Works Cited for Final Paper

Works Cited

Brunner, Rob . “Zero Dark Thirty and the Hunt for Bin Laden.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <;.

Marine, Joe . “Behind the Scenes with the Sound Design Team for Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’.” No Film School  Behind the Scenes with the Sound Design Team for Ben Afflecks Argo Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <;.

Zurcher, Matt. “Interview: Alexandre Desplat on Composing for “Argo” & “Zero Dark Thirty”.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <;.


Final Paper: Zero Dark Thirty and Argo

Academy-award winning films Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are both based on a series of real events. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, tells the story of Maya, a CIA operative, and her first encounter with Ammar, a member of the Al Qaeda group who assisted the terrorist attacks against the United States of America on September 11, 2001. At first, she stands in the interrogation room unsure as to how she should feel about the extreme torturing process in which the CIA has tactlessly been using. She comes to believe that this may be the only way in which the U.S. can obtain the information necessary to capture Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama Bin Laden. The pursuit for Bin Laden continues for several years and finally, a whole decade later, all of Maya’s hard work has paid off when he is finally found and killed by the U.S. Navy SEAL team. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, tells another story. The movie begins with a short history lesson of the Persian Empire and moves in to present times. It is now 1979 and the American Embassy in Iran has been invaded by Iranian radicals who have taken many Americans hostage while six manage to escape and flee to the Canadian Embassy. The story continues with Tony Mendez, a CIA operations specialist, and his crazy plan to help the remaining Americans escape by disguising them as Canadian filmmakers. After many obstacles and encounters with Iranian guards, Mendez’s plan follows through and the six return safely home. The rest of the American hostages are released a year later. While Bigelow’s film explains the events that contributed to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and Affleck’s film retold the story of the United States’ part in the hostage in Iran, both films reenacted true events that affected the United States and other countries. Themes of torture in both films led the audience to view the film as more realistic and relatable. The directors also used music and sound to their advantage when creating these two films. Their unique director styles contributed to the success of both films as well. It is through these themes of torture, use of sound, and distinctive techniques that Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck can be considered auteurs in Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, respectively.

An extremely controversial theme that Affleck presents in Zero Dark Thirty is the use of harsh torturing tactics as the CIA pursues the notorious Osama Bin Laden. Ammar is the first victim to these torturing techniques and experiences things like water boarding and being humiliated in front of many CIA agents. This form of torture is very realistic to the kind of torture that members of Al Qaeda actually experienced. The Americans goal was to make the terrorists feel as though they are powerless. Ammar is embarrassed in front of everyone so that he feels worthless and vulnerable. Even though some people may be against it, the only way to get information out of Ammar and the other terrorists was to torture them. Sound was another necessary part in making Zero Dark Thirty an artistic film. It aided the audience’s attention to understanding what exactly was going on and when it was going on. The music emphasizes the emotion that the film is trying to give the audience. Kathryn Bigelow can definitely be considered an auteur because of this sound technique. Her films are unique to her own feminist personality as well. The main character in this film is a woman, something different in this film than in her other films. However, Maya has some manly features that do not make the gender of the main character that unrealistic. She is smart, powerful, and can administer the same torture that Dan could without thinking twice about it. She is not the stereotypical woman that the audience may have thought her to be in the beginning of the film.

Argo presents many themes of torture as well. There are intense scenes where the audience sees the Americans being threatened with guns as the Iranians attempt to overrun their embassy. Ben Affleck shows the Americans being shoved around which renders them as scared and powerless to the Iranians. Sound is important in all movies, but in Argo, Affleck’s use of sound enhances each scene to relate more to the realistic and serious nature of the film. It captures the audience’s attention and directs them to the major details of each scene. Affleck wanted all of the music in the film to be “real, raw and gritty”. In other words, the music needed to be accurate and real to keep the story real. Many extras were put into the movie to voice the chants of the Iranian people which were actually the real chants that would have been said during the time of the revolution (Marine). Affleck’s career started out small, taking acting classes for fun with his good friend Matt Damon. He began landing parts in smaller films such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dazed and Confused,” but soon wanted to write films too. His first work was the script for “Good Will Hunting” which he collaborated on with Damon. He has written the scripts for and directed many other films since then, but what is unique about Affleck is that he stars in almost all of the films that he directs. In Argo, he plays main character Tony Mendez. Affleck has definitely grown up since his small acting career and is now considered an auteur in film.

Many critics complain that Bigelow’s portrayal of torture was immoral and not accurate, when on the contrary, it was necessary to make the film more realistic. The basis for the film was firsthand accounts of people who actually experienced the events the film talks about. When Bigelow is asked in an interview about why she decided to show the harsh interrogation methods, she simply responds, “There’s no question it was difficult, but to deny it would have been to be inaccurate” (Brunner). In Argo, Affleck did not go as in depth with the torture scenes as Bigelow did. His use of torture scenes was minimal and straight to the point whereas Bigelow took a risk by drawing them out and making them extremely violent. However, both directors used the torture scenes to show the loss of power that the ones being tortured were succumbed to. Bigelow proved how weak and vulnerable Ammar was to the CIA agents and Affleck showed the Americans as defenseless to the Iranians. Alexandre Desplat was the composer for most of the music played throughout Zero Dark Thirty and Argo.  When asked how he decided to approach the two films, he responded “Zero Dark Thirty is a tragedy. Argo is about hope… The first thing I do is read the script and process the emotions… I try to go into the screen itself and find how the characters work and the lighting and the dialogue” (Zurcher). Both directors wanted to keep the music real and true to their individual film and Desplat respected that. Even though the two films have similar settings, Zero Dark Thirty is a more heartrending story while Argo stays cheerful that the Americans will make it out of there. These different moods called for different styles of music, but the music was still there to keep the audience engaged in the story. Bigelow’s feminist personality shines through in her other films such as “The Hurt Locker” with the main character being that stereotypical “macho” man. Affleck stars as Doug MacRay in one of his other films “The Town”. Bigelow and Affleck clearly have different techniques that they have kept consistent throughout many of their films, which is why they can both be considered auteurs.

Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck have successfully presented scenes of torture, sound techniques, and kept true to their own individual ideas in their films, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, which has deemed them true auteurs in film. They chose to depict their torture scenes in different ways, but their choices paid off as it kept the film genuine and captivating for the audience to watch. While they both had Desplat compose a lot of the music for their films, the music was in no way the same and did an excellent job of keeping the correct mood for each story. Finally, Bigelow and Affleck have a certain quality about them which shines through in many of their films. Bigelow’s feminist personality allows the audience to recognize any of her films and Affleck’s way of staring in many of his films is something that not every director does. He is both a director and actor and being that familiar with the script allows him to perform well and relate more to each of his roles.


This was my second time viewing Inception. This film, as long as it may be, was just as interesting and suspenseful as I remembered it to be, but I definitely caught on to a lot more that I could not see the first time. For example, the way in which the film is edited was very significant to the plot. Throughout the film the scene with Cobb’s children is repeatedly shown. This editing technique was something that I did not think much of before, but now I realize that you never once see the children’s faces until the very end of the film. They are also wearing the same clothes in each scene which is something that I did not pay attention to before.

Chicago 10

The idea of counterculture is a recurring theme found throughout Chicago 10. Morgen demonstrates this theme through his opinions on sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The Yippies are a perfect example of this counterculture. They are portrayed as funny and easy-going. The audience relates to their attitudes more and feels a deeper connection with them than they do with the authorities. The people in the movie are what demonstrate the counterculture. Morgen’s use of counterculture shows his view on the situation which is ultimately his goal for making the film. 

Chicago 10 is not your average documentary film. Morgen uses both live footage and animation to develop the scenes in this film in order to have the audience to better understand what was going on. Without the animation, the scene of the trial would not be easily comprehended by the viewers. This technique also added to the artistic style of the film and made it more intriguing. Chicago 10 is definitely a less traditional film because it uses animation, but the animation keeps the audience engaged and it was necessary to demonstrate certain scenes.

In addition to the reasons above, the use of animation was appropriate and artistic to the film because the animation caught the viewer so off guard that it made them pay more attention to what was going on. Animated television shows and cartoons are often humorous which comes in handy in this film. The animated aspect of the film matches with the humor of the Yippies. Certain scenes in this film could not exist without the use of animation and therefore it was appropriate to include animated scenes. This made it unique and artistic to the documentary.

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

The most prominent theme found throughout this film is the portrayal of the “ideal” physical woman. Todd Haynes uses Barbie Dolls to play the roles of the characters in order to emphasize the ridiculousness of the ideal woman standards. The use of Barbie Dolls in this film was to symbolize the “perfect” woman image. The Barbie Dolls allowed the audience to more easily relate a woman’s mind and the things that they have to go through in order to be considered perfect. Karen feels the need to use weight and do drugs so that people will view her as perfect. This unrealistic Barbie Doll image makes a huge feminist statement in the film.

Avant-garde films use a particularly unique style that is rarely used in film making. However, the three films that we watched this week fall under this category. These types of films are frustrating for the audience to watch because it is difficult for them to understand the plot and the characters very easily. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story uses dolls as the characters  which creates an abstract film style. The compilation of pictures from Nazi Death Camps add to this style as well. An Andalusian Dog and Meshes of the Afternoon are both surrealistic films because of how they focus on the unconscious and subconscious, respectively.

The pressure to be a “perfect” celebrity is ultimately what caused Karen Carpenter’s death at such a young age. Starting out in the entertainment industry so young only leads stars to pursue perfection even further. Karen Carpenter became too self-absorbed in perfecting her image that she stopped eating and died of anorexia and drugs. Carpenter’s fate is one of many. Hundreds of celebrities face the same challenge of obtaining perfection that they will do anything in their power to get it. Stars will turn to poor eating habits, drugs, alcohol, or all of the above and do not realize what they are getting themselves into until it is too late.


Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty presents many controversial themes as the CIA hunts down Osama Bin Laden. One theme in particular the occurs multiple times throughout the film is the theme of torture. Dan tortures Ammar by water boarding, depriving him of food, locking him in a box, etc. in order to obtain information about Bin Laden. This form of torture is very realistic to the kind of torture that members of al Qaeda may have experienced. The goal is to make the terrorists feel as though they are powerless. Dan humiliates Ammar so that he knows who is in charge. Even though some people may be against it, the only way to get information out of Ammar and the other terrorists was to torture them. Depending on how cooperative the men were determined the form of torture they received.

Sound was an important part in making Zero Dark Thirty an artistic film. It plays a huge role in directing the audience’s attention to what exactly is going on when it is going on. The music emphasizes the emotion that the film is trying to give the audience. Kathryn Bigelow can definitely be considered an auteur because of this sound technique. Her films are unique to her own feminist personality as well. The main character in this film is indeed a woman. However, Maya has some manly features that do not make the gender of the main character that unrealistic. She is smart, powerful, and can administer the same torture that Dan could without thinking twice about it. She is not the stereotypical woman that the audience may thought her to be in the beginning of the film.

Kathryn Bigelow can most definitely be considered a feminist director by the way she portrayed Maya in Zero Dark Thirty. Yes, in other films Bigelow often used “macho” men as the main characters, but in this film the main female character is depicted in a similar way. This shows that a woman can do just as good of a job as the main character as a man could. The change to a main female character allows Maya to be compared to Bigelow’s previous male characters. Maya exhibits many of their same characteristics. Her role as the CIA agent who helped capture Osama Bin Laden proves her determination and ability to be as good of an agent as a male character could have done.


There is a distinct conflict between the social classes in the film Weekend. There is most definitely a power struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie throughout the film. It is clear what class each of the characters are in based on the clothes that they wear and how they act towards others. Using these observations, you can tell that Corrine and Roland are members of the middle class. They are not very nice to people of lower classes such as the bourgeoisie class.There is a lot of fighting and disagreements between the two classes which results in a lot of conflict. It is hard to distinguish which class is in the wrong because they all act so horribly to each other. In the end though, they become friendly with one another.

The French New Wave was a huge contributor to many ideas found throughout Weekend. One major recurring idea is the use of self-reflexivity. Many characters in the film constantly remind the audience that they are watching a film, rather than try to make the audience feel like they are a part of the story. This self-reflexive technique allows the audience to focus more on the importance of the film instead of the plot. When Roland and Corrine are talking to Emily, they refer to the fact that they are in a film. This technique is not very common in films nowadays, but it helped convey the importance of Weekend.

In Weekend, Godard distances the audience through the use of sound in order to easily convey the importance of the ideas behind the film. In many instances throughout the film, the music that is being played in the background hardly relates to the scene at all. Godard does this to show that what is happening is not necessarily all that important to the overall film. The music sometimes stops at random places which places an emphasis that the typical aspects of the film are not that significant. Godard uses sound in this way so that his artistic goals can be understood.