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.     

More Final Paper Ideas

My second idea came during last class after JJ’s comment about “who” narrates in Barton Fink. Realizing that the narrator in film is always plural because it entails so much collaboration in different areas, I find the auxiliary ways in which the camera tells a story to be particulary interesting. Similar to the shooting style of the Sixth Sense, I think it is entertaining to investigate how shots are arranged or which types of shots are used to present certain ideas. For instance, in the restaurant scene which we discussed after watching the Sixth Sense, the camera hides the wife’s “unknowingness” of Bruce Willis through a panning shot from behind her seat, instead of an eye line match which generally acknowledges someone’s arrival. This type of shot conceals the real fabula which the audience and wife are unaware of at this point in the film. In following this idea, detective movies might be particularly interesting to discuss. Immediately, the reading in Bordwell about Rear Window comes to mind, but I think any detective movie could do, especially Hitchcock films. Hopefully one of these ideas can be developed, and I would appreciate any help or direction anyone can provide.

picture of a man with a camers

 

 

Barton Fink

After watching The Sixth Sense and Memento, films which I believe try to be realistically convincing through their styles, I have come to terms with Barton Fink. Unlike the narratives of Memento and The Sixth Sense, which force the reader to rewatch or construct a convoulted fabula, Barton Fink is a style that requires the veiwer to watch without cynicism. After reading some of Leslie’s post the other day about Barton Fink, she states that people should understand what visual style they are watching within the first twenty minutes, and I agree with this comment. If one sits down to watch Barton Fink without some suspension of belief that certain scenes (John Goodman’s fire hall scene) are not physically possible, then some of the visual and emotional effects of the film are lost. One cannot watch Barton Fink with the same mindset as Memento or Sixth Sense, which require intense cooperation from the veiwer. Rather, the Cohn brothers want the veiwer to enjoy the narrative of Barton Fink, eventhough, there are exagerations and important information which is never exposed (is there a head in the box?).

I came to this conclusion after watching the film Forrest Gump the other day at my friend’s house. As soon as the movie started, all I could think about were the inexpicable accomplishments that Tom Hanks overcame and how they related to Barton Fink. One of the most obvious exaggerated scenes in Barton Fink has to be the hallway scene where John Goodman guns down to policemen. Not only does Goodman arrive in a fiery elevator, but as he runs down the hallway, the blaze moves simultaneously with his strides. This scene would be fighting terms for the meticulous veiwer because it does not seem real, it is too much of a coincidence. However, if that did not seem rediculous, then Goodman retires to his room after conversing with Fink, and the hotel is still on fire. Did he stay the night? How did Fink get out if the elevator was on fire? This type of scene mimics how Tom Hanks is able to become the first, mentally disabled, Division 1 football All American. I mean, come on, the scene where Gump takes a Rainman type left toward the sideline while returning a kickoff, before taking a Rainman type right to score a touchdown, does not resemble any of the football games I have ever seen. However, it adds to the tone and style of the movie. Similar to Barton Fink, the idea behind the narration is that narrators are going to tell a story that is entertaining, and may seem far fetched for the realist.  My new mindset is more open to Barton Fink because I have realized how the exaggerations add to the flavor or style of the film. I can feel John Goodman’s rage, and I can feel Fink’s anxiety when he wakes up next to the dead body of the woman he seduced the night before; how did this happen? However, who cares, it happened. Coming back to Leslie’s point, it is the mindset that allows one to perceive and enjoy the true nature of a film.       

Paper Topic Ideas

After sitting around for a while and trying to decide on something that would really interest me for a final paper, I am still undecided. One thing I did realize is that I like comedies, and that maybe trying to study different gag structures could be an interesting way to analyze comedy. For instance, Buster Keaton’s “Dollar Bill” gag structure might be an entertaining juxstaposition to The Office. Both narratives use comedy to drive their szyuhet and enhance the storyworld in different ways. I don’t even know if this idea is final paper material, but comedy is an area which would be fun to investigate. I could also analyze comedic narratives as a whole. Incorporating the fabula, szyuhet, and style into my investigation of different styles of comedy, or just investigating the way in which comedic narratives have transformed over the years. I am still unsure of my direction with this idea, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated.    

Slant and Filter

In thinking about our conversation last class, and the difference between slant and filter within narratives, I am having a difficult time understanding how Bowling for Columbine would fit into these categories.  According to Chatman, the diegetic consciousness of a story is something that only characters can visualize. It is only the characters that are affected by the developing szyuhet and fabula, which causes them filter perceptions and thoughts about the storyworld. Chatman also states that slants capture the psychological, sociological, and idealogical ramifications of the author’s attitude’s; these being either implicit or explicit. However, this distinction confuses me is when he describes how, “The narrator’s comments are not of the same order as the character’s perceptions even if he is reporting what he saw or felt “back then” when he was a character. The use of “focalization” or any other single term to refer to the quite different mental processes of characters and narrators violates the distinctions between story and discourse” (pg. 145). After reading this, how can Chatman not say that Michael Moore’s prescence in Bowling for Columbine is both a character and a narrator? Moore has a first hand experience within the storyworld, as he sits through different interveiws and conversations. For instance, Moore did not expect WalMart to make a public statement saying they were going to stop selling bullets, when he and one of the Columbine shooting victims arrived with a camera. This impulsive decision by Moore (narrating or a character) results in a reaction by WalMart, something Moore has to process and percieve within the developing storyworld of the documentary (character?). While this event transpires, Michael also leads the film through it’s expositional way of reasoning about different fears in the American society, as he decides what to investigate; like the NRA, and the fear of the black man (definently narrational). 

Maybe documentaries are different, but I feel that Moore is both a character and a narrator in the developing storyworld of Bowling for Columbine. Or is he just always a narrator? I feel that he is not narrating everything in this film. Many of his actions, like WalMart, are reactionary and resemble what Chatman describes as a character in a story.     

Memento

I have to say that after watching Memento for the first time I found the movie to be difficult to put together until after I talked with Charlie and Matt about its szyuhet, style, and fabula. In discussing these three elements, I realized how this independent film was motivated more stylistically. For instance, I do not understand how Dod arrives and what his role is in the story. The veiwer sees how Natalie tricks Leonard into thinking that Dod has threatened her, however, Dod is not really developed chronologically and all of a sudden he shows up demanding money from Leonard. Did Natalie call or speak with Dod and how does she know him? We don’t see this inciting incident? I am going to assume Dod is Jimmy’s partner, but why would Natalie want to threaten Leonard? All she knows about Leonard is that his wife was killed, and he is wearing her husband’s clothes while driving his car. There is no reason to go after him, rather, she should be threatening JC, or the man that Leonard is trying to find.

Another problem that I have with the film, which Matt pointed out, is during the flashback where we learn that Leonard iss always the man suffering from anterograde amnesia. In the quick glimpse where the audience witnesses Leonard hugging his wife on the bed, he already has his tatoos, which is extremely confusing because those should not be there according to the chronological ordering of events. He should not have any tatoos. Also, I do not like the forgetful motivation in the film. For instance, when Leonard gets out of his car after almost getting shot by Dod, he has an extremely short term memory. This does not work because throughout the film the audience witnesses Leonard stress “focusing” on his present thoughts if it were important. Generally, If Leonard could focus on the task at hand, he did not neccesarily forget what was presently happening. So, I don’t think it is feasible for him to loose focus while trying to save his life running away from Dod; he has to be in the moment. Leonard should be more in the moment then in the end at the abandoned building. Here the audience learns of the game he creates to kill the cop. Also, the scene where he stays up all night burning his wife’s memorabilia seems to be one of great reflection. In both of these scenes his attention seems to be coherent, but it is not sustained in the film when he is in great danger?

I find the ideas I mentioned to be distracting when reflecting on the film, especially after the most recent discussion our class had differentiating between szyuhet and style. I think the style of this movie is very creative, but for me, I think it also takes away from the szyuhet and fabula. Not only does the style make the szyuhet and fabula confusing at times, but some information is incorrect at crucial points; i.e. the scene with Leonard lying tatooed with his wife in bed. The film works in a way that reminds the audience of certain clues, but also asks the veiwer to piece the story together because it is shown backwards. In my example of memory loss being spontaneous, when being chased by Dod, I find this scene to be totally stylistic. There is no reason for Leonard to loose his memory because eventually he escapes and captures Dod; which is more important to the szyuhet and fabula. Showing how examples of style dominate this film.            

New genre

While talking with Allen about how to place a template on the Sixth Sense, we thought that moreso than anything else this was a film that forced the veiwer to go back and re-examine. Similar to films like Rear Window, The Sixth Sense is constantly making the veiwer create his or her own hypotheses about the two major events in Malcom’s life; that being his relationship with Cole and his deteriorating relationship with his wife. In Rear Window, the veiwer is also contemplating how the protagonist is going to solve the mystery and his failing realtionship simultaneously. In both films, the audience learns information mostly at the same rate as the protagonist. However, unlike Rear Window, The Sixth Sense is constantly testing one to do their own detective work beyond what is percieved as the real developing fabula. There is a fabula that lies underneath, and is only shown through careful camera techniques which challenges the audience to be visually and audibly aware. Lavik argues, ” Although the Sixth Sense contains mystery and a final solution, the film differs from traditional detective stories in one crucial sense; in the time honored Sherlock Holmes/ Hercule Poirot tradition it is commonly held that the reader or veiwer have access to the same information as the detective hero and hence, in principle, the opportunity to solve the mystery before or at the same time as him or her.” One of the only other movies that has a twist which challenges the veiwer’s understanding similar to The Sixth Sense is Fight Club. So can one begin to see the re-examining of film as a template outside of traditional ideas like the detective story or action film? I think so, and enjoy how both Fight Club and The Sixth Sense challenge the veiwer to do more than just simply understand the szyuhet and fabula. In The Sixth Sense one must understand the role of red within the fabula and compare the interactions of Bruce Willis with both Cole and his wife; how are they different? Most of this information can only be obtained when the veiwer goes back and rewatches scenes. Then, many questions that this style of film presents for the audience can be pieced together without the help of the protagonist because the protagonist only realizes his flaw or flaws at the end of the fabula.   

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