Saturday, September 25, 2004

Napoleon is DA BOMB (Film review)

It's a bit late to say this, but first time director Jared Hess deserves a loud round of applause (and why not, a standing ovation).

Him and Napoleon have won my sympathy. I am a big fan. All the characters are beautifully portrayed. Actor Jon Header must be recieving great offers by now. He looks so hot when he does this sexy dance, haha (reminds me the Fonz).Every character in the movie experiences inner growth and discovers something new about life's complexities. Napoleon's geeky brother, Kip goes thru an on-line love relationship that enriches his life in radical ways. Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), Napoleon's football traumatized uncle, tries to be productive but finds out that he is not good at it and goes back to his trailer home (not to mention the surreal situation when this cute peasant like girls comes out of nowhere and automatically falls in love with him). Pedro, the new mexican american student that stands out because of his pubecent mustache, discovers that dreams can come true without the need of loosings one's cultural identity. Deb (Tina Majorino), Napoleon's next door neighbor and incomprehended creative lonley girl, finds true friendship in Napoleon and Pedro (Efren Ramirez) as well as a way to help them thru her crafts. But the most important message in this film is that you have to proud to be yourself. This is the story of uncool people that don't have an idea that they are (paradoxically makes them cool). This characters felt very real because, the actors are not well known and this helped me concentrate in the story.

It is interesting to observe that all the credits are shown on highschool cafeteria meals or typical american food, such as tatter tots, mashed sandwiches, corn dogs, or even steaks (uncle Rico's fave meal). Every meal represents a character or a situation from the movie. No sophistication whatsoever, no digital effects, just simple shots, almost like still shots. This movie is a "back to basics" feature because a still long shots predominate almost every scene. Characters run in and out but there are no camera movements.

Napoleon Dynamite is THE BOMB!

Friday, September 24, 2004

What is theory? Intro to Foundations of Media Theory

It had been three years since I went to university. I was getting used to working and not thinking (bookwise, theorywise) about text. Before coming to New York, to study at The New School, I knew I was not only going to study film or filmmaking, but I had no idea I was going to read about all these theorists that my mom would deliberetley name drop in her conversations with friends.

Nevertheless, a challenge is a challenge ... Foundations of Media Theory is taught by this curly haired young PHD Ivy league woman called Shannon Mattern. Her enthusiasm towards theory and the class itself has brought my interest to study...(Otherwise I would pretend that I read by tossing one empty comment that would make all my classmates nod pseudo-intellectually). Not to mention her TA Benjamin Godsill, who seems like a pretty busy guy but still finds time to send e-mails about interesting stuff that's going on in the city, the web and the world.

The first chapter I read was from Jonathan Culler's Literary Theory

Theory.- signals to speculation, but not a guess. Involved complexity. It can't be obviou. It is not easily confirmed or disaproved.

Goethe, Carlyle,Emerson, and Maculay say: Theory is a new kind of writing that has developed which is neither the evaluation of the relative merits of literary productions, how intellectual history, nor moral phillosphy, nor social prophecy, but all these mingled together.

After the 60's : Is an unbounded group of writings about everything under the sun, from themost technical problems of academic philosophy to the changing ways in which people have talked about and thought the body.

Effects of Theory: disputing common-sense, a critique of common sense. Theory involves questioning.

Focault and sex: "The repressive hypothesis"
Claims that the 19 centrury found new ways of grouping together under a single category (sex) a range of things that are potentially quite different.

Power, for Focault, is not something wields but "power/knowledge". Power in the form of knowledge or knowledge as power. What we think we know about the world- the conceptual framework in which we are brought to think about the worrld -excercises great power.

GENEALOGICAL CRITIQUE: an exposure of how supposedly basic categories, such as 'sex' are produced by discursive practices. does not try to tell what 'sex' really is but seeks to show how the notion has been created.

Jaques Derrida (analyzing Rossau and individual self).

Western philosophy: distinguishes 'reality' from 'apperance' thought from signs.

speech: immediate, manifestation, or prescence of thought
writing: artificial, misleading, sign of a sign.

Rossau said: "Languages are made to be spoken;writing serves only as a supplement to speech."

A SUPPLEMENT ( according to Webster's diccionary) is something that 'completes' or makes an addition.

Rossau needed writing to supplement his speech. Contradiction.

'logic of supplementary" : The thing supplemented (speech) turns out to need supplementation because it proves to have the same qualities originally thought to characterize only the supplement (writing).

Rossau needs writings, signs

Law of supplements: of endless linked series, ineluctably multiplying the supplementary mediations that produce the sense ofthe very thing that they defer: the impressionism of the thing itself, of immediate presence, or originary perception.

Necessity of intermediaries:
For Derrida...we should concieve of life itself as suffused with signs .

Original is created by the copies, the original is always differed - never to be grasped.

'Iln'ya pas de hors-texte"
(There's no outside of text)
All is composed of texts of supplements.

Writting is the dissappearance of natural prescence.

POSTSTURCTURALISTS: Focault and Derrida.
F: not based on texts, general framework. D: interprets texts, identifies logic.

What is thoery?
1.Interdisciplinary.- discourse with effects outised an original discipline.
3.A critique to common sense or concepts taken as natural.
4.Refelxive, making sense of things.

THEORY = INTIMIDATING (because its endless!)

Theory makes you desire mastery:you hope that theoretical reading will give you the concepts to organize and understand the phenomena that concerns you.

for further readings:

"The Orientation of Critical Theories" In The Mirror and the Lamp:Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition by M.H. Abrahams.

"Social Science as Moral Theology" in Conscientious Objections:Stirring Up trouble About Language, Technology, and Education. Neil Postman.

for kicks...

take a look at their Trading cards (if you are interested in knowing how Focault looks like)

Notes on "The Passion of Joan of Arc" by Dreyer

If it was up to me, I would not see this film. I don't now how many versions of it I've seen. The Milla Jovivitch one, The Lelee Sobieski one, The cheap mexican one, etc...

I got 5 or 10 minutes late to class (as always). I have a tendency to get lost in this laberynthic style buildings. I sometimes think that the security guards are watching me as a scientist observes his lab rat. Abe was talking about Peeping Tom and the theory we had read. Showed us some clips of the movie with voice over of Mulvey. Interesting, plus some gossip regarding the movie director and actor.

Afterwards, he presented the movie and asked if we wanted to watch it with audio or sans audio. I didn't have a choice, actually, but afterwards I thought it was an excellent idea to see it with music (if not, I would fall asleep). Music soundtracks do make the difference! Thank God for them! Especially the Wes Andreson and Tarantino ones ( I sound so like my generation, of pseudo rebels).

These were my observations and comments about this version:

-Joan is the only woman. Surrounded by man during trial.
-Dressed as a man. Not until she accomplishes her mission will she dress like a maiden (she looked good that way, couldnt see her any other way! Dressed up for martyrdom!)
-She is blasphemous in the eyes of english priests.
-Young and scared (emma thompson would look like her when young)
-Loveley use of photography and light... expressionist
-The windows cast a shadow on the floor, its a cross. When Joan sees it, she feels enlighted again as if it was a sign from above. It comforts her (but everything is inside your brain baby!)
-Wooden crown, her sight is lost in the sky, her face shows frustration, anguish, exhaustion.
-Close ups all the time (no landscape or background.
-man are shot and shown as elevated figures looked up to by Joan. Joan is always shot as if looked down as a helpless human beeing.
-Putrefaction, death (skull with worm announces death of Joan)

"You don't have the right to die, your king needs you!"

-Burning scene, freaks, spectacle, girl in swing representing the beggining of life, innocence, and contorsionists, clowns.
Mockery of tragedy.

Conclusion: Not my type of movie, but interesting to watch without all the fancy pancy special effects, costly production an beautiful cast.

To read:
Theory of Film by Bela Balasz
Film as Art by Rudolph Arnheim
Projection by Gerald Mast
The Means of Photoplay by Hugo Munsterberg

Thanks again to the teacher Abe Geil

Notes about Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom"

To the point, My first Introduction to Film Theory class started with the screening of the movie "Peeping Tom".

"Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is?"

Peeping Tom (1960)
Directed by: Michael Powell
Written by: Leo Marks

Runtime: 101 min. / USA:86 min. (cut version)
Country: UK
Language: English

Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom”, starts with a peculiar movie-inside-the movie- sequence. Someone is filming a prostitute while following her with a hidden 16 mm camera towards her modest hotel/motel room. She undresses indifferently, without looking at her client (the person that is filming her) but after looking up she notices that something is wrong. Her facial expression changes from an indifferent to a terrifying one . The camera gets too near the prostitute and the musical score speeds up, culminating the sequence with her piercing scream. Immediately afterwards, the sequence cuts with a fade in, to a long shot of a man sitting in the dark, watching the projection of those same actions. This opening sequence is an excellent example of Laura Mulvey’s comment stating that “Film fascination is reinforced by preexisting patterns of fascination of people or society”. In this case, we are introduced to the world of a scopophilic character who is sexually stimulated through sight and fascinated with the human form.

Mark Lewis (interpreted by Carl Bohem), the main character, is a shy and lonely aspiring filmmaker that works as a focus puller and as a photographer for Pinup girls.On the side, he is filming a documentary showing how he murders beautiful women. Curiously, all of the women he kills are woman that are contemplated or observed in different ways (a prostitute, an actress, a pinup girl). Since he grew up as an observed child, used for his dad's experiments on fear behavior, he became traumatized. This made him a “Peeping Tom” , or someone that sees people as objects. He satiates his desires by observing them thru the camera lens.Their beauty incites him to murder them, and destroy the mental picture he has. It’s a pleasure for him to destroy beauty and then watch it on screen. As a spectator, he releases repressed sexual desires.

Even though he is committing this murders, there is a streak of hope when he meets his neighbor, Helen (Anna Massey) an innocent virginal girl. She could symbolize Mark’s redemption. Her lack of astounding looks are the reason why he doesn’t want to film her. Since she is not so feminine and sensual, he doesn’t feel threaten. She does not incite action and is not a bearer of sexual objectification. Mark does not see Helen with sentimental regret and is almost willing to start a relationship with because he trusts her (he lets her carry the camera).

Perversion, murders,female sensuality, sexuality and an aspiring film director are signs of a cinema with “ideological effect”. It is a movie about observing. According to Lacan, “Cinema became a perfect medium to explore the relationship between images, identity and desire, especially in relation to gender ...” (Lacan 1977). Also, the whole idea of being a filmmaker, is about controlling people, telling actors what to do, objectifying people. Another element that is introduced is the concept of representation (which makes possible fetishism: primitive religion of sensuous desire). Hidden or subtle signs of sensuality can be exemplified by liquid and water references. There are various cuts that end and start with pouring liquids. Richness in color (especially red) are also signs of passion, and sensuality, morbidness.

I think it was absolutley faboulous, campy, theatrical, dramatic, colorfull, semiotic oriented... and does explain that Photography resembles the dead and Cinema shows the animated dead.

For references on this topic and to see "Peeping Tom" in a theoretical way check the following references (if you have time!)

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey
Why Theory? Gill Branston
Film Theory and the revolt against master narratives. Bill Nichols

You should really take advantage of these notes because this is what I am studying in my Master in Arts: Media Studies @ The New school. So for those who don't have the time, or money to study you can check this out!

The teacher for this class is Abe Geil.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

La Gloria (esta suelta)

Ayer cumpli un mes de haber llegado a Nueva York y dos meses de haber partido de mi natal Monterrey. Curiosamente, no me habia interesado por saber las noticias o acontecimientos de mi pueblo hasta ayer. Abriendo el msn, vi que Gloria Trevi habia salido suelta (y disuelta de todo delito). Eso genero morbo, e inquietud por informarme nuevamente sobre la situacion que acontence en general en mi pais y en mi ciudad. Me meti al msn messanger y le pedi a un amigo la clave para abrir, ingrese en susodicho periodico y despues de "escanear" varios articulos, me percate que en realidad no pasa nada nuevo. Es triste estar lejos y darse cuenta de que la corrupcion sigue igual, que el gobierno solo gasta en obras publicas y no en ayuda o apoyo para la gente que lo necesita, que el desempleo continua siendo alarmante, que .... en fin, me desespere y me puse a ver Gente! Y despues me pase al Sierra Madre (Morbo TOTAL), y al percatarme que estaba viendo la revista social, me dio pena, me senti retrograda, me senti idiota, vi las fotos de una manera distinta. Las vi como las ve una persona "de fuera" , con asombro, burlandome de los retratos de bodas y fiestas, de visitas de antros y bares, de ninias que quieren ser mujeres y de mujeres que quieren ser ninias, de cabelleras rubias falsas y ropa de la misma boutique, de un lugar en el cual a la originalidad se conforma por ser igual de fashion que las demas, osease homogeneidad total.

En cambio en Nueva York, las unicas personas que salen en el periodico son las verdaderas celebridades. Figuras destacadas que resaltan por sus verdaderos esfuezos, por ser los disenadores mas talentosos, directores de cine, periodistas, actores actrices, politicos y gente que ha triunfado en la tierra de las oportunidades y en el mundo (no en una ciudad de un pais subdesarrollado en la cual solo pocos gozan del "privilegio" de gastar en una bolsa Louis Vouitton solo para estar a la moda como Jennifer Lopez).

En fin, seguimos aqui... el deseo del hombre por trascender nunca se muere. Ese fuego jamas se apaga.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Its 10:57 in the morning and I am amazed that I am awake after arriving at 4 AM. It was not intentional, but yesterday I went to have dinner in Manhattan, and then I stayed for a while at a friends house, but didn't realize it was past 11PM. The subway system at night sucks! Its awful because you have to guess wich other line goes to your stop (that is if you are not living in Manhattan)T this time I was on my own (Zoe usually accompanies me) and since I was very tired I helplessly fell asleep with the not so tender come and go of the subway train. It just so happens that I didn't realize that the stop I had to go down to transfer had passed. There I was, 1:30 AM, line F, four japanese hip youngsters, one mexican american, a bum and six african american... I got to Jamaica by train! How did that happen...

I decided to hold on tight to my bag and sleep some more until one skateboarding rastafari kindly woke me up to announce that it was the last stop and that I had to get down. After that, I took the same train to return to the transfer station, and there I met a scottish girl. 23 years of age, chubby (or well covered) rosie cheeks and a big smile. I asked her "So, what are you doing in the city" and she answered (with a joyful face because she was talikng to someone at that unfriendly hour) "I am visiting,... on vacation." so I replied with curiousity "but what are you doing in queens? " and laughingly she said "I met this guy in the subway and he invited me to have dinner.."

She was lucky that a complete stranger did not pull a wierd trick on her or tried to harm her. So was I. I got home safe, but as I was opening the door (my mom, that is visiting) started scolding me as if I was a teenager.

what a night..

Jamaica, the subway and me... No woman no cry!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The New York Life

There is no such thing as The New York life. I arrived three weeks ago and I've been thru a series of burocratic paperwork to get settled. Before coming here, my idea of NY was a beautiful image of all the Woody Allen films mixed with Sex and the city. Unfortunateley I didn't remember movies like Serpico and French Connection...

I read in the New York magazzine that anybody that is somebody lives in New York City, but I have to disagree with Norman Mailers words. I was nobody until I got a Social Security Number and a bank account. I was nobody until I got a permanent address. But who is a permanent citizen or resident here? Everybody is from somewhere else and will go somewhere else in a couple of years or so. This makes New York a real Salad Bowl.

Since I am a student, I can't afford yet the glamorous NY life, but that does not mean that I have not enjoyed myself here. Having picnics in Central Park are for free. Watching fashion victims and fashionistas everyday is inevitable. I can also make up great stories just by observing someone in the subway. Plus I have a great workout routine everyday beacause I walk a lot.

I don't miss home, but I miss what I was back home. Here I am anonymous. Is it good or bad? No one gives a shit if I don't shave my legs and wear a skirt, or if I have pimples on my face and I didn't wear make up, no one cares if my clothes arent combined or if I am tired or sad or happy or loneley or hungry. I have no one to report to, and no one needs to report to me. I can only think about myself and take care of myself. Its all about me, its about individualism, this city is not easy but all I can say is NO PAIN, NO GAIN.

Will I be somebody in NYC?

En Nueva York

No hay marcha en Nueva York... jajajaja
No se crean hay tanta, que no tengo ni tiempo de terminar esta entrada.