Monday, December 2, 2013

Space Assignment Test

Hello my dear class! Thank you for coming to this lovely test today. Here you will embark upon relaying back to me the extent of your knowledge in regards to the usage of space within film. You will have 1 hour to complete the test. I wish you luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Let the test begin!:

Before I ask you any questions, I'll give you a bit of help... here are examples of the four types of space in film. I won't tell you which is which, but, hey, it helps limit it down to something, does it not?! Thank me for my good-hearted nature, okay?

A. So there are four types of space... what are they?
1.  _____________
2.  _____________
3.  _____________
4.  _____________

B. Draw an example scene of each type of space. Include at least three depth queues for each type of space and label which depth queues you are using.





C. There are 5 types of surface divisions that we discussed... what are they?
1.  _____________
2.  _____________
3.  _____________
4.  _____________
5.  _____________

D. What is closed and open space and how do you achieve them?

E. Why would a filmmaker use a specific type of space and use surface divisions?

Great job, student! You have successfully completed the test. Have a lovely day and stay hydrated!

How it will be graded:
I will go through the answers and see if they got them correct. For the drawings I will be relying on their labeling as a means to determine their understanding. As you can imagine, sometimes drawing space can be very difficult, so I will not take points off for poor drawing skills.

Question A is worth 8 points (2 points an answer)
Question B is worth 12 points (3 points an answer)
Question C is worth 10 points (2 points an answer)
Question D is worth 5 points
Question E is worth 5 points
...Bringing us to an overall possible total of 40 points!

Monday, October 28, 2013

American Splendor: Cinematography reflecting the comic book style

"American Splendor," based off of the highly acclaimed comic book series, follows the average-everyday-man character of Harvey Pekar and spreads light upon how facing everyday struggles can amount to your average joe being a, well, hero! The cinematography of the film reflects the original form and nature of the story: the comic book-style.

In an article conducted through CreativePlanet, the cinematographer of American Splendor, Terry Stacey, talks about how he manipulated the film stock to give it a grittier 70s pop kind-of-feeling to reflect the style of a comic book. On top of that the colors are quite dull throughout the film, reflecting on the fact that this is the story about a real, normal, (occasionally somewhat dull) guy.

The color scheme of the film focuses on dulled out shades of the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. Occasionally in the film there were moments where they popped a bit more. For example, in Harvey's work place all of the files are lined with those colors and it amps up the monotony of his life. These primary colors are very reminiscent of your standard comic book.

The film occasionally cuts back to the documentary-style footage of the real Harvey Pekar. The setting is in a white room, amplifying the contrast of realty versus the retelling of reality. In the article the cinematographer stated:

"Eventually we decided it would be more interesting to shoot this material on 24P HD and composite it as if it were in a real comic book, with 'reality' floating in a white frame. It was a more sharp, surreal world, with that comic strip depth of field where everything's in focus."

Through the shot design we are continuously shown a contrast of the self-reflexive nature of a comic book. A few times in the film we see interludes that take place as a comic book and then real footage, again, showcasing the conversion of comic to film.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Queen: The Old Ways Versus The New

The Queen, a 2006 film directed by Stephen Frears, follows the struggle of the Queen to maintain and uphold her appeal to her people during a time of grief: Princess Diana has died. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, does his best to direct her towards a more modern approach. The main theme of this film is about letting go of old ways and making room for modern change. This is reflected quite well in the dichotomy of setting: the royal fancy lifestyle (The Queen's home) versus the public normal lifestyle (Tony Blair's home.)

The Queen lives in the royal palace, a large, expansive, proper home. Because of it's size, we get a feeling of just how sparse and lonesome it is to live there. In fact, that largeness which conveys loneliness reflects how the Queen is stuck in the same mindset of her childhood: she was destined for this lifestyle and has followed through with it, unchanging, and never knowing anything else.  At one point in the film the Queen states that hiding her feelings is all she has ever known. The concept of "being proper" and how it is reflected into the setting of the Queen's home can be paralleled to hiding her true self in order to appeal to onlookers. She is trapped in only knowing one way and she is hiding herself in her large, "protective," dominating home.

Tony Blair lives in your everyday middle class home. The setting is slightly cramped and chaotic due to his family lifestyle: he has a wife and kids. The interactions between the children and the home setting are much more natural and clumsy, but Tony and his wife are lenient towards this. This setting reflects how most people live and accentuates the disconnect between the Queen and her people. Additionally, the children who live in the royal palace are much more controlled- we never really see a crazy childlike moment present itself with the royal children. This is because they are confined with the properness (or in other words, confined by the inability to adapt). A home of slight clutter and disarray is comparable to a collection. When one collects, they continue to add new things, expanding their knowledge on a given topic or item. For Tony Blair and the rest of the public, their homes and lives are essentially collections of the adapting ways and cultures. Because the Queen is stuck in a forever unchanging home, it is hard for her to grasp on to the new way. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dogville: Setting and Theme

Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier in 2003, is a dark film focusing on the immorality and complexity of all people and situations. Utilizing a unique setting style, the director chose to have the set be completely staged on a sound stage. There are no walls, nor completely furnished rooms- everything is to the bare minimum. Not only does this desolate and scarce setting reflect the poverty and isolation of the town and people of Dogville, but it additionally opens up opportunities to shed light on the strange dynamics of the town: although everyone has the ability to know everything about everyone, the people choose to remain ignorant to the injustices of immorality directed towards Grace as they arise.

Upon the first instance of Grace being raped, we see wide shots of the whole town, with poor Grace in the background of the shot helplessly being taken advantaged of. Without the openness of the set, we would not get this same effect. For instance, Tom Edison is right outside the door from where Grace lays- we see them both in the same shot- but he is unaware of her state of being. It is a sad moment, but it reflects the mindset of the people of Dogville:  they are obscuring their own sight of being aware of the way they behave and the things that are happening around them (despite it being quite morally obvious).

Because they are confined only to their town, the people of Dogville are living in a warped reality of their own "morals" and values. This is reflected in the use of a limited set. By keeping us entrapped in this one soundstage we are able to suspend our disbelief and indulge in the idea that this is how their world is. When Grace tries to escape our longing to have a glimpse of the greater world grows and our curiosity becomes uncontrollable, only for her to be brought right back to Dogville. Upon seeing the limited and scarce town of Dogville again, the sense of entrapment is amped up.

Overall Dogville effectively utilizes this unique setting. In most cases I don't think this set would work to the advantage of the filmmaker, but because it clearly reflects the themes of this film, I think it is a perfect fit for what the filmmaker was going for.  Whether I would suggest this movie or not?... well, that's up to you.... do you want to be emotionally battered? If yes, take a watch!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life Lessons: Character Dynamics Reflected in Shot Composition

Life Lessons, a 1989 short film directed by Martin Scorsese and included in the collection "New York Stories," follows obsessive New York painter Lionel Dobie as he guilts and tricks Paulette, a girl "working" for him, into staying with him. A story centered around struggling to maintain control and power, many of the film elements showcase Dobie's stages and feelings in regards to the power he has (or power he doesn't have!) I specifically found the shot composition to do an effective job at reflecting the power dynamics.

At the start of the film Dobie brings Paulette to his car. There is a shot where Paulette is in the foreground and Dobie is the background. It is obvious that Paulette does not want to be with Dobie and does not want to get into his car. But, Dobie is going to get what he wants. Intruding her personal space bubble, Dobie comes into the foreground, creating an awkward and tense feeling for the viewer, as though Dobie is popping our space bubble too.

Later on in the film Dobie, just like usual, is unable to resist his temptation to be with Paulette. He decides to go upstairs into the room of sleeping Paulette. As we see Paulette in bed, Dobie's shadow slowly creeps in on top of her. The composition of this shot not only feels intrusive, but it also metaphorically reflects the circumstances of the power dynamic: Dobie is like a monster. The use of shadow is surreal and not natural, just like the way Dobie views his relationship towards Paulette.

During the film Paulette meets a young painter named Reuben. She brings him over the Dobie's place. When Dobie gets back home, he sees the silhouette of Paulette and Reuben getting down to business. This can also be attributed to the choice of location and set design, but the windows are small in the frame, and don't really allow for any privacy. With Dobie big the foreground looking up at the little framed silhouettes of Paulette and Reuben, we are painted a clear picture of how Dobie is a control freak and needs to watch over her and know of her business. He is almost god-like looking at them as though they are a movie to be watched and reacted to.

Finally power dynamics begin to shift as we start to see Paulette using Dobie just as much as Dobie is using her. While on a staircase talking, Paulette manages to stand a step above him, making her framed slightly above him. This reflects how she is using him in order for her own excelling in the art world.

Two or three times in the film we see a quick-cut surreal fantasy of what Dobie is thinking. Each time this happen we are shown quick cuts of close ups of the girl's bodies (necks, lips, feet, profiles, etc). This reflects how Dobie views the girl's in a merely lustful way. They are things rather than talented individuals. Throughout the film he will never tell Paulette that she is actually talented, and to nail the hammer on the head, he quickly throws her away upon meeting another attractive artist right at the end of the film. The choice of showing many close ups amps up the facts that Dobie is fueled by sexual lust and attraction rather genuine feelings for these individuals.

Overall practically every scene is shot in such a way that it purposefully reflects the power dynamics of the characters. Because of this, the shot design acts as overall metaphor for the spine of the whole film. Good job (as usual) Scorsese!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bugsy Malone: Gangster Kids!

Bugsy Malone is very unique take on the classic gangster film. Not only does it converge with the genre of musical, but additionally it creates a world of only children. Thus this stereotypically dark genre is immediately lightened up by it's uncommon interpretation.

In gangster films some common themes are The American Dream, struggling for power, the corruption of society, etc. The theme of Bugsy Malone definitely ties into some of these ideas, but it creates a more positive twist on things; the theme is more about how because we can choose our own paths, we might as well go down a good one! I think this theme allows for some comedy to the film, because by going against the normal convention of a darker toene /theme to gangster films, as the audience we are surprised to watch a gangster film containing children and child-like elements (rather than killing one another with actual guns, the guns shoot out pies...)

Another unique idea that this film presents is that the destruction presented in gangster films is child-like. We are shown imagery / scenes of children parenting other children and children struggling to get jobs. This establishes that children are an equivalent to adults in this world. Furthermore, when the children sing we hear an adult's voice rather than a child's  This makes the separation between children and adults lessen even more. So upon viewing the finale of the film (the scene with the massive pie war), we realize the absurdity of it all. Thus the film presents a theme of "killing/being a gangster is silly and wasteful."

Just the fact that the film is a musical outright implies that it will be lighter than if it weren't. Because the genre of musical inevitably slightly breaks out of the world of the film, it is hard to take anything to seriously or to heart. The song "Bad Guys" is a great example of this; if we didn't have this musical break (which showcases just how foolish and young these "gangsters" are) then the children gangsters might be taken a little more seriously.

All in all, although the characters of the film are "gangsters" and there are many moments in the film that directly reference classical gangster films, Bugsy Malone presents a theme generally not shown in other gangster films. This, as said before, is a mixture of it's odd usage of children as adults and the fact that it is a musical.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Annie: a wonderful musical!

As a kid I saw many theater productions of Annie and always felt myself compelled by her strong-willed and beautiful-natured character. Oddly enough, I'm not sure if I had ever seen the film version up until now. Anyhow- I think the reason behind why I felt so compelled by her character can be greatly attributed to the strifes/hardships that she must face. This is reflected into the theme of the film.

Annie is such a lovable character, but due to her persistent attempts at escaping, Miss Hannigan has developed a deep hatred towards her. Miss Hannigan is the head of the orphanage. Through the daily chores and joyless lifestyle hammered into them, the theme of poverty and prosperity become very apparent. These little girls all share the dream of having a family to call their own, but in their impoverished state find themselves without much hope for this sort of thing. Additionally, the prosperity of the girls also lies within the hopes of this dream. However, later on in the film when they all decide to help save Annie, they join together forming their own sort of little family, allowing for their own sense of prosperity to be created in the confines of their worlds. 

The transition from being a part of the orphanage to being a part of the Warbuck's household clearly paints the picture of the have and the have-nots. Annie, being the beautiful-soul that she is, upon the prospects of Mr. Warbucks wanting a boy and not her, appreciates everything they have presented to her and thinks that just being able to be a part of this world even for a moment is enough. This breaks the greedy barrier of Mr. Warbucks and then he decides that Annie will do. 

Throughout the film the theme of greed is shown within all of the characters. Annie is the personification of having no greed at all. Then there is Miss Hannigan, her brother, and her brother's tricky gal, that will stop at nothing to get riches. Miss Hannigan is a lonely drunk, so she can be pitied. But as for her brother and his gal- well, they truly are just greedy yucky individuals.  Mr. Warbucks undergoes a transition from being completely greedy, rich, and unaware of human emotions to appreciating love and family. 

The musical numbers of the film all present different themes. "Hard Knock Life" showcases the strife of a failed American Dream, plus the effects of poverty on their livelihood. "Tomorrow" reflects the hope for prosperity that will surely have to come. "Maybe" reflects the arc of what Annie yearns for: a family. The song reoccurs throughout the film, starting from when she has no family, to her finally being a part of one. It presents the theme of the American Dream and prosperity. 

The film is lovely and the acting is cute and entertaining. The film does a great job at clearly relaying these themes through the acting, story, and music. If you haven't already, I would definitely suggest checking out this film!