The film “Submergence” follows a strangely muddled story of a girl who gets captured outside of a gas station and the girl who may or may not have witnessed it. The witness has a difficult time the morning after this event and weird things begin to happen to her. Someone writes the word “tell” on her mirror, she creepily focuses on a blank television, and the girl who was kidnapped haunts her in a ghostly fashion outside of her house. When the witness realizes that it might be her that wrote the words on her bathroom mirror, she runs outside of her house and sees the ghostly girl approach her. The witness then reveals to the audience that the ghostly figure is actually herself, and through a series of flashbacks, the audience sees that the witness is actually the victim of the crime. It ends there rather abruptly with the reveal that the girl we thought was kidnapped is actually safe and sound.

Probably the most interesting part of this  film is the creative way the shots were done. A lot of them incorporate several different parts of the story in a small space. Also, during the flashback sequences, the consistency of the shots was done quite well, showing that the witness actually misinterpreted the whole sequence of events. The music also added most of the drama in the film, creating tension and causing unease throughout. The final piano section actually rises a wonderfully strange emotion, one that is difficult to put to words. A result is reached, but there is no real resolution, and the song sort of makes this seem okay.

The story is severely lacking in certain places. It seems that the writer had a back story for what the witness was supposed to be doing or thinking and the audience doesn’t really understand it. Also, some of the reveals were a little too expected and ineffective, such as when the ghostly figure is revealed to be the main character, the scene seems a little too rushed compared to other shots that lingered for no reason. Overall, the film is something to experience rather than followed as a plot driven film.

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Going into this production, I was a little concerned with whether or not the story was going to come through on screen the way our writer, Kristina, imagined it. Once we got on set though and started setting up shots and executing them, the footage came together quite nicely. There were multiple times, however, where the three of us working on the project would either disagree completely or have ideas that were equally good, but with only a chance for one of them to work. These situations were difficult to solve, and this resulted a lot of times in me simply agreeing to forfeit whatever thoughts I might have in order to keep everyone in the group happy and move the filming process forward. Besides a few snags with that, the actors actually worked quite excellently. Lauren was great to work with and really gave our group the best performance she could out of the little material she had to work with. Also, even though Lee wasn’t on the screen for very long, his prescence became the creepiest and most important one on screen.

The editing process had its bumps similar to the filming process. Technology did not seem to be in our favor the first time we tried to grab the clips out of our SD card. After three hours of putting everything together, they all decided to disappear on us, so we had to start all over again. This left us feeling a little stressed and impatient and that stress began to come through in everyone’s attitude. After a long night of sitting in the editing room, taking each other’s ideas, trying different things, and basically doing the best we could with what we had, we realized that we actually worked together quite nicely. Each of us had our own part in the project and the result is a representation of our experience with the film: Dark at times, but ultimately fitting together.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, it is tradition for my family to watch a family movie together. Everbody’s Fine, starring Robert De Niro, was suggested by one of us and we all agreed. It follows De Niro who plays Frank Goode, a widower, as he attempts to get his four grown up children together “all around the table again.” All four of them cancel their plans and Frank is left to take care of the house and his difficult lung condition. Rather than sit around his house like the doctors suggest, he goes off on a road trip in attempt to surprise his kids and see how successful their lives have become. He goes from New York to Chicago to Denver to Las Vegas, talking to whoever will listen and taking as many pictures as possible. The realization that his kids have been lying to him comes towards the end of his trip when he finds out that his son from New York, David, accidentally overdosed on drugs in Mexico.

This is a great movie to watch with the family because several family issues are presented in an excellent fashion. There is the son who is the troubled artist, distant from his father yet always following what he loves. There is the divorcee who still tries to have the appearance of making her relationship work. There is the failed musician son who is contempt with just being a drummer in a symphony orchestra. And there is the Vegas dancer who is uncertain about her sexual identity even after she has an unexpected child. Writer/director Kirk Jones ties these concepts together nicely and the audience learns a lot about the whole family through the first hour of the film. De Niro does an excellent job as the concerned father and his children, namely Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore, make a great family connection.

Kirk Jones makes a lot of good choices and a few bad ones. There is the job that Frank has retired from: creating PBC wire for telephone lines. This seems random at first, but as we see his kids sarcasm towards it and their willingness to use cellular phones in all of the transition sequences makes the job seem pointless and empty, adding to the depressing atmosphere of Frank. The transitions between each place are also very well done, each with the children talking behind their fathers back, on cell phones, about the uncertain fate of their brother David. A kind of random conflict does occur, though, when Frank is nice to a kind of homeless man. The man attacks Frank in a train station and crushes his medication, eventually leading to a heart attack. There was no real motive there and there could have been a better way to get to the ending point. All in all, the performances were all well done and the upbeat, happy and sad mood fits throughout the entire film. I recommend this to anyone with aging parents.

This Italian film got a lot of praise after its release in 2008. To describe the film’s plot would take incredibly long and it won’t even paint of picture of what it is about. It follows five very separate stories of individuals trying to make an impact in the underground, Milanese mafia group called the Comorra. The title, Gomorra, is a play on the name, an obvious reference to the Biblical city destroyed by God in the book of Genesis. The five stories are not interwoven that much, but they all feature the same amount of misery and crime combined with a willingness to escape the famed group. The plot is twisted and complicated, making the film hard to follow at times. Unless the viewer understands who is doing all of the killing, he or she won’t know about Comorra until the very end.

The film’s brilliance is not in its story structure but in the many decisions made by filmmaker Matteo Garrone. He uses dirty, dark and mysterious environments for all of his locations. The apartment complex in which most of the characters live is a tan, gritty establishment that matches the tone of the film. The costume design was a splendid choice as well. All of the cast are dressed down to the point where everyone wears cutoff sleeves, jerseys, basketball shorts, American made athletic shirts, etc. They all have the feel of immaturity about them and they all make the film seem so much more dangerous than it is. An especially stunning scene involves two main characters, both teenagers, wearing nothing but speedo-style underwear, shooting round after round of ammunition from their stolen machine guns into an abandoned lake. They are emulating their favorite movies as they do so, and as we watch them scream in joy at their imagined destruction, an eerie sense of sympathy for them comes through the screen.

Another interesting choice made by Garrone is the lack of rack focus he uses. When an essential character is explaining something important, the focus stays on him/her for the entire take. Even though he or she is interacting with the person that is out of focus, the remain the center of attention. This allows a very intimate connection to the many characters and makes the film much more personal. Even though there are so many characters, each time one is injured or killed, the filmmaker wants you to feel for their value of life. The plot may be convoluted and sometimes boring, but the visuals and the drama of the setting make this film one to remember.

This was the first time that something I wrote made its way onto screen. I asked my group beforehand if I could try being a writer for this project, and they didn’t object. I came up with a story that I thought could express a lot of emotion in short amount of time. To be honest with myself, I am a little indifferent about the result. I like how it looks and what the actors brought to the table; it just seems a little bit too overdramatic for its setting. I could have used a much less simple device to draw out emotions other than a sudden death. These types of emotions, I feel, come across as cheap if they are not done right. I think we had the right idea, I just think it was a little too underplayed.

Seeing my words come to life was a great experience in itself though. The actors did a great job with such a dialogue-free script. I tried to label all of the emotions that the characters were supposed to feel through their actions. Will Sanborn listened intently to the instructions in script and didn’t allow the character’s motive to be creepy or unmotivated. I can’t say much for what went on during the shoot, because due to a conflict with another shoot I couldn’t be present. However, after storyboarding and writing the whole project, it was really cool to see how easy it was for David and Sean to do justice to the project without worrying about where to set up the camera. They were able to work with the actors in a tight schedule and develop a very decent bit of footage in which to edit. I will storyboard everything I do from now on, it was an easy and helpful experience.

In this new Todd Phillips comedy, the stars steal the show. Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter, an expectant father who gets accused of being a terrorist on an airplane home by the actions of wannabe actor Ethan, played by Zach Galifiniakis. After realizing he is banned from all forms of air travel and that all of his personal belongings are still on the flight he was kicked off of, Peter is forced to take a cross-country trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles with Ethan, a man who he already has negative feelings about. Basically, hilarity ensues between the two as their personalities collide and they experience much more than an average trip across the country.

The storyline of this film is quite basic, as are most Todd Phillips films. What makes it interesting and entertaining is the dialogue given to the two main characters and the amount of crazy secondary characters that get thrown into the mix. Don’t expect much you haven’t seen in terms of inventive comedy; there is a lot of clumsy, getting hurt humor and plenty of sex and drug jokes thrown in the mix. They all work in the spirit of the film and it makes it quite an enjoyable comedy.

What separates this film is its attempt at a soul. Downey Jr. and Galifiniakis are two of the biggest names in the business right now and they introduce such depth to each of their characters. We see Peter wrestle with his dislike for Ethan as Ethan falls asleep at the wheel, smokes weed while driving, accidentally drives them into Mexico, and even shoots him in the leg by accident. All the while, he wants to help Ethan because he sees more in him than he thought he would. Galifiniakis controls the soul of the film, though. He is the butt of all of the jokes, yet he remains supremely confident in his goals as a character. One scene in particular allows for him to truly add substance to the film. One takes place at a rest stop bathroom, a strange location. Ethan is asked to put on a performance for Peter, testing his acting. Within that performance, Ethan’s real emotions about his dead father and his lack of companionship come through tremendously yet subliminally. Zach Galifiniakis will again be ignored by award shows this year, but this is by far his best performance and he will soon be acknowledged for the wonderful portrayals he gives to the screen.

One of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time, Kick-Ass follows an average high school student named Dave as he tries to make a name for himself by becoming a “superhero.” He describes in the beginning how he likes the superheroes that have no special abilities and that simply fight crime for the sake of it. This premise is played out very well and makes for a lot of very funny moments. Dave becomes what he calls “Kick-Ass,” and in his attempt to become somebody that girls don’t ignore, he ends up becoming way too big for even himself. Real superheroes, Big Daddy and Hit Girl, attempt to befriend Kick-Ass and he becomes engulfed in their world of extreme violence almost by accident.

This is a Hollywood movie at its finest. There are explosions, instances of extreme violence juxtaposed with upbeat pop music, dramatic death scenes, geeks getting the girl, almost everything. And, where most Hollywood films overuse these elements and use them to create fake emotions, Kick-Ass succeeds. Every moment that could seem cheesy or over-the-top knows it can and the film allows these moments to be the funniest of the film. This could clash would the extreme violence of the film, but it allows for it to reek of coolness throughout. This is a genre film that I think will be retried by several big budget studios in the near future.

The cast all seems to fit wonderfully in the film. The goons that are the subject of the superheroes’ heroics are both ridiculous and entertaining. Aaron Johnson, a currently unkown star, does a great job as the nerdy Kick-Ass and both of his friends match his attitude wonderfully. Chloe Moretz is a star on the rise who has proven in Kick-Ass, playing Hit Girl, that she can handle the responsibility of several different types of emotion. The rest of the cast all seem to fit and make this movie one of the most enjoyable films of 2010.

Being in a documentary class gave me some advantage in this project. I have been watching professional documentarians execute works of non-fiction for the past 2 months and have developed a good sense of how these types of films can be effective. Doing my own, however, was a new experience. I have been filming paintball footage for the past year or so and I had a good sense of how to capture “the game.” This is not an easy sport to capture by any means, and after looking at all of my footage before editing, I wish I had focused more on certain areas and prepared the shots better. These are things that sometimes cannot be avoided, especially when paintballs are flying all over the field at you. However, I will attempt to keep my shots more steady and try to aim them towards more dynamic footage on and off of the field.

True stories are always easier to accomplish, in my opinion. Nothing is more true than the truth, so if documentaries accomplish the desired emotion, there is no substitute for how affecting they can be. It is much more difficult, though, to capture the desired moments that will make the film work. In a fictional film, there is always the element of the “planned shot” that can do so much. In true cinema, there should be nothing planned and the most affecting shots are the ones that look as if they were planned to happen but truly aren’t. Again, capturing these shots is a challenge but I think I am getting better and I can only improve.

I had never thought of making a film without a storyline or narrative. Some experimental films that I have seen before didn’t really interest me and had me thinking that they were unprofessional and unimportant. After creating one myself, I can say that the experience has made me realize how difficult the process actually is and how beneficial it can be. The project was designed to get us to influence the audience to feel a certain emotion simply from our images on screen. This is very difficult to do, especially without getting the audience to attach themselves to any characters, plot points, or settings. It was a little hard to come up with a topic for the film, but I think I was looking for something involving water when I chose my poem, found here http://www.poemsabout.com/water/. This project has helped me realize, more technically, how to induce emotion and how to use certain post production techniques. I can’t wait to use some of the things I have learned in a narrative or documentary.

Snow Falling on Cedars is one of the most interesting takes on the courtroom drama genre I have seen. It follows a murder case in which a local fisherman was found dead with a damaged skull. Standing trial is another fisherman who is of Japanese decent, and seeing how this takes place in the early 1950s, this case takes on a sense of prejudice. Even though the court case is the main focus of the film, it is somewhat secondary to the primary story of the film. A journalist named Ishmael (Ethan Hawke) has a romantic past with the defendant’s wife, Hatsue (Youki Kudoh). There are several flashback scenes that display this romance as strong, forbidden, and tragic for both Ishmael and Hatsue. Their growing up in a time of Post-Pearl Harbor America allowed their relationship to take on a depressing end, and that comes through greatly on-screen. The plot mainly consists of Ishmael’s struggles with holding key evidence to Hatsue’s husband’s innocence and at the same time desiring Hatsue.

The story itself, when described outside of the film, sounds very intriguing. The filmmaker took some liberty in how it was presented that I did no agree with in some places. It seemed as if the same emphasis of “epicness” is issued for each fact stated about the case. What I mean is, the same amount of flashback imagery, dialogue repetition, and musical score is present with each new fact. This allows for nothing to really stand out as much. The only thing that stands out as the most dramatic piece of evidence comes at the end of the film when Ishmael’s kind heart overcomes his desire for Hatsue, and this part had no stylistic relevance. Those other parts that also should have resonated all seemed to blend together making the whole courtroom story very slow. However, there is a flashback scene towards the middle in which Hatsue denies to Ishmael that she ever loved him, and it has an impact that kept me focused throughout the rest of the film.

Apart from the story, the imagery and cinematography in this film are quite brilliant. The grey, snowy atmosphere of the setting is captured in a marvelous way. The set designs are very attentive for a period piece such as this, and Scott Hicks did an excellent job of photographing his setting. It also seemed that he allowed each scene that took place before the courtroom case to have its own bland color scheme, giving them a more dreamlike and flashback feel. The images of young Ishmael and Hatsue running along the beach contrasted with them staring at each other in a strawberry field are executed tremendously. This film can stand alone as a visual masterpiece, and should be remembered as such.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with this movie. There could have been some story choices that could have created more interest towards the beginning, but I think it was done quite well for what it was. The performances by Max Von Sydow, Ethan Hawke, and unknown actress Youki Kudoh leave a great impression as well.