The animated sitcom series Family Guy, which began broadcasting on American television channels in 1999, has always courted controversy. The perceived crude humor and lack of inhibitions in the characters of the show have offended the conservative sections of American society. At times unfavorably compared to The Simpsons, an animated family comedy which preceded it, Family Guy has many defining qualities of its own. The show has also had issues with commercial viability, as its producers have at times hesitated to begin a new season. Yet, the show has left a mark on American television scene by drawing and sustaining dedicated fans. It has also left an impression on the broader popular culture, as some of the themes and motifs of the show are adopted and discussed in other shows and other media. This essay will argue that despite the controversial elements in its makeup, Family Guy is a valuable tool to understand American culture and . . . Read More
Daniel Robin is a contemporary filmmaker who is given to experimentation. Often, his films blur the line between fact and fiction. A classic example is the film My Olympic Summer, which won the Best Short award at Sundance Festival in 2008. In the film, Robin attempts to simulate truth in such as way that “audiences are filled with mixed feelings after learning that the personal story he tells is an invented one. Robin examines his own divorce by dissecting his parents’ troubled relationship. He uses Super 8mm footage of the couple intercut with footage from the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where his father was part of the Israeli team taken hostage by Black September. Well, that last part isn’t exactly true.” (Filmmaker, 2008, p.62) Robin had previously made three 16mm short films that were all semi-autobiographical. He employs a unique narrative angle in the making of My Olympic Summer: “I wanted to try to figure out a different point of entry. My . . . Read More
Experimental filmmakers are a brave breed of creative artists who swim against the popular tide and style. People make experimental films for a variety of reasons. But one core motivation is the faith they have in their directorial ideas. Needless to say, many experimental films don’t see the light of day in terms of commerce. They may not all garner critical acclaim too. Despite these facts, experimental filmmakers continue to crop up only because they don’t give importance to these measures of success. For those embracing this genre, success lies in the fulfillment of the cinematic experiment that they have set out to do.
Deviating from time-tested methods of making films is a risky business. But it is out of such risks that new movements in filmmaking are born. Hence, what is experimental today could be viewed as avant-garde in retrospect. To this extent, this genre of filmmaking plays a crucial role in the development and maturation of the art of cinema. Experimental . . . Read More
There are clear markers that set aside The Station Agent from mainstream American movies. The limited budget, the austere production style and the modest profiles of the cast actors all identify the film as belonging to the ‘independent’ genre. The off-beat story line and its central theme is also distant to conventional plots and themes. But, despite all the hurdles that confront independent films, The Station Agent met both critical and commercial success.
The Station Agent breaks away from regular commercial fare in that it does not show typical, stylized relations between humans. Rather, it explores the possibility and feasibility of strange equations between newly acquainted humans. For example, when Fin moves to the old building left behind by Henry (upon the latter’s death), he suddenly finds himself forming an intricate network of social interactions. In this newfound social atmosphere there are opportunities for creative exploration as well as for . . . Read More
Blow (2001) is a biographical motion picture about the notorious American cocaine smuggler George Jung. The movie is an adaptation from the book Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All authored by Bruce Porter in 1993. The writing team of David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes has handled the screenplay for the film. The story combines interesting events from the lives of most wanted drug traders of recent times including George Jung, Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, etc. The influential Medellin Cartel’s fluctuating fortunes were also included in the story. This essay will analyze the following elements of the film: Genre, Mise En Scene, cinematography and shot selection.
The plot has all the ingredients typical of underworld films – violence, sex, suspense, sudden twists of fortunes, etc. Johnny Depp plays the young George Jung, who begins life in Weymouh Massachusetts. His childhood is chaotic due to the financial . . . Read More
The film The Story of G.I. Joe is an American war film starring Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum. The film was directed by William Wellman and is portrayed as a tribute to infantrymen of American military that operated during the Second World War, G.I. Joe being a typical characterization of the class of soldiers. The film draws heavily from factual narratives of the war, most notably from the dispatches of Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. The focus of the film is the 18th Infantry’s C Company is engaged in combat in Italy and Tunisia. Pyle (played convincingly by Burgess Meredith) is the embedded journalist within this Company. But the shared habiting space makes it a personal experience for Pyle and to this extent his journalism takes on a humanitarian hue as opposed to being merely patriotic. This essay will argue that, of the numerous merits attached to the film, it’s showcasing of the bold, humane and forthright journalism of the legendary Ernie Pyle is . . . Read More
The film Paths of Glory (1957) is of the few mainstream Hollywood movies of the century to espouse a contrarian theme. While many films of the period talked of issues and the drama surrounding war, Paths of Glory went a step further and made an emphatic statement about the nature and contradictions of war. The anti-war stance of the film was a risk both in terms of commercial logic and public sentiment. But its creators bravely took that risk and pulled off an impressive outcome. This essay will argue that, despite the modest box office success of the film, it is a major critical, cultural and cinematic success due to the bold portrayal of contrarian themes.
Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory is a unique film, not only in terms of the strong anti-war message, but also in the manner in which it was conveyed. Based on a novel by Humphrey Cobb of the same name, the film is set during the First World War and stars Kirk Douglas (Colonel Dax) in the lead . . . Read More
Missing is a classic American Drama film, released in the year 1982. The film is directed by Costa Gavras and it stars Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek and Melanie Mayron in lead roles, ably supported by John Shea and Charles Cioffi. The film is produced by Edward Lewis and Mildred Lewis; its script is handled by Donald Stewart and Costa Gavras. The music (which received wide appreciation), was composed by innovative Greek composer Vangelis. Distributed by Universal Pictures, the film runs to two hours.
The script is based on the true story of an American scribe Charles Horman, whose mysterious disappearance in the wake of the Chilean coup of 1973 sets up the crux of the narrative. In this US supported coup, incumbent President Salvador Allende was overthrown by Right-wing forces and the military. At the time of its release, the film attracted controversy due to its honest handling of political realities. Although Chile was never directly referred to in the film, the mention of . . . Read More
My Antonia, a film produced by Victoria Riskin and David Rintels, was released in 1995. It stars Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role. The cinematography and music are handled by Robert Primes and Lori Slomka respectively. Based on a classic literary novel of the same name by Willa Cather, the screenplay is adapted by Victoria Riskin. Directed by Joseph Sargent, the movie stars Jason Robards (Josiah Burden), Eva Marie Saint (Emmaline Burden) and Neil Patrick Harris (Jimmy Burden) in lead character roles.
The script of the film manages to retain most key aspects of the original written work. Set in the late nineteenth century Nebraska, the story revolves around the travails of orphan Jimmy Burden, who moves into his grandparents’ (played by Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint) farm that is located nearby Black Hawk, Nebraska. Young Jimmy is immediately drawn to 15-year neighbor Antonia Shimerda (played by Elina Lowensohn) and they become close friends. Conflict . . . Read More
Those movies categorized under the Slacker genre break away from conventional Hollywood style in many respects. The very term ‘Slacker’ is taken after a Richard Linklater movie of the same name released in 1991. Made as an experimental project, the film became a cult classic and impressed the critics as well. It is not often that a movie would spawn a genre of its own as Slacker did. Starring Linklater himself in the lead character role, the movie lays aside well-trodden, formulaic plot and structure. Instead, it adopts a ‘scatter-brained’ narrative style, characterized by frequent shifting of focus from one character to another, seemingly at random. But behind this apparent chaos is an orchestrating directorial mind at work. (Jardine, 2010) And its appeal is not easy to grasp at the outset. The postmodern basis of the genre is also evident in the apparent moral apathy of the characters in the film.
In Slacker and other movies of the . . . Read More