Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Most Valuable Minutes from "Taxi Driver"

The 5 minutes I thought was most valuable was from 8:40-13:40 of this video. This scene was selected because it seemed to best represent the recurring motifs that are scene throughout the movie. The scene starts out with Travis pointing the gun and posing in the mirror then saying "You're dead". The next scene shows the city with the smog in the background to represent the filth and the water also represents cleaning up the city. This relates to the rest of the movie because Travis goes through internal suffering because he lives in a world full of crime, hate, and "scum". The juxtaposition with these shots shows how Travis wants to clean up the city through violence as he points the gun practicing then cuts to the water. I think this is what the director intends when he puts these to shots together.

The next scene starts out with Travis walking in the store and in a short time, he ends up killing a black person who was just trying to rob the store. This shows how Travis sort of looks down on blacks as he thinks they are causing to many problems and are the ones who make the city the bad place that it is. This is the first time Travis kills someone in the movie so the audience sees how he has grown in character becoming the anti-hero that he is.

Then later on, after the scene where he kicks the TV over, Travis is waiting outside the Palantine campaign as Palantine is giving a speech where the audience hears him say "We the people have suffered". This is also important to the film because it adds to Travis' anger and motive to want to kill Palantine as he is eyeing him with bad intentions. Since Palantine represents the people, Travis believes he may be causing the city to be so bad and is encouraging the "scum" to thrive and support him.

After this, there is an interior monologue of Travis writing a letter to his parents. He is sending a card, but he lies about his life and how he has a girlfriend and is in the secret service. He seems to be a little irrational as he is writing to his parents, but does not know there birthdays and says that July is the month of their anniversary, father's day, and mother's birthday. This shows how Travis is starting to mentally deteriorate which the audience can see that Travis is becoming more darker and becoming the anti-hero.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Intensified Continuity

According to David Bordell continuity has intensified in Hollywood cinema because there has been new advancements in style and techniques in filming that have evolved over the years. Advancements such as more rapid editing, bipolar extremes of lens lengths, more close framings in dialogue scenes, and free-ranging camera.

More rapid editing:
Between 1930-1960 hollywood films contained between 300 and 700 shots and the average shot length (ASL) was around 8-11 seconds. In the 1960s, American and British filmmakers were experimenting with faster cutting rates: ASL around 6-8 seconds. 1970s, most films had an ASL between 5-8 seconds and around a thousand shots. In the 1980s, ASL averaged around 4-5 seconds and 3- 4 for those movies influenced by music videos and in action pictures. Most films were around 1500 shots and near the end of the 90s, movies contained 3000-4000 shots and an ASL between 3-6 seconds. "Some action sequences are cut so fast (and staged so gracelessly) as to be incomprehensible". Most scenes include conversations and shot/reverse-shot exchanges are applied and the eyeline match of the characters can serve as an establishing shot so longer shots are not needed.  

Bipolar extremes of lens lengths:
1910s-1940s, the normal lens had a focal length of 50mm, longer lenses (100-500mm) were used for close ups and swift action at a distance. The 1930s relied on shorter lenses (25-35mm) for good focus in several planes or full shots, which became the normal lens. 1970s, wide-angle lenses provided establishing shots, medium shots, and close-ups. "Even more filmmakers turned to the long lens. Thanks to influential European films like A Man and a Women (1966), the development of reflex viewing and telephoto and zoom lenses, an influx of new directors from television and documentary, and other factors, directors began to use a great many more long-lens shots". Long lenses could save time and multiple-camera shooting. The long lens can frame close-ups, medium shots, over the shoulder shots, and establishing shots.

More close framings in dialogue scenes:
1930s-1960s, directors played out scenes that cut off actors at the knee or mid-thigh level, which called for lengthy two-shots. Two-shots were replaced by singles only showing one person. The filmmaker must find ways to emphasize certain lines or facial reactions in scenes that rely on rapidly cut singles. "in many films the baseline framing for a dialogue became a roomy over the shoulder medium shot. So the filmmaker began to work along a narrower scale, from medium two-shot to extreme close-up single". A reestablishing shot may not be needed when actors change positions. Tighter framings permit faster cutting.

A free-ranging camera:
1920s, prolonged following shots were developed and became prominent at the start of sound cinema. "thanks to lighter cameras and stabilizers like Steadicam, the shot pursuing one or two characters down corridors, through room after room, indoors and outdoors and back again, has become ubiquitous". Crane shots now serve as casual embellishment and now less marks a film's dramatic high point. Push-ins build tension and are used at a point of realization. Circling shots were a very common way to present people gathered around a dinner table and arching cameras showed lovers embracing. Sometimes the camera movement may serve as a point of view shot. A long shot is unlikely to be a static one.

Continuity has intensified because movies were increasing in durations and number of shots, so techniques were developed to save time, convey the meaning of the shots more clearly, and keep the attention of the audience.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The American Anti-Hero

Between 1945 and 1980 emerged the golden age of the American anti-hero. This is more of a human hero popularized by the male movie star. There are four reasons why heroes changed in American film after WWII. Americans wanted: 1. new kinds of heroes since it was a new country after the war; 2. their heroes to rebel against the status quo; 3. human heroes who were like real American heroes who were true representations of life; 4. its heroes to reflect the true american spirit. The american cinema is a reflection of the culture. America had lost its innocence and needed new kinds of heroes to lead the way.

New Kinds of Heroes:
"The anti-hero gained popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, probably due to the cynicism during and following World War II. People were relating to the hip non-hero who was not involved in world problems but devoting his time to overcoming his own personal problems" (Epstein and Morella 5). People were relating to the non-hero who was not involved in world problems but devoting his time to overcoming his own personal problems. John Garfield made a name for himself in the 1940s. His characters were visceral and palpable individuals who were only concerned about what they could gain or lose. This was also true to human nature and much more realistic than the traditional hero who always did the right thing. The anti-hero was daring the audience to relate to doing wrong or being wrong even for the wrong reasons. The anti-hero would come to represent America's growing uneasiness and skepticism about true courage and heroism. The 1950s would see the paranoia of the Cold War take hold of the country and create a sense of fear and hate in the people. Characters started to embrace the duality in the nature of man.


"The anti-hero is rarely happy in situations that please other men. He prefers conflict and struggle rather than comfort and certainty. His sense of self-actualization or righteousness is achieved through war or strife. In Homer's story of Odysseus, as in so many contemporary films, the goal of the warrior/hero is not long life, but glorious life followed by glorious death" (Fitch ingredient of the anti-hero is the need to rebel and in the early 1950s America was concerned with fighting and conquering Communism. This gave rise to a revolution of father figures who represented  America's citizens whose lives were being shattered by overbearing authority figures. Rebels are anti-heroes who fight authority figures no matter what the cost. America would fight battles from Korea to Vietnam; while nothing much was gained almost everything was lost. The rebel anti-hero was just as stubborn and just as tragic. The 1960s would be the most profound period in the golden age of the anti-hero. As much as the rebel anti-hero was rebelling against the American standard, America itself was born through rebellion and revolution. Rebelling was and still is an American characteristic. What would separate the 60s anti-heroes from all others was their uncanny ability to inspire and move their audience even through failure. Their humanity would be their most powerful weapon.

Human Heroes:
"In America, 1968 was merely the most apocalyptic year of a momentous decade. During that period the myths underlying the foreign policy of containment, the belief that domestic affluence ensured social peace, and the basic optimism that dominated American life and spirit since the Second World War were buried forever. For many Americans their image of themselves, their society, and their place in the world underwent a painful transformation. Despite the fact that it ultimately ushered in a period of intense social and political conservatism (whose force and grip on power has still clearly not abated) it left hope that this was no permanent state of things-that some form of social and cultural rebellion could rise again" (Auster and Quart 67-8). Heroes seemed to be all too human during the 60s.They all had rebel hearts, but few  ever reached their goal or were successful. They would continue to fight worthwhile battles, but in the end nothing would be gained. Anti-heroes became these characters that were supposed to be representations of real people or real Americans.These human heroes bore little resemblance to their successful forefathers, who seemed to all live happily ever after. Anti-heroes still convinced the audience they could be the heroes of old and win out or at least survive.

The True American Spirit:
Towards the end of the 60s and into the 70s filmmakers began to tweak the anti-hero, giving the role a darker or even non-heroic quality. America during this period was just as morally ambiguous. Whether it was sexual liberation or drug use or politics, audiences yearned to see the true American spirit. The anti-hero became a darker, edgier character, who was just as confused as the average American. People began to wonder if heroes, in general, were real or even needed. Anti-heroes of the late 60s and 70s embodied the idea of the American spirit. They explored what life in America was and what it meant to be an American.

The American anti-hero contradicts the classic hollywood ideology because of how it represents a sense of reality in everyday life. The classic hollywood ideology involves characters who are more heroic and accomplish good things that seem unselfish and more superman like. However the anti-hero tends to focus on individuality and accomplishing the problems that seem more realistic to the people of America and is something that the audience can relate too. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Arrival of a Train" and "Damsel in Distress"

1. The camera work between both movies were very different. In the Arrival of a Train, there is only one long continuos shot that is stationary. The train moves into the shot and unloads its passengers and also the shot is angled so that the tracks create a diagonal line or graphic vector. In the Damsel in Distress, there are a lot of mid-shots and long shots between each character. The shots in this movie are much shorter, but there are a large number of them. The shots create more intensity as they have shots of nearly all the characters and objects involved in the movie, like shots of the train, girl on the tracks, the man, and the dog.   This movie tends to focus on key characters in each shot, while in Arrival of a Train, focuses on the train and everybody getting off the train as a whole.

2. In the Arrival of a Train, there is no editing at all, which makes this movie a form of realism. There is only one sequence shot, in which the footage has not been edited.  In Damsel in Distress, the shots are cutting back and forth to create more suspense, which is more of a classicism style because of the continuity cutting. There are more edits in this movie as it switches between each object or character that pushes the story forward.

3. The characteristics of the narrative in Arrival of a Train are more of what is actually happening in the scene at that moment. There is no intensity as the train arrives and it doesn't manipulate the effect that the audience would get from a normal arriving train, which is why it's a form of realism. This narrative is more self told, it doesn't imply anything to the audience, the audience ends up figuring out the story as the shots past since there is no foreshadowing or focus of one main aspect. The characteristics of the narrative in Damsel in Distress are more told through the cutting of the shots. The audience can infer that the man is racing against the train to save the women from being crushed by the train. There is more of a story taking place unlike in Arrival of a train where it is not really a story, but just an event. The narrative in Damsel in Distress is more opened to the audience because the shots capture and focus on many different specific characters and the event that takes place between them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advanced Editing Notes: 3. Soviet Montage and 4. Realism

3. Soviet Montage and Formalism

a. Pudovkin's concept of constructive editing is that meaning is created through the juxtaposition of shots and not the shots. He used close ups put together to create a unified meaning. He believed that long shots were too close to reality and that filmmakers should only use close ups, textures, and symbols. He believed these montages were the most effective way to convey the idea underlying real life.

b. Kuleshov believed that ideas in cinema are created by linking fragmentary details to produce a unified action. The Kuleshov effect shows that emotion is produced not by the actor's performance, but by the juxtapositions. Films that involves a character who has little dialogue at all use this effect like in the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks. He is all alone on the island and the audience is shown his emotion by his actions.

c. Eisentein believed life was about constant change and conflict of opposites. Also believed that each shot must be incomplete, contributory rather than self-contained. It needs conflict of thesis and antithesis produces a new idea. Produced contrasting images in the collision montage of Odessa Steps. In the Odessa Steps scene, there is fast cuts and short shots of the many different individuals in the scene. Some of the characters in the film like the mother and the baby are not filmed all at once, but at different times.

4. Andre Bazin and Realism

a. Andre Bazin believed that editing could destroy the effectiveness of a scene. Distortions in using formalist techniques, especially thematic ediing, can violate the complexities of reality. Formalists were egocentric and manipulative. Classical Cutting was also seen as potentially corrupting. The technique encourages us to follow the shot sequence without our being conscious of its arbitrariness.

b. What realist filmmakers strive for in their work is using long shots, wide screen, lengthy takes, deep focus, panning, craning, tilting, or tracking rather than cutting to individual shots. This makes the film seem more real and uncorrupted.

c. Techniques that realists use in their filmmaking is reduced editing, deep focus, and synchronized sound were used, as well the cinematography mentioned in the above answer.

Short Film Critique: Blinded

Rationale: The film the my group members and I made was titled Blinded. This is a dramatic film that is about a man who sacrifices his eyes for his blind girlfriend who seems to be oppressed by the world she lives in. When she admits that she will marry her boyfriend once she gets her eyes, the boyfriend donates his eyes to her, without her knowing. After she finds out that the man is blind, she tries to cope with it, but realizes that its to much to handle and leaves him and doesn't find out to the very end.

My main area of responsibility for the film was cinematographer. It was my duty to get all of the shots as best as possible and I made sure that I applied my knowledge of film techniques that would ever more enhance the shots of the film. For example, sticking to the rule of thirds was very helpful as many of the shots throughout the film were excellent because of this and they didn't look amateur. Also another technique that I applied was the 180 line where the camera was placed on one side facing the actors in a certain direction. The camera would only shoot footage that the actors were positioned in the same area facing the same direction or else it would have looked confusing if i switched back and forth between against the 180 line because then the actors would look as if they keep changing directions. Besides taking on cinematography, I also provided feedback for the final edit of the film as the editors were working on which is the best way to go abut things in the edit.

Problems that arose in my area of responsibility was shooting in the bright day time and then transitioning from the bright day to the inside of a house with little lighting. What made shooting when it is really sunny outside a challenge is that I can barely see the screen of the camera because the screen wasn't bright enough to compete with the power of the sun. Some shots I felt could have been improved like the scenes that took place outside of bart when the actors are leaving the bart station. But because I couldn't see the screen, I didn't know what the shot looked liked and how should I adjust the ISO in order to determine how much light I should let in for the camera. There is this one low shot where it looks as if the camera was on the ground and the actress falls right in front of it. During this shot, I wasn't able to see the screen and I did this shot blindly and the shot is not as compelling as it would have been if I came in tighter on the shot. Another problem was shooting in areas that had really low light, like in the bart station while the actors are walking up the stairs and also in the house where the most important scenes take place. In the bart station, even though I could have made the camera capture more light, I didn't want the footage to turn out grainy, so I only did it to where I possibly can to not have that effect. In one of the shots, When they are walking up the stairs, I didn't realize that the boom pole was in the shot because it was dark and the boom blended in with the surrounding environment. It was also difficult when shooting inside the house because there was really low lighting and my limits to where the amount of light the camera lets in without making the footage grainy was reached and it still remained too dark.

How I solved the problems that arose in my area of responsibility was with the lighting kit. Since we knew that filming in the house was going to be dark, especially after school where it gets darker faster because of daylight savings time. The lighting kit really helped when I was filming in the house because it was much easier to see the characters. However, I thought the lights were too bright, even with the diffuser on them, because they created shadows in the house, which I thought looked unrealistic and unprofessional. Though it can be argued that this scene takes place during the day and it can be the sun shining through the window, it still seems un-plausible because the shadows are projecting up against the wall and in reality, the sun would be shining downwards making the actors shadows on the floor. Still, the shots were much better than before. But we didn't reshoot the scene that takes place at bart because it would be too much work for just a little shots and no one had the time to actually go film there again.

Problems that occurred in the film as a whole was the overall factor of time management. Though nearly all of the members were free to shoot any day, our main actress wasn't which hindered the film from being any better because we were missing a lot of shots that would have help the audience better understand our film. This also effected the final edit because when all team members are reviewing the footage, we noticed that we needed to extend some shots, include shots, capture a shot differently, and fix the continuity errors that also arose. Without time to reshoot because our actress was unavailable on numerous days that we planned to shoot, getting these shoots was impossible as there was no time left to get them. An example is when the scene where she leaves her boyfriend ends and it cuts to her waving while saying "bye guys" seemed confusing. It seemed confusing because we didn't have a shot to show that she has other friends and was having a good time with them. But since we didn't have this, the message was not conveyed as clear as it should have been. Because of the actresses schedule, meeting the deadline for our film was really difficult because we stilled needed more scenes to film and had to shoo them by a certain time. The scene in the park and the scene where she finds out that the boyfriend is blind were really rushed. That scene was shot in a matter of five-seven minutes because we really had no time to shoot. The shots came out not too good because I didn't have time to set up the camera and position it to where the scene looks the best so the quality of shots may have gone down in this scene.

How our teamed solved these problems of missing shots, was in the edit. The editors had to cut each scene so that the story made more sense and even had to cut out some dialogue and place some shots out of order. Like the park scene, this scene was supposed to go after the scene where the audience is first introduced in the house as the characters were supposed to come directly from bart to the house as they are wearing the same clothing. But since we had no other scenes as supporting context for the park scene, we had the put that scene in between the bart and the house. Though it can be argued that the park scene could have taken place before the bart scene and that it was shown to give insight on the audience and his motives to give his eyes up. As for the time management problems, they were typically impossible to fix.

I thought the final film, as a whole, was generally good. I thought there should have been some scenes that could have been conveyed more and needed other scenes to help tell the story better and promote character development. The cinematography was really well  done and it helped show the story by creating meaning in shots such as close ups. The acting was not as compelling as it should have been because the dialogue seemed really simple and scripted and the actress didn't seem to grasp the concept of 'acting', which made the film's effect on the audience not as much intense as was intended. The edit was very good considering that many of the shots were missing, but the story still made sense and the effects such as the echoing voices in the beginning made the feeling of the film more dramatic, which was really good. However, what I didn't like about the film was the music. I realized when our film was screened to the class, that the music was copy righted. I thought this was really difficult to cope with because it was added without the consent of all team members and it also isn't allowed in the film. Though overall, the film needed more shots to convey the narrative and story even better, as well as the acting, but overall it was good (could have been better).