"I'm like cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don't even belong to each other."
For the last two blog posts, my focus is going to be on actors and actresses and their performances. While researching some of the best actors and actresses of all time, I encountered a few people I've already watched in some of the movies from this project, like James Stewart (Vertigo), Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca), and Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca).
When you act, you're essentially pretending to be someone else. And in that sense, actors and actresses are able to let go of inhibitions and play someone that might be completely different from them. They're able to take risks and experience things through another person's eyes. However, actors/actresses also say that acting is completely revolved around one's own life as well. The more vulnerable and exposed you are, the more genuine your acting becomes. Meaning, you should use your own insecurities, personality traits, and experiences to help portray a character.
I wanted to watch a movie with a prominent actress first, so I was deciding between watching a Meryl Streep movie or an Audrey Hepburn movie. I was in the mood for a bit of a happier film so Sophie's Choice wasn't really going to cut it. I decided to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is another one of those movies that has affected our culture so much that you "have to watch it."
Click HERE for Breakfast at Tiffany's Summary
Yup, I had my reservations before watching this one as well. I had heard about the yellow face issue (which we'll get into a bit later), and the sheer exposure I've had to references to this movie throughout my life made me a little skeptical. I was afraid the movie wouldn't live up to it's name and that it would be pretty shallow.
And while there are some things I could complain about in the movie, I'm still a sucker for a romantic comedy.
So yeah, I liked it. The opening sequence where Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) gets out of a yellow taxi, and eats a pastry with a coffee while staring at the window of the Tiffany & Co. Jewelry Store was so charming to me. Maybe it was the tune of "Moon River" playing in the background, or the elegant and timeless style of Golightly's little black dress, but I was already interested. When Paul Varjak (George Peppard) introduces himself to Holly, she invites him into her home and treats him like someone she's known forever. She describes her visits to a man in Sing Sing prison, named Sally Tomato. The whole conversation and scene already shows you what kind of a person Holly is, and Paul seems just as confused and captivated as the audience is. The audience then learns about Paul through Holly, when Holly sees "2E" (Patricia Neal) leaving a sleeping Paul money, then kissing him on the head. Paul is a struggling writer who has written one published book called Nine Lives. Paul needs the money. Holly nicknames Paul "Fred", after her brother who's in the army. The character of Fred Golightly is used as a way to make Holly seem more human. Amongst all of her ambition, she still cares the most about her brother. I was conflicted about whether I liked Holly Golightly or not. A basic description of her would be an ambitious and seemingly shallow "socialite". That description doesn't sound promising at all, but when you're introduced to her character, something about Holly makes her likable. Through all the times she exhibits her shallow attempts for money/power, I still rooted for her. Paul seems to believe in her as well, and always tries to make things right with her.
Before I go any further, I wanted to talk about the questionable and problematic parts of the movie. The first thing is obviously Mickey Rooney's yellowface portryal of the character Mr. Yunioshi. I cringed whenever Mr. Yunioshi had a scene. Not only is it bad that they hired a White man to play the role of an Asian man, but it's even worse that the character Mr. Yunioshi is filled to the brim with Asian stereotypes, and is reduced to the laughing stock of the movie. Comic relief is one thing, but Mr. Yunioshi is another. I didn't laugh at any of the scenes with Mr. Yunioshi in it. And while many Asian-Americans have boycotted this movie specifically for the yellow face aspect of it, I didn't let it stop me from watching it. It made me see how even in the context of a decent movie, yellowface/blackface/brownface/redface or any type of offensive racial stereotyping like that is distasteful and horrible. Another thing I want to get out of the way is Holly a.k.a Lula Mae's weird marriage to the much older Doc Golightly. She was married to him at age 13/14, and fled from their home when she was 15. Paul seems a little disturbed, but Holly/Lula Mae seems to be completely fine with Doc when he comes to New York to bring her back. Her reasoning for not going back with him is that she wants to follow her dreams. But in my mind, I was thinking "Oh, it's not because he's a creepy dude DECADES OLDER THAN YOU?!?". The whole thing with Doc didn't last long, and seemed to be there just to set an origin story for Holly. But it still weirded me out. Now, let's talk about Holly's character itself. She is widely labeled a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (remember that tired trope?). And yeah, quite honestly, she has all the elements of one. You could argue that she has her own purpose in life because of her dreams for her and her brother Fred, but those are thrown to the side when they kill off Fred in the movie. Holly dresses eccentrically, but not too eccentrically, she's kind of a drunkard (but of course still has to look cute when she's absolutely hammered), she can be painfully honest, she sings to herself and plays an instrument, and she's the object of a kind of bland male character's affections. Oh, and that male character literally said "You belong to me" to her. Welp.
And yet, despite all of this, I still enjoyed this movie. I think it's interesting how I was so painfully aware of all the outdated ideals in it, but I was able to really be invested in the characters and their story. Maybe it's a weird society thing. Maybe it's the whole concept of a developing romance, complicated by conflicting feelings on either side. Maybe it's just the genre of romantic comedies. Whatever makes this movie so darn likable, it's something that's still in movies today.
"The script is not altogether neat. No justification or explanation is ever made of why Peppard is being kept by a wealthy lady, except that he is a writer and writers, presumably, get involved in things like that. Miss Hepburn is responsible to a great degree for the credibility of her complex character and gives a winning portrayal. Peppard virtually overcomes the script deficiencies in his character, because he is an exceptionally virile young leading man who achieves the aura of manliness without sweat."- The Hollywood Reporter
The opening scene of the movie.
One of the standout roles in the movie wasn't even played by a human: "cat" was Holly's nameless companion.
A drunk Holly describes her intentions to Paul.
I really liked this scene, where Paul and Holly are attempting to steal something cheap from the store. It's silly and sweet.
Yikes. Let's just say you mean this in the most romantic and least offensive way possible, okay Paul?
Considering all the things I've complained about, I can't lie that I smiled like an idiot at this ending scene.
Moon River, performed by Audrey Hepburn.
"I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."
That's 4/4, and with a more recent movie as well. Quentin Tarantino directs this movie, and he's one of the directors I was most excited about watching a movie from. I felt like I haven't really pinpointed my focus on directors so far, because I've been kind of confused on what their role is still. So I've decided to mention Tarantino as much as possible in this analysis, to try and connect decisions that he made with the story, actors, etc.
As a reminder of what a director does, here's a list of director's roles from creativeskillset.org:
"Directors are responsible for creatively translating the film's written script into actual images and sounds on the screen. They are ultimately responsible for a film's artistic and commercial success or failure.Directors may write the film's script or commission it to be written, or they may be hired after an early draft of the script is complete. They must then develop a vision for the finished film and work out how to achieve it.During pre-production, Directors make crucial decisions, such as selecting the right cast, crew and locations for the film. They then direct rehearsals and the performances of the actors once the film is in production. They also manage the technical aspects of filming including the camera, sound, lighting, design and special effects departments. During post production, Directors work closely with Editors through the many technical processes of editing, to reach the final cut or version of the film. At all stages, Directors are responsible for motivating the team to produce the best possible results. Directors must also always be aware of the constraints of the film's budget and schedule and manage the expectations of the film's financiers."
Click HERE for Pulp Fiction Summary
Before I start, I feel an obligation to warn anyone reading this about Pulp Fiction, because it is a pretty gory movie. There's also some other things that someone might not want to see, but I won't get too much into that.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 black comedy crime film. The plot consists of three main storylines, which is split up into 7 parts. It has a "circular narrative" format, meaning we start at end, and make our way back there by the end of the movie. Out of order narratives are always engrossing, because the audience wants to put everything together. That's just one of the many things this movie does well.
The movie starts right off with a conversation between a man and a woman who are presumably in a relationship. They're arguing about robbing the restaurant that they're currently having a meal in. What I love is that we have absolutely no background surrounding these characters, and yet I'm fine just listening to their conversation. The same thing happens when the movie introduces Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta). They're having a conversation about McDonald's in Paris, and I was embarrassingly riveted by this conversation, and paid weirdly close attention to the "Royale" and "Le Big Mac". So first point: the dialogue in this movie is spectacular. Tarantino can make the most mundane conversations seem like masterpieces. For example, Jules and Vincent then transition into a conversation about their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). Someone apparently gave Mia Wallace a foot massage, and Marsellus threw him out a window. Jules and Vincent argue about the intimacy of a foot massage, as they walk through corridors and are framed by tan walls, and seen at inventive angles. By this point, I'm already invested in Jules and Vincent, both separately and together. They seem like two cool characters with a great friendship. Then, when they break into the apartment and Jules gives his whole Ezekiel speech, you really realize just what kind of a movie this film is gonna be, and you settle in for the ride. Next, we see Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) in a bar, staring right at the camera, as Marsellus gives him an iconic speech. Butch looks just about done, and takes the money Marsellus offers him to lose a fight. Vincent and Jules walk into the bar, and there's some collision between Vincent and Butch, but nothing too major. Vincent accompanies Mia to a diner, where they particpate in a twist contest (and win). Then, Vincent and Mia go back to the Wallace house, Mia mistakes Vincent's drugs for another drug, and overdoses. Vincent has to deliver an adrenaline shot right to her heart to revive her, in one of the most cringey yet hilarious scenes of the movie. Next, there's a scene with Christoper Walken, telling a young Butch about how he hid Butch's father's watch in his rectum for two years, just so that he could deliver it to him. This scene needs no words and no explanation, in my honest opinion. Transition to Butch waking up before his fight that he's supposed to lose. But does he lose it? Of course not! He wins the fight, and actually kills the person he fought against. Butch then takes his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Madeiros) to a motel where they hide from Marsellus's men. But Butch discovers that Fabienne left his watch at the apartment, which sends Butch into a rage. He goes back into the apartment and gets his watch, but sees a gun on the kitchen counter. He hears a toilet flush, and Vincent comes out of the bathroom. Butch shoots him dead. Marsellus sees Butch in the street. Marsellus chases after Butch into a pawn shop, and this is where things get very questionable and I won't really mention what happens, but it's pretty graphic. But Marsellus takes blame off of Butch, and Butch flees Los Angeles with Fabienne. There's another whole sequence with Tarantino in it (who is pretty funny as Jimmie), but I won't really describe it because it wasn't super memorable, compared to the other scenes in the film. It was more of a transition to get back to the beginning/end in the diner. The couple attempts to rob the restaurant, but are half stopped by Jules.
I didn't want to explain every little thing in the movie, or else I would go on for ages. But believe me, this movie is filled with so many cool moments, and surprisingly nice camera work. The acting is amazing, all the jokes hit, and the action is gross but cool. I actually really really liked Pulp Fiction, and I think it's a new favorite.
"If the situations are inventive and original, so is the dialogue. A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot. But the people in "Pulp Fiction" are in love with words for their own sake. The dialogue by Tarantino and Avary is off the wall sometimes, but that's the fun. It also means that the characters don't all sound the same: Travolta is laconic, Jackson is exact, Plummer and Roth are dopey lovey-doveys, Keitel uses the shorthand of the busy professional, Thurman learned how to be a moll by studying soap operas." - Roger Ebert
"Royale with cheese" - Awesome first conversation between Travolta and Jackson.
(Jules trying to convince Vincent that a foot massage means nothing)
VINCENT:Have you ever given a foot massage?
JULES: Don't be tellin' me about foot massages – I'm the foot ***** master.
VINCENT: Given a lot of 'em?
JULES: **** yeah. I got my technique down man, I don't tickle or nothin'.
VINCENT: Have you ever given a guy a foot massage?
JULES: **** you.
Jules (Jackson) giving the insanely famous Ezekiel bible speech before shooting an unreliable associate of Marsellus's dead.
Butch listening to Marsellus in the bar.
Mia and Vincent participating in a twist competition. Got intense John Travolta Grease vibes in this shot.
Vincent administering the adrenaline shot to Mia's heart.
Butch with a katana.
Ending scene of Pulp Fiction.
"There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.'"
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.