Juul and Video Games

In responding to Kyle’s last post regarding Juul’s article and video games, I found almost the entire article supporting the fact that video games have narratives—at least of some sort or another.  Juul lists three reasons why video games should be considered a narrative medium: “1) We use narratives for everything. 2) Most games feature narrative introductions and back-stories. 3) Games share some traits with narratives,” and then describes three other arguments on why they shouldn’t be.  Although I agreed with most of the arguments, I thought that most everything pointed to video games containing narratives– except for his point on Time.


            One of Juul’s arguments against narratives was that games don’t always reflect the same narrative as the movie or medium they were adapted from.  This was supported with the Star Wars example, which ultimately said “Star Wars the game can not be said to contain a narrative that can be recognized from Star Wars the movie.”  I think this is more a mislabeling problem than a question of whether or not the game has a narrative.  The game definitely has a narrative…it’s just not the same as the one in the film.  But this is the creators fault and I’m sure if they wanted to produce a game with the same narrative they could find a way.  It is just a simple mislabeling because the creators want to make money by having the game reflect the big-name movie, yet they still want the game to be good so they deviated from the original narrative so that it would better suit their medium.


            Juul also describes the relationship of the player to the game and how this is different from other narrational mediums—but I didn’t really understand how this is supposed to support the idea that video games don’t have narratives.  Of course games encourage the player because of the evaluative process, but how does this direct involvement discourage a narrative?


            Finally, I did agree a lot with Juul’s second point about Time, Game, and Narrative—and I think that anybody who argues for video games not having a narrative should use this as they’re main point.  If the basic definition of a narrative means that it has taken place in the past and is now over, then video games can absolutely not fit into this category because of their interactivity.  While playing a game, the player is participating in and affecting the current story—therefore the game does not take place in the past and cannot be considered a narrative.


Ok, that’s it for now.  I hope you all had a great thanksgiving and we’ll see you tomorrow!!

Final Paper Proposal

            My final paper will be about the television show The Office and will be centered on the filmic comprehension that Bordwell outlines in his book Narration in the Fiction Film.  Basically I will analyze the use of the camera, or in other words, the production crew, in the show and see how its narrative style is different from common sitcoms. 


            In essence the camera in the show is very distinct as it has a mind of its own.  Its acknowledgement by the characters is highlighted and fore grounded as it acts like a distinct character in the room— watching whatever catches its eye.  Also, the characters often give personal confessions to the camera as though they were confiding in a best friend.  In sum, this distinct use of camera style creates conflict, comedy, emotion, and is not just a window to the action—it actually changes it.  This is something that is quite unique and unusual in television, and I want to discover what effect this has on the overall narration.


            Therefore, I will discuss the restricted narrational knowledge of the show and how it is all narrated through a 1st person, subjective lens.  I will elaborate on the fact that the show is highly self-conscious, always asking you to notice the production methods.  Finally, I will talk about the extreme communicativeness of the show—showing us everything that the camera knows.


            Then in the second part of the paper I will discuss how all of these things function to produce a new type of schemata, a new way in which viewers quickly understand everything as though they were just a silent character in the show.  This schemata produces a show which functions like a reality TV show in that it reveals everything that it knows as it happens, yet in a documentary-esc style.


Sources Thus Far:


Bordwell, David. Narration in the Fiction Film. New York: University of Wisconsin P, 1985.

Heitah. “The Office (essay).” Everything2. 08 Dec. 2007. 11 Nov. 2008 <http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1920838>. 

Hicks, Jesse. “The Office.” Rev. of The Office. PopMatters. 01 June 2006. 11 Nov. 2008 <http://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/o/office-060601.shtml>.

Walters, Ben. The Office. Grand Rapids: BFI, 2005.

“Why I Watch “The Office”” Northern Attack. 31 Oct. 2004. 11 Nov. 2008 <http://www.northernattack.com/archives/why-i-watch-the-office/>.

Reflection on the Video Essays

I first want to say that I thought this was a great project.  I feel like we don’t often get too many creative or abnormal projects here at Middlebury and it’s really refreshing when they do come around.  I also find myself much more motivated and interested in something like this rather than normal 10 page, 12pt font, double-spaced paper.

Anyways, I think the project was definitely a success.  It made it really easy to see how editing can greatly effect a narrative.  We were able to use the chosen material from a film (or tv show) and make our own narratives, which, if you think about it, is pretty impressive considering that the editor of the film has already eliminated so much material in order to express his own narrative.  That said, I think the project could exceed a little more if we had access to the dailies or raw footage of an entire episode, and then were expected to make our own narrative arch out of all of the source material.  I think if each team were to create some narrative out of the same footage it would even better illustrate how editing can influence the narration of a film.

For example, in Bee’s J-term class we were all given the dailies to  a chrysler commercial, and to a reebok Shakira commercial.  Of this footage, we each created commercials/dances/music videos out of the same source material, but everyone’s final product was drastically different.  In this light the difference between each spot was what each student included and what they left out– as well as what they accented and when they cut.  The end result was several completely different narratives simply because of the choices of the editors.

Anyways, that is just an example and possible suggestion for how to take this project one step further.  But on the whole I thought the project was a success and it was interesting to see how everyone put their essays together.  I also thought it was interesting how so many people picked The Prestige and wanted to illustrate something about the two Borden’s or their relationships.  I find it intriguing that so many people wanted to illustrate the individuality of the two brothers, and I don’t know whether it was just an obvious choice to do or because it was like putting together the pieces of the puzzle that Christopher Nolan left out.  I guess magic and/or twist movies always lend themselves to being judged and tested, and putting together the film so that it makes sense is a common procedure (such as seeing Momento in continuous time).

Anyways, those are just my brief thoughts on the video essay project.  I hope everyone has a great weekend and we’ll see you all on Tuesday.

Adaptation Trailer and Remix

Alex And I just finished putting together our video project.  Here are the links to the youtube sites:

Adaptation Trailer


Adaptation Remix

Basically we wanted to explore what happens to a narrative when you change the images under a voice-over audio track.  So we took the opening monologue from Adaptation and synced it to a bunch of more action driven shots from the rest of the film, shots that relate more to a Donald Kauffman type film.  First we made this into a trailer (the first link) and then we adapted it so that this scene could actually replace the opening scene in the real film.  You guys should check out the trailer and the remix, and we’ll talk about it a lot more in class tomorrow.

Chatman and “The Prestige”

First of all, this was my first time watching this film and I must say that I thought it was pretty amazing.  Christopher Nolan never ceases to amaze me as I am continually impressed with his films (from the Batmans to Momento to The Prestige). I just looked it up and can’t find what he’s currently working on, but I can’t wait for it to come out.

I think part of the reason why he is such an impressive filmmaker is because of the intertwined plot lines that mangle the viewers sense of time.  I think the Batman films are the only two that have a syuzhet that starts at a certain time and then continues chronologically as the story unfolds.  Both Momento and The Prestige have flashbacks and ellipses that carry the viewer backwards and forwards within the story world.  I think this is a very impressive feat that is very hard to pull off, but when it is done effectively as Christopher Nolan has done, it functions to both make the film more interesting in terms of continually keeping the viewer thinking and hypothesizing, as well as to make the ending more exciting and dramatic when we figure everything out and the final story is revealed– the prestige.

One of the main discussions we had in class today was whether or not we think this film is honest with us as it’s final trick is to use real magic.  I personally didn’t have any problem with this when I watched the film.  In fact, I didn’t even think about the fact that this machine was that much different than the magic tricks that we were watching.  I think the main reason for my non-critical view is twofold–1) because the film had previously established that there existed real magic and wizards, and that I then immediately began to think that the first magician to get ahold of some “real magic” would then be able to win the contention.  Secondly, it worked because we were able to see the trick– we know how the machine functioned and nothing about it was hidden to us that other characters knew.  In other words, Tangier didn’t know anything more about the magic trick than we did, therefore he was completely honest with us.  The only thing that bothered me was the fact that he had to keep killing himself and have his clone live on, sense the clone was the one that was transported.

One other little thought that I wanted to share was my skepticism of the idea of a narratee.  I don’t believe that every story needs to have someone to hear it, or how this differs really from an implied reader.  I guess during parts of The Prestige you could claim that the girl was the narratee, but she wasn’t for the whole film and I don’t know who it would be for the rest of the film.  Basically, i just don’t know how to differentiate between the intended reader and the narratee.  What if someone is telling a personal daydream or talking to themselves?  Why does the narrator or system of narration have to have a specific listener in mind?

Another Possible Paper Topic

I was just thinking about past film and media culture classes, trying to remember certain ideas, shows, films, etc. that really interested me, and one thing that came to mind was the show Seinfeld.  I remember briefly studying and reading about the show in TV and American Culture, and how I thought it was a revelation when I realized that the whole reason the show works is because everything is based on coincidence.  This really intrigued me, and as I watched further episodes it became blatantly obvious yet fun to figure out and analyze how things will come together purely because of chance.

Therefore, I think there are two reasons why this would be a good possible paper topic– 1) because I know that I am interested in it and would like to study it further, and 2) because it’s narrative technique is so unusual that I think there would be a lot to learn from studying it in depth.

 I’m not entirely sure what approach I would take to studying the show, as I think there could be a lot of different angles taken.  But some ideas would be seeing how the fabula construction differs as the viewer knows that things won’t be tied together by cause and effect, rather by coincidence.  Or, I could test Bordwell’s theory of constantly making hypothesis and conclusions, because the viewer isn’t simply trying to understand and create fabula, they are more likely trying to figure out how the seperate anecdotes will come together in the end.

Altogether, I’m not exactly sure what approach I would take on the paper.  I would probably do a fair amount of research first and then see exactly how the show relates with the material learned from the class.  But I do think that Seinfeld is an interesting show that offers a different perspective on narration that could be very worthwhile to analyze.

A Possible Paper Topic

I was just thinking about this upcoming research paper and what I wanted to write about.  It occurred to me that I have two general criteria for writing a film paper– 1) the topic idea must be good, entertaining, and provocative, and 2) the text must be something that I like to watch and won’t get bored with.  If my topic meets these two criteria, then I will generally write a better paper because I will legitimately be interested in the essay.

That said, I have one broad idea that thus far meets these criteria.  I am thinking about writing on “The Office” for two reasons– 1) because I like the show and think it is very well made, and 2) because the role of the camera has always intrigued me.

Now the tricky part of this topic is narrowing it down so that it both meets the criteria for the class and is still entertaining to me.  I haven’t quite formulated a specific direction yet, but here are some ideas.

Although we haven’t really talked about it yet, I was thinking about addressing the idea of a narrator in the office and how the camera acts to present the syuzhet information to the viewer.  Basically, the relationship between the camera and the plot– does it act as a narrator?

I could also talk about the role of the camera in terms of presenting the syuzhet, creating gaps, and therefore formulating the viewer’s fabula.  

So these are my very basic ideas.  I would really appreciate it if anybody could give me some feedback and help me find a good direction to go with this topic.  Also, if anyone knows of any scholarly essays or books on “The Office” can you please let me know so I can get started with the research.  Thanks!!

A New Appreciation for Art Cinema

I just finished reading Bordwell’s chapter six, Narration and Space and have recently gained a lot more respect for some of the Art Cinema films that we watched in previous film classes.  After reading the chapter I sat down and thought about what I learned, especially with respect to equivalence, reduction, and expansion of narrational time.

Basically I realized that most of this chapter simply lists and explains all the ways in which time can be manipulated in a film.  I thought of how art cinema directors probably did a similar thing as they aimed at exploring the power of film– the probably sat down and listed all the ways in which time can be tampered with.  Then, they probably went through and broke down this list further, into ellipsis, compression, insertion, and dilation, and figured out all the ways to illustrate these things.  So, as the example that Bordwell gives us, Eisenstein played with insertion by using overlapping editing.

My point is this: before really knowing the goals of experimentation that these artists were aiming to do, these films seemed really boring to me.  Maybe I was just used to getting a very intelligible story out of typical hollywood films, which is for certain very true, but these “strange” films just seemed to be annoying and completely against the idea of “entertainment.”  Now I can understand these films more as an experimental stage in motion pictures.  These artists weren’t necessarily trying to make money and entertain people, rather they were experimenting with the basic concepts of film to see how the medium can change meaning, emotion, etc.  People like Eisenstein were experimenting with time, rythem, pace, editing, etc, and they’re overall goal was not to please viewers like me, but instead to explore the new narrative possibilities that film presents.  Somehow I overlooked this goal while taking film history classes and as a result probably didn’t get as much out of these films as I should have.

Style and Syuzhet in The Sixth Sense

One thing that we didn’t really get to talk about in class last thursday that I really wanted to discuss was the relationship of Style and Syuzhet.  For some reason I find these terms to be really hard to seperate and I can’t quite get a clear definition of them.  I’ve looked over Bordwell many times, and he too admits that these terms are very interrelated, but for some reason it is still not clear in my head.  After seeing The Sixth Sense I think I can appropriately define what the style and Syuzhet are, but if I’m not quite right can somebody please let me know and tell me where I am wrong.

Ok, so here is what I think the style and Syuzhet are in The Sixth Sense:  the syuzhet is the story-world– everything that is shown to us.  It is the plot- all of the shots, sequences, colors, characters, actions, and everything that adds up to the plot.  It is the story of Malcolm realizing he is dead as he tries to fix his marriage, and it is the story of Cole trying to fix his problem of seeing dead people.

Therefore, the style is everything that M. Night Shyamalan adds artistically to the film.  It is the excess direction, style, shot order, color, lighting, sound, pace, and everything else that is not crucial to the plot but compliments and emphasizes it.  So, I think that the style in the film is that which makes the film scary and thrilling.  Often times the camera is on axis, with drained colors, scary noise, and shaky movement.  The shot sequence will cut quicker during scary scenes, often showing the rapidly dropping thermometer, or the top of the tent as the cloths pins are being ripped off.  In sum, I think that the style in this film all adds up to create the thriller, suspenseful feeling.  

Therefore, the style is used to reinforce the first, false fabula that these dead people are trying to hurt Cole and that cole is living in a really scary situation.  This is in fact false, as we later learn that the ghosts just want help, and that the story really isn’t scary– it’s just stylized to seem scary.  For example, when you watch the film for the second time you undoubtedly question why the ghosts approach Cole in such scary ways– it seems completely unnecessary, and you later realize that the film is just STYLIZED to seem scary.  Therefore, the style of the film is meant solely to reinforce the first, false fabula of the viewer.

On the other hand, there are certain things about the style that the viewer doesn’t recognize the first time watching, and are therefore meant to be exposed during the second or third viewing.  Two examples might be the fact that it only gets cold when ghosts are angry, or the whole red theme– that the color red only appears in the film when the red object has something to do with both the ghost and the living world.  I think both of these examples are part of the style that is not noticed until after the first viewing, and therefore the style does more than just reinforce the first, false fabula.

Ok, those are basically my thoughts on style and Syuzhet in this film.  Do people agree with what I said?  Do you think I correctly understand and analyze their relationship and application to The Sixth Sense?  Please let me know.

Self-Consciousness and The Sixth Sense

Lavik addresses in his essay what he believes to be the idea of self consciousness and how it relates to The Sixth Sense.  He first draws the connection that a typical hollywood film is a lot less self-conscious than, say, and art cinema film.  He argues that hollywood films tend to hide the process of narration while “ordinarily, art films encourage us to contemplate the narrational process as we are watching.”  Therefore, Lavik continues on to discuss how The Sixth Sense comes across as being both self-conscious and not self-aware depending on which time you watch the film.  For the first time viewer, the film likely focuses on the causal relationships between the characters.  The viewer is not really aware of the construction of the syuzhet and is more focused on trying to create and concrete their fabula.    Lavik then addresses how the film becomes very self-conscious during the second viewing as the audience is focused on scrutinizing the film process.  The viewers will then judge the film based on the process and credibility of the producers.  And finally, they will ask: Did the filmmakers trick us by showing us false information in the syuzhet? or were they honest throughout the process of the narrative?  Lavik summarizes it best as he says “We might say than that The Sixth Sense‘s narration is highly self-conscious, but only retrospectively.”

Given this interpretation of The Sixth Sense (which I find very reasonable), I have a few questions about Bordwell’s initial definition of self-consciousness.  As Lavik discusses, self-consciousness seems to be how aware the viewer is of the the process of narration.  Does the viewer notice the constructedness of the film through many things including jump cuts, long fades, and discontinuous editing?   Or is the film less self-conscious because the viewer is unaware of the film medium that is creating this narrative.

This definition is not really the same as the one we talked about in class, and therefore I am confused.  In class we explained self-consciousness to be the character’s awareness that they are telling the story or are part of a film.  For example, Annie Hall was decided to be very self-conscious because Woody Allen often addresses the audience as he knows he is directly part of the syuzhet.  But this is very different than Lavik’s definition of the viewer being aware that they are told a story through film narrative.  Which one of these is right?  Are they both part of self-consciousness?  What would Bordwell say?