Ultimate Spiderman

The other day I decided to do some more videogame research and played Ultimate Spiderman with Charlie Dube. It is only a one player game so we had to take turns playing, switching off after learning new tricks or defeating certain missions in the game. After the opening scenes show how Spiderman and Venom came to be, the game begins in a very interesting way. Moreso than other games that I have played, Ultimate Spiderman teaches the gamer how to move and act in the videogame world. For instance, in the videogame Zelda for Nintendo 64, some movements are diegeticly displayed to the gamer, but mostly, the videogame allows the gamer to learn the controls for him or herself; there are signs which the gamer can reference to learn more information as well. However, in Ultimate Spiderman, the movements are taught to the gamer from the very beginning. I enjoyed this appraoch because it helped me adjust to the videogame world easier. For instance, learning how to shoot the web, and swing from the building to building is extremely advantageous when moving around the city. It allowed me to explore the parameters of the videogame world more easily. Also, some of the missions involve racing and fighting, which tests the gamer, making him or her better at the techniques of the game. This strategy is interesting because not only did it make me more interested in the game by strengthening my basic techniques, but it allowed me to learn harder strategies as the game continued to develop. For instance, after learning how to shoot my web to detain the “bad guys” while they are on the ground, the game taught me a new technique, which allows a gamer to hang the “bad guys” from street lamps in order to defeat them.

Another interesting option of this game is its unbiased approach to gaming. As a gamer learns the controls of Spiderman more in depth, after a certain point, the computer offers Venom as a substitute. Say that one is tired of doing good for the city, and would prefer to terrorize the game, the videogame naturally breaks to teach the gamer how to be Venom instead of Spiderman. This option is a huge perk because the characters are completely different. As Spiderman is relied upon to save the city inhabitants from devastating monsters, Venom literally eats people to feed the powers of his suit, or else he dies. The contrast allows for a larger audience to enjoy the game. As one becomes more crafty with the controls, different missions help advance the plot for each character. Also, the movie storyline between certain segments helps the gamer understand the general premise at different stages. The best part of the game is similar to GTA, as the gamer is given the freedom to pick the order of the missions he or she wants to accomplish. However, If he or she just wants to swing around, looking to bring justice to the random incidents that occur, that is fine too.        

Buffy

Watching the first episode of Buffy, “Surprise,” I forgot how awkward some transitions can be in a serial television show. There are two specific scenes which feel extremely forced and almost jarring. The first comes when Buffy is driving with her famle guardian (this is unknown to Buffy at the time) to meet up with the “English professor,” but is unaware of the surprise birthday party that her friends have planned. When the car stops, Buffy immediately jumps out of the car to fight vampires because they are robbing her school. After defeating most of them, Buffy wrestles with one vampire and falls into a glass window which is connected to the room where her surprise birthday party is located. Not only does this sequence seem wierd because the vampires are robbing the school, but the vampires loose a crucial piece of their defense against Buffy. For some reason, the vampires were carrying around the “Judge’s” arm, which is needed to fully complete the assembly of the Judge. In a scene previous to this one, at the vampire hideout, the Judge is talked about as finally “bringing an end’. If the Judge is so valued, then why would the subordinate vampire “bees” be carrying around his arm when looting the high school. Also, it is kind of ironic that the surprise birthday party inside is seperated by a glass window from the fighting outside, but I guess it is within the realm of possiblity. The second scene comes when Buffy and Angel are captured by the vampires, when checking out the vampire hideout. Right before Angel is about to be killed by the Judge’s touch, they fend off the vampires, and manage to knock down a web of television’s. As these television’s fall they smash through thick concrete, and seem to injure the Judge. This sequence allows Buffy and Angel to escape, but it seems like such a copout. When the camera transitions underneath the broken concrete, the slabs look huge, and this escape does not seem reasonable. Not to mention, what happened to Judge? You are telling me that a web of television’s took him out, when it initially took several armies to dismember him. However, then I remebered the term genre versimilitude.

Not being a regular watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I figured this type of beat style must be normal for the show. However, I kept thinking, how do people watch this? I realize that all serial’s are trying to create quick, reactionary beats in order to keep the audience invested in the ensemble plot structure, but should this always be the norm. What if writers were not restricted to having every scene be reactionary? Instead, what if Buffy’s problems were slowly developed in a way that made the audience have to piece the storyworld together, not be told the story all the time. It seems to be widely accepted that this serial style would loose spectators. However, if the quality of the show were devloped in a more creative way, it might help gain spectators as well. For instance, Buffy could fight the gang of vampires at the school and fall through the glass, but finding the Judge’s arm with the gang of vampires is a weak introduction to the main plot of the episode; it’s not that believable. If one looks at the show Soprano’s, not every scene is rushed, there is a natural pacing to the beats. I think this type of pacing could help a serial television show like Buffy. Also, maybe certain genre’s work better for serial television shows than others. Buffy is a science fiction genre that requires constant explanations about the Judge or the new “bad guy” because they represent something supernatural; something that is unknown to the majority of spectators. While, a show like Soprano’s deals more with personal relationships, which everyone can relate to because relationships are the center of everyday life. There is not a need to have constant explanations, or forced exposition which allows the audience to understand the new material; spectators can relate better to Tony Soprano than the Judge because Tony is a human being. I feel like constant explanation by characters quickens the pacing of a show, but it can ruin a storyworld due to time constraints.      

      

Arrested Development

I love Arrested Development and it is a shame that this show was cancelled. In class the other day we discussed how the ensemble plot structure interweaves to create different plots, and how the function of the voice-over narrator adds to the show’s comedic tone. From the begining of the opening credits, the narrator tells the audience that they are about to be told a story. This immediately alludes to the connection between the storyworld and the narrator, and being a comedic serial, the narrator plays a key role in establishing jokes. As the episode proceeds, one can clearly see that the narrator’s voice is used in a disruptive way to precede reactions from the characters; basically a beat with a voice-over narrator for comedic effect. For instance, when Lindsey drinks to much the day before her audition with Lucille, and misses her chance to be an actress, the narrator begins describing how Lindsey is feeling and why she missed so many phone calls. Then, the narrator describes why Tobias was not able to be reached in order to be a fill-in actor for Lindsay. While this voice-over narration is happening, there is a series of shots that shows Lindsey on the couch, Lindsey awake and walking to the phone to listen to messages, and Tobias crying in the shower spraying water on his scalp. For Lindsey and Tobias, the “looming doom” that they have to deal with in this episode can only be fully absorbed through the careful voice-over narration of events. Without the narrator, the dialouge would have to be changed in order to draw important connections between characters and describe character motivations.  For instance, Lindsey winning her best hair title in high school, or Job throwing the insurance check in the ocean. This might change the style and nature of the show, making it less comedic.

This series might have been funny if there was no voice-over narrator. However, the genre versimilitude of the show is expressed better with a narrator explaining the events because the voice-over narration sets up punchlines within the varying plotlines. Humor is expressed through the voice-over narrator because he speaks in a montone voice, which describes the failure and dysfuntion of the Bluth family. The voice-over narrator talks in a way that suspects nothing else, and even when there is a positive scene, it is quickly reversed by some sort of negative transition.         

Thread Plot Structure

After veiwing Mulholland Drive for the first time I found the film to be incredibly frustrating. This film is obviously made for veiwers that understand looping plot structures, or thread plot structures. An ordinary veiwer would be lost in translation when trying to figure out what happened in the szyuhet. Only after I read the assigned chapter on Mulholland Drive, did I come close to understanding the motives behind the film. However, I find the style of this film to be too eccentric. I do not understand why it is entertaing to try and figure out where the second act of this film begins, or which reality is true and which is the dream world. For me, the opening of the blue box is not enough to transition back to either the begginging or middle act. Also, the mysterious psychic neighbor is such a weird addition to this film. I can only explain the neighbor as a represention of a possible dream state.  

To the contrary, I do agree with Lynch that putting clues in the frame for the audience is appealing as a moviegoer. I believe I would have liked this film more if it were more linear, or had better cues as to what was really happening (an ensemble plot). For instance, when the gentleman walks outside the restaurant and dies when he sees the crazy looking monster, was that just to introduce the monster because that fairly long scene has nothig to do with the rest of the film? Or was it to introduce the idea of mysticism? Who knows. One good cue in the film was the return of the cowboy. He says ( not exact ) to the director, when they are at the ranch, that his return will not be a good one. Then, when opening the door to the bedroom, the woman is dead as the cowboy tells her to get up. This connection was a good one, but did not connect the different thread structures in the film. His first appearance had to do with threatening a director, while his second appearance was over a woman’s dead body (we come to know this woman as Betty), both of which had no connection. Also, if the first two thirds of the film was a dream, how did Betty (the dead woman) know that the cowboy and director met? As someone pointed out in class, I guess one could watch this film over and over, picking up new details each time. But, I feel that this film is designed not to make sense. Each veiwer leaves with a different impression, and that is Lynch’s intent. He doesn’t want to make a story, rather, he allows the veiwer to make their own story.          

Snap Z

Using the Snap Z program to capture footage in Simple Men was a lengthy process. I had never used Snap Z before, and did not realize there was neccesarry information to know before capturing. For instance, never place anything over the Snap Z area while the footage is rolling. I didn’t know this, and only after I finished did I realize that I recorded half Simple Men and half of me checking my email for twenty minutes. Also, make sure you click on the audio box. When veiwing the recording that included me checking my email, I realized there was no sound, eventhough sound was present as Snap Z captured. So, no biggie right? One foul up, no sweat, lets just do it again. Starting from scratch, we fixed our first two mistakes, and continued capturing the footage needed to renarrate. Finally getting the proper audio and visual scenes, we began to render the footage into FInal Cut Pro. I must say, this is the closest I have ever come to strangling a computer. Since we did not alter the number of frames per second(?) in our footage, it took forever to render some scenes. We found that trying to render both the audio and the visual at the same time was inefficient. What if either the audio or the visual somehow got screwed up? So, we decided to render the audio first because we could save different voice over clips, and generally it took a shorter time to complete. Following the audio, we rendered the visuals that we wanted in our narration. Trying to render long clips was a joke. I am completely serious when I say that a box popped up one time to provide an estimated time for our visual rendering, and it said 44 hours… Yea, I better get an A. However, once we completed rendering all our information, we ran into a third and final problem, probably the most limiting. Anytime we added on to a scene, or cut and moved clips to present a different story, we had to re- render the already rendered clips. This became tiresome, and in some ways limited the creativity of our group. We told the story the way we wanted, but maybe if we weren’t waiting for so long other ideas might have developed. Not only does waiting for clips to render take a long time, but it limits the amount of times a group rewatches their narration. Other than that, I had a great time working on this project. It was interesting coming up with a new fabula from the footage of another film. In many ways it reminded me of the article we read on Annie Hall, which describes Woody Allen’s editing process.   

The Big Idea

Comedy has evolved through the varying styles of disruption, gag, and narrative techniques over the years. There are many similarities between the sub genres of comedy, but only one that truly captures the spectrum of comedic possibilities. Examples from slap stick, situational, romantic, dark, political, improvisational, and standup can be seen in screwball comedy films; being a style that can incorporate a plethora of characteristics under one filmic idea. In Romantic vs. Screwball Comedy Irene Dunne is quoted as saying: 

“Things are just the same as they always were only you’re the same as you were too. So I guess things will never be the same again” (pg. 29).

As the authour of the book, Wes D. Gehring, explains this excerpt in simple terms, ” To clarify the nature and role of screwball comedy, the films of the genre can be examined for five key characteristics of the aforementioned comic antihero: abundant leisure time, childlike nature, basic male frustration, a general propensity for physical comedy, and a proclivity for parody and satire” (pg. 29). Using Some Like It Hot as a reference, I will attempt to show how screwball comedy’s formal constants relate to its maleable comedic form; allowing the genre to apply to many audiences,  and overlap with different comedic sub genres. In describing the common motifs within screwball comedy, I will also highlight how the construction of the fabula and szyuhet alert the audience to its desired comedic quality. Using both template and procedural schemata, ideas like absentmindedness and gender roles are present in these types of films. Also, after defining the central characteristics of screw ball comedy, I will look to compare its advantageous nature with other sub genres like slap stick, situation, and romantic comedy. Highlighting how screwball comedy is not just another style of comedy, but a compilation of the other sub genres.

Tenative Thesis:

Discussing the formal constants in screwball comedy I will highlight how they enhance this sub genre while allowing for comedic creativity which identifies with situation, slap stick, and romantic traits.   

 

 

Dale, Alan. Comedy Is A Man In Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. 2000.

Gehring, Wes D. Romantic vs. Screwball Comedy: Charting the Difference. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Maryland. 2002 

Gehring, Wes D. Screwball Comedy A Genre of Madcap Romance. Greenwood Press. Westport, Connecticut. 1986   

Horton, Andrew. Comedy/ Cinema/ Theory. University of California Press. Los Angeles, California. 1991. 

Karnick, Kristine Brunovsk, and Jenkins, Henry. Classical Hollywood Comedy. ROutledge. New York. 1995.

King, Geoff. Film Comedy. Walflower Press. New York. 1988.

 

 

The 3

I thought Aaron’s comment in class today was interesting about the possibility that Donald Kaufman is a fabrication of Charlie Kaufman’s mind. After leaving the screening on Wednesday night, I was talking with Charly Dube about the film, and I literally said the same thing. I did not know that Donald really existed until Charlie, and the agent who wants to do the nasty in the caboose, referenced Donald’s physical presence as a talented writer. Before this conversation at the end of the second act, I found Donald’s presence on camera to be ghostly, and akwardly captured. This can be seen from the begining of the film, when Charlie returns home depressed for the first time. As he ascends the stairs, his brother comes into the frame lying on his back in the middle of the hallway. This position reminded me of the Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, just hanging around and picking the protagonists mind until it was time to disappear. I find that Donald is presented often on camera in a surprising manner. In one shot, Charlie walks over to his bed and collapses becasue of his lack of ideas and energy. Then the camera jumps to a shot of the doorway and Donald starts speaking. There are no sounds of footsteps, or even a knock to acknowledge his arrival, he is just there as if he popped out of nowhere. I believe there is another scene where Donald does almost the exact type of entry in the house (maybe bedroom) as well. Maybe this is me looking for something more after our veiwings of The Sixth Sense, Memento, and The Prestige, but for some reason it made sense. Donald represented everything that Charlie was not. Donald had a hot girlfriend, he had confidence, and most importantly, he was writing an exciting and successful script; a script which Charlie heavily influenced. To me, this all resembles a fabrication of Charlie’s mind; his better half which he wanted so desperatly to embody. If he could realistically envision having sex with the women of his fantasies, why could he not envision a better half all the time? I realize the scenes at the party and in the kitchen stick out, but for me, those were Charlie’s dreams of what really happened not how it really happened. After all, he is a writer, and does live through his thoughts to create screenplays. In applying this to the ideas of an implied author, I will use the life of Charlie Kaufman to further explain why Donald is not animate. 

Knowing that Charlie Kaufman never did have a twin brother, I believe the he becomes more closely linked with the text if Donald does not exist. Not only does Charlie create the main plot for Donald in his screenplay The 3, but he does so as he was writing Donald thoughts in real life as well. Is it so hard to imagine that maybe Charlie wrote The 3 some other time in the film, or that it does not even exist, he just imagines the agent praising Donald’s script so he can further torture himself through his nuerotic tendencies. Personally, I do not find this notion that out of the ordinary, especially given the “dramatic” ending of Adaptation; is it real or fake. Also, this idea of Donald being an imagined character does not neccesarily change the conclusion we reached in class today of the three narrators. Similar to the real life process of Charlie Kaufman, Donald’s perspective motivated the film just as much as Charlie and Susan Orlean’s book the Orchid Thief. Without Donald in the film, the dramatic ending would not exist and Charlie would never learn the right way to look at love. Eventually, allowing Charlie to free himself from his demons and kiss the girl he loves. Without Donald, Charlie does not grow in the film, whether he is a real character or imagined. 

Pushing Daisies

As we were talking about Pushing Daisies today in class, I couldn’t put my finger on what is so appealing about the show until we discussed the dialouge. I believe that the magical “newness” (ingenuity and originality) of the pie let, combined with the quick witted comments of the characters, demands that the veiwer pay attention. If one does not pay attention, then one will miss the commentary of the omniscent narrator, or the motivations of the characters within the storyworld. For instance, when Ned wakes the man from the dead who has been attacked by his secritaries Rottweiler, the conversation is calm but to the point. As soon as Ned obtains the answer, the man is put back to sleep, and the fast paced style of the show is apparent. This can be seen not only in the dialouge but in the majority of the camer work as well. There are really only two scenes (that I remember) which hesitate to dwell on the aesthetic of the shot without dialouge. The first is the ovehead shot of the Ned, as a boy, after his dog has been hit by an 18 wheeler. While, the second is when the aunt with only one good eye stares down the hallway at Ned, and cannot acknowledge Chuck due to her blocked vantage point. Other than these two scenes, the shots are relatively fast paced due to the nature of the dialouge, and the theme of time that is present in the narrative.

The idea of time is present in Pushing Daisies from the very beginning of the pie let. As soon as the episode opens, the narrator provides the ages of both Ned and his dog, from years down to the exact second. The narrator does this in the pie let more than the above mentioned scene, which highlights the importance of time and its relationship with death, both which are important motivations in the show. Whether Ned has to time himself when awakening the dead, only having a minute, or the audience has to guess whose time is up when Ned chooses to let Chuch live, the idea of time is crucial the devlopment of the fabula. Using this theme to its advantage, the episode even makes time apparent when it is not neccesarily needed. For instance, in the developing love story between Ned and Chuck, they have brief moments of time where they connect. For example, as soon as Ned and Chuck return to his apartment for the first time, Ned immediately goes to bed, but they both unknowingly share a brief moment as they touch opposite sides of the wall together. Also, when they awaken the final dead victim of the episode, they both grab their own hands and connect for a couple of seconds, despite the the fleeting minute of the revived man. I believe that understanding the fast pacing and element of time, combined with the magical “newness” in this narrative, immerses the audience in the developing fabula.                    

The Singing Detective

I enjoyed the finale of the Singing Detective, and I thought it was interesting how Gambon’s dreamworld helped solve his inner demons. Granted Michael spent half his time applying the novel to his reality, and reflecting on his troublesome past dealing with love, but he found peace in his heart by being a detective. Realizing that he was the root of his problems due to his negativity, an interesting twist in the series occurrs when the two intelligence officers interrogate Gambon in the hospital ward. They ask him who they are, and what their purpose is? For me, this is Michael’s epiphany about which type of detective is best suited for his well being, the two intelligence officers or the singing detective. 

The two intelligence officers are constanly suspicious and unsubstantiated in their work. This helps Gambon’s mind develop incriminating assumptions, like his wife stealing his work, or how the psychologist is trying to barge into his life. These intelligence characters represent Gambon’s fear of trust and happiness because he has been emotionally hurt by his former family and wife. The two men fester negative thoughts in his creative mind; thoughts which bring out the worst in him. However, after his breakthrough standing up, and dream sequence with his former wife about not returning to her the same crabby man, he finds peace. It is neccesary for his old self to die, and in the shootout by his bedside, Gambon’s better half prevails. He decides to be the cool, confident, and calm Gambon. Which only exists in his dreams, and novel, until he is “shot” by his better half in the hospital bed.  

Throughout the entirety of the series I enjoyed the musical style. Not only did it provide an exaggerated sense of the mood that Gambon is feeling, but it established an addtional fantasy world that motivated the szyuhet. For example, in the final episode, Gambon mentions a song to the doctor when trying to stand up. First the camera is positioned on the doctor in the szyuhet, then it jumps to the face of Gambon in the szyuhet, and back to the doctor in the new reality of the joyful fabula. As the medium ranged shot positions itself on the doctor, the audience witnesses him singing the song that Gambon mentions, and one realizes the new subjective reality. Not only does the song emotively aid Gambon in standing up, but it captures his internal mindset in his attempt. This musical style was original and effective     

The Prestige

In our discussion about The Prestige today in class, I found it unusual that some people did not enjoy the magical addition to the end of this film. Personally, I liked the idea of magic overcoming the boundaries of science. Being the first time I veiwed The Prestige, I expected a magic show. However, what I did not expect is the amount of time the szyuhet spends in explaining how magic is not really magic at all, but just an illusion to the eye. No, I am not naive, and I do know that most magic shows are illusions as well, but I did anticipate being entertained in a magical way. As I mentioned today in class, the development of the szyuhet is choppy, but there are clues that allude to the developing “magicalness”. For instance, when Cutter and the lawyer are walking through a dark hallway, and the lawyer inquires about Angier’s magical box. This means nothing at the beggining of the film, but it plants an important seed that is revisited after Angier’s dealings with Tesler. Making one believe that something like a cloning machine is on the horizon.

In class today, I believe Leslie mentioned how the camera acts like a magic act throughout the film. I think this is a great point because the szyuhet develops through a choppy narrative style. Whether it is the journals, or the love stories, or the illusions themselves, the audience is constantly left in suspense awaiting an answer to “the turn.” One witnesses the importance of this narration through Fallon. He is present in many shots at the begining of the film, but his reality as a Bourdon brother is hidden from the veiwer until the end, when the camera shows how the arrangement to create Fallon works. Capturing the two brothers undress and dress to disguise their appearance, the trick is on the audience because the multiplicity of Angier’s “real magic” has already been explained. This illusion of Fallon is the prestige of the film. No one in the fabula, or in the audience, is aware of Fallon’s identity (in my opinion maybe Cutter) besides the Bourdon brother who survives, and Angier; who is lucky to learn of this trick in his dying moments.     

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