Thelma and Louise – a Timeless Roadtrip

As summertime dawns on us, many of us are left with much more free time and carefree living thanks to the end of yet another academic year. It brings on a time of self-exploration and perhaps an exploration of entertainment past and present.

Taking a look back on films from the past, we see May 24th marks the 17th anniversary since the release date of Thelma and Louise, a film about two best friends that set out on an adventure to escape the mundane which quickly turns into an actual escape from the police for the crimes that they have committed. It stars Susan Sarandon (Louise) and Geena Davis (Thelma) and has received 21 awards. Among the awards include the Academy award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. As these awards suggest, this screenplay has been artfully written and have often been used as examples for screenwriters to use in their own writing. If this is not enough to convince you of what great writing this is, the screenplay is also mentioned extensively and analyzed in what writers in the industry would call their bibles: Screenplay by Syd Field and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Delving into the screenplay, we can take a quick look at the synopsis of the film – with no spoilers of course. At the beginning of the film we meet Louise, a headstrong and independent woman, and her best friend Thelma, a passive and naive woman that is married to a moronic hothead. They set out for a weekend getaway in a 1966 Thunderbird convertible. In tow: a gun. While on the road they decide to stop for drinks where a man takes a liking to Thelma. He attempts to sneak her away and rape her when Louise shows up brandishing the gun. The man’s body is soon discovered and it doesn’t take long before the authorities connect his death with Thelma and Louise. Thus begins a chase.

Now we’ve seen many “best buddy” type films such as 48 Hours, Wayne’s World, and Dumb and Dumber, but this film is set apart from the others because the heroes in this film are women, making it ahead of its time. The two women are strong, quick-witted, and full of compassion. As the film progresses, these women grow into characters that we, the audience, might identify with. They become role models for female empowerment, and perhaps empowerment to all genders.

If you would like to experience this film this summer, be sure to stop by Media Services and check it out. SM

Sami Masaki is a sophomore studying Cinema Production. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and watching movies. This summer, she will be interning with Heydey Films in Los Angeles.

The Strange Thing About The Johnsons

This short film (available on Vimeo) by director Ari Aster offers a spectacular take on a taboo subject with a twist. It instantly hooks the viewer; and while it is disturbing, it is nearly impossible to look away the entire 30 minutes. It leaves you a sickening feeling that you can never wash away and content that is unforgettable. This is intentional as its theme, long considered the ultimate family taboo, warrants discussion, and this film has already provoked a considerable amount of it.

An important element of the film is one of the main characters feeling helpless and alone. With no one to turn to about the trauma they are dealing with, the viewer can feel the pain of the character. Despite finally having a loved one in on the filthy secret, they turn a blind eye to it rendering the character with truly no one to help. The desperation for escape towards the end leaves the viewer rooting for the character’s freedom.

Aster’s artistic take on a very real and grim subject is meant to make the audience uncomfortable as it is a way to force people to think about an issue that hardly ever is mentioned but happens more than anyone would like to admit. Just like real-life victims, the audience must endure high levels of unease; but ultimately those watching the film get to escape after the 30-minute run time, and are left to ponder what they have experienced. There are so many different layers and elements to take in from such a short film that it’s extraordinary it isn’t more popular. This is likely due to its controversial subject matter.

The extent to which some people deal with the topic at hand is also addressed. One of the other characters literally destroys evidence of the secret after it has already destroyed their family. One thing to remember after watching it is that, while you can move on from this 30-minute film, people that face situations like those in the film live with the weight and have it impact them their entire life. If for no other reason than to support and validate those who have this experience, this film provides a valuable, if controversial, contribution to the film canon.

Few films take on such uncomfortable material. Family Affair, one of few documentaries on the subject, grapples with the highly complex emotions of an entire family that endure decades after the events transpired. This title is one of the many housed in Media Services’ Teaching and Research collection, home to a remarkable array of films that are sometimes challenging, sometimes provocative, and always thought-provoking. FC

Fatima Coulibaly is a sophomore at IUB with an eclectic taste in film who enjoys playing the piano. Except Jingle Bells.

Why Miyazaki’s Works are so Internationally Renowned

When Miyazaki’s name is mentioned, I am sure certain film titles come to mind. As a child growing up in a Japanese family, Miyazaki’s films were some of my favorite apart from the Lindsey Lohan remake of The Parent Trap. This may come as no shocker but what always surprised me was the number of my peers that also knew of his films. Miyazaki and his company Studio Gibli are often compared to Walt Disney. As a Japanese animation filmmaker, what makes Miyazaki’s works do so well internationally?

People around the world are moved by his various works that tackle themes and characters of great depth. They were first introduced to his films in 2003 when his film Spirited Away (2001) took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, opening the gates to all other Studio Gibli films. Although Miyazaki’s films are considered children’s movies, they explore themes such as war, man vs. nature, and identity, making them relevant to people of all ages.

Yet he does this in such an honest way. He captures the true emotions of life: joy, bewilderment, empathy. And he delivers them to us in the character’s actions that are so real.  Take, for example, Spirited Away. The protagonist, Chihiro, is a 10-year-old girl who is moving to a new town and leaving everything and everyone she knows behind. Her friends give her a bouquet and she says, “The only time I got a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. How depressing.” Her mother tries to console her but she remains sullen and shrugs it off. These are actions that any little girl would take. Miyazaki even mentioned that he based this film off of a 10-year-old girl that he knew very well.

Although Miyazaki’s films dig into complex themes, they have many layers, making them multifaceted and the right fit for children as well. Through the younger characters portrayed in his films, he allows children to identify with the films. In this way, he is extremely respectful to the younger audience.

Miyazaki once said, “”I believe that children’s souls are the inheritors of historical memory from previous generations. It’s just that as they grow older and experience the everyday world that memory sinks lower and lower. I feel I need to make a film that reaches down to that level.”

The quiet innocence of his films are the reason I started watching his films in the first place. That is why I consider My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Ponyo as some of my favorite films of his. There is something so special about the pureness of these films which have had the ability to impact my life so strongly.

It is quite an understatement to say that Miyazaki’s films are beautiful. His stills are some of the most stunning in art, let alone in animation. Sprinkled through his films are lush landscapes that capture the beauty of the countryside.  His great attention to detail brings the fantastic elements of his stories to life and suck the viewer in. His films are the perfect blend of realistic, supernatural, and the fantastic.

The moving stories combined with his beautiful artwork are what make his films timeless masterpieces for all people of all ages. If you have not had the chance to see any of his films, I encourage you to do so. The ones that I would start with are Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle. I hope that the journey through his films captivates you as much as they did to me. All three movies are available at Media Services! SM

Sami Masaki is a sophomore studying Cinema Production. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and watching movies. This summer, she will be interning with Heydey Films in Los Angeles.

All photos taken from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jasminnahar/the-most-beautiful-shots-in-studio-ghibli-history?utm_term=.wdg87eRZy#.knKkv5QLe

 

Ozu’s Pictures: Changing Seasons, Changing Lives

As the plane of the Earth’s equator glides across the center of the Sun’s disk for the first time this year, we mark the beginning of a new season. The vernal equinox brings us into spring, a time of revitalizing energy and growth. And while the weather here in Bloomington seems insistent on continuing winter’s themes, the passing of seasons reminds us of the change inherent in our lives. The Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu saw better than most how the passing of time through the seasons served as allegory for the changing lives of people, particularly within his own Japan. Ultimately, Ozu knew undoubtedly that people and places change.

In his 1956 film Early Spring, Ozu sought “to portray what you might call the pathos of the white-collar life”. Like most of his films, Early Spring is a meticulously constructed picture of individual lives. It tells in detail the story of a man trapped in a life that is dulled by the daily routines of work and marriage. Looking for a break from the soul-crushing tedium, he begins an affair with a co-worker. While it seems an ordinary enough story, this is where Ozu excels. The director captures incredible drama within a careful examination of simple lives. In Early Spring, Ozu conveys the depressive feelings of routine and shows us how it can be difficult to escape, to change.

Like Early Spring, Ozu’s earlier 1949 feature Late Spring focuses on change within a family context. Late Spring is sometimes called the director’s finest film and it is a prime example of Ozu’s later style, both cinematically and thematically. Throughout the film’s 108 minutes Ozu uses still camera shots to frame scenes of family, exploring the dynamic between a young woman and her widowed father. When her father decides it is time for her to get married conflict ensues as she fears marriage would mean leaving her father alone and without help. As the film progresses, the pressure to marry increases higher and higher, leading to an eventual capitulation. Again, Ozu captures the difficulty of change, here choosing to focus on what makes us afraid of transformation in our lives.

In his later years Ozu chose to focus his work on the changing culture of post-WWII. Ozu’s home was undergoing intense and dramatic political transitions after the war. The daily lives and traditions of the Japanese were being restructured. Ozu felt this and saw this, and his films show us this in exquisite detail. Just like the seasons, our world and our lives change across time.  This spring, consider exploring his filmography here at Media Services.

-John A.

John Arbuckle is a senior finishing up his last semester in Environmental Science. In his free time he makes a weak attempt at reading philosophy and fantasizes about bicycles that he cannot afford. While he has no idea what he is doing with his life post-graduation, he enjoys the sun and dirt and hopes to find work that will provide both in ample quantity. 

Books vs. Movies: The Age-Old Debate

The Mountain Between Us, It, Murder on the Orient Express, Wonder, My Cousin Rachel. These films released in 2017 have one thing in common, and you may have guessed it already: They were all books that were later adapted into movies.

Similar to its affinity for sequels and remakes, it seems to me like Hollywood is increasingly looking to books for inspiration for the next blockbuster hits. From a business standpoint, it makes total sense because producers can draw on the popularity of a certain book and use that to their advantage when it comes to marketing the film’s release.

As an avid reader, I am always excited at the news that a book is being adapted as a feature film. My mind is occupied by thoughts of who the actors/actresses are going to be (and if I approve), if the film will stay true to the book, and most importantly, if the movie will be just as good as the book. The thought of finally being able to visualize what has only previously been limited to my imagination is always an exciting prospect.

However, I am usually underwhelmed after watching a certain film based on a book, and if you asked me a year ago which one I would prefer: the movie or the book, I would have immediately chosen the book.

Hands down. No doubt. However, within the past year, I have come to appreciate movie adaptations of books more because I have realized that comparing books to their counterpart movies isn’t fair; at the end of the day, the two mediums of storytelling have different advantages and different qualifications for what makes them good. Like Stephen King once said, comparing one to the other is like comparing apples to oranges. They are both great sources of entertainment, but they aren’t comparable. For those still reluctant to accept this theory, I’ll be delving more into this age-old question: “What’s better: books or movies?” I’ll make a case for each argument and let you make the final call.

The popular belief is that books are often a hundred times better than their movie counterparts; if you need any further proof, just take a look at the following Washington Post visual.

Books are great because they allow the reader to be a part of the story; we are the observers that have insight into the character’s thoughts and feelings, and all the nuances that create three-dimensional characters. With books, there’s just more. More detail, more focus on character development, and more depth to the meaning of the artwork. It’s also the more time-consuming form of the two, and after finishing a novel, after a couple of hours of being immersed into a different world and mind space, it seems like you have suddenly been thrust back into reality.

On the other hand, the great thing about movies is their ability to show, and the overall experience of watching one. While reading a book, I often have a movie reel playing in my head. I can map out the setting, I can see the characters’ expressions, and I can empathize with their emotions.

However, watching the same story unfold on the big screen is a different experience. While reading spurs your imagination, a movie helps you visualize all the elements of the books that were previously confined to your imagination. It immerses you into the story in a different way than a book.

For example, instead of reading about the magical world of Harry Potter, while watching the movie, I can actually see what J.K. Rowling means by “He was almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild – long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of dustbin lids and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins.” To put it simply, movies make it easier for us to just lean back and enjoy the show.

An added benefit of movies is the music and visual designs that enhance the experience of watching a film. Imagine, for example, that you are watching an emotional scene. It’s the climax of the story, and in the background plays a gentle orchestra, that eventually swells into a big crescendo as the story reaches its resolution. In that moment, you feel exactly what the characters feel, and your heart races along with the melody of the music. So although (in some cases) the audience might not have a play by play of the characters’ thoughts and emotions, movies have another way of conveying the emotion and tone of a certain scene.

If you feel like further exploring this age-old debate personally, come down to Media Services to check out movies even the worst critic would have to admit are just as good as the books. Don’t know where to start? Try Pride and Prejudice, Psycho, Jaws, The Godfather, etc.

Until next time! RE

Robiati Endashaw is a sophomore studying public policy analysis in KSB with a minor in Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading non-fiction and watching crime documentaries.

 

 

 

 

 

ALA Video Round Table Notable Videos for Adults releases 2018 list

Check IUCAT for availability, or send an email to libmedia@indiana.edu for film purchase.

DENVER – The American Library Association (ALA) Video Round Table Notable Videos for Adults Committee has compiled its 2018 list of Notable Videos for Adults, a list of 15 outstanding films released on video within the past two years and suitable for all libraries serving adults.  Its purpose is to call attention to recent video releases that make a significant contribution to the world of video.  The list is compiled for use by librarians and the general adult populace.

The Notable Videos for Adults Committee selected 15 outstanding titles from among 54 nominees for this year’s list of Notable Videos for Adults.  The availability of closed captions (CC) and/or subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) is preferred; inclusion and exclusion of the same is indicated below.

2018 VRT Notable Films for Adults

Abacus, Small Enough to Jail (2017, dir. Steve James) 89 minutes. PBS. DVD. Available from various distributors. Subtitles. Tells the story of the Chinese immigrant Sung Family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York, the only U.S. bank prosecuted in relation to the 2008 financial crisis.

Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock (2017, dir. Myron Dewey, Josh Fox and James Spione) 84 minutes. International WOW Co. DVD. Available from Bullfrog Films (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/awake.html) and various distributors. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, along with 500 other tribes and allies, lead a peaceful resistance against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their sacred ground.

David Lynch: The Art Life (2016, dir. Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Rick Barnes and John Nguyen) 88 minutes. Criterion Collection. DVD and Blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. Takes viewers on a rare look inside the art studio of David Lynch as Lynch recounts the people and events that led him to his life as an artist.

Dawson City Frozen Time (2016, dir. Bill Morrison) 120 minutes. Kino Lorber. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. CC. After hundreds of silent films are uncovered in a Yukon, Canada gold rush town, its history is pieced together through the experimental reconstruction of the films themselves.

Gleason (2016, dir. Clay Tweel) 111 minutes. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC.  Football star Steve Gleason and his wife, Michel, while expecting the birth of their son, grapple with his diagnosis of ALS at the age of 34. This gut-wrenching and ultimately transcendent film delivers a powerful and unvarnished view of Gleason’s physical suffering and the psychological toll it takes on his marriage and family.

Heaven is a Traffic Jam (2017, dir. Frank Stiefel) 40 minutes. Grasshopper Film. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Grasshopper Film (http://store.grasshopperfilm.com/heaven-is-a-traffic-jam-on-the-405.html).  Honest and poignant look at the life of artist Mindy Alper and the effects of her childhood trauma, mental illness, anxiety and depression on her art.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016, dir. Raoul Peck) 93 minutes. Magnolia Pictures. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. Through an unfinished work of James Baldwin, the history of Black America is told from early 20th Century to #BlackLivesMatter.

I Called Him Morgan (2017, dir. Kasper Collin) 91 minutes. FilmRise. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. SDH. In 1972, jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan was murdered at age 33 by his wife, cutting short what was already a legendary career. Using archival footage and photographs, interviews with his friends and fellow musicians, we are introduced to the tragedy of their story set against the backdrop of his amazing music.

Last Men in Aleppo (2017, dir. Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannessen) 104 minutes. Grasshopper Film. DVD. Available from Grasshopper (http://grasshopperfilm.com/film/last-men-in-aleppo/) and various distributors. Arabic with English subtitles. During the Syrian civil war, residents from the town of Aleppo risk their lives as White Helmets, search and rescue volunteers. A harrowing and heartbreaking look at daily life, death and struggle in the streets of the besieged city.

Newtown (2017, dir. Kim A. Snyder) 85 minutes. Passion River Films. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. Through raw and heartbreaking interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, doctors and first responders, the film documents a traumatized community working to find a sense of purpose in the aftermath of the senseless mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Pearl Button (2016, dir. Patricio Guzman) 82 minutes. Kino Lorber Films. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Kino Lorber (https://www.kinolorber.com/product/view/id/3020) and other distributors. Spanish with English subtitles. Through stunning cinematography and poetic juxtapositions, Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman explores the importance of water to Chile’s history and culture.

Political Animals (2017, dir. Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares) 87 minutes. Gravitas Ventures. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. CC.  The film follows four groundbreaking lesbians who took the fight for the causes most personal to them and their communities off the streets and into the halls of the California state legislature.

The Talk: Race in America (2017, dir. Samuel D. Pollard) 115 minutes. PBS. A powerful film about ‘the talk’ that parents must have with their children of color to teach them how to act around the police in order to remain safe. Interweaves personal narratives of police violence against innocent young victims.

Tower (2016, dir. Keith Maitland) 82 minutes. Kino Lorber. DVD and blu-ray. Available from Kino-Lorber (https://www.kinolorberedu.com/film/tower) and various distributors. CC. On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included sixteen dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to comprehend the tragedy. Through the dynamic combination of archival footage and rotoscopic animation, Tower reveals the untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting.

Whose Streets? (2017, dir. Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis) 101 minutes. Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD. Available from various distributors. Does not include captioning. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of Ferguson, Missouri. Footage shot on cellphones and hand-held video cameras lend the film an immediacy and urgency in this unflinching look at the uprising told by the activists and leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Dewey the Cat’s Favorite:   Kedi (2017, dir. Ceyda Torun) 80 minutes. Oscilloscope Laboratories. DVD and blu-ray. Available from various distributors. In Turkish with English subtitles. A city symphony of Istanbul told through the eyes of its street cats and the community that cares for them.

The 2018 Notable Films for Adults Committee:

Kati Irons Perez (Chair), Pierce County Library System, Cecilia Cygnar, Niles Public Library District, Philip Hallman, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, Tiffany Hudson, Salt Lake City Public Library, Kyle Knight, St. Louis Public Library, Kathleen Morley, Seattle Public Library, Lorraine Wochna, Alden Library, Ohio University

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Realm of Heroes or Violent Dystopia?

Thor: Be careful what you say, he is my brother!
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: He killed 80 people today.
Thor: He was adopted.

Photo: https://hdqwalls.com/1080×1920/spiderman-homecoming

It is hard to believe that we’ve had Marvel super hero movies at our movie theaters for 10 years now. In some ways, it feels like we have always had them. Depending on how much of a comic book movie fan you are, Iron Man might have been your gateway drug, or it might have been your umpteenth movie. Either way, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that Marvel has come up with a winning formula for churning out box office hits with their at one point lesser-known heroes.

While this formula might be making money, it is also changing the way we perceive a number of things. This particular post is not about DC/Marvel feuds or who’s the better hero. I want to talk about how Marvel movies have affected our take on violence in our movies.

As a parent or not, when you think of super heroes, you’re likely to think that these movies are obviously for children. If you like comic book movies, you’ll likely remember the parents complaining that Deadpool should get a PG-13 release. To some, the debate was funny to watch, but the PG-13 rating was desired because we believe that superheroes are for children. However, all things considered, Marvel movies should be as badly pinged as Deadpool. While Deadpool was definitely gorier than any Marvel movie we will ever see, it technically had less violence than our PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.

Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Consider Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Does the phrase “murder montage” seem out of place? Hela single-handedly kills a large portion of the Asgardian military and Yondu kills everyone who turned against him with an arrow he controls via whistling. Both scenes boast a considerable body count and have some fun poppy action music behind them. Yet we’re unperturbed. We’re laughing because it’s the umpteenth movie in the MCU and we don’t think about all the bodies on the floor. Why?

Photo: http://marvel.com/movies/movie/222/thor_ragnarok

It is likely because it’s the umpteenth movie. Marvel movies are fun, period. You are not meant to look at all the people that the heroes kill. There is no blood, save for our suffering, fighting heroes.  If there was even a little blood to show just how bad the carnage is in these movies, they’d be slapped with an R rating.

Some people might think this is great. Children should be able to watch their heroes fight. But should they? Violence is so prevalent within our mainstream media that Americans hardly blink at it. We are saturated with violence in our news and our entertainment. At what point do we stop caring? Sure, it’s cool that Iron Man can use missiles, but should we really laugh when people are dying? There is no blood in these movies, but people are still dying.

Both the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have weighed in on the increase in movie violence: read more here. I’m not saying that superhero movies are bad, but I do however argue that we’re becoming more desensitized to violence because of them. People wince at Captain America movies because Steve punches. He fights. They’re seen as gritty because of how personal they feel. This suggests that we as a viewership can still recognize violence for what it is, but that is not necessarily the case with the children many families take to see these movies.

Photo: http://www.businessinsider.com/captain-america-civil-war-controversial-ending-2016-2?r=UK&IR=T

The debate about movie violence is part of a larger, more complex discussion about violence in society. The Marvel movies are consumed by a wide audience and enjoy enormous popularity. As such, they give audience members the opportunity to discuss violence in our viewing habits and in the wider world. And to think about what social responsibilities, if any, lie with the content creators. Do these movies normalize violence? Do viewers respond differently to hand-to-hand combat versus more militarized, weapons-oriented fight scenes? If so, is one more or less harmful than the other? Not everyone will have the same answers to these questions, but because the movies are seen by so many children, it is important for the adult population to ask them. TL

Tamara Lane is an IU Bloomington senior majoring in Japanese Education, with a minor in Studio Art. In her spare time, she reads and plays video games. Current media obsession: Monster Hunter: World.

Everybody’s a Critic!

Photo: https://letterboxd.com/

I usher at the IU Cinema, I go to Wednesday Cinema Club at Plan 9 (held every week at 9pm), I put on movies in Media Services, and every once in a while I go to the AMC 12 outside of campus. I get my fair share of movies. I may not see as many as my roommate, a self-described film connoisseur, but I’ve seen enough movies to make references, name directors, and create opinions about them. My roommate, however, has taken it upon himself – as a film connoisseur – to go so far as to share his opinions with anyone that will listen by making a Letterboxd account. With his Letterboxd account he can review movies just like you can review products from Amazon. In making his account and submitting his reviews, my roommate has also become a movie critic. Not professionally, obviously, but you get the idea.

As an aspiring artist and writer wanting to know more about his credentials, I asked myself, “What makes a critic?” To find the answer, I went to the “movies on movies” section of Media Service’s Teaching and Research Collection. The first film I found was For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (Gerald Peary). This DVD, along with two similar online documentaries The Critics: Stories from the Inside Pages (Dwight Dewerth-Pallmeyer) and What is Beauty? An Art Critic’s Journey (TVF International) (found online through Films on Demand at http://proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/login?url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=99355&xtid=36402 and http://proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/login?url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=99355&xtid=52231 respectively) helped guide me to the purpose of a critic.

Photo: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1241707/

One documentary discussed strictly film critics, one strictly art critique, and the third about any type of critic. Each documentary, although very different in substance, said that critics have very clear purposes. Critics are the bridge between the artist and the audience. Critics can relate to the audience because they themselves are not the artists involved in creating whatever piece of art is being discussed. On the other hand, they can relate to the artists because of their high consumption of art. And in order for this relationship to work, the audience needs to trust that critics educate themselves on whatever type of art they choose to critique.

This relationship is great for a couple reasons. The first reason is that the critic can help further educate the audience on an art piece’s intricacies and meanings. The second reason is that the critic can help inform film directors, authors, and other artists about what kind of art the audience might want. One final reason a critic exists is because simply it is fun to write about art in either admiration or disapproval (and because it can be fun to read). The  Golden Raspberry Awards are great examples of critique being enjoyable.

For some reason, though, this relationship is never perfect. In fact, we as the audience are very aware of a certain tension between the artist and the critic, especially in film. Critics are often portrayed as the antagonist of a story. One example everybody should know is Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) in Ratatouille (Brad Bird). Ego’s soliloquy near the end of the film, his review of the meal, basically restates the purpose of a critic. He has a change of character, though, unlike many other film critics’ characters.

Photo: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Birdman

One such character is Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) in Birdman (Alejandro Inarritu). Throughout the film she is a nuisance to Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) and his play. In fact, she decides that she will “shut it down” before she has even seen it. This is a case where the critic has too much power, letting personal conflicts get in the way of art.

The opposite of this is when the critic gets taken advantage of by the artist. This happens in the movie Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe). William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a young, aspiring rock music critic, gets the opportunity to tour with a rising rock band in order to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine. The band dislikes him at first, calling him the “enemy” because of past critics that have broken up bands or driven their fame into the ground. William discovers, though, that writing about opinions or lies are some of the worst things you can do as a critic. For those of you who might be prospective film critics, be honest about what you write. The fantasization of the rock world and music critic world isn’t entirely true in Almost Famous – not everybody in the industry will take advantage of you for a good review. But it doesn’t hurt to tell the truth. DH   Photo: http://blowupcinema.com/almost-famous-at-the-beach/

Duncan Hardy is an IU Bloomington freshman looking to pursue dual degrees in Arts Management and Creative Writing. His favorite musical artists are Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and Andre 3000. Favorite movie: Robots

There’s A Musical For You!

Are movie musicals coming back into style? I think so! I for one have always been a lover of musicals! They are not always everyone’s cup of tea, however. In the last decade or so, it seems that there has been a lull in movie musicals that actually involve live people. While some believe that the music cheapens the story line and messes with the suspension of disbelief, I think the world of cinema is beginning to warm back up to live-action movie musicals.

In my opinion, there has always been a childlike feeling associated with musicals. This is probably because there have been so many musical works that are targeted towards younger audiences. Disney movies are a good example of this, even though they are beloved by people of all ages. I believe that people allow that association with their childhood to affect how they see musicals as adults. With this association in place, people tend to believe that serious and/or sophisticated plot lines cannot be told for adult audiences if there is song and dance involved, and that is false.

Often, the plots of movies are enhanced by music that is added. It can give an audience a look into the inner thoughts and motivations of characters that would have probably been left to speculation had the song not been included. Try to think of some musicals that could completely thrive without music. My first thoughts are of works such as Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Chicago. These all quickly debunk the idea of limited complexity when it comes to musical films.

Musical films are making a comeback. After the near win at the Oscars, the film La La Land seemed to capture the hearts of many people. It also seems to have ushered us into a new era of musical films. After watching the film The Greatest Showman and seeing the reception that it received, I am only more convinced of this idea. For those who are not familiar with the film, it is the story of P.T. Barnum, the father of the modern circus. This biopic sets his life, struggle, and success to wonderful and exhilarating music, lively and creative choreography, gorgeous and colorful sets, and a top-notch cast. I personally adored this film. It took over seven years to make, and I think that it could not have come out at a better time.

Having two very strong and well-received musical films released two years in a row gives me hope. I think that it shows that audiences may have started to appreciate the genre in general, which in turn will bring them back into demand. I also hope that these two films will work as models for modern directors on how to make successful musical films in this day and age. I am very hopeful for the future of musicals, and for anyone who is still on the fence concerning them, I encourage you to give them a chance. Music speaks to everyone in different ways, and there are so many different types of musicals that you are bound to find one that speaks to you. You just have to look, and our friendly and enthusiastic Media Services staff is always here to help! SM

This week’s blog author, Sydney Morrow, has a background in music and is currently pursuing a degree in Music Education through the Jacobs School of Music. 

All images courtesy Google Images.

The Underbelly of Nostalgia in Film & TV

“In my day, we listened to real music!” “Back in the day, there was no Netflix—we just had the drive-in.” “You just don’t see any good films nowadays…”

You have probably heard someone express one or more of these sentiments sometime in your life, whether it was your grandparents or your “90s baby” roommate. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can be triggered by anything from a bite of cake to a stray tune. No age seems to be immune to its charms, as reflected in the recent trend we have seen in contemporary film and television: sequels. Reboots. Remakes. Stories set in the 70s or 80s. These “blast from the past”-type productions have been on the rise since 2008 and have reached the point where it feels like almost everything up on the big (or little) screen has already had its time to shine. The question is no longer about if there will be a remake of any given classic but when…and why?

No matter your age, watching old classics from your childhood would likely be an experience you’d pay money for, and investors count on that. Say you are out at a coffee shop. While waiting in line for your much-needed espresso, you check out today’s selection of pastries: the salted caramel brownie similar to one at Kroger and the oatmeal chocolate chip that you’ve never seen before. While both are appealing, you’re statistically much more likely to pay for the choice that is familiar and, moreover, gratifying to you, even if you have been on an anti-brownie diet for years and have forgotten exactly what they taste like (can’t relate). We can apply this model to the large-scale trend we see in film & TV investments today. The tried-and-true approach is to reproduce already-successful films with new technologies and a mix of new & classic acting talents. Naturally, the main goal for these investors is to minimize risk/losses (wasting $$$ on a yuck-o brownie) and maximize rewards/profits (complimenting your coffee with the perfect brownie). Since the film selected to be rebooted or remade is likely already well-established among the masses, consumers are that much more likely pay and see it again, especially around the holidays. Plus, the directors, producers, and actors can rely on experiences (positive or negative) and materials of the original productions to create the best version possible.

However, while nostalgia is a great concept to capitalize upon in theory, there are still some problems. While many of these remade productions may have been considered (and celebrated for!) progressive storylines in their contemporary, they may be considered problematic or even backwards in this time. For example, the sitcom Will and Grace was considered a milestone for LBGTQ+ representation in the ‘90s. However, in 2017 and 2018, they have received backlash for not positively representing transgender people or people of color as they do cis white gay men.

On the other hand, many films have received criticism for not communicating what made the original so special for their contemporary, either well or at all. Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes is a famous example of this. While the original plot followed issues surrounding civil rights and McCarthyism, the Burton plot simply relies on brute violence and weak allusions to animal rights violations to sell tickets. Either way, consumers are not watching the films that they grew up with, and no amount of new technology or hot new actors can change that.

These problems are starting to translate into the entertainment industry itself. Although the volume of reboots & remakes would make you think otherwise, there has actually been a decrease in both ratings and box office sales for these titles since 2008, according to Contently, a technology company that studies media trends. These productions solely rely so much on what was great in the past to be what is great in the contemporary without adding in the extra context. If such a trend continues or grows, it may discourage fresh storylines and talent from being produced. Hollywood already fosters one of the most competitive environments imaginable, but incessant repeats may push the underprivileged, untested, and unknown even further away from realization. By continually investing resources into something consumers keep rejecting, we are wasting capable human and physical resources.

Nostalgia in film is such a difficult idea to capture, because nothing is ever the same the second time around. Growing up, you experience so many defining moments that are punctuated by the events from film premieres to new gaming consoles. The truth is that everyone wants to believe that they were a part of the “chosen” generation and have experienced the one “true” entertainment culture. However, we need to start investing in new stories today, so that future generations will have something to be nostalgic for as well.

You certainly don’t need to go to the box office to relive your childhood! Here at Media Services, we have a wide selection of films that cater to any type of nostalgia, from the entire Austin Powers collection to In a Lonely Place. Feel free to stop by any day of the week and ask a librarian about our current collections.

-LA

All images courtesy Google Images.