Saturday, 24 October 2009

Fight Club - The Single Focus Study Film

Posts will follow as we study this in class.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Robert De Niro in performance by Quinton Tarantino Parts 1 - 3

In "Cinefile", a program made in 1994 for Channel 4, Quinton Tarantino profiles Robert De Niro's performances and star persona in "Meanstreets" and "The Godfather Part II". It's an important resource for anyone working on De Niro for a small scale research project.

In Part 2 Tarantino focuses on De Niro in "Taxi Driver", "The Deer Hunter" and "Raging Bull".

In Part 3 Tarantino analyses De Niro's performance in "Once Upon A Time In America" and discusses what a film co-starring De Niro and Al Pacino would be like. A year later, in 1995, they co-starred in the cop and gangster film , "Heat"

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Film Genres - detailed examples

This slide presentation has several examples for each film genre and sub genres.

Film Classification in the UK

This is helpful also for understanding the history of censorship in film in the UK. Film and video classification in the UK
View more presentations from Jim Barratt.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Movie Diva - an interesting cross between academic and popular film reviews

This is a great site for reading reviews on older films. Movie Diva's breadth of academic research informs each review and makes what might have been complex accessible and easy to understand.

Friday, 3 July 2009

FM3: Harrison Ford and Wife Force 1!

FM3 Small Scale Research Project ideas
Harrison Ford
As amusing as this selection of clips may be they are still useful for examining star/performance issues on Harrison Ford - the repetition associated with his screen persona in similar film genres and and the meanings that he brings to the roles. Just as John Wayne used to furrow his forehead before expressing his anger in his films, there is also the trade-mark look of angry surprise on Harrison's face across a range of films. It is shots like these that audiences "expect" and "want" , whether they are always conscious of them or not, because they often derive pleasure from them. And, yes, Ford seems to be forever saving his wife! (Not withstanding Indiana Jones films in which he saves women who, had he married, could have been his wife).

An important aspect of Harrison Ford's persona and one worth exploring, is Ford's representation of masculinity - in this instance, the protective husband. Some modern US critics and writers bemoan younger American heroes who lack the assured masculinity that the now ageing Ford and Clint Eastwood, exude with ease.

For performance consider Harrison Ford's
  • Voice, intonation, accent, pitch
  • Facial gestures and movement
  • body movement and the idiosyncrasies he displays as a performer
  • use of space and his phsyical presence and room he takes up in frames
  • how all of the above represent his masculinity and the persona he projects on screen.

Any aspect of the above can create meaning from performance as they can show his character's feelings about other characters. These elements can affect how audiences react to Ford at various points in a film's narrative.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Film Research and Creative Projects - FM3

The German film director, Fritz Lang, would make a great subject for an auteur study. His film, "Metropolis" (1927), was a big- budget, futuristic movie, that was then the most expensive in Germany. With the rise of Hitler Lang fled to the USA where he used his experience and knowledge of expressionism to make several films in several genres, particularly, westerns and film noir.

"Metropolis" was reputedly Hitler's favourite film. Hitler's minister for propaganda, Joseph Geobbels thought the film encapsulated nazi ideals. Fritz Lang himself became uncomfortable with the film and disliked it possibly for the same reason, even though "Metropolis" that he made his name. His wife and co-creator of the film, Thea Gabriele von Harbou, remained in Germany as a faithful supporter of the nazi regime.

These clips are from the Giorgio Moroder version which he coloured and set to mostly synthesiser music in 1984. This version is both loved for its music and despised by some purists of the film.

The film would also make an interesting genre or gender study.

The mad scientist, C. A. Rotwang, has made a female robot for the master of Metropolis, Fredersen. But scientist has ulterior motives!

Rotwang throws a party for Fredersen and his friends to prove how human his devilishly tempting creation can be! By this time the female robot has been given the appearance of Maria.

The real Maria meet Fredersen's rich son by mistake as she goes through a door on the wrong floor. Two worlds collide in fully-blown German expressionism.

Rotwang chases after Maria so he can carry out his experiment to gain her appearance for his robot.

Rotwang's transformation of the Robot after he captures Maria.

A longer sequence from the film after which the Robot, as the false Maria, has done its worst by getting the workers to flood their factory underworld. (This clip's quality is poorer than those above. These clips are the work of Metropolis-Redux, an American who has gone to great pains to produce a DVD quality print of the film.)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Genre as a critical framework to question and assess film - "Stagecoach" from 1939

If you prefer assessing John Ford's "Stagecoach" using a genre approach you could focus on some of these points and view several scenes to decide whether Ford consciously focuses on, say, various forms of social prejudice, or whether these issues simply emerge out of the time in which the film was made. Perhaps there is something to be said for each approach. Clint Eastwood said that in "Josey Wales" (1975-6)he was not particularly conscious of his theme of social unity which could be seen as the need for Americans to unite after the Vietnam War. (See earlier posts). Yet in retrospect that is what he seems to have reflected in his film - Josey Wales is supported by the different types who, through his help, have banded together into a social group, suggesting that there is strength through social unity. Ford's film also mirrors an American society that was divided by the Depression and, perhaps, still feeling the after-effects of the Civil War from 65 years earlier.

Click on this image to enlarge.

Monday, 15 June 2009

OCR videos on Basic camera shots and camera movement

OCR Media Studies - Basic Camera Shots

OCR Media Studies - Camera Movements

Thursday, 28 May 2009

John Ford in Wikepedia

For interesting points on John Ford as an auteur skim for Ford's cinematic style and for references to Monument Valley, etc. It's a good read and helpful for FS6'Auteur and Genre unit.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

"All I want is to enter my house justified" a review of "Ride The High Country" from 1962

My review from Amazon

5.0 out of 5 stars "All I want is to enter my house justified," 19 April 2009

Sam Peckinpah's elegaic western, also known as "Guns In The Afternoon", is surely one of the finest in its genre. The director explores the themes of friendship, honour and loyalty in pressing circumstances and changing times. Joel McCrea and Randolph Scotts' time-served experience of starring in B westerns is as present as the ageing and time-worn "lawmen" they portray. The banker's son (Byron Foulger), who laughably looks as old as his father (Percy Helton), shakes Steve Judd's (McCrea's) hand to seal the deal for McCrea fetching the gold from the miner's camp only to turn it over to inspect Judd's fraying cuff. A life of integrity, honesty and disappointed hopes has led the now desperate Judd to this new venture.

The film is about transformation and ultimately, redemption. Ron Star's Heck Longtree is a young man whose moral compass is finally influenced by Judd as it had been earlier by Westrum. The young man always had courage but he learns about the importance of honour and integrity from Judd as he changes from a selfish, womaniser and potential murderer to a young man capable of sacrifice and the faithful love of Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley).

However, Scott's Gil Westrum is not the only character capable of transformation. In what must be one of the most moving scenes in cinema, let alone westerns, the audience knows that Westrum will carry out Judd's last wishes to the letter - and in doing so will be worthy of joining Judd "later" in "The High Country".

"Gil Westrum: Don't worry about? About anything. I'll take care of it, just like you would have.
Steve Judd: Hell, I know that. I always did... You just forgot it for a while, that's all."

The film's intelligent script is worth pausing over for its ironic quips and its amusing repartee. Peckinpah's approach to right and wrong is more tonal in this part revisionist western than, for instance, John Ford's black hat - white hat, clear cut vision of good and evil. There again, Peckinpah's film was made during a more cynical, post-war period in the early Sixties, which Gil Westrum embodies for most of the film. Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence", another excellent film in its own right, differs from Peckinpah's in almost every way and yet it was released in the same year, 1962. Its treatment of honour, age, integrity, friendship and love are also very different.

The next time you you watch "Ride The High Country" pause over the sign as Joshua Knudsen prays over his wife's grave. The message on it is intriguing, particularly for the representation of women in this and other Peckinpath films.

The formerly blacklisted, George Bassman's elegaic score amplifies the ambiguity of of the film's title, "Ride The High Country". With its journeys, to and from the gold camp, the moral high ground and, perhaps, the journey to heaven implied for Judd. Lucien Ballard's cinematography and Peckinpah's shot-making in several sequences, particularly the final shootout, elevates the film far above most classical westerns.

In an age when integrity, honesty, loyalty and honour are more absent in public life than ever, Peckinpah's western is a moral lesson on the lasting importance of these virtues.

Monday, 4 May 2009

"Do Easy" by Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant's early short is a mini masterpiece based on William Burroughs' short story "The Discipline of DE". It's a marvelous little film on doing the little things in life in the easiest and most efficient way possible. Van Sant ("Milk" 2008) also dedicated his film, "Good Will Hunting (1997 and ) to two writers who influenced him but has passed on: William Burroughs and the poet, Allen Ginsberg.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

"Genre or Auteur Theory?"

This is a MUST READ for students to understand the topic and therefore be able to list arguments for the benefits and limitations of each theory. Of course, you can make great points if you tie your arguments to specific directors and genres like John Ford and Clint Eastwood westerns.

"Rethinking Authorship, Theories of Authorship"

by Barry Grant. A useful read for understanding auteurs as an issue in film world.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Charlie Rose's TV interview with Clint Eastwood

"An hour with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood"

Clint Eastwood
in Movies, TV & Theater
on Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another interview worth watching to get the bigger picture on Eastwood as a director. Rose mostly focuses on "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" (2006)

Philip French's Interview with Clint Eastwood published February 27th 2007

"An Audience with Clint Eastwood" by Philip French, published on 27th of February 2007.

The discussion touches on "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and a number of Eastood's other film. French is an incisive critic and he gets Clint to reveal which directors and films he most admires and which also influenced him.

"Our conversation ranged widely, taking in the director's Iwo Jima companion pieces, his collaborations with Leone and Siegel and his masterpiece, The Outlaw Josey Wales. It even included a duet."

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Seven Basic Plots of Westerns

Frank Gruber, a veteran writer of pulp Westerns, argued that there are seven basic plots in Westerns:

Some of these plots are derived from time and place

1. Cavalry and indians

2. The Union Pacific or Pony Express story

3. The homesteaders or squatters theme

4. The cattle empire story

5. The lawman story

6. The revenge story

7. The outlaw story.

Other plots can be distinguished outside the genre, so the genre's durability can sometimes be explained by its ability to digest and shape any source material.

The frontier experience, civilisation/wilderness and east/west themes are omnipresent in most of the themes above.

Friday, 3 April 2009

FM2 Example Exam Essay Question and Plan - Concept Map

Click on the images to enlarge. The case study film is "Juno" from 2007.

See also the film poster of  There Will Be Blood ( 2008 ).
Both the exam question and poster were drawn from WJEC exemplar exam material.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" form Shooting Down Pictures

This is an excellent website for detailed information on this key film.

Here is brief commentary on Eastwood, his star image and his work as a director. There is also a list of interviews, articles and books for detailed research on the man and his work.

A Video Essay on "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and Clint Eastwood by Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz makes several interesting points and reveals valuable insights in his video essay on Clint Eastwood's 1976 western, "The Outlaw Josey Wales".

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

"Stagecoach" and approaching the western either through genre or through Ford as an Auteur (Concept Map)

Click on the image to enlarge.
What's missing from this graphic is the big macro features on narrative. When analysing Western for its genre we will need to consider narrative structure and plots, etc. Studies would also benefit from nexamination of key scenes which will allow a fruitful discussion of Macro features of the genre as well as the auteurs' treatment of them and their view of America at a given point in time.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

A brief essay on John Ford's "Stagecoach" from "30 Great Westerns" by Images Journal

A publicity photo from "Stagecoach" with George Bancroft, John Wayne and Claire Trevor.
Here's an insightful analysis of John Ford's "Stagecoach" from Images journal's "30 Great Westerns".

Once there click on the film's title near the top of the left column.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Filmmaking from the initial idea to exhibition

This site offers the perfect revision tool for understanding each stage of the filmmaking process and applying these stages with their key terms to your exam case studies.

When you get there click through images to get to new sets of images with key terms and explanations.
The Business - Understanding Filmmaking

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A detailed review of the DVD of "The Outlaw Josey Wales"

Click on the image to enlarge

This essay with helpful images should prove useful for a deeper understanding of this ground-breaking western from 1976; in particular how Eastwood created new conventions that were afterwards imitated by later westerns. The themes of revenge, masculinity and violence are also worth focussing on in this post. Clint Eastwood as an auteur is also present in the technical aspects of the film as well as in its vignettes, female and native indian characters. As with John Ford humor is also an important feature in Eastwood's films.

The Revisionist Western


A leading example

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Propaganda and American Values in "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" ( 1949 ) by John Ford

"Propaganda and American Values in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"
by Laurel Westbrook

Westbrook's insightful essay examines the message of "unity" in the film at the time the film was made (1949), when American leaders feared the further encroachments of communism around the world. China had its communist revolution and Russia had developed its own atomic bomb. Westbrook also examines why the American values of "independence", "manliness" and "intelligence" are present in Ford's film and why these attributes still persist in Hollywood films several decades afterwards.

Perhaps someone may write about the representation of women in this and other westerns by Ford at a later date?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

"How did auteurs develop after the studio system? And how have they contributed to the cinema of today?"

An academic article on how a director might be known as "an auteur",  focusing on Stanley Kubrick as its main example.

The Construction and Meaning of Stardom

The construction of stardom
Find several images of a film star to help with some of the questions below. This link should prove useful.
Consider the various ways in which stars are represented in different media settings for age, class, sex and gender. Consider the messages and meanings that audiences would be expected to get from these images.

Key questions to think about and brainstorm

What does it mean to be a film star?

How do star images create meaning in films for film audiences? (In the US and UK?)
Can we distinguish between different types of stardom?

How does film stardom relate to a more general celebrity culture?

How is stardom in its various guises connected socially to the world of economics, politics, technology or culture?

Anyone interested in developing their understanding of this topic  should read Sofia Johansson's editorial from Westminster University. She gives an overview of the work of academics going back four decades and their varying perspective on stardom and celebrity culture.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

How to study film trailers

The main questions to ask of any trailer should be as follows:

What type of trailer is it?
1. A teaser?
2. Theatrical trailer?
3. A TV spot advertising the film on release?

What is the film's USP? ( Its unique selling point?) In other words how are the distributors positioning the film in the marketplace? Which elements in the film's genre is the distributor highlighting which sets the film aside from other films in its genre.

What are the messages in the film's trailer and what do they say about the film?

Remember that the type of release ( wide, limited, universal ) and the date of release will have been carefully planned to maximise potential audiences.

In the media studies and film studies exams all you need to do is be able to write a paragraph or two on the posters and trailers of your case study production company's film so you can argue how the distributors tried to market the film.

Here's a good link to practice with film trailers for films currently on release.

The link to Frank Baker probably has more than most students would need.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Are we entering another golden age of British cinema?

Unfortunately, British success at the Oscars and a competitive exchange rate are not the only criteria that will determine whether the British film industry will see another golden age. The deepest recession since the Second World War and the huge difficulties British film-makers face financing and distributing films in their own country means it is still very much an uphill struggle.

Read the article below as it may prove useful when comparing the British film industry with Hollywood in the exam.

Now watch this. The second part is particularly relevant for understanding the ups and downs of the British film industry.

Is there a future for British Film?

Two important articles that should be read by AS Film students for the FM2 Exam. Both are useful because they examine the current state of the British film industry. The first article considers whether British film has "a future" and the second includes helpful statistics on on British cinema-going, including which films were most popular with UK audiences.

Is there a future for British Film?

Cinema audiences soar with 164 million admissions in Britain

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

An overview of The Western genre

Read Gary Johnson's excellent seven page overview of The Western from the online magazine, Imagesjournal. As you read jot down some of the article's key points so you can use them later when examining how John Ford's "Stagecoach" fits within conventions of the Western genre. It's important that you make your reading active by noting down important ideas and concepts from key paragraphs and also writing down questions of your own that you might wish to clarify by investigating further.

Don't rely on Internet research only. Remember hard copy magazines and books. An old tutor of mine, Brian Spittles, wrote a book on John Ford. It's called "John Ford (On Directors)". It would pay to see if your local library could find and lend this to you. Then focus on genre and John Ford as an auteur in "Stagecoach".
"Stylistically Ford was instrumental in developing new camera techniques, atmospheric lighting and diverse narrative devices. Thematically, long before it became conventional wisdom, Ford was exploring issues that concern us today, such as gender, race, the treatment of ethnic minorities and social outcasts, the nature of history and the relationship of myth and reality. For all these reasons, John Ford the man and his films reward thought and study, both for the general reader and the academic student. Ford's pictures express the world in which they were made, and have contributed to making what Hollywood is today. "

FS6, Section C - Notes, articles and essays on John Ford's "Stagecoach"

"My name is John Ford.  I am a director of westerns." 

This was Ford's much misquoted self-introduction to a meeting of the Director's Guild in October 1950. Ford has his reasons for stating this. He said it in the eye of the political storm provoked by Senator McCarthy and his HUAC hearings against suspected communists and their liberal sympathisers. As a "director of westerns" he was probably placing himself beyond reproach by identifying himself with such a deeply patriotic American genre; a genre which focused on frontier and foundation myths embedded in what it then meant to be an American. The truth is around 60% of Ford's films were made in other genres. He simply made more westerns than films in other genres.

Use your knowledge of the other films that you have studied by Ford to consider John Ford as an the auteur of "Stagecoach".

Focus on Ford as "a maker of the western": his themes, motifs and stylistic traits that places Ford's stamp on this film. His fondness for using particular actors including John Wayne. His film as a representation of America and its ideological discourses on American life. His auteurial signatures of humour and the repeated backdrop of Monument Valley.

There are several valuable essays on Ford's film on the PDF file from the link below. They should prove useful for studying the western as a genre and for Ford as an auteur.

A summary of the film and its characters.
An earlier post of mine on the characters and their "types" in "Stagecoach"

An Auteur project with notes and links

An in-depth overview which touches on Ford's style from Senses of Cinema.

"John Ford Made Westerns:
Filming the Legend in the Sound Era" from Senses of Cinema

An analysis of "Stagecoach"

Another fascinating analysis of the film which focuses on its music. Remember to click to page two at the bottom of its page one.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Stars and their image - Clint Eastwood

Stars and Studios - Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Helpful for understanding the history of this studio and its stars. Find also the timeline for MGN as this is useful for finding out about the development of this studio and how it has evolved over the last few decades.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

A Review that blows "Juno's" indie credentials out of the water!

Here's an interesting take on "Juno" that questions just how uncoventional and "indie-minded" the film actually is. Do you agree or disagree with any part of the review?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

FilmMaker's interview with Jason Reitman, the director of "Juno"

FilmMaker's interview with the Jason Reitman, the director of "Juno".  It's really useful for understanding the film as an "indie" film from the other side of the big pond!

FM2 - British Film - an interview with Paul Andrew Williams, the director of "London to Brighton" 2006

Filmmaker's interview with the Paul Andrew Williams, the director of "London to Brighton", is well worth reading to establish how Williams's film can be defined as British. It would also repay study by students researching independent films.

FM2 British Film - "London to Brighton"

This blog has helful information and links for "London to Brighton". The information here should be sifted for understanding what makes the film British as well as deepening your understanding of the state of the British film industry.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

An Art-House Film - "American Beauty" Concept Map on Production Issues

Click on the image to enlarge.
Web links in the image that cannot be clicked from the JPEG.
Useful for comparing art-house "indie" films with films like "Once" made on shoe-string budgets.
Production Notes
Dreamworks's Production Notes

An Art -House Film - "American Beauty" Concept Map on Distribution

Click on the image to enlargeWeblinks that cannot be clicked from the JPEG.
Useful for a studio-based comparison with "indie" films made on shoe-string budgets, such as "ONCE".
The Trailer
The film's official website
Reviews ( mainly an exhibition issue but they also generated "buzz" and "word of mouth")
The British broadsheet press (who focus on art-house films)
The public had its say, too in the same newspaper:

An Art-House Film - "American Beauty" Concept Map on Exhibition

Useful for studio art-house films to compare with a shoe-string "indie" films in FS6, Section B .
Click on the concept map to enlarge.
The following are weblinks that will not click in the JPEG.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Concept Map for film, Juno

Click on this concept map to make it bigger.

The links that cannot be clicked from the JPEG for further research, etc.

Distribution and marketing
website (Also has the updated poster)

The US critic Roger Ebert thought the film was the best of its year!
British critics
From the public

Opening Credits

The British Box office and opening number of screens from IMBD.

£213,504 (UK) (16 March 2008) (188 Screens)
£445,999 (UK) (9 March 2008) (340 Screens)
£690,686 (UK) (2 March 2008) (373 Screens)
£1,073,852 (UK) (24 February 2008) (368 Screens)
£1,344,284 (UK) (17 February 2008) (366 Screens)
£2,002,120 (UK) (10 February 2008) (363 Screens)

Juno - Full Production Notes

Vital for understanding the production issues for this "Indie" film.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

"Juno - the 'Indy' film that defeated Hollywood"

A interesting post from a great-looking blogsite with lots of relevant material for AS and A2 students of film. Looks as if they agree with many of my own ideas on "Juno" as good choice for examining the "demarcation lines" between Hollywood studio films and non Hollywood independent films.

Juno - FS6 case study information for a studio "indie" film

The studio film, "Juno" produced by Mr Mudd Pictures is a great choice for comparing studio indie films with independent films with micro budgets like "ONCE". FOX Searchlight distributed both films but finance for "Juno" was much more assured compared with "ONCE". The importance of each film's soundtrack is another very useful point for comparison. Both films also won acclaim a film festivals: "ONCE" found its main distributors at "Sundance" and "Juno" won its early acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival. Aim firstly at art-house audiences, "Juno" crossed over to the mainstream without losing its "indie" cache.

When you write your essays comparing "genuinely independent films" with "indies" produced and distributed by the "boutique arms" of major studios you could do worse than comparing "ONCE" with "Juno".

The link below contains useful analysis on the marketing campaign with discussion on the teaser and theatrical poster as well as the trailers. I also like the analysis of how the campaign trod a fine line between art-house and mainstream audiences. FOX Searchlight were literally having their cake and eating it!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Indies and Film Ratings

More useful info. from The Cybercollege. Great graphics.

The End of the Studio System

A useful article by the Cyber College on the reasons for the decline and end of the Hollywood studio system

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hello Mummy Moore!

You have three nice looking blogs on film and media! I make it a point of visiting them and I'll add your most appropriate blog to this page. I know that Welling has special media status. All my best to you and your students.

Case Study Concept Maps for an art-house film

In the next few days I'll post my completed concept maps for "American Beauty". As the maps will be JPEGS I'll have to add the live links to the posts. Each map will feature issues on production, distribution and exhibition. There's also a generic map for any film. Of course, not everything will be covered but enough will be there for a meaningful Hollywood studio comparison with "ONCE" for FS6. I produced the maps as exemplars for my AS Media Studies class as they are creating case studies for OCR on film production and distribution companies. These concept maps will be followed up by another concept map which deals with the main issues for Section B of FS6: Film and its audience.

Recent small group research by my students on the problems they faced on how to produce, find and buy cameras, get permits for locations, finance and distribute their own films will be incorporated into the final concept map as this will be a good aid memoir for their essays. ( I'll hear the students' pitches this coming week.)

Work and posts on Section C of FS6 will also follow.