Cinesthetic Moments in Film and Television

       The first time I had ever watched 127 Hours, I had already been warned for the graphic scene in which James Franco’s character takes a dull knife to his arm and works his way through every last bit of flesh and nerve ending, but I still was not ready for what I was about to see.  Being of the generation that has experienced such horrible things as internet shock videos and horror films that are trying to step up the gore each time, I felt that I would be able to handle the scene well, but I was so very wrong.  The anticipation of the dull knife breaking into our main characters flesh was just the beginning but it already had me on the edge of my seat and my hands creeping up in front of my eyes.  Things did not get much better as progress began to get made and more and more blood started pouring out of his arm as he got closer and closer to freedom.  By this time in the scene I was watching the film though my fingers, which were acting almost like Venetian blinds in a noir film, only letting bits of the image through and guarding off a lot of the rest.  As if all this was not bad enough, just as he was about to get himself free, our Franco’s character gets stuck on one last nerve that he can not cut through, this is where I could not take it anymore and I had to turn away for a moment.  The next thing I knew he was free and walking away with half of his arm unattached to his body. 

 

 

 The craziest thing about this scene is that I have never experienced something like that in my life, and hopefully I never will, but I was still able to mentally feel the pain that our main character was going through.  I don’t think it was simply because of the use of gore because I can watch any of the Saw films and hardly flinch, but I think it was the intelligent use of gore that makes the scene stick with us, but its use in a much more realistic way than we see in any horror film.  

Long before we watched Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, I saw the film with a couple friends solely to see a dumb comedy with a bunch of cheap laughs.  One of the early scenes in the film though stood out to me though as a scene that really tingled my senses and really made me crave the little White Castle burgers as well.  The scene I am talking about is right after Harold and Kumar have spent an evening at home smoking weed until the both were left with extreme cases of the munchies.  The next thing they know a commercial for White Castle comes on and not only tempts them, but tempts the audience as well.  The commercial describes the burgers in such a way that your brain teases you into making you think you can taste the burgers already.  It is a strange phenomenon of the brain to do something like this, but even now as I write this paper and think about that scene, the taste of a burger is building up in my head.  

For my third choice, I have to talk about the television show The Walking Dead. I know it may not be a film, but it is one of the best shows on TV right now and season one had one of the most cinesthetic moments I have ever experienced.  The premise for the show is following a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse and all of their adventures of trying to survive another day.  In one of the early episodes of season one, a few of our characters were forced to make an extreme test of luck and walk straight through a group of zombies occupying the streets of Atlanta; and how would they just walk through without facing harm? They decided to cut open dead zombies and cover themselves with the entrails and other organs of the zombies in order to gain their scent, hence the episode title “Guts”.  Being that the show airs late at night, and on the cable channel AMC, the creators were able to have some freedom in shooting the scene and the level of gore.  From the very beginning, a few of the guys dig, knife first, into the stomachs of some dead “walkers”, as they call them on the show, and persisted to cover themselves with the thick, black, tar-like paste that came from the zombie’s bodies.  Through the way the actors reacted to the smells and appearance of the entrails, the audience was given a very graphic and very realistic scene that made you cover your nose in hope to keep the scene from getting in your nose.

 


One of the first R-rated films that I ever saw was Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino, and one specific scene has stuck with me ever since the first time I saw it: the scene where Mr. Blonde sadistically cuts off the police officer’s ear while dancing along to the song “Stuck in The Middle With You”.  Being that I had not really been exposed to Tarantino films at this time, I was shocked to watch the scene, even though you don’t actually ever see Mr. Blonde actually cutting the ear off.  The implication of what is going on along with irony of the music really makes the audience feel not only trapped like the police officer, but also cringe whenever Mr. Blonde comes in with a swipe with his razor blade.  The pain doesn’t end there though; even after the ear is cut off, Mr. Blonde begins dousing the freshly earless cop with gasoline, making the audience cringe again as the gas burns the open wound.  As I would go on to see more Tarantino films and expand my knowledge on his different styles, I discovered that this idea of cinesthetic films is something that Tarantino specializes in.  He has a unique way through his dialogue and realistic violence to make the audience really believe in what is going on, and to not only watch his films, but feel them.



Finally, probably one of the best examples of cinesthetic films would be any episode or any of the Jackass films that come out.  Because we are not seeing actors perform scenes and rather perform extreme stunts, we have a very realistic, almost documentary feel, to the films.  The worst part about seeing a Jackass film is the idea that you will have cinesthetic experiences that involved almost all your different senses.  Whether Bam Margera is doing some extreme stunt on a skateboard that makes you feel as your own bones are breaking or Steve-O is eating something disgusting and making you want to throw up, the Jackass films are completely a cinesthetic experience.  I think that is exactly what makes these films popular though; as an audience, we are able to see people putting themselves into these extreme situations, and almost feel what they are feeling, but still remain safe sitting in the theater or in our own living rooms.  

   

The Best Kubrick Film since 1999

                                  Original film poster

 

When you hear the name Nicole Kidman, you expect to hear about the new big film she is a part of and all the expectations on her performance.  The strange thing is, when looking to the internet to find official websites and advertisements for her film Birth, the complete opposite happened.  The closest thing that could be found as a website for the film was information about the plot of the film and a couple tag lines on New Line Cinema’s webpage.  It isn’t a surprise to see then that the film did not get the initial reception and received mostly “rotten” reviews.  
    Since the film did not have any official website, the looking up advertising for the film was limited to seeing what was put on movie posters, DVD boxes, and taglines to try and hook the audience in.  For example, the film database website IMDB has two different taglines suggesting the film to be a white knuckle thriller.  The first being “She wished her husband would come back from the dead. Now, he is back.”  The problem with this line is that, just like the third act of the film, is just cheesy and really does nothing for the audience.  The second tagline, “A haunting thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end” is a bit better than the first, but is a bit general and could be said about pretty much any suspense/thriller film that has come out since Nosferatu was released in 1922.  Both taglines do nothing for the film, and really do not even intrigue an audience or make the film stand out from the other films like Ray and Saw that came out the same weekend.  As for movie posters and DVD cover art, they mainly focus on Kidman’s character and add the tagline, “Careful what you wish for.”  This does a lot more for the film since most of the film is about Kidman’s character and her internal struggle.  Also, this tagline is better in the fact that it just gives the audience enough to let their minds do a lot of thinking of what the film is about.  All in all, it appears as though the limited marketing and limited initial release of this film was done purposely in expecting that the film would not be well received by all.  When a film only releases on 550 screens now days, it is usually not projected to be a huge blockbuster hit.

 

  
 

   As for the critical reception, the film did not do so well, receiving a 39% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and a 50 out of 100 on Metacritic.  As for specific reviewers, the one that hits the nail right on the head is from the film critic Cole Smithey who said that the “Manhattan-based supernatural thriller done in the tone of “Rosemary’s Baby” starts out strong but loses all steam in its third act.”  And after viewing the film, I could not agree more.  The first two thirds of the film is fairly intriguing but really fell off when the story begins to unfold into something very anticlimactic and unrewarding.  The audience does not really get anything out of the ending of the film and is really left to feel wanting more or an alternate ending.  Another review that leaned more towards the “rotten” side comes from Richard Roeper, one of the most recognized and well known film critics, and the other half of the film criticism duo Ebert and Roeper.  Roeper stated “I didn’t find it spellbinding at all.”  With the film posters and early taglines, the film sets itself up to be more of a white knuckle thriller and in the ends it turns out to look like a Kubrick film but seriously lacks in the thrill that Kubrick had in his films.  One final review from Enrique Buchichio, a film critic from Uruguay, that does not shoot the film down, but rather warns the audience that the material in the film may not be widely accepted by all.  Buchichio says “Nadie debería ir a ver esta película sin estar dispuesto a sumergirse en un clima extraño, donde conviven el misterio, la sensualidad y la locura.” Which in English roughly translates to, Nobody should see this film without being willing to immerse themselves into a strange atmosphere, a place of mystery, sensuality, and madness.  This is particularly a great review for the film in that it is honest about what to expect in the film.  Take away the less then climactic ending, and you have a decent film that has a bit of a twist ending.  The whole relationship between Kidman’s character and the young boy is a bit different though, and may throw some people for a loop that they are not ready for.  Buchichio does a great job of warning the audience of some of the content of the film without being to negative about the film as a whole.
      At the end of the day, it is up to the people to decide if they really enjoy a film or not.  Not one critic can tell someone truly whether they are going to like a film or not, but the suggestions of these critics help guide the general audience towards the better films.  This is said perfectly by Jen Yamato, a former senior editor at Rotten Tomatoes, when she said “film critics exist to inform and entertain the public; to separate the wheat from the chaff…”.  A job that may seem unnecessary but has become such a vital role in telling us whether a movie is certified “rotten” or “fresh”.

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Repo Man original trailer

Repo Man Review

Emilio Estevez as Otto

Repo Man is a film that starts out with a fairly basic premise, and seems to really do nothing with it for 92 minutes.  First and foremost, when watching the film, I never found myself connecting with any of the characters, especially that of the lead role of Otto played by Emilio Estevez.  He may be our central character, but I never found myself really caring what happened to him or cheering for him to come out on top in the end.  He seemed to be floating aimlessly through his life, with a pointless job as a repo man, and no real goals or achievements in the end.  He does have one point in the film, tracking down a Chevy Malibu that we constantly see being driven around by a crazy man; but in the end, we are left with a fairly weak ending that leaves us with more questions then are answered.  The film itself is full of many continuity errors, whether done on purpose or not, they really make specific scenes jump a little too much and it really takes away from the film as a whole.  For example, in one of the early scenes of the film, Otto and his friend Kevin are fighting at their job at a grocery store; after a bit of a struggle, and knocking over of a few cans, Otto’s character ends up on his feet and on a completely different aisle then he had fallen into in the first place. Also, after stealing his first car for the repo service, we are soon introduced to the character Leila, who Otto picks up randomly on the streets and gives a ride in his new car.  The strangest part of the who thing is without ever introducing himself by his name, Leila is soon calling Otto by his name.  Finally, near the end of the film, without any form of explanation, Otto is saved from the hospital by both the Rodriquez brothers and Leila, his would be girlfriend.  This doesn’t make any sense though because there is never a scene showing the Rodriquez brothers and Otto making peace.  So far in the film, they have been competing to try and find the unique Chevy Malibu, and without any warning, they are all of a sudden on the same side.

    As for the genre of the film, I do not feel as though it could be truly defined and placed into one specific genre.  This film contains elements of comedy, drama, and science fiction, but still somehow doesn’t excel in one more than any of the others.  As for the characters in this film, don’t expect to see any faces that really jump off the screen besides Emilio Estevez, who’s mostly known for his work in the film The Outsiders, which came out about a year before Repo Man

    The film is not a complete waste of time though; it is easy to find many laughs in the dialogue, and even in some of the continuity errors if you don’t take the film too seriously.  While watching this film, I was constantly reminding of the film Miami Blues starring Alec Baldwin; the film as a whole doesn’t really seem to serve any purpose other than being a pastiche to its genre, but still entertaining if not taken too seriously.  As for me though, I plan on sticking to Marty McFly and Doc. Brown if I want to watch a film about time traveling cars anytime soon. 

Batman to the Rescue

            Christian Bale as The Dark Knight

 

From a very young age, I have suffered from athletic induced asthma.  It did not stop me from living a normal life as a child, but whenever there was a change in weather or the Santa Ann winds came in, sports or other physical activities became too much for my lungs to handle. I don’t want to sound too much like Martin Scorsese, but because of my asthma, I needed to find some other form of entertainment when I was not feeling well.  Movies became and obvious choice, along with video games, books, music, and television shows but among all of these forms of entertainment one character stuck out to me the most, that character was Batman, also known as The Dark Knight. 

I do not know exactly why the character of Batman stuck out the most to me, maybe it is because of the alter ego of Bruce Wayne and the struggles he has conquered to become Batman or maybe it was just the unique stories and interesting villains that Batman faced off against that kept me coming back for me.  Either way, the character of Batman quickly became a favorite of mine, and the one thing that I constantly looked for as a child was for a Batman film that had the same feel as some of the comics and graphic novels that I read growing up.  For example, two novels in particular, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, contained some of my favorite stories of Batman that I’ve ever read.  The stories were a very gritty and realistic telling of Batman fighting the character Two-Face and the Falcone Mob.  Along with this, in Dark Victory, we are also given details on the origin of Batman’s loyal sidekick, Robin.

With this, I made it a case to see every each of the Batman films, starting with the ones that came out even before I was born.  The only problem was that none of these films really lived up to the idea of Batman that I had in my head; this is not to say that these were bad films though.  For example, even though it can be seen as cheesy nowadays, no one can ever speak out against Adam West’s early performance of the caped crusader and fighting off The Joker, the Penguin, and The Riddler.  Jump ahead a few years and the story of Batman was taken over by Tim Burton, who used his genius and creativity and brought a whole new style to the Batman franchise.  People can argue that when Joel Schumacher joined Burton that the films started to lose their flair, and they may be correct, but that isn’t to say that they are the worst films ever made.  In my opinion though, these films were just a precursor though for what was coming a few years down the line.  In steps Christopher Nolan, who had only made three films previous to working on Batman Begins in 2005. 

 I may not be a professional film critic or even the world’s largest Batman fan, but the first time I saw Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I felt that sense of a film that captured the idea of Batman in the exact way that I always imagined growing up.  Nolan took a whole new approach to making a Batman film that was a lot grittier and darker than any other Batman film that had been seen before.  The one thing that I really enjoy about Nolan as a filmmaker is the fact that he involves himself on many different levels of the filmmaking process.  I wouldn’t go as far to call Nolan an auteur, but since he not only directs his pictures but also involves himself in producing, writing, and cinematography.  Because of this, Nolan has a lot of creative control over his films and is able to make sure that the final product will come out exactly as he has imagined it.  Also, it may sound cliché, but one of my favorite aspects of Nolan’s Batman trilogy is Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker.  Not to say that Jack Nicholson’s performance of The Joker in the 1989 version of Batman was not good, but the depth and intensity of Ledger’s performance is one that will always be remembered for just how raw it is.  While growing up, The Joker was one of the most frightening yet one of my favorite villains to see and the relationship between him and Batman was one that always fascinated me.  So to see Nolan get such a performance out of Ledger and to capture the insanity that is The Joker made The Dark Knight such a special film for me.

 Heath Ledger as The Joker

 

 There is no question about it, Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman franchise has been one of the most popular Batman series, if not the most popular.  In a world where superhero movies were not taken seriously, and really made only for fanboys, a new generation of filmmakers have made a move in that last few years to make great superhero films that could be loved by all..  As far as a global connection to this film, I do not think that most people connected with the character of Batman because of their asthma, but Batman is still a fan favorite amongst superheros.  With that said, i believe that many people love both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight for the same reasons that I do, because they brought a who new style of Batman film that we had not seen before, that was very much like the comics that we have seen over the years.

Now that Dark Knight Rises, the last chapter in Nolan’s trilogy, is set to come out next year, I know I won’t be alone waiting in line to get to see the film, but I will have unique reason for wanting to see how Nolan wraps up the series.  With all the buzz and stories that are coming out of the set people are worried about how the film will be, but if Nolan puts even half of the effort that he put into both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight the ending should be one that keep Batman fans happy and make new fans fall in love for the first time.