Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Film Review: Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

Figure 1. 'The Blair Witch Project Poster'

Do you dare to enter the woods, and delve into the suspenseful world Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s film, “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)? This immensely chilling feature will leave your hairs standing on end and have you chilled to the bone.

In the chilly month of October in 1994, three students set out to Burkittsville, a small town close to nowhere, to inquire about the legend of the Blair Witch. Entitled as “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), this raw movie is scripted to be an unfinished student film, the term ‘unfinished’ being utilised to depict the plot of how these students, unbeknownst to the consequences, meet their impending doom for searching for the Blair Witch. Lloyd Rose describes this feature as, “A movie within a movie, "The Blair Witch Project" is presented as interrupted, unverifiable cinema verite, a patchwork of the actual film work on the students' documentary and a simultaneously video-recorded diary of the making of that documentary.” (Rose, L. 1999) With cameras in hand, the actors record themselves reciting improvised dialogue, creating that illusion of real life, as if this events actually happened, or so it may seem. A prologue is presented before the film stating that this footage was found in the ruins of an abandoned house a year after recording, which was then pieced together by the directors to create something out of the patchwork recordings.

Figure 2. 'Heading into the Woods'

What’s interesting about the film is that, low budget aside, what’s lacking in effects and props and sets etc. it is made up for with the terror. Not necessarily a horror, but it is a frightful experience to witness nothing. As humans, we fear the unknown, the suspense literally killing the characters, and metaphorically killing us. The psychology of the film plays on our minds where we believe that something will jump out at us, we are certain we will see a ghastly sight but instead, we are presented with nothing. Our imaginations are left to spiral. And it’s a powerful gesture to use as a tool for a movie, and a gutsy one at that. It’s very riveting in the end scene as well, where something does actually happen, but because it happens to the characters, who are still holding the camera and recording, the character is thrown into the wall, and that is all we get to see. Seeing is believing, as some would say. And as Peter Travers points out, “The cameras, which can't capture the thing or things that go bump in the night, produce increasingly shaky images that reflect the nerves of the crew.” (Travers, P. 1999)

Figure 3. 'Symbols Created with Twigs'

So by now, we have this blurred vision of what is real or not, which is impeccable improvisation on the actors behalf, and crafty editing skills from the directors. Philip French observes.”The footage and the three performances have an authentic feel to them. There are no special effects and the horror, as in the films of Val Lewton, is suggested rather than shown.” (French, P. 1999) The authentic feel may come from the fact that the actors were supposedly harassed during the night with the directors snapping twigs and making noise, and sometimes depriving them from food rations, so that they could really push through that emotion of frustration and anger and fear. Whatever the case, it is clear that one theme conveyed is that the power of suggestion alone can really intensify an already terrifying atmosphere.

So if you plan to go down in the woods today, at least bring a map, or perhaps leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

Bibliography:

French, P. (1999) ‘Who’s Afraid of Blair Witch?’ (24.10.99) In: http://www.theguardian.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/oct/24/philipfrench (Accessed on 28.04.15)

Rose, L. (1999) ‘Documentary Style Aids “Blair Witch”’ (16.07.99) In: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/blairwitchprojectrose.htm (Accessed on 28.04.15)


Travers, P. (1999) ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (30.07.99) In: http://www.rollingstone.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-19990730 (Accessed on 28.04.15)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. 'The Blair Witch Project Poster' (1999) [Movie Poster] At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/26/Blair_Witch_Project.jpg (Accessed on 28.04.15)

Figure 2. 'Heading into the Woods' (1999) [Movie Still] At: https://headinavice.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/the-blair-witch-project.jpg (Accessed on 28.04.15)

Figure 3. 'Symbols Created with Twigs' (1999) [Movie Still] At: https://pic.yify-torrent.org/1999/30355/e4613bc3c9884a22bd83b0002385db2d.png (Accessed on 28.04.15)

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fantastic Voyage: Animation Test with Backgrounds

This example was mainly just so I could to see what I needed to do to make the animation. As this is just a quick playblast, the final product will be of a much better quality. I think I need to now decide whether I should have the back grounds move, or the character, and then see if I can make the movements slightly rigid to keep in tune with the 8-bit theme.

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Friday, 24 April 2015

Fantastic Voyage: Background Environments

So these are hopefully what I aim to use as the backgrounds for my animation. Each environment will represent a different stage in the "game". I also decided to use a marshland sort of environment for the mosquito stages as that is one of their known habitats. Admittedly, the liver environment was the most difficult to design, but keeping things simple has helped.

Marshland

Bloodstream

Mosquito Midgut

Liver

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Film Review: Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992)

Figure 1. 'Reservoir Dogs Poster'

Quentin Tarantino’s work usually involves some form of violence, and “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) is not shying away from his style. This mafia-esque film features Tarantino himself starring as one of the main characters of a hitman group on the run from the law. 

Sharp suites and sharp tongues create character for the film and for the actors playing the roles. Despite being outlaws, the film creates empathy towards the “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) as it shows how they have perceived the events within the film. Naturally appearing as outlaws, these colourful character have certainly a colourful vocabulary which in some ways contribute to different events and emotions portrayed. Almar Haflidason notices that, “Many modern directors are too weak and feeble to explore suggested violence. Instead they employ effects-loaded frames of brutality to make their point. Tarantino exploits audience savvy, preferring to build anticipation, mesmerise, and then cut away at the climax, as in the infamous ear-severing scene.” (Haflidason, A. 2000) Subtle hints at violence is a key aspect to what Tarantino envisions his work to be. Implications of events can sometimes be more powerful in creating suspense and fear. 

Figure 2. 'Nice Guy Eddie and his father Walking the Dogs to their job'

As the film is based in the aftermath of an event which is shown through flashbacks, seeing the end results before knowing how that came to be can also draw one’s attention to the dialogue and actions, captivating it’s audience to continue watching to find out what happens. Jeff Dawson states, “Choosing to concentrate on the aftermath, he veers off instead - within the claustrophobic confines of the hideaway and in the context of Real Time - into psychological drama, with the paranoid hoods recounting their own version of events in a bid to determine just who might be the rat in the house responsible for tipping off the cops.” (Dawson, J. N/A) In an effort to emphasise the claustrophobia of how the Dog’s are feeling, he will include shots such as an individual talking and staring into a mirror, perhaps to create that idea of being alone. And to add literal meaning to the term claustrophobic, he also includes trunk shots, where the audience is seeing the scene through the victim’s eyes.

Figure 3. 'Trunk Shot'

What’s interesting about Tarantino’s style is that he strives for the biggest impact to shock and impress his audience, and “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) is an interesting aspect to behold, because Tarantino uses a method such as creating comedic value with the dance where Mr. Blonde moves rhythmically to “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealer’s Wheel, thus relaxing the audience, only to then punch up the fear factor instantly with a sudden torture scene, where Mr. Blonde then cuts the ear off a man. Vincent Canby observes that, “"Reservoir Dogs" moves swiftly and with complete confidence toward a climax that matches "Hamlet's" both in terms of the body count and the sudden, unexpected just desserts. It's a seriously wild ending, and though far from upbeat, it satisfies. Its dimensions are not exactly those of Greek tragedy. "Reservoir Dogs" is skeptically contemporary.” (Canby, V. 1992)

Throughout the experience of watching “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), it is now realised that Tarantino has not only stolen our screens, but has also stolen our minds into the realm that is his extraordinary world of action. A thrilling adventure.

Bibliography:

Canby, V. (1992) ‘MOVIE REVIEW: Reservoir Dogs (1992) - Review/Film; A Caper Goes Wrong, Resoundingly’ (23.07.92) In: http://www.nytimes.com/ (1992) [Online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E0CE6DD113EF930A15753C1A964958260 (Accessed on 22.04.15)

Dawson, J. (N/A) ‘Reservoir Dogs: Tarantino’s blistering debut’ (N/A) In: http://www.empireonline.com/ (N/A) [Online] At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?DVDID=6455 (Accessed on 22.04.15)


Haflidason, A. (2000) ‘Reservoir Dogs (1992)’ (21.11.00) In: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (2000) [Online] At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/11/21/reservoir_dogs_1992_review.shtml (Accessed on 22.04.15)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. 'Reservoir Dogs Poster' (1992) [Movie Poster] At: http://www.cinemasterpieces.com/72013/resvdec12.jpg (Accessed on 22.04.15)

Figure 2. 'Nice Guy Eddie and his father Walking the Dogs to their job' (1992) [Movie Still] At: http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.101716.1357935709!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/gallery_1200/reservoir-dogs.jpg (Accessed on 22.04.15)

Figure 3. 'Trunk Shot' (1992) [Movie Still] At: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rqjBCqs8xR0/T3dOIKFXRFI/AAAAAAAABD4/cI08_bNoMeU/s1600/Reservoir+dogs.png (Accessed on 22.04.15)

Fantastic Voyage: Merozoite Animation Test

I took a similar approach to the sporozoite animation with this character, but due to it''s shape I had to tweak a few elements to make it look more natural. I subtly moved each cube for this animation, rather than making it exaggerated to fit with the short and stout shape of the cell.

Test 1:

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Test 2:


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Fantastic Voyage: Sporozoite Animation Test

The idea for this little test was to make it as 8-bit and pixellated as possible, so to achieve this look, I created two different positions/frames for the character and repeated them back to back to have that rigid movement. Below is a short clip of how the animation moves in Maya and underneath that is an animated gif to emphasise what I hope to achieve.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Fantastic Voyage: Character Textures

Texturing was quite fun to do today, and although I may of had to tackle some image size problems, I think I've managed to fix them and created my models to what I wanted them to be.

Model A: Sporozoite






Model B: Merozoite





Model C: Mosquito




Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Fantastic Voyage: Character Models

So that's my characters modeled and ready for texturing! I'm just keeping it simple to keep in tune with the pixelated theme of my animation. It took A LOT of extruding faces but all models are made from cubes in Maya.
Model A: Sporozoite




Model B: Merozoite





Model C: Mosquito






Sunday, 12 April 2015

Film Review: Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975)

Figure 1. Jaws Movie Poster

Based on the equally best-selling book, Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975) is an adventure that will shock and entertain. When a great white man eating shark surfaces and feasts on the residents of a small town called Amity, it is then up to a police chief to help capture the creature and save the bay.

The thing about “Jaws” (1975) is that it can be perceived as quite an honest film in a sense that it doesn’t include many camera gimmicks and special effects, other than the giant mechanical sharks. Spielberg uses more simpler techniques to convey tension and suspense. Almar Haflidason observes, “This includes a fearless use of long shots (not popular in Hollywood) which helps convey both isolation for the victims and endows the shark with seemingly god-like hunting powers.” (Haflidason, A. 2001) What’s interesting about this is the fact that by using low-fi techniques, Spielberg has still managed to create such dynamic sequences when encountering the underwater predator, thus conveying that it’s more about how one utilises a camera rather than relying on special effects.

Figure 2. The First Attack

However, despite not using special effects, there are some other effects used to build tension as the story progresses. The acting within the film can appear to be somewhat placid at the beginning, with perhaps not that much emotion conveyed in each performance, which is an interesting take on Spielberg’s artistic choices. As Vincent Canby states in his review, “It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims, or even the mother of one, a woman who has an embarrassingly tearful scene that at one point threatens to bring the film to a halt. This kind of fiction doesn't inspire humane responses. Just the opposite. We sign with relief after each attack, smug in our awareness that it happened to them, not us.” (Canby, V. 1975) In a sense, having an unsympathetic reaction towards the characters is perhaps a clever tactic on the director’s behalf for drawing the audience in. Although feeling relieved after an attack, we are still threatened by the creature, thus initially reacting with fright to the jump scares.

Figure 3. The Shark and The Police Chief

But what is it about “Jaws” (1975) that truly places the terror in our hearts and minds? We all know that the true star of the film would be the mechanical shark, designed by former Walt Disney special effects chief, Robert Mattey, which is nicknamed ‘Bruce’. Pet names aside, the marvel that is this 25-foot polyurethane shark has made his impression with his ferocious killings and disturbing speed with his fin cutting the waters like a knife. Whilst making a comparison to Merian C. Cooper's and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s “King Kong” (1933) and Tod Browning’s “Dracula” (1931), Arthur Cooper declares that, “When the horror comes from Transylvania, there's always a comfortable giggle behind the shudders. Sharks cut closer to home. Spielberg believes that “everybody likes to dice with death. After Jaws, I think a lot of people will rush into the water, not out of it. It's gambling with the unknown.”” (Cooper, A. 2012)

And perhaps it is this sort of stunt that Spielberg wanted to perform to trigger the thrill seeking vibes of some movie-goers, but ultimately it is the ambition of the at-the-time 27 year old director that has drawn in our attention to the detail in his work which audiences have come to know and love over the years.

Bibliography:

Canby, V. (1975) ‘Entrapped by ‘Jaws’ of Fear’ (21.06.75) In: http://www.nytimes.com/ (1975) [Online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/1975/06/21/movies/moviesspecial/21JAWS.html?_r=0 (Accessed on 12.04.15)

Cooper, A. (2012) ‘Jaws’s Anniversary: Newsweek’s 1975 Review’ (20.06.12) In: http://www.thedailybeast.com/ (2012) [Online] At: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/20/jaws-anniversary-newsweek-s-1975-review.html (Accessed on 12.04.15)

Haflidason, A. (2001) ‘Jaws (1975)’ (09.03.01) In: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (2001) [Online] At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/14/jaws_review.shtml (Accessed on 12.04.15)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. 'Jaws Movie Poster' (1975) [Movie Poster] At: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71CTreJGV5L._SL1500_.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)

Figure 2. 'The First Attack' (1975) [Movie Still] At: http://goodfilmguide.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Jaws-01.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)

Figure 3. 'The Shark and The Police Chief' (1975) [Movie Still] At: http://wallpapers111.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/jaws-wallpaper-hd-4.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)