Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sound on Film: The End of the Silent Film Era

After viewing two short films by Charlie Chaplin & Buster Keaton this morning, let's end our silent film era with the invention of sound (which was also conveniently your homework!)

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.

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
HOMEWORK: Extra Credit films. Watch a film or many films from this list (many--but not all--) can be found on Netflix, the internet (Youtube) or from the public library, etc. And write a film review/critique for that film. Extra credit can be turned in any time before the end of the marking period. Please note: Extra credit is NOT a replacement for projects, tests, or other assignments. It is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

Eligible films:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), horror
  • Nosferatu (1923) Murnau, horror
  • Faust (1926) Murnau, horror
  • The Thief of Baghdad (1924) Douglas Fairbanks, adventure
  • Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde (1920) Barrymore, horror
  • The Beloved Rogue (1927) Barrymore, adventure
  • The Cat and the Canary (1927), horror
  • Warning Shadows (1923), horror/suspense
  • Wings (1927) Clara Bow, romance
  • Intolerance (1916) Griffith, epic
  • Birth of a Nation (1915) Griffith, epic
  • Broken Blossoms (1919) Lilian Gish, romance
  • Way Down East (1920) Lilian Gish, romance
  • The General (1926) Keaton, comedy
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) Keaton, comedy
  • Seven Chances (1925) Keaton, comedy
  • 3 Ages (1923) Keaton, comedy
  • Go West (1925) Keaton, comedy
  • Sherlock Jr. (1924) Keaton, comedy
  • The Kid (1921) Chaplin, comedy
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) Chaney, horror/romance
  • Battleship Potemkin (1924) Eisenstein, epic/war
  • Strike (1925) Eisenstein, war
  • Die Nebelungen (1924) Lang, epic
  • Woman in the Moon (1929) Lang, science fiction
  • Dr. Mabuse (1924) Lang, suspense
  • The Hands of Orlac (1924) Lang, horror/suspense
  • Man With a Movie Camera (1929), drama
  • I Don't Want to be a Man (1918), drama
  • The Man From Beyond (1922), Harry Houdini
  • Cabiria (1914), epic
  • Fantomas (1913) (early serial)
  • A Throw of Dice (1929), drama, epic
  • Anna Bolyn (1920), drama
  • Sally of the Sawdust (1925), drama
  • Within Our Gates (1919), drama
  • The Jazz Singer (1927), drama

Monday, March 23, 2015

Film Test


Please take the first half of the class (period 1) to prepare and study for the test. See the review below this post for details. Study your notes and prepare for the test 2nd period. You will only have 40 minutes to complete the test.

Please go to room 238 next door for the test. Please tell the sub that and share this blog post with him or her.

HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Sound in Film and be prepared next class to discuss this new invention.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Film Review: Origin of Film through 1927

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. Take & review notes. and Study.
  • Styles of film: realism, classicism, formalism
  • 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
  • D.W. Griffith and his contribution to film (also his IntoleranceWay 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 
  • Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle & his scandal (Hays Code chapter)
  • Hollywood (the origin and development of)
  • Eisenstein & Montage & Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step sequence)
  • Nanook of the North
  • 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)
  • Blockbooking
  • Sid Grauman
  • The Hays Code
  • German Expressionism & its influence
  • 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 
  • Conrad Viedt
  • Lon Chaney, Man of a Thousand Faces
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Lois Weber
  • George Lucas & Star Wars (1977)
  • Characteristics of Blockbusters
  • Blaxploitation
  • Film vocabulary: 
    • Auteur, Story, Plot, Order, Narration, Narrative Form
    • Narratology
    • Diegesis
    • Scene, Sequence, Frequency, Ellipsis
    • Motif
    • Space, Viewing Time, Duration
HOMEWORK: Please study for your exam, please study for your exam, please study for your exam.

Charlie Chaplin & Slapstick Comedy

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: 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 
Buster Keaton: One Week (1920)
Harold Lloyd: from The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd: from Safety Last (the clock scene) (1923)
Charley Chase: Accidental Accidents (Hal Roach directing)
Ben Turpin: Seein' Things (1928), part one; Seein' Things (part two)  
"All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl." -Sir Charles Chaplin

Sir Charles Chaplin (1889-1977)
• Born in 1889 in London, UK to theatrical parents
• Chaplin’s childhood was one of extreme poverty and hardship
• Abandoned by an alcoholic father and left with a mentally unstable mother who was unable to support him, he struggled through life in the poor house and on the streets
• He learnt much of his timing and technique in the employment of impresario Fred Karno (1866-1941) whose troupe he left during an American tour in 1913
• Offered a contract by Keystone Films
• After 1914, he convinced Keystone producer Mack Sennett to allow him to direct his own films - often wrote, directed, acted and composed his own musical scores for his films
• In many silent shorts, he established the grammar and ground rules of screen comedy using his physical dexterity and pantomime skills to create expertly choreographed, visually humorous entertainment that mixed irreverence, romance, and pathos (feeling)
• Co-founder of United Artists in 1919
• Married Oona O’Neill (daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill)
• His left-wing sympathies caused him to emigrate to Switzerland during the 1950’s, McCarthy period
• He published his autobiography in 1964 and was knighted in 1975
• Chaplin died on Christmas day, 1977
• A writer Performer, director, composer and icon, he was a vital figure in the development of the screen comedy Films (incomplete list): Making a Living (1913) Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) The Champion (1915) The Tramp (1915) The Pawnshop (1916) The Rink (1916) A Dog’s Life (1918) The Kid (1921) The Gold Rush (1925) City Lights (1931) Modern Times (1936) The Great Dictator (1940) Limelight (1952) A King in New York (1957) A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)
Take a look at some of Chaplin's films:

The Rink (1916)
The Kid (1921) trailer
The Lion's Cage clip from the Circus (1928)
The Gold Rush (1925) Table ballet sequence from The Gold Rush and another scene; sound and words added later
The boxing scene from City Lights (1931).
Modern Times (1936); the famous clockwork scene from Modern Times.
The Great Dictator (1940)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Minorities in Film; Exploitation Films

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 as well, and should be recognized for their contribution to film.

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
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.

After the Civil Rights Movement, blacks in film began to appear more frequently, although not very often.

Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation."

Characteristics of Blaxploitation films:
  1. Story uses the urban ghetto as a locale for its setting
  2. Often includes such characters as: pimps, hit men, drug dealers, the ho, etc.
  3. White characters are often antagonists: corrupt cops, evil politicians, easily fooled organized crime goons, etc.
  4. Characters are often stereotypes
  5. Black music (hip hop, rap, jazz, R&B, funk, blues, etc.) is used as a score
  6. Black actors play primary and protagonist roles
Popular genres of Blaxploitation films include:
Crime (Foxy Brown), action (Three the Hard Way), horror (Abby, Blacula), comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), coming-of-age/courtroom drama (Cornbread, Earl and Me), and musical (The WizSparkle).

Here is a list of clips for your viewing pleasure:

They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970) (Sidney Poitier) - sequel to In the Heat of the Night

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) directed by Ossie Davis

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) starring Melvin Van Peebles - considered (with Shaft) to have created the Blaxploitation cycle.

Shaft (1971) Directed by Gordon Parks; starring Richard Roundtree

The popularity of this film spawned these sequels:

Shaft's Big Score (1972)
Shaft in Africa (1973)
And a remake in 2000, Shaft 2000

Also by Gordon Parks:
Superfly (1972)

Blacula (1972) directed by William Crain
And its sequel: Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)

And because Dracula was lonely:
Blackenstein (1973)

Cleopatra Jones (1973) starring Tamara Dobson

and its sequel for all the sistahs:
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

Coffy (1974) starring Pam Grier

These exploitation films were influenced by lesbian exploitation films (also prison exploitation films):
Black Mama, White Mama (1972)

Abby (influenced by the Exorcist - 1974)

Sugar Hill (1974)

Dolemite (1975)

Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975) Bakshi is not black, but many white filmmakers took advantage of reaching a black audience in their films.

Sparkle (1976) Musicals like this also included such popular titles as the Wiz (1978)

The Wiz (1978) (Starring Diana Ross and little Michael Jackson)

Later in the 1980's until present, blaxploitation film style has been parodied:

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988)

Jackie Brown (directed by Quentin Tarantino) 1997

Pootie Tang (2000)

Directors like Spike Lee are encouraged to make films for a black audience. Many other actors, directors, and writers begin expanding the ground opened by blaxploitation.

She's Gotta Have It (1985) interview with Spike Lee
School Daze (1988)
Malcolm X (1992)

Other critically acclaimed films:
The Wiz
The Color Purple

Romantic films
100 Gangster, Pimp, Hood, Crime films (clip)

The 100 Best Black Movies

Recently, Dear White People (2014) and Selma (2015)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Importance of Editing

When we discuss the choice of a particularly shot, filmmakers have several options. They can shoot a scene from an extreme long shot, a long shot, a full shot, a medium shot, a close-up, an extreme close up, using a birds-eye angle, a high or low angle, an eye-level-match angle (the default), or decide to use a truck, track, crane, pan, or trolley device to help frame and move the focus of the camera on the subject of the film. But with all these options, we also need to include the following terms to our vocabulary:

classical cutting: editing for dramatic intensity and emotional emphasis rather than for purely physical reasons.

Shifting from long to close or close to long shots shifts the viewers POV within a scene. This can be done to emphasize, include, exclude, consolidate, connect, contrast, or parallel the action of the plot, to introduce an important motif or detail for story-telling purposes (just like describing an important object in fiction), etc.

Master Shot (also known as a sequence shot): a scene of continuous film, usually at long-range, that is used as the through-line of a film or scene.

Reaction Shot: a cut from dialogue to the reaction of the person listening to the dialogue.

Two-shot: a shot that includes just enough space for two-characters to show that they are in the same space.

Three-shot: as a two-shot, but with enough room for three. How cozy!

First cut: a sequence of shots in editing that represents the director's preference for how the scene should be "shot."

Final cut: a studio or producer's preferred cutting of the film. (As opposed to the directors: first cut)

Cover shot: a shot used to reestablish a sequence, (time or space), or establishing shot used to reorient the viewer.

Eye-line Match: A character looks a certain direction, then we cut to what they are supposed to be looking at.

Matching action: similar to the eye-line match, but this involves any movement that is suggested as being continuous, even though it's not shot that way. Example: a tight shot of a person opening a door, the next shot is of that person arriving in another room. It is assumed that the door leads to the room seen, but this is rarely the case in filming.

Mise en Scene: more on this one later, it is literally "what is included in a shot"

180 degree rule: used to stabalize the space of the playing area so the viewer isn't confused or disoriented. Essentially keeping the camera on the same side of the 180 degree line of a scene.

Reverse angle shot: most commonly used in dialogue scenes, the camera moves between two speakers, first showing one, then the other.

Parallel action: just as in literature, the juxtaposition of shots that show complimentary shots. These shots are often from a different location.

Cross-cutting: moving between two or more locations or scenes in a film (often in rapid succession, but not always) to tell parallel stories.

Thematic montage: stress the association of ideas, rather than the continuity of plot, time, or space.

Motifs: objects, places, people, visual pictures, that are repeated to create significance or meaning.

Some advice:
  • the longer the shot, the slower the film pacing. 
  • the shorter the shot, the faster the film pacing. 
  • Longer shots usually include more visual information.
  • Shorter shots usually include less visual information.
  • Cut your scenes at the "content curve": the moment when the viewer has had just enough time to take in the visual information in a scene.
  • Cutting your scene BEFORE the content curve, creates anxiety, frustration, and/or disorients the viewer.
  • Cutting the scene AFTER the content curve, frustrates and bores an audience.
HOMEWORK: Identify and define the following terms from the videos below. Write these in your notebook, as we will refer to them throughout the course:
Extreme long shot, long shot, medium shot, medium-close up, close up, extreme close up; Firehosing, jogging, backlighting, lead/nose room, headroom; pan and tilt, dolly movement, truck or tracking shots, sled and vest system, boom; 180 degree rule; line of action, dynamic shots versus static shots.

Conclusion of Phantom of the Opera; Sergei Eisenstein & the Montage

Let us conclude our viewing of The Phantom of the Opera this morning. After viewing, let's discuss what we may have to say about reviewing the film.

Some students will take their leave to go on their field trip. Please read the article handout on Eisenstein, take notes, and view the material below in this post regarding Eisenstein and the important use of montage.


Get More: SOUTH

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. Click here for an example.

Here's a few clips from some of his films:
  • Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step Sequence) (1925)
  • Oktober
  • Alexander Nevsky (1928) (battle on the ice sequence) - Music by Sergei Prokofiev. We can see how the invention of sound in the next few years will revolutionize film. The exciting tone of the music, nicely reflects the glory, fear, and trepidation of the characters in this scene.
HOMEWORK: Read and take notes about Sergei Eisenstein & his contribution to film.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lon Chaney & The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera (1925 film) was based on the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. Leroux was an unsuccessful playwright and reviewer or drama critic, but made his mark with over 60 novels, of which The Phantom of the Opera is his best known work.

Born in Paris in 1868, Leroux inherited a vast fortune from his father, squandered it in gambling, and became a low-paid theater critic. His first novel, The Mystery of the Yellow Room, was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the writer who is responsible for giving us the character Sherlock Holmes). It was published in 1907.

He published The Phantom of the Opera in 1911. His novels did not make him rich, but he lived to see the now-famous Universal Studios film in 1925, but died two years later in 1927 of uraemia. He was 59 years old.

One of the many reasons the film struck a popular chord with viewing audiences was that it starred "The Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney" as the character Erik. Other cast and crew can be found  here at IMDB.COM. 

Chaney was born to deaf-mute parents and made his film debut in 1912 after being an actor and part owner in a theatre company. Some of his other films include:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
He Who Gets Slapped (1923)
Mr. Wu (1927)
London After Midnight (1928)
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
among many others. Here are a few pictures of some of his character roles. He is best known for his ability to change his "face" to create unique characters on the screen and stage.


HOMEWORK: Post a comment below and name the actor/actress you think is able to portray so many different characters in films of today. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

German Expressionism; Cabinet of Dr. Caligari & Murnau

This morning, please read the article and be prepared to share your findings with the rest of the class. After reading the article, please take notes on the following:


“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 (more on that later...)
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?

Here are some film selections. If you'd like extra credit, watch and critique one (or more) of these films. Reviews are due by end of marking period.

Nosferatu (1922) Full film
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (full film with star actor Conrad Veidt)
Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire (full film, Robert Wiene, 1920)
The Hands of Orlac (full film, Robert Wiene, 1924 with star actor Conrad Veidt)
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), the Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and The Call of Cthulhu (2006), The Artist (2011)

Carl Laemmle's 100 Years of Universal (director/producer of Universal studios)
F.W. Murnau's bio
Robert Weine's bio

Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)

HOMEWORK: Please read the article on Nanook of the North and take notes on key aspects/facts.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Geva Playwriting Contest; Upcoming Events!

Please turn in your homework (blockbuster response) & let's continue watching Star Wars today.

Geva's Young Writer's Showcase:

Submit up to 3 of your 10-minute play scripts (after you proofread them) to this link:

Please include a title page with clear contact information:
Phone #

In the post below, please make a comment if you have entered your play so you can get credit from me.

Upcoming Events:
  • March 19: period 2/3 - Master Class with Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles. Bring your journals and your imagination!
  • March 25-28: Playwrights' Festival:
    • March 25: Guest Writer's Panel on Writing for the Stage: 7:00 Black Box (free event)
    • March 26: Play script readings: Please submit play scripts you would like to see staged and/or read! 7:00 Black Box (free event)
    • March 27: 24-Hour Play Festival: if you are interested in acting, directing or writing, please let Ms. Gamzon or Mr. Craddock know.
    • March 28: 24-Hour Play Festival Performance: Black Box ($5 admission/fund raiser for our department--tickets available at the door)
  • Senior Coffeehouse: May 28 at 7:00

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Characterization of The Blockbuster

Blockbuster films make money. So much money. Films that make money are often called "blockbuster" films. Those that lose money are called "bombs."

Here are some tongue-in-cheek rules concerning blockbuster films by Charlie Jane Anders:
  • If your kid hasn't heard of it, don't spend $200 million on it
  • Genre mash-ups only work if both genres are popular
  • Spend less on the first film in a series and more on the sequels
  • When dealing with a familiar hero or character, go back to the source material or original concept
  • Pay attention to the structure of the original (particularly in sequels)
  • Blockbuster films have to play overseas in the foreign market
  • Things that sound funny, should be funny
  • Remember the human element: special effects does not a blockbuster make
  • Fans are a double-edged sword: they love your content/subject matter--but then...they love your content/subject matter.
Blockbusters are usually:
  • Advertised or heavily marketed
  • Based on advertised/heavily marketed material
  • Use familiar directors or actors in major roles
  • Action films
  • Epic in scope and story
  • Costume dramas or historical fiction
  • Include special effects that involve explosions
  • Have a male protagonist
  • Deal with themes that can be easily recognizable
  • Have an underlying religious theme or strong belief in the power of good
  • End happily for the protagonist, usually by saving the day
Of course there's no set guarantee that your film will be a blockbuster, but if you hit upon some of these elements, it is more likely you are making a blockbuster.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Star Wars; George Lucas and the Blockbuster Film

Sony unveiled their VTR (video tape recorder) in 1967, but it wasn't until the 1970's that it took the world by storm. The early versions cost a prohibitive $1,000 to $4,000! That's about 8-10 I-phones and at least as many TiVos. Watching movies in your home again threatened the movie industry, but under the Betamax VCR (1975) viewers could watch pornography without feeling guilty about it (the internet had not yet established itself). As fall-out, the porn and "X" film production grew and later would help release a whole host of B-films which would not receive a wide release in cinemas.

Steven Spielberg (American New Wave director/Auteur) filmed his blockbuster Jaws in 1975. The success of the book and the film began to show the possibility of mass-produced entertainment and give film a legitimacy through popular culture. There were few film programs in colleges and schools at this time. You may recall Spielberg's other work (mostly blockbusters, like Jaws). After the Blockbuster phenomenon, film gained much attention (and money). Writers like Michael Crichton and Stephen King became quite wealthy as popular authors since so many people went to see the movies based on their books. Now, bestsellers almost always get made into films as a way to capitalize on profits (J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, for example). Stan Lee is also doing nicely recently.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
E.T. (1982)

George Lucas on the other hand created the single most influential film in the 1970's with his space opera (part IV) of the seminal Star Wars (1978). Both Jaws and Star Wars became the first two films to make more than $100 million, rocketing both directors into fame!

Star Wars (1977)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and the famous "melting face scene just for fun - SPOILER."

In 1982 the film Tron (1982) effectively used CGI for its special effects. Since then CGI has been married to the Hollywood Blockbuster.

Westworld (1973) (same author as Jurassic Park)
The Black Hole (1979)
Star Trek (1979) (VO by Orson Welles)

As you might note, CGI greatly improved the sci-fi genre.

Now, the goal of Hollywood remains to produce a blockbuster film. These are traditionally action-packed epics chock-ful of CGI and special effects. Many films also are mass produced so that even if the film fails at the box office, the production company can make back a loss by selling the music tracks, toys, or DVD's.

Recent blockbusters include:
Avatar (2009) $2,782,275,172 Billion
Titanic (1997) $2,185,246,990 Billion
The Avengers (2012) $552.7 Million (and counting)
The Dark Knight (2008) $533 Million
Spider Man (2002) $403.7 Million
E.T. (1982) $359.2 Million (see clip above)
Jurassic Park (1993) $357.1 Million
Forrest Gump (1994) $329.7 Million

Top 100 Box Office Blockbusters of All Time It pays to be a producer!

And for perspective, the top three films that flopped:

Cutthroat Island (1995) loss of $147 Million
The Alamo (2004)  loss of $146 Million (we lost the battle as well)
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) loss of $145 Million

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...