The Ghost Writer (2010) Directed by Roman Polanski and Written by Robert Harris and Roman Polanski

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This is a political thriller about a unnamed ghost writer (played by Ewan McGregor) who is assigned to write the memoir of a controversial former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). I was drawn to this film mainly because of the great reviews that it was getting when it came out. I was also interested in seeing a Roman Polanski film, because up to this point, I haven’t watched any of his films before.

The screenplay is a three act structure told in chronological order. The story only follows The Ghost. The only part of the film that he isn’t in is the very beginning, where we see how the first ghost writer, Mike McAra died. His car is shown to be empty, and his body gets washed up on shore.  This story is also a narrative driven one. While we follow the main character of The Ghost through out this journey, the story is told very objectively. We just see the events happen, we watch the drama unfold, but we never get a strong sense of how this story is effecting The Ghost and how he is personally dealing with all of the problems that he being is faced with.

The Ghost himself, is a very intriguing character. We know very little about him, just that he is an excellent at his job and that he had a former relationship that didn’t go well, that’s it. His main focus is in the story becomes not to write Lang’s memoir, but instead to find the truth behind the death of Mike McAra. The story moves forward only because of this goal. The Ghost begins to look around where he shouldn’t look around, he takes a couple of mysterious trips in order to find out more about McAra. In one scene, he decides to randomly go on a bike ride outside the Lang house. There he meets an old man (Eli Wallach) who basically tells The Ghost that McAra was probably murdered. He starts asking questions. Right before Adam Lang is killed, The Ghost confronts him with the fact that McAra was murdered. Like a detective, The Ghost tries to solve McAra’s mysterious death. It is through his actions and dialogue only, that the story moves forward.

A scene in The Ghost Writer that taught me an important lesson is when The Ghost goes to Paul Emmit’s (Tom Wilkinson) house. All we know of Paul Emmit is that he is just an old friend of Adam Lang, but Mike McAra found that there is a stronger connection between the two. On the night that McAra was killed, he was actually trying to go meet Paul Emmit. The scene starts off fine, with Paul Emmit being very courteous to The Ghost, but after some questions, Emmit begins to get uncomfortable, and he asks The Ghost to leave. The fact that we know so little about Paul Emmit, is the reason why this scene is so great. Just like The Ghost, we want to know how Paul Emmit is connect to Adam Lang. The fact that Emmit becomes irritated, and angry, we feel that The Ghost is getting into some serious danger. We sense that Emmit is hiding something, but we don’t know what. This is a great example of where “less is more.”

Now finally, the ending. I found the conclusion of this film to be excellent. The Ghost ends up solving the whole mystery (Ruth Lang, Adam Lang’s wife, has strong CIA connections, through Paul Emmit) and after he reveals this information to her, The Ghost runs outside and presumable gets run over and killed (off screen). All we see is the pages of the memoir get blown away, scattered across the whole street. It is a bit of a strange, and anti-climatic scene, because our hero has failed to get this information out. However, upon further thinking, I feel that this was bound to happen. The Ghost became aware of too much information so it kind of was a matter of time before he was killed. Too bad though.

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Drive (2011) Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and Written by Hossien Amini

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I was drawn to this film by its first trailer. It seemed to me like a film that was intriguing and that had an interesting sense of style. I also love crime films, especially LA crime films like Heat, and Collateral, so that’s what brought me to the theatre to see it.

Drive is a LA crime film, about a nameless Hollywood stunt driver (played by Ryan Gosling) who at night is a getaway driver for many criminals.

Drive is both a narrative and an experience driven film. While it does have a strong plot, the story particularly focuses on the Driver and the world that he lives in.  The story follows a basic three act structure that works very well here because it provides the opportunity to simply tell the plot, while trying to convey the emotional experience of the film.

The character of the Driver is also very interesting to look at. To me, he seems like he’s half human, half machine. Like a knight in shiny armor, a protector, and somebody that solves problems for others. He is somebody who just does, and does not spend time thinking about the consequences. He does what he feels is right. This is what “drives” the story and his character forward, his actions. The driver is put in a situation where he must help his neighbors in need, but when the husband, Standard (Oscar Issac) is killed by gangsters, he helps out the wife Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) by making sure that the people who were responsible for Standard’s death get what they deserve. The Driver is also a very quiet, and stoic character. It is through his actions and behavior that we really understand him. His dialogue is simple and direct. He doesn’t tell us much, especially about himself, and most importantly it doesn’t move the story forward. He says what needs to be said, but he does rest.

A strange part of this story is that the background of the Driver is never actually given. The only piece of information that we ever learn from his background is that one day, he just asked Shannon (Bryan Cranston) for a job in his garage and has worked their ever since. Other than that, we learn nothing about him. We only understand the Driver by what the film shows us about him.

A great storytelling lesson that I learned in this film is that knowing very little about a character than knowing a lot about them can be an amazing way to really create somebody who is special, and original. While I can’t mention one scene in particular, overall, we don’t really know who the driver is by the end of the film. By providing very little information about him, the audience is forced to ask themselves who they think he is. By having the Driver be as ambiguous as he is in this film, it subconsciously invites the audience to participate in this story, by adding their own thoughts and opinions of who they think the Driver is. We begin to decide who the Driver is.

The film ends with the Driver getting stabbed by, but eventually killing the antagonist of the film, gangster Bernie Ross (Albert Brooks). He then leaves, and just drives away. I felt that this was an excellent ending. He did what he felt he had to do, and then just simply drove away. How else could it have ended?

Chapter 8

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This chapter talks about being disorganized and how that affects the way you do your work.

As a right brained person myself, I must admit that I am kind of a clutter bug. My binders are messy, my room is messy, even the computer that I am typing this post on is kind of a disaster. However, I have learned to accept my messiness, and have unconsciously developed a system that I understand. Frankly, I never worry about where everything is. I know where my cell phone, and my school bag is in my mess. I have never really had to suffer these kinds of problems. Yes, maybe once in a while I might misplace something, but it is rare for me to lose anything.

A point in this chapter that the author makes that I think is great is that you must find time to orgainze yourself. I know when things get a bit to mess, and I start to feel a bit uncomfortable, I clean it up. When you clean up and organize your things, you will feel a lot more comfortable, and most importantly, you will prepare yourself to start working on your important goals.

 

Chapter 7

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The author starts off this chapter by explaining that in this point of the book, we must now put all of the knoledge that we have learned and put it into action. However, they first explain to us about a very serious topic, procrastination.

I feel that procrastination is a very serious problem that effects most people today. I agree with the author’s point that a large part of it is that people have a fear of failure and feel overwhelmed with whatever they have to do.  However, the one thing that I have learned about how you can get rid of procrastination is this…

Just go do what you need to do. GO, AND DO IT, NOW!

You can spend time thinking and worrying about what you have to do. But when you do this, you begin to think about the problems that you might face, the challenges that will occur, and that is what creates fear and loss of confidence. Also, a big problem a lot of poeple have, myself included, is the want of making something perfect. As filmmakers especially, we must understand that there is no such thing as a perfect film. Our goal should not be to make the best film ever, but it should be just to make a film.

A great piece of advice that I recently heard was from Quentin Tarantino, a personal hero of mine, and I’m sure many of us at Humber. On Charlie Rose, he was asked what should aspiring filmmakers do to get to where you are? He basically said, just go out and make a film, don’t wait for the right time, or the best circumstances because they will never come.  Just go out and do it. This is the kind of mentality that I feel that makes a succsessful filmmaker.

I know that many people in our program suffer from procrastination, myself included, but I hope that this message is something that  can inspire people a little bit, and encourage them to make something great:)

 

 

Scarface (1983) Directed by Brian DePalma and Written by Oliver Stone

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My Feature Film Review for Scarface

I was drawn to this film when I was 12 or 13. One day, I went to Blockbuster, looking to rent some mindless action film for a fun night with my friends. There, I met an employee, who helped me find a movie  to rent (The Scorpion King by the way). Just as I was about to go, he told me something that I will never forget. “When you”re older, watch this movie called Scarface”. He showed me the box, with that iconic cover. 2 weeks later, I bought the movie on DVD.

Scarface is a gangster film about Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who has just arrived in 1980’s Miami. The film is about his rise and fall as a cocaine lord.

Scarface is both a narrative and experience driven film. The story is only about the main character and his story of reaching to the top Miami’s drug industry. However, the structure of the script focus’ on the specific events that get Tony to the top, and what eventually lead to his fall. The structure of Scarface itself is a loose three act structure. However, the main emphasis of the story is the rise and the fall of Tony Montana. The film almost feels like two separate films because of this. (By the way, I feel the point where the story switches to the fall is that great montage of Tony getting married and enjoying his wealth.)

The story also focus’ mainly on the present. Only the very beginning takes time to introduce Tony’s back story. It’s the scene where Tony is being interviewed. There we learn that he has some kind of criminal past, that he has no family, and that he hates Cuba and loves America. This is not even reliable information because we find out later that he does have a mother and a sister, both living in Miami. A detailed back story was not necessary to introduce Tony in Scarface, because when we begin to see and hear Tony, then we begin to really understand who he is.

The dialogue in Scarface is vital to the story. It’s the main way that Tony express’ himself. All of his intentions, desires, and goals are all honestly said by Tony. This really helps to show the type of character he is. He is expressive, honest, headstrong, driven, and confident. The scene that best shows this is when Tony talks his best friend Manny, just after they have met a powerful drug dealer named Lopez. Tony describes Lopez as being “soft” and that he wants “the world, and everything in it.” He hides very few things from the others characters and from us. Like the character of Sosa says “There’s now lying in you, Tony.”

Just like the dialouge, Tony’s character behavior and actions are very direct and specific for his character. When Lopez betrays him, Tony kills him, kills the crooked cop (Bernstein) who was with Lopez, then goes upstairs, and takes Lopez’s woman, Elvria, to be his own. There is only one part where Tony’s character isn’t as direct. That is with his sister, Gina. For Tony, Gina is everything that he isn’t. Innocent, sweet, caring, happy. He becomes overprotective of her, extremely overprotective. Tony doesn’t say anything about this for most of the film, but at the end of the film, what he does do is kill his best friend Manny. Manny married his sister in secret. My feeling is that Tony didn’t want her to become like himself, and to become corrupted like like he was. This relationship is the best example of action over dialogue in Scarface. We are not ever directly told about why Tony was so crazy about Gina. We just see that he was.

For me, a storytelling lesson that I learned was to put your protagonist under pressure. Not only can you make a very entertaining scene, but it is a great way to create and to further develop a character. The scene in Scarface that taught me this is when Tony is with fellow drug businessman Omar, in Bolivia. There, they meet drug lord, Sosa. Sosa finds out that Omar used to be a police informant and kills him in front of Tony. This is a big moment for Tony, because Sosa basically asks him “How can I trust you?”  Tony passionately replies “I have two things in this world, my word and balls, and I don’t break them for nobody!” Tony gives Sosa a speech that convinces him that he is honest, trustworthy, passionate, and a great partner for business. This is a scene where Tony could have also gotten killed, or could have at least lost lots of his credibility, but by being as honest and as bold as he was, Tony has now developed a relationship with a drug lord that will help him become the most powerful cocaine dealer in Miami.

And now finally, the ending. Whenever I think about the ending of this film, I always think, what else could have happened? The lifestyle that Tony wanted to live, lead to his demise. He destroyed everything around him, so it is only fitting that he gets destroyed himself.

I hope that you enjoyed my review for Scarface.

(PS. Im sorry that I wrote so much about this film. Its one of my absolute favorites.)

Chapter 6

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Chapter 6 was a very eye opening chapter for me. The overall message or theme that I got from this chapter is that it’s very important for people to pay attention to what you have to do, and to pay attention to what you are doing right now. It helps to know the things that you are doing in your life that waste your time. Finding them will help you change for the better.

Personally for me, it was television. I used to watch a lot of television. However I realized that in order to do better in school and to get more work done, I obviously have to watch less. This was a bit hard for me at first  (because watching TV everyday is a habit that I developed strongly for many years) but know I am happy that i did it. I have basically freed up time that I spend to do my goals. You want to try to do as many things that help you achieve your goals as you can. The first thing that you can do is to critically look at the thinks that you already do.

I also enjoyed the little exercise at the end of the chapter, where you are supposed to write two things that you feel that you can’t do. Then by changing the word can’t, to don’t, then to won’t, then finally to can, it shows me that what really blocks people from achieving their goals, is themselves. We must remember that people have the ability to do amazing things. Just a change to a more optimistic and positive attitude can help you believe that you can in fact do those great things that you want to do:)

Chapter 5

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This was a very engaging chapter which main focus was on how to finally put your thoughts and ideas into action. The authour made some excellent points that I will discuss.

Divergent Thinking

When the author began to describe how right brained people are “scatterbrained” in their thinking, this made me realize how right brained I am. I always see everything that has to be done in order to finish my school work or make a short film project, however, trying to focus on all the specific things that I must do can be hard, but I always manage to finish my work. Understanding how your brain works and how you can work through it is very gratifying.

How to Look at Time

One topic in this book that I feel that the author is very good at explaining is the importance of time. In this chapter I particularly thought that these two points that the author mad were great.

-Thinking about the amount of time your work will take you, and orgainize your day around that

-Utilize what you feel are the “best” times for you to do your work

I feel that people have to always be aware of your time and how you use it because if you don’t, you’ll probably not be able to achieve your goals as well as you would want to.

Delegation

I think that this part of the chapter is very important for many of us in school to learn. As filmmakers, the fact is that you need to work very well with others. Success is based on how well everybody can collaborate with each other in order to make the most effective film as possible. As an aspiring director myself,  this part of the chapter reminded me of a great piece of advice that I once heard that was said by the great director Milos Forman. I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like “as a director you should know a little about everything in film making, however in order to make great films, you must hire somebody that is better than you in every single important position in your crew.” If people try to do everything by themselves without using anybodies help, you will most likely do a worse job than you would if you had a large crew of people.

Thank you for reading this week blog, hope you enjoyed it!