An interesting topic for discussion or research

Recently my group have been exploring the relationship between documentary and propaganda films. One of our key points of reference has been Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the will 1934. And our discussions has raised the problematic of the amorality of formalism as a means for constructing or reading movies. It seemed to me that the main evidence against formalism is the distortion of apparent narrative economy and elegance by racist and morally bankrupt ideological perspectives. The films which spring most readily to ...

The most eloquent of cuts

By Wednesday, March 19, 2014 , , , , 0

My students were asked to comment on which of the areas of film language they found most attuned to and which they found most difficult to get to grips with, many remarked on how difficult it seems that lighting is to read, others editing.. The truth is that even your teachers will also have difficulty with some texts. Textual analysis requires closely focused attention, and one has to be in the right frame of mind to do it. While it is difficult to ...

Steven Soderbergh and Geurrilla Film making

Steven Soderbergh is always an interesting commentator on contemporary trends in film making and has been instrumental in the growing legitimacy of digital video  through his early adoption of it and his advocacy of  the development of RED camera system. In his last few films before his self imposed retirement from film making Soderbergh seems to have explored some of the impact of DV for his films. The particular example which brings this to mind is a chase sequence at the ...

Stars in the Hollywood studio system

The following blog entry is an attempt to offer a perspective from which students might evaluate films made within the Hollywood studio system rather than just view the study of this as an historical topic. I should make a minor disclaimer here, in that the variables within the system were legion but understanding certain institutional determinants are crucial in any reading of a film from this period in the US, and one of these was the star system, both as ...

Genre evolution/history in the Holywood studio system

Genre offers a enormous range of approaches in critical studies, so much so that once one begins to study this area, one can begin to question whether genre itself is indeed relevant any longer. One thing is clear, audiences believe a films generic location is one of the key determining factors in whether they'll pay the admission price at the cinema or stream the movie to their equipment. Genre as a concept is certainly of historical importance, as film production in ...

Examination Report 2013 part 2 The oral presentation

By Sunday, November 24, 2013 , , , , 0

A colleague of mine when our team were to introduce our grade eleven students' first practice presentation produced a document he called 'How not to suck at the oral presentation', I guess his point in doing this is that it's all too easy for IB film students to suck at this. The point of his guide and this year's examination report for this component is that with some reasonable preparation they needn't. The main issues raised seem to be; The presentation ...

Seeing Whale Rider in an Asian context

After some years since first I first saw Whale Rider (Niki Caro, New Zealand, 2002) I watched it again recently, and apart from the obvious pleasures of such a well-made and moving film, something struck me which might be extrapolated to reveal something of a pattern of film writing from the same broad geographic region.   It doesn’t take a genius to work out that its central themes are challenges to long-standing traditions in the societies represented and the conflicts between traditions ...

An Idea for Story Development

If (for those of you in the northern hemisphere) your creative mojo is a little rusty after the long Summer vacation, here's an idea that might invite some story and plot development to get you back into the groove for the new academic year. The following scenario is one I've occasionally loaned to students during my time teaching film and media studies; it seems to help those suffering from a bit of writer's block. This is an account of an incident ...

Bond, Vermeer and eighteenth century English painting

By Tuesday, November 13, 2012 No tags 0

We went to see Skyfall this week, and particularly enjoyed the location spotting as former Londoners. However I was delighted and a little bemused by the use of the National Gallery as a location, my favourite central London haunt for many years, I know it quite well. What particularly struck me was the sequence where Bond meets Q in the Room filled with English 18th century pictures. In this particular sequence the film makers have sub-divided the frame placing Q's head within the ...

Using lighting to express ideas way beyond dialogue – Homeland Season 2, episode 5

By Tuesday, October 30, 2012 No tags 0

Recently I watched season two episode five of homeland, and remarked to my wife how the lighting was used in this crucial episode to communicate a key idea about the central character. Follow this link to see the creator Alex Gansa explain what is to happen in the episode. Included in the short sequence are key excerpts from the interrogation, which show how the use of lighting aids audience understanding and builds sympathy for the characters. It really is worth watching the whole ...