Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bugsy Malone

"You give a little love and it all comes back to you, you know you're gonna be remembered for the things you say and do." is the message we are left with while finishing the film Bugsy Malone. Directed in 1976 by Alan Parker, Bugsy Malone is a film that encompasses two very prominent genres; musical and gangster, and mixes it into one. In the film the classic gangster story is not only told through the use of song and dance but also using child actors.
      Bugsy Malone, the sly boxing promoter is the man to be in this film. Although he ends up getting involved with the gang-life, it is pretty obvious that Bugsy knows whats-what. Always a step ahead of the audience, Bugsy is a classic character in the gangster genre and could be compared to Millers Crossings Tom Reagen. The only problem is; Bugsy is well... completely broke. From that he finds himself getting in business with Fat Sam, gang leader and speakeasy owner, who hires Bugsy to accompany him to a meeting with rival gang leader, Dandy Dan. After that Bugsy is now almost completely immersed in gang life.
 Bugsy Malone includes many classic parts of the depression-era gangsterfilm such as a separation of class and the struggle for money. It is obvious through many circumstances where we see characters, such as Fat Sam and Dandy Dan who strut around in their tailored outfits while other kids are starving at soup kitchens. Bugsy is also a part of this, seeing how he is frequently out of money, like most were in those days.
   I think this film, although still considered part of the gangster genre really fits with the idea of the American Dream. Some could say it was based on ethnic struggles but the fact is that this film seems just so much lighter than that for many reasons. First the choice of child actors is a major one. Although using children in many films could make it considerably darker I think that the choice did not work this way in this film. The children we see are impersonating the harsher side of gangster reality in those days but its easy to not take it that seriously. The dialog that the children use is almost laughable due to the fact that it sounds exactly like what an adult would say in their situation, which I assume was the intent. Another fact that the musical genre is added in is what makes it more of a comedy than a serious piece. Another part of it is that instead of actual guns and bullets the "killing" weapon is a toy gun filled with whip cream contributes to the comedic rather than serious part of this film. Bugsy seems to embody a lot of what the American Dream philosophy entails. Bugsy never gives up, even when things look bleak and always works hard, never letting people hand him the things he wants. Bugsy is a worker.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's a Hard-Knock Life

John Hustons Annie tells the story of the young orphan Annie and her adventures in the Big Apple, New York City. During the musical Annie is rescued from her horrible orphanage run by the evil Ms. Hannigan and is brought to live in the Warbucks mansion for a week. Through many musical song and dance numbers Annie lives her dream and finds a place in Mr.Warbucks heart then eventually gets adopted by him. Being a part of Annie: The Musical last year at my old high school (I played the part of Cecile the maid) I have come to love and understand the characters, songs, and the plot.
   From the beginning we are presented Annie, this super lovable, red haired, little girl. We immediately sympathize with her and the other orphans in the orphanage due to the way Ms.Hannigan acts towards them. It is obvious through the way she comforts little Molly that she has a big heart, a strong sense of leadership, and she dreams of a better life for everyone in the orphanage. One of Annies most admirable attributes is the way she refuses to give up, even when it looks like everything is down in the pits. Annie is almost always a positive source of energy. Her attitude towards the world is similar to the idea of the American Dream, a set of ideals where freedom in America includes the opportunities for prosperity and success through hard work and determination. Annie is basically the characterization of this idea and it is due to that fact that Annie is taken and adopted by the Warbucks in the end.
     Poverty and the Great Depression are main features of the film. We are brought to the two extremes of success in this film. From Miss Hannigans orphanage, where everything is basically nasty and rotten to the Warbucks Mansion, where there is everything from a tennis court to a swimming pool. In the song "It's a Hard-Knock Life" we are brought into the world of the lower class quite quickly and we are given a sense of the hard ships that those in that social class face. In the song "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" which is preformed when Annie first arrives at the Mansion  Annie sings "Used to room in a tomb where I'd sit and freeze" and it gives us the drastic difference between the two environments. Annie is not used to people being there, loving her, and doing things for her so at first she is confused on why she doesn't have to clean. This also goes along with the idea of the American Dream that if you work hard you will get what you deserve.
     Annie is a wonderful musical film that brings us into the world of the Great Depression and the life of a determined dreamer. It is a wonderful film that shows us that as long as you keep your head up and work hard, things will get better.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Shaun Of The Dead

In the film Shaun Of The Dead a young man with a seemingly normal life must turn into a zombie killing machine in order to save not only his relationship with his girlfriend but also their very own lives. Directed by Edgar Wright in 2004 Shaun Of The Dead is considered a film that mixes the genres, screwball comedy and zombie to form one ultimate Zomedy.
       In Shaun Of The Dead zombies are presented similarly to how they are in other zombie films. They are a threat, something other worldly, and seemingly unintelligent. In this film, like in most zombie films, the zombies are flesh eating monsters that have sprung up seemingly out of nowhere and they are killing innocent people, turning them into zombies too. The protagonist, Shaun is the leader of the group and much like in Night Of The Living Dead his leadership is challenged and he must step up to the plate and become the type of man who is able to keep him and his loved ones safe during the zombie apocalypse. Also in this film the zombies can only be killed by being hit or shot in the head which is what the case is in most zombie movies. The choices that the characters make in Shaun Of The Dead and Night Of The Living Dead are also similar. The situation that is proposed to two different sets of people in the films is handled by each of them in different ways. In Night Of The Living Dead a child is turned into a zombie and her mother has to make the decision to either kill her daughter and save herself or be killed by her. Shaun also has to make this same decision. His mother is bitten and turned into a zombie and he struggles with what to do. In the end Shaun makes the right decision in shooting his mother but it changes his leadership tactics and eventually helps his survival.
      The comedy aspects of this film is what makes the film what it is. In many screwball comedies there is the presence of the on and off relationships or "mariage and remarriage". In Shaun Of The Dead Shauns relationship with Liz, his girlfriend is one that ping pongs back and forth frequently and lines up with the notion of that screwball convention. In the end they are back together again and we are left with the feeling that this time three will be no "on and offs" about it. Also in many screwball comedies the female character plays a supporting role but ultimately is the one who pushes the story forward. In Shaun Of The Dead it is because Shauns need to protect Liz that he even leaves the house in the first place. This role is also shared with Shauns mother, who he is also worried about and must protect until he must shoot her in the end.
    Shaun Of The Dead is a interesting zomedy and it changed my view on the genre forever.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Night Of The Living Dead

Night Of The Living Dead  directed by George Romero in 1968 is one of the most widely recognized zombie films of it's genre.  This film follows the story of a group of people who are attempting to survive this zombie apocalypse.  The characters; Ben,  Barbra, Harry, Helen, Tom and Judy all end in up a house placed in the middle of nowhere and most of them try to work together boarding up the house, trying to get to a help station, and killing tons of zombies.  In the end all of the characters die, either by being taken by the zombies or other causes and it leaves viewers with a sense of hopelessness.
     Some have thought as Night Of The Living Dead to be a sort of metaphor of the distress Americans were feeling in the 1960s. After the unexpected assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy plus the Vietnam War still raging many Americans  identified with the film's shocking suggestion: death is random and without purpose." (Museum Of Modern Art). Night Of The Living Dead is a film that gave America the chance to grieve and accept the loss of many leaders and people who the nation held close to their hearts.
    In Night Of The Living Dead the protagonist, Ben is the only one who seems to have a sensible way of dealing with these creatures. The other characters, such as Barbara deal with the situation very differently. Barbara just basically goes off the deep end being useless until near the end when she attempts to help blockade the door. Ben reacts quickly, boarding up the house and he tries to make it a safe place for Barbara and him to stay to beat off the zombies. Ben becomes the leader of the rest of the group and even when challenged he stays in that position. Throughout the film he is really the only character the continually acts in a rational and practical way, which is way the audiences usually identify with his character. Much like Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, Ben was a leader through difficult times. The death of Ben in the end is unexpected to the viewer as were the deaths of two leaders of our country. The deaths of all three were all tragic, horrid, and most of all for no reason.
     Another big theme in Night Of The Living Dead is; death is meaningless and never adds to the greater good. This was also what many Americans were thinking at the time when this film was realsed. Since all the characters die in the end, nothing changes, none of them will be remembered or make any impact on society because they are just a number. The death of this group is simply just a statistic, much like the death of soldiers in the war. It's the fact that after your heart stops beating you've been stripped of your personality and made into a number by the government. When dead we loose all of our personality, morals, and ideas to just become a statistic to be used by the government. This is generally what I think Romero was trying to say with the zombies in this film, he gave the thoughts of Americans at that time a structure in a not so obvious form, allowing them to grieve and get on with life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold, Some Like It In The Pot 9 Days Old.

   Some Like It Hot is a classic screwball comedy complete with ping-pong dialoge, slapstick hilarity, and with a few gangsters thrown in.   Directed by Billy Wilder in 1959 and starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe this classic was not at first expected to be so. Some Like It Hot is a story of two young male musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), who just happen to stumble upon and unfortunately witness a mob shooting in the backside of Chicago. Quickly the flee the city and head south on a train to Florida for two weeks on a new music gig, safe and sound. The only catch is that Joe and Jerry have now become Josephine and Daphne dressing in drag to disguise themselves and safely get away from the mob that is now after them. Along the way they meet Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) and the rich Osgood Fielding (Joe E. Brown) and encounter the very same mob they ran from in Chicago.
     Some Like It Hot is classified as a Screwball Comedy but some question wether it can be thought of as a gangster movie due to the huge italian mob that really kickstarts the whole film. The conventions of a screwball are, even now still somewhat unclear because unlike most film genres it "lacks easily identifiable setting and iconography.. and is distinguished essentially by its style and theme" (151). In  Some Like It Hot some of the few solid conventions of classic screwball comedies are present, such as; mistaken identity,  the struggle between economic classes, and a sort of ridiculous most likely improbable situation.
     Joe and Jerry are two struggling musicians in the beginning who have just lost their jobs once again and desperately need money. It is obvious when we first meet them playing cello and saxophone in a speakeasy that these are people who are willing to take the risk of getting caught so they can earn a little income. It is also said that they are in dept to many of their lady friends who have been helping them out so they don't end up on the streets. After losing the job at the speakeasy they have no where to go except back to the job agency hoping, praying that there will be a job. When they get there they there  they are offered jobs but they would have to dress in drag. While Jerry is optimistic saying that they
have before dressed in odd attire Joe refuses and they leave with no job. Eventually Jerry and Joe end up dressing in drag pushing further their desperate need for money.
    Cross dressing is another main convention featured in many screwball comedies such as I Was A Male War Bride and Bringing Up Baby. In Some Like It Hot Joe and Jerry dress in drag giving everyone the impression that they are girls. Mistaken identity also appears when Joe dresses up as a millionaire named Junior to try to impress Sugar.
     All in all Some Like It Hot is truly a screwball comedy with just a little bit more twist than usual. Despite the italian mod and other complications Joe and Jerry face the truly hilarious aspect and light tone of this film will make everyone smile.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Firefly :)

The TV series FireFly (2002-2003) and John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) have an unlikely attachment to each other. In Firefly the first episode Serenity we are taken into a post-apocalyptic world with 9 people aboard a space ship sailing through outer space. In Stagecoach  six passengers take a journey in a stagecoach in the old west.  Firefly, although first deemed a sci-fi has many of the attributes of a classic western. Creator, Josh Whedon even admits that he intentionally thought of Stagecoach and other westerns while putting together the story.
      In Firefly there are many conventions of  western and science fiction genres. The first most obviou is the space-ship, Serenity. As in most science-fiction films the space-ship is a symbol of freedom, independence, and outward development, this also rings true for the ship in Firefly. Serenity is used means of escape and ways for the characters to steer clear of the Alliance. The ship is something that every character loves. Kaylee, the ships mechanic is so fond of Serenity she often refers to it as a she and openly calls it the best ship around.
      Mal, the captain of the ship has countless traits that are in line with the classic western heros qualities. First off, Mals everyday attire consisting of usually suspenders, working shirts, and full on leather boots is not unlike the way Josey Wales from The Outlaw Josey Wales dresses.  Another big part of Mals character is the weapons he choses.  Like in Star Wars usually some handy dandy super cool awesome new weapon is invented like the light saber and everyone uses them. This is not true in Firefly, the signature handgun that Mal uses in his Taurus Model 85 revolver. Obviously it is not a high tech weapon that many imagine in sci-fi's but rather a gun that resembles something that would be used in the old west.
    There are many other conventions that were not mentioned that are in Firefly that appear in Westerns and in Sci-Fi's but these are the major ones that stood out to me.   It is obvious that Firefly and Stagecoach's connection was not only in the plot but in the devices that are usually featured in both film genresThe way that Josh Whedon took a spin on the classic western and put it in a completely different environment creates a lovely combination.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Outland :)

In Outland (1981) a police marshall is stationed on a remote mining colony in outer space.  He runs into a basket full of crimes and is told to simply ignore them by the head of the space station. After uncovering a huge conspiracy in the stations mining system he is put in major danger when all he wishes to do is to solve the crime and go home. In High Noon (1952) Kane, aslo marshall also must face a dangerous enemy in the west and he finds himself alone when his town refuses to help him.
    It has been said that Outland is basically High Noon in space and many of the key elements of a western show up in this space film making it a qualifiable space-western. In Outland the protagonist William O'Neil,  has a rock solid determination and mind set that he cannot abandon this station like so many marshalls in the past have. He has to solve the case, it is his top priority, even above joining his family on Earth.  This is very similar to many westerns heros such as Josey Wales from The Outlaw Josey Wales who is driven to complete his task of delivering justice where it is due. Both Josey and The Marshall are focused completely on their goals and refuse to be deterred by the large forces against them.
    The settings of the two films are also very similar. Although one takes place on Jupiters moon Io and the other in New Mexico Territory both of the towns draw similar parallels. The station and the town are both places trapping the characters. The conditions of both, grueling and hazardous make it hard to live there and that's without the numerous men going crazy. Another little thing that both protagonists have to deal with is their wives threatening to leave them. Although The Marshalls wife leaves him quite early in the story and Kanes wife doesn't end up doing it, both must face the enemy alone. When it comes down to it Kane must face the Miller Gang basically by himself and Marshall O'Neil has to face the hitman that are after him with only the Doctors help.
    In most Sci-Fi's the space ship is used as a symbol of exploration and outward expansion, it can be compared to the symbol of the train tracks in many westerns.   Outland  handles the symbol of the space ship as a sort of cage, something keeping O'Neil in a dangerous place. He is trapped with no way out to escape from the hitman. The spaceship is presented negatively and the whole film really focuses on the claustrophobic feeling of it. In many scenes it is crowded with many people shoved in a tight space. The hallways are narrow and enforces the quality of being trapped on this spaceship.
    Tension is a major part in both science fiction films and westerns. In Outland one of the most agressive ways tension is built is by the countdown clock. The countdown clock ticks away the time until the next space shuttle arrives in which O'Neils hit men are boarded. Many times we are brought back to this clock in the final moments of the film, increasing the tension until the climax of the story begins when the shuttle arrives early.
     Outland although usually is presented as a Sci-Fi is truly a western in all sense of the word. With the determined hero, the crazy run down town, and ever present enemy Outland is a complete Space-Western.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Western: Josey Wales and Ethan Edwards

    Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales and John Ford's The Searchers are both established western films with seemingly similar plots. In Robert Sickles article "Clint Eastwood's: The Outlaw Josey Wales" both films are compared and it is revealed that they contain many elements that are similar to each other. He suggests that each are respectively different, complimenting the time periods they were made in. Each fim corresponds with the cultural beliefs that were present in each different time.
     In The Outlaw Josey Wales, the protagonist, Josey Wales is a grief ridden, relatable hero who is chased for many years by the Union officer who murdered his family. In The Searchers Ethan Edwards  is a hero who embarks on a journey to save his two nieces from a tribe of indians.  Both of these protagonist's were compared in the article, and it is obvious that the two have a sort of connection. They are both examples of  classic western heros, complete with the varying side-kicks and gung-ho attitude. Both of the characters start their respective films in similar circumstances, their families being murdered and then they are off on separate paths. Ethan, driven by racism towards American- Indians and Josey being chased by the very murderers of his family, the similarities between the two stop.

"Although both films employ murder/revenge motifs that lead to an extended chase that forms the bulk of the narrative, there is an important difference in perspective. Ethan is the monomaniacal, hate-filled pursuer whereas Josey is the one pursed by an irrationally deranged man" (222, Sickles)

The contrast between the characters, although in similar circumstances, cannot be ignored. I agree with Sickles evidence in this article because it includes many components of each movie, comparing them with each other. Although it seems his article is slightly bais, in favor of Josey Wales I believe that most of his arguments are both intriguing and valid.

     In The Searchers the comedic elements seemed very few and far between. One of the most long lasting ones was the American-Indian that Ethan and his sidekick Martin picked up on the way. They managed to do an exchange that was slightly humorous but confusing over trading a woman for a hat. She offers some lightness to the dark situation but is treated horribly by Ethan and Martin. Martin kicks her down a hill, after she is only trying to help them and then she is shortly after is found killed. In The Outlaw Josey Wales many comedic elements are present, such as he "civilized indian", the Missouri hating grandma and even Josey himself,  that dapple this heavy situation with humorous moments.