All posts filed under: Issue 3

Screen Culture Journal Issue 3 – 2017

Transnational Satire: Communism v. Capitalism

Introduction and Historical Background Despite the United States’ desire to keep communism contained, it could be found everywhere in the post-war world. This essay will explore the transnationality of communism through satire, specifically Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball (1967), Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961) and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964). These three films examine the ideological battle between capitalism and communism. Forman’s allegorical film is a reflection of Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, and it was also part of the Czech New Wave, which was a movement associated with filmmakers like Forman who had no ties to the communist party, and also had no desire to nurture Czechoslovakia into a socialist paradise[1]. The Firemen’s Ball was released in 1967 as a mere comedy, but was banned in 1968 after the Soviet invasion. On another side of the world came Wilder’s film, which exists in the comic juxtaposition between East and West Germany. Wilder himself came to America after he escaped Nazi Germany, and for this reason was skeptical of totalitarian states, and thus the communist states at the …

Feminism in “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Action films are usually depicted as masculine. The main character is generally a man who endures different sorts of violence and faces threats, before eventually being victorious in the end. Meanwhile, the women in these films are often in desperation and ultimately saved by the male characters. In Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015), however, the pursuit to victory is not exclusively led by the lead male character. George Miller allows the women in this movie to defy the stereotypical female role in this genre by letting them take on heroic characteristics. In fact, there is not just one main female character, but several that play a part in representing female power throughout the film. Each of these individual characters are able to represent one group of women trying to defeat the antagonists of the film. Miller addresses the gender issues and overpowering of masculinity that we face today in Mad Max: Fury Road with his female characters, including Imperator Furiosa, the five wives of Immortan Joe, and The Many Mothers. By giving these women …

The Triumphant Comeback of Robert Downey Jr.

As many people are aware, Robert Downey Jr. has had a tumultuous life and career. Despite garnering a significant amount of celebrity in his younger years, a variety of drug use related incidents occurred during that time. Interestingly enough, those incidents have now shaped and created the star image that Downey portrays today. In a world where society watches their every move, celebrities must always be vigilant about the way they act and what star image they project. Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent example of how hard work and perseverance can truly turn someone’s life and star image around as long as they are willing to take another chance. Downey’s drug problems started at a young age “when his dad, a director of underground films, introduced him to pot before the age of nine.”[1] As time wore on, his heavy use of drugs began to affect his career during the late 1980s to the early 2000s. It seemed as though he could no longer keep up with the demands of Hollywood. Instead, he was …

Vittorio De Sica and Italian Neorealism

After the end of World War II, several countries experienced a great post-war economic growth. However, not every country was so fortunate. Italy struggled to get back on its feet. Its citizens no longer believed or trusted those in power to make the right decisions on their behalf. Italian Neorealism rose to popularity as a result of the anxieties of an entire nation trying to come to terms with the war it had just been involved in. In trying to reconcile the terrors it had seen, the people of Italy staunchly rejected the war films and historical epics that they had been used to before the war. Instead, Italians turned toward Italian Neorealism, a genre which was used as a kind of exposure therapy to help Italians process the effects of the war. While Italy did not suffer the same kind of devastation as Germany or Britain did, the war still left substantial scars on the country. This is something that many Italian neorealist directors took great advantage of.[1] In Bicycle Thieves (1948), Vittorio De …

Indian Cinema’s Dialogue With Neorealism: Creating Something Different Than Bollywood

From the start of Indian cinema, the Hindi language films have been popular and commercial which was influenced by Hollywood. Later on, the Hindi industry was called Bollywood because of its ties to Hollywood and it being dominant in the city of Bombay. Bollywood films followed a classic narrative similar to Hollywood. In the 1950s, Indian directors like Satyajit Ray wanted to make “real” films that depicted the life of everyday Indians post-independence instead of the popular films (Bollywood) that were dominating Indian cinema. Ray was inspired by the Italian Neorealism movement that took place in post-World War II Italy between 1945 and 1951.[i] The movies that were released during this time were realistic as they mainly portrayed working class people and their struggles during post war times. Even though the films are realistic, they are still fiction films and not documentaries. In Film History, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson note that the neorealism movement “did create a distinct approach to fictional filmmaking.”[ii] Ray’s debut film, Pather Panchali (1955), also uses the practices of neorealist …

Pre-Code and “Scarface”‘s Impact

In July of 1934, the Production Code Administration of Hollywood, or commonly recognized as the Hays Office, began to regulate Hollywood made films. But before this occurred, there was a brief four-year period from 1930 to 1934 where films had more ability to venture out and have free creative expression. Those four years, before filmmakers agreed to adhere to strict regulations of what they can and cannot show on screen, are now known as the pre-code Hollywood years. During these pre-code years, many films pushed censorship rules, as they were not heavily enforced, films such as Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson’s 1932 Scarface. The Hays Office was concerned films were doing a disservice to the public by allowing sex and violence on screens. Scarface is a gangster film that not only included many violent scenes and gun use, but is also based on the real-life events of gangster, Al Capone. The Production Code Administration was concerned that making this into a film would glamorize the gangster lifestyle. Taking nearly a year to be released due …

Cult Films, Cult Fans, and Cult Rituals

The power that media users possess in regards to the types of media they choose to consume is overwhelming. This power can be most evident when discussed in the realm of viewership and television ratings. If a show does not develop a strong fan base that watches every week, that television show will be canceled by the network. On the other hand, if a television show develops a strong fan base, the network will negotiate a contract to get more seasons from the show. Now, think about this in terms of film. Certain films will garner a strong critical reception or profitable box office numbers. Other films can develop a strong fan base in which fans engage in ritualistic like activities for the film. The definition of a cult film is so elusive because any film can become a cult film. The 70s and 80s brought in a new wave of cinema that revolutionized not only how many viewed cinema at the time but also how one would experience a film within the cinematic experience. …

Gender and Sexuality in “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Many stereotypes exist that associate certain qualities with one gender or the other. Males are typically associated with advantages of strength and ruggedness, while women are more so associated with being delicate and vulnerable. These assumptions appear most prominently in certain film genres, one in particular being that of action and adventure films. The movie Mad Max: Fury Road is an exception to this classical pattern. By casting a female character in the lead role and also portraying females differently than in most action films, director George Miller breaks down many of the clichéd gender representations that often appear in action films. In this way, issues of gender and sexuality are addressed through aspects such as character placement, plot development and overall mis-en-scene, with costume design playing a large role. In most action films, the female character relies heavily on the lead male protagonist.[1] However, this is not at all the case in Mad Max. Miller reverses these roles between males and females by instead placing a female character into the lead role. For the …

Action Adventure: Conventions, Aesthetics, and Structure

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984) has established itself as a classic action adventure film. This film, true to the series, plays on the elements of asserting white male masculinity as a symbol of modernity and superiority of the West. Through these ideas, the film operates by displaying action sequences, usually violent, to further elements described above through the main character, Indiana Jones. This film combines the action-adventure genre with western ideology through the representation of white superiority and modernity. Ultimately, it reinforces dominant ideologies and conventions of classical Hollywood surrounding gender, class, and nationalism. In Temple of Doom, the audience is immediately introduced to the character Short Round (or Shorty), an eleven-year-old Chinese boy that serves as Indy’s side-kick. It is noteworthy to point out that very few main characters are not white; however, when a Chinese character is cast, he is cast as a young boy (an attempt at emasculation) who serves mainly as comic relief for the plot and story. It is …

Art Cinema and Second Wave Feminism: Addressing Representations of Gender and Sexuality in a New Way

Amidst the Cold War, tensions were building worldwide regarding not only politics, but social issues as well. Along with the development of birth control, the 1960s ushered in an age of second-wave feminism concerned with sexuality, reproductive rights, and women’s roles in the family and workplace. This movement was translated into the film industry. A new type of woman, one more comfortable with her sexuality, was becoming more prevalent on-screen. However, this proved to be a double-edged sword. While women were receiving more diverse representations, these representations were still oppressive due to their roots in a patriarchal society. Cinema objectified and sexualized women, reducing them to no more than a spectacle within the narrative.1 Shifting away from this toxic, traditional structure, art cinema popped up around the globe, challenging the classical narrative and stylistic structure of Hollywood films that led to the unfair and negative representations of gender and sexuality. This new, modern style of cinema drew attention to its own construction, and many filmmakers took advantage of this unconventional format to address social issues …