Notes for Class #6

  • D.W Griffith and Edwin Porter were two important people in the early days of cinema because they started to discover editing techniques.
  • The classical Hollywood form was known as CHF or CHM, and was comprised of an establishing shot (master shot), a two shot (medium shot) and a close up.
  • The juxtaposition of two shots put one after the other to create cause and effect is called the Kuleshov effect.
  • This also creates something called “the third thing,” or tertium quid, which is how you feel after you see the two shots (ex: A shot of young actors sitting, eating and drinking merrily, and running lines together, followed by a shot of children in Uganda. The tertium quid is the shame or disgust that viewers will feel watching this).
  • Offline editors are the ones who come up with the rough cuts of the sequences, and online editors put all of the pieces together and add the sound and stuff.
  • There is a surprising number of offline editors that are women, but online editors make a lot more money.
  • When movies are awarded for editing at the Oscars, it is the offline editor who is honoured.
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Notes For Class #5

  • Mise-en-scene includes decor, lighting and camera position angles (done by the director of photography), blocking, costumes and sound.
  • In cinema, there are three types of motion: primary motion, secondary motion and tertiary motion.
  • Primary motion is real life (i.e. people walking by, cars), which is usually used as coverage.
  • Secondary motion is camera motion (i.e. pan, tilt, zoom, dolly, reveal).
  • Tertiary motion is done in editing using techniques like match cuts or cross cutting, for example.

Mise-En-Scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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I have decided to analyze the mise-en-scene for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, specifically the scene where the first year students enter the Great Hall for the first time. The new students are wearing robes, but not hats. The huge doors open magically, and Professor McGonagall, sporting velvet robes and a pointy hat, leads the students into the hall two by two. They enter by the middle row, so that there are two tables on each side of them, one for each “house.” All of the older students sit at the tables wearing their robes and hats. I think that the reason why the whole room is shown in a long shot (as shown in the image below) is not just done that way because it is a nice shot, but rather, because it shows that Harry finally belongs in the world, and that he has something in common with the other people in the scene, he is a wizard.

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On the tables, there are empty plates and goblets. The lighting is high key, because you can’t really distinguish the shadows from the characters and whatnot. Torches hang by the walls, lit candle sticks hover in the air, and the ceiling is magicked to look like the night sky. At the head of the room, there is another long table, seating all of Hogwarts’ teaching staff. In between the students and teachers, there is a wide open space and a platform with a stool and on it, sits an old hat. This is the sorting hat, which sorts students into their “houses.” Professor McGonagall holds in her hand a scroll which is a list of the names of all the first year students. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and the other new witches and wizards gather around the stool to await their fates.

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Notes for Class #3

  • Auguste and Louis Lumiere (The Lumiere Brothers) were the earliest filmmakers in history, showing their first screen projected motion pictures in 1895.
  • The Great Train Robbery was a 1903 American Western film that was 12 minutes long and is considered a milestone in film making.
  • 1903-1930 is considered the “Craft era,” because filmmakers started to try different things.
  • In 1927, The Jazz Singer was the first film to include sound and dialogue.
  • 1930-1948 is considered the “Golden era,” because film making started to become more of an assembly line. Hollywood would come out with approximately 52 films a year.
  • Vertical integration is when the production companies and studios own everything, including the actors. The difference between then and now is that today, actors work on their own and hire agents to help sort things out.
  • Horizontal integration is more about product placement, so that they get money as well from advertising and marketing, rather than just from the production companies.
  • Another difference between then and now is that before the auteur used to be the producer, but now it is the director who supervises the production of the movie.
  • Between the 1930s and 1970s, smaller theaters with less screens would play a feature movie and a supporting movie (or B-movie) that was only about an hour long and which would play before the “big” movie.
  • The “Golden era” ended because of divorcement, TV and the rise of the suburbs (too far from the movie theaters).
  • Polygram was the name of a major record company in Europe’s version of Hollywood. Their approach was less horizontal, because they would basically take any script that came their way and do it.

Zero Dark Thirty, and the Production Companies Involved

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     Zero Dark Thirty, the 2012 American historical drama film about the manhunt that led to the eventual murder of Osama Bin Laden, was only involved with one production company, Annapurna Pictures.

The film, although written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was financed by the production company, Annapurna Pictures, founded by Megan Ellison, one of the producers of Zero Dark Thirty. The relatively new Los Angeles based production company was created by Ellison because she believed that Hollywood had abandoned “sophisticated dramas, period pieces and the visions of auteur,” and she decided to create Annapurna Pictures to invest in original, daring movies. Her decision paid off, because it led the company to release Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2012 drama film, The Master, which has gotten mostly nothing but positive reviews, and then, of course, Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.

Review a Reviewer: Stephen Whitty

STEPHEN WHITTY

This is Stephen Whitty, writer for The Star-Ledger, a New Jersey newspaper, and a man with whom I have a love/hate relationship.

One of my favourite websites to visit for my movie fanatic needs is Rotten Tomatoes. It is there that I came across the reviews of one Stephen Whitty, a film critic who is always finding ways to surprise me.

Although the website insists Whitty agrees with the “Tomatometer” 74% of the time, I seldom find him agreeing with the site’s ratings. In addition, his ratings are erratic and his reviews are never what I think they will be. For example, recently he has given “rotten” ratings to at least half of the movies nominated for the Academy Awards this year. I’ve browsed through most of his reviews, and he seems to dislike almost all of the movies that have been given positive reviews from the website, in the same way that he often likes movies that have received mostly negative feedback from other critics.  A great example of this is Whitty giving The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 a “fresh” rating.

Not only does Stephen often disagree with the majority, but more importantly (to me) is that he tends to have a difference of opinions with me almost all the time. Most recently, he gave a bad review of Pitch Perfect, the comedic film about an a cappella competition starring Anna Kendrick in the lead role. Not only does he criticize Kendrick’s acting (which I thought was a huge – and great – step in her career from her small Twilight role), but he goes as far as calling the film “a not-very-funny college comedy for tweens, full of unappealing characters…” I personally felt that this was one of the first heavily female comedies that had me laughing out loud the whole time (I hated Bridesmaids), and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Fellow Rotten Tomatoes reviewer Laura Beck says “the girls, for the most part, are genuinely funny, weird, real, and, most excitingly, confident,” and Connie Ogle even goes as far as warning readers that “if you’re not grinning by the end of this light, funny crowd-pleaser, consider yourself tone deaf.”

That being said, there is something about his writing style, as well as his dry sense of humour, that keeps me coming back for more. And we don’t always butt heads, anyway. He gave a “fresh” rating and positive review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Silving Linings Playbook , thank god.  Although most reviewers did praise the latter, Perks has been criticized for being predictable and “populated by characters who are just too good to be plausible,” says reviewer Mark Jenkins. Whitty however, bless his soul, calls it a “smart teen movie” and has mostly positive things to say about the Stephen Chbosky film.

He also speaks very highly of the Harry Potter franchise in several of his reviews, so that alone makes him okay in my book.

I think the reason why Whitty is a critic I enjoy following is that reviews are much more interesting to read if they are negative. Whether or not the review is of a movie you love or love to hate, you have to admit that having someone make fun of a movie and its actors is a much more entertaining read than someone who only praises every little detail. As for Stephen Whitty, whether I love him or hate him, I’ll always be looking to him to see what movie he’s going to – probably – hate next.

Link to Stephen Whitty’s Rotten Tomatoes page