Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Star Image Review

Sylvester Stallone is a talented, well-known filmmaker. His star image developed mostly from his acting, which in turn also created his star image as a writer and director. As an actor, he is often thought of as a tough guy because of his portrayals of Rocky Balboa and Rambo. Despite having more than 10 actor credits to his name since Rocky V came out in 1990, Stallone has not been in the spotlight until recently when Rocky Balboa hit theaters in 2006. Rocky Balboa was a comeback not only for Stallone as an actor, but also for Rocky Balboa, the character within the film. The film as a whole brought Stallone back into the picture by using his character image of Rocky as a way to do that. Within the film, Rocky comes out of retirement to fight the newest heavyweight champion and uses his boxing fame to make his restaurant successful.

Stallone’s star image as an underdog was created when the first Rocky film gained success when it debuted in 1976. Rocky was his first real big break into the business. His tough guy image came naturally through the storyline about the character—an underdog who never gives up and is full of determination. The film gained Stallone great success in Hollywood as a star and audiences throughout the nation cheered for the underdog character he portrayed, even though the fight was declared a draw because the winner was undecided. Rocky the character gained popularity by proving himself through determination. The film audience fell in love with him because they recognized that if he could do what he did to Apollo Creed in the boxing ring, he had every right to have their respect and admiration.

Every few years after Rocky, Stallone continued the saga with new segments to the story with Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky V. Each time a new addition to the saga was produced, Stallone was increasingly more popular, especially with the introduction of the Rambo films. During the 1980’s Stallone seemed to be constantly criticized for the roles he played, especially in Rambo, and somewhat in Rocky because of the violence and political issues of the time. His career as an actor needed a positive uplifting, which gave him good reason to resurrect the “Italian Stallion.” Through Rocky’s resurrection every few years, Stallone’s star image received a boost and kept the audience’s love and admiration for Rocky alive.

In 1990 though, Rocky V seemed to be the end as Stallone pursued other options as an actor. Straying away from his usual tough guy, underdog personas he took on a few different other types of films, which were not nearly as successful as his beloved Rocky. It seemed as though audiences struggled to see him attempt to play in genres such as comedy, a futuristic/comic book style story, drama, and family/kid friendly films such as Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.

After over a decade of pursuing other venues as an actor, Stallone decided to bring back our favorite underdog, Rocky, in 2006 when Rocky Balboa hit theaters. As a film, Rocky Balboa was a comeback for Stallone as an actor, writer, and director. He was able to redeem himself as a well-rounded filmmaker. His star image as the successful underdog was recreated through Rocky.

Rocky Balboa was also a comeback for the character, especially since it had been 30 years since Rocky had been discovered on the streets of Philadelphia. He started out as the underdog—young, determined, naïve, and just trying to make it in the grueling business of boxing. Unbeknownst to him, he was supposed to lose against Apollo Creed but he refused to give in, to give up and so he fought his way through and proved himself worthy of the fame and the attention that would come his way because of his skills. He did this through every film, consistently proving himself worthy of his dream—much like how Stallone proved himself worthy of praise as an actor through the success of each Rocky film.

In Rocky Balboa, Rocky proved himself once more by coming out of retirement and putting up a fight despite the odds. He was disadvantaged again, but this time he wasn’t naïve, nor was it through lack of experience. This time, age was his enemy instead of his friend. He had calcium deposits in most of his joints, so his health was failing him too. Balboa could not move as easily as he once could and so throughout the film, there was the constant debate about who would win—the “Italian Stallion” or Mason “The Line” Dixon. This debate is what finally drew him out of retirement and back into training. Once they fight, neither boxer won by a landslide; it was a close match—much like Rocky’s first fight. He was not the favorite in either his first fight or his last, but he proved himself—he proved that he could hold his own and that the underdog should never be doubted. It took him 30 years, but he finally gained the personal satisfaction he had been looking for all along. But did he really need to prove himself to his fans? At the fight, the noise is deafening because almost every single person in the arena is shouting “Rocky! Rocky!” In the end, it may have just been himself he needed to convince he could do it all along; that even though he’s a champion, or a star, to his fans, he just needed to be happy with himself and his accomplishments in the end.

In Rocky Balboa, he is trying to keep his legacy, and Adrian’s memory, alive through his restaurant that he had named after Adrian. Once the fight was over, it seemed as if he realized he did not need to try all along—his legacy as Rocky already existed.

This interpretation of Rocky’s attitude of himself can be applied to Stallone as well. He is sending a message that he has tried other things, other possibilities, and it all comes back to the same thing: he is comfortable with what has brought him success because this is what he enjoys the most despite what people may say about his work.

Both Rocky and Stallone have overcome obstacles in the last 30 years and both have finally reached a point in their lives where they can look back and know they have accomplished something phenomenal. In a sense, Stallone is Rocky because when we see or hear the name Sylvester Stallone we think “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”

The underdogs have proven themselves worthy of our respect, our admiration, and our praise for making their dreams come true despite the odds.

Film Review: Disney’s The Jungle Book

Left in the jungle as a baby, raised by wolves, befriended by a panther and a bear, Mowgli’s life is now threatened by the return of Shere Khan, the tiger, and king of the jungle. Don’t worry; this movie has very little violence for it is a classic story based on Rudyard Kipling’s story about a boy who is raised by wolves. Rating: 8/10.

Mowgli's animal family refers to him as the “man cub” and he is happy living in the jungles of India, but once the tiger Shere Khan finds out he is there, he will no longer be safe. Bagheera, the wise old panther, decides to take Mowgli to the nearest man village, even though the boy doesn’t want to leave. Throughout their journey, they encounter Kaa, a hypnotic snake, and an army of elephants, and Baloo the bear, who is widely popular for his “Bare Necessities” song. Mowgli is tempted by Baloo’s lovable, laid-back way of life, but when Mowgli decides he likes being a bear and the two ditch Bagheera, the pair run into trouble.

Some crazy orangutans kidnap Mowgli and take him to their king, Louis Prima, who then tempts him with an offer he can’t refuse. Shere Khan finds out there is a “man cub” in his jungle and is hot on his trail. Somehow, Baloo and Bagheera find a way to team up to protect the boy.

Once the unlikely duo rescue Mowgli from the orangutans, Baloo angers him by mentioning they must take him to a man village and he runs off. He eventually encounters the barbershop singer group made up of vultures and they cheer him up. Danger strikes when Shere Khan appears and attempts to capture Mowgli. Baloo comes to his rescue by distracting the tiger so he can get away, but the tiger attacks Baloo and knocks him unconscious. Bagheera then ties a branch engulfed with fire to the tigers tail and he runs off.

Once Shere Khan is defeated in the film and Baloo recovers, the trio treks on and only by chance does Mowgli leave the jungle. At the bittersweet ending, Mowgli is lured by his human instincts when he sees a girl for the first time and follows her into the village.

The Jungle Book is filled with songs you can’t help but sing along to and with jungle animals you can’t help but fall in love with, even Shere Khan’s voice is charming. Enjoyed by children and adults alike, this charming film is Disney’s 17th animated feature and the last film Walt supervised before his death.

I enjoy this movie every time I watch it, especially now because it reminds me how much I loved it when I was a kid. Every character is appealing to viewers in some way because they are all so diverse and in it’s own way, the film does teach children even though it wasn’t necessarily created for educational purposes. Children can learn that even if someone may look or act differently from them, they can still get along. By the end of the movie, Bagheera manages to loosen up enough to give in to Baloo’s care-free way of life. They can also learn about teamwork through Baloo and Bagheera and that it’s not okay to kill someone even if you don’t like them.

I would certainly recommend this film to children, parents and even teachers. Teachers may find the new edition very useful for educational purposes because it is interactive. Parents and children may also find the interactive aspect a plus because kids can then interact with their favorite characters through games. The 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition just came out this fall, with many special features such as music videos, deleted scenes and songs, long lost characters, backstage features, games, and more.

The Evolution of Poetry

Over time, poetry has changed as times have changed. The poetry by Kunitz, Moore, Hughes, and Rexroth are excellent examples of this. The time period they lived in and their life experiences are evident throughout many of their poems, as is much of the poetry we have read throughout the semester. In the following pages, their work respectively, will be analyzed to determine how their works are considered to be “modern” poetry.

Overall as a poet, Kunitz is relatable and personal to the average person. His is the most recent work of the four and part of why he is so relatable is because his poetry was written in the lifetime of some of his readers. Audiences may know what he is talking about just because they lived through the time period of which it is set. The poems that come to mind are “Day of Foreboding,” “The Round,” and “Touch Me,” published in 1985 and 1995 respectively. In “Day of Foreboding,” one cannot help but think of the Cold War. In “The Round,” I think of my own inspiration when writing. I lose my inspiration as soon as it is no longer in sight. When I read, “Touch Me,” I thought of my own childhood and it was so much easier to do so knowing that it was published in1995 because I was just nine years old at the time.

Because Kunitz poetry is more current than other “modern” poets, he it is hard to think of him as modern. The events he may be referencing are events some of us have actually experienced, as in “Day of Foreboding.” In that sense, he is not modern. In other poems, such as “Touch Me,” he is modern because it is similar to Frost’s poems. He is simple, yet so complex.
In contrast, Marianne Moore has a style all her own—much like Emily Dickinson. She does not follow any particular form or style. She seems to just write free verse in a way that is poetic—with fragmented sentences. Although, in “Critics and Connoisseurs,” the second and fourth lines rhyme and two of the last three lines rhyme so there is a hint of a rhyme scheme in her work. She follows her own form to make the poems rhyme, but they have to be read with a certain pace in order for them to rhyme. She creates poetic form out of a simple paragraph or sentence. Just by looking at her poems, one can tell that they rhyme, but while reading them, a reader cannot always tell if it rhymes or not because of the habit to pause at the punctuation instead of where Moore may have intended pauses. Even then, as each reader attempts to read Moore’s poems as they “should” be read, a different interpretation develops. Moore’s poetry is definitely modern based on the content and what she has to say.

Langston Hughes is also a modern poet in the sense that his poems are so simple, yet so profound. He is modern in that he writes about issues athat are pertinent to the time period and to who he is as a person. He identifies in some way with that he is writing. He may not have experienced the situations himself, but the stories that were passed down from family certainly come through in his words. He writes of situations that an African American person has experienced at some point in American history. It is alsmot like he is writing lyrics to a Blues song.

Like Kinutz, Hughes writes of things in a form that people even today can understand. His poems are simple in meaning, yet have a greater message for society beyond the actual words. After reading such poems as “Bad Man” and “Hard Daddy,” poor people (especially African Americans) can relate to them because of their history and possibly even because they have experienced something like it or know someone who has. Hughes, in his own right, is a spokesperson for his people. Writing about issues, or at least situations, that can be applied to many people. He maintained the same theme throughout all of his poetry that is published in the textbook. From the mid-1920’s to the early 1950’s, Hughes continued to write about the same topics—very similar to earlier modern poets such as Frost.

Kenneth Rexroth is a modern poetry in that his style of poetry is representative of previous modern poets because a few of his poems are relatable to the average person. For example, his poems “Delia Rexroth” and “Andree Rexroth” are dedicated to family members dying. Everyone can relate to that. He also writes about Greek mythology, but the difference is, he “translates” it and makes it comprehensible for the average person, as seen in “Homer in Basic.” At the same time though, these poems are still difficult to understand because of the original complexity of the poem. Like Kunitz, Rexroth he is modern because his work is more recent than other modern poets and most people think of “modern” as being current. In addition, there is some language that is difficult to understand without referencing his footnotes, much like Shakespeare or especially Eliot.

Overall, Kunitz, Moore, Hughes, and Rexroth are all considered modern poets in their own right. They all have similarities to the other modern poets, but they are also specific to their own personal genre. All four poets are modern because they have at least some poems that can be related to by the reader, and others that are difficult to understand. All of their poems are open to interpretation and each interpretation can be different and nowhere near what the author had originally intended. But then, that is the result of every work of art.

Film Review: Save the Last Dance

Having watched this film for what seems like a million times, it has become one of my favorite films, yet at the same there is so much to pick apart about it. Save the Last Dance involves a plot centered on a white girl, Sara (Julia Stiles), who moves to a predominantly black neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side to live with her estranged father after her mother suddenly dies. She comes from a small white suburban town, barely accustomed to the lingo and culture of her new city home.

Sara feels out of place until she is befriended by a black classmate, Chenille (Kerry Washington) and her handsome brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas). The friendships blossom and sparks fly between Sara and Derek as they learn they have a shared interest in dance, leading them to a romantic relationship that creates opposition from family and friends. Having an interracial relationship, Derek and Sara must confront one of the biggest challenges of their young lives—to stay true to their dreams…and to themselves.

Throughout the film, the couple continuously runs into barriers trying to prevent them from having the kind of relationship that means something to them. Her father thinks Derek is responsible for Sara for getting into a fight at school with Nikki, Derek’s old flame. Nikki and Malakai, Derek’s best friend, conspire to pit Derek and Sara against each other and break up. Through every angle, every aspect of the relationship, the couple realizes they must make difficult decisions in order for their romance to survive.

Throughout the film though, the actors appear to be more like best friends than boyfriend and girlfriend. Only through a couple scenes do they show true compassion and emotion for each other.

Sara’s relationship with her father improves when he reveals her refurnished bedroom to her. It finally comes to light that she doesn’t hate him, she misses her mother. Strong emotions fly, beginning a new relationship between father and daughter. This seems to be the only realistic relationship portrayed throughout the entire film, or maybe the only one I can relate to on some level.

The acting wasn’t all that great—revealing what they were actually doing—acting, not making the story seem realistic like it should have been portrayed.

There was a great idea for a story line, yet the actors failed to make it seem realistic, unless it was the intention of the director to make the film formalistic, which was a bad choice because the story is far from being formalistic. Stories like these do happen and they need to be portrayed as realistically as possible.

One thing that was done well had to do with editing and it happened twice during the film, once in the introductory scenes and once toward the end. In the beginning of the film, Sara is shown riding on a train, destination unknown to the audience at the time. She is staring out the window and flashbacks are revealed to explain why she is on the train—the flashbacks are of her pressuring her mother to come watch her audition at Julliard. Even though her mother was busy she still rushed to see her daughter audition, but on the way there she is involved in an accident, changing lives forever. Editing was done well with cutting from the mother rushing to Sara dancing and cutting from the accident happening to Sara falling.

The same sort of editing was used later in the film as well in correspondence with Sara’s dancing. She worked hard enough and gained enough self-confidence to audition again at Julliard even though her mother wouldn’t be there. Shots were cut between her dancing and situations taking place in the city—revealing decisions made based on experiences throughout the movie.

The storyline and editing are what made the movie, not the acting. The shots told the story.

Film Review: Take the Lead

I have always enjoyed watching films that involve a plot that centers around dancing so I had a preconceived idea of what to expect of Take the Lead—I expected it to be well done, keeping me yearning for more. Yet there was something missing that left me with an empty feeling. The movie was good, but far from what I expected it to be. I hadn’t realized that Take the Lead was based on a true story of a dance teacher named Pierre Dulain.

The film describes the struggle Dulain endures to give a group of problem kids a second chance by searching for their dance skills. One night Dulain is shocked to see one of the students, Rock, destroy his principal’s car. The following day, Dulain goes to the school to ask for a job as a dance teacher. She has little faith in him and his idea to reform detention kids through ballroom dancing, yet she lets him oversee the detention anyway. The kids don’t see his objective as a great idea. They don’t see how ballroom dancing could help city kids like themselves who are much more interested in dancing to hip-hop and rap. Despite criticism from his formal dance academy, parents, teachers and students alike, Dulain is determined to make a difference. He catches their attention through a tango session with one of his students from his formal dance academy.

Throughout his efforts, he eventually finds out that the kids just need guidance in the right direction; they need inspiration and leadership. Once the students overcome their skepticism, they compete in a dance contest and along with Mr. Dulain, they realize that the important thing isn’t winning, but making a difference. A lesson they learn is to take the lead and never follow.
My attention was grasped at the beginning of the film when the director chose to cut between different shots of the characters who would be involved with the story of Take the Lead. Each shot tells a little bit of the history of each character, leading the viewer to believe that the story begins with the competition. Cut to a hip-hop dance party and the viewer realizes that the story is just beginning, affectively sucking them into finding out what happens next and what those beginning scenes were all about in relation to the rest of the movie.

Throughout the film, the focus is on Mr. Dulain struggles to prove to all his critics that what he is doing has a purpose and will work in the end. There is a constant battle between Dulain and the students and once the students begin to accept his offer to learn ballroom dancing, he teaches them ballroom dancing. In the end he teaches them more than just how to dance, he teaches them self-respect and that they can do whatever they put their minds to and most of all, that they can make a difference. Watching him teach them of all this, I was hoping that he would get more involved and actually dance. It is disappointing that Pierre Dulain (Antonio Banderas) didn’t dance so much in this film, though it is interesting to see the way he was portrayed as a teacher.

The different shots revealed him as the watchful coach with a critical yet firm eye. He was influential and creative, perceptive and resourceful. He watched from the sidelines, stepping in only when he was needed. Dulain connected with his students on a level that touched their lives forever, giving them a perspective on a life they never dreamed possible. The director did an excellent job portraying Pierre Dulain as a determined and successful person who started out with a dream and succeeded with determination, knowledge, and the skill to Take The Lead.