Thursday, May 31, 2018

Exam Review

Exam review

Our final exam covers a lot here. Please study and use your notes you took in class (there was a reason you should have taken notes) to study from. Look back at the blog posts and read or view the clips/articles that were linked. You will be responsible for anything that is posted there--including:
  • The Movies Learn to Speak (article)
  • The Jazz Singer (1927) & Don Juan (1926), Al Jolson, Vitaphone, etc.
  • The Benefits and Problems concerning SOUND IN FILM
  • 1930's Golden Age of Film: (blog post and crash course video)
  • Hal Roach, Laurel & Hardy, "The Music Box" (1931), The Little Rascals
  • Universal Horror films and stars
  • Screwball comedies & style
  • Frank Capra films, in particular, It's a Wonderful Life (article/blog)
  • Genre films of the 1930's/1940's: Gangster, War, Westerns, Musicals, Animation, Adventure
  • Famous actors/personalities in 1930's & 1940's films
  • RKO, King Kong (1933), Fay Wray--the scream queen, Max Steiner, Ray Harryhausen
  • The Marx Brothers: Duck Soup (1933)
  • Influence of the Great Depression on film, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart
  • Narratology, style of film, narrative techniques, avant-garde films
  • Technicolor (Walt Disney article) and color in film
  • Walt Disney, Snow White (1937) (article & blog posts)
  • Warner Brothers Looney Tunes (animation in 1930-1970)
  • How to write a treatment, 3-act structure; how to write a script
  • John Huston, dir.; Humphrey Bogart: The Maltese Falcon
  • Film Noir (article "Murder, Greed, & Betrayal: The Dark Streets of Film Noir")
  • The characteristics of Film Noir, how German Expressionism influenced Film Noir, etc.
  • The Wizard of Oz & Gone With the Wind (1939, color in film)
  • Mise-en-scene & deep focus shots, auteur, diegetic & non-diegetic sound, styles of film, mise-en-shot, montage, continuity editing, editing, producing, etc. (various posts)
  • Angles, shot types, 180-degree rule, how to direct, produce, and write a film, etc.
  • Casablanca (1942) (article/blog)
  • World War II and its effect on film
  • Alfred Hitchcock, Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1947), Psycho (1960); the MacGuffin
  • The Emergence of Television (article)
  • Samuel Goldwyn (MGM), the influence of television on the film industry ("The Emergence of Television" article)
  • Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg & the Actor's Studio in New York; influence on actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.
  • HUAC and the Communist Witch Hunt, McCarthy Era, Fatty Arbuckle scandal, Ring Lardner, blacklisting (HUAC article)
  • Teenage films of the 1950's
  • Drive-in Theaters
  • AIP & Samuel Z. Arkoff (American International Pictures: A Blueprint for Success" article)
  • Ed Wood & Roger Corman & "B" films
  • William Castle
  • 1950's Science Fiction films, The Cold War & its influence on film
  • MPPA relaxing its restrictions (Article)
  • Jack Valenti, Mike Nichols, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966) ("Relaxing Restrictions: MPAA Ratings System article)
  • Rating system: G, M, R, X and what the letter stands for--later G, PG, R, NC17
  • How to direct, how to edit, how to write a film script
  • Writing a film treatment
  • 1960's film trends
  • The New Hollywood: America's New Wave (article)
  • Producers, directors, writers, foley artist, grip, cinematographers, and film occupations
  • 1970's-1990's film trends (not on test, but we'll cover this after the exam)
  • Francis Ford Coppola (see American New Wave directors)
  • Roman Polanski (see American New Wave directors)
  • Martin Scorsese (see American New Wave directors)

1960's Film Trends

We will screen the rest of Psycho today and work on our film projects and mention 1960's film trends.

1960's Film Trends:
With the change in restrictions based on the rating system from the MPAA, content in films gets grittier, more violent, more sexual, and more...well...Hollywood. View a few clips of famous films and film categories developed in the 1960's. Take notes on your graphic organizer. This material is fair game for the upcoming exam. Note years, genres, actors, directors, and films.

1960's Epic/Costume Drama Films:
Spartacus (1960) Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charleton Heston, Peter Ustinov
El Cid (1961) Charleton Heston
Cleopatra (1963) Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Becket (1964) Richard Burton & Peter O'Toole
The Sound of Music (1965) Julie Andrews & Christopher Plumber
Doctor Zhivago (1965) Julie Christie, Omar Sharif
The Lion in Winter (1968) Peter O'Toole & Katherine Hepburn
Planet of the Apes (1968, Rod Serling screenwriter; Franklin Schaffner, dir.) Charleton Heston

Angry Young Man Films:
Look Back in Anger (1959) Richard Burton
The Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner (1962)
The Caretaker (1963)
The Leather Boys (1963)
If (1968) Malcolm McDowell
Easy Rider (1969) Dennis Hopper

Beatles' Films
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Help! (1965)
The Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

Famous/Influential Directors

Stanley Kubrick: Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964, Peter Sellers), 2001, a Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971, Malcolm McDowell)
John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
George Pal: The Time Machine (1960), Jason & the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years BC (1966)
John Frankenheimer: The Young Savages (1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Arthur Penn: The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonny & Clyde (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969)
Robert Aldrich: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) with Bette Davis & Joan Crawford; The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Blake Edwards: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, with Audrey Hepburn); The Pink Panther (1963 with Peter Sellers)
Alfred Hitchcock: The Birds (1963, Tipi Hedren), Marnie (1964, Sean Connery, Tipi Hedren), Torn Curtain (1966, with Julie Andrews & Paul Newman)
James Bond Films: Dr. No (1962, Sean Connery), Goldfinger (1964, Sean Connery)

African American Films:
Sidney Poitier films: A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Lilies of the Field (1963), To Sir With Love (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

HOMEWORK: Study this information for your upcoming test. Continue to work on your film projects. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ed Wood, Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff, and William Castle; Psycho: Day 2

Watch the clips, write a comment in the COMMENT section about William Castle, Roger Corman, Samuel Arkoff, or Ed Wood in the comment section below. Comments to consider: have you viewed any of these films? What draws your attention or what do you notice about the films of a particular director/producer? Consider the subject matter or targeted audience for these films--who is the target audience & how do you know? How might these films changed film history (for better or worse?), What is your personal reaction to learning about one of these filmmakers? Etc.

Work on your film project after viewing/observing/commenting on this material. During 2nd period we will continue watching Psycho.

Ed Wood (Jr.) (10 October 1924 – 10 December 1978) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and editor, who often performed many of these functions simultaneously. In the 1950s, Wood made a run of cheap and poorly produced genre films, now humorously celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements, although his flair for showmanship gave his projects at least a modicum of critical success.

Wood's popularity waned soon after his biggest 'name' star, Béla Lugosi, died. He was able to salvage a saleable feature from Lugosi's last moments on film, but his career declined thereafter. Toward the end of his life, Wood made pornographic movies and wrote pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. His posthumous fame began two years after his death, when he was awarded a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director of All Time. The lack of conventional film making ability in his work has earned Wood and his films a considerable cult following.
Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926), sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies, is a prolific American producer and director of low-budget movies, some of which have an established critical reputation: many of his films derived from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Corman has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sagebush.
Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures (or AIP). The material below will help you understand this period of history as we move into the strange 1950's. Please take notes of key ideas and information. Read the handout for the exam next week.


"By the early 1950's, Samuel Z. Arkoff was a brash lawyer scratching out a living by representing his in-laws and the Hollywood fringe, which included many of now-infamous director/angora-clad transvestite Edward D. Wood Jr.'s social circle. Arkoff was physically imposing and capable of scaring anyone who opposed him. One of his clients was Alex Gordon, a screenwriter who had submitted an unsolicited script to Realart Pictures, an outfit that was profitably re-releasing 20-year old movies, often under new titles conjured up by it's owner, Jack Broder.

One such film, Man Made Monster (1941), had just been re-issued as The Atomic Monster, coincidentally the same title of Gordon's screenplay. Zarkoff paid Mr. Broder a $500 settlement. Broder's sales manager, James H. Nicholson was dumbfounded by Zarkoff's ability to extract a dime out of his tightfisted boss and proposed a partnership. American Releasing Corporation was founded in 1954 and their first release was a low-budget feature by 29-year old producer Roger Corman. Made for less than $50,000, it netted $850,000 and Corman was brought into the fold as a silent partner.

By 1955 the company was renamed American International Pictures, or simply AIP within the industry. Initially focusing on westerns on the premise that locations came cheap, and although profitable, Arkoff was unhappy with the returns and solicited theater owners for advice on what types of films filled seats. By the mid-1950's, thanks to television, the audience numbers had dwindled considerably with the key demographic now teenagers and young adults, who craved horror movies and drive-ins. AIP jumped into the horror genre with both feet and made a fortune. Under Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade and adapting to trends.

AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock'n'roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian musclemen, and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history. His company became infamous for clever advertising schemes that were often more entertaining than AIP's movies.  Arkoff never tolerated egos and his films were more often than not, profitable, thanks to tight budgets and a sharp understanding of the target market. After Nicholson's 1972 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. He then became the head of Arkoff International Pictures."
William CastleThe Wonderful World of William Castle

Competing with a growing television audience, filmmakers in the 1950's had to entice viewers into seeing their films. Trailers were the ticket! The worse the film, the greater need for an effective trailer. Of the best promoters of his directing and producing work, William Castle looms over all others.

"William Schloss was born in New York City. Schloss means "castle" in German, and William Castle probably chose to translate his surname into English to avoid the discrimination often encountered by Jewish entertainers of his time. He spent most of his teenage years working on Broadway in a number of jobs. He left for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film when he was 29. He also worked an as assistant to Orson Welles, doing much of the location work for Welles' noir film, The Lady from Shanghai."

Castle was famous for directing low budget B-films with many overly promoted gimmicks. Five of these were scripted by adventure novelist Robb White. William Castle was called the Master of Movie Horror.

After a long career, William Castle died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1977.

His films include:

Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. Showings also had fake nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater. Utube clip: Macabre:

House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo". An inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price. The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton.

The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto". Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening. 13 Ghosts.

Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. About 1% demanded refunds, but were subjected to demasculation and called "cowards". Homicidal clip.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961): The audiences were allowed to vote in a "punishment poll" during the climax of the film - Castle appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow in the dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die during the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy so the alternate ending was never screened.

 (1962): Each patron was given a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin which looked nice, but did absolutely nothing.

Strait-Jacket (1964): Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons. This film, by the way, starred Oscar winner (not for this film) Joan Crawford - Mommy Dearest herself.

I Saw What You Did  (1965): Seat belts were installed to keep patrons from being jolted from their chairs in fright.

Other film trailers from William Castle:
William Castle acted as producer to Roman Polanski's direction of: Rosemary's Baby The film remains one of the most artistic Castle productions ever made.

HOMEWORK: Make sure you have commented about these directors/producers in the comment section today. Work on your film project.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

1950's Films; Drive-In Theaters; Film Project; More Hitchcock

Today, please work on your film projects during the lab. Make sure you start filming your project! This weekend is the perfect time to start if you have not yet started!

Work with your group or alone to prepare your script (complete research and write your short documentary script today, for example). Prepare your schedule for the long weekend.

For those of you who have "nothing" to do, see homework (which is what you see here for 1950's film) and read the articles on AIP films.

1950's Cinema Trends:

Drive-In Theatres:

Richard Hollingshead, a young sales manager at his dad's Whiz Auto Products, invented something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.

Richard Hollingshead's vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway in New Jersey. Hollingshead mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound. Clever!

The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Hollingshead used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons' cars. He lined up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.

The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on June 6, 1933 at a location in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.

The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called "Directional Sound." Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.

The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid's playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.

Please take a look at these clips. Drive in down memory lane...

Clip A.
Clip B.

Science Fiction (or sci-fi), the Cold War, and its result:

The Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation by the communists is reflected in the many b-films made in the 1950's. Here's a sampling. Enjoy!
Hitchcock Films in the 50's:

In the 50's he went on to make these films: Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954),  The Trouble With Harry (1955), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North By Northwest (1959)

We will either watch Strangers on a Train (1951) at 8:00, or Psycho (1960)

credited cast:
Farley Granger...Guy Haines
Ruth Roman...Anne Morton
Robert Walker...Bruno Antony
Leo G. Carroll...Sen. Morton
Patricia Hitchcock...Barbara Morton
Kasey Rogers...Miriam Joyce Haines (as Laura Elliott)
Marion Lorne...Mrs. Antony
Jonathan Hale...Mr. Antony
Howard St. John...Police Capt. Turley
John Brown...Prof. Collins
Norma Varden...Mrs. Cunningham
Robert Gist...Det. Leslie Hennessey

Psycho: 1960, Alfred Hitchcock (Part 1)

One way to appreciate film is by examining its narrative structure. As young writers, this is a great exercise. You can learn a lot about writing by paying attention to narrative.

Narrative can be:
• Omniscient
• Limited (over the shoulder)/Restricted
• Multiple Perspective

Narrative largely depends on how time (or chronology) works in the story.

Chronology: (how time works in a story)
• Chronological/linear time
• Non-chronological/non-linear
• Flashback
• Frame

When we examine time and narrative in film, we should ask:
  • Who does the camera favor?
This is your clue as to who you need to be concerned with/about. Try to use this technique in your film projects.

Hitchcock applies several effective narrative techniques to keep his audience on its toes. The most famous of these is:

The MacGuffin: an object of importance to the characters but of little interest to the director (and consequently to the viewer).

As you watch Psycho, pay attention to:
1. The MacGuffin (what is it for which character?)
2. the Set-up
3. the 1st turning point or crisis
4. Development & shifting of POV (and our loyalties/concerns)
5. Other turning points (there can be several of these)
6. the Climax
7. the Resolution: how the film ends (and what that suggests)

HOMEWORK: Read and annotate the articles on Samuel Z. Arkoff (AIP). Continue working on your film projects. Read the articles/handouts on Hitchcock.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rope (1948)

Rope (1948) 

Cast List

James Stewart  ...      Rupert Cadell, Publisher 
John Dall  ...             Brandon Shaw, Murderer 
Farley Granger  ...     Phillip Morgan, Murderer 
Cedric Hardwicke  ... Mr. Kentley 
Constance Collier  ... Mrs. Atwater, Kentley's Sister-In-Law 
Douglas Dick  ...       Kenneth Lawrence 
Edith Evanson  ...      Mrs. Wilson, the Housekeeper  
Dick Hogan  ...          David Kentley, Murder Victim 
Joan Chandler  ...      Janet Walker, David's Fiancee 

Things to notice:

Rope is Hitchcock’s first film in America where he acted as producer and director. Before this, he worked for producer David O. Selznik. See previous post for details about Selznik. Being his own producer, Hitchcock was able to cast who he wanted, film what he wanted and basically, call all the shots himself. He was in complete control of the film. So many of the following choices came from Hitchcock's own artistic vision:

Rope is Hitchcock’s first color film.

Rope was originally a play by Patrick Hamilton. The movie has only one set. The camera was moved from room to room. Walls were whisked up into the studio “flies”.  Grips (technicians who move or work with set pieces) stood off-camera removing and replacing furniture when the camera moves forward and backward. 
Most shots in movies last only five to fifteen seconds - the shots in Rope last on average 10 minutes (the length of time a “magazine” of film can be exposed in a camera.)

These 10 minute takes each end as the camera is moved closely to an object or a character’s jacket.  The next reel is then filmed focusing on this object and pulling back. As you watch the film, try to notice each “take”. 

If any mistakes occurred during the ten-minute take, the complete shot had to be done again.

The music Hitchcock selected is Poulenc’s “Mouvement Perpetuel” (perpetual movement).  In the film the camera is constantly moving (moving perpetually, for instance). 

The film is an exercise in suspense. The murder happens within a few seconds of the opening shot.  The tense situation or suspense occurs as the murderers place the body in a chest, invite his parents and fiance over for dinner and serve the meal on the chest itself.

Themes found in the movie include: cannibalism, ritual, sexuality, and the difference between theory and practice (book learning versus real experience).

The rope used to kill Dick Hogan is used to tie up his books, presented to his father like a gift.

The play is based on the Leopold and Loeb case. You can learn more about the Leopold and Loeb case here.

As you watch, list the moments in the movie when the shot changes:

1.  Example:  The camera moves from an exterior shot of the street and window to an interior shot of the apartment as Dick Hogan is shown being strangled by Brandon and Phillip.

2. ? Try to locate the various shots. You should find about 7-8 of these. 

HOMEWORK: Please work on shooting your film script projects.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Film Project: Day 2; Conclusion of Shadow of a Doubt

Lab: (Until 8:00)

This morning, please turn in your homework notes (see the previous post).

Work on your film projects. The script needs to be done first. If you are the director/producer, talk to one another about where the project is: what needs to be completed next? Make a list, organize yourself and your cast/crew. Decide on dates to shoot your film. If you are the editor, start uploading and working on your credits--you don't need your film script done for some of this. Once you have the details about who will do what role, put it up in the film. You can also select music, sound effects, or stock footage. Actors ready to complete a scene? Shoot what you can right now! Get on with it!

View the video hints for film projects:
Every class period: Gather with your group and touch base with each other about the project.
  • Producers: get with your director and discuss time and schedule for the film project. The film project is due at the end of the course. Set up a schedule that works within this boundary. Realize that editing takes time. Producers! It is your job to see that the project is completed by the deadline.
  • Directors: work with your actors, editor, technicians, cinematographer, etc. Find out people's schedules. When can you shoot the scenes you need to? Make a schedule and hand this to your crew. You may use class time to plan, shoot, edit, or troubleshoot with your crew.
  • Actors: get a copy of the script you are working on and read it. Prepare your scenes by reading and reading and reading the script. Memorize, if possible. Work with your director on scheduling scenes you are in, run lines with other actors, ask questions of the director for anything unclear in the script or with your character. Help out the crew or the director where needed.
  • Writers: You are the first step in the process, but you may not need to be completed before you hand your script to your director or producer. If you haven't completed your short script (remember a short script is like a short story--start close to the climax of the "film"!) After writing, be available to the director to change anything needing changing in the script. Yes, you may want your site locations to blow-up at the end of the film, but is this possible? (the answer is no, by the way.) As the writer, help out your editor and director by preparing a cast and crew list. You may also easily double as an actor, cinematographer, producer, director, crew, or editor. Complete jobs where needed.
  • Cinematographer: Your job is to plan HOW the script is shot. Will you use a long shot or close up? Will you use high-key lighting or low-key? Will you shoot a scene with an oblique angle or a high angle or low angle? Go through the script and make some decisions. Create storyboards to help you visualize a scene. Take into account the writer's wishes, but feel free to change anything that will make your film project more visually interesting.
  • Editor: Start working on the credits. You will need both opening and closing credits. You can do this even if you haven't started shooting your film yet. Use iMovie to create opening and closing credits. You can also help out by finding sound cues or stock footage. Prepare all sound cues as needed. If an actor has a VO (voice-over) sequence, use class time to record the voice over (even if you haven't finished shooting the scene it is attached to). Once you have film shot, you may begin editing. I suggest the editor is NOT the director, although this may be unavoidable.
  • Crew: Help out. If something needs to be completed, help your team get the film done on time. Like actors, be available to fill in and help where needed at any time. If the editor needs help, help. If the writer needs help, help. If the director needs help, help. You get the idea.
If you have selected the documentary project, research your director and write your voice over script. Once you have a script, record yourself reading this so you know how long or how much you need to show in still photos or movie clips. You may also consider using music or sound effects where appropriate. You can use any of the Crash Course Films as a suggestion for your documentary.

You can use an online converter to convert YouTube videos into MP3s. Here's a typical one. Since you will want to "borrow" clips from the 3 films you have watched, using this tool will be helpful.

Period 2: We will conclude our viewing of Shadow of a Doubt. 

HOMEWORK: Continue to work on your film projects!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Alfred Hitchcock: Shadow of a Doubt (1943): Day 1

As an example of our director film documentary project (as an option for your final film project), we will learn about and begin working with the master of suspense: Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock is considered the "master of suspense" and his career in film was a long and influential one:

His first full-length film was The Lodger and appeared in 1926. This was followed by Downhill (1927), The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), The Farmer's Wife (1928), and Easy Virtue (1928), The Manxman (1929), and Blackmail (1929).
These were British silent films (Blackmail was not, as you can hear).

You are free to watch any of these films as extra credit.

In the1930's, Hitchcock made even more films, mostly suspense films for which he became famous. These included: Rich and Strange (1931), The Skin Game (clip, 1931), Number 17 (clip, 1932), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Peter Lorre, The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Jamaica Inn (1939), then Foreign Correspondent (1940).

At this point in his career, Alfred Hitchcock moves to Hollywood to work with producer David O. Selznick. He makes a variety of films for Selznick, although the two approached film from a very different perspective. Hitchcock often felt trapped or restricted by Selznick's contract. The films include: Rebecca (1940) Laurence Olivier, Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Joseph Cotten (from Citizen Kane), Life Boat (1944) Talula Bankhead, Spellbound (1945) with Gregory Peck, Notorious Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman (1946), The Paradine Case (1947), Rope (1948) with Farley Granger & Jimmy Stewart (you'll see more of this guy), and Under Capricorn (1949) with Ingrid Bergman again (She was seen in Casablanca, 1942--learn more about how to write a great film scene here).

Today, let's take a look at the film Shadow of a Doubt. Inspired by film noir, this mystery-thriller stars Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie, Theresa Wright as Young Charlie, Henry Travers as Joseph Newton, and Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton, and Macdonald Carey as Jack Graham.

You should also notice the use lighting in the film, the tight (and often humorous) script/narrative, and the use of, well, suspense.

HOMEWORK: Please read the handout on "the HUAC, The Emergence of TV," and "The Home Video Invasion." Take notes on key points in the 3 articles. There will be a final exam for this course either June 5 or 7th.

Final Film Project: Day 1

For your final film project, you have an option.

A. Collaboratively, work on an original film, using a film script (most likely one that you have already written), and create an original short film. All members of the team should work together in a significant manner to see the completion of the film project. (i.e., each member of the team should have a well-defined role to complete in the making of the film...)
  • One person should be the director (the most inspired or most organized at task management)
  • One person should be the cinematographer (the best photographer & eye for visual design)
  • One person should be the editor (the most computer savvy)
  • One or more persons should work on the script as the screenwriter(s) (this part should be done by now if you use your recently written script project!)
  • One or more persons should be actors (the most theatrical--you can also hire parents, siblings, friends, and theater majors or other people from other grades to help you!)
  • One or more persons should help as grips, gaffers, best boys, costume designers, sound designers (music), casting directors, producers, and assistants to the other jobs--particularly if someone is absent, etc.
Film projects will be completed mostly on your own time (lab time is limited...) but will be due June 7 (by end of day so we can screen the films on our last day of the course (June 11). The shooting script for your project should be turned in with your film project.

B. Choose a director from the American New Wave, research, watch 3 films from this director and in a short documentary that includes at least 3 clips from the films you watched directed by the auteur, explain the director's influence on the film industry. I.E., use the information you research to create a short film documentary (of 3-10 minutes in length) about the director & his/her impact on film. You will need to narrate (voice over) your "script"--scripts should be turned in with the film.
  • Woody Allen
  • Robert Altman
  • Hal Ashby
  • Peter Bogdanovich
  • John Cassavetes
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Brian De Palma
  • William Friedkin
  • Dennis Hopper
  • Stanley Kubrick
  • George Lucas
  • Mike Nichols
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Billy Wilder* (not part of the American New Wave)
C. or select a director from the list below and do the same task as B. above:

Contemporary Film Directors:
  • Pedro Amoldovar
  • Wes Anderson
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Kathryn Bigelow
  • Danny Boyle
  • Mel Brooks
  • Charles Burnett
  • Tim Burton
  • Joel & Ethan Coen
  • James Cameron
  • Jane Campion
  • Lisa Cholodenko
  • Ryan Coogler
  • Sofia Coppola
  • David Cronenberg
  • Cameron Crowe
  • Alfonso Cuaron
  • Julie Dash
  • Guillermo Del Toro
  • Claire Denis
  • Ava Duverney
  • Clint Eastwood
  • David Fincher
  • Jean Luc Godard
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Catherine Hardwicke
  • Mary Harron
  • Werner Herzog
  • Ron Howard
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarratu
  • Peter Jackson
  • Patty Jenkins
  • Karyn Kusama
  • Mimi Leder
  • Ang Lee
  • Spike Lee
  • Kasi Lemmons
  • Richard Linklater
  • David Lynch
  • Terrence Malick
  • Penny Marshall
  • Steve McQueen (not the actor)
  • Nancy Meyers
  • Bennett Miller
  • Hayao Miyazaki 
  • Errol Morris
  • Mira Nair
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Gordon Parks
  • Tyler Perry
  • Sidney Poitier
  • Roman Polanski
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood
  • Dee Rees
  • John Sayles
  • Ridley Scott
  • Jim Sheridan
  • John Singleton
  • Steven Soderbergh
  • Kristen Stewart
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Julie Taymor
  • Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Melvin Van Peebles
  • Gus Van Sant
  • Lars Von Trier
  • Keenan Ivory Wayans
  • Forest Whitaker
More details to follow.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Script Project Draft Due!; Maltese Falcon - Day 2

Period 1 (lab - Until 8:00)

Please use your lab time to complete and turn in your film scripts. If the printer is down, please share your google doc with me instead--I'll print them. Otherwise, please print. Before you do, however, check your format and proofread your work!

Films to mention in the 1940's from the best films of all time:
[You may watch any of these films as extra credit for this marking period...; alas, because of copyright issues, you will probably have to find copies of these films from a public library...they exist...or from a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.] For any extra credit film, please review the film (300-500 words in length approximately). 

Period 1/2: (8:00)

We will continue our viewing of The Maltese Falcon.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Maltese Falcon: Day 1

Lab: (until 8:00)

Please continue writing your play scripts this morning. Scripts are due Tuesday at the end of our lab time.

Period 2:

The Maltese Falcon, directed and written for the screen by John Huston; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett (see handout and links for more details!)
As you watch the film, identify the tropes of film noir and pay attention to lighting. You can read the full script here at this link if interested.

HOMEWORK: None. If you did not get much of your script written, please catch up.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Script Project: Day 3; The Maltese Falcon; Film Noir & Lighting

Please continue writing your play scripts this morning. 

Period 2:
Film Noir:

Discuss what you learned about film noir from your homework. This morning, think/pair/share for 2-3 minutes on the topic. What did we find?

Here are a few things to watch for as we screen The Maltese Falcon:

1. A protagonist that is cynical or detached
2. A femme fatale who leads the protagonist astray
3. A mystery, crime, or use of suspense
4. A naive scapegoat to take the rap of some "crime"
5. Goons (hired criminals who give the protagonist a hard time)
6. Razor sharp dialogue
7. Reference and description of low key lighting

Lighting, Mise en Scene, & Film Techniques: 

3-point Lighting: key light, fill light, & backlight.
  • Key light: light aimed at the subject of a shot. The brightest light used, usually.
  1. High Key: lots of warm light. Bright. Often used in comedies, musicals, etc.
  2. Low Key: lots of shadows. Often used in horror, mystery, or suspense genres, etc.
Both high and low key lighting can be used to create conflict or dualism: light/darkness in a scene is often used metaphorically/symbolically. Our eye will always look for light first so we can focus the attention of a viewer. 
  • Fill light: softer light, usually aimed to contrast key light. Helps cut out shadows.
  • Backlight: light aimed from behind the subject. Enhances the depth of a shot. Often causes a "glow" around an object or subject.
Lighting can also light a subject from above (top lighting) or below (under lighting). We use the terms harsh or hot lighting to describe light that is very bright, and soft lighting when it is not that intense. Both can be used in a shot to create contrast.

Chiaroscuro lighting refers to the contrast between high and low key lighting used to create an emotional effect in a photograph or painting.
Let's put all this together as we view the film The Maltese Falcon (1941). 

The Maltese Falcon, directed and written for the screen by John Huston; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson.
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett (see handout and links for more details!)
As you watch the film, identify the tropes of film noir and pay attention to lighting. You can read the full script here at this link if interested.

HOMEWORK: None. If you did not get much of your script written, please catch up.

Monday, May 7, 2018

General Commentary About Critique Papers

  • Watch careless mistakes. Proofread your work. Read your work out loud to catch missing words, or minor grammar errors. This can improve your grade. Use Grammarly or some other online grammar checker. 
  • Proper nouns are capitalized. Skull Island is a proper noun, because it is a named, specific place. Other rules for proper nouns can be found here
  • Learn comma usage. There is usually a comma before the conjunction "but". See other rules at this link.
  • Analysis and critique requires a writer to go a little more in-depth from what is obvious to what a viewer may miss. As such, the best papers were able to analyze and critique the film based on the critical lens. In most cases this was "feminism" or "gender" issues. Typical questions you might have asked and examined in King Kong might have been:
  1. How is the relationship between men and women portrayed? Since there's only one female character, how are the men's relationships different with Ann?
  2. What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)?
  3. How are male and female roles defined? Why is Ann a weak character? Why is Jack Driscoll the only male who can save Ann? Denham doesn't save Ann--his concern is getting famous from his pictures--what gives?
  4. What constitutes masculinity and femininity? King Kong is the quintessential masculine figure, but so, too, is Jack Driscoll. You could have discussed how the two characters compare. 
  5. How do characters embody these gender traits? Use examples from the film to examine the issue and prove your point.
  6. Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them? When is Ann "masculine"? When is the captain or Denham more "passive"? When is Kong "passive"? 
  7. What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy? What is the men's solution to every problem? Hint: NRA.
  8. What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy? Since Ann is the only female in the film, except at the very beginning when we see women in a bread line for a homeless shelter--focus on that scene. How do the women treat each other? 
  9. What does the work say about women's creativity? How or why might Ann be able to survive in the wild? How is she "creative"? She's an "actress"--how does "acting" help her survive?
  10. What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the operation of patriarchy? This requires research into the articles and links I gave you. How was the film received by the public? How is it received today?
  11. What role does the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition? King Kong is not the only "dinosaur" story--consider what films or books came before this film. In particular, the silent film "The Lost World" would have been helpful to know about.
Finally, you MUST provide evidence for your statements or claims. Draw upon scenes from the film to back up what you state as true, but also try a little research to find out what life and attitudes were really like about females. We aren't getting the full reality of things or how people thought simply by watching a mass media film. There is, however, a male bias in Hollywood that has existed for a long, long time. Any contemporary connections you can think of?

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Film Script Project: Day 2; Gone With the Wind & the Golden Age of Hollywood


Please work on your film script projects. Aim to complete your short film script this week. See previous posts or handouts for details about script format.

In case you missed it, the 1930's is considered the Golden Age of Film. Please review and take notes on these following film clips when you get a chance. 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 films 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 popularized in silent films). 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) 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
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

Screwball Comedies:
The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy & William Powell
A Night At the Opera (Marx Brothers, cabin scene) (1935)
Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant

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
It's a Wonderful Life (1946 clips)

Gangster Films:
The Public Enemy (1931) (full film, extra credit option)
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)

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

Period 2:

Let's read a bit and then watch a bit of Gone With The Wind (1939)

HOMEWORK: Please read the article about Film Noir (see handout from last class), and read the script sample from The Maltese Falcon

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Looney Tunes; The Wizard of Oz; Victor Fleming, & Gone With the Wind

Before we get back to Oz, (and before I get too far ahead of myself) let's learn a little about The Golden Age of Hollywood (crash course #11).

Merian Cooper, a producer for RKO and the director of King Kong (1933), said he "never wanted to make a black and white picture again" after seeing one of Disney's Silly Symphonies. Warner Brothers Studios soon followed suit to create their Looney Tunes. You'll recognize some of the characters:
We might consider what makes parody or comedy cruel. But animation and comedy, often intended for children, sometimes tends to promulgate (spread) racist depictions of marginalized groups. Other times, they are just meant to entertain and do so with little problem.
1939 was a good year for color film (and Victor Fleming). MGM's musical-fantasy The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming, starring Judy Garland was nominated for 6 Academy Awards but lost Best Picture to the epic 4-hour long historical romance-drama Gone With the Wind (also directed by Victor Fleming) and starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. So, either way, Victor Fleming...winner.

HOMEWORK: Please read the short chapter about Film Noir & the script sample from The Maltese Falcon for next class. We will be working on our script projects Monday during the lab and then discussing film noir.

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