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.   

Second Veiwing

After taking some time to think about the discussion we had in class reguarding the false and real fabulas of the Sixth Sense, I find that my appreciation for the movie has been tarnished. I understand that the twist is the cliamtic moment in the film, where the audience has to reconsider the hypotheses they formulated. However, Professor Mittel brought up a good point in class, that we are led to believe Bruce Willis’ new case is starting about one full year after being shot. This means that all the akward interactions between Bruce Willis and his wife, which the audience veiws in the restaurnant or in their home, were similar over the course of that year. Consequently, this makes me question how smart Bruce Willis really is in the film and if he is deserving of such praise for being a child psychologist. 

Malcom does state that he is a workaholic and his wife does come second in many ways, but I think this is a gap that does not make sense, and is crucial to the film as a whole. For example, in the dinner scene at the restaurant, the camera work does not use eye line matches to give the audience the impression that the wife is upset with Bruce Willis tardiness. Also, the wife’s quick reaction to getting the bill, and her glance up in the direction of Bruce Willis make the audience think she is acknowledging his presence. However, these are her natural reactions to paying the bill quick because she is alone on their anniversary, while her glance is a reaction to a laugh she overhears at another table. The first time through I could accept these coincidental occurrances. Now, I cannot, because these occurrances suppossedly happened over the course of the previous year as well. I mean, after Bruce Willis was shot, did he just walk out of the hospital by himself in the same clothes, wondering why his wife did not pay an attention to him. Apparently not, or else he would have realized he was dead. The twist which makes one re-examins the film is an interesting technique, but I feel that it also ruins the film once one thinks about the possibilities of what is not shown.

I feel that the time frame of the fabula is too long and needs to be shortened to make the experienced veiwer think Malcom’s ghost prescence is feasable. Malcom is a psychologist and working out problems is how he makes a living. Dealing with his failing marriage, or realizing that no one else talks to him besides his new patient should be an alarming factor that makes him want to change how he lives. I feel that this is where the Sixth Sense fails because a shortened fabula should be applied for both first and second time veiwers. Instead of saying that a year has gone by between the shooting and his new case, why not a month, two at the most. This would not be difficult in the film because Bruce Willis suppossedly does not know he is dead, and it would make more sense to the fabula as a whole. Now Bruce Willis isn’t wandering around for a year wondering why his wife won’t cook or have sex with him anymore. Generally, it works the other way once one has gone through an experience like getting shot; lots of soup and care to make sure one recuperates. I don’t understand why they chose to have such a long time frame.       

GTA

While playing Grand Theft Auto today, I realized how easily people can become addicted to videogames. Living through the actions and antics of my character I could literally do almost anything I wanted. So, acting on my devilish nature, I found the punch button on my controler and decided to run down the street while stopping to hit strangers in the face. This proved to be extremely amusing, but only until I found a gun and realized that I could also shoot anyone. Which was completely unlike the games I was used to as a child, where “good/nuetral” characters could not be harmed. In my developing narrative, the police came, so I decided to run and hijacked a car. Every car in GTA has a radio, so I was able to change stations and listen to the channel that best fit the car chase. I lost the police for a while, but I didn’t realize that the cops keep trailing you, even if you drive off to another part of the game and can no longer hear their sirens. Finally, the police killed me when I tried to go for a swim and did not see them. I was outnumbered in a gun fight, and not nearly skilled enough to shoot my weapon.

I had played GTA before, but I am mostly a sports videogamer (Also, any Tom Clancy game will do). In talking with my friends, they game just to create havoc and live through the story they are creating, outside of the narrative the game provides. Although, within GTA’s ability there are different ways to complete the narrative that the game already holds. At certain points, one can complete required tasks as one deems neccessary. There is some choice involved, rather than just following the path that the game provides for the gamer. It doesn’t matter if someone wants to sell drugs or get into a high speed chase, both will help the character within the developing narrative. I personally have not gotten to this point yet, but hope to sharpen my skills and take home the gold one day. The best part is, that if one screws up, they can hit the reset button and start a whole new narritive by following different choices.       

Annie Hall

After our discussion of the constructural norms of narrative on Tuesday, I find the editing of Annie Hall to be interesting because I feel that it is a movie that might have been able to survive without transforming into a romantic comedy. The comic genius of Woody Allen, and onscreen interaction with Dianne Keaton is what drives the film, but that does not neccessarily mean that all the other superfluous shots needed to be cut, or does it? Personally, I would not have minded if Woody Allen ranted for two hours about all the things that irritated his “miserable” life. He probably has some worthwhile perspective, and his character is visually appealing because of his nuerotic tendencies. However, maybe this idea does not work because of the veiwer. The veiwer cannot simply be told what to think, or how to think, they want to relate to similar thinking with experiences from their own lives. Thus, making the argument that stories should follow the three act structure when engaging their audience. If Annie Hall was a film just about the experiences of a nuerotic comic, many people would probably leave the cinema confused about its purpose. The audience expects the familairty of film conventions because it is easier to follow what happens in the storyworld. For example, one can tell when a dramatic climax is coming due to the suspenseful buildup in an act. Also, it gives the audience a story that can coherently be pieced together without having to seperate sections of the film because they are connected in convoluted ways.    

Lost

In the show Lost, the point of veiw shots and dialouge do an excellent job of hiding the fact that Mr. Locke is in a wheelchair. Aready knowing form the reading about his disability, I looked for small clues that might signify his paralysis. When the show tells Locke’s past through flashbacks, he is seated while talking on the phone or to someone directly in front of him. The point of veiw creates an invisible world where Locke seems fine physically. However, the dialougue in the flashbacks are a huge hint about his condition. Watching him try to defend himself to the Australian tour guide makes one think that his age, or his “condition,” is the reason that the organizers will not allow him to come. When they speak of his condition, people naturally associate it with his military background because of the phone call where someone calls him Coronell. One might think, maybe his service has affected his health in some way? However, the best clue is when he glares at his feet twice in the episode. Initially he looks at his feet wondering how he has been cured, but the audience is led to believe that he might be paralyised. While the second time, the audience is convinced that he is paralyised while hesitates on the ground for a long period  of time. However he is just sitting on the ground, reaffirming that his body can fuction normally. 

Not being a follower of the show Lost, I can only speculate from what I was shown about how future events will unfold, and mimic the mysterious discourse of Locke. Two things which already have been shown in a similar fashion will continue to be developed until a dramatic moment exposes their purpose. The first is the ghost-like figure that Jack sees twice on the beach while helping the upset women. The other is the monster like beast that only Locke has seen while hunting in the woods. Both seem particularly interesting in their own ways. The ghost led Jack into the woods where he found Locke, with the boar he set out to kill. This is significant because Locke was thought to be dead by the people who ventured into the woods with him. However, he is not, and maybe this ghost will continue to alert Jack to necessities that will help the plane crash victims survive. While the monster poses a threat because it is still mysterious to the audience, Locke is the only one who has seen the beast. It did not harm Locke, but the high camera angle makes this monster beast seem strong and dangerous. As the show Lost continues, these small mysterious twists drive the plot, but also give the audience clues to their nature and purpose thoughout the series.     

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