Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Documentaries: Grizzly Man

It is not often that you'll find a documentary that is beautiful, disturbing, funny, and tragic all in one. However, Werner Herzog's documentary, Grizzy Man (2005) manages to encompass all of these elements while retaining neutral viewpoint. Grizzly Man is about the life and death of wildlife enthusiast Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, who sometimes accompanied him on his trips to Alaska (although he usually went alone). This documentary is a combination of film that Treadwell himself recorded while out in the wilderness, interviews with Treadwell's family and friends, interviews with nature experts, and interviews with individuals that assisted with recovering and examining the remains.

Fig 1. Grizzly Man (2005)

Grizzly Man is a very unusual film as it is a combination of different types of documentaries. There is no doubt that Grizzly Man has elements of 'shockumentaries' because it exploits Timothy's dangerous life, delusive view of nature and his unhinged, egotistical monologues, "Herzog didn't even have much work to do because Treadwell - gifted, untrained film-maker that he was - had done almost everything himself...they contain sublime, dramatic shots of the bears and footage of his own mad posturing rants to the camera, wearing combats and a bandana - part surfer-dude, part drama-queen," (Bradshaw, 2006). Grizzly Man may also be considered to be a performative documentary. This is because some of the footage used is from Treadwell, who was not only narrating what was going on around him but was also actively participating and engaging with what he was talking about.

Fig 2. Timothy Treadwell

Despite Herzog using Treadwell's footage, never once did he belittle the bear enthusiast. While Herzog often discussed his opposing views regarding nature, the fact that he never shamed or mocked the individuals who died is respectable considering they put themselves in the situation. This neutrality indicates that Grizzly Man is also an expository documentary, meaning that the film has a relatively neutral view. Despite the narrator being neutral, many of the individuals being interviewed admitted to thinking that Treadwell was mad, foolish, and ignorant, "Throughout 'Grizzly Man', men and women pay testament to Treadwell's niceness and naïveté. Some are kind; others less so. Each testifier seems to capture some authentic quality of Treadwell, who from evidence of his videos and Mr. Herzog's sympathetic inquiry, seemed equally nice and naive, brave and foolish..." (Dargis, 2005). With 100 hours worth of recordings of Treadwell interfering with nature, spewing narcissistic rants, hinting at conspiracy theories, and consistent proclamations of danger yet complete disregard of said danger makes it very difficult to feel bad for the man's demise. However, remembering that he and his girlfriend were both human beings makes it a sad story despite the foolishness.

Herzog's refusal to pick one side or another and to just present Treadwell's point of view and history while also showing how others think of him paints a more truthful picture for the audience. While he points out that Treadwell's interaction with the bears ultimately did the opposite of his goal to protect the animals, he also praises Treadwell's natural filmmaking ability and his special connection to animals. Herzog continues to show respect for the deceased and their friends and family by being very selective with what was included in the documentary. He decided to not include the actual audio recording of the bear attacking Treadwell and his girlfriend, "Herzog's decision not to play the audio in his film is a wise one, not only out of the respect to the survivors of the victims, but because to watch him listening to it is, oddly, more effective than actually hearing it," (Ebert, 2005). While we never hear the audio, we know it contains Treadwell's his girlfriend attempting to fight the bear off as he screams at her to run away. While there is a dark desire to be able to hear this audio, seeing the disturbed reaction of Herzog is most likely enough.

Fig 3. Timothy Treadwell with Amie Huguenard

Overall, Grizzly Man is a very unique documentary as it is a mix of different types of documentary films including exploitation/shockumentary, performative, and expository. The overall composition of the film is why it works as a combination of documentary types. Herzog combined Treadwell's own videos with interviews and his own opinions to give a variety of views for an overall neutral film. This produces mixed feelings from the audience, it is hard to feel bad for Treadwell because even he said it could happen but also declared he had a special bond with the bears. It is clear that he was a very troubled individual who must have just wanted to find a part of the world that he felt like he could fit into. This could have easily been an extremely difficult film to watch, but Herzog tastefully spliced together beautiful, amateur, animal-whisperer shots of nature by Treadwell with harsh, truthful interviews and narration that produced a film that was a disturbing, yet amusing tragedy that wasn't too over the top.
Bradshaw, P. (2006) Grizzly Man review - Werner Herzog retraces Timothy Treadwell's steps At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Dargis, M. (2005) Exploring One Man's Fate in the Alaskan Wilderness At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Ebert, R. (2005) Grizzly Man At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Jolin, D. (2006) Grizzly Man Review At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Schager, N. (2005) Grizzly Man At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016

Illustration List:
Figure 1. Grizzly Man [Poster] At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Figure 2. Timothy Treadwell [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016
Figure 3. Timothy Treadwell with Amie Huguenard [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 30/11/2016

Maya Pipeline 1: Head Modelling - The Mouth (Part 4)

Personal Work: Dragon Rework (Work in Progress)

I've been itching to do some digital painting of some sort of creature or monster so I decided to take a drawing I made a few years ago when I was first learning Photoshop and experiment reworking it. I haven't spent loads of time on it and it isn't complete yet, but here it is so far. I also tested out adding some colour to it using a gradient map but I'm not finished shading it in so the gradient is slightly off in some places because some places need some lighter spots. When I drew my original drawing back in 2014 I used this as reference.

Gradient Map Test

Black & White

Buildup GIF

Original Sketch from 2014 (Reference)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Exploitation Cinema: Mad Max: Fury Road

It is common for films to use exploitation to attract a larger audience and attain as much money as possible. In cinema there are many different subjects that can be exploited such as violence, gore, sex, monsters, and natural disasters, and there are also exploitation films based on nationalities such as Ozploitation (Australian films that are often horror, comedy or action). One example of Ozploitation the film series Max Max, including the recent Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) directed by George Miller.

Fig 1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Exploitation films are often thought of to be low quality due to their cheap ways of getting an audience and low production quality. However, this is not the case with the most recent Mad Max instalment, "The first point at which Fury Road draws breath - an eerily beautiful wide shot of a flare sputtering out in the desert darkness - comes after half an hour of virtually continuous chaos. Most films aren't built this way for all kinds of sensible reasons. But when they are, and it works - what a rush," (Collin, 2015). It is clear from the start how much work went into this film, even just the knowledge that George Miller made sure that practical effects were preferred over CGI. The number of cuts in certain action scenes reveal how difficult the film must have been to shoot.

While the stunts, explosions, fight scenes, car chases, and strong characters are the focus of the film, one must look deeper to see how much time and effort went into making Fury Road. Often sound effects and music score are forgotten, people seem to never notice it unless it is absent or poorly designed. However, in Fury Road the sound doesn't just catch your attention - it demands it, "Watching Mad Max:Fury Road is the cinematic equivalent of putting your head in the bass-bin at a death-metal concert...we even get sonic assault vehicles armed with drummers, speaker stacks, and a mutant axe-man wielding a guitar-slash-flamethrower...the shooting/editing style is designed to make you feel like you've been run over while being shouted is an orgy of loud and louder," (Kermode, 2015). The combination of practical effects, tasteful CGI, intelligent sound design, the sped up frame rate, and the chaotic editing makes Fury Road a hard film to ignore.

Fig 2. Coma The Doof Warrior
However, there are many more elements than sound, cars, action, and violence in Mad Max that are exploited. Fury Road has brief moments where it exploits sex/women/nudity but also manages to appeal to feminism. While the film is named after the character Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), the focus is without a doubt on the other characters. The whole plot revolves around Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) trying to capture his Five Wives after they escaped with the help of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). While Furiosa was immediately commanding and dominant, at first the film exploits the Wives, "our first glimpse of them bodes ill: limber beauties, draped in muslin underwear and hosing themselves down in the middle of nowhere but winds up as a testament of female resilience, thanks to the Vuvalini - a small leathery tribe of matriarchs, described by the film's production designer as 'lovely old bikie chicks'," (Lane, 2015).

After this initial exploitation of the Wive's sexuality and beauty, they quickly recover and show their personal strength, intelligence and bravery. This is also the same with the Vuvalini when we first meet them, one of the members is naked and being used as bait, however once they recognise Furiosa this all changes. In Fury Road, Max is not the protagonist but Furiosa is, she brings out the best in the other characters including the Wives, Vuvalini, and Max himself. There is a specific moment in the film where, "our hero aims at a searchlight, in the distant gloom, but misses. Only one bullet remains. Furiosa takes the gun and hits the target, using Max's shoulder as a rest. The tough guy is nothing but a cushion," (Lane, 2015). This is how the film not only was able to exploit the female characters beauty while also being able to use feminist ideas to their advantage and appeal to more people.

Fig 3. Don't Breathe
Overall, George Miller's exploitation feminism, sexuality, violence, car chases, action, and the Australian landscape managed to make an Oscar winning film instead of a low-quality B-movie. Admittedly, having a larger budget than his original Mad Max (1979) helped increase the quality of the film, but George Miller obviously had an eye for the Ozploitation world of Mad Max. Mad Max: Fury Road was a successful example of exploitation and chaos cinema that managed to appeal to multiple groups of people, being way over the top but in a strangely satisfying way.

Collin, R. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review: 'a Krakatoan eruption of craziness' At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Kermode, M. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review - beware of battle fatigue At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Lane, A. (2015) High Gear "Mad Max: Fury Road." At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Tallerico, B. (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road At: Accessed on: 23/11/2013

Illustration List:
Figure 1. Mad Max: Fury Road [Poster] At: Accessed on: 23/11/2016
Figure 2. Coma The Doof Warrior [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 24/11/2016
Figure 3. Don't Breathe [Film Still] At: Accessed on: 24/11/2016

Saturday, 19 November 2016