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. A 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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Castaway On The Moon: leveraging pigeons for survival

Title: Kimssi pyoryugi (Kim's Island) - Castaway On The Moon
Year:  2009
Director:   Lee Hae-Joon (AKA Lee Hae-Jun)
Running time: 116 min.
Country: South Korea

This film is about a man stranded as a castaway on a deserted island and was a pleasant surprise for me. The story evolves very unexpectedly and I really enjoyed it. It contains many memorable funny scenes and a bizarre love story. Wait, wasn't he alone? The answer is a bit complex, so it is better to watch the movie.

I don't intend to write a review about this film. There are many blogs that do this job better than mine. This is a pigeon-centric blog so I'm only summarising here the human-pigeon interactions. There are actually several of these moments which are very interesting and funny. Before talking about them, let's firstly contextualize the scenes:

At the beginning of the story we find a starving castaway called Kim who is trapped on a desert island. What should he do when his stomach is demanding some immediate action? To try to take food from all the sources he can. And the sources are limited to a few options: some mushrooms, fish and some wild birds.... including an enjoyable (and nutritious) group of pigeons:

So, for Kim the answer is clear: it is necessary to hunt the pigeons (nothing personal, just hunger).

First attempt: hunting pigeons

The first attempt is quite straightforward: to prepare some kind of trap in order to attract and catch an innocent animal. In this case, he used an old pot, held by a stick attached to a cord. Some vegetables would attract the pigeon. The result: a complete fail (for him) and a happy ending for the lucky pigeon. Maybe this trap works for mice in cartoons, but not in real life.

Second attempt: the miraculous food poisoning


In the end, Kim finally caught some fish and could sleep with a full stomach. Meanwhile, a flock of pigeons descended to nose around the remains of dinner. Pigeons are vegetarian and they don't like to fly during the night, but in this case it seems that they are different to the usual ones.

What happened next was that that either the pollution in the fish or the fish itself was not good for the pigeons, and the next day, when Kim wakes up, he surprisingly finds a dead pigeon... extra food for him.

Third attempt: leveraging pigeon poo

Eating pigeons only provides a limited amount of food. Our protagonist discovered an indirect way for obtaining food from them: given that seeds are part of the pigeons' diet, some indigested seeds could be found in the pigeon's poo. Planting it would grow cereals, the best kind of food. Kim finally found a smart, sustainable and pigeon-friendly way of leveraging pigeons for survival.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Kimssi pyoryugi- Castaway On The Moon. Starring moment: 0:23:13, 0:25:55, 0:44:32
  • Pigeon activity: They are wild pigeons which stay with a castaway on a insolated island. A very risky place for pigeons. 
  • Symbolism: There is no special symbolism in the movie.
  • Relevance: High. Thanks to the pigeon, the protagonist is able to get some food and survive in a lonely environment.
  • Training level: Medium. There are some very nice the scenes where the pigeons are staring at the protagonist. However, in the scene of the nocturnal pigeon visit, they descend in a very unnatural way, clearly showing that they are thrown by a pigeon specialist.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The big stuff

Here we start a new section in this Blog: the pigeon appearances in advertisements. It is very interesting to see how companies use pigeons to encourage us to buy certain products.

The first advertisement  is a Fedex ad which shows us the distribution center of a company that uses carrier pigeons for distributing its products. In the advertisement we can see an office full of pigeons (it is very funny to see all the pigeon cross flights):

We can also see a state-of-the-art carrier pigeon equipped with GPS and night vision:

... and giant pigeons (genetically modified?) used for distributing heavy packages - these birds have a quite uncontrolled behaviour.

The ad can be seen here. A great spectacle.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The most hated characters

Last summer's survey about the most hated characters ended in a draw between two baddies: Sandy Bates, from Stardust memories and Silas from How High. My condolences to them.
Sandy Bates is a first class pigeon maniac and anti-pigeon propaganda maker. He is specially hated for spreading the expression -rats with wings- which currently is widely used when referring to pigeons. Links: post, video
Silas is a cruel pigeon murderer. He planned and executed the worst pigeon massacre even recorded in a film: he fed pigeons with a mix of laxatives and birdseed that make them blow up. Links: post, video

The most beloved film character

According to the survey presented last summer the old beggar woman from Mary Poppins was chosen as the most beloved film character. Congratulations, Mrs. Grandma.

This woman sells bags of breadcrumbs on the steps of Saint Paul's Cathedral. She has everything pigeons like: tenderness, food provisions and close contact. For this commendable action pigeons will love her forever.

Links: post, video


Friday, November 2, 2012

Moonraker: the pigeon double take

Title: Moonraker
Year:  1979
Director:   Lewis Gilbert
Running time: 126 min.
Country: United Kingdom

This film contains a very elaborate pigeon appearance which deep down, has some technical and artistic relevance. Let's first introduce the scene:

James Bond is -again- in big trouble: this time he is in Venice and is escaping  in a motor gondola from a group of bad guys who are chasing him. The very idea of being followed by two armed guys who are very bent on killing you would cause me terrible stress. However, James Bond doesn't show any sign of discomfort. In fact, he seems to be enjoying it.

When he reaches the end of the canal, his gondola is converted into a hovercraft which allows him to get into St. Mark's square. People are amazed to see a gondola crossing the square. The scene depicts many surprised reactions from the people around the square. Nowadays it seems a bit outdated and naive but I have to admit that I smiled when I saw it. 

Now, let's focus on the pigeons. In the scene we can see plenty of pigeons roaming around the square. Probably, it was not so much fun for them: they were scared by this unusual vehicle. In the film we can see large flocks of pigeons flying away. Pigeons are not fans of Bond. 


But there is one pigeon that is not flying. Instead of that, it is watching the gondola guy. The pigeon is watching Bond double-take style. According to Wikipedia, a double-take occurs when a person glances at something, turns away, then realizes that what he has just seen is unusual or surprising in some way, and turns back to look at it again, often adding additional body language to express surprise. In Moonraker, we can observe a pigeon practising this style. This is the result:

Nice pigeon eyes,  aren't they. The complete scene can be seen here.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Moonraker. Starring moment: 0:39:44.
  • Pigeon activity: They are pigeons that live in St. Mark's square, Venice. They are suddenly scared by a guy driving a gondola.
  • Symbolism: They are playing common pigeons. It is interesting to see the use of animals (a pigeon and a dog) to show astonishment. 
  • Relevance: None. James Bond doesn't need the help of any pigeon -yet- for accomplishing his mission and pulling the girl. 
  • Training level: None. Probably they are wild animals that live in the filmming area as there have always been plenty of pigeons in this square.

Special thanks to Chao from The Killer Reviews.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Safe house: pigeons in action films

Title: Safe House
Year:  2012
Director:  Daniel Espinosa
Running time: 115 min.
Country:  United States

This film has plenty of action scenes where violence is exchanged between spies, turned spies, semi-professional killers, innocent civilians and four scary pigeons. Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a turned agent who is chased by a well organized band of villains. During his escape, Tobin experiences an disasterous driving experience which ends up in a car accident. At the time of the car crash we can see in the distance a pigeon flying away from the scene. The nodding head is Mr Frost's. It is not worth mentioning the copilot nor the blood on the windshield.

After many chases, deaths and destruction, the second pigeon appearance occurs in a Parisian street. Again, as part of the city's atmosphere (two bicycles, an old-fashioned motorbike... where is the guy with the accordion?) we can observe a flock of pigeons flying away. This creates a very cool and peaceful feeling, which is a big contrast compared with the rest of the movie.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Safe House. Starring moment: 0:10:30 and 1:48:43
  • Pigeon activity: Several street pigeons that fly away from the scene.
  • Symbolism: In both cases, pigeons are used for providing extra realism. In the first case, the bird flies away due to a car accident. I wonder why the pigeon waits so long (until the car stops) to fly away from the scene. The second ones are mere film extras.
  • Relevance: Low. Pigeons are not involved in the film plot.
  • Training level: Very good. In both cases the pigeon exhibit a good level of training. The perfect dispersion (in three different directions) set against the Parisian scene shows the superb training of these animals. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Third Edition of Pigeon Quest: spot the movie!!

Welcome to the Third Edition of Pigeon Quest. Here, instead of finding the pigeon in the film, you have to find the film with the pigeon.

Just write in the comments the film name with a recognized user name. An anonymous comment will produce an anonymous winner. The first one in succeeding will win and receive an honorary certificate. 

The quest is now closed. One anonymous reader got it right. The post about the film can be see here

You can see other editions of this Quest here.

These are the movie photograms: 

A guy with a gun leaning out of a window.

An he is suddenly scared by flying pigeons:

Very scared indeed..... is this appropriate behaviour for a tough guy?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caramel: a wedding and some pigeon droppings

Title: Sukkar banat (Caramel)
Year:  2007
Director:  Nadine Labaki
Running time: 96 min.
Country:  Lebanon

A wedding is time for celebration and joy, and nothing can spoil it. Not even a pigeon performing a carpet bombing of the guests. This film presents the life of five women in modern Beirut. I really enjoyed how it combines comedy and drama. I also was delighted when I found a pigeon appearance which I'll describe here:

At a certain point of the film, there is a wedding and the bride throws the bouquet from a balcony. Several of the guests are women that are grouped with great expectation for being the one who catches it.

But instead of that, a woman receives a dropping directly on her face. This is a very unpleasant situation. Try to imagine how such dropping can spoil a dress that was carefully chosen for the celebration or cause a serious makeup disorder.

Very nasty.....

What we see is a pigeon flying away in the distance. It is the culprit of this wedding madness.

Immediately, the panic spreads among the guests and everybody looks upwards looking for the source of the dropping.

After that they realise that the danger was over and now, all of them are safe from further droppings. The joy comes back again, the woman cleans her face and the celebration resumes with full intensity. The complete scene can be seen here.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Sukkar banat (Caramel). Starring moment: 1:25:06
  • Pigeon activity: It is a pigeon which performs an on-the-fly deposition over the wedding guests.
  • Symbolism: Low. In this case, this situation that is used to show us how an awful situation can be overcome by a positive attitude.
  • Relevance: Low. Despite the pigeon intervention at a critical point of the wedding, the women managed that with good humour and the joyful situation was soon restored.
  • Training level: It is difficult to analyze the pigeon's training level because of the short appearance. It is probably a wild animal. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back to the Future tribute

Dr. Emmett Brown was one of my favorite characters during my childhood. This is my special tribute to him.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The pigeons in my pocket

I was wrong when I thought that the only pictures that I kept in my wallet were of my wife. Two days ago I discovered two whole 3D holograms of a flying dove on the back side of my VISA cards. I've been using Visa credit card for more than one year and I hadn't noticed this little holographic image. The following days I enjoyed asking my friends if they had unexpected birds in their pockets. It was very funny to see their surprise reactions when they saw the dove flying accross their credit cards.

What I see in this collection is a flock of doves flying in the same direction.

After that, I wondered if this was the only pigeon/dove-related symbol to be found on common products, or if more could be found. After some searching, I discovered that many other companies also employ pigeon/dove representations for their logos. This is the summary of my research.

A Beauty with a dove, example of harmless peaceful dove
Firstly, it is interesting to observe that using a pigeon/dove as a symbol is a difficult tradeoff. On one hand, pigeons are hated by many people, but on the other, for many other people they have a great social -and emotional- role. In both cases they exhibit an interesting property: pigeons and doves populate everywhere on Earth, except for ultra cold or hot environments (the driest areas of the Sahara Desert, Antarctica and the Arctic), thus everybody, from almost every part of the world, recognizes them. This means that using a pigeon/dove provides an easy-to-recognize, pancultural symbol.  When you combine this idea, with the innocent appearance of an angelic bird, you get a very powerful marketing tool that can be efficiently exploited to diffuse your company's image. Note that the dove is commmonly used as a symbolic representation of peace and calmness. Pigeons are employed for communitation as homing pigeons. In this case, they are used to conceptually represent speed and reliability in a courier service.

One bizarre example of dove logo is the 2012 plane design of British Airways. The idea was to paint the complete plane like a huge dove and use it for celebrating the London 2012 Olympics. According to the logo designer, a dove was chosen because it represents the symbol of peace and social unity, and because they were also used in previous Olympic Games ceremonies. Here is a picture of the pigeonized airplane:

It is very interesting to see the details of the cockpit and the engine. I can't say that it looks like a dove. I would say that it seems more like a feathered suppository.

Another good example is the personal care brand Dove. This company is responsible for introducing one or multiple doves in many houses.  It is a good example of how, a peaceful and calm icon can induce the custumers to buy a given product brand.
In the figure below be can see other dove-related logos. We can see (from left to right) double-dove, a couple of  loving doves that are probably going to have an accident because they are too interested in each other and don't pay attention to their flight path; in the centre we have a bird that doesn't look like an actual dove; and to the right a more abstracted dove representation, which is influenced by the peace symbol.
Columbus, a bicycle company, presents a dove with a confusing name. It is not a Columbidae (the pigeon and dove bird family), but the Latin version of the company founder's surname. I remark on this logo because it is one of my favorites.

Moving onto regular pigeons, here I summarise several logos including (from left to right and top to bottom): ePigeon,  an instant communication company, Pigeon, a baby care product firm which actually doesn't use a pigeon logo but its name, Pigeon VoIP, a telephony service of an Indian Telecom company and Pigeon, a Korean a manufacturer of household products.
All these symbols represent pigeons in a very schematic way, showing the silhouette or a simple representation of a flying bird. If we actually want to see pigeons in all their splendour we have to see more specialised sources from people that not only want to employ these animals but they actually love them.

So now, as a final consideration, let me ask you: how many pigeons do you have?