Jean Baudrillard describes hyperreality and simulacra as the result of reproduction whereby reality is understood not in the notions contained within itself but rather as an independent construction. Thus, hyperreality is the product of simulating and presenting reality however rather than producing a copy with lineage to the original it is void of the original. Hyperreality exists independently of reality and blurs the distinction of its presentation. As a result the simulacrum is a breakdown of reality into a series of indicators. Rather than producing an inferior copy or reproducing with error the reality portrayed is entirely new and must be understood within reference to itself.

Special effects driven films are thus creating a reality without the referent. Through the use of artificial productions, namely special effects, the perception of reality is altered to fit its own needs. Rather than encompassing the domain of the real these films transcend the potentials they are bound by without reference or indication to their origin. Special effects literally impose the image of a constructed reality without bargaining. Hence the contemporary cultural condition accepts the constructed reality without question or reference to reality because contemporary culture is shaped by it. Special effects drive the visual illusion which permits for the impossible. It is therefore important to understand that films exist through perception which shapes the meaning of reality that is then transformed by special effects.

Contemporary culture is reliant on indications of reality in order to determine meaning. It is important to note the value which is placed on products of culture in order to reveal their significance. Hence the use of special effects circumvents the expectations of society by creating a hyperreality. The derived association between contemporary culture and special effects can be interpreted as an overpowering of artifice to substitute conventions of reality which in turn determine the perceptions of culture.

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Susan Sontag’s notes are determined to outline the aesthetic phenomenon of camp. Broadly determined, camp engrosses the qualities of exaggerated stylization, modes of behavior and artifice. Ultimately movies stand to gain value when their content is exaggerated to the point of campy qualities or when a film takes itself too seriously. The movie BubbaHo-Tep isn’t taking itself too seriously to be funny but the set up is incredibly exaggerated beyond belief. Elvis Presley as we learn is not dead after all, he jut switched identities with an impersonator. Rather than living out a comfortable life Elvis is now rotting away at a Texas retirement home.

The film exists in its campy duplicity when Elvis is faced with a raging mummy that literally sucks the life out of the home’s residents. In order to escape the wrath of this mummy Elvis teams up it another resident, a black man who claims to be John F. Kennedy. The film is not a pure example of camp where the intentions of seriousness create laughter, nor is the film campy because time has dissociated our involvement with Elvis or JFK. The film is campy with regards to its premise that ultimately draws attention to its attributes. The sensibility of taste is overlooked because camp celebrates the refined taste for the bad. However this film does more than create a spectacle of pseudo-historical horror. The film creates an introspective view of aging and the process by which fame caricatures the understanding of an individual. Elvis is reduced to his glamorous outfits and recognizable phrases but at the same time we see him struggle with mobility.

The extravagance of seeing Elvis and a black JFK struggling to escape a mummy creates the oddities that qualify it as campy. Furthermore the film is not to be taken seriously but rather to see the impossibility of this film with reference to the humor it creates. The film could be considered campy without the element of the mummy if it were to be taken seriously. Instead the mummy constantly reaffirms the audience that the perception of this film should not be in believing it but in the pleasure from watching the familiar presented as a mode of artifice.

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Laura Mulvey’s essay explores the existing fascination of “looking” that society is conditioned with. From the outset Mulvey describes the role of cinema as supporting and existing as an offshoot from our natural inclinations towards scopophelia. However as much as cinema satisfies the natural urge to view, it “develops scopophelia in a narcissistic view.” We observe what we are already conditioned with and Mulvey describes the pleasure of scopophelia in terms of attaining pleasure which is an instinctual component involved with sex that does not rely on the erogenous zones for arousal. However the voyeuristic tendencies associated with cinema seem to be derived from the psychological development of the brain.

Voyeurism assumes the lack of knowledge by the viewed and therefore extracts the elf-preservation through the gaze of the camera. Essentially cinema serves the socially supported notions of symbolism whereby the male perspective is valued with preference due to a woman’s “lack”. In the film Jackie Brown the protagonist of the same name struggles to negotiate a future for herself when she is caught transporting money for a known gun dealer.

With respect to her career as a flight attendant her insolvent in money smuggling jeopardizes her retirement. The film reveals Jackie Brown as a strong woman who negotiates with police, arms dealer and various masculine forces. Although she is successful at escaping the police charges, a murder attempt, and walks away with the money Jackie Brown is nevertheless objectified. Pam Grier stars as Jackie who from the outset is presented in her airline attire which adds to the sexual male gaze. Furthermore Pam is objectified almost in contrast to the male actors who play beside her. She is attractive and well aware of it however the film draws the viewer’s attention to Jackie who represents the viewed object by a voyeuristic audience. Jackie is successful at securing her future and satisfying a narrative end however she is also successfully objectified.

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American Psycho can be seen as following some of Robin Wood’s ideological outline of commercial Hollywood cinema. The film is certainly promoting Woods first point, the right of ownership and capitalism trough Patrick Batemans Wall Street career. The film is also on par with Woods fifth point of progress and technology also represented in his job at through Manhattan itself. The rest of Wood’s points fall short in this film.

The notion of honest work and turmoil is never addressed in this film, stockbrokers are rarely if ever depicted as honest and hard working individuals. Marriage is certainly not seen in a positive light as Patrick desperately tries to escape his fiancé. The notion of nature is subjected into fitting the neat proportions of a central park view but nothing more. Furthermore Patrick’s wealth is not concealed or minimized.

America is definitely not glorified as the land of opportunity where everyone succeeds. On the contrary by American Psycho’s standard, everyone is subject to be Patrick’s victim, be it the homeless or prostitutes. America seems to be presented as having rigid class distinctions especially compared to Patrick’s overwhelming wealth. Lastly the film does not have any ideal male or female characters by Wood’s standard.

Although Wood’s ideological outline does not present itself clearly in American Psycho, it is not a typical Hollywood film. Wood’s outline does gain merit in respect to generalizing many Hollywood films however it is unlikely to stand against the range of produced films.

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The principles of semiotics suggest that the dominant cultural values are embedded symbolically in more than just images but also the languages we use of communication. Basic semiotic principles suggest that images contain the contextual value of symbols within them.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is an immediately recognizable film that bares within it many unforgettable images. The scene where Jack Nicholson is chopping his ay through a wooden door is not only iconic and frightful it is also rich in visual cues and symbolism. The image is straightforward at connoting the threat Jack is posing his family. Symbolically the image is engulfed in denoting Jacks lunacy and presents him as a violent force threatening his family. The threat is Jacks taste for alcohol coupled with his inability to write which is symbolically tearing down the doors and forcing its way into affecting the family. The syntagmatic meaning is the threat Jack is posing on the surface however the paradigmatic or contained meaning is that of violence which stems from his ever increasing madness.

Another inescapable image from The Shining is the blood rushing from the elevator and the dead twins which are seen through Danny’s visions. The images connote the violence and death that are lurking about however they are also successful at presenting deeper rooted issues of mortality and innocence. Danny has a special ability which allows him see the horrors of the hotel’s past. The film presents the American cultural myth of family and hard work in conflict with worsening metal stability of Jack.

The Shining is instantly recognizable in part due to Jack Nicholson’s acting and Stanley Kubrick’s vision. However the blood rushing elevator and the twins appear to Danny when he is riding his big wheel across the hotel. These scenes are particularly striking due to the camera movement which effortlessly floats as Danny rides along. The effect is pronounced as the big wheel transitions from carpet to the wooden floor. In these scenes it is important to note that Danny, the innocent child first bares witness to the horrors of the hotel. Symbolically the elevator scene is foreshadowing and demonstrating the spilled blood which will once aging come to the doors of the hotel.

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In regards’ to female spectatorship, Hansen’s outlines Rudolph Valentino as a historically and theoretically important case. Regardless of a film audience’s actual composition, women were being singled out as a socially and economically powerful group. Female spectators were being directly addressed through the carefully constructed and maintained persona of Rudolph Valentino. This chiseling of character is perpetuated by the Hollywood star machine which creates more than just admirable stars but a complete package of desire as in Valentino’s case. The manufactured persona was catering, in a direct way, to female desire.

The First World War gave women a chance to break from their traditionally accepted roles as mothers and wives. An economic potential was born when women entered the work force, supplementing the open positions left by men who had been drafted to serve. This cultural shift opened the economic power attainable by women and hence inspired the monetary exploitations aimed directly at profiting from them. Essentially women were being integrated into society economically which in turn exposed them to consumer culture that was aimed at recognizing the female experience as well as her needs and desires.

Hansen argues that Valentino’s appeal is reliant on the way he is portrayed as male, in full control of the look while combining the effeminate attributes of being looked at. Hence in order to understand Rudolph Valentino it is important to note the way that Valentino threatened the patriarchal mode of society. By inviting female spectatorship and catering to it Valentino, loses his male dominance of looking but gains female characteristics of spectacle.

A contemporary male film star like Brad Pitt embodies the desire of female spectatorship. Although his fame and popularity are heavily reliant on his androgynous physical features he is not limited by weak range of acting abilities. Furthermore the film content of his movies is not exclusively devoted to weak narrative. However much like Hansen’s descriptions many of Pitt’s films rely on costumes and disguises. For instance the film Troy celebrates the rituals of his dressing and undressing which cause voyeuristic tendencies in female spectatorship. Although many of his films are not specifically intended to target women there is a cultural presence he evokes among female spectators. Brad Pitt is however a reminder of the emancipated woman submerged in consumer culture that inspires female desires outside of motherhood and family and directs them towards female sexual reciprocity.

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Andrew Sarris describes the fluidity of auteurism as based on patter theory. Sarris describes the varying degree to which an auteur might change over time. How ever as Sarris puts it, a bad director is labeled as such based on his or her cannon of films. In general most of those films would be bad however by contract a good director, as we cold expect would have a series of good films. Although Saris doesn’t exclude the possibility of a bad director making a good film or vice versa, it is more important to view the scope of the directors work as a whole. Hence Auteurism is derived from a collection, or body of work which suggests if the term ought to be applied.

The first premise of auteur theory as Sarris describes; is the technical mastery and competence over his or her work. This is to say that an auteur could be labeled as such if the technical craft of the film encompassed as a deep proficiency in the understanding of film language and the ability to express it flowingly. The various animated shorts and features part of Hayao Miyazaki’s cannon of works constitute a great deal of technical proficiency not only concerning the animation but the distinguishable personality that is evident through his films.

The film My Neighbor Tottoro and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind share not only Miyazaki’s vision but also his attention to detail. Both films are stylistically consistent although thematically they differ greatly. Both films utilize a similar visual style in animation which is a consistent factor in his films. Furthermore many of the stylistic elements and visual renderings could be seen as interchangeable between his many films. Most telling of all however is the consistency of interior meaning. While Tottoro may capitalize from the escape/fantasy dynamic perpetuated by childhood development Nausicaä finds greater interest in the preservation of fantasy. However both films are marked with Miyazakis personal style which almost always includes a strong central female character, childhood and fantasy components and the importance of perseverance.

It is also important to notice Miyazaki’s thematically conscience which remains relatively stable over his many works. Miyazaki encourages an alternative to children’s films via his model of content. Miyazaki places importance on gender equality and peace as key components in his themes. Although Tottoro does not reach the level at which Nausicaä displays Miyazaki’s greater themes both films emit a sensibility that is distinguishably Miyazaki. According to Sarris, Miyazaki may be considered an auteur due to his distinguishable style, stylistic consistency and thematical meaning as present throughout his body of work.

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Eisenstein’s and Pudovkin’s view on filmmaking are both shaped by the principles of editing in order to create meaning. Both studied D.W.Griffith who revolutionized film language via editing and inspired the Soviet school of montage. While many of Eisenstein’s and Pudovkin’s influences were similar they each viewed the role of the spectator distinctly due to the meanings that can be derived from editing.

In contract to Eisenstein who stresses the importance of clashing images Pudovkin see’s the role of editing fulfilling the directors visual ambitions. Essentially Eisenstein was more interested in the disjunctive and colliding outcomes that pairing, juxtaposition and repetitiveness may induce via the image. On the other hand Pudovkin favored a smooth flowing narrative which sets the stage for a climactic, emotionally driven film.  It is clear that Pudovkin built the meaning in his films from the director’s guidance and smooth flowing transitions which help to fulfill viewers objective task at linking the images. Eisenstein clearly differs from Pudovkin due to his belief that the succession of images does not have to follow a straight forward pattern or narrative. In Eisenstein’s view, meaning is derive from a sequence of shots which are manipulated to fit via editing. It is important to note however that both Pudovkin and Eisenstein regarded editing in the highest respect, attributing the meaning to a film.

Pudovkin’s emphasis on logical conclusion via editing suggests his view that the camera acts as the perception of the filmmaker, whose job it is to shoot footage and then rearrange and give it meaning via editing. Similarly Eisenstein produces meaning via editing however his style is more ambiguous at determining the audiences intended conclusions.  The nature of film as an art from constitutes from the idea that successive shots linked together create meaning which is individual and therefore beneficial. However both studied Griffith and saw intolerance to the point the film burned through. It is therefore important to notice that while Pudovkin and Eisenstein might differ on the contextual meaning derived from montage, they both emphasize the need to utilize it.

Although both theories central points include montage they apply it’s principles to create meaning rather differently. Pudovkin’s style aims to create meaning via montage I find Eisenstein’s process of creating signs as a more important component in persuasive filmmaking. Eisenstein goes beyond what is expected from the narrative and seeks to collide images of importance almost challenging the audience to determine the sometimes nuanced correlations between shots.

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Rudolph Arnheim’s theories of perception and film are correlated with the visual experience. Deeply rooted in Gestalts psychology, Arnheim believes that language is second to the brain’ intrinsic visual communication: perception. Arnheim’s theories suggest that silent film is the pinnacle of the art form. He reasons that without the distraction of sound, film can explore the expressive possibilities intended in the character actions and their gestures. Arnheim viewed expressionism as enhancing the deeply rooted ideas of perception by dissociating realty. Although Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush is presented in a realistic style with a realist narrative Arnheim’s approves of this film. His reasoning suggests that despite the stylistic attributes of the film Chaplin expresses his emotional states visually which triggers the brain’s perceptive abilities.

Arnheim suggests the sound film would not have the same visual impact as silent due to the interferences of the brains cognitive response. However with the advancement of time technology stepped away from the awkward, uninspired and restricted possibilities of early sound film. Today the lack of sound draws attention to the film and away from the involved perception. However the film It is so convincingly perceptual that after a week of screening the film I could not recall that It was silent. It is interesting to note the conscious and subconscious levels at which perception can influence our cognitive abilities and their accurate recall. Perhaps the strong associative link with visuals can over power the lack of sound. With a great performance from Clara Bow the film is quickly and smoothly absorbed through the brains visual processors. Only upon later introspection does the lack of sound become apparent. However much to Arnheim’s credit, cognitive perception remains the strongest link in our involvement, understanding and recall of the film.

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David Weddle’s article on film theory is a reflection in the shifting of time. Although Weddle may have attained a degree equal in value to that his daughter he finds it discerning that the film studies department at UC Santa Barbara is chock full of jargon and theory. He recalls a time without the psychoanalytic, Marxist, semiotic and various other theories. The involvement of these theoretical works on film represents a crucial convergence between culture and academia. Weddle’s beliefs center on the importance of demonstrable skills that he expects his daughter to learn by attending film school. Unfortunately his misunderstanding stems from an uniformed approach to filmmaking.

Weddle’s daughter is presented with a variety of theories, sometimes competing, in order to establish the informed participation of analysis and production. While having a theoretical background doesn’t necessarily translate to being a successful filmmaker the understanding of film theory is fundamental to a conscious understanding of culture and society. Many of the film theories emerge from a new cultural perspective such as feminist theory. While women themselves are not new, their access to education, commodity and culture fuels a new perspective in the universal application of theory. Furthermore psychological developments help to inform the self awareness and actualization of theory. Weddle’s perspective on his “investment” is naïve. Although a practical skill may not be present in his daughter after completing UCSB, she is equipped with the knowledge of a greater understanding of film which will create for more informed content and hopefully increase the potential for accurate social commentary based on global culture.

Studying film theory, I hope will inform a greater understanding of the functions not visible through the projector. In order to understand the cultural shifts in light of history it is important to see how theories communicate meaning and dispense individual schemas of the world. It is important to accept theory as such: theory. However without a fundamental understanding of the guiding principles informing film and theory potentially strong indicators of meaning might slip by as nuance.

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