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Cinema of Subversion Final

Courtesy of the brilliant Carolyn and her study guide
You Can't Take It With You (1938)
Director - Capra
You Can't Take It With You Characters
• Mr. and Mrs. Kirby: Rich, arrogant. Spiritualism as a hobby. President of Kirby and co. (secretly despises his job)
• Tony: son of the Kirbys. Doesn't want to work for his father. Engaged to Alice
• Alice: has an office job, embarrassed by her eccentric family
• Sycamores: artsy family, non-business people, fireworks, humble but grateful people.
• Mr. Vanderhoff "Grandpa": doesn't believe in his income tax and has never paid it. Does things he enjoys. Lives life by philosophy.
You Can't Take It With You Ideologies
• Social class dividing people. More social capital than financial capital. Don't let the money you make define you
• Populism: little guys vs. corporations.
o defined as an ideology, or a political philosophy: "the people" against "the elite."
o Appeals to general mass of population
o For the people no matter the partisan affiliation or social class.
• Celebrating ordinary people and life's simplicity.
• Egalitarian(favoring equality) philosophy, utopian society
• Celebrates the continuation of life through comedy in a capitalist/corporate America.
Italian-American filmmaker
Immigrated to the US
Political: republican against communism
depicts the basic goodness of human nature
Production Formula
Producer encodes the patterns and formulas in marketed films while the spectator decodes the context.
• (Capra did this with many of his films.)
• "NORMAL" production code: "law and order will always triumph"
o Capra subverted this through the characters in the film by having them resist corporate normalcy.
The presence of dominant ideology in minds of oppressed people
A set of attitudes or assumptions about the way the world is and how it should be
Modern Times (1936)
directed by Charlie Chaplin
Modern Times Characters
• The "tramp"(Charlie Chaplin last appearance as this character):mischievous, moving from one job to another, symbolizes determination.
Irony is that he enjoys staying at the jail.
The underdog, naive, resilient.
everything that could possibly happen to him, happens.
Chivalrous, antiauthoritarian.
• Kate Goddard as the "gamin": homeless, arrested by the police for stealing food.
Modern Times Ideologies
• Anticorporate/anticapitalist America.
• Symbolism of the herded sheep at the beginning juxtaposed to humans going to their jobs.
o "Human machines."
• Unfair treatment of workers and abuse of their vulnerability during the Depression.
• Social and political concerns of middle-class Americans.
• Chaplin protests the unfair working conditions of jobs like bathroom breaks, etc.
• Food is obsessed over in the film.
• DEHUMANIZING:Taylorism: trying to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of the work force.
Modern Times book
Written by Mellon

• FBI/IRS/CIA attacked Chaplin as a communist which ran him out of the country. Thought he took it too far where some thought he didn't take it far enough.
• Chaplin more of an anarchist rather than a communist.
• Independent film maker
• Popular
• People viewed films as a formal occasion, had big influences on their culture and what was happening in America at the time.
• Absorbed his comedy without even realizing it.
• He was very charismatic.
• Audience could identify with him.
Double Indemnity (1944)
Directed by Billy Wilder
Double Indemnity Characters
• Walter Neff: talking into Dictaphone at the beginning of the film, successful insurance salesman. Falls in love with Phyllis even though she is married. Helps Phyllis kill her husband so she can get automobile policy insurance money. They end up shooting each other at the end.
• Phyllis Dietrichson: femme fatale, sultry and seductive. Lures Walter to carry out her evil plan against her husband. Shoots Walter at the end before he fatally shoots her.
Ideologies of Film Noir
• Unhappy endings
• Iconology of characters and camera angle aesthetics. (expressionism)
• Portrays the underbelly of the American dream
• Dark side of savage capitalism, psychological and moral disorientation.
• Populist intervention proves to be popular entertainment for moviegoers.
• Existential reflections on crime and death
• Vague promise of something better in the future.
• Our real identity is outside of traditional beliefs
• Glamorous, menacing urban life
• Puritanism is questioned.
• Women are subversive themselves: cruel, sadistic, psychotic even.
Why was Film Noir popular at a time of prosperity?
• Counterculture
• Spoke to people who were disenchanted by the common "American Dream."
• Essence: who a person really is vs. existence: choosing to live a certain way and adopting that through one's actions.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamera (2003)
Directed byErrol Morris
not always boring!
• Analyzes some aspect of reality through interviews, social experiments, investigations, etc. for film.
• No clear boundaries, always evolving.
• becoming more entertaining to people so that they will focus their attention to serious sociopolitical issues.
Errol Morris
Done a number of documentaries
• Central Message for his film: Asking McNamara if he, (and we) did the right thing in the cold/Vietnam wars.
• Usually does subversive documentaries that question politics and government.
• Also does long form journalism for the NY times.
Fog of War Ideologies
A profile of McNamara's explanation for the events of the Cold and Vietnam wars.
Robert McNamara:
o 8th Secretary of defense. Served under JFK and Lyndon B. Johnson. (1961-1968)
o President of world bank from 1968-1981
o The whole film shows pictures and clips of the war, followed by up close and personal shot of McNamara getting emotional. (Is he realizing his mistakes, or defending them?)
o Developed policy analysis
o President of Ford Motor Company at one point.
o US involvement in the war escalated after Gulf of Tonkin incident (Mc escalated the destruction and bombings after presenting this incident to Congress.)
• VietCongs routinely dehumanized in media coverage in the US
• Controversial; "Why Vietnam?" speech by Johnson.
• McNamara's strategy: invasions and bombings would induce the VietCong to change its ways.....NOT!
Fog of War 11 lessons learned
1.)"Empathize with your enemy."
2.)"Rationality will not save us."
3.)"There's something beyond one's self."
4.)"Maximize efficiency."
5.)"Proportionality should be a guideline in war."
6.)"Get the Data."
7.)"Belief and seeing are both often wrong."
8.)"Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning." 9.)"In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil."
10.)"Never say never."
11.)"You can't change human nature."
Green Berets
o Literal: US army special forces' headgear.
• Among first US troops committed to the Vietnam war.
• Vietnam war tested and shaped the SPECIAL FORCES policies.
o Film (1968) directed by and featuring John Wayne.
• Based on book by Robin Moore.
• Sparked polarized opinion because it was during the same year as the Tet offensives, was strongly anti-communist.
• Wayne was prompted by the anti-war atmosphere and social discontent to make the film.
Freedom of Information Act (1966)
o (LBJ): implementation of freedom of information legislation in the US.
o Disclosure of unreleased info and documents controlled by the US gov.
• Certain types of government information remain secret while others should be put out in the open. ("right to know")
Dead Man (1995)
Writen and directed by Jim Jaramusch
Dead Man Characters
• William Blake (Johnny Depp): an accountant for Cleveland Ohio, rides on train to Machine for a bookkeeper job where he learns that his position has been filled. Kills John Dickenson's son who sends marshals after Blake.
o Whole movie shows them tracking Blake and Nobody.
• Nobody: American Indian of Makah village. Helps Blake along his journey to his canoe burial after he tries to dislodge bullet from Blake's chest. Calls him a walking "Dead Man."
Acid Western and the Ideologies of Dead Man
• Emerged in the 1960s and 70s
• Coined by Jonathan Rosenbaum to describe Dead Man while interviewing Jim Jarmausch - Refers to the counterculture of most western films.
• Indians no longer are the bad guys, whites are the real savages of the west!
• Defies masculinity
• Pessimistic, tragic
• Not your stereotypical white male hero/patriarch
Depp is very weak in the film. Always on a journey, grotesque killing.
• Neil Young music (electric guitar), score is not jubilant, upbeat, or victorious.
• Transgressive: crossing boundaries between what society prefers (happy endings, etc.), and what actually happens in reality. opposite of progressive? Outrages or violates constructed norm.
• NOT American fantasy.
• Undermines manifest destiny: man's divine right to move west and start their own communities even if it means sweeping out native Americans and their culture.
o (belief was so strong it became the dominant ideology
• presents all imperfections: cannibalism, violence.
• Jaramusch is one of the only filmmakers that owns the original negatives and final cuts of his film. (noncommercial)
• Language and village is respective to its history.
• Anitcapitalism and antindustrialism
Videodrome (1983)
Directed by David Crnenburg
Videodrome Characters
• Max Renn: president of sleazy CIVIC-TV station. Sensationalistic programming, softcore pornography, wants to air "videodrome" (snuff television.) Becomes a human VCR and ends up killing himself when he can't differentiate between reality and fabricated events. "Long live the new Flesh."
• Nicki Brand: seductive, aroused by videodrome. Says she "was born for Videodrome."
• Brian O'Blivion: Cathode Ray Mission. Wants to replace everyday life with TV
• Bianca: O'Blivion's father. Wants to carry out his dream.
Videodrome Ideologies
• We are becoming increasingly mediated by TV, desensitized, dehumanized.
• Makes what is visceral, cerebral.
• Techno-utopianism: everything that is technological is received positively by people; the idea everything technological is a perfect society; upholds order.
• brainwashing
• autonomy: freedom, liberty, beauty, justice. Is this spoiled by media and screens?
• Alexis de Tocqueville(French political thinker and historian): observed that Americans were lonely, constantly trying to improve ourselves.
o Relations between political and civil society
• TV disconnects from the real world and connects us to fabrication.
• TV enables us internalize things we are exposed to, and not always for good reasons.
• "TV is reality and reality is TV"
• The "off" button. (individual level)
• FCC (state level)
Food Inc (2007)
directed by Robert Kenner
Food Inc Ideologies
• "hitting the bull with the wrong target"
o healthy food is expensive. Unhealthy food is cheap.
• Factory workers dehumanized. Treated as human machines
• We think we have more choices at the supermarket, but in reality, large corporations own most food brands. Large corporations=$=cheap labor=poor treatment and care of workers=not quality food.
• Monsanto seed cleaners
• GMOs
• Centralized power
• Hidden truths, attached strings, government officials used to work for Monsanto
• Lifting the veil of truth behind what goes into our food and where it comes from
• The 100 cow hamburger
• Industrial food is not honest food
• Libel laws:....umm, hello what about freedom of speech and right to know?!?!
Food Inc Book
• Industrialization of food supply
• Benefits of locally-sourced, organic eating
• Sorting out food facts from fictions
• How the US food system promotes global warming
• Global impact of food industrialization
• How to declare independence from industrial food
• How organic food is going mainstream
Millhouse; A White Comedy (1971)
Directed by Emil de Antonio
• Paranoia about losing elections, Watergate scandal
o Cover up "CREEP" PLUMBERS Woodward and Bernstein journalists (investigative journalism)
• Hated the media for framing him in a negative way
• 1952-1960: vice president for Eisenhower (IKE): Checkers speech
• standoffish, arrogant, reluctant to trust, vengeful, foul-mouthed, racist, anti-Semitic
• humble origins
• felt like everyone was out to get him:" you don't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
• Alger Hiss case: McCarthyistic (blaming Hiss as being a secret agent for the Soviets)
• 1968 campaigning: speaking for the "silent majority" of ordinary Americans
o hated Kennedy because he was wealthy; triumph of the image in the age of TV.
Milhouse Ideologies
• Antonio spoke truth to power: regarded as a "radical Saint"
o Not accepting "official version of reality"
• Went to Harvard with Kennedy and got kicked out in 1938
o Wasted time, went to graduate school at Columbia then dropped out.
• Utilized his wealth to make films
• People criticized his films and called him a traitor.
o Bomb threats in theatres, trashed screens
• FBI threatening him, fingerprints.
o "custodial detention": FBI program to round up radicals
• "enemies list": blacklists of corporate leaders as well as artists not liked by Nixon.
• Millhouse: misspelled because Antonio has no respect for him, pun, establish satirical tone.
• Muckraking filmmaking
Film context:
o Pre-Watergate
o Not linear
o Ironic juxtaposition
o "actuality footage"
o no storyline
o does it draw us to have sympathy or disgust for Nixon? Similar to Fog of War?
Do the Right Thing (1989)
directed by Spike Lee
• FILMS: Blacula, Shaft, Superfly: black independent films and Hollywood
• Emerged in the late 1960s
o Made specifically for urban black people(target audience). Featured music like funk and soul.
• The films were accused of stereotyping blacks as pimps and drug dealers.
• The genre died in the 1970s and 80s when a new wave of black filmmakers focused on urban life.
Sidney Poitier
• Acclaimed African American Hollywood actor, director, author and diplomat in the 1960s. Appeared in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? And In the Heat of the Night
• 1963: first black actor to win an Academy Award
• was rejected by audiences in his early acting career, but eventually had his breakout role.
• Embodies the idealistic stereotype of a well-educated, respectable black man. (not subversive, because Hollywood liked him.)
o Other black roles in movies were usually Mammies, servants, etc.
• "IDEOLOGICAL CONTAINMENT": Poitier was an ideologically contained actor.
o suppressing certain cultures on the screen because they are not the formulaic essence of what audiences want to see.
o Is this film dangerous because it steps outside of this "containment?"
Do the Right Thing Characters
• Mookie (Spike Lee): pizza delivery person. Works at Sal's famous pizzeria in the midst of an urban town. Always saying he's "gotta get paid." Has a girfriend (Tina) and a son.
• Sal: racist pizza owner. Works with his two sons Pino and Vito.
• Pino: feels that Vito's friendship with Mookie undermines his fraternal bond with his brother.
• Buggin' Out: wants "some brother's on the wall." Tries to get everyone to boycott Sal's pizza.
• Radio Raheem: always playing "Fight the Power." Has the "love" and "hate" rings on his fists. Is killed by policemen (lynched) at the end when Sal breaks his radio with a baseball bat and Raheem attacks him. Symbolizes the worst case scenario of what happens when race divides a community. He is almost like a Martyr.
• Da Mayer: somewhat the mediator of the film. Walks up and down the street observing and interacting with people even when they shrug him off and don't pay much attention to him. He is sweet on Mother-Sister.
• Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson): local radio disc jockey. His airings are heard throughout the movie; wise insight into social situations.
Do the Right Thing Ending
• A camera angle of the morning after the destruction of the pizzeria, hatred, murder of Raheem and violence.
o Leaves one hanging on for a sense of resolve and hope, but it is open to interpretation.
• Mookie finally gets paid the money Sal owes him (throwing it to him in an angry manner.)
• Subverts the ideology that 2 wrongs make a right
• Ethical line: where is it drawn?
• What is justice? Should we cross certain boundaries to achieve a greater good?
• Historical, ethical, cultural intervention into the public sphere.
• De Tocqueville's "fateful circle." Who are the insiders and who are the outsiders?
Structure vs. agency:
o Agency(individual) is how much mobility one has within a socially constructed circle. freedom to move.
o Structure(institutional) is the "fateful circle." The socially accepted norm of people and culture.
• Characters in DTRT are prisoners of the structure in which they live in.
• The ends don't justify the means
• Malcom X quote: violence is not violence, but "intelligence" when it is self defense.
• MLK Quote: violence is never justified under any circumstances.
New Hollywood
• More realistic movies; visceral; "American New Wave," reached the youth more easily; not independent filmmakers, but film-schooled and exposed to counterculture.
• Explosion of war, violence, sex, race, creativity.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
directed by Richard Linklater
Philip K. Dick
• (wrote book) American essayist and novelist mainly in science fiction
• Blade Runner, Minority Report.
• Stories focus on what is "real," identity. Characters discovering their everyday worlds are constructed by controlling entities.
o Conspiracy
o Surreal fantasies
The style of filming Linklater used in this film.
o Animation; tracing over live footage frame by frame.
o Manually created a matte that is composited over another background.
Scanner Darkly Characters
• Future; America lost war on drugs. Substance D is the most dominant; obtained from a blue flower (Like a poppy)
• Constant surveillance of the community; a footage-Utopian society.
• Bob Arctor (Fred): undercover agent via scramble suit; tries to infiltrate drug supply chain. Lives with a bunch of his friends where they recreationally use drugs.
o Poses as a drug user, becomes addicted to substance D, has to go to rehab and he forgets his identity.
o Goes to New Path rehabilitation center where they send him to one of the drug farms where he harvests the blue flowers.
• Hank: also in a scramble suit. Arctor's boss. Ends up being Donna Hawthorne: romantically linked with Arctor.
• Barris: Arctor's annoying friend, gives info to police that he suspects his friends are involved in a terrorist organization.
o Arrested
• Charles Freck: ( twitchy bug guy at the beginning) addicted to Substance D, supplies Hawthorne with cocaine to have her lower drug prices.
A Scanner Darkly Ideologies
• Loss of identity
• Paranoia
• Drug culture
• Portrayal of a falsely Utopian society and the effects of surveillance
• Deglamorizing drug use
Richard Linklater
• Texas-born film director of Slacker, A Scanner Darkly, Dazed and Confused, Newton Boys, Before Sunrise, School of Rock, Fast Food Nation....(just to name a few)
• Started the Austin Film society, didn't get into UT RTF program
o Made it on his own through networking and connections
o Completely immersed himself in studying and producing films
Slacker (1991)
One of Linklater's first films
• Independent, low budget, filmed in Austin.
• Gives one a view into the bohemian/misfit subculture of Austin
o A younger generation of 20 something year olds striving to live freely and without rules
o Philosophers, anarchists, artists, antiartists, random people.
o Filmed in a series of vignettes; no storyline
• "baton-passing": one long sequence of stories (a bunch of films in one film)
• first released in Dobie Theater
Robert Rodriguez
• Texan-born film director of Spy Kids, Machete, Desperado, Sin City, Predators
• Most of his films shot in Texas or Mexico.
• Wrote comics for the Daily Texan newspaper at UT: Los Hooligans
• Worked a lot with Quentin Tarantino
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Natural Born Killers Characters
Mickey and Mallory: almost a satire of Bonnie and Clyde; go on a killing spree across the US and end up in jail where they escape (of course.)
Natural Born Killers Ideologies
• MEAN WORLD SYNDROME: the more TV and consummation of media, the more paranoia.
o Feeling that the world is out to get you
o Makes people believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is.
• Force-feeding viewers with a very visceral overdose of violence, misanthropy.
• 8th most controversial movie of all time
• "seduced by fame, obsessed by crime, consumed by the media."
• Shot in a frenzy, psychedelic style
• The horrific effects of a dysfunctional family
• Road film
• I Love Lucy spoof: the sitcom parody desensitizes the audience to the real issues at hand: domestic violence, sexual and verbal abuse to another family member.
• "demons" of mass media
• sensationalizing violence and bloodshed
• all ethics and moralities of human nature abandoned.
o Is violence a part of our human nature?
TX Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Independent horror film directed by Tobe Hooper (born in Austin TX)
• Did independent horror films
• Both a college professor and documentary cameraman
• One of the first most gory and violent films made.
• Lots of financial profit and budget controversy behind the making of the film, but overall, it is legendary.
Bowling for Columbine (2002)
Directed by Michael Moore
Explores the causes for the Columbine shootings
o Why Americans love their guns so much
o Are we secure?
o Where is the ethical line drawn between our right to bear arms and the effects it has on our society?
o Why the US has a high violence and crime rate
The Yes Men (2003)
directed by Dan Ollman, Chris Smith, Sarah Price
Yes Men Ideologies
• Culture jamming exploits Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno
• Use tactical media and thrift store suits to pose as World Trade Organization officials at various conferences around the world
• Trying to see if people actually react to their satirically ridiculous hoopla
• Trying to raise awareness to what commercialized mass media does to our brains and our wallets
o why do we do everything corporations tell us to do?
o How can we declare our independence?
• Corporations acting in dehumanizing ways to the public
• Fights conformity and uniformity
• Bystanders loosing the ability to critically think for themselves and their needs
• People afraid to challenge the status quo
• Companies needing to take responsibilities
• Skepticism=critical thinking
Culture Jam Book & Meme
MEME: "unit of information, catchphrase, concept, tune, notion of fashion, philosophy, or politics that leaps from brain to brain."
o Compete with one another for replication
o Passed down through population just like genes through species.
o Can change minds and behavior
o Influence the way we think and how we want to act
• Addbusters: created in the same way normal adds are, except for the purpose of de-advertising and de-commercializing
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
directed by Kelly Reichardt
Wendy and Lucy Ideologies
• Portion of American reality through independent cinema
• Released during a recession IRONY!!
• "financial crisis turning into catastrophe"
• balance between melancholy and possibility
• there are costs to being rich, and there are costs to being poor
• main focus is not about how Wendy got in her situation, but about how she'll get out.
• Empathy, fragility, ruthlessness of even small community businesses
• Does she have a support system?
• We look for reasons to blame the poor rather than looking for reasons to empathize with them
• Test of strength, ambition, and determination
Nickel and Dimed
Barbara Ehrenreich
• Undercover journalist investigating the minimum wage, working poor in the US
• Explores the difficulties and barriers to finding a job, the working conditions, finding a place to live.
• Exposes readers to the real world behind minimum wage workers.
Why is this important?
• Because it helps us have an understanding; makes us want to stand up for our right to use the bathroom, have a break, receive better tips, understand the system so that we can improve it.