Monday, November 21, 2011

We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris

We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris, 2011
Melina Matsoukas

Rihanna premiered this song in September 2011 and it has been a worldwide hit ever since. The accompanying music video has an experimental feel to it, as there are multiple hip hop montages and quirky aesthetic qualities to it. The scenes with the diluting eye balls, bouncing pills, and rainbow cigarette ash was pretty trippy and reminded me of "Requiem for a Dream." The director of Requiem, Darren Aronofsky, has gained some notoriety for his usage of those hip hop montages -- rapid fire images flashing across the scene. I thought that they were executed very well here and definitely added to the general feel of the video.

From a cinematography angle, the lighting is very natural with little in the way of artificial lighting utilized. This gives the whole video a darker feel -- think David Fincher -- which fit the narrative of back-alley drugs and psychedelic love. I think that all elements of the video, including the imagery, cinematography, and editing, came together quite nicely to perfectly fit the narrative of the song. It's dark, edgy, and operates a bit outside of the box.  This video seemed "different" compared to a lot of other music videos that are coming out these days, and the fact that it stands out from the rest is why I enjoy it so much.

Hotel Chevalier

"Hotel Chevalier," 2007, 13 minutes
Written and Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jason Schwarztman and Natalie Portman

"Hotel Chevalier" is a companion short and prologue to Wes Anderson's film "The Darjeeling Limited." It was released on the Internet and as a free download on iTunes prior to the film's release (I know, because I'm always one to take advantage of free iTunes downloads).

In this film, we don't know the characters names, nor do we know much about their backstory - everything is in the now. The short follows Schwartzman's character, who is seemingly living out of a Paris hotel. He receives a call from a woman, whom we assume is a girlfriend or ex-girlfriend. He cleans up the room before she arrives, and once she does, his submissiveness makes it clear that she, played by Natalie Portman, is an ex-girlfriend he has has been hiding from. Not much else happens in the short; the two talk about what Schwartzman is doing living in the hotel, they receive room service, engage in a little foreplay while discussing if they've slept with anyone else, etc. The short ends with a slow-motion shot of Schwartzman helping a naked Portman into a yellow robe, and leading her across the room to the balcony. The final shot is of the two staring looking out over the rail, then retreating back into the hotel room. The camera pans to the other building across the way.

I chose this short because I was reminded of it during today's discussion about the difference between a curated collection of shorts and an omnibus film. As stated above, "Hotel Chevalier" is a companion short and a prologue to Anderson's feature "The Darjeeling Limited." However, I think this film is unique in that the viewer does not need to have an understanding of the plot of "The Darjeeling Limited" to understand what is going on the short. I also think the the viewer doesn't feel obligated to watch "The Darjeeling Limited" after viewing the short (in fact, even though I haven't seen the feature, I don't think Portman is even in the film).

I also chose the film because it deals with something we haven't talked too much about: stardom. I will admit that the only reason I downloaded the film was because of Schwartzman and Portman. I think it is safe to assume that many others downloaded the short for that reason as well. We can also bring Anderson into the stardom conversation. He's a successful filmmaker and has a large fan following. Perhaps Anderson himself is a reason that the short was able to make it onto iTunes, which receives a great deal of traffic each day.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On and Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, Two
Directed by: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Voiced by: Jenny Slate
Written by: Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On tells about the life and stories of a shell that wears shoes named Marcel. From the small blunders of life, the big problems he faces daily, to the positive outlook he has on each and every aspect of his world, the film follows Marcel through it all. The adorable little shell makes us laugh out loud with his innocent quotes like, "Wanna see me lift this? (struggles for a bit trying to lift the crayon) Yeah, no... I can't... I can't lift anything at all," "You have to be pretty easy going to drive a bug because no matter where you want to go, you're going wherever the bug wants to go,", "I like to tie a piece of hair to a ball of lint and drag it around." You also have more serious quotes that do not become overkill because of the innocent nature of Marcel like, "I used to have a sister, but someone asked her to hold a balloon. (Later) I just pretend she's out traveling," "My biggest regret in life is that I'll never own a dog," "You know why I smile so much? Because it's worth it." These quotes and the entire film in general is really a big pick-me-up and refreshing couple of minutes.

I chose to include Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, Two as well because I saw the shorts back to back and felt that I could not talk about one without the other. The first time my friends showed me the video, they were laughing and rambling about how hilarious and great the short was while it loaded on my computer. I could see the shell standing on the couch and I expected myself to really not find it as funny as my friends. Then the video started, and the character voice of Jenny Slate gave the short life. The adorable voice that tells us each random story, comment, or fun fact makes this video stand out above anything else I have seen and catapults it into a category all it's own. Even though there really is no set plot in these films, the audience is still enticed throughout by just listening to Marcel talk to the interviewer (whose purpose is really to only say "what" when Marcel asks, "guess what?"). I think that these films, which have already had success as an AFI Fest Best Animated Short winner and an Official Selection at eight different film festivals including Sundance, are going to not only be great shorts but also have crossed into mainstream culture and will become much larger in the very near future. The happy-go-lucky and refreshing feeling that Marcel leaves the audience with is the last addicting component that will continue the success and demand of the little shell. I for one will absolutely appreciate as much Marcel the Shell as Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate wants to give us and look forward to more of his positive tone in the future.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Welcome to City 17!

Escape from City 17 Part 2

Directed by David and Ian Purchase, United States, 2011, 14 minutes

Source: Youtube

Welcome to city 17! This live action Half Life based short produced by the purchase brothers is the second part of this series of shorts. This series follows a group of soldiers as they partake in the events during the Half Life video game series. The basic story line is that a group of rebels are attempting to escape from the doomed city 17 that is going to blow up. As is typical of these sort of fan films, there is a love story and a lot of unexplained things going on.

The reason I chose this film was because I had stumbled across the episode 1 of the series and noticed they brought out a newer part of the series. If you take the time to look at the other Purchase Brothers films, the company that made the short, most of them are really well done and are full of great special effects. However, most are also not over the five minute mark besides this one and honestly that has helped them. While the special effects in this short are amazing, the story is atrocious and pathetic. While I love the beauty of the entire film the story and the occasional misfire of special effects really irks me to the point that I just can’t enjoy it. While the film was done on a 250 dollar budget if you are going to spend all that time on doing the models and special effects get a story writer and do things right.

However, in the video game world this video started a whole slew of fan based films most of which are going to be released later this year. While I know as a fact that most of these other fan films will probably end up having horrible story lines, this video is still important because of what it did. However this video should have set an example for a stellar story line with great effects so hopefully the purchase brothers can get their act together by part 3.

Faubourg Saint-Denis

Faubourg Saint-Denis
Directed by Tom Tykwer, Faubourg Saint-Denis, 2006, 7 minutes.
Source: Youtube

This short portrays the relationship between a blind student and his girlfriend Francine. It chronicles their apparent breakup and then flashbacks through the development of their relationship.
I think this short is so beautiful in the way that it shows the couple coming together and falling apart. Although Francine has not really broken up with the protagonist, it does seem that they have grown more apart. Tykwer really does capture the emotion of a relationship very well. I also especially enjoy the way that the flashbacks comprise of both still shots used to simulate motion and video clips.
I think the film is significant because it does say a lot about relationships. It's not cliche like the portrayal of relationships in most chick flicks. It's realistic, allowing its audience to empathize and relate to the characters in it. As we've discussed in class before, being able to connect with a film's characters is key in the success of a film. Without being able to empathize with the characters, an audience becomes lost and disinterested.