Japanese horror films

What is horror? Its a genre of fiction that aims to scare, induce feelings of horror and terror to the audience. It gives us a sense of repulsion or disgust by creating a strange and terrifying atmosphere. But, this genre can be considered a broad term. This so happens because fear is subjective.  Maybe a “slasher” movie doesn’t scare you but you tremble when you’re watching ghost movies. The horror genre is always developing and this is due to the constant changes in the culture. Therefore, western horror will not be the same as in Japanese horror films. 

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The Tales of Ugetsu (1953)

In order to understand the Japanese horror a bit, we must mention the two major influences: Kaidan and Japanese theater. Kaidan is a literary genre that focuses on Japanese folklore. Telling ghosts or Yōkai (creatures half human and animal) stories. However,  Japanese theater is divided into two subgenres: Kabuki and Noh. But regardless, both focus on samurai, ghosts (Yūrei), demons (Akuma) and monsters stories. In 1953  they released what was considered the first Japanese horror movie; The Tales of Ugetsu. Based on two Kaidan stories and explores themes of gothic cinema; mixing Japanese culture with supernatural elements.

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Matango is a film about is about a group of castaways on an island who are unwittingly altered by a local species of mutagenic mushrooms.

Throughout the years, Japanese horror cinema developed subgenres from the same category.   The Edo Gothic was a subgenre that lasted a decade. (1950 – 60). Touching themes of how humans interact with the spiritual world. At the same time, another subgenre was born and that was based on the fear of people; focusing on the nuclear bomb. Creating monster movies such as 1954 Godzilla or films about the effects of nuclear poisoning (Matango 1963). In the same year, the subgenre called “Pink films” was born and this happens because of the censorship laws of Japan.

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Daydreams tell a story of a student that has sexual fantasies about vampires while she’s sedated in the dentist office.

Mixing sexuality with violence and horror (Daydreams 1964). Many of these women were victimized and the plot was mostly developed in schools and prisons. This subgenre kept growing until the year 80; where it became more popular by mixing the genre “slasher” and thus creating a new subgenre called “splatter eros”. 

Over the years the horror genre underwent unforgettable changes. However, in 1998 the movie Ringu was released, returning to the roots of Japanese horror cinema and defining the concept of J-horror (Japanese horror). Directed by Hideo Tanaka, this film tells the story about a family that was cursed by a videotape and how they are being followed by a vengeful ghost called Sadako. This film sparked an interested in  Japanese cinema abroad, especially to the western audiences. Resulting in a big market of American movie adaptations or Japanese films. Bringing popular movies to America like such as One Missed Call and Ju-On.

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Ringu (1998)

Films like Ringu is a good example of the difference between Japanese horror cinema and western horror. Unlike western horror, J- horror tends to focus more on developing a complete story that causes terror to the audience. They don’t use the old  “jumpscare”  formula or loud sounds to cause fear rather, they use eerie environments and minimal sound to frighten the audience. For this reason, movies such as Ringu have fascinated and contributed to the horror genre. Giving us a story that will make you tremble and not be able to sleep at night.

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“The Perfect Dictatorship” y el uso de la distracción mediática

Escrita y dirigida por el director mexicano Luis Estrada, The Perfect Dictatorship se trata dictadurasobre la historia del joven productor de las noticias TV MX, Carlos Rojos. Este productor es contratado por políticos corruptos para limpiar su imagen en los medios. El productor es llamado para que arreglara la imagen del presidente de la repúblicadespués de un comentario racista. Para desviar su escandalo, él lanza el video del Gobernador Vargas negociando con la mafia. Al igual que el presidente de la república, el Gobernador Vargas contrata a Carlos Rojos para una vez mas limpiar la imagen de otro político.

Para un comunicador de los medios ya sea el periodista o reportero tienen el trabajo de cubrir noticias y darle la información con su toda honestidad. Pero, a largo plazo esta ética se esta perdiendo o simplemente es ignorada para poder tener una buena imagen. En los medios, este termino se llama distracción mediática. Esto consiste en crea la atención del publico de los problemas ya sea desviándolos con otras noticias o simplemente creando una para distraernos de la realidad que nos rodea.

El director Luis Estrada nos enseña en una forma satírica, con un toque de humor negro como en la película usan este método con la analogía de la caja china. Para poder desviar el escándalodel presidente de la república;ellos lanzaron otras noticias tales como la inundación, la balacera en la discoteca y, para terminar, publicaron el video del Gobernador Vargas. Es por esto que usan la analogía de la caja china; al abrirla encuentras otra y otra. Igual que la analogía; ellos publicaban malas noticia detrás de la otra para distraerla la audiencia del comentario racista del presidente. Además, nos muestra como los políticos manipula los medios para su propia campaña política. Esto lo podemos ver cuando el Gobernador Vargas hizo el video en vivo para el noticiero. Vendiéndole al pueblo que el hará lo posible para encontrar a las gemelas raptadas. Pero, en realidad lo hace para su propio beneficio para poder desviarlos del video de él negociando con la mafia. Tratando de crear una imagen positiva de él en los medios.

The Perfect Dictatorshipes una película que con su sátira nos enseña la realidad que no tan solo México vive, sino que también nos podemos relacionar. Como el gobierno y los medios colaboran para crear una realidad alternativa usando técnicas de distracción mediática. distrayéndonos de la verdad y lo que en realidad importa.

 

Reversing Roe: Commentary

Reversing Roe is a 2018 Netflix documentary about the debated of abortion in America. The director’s Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern give us a small history lesson in the first act of the film. Leaning up to the point of the case of case of Roe V Wade. A landmark decision in 1974 on the supreme court about the constitutionality issues of criminalizing and restricting abortions.

Through the film, they capture different standpoints on abortion whenever is pro-life or pro-choice. It sheds light on the issue in a variety of ways. In a political standpoint, it was an interesting thing seeing how Republicans such as George W Bush , and even Donald Trump were in favor of abortion until they were in the process of being elected as president. Showing how a small change in their statement can win the masses. There’s also the religious side of it. When they are presenting statements on why the abortion is wrong, protesters tied their argument with religion.

The film shows the hardship that people who work in the abortion clinic have. Physician Colleen McNicholas, where she takes the task to travel in various clinics because there are not enough people to do their line of work. Or the case of George Miller, who was assassinated by a religious conservative. How an organization such as Operation of Rescue, have an enjoyment in closing clinics and having pictures as trophies.

One of the scenes that caught my attention was the interview they did to Wendy Davis. On June 25, 2013, she committed a thirteen-hour filibuster to block Senate Bill 5. This Senate bill includes restrictive abortion measures in the State of Texas. It was interesting seeing how powerful women like Wendy Davis went all her way into committing a filibuster to defend women’s healthcare and rights.

Reversing Roe is a documentary that touches on one of the most controversial topics of our time. It sheds light on the struggles of women’s body rights. How the government and religious institutions have a big influence in making these law’s that enforces restrictive measures for women’s healthcare.

Trailer for the Documentary Reversing Roe :

 

{ Video by Netflix }

{picture by Netflix}

Singing in the Rain: The transition from silent film to “Talking Pictures”.

The silent film era started in the nineteenth century, with the works from the Lumière Brothers. In the early stages of cinema, they were no synchronized recorded sounds but rather, motion pictures and title cards indicating the dialogue and what may be the plot of the story. It wasn’t until the late 1920’s where they started to perfect the use of sound in film. “Talking pictures” or “talkies “for short, opposed from silent films, they synchronized sound with moving images; causing a big evolution in the movie industry. On 1927, “The Jazz Singer” was released and became the first feature-length motion picture to have synchronized music score and lip-synchronous singing.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” is the first line ever spoken  in a feature film .

Being a revolutionary thing in cinema, of course, there’s going to be technical difficulties along the way. Hollywood used the idea of the transitions between eras and made it into a film. Thus, in 1952 “Singing in the Rain” was born. The movie is about Dom Lockwood and Lina Lamont, two superstars from silent film movies. After “The Jazz Singer” came out in theaters, their studio, the Monumental company, decided to start doing “talkies“. However, Lina Lamont doesn’t have the voice to do “talking pictures“. Throughout the film, Dom meets Kathy Selden an inspiring actress. He finds out that she can sing and so Dom uses her as a voice over for Lina Lamont on his next film.

Singing in the Rain” other than being an amazing musical, it showed us the hardship that film-makers and actors had when the transition from silent to “talkies” took place. Silent films depended on facial expressions and overused mannerism to convey the feelings on to the audience but many actors weren’t ready or capable of “talking pictures“. In the film, they showed the the actors taking vocal coaching and being careful how they pronounced the words. Just like Lina Lamont, some actors weren’t made for talking in the film.

On the technical side, in the film you could see the way the production worked was completely changed. On the set of silent films, the director and the crew could be talking and screaming on set because all they need was moving images. But, when it came to recording for a “talkie” they had to be completely quiet so that the microphone would only record the actor’s voices and not outside noise. Other technical difficulties were how they needed to adjust the microphones correctly so that it could pick up the actors voices or how the motion picture sometimes couldn’t sync with the sound. The film “Singing in the Rain” is a great example of how Hollywood transitions from silent movies to “talking pictures“; showing the effect that it had the actors and in film-making.

 

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Flâneur, Poe, and Christopher Nolan’s “Following”

 

Flâneur comes from a French noun and it means “stroller”, “lounger” or “sauntered”. The word Flâneur proceeds from Flânerie which is the act of strolling. The meaning of this word was drawn by rich associations or men that for take the causal leisure. The concept of Flâneur was exerted in the 19th century when urbanization and industrialization were in the making. This kind of concept was explored in a literary and artistic sense by Charles Baudelaire in his essay “The Painter of Modern Life”. In this essay, he explores the processes of modernism and how the world is constantly changing. He tells about the shifting conditions of modernity and how it changes the people and their surroundings. Through the essay, Baudelaire dives into the concept of Flâneur in a more philosophical and literary rather than the concrete act of Flâneur; the author assimilates it with strolling by but in a more complex tone. The act of strolling by and relate to the reality of the changes. Baudelaire describes that act happens when you’re around the cities and the crowd; when you hold still and spectate your surroundings, embracing each person’s individuality. By also watching other people, you enter into a state of self-reflection

Throughout this decade many writers were inspired by the literary phenomenon that is flâneur. Strangely enough one of them was the gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe. Baudelaire being the translator for Edgars works, it wasn’t a coincidence that he too was influenced by flâneur and you could find it in his short story “The Man in the Crowd”.

After being named of an unknown illness, the main character sits in a coffee shop and stares into the window, fascinated by the crowd outside. The narrator takes his time into describing us the reader’s small details about each person or group he sees “a decrepit old man, some sixty-five or seventy years of age man” ( Edgar Allan Poe, A Man in the Crowd) peaks his interest and starts following him around the city.

Me being a movie buff I can’t help but think how the literary concept that is flâneur and Poe’s thrilling story that is “A man in the crowd” has a lot of similarities with Christopher Nolan’s first film “Following”.  The “Following” starts an unemployed young writer and he takes pleasure in following strangers in the streets of London. One day following a stranger, the man takes notice that’s he’s being followed and introduces himself as Cobb. He tells the young writer about his hobby that is breaking into people’s houses and enjoys robbing or misplacing other people’s items.

Baudelaire says that to reach a certain enlightenment and ideas you have to experience flâneur. We can say that the main character for takes this literary phenomenon in an extreme way; by following people until he has reached an idea has he trying to be an inspiring writer (which in the film he failed). The main character also has similarities with the main narrator of “A man in the crown”. Plot-wise from being in the coffee shop and admiring people to both get fixated in the same person and start to follow them between the crowds.

An interesting similarity “A man in the Crowd” and the “Following” have is how the plot is just a big cycle. The film starts with a scene from the future and ends with us finding out how everything was part of the plan and how the main character was the one being followed this whole time. In “A Man in the crown” it’s more ambiguous, its starts with us seeing the narrator fixated with one person and end with them still being obsessed with the old man but not telling us the readers more about him just left on midair.

From characters to plot and settings; the following and “A man in the crown” have a lot in common. Characters obsessed with peculiar people to reach a certain idea. The plot in a sense of they both enjoyed following people has their hobby lastly, the setting where they took place in large cities with big crowds.

The concept of flâneur created by Charles Baudelaire has influenced big writers such as Poe and picked up and reinforced by Walter Benjamin who has open discussions with scholars. Till this day poetry about flâneur is being discussed and related because the theme of modernization and urbanization is always going to be in the table because the world is constantly changing and modernizing themselves through the years to come.

 

 

Bibliography

[ image by : https://headlikeanorange.tumblr.com/post/38173461154/mindrelic ]

Christopher Nolan “Following”

“A Man in the Crowd.” Complete Tales and Poems, Web Books.

Aimée Boutin (2012) Rethinking the Flâneur: Flânerie and the Senses, Dix-Neuf

Walter Benjamin, “the Flâneur, and Redemption.”

Women in Horror Films: Commentary

When it comes to horror; many women have taken iconic roles within the movies. This can be seen in movies such as: “Carrie” where the title character takes her revenge, Ripley fighting “Aliens“, and Laurie being brave enough to fight Michael Myers on “Halloween“. In a gruesome genre such as Horror, people tend to forget those iconic characters and remember the victims, the screamers, the beggars for their life. Now just like women within the film, the industry also tends to forget the women that make them.

On the latest interview with Polygon, Jason Blum, an American director and CEO of Blumhouse production was caught off guard when they asked him about the lack of female directors in his production house he said, and I quote, “There are not a lot of female directors period and even less who are inclined to do horror”. Trying to save what he just said, he tried to justify it with how he wanted to work with female director Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) but she turned him down. Making things worse; he proceeded to ask his assistant names of directors which just caused to make a mockery out of himself. This comment coming from a well-known person in the horror industry came out as a shocker. Even after he posted an apology in his official Twitter, it sparked a conversation within the community.

Being a female in an industry full of raging men is a tough thing to live by. The thing is that Hollywood portrays that there are not enough women interested in the industry, but they’re wrong. It’s the lack of opportunities that they can give to them that makes it hard. If you’re sitting down in a room full of people, ready to present your idea and it could be a great one, but they will give a go to the guy next to you because you never had the chance to make a project in the first place.  It’s the job of production houses, such as Blumhouse, to scout and give the opportunity of making a film to anyone, regardless of gender. There’s plenty of female directors but they haven’t been given the platform to do it. There are talented women all around, you just have to give them a chance.

One of the biggest bias that horror movies have is that women can’t enjoy or create horror. It is a genre that has a mindset of only being full of men. On this day and age, it’s time to break that mold, but the fact remains that if this is how he thinks; this could be the same mindset of many people within the industry. Statements, just like the one Blum said, represent the lack of knowledge and the open mindset that some people in Hollywood have. Comments like this overshadow many creative women that have done horror films throughout the years, and even recently there’s been a big wave of women making great films from this kind of genre.

Rather than shutting them down let’s embrace and support our fellow female horror filmmakers and give them the opportunity to create and feed us fear that we sometimes crave when we are watching a horror film. Let them not be the victims that we see within the movie, but the iconic heroes of it.

Here’s a link to a list of female horror directors: enjoy!

 

{ picture by Brian de Palma . }

 

 

The use of Technicolor in The Wizard of Oz

In 1939 the musical “The Wizard of Oz” was released on the big screen, based on the children’s novel of the same name written by L. Frank Baum. This story is about the adventure of Dorothy and her dog in the world of Oz, after being taken away by a tornado. On her way, she meets magical creatures from this world. Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly lion and they accompany Dorothy to “Emerald City”, where the Oz, a wizard, can take her back to her home, Kansas. This film has innovative productions, whether it is the scenography or costumes design, but what stands out is the use of technicolor to highlight the colors of the film.

One of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema is Dorothy leaving the sepia tone house and entering a world of bright colors. This could not be done without the “DF – 24 beam splitter camera”. This camera required using color filters that were composed of red, green and blue. When they filmed the scenes they used black and white 35 mm tape; in the process of revealing the ribbon they unite them and create the film in full color. But the camera did not do the whole process in its absolute fidelity. You had to play with the colors of the costumes and the scenery so that when they film it and goes through the filming process; does not miss the essence of bright colors that you wanted for the film. Every scene needed a color test strip and they did double or triple take just to be sure.

One of the challenges in the filming process was the lights since it needed a certain amount to make the color stand out in the process of revealing the tape. It was said that the set for this movie sometimes reached 100 degrees FF. One of the many things this movie achieved by using light was Dorothy’s famous shoes. To capture the eye of the audience, the used the bright lights to reflect the sequins. This helped highlight that striking red we see on the big screen.

The Wizard of Oz” was not the first film to use this technique, but it is a perfect example of the early work of colors in cinematography. The brilliant production of lights and the intensity of the saturated color palette is what made this film. Thanks to the use of technicolor we have the illusion of entering this bright and colorful world that is the world of Oz.

On this scene Dorothy is leaving her sepia tone house and entering the world of bright colors with the help of a DF – 24 beam splitter camera : 

 

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Video by Benjamin Portman }