Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Most Valuable Minutes- Research Practice

The first 5 minutes of Taxi Driver are the most important because they explicitly present the story and characters which is required in order to understand the rest of the film.

The film revolves around Travis Bickle, and his first scene introduces him as being an insomniac ex-marine. Additionally, there are slight subtleties that illustrate how lonely and separated from society he is. For one, he prefers to work long night hours as opposed to day hours. Thus, he isn't a very social person because he would most likely spends his day sleeping. Secondly, it appears that he isn't very appealing as a person because he isn't articulate. For example, he makes a joke to his interviewer about his conscience, but the interviewer gets frustrated. Travis replies "sorry sir didn't mean to uh --" Bickle can't finish his sentence, & he appears to be frustrated at himself because of that.
The rest of the interview continues with Bickle carrying the same facial expression:
Bickle doesn't understand how to deal with this social situation. So, he feels very awkward and begins to talk with a monotone and morose voice which contrasts the previously jubilant and playful voice that he spoke with. This sense of awkwardness is further intensified by a close-up pan of Bickle while he said "sorry sir didn't meant to uh --". Of course, this was an emotional reveal of the character which emphasizes his characterization.

Much of Bickle's characterization has been revealed by the tone of his voice. However, his characterization is also portrayed by the content of the dialogue itself. From it, the audience learns that he was an ex-marine who most likely served in the recent Vietnam war. Additionally, Bickle's dialogue reveals that he isn't in tune with his social culture. The interviewer asks him if he's moonlighting which is slang for finding a second job, and Bickle is clueless to what that means.

Bickle's loneliness is further depicted when the audience is taken into his apartment. A long pan reveals how disorderly his home is.
The pan also reveals Bickle's diet which is composed of a soda, and take-out.
This isn't the ideal meal that a man would be eating. These props in Bickle's room allow the audience to truly get a sense of how lonely and disorganized Bickle is. Also, how he doesn't really take care of himself.

The first 5 minutes of the film depict Travis Bickle very thoroughly in order to establish the film's focus. The focus is clearly of this inarticulate, disorganized, and lonely man who is not a real member of modern society. This character focus recurs throughout screenwriter Paul Schrader's films because he studied existentialism while he was in school. The film also explores how war may have affected a soldier's life after it ended. This pertains to the film's socio-cultural aspect because the film takes place and was filmed soon after the Vietnam War ended.

The importance of this extract is that it addresses Scorsese's theme that his modern society was a complete wreck after the Vietnam War. He did this by portraying a former soldier as a lonely, unintelligent, and socially awkward man who simply didn't not understand the world around him anymore. This was conveyed through Bickle's inarticulateness, his disorderly apartment room, and his dialogue with his interviewer. Additionally, this extract exemplifies the Film Noir Genre because the scenes are very gritty and utilize dark lighting in order to create a solemn tone that emphasizes the character's characterization.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The American Anti-Hero

What historical factors influenced the rise of the American Anti-Hero in cinema and how does this hero contradict the Classic Hollywood Ideology.

After WWII America experienced a social paradigm shift. Americans were very rebellious and were very aware of the horrors in the world. Likewise, Americans were aware that every person had their own faults, and that no one acted in a perfectly moral manner. This increased a yearning for an anti hero because "they were true representations of life, who were faulty and vulnerable, like America's real life heroes". These real life heroes were the soldiers who fought in WWI, and who returned to America with deteriorated mentalities. Most likely, their new perception of the world mirrored the anti hero's perception. The anti hero, after all, was meant to present a new yet old perception of what the average human is like. The average human is likely to commit moral and good acts, but they are also fully capable of committing immoral acts. These immoral acts are done by the antiheroes frequently and they demonstrate how complex and imperfect people truly are. With relation to the time period, the American antihero most likely rose after WWII because Americans began to realize how horrible their and other's actions were during the course of the war. The war truly opened up society's eyes to a dark side of human nature, and people became interested in exploring why people behave in these ways. That also shows why Americans began to watch Film Noir as sort of "guilty pleasure".

The antihero also portrayed the duality in human nature which was very prominent during the Cold War. In the Cold War Americans were very paranoid because they did not know what to believe in anymore. They wanted to avoid war with Russia, but they did not know how to act because they no longer could differentiate between right and wrong. That caused a blurred line to form surrounding morality. Americans were puzzled at how people could appear to be moral, yet at the same time commit immoral crimes. The antihero allowed the American to explore why people had this dual character. In fact, Americans pondered over this "long after the projected has been turned off".

Again, the rise of the antihero stemmed from a social paradigm shift in America. This occurred once more during the 1960's when the Civil Rights Movement reached its peak. Leaders like MLK, Malcolm X, and other revolutionary leaders rose against society to illustrate why society's practices were wrong. In reality, they were real anti heroes. They all illustrated that anyone who went against society was going to be deemed as rebellious and a bit psychotic. This is what captivated the American audience the most because they yearned to be exposed to new perspectives of the world. After all, they were unsure of their own perspective because they had trouble understanding what truly was right and wrong. This ambiguity was caused by, again, the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movements which all presented problems in American society.

The anti hero constricts the classical hero because their actions are based upon very convoluted and complex motives. They are not so clear cut as the classical hero because the classical hero is simple. They always do the right thing and end the film with a joyous life. The anti hero usually ends life bitterly, and this is supposed to mirror the typical life of a person.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intensified Continuity

According to David Bordell, explain how and why continuity has intensified in Hollywood cinema. Also consider whether anything has been lost with this change.

Continuity has intensified because of 4 different tactics.
For one, the average shot length or ASL has largely decreased as time has progressed. Before the 1960's the ASL was around "eight to eleven seconds", but nowadays it averages between "three to six seconds". This refers to all genres, but it is mainly faster for action movies. Still, what this has done is show the audience multiple views of one scene. In other words, the coverage of a scene has greatly expanded in order to reveal more details, and in order to add a cinematic style to each film. However, I believe that in some movies this has caused confusion to occur more frequently because the audience is forced to follow each shot very quickly; thus, our actual appreciation and absorption of each shot has minimized. This also shows how films have strayed away from a typical realistic genre since the shots are not being held for a long and more natural amount of time.

The second factor is that technology has allowed scenes to be shot in new angles. This is possible because of the creation and advancement in wide and narrow lens. "During the 1930's, cinematographers increasingly relied on wide-angle lenses" because they didn't distort reality to much of an extent. They were a simple way to show the audience what was in the shot, and how they all related to one another. However, the improvements in narrow lenses has allowed filmmakers to shoot their scenes from afar, and to distort reality by emphasizing certain details over others. Additionally, these new lenses allowed for multiple camera shoots because long lenses were "required to keep cameras out of range from each other". Thus, multiple shots of the same event could be taken, and this most likely contributed to the decrease in ASL. Still, the most salient aspect of the narrow lens is that it can focus on only one detail at a time which allows the director to manipulate reality easily. Because of the long lenses a sense of simplicity has been lost in film. No longer are sets simple locations meant to add a tone to a scene, but now long lenses reveal the details within these sets which forces us to view the set as an actual character.

The third factor is closer framing in dialogue scenes. In classical films, the camera distanced itself from the actor in order to give the actor some privacy. Also, this created the illusion that the camera wasn't being too intrusive which added to a sense of realism. However, as new lenses developed the camera was able to frame the subject tighter. This allowed directors to reveal and focus on their actor's emotions more. Thus, film began to revolve around characters more so than the story itself. Additionally, faster cutting was able to take place because new shots of the actor could be taken in one sequence. I believe that this change has actually improved films a lot because we are more likely to share the actor's emotions if we can clearly see all of their facial expressions which of course connotes an emotion.

The final factor that has contributed to intensified continuity is a free roaming camera. Cameras, thanks to technology, is able to freely roam around a set in swift and fluid movements. I agree that this builds a "continuous tension" because as we watch a long shot take place we begin to yearn to know where the camera will end up. We become aware that the camera is going to take us to a new place that will either add characterization to a character, or it will present us with a new conflict within the film. Our yearning to know this increases tension which in turn causes us to engage ourselves into the film more. All in all, this factor, along with the rest, has caused film to decrease our attention span, but to also become more engaged and interested in the film itself. Thus, we are able to appreciate film even more than before.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Soviet Montage and Realism

Soviet Montage and Formalism
What was Pudovkin's concept of constructive editing and how did it manifest itself on film?
He believed that constructive editing should be used in film. Essentially, this meant that every shot had to offer something new to the film, or that every shot had meaning. This was created by adding a lot of detail into each scene which shows how complex life truly is.

In this shot several civilians are marching together. Hoewver, there is one individual in the bottom left corner who is raising a flag of some sort. This minute detail shows that this march is political and most likely refers to freedom since there are several average civilians aggregating. Additionally, that flag gives the carrier an additional characterization of being more nationalistic than most since he is the only one carrying a flag. Those minute details add meaning to the film, and that is how Pudovkin incorporated constructive editing in his films.

What was Eisensteinian Montage and how does it work in the "Odessa Step" sequence?
The Eisensteinian Montage was an editing technique in which abrupt shots transitioned from one another suddenly. Basically, a sense of peace would first be captured, and immediately motion in the shot would challenge the sense of peace and create it into a sense of havoc. This is exemplified in the Odessa Step sequence because at first all of the civilians are very jubilant. Civilians ranging from the upper class to the lower class are all excited for the same exact reason. However, suddenly an army moves towards the civilians who run away from the soldiers. Through the editing, the peaceful tone immediately shifted to a chaotic tone which was created through the quick motion of the soldiers which contrasted the stationary and peaceful movement of the civilians.

Andre Bazin and Realism
What were Andre Bazin's frustrations with Classical and Formalistic film making?
Their frustrations with those genres were that they were too subjective. They imposed an opinion onto the audience which demerits the value of the film. Film is meant to allow us to form our own opinions concerning society, and film merely opens us to an interpretation of what society may be like. Additionally, classical and formalistic film making utilized montages in order to present one view of the director. This takes away from the complexity of life and the fact that there are several interpretations of how life should be lived.

What do Realist filmmakers strive for in their work?
They strive to present their audience with a realistic film in which the audience can form their own opinions of life. Additionally, realist filmmakers love deep focus because it allows them to incorporate immense amounts of detail into their scenes. This detail can then be seen by the audience which further allows them to see how our environment can also describe our nature.

What techniques to realists use in their filmmaking?
Realists use slow paced editing to allow the audience to truly notice all of the detail in the scenes. Additionally, they utilize deep focus in order to present the audience with several minute details in certain scenes. These details work hand in hand with the slow pacing because the audience is given time to observe all of the details. Then, the audience can form their own opinion of the scene which immerses them into the film more. Lastly, the advance in sound capture allowed Realists to add dialogue into their scenes. This further creates a sense of realism.

Blog- Trailer Review

Link to trailer:

1) Narrative
This trailer illustrates the typical story concerning two lovers who have something impeding them from being together. This trailer shows that there are several impediments between them such as social class -- which is shown through the character's wardrobe -- and the falling ship itself. Still, their love persists and this is shown through both compelling acting and dialogue, and through compelling scenes. The first dialogue that we hear of them is "when the ship docks, I'm getting off with you". This shows a clear devotion that the woman has for the man. However, this devotion is further supported by certain scenes of them together.

This image depicts the characters as being very intimate. From this, the audience sees that they are in love. The narrative progresses by illustrating the issue that they face.

The falling ship is a clear impediment that the couple faces, and its severity causes the audience to want to know whether or not the story will have a happy or morose ending.
2) Cinematography
This film's cinematography is gorgeous. In the picture of the ship above, the grandeur of the ship reflects the grandeur of the film itself. Additionally, the cinematography uses lighting and color to manipulate the mood of the scene.

This shot uses naturally lighting from the sun to add warmth to the scene. This is caused by the harmonious colors of blue and orange which the sea and the sun create. This sense of warmth adds serenity to the scene, and this causes the audience to truly feel what the characters are feeling. The cinematographer also manipulates how much space is in the shot in order to add a sense of intimacy between the characters.

In that shot the characters are framed very tightly, and the background complements the intimate mood that the scene evokes.
3) Editing
The editing emphasizes the emotion in the scene through the slow pacing of the shots. Each shot is held for a generous amount of time so that we can truly feel what the character's are feeling. Additionally, the slow pacing also provides time for us to realize how intimate and compelling the story is.
4) Sound
The sound is incredibly powerful because it matches and enhances every scene presented. During the couple's most intimate scenes, the score creates a very compassionate and romantic mood which allows us to further empathize with the characters. When the impediments that the characters face is presented the sound suddenly shifts to evoke a more cautious and frightening mood. This new mood allows us to realize that the couple is in peril, and altogether the sound allows us to follow the narrative more accurately and more emotionally.

Short Film Critique

A. Rationale:
The film we made was a drama that incorporated realist techniques. We made this film to present our theme that love blinds people from the truth, and that it alone is not reason enough to dedicate your life to someone else. In this film we experimented with realism because we wanted to create a compelling, yet realistic film that actually affected our audience of young adults. This film was poignant, and very frank which we hope conveyed our message well.

Your areas of responsibility on the film.
I was one of the editors for this film. Additionally, I served as a confidant with the director who always sought after all of the crew’s advice. Likewise, I aided him in casting actors for our film, and I helped him visualize a scene to perfection. First, I recruited the actress in our film, and the director casted the actor. However, our initial actress became unavailable for us, and so I had to cast another one who was less ideal than our first choice. Because she was not as qualified as our first choice actor, our film crew had to guide her acting meticulously which became quite time consuming. As editor, I knew that I would have to cut for continuity. Also, I knew that we needed an ample amount of shots to add coverage for our scenes. Therefore, I implored and advised both our director and cinematographer to film while being aware of these factors. Thankfully, we are very open to each other’s thoughts so they heeded to my concerns and addressed them when filming.

Problems and Challenges that arose in your area of responsibility.
Because we intended our film to embody realism, we incorporated several sequence shots in our scenes. Unfortunately, we did not notice errors in continuity while we were on set. We could not refilm these because of a lack of time, so it became my and my partner’s duty to solve them through editing. In the opening sequence we filmed in a bart station. Several extras were in the scene, and since we had no control over them they entered our shots sporadically. Instead of simply cutting between shots we simply inserted our opening text between the shots that had continuity errors. This way we created the illusion that our intro was coherent, and we were able to present the audience with the opening credits as well. Another problem in our film was that we lacked eloquent scene transitions. My partner and I had trouble trying to move from one scene onto the next. After much thinking we concluded that having the following scene’s audio begin while the current scene ends would allow for a smooth transition. To help us, our sound editor gave us several sounds to add realism to the film. For example, with the park scene there were ambient sounds such as birds chirping that created the scene transition. In other scenes we used our actor’s dialogue to create the scene transition.

Problems that arose on the film as a whole
The most malignant problem that our group incurred was that our actress constantly flaked on us. At first we understood that she had other priorities, so we tried to form our filming schedule around her own schedule. However, whenever our filming date came she would ignore both my and the director’s phone calls. For at least an hour, our film crew remained in awe wondering what she was doing. Eventually, she told us that she was incapable of filming for very unbelievable reasons. Of course, this pushed the production of our film several days back. Additionally, my partner and my time to edit was minimized because we wasted certain editing days due to a lack of footage. As the deadline drew closer and closer I implored my director to advise our actress of our commitment to our project. Fortunately, my director was able to finally convince our actress to continue to film with us. Unfortunately, we had to work off of her time schedule again, and so our final filming dates occurred past our deadline. This caused my partner and I to edit after school to make up for lost time. Additionally, for some of the final scenes, such as the train scene, I and our cinematographer remained at school editing so that our other two crew members could film. This allowed us to film and edit during the same day. Aside from our actress, we had no real detrimental problems. All of our crew members contributed equally to the film.

Our final project came out well considering that we lost several days because of our unreliable actress. However, if we did not lose those days then our film definitely could have improved on its story telling and the acting within it. In pre-pro we had a difficult time trying to form a realistic story that could be well told. We believed that we addressed all of the plot holes in our final script, but as we began to film we realized that some points were a bit complicated. For example, it was difficult to convince our audience that our actress could have truly believed that John had been blind during their entire time together. In the script, I attempted to address by presenting our actress as a very ignorant person once she receives her eyes. Thus, her ignorance would cause her to accept that John had always been blind. Even though it was highly implausible. Unfortunately, our actress had trouble conveying the right emotions for our scenes. Typically, she said her lines with a happy tone which definitely strayed away from the meaning behind her words. Again, our lack of time with her caused us to cherish every moment we had with her. This caused us to sacrifice the quality of her acting in order to complete the film. Thus, in our final film her lines lacked much emotion, but they did not carry the same happy tone as before because our crew urged and forced her to show some sad emotion. That sad emotion was minimal, but its presence made our film better than her being happy while reading solemn lines. Because the emotion that our story needed was not fully there, the story itself lost some credibility because, again, her ignorance could not be conveyed through her emotion. In an attempt to add more drama to our movie we decided to include other previously discarded scenes. The first was the train scene in which our actress is forced to take care of our actor. This showed how bitter and reluctant she was becoming towards him because she was not used to having to take care of others. This scene definitely aided us in characterizing our actress as selfish. Also, we needed to show that the two were indeed in love. This love was the motive for our actor to donate his eyes, but our film’s script had no truly powerful instances that showed his love for her. To address this, I told my crew that we should add a park scene in which our actor is pushing our actress on the swings. This would show them having fun together even though the girlfriend was physically impaired. Still, our actor needed a powerful reason to sacrifice his eyes. This reason came in the form of marriage. Our actress told our actor that if she had eyes then they would get married. Marriage became our protagonist’s reason to sacrifice his eyes. This reason reoccurs when the girlfriend returns home to tell him that she was gonna leave his life. As she leaves the house, our protagonist tries to chase after her but falls and drops the wedding ring box that he bought for her. These critical scenes definitely made our film better. However, we should have planned them earlier in order to avoid a rush to film them. This shows that the biggest flaw in our film was our inability to plan it well. We should have realized our film’s storyline errors earlier so that we wouldn’t have to shoot them last minute which definitely stressed out our crew. Also, we should have casted our original actress earlier so that we could be aware that she was busy. If we planned earlier with her then perhaps we could have kept her as our actress which definitely would have given us a much more emotional female character. Also, she wouldn’t have flaked out on us like our final actress did. In the future, we will make sure to cast the most brilliant and dependable actresses and actors. Also, we will cast them early in our production in order to avoid any sudden issues such as unreliability and a realization that our actress had difficulty acting. Still, I believe that the effort that all of our crew members put into the production created an elegant film that had some problems, but overall was a compelling film that was highly original and interesting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advanced Editing Notes- Overview/Classical Paradigm

1. How would describe the difference in camera work: composition, angle, movement
In "Arrival of a Train" the camera is stationary throughout the entire film. Additionally, the camera is at a long shot of the scene in order to provide extensive coverage for the audience. This allows the audience to see what every person is doing using any given point in the scene. Of course, this camera technique reflects a realistic approach which is in contrast to "Damsel in Distress". The latter film incorporates several camera movements that amplify the emotion that the characters are feeling. This film borrows from realistic films because it uses several sequence shots to illustrate the scene. However, this film falls into the genre of classical cutting moreso than the realist genre because it cuts to continuity. This is done through several match action cuts which add fluidity to the scenes. This was done in order to first present the character's plight, and to then show the emotion that is evoked because of their plight. The camera does this by first showing an establishing shot which presents the problem, and then fluidly cutting close to the actress to reveal her emotion of fear. This is in contrast with "Arrival of a Train" because it forces the audience to focus on an individual character's emotion instead of allowing us to be able to choose who to focus on.

2. How would describe the differences in the edit?
In "Arrival of a Train" there was no editing. This was done to add a sense of reality to the film, and this was done of course because the film falls into the genre of realism. This is contrast to "Damsel in Distress" because that film has several shots that depict the character's emotion and the situation in the story. All of these shots are cut from one another to emphasize certain things at a time. At first, the overall problem is shown, then the scene cuts to a close up of the damsel to reveal her emotion. Also, this film incorporates fast pace cuts to add create tension in the film. This helps present the dramatic story and to force us to feel emotions of excitement and anticipation. This type of pacing differs from "Arrival of a Train" because that film is simply one long shot. That allows us to truly appreciate the scene and analyze it however we want.

3. How would describe the characteristics of the story being told/narrative?
In "Arrival of a Train" we are able to form our own story because the camera doesn't focus on anyone in particular. Thus, we can direct our eyes to whomever we want. This is in contrast with "Damsel in Distress" which forces us to see one story and form an opinion of it based on how the film is being cut.