Monday, October 28, 2013

weeks six and seven

week six - film reviews [and] reading five - key points

Planet of the Apes, 1968, 112 minutes, USA, Director Franklin Schaffner

     When viewing the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, the first consideration that one should recognize is the films usage of present day icons as a means of connecting a viewer to the film. It's interesting to see how the adaptation of large scale monuments, such as the statue of liberty, or minute features, such as the doll that was discovered that had the ability to talk, are not only represented in the film, but are relatable to the common person who may be a viewer of the work. It creates an acknowledgement, or better yet, a bond between the viewer and the film and it's carried more personally because of the symbols they representwhether in correlation to our youth or pride as a nation. This feeds into the overarching theme of the work, the future, and the manner in which our present being will be articulated and remembered. It also poses the idea that since man is a descendant of the "ape," there remains a possibility that man may either revert to the same physique as ape once again, or opens a viewers thoughts into the possibility that may lead man to mutate into something else. The film also is able to articulate common fears that may present themselves in the future, such as the fear of being lonely. The protagonist of the film, Taylor, even mentions early on in the film while still in space that, "time bends, space is boundless, it squashes a mans ego, I feel lonely," (Planet of the Apes, 1968). This is not only a fear one could apply to the future, but pulling it back to the populace viewing this film, could also relate to one's current state of being in the 1960s.

one, Signifying Monkeys by Richard von Busack
  • "We see the origin of the taboo against killing"Ape shall not kill ape"and the class lines laid down between the bellicose gorillas, the intellectual, pacifist chimps, and the orangutans, the Ape-Planet's clergy," (von Busack, pg. 166).
  • "For all that, the first Planet of the Apes follows the politically centrist path of the average cold-war science fiction film ... In the golden age of 1950s science fiction, the giant bugs or rogue vegetablessymbolic of the Communist menaceare faced off by an aggressive general, who wants to kill the monster on sight ...  In the 1968 Planet of the Apes, it's the orangutan Dr. Zaius (the mellifluous Maurice Evans) who's the bridge between the angry hawkish gorillas and the liberal chips. Zaius is conservative enough to want the planet to stay changless. Still, he's willing, within reason, to listen to the pacifist chimps," (von Busack, pg. 169).
  • "Dehn intended the later ape films to be allegories about the boiling racial tensions in America ... The whites are racist almost to the last man. The best human in the film, a mitigating argument against ape revolution, is the assistant of the ape-hating, dictatorial Governor, McDonald, a black man caught between the oppressed and the oppressors ... McDonald's own will to help and heal isn't strong enough to overcome the bestial impulses of the white enslavers of the apes, (von Busack, pg. 173).
THX 1138, 1971, 88 minutes, USA, Director George Lucas 
      The moment of THX 1138 that resonates with me is the ending, when the protagonist emerges from the underground dystopian future society he is marked by, to a new beginning. There's an interesting contrast and resolution in the scene that goes hand in hand with several of the motives throughout the film. The first is when LUH refuses to take her drugs and realizes her love for THX. There's a scene in the film that LUH proposes that the two of them run away to the forbidden territory, but THX doesn't feel safe about the idea. As the film progresses and THX finds himself in a variety of predicaments, it's interesting to see his development as a character when he begins to abandon his hesitations towards leaving the dystopia, especially when he learns that LUH has been terminated and regenerated. As a viewer, it almost feels as if he is compelled and committed to the idea of abandoning the dystopia not for himself, but in memory of LUH. Additionally, the emergence at the end plays hand in hand with the notion of sanity. There comes a time when one is emerged in routine for too long and their well being is challenged. Often times an individual will succumb to this fate and simply coexist with it, but rarely do you see individuals take the initiative to change the very thing that causes their misery. The ending of THX 1138 lends itself perfectly to this concept, where THX has abandoned the forsakened society he had formerly been affiliated to, meanwhile emerging into a new environment that will only provide him opportunities to think, learn, and discover for himself.
Silent Running, 1972, 89 minutes, USA, Director Douglas Trumbull
     One of the most engaging aspects of the 1972 film, Silent Running, is the character development that occurs throughout. From the very start, an audience is presented with characters from two sides of the spectrum: an environmentalist who desires to preserve what remains, and a crew who cannot see the beauty or necessity in nature. When presented orders to destroy the habitats and return home, Lowell is conflicted and ultimately takes his aggression out on the crew as opposed to obeying orders.  "Given a choice between the lives of his companions and the lives of Earth's last surviving firs and pines, oaks and elms, and creepers and cantaloupes, he decides for the growing things," (Ebert). After suffocating one of the crew members and aborting the remaining two in one of the habitats, Lowell begins to feel the weight of guilt on his shoulders. This guilt is put to rest upon the burial of the crew member that remained on board, that is representational to not only the unmerited deeds he had caused, but also is part and parcel to the fact that he no longer has access to human interaction in space. In place is the interaction he has with three droids. What is interesting about these droids is the fact that they show humanistic emotions, even though they cannot articulate in the English language (though they can understand it). This notion is represented when Droid 3, Louie, was ripped from the ship during a storm and the only remnant of him that remained was his foot. Lowell attempts to take the imagery and scare the remaining droids with it, stating that this is what happens when one does not follow directions, but the way the droids mourned over the loss of Louie was similar to the way Lowell mourned during his crew member’s burial. In addition, when Lowell is performing surgery on Droid 2 after crashing into him, the other remained at his side and whimpered. These emotions from the droids make up for the lack of Lowell’s, where the roles are reversed and it can almost be compared that Lowell thinks more logically, whereas the droids are developed as being more compassionate.

two, Silent Running review by Roger Ebert
  • "Given a choice between the lives of his companions and the lives of Earth's last surviving firs and pines, oaks and elms, and creepers and cantaloupes, he decides for the growing things."
week seven - film reviews [and] reading six - key points
La Jetée, 1962, 28 minutes, France, Director Chris Marker
     When considering the 1968 film, La Jetée, one of the most prominent features of the film is its presentation of a memory. With the film being placed in the past, present, and future, the selected method of still-images emits a particular timelessness to the work. This timelessness is in correlation to the idea of what the still-image represents today – a memory. With the subtle fades from one slide to the next, La Jetée captures the same longing sensation that one’s very own photo album may evoke. Upon glancing over photographs, there’s very slight movement that comes with a still image, and that movement is on the basis of one’s memory of the past as opposed to the visual representation of what is before oneself. When viewing the film as a travel narrative, "La Jetée doesn’t make much sense; but then again, time and memory do not make ‘sense’, at least when articulated by a technology as arbitrary as language,” (Sellars). With minimal commentary and subtle movement throughout the film, a viewer is able to experience La Jetée with minimal distractions and soak up the very recollection that is being interpreted. In addition, the film attempts to portray Paris during a futuristic world war, an event that has yet to occur, but there’s an absolute realness that the film is able to accomplish with the imagery that brings this idea to life. The views of Paris and the lack of clarity in the sky give a viewer a strong sense of time and place in the work. This very notion "highlights why we are attracted to SF in the first place: not for bug-eyed aliens or galaxy-hopping spaceships, but for the way in which the form can twist our most cherished versions of reality inside out."

three, La Jetée review by Simon Sellars
  • "Nothing sorts memories from ordinary moments. They claim remembrance when they show their scars."
  • "[La Jetée] highlights why we are attracted to SF in the first place: not for bug-eyed aliens or galaxy-hopping spaceships, but for the way in which the form can twist our most cherished versions of reality inside out."
  • "However, like all time travel stories, La Jetée doesn’t make much sense; but then again, time and memory do not make ‘sense’, at least when articulated by a technology as arbitrary as language. Rather, La Jetée‘s virtue is its immediate, haunting ability to evoke the emotions of love and desire; its use of photomontage poignantly conjures up the frozen moments that constitute memory."
Dark Star, 1974, 83 minutes, USA, Director John Carpenter
     At a time of the Watergate era and the Vietnam War, the 1974 “cult” film Dark Star was considered an enthusiastic film that allowed viewers to escape from reality and enter a realm of black comedy. When considering the blanket genre for Dark Star, there’s an interesting dynamic present. Regardless that the film was completed on a low budget, it would be anticipated that the film wouldn’t be of the same stature of those in circulation simultaneously, but the ingenuity of the film transforms it into a classic. With innovative ideas such as being the first film to allow viewers to experience hyperspace, the film is able to pull forth elements that have yet to be explored in the genre of science fiction. In addition to the special effects contribution to the success of the film, the characters that drive the story forward should also be considered. Of the characters, there’s equilibrium present. Each character contains a unique personality from the next, which not only allows for the characters of the film to be more easily identified with by a large audience, but it also allows for conflict to occur from within since they’re not only conflicting personalities, but these individuals are confined to a small space for an obscure amount of time. Whether a crew member, computer, alien, or bomb, there is a cohesive environment of checks and balances developed from one individual to the next.

four, Dark Star review
  • "By presenting us with hippies in space, O'Bannon and Carpenter are parodying a few myths of the sci-fi genre, of brave pioneers who boldly go where no man has gone before."
  • "Dark Star is very much a product of its time. Channelling the disillusioned ideals of the 1960s peace and love era with the darker, more paranoid mood of the 1970s, the film takes influence from a number of sources."
  • "The ‘character' of Bomb 20 is a direct nod to HAL, as is Doolittle's space walk and his phenemological conversation to try and convince the bomb not to explode in the ship's loading bay. It's in these moments that Dark Star reveals a philosophical and almost existential edge." 
five, Technophobia/Dystopia by Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner
  • Technophobia:
    • "Fantasy replaces an accurate assessment of the world with images that substitute desired ideals or feared projections," (Ryan, pg. 48).
    • "From a conservative perspective technology represents artifice as opposed to nature, the mechanical as opposed to the spontaneous, the regulated as opposed to the free, an equaliser as opposed to a promoter of individual distinction ... most important for the conservative individualist critique, it represents modernity, the triumph of radical change over traditional social institutions," (Ryan, pg. 49).
    • "The rhetorical strategy of many technophobic films, therefore, is to establish a strong opposition between terms (liberty vs. equality) that does not permit any intermediation. The elimination of the middle ground is an essential operation of this ideology," (Ryan, pg. 49).
    • "Thus one can only be an individual, a self, within a society of monogamous marriage, in which sexuality primarily serves the 'natural' function of reproduction rather than pleasure ... they all depend on the rejection of everything technology represents - mediation, equality, intersubstitutability, and so on," (Ryan, pg. 50).
    • "[Blade Runner] offers a mediation between technology and human values. 'Replicants are like any other machine. They can be a benefit or a hazard," ... The film also deconstructs the conservative romantic opposition of reason and feeling ... But the film suggests that feels is not the polar opposite of reason ... Thus, the film deconstructs the oppositions - human/technology, reason/feeling, culture/nature - that underwrite the conservative fear of technology by refusing the privilege one pole of the dichotomy over another and by leaving their meaning undecidable," (Ryan, pg. 51-52).
    • "What rhetoric, like technology, opens is the possibility of an undergrounded play with social institutions ... Perhaps this is why technology is such an object of fear in conservative science fiction films," (Ryan, pg. 52).
  •  Dystopias:
    • "Dystopias generally project into the future the fears of the present, and their themes often transcode the sorts of anxieties that characterised that crisis ... The dystopia films can therefore be seen as indirect, displaced articulations of progressive forces and desires that constituted a resistance to conservative hegemony in the 1980s and that pointed forward, literally as well as figurally, to alternative futures," (Ryan, pg. 54).

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