Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Venturing in the “Forbidden Planet”

Monday, March 31st, 2014

My trip into the “Forbidden Planet” comic book store was a cool, and surreal experience. Tucked away on the side of Broadway by Union Square, one person referred to it as a “geek haven.”

She later went on to say, “As someone who loves comics, graphic novels, collectible figures, etc., I don’t know why it took me this long to visit Forbidden Planet, which I am told, is a NYC classic and institution for comic books and the like. I am actually ashamed that it took me this long. I can spend hours here, easily. It’s not an overwhelming store by any means. The layout is well-organized, and their comics and graphic novels are placed in alphabetical order on the shelves. Very cool collectible figures and toys are prominently displayed at the front.”

Doesn’t that mean that because comic book stores like the “Forbidden Planet” are thriving, that the comic book industry is also at a peak? Or has the digitalization of comics caused a decrease in actual comic sales?

Vaneta Rogers, comic book sales blogger  explained, “”Publishers taking chances with increased discounts and returnability on certain launch titles has helped retailers find the ceiling easier on those titles,”On-time shipping also helps keep cash flow positive. Compelling stories shipping on a regular schedule are key to maintaining strong comics sales. We’ve gone through a major sea change, much like in the mid/late 80’s where both of the major publishers (Marvel and DC) have raised the grass and planted new seed in the last two years,” Wellman said. “This has led to some grumbling from old time readers, but also much excitement from new blood who has been watching blockbuster super-hero movies for the last decade and just waiting for the perfect ‘jumping-on’ point.”

So the increase in comic book sales, stems from the newfound appreciation created by the release of superhero movies, like the Avengers.

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Portrayal of Women in the Avengers

Monday, March 31st, 2014

the portrayal of women in comics is reflective of the portrayal of women in society. At first I thought about the character, the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johannsen. She appears to be a strong female lead, who not only partakes in the action, but also has emotional scenes. But has Marvel accomplished in showing a female lead in a way that is positive?

Comics, from its initial fanbase, has predominantly appealed to male audiences. The female characters and superheroes created are geared to the majority male community, rather than attempt to appeal to female reader. Does it just stem from the fact that Marvel is just making sure that it survives as a business?

Although many female superheroes were created, very few starred in their own series or achieved stand-alone success. Take for example, the fact that no female superhero hero movie has ever been made that has garnered success. The use of women as plot devices, whose main function is to prompt the hero into action as a defender or in seeking revenge, has been criticized. Black Widow’s function, within the Avenger’s movie, was derived from the function of the other characters. In other words, the Black Widow, as a sole character, would have no merit.

What does that say about our society? That women can’t be independent from men? That a girl has to dress in all leather, of which the Black Widow dons within the Avengers, in order to be just as much of a fighter as the teammates? The form-fitting leather is something that objectifies both the character and the actress, in order to appeal to the dominating male audience.

Because the Avengers is reflective of modern society its portrayal shows how progressive society has become towards women, but also shows where society is lacking. We have progressed, but not enough for sexism to be completely abolished.

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Is Marvel’s Influence Affecting Young Boys?

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

I am not a psychologist, and the only exposure that I have to males that are under the age of ten is my younger brother. That being said, from what I know of my brother and his friends, The Avengers has adopted a sort of mythology around it.

As done by el-grimlock on deviantart.

For the group of nine year olds that frequented my house, the Avengers team were very much alive. Playing with action figures, and watching the cartoons on TV, the boys gave me surprising insight into their own perception of the hit series.

One boy, James, explained to me “ Bruce Banner became the Hulk when angry, and because he the Hulk was green, Bruce was jealous of all the other people who didn’t have to change and smash things.”

As simplistic as his explanation was, there was also some validity to it. The intricacies that Marvel likes to weave around its story lines is very present within Bruce Banner’s story arc. Let me try to make sense of it: Captain America was a runt of a soldier during World War II, who was going to sidelined during the war given his severe asthma. As a good patriot, Captain America desired to fight for his country against the Nazi forces so when given the option to be a human trial for an experimental ‘serum’ he took it.

Fast forward to around the Cold War era where Bruce Banner, a scientist researching gamma-radiation, attempts to replicate the previously mentioned ‘serum’.  Bruce was powered by ambition and the the desire to impress, which led to accidentally using the radiation on himself, forgoing both medical and scientific protocol of extensive trials before human testing. In a nutshell, what caused the character to head down that path was ambition, a word that is usually correlates with greed.

Did the other boy’s have similar insights?

Yes they all did. While I was first surprised, I now realize that it is because The Avengers broaches topics that are universally understood.

Did boys see the brawny Avenger’s team, and think that masculinity only equated to appearance?

My own opinion is that to a certain extent, yes. The action scenes, the gear that the actors are made to wear, everything emphasizes the physique of the actors. Take for example Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Thor. The uniform he wears is tight fitting, and cuts off at the shoulders displaying his impressive musculature.

The basis of which I wrote this chapter was the TedX talk done by Colin Stokes, How Movies Teach Manhood. Stokes draws his analysis from Disney Princess movies, and explains that while female empowerment in cinema is on the increase, the idea that males can be masculine and emotional has still not been explicitly shown.

The basis of this chapter was the TedX talk done by Colin Stokes, How Movies Teach Manhood. Stokes draws his analysis from Disney Princess movies, and explains that while female empowerment in cinema is on the increase, the idea that males can be masculine and emotional has still not been explicitly shown.

I think that because Marvel is including children in the target audience, some tangible or visible acknowledgment that masculinity is not only appearance, is necessary. Has Marvel accomplished this with the female characters?

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Film Critique

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The Film Critique


Now that I’ve discussed the comics, I want to discuss the manifestation of the comics – the movie. Because this piece of writing will be focusing on the impact that “The Avengers” has had on my generation, the progression of thought moves to the film. “The Avengers” was a huge success, and the audience was predominately people who had either limited exposure to the Marvel Universe (those who had seen the origin movies i.e. “Iron Man”), or none at all. So what was the appeal? Was it the beauty of all the actors? The witty dialogue, which in all honesty was a surprise? Or perhaps it was the character development, and a reemergence of an action movie that actually has a workable and dynamic plot line.
            Every facet of this film drew the audience further and further into the storyline. While characters like Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America (played by the actors Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans, respectively) had origin stories already laying down the foundation of their characters. I am ambiguous in the function of “The Hulk” recasting the main actor, but references to the destruction of Harlem, which had occurred in the Edward Norton reincarnation, led me to believe that the first film was also an origin story.

As imagined by the Deviantart creator.

The Black Widow (played by Scarlet Johanson) is relatively new, and had only appeared sporadically within the “Iron Man” trilogy. And HawkEye (played by Jeremy Renner) had an action sequence within the first “Thor.” But aside from those cameos, these character’s were mysterious in the audience didn’t know much about them. The one disappointing aspect of the movie was that I was so drawn in, that I had wished for more character background.

In this point of my analysis, I want to quote Neil deGrass Tyson, “If Thor is strong for mystical reasons, he doesn’t need big muscles. They could make him scrawny and he’d be just as powerful.”

So that raises the question of why, why is it the necessity of have characters like Thor who have both inhuman abilities, and ethereal beauty? I would say it is to set Thor, and by extension Loki (but he will be discussed later when villains are brought up), apart from the other mortal members of the Avenger’s team. But what does this incur in fans? Do little boys look at the muscular Hemsworth who is the hero, and see Hiddlestone, the intellectual villain, and decide that masculinity equates to appearance, instead of intelligence?
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This is written by Francesca Ciervo, Freshman at NYU.

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The Avenger’s Influence on Generation Z: A Brief History of Comics

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

A Brief History of Comics

When I started this endeavor, I was a superhero enthusiast and was faced with the endeavor of writing about something that had depth. Do comic books have depth? With a glance at the cartoonish drawings, and the speech bubbles that peppered each page a person may be quick to give a resounding no. But why then have comic books been the source of entertainment for generations?
Entertainment, many fans agree, has both complexity and a real humanism about it. But isn’t that a curious thing to think about; the fact that even though most comics have superhuman characters, and otherworldly qualities there is something strictly realistic- even human- about the universe and characters that have been constructed.

Perhaps to understand the influence comics have on modern American society, I must recount the history behind them. Comic strips paved the road for the rise of American comic books; the Funnies (comic strips) appeared every Sunday much to the amusement of the 1930’s American. With this newfound creation, the combination of words and images connected people of all ages and intelligence level.

Comic strips grew so popular that the publishers began to reprint collective groups of comic strips in book form of which the first was the Famous Funnies (Stephen Krensky “Comic Book Century: the History of American Comic Books).[1] Cheaper than fighting for the rights to print already printed material, artists and writes began to form collective groups that created original material, of which the formation of Marvel stems.  In the coming chapters I will be focusing on Marvel’s The Avengers in particular. The history of The Avengers is a bit more complex and will be delved into throughout the book. But for a little background, the series started in the 1960’s has transformed from a cult following to a cultural phenomena. While the rotation of characters is too varied to list, the famous battle cry of “Avengers Assemble” is one of the constants about the series.

I have a few theories on why comics (and their subsequent movie creations) have such a great appeal. One, and perhaps the most obvious, is that it is a form of escapism. Comic strips were originally created to ease the depressive moods of unemployed workers during The Great Depression in the thirties (Krensky). That legacy continues in allowing today’s people a realm of hi-definition CGI action scenes and intense character development. My second theory is that there is a very human desire to be recognized, and seeing superheroes garner that recognition gives people hope that they too can do the same.
My driving question will be to investigate whether The Avengers has depth, and further, what effect it may have on today’s society. In the pages that follow, I will share my research and observation of comic book’s influence on my generation.


[1] Krensky, Stephen. Comic book century: the history of American comic books. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008. Print.

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This is written by Francesca Ciervo, Freshman at NYU.

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Friends of Campus Clipper: SocialEyes NYC

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Even living in the exciting atmosphere New York, sometimes I get bored. Which is crazy! What a city to be bored in! Sometimes I just need a little inspiration, or maybe a nudge in the right direction. SocialEyes NYC  is a great blog to give you that nudge.

socialeyesnyc.com

First you can pick by area, in case you don’t want to stray too far from your home, or if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore a certain neighborhood. Or, you can select from museum deals, concerts, or even sporting events. No matter your interests, SocialEyes NYC is your blog for fun, affordable outings.

My favorite of the current events: classic film screenings at Bow-Tie Cinemas. Tickets are only $7.50 and they’re showing movies like The Goonies, Casablanca, Psycho, and The Birds. Another great idea to get in on is the presale for the New York Comedy Festival. This is a huge event each year, with a ton of fun comedians and groups coming to town, so hitting up the presale is a must.

Let SocialEyes NYC help you search for your next fun night in the city!

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Erin O’Brien, NYU.

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I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

By now, most of you have probably heard of the fairly common trope in today’s media of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. If not, then allow me to give you a brief breakdown: a girl, usually quirky/cool/unique in some way but also still pretty and feminine, is the sole savior and reason to live for the male protagonist. She’s not a character with any kind of depth or autonomy; she exists only to show the man that life isn’ta hopeless hellscape; it’s beautiful and full of meaning!

www.nj.com

Hopefully you already realize how damaging it is just from that description, but if not, let me tell you a little anecdote that will hopefully convince you beyond all reasonable doubt.

At one point in my life, I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This was back in high school, before I was even aware of what a MPDG was, and before I found it easy to say goodbye to people who were dragging me down and doing nothing for my development as a person. During this time, I had a series of dude friends who I became really close to in short amounts of time.

Everything always started out really great. We were all in that weird stage of life where you’re developing a solid sense of self-worth, but you still need other people to bolster it. I tried to give them as much encouragement as possible, because I just enjoyed making my friends happy. I was fun and quirky, they didn’t have a lot of female friends, and little by little, they would get attached.

Things always went downhill eventually. I had other friends, a boyfriend, a family, not to mention school and all of the baggage that comes with it. They didn’t care for that. They wanted one hundred percent of my attention devoted to them, 24/7. They said they “needed” me to be around them to be happy. They didn’t treat me like an individual with a life of my own; they treated me like a major subplot in their own stories, someone who was supposed to be around to help make sense of the world for them. It was entirely selfish. Even when I tried to cut things off, they wouldn’t let me. Their methods of keeping me around ranged from suicide threats to actual self harm. The only way I finally got away from them entirely was going to a different state for college.

jessijaejoplin.buzznet.com

So yeah, maybe being a MPDG sounds cute and all when it’s in a movie, and maybe it doesn’t seem that harmful in the media, but once real boys start treating real girls like objects used to manufacture happiness, things can get ugly and hurtful.

To all my ladies out there: you don’t have to be anyone’s MPDG. You are probably cool and interesting and have plenty of things to offer the world, so why bother being anything but a main character in your own story? And to all the fellas, I know that girl may seem like the only thing that makes sense in this strange and scary world, but she doesn’t exist solely for your benefit. So don’t treat her like she does! Give her space, let her have a life, and I promise you will both end up much, much happier.

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Alex Ritter, NYU.

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HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Held every Monday at sundown during summer, the HBO-sponsored Film Festival on the luscious lawn at Bryant Park brings New Yorkers together for a chance to view previously released films.  Shadowed by the high-rise buildings of Midtown, Bryant Park is located just behind the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, also known as the Main Branch.  Graciously sponsored and assembled by HBO and Bank of America, the Film Festival offers New Yorkers and visitors the unique opportunity to spread out on the majestic lawn at Bryant Park while enjoying classic movies ranging from Rocky, Dr. No and Indiana Jones, to The Birds, E.T. and Monty Python.  The park opens at 5 p.m., so anyone willing to wait can grab a spot and relax for a few hours before the movie and the rush of viewers.

A pre-movie ritual accompanies the Film Festival.  A speaker often calls out to the audience before the show starts and asks trivia questions about the movie playing that evening.  After a little playful banter, the speaker reaffirms the movie’s 9 p.m. showing and the audience’s rising anticipation is calmed with a few free pieces of candy and other treats from staff of the event.

As the sun descends and lights of the nearest skyscrapers shine upon the field, the crowd lets out an honest sigh.  The screen flickers on, and the viewers’ ears are infiltrated with the warm sound of an introduction coming from the speakers.  A quick, light-hearted Looney Tunes clip plays, followed by a short commercial that for some reason brings the regulars to their feet with an ovation and a light dance.  Finally, the movie begins; the beaming lights above dim and a hush comes over the crowd.  Over the next couple hours, the movie roars throughout the park’s alcove in the skyscrapers, and another wonderful Monday night among New Yorkers is spent in Bryant Park.

 

Alejandro Font, Student at NYU.

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Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (Come to Terms with Unhappiness)

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is caring and giving. She’s closed off emotionally.

Lee (Barbara Hershey) is beautiful and passionate. She’s sleeping with Hannah’s husband.

Holly (Dianne West) is funny and vivacious. She’s a recovering coke addict.

Hannah and Her Sisters

 

These are Hannah and her sisters, the stars of Woody Allen’s drama about the complicated relationships of a family of middle-class New Yorkers. Though one could argue for the inclusion of and their Men at the end of the title, this story is really about the three sisters and the intertwining of their romantic lives. Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) becomes involved with Lee, while Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen), who once dated Holly to disastrous results, finds himself facing an existential crisis after suffering a cancer scare.

Some parts of Allen’s film feel reminiscent of a Raymond Carver story, with its examination of New England, upper-middle class dissatisfaction. It’s distinctly lighter in tone, though, with the usual Allen assurance that even though life’s dull and complicated, we might as well enjoy it when we can. One can probably see the director’s own struggle with faith and religion in Mickey’s search for God (in one amusing sequence, Mickey goes home to tell his Jewish parents he’s decided to become a Catholic).

Micky hits bottom

 

Caine and Hershey both deliver powerful performances as adulterous lovers Elliot and Lee. Though Lee conceals a quiet passion in every glance, it is the devoted, bespectacled Elliot who surprises us with his professions of undying love, especially when one considers Hannah’s caring nature. Then again, it is this very aspect of Hannah’s personality—her self-sufficiency, both in life and in bed—that Elliot finds so difficult to endure. As for Lee, she feels stifled by her partner Frederick, a misanthropic artist who claims that Lee is his only connection to the world. Feeling burdened and perhaps even a little dismayed by the notion of being a recluse’s anchor to reality, Lee decides to take the risk of seeing her sister’s husband behind the doors of a hotel room.

Hannah and Her Sisters succeeds most brilliantly through its inclusion of moments of internal dialogue on the part of the characters. In one scene, Holly berates herself for not being more forward as she travels in a taxi with friend/competitor April (Carrie Fisher) and their mutual love interest. In another, Elliot urges himself to be cautious and prudent about revealing his feelings for Lee. A moment later he has pressed his lips upon her mouth in a desperate profession of love. These scenes display the pull between desire and social expectation in the lives of Allen’s New Yorkers.

These characters are not the victims of disaster. Don’t look for car crashes or unexpected declarations of paternity. Even the cancer storyline couldn’t be more different from your usual soap opera fare. But problems lurk below the surface, simmering slowly, sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Despite the safety of material comfort, marital and existential happiness remain elusive–always sought, but unappreciated when found.

As with many of Allen’s films, the characters are followed with almost claustrophobic focus and regularity. This neurotic intensity of the camera denies us any grand shots of New York, or even sometimes just a little room to breathe and gather our thoughts. Though some may find it uncomfortable, it reminds me that this moody actor/director called Woody Allen loves people. It’s not a romantic love, nor is it unchanging. Rather, it’s a love that watches with fascination, equal parts amused and enchanted by the absurdity of the world.

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Andres Oliver, Emory University
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The Forgotten People: Gangs of New York

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Gangs of New York

I’ve never gone on one of those websites that does your family tree for you, but I can understand the draw. The thought that we creatures of Apple, Walmart, Facebook, and suburbia may count kings and queens among our ancestors is exciting, or incredibly depressing if you think about it. Nations want the same thing. They create myths surrounding their origins, as if playing king of the sandbox with the rest of the world—“we were here first, we’ve always been here.” America is a young nation, so we have no King Arthur and his knights. But we do have the myth of Opportunity, and considering two centuries of almost uninterrupted immigration, one could say it’s a commodity well marketed. In Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese follows the myth to its source—New York City. It was here that Irish, Chinese, and Eastern European immigrants poured in by the boatload, and it was here they found a city as much a window into opportunity as a comic parody of that same myth.

Scorsese’s epic unfolds in the Five Points, the meeting-place of five streets in Lower Manhattan where both immigrants and “natives” were thrown together in squalor and in blood. After the death of his father, “Priest Vallon” (Liam Neeson), in a literal war between the Irish and the native gangs led by “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel-Day Lewis in usual top form), Amsterdam (Cian McCormack, later Leonardo DiCaprio) spends fifteen years an orphan in Hellgate.  Though sworn to avenge his father after his release, he finds himself a gang member back in Five Points under the protection of the very man he seeks to kill. Cutting bleeds men and pigs with equal pleasure and precision, however, so any thought of murder must also be accompanied by consideration for the tender parts of one’s own torso.

Through Amsterdam’s eyes, we see not only his own personal quest for vengeance but also the unfolding of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. In one particularly compelling sequence, Amsterdam’s and Cutting’s respective Irish and native forces go head to head as New York bubbles over with the heat of the Draft Riots, which were aimed at overturning Lincoln’s conscription of men into the Union army. What a time it was, Scorsese tells us—a time when the army of the Union fired upon the same men they would have join them, and a time when foreign and native fought with knife and cudgel in the alleys of the city as North and South took turns facing the barrel of the cannon upon the field.

 

Odd loyalties were formed and broken. Though Jimmy Spoils (Larry Gilliard Jr. of The Wire), the sole black member of one of the Five Points’ own band of thieves, once may have found acceptance among the Irish—both minorities, both hated and feared—when the riots break out, to an angry mob he is the cause of Lincoln’s war and competition for their labor. Amsterdam and love interest Jenny (Cameron Diaz) find him stretched out upon the stones of Five Points, his body lit by candlelight in a row of a hundred others nameless.

Scorsese no doubt takes some liberties with the myth of New York—though not so many as one might think. Many of the gangs depicted in the film operated throughout the 19th century, and Five Points may have been even more terrifying in real life than it was in the movie. And Hellcat Maggie, the wild-haired gangstress with the sharpened teeth and claws? Really existed.

I went walking down South Street Seaport the other day with some friends. The street carts were out selling Dippin Dots and lemonade, and there atop the quaint rows of brick houses that once would have greeted the merchants as they unloaded at port sit the shining logos of Abercrombie, cafes, and bars full of the young and the fashionable. Suspend this enchanting touristic vision for a moment, however, and imagine what this might once have been. One of many doorways onto a city of multitudes, where Americans were not yet a people but people, merely. Suspend disbelief, and you can almost imagine one of Scorsese’s young rogues leaning casually against a back alley wall, hat turned down to conceal his eyes. Imagine this, and listen to the thousand voices of the city that once were and are now forgotten, their owners’ bones beneath the very stones that now scream out in strident tones: “Dippin Dots! Get cher’ Dippin Dooots!”

Speaking of Dippin Dots… go get yourself something sweet with this coupon for free bubble tea at T-magic!

 

Andres Oliver, Emory University
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