Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mr Nobody: pigeon superstition

Title: Mr. Nobody
Year: 2009
Director: Jaco Van Dormael
Running time: 133 min.
Country: Belgium

It is very interesting to find a non-pigeon-oriented film (I mean, not a documentary about pigeons) where the main credits are exclusively devoted to a beautiful dove. And of top of that, to illustrate how clever the animal is at solving complex tasks.  Indirectly, this scene also introduces us to "pigeon superstitious animal behaviour".

In the scene we can see how a dove is trying to catch a piece of food. Unfortunately, the tasty meal is too high and the bird cannot reach it.

Oops!!! The pigeon realises that the food is too high.

The suspense level dramatically increases when the dove notices the existence of a pedestal than can be used to reach a higher position but it is too far away from the food.

However, the dove is able to drag it using its beak, and finally, in a quite surprising way, leverages it to reach the tasty meal. From the bird's perspective, this is a happy end to the story.

The pigeon is dragging the pedestal

And finally gets the food

If this scene was not enough birdy propaganda, the film producers use additional time in the film's credits to  show more experiments (in black and white) showcasing pigeons solving complex tasks.  The complete scene can be seen here.

In the following experiment we can see the presence of superstition in pigeons. In the experiment, some food was automatically provided to the pigeons at regular intervals of time, with independence of the animal's conduct. What happened was that the pigeons seemed to associate the delivery of the food with the actions they had been doing before and, with the intention of obtaining more food, they continued  to perform the same actions

A happy superstitious pigeon.

The interesting thing about this theory was it's link with human behaviour.

The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking. There are many analogies in human behavior. Rituals for changing one's fortune at cards are good examples. A few accidental connections between a ritual and favorable consequences suffice to set up and maintain the behavior in spite of many unreinforced instances. The bowler who has released a ball down the alley but continues to behave as if she were controlling it by twisting and turning her arm and shoulder is another case in point. These behaviors have, of course, no real effect upon one's luck or upon a ball half way down an alley, just as in the present case the food would appear as often if the pigeon did nothing—or, more strictly speaking, did something else.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source:  Mr Nobody. Starring moment: 0:1:13.
  • Pigeon activity: Pigeons and doves appear solving complex tasks and proving that they can exhibit complex behaviours. 
  • Symbolism: High. This scene can be seen as a allegory of the different choices that one person makes in his life and how they change his/her destiny. 
  • Relevance: Low. It is surprising to see how such pigeon-intensive credits have no relevance to the film's plot. 
  • Training level: Medium. Some of the pigeons were subjected to an artificial environment that causes the behaviours described in this post. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lego Batman The Movie - DC Superheroes United: lego pigeons!!

Title: Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Superheroes United
Year:  2013
Director:   Jon Burton
Running time: 71 min.
Country: USA

I was very pleased when I discovered that the iconic megalopolis of Gotham City has pigeons living in it. I think that this is a good example of how we (humans) extrapolate our living environment to imaginary scenarios. One exception that makes me deeply sad is Star Wars, where I couldn't find a single pigeon appearance in the whole saga. It seems that the pigeons had been unable to reach the Star Wars galaxy, that is too far away. I think that we will address this topic in another post.

Regarding this film, the context of the scene is the following one: Batman and Superman are fighting against a robot piloted by the Joker and Lex Luthor. In the middle of the combat, the robot falls in a park in the centre of Gotham city. What kind of innocent creatures were in the midst of the combat, roaming around the park? I think that it is not necessary to answer this question....

In the screenshot above we can see Mr. Bruce Wayne... sorry! Batman, looking how the evil robot falls down. He is surrounded by pigeons.

When the robot tragically collapses, both  the pigeons and Batman escape scared. It is interesting to highlight that Batman does not pay attention to the pigeons. Of course, he is in the middle of a fierce combat. But, on top of that, it is well known that pigeons and bats are like water and oil.... they can be in the same place, but they don't mix. 

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Lego Batman The Movie - DC Superheroes United. Starring moment: 0:59:00
  • Pigeon activity: They represent typical pigeon life in urban environments. 
  • Symbolism: I think that pigeons are used to provide more realism to the scene. That is, the use of pigeons makes Gotham City to seem like any other large city found in the real world. 
  • Relevance: None. Unfortunately, pigeons are unable to help Batman in his tireless fight against the Joker. 
  • Training level: Not applicable. They are computer-generated images.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A tribute to The Rock

When I saw a Dwayne Johnson film (sorry, no pigeons in it), I could not resist creating a tribute to this massive and tough actor. This is a tribute to The Rock ...

Monday, April 10, 2017

The duchess: a quite decent pigeon

Title: The Duchess
Year:  2008
Director:   Saul Dibb
Running time: 110 min.
Country: United Kingdom

Today we have a special pigeon appearance. Contradicting the post's title, it is not a pigeon well respected by the avian nor human community. It is not flying, nor roaming around. The pigeon is served in a dish for a sad Duchess that is maritally frustrated and on top of that, has no appetite at all. The scene could not be more dramatic. The poor animal is served but the lady (Keira Knightley) has no interest in it, and she looks totally absent minded.

In front of her, her husband the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) and his mistress are sat and enjoying the meal while the Duchess' lover is shouting at the front door demanding to talk with his lover. It is understandable that in such a bizarre situation, one wouldn't be interested in any kind of meal.

After banishing her lover, the Duchess goes back to dinner and sits again. The Duke looks up, chewing and says: What’s the matter, don’t like the pigeon? I find it really quite decent.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: The Duchess. Starring moment: 1:25:52
  • Pigeon activity: None. It is a cooked pigeon served on a plate. 
  • Symbolism: There is no special symbolism. I would assume the pigeon represents typical English 18th century high society cuisine.
  • Relevance: Low, there is no impact on the film's plot line.
  • Training level: Unfortunately, not applicable. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fourth Edition of Pigeon Quest

Welcome to the Fourth 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. There was no winner for this quest. The post about the film can be see here

You can see other editions of this Quest here.

Here there is a sequence of the film. We can see an eye-to-eye stareoff. Very intriguing and a little perturbing... it doesn't bode well.

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.