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Monthly Archives: December 2016

What’s Entertainment ?

In a world where we find ourselves evermore overwhelmed by-and drawn to-bright images and flashing screens, it is worth asking a few questions about that most important of consumer goods: entertainment. What makes entertainment entertaining? Why do we need it, or do we? What is entertainment, anyway?

These are a few of the questions I set out to answer in a class I taught a year or so ago: Entertainment in America. And while we couldn’t quite come up with satisfactory answers, even after a semester of reading and discussion, I’d like to try to set down a few of the thoughts that came out of that course here. But I don’t want to shove the partial answers I’ve come to down your throat-that’s no fun for anybody. Rather, what I’ll do in the following is offer a list of questions that you might ask yourself, along with a few resources that might be worth looking at as you search for your own answers to these increasingly crucial questions. I’ll also note, from time to time, the conclusions I have tentatively reached regarding these questions.

Are you ready? Here goes…

What is entertainment? (Too obvious, but we’ll come back to it. If you keep this question in mind as you go down the list, you may find a definition beginning to come together. Try it out.) Even if you know it when you see it, does it bother you if you can’t come up with a good definition of what it actually is?

Is there such a thing as “only entertainment”?
Only Entertainment-Bad Religion
That’s Entertainment-The Jam
That’s Entertainment-Judy Garland
When you read the lyrics of The Jam’s and Bad Religion’s songs, and read about the history of the Judy Garland highlights film, what is your sense of the kind of material that makes for entertainment?

Who needs entertainment? What for? When you are entertained, what are you feeling? Read a Dilbert or Doonesbury comic strip, and try to record what happened inside of you while you were looking at the comic. Did you feel happier? A sense of release? The resolving of tension? Was that entertainment? Would you say that reading the comic strip was the same kind of experience as watching a television show? How? How not?

Are some kinds of entertainment better for you than others? Which kinds? Is it better to play internet poker or to watch a video? Try doing each for a little while and record your feelings. Was one more entertaining than the other? How? Why? Did one make you more aggressive? Less likely to do something productive in the world around you? Did either change the way you felt about yourself? How?

One of the things I was struck by while teaching this course was the way entertainment can work as a substitute for action. If I can identify with a character on TV-on a soap opera, for instance-then I get to feel all the feelings that character feels, without having to do the actions that result in those feelings. I get to feel jealous without having a cheating spouse, excited by the intrigue of adultery without being an adulterer, and intimate without ever actually talking to a living human being. In short, I get to feel. Some researchers believe that feelings are the way we human beings experience our world most fully, but is there a price to pay when we feel our emotions in a way that’s disconnected from the physical world around us?

That is, if we get to feel feelings without taking risks, do we start to lose our ability to risk emotion in the “real world”? I don’t have a definite answer to that for you, but I do have one for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that entertainment is-while maybe necessary for emotional and psychological health-definitely a dangerous substance. Like fire. So, for my part, I’ll still watch a film now and then. But I’ll also think afterwards about how watching that film, getting that emotional satisfaction, affects my ability to act in the real world. You might consider doing the same, it actually turns out to be pretty entertaining.

Tips to Become an Actress

Has acting always been your passion? Does watching Hollywood flicks stir your soul? Do you always wish you could emulate your favorite leading lady? Do you have that burning desire to be renowned all around the world? Well, acting is not only a fantastic career, it is one that can propel you to great heights of fame and popularity. In fact, being a leading Hollywood actress and getting recognition for one’s talent is something every wannabe dreams about. There are times when women or men cannot handle the dizzying heights of success which sometimes even has a negative impact on their personal life. But, becoming an actress is no easy task if you don’t have a godfather in the film industry. Unless of course, you are the daughter of Hollywood’s snootiest and richest couple! For those women, who are struggling to get their first break, here are some tips on becoming an actress.

Essential Tips to Become a Successful Actress

Well, we all know that being an actress may not always require acting skills! However, being trained in this department will help you feel confident and learn the tricks of the trade. There are many institutes that offer courses in honing a person’s acting skills. Enrolling yourself in such a course will help you to go through the basic process. In this manner, you can learn about memorizing dialogs and facing the camera with confidence. Such institutes also teach about various camera angles. For example, if a dialog has to be emoted looking directly into the camera, there are various angles an actress needs to experiment with, to look her best and deliver the dialog accordingly. An acting institute may not teach all the nitty gritties, but surely any auditions that follow will showcase you in a confident light.

A portfolio is a must for any actor. Hire a professional fashion photographer and get some snazzy shots. Try a variety of looks. A fashion portfolio is required at the beginning level for those who wish for a career in acting. Close up, full length, and ¾ view shots are the basic requirement. Keep your costumes or clothing ready. Try a glamorous diva look, a casual look, and even one that only focuses on your facial expressions. You never know which look can impress the next casting director.

Learning a sport activity or a skill can also help you to bag a role. You can join a Latin American dance class and perfect your moves on the floor. In this manner, you have an added skill. Dancing will also keep your body in perfect shape.

Get an agent and be a little aggressive while on the hunt for the auditions. You have to think about the competition out there, and ensure you keep trying and circulate your photographs among agencies. Follow a strict fitness routine. Maintain a healthy diet to have a well-toned body.

Always make sure you are in touch with the right agencies, and audition as frequently as possible. Do not be disheartened when a first break seems difficult. You need to try till you get that very important chance. Once you bag the first role, give it your best shot and there would be no looking back.

The Entertainment and Moral Divide

The entertainment industry is constantly under scrutiny―whether it is the sex and violence in movies, the language in music, or the focus of video games. As entertainment becomes more progressive, those who are vocal against that progression try to speak up louder to drown out the noise. For them, it is a seemingly winless battle, though as there are few if any instances in which moral disagreement has had a significant impact on the way the industry operates.

Music
Music has long since settled into a groove in which essentially anything is okay. The result is, a music industry that does not provide nearly as much objectionable and public material as it once did. There was one point in the early 1990s, when it seemed like every day had another music artist’s name in the papers alongside that of an angry senator. While albums are still marked with the Parental Advisory stickers that were introduced in those early days of moral objection, the bounds are essentially gone.

Access to music is as free and prevalent as ever, with services like iTunes and MySpace making it nearly impossible to filter out the unwanted noise anymore, and so, for the most part, the watchdog groups have stopped. It’s an interesting result, and has only occurred in the music industry.

Movies
Film has always been subject to scrutiny. After all, it features graphic images of violence and sexuality that can be offensive for a number of demographics, from children to adults and everyone in between. And while violence and sex have essentially wormed their way into mainstream acceptance, there are still plenty of topics that can bring about an uproar in certain communities.

Consider the recent uprisings in religious groups over what they feel is morally objectionable material such, the most recent example of which is The Golden Compass. The film is based on a series of books that depicts a fractured sector of society acting as a metaphor for the author’s vision of the Church. This sect kidnaps and experiments on children, forcing them to stand up and fight back. The result is a series of books that teaches an alternate view of religion, one in which it is not as cut and dry as organized dogma would have you believe. It is a strictly agnostic approach and one that the Church finds offensive.

Similar to their response to The DaVinci Code in 2006, the Catholic League―with its 350,000 members―has decided to boycott the film in the hopes of convincing other Christians to ignore it. The result is a wash of publicity and controversy over a film which is not supposed to be that good.

It is interesting that the current state of moral ethics provides ample space for protest against films that breach religious and racial boundaries (The Passion of the Christ is a good example), but the long time proliferation of sex and violence that has recently seeped into even the most innocent of children’s films and television programs continues.

Video Games
By far the biggest source of discussion and controversy in recent years in regards to moral obligations is the video game industry. Today, the ESRB rates and labels video games between E (for everyone) and AO (adult only). The rating system is effective in telling parents what their children will be facing in a video game. However, the ESRB is a self-regulatory board run and operated by the gaming companies, which has caused many senators and ethics pounding lawyers to grow even more upset at games like Grand Theft Auto, or the most recent maelstrom in Manhunt 2.

Most recently, senators have called for an overhaul of this system for a particular instance in which Manhunt 2, which originally received an AO rating for its violent portrayal of murder, was rerated with an M rating for Mature. No game console will currently support an AO game, meaning that for Manhunt 2 to be released, it needed to be edited and rerated. However, there has now been additional controversy over the leniency with which the ESRB rerated the game.

For the Nintendo Wii edition in particular, which allows players to act out the specific violent techniques with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, senators are concerned as psychologists have come forward citing the damage this can do to a child’s mind.

While video games have continued pushing the same boundaries of sex and violence as films, they have a slightly different hurdle to overcome. Because they are traditionally considered for children, and because acts are specifically handled by manipulating an on-screen character, they pose a more substantial threat for some individuals to the child’s mind. Regardless of how much they might grow or change, they will always be scrutinized for what they allow you to do.

The moral dilemma that strikes any entertainment medium will continue to strike as long as popular media is available to the masses. While music and film have become more accepted over time, the video game and eventually Internet mediums will probably continue to spark controversy, both in the media and in government.

The Best Silent Movies

In this day and age, when we want the original soundtrack of every movie on our iPod, and where there are many awards for dialogs for films, it is hard to imagine how people ever watched silent films, and even appreciated them! But yes, there were some really powerful silent films that depended on intense acting to carry them through, that were hugely successful and effective in driving the point across, or entertaining, without a word being spoken. This article lists all the movies that set high standards at the dawn of the movie making era.

Best Movies of the Silent Era

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Director – F. W. Murnau
This romantic movie starring Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien tells the story of a married small town man who embarks on a torrid affair with a girl from the city. Caught up in the affair, he reluctantly agrees to kill his wife, but realizes that he cannot go through with the plan, as he still loves her. He apologizes to the wife and they make up.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Director – Robert Wiene
This movie starring Friedrich Fehér, Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt is supposed to be the best horror film of the silent era. It tells the story of a doctor, who uses a somnambulist to kill people. The story is told as a flashback by one of the characters, and has a twist at the very end. It received critical acclaim, and was also adapted into a drama and an opera, besides serving as an inspiration for horror filmmakers for many decades after its release!

Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Director – Buster Keaton
This silent comedy starring director Buster Keaton, is about two poor men vying with each other for the love of a beautiful girl, who they both want to marry. One of her suitors is the bad guy, and the other is good. When the bad guy steals from the girl’s father to give her a gift and blames it on the good guy, the good guy offers to solve the crime, but is banished. Eventually the girl finds out who the real thief is and makes up with the good guy. Although the film received a lukewarm response at the time, it has since gone on to be considered as a classic.

Seventh Heaven (1927)
Director – Frank Borzage
Starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, this movie is based on a Broadway play which was very popular in the 1920s. It is a sweet romance about how love blooms in unusual ways. When a poor man claims that a pretty girl is his wife, to save her from her sister and the police, they are forced to keep up the charade. Which means they have to live as husband and wife although they barely know each other. The story is about how they slowly but surely fall in love with each other, and how the impending war affects their relationship.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
Director – Rex Ingram
This family drama, which has traces of supernatural towards the end, tells the story of a family, revolving around the four men in it – the grandfather, his two sons-in-law, and his grandson. The grandfather is the one holding the family together and after his death the sons-in-law return to their respective homelands, one to France, the other Germany. The story follows the life of the grandson, with the Great War providing the backdrop for the story. Considered as one of the earliest anti-war film, it received critical acclaim as well as commercial success. The tango sequence in the movie is famous.

The Gold Rush (1925)
Director – Charles Chaplin
The Tramp is caught in a fight between a prospector and a fugitive, while on his way to the Klondike Gold Rush. In the fight, the prospector receives a blow to the head and develops amnesia, while the fugitive dies. After the Tramp reaches the town, decides to stop prospecting, and falls in love with a saloon girl, the previous prospector asks him to help him search for his claim. They are successful, and the movie ends with the Tramp becoming rich, and romancing the saloon girl. It is one of the highest grossing silent movies, and largely considered by critics as the best of Chaplin.

Director – D. W. Griffith
A drama set against the backdrop of the Civil War, it documents the relations between two families – the Camerons from the South, and the Stonemans from the North. The movie shows how the war tears friends and family apart. It follows their struggle through the Civil War, as well as the Reconstruction Era. But all’s well that ends well, and finally, friends and lovers are reunited for a happy ending. This is considered to be a technically sound and technologically advanced movie for its time, although there is a racist undertone to it. Upon release, it caused quite a furor in many places, with riots and murders taking place. But in spite of all this the film is one of the highest grossing of all time.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Director – Sergei Eisenstein
This movie starring Vladimir Barsky and Grigori Aleksandrov, tells the story of the 1905 Russian mutiny that occurred on the battleship called Potemkin. It is one of the earliest and best propaganda films in the history of cinema, and in 1958, at the Brussels World’s Fair, it was declared as the ‘greatest film of all time’. The story tells of the rebellion of the crew of the battleship against the Tsarist regime officers. The rebellion brought on a street demonstration. The Odessa steps sequence, where the civilians are massacred indiscriminately by the police, is famous.

Metropolis (1927)
Director – Fritz Lang
Starring Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Brigitte Helm and Alfred Abel, the movie is set in 2026 in a dystopian society, where there exists a wide chasm between the rich class and the worker class. The son of the Master of the City falls in love with a common girl, and the movie follows him as he tries to find out her identity and bridge the socioeconomic gap between the two classes. The film was hailed as a pioneer in technical and visual effects. Although the story failed to impress and generated a lukewarm response from the masses, it is still considered as one of the greatest silent films to be made.

The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Director – Fred Niblo, Theodore Reed
The movie stars Douglas Fairbanks as a rich man who poses as the masked Zorro, to stand up for the commoners in his town. He is their savior, and materializes whenever there seems to be wrong going on somewhere, and stamps his sign ‘Z’ on the face of the wrongdoer. There is, of course, romance involved, and when not posing as Zorro, he is Don Diego Vega, who is courting a beautiful girl. When his lady love’s family is being troubled, Don Diego reveals his identity and saves them. The movie has a dose of comedy as well, and it won the hearts of audiences when it was released.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Director – Carl Dreyer
Starring Maria Falconetti and Eugène Silvain, this movie is an account of the time when Joan of Arc was held as a captive by the English on the charges of heresy. Jeanne d’Arc was a young French woman who guided the French army in the Hundred Year’s War, and emerged victorious in many battles. The plot of this silent movie revolves around the trial of this brave woman, who refuses to stray from her claim that she was guided by God through dreams. She refuses to change her belief about it in the face of the many tortures and the deceptions that she is put through. The final test is when she is told that she will be burned at the stake if she doesn’t change her claims, and although initially she signs a confession out of fear, she later resiles and is given a public execution. It is listed in the top 100 and also as the most influential movie of all time.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Director- Rupert Julian
Starring Mary Philbin, and Lon Chaney the movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. The movie had a pretty successful run, thanks in part to the climax which had been changed to cater to the taste of the audience. The scene when the lead actress unmasks the phantom, earned the movie the 52nd spot on Bravo’s ‘100 Scariest Movie Moments’.

A few more movies which deserve to be on this list are mentioned below.

Movie

  • Safety Last (1923)
  • Grass (1925)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Un Chien Andalou (1929)
  • City Lights (1931)
  • Intolerance (1916)
  • The General (1927)
  • Flesh and the Devil (1926)
  • It (1927)
  • Wings (1927)
  • Girl Shy (1924)
  • The Big Parade (1925)
  • The Wedding March (1928)
  • The Iron House (1924)
  • Man with the Movie Camera (1929)
  • Les Vampyres (1915 – 1916)
  • Don’t Change Your Husband (1919)
  • A Dog’s Life (1918)
  • The Docks of New York (1928)
  • Our Dancing Daughters (1928)
  • Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)
  • He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
  • The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
  • True Heart Susie (1919)
  • Pandora’s Box (1929)
  • Underworld (1927)
  • The Marriage Circle (1924)
  • Napoléon (1927)
  • The Freshman (1925)
  • The Crowd (1928)
  • The Kid (1921)
  • Way Down East (1920)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • Greed (1924)
  • The Last Laugh (1924)
  • Faust (1926)
  • The Immigrant (1917)
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ (1925)
  • The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927)

Director

  • Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
  • Merian Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
  • F. W. Murnau
  • (1929) Luis Buñuel
  • Charles Chaplin
  • D. W. Griffith
  • Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman
  • Clarence Brown
  • Clarence G. Badger
  • William A. Wellman
  • Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
  • King Vidor
  • Erich von Stroheim
  • John Ford Mcenry
  • Dziga Vertov
  • Louis Feuillade
  • Cecil B. Demille
  • Charles Chaplin
  • Josef von Sternberg
  • Harry Beaumont
  • Fritz Lang
  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • Victor Sjöström
  • Raoul Walsh
  • D. W. Griffith
  • Georg Wilhelm Pabst
  • Josef von Sternberg
  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • Abel Gance
  • Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
  • King Vidor
  • Charles Chaplin
  • D. W. Griffith
  • D.W. Griffith
  • Erich von Stroheim
  • F. W. Murnau
  • F. W. Murnau
  • Charles Chaplin, Edward Brewer
  • Fred Niblo, Charles Brabin
  • Ernst Lubitsch

These were some of the masterpieces of the silent era. If you take a look at the history of silent movies, you will realize the amount of effort that went into making them. The only major element was acting, there were no other distractions like sound effects or elaborate visual effects. The actors had to portray every nuance with their expressions, unaided by sound. That is something! There was a lot of talent that came forth in the era of silent movies. Most of the time, the ‘staff’ was a one man unit – director, producer, actor, all rolled into one. Time to revisit the age of silence and pay our respects.