Wednesday, 3 June 2015
Saturday, 30 May 2015
Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd Chatto, 279 pp, £12.99, ISBN 978 0 7011 6993 0
Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much by Michael Wood New Harvest, 129 pp, £15.00, ISBN 978 1 4778 0134 5
Hitchcock à la carte by Jan Olsson Duke, 261 pp, £16.99, ISBN 978 0 8223 5804 6
Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Vol. II edited by Sidney Gottlieb
California, 274 pp, £24.95, ISBN 978 0 520 27960 5
Hitchcock liked assembly lines. In the long, consistently revealing interview he gave to François Truffaut in the summer of 1962, he described a scene he had thought of including in North by Northwest (1959), but didn’t. Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is on his way from New York to Chicago. Why not have him stop off at Detroit, then still in its Motor City heyday?
I wanted to have a long dialogue scene between Cary Grant and one of the factory workers as they walk along the assembly line. They might, for instance, be talking about one of the foremen. Behind them a car is being assembled, piece by piece. Finally, the car they’ve seen being put together from a simple nut and bolt is complete, with gas and oil, and all ready to drive off the line. The two men look at it and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful!’ Then they open the door to the car and out drops a corpse!
The putative scene has the makings of a classic Hitchcock prank or hoax. ‘Where has the body come from? Not from the car, obviously, since they’ve seen it start at zero! The corpse falls out of nowhere, you see!’ Hitchcock was just short of his 63rd birthday when Truffaut interviewed him. He had remained staggeringly inventive throughout a long, prolific and highly profitable career, and there were seven films yet to come, including The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). Two American television series – Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-65) – converted the ‘master of suspense’ into an international celebrity. Since his death in 1980, his reputation has continued to soar. He must by now be the most written about film director of all time. In 2012, Vertigo (1958) displaced Citizen Kane at the top of Sight and Sound’s list of the best films ever made. But his art owed a great deal to its affinity with the assembly line.
Even the biographers, watching the life ‘start at zero’, have struggled to establish where the motivation for the inventiveness came from. The most popular hypothesis, not least because Hitchcock himself promoted it so vigorously, concerns timidity. ‘The man who excels at filming fear is himself a very fearful person,’ Truffaut observed, ‘and I suspect that this trait of his personality has a direct bearing on his success.’ The most substantial biography to date, by Patrick McGilligan, includes plenty of anecdotes about fear, but supplies little by way of evidence of its ultimate cause, and draws no conclusions. Peter Ackroyd, however, is firmly of the Truffaut school. His Hitchcock trembles from the outset: ‘Fear fell upon him in early life.’ At the age of four (or 11, or …), his father had him locked up for a few minutes in a police cell, an episode that became, as Michael Wood puts it, the ‘myth of origin’ for his powerful distrust of authority. Ackroyd rummages dutifully for further evidence. Was young Alfred beaten at school by a ‘black-robed Jesuit’? Or caught out in the open when the Zeppelins raided London in 1915? Did he read too much Edgar Allan Poe? It doesn’t really add up to very much. And yet – or therefore – the strong conviction persists. Fear is the key; and not just to the life. Interview the films, he once told an inquisitive journalist. Those who have interviewed the films often conclude that, like their creator, they too tremble. ‘Hitchcock was a frightened man,’ Wood writes, ‘who got his fears to work for him on film.’
For Wood, the question of fearfulness arises most pressingly when it comes to the tortures meted out to the women whose death or danger is a dominant feature of almost all the movies. ‘Is it sadism, as the dark view of Hitchcock proclaims, a pleasure in seeing beautiful women in harm’s way? The solitary joy of the otherwise uxorious director? A revenge on the mother the child thought might leave him for ever?’ Wood doesn’t believe that the motive was sadism. Nor does he think, like Hitchcock’s first biographer, John Russell Taylor, that Hitchcock, far from enjoying the distress he was able to inflict on them, identified strongly with his victims. The women in the movies are, Wood proposes, ‘whatever we most fear to lose’. This ‘we’ may be just a bit too comfortable. There presumably were and still are those, even among Hitchcock’s most ardent fans, who feel that they could get by in life without a regular supply of blondeness. Still, it seems possible to agree that the women in harm’s way represent whatever was most at risk, not just for Hitchcock, but for a culture heavily invested in blonde iconicity. At any rate, I find it difficult to disagree with Wood’s further conclusion. The lingering over the heroine’s demise could, he says, be masochism. ‘But it could also be just an act of thinking the worst, an act of propitiation to the gods who take these treasures away.’ Hitchcock’s films are at their most Hitchcockian, Wood proposes, when they think the very worst. They are certainly lavish in their propitiations: it takes Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) 45 seconds to die in Psycho, but the scene required seventy different camera set-ups. Ceremony enough, surely. But Hitchcock knew that the gods who took the treasures away were not the kind to be propitiated.
The best commentary on this aspect of Hitchcock’s films (and on a great deal else besides) may be Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’, a poem about the specific, all-consuming fear aroused by the most general and unavoidable (that is to say, banal) of all conditions. This is the fear not so much of dying, as of death, of mortality. Waking at 4 a.m. to ‘soundless dark’, the speaker sees ‘what’s really always there:/Unresting death, a whole day nearer now’. His mind ‘blanks’, not inwardly, in remorse or despair, but outwardly,
at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
‘And soon’: the mildly querulous bit of time-keeping tucked away among the sonorous negations strikes the authentic Larkin note. For the blankness he has in mind is ‘a special way of being afraid/No trick dispels’: not faith, not courage, not the sound a poem makes.
‘I work all day, and get half-drunk at night’ is how ‘Aubade’ begins. That’s pretty much what Hitchcock did for most of his life, except that as he grew older the drinking encroached increasingly on the work (champagne with lunch, vodka and orange in a flask on set). The justification for the briskness of Ackroyd’s account (259 pages of text, where previous biographers have required twice as much, or more) is that Hitchcock didn’t linger either. He liked to think he could complete one film in the studio while starting another in his mind. The transitions between films became almost as swift and as seamless as the transitions within them. ‘He already had another project in mind’ is Ackroyd’s constant refrain. By the same token, the rare periods of ‘suspended animation’ during the course of a long career, when there were ‘no stories to consider, no treatments to contemplate, no stars to pursue’, became a ‘form of torture’. The final months of his life seem to have been truly harrowing for all concerned.
As far as I’m aware, Hitchcock himself only ever approached the topic of our sure extinction obliquely, and in relation to his films. For example, he reassured Truffaut that staging violent death all day hadn’t given him nightmares. He would go home afterwards and laugh about it:
And that’s something that bothers me because, at the same time, I can’t help imagining how it would feel to be in the victim’s place. We come back again to my eternal fear of the police. I’ve always felt a complete identification with the feelings of a person who’s arrested, taken to the police station in a police van and who, through the bars of the moving vehicle, can see people going to the theatre, coming out of a bar, and enjoying the comforts of everyday living; I can even picture the driver joking with his police partner, and I feel terrible about it.
I think the police are a red herring here. All the vividness of the anecdote lies in the detail of the activities visible from the van, now conclusively beyond reach. Hitchcock identifies not so much with the suspected criminal as with the person (any person) whose number is up. The person taken out of circulation – it could be by a police van, or by an ambulance – sees, perhaps for the first time, what the world will be like when she or he is no longer in it. Hitchcock had already incorporated a version of the incident he so vividly pictures here into The Wrong Man (1956), a very good, uncharacteristically neo-realist film about a New York musician under arrest for a crime he didn’t commit. As he’s driven away by the police, the musician (it’s Henry Fonda) glimpses his wife, who doesn’t yet know he’s been arrested, moving around in the kitchen. When describing this scene to Truffaut, Hitchcock dwelled on details that either weren’t in the film to begin with, or got edited out.
At the corner of the block is the bar he usually goes to, with some little girls playing in front of it. As they pass a parked car, he sees that the young woman inside is turning on the radio. Everything in the outside world is taking place normally, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and yet he himself is a prisoner inside the car.
It’s not just that the normality will soon be gone for ever. It’s that it seems to be making precious little effort to stay in touch. The jovial policemen merely perform the indifference society at large is now understood to feel at the removal from circulation of one of its members.
The second film Hitchcock directed on his own was The Pleasure Garden (1925), a British-German co-production made in Munich. At its climax, an alcoholic husband gripped by delirium tremens is shot as he’s about to stab his wife. ‘When he is shot,’ Wood notes, ‘he comes to his senses, no longer drunk at all; he mildly says, “Oh, hello, Doctor,” to the man who has interrupted his fury and dies.’ The version of the film I’ve seen has no intertitle at this point, so I can’t be sure of the exact words. But it’s hard to mistake the jauntiness on the man’s face. The German producer complained that the scene was impossible, and in any case too brutal to be shown. Hitchcock kept it (he may have sacrificed the clarifying intertitle by way of compromise). ‘There is a sense, though, in which a casual, almost negligent registering of one’s last moment is scarier – not brutal or incredible as the German producer thought, but too natural for art, as if the erratic truth of death’s timing were more than we could bear in a story.’ I think that’s dead right. Except of course that nature has little to do with the way people die in Hitchcock’s films.
It took a very special kind of invention to get an awareness of the ‘erratic truth of death’s timing’ into a medium of mass entertainment. In the course of a shrewd and properly demanding analysis of Vertigo, Wood draws attention to sequences of shots in the first hour of the film that mark a narrative threshold: a step-change in its relation to its audience. During these moments, our eyes and ears are ‘co-opted’ for the ‘sense of the world’ somewhat precariously maintained by the agoraphobic private detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), whose old acquaintance Gavin Elster wants him to trail his (apparent) wife, the luminous Madeleine (Kim Novak). We don’t exactly see what Scottie sees, Wood says. Rather, we see what he would see if his eyes were a camera. If Scottie can establish to his own satisfaction that Madeleine is prey to fugue states in which she assumes the appearance and personality of an ancestor, Carlotta Valdes, who committed suicide in 1857, he will feel justified in taking the job, and falling in love with her. In the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, Madeleine sits absorbed in a portrait of Carlotta, the bouquet on the bench beside her matching the one Carlotta holds. Scottie watches from across the room. As his gaze narrows, the camera moves in on the bouquet on the bench, and then by a swerve and sudden ascent, on its equivalent in the portrait. Scottie subsequently tails Madeleine home. He peers at her car, across the courtyard from him. Is that a bouquet on the dashboard? It’s as if he believes he could get closer just by wanting to. In the event, the camera does it for him, not by moving in, but by a new set-up, from a different angle, halfway across the courtyard. Yes, it is a bouquet. In Wood’s view, the sheer ‘extravagance’ of these manoeuvres ‘beautifully and scarily exploits the possibilities of the medium’, making our dependence on such possibilities ‘something like an addiction’. We become complicit with everything that has already happened, and everything that will happen, to Scottie.
Such moments had long been a feature of Hitchcock’s film-making, as much of an authorial signature as the famous cameo appearances, if a lot less obtrusive; and a great deal more consequential than the various motifs, riddles, visual puns, and other traces he is sometimes said to have scattered throughout his films. The earliest I can think of occurs in The Lodger (1927), which he himself described as the ‘first true “Hitchcock” film’. Quite distinct from the fluid, intricately choreographed camera movements which have been taken to exemplify his virtuosity (his ‘art’), these five-to-ten-second tracks forward – or, alternatively, the abrupt transition to a new and noticeably discrepant camera set-up within the space originally defined by an establishing shot – are strictly functional. In most cases, the dolly in or the discrepant angle follows a narrowing of the protagonist’s gaze, as it does in Vertigo. In Notorious(1946), for example, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), dining in Rio with the Nazi super-scientists among whom she has been planted, notices a commotion around the bottles of wine stood on the sideboard. A dolly in on a label shows us what she would like to see, but can’t quite from where she’s sitting. Now she’s truly hooked; and so are we. In The Birds, after the avian invaders have swept en masse down the chimney of the Brenner house and laid waste to the lounge, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) watches Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy), the mother of the man she’s fallen in love with, picking up broken crockery and straightening a picture on the wall, while her son bickers with the sheriff, who’s come to inspect the damage. After a couple of medium-long shots of Lydia from Melanie’s point of view, a third shot, now from a position she very evidently doesn’t occupy, takes us in much closer. The change of distance and angle is an act of moral and emotional intelligence. While the men bicker, Melanie, noticing Lydia’s distress, has understood something both about her, and about the scale of the catastrophe they all face. It’s the sort of awakening conventional in melodrama. On this occasion, however, awakening has been outsourced to a machine.
The changes of distance and angle sometimes arise out of the fiction’s premise. The protagonist of Rear Window (1954), L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart), is a photographer who finds himself confined to a wheelchair by a broken leg, so it makes sense for him to put down the pair of binoculars through which he has been scrutinising the suspicious goings-on in the apartment directly opposite, and pick up a telephoto lens instead. The closer view afforded by the telephoto lens reveals a man wrapping a saw and a butcher’s knife in some newspaper. It doesn’t in fact generate a great deal by way of additional detail; but we think it must do, because we’ve seen Jefferies swap the binoculars for a telephoto lens. Even more interesting are those cases – Blackmail(1929), Suspicion (1941) or The Wrong Man – in which the camera’s swift forward movement or repositioning doesn’t stem directly from the protagonist’s immediate point of view, but nonetheless takes place as it were on her or his behalf. In Shadow of a Doubt (1943), for example, a dolly in on Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) from a position other than that occupied by the person currently talking to him, his niece Charlie (Teresa Wright), confirms starkly to us, but not to her, that he is indeed the killer we already know him to be. In such cases, an alliance has been created between audience and camera, an alliance in suspense: sympathetic to the protagonist, but apart from him or her.
These threshold moments are engrossingly human. They engage us fully in the protagonist’s first full engagement with the world’s meaningfulness. We, too, have been reanimated – thanks to the surrogacy of a machine’s-eye view. The something too natural for art that Wood discerns in the death scene in The Pleasure Garden has found a means other than jesting last words to embed itself in the narrative. Hitchcock, who never forgot what he’d learned as a director of silent films, understood that he didn’t need words at all, jesting or otherwise. For all the light at their disposal, his threshold moments have something of the feel of Larkin’s ‘soundless dark’. They all occur either without a word spoken, or deliberately against (or over) the distractions of speech. Their discrepant soundlessness puts us back inside the police van. The threshold moment could be our last glimpse of the ‘comforts of everyday living’: a world in which a bouquet is a bouquet, a bottle of wine a bottle of wine, a saw a saw, and a woman tidying a tidy woman. We know that the people on the streets are talking to each other as people ordinarily do, but we can’t catch a word of what they say. Psycho confirms the soundless dark of the 4 a.m. hiatus. We expect the threshold to announce itself during the scene in which Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), having just set foot in the Bates motel, fences warily with Norman (Anthony Perkins) in a room full of stuffed animals. But this is a heroine who will be dead before she’s had a chance to notice anything truly suspicious. Hers is a post-mortem awakening. The camera starts on her lifeless face pressed against the bathroom floor, pans to take in the bedroom, and then speeds forward and up until it arrives at the newspaper on the bedside table which conceals the money she had stolen earlier in the day: the grim remnant of her all too human aspiration to a better life.
Of course, there are other kinds of Hitchcock film. He spoke sometimes of the need to adjust the ‘dosage’ of humour from one to the next, and the more humorous among them concern the special fear of dying only in so far as they resemble a trick used to quell it. In the films about nothing very much at all, we learn soon enough to stop worrying about what the villains have in store for the hero and heroine, and start worrying about what the hero and heroine have in store for each other. To demonstrate that romance, like danger, can keep us on tenterhooks, Hitchcock included in Easy Virtue (1928) a scene in which a switchboard operator eavesdrops on a marriage proposal. Pleasurable suspense, and its adroit resolution, took up a lot of space in his bag of cinematic tricks.
Hitchcock was an inveterate practical joker. Mercifully, the jokes themselves now seem too boring to merit much attention. But they certainly had a part to play in the publicity campaigns which transformed a film director into a media brand. Jan Olsson has shown in great detail how Hitchcock consistently manipulated celebrity gossip in order to project the image of a creative genius who was as much ‘prankster’ as ‘master craftsman’. The biggest prank of all was his own body. Despite periodic bouts of binge-dieting, Hitchcock remained until the end of his life mountainously fat. In the mid-1930s, as his ambitions turned increasingly towards a career in Hollywood, he began to parlay his corpulence – and the appetites which had brought it about – into an instantly recognisable public persona. ‘His film fame, food reputation, and fabulous physicality were supreme assets,’ Olsson observes, ‘when he signed up for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1955, on the cusp of Hollywood’s television era.’ His Englishness, too, presumably: no more of a mere hoax than Larkin’s, it had nonetheless to be kept in full working order, like the corpulence, by constant reiteration (the sober suit and tie worn to work every day, regardless of the weather). Not everyone would accept Olsson’s linking of the food and the physicality to the films. Introducing the most recent of the two indispensable collections of articles, essays and stories by Hitchcock and interviews with him that he has edited, Sidney Gottlieb notes that he has chosen to exclude material concerned primarily with food, weight and family life, topics ‘perhaps worth investigating’ as an element in the construction of a public persona, but not as important as the comments on cinema. Still, the cameo appearances did put the corpulence on ample display in the films; while it’s the confirmed pranksters, like Melanie Daniels in The Birds, who undergo the most rigorous examination by 4 a.m. hiatus. Even when he was at his most serious, in his commentary on cinema, Hitchcock had the air of a conjuror explaining his tricks.
He thought that montage was cinema at its most pure. In theory, his method involved a subordination to the capacities of the camera upheld with such completeness and consistency at each stage of the production process, from script and storyboards through principal photography to editing, that it became a kind of mastery. Before cinema, montage meant the action of assembling mechanical components. Hitchcock defined it as the ‘juxtaposition’ of ‘pieces of film that went through a machine’ in such a way as to create ‘ideas on the screen’. His own conjuring was by sleight of machine rather than of hand. ‘Emotions of many varying sorts, shades, degrees and colours have to be manufactured,’ he said, ‘and all must be photographically clear.’ Montage used the machine against itself, creating out of its excess of indifference (the seventy set-ups for the shower scene) a spectacle guaranteed to wring the heart.
The best of the films about nothing very much at all end superbly, the fulfilment of the romantic fantasies they explore achieved by small miracles of montage. In his Hollywood memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade (1996), the scriptwriter William Goldman offers an admiring analysis of the conclusion of North by Northwest. When we recall what happened at the end of the film, Goldman says, we suppose that it must have taken a narrative age to get from the moment at which Eve Marie Saint dangles helplessly from Cary Grant’s hand on the face of Mount Rushmore – while America’s implacable enemies stand poised to tip them both over the edge and make off with the state secrets they’ve been safeguarding – to the moment at which he pulls her up beside him into a bunk in an express train about to enter a tunnel. In fact, it takes a mere 45 seconds, so economical is Hitchcock’s editing. North by Northwest was modelled to some extent on The 39 Steps (1935), which permits itself three minutes to get from the climax of a national emergency involving the design of a new warplane to the blissful union of hero and heroine. Both films conclude at a lick: the pieces don’t so much fall into place as cascade. There’s a kind of heartlessness in that, too. Montage has become cinema’s indispensable, delightful, futile prank. It’s not just corpses that tumble out of the vehicles rolling off the Hitchcock assembly line, but pairs of newly-weds, in radiant, fully automated succession.
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
What effect can this sort of representation have? Here's a video of Ian Duncan Smith, the Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary under David Cameron in which he uses the programme as evidence that people who claim benefits need radical change - but not necessatily in a helpful way...
"We let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country. Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street."
Duncan Smith claims: "Too often for those locked in the benefits system, that process of making responsible and positive choices has been skewed – money paid out to pacify them regardless, with no incentive to aspire for a better life."
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Friday, 16 January 2015
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Saturday, 7 June 2014
Thursday, 22 May 2014
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
LITTLE BIG MAN
May 20, 2014
Set in a relatively benign junkland, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant is about two kids who salvage parts for a living, probably at this point, who have nothing better to do with their lives.
You might say Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant (2013) is one-third Of Mice and Men (two friends, one of them not ostensibly smart), one-third Oliver Twist (boys seduced into stealing for a modern-day Fagin) and maybe less than a third Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale.
Fact is, the eponymous giant’s status in this picture is rather ambiguous: the title might refer to unscrupulous junkyard dealer Kitten (Sean Gilder - terrific actor, if not exactly of impressive stature); to the tall steel-and-concrete structures looming in the film’s background; to any adult seeing these kids and failing to act decisively (pretty much all of them, when you think about it).
Barnard borrows from the films of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh (Loach’s Kes being an especially vivid precursor), borrows from the kind of kitchen-sink realism Great Britain specialized in back to the ’60s; one also suspects the presence of the Dardenne brothers in the gene pool - the focus on the poor and marginalized, the mostly handheld camera, the total lack of music (other than what you hear from a passing radio, or what onscreen characters sing or whistle aloud), the naturalistic acting, the often bleak urban landscape, the even bleaker weather.
Barnard does make the style her own, however: once in a while she inserts what one might call “pillow shots,” images that bridge the transition from scene to scene - ong shots of transmission pylons, transformer stations, nuclear reactor cooling towers, all often shrouded in haze like immense figures striding straight out of myth and legend. In Barnard’s case her repeated use of these larger-than-life constructs (the majority of which for some reason - they’re the biggest and easiest to find? - involve the power-generating industry) suggests that the story takes place in some fabled fallen kingdom, the ruins a reminder of the glory that was postwar industrial England.
Enter Arbor (Connor Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas); the two had just been kicked out of school for fighting. Good for them; they’d much rather work for Kitten, salvaging junk metal and cable copper from wherever and whenever.
Barnard again makes a point, following these children as they drive a horsecart through the streets of Bradford, West Yorkshire: in this depressed economy the enterprise of choice isn’t innovation or manufacture, but salvage - clambering in and out of junk piles, ripping motors out of fridges and washing machines for the coils of precious copper, on occasion stealing the wire out from under an unwary neighbour’s nose.
A police officer spells it out for Arbor’s mother: stealing cable (and not in the digital download sense) is a criminal offense that could land them in jail. But Arbor doesn’t care; school’s a waste of time, bills need to be paid, and he has nothing better to do with his life.
What follows has the quiet desperation of ants crawling over a dead horse’s near-clean carcass, of little creatures competing fiercely over increasingly slim pickings. The boys have to contend with police, with social workers, with their own occasionally worried parents, with property owners who care about their pilfered property, with other adults on a similar mission who wouldn’t mind shoving aside a smaller competitor if it meant snatching a hunk of metal worth ten quid at Kitten’s.
Kitten is equally unscrupulous; when Arbor had been paid a particularly generous bounty, Kitten pulls out a few bills from Arbor’s hand and calls it “tax, collected direct.” Arbor still doesn’t care; he has a little pocket money now, and Swifty can help pay for his family’s overdue electric bill.
Along the way Arbor talks yearningly of boosting power cables from the transmission pylons standing like sentinels over the Yorkshire countryside; like Wilde’s titan they also hold up treasure of a value beyond dreaming, plainly visible but just that far out of the boys’ reach.
That said, the town of Bradford is not exactly Hell on earth. Barnard’s film isn’t as harrowing as Luis Bunuel’s Los Olvidados, where the Mexican slums teem with murderous adults, uncaring-to-the-point-of-perverse parents, and out-and-out child sociopaths; nor are the working conditions as bad as in Ralston Jover’s Bakal Boys where kids use cheap plastic snorkels to dive for scrap metal in the sea, of all places (Jover notes that a child goes missing every other week, thanks to underwater currents, or sharks, or who knows what else).
Interestingly, Bunuel and Jover opt for a chillier, more distant emotional tone, knowing that with material as harrowing as what they have you don’t need to pump up the drama for a strong film, that in fact you need to tone it down considerably or else it all becomes too much - the audience is in more danger of breaking out in laughter than breaking down in tears.
Barnard gives us a bleak but relatively benign milieu where the children are taken care of (albeit indifferently) and the adults do stop short of seeing their offspring as literal prey. In this not-quite-best-of-worlds, a purgatory if you like caught between extremes (with perhaps a bias towards the lower), she’s free to do the vulgar thing, reach out for the melodramatic, explicitly touch our hearts.
You get a choice from two questions; one and two were from the same year - and so on.
1. Analyse the impact of media representation on the collective identity of one or more groups of people.
2. Compare the different ways in which one or more groups of people are represented in the media.
3. Analyse the ways in which at least one group of people is mediated.
4. Discuss the social implications of media in relation to collective identity.
5. How do media representations influence collective identity?
6. Discuss the different ways in which groups of people are represented by media.
7. Discuss how one o more groups of people are represented through the media?
8. Explain the role played by the media in the construction of collective identity.
9. Analyse the ways in which the media represent groups of people.
10. What is collective identity and how is it mediated?
11. With reference to one group of people you have studied, discuss how their identity has been mediated.
12. ‘Media representations are complex, not simple and straightforward.’ How far do you agree with this statement in relation to the collective group you have studied?
13. Analyse the ways in which the media represent one group of people that you have studied.
14. ‘The media do not construct collective identity; they merely reflect it.” Discuss.
Monday, 19 May 2014
Friday, 16 May 2014
Thursday, 15 May 2014
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
1. How was it distributed?
2. How was it released?
3. How was it designed to appeal to a large audience? http://www.simplyzesty.com/Blog/Article/February-2014/Five-Reasons-Why-The-Lego-Movie-Is-Content-Marketing-At-Its-Very-Best
4. Worldwide appeal of storyline?
5. Synergy – Lego makes Marvel and DC superheroes – WHY were only DC heroes featured in the movie?
6. How did it use social networking sites and viral marketing?http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/travel-and-leisure/news/lego-to-co-create-marketing-campaign-with-uk-fans/4009997.article
https://twitter.com/TheLEGO MovieUK - note the use of various local Twitter pages to target a local audiences around the world
7. How did its website appeal? Look at the features available and the various links...
8. How did synergy help promote it?
9. How did it target a local (i.e. UK) audience?
10. Viral marketing and more… http://evansonmarketing.com/2014/03/06/lego-mania-goes-viral/ - note the way fan-made videos extend brand recognition and, therefore, act as a promotional tool for the film…
11. Combating piracy, despite there being a while between movie release and DVD/BluRay release – by offering extras - http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Here-Why-LEGO-Movie-Blu-ray-Release-Awesome-42635.html
12. It’s worth looking at this – though some of it is incomplete and some of it you already have - http://www.slideshare.net/jackrenshawasmedia/the-lego-movie-31576930
13. This is really technical, but if you can come away with a couple of pints about digital technology was used in the making of the movie, it would be beneficial.
14. And how about this? Dannon Yoghurt and Warner Brothers in a promotional partnership deal using text messaging, Why were Dannon interested in the first place and why use that particular media form? http://www.textmessagingresource.com/articles/371393-dannon-turns-sms-marketing-lego-movie-campaign.htm
15. Note the variety of posters used – and the cheeky allusion to a successful superhero movie by another company… http://nukethefridge.com/2013/11/12/new-character-posters-batman-lord-business-lego-movie/ You might find more about this if you dig around.
The Lego Movie (stylized as The LEGO Movie) is a 2014 American-Australian computer animated adventure comedy film directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks,Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman. Based mainly on the Lego line of construction toys, the film tells the story of an ordinary Lego minifigure named Emmet prophesied to save the Lego universe from the tyrannical Lord Business.
It was released theatrically on February 7, 2014. The movie was a critical and commercial success, with many critics highlighting its visual style and humour. It earned more than $253 million in North America and $206 million internationally for a worldwide total of over $460 million.
A sequel is scheduled to be released on May 26, 2017.
"We wanted to make the film feel like the way you play, the way I remember playing. We wanted to make it feel as epic and ambitious and self-serious as a kid feels when they play with LEGO. We took something you could claim is the most cynical cash grab in cinematic history, basically a 90 minute LEGO commercial, and turned it into a celebration of creativity, fun and invention, in the spirit of just having a good time and how ridiculous it can look when you make things up. And we had fun doing it.'" — Animation supervisor Chris McKay
The film had been in development at Warner Bros. since 2008. By August 2009, Dan and Kevin Hageman were writing the script described as "action adventure set in a Lego world."Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were in talks in June 2010 to write and direct the film.Warner Bros. green-lit the film by November 2011, with a planned 2014 release date. The Australian studio Animal Logic was contracted to provide the animation, which was expected to comprise 80% of the film. By this time Chris McKay, the director of Robot Chicken, had also joined Lord and Miller to co-direct.McKay explained that his role was to supervise the production in Australia. In March 2012, Lord and Miller revealed the film's working title, Lego: The Piece of Resistance, and a storyline.
By June 2012, a number of high profile actors had been cast, such as Chris Pratt as the voice of Emmet, the lead Lego character, and Will Arnett voicing Lego Batman. Others, like Morgan Freeman as the voice of Vitruvius, an old mystic, were added later.
In July 2012, a Lego-user contest announced on the film's Facebook page would choose a winning Lego vehicle to appear in the film. Miller's childhood Space Village playset is utilised in the film.
Use of digital technology during production – widespread e.g. Animal Logic tried to make the film's animation replicate a stop motion film even if everything was done through computer graphics, with the animation rigs following the same articulation limits actual Lego figures have. The camera systems also tried to replicate live action cinematography, including different lenses and a Steadicam simulator. The scenery was projected through The Lego Group's own Lego Digital Designer, which as CG supervisor Aidan Sarsfield detailed, "uses the official LEGO Brick Library and effectively simulates the connectivity of each of the bricks.” At times the minifigures were even placed under microscopes to capture the seam lines, dirt and grime into the digital textures.
The Lego Movie received many forms of marketing from both Warner Bros. and The Lego Group. Seventeen building play sets inspired by scenes from the film were released, including a set of Collectible Minifigures.
A website was opened up so fans could make minifigure versions of themselves, and later, put that in the film's official trailer. The company has recruited a roster of global partners to a broad, multi-category licensing program to support the film.
Official Lego Brand Stores also scheduled events. Each week of January 2014, a new character poster (Wyldstyle, Batman, Emmet, Lord Business) came with every purchase. By building a creative model in-store, people received a free accessory pack.
Promotional partners - Barnes & Noble will host a themed event in January, February, and March. On February 7, 2014, McDonald's released eight collectible holographic/3D cups in Happy Meals to promote the film.
A video game based on the film, The Lego Movie Videogame, by TT Games for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and Windows, was released on February 4, 2014. An exclusive "Wild West Emmet" minifigure was released with preorders of the game at GameStop.
Trailer - The first theatrical trailer was released on June 18, 2013 featuring the song, Feel This Moment by Pitbull featuring Christina Aguilera.
The second was released on October 31, 2013, preceded by a series of teasers featuring main characters featuring the song, Wake Me Up (Avicii song) by Avicii with the song, "Feel This Moment".
The Lego Movie premiered at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California on February 1, 2014, and was released in theatres on February 7, 2014.
Home media - The Lego Movie will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 17, 2014. A special "Everything is Awesome Edition" will also include a Vitruvius minifigure and a collectible 3D Emmet photo.
Box office - As of May 11, 2014, The Lego Movie has grossed $253,666,490 in North America, and $206,400,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $460,066,490. In North America, the film opened at number one in its first weekend, with $69,050,279, which is the second highest weekend debut in February behind The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million). It remained the highest-grossing film of 2014 until it was surpassed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Soundtrack -The film's original score was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, who had previously worked with Lord and Miller on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. The Lego Movie soundtrack contains the score as the majority of its tracks. Also included is the song "Everything Is Awesome!!!" written by Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew and Lisa Harriton and performed by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island, which has also been used in the film's marketing campaign. The soundtrack was released on February 4, 2014 by WaterTower Music, which is owned by Warner Brothers, the company behind the film.
Largely swiped from Wikipedia...
Wednesday, 30 April 2014
1. At the production stage – digital cameras increasingly used as opposed to film but note that not everyone thinks is a good thing. Potentially lightweight cameras/editing on a computer – or a laptop/CGI and other effects? Look at the way Gareth Edwards was able to compete with big budget special effects. It’s easier to balance/alter the colour using digital technology than analogue. Google this – have any released films been shot with a flip camera or phone…?
2. Distribution and marketing – Advantages of? Websites, social networking, viral marketing. How do YOU see examples of this? On what kind of platform? Give specific examples from both types of film. WHY are these methods commonly used as opposed to only the older methods of posters/print ads/trailers/TV, radio and print interviews/features?
3. Exhibition – http://heworthmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=digital+film Why have cinemas been forced into switching to digital exhibition?
4. IMAX and 3D – expensive and limited, no matter how good it seems – Google it…
5. Look at the cinemas near us. The exam board like to think you can use examples from your own experience, so here you go: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/end-era-tyneside-cinema-projectionists-7015364 but look at this too – think about the effect on arthouse cinemas whose remit is not just to rely on modern Hollywood film. http://heworthmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/celluloid-versus-digital.html Although we have tried this – unsuccessfully so far – you could email the Tyneside Cinema (the board likes to see local examples) and ask them how it has been affected by digital technology.
6. Beyond that, remember that exhibition does not just include the cinema – so legal downloads/DVD/BluRay – how can film be watched and how does digital technology threaten the modern cinema - and how is the industry responding? http://heworthmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/trying-to-beat-pirates.html
7. Finally, how does a local, filmmaking collective use digital technology - http://heworthmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/british-cinema-case-study-amber-films.html
Remind yourself of the stages of production:
Use these links – as well as your own research and your notes on Monsters - to help you, as well
http://heworthmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/another-exam-style-question-and-plan.html This is a similar question, but has a lot of good information in the plan…
British cinema had a considerable advantage over European cinema in that the American market is huge and English is the national language. Many people across the world speak English, so the potential audience for British film is huge.
However, there is a downside: American cinema has the same advantage and on top of this, American studios have enormous capital at their disposal. They produce more films, both of the expensive, mass-appeal kind, as well as the more risky films with an independent feel. One success will pay for approximately nine failures at the box office. While British cinema does experience boom years when our films and film-makers ate feted throughout the world, we are generally consuming an increasingly large diet of American films, from the excellent to the awful and everything in between. On top of this, because of the popularity of American films in the UK, the distribution of British films into our cinemas and of British DVDs into shops is dominated by US companies, who are obviously going to put their resources into pushing their own products.
Distribution 50% of money spent on a film often goes on promotion. Film is a business like any other; it doesn’t rely on waiting and listening to audience response before delivering the product; it relies on knowing which part of the world and the media need its products and will pay for them. Does market forces competition give the consumer more power and choice and, therefore, influence, what’s made OR does it convince us that what we want is being made for us? Do millions go to see The Dark Knight when it opens because it’s a great film or because it’s been well-marketed? Or both?
Their releases dominate UK cinema over the summer - and these summer blockbusters are now released as early as May.
Large multi-media conglomerates can take a loss - Disney's The Lone Ranger for example, performed poorly at the box office, but the company is diverse and has many ways of making money from its many strands of business. A similar failure - a comparative/proportional one - for an independent film could wipe out the company.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
1. Why did Vertigo produce Monsters?
3. How was it funded?
4. Why was it cheap to make?
5. How was digital technology used throughout the stages of production?
7. How was it distributed? Note the use of film festivals to build its reputation?
8. How was it released in the UK?
9. How was it promoted in the UK?
10. How was viral marketing used?
11. How was the website used to promote the film and – later – the DVD/BluRay? Look at the features available.
12. What were the negative points about the film’s exhibition, distribution and critical reception?
13. Look at the booklets AND the links given below. You can find ‘making of’ features on YouTube.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
- In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products? Your product may well have done a little of each. Clearly, you need to refer here to the existing products that you researched and analysed, referencing them against what you have done, explaining why you have followed (or otherwise) the conventions). You must refer to your ancillary product as well as the main one.
- How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts? You need to consider what you’ve learned about the way the media produce, distribute and share material. You need to consider the synergy between the products and remember, your work will constitute only part of a promotional campaign for the product/artist and you will need to stress how this works – i.e. the need to buy advertising on television or radio; the need to have a PR department that can push your artist to radio and TV stations so they can get airtime and their work played; the use of the kind of posters and print advertising you see in magazines and billboards. Your artist or movie will have a website created by the production which will feature song samples, trailers, video extracts, photographs, interviews, features, competitions, opportunities for fans to air their views so they feel they are being given some kind of ownership of the product so they’ll be more likely to buy it. You will absolutely definitely need to say in the age of Web 2.0 that you world will be promoted virally on the Internet and on mobile phones, particularly as your target audience is of an age range that favours this kind of technology. You might release your work in advance to specific outlets – e.g. exclusive music video on…? Or how about a teaser trailer campaign leading up to a special screening of the movie (or even just the trailer) to a popular horror site like http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/ so they can post reviews that you can feature on the trailer? Or arrange for the trailer to be shown with popular movies in the same genre. Your movie may be low budget, but so was Paranormal Activity and this is what the filmmakers did there. Google Paranormal Activity and see the way it was promoted and became the success it is. See http://movie-critics.ew.com/2009/10/07/paranormal-activity-marketing-campaign/. http://www.chud.com/articles/articles/21095/1/PARANORMAL-ACTIVITY039S-MARKETING-HAUNTED-BY-THE-GHOST-OF-WILLIAM-CASTLE/Page1.html. You would hope this kind of publicity and releasing the trailer on YouTube would lead to the word being spread on the internet, especially amongst horror fan sites and blogs and influential message board sites like http://www.aintitcool.com/. However effective the combination is, you need to point out that what you’re doing would only constitute part of a larger campaign. Even if most people download music, people who do this still make use of cover art (which comes with the download anyhow, so the cover art is still relevant in the age of downloading. You are providing cultural meaning for the music/film trailer through commercial images and aesthetics. Think - How did you attract/address your audience? You need references to theory here – Naomi Wolf, Marjorie Ferguson, Uses and Gratifications - you are exploiting the theory of Uses and Gratifications because your target audience will identify (though it may only be wishful thinking) with the lifestyle it promotes. Some of you have used people of a similar age to your audience to add to this appeal. Your audience will look to your product for a sense of personal identity and possibly aspire to be like some of the people featured or their lives and problems may reflect the lives and problems of people you know. Your theories need dates. You’ve been given theory to look at and there’s more at the bottom of this post. There's plenty of theory on this blog, so use the search tool.
- What have you learned from your audience feedback? You need to devise another questionnaire to help you with this - one that you could post on your blog. Is your audience one stable and easily identifiable group? Has the audience reacted in the way you expected? What has it found particularly effective about the product (include both tasks)? Why is feedback important in the media industry; how has it helped you construct your productions and how could you learn from feedback after the production is finished?
- How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages? It’s important you consider the blog itself as a media production. Unlike previous years, you are not just creating a production that will only bee seen by colleagues, teachers and examiners – you have actually published your work on the web where an audience of millions can see it. Using your blog, you have self-published and some, perhaps even many, of your audience is capable of doing the same, thus breaking down the idea of what constitutes an audience. New digital media “have fundamentally changed the ways in which we engage with all the media” (David Gauntlett, 2007). You also need to talk about your use of cameras and still and moving image editing software to create your media production, giving some specific examples of how and why you constructed particular images or scenes, texts, edits and so on, to reach your target audience.
- There is a relationship between the lyrics and the visuals (with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the lyrics).
- There is a relationship between the music and the visuals (again with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the music).
- Particular music genres may have their own music style and iconography (such as live stage performance in heavy rock).
- There is a demand on the part of the record company for lots of close-ups of the main artist/vocalist.
- The artist may develop their own star iconography, in and out of their videos, which, over time, becomes part of their star image.
- There is likely to be reference to voyeurism, particularly in the treatment of women, but also in terms of looking (screens within screens, binoculars, cameras etc).
- There are likely to be intertextual references, either to other music videos or to films and TV texts.
- Expository: lecturing, overtly didactic, e.g. with a personal presenter or an explanatory voice-over.
- Observational: like a "fly on the wall," the camera, microphone and film crew seem not to be disturbing the scene or even to be noticed by the participants.
- Participatory or interactive: the film crew takes part in the action or chain of events.
- Reflexive: the film exposes and discusses its own role as a film (e.g. the ethics or conditions of filmmaking) alongside the treatment of the case or subject.
- Performative: the film crew creates many of the events and situations to be filmed by their own intervention or through events carried out for the sake of the film.
- Poetic: the aesthetic aspects, the qualities of the form and the sensual appeals are predominant.
Monday, 31 March 2014
Planning needs to be thorough and show clear and excellent evidence of research into existing media products. Where possible, link relevant material on the internet to your work.
Your work MUST NOT be long blocks of text. It should be bullet-pointed and you must vary your methods of presentation, including slideshare, prezi, kizoa, slideboom, podcasts and speaking to the camera by both you and your target audience. The exam board is keen to see that you’ve shown your product to members of the target audience and what their response is (and how you use that response). Your responses MUST be illustrated! It is possible – advisable, in fact, to break up some of the following points in terms of methods of presentation; it’s also worth noting that your response to each bullet point does not have to be the same length as the others – some require a longer response; some don’t.
You MUST address the following questions
- In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?
- How does your media product represent social groups? Youth sub-cultures? Class? Gender? Is your magazine or the article aspirational/inspirational? Does it represent them as rebels? In a positive light? Would the readers be encouraged to think: we could do that too? Why? Think about gender here too. Anything showing women in a positive light, especially if they have to struggle with the sexism of the music industry is worth commenting on; same with anyone who’s struggled with a disadvantaged background or with drugs, abusive boyfriend, parents etc.
- What kind of media institution might distribute your media product and why? You've done a lot of work on this already so talk about your research. Will you be increasing their profit by broadening their audience or by reinforcing existing product or would you appeal to a smaller, niche audience that there’s no or little existing product aimed at? What would it compete with?
- What would be the audience for your media product? I would suggest you not only look at age, class and gender but cheat and create an audience profile (age, gender, interests, disposable income (and what they spend it on – and you need to think here to make it relevant to your product) for your product – i.e. my ideal audience is… Remember, you should have a PRIMARY target audience and refer to a secondary audience.
- How did you attract/address your audience? You need references to theory here – Naomi Wolf, Marjorie Ferguson, Uses and Gratifications - you are exploiting the theory of Uses and Gratifications because your target audience will identify (though it may only be wishful thinking) with the lifestyle it promotes. Some of you have used people of a similar age to your audience to add to this appeal. Your audience will look to your product for a sense of personal identity and possibly aspire to be like some of the people featured or their lives and problems may reflect the lives and problems of people you know. Your theories need dates. e.g According to Marjorie Ferguson (1980) etc etc... Google them! You could start by using the search tool on this blog or the GCSE one. Think about the mode of address - the language you use, your choice of features etc.
- What have you learnt about new technologies from the process of creating this product? You need to talk about the blog and the various methods of presentation here, not just your actual product. Bear in mind that in the age of Web2.0 you are now a prosumer - a producer and a consumer of a digiral media product. Where, once upon a time, the only people to see your product might be your teachers, the examiners and your friends, it's now on the net for millions to see... Prosumer. Use that word!
- Looking back at your preliminary task, what do you feel you have learnt in the progression from it to the full product? If you did Media at GCSE, I would forget it and pretend you’ve learnt throughout this year and show obvious progress, but don't just stick to technological aspects. Think of the difference between the niche audience for your school magazine and how you've targeted a much bigger one for your production. Think about the importance of research and audience response and identifying audience needs.
You MUST include audience feedback on your finished product and show understanding of why this sort of thing is important in the real publishing world.
Those of you whose choice of photographs let down your project… there is STILL time to do something about it.
You MUST use subject specific terminology – i.e. using the correct terms when writing about the processes you went through on Photoshop; talking about the camera angles/distances correctly/ discussing conventions and what colours etc have connotations of, especially in terms of your target audience.
Ensure that you haven’t used ANY images that you’ve downloaded from the internet; this includes backgrounds or background patterns. Barcodes are fine (but don't make them too big!).
If ANY of your photos resemble those used by someone else – i.e. if the model is wearing the same clothes – go and take some more photos because you’ll lose marks. This is one of the first things we highlighted when we profiled last year’s work and you’ve been reminded constantly since then – even if you’ve used a small photo of that person wearing the same gear on your contents page or as a hook on your cover. We have lost marks for this in the past because we've been too generous and this resulted in people who had done the work correctly being docked marks too. We are NOT going to jeopardize someone's marks because someone else can't be bothered to approach the task correctly. Unfortunately, this point does apply to a couple of people this year. You have been told.
Finally, your last post - i.e. the first one the examiner will see when he clicks on your blog - MUST be your production work, though you should have posted it during your evaluation, especially where you're talking about using/challenging forms and conventions, perhaps next to images of pages from genuine magazines for comparison.
Thursday, 20 March 2014
Monday, 17 March 2014
- What is distribution?
- What’s the difference between the way major Hollywood films are distributed and the way independent British films are distributed?
- What is digital cinema?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital distribution?