Friday, December 16, 2016

Reflecting on Movie Reviews with the UGP

Editor's Note: After completing his final centerpiece for the Unfamiliar Genre Project, Br. Jesus Romo also composed this final reflection in which he shares his overall experience with this major component of the journalism class at Mount Angel Seminary.

A Final Reflection on the Unfamiliar Genre Project

I often had the experience of feeling out of context when members of my religious community were discussing movies because I did not know much about the components of a movie.  There are two aspects that I wanted to learn from this project.  First, I wanted to learn how to identify the key elements of a movie.  Secondly, I wanted to learn how to be able to think critically about movies and give my own opinion.  I will say that throughout this journey, I learned more than simply these two elements.
 
The first step I took in the project was to look for samples of movie reviews.  I remember going to the library and asking for the Statesman Journal, a local newspaper.  Since they did not have it, my first attempt at researching the topic was not very positive.  The next time that I had the journalism class, I went back to the library with Dr. Kleiman, my journalism professor, hoping to find the newspaper, and it was not there.  We looked at other journals, and we did not find any movie reviews in them. 

Another option for my research was the internet, so I signed up for the New York Times website and I found many movie reviews there.  However, since I wanted to see a greater variety of reviews, I looked for more at the Catholic News Service web page and at rogerebert.com, and there I found what I wanted.  Although, the experience did not seem positive at the beginning, I learned later on that everything I did was part of the journey, and every step was important.

I chose to look at movie reviews of films that I had already watched in order to have a better understanding of the review and how it related to the movie.  Once I chose the samples that were of interest, I began to read them.  I had not read any movie reviews before, so it was a new experience for me.  Some of them had vocabulary that was unfamiliar to me, so it took me longer to read and understand them, but I knew, from my experience at the beginning of the project, that it did not matter how much time I was going to spend because everything was part my journey. 

From reading the samples, I learned that there are different rhetorical devices that I could use to write my own movie review, such as questions that help to engage the audience and comparing the movie with another movie of the same genre.  I also learned that I need to be patient and see the value of every step that I take on any future project because everything is part of the learning process.

After my research and reading different samples of movie reviews, the next step was to choose a movie that I wanted to review.  I had a couple in mind. One was the classic story Gone with the Wind, written by Margaret Mitchel, and the other was Peaceful Warrior, a film based on a true story, written by Dan Millman and Kevin Bernhardt.  After thinking for a while about which one to choose, I decided to do my review on Peaceful Warrior because it is a story that I identify with.  I identify with the story because the transformation that Dan Millman, the main character, went through is similar to the process that I am going through in my formation as a Missionary of the Holy Spirit and as a future priest.

The next step in my project was to put into words what I had learned from my research, from reading movie reviews samples, and from watching the movie.  I did not know where to start, but as soon I began to write, I remembered what I learned in journalism class. The questions who, what, why, how, when, and where should be answered in a narration.  These questions served as a guide for my writing, but I found some other difficulties. 

One of the difficulties that I had was thinking critically about the movie.  I believe that because of my personality I find it difficult to judge other people’s work and give my own opinion about them, especially when I have to refer to a negative aspect of their work.  In the first revision of my paper, Dr. Kleiman encouraged me to include more of my own opinion in some parts of my review.  Although it was difficult, I did it, and it helped me to express what I thought about the movie.

Another skill that I was able to practice in the process of writing my review was being open to receive feedback and corrections.  Fr. Alex Rubio, MSpS, a member of my religious community, helped me by making grammatical corrections and he also helped me to choose words that better express the ideas that I wanted to communicate.

Now that I have finished my project, I feel pleased with the work that I did and with everything I have learned throughout this process.  Now I am able to more clearly identify the key elements of a movie; therefore, I can be more critical when I watch a movie and be part of movie conversations.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reviewing Films with the UGP

Editor's Note: This semester journalism student Brother Jesus Romo choose to focus on movie reviews for his Unfamiliar Genre Project.  The review below is the final centerpiece of his project.

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Reality Vs Fiction: A Movie Review of Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior
Cast: Scott Mechlowicz as Dan Millman, Nick Nolte as Socrates, Amy Smart as Joy, Tim DeKay as Coach Garrick, Ashton Holmes as Tommy, Paul Wesley as Trevor, B.J. Britt as Kyle

Directed by Victor Salva

Written by Kevin Bernhardt

Based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Genres: Drama, Romance, Sport

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 120 minutes

June 22, 2006

If this movie is based on a true story, why does it have many scenes that could never happen in reality?  The movie Peaceful Warrior is based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, which is based on a true story. Within the fiction scenes in the film the author wants to show the reality that Dan Millman, played by Scott Mechlowicz, was experiencing throughout his internal transformation in order to inspire his audience.

In the first scene of the movie we find Dan Millman having a nightmare.  In the dream he is doing gymnastics when he falls and his leg breaks off into many pieces.  Socrates, played by Nick Nolte, appears in his dream sweeping up the little pieces of Dan’s leg.  This scene is important because it is a foreshadowing that the author uses to highlight another scene that will come later in the movie.
       
After the nightmare Dan cannot fall back asleep so he goes to a gas station, and there he meets Socrates who is the gas station attendant.  When Dan exits the gas station’s store, he turns back and sees Socrates on the roof.  Given that there is no way for him to have gotten up there so quickly, Dan is amazed, and he asks Socrates how he got up there.  Why does the author use this supernatural event at this moment of the movie?  Perhaps he wants to represent a striking experience for Dan which makes him come back to Socrates, but, it would have been more inspiring if the author had stuck more to reality.
  
After the encounter at the gas station with Socrates, Dan begins a process of inner transformation.  He is a prideful person.  Dan believes that he has everything he needs in life: he comes from a wealthy family, he has good grades in college, he is a good gymnast, he has friends, and he can have as many girls as he wants to sleep with him.  Here, Mechlowicz could have done a better job portraying an arrogant character, so his transformation process and his role as a dynamic character would have been more noticeable to the audience.  

 Since he is not able to sleep at night, he goes to visit Socrates again at the gas station.  Here the author shows that Dan is looking for deeper meaning in his life.  Dan thinks that he knows everything, so he tells Socrates to ask him anything he wants; therefore, Socrates asks him if he is happy.  Dan does not feel comfortable and does not know what to answer because this question moved a deep feeling of emptiness inside of him.

The relationship between Socrates and Dan helps us to see that we need the guidance of others in our searching for happiness.  Nolte does a remarkable job performing as Socrates.  He is like a wise father that knows what is better for his son.  Socrates has the wisdom and the experience to know what is better for Dan, but Dan have to discover it for himself, and Socrates is there just to guide him in his journey. 

This film is worth watching especially by youth who feel empty and do not find meaning in what they do.  In this way Peaceful Warrior is similar to the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  They are both based on a true story, and the main characters think that they can do anything by themselves until they find someone who questions them and accompanies them in the important decisions of their lives.  This movie is also worth watching by youth because it shows that we do not always have the control over our own plans for life.  About halfway through the movie, Dan is driving a motorcycle, and he hits a car at an intersection.  His leg breaks into seventeen pieces, and pieces of glass from the car fall onto the floor, which is reminiscent of the opening scene.  The doctor tells him that he will be able to walk again, but he will not be able to compete in gymnastics again.
 
There are some scenes in this movie that are confusing because it is hard to tell what is actually happening or what is simply the imagination of a character.  For instance, there is a scene where Dan is following Socrates, and he enters into the gym where his coach and his companions are.  Socrates is already seated on a rafter that supports the roof of the gym; Dan climbs up to where Socrates is, and he begins to hear everyone else’s thoughts.  Socrates wants Dan to be aware of how thoughts can take control over him if he does not focus on the present.  At that moment, Dan falls from the rafter, and all of a sudden, they both appear at the gas station.  I was surprised and confused by this unexpected shift of scenes, so this feelings made me focus my attention on the teaching that Socrates was giving Dan.
  
The soundtrack is proper for the events that are happening and helps the audience to get more engaged with the movie.  It also helps the audience to figure out that a significant event is about to happen.  For example, the soundtrack that is used when Dan is going to crash on his motorcycle allows the audience to imagine that a tragedy is going to occur.

Peaceful Warrior is worth watching because it shows the value of true friendship and true love.  When Dan is going through this crisis, Joy, played by Amy Smart, Dan’s friend and a college student who studies at the same college that Dan does, gives him unconditional support; along with Socrates, she accompanies him in these difficult moments.

One of the most intense scenes in the movie --and a key moment to Dan’s transformation-- is when he intended to commit suicide. Dan goes to the top of a tower intending to jump from there.  There he encounters another person just like him who is a part of himself that he has to let go.  I supposed that this person represents his own pride.  This is also one of the confusing scenes because we do not know if Dan actually went to the tower or if it was happening internally.  When he let go of this part of himself he suddenly appeared on his bed.  Because this film is a based on a true story, the author could have made a more clear distinction between the things that physically occurred and those that happened internally.

The author leaves the audience with the question of whether Socrates is real or if he only represents Dan’s intuition.  Near the end there is a scene where Socrates and Dan are at a bar and Socrates tells Dan that he was the one who chose him.  Dan asks him if he is saying that he made him up and Socrates just smiles.  By the end of the movie, Dan wants his coach and his companions to meet Socrates, so he goes to look for him at the gas station, and Socrates is no longer there; someone else is working in his place.  I do not know what the author’s purpose for doing this was, but it leaves the audience with uncertainty and curiosity.