Sequence Analysis

CLIP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHUasj7Gzgc

(the clip i posted for the comparison was accidental)

In the sequence shown, Tarek and Amie enter the club that Tarek was previously given an incredibly hard time getting into, first relying on Nabil and then Amie to convince the bouncer to let him in. This sequence is important for several reasons, and I will explore these reasons through a sequential analysis of the clip.

The clip begins with Tarek, led by Amie, getting into the club with no questions asked and a nod of approval from the bouncer. This illustrates an important transformation for Tarek’s character. Previously, he was an intruder on the “eastern suburbs” world of Sydney. This time however, a girl that embodies the eastern suburbs throughout the film leads him in as an invited guest. Furthermore, this is the tipping point at which he becomes fully vested in trying to assimilate and gain the approval of Amie and the traditional white image of Australia. After this point, he will do whatever it takes to further his assimilation into Australian life of the eastern suburbs. The movie summarizes this feeling stating, “When on the outside, all you want is in,” (Cedar Boys, 2009).

Some of the technical aspects of the following shots help reinforce this turning point. The music first helps provide the transition as the dance beats counter the previously Middle-Eastern style music. The shots also get consecutively closer in and more intimate after each line of coke the couple shares. Starting from a wide panoramic view of the club, the sequence finishes with an intimate close-up, helping reinforce Tarek’s move from being an outsider looking in to a participant in what he believes is the pinnacle of true Australian life. The shots also give the feeling of becoming totally engrossed in the moment, the cocaine, and the feelings in the club. This helps further reinforce another important turning point in the sequence. After this point, Tarek is fully invested in the drug operation because he does not want to risk losing what he experienced in the sequence. He does not want to lose Amie because it mean losing his sense of belonging with world of the eastern suburbs.

In what I believe is the most important shot, two men appear to check out Tarek and Amie, perhaps in disproval or perhaps trying to assess whether they have the chance to steal Amie from the “wog”. After seeing the men, Tarek leads Amie away, presumably to snort the next line of coke shown in the following shot. This is important to the development of Tarek in several ways. First, it shows that although he might feel like an insider, he is still viewed as someone who does not belong in that club and the greater white Australian culture. Although trying to assimilate, he is reminded that he will always be stuck in a middle ground between his Lebanese and Australian cultures. As Goldsmith states, suburbia is white and everything else stands out, and should be kicked out (2001). In order to reinforce his place in the white suburbia, he again takes Amie to do drugs again, reminding her, and white suburbia of his usefulness and place within their society, as a drug supplier.

The sequence finishes with Tarek and Amie having sex, further symbolizing the full commitment of Tarek to trying to assimilate. Until this point, Tarek had been trying to attract the attention and affection of Amie. This is an important moment for him because although he might believe she truly likes him, the sequence helps reinforce that it is in fact the drugs that gain him his position within the white suburbia, not true acceptance. After this point, he is willing to sacrifice his Lebanese culture, lie to his brother, and further the drug business in order to maintain a semblance of inclusion within white suburbia.

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Comparitive analysis: Modern Family and Summer Heights High

CLIP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHUasj7Gzgc

I will provide a critical comparison of Summer Heights High (SHH) and Modern Family’s representations of Suburbia, and how the American and Australian television industries portray gender roles, landscape and nature, and multiculturalism in suburbia.

Gender roles in suburbia seem to challenge the normally male dominant Australian mythology. In both Summer Heights High and Modern Family, women have a dominant role, and they are often in control as the final authority on subjects. Catherine Simpson in her article speaks of “female creative control” in the suburban world (1999). This control can be seen more so in Modern Family with the characters of Gloria and Claire. Both raise their kids in a compassionate, yet firm way, and they are dominant because they are smart and composed women. Although they are flawed, they are role models within the society they live in. For example, both are looked up to in the school parent association and are put in control of various events. In SHH, the female character dynamic is different, although still powerful. Ja’mie King is the central female character, a private school teenager attending public school for the first time. She fits more into Simpson’s depiction of strong female characters “rebelling against what is around them” (1999). Out of her normal school, Ja’mie looks to exert power through rebelling against the authoritarian figures and social conventions, such as hunger striking for a school formal and dating a boy four years younger. She uses this attention to control her group of friends, which she now is the center of after taking control from the previous girl. However, this control and power comes from deceit and a strong effort to fit in to what she believes the surrounding school and society desire. Rather than earn respect through action like the women in Modern Family, she is manipulative. Even the mothers in SHH are portrayed very differently than in Modern Family, with Ja’mie’s mother a pushover, looking to serve her child’s every whim and tolerating her intense disrespect. The Australian version focuses on the strong female child, intensely spoiled and uncontrolled by the suburban parents. The American version also has a spoiled daughter who acts out against her parent, but the mother retains that final power, controlling the family, and the spoiled child.

Part of the difference between the shows can also be attributed to the connection between suburbia and landscape theory in post new wave Australia. In SHH, Ja’mie describes her private school as rich area, full of the “beautiful” people who will go on to be the doctors and lawyers, while the public school kids will go on to be “rapists and murderers” (Summer Heights High, 2007). It is very apparent and important where the suburb is located geographically to establish its level in society. This mirrors landscape theory of post new wave cinema where Suburbia replaced the outback as the main site for Australian stories (Dolgopolov, 2011). Here, the inner rich suburb close to the city is the center of “real” Australia in the character’s minds. This is the ideal center where life is best, rather than traditionally moral, bushman legend of outback Australia in traditional film. The “in-betweeness” described by Dolgopolov places the people outside the city as less moral and cultured. They are the “boguns” and the undesirable. Similar is true of Modern Family, where Cam, a man from rural Mississippi is made fun of because he is “country”. The rural life is seen as uncultured, although in reality, he knows equally or more of stereotypical high culture than his suburban/city counterparts. This similarity between the shows corresponds with the growing urbanization of film and television, where stories are shifting from the idealist country landscape to the suburban reality. However, there is a stark difference in how the two suburban centers address nature and trees. In SHH, Ja’mie and Mr. G desire a manicured lawn, giving a semblance of the outdoors but ultimately very controlled. Ja’mie when she first gets to the public school speaks about how there is a lot of concrete rather than nice lawns like at her public school. I believe this comments on the suburban desire for manicured semblances of nature.  Simpson talks about trees encroaching on the build environment and the discomfort it creates, which can be seen in films such as Sweetie, where the replacement of a tree with the hills hoist in a way symbolizes dismantling Australian suburban life (1999). Ja’mie, although not as extreme, desires the comforts of manicured suburbia, and the complete lack of any environmental interaction helps reinforce this notion. Modern Family, however, embraces nature as an escape from suburbia to a more natural place to reflect on life and morality, similar to the conventional bushman/landscape myths of Australian cinema. Particularly, Jay, Claire, and Mitchell Pritchet use the wilderness as a necessary treat, and at one point, even the realtor Phil reflects on how life would be better perhaps if the forest they go to was still around instead of the vast shopping mall shown in the shot below, admitting in some ways that the natural landscape is the moral high ground (Modern Family, 2009).

Lastly, both shows illustrate conventional suburban views toward “other” cultures in similar ways. Both shows make fun of how the cultural others fit into the suburban lifestyle, fully addressing Goldsmith’s view that “suburban is white, and everything else stands out” (2001). However, the differences in representation lie in the cultural policies of each show’s country. Both shows show the cultural others as different and other characters make fun of their home cultures as Goldsmith would expect in suburbia. However, in SHH, Jonah and the islander boys are obviously coached toward a multicultural policy where the school hosts an “Islander Day” where they can embrace their home culture. Although others still make fun of them, they embrace who they are and act out in an effort to maintain their cultural identity. Conversely, Modern Family portrays American assimilation where Gloria, a Columbian, uses food as a way to maintain her cultural link, but in all other ways, is asked to assimilate by her husband (Simpson,1999).

The country a show is produced within certainly affects how suburbia is represented. However, both Modern Family and Summer Heights High do follow many of the same myths surrounding suburban life regarding gender roles, landscape, and multiculturalism.

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Works Cited

Bib:

Cedar Boys. Dir. Serhat Caradee. Templar Films, 2009. DVD.

Dolgopolov, Greg. “Suburbia and Multiculturalism.” UNSW, Sydney. May 2011. Lecture.

Goldsmith, Ben (2001) ‘All quiet on the Western Front: Suburban Reverberations in Recent Austrlian Cinema’, in Craven, Ian (ed.) Australian Cinema in the 1990s, (London and Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass), 159-170.

Lilley, Chris. Summer Heights High. Australian Broadcasting Commission. ABC, 2007. Television.

Lloyd, Christopher, and Steven Levitan, prods. Modern Family. American Broadcasting Company. ABC, 2009-. Television.

Simpson, Catherine (1999) ‘Suburban Subversions: Women’s Negotiation of Space in Contemporary Australian Cinema’, in Metro Magazine #118, 24-32.

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Works Cited

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert :: Rogerebert.com :: Reviews.” Rogerebert.com :: Movie Reviews, Essays and the Movie Answer Man from Film Critic Roger Ebert. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19940826/REVIEWS/408260301/1023&gt;.

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priscilla,_Queen_of_the_Dessert&gt;.

Dolgopolov, Greg. Class Lecture. Mar. 2011. Lecture.

Gallipoli, Neil Rattigan, Images of Australia (1991) SMU Press 135-8.

Jane Freebury (1987) ‘Screening Australia: ‘Gallipoli-a study of nationalism on film’, Media Information Australia.

Mary Anne Reid, ‘Outside Hollywood’ in More Long Shots: Australian Cinema Sucesses in the 90s (Sydney: Australian Film Commission, 1999), 190-199, plug endnotes, 238-239.

Films:

Gallipoli (1981) Directed by Peter Weir

The Adventures of Priscilla, queen of the desert (1994) Directed by Stephan Elliott

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Gallipoli Concept Analysis

                Gallipoli, directed by Peter Weir, centers around two boys, Archy and Frank. The film tells the story of their journey to manhood, from enlistment to the battle of Gallipoli. Through this story, Gallipoli can be analyzed through the National Cinema and Nationalism concepts discussed in class.

                The concept of Nationalism in Australia is fairly unique. There is a strong sense of unification in the country, but you cannot take it too seriously, as illustrated by professor Dolgopolov’s video in class of the parody of the Australian national anthem. Therefore in producing a National Cinema, there is a fine line between creating a revered piece of unifying national cinema and a movie flop. Gallipoli uses a historical event entrenched in Australian culture to expertly implement dominant Australian mythology to exacerbate the Australian-ness of an already important national event.  Through the readings by Freebury and Rattigan, as well as concepts discussed in both lecture and tutorial, I will illustrate how various national myths are expertly portrayed in the film, making it one of THE films representing Australian national film.

                Freebury describes how the deprived conditions of Australia are still a national myth. The film portrayed this in several ways. First, the historical context of the story already has Australia and the Australian soldiers as the underdogs and odd men out. They are purposefully and methodically portrayed in the movie as different than the British. When in Cairo in the markets, Frank and his friends mock the British soldiers for their feelings of superiority compared to the Australians by riding donkeys and donning hats. They also act more effeminate and dainty in a way, making Australians seem like the manlier, more authentic version of the British. Australians constantly compare themselves against other cultures and countries, and this film continuously, through scenes such as this one, points out the differences between Australians and the British. Similarly, the battler mentality portrayed by the warfront at Gallipoli by men scraping together to survive, shows how the less privileged Australians are in fact superior to their previous colonial power. This can be seen by the British drinking tea in their protected tents while Aussies died swimming in the water from artillery fire. The landscape shots of the barren wasteland that Frank and Archy traversed to reach Perth also embodies the national myth of deprived conditions. The movie equates the wasteland scenery with this myth very explicitly at one point when the man who rescues them from the desert, having heard nothing of a war with Germany says that if they want to invade Australia, they can have it.

                Many of the National films of Australia are period films, and Gallipoli is no different, representing certain themes, according to Freebury. She explains how period films “narrate how society came into being.” Part of the reason I think the film resonates as representing Australia with locals so much is because of how the movie seeks to explain how certain Australian myths began. For example, Freebury describes how “mateship was born in the bush and galvanized in the trenches of WWI.” This myth is constructed through the film to allow even those Australians who did not understand where mateship came from to see its historical traces. The film began the friendship between Archy and Frank in the bush, through a baptism by the landscape through the desert from the train station. The landscape portrayed a hopelessness and immensity. The terror of the desert came into play as the two men wandered in knowing how to navigate, but the power of the land quickly forced them to lose their way. After the land in a sense granted them survival by leaving the tracks of a man experienced in the area visible to the friends, Frank and Archy became closer than ever. The trip gave birth to their mateship. However, their friendship became less concrete, only an idea because they were separated in different units. Only when they were once again reunited in the trenches did their mateship solidify into a palpable feeling of unity between the men. The race from Cairo to the pyramids used landscape to once again illustrate the solidification of their friendship. As they climbed the pyramids, the in a way reach the pinnacle of their closeness. The movie created a feeling of national pride surrounding the idea of mateship, a uniquely Australian idea. The landscape and turmoil of WWI had united the pure, morally virtuous bushman, Archy, with the city larrikin, Frank, who may not be the most honest and upstanding citizen, distrusting authority, but in essence is just as moral and sentimental as the bushman (Rattigan). By uniting the two, the bush and the city, the film also made the film relevant to the current community. Currently, most of the citizens of Australia live in the cities. Rattigan describes how the bushman of legend and myth is essentially dead. When Archy was killed in the last scene, it represented the death of the bushman, and hinted that the audience watching the film was the descendents of Frank (Rattigan). This is an important scene and link to the present. Without making the history of Gallipoli current, the audience has little to relate to. Rather, the film brought the myths of mateship, the bushman, and the larrikin to life and made them relatable to current audiences so they could see these “best/most authentic Australians” of myth alive and well (Freebury). More importantly, in my opinion, they could see that although the historical moral, Australia’s Australian, of the bush died, that its best mate and his decendents (modern Australians), are in fact just as moral, sentimental, and important to Australian history as the bushman of legend. Frank gives a renewed vigor to Australians that the modern Australia is also the authentic, Anzac hero of legend.

                In summary, the movie Gallipoli used the historical facts around an important event in Australia’s maturation to bring the Australian myths, the myths that give Australians that sense of authentic unity, to life. By bringing these myths to life and showing how the historical myths relate to the modern Australian, it only renewed Australia’s nationalism in a way that did not seem overt or forced. Rather, it stirred up the innate nationalism in each Australian that stems from the common heritage and stories they have grown up with.

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Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) Review

Costume as landscape

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) starring Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp is an Australian road film about two drag queens and a transsexual travelling to Alice Springs for a drag show. Directed and written by Stephan Elliott, the film centres around the drag group’s journey in Priscilla, their camper bus, from Sydney across the Australian outback to Alice Springs. During their journey, the bus breaks down in the middle of the outback, with dominating landscape shots to show the group’s isolation. However, a small town mechanic, Bob, helps the group, taking a particular liking to Bernadette (Terence Stamp). Meanwhile, Bernadette and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce) find out the drag show is organized by Tick/Mitzi’s (Hugo Weaving) wife, whom they did not know existed. After facing the hardships of prejudice in small towns, they make it to Alice Springs to find that Mitzi also has a small boy, who he has not seen in many years, and who Mitzi is worried will react poorly to his drag lifestyle. After their shows, the group reaches their cohesive climax by completing the goal of climbing King’s Canyon in full drag, with Mitzi’s son and wife, Marion. Finally, when the group is ready to return to Sydney, Bernadette decides to stay in Alice Springs with Bob, while Mitzi and Felicia return to Sydney with Mitzi’s son, who accepts and appreciates his father’s drag life fully.

This quirky Australian comedy road drama does not fit one genre completely, but it’s unique, edgy comedy makes fun of the “everydayness” in life while still addressing serious issues such as the social acceptance of drag, homosexuals, and transsexuals. Despite representing uniquely Australian themes such as focusing on landscape, strong mateship, and being anti-Hollywood, the themes translated abroad because the over arching story is about “the life of a middle-aged person trapped in a job that has become tiresome,” (Roger Ebert). Although not overtly fighting Americanisation, the film helped prove that a movie can have both uniquely Australian themes while still appealing to the larger North American audience. A massive hit in the local box office, grossing $18,459,245 in Australia, the film still became a cult classic in countries like the United States (“Box Office”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priscilla,_Queen_of_the_Dessert).  I believe this is due mainly to the easily relatable stories through the film as Ebert exemplified, as well as it’s relatively independent, alternative feel to American Hollywood movies. This independence of Hollywood is critical to attracting American distribution companies, as Professor Dolgopolov explained in class. Additionally, Reid, in the article, “More Long Shots: Outside Hollywood”, describes how “the apportioning of creative control is one of defining qualities of the way films are made in Australia.” In Priscilla, Stephan Elliott was able to directly construct the image of the movie in his mind because he both wrote and directed the film, and I believe this independence of big production companies of the U.S. helped make the film more authentic in the audience’s mind.

Landscape also dominates the movie, adding an Australian stylistic quality to the film. As a post-Mabo movie, the dominance of landscape does not strictly represent the same themes as in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a re-imagined landscape that is no longer threatening, shown by when Bernadette strides off into the bush only to find a car driving by who can help the group whose bus has broken down. When this source of saviour falls through, an aboriginal group comes to their aid, and also embraces their drag show. The outback is a source of new friendship rather than loneliness. In my mind this scene represented an overarching theme of the Australian bush’s acceptance of drag and homosexuality. This idea is perhaps at its height when the group hikes King’s Canyon, an Australian icon, symbolically letting city folk, two drag queens and a transsexual, conquer the Australian outback, a setting normally reserved only the most moral, manly, purely Australian men. In fact, this movie allows these three unorthodox characters to provide an alternative to the normally male dominated Australian myths like mateship (which is given a whole new meaning through homosexuality), the bush, and tough city blokes. Symbolically, the landscape allows the film to comment how if these three characters can conquer the Australian landscape, which is synonymous with Australian culture and being in many ways, than perhaps homosexuality and drag should be acceptable in the Australian culture. The picture helps illustrate this point in the last scene.  It is the drag costumes and men featured in the foreground, not the landscape, which is what is traditionally the focus of the shot. The film begins with vast landscape drowning Priscilla, but ends with drag at the centre of the shot to show the evolution of the acceptance of their lifestyle by the group and perhaps Australian culture as a whole. I believe this theme came about at a very relevant time in history with the Sydney Mardi Gras Gay Parade only gaining more attention.

Additionally, landscape acts as a fourth main character and that is also represented by the mechanic, Bob. When the landscape starts to visually surround the bus in the first shots once they get outside of Sydney, problems and tensions arise within the group, and Priscilla breaks down, symbolizing the breakdown of the group. Only after battling through and navigating the Outback and the landscape does Bob fix Priscilla and ease the group’s tensions. Bob, a more traditional representation of a bushman, accepts the group and invites them to face their critics through performance. The outback, according to Freebury when commenting on Australian national cinema, is seen to create the “best Australians.” Therefore, I do not think it is an accident that Bob, a man of the bush and the outback, a “best Australian”, stresses acceptance of the unconventional group.

 As the film progresses, this confrontation with the Outback turns to harmony as the beautiful costume design in the drag costumes mimic the spectacular scenery, suggesting that these individuals are perhaps equally majestic in moral character and virtue as the Outback. The Bush Paradox helps explain the characters as they are in a sense untamed. They are contrary to popular society in almost every way as cross dressers. However, they are also marvellous and wildly popular as performers because of this “flaw”. Like the landscape, their inability to be tamed into conventional society creates their beauty as characters. Gibson’s comments, “Society en masse can’t make a mark on the land, so individuals set about carving niches for themselves.” In other words, Australian society at the time did not agree about the place of homosexuality in culture. The drags and transsexuals could not dominate or universally make homosexuality acceptable in culture, like Australians cannot universally tame the wilderness. Therefore, this group of three men in the film set about creating a niche of acceptance within Australian culture, represented by their bringing drag into the bush and landscape of Australia. Priscilla: Queen of the Desert embodies manly uniquely Australian themes, yet still manages to appeal to a larger audience. Its ability to remain an “Australian film” allowed it to be wildly popular domestically, but its overarching themes and story allowed the film to be still popular abroad. In fact, the Australian themes, such as landscape, help the movie have an independent, quirky style that appealed to foreign audiences looking for alternatives to Hollywood.

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