Scores

Some of the most famous songs across the world are not pop songs, or classics from the 80’s, but the film scores to some of the most popular movies around the world.  Film scores help to create a feeling for the movie and they add another level of emotion for the audience. One of the most successful film scorist is John Williams. Some of William’s most famous work is the scoring for Superman, ET, Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Star Wars.  These tunes are things that most people can recognize and hum along to after hearing just 3 or 4 seconds from the songs.

John Williams has been writing film scores for many years and in many different genres.  He knows how to evoke audience emotion with only music. Most, if not all, of his scores do not have words.  An example of the emotion that the audience can gather about a character from the scores is the Imperial March from Star Wars.  The Imperial March is what plays every time Darth Vader steps on to the screen, or is about to appear on screen. This composition is very deep, letting the audience know that the character that they are about to see is intimidating and powerful.  It also gives the audience a clue that he is a villain because the music is very dark.

Scores of movies are not only used to add another dimension to a character, but to address the overall feeling of the movie.  The scores for fun and action packed movies like to Star Wars, Superman, or Jurassic Park were designed to make the audience have fun.  The opening composition in Star Wars is an upbeat and exciting song that make the audience giddy to watch the movie and see what is in store.

John Williams also worked on the scores for very serious films like the Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and the Book Thief.  These movies the goal of the music was to show the seriousness and intensity of the film. In the Schindler’s List, and the Book Thief, the goal is also to show the fear of the people who went through the experiences shown in the movies.  These movies were not to have a fun and light atmosphere to gear audiences for a fun couple of hours.

Lastly, the scores of movies can be used to emphasize a situation that the characters are in.  Even in a fun movie, a specific composition can be lower and darker if the situation that the characters face is intimidating.  On the other side, if the situation is fun, then the composition is bright and exciting. An example of this is the action scenes in the Indiana Jones movies.  These scenes are a little intense, but are more so fun for the audience to watch, and the composition reflects that with exciting music playing in the background to tell the audience not to worry too much about the character.

Scores of movies help to tell the story and the feeling of the movie itself.  They help the audience to know what to feel and can help to enhance their original feelings toward the movie, character, or scene.  One of the most famous and successful score writer is John Williams. Williams has done all of these things throughout his long and diverse career with films like Harry Potter, Home Alone, the BFG, and Catch Me if You Can.

Technology in Entertainment

New technology can change an entire industry.  In the entertainment industry, the invention of the camera, and then the video camera changed the way that people consume there entertainment.  The most popular form of visual entertainment used to be plays, until the video camera came along and people became fascinated by movies. Technology has changed the way that people consume media throughout time.

For a long time the most popular form of live entertainment was plays, and operas.  People would go to a theater to have a day of entertainment of long plays by Shakespeare or other famous playwrights.  Once the video camera was introduced, plays and operas declined. The general public was fascinated with the new medium of entertainment that the video camera brought.  Plays and operas eventually found their niche audience, and have stayed in the spotlight. The niche group that plays and operas found was an elite group of people. Plays were for the highest class of people and not very accessible the general public.  This stigma is still attached to plays and operas, but it is smaller than it once was. Now plays will travel around the world so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy their work.

Video cameras were a huge development in the entertainment industry.  Movies became very popular for the entire public, not just one demographic.  Movies popularity grew with the number of movie theaters that were added around the world.  Movies were much more accessible than plays were because people only had to travel to their local movie theater and not the nearest performance theater.  Movies were also much less expensive than plays so all types of people had the opportunity to enjoy them. With the innovations of video cameras also kept movies in the limelight.  From silent films to speaking films, then from black and white to color, and then the video quality continually improving, and finally with the introduction of the 3D movie. These innovations kept the movies new and exciting for everyone.  The theater didn’t have as much innovations as movies, which could contribute to why its popularity did not grow like the popularity of movies did.

When the Movie Is Better Than the Book

Let’s be honest: the book is always better than the movie. Directors never get it quite how we pictured it in our heads, or they go completely off-book altogether and we walk out of the theatre thinking, “How was that based on the book I read?” In twenty years of reading books and seeing the movie adaptations of as many of them as come to theatres, I’ve recently found only the second movie I prefer to the book: the third part of The Maze Runner trilogy, The Death Cure.

Needless to say, spoilers below!

I expected the movie to at least keep some semblance of the book, which revolved around a counter-revolution, asking readers: in a dystopian world facing a ruthless force that hoards all the resources, how much resistance is too much resistance?

There was none of that in the movie.

The counter-resistance was brushed over. A contrived cliffhanger from the previous installment drove most of the plot. A lot of logic (and lack thereof) in the zombie-infested, plague-stricken, uncivilized world was taken for granted. It was a mash of all the things that make us think books are better than their movie adaptations. But amidst the action for the sake of action, there was a shining light: Teresa.

Where the movie almost completely pushed aside the “how much resistance is too much resistance” theme, it replaced it with making Teresa a real person. Movie Teresa is a much deeper, more interesting character than Book Teresa. Movie Teresa is intelligent, clever, and wants to do what’s right, and she recognizes that sometimes, she doesn’t know how. Movie Teresa knows her limits, what she will and won’t do, what she will and won’t tolerate. Movie Teresa is motivated by logic, and it was refreshing to watch after Book Teresa (and the previous two Movie Teresas) seemed to be motivated by taking it on herself to screw up the plot for any reason, even if there seemed to be no reason for her, as a “fully-developed character,” to do so.

It wasn’t until seeing Wonder Woman last July that I realized how flat and one-dimensional our movie heroines are, and now, it’s all I can notice. The Maze Runner as a franchize didn’t have a lot going for it in terms of being likely to give a decent amount of characterization to its female characters. It’s made up of action movies, a genre that by its nature relies on plot over character, and is typically regarded as a “manly” genre. A huge majority of its characters were men, so the odds that if only one–or even half–of the characters was/were fleshed out, it wouldn’t be the two women, three if you include the main antagonist. So for what it did, especially in an area of art where strong female characters of any kind are desperately needed, I give it major points.

Normally, I’m a purist about sticking to the book. But when the book drops the ball on writing badass female characters who make themselves the subject of the story instead of an object of the plot, the movie can throw the plot off an exploding skyscraper for all I care if it can pick up the slack. So sure, Teresa was only one character out of a dozen in a wholly plot-driven narrative, but to me, the sacrifice was worth it.

John Hughes Crystallized the Best of Being Kids in America

When I was still a film critic for The Michigan Daily, I went to a film festival at The Michigan Theater showing classic 1980’s films starring the Brat Pack as part of its “Kids in America: 80’s Teen Classics”. The theater didn’t publish why these films were being shown in the midst of Halloween (even after I sent them an email, the assholes), but their pervasive influence in pop culture from enduring quotes to merchandise is proof their legacy lives on.

Of course, a showcase of these movies would be incomplete without discussing the work of director-screenwriter and Michigan native John Hughes. He is said to be the pioneer of the teen film genre for good reason. His careful attention to organic dialogue is consistent throughout his repertoire. But what sets Hughes’ films apart is that he gives his teenage protagonists the respect they deserve. There is never a hint of condescending even in the midst of teenage problems one quickly outgrows after graduation.

Something I appreciate of his work is that he used vastly different protagonists to tap into different facets of American ideals in adolescence. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I have heard friends and celebrities alike call the film their favorite of all time due to the quintessentially American joie de vivre it conveys. If a baseball game, an art museum and fine dining is supposed to be the epitome of the good life in America, then I am underwhelmed. Lots of people have attained these ideals, as fortunate as they may be. But the way Ferris sticks it to The Man by refusing to take an exam on a subject he plans on never using is what keeps the film timeless. It kept the movie for me from being a purely hedonistic romp through Chicago to an escapist trip the “everyteen” protagonist deserves as they make their way through the awkward stage of not being a child yet not quite being an autonomous adult.

The grandeur of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”’s plot distracts from one of Hughes’s strengths that keep his legacy alive: having a keen eye for high school social hierarchy. “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink”, both starring Molly Ringwald, feel a lot like the same film on the surface. The well-trodden tale of a girl pining for a boy who is unattainable due to age or socioeconomic status could have easily fallen flat as a cliche romance starring teenagers. But the world in these films are so lushly populated by opinionated friends and family that the societal pressures driving the heroines’ decisions recreates those faced by teenagers in real life.

In the same vein, the director-screenwriter had a keen appreciation for the stock characters that populate American narratives of high school. This is showcased best in his classic “The Breakfast Club”. Having essentially caricatures of the five kinds of people you meet in high school forced into interacting with one another might sound lacking in depth. But the honest backstories and sincere performances elevate it to a gripping look at detention as a microcosm of high school social ills that ring true today. Though a friend of mine recalls laughing hysterically at the scene where the club divulges why they were in detention in the first place (after smoking weed no less), I was moved deeply. Here was a screenplay that understood how teenagers present themselves. Moreover, here was a movie that knew that teenagers’ problems are as real as those of any adult drama.

YA author John Green seems to have carried on Hughes’s torch in contemporary times, not only in content but in commercial success as well. Green’s novels and indeed the YA genre in general transcend their target audience to assimilate into America’s mass culture, much like Hughes’s films did thirty years ago. So while there is no obvious reason why to screen teen films from the 1980’s in October, there is never a wrong time to do so. Adolescence is an exciting time. Capturing the period you have your whole life ahead of as you begin to gain independence lends irresistible optimism and romanticism to any story, regardless of who experiences it.

Winter 2018 Olympics: Bobsledding

The Winter Olympics are getting closer and people are beginning to pay more attention to the sports that will be featured in them.  Most of these winter sports are only highly publicized every four years during the Olympics.  An example of this is the sport of bobsledding.  Bobsledding is a sport that most people have heard of and know the general concept of what it is without knowing many details about the athletes or logistics and scoring of the sport.  The sport gets minimal media attention, even throughout the Olympics because it is overshadowed by figure skating and snowboarding.

There has only been one movie made about bobsledding, “Cool Runnings”.  It is about the first Jamaican bobsled team and how they were formed, practiced, and eventually made it to the Olympics.  The movie shows the basics equipment, requirements, and skills needed to compete in the sport.  It also states the basic rules and possible qualifying times to make it into the Olympics around 1993.  It is more of a fun team building and friendship movie than an informative bobsled movie but it did help to expose more people to the sport.

In all bobsleigh events there is one driver and at least one other person in the sled to help with the momentum of the sled as it travels through the course.  The driver has to turn the corners and lean the sled at the perfect angle for the sled to not lose momentum during the race, and the other members in the sled have to lean along with it to make the sled steady.  The driver of the team has to memorize each course and the angles of every turn to be prepared before he/she even gets to the event.

There are three different bobsleigh events: four man, two man, and two women.  The four men race can be man and/or women.  The four man bobsleigh event has been a part of the Winter Olympics since the first one took place in 1924.  The two man bobsleigh was added in 1932 at the third Winter Olympics, and the two women bobsleigh was added in 2002 at the nineteenth Winter Olympic Games.

For the 2018 Games the center that the race takes place is also the venue of the luge and skeleton races.  All three sports use the same track with the course length being adjusted per sport.  All of the bobsleigh events use a course length of 1,376.38m, or 0.86 miles.  The average slope of the track is 9.48%.

Bobsledding is only one of the many sports that are only in the spotlight during the Winter Olympics.  Even during the Olympics they are still overlooked and out shined by other sports like snowboarding.  But throughout the years the viewership has risen thanks to the movie “Cool Runnings”, and with time it will hopefully become more popular.

Stop Romanticizing the Suicide Forest

Trigger Warning: Suicide

YouTuber Logan Paul has stirred controversy at the start of the new year after filming a vlog in Aokigahara, a forest in Japan that is a popular location for suicide attempts. Paul, who is 22, caught on camera the dead body of a man who hanged himself in the forest and made this the thumbnail of the since-deleted video. The intense criticism he received led him to write and film an apology that focused on the intent of his actions rather than their impact. This not only put into question the boundaries of the new Internet celebrity in the digital age, but it also made me ask more broadly how Americans engage with Japanese culture.

As someone who is diagnosed with major depression disorder and has been hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation, I do not take lightly to the claims that Paul laughed and smiled when he found a dead body in the Suicide Forest. Against my better judgement, I took the risk to my mental health and watched the video myself. What I found was less offensive and yet more dangerous than what I heard claimed. It is difficult to summarize a 14-minute(!) video, so I will consolidate my reactions instead.

Source: YouTube

Logan Paul is an idiot. He tries to set a respectful tone in the video by doing things like have trigger warnings and giving affirmations for those who are struggling with mental illness to seek help. And he clarifies that his laughter and smiles after finding the corpse come from his use of humor as a defense mechanism, which I believe. But his lack of consideration for people who are mentally ill in real life is evident by the fact he would videotape A LOCATION FAMOUS FOR SUICIDE ATTEMPTS in the first place. You do not visit a place of death for pleasure; that’s morbid. You do not maintain your lucrative brand by showing off a place of death (regardless of the fact the video was not monetized); that’s unethical.

The fact Paul says he visited Aokigahara because he wanted to end the year on an introspective and quiet note is offensive. The mentally ill and disabled are not here to make you, the neurotypical and able-bodied, feel better by showering us with pity without listening to our needs to make our lives easier. That would be enough to see that Paul was not respectful of the suicidal in the forest since the conception of his plan.

Source: YouTube

But then he crosses a line as a YouTuber (having foregone basic humanity long before this point) when he demonstrates that his interest in visiting was, in part, to maintain the attention and expectations of his fan base. Though his followers have argued that he should not be blamed for randomly capturing a corpse on film because he vlogs his life everyday, Paul’s self-serving interest is evident when he ignores one of his friend’s request to turn off the camera and leave. Instead, Paul walks to the dead body, bringing the camera along with him for the ride, only saving the viewer from having to see the corpse with a text screen explaining that doing so would violate YouTube’s guidelines. I was at a loss as to why he would do this when he looked so visibly distressed throughout the entire ordeal until the end of the video, when Paul reminds the audience he had made a commitment in one of his first vlogs to entertain his audience everyday. This somehow seems to be his excuse as to why he found himself in such a terrible predicament: he insists on sharing the “positive” and “negative” times of his life because he and his fans are family (the Logang) and this is “part of it”.

I am disgusted at the thought of impressionable young people learning about suicide and mental illness from this man-child. Scarier still is seeing members of the Logang defending him because he was doing his best to please as an entertainer when he stumbled across the body. I could write for a long time as to how fucked up this near-sighted vision of celebrity is, but I believe it has been better said by people before me. I would like to use this space as a blog dedicated to the arts to focus on how our media informed Paul’s decision to go to Aokigahara in the first place, which he said was based on what he had seen in books and movies.

“The Forest”. Source: The Mary Sue

When he said this I immediately thought of the 2016 film “The Forest”. The film loses itself in its attempts to scare with traditional-looking ghosts appearing from thin air while it illustrates the landmark’s role in Japanese folklore and contemporary society. This matches Paul’s description of wanting to visit Aokigahara because he heard it was haunted by the tormented souls of the dead suicidal who try to tempt visitors off the trail, presumably to meet the same fate.

The movie stars an American protagonist named Sara (Natalie Dormer, “Elementary”) who receives a call from police informing her that her twin, Jess (also played by Dormer), is assumed to be dead after having last been seen in the Suicide Forest. She goes to Japan to find her, driven to explore the forest in spite of countless of warnings to not go off her path at the risk of making herself vulnerable to being terrorized by the angry spirits that live there. At the hotel she is staying at, she meets travel journalist Aiden (Tyler Kinney, “Rock the Kasbah”) who knows a guide who can assist them navigate the forest. Once she begins exploring the forest with Aiden and tour guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), traditional Japanese ghosts and American demons begin to haunt her. Once one of the angry spirits of the forest warn her to not trust Aiden, she loses her peace of mind and becomes increasingly paranoid.

The superficial jump scares used are pointless and only serve to conform to the horror genre, echoing Paul’s interest in exploring the “haunted” aspect of the forest’s reputation without being prepared to face the real life tragedy that inspires it. The sudden apparitions of traditional Japanese ghosts and modern American demons in “The Forest” invoke short-lived fear in an otherwise dull film, showing the same lack of respect on the part of the director that Paul displayed in thinking that co-opting and exploiting icons of a foreign country’s social issues is somehow an appropriate subject for cheap and otherwise unoriginal entertainment.

The fearful tone of “The Forest” is poorly conveyed through closeups of branches and insects, and ghostly wails in the wind, which are not scary in the least. Additionally, several aspects of the real forest are distorted, making the purpose of exploring the tragic location unclear. Not surprisingly, the normal forest (even with an unfortunate association) is not scary by itself. The film decides to take creative license in an effort to bolster screen time by having Sara see that various corpses of people who committed suicide in the forest are held at the Aokigahara Visitor Center, which blatantly contradicts the fact that in real life the Japanese government and police work hard to conceal the dead bodies in order to not only avoid attracting more people contemplating suicide, but also to deter potential tourists like Sara due to the notoriety of its basin. Logan Paul is more than willing to play fast and loose with the meaning of the Suicide Forest as well, failing to make the connection of the sad suicides he’s heard of and the ghosts that are said to haunt Aokigahara as a result.

Something that I fear is that people struggling with mental illness will only ever be seen as weak and objects of sympathy, which is a key issue I take with Paul’s brand of raising awareness and “The Forest”’s plot development. The gruesome death of Sara and Jess’s parents in the movie is referred to throughout the film for no apparent reason. It’s confusing purpose finally appears right at the nihilistic end. Sara is warned by locals that she possesses “inner sadness” and that she should think twice about embarking on her journey. It is implied she begins to be haunted by the angry spirits of those who committed suicide once she enters the forest due to her being incapable of coping with her loss. To the movie’s credit, this defies my expectation that the loss was that of her sister due to the sheer amount of time spent on establishing the close relationship she has with Jess. But once the significance of her parents’ death is revealed, it makes her suffering at Aokigahara seem justified for being innately weak, devaluing her noble mission and painting every victim of suicide as the product of avoidable emotional damage. This is a grave misconception considering that most people with depression cannot trace their mental illness to a direct cause, which is irrelevant because even if there was a cause feeling depressed for long period of times is not healthy and deserves attention and care regardless of circumstances.

The movie overall is anti-climactic in the extreme despite its rich source material, much like Paul’s vlog. Not once does the YouTuber bring up the high suicide rates in Japan that allowed the creation of such a place like Aokigahara to exist in the first place. The lack of depth is a direct result of the stigma of mental illness that both works perpetuate. Paul in his video did not even stay in the forest to camp as he had intended, failing to realize his goal of ghost-hunting due to him going unprepared to face reality. “The Forest” ends with (spoiler) Sara annoyingly having no impact in the disappearance of her sister while still having invited the spirits of the forest to plague her anyway, equating the devastating deaths by suicide of the ghosts in Aokigahara with her untimely demise that she chose while in a perfectly healthy state of mind. Moral of the story: the media can take its lazy sensationaliztion of deadly illnesses and shove it up their ass.