Category Archives: Film

Film is an art that I personally have great interest in. As an aspiring film director, producer, and actor, I pay particular attention to all the films I watch. Here I will share my thoughts, favorites, criticism, and support for any film I view.

District 9

 A typical science-fiction movie features aliens, futuristic weapons, and some plot to take over the world.  District 9, a 2009 film by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, takes this formula to the next level and creates a plausible scenario that fills you with excitement and shock.

The story begins as an investigative documentary, featuring various “experts” commenting on the status of the District 9 initiative.  In the 1980s, a space ship landed in South Africa.  It  did not attack or abduct anything.  It just hovered in one spot with no sign of movement inside.  Once the South Africans found a way inside the ship, they found a large population of aliens who seemed ill and starving.  They were called “prawns” and were relocated to District 9, a refugee camp to administer food and other resources to help them.  Fast-forward to 2010, good intentions and the refugee camp have deteriorated.  It has turned into a militarized ghetto with every sort of criminal activity involved.  A weapon corporation, called Multi-National United, is contracted to evict the “prawns” to District 10, located outside of Johannesburg.  The main character, named Wikus van der Merwe, is put in charge of the operation not because of his position or intelligence, but because he is an easy scapegoat.  During the operation he is exposed to an alien chemical which causes him to gradually transform into a “prawn.”  The rest of the film portrays his struggle as he has to choose between humans, who want to harvest his body to utilize the alien weapons, or “prawns,” who just want to go home.

It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed a science-fiction film, and I could not stop thinking about this one for days after I watched it.  There are so many aspects to it, from the way it is portrayed to the story line to the hidden messages and missing pieces.  I will try my best to share all of this with you without ruining the ending.

Like I said before, the film was made to look like a documentary.  The camera shakes sometimes, a number of angles are awkward, and the camera man is asked to stop recording a few times.  The story jumps back and forth through time so that the viewer is constantly guessing as the pieces are gradually revealed.  The influence of the media and corporate agendas are in full play in this film.  The story seems to be primarily guided by human emotions reacting to something that is different, which begins with generosity and ends with hostility.

 

There was a lot of symbolism in this film.  Referring to the outcome of the refugee camp, one could draw a distinct line connecting this story with apartheid in South Africa with the Bantu stands.  There were images of signs that read “humans only,” echoing a time period where signs used to read “whites only.”  The film also shed light on the struggle for power between politics and corporations.  The South African government did not feature anywhere in the picture.  Everything was run by the weapon corporation, who were solely interested in achieving their own benefits and exploiting the “prawns” weapon technology.  The media gave the illusion of being transparent by providing live footage of everything that happened for the world to see, but were only reporting what the weapon corporation ordered.

I thought this was a very plausible storyline.  The portrayal of the future of technology primarily affecting the development of weapons and power is definitely something that will continue…with or without aliens.  This would be a great film to critique and discuss in an arts or film class.  Why did the aliens come?  Were they stuck or was it planned?  Why were only two of the aliens planning to return, while the rest seemed less intelligent?  If you have seen this film, please let me know.  I would love to discuss it with you.   I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys intellectual stimulation and exposure to an alternative view on human society.

 

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The Spotlight Series by DAGZ Productions

My current project is exploring and expanding my creativity and ideas within a forum that can showcase and benefit me.  This blog is one form of it, but I now want to incorporate film and other aspects of entertainment.

DAGZ Productions is the next step.  My premiere creation is The Spotlight Series.  Below is the first episode.

The Spotlight Series is a video collection featuring interesting people and intriguing projects. Episode 1: The Lounge – a radio show at WRGW. DJ Dagny takes you behind-the-scenes of The Lounge and discusses producing a radio show, creating an artistic atmosphere, and dealing with a few challenges. http://www.mixcloud.com/TheLoungeWRGW

Please let me know what you think and become a fan of DAGZ Productions.

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

 Are you tired of predictable plots and lame jokes?  Do you flip channels more than watch them?  Does your belief of mainstream comedy resonate with, “it’s just not funny anymore?”  If you answered yes to any of these or if you started thinking about the corny joke you just made, then you need to check out ABG.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a web series by Issa Rae about the life and awkward moments of an awkward black girl.  Each character is designed to authenticate every moment without conforming to stereotypes.  There is “J,” the protagonist who can’t seem to go through one day without a million and one awkward and embarrassing things happening to her.  “Cece” is her only real friend who is almost as awkward as her and does not give the greatest advice, but she is loyal to J.  “Fred” is J’s office crush that she stalks occasionally but doesn’t know how to share her feelings.  “Nina” is the recently promoted manager at the office who seems to make the extra effort to make J’s life miserable.  “White J” is the new possible romance in J’s life who is as awkward and sweet as her.  J’s coworkers – “A,” “Darius,” and “Patti” – add even more flavor to the mix with their extreme behavior and humor.

Recently they posted their seventh episode announcing they needed to raise funds in order to continue the series.  Their goal was $30,000 by August 11th…they ended up with over $40,000 ( I donated too).  They now have a new website and t-shirt design available and a new episode in the works.

I am so happy they are continuing this series.  I can relate to it in so many levels.  Each episode has a scenario that I have experienced in some way.  I can recall multiple people I have encountered that have personalities that fit any one of these characters.  This is why the series is so fresh and entertaining, it gives you a chance to laugh with and at yourself.

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The Muppets are back!

Last week I saw Cars 2 and this trailer was part of the beginning segment.  I am so excited for this movie. In the late 90’s, I loved watching the re-runs of The Muppet Show on Disney Channel.  Of course, I have all the Muppet movies.  I hope this one will be as great as the previous films, especially since the original director is no longer around.

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Atlas Shrugged – The Movie

So, Atlas Shrugged the movie premiered in select theaters on April 15th.  I had been anticipating on watching this film for about a month or so.  For those of you who are Any-Rand-inclined, the novel Atlas Shrugged has a character named Dagny Taggart.  This is where my parents got my name from.  I myself have read the book, along with “The Fountain Head,” “Anthem,” and “We The Living.”  I might be a little biased, but I believe “Atlas Shrugged” is one of the greatest books in the world.  There are so many themes and messages and philosophy woven together in a story so complex and innovating.  Everything in it is relevant to our current economic situation as much so as it was in Rand’s time.

The film is set in the year 2016, where the economy is in shambles, several oil spills have occurred, and airplanes have been dismantled due to its cost.  The majority of the American population is unemployed.  There were even a few scenes where men in suits are holding large cardboard signs with their resume written in marker walking on the sidewalk.  The only reliable mode of transportation has regressed to trains.  There are a few businesses that focus on technology or transportation that are owned by a few key players.  The government considers them a monopoly and focuses all their time and effort to create laws to limit them.  As the story unfolds, different men are confronted by a tall man in a trench coat asking if they know who they are.  Then the scene freezes and words appear under the image showing their name, the company they own, and the day they disappeared.  The span of time skips around in a similar way.  For instance, once the bill was passed that limited the number of company’s a person could own and the amount a person could produce, there were several repetitive scenes of the character Henry Rearden signing off his various companies and handing a folder to different men.  I know it was supposed to signify the effect of the bill, but I don’t think there was enough explanation behind it.  Everyone repeats the question “who is John Galt?” without any context or implication of significance.

Even though this was only part 1 of the story, the film seemed to rush through it.  Skimming over key pieces, the plot is diluted to a branch of government that believes monopolists are selfish and one woman who is obsessed with a railroad.  Transitions between scenes and dialogue are not smooth, which makes it difficult for the audience to connect the dots.  I’m not sure if I should blame the script writer or the actors, but the majority of the dialogue and its delivery was blunt.

As for the characters, this might have been the most disappointing part.  Let’s start with Henry Rearden.  Even though I expected him to have a bit of a thicker figure and to seem a bit older, the actor – Grant Bowler – was a good fit.  He was able to convey the character pretty well, in particular when he tried to explain the importance of his steel.  However, the delivery of some of his lines were stilted and sometimes lacked a definite emotion or tone.  Next, Francisco D’Anconia.  A copper-mine-tycoon-womanizer who is smarter than everyone thinks.  The actor they chose for this part – Jsu Garcia – really couldn’t carry it.  When I read the book, I pictured a slightly darker version of Antonio Banderes.  Garcia could not portray any form of royalty, wit, or appeal.  The few scenes he was in were not memorable.  John Galt, the man always wearing a trench coat and hat lurking in the shadows and is the cause of all the disappearances, is played by the director – Paul Johansson.  Not much happening there.  Lastly, Dagny Taggart.  Being the origin of my name and one of my alter egos, it really was heartbreaking to watch Taylor Schilling play Dagny in this film.  Starting with what one could see, blonde, skinny, and lifeless is definitely not what I read in the book.  None of her outfits were tailored or of any quality that the real character would have worn.  It was like her instructions were just to keep a straight face, but they forgot to tell her to play a character.  Thus, she ended up being one-dimensional.  There was no explanation to why the railroad was important, why she was linked to D’Anconia, her philosophy of society in general, and a myriad of other key elements.  Years ago when rumors of this film started spreading, apparently Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron were on the list to play Dagny Taggart.  I’m not sure how that would have happened since it was always known that this was going to be a low-budget film.  Nonetheless, I feel either of them would have done a better job.  Dagny Taggart is a woman who is so complex and deep, that one would need a person who could convey that without saying anything.  Unfortunately, there was nothing striking or intriguing about Schilling (actress).

It is true that taking this novel to film is a very difficult endeavor.  I commend the director for his bravery, but his attempt was not satisfactory.  This is probably why Ayn Rand fought so hard to keep anyone from taking this story to film.  It might also explain why all other attempts – starting in 1972 – fell through.  Maybe they should have hired the director of “Lord of the Rings” or the first director for “Harry Potter.”  Bringing a book to life is key when it comes to film adaptation.  Fiddling with the time period and omitting certain themes are not a good starting point.  So, as the cliché goes, “the book is always better.”

“I swear by my life and my love it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask for another man to live for mine.” -John Galt

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Should we criticize Oscar or ourselves?

As you may or may not know, I am an aspiring film director, actor, and producer.  Thus, I usually follow events and news (and films of course) that pertain to the film industry.

The nominations for the Academy Awards have been out for about a week.  There have been a few articles that have pointed out the obvious – none of the actors represent the black community. http://www.popeater.com/2011/01/26/all-white-oscar-nominees/ They then conclude that Hollywood has difficulty/an issue with diversity, specifically with African-Americans.   I also have an opinion on this subject.  Why must minorities look to the Oscars for recognition?

Look at it this way, Indians have “Bollywood.”  They direct and produce their own films and hold their own awards.  The Asian world has “Cinema of China,” “Cinema of Japan,” and “Asian Experiences.” They also have their own award shows to celebrate their work.  For now, Africa has Nollywood – a film industry based in Nigeria that produces soap operas with a similar storyline (like Bollywood).  Films from any of these industries are rarely recognized int the so-called “foreign film” category at the Academy Awards…and I am pretty sure they could care less.

As for African-Americans trying to make an impact in Hollywood, they should not work to achieve an Oscar.  Create your own award ceremony that recognizes films that provide education, celebration, and innovation about “black” culture, African roots, family, and just life in general.  Unfortunately, the current award ceremonies that the black american community have developed do not hold the same validity or clout as others do.  The BET Awards focuses on entertainment through music…mainly stereotypical, uncreative, commercialized hip-hop.  The Soul Train awards tries to maintain class by spending the majority of the air time paying tribute to real artists who are retired or deceased.   The NAACP Image Awards does well in recognizing the achievements of African-Americans in film, television, writing, etc.  However the content from the nominees is not very broad.  They should also award independent films, documentaries…but wait….there are none being made.

That is the other problem.  Why are there only two “mega” black directors – Tyler Perry and Spike Lee?  Why do the majority of films that have more than one token black actor focus only on the projects, drugs, single family homes, promiscuity, and unnecessary drama?  Why must we stick to only one depiction of the “community?”

The common excuse is the lack of support from mainstream film corporations.  This is true, but is not direct evidence to claim discrimination or injustice.  For instance, Tyler Perry developed and built his own production company and studio.  Others might not have the same resources, but the way technology is evolving, anyone can produce their ideas in a polished medium.

Think outside of the box.  Allow your imagination to run free of any pre-determined status quo.  Just like the Harlem Renaissance – create your own, build your own, succeed in your own, and enjoy your own.

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