Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Laurel & Hardy: Hal Roach Studios; Script Project

HOMEWORK: Please begin to write your script over the next 2 weeks. Keep your film script to between 7-20 pages in length. Use the planning worksheets you received to write your idea into a script. Use the script format (see links to the side; and our handout) to help prepare your script. The script will be tentatively due April 11. Remember: you may receive extra credit for watching any 1920's-1940's film this marking period. Full films are listed below (and in previous posts). Netflix (if you have it) also has many options, if you search a bit. You may also attend any film screening at the Dryden Theater and post your response to our forum.

Hal Roach was born in Elmira, NY (near us!), before moving to Hollywood. He worked for the Pathe Exchange Co. before working for MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) as a producer. He is best known for producing the comedy teams of Laurel & Hardy and The Our Gang (or Little Rascals).

Laurel and Hardy
Not all silent film stars made the transition to talkies. One comic duo that did, however, was Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This iconic duo made over 100 films together, initially short films, before expanding into feature length films by the end of the 1930s. More can be examined by clicking on the link of their name above. Here are a few clips/films:
The Little Rascals (various clips/films):
Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals (information, although a bit grim)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Golden Age of Film: 1930's

The 1930's is considered the Golden Age of Film. Please review and take notes on these following film clips. You should note who is starring in which roles and how certain actors and directors helped shape the genres we now recognize in film today. You will be tested on the material found here, so please watch attentively and make some observations about film in the 1930's.

As for camera work, there are few tricks being used with cameras. Angles are mostly eye-level, with medium, long, and close up shots being used with transitions such as the wipe, the iris, fade to black to indicate scene changes. There is still rear projection, tracking shots, dolly shots, and elaborate sets (particularly for war and epic films), but overall, the feel of 1930's film is like watching a play. With the invention of sound, movies rely on written dialogue to move the plot and develop character (as opposed to using solely a visual medium). Famous directors and writers such as Frank Capra, Walt Disney and writer George S. Kaufman to name only a few make their appearance in this era. Since sound is a new invention, the use of music is an important element. See what other details you can observe as you watch the clips:

Hell's Angels (1930) Premiere clip (not the film, but the hubbub about the film)
Hell's Angels (1930) clip with Jean Harlow
Anna Christie (1930) With Greta Garbo
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) Johnny Weissmuller
Morocco (1930) with Marlene Dietrich

Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford & John Barrymore
King Kong (1933) starring a large gorilla, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray
King Kong (2nd clip)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) Clark Gable & Charles Laughton
Captain Blood (1935) with Errol Flynn & Basil Rathbone (documentary clip)

Universal Horror Films:
Dracula (1931) Bela Lugosi (Tod Browning's version)
Dracula (clip 2)
Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff
Frankenstein (2nd clip)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1932) with Boris Karloff
Bride of Frankenstein (2nd clip)
Freaks (1932) Tod Browning director
The White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi
The Mummy (1932) Boris Karloff
The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains
The Black Cat (1934) Karloff & Lugosi

Screwball & Marx Brothers Comedies:
Animal Crackers (1930) with the Marx Brothers
Duck Soup (1934)
A Night At the Opera (cabin scene) (1935)
A Day at the Races (1937)
Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant
The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy & William Powell
The Thin Man (2nd clip)

Frank Capra films:
It Happened One Night (1934) Claudette Colbert & Clark Gable
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Gary Cooper
Lost Horizon (1937) and clips from the film...
You Can't Take it With You (1938) with a very young Jimmy Stewart
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with Jimmy Stewart

Gangster Films:
The Public Enemy (1931)
Scarface (1932)

Cimarron (1930)
Stagecoach (1939) John Wayne (John Ford directing)

War Films:
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The Gay Divorcee (1934) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Top Hat (1935) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Swing Time (1936) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (again)
42 Street (1933)

Flowers and Trees (1932) Walt Disney, but starring no one important
Disney's The Three Little Pigs (1933)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Disney; Snow White opening.
Another selection from Snow White. A whistle song. A bath. And another and another clip from Snow White and the ending. (and an unauthorized abridged version)

Popeye the Sailor (1933) with Betty Boop (and Popeye, of course)

Blockbuster Technicolor films:
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn

Full 1930's films online:
Hell's Angels (1930)
Cimarron (1930)
Frankenstein (1931)
White Zombie (1932)
Freaks (1932)
In the Wake of the Bounty (1933)
The Black Cat (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Stage Coach (1939)

The Invention of Sound on Film

Joseph P. Maxfield (AT&T’s Bell Laboratories) invented the first phonograph linked to film (licensed by Victor as the Orthophonic Victrola) which became the basis for the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.

The Vitaphone allowed actors to lipsync their performance while the sound was recorded after; (This helped to popularize animation!)

The first sound film was Don Juan in 1926. The Jazz Singer (cantor);  The Jazz Singer (1927), directed by Alan Crosland, starring famous vaudeville actor, Al Jolson is popularly given this award. Really both films were songs or music in Don Juan's case, that were played along and synched with the film. The Jazz Singer gave birth to the Hollywood musical genre. You may watch the entire film here: Jazz Singer.

Warner Bros. and Fox Film began wiring their theatres for sound as early as 1926. By 1928, Western Electric developed a sound-on-film system, which later developed a new competitive major studio: Radio-Keith-Orpheum or RKO.

The conversion to sound created both positive and negative effects for film:

A. Led to a revival of national film elsewhere in the world
B. Cinema owners did not have to hire musicians for an in-house orchestra
C. Silent films were easier to distribute across the world (no need to translate) which later creates the need for dubbing (1932 -- ex. Paramount studios); before this, multi-lingual films make stars like Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, Bela Lugosi, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, and Peter Lore more important--since they can speak different languages (and therefore sync their voices to film).
D. Film became a single media event
E. Films came to the theatres as final products, whole and complete
F. The immersive qualities of film and the viewer become inseparable
G. Dialogue became a necessity to tell the plot of a film
A. Produced panic and confusion in Hollywood
B. Many musicians lost their jobs
C. Early sound films from America were boycotted by certain countries; films were not as widely distributed, more costly to translate.
D. Silent film culture was destroyed
E. Films did not require additional music, some ambiance was lost -- sound film was seen as the killer of “film as the seventh art form”
F. Film was no longer a “theatrical” or “artistic” event
G. Dialogue became a necessity to tell the plot of a film

Monday, March 25, 2013

Critical Analysis (Review) of Metropolis

A critical review goes a little further than a film review or critique that a journalist might write for a newspaper or magazine. Being more scholarly, this is the kind of paper that you might write taking a college course in film. Its focus is not only to answer who, what, when, but also HOW and WHY. (who is in or involved in the film, what elements make up the film; what is my reaction to the film, when was it made or premiered, but HOW is the film relevant to society, to human culture, WHY should we watch it, HOW did it affect films after it, HOW are film elements used skillfully (or not) in the film, and WHY should we view the film?

Your critical review paper should include the following (follow these steps to ensure you have all the components you will need to effectively evaluate and analyze the film):

1. An introduction that discusses the history and significance of Metropolis. It should be clear that you know the background and something about the genre you are writing about.

2. You should briefly summarize the plot and identify the characters (and often their actors playing the parts). In essence, you should summarize the movie's plot, setting, characters) before you begin to examine it. This summary usually is in the second paragraph, after the introduction, and lasts only 1 paragraph.

3. Your body of your paper should examine the question you prepared while watching the film: the narratology, the history, the editing, the use of special effects. It should be clear that you know the details about the film (including actors, directors, producers, and other film jobs and who was responsible, how the film did historically at the box office, etc.)See for details.

4. Your body of your paper should judge and evaluate the skill of these people in doing their jobs and give reasons or support your opinions.

5. Your essay should connect major themes or the impact of the film to ones own life or to the HUMAN CONDITION. Are these themes best served in the genre, and by the film?

6. Finally, you should summarize by answering why this film, editing, story, etc. is relevant? Why should someone watch this film? How did this film affect the industry after it was made? Did it influence other contemporary directors, or create new styles of artistic expression? Etc.

Proofread your work before you turn it in.

HOMEWORK: Please complete your essay if you did not finish it in class. Read Chapter 11 & 12: The Movies Learn to Speak & the Academy Awards for next class.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Metropolis: 3

We will continue our viewing of Metropolis today. Please fill out the interest form for the playwrights' festival as well.

Your plot handout sheet is due today for the script you were to have read. Please turn that in.

Metropolis research materials:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Key Ideas in Narratology

Narratology: the study of narrative forms.

Stories are divided into genres. Each genre has rules and expectations that help define its formalistic elements: structure, character, plot, setting, etc.

In film there are three super genres (broad genres that encompass the whole): they are STYLES of film:
A. Realistic: (qualities: objective, 3rd person POV)
B. Classical: (qualities: objective/subjective, 3rd person, often limited 3rd person)
C. Formalistic: (qualities: subjective, 1st person or unreliable narrator)
When narratives fail to act according to convention or what we have come to expect from tradition or from the genre, we, as viewers have to figure out what is meant from the deviation of the structure and style of the genre.

Some classical and formalistic narrative techniques we recognize:
1. The flashback
2. The dream sequence
3. The distorted view (as if the subject or character is drunk, insane, troubled, drugged, etc.)
4. Voice overs (this indicates we have a subjective narrator)
Classical style narrative plots generally follow the typical 3-act structure. They rise through a series of events (rising action) to a definitive climax, and usually resolve in some way. These plots are generally linear: telling the story in sequence of time and ordered events. Important symbols or metaphors are usually explained; solutions are offered. These films, more than formalistic or realistic films, are directed to a general [genre specific] audience.

See previous posts for Formalistic and Realistic style explanations.

Metropolis: Part II

Today, we'll start with the film screening (period 1), then I will switch us to the lab to work on the following (so that the AP students aren't too far behind).

AP students: please watch 40 minutes of the film for next class. This is required and helpful to write your analysis paper.
Metropolis (part one; first hour)
Metropolis (part two; second part)

Key scenes in Metropolis so far: (you may examine these scenes for key elements of the film, such as editing, narration, lighting, special effects, etc. Note that the sound is different in most cases)
In the lab: Continue or complete your reading of your chosen script. Complete the plot handout sheet for the script you chose. Begin writing a treatment for your script idea. Take your notes and flesh them out into a 1-page summary of your original script idea.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of your chosen script. Plot handout notes are due next class!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fritz Lang, Metropolis, & Narratology

Fritz Lang born in Vienna, Germany, 1890 -- the son of an architect; he dropped out of college to fight in the Great War (WWI).
  • After the war, Lang met producer Erich Pommer who worked for the movie company Declar
  • Later Declar becomes UFA (the largest film company in Europe)
  • 1919 - Lang directs his first film “Halbblut” (the Half-Caste)
  • 1920 - Meets writer Thea von Harbou, marries her in 1922
Thea von Harbou wrote all of Lang’s films (including Metropolis) until 1933 when they divorced.
  • 1925-1926 - Lang makes the film Metropolis which is drastically cut and distributed over the world Lang forms his own production company; Thea is his main writer
  • 1931 - Lang directs M (with actor Peter Lorre)
  • 1932 - The Testimony of Dr. Mabuse (banned because it criticized the Nazi party)
  • 1933 - Immigrated to the U.S.
  • 1934 - Offered a contract by David Selznick, producer at MGM. He goes on to make several films (mixing styles), ends up going blind and dying in 1975.
MAJOR FILMS: Halbblut (Half Caste) (1919) Dr. Mabuse (1922) (serial) Die Niebelungen (Siegfried; Kriemhild's Revenge) (1924). Metropolis (1926) Spies (1928) M (1931) The Last Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1932) Fury (1936) You Only Live Once
(1937) Western Union (1941) Man Hunt (1941) The Ministry of Fear (1944) Cloak and Dagger (1946) Secret Beyond the Door (1948) The Big Heat (1953) Moonfleet (1955) While the City Sleeps (1956). Die Tausend Augend des Dr. Mabuse ("The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse") 1960

Film analysis:
1. Write about the effective use of special effects (including titles and music to affect tone); You may look here for further help in writing your paper.
2. Write about the effectiveness of the cinematography (the shots, angles, lighting, composition of the shots, mise-en-shot, mise-en-scene, etc.) and the editing (see post on editing to help you examine this point: Feb. 26)
3. Write about the effectiveness of the plot, film script, and story elements or narratology of the film: Frequency, Narration, Story, Plot, Order, Narrative Format, Sequence, classical or formalistic, etc.
4. Write about the film as a historical vehicle. Answer: how is Metropolis the epitome and culmination of the Golden Age of silent film? You will need to comment on #'s 1-3 above with this question as it involves acting, special effects, editing, and narratology.
Your paper should be between 3-5 pages, double spaced.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Test: Film Origins to 1930's

Today, you will take the unit test for Film Origins to the 1930's. After the test, please use the time in the lab to read the packet on narratology, brainstorm some ideas for a script, continue working on reading your chosen script from IMDBscripts (see link to the side and the post below).

HOMEWORK: None. Read your chosen script.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Film Script Tips & Prep for Test

For next week, please log onto the film script site (the link is also posted to your right) and select a film script you'd like to read. Pick something you like or have seen. It will make for an easier reading time for you. NOTE: Not all screenplays are written in the correct script format. Some are transcribed by fans. The more marginal the film, the more likely the formatting will be off. As you read this script, please complete the 2-sided handout: "Plot Structure Worksheet."

Use some of the day in today's class to find and begin reading this script. Also, find some time to create and flesh out an idea or two. Use the handouts appropriately to help with this. The other handouts are divided into character and plot worksheets. These are generally for your benefit, and not all of the character design needs to be written, but it's a good way for you to consider the full-lives of your protagonist. You should attempt to complete the complete plot handout. This one's important. You won't need the scene sheet until you complete the plot sheet.

NOTE: Tips abound below. Keep reading for some writing advice.

THEN: Spend at least a period or so studying for the test. It's a big one and there's a lot of material on the test. Go back and click on those links you've avoided until now. Study, study, study.

1. Most of writing a screenplay (about 65%) is done in planning and prewriting.
2. Writing a screenplay is a succession of breakdowns: moving from the general to the specific.
3. Don't write a script for a movie you yourself wouldn't go see.
4. Remember the goal of every writer is to get an "emotional" response from your audience. Scripts that are too bland or boring or cliche, only anger an audience (and don't usually get made in the first place).

Writers think in different ways:
1. Inductively: from specific to the universal
2. Deductively: from the universal to the specific
3. Logically: How one thing causes another thing to happen
4. Non-logically: Absurdity or mere coincidence
5. Creatively: discovering hidden connections or relationships between two unrelated things (i.e. metaphorically)
It's okay to think in any of these ways. No one way is the right way. You, of course, can also combine these ways of thinking too.

Get ideas from:
1. Experience (personal or from those around you)
2. What you overhear (conversation)
3. News/Advertising
4. Photographs, paintings, visual art
5. Mind-mapping on a specific subject
6. Speculative brainstorming: asking: What if...?
7. Dreams and/or visualization
8. Free association
9. Adaptation (novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, etc.)
10. Intertexuality (stealing similar ideas from other sources)
After coming up with an idea, test its strength by asking:
1. Who, what, where, when, how, why?
2. Does it have "legs" - is it dramatic and interesting?
3. What's at stake for your character/protagonist?
4. Is the situation understandable or filmable?
5. Is the story too personal or vague?

Always play the devil's advocate when considering the validity of your writing/story/characters/plot, etc. What weaknesses are in your script? Try to fix them after writing a first draft or during the first draft, if you can.

HOMEWORK: Study. The unit test is next class. See posts below for test prep details. Select and read a script from the script site above or to the right of this page. Complete the plot point handout sheet for your chosen script.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Film Exam: Prep

Your unit test will cover the following material. All material mentioned was either referenced and discussed below in the blog (check and review blog entries), the handouts from Turning Points in Film, or from Tim Dirks website (Film History). Please refer to your notes and study. This test covers a lot, please study. Please. No. Really. Study.
  • Styles of film: realism, classicism, formalism
  • Film Treatment (how to write one) & definition of a film pitch
  • Early film invention: Magic Lantern, Daguerreotype, Celluloid, Kinetoscope, Mutoscope, Praxinoscope, Thaumatrope, etc.
  • Edweard Muybridge, photography, & the Zoopraxinoscope
  • The Lumiere Brothers & their films (The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Arrival of a Train, etc.)
  • Pathe Frere Manufacturing Company (Charles Pathe)
  • Pathe Films: Aladin and the Wonderful Lamp; Onesime the Clock Maker; Slippery Jim; The Policeman's Little Run
  • Thomas Edison and the Edison Manufacturing Company: various films (Sandow the Strongman, Serpentine Dances, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz (1910), Uncle Josh films, Life of an American Fireman, etc.
  • The Black Maria
  • Augustin Le Prince
  • W.K.L. Dickson
  • Hepworth Manufacturing Company (Cecil B. Hepworth)
  • Hepworth's films:Rescued by Rover ; How It Feels to be Run Over; Explosion of a Motor Car; That Fatal Sneeze; Alice in Wonderland
  • George Melies & A Trip to the Moon
  • Persistence of Vision
  • Etinnene-Jules Marey
  • George Eastman
  • Edwin S. Porter & his films: The Great Train Robbery ; Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
  • Actualities & Blue Movies
  • D.W. Griffith and his contribution to film (also his Intolerance, Way Down East, and Birth of a Nation)
  • Billy Bitzer
  • Lillian Gish
  • Early film comedy and comedians (particularly The Keystone Kops, Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Harold Lloyd, etc.)
  • Slapstick comedy & comedic technique
  • Charlie Chaplin (various films; we watched the Rink in class, but others were mentioned)
  • Buster Keaton (The Paleface, One Week, Sherlock Jr., The Haunted House, The General, various films)
  • Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle & his scandal (Hays Code chapter)
  • Hollywood (the origin and development of)
  • Eisenstein & Montage & Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step sequence)
  • Types of Shots (close up, medium shot, full shot, deep focus shot, long shot, extreme close up and long shots, panning, dolly/tracking shot, etc.)
  • Types of Angles (high, low, bird's eye, oblique, etc.) 
  • Advice about Camera shots and editing
  • 180 degree rule & various editing techniques
  • Early independent film studios/the Hollywood Studio System
  • Early major film studios (1920-1930)
  • Sid Grauman
  • The Hays Code
  • German Expressionism
  • F. W. Murnau & Nosferatu
  • Robert Weine & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • Birt Acres
  • R.W. Paul
  • Alice Guy-Blache
  • Mack Sennett
  • Oscar Micheaux
  • Minorities in film 
  • Other important film stars: Douglas Fairbanks sr., Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor, Clara Bow, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Conrad Viedt, Lois Weber, etc.
  • Auteur, Story, Plot, Order, Narration, Narrative Form
  • Narratology
  • Diegesis
  • Scene, Sequence, Frequency, Ellipsis
  • Motif
  • Space, Viewing Time, Duration
  • Film Reviews and how to write them

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sergei Eisenstein & The Beginnings of Horror: German Expressionism

Montage song from South Park, Season 6.
As film continued to gain popularity, the film culture around the world inspired various directors and auteurs to create new and exciting films. The most influential film maker of early Russian film was Sergei Eisenstein.

Eisenstein is remembered in film for his contribution of the montage. The montage changed the way filmmakers approached film. It allows a filmmaker to tell a story through a sequence of shots that manipulate time. It is still used today and carries with it a psychological impact. In a script it is indicated by a series of descriptive lines, each spaced apart to indicate a series of shots, rather than description that would indicate one shot or scene.

Here's a few clips from some of his films:

Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step Sequence) (1925)
Alexander Nevsky (battle on the ice sequence) - Music by Sergei Prokofiev

“Why should an artist duplicate the real world when it already exists for everyone to see?”
• Begins in Europe around 1906 in painting and theatre
• Style is unrealistic, stylized
• Attention often given to angles
• Distorted perspectives
• Narrow, tall streets and buildings (set pieces)
• Lighting is “dramatic”; Use of shadows
• Actors are grotesque, exaggerated make-up
• Dark, nightmarish tones & moods
• Attempt to show the interior lives of characters through exteriors
• Expressionism influences Futurism (and Modernism)
• Expressionism influences Film Noir in the 1930’s
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Weine (director) 1919

On, please view clips from the following:
These movies, along with Dr. Caligari, are influential in creating the "horror" genre in film. Why, do you think, is expressionism a good stylistic choice for horror films?

Nosferatu (1922) Full film
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (full film)
Der Golem (full film)
The Cat and the Canary (full film - silent)
The Phantom of the Opera (full film)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (full film)
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (full film)

Contemporary films like these also pay homage to the style: Careful by Guy Maddin (1992)
and The Call of Cthulhu (2006), The Artist (2011)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Minority Voices in Film: Blache, Weber, Micheux, & others

While most of the pioneers of early film were male Caucasians, the lack of minority voices in film was filled by two very important filmmakers: Alice Guy Blache and Oscar Micheux. While we will focus on these two primarily, they are far from the only minority voices around. Gay & Lesbian, Asian, Latino, and other influential filmmakers begin working in this time period.

Today, watch a few of their film clips and take notes on important details. By the end of the lesson you should begin to ask yourself the question: why is minority cinema important? What is the future of minority cinema? How does knowing a little history help minority artists?

Oscar Michaeux was the first black film director.  Within Our Gates (1919) (music underscore added recently) and his film in its entirety for those interested Within Our Gates (full film). Evelyn Preer was one of the early black actresses. She was also a popular singer. Here's one of her songs: It Takes a Good Woman to Keep a Good Man at Home. You can hear the rhythms of the jazz age (late 1920's). Think of the book Ragtime. Sadly, in American film, it is not until 1991 that the first African-American female director appears (Julie Dash). However, since then, more black female directors have joined the ranks.

The first female director is:
Alice Guy Blache
The Cabbage Fairy (1896)
The Life of Christ (1906) (our first religious epic depicted in film, predating Cecil B. DeMille)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1913)

Various films by the early filmmaker Alice Guy.

Lois Weber, an American female, was also a silent film actress and then director. She invented the first use of the split screen technique in her film Suspense (1913).
Other films include the Blot (1921) and Hypocrites (the first full frontal nudity depicted in film outside of "art film" like Edweard Muybridge's work.) She, too, is important.

As for gay and lesbian films of the early silent film era, there are a few. Apart from two men dancing in the film by Edison, the first depiction of one of the sissy stereotype characters is Algie the Miner (1912). The film was directed by Alice Guy Blache. The first butch male-to-male kissing scene is the fall of Babylon sequence in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). It also features a pretty kick-ass heroine: mountain girl. 
A little gender bending: Vitagraph's A Florida Enchantment (1914)

German film was one of the first to tackle gay subjects head-on. Here's the film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, 1919) by Richard Oswald. It stars Conrad Viedt (see below). The lesbian film Madchen in Uniform was made in 1931 (and is a talky, so we won't but mention it here). If you're interested in this film, you may also like the 1933 film Anna und Elisabeth. (This is only a clip, sound is not original, of course.)

Latino silent film information can be found here. There is little on line to watch (sorry about that). And Asian film star Sessue Hayakawa starred in such films as The Typhoon (1914) and The Dragon Painter (1919). He signed on with Paramount Pictures (Famous Players Lasky) where he worked with Cecil B. DeMille in such movies as The Cheat (1915). The first Japanese feature film was made in 1912, the Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara. The director Dadasaheb Phalke is considered the father of Indian film, although Asian film begins in the late 1890's. It is interesting to note that the first optical toy (a primitive zoetrope) was invented by Ting Huan in 180 AD in China. By the end of the silent film era, most countries have begun to make films. Of particular note are the directors we will look at next class: Sergei Eisenstein & Robert Wiene (Russian and German Expression films).

But for now...

Early Film Stars from Hollywood:
From your notes you should also know the following blockbuster film stars of the early screen. Please watch their clips. Various famous Hollywood actors:

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the Thief of Baghdad (1924), The Mark of Zorro (1920); the full version of The Thief of Baghdad can be found here. It's really a good film, all told. Douglas Fairbanks was known for doing his own stunts.
Rudolph Valentino's The Son of the Shiek (1926) & the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), Blood and Sand (1924)
Mary Pickford (1917) The Poor Little Rich Girl
America's Lovebirds or America's Sweethearts:Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell
Clara Bow in It (1927)
Conrad Viedt
The Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera (complete silent film, 1924), The Unmasking Scene from Phantom, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Buster Keaton & Techniques of Comedy

It is important to realize that actors back in the early days of film really did their own stunts. Comedy and slapstick particularly were rather dangerous. Here A Montage of Buster Keaton

Joseph Frank Keaton was given his professional name by Harry Houdini. "Buster" Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966), was an American comic actor and filmmaker. He got his start as part of a vaudeville act and later co-starred with plump actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in "The Butcher Boy". Here's a clip of one of their films. He is best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was farce or physical comedy with a stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face."

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton as one of the greatest male actors of all time. His film The General is listed as one of the greatest 100 films. (You can watch The General in its entirety below).

For those of you most interested in Keaton's life and work, here's an excellent website.

Take a look at some of his work:
One Week (1920)
The Paleface (1921)
The Haunted House (1921)
Sherlock Jr (1924)
The Scarecrow (1920)
The General (1927) Full Length Feature Film
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) Full Length Feature Film

Much of comedy (reasons why we laugh) have to do with these things:
  • Incongruity or Non sequitur. Humans are rational (supposedly) and laugh at anything that breaks a pattern or does not logically follow. Anything we are not expecting as a logical sequence creates incongruity, and so we laugh.
  • Farce or physical humor (often pratfalls, slapstick, hurting people, etc.) What doesn't kill us makes us laugh. This is only funny if the victim is not really hurt (consider cartoons!) If the character/victim is killed and we laugh, we fall into black or dark humor (and bad taste!)
  • Superiority vs. inferiority (we laugh at those weaker or in a worse situation than us). Usually an underdog or weaker protagonist gets to overcome a stronger opponent. This usually makes us feel better, and in a comedy plot, makes us feel stronger over our own oppression as viewers.
  • Mistaken identity. Ever since farce and satirical plays from the Greeks and Roman theater, mistaken identity has been a constant element in farce.
  • Absurdity (if it doesn't make sense, we laugh). Similar to incongruity, absurdity is, well, absurd.
  • Surprise. Humans will usually laugh is you can surprise them (and they are okay). The adrenaline rush is often accompanied by laughter.
Task: As you watch the screened movies of Buster Keaton, record the different types of comedy examples you see. Turn in your observation sheet.

HOMEWORK: Please peruse and take notes on Minorities in Film (see post above).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slapstick & Silent Film Comedy

This morning, please take 10-15 minutes to prepare and send your 10-minute play script to Geva. The address is as follows:

You should have a TITLE PAGE with your name, address, phone #, school name, grade, and email address in the lower left or right hand corner. On your title page, please include your cast requirements (characters, and a short 1-sentence description of the character, if possible).

While you are waiting for the class to complete this task, please read about Slapstick and comedy. This topic will take up much of our class today.

Slapstick & Silent Film Comedy

The name "slapstick" comes from the bataccio — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in commedia dell'arte. Actors using the slapstick may hit each another repeatedly with great audible effect while causing very little actual physical damage. The term "slapstick" became synonymous with the style of silent film comedy most frequently found in the comedic silent films of Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Hal Roach, and other comedic directors.

Later, the animated films from Warner Brothers Studio and Walt Disney will utilize many of the common gags found in comedic silent films. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, and Donald Duck are just a few examples.

Slapstick is characterized by broad humor, absurd situations, comedic or farcical action such as chase scenes, and, of course, physical violence. Watch various clips below and note the actor/director where appropriate. Take notes on the film styles and view the films for ideas for your own stories, plays, and films.
Mack Sennett: Bangville Police (Keystone Cops feature)
Mack Sennett: comedian Billy Bevan (scene from Wandering Willies - 1926) and another clip with Vernon Dent & Billy Bevan
Mack Sennett: Black Oxfords (1924) with Vernon Dent & Sid Smith
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Fiddlesticks - 1927)
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Smile Please - 1924) & another scene (the skunk) from the same film.
Mabel Normand: The Extra Girl (clip, 1923)
Mabel's New Hero  Mabel Normand & Fatty Arbuckle
Fatty Arbuckle: Coney Island (1917)
Fatty Arbuckle & Buster Keaton: The Cook (1918) and the spaghetti scene from The Cook.
Buster Keaton: stunts from The General
Harold Lloyd: from The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd: from Safety Last (the clock scene) (1923)
Charley Chase: Accidental Accidents (Hal Roach directing)
Charley Chase: Fluttering Hearts (1927)
Ben Turpin: Seein' Things (1928), part one; Seein' Things (part two) Stan Laurel: Pie Eyed (1925) and finally: Charlie Chaplin Tribute (various clips).

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...