Aesthetics

Topics for M 11/25

Here are topics for our discussion of Carol on Monday. Feel free to start the conversation here or to suggest additional topics.

  • Framing & decor: the use of windows and mirrors in framing shots.
  • Lighting.
  • How the filmmakers use mise-en-scène to create a film that not only looks and feels like the period, but also looks and feels like a film from the period.
  • Action and performance: how Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara use facial expression and body language to show emotion and change. We can also talk about how costume and make-up support these performances.

 


Twelve Monkeys: repetition

One theme in the Post-Film Writing this week is the use of repeating elements between times and places, not only visually, but also with sound,  in Twelve Monkeys, particularly to raise questions about Cole's perception of reality. What kind of repeating elements did you notice in the film? Which ones were most effective in making you doubt Cole's perceptions about himself and what he's doing? Which ones did you simply appreciate aesthetically or formally?

 


Formal Analysis of GRAVITY part 2

The task (which we will discuss in class on W 5/27):

  • Write a short and concise comparative analysis of the theme of isolation in Gravity and  2001.
  • Base your analysis on a critical examination of the use mis-en-scène. I have provided a set of images as references. Feel free to select or reference images of your own choosing.

Assessment:

  • I will look first at the precision and formality of your language. Be as specific and as technical as possible.
  • I will also be look at how clearly you explain your interpretation in visual terms. Being articulate is more important than being "right."
  • I will also be looking at how carefully your analysis is composed and edited and that you have addressed each of the required prompt.
  • I think that one to three single-spaced pages is a reasonably guideline for length.

Submission:

  • You should submit your assignment via Moodle by M 6/1 at 5:00 pm. Additional details on Moodle.
  • This assignment is worth five (5) points.

The images:

From Gravity at 72:20:

Gravity72mins20secs

From 2001 at 77:02:

200177mins02secs


Formal Analysis of THE RIGHT STUFF part 1

The task (which we will discuss in class on W 4/22):

  • Write an analysis of the lighting in each of the following scenes as represented by the selected frames from The Right Stuff. Your analysis should address the following points for each frame:
    • Can you tell where the light is coming from (above, below, right, left, front, back)?
    • Does the lighting seem more stylized or more naturalistic?
    • How and where is shadow used in the scene?
    • What role does lighting play in defining the dominant subject in the frame?
  • Key references are Spadoni, chapter 3, 78-82 and lecture and discussion from week 3 (see the Calendar).

Assessment:

  • I will look first at the precision and formality of your language. Be as specific and as technical as possible. I will expect to see gradual improvement on this point as the term goes on.
  • I will also be looking at how clearly you explain your interpretation. Being articulate is more important than being "right."
  • I will also be looking at how carefully your analysis is composed and edited and that you have addressed each of the required points for each image.
  • I think that two to three single-spaced pages is a reasonable guideline for length.

Submission:

  • You should submit your assignment via Moodle by M 4/27 at 5:00 pm. Additional details on Moodle.
  • This assignment is worth five (5) points.

The images:

At 07:09:

RightStuff07mins09secs

At 105:59:

RightStuff105mins59Secs

At 186:27:

RightStuff186mins27secs


Frame Analysis: THE BLING RING

Choose one (1) of the following frames and produce a detailed analysis of what you see. Exercise your best judgment about what to write about in terms of m-e-s, the shot and the frame. If you can't explain why you are writing about something, don't write about it.

Go here for full instructions.

At 6:18:

BlingRing06mins18secs

At 37:51:

BlingRing37mins51secs

At 83:41:

BlingRing83mins41secs


Frame Analysis: LOST IN TRANSLATION

Choose two (2) of the following images and analyze mise-en-scène in terms of mood, the affective and emotional states, evoked by the image. Explain what the mood is that you get from these frames (and the scenes from which they are drawn) and what aspects of m-e-s are important to setting that mood.

Go here for full instructions.

At 6:13:

Lost06mins13secs

At 17:03:

Lost17mins03secs

At 49:10:

Lost49mins10secs

At 63:29:

Lost63mins29secs

At 74:01:

Lost74mins01secs

At 93:39:

Lost93mins39secs


Use of actors

Actors, of course, are part of mise-en-scène, and Biga points to Alexander Payne's preference not to work with, or at least to not be compelled to work with, "big" stars, preferring actors who may be from TV (e.g., Thomas Haden Church in Sideways), or are not yet established as stars (e.g., Reese Witherspoon at the time of Election), or who typically play character or supporting roles (e.g., Paul Giamatti in Sideways), or even non-professionals (many of the background or minor roles in both Election and Sideways).

Do you think this preference is effective in making Payne's films look and feel more real? How would having George Clooney in the role of Miles instead of Paul Giamatti, as reported by Adam Biga, have affected Sideways?


Differences in mise-en-scène

How is m-e-s in Sideways distinct from Election? What commonalities do you see? In Biga, Payne says he "resists" the assumption that everything you see in a film needs to be "beautiful." How do these films demonstrate that commitment? Do you see differences in the "beauty" of what's in the from in Sideways as compared to Election? What accounts for those differences?