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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Head Modelling 08 - Ear and Neck

I'm making further (and much faster) progress today, completing the ear and neck tutorial. Just about to move on to the next stage! 



Friday, 30 December 2016

Head Modelling 07 - Brow

The brow tutorial was a tricky one to nail, but I've got close enough to being happy with the result without tinkering madly all night. 

I'm enjoying this process, there's something oddly mesmeric about it. Making sure everything is arranged and spread out. 

Next, on to the neck! 



Head Modelling 06 - Nose

I've made pretty good progress with the head modelling tutorials today, managing to finish the remainder of the eye tutorial and also finish the nose tutorial. Next is the brow, which I'm aiming to finish tomorrow, along with the ear/neck videos. 








Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Head Modelling 05 - Eye Progress

Moving forwards with the head tutorial today, I've nearly completed the eye portion, readying to move onto the nose tutorial. 





Thursday, 22 December 2016

"Naked Gun" - Comedy - A review.

Fig 1. Film Poster
"The Naked Gun" (1988) dir. David Zucker is the filmic reimagining of "Police Squad!" (1982) centers on Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) and the eponymous 'Police Squad' as they investigate a culminating plot to kill the Queen of England. This madcap and often racy comedy is submerged wholeheartedly in comedy brought on by incongruity. A film that plays on our fixed expectations of people's behaviour for comedic effect.

Well regarded as it is, with 4 out of 5 from Roger Ebert, himself saying "You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing. Some of the jokes are incredibly stupid. Most of them are dumber than dumb. Yet this is not simply a string of one-liners." (Ebert, 1988) Naked Gun isn't merely a vehicle for dumb jokes, in fact much of its humor is dry, and at odds with the stupidity on display. In a dedication to Leslie Nielsen after his death in 2010, Catherine Shoard, writing for the Guardian, says, "It's easy these days to reflect on the films as pure slapstick, but they set out their political stall as take-no-prisoners satires right from the opening" (Shoard, 2010). It's a strange mix, indeed, splicing the irreverent with the mildly satirical for uneven and ultimately unclassifiable mix.

Fig 2. Frank Drebin
But what exactly is it that makes "The Naked Gun" funny?

Continuing along the same vein of madcap comedy established in Zucker's previous film "Airplane!" (1980), The Naked Gun is a somewhat irreverent beast that fires jokes at such a fervent pace it's easy for some to get lost in the mix. The real magic here is Nielsen himself, as he and his character deadpan their way through the entire movie, often at odds with the manic and relentless events surrounding not only Drebin, but his colleagues too, it is in the deliberacy of the characters inability to see the stupidity at play that generates a large amount of comedy. An example is when Drebin's colleague 'Nordberg' (played by O.J. Simpson) is injured (after being shot multiple times in the films opening) and in a hospital bed, Drebin is consoling Nordberg's wife and asks his other colleague - and main foil for the rest of the movie - 'Capt. Ed Hocken' (George Kennedy), if any of his men were on the case. Ed proclaims that his men are spread too thin because of the ensuing visit of the Queen of England, and Drebin promises Nordberg's wife that none of them will rest until Nordberg's attackers were brought to justice, before swiftly exclaiming "Now let's get lunch".

Of course, as fondly remembered as the film itself is, it for Nielsen, his "role of Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun is the best performance by the comedy star. The partnership of David & Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams - also known as ZAZ - resulted in some of the greatest comedy movies of the 1980€™s" (Leigh, 2011) Nielsen showcased a paticular style of acting that he mined until his death in 2010, starring as a patchwork of the same character again and again in a vast array of 'spoof movies' up until that time. But it all traced back to "The Naked Gun", and personally, that is what I remember him most fonly for.

There is a large amount of slapstick comedy at play too, and it continues in with the same 'daftness' that permeates the dialogue. Over-the-top like the masters of old, Drebin goes from shooting at his own car as it rolls down a hill, hanging from the edge of a building by a concrete phallus to (which I imagine to be a twisted homage to Harold Lloyd in "Safety Last" (1923), at least stylistically), in absolute futile, telling a crowd of onlookers that "there's nothing to see here" whilst a fireworks factory blows up behind him. But these are mere moments in a film packed with hundreds of them, to the point where I still discover more and more background jokes, missed offhand lines and other pieces in this multi-faceted exercise in daft-escalation.

Fig 3. Jane and the pot roast

Drebin's interplay with Jane (Priscilla Presley) makes for some of the most self aware and prescriptively bonkers moments though, especially as the two begin to fall for each other, which is when the viewer realises that they should perhaps give up trying to make sense of what they're seeing and 'go with it'. It plays as a music video just after the couple have had 'safe sex' wearing human sized condoms. It features slow motion shots of them running hand in hand, intercut with them throwing a beach ball to each other until Drebin is felled by a larger ball as Jane reaches for the original one. Shots of them getting candy-floss and getting matching loveheart tattoo's whilst laughing maniacally in each others faces. The two then get hotdogs and end up covering themselves and their server in sauce, and then the two enter...a rodeo?  Accompanying this is the ever so gleeful tones of "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits and If this is beginning to sound uber-cheesy then the penny has dropped. The montage ends on the couple leaving a showing of "Platoon" in hysterics and a finishes the shot of them running on the beach by having them 'clothesline' another couple. If it wasn't enough, they decide to ram home the lunacy of the situation when Jane says "we've had a beautiful day, I can't believe we just met yesterday".

If I had to pick an absolute favorite scene to breakdown, it'd have to be the scene where Frank Drebin returns home from Beirut, stepping off the plane to an impromptu press conference Drebin mistakenly believes is for him. In actuality it's for Weird Al' Yankovic (who, strangely, has many cameos throughout the trilogy), but Drebin begins to unload on an unsuspecting press junket about his sorry life, lamenting over a recent breakup and in general, being pathetic. It is only then that his colleague Ed lets him know that the press aren't there for him, to which Nielsen replies, as you'll grow used to by the end of this movie, with a look of dumbfoundment, and a simple "oh".

This is a film that moves so fast, and fires so many jokes that it's possible to get lost in the mix, but it's also in the characters inability to realise their own ineptitude where the comedy is really generated. These are weird people, getting into weird situations and still, against all logic, coming out on top. The Naked Gun is my absolute favorite comedy movie, one that I come back to every year because it still makes me laugh.

Bibliography

Ebert, Roger. (1988) "The Naked Gun". Rogerebert.com [online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-naked-gun-1988 [Accessed 22/12/16]

Leigh, Stephen. (2011) "Blu-ray Review: THE NAKED GUN - Nice Beaver, Shame About The Blu-ray!". Whatculture.com [online] At: http://whatculture.com/film/blu-ray-review-the-naked-gun-nice-beaver-shame-about-the-blu-ray [Accessed 22/12/16]

Shroad, Catherine. (2010) "Leslie Nielsen: A Career in Clips". theguardian.com [online] At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2010/nov/29/leslie-nielsen-career-clips [Accessed 22/12/16]

Illustrations

Fig 1. Film Poster [image] At: http://1125996089.rsc.cdn77.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/the_naked_gun_from_the_files_of_police_squad.jpg [Accessed 22/12/16]

Fig 2. Frank Drebin. [image] At: http://static.srcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Naked-Gun-Reboot-Movie-Paramount-2014.jpg [Accessed 22/12/16]

Fig 3. Jane and the pot roast. [image] At: http://1125996089.rsc.cdn77.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/the-naked-gun.jpg [Accessed 22/12/16]


Friday, 16 December 2016

"Westworld" (2016) - Adaptation - A review.


Fig 1. Westworld Poster

*spoiler warning - Mild spoilers, don't read any further if you want to watch Westworld unspoiled.

"Westworld"
 (2016) produced for HBO by J.J. Abrams and created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, based on the 1973 film on the same name, written by famed author Michael Crichton. Westworld centers on the titular theme park that enables its visitors free reign within a the safe confines that serve as a perfect recreation of the "Wild West". Part re-enactment, part simulation, part alternate reality, amongst the visitors are the 'hosts', robotic actors that serve to maintain the narrative of the park, and sell its authenticity. It's guests are encouraged to 'find themselves' within Westworld which, by and large, means treating the hosts however you so wish, often ending in graphic or sexual violence as the guests embrace their darker sides. Westworld is a hedonistic kingdom that's just 'asking for it', and as the Hosts begin to awaken to some form of sentience, the fall of the indulgent cavalcade of pleasures that is Westworld, is set in motion.

Keeping spoilers to as minimum as possible as the show is so recent, there is much to be said of TV shows being upscaled to films, but it is certainly a newer trend, bolstered by the likes of Netflix and Amazon Instant that sees films being remade and rethought as TV shows. To name a few, "From Dusk Till Dawn" (2014), "Limitless" (2015) etc. Adapting the shorter narratives of a film which, averagely hover over the 2 hour mark, into much longer form shows means having to change the formula around as there is more time to devote to character development, sub-plots and "Maybe that’s why it seems much easier to adapt other works for TV. Why start from scratch when you can adapt another property, with all of the heavy lifting done already and a fan base already built in?" (Harley & Longo, 2016)  In adapting Westworld from the original film, changes had to be made to adhere to this much longer form of narrative, and as such, things became much more 'fleshed out' as a result.

Fig 2. Gunslinger (1973)
When considering this further, in particular the expansion of the narrative, Kelly Konda writing for weminoredinfilm.com says "the original film’s premise is entirely predicated upon the surprise of the androids turning evil and the brief disconnect between how much the audiences knows vs. how comparatively little the two protagonists know. So, one would guess that a TV show version would have to be about more than just a simple futuristic amusement park run amok with murderous androids." (Konda, 2016) and indeed, they have expanded on this in interesting ways. Namely, by exploiting audience expectations based on tropes typified in the original Westworld (1973). Even for the most ignorant, Westworld is part of the cultural zeitgeist, and even the most unaware would be familiar with 'The Gunslinger' or at least the concept of Westworld as it was successfully lampooned in and episode of "The Simpsons" (1989) called "Itchy and Scratchy Land" (1994). The 'Gunslinger/Man in Black' may not have been considered a trope to begin with, but it does seem quite clear that Ed Harris's current take on the role is a clear throwback to Yul Brynner's terrifying take on the Gunslinger character, and as such, there are certain expectations in place, certain codas that make the audience feel a certain way towards a character. And when it is revealed over the course of the series, that his character is in fact human, it shows Nolan and Joy's ethos behind the adaptation clearly. Forget everything you think you know about Westworld

This is of course true for other characters in the show, Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) is a riff on Majel Barrett's "Miss Carrie" in the 1973, and there's even a cameo from Yul Brynner's Gunslinger in the background of a scene in a later episode of the show. Setting up the cursory idea that perhaps Westworld (2016) isn't an adaptation at all? But perhaps a sequel to the 1973 original, though this has been denied by showrunners as just being a nod of respect to the original.

Fig 3. Miss Carrie & Thandie Newton (Maeve)

In many ways, the TV show plays exactly like its filmic forbear, albeit at a much slower pace, allowing for increased depth in both character complexity and audience participation in the meta-investigation that occurred during the first seasons lifetime. Though there are many more instances where expectations are subverted in absolutely captivating fashion. And it is within this that the crux of the series is really found. Everything else is an addition, the fractured timelines, seemingly disparate characters and the much more developed narrative of the Hosts and their creator, Robert Ford (played here by Anthony Hopkins) developing sentience and their difficult struggle against the - oft depicted as more machine than man - guests/park officials. They are very much inspired by video game culture and tropes as much as tropes of the Western. It's creators likening the hosts to NPC's (being stuck in endless loops), and praising Crichton for the forward thinking narrative of the original when considering the cyclical nature of video games. "In the show, day after day, Westworld’s hosts wander in preordained narrative “loops,” which the park’s guests are free to unsettle, join, or terminate at their leisure. Joy told me that the moment they began pondering what a revamped “Westworld” could do, “I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It seemed to be at the nexus of a bunch of ideas that we were interested in.” Nolan agreed: “We got stuck in a loop—our own loop—" (Bissel, 2016) And of course, these are all additions to the original narrative of the 1973 original, servicing to bolster the contemporary nature of the show to make it relevant to modern society and worries over future technology.

Fig 4. 3D Printed 'Man'
It is interesting to consider the idea of adaptation when considering the way in which Westworld was made, it's very artiface coming from previous shows and films utilising the same barebones set over again. "Much of “Westworld” is filmed in the dusty confines of Melody Ranch, which was established in 1915, making it one of the oldest studios in the world. It provided the backdrop for numerous episodes of “Gunsmoke,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” and “The Lone Ranger.” For many years, Gene Autry owned the venue, which was burned to the ground by a wildfire in 1962. In recent years, Quentin Tarantino shot portions of “Django Unchained” in the town saloon, and the set’s rows of bespoke little buildings were transformed into the eponymous town of a show now doomed to be regarded by many as HBO’s second-greatest western." (Bissel, 2016) Which fits narratively, as Westworld itself is a patchwork amalgam of the entire archetype of the 'Western', so in a way, Westworld is not only an adaptation of its own material, but it also cannibalises much of the legacy of other famous Westerns in order to build on its own narrative. In a sense it is "a town calculatedly built to look like it had been calculatedly built" (Bissel, 2016) which certainly adds to a degree of self awareness, echoing the point of the narrative. If the idea of artificiality is so interwoven into the premise of Westworld then the knowledge that the sets have such history is another layer of importance interwoven in the visual story at play. In a sense, Westworld is as much an adaptation of itself as it is the 'west' in general. 

Westworld (2016) is a bold new show, complex in its narrative and stark portrayal of violence, packed with stellar performances from its title cast. Using the basic outline of what made the original film so striking, and delving into far more contemporary territories in doing so. In deconstructing and then rebuilding what Westworld 'is' writers Nolan and Joy have produced an absolutely relevant examination on narrative as a whole, the pomp of humanity and the notion of finding the 'real' and authentic. In focusing on that sense of the 'interactive narrative' in both the basic set-up of the park where humans find their true 'selves' in a completely fabricated environment, and in the nature of it's roots within video games themselves. Westworld has become more than itself. What it does, it does well, particularly at making such a complex plot bursting with philosophical debate on what defines one's existence as authentic. In that sense it's a surprise that it has been such a mainstream success for the worry of it becoming a bit too 'heady'. But the joy of it really is that it can also be enjoyed on a baser level as high quality drama, as the machinations of the park and what it represents to humanity inevitably, slowly and surely come to a halt.

Bibliography

Bissel, Tom. (2016) "On the ranch with the creators of Westworld" Newyorker.com [Online] At:
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/on-the-ranch-with-the-creators-of-westworld [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Konda, Kelly. (2013) "J.J. Abrams & Jonathan Nolan Adapting Westworld Into a TV Show at HBO. Wait, What?" Weminoredinfilm.com [Online] At:
https://weminoredinfilm.com/2013/08/30/j-j-abrams-jonathan-nolan-adapting-westworld-into-a-tv-show-at-hbo-wait-what/ [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Harley, Nick & Longo, Chris. (2016) "37 Movies Being Adapted For TV" Denofgeek.com [Online] At: http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/movies-adapted-for-tv/240179/37-movies-being-adapted-for-tv [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Illustrations

Fig 1. Westworld Poster [image] At: http://assets1.ignimgs.com/2016/09/01/1274080mktpawestworlds1keyartpov1jpg-42cbc1_765w.jpg [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Fig 2. Gunslinger (1973) [image] At: http://img.wennermedia.com/article-leads-horizontal/rs-175761-HTRA153_VV297_H.jpg [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Fig 3. Miss Carrie & Thandie Newton (Maeve) [image] At: http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2016/10/12/violent-delight-reviewing-westworld-1973/majel-barrett-in-westworld-vs-thandie-newton-in-chronicles-of-riddick-650x432 [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Fig 4. 3D Printed 'Man' [image] At: http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/westworld-tv-series-image.jpg [Accessed on 16/12/2016]

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Narrative - Reflective Statement

Looking back on the last three months it seems apropos to acknowledge the difficulty presented in navigating the pitfalls of group work. Focusing on the positives is the theme here though, and I'm glad to say I feel as if my confidence in myself has been bolstered. I feel as if I have improved on my somewhat 'stop/start' approach to work. But on the whole the pacing, and my pace within the project never faltered. I feel that my own performance in the group marked an improvement on disciplines I had begun to cultivate in the first year, and afforded me a certain sense of progression in terms of my maya skills. I am particularly proud of my rigging and skinning work in this project, since it was the first time I really started to problem solve, with the various and at the time disparate skills learned from the tutorials and from speaking with Alan.

It's been a fruitful experience and further hit home the difficulty of transporting concept art into assets within Maya, developed my skills in writing and visual storytelling - as initially I strived to be almost too literal in the direction I was going - so I'm happy to have produced something with an air of subtlety about it. And essentially, 'making it work' and seeing it come together in the final few weeks has been gratifying, and made the effort expended entirely worth it.

I've always been the sort that has focused on what I can learn from any situation, good or bad, how I can broaden my own skillset from it etc. And I can definitively say that the challenges and successes of this term have given me a lot to reflect upon going forwards.

I'm disappointed that the film remains unfinished as of yet, but I'm confident that the process of getting it to its current state has been a valuable enough experience.

Onwards, right?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

"My Scientology Movie" (2015) - Documentary - A review.

Fig 1.
"My Scientology Movie" (2015) dir. John Dower, Written by and starring Louis Theroux, centers on Theroux's continued efforts to dismantle the shroud of secrecy behind the pseudo-religion, Scientology. Teaming up with disgraced Scientologist 'elite' Mark Rathbun, Theroux sets up a 'film-within-a-film' in order to dramatize key events in Scientology history, with additional information and scenarios supplied by Rathbun himself.

This movie is an example of the 'Reflexive' documentary. Continuing the trend established in the offbeat documentaries, "Weird Weekends"(1998) centering on various marginal subcultures; touching upon Neo Nazis, Swingers, Wrestlers and a slew of other underground movements. Of these efforts, Trent Griffiths, writing for mediacommons.futureofthebook.org, denotes keenly that "Theroux’s presence is overwhelmingly performative in the sense Stella Bruzzi describes – alienating the viewer from direct identification and deflecting engagement back onto the issues and social actors being considered, rather than encouraging empathy with his own experience. In other words, identification with Theroux’s experience as a subject is resisted by his self-conscious performance of “being a filmmaker”. (Griffiths, 2013) Theroux is much the foil in his own documentaries, becoming a mirror for subjects to expose themselves to the world. He is famously stoic and non-judgemental in his interviews which creates trust between both he and his subjects, lending an unpresented verisimilitude and authenticity to his works.

Fig 2.
There is a key difference in this latest documentary, and it is that, due to the nature of the aforementioned 'film-within-a-film', the documentary takes on a far more antagonistic mantra. Perhaps because the only way to glean any gratifying evidence of the strange behaviour displayed by the various members of the Church of Scientology is to goad them into action. And this indeed happens at various moments in the film, wherein Theroux paces about the perimeter of the secretive Gold Base facility.

This somewhat detracts from Theroux's usual method, however, there is a double bluff at play, for it dawns upon Theroux and then the viewer that the person feeding them the information regarding Scientology, Rathbun, might be less than sincere in his motives to help with the film. This double standard is highlighted by Rosa Simonet, she says of Rathbun, "Though he is arguably the backbone of the documentary, Rathbun’s spiky and unpredictable character holds back the investigation. At one point he calls himself “the baddest ass dude in Scientology,” but later is on the defensive when Theroux presses him for information, asking him about the abuse he may have committed himself." (Simonet, 2016) It certainly seems as though Theroux is seeking to explore both sides of the Scientology coin, turning the mirror not only on the Church itself, but on the disgraced Rathbun, whose behaviour becomes more and more erratic as the documentary progresses.

Fig 3.
There are further hints at the reflexive nature of this documentary in the way it was conducted "The brilliant idea by Theroux and director John Dower – to let the Scientologists pursue them instead of the other way around – proved a highly successful gamble." (Alexander, 2016) once again recalling the style across Theroux's large catalogue of films, albeit in a much higher gambit, displaying the ingenious ways that Theroux simply allows his subjects to 'put their foot in it'.

Suffering middling reviews, it certainly seems as though the events captured in the documentary simply weren't explosive or gratifying enough for audiences to enjoy, though there are moments of palpable brilliance - particularly in the portrayal of David Miscavige - a large amount of the documentary falls on the subtlety of the interplay between Theroux and Rathbun and the immense feeling of ambiguity at the films close.


Bibliography

Alexander, Neta "A camera standoff with Scientology". [online] Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/culture/.premium-1.720502 [Accessed 03/12/2016]

Griffiths, Trent "The Filmmaker Stripped Bare: Louis and the Nazis" [online] Available at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2013/01/29/filmmaker-stripped-bare-louis-and-nazis [Accessed 03/12/2016]

Simonet, Rosa "Even though they're not letting me in I'm going to make a film anyway". [online] Available at: http://mancunion.com/2016/10/17/even-though-theyre-not-letting-me-in-im-going-to-make-a-film-anyway-louis-therouxs-my-scientology-movie/ [Accessed on 03/12/2016]

Illustrations

Fig 1. My Scientology Movie Poster [image] Available at: http://empireonline.media/jpg/70/0/0/1280/960/aspectfit/0/0/0/0/0/0/c/articles/57e56a4e0c6437272f5f7cc1/MSM%2520Quad%2520Louis%2520Photo%254050%2525%255b2%255d.jpg [Accessed on 02/12/2016]

Fig 2. Louis Theroux. [image] Available at: http://static.rogerebert.com/redactor_assets/pictures/5714ff4c9df9c71c2400003a/My-Scientology-Movie-Tribeca-2016.jpg [Accessed on 03/12/2016]

Fig 3. Louis and Mark. [image] Available at: http://mcurl.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/louis_theroux_my_scientology_movie_10000261_st_1_s-high.jpg [Accessed on 03/12/2016]

Thursday, 1 December 2016

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) - Exploitation Cinema - A review.

Fig 1.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) dir. George Millar depicts the ongoing trials of "Max Rockatansky", this time played by Tom Hardy. An ex-transport cop struggling to survive himself, starvation and mad road gangs in a fuel crisis induced post apocalyptic wasteland. A franchise born in a wave of "Ozploitation" films, with pretensions of greatness beyond its own genre.

Fury Road bares the hallmark of early exploitation cinema, stark violence, depraved characters and sex. This time around however, the formula is evolved by splicing in progressive gender politics, all the while still succeeding in sporting the original characteristics of exploitation cinema, where women were less at the forefront of the narrative and instead objectified. Elizabeth King, guest writing for btchflicks.com muses that "Hallmarks of a typical action movie are scenes and characters that include violence, destruction, bulging muscles, fire, fast cars, and attractive (but mostly irrelevant to the plot) women" (King, 2015) Here, instead of being an aside, a titillation designed to get bums in seats, they form the basis of the narrative. As much as Mad Max owes to exploitation and Ozploitation cinema, Noah Berlatsky argues that "Fury Road hasn’t generally been thought of as a WIP film. But much of it has been lifted directly from that genre. The whole movie is organised around a prison escape. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is freeing a group of women from sex slavery at the hands of the evil patriarch Immortan Joe (Berlatsky, 2015) It can be seen that Fury Road is a film that plays out on multiple stages; superficially as a straight action movie or much deeper, a reflection of the complicated gender politics at play in contemporary culture.  

It is interesting to consider, that Max isn't really the main character here. Instead, Furiosa takes the lead, literally driving the plot forward and providing the most in terms of character moments/building. Max was anything but a hero in the previous three films, but Fury Road sends a clear message, Max isn't your hero at all

Down that particular vein a few observations can be made, firstly, all of the villains are men, and all of them hypermasculine in some shape or form. "But this is, in large part, the beauty of the film. Fury Road delivers all the high speed vehicles, bloodthirsty men, car chases, and explosions we want and expect in action movies, but these images are intentionally presented in such an extreme manner, rendering them absurd" (King, 2015) It is with this egregious and gratuitos chest beating that exploitation cinema itself is critiqued, and the nuanced way in which this is done, "the audience can’t help but have their exhilaration filtered through criticism" (King, 2015).

Fig 2.
This time around, Max is the foil for this narrative, the witness if you will. His masculinity is displayed in a far more stoic and downplayed manor, he is far more cooperative and level headed when helping Furiosa, plunging our headspace firmly in a meta discussion over gender roles and the efficacy of the male. In fact, Max spends the a quarter of the movie chained up by the 'War Boys', showing that he himself is at mercy to the crazed barbarity of the hypermasculine horde. In some ways, the narrative is a gentle reminder to those with the right mindset, that the genders can work together and be of benefit to each other, this notion is hit home with the parting shot between Max and Furiosa.

Fig 3.
Of the narrative, It can be said that there isn't much at play here. The film speeds by in a ceaseless charge, sticking well and truly to the mold of its forebears, playing out as an action driven thrill ride through the wasteland. Writing for CinemaScope.com, Christopher Huber comments that "The action also drives the story, its arc an absurd, adrenaline-boosting, back-and-forth movement in search of a fabled matriarchal idyll, punctuated by little pockets of breathing space" (Huber, 2015) And indeed, this relentlessness makes for an incredibly efficient and taught viewing experience, whilst also firmly placing it within the exploitation genre.

Ultimately Fury Road is a work of metafiction, reflecting on tropes inherent in exploitation cinema and repurposing them into a thoughtfully written and effective teardown of the male dominated scene of exploitation cinema. It is also a well crafted action movie that can paradoxically be enjoyed for all of the tropes it seeks to make light of.

Bibliography

Berlatsky, Noah "Mad Max: Fury Road is less radical than its B-movie influences" [online]
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/26/mad-max-fury-road-less-radical-exploitation-influences [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Hubert, Christopher "Mad Max: Fury Road" [online] http://cinema-scope.com/currency/mad-max-fury-road-george-miller-australiaus/ [Accessed 01/12/2016]

King, Elizabeth "Mad Max: Fury Road’ Allows Audiences to Both Enjoy and Problematize Hypermasculinity" [online] http://www.btchflcks.com/2015/06/mad-max-fury-road-allows-audiences-to-both-enjoy-and-problematize-hypermasculinity.html#.WDTn-_mLSHt [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Illustrations

Fig 1. Mad Max: Fury Road Poster. [image] Available at: http://sushibomb.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MAD_MAX_1080x608_GooglePlus_Cover_Main_4R1.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Fig 2. Immortan Joe. [image] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/film/mad-max-fury-road/mad-max-immortan-joe-xlarge.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Fig 3. Max in chains. [image] Available at: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/hEJnMQG9ev8/maxresdefault.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Lip Sync Progress - Generi_Rig


Just a quick update on Generi_Rig lip sync. It's a marvel how it slowly comes together, I'm having quite a lot of fun with this.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Character - Frasier development


Quick update on "Frasier", the hero of my character project. I've played around with hand shapes, eyes, noses and ears just to further refine and hone the design. Justin has seen these and suggested I flatten the face a bit as currently it is too squished and pointed upwards. So my task for tonight is to fix that :)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Miki Animation Test

Thought I'd play about with a portion of the rig I created over the weekend. Improvements still need to be made to the eyes in particular, I'll use the method outlined in the Poma series of tutorials to better ensure greater control over Miki's face as it seems a bit manic at the moment. But otherwise, it's nice to see him moving!

 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" (1953) - B-Movie Qualities - A review.

Fig 1.
Produced by Warner Brothers in the decade that gave us “The Blob” (1958). “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” (1953) dir. Eugène Lourié, concerns the growing mystery around the ancient Rhedosaurus, a beast that is suddenly released from its frozen sleep by an atomic bomb test in the arctic circle and journeys south to its original spawning grounds, where New York City now stands in its way. In terms of consideration of its qualities as a “B-Movie”, this is most definitely a part of that definition; “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” is an action driven science fiction film that features giant dinosaurs, stock characters and tropes, so - what could be argued to form the bread and butter of “B”.

Top billed performances include Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway and Lee Van Cleef, and for the most part their work is commendable, and in terms of believability it’s actually quite surprisingly sold well, though, with the exception of Van Cleef (who at the time wasn’t a household name - with only a few roles to his name) the other actors are all relatively small time, or jobbing actors like Kellaway, who had racked up 148 acting credits in his lifetime, so it’s possibly fair to posit him as a sort of “jobbing” actor. None of them particularly stand out as such, but that also means that none of them are particularly bad - except whenever a character shoots a gun, as, when it occurs - and it does frequently towards the end of the movie - it is incredibly unconvincing.

With monster effects supplied by Ray Harryhausen, and serving as a partial inspiration for some elements that would appear in the 1954 film “Gojira” - arguably one of the most well known amongst the monster movie, and later the “Kaiju” sub-genre - Writing for FernbyFilms.com, Rodney Twelftree says “As a modern viewer of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, the film ticks every single box in the template its descendents have followed ever since. The disbelieving science and military community, the gradual revelation that something is coming into contact with humanity, the precise and convoluted manner in which the creature needs to be destroyed, and of course the square-jawed hero and his female assistant” (Twelftree, 2016). To comment on this films use of tropes is a little difficult, especially when keeping the thought of it being a precursor to a certain sub-genre. Indeed, all of the elements at play here are now considered tropes, the use of Atomic power to explain the emergence of the beast (as later seen in Gojira) the idea that the beast must be studied for science, the forensic gaze given to the beast’s level of destruction and the uncertain nature (or “Adaptive Villainy”) of the Beast is something of a throwback to earlier features like “King Kong” (1933).

Fig 2.
In terms of quality, the tone is well and truly set here when the Narrator introduces us to the occurrence that kicks the entire movie off, codenamed “Operation Experiment”, but it is certainly diminutive to its overall charms to say that this level of goofiness/playfulness is present throughout. The elements that define “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” as a “B-Movie” are the general areas where corners have been cut. There’s a flimsiness around some of the visual elements at play here, towards the beginning of the film we're treated to a Chuckle Brother-esque doll effect, wherein a character falls down a hole and lands with a solid yet unconvincing thud, and with regards to the use of stock footage that seems as though it’s there just to pad out the run-time. For instance, there’s a fight between a shark and an octopus that is incongruous to the overall narrative at play. In fact, it’s never really addressed at all before or after, but importance has been placed on this moment by giving it focus. Within this very segment footage is looped back on itself, shots are repeated and in general, it’s very ropey. In addition to this, there are some very obvious uses of miniatures; again, in the underwater sequence preceding the shark/octopus fight, the diving bell and its surroundings are starkly at odds with the overall quality of the picture. There are also elements of the dialogue that ramp up the cheesiness here, with particular devotion to the explanation of atomic power at the start of the film, in order to sell the conceit that the beast itself is poisonous - much later on.

There is, however, the obvious spectacle, driven by Harryhausen’s work on the Rhedosaurus, which is as strong here as in his later work on “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963). It is the definite highlight of the piece as he employs his strength at applying pathos to these large creatures. Interestingly, this creates a gulf between the quality of these effects, and ones employed within live action footage, but for the most part the two camps play nice and mesh well together.

The pacing is well trodden and plotted as the monster is effectively saved for key moments of the film; showing a less bombastic use of the movie monster, and ultimately saving this film from mediocrity. It’s this sensitivity that elevates the material and cements “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” as a good example of the genre as a whole. It might feel very “old hat” to a modern viewer but this is simply because you’ve seen variations of this in every subsequent giant monster movie since. Take “Cloverfield” (2008) for instance, in the most basic description the monster comes from the sea and attacks New York. It’s motives are just as obscure as the beast in 20,000 Fathoms, and just as in “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”, the monster is destroyed by nuclear power.

Fig 3.
You can of course see similarities between “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” and Gojira” as they’re practically the same film, with a key difference in the importance of the political message included in Gojira. It goes further than this though, as Tom Roberts, writing for StarburstMagazine.com suggests “The use of New York as an iconic location was pioneered by King Kong (1933). Indeed, with all features on monster films, it’s impossible not to trace an awful lot back to Kong. With The Beast, however, there are certain shots which have then been echoed - the Rhedosaurus climbing out of the river, and walking the streets in broad daylight are all almost shot-for-shot used in 1998’s Godzilla.” (Roberts, 2012) “Cloverfield” is perhaps the most direct comparison there is though, as the movie signposts this with the constant reference to Coney Island (where the finale of 20,000 Fathoms takes place) and even going so far as to include a frame of the beast around the midpoint of the movie when another Coney Island reference is made.

Needless to say, it’s incredibly easy to spot the influence of “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” on the genre as a whole. It is most certainly a “B-Movie”, but definitively of the “B-Movie” elite, an example of film that has long reaching influence on the way monster movies have been produced since its release. Characteristically ropey in a few places, pantomime-esque in others, it presents an odd charm that is easy to overlook for the cynical eye.

Bibliography

Roberts, Tom "The Legend of Harryhausen's Beast" [online] http://www.starburstmagazine.com/features/feature-articles/2206-the-legend-of-harryhausens-beast [Accessed 06/11/2016]

Twelftree, Rodney "Movie Review – Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The" [online] http://www.fernbyfilms.com/2016/08/08/movie-review-beast-from-20000-fathoms-the/ [Accessed 06/11/2016]

Illustrations


Fig 1. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms Poster. [image] Available at: http://www.impawards.com/1953/posters/beast_from_twenty_thousand_fathoms_xlg.jpg [Accessed 06/11/2016]

Fig 2. The Beast and the Lighthouse. [image] Available at: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-MUrwCddfnss/UbXZRXwM5GI/AAAAAAAADgs/KvbKJAYo2F0/s1600/The+Beast+from+20,000+Fathoms+light+house.jpg [Accessed 06/11/2016]

Fig 3. The Beast on Coney Island. [image] Available at: http://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2015/10/28/High-Def_Digest_Blu-ray_Beast_From_20000_Fathoms_Special_Features_Collection_4.jpg [Accessed 06/11/2016]

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Maya - Max Update


Here with another quick update of Max doing his dance. I think It's getting closer to feeling more natural - if a little over exaggerated in places - but I'm definitely getting more confident in my ability to convey weight and the addition of subtle overlapping animation.

Character Sessions - Week 4

Week 4's Character session with Justin saw us tasked with creating 3 characters within a setting. I was assigned the western (there's a theme here...) and went at creating the characters making sure to utilize shape to convey whether a character is a hero/villain or something else. 


I eventually came up with a heroic Native American Sheriff, replete with a mix-up between clothes you would normally associate with a Sheriff and that of a more traditional flavor. I then created the Villain of this world, which became a matriarch-like saloon girl, slightly older, who runs business in the town through her saloon, keeping officials in check with bribery and fear. The third character is that of the "Outlaw" - with a bit of a twist, as it's purely just a young boy, feral from growing up in the wild, still innocent, but definitely scrappy. 

Maya - Flamenco Max Progress

Truth be told, animating Max has proven difficult for me, so I've spent extra time on him during reading week in order to fully get to grips with the principles of animating him. Working on the transition between just one of his poses, I've included hold frames as well as secondary animation in the arms, COG control and legs in order to add a sense of weight to Max as he runs through the action. I've also aimed to get the timing of the actions correct too, as this wasn't working up to this point.



I'll continue working on Max in the downtime between Character work (which I'll be posting over the weekend) and Narrative project work.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Character Work - Update - Week 3

So it's clear that I've been a bit lax on updating my character work on Troma Corp, to go a long way to remedying this I've collated each weeks character workshop tasks into separate posts. Here's the first, detailing week 3's task. 

I was assigned the characteristics of "Jack Sparrow" and "Ninja" with which to make a character from. I ended up with a kind of drunk ninja that relies on clumsy luck, one who isn't at all stealthy and as such, values ornamentation and flamboyance over stealth. 



Monday, 24 October 2016

Maya Tutorials - Head Modelling Progress


I've begun work on the Head modelling tutorials, it's pretty tricky stuff indeed, but I'm happy with the results I'm getting as I work through each segment. Here's my progress so far!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

"Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade" (1989) - Character & the Father/Son dynamic - A review.

Fig 1.


Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” (1989) dir. Steven Spielberg is the third outing of the popular film franchise starring Harrison Ford as Dr. Henry (Indiana) Jones, Jr. An Archaeologist, teacher and on occasion, foiler of Nazi plots to rule humanity through the use of religious artefacts containing untold power. He’s helped Aliens too, but that’s something not often spoken about. In this particular yarn Indiana Jones learns of the disappearance of his father, a distant man with an obsession on the holy grail who is forced into helping Nazi’s seek out the grail for nefarious reasons. Though the main focus here is in showcasing the extremely fractured relationship Indy has with his father, and further, knowingly parading their similar natures to the audience for some interesting and effective comedic moments. After all, it’s not all grim on a race to stop the Nazi’s from finding the grail.


In talking about the characters within this third outing, examples will be made by focusing on Indiana Jones himself, and his father, Henry Jones Sr. To start, it would be pertinent to mention the broken family dynamics at play here. There is untold resentment between the two characters from the offset, and indeed, throughout the first half hour of the film the audience doesn’t see Jones Sr. though his presence looms over Indy from the offset.

Fig 2.

In describing Indy’s personal history - including events in “Temple of Doom” (1984) & “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” (1981) - At this point in the series of films, Indiana Jones is in his late thirties, and, one can assume from his good standing at his job and the general acceptance that he is well liked amongst his colleagues that his social life is good, though with the addition of the prologue segment of the film detailing one of Indy’s first adventures as a 13 year old boy we learn that his relationship with his father is strained to say the least. The main experiences that define his existence at this point in life are his interactions at work as a teacher, his friendship with Marcus Brody and his occasional work for the museum sourcing artefacts. His achievements, listed, read as him being an intelligent and deducive archaeologist, being physically fit and generally lucky. His interests are aligned with this as archaeology and the pursuit of fact are synonymous with his character. In terms of moral compass and core character concepts, all that’s really needed of the character is a single catchphrase - “That belongs in a museum” - its usage describing Indy’s moral outrage at the thought of people profiting from relics that he feels should be on display for the benefit of mankind and its understanding of past cultures.  



In the overarching story of Indiana jones, his “personal world” is the everyman’s quest for universal knowledge, though in this installment this changes and instead Indy’s personal world becomes “estranged son seeking to find and reconcile with his father”. The external world is that of the Fantasy real. A world that is based on reality up to the point when the McGuffin with reality altering principles is discovered, in this instance, the “Holy Grail”


Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to contain any tragic faults, or even a major fault, instead just being comprised of a few minor faults, one being the scar across his chin, the other being his fear of snakes. Though this does seem quite deliberate as he’s a hero modelled on a very clean and reserved set of heroes stemming from old RKO pictures.


Fig 3.

In terms of “Ins/Outs” Indy’s Ins are his heroic nature, his idealistic outlook and his self sufficient nature brought on by having a disinterested father. In reaction to this, his Outs are his need to protect, not only people but important relics or knowledge itself, but his self sufficiency also comes out as being brash, overconfident and bullheaded, especially when it comes to clashing with his father. This dichotomy can be seen clearly in the early scenes featuring the two characters, Simon Brew writing for Den Of Geek notes that “What's interesting is that the power in their relationship keeps shifting slightly. In the early stages, Senior's disapproval of Junior bringing the Grail diary to the castle is there to be seen. Then, when Senior manages to shoot down the plane that they happen to be in at the time, it's very much Junior who's in control” (Brew, 2014) It can be inferred from this that the dualism at play here, then, is because of the lack of attention Indy received from his father, he seeks to silently outdo him in order to prove his worth, and perhaps to gain his Father's lost affection, certainly in this installment that could be true.


These link into his character’s “Wants” as his goal for this movie is to find his father, and ultimately prove whether his father's obsession over the Holy Grail was worth throwing their time together away for.  In terms of character arcs, this means that Indy starts the movie disconnected from his father, lacking that guiding hand in his life but the film finishes with a firm reconciliation between the two. There is a particular scene which showcases this change, wherein Indy is thrown into a chasm as the temple of the grail falls to pieces around them, Henry Jones Sr. is holding onto his hand as Indy reaches for the Holy Grail - which is precariously teetering on a small ledge - Henry Sr. tells his son to “Let it go”, but it is delivered with a cadence that suggests that he is talking as much to himself as he is talking to his son, reminding Indy of his true quest, which was to find his Father.


The second character to focus on is Henry Jones Sr. himself. There seems to be enough here, in his interplay with his son Indy, that would suggest that Henry is a somewhat antagonistic presence in Indy’s life. In terms of his personal history, it is apparent that he is in his late 60’s, a man of a different time of that of his son, his health seems to be in good order, and his only family is Indy himself, as it is described through some offhand dialogue that his wife (Indy’s mother) died of an undisclosed illness years before “Temple Of Doom” (1984) takes place. As he is a Doctor like his son, it is safe to assume that he is educated to a university level. Past that, we discover that his home is a bit of a mess, suggestive of a lack of care for anything that doesn’t relate to his obsession over the Grail quest, and also suggestive of a man not concerned with everyday life since the passing of his wife, and the apparent disdain from his son.


His personal world is similar to his sons, which is another reason for their conflict. In fact, they are practically the same man according to Mandy Curtis writing for Birth.Movies.Death “Henry and Indy are the ultimate in dysfunctional relatives, in part because they’re practically the same man.” (Curtis, 2014) He is an experienced archaeologist, and imposes strict paternal authority on his son. The dualism at work in his character stem from his ins - experienced, wise, strict and single minded - and his outs - his keen intelligence, which in turn make him seem arrogant and cold towards his son. His wants, therefore, are obvious, as they are the drive of the movie; To find the Holy Grail, though this is a subversive want, as by the end, he finds something more valuable than the Grail, his son. At the beginning of the film his want to find the grail can be suggested to be his internal need for meaning and knowledge; at the conclusion however, his son heals his wounds with the grail that he no longer wants, his need to find meaning is still quenched by this as he find it in his role as a father.


Henry Jones Sr. has a few minor faults, the first being his fear of rats and the second being his arrogance. It could also be suggested that he contains a major or tragic fault, as ultimately his obsession with the Grail quest puts his friends and family in danger, and also results in his shooting at the hands of Nazi sympathiser and rival Grail seeker “Walter Donovan”. In the absence of the Grail McGuffin, Henry would have died, so it is interesting to consider his obsession a tragic fault.


Fig 4.

There is a poignant scene that suggests Henry is about to change his ways when Indy seemingly falls to his death along with a Tank and a Nazi officer. Henry stares into the chasm lamenting that he’s wasted the time he could have had with his son; Indy then joins him in looking down into the chasm, much to Henry’s disbelief. He quickly reverts back to his stoic and distant ways, perhaps in fear of showing Indy how much he actually cares. So, at the beginning of the scene, Henry starts off upset, emotional, finally about to show how much he cares for his son, and ends it on an even kilter, baiting us with the resolution we now want to see between the two characters.


The real conflict in “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” really stems from the father/son dynamic on display here. Because Indy never received the attention of his Father, and in fact, began to see him in an adversarial light, Indy sought to outdo and forget about his Father. It is Indy’s struggle against paternal authority and Henry’s strict insistence of making sure Indy is self reliant that drives the characters into conflict, his quest that pushes them towards the Nazi’s and the Holy Grail, and Henry’s respect becomes the true prize at the end of the film.


Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” is an evocative exploration of father/son dynamics, framed within an exceptionally well put together pulp action narrative. It is in the sparks created by these two characters that the plot is driven forwards, and we are treated to a very believable and raw portrayal of reconciliation.


Bibliography


Brew, Simon “Revisiting Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” denofgeek.com [online] http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/indiana-jones/29058/revisiting-indiana-jones-and-the-last-crusade [Accessed on 23/10/2016]


Curtis, Mandy “Henry and INDIANA JONES: Like Crusading Father, Like Crusading Son” birthmoviesdeath.com [online] http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2014/06/06/henry-and-indiana-jones-like-crusading-father-like-crusading-son [Accessed on 23/10/2016]


Illustrations

Fig 1. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade Poster. [image] Available at: http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/indiana-jones-and-the-last-crusade-poster.jpg [Accessed 23/10/2016]

Fig 2. Hands Up. [image] Available at: http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/indiana-jones-and-the-last-crusade1.jpg [Accessed 23/10/2016]

Fig 3. Indy, Marcus and Elsa in Venice. [image] Available at: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-htktDY6dOBI/Uz0WSdAw0dI/AAAAAAAAEPk/FKxUl1FUmQQ/s1918/Screen%252520shot%2525202014-04-03%252520at%25252010.50.38%252520AM.png [Accessed 23/10/2016]

Fig 4. Henry. [image] Available at: http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Indiana-Jones-and-The-Last-Crusade-Connery-Suit-4.jpg [Accessed 23/10/2016]