Auteur Producers: Wes Anderson

An Auteur Producer: A filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie. In other words, an auteur producer creates a work of film that is truly theirs to claim. Mundane movies are never fun to watch, which is why the work of auteur producers are such a sight to behold. It’s almost as if we as viewers witness the creation of a color outside of the visual spectrum. If all the auteur producers were on a color pallet, my favorite color would be Wes Anderson.

Wesley Wales Anderson was born in Houston, Texas. At the time, he lived with his mother, Texas Ann and his father, Melver Leonard Anderson, He also lived with his two brothers, Eric and Mel. Unfortunately, Anderson’s parents divorced when he was a young child, an event that changed the lives of he and his brothers forever. At a young age, Anderson began writing plays and making super-8 movies. He went on going to school at Westchester High School and then St. John’s, a private prep school in Houston, Texas, which was later an inspiration for his film “Rushmore” (1998). At the University of Texas in Austin, Anderson majored in philosophy, and it was in one of his classes where he met Owen Wilson. The two become good friends and began making short films together which occasionally aired at a local cable station. In 1994, he and Wilson released a short film “Bottle Rocket” during the Sundance Film Festival where it received much praise from their audience. So much, in fact, that they received funding to create a full-length film. Once they did, it wasn’t the greatest, but they still gained quite the following, and henceforth they’ve gone on to create movies such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009).

It’s hard to describe they style of Wes Anderson’s films, but it’s one of those things where you know it when you see it. It’s very unlikely that you watch “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and wonder who produced it. He uses methods that I can’t even fathom in this point of my education, but to summarize it he basically takes a whole bunch of little parts of cinematography and uses the sum of them to make a production. Things like the use of patterns, symmetry, and tracking shots are all part of Wes Anderson’s signature. But if that’s not enough for you, Wes Anderson also does something I’ve learned to be called a “Recurring Stable of Actors”. In other words, Anderson consistently uses a troupe of actors and actresses that star in his films, thus associating that particular group of actors and/or actresses with his work.

Batman (1989)

Welcome back to another blog about movies! This week it’s time to get nuts with Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), starring Michael Keaton as Batman, Gotham’s mysterious vigilante, and hero of the night who is working around the clock to take down his psychotic nemesis, The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson. Out of all the Batman movies to be released before the Dark Knight trilogy, Batman (1989) was top rated film with a whopping 7.6 on the web and is rightfully so. This film sets the tone for the rest of the Batman movies to follow as there is a significant shift in Batman’s dynamic that we have all come to know and love.

 

What time period do you think this film takes place?

At face value, I thought the movie was set somewhere in the 1930s seeing that a majority of the men in the film all wore the suit and tie, trench coat and Homburg hat; the signature look of that time period. Even the architectures of Gotham city seem to be painting a picture of the gangster era, however, after taking a closer look at the small clues hidden in the movie, I found that this film might actually be set in a specific year- 1947. If one were to pause the film whenever a character was reading the Gotham papers, and take a look at some of the news headlines, they’d find such clues. The one I managed to find was when we are first introduced to Vicky Vail. On the newspaper she is reading, there is headline that mentions “Aleman hailed at American parade”. This refers to Miguel Aleman the Mexican President who was invited by President Truman during the Motorcade Parade in 1947.

 

In what ways does Tim Burton inject his artistic style into the film?

Tim Burton is known for his dark, Gothic horror style and this film is no different. Ever since the release of this movie, “dark and mysterious” has been the gold standard for Batman thanks to Tim Burton’s style making it so. There are a lot of grey tones with just the slightest touch of purple mixed in that really define the art style of Tim Burton, not only in Batman, but also within the city in which he protects. I might even argue to say that Gotham City is even more so dark and mysterious than the Bat himself.

 

The Babadook (2014)

Good day folks, and welcome back to another blog post about movies! This week we’ll be taking a look at a special movie, “The Babadook” (2014) directed by Australian writer Babadook_01Jennifer Kent, starring Essie Davis as Amelia, a single mother who grieves for her deceased husband while trying to raise Samuel, their seemingly mischievous son. On the online community, this movie averages just barely over 3 and a half stars, which wouldn’t say much if this were an ordinary movie, but the fact that “The Babadook” is a foreign film AND directed by a woman is remarkable in itself and deserves some recognition. Personally, I give this movie 7 out of 10 stars for its dark and mysterious cinematography, psychological horror, and ability to strike fear into an audience without the use of extreme gore, which is super easy to do in a horror film.

And now for some talking points…

  • Horror films prey on common phobias. What were some phobic scenes you noticed?

This movie definitely dives into some phobias and uses them against the audience to strike fear into our minds. I’m sure there are many that can be argued, but I noticed 3 that stood out. We have Odontophobia, the fear of dentistry. During the senes where Amelia seems to be possessed by the Babadook, there is a certain part where she shoves her hand in her mouth and pulls out her own tooth! There was definitely some uneasiness from the audience during this part. The guy next to me even let out an “oh god…”. I debated with myself as to whether this was Odontophobia or Algophobia (the fear of pain). After reading the definitions of each, I decided the first one was a better fit. Next, there is Entomophobia or more commonly known as “Insectophobia”, which is the Babadook_04fear of bugs. Obviously, I’m referring to the scene where our female protagonist moves the fridge to reveal a hole in the wall. After observing the hole more closely, we hear the infamous hissing of roaches which then come crawling endlessly through the opening and cover the wall. A truly disgusting sight to behold, and an unfortunate one for those whom have a particular discomfort for creepy crawlies. The final phobia I argue is Achluophobia, the fear of the dark, or what could happen in the dark. This movie does an extremely fascinating job with using darkness to convey different ideas of fear and leaves the audience to dig their own graves, or, in other words, they use our interpretations against us. A genius tactic. This idea flows into my next discussion topic.

 

  • How many times did the film show the Babadook creature/monster?

During our pre-film discussion, we talked about what editors consider to be the scariest thing in film, “the unseen”, and how confusion is closely tied to fear. With this in mind, we only see the Babadook creature/monster maybe 2 or 3 times throughout the wholeBabadook_05 movie. Every other time he seems to be hidden away in the darkness; he’s a silhouette at best. This plays back to the idea that the editor uses our own interpretations against us to produce a personal monster that scares us. To this I tip my Babadook top hat to Simon Njoo (the editor) for attempting an ambitious feat in cinematography.

 

  • Was the Rule of Thirds used? When?

During the movie, there were two instances where it looked like they used the rule of thirds to scare the audience. The first time I noticed was the scene where Amelia goes to the police station to report a stalker. The camera is positioned on the officer in a such a way where your eyes are naturally drawn on him (Rule of 3rds), however, when theBabadook_02 officer bends down to write a report, our eyes are still stuck on where he was initially standing, and there we see a cloaked figure hanging on the coatrack like an ordinary jacket. My only complaint about this scene is that Simon Njoo had the potential to make this a truly thrilling scene but decided to cut back to Amelia instead of staying on the shadowy figure in the background. It broke the flow of the moment. What are your thoughts? (Police Station Scene).

The second scene I noticed using this method, was the “window scene” where Amelia is mindlessly washing the dishes and looks through the window to see their neighbor watching tv. Nothing unusual about it so far, until she looks across the way once more to see the Babadook standing over their neighbor and right back at Amelia. The whole scene takes a few seconds and is super creepy with how nonchalant they present the Babadook.

Babadook_03

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Hey and hello there again to another post about movies! This week’s movie: “There Will Be Blood” (2007), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Academy Award Winner Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a nobody silver minor in the middle of nowhere who becomes an established Californian oil prospector with a vision to be the best in the business no matter the cost. Like most movies on this blog, “There Will Be Blood” averages around 4 out of 5 stars and is spoken highly of throughout various media sources on the web. In addition to this, a good chunk of those fans are, in fact, Daniel Day-Lewis fans! And why wouldn’t they be? His compelling character has earned him second among actors/actresses by total Academy Awards won in acting categories, and has been stared in movies like ‘The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), “Gangs of New York” (2002), and “Phantom Thread” (2017). Although this movie is hyped by fans all over, I wouldn’t say it makes my list of all-time favorites. I did, however, appreciate the film for its interesting cinematography and compelling acting from lead actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. His ability to become whomever his role calls for is absolutely astounding and truly nailed the personality of Daniel Plainview, which rolls us into our discussion points:

 

  • What makes Daniel Plainview a compelling character? Which of his actions endear him to you? Which actions alienate him from you?

During our pre-movie discussion, we talked about the concept of method acting and how some actors/actresses will refer back to some sort of memory or experience that pertains to the roll they are trying to fill. Daniel Day-Lewis is essentially the king of this type of acting and completely immerses himself in his character. On a scale, we have Daniel Plainview’s character as a person with endearing traits on the left, some grey area in the middle, and some seemingly sinister actions on the right. In the beginning of the film, Plainview seems is an honest man trying to build his oil company and even took his son in as his little business partner. The bond they share is absolutely touching and we see moments in the film where Plainview bends backwards to make sure he is taken care of, and that is a kind of person I can respect and would put on the left side of the scale. He mentions in the movie that he does not like people on his best day and would sooner find a way to run an entire company by himself than have to rely on others. This kind of thing belongs in the middle, in my opinion, since people sometimes are hard to deal with it, but Plainview seems to be on an extreme level of hate for them. Speaking of extreme, we start to see what kind of man Mr. Plainview Is when he double crosses the towns people, goes back on his word, and even murders two people!

 

  • Separating other aspects of film, which aspects of this character are driven solely by performance?

It is hard to tell what Is solely performance in a method actor. In my opinion, things like following the script and knowing when to say your lines are what fall under “performance”. So, in other words; not much of Day-Lewis’s work is strictly performance base, but when he becomes someone else entirely to perfectly portray a character, he is no longer performing, but he is living his roll.

 

  • How different is Daniel Plainview from Daniel Day-Lewis?

These are two very different people, but none can deny there are at least a couple of somewhat creepy similarities between them. For instance, Plainview is a man of ambitions and seeks to be the best and will not tolerate anything less. This could be contrasting Day Lewis’s ambitions to be the world’s greatest method actor. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis loves his family and I remember us talking about how he put aside his acting career to be with his loved ones for a while. This kind of similar affection shows in Plainview’s character as well.

The Road to Perdition (2002)

Hello again, and welcome to another post about movies! This week’s film: “The Road to Perdition” (2002), directed by Sam Mendes, starring Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, Irish mob boss Mr. Rooney’s number one enforcer. This movie averages 4 out of 5 stars in the ratings, and for good reason! I personally rate this movie 9 out of 10 for its dark, creative cinematography, epic scenes of intense drama, beautiful music composed by Thomas Newman, and its strong line of actors who are well known today such as Jude Law and Daniel Craig. This film easily climbs the ranks of one of my most enjoyed movies especially after watching the rainy street scene, which I will talk about later in this post! But for now, some discussion topics:

  • What kind of camera movements and lighting schemes did you see and how were they effective in the movie?

Immediately at the start of the movie, we notice that the story is shot in dark, saturated colors. Everything has a cold, gloomy feel to it which played in perfectly with the snow during the opening sequence. It really sets the tone of the film. Furthermore, the use of shadows was amazing! It helps capture a sense of mystery and unconfirmed suspicion, for instance, during the beginning of the movie, we see Michael Sullivan put up his brief case, however, we only see the faint, almost-silhouette of the briefcase leaving us wondering what is in the case and what it is Michael Sullivan does for a living. Obviously, there are tons of interesting moments such as this which invoke suspense, drive mystery, and even capture symbolism, but to talk about them all would require a bigger website! But I digress.

I was able to recognize three kinds of camera movements throughout the film (or at least remember the name of them), two of which can be seen during the “Lexington Hotel Room 1432” scene (scene 22) where we see the camera zooming in on Michael Sullivan walking into the Lexington Hotel. From there a vertigo-shot is used to show him walking through the halls and corridors of the hotel. I get a sense of urgency through these shots, or a feeling that the scene is leading up to an event. Another scene that uses vertigo-shot is the scene where Maguire is shown walking towards the camera under what looks like a bridge or metro line although this particular scene gives a vibe of psychotic insanity. I also noticed the use of hand-held camera movement during scenes that portrayed anger and rage, particularly during two scenes which seem to mirror each other: John Rooney cursing his son, Connor Rooney, and Michael Sullivan scolding his son, Michael Jr. after their first encounter with Maguire at the diner. Both of these scenes seemed intense and powerful in emotion. The shaking effect is similar to that of clenched fists.

 

  • Did you notice any symbolism in the film? What were they?

Our guest speaker brought up an interesting point during the discussion about the concept of good and evil being symbolized through light and darkness. It blew my mind, and once I saw it, I could not un-see it. This concept is seemingly confirmed during a scene where a heated discussion between John Rooney and Michael Sullivan is taking place: “There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven.” (John Rooney, RTP). It wasn’t until after I analyzed this quote that a battle between angels and demons became apparent to me. The mob always seems to be draped in darkness and shadows. Hardly any light at all. Even during scenes of death and killing were shot in the dark. A particular scene that exemplifies this is Maguire’s introduction scene where he is taking a picture of a man with a knife protruding from his chest. Unfortunately for the man, the knife alone was not enough to kill him and so he suffered a little before Maguire finished him off by suffocating him with a neckerchief. As he is doing this, though, a perfectly timed metro train passes by the window and the room is darkened for a brief moment as Maguire murders the man; an act of evil. On the flipside, there are also moments of justice which are captured in the light, for example, when Michael avenges his murdered wife and son at the Lexington hotel where he shoots Connor Rooney in the bathtub. On a side note, we also notice that the camera angle is looking down at Michael almost as if we are angels looking down on him. There is one, ultimate scene that is the mother of all symbolism in this entire film and is indeed the best scene of all. I have saved it for last:

  • Explain the “Rainy street” scene.

This, by far, was the greatest scene of the whole movie. We have John Rooney walking out to his car, rain is pouring from the sky. He is being escorted by his protection, his men shadowy silhouettes. Before Mr. Rooney enters his car, we see his driver has been shot and killed. The shadow men are now scattered about the dark, wet street almost as if they are stranded, but surrounded by darkness. In the shadows we see nothing and wonder if Michael Sullivan is there ready to attack. For a moment there is silence. And then there is death for out of the shadows is the barrel flash of a weapon being fired. One by one, John’s men fall to the ground seemly dying as soon as they are met by the camera until there is only John left standing. The camera is slowly zooming in on John’s face for he knows he is going to die tonight. Out of the darkness and into the light comes Michael almost like a phantom. “I’m glad it’s you”, John says before Michael kills him. After the deed is done, Michael can see local residences looking down on him from there apartment windows as if they were angles looking down on a man who lost his place in heaven.

 

 

Memento (Feat. Raging Bull)

Hello and welcome back to another blog post about movies! This week’s topic: “Memento” (2001), directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Guy Pearce as Leonard. On a scale of 1-10, I give this movie a solid 8 for it’s intense plotline, creative use of chronological filming, and its ability to keep viewers wondering what they’ll see next and how it ties into everything else in the movie. So far, I’ve enjoyed every film we’ve watched in our class and I am happy to say I can add this one to the list. As a group we asked ourselves a few questions about the film that I have used as a guideline to this post. Also, we’ve incorporated another film that we watched previously, “Raging Bull” (1980), directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro. Here are my thoughts on the discussion:

  • There are three characters that use Leonard’s condition to manipulate him. Who are they?

The three main culprits I noticed in the film were John G (“Teddy”), Leonard’s seemingly suspicious investigation partner from the very beginning who has led him on countless “John G” goose chases and used this particular case to pocket drug money. Teddy mentioned in the film that the money they would be pocketing would be split 50/50, however, there is no evidence that Leonard has been receiving his share, and there is no way for Leonard to know of his shortcomings. It’s possible Teddy’s motives with Leonard was to use him as a drug money mule. Next, we have Natalie, the local bartender hostess who seemed kind, loving and understanding of Leonard’s condition from what we could tell from the early stages of the movie, however, we are shown her true colors when we witness her spit in Leonard’s beer during the bar scene, and when she insults his deceased wife and his condition just for the sake of knowing she could get away with it since he would just forget momentarily. Natalie was, in fact, the sickest, most twisted person Leonard encountered in the whole movie. Then finally, the man who worked the front desk of the hotel Leonard was staying at. I am not 100% certain we ever get his name, but he is the man who mentioned Leonard’s condition to his manager and then proceeded to sell Leonard another room and give him a run for his money. I guess some could argue that there were actually four culprits if you include the front desk worker’s manager who told him to do what he did in the first place, but for argument sake, I’ll conclude with the three main characters I mentioned.

  • How could you compare the pace of this film to the other film we watched? (Raging Bull)?

Compared to Raging Bull, Memento was far more intense and kept me on my toes for the plotline; however, Raging Bull is not to be casted aside. It carried a similar intensity with its spontaneous climax that ultimately transforms the great Jake LaMotta from hero to zero. I feel Memento has an unfair advantage over Raging Bull since it was produced farther along the way of cinematic technology and for the simple fact that it was more action-based were as Raging Bull felt more like a drama. Whichever way you look at it, Memento feels faster-paced than Raging Bull.

  • There might be a significant revelation about Leonard’s character shown in a flash cut. Did you see it? What are the implications?

Now, when we were initially asked about this flash cut after the film, I had no idea what we were supposed to be talking about, and that’s mostly because I was one of the people who happened to be blinking when it occurred in the movie and missed it. I found out shortly afterward there was indeed a flash cut in the film showing Sammy, a man Leonard references throughout the movie who shares the same memory condition, sitting in what looked like a waiting room or sitting area and, in the blink of an eye, Leonard is shown sitting in Sammy’s place. This flash cut seems to obviously suggest (spoiler alert) Leonard “is Sammy”, and I mean that in the sense that Leonard created Sammy in his own head to cover up his own past that he later believes to be Sammy’s past.

  • How do you think the experience of watching this film would change if it was presented in chronological order?

If this movie where to start from the beginning like traditional movies, it would leave a huge gaping hole in my interest because at that point it would just be a movie about a guy with memory loss who eventually kills his “partner”, and what fun would that be for anybody? No, instead, they chose to begin with the end, and by doing so they created an immersive storyline that really puts us in the shoes of inspector Leonard. This method also builds up intensity as the events in the movie are bridged by minor details that slowly take shape of larger pictures until finally, in the end, we are met with the final outcome that was foreshadowed at the start.

  • How does the film use color and black and white sequences differently?

The film seems to utilize color to differentiate between time; the past, in black and white, and the present, in color. Something that I thought was neat they did in the film was the transition between black and white to color to signify that the past is caught up with the present.

 

Jurassic Park

From the stormy jungle terrain, to the wild, ferocious dinosaurs, Jurassic Park is packed with suspense and daring adventure and was everything a dinosaur movie should’ve been for its time. It still holds the title of one of my all-time favorites! As a kid, I always dreamed of visiting Jurassic Park despite all the obvious possibility of death by carnivorous dinos and perilous hazards of the island itself… but it’s dinosaurs, com’on!

Steven Spielberg (the man who needs no introduction) combined both visual effects and practical effects to essentially bring Jurassic Park to life, and by doing so he managed to captivate the audience and really submerge the viewers into the world. It almost seemed real (for that time), and probably left younger viewers wondering how they got real dinosaurs for the movie. Mr. Spielberg smoothly blends the two effects through out the film, for instance, the scene where Ellie rushes off the tour car to help a nearby triceratops, they used an animatronic dinosaur to convey the illusion of realism therefore making other scenes of the movie appear realistic, like the velociraptors in the kitchen, and the whole T-Rex sequence. With effects like those, they really had audiences holding on to their butts.

In comparison to the latest films in the Jurassic Park franchise (Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), the classic movies are more compelling in the sense that the use of both CGI and animatronics really bring the film to life, and unfortunately you just don’t see that any more with the latest films since CGI continues to improve with time. But don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of amazing films out there that use primarily CGI like Avatar, Star Wars, The Matrix, and so many others, but for this specific instance, CGI-enhanced effects are king.