Film Studies, Essay Example
Movies say so much about their creators. For instance, the manners by which a movie is presented and is received by the audiences specifically provide a clear picture that manifests how the director views the very themes he used in the film. During the early 1970’s towards the late 1980’s, the movie industry has been undergoing several points of revolution especially in the aspect of the increasing developments regarding the condition of presenting movies based on character and themes. Depicting more on the realities that surround the human society, most of these films reflect what humans are, who they become and how they react to confronting decisions that the society itself subjects them into. The fascination of directors over such themes often define their contributions to the industry as pillars of human culture rather than just creators of entertaining pieces of presentation.
Among the most regarded directors of the 1980’s is that of Shelton Jackson or most regularly known as “Spike” Lee. Noted for his utilization on the theme of race relations, media influences on the society, growth of urban crime and the impending effects of poverty, his films were considered to be an astounding presentation of life’s realities as a whole. Utilizing the value of the actors he uses for his films, he makes sure that every portrayal depicts the reality behind each character hence speaking directly to his audiences. Producing at least 35 films ever since he started in the industry in 1983, Lee was considered to be among the most celebrated and well respected movie directors of his time. Several pieces of his movies have received remarkable awards that rather mark his success in the industry and increase the value of the contribution he leaves to the society as a movie producer and creator.
Racial definition, being one of Spike Lee’s favorite themes, has been the focus of one of his most successful films entitled Malcom X which was released in 1992. A predecessor of the movie of the same title in 1972, this film discusses more of the racial impact of the being of Malcolm X as seen and felt by the new generation of African Americans in the society. Picking Denzel Washington to portray the role was a crucial decision for Lee. There were those critics who mentioned that Washington’s value as an artist might be able to run in par with that of the character he is to portray, yet he falls short when it comes to the value of physical characters required for the said portrayal. Nevertheless, Lee knew what he wanted and he knew that his expectations would only become a reality if it was Denzel Washington that he placed on the screen for this particular role.
Malcolm X was rather depicted in the film as a regular person, having the need to face specific decisions in life that defined his worth as a person and his worth towards the society he enjoins. Being an African American who has been turned into Islamic ways of living, this film raises the question of whether or not it is possible for a person to change as much from his roots and become the person he thinks he deserves to be and basically desires to be. Using autobiographies of Malcolm X as his sources, Lee was able to create a picture of a man that would respond to the questions of his audiences.
To make the plots, the settings and the character definition itself more convincing and reflective of the reality, Lee had to make specific adjustments as well as film presentation innovations that he thinks his audience would relatively respond to. Considering the worth of the person being portrayed in the movie, Lee was very careful in choosing the right plot and setting as to where to place his main character. To be able to do this, Lee needed to make sure that every presentation is authentic. Since it is an autobiographic movie, it has to be specifically factual down to its very last strand. To make sure of this fact, Lee accepted the challenge of digging deeper into the story and embracing the possibility of making a greater condition of understanding the worth of the person through the eyes of an African American who may have also undergone the same consequences and issues that Malcolm X himself had to face. Relatively though, there is one more challenge that Lee needed to give attention to during the process. He desired so much to bring about the story of Malcolm X to receive a considerable response from the new generation. To do this, he needs to create a cross-over theme that the generations of the past [basically those who have actually heard and seen the news about Malcolm X] and the current generation would have a common inkling to. The issues of racial differentiation have been a common theme in the film that Lee used. Notably, the condition on utilizing this theme was based upon the idea of the fact that racial differentiation occurred then as it is occurring at present, a common matter that generations of African Americans share through the years. Diving into the deeper aspects of the story, it is the authentication of the locations from where the movie has been filmed that has made this particular creation rather interesting. Focusing on the capacities of Washington and how well he could portray the character of Malcolm X was a crucial point of direction which also panned out to be a great success on the part of Lee’s hard work. The value of the script was immensely compelling as it did create higher recognition for the film especially in relation to showing how the African Americans or the Black American community continues to fight discrimination with pride and self preservation. The last line of Malcom X specifically noted this fact as he said: “We declare our right on this earth, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being, in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary” (as quoted by Weinraub, 1992).
Other movies that specifically created a great presentation of humanity behind the life stories of the main characters include that of Moonstruck from 1987. A romantic comedy starred by Cher who played the role of a single mother who simply wants to make something out of life and got something bigger out of it. Utilizing the aspect of reality as a theme to the film, this movie has garnered the attention of the public as it deals with the then growing culture of single motherhood especially in the American society. On the other hand, Stand By Me by Rob Rainer in 1986 dealt with the story of four young white American boys who at their years of young manhood were faced with the most crucial decisions that conferred to the society they were living in. Also a specific social issue during the time, the director created this film alongside the desire of bringing his audiences into a sense of realization as to finding out the real causes of this particular decay in the society.
On the other hand, the Taxi Driver of 1976 by Paul Scorsese was more of a definition of a crime and how it happens, the character that portrays it and the decisions he had to make. Most likely considered to be close to the social depiction that Lee wanted to show in his movie Malcolm X, this film explains more of the reason behind the occurrence of crimes, rather than just the crime itself. Thriving on the idea of pointing out human value behind all the issues the main character is involved in, this movie creates not a justification, but a clearer vision of what the society makes out of a simple man.
Overall, dealing with human reality is what films are most likely known for. Putting reality into the big screen is like creating a mirror that would help the society realize the facts about life and be reminded how it should be dealt with. May the production be a documentary, an autobiographic presentation of a person’s life, or simply a depiction of the primary issues that the society lives with then and now, the manner by which the directors treat each theme as a worthy presentation of their social opinion contributes to the essential value of the movie. At this point, it could be agreed upon that movies do imply a greater worth when they are treated with the aspects of reality that humans would basically be able to relate to, a matter that the directors themselves could manipulate and decide upon. With the right skills and great strategies, such themes could be further enhanced hence creating a better depiction of truth and producing better results of reaction from the social audiences.
Basten, Fred E. (1980). Glorious Technicolor: The Movies’ Magic Rainbow. Cranbury, NJ: AS Barnes & Company.
Cook, Pam (2007). The Cinema Book, Third Edition. London: British Film Institute.
Casetti, Francesco (1999). Theories of Cinema, 1945-1995. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Weinraub, Bernard. (1992). A Movie Producer Remembers The Human Side of Malcolm X. The New York Times, November 23, 1992.
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