The Future of Cinema

After our class Tuesday, I was left with a question: what does the future of cinema look like? I know this class has really opened my eyes up to the amounts of innovation happening in the film industry. It’s crazy to thing that in a relatively short time, special effects in film have transformed from something like this,  with obvious cuts that look silly and unrealistic now, to this, where special effects are used to literally bring an actor back to life to play a role.

Here is an article outlining several more technologies that will continue to change the way special effects are used in film:

(note: I don’t mean to be clickbait-ey, but look at #6! Do we really want to live in a world where computers write screenplays?! Scary stuff…)

Special effects are the most obvious area for innovation, but there are also many changes happening in the way that movies are actually viewed. This article from just thirty years ago predicted that movies will no longer just be viewed in theaters, but will be accessible with just a click. We all know how accurate this prediction is, as Netflix accomplishes this for more than 125 million users. What Ebert couldn’t have predicted, however, is that nearly anyone from any part of the world would be able to watch any movie on a device that can fit in your pocket. Watching a film has become more accessible than ever, which in my opinion is a pretty positive innovation. This article talks about how companies are using this mass accessibility to actually crowdsource what films people actually want to see. I have no idea if this is good or bad for the future of cinema, as sometimes mass support doesn’t really result in the best outcome.

Here’s one final article that has some industry experts weighing in on what they believe the future of cinema will be:

If there was anyone to have a good guess of what the future of the film industry will be, it would be people like Lucas and Spielberg. But who really knows? I just know that I am looking forward to the innovations that are bound to happen in the years to come.

Art Cinema Elements in Holy Motors

Without even seeing the movie, the reading alone makes it clear that Holy Motors is an art cinema film. Bordwell describes one of the main features of art cinema is that the narrative features realistic conflicts that are experienced by complex characters. The short synopsis makes it perfectly clear that this film will follow this style of narrative, for the main character is described as a “shadowy character who travels from one life to the next”. The different roles he has to play, including an assassin, monster, beggar and family man, are not too abstract when taken individually, but the fact that the main character plays all these roles creates an incredibly complex character. Another characteristic of art cinema that Bordwell defines is that the director strongly imposes his visions and beliefs onto the viewer. Checking off this characteristic in an almost blatant manner, the director appears in the opening prologue of the film.

Director in Opening Scene

By including himself in the opening scene as a character that seems to break the fourth wall by being in a movie theater, the director makes it clear that he is the story teller of this film.  During the interview, he is also incredibly open about what the film means and his point in making it. This surprised me, as I feel like so many artists are purposefully cryptic about the points that they are trying to get across.

Were there any other elements that you picked up from this reading that made Holy Motors seem like an Art Film? Were you also surprised by the openness of the director in this interview? Was there anything you saw that would make this not at Art Film by Bordwell’s standards?

Soundtrack in Scorpio Rising

Although the short film is full of powerful, shocking, and sometimes unsettling visual imagery, the soundtrack in Scorpio Rising stood out to me as the film’s most influential element. The 60’s themed music filled the void created by the lack of any diegetic sound or dialogue with hit pop or rock songs that fit the theme of each scene. This can be seen in one of the first scenes where Scorpio is working on his motorcycle. The song Wind Up Doll compliments the physical but quiet scene by playing “wind up noises” right as Scorpio is using his wrench, acting in an almost diegetic manner. This makes the scene feel more realistic since expected sounds can be heard, allowing for a more immersive experience for the viewer.

The soundtrack also complimented the otherwise soundless film by providing context that may have not been as easily implied without it. Take the “I Will Follow” scene for example:

The lyrics “…and where he goes I’ll follow…” are played repeatedly accompanying images of both Jesus and a character dressed in all black. This song, as well as the clips of Jesus, allow the viewer to imply exactly who this man is and what his role is in the organization with no other context. Without the music or the accompanying clips, he seems to be nothing more than a man standing alone on what appears to be a stage. However, the music changes the whole meaning of the scene and establishes him as a leader with the same kind of influence as Jesus.

Is the role that the soundtrack plays in this film strictly reserved for experimental films? Can you think of any mainstream films where the soundtrack is as important as it is in Scorpio Rising? Which film had the better soundtrack: Scorpio Rising  or Dog Star Man?

Mapping Genres with “The Great Map of Movieland”

With so many different types of genres in film, it can be difficult to know where to place each movie. It can be especially difficult because so many films also cross genres, such as the science-fiction/horror film Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) or The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011), which is hard to classify between being a comedic spoof or a true horror.

As I was searching for a way to easily visualize a classification of where different films lie in their respective genres, I came across this awesome map that someone on Reddit put together. 

“The Great Map of Movieland” by David Honnorat

While a bit daunting with all the different data points, I find this map incredibly awesome. The “Countries” of the map represent some main genres: Horror Lakes = horror films, Super Valley = superhero movies, Valley of Love = romance, etc. Genre defining movies are marked by stars or “city” emblems. What’s most interesting for me is looking at the cross-genre films that are located on the borders of each of the “genre countries”. Blade Runner, for example, can be seen on the intersection of “Action Bay” and “Sci-Fi Mountain”.

I highly recommend everyone take a quick at this infographic, and I’d love to hear some thoughts or cool finds that you all can discover! Also see if you can find some of our feature films on there!

Some interesting features that I’ve found: Bridge of Spies (C1) is an actual bridge and Shutter Island (E4) is an island. Thought that was pretty cool attention to detail. Also, our feature film The Dark Night is located at F7 right on the Super Valley” border line.

Midterm Study Guide

I’m putting together a study guide for tomorrow’s midterm on Google Docs… anyone is free to use and collaborate! I’m sure I will be missing things so definitely fill in anything you want, I guess just try to keep the same general format.

Good luck tomorrow everyone!

Combining Audio and Visuals to Enhance Emotional Experience in Film

Film is one of the few mediums of art that appeal to several senses at once. You can’t hear a painting or see a song, but film manages to pull the positive elements of each form of media to combine audio and visuals into a single emotional experience. Whether it be a narrative cue made specifically for the film or a pre-recorded song, sounds or songs can be used to enhance the focal point of a scene. For example, the opening scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn, 2014) has a helicopter flying in from overhead and launching rockets into an enemy base.

The scene is meant to elicit adrenaline, setting the viewer up for an exciting film. Instead of relying solely on visuals, this film uses the climax of the guitar solo from Money for Nothing  in conjunction with the visual climax to create an intense emotional experience that could not be felt from either mode of media taken individually.

Another example of music and visuals working in conjunction to enhance emotional connection to the film is in Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee, 2009), where the main character takes LSD in a van with some new acquaintances.

His slip into an altered state can be felt by the viewer as the scene begins to brighten with swirling colors. An even stronger connection can be felt when the almost stereotypical psychedelic rock song begins playing, putting the viewer in a state where everything both looks and feels like a dream.

This connection between song and visuals within film is not exclusive to any genre, nor is it even exclusive to any style of music. Certain songs can enhance horror movies by creating discomfort, or on the opposite spectrum create nostalgic happiness in romance movies.

What iconic scenes have been enhanced by music? Are there any scenes that are made great just because of the song that comes with it?

Song: The True Governing Power in Casablanca

The city of Casablanca is a small slice of heaven (or hell for some) nestled right in between a war controlled Europe. While most of the continent is fighting, rationing food, and ultimately doing anything to survive WWII, the people of Casablanca are eating, drinking, and gambling away their time. There is some pieces of WWII present, like the corrupt officials and Nazi leaders deciding who can get in or out, but these same people frequent Rick’s bar just like everyone else we see in Casablanca. The people of Casablanca seem to live behind a veil of alcohol and gambling, masking themselves from the harshness of their past lives as well as from the state of Europe as a whole. Rick especially seems to be just a shell of a man at the beginning of the film, throwing aside the very human emotions of lust and greed by turning down both women and money. In fact, we don’t see any emotion out of Rick until one key event happens: he hears Sam play “As Time Goes By”.

Rick’s expression when he first hears “As Time Goes By”

This song is all it takes to turn someone who’s sole identity is a bar owner back into a passionate human being. With a few chords, the veil that Casablanca has placed on Rick is torn off, and he is now seeing nostalgic glimpses of his time in Paris with Ilsa (who’s face is equally as emotionally revealing during this song).

The change that “As Time Goes By” makes on Rick is not just a temporary one. For the remainder of the film, he is a completely different man than the one we are first introduced to. The man that “never drinks with his guests” is now seen in every following bar scene with a cocktail in hand. The previously straight laced, successful Rick eventually finds himself alone in his bar with just Sam, pitifully finishing a bottle off on his own. It’s during this scene that we once again see extreme emotion out of Rick, unsurprisingly after he forces Sam to “play it again”.

“Play it again, Sam.”

The final, and potentially most powerful example of song taking over the people of Casablanca is during the intensely emotional national anthem battle. As soon as Laszlo begins conducting the band to start the French Anthem, people immediately put down their drinks to stand up and join. Gamblers, drunks, Casablancans become the people who they really are when there isn’t a veil over their eyes: sad refugees away from home who still have a sense of nationalistic pride. What reveals this more than the French woman who literally has tears screaming down her eyes as she belts the French anthem?

“Viva La France!”

Everyone in Casablanca has come from a different place. Some are sad, some are only concerned with escaping, and some are just drunk. It is very easy to forget where one has come from in Casablanca with all the distractions it creates. However, there is only one thing that can take the people back to their past and true selves: song.

Obscenities as a Leap to Reality in the Grand Budapest Hotel

From the minute the movie begins, Anderson places into a sort of “dream world” that is the Grand Budapest Hotel. Vibrant colors and symmetry in nearly every shot create beautiful scenes, but not necessarily believable or relatable ones. Just imagine of something like Die Hard was shot this way: it would turn from a suspenseful action film to something instead mimicking an arcade game.

the-grand-budapest-hotel-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000.jpg (1200×675)

As you can see, the Die Hard scene looks like it can mimic reality, while the Grand Budapest Hotel puts us in a very planned scene. The movie continues this way until a certain action is used by the characters: the use of obscenities.

The very first instance of this happening is when Zero and and the Author (Jude Law) are relaxing in the roman baths. Suddenly, mid conversation, the shot cuts to an image of a rather fat man being hosed down in the shower. While this was not the most obscene shot in the film, it was definitely a step away from the “dreamy” shots that led up to it. When I first saw this scene I thought it was nothing more than a gag, but as the movie continued and more obscene shots happened, I began to realize they served as much more than that. These wild cuts or exclamations take the viewer out of Anderson’s “dream world” for a split second to remind us that what we are watching is indeed reality, and not just a perfect recreation of a story.

The other big example of a visual obscenity  that I noticed also happens to be during one of the more intense scenes in the film: when Zero and Gustave first approach “Boy With Apple” in Madame D’s home.

This painting is incredibly beautiful in a classical sense, almost to the point where Gustave sheds a tear witnessing it as the sole occupant of the wall. This is why found Zero’s choice to replace it rather amusing:

This painting is about the furthest thing from “Boy with Apple” that Zero could have chosen. It’s incredible obscenity turns this very intense scene into a comedic one, and more importantly one that could actually have happened.

Along with these visual obscenities, there were quite a bit of spoken ones that continued to remove the view from Anderson’s “dream”. Interestingly, the times I noticed characters cursing were all during some of the more intense scenes. When Gustave says “F*ck it” after being attacked on the train, or when Dmitri calls Gustave a “F*cking F*ggot” during the reading of the will both add an intense level of severity to otherwise goofy scenes.