Changing Ideologies within the Romantic Comedy Genre in the 21st Century

It is evident that throughout film history, there have existed ideologies within films which can be clearly acknowledged and understood by the viewer, or exist in more of an implicit fashion. Messages from the “dominant” culture or implications from capitalist outlooks have been indefinable within films of all genres, especially within Hollywood films, (Turner, 1998). Author Grahame Turner has defined and discussed ideologies within film, from his book ‘Film as a social practice,’ the author stated: “both the production and reception of film are framed ideological interests…the relationship between each text and its culture is traceable to ideological roots” (Turner, 1998). The Oxford Dictionary defines ideology as “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy” (Oxford, 2013). Ideological messages can differ depending on the social, economic, or political state of society, or what culture the film has been made within or to suit. Ideology is often said to be decided upon by the ‘ruling class’, and is a one sided ideal of how society should  run; and often not always agreed on or accepted by the wider society (Hess, 1978).  With regards to the genre film, Grant (2007) also argued that genre movies “tend to be read as ritualised endorsements of dominant ideology” (Grant, 2007).

Many genre films can be shaped by the social milieu of the time they are made, and classic genres tend to offer the audience a solution to the ongoing problems in society. These solutions are often portrayed through genre films where the main protagonists are presented with a conflict, and the film follows up and concludes with a logical as well as moral resolution  to the problem (Hess, 1974). As ideologies can portray the state which society is in or the general social attitudes of individuals of the ‘ruling class’, it is evident that ideologies within film can also adjust and adapt to changes within the social society. With regards to Hollywood genre films, research on the subject from many authors has shown that there exist historical ideologies within film which have adapted over time. This essay will focus particularly on how ideology has changed from film to film within the Hollywood romantic comedy genre, or “rom-com” genre, looking at classic and modern-day films.

Hollywood Genre films are easy to identify by audiences as they are categorised into different segments by the industry to make distinct differentiations between the film types, as well as to attract key audiences for marketing purposes. Classic Hollywood genre films such as the Western, the Action and the Gangster film, all arguably contain ideologies which suggest how to deal with conflicts in the best way; and can often represent current issues in society at the time when the film is released into cinemas, (Hess, 1974). The traditional romantic comedy genre contains strong ideologies, but these films focus less on dealing with conflict and more on the importance of finding true love and getting married.

“The basic ideology within the romantic comedy genre is the primary importance of the couple” (McDonald, 2007). The highly popular film genre which features films that generally tend to present a sweet love story, is considered a very escapist and fantasy type genre for audiences, with the light-hearted and humorous plotlines of romantic comedy films (MacDowell, 2009). From the early days of cinema, the romantic comedy film predominantly focused on finding romance; with the explicit ideology that love is the key to an ideal and extremely satisfied life. This traditional ideology within the film genre is portrayed in such films including: “The Awful Truth” (1937), “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), and “Roman Holiday” (1953). The implication within these films that love is eternal, and that you will be fulfilled if you manage to ‘live happily ever after’, has however been challenged in the more recent years of film making; as society has inevitably faced changes which has influenced the content of the romantic comedy film. Such implications and messages of marriage, building a family, and achieving a ‘functional’ relationship, are now portrayed differently as the Western culture has adapted to more realistic issues which can exist within relationships. Such influences can include the effect of the second wave of feminism in the sixties and seventies; which positively changed women’s rights and their role in society to becoming more independent – and this was reflected in film’s of these eras and onwards. Other factors include the greater acceptance of homosexuality in society, stronger racial-equality laws being implemented, and the overall modernisation of gender roles, “the genre has managed to remain successful as it has adapted to social and cultural conceptions of love and intimacy (MacDowell, 2009).

A significant example of a film which challenged the traditional messages within romantic comedy films was in 1977 when the movie ‘Annie Hall’ directed by Woody Allen was released. This film’s plot completely dropped traditional structure and ideology within the genre as the film ended with a couple breaking up. Many of Woody Allen’s romantic comedies challenge traditional ideologies and focus more on intimidate relationships without marriage, often with a depiction of the main characters’ anxieties about monogamy and their move towards self-reflectivity. The directors film “Vicky Christina Barcelona”(2008) also features a more in-depth look at love and relationships outside of marriage, with the two leading females stuck in a love triangle with a charming Spanish bachelor, who mutually endure the quarrels between passion, sex, and spontaneity; against marriage and commitment. Other more modern films which compare in this unconventional way are “The Break up” (2006) which includes a time-frame of a couple’s relationship ultimately failing, as well as the romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” (2009) where the leading female refuses love and marriage as she is adamant that it only ends in failure and unhappiness.

Perhaps since the Western society became more free post the Second World War along with the changing gender roles and the greater acceptance of sexuality, films which focus more on these controversial topics have become more popular and accepted by audiences. Many “rom-coms” that were released in the sixties were the first to explore single life, as divorce rates rose significantly after the second wave of feminism, changing perceptions of love and marriage portrayed on the big screen, and delivered the message to women that love does not conquer all (MacDonald, 2007).

Author Tamer Jeffer McDonalds book “Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Genre”, explores the changing ideologies within the film genre from the 1930s onwards, providing a very in-depth and interesting look at these films within their social context at the time. McDonald suggests that in the late 20th and  the 21st century, there is more of a focus on popular culture and consumer products, rather than the social context which the film was made within (McDonald, 2007). With focus on modern day romantic comedy movies, McDonald discusses the “post-feminist” film, the “bromance” and the “hommcom”. Regarding the “post-feminist” film, the author is referring to films such as “The Women” (2010) and “Sex and the City” (2008) which contain strong career-driven successful women who seek love and romance despite great personal success, suggesting that people and particularly women, ultimately need love to feel fully complete (McDonald, 2007). The “bromance” and the “hommcom” compare in a similar manner as they are explained to be a kind of modern day “rom-com” which focus on the perspective of the male, which is another example of how these film types completely oppose with older more traditional ‘romantic comedies’, where a focus was solely had on the perspective of the woman seeking true love (Macdowell, 2009).

It is evident that in the 21st century there has been an array of films which conform to these more modern elements. Some examples of these have been produced by director Judd Apatow, an American film writer, director, and producer. To name a few of Apatow’s booming romantic comedies, some include “Knocked up” (2007),” Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008), “I Love You Man” (2010), and “This is 40” (2012). All of these films and many more written and directed by Apatow all contain the same recognisable quirky and refreshing humour, and feature modern-day themes which aim to portray ‘modern-day’ less conventional relationships.

Looking at ideologies in more modern-day romantic comedy films, it is clear from suggestions by author’s McDonald and McDowell that there has been a shift in what messages are being portrayed to audiences. The romantic comedy genre has managed to survive and remain successful to the present day, despite much criticism, and this is likely aided by the fact that they are so open to change (MacDowell, 2009). Although ideologies have indeed alternated, if one is to analyse and evaluate modern-day  films within the genre, they would still see that the desire to find love still exists within them and therefore within society. This is very clear within the 21st century as marriage is still a very respected institution. The difference with modern romantic comedies is that rather than just teaching the audience that they need to fall in love and get married, there is now more of a focus on the make-up of relationships; presenting the truth that love is complicated and can come in different shapes and forms.

Judd Apatow’s film “Knocked Up” is an example of this, which features an ambitious single woman (Katherine Heigl) who works for a television show and meets a man (Seth Rogan) at a night-club. The two end up sharing a one night affair, and subsequently Heigl’s character then becomes pregnant. The story unfolds as she decides to keep the baby and attempt a relationship with the man she very unexpectedly is to have baby with, along with tackling other issues surrounding the situation. The film deals with difficult circumstances in a very light-hearted as well as humorous manner, and overall is a very heart-warming watch as the unlikely romance turns sweet. This is an example of a 21st century film which focuses on romance but in a much less conventional way, perhaps suggesting that finding love has never been an easy structured process; and modern “rom-coms” are finally displaying this fact explicitly. This type of situation would never have been displayed in cinema in the 1930’s, and the film also tells its tale from both the female and male perspective; unlike that of the older traditional romantic comedy movies. “Knocked Up” however still focuses on love and romance, but clearly in a more backwards form, and tackles the processes which couples in reality sometimes must go through before making their relationship work.

Another example of a romantic-comedy which contains more modern-day ideologies is the said ‘spin-off’ of “Knocked Up”: “This is 40”, released in 2012 and also written and directed by Apatow. This movie which contains a handful of the same characters from “Knocked Up”, is very interesting and rather refreshing with its take on the common problems of married life. Despite the fact that it is indeed a comedy, the film is rather outstanding in the way that it deals with very truthful and common issues of marriage in an uncomfortably realistic manner (French, 2013). The ideologies within this particular picture completely contrast the classic romantic comedy film, as it rests in the romantic comedy genre, but aims to portray the difficulties of love instead of only the generic ‘happily ever after’ story. This film is similar to “Knocked Up” in terms of the ideological messages within it as it conveys a very truthful reflection that relationships and married life is not always simple.

With an evaluation of the fundamental ideologies within the romantic comedy film genre, it is clear that there have been some changes over the decades as historical and social events have influenced standards and norms within the Western society, and have therefore affected the make-up of films within the genre. McDonald and MacDowell critically evaluate some of the specific changing ideologies that have been present within romantic comedies since their early days, and these have differed depending on the time period of the specific film or films released. However much romantic comedy films are criticised by film critics, it is still a very remarkable film genre as it suitably changes alongside movements in society; allowing “rom-coms” to remain very captivating and enjoyable with audiences, and will more than likely continue to adapt in the coming years.

References

French, P., 2013. This is 40 – review. The Guardian, [online] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/17/this-is-40-apatow-review [Accessed 24 April 2013].

Hess, J., 1978. Film and Ideology. Jump Cut [online]. Available at: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC17folder/FilmAndIdeololgy.html [Accessed 23 April 2013].

Hess, J., 1974. Genre films and the status quo. Jump Cut, [online]. Available at: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC01folder/GenreFilms.html [Accessed 23 April 2013].

MacDowell, J., 2009. Romantic Comedy: Love, Nervousness and Intertextuality. Alternate Takes, [online]. Available at: http://www.alternatetakes.co.uk/?2009%2C2%2C222 [Accessed 23 April 2013).

McDonald, T., 2007. Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Genre. Columbia University Press.

Grant, B., 2007. Film genre; from iconography to ideology. Wallflower Press.

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Post 5 – Film Review of Brave (2012)

It is undeniable to say that every child loves a Disney movie. Since the first ever “Snow White” in 1937, to when our horizons were broadened in 1995 when Pixar gave us the first computer generated animated film: ‘Toy Story’ – audiences along the line have been continuously intrigued. Pixar since then has produced an array of fantastic animated films, which especially in recent years have dominated the box office charts (Beck 2013). Adding to this, the fantastic thing about Pixar films is their mutual appeal to both children and adults; with heart-warming story lines, endearing and complex visual animations, as well as their witty every day humour. A perfect example of a movie which fulfils these features is Pixar’s recent family melodrama: ‘Brave’.

Brave (2012)

Set in a fantasy highland village in Scotland, ‘Brave’ stands to be the first Pixar film that has featured a leading female heroin: Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a bold and feisty red haired teenage girl; who is eager to create her own path in life. Her determination to do the opposite of what is expected of her by her mother; Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is one of the main themes in the film which focuses on the mother and daughter’s relationship, and the princess’s rebellion against the traditional royal norms. Her peg legged father King Fergus (Billy Connolly); a fighting nut with a passion for food and good whiskey, in unite with the 3 clans of the kingdom come together in court to arrange the marriage of his daughter, from a choice of one of their eldest sons. However horse riding and archery expert Princess Merida does not see why she must marry, and resents her role as a princess complaining “I’m a princess. I’m the example. I have duties. Every day of my life is planned”, and subsequently embarks on a short mystical adventure to try and find a way to change her almost inevitable future.

family-brave

The princesses toying with fate takes a bad turn however, when she accepts a dodgy potion from a suspicious witch that she meets in the woods, who ensures her that if Queen Elinor drinks it, it will change her mind about the marriage. The potion instead transforms the Queen into almost a clone of the very thing her father despises; a bear, resembling virtually identical to the vicious creature which took her father’s leg in a battle which is shown at the start of the film. After the witch disappears, she leaves Merida a riddle for breaking the spell, and if she does not figure it out by sunrise it will be irreversible; condemning Queen Elinor as a bear forever. Merida then faces the action-packed and emotional challenge of protecting her mother and changing her back, which ultimately takes bravely, courage, and rekindling the relationship with Queen Elinor.

Being Scotland born and bred, I found the Scottish setting and themes of the film very refreshing, and felt almost patriotic watching the animations which presented the Scottish highland landscape in a beautiful and majestic way, with mesmerizing and almost oil-painting like colours. The soundtrack composed by Patrick Doyle and collaborated with folk singer Julie Fowlis, only enhances the magnificence of the picture, with the Scot themed music supported by the singers stunning vocals. It might also be an assumption to make that directors Mark Andrews, Steve Puncell and Brenda Chapman very much support the petition for Scottish Independence, with it all going on at the time of the film’s release. If the extreme yet amicable Scottish stereotypes don’t represent this, then the strong natured protagonists of the film certainly do. One particular favourite moment of mine was the Aberdeenshire reference, with ‘Aberdonian’ character Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane) making a statement which I’m fairly certain only those in the Aberdeen and shire radius would have been able to understand – shown at the end of this video clip from the film:

A very outstanding factor for me about ‘Brave’ was Princess Merida’s blatant unconventional attitude in comparison to the other Disney Princesses, and what it teaches children in this day and age. Traditional Disney films such as ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’ have been criticised for having sexist implications with regards to the role of women in society, and what they should aspire to achieve in life, (Brooker 2010). In the case of the classic Disney Princess films, the ideologies within them can predominantly imply that females should find a husband and live happily ever after.

Merida not only represents an unlikely princess, but it is what she desires from life which conflicts with her expected role as a princess and a woman, and that is someone who wants to make their own choices; which reflects modern social gender changes in our society. Although suiting the adult viewer visually and comically, ‘Brave’ is still fundamentally a kid’s film, and children will favourite it – watching it over and over again in years to come. From what I took from the film, these messages of ‘be who you are’ and ‘follow your heart’ which are paraphrased by Merida in the finale of the film, project a peaceful and more realistic message to children today in terms of existing in society, along with positively suggesting that in the end, everything will come together if you accept people for who they are.

Pixar-Brave3

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it” – Princess Merida (Brave 2012).

References 

Beck, J., 2013. Animation Dominates the top 20 Highest Grossing Features of 2012. Cartoon Brew, [online]. Available at: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/animation-dominates-the-top-20-highest-grossing-features-of-2012-76294.html [Accessed 9 April 2013].

Booker, M. K., 2010. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Praeger Pub Text.

Child, B., 2012. Brave-review. The Guardian, [online]. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jun/25/brave-film-review-ben-child [Accessed 9 April 2013].

Chiong, L., 2012. Pixar ‘Brave’ for Tackling Mother Daughter-Themes. Examiner, [online]. Available at: http://www.examiner.com/review/pixar-brave-for-tackling-mother-daughter-themes [Accessed 9 April 2013].

IMDb, 1990. Internet Movie Database. [online]. Available at: http://www.imdb.com [Accessed 10 April 2013].

Nathan, I., 2012. Brave. Empire, [online]. Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=135548 [Accessed 9 April 2013].

McFadden, J., 2012. Feminism, Beyond and Within: A Review of Brave. Gender Focus, [online]. Available at: http://www.gender-focus.com/2012/07/02/feminist-review-of-brave/ [Accessed 9 April 2013].

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Post 4 – Explicit and Implicit Ideologies in film

In order to discuss how ideologies can be expressed in film, firstly a definition of the word ideology will be stated taken from author John Hess’ journal article ‘Film and Ideologies’:

“Ideology is a relatively systematic body of ideas, attitudes, values, and perceptions, as well as, actual modes of thinking (usually unconscious) typical of a given class or group of people in a specific time and place” (Hess, 1978).

Marx and Eagels argued that film ideology is put in place representing the ruling class and how the rest of society should behave, “Max and Engels initially characterized ideology as the ideas of the ruling class…and attacked ideas that legitimated ruling class hegemony, which disguised particular interests as general ones, which mystified or covered over class rule, and which thus served the interests of class domination” (Marx-Eagels 1975, cited in Kellner, 1991).

It is evident that films can contain explicit and/or implicit ideological messages within them; which means that these messages can be clearly stated or implied. Film writers and directors can make a concious decision to purposely include messages for the audience to receive (explicitly) or not, and other film messages can be interpreted differently by the spectator (Murray, 1975). These ideological intimations can stem from cultural, historical or political factors in which influence the make-up of the film, and are understood and accepted by the audience as the film can reflect the social structure in which they live. This post aims to discuss two different films which either contain explicit or implicit ideologies within them.

Firstly, a film which has clear explicit ideologies is ‘The Help”(2011) directed by Tate Taylor, and based on the book by Kathryn Stockett. The film is set in the USA at the time of the civil rights movement of the nineteen sixties, featuring an aspiring author who desires to write a novel focusing on the point of view of African-American maids working for white families, and the day-to-day difficulties and emotions they go through as a part of the unfair racial society at the time.

Although some critics argue that the movie contains extremely over the top racial stereotypes, this heartfelt and powerful film deals with some very truthful  issues of the time in a delicate manner (Rotten Tomatoes, 2011). Hollywood actress Emma Stone, who plays the journalist in the movie, develops a very unlikely friendship with an African-American women who is also a house-maid of the typical Step ford wife character played by Bryce Dallas Howard. This housewife  is depicted to have blatant and unfair racist views towards African-Americans, and Emma Stones characters’ role aims to help these women, challenging the state of society at the time. Although inspired by true events and social/racial conflicts, this 21st century film portrayal of the time period, has certain explicit ideologies which are messaged to the audience. Predominately, they key message of the film is that you should always stand up for what is right and help people who are in less fortunate situations than you; because in the end the good people come out on top. This ideology is delivered in the film as Emma Stone’s character publishes the book and succeeds in her career, as well as makes a positive difference to the lives of the African-American maids.

The Help (2011)

A film which has implicit ideologies is ‘Jaws‘ (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg. This famous top-grossing movie in the 70s; which features a killer shark that terrorizes the beaches of a fantasy holiday resort in America; is extremely well renowned, and considered a Hollywood classic. In the case of Jaws, ideology is reflected through what the shark represents, (Rubey, 1976). It can be argued that in different cases in the film, the shark exemplifies a hatred of women, anger towards the capitalist society, as well as a fear from society at the time that there would be a back-lash from the tragic effects of the USA’s bombing of Hiroshima. These elements can be distinguished by examining the people who are targeted by the shark in the movie, and how the actual attacking events unfold. For example, the second strike by the shark happens to a little boy swimming in the sea at the beach of the holiday resort. After an initial shark attack, the chief policeman wants to close the beach to ensure the safety of individuals, however the mayor and council command him not, claiming that they need the business. The mayors reluctance to listen to an important warning for the sake of his own business results in the death of a young boy, showing the ignorant and heart-less nature of this character. This factor can therefore represent and target the greedy and profit-driven capitalist society of  America.

Jaws (1975)

References

Crowther, J., 2011. Southern Wrongs but to Civil Rights. Total Film, [online]. Available at: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/the-help?ns_campaign=reviews&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=totalfilm&ns_linkname=0&ns_fee=0 [Accessed 8 April 2013]

Hess, J., 1978. Film and Ideology. Jump Cut, [e-journal]. Available through: http://www.ejumpcut.org [Accessed 8 April 2013].

IMDb, 1990. Internet Movie Database. [online]. Available through: http://www.imdb.com [Accessed 6 April 2013].

Kellner, D., 1991. Film Politics and Ideology: Reflections on Hollywood in the Age of Reagan. Gseis, [online]. Available through: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu [Accessed 8 April 2013]

Rotten Tomatoes, 2013. Flixter, [online] Available through: http://www.rottontomatoes.com [Accessed 7 April 2013]

Rubey, D., 1976. The Jaws in the Mirror. Jump Cut, [e-jounral]. Available through: http://www.ejumpcut.com [Accessed 7 April 2013]

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Films Which Conform to and Subvert Hollywood/Mainstream Cinema Standards and Techniques

“The art cinema film is defined by two definitions: realism and authorial expressivity” – Bordwell 2008.

The ‘dominant’ cinema is the term used to describe how mainstream films around the world follow a model referring to Hollywood’s film-making formula which contain features that are seen as normative the classic Hollywood film-making structure, and thereby this is the dominant category over all other film dimensions. Hollywood/mainstream films tend to hold the same elements within them which make films in this category clearly distinctive from the European art-cinema or other counter-cinema types. These features include the films genre (Westerns, Romantic-Comedies, Musicals), the studios in which they are created, the directors of the films, the actors who play roles in the movies, along with the key objective to attract mass audiences to make a great profit from the motion-pictures.

‘Avatar’ (2009)

Hollywood film plots are mostly easy to follow: they portray a seamless flow of images, contain a homogeneous world, supply closure, as well as providing an escape for audiences. However, the opposing counter-art cinema differs with the Hollywood film greatly. Solid aspects of counter-art cinema films include: creating digression in the film, making audiences feel estranged, providing little or no closure, and focusing on the reality of the real world.

‘Amour’ (2012)

A film which very much conforms to Hollywood/Mainstream film techniques and standards is ‘The Holiday’ released in 2006. This Romantic comedy directed by Nancy Meyers very much follows the conventions of a typical light-hearted Hollywood love story, with an all-star cast, as well as making it easy for the audience to have an emotional attachment to the characters. The two main characters Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) and Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) have both suffered painful break-ups and seek an escape from their depressing situations. Amanda who lives in LA, and Iris from England, come into contact through a holiday house-swapping website and agree to exchange homes for a two week get-away at Christmas time.

Although they have escaped from their bleak lifestyles back home, the two women still feel lonely and miserable. Their fate takes a turn however when Iris’ brother Graham (Jude Law) comes into Amanda’s life and film composer Miles (Jack Black) enters Iris’ life to change it forever. Fitting with the conventional Hollywood ‘Rom-Com’, the two women face some hurdles attaining their true loves, but of course in the end everything works out perfectly and they all live happily ever after. The film provides the viewer a great amount of escapism with its easy-going narrative as well as its warm moments of passion and romance.

‘The Holiday’ (2006)

A film which very much subverts the Hollywood film standards and techniques is ‘Funny Games’ (2007) directed by Michael Haneke. This Austrian director is famous for creating films which explore very truthful themes and intend to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, and often extremely suspenseful with his use of realism and displeasure. The director also lacks the belief in making films which provide audiences with any degree of catharsis; because in reality, there isn’t always a happy ending.

This observable Crime Thriller re-make begins with a loving family George Farber (Tim Roth) his wife Ann (Naomi Watts), and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart), who take a trip to a lake house for a family holiday. Upon arrival they are greeted by two young men claiming to be their neighbours but turn out to be psychopaths; taking the family hostage and making them perform violent acts on one another for their own entertainment.

The film highly subverts the mainstream film-making method as it creates a disjunctive flow putting the viewer into a state of intense anticipation and never at ease, as the two taunters create a living hell for their victims. A very outstanding feature of the movie is that it makes the viewer question their pleasure of viewing violence in the cinema, whereby one of the psychopaths breaks the fourth wall and directly asks the audience what they would like to happen regarding the fate of the tormented victim Ann Farber, and her injured husband. In the same scene, a moment of catharsis is given to the audience as victim Ann shoots and kills one of her tormentors. This moment of emotional release is however taken from the audience when the still alive young man rewinds the scene; suggesting that this is what the reality of film viewing is; that we seek violence in the cinema for our own ignorant pleasure.

‘Funny Games’ (2007)

‘Funny Games’ is an example of a film which subverts Hollywood/Mainstream cinema with its strong disturbing scenes, high elements of suspense, lack of catharsis as well as its use of frightening and sadistic lead antagonists. Along with causing the audience to feel an extreme amount of uncertainty and insecurity, the film also differs from the standard Hollywood film as it purposely makes the viewer question why they feel the desire to view violence through the cinema, in very disturbing way.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Bradshaw, P. 2006. ‘The Holiday’. The Guardian. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
  2. http://www.imdb.com 
  3. Lott, R. 2013. ‘Funny Games (2007)’ Flick Attack. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
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What Makes An Auteur?

The term ‘film auteur’ can be described as the way in which a director portrays their own personal perspective through their film making techniques.  For example, these unique qualities may be their use of reoccurring themes in the movies they make, mise-en-scene, lighting, or choosing to cast the same actors in a number of their films. The term originated in France where the ‘Auteur Theory’ was used to explain wherein ‘the director is seen as the central creative force in a motion picture’.

An example of a successful film maker who can be described as a film auteur, is the modern-day film director Jason Reitman.

This Canadian film director, who is in the category of the independent film industry and son of the highly acclaimed director of ‘Ghost Busters’ (1984), Ivan Reitman, has created an array of very successful films which all hold elements that portray his own personal film making style. These can be identified by the directors use of similar themes and camera angles, as well as his famous use of interestingly designed opening credits. To analyse these auteur features, four films will be discussed to demonstrate the directors independent style and use of controversial themes, as well as other particular features in his films.

It is evident that when comparing Baitman’s successful films that they all look at modern-day issues as well as possessing highly controversial themes. Two which hold very similar themes are the films ‘Juno’ (2007) and ‘Young Adult’ (2011) which tackle issues including teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption and adultery. The two comedies share the same quirky and witty humour which is very recognisable when compared.

Juno is about a 16 year girl who lives with her parents and is very socially disconnected. The story unfolds as she unexpectedly becomes pregnant and has to tackle through deciding whether to have an abortion, or to have the baby and consider going for adoption. This witty and humorous movie builds characterization very successfully,  making the viewer become greatly involved in the life of the leading character ‘Juno’, but it is also very moving as it tackles such deep themes including abortion and adoption; and how the young protagonist deals with these issues.

‘Young Adult’ is the story of a woman in her thirties who is mentally trapped in her teenage mind. She realises that her life is going no where and attempts to steal back her married childhood sweetheart. The film greatly focuses on adultery as well as the state of being in mental confusion.

Another distinctive feature in Reitman’s films is the directors use of similar quirky and creative camera angles which he puts in place in order to give a greater amount of detail and more information of the setting for the viewer. There are examples of this in ‘Up in the Air’ (2010) when the main character Ryan Bingham is seen arriving at his destination, and in various scenes in ‘Juno’, especially in scenes where she is at home. It is also notable that in these two films, Reitman makes use of the same famous actor to play a leading role: Jason Bateman.

‘Up In the Air’  (2010)

‘Juno’ (2007)

Another interesting aspect of Reitman’s films is the special attention which he pays to his movies’ opening credits. Reitman creates long running stylistic opening credits which intrigues the viewer as well as keeps them captivated throughout the whole of the credits. Here are two examples from ‘Juno’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking’ (2005):

In ‘Juno’, the main character played by Ellen Page was required to walk on a treadmill to create the effect of the animation. This opening sequence was highly regarded in 2007, and was considered to be the most recognisable of that year.

The opening credits for ‘Thank You for Smoking’ very much captures the capitalist theme of the movie as it replaces members of the films titles with cigarette box labels.

Other Reitman films have also featured very creative opening credits which symbolise the meaning of the film and give it a quirky eye-catching beginning. These include ‘Up in the Air’ where postcards are used to show the titles of the people involved in the film; as well as birds-eye view shots of parts of America as if viewing it from a plane. Evidence of this is also shown in ‘Young Adult’,  as the opening credits make the use of a cassette tape which fits with the story line; along with a song which the main characters childhood sweetheart wrote for her  is played over the opening sequence.

Overall, after an analysis of a number of director Jason Reitman’s films, many aspects of these pieces including theme, humour, camera angles and introductory sequences are very alike, and portray the personal style of the director. These elements define Reitman as very much a modern-day auteur.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. French, P. 2012. Young Adult -review. The Guardian. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
  2. Morten, D. 2005. Film Theory 101. A Critical Analysis of Auteur Theory. [online] [Accessed 5 March 2013]
  3. Rich, K. 2012. Jason Reitman Talks Young Adult, Autobiographical Films, And His Evolving Directing Style. Cinema Blend. [online] [accessed 6 March 2012]
  4. Ryan, S. 2008. Auteur Theory. [online] [Accessed 5 March 2013] 
  5. Scott, A.O. 2007. Seeking Mr. and Mrs. Right For a Baby on the Way. The New York Times [online] [accessed 5 March 
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Defining Moments of Cinema Pre 1930s – The Originals That Inspired

1. ‘The Jazz Singer’ – Alan Crosland (1927)

This 1927 American Musical produced by Warner Brothers, is famous for being the first talking full-length feature film using the Vitaphone method to give it sound. The star of the film (Al Jolson) performs six songs throughout the movie, as he plays a Jazz Singer struggling between conflict with his father and perusing his dream of becoming famous and successful.

This classic film goes down in history to be the first ever film produced that included synchronized dialogue, with Al Jolson’s first line to be ‘You ain’t heard nothin’ yet’, which left audiences in the 1920s very much in awe. This film is a great defining moment of pre 1930s cinema.

2. ‘The Great Train Robbery’ – Edwin S. Porter (1903)

The Great Train Robbery is a very important as well as famous milestone in film history; being that it was the first ever narrative film made. This classic Western movie was extremely popular with audiences at the time with its introduction of many new editing techniques. These included filming the movie in several different geographical locations, camera panning, and crosscutting.

Inspired by Scott Marvels Play ‘The Great Train Robbery’ (1896), the short film which ran for approximately 10 minutes,  inspired many film producers in the years following its release.

3. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ – Dziga Vertov (1929)

‘Man With a Movie Camera’ was an experimental film directed by Dziga Vertov, and focused on portraying the reality of society during the time of the Soviet Union. The significance of this film was that it was shot in a documentary style, with the intention of representing images of the real world through a cinematic representation. The film rejected such conventions as the use of plots, scenario and props which very much separated itself from other successful films at the time.

The time-frame of the movie follows the life of a city from early morning till the late evening, capturing moments of every day procedures of the people, whilst the music of the Alloy Orchestra plays over it; creating a rhythm to the film instead of a narrative (which the director intended to do).

4. ‘A Trip To The Moon’ (Le Voyage Dans La Lune) – George Melies (1902)

In 1902, French Director and master magician George Melies created ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (Le Voyages dans la Lune), which stands to be the first science-fiction film ever made. This film was one of the originals to create a narrative, as well as one of the earliest examples of a film which made use of special effects.

This epic and imaginative film, which had an astonishing budget for its time (10,000 francs) became hugely successful, and has inspired some modern-day film makers. This included the production of HBO‘s 12 part docudrama mini-series From The Earth To The Moon (1998) based on the making of the film with actor Tom Hanks, as well as inspiring the production of the Apollo films.

5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Wiene (1920)

This fascinating fantasy film based in post World War One Germany, has been recorded as the first true horror film. The significant feature about the film at the time was it’s intriguing use of distorted landscape; with jagged scenery, tilted walls and windows, and absurd diagonally angled staircases. Earlier cinematic pieces had focused more on portraying a sense of reality through film, and the way in which this film opposed this is what has made it so outstanding in film history.

The film contains many metaphors relating to the state of conflict which Germany was in during this post-war period, and is open to much interpretation. The distorted imagery symbolises the fragmentation of Germany at the time, and the films picture has inspired many modern day films such as Edward Scissor Hands starring Johnny Depp, which contains very out-of-the-ordinary imagery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

  1. Angel Fire. 2007. The Jazz Singer. [online] [Accessed 4 March 2013]
  2. Filmsite, 2012. The Great Train Robbery. [online] [Accessed 3 March 2013]
  3. Filmsite, 2012. Voyage Dans la Lune. [online] [Accessed 4 March 2013]
  4. Listal. 2011. 20 Greatest Films from the 20s. [online] Accessed 5 March 2013]
  5. Nthuleen. 1994. Expression and Character in the Movements of Cesare. [online] [Accessed 5 March 2013]
  6. Silents are Golden. 2001. Man With a Movie Camera [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
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