Which of the three Alexander Payne films did you enjoy the most? The least? Which are you most glad to have seen? Had you seen any before? How was watching for this class different? Which was the most interesting in terms of m-e-s?
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?
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?
Share your general thoughts and reactions to Election here.
What words would you use to describe the world you see 'in the frame' in Election? Do you think that the filmmakers were successful in showing, "a high school as it really looks, not as Hollywood envisions it" (Biga, 34)? If yes, what visual elements would you cite as contributing to that image? If not, what visual elements did not work for you? What kind of mise-en-scène is implied by the phrase, "as Hollywood envisions it"? Can you apply this analysis to other settings in the film? What other aspects of m-e-s stood out to you or that might indicate a particular visual style or approach?
Choose one (1) of the following frames and write an analysis that identifies the dominant and the primary subsidiary contrasts. Explain what other elements of mise-en-scéne draw your attention to these subjects or objects.
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