The Central Park Five vs Chicago 10

Filmmakers are oftentimes trying to convey controversial ideas in a film and it is a matter of finding the right style to best convey them. In The Central Park Five, five boys, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, were accused of violently attacking and sexually assaulting a woman who was jogging through Central Park. There was very little evidence that these boys actually committed the crime. The police had taped confessions from each of the boys but none of the confessions added up completely to the others or to what really happened. Yet, these boys still spent a minimum of seven years in prison. Chicago 10 is a documentary about eight young men who were accused of trying to start a riot during the Democratic National Convention. They really were trying to start a non-violent protest against sending more troops to Vietnam. The police ended up being the ones who were violent but the court treated the protestors unfairly by not giving them the same rights as the prosecution. Therefore the question with a film or documentary is, how do the filmmakers find different ways to get their points across and ideas heard.  The Central Park Five and Chicago 10 are great examples of filmmakers using different methods of filmmaking to get their points across.

There are many things to be said about the movie The Central Park Five. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David Mcmahon directed a very powerful documentary that showed how five boys can be convicted of a horrible crime because of the color of their skin even though there was lots of evidence showing that these boys had nothing to do with this specific crime. The most powerful message in this documentary is how racism can make people blind to the real facts. Just because these boys are black and hispanic and live in a bad part of New York, known to be a poorer area and more subject to crime, does not mean that they beat and sexually assaulted this woman. The city wanted to make the public feel relieved and secure by finding a culprit as quickly as possible. In the end, the district attorneys and city of New York still haven’t fully taken responsibility for what they put these innocent kids through.

The style in which Burns, Burns and Mcmahon decided to make The Central Park Five was a mix of classic documentary style and avant-garde style. As Jaime Pena wrote for Cinema Scope: “In the current festival landscape, the observational documentary is something like the new academicism—which would make the classic talking-head documentary by extension the new radical avant-garde, or perhaps an endangered species.” The directors used lots of archival footage from the tapes of the kids from the police station, tapes from when they were examining the scene, paintings of what it must have looked like in court and newsreels from reports given at the time. Burns, Burns and Mcmahon used lots of b-roll footage that they shot, mostly time-lapse to show what the prisons, park and neighborhood looked like. Along with this combination of different mediums of film which make it an avant-garde style, they used classic documentary style interviews. These were put together in a fashion where there were parts that went quickly through news reports and slowly through scenes explaining what happened. While explaining what happened, they used narration and text on the screen. With all of these techniques together, this documentary is truly powerful.

In Chicago 10, Brett Morgen, the director, also tried to convey a powerful message. The main themes are that Americans should have the right to organize a group to protest but in this case, they were punished for doing so. The “Yippies” were a group who wanted to protest non-violently yet the police came at them with nightsticks and beat them until they left whichever area the police were clearing. The police even did this to people who were not part of the protest but happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Morgen shows how the city of Chicago put the eight men on trial for coming to Chicago to start violent riots. But he clearly shows in everything before then that the men had not intended to be violent. Not only was this charge by the city of Chicago wrong since the men said they did not want violence but the court was unfair. Also, the judge would not grant the defendants the same rights as the prosecutors. Some examples are how the defense wasn’t granted any breaks during the trial to privately discuss their case yet the prosecution was granted breaks and also how Jeffrey Write, one of the young men, wanted to defend himself and the judge would not allow it. Morgen showed these scenes with archival footage and, for the court scenes, he used animation because there was no actual footage available. This is a great example of avant-garde style because it shows an experimental way to convey facts. With the animation, he was really able to capture the way the men acted both in court and for scenes before the trial and conversations outside the court. Though made in an avant-garde style, this fits into the documentary category very well and even better into post-modern documentary because of how they “call into question ‘grand’ theories that purport to explain everything for everyone forever. Claims there is no universal/objective truth; everything is subjective and relative. Holds that the self is socially constructed,” Joseph Byrne. These post-modern documentary ideas all show how unique and forward thinking Chicago 10 is, with still getting its message across.

Both The Central Park Five and Chicago 10 are documentaries fighting for a cause and are done in unique ways. These documentaries have different causes but both are challenging core beliefs. Though The Central Park Five is about a group of boys wrongly accused of a violent act and Chicago 10 is about a group of young men wrongly accused of trying to start a riot, I believe the most important element here is that they both are treated incorrectly during the process. The boys from The Central Park Five were questioned for more than 10 hours at a time and then told they could go home if they just told the police what the police had wanted to hear. This was unfair. These boys had been in the park and had been harassing other people but they never harmed this woman. There was almost no evidence to convict these boys yet somehow the justice system let them be arrested, taken to court and then sent to jail without a second thought. The young men in Chicago 10 had just wanted to use their first amendment right – to have the people who are supposed to be representing them in the government hear what they and many others believe. The people who were protesting were treated unfairly and the police were violent when trying to get them to follow orders. The judge also treated them unfairly by not giving them the same rights as they gave the prosecution during the trial. The directors of the films go about showing these court cases differently. Burns, Burns and Mcmahon use classic interview style footage but they also use clips from newsreels and time-lapses with text over it. Morgen creates the court scenes with animation. Animation is much more avant-garde, but the mix of the news, text over shots, and interviews used The Central Park Five could also be called avant-garde.

Filmmakers are oftentimes trying to convey controversial ideas in a film and it is a matter of finding the right style to best convey them. The Central Park Five and Chicago 10 are great examples of using different styles effectively.  Ideology was very important in both movies and the filmmakers did a great job letting the audience know what they wanted to convey. Burns, Burns and Mcmahon show how these boys’ case should not have ever gone to court since there was so little evidence against them and how racism should not blind one’s judgment. Morgen shows how these men were average citizens trying to use their first amendment right but in the end, it was about the government thinking that the intent was to use violence and the way that the court system treated them during the trial. Both of these films were done in an avant-garde documentary style with the themes in ideology.

Bibliography

Bianculli, David. “‘Central Park Five’: Rape, Race And Blame Explored.” NPR. NPR, n.d.Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Byrne, Joseph. “English 245: Film Form and Culture.” English 245 Film Form and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

“CENTRAL PARK FIVE: A Film By Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

“Central Park Five.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Chang, Chris Chang. “Review: The Central Park Five.” Film Comment. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

“First Amendment Center.” First Amendment Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. Flumenbaum, David. “Ken Burns: Bill De Blasio Has Agreed To Settle 10-Year-Old Central Park Five Case.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Pena, Jaime Pena. “TIFF Preview -3: Autrement, La Molussie |

Post Tenebras Lux | The Central Park Five | The Gatekeepers | A Hijacking | ILL Manors | Imagine | Kinshasa Kids | Mekong Hotel | Miss Lovely | Penance | To the Wonder.” Cinema Scope. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

Ventura, Elbert. “Reverse Shot.” Chicago 10. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.

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Inception

Christopher Nolan’s Inception explores many complex ideas and themes. One of the main themes is ontology: reality verses fantasy. Cobb and Mal struggle with it for a long time. Mal ends up losing sight of reality and believes her fantasy is real. Cobb tries as hard as he can to keep to reality. He uses things like totems to remind him of what is reality and what isn’t, only seeing his kids faces when he is in reality and making sure everyone else is hyper-aware of what is a dream and what isn’t.

Though backed by Warner Brothers, a major Hollywood movie studio, Nolan doesn’t just stick to the classic Hollywood movie style. Inception was thought of as an intellectual movie because of the complex ideas of going into people’s dreams and taking or leaving information. This movie was nominated and given many awards, and it is also still a deeply contemplated movie. People have lots of in-depth discussions about the events that happened in it, especially in the end when Cobb spins his totem and it doesn’t topple.

The idea of reality verses fiction is something people struggle with. Fiction is something that people are drawn to since it is everything and anything they want. Mal and Cobb are great examples as to why reality is much harder to face. Nolan used great special effects to really show the struggle. The special effects make it hard for us, the audience, to tell what is real and what is dream. This is why so many people enjoy this movie and still discuss what happened in-depth.

Out of Class Writing for Inception

When blockbuster released Inception the combination of amazing special effects, drama and surprises made it an instant hit. Though, the plot baffled audiences it left them wanting more. The ideas of dreams with in dreams and Inception became huge. This could not have been done with out a enormous amount of technological skills to make each layer and scene so intense and real. The combination of the stunning effects, complex plot line and crossing several genres made it a classic blockbuster movie.

Chicago 10

Chicago 10 has many important themes. The themes that stand out the most are non-violence and violent militancy. The Yippies wanted to express their beliefs and opinions. The police and government did not want them to. The police, or “pigs,” as many of the characters call them, tried to physically threaten the Yippies. They wanted to make sure they did not disrupt the convention. Unfortunately, the Yippies did not care if the police got physical with them; they still were not going to leave.

There are several ways Morgen makes Chicago 10 a more postmodern documentary. There is a lot of advocating for change. The Yippies are thought to be the “low” class; thought of poorly by the government officials. The government officials are thought of more as “high” class. The Yippies want their opinions to be heard and taken into account, but the government officials and police do not want them to be. Morgen also makes the line between realism and fiction very small by having chips from the news or actual events, but having the court scenes and scenes from before the event be animated. Having scenes that were not caught on film animated and other scenes as archival footage makes you question whether if it is real or fiction.

There are many things that happened during this protest. The struggle for the Yippies to stay non-violent when the police were using violence was very present. Switching between the court scenes, the protest itself and the scenes where the protest was being planned out showed how the side of the seven men convicted and the police/politicians differed. Having the animation helped Morgen show things that might not have been filmed if he was using all archival footage. One example is the kiss blown from one of the defendants to the jury. For all these reasons, Morgen has done a great job of showing the story of this protest and court case in a post-modern documentary format.

An Andalusian Dog and Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story

Women’s roles in society have always been controversial. With the films An Andalusian Dog and Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story, you see two different ways people feel women should be and how this affects the women in a negative way. The young girl in An Andalusian Dog did not want to be touched by the man, yet he tried to force himself on her. Some people think that women should just do what men want them to and make the men happy. With Superstar: Karen Carpenter Story, it deals with how people feel like women should look. Karen suffers from anorexia because she feels she is not skinny enough.

Both Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali in An Andalusian Dog and Todd Haynes in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story use avant-garde techniques. Haynes’ most unusual aspect was the fact all his actors were dolls, whereas most movies use people, animations, or Claymation as their characters. Though the dolls can’t show emotions in their facial expressions, Haynes was still able to have them show emotions through their tone and actions. Buñuel and Dali had a silent film where they used euphemisms to try and get their point across. They had unusual scenes, such as when the man has ants crawl out of his hand, or even the opening scene where he cuts open an eye, both sexual innuendos.

These movies are great examples of avant-garde. Using unique scenes and characters they both fall under avant-garde for completely different reasons. Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is very similar to most films since it has dialogue, plot, climate, and characters that you become attached to. It is different in how he uses dolls, and uses unique micro scenes to show acts. For example, when Karen is throwing up because of her anorexia, he shows a close up of her sink. Avant-garde films are usually unique and up to interpretation, and these two films are exactly that in their own ways.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is about trying to find Osama Bin Laden. How the characters Maya and Dan go about trying to find out where he is and who was helping him was torture. This was a very controversial topic when people finally found out about it. Not only is the fact that people were tortured controversial, but the fact that Bigelow showed every detail of it was as well. Though, it is an important theme since it was so imperative to getting the information, the fact that people were tortured was completely immoral.

Being an auteur, Bigelow made these controversial scenes artistic. He did this by choosing to show the details of how the United States Army tortured people, but in a way that had artistic cinematography and Mise en Scéne. She could have left it to the viewer’s imagination, but instead, she has the viewers see what the prisoners went through. Trying to get information about Osama Bin Laden fits Bigelow’s action war movies’ style. The way she artistically showed this was carefully thought out to make sure to tell the real truth, be an enjoyable movie, and not offend the Arab people.

The War on Terror is something that has been plaguing the United States since September 11th, 2001. The United States has done many things to fight it, a lot of them bad and a lot good. A lot of the information was acquired through torture. Bigelow used Mise en Scéne and artistic cinematography to show the horrible details. Though she did also show many good things the United States did. The torture was the most controversial. Being a female director whose main genre is action war, she shows that women are strong, but it doesn’t stop people from doing bad things.

Weekend

There are several themes in Godard’s Weekend. One of the most prevalent themes is violence. Godard shows two types of violence: violence to people and violence to animals. The violence is also depicted as realistic or not. In Weekend, animals and humans are treated differently. Animals are harmed brutally and it is depicted very well, considering that you see every little detail. The human violence is unrealistic; you can see that the blood is not real, and even in some scenes, see the people breathing.

Violence in Weekend is strange and makes sure that you do not forget you are watching a movie. This also happens with the music, where sounds and scenes seem to be randomly placed. This falls under Art Cinema. The audience understands that Roland and Corinne are on a weekend getaway. Since there are so many scenes randomly placed, the music does not match the mood you think would actually fit the scene, and the fact that the characters keep saying they are in a movie, it makes the audience unable to become attached to the characters. This is exactly how Art Cinema style is.

Art Cinema films are films that are made for artistic purposes, not commercial purposes. Godard showed this in many ways: with the violence of humans and animals being so different, with the music and sounds being out of place, and with the scenes being out of place, too short to understand, or too long. Godard wanted to make sure the audience was entertained, so he put in sex scenes and violence with bloodshed. With all the techniques mentioned before and the characters telling other characters in the movie that they really were in a movie, you really see the movie for the artistic side and not the commercial side.