BSA306: Life is Beautiful

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Directed by Roberto Benigni | Released 1997 | La vita e bella

I love this film. I didn’t fully understand it when I first watched it because I was a child and I don’t think children are meant to understand this film completely. Watching Life is Beautiful now as an adult, I do understand it. It is about innocence, and keeping it alive, it is about sacrifice and how love means you will do anything to make life better and more beautiful for those you love.

Even though I now realise the horrors depicted in this film, I am still glad that I watched it as a child, because I have been able to see this story from both sides. When i was younger I couldn’t comprehend what was going on, I didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation. I saw this film through the eyes of little Giosué and giggled along with him at the silly jokes his father made. Now my heart breaks a little at these moments, because I understand Guido.

Although this film received heavy criticism for “trivializing the holocaust”, I don’t think that should put anyone off watching it. It is difficult to know whether it is insensitive, but I definitely do not think that was Roberto Benigni’s intentions. I will always love this movie and would definitely recommend it, but would also suggest to bring a box of tissues… You’ll need them!

 


 

Won the following awards (and more):

  • Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role – Roberto Benigni
  • Oscar for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score – Nicola Piovani
  • Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film
  • BAFTA for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – Roberto Benigni
  • Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role – Roberto Benigni
  • AFI Fest Audience Award for Best Feature Film – Roberto Benigni

And was nominated for the following awards (and more):

  • Oscar for Best Picture – Elda Ferri and Gianluigi Braschi
  • Oscar for Best Director – Roberto Benigni
  • Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – Vincenzo Cerami and Roberto Benigni
  • Oscar for Best Film Editing – Simona Paggi

 

 

 

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BSA306: Reservoir Dogs

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Directed by Quentin Tarantino | Released 1992

Reservoir Dogs is the story of a group of thieves who come together to pull of the perfect diamond heist. It turns into a bloody ambush when it is revealed that one of the men is an undercover police officer. This is Quentin Tarantino’s first feature film and quickly became a cult classic after its release in 1992.

The opening scene in the coffee shop really grabbed my attention and drew me in with the way the camera constantly circled the characters and the witty dialogue they shared. What I particularly enjoyed about this film, besides the fact that it’s a Tarantino film and everything he does is brilliant, was the names the characters gave to each other in order to keep their identities hidden. They are all named after colours (Mr. Brown, Mr. White, Mr. Pink), which added a hint of humour to every scene which was an otherwise serious situation.

Sally Menke was the editor on Reservoir Dogs. She worked with Quentin Tarantino on eight of his films before her death in 2010 (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill:Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Grindhouse, Deathproof, Inglorious Bastards).

 

BSA331: The Journal

This post contains all the work I have currently done in my journal for this class. I realised that handing this in in its physical form probably wouldn’t be the best idea as I may not be around to be able to collect it. Instead I decided to post pictures of it. I haven’t photographed all of the scripts that are in the journal because I didn’t feel comfortable posting them. However, I have written a little something about each piece that was written.

 

Enjoy.

 

BSA306: A Scanner Darkly

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Directed by Richard Linklater | Released 2006 | Rotoscope

 

A Scanner Darkly (2006) is based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. The film tells the story of identity and deception in a near-future dystopia constantly under intrusive high-tech police surveillance in the midst of a drug addiction epidemic. The film was shot digitally and then animated using interpolated rotoscope, an animation technique in which animators trace over the original footage frame by frame, for use in live-action and animated films, giving the finished result a distinctive animated look [1].

While I found the rotoscoping impressive, I found it quite distracting. For me, it took my attention away from a story that I might have otherwise been quite engaged with. However, I don’t particularly enjoy Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. or Winona Ryder so I guess that put me off from the start.

I wanted to like this film, because of the trippy yet impressive rotoscoping, but the reality was that I just didn’t. Even though, as I have said, I don’t very much like the cast of the film, I don’t think this was the reason. It turns out that films about drugs aren’t really my thing. This being the focus of A Scanner Darkly, it didn’t draw me in. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean it isn’t a good film that deserves recognition for it’s unique approach and thought-provoking story.

Los Cronocrímenes

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Directed by Nacho Vigalondo | Released 2007 | Timecrimes (English release title)

 

The title is a bit of a giveaway for what this film is about. The audience knows from the start that there is going to be time travel and some sort of crime involved and, because of that, you’re anticipating it and it’s not a surprise when it does happen.

As soon as the ‘Pink Mummy’ appeared, I guessed it might have been the main character. I was right. I guessed just about every plot twist long before it happened and I found that really frustrating. I think the reason each and every plot twist was so easy to predict was because the main character was written to be a bit of fool, meaning that every decision he made was sure to be foolish. This is lazy writing. It creates an easy-to-predict plot line and, in turn, a boring movie.

The whole plot of this film feels very similar to the time travel sequence in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry, Ron and Hermione are present in several places at once and must not bump into themselves in order to not damage the present/future, but eventually manage to make things right with each leap back in time. Similarly, everything Hector does effects past present or future Hectors and he must not communicate with any of the other Hectors. Although Hector causes all of the problems he faces, he also manages to right his world, even though he doesn’t do this in the best of ways.

BSA306: My Body of Work

I aimed to create three kinds of trailers for this project; the theatrical trailer, the non-dialogue trailer and the sneak peek trailer. Unfortunately, time was against me and i was only able to complete two – the theatrical and non-dialogue. I still plan to continue editing and put together the sneak peek, in fact, I filmed enough to make two of these.

I would love to be able to share both of these trailers with the world, but at this stage that is not possible. The reason being that I do not have the rights to use the music I have edited my trailers to. Yes, I know, this is extremely unprofessional of me. However, I have not, and will not, be posting these videos for the public to see, I am only using them for assessment purposes. Sometime in the near future I would like to reedit my trailer using music that I do have rights to whether this be through commissioning someone to write music for me or purchasing the rights to a piece already in existence.

Now that this project is at it’s end, I can say that I am quite happy with what I achieved. I do think that the theatrical trailer was the better of the two. For a student work I feel it looks very professional and reads well as a trailer. I do wish I had had more time (and more skill) to work on the audio, but that is something else I can tackle in the future. The non-dialogue trailer I think had potential, but I think it became a little boring when edited to the same music as the theatrical trailer. In order to make it more engaging I believe a song with lyrics may be beneficial, or perhaps a different instrumental piece and some titles. I also believe it would benefit from being shorter, perhaps closer to the 1 min to 1 min 30 mark.

All in all, this has been an enjoyable project as I have been able to have complete freedom with how I presented my trailer and discover different and interesting ways to present it.

BSA306: Breaking Conventions in Trailers

There are instances where breaking genre conventions in trailers have worked in favour of the trailer. This is because it is still clear what the genre of the film is. Example: Logan (2017). Read more as a drama as it was slower paced and had a paced soundtrack (Johnny Cash’s Hurt), but it was still clear that it would be an action film. This was made clear from the fact that it was part of the X-men franchise and the visuals shown in the trailer.

 

 

The non-dialogue trailer is also an example of breaking the conventions of trailers. Although this is not strictly considered breaking conventions, it is different take on the traditional trailer and can be incredibly effective as it is universally understandable and is memorable for being different. Example: The Handmaiden (2016). Powerful visuals and soundtrack left no need for dialogue.

 

Another example of a non-dialogue trailer is the teaser for La La Land. This trailer has no dialogue, but instead features one of the songs from the film, juxtaposed with the rich visuals of the film.

However, breaking conventions can backfire. August: Osage County’s trailer marketed the film as a comedy, misleading audiences as it was actually a serious drama with very few jokes (all of which appeared in the trailer). The editors of this trailer did comment that although the trailer was an inaccurate representation of the film, it ultimately drew in audiences and made a considerable profit.

 

Another example of a kind of trailer that breaks conventions is one that I have already discussed in a previous post; the sneak peek trailer. Again, a great example of a successful sneak peek is the opening scene from It (2017) which played in cinemas. This trailer really set the mood for the film and established the fear-inducing character of Pennywise, something that is key for this film. Another reason that this was successful is that a slightly shorter version of this scene was shared around social media alongside the same scene from the original book to film adaption. The side-by-side comparison allowed audiences to get a taste for what else was to come with the remake as the production values were considerably higher than the original, suggesting that the rest of the film might be bigger and better than it’s predecessor.

 

BSA306: Genre Conventions in Trailers

Films themselves follow conventions in each genre so, as one might expect, so do trailers. This helps to set the tone for what the film will be like and for the audience to decide if they will watch it.

The action trailer: The most notable convention of the action trailer is that they are fast paced. It seems obvious to say that because who has ever heard of a slow paced action film? The word “action” insinuates movement and a fast pace so it would make sense that trailers in this genre would be cut to reflect that too. Other conventions include the chase sequence, which there are often at least two of in an action trailer, lens flares and explosions. The other thing that is key for an action trailer is a lot of dialogue. There’s generally at least five characters speaking throughout an action trailer and, most times, at least one of those characters will only have a small part in the film itself.  Please see below for the trailer for Transformers. In fact, just about any of Michael Bay’s films are a great example for this.

 

The drama and romance trailer:  I’ve used an example here which could be considered more of a romance, but the conventions of drama and romance films are actually very similar. To begin with, these trailers are focused on the characters and often in quite an intimate sense with lots of close up shots of the characters compared to the action trailer where the environment seems to matter just as much as the character within it. Drama and romance trailers will often use character voice over to tell the story. So, rather than a third person narrating the trailer, dialogue from within the film will guide the audience through the trailer. This will be matched with moments showing the characters speaking. Another big thing to note is the use of wide, establishing shots and the need to make every shot aesthetically pleasing. In the example below, The Light Between Oceans, every shot feels soft and romantic, it is pleasing to the eye and draws in the audience. The drama and romance trailer will often play heavily on the audience’s emotions, with an abundance of shots portraying heartfelt emotion, whether that be sadness, grief, or joy.

The comedy trailer: Even though this is not used all the time within comedy trailers, one of my favourite conventions is how the comedy trailer will begin by misguiding the audience to think it is a serious film. The Edge of Seventeen does this really well, playing on the joke long enough to make you question yourself a few times on whether or not you should laugh. Physical comedy is another big player in the conventions of the comedy trailer, but this isn’t just restricted to physical pain in a comedic sense, no, this can also be the way one is dressed or the way one looks. However one chooses to show physical comedy, you can almost guarantee it will be present to some extent in a comedy trailer. The other major conventions of the comedy trailer are witty dialogue and including the best jokes. Being a comedy you would expect those, because really what you want from a comedy is to laugh. All of these things will then be accompanied by an upbeat soundtrack to make you feel good about life.

 

BSA306: An Introduction to the Trailer

“In trailers, images are selected and combined in ways that privilege attracting the spectator’s attention over sustaining narrative coherence. ”

(Kernan, 2004, p. 7)

Trailers are first and foremost a marketing strategy. They are made to make the audience want to go to the cinema to see the movie so the studios can make money. Therefore, the trailer needs to be an effective marketing campaign. Here are some of the ways this is done:

Showing all the good bits: Takes the most interesting parts of the story, condenses them and adds drama, but make it appear as a promise for more good bits. The audience always falls for it.

A strong sound track: Music is a powerful tool in marketing. It draws the audience in and helps to tell the story. It sets the mood for the film and brings a sense of emotion – something that audiences always connect to whether it be sadness, excitement or tension.

Eye-catching visuals: Filmmakers always take the best, most impressive shots and put them in their trailers because they want to wow the audience. Film, being a visual medium, needs to impress visually. This is the most important aspect of promoting a film as no one is going to want to see a film that is unappealing to the eye.

The art of anticipation: this is a very important tool for the filmmaker. Building a sense of excitement is important for building an audience because without the audience, there is no profit and, at the end of the day, this is what the studios want. Anticipation is built not only through the theatrical trailer, but also through teasers. Teasers can be anything from a poster to a 10 second clip to a 1 minute trailer. Deadpool’s marketing campaign was hugely successful. This campaign needed to be unique and “as saucy and audacious as the movie itself.” [2] For example, the costume reveal was on a billboard and featured Deadpool next to a poop emoji. This unique approach to marketing established the mood for the film, exciting audiences for what else was to come.

It seems to me that when people think of trailers they think of the trailer with the voice over, the one that is very dramatic and spells out a lot of the information for you. For example, Jane Campion’s 2009 drama Bright Star.

Personally, I dislike this kind of trailer. I feel the voice over takes away from the beauty of the film and distracts from what the film really is. Thankfully, trailer producers have moved away from the “voice over trailer” to a more theatrical approach where the characters and their stories are able to draw in the audience, leaving no need for a third person telling. Testament of Youth (2015), directed by James Kent is an example of a trailer that follows this newer style of story telling.

 


 

Janet Staiger writes on an historical approach to trailers, examining film advertising as it was in the early day of film. She quotes Jesse L. Lasky saying,

“…the tempo of a trailer is vastly different from the tempo of a feature. We cannot establish moods. We must get to the climax of a dramatic situation, to the peak of a comedy situation, to the very essence of dialogue.”

(Staiger, Pp. 3-31)

Staiger talks about the trailer as an artistic expression and how it is really part of the spectacle of the film itself, rather than a separate advertising scheme entirely. (Hesford, 2013, pp. 4-5)

The quote Staiger has used here from Lasky I have found to be beneficial in deciding how to structure my own trailer. It has made me realise that the intense, dramatic scenes I have filmed are most certainly appropriate for the trailer as, while it does not fully establish the mood of the film, nor entirely match the tempo of the full feature, it tells the audience what to expect within the plot of the film, that there is a very serious tone to the story being told.

 

 


  1. Kernan, L. (2005). Coming attractions: Reading American movie trailers. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
  2. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/10-best-marketing-campaigns-movies-939307/item/jungle-book-disney-best-marketing-939319
  3. Hesford, D. (2013). The art of anticipation: The artistic status of the film trailer and its place in the wider cinematic culture (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland). 

Performance

Split (2016) – James McAvoy

James McAvoy plays about eight characters in the this film and delivers about seven of them beautifully, but the final character he plays is another story. This  last character is called “The Beast” and is everything you’d expect from a character with this name. he’s angry, full of himself, supernaturally strong, and, most of all, too dramatic. This isn’t all down to the performance, it’s also down to the writing. M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed this film and actually did rather well (surprisingly) for most of it. Most of the characters (specifically those played by McAvoy) are well thought out and cleverly written, but “The Beast” feels like a stock character that Shyamalan resorted to when he realised the rest of the story was good. The poor writing of this character, and perhaps poor direction on how to portray him, resulted in what I consider to be a terrible performance that brought the whole film down.

 

Les Miserables (2012) – Anne Hathaway

When this film came out, there was a lot of talk about Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine, especially in regards to her performance of I Dreamed a Dream. Most of the comments were in mockery, laughing about her dirty, snotty face and shaky voice. When I finally got around to watching this last year, I was very interested to see her performance and make my own judgement. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was full of raw emotion, as it should have been, and was incredibly compelling. Tom Hooper’s decision to have live singing paid off, I feel, as it helped show the emotion more effectively.