Zackary Thistle- A Critique

This weeks blog is a bit late due to a crazy amount of end of the year assignments flocking in all at once, but I still managed to get it done. This week we had to read someone else’s blog and critique their style and junk. I chose Zachary Thistle.

Reading Zack’s blogs in order, you see that he has become more and more comfortable with the journalistic style of writing required of these blogs. Sometimes this helps him, because his comedic personality shines through. Sometimes it hinders him, because it makes his train-of-thought hard to follow. That being said, and something I cannot necessarily say for myself, Zack always incorporates course material into each of his blogs, which shows his desire to learn and put his knowledge into practice.

Zack doesn’t necessarily articulate his ideas the most eloquently, but for the most part you can understand what he’s trying to say, and it’s usually a fairly valid point. One of Zack’s biggest strengths, I think, is his ability to set up his reader. He hooks us, gives us a brief blurb about his topic, some light preamble one might say, and then introduces his point. This way of guiding-his-reader is evident in all of his blogs and is something I enjoyed.

As mentioned before, Zack relates all of his blogs back to the course material and you can tell that he is trying to get into the minds of the actor. His best blog, in my opinion, was Psychological Warfare because you could tell that he was really enjoying what he was writing about. You could tell that he understood how the course material applied to the movie, and because of that the blog did not feel choppy or disjointed; it had a natural flow to it because he articulated his points succinctly.

Where Zack could use the most improvement is in his punctuation and phrasing. I understand the assignment requires us to writing in almost a colloquial style, but sometimes his style is so informal it becomes disjointed and hard to follow. What I would recommend to Zack is reading his blogs out loud as if it were a speech, adding in breath-marks as commas, and finding places where sentences naturally break; where phrasing is awkward. This will help him hear out loud, what his reader is reading in their heads. This is not meant to be a stab at Zachary’s writing style in general, but for the purposes of this assignment, and for the sake of his TA, he may want to consider finding a nice middle place between Psychological Warfare being his best, and Dr Strangelove (being the hardest to follow).

Overall, I enjoyed reading Zack’s blog. Him and I are fairly close friends, but until this point I have not read any of his work. It is nice to see someone else’s opinions on the films, especially Boys Don’t Cry. Good work Zack! 🙂


The 41 Very Best Karen Walker One-Liners From Will & Grace

Karen Walker Quotes: For those lonely days.

Thought Catalog

Will & Grace

Honey… What is this? What’s going on? What’s happening?
If it has genitals on the outside it’s hiding something on the inside.
Oh kids ruin everything. I mean look at the stitching on this. You cannot trust a ten year old to do a good hidden button.
Wow, ten years of game night. What a milestone. Maybe you should celebrate with a suicide pact.
Honey, tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic.
Good Lord I can’t believe I’m at a public pool. Why doesn’t someone just directly pee on me?
Oh hey! Somebody got flowers. Or as I like to call them, poor people jewelry.

Will And Grace

Let’s take pictures of us eating all this food and then show it to some homeless person.
If you ever need someone to drink with, I’ll drink with you. If…

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Divorce, drinking, and miscarriages, oh my!

This week we watched Some Like It Hot, a comedy featuring The Marilyn Monroe which, much like Boys Don’t Cry, was ahead of its time in terms of blurring gender norms and exploring what it takes to be a passable cross-dresser in America; except this time instead of the grungy deep-south, Joe and Jerry (desperate Chicagoan musicians) try their hand at Floridian high-society in women-only band. Some Like It Hot takes a more humorous approach to the subject matter but in the end drives home the point that love is blind to social structures such as gender, class and age. 

Marilyn Monroe, known to me mainly as a beauty icon, blew me away with her performance. This was my first Marilyn movie and I’m not sure I could have picked a better one. After the movie I was discussing some of her acting choices with friends; how she managed to play drunk so convincingly, and how she seemed to be moving her head and eyes constantly. I thought these were very distinct acting choices highlighting some emotional turmoil, drawn from some indeterminate past relationship in the actor’s life (or something to at effect), only to be enlightened by my friend who proceeded to tell me three very interesting points about Marilyn during the filming of this movie.

Divorce, drinking and miscarriages, oh my.

Marilyn plays the perfect debutant, with her golden locks and sultry voice, but during this movie (I assume between takes) Marilyn was a borderline alcoholic. This was likely due to her recent divorce/miscarriage, maybe the divorce was a consequence of the miscarriage; whatever the case may be, Marilyn was in dire straits.

As for the constant movement of her eyes and head? This was the unfortunate result of the divorce/miscarriage fiasco, combine with the drinking and (I assume) handfuls of pills washed down with Moonshine (or whatever the poison of choice was in the 50’s) and some pretty severe depression… Marilyn Monroe couldn’t learn her lines. As a result, director Billy Wilder had cue cards prepared for her just off camera, so she could cheat when she needed too. This dedication to Marilyn not only shows how famous and desired she was in her time, but also what an asset she was to the film itself.

Marilyn is irreplaceable in this movie. This may be because she is great in all of her roles, I don’t know, I’ve never seen them, but I think it comes from her method. She was likely drunk while filming scenes in this movie, and by using her real life to support the role, she created a character that was both beautiful and embarrassing to watch. Someone you could feel for. And what an amazing escape; to be able to come to a studio and sing, dance and laugh with people who support you and want to see you succeed. It always fascinates me how someone who is going through so much pain is able to use it to make others feel good.

Boys Don’t Cry

This week we watched Boys Don’t Cry, a heart-wrenching drama that delves into the complicated notions of gender. It comments on the social conditioning of gendered norms and the struggles and implications of being a passible transgendered individual today.

The main character Brandon, was born Teena, who has a vagina but has known her entire life that she was meant to be a boy. She chooses to live her life as a male; without having ever gone through any reconstructive surgery to aid her in externalizing her internal feelings. In Nebraska (in America in general) being transgendered is not widely accepted. We live in a phallocentric society, and it is that obsession with what-is-between-each-other’s-legs that leads to Brandon’s unfortunate end. This tragedy was very intense, and real, and leaves the viewer questioning why? Why did this need to happen? What were the reasons?  

 Roles like Brandon challenge an actor to think outside of the orthodox and uproot the foundations they grew up on, really giving the actor an opportunity to start fresh. Before this role, Hilary Swank may not have known that gender is a socially constructed notion passed down through generations of oppression and social conditioning. A role like this can literally change a person’s paradigm on life. Hilary’s deconstruction of gender is apparent in every aspect of her performance. There is not a moment in this film that she is not thinking about how her actions are being perceived. This is both integral to the performance and the survival of Brandon in this small Nebraskan township because if Brandon’s actions were to abstract reality too much (philosophers like Judith Butler conclude) people will begin to act violently; they begin to feel like an outsider; are othered by Brandon’s identity. Brandon was a passible man. From the way he walked to the way he moved his head and used his eyebrows, you could tell that Swank put a lot of hours into differentiating male and female gestural and behavioural movements in order to accurately execute Brandon’s every move. This suspended the audience and Brandon’s peers in disbelief (and landed Swank 28 different awards including an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role… no big deal.) It is that dedication to the art of acting that we do not see anyone.

The men that raped Brandon felt deceived or othered. In that deception they took action; action that established dominance over Brandon and Teena simultaneously. This was their only reason. They did not want to hurt Brandon, or scare Brandon, they just wanted to let Brandon know who the boss was, and it is that phallocentric mindset that keeps people like Brandon hid even 15 years after that movie was made. It is that phallocentric mindset that defines masculinity and cripples societies by keeping them trapped in systems of oppression and gender norms. It is time for change; Boys Don’t Cry and the portrayal of Brandon are monuments and catalysts for it. 

Silence of the Lambs

The movie we watched last week was Silence of the Lambs directed by Jonathan Demme. It is a psychological thriller based around serial killed Hannibal Lecter and Agent Sterling, who is questioning him about the psychosis of his killings. The relationship between Agent Starling and Hannibal is very much a power struggle. Hannibal, being a man, automatically assumes, due to his societal privilege, he holds some power in the room and must maintain this power in order for the relationship to hold. He does this through manipulation and intimidation. The scene I chose to analyze is during the second meeting between Agent Starling and Hannibal. Hannibal has received the document Starling gave him and for the first time we are seeing Hannibal lose his control.

In their first meeting Hannibal was very calm and collected. He barely moved and when he did it was very slow and with purpose. In this scene a lot of the acting is done using the eyes. Simple movements and lifts of the brow say so much and it is that subtlety makes Hannibal’s character so believable. He seems like a regular guy, but his eyes tell you otherwise. Hopkins is a bit more subtle than his counterpart Foster, but perhaps anyone would seem eccentric compared to someone so subdued.

As I said before this scene is a power struggle. In the second interacting we are seeing a different side of Hannibal, a side that is not so collected. This does not mean that he is any less subtle, but rather that Hopkins adjusts the mannerisms of the character in order to maintain control. An example of this is when Hannibal tastes the air through his teeth as if tasting Agent Foster after describing a few cannibalistic dinners of his past. This is a great example of Hopkins resorting to intimidating in order to maintain power. Hannibal knows that he is helpless to hurt Agent Starling, but striking the fear in her psychologically is enough for him. Hopkins mastered the piercing-eye-contact-that-could-melt-the-flesh-off-you-face, and this important choice is likely the most interesting of Hopkins because the viewer is kept wondering what is going on inside the brain of Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins almost achieves his goal of dominating Foster, but just when the audience thinks she’s ready to pack her bags Agent Starling turns the situation back on Hannibal and he is forced to backdown. This brings the scene to an end with the line “You fly back to school little Starling, fly-fly-fly.”

This scene is a defining moment in the breakdown of their relationship based on power. Agent Starling has won because Agent Starling has sanity and society on her side where as Hannibal has solitary confinement. Hopkins does an excellent job of capturing the audience with his eyes and creating an atmosphere of suspense, but unfortunately Foster doesn’t bite making Hopkins (Hannibal’s) efforts in vain. You cannot intimidate those who will not be intimidated.

Dr Strangelove-Blog 3

The scene I chose to analyze for this weeks blog, from Stanley Kubrick’s Dr.Strangelove, is the first exchange between President Merkin Muffley and Gen. Buck Turgidson. This scene, which I expected to be tense and uncomfortable, was highlighted nicely with humour and a general lightheartedness. The actor I chose to analysis was Peter Sellers who plays President Merkin and the action I chose was “to maintain control.” This scene starts at 24 minutes 18 seconds.

This action is physically possible. Peter Seller is playing the President. To be President is to control. The actor can go into the scene with the knowledge and confidence that he is the President and therefore anything he says and does goes. This isn’t an entirely taxing action, but I can imagine the actor would enjoy doing it. Sellers can go into the scene knowing that whatever he does the scene will follow. And this knowledge of power is integral to the action. This is obviously not ideal for the rest of the cast or writer, but if Sellers decided to play this scene in hysterics, the result would have been much different. The responses from his peers, and power dynamic between Buck and the President would have changed and in some ways this may have been funnier, but in other ways it may deflate the scene and the severity of the situation, therefore convoluting the plot. By maintaining control and acting to do so, Sellers character keeps the plot moving forward, suspends the audiences disbelief while still adding a layer of dry, stoic humour.

This action is not very specific but the specificity lies in the word control. Sellers needs to go into the scene realizing the weight of the information that is being delivered to him and how a president would need to act in such a time. He also needs to keep in mind the environment he is in and what an appropriate response would be. He is in the “War Room” surrounded by a lot of people who look up to him. So he needs to maintain control over the room, and his temper. If Sellers decided to act hysterically the scene would have been a lot different.

In no way is Sellers ever manipulative. In fact, I believe this character would do anything to avoid controversy which is why I believe he allows the Russian ambassador into the War Room. And though he seems to be a bit of a push over, the President is persistent in his questioning of Buck and eventually see the “cap” to their scene at the line “I am becoming less and less interested in your estimates of what is possible and impossible.” This is when the contents of the War Room know that the President will not be made a mockery of and will get what he wants when he asks for it; that he intends on maintaining control over this situation and no one will contradict him.

And of coarse I don’t believe the action strays far from the intentions of the playwright.

Deer Hunter- Assignment One

The Deer Hunter is a man’s movie that encapsulates and breaks down the hierarchical system of masculinity. Right off the hop we meet Nick and we can tell that he’s the pretty boy. His hair is styled, his clothes are ironed and fitted; his face is shaved and he never eats making him the thinnest of the bunch. Naturally I connected with him instantly and found myself analyzing everything he did through a gay lens, picking apart gestures and inflections; trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t simply feeding into stereotypes. Taking a step back and analyzing Nick objectively I realized that my initial thoughts weren’t necessarily wrong. Nick seems to have very little interest in women throughout the movie, however I couldn’t ignore the natural pull between Mike and Nick which felt to strong to be a Bromance.

In the beginning we see how soft and loyal a friend Nick can be. He stands by his friends even when others might not want to, he treats women with respect and has compassion for his fellow men. As the plot progresses and Nick’s morals are challenged he starts losing sight of his true colours and I believe defining moment in his downfall was the moment he realized his best friend could never be his lover.

This moment, which subtly reveals Nick’s inner thoughts and desires, is after the wedding when John starts playing the piano and Nick won’t take his eyes off of Mike. Mike takes notices and communicates to Nick with a simple raise of his chin that this was neither the time nor place for expressing emotion. I feel this was integral because for the first time Nick is realizing that he will never, despite his best efforts, be with Mike comfortably, and life seems a little less brights.

From that moment forward we see Nick regress into a war torn monster who’s past is erased by post traumatic stress, combined with heavy drug use and the constant promise of death. A man who used to starve himself for the thrill, is now starving because he doesn’t want food. A man once living for love and life itself, now only lives to die, broken by years of mistreatment. This creates an incredible sense of pathos for Nick, but especially Mike, for in their final moments together we see a break through in their relationship; genuine love. We see Mike reduced to his basest form, begging his lifeless, stone hearted lover to show some sign of life. This made me crave for Nick’s survival. Having Nick die however, kept the stakes high and frankly left me feeling a bit hopeless and disturbed, especially because of the ease with which Nick pulls his trigger. Clearly a man who has lost all zest for life. Perhaps because of recent events, or perhaps because he spent his entire life wanting something that, until the end, would never want him back.