Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
In an example of the Effect of YouTube Trevor Moran rose to notoriety mostly for his Apple Store dances at first. Then a few years later his brief run on X Factor (USA) broadened his audience. Since then he’s been releasing music in a most 21st Century way (mainly singles).
I don’t know if it’s ever been logged but Moran is now likely the first singer to come out of the closet via a music video. You can see it here:
And if that was too subtle, or if you still had questions, he addresses it humorously and honestly here:
I’ve debated starting this theme for a few weeks, and I ultimately decided I would as it would encourage me to looks for options that actually fit what I’m aiming for. If one pays too much attention to Top 40 type music you tend to see a dearth of creativity in the music video form. The music video is spawned from short films and can be as creative if not more so than their predecessor. Far too often it does just become singing heads. I want to try and buck that trend and find ones both new and old that do something somewhat outside the box, at the very least have some sort of visual narrative. Here we go.
Mammút – Svefnsýkt
Above I refer to “singing heads,” which is a musical equivalent of “talking heads” in a documentary. Essentially the moving image is so dynamic you want more than just speaking to occur either through mise-en-scène or montage. This video has a kinetic edit, uses some superimposition, smoke, and dramatic lighting; along with some creative framing to to take it a notch above singing heads. It then goes further adding a minimalistic story and even more intriguing visuals when the song gets going. A good sign if this is an example of the work done at the Icelandic Film School.
Lastly, and perhaps most obviously in a string of Madonna videos with musical touches, Madonna’s “Express Yourself” not only draws its inspiration from Metropolis but also is directed by David Fincher, who started in the music video trade before transitioning to feature films.
Continuing the Madonna theme this month, which began last week, we come to a video that is not only in black and white but has a bit of a story to it also “Cherish.”
Here’s some interesting info about the video gleaned from Wikipedia. Some of it pertains to the production and release and the last paragraph gets into interpretations of the motifs, which you are always advised to take with a grain of salt. If you want to look into what the sources are, you can visit the original article here.
“Cherish” was accompanied by a black-and-white music video that was directed by Herb Ritts and was filmed on July 22, 1989 at Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu, California. Its world-premiere took place on MTV on August 28, 1989. Ritts was one of Madonna’s preferred photographers at that time and so she asked him to direct the “Cherish” video. Ritts reportedly tried to talk her out of it saying, “But I’m a still photographer. I don’t know anything about film.” Undaunted, Madonna replied simply, “Well you have a few weeks to learn.” The video was conceptualized by Ritts, who wanted to portray Mermen in their natural habitat, but Madonna baulked at the idea since she wanted to be portrayed as herself, but keep the Mermen also. Four male performers were signed for this, one of them being Tony Ward, who would become Madonna’s boyfriend later, with the other three being water polo players from nearby Pepperdine University. There were four Merman tails created by Global Effects in North Hollywood, California, for the video. Three full size tails for the mermen were cast in a solid highly flexible rubber, each weighing around 40 lbs. This was necessary to make them neutrally buoyant in water as lighter tails would have floated, causing the swimmers to be head down in the sea. Once in these tails, the polo players needed to be carried to and from the water and once inside, they had tremendous swimming power and agility. This was partly due to a plastic spring like armature cast into the flipper of each tail. One of the reasons that this video was shot in black and white was because the water was very cold, causing Madonna’s already pale complexion to look even whiter.
Fouz deduced a relationship between the music and the images in the video for “Cherish”, saying that they complement each other; the author felt that this in turn encouraged the viewer to watch the video repeatedly. Fouz talked about the balancing of height and depth occurring in the video. The visual depictions of the Mermen and the lighting used in the video was influenced by Ritts’ still photography known as “The Male Nude Bubble”, which showed nude male models inside a giant water tank, with a white cloth entwined around them. Many of the qualities in the photos, including the floating nature of the models, were used in the swimming and the posing of the Mermen. Carol Vernallis, author of Experiencing Music Video, found homoerotic connotations between Madonna and the Mermen. The Mermen in the video exist in a self-contained world of their own, where they procreate with their own kind, both biologically and socially. The fact that the Mermen did not seem to possess genitalia led Vernallis to believe that it associated them with Ritts’ other works, homoerotic sculptural images without penis. Their tails drew different meanings, including sexual ones and Christian symbolism. Since in contemporary art, the images of Mermen are rare and Mermaids are prominent, they are sometimes called fairies partly because it is not known how they came to be. Vernallis believed that the mysteriousness and the elusiveness of the mermen in the video played a crucial role. They never address the camera directly and are often shown disappearing from view. Vernallis believed that since invisibility is a central theme in the homosexual community, this actually portrayed oppression and also the desire to watch but never be seen.
In his Biographia Literaria Samuel Taylor Coleridge* postulates how a critic’s faculties and tastes are influenced by his life experiences and exposure to art. I open with this statement because in writing about the 1980s a decade in which I was a child, I realize there can be a certain amount of filtering due to nostalgia or longing for ‘the good old days,’ thus, with each film I discuss in the 1980s I think it important to note when I first saw the film. Some have stood the test of time. Others are recent discoveries. I’m also trying to examine all of these films in a new light to ensure subjectivity.
I also think it’s important to note the genesis of this concept in my own reasoning as it has most definitely shifted. A little more than a year ago [as of this writing] I saw a film called Amazing Grace and Chuck for the first time and I thought to myself “This film could’ve only been made in the 80s.” I thought this both because of its aesthetics, the grain and milieu common to the 1980s. I started postulating upon that on my cornerstone on defining the 1980s noting that the 50s, 60s, and 70s had each had their own unique looks. I noted there was overlap such that early 80s films still looked like they were shot in the 70s. Yet this would be too technical and pedantic an approach. What really struck me about Amazing Grace and Chuck was the subject matter. And while you can’t pin down a decade as sporadic and variegated as the 80s (As opposed to the heavy focus on Sci-Fi in the 50s) you can see there were ideas buried even in these heavily Hollywoodized films. Yet I come to realize as I’ve viewed nearly 30 films for analysis that saying this is what the 80s were all about is folly. However, within the context of each individual film I can display a reflection of cinematic or social thinking at the time.
This is an overview of a decade of innovation. A decade where the blockbuster was ever more predominant than in the 1970s yet there seemed to be a last gasp of artistry. There were great films released amongst the garbage. Also, we would see the trends that would lead to the decline in quality in the 1990s. It was a decade with artists who still had a spark of idealism and still had something to say albeit through indirect channels.
While many of the films make connections to my youthful sensitivities, it is important to note that these films for the most part do not condescend or talk down to its intended audience which is a problem that has become more and more apparent as time has moved on. These are also films that for me have stood the test of time. Some of what was good in the eighties was adopted in the 90s and turned sour and what’s worse some of what was terrible also stayed and became worse. In this paper I will look at the motion picture in all its forms film, television, animation and the newly-invented, at the time, music video. No matter how you look at it the 80s did matter and I want to examine the decade here. It was a decade I grew up in it is true but now I can look back subjectively and examine a decade I’ve come to love.
* While primarily a poet and philosopher Coleridge wrote an abundance of dramatic criticism, introduced the term ‘suspension of disbelief’ to the artistic world, and is one of the most important concepts in cinema.
Note: This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments.
Sara Paxton and Dustin Milligan in Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media)
Shark Night 3D, oh boy. I have to admit I did go into this one with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, this is why you go out to see movies because you hope you’re surprise on occasion. Shark Night 3D definitely caught me off guard and I’m very glad of it.
In a nutshell Shark Night 3D is the kind of film that we (meaning those who were disappointed by it) expected Snakes on a Plane to be. There is a self-awareness about the film that stays jut beneath the surface but pops up to make us chuckle throughout this film. However, it also creates quite a few jolts and got some pretty big reactions from the audience at the screening I was at.
Although the set up is rather conventional (college students heading off for a weekend in the country) the film does create a situation that couldn’t have been anticipated (sharks in a lake). It also comes up with a rather smart and logical way to try and explain it away.
Shark Night 3D also does enough to build its characters up just enough so that we get to at least like them if not know them before things start to go down and works on them as things get more mysterious. So while there is some levity to a lot of it there is also some gravity to it all.
What you also have here that you don’t usually find in a horror film is decent to good acting, which really does help the film quite a bit. Firstly, there’s Sara Paxton who does very well, there’s also Donal Logue who is awesomeness personified, the supporting cast is also buoyed by Joel David Moore who is always funny and has appeared in many films in the genre.
Here’s another film that had good 3D and used it to great effect and got buried recently. I personally see no point in making a film 3D if you’re not going to be self-conscious about it from time to time and use obstructions and fling things at the lens/audience.
While it’s by no means perfect and silly it’s aware of both those things and plays off that to great success. And if you do see it be sure to watch the credits for a hilarious bonus at the end.