Movies in the Real World

For this assignment you will watch a film in a local theater or film festival on its opening day/weekend and write a 900-word (min.) analysis paper about the experience.

Your analysis should focus on the film AND the public cinematic experience. Analyze the audience (who was there? how did they interact with the film, with the theater space, with each other?), the space (what was the building like? what neighborhood is it in?), the economics (how much was your ticket? were you encouraged to buy food/drinks, and if so, how?), and the collective film watching experience (did you react differently than if you had watched this film in your own home? did you go with anybody else? did the audience yell/cry/gasp/jump/walk out at particular moments?).

Additionally, your paper should include a brief history of the theater or film festival, and must incorporate a minimum of 2 articles from the course readings.

One thought on “Movies in the Real World

  1. krels

    Kareli Lizarraga
    Professor Cathy Hannabach
    Queer and Feminist Studies
    March 25, 2013
    Movies in the Real World: The We and the I
    Using much of the style and editing of a documentary, Michel Gondry’s film is able to unite the dissonant voices of several high school students in The We and the I. Through many media formats- texts, viral videos, drawings- the audience attains snapshots of what it means to be in or out of the group. Power and the capability of violence found within collective groups, the “we”, are contrasted with individual experiences that often portray the true self, “I”, that is much more vulnerable and compassionate. Gondry roots each of the characters to their neighborhood and landscape as the bus route traverses throughout streets and freeways of the South Bronx; every individual on camera is a member of the Bronx community that is presented. While race and class are not explicitly discussed, these seem to be the determining factors that govern the lives of these teens. Because this is an independent film that will most likely be shown in small theatres to a more affluent viewership, the audience may initially feel very little in common with the individuals yet soon their stories convey a very common high school experience filled with bullies, nerds, and popular kids. In this way, The We and the I provides stories that are extremely relatable to any audience. Confined to the space of the public bus, the students give an accurate portrait of being a teenager on the last day of school filled with excitement, fear, and even apathy. Individuals such as Ladychen, Michael, Teresa, and Louis, while recognizable archetypes, also break molds and expectations enforced upon them. Sexuality and gender norms are tested and analyzed by many of the characters as they go beyond what may be deemed acceptable by their peers.
    While it is said that strength is found in numbers, the film portrays the chaos and dysfunction that are often part of a group.
    In Kobena Mercer’s “Dark and Lovely Too: Black Gay Men in Independent Film”, the coming together of many individuals is lauded as a strength. By being part of the group, Mercer emphasizes the sense of unity that can be found within the commonalities of a large group, “… What was so empowering was precisely the feeling of belonging which arose out of the feeling of transformation from ‘I’ to ‘we’” (Mercer 238). However, Michel Gondry steps outside of this framework and instead focuses on that fact that when any group is formed, it inevitably excludes others and creates an “us” and “them” dichotomy. For example, the students come together to ridicule a man on the bus with a mangled lip or mock Teresa when she enters the bus with a blonde wig. Mob mentality seems to dominate the students when they are found in the “we”. While criticism can be made towards this portrayal of the group, The We and the I allows audiences to see the individuality of each character beyond the labels that may be attached to a group. Within cohesion may also arise anonymity for many individuals. The film instead portrays the stories of individuals that are affected by their gender, class, and race yet the intersection of each of these labels is not shown as another layer of marginalization that could have occurred had the whole group been the focus, “What often occurs when different communities try to come together is a tendency to use our differences as a means of competition and closure in order to assert who is more oppressed than whom” (Mercer 239). Gondry’s benign portrayal of the individual over the group thus allows the audience to accept the stories of each of the students as independent events rather than as tragedies representative of the group.
    In this same way, the portrayal of queerness in The We and the I of the individual challenges preconceived notions that viewers may have towards teenagers and their views on sexuality. The teenagers challenge sexual norms and push the envelope on what is “acceptable” in the bedroom, “Queer represents the resistance to, primarily, the normative codes of gender and sexual expression- that masculine men sleep with feminine women, but also to the restrictive potential of gay and lesbian sexuality- that only men sleep with men, and women sleep with women” (Aaron 5). Teresa is shown pinning for Michael, the pretty boy that is sweet to her only when his friends are not around, yet she comes close to having sex with Ladychen at a party. Louis and his boyfriend fight after Louis confesses to having had sex with a girl and enjoyed it. Queerness and sexuality are not addressed through a patriarchal framework but rather with surprising fluidity and tolerance.
    The only way I learned about The We and the I was because I got to go to a community center in the Bronx where many of the actors in the film go on a regular basis. With little publicity, the film is only being shown in one theatre in Philadelphia, the Ritz. Ramon L. Posel founded the Ritz at the Bourse Theatre in 1990 in the neighborhood of “Old City”. In 2007, Landmark Theatres bought the theatre but they have maintained the same goals and presence in the neighborhood as the previous owner. Since then, the mission of the theatre has been to provide “Philadelphia residents an opportunity to see the best in independent, foreign, and documentary film” within an adult-oriented atmosphere. Children under the age of six are not allowed in the theatre and an adult must accompany children from the ages of six to sixteen. It is evident that the Ritz attempts to maintain a certain level of sophistication and maturity by limiting its availability to who can enter yet this seemed counterproductive when showing a movie that portrayed the lives of urban youth. While viewing “The We and the I”, my friends and I were the youngest people, and only people of color, in the room. Every other person in attendance (after doing a rather quick scan) was white. The majority of seats were vacant; this is not surprising since it was a Monday and again, the film had little publicity. In terms of price of the ticket, I found it to be very reasonable at $7.50 especially considering that the theatre is located in the neighborhood of Old City. The location of the Ritz on the Bourse may also be a deterrent; this is a more upscale neighborhood in Philadelphia with few queer communities of color that may have identified with the film. However, the environment of the Ritz was very enjoyable and allowed me to focus on the movie; I found myself laughing at the antics of Big T, the bully, especially when I could hear other people in the audience laughing as well. The We and the I made me both thankful that I was no longer on the bus but also nostalgic of high school.

    Works Cited
    Aaron, Michele. New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2004.
    Mercer, Kobena. Dark and Lovely Too: Black Gay Men in Independent Film.
    The We and the I. Dir. Michel Gondry. Paladin Media, 2013. Film.
    “Landmark – Philadelphia.” Landmark – Philadelphia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
    http://www.landmarktheatres.com/market/Philadelphia/RitzattheBourse.htm

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