Wednesday, July 28, 2010

J. Andrew on Film Theory Categories

"Every question about film falls under at least one of the following headings: raw material, methods and techniques, forms and shapes, purpose or value. These categories, adapted from Aristotle [Aristotle's breakdown of the four "causes" of any natural phenomenon (material, effecient, formal, and final) is developed in his Physics, II, section 3.] divide the phenomenon of film into the aspects which make it up and which can be interrogated.

1. "The raw material" includes questions about the medium, such as those which seek its relation to reality, photography, and illusion, or those which follow out its use of time and space, or even those which aim at such processes as color, sound, and the make-up of the movie theater. Anything which is seen to exist as a given state of affairs with which the cinematic process begins belongs to the category of "raw material."

2. "The methods and techniques" of cinema comprises all questions about the creative process which shapes or treats the raw material, from discussions of technological developments (like the zoom shot) to the psychology of the filmmaker or even the economics of film production.

3. "The forms and shapes" of film is the category containing questions about the kinds of film which have been or could be made. Questions about cinema's ability to adapt other artworks lie here, as do questions about genre and audience expectation or effect. Here we are looking at films from the standpoint of a completed process in which the raw material has already been shaped by various creative methods. What determines those shapes and how are they recognized as valuable by an audience?

4. "The purpose and value" of cinema is the category which interfaces with the larger aspects of life, for here fall all questions which seek the goal of cinema in man's universe. Once raw material has been shaped by a process into a given significant form, what does this mean for mankind?"

-The Major Film Theories, J. Dudley Andrew

Friday, July 23, 2010

Canaanite Genocide

Just recently I rediscovered a blog that I used to follow. I found these excellent posts on the Conquest of Canaan as described in the Book of Joshua. This is easily the best view of what has been described as Canaanite Genocide I have ever seen from an Evangelical perspective. I pray Dr. Flannagan (the author) can make it to ETS and present this view to the American Evangelical Elite. Enjoy

The other main evangelical attempts to deal with this troubling issue are well represented in the Counterpoints series Show Them No Mercy dealing with this topic. If you're unfamiliar with the Counterpoints series each volume has several scholars represent different evangelical views on a topic and then critic each other's presentations. An amazon link to that volume can be found at the top right of this post. It would be good to read that volume at some point because the new view that Matt Flannagan has presented on his blog is very distinct from all the attempts represented in the Counterpoints volume.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Greatest American Films Part 8: Notoriously Overlooked

For the Seventh entry in my list of the Ten Greatest American Films I have chosen Notorious.

In recent months I really feel as if the quality of my posts has gone down. Not that they were ever of a remarkably high quality but they used to be better than they are now. Some of my passion has left me because of stress and my life becoming more focused on family matters, work etc. Blogging doesn't seem very important right now and neither does film. But I still really enjoy both so I press on.

On this particular film I feel even less passionate. At least to write about it. I feel very strongly about the quality of this film. It is one of my all time favorites. But that’s part of the problem. To me this film speaks for itself, to watch it is to see how brilliant it truly is. And because this is a very under watched film now a days I don't want to spoil any surprises so I will keep this post short.

This is Hitchcock's greatest film. Vertigo is a very close second (Shadow of a Doubt is maybe third) but I think this film wins out because ultimately Notorious expresses everything that is great about Hitchcock more succinctly, less pretentiously, and the film is more entertaining as well. Of course ranking Hitchcock is difficult in any case because he made so many masterpieces that are highly influential and very enjoyable to this day. But my gut has always told me to go with this one.

On that note this also happens to be one of Cary Grant's finest performances. I'm not sure if I've ever seen him deal with such a challenging performance. He doesn't have a great deal to actually do in the film but whenever he does something it works perfectly. The same goes for Ingrid Bergman. This is probably her greatest performance. Her character is much more complicated than in Casablanca, though possibly not more so than Gaslight, but what is required of her is more intense and ultimately more moving than either of those films.

In many ways this is a film about one thing: sex. Honestly, at the height of Code Era Hollywood this film is very unapologetically about sex. The title itself refers to Ingrid Bergman's character. She is Notorious for her promiscuous lifestyle and that is ultimately what causes the main movement of the plot. Everything else is pretty much dressing. This movie is a complicated and realistic love story which is set within a very dramatic Hollywood genre: the spy film. Love, sex, redemption, and spies. It has pretty much everything you could ever want from a movie which is why I also happen to think that this is the greatest film ever made. I put it above Casablanca, Citizen Kane, et al. I mean not high above anything else, just above by a small degree.

But I don't want to give away anything else. This film is too overlooked nowadays and everyone should see it and love it. I hope you do and do too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Philosopher's Prayer

Heavenly Father
My mind is not blank
I wish it were for then you could simply fill it with truth
But my mind is already full
Full of doubts and ideas and problems
Please Lord seal my heart against falsehood
Like Solomon I beg for your wisdom above all other gifts
I need your guidance to help me comprehend the deep thoughts
And your creativity to formulate my own
In all endeavors we need you Lord
But in this endeavor most of all
For we desire to understand the past
And yet boldly march into the future
Son of God give us your humility
For wisdom is not given to the arrogant
Spirit of God give us your peace
Nothing is worse for intellectual pursuit than the doubting heart
In you Oh Lord is all truth to be found and all Wisdom finds its fount
May our pursuit of Philosophy be only for your glory and not our own
And that we would grow in our friendship with Wisdom
Only after we grow in our friendship with you
Help me submit to you my mind today and always

Grad school and my dirty little secret

Alright so I'll be officially starting Grad School in about a month. This realization which has been so exciting suddenly became very panicky. I haven't had to do any kind of real school work for a long time. So in order to start getting back into the swing of things I'm going to exegete some simple philosophical and theological texts. Basically the plan is to come up with an assignment and a text to go with that assignment and then do it. I know real complicated. But I think it will help my mind and body start to go back to those old college days. So for the first one I will do Euthyphro. The assignment: Read the Euthyphro give a brief exegesis of the main themes pick 1 to 2 arguments from the Euthyprho and analyze them, 1,000 word minimum and 1,500 word maximum limit.

And my dirty little secret is that I don't really like Plato all that much. I have a terrible time understanding his dialogues without a much wiser Professor to help me sort it all out. Its like Citizen Kane. You don't realize why its such a big deal till somebody shows you, but it'll probably never be one of your favorites.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top Ten Greatest Film Opening Shots/Scenes

I think that these are the ten greatest opening shots and scenes ever. Other films come close but in some way each one of these openings is special, significant, memorable, and artistically interesting. They all happen to be American films, I didn't do that intentionally but I think American Cinema tries harder to grab the audience from the first frame because we seem to be a culture of Attention deficits and if that makes our film openings better well then more power to ADD.

1. Citizen Kane (scene begins with the successive shots of Xanadu holding the window in the same location during each shot slowly closing in to Kane's bedroom, scene ends after the famous Rosebud line whereupon the snow globe is dropped and breaks upon the floor)

2. Rear Window (the scene begins with blinds opening whereupon we are visually introduced to everything we need to know about the setting and ends with the phone conversation)

3. The Graduate (the scene begins with Benjamin's face in the airplane as we here The Sounds of Silence begin to play and ends with the song ending right before the fish tank)

4. Patton (the scene begins with a giant U.S. flag and ends when Patton's speech concludes)

5. The Godfather (the scene begins with the title and classic Godfather theme and ends with the line "Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day consider this justice a gift on my daughter's wedding day.")

6. Star Wars (the scene begins with the opening crawl and ends with the storm troopers breaking through the hull and the subtle smoky transition away from the carnage)

7. Apocalypse Now (the scene begins with the jungle and the first few chords of The End by the Doors ends with The End fading out and Captian Willard begins to narrate)

8. Blade Runner (the scene begins with the firey future LA cityscape and ends when the interrogation scene begins)

9. Beauty and the Beast (the scene begins with the forest giving way to the Castle as the Narrator introduces us to the classic fairy tale and ends with the title fading into the little town)

10. Memento (the scene begins with the photograph developing backwards and ends with the first black and white scene)

Other notables:

Touch of Evil

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



Schindler's List

The Matrix

The first two Lord of the Rings films.

The Passion of the Christ

The Dark Knight

and there are many others...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Predators Review

In 1987 when the first Predator came out I think that it really solidified Arnold the Governator's film career. He had already made several iconic turns (The Terminator, Commando, etc) but in this film we see what is actually a very original and intelligent take on an old genre: the monster movie. Predator is many things but ultimately its about a monster hunting down and killing this team of mercanaries in different horrendous ways. Its tight and straight to the point and very entertaining and a perfect vehicle for Arnold. Predator wouldn't be predator without him. He's the only man you could believe might actually be able to go head to head with one of these nasties and come out victorious.

Predators is at least as good as the first film. It might be better. It is certainly better than Predators 2. I don't want to say a whole lot about the film because like the original it is fairly simple and straightforward but I also don't want to ruin any of the twists or surprises. Its a good action romp. If you like or loved the first film you should go watch it. Adrien Brody is really well cast. As shocking as it might seem he's put on some pounds and spent alot of time in the gym and its paid off. He's no Arnold but half of what makes the film good is the changing of the guard. It didn't work with Danny Glover, it was too hard to accept that Roger Murtaugh could have ultimately killed a Predator all by himself, let alone survive the whole film. But going in a different direction from Arnold with Adrien really paid off big time. The entire cast seems right for the most part.

This film does what all sequels want to do, recapture the feel of the original and yet build upon the mythology that was established. This does that very well and it sets itself up for a sequel so we could be looking at a few more trips down predator lane. Lets hope they're as good as this one.