Final Paper

       Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942) and Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook (2004) remain widely known romantic films for their era. Although recorded more than half a century apart, these two films capture similar stories dealing with young love that breaks apart but finds each other again. Although the endings differ significantly and many element of film differ, there are certain elements of film that are comparable. Both Casablanca and The Notebook highlight specificities of the romance genre, however Casablanca also represents several other genres.

            Genre is a major element in film that classifies it into a specific type and puts the film into a certain category. Several films remain part of several genres and are called hybrid films. Different types of genres represented within movies include examples such as horror, romance, drama, sci-fi, action, and comedy (Briggs). Subgenres exist as well which separate an overall genre into a more precise description such as labeling a film futuristic sci-fi movie rather than just a science fiction movie. Genres often times reflect the cultural context of the time (Esteban). This is because the audience is targeted in a certain way on purpose. Various characteristics that affect the category of genre a film is placed in include “setting and location, characterization, plot and structure, themes and concerns, narrative address, and style” (Higgins).

       Casablanca remains one of the first Hollywood genre films. Specifically, Casablanca is mostly a romance and drama film. When evaluating Casablanca as a romantic film, several occurrences throughout the film support it as romantic. Elements of romantic films include love and relationship stories trying to capture the viewers’ emotions, overall happy moods, and heavy inclusion of dialogue. Casablanca indeed possesses an overall happy mood, especially for the time period it is characterized in; Laszlo escapes from the horrors of the concentration camp however the movie does not include the horrors of concentration camps. In addition, the film includes significant dialogue between characters; overall description and narration is not common.

       The Notebook depicts a romantic film as well. A strong love story develops throughout the plot with a satisfying ending. Although the movie contains a significant amount of heart touching moments, an overall happy mood is characterized throughout. The main characters Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun are able to escape the pressures and hardships in life together; although sometimes they fight, they are crazy about each other. The movie makes the audience want to smile. Romantic fills often make the audience feel good. A connection with the characters is established and the audience wants to see a happy ending.

       The setting and location represented throughout both films is different. The Notebook is mainly shot in a small town and romantic shots of lakes are taken while Casablanca is predominately shot in a bar, dark rooms, and military controlled Morocco. The Notebook is also filmed at a center for the elderly but shows shots of sunsets, flowers and grassy fields. The setting in The Notebook yields more of a happy feel, while the overall feelings through setting in Casablanca are tense. Casablanca has a lot of shots of booze, military, and propaganda. Although rough shots are included, shots in Paris are also found in Casablanca. The time period and culture during the writing of Casablanca was post World War II, which describes why such images and references were included in the film.

       The characterization seen in both films differs for different characters. Both leading men are seen as manly for their time periods. However, their expression of love for the leading women is different. Rick remains standoffish and allows Isla to go off with the other man at the end while Noah writes letters to Allie every day and builds her a house. The women are similar; both remain in relationships with one man on the side but love another man too. For Ilsa, she stays with her husband in the end of the film although the love in her eyes for Rick is obvious. For Allie, she leaves her fiancé to be with her true love Noah again.

       The plot and overall structure of each film possess both similarities and differences. The ending for The Notebook, although very sad, is endearing. The ending for Casablanca is commending. It is respectable that Rick saves the life of the one he loves however it is undistinguishable whether or not this is a true happy ending because he does not end up being with the one he loves at the end. Throughout the films, the two relationships had by each woman cause issues. In The Notebook however, references to propaganda and militia that help carry the plot do not occur.

       The themes represented throughout both films include some similar and some differences. Major themes in Casablanca include independence vs. involvement as related to Rick, isolation vs. intervention in WWII, American tolerance vs. European, Democracy vs. fascism, and gender roles (Byrne). Major themes in The Notebook include young love, the effects illness has on family, status in society, and maternal expectations. Love with boundaries remains a theme found throughout both films as Ilsa has different relationships of love with both Rick and Laszlo and Allie has different relationships of love with both Noah and her fiancé. Independence vs. involvement is seen in multiple cases throughout both films. In Casablanca, for the majority, Rick is seen as a hard, tough, independent guy who simply worries about himself. In the end, he end Rick helps both Ilsa and Laszlo escape, even though he does not escape with the woman he loves. In The Notebook, both Noah and Allie’s mom go through different phases of independence v. intervention. Allie’s mother intervenes in her love life throughout the film based on her own feelings. Although in the end of the film Noah is suggested to be independent of Allie in her episodes of Alzheimer’s disease, he intervenes.

       The genre represented most by The Notebook is romance. Although romance is the major genre for Casablanca, several other genre aspects represent the film including documentary aspects, war, espionage, propaganda, drama, film noir, and western. Film noir is represented in many cases for instance when Marion pulls out a gun in front of Rick. Propaganda is seen in the multiple shots to specific posters and advertisements. Western is represented in the end of the film where Rick pulls out his gun and shoots someone so quickly it references a duel; in addition, a big wagon wheel is seen in the background (Byrne). Different shots of, feelings, and references to different genres characterize Casablanca. The setting, characterization, plot, and themes of both The Notebook and Casablanca help specify the genre.

Works Cited

Briggs, Robert. “Film Factories?: A Review of Genre and Contemporary Hollywood Edited by Steve Neale.” Senses of Cinema. Ed. Steve Neale. RSS, Dec. 2003. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.

Byrne, Joseph. “Casablanca and Genre.” Web log post. English 245 Film Form and Culture. WordPress, Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.

Esteban, Jose. “Genres: Where to Draw the Line?” British Film Institute. Film Forever, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Higgins, Elizabeth. “Genre.” Glyndwr. Glyndwr University, 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.


Out-of-Class Writing for Inception

Inception certainly remains an example of a blockbuster. When the film came to theaters, it overwhelmed the competition in the box offices. The idea and confusion in what Inception really was and what occurred in the film became a hot topic. The new digital technology represented in the film added to the excitement of the film. 

Week 13: Chicago 10

      Brett Morgen’s documentary Chicago 10 depicts eight demonstrators involved with the 1968 Democratic National Convention protesting violence and war. Themes seen throughout the film include the counter-culture, non-violence vs. violence in the military, activism as a spectacle, realism vs. fiction, anti-capitalism/anti-white, and the role the of media. Violence with respect to the military characterizes a portion of the messages in the film. Peaceful protests were supposed to occur however they were thwarted and became violent with the inclusion of the military. In addition, the theme of realism vs. fiction is seen throughout the film in the duplicity of shots between live footage and animation.

       Chicago 10 remains an example of a documentary film. Two elements of documentary films referenced significantly in Chicago 10 include interviews and cutaways. Chicago 10 is certainly an unusual documentary however. The inclusion of animation causes a new type of way to look at the film as a documentary. The elements of usual documentaries are included in the film however they are executed in different ways. The way Morgen presents this documentary allows him to be thought of as somewhat of an auteur.

       The use of animation in Chicago 10 was artistic and appropriate for the given material and cultural movement. The animation reinstates the seriousness of the issue in an unusual way. It gives the film more of a pop feel. In addition, the animation allows for another perspective to be seen and for additional comments to be added, such as in the trial scenes for example. Violence and death occur throughout the film and Morgen is able to play the animation in a way that does not downplay the impact. 

Week 12: Three Experimental Films

       The three experimental films viewed include Un Chien Andalou’s An Andalusian Dog, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon, and Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Various themes seen in An Andalusian Dog include the corrupt nature of popular culture, sexual development, and World War I aftermath. Some themes seen in Meshes of the Afternoon include dreams vs. unconsciousness, feminism, dreams vs. reality, and suicide. Themes referenced in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story include feminism, consumerism and capitalism, the power of celebrities, and culture vs. counterculture.  Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story highlights the decaying and impossible nature of expectations placed on women especially from media and objects such as Barbie dolls. This theme of feminism also goes into Meshes of the Afternoon.

       Avant-garde films tend to contain strong narratives. The five major types include abstract films, city symphonies, structuralist films, and compilations. An Andalusian Dog and Meshes of the Afternoon remain avant-garde surrealist films. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is an example of a compilation film as it presents shots of film in innovative ways. An Andalusian Dog mocks narration, includes unconscious nature, and presents the middle class in a satiric nature.  Meshes of the Afternoon depicts the state of dream throughout contrasted with reality. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story remains a surrealist, abstract, and compilation film as it satires conventions, uses dolls in an innovative way, and presents out of place and odd footage.

       A significant amount of celebrities these days are becoming famous at a young age, having a solid career for a while, and then getting corrupted. This situation happened to Karen Carpenter and eventually led to her demise. The media and the need for popularity play a significant role in getting corrupted as they place so much stress on celebrities and have so many expectations. Karen Carpenter ended up developing an eating disorder and took heavy amount of drugs. In the 21st situation, similar situations happened to celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and Miley Cyrus. Although the situations are not entirely the same, each of these stars started at a young age and significantly changed and began taking drugs as they grew older.

Week 11: Zero Dark Thirty

       Kathyrn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012) describes the mission through Pakistan of the assassination of Osama bin Ladden. Various themes referenced throughout the film include torture, feminism, 9/11 and terrorism, the war on terrorism, and journalism. Journalism is seen in the ways aspects of the mission are recorded. In addition, the themes of journalism and torture run together as several notes are taken from the instances of torture in the film. Torture alone is used heavily as an element in the film that displays a tactic for how information was collected from opposing sides. Brutal measures are taken at times, and Zero Dark Thirty presents torture as though it is mostly successful.

       Kathyrn Bigelow remains an auteur throughout this film as she creates artistic elements throughout her film. Fundamentals that characterize auteurs include technical excellence, distinguishable personalities, and true film art. Throughout her film, a dichotomy is seen between her artistic efforts and the major ideas and purpose of the film. She presents the women in the film highly. Journalism is both a theme in the film and an elemnt of Bigelow’s nature as an auteur. The use of journalism, presented in Bigelow’s artistic ways, helps tell the story and account for the events which occurred.  

       Many critics point out that the way torture is presented in the film makes it seem as though torture works. Zero Dark Thirty presents torture as though information can be gathered from it, supporting the case of torture working. The reason for this is based on how the most important and crucial information gathered in the film was acquired through tortuous means. The information that linked the CIA to find people who were linked to Osama bin Ladden was through torture. This is controversial based on the number of individuals who remain against torture and because torture by no means is a method that always works. 

Week 10: Weekend

       Jean-Luc Godard’s film Weekend (1967), set in France, depicts the lives, journey, and secrets of a dysfunctional married couple, Roland and Corinne. Throughout the movie, the lies and betrayal both Roland and Corinne hide from each other are revealed. Social context remains a major theme throughout the film. More specifically, the themes of violence, class conflict, anti-imperial struggle, and high art vs. low art are recognized throughout the film, each tying into the historical and cultural contexts of the time. Violence is represented throughout the film however Godard depicts two types of violence. Animals throughout the movie are brutally hurt, however violence towards humans is seen in more of a fake way. The blood on humans is deliberately fake looking as a comment from Godard.

       Social context is the major theme that encompasses several of the other themes throughout this film. The French Wave remains a major aspect of the film as well. The three main elements of the French New Wave include intersexuality, alienation, and self-reflexivity.  The film remains a satire of the middle class, bourgeois. The film is antagonistic. Elements of social context referenced throughout the film include French surrealism, Italian Neo-Realism of the late 1940s, European Art Film of the 1950s, and the Third Cinema. Weekend remains a critique of Hollywood from Godard. In addition, the film is very different than traditional filming, seen regularly throughout Hollywood. 

       Weekend is characterized by Godard challenging Hollywood film through various methods. Music, for example, is played at the wrong time like the pop song in a scene where the mood is the opposite of the sound the audience hears. In addition, several moments in the film, filmmaking is referenced.  Godard makes a point that film does not have to be realism. Another element Godard challenges in the capitalistic nature of the United States. He does this through making the journey seen during Weekend occur by way of a drive through the country. Production of cars remained a major aspect of capitalism in the United States. Godard satirizes the bourgeois and middle class of the United States by his inclusion of making the actors place such an importance on cars.

Week 9: Far From Heaven

       Todd Haynes’ film Far From Heaven illustrates the struggles in life of Cathy Whitaker as she undergoes social problems dealing with her husband, Frank Whitaker, and her friend, Raymond Deagan. Frank Whitaker remains attracted to men at a time where homosexuality is not commonly accepted. Cathy Whitaker ends up falling in love with her African American friend Raymond Deagan. Each of these major events parallel the themes confronted throughout. Themes challenged throughout the film related to these social issues include bourgeois supremacy, male supremacy, white supremacy, and heterosexual supremacy. The relationship between Raymond and Cathy is looked at as such an outrage based on the views on white supremacy at the time.

        Film and Ideology is a major component addressed in Far From Heaven. Although the separate challenged supremacies contain the ability to be addressed as themes, they also represent ideologies. The ideologies in the film challenge social issues and norms that at the time probably made people uncomfortable however contained the effect of making them think. Male supremacy is seen in the ideal of the “macho” man. Men are looked at as the supposed breadwinners, strong ones, and those who support the wives while the wives are the supposed housewives who cook and clean.

        Each of the ideologies can be looked at separately throughout the film, however they also intermix. Gender and sexual orientation both remain ideologies intermixed throughout the film. For example, Frank tries to fulfill a masculine ideal although he remains homosexual; he overcompensates trying to make sure people do not scrutinize him for being different. At the time, a stereotype was put on gay men and in his mind, in order for him to not be a part of that stereotype, he had to fulfill the “macho man” stereotype instead. 

Week 8: Casablanca

       Michael Curtiz’s film Casablanca (1942) traces the stories of Rick Blaine, Victor Laszlo, and Ilsa Lund. Major themes seen throughout the film include independence vs. involvement as related to Rick, isolation vs. intervention in WWII, American tolerance vs. European intolerance (Strasser and Ferrari), Democracy vs. fascism, and gender roles. Love with boundaries remained another film seen throughout as Ilsa has different relationships of love with both Rick and Laszlo. Rick’s independence vs. involvement is seen in multiple cases throughout the film. For the majority, Rick is seen as a hard, tough, independent guy who simply worries about himself. The single person that causes him to have involvement remains Ilsa. Rick also does care about Sam, however. For example, Rick exhibits this when he does not let anyone buy Sam. In the end, Rick helps both Ilsa and Laszlo escape, even though he does not escape with the woman he loves. He shifts from a man who is independent and remains in isolation to a man who intervenes. 

       Genre films represent different types of movies including examples such as horror, romance, drama, sci-fi, and comedy. Casablanca remains one of the first Hollywood genre films. Specifically, Casablanca remains mostly a romance film. When evaluating Casablanca as a romantic film, instances throughout the film support it as romantic. Elements of romantic films include love and relationship stories trying to capture the viewers’ emotions, overall happy moods, and heavy inclusion of didactic dialogue. Casablanca indeed possesses an overall happy mood, especially for the time period it is characterized in; Laszlo escapes from the horrors of concentration camp and the movie does not include the horrors of what concentration camps were. In addition, the film includes significant dialogue between characters; overall description and narration is not common.                

       Although romance is the major genre, there are a lot of other genre aspects used including narration, documentary, war, espionage, propaganda, drama, film noir, and western. For example, film noir is represented in many cases for instance when Marion pulls out a gun in front of Rick. Propoganda is seen in the multiple shots to specific posters and advertisements. Western is represented in the end of the film where Rick pulls out his gun and shoots someone so quickly it references a duel; in addition, a big wagon wheel is seen in the background. Different feelings included in, shots of and references to various genres characterize this film. These qualities reaffirm how Casablanca remains an artistic and less conventional film. 

Week 7: Apocalypse Now

       Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now, follows the journey of Captain Willard on his quest to “terminate” Colonel Charlie M Kurt. Major themes addressed in Apocalypse Now include war vs. peace, barbarism vs. civilization, rationality vs. irrationality, east vs. west, and 1960s-1970s counterculture. The duplicate nature of humans as both savages and angels is addressed in the film as well. The idea of whether an actual person is insane or the military in general is insane is intermingled in the film also. War vs. peace is a theme that also encompasses the others. This contrast is seen in so many instances throughout the course of the movie. Sound adds to the elements of war and peace, creating significant divides. Loudness, uneasiness, and explosions characterize war. Sounds that are quiet and tranquil characterize peace. The temple remains a symbol for peace with war lying right outside the gates. 

       The first scene in Apocalypse Now starts softly but then distorted helicopter blades and overhead fans exponentially rise in sound.  All throughout the movie, militaristic sounds with bombs, explosions, and helicopters are used to try to convey feelings of war and unrest to the viewer. The sounds try to get the view to imagine them as close to being in the chaotic area of war as possible. There are instances of peace however; Kurtz’s temple is much more quiet. The horrors remain on the outside, not piercing the inside. Voice-overs are used as is background music to display personalities and events; for example, homey, light, music defines the general in the beginning. Sound is used as a method for the introduction of Kurtz in the movie by way of the radio. Silence is also used as a major element of sound; the sound of no sound acts as a significant sound. For example, when the people first arrive in boat there is no sound and when Willard kills Kurtz there is a dead silent. The scene is so silent that the viewer can hear flies buzzing, which signify dead bodies.

       The use of sound in Apocalypse Now is significant, but the film is an even better example of the artistic use of mise-en-scene. The elements of mise-en-scene including setting, the human figure, and lighting are exemplified throughout the movie. Setting is addressed all throughout as different scenes of Vietnam are presented. There is setting inside in places such as the temple or the tents that the generals talk in and outside by the beaches or in the forest. The human figure is used in many cases of placement where people of different heights are paired on different grounds and the camera is angled a certain way to make them seem as though they are similar in height. This symbolizes similarity in stature, position, or confidence. Lighting is used significantly to convey moods and themes. The lighting in the film is paired as closely to a look of war as possible; this is meant to make the viewer feel closer to the scene. The elemets of mise-en-scene help add to the feelings of war vs. peace and the conflicts undergone throughout the movie. 

Week 6: Psycho

       Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho acts as a psychological thriller telling the story of Norman Bates’ interactions with those who choose to visit the Bates motel. The beginning of the film makes it seem as though it will be a story of Marion’s attempt to steal money and run away with Sam; this money is actually a MacGuffin. Various elements of themes seen throughout the film include Marion and sexual morality, the viewer/voyeur, psychology, the psycho as the “psychopath”, and a MacGuffin. Psychology especially plays a huge role as a theme in Psycho. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Norman Bates took on the personality of Mother Bates after murdering both her and her husband. For example, although when private investigator Arbogast is murdered by what looks like Mother Bates, it is truly just Norman Bates dressed up as Mother Bates. The psychologist reveals Norman’s internal struggle between taking on the two personalities at separate times. He truly believed he was each different person when he acted as either one.

       Editing remains a major film component accentuated in Psycho. Significant elements of editing include collage, tempo, timing, and use of space. These elements persist throughout the film particularly in murder scenes, as Hitchcock wanted to make it seem as though a killing was truly occurring when obviously killing the actual actor was not as option. Both timing and use of space are used to make the murder scenes seem realistic as coordinating cutting and continuity are used to make the stabbing seem connected and realistic. Tempo is used especially in giving certain length shots of the Bates Mansion over the Bates Motel. Eyeline match is exemplified in several cases including cuts between when Marion is looking directly at the money then cuts that zoom into the money and cuts between when Marion is looking directly at the cop driving in her rearview mirror then cuts that zoom into the cop driving. Pacing, music, and cuts all add to the significance of editing in this film. The shower scene itself has over forty separate cuts, making the movements seem sharp and allowing the viewer to imagine what is left unseen.

        Hitchcock introduces a new idea to the establishment of lead characters in typical Hollywood films in his film, Psycho. Lead actors and actresses generally carried the plot and story, but in the case of Psycho, the female protagonist is killed off in the first third of the movie. This certainly shows how Hitchcock took a risk and established himself as an artistic director as this was a new idea unseen throughout Hollywood, he made the viewer think differently about film, and it added greater suspense. Viewers remain surprised by this the killing of Marion so soon and wonder what is to happen next, innovatively creating an added suspense. An added excitement and curiosity is evident with the plot twist Hitchcock provides.