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In Living Color
by Sarah L. Polson

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Sunday was the biggest night of the year for movie buffs. It was Oscar night, and I'm sure I wasn't the only person glued to the television to see who and what was winning big.

I resisted the urge to go with the hype and talk about a movie that won last weekend. Instead I chose a past Academy Award winner to look at. Traffic won four Oscars best director, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay and best film editing so it was my first choice to see what magic a quality movie has to show us.

The first thing that struck me was the use of color saturation and tinting. In the scenes that take place in Mexico, the picture is very blown out and then given a yellow tint. It has a very aged, grainy, low-standard feel to it. It's like they're playing off the stereotype that Mexico is run-down and out-dated.

The use of the yellow helps separate the Mexican side of the drug trade from the U.S. side in the movie also. And, of course, the U.S. is characterized with a good old American blue tint.

Those scenes don't appear old, or grainy. Instead the blue gives it a stylized, sophisticated feel. It's kind of like saying, the Mexican side of the drug trade is stark and gritty. On the American side we romanticize it. We see our government working against it but at the same time we try to gloss over the ugliness of the drug use also.

In contrast to this very surreal affect, there are scenes with relatively normal color. These scenes have very vivid and saturated colors. It's almost like "in your face" color after the other tinted scenes.

This saturated color and natural looking lighting makes those scenes seem almost too real. They help connect the drug use and drug trade scenes to the real world.

As much as we want to think that drugs don't touch our lives and want to think of it in a separate sense like the movie separates it out with the blues and yellows, it is a part of our real world.

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Smoke and Mirrors
Every other Wednesday

Movie magic isn't just about special affects. Sarah L. Polson shows you the other tricks and techniques used to manipulate movie goers.

Other Columns
Other columns by Sarah L. Polson:

A Whale of a Tale

Violence with a Purpose

Slo-mo, The Weapon of Choice

I'm Ready for My Close-up

Put Your Best Face Forward

All Columns

Sarah L. Polson
As a journalist from the midwest, Sarah L. Polson has a few years under her belt writing in the newspaper world. Having worked mainly in news writing, deviating from "just the facts" is a new experience for her.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Sarah L. Polson by clicking here.

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