Friday, March 24, 2017

Sea of love: Al Pacino's feathered surprise

Title: Sea of love
Year:  1989
Director:   Harold Becker
Running time: 110 min.
Country: United States

I have watched many Al Pacino films. In some of them he is a brave drug dealer with almost no scruples, or evil itself, or, like in this film, a brave policeman in search of a serial killer. In almost all his characters he plays as a tough man, very prone to using violence and also very hard to shock or unflutter. However, in this film,  Detective Frank Keller (Pacino) finds a very disgusting surprise when he is pursuing a murderer.

In the pigeon starring scene, Frank is a bit drunk heading back home  (following the stereotype of many detectives, he enjoys drinking and smoking) when he senses something suspicious in the apartment block corridor. He seems to think that the serial killer may be hiding outside the window. When he looks, he is violently scared by a group of pigeons that probably were sleeping near the window and are suddenly disturbed by this drunk and violent man. It is interesting to see Pacino scared by these peaceful animals. Because of his role in this film, he was nominated for the best performance by an actor in the Golden Globes. 

The picture below is a nice portrait of a pigeon besides a famous actor. Isn't it? Perhaps this pained expression is what got him nominated?

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Sea of love. Starring moment:  1:19:29
  • Pigeon activity: A group of pigeons scared in the middle of the night by a guy with a gun.
  • Symbolism: None. Pigeons are mere urban creatures trying to sleep. 
  • Relevance: None. They are used as way for creating tension in the scene. 
  • Training level: Medium. Pigeons are trained animals that are freed at the exact time that Al Pacino is looking out of the window. Such a complex scene, requires coordination between the actor, the film-making crew, the pigeon manager and the pigeons themselves. Remarkable. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Training Day: what do you see when you are high?

Title: Training Day
Year:  2001
Director:   Antoine Fuqua
Running time: 122 min.
Country: United States

Taking into account the nature of this blog, the answer to the question in this post's title may be pretty obvious. Let's contextualise the scene of this film. Jake (Ethan Hawke) is a rookie cop that has a new workmate: the veteran Alonzo (Denzel Washington). In this film Denzel Washington does one of my favourite performances. He is cool...

... but at the same time, there something twisted about him. But anyway. He is one of the best cops. What can be wrong here?

The first weird thing comes with a sudden argument between them. The poor Jake is tricked by Alonzo into smoking something that actually is a strong drug, and soon he enters into a narcotised state with nothing better to do than look out of the window.

So, the question is: what does Jake see when he's under the drug's effects? Streets, trees, and a large pigeon flock (quite relaxing view, by the way) doing their very own flying training day. The birds are displayed with a strong green filter to represent the drug's effects.... a bad omen for the future of the movie plot. Anyway, there are no more pigeon's in this film, thus the rest of it is not relevant for us.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Training day. Starring moment:  17:50
  • Pigeon activity: A typical flock of pigeons flying around.
  • Symbolism: Merely circumstantial. Pigeons are just something to look at when you don't have better things to do.
  • Relevance: Low. There is a minimal impact on the film plot.
  • Training level: None. Probably they are wild animals recorded by the film crew or stock  footage.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Back to the blog

After this long break I have resumed the blog activities. 2013 was a challenging year for me: the first squab in the family arrived and we moved to a new nest. Both things demanded plenty of time. On top of that my job was pretty intensive too. All these factors left me without any time to dedicate to this blog. Now I have more spare time and my plan is to continue working on the blog. Maybe with less intensity than I would have liked, but  contributing as often as I can.

Fortunately, during this long period I added to my film list many pigeon appearances, so I have plenty of material to publish. I also would like to thank all the contributions that I have received from people that also spotted pigeons in films. My plan is to deliver more pigeon appearances. I hope you will enjoy them.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Home Alone 2: The attack of the hungry pigeons

Title: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Year:  1992
Director:   Chris Columbus
Running time: 113 min.
Country: United States.

Central Park at night is not a safe place. When darkness falls, many harmful creatures appear in the middle of park, including hungry pigeons.A naive reader could think that pigeons are not a serious risk for humans, but in Home Alone 2, we can see a clear example of how to fear a wild pigeon flock.

The sequence is as follows: a massive flock of pigeons gathers in Central Park waiting to receive food and care from a Homeless lady. 

She obviously was very fond of these creatures and loved to be surrounded by them. Meanwhile the protagonist was being chased by the two bad guys of the film. During his escape he meets the lady and her feathered gang.

Fortunately she is on the side of the protagonist and she helps him throwing a sticky mixture of pigeon food on the bad guys.

Soon, both of them are surrounded by hordes of hungry pigeons that literally cover them in an orgy of seeds, pigeon poo and scared humans. Fortunately, pigeons are vegetarians (as far as I know) so the bad guys survived this event but in a very bad nasty condition.

This scene is a clear example of how a big flock of tiny birds can definitively discourage and harm a medium--size mammals.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Starring moment: 1:39:00
  • Pigeon activity: They create a feathered wall that blocks the bad guys to chase Kevin. 
  • Symbolism: None. Pigeons are mere hungry animals that inhabit Central Park. 
  • Relevance: High. Thanks to the pigeons Kevin could successfully escape from the attackers. 
  • Training level: Medium. Technically the scene consists of dumping lots of pigeons on both men. 
Special thanks to Michael Filosa for suggesting this film. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Predator 2: hunting humans, not pigeons

Title: Predator 2
Year:  1990
Director:   Stephen Hopkins
Running time: 108 min.
Country: United States.

Mike Harrigan is an LAPD Lieutenant who is in search of an alien which is slaughtering city inhabitants. Dorinda Seed is a female pigeon from L.A. She and her folks had a nice day and now are getting some rest on a roof (a place that they call home). In this sequence, Dorinda and Mike's lives are going to cross dramatically.

Mike is chasing the predator on a roof. He is very nervous, because this creature is a monster which slaughtered several colleagues of his. An common man would escape running away, but Mike wants to fix this mess.

On the other side of the corner, we find Dorinda and her friends, that are scared and fly away (scaring Mike too).

This is a nice picture of the pigeon, captured with its legs and tail feathers fully extended. This situation is also dramatic for Dorinda. It is not nice for a pigeon to fly in the darkness and it is ever worse, if it is flying in the middle of a violent duel.

This is not a pigeon, but the predator firing at Mike:

We can observe than when Mike returns fire, there are other pigeons flying in the background.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Predator 2. Starring moment: 1:19:39.
  • Pigeon activity: They are pigeons sleeping on a roof which are scared by a night duel between an L.A. policeman and an angry alien.
  • Symbolism: It is interesting to see how pigeons are used to scare the movie protagonist and increase the film's tension levels. This is a typical ploy used in many action movies.
  • Relevance: Low. Pigeons interfere with a human-alien duel, but they don't change the storyline.
  • Training level: High. It is not easy for a pigeon to fly with poor light conditions. Here, they exhibit a very good performance. 
Special thanks to Jen for suggesting this film.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Burning man: pigeons forming a backdrop to a drama

Title: Burning man
Year:  2011
Director:   Jonathan Teplitzky
Running time: 110 min.
Country: Australia

There are sad movies and cruel sad movies. One example of latter is Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby. I think that it is nice film, but I didn't like it at all. When I left the cinema after watching it, I felt something like I had been suffering emotional torture with a plot which was specially designed to sadden the spectator. Is such a cruel story really necessary? Such is life, Eastwood would probably say, but this is not the point. The point is the aim of this film style: they write a deliberately cruel story in order to shock the spectator and increase the film's popularity.

Burning man belongs to this category. It depicts the sad life of Tom (Matthew Goode), a skillful chef who is specially enthusiastic about cooking sea food. His wife dies of cancer and left him alone with his son. This film consists of continuous flashbacks and flashforwards where his happy life with his wife (before the sickness) is interlaced with very sad scenes depicting her agony and his desperation. I think that this film shows too much drama. Anyway, it includes some interesting pigeon appearances: in a picnic organized by a group of families, Tom becomes hysterical and starts to destroy the picnic before the amazed stares of the onlookers.

In the middle of this devastation we can see several scared pigeons. Here there is a bird witnessing the picnic destruction.

And in the following images we can see several pigeons flying around the scene:

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Burning man. Starring moment:  0:54:29
  • Pigeon activity: They are common pigeons scared by a hysterical father who is flattening a picnic.
  • Symbolism: None, they are common pigeons.
  • Relevance: Low. Pigeons are used for increasing the level of drama. 
  • Training level: High. Very well trained animals that perform a perfect side flight in the scene.