Showing posts with label re-make. Show all posts
Showing posts with label re-make. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crazy Theory #3: Star Trek Into Darkness and Doctor Who

The 2010s: The decade of Benedict Cumberbatch with his back turned to the camera while he overlooks a city.

I am going to preface this post with the fact that I do not and have not watched that much Star Trek. I did watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at some point last summer, so I know enough to know obviously The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness are two very different films besides sharing a few plot points that J.J. Abrams tweaked for some silly reason or another. Into Darkness is a straight action film that is kind of about friendship and makeshift families, whereas The Wrath of Khan meditated on aging, friendship, and both biological and makeshift families. I will also note that I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters last summer, months before the release of the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special. So whether or not this gels with that episode, I have not totally determined.

My idea is this: Star Trek Into Darkness is basically an overlong attempt to take the piss out of Doctor Who. This occurs from the first sequence where a father played by Noel Clarke (who also played Mickey Smith, one of the companions/sidekicks of the ninth and tenth Doctors) becomes a reluctant suicide bomber of London's Star Fleet site so his dying daughter will be saved by Harrison/Khan's blood that somehow has superhealing powers. Harrison/Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor that some people want to play Doctor Who at some point although he is rather too busy and famous for that now. Harrison/Khan is living with some form of survivor's guilt, having been brought out of stasis instead of the 900 other people from his planet. It is because of this that he wants revenge, and manipulates Kirk, although leveraging his people somewhat backfires. The people and his planet are known for being war-like, something that perhaps is always on the edge of discussions of Doctor Who and his homeplanet of Gallifrey - until the 50th anniversary special, the Doctor had to end the war between the Timelords and the Daleks by destroying Gallifrey. This is the guilt that Doctors Nine through Eleven lived with, amongst many other guilty feelings. Whether or not the retcon in the 50th anniversary special will somehow backfire remains to be seen.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Notes on Shulie (1997/2000?)...


Originally posted in December 2011. I actually read The Dialectics of Sex shortly after writing this, and used it as the critical basis for an insane paper I wrote my last semester of grad school concerning the Twilight films.

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Dir. Elizabeth Subrin || 1997/2000 (?) || USA

I am in the process of making up the viewing and work for my Experimental Film class this past quarter. It was the only class I had to completely stop attending because the films tended to cause relapses with bad headaches and nausea. Since my professor tended to show films that were actual film prints, some of the films I will never be able to see. So she gave me an alternate list of sorts for anything that was not on VHS or DVD. Shulie was one of the alternate films. In this class, I have tended to enjoy the films made by women or LGBT people more than the other films. Looking at my journals I had/have to keep for this class as apart of the coursework, I occasionally made or make the correlation between some experimental films and my old medium of zines. When I made, read, and distributed zines I tended to prefer ones made by women and LGBT people. Both mediums tend to be done as art for art's sake, and not to make money...although some experimental film makers like Kenneth Anger wanted to be mainstream and never totally got there. Not too different from some people in zines, although those people tend to be frowned upon, if not downright shunned. Both have their own distribution networks or similar set-ups. Another theme of my journal entries tended to be varying levels of indifference towards the films, which is basically my attitude towards zines for the past five or six years to the point where I rarely read them now. I owe a lot to (post-riot grrrl) zines for helping me develop critical thinking skills, but it's those same skills that kind of make me unable to read zines much now.

Anyway...

[SPOILERS AHEAD...although you can probably only find this film at university libraries...which are open to the public, I might add]

Shulie is an odd film. Its set-up is that it is a found-footage documentary on feminist Shulamith Firestone that was shot in Chicago in the late 1960s while Firestone was about to receive her BFA in painting. This hearkens back to the idea that a lot of women's creative work has to be found or re-discovered, which was a big part of the second wave feminist movement that Firestone was a part of. In turn, at least in literature and sometimes in art, this allowed  more women to become a part of the canon. This film may also be pointing out that this needs to be done with Firestone...which while I have heard of her occasionally, I admit to have never read her work. After watching this film, I would like to, but her most famous book is out of print and used copies on Amazon cost anywhere from $35-500. 

But eventually, the found footage concept has some holes poked into it. When Firestone is being asked about being apart of the "Now" (NOW? Is this a play on words/later organizations, perhaps?) generation, and she gives an indifferent answer about how she only occasionally stops by protests; there are shots of people in the park putting on facepaint and they look somewhat modern and a bit crust punk-y. Subrin then has a shot of a kid playing basketball in a very modern Chicago Bulls jersey. I am not totally sure what this scene is supposed to convey. Firestone never speaks of feeling alienated from the protests in the film, so I am not sure if this a commentary on the romanticizing of the 1960s that went on in the 1990s or what. I cannot think of or remember much of what people would protest in the 1990s except the WTO...but then again, I was a teenager in the 1990s.

Another issue as that time goes on, you notice how charmingly, then oddly self-aware Firestone is. Like any young person, she kind of hates where she currently lives. She speaks early in the documentary about wanting to move to NYC to live with the other outcasts. She speaks of art school making her more inarticulate at the age of 22 than she was at the age of 18 (I strangely feel the same way about grad school). But there edges of radicalism that likely became more pronounced when she published The Dialectics of Sex at the age of 25. So perhaps this is an attempt to make her more human and relatable, since there is this tendency in feminism to mistakenly think that the more popular or famous feminists are not really human or to treat them as if we own them (not too different from any fandom really). I had an English professor who freaked out when Gloria Steinem got married. Ten years ago, people were more freaked out that Kathleen Hanna* of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre** was dating a Beastie Boy because the Beastie Boys second album was sexist. But anyway, self-awareness was a 1990s thing, no?

Then there is the scene where Firestone's artwork is critiqued by a group of her (male) professors. There is something odd and uncomfortable about this scene, and it hearkens back to the scene earlier in the film where Firestone explains her current inarticulateness. Part of me wants to claim that this scene is over the top, but perhaps it is not, given the time period. Another part of me is sympathetic to Firestone in this scene just because well, similar scenes are in my future as a grad student.

And then there's the twist...that this entire film was a recreation of that documentary. I still have not decided how I feel about this. Subrin does a remarkable job with making much of the film look like it was shot in Chicago circa the late 1960s (all hail the Super 8!), and if it was on purpose, gradually pulling the curtain behind the fact that it was a recreation. It is only in the last 15-20 minutes of this 37-minute film that the issues start to pop up. But I am still trying to work out this "twist"...

* Kathleen Hanna is given a shout out in the credits of this film.
** Sadie Benning, ex-Le Tigre band member, makes experimental films as well and worked on this film. I consider her the Matt Sharp of Le Tigre, since the band suffered on a few levels after she left, including music-wise.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Found Footage Horror Project: Rec and Quarantine

In the Spring of 2012, I did an independent study on Found Footage Horror. Specifically, Found Footage Horror that dealt with diseases, infections, zombies, and conspiracies, since the subgenre has become so huge these past few years that it has its own little subsections of threats. Since the only films academics have written about so far are Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead, I had to piece together my own readings much of the time. The response papers may evolve a little bit between that and the decision of my professor and I to steer away from trying to connect these films to post-9/11 horror. So for the next week or so I will be posting my short response papers, then my final paper.

My response paper on [REC] and Quarantine is below the cut. This is where I began to find formalist holes in the [REC] series (my third viewing of the first film), and found that I kind of preferred Quarantine.




Rec and its American re-make Quarantine are the first films I have encountered in this study that have no framing device. They are also ongoing series of films, with Rec 3 currently screening in Europe. The American sequel to Quarantine has apparently dropped the “found footage” structure, while it is rumored that Rec 3 has also dropped the “found footage” structure for a straight narrative (despite apparently taking place at a wedding, an event rife with video cameras). The mythology for the Rec series is either being made up as it goes along, or Paco Plaza and Jaume Belaguero just like to tamper or even combine genre conventions (as also seen in their film X-Mas Tale, a disturbing take on the children’s films that Steven Spielberg produced in the 1980s). Their penchant for tampering with genre conventions becomes more apparent in Rec 2, which provides the only clue for how the footage from the first and second films was found.  Although I have not seen the sequel to Quarantine that takes place on an airplane or at an airplane hangar, presumably it has little connection to the first film past taking place in Los Angeles.

Both of the films follow the same storyline: a reporter and cameraman for a television show about what working a night shift is like follows two firefighters on a call to an apartment building where the neighbors have called about an elderly woman screaming. They meet most of the neighbors and two police officers in the lobby. The building is soon quarantined after the firefighters, police officer and TV crew check in on the elderly woman in her apartment and she attacks and bites one of the police officers. Quarantine is often remarked upon or criticized for being a shot-for-shot remake of Rec. This is not exactly true. While Quarantine features many of the same key scenes that were in Rec, some of these recreated scenes are extended. There are original scenes. Quarantine also has features typical of American horror or American horror remakes: there are more people living in the apartment building, which means that there are more victims-turned-attackers; there is also a clearer explanation for the outbreak, although the ending, which is highly similar to the ending to Rec, muddles this explanation (although not nearly as much as it is muddled in Rec). The main differences lie in how the characters are adapted and portrayed. Angela, the reporter, and Pablo, her cameraman are more professional and ambitious in Rec, compared to their American counterparts Angela and Scott. Angela and Pablo panic very little until the final scene of the film, whereas Angela and Scott have several emotional and prolonged outbursts throughout the film, as do the police officers. Quarantine is also a slicker-looking film than Rec, and this is displayed by the camera used by Scott, and how Angela directs him to use it. Angela frequently tells Pablo to cut off the camera to save tape if an interview segment becomes boring, and Pablo is forced to shut the camera off frequently by authorities within the film, although it is indiscernible until the end of the film whether the camera is just shorting out or if Pablo is actually cutting the camera off and on. This often leads to two or four images being on the screen horizontally. In Quarantine, presumably because of the use of a higher-end camera, Angela does not ask Scott to cut the camera off except for one time, when they use a fire extinguisher either kill the rabid dog or the man the rabid dog has just killed by opening the elevator door that the man and dog are stuck in. Scott is a more prominent figure in the film than his Spanish counterpart, and we do see him in front of the camera more often, and he and Angela have a better camaraderie. Scott uses the camera twice to kill an infected person, signifying that a camera is a weapon in a more subtle way than Diary of the Dead.

An article by Catherine Zimmer on post-9/11 surveillance horror, while primarily discussing the Saw series and Cache by Michael Haneke, lists Rec and Quarantine (as well as Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, and Paranormal Activity) as being surveillance horror. With the exception of Paranormal Activity, which frequently uses a stationary camera, I am not sure where the other four films fit in. The cameras in Rec and Quarantine are frequently moving because they are attached to a cameraman who is often running. The inhabitants of the apartment building implore the television crew to film what is going on “so the world will know their story” and how they are being kept without information by the authorities. The desire to film the events is not entirely based in Angela’s ambition. Surveillance, other than in the Paranormal Activity films, does typically imply that the person being watched is ignorant to their surveillance or does not desire surveillance.

An article by Brigitte Nacos about 9/11 news media coverage discusses how religious terrorists require media coverage, that it is “like oxygen” for them and their messages. The ending of Rec, although perhaps simultaneously debunked and confirmed to an extent in its sequel, does imply a level of religious terrorism at play. The mysterious, half-abandoned attic apartment in the building is full of newspaper clippings and files about an exorcism, perhaps one that failed. The two people or creatures found in the apartment are a small boy-like being and an adult being that appears to suffer from Marfan Syndrome more than anything else, although the adult being is violent. The terrorism angle, albeit perhaps secular terrorism, is a bit more obvious in Quarantine, because the newspaper clippings that Angela and Scott find on the wall concern a terrorist group that wants to bring about the Apocalypse through bioterrorism, including a hyper strain of rabies. They find the same beings as their Spanish counterparts. However, it does seem highly unlikely that the Vatican official who rented the attic apartment in Rec and his doctor counterpart in Quarantine knew that a television crew for what seemed to be at-best a syndicated program or at-worst a late night local news show would be in their apartment buildings. It is never known who Patient Zero was, if it was a human or one of the pets in the building (or a rat in the building from Quarantine), and if the infection was unleashed on purpose.

Postscript 08/01/12: There is actually little-to-no hint as to how the footage from Rec and Rec 2 got out in Rec 2, unless someone came across the SWAT team van that may or may not have had screens showing the footage from the team members's helmets. Angela does not take the camera with her at the end of Rec 2. Also, I did end up watching Quarantine 2 a month or so after I wrote this originally, and the infection was unleashed on purpose and rats were the carriers. Rec 3 is apparently being released in the US on VOD and ITunes next week, I think. Maybe I'll watch it, or I'll wait for DVD or Netflix Streaming. I have read that the "found footage" format is dropped about 1/3 into the film for a straight narrative. Because Paco Plaza and Jaume Belaguero are just subtly trolling everyone anyway.

Postscript 2014: Perhaps it is because I have been reading/proofing through a friend's thesis on modern surveillance films that I can confirm or say that Cache and the Paranormal Activity series are surveillance horror films. I guess the Saw series might be as well, although I have only ever watched the first one, which did involve a variety of surveillance of the characters. I still maintain that for the most part, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, and the Rec/Quarantine films are not surveillance horror. Diary just dabbles in it or the issues surrounding it occasionally.