Zero Dark Thirty vs. Transformers 2

The Art Of The Blockbuster

 

            In a cinematic world filled with CGI, explosions and three-dimensional wonderlands, the aid of technology can sometimes obscure even the very basics of film, such as a working plot structure, proper cinematography, editing and other techniques, or even standard acting. Looking back at the Academy Awards’ best picture winners of the past ten years, one would only find two true, big budget blockbusters: “The Departed”, whose 90 million dollar budget was a result of the experienced, yet expensive cast, and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King”, which for a film of it’s graphics and length was still only financed with a paltry 94 million dollars. Once it is noted that these two “blockbusters” are really nothing more than anomalies, one idea becomes clear: the use of technology, along with its expenses, does not guarantee critical success. However, there are still many modern, technologically advanced films that are considered strong, with one of these films being “Zero Dark Thirty”, which retells the tale of the hunt for infamous terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. On the other side of the spectrum, there are a myriad of commercially successful, big budget action movies that were and still are critically destroyed in the cinema realm. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” would fall into this category. With a historically large budget, and an almost completely negative reception, many argue that the sequel moves away from the somewhat highly regarded methods of its’ predecessor, and instead chooses to showcase explosion after explosion in wake of any intelligible or recognizable plotline. All in all, the expensive technology common in today’s cinematic world can either aid or distort a film, and “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” represent the highs and lows of this stark change, respectively.

            “Zero Dark Thirty” focuses on CIA analyst Maya, and her search for arguably the world’s most notorious terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Similar to the numerous action movies of the 1970’s, which featured the Vietnamese, and the communist takeover films of the 80’s and 90’s, “Thirty”, directed by Katherine Bigelow, feeds on the fears of it’s time period, in this case, terrorism. Although not as highly budgeted as other films, “Zero Dark Thirty” does fit the mold and identity of an action film: a main character who sometimes “bends the rules”, a common enemy that almost any viewer can root against, and, most importantly, explosions, lots and lots of explosions. However, the 2012 war thriller sets itself apart from the rest of the junk by using the technology as a means to enhance the story and to portray realism, as opposed to simply using it because it is available. Although one of the cliché pieces of an action film, one of Bigelow’s strengths in the film is her use and depiction of the classic explosion. There are many points in the movie when “things go boom”, but one of the most important moments of the film is in the Camp Chapman attack, where Maya’s dear friend and senior CIA analyst, Jessica, is killed via a suicide bombing, along with a few of her other coworkers. While one would expect a large suicide bombing rendered as loud and large on the movie screen, Bigelow essentially displays the antithesis of this common, action movie practice. After the initial explosion is viewed at about a medium shot for maybe a second, the majority of the bombing aftermath is shown at an aerial view, as seen in Figure 1. Instead of drawing the viewer into the action, the audience is actually drawn back, now looking above the blast. As well, this detonation is noticeably silent, even though action movies are typically incredibly loud, especially during an explosion like this. The film’s sound designer, Paul N. J. Ottoson, also a former Swedish militant, commented on this abstract use of sound, stating, “I’ve been around a lot of really big explosions, but the funny thing is, I don’t ever remember hearing one of them, […] When it hits you, the shockwaves travel faster than the sound. It shuts down your ears. I never thought, ‘Oh wow, what a loud explosion’; I thought, ‘Oh wow, I almost crapped my pants.’” As one can conclude, instead of doing the obvious, formulaic loud bang, Bigelow and sound designer, Ottoson, choose to portray the explosion as something more true to the way it is actually experienced, in order to enhance the experience of the audience, and to give a somber tone to an event that many movies would characterize and display as “awesome”. All in all, it is evident that “Zero Dark Thirty” uses its modern technology in order to advance the film, taking the typical, non-emotional explosion scene and turning it into a more reflective, softer presentation, the way an event like this actually felt.
            In order to analyze “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, the reboot of the classic children’s cartoon, one must first look at the numbers. Generally speaking, “Transformers” was a box office success, ranked as the top-grossing movie for two straight weeks against other successes such as “The Hangover”, “Year One”, and “The Taking of Pelham 123”. Grossing an average of 50 million dollars a week in it’s first two weeks of release, the blockbuster sequel eventually became one of the top earning movies of all time in the United States of America, coming in at number ten. With a budget of 200 million dollars, it is evident that Transformers, although expensive to make, grossed an incredible profit, earning it the title of being commercially successful. However, does this economic achievement result in critical acclaim? Not necessarily. In the coming weeks of the films release, it’s marketing campaign “leaked” the information that it’s great pyramid scene was the most expensive stunt, ever. With such a great budget, one would expect this moment to be viewed as incredible, or even iconic. Instead, the record-breaking few minutes were universally panned, and rightfully so. In the approximately four minute scene, Michael Bay, director of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, displays an aerial view of the scene, seen in Figure 2, eventually zooming in closer, while introducing the audience to metal twisting and crashing, an audio similar to that of banging pots and pans, along with the almost unrecognizable sound automatic gunshots from helicopters above.  Kim Newman, reviewer for acclaimed “Sight & Sound” magazine, commented on the pyramid scene with, “There’s Chariots of the Gods-esque lunacy to be had in the tearing apart of the Great Pyramid to reveal the sun-smashing machine the structure was built to bury.” Essentially, Newman notices the obvious; the much-marketed, expensive pyramid scene featured in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” boils down to nothing more than glorified stunt mush. As a result, it is clear that the high budget, advanced technology that is “Transformers 2” did not aid in the quality of the movie, but, instead, the expenses resulted in the replacement of plot and character development with confusing, ear shattering, nonsense explosions.

            “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” essentially represent the two sides in the introduction of advanced technology to cinema. On one hand, “Transformers”, directed by the action maestro, Michael Bay, manipulates its modern graphics to simply create gladiatorial fodder, devoid of understandable plot, yet giving the people what they supposedly want, big action. “Zero Dark Thirty”, by the Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow, conversely, demonstrates a controlled use of technology, clearly utilizing special graphics and such, yet using such restrain that the film emotionally comes off as realistic, suspenseful, and somber. One of the typical and classic scenes in any action movie is the explosion, and, oddly enough, it is the comparison of these moments that set the two films apart. In “Thirty”, Bigelow features an aerial, further away view of a suicide bombing, whilst noticefully featuring very little sound. “Transformers”’ infamous and expensive pyramid scene, where one of the robots is shown clawing at the peak of the pyramid while being shot at by multiple armed helicopters, utilizes a close-up camera angle, and is impeded by constant, loud, and unnecessary noise. As a result of these two traits, the viewer is left with the feeling of confusion, since while so much seemed to be going on, plot wise, nothing important truly happened, just another senseless battle. Essentially, explosions are easy to create, especially with a high budget and advanced technology, yet it takes a true, talented director to transform that action into a plot-driving, emotion-filled event, witnessed in the suicide attack featured in “Zero Dark Thirty”.

            The expensive technology common in today’s cinematic world can either aid or distort a film, and “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” represent the highs and lows of this stark change, respectively. Although this point can be clearly stated again and again, Ryan A. Piccirillo, a former film major who graduated from Boston University summarized it best, with saying, “Technological advancements in these areas expand the creative potential of the filmmaker. However, just because technology is more advanced does not mean that it is necessarily superior in each given application. Rather, advanced technology is advantageous in that it broadens the toolset available to the filmmaker from which he or she can discern which equipment and techniques are best suited to a given production.” After analyzing both scenes in “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, it is evident that while technology can have the ability to enhance the film, it is truly the film, and consequentially, the director, that enhances the technology. Big action scenes and car chases may be fun, but without a workable storyline, and proper cinematography, editing, and sound design, a film can become a glorified montage of fire and speed. Instead of falling into the same traps of “Transformers”, Kathryn Bigelow used the technology to improve upon what was already great, as opposed to using it to hide the lack of all conceivable critical film traits. All in all, the advancement in film technology is great, but without all of the other essential film characteristics, a movie may, and most likely will, fall flat, regardless of its commercial success.

 

 

 

 

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Works Cited

 HitFix. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/tech-support-paul-n-j-ottosson-on-the-subtly-explosive-soundscapes-of-zero-dark-thirty&gt;.

 The International Student Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/560/the-technological-evolution-of-filmmaking-and-its-relation-to-quality-in-cinema&gt;.

Newman, Kim. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Sight & Sound 2009: n. pag. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicago 10

“Chicago 10” is a partially animated documentary recounting the eight anti-war protesters who were put on trial following the 1968 Democratic National Convention, as well as their two lawyers. One of the main themes or ideas the film tried to purvey was the dramatization of the case, and it’s resemblance of a worldwide spectacle. Though somewhat unusual in documentary filmmaking, the piece featured multiple animated court scenes. Although one would assume that these were used in an attempt to recreate the scene as one can not take video in a court room, the cartoons also served the purpose to show how the case became almost surreal and theatre like, super dramatized. All in all, it was evident that Brett Morgen, director of “Chicago 10”, intended to use the cartoon animations not only for the purpose of recreation, but to bring to light the case as “theatre and magic”.

“Chicago 10”, despite it’s abstractions, is still defined as a documentary, which is a film which intends to show a true story or subject with real, documented footage or evidence. “10” exemplifies this film making technique by both showing documented footage and photos, which are accurate of the event, and also using animations to recreate the court visuals that could not be recorded because of legality. The film’s unique blend of true visuals and lively animations completely change the tone of the connotative boring documentary.

“Chicago 10″‘s revolutionary animation is a welcome addition to the documentary genre, and was incredibly appropriate for the purpose it served in the film. As with most trials, the cases of the Chicago seven, or eight, or 10, whatever it is called, were not allowed to be recorded or photographed. As a result, without any actual visuals, it made sense for Morgen to resort to historically accurate animation, as opposed to ever boring, half-remembered testimonials.While this technique has rarely been seen within a documentary, it was clearly successful in “Chicago 10”, and this notable differentiation made the film stand out among other modern documentaries. Clearly, while the story of the documentary is incredibly interesting, it is the new technique of animation which really set this movie apart.

Casablanca

“Casablanca”, directed by Michael Curtiz, is about a village in Morocco during the time of World War II. Located in North Africa, the area is a place where people tried to traverse in order to get to the United States. The film tells a sort of love triangle involving Rick, Lazlo and Ilsa. Rick and Ilsa are former lovers, whereas Lazlo is the current significant other of Ilsa. In the movie, Lazlo is Czech Resistance leader, and Rick is an American owner of a Moroccan nightclub. Although there are many themes present through the film, it is evident that “Casablanca” intends to spread the message of gender roles. The movie showcases many moments when Ilsa, the attractive female lead, is either receiving the “male gaze”, or is in some position where she is looked at as an object, as opposed to a human being. Throughout the film, Curtiz plays around with these gender roles, as Ilsa is arguably as important a character as any other in “Casablanca”

“Casablanca” is not a world-renowned classic because it features one genre. In fact, the film is celebrated for it’s incorporation of multiple genres. Obviously, there is a clear romance story, with the love triangle of Ilsa, Rick and Lazlo. There are also some elements of propaganda film ,when the movie features many revolution-like idea, spread mostly through Czech resistance leader Lazlo. There are also even some Western elements to be found. The shooting scene towards the end closely resembled a classic, Western shootout draw. All in all, “Casablanca” was wonderous in it’s depiction of multiple genres, instead of just one.

“Casablanca” is not considered a classic because of acting, plot line, or any other similar element, but because it shows a mastery of multiple genres. When one sees a film, that film typically stays within the confines of one genre, whether it be action, drama, comedy, or anything else. “Casablanca”, being the standout movie it is, managed to not only use multiple genres, a trait most films lack, but actually mastered each one. This is an incredible accomplishment, that which validates it’s placement among the movie ‘classics’.

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

“Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” tells the life of Karen Carpenter, a celebrated 1970’s chanteuse, who was eventually lead to the path of death through the ailment of Anorexia Nervosa. In an incredibly experimental film, Todd Haynes, director opts to use Barbie and Ken dolls as actors, as opposed to, you know, real people. While this may seem odd, the use of the dolls highlights one of the main themes of the movie, the unattainable female body image. Represented by the prominence of Barbie dolls, Haynes sets out to declare that the female standard set by modern media is not only unfair, but can lead women to harm, or even to death in Karen Carpenter’s case. In the film, Carpenter starts out as a seemingly perfect Barbie doll, but, through constant media scrutiny, her body is literally whittled away, until her death, almost unrecognizable. All in all, Todd Haynes highlights the theme of female body image by blatantly using the unattainable Barbie body as his actors.

In the textbook, avant-garde films are described as “rarely presenting straightforward stories or characters”. In “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”, the plot itself is relatively understandable and clear; however, within the film, there are a multitude of different breaks for odd and inappropriate little spots, such as the commercial for Anorexia through the use of a supermarket back drop. Clearly, “Superstar” does not have straightforward characters either. Although previously mentioned, the film substitutes real actors for dubbed Barbie dolls, creating a clear distance between the viewer and the character. Regardless of clear dialogue, the fact that this live action movie does not feature live people negates the idea of a straightforward character. As a result, “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” exemplifies avant-garde film for it’s lack of clear stories or characters.

Although “Superstar” was helmed by a male director, the film exudes a feminist tone. One of the main battles in feminism is the unattainable female body image, and the movements to attempt to abolish these unfair expectations. Haynes proves this feminist route through using the Barbie doll. With the doll, Haynes states that even in a young age, women are exposed to what the modern media wants them to look like, hence the child’s Barbie figure. Along with this female support, Haynes also makes a comment on homosexuality and masculinity through the use of the Ken doll. Through this, Haynes, a gay man himself, shows that men have also been shown what to look like, not just women. Together, Todd Haynes and his “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” show the power of the media’s portrayal of human body image, regardless of gender.

Weekend

“Weekend”, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, revolves around a French married couple, whose seemingly idyllic countryside road trip turns awry through a mixture of greed, hit men, and a French revolution of sorts. While it may seem odd at first, the film actually tells the story of a dysfunctional upper class, and, although fictional, proposes an argument to about the bourgeois issue. In the movie, Roland and Corrine are identified as  middle class. This is proven through many examples, including when Corrine steals a pair of pants from a dead man because she simply likes the clothes. As well, class conflict is evident throiughout the story, as Corrine and Roland look down upon the lower class whenever they get a chance. All in all, “Weekend”, although an odd story, showcases class in an entertaining, albeit sometimes confusing new method.

Jean-Luc Godard’s piece is a classic, textbook example of French New Wave techniques. Even though there are many aspects of the film that prove this thesis, none reflects the methodology more than the consistent self reflexivity. Self reflexivity is when the actors in a film do something to remind you that they are, in fact, acting, and in a movie. As a result, the viewer is forced to take a more crtiical approach to the film, as they can not be “drawn in” to the story. In “Weekend”, one of the more self reflexive points in the film is during times of violence and death. When an actor is killed, there are many points when the viewer can see them breathing or moving, even though a dead person should be immobile. It is at these points in the film where self reflexivity is so present. When the viewer sees this moving, they are drawn out of the film, making them be more critical of the piece as a whole.

Jean-Luc Godard purposefully abuses sound and his actors in order to showcase a film with more self reflexivity; in turn, Godard hopes the viewer is forced to be more critical of the work. In the film, there are many instances where Godard either uses scores for the inappropriate scene or focuses on a moving actor when they are supposed to be acting as dead. While these techniques may not win any Academy awards, they do ring true to the French New Wave methodology, which, especially in terms of self reflexivity, revolves around the purposeful “drawing out” of viewers in order for them to be more analytical of the movie. Overall, it is evident that the inappropriate moments in “Weekend” are present only for the virtues of self reflexivity. 

Zero Dark Thirty

Although Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” tells the dramatized tale of the search for infamous war criminal Osama Bin Laden, the film’s most controversial talking point has arguably been it’s depiction, and proclaimed endorsement of torture. Instead of showcasing that torture worked, as claimed by many critics, the visuals of torture in the movie intend to blur the line between hero and villain, in regards to the US National Security. Instead of following the typical action movie formula, Bigelow in turn uses the controversy as a means for discussion. While typical blockbusters feature a clear-cut line between good and bad, the depiction of torture is used in order to give the heros some flaws, while potentially lending evil some sympathy. All in all, “Zero Dark Thirty”‘s depiction of torture, although brutal, is purely intended to distort the forces of good and evil.

Although the plot of “Zero Dark Thirty” screams something along the lines of a super-Hollywood-blockbuster-action-movie, Bigelow instead uses this commercially successful genre just as a base, and implants some of her auteur-esque methods into the typically repetitive action structure. One of Bigelow’s greatest strengths and signatures is character development and internal struggle, highlighted not only by the masterful “The Hurt Locker”, but also present in “Zero Dark Thirty”. In a genre which doesn’t thread much emotion into it’s action, “Thirty” is almost entirely character driven, and only resorts to big explosions when it is completely necessary to do so, a welcome rendition of the traditional Hollywood piece. In the end, Bigelow manages to take “Zero Dark Thirty” from a cheap-thrills, low-plot box office hit, to an emotional thriller that proposes many internal questions, a strength of the director.

Kathryn Bigelow is not a feminist director, just a female one. Although critics may argue that Bigelow’s placement of a female lead character signifies her as a feminist director, this is not the case. Many would argue that Bigelow’s two most famous, and successful, works are “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”. In the former film, the main character is a man, since the film is written by a former journalist who witnessed the actual story, which features a man. In “Thirty”, the main character, Maya, is a woman. However, for this movie, Bigelow wrote the script. As a man can write more easily for another male, Bigelow selected a female lead so she could more accurately portray how the main role would act. Overall, Kathryn Bigelow is in no way or form a feminist director, but the fact of her being a woman contributed to her selection of a female lead for “Zero Dark Thirty”.

Apocalypse Now

In “Apocalypse Now”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Captain Benjamin Willard, a soldier in the US-Vietnam War, is deployed into Cambodia to complete the dangerous mission of assassinating Colonel Walter Kurtz, a US officer who has gone rogue. Through his assignment, Willard continually struggles with the inevitable slaying of Kurtz, unsure if he can complete the job under his current, rational form. By the end of the film, it is clear that Willard evolves into a senseless, savage human being, if a human at all. Although a seeming controversial, anti-Vietnam film, the storyline is directly based off of the novel, “Heart of Darkness”. Luckily, both mediums share the same theme of civility, explaining the idea that one can not murder another human being if they are sane or rational. Through “Apocalypse Now”, Coppola enforces the idea that the Vietnam war turned American soldiers into unstable, savage beasts.

While sound is masterfully used throughout the film, it’s most useful presence is found in the helicopter attack on the peaceful, Vietnam village. In “Apocalypse Now”, Coppola manipulates the sound, especially in this scene, to give tone to different characters or forces. In this case, the helicopters are incredibly loud, and impactful, while the cuts to the village are almost definitely silent. While it may seem odd to feature such differences in sound, it is effective in the sense that it characterizes each side. The U.S., high tech, machine heavy cavalry is personified as being powerful, and even almost evil in their depiction. On the other side, the village is shown, through silence, as a peaceful, developing little place. All in all, it is clear that “Apocalypse Now” used sound in the helicopter scene to give personality to the opposing forces, the U.S. helicopters and the Vietnamese village.

After analysis of “Apocalypse Now” and having read “Heart of Darkness” in high school, it is evident that both mediums intend to project the notion that we are forever divided by the vicious animal and the rational angel within us. In the beginning of the film, it is evident Willard is a very sane, rational human being, who, at that point, would not be able to consciously kill another human being. Through the course of the film, Willard becomes more and more insane, and further and further away from being a human, instead turning into a savage animal. While this may not be a great development, it is clear this was the only way for Willard to kill Kurtz, as a vicious animal. The “rational angel” Willard would not have done it. As a result, there will always be a split between the natural sides of being a vicious animal and a rational angel. In this case, however, Willard needed to be the savage he didn’t know possible.

Far From Heaven

“Far From Heaven”, directed by Todd Haynes, focuses on the life of Cathy Whitaker, a common housewife in 1950’s Connecticut, whose marriage seemingly falls apart right in front of her eyes as her husband is revealed to have homosexual tendencies, and her social status is marred after her friendship with a black man is discovered by the town’s “bourgeoisie”. Although Haynes deals with many relevant and controversial themes within the film, “Far From Heaven” is clear to challenge the idea of male supremacy. Early in the film, Cathy discovers Frank, her husband, passionately kissing another man in his office. Soon after, when Frank attempts to make love to his wife, he is quick to discover he can not get aroused, and, as a result, Cathy tries to console him. Although his masculinity is in question from his gay lifestyle, Frank still strikes her when she tries to assume power, almost immediately reassuming his role in the relationship. All in all, it is evident “Far From Heaven” plays around with the theme of male supremacy by questioning Frank’s power and masculinity.

While “Far From Heaven” deals with a myriad of ideologies, one of it’s most present issues deals with the idea of race and class supremacy. In one of the scenes of the movie, Cathy is shown to be conversing with Raymond, a black man, and his child at a social event, filled with almost entirely snobby, white people. Throughout the conversation, in the background, many of the attendees, those being white, are shown to be either “eyeing down” or distastefully glaring at Raymond, and consequently, Cathy, the white women talking with the black man. Although these people don’t speak any words, their facial expressions tell the entire story. Todd Haynes uses these gazes to give off the idea that they do not want Raymond or his child to be at this event. As well, in general, they look down upon him as a lesser member of society. All of this is drawn through the hateful stares of the white people.

Although Haynes’ “Far From Heaven” showcases ideologies of class and sexual orientation as well, it is evident that the director gives the most attention to the issue of race. Many would argue that Haynes, as a gay man, would give precedence to the ideology of sexual orientation. However, the end of the film features Cathy’s makeshift, silent, and secret goodbye to Raymond, a storyline that dealt with race. Clearly, if the film leaves on that note, then that is the idea that the director would like to leave you with, as it is the last scene in the film. Overall, “Far From Heaven” features many ideological story lines, but it’s most heavy plot line is featured in it’s views of race, as shown by this topic ending the movie.

Psycho

The film “Psycho” revolves around the mysterious murders and happenings within the Bates Motel, which is run by Norman Bates. While “Psycho” was very original and controversial in many aspects of the film world, such as the portrayal of psychopaths, the “male gaze”, and the use of the audience as a voyeur, one of the main formal elements of this celebrated film is the manipulation of the “MacGuffin”, which is the intended misleading of the significance of an object. Although this may seem odd, a MacGuffin can help create suspense within a film. In “Psycho”, there are multiple MacGuffins, even Marion, to some extent, acts as one. However, one of the most useful MacGuffins in the Hitchcock masterpiece is the envelope of money, which was originally stolen by Marion and acts as a spark to the main plot of the movie. Within the first half, this envelope acts as its own character as it is the driving force for the entire plot. However, once Marion is murdered, the envelope of money is simply thrown away by Bates. One of the key objects of the film is suddenly gone in a seemingly nondescript way. Now, the audience is left with no hints, no clues, nothing, to even attempt to figure out this mystery of a movie. As a result of the incredibly important envelope of money being simply thrown out, Hitchcock helps raise the suspense of the film as a whole, all thanks to a simple MacGuffin. All in all, it is clear that MacGuffins, specifically the envelope of money, are an essential formal element of “Psycho”, and, in general, raise the level of suspense, a key factor in almost all Hitchcock films.

Editing within a movie is the post-production process of cutting, blending, and other techniques in order to create a full, flowing motion picture. “Psycho”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is considered a “holy grail” in the editing realm, as it is almost always magically manipulating editing in order to create a more finished product. One of the most significant examples of editing in “Psycho” is during the revelation of Norman Bates as the murderer, as opposed to his mother. In this scene, Norman is seen being apprehended in women’s clothing, and, along with that, he makes a shrieking horror face, seemingly unhinging his jaw in terror. Almost immediately after this moment, Hitchcock uses a cutaway, which is a shot that focuses on a very specific detail in the mise-en-scene, to focus on the decaying corpse of Bates’ revealed-to-be-dead mother, which happens to have the same facial expression that Norman did in the scene before. This juxtaposition implies that Norman has been acting as his mother, and, as a result, the murderer, the entire time. To conclude, this relational editing technique that places the faces of Norman Bates and his dead mother chronologically close reveals to the audience the big twist that is Bates as the murderer. In the end, Hitchcock was able to use this specific example of editing in order to show the plot, instead of tell it.

The shower scene in “Psycho” is still powerful and disorienting, a brilliant piece of film-making, and the idea that it’s essence is considered cliche today only furthers it’s power. This magical Hitchcock moment is defined by dizzying, almost delusional cuts, to display the murder of Marion, by an, at that point, unknown killer. The aura of this scene has been represented, of sorts, in many other famous films, such as “Jaws”, “Halloween”, and “Scream”. While there are many critics that use these films to argue the shower scene as old and unoriginal, does its mimicry by other great directors (e.g. John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg) not raise it’s magnificence? The basis of this argument would be the same to argue that Jesse Owens was not an influential runner, because every Olympic sprinter today can run a 10.5 second 100 meter dash, or that “Airplane” was not an original, funny movie because its comedic style has been used over and over in the “Scary Movie” franchise. All in all, it is clear that the copying of the shower scene in many films today only strengthens it’s brilliance, as opposed to detracting from it.

Citizen Kane

In what is commonly referred to as “the greatest film ever made” (Sorry, Vertigo.), “Citizen Kane”, directed by, produced by, written by, and starring Orson Welles, focuses on the life of publishing mogul Charles Foster Kane, and the nation’s inquiries into what his dying word, “Rosebud”, means. While it might be a spoiler to those who have not watched the film, in the end, it is revealed that “Rosebud” was the name of his childhood sled. Although it may seem like an odd twist at first glance, the reference to the sled is representative of the main theme of “Citizen Kane”, the true meaning of success. Although Kane was an incredibly wealthy and fortunate businessman, it is clear that the only time he considered himself to be truly happy was when he was a child, shown by his last word of “Rosebud”.  As a result, the journey that is “Citizen Kane” goes out to show that success is not necessarily defined by fame and fortune, but by happiness. This is all thanks to one, somewhat simple word, “rosebud”.

Cinematography is the use of different camera angles, shots, and development techniques in order to exude a tone or idea without having to outright say it. While cinematography is present in all films, as all movies are concoctions of camera shots, it is widely agreed that “Citizen Kane” features some of the greatest ever cinematography. There are a myriad of brilliant cinematographic moments within “Kane”, but my personal favorite is the scene within the interval of (12:02-12:18). In this segment, comprised of multiple shots, a withered, wheelchair-bound, Kane is seen being pushed along a path. The shot is shaky, and obscured, as, at many points, an unfocused fence blocks the view of the camera. While out of context, this might seem like a terrible shot, it’s purpose is genius. This scene is within the beginning newsreel segment, and, as a result, the shots, obviously manufactured by Welles, come off as amateur-like. This novice-like tone gives off the vibe that this was taken by someone who was hiding and did not want to be seen. Therefore, we can conclude, that, at the end of his life, Charles Kane did not want to be seen in his sickened, depraved form. It is amazing that we can infer all of this by the creative shots and development techniques. This is why “Citizen Kane” and, more importantly, cinematography are admired so fondly.

Through the film “Citizen Kane”, Orson Welles sets out to prove that fame and money is not necessarily a dream , but is actually, in most cases, a nightmare. The American Dream is the phenomenon that, no matter what your socioeconomic status currently is, one is capable of achieving practically anything, as long as it is within the free market system of the United States of America. Obviously, this idea is positive, and it is still incredibly pertinent today. However, Welles attempts to show the downside of this sensation, all through the life of Charles Foster Kane”, the main character of “Citizen Kane”. The titular character is a publishing mogul, and has gained great fame and fortune through his occupation. Although one would assume you would be incredibly satisfied with this great power, it is clear that all of the money and all of the notoriety only led to stress, not glee. While this is evident throughout the movie, and Kane’s gradual depression, it is outright stated, in the end, through the revelation that “rosebud” signified the only time Charles Kane was happy, his less wealthy, less famous childhood. All in all, it is clear that Orson Welles does not believe in the American Dream, as he took a man who achieved it, and then proceeded to show his downfall because of it.