Film Analysis and Reviews

Oakley – The Milagro Beanfield War

Analysis of Cultural Diversity in Robert Redford’s

The Milagro Beanfield War

In Robert Redford’s The Milagro Beanfield War, entrepreneur Ladd Devine uses wealth and elected officials to manipulate a Hispanic working-class community in building a recreation center. Areas of race, class, gender, and ability are all portrayed throughout the film—the most prominent area being the issues of the upper and lower classes. Does Redford’s depiction of war between classes reach a dominant reception or will situations and characters only appear as stereotypical and nonnegotiable interpretations? Taking a closer look and analyzing the literary and visual designs (among other technical aspects) may reveal the miracle beanfield a true sensation inspired by the heroism of a united people and a little bit of magic.
Immediately the name of Robert Redford may yield great attention. The acclaimed actor made his big break as “The Sundance Kid” and would go on to becoming a director earning an Academy Award in 1981. Eight years later he adapted John Nichols’ Novel of the Southwest into The Milagro Beanfield War;a film that tells of one man’s rugged individualism as he struggles to defend his small beanfield and his community against big business and political interests.
The cultural diversity observed kicks off with the predominantly Hispanic and Catholic fictional town of Milagro (miracle in Spanish). Heredwell the lives of Amarante Cordova, a stubborn old man who talks to an angel and dead saints; Joe Mondragon,a farmer out of work; Charlie Bloom, an unsuccessful lawyer who runs a bimonthly newspaper, and Ruby Archuleta the female mechanic—all of them, in one way or another, have something to do with a beanfield that is making a whole lot more trouble than it is actually worth.
The issue at hand, as one might think, doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact that most of the characters in the film are Hispanic and Catholic, but rather they are all under-waged working-class citizens who are Hispanic and Catholic. As if they are only good for is running a small town, farms, and construction, the stereotypical situation hardly gives them any credit for being capable, hardworking, and successful individuals. All the same, they still manage to band together and fight against the injustice set upon them by evil white men who are politicians and running big business—revealing that the lack of success and prosperity really come from the repression of a corrupt upper class that consists of dominate white patriarchal capitalists.
Gender roles are also explored in the film. The dominant masculinity expressed in the film is the irrational use of guns and violence while the intellectual and leading activist is the female mechanic. Rudy Archuleta is the primary voice against Ladd Devine and his plot to slowly end every man, women, and child’s way of life in Milagro while, Joe Mondragon represents a rugged, angry, struggling criminal nearly killing the people he’s fighting for.
What the people don’t realize is that along with the overpriced water for irrigation, their taxes will also be going up if the Miracle Valley recreational center is built—leaving them soon out of work and out of home with all their money going into the pocket of the state and Ladd Devine. This issue is soon realized when Joe decides to sow bean seeds with water he doesn’t own creating a spark of rebellion and independence. Before the people relied on Devine for work in construction, but when Joe cannot get a job, he takes matters into his own hands inspiring his small community and striking fear for the big profitable business.
Considering this issue from a more rational approach, Ruby wants to run an article in the newspaper to inform the people of not just Joe’s act of rebellion but also the consequences of the recreation center. She tries to leave it up to the discretion of Charlie Bloom to write the article, but Charlie plays the role of a bitter lawyer who won’t succumb to the women’s demands. In turn Ruby threatens to write her own article that Charlie later claims would get them sued for liable (perhaps stereotyping the irrational and forceful tone of women).  Later on, Ruby tries to call for a town meeting to democratically address the issue beginning it with a rhetorical speech to call into action an organization that would preserve the land. It is worthy to note that when someone nominates her to be the organization’s president, a member of the community states that she couldn’t because she’s a woman.
Finally there is an issue of segregation among Milago’s own people between generations and the abilities of the elderly. Along with that, there also appears to be an issue being tied with a member of the community with only one arm.Both are depicted as being delusional as the oldest man in town talks to the heavens and the man with one arm is still searching for the missing one despite the accident occurred long ago. In the end, they are town heroes very capable of holding their own.
Robert Redford directed a film that encompasses great cultural diversity between social classes and generational values by telling the story of a hypothetical and fictional event.Romanticizing audiences with discourses of an elderly man and an angel, Redford still manages to reveal a believable community with believable problems. The magic involved does not entirely take the film into a direction of being a fantasy, but rather the divine having an influence over the fate of the people. This is done mostly through the visual design of miraculous events being closely tied to the presence of the Angel. There is still a feeling of doubt as when seen with the older man by the objective view of another; the Angel appears to no longer be there. This is all accomplished by editing two shots together. For example, there is a scene where one shot features the Angel talking to the old man for a couple of takes and then vanishes once another character enters featuring the old man as talking to himself.
The use of location is also quite effective as the film was shot in the location indicated by John Nichols’ Novel: Milago is a town near the New Mexico Mountains. This adds to the realism of the setting by shooting on location. The time period would most likely be set during the time of the making of the film in the late 80’s. This could add an appeal to have a close relationship with the film as it takes place during a time audiences could relate. Modern viewers may not find it as appealing although the issues at hand may still be relevant.
The Milago Beanfield War empathically deals with social issues of a time through the eyes of those who experience hardship while gaining a hope in the divine and each other. The rolls of the people limit themselves only to the capacity of the mind. No matter the class, gender, or personal ability, nothing can or should stand in the way of social justice. Although violence appears inevitable, it is the inspired will of the people and their passionate heritage that wins in the end making a modern magic bean story yet another tale to learn from.

Oakley – Suffocation

The Following is a film analysis (not a review or synopsis) I performed as a part of my Intro to Film course at the University of North Texas. Throughout this analysis I have assumed the reader is familiar with the film in question and would also caution that it is not a film I would normally recommend. However, there can still be a lot to learn from a Hollywood narrative while observing the more prominent theme of “Isolation from Adulthood”. The Graduate, although a 70’s classic,  contains adult themes and content wherefore viewer discretion is advised.

A Theme of Suffocation

Mike Nichols’ The Graduate formally introduces a thematic portrayal of social isolation through the eyes of Benjamin Braddock, the college graduate who is worried about his future.Early in the film, Benjamin sits alone in his room while a congratulatory party awaits him outside. A more isolated miniature scuba diver figurine in a fish tank stands behind him, foreshadowing a sequence in the film desiring even closer attention. Isolation from adulthood appears as one of the most prominent themes throughout the film, and the analysis of this sequence will allow for a better understanding of its design. All five formal axis of Hollywood cinema shall be taken in close account beginning with the literary design.
Dressed in California Contemporary Sport style, the Braddocks are celebrating Benjamin’s twenty-first birthday. The scene opens with Benjamin’s father announcing to everyone the unveiling of the “Afternoon’s feature attraction.” Benjamin is hesitant to come out and embarrass himself as he sounds to be having second thoughts about his birthday present. Left with no choice, Benjamin comes outside wearing a diving suit and is led to his new underwater habitat. His naïve and undisclosed desires are repressed to captivating depths.
Throughout the entirety of this sequence, there is an almost nauseous and tantalizing tone overwhelming the obvious pride of Benjamin’s father and the forceful nonsense Benjamin has to put up with. He’s finally done it. He’s raised a boy into a young man of 21 with a college degree and honors almost claiming as if they were all his own achievements. And yet the reality of the situation is the timid Benjamin who looks all but dashing and confident in his birthday suit. Benjamin’s choices have been made for him all his life leading him on to becoming the morally drifting and indecisive degenerate at the bottom of the pool. Like the little scuba doll in the fish tank, Benjamin is nothing more than a piece of materialistic value to cling to.
The dialogue comprises mostly of Benjamin’s father along with the annoyed, impatient banter from the audience and the subtle protests of Benjamin waiting in the kitchen. Benjamin’s father sounds like the ring master of a circus but is soon cut off when Benjamin walks out of the kitchen and the perspective is taken all from his point of view. Behind the mask, nothing can be heard other than the loud gestures of Benjamin’s father and the breathing apparatus. Led to the pool, Benjamin takes a plunge and is forced under by his father’s mindless and vicarious self-indulgence.
The Graduate is a very appropriate title as the story is about that of a graduating college student, but the title could also be interpreted as the sign of a new era: graduating not only from college but also into the adult class. The irony of it all, however, is although Benjamin Braddock has finished his college education, he’s still left as unsure and insecure as when he was a child—he has graduated but he hasn’t really “grownup.”
The visual design takes the literary design further. With the establishing shots and use of angles, it is only clear of what mood needs to be felt during this sequence and what is to be interpreted based on the visualization of the words of a script to pictures on a screen. From the young and hip clothing a much older generation is wearing to the mature and committed clothing of the younger generations throughout the film there would seem to be a battle being waged between the materialistic and the intellectual. Among the more impressive shots would be whenthe perspective of the viewer is taken behind the mask and through the eyes of Benjamin adding not only creativity to the shot but also the symbolic meanings behind Benjamin’s mask of isolation and narrow vision. Of course, this all ties in very well with the cinematography of the sequence following a very formalistic style with the precision of American Society of Cinematographer’s Robert Surtees.
The film was shot on Panavision 35mm anamorphic film using an anamorphic lens attaining a very wide field of view and a classic Hollywood frame. What this also achieves is subjecting audiences to more than just a single subject; however, close-ups remained the most effective and used shot. The most sticking shot used in this sequence is when Benjamin walks out in his Scuba suit toward the camera looking almost directly into the lens and breaking the fourth wall. Benjamin’s body fills the frame and the shot is changed to his perspective—literally through the mask. Finally, the camera is submerged underwater (which would require special underwater housing for the entire body of the camera) and the final shot is a wide shot of Benjamin left alone under water. All these shots were carefully edited together into a story told by Sam O’Steen.
The sequence and the voice of Benjamin’s Father is actually heard “off-camera.” In other words, the editor implanted the use of a “J-cut” and does so again when the scene ends when we hear Mrs. Robinson begin a conversation with Benjamin over the phone. What this accomplishes (especially at the end of the sequence) is allowing the viewers into the head of the protagonist, almost literally allowing them to hear Benjamin’s thoughts along with seamless transitions from one sequence to the next. A “reverse” cut is also used breaking the line of action but allowing the use of the “reverse shot” when Benjamin walks toward the camera and then transitions to his point of view and through the scuba mask. The sequence finally ends with a montage of Benjamin going into the pool, being forced down under, and then left alone in a human sized fish tank with Mrs. Robinson a phone call away.
Having analyzed almost every aspect of this sequence, a discussion of the sound design could not be left out. Realizing the importance of sound only to the point of being able to hear the dialog leaves out the actual importance and use of silence among other effects. Although the dialogue serves as a driving force for this sequence, the most memorable scene is when nothing can be heard at all except Benjamin’s breathing apparatus. This silence and not being able to hear outside of the mask could indicate more toward the theme of isolation and Benjamin’s self election to drown out the noise tying close to Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence which opens the film. This could also be interpreted as the silence that dwells in and around Benjamin’s life giving him a “no one listens and no one cares” mentality.
The Isolation Benjamin Braddock faces among his adult peers may have everything to do with the large gap between generations; he either cannot hear or will not listen and this is demonstrated well through the analyzed sequence. Although this single part certainly will not do entirely on its own to tell a story; it still plays a powerful roll in gaining a better understanding of the themes involved leading to a mosaic of motifs and overall the bigger picture. From the figurine in the fish tank to the drudge in the pool, Benjamin’s nothing more than property with no future to call his own.