A Dreamer Walking

An Appeal To Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 5, 2012

Gosh, I have been thinking about what I was going to write here for weeks now. I am probably making this be way too big of a deal, but this post happens to be my 200th. Don’t worry I am not going to give you a long paper on stuff I have done in the past. However, I have been wanting to make this post be an “extra special” post. I have scratched out a few ideas because I didn’t think they were BIG enough or worthy enough to be my “200th”. I am slowly coming to the realization that I probably won’t think anything I write is BIG enough :/. So without further ado my 200th post…

In essence I believe film is an appeal to humanity. The films that are noticed, that last, are the ones trying to dig deeper into the human condition. Whether it is Darren Aronofsky and his Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream pictures that explore the slow corruption of the human soul through obsession and abuse of the human body. Or Steven Spielberg’s genuine exploration of redemption and relationship through movies like Schindler’s List and E. T.  It is not grand special effects that make a movie last; the special effect that were amazing to the 1970’s Star Wars audience is primitive to today’s movie goer. No, if we want to create movies that hold the test of time- movies that impact our children’s and grandchildren’s generation like Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Gone With the Wind impacted us- we must create movies that explore the core of humanity and use all the elements of cinema to enhance the foundations that truly matter to a movie- story and character.

The little things in grand epics impact me the most. Even though in Lord of the Rings there are tons of spectacular visual effects and magnificent action sequences- like the Fellowship fighting the orcs in the Minds of Moria or the great calvary charge toward the end of Return of the King– the scene that had the most impact on me was one with just Sam and Frodo. The two are at the bottom of Mount Doom, the place where the One Ring was forged and the only place it can be destroyed. Frodo who’s body is full of blisters, who is dieing from starvation and thirst, and is fighting the power of the evil ring, starts up the great mountain. Soon he becomes too weak to walk so he starts to crawl. Slowly he loses the ability to move any further. At that moment, when he confesses himself beaten, Sam picks him up and starts to take him the rest of the way. This scene impacted me the most in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because it impacted me at the most personal level. I saw the love Frodo had for Middle Earth through his passion to get up the mountain. I saw Sam’s unyielding commitment and love for his friend Frodo through finding the strength to carry him. The scene had a simple theme of music playing and there were no sophisticated camera movements. The filmmakers slowed down enough from the great war scenes and grand special effects to show the two characters’ friendship at its peak and remind us what the whole journey was all about. Often when the filmmakers choose to slow down and celebrate the quite moments in their story we are allowed to see the golden thread that makes their story so worth telling.

I go to the movies to see something I have never seen before. However, I want what I see to matter to me at a personal level. Sometimes the most abstract stories impact an audience the most. Animation is a good example of this. In movies like Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, and Up, we are shown lines from a pencil and pixels created from inside a computer and are told we should care for them. The lines create talking animals and fairy creatures. The pixels create living toys and flying houses. None of this is real. We know this. They don’t even try to replicate reality. Sometimes the pixels create characters with heads that are three times the size as any human. Sometimes the drawings create crickets that don’t look anything like crickets. Yet, Carl Fredricksen with his huge head and Jiminy Cricket whose name is the only thing that really gives us a clue he is a cricket, capture the imagination of their audience. They become real to us because they strike true at an emotional level. Jiminy has feelings just like us, he is quickly offended and has a deep need to be noticed as being worth something. Carl is an old cranky man who is trying to find a reason to live after the loss of his wife and greatest friend. These things resonate with us and make Carl and Jiminy live inside our imagination.

Great films are the ones that appeal to humanity. We need to identify with the characters we see on screen. We need to feel their happiness, anger, and sorrow. The story they embark on means nothing if we do not see them as real people. If we do not understand why they choose to rise above injustice and hatred or why they end up falling into despair and corruption. Moments like Capt. Miller saying “Earn this” to Pvt. Ryan and the touching of heads between Raymond Babbitt and his brother Charlie impact me to the core. They impact me because Steven Spielberg showed me exactly how much it cost for Ryan to be saved and Barry Levinson allowed me to understand how hard it was for someone like Raymond to reach out in such a simple yet personal way. A love scene is not impacting unless you can get us to buy into the relationship. A death is not significant unless you show us the true life that was lost.

All film boils down to is life and death. Most of my films will hopefully concentrate on the importance of life. But to be able to understand the value of life I must know the true loss of death. We need to bring the characters we create to the brink of death if we want them along with the audience to understand the true value of life. The opposite applies if you want to understand death. In order to gain curtain things we need to let go of other things. This is how humanity works. We are constantly exploring what it means to live and what it means to die. This is why if we truly want to be great filmmakers, if we truly want to be storyteller’s who are remembered through the ages, we go out and experience real life. The greatest stories you will tell will not be inspired by books or movies, rather by your own life experiences. Nobody has the same perspective on life as you do. Nobody has the exact friends you do, or lives the same way you live. Your own interpretation of the films you watch, the art you look at, and the people you meet is what makes your perspective so important.

The person you know the best should be yourself. Don’t run away from your perspective in fear that people will not understand it or will not think it to be good enough. I would be dishonest to myself to create films that show no hope for our world. Some people, such as Fincher and Kubrick have a much more cynical view of the world. In their films they stay true to themselves and because of this they have created classics that concentrate on some of the darker aspects of the human race. The audience knows if you are being sincere or not.

The point I want to make in this blog is to be true to yourself and give your audience something to think about. Develop a perspective of this world and an idea for where it can go or where it’s going that needs to be seen and taken seriously. Humanity has so many different faces. Humanity is truly a never ending topic that has been explored in art and film for literally thousands of years. Whether it is through a few lines on paper, a bunch of pixels in a computer, or the lens of a camera, create images that can’t be ignored because they hit at the very core of what makes us hate, love, want to die, and want to live- in essence, what makes us human.

War Horse- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 10, 2012

War Horse is a passionate tale that takes place during World War I. The only clear villain of the film is the Great War itself. We see stories unfold on both sides. The film is full of loss, but what sticks out is hope. Their is a sentiment to this film that makes many critics stop liking Spielberg as much as the Fincher’s and Scorsese’s of our time. However, the heart and emotion so openly expressed in this film is what draws me so deeply to Spielberg’s work. The Sentiment of this film does not feel fake. It is genuine because Spielberg believes deeply in what he is expressing on screen.

War Horse opens to a beautiful landscape. The land moves us in this film just as much as anything else. We see it in it’s glory with beautiful sunsets and warm colorful country sides. We are drawn in because of it. The innocents we see at the beginning of the film in the land and characters is even more cherished because they do not last. When war comes we see the land change. It gets corrupted by the evils of battle and bloodshed. The vibrant greens and warm reds slowly turn to gray. The land is cut into to create trenches. It gets infected by, machine guns, canons, and barb wire.

The land is a direct reflection of the emotional state of the star of the movie, Joey. He is a horse and we follow him from birth. He is foolishly bought by an old handicapped farmer named Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan). The true heart of the story begins when Joey is introduced to Ted’s son Albert, played by  Jeremy Irvine. For being his first big role Jeremy does a fair enough job. Everything relies on us buying into the relationship he creates with Joey. Unlike most Hollywood films these days Steven Spielberg is not afraid to take his time at the beginning of his movies. Spielberg spends a good half hour getting us connected with the relationship between Ted and Joey. We are sold with their relationship by the time Joey is sold away by Ted to a kindhearted English Captain (Tom Hiddleston). This starts a series of smaller stories we experience through out the rest of the film as Joey is pulled deeper and deeper into the Great War.

Through Joey we are shown the humanity of both sides of the war. The war is the only evil in the film and Spielberg does a delicate job expressing it’s cruelty. War Horse is the ideal film to introduce a younger audience to the evils of war. The film is not for all ages. However, it portrays war and violence in a much more bearable way then films like Saving Private Ryan or Glory. We see the war’s evil without needing to constantly turn our head from the screen. Spielberg knows the most impacting images often come from the imagination of the audience. Joey is found and treated well by both sides. However, the requirements of war come close to killing him several times in the film. Joey gives us plenty of reason to like characters who fight on both sides. We also see Joey’s profound influence of several characters in the film.

The images of evil are bearable because of the humanity Joey brings to this war film. Spielberg allows us to cherish Joey without making him seem too smart or mobile to be a real horse. My only criticism of the film would be that at times the acting feels a bit overdone and insincere. However, Spielberg more then makes up for this. The pace, visuals, and story of the film will remind many of old classics. Cutting is used sparingly. The film is mostly shot with wide angle lens’ and the story is in no hurry. Cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski’s work has never been better then in this film. Spielberg and Kaminski bend light in magical ways. The ending has some of the most touching shots I have ever seen. John Williams’ music flows as well as ever. It consumes us without ever feeling overpowering. The movie transports us back to the beginning of the twentieth century through the making of the film and the era it portrays.

War Horse is a instant classic it has all the elements of great storytelling, which would have been just as entertaining to those in the 30s and 50s as it is to us today. In the movie Joey represents the land itself. When war comes and the land is torn apart, Joey reflects it’s pain. The movie is a commentary on what it takes to make this world good. The land we live in can provide many good things if we are willing to come together and treat it well. If the world stopped caring Joey would die. Thankfully in this movie the world cares. At several points in the film Joey’s life is brought to the edge, but humanity wins. In the end War Horse is a sincere story about trying to find humanity in a time of war.