Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation, a great movie overall, but the movie does take some “shots” at Japanese culture, even if that was unintended by the director.

As most Hollywood movies do, they over exaggerate any country’s dominant culture outside of North America. While I do understand it is all part of entertainment, and that dull movies never entertain anyone, but I did some some disturbing representations of the Japanese culture. A huge contrast between the American and Japanese culture is evident right from the beginning of the movie, when Bob Harris enters into the hotel for the first time. The Japanese people seem to be portrayed too “nice” but in a bad way. I understand that Bob Harris is a big time actor, but the movie made it seem as if the Japanese people have just seen God walk past them. One funny scene was when Bob was walking through a hallway in the hotel, the only other American, or “white” family that was there too, were all wearing cowboy hats to represent that they are American. Which do not think Americans actually do, I have seen maybe just the father, or both parents wearing the hats, but not everyone in the family. Another example is the Japanese talk show that Bob is invited to. Now I do know that these Japanese talk show hosts are over the top in Japanese talk shows, so the over the top show was not surprising to me. But what I did not like was that for the entire show you can clearly tell that Bob hated this place and their over the top culture. Another jab at Japanese culture was when Charlotte asked Bob why all the Japanese mix all their I’s with R’s, and Bob just said that they do that for fun, as a joke, when it is clearly an accent issue. Another issue, which was also brought up in the class discussion was the fact that all the Japanese roles in the film, were of people serving the western people, such as the prostitute, and the talk show host, and everyone in general, was just amazed by Bob and their sole purpose was to please him.

One funny scene was when the director, Sofia, actually took a jab at Western culture, when Bob was on the elliptical, and he asked for help, but no one showed up, since in Western culture everyone always assumes that if they ask for help they will always get it.

Overall, it was very clear the it was a Western perspective on Japanese culture and not the other way around.

On another note while watching this movie, I could not help but notice so many similarities with the film, The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Both films, show a western perspective on Japanese culture, and show how a Westerner gets along in this foreign Japanese world. In both movies, I noticed that the flow of the movie is almost similar. Its very slow, and really quiet (not on the same level as The Lunchbox). None of the scenes are really lost, and in a lot of scenes, both of the main protagonists are trying to discover something, which was a big similarity. Both Tom and Bill Murray in these films come into Japan and immediately hate the culture, which is understandable since it is so different from American culture, so they go through a culture shock. However, by the end of the movie, both of them do not want to leave. They fall in love with the place, perhaps because they fall in love with someone in that country, but regardless, they both do not want to go back by the end of the movie. They both find some kind of “peace” in Japan that they could not find in America. For example, Bob tells Charlotte that he actually does not want to go back, when in the beginning he was begging his agent to allow them to come back home. I realized that this just isn’t common between just these two movies, but also another famous movie, Sayonara with Marlon Brando, where the same exact thing happens in that movie, Marlon falls in love and never wants to leave Japan. I think it is because, while in Japan, some things are over the top, such as their game shows, there is a sense of peace, and this “spiritual” feeling that you get when you visit Japan, that is non-existent in North America. Even the soundtrack in Lost in Translation is very beautiful, slow paced, and just puts you in a relaxing mood. A perfect example is when Charlotte is walking through Japan on her own and is visiting the natural sites in Japan such as the temples and their forests, I felt that this was a very relaxing and spiritual place, which you can easily fall in love with. Another example I could remember is when Bob is talking to his wife while in the Jacuzzi, and he says that he wants a healthier life style, and eat healthier (eating Japanese food). So you can clearly tell that he has found some level of peace here, and it makes him healthier just being in that country, which is exactly what happens in the Last Samurai, and Sayonara, all of the main protagonists just feel healthier (mentally) while in Japan. So there is a similar feeling that most Hollywood films portray about Japan, that while it is hard to understand at first, once you live there for a while, you just fall in love with the place.


Blog 5 Assignment – Act of Killing

Director, Joshua Oppenheimer, made a good choice by choosing to direct Act of Killing in an observational style. The style fit well with the overall topic of discussion, the killings of communists in Indonesia. This tragic event has been relatively unknown to the rest of the world, which is why it was a good decision by Joshua to present his findings in an “unbiased” way. Joshua let a variety of people from both sides, communists (ethnic Chinese), and capitalists (Indonesian), talk about their stories and feelings towards the murders that happened. This style allowed people watching this documentary to form their own conclusions about this dark event that occurred, utilizing the documentary as a tool for activism.

This article, states how most documentaries about murders, only interview the murderers, which is why most of them are interviewed in prison, or their voice or face is hidden. In this documentary, both the people related to the victims, and the killers are interviewed, with their voice or face not being hidden. That explains the long list of credits given to locals at the end of the film with the name “anonymous”. Making the documentary, feel more authentic, where nothing is hidden, and all the facts are presented in an unbiased way.

The other accompanying article, states that this “documentary is about the real effects of living a fiction”. This quote perfectly describes what viewers took away from this documentary, that these former murderers are living in a fantasy, along with the rest of the country. An example of this is when the gangsters are on a live talk show and the host asks Anwar if he feared the revenge of the victims’ relatives and Anwar responds, “They cant. When they raise their heads, we wipe them out!”, and the entire audience bursts into cheers, as if the killing of thousands of innocent people is something to cheer about. The “gangsters” are lost in this fantasy world, believing that what they did was right. They even wanted to show their killings in very elaborate and over the top “Hollywood” ways. Joshua does the smart thing and allows them to do so by having costumes, “cheesy” movie lines, and gangster movie inspired scenes. I believe Joshua allowed them to do this, in order to show viewers that to these gangsters, their murders were just like the ones in the gangster movies they grew up watching, and how lost they are in this fantasy world they created for themselves. An interesting event occurs during one of these re-enactment scenes. As Anwar is re-enacting one of his killings, where he is in a dark room interrogating a suspected communist, he starts to realize how wrong all of this was, he feels so guilty that they have to stop the entire scene because he could not bear to finish it. Joshua most likely did not predict that this would happen, but he took the chance regardless and experimented with this, allowing things to unfold on their own, which resulted in that powerful scene. He stated that this decision was inspired by Hamlet, which had a play inside of a play, just like this documentary. The play inside of a play style was beautiful aesthetically (Herman dressed up as a woman), but also made the stories more authentic, since the killers acted out their own murders, versus someone just describing it. The gangsters experienced “reality itself as a fiction”, which is a style I have never seen in a documentary. Showing how one’s fantasy becomes their reality.

Joshua does not express his own opinions until the very last scene, and he does it very smartly. At the very end Joshua finally speaks and tells Anwar how his killings have caused a lot of people and their families to suffer and as a result, Anwar starts to break down. Joshua filmed this entire moment all in one take, with not cuts or editing, making the emotions of that scene very authentic to viewers. He did the same thing when Anwar visited the place where he used to do his killings and placed the dead bodies in bags, and he started to cry because of how guilty that area made him feel.

As Joshua stated, “I want to immerse you in a world so that it becomes a nightmare… a kind of fever dream”, which he certainly did do, thanks to his unique yet very entertaining directing style for this documentary.

The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box, a great love story tale that presented the story in a very unique yet entertaining way, through notes exchanged by two strangers.

In regards to the topic of orientalism in film, this movie felt a lot more authentic compared to the movie seen in the previous week, Lost in Translation. In Lost in Translation, you could clearly tell that the Japanese people were not accurate portrayed in the film, as Hollywood usually does, they show the extreme, exaggerated version of cultures that are not North American. This film however, felt a lot more authentic, and so did their portrayal of the Indian culture. Granted, this movie was created in India, by an Indian director, and Lost in Translation was created by an American Director.

Many of the real cultural issues that are present in India today are apparent in this film. One issue shown is the problems occur in arranged marriage. Ila, is clearly disconnected from her husband, and this seems apparent because they were most likely marriage by arrangement, which is how most marriages are conducted in India. It could also just be general “boredom” that typically happens half way through in marriages, but in this context, the disconnection seems very extreme. The husband would barely talk to his wife, even when Ila made efforts to re-kindle the relationship (example is the scene where Ila puts on a dress that she wore during her honey moon, in order to spark something in her husband, and he just blatantly ignores her).

Another issue is that even though the marriage is clearly failing, Ila does not want a divorce, which is another common issue in India. Most females from a very young age, are told how “bad” and cruel divorcing your husband is, and how her main duty or role, is to serve the husband (make him lunch, make sure he is ok, etc.). This is clearly evident in this movie, as Ila does not want a divorce, because really, due to the culture of the country, she cant. As this article states, India’s law system obviously allows couples to divorce, but its their religion, Hinduism, that frowns upon it, which is why most woman in India are pretty much stuck in bad marriages with no way out.

On another note, this movie displayed this love story in a very innovative yet entertaining way. They exchanged notes

without even knowing the other person, and actually probably fell semi-in-love. What this reminded me of was the North American culture today, of how in most relationships today, couples usually just text and have very little personal, face to face interaction, especially with younger couples. I do not know if that was the directors intent, to show how different yet similar the cultures are between India and North America, but I found this connection to be very interesting.

In terms of this movie, a Hindi film, compared to the style of an American made movie, there are apparent differences. This movie was very slow and “quiet” which is not a bad thing. A common thing in Indian films is that they really move the plot and movie very slowly, and never rush any scenes or story lines, they let the viewer really “digest” the plot before moving on. This is very similar to the old Hollywood films from the 50s, 40s, 30s, and 20s, where the story moved slowly. However, in today’s times, Hollywood movies are very past paced, and “flashy”, which is apparent in Lost in Translation, where the movie is more over the top and clearly more fast paced than this Indian movie.

Stories We Tell

This documentary was interesting because of the unique style

What I loved most about this style was that everyone’s opinion on the situation was included, all the kids (step and real) and her friends, her step dad, biological dad. It is funny how the biological father thought that this was a bad idea since it would ruin the structure of a documentary, making it too messy and uncoordinated, however, I actually liked her style more. Everyone’s opinion was expressed, and at the end of the documentary, every viewer came up to their own conclusions, nothing was forced. In a sense, I could see similarities between this documentary style and the one used by Joshua in “The Act to Kill”, in the sense that the director kind of laid back, and observed, letting everyone give their opinion, and letting viewers come to their own conclusions, and not forcing their’s (the directors own).

My conclusion at the end of the day was that the mother was at some fault. She had a relationship with three different men, you can not cover that fact up just by saying “she did not find her true love”, at one point you have to hold her accountable for being in a relationship with three different men. It certainly did affect her kids in a way, throughout the entire movie, you could feel a sense of the kids being confused, they did love her dearly, but you could sense something in them (as if they did not really know who their mother truly was, but I could be wrong). This also obviously probably hurt the step father, since he was cheated on (although he still loved his kids as if they were his own).

Another thing I found interesting was the fact that the director used staged footage, to make it seem like legitimate old family footage. The family videos seemed so authentic, only at the end when it was revealed that they were staged by actors, that I realized they were fake. Still, it was a very nice touch, and it definitely added to the visuals of the overall documentary.

The Act of Killing

This was really an interesting documentary, for several reasons:

The politics

Its amazing how much you can hate communists, I thought Americans back during the cold war really hated Communists, but Indonesia took it to another level. First of all, I will admit that I had no idea that Indonesia was such a pro democracy country, so this is definitely a learning experience for me. What is horrifying is that America actually supported this (since it was supporting their fight against communism), even though what the gangsters in this country were doing was completely inhumane (raping, killing innocent people and children). They even placed their leaders on a pedestal for doing this.

It seemed to me that the government looked for people like Anwar, guys who had no regard for human life, and would not feel the emotions of killing someone (which is kind of related to the topic of American Sniper, where Chris Kyle was the same way in a sense, he did what ever he needed to do for his country, much like Anwar).

Also the government in power now, still does not see anything bad in what they did in the past, in fact they actually brag about the killings. This right away tells you how corrupt the current government is (even during his speech he was proud of the murders). Also his blowjob comment regarding a girl further cemented how much of a character-less person the leader of the country was (imagine Obama making a sexual comment like that?!!).

Whats even more funny is that the government actually tried banning this film (WHICH COMPLETELY GOES AGAINST THE PRINCIPLE IDEA OF DEMOCRACY), but they actually could not since they are “supposed” to be fully capitalistic .

One of the scariest moments was at the end when one of the gangsters (back in the day) is just shopping with his family casually, even though we just found out all the people he murdered. It was a truly horrifying scene, because as he is shopping with his daughter and wife, he is talking about him killing many people and how he chopped off people’s heads. But this again brings up the topic of the government brainwashing people. These killings and tortures are also done by U.S. soldiers (American Sniper). One country’s hero is another country’s terrorist (such as Chris Kyle, what he is to the American public versus the Iraqi public). Similarly Chris Kyle also excelled in the army because that is what the US army looks for as their ideal candidates for joining the army, people  who did not reflect back and have no hesitation in killing the “enemy”, which is what the Indonesian government did, by hiring “gangsters” to do their dirty work for them. They even admit this in the film, when the owner of the paper printing media company (also highly part of the political system in Indonesia) is talking, he says how he would never do the dirty work himself, which is why he hires gangsters (guys like Anwar) to do it for him.

Style of Documentary

The style was really nice for this documentary, it is actually the classic style of documentary, where the director steps back and lets locals and everyone else give him advice, the director is merely the observer. Which is nice to see because you rarely see this type of classic documentary directing anymore, you always see the new type (where the director is in charge and enforces his views and style onto the film).

Also the fact that the director wanted create a “Hamlet” like style of presentation, having a play inside of a play (the gangsters were the directors and actors) was very cool and unique, very entertaining to watch.

Main conclusion

I enjoyed how the director showed the end result of all these murderings, and how the effect was different for everyone. Such as the guy shopping in the mall, he had no problems sleeping at night, because he felt that he did nothing wrong. Whereas guys like Anwar, have nightmares at night now, for all the killings he did in the past (exactly what happens to Chris Kyle in American Sniper).

Overall great documentary.

Blog 4 Assignment – First Nations Films

Of all the Aboriginal movies shown in class, this one stands out the most. This was the only movie that did not focus on trying to criticize Hollywood’s false interpretations regarding natives, or the way “white” people treat natives. At its core, this was simply a well-produced movie that shows the Inuit culture in the most authentic form that I have ever witnessed on cinema. The director chose the right way to educate viewers on Aboriginal culture. In order to erase this false image painted on natives by Hollywood, what you have to do is create very good and authentic films, showing the native culture to the world, not by criticizing Hollywood for what they have incorrectly projected.

In Reel Injun, a director in the documentary comments about how this was not a movie, this was actual aboriginal culture at its most authentic form. At the time I heard this, I had no idea what he was talking about. However, after witnessing the running scene for myself, I knew exactly what he was talking about. This was no “Hollywood” product type movie that is standardized for the general public, this was what the actual Inuit culture was like and the real problems that they faced.

There was no drunk or drug addict “idiot” aboriginal in this film that most other aboriginal movies show. Reel Injun states how the protagonist is always white, whereas in this film the protagonist, Atanarjuat, is Inuit. He was a good protagonist as well, someone who had typical Hollywood hero qualities, such as athleticism (hence why he is called the fast runner), being able to endure pain for his loved ones (shown by the nude running scene), and someone who is noble and fair (gets the opportunity to kill the guys who tried to kill him, instead opting for peace).

The problems the people faced in the movie, such as betrayal (other tribe trying to kill Atanarjuat), and adultery (the girl sleeping with another person’s husband), are typical issues that are universal and are in film classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and the Odyssey as this article states. For example, when the son killed his father to become the leader of the tribe, it reminded me of Commodus killing his father in Gladiator. Thus, this culture was different, yet also very similar to Western and European culture, and that this Inuit culture was no “out of this world”, “alien” culture. Furthermore, I learned about the different beliefs that they had, such as the scene with the evil spirit being cast out of the brother and sister that were causing all the problems. Or the spiritual visions Atanarjuat sees when he is almost dying and he calls for his father to help guide him, leading him to the old man’s family. Or the old man placing a spell on a rabbit which the antagonist eats and makes him lose his intelligence. These are all cultural beliefs that I had never known about before.

As this article states, the whole movie was created to show “Inuit and non-Inuit how we lived”. The result of the high rate of suicides amongst Inuit teenagers, was that a movie had to be created to show Inuit teenagers, and others in Canada, the true Inuit culture. The article also states how all the actors in the film were selected from the Inuit community where this movie was shot, which again goes against typical Hollywood production standards. Which is why one of my main praises was how genuine the performances by the actors were, all adding to the authenticity of this film.

The movie itself showed no discrimination, however, the development story of the movie did show the lack of respect the Canadian government had for aboriginals. In the article, the movie’s director stated to the Canadian government, “In the last ten years of professional film-making with our programs shown in 16 countries, no executive from Telefilm, has ever visited Igloolik to see where, how, and why we work as we do, to see for themselves our daily reality”. Clearly the government does not see this Inuit media project, which will help Inuit teenagers discover their past more and feel less depressed, as something that is important. While the government did give in and help fund the movie after some time, the amount of time and effort that was required to get the funding, shows how little the Canadian government still thinks of native people in my opinion.

Samson & Delilah

This was another great movie as well.

It was a great eye opening experience for me personally, since I never knew that first nations people lived in Australia, in reservation areas. From this movie what I got was, just an idea of how poorly the first nations people were treated in Australia. There is a scene in the movie where it shows traditional aboriginal paintings being sold for very high prices, which I thought was ironic since the first nations people were so poorly treated in that country. There are many scenes that exemplify this, but the two that stand out are;

1) when the girl sees how valuable the aboriginal style paintings are, she makes some herself and tries selling them to local Australian people in cafes, but no one event gives a penny to her (and you can clearly tell that she needs help and money because of the bruises on her face)

2) the random group of Australians that kid nap the girl in their car, the movie does not show what happens to her, but viewers can understand what happened. When she finally returned, she was all bruised up

Another very important scene was when the two decide to live under the bridge with a homeless man who is Australian. I believe that the director showed this scene to show a representation of how first nations people are thought of in Australia, that they were at the bottom end of society, just as homeless people in Australia are.

Throughout the entire movie, Samson is always smelling petrol in a can, to me it has to symbolize something since every time he smells it, something bad happens, finally in the end when he stops smelling the petrol he is free and returns back to “reality”. Petrol is a symbol for capitalism and greed in most movies, usually representing the greedy nature of the “white race” or upper class of people. Perhaps the petrol in this movie represents the same thing. Samson and Delilah run away  from this reservation, in my opinion, hoping to find a better life that the “white class” enjoy. The petrol he is smelling is a symbol that Samson is caught up in trying to get or make more money, and have a white class life style. Finally his brother rescues him brings him back home, where he finally stops smelling the petrol, and his head is finally clear of all greedy capitalist ideals. The movie wants to show that what Samson had back in the reservation, although it is not the greatest of places to live, was actually where he will be the happiest and where he will be loved, and the movie ends off with him and Delilah living happily ever after, in some deserted area in their reservation. So in a sense, Delilah could be a symbol, which is the opposite of the petrol, or greed and capitalism, which is freedom and love.

The petrol symbolizes greed

Stops smelling the petrol, so he gets rid of all greedy, capitalist thoughts, and lives happily ever after