Here are links to the film clips (and more) that we saw in class today:
Had a request from one of my students to repost this:
Here are links to posts talking about mashup artist Gregg Gillis’s performances as Girl Talk, and of the great dance film Girl Walk // All Day.
And here’s a link to all the Chapter 7 posts on the blog.
Brad Bird has directed a bunch of movies I really love, including The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and the woefully underappreciated Iron Giant.
Over the last few days he has sent out a series of Tweets about what makes Gravity important and what kind of an influence it will have on the movie industry. Who says you can’t say smart things in 140 characters or less….
Let me start by saying I’m more than a little bit obsessed with the Bechdel Test. As I wrote back in August when Pacific Rim was released:
You all know the Bechdel Test for the role of women in film, right? Very simple three part test for the importance of women in a film:
- Are there at least two female characters with names
- Who talk with each other
- About something other than a man?
Problem with it is that virtually no films pass the test.
Among the movies that do not pass are several that have very strong women characters, including Pacific Rim.
This was brought to mind the other day when I went to see the new Sandra Bullock movie Gravity, which I went on about at length yesterday. Bullock and George Clooney are the only two actors who appear in the film, and there are five more characters (two with names) whose voices are heard but not seen.
So, it is immediately obvious that Gravity can’t pass the Bechdel Test as there is only one named female character in the movie. That said, Bullock is the only character in much of the movie. It is 100 percent her story. And she is an intensely involving character consumed with her own survival. In many ways, she’s the strongest female character in a science fiction movie (if you can call Gravity that) since Sigourney Weaver played Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise.
What do you think? As great as the Bechdel Test is as a casual tool for analyzing the role of women in movies, does it miss a lot of movies that have really strong roles for women?
The Sandra Bullock 3-D space movie Gravity has opened to spectacular reviews and record-breaking October box office numbers. And after going to see it last Tuesday in 3-D at my local theater, I have to say that the movie has earned its praise and box office. Sandra Bullock and her co-star George Clooney make for great totally non-romantic interaction, but the movie is primarily a one-woman show by Bullock.
So before we get into any more analysis here, go see Gravity in 3-D at the best local theater you can find. (My mum-in-law, as a general rule, does not like 3-D or 3-D glasses. She was enthralled by Gravity and thought the 3-D was absolutely central to the movie.)
So on to the questions of what makes Gravity such an interesting movie:
- It was conceived and shot as a 3-D movie from the very beginning.Director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) planned Gravity as a 3-D movie from the very start, back in 2010 when Avatar was busy showing the world what could be done with really great 3-D.(I know, I know, many of you absolutely hated the derivative story and rehashing of the human villains from Aliens in Avatar, but that doesn’t change the fact that it had extraordinary visual storytelling.)
Every shot was planned around how it would look in 3-D. Cinema Blend has a spot-on analysis of why the 3-D in Gravity works so well. And Chris Park, who was the movie’s “stereoscopy supervisor,” has a great discussion over at Stereoscopy Newsof all the techniques he used to make sure that Cuaron’s vision made it to the screen.
I also find it fascinating that for the most part neither director/co-screenwriter Cuaron nor co-star Clooney generally like 3-D, especially when it is tacked on just to generate higher ticket prices. Cuaron is quoted at Complex.comas saying:
“The problem now is that they make all these films that are not designed for 3D and then convert them as a commercially afterthought—and they are crap. They don’t follow the rules of 3D of what does and doesn’t work. There are a handful of films that have used 3D in a proper way so it can be an amazing tool.”
Here’s a featurette that explains how Cuaron and company used 3-D almost as a characterin the film:
- The writer/director and studio were brave enough to produce a unique film with a strong voice.
LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan notes a number of things in his review that make Gravity special, including the fact that the first shot of the film runs 13 minutes without a single cut. No rapid-fire edits here – just a really long establishing shot putting us into the context of the film. (And, going back to the first point, rapid-fire edits don’t work well in 3-D.) That willingness to engage in brave storytelling carries through the entire movie.I would also note that the movie also benefited from having a unified voice. The screenplay was written by Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas. This means that the movie did not suffer from endless second-guessing from the studio about the script. It also means, I strongly suspect, that the director and his son had a really good idea of what they were going to do from the very beginning. My own rule of thumb is that unless it is a major animated movie, and film with more than two screenwriters or screenwriting teams is suspect. It isn’t a universal rule, but I always get nervous when I see a long list of writers on a project.
I’m posting here the readings that I’m assigning to my Depth Reporting Students. Why? So they will be easy for my students to find and because these are great things for anyone interested in journalism to read:
Writing Using Narrative
An open video letter to J.J. Abrams from Sincerely Truman.
This is brilliant and correct. And as one commenter on YouTube put it: “So basically… Make Firefly.” Pretty much.