A Dreamer Walking

John Ford – An Observation – Beginnings

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series by Jacob on April 9, 2012

John Ford 5John Ford was a poet and a bully. He was a natural at his art form. A man who always seemed to know where his films needed to go. Ford was not a likable man. He has admitted he was somewhat of a slave driver who really only  had a talent for composing a shot. However, as mean as he was to his crew he had a lot of people stick with him. Ford was known for making both Henry Fonda and John Wayne into big stars. He started off his directing career with the silent film star Harry Carey. They made twenty six pictures together. From the 1930’s on everyone wanted to make a picture with John Ford, including Shirley Temple; who did so in 1937 with Wee Willie Winkie.

The persona John Ford gave to the public was one of a rough manly man who wouldn’t take no shit from anyone. However, Ford was not the kind of filmmaker who was good in just one genre. Even though he was most known for his Westerns, Wee Willie Winkie is proof that he could explore completely different types of stories. Ford’s greatest achievement was his ability to explore cultures and show the world the fragility of family. Movies like Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley give us insight on how the world tends to break families apart. His films often concentrate on the outsider, something Ford had personal understanding of being as a son to an immigrant.

One could not go up to Ford and ask who he was. If you did you would almost always receive a lie. Ford made sure he did not share with the public who he really was. When being interviewed Ford would give short answers, even though he knew the interviewer wanted more. He stretched and even fabricate the truth to make himself look better or to make the story sound better. If you asked Ford the wrong kind of question you would need to watch out, he wouldn’t hesitate to throw something at you or hit you. He was known for his cruel practical jokes. He was a man who wouldn’t hesitate to cuss one of his crew members out. But, behind John Ford’s persona there was a man with deep emotion and conviction. Ford fought to keep each film’s integrity alive. He understood the value of life and made his audience laugh and cry as well as anyone.

If you want to know John Ford watch his films.

Here are some suggestions: The Iron Horse (1924), Four Sons (1928), Pilgrimage (1933), The Informer (1935), The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), Wee Willie Winkie (1937), Stagecoach (1939), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

Hugo- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 9, 2011

Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. It uses all the masterful filming techniques we have come to expect from a legend like Scorsese and also involves several elements we have never seen from this veteran filmmaker who is  completely new to the family genre. The film is a tribute to film itself. Reminding the new generation about the importance of the filmmakers who have come before us while also pushing the medium forward. Hugo represents Scorsese’s first theatrical film shot in 3D. He uses this new element as if he had been using it all along, bringing us into his story like never before. It is hard to compare the 3D aspect of Hugo to a movie like Avatar, but I found the 3D use to be as good if not better then the groundbreaking 3D use we see in Avatar.

Just as the 3D in Avatar transferred us into the vast and open environment of the Pandora forest, Hugo‘s use of 3D takes us deep into the secret tunnels of the Paris train station. The 3D gives the story an extra layer. There is a greater complexity to the framing. I felt as though I could measure distances more clearly. Often I felt like I was right there in the tunnels with Hugo, dust particles and the steam from the pipes drifting all around me. Scorsese uses complex tunnel systems and towering staircases to highlight the 3D effect to an even greater extent. It feels as though we are shown a painting where we are actually allowed to walk inside and explore.

The movie was not intended to be a literal representation of real life. Although the story takes place in Paris, it is an impressionistic representation. One of the common mistakes filmmakers make when creating a enchanted type feel for their story, is getting rid of all the dirt and grit that reminds us of real life. As a result most impressionistic stories feel artificial, the environments look like sets rather then something that has just jumped out of the imagination. Scorsese embraces the murky and grimy aspects of the train station. He is not afraid to explore some of the darker parts of the imagination, taking the boy Hugo into places we are not quite comfortable with. The worlds we see in film do not need to look real, only feel real. The filmmakers make it a point to physically show the strain and hardship the boy Hugo goes through. Because we see the sweat and labor it takes Hugo to survive and because he looks so accustomed to the secret tunnels of the train station where he lives, we buy into the impressionistic world the movie projects.

The subject matter directly calls for the impressionistic storytelling we see in the film. The main characters of the story are Hugo Cabret, played by upcoming child star Asa Butterfield, and Georges Melies played by veteran actor Ben Kingsley. Although the character of Hugo is fictional Georges Melies is based on a real man. At the time the story takes place in Melies is a old forgotten filmmaker who has a small toyshop in the Paris train station where Hugo lives. Hugo is a orphan who keeps the stations clocks working. The movie revolves around an old broken automaton- a mechanical puppet that was made to draw pictures. The automaton is the only thing Hugo has left reminding him of his deceased father. Through out the film Hugo works on fixing this automaton while avoiding the eye of the authorities.

Hugo gets involved with Melies by accident. However, the farther we get into the story the more we find out the automaton is directly related to Melies. Hugo runs into a girl named Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), the goddaughter of Melies. Together they go on a adventure exploring the ghosts of Melies’ past while also discovering the magic of Melies’ old art form; filmmaking.

Melies has long abandoned filmmaking. He forbid his goddaughter Isabelle from going to the movies. Hugo is the one to introduce to Isabelle the magic of the movies. Slowly Scorsese takes us deep into the origins of film, before computer effects, color, and even sound. We explore some of the very first visionaries of the medium of film. Through several marvelous montages we discover what interested the great Georges Melies in film, what he contributed to the new art form, how he was so quickly forgotten by the public, and how his contribution was so ignorantly neglected.

The film is Scorsese’s tribute to silent cinema and his plead for us to preserve the great films of the past. It is not a tribute in subject matter only, Scorsese shoots much of the movie like the old silent films. We go long periods of time with hardly any duologue. The film has a classic pace which actually enhances the 3D experience. We are allowed to cherish the whole of the environments with brilliant master shots and Scorsese connects locations through several long tracking shots. We are allowed behind the scenes of silent cinema and see how Melies created some of the first groundbreaking effects in cinema.

In Hugo Scorsese shows us the magic of filmmaking. He shows the filmmaker for who he truly is- a magician. A magician who uses flickering images projected on a screen to entertain and revolutionize the world. In this story Hugo is a magical character. It is hard not to fall in love with him. His purpose is to fix things. He thinks fixing an old despairing man like Melies will help fulfill his life. In the film Scorsese creates his own little world inside the train station. A world where Hugo is king. As mistreated and misunderstood as he is, Hugo is the character who keeps everything moving along. He is the only one who knows of the secret tunnels within the train station. He is the only one who can see all that goes on in the train station.

This film seems to be so different from Scorsese’s usual subject matter, yet so close to what I have found his heart to be. It doesn’t take long listening to someone like Scorsese to understand his deep love for the film medium. As many have already said, this is Scorsese’s love letter to silent cinema. The film represents Scorsese at his greatest. It will inspire filmmakers young and old for decades to come. In Hugo we see where dreams are made and the importance dreamers are to the world we live in.

Framed Cord

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 7, 2011

This is not exactly my favorite picture I have ever taken, but I do think there are a few good things about it. First thing is the way the picture frames the main object. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time when the sun was about to set and was framing this extension cord beautifully. The eye is immediately drawn to the main part of the picture just by using light as a framing device. Extension cords for me bring back memories. When I was a kid my dad worked as a scenic designer for a collage and my brothers and I would go and visit him a lot. There were many extension cords around his work place and we would often bring him a cord or two so he could plug one of his power tools into it. So, because of the memories it gave me I wanted to make it look older as if it were taken from when I was a kid. I worked a little with color separation so the cord could stick out more. I brought down the saturation a little bit and then I gave the picture a sort of papery grain. As a young kid I saw many pictures that weren’t glossed over, they just were inked paper and they seemed to give the images a more classic feel. Hope you enjoy.

(Need to click on the picture to see it clearly)