folks: Your top actor and actress, who will compete against each other for the March Movie Madness 2009 Crown.

In the first game we had the original Method Man, whose deliveries of "Hey, Stella!" and "I shoulda been a contenduh" have become two of the most imitated lines in film history, Marlon Brando, vs. the man who drinks your milkshake, asks you to stay alive no matter what occurs, taps his glass eye with the point of a knife, does amazing things with his left foot and does everything in the name of the father, Daniel Day-Lewis. And the winner is...

Marlon Brando 3
Daniel Day-Lewis 7

The second game pitted Joanna Kramer/Sophie Zawistowski/Karen Silkwood/Karen Blixen/Francesca Johnson/Susan Orlean/Clarissa Vaughan/Miranda Priestly/Donna Sheridan/Sister Aloysius Beauvier against Alice Adams/Susan Vance/Tracy Lord/Tess Harding/Amanda Bonner/Rose Sayer/Christina Drayton/Eleanor of Aquitaine/Ethel Thayer on Spencer Tracy's 109th birthday. And the winner is...

Meryl Streep 15
Katharine Hepburn 4




STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 5
(first number is round 1 score, on to round 5 score, then total so far -- bolded names are those who correctly picked both the final actor and actress)
Steph 25 20 20 18 16 99
Paula O. 26 26 20 12 8 92
Kirk 26 18 20 12 16 92
Brad 27 26 20 18 0 91
Dave S. 26 18 12 18 16 90
Nat 21 24 20 12 8 85
Keith 26 22 16 12 8 84
Robin 25 18 20 12 8 83
Paticus 23 18 20 18 0 79
Ross 23 16 12 12 16 79
O'Tim 24 22 20 12 0 78
John 25 20 16 6 8 75
James 22 10 12 12 16 72
Alan 24 14 12 12 8 70
Julie 22 18 16 6 8 70
Jim M. 24 14 16 6 8 68
Cody 21 12 20 12 0 65
Dave B. 21 16 16 12 0 65
Emma S. 21 16 16 12 0 65
Jorge 25 18 8 6 8 65
Tanya 26 20 12 6 0 64
Paula L 27 18 12 6 0 64
Harris 24 14 12 6 8 64
Jim R. 22 18 12 6 0 58
Nancy 20 16 8 6 8 58
Michelle 18 10 8 6 8 50
Bahar 22 12 8 6 0 48
PJ 21 14 12 0 0 47
Delmer 20 12 12 0 0 44
Sheri 20 10 8 0 0 38

And Stephanie makes a huge push, picking both final actors correctly for the maximum 16 points in that round, while the Brad train, having enjoyed the lead spot throughout the entire tournament, comes to a screeching halt because his final picks were Marlon Brando vs. Cate Blanchett. That said, Stephanie hasn't been crowned yet -- this tournament will come down to the final shot!

On a side note, I did want to take this opportunity to point out that THE MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS ARE PLAYING FOR THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TOMORROW NIGHT! Unless you have some twisted allegiance to the University of North Carolina, ROOT FOR MSU!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Movie Madness. The final results will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, April 3, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Final 4

Okay, after getting incredibly complicated in deciding to change up how I determine winners for the Final Four, I since decided to keep things the way I'd originally intended and just count the votes that were still alive. I apologize for the rigamarole; after thinking more about it, I decided that changing thing mid-tournament wouldn't exactly be fair. So thanks to those of you who responded to my emails, but in the end I didn't even tally them.

So... your Final Four.



REEVES REGION
Marlon Brando 8
Dustin Hoffman 6

KUCHER REGION
Paul Newman 5
Daniel Day-Lewis 8

LOHAN REGION
Meryl Streep 20
Jodie Foster 2

ANDERSON REGION
Katharine Hepburn 9
Audrey Hepburn 2


STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 4
(first number is round 1 score, then round 2 score, then round 3 score, the round 4 score, then total so far)
Brad 27 26 20 18 91
Paula O. 26 26 20 12 84
Steph 25 20 20 18 83
Paticus 23 18 20 18 79
O'Tim 24 22 20 12 78
Nat 21 24 20 12 77
Keith 26 22 16 12 76
Kirk 26 18 20 12 76
Robin 25 18 20 12 75
Dave S. 26 18 12 18 74
John 25 20 16 6 67
Cody 21 12 20 12 65
Dave B. 21 16 16 12 65
Emma S. 21 16 16 12 65
Tanya 26 20 12 6 64
Paula L 27 18 12 6 64
Ross 23 16 12 12 63
Alan 24 14 12 12 62
Julie 22 18 16 6 62
Jim M. 24 14 16 6 60
Jim R. 22 18 12 6 58
Jorge 25 18 8 6 57
Harris 24 14 12 6 56
James 22 10 12 12 56
Nancy 20 16 8 6 50
Bahar 22 12 8 6 48
PJ 21 14 12 0 47
Delmer 20 12 12 0 44
Michelle 18 10 8 6 42
Sheri 20 10 8 0 38


Brad extended his lead to 7 this round, but he's by no means run away with a victory. As a matter of fact, 5-6 people still have a chance of winning it all. So make sure you let Brad know he better be looking over his shoulder. Also of note is that Nancy has once again moved ahead of PJ...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 3 Results & Standings

Once again, the majority of the matches weren't really close, though there were three that came down to the wire: Newman vs. DeNiro, Day-Lewis vs. Nicholson and Bergman vs. Audrey Hepburn. Here are the results:

REEVES REGION
Brando 12
O'Toole 2

Penn 5
Hoffman 14

LOHAN REGION
Streep 25
Davis 1

Foster 16
Taylor 3

KUCHER REGION
Newman 10
DeNiro 7

Day-Lewis 12
Nicholson 9

ANDERSON REGION
K. Hepburn 13
Blanchett 7

Bergman 6
A. Hepburn 7



STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 3
(first number is round 1 score, then round 2 score, then round 3 score, then total so far)
Brad 27 26 20 73
Paula O. 26 26 20 72
O'Tim 24 22 20 66
Nat 21 24 20 65
Steph 25 20 20 65
Keith 26 22 16 64
Kirk 26 18 20 64
Robin 25 18 20 63
John 25 20 16 61
Paticus 23 18 20 61
Tanya 26 20 12 58
Paula L 27 18 12 57
Dave S. 26 18 12 56
Julie 22 18 16 56
Jim M. 24 14 16 54
Cody 21 12 20 53
Dave B. 21 16 16 53
Emma S. 21 16 16 53
Jim R. 22 18 12 52
Jorge 25 18 8 51
Ross 23 16 12 51
Alan 24 14 12 50
Harris 24 14 12 50
PJ 21 14 12 47
Nancy 20 16 8 44
Delmer 20 12 12 44
James 22 10 12 44
Bahar 22 12 8 42
Sheri 20 10 8 38
Michelle 18 10 8 36

Now for the big news: I'm altering how I determine the winning actor/actress from here on out. At least, I'm modifying it. This is because as the tournament winds down, fewer and fewer votes determine a winner. So look for an email from me to you and only you. In it I will ask you to choose the best actor/actress from the remaining pairings. That way more people will determine which actor/actress moves on. Caveat: You won't be asked about a match-up if you currently have a chance to win that match-up, i.e., if you correctly picked Brando and Hoffman last round, and have chosen Brando to move on, you've already cast your vote. Even if you picked Brando vs. Penn and picked Brando to win, you've already cast your vote. If, however, you've picked Penn to win that match-up (something that cannot happen), I'll ask you to pick between Brando and Hoffman.

Yes, that all sounded much more confusing than it really is. Just answer the email I send you and trust me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 2 Results & Standings



Brad is still holding onto his lead, but barely as Paula O matches his blistering 26-point second round score to remain within a mere point of him. Then there's Keith alone at 48, and a cluster of folks at 45 and 46. It's still anybody's game!

POINTS AFTER ROUND 2
(first number is round 1 score, then round 2 score, then total so far)
Brad 27 26 53
Paula O 26 26 52
Keith 26 22 48
Tanya 26 20 46
O'Tim 24 22 46
John 25 20 45
Steph 25 20 45
Paula L 27 18 45
Nat 21 24 45
Dave S 26 18 44
Kirk 26 18 44
Jorge 25 18 43
Robin 25 18 43
Paticus 23 18 41
Jim R 22 18 40
Julie 22 18 40
Ross 23 16 39
Alan 24 14 38
Harris 24 14 38
Jim M 24 14 38
Dave B 21 16 37
Emma S 21 16 37
Nancy 20 16 36
PJ 21 14 35
Bahar 22 12 34
Cody 21 12 33
James 22 10 32
Delmer 20 12 32
Sheri 20 10 30
Michelle 18 10 28

Friday, March 27, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 2 Results Pt. B

LINDSAY LOHAN REGION

Meryl Streep 27
Emma Thompson 3

Susan Sarandon 9
Bette Davis 9
(tie goes to Davis!)

Judi Dench 9
Jodie Foster 18

Jessica Lange 7
Elizabeth Taylor 10



ASHTON KUCHER REGION

Paul Newman 19
Anthony Hopkins 7

Al Pacino 7
Robert DeNiro 19

Robert Duvall 7
Daniel Day-Lewis 15

Ben Kingsley 10
Jack Nicholson 15


March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 2 Results Pt. A

Now it's really starting to get interesting. Loved the conversation in the last post. Wonder what this will bring?

Once again the actor who got the most votes wins the match. In the event of a tie, the higher seed moves on. The inconsistency in total votes now is because if you voted for an actor who was knocked out in the first round (say, Clint Eastwood) your vote won't count.

KEANU REEVES REGION

Marlon Brando 16
Cary Grant 3

Robert Downey Jr. 7
Peter O'Toole 7
(tie goes to O'Toole!)

Michael Caine 10
Sean Penn 11

Gary Oldman 4
Dustin Hoffman 24




PAMELA ANDERSON REGION

Katharine Hepburn 18
Kate Winslet 10

Vanessa Redgrave 7
Cate Blanchett 18

Sally Field 4
Ingrid Bergman 12

Diane Keaton 4
Audrey Hepburn 18

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 1 Results & Standings




POINTS AFTER ROUND 1
27 Brad
27 Paula L.
26 Dave S.
26 Keith
26 Kirk
26 Paula O.
26 Tanya
25 John
25 Jorge
25 Robin
25 Stephanie
24 Alan
24 Harris
24 Jim M.
24 O'Tim
23 Paticus
23 Ross
22 Bahar
22 James
22 Jim R.
22 Julie
21 Cody Bones
21 Dave B.
21 Emma S.
21 Nat
21 PJ
20 Delmer
20 Nancy
20 Sheri
18 Michelle

Comments have been sparse, to say the least. 30 people in this thing and Teacake, who isn't even participating this year, has commented more than 20 of them. Come on, people!

For Round 2, each correct pick will get you two points. Round 2 results will be up Friday!

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 1 Results Pt. D

ASHTON KUCHER REGION

Paul Newman 28
Will Smith 2

Anthony Hopkins 20
Jimmy Stewart 10

Al Pacino 22
Morgan Freeman 8

Robert DeNiro 29
Leonardo DiCaprio 1



LINDSAY LOHAN REGION

Judi Dench 23
Faye Dunaway 7

Jodi Foster 27
Hilary Swank 3

Annette Bening 13
Jessica Lange 17

Elizabeth Taylor 19
Joanne Woodward 11



Blow-out city! Round 2 will get much closer, I expect...

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 1 Results Pt. C

KEANU REEVES REGION

Michael Caine 17
William Hurt 13

Sir Lawrence Olivier 12
Sean Penn 18

Gary Oldman 21
Gregory Peck 9

Dustin Hoffman 28
Russell Crowe 2




PAMELA ANDERSON REGION

Katharine Hepburn 30
Halle Berry 0

Olivia de Havilland 5
Kate Winslet 25

Vanessa Redgrave 25
Angelina Jolie 5

Cate Blanchett 25
Juliette Binoche 5


March Movie Madness 2009 - Jeff's Big Round-1 Screw-up

So I missed a bracket.

That's right, I completely missed O'Tim's email with his bracket. And since O'Tim is an Original Movie Madness Gangsta, ain't no way I'm dissin' him.

What does that mean?

Well, it means we have 30 participants as opposed to 29. Which means there are potentials for ties. As in previous years, a tie goes to the higher seed.

I know what you're asking: Did O'Tim's bracket change any outcomes?

Yes. One.

O'Tim voted for Cary Grant. Which made the score Cary Grant 15, Tom Hanks 15.

Cary Grant was the 8 seed and Tom Hanks the 9. Meaning Cary Grant, not Tom Hanks, has won their first-round match-up.

Sorry to all of you who voted for Hanks and counted that as a win. And congratulations to those of you who had Cary Grant.

Here's the corrected result:



I've also corrected the scores in the last two posts.

Sorry again.

Discuss.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 1 Results Pt. B

LINDSAY LOHAN REGION

Meryl Streep 30
Nicole Kidman 0

Emma Thompson 25
Joan Fontaine 5

Shirley MacLaine 13
Susan Sarandon 17

Bette Davis 20
Laura Linney 10



ASHTON KUCHER REGION

Robert Duvall 17
Phillip S. Hoffman 13

Daniel Day-Lewis 24
Jeff Bridges 6

Ben Kingsley 17
Humphrey Bogart 13

Jack Nicholson 28
Harrison Ford 2



Duvall vs. P.S. Hoffman made for a spirited match-up, and MacLaine vs. Sarandon and Kingsley vs. Bogart could have tilted with another 3-pointer from each of the losers, but otherwise these weren't that close!

March Movie Madness 2009 - Round 1 Results Pt. A

As I explained in an earlier post, results are determined by your picks. Since there are 29 participants, a total of 29 points are available per match. NOTE: These are not your point totals; they are the scores of the matches. For Round 1, you get one point per match you picked correctly. I'll post each match-up's final score so you can see how close some of these matches are, along with the blow-outs!

KEANU REEVES REGION

Marlon Brando 20
Johnny Depp 10

Cary Grant 15
Tom Hanks 15

Denzel Washington 14
Robert Downey Jr. 16

Peter O'Toole 16
Clint Eastwood 14



PAMELA ANDERSON REGION

Julie Christie 10
Sally Field 20

Ingrid Bergman 18
Frances McDormand 12

Jane Fonda 12
Diane Keaton 18

Audrey Hepburn 24
Kathy Bates 6



A few matches came down to the wire, and a few were never in doubt.
Next groupings will be posted in the next hour.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Movie Madness 2009 - The Conversation Before the Storm

Okay, all the brackets are in. The first round of matches will take place Monday. Check back here at 2 p.m. Eastern.

In the meantime, a conversation starter:

I have of course received plenty of grief from plenty of people over which actors and actresses didn't make the final field.

I ask you, whom did I leave out? But since there are a finite number of spots, you can only add one if you subtract one. So for every name you want to add you have to give a name to remove. And explain why.

The second discussion point is with seedings. Think someone was seeded too high, or too low? Who and why? And if you want to raise someone's seed, you have to lower someone elses.

Discuss.