Tuesday, March 8, 2011

HOW to 'Look Into' a Film?

Growing up on movies with a movie loving dad teaches you a few lessons in cinema real fast. The most basic one being how to look into a movie.
I used to wonder how my dad could see a movie over and over again - but today i do the same. Why? coz we're not looking at the movie like most people would. We look into the movie. The best movies have so many layers that just can't possibly be appreciated or truly enjoyed in just one viewing.
For starters, this could possibly be your quickest guide into film appreciation and viewing. the next time you pick your favourite film for viewing, look into these aspects and you'll know what makes that difference to your favourite movie:

(1) Screenplay Screenplay is the language in which the 'film' is communicating to you. Every gesture should add to the words, every tone of voice should be towards making you FEEL the idea being communicated, the pace should be just right and IT SHOULD KEEP YOU HOOKED. Even if its just a shot of a sofa on the porch, it should have a meaning in teh context of the film.

Juno has GREAt screenplay!
even a boring story told intrestingly on screen? that's good communication skills. that's Screenplay.
Hitchcock said, “The three most vital elements in any good film are the script, the script, the script.” And watching a movie in the right way can teach you a ton about how to structure “the script”.
One of the best ways is to watch the clock as you go.
At about 12 – 15 minutes in, you should hit the inciting incident.
24 -30 minutes – the character is locked in, propelling him into the second act tension.
The practical experience of seeing and analyzing the parts of a script, with stopwatch in hand, is key to identify major plot points, three act structure and the eight sequences in a film.

(2) ActingGood acting – you know it when you see it. Great actors, however, can do very little to improve bad material, but mediocre actors can shine quite bright when working with awesome material. So if a film has a fantastic screenplay with amazing talent – even if the execution of the many other elements are less than perfect – the movie should still be a success.
A good example of how good acting can save a relatively 'oh i've seen that before' movie is THE FIGHTER. Christian Bale, despite being the supporting actor delivers a performance that makes you drop your jaw in awe! In fact, i would go on as to say that he is the one that makes the movie truly worth watching! Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Seann Penn in Mystic River, and you'll notice the same.

(3) DirectionGreat directors are not necessarily “control freaks.” But control is an essential part of their job description. Directing is all about vision. And great directors are master mechanics of
(a) controlling a crystal clear vision
(b) surrounding themselves with people who can execute that vision, and
(c) making sure that all individuals involved understand and embrace that vision.
If a movie loses its vision, or even worse, never had one to begin with… Blame the director!
He/She is the broadway magician, the circus master, the God of the world you are paying to see. A director is the only guy who has no excuse for a bad film. It's his job to keep you rooted. Period.

(4) CinematographyFilm is a visual medium, and fantastic photography occurs when the camera becomes an extension of the human eye. A great DP makes us feel like we’re really there discovering for ourselves or along with the characters, versus watching as non-active observers from the outside. Look for cinematography that is rarely static, and instead transforms itself into the eyes of the viewer. Cinematorgraphy is the art of making the camera an eye that gives you a 'perspective'. Some directors and cinematographers give that power even to a static camera - especially japanese directors.
I don't really need to explain this. If you see a film and feel like you've really SEEN something - its good cinematography in play.

(5) EditingIf the script, as Hitchcock suggests, is the most important element in a film, then editing has to come in as a close second. Editing is basically visual writing. Sure, there’s the script as a guide, but often things change during photography, shots are missed, added, and sometimes the script was a mess to begin with. The editor has a monumental job: fix all the problems, create the illusion of continuity, and ensure smooth transitioning in the flow of the film. Many bad directors, actors, and writers have been saved in the editing room.
Editing becomes even more important when you are switching the time continumm in films. flashback, present, future, flash back, future, presnt - if an editor is good, he'll keep you in place. a bad editor will leave you feeling stuck in a washing machine of a movie.

For the perfect example of good editing, go watch CRASH. The timelapses are almost flawless! the script stays on track despite the layers of different stories and an ever jumping time track!

Another director who has had the sense to work with stylish editing in all his films, in my opinion, is Guy Ritchie. The scenes move fast, crisply, stylistically, without one losing track of the script. Watch the first 20 mins of Rock'n'Rolla and you'll know what i mean.
(6) Lighting & Art Direction/CostumeStark hard lighting. A single, swaying light bulb. A beam of moonlight piercing through a dungeon cell. Mood – either in a particular scene or as an entire film – is often determined by lighting and location. The way shadows fall, the actual types of sets used, and how images are revealed are essential to establishing atmosphere. Imagine a beggar walking into the scene with a pair of brand new sneakers and a shirt that looks new yet artificially torn. what a mojo killer! That's bad costume killing the movie right there!

Watch any Tim Burton movie and you'll know the power art direction and costumes hold over a movie.

They can take you to another place and time and make you believe it actually exists. The clothes may be purchased brand new, but they will be artificially aged so that give you that sense of oldness or time. The sets, even of a forest will be created in a way to capture the 'forestness' of a forest. You'll have all kinds of diff types of plants and creatures growing in just one segment of the forest(that's on the frame) just so that it looks good on camera - but maintaining a level of believeability.
The Aviator won the oscar for both ART and Costume. After watching just this trailer, you'll know why it was truly justified:

(7) Soundtrack and Sound MixingThe hero and heroine rush into each other’s arms and embrace in a passionate kiss. Music SWELLS… and it pulls us right out of the moment. Not good! A good soundtrack is the one we really don’t notice – it never overwhelms or distracts. Music should be used to elevate a scene, and the best emotional heightener is sometimes no sound at all. Gladiator, Rocky Balboa, Titanic, Matrix, Top Gun - no matter what genre, you just can't imagine these movies without their music running through your head, can you?

What's sound design/mixing? Imagine a scene at a bus stop. you can hear the girl and boy talking and see a buss passing in the background but cant hear it. you immediately sense something wrong. in the next secene, a car comes and hits them both but you only hear the screech a second befor eimpact. that's a major flaw in sound design/mixing. Ideally in a scene like this, there would be ambient sounds there would be a faint soundtrack or buzz building up to the crash. there would be a few sounds of a car hitting something and going out of control, a gasp, a screeech and then the impact.
If you've seen Inception, you'll notice that almost each scene has this level of precision. you FEEL the scene in sound just right before the scene actually happens. That's great sound design.
Check out this scene from Inception - feel the layers of sound playing on your mind even befoe the scene completes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvDba2nMv_U&feature=related

(8) Special (Visual) EffectsWhen effects are added to a movie after shooting it, they are SFX. No matter how great or trashy they are, they need to flow with the script. they need to be believeable. they need to add that zing to the scene. The best SFX are those that ADD to the believeability of the script. As George Lucas said it best: “Special effects without a story is a pretty boring thing.”
This article has been developed with the help of pointers from a truly insightful article from THESCRIPTLAB.com
many of the views expressed here belong to an opinionated dickhead called Pushkaraj Shirke.
If you have differing views, feel free to share them or visit www.go-fuck-yourself.com

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