Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mom and Dylan Aced the Final Paper!

Doing the happy dance all over the living room with Dylan. The final grades have been posted and I will graduate with a 3.6 GPA. Thanks to my little environmentalist/animal lover and his awesome choice of movies for my final college paper! Perfect score!

Professors comment "Excellent analysis of this film. Your comments were thorough with good examples to support them. Grade 100%"

Film Critique Disney Oceans
Michelle Fryer

Film Critique Disney Oceans
I have seen some amazing documentaries about the ocean and the life that lives beneath the water’s surface, but Disneynature Oceans is in a league of its own. Yes, there are whales breaching, dolphins leaping at sunset, penguins walking in groups, and the solitary polar bear amid the lone Arctic; however, this ecological documentary film takes the viewer far beyond the common ocean creatures. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud did a spectacular job of capturing the vast undersea world and taking the audience along on a ride of a lifetime.
The fact that 75% of the earth is covered by water and we know more about outer space is astonishing. Disneynature Oceans takes the audience far beyond the ocean’s surface and the pounding waves to uncover the mysteries and hidden treasures that call the ocean their home. Released on Earth Day 2010, this film combines the subtle message of environmental awareness with outstanding cinematography, a melodic musical score by Bruno Coulais, and an almost poetic-like narration by Pierce Brosnan.
With the exception of the beginning and ending scene where we see a young boy standing on the shore looking out into the vast waters of the ocean, this film is set entirely in the ocean. At first, the narration of Pierce Brosnan is strong, but quickly becomes a peaceful ambient backdrop to the main focus of the oceanic creatures. The films composition is solely the marine life who call the ocean their home with little if any background images. The use of underwater cameras and advanced technology with a new construction of digital cameras captures images that most people will never see firsthand. 
In one of the opening scenes, Pierce Brosnan is narrating about the vast world below the water’s surface as the camera zooms in on the ocean from outer space and the audience sees what appear to be stars in the night sky. As if magically transformed before our eyes, these stars dissolve into small specs in the water and then the audience realizes what we are seeing is a school of moon jellyfish gliding through the depths of the ocean. The lighting from the sun above the water enhances the transparency of jellyfish and gives way to their delicate bodies and intricate tentacles. Without narration, the silence becomes meditative and the soft sound of violins adds to the sheer beauty of these creatures.
The filming of Oceans is so spectacular that the audience becomes mesmerized by the images of rays soaring through the clear blue waters like a kite and the magnificent blanket octopus flowing feely life a scarf blowing in the wind. The gentle humpback whales swimming gracefully through the water and then breaching above the surface to show their massive size and strength is awe inspiring. As a pod of spinner dolphins swim through the water, the specialized underwater cameras follow alongside of them and with what seems like one swift movement the dolphins are leaping and spinning in the air only to fall elegantly back into the water. The editing of the underwater camera footage and the above water camera footage flow seamlessly together and allow the audience to feel as if they are swimming right alongside the dolphins.
One of my favorite scenes occurs when we see a school of common dolphins swimming swiftly underwater in a carefully executed pattern to trap sardines. The camera then cuts to a flock of sea birds flying overhead and the orchestra music begins to play. As the tempo of the music begins to escalate, the sea birds began to dive into the water as if they were torpedoes. The musical score is in perfect rhythm with the sea birds as they hit the water and faint sounds of water splashes are heard. As the camera cuts quickly between the birds diving into the water from above and the underwater feeding of the birds and the dolphins from below, the orchestra music becomes louder as sharks and a blue whale joins in. The musical score is a carefully played out concert moving in rhythm with the waves, dolphins, sea birds, and whale as this feeding frenzy occurs above and below the water’s surface.
One of my favorite uses of sound in the film is the use of silence. With the exception of the soft-spoken poetic narration of Pierce Brosnan, which is intermittently heard throughout the film, the only sounds heard are those of the ocean and the life beneath the surface. The directors understand the importance of watching a mother humpback whale swim with her calf and hearing nothing but the sounds of the humpback’s song. To show how fierce the ocean can be and the dangers that face some of the creatures like the penguins in Antarctica, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks is the only sound needed as we watch the penguins struggle to ride the wave up and jump to the safety of dry land.
I will admit at times I questioned the camera angles and how some of the footage was possible. In particular, the scene where a great white shark is within inches of the camera lens as it is filmed from head to tail. Just as the camera turns around the other side of the shark, another underwater camera can be seen in the distance. The point of view now changes to that of a wide angle lens as we see the view from this other camera. Indeed, there is a diver with a camera, only inches away from a great white shark. As Jacques Cluzaud states on the official Disney website (n.d.), “We took the time to allow the animals to invite us in. We waited to become a fish among fish” (Production Notes, para. 1). The wait resulted in what I consider to be one of the best documentaries I have seen about the world’s oceans. I have always had a love for the ocean and I believe that the combination of outstanding cinematography, flawless editing, and a powerfully moving musical score make Disneynature Oceans a must see for everyone.
 Disneynature Oceans is a tranquil meditation of aquatic life set to rhythmic music with small glimpses of the harsh reality some creatures face with the perils of being at the lower end of the food chain. Filmed in five oceans all across the globe, this film will inspire the audience to learn more about the mysteries of the deep and ignite a love for the underwater world. I give Disneynature Oceans four out of four stars.

Disney. (n.d.). Disneynature Oceans. Retrieved from

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