Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Usual Suspects 

This is one of those movies whose plot and storyline just cannot be replicated. For me, this was one of the first movies that fell into the ‘psychological thriller’ category. A friend of mine told me that, ‘the usual suspects’ was the only movie that ever took him by surprise. The time of release, (1995) was an added bonus. Since it was one of the first movies of its kind, it created a huge impact on its audience. The film effectively manipulates the audience perceptions through the narration of Verbal Kint. The audience inherently believes Kint’s version of the events is true. The basic question throughout the movie….”Who is Keyser Soze? Kevin Spacey effectively portrays his role as the ‘stupid cripple’ thus leading the audience suspicions away from him.

And of course, you have the irony. Every corner you turn, this movie is full of irony! One of the most ironic quotes was when Kujan tells Kint, “Let me get right to the point, I'm smarter than you, and I'm going to find out what I need to know, and I'm going to get it from you whether you like it or not.”. The main impact it created on me was that we never really do know the whole story. Everything was masterfully made up by Kint. At the end of the movie, you get the feeling that everything Kint said was ironic. The only thing we are sure of is that, Kint masterminded the whole operation tactfully to get rid of the only person who could incriminate him. We have no concrete reason to believe that there was even a person called ‘Redfoot’. The art of leaving a part of the story to the audiences’ imagination is what makes this movie a huge success.

As I like absorbing myself in a movie and going with the plot, I do not have a knack for spotting clues and tiny details. Sara’s entry explores a lot of these details which are quite interesting. The internet movie database also has a nice collection of trivia which I found pretty interesting. A nice little tidbit….
“When Redfoot flicks his cigarette into the face of McManus it was originally intended to hit his chest, so McManus' reaction is actually Stephen Baldwin's real unscripted reaction that Bryan Singer decided to keep in the movie “
For more stuff, IMDB’s the place!

The Usual Suspects 

>>>>Spoiler Alert: this is a great film too so don't read this if you ever plan to watch it<<<<<

The Usual Suspects is one more of those "knock you off your feet ending" movies. A complete and utter surprise, you'd have to be quicker on your feet than i am to discover the true criminal. The only question really on anyone's mind is "Who is Keyser Soze?" A few clues the director has helped along with include the close up of the cigarette box on Detective Cushman's desk and the other close up at the beginning and ending of the film of the ropes/dock stuff of where Kint is supposedly hiding during the terror on the dock. A flash of Hockney's face when he gets shot is one of pure surprise, a hint that the murderer was probably someone Hockney knew. The script is really the best clue of all of them. Mostly from listening to 'Verbal' Kint you can catch a few phrases that would indicate he is the true mastermind. A few to note:
Jeff Rabin: "I'm telling you this guy is protected from up on high by the Prince of Darkness."
Verbal: "You think you can catch Keyser Soze? You think a guy like that comes this close to getting caught, and sticks his head out? If he comes up for anything it'll be to get rid of me. After that... my guess is you'll never hear from him again. "
Verbal: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. "
Verbal: "How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?"
Verbal: "A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
Verbal: "I'm really thirsty. When I was a kid I used to dehydrate, and my piss came out like snot. I mean, it was all thick and gross." *In the scene where Keyser Soze urinates on the fire it comes out thick and lumpy... of course i didn't realize that was urine....*
Verbal: "And like that... he's gone."

In one of the scenes where Kujan is yelling at Kint (if you look and listen really closely) Kint cries out "I killed Keaton" but Kujan is screaming so loudly at him that he misses it. The acting is really quite spectacular on Kevin Spacey's part in particular although truly, the whole film was very well cast. The film's trick ending was very influentual (Fight Club and Sixth Sense both were released several years after) and is definitely worth watching.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Exploring the plot of Fight Club 

Phew! Sara’s scrutinizing analysis of the cinematography leaves me no room to explore the visuals of the movie (sure did do a good job!). My other choice is to talk about the plot. Not being the great movie buff that everyone seems to be, I have limited knowledge of other movies which explore the same kind of plot. A multiple personality disorder theme has always been a good base for suspense/thriller themes. I have read various books which exploit the same ‘multiple personality disorder’ theme in different ways. Most of these books are murder mysteries or thrillers. The reason there are not many movies exploiting this theme is because, to use the audience imagination successfully is possible mainly in books. Visually, it is harder to project on screen the same effect that books have. However, David Finch does an excellent job of leading the audience perceptions on a roller coaster!

The main success of the movie is due to the fact that Finch, leads the audiences focus onto ‘Project Mayhem’ and the ‘Club’. The audience never has any reason to doubt the sanity of the narrator until gradually, towards the end we start doubting the sanity of Tyler and at the end……..voila it is the narrator himself. This plot could have easily been made a mess of , if it were not for the visuals. Fight Club is a movie where you undergo completely different experience when you watch it for the second time.
First time, it gives you the ‘psychological thriller’ experience. Second time you watch it, you look for those tiny details like Sara noticed hence giving you a totally different experience. The exact quote from Sara’s entry, “The narrator's eyes are always shadowed at the beginning of the movie and after Tyler shows up on the scene, if the narrator is not in the shadows, Tyler is, or if they are both in bright lights, one face or the other is blurry”. The excellent combination of a good plot and visual techniques makes this movie a memorable one.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Fight Club-cinematography 

The cinematography and direction of Fight Club is an important, and visually stunning, part of the film. David Fincher (director) and Jeff Cronenweth (cinematographer) allow the camera angles and color provide hints to the film's end without giving away the ending. One example is the use of color. In the scenes in which we are inside the narrator's head they are bright and vibrant, (ex. inside the cave and during the lye burn scene) whereas during his every day life the colors are dark, unsaturated or "grungy." They use a similar form of bright colors during the project mayhem scenes. Usually the scenes in which Tyler is most destructive is the clearest. A specific camera angle they use is an extreme close shot of anything having to do with Tyler. For example, the close up pan of the refrigerator/stove before the explosion in the narrator's apartment, the telephone grid before the narrator calls Tyler, and the spliced videos. Some of the shots are used to exemplify interesting/important information. Some examples would be the sign in front of the narrator's apartment building which says "Pearson Towers: 'A place to be somebody'" (which ironically blows up) and the shot of the briefcases which just happen to be exactly the same. The use of shadows is also distinctive if you're keeping an eye out for it. The narrator's eyes are always shadowed at the beginning of the movie and after Tyler shows up on the scene, if the narrator is not in the shadows, Tyler is, or if they are both in bright lights, one face or the other is blurry. Another tactic is the skewed camera shot. It's a harsh use of camera angles that indicates "everything's wrong with the world." David Fincher uses it in the bathroom scene with Tyler and in several scenes with Marla. Some other interesting things i noticed with no particular order or category: Flashes of Tyler before he's introduced as a character, as the narrator is saying "do you ever wish you could wake up as a different person?" Tyler glides by on the moving sidewalk in the airport, in the office scene with his boss he says "for some reason this reminded me of my first fight with Tyler" and there's a frozen camera shot, and the director really likes his smoke effects, ex: after the narrator shoots himself and the smoke comes out of Tyler's mouth and Marla's smoking.

Audience manipulation in Fight Club 

Expanding further on audience manipulations, Fight Club introduces some interesting plot twists. Tyler Durden is aware that he is the manifestation of the unnamed narrator's desire while the unnamed narrator has no clue. This leads to several interesting dialogues between them after the unnamed narrator becomes aware of the situation. In a scene towards the end of the film, both the characters are fighting and the unnamed narrator fires a bullet at Tyler near a van of explosives. Tyler shouts, “Whoa! You’re firing a bullet at your imaginary friend… NEAR 400 GALLONS OF NITRO-GLYCERIN!” This epitomizes the entire theme of the movie, the absurdity of the two characters fighting as well as the struggle within the unnamed narrator. To quote the narrator after shooting himself in the head to kill, “You’ve met me at a very strange time in my life.” This is the biggest understatement of the entire movie.

The duality in characters expands to show other characters living a double life as well. In a scene in a police station, the unnamed narrator outlines Tyler’s and Project Mayhem’s plans to blow up credit card companies. The cops, who are members of Project Mayhem, respond with their admiration for the narrator for setting an example for members of Project Mayhem and attempt to cut his balls out. Even the police live a life separate from their day jobs. Fight Club and Project Mayhem are the double lives of the members just as Tyler is the unnamed narrator’s double life.

Fight Club 

Fight Club definitely has some very unique characters that are fascinating. These characters are bought to life by the wonderfully talented actors. The characters were developed and have depth to them that make them believable. To make a trust worthy character does not only take talent but also a very good execution of the different characteristics of the character. One of the characteristics of a character includes their style of clothing. The clothing of a person says something about a person and thus this applies to characters in novels and movies. The clothing in movies makes all the difference because it brings the character more to life. It is hard to imagine a cowboy in a suit riding the horse into the sunset. When a character is described, details about what the character wears becomes important because it creates an image which is critical. Similarly when a character comes up on the screen their clothing describes them and their personality.
The main character played a regular everyday material world man and his clothing implies his personality. He is always seen in dress pants and an oxford collared shirt that is worn to work. As his personality changes, the audience can see it thru the change in clothing. He starts to wear his clothes in a manner that suggests carelessness and apathy towards his work and the materialistic world. This character’s imaginary person, his alter ego, Tyler Durden, wears very bold and bizarre clothing. There are times when the viewers see this character in a pink robe that has coffee cups on it. He always wears clothes that are very much opposite of the narrator of the story. In some ways the clothing of this character can be seen as a clue to the fact that he only exists in the narrator’s mind. Not only does Tyler wears out of the ordinary clothing but his behavior it self is questionable. One would say that it is hard to recognize at first but with a deeper look at this character would show other wise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Fight Club 

In the film 'Fight Club,' the narrator’s perceptions of the world around him lead to the confusion and changing perceptions of the audience about the film. The narrator, who never gives his name within the film, observes the objects, processes, and situations in his surrounding environment through his sensory organs. His descriptions, hypotheses, and constructs of the world around him change to reflect the growing rift in his mental attitude. Therefore, he allows himself to become a part of his of his own constructs.

In order not to spoil the movie, I will not provide specific examples relative to the films ending. 'Fight Club' is a "Psychological Thriller" in the true sense of the meaning. The director deliberately misleads the audience into a false perception of the characters in order to advance the true plot. The director introduces Tyler Durden in several heavily crowded scenes making speeches as viewed by the narrator from an outside perspective. This misleads the audience into believing he is a physical character. As the film continues, Tyler is developed into the bad guy movie-goers expect in films. This development further misleads the audience. The director inputs certain single slides within the film itself to flash an image to the audience as a hint that events are not what they appear. Such occurrences transpire often throughout the course of the film in order to justify the ending. Another justification to the ending occurs within several statements made between the narrator and Tyler Durden as the story progresses (if you want to know what they are, you will have to watch the movie which I highly recommend). As a "Psychological Thriller," 'Fight Club' stimulates the minds of the audience into believing the film is about an external struggle between the proverbial good guy and bad guy. The director of the film cleverly utilizes the aforementioned techniques throughout the film to justify the ending. Only a clever, insightful, and aware audience sees through the clever masquerade to the truth lying behind the director’s schemes. However, almost all audiences (including myself) only see the truth in hindsight of viewing the spectacular ending of the film. This is the main reason I classify 'Fight Club' as one of the best "Psychological Thrillers."

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


A psychological thriller is by far the best kind of a movie that can be seen. This genre of movies truly make a person involved in the movie and make them think. Though movies are meant for entertainment or so some say, they can also be very thought provoking. These sort of movies usually are capable of obtaining the audiences’ attention, the movies makes them think and demand the audience to put information together. These sort of movies are like a puzzle. The audience is slowly given the information through the narrator, who only knows what the audience know. The fact that the narrator is discovering information along with the audience make the movies all the more interesting. Sometimes the narrators themselves don’t know what is happening and this puts the audience in a state of confusion that requires them to pay attention and understand.
The plotline for psychological thrillers is also very unique. The story commonly starts at the end, then goes to beginning and then works itself towards the end. This unusual structure makes people may attention to the details of the story because they are trying to put the information together. There is usually one narrator for the story. The director makes the audience sympathize with this character so that the audience trusts this character. The narrators in such kinds of movies are always involved in a personal conflict. This conflict plays a major in the movie. The personal conflicts are what cause the twist in the story. For example in beautiful mind, professor Nash is trying to cope with his mental illness, to do so he must over come his trust in the illusions he sees.
The characters in these movies are very developed and this gives depth to the movie. The movies make a statement about the society. The movies present to the viewers a different world and are able to pull the audience in these worlds. psychological thrillers make movies a form art.

Introductory Thoughts 

Alternatively, perception is an observer's awareness or appreciation of objects, processes or situations in his environment mediated through his sensory organs, and an observer's descriptions, hypotheses or constructs of the world of which he becomes thereby a part. Building on Michael's manipulation of perception, there are several perceptions present within a film; the perception of the actors within the film as viewed through the camera and the perceptions of the audience viewing the film. In my opinion, a good movie (especially "Psychological thrillers" as Arathi states) should produce a shift in the conscious perception of the audience through the careful manipulation of the actors perceptions within the film.

In 'A Beautiful Mind,' the filmmaker distorts the audience's perception of events occurring within the film through clever twists in the plot. In order to not spoil the film, I will not reveal specific details about the film. However, I will specify that the film causes the audience to rethink their perceptions of the action within the movie. Only a sharp observer will catch the subtleties that mark the difference in perceptions between the delusional John Nash and the perceptions of those around him.


Many movies today all contain the same problem: you can predict the ending. "Psychological thrillers" to use Aarthi's term, leave the watcher in suspense throughout the film, which is what makes them so captivating. They aren't the usual "good guy vs. bad guy, good guy is gonna win" type movies. Not that they don't necessarily have bad guys and good guys, but the "bad guy" doesn't always lose in these movies. The great thing about these movies is how surprised you can be at the end of the movie. Granted it can be nice to watch a movie sometimes because you'll know it's a "feel good movie" (ex: Disney, romance comedies) but the whole point of movies nowadays is to get lost in the situation, the characters, the story in general. Viewing a movie that takes you on a total mental trip is akin to losing your mind briefly, just like the characters.

The movie I chose for this is actually The Sixth Sense. Despite the fact that the movie leaves plenty of clues for the close observer, to many the ending came as a total and complete surprise, myself included. A brief description of the film: Boy sees ghosts, psychologist tries to help him while dealing with his own problems. In helping the kid he discovers something that blew not only his mind, but the audiences. I won't give away the ending just yet but if you read Aarthi's blog I'm sure you can guess what might be the case. The important thing about The Sixth Sense is it's a brand new idea with fantastic direction and acting. It truly draws you into the story and whacks you over the head with the ending.

Introduction into my view for this project 

Spoiler Warning
A filmmaker's manipulation of the audience's perception is an interesting tool to engage the readers. It allows a movie to quickly shift audience interpretation of a film. In Fight Club, the hotel scene when the unnamed narrator realizes he is Tyler Durden examplifies the use of this technique. This one sequence shifts the entire interpretation of the movie up to that point. Edward Norton's character begins his fight against himself and Tyler goes on knowing what he always has. This scene begins the acceleration towards the climax. The final scene frames the context of the whole movie in a light entirely different than the viewing to that point would have led you to. The final bullet into the unnamed narrator ends the film and both the life of Pitt's and Norton's characters.

Unique use of film techniques to engage the readers helps develope and establish Fight Club as a film that transcends the action flick genre. The stanard criteria of action movies, exciting action and violence, does little to draw positive reviews from critiques. Fight Club however recieved many favorable reviews and regardless of the negative ones establishes an interesting position for itself. The film's use of audience manipulation twists the film in a direction that is worthy of mention and investigation.


The mark of a good movie is how successful it is in its ability to involve its audience, and how much the audience can relate to its characters. The movies that we are going to be talking about drag the audience into their plots and almost always end in an anticlimax. What movies do you normally classify as thrillers? The first category that comes to mind is ‘horror’. But that is not the case, ‘psychological’ thrillers are not horror movies, they are movies where the director seeks to trick the audience perception into something and uncover the truth at the end. Such movies are almost always successful because the director manages to draw the audience minds into the movie so much that they are genuinely surprised at the outcome of the movie when it is an anticlimax.

The movie I chose for the first assignment is, ‘The Others’. (SPOILER ALERT) This movie truly fits the criteria for ‘eyes-wide-mouth-open-‘what the…’’ movies. It probably would not be as appealing if people watched ‘Sixth Sense’ before watching this movie as this movie follows along its lines. The movie is set during the 2nd World war, in an old Victorian house (as Victorian houses make the best target for being ‘haunted’ with ghosts!) The mother (Nicole Kidman) and her two children move into the house and strange things begin happening (as usual with Victorian houses). I do not want to go into the details of the movie, but the outline is that they think the house is being haunted by ghosts of people. (Boy I hate giving the end of a movie as I conveniently did in class and my two classmates were ready to strangle me…but..) *SPOILER ALERT*We find out that the Nicole Kidman and her two kids are the ones haunting the house and that they died a long time ago, when Nicole killed her two children and the two kids.

Since the movie hit the theatres soon after Sixth Sense did, people who watched Sixth Sense probably could have guessed its ending. But by itself, the director did a superb job. The Victorian setting, good creepy, eerie music, and all the jerks have been done excellently. It is one of the better movies that I have seen.