Sunday, 17 March 2013

Week 20 (Tues 12 Mar - Communicating)

In the seminar, we returned to the subject of stardom, discussing the ones we had each selected and why: I had chosen Jeff Bridges, because he has a familiar persona and character type he plays (these mellow, cool, laidback types, often having a lax-60s-hippie quality to them, like in Big Lebowski, which along with Flynn in Tron, gave him iconic roles that many people recognise and reference, something you associate with star actors (like Brando in Godfather and On The Waterfront, or Bogart in Casablanca and Big Sleep).

We also briefly returned to the subject of 'Celebrity vs star' (a celebrity, from my perspective, is someone whose fame is temporal, of the moment (like Paris Hilton or Vanilla Ice), while a star is someone who remains popular and famous even after they have died/stopped being of major relevance (like, again, Brando, Sean Connery. Anthony Hopkins, Rihcard Burton, Charlton Heston, Judy Garland etc.) and then talked about the importance and qualities of a 'star' (marketing/branding, embodies certain values, ideals or dreams and allows for different readings/interpretations).

Later, in the screening, we watched an episode of the dark-comedy-drama Six Feet Under, dealing a family of undertakers and their lives, & one of the comedy series Community, which dealt with a bunch of misfit friends at a community college who get up to various shenanigans. On that note, in the lecture right after, we looked at the concept of 'Quality Television', and how it has changed over the year as TV has: In the 1950s (often regarded as the Golden Age), 'Quality' was seen as these live television plays, written by the likes of Paddy Chayesfsky (Network, which itself satirized television of the time), and praised for offering a different experience to film given it was broadcast live and gave things a sense of immediacy and realism not found in film. Then, the late 80s-mid 90s were seen as a 'Second Golden Age', this time praised for genre-blending (like Buffy combined horror and teen drama), the producers and writers having backgrounds in other media (like Whedon (Buffy) who had worked on films like Speed, Toy Story and Twister, or Michael Mann (Miami Vice) who is a very respected film director (Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Manhunter)), and large ensemble casts of distinguished actors, which in turn allowed for episodes to have multiple stories and viewpoints going on at the same time and allowing for a lot of variety and depth: To enforce this, we watched an excerpt from the police series Hill Street Blues, noting the use of overlapping dialogue and handheld camera to give the film a realism and documentary like quality, and focusing on the different cops, indicating that we are dealing with multiple stories within the episode.

The other example was a scene from Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective, which mixes psychological drama, musical numbers and detective mystery/thriller elements together as we see the imaginings of a hospitalized author. Moving on, we turned to the subject of the channel as 'auteur', and if certain channels/companies have distinct programming, and looked at Channel 4 and HBO as examples: the former began in 1982, and specialised in both importing a lot of foreign and American shows, and making programmes not seen/made by other channels at the time, which more grim and challenging, while the latter  is a premium American channel, and they tend to make a lot of high-budget shows such as Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones, which all have a cinematic quality to them, some going so far as to have actual film makers like Scorsese (Boardwalk) and Walter Hill (Deadwood) involved as directors and producers.

Finally, we turned to the question of 'what is quality', bring up a quote from Pierre Bordeaux about 'Art/Value is decided by the elite and those with wealth', which certainly isn't untrue, as media critics tend to be from a much higher social standing and have a much broader palette than that of your average 'Joe' who might casually watch a show just for entertainment while a critic will analyze and dissect it through and through. Our assignment was to go away and come back next week with a 'quality' show.

To cap off, today's work was fairly interesting, though the stardom seminar was a little bit underwhelming, as I wish instead of devoting so much time towards everyone discussing their favourite stars, we had instead examined the history of film stars and how the 'popular' personas changed and certain actors rose and fall accordingly, which would have greatly enhanced the historical background and context and made it feel more well-rounded. As for the lecture, it was a step up as it was really interesting to see how much television has evolved since its humble beginnings and how much the perception of 'quality' has changed and what producers and writers have put emphasis on as tastes change.

Week 20 (Mon 11 Mar - Storytelling)

In today's seminar, we at the ways of structuring a piece of writing, and their core components (not always present, but more often than not when discussing that style in a story). The ones we looked at included:
  • Protagonist/Antagonsit
  • Status Quo/Backstory
  • Inciting incident
  • Act 1 & 2 Turning Points
  • Climax and Denouement (resolution)
1) Detective - The flashbacks form an investigation into what happened, the protagonist being beyond change or dead (like the main character in Wilder's Sunset Boulevard).
2) Thwarted Dream - Protagonist attempts to reclaim a 'thwarted dream' (failed goal or endeavor), the flashbacks usually taking up the first two acts while the third deals with the attempt to reclaim that dream. Notable examples of this include Shine, There's Something About Mary, and a lot of sports films that involve a bitter coach/veteran player who lost a major game, and in older age is either rediscovered or uses his team to achieve it (such as The Natural and Disney's The Rookie).

-Tandem Narratives
2 or more stories that run parallel to one another (what can sometimes be called Multi-strand). Notable examples include Altman's Short Cuts, Magnolia, Crash, which have several stories running throughout the film.

-Sequential Narratives
Similar to Tandem, but the stories usually have some sort of relation to one another, amd all get tied up at the end. Pulp Fiction and the 'dulthood' films by Noel Clarke being a prime example, having a number of stories that end up connecting together and having a knock-on effect on each other.

-Multiple Protagonist Narratives
Again, similar to tandem, but the lead characters of those stories have something in common with each other, like a viewpoint, mindset or ethic, and we see how they react to similar situations in their own ways. This category also subdivides into others, which are self0explanatory, like Reunion Stories (Big Chill, The Cherry Orchard), Mission Stories (The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai, Saving Private Ryan, Gettysburg) and Siege stories (Tea With Mussolini, American Beauty, Poseidon Adventure (and disaster films in general). These are also known as 'Bottle Episodes' when discussed in television.

Next, we got into groups and undertook our first exercise: After reading Perrault's take on the CInderella story, which differs from the more iconic Disney version in that there are two balls and the sisters end up marrying lords, we broke the story down in terms of the Three-Act structure:
  •  Protagonist: Cinderella
  • Antagonist: Stepmother/Stepsisters
  • Backstory: Father's marriage
  • Inciting Incident: The invitation to the ball
  • Act 1 Turning point: The fairy godmother's arrival and going to the ball
  • Act 2 Turning point: The loss of her slipper
  • Climax: Trying on the slipper
  • Denouement: The marriages
Then, after looking at the brother Grimms' version (which involved the sisters cutting their feet down to fit the slipper and in the end, having their eyes pecked out for their misdeeds), we were then asked to turn the Cinderella story, taking elements from whichever version we wanted, and make it into a Flashback structure: my group decided to tell the story from the now-blinded Stepsisters' point of view, as they await execution. In our version, they make themselves out to be misunderstood, making Cinderella look like a bad, manipulative character and deliberately blackening their names out of jealousy and simple cruelty. While discussing this with the others, we noted the similarities to Wicked, which told the story of Oz from the Wicked Witch's perspective, and how often in stories like this, it's often told from the P.O.V of the villain/morally lacking character.

Our assignment for the week was to go off and come up with 12 ideas for films, to be developed in future lessons. In closing, today's session was really engrossing and detailed, and I was surprised how many components make up these narratives, and how some have similarities but operate on similar principles. Sure, many know some of the basic elements (protagonists, antagonists, climaxes) but there were more details that, on a day to day basis when one reads a book or watches a film, one doesn't really give much thought towards. Also, the group work was a lot of fun, and bouncing around ideas between each other made for some good teamwork and people got to have a say in the decisions of the group without just one person dominating unfairly.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Week 19 (Wed 6 Mar - Production update & Thurs 7 Mar - Production Theory 2)

On Wednesday, me and Jessica returned to DMW4 to finish editing, trimming down and even replacing shots in the commercial if we felt they no longer worked or were too many of the same in a sequence (like two or three studio shots back to back would feel bland and samey), then superimposing the need logos (the former we managed by using the Chroma Key effect to cut out the background) and texts with the relevant information (new shades, full lips, soft application etc.) before working on the soundtrack and balancing the levels between the background music and the audio a friend of Jessica's had recorded for us, and finally exporting it and uploading it to Vimeo.

Then, on Thursday, we sat down with the group and watched each others' adverts, providing feedback afterwards, as if we were the company in question. When ours was screened, it was met with generally positive feedback, praising the studio shots, which looked dead-on accurate to actual ones from real commercials, pacing and editing, but they questioned some of the outdoor shots as having questionable framing, especially some of the wide shots, where the green and brown of the ground detracted from main image of the model and disrupted the beauty of the image a little.

To close off, on the production as a whole, I feel that this went really well, in fact, I would go so far as to say, it's been one of the best in the entire year. Jessica was a good partner, very patient, understanding, and didn't bring any sort of ego or arrogance to the project which made her easy to work with, and this whole commercial was her idea, and it was the most unique and difficult of the entire group, who went for the more conventional route of food and technology-based commercials. I felt I had a good input in the project, helping Jessica out with framing, shooting and then lighting shots (and improving my skills with Final Cut, especially with the Keying, which solved a major headache of mine when it comes to film making and made our work seem a lot more professional), and working as just a two-man unit meant we got things done quickly and efficiently, perfect for a project like this with a limited time frame and resources. In the end, I had fun and felt like an active component of this project, something I look forward to again in future projects.

Week 19 (Tues 5 Mar - Communicating)

In the seminar, we began by presenting our foreign film (our task for Reading Week): mine was the Spanish historical drama La Lengua De Las Mariposas (Butterfly's Tongue), which told the story of a little boy called Moncho, who grew up against the backdrop of 1930s Spain, a country soon to plunge into civil war, and who makes friends with his teacher, the wise old Don Gregorio, and gains a lot of confidence. The film's detailed and accurate production values, portraying the village life of common Spaniards, and the tussle between politics and church, and the humble settings, coupled with incredible performances from the two leads and effective, poignant direction that manages to be very engaging and emotional without ever becoming saccharine, make this a quality picture, and one of best for a newcomer to Spanish cinema who might not be ready for the more daring and darkly comical films like those by directors like Almodovar (The Skin I Live In, All About My Mother).

After, we discussed the idea of 'National Identity' and what that means: the class brought up concepts such as traditions (holidays, customs, rituals), morals/ethics of that particular nation (like America has and supports the death penalty, whereas somewhere like Britain does not) the country's iconography and its history (the Eifel Tower and the French Revolution, with images like the guillotine and tri-colour flaf, you would instantly associate with France, or the Vatican & Leaning Tower with Italy).

Later, we were screened the 2004 Johnathan Glazer film, Birth, which dealt with a woman whose husband has seemingly been reborn as a ten year old boy, and trying to come to terms with that, despite the doubts of friends and family. Frankly, I did not like this film, at all. The performances, especially from Kidman and the child actor, were flat, tepid and monotone for most of the film, the child in particular being a little too creepy and blank for us to sympathise with him and his 'plight', the film makes no effort to explore, in either metaphysical or scientific terms, how Kidman's husband could return aside from a brief scene with a psychologist (compared to say, Fearless, which looked at the issue of surviving a plane crash and its effects on survivors both scientifically and from a mystical/religious perspective), and the direction was fairly standard, very often opting for a desaturated 'grey' look, sometimes coming across as poor lighting or indifferent cinematography at times. Frankly, Glazer, who also did Sexy Beast, has and can do a lot better, and this was a missed opportunity.

Then in the lecture, we looked at the concept of 'Stardom', reflecting back on the idea that an auteur can also been an actor (they can play very distinctive roles, like John Wayne playing cowboys or Edward G Robinson playing gangsters). In the case of Birth, the star was Nicole Kidman, an Australian actress and former wife of Tom Cruise, another major name in films, who first came to prominence through films like Dead Calm, Batman Forever and her major breakout role, To Die For (1995) playing a ditzy weather forecaster who climbs up the television ladder.

Through this, we looked at the origins of 'star' and some of its archetypes: Star was first coined by early movie mogul Carl Lemmele Sr in 1910 as a means of creating a following/regular audience for film, which was then a new and frowned upon medium. The first 'star' was Florence Lawrence aka The Biograph, who staged a mock death and then later was seemingly resurrected, now with her real name. However, the first really big star was silent film icon and comic Charlie Chaplin, who created an well known persona in the form of 'The Tramp' that audience then and now instantly recognise. The archetypes mentioned before that began at this time include the 'Manly Man' (dashing, heroic actors like Douglas Fairbanks Sr), the 'Great Lover' (men women loved and worshiped, like Rudolph Valentino), the 'Sex Symbol' (women who would inspire the 'Gothic' trend, frequently with images of death like skulls and crypts, like Thena Barra) and the 'Girl Next Door' (young, blond, wholesome women, such as Mary Pickford, who was married to Fairbanks), and then with the advent of sound came another two: the Everyman/woman (more down to earth and real, like Gary Cooper and James Stewart) and the Lovable Villain (someone audiences love to hate, like Humphrey Bogart in his early roles).

Our assignment this week was to find and talk about a star of our own choosing. To conclude, today was really engrossing as both subjects offered a huge amount of room for discussion: in the former, it was interesting to see the variety of countries and cultures that people brought in with their films and how they differed, as well as seeing how different people perceive the concept of 'national identity', and in the latter, despite the awful film, it was interesting to see how much history and depth there is to the question of what is a 'star', something that in this age of media we just write off as 'just someone famous' when in fact, it is so much more.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Week 19 (Mon 4 Mar - Storytellng & Production update)

From now on, there will no longer be screenings on Mondays, so there will be no more analysis of whatever film/short subject was shown. This means now we only have the 12-2pm seminars, an unfortunate loss as it gave the day more meat and allowed us to expand our palette by watching a plethora of films most would not normally watched, like Discreet Charm and Throne of Blood, but that aside, let's focus on the seminar:

Today, we came back with our ideas for a short, non-dialogue film scenario that we were asked to develop over Reading Week, and in a circle, give feedback to one another. Mine was this -

We open on a night time shot of a bridge, a young woman, early 20s, seemingly standing on the edge, above the deep, dark river below, her face soaked in tears, her left hand clenched tight. We then cut back to some time earlier, where she meets a new neighbour, a young man, mid 20s, as he unloads boxes and moves into his new abode.
The two slowly become more acquainted, at points points even assisting each other, like him helping her with heavy bags of rubbish. Eventually, she invites him in, and this starts off a relationship as we see them spend time together (walking in the park, eating out, sitting together on the sofa during a quiet evening), in love. Then one day, as she prepares breakfast, she finds an opened letter addressed to him, on the kitchen table. Reading it, she finds that he has been recalled to military service after a court martial concerning his implication in some type of corruption among the lower ranks, something he had never told her about.
Heart broken, she confronts him with the letter, and despite his regret and remorse, she throws him out of the house. Cutting back to the night time scene from earlier, the last shots reveal that actually, she wasn’t going to commit suicide by throwing herself over the edge, but rather, she is throwing away some mementos from their time together, such as photos and cards, casting out the pain and memories as she walks away.

The feedback I got for it was tha, though they genrally liked the idea and felt it had 'legs', they questioned if it could be done within the short film format (here, about 3 minutes) and wondered if that would be enough time to convey a good amount of visual information to give the relationship and development between these two characters really strength and dramatic weight.

After, me and Jessica, along with our model, returned to the grove and began shooting the interiors, which we did by going downstairs and shooting literally next to the stairway, using an extra light to give the white wall the appearance of a studio. Most of these shots consisted of close-ups on the model's face and lips, in keeping with the typical scenes and imagery of most makeup advertisements. After, we said our thanks to her and went to DMW4 and began uploading our footage and importing it into Final Cut (after having some technical difficulties with computers that complained of limited memory, and my own memory backup unit not wanting to be compatible with the Mac for some reason), and we began assembling the clips on the timeline (1st rough) and then cutting them down to our liking (2nd rough). By the time we were done, it was nearing 7pm, so we agreed to leave it for Thursday to finish up.

To close, the loss of the screening, as mentioned before, is a bit sad but even so, the seminar is still the main draw, and the chance to discuss work with peers always make for interesting discussion. As for the shoot, Jessica and the model were great to work with, and despite being in a small space, we managed to pull off a surprising bit of visual deception, and when ti came time to edit, Jessica was fairly thorough in her choices and approach as I helped her put the advert together, frequently referencing the storyboard.

Week 18 (Mon 25 Feb-Fri 1 Mar - Reading Week & Production update)

So now we have come to another Reading Week, the university's classed up way of saying 'Half Term', and, aside from updating the blog, new work began on Thursday with the location shoot, for me and Jessica's L'Oreal lipstick commercial.


Film Schedule for Commercial

Dir.: Jessica McMullen
Prod.: Abel Diaz
Length: 30 secs. 

14 Feb 2013
Meet with partner, discuss advert, do research
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen
17 Feb 2013
Discuss plot, begin planning, scouting locations, getting props etc.
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen
19 Feb 2013
Check progress, discuss arrangements, prepare for pitch
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen
   21 Feb 2013
Pitch to group, finalise details
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen, MDX Film Group
28 Feb 2013
Film advert (exteriors)
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen, Crew, Model
4 Mar 2013
Film interiors, Log & download clips, begin editing (first rough cut, second rough)
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen, Crew, Model
6 Mar 2013
Cont. Edit (colour &, Final edit), Upload to Vimeo
Abel Diaz, Jessica McMullen

Thurs (28 Feb):
We met up at about 1pm to begin filming, Jessica having brought the balloons from Edgware, as well as her camera and lipsticks. We met our actress, who got dressed in a special outfit for the advert, and we headed off to the nearby park, Sunny Hill, to film, yours truly taking on the dutyies of camera and cinematography, as we shot the exterior material of our model going around the woods with the balloons, eventually releasing them in the last shot.

Afterwards, we returned to the Uni, intending to find a photographic studio or free room to shoot our remaining material in. However, we found that the photography studios had been booked out and/or non-available, and that most rooms were occupied and/or did not provide what we needed. We agreed to shut up shop for the day and return together on Monday to finish the shots and edit.

Despite the setback, today's shoot was quite a bit of fun, and it felt great to stretch my practical side here, as well as train my eye to be more aware of details within the frame to get the best picture possible for my director. Both Jessica and our model were very patient and committed to doing the advert properly, and I really have nothing negative to say about them.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Week 17 (Thurs 21 Feb - Production Theory 2)

Today was cut short due to a previous appointment I had elsewhere in London, so I can only speak to what happened in the first half: We rewatched the Darth Vader-Volkswagen commercial, making notes on the stylistic choices taken by the makers in selling the car - Nostalgia (many grew up with Star Wars, The Nuclear Family (a mother, father, a son, an implied daughter and even a pet dog), cuteness/charm (the child going around, pretending to use the Force on different objects, including the dog and his sister's doll) and references/intertextuality (the white halls of the house recall the corridors in the original Star Wars film, the sister's doll is sat cross legged, much like Yoda, and the use of the iconic music by composer John Williams).

After a short break, we then had to pitch our ideas, using mood boards, a storyboard and mentioning what resources we had acquired over the past week in order to assemble this commercial: Ours was for a L'Oreal lipstick, and our advert featured a girl dancing around the woods with colorful balloons with cross cutting with studio shots of her, the balloons representing the different qualities of the lipstick (light, colourful, vibrant, has 'bounce'). We had decided to film next week on Thursday, we had hired a friend of Jessica's to be our model/actress (after finding no modelling agency would work with us, being a student project), we had hired another friend of hers to compose original music for the advert, we were going to film both at one of the rooms in the Uni, and in the nearby park that would double up as our forest, we had arranged to buy balloons on the day, which would cost around £16 for a dozen, from a shop in nearby Edgware. At this point, after we had recieved an enthusiastic and postive response from peers and Helen, I had to head off.

Closing off, the pitch went really well I thought: Jessica was very clear and firm, and explained fairly well what we were doing and what was needed, the moodboard had a good selection of different lipstick adverts that all put great emphasis on 'buzz words' and the colour of the product, and I only had to come in to explain some of the more logistical details, like schedule, times and where we would do it. Plus, we got some good laughs out of rewatching the Star Wars commercial again, and found a surprising amount of detail involved for what, at a glance, seems so straightforward.

Week 17 (Tues 19 Feb - Communicating)

In the seminar, we returned to the subject of Authorship, beginning by selecting a favourite writer/director/producer and how they have a stamp/recurring element(s) on their work: In my case, I chose acclaimed film maker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Bram Stoker's Dracula), his works often using the theme of family (obviously in Godfather, playing a core part of the series as we watch the Corleone's gain and loss of criminal power), age/life (both Dracula and Jack deal with this as both titular protagonists are younger than they appear, and bring up questions about life and what it means), and the darker parts of man's nature (Apocalypse Now is about the insanity of war, The Conversation deals with invasion of privacy and paranoia, Dracula with lust and sex, The Rainmaker with legal corruption).

After, we discussed what is the actual importance and weight of a term like auteur:
  • Marketing/familiarity (directors can be as bankable & famous as big actors)
  • The legitimacy of film as art and film makers as artists, the same way authors and craftsmen (painters, architects, sculptors) are viewed.
  • Expectations (certain directors tend to work predominantly in certain fields i.e. Scorsese: crime, Hitchcock: thrillers, DeMille: sweeping, vast epics).
  • For study (recurring elements, motifs, themes, character types etc.)
And the issues such a concept as this presents when trying to analyze/discuss it:
  • Film are a collaborative project, comprising of many peoples' work (lighting, sound, special effects, set design, costume & props, editing, actors, writers, producers)
  • Not every director is out to make art or groundbreaking films (what are called 'Hired Gun' directors, who are hired much like their crews and casts, to make a quick money-maker and get a paycheque themselves i.e. Les Mayfield, Stephen Herek, Betty Thomas, Raja Gosnell)
  • Creativity vs repetition and lack thereof of the former (Tim Burton often being criticized for these reasons i.e. the gothic look, the frequent casting of Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter, Danny Elfman's music constantly utilizing choirs and having a manic feel).
  • The studio imprint (Disney being a prime example, most of their works being family friendly and light hearted, and often having a fantastical, whimsical feel, especially their adaptations of classic stories, which tend to be more straightforward and less dark i.e. Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Snow White, Tarzan)
Later on, in the lecture, we watched Nine Queens, an Argentinian crime film that dealt with two con men who try to sell bogus stamps to a visiting politician, sort of a contemporary take on films like The Sting. Being Spanish myself, I didn't have to rely on subtitles like others in the room did, though the South American way of speaking. fairly fast. did throw me off a couple of times, and not every word was traditional Spanish. To its credit, the film did have a number of darkly comic moments that are unmistakably Hispanic, the two leads had decent chemistry and played off each other well, and given that a story like this could've gotten overblown, indulgent and maybe had more action set pieces, they pulled it off on a limited budget and with no type of cheap thrill-ride gimmick thrown in there. Nine Queens would go on to be remade as the American film 'Criminal' in 2004.

After, we took a look at the subject of World Cinema, introducing it via a brief extract of a short, directed by the Coen Brothers, for a stereotypical American going to the cinema and being persuaded to go watch a foreign film, and despite the subtitles and deep themes, found himself really enjoying it, playing int to the idea of assumptions about foreign cinema:
  • Foreign from Hollywood conventions (both in presentation and in its themes, ideas not often tackled by the more whizz-bang mentality of America)
  • Intellectual, less commercial and not sharing in 'American Values' (the American Dream, a man can do anything, begin from nothing etc.)
Also, we looked at this inverse, with Hollywood's affect on the world, especially one very famous case of a big film that caused a few stirs. It involved James Cameron's romantic historical Titanic (1997), which had an international cast of actors, a Canadian director, it was shot in Mexico and had its premiere in Japan, but more important in this instant was some of its impact: In Afghanistan, people would gather in secret to watch the film, which had been banned by the strict Taliban government. In Japan, the people viewed it as a virtue of 'gamen' (a stoic ideal) and even In  Turkey, the people were reminded of one of their own films, Bandit.

Breifly touching on what is 'national cinema' (how the country's state, politically and culturally, can affect a film, as well as its resources and the size of its studios, casts and crews), when then divided into Argentine cinema, which had enjoyed a resurgence in the early 80s after the end of the military dictatorship (and censorship), films like 'La Noche de los Lapices' and 'Los Pasos Perdidos' talking about events and crimes committed by the regime and its brutal reign, including kidnapping, murder and organized violence. In the 2000s, the industry was given another boost, with young new film makers like Trapero and Brelinksy mixing both art and popular entertainment in films like Nine Queens, which offered both social commentary on the impoverished state of suburban life, as well as some comedy and drama for normal audiences, and which itself owed a debt to American crimes, especially those by people like David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino, whose films were also defined by similar ideas. Capping off, our assignment for the week (or two, since next week is Reading Week) was to go and watch a foreign film and look up some foreign articles about Cameron's Avatar and what kind of impact it made over there, much like Titanic had all those years ago.

In conclusion, the authorship angle was not that much furthered beyond what had been discussed, except unpack a few things (as well as being one of the few occasions where I can bring the director of Flubber, Les Mayfield, into a serious academic discussion) and then, they were fairly standard and things most people would've thought of when the topic was brought up, as for the idea of National Cinema, it's the stronger of the two as not only did we cover a lot more ground, but even integrated some interesting trivia in here, especially with the stories surrounding Titanic, and the brief divergence into Argentine history and how it played into their films was an interesting bit of 'meat' in the lecture and provided some interesting context for these films and what they told the stories they did.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Week 17 (Mon 18 Feb - Storytelling)

In the lecture, we watched the 1989 thriller Blue Steel, starring Jamie Lee Curtis as a police officer who is called back from dismissal to investigate a serial killer with an infatuation for her, not realizing at first that it's the man she's dating, stock broker Eugene Hunt, who gains an almost arousing empowerment from the power of a gun. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Hurt Locker) and as you'd expect, its very slick and well paced, though Ron Silver as the killer does tend to ham it up at points, with manic eyes that remind one of Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and a monologue he has halfway through the film feels more silly and childish than threatening.

In the seminar, we looked at the idea of post-modernism, a concept which, in general terms, deals with the idea of reality being constructed and not existing in its own right, a departure fromboth modernism and other ideas before it, and which itself was birthed from a number of movements in the mid 20th century such as Multiculturalism, Late Capitalism (where power now belonged to those with knowledge instead of mere wealth), gay and feminist movements that challenged conventions and assumptions, and from literary criticism of the time that argued that text could and should have multiple meanings/interpretations. From a writing standpoint, post-modernism incorporates ideas such as intertextuality (something in the text referring to or linking into another work i.e. the Buffy example also discussed a few weeks ago when we last touched on this in the Tuesday lecture), bricolage (no such thing as originality, and that everything is a mix of previous works and elements) and the rejection of binary classifications (casting aside set definitions about what something is and isn't, mash-up fiction (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, FDR: American Badass, Shaun of the Dead) being a clear example of this rejection idea).

For the first exercise, we were asked to create a mash-up story of our own, in groups: my team came up with an idea for a zombie-dance film that dealt with an undead dancing troupe entering a human dance contest in a post-apocalyptic world, using their 'zombie-ness' as their team's gimmick. Afterwards, we looked at other concepts related to post-modernist writing, such as author Umberto Eco, who believed that you could get away with something corny/overdone if you acknowledged it ('As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly' being a famous example), Meta-Cinema (which is built around self awareness and referencing, famously in films like Scream & New Nightmare), Camp (originating in gay culture, it serves as both a parody and an affectionate tribute i.e. the 60s Batman TV show, both making fun and revering the old serials and comics that inspired it), Performativity (the question of gender roles, playing back into the idea of 'construction' mentioned earlier), the Mutability of Identity (identity is never fixed, but always changes, much likes how artists reinvent themselves constantly i.e. David Bowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson), and the Intentional & Affective Fallacies (the former being the idea that a text is strictly what the creator intended, while the latter is that the receiver/viewer is the only one who can decide the meaning).

To close off, today's subject was a quite a bit of fun, especially during the seminar, where we bounced around ideas in the group for a mash-up film, and laughing at the absurdity of our suggestions. As I go on in this course, aside from the work becoming more challenging and satisfying, I also find myself getting more and more endeared to this people, and the ice has completely melted away. Plus, post-modernism covers a surprising amount of concepts, a lot of which I had been acquainted with before through TV, Films and books, but never saw them as being linked together under this proverbial umbrella of thought, and that proved to be really interesting, and allowed some of the class to really discuss the idea and present examples where these different concepts applied.