Category Archives: classic films

Ghostbusters Analysis

Story Analysis Description

*Analysis based off work of Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell and Syd Field

*Special thanks to Movieclips for their clips below

CHARACTERS

ProtagonistPeter Venkman
DesireConscious:Achieve fame
Unconscious:Be a hero
Conflict LevelsInner:Arrogance, Lust
Personal:Dean, Ghosts, Dana,
Peck
Extra-Personal:Social hierarchy,
skeptics
CharacterCharacterization:Sleazy entrepreneur
True Character:Caring lover
Turn:Hero
AntagonistGozer
DesireConscious:Conquer the world
Unconscious:
Conflict LevelsInner:
Personal:Ghostbusters
Extra-Personal:
CharacterCharacterization:Evil god
True Character:
Turn:
Dana
DesireConscious:Escape Gozer
Unconscious:
Conflict LevelsInner:
Personal:Gozer, Peter
Extra-Personal:
CharacterCharacterization:Brass New Yorker
True Character:
Turn:
Peck
DesireConscious:Destroy the Ghostbusters
Unconscious:
Conflict LevelsInner:
Personal:Peter, Mayor
Extra-Personal:
CharacterCharacterization:Stuck up prick
True Character:
Turn:
Principle of
Antagonism
PositiveValidationPessimisticTolerance
NegativeInvalidationNegation of NegationFake validation
Controlling
Idea:
We succeed through our beliefs when our character is
strong.

PLOT

Inciting IncidentThe team are fired from the
university.
Act One ClimaxPeter agrees to help Dana.
GAPDana is unimpressed with
Peter and the team still lacks
validation from the city.
Progressive ComplicationsPeck and Gozer emerge as threats.
MidpointDana is captured.
Act Two ClimaxThe Ghostbusters gain the mayor’s backing and set out to save Dana.
Act Three ClimaxGozer is defeated.
ResolutionThe team are treated as heroes.

SEQUENCE LIST

SEQUENCE ONE –
Status Quo & Inciting
Incident
The librarian is attacked and the
Ghostbusters investigate. They are
fired from the university.
SEQUENCE TWO –
Predicament & Lock In
The team considers their options
and decide to go into business for
themselves. Peter decides to help
Dana.
SEQUENCE THREE –
First Obstacle & Raising
the Stakes
Peter helps Dana with her case and the team’s resources are depleted.
Slimer is captured.
SEQUENCE FOUR – First
Culmination/Midpoint
The team gets more and more busy, and Dana is captured.
SEQUENCE FIVE –
Subplot & Rising Action
Louis is possessed and Peck
harasses Peter. The protection grid
is shut down.
SEQUENCE SIX – Main
Culmination/End of
Act Two
The Ghostbusters are arrested and Peter schmoozes the mayor to get
them released.
SEQUENCE SEVEN –
New Tension & Twist
The Ghostbusters face Gozer and a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man.
SEQUENCE EIGHT –
Resolution
The Ghostbusters cross the streams and stop Gozer. Dana is saved.

HERO’S JOURNEY

ORDINARY
WORLD
Peter, Ray and Egon are teaching
and searching for ghosts.
CALL TO
ADVENTURE
The trio are kicked out and forced
into business for themselves.
REFUSAL OF THE CALL
MEETING THE
MENTOR
CROSSING FIRST
THRESHOLD
The Ghostbusters trap Slimer.
TESTS, ALLIES,
ENEMIES
The team recruits Winston and
Peck becomes an enemy.
APPROACH TO
INMOST CAVE
Dana is possessed.
ORDEALThe ghosts are released and the
Ghostbusters arrested.
REWARDThe Ghostbusters learn that the
apocalypse is near, and they have
the strength to stop it.
ROAD BACKThe team travels with the NYPD to
face Gozer.
RESURRECTIONThe Ghostbusters survive crossing
the streams and save Dana.
RETURN WITH ELIXIRThe Ghostbusters return to the
people as conquering heroes.

ARCHETYPES

HEROThe Ghostbusters, Peter
SHADOWGozer
MENTOR
ALLYWinston, Janine
HERALDDean Yaeger
THRESHOLD GUARDIANSlimer, Zuul, Peck
TRICKSTERSlimer
SHAPESHIFTERDana, Louis

22 STEPS

1. Self-revelation,
need, and desire
Self-Revelation: We can save the world
Psychological Need: Prove themselves
Moral Need: The world needs us
Desire: Gain validation
2. Ghost and story
world
Ghost World: History of trying and
failing to gain
recognition
Story World: Cutthroat business
world that doesn’t
believe in ghosts
3. Weakness and need
Weakness: Greed
Need: Love
4. Inciting event
Inciting event:The trio are kicked out of the university
5. Desire
Desire:Establish the
Ghostbusters
6. Ally or allies
Ally or allies:Janine, Ray, Egon,
Winston
7. Opponent and/or
mystery
Opponent and/or
mystery:
What is Zuul and why
is it after Dana?
8. Fake-ally opponent
Fake-ally opponent:
9. First revelation and decision: Changed
desire and motive
Revelation: The Ghostbusters can
indeed catch ghost
Decision: Drain every ounce of money from NYC
Changed desire and
motive:
Prosper from ability to catch ghosts
10. Plan
Plan:Use technology to
catch ghosts and
figure out what is
hunting Dana
11. Opponent’s plan
and main
counterattack
Plan:Possess Dana and
Louis
Counterattack: Strike in the dark
12. Drive
Drive:Peter pushes himself
to save Dana because he loves her
13. Attack by ally
Attack by ally:
14. Apparent defeat
Apparent defeat:The ghosts are
released from the
protection grid
15. Second revelation
and decision:
Obsessive drive,
changed desire and
motive
Second revelation: Dana has turned into
the gatekeeper
Decision: The Ghostbusters
need to regroup
Changed desire and
motive:
Figure out plan to
save Dana
16. Audience revelation
Audience revelation:The Key Master and
Gate Keeper meet
17. Third revelation
and decision
Third revelation: The end of the world is coming
Decision: The Ghostbusters
decide to save the city
18. Gate, gauntlet, visit to death
Gate: The apartment
building
GauntletThe Ghostbusters
stand in front of the
apartment building
Visit to Death:The Ghostbusters are
swallowed up by the
street
19. Battle
Battle:The Ghostbusters face Gozer
20. Self-revelation
Self-revelation:The Ghostbusters can push aside their
checkered past and
save the city
21. Moral decision
Moral decision:The Ghostbusters will put themselves on the
line to save Dana and
the city
22. New equilibrium
New equilibrium:The Ghostbusters are
saviors

THEMES

Being a typical archplot, there are couple of very straightforward themes to “Ghostbusters” as well as several underlying themes that can be gleaned. In an archplot, there is not a lot of internal conflict, the story more focused on an external villain, in this case Gozer, as well as the typical love plot, Peter and Dana. Inherent in this structure are the common themes of the strength of the heroes, based on their convictions, overcoming evil, as well as the charisma of the protagonist winning the affections of love. There is a slight twist in the film because the Ghostbusters are not action stars. They’re science nerds and schlubs. Overcoming the city’s general disregard for them is key to finding the strength to defeat Gozer. So in a way, a theme of the film is that science, not brawn, not elitism, is the key to discovering inner strength. Similarly Peter does not win over Dana because of his strength or smarts, but because of his heart. He puts himself on the line for her, gaining her affection by his devotion, the ultimate measure of a previously very self-centered man.

Another key aspect of the film is its reverence to New York City. The city serves as a backdrop for the Ghostbusters struggles in many ways. They are not so much removed from the city as much as a part of it trying to make their way. Much like Peter attempting to woo Dana, the team is trying to woo their home into believing them. The city then is a metaphor for the validation of their pursuits, all the different types of people, poor and rich, religious and punk, brought together by the unity of the Ghostbusters’ message.

You could easily draw other interpretations from the film based on various intricacies of the plot: the idea that elitism is a detriment to scientific progress, that the entire film is nothing but a mirage based on the consumption of snack foods (Cheez-Its, marshmallows), that the process of starting an independent business is an essential American enterprise, or my personal favorite, that the entire film is an exploration of the burgeoning male sexual psyche. The Ghostbusters are in many ways similar to adolescent boys, obsessed with toys, geeky. Only Peter shows any interest in women, and in that respect, he fails to gain their affection. You combine that mentality with the phallic imagery of the proton packs, the allure of Dana when she is possessed, Gozer’s representation of itself as an ethereal woman and the climax, when a bunch of men use their sticks against an open doorway leading to an explosion that covers them in white goo, and you can see how the plot can be construed as a metaphor for the male orgasm.

Of course, as with all film, there are a myriad of other explanations and interpretations, some thought of by the filmmakers, many not, that can enhance a film’s viewing. For “Ghostbusters”, considering its archplot, it is impressive nevertheless that there are so many different interpretations that can be drawn from it, one of the reasons for its continued longevity.

STORYLINES

  • The Team
    • Value: Validation
  • Peter and Dana
    • Value: Love
  • Gozer
    • Value: Destruction
  • Peck
    • Value: Ego

SCENE BREAKDOWN

Scene #1Librarian Attacked
ProtagonistLibrarian
DesirePut books away
AntagonistThe Gray Lady
TPThe Gray Lady ghost attacks her
ValueSurvival
RoleOpening Scene
AnalysisThe introduction of the film sets a
serious manner right away. Though
this is a comedy, the plot ensuing
will be handled with care and the
danger will be very real. Little
moments of the books flying
between shelves build up the
anticipation of the first attack. The
score also helps to add dramatic
emphasis.
Scene #2Venkman’s Electric Shocks
ProtagonistPeter
DesireImpress woman
AntagonistStudent, Other Guy, Ray
TPRay convinces Peter to go to the
library
ValueValidation
RoleIntroduction to Peter, Ordinary
World
AnalysisPeter is introduced as a
smooth-talking, manipulative
charlatan. His credentials as a
scientist are immediately thrown
out the window as he falsifies his
experiment’s results to attract the
attention of his female participant. We realize that not only is he a
scam, he’s a player, using his
scientific gifts for personal gain.
But being Bill Murray, he’s able to
pull it off in a charming manner,
essential so we are not repulsed by him. As the story progresses, we
will realize that there is a hole in
Peter’s soul, an avoidance of
attachment that he is trying to fill
with a search for fame and women. That quest will be fulfilled by his
love for Dana.
Scene #3Egon Introduction
ProtagonistEgon, Ray, Peter
DesireDiscover cause of library attack
AntagonistMystery of Gray Lady
TPEgon discovers the ghost
ValueInvalidation
RoleIntroduction of Ray and Egon and
the Ghostbusters’ plight
AnalysisWe had a slight introduction to Ray in the last scene, but now we really get the dynamic of the relationship between the three. Egon is the
brain, Ray is the heart and Peter is, well, the mouth of the group. They
look, talk and act like outsiders,
science nerds different from
everyone else. Throughout the film, we will see them continuously cast
as different from the norm with
their snacking, obsession with
technology, lackadaisical dressing
and jovial attitudes. The
bureaucracy they deal with is
uptight, sharply dressed, angry and clean shaven. Even Dana is far
more presentable in her dress and
views. They are classic outsiders,
but with a tilt towards a more
technological, dedicated scientist
sense. What they seek in hunting
the paranormal is validation in
their obsessive desires. For Peter,
he wants fame from his pursuits.
For Egon, an advancement of
technology. Ray, being the heart of
the team, really symbolizes the
hopes for validation. They’ve
obviously been looked down upon
for years, judged as poor scientists. Though we view the team with an
amount of humor, we sympathize
with this primal need for
validation, especially against a
callous, unfeeling bureaucracy.
Finding a ghost would prove to the world that their pursuits have not
been in vain. That’s why they strive
for the Gray Lady so intently.
Scene #4The Library Investigation
ProtagonistPeter, Ray, Egon
DesireFind the Gray Lady and confirm
their paranormal research
AntagonistThe Grady Lady
TPThe trio have their pants scared off
ValueValidation
RoleConfirms existence of ghosts and
sets character’s on path
AnalysisMuch like the opening scene, the
combination of score, framing and
sound heightens the tension. A
random stack of books in the
middle of a walkway. A drip of
slime from a card catalog matched with an eerie music note. The
falling of a bookcase with a loud
thud. The material is handled
seriously and the humor is built
out of the characters. You can
replace Peter with Indiana Jones
and reformat the plot to make an
action movie. Or replace Ray with
Father Merrin from “The Exorcist”
and craft a horror story. It’s a
tribute to Ivan Reitman and co. that they realized that you handle the
plot seriously and build the comedy out of the characters, particularly
their reactions and interactions
with each other. Seeing the team
completely clueless as to what to do next when they find the Gray Lady
highlights how far their ambition
has led them, but not their sense.
Peter smashing Egon’s calculator is
funny because it’s his reaction to a
serious situation. And Ray’s plan of
“Get Her!” makes no sense, further
driving up the comedic aspect. For
the team, their encounter with the Gray Lady opens a gap in their plan of gaining acceptance. For all
intensive purposes, they fail to
adequately document, present or
handle the situation. The
conclusion of the film, a showdown against an apocalyptic Sumerican
god, shows their internal growth
from cowards to heroes.
Scene #5Realizing the Potential
ProtagonistPeter, Ray, Egon
DesirePlot next moves
Antagonist
TPTeam decides to tell university and put forward plan to catch a ghost
ValueValidation
RoleNew course of action
AnalysisAfter being scared shitless, the
thrill of the encounter flourishes.
Ray spews off idea after idea. Egon
crunches all the data. Peter can’t
stop smiling at “Get Her!” Finally,
after years of implied ridicule,
their search for the paranormal
has been justified. Now what to do? For Egon, the answer is clear:
capture a ghost. Even Peter, who
has had no end of mocking Egon,
can’t help but reward him with a
candy bar. Their struggle for
validation however, is far from
over.
Scene #6Kicked Out of the University
ProtagonistPeter
DesireImpress University
AntagonistDean Yaeger
TPYaeger calls Peter a fraud
ValueValidation
RoleInciting Incident
AnalysisThe Inciting Incident of the film
sets the Ghostbusters on course to
prove themselves. After being
called out as frauds and fired from
the university, the team has been
thrust out into the open world and will need to learn how to flourish
and to prove their mettle.
Scene #7Peter’s Plan
ProtagonistPeter
DesireFigure out next course
AntagonistRay
TPPeter convinces Ray to go into
business for themselves
ValueValidation
RoleNext course of action
AnalysisPeter and Ray try to determine
what to do next. Peter tells him that he believes that fate has intervened to force them into business for
themselves. Whether or not he
believes that is up for debate.
Knowing his character, he could
just as easily be spit-mouthing to
find the easiest path to fame, but
Ray, rather apprehensively, buys in. This choice will dictate the rest of
the film’s action.
Scene #8Selling Ray’s House
ProtagonistPeter
DesireConvince Ray he’s made a good
decision
AntagonistRay’s indecisiveness
TPEgon tells Ray how much the
interest is worth
ValueValidation
RoleTrio Act One Climax, Risk
AnalysisAs the trio takes their first step
towards independent business,
their first action carries risk.
If their plan fails, Ray will be
financially ruined. It adds to the
stakes for the characters. By taking concrete steps towards creating the Ghostbusters, the team reaches
their Act One Climax.
Scene #9Buying the Firehouse
ProtagonistThe trio
DesireSecure a location
AntagonistReal estate
TPRay loves the house
ValueValidation
RoleNext step
AnalysisThe next step in the trio’s
burgeoning business venture is
securing a location. But just as the
path to securing financing was a
comedic jaunt, so is the purchasing of their location. For the trio,
everything is a disaster. It adds to
the comedy as well as the
endearment of the characters. We
laugh at them as well as
empathize because we’ve all been
there in terms of ventures that just seem to keep going off the tracks.
Scene #10Dana Attacked
ProtagonistDana
DesireClean up
AntagonistGozer
TPGozer shows up in the fridge
ValueSafety
RoleDana Inciting Incident
AnalysisWe are introduced to Dana, a
professional, strong-willed woman. Louis is also introduced, the polar
opposite of Dana, a dweeby
schmuk. The contrast between
them brings with it comedy as
Louis tries to gain Dana’s attention, despite her obvious lack of interest
in him. This lack of connection
makes their later possession and
coupling all the more strange. Like much of the city, Dana brushes off
the Ghostbusters after she sees
their ad. Like the city, she brushes
them off. Then her eggs start to
cook on the counter and an evil dog appears in her refrigerator. This
inciting incident throws her life out of balance and sets her on the path
to finding answers to what haunts
her. Gozer is introduced here as
well, its inciting incident taking
place offscreen. More of it will be
revealed later in the story.
Scene #11Buying the Car
ProtagonistRay and Peter
DesireCheck out the car
AntagonistThe car
TPPeter realizes the car’s cost
ValueValidation
RoleFurther attempts at growing the
business
AnalysisAgain, the trio fails to adequately
grow their business in a successful way. Ray’s car is a dump. Peter’s
reaction produces the comedy as
these guys continue to struggle
with the core aspects of
enterprising.
Scene #12Dana’s Story
ProtagonistPeter
DesireHelp Dana
AntagonistGozer Mystery, Dana
TPPeter decides to go to Dana’s
apartment
ValuePurpose
RoleAct One Climax
AnalysisFirstly, we are introduced to Janine, a fun side character who doesn’t
have a plot of her own, but serves
as another avenue to imbue
comedy into the story. She is also
another example of the turmoil the Ghostbusters go through in starting their business. For a professional
entrepreneur, you don’t really
want someone like Janine manning your phones. Then Dana walks in,
with a large overcoat, completely
out of her element. For Peter, the
hole in his heart is represented by
his desire for women. When Dana
walks through the door, he
immediately latches onto her as
another outlet. He is unaware that what he lacks in life can not be
cured by an insatiable sexual
appetite, but must be confronted by being a hero. His whole life, he’s
been a schmooze, never going
above the call to prove himself.
Dana, with her mystery directly
involving his field, represents an
opportunity for him even though
he doesn’t realize it yet. Egon and
Ray, with their mind-reading
equipment and snacks and
unprofessional demeanor, further
exemplify the lovable scientist slob.
Scene #13Peter Investigates Dana’s
Apartment
ProtagonistPeter
DesireImpress Dana
AntagonistDana
TPPeter decides to win Dana over
ValueLove
RolePeter Commitment and Risk
AnalysisPeter searches Dana’s apartment,
but finds nothing. His focus
however, is always on Dana, and
his desire to impress her. He claims he’s in love with her, an obvious lie
in an attempt to woo her over, but
she brushes him off. While his
students are relatively easy to
impress, now he’s dealing with a
grown-up, tough woman, someone
immune to his charms. In a way,
she challenges him to evolve. Only when Peter proves himself as a
hero and not a fraud, can he win
her over. There is now risk for
Peter because he has put himself
out there and can not go back.
Scene #14The First Call
ProtagonistThe Trio
DesireLook over their options
AntagonistMoney
TPThe Ghostbusters get a call
ValueValidation
RoleStarting to gain acceptance
AnalysisFor the trio up to this point, their
venture has been nothing short of a disaster. A condemned venue. A
beat up car. One customer. And
their magnificent feast is the last of the petty cash. One can sense that
they might be near the end of the
line. Then there’s a phone call and
hope has returned again. Now can
they actually succeed?
Scene #15The Sedgwick Hotel
ProtagonistThe trio
DesireCapture Slimer
AntagonistSlimer
TPCapture Slimer
ValueValidation
RoleCrossing the First Threshold
AnalysisThe Ghostbusters emerge as a team for the first time, launching
themselves into their first
investigation since the Gray Lady.
The hunt is a struggle: a maid’s cart
is destroyed, Peter gets slimed, an
entire ballroom is upended. Again,
the use of comedy is used to
highlight just how far out of their
depths the team is. But they
persevere and succeed, reveling in
the glory of finally catching a ghost
and announcing to the world that
they are indeed correct.
Scene #16Music Montage
ProtagonistThe Trio
DesireImpress the world
AntagonistGhosts
TPThe Ghostbusters get national
attention
ValueValidation
RoleTrio Midpoint
AnalysisThrough the now famous musical
montage, we see the Ghostbusters
succeed across the city. While there are still plenty of skeptics, their
fame escalates and their
association with the city grows as
well. They no longer need to worry
about their finances, reaching their
midpoint as it appears as though
their goal of validation is near at
hand.
Scene #17Winston Hired
ProtagonistWinston
DesireGet job
AntagonistJanine
TPRay hires Winston
ValueJob
RoleTests, Allies and Enemies
AnalysisDue to their success, the
Ghostbusters have gained enough
notoriety and have a large enough workload to hire more staff.
Winston is something of an odd
character for the narrative,
appearing halfway through the
film, but he serves as a kind of
everyman to this trio of strange
scientists. The characters are able
to explain things to him and in so
doing explain things to us as well.
He also serves as a foil for the trio
to play off, his straight manner
contrasting with their strange
science speak. Perhaps most
importantly, it shows us that a
Ghostbuster could be any of us. We can fit in with this team. His goal is
not validation nor to fill the void in
his life, but to just make a living.
When the apocalypse rears its
head, he steps up to the challenge,
taking our everyman sense with
him.
Scene #18Peter Getting a Date
ProtagonistPeter
DesireGet a date
AntagonistDana, the Stiff
TPDana agrees to date
ValueLove
RolePeter growing
AnalysisPeter, though achieving fame and
success, is still dealing with that
inner void. He wants Dana. He tries to impress her with his knowledge
about her case, but she needs more. He tries to finagle a date out of
their conversation and she pushes
against him. The use of the fellow
musician nearby acts as a foil and
another example of the stiff, lifeless individual the Ghostbusters are
fighting against. Viewing him as
competition for Dana’s affections is humorous and further escalates
Peter’s desire for her. Here is
another bureaucrat standing in his way, judging him. Dana accepting
his date gives him hope that maybe
indeed he can find love.
Scene #19Walter Peck
ProtagonistPeck
DesireInterrogate Peter
AntagonistPeter
TPPeter threatens Peck
ValueValidation
RolePeck Act One Climax
AnalysisPeck’s Inciting Incident takes place off screen, setting him off on a
quest to shut down the
Ghostbusters. Perhaps he thinks
they are charlatans trying to take
advantage of the public. Perhaps
he doesn’t like their cavalier
attitude, just like Dean Yaeger. Why he wants to eliminate them doesn’t really matter. Just like Iago hating
the Moor, Peck hates the
Ghostbusters. He represents the
authoritative bureaucracy present
at the university and the Sedgwick
Hotel. For the Ghostbusters to
succeed, they’ll have to overcome
the skeptical authority figure one
way or another.
Scene #20The Twinkie
ProtagonistEgon and Ray
DesireShare information
Antagonist
TPEgon talks about the twinkie
ValueDestruction
RoleRaising the stakes
AnalysisThis scene serves to raise the stakes on the characters. While we know
they’ve been catching ghosts for
awhile now, we haven’t yet realized
just how many ghosts there have
been. Egon explaining that the
kinetic ghost energy has surged
illustrates that something large is
approaching.
Scene #21Zuul Awakens
ProtagonistGozer
DesireAwaken
Antagonist
TPZuul Awakens
ValueDestruction
RoleGozer Act One Climax
AnalysisAgain, the supernatural elements
are handled with the upmost
seriousness. Between the dramatic score, the momentous lighting
against a thunderstorm and the
sound of cracking rock as the
demonic dog emerges from the
gargoyle, the scene is genuinely
frightening. It portends to
imminent danger for our heroes.
As Gozer initiates its plan for global destruction, this scene serves as its Act One Climax.
Scene #22Dana Taken
ProtagonistGozer
DesirePossess Dana
AntagonistDana
TPDana taken
ValueSurvival
RoleMidpoint
AnalysisDana is absconded in a horrifying
scene, arms grabbing her out of her armchair, a demon dog sucking her
into a nearby doorway. It’s a
strangely rape-ish scene, with the
arms groping Dana, holding her
down. Zuul has taken her, and
Peter’s mission becomes all the
more dire. This is the midpoint of
the film as Gozer has acted swiftly
to take Dana, throwing Peter and
the Ghostbusters’ potential success into turmoil.
Scene #23Louis Taken
ProtagonistGozer
DesirePossess Louis
AntagonistLouis
TPLouis is captured
ValueDestruction
RoleGozer plan continues
AnalysisLouis is taken in a much more
comical manner than Dana. Dana is a much more sympathetic
character so her capture is treated
as horrific. Louis, meanwhile, is a
dweeb, with plenty of tax jokes
before Vince Clortho chases him
around town. But the creature is
still frightening, the film balancing
the horror and comedy elements
quite well. Again, the stuffy
bureaucrat is made fun of as Vince
possesses Louis before an uncaring,
fancy restaurant.
Scene #24Peter Finds Possessed Dana
ProtagonistPeter
DesireHelp Dana
AntagonistGozer
TPDana floats over the bed
ValueLove
RoleEscalation of Peter and Dana
relationship
AnalysisDana is now an ethereal demon,
the lighting on her completely
changed, her eyes dark, an orange
sheer outfit. Whatever she has
become, she is dangerous. For
Peter, he has the opportunity to
have sex with her, something he’s
always wanted, but turns her
down. This is not necessarily an
escalation into his character as
having sex with a possessed
woman is beyond creepy, but it
does demonstrate his devotion to
her. He promised her that he was
going to prove himself to her. Now
he has to in order to save her.
Scene #25Louis Arrested
ProtagonistGozer
DesireFind the Gate Keeper
Antagonist
TPLouis is arrested
ValueDestruction
RoleContinuation of Gozer’s plan
AnalysisLouis is crazy, possessed like Dana, but in a very different way, again
comic, but with a slightly sinister
tone. He’s talking to horses, scaring old ladies and generating laughs,
but when his eyes glow red, there’s an eerieness. Seeing what has
happened to him, we compare his
possession to Dana’s. Whereas
Dana has been changed to a
seductress, an inversion of her
character, Louis has been changed
to a crazy person, an escalation of
his character. The difference
between them highlights that the
supernatural force after them is
pretty freaky.
Scene #26Egon Investigates Louis
ProtagonistEgon
DesireDiscover what’s wrong with Louis
AntagonistGozer
TPEgon determines that something
dangerous is afoot
ValueDestruction
RoleThe tension builds
AnalysisLouis, again, brings out the comedy of the situation, but Egon’s
questions and worries, especially
when he learns about Dana,
illustrate that something bad is on
the horizon.
Scene #27Ray and Winston Discuss Judgment Day
ProtagonistWinston
DesireUnderstand the apocalypse
Antagonist
TPRay realizes the dead have been
rising from the grave
ValueDestruction
RoleDeepening stakes
AnalysisOne my favorite scenes in all of
film is just these two characters in a car, talking about their work. For
Ray, he’s investigating the
blueprints of Dana’s apartment
building. For Winston, he’s trying
to gain perspective into their work.
When they both realize that the
raising of the dead is a sign of the
apocalypse, Ray’s reaction signifies the seriousness of their journey.
Perhaps the end of the world is
coming. And seeing how Dana and
Louis have been possessed, it
seems all the more plausible for us,
the audience. The stakes have been
raised to their highest level yet. The film could have cut this scene and
it wouldn’t have mattered to the
narrative, but the rising stakes add
all the more perspective and
deepen the audience’s involvement
into the story even more.
Scene #28Peck Unleashes Protection Grid
ProtagonistPeck
DesireShut down Ghostbusters
AntagonistJanine, Egon, Peter
TPThe protection grid is shut off
ValueValidation
RolePeck Act Two Climax
AnalysisPeck, being the prick that he is,
marches into the Ghostbusters
headquarters believing himself to
be the hero, shutting down a
renegade group of charlatans. His
manner is brash and arrogant, his
desire obviously motivated not by
ethics but by ego. Peter is unable to tame his anger and will need to
find another way to stifle the
bureaucracy. As the ghosts are
unleashed on New York, the
Ghostbusters are arrested and the
situation looks dire.
Scene #29Ghosts Run Rampant
ProtagonistGhosts
DesireTerrify
AntagonistNYC
TPNYC is helpless
ValueDestruction
RoleOrdeal
AnalysisSeeing all the different designs for
ghosts is fun though of course, they
are harbingers of the apocalypse.
Dramatically, everything is total
chaos as the Ghostbusters are in
jail and the city vulnerable to the
myriad ghosts unleashed.
This is the darkest point of the
story as the Ghostbusters have not only lost their credibility, but their
freedom. The city is gripped in
terror, and Dana has lost the
struggle against her possession.
There appears to be no hope.
Scene #30The Team Plots in Jail
ProtagonistThe Ghostbusters
DesireUnderstanding depths of situation
Antagonist
TPEgon announces that the end of the world is close
ValueDestruction
RoleNew plan
AnalysisFor the team, they are still trying to understand what exactly is
happening. Egon explains that
Dana’s building was the sight of
primordial rituals designed to
destroy the world and now it looks
like it might happen. The camera
zooms right into Egon’s face as he
explains, dramatizing the moment.
That the entire scene takes place in
front of a selection of NYC’s petty
criminals also in jail highlights how
the city is really a character in the
story, this time represented by
them. They don’t interact with the
scientists, but they listen and
comprehend.
Scene #31The Gate Keeper and Key Master
Meet
ProtagonistLouis
DesireFind the Gate Keeper
AntagonistGate Keeper
TPLouis finds Dana
ValueDestruction
RoleNext step in the apocalypse
AnalysisAfter searching the streets, Louis
walks back into the apartment
building and finds Dana. Vince and
Zuul are reunited and make their
way to the top of the building to
summon Gozer. The scene is again
handled straight, with dramatic
music, lightning and strong wind.
There are now two concurrent
courses of action driving the plot:
Zuul and Vince trying to bring
Gozer into this dimension and the
Ghostbusters trying to break out of
jail to stop Gozer. Each of these
plots builds in opposition to the
other, creating conflict and tension.
Scene #32The Mayor Gets On Board
ProtagonistPeter
DesireSave Dana and the world
AntagonistThe Mayor, Peck
TPThe Mayor sides with the
Ghostbusters
ValueValidation
RoleAct Two Climax, Peck Act Three
Climax
AnalysisThe Ghostbusters now face their
ultimate validation test: the Mayor, a no-nonsense non-believer. Peck
urges him to put the team back in
jail while the Ghostbusters try to
convince him that the world is on
the brink of armageddon. All the
stuck up, collared bureaucrats
from the team’s past are
represented in this moment. Will
they get their validation after all
this time? Peter is able to schmooze the mayor and now the team enters
into their ultimate ordeal. They
may be validated, but saving the
world is an entirely different
challenge. This is the second act
climax, propelling the team into the third act with the goal of stopping
Gozer and saving Dana. This is also
the third act climax for Peck as his
goal to defraud the team ends
in failure.
Scene #33The City Cheers
ProtagonistThe city
DesireWelcome the Ghostbusters
Antagonist
TP
ValueDestruction
RoleBuild up the Ghostbusters
AnalysisThe city has served as a character
throughout the story. Its conclusion comes at this moment, with their
full embrace of the Ghostbusters.
Though they’ve viewed them with
skepticism and even anger, at this
moment, with the world on the
line, they’re supporters. No longer
quacks dismissed by a university or
con men trying to get a score,
they’ve been recognized as
potential saviors.
Scene #34The Streets Erupt
ProtagonistGozer
DesireKill the Ghostbusters
AntagonistGhostbusters
TPThe Ghostbusters emerge alive
ValueDestruction
RoleDeath and rebirth
AnalysisThe apartment building stretches
all the way up the screen, an
imposing monolith that illustrates
the challenge ahead of the team.
The ground rumbles and shakes
and then opens up, swallowing the Ghostbusters whole. In part of
classic mythological structure, the
hero must die before being reborn,
full of newfound wisdom or power
to take on their nemesis. This scene
completes that evolution for the
team, giving them added strength
to charge into the building and take on Gozer.
Scene #35Gozer Enters
ProtagonistThe Ghostbusters
DesireStop Gozer
AntagonistGozer
TPGozer disintegrates
ValueDestruction
RoleUltimate Conflict
AnalysisThe situation is handled seriously
as the interdimensional doorway is opened and Louis and Dana are
transformed into evil dogs. In one
of his few non-humorous moments
in the entire film, Peter calls out for Dana before she is transformed,
revealing his deep feelings for her.
This mission for him is not just to
save the world, but to save her and
in so doing purge the hole in his
soul. Gozer reveals itself and the
Ghostbusters match up against it.
Just like the Gray Lady, they don’t
really know what to do. At first,
they are manhandled by electric
beams. Then they are evaded when they attack back. Then Gozer
disappears. All too easily. This is
false hope as the Ghostbusters have not faced their ultimate challenge
yet, a challenge that will test their
fortitude and dedication.
Scene #36The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
ProtagonistThe Ghostbusters
DesireSurvive
AntagonistGozer
TPThe Ghostbusters decide to
sacrifice themselves
ValueDestruction
RoleClimax
AnalysisGozer transforms itself into a giant,
killer marshmallow man. The
Ghostbusters attempts to fend it off are met with a gust of flames.
There appears to be no hope. All
that’s left is one option: crossing
the streams, a form of possible
self-sacrifice to save the city and
Dana. This is the choice that will
determine whether or not the
Ghostbusters will achieve their
quest. Though externally validated, they must prove to themselves that they are heroes in one last ultimate act.
Scene #37Cross the Streams
ProtagonistThe Ghostbusters
DesireStop Gozer
AntagonistGozer
TPThe team crosses the streams and
closes the door
ValueDestruction
RoleAct Three Climax
AnalysisThe Ghostbusters take the ultimate act, crossing the streams and
destroying the top of the building
as well as the Stay Puft
Marshmallow Man. The score
swells, wind blows in the team’s
face, bright lights flash on the
screen. It’s a very dramatic ending
that brings the characters to their
logical endpoint from the
narrative’s start; they started as
unvalidated scientists who ran
away from the Gray Lady to the
city’s heroes who stand up to an
interdimensional god. Now the
audience is left to wonder if they
have survived.
Scene #38Saving Dana
ProtagonistPeter
DesireSave Dana
AntagonistGozer
TPDana is pulled out from the demon dog wreckage
ValueLove
RoleDana Act Three Climax
AnalysisAfter a long pause, we discover that the Ghostbusters, despite being
covered in fluffy marshmallow
puff, have survived. But they fear
Dana is lost, a burnt demon dog
corpse nearby. Peter is devastated, his hopes for love with Dana
seemingly dashed. But she
emerges, the team pulling her out
of the rubble. Brought back from
the dead, just like Peter, they are
each transformed. Dana now views Peter as an individual worthy of
her love. He said he would prove
himself, and he did. This brings to a
close Dana’s storyline as the ghost
plot threatening her ends and
Peter’s value is proved.
Scene #39Heroes
ProtagonistThe Ghostbusters
DesireCelebrate victory
Antagonist
TP
ValueValidation
RoleConclusion
AnalysisThe Ghostbusters return to the
people of New York, heroes. They
soak in the moment and then
simply go back to the firehouse.
Back to science. Back to work.
They’re belief in their work has
been validated and they can
continue forward with a stronger
self of themselves and their
abilities.

OVERALL

“Ghostbusters” earns its status as a classic comedy film through its strong characters, dedication to taking its subject seriously and timely humor.

There are four values at stake throughout the story: destruction/salvation, validation/rejection, love/abandonment and ego/selflessness. For the Ghostbusters, their quest for validation leads them into a do-or-die matchup where destruction becomes the key point. And for Peter, his need for love equates with his ego, highlighting how his lack of compassion could turn him into someone like Peck. These values dictate how the characters act and serve as a deeper investigation into the team, culminating in their controlling idea: We succeed through our beliefs when our character is strong. By proving their character, their beliefs gain acceptance from the rather venomous world of New York.

The characters each build out of a stereotype to become their own. While Egon is a nerd, he is very much unique in the formation of his speech pattern, the way he carries himself, the way he reacts to certain situations. Peter is a cad, but a lovable one, built out of little moments of humor and a childish innocence. Ray’s eagerness is infectious, his determination highlighted by his hand gestures and bizarre facial expressions. In a world of stiff bureaucrats, they stand out and distinguish themselves.

If I had to venture a criticism in the narrative, it is that Peter’s story, while it works well, lacks much depth or finesse. Peter starts the narrative as a rather crude charlatan and he is still pretty crude at the end of the film, albeit changed having faced death and saved Dana. There aren’t any real moments of self-reflection where Peter considers his emotions and decides to change them. It’s the same for the team. The decision to face Gozer isn’t much of a decision at all. Some hesitancy would have served to build more growth into the characters.

Having said that, “Ghostbusters” is a film that doesn’t want to dwell too much on personal stakes or great inner change. It’s about the external journey. The way the film builds tension, from Dana being possessed, to Louis being chased, to the various discussions about the apocalypse, is masterful. And then the ending features a great twist, the Minotaur of the film a giant marshmallow man, hilarious and terrifying.

The blending of the humor and the terror is one of the film’s key attributes. The filmmakers realized, just as in “The Bride of Frankenstein”, humor and horror are two sides of the same coin and can be balanced off of each other.

And the movie’s ability to appeal to kids garnered a lifelong fanbase. In many ways, the Ghostbusters are rather adolescent, full of life, fun, dedicated to adventure. The “parental” world is stiff and unrelenting, drab and dour. They wear suits and look down on fantasy and experimentation. It’s easy for a kid to see themselves as a Ghostbuster, not only capturing ghosts and going on adventures, but also sticking it to the man. As a child, watching “Ghostbusters” can be a transformative experience, a release into a fantastical world where the outcasts, the dweebs, the rebels, are the heroes.

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“Roma” a Neorealist Modern Masterpiece

“Roma” is the kind of film cinephiles dream about, a return of sorts to Italian neorealism with its non-professional actors, real-life situations set in extraordinary times and simple shots utilizing film composition to illuminate themes. Choreographed in gorgeous black and white, “Roma” succeeds in being an experience in and of itself, a vital artifact of the human experience that feels as timely as it is historical.

Written, photographed and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, the film tells the story of a middle-class family in Mexico City during the 1970s, a time of great social upheaval. Children Tono (Diego Cortina Autrey), Paco (Carlos Peralta), Pepe (Marco Graf), Sofi (Daniela Demesa), mother Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and father Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) live a stable existence as events falter around them. But the film really focuses on their housemaid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio). Distant from her own mother, she is both a member of the family and a subordinate. When her boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) gets her pregnant, Cleo faces a long journey of finding some sort of peace and preparation for the future.

The film does a great job of illustrating different class structures and by extension a history of colonialism and societal power. Impoverished, undervalued youth rebel, as is the case with Fermin. The film doesn’t really illustrate what exactly it is Fermin and his gang want, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s the dynamics of the situation that will always breed discontent. In addition, the powerlessness of women is a central subject of the film. Cleo and Sofia are abused by the men in their lives, with Antonio dumping Sofia for a mistress and Fermin abusing Cleo for getting pregnant. Sofia even tells Cleo that women are alone in this world, blamed for the problems of men and desperate to find comfort. These social dynamics are omnipresent throughout the story and give it added heft.

The film puts its subjects at a distance compositionally, with long shot pans and tilts utilized by the camera and lots of action happening in the frame. It acts as a static eye almost, making us feel as if we are peering into the lives of the story. Keeping this distance between us and the subjects prevents us from empathizing with them in the traditional way. While we feel for their stories, we also are put in the position of judging all the characters as if set on a wide canvas, an omnipresent god as it were.

Water is present throughout the story as a metaphor for the unpredictability of life. Cleo uses it to clean the driveway of the family, but is afraid to swim. When she is pregnant, she tries to drink some ale but it is pushed out of her hands. Only when a couple of children are close to drowning does Cleo venture against some turbulent waves and conquers the water. It is after this baptism of sorts that she reveals her sorrow and regret.

“Roma” has a distinct autobiographical feel. Cuaron himself was one of the boys in the story, the film dedicated to his nanny, Libo, and the viewer can sense that he loved her as a surrogate mother, sister and girlfriend. The movie feels dreamlike at times and frighteningly real at others. It’s both a testament to the power of memory and its ability to be distorted.

The ending of the film is vague, and you can’t help but wonder if things really are different at the end. Perhaps the family has recognized Cleo for the love they all share. Or perhaps she will always be their housekeeper first and family member second. Whatever interpretation is taken from “Roma”, one can’t help but stand back and see a film meticulously made, full of interesting ideas, underrepresented lives shown new light and a timeless tale meant to be experienced.

“Jurassic Park” Analysis

Story Analysis Description

*Analysis based off work of Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell and Syd Field

*Special thanks to Movieclips for their clips below

jurasicparkmovie-07

CHARACTERS

Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Conscious: Finance his dig and discover dinosaurs
Unconscious: Become a parent
Conflict Levels Inner: Fear of evolving
Personal: Dinosaurs, Lex and Tim, Ellie, Malcolm
Extra-Personal: Parenthood, Finance
Character Characterization: Gruff scientist
True Character: Hero
Turn: Caring father figure
John Hammond
Desire Conscious: Finance Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner: Possible madness
Personal: Gennaro, scientists
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Freewheeling billionaire
True Character:
Turn:
Dennis Nedry
 Desire  Conscious: Make a lot of money by stealing dinosaur embryos
 Unconscious:  
 Conflict Levels  Inner:  
 Personal:  Hammond, Arnold
 Extra-Personal:  –
 Character  Characterization:  Corrupt computer hacker
 True Character:  
 Turn:  
Muldoon
Desire Conscious: Neutralize raptors
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Velociraptors
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Cunning hunter
True Character:
Turn:
Malcolm
Desire Conscious: Get together with Ellie
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Ellie, Allan
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Egotistical mathematician
True Character:
Turn:
Gennaro
Desire Conscious: Shut down Jurassic Park
Unconscious:
Conflict Levels Inner:
Personal: Hammond
Extra-Personal:
Character Characterization: Corrupt businessman
True Character:
Turn:
Principle of Antagonism Positive Evolution Pessimistic Ebbing evolution
Negative Stagnation Negation of Negation Tampering with nature
Controlling Idea: Evolution must be a natural process because tampering with nature leads to catastrophe.

jurassic_park_ian_malcolm

PLOT

Inciting Incident Hammond proposes to Alan and Ellie to come to his island
Act One Climax Alan, Ellie and Malcolm meet the Brachiosaurus
GAP Alan discovers that Hammond is tampering with nature in dangerous ways
Progressive Complications The park malfunctions and Allan is thrust into a parental role
Midpoint The T. Rex eats Gennaro, injures Malcolm and forces Allan to care for Lexi and Tim
Act Two Climax Alan saves Tim after he’s electrocuted
Climax Alan grabs a gun and decides to save Lexi and Tim
Act Three Climax The T. Rex kills the Velociraptors and Alan, Ellie, Lexi and Tim escape
Resolution Alan realizes he’s evolved into a parent

HERO’S JOURNEY

ORDINARY WORLD Alan and Ellie dig up dinosaur bones in the desert
CALL TO ADVENTURE Hammond invites them to his island
REFUSAL OF THE CALL Alan doesn’t get in the car with Lexi or Tim
MEETING THE MENTOR
CROSSING FIRST THRESHOLD Alan saves Lexi and Tim from the T. Rex
TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES Alan teaches Lexi and Tim to feed the Brachiosaurus
APPROACH TO INMOST CAVE Alan leads Lexi and Tim past the Gallimimuses
ORDEAL Alan saves Tim after he is electrocuted
REWARD Alan learns how to be a caring parent
ROAD BACK Alan leads Lexi and Tim back to the visitor center
RESURRECTION Alan puts himself in danger to save Lexi and Tim from the Velociraptors
RETURN WITH ELIXIR Lexi and Tim sleep on Alan’s shoulders on the helicopter

jurassic park trailer.jpg

ARCHETYPES

HERO Alan Grant
SHADOW Gennaro, Hammond
MENTOR
ALLY Lexi, Tim, Ian, Ellie
HERALD Hammond
THRESHOLD GUARDIAN T. Rex, Velociraptor
TRICKSTER Dilophosaurus
SHAPESHIFTER Dennis

 

THEMES

Tampering with nature disrupts evolution and creates monsters Hammond is reckless in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs, seeking to impress the world through sheer will, but he does not grasp the will of nature. Tampering with such primordial forces is an affront to the natural world and will result only in catastrophe. Evolution is a subtle act that effects all of us beyond our control. Trying to play God will have consequences.
Money leads to corruption Both Gennaro and Dennis are primarily influenced by money, causing each to act against others and, in essence, nature. Gennaro betrays his borrowers by fully buying into the idea of Jurassic Park to make money. Dennis betrays his employers to steal embryos and sell out. Both actions subliminally are an affront to nature by acquiescing to Hammond’s madness and these choices cost them their lives.

STORYLINES

Alan Grant Evolving
John Hammond’s Madness
Dennis and the Embryos
Ian and Ellie
Gennaro’s Greed
Muldoon and the Velociraptors

maxresdefault.jpg

SCENE BREAKDOWN

Scene #1 The Velociraptors are Transferred
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Load the Raptors safely
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP A raptor breaks free and grabs the gatekeeper
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Inciting Incident: The Raptor attack convinces him that raptors need to be destroyed because they are too dangerous
Analysis The film starts right off with the central theme: man and its inability to control nature. We have man utilizing technology (grids, electricity, lights, gates, tasers), trying to control a creature born out of a lab, the Velociraptor. Man can’t control this beast, resulting in the death of the gatekeeper. Spielberg is able to elevate the relatively simple attack by using his wide skills of cinematic talent, highlighting the hunter/hunted dynamic, the ferocity of the raptors and the most important lesson he learned from Jaws: not seeing the creature is worse than seeing it.
Scene #2 Gennaro at the Dig Site
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Shut down Hammond’s park
Antagonist Hammond, Rostagno
TP Rostagno tells Gennaro Grant won’t come to the park
Value Money
Role Gennaro Inciting Incident: Shut down Hammond for losing his investor’s money. Hammond Inciting Incident: Get backing to finance his park.
Analysis Gennaro is the first representation of greed and corruption in the film. He doesn’t fit into the natural world he walks through, nervously balancing on his boat, tripping over rocks, bumping his head in the mine. He will view the dinosaurs as a great scheme to make money, displaying a lack of respect for nature.
Scene #3 Alan Dig Site
Protagonist Alan Grant
Desire Find and learn about dinosaurs
Antagonist Kid
TP Grant terrifies the kid who mocks him
Value Parenthood
Role Introduction of Grant
Analysis We are introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. Alan is gruff and dedicated to his mission as a paleontologist. Ellie is his better half, trying to help him evolve into a parent, an underlying desire he rejects. We are again introduced to faulty technology as the underground scanner they use is shotty. We also come to understand how informed Alan is, particularly in regards to Velociraptors, knowledge that will help him later in the story.
Scene #4 Hammond Proposes Plan to Alan and Ellie
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get Alan and Ellie to come to island
Antagonist Alan and Ellie
TP Hammond proposes to fund their dig for three more years and gets them to visit island
Value Finance
Role INCITING INCIDENT: Hammond gets Alan and Ellie to go to his island and the chance to finance his dig for three years. Hammond Act One Climax: Impress group so his park can be financed.
Analysis Hammond serves as a herald to the adventure, bringing both Ellie and Alan to Isla Nublar. His entrance again highlights his disrespect to nature, his helicopter loud and boisterous, nearly destroying the fossils being excavated. And he opens a bottle of champagne, wearing all white, showing his wealth. Alan and Ellie by contrast are dirty and in work clothes. Given the opportunity of wealth to continue funding their dig, they take it without question, again showing the corrupting power of money and greed.
Scene #5 Dennis Paid
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Make money
Antagonist Hammond
TP Dennis takes money
Value Money
Role Dennis Act One Climax, Dennis Inciting Incident Offscreen: Hammond doesn’t pay him enough money, sending him on a course of betrayal.
Analysis Greed and gluttony rear their ugly heads again. Dennis cares only about money, not respecting nature and its power. Consumed by greed, he works to betray Hammond by selling dinosaur embryos. By accepting Dodson’s money, he embarks on his journey.
Scene #6 Helicopter Ride
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get island financed
Antagonist Gennaro
TP
Value Finance
Role Malcolm Inciting Incident: Attracted to Ellie
Analysis We are introduced to Ian Malcolm, a slightly crazy mathematician who starts his journey by hitting on Ellie, mentioning his concept of “strange attractions.” The helicopter flight is another example of Hammond’s wealth as they zoom across the ocean and through the island mountains. This is Hammond’s gambit, to impress his entourage of Gennaro, Sattler, Malcolm and Grant (GSMG) and to finance the park. And another example of technology not working right, the helicopter landing is bumpy, portending to technology failing the characters at the end. And much has been made of the irony of Grant using two female belt buckles and tying them together, just as how two female dinosaurs will eventually breed.
Scene #7 Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Protagonist Gennaro
Desire Threaten Hammond with shutdown
Antagonist Hammond
TP Gennaro Threatens Hammond
Value Money
Role Gennaro Act One Climax
Analysis Gennaro puts his cards on the table, threatening Hammond and committing to defunding the island for money.
Scene #8 Meeting the Brachiosaurus
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show his dinosaurs
Antagonist Grant, Sattler, Malcolm, Gennaro (GSMG)
TP They see the dinosaurs
Value Finance
Role ACT ONE CLIMAX
Analysis Grant commits to the journey as he witnesses the rebirth of dinosaurs. In a way, it is his own call to evolve.
Scene #9 Introduction to Sciene
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Show off his science
Antagonist GSMG
TP GSMG break out of restraints
Value Finance
Role Explanation of how Hammond has engineered the impossible
Analysis The characters and the audience learn how Hammond has been able to bring dinosaurs back to life. Hammond is selling his science as foolproof, something Alan, Ellie and Ian have qualms about.
Scene #10 Velociraptor Hatches
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Question Ethics
Antagonist Hammond, Dr. Wu
TP Malcolm states that life will find a way
Value Morality, Finance
Role Introduction of doubt about playing God
Analysis Malcolm serves as a cautionary voice, warning that what Hammond is doing is dangerous and a disrespect to nature. Hammond is literally playing god, birthing a Velociraptor in his own hands, the others overcome by the power of creation. As Malcolm speaks, the potential for danger grows in their minds.
Scene #11 Velociraptor Cage
Protagonist Alan
Desire Investigate Raptors
Antagonist Hammond
TP
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Rising Action
Analysis Muldoon, hardened by his experience as a hunter and harrowed by the memory of the slain worker, reports on the danger of the Velociraptors. This is yet another example of man trying to control nature in a way he can’t understand. He commits himself to the idea that the raptors should be destroyed.
Scene #12 Sea Bass Lunch
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Caution Hammond
Antagonist Hammond
TP Grant condemns park
Value Morality
Role Gennaro Act Two Climax
Analysis More examples of wealth include an expensive lunch, waiters and flashing pictures on the wall of progress and technology. Hammond is completely oblivious to the dangers of nature he is trying to control. Only Gennaro, clinging to greed, sides with him against the caution of Alan, Ellie and Malcolm, altering his goal of defrauding Hammond and committing to profiting off the island. Hammond’s ears are closed to counterarguments against his beloved park, a rock against which the currents of caution have no effect.
Scene #13 Tim and Lexi Arrive
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Use children’s awe to impress GSMG
Antagonist
TP Ellie sees Alan’s fear of children
Value Finance
Role Moral need disrupts Alan’s world
Analysis Alan’s worse nightmare arrives: children. Lexi and Tim pose a return to Alan’s dormant desire to be a parent. He consciously forces down this desire and stands petrified.
Scene #14 Boarding the Cars
Protagonist Tim and Lexi
Desire Connect with Alan
Antagonist Alan
TP Alan brushes off Lexi and Tim
Value Parenthood
Role Alan shrugging off call to evolve
Analysis Tim serves as Alan’s conscience, following him around and asking him to accept him. Alan rejects him, slamming the door in his face. At the moment, we believe Alan won’t do anything for Lexi and Tim and would never put himself out there for them. Malcolm also continues to seek out Ellie.
Scene #15 Headquarters
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Impress GSMG
Antagonist Technology, Dennis
TP Muldoon shuts everyone up
Value Finance
Role Introduction to how rocky things are behind the scenes
Analysis Behind the scenes, Hammond is much more ornery. Battling with technology and Dennis, he voices grievances and bickers. We realize that his charming persona in front of GSMG and his grandchildren is a fake to hide his deep fear and uncertainty.
Scene #16 Tour Starts
Protagonist GSMG
Desire Evaluate park
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP No dinosaurs show up
Value Finance
Role Further proof of the inability to control nature
Analysis Nature can not be controlled as none of the dinosaurs show up to be shown off to GSMG. The lamest attempts to coax the dinosaurs out are failures, again illustrating how Hammond and InGen don’t understand what they’re handling.
Scene #17 Malcolm Explains Chaos
Protagonist Malcolm
Desire Explain chaos
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie jumps out of the car after Alan
Value Love
Role Malcolm continuing pursuit of Ellie
Analysis Malcom moves in on Ellie, unaware that Alan is her partner. His explanation of chaos is laced with sexual undertones, overted more than subverted. For Alan, he is uncomfortable standing up to Malcolm, showing a reticence to fight for her. Chaos theory itself plays out in the plot of the film. As the forces of nature mettle against man’s inclinations, chaos will reign.
Scene #18 Meeting the Triceratops
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Understand the Triceratops
Antagonist Illness
TP Ellie goes to dino droppings
Value Finance
Role The awe of dinosaurs may sway GSMG yet.
Analysis The awe of the park again appears to GSMG. It wows the audience as well, appealing to our childhood wonder, the desire to see and touch a real dinosaur.
Scene #19 Storm Moves In
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Investigate storm
Antagonist Weather
TP Headquarters decides to stop tour
Value Finance
Role Hammond Act Two Climax: Hammond believes his tour a failure and his park’s future is in doubt.
Analysis Hammond curses the weather, a hindrance in his mind to his ambition, another aspect he can not control.
Scene #20 Dino Droppings
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Determine next course
Antagonist Weather
TP Ellie decides to stay while group goes back to Jeeps
Value Knowledge
Role Separation from Ellie
Analysis The group separates, leaving Malcolm and Alan together. This sets Alan adrift in a way.
Scene #21 Dennis Plans His Heist
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather
TP No promises for weather
Value Finance
Role Increased risk for Dennis
Analysis The pressure on Dennis mounts as the storm complicates his plan to steal the embryos. Time is now a factor as the risk increases.
Scene #22 Dennis Puts Plan in Motion
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal embryos
Antagonist Weather, Security
TP Dennis shuts down system
Value Finance
Role Dennis works on plan.
Analysis Dennis commits to his plan and moves to get the embryos.
Scene #23 Ian and Alan Talk
Protagonist Alan
Desire Keep Malcolm away from
Antagonist Malcolm
TP Malcolm backs off from Ellie
Value Love
Role Malcolm Act One Climax
Analysis Alan tries to talk to Malcolm, but they don’t have much in common. Alan has seen how Malcolm is flirting with Ellie. He lets Malcolm know about their relationship, ending his pursuit of her.
Scene #24 Dennis Steals the Embryos
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Steal the embryos
Antagonist Hammond, Arnold
TP Dennis gets the embryos
Value Finance
Role Dennis Act Two Climax
Analysis Dennis’ plan seems to be working as he gets the embryos and shuts down the security grid to escape.
Scene #25 The T. Rex Breaks Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan uses a flare to save the kids
Value Survival
Role MIDPOINT, Gennaro Act Three Climax
Analysis Nature breaks free fom the constraints of man’s technology. As the park shuts down, the T. Rex emerges from its pen, causing havok. Gennaro is killed for his lack of respect for primal nature, ending his storyline. For every other character, their goal changes. The goal of the evaluation of the park morphs into a need to survive.
Scene #26 Alan Gets the Children Out
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Lex and Tim
Antagonist T. Rex
TP Alan climbs down into paddock
Value Survival
Role Alan Midpoint
Analysis Alan is faced with a choice: hide in the car and wait or try and save Lex and Tim. He chooses to save the kids, his inner parental instinct taking over. This represents his character midpoint as he changes his goal from avoiding children to saving them.
Scene #27 Headquarters Wonders
Protagonist Arnold
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Dennis, Nature
TP Arnold admits he can’t get the park back online without Dennis
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis The repercussions of their actions begin to become apparent to those in headquarters. As the park crumbles around them, Hammond feels the burden of his decision bare down on him.
Scene #28 Dennis and the Dilophosaurus
Protagonist Dennis
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist Weater, Dilophosaurus
TP The Dilophosaurus attacks Dennis
Value Survival
Role Dennis Act Three Climax
Analysis Dennis’ greed becomes his destruction as his disrespect for nature (and the fault of technology symbolized by his car) come to pass. The Dilophosaurus kills him, ending his storyline, and the embros are lost to the mud, a symbol of man’s faulty ambition.
Scene #29 Escaping the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Car
TP Alan saves Tim
Value Survival
Role Continual development for Alan
Analysis Alan faces another test of his parental instinct. Lexi begs him not to leave and he needs to convince Tim to get out of the car. Again, the car represents man’s faulty technology, helpless against the power of nature. Alan successfully saves Tim.
Scene #30 Ellie and Muldoon Save Malcolm
Protagonist Ellie and Muldoon
Desire Save Alan, Lex, Tim, Malcolm and Gennaro
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Escape T. Rex
Value Survival
Role Deeper stakes as headquarters realizes that Alan, Lexi and Tim are missing and Gennaro is dead
Analysis Ellie and Muldoon come face to face with the power of Hammond’s creations as the T. Rex chases after them and they realize Gennaro is dead.
Scene #31 Alan, Lexi and Tim Sleep in the Tree
Protagonist Alan
Desire Reassure Lex and Tim
Antagonist
TP Alan tosses his Velociraptor claw
Value Parenting
Role Alan development
Analysis Alan ditches his old self symbolically by tossing the Velociraptor claw. His comfort with Lex and Tim as their surrogate father continues to develop.
Scene #32 Petticoat Lane
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Justify actions
Antagonist Ellie
TP Ellie chastises Hammond
Value Justification
Role Hammond Act Three Climax: Hammond realizes his mistake.
Analysis Hammond’s past drives his present, so much so that he may have gone mad. Desperate to regain control, he realizes that his actions have been foolhardy, a fact illuminated by Ellie. His goal changes from searching for control to retrieving his grandchildren.
Scene #33 Brachiosaurus in the Morning
Protagonist Alan
Desire Educate Lex and Tim
Antagonist Lex, Brachiosaurus
TP Petting the Brachiosaurus
Value Parenting
Role Evolution of Alan
Analysis Alan continues his adaptation into a parent by teaching Lex and Tim about dinosaurs.
Scene #34 Dinosaurs Breeding
Protagonist Alan
Desire Discover secret
Antagonist Nature
TP Alan realizes how the dinosaurs are breeding
Value Morality
Role Alan learning the value of Malcolm’s theory
Analysis Alan confirms to himself and to the audience about the versatility and resilience of nature. Malcolm’s theory of chaos has occured on the island as the dinosaurs take over.
Scene #35 Arnold Shuts Down the System
Protagonist Hammond
Desire Get the park back online
Antagonist Arnold
TP Arnold agrees to shut down system
Value Survival
Role Hammond’s goal has changed to saving his grandchildren.
Analysis Hammond is trying to get the park back online, but not to save his idea of the park, but to save his grandchildren, an evolution of his character.
Scene #36 Outflocking the Gallimimus
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape stampede
Antagonist Gallimimus
TP Duck under tree
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim venturing to safety
Analysis Alan, Lex and Tim are tested as they venture back to headquarters, seeking safety.
Scene #37 Going to the Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn the park on
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Ellie decides to go to the breaker
Value Survival
Role The stakes deepen
Analysis A new sequence begins as Ellie and Muldoon have to venture out and turn the park back on. This wil test them and their ability to survive.
Scene #38 Ellie Runs to Breaker
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Get to Breaker
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie makes it to breaker
Value Survival
Role The desperation grows
Analysis Ellie must work to save herself and in so doing, Alan. The escape of the Velociraptors puts greater risk into the mission.
Scene #39 Ellie Turns the Park Back On
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Turn park on
Antagonist Tunnels, Velociraptors
TP Ellie finds the grid and turns it back on
Value Survival
Role Glimmer of hope and fear
Analysis Ellie turns the park back on, but the Velociraptors hunt her. Time is now running out before there is no hope for the survivors.
Scene #40 Tim Electrocuted
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim and Lexi
Antagonist Fence
TP Tim electrocuted
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Faulty technology proves dangerous to man again as Tim is electrocuted.
Scene #41 Ellie Runs from Velociraptor
Protagonist Ellie
Desire Evade Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Ellie jams Velociraptor behind door
Value Survival
Role Ellie survives
Analysis The intelligence, speed and ferocity of the Velociraptor is demonstrated as Ellie is hunted. This sets up the final threshold guardian for the group to overcome.
Scene #42 Alan Saves Tim
Protagonist Alan
Desire Save Tim
Antagonist Electric fence
TP Tim wakes up
Value Survival
Role Alan, Lex and Tim tested.
Analysis Alan does everything in his power to save Tim. In marked contrast to his earlier apprehension with children, Alan is now their parent.
Scene #43 Velociraptors Hunt Muldoon
Protagonist Muldoon
Desire Shoot Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptor
TP Velociraptors get the jump on Muldoon
Value Survival
Role Muldoon Act Two Climax
Analysis Muldoon enters the ring against the Velociraptor, the one-on-one confrontation he had been dreading. He puts all of his knowledge about the creatures to his own instincts as a hunter. He loses in his contest against the raptors, their wit outsmarting him. This concludes his storyline.
Scene #44 Alan Finds Ellie
Protagonist Alan
Desire Find Ellie
Antagonist Dinosaurs
TP Alan finds Ellie
Value Survival
Role Malcolm Act Two Climax
Analysis Grant and Ellie are reunited, signifying their union as a couple after being apart. After Malcolm budding into their relationship, this concludes that storyline as Ellie chooses Alan.
Scene #45 Velociraptors Hunt Lexi and Tim
Protagonist Lexi and Tim
Desire Escape Velociraptor
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP They lock Velociraptor in freezer
Value Survival
Role Lex and Tim tested
Analysis Lex and Tim are alone, without Alan. Their resourcefulness is tested as they must use the tricks taught to them by Alan to escape the raptors. This is a test of Alan’s parenthood and teaching played out against the raptors.
Scene #46 Lexi Hacks the Park
Protagonist Lexi
Desire Turn the park back on
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP Lexi turns on the door locks
Value Survival
Role A last chance for escape
Analysis Lexi uses her computer skills, hinted at before, to turn the park back on, giving the characters hope as the raptors move in. This is their last chance.
Scene #47 Escaping the Raptors
Protagonist Alan
Desire Escape the Velociraptors
Antagonist Velociraptors
TP The T. Rex saves them
Value Survival
Role ACT THREE CLIMAX
Analysis Alan, Ellie, Lex and Tim must work together, using all of their skills to best the dangerous raptors. The T. Rex, again utilizing the chaos theory of Malcolm, intervenes and inadvertently saves the day. As the final vestiges of the park collapse around them, nature has taken over the island from man’s mettling.
Scene #48 Escaping the Park
Protagonist Alan
Desire Get off the island
Antagonist
TP The helicopter takes off
Value Parenthood
Role Alan’s reward
Analysis As the characters depart, Ellie sees Alan’s growth as a parent, Lex and Tim asleep on his shoulders. He has evolved, just as dinosaurs had evolved into birds.

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OVERALL

“Jurassic Park” rightfully deserves its place as a classic “monsters” film. Though it is remembered most for its technological advancements, it is the sense of childhood wonder it creates that endears it still today. It perfectly captures the youthful sense of awe each of us would feel if we were to actually see and touch a dinosaur. The respect the film has for that childhood wonder elevates the film beyond simple monster mash.

The dinosaurs are not just monsters that our heroes need to escape from. They are living, breathing creatures, cinematically built up as primordial beasts with intelligence, power and majesty, reverential godlike entities that we can not control. The buildup over the course of the first half of the film, man tampering with nature, unaware of the danger of playing god, fully plays out over the second half of the film as all of man’s preconceptions and safeguards fall by the wayside. There’s a certain amount of glee in seeing the park fail as strange as that is, nature taking its due revenge on people who don’t respect it. The fact that we empathize with characters who are just along for the ride, not responsible for this tampering, gives us a way of caring about their escape. We delight somewhat in seeing Gennaro, Dennis and Muldoon fall because it is their basic flaw of disrespect that causes their demise. Alan, Lexi, Tim, Malcolm and Ellie never committed that sin so we feel sympathy for the situation they are in.

The brunt of technology that Hammond, Dennis, Muldoon and Arnold use to try to control the park is repeatedly referenced as faulty, little clues in the first half hinting at technology being mankind’s tool of control, but nature breaking free of such feeble attempts. It speaks to the sense that evolution is an unstoppable force, tying into Alan’s evolution from selfish paleontologist to caregiver. Accepting evolution then should be mankind’s goal, not trying to impose its will against it.

The film could use some work in terms of the characters and their relationships. Alan, the central character of the film who has an arc, is rather bland. His refusal to evolve into a parent feels kind of shoe-horned into the story to give him some depth and something deeper to do other than try not to be eaten. Perhaps if he and Ellie had tried to have children or couldn’t or there was some reason he felt insecure around them it would tie into the narrative a bit more. But as it happens, Hammond is a much more interesting character: a joyful billionaire who slowly realizes he may have gone mad in his pursuit of creating dinosaurs.

The love triangle between Malcolm, Ellie and Alan is also lacking. It’s just played for a few laughs in the first half, but could have been expanded into more of Alan’s evolution. Perhaps Malcolm is an old boyfriend of Ellie’s that she still has some feelings for. Then Alan’s refusal to have kids and evolve for her would have added weight as she could easily go back to Malcolm who will give her what she wants. But as it plays, Malcolm is more of just an annoyance rather than an integral part of the plot. Cut him out and nothing drastically changes in the plot.

And finally, the ending lacks clear choice. The third act climax should feature the protagonist making a clear choice that illustrates what he has learned over the course of his journey. In this case, that should be Alan, demonstrating his ingenuity. But the film’s ending takes him out of the equation as the T. Rex bursts in and kills the raptors, a deus ex machina, fate saving them rather than Alan. A conclusion that featured Alan saving the day would have been easy enough. Using his smarts as a paleontologist and some piece of knowledge gathered in the park with Lexi and Tim, Alan devises a way to trick the raptors and the Rex and helps everyone escape, proving his mettle as a parent by putting his life on the line to save Lexi and Tim.

Where the film falls in character though, its ability to create awe and build up its action sequences is impeccable, really putting the audience in the park and highlighting its theme to optimal effect.

“Allied” a clumsy spy caper

Spy thrillers are fun. Mystery, intrigue, romance, danger. They’re tailor-made for cinema. The problem is that the genre has become so prevalent and popular that coming up with something new is difficult. “Allied” suffers from the malaise of good intentions and lackluster themes. It’s a whole film of been there, done that, with multiple homages to previous works competing against each other.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Steven Knight, “Allied” is the story of Canadian spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) who rendezvous with French resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) in Morocco during World War II. Together, they work to assassinate the Nazi ambassador, Hobar (August Diehl). Posing as a married couple Marianne advances romantically to Max, who replies that spies who sleep together fail. Marianne counters that it’s not the sex that makes spies fail, but falling in love. At the conclusion of their mission, they get married and try to live a normal life, but under the pretenses of deception, can they ever truly trust each other?

Mixing the grandeur of films like “Casablanca” with the sexiness of James Bond and the intrigue of a John le Carré novel, the film doesn’t feel unified. It’s too much going on at once. Brad Pitt is an odd choice for the role of Max. Perhaps a younger spy, just learning the ropes, would have served the story better with an experienced femme fatale as his partner.

The film does have some exciting action sequences, but they are few and far between, the majority of screen time devoted to a love story that we’ve seen before. There’s nothing that really makes the film stand out and the result is a pretty forgettable affair despite some good work from Ms. Cotillard.

Best Films of 2003

2003 saw the ending of a fantasy saga as well as some great indie films and big-budget animation giants. It was an eclectic year that saw a return to form for directors like Clint Eastwood and the emergence of new greats like Sofia Coppola.

Best Film – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Capping off the greatest film trilogy of all-time, director Peter Jackson delivered his most grandiose and dramatic Lord of the Rings film in The Return of the King.

The quest has taken a toll on Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). On the last leg of the journey, the evil forces opposing him and his shattered fellowship push forward with devastating effect. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) must ascend to the throne he has hidden from and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continues to plot his own nefarious deeds that could spell doom for the world.

Relieved of the pressures of needing to introduce realms and species to an audience, all of the building storylines are brought to a close that is heartfelt, intimate and epic, creating a sensation few films have ever been able to achieve. In due time of course, Jackson would return to Middle-earth to complete another trilogy in The Hobbit series, but he needn’t have bothered. With The Return of the King, Jackson delivered an emotional epic that may never be topped.

Finding Nemo

Pixar delivered one of their greatest hits and most memorable films in Finding Nemo.

The tale of a father clownfish, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), searching for his young son, Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould), Marlin is forced to swim across half the ocean, aided by his bumbling sidekick, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). They come across sharks and jellyfish and all sorts of dangerous creatures, pushing forward to find young Nemo, who must confront his own mortality in a dentist’s fish tank.

Featuring great comedic moments, mesmerizing animation and a heartwarming message, the film still stands today as one of Pixar’s finest achievements.

Lost in Translation

Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece of finding simple connections between people regardless of gender, age or status, Lost in Translation features two of the best performances of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s careers.

Bob Harris is a past-his-prime film star scraping work together in Japan, where he is completely out of his element. He meets Charlotte, similarly lost, her husband a photographer on assignment. Finding each other and trying to find themselves on the crazy streets of Tokyo, they learn about the nature of connection and what their futures entail, whether it is what they want or not.

Understated in its approach, strong in its emotional power, Lost in Translation succeeds by using Bill Murray’s brilliant sense of comic timing to punctuate the laughs and bring meaning to the story.

Mystic River

Clint Eastwood had been a touch out of step after his instant classic film Unforgiven (1992) won him two Academy Awards in 1993. Making rather average movies such as The Bridges of Madison County (1995) and Blood Work (1992), it was natural to wonder whether the movie icon would ever reclaim his past success. With Mystic River (2003), those fears were laid to rest.

Dave (Tim Robbins), Jimmy (Sean Penn) and Sean (Kevin Bacon) are three friends growing up together in Boston in 1975. When Dave is kidnapped by two mysterious men and sexually abused for days, their friendship wanes. Now adults, they are drawn together once again as Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found murdered with Dave the prime suspect and Sean the police detective working the case. Fate has brought them together again and their destinies are all intertwined, for better or worse.

The film is about childhood loss of innocence and how that loss impacts us for the rest of our lives. Dave, Jimmy and Sean are all tied together through their past, present and future, helpless against the pain of time and regret. Mystic River is a haunting, beautiful film that truly explores the connections between people and the past.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring

Ki-duk Kim’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) is a story of rebirth. The soul, the body and the world are reborn over the course of its telling, set in the Korean countryside.

A young boy (Jae-kyeong Seo) is raised by an elderly Buddhist master (Yeong-su Oh), who yearns to teach him the ways of peace and solitude. But the young boy, as all boys are, is impatient and gives in to his emotions, torturing animals and acting destructively. Once he gains sexual lust, he abandons the master and ventures off into the world. Only after he commits a heinous crime does he return to try and find the peace that the monk had tried to teach him. But both wonder whether it is too late; too late for the boy to find the inner peace he desires and too late for the master to overcome his previous failure and purpose in life.

Featuring beautiful cinematography and a deliberate pace, the film is a touching examination of the essential forces at work in the world: love, nature, mentorship, anger, desire and the continual rebirth of those forces over and over again.

 

Best Movies of 2002

2002 was a seminal year for film in a variety of genres. The musical and fantasy adventure film were given some of their strongest entries in decades and classic films with themes of love, poverty and desire were produced. As the world settled into a post-9/11 mentality, filmmaking reflected both a need to escape current worries and to reflect on recent events.

Best Film – City of God by Fernando Meirelles

Fernando Meirelles’ City of God was hailed as an instant classic at its release over ten years ago. Its glow has not diminished since.

The story of two boys, Rocket and Li’l Zé, growing up in the 1960s in Rio de Janeiro, the film illustrates life in a crime-ridden world where violence is everywhere and moral corruption begins at a young age. Rocket is trying to figure out his life and just wants to be a photographer. Li’l Zé is hell-bent on power and will do anything to get it. By showing these two alternate roads, the film illustrates how difficult it is for youth to rise above their environment and the great temptation that environment has to corrupt.

Terrifying in its visual style and deeply moving, City of God is an incredibly visceral film that presents a history of violence. For those wondering how violence and poverty correlate in a world that is seemingly spinning out of control, this film explains it all.

Adaptation by Spike Jonze

Strange, funny, dramatic and at times disturbing, Adaptation focuses on not just the problem of writing, but the problem of finding meaning in something you create, a task far more daunting.

Written by the great Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze, once the film starts, it never pulls back. Putting himself in his own screenplay, Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage) has been given the task of adapting Susan Orleans’ (Meryl Streep) novel, “The Orchid Thief”, a tale starring orchid hunter John Laroche (Chris Coopet), into a film. Bewildered and suffering a crisis of confidence, Kaufman struggles as his own idiot twin brother (also played by Cage) develops his own ridiculous projects.

Strongly acted, stylishly directed and wonderfully written, the film embraces a number of genres to illustrate the difficulty of any act of creation, even the one presented to you now.

Chicago by Rob Marshall

With Moulin Rouge reviving the musical genre the year before, Rob Marshall and company took Bob Fosse’s classic Broadway show “Chicago” and brought it to cinemas. The result may be the greatest movie musical of all-time.

Starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, Richard Gere and John C. Reilly, Chicago tells the story of a young wannabe star who ends up murdering her lover and gaining infamy in prison through a desperate appeal to the press as her case comes to trial.

By presenting the musical numbers through the mind of Zellweger’s character, the film avoids the awkward intercut between music and dialogue. In addition, the editing allowed the filmmakers to move the story along with the songs, keeping a vibrant pace that smooths out the narrative. Wonderfully designed and endlessly watchable, the film is not only the most fun of the year, but also one of the best made.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson continued his foray into Middle-Earth with the second installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers.

With the fellowship broken, Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf and the rest of the free peoples of Middle-Earth must fend off a growing horde of evil as the forces of darkness march against them. Culminating with one of the greatest cinematic battles of the modern era at Helm’s Deep, the film also finally introduced audiences to Gollum, a CGI creature that forever changed the way movies were made.

Not just a breathtaking war story, the film also goes deeper into each of the characters, their struggles and themes of sacrifice and companionship. Perhaps the most beloved of the now decade-old trilogy, the film firmly established The Lord of the Rings franchise as a pop culture phenomenon.

Talk to Her by Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodóvar delivered one of his best films in Talk to Her, the story of two men joined together by difficult circumstances and struggling to make sense of love and fate.

Benigno (Javier Cámara) and Marco (Darío Grandinetti), after a chance meeting at a movie theater, meet again at a private clinic where they discover that they are each caring for a woman in a coma, Benigno caring for a Alicia (Leonor Watling), a ballet student, and Marco caring for Lydia (Rosario Flores), a matador. As they are encouraged to talk to the women despite their unresponsiveness, they learn intimate details about love and unrelenting desire.

Flashing back and forth from past to present, the films delves into fantasies and produces images that are thought-provoking, grotesque and beautiful all at the same time.

 

Best Movies of 2001

There are always top movies lists that come out every year.

On the one hand, it’s condescending to rank different emotional experiences on a subjective level. Artistic quality is hard to judge across different genres and there are hundreds of films released every year, and no one could possibly view them all (a reason why you find so many similar titles on best film lists is critics simply copy from one another).

On the other hand, lists are helpful to the viewer and enable them to get a grasp of the supposed best films.

As will all lists, it is important to remember that personal liking plays a huge role (despite what other critics may state). So here are my top films from the year 2001, presented with the top film and then alphabetical order for the other four, the first year of my true vested interest in film.

Best Film: Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki

It may be a bit much to call Hayao Miyazaki a national treasure, but his films, some of the most imaginative ever made, will endure as not only great works of animation, but cultural milestones for Japan.

Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro (voiced by Rumi Hiiragi), a young girl moving to a small town. When her father takes a wrong turn on the road, they end up driving into an old amusement park (never a good idea) where she wanders away, befriending a boy named Haku (Miyu Irino) who tells her that her parents are in great danger. She returns to discover that her mother and father have been transformed into pigs, and she must work through a mystical maze of creatures, demons and spectres to save her them all.

Full of imagination, heart and some of the best anime ever put to screen, Spirited Away is a fairy tale for adults and children, a sometimes haunting journey that Aesop himself wished he had written, and it stands as the best film of 2001.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson

It is important to remember that The Lord of the Rings films were quite a gamble at the time. Now regarded as one of the most successful franchises ever, J.R.R. Tolkien’s books were considered unfilmable and making three films at once was an unprecedented risk. Should the first one fail, all subsequent films would fail as well. It must have been a great relief for the filmmakers and studio when their first foray into Middle-earth not only met expectations, but surpassed them.

The story of a hobbit, Frodo (Elijah Woods), given a quest to destroy the evil ring of power, the film deals with a multitude of races, Men, Elves, Dwarfs, Orcs, as well as a great many languages and dozens of characters, including the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), king-in-waiting Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Elven queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).

What could have been a train wreck of too many things happening at once is treated with the utmost respect and the adventure is brought thrillingly to life. Clocking in at almost three hours, the film evokes memories of grand epics such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Seven Samurai (1954), but always stays focused on the tale of a small hobbit and the struggle to find his courage.

Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann’s films have always been a mishmash of technical wizardry, simple themes and erratic characters. Loved by some, reviled by others, he finally found a film that achieved both success and critical acclaim with Moulin Rouge.

The story of a penniless writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls for the seductive courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman), the film combined current songs into a medley that may have restored the musical to the movie world. Without Moulin Rouge, there probably would not have been Chicago (2002) or Les Miserables (2012) or Dreamgirls (2006) or La La Land (2016).

Dabbling into themes of jealousy and lust and displaying the kind of swervy camerawork and illustrious sets that Luhrmann is known for, the film succeeds mainly because of the strong acting of Kidman and McGregor and a timeless story both romantic and heartbreaking. Overdone at times, decidedly one-tone at moments, the film is a beautiful tribute to everything we go to the movies for: entertainment, allure, fun, dramatics and passion.

The Others by Alejandro Amenábar

Another Nicole Kidman film, where Moulin Rouge celebrated Hollywood spectacle, The Others gave a new spin on the modern ghost story.

Nicole Kidman is Grace Stewart, a mom with two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), each of whom suffers from photosensitivity, meaning they literally have to stay in a big, creepy house as they are allergic to light. This sets the stage for a natural proclivity towards darkened interiors and suspenseful camerawork as Grace must look after the safety of her children as seemingly supernatural demons haunt their post-WW2 home. Rather than being a boring one-scare-at-a-time thriller, the film develops interesting characters and builds towards a terrifying conclusion that makes the entire story relevant and intensely interesting.

The twist at the end provides a vital “ah-ha” moment that makes audiences crave repeat viewings. Beautifully shot, masterfully rendered, The Others proves that ghost stories still have a lot to offer and that they needn’t be cheaply made gimmicks as they too often are, but moving tales of macabre.

Y Tu Mama También by Alfonso Cuarón

Before Alfonso Cuarón was making blockbuster films such as Gravity (2013) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), he gained fame as one of Mexico’s most intriguing new filmmakers with this film about a pair of teenagers trying to woo an older woman on a road trip to a beach that does not exist.

Starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdú, the film is an exploration into sexuality and what it means at different stages of our lives. Whether we are dying or angry or young or old, it means different things at different times to different people. Secrets are revealed and revelations made about love, loss and friendship along the way.

What could have been a very cheese sexploitation film (and the sex scenes are very intense) is portrayed as a film about reawakening in the most immediate sense. Melancholic and evocative, Y Tu Mama También is a haunting examination of youth.