Category: Essays

Tasty Broccoli

Tasty Broccoli

Throughout the history of film, there have been many different changes that have occurred that have also changed the way we look at cinema. While a trend may last a month or two, they can actually last decades. Trends are a normalcy in the film business. With this in mind, over the past few months, the film business has not changed a bit, as trends are even more popular now than they have ever been. Everyone is lining up to see or make the next addition to an ongoing trend, especially when there is money to be made. Also, as Oscar season approaches, lines are forming outside movie theaters for a movie that audiences have read about that may be up for Best Picture. While some of these films may actually be intellectually stimulating, the majority are nothing but mindless excrement. When making a film, the biggest problem among all of these film companies is that they don’t really know anything.

In mainstream cinema, before a film is made, analysts determine what films are popular and then ultimately determine what film to make. One will notice people are flocking to see a superhero movie, then immediately the next superhero film is planned. While this may seem like an easy strategy to earn money, it does not always work as planned as trends never have life expectancies. The purpose of riding the wave of a trend is simply to make more money in hopes of synergy[1]. Film companies believe that they will make more money with a film that already has an audience. Yet again, this seems pretty logical; however nothing can be easily predicted in the film business.

Throughout the months between September and December, a wide variety of films have come out. Many of them rushed to be released before the year ends to have a chance at the Academy Awards. Some of the popular trends that have bombarded the theaters these past few months are a special genre of film. This trending genre can span between documentary and narrative film and is sometimes referred to as, what I like to call, political films. These films, mainly documentaries, claim to expose truths, controversies, and scandals within military, government and large corporations in America. Documentaries first became famous by “their willingness to tackle controversial or unpopular subject matter.”[2] Such films include Inside Job, The Tillman Story, Restrepo, Freakonomics, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Client 9, Waiting for Superman, Casino Jack, etc. All of these mentioned films have been released in the span of two months and all share the same political genre. You would think that these film companies are up to something and following a worthy trend, but motives may be unclear.

According to Michael Cieply from the New York Times, this wave of political films is due to the Stock Market crash two years ago:  “given the allure of stories packed with conspiracies and villains […] it was probably inevitable that filmmakers should be delivering assessments of a crash exactly now. After all, it takes about two years for most feature films to catch up to real events.”[3] Cieply’s viewpoint may be plausible, because most of the political films released during these past few months have been about or somehow connected to the Wall Street crash two years ago. The film companies that made these films could have made them on the sole conclusion that these films would actually make money, but, once again, nothing is certain.

The main objective of these films is still unclear. While most of these films were produced by smaller independent companies, it could very well be that the objective was simply to make a good film. According to director Oliver Stone in an article in the New York Times about his film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, he made the film because “he thought that the industry had finally lost some of its swagger and that a fictional account that explored the depths of that period would tap into the national mood.”[4] It seems that Stone had the right idea, especially since this film is a sequel to a film that already had a large audience. It is also noted that Stone’s movie was probably the most successful in the box office out of the mentioned political films.

As these films were only limited released in New York City, the films did not reach their full potential and, therefore, did not or could not reach expected financial goals. However, while it may not seem like these films are hits, there is a strong chance at least one of them will make a comeback. In an article in the New York Times, Brook Barnes analyzes films that have only become successful outside of the theater. Barnes uses examples of films such as Kick-Ass and Date Night, of which have shown tremendous increase in revenue with DVD sales than box office results. [5] With this being said, one of the mentioned political films may have a comeback after the Academy Awards, as it is almost certain at least one of these films will be nominated for Best Documentary.

In light of the “Oscar Race” another “truth revealing” film expected to have a comeback in revenue is the acclaimed The Social Network, which “has been seen for weeks as the film to beat for best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. But its less than spectacular performance in its opening weekend has shifted the playing field.”[6] From this example alone, it should be noted that box office results do not offer a shoe-in for Best Picture. Of course, there are exceptions: according to Barnes and Cieply, Toy Story 3 will most likely be nominated due to its $1.1 billion in global ticket sales. This is the same example of Avatar, a film whose only precedent was that it cost a lot of money and made a lot of money (The only difference being that Woody’s boot had more originality and substance than the whole film of Avatar). Other films, such as King’s Speech and Black Swan, have been rushed to be released before the year’s end to fight against Toy Story 3 and The Social Network. While not all of the films that are nominated for Best Picture are trends, Inception is a film that has started a trend in the science-fiction genre as the film has been compared, financially, to last year’s Avatar. [7] All of these mentioned films have all done well, and are almost certain to have ignited trends in the near future.

With the political independent films, the end objective could have very well been that the film companies simply wanted to make films that actually had value. At a film seminar at the Center for Communications, one of the speakers compared a good film to broccoli. To go a bit further than the speaker: broccoli can be cooked and spiced up to taste a lot better than it does raw. In the same sense, a film can be spiced up with violence, special effects, or sex to reach a wider audience instead of being raw and grainy with all facts and no added substance. Broccolis with artificial flavoring, stewed, flavored or combo-ed with your Chinese takeout are all examples of the mainstream movies of today. A film company does not look for a “raw broccoli” or simple intelligent artistic film, but rather one that tastes good to the audience.

[1] “Movies and The Impact of Images.” Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 24i. Print.

[2] “Movies and The Impact of Images.” Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 230. Print.

[3] “Documentaries Zero in on Wall Street, and They Show No Mercy”. By Michael Cieply. New York Times. Sept. 9, 2010.

[4] “A Walk Through Oliver Stone’s Thoughts on Wall Street Today”. By Andrew R. Sorkin. The New York Times. Sept. 14, 2010.

[5] “Even a Hit Can Seem Like a Miss at its Debut”. By Brook Barnes. The New York Times. Sept. 6, 2010.

[6] “A Shifting Oscar Race Heats Up”. By Michael Cieply and Brook Barnes. The New York Times. Oct. 6, 2010.

[7] “Profit Rises at Time Warner And at News Corporation”. By Tim Arango. The New York Times. Nov. 3, 2010.

Marketing – Outside the Law

Outside the American Interest

Normally, when a movie is released in America with a relatively large budget and has big named actors, the marketing is key. An American movie, such as the newly released Due Date will have full page ads in newspapers, TV commercials and billboards all across the major cities. A foreign film, with the same basic elements of budget size and big-named-actors of an American film, should be marketed the same way. While a foreign film may be marketed correctly in its country of origin, it will most likely have to do more concentration on marketing to gain any attention in America. The foreign film Outside the Law is considered to be a follow-up to the highly acclaimed Oscar nominated film Days of Glory as they both share the same three actors and director. It would appear to the marketing department for the film, that this fact alone would draw enough attention to the film. While no official representative of the film confirms this hypothesis, it is determined solely on how Outside the Law has been marketed here in America.

The French film was released in one theater in New York City on November 3rd. Being that the film has such a limited release, it is assumed that the film has not and will not make a lot of money here. The one theater in New York City where this film is playing is the City Cinemas Paris Theater located on W. 58th St. right near the famous Plaza hotel. It is the location of this theater alone that hints at the film’s New York audience. When I attended a screening almost one week after it was released, the theater was a quarter full with predominantly older men, upper class, and French people. Due to this limited release, it is very hard to even find any information on any box office results of the film. However, according to, while the film cost around thirty million dollars to produce, it has only earned around one-third or three million dollars worldwide.

On opening day, The New York Times presented a half-page review of the film tucked away in the “Arts” section as well as a small ad scattered among other film ads. The Village Voice, which comes out every Wednesday, featured a very small ad for the film and an even smaller review. Both reviews were mainly positive, however the only complaints were that the film was too lengthy and too political. Also, both reviews mentioned the lack of women characters, character development and commented on the tragic scene towards the beginning of the film, which graphically depicts the Sétif massacre of Algerian protestors at the hands of French soldiers. The popular film website RottenTomatoes gave the film a 67% rating, which to their standards is decent.

Both newspapers had the exact same ad, which immediately pointed out that it is an entry in the upcoming Academy Awards. I felt the ad was misleading as it portrays the three brothers the film focuses on, however the ad suggests that the man in the middle, is the leader or head of the trio. Upon viewing the film, I learned that the man in the middle is actually the eldest brother of the three, but it not the leader – in fact, the leader is the middle brother, who is the portrayed by the least known actor of the three. The ad in Friday’s edition of The New York Times presented an ad almost three times the size of its ad on opening day. The ad also consisted of around ten positive quotes about the film, compared to the three quotes opening day.

I cannot say I have any knowledge of a television or radio commercial for the film, but I know there that I have not seen one poster in or around any of the normal public areas, trains, buses, billboards, etc. The trailer, which appears to be semi-popular on YouTube, suggests the film to be a revolutionary epic, however the film itself is not as close. While both the New York Times and Village Voice agree, the film is not an epic due to it being too long and focusing too much on politics than its actual characters. The website for the film is very simple, as it only provides the bare minimum of information on the film – trailer, images, cast, etc.

Ultimately, I believe the marketing campaign for this film was and still is unsuccessful. The only interest I had in this film was not based on any ad I saw here in America. I had actually heard of this film last summer as I was in France and saw many ads for this film. Being a fan of French cinema, I am also aware of the two main actors of the film, which also drew me to it. Based on the ads here in America, it is clear who the film is targeted to and what audience the marketing campaign is aiming at with the single theater and the minimal effort on advertising. Despite the reviews and my critique, I still enjoyed the film as it actually sparked some interest in me about the Algerian revolution. While I do agree with the need for more women characters and more character development, I wanted to see more of the eldest and the youngest brother, who both were least directly involved with politics. I believe the main problem of the film, is its focus on the middle brother and his eager-aggressive view on politics. If the marketing campaign had advertised more and let their film be easily accessible through different theaters, then the film would most likely earn all of the remaining twenty seven million dollars.


Film Reviews for Outside the Law and Days of Glory to come soon!

Telly Monster

Telly Monster

Ten years into the hit show Sesame Street, a brand new character was revealed as “The Television Monster”. During his first appearance, the Muppet had an antenna sticking out of his head and upon watching television his eyes would swirl as if hypnotized by the television. This seemingly harmless “monster”, while not being quite scary or threatening, actually posed a threat to the show’s viewers. It is obvious that these features established a problem, since soon after his first appearance, his obsession with television diminished and his whole personality almost completely changed. While this show’s character acts as the on screen “monster”, the real monstrosity behind all of this is in fact the television itself.

In Jeffrey Cohen’s essay titled “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” the author explains what a monster is in detail and how the monster came to be. Cohen theorizes that monsters are “an embodiment of a certain cultural moment- of a time, a feeling, and a place” (4). What Cohen is suggesting is that a monster mirrors when, where and how it was created. So for this particular monster, television, that time is the late 1920s to early 1930s. The feeling is a mixture of depression and patriotism. With the Great Depression lurking, and World War II starting, some of the first black and white television broadcasts were focused on current events. Due to the economic crisis the country was at a huge loss and therefore sought out ways to escape and stay informed. The war also brought patriotism, as millions of Americans were soon able to get updates on their husbands, sons and fathers fighting for their freedom. With this being said it is evident that the feeling is a direct result of the time and place. The place is none other than America, although television also had an early start in England. I speak of America primarily due to the monster affecting this place the most. It is clear that the three elements deeply affect each other. According to Cohen, monsters are created as a means of coping with a situation or event. The reality of this monster, however, is just the same; it was created to inform and entertain. Television is not oldest monster but it has done the most actual damage.

While an actual television set does not appear to be at all monstrous, it’s what is displayed on the television and what it can do to those who watch it, which is monstrous. When television first started broadcasting, it was mainly news and brief entertainment; once marketing came into the picture, the whole industry went downhill. Since most of what television displays may seem optimistic, it can be confusing to some to say that there is in fact a side of television that can be quite dangerous. This danger is depicted by the images on the screen that can “hypnotize” the viewer, similar to the Telly Monster. By “hypnotize” I simply mean that: the television can force you to believe whatever it is presenting whether it’s to buy a product or watch the next episode of a TV show. As Telly Monster is friendly, he is still obviously considered a monster. Is it because of his physical appearance? Or is it because he is controlled?

Television is, of course, appealing, but may never seem unappealing to some when in fact the damage done could go unnoticeable to the “victim” due to the hypnosis. For example, while we are watching television, a strikingly amusing commercial may come on persuading us to buy a “Big Mac”. While the juicy tender is displayed with perfection, your new favorite song is played throughout the commercial. So later when you are driving in your car or simply listening to music and that song comes on again, you are reminded of that burger. Now the innocent victim of propaganda makes a detour to MacDonald’s to purchase that juicy burger. While trying to promote a product may seem only natural, the product may not be as good as it claims. This method in which the media and corporations attempt to sell their products is known as subliminal messaging. This is one example of how this monster is both appealing and unappealing as the viewer is succumbed to purchasing the product, which in this example is fatty chemical injected “meat”.

But television is not just a tool of hypnosis as Cohen says in his sixth thesis:

[Monsters] can evoke potent escapist fantasies: the linking of monstrosity with the forbidden makes the monster all the more appealing as a temporary egress from constraint, this simulation repulsion and attraction at the core of the monster’s composition accounts greatly for its continued cultural popularity, for the fact that the monster seldom can be contained in a simple, binary dialectic. We distrust and loathe the monster at the same time we envy its freedom, and perhaps its sublime despair. (17)

While Cohen’s quote displays that a monster is both unappealing and appealing, with television that may not be the case as explained earlier. What this quote is also suggesting is that television also provides the element of escapism.

Earlier, it was mentioned that the first programs on televisions were mainly news broadcasts and brief entertainment segments. Today, television is still a tool for information, current events and reality. Most networks or shows on television depict certain things in a way that isn’t so, for example “reality television”. Reality television consists of shows in which the producers claim all events and people appearing on the show are not actors. The irony is that most of the people are actors and the events are scripted creating and presenting a false reality. This false reality causes an issue because it is presented in many forms of media people find escape to.

While dealing with everyday life it is only natural that stress builds up. Television allows those stressed people to relax and take their mind off. They turn on the television and are immediately thrown into another world. One channel they are on a space ship battling another planet and the next channel you are discovering coral reefs. There is no limit to who, what, where, when, and how we can escape. In Cohen’s essay he describes this escapism:

We watch the monstrous spectacle of the horror film because we know that the cinema is a temporary place, that the jolting sensuousness of the celluloid images will be followed by reentry into the world of comfort and light. Likewise, the story on the page before us may horrify (whether it appears in the New York Times news section of Stephen King’s latest novels matters little), so long as we are safe in the knowledge of its nearing end (the number of pages in our right hand is dwindling) and out liberation from it. (17)

Unfortunately, there are some escape routes that are dangerous as they can lead the viewer and cause misperception with certain aspects on life. For example, a few years ago there was a hit “reality game show” called Survivor. The show forced a certain number of strangers to survive on a “remote island” and challenge each other for the grand prize of a million dollars. As the competitions grew, tension and struggle would erupt among the contestants causing the majority of the entertainment provided by the show. The show suggested that these people lived alone with no help and the cameras were hidden. However there was one incident where this claim was proved false. As a contestant neared a death experience the camera crew was immediately able to save him. This false perception is condescending as well as humorous as TV companies transitioned into shows based off human relationships such as the ones on Survivor that built tension and humor.

In the film Network, Howard Beale, the “latter day prophet” of television, screams to his audience on his show about the truth in regards to media. There is one thing in which he says that reminds me of this quote from the article. As Beale is ranting about how television is nothing but truth he uses an example: “no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he’s going to win”. This quote is just another prime example of the same idea of a “fixed reality”.

With all of this being said we return to our beloved Telly Monster. Many questions arise in this stimulating topic: Why is it that Telly Monster’s personality changed? Was his original creator trying to send a message? Why do we need such escapism as Cohen describes? Are we going to let ourselves continue to be hypnotized by the media? All these questions can relate to the dependency of these monsters in which Cohen so descriptively describes. As a final question, could it be said that we in fact need these monsters more than they need us? While the audience needs escapism, corporations need profits. You decide.

Works Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture.

Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997. 3-25.

Network. Dir. Sidney Lumet. Perf. Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,

1976. DVD.

The Believer

I Believe in Controversy

Controversy takes shape in many places. You can find controversy most commonly in any art form. One art form that happens to speak for itself in regards to most controversies is film. Film has the advantage over other art forms in that it captures both visual and audio aspects of what the film is projecting. Since art is a form of expression, it isn’t uncommon that artists speak freely thus occasionally causing a stir among the media. When an artist portrays something in a different light or in an innovative or provocative way, people tend to disagree or and question what is being said. Controversy is very common in all art forms, however it would appear that film is one of the larger mediums through which art receives controversy in today’s society due to popularity and accessibility. One film, The Believer, is such a controversial film because it happens to deal with many issues. The film violently depicts what is known as a “living contradiction”: a Hasidic Jew, by day, who turns into a Neo-Nazi, by night, as he struggles with his faith. The three main controversies surrounding this film regard the nature of the Jewish faith, desecration of sacred relics, and Jewish establishments “control” over art. Since this film displays many negative perspectives on society as well as presents many pressing issues such as questions of faith and self-hatred, this film is considered a controversial piece of art. Controversy, such as the plot to the film, is actually beneficial to the art itself. The reason this is so is because the actual controversy adds weight or substance to the themes or messages portrayed in the art. This film is an important piece of art due to its unconventional aspects on the issues it deals with, as well as its genuine characteristics as a controversial film.

The film, written and directed by Henry Bean, was originally based off the life of a man named Daniel Burros. Like the character of Danny in the film, Burros was raised as a Hasidic Jew. After high school, Burros joined the Army in which he was ridiculed for his thick glasses and over-energetic nature. It was around this time that he gained an admiration for Adolph Hitler and a hatred for the very religion he was raised on, Judaism. When he was discharged, he moved to Virginia where he joined the American Nazi Party. After several years of weaving in and out of many different Nationalist parties, he finally joined the infamous Klu Klux Klan. After becoming the highest Klan official of New York, he and other Klan members assaulted African-Americans at a local White Castle. A New York Times reporter, who identified Burros as a Jewish man, threatened to expose him upon interviewing him, however Burros threatened to commit suicide if the reporter did so. The reporter inevitably ignored Burros threat and published the article. That same day Burros took a gun to his head stating he had nothing left to live for. (Bryk 1-3)

This background information was the basis for the film, but unlike Burros’ character, the article is not published therefore not causing the suicide. That famous reporter confrontation actually made it into the film; however the main character does not commit suicide. Instead the character continues his Nazi ways as he falls for the daughter of the leader of a Nationalist Party. As she questions his knowledge of the Jewish faith, Danny teaches her Hebrew, he is thus reunited with his Jewish faith thus beginning his inner struggle.  Throughout the film, Danny struggles between his faith in Judaism and his violent ways of a Nazi. Danny finds himself torn between the two, which leads to the majority of the controversy surrounding the film. One conclusion that can be made of Danny’s decision to be a Nazi is that he believes one must suffer as Jesus Christ to enter the Kingdom of God. Since the Holocaust was over long ago, Danny feels that Jews still need to suffer in order to reach heaven, therefore he rationalizes his assaults of individual Jews by thinking that he is redeeming them. Many religions, especially those involving Jesus Christ, are based off of suffering which leads to salvation. In order to be saved, one must live like Christ. In a review by Harriette Yahr in the Jewish magazine Tikkun, she states that:

The film offers up the possibility that Jews today are latching on to a story of oppression that is no longer valid…Where is a Jew without his or her suffering? If we were to let go of out pain, what would we hold on to? Can we begin a new story or is freedom too scary? (2)

The author is merely elaborating on the main character’s point of view in the film. This stance alone allows for many argumentative points of view as well as defensive. Since the author discusses the harsh views depicted by the character, many people, especially those of the Jewish faith, could argue against this belief stating that either they suffered enough through the Holocaust or that his claim is irrelevant due to everyone personally suffering in some form or another as human nature. The protagonist’s personal beliefs is just the core of the controversy surrounding the film.

Throughout the film, there are many scenes in which would make anybody cringe due its discriminating nature. The film opens to depict a violent Danny stalking a young Jewish student and verbally harassing him in Hebrew then attacking him.  Henry Bean, the film’s director, states in his screenplay’s commentary that his plan was to “start with an unforgivable act, then seduce the audience, against its will, into sympathizing with someone it hated” (Bean 185). As the film progresses and we learn more and more about his character, we never really find out in the film how he became who he represents in the present. Many of the reviewers of this film, commented on what they believed to be a lack of narrative and character development. Bean commented on Danny’s origins saying, “it did really interest me, in fact, it seemed irrelevant. I thought of his Nazism as a mystery too deep for explanation…[it’s] so obvious [the film] didn’t need one.”

Probably the most controversial scene in the film involves Danny and his Nazi party planting a bomb in a synagogue while they also manage to desecrate the holiest Jewish Scripture, the Sefer Torah. In the scene the boys spit on and rip at the scroll while Danny tries to stop them. This scene also stands, as Danny’s turning point in the film in which he realizes his faith in Judaism is still very strong. Yahr notes this revelation in her review a few times “it is at this precise moment, during the horror of his actions, that Danny feels the power of his Judaism—whether he shaves his head or not” (2). These scenes lead to much controversy especially with leaders in the Jewish community.

Upon completion of his film and winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Henry Bean decided to bring his film to both the Anti-Defamation League and the Wiesenthal Center as a courtesy as to not offend anyone before the film’s set release in September of 2001.  After viewing the film, the rabbis from the Wiesenthal Center were not pleased at all. The only good thing Rabbi Cooper had to say about the film was that “ the frame of the Believer is about God testing man, while Danny seems to be testing God: How far can Danny go before being stopped? A sacrifice is the answer” (Bean 199). He also went on with his criticism about the lack of narrative as well as the desecration of the Sefer Torah. Once the word spread out at what the Wiesenthal had said about the film it “scared away distributors who had once shown interest in The Believer” (Deziel 2). Therefore the film was halted from its release. The tragic events of 9/11 didn’t help the situation either, as many viewed the film’s release as an unneeded damper on America’s hearts as they wept. In a review by Shanda Deziel, she states: “The question that it raises is as provocative as the movie itself. At this time, it is dangerous – or pertinent- to release a film that demands sympathy for a Jewish protagonist attracted to fascist movements…” (1). Although the Wiesenthal Center was able to stop the film from reaching theaters, the Showtime network decided to be the first to play it publicly.

With this being said, it raises questions as to how big of a role censorship had to play in this ordeal. Another big question is how and why did these community groups gain so much influence and power over the films that are released? Rabbi Cooper seems to be defending himself when it comes to whether or not he has any power in regards to censorship. It appears as though this case will make many filmmakers feel scared to pass a political-correctness test as to not offend anyone. As it began to look like a worse time to develop any more Anti-Semitism films, American History X was dropped off at the Wiesenthal Center. The only reason this film, which shares similar elements of violence, racism, Anti-Semitism all involving Neo-Nazis, was approved by the Center was because at the end of the film the protagonists realizes his mistakes and puts down the swastika. However, this was not the case in The Believer, again Rabbi Cooper comments saying that he “doesn’t see a pedagogic line that eventually dispels the character’s anti-Semitic rants. Instead, it appears that the characters is sanctified in spite of his beliefs; he’s destroyed in the end, but it seems that it’s a martyr and not in retribution” (Bean 199).

It would appear that Rabbi Cooper only saw the controversy and not the true meaning of the film, which deals with themes of self-hatred. The director of the Sundance Film Festival commented about the film stating, “‘it’s about that crisis of cultural identity, which is a universal subject, and of this very particular self-loathing of Jews that has been a tradition of Jewish art and literature’”(Bean 199).  Then, commentator Beth Pinsker continues the thought:

This self-hating or even just bare exploration of religion happens to be one of the most touchy subjects in American Judaism today. Bean’s film takes it to an extreme, but if Danny Baliant had merely gone from being a yeshiva student to eating bacon cheeseburgers- while expressing the same ambivalent emotions about his upbringing and God- the filmmaker might have enraged the same groups of people. (Bean 198)

What she is most definitely suggesting is that the Wiesenthal Center took this film way too seriously and completely over-looked the whole message of the film. She presents irony as well as humor as she relates the weight of problem the Wiesenthal Center saw to that of disobeying the kosher standards of the Jewish faith. It is clear that community groups, such as the Wiesenthal, would care solely about the negative depiction of their own depiction. Since the Jews were almost seen in a negative light, Wiesenthal immediately despised the film. Any artist should never have an obligation to have his or her work reviewed or inspected before released. This defeats the purpose of free expression and can mislead the audience as far as the portrayal of important messages.

Should people really make this big a deal over a film? Since we have the freedom to express ourselves freely then I think we should be able to say what we want without offending too many people. The fact that the film had one scene desecrating the Torah should be no reason to ban the film, if anything it should be more of a reason to release it due to it’s powerful message. Although this film is now over eight years old, I believe that the film should be distributed into theaters and mass publicized. Why hide what’s on screen when it is right in our faces anyway? Today, hate and even discrimination still lurks through our society. The messages that the film portrays of self-hatred and the fight within oneself and the strength of faith are much more important than any other film that is commercialized every two minutes on network cable. I think that the controversy surrounding the film definitely has added to its popularity since the film was actually released on DVD and I was able to hear about it. At least now I know, as an aspiring filmmaker that I do not have to pass a correctness test. I will stand for what I believe in and portray any message I feel the need to when and if I become a filmmaker. I will not let my voice be censored and I will let my voice be heard because I believe in controversy.

Works Cited:

Bean, Henry. The Believer: Confronting Jewish Self-Hatred. Basic Books, 2002. Print.

Believer, The. Dir. Henry Bean. Perf. Ryan Gosling. Palm Pictures. 2001

Bryk, William. “From Jew to Jew-Hater: The curious life (and death) of

Daniel Burros.” (2003): 1-3. 25 Feb. 2003. Web. 18 Nov. 2009. <;.

Deziel, Shanda “EYE OF THE BELIEVER.” Maclean’s 115.33 (2002): 50. Academic Search

Complete. EBSCO. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.

Yahr, Harriette “A Jewish Nazi?.” Tikkun 17.4 (2002): 71. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 15 Nov. 2009.


Fighting for the Title of Contemporary Classic

There are many categories in which films are listed. One of the most important categories is that of “classic”. When a film is dubbed as classic, it usually means that it is worth watching. When labeling a film as “good” or “classic” there are many aspects to view the film. Most of the time, what makes a good film depends on the person’s interests. For example, one could consider a film good simply because of the cast or setting of the film. Personally, I believe a classic film to be a film that is provocative. With this being said, when a film is controversial and rebellious it can be considered a classic in my opinion. For example, the film titled Bronson contains these controversial and rebellious elements worthy of approval in the category of classic.

The film Bronson is the story of Michael Peterson, also known, by his “fighting” name, as Charles Bronson, and his life from prison to prison in 1970s Britain. His seven-year sentence for armed robbery quickly piled up to thirty years for fighting against the establishment. The gritty and violent approach to life is what captures the quality of this film. The Los Angles Times commented on the film’s more unique and provocative approach by briefly explaining Bronson as “A brawny, bald-headed figure in a vintage suit with a harlequin’s white makeup [who] takes to an old-fashioned stage, narrating his own life with a born showman’s panache and relentless enthusiasm” (Olsen 1). This interesting narrative in the film, followed by scenes of brutal beat downs and sadistic pleasure, is what becomes an escapade of escape. After attempting to escape several times, it almost becomes an art form or game with Bronson. In his own sick way, Bronson challenges the forces of Britain’s correctional facilities. This rebellious effort is what makes this film comical, as well as controversial to Britain, by questioning the strength of Britain’s system.

Since this film is noted as controversial by questioning of the stability of Britain’s penitentiaries, it is not uncommon that this film is related to other films displaying similar controversy. An article in the New York Times raves its ingenuity and actually compares it’s style and approach to another timeless controversial classic, A Clockwork Orange. “The effect is a bit like Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Clockwork Orange’ reimagined as a one-man stage show and stripped of any political implications. Bronson’s crimes become a kind of performance art, and the film becomes, bizarrely enough, the portrait of a genius misunderstood and marginalized by a bureaucratic and hypocritical social order” (Scott 1). It is interesting to point out that Scott recalls Bronson’s ability to fight as “performance art”, which to me basically means that since Bronson was so good at fighting that it was natural and actually artistic. I believe that to transform something as brutal and doggish as fighting into art is definitely worthy of being called a classic in a sense that it is unusual and challenges the norms of society.

While taking this film and looking at the whole picture, it is clear that through the film the audience is able to see Bronson’s development and how the mind of a criminal lunatic works. Bronson is a film that takes the viewer on a unique trip down confinement life and how it affects people. Bronson’s love for prison is what drives us to keep on watching. I’m sure all prisoners would love to see their cell as their own “hotel room” as Bronson did in the film. With this film’s limited release, I hope that it still gains the respect it deserves, however, due to the pressing issues displayed in the film it is more likely to be considered a cult classic than anything else. Hopefully this film goes on to become just as cult a classic as its predecessors.

Works Cited

1. Olsen, Mark.  “INDIE FOCUS; ‘Bronson’ shows inner chaos of a violent prisoner;

Nicolas Winding Refn avoids a biopic format in a film on Michael Peterson and his alter ego, Charles Bronson. ” Los Angeles Times  11  Oct. 2009,Los Angeles Times, ProQuest. Web.  14 Oct. 2009.

2. Scott, A. O.  “Portrait of the Criminal As a Performance Artist :[Review]. ” Rev. of: Bronson.

New York Times 9  Oct. 2009, Late Edition (East Coast): ProQuest National Newspapers Premier, ProQuest. Web.  14 Oct. 2009.

In life there are many ways of expressing ourselves. Many people use sports, clothes, or even talking, but there is one form of expression that is found the most creative. This is known as art. The term “art” references many subgenres of the sort. There are so many things that can be considered art. More recently, film has been a huge influential art medium, which, in turn, came a bigger audience. Through film, the audience can be taken away on a long journey or learn about an ancient civilization, or laugh at nonsense, either way a message is getting a across and a response is occurring. This is what film and filmmaking is all about. There have been hundreds of filmmakers, over the last century, who have had their chance at reaching an audience and expressing themselves. Not saying all others have failed, but there are a select few names that stick out when the term “director” is heard. One of these few directors is Stanley Kubrick. It is amazing to see that, being a man who has had such an impact on the film industry, he is not as well known as some of the others. In a span of forty-six years, Kubrick was able to make thirteen films, all of which were acclaimed and some considered masterpieces and classics in the film industry. Kubrick has been known to take a film to the next level, providing a provocatively new approach with filming techniques as well as a huge breakthrough with editing techniques. Kubrick’s main goal for a movie was to have it have “a progression of moods and feelings.” (Sennett 140). This being said, how exactly did Kubrick revolutionize film?

The world of Stanley Kubrick’s films is not a place to go for certainty or consolation. It is a grim, cynical, and absurd world inhibited by either acquiescent victims or corrupt, passionately committed men of power. The humor stings, the images often startle in their disturbing force, it is a night mare world- not one of fire-breathing demons and devils but of faceless cogs devoid of feelings or aspirations, trapped in a desolate utopia. (140)

Stanley Kubrick was born in Manhattan on July 26 1928. He was raised and lived in the Bronx through most of his life. For his thirteenth birthday, his father bought him a Graflex camera, thus sparking his interest in photography. Kubrick would roam the city taking pictures of what he found interesting. While he was in the city, he frequented almost every film made during that time. He was known as an avid moviegoer and film-buff seeing every film from mainstream to low budget indie films.

Kubrick was first recognized, at the age of seventeen, by Look Magazine who published a picture of people looking in horror of the headlines of the current newspaper, which dealt with the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After this photo, he was soon given a job by then as a staff photographer. With his job, he was required a lot of traveling. It was with this traveling that he was inspired to go to college. While attending Columbia University, he still frequented the movie theaters. It was during this time, at the age of twenty-three, that he was influenced to self-produce and direct his first film. Day of the Fight was his homage to boxer Walter Cartier whom the sixteen-minute documentary was based. After his experience with this film, he quit his job at Look Magazine to pursue his career as a filmmaker. He then went on to make two more documentaries, The Flying Padre and The Seafarers, both of which were half hour running time.

It wasn’t until after his experiments with documentaries that he was able to raise enough money to finance his first film, Fear and Desire. Interestingly enough, “in later years Kubrick disowned this film calling it amateurish” (UXL Newsmakers 2). Kubrick then went on to make two more films, Killer’s Kiss and The Killing, both of which received little or no acclaim. The Killing, however, was “regarded as an above-average crime thriller, it is the film Kubrick himself reportedly considers the true beginning of his filmmaking career” (2).

After three films, Kubrick finally had a successful run with his next film, Paths of Glory. Its main success came from the attention drawn to the main actor, Kirk Douglas, who was a very well known and respected actor at the time. Paths of Glory went on to be known as “one of the best films ever made about the insanity of war” (2). Kubrick finally got his “break”, when the original director of the big-budget film Spartacus, was fired. Being that the main actor was, in fact, Kirk Douglas, he offered Kubrick the job. Luckily for Kubrick this film attracted much attention including that of the Academy. Unfortunately, Kubrick wasn’t as happy with the film as everyone else was, later claiming that he was “feeling as if he had had too little creative control” (2). This lead to him to the brink of almost completely disowning the film.

After Spartacus, Kubrick went on to make Lolita. This film was Kubrick’s first of many controversial films that he made. The film was based off of a Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same title. The story revolved around a forty-something year old man who obsessed and sexually infatuated with a fourteen-year old girl, who was in fact his stepdaughter. Due to the book’s detailed events, Kubrick was forced to cut a few scenes due to rating restrictions. This was the biggest disappointment of the film. Many people disliked the fact that he had to leave out a lot. The film did not do so well in theaters, but has since become a cult film (Nelson 56). Dr. Strangelove was Kubrick’s next film, which also became a cult classic. Dr. Strangelove showed us the hilarities of war, the military and political figures. The film also became famous due to the actor Peter Seller’s three roles, all of which were hilarious and acknowledged by the Academy. This film was one of the first “black” comedies (82).

Kubrick’s next movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered one of the best science fiction films ever made. It was with this film, where he truly experimented with editing. His visually stunning scenes, the music, and storyline all join together to create this mother load of a classic. The film, however, was not an immediate success. Most of its first fans were drawn to the psychedelic scenes and colors that were used. The movie was disclaimed due to its lack of dialogue, which in many people’s opinion to the true artistic point of the film. Kubrick believed that words were not needed and through his talent of capturing images, they were in fact not needed (103).

In 1971, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was finished. This film is considered Kubrick’s most controversial film due to it’s pessimistic view of the deranged and violent future run by adolescent gangs. Due to its content, it was given the rating of “X”, which led it to be one of the few films rated “X” to ever be considered for an Academy Award for Best Picture (136). The film became such a hit, that it was played in theaters in England for almost a year, but was soon removed due to several crimes that appeared to be influenced by the film (UXL Newsmaker 3).

Kubrick later made the film Barry Lyndon, which was quite different from his other works, partly because it took place in the eighteenth century. Many believed it to be an excessively detailed costume drama, however it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, which is the most awards a film of Kubrick’s has been nominated. What makes this film so unique is the fact that Kubrick used only natural light by candles, which was a new technique unheard of at that time.

It was in A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, that Kubrick really expressed his views of the world and human beings. Most of his message was understood from the film A Clockwork Orange. In the film, for example, Kubrick uses the theme of human nature. Part of the reason he wanted to make that film was because he agreed on the themes of the book. One common shared belief of both the author of the book, Anthony Burgess, and Kubrick was that “if inherent evil is denied… and relocated in an external function such as environment… definition of human nature becomes dangerously simplified and life morally empty.” (Nelson 138). According to Kubrick on the subject “it works on the premise that human freedom and dignity have become inconsistent with the survival of our civilization.” (140).

The only hope, and it is a slim one, is that man may someday fight to regain his lost humanity. Inevitably, this vision has made Kubrick one of the most original as well as controversial of film directors. On the one hand, he has been acclaimed as a unique artist with a brilliant visual style, and on the other he has been criticized as pretentious, cold, and brazenly self-indulgent. (Sennett 140)

Kubrick has had such an impact on the film industry that when talking about new talent, they would refer to him or her as “the new Kubrick”. This being said, being labeled as “the new Kubrick” comes with great responsibilities. So far, the only up and coming director that has been called this is Darren Aronosfsky. He is called this because of his unique talent to invent something pure and put it in a scene. He shares the same essence and talents that Kubrick had and showed. His films, with Kubrick’s share that “Kubrick’s films repeatedly dramatize the intersections of choice and contingency, and how each works on the other to produce a series of paradoxical ‘responses’” (Nelson141).

Stanley Kubrick died of a heart attack in 1999 directly after the completion of his last movie, Eyes Wide Shut. He was a man of few words, however when he did speak he showed us his ideas and wisdom. Kubrick was known to have said, “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” (Stanley Kubrick: The Master Filmmaker 1). He also expressed his view on the purpose of art:

I don’t think that writers or painters or filmmakers function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form; they like the words, or the smell of paint, or celluloid and photographic images and working with actors. I don’t think that any genuine artist has ever oriented by some didactic point of view, even if he thought he was. (1)

He also expressed his personal opinion of drugs, considering some of his films have been labeled as “psychedelic”.

I believe that drugs are basically of more of more use to the audience than to the artist. I think that the illusion of oneness with the universe, and absorption with the significance of every object in your environment, and the pervasive aura of peace and contentment is not the ideal state for an artist. It tranquilizes the creative personality, which thrives on conflict and on the clash and ferment of ideas. The artist’s transcendence must be within his own work; he should not impose any artificial barriers between himself and the mainspring of his subconscious. One of the things that’s turned me against LSD is that all the people I know who use it have a peculiar inability to distinguish between things that are really interesting and stimulating and things that appear to be so in the state of universal bliss that the drug induces on a “good” trip. They seem to completely lose their critical faculties and disengage themselves from some of the most stimulating areas of life. Perhaps when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful. (2)

In this life, it is not about what you do but rather how you leave your mark on the world. To Stanley Kubrick, he left his mark in the film industry forever. His films will hopefully be forever remembered and dissected and studied for a long time. Kubrick has influenced so many of the great filmmakers of today. With his vision of tomorrow, we saw today and through his vision we can all learn what it truly means to be an artist. “I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself” (2)

This paper was written in 2008.

Works Cited

1. “Stanley Kubrick.” UXL Newsmakers (2005) 10 Dec 2008


2. Sennett, Ted. Great Movie Directors. NY: Henry N. Abrams Inc., 1986.

Nelson, Thomas Allen. Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze. IN: Indiana

University Press, 2000

3. “Quotes.” Stanley Kubrick: The Master Filmmaker. 2006. 10 Dec 2008