Keys in Film: Appreciation and Analysis Selected Papers by FKCC writers in the Middle Keys
Group Research Project Film Making and Film Viewing in The Florida Keys............................................................................................ 4
Keys in Film: Appreciation and Analysis is a publication of selected papers by students in the Writing About Film course, Middle Keys Center, Florida Keys Community College, Spring, 2013. Contributing writers: Jose Castro, Kelly Qualls, Solange Sanchez and Zakary Wronka. Cover Photography: Jerry Dexter Art Design and Production: Mary Martin, Coordinator, Advertising and Publications, FKCC.
Jose Castro................................................................................................................................................................................14 American History X, screening report Gran Torino, film analysis Kelly Qualls...............................................................................................................................................................................18 Big Momma’s House, screening report Tyler Perry, film analysis Solange Sanchez....................................................................................................................................................................22 The Hunger Games, screening report One Tree Hill, TV series analysis Zakary Wronka........................................................................................................................................................................26 Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, character analysis
Writing About Film Instructor: Dr. Lois Wolfe Markham, Faculty, English, FKCC Photo credits Cover: Jerry Dexter Inside Cover: Saire Elizabeth Cameraman: Peter van den Hamer Movie marquee: Luke Vargas Clint Eastwood: Siebbi Tyler Perry: Sgt. Michael Connors Big Momma’s house: Tony Hoffarth Hunger Games art: diviantART.com Shadows and rock: Michael Underwood Ricardo Montalban as Khan: csullens Back Cover: Olf:P’s on Flickr Commons
FILM MAKING AND FILM VIEWING IN THE KEYS
Film History of the Florida Keys
A Group Research Project Jose Castro, Kelly Qualls, Solange Sanchez and Zakary Wronka When most people think about the Florida Keys, they envision beaches, fishing, beautiful scenery, exotic foods, the night life, and historic venues such as the Hemingway House. Unnoticed and seemingly underappreciated is the value of the Florida Keys in the film industry. Despite this lack of awareness, the reality is that the Keys are not only home to a large demographic of movie goers but also include a rich history that contributes to the culture of film and our overall economy. Movies are the ideal form of amusement, blending visuals, imagination and music in one experience. Movies transport us, but how, and how often, we in the Keys are transported are questions we wanted to explore. We also wanted to better understand where and when movies are filmed in the Keys because we rarely see evidence of film crews or staging areas. That seems odd given our gifts of unique geography, tropical light, ocean access and sunny climate. With the support of local pioneers who have helped in the process of filming in this unique Caribbean wonderland, we find that the Florida Keys has more importance in the film industry than commonly acknowledged. Analysis of movie history, local contributors, economic impact and movie-viewing habits helps us recognize a more concrete significance for the Keys in film history and appreciation.
Even though it seems that there are not many movies filmed in the Florida Keys the opposite is true. The Florida Keys and Key West Film Commission notes at least 49 films for screen or television have been shot here, entirely or in part, since 1940. The genres run the gamut from drama and action to comedy and reality shows. The themes that link them often use plots and settings involving the sea, naval military, ocean animals, wrecking, treasure salvage, Cuba, the Caribbean, fishing, diving and island living. This history begins back in 1940 when the television series Island City Republic (March of Time) did some filming in the Keys. The episodes ran about 20 minutes and were the most popular documentary-like film until this point in time. This film is followed by Reap in the Wild Wind in 1942. The movie which starred John Wayne was shot in the Keys, particularly Key West, and was set in the 1840’s allowing it to use the issues the Keys had with pirates at the time. In 1948 the Humphrey Bogart movie Key Largo was released. Despite being mostly filmed in Hollywood except for a few of the opening shots, it helped put the city of Key Largo on the map. In 1951 the movie The Frogmen was released which used the relationship between the Keys and the military, shooting a few scenes in Key West. And in 1954 Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef was released which was shot entirely in Key West and Tarpon Springs, Florida. In the same year The Rose Tattoo, adapted from a successful stage play, was mostly filmed in Key West even though the location is not mentioned in the film. The play by Tennessee Williams, one of Key West’s best-known literary celebrities, is set on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and dramatizes the secrets and tensions in an Italian-American family. With a screenplay by Williams and adaptation by Hal Kanter, the film earned Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Cinematography. Even today, the Key West house featured in the film is known as the “Rose Tattoo House.” Then came Carib Gold in 1957, featuring a plot built around a shrimp boat and sunken treasure; it was primarily shot in Key West and casted with local musicians and extras. In 1959 a comedy called Operation Petticoat was released, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. This movie was mostly shot in and around the naval air station in Key West, now known as Truman Annex. In 1962, a filmed-in-Key-West drama of family dysfunction, All Fall Down, was released, starring Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint; it was followed by PT 109 in 1963, the film which dramatized and popularized the World War II experiences of President John F. Kennedy. It used Little Palm Island as a locale. In 1963 Escape From Hell Island used Key West as one of its main locations to shoot a film about a charter boat captain smuggling Cuban refugees. Then we have the largest gap between movie productions in the Keys. Eleven years later in 1974 came filming for 92 in the Shade, featuring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates in a story of feuding charter captains. The movie was shot almost completely in Key West. Five years later, film production picked up again. In 1979 two movies and a television series were filmed. The Last Resort (TV series), The Final Countdown and Cuba Crossing all filmed parts in the Florida Keys. The 80s was another slow decade. In 1985 the movie Running Scared which took place mostly in Key West was released, followed by Russkies in 1986, set in Cold War era Florida, and a notable James Bond movie, Licence to Kill, in 1989, both filmed partially in the Keys. The 90s was a busier era for film production in the Keys. The film Tadpole and the Whale (1990) shot a few scenes in the Keys, followed by Criss-Cross in 1992 which was set in 1969 Key West and filmed throughout the Keys and Miami area. In 1993 came the comedy Matinee which was based on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the TV series Key West (which used scenes at the Dolphin Research Center), and one of the more talked about films, True Lies. This film shot its most memorable scene off the old Seven Mile Bridge at the end of Marathon, using strategicallyplaced explosives to simulate blowing it up. In 1994 Drop Zone starring Wesley Snipes shot a few scenes in the FKCC 2013
Keys. A year later audiences could see Keys-based scenes in Up Close and Personal starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Executive Decision starring Kurt Russell. In that same year a Jack Nicholson film, Blood & Wine, shot in Miami and in the Florida Keys, including scenes at the Caribbean Club in Key Largo. With 1996, film crews were in the Keys for Zeus and Roxanne, Spanish Prisoner (filmed in Marathon and Islamorada), and Speed 2 . The following year, our islands were film sites for the 18th Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies along with Terry “Hulk Hogan’s Assault in Devil’s Island and Cuba Gooding Jr’s Murder of Crows. In 1998 the cult classic Office Space filmed a few scenes in Key West, as well did Dance of the Dolphins ,Nawa Shibari, and The New Adventures of Flipper (which also filmed at the Dolphin Research Center). Then a couple years later in 2000 The Crew and Heartbreakers did filming in the Keys. In 2002 the thriller Red Dragon filmed in a private estate in Islamorada, even though the story setting is Marathon. Vin Diesel’s 2 Fast, 2 Furious also did a small shoot in the Keys that year. Two years later Vin Diesel came back to shot a few more scenes for The Pacifier. That same year Meet the Fockers began shooting what would become its opening scene in the Florida Keys around mile marker 79. The Fockers were said to live in the Keys although some scenes were actually shot in the Miami area. In 2005 the television series Miami Vice decided to try its luck on the big screen. The “Safe House” at the end of the movie was shot at a private house on Old State Road 4A in Sugarloaf Key. That same year the film Hoot shot most of its scenes between July and September in South Florida which became problematic due to Hurricane Katrina that struck the area on August 25. MTV began shooting its 17th season of The Real World which was exclusively filmed in Key West weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The filming lasted until the end of December, 2005, and was inevitably interrupted by Hurricane Rita, causing the cast and crew to evacuate to West Palm Beach. The hurricane triggered mandatory evacuation September 20th and then again in October when Hurricane Wilma made landfall; this time the cast and crew drove all the way to Orlando. Unfortunately the television series ran into more trouble when it encountered a lawsuit by tourism mogul Ed Swift who called the production equipment a nuisance and brought up local zoning laws that that prohibited commercial use of homes. This lawsuit, however, was thrown out fairly quickly after MTV threatened to cancel its production. In 2008, I Love You Phillip Morris, a drama about a closet homosexual’s reevaluation of his life and loves, did most of its South Florida filming in Miami and some in the Keys. Then in 2010 I Am Number Four filmed its opening scene in Big Pine Key as well as shooting a drive-over scene that showcased the Seven Mile Bridge. Movies were still being shot in the Keys as recently as last year when Act of Valor, an action adventure film about a Navy SEALs team on a rescue mission, filmed in Key West. As we see, film making experience taken as a whole over the past 70 years confirm that Keys settings play a small but enduring niche role in location shooting for films. Flipper Our marine environment clearly invites film production. In fact, inhabitants of the sea were among our earliest film icons, as the 1960s movie, Flipper, attests. Legacies of late 20th Century film productions remain in the memories of Keys residents who worked with the project, like Mandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is one of the co-founders of the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) in Grassy Key. In the 1960’s (before Rodriguez became a founder) DRC was where the dolphin named Mitzi along with five other dolphins and a local fisherman named Milton Santini lived. Mitzi and the other five dolphins later became the stars of the original movie Flipper, which was based on Santini’s relationship with Mitzi. In 1972 Mitzi passed away and a “broken-hearted” Santini sold the facility to an entertainment conglomerate that created a dolphin show named Flipper’s Sea School that lasted until 1977. The facility then went through a change when it was sold to Jean Paul Forton-Gouin, who turned the facility into a place of education to help create 6
conservation awareness by showing the intellect of dolphins. He then passed the business over to Jayne and Mandy Rodriguez who opened the facility up to the public with the understanding that “people would only conserve what they can understand and learn to love.” Rodriguez has since become a big part of the community of the Florida Keys and is called upon when there is a big project that requires someone to look after the marine life and assure its safety. Because of this he has become part of a few film crews in the keys. These films include The Tadpole and the Whale, The New Adventures of Flipper, True Lies, and the television show Key West that actually shot a few scenes inside the Dolphin Research Center. Filming is not nine-to-five kind of work. Rodriguez recalls that filming True Lies went on for “many long days that would turn into nights.” The days lasted for “about almost two weeks.” He says that the Moser Channel was closed during the entire shoot, so boats that could not fit under the bridge had to go down to Bahia Honda to get across. He remembers this well because he was part of the crew that would set up giant warning lights at night to lighten the “blown up part of the bridge” which was actually “two barges that they sunk with a superstructure that was blown out across the channel.” His crew along with him would get there before anyone else did in the morning to take down the lights. During the actual filming he served as one of three rescue divers who would keep track of everyone on the bridge as well as making sure the marine wild life was maintaining a safe distance. He also states that because they were filming on the old Seven Mile Bridge, there was no reason to close the active Seven Mile Bridge, except for scenes that involved the helicopter and/or the harrier fighter plane. Those scenes, he says, lasted a couple hours a day. Filmmakers need specific permits or must provide special services in order to film effectively in areas like the Keys. Rodriguez notes instances of contacting the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which, during True Lies filming, kept two inspectors on sight to make sure no hazardous material went into the water. And when they had to close the Seven Mile Bridge, the film company had to coordinate with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Rodiguez recalls that when the bridge was closed the “production company would have people go car to car explaining the process as well as giving away food, drinks, movie stickers, and things like that.” The production company also had to hire their own private cops to help with traffic and security. Another measure they took to help people prepare for the closing of the bridge was to put the dates and times the bridge would be closed in the local paper weeks in advance. Even though he has been directly involved with aspects of film history and the industry, Rodriguez is aware that filming in the Keys goes unnoticed. He says that “through what I have seen, filming in public areas not only takes more time but more people need to be contacted and more permits are needed.” This is why he believes more films choose to shoot their scenes in private establishments where it would seemingly go unnoticed. Spanish Fly Television production remains a persistent player in Keys film history. We have a ready supply of marine locations, docks, boats, gear, expert captains, crews and a range of sport fishing options. This adds up to a good climate for creative entrepreneurs to produce successful shows. Krissy Wejebe is the daughter of the local legend Jose Wejebe who passed away about a year ago in a plane crash. He became a television icon in the fishing world through his show, Spanish Fly, that first aired on ESPN 2 in 1995 and is now airing its final season on the Outdoor Channel. Krissy Wejebe has been part of four episodes dating back to 1993 which is when the first few episodes were actually shot. They shoot all around the coast of the United States and South America but two of the shows Wejebe was part of were shot down in Key West in 1993 and in 2009. She has also been working part time as part of the editing and media control team the last few years. She now works with Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation which works together with the Make a Wish Foundation to help fulfill wishes of “how life out on the water is like.” FKCC 2013
Filming on the ocean takes planning. Placement of cameras is important. “There’s a camera man on the boat (the one which Jose Wejebe would be fishing out of ) to get all the close ups and medium shots. There’s also a camera boat that follows that gets all the wide shots, running shots of the boat, and beautiful views of the backgrounds.” She calls this process “very tedious” because lighting is very important for every shot so being at the mercy of the sun can at time become “problematic.” Another big issue while filming in the Atlantic side of the Keys is wind. When conditions are very windy, it causes the boats to drift away from each other so they have to tie them together but, of course, this adds to the time it takes to do a scene if producers want to get multiple angles. Due to this issue she states that “it is very important to make sure to check if the tide is right, if the current is right so we could put those variables together and make sure it will be possible to get the right shots.” After all boat shots are done they then do the interview shots that reflect on the experience. They normally try to do these on the same day of the boat scenes in a private location to capture the sunset in the background and show the beauty of the Keys in a peaceful setting. A location they used frequently was the Key West Yacht Club (a private location which contributes to the idea about why filming in the Keys goes unnoticed). A filming day can be delayed or prolonged by conditions beyond the control of filmmakers. Wejebe says the factor that most affects Keys filming is “the weather. It seems that no matter how close an eye you keep on the weather report, as soon as the cameras arrive so do the clouds.” A filming session is normally intended to last two to three days but they always plan for about a week due to the unpredictability of the weather. On occasion a session is prolonged because a story develops. “When you see a money fish and it’s elusive and you can feel a story line developing, we will probably shoot as long as needed.” Scheduling a shoot means matching the rhythms of people and fish. Wejebe says that production planners have to make sure that the schedule of everyone involved in the shoot matches up and the most important thing is “keeping track of the seasons in which each fish is in the area.” Wejebe believes that filmmaking in the Keys goes unnoticed or simply just doesn’t happen as frequently as one would expect because of our isolation and the high cost of filming down here. She said that many times producers choose to film in other tropic locations that were similar to the Keys yet can be nearly half the cost. Since her father lived here, it made it easier to film down here. “Someone who films down here is probably doing so because they know someone down here and is probably helping them keep cost down.”
Occasionally, there is a road closure along US 1 so that film crews can shoot efficiently and safely. One might assume that these road closures take into consideration the fact that US 1 is the only road in the Keys, and the permit fees would be calculated based on predicted loss of use, both public and private. According to Troxel, closing and using any county road, bridge, beach, or county building for use costs a flat fee of $100 per week day and $150 per week end, with additional fees if staff is required. From this, we see that our natural assumptions about the high cost of closing US 1 for film-making may be exaggerated. Perhaps the major reason that film-making is not a commonplace industry in the Keys is because other South Florida venues offer similar beauty and tropical atmosphere, while being more accessible and having a larger film-making support network. The question appears not to be “Why don’t film companies use the Keys more often?” It’s “Why should film companies use the Keys often?” The answer probably involves benefits for filmmakers that are more qualitative than financial. Even though our film-making capacity is not prominent on a national scale, we are gaining a stronger base and following for the culture of film. The Key West Film Festival, for example, was the first of its type in the Florida Keys, and although it is only in its second year, the effort represents a burgeoning interest in filmmaking and film-viewing. Another example is the launch this year of the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo. This festival details the illustrious career of Humphrey Bogart. Sponsored by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, the event is building awareness of the cultural capital to be tapped in the love of film, its celebrities and its capacity to entertain.
Movie-going Preferences in the Keys Love of movies is best expressed in viewing them. We designed a short survey in April, 2013, to gain a better understanding of the types and frequency of film-viewing in the Keys. Our sampling is small; 31 respondents returned surveys by our project deadline. The predominant age range was 40-60 (45% of respondents); viewers 26-40 comprised 35% of responses. Ninety-seven percent were individuals who reside in the Florida Keys. Results showed that most people accessed films through the comfort of their homes by TV (57%); Internet and DVD were the next ranking preferences. HOW DO YOU GENERALLY WATCH MOVIES?
Business of film in the Keys While the Keys may be a costly location for the film business, we are not exactly cost-prohibitive. We continue to see projects facilitated and revenue generated. Records show that from 2010 to 2012 there has been over one million dollars a year in revenue, all gained from films staying here for a handful of days to film on location. In 2010, for example, there was a reported revenue of $4,301,286, with 10 known projects that did not report sums, according to Rita Troxel, who is the Film Liaison for the Florida Keys and Key West Film Commission. One might assume that the vast majority of the budget went to paying for permits and legal fees, but this is not the case. The only part of Monroe County that requires a permit for filming is Marathon, Troxel says, and that permit is only $85 for a one-time application fee. This means that while our tourism-based economy may not be creating permitting obstacles, we may be inciting increased expenses in areas such as hotels and catering. Nevertheless, as Troxel points out, at least $4.3 million in 2010 split between about 15 projects seems to be a proverbial drop in the bucket for most modern film budgets, even if it represents a sizable piece of income for the Florida Keys. 8
The types of films preferred confirms that movies are an important form of recreation and escape. Comedy and action were the leading preference by a large margin. Those two genres represented nearly half of all other genre choices put together.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU WATCH MOVIES?
WHAT TYPE OF MOVIES DO YOU PREFER? (Respondents could choose more than one)
Sixty-five percent of survey participants chose writing as their leading indicator of movie quality. Directing was also important.
When expressing their views on the role of movies in American culture, respondents voiced concern about content. They feel that some movies show too much violence for young individuals and that violence can be imitated in our society. On the whole, however, most spectators felt that movies play a major role in culture and allow us to relate to storylines in our regular everyday lives. Small Town Film Habits: A Weeknight at the Movies in Marathon
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ASPECTS IS MOST IMPORTANT TO THE QUALITY OF A MOVIE?
Though watching movies on TV or online is an easy way to quickly access what we like, it is not as exciting as going to a movie theater. In small towns like Marathon, people go to the cinema to get the whole movie experience, especially because movie theaters are located approximately 45 miles apart on our island chain. The Marathon Cinema is very small compared to others around the nation and its old style helps the residents and tourists feel at home. The decoration is unique and the small space creates a sense of unity for those watching the movie. On a week night in April, we see movie-goers gather at the cinema entrance to get their tickets for Safe Haven, a first-run movie that blends drama, mystery and romance. This is the last night the movie plays before the theater switches titles, this time to a comedy, Identity Thief. There is only one movie screen at the Marathon Cinema and it takes a week for a new movie to play. This seems to add to a feeling of excitement for the residents; changes in movie offerings are noticeable in Marathon where they are taken for granted in other locales. Audience members walking through the door are smiling and filled with anticipation for the film they have not yet seen. Most come in families and some of the women come in with their girl-friends, who are already talking about what they have heard about the film so far. We found that most respondents watching movies on TV prefer specific channels: A&E, Lifetime and TNT. The online movie information site preferred by most respondents was Internet Movie Database( IMDb), representing 42% of responses. The frequency of movie viewing seemed to reflect busy lifestyles. More than half of respondents report watching films “rarely” - less than twice a week. Thirty-five percent reported seeing two to three movies a week. Only 6% reported seeing a movie “very frequently” – once a day.
Forty-seven people attend the Marathon Cinema that night and more than half of them are female senior citizens who came in larger groups. The only teen male came with his parents and the only child was a girl that came with her older sister. Adults and senior citizen males take up the rest of the seats. The atmosphere is calm and welcoming because everyone in the room has come to see the same movie. It is a feeling that cannot be achieved at home while watching a movie alone or with family only; interacting with others who share the same interests is one of the benefits of going to a cinema.
While the movie plays, everyone sits quietly in their separate seats, but when the film ends they all become one big group as they walk out the door and talk about the film. Strangers seem like friends at this moment because they all just experienced the same encounter with the film. Watching a movie at home can be convenient for some, but there is still a need to feel a part of a larger theatrical experience on the big screen. When films take their viewers into another world, this is better achieved at the cinema when everything is dark and all is focused on the big screen in front of the audienceâ€™s eyes. Movies are more of an event in movie theaters and our sense of being transported feels more real. Conclusion How films transport viewers beyond daily lives is a question better handled in a film analysis. Here, we began with practical concerns about why filmmaking is unnoticed in local life, and we found more than meets the eye. We learned that the film history of Monroe County is much more extensive than the current generations assume. Itâ€™s clear that the Keys presents serious challenges in its remote geography, but the 127-mile chain of linked islands also poses unique opportunities for creative artists and niche projects which need an authentic relationship with marine life and tropic skies. Our two new film festivals, in Key West and Key Largo, show that film culture in the Keys is growing at a steady and healthy rate. Although not visibly present in daily life, film production is still a major component of cultural development, allowing us to escape and transport to different worlds. The way we access those worlds is distinctly small screen; in our survey the primary mode was an old reliable technology, television, and the habit of going to the movies in small towns remains an event. Still, the future of film-going in the Keys, we think, will respond naturally and dynamically to the content which filmmakers supply. Whatâ€™s popular on the mainland will be popular here. However, we seem to need more than a streaming Internet provider in order to appreciate films. We need friends and family and an occasional night out at the cinema when the title on the marquee changes. Filmviewing in the Keys a vital form of cultural escape. Film-making, on the other hand, is still a work in progress that needs more support.
Jose Castro Jose Luis Castro is a Colombian native who has lived in South Florida since he was four years old. At the age of 21, Castro left college for a career in the Navy to see the world. Little did he know that a year into his enlistment the Navy would be bringing him back to South Florida, yet to a place he didn’t know existed – the Florida Keys. He instantly fell in love with the Keys. This, coupled with the fact that he met the love of his life (a local marine mammal trainer named Kelly Jayne Rodriguez), he made the decision to set down roots in a place he considered to be paradise easy. In September, 2012, he enrolled at Florida Keys Community College to continue his education toward a business degree. Since Castro has had a fascination with films since he was a little boy, writing and learning about them has become one of his biggest hobbies. He has come to believe that there is no such thing as a bad movie if watched from the point of view of the audience the director was targeting.
3. Analysis The importance of what we say to others is most times overlooked, especially to those who look up to us. We never know how someone else will interpret the things we say or how strong of an impression it will leave them with. In making Doris’ shirt white and Dennis’ black the scene indicates how a negative idea can overpower a positive one by allowing it to be heard, giving it a chance to infest our minds. The children’s gray colors display uncertainty. Doris knows that what Dennis is saying is wrong but allows it to be overpowering by letting Dennis be the only voice heard. Dennis takes advantage of that time to show how easy it is to misuse half facts and create an idea that can become hurtful to those who carry it. The death of Dennis, who was shot in the ghetto, sparks the ideas he had implanted in Derek’s mind. It allows Derek to hold on to his anger while having someone to point a finger at. This hatred leads only to destruction and eventually hurt the ones he loved.
Screening Report: American History X Jose Castro 1. Scene Details The scene begins with a voice-over setting us for a flashback. As the scene comes to focus we see that the shot is now in black and white. A close-up of Dennis Vinyard (the father) laughing while taking a sip of his coffee, subsequently widens to an establishing shot of the whole family eating in their dining room. The sound-editing allows us to feel as if we were there. We hear the silverware crashing against the plates while small talk fills the room like just any other ordinary family. We immediately realize that Dennis holds great respect and is the undeniable leader as he asks a question about later plans in such a way as to only leave room for one answer. The camera focuses on Doris Vinyard (the mother) whose eye movement shows us she’s a woman who’s unsure of herself, only wanting to please as a small child looking up at a parent for guidance would. The absence of color in the shots has made Dennis’s shirt black while making Doris’s white to establish a good vs. evil signal in the scene, while their childrens’ clothes are gray with shades of black and white. Dennis then turns his focus on Derek Vinyard (the eldest son) continuing his small talk showing us his control over his son who looks at him in the same way Doris did. This is shown with close-ups and Reverse-Angle shots between Dennis, Doris, Derek, and Danny Vinyard (the youngest son) who looks at his older brother with that same admiration. Dennis shortly after discovers that Derek’s focus is elsewhere. He begins to ask questions in a condescending way about what’s on his mind. Realizing that his son is thinking about a book assigned by a black professor about a black person we get a close-up of him showing displeasure. A series of subjective shots between Derek and Dennis occur where Dennis begins to express his beliefs on what he calls “affirmative blacktion” in such a way that can almost be described as brain washing. The background sounds continues to be only that of utensils colliding against plates which we barely notice given the intensity of the conversation. As the scene comes to a close with Derek agreeing with his father we get a close-up of Danny’s face whose eyes go back and forth from his brother to his father. 2. Scene Summary The intent of this scene is to illustrate the influence a father has over a son. To this point in the movie Derek had been the most influential person, someone everyone listened to. Yet this scene showed how everyone is influenced by someone else at one point in life. Derek and Danny’s emotions showed how unsure they were about what they should believe in. They clearly saw their father as a hero since he’d put his life on the line to save others as a fireman. I don’t believe Dennis himself realizes how his words would affect his sons. Through the progression of the scene we see that they all look to Dennis for guidance. As he goes on to explain that giving black people equality has taken away from overall equality we see how Derek’s prospective changes are, in turn, altering the future decisions of his young brother, Danny. We’re able to see the moment the idea of racism entered Derek’s mind. 14
Defining a Hero Jose Castro When envisioning what a hero should be we can sometimes become overly critical. We will begin to envision a person whom everyone likes, a respectful and loyal person who always makes the right decisions. These things which are great characteristics to have can be unrealistic and unnecessary in describing a true hero. In the movie Gran Torino we are introduced to a man named Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) who teaches us that a hero can have many unlikeable qualities. This unconventional hero shows us that his ignorant, cantankerously racist attributes can be outshined by his commitment to help others, bravery, and willingness to sacrifice himself for a greater good. He does all these things without ever seeking recognition which makes these qualities go from admirable to heroic. At first glance we see Walt as a grumpy old man who never seems satisfied. This coupled with the fact that he is now grieving his wife’s death gives us the understanding of just how alone he is. Yet through his grief we already begin to see his commitment to helping others. At his wife’s memorial service, the boy next door who is named Thao (Bee Vang) comes over to ask for jumper cables. Walt begins his customary way of communicating by telling Thao who is having a hard time putting words together to “get the shit out of your mouth.” He then follows this with a few racist insults and tells him to leave. This permits us to see how this man is meant to be portrayed by those around him which almost enables us to overlook the scene where he is outside helping jump the car a few minutes later. This was just a small sampling of his need to assist others. As the movie progresses we see him take on his biggest project yet. He takes Thao under his wing by becoming a role model and mentor to him. Through tough love he begins to “man up” Thao by teaching him how to fix things around the neighborhood and even going as far as to teach him how to hold a conversation as a man would. This shows us how he is willing to give up his time and efforts to help a young boy without a male role model in his life to find his way into adulthood.
We then see another great attribute of a hero which some may say is the most important-bravery. Evidence of this trait is threaded throughout the film; however, it is most noteworthy in two specific scenes. One of these scenes can be understood as Watt’s way of looking out for himself which is what he implies he is doing. This is shown to us when the young Asian gang tries to take Thao with them by force. As they wrestle around in the front yard, Walt comes out with his rifle and tells the Asian gang to leave at gun point. Subsequently this leads to everyone in the neighborhood thanking him which he answers by saying, “Get off my lawn.” Although this could be interpreted in two ways, it is made clear to us that he indeed is unafraid to stand up for others when we see Thao’s sister Sue (Ahney Her) being attacked by three African American young adults. Walt drives up to them courageously to defend Sue. His bravado which can be seen by the way he holds his head up high and his choice of challenging tone and words leads to the young African American men to take notice that he is not someone to mess with. These acts enable us to see how much he cares about those who are afraid to defend themselves, and underlie our acceptance of the next attribute that cements him as an undeniable hero. Willingness to sacrifice one’s life for others is a pinnacle evaluation of courage. It’s one thing to act bravely but, when personally challenged, the way we answer back is what defines us. In Gran Torino we see Walt go through this challenge. The Asian gang continues to contest Walt by attacking Thao and Sue. We find ourselves wanting him to retaliate. We begin to justify the killing of these young boys assuming that it is the only way to liberate Thao and Sue. Walt, however, being the hero that he is, empowers himself to see a solution that puts the fate of Asian gang in their own hands. This solution is something we as the viewer are unable to imagine because it would require too much of a sacrifice. Nevertheless he goes to the house where the Asian gang lives for revenge. What we presume will become a shootout between them becomes a scene of strategic and heroic choices. He instead shows up at the house unarmed and entices the gang to shoot him, which in turn enables the police to arrest them. Through Walt’s bravery and ability to want to help others he sacrifices his own life in order to free Thao and Sue. In life there are many types of heroes. Police officers who risk their lives to protect the law, fire fighters who run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out, and soldiers who protect this country are a few examples of what first comes to mind when thinking of a hero. Gran Torino exposes the validity that there are unsung heroes out there as well and they should not be overlooked. To be a true hero requires something from deep within that cannot be described or prescribed by a job title. Walt enables us to see that if we take the time to get to understand someone we can see through the bad and find a real hero. A person’s good deed does not justify a bad one. Contrarily, a person’s bad deed should not be elevated above their good ones. We should take the time to try to look at others as a whole, taking in the good with the bad because in the end, no one is prefect. The beauty of being human is the complexity of being a grumpy, disrespectful, courageous, and caring man, being someone like Walt. Works Cited Gran Torino. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Clint Eastwood. Village Roadshow Pictures, 2009. DVD.
Kelly Qualls I am 45 years old born and raised in the Florida Keys (Marathon). I am the mother of two wonderful young adults (Jarrod 19 and Shakia 21). I have been attending Florida Keys Community College for more than two years part-time, finishing up my last semester majoring in Business Administration. I also work at Stanley Switlik Elementary as a Data Entry Clerk. Writing in Film class was a wonderful experience because I learned so much about film production and how important it is in our society. When I think about what I like about movies, I think about viewing the marvelous effects that they display. I also enjoy when they show things that are not possible in real life but which can make you spring into imagination. Viewing movies allows me to experience things that I have never witnessed. This allows me to expand my experiences through the visual medium. Well-produced films allow me to experience far -away places and wonderful realistic and fantastical actions.
A Director’s Style: Tyler Perry Kelly Qualls
A director is the powerful inspired force in a film’s creation and acts as the fundamental connection for production, technical and artistic crews. Directors have to create a concept for the perfect film and execute a realistic method. Being a Director compels significant creative imagination, determination and commitment. He or she is eventually accountable for a film’s imaginative and profit-making achievement or failure. Tyler Perry, born Emmitt Perry, Jr., September 13, 1969, in New Orleans, Louisiana, is an American actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, producer and author. He is one of many film directors who have a passionate image of film making with high audience recognition. Perry has emerged as an edgy director who uses humor and everyday life to entertain his viewers. A signature element of his style is use of a pretense of hostility and edgy aggressiveness in pursuit of righting wrongs. One of his most enduring characters embodying this trait is Madea, a persona which has helped popularize his approach. Perry has extended Medea’s characterization across several films after his first debut of her in Dairy of a Mad Black Woman. Madea, known as Mabel Simmons, is a comedic fictional character established and characterized by Perry. She is a tall, overweight, elderly African American woman whose costume represents a state of mind that utilizes the “Mad Black Woman” label. This woman is relatively belligerent; she will threaten people with her gun, which she refers to as “peace be still.” She usually does not get into trouble given that she is a nightmare for law enforcement. Regardless of her hostile approach, the character is usually used to teach a lesson. In one of Perry’s films featuring her as the title character, Madea’s Family Reunion, she gets on the school bus to talk to the kids about bullying her foster child, Nicki. The camera travels behind the action in an extremely simple way once Madea enters the bus and starts talking to the kids. One child in particular says, “Shut up, old lady,” after she makes her point to them. Then Madea latches onto him, grabs him by his head and starts to slap him around. The kids on the bus are amused and then startled after she states to her foster child: “Go ahead and go to school. Nobody is going to mess with you.” Then in particular she looks at that loud-mouthed kid and balls up her fist and says “NOBODY” in a hostile way. It is clear that Madea uses aggression as a manner of protecting those who cannot protect themselves. In the film Madea Goes to Jail , Madea puts herself between another aggressor and victim when she comes face to face with Big Sal, the prison bully. In the scene Big Sal is looking for somewhere to sit for lunch. She drives a young woman away really quick by giving her a scared impression. She starts to encounter a problem with a young woman sitting at the same table as Madea. Madea tells Big Sal that she “doesn’t know her as she is giving her the benefit of the doubt” to get away from her. Her response to Madea is, “I’m Big Sal and what Big Sal wants, Big Sal gets.” They get into an argument and the officer on duty stops it immediately. Big Sal gets up from the table and tells Madea, “We’ll have our time.” At the end one young lady tells Madea thanks for sticking up for her friend. Madea tells her, “I wasn’t doing anything for you. I don’t like people messing over nobody.” www.fkcc.edu 18
Protecting those who need help is a recurring theme. Perry’s filmmaking is informed by his childhood and a vision based in his philosophy of determination (“Tyler Perry” The Biography Channel). Child abuse and struggles are examples in the movie Daddy’s Little Girls where a family has to endure lots of neglect. Perry’s films and screenplays combine humor and wisdom. In the film Good Deeds his childhood experience is clearly integrated. This movie is about a productive, wealthy businessman, Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) whose life changes when he meets Lindsey (Thandie Newton) who is a depressed single mother who works as a cleaning person in his office building. She struggles to make ends meet for herself and her young daughter. Wesley helps her get though her hard times where he is caught between the life he wanted and the powerful desires of his heart to help a mother in need. Perry uses characterizations of passion to represent his knowledge of problems in everyday life. He wants his audience to know that life isn’t about how much we get; it’s about how much we share. Perry’s filmmaking and theater accomplishments are distinguished by his writing, directing and producing talent and his belief in reoccurring themes from everyday troubles and triumphs. Perry’s success in the film industry has made him one of the most successful film directors in America. He is not only a director who has sustained a lot of pain, but has transformed it and used it to build much success. Perry’s stories are very exclusive in presenting a logic that he came from completely nothing and rose to anything that he could have possibly anticipated. His personal thoughts about life opens his audiences to a better understanding of his approach to film and stage plays. This is because he turns his struggles into life and one of the messages that he gives to his audience is that writing helped him relate to his own life and actions. That, in turn, helped him inspire not only himself, but anyone who wants to see differences in life. Works Cited Daddy’s Little Girls. Dir. Tyler Perry. Perf. Gabrielle Union. Lion’s Gate Films, 2007. Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Dir. Darren Grant. Perf. Kimberly Elise, Tyler Perry. BET Pictures, 2005. Good Deeds. Dir. Tyler Perry. Perf. Tyler Perry. Tyler Perry Studios, 2012. Madea Goes to Jail. Dir. Tyler Perry. Perf. Tyler Perry Tyler Perry Company, 2009. Madea’s Family Reunion. Dir. Tyler Perry. Perf. Tyler Perry. Lion’s Gate Films, 2006. “Tyler Perry.” The Biography Channel website. 28 Feb. 2013.
Screening Report: Big Momma’s House Kelly Qualls Scene Details The cinematography features a country, old-fashioned and colorful kitchen with flowery wall paper images. The camera pans over as Big Momma is walking towards the sink to rinse off her hand. She got burned from the pork chops that were thrown in a pan of hot grease. A close-up emphasizes the black pan on the stove as the butter gets tossed in. The black pan and the butter implies that dinner is starting to be prepared. The long-shot is taken when the elderly lady next door neighbor is walking her dog and runs after the FBI agent. She notices the undercover FBI agent peeping in the window, only to help out undercover agent Malcolm Turner disguised as Big Momma. The over the shoulder shot shows Big Momma and Sherry talking. Big Momma asks Sherry if she is in some sort of trouble then Sherry changes the subject all of sudden to try to avoid the subject. She asks about the duct tape on Big Momma’s face and she tells her it’s a beauty secret. The low angle shots show when dinner is served and they focus on characters’ faces showing expressions of how good dinner looks to them. Scene Summary An FBI agent Malcolm Turner is going undercover as he disguises himself as Sherry Pierce’s long-lost grandmother, Hattie Mae Pierce, known as Big Momma. This scene attempts to identify whether Sherry really is going to tell the disguised Big Momma why she came into town after all of these years. It focuses on Big Momma asking Sherry leading questions trying to get clues. Action, comedy, and crime are the means by which this story is communicated. The mise-en-scene is in Big Momma’s house in the kitchen. In the first part of the scene Big Momma starts to cook for Sherry and her son, Trent. Big Momma heads into the refrigerator and pulls out some pork chops and turkey necks. The undercover FBI agent name John notices that the disguise is falling apart on Big Momma. So he runs over and gives her some kind of glue and an elderly lady, who is walking her dog, asks: “What are you doing over there?” Then suddenly she’s chasing the agent down the street. Big Momma tries and hurries to fix the disguise with duct tape instead of the glue. Big Momma returns to cook then all of a sudden she gets burned and then walks over to the sink. From there she and Sherry have a conversation about whether Sherry is in trouble or not because she hasn’t seen Big Momma in some years. Finally dinner is served and they admire the food. Analysis It has come to no surprise that Sherry had not been truthful to Big Momma about why she has arrived at her house with her 10 year-old son. Sherry has no clue that she is helping solve a crime, thinking instead that she is talking to her grandmother but yet, it’s an undercover FBI agent. She has no idea that the real Big Momma has left town to take care of her friend that is ill. The disguised Big Momma tries to influence Sherry and Trent by ironically giving them advice not to keep secrets while she, an impersonator, is preparing dinner.
Solange Sanchez I am currently 17 years old and a freshman at Florida Keys Community College. My goal is to receive a bachelor’s degree in English for editing and publishing, which is why this writing about film class interested me. I love movies in general and it was an interesting and exciting experience in which I learned how to analyze and interpret films more closely.
A Heroic Villain Solange Sanchez A villain is usually easily spotted in movies and television series, for they are the characters that are understood to lack sentimental values. Dan Scott makes such an interesting character in the series One Tree Hill because he goes through psychological changes as the show proceeds. He is completely unpredictable, causing the audience to become fascinated with his actions no matter how we feel about him. His actions make him an interesting and complex villain to observe. We are first introduced to him as a straightforward and insensitive character who only cares about himself and his image. He becomes more dominant and hateful the deeper we go into the show. Finally the plot reaches a point where Dan commits a crime that obligates his deepest moral feelings to surface. The progression of simple villain to complex antagonist takes mini seasons. We know Dan is the villain of the show because of his characteristic traits. We notice his selfish actions as he constantly forces his own son to follow the dreams and goals Dan is not able to achieve himself. He does this without taking into consideration what his son desires which causes controversy between the two. As seen in the 23rd episode of Season Two, Nathan and his mother Deb are discussing his future. Nathan wants to spend the summer at a basketball camp called “High Flyers” but is uncertain of his decision. The reason for this is because he’s afraid of leaving his mom in the company of his abusive father. Nathan is worried about what will happen to his mom in his absence. In the end of that very same episode, Dan is poisoned and then his office is set on fire with him in it. A faceless person is responsible for this “accident” and we are not able to figure out who it is due the many possible enemies Dan has.
Dan starts to take responsibility for his actions and begins to help those he now cares for. He helps Karen with her pregnancy, for she carries Keith son. By doing this he is trying to make up for his mistakes and find forgiveness from his dead brother. He also takes the blame for something he did not do, in order to help Nathan stay out of trouble. Nathan had beaten a man after the man had hit Haley with his car. Dan tells Nathan to run away before the cops get there and see the guy has died. He is sent to prison in the place of his son, and we understand that at a psychological level he does this to punish himself for the crime no one yet knows about. He does many heroic actions to try to rectify the bad choices he made in the past, yet we are not convinced of his kindness. Dan’s character is difficult to understand, because he is psychologically troubled. The years pass and he serves his time in prison for his crime, until finally he is let out. By this point the viewers don’t know what to expect from him, which makes him an interesting character. One example is when he interviews the woman who’s claiming she is pregnant with Nathan’s child. This claim can ruin his carrier which causes Nathan to feel hate towards his father for making the gossip even more public than it already is. At first, it is understood that Dan is doing this to torture Nathan and ruin him, but in the end he actually does the complete opposite. Dan tricks the woman into admitting she made the story up while live on TV, clearing Nathan’s name and allowing him to keep his job. In the third to last episode Dan ends up in the hospital after he gets shot saving Nathan’s life and rescuing him from his kidnappers. It is a heroic action of sacrifice when he blocks the bullet for his son. The episode is filled with sudden flashbacks of all the terrible things Dan did in his past which are intended to remind the audience how much he has changed since then. Nathan sits by Dan’s bed at the hospital and he says that friends and family want to see him. He replies, “I didn’t know I had either.” Dan begins the show as the main villain, but he dies a hero in the end. His tremendous change makes him very interesting to the viewers, for many can debate whether he was genuinely good or bad. His persona comes across as intriguing which catches the audience’s attention. It also allows him to be memorable since he is much more complex than the usual hero or villain. The filmmakers made Dan’s character intricate in order to maintain the viewer’s interest. This was necessary because the show has nine seasons and would not be as compelling otherwise. Although Dan Scott makes many unforgiving mistakes, he is able to rekindle broken relationships throughout the nine seasons of One Tree Hill. Works Cited Schwahn, Mark. “One Tree Hill.” One Tree Hill. CW. WB, Sept.-Oct. 2003.
We are led to believe Dan is the antagonist of the series for many reasons. One example is that he does not get along with half his family in the beginning of the show. He abandoned a woman who was pregnant with his son and never helped them in any way. In fact, when his son, Lucas, makes it to the basketball team, Dan does everything possible to have him removed. We see this in the very first episode when he tries to convince the coach not let Lucas play. He also has issues with his brother, Keith, and constantly puts him down in order to make himself feel superior. By Season Three, almost every character hates Dan and he finds himself more alone than ever before. Yet, he doesn’t do anything in order to improve his relationship with others, displaying his pride and unloving nature. The series reaches a point in which Dan is so envious of his brother’s life, because so many people care for him, that he commits murder. In Season Three, Episode 16, Dan grabs a gun and kills his brother, Keith. From this point on, the viewer begins to see sentimental emotions from Dan. The first sign is when he begins to see his brother everywhere he turns, showing his guilt. His brother’s ghost shows up in a kid form, leading us to believe Dan saw him as innocent and loving as a child. In one scene, Dan goes to the graveyard and says to his brother’s ghost, “You know I made a mistake, but I can’t take it back.” This symbolizes his regret and shows that he is starting to care. The viewers are not able to anticipate any of the choices and actions he makes from this point on because he changes into a completely different person. 22
The Hunger Games
Scene Detail: The reaping, an annual event that occurs in all twelve districts, is featured in The Hunger Games. Just eleven minutes into the film we see those ages 12 through 18 standing together in a crowd surrounded by peacekeepers. The camera shows the faces of the kids, some facing the floor and others with tears rolling down their cheeks as a video, explaining why and how the hunger games started, plays loudly in front of them. The focus changes to Katniss whose face is serious, making her look strong among the others. Then it moves over to Gale’s face as he is looking at the floor rather than the video being showed, which gives a sense that he’s a rebel. The camera does a close up of Effie’s smiling face, which stands out in the crowd of all the other naked faces and plain, old, grey outfits. She speaks and the only sound is her joyful voice through the microphone as she announces she will choose a tribute soon. She walks over to the round jar where all the names are written in pieces of perfect squared papers. The camera is still in close up and it then focuses on Effie’s delicate fingers as she slowly places her hand in the jar. Her pale fingers move slowly back and forth for a few seconds and once she finally chooses one, she takes it out immediately. She walks back to the microphone, the camera still closely following her face but then it focuses on the squared little paper Effie is holding. Her fingers are about to unfold the paper when the camera focuses on her smiling face once more. Suddenly we see Effie from a distance, her full body and colorful pink outfit fully shown as she calls out the name of Prim Rose Everdeen loud and clear. We see Prim’s face then, focusing on her white face only and she stares at the floor and lets out a small, silent gasp. For no more than a second we see Katniss reaction and then we are taken back to Prim and we see everyone else backing away from her, slowly leaving her side. Prim takes small steps and tucks in the back of her white blouse into her skirt symbolizing that she is going to be independent and strong. Her mother’s straight face is showed right before we see Katniss moving past the people and making her way to Prim. The scene, which had been very still and silent, is suddenly filled with Katniss’s high pitched voice calling out her little sister’s name twice, before two peacekeepers block her way. Katniss screams again and this time she volunteers so take her sister’s place. As soon as the words have left her mouth the guard moves away and she repeats herself once more. Their mother’s face is shown and surprisingly this time she partially parts her lips which make the viewer’s wonder why her reaction was different this time. A middle shot of Katniss and Prim take place as Katniss calmly tells Prim to get away from there and find their mother but Prims cries the word “No” over and over again. Gale has to come take her away by force as Prim yells even harder. Katniss is taken upstage where Effie is, her gaze straight but her lips are open a bit as she breaths nervously. Effie cheerfully asks for her name and Katniss speaks through the microphone, her voice distant and emotionless in comparison to Effie’s. She asks for applause for Katniss, but instead of clapping hands, the residents of District 12th kiss their fingers (excluding the thumb and pinky) and they then put them up towards the stage. Katniss squints her eyes, which look watery by this point, and tries to hold back her tears. Effie quickly changes the subject and moves on to choose the male tribute. This time she doesn’t take much time choosing a piece of paper. She digs in her hand rather than select one from the top as she did for the females. Music starts playing in the background; at first it’s a distant sound but as Effie says Peeta’s name the music becomes more noticeable. Slow violin sounds are heard. We see a middle shot showing a group of males and slowly they all turn to one of them who we understand to be Peeta. The camera focuses on Katniss’s face once more as she stares with eyes wide open and then we move back to Peeta. Now we see him closer. He walks to the stage much faster than Katniss did. Once he is on the stage we see his f ace in close-upand the camera slowing as it moves sideways from Peeta’s face, past Effie’s and then stops at Katniss’s dreamy stare as she looks at nothing in particular. Effie stands back and asks them to shake hands while the camera focuses on Katniss. As we look at her face we are taken away from the reaping and we see a memory flashback in a darker shade of blue and in that memory we see Peeta dress with a white apron over his white shirt and jeans, holding a loaf of bread in his hand. We also see Katniss sitting by a tree under the rain Her face looks tired and she looks hopingly at Peeta. The memory fades and we focus on Katniss and Peeta shaking hands as Effie wishes everyone a happy hunger games.
This scene attempts to capture the reaping event where a male and female are chosen in all of the 12 districts of Panem. Twenty-four of them have to fight to death in an event called “The Hunger Games” till only one stands. This event is filmed and everyone has to watch it from their homes. This is in order to keep peace and not have war in a future-based time. The camera is shaking which creates the feeling of uneasiness and we face many close ups in order to see the actors’ emotions and reactions during the scene. We see part of a memory in which Peeta and Katniss are both present, which lets the viewer know they have some history together. The film only shows a small fraction of the memory which causes wonder and anticipation that the full memory will be showed later on.
Analysis: This scene is essential for the film in order to explain the emotions and feelings the characters had to go through. By doing this, they help the viewer understand more of the characters’ reactions later on in the movie. It gives a closer look of how they were back home before they were thrown in the games. The dark -colored outfits and sad faces looking down at the floor create a sad feeling for the scene. Prim’s cries as Gale carries her away show why Katniss fights so hard and wants so badly to win the games. It fits perfectly into the story line in order to show that Katniss would do anything in order to save and protect her little sister. The fact that the film focuses more on the choosing of Katniss rather than the choosing of Peeta shows that Katniss is obviously the main character in the film as the camera constantly focuses on her and shows many close ups of her face to show emotions. This scene establishes one of the main problems that the characters have to face. The flashback scene shows that Peeta and Katniss have history which makes it much more difficult to accept the fact they might have to kill one another later on. The sad music when Peeta gets chosen represents that The Hunger Games already has its tributes and the show is about to start. It also anticipates that the games will bring moments of sorrow rather than happy ones.
Zakary Wronka Zak is a dual enrollment student at Florida Keys Community College. His interests include music and automobiles. He plays classical music and performs in bands and competitions. Zak finds telling details in story lines and scene composition, especially in the genre of science fiction.
Character Analysis: Khan Noonien Singh Zakary Wronka Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (ST:TWOK) is a science fiction movie about the bitter rivalry between the main antagonist, Khan, and the main protagonist, Kirk. Khan (Ricardo Mantalbon) is bent on revenge against Kirk (William Shatner) for marooning him on a desolate and deserted planet, where Khan’s wife perished from the extreme elements since her body was more frail than her genetically-engineered compatriots. The elements that manage emotional response in Khan’s characterization ultimately rely on narrative script and cinematography for effect, while encouraging pangs of sympathy, although Khan is ostensibly a villainous and vengeful man. The film’s narrative elements lend a sympathetic view toward Khan’s vile actions. A key example occurs early in ST:TWOK. When the starship Reliant arrives to scout Ceti Alpha Six as a possible Genesis Device test planet, an aerial panoramic shot of the planet’s surface is seen. This frame displays the sheer bleakness of the landscape; there is no color other than sepia tone. Those familiar with Star Trek immediately realize that green planets signify abundant life. At this point, Khan’s darker side is revealed as Chekov and Captain Terrell are captured. The irrepressible Khan then proudly introduces them to his severely diminished crew of superhumans. Khan’s actions dramatically portray his anguish as he articulates the tale of how Ceti Alpha 6 was turned into a desert planet, annihilating much of his marooned crew along with his beloved wife. These personnel were Khan’s friends, furthermore, his family. To powerlessly watch them die of starvation or dehydration would be immeasurably traumatic, even for a genetically-engineered superman. This emotional torment comes across in Montalban’s performance; in fact, Khan appears to be on the verge of tears while explaining his plight to Chekov. This handful of people, some 20 odd men and women, are all that Khan has left in the galaxy. With his inherent sense of leadership and duty, he must seek to provide the best future possible for his followers. The movie’s style of cinematography and mise-en-scene enhances the reality of both a sympathetic and villainous Khan. When Chekov beams down to Ceti Alpha, the first thing seen (and heard) is a swirling sandstorm. The underlying fact that Khan and his crew survived regardless of these conditions for 20 years is a remarkable feat, especially considering that no compatible environmental equipment was available. It is easy to sympathize with Khan’s quest for revenge against Kirk’s verdict of abandonment. For example, Chekov’s capture scene begins with very close, very cramped shots. During this same scene, Chekov is drawn to a bookcase in the Reliant’s cargo hold. Although there are many books on this shelf, only one stands out in the viewer’s mind: Moby Dick. With this clever foreshadowing, it becomes apparent that Khan is not the cold, calculating mastermind as initially perceived, but rather a passionate, morally vengeful man whose most consummate desire is to hurt Kirk, and to keep on hurting him. In fact, attention is called to the big gold letters on the spine of Moby Dick by the unmarked books closely surrounding it on the shelf.
There are two reasons for this: one, the scene is onboard the wreck of the ship Botany Bay, and two, it establishes that Khan’s 20 person living quarters are very cramped. Close-ups are also predominant in the movie’s most famous scene, as both Khan’s overblown villainy and Kirk’s unrestrained anger are apparent when Kirk is marooned in the Genesis test cavern. In Khan’s mind, he has won: the white whale has been slayed. Therefore, he gloats, portraying his inner scoundrel. He becomes increasingly cocky and feels magnanimous in his declared victory. The related shots of Khan are poorly-lit and awkwardly close because they convey his true colors: intense, malevolent and unrelenting. As Khan follows the Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula, he completely metamorphosizes into a truly irredeemable villain; he solely exists to destroy James T. Kirk. This scene, not earlier in the Genesis Research Station, is when Khan becomes irredeemable. He has Genesis; he has the key to revitalizing his dead planet but conversely, he cannot celebrate his completed quest. The logical, calculating Khan at the film’s onset has been overthrown, replaced by the heated, wrathful persona hidden within the benevolent leader. But even here, he still exhibits a few sympathetic qualities. When First Officer Joachim dies, the anguish on Khan’s weathered face is unmistakable; we can feel the sharp pain and emotional compromise of his heart wrenching loss. The elimination of Khan’s crew culminates his desire to activate the Genesis Device as his final grand gesture of retribution. He had nothing to lose; his crew was dead, he was dying, and the Enterprise was going to escape safely. By triggering the device, Khan’s victory was seemingly sealed. Although others have tried to surpass the multilayered and ostentatiously endearing Khan, he remains arguably the most magnificent villain Star Trek has ever seen. In short, Ricardo Montalban’s portrayal in ST:TWOK is heavily dependent on the text and cinematography of the tale. Khan Singh is a conflicted individual. He wants to provide for his followers, while simultaneously desiring revenge toward Kirk for marooning he and his faithful on a dry and lifeless space rock. By the finale, Khan’s lustful nature is his downfall. Works Cited Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Ricardo Mantalban. Paramount Pictures, 1982. DVD.
End Note The sampling of papers, essays and analysis produced by Writing About Film students represents diverse genres and styles in movies. Students write screening reports to see meaningful parts within the whole experience of a film. Jose zeroes in on a family dinner in American History X, dissecting dynamics that will later feed ideological extremes in the son. Kelly looks at a comedic set-up in the kitchen of Big Momma’s House and shows how the cross-dressing crime caper emphasizes domestic centralities of food and family. Solange’s screening report analyzes a pivotal scene of quest and challenge for main characters in The Hunger Games. She finds camera distance a telling tool in managing emotions and manipulating audience attachment to characters. Film analysis helps us interpret aesthetic, technical and cultural affects. The writing requires support for an argument, interpretations of affect and connection to broader meanings. Zak’s character analysis gives viewers grounds for a more sympathetic stance on a vengeful Star Trek villain, finding allusions to a mad Ahab that compound the tragedy of Khan. Solange analyzes complexity in a different brand of villain, one whose cruelty anchors plot twists over several seasons in a TV series, One Tree Hill. Solange charts surprising growth in an irredeemable character whose end comes with a heroic act. Kelly examines recurring patterns of protecting and remembering which she finds in the work of writer/director Tyler Perry. Jose’s analysis argues for appreciation of unlikable heroes like Walt in Gran Torino, whose crude cultural bias grows less antagonistic the more he interacts with neighbors he initially finds foreign. Students tackled the business and production of film as a local issue in the group research project. Armed with critical questions, students found answers in film history and culture in the Keys. What we celebrate in this publication is a love of film and the relationship with cinema that one generation re-discovers and eagerly passes on to the next, in writing. - Lois Wolfe Markham
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A collection of writing pieces from Writing About Film students at Florida Keys Community College (Middle Keys Center) during the 2013 Sprin...