A Citizen of the Galactic Empire: final

When i’m first introduced to a new person, and we begin to have a casual conversation, one of the first ice breakers I normally ask is “What’s your favorite movie?” The question almost always helps me to understand the person better, as the movie they have chosen clearly resonates with them in some way. Whenever I ask this question I receive a variety of answers, everything from The Notebook to Saving Private Ryan. Two movies that are often absent from the list of answers are Citizen Kane and Star Wars. Citizen Kane is about the story of Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon. The film is held in such high regard because it is perfectly able to capture the “romantic and idealistic passion for power, style, impact, meaning, and success, everything a true American might desire — like Charles Foster Kane” (Castle 1). Star Wars takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The story arches two generations, the first three movies follow Anakin Skywalker and his fall to the dark side of the force. The last three movies follow Anakin’s son Luke as he tries to redeem his father. While these two movies are incredibly different, they do share a few similarities.

A stark difference between the two films is in their narrative structure. The way the story is told in both movies is very different. In Citizen Kane a reporter is trying to figure out why Kane’s dying words were “rosebud”. He tries to figure it out by interviewing people who were close to Kane. The story of Kane’s life is told by these people through a series of flashbacks. This is an interesting way to film a movie because the viewer hears about an event more than once, and the story changes a little bit depending on who’s telling it. This allows the audience to see multiple sides of Kane and have a deeper understanding of the character.

Star Wars narrative structure is quite different from Kane’s as Star Wars  structure follows the story pattern of a myth. In 1949 Joseph Campbell came out with a book called The Hero With a Thousand Faces which looked at myths from all different cultures across all different times. Campbell noticed all the myths had an overhanging structure to them, he called this a monomyth.There are several stages that the main hero must go through to complete his journey. George Lucas, who was working on a childrens novel at the time, picked up the book and loved it. Lucas then found the inspiration to create his epic space adventure, Star Wars. Even though Lucas tells the same story as countless other myths, he has modernized it and made it prevalent for the modern generation. Lucas openly credits Campbell for having a great influence on the Star Wars saga (Chalakov 2).

One of the comparisons is that of Anakin’s and Kane’s character and personality. When both characters are young and up and coming they share similar views and ideas. Anakin, who at this point is training to become a Jedi knight, exemplifies and represents all that the Jedi order believe in. Anakin wants to use his powers to protect those who cant protect themselves. Kane has similar goals and ideals when he first takes over the Daily Inquirer going so far as to even create a declaration of principles that states “report the news honestly and will make the paper a champion of his readers’ rights as citizens and as human beings.” These are the goals of nobel, strong, young, and some might even say naive individuals.

Of course, these would not be very interesting movies if everything went according to plan. When Anakin’s mother is captured by sand people, barbarians from his home planet, he is forced to go and rescue her. He sneaks into the sand peoples camp, and once he find his mother shes incredibly weak. She dies in his arms, with her final words she talks about how proud she is of her son. Above all, a Jedi is never supposed to give into hate and anger, but Anakin does exactly that. He murders the entire village of sand people “I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children, too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE THEM!” Anakin no longer represents the codes of the Jedi order. David Begor from brightlightsfilms.com explains where Anakins is in Campbell’s story arch, “Anakin can clearly be seen at the ‘initiation’ stage of his heroic quest, the point of the mythic journey at which the moral certainties of youth crumble as the hero is forced to confront his own dark impulses” (Begor 3). This is the beginning of Anakin’s path to the dark side. He does not protect the weak anymore, he slaughters them.

Kane suffers a similar fate and becomes the exact thing he was trying to protect against. While Kane started out as a beacon of hope, he slowly but surely began to act like his rival newspapers. First by simply using yellow journalism, purposely sensationalizing the news to sell papers. Not to long after he started using his paper to sway public opinion to get the American people to support the Spanish-American war for the simple reason that Kane wanted the war. Later in his life Kane receives the declaration of principles he wrote back when he was a different man. Kane immediately takes the principles and burns them. Kane, just like Anakin, has become the exact thing he was trying to fight against.

Another distinction between the two films can be seen in their inherent ideology. The moral behind Star Wars is simple, one person truly can make a difference. It doesnt matter how small or simple that one person is, when extraordinary circumstances arise someone has to answer the call. In Campbells story arch the hero is supposed to come from humble beginnings and answer the call for a quest that is much larger than life. This is exactly the situation Luke was presented with, and he succeeds in going from a farmer to the first Jedi knight in over twenty years. Luke defeats the empire and redeems his father in the process, a task that was once considered impossible.

While the ideology of Star Wars is supportive the same can’t be said about Citizen Kane’s  message. The overall message for Kane is a warning, money, power, and fame cannot give you happiness. This is clearly represented when the viewer sees Kane when he is an old man living like a hermit in his huge castle of a home Xanadu. Kane is surrounded by priceless art, and lives only the most lavish of an existence. He has everything, but his dying word “rosebud” is a reference to his sled he used to play with as a child. He prefered the simple and happy memories of his childhood to the power and wealth of his later years.

The ideology of the films continue to differ on the idea of male supremacy. Star Wars is all about female empowerment, while Citizen Kane stands behind male supremacy. In the beginning of Star Wars it appears as though the female lead, Princess Leia, is a damsel in distress that Luke has to rescue. While we get an idea of who Princess Leia is in a few scenes early on, the audience doesn’t really meet the character until the first scene where Luke and Leia meet. Luke walks into Leia’s holding cell dressed as an imperial stormtrooper, the very first thing Leia says to him is “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” She doesn’t give into her captors, she is brave enough to actually insult them. In the same scene Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and Leia are all trapped in a hallway with stormtroopers firing lasers at them. Luke and Han are returning fire, but don’t know how to get out of the situation. Leia immediately grabs the gun out of Luke’s hands and shoots a laser at a trash shot, creating a hole large enough for everyone to escape through. On top of that, Leia is the first of the characters to go into the trash shot. This is no damsel in distress. This is an intelligent and capable women who knows what she needs to do, and has the strength to go through with it.

Citizen Kane on the other hand seems to support the idea of male supremacy. Throughout the movie Kane is always dominating over his wife, especially so with his second wife Susan. Even when they first meet, he already has her bending to his will. Susan mentions that her mother wanted her to become an opera singer, immediately upon hearing this Kane has her sing to him even though she is not interested in doing so. This supremacy over her continues over the length of their entire marriage. Kane even uses his money to build Susan the Chicago opera house, so she can carry out her singing career which she was never that interested in to begin with. Susan’s voice is incredibly weak and she is meet with nothing but ridicule. Kane forces her to continue to work on her singing voice. It gets to the point where Kane has such an influence over her he forces her to keep practicing, even when she has lost all interest in continuing to sing. Susan can no longer make a decision, Kane makes the decision and she simply follows.

While these two movies share a few similarities they are still starkly different. The biggest similarity between the two films is Kane and Anakin’s personality, they start out as pure individuals, but are both drawn to power and corruption. However these films differ strongly in both ideology and the way the story is presented. Star Wars presents a positive ideology that one person can really make a difference and the film also supports women’s empowerment. Citizen Kane on the other hand presents the moral lesson that money and power can’t buy happiness, the movie also seems to support male supremacy. These two movies, while being different, support two very powerful lessons that a lot of people could learn from.

Work Cited

Chalakov, Nikola. “The Hero With a Thousand Faces in Contemporary Fiction.” NBU.com. N.p., 12 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

 

Begor, David. “Attack of the Clones.” BLFJ. Bright Lights Film

Journal, Nov. 2002. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

 

Castle, Robert. “Citizen Kane.” BLFJ. Bright Lights Film Journal, Aug. 2004. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

 

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Out of class writing

How you think Inception represents the future of film (as industry and pastime)?

 

Inception was one of 2010’s biggest blockbuster films and embodies what the future of film making. Inception was a movie with a absolutely massive budget and it makes use of it effectively with phenomenal CGI and special effects. The movie has all the drama and surprises of a psychological thriller with having all the action and quick pace of an adventure movie. It effectively combines the best of both words forming a movie that anyone can enjoy. Which in turn has more people going to the theater and buying tickets.

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Blog response post: Chicago 10

The movie Chicago 10  is effectively in clearly demonstrating the role that media can play in protests. Vietnam was the real first televised war. Having the camera crews theirs, on the beaches, hurts morale and causality for the war back home. It really makes people think differently about the war when they have to see it. The same is true with protests. The civil rights movement picked up speed and momentum after their protest in Birmingham, Alabama. Televising police beating people doesn’t gain government support.

 

Chicago 10 is a different and unique take on a documentary. All of the actually records of the court case was all in transcripts. In order for it to stay true to being a documentary they had to recreate the court case. They do this through the use of animation and voice over narrations. Before this film I had never seen or even heard of an animated documentary. Its certainly different.

 

Television was a key and integral part of the protests against Vietnam and helped to end the war early. What everyone saw on TV from the war was what looked like chaos and death every night on the evening news. It looked like the government was just sending our boys in to die for a cause that was unknown to everyone. On top of that you see government officers beating up peaceful protesters and your trust in the government is shaken to the bone.

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Blog response post: Superstar and Andalusian dog

In a mostly male dominated society the women role has always been been open to interpretation. In Superstar:the Karen Carpenter story and An Andalusian Dog there are conflicting arguments about how some people think women should behave and act and how both of these options actually hurt the females. Take the scene in An Andalusian Dog when the man is trying to force himself onto the young girl. Some people for whatever reason seem to believe that women should do whatever the men want just to make him happy. While in Superstar the issue is how women should look. Karen does terrible things to herself because she feels shes not skinny enough.

 

Both films effectively use avant-garde techniques effectively in their films. One of the more interesting aspects of Superstar is that in the entire film every single actor is a barbie doll. This is highly irregular, but it is interesting. The emotions of the dolls are expertly shown by only using the tone of voice and by having the dolls action match their tone. Andalusian Dog had to work a little differently since it was a silent film. instead the film is filled with dirty metaphors such as at the beginning where the eye is cut wide open or when ants crawl out of the mans hand.

 

Both films are a great example of what an avant-garde film really is, confusion and seemingly chaotic. These films are different from most other movies out their because they choose to be that way. If superstar was filmed with actually actors instead of the barbies then it would no longer be an avant-garde film, but the use of the dolls is so unconventional and different it completely changes the genre.

 

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Zero Dark Thirty

Torture in the film Zero Dark Thirty is represented as a mean to an end. They begin the torture to try to obtain any sort of lead that they can follow, they have no other options. While the torture scene’s were a little difficult to watch at times it wasn’t represented as gruesomely as it could have been. The torture scenes were mild when compared to other movies such as the Saw franchise or even 300. The torture was represented well in the movie.

 

While watching a normal movie, that would have a similar plot to Zero Dark Thirty, I would have a very patriotic feeling while viewing the movie. Zero Dark Thirty was different. That’s what makes the movie and the director, Kathryn Bigelow, auteurs. Zero Dark Thirty is by no means a patriotic film talking about all the great work america did to find Bin Laden. It shows the darker side of our country and how far we are willing to go for revenge. This is an interesting and different take on how the USA finally got Osama.

 

While the film Zero Dark Thirty is not objective and realistic about torture, the movie incorrectly demonstrates that torture is a successful method of gaining information. Torture has been discredited more and more as time progresses because numerous studies have shown that the detainee will say whatever the torturer wants to make the pain stop. They will tell you anything you want to hear in order to make it stop. This can lead on endless wild goose chases inevitably wasting valuable time and resources.

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Weekend

Weekend is a different kind of movie that has an interesting theme of violence that is prevalent through out the movie. There are two types of violence in the movie animal violence and human violence. The animal violence is gruesome and not censored in anyway,   Jean-Luc Godard wanted the audience to see the animals hurt. The human violence however is the opposite, its tame and clearly fake. This is obvious through the use of the fake blood and the overall acting of the “dead” characters. The human violence was more there to pull the viewer out of the movie and remind them its only a film.

 

Social context is a major theme of Godard’s film Weekend. The film is considered a challenge by Godard to the traditional “Hollywood” movie production that has encompassed and is used most place in the world. The film does not meet the criteria of a traditional Hollywood film, instead it is an art cinema film. The characters in weekend are psychologically complex and they have unclear goals. The narrative is loose cause and effect and is very open ended.

 

Godard’s film meant to alienate the audience and really pull them out of the experience of the movie. He does this by having the characters in his film reference the fact that they are in a film, he does this several times throughout the movie. Another way he alienates the audience is through the use of music. For instance a pop song will suddenly being to play at a time where a somber, slow song should be. The last way he pulls you out of the film is through the fake violence. Whenever a human was hurt it was obvious that it was fake, further pulling the audience out of the movie.

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Blog Response post: Far from Heaven

Throughout the movie Far from Heaven there is a strong theme of male supremacy. Take the scene where Frank tries to make love to Cathy as an example. After Frank cannot get aroused Cathy tries to consul him and make him feel better, Frank in turn hits Cathy. At this point Cathy feels powerless as her marriage crumbles all around her. This powerlessness doesn’t stop there, it continues all through the movie until Cathy’s life is entirely flipped upside down and she cant do anything to stop it.

Many films use ideology in their films to try to convey a deeper meaning to the audience. Far From Heaven is effective at this because it encapsulates and comment on a few ideology’s, not just one. One of the main ideology’s covered in the film is homosexuality. In the film Frank tries to cure himself of himself of his disease, of course that’s not how things work, he cant cure himself of this. In the end Frank decides to leave his family and embrace who is.

Even though Far From Heaven takes place in the 1950’s it still speaks to modern film viewers. Homosexuality is still an issue our society faces almost 60 years after the time period that this movie takes place in. The film is a reminder to the public that homosexuality is not a new thing. The film reminds us that it has always been an issue for people even in the golden fifties when everything was supposed to be perfect in this country.

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Casablanca

One of the main themes of Casablanca is involvement vs independence, Rick perfectly encapsulates this theme. When the film starts Rick sticks his neck out for no one. He’s most concerned with looking after himself. However, after Ilsa comes back into his life, he changes. Rick now has someone who he wants to protect and help, even going to the length of killing a high ranking German officer to protect her. Rick has had a complete change of heart, he wants to get involved because he sees now how one person truly can make a difference.
 
Trying to define the genre of Casablanca is a difficult task to accomplish because the movie has so many different elements working together. The constant class between the Germans and the French resistance could define the movie as a war movie. Obviously, the love between Rick and Ilsa could define the movie as a romantic or a drama. However, there are also several themes that can be spotted from film noir. The best way to define Casablanca’s genre would have to be as a hybrid film. It has to many themes from too many genres to accurately place it in any one category.
 
Casablanca is not a propaganda film, but instead is a film that was capitalizing on the current events of the world. WWII was in an era where information was available to the public, its not as if the people of America didn’t know that Paris had been taken over by the Germans. The release of the film was timed well by the production company with the explicit goal of capitalizing on current events. If this had been a propaganda movie they would have shown Casablanca being liberated from the terrible German presence and everyone in the street would be shouting USA! USA! The main story about Casablanca isn’t even about the war, its about two lovers. If it was a propaganda film it would have focused more heavily on the war and American sentiment.
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Blog response post: apocalypse now

One of the most prevalent themes in Apocalypse Now is the effect that war has on a soldier and how it can bring a man to the breaking point. This is shown id depth in the beginning of the film where Willard drinks excessively and completely destroys his hotel room. Hes not comfortable being out of the elements he has been trained to handle. The government spent a long time turning him into a killer but they don’t take anytime trying to reintegrate soldiers back into society. This theme is also supported by the fact that Kurtz actually became completely insane and established a cult like following.

 

One of the best and most interesting uses of sounds in Apocalypse Now is the ride of the Valkyries scene. This is an interesting scene not only for the musical selection, which in the same sounds track had song from the rolling stones, but because the director choose to make the song diegetic.  It causes the scene to become much more intense, as the battle rages and you know that the soldiers are attacking and killing to this classically beautiful song. The scene would have been weakened if they had used the ride of the Valkyries non-diegeticly. 

 

The movie would have been more powerful had they used more popular songs in its soundtrack. The songs of that time period perfectly encapsulate what the world was like at that time and the conflicts that america was going through in Vietnam and back at home. It would have drawn more connections to the Vietnam that my generation has learned about only through history and the culture that was centered around it. Plus, classic rock is the best.

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Blog response post: Psycho

The original psycho, Norman Bates, is a strange and interesting character when you compare him to the modern psychos seen everywhere today. Norman is a different and rare kind of murdering psycho, in most movies today the psycho has no purpose for their killings. Their motives are never truly shown to the audience and the crowd merely has to speculate as to how and why they have become the insane lunatic they see on the screen. Normans motives however are spelled out for the viewer, you learn about the psyche of Norman. How he choose his victims and how he has changed from a sane person to the murder we see on screen.

 

One of the key editing techniques that Hitchcock uses in Psycho is tempo. Tempo is incredible important to one of the movies most prominent scenes, the Shower scene. With roughly 45 different shots in the span of a minute the scene flies by to the sound of the iconic Psycho theme we have been hearing the entire movie. The rapid tempo of this scene is what really sets it apart from the rest. The amount of effort it must have taken to get that minute of action must have been incredibly arduous.  

The Shining is a scarier movie than Psycho is because Psychos suspense makes is more intellectual. Psycho is a movie that I wasn’t just watching, I was actively engaged with it. The movie made me think about what was going to happen next and got me involved in the story. I was coming up with theories about Normans mother and how they would catch Norman. I was involved in trying to figure out the mystery as well, however, while watching The Shining I was more just watching the events unfold before me.  

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