The Art of Watching Films

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April 13, 2011


Mixed media product, 528 pages


0073386170 / 9780073386171


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Main description

With an emphasis on the narrative film, The Art of Watching Films challenges students to take their film experience further by sharpening their powers of observation, developing the skills and habits of perceptive watching, and discovering complex aspects of film art that they might otherwise overlook.

The Art of Watching Films introduces the formal elements and production process of films, and helps students analytically view and understand films within their historical, cultural and social contexts. The text presents an analytical framework that can be applied to all movies, as distinctly different as Avatar, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vertigo, Iron-Man, Man on Wire, and The Hurt Locker.

Table of contents

PREFACE 1. The Art of Watching Films THE UNIQUENESS OF FILM Increasing Realism as Technology Evolves THE CHALLENGES OF FILM ANALYSIS THE VALUE OF FILM ANALYSIS Either/Or Positions About Film Analysis The Two Sides Can Coexist: This Book’s Position Analysis Enhances Our Love of Films BECOMING A RECEPTIVE VIEWER Be Aware of Personal Biases Watch the Film Consider Your Expectations THE FILM-VIEWING ENVIRONMENT PREPARING TO SEE A FILM DEEPENING OUR RESPONSES TO FILMS Analyzing Your Responses to a Film 2. Thematic Elements THEME AND FOCUS Focus on Plot Focus on Emotional Effect or Mood Focus on Character Focus on Style or Texture or Structure Focus on Ideas IDENTIFYING THE THEME EVALUATING THE THEME Analyzing Theme Watching for Theme Films for Study 3. Fictional and Dramatic Elements FILM ANALYSIS AND LITERARY ANALYSIS THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD STORY A Good Story Is Unified in Plot A Good Story Is Credible A Good Story Is Interesting A Good Story Is Both Simple and Complex A Good Story Handles Emotional Material with Restraint THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE DRAMATIC STRUCTURE Linear, or Chronological, Structure Nonlinear Structures Endings: Fine-Tuning the Dénouement CONFLICT CHARACTERIZATION Characterization Through Appearance Characterization Through Dialogue Characterization Through External Action Characterization Through Internal Action Characterization Through Reactions of Other Characters Characterization Through Contrast: Dramatic Foils Characterization Through Caricature and Leitmotif Characterization Through Choice of Name Varieties of Characters ALLEGORY SYMBOLISM Universal and Natural Symbols Creating Symbolic Meanings Symbolic Patterns and Progressions Symbolic Values in Conflict Metaphors Overreading Symbolism IRONY Dramatic Irony Irony of Situation Irony of Character Irony of Setting Irony of Tone Cosmic Irony Analyzing Fictional and Dramatic Elements Watching for Fictional and Dramatic Elements Mini-Movie Exercise: The Graduate DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 4. Visual Design COLOR VERSUS BLACK AND WHITE SCREEN FORMAT (ASPECT RATIO) FILM STOCK PRODUCTION DESIGN/ART DIRECTION The Script: The Starting Point Setting and Its Effects Studio Versus Location Shooting Period Pieces Living Spaces and Offices Fantasy Worlds COSTUME AND MAKEUP DESIGN LIGHTING THE BUDGET’S EFFECT ON THE FILM’S LOOK Analyzing Visual Design Watching for Visual Design: Dressed to Kill Mini-Movie Exercise: Dressed to Kill Mini-Movie Exercise: Fantastic Mr. Fox DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 5. Cinematography and Special Visual Effects THE IMPORTANCE OF THE VISUAL IMAGE THE CINEMATIC FILM CINEMATIC POINTS OF VIEW Objective Point of View Subjective Point of View Indirect-Subjective Point of View Director’s Interpretive Point of View ELEMENTS OF CINEMATIC COMPOSITION Focusing Attention on the Most Significant Object Keeping the Image in Motion Creating an Illusion of Depth SPECIALIZED CINEMATIC TECHNIQUES Handheld Camera Camera Angles Color, Diffusion, and Soft Focus Special Lenses Fast Motion Special Lighting Effects MOVIE MAGIC: VISUAL EFFECTS IN THE MODERN FILM THE F/X OF ANIMATED FEATURE FILMS . . . ESPECIALLY FOR ADULTS FLASHBACK: ANIMATION: ONCE AN OPENING ACT, NOW A MAIN EVENT Analyzing Cinematography and Special Visual Effects Watching for Cinematography and Special Visual Effects Mini-Movie Exercise: Cinematography Mini-Movie Exercise: Animated FX DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 6. Editing SELECTIVITY FLASHBACK: FILM EDITORS: A HISTORY BEHIND THE SCENES COHERENCE, CONTINUITY, AND RHYTHM TRANSITIONS RHYTHMS, TEMPO, AND TIME CONTROL EXPANSION AND COMPRESSION OF TIME SLOW MOTION THE FREEZE FRAME, THE THAWED FRAME, AND STILLS The Freeze Frame The Thawed Frame Stills CREATIVE JUXTAPOSITION: MONTAGE Analyzing Editing Watching for Editing Mini-Movie Exercise: The New York Stories Mini-Movie Exercise: Lord of War DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 7. Color COLOR IN THE MODERN FILM Effects of Color on the Viewer FLASHBACK: DISCOVERING COLOR AT THE MOVIIES Color as a Transitional Device Expressionistic Use of Color Color as Symbol Surrealistic Use of Color Leitmotifs in Color Color to Enhance Mood Comic Book Color Comic Strip Color Painterly Effects in Color Ironic Use of Color Special Color Effects COLOR VERSUS BLACK AND WHITE Analyzing Color Watching for Color Mini-Movie Exercise: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 8. Sound Effects and Dialogue SOUND AND THE MODERN FILM DIALOGUE THREE-DIMENSIONALITY IN SOUND VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE SOUND POINTS OF VIEW IN SOUND SPECIAL USES OF SOUND EFFECTS AND DIALOGUE Sound Effects to Tell an Inner Story Distortion of Sound to Suggest Subjective States The “Personality” of Mechanical Sounds Slow-Motion Sound Ironic Juxtaposition of Sound and Image Placing Unusual Emphasis on Sound Using Sound for Texture, Time, and Temperature SOUND AS A PLOT DEVICE SOUND AS A TRANSITIONAL ELEMENT VOICE-OVER NARRATION SILENCE AS A SOUND EFFECT RHYTHMIC QUALITIES OF DIALOGUE AND SOUND EFFECTS THE “SOUNDS” OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE OR INTERNATIONAL FILMS Voice Dubbing Subtitles Analyzing Sound Effects and Dialogue Watching for Sound Effects and Dialogue Mini-Movie Exercise: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 9. The Musical Score THE REMARKABLE AFFINITY OF MUSIC AND FILM THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MUSICAL SCORE GENERAL FUNCTIONS OF THE MUSICAL SCORE SPECIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE MUSICAL SCORE Heightening the Dramatic Effect of Dialogue Telling an Inner Story Providing a Sense of Time and Place Foreshadowing Events or Building Dramatic Tension Adding Levels of Meaning to the Visual Image Characterization Through Music Triggering Conditioned Responses Traveling Music Providing Important Transitions Setting an Initial Tone Musical Sounds as Part of the Score Music as Interior Monologue Music as a Base for Choreographed Action Covering Possible Weaknesses in the Film SYNTHESIZER SCORING BALANCING THE SCORE Analyzing the Musical Score Watching for the Musical Score Mini-Movie Exercise: Diva DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 10. Acting THE IMPORTANCE OF ACTING THE GOAL OF THE ACTOR BECOMING THE CHARACTER DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FILM ACTING AND STAGE ACTING FLASHBACK: SILENT ACTING EVOLVES: THE SUBTLTIES OF EXAGGERATION TYPES OF ACTORS Impersonators Interpreters and Commentators Personality Actors THE STAR SYSTEM CASTING Casting Problems The Typecasting Trap Supporting Players Special Casting Challenges Extras and Small Parts ACTORS AS CREATIVE CONTRIBUTORS SUBJECTIVE RESPONSES TO ACTORS Analyzing Acting Watching for Acting Mini-Movie Exercise: Being There Mini-Movie Exercise: Coffee and Cigarettes DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 11. The Director’s Style THE CONCEPT OF STYLE SUBJECT MATTER CINEMATOGRAPHY EDITING SETTING AND SET DESIGN SOUND AND SCORE CASTING AND ACTING PERFORMANCES SCREENPLAYS AND NARRATIVE STRUCTURE EVOLVING STYLES AND FLEXIBILITY SPECIAL EDITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT A PORTFOLIO OF FOUR DIRECTORS Analyzing a Director’s Style Mini-Movie Exercise: It Happened One Night Mini-Movie Exercise: Paris, Je T’aime DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 12. Analysis of the Whole Film THE BASIC APPROACH: WATCHING, ANALYZING, AND EVALUATING THE FILM Theme The Relationship of the Parts to the Whole The Film’s Level of Ambition Objective Evaluation of the Film Subjective Evaluation of the Film OTHER APPROACHES TO ANALYSIS, EVALUATION, AND DISCUSSION The Film as Technical Achievement The Film as Showcase for the Actor: The Personality Cult The Film as Product of a Single Creative Mind: The Auteur Approach The Film as Moral, Philosophical, or Social Statement The Film as Emotional or Sensual Experience The Film as Repeated Form: The Genre Approach The Film as Political Statement The Film as Gender Statement The Film as Insight to the Mind: The Psychoanalytical Approach The Eclectic Approach REREADING THE REVIEWS EVALUATING THE REVIEWER DEVELOPING PERSONAL CRITERIA Analyzing the Whole Film Mini-Movie Exercise I: La Jetée Mini-Movie Exercise II: Nine Lives DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 13. Adaptations THE PROBLEMS OF ADAPTATION Change in Medium Change in Creative Artists Cinematic Potential of the Original Work ADAPTATIONS OF PROSE FICTION Literary Versus Cinematic Points of View FLASHBACK: THE WRITER’S PLACE IN HOLLYWOOD Third-Person Point of View: Challenges First-Person Point of View: Challenges The Problem of Length and Depth Philosophical Reflections Summarizing a Character’s Past The Challenge of Summarizing Events Literary Past Tense Versus Cinematic Present Tense Other Factors Influencing Adaptations of Fiction ADAPTATIONS OF PLAYS Structural Divisions Sense of Space Film Language Versus Stage Language Stage Conventions Versus Cinema Conventions Other Changes FROM FACT TO FILM: REALITY TO MYTH Analyzing Adaptations Mini-Movie Exercise: “Hills Like White Elephants” DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 14. Genre Films, Remakes, and Sequels GENRE FILMS Values The Strengths of Genre Films Basic Genre Conventions—and Their Variations REMAKES AND SEQUELS Remakes Sequels Analyzing Genre Films, Remakes, and Sequels Mini-Movie Exercise: Frankenweenie DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study 15. Film and Society FILM FOREIGNNESS “Strange Silents” DOES AMERICAN FILM SHAPE OR REFLECT SOCIAL AND CULTURAL VALUES? THE MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION CODE, 1930–1960 Excerpts from the Motion Picture Production Code CENSORSHIP IN TRANSITION, 1948–1968 THE MPAA RATING SYSTEM Motion Picture Association of American Voluntary Movie Rating System CENSORSHIP AND FILMS ON TELEVISION BEYOND THE CODE AND RATING SYSTEM CHANGING FORMULAS FOR THE TREATMENT OF SEX, VIOLENCE, AND LANGUAGE SOCIAL PROBLEM FILMS AND DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING FLASHBACK: FILMING LIFE: A HISTORY OF THE DOCUMENTARY Analyzing Films in Society Mini-Movie Exercise: Me La Debes DVD Filmmaking Extras Films for Study NOTES GLOSSARY INDEX CREDITS

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