My Favorite Things As Time Goes By

Audiences of all kinds choose movies based on personal preference, and they like to do so without reading any reviews. This task is made easy because films can be categorized by genre. Genre is important to both the producers of the film, as well as the audience. Producers need to engage their target audience in order to be successful, and audiences need to be interested in that genre so they choose to watch the movie. Audiences have become acclimated to what each category represents and therefore, genre has become crucial in generating audience expectations. The majority of films are categorized under one genre, but some are considered hybrid films, encompassing at least two genres throughout. Casablanca, for example, is considered a genre mash-up film, or hybrid film, while The Sound of Music is strictly a musical. Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz, is set in unoccupied Africa during the early stages of WWII. An American emigrant comes face to face with a former lover only to deal with unanticipated complications. The Sound of Music, directed by Robert Wise, coincidentally also takes place during WWII, and tells the story of a young woman who leaves an Austrian abbey to work as a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower. Casablanca, as a mash-up genre film, encompasses a plethora of genres, including the musical genre, but consists mostly of war, given the setting of the film, with many other genres here and in between that play an equal role to the composition of the film. The Sound of Music on the other hand, is entirely a musical film, however, the setting also involves WWII, so there is a bit of a war genre to the film, along with propaganda. Do genre mash-up films really work? It seems as though there are aspects of many genres throughout every film, known as subgenres, otherwise the film might be uninteresting to watch. Even action movies may have bits of romance, and horror movies may have snippets of comedy. The larger issue is the size of the subgenres, and whether a larger subgenre takes away from the main focus of the film.

In Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, multiple genres appear throughout the film, beginning with the newsreel documentary genre, and ending with the romance genre with many others in between, including war, propaganda, espionage, and film noir. For some viewers, the mash-up of genres may not be as appealing to some as it might be to others. It can cause confusion, and disorient some, while it can simply entertain others. In this film, it is important to recognize each genre as they come together to produce a very successful film. We begin with the newsreel documentary genre. Following that, the film switches to an espionage when the Germans are trying to find men without papers, which happens to bring much more excitement because of the chase that occurs. Soon the film transforms into a propaganda film. Curtiz uses propaganda in the film in order to attract Americans so they can get involved in the war by showing “Free France” all over signs and billboards. We see an aspect of film noir in Casablanca during the scene where Ilsa pulls out a gun on Rick, as well as when Rick kills the captain wearing a fedora and trench coat. The musical genre appears while in Rick’s casino. It is clear there is a musical aspect because there are songs being played and sung on the piano. Because the film focuses largely on the romance genre, the musical aspect involved integrates the characters’ ambitious romance with visual and audible elements (Pramaggiore & Wallis, 2011). The romance genre in this film is obvious. Two former lovers meet and must deal with unexpected complications. They fall into a love triangle, but the final decision of Rick to leave and fight in the war leaves Ilsa and Laszlo together. His decision shows an aspect of propaganda once again, however, by leaving to fight, his decision is considered romantic now that he lets the woman he loves be with another man; his struggles leave him with no other choice. Although the multiple genres in this film may cause confusion at times, the variety in this film has the potential to attract a larger audience, pleasing viewers with contrasting tastes. The mash-up genre in Casablanca works to its advantage. This explains the success of this iconic movie. Since genres set the expectation to viewers of what a film will incorporate, it is the producer’s job to please the audience according to these prescribed expectations, and with multiple genres, there is a greater chance of achievable satisfaction.

Musicals have been a big success in the filmmaking industry, and have fascinated many viewers and audiences around the world. In Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music, he achieves the difficulty of balancing the amount of singing and dancing without diverting the viewers attention away from the story. Early musical films had a simple solution to this obstacle; filmmakers would abandon the narrative almost entirely, while strictly focusing on song-and-dance numbers (Pramaggiore & Wallis, 2011). As a conventional musical film, The Sound of Music was first a successful broadway show created by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and was transformed into a movie in 1965 starring Julie Andrews. This film is one of the most successful musical films in Hollywood, and harmonizes with most of the codes and conventions of musical films. In this film we see repressed characters, as their songs are their “emotions” or inner feelings. For example, the opening scene of the film involves Maria, played by Julie Andrews, singing “The Hills Are Alive” expressing her introverted desire to escape from the abbey, and live as free as the hills of Austria. This aspect of the film proves The Sound of Music to be an integrated musical, as the characters performing do not need an audience to make music, in comparison to a “backstage musical” which deals with a film usually involving two plotlines: one being a theatrical plotline where the characters are literally performing for an audience on stage because they are performers, and the second being their “backstage” lives. Another convention of the musical genre showcases love as a significant theme. Lovers are illustrated as destined for each other, and after a series of events that hinder the end results, they undoubtedly live happily ever after. We see this through Maria and her relationship with Captain Von Trapp. He is a recent widower, and Naval officer, who keeps a strict household as he raises his seven children. Maria comes in to be a governess of the children, and as the story progresses, it is evident that these two will end up together. One convention that deals more literally with the music in the film, is that there are a number of reprises, and songs are often repeated, many times with a variation of lyrics in order to demonstrate the development of the story, as well as the characters. Along with the reprises, there is commonly what is a called a big “9 o’clock number” at the end, which in this film takes place during the concert sequence. Generally, the songs performed are also occasionally repeats/reprises of previously performed songs, and here the songs include “Edelweiss” as well as “Do-Re-Mi” and “So Long, Farewell. It is interesting to note that in this scene, the film actually transforms from an integrated musical and takes on elements of a backstage musical, given that the family is performing on stage in front of an audience. In addition to the obvious musical genre, there exists a subgenre of war and propaganda. Since the film takes place during WWII, Wise’s decision to create a hind-sighted anti-Nazi film is part of the film’s widespread appeal. It carries one of the most accurate depictions of Austria the world has ever seen (Von Dassanowsky, 2013). We repeatedly see Nazi soldiers throughout the film, and hear “Heil Hitler” upon greeting. The propaganda in the film is focused towards an anti-Nazi ideal since Captain Von Trapp ultimately decides to flee Austria and not serve as an officer, but instead to take his family to The United States to sing. The Sound of Music became the biggest money-making box-office hit in history, and won five Oscars. The musical genre of this film encompasses practically all the conventions one would expect, and does so in an entertaining, artistic, balanced manner without being too cliché.

The Sound of Music as a musical film is minimally comparable to the section of Casablanca that demonstrates the musical genre. Of course, both films involve a musical number, singing, and some dancing, however Casablanca is not nearly as developed into a musical film, which is not actually so important to the plot of the film anyway. As mentioned previously, The Sound of Music is an integrated musical, while Casablanca demonstrates more of a backstage musical type. The casino atmosphere takes the role as the theater, with Ilsa herself acting as an audience while Sam plays the piano and sings along. Casablanca does not encompass many of the codes and conventions of a typical film in the musical genre, mainly because there is not enough time in the scene for repeats of songs and reprises to be sung. However, there is enough time to demonstrate the love/romantic aspect, which also takes place throughout The Sound of Music. Something to consider is the mash-up of genres in Casablanca versus the subgenres in The Sound of Music. We’ve established that in both films, there exists the genres of both war and propaganda, the reason being that both films take place during WWII. As determined in Casablanca, the war and propaganda genre of the film takes up an equal part of the film with the rest of the genres included, however in The Sound of Music, the war and propaganda aspects of the film act more as a subgenre because it does not overpower the rest of the film, although the war does have a significant role in the development of the plot. The romance genre takes place in both films, and probably in most films that anyone will ever watch. The purpose of the romance genre is to help to intrigue the audience and provoke the viewers to become more identifiable with the characters, or simply to be entertaining. What is more entertaining than the universal theme of love? Of course, both films could not take the title of a romance film alone, but there are aspects in both films that encompass the genre. Casablanca deals with forbidden love, a love triangle, and the sacrifices made for those cared about most. The love triangle between Rick, Ilsa, and Laszlo, leaves the forbidden love between Rick and Ilsa as a stumbling block. The sacrifice Rick makes to go to war and leave Ilsa with Laszlo shows the propaganda of romance. Likewise, The Sound of Music deals with a love triangle, yet it is not so obvious. While Maria works as the governess of the children, Captain Von Trapp has been previously widowed and is engaged to the Baroness. The end result, however, does not include the Baroness in the picture, as the captain and Maria fall in love and live together happily ever after.

The purpose of film genres is to be able to categorize films based on artistic composition. Genres are differentiated by characteristics of style, technique, narrative content, as well as other elements. The significant feature in the idea of a genre is that genres have become crucial in generating audience expectations, which demonstrates how audiences are accustomed to what each genre illustrates. Christine Gledhill notes in her theory regarding genre that “differences between genres meant different audiences could be identified and catered to… This made it easier to standardise and stabilise production. In relation to the mass media, genre is part of the process of targeting different market sectors” (Gledhill 1985, 58).  The idea of a mash-up genre film works for Casablanca as it does not distract the viewer from the plot of the film, but it enhances the film as a whole. With multiple genres in a single film, Casablanca has the ability to draw a larger audience. The mash-up of genres gives the movie a chance to appeal to a larger selection of viewers without creating a confusing, disconnected story. Similarly, The Sound of Music is placed into the musical genre, but contains subgenres to enhance the film overall. The conventions of a musical film are all met in The Sound of Music, while the subgenres of war and propaganda strengthen the plot of the film without overpowering other aspects. The balance and equality of genres throughout are what makes a film successful and entertaining, and also comprehensive as a whole. The musical genre has evolved from being strictly based on song-and-dance to being able to create a fabulous feature film like The Sound of Music, which includes subgenres to make a substantial, well-rounded film.

Works Cited

“An Introduction to Genre Theory.” Introduction to Genre Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre1.html&gt;.

“Bright Lights Film Journal :: The Sound of Music.” BLFJ Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://brightlightsfilm.com/41/soundofmusic.php#.Uq4PnyvwKYU&gt;.

“Musicals – Dance Films.” Musicals – Dance Films. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://www.filmsite.org/musicalfilms5.html&gt;.

Pramaggiore, Maria, and Tom Wallis. “Genre.” Film: a critical introduction. 2005. Reprint. London: Laurence King, 2011. 381, 398. Print.

Inception: Out of Class Writing

While watching Inception, I realized that it had been too long since I watched it the first time for me to really remember what my experience had been like. That being said, there were hardly any things to mention that I hadn’t noticed the first time. With “Cinema as Industry: Economics and Technology” as the subject of the week, Inception is the perfect example to encompass all that this chapter talks about. As the technology of cinema evolves, director Christopher Nolan, must be up to par, or even surpass hollywood expectations. The complex editing as well as the plot sequence proves that Nolan achieved an economic and technologic feat. Inception is a blockbuster because of the fact that to the average viewer, it is simply and extremely entertaining movie. The complexity of the story line in combination with editing, special effects, and general technology of the film is incredibly amusing.

Chicago 10

The counter-culture of sex, drugs, and rock and roll is one of the main themes in Chicago 10. This is shown through the Yippies with their hippie-like attitude and attire. We also see the theme of non-violence vs. violent militancy throughout the film. During the protest for the Vietnam War, these 3 things, drugs, sex, and rock and roll, are the things they used as an escape from reality. During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, we watch as seven members of the activist group are convicted for their protests.

Regarding non-violence vs. violent militancy, we see this during the scene where the authorities violently interact with non-violence protestors. Morgen took the approach of siding with the protestors, and claimed that she wished to inspire her generation, showing how committed young people could be. The audience believes the preconceived notion of protesting peacefully, instead of violently, but the live footage keeps the viewers in suspense throughout.

Although described as a documentary film, it is not very similar to other documentaries because of the combination of animation and live footage. While the animation adds an artistic aspect to the film, the live footage give the audience a sense of realism. The combination of these two styles give the film a more contemporary feel. Since the use of animation is Chicago 10 gives such an artistic sense, the mood between the animation and the live footage contrasts. The seriousness we feel from the live footage contrasts greatly with the uplifting/humorous feel the audience gets from the animation. With this artistic decision, the viewer is more intrigued by this more contemporary film.

Meshes of the Afternoon

Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon the main character’s point of view shows the real world, as well as the dream world. The main character, also the director of the film, cannot seem to keep a dividing line between what is reality and what is in her dream world. Much of her confusion comes from the man with the mirror for a face as well as an empty home that she appears to repeatedly enter. The audience knows she is in trouble because she cannot seem to catch this man, which results in a very suspenseful film.

This film encompasses three out of four main elements of avant-garde cinema. One is the lack of a narrative. This film does not seems to have any specific plot that the audience can clearly follow.The next element is that the film depicts an antagonistic style, as the ending is very intense. The last element is that the film is centered around its technical aspects, such as special affects. For example, the key turning into a knife.

Meshes of the Afternoon seems to work in favor of feminism. This film shows that a woman can act on camera, and at the same time she can direct the film, which is a vital job in the making of a film. To be able to do both successfully, we can justify that this film exhibits feminism in a positive manner.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is a movie about the search for Osama Bin Laden the most wanted terrorist in the world. The themes in this film focus on the illegal persecution by Jason Clark and Jessica Chastain in order to get information from other terrorists accused of knowing where Bin Laden could be. Another theme depicted throughout the film is the prominence of danger. While Chastain was certain that Bin Laden was in a specific location, the audience is still unsure and dealing with suspense.

Bigelow does a fantastic job in auteur cinema. She has directed more than one film regarding terrorist attacks on 9/11, and has been successful with both films, Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. Since both of these films involve war, violence, and national security, Bigelow without a doubt has talent directing films that fall into the war category.

This film was transformed from a true story to more a Hollywood version of the events. For example, the fact that only one woman could convince ever other agent involved that she was 100% confident about Bin Laden’s whereabouts, and should go through with the attack is highly unlikely in the real world. Along with that, tobacco chewing, the country attitude of Seal Team 6 members, torturing suspected terrorist are all examples of “Hollywood-ized” elements of the film. Since this movie is based on a true story, real life aspects that were depicted in the film would be criticized for being somewhat inaccurate, however this is a Hollywood film, so it will not be as accurate as maybe a documentary.

Weekend

Class conflict is one recurring theme present in Weekend.  It is clear that Corrine and Roland are members of the middle class by the way the dress and the way the act. For example, Corrine steals a pair of pants from a dead man because she likes the brand. Also, when she was in a car crash, she is more concerned about her purse being on fire than the fact that she was in an accident. It is apparent that these characters treat others in lower classes poorly. We also notice the bourgeoisie class through the trash men.

Self-reflexivity is portrayed throughout the film as a quality of the French New Wave. Self-reflexivity is a reminder from the characters in the film to the audience that they are in fact watching a movie. That way, the audience will have a more critical approach when watching the film. For example, when someone asks Corrine if she is in a film or is she is in reality, it is purposefully in the film to remind the audience that Weekend is a movie; they are strictly watching a feature film.

With the use of longeurs, Weekend forces the audience to be critical of the film. With multiple extended scenes with little action, viewers can often get bored, however, with so much time to think, the viewer can use this time to think in depth about the film and what is really going on. For example, the long traffic scene forces the audience to examine the scene and why it is so significant, how it relates, and what it contributes to the plot.

Far From Heaven

One of the major themes in Far From Heaven is white supremacy. The film takes place in the 1950s, a time where racism was a huge factor of life. People valued whites over blacks. We can see white supremacy from the very first scene of the film, where we are introduced to the Whitaker family, a wealthy white family, with a black maid, Cybil. Back then, this was common, however, nowadays, it is completely unacceptable. Later on, Cathy becomes well acquainted with her gardener, Raymond, but when she is seen talking to him at an art show, her peers are not supportive of her decision to have any relations with him. From this, we can see that Cathy has different views and has no problem with interracial relationships, while the rest of society frowned upon such things.

‘Film and Ideology’ is seen in many ways in Far From Heaven. Some of the obvious ideologies we see generally in films are racial, gender, sexuality, and disability. In this film, three out of four are present. Racial ideology is exhibited through the theme of white supremacy, which we can see clearly through how Cybil and Raymond are both treated. The ideology of gender/equality is portrayed through family functionalities; the families were “traditional” families, as the woman were typical housewives and the men worked and provided for the family. Sexuality as an ideology played a significant role in the film. For example, when Frank was caught in an affair with another man, Cathy asks him if he has seen a doctor. Her question reflects society’s view on gays at the time, and that they were considered abnormal/unhealthy.

Clashing ideologies in films are used to relate different issues. Gender and Sexual-orientation in this film relate, specifically in Frank’s relationship with Cathy. When Cathy learns that Frank was having an affair, they try to talk about the situation, and Cathy doesn’t seem to want to believe that Frank is gay, and he feels as though he is losing his masculinity. For that reason, he hits Cathy to present more power/control, to prove his manliness. How Cathy reacts reflects the views of society and that it was not right to be gay at that time. This scenes shows how the two ideologies clash, by analyzing a husband and wife’s reaction to the same situation.

Casablanca

One major theme in Casablanca is sacrifice. Many of the characters must sacrifice what is important to them in order to protect what they love. Laszlo, for example, sacrifices what is important to him, his freedom and safety, and fights for justice, in his eyes. He takes it upon himself to deal with Nazism before his own personal issues. Additionally, Rick and Ilsa both sacrifice their love for one another. Ilsa decided to leave Rick many years ago at the train station knowing she needed to help Laszlo. Then, nearing the end of the film, Rick creates an escape plan for Ilsa and Laszlo; here Rick sacrifices his love for Ilsa because he realizes that what Ilsa and Laszlo are going through is more important at the time than his love for her. Sacrifice as a theme in this film is recurring and is involved in many decisions and actions made by the characters.

Succes of the film has much to do with the fact that Curtiz uses multiple genres. The distinct voice over in the beginning of the time encompasses some aspects of a documentary. Following that, the film switches to an espionage when the Germans are trying to find men without papers, which happens to be much more excitement because of the chase that occurs. The film also includes the genre for propaganda because we repeatedly see elements of “free France”. The musical genre comes up while in Rick’s casino. While all of these genres are mixed in, the overall genre of the film is romance. Rick and Ilsa’s relationship shows the struggle of forbidden love. The love triangle between Rick, Ilsa, and Laszlo depicts the drama genre in the film. The genre of film noir exists when Ilsa pulls out a gun on Rick, as well as when Rick kills the captain wearing a fedora and trench coat. Although the multiple genres can be confusing, they work well together in this film, attracting a large audience, causing much success the Casablanca.

The propaganda genre in Casablanca creatively incorporates romance and suspense. Curtiz uses propaganda in order to attract Americans so they can get involved in WWII by showing “free France” all over signs and billboards. The core of the entire film is the war, but makes the movie in an artistic manner by adding in romance, suspense, and drama. The romance in the end, when Rick goes to fight, letting Ilsa go with Laszlo, is also a type of propaganda, but is romantic. Propaganda does not overpower the film, which is why the film is so successful and entertaining to watch.

Apocalypse Now

The sound design in Apocalypse Now is an astounding accomplishment by director Francis Coppola. This film depicts the Vietnam War, which was known as the helicopter war, and important aspect of how the war was fought at the time. The helicopters were as important to this war as horses/horseback riding was to previous wars. Coppola and Walter Murch, the sound designer, concocted the notion that the helicopters were horses of the sky.

The sound design of the film was so strong that the audience has no problem recognizing that there were different techniques used to encompass the actual sound of a helicopter. In some scenes, the sounds of the helicopter was so realistic, almost as if the team recorded real life instances. On the other hand, the sound design was also used to create scenes with a sort of clairvoyance to them. For example, at the start of the film, the sound of the fan in Willard’s room increasingly matches up with sounds of the helicopter, creating a L-cut like shot. The purpose of this is to express Willard’s point of view and what he’s thinking. Another technique in the sound design was stereo surround to create a feel that an audience member is actually at the scene in the feature film. Meaning, if helicopters on screen are circling overhead, the sound would come through as if there are actual helicopters flying over the audience.

The impressive sound design of Apocalypse Now uses techniques to give the audience the feeling that they are actually in the intense setting of the Vietname War. The film successfully combines the visuals with highly complex layers of sound, including both effects and music. The use of this technique highlights the skill and impressiveness of the film, allowing the audience to plunge deep into the pandemonium of the Vietnam War.

Psycho

Psychopaths from today’s films compared to Norman Bates are quite similar in the fact they both are examples of psychopaths, but of course there are also differences, given the time difference, and trends in filmmaking. Norman Bates is someone who is hard to understand, which somewhat contrasts today’s psychopaths in movies. When we watch a movie, we usually know almost immediately who the crazy one is, but in Psycho, we don’t know exactly who it is until close to the end of the film.

One argument that is made about the movie Psycho is that it was made in black and white, but at the time, moviemakers had the technology to create films in color. So, why would Hitchcock decide to make the film in black and white? Of course, a black and white film is less costly than a film made in color, however, that was most likely not the main reason. With the black and white, Hitchcock creates a different mood and feel to the movie. There is a very ominous feel to the film, which enhances the genre as a horror movie. Black and white adds a sense of terror, depth, shadows and mystery. Additionally, it is said that the film would have been too gory in color.

As the main topic of the week, editing, we see one technique that is used to create detail in accordance with the plot: tempo. The use of different tempos as shots are put together exaggerate the importance of specific scenes. For example, the famous shower scene has a very fast tempo. The shots are very short, so the scene is confusing, yet suspenseful. As a viewer we aren’t exactly sure what we are following. Similarly, Marion’s death is sudden, and very unexpected. On the other hand, the scene where Arbogast is being killed, Hitchcock expands the time of each shot during the scene in order to exaggerate the importance of the scene. The time is takes for Arbogast to fall down the stairs is elongated to capture his expression, recognizing the frightful experience he is going through. HItchcock uses tempo as a technique to create detail and show importance to specific scenes.