Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Category: Week 3 Viewing

Close Viewing “Do the Right Thing” Zach Page

In Spike Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing, we, as the audience, are transported into the hottest day in August in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. It follows the story of Mookie, a local pizza delivery boy who is apart of a large and diverse community. The story takes place over the course of one day and into the night to show a stream-of-consciousness story of one boy and his relationship with members of his community. He works for Sal, the owner of the Italian restaurant, who sees diversity within his own restaurant. At the end of the film, a black man is killed as the result of a racist action by a white police officer. The death then results in a riot, led by Mookie, which ransacks and destroys Sal’s restaurant.

The idea of the heat is what sparked Spike Lee to make this film. He wanted it to be apparent that the heat was fueling the characters to act in such a way that they wouldn’t if the temperature at a perceived average. “The film has to be hot,” Lee says in a memoir about the creation about the film. He goes on to explain that, “Little incidents can cause major accidents.” In describing the plot and story of the film, Spike Lee compares the racial incidents to that of the Howard Beach killings. Lee knows that, if faced with something as extreme as heat, it can put morals aside from different members of the community and cause extreme tension.

The way the heat is portrayed in the film is very important and a key part of understanding the tension that has caused the conflict. Lee uses several key filmmaking techniques to convey the message of unbearable heat. Right as the film is beginning, we see heat hazes (or mirages) emerging from the streets. Directly from the start, we have a familiar visual that reminds us how hot it gets in this film. Not only do most of the characters mention the heat several times, they are also covered in sweat most of the movie. This gives the audience the incredibly uncomfortable feeling of being sticky and wet with sweat themselves. Nearly every character is covered in sweat and fanning themselves with something. There are constantly fans blowing and there is a specific scene where Mookie and his girlfriend, Tina, are laying in bed and he is rubbing and ice cube on her body. The audience—at least some of us—can feel the cool water and the condensation. In one scene, the neighborhood jimmied opened a fire hydrant and the streets were filled with water. We are left to see how desperate the characters were when they are laying in the water in the streets to cool off.

Another technique Spike Lee uses to portray heat is the use of “warm colors” (red, orange, and yellow) throughout the film. We see this almost constantly. From the red wall behind the three old friends to the red vehicles that pass; from the yellow storefront of the Vietnamese shop to the yellow clothing that Buggin’ Out wears. These bright colors are used throughout the film as symbolism to convey how warm it really is.

One last major technique used in this film is how light is shown. Generally speaking, whenever there are scenes that take place indoors, it is dark. When there are scenes that take place outdoors, it is usually overly bright. This is more than likely to convey how bright the sun is and how it does not go away.

The sun and the heat are unifying conflicts between every character in the film. This is a way for the community to have one large struggle and something that can be an excuse for everyone’s behavior. The riot at the end involves people of different backgrounds and cultures in the same community and can be blame on one universal and understood conflict: the heat.

Tokyo Story: Storytelling Through Cinematography and Pacing

 

                Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story takes on the familial issues of expectation, loss, greed, regret, neglect, and loneliness by providing a personal perspective on contemporary post-war Japan in the early 1950’s. Ozu’s tells his story through beautiful cinematography and shot composition, minimal score, realistic writing and pacing that evokes truth and feels like a real life narrative. Tokyo Story is universally relatable in that it brings to light the unfortunate truths of living in a family: as children grow older they become busy with their own lives and neglect the people who love them. Families grow distant, and with that distance comes a tendency to avoid difficult truths such as love, death, and expectation. A family gathering can go badly without being acknowledged, as each person respectfully and nonverbally forgives their loved ones for their shortcomings. Tokyo Story teaches us to appreciate, communicate with, and take advantage of the time we have left with the people who love us, no matter how busy we become.

                  I looked closely at a scene (29:13-31:18) in Tokyo Story in which Tomi takes her youngest grandson on a walk after his father was unable to take the family out for the day because he was called in to check on a sick patient. At the beginning of the scene, Noriko asks her father if he is disappointed. He sets the issue aside and tells her he isn’t. This exchange is shot at eye level, head on and centered with the actors to pull the viewer into the scene. Transitioning, Shukichi looks out the window (medium-wide shot, profile) to see his wife and grandson walking together outside (wide shot.) The grandson is dismissive, avoiding his grandmother and distracting himself by pulling grass out of the ground. We first see them at a wide shot. This shot uses leading lines (the horizon line and the triangular rooftop) to guide the viewer’s eye toward the subjects. This shot seamlessly cuts on motion from a wideshot to a closeup as the grandmother squats down to speak to her grandson. She suggests to him that she may not be living when he becomes a doctor like his father, and the score turns melancholy to signify a pivotal moment in the film. At this moment it becomes clear that Tomi may not have much time left, and that this family gathering could prove to be more important than the characters are treating it. The grandson continues to ignore her, oblivious to the importance of this conversation and the time he has with her. In the same way that we were brought into it, we are pulled away from the grandmother and grandson, back to Shukichi gazing out the window at his loved ones. This loving observation of his family becomes all the more poignant with this newfound insight on Tomi’s health.

                  This early scene, taking place in the first thirty minutes, sets the tone for the rest of the film. The audience realizes that the family gathering may be far more important than the young people realize or acknowledge. We become familiar with the family’s tendency to brush off issues and act as if everything is okay, when in reality there are expectations that are not being met, and serious topics that are not being discussed. Tomi seems almost secretive about her poor health, not wanting to inconvenience her busy family. Meanwhile, her entire family is so wrapped up in their own matters that they neglect her when she needs them the most.

                  The pacing in this segment is slow by Hollywood standards, but true to life. Ozu allows scenes to play out at a natural place. The conversational dialogue doesn’t feed plotlines to the viewer, nor does it hurry the story along. The characters exist as real people, interacting in a real world. For example, when Shukichi is watching his wife and grandson from inside the house, the longshot of the two characters isn’t cut short to move the film along. We are shown everything that Shukichi would have seen: his grandson runs back and forth, picking blades of grass and keeping to himself as Tomi paces along with him. Ozu’s use of slow, natural pacing brings us further into 1953 Japan, and helps bring the story to life.

                  In conclusion, this scene was a definitive moment in the film, in regards to story development as well as filmmaking technique. It is a prime example of Ozu’s mastery of intentional editing and cinematography, conveying strong emotion and realism. Within a few minutes, this scene succeeds in introducing the generally dismissive attitude of the family, the disappointing nature of the grandparents’ trip to Tokyo, and the grandmother’s poor health. This kind effective cinematic storytelling is prevalent throughout the entire film. It brings the story to life in a way that is universally relatable and reminds viewers to appreciate their family while they can.

 

Cody Duer – Close Viewing

Cody Duer
1/17/2015
Eye of the Story
Close Viewing
In this day and age, visual storytelling has become a part of our daily lives. From movies and tv shows, to videos on social media and video sharing websites. With such an easy access to watching a movie, we tend to forget how the information that we get is presented. So far in class, we have watched 6 different movies. And each movie has its story and each had their own way of presenting their information. The reason why this is important because visual techniques help emphasize emotions during movie.
In Week 1, we watched the movie Do The Right Thing directed by Spike Lee. The movie centers around Mookie and an his neighborhood in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year. As the heat rises, tension builds between the characters until their hate is released in a violent turn of events. Visually, the movie use a lot of red in the scene, mostly used in the environment surrounding the characters. Combine the use of warm color pallets and and the visual ques of people sweating all help emphasize the day being extremely hot. So as the story plays along, the subtle hints of heat help reinforce the constant tensions and emotions. Another use of visual technique is with the character Radio Raheem. Throughout the whole movie, Raheem uses his size to impose on other people. Though the character is already a tall man, but it was emphasized even more with the use low angle and high angle shots. High angle shots are when the camera is placed high and pointed below horizon level, meanwhile low angle shots are when the camera is placed low and pointed about horizon level. High and low angles are used in back and forth shots when Raheem talks with other people. When someone is talking to Raheem, a high angle shot is used to give the illusion that the character is shorter than they are. When Raheem is speaks, a low angle shot is used to give the illusion that he’s taller.
Unlike Do The Right Thing, Smell Of Burning Ants was a composite of found footage spliced together to give the illusion that it was purposely film as a documentary, or at least that’s how I interpreted it. Two reasons gave me the idea that it was suppose to be a documentary was the narration of the film and the occasional shot of a camera guy. The main visual technique that’s used in this movie is the obvious slicing of found footage to make a new narrative. And what helps tie all the footage together is that each shot was in black and white. The other reason why I believed that it’s suppose to be a documentary is because of the narrative audio, describing the life of an adolescent boy. Although the audio is not a visual technique, it really helps ties all the shots together. Without the video, the audio just becomes a spoken poem. Without the audio, the video becomes a random mix of found footage.
Gently Down The Stream, just like The Smell Of Burning Ants, uses found footage to create a narrative. And just like Burning Ants, Gently Down The Stream has a blue filter on it’s footage to help tie each shot together. Unlike all the other movies we have watched, this movie had no audio and the narrative was given through text etched into the film itself. Also unlike the other movies we watched, the story is not straight forward. The story is vague, if you can even call it a story. It’s more poetic or random thoughts put together to provoke emotions. As I do not remember what was written on the movie exactly, but I do remember some of it being sexual related and thus spurring emotions. The content of the videos had a theme in itself, each shot had water in them. Some shots of a woman rowing, dipping into a swimming pool, and shots of an ocean from different locations. How this ties together the overall content of the movie I’m not sure, but visually it has it’s own artistic signiture.
The D Train, another movie using found footage! What makes this one unique is the pace of the move and that it had no verbal or written narrative. But without a verbal or written narrative, the movie was put together well enough that a narrative can be taken in. Also unlike the other movies, a filter was not applied to the movie as a whole. In short, the movie is about an old man’s physical journey on a train to a park while remembering his life. From childhood to adulthood. This movie is interesting because of its pace. Every shot had vigorous motion in it, people danced, people ran around, rides in motion at a carnival, even a time laps of a plant growing. Visually, the movie did a good job showing the business of the old man’s life while in the “present” everything is rather calm yet still moving. What helps give off the feel of an active movie is the music. The music can be described as face pace and upbeat, the energy given off from it reinforces the vigorous activities shown in the movie.
As movies are becoming a popular media of storytelling, more and more techniques are being used to convey story. And with an artistic touch, these techniques can be used to emphasize emotions. Do The Right Thing techniques help emphasize heat, anger, and even the height of Radio Raheem. Smell Of Burning Ants, Gently Down The Stream and The D Train uses found footage to create a story. In addition to visuals, sound and music help reinforce the information and emotions being conveyed during the movie.

Jarrod Tallman – “Pacing, Motion and Making Meaning in Two Experimental Films” – 16.01.21

I’d like to take a look at two films using a dichotomic model to explore pacing, motion and meaning in cinema: Jay Rosenblatt’s “The D Train” and Su Friedrich’s “Gently Down the Stream.” Both films have some base similarities, the most obvious of which is their experimental attitude. While “The D Train” certainly follows a very linear and traditional plotting, its use of found footage results in a heavy metaphorical form of communication that gives it its experimental quality. Su Friedrich’s piece, “Gently Down the Stream,” on the other hand, contains hardly any traditional narrative methods; and it is certainly debatable whether it possesses any narrative qualities at all, at least in terms of the way pure poetry and pure narrative might occupy different ends of the spectrum within a particular paradigm.

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The elusiveness of “Gently Down the Stream” makes it the more difficult of the two films to approach critically, for no better reason than that, I’m going to start there.

“Wander through / large quiet / rooms.” That is the first, and perhaps most easily apprehended, part of Friedrich’s film, “Gently Down the Stream.” Those words float, barely moving, but the pacing of the edit is fast, and with the snap of the first cut, like a taut rubber band let loose from a finger, the film launches, without so much as a sound, into a competitive melee for my attention. Flickering images, dancing words, blown out whites and crushed blacks, it’s all so extreme, especially the motion.

The film ranges from moving at a seizural pace to being frozen in time. It is almost pure motion­. The three most distinguishable elements of motion would be: the text; the images on the film (which includes images captured by the camera as well as various scratches, alignment marks, etc.); and third, the kinetic pacing from the editing. None of these elements operate in isolation, and are often at odds with each other.

Overall, it is difficult to determine a definitive rhythm or structure in the language of the film’s editing. At the beginning there is an off-beat visual rhythm: white, textured words flash sequentially over a black screen; followed by a slipping, jumping, pausing image of The Virgin Mary. This visual pattern repeats twice before the words begin to slip, too; the word “think” begins to slip. Then a woman shouts in white letters: “Why do you come here and spoil everything?” I’m beginning to sympathize with her. The rhythm is disrupted, the mid-sentence of changed have parameters form the. Exactly. What I said was, the parameters of the form have changed mid-sentence. The only thing I am sure of at this point is that any meaning I was beginning to form based on the language of the edit, its pacing and rhythm, is gone––and there’s still ten more minutes to go. In short, the film’s pacing and rhythm is constantly disrupted throughout the film, and the language of the edit never seems to establish the level of consistency required for effective communication. If Friedrich has a secret method behind her editing decisions, a secret language, it feels like she’s doing her best to keep it to her self.

The next two elements of motion: the images that appear on the screen and the text, are tough to consider separately, which makes sense, since the text is itself an image, albeit a vastly different type of image compared to the geometric shapes and live action. Because of this difference, which is too nuanced to indulge in this paper, the text tends to compete with those other images when occupying the same space within the screen. The text certainly screams for my attention in these instances, jumping around and waving wildly, but it doesn’t always get it. There’s a particular instance where a white square takes up about three-fifths of the screen and is positioned in the upper right corner. It just sits there, motionless, while very nervous and scratchy words flash across the bottom left corner. A similar composition appears at least a couple other times, but with live action: a woman on a rowing machine and a woman getting in to a swimming pool. Each time this dueling composition appears, maniac text versus stationary image, I choose the calm image, I ignore the text––as best as I can anyway. There’s just so much motion: the dust particles, the freeze frames, the gate slips, the arrhythmic edits, the white flashes and black voids; every time I’m given the chance, I gravitate toward the stationary, a welcome relief from the anxiety of all those nervous words. Does Friedrich want anyone to apprehend her film? It’s certainly hard to catch.

When the images or the text do occupy the screen independently, there’s a certain amount of access granted, but the lack of context, the lack of limits imposed by the filmmaker, make it tough and tiresome to create meaning.

On the independent film streaming service Fandor, the logline for Su’s film reads:

GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM can be described about as easily as you can hold on to a handful of water.

I don’t know who wrote it. Usually, the filmmaker supplies that sort of thing. If that’s true here, then if one wants to speak of intentionality in the case of Su Friedrich’s “Gently Down the Stream,” the film’s chaos, generated in no small part by the intense motion, is perhaps the most obvious candidate for subject matter.

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Even though “The D Train” deserves its experimental label, Jay Rosenblatt’s film can certainly serve as a representative for more traditional film techniques in this dichotomic presentation. Rosenblatt’s editing techniques are subtle and predictable, thus less noticeable and effortlessly understandable. Jay doesn’t just speak to the viewer in a language most people can understand, he invites them in to his world, offers up his own comfy seat, brings a tray of tea and cookies, and says, “Stay a while.”

At its most basic level, this film is about moving through life; there is a kinetic energy in each shot and every edit that moves us through a life. One of the more prominent aspects of Rosenblatt’s use of motion in “The D Train” is the use of live action with motion that simultaneously contributes to both the form and the content of the film. There are two main motion-based shots whose repeated and predictable appearance creates a rhythm of anticipation and fulfillment that helps to establish a major “progression through life” theme, providing a context for the other shots and giving the film its potential for meaning. The first of these, which is central to the main plot, is the old man’s train ride, where the world whizzes by outside the windows, like the moments of his life. Literally, he is moving from point A to point B, from the station to a park bench; symbolically: from conception to death. The other shot is a pedestal up shot, or an elevator shot, inside of a business complex. This shot is used to symbolically represent major life shifts, bookending “stages of life” montages made from touching representational images and the occasional metaphorical shot or two. For instance, we see all those parachuters, who look vaguely or quite like an army of sperm, before the arrival of the car baby. Then: ped up, “Next floor: toddler time.” Crawl, push your sister, piss off your mom, jump in a pool, swim underwater; then, ped up and your mowing the yard with your dad and other Rockwell-esque life events. How does it go: First come loves, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage? All packaged nice and neat between a ped up elevator shot. “Next floor: grandchildren.”

Eventually, the montages reach the top floor, there’s nowhere left to go. The train pulls into the depot. We are back in the present. Our hero has arrived at point B, the park bench, the last stop. The reflection ends, reality sets in, check your watch, your time is up; clean up the fallen leaves, there will be more.

It’s definitely worth noting here, too, that Rosenblatt uses several shots with motion in the action to evoke a particular climate. The group of people sliding down the giant slide, the merry-go-round, the carousel, all these shots have a fantastic kinetic energy that emotes a blissful feeling and sense of freedom. The success of these shots to communicate such a particular feeling depends, at least in part, on limits set by the filmmaker that define the fictional world of the film.

All in all, the use of kinetic pacing and motion in Friedrich’s film feels like obscurantism, a device to keep her secrets secret; while Rosenblatt seems to use kinetic pacing and motion to clarify and compliment his story.

Movie Viewing/ Vairea

Vairea Houston

Close Movie Viewing

1/21/16

Perchance by Caryn Cline

 

I decided to take a closer look at Caryn’s short found footage film that was shown last Thursday. To me this film is about controlled environment, the kind of environment we are used to being brought up in. We are used to our day to day activities, especially as a child. Here his activities are being woken by his mother and attending school. We see the playground where he attends school and then the classroom where he has a certain routine. He naps and that’s when he dreams about his time at the beach. I can’t decide if this is a dream or an actual experience that he may have had.

Symbolism:

The beach is a freeing place to him. We see him smile as he is dreaming of the beach and the sounds of the water lapping on the beach is heard as the background sound. He seems to think fondly of the beach with a smile so clearly spread across his face. Water is symbolically known to represent our emotions that ebb and flow from us, reminding us to control our cycle. Water is never far from us and is often shown in stories to help people find their way home. The sounds of water have a calming effect. Used often for meditation. The sound of water is used in this film while the boy is deep in thought.  He picks up a giant shell from the wet sand. Maybe he feels confined like the shell, stuck in the sand. Or maybe he is jealous of the shell because it is able to stay with the water, free. It is said that dreaming of seashells is interpreted as physical, mental, and emotional protection, usually of oneself. Therefor, he dreams of being in a free environment and finds solace at the beach with the water and the seashells.  When the teacher sentences the children to sleep in class the boy raises his palm in the air and it immediately flashes to when he held the seashell in his hand. This particular image is of great significance to me because of how perfectly the two different clips align to represent the feeling of the shell in his hand. Dreams hold a very powerful meaning and can usually lead the dreamer to what they really desire. The life he dreams of is of him younger (based on the longer hair he had and younger face on the beach) with a much more carefree feeling. He runs along the beach exploring the beach and the sea creatures he finds along the way. The ability to explore is another aspect of being free. He dreams of the ability to be free enough out of his normal day to day routine to be the boy on the beach. The seagull that is pictured so majestically in this film (with it’s slow view over the length of it’s body) is prevalent here. Seagull is a poor name because they can actually thrive in fresh and salt weather areas. This speaks about their opportunity, resources, and adaptability. They move to where the best food is, scavenging in unknown areas. Many people deny their opportunities because they feel too safe in their comfort zone. We could think of seagulls as creatures that fly out of their comfort zone and take risks with the goal of finding better conditions for our well-being. The word “gull” comes from “gullible” because the seagull swallows anything it can fit. You may take this away as, do we swallow everything we hear or see? We should recognize rather than blindly follow without further questioning.

The Era:

The footage appears to be from the 1950’s. We glimpse his mother waking him up from school. She is dressed like a 1950’s housewife in the dress and bob haircut. On his bedside table is a radio similar to an old Winchester from the 1950’s. The classroom had old style desks and the teacher appears to be from the era as well with the vintage seaming haircut and dress. The 1950’s were a time of suburban living and women were urged to stay at home and become housewives. Magazines and articles published advice urging women to leave the workforce and stay home and rear children. Women become more and more dissatisfied. There was a lot of tension at this time not only with the oppression of women but also of blacks. This era was mostly about “controlled environment” and keeping everyone to their day to day activities so as not to let anyone speak out against their dissatisfaction. The boys life is divided by his free life with the sand between his toes and the other is controlled by the confinements of his everyday routine.

I see this film as a boy dreaming of an environment that allows him to be free. He wants to spend his days running across the sand and explore the unknown world ahead of him. The seagull symbolizes his want of exploration. The seashells symbolize the protection and fondness he feels of the water and beach. I think that the boy is living in the 1950’s, a very controlled era at the time, confined to very minimal thoughts. We see some of his day to day sights and activities, a strict time to wake up, to nap, to study, to play. Everything is controlled. Therefor he dreams in class of the beach and holding seashells. This film reminds me to find better conditions for my own well being. To not constrict myself to normalcy. Being free is an important aspect of living. To be confined is to live a harder life. There is a part of all of us that wants to be free and extradite ourselves from confined society and be like the seagull, free to fly away. It reminds me not to follow the crowd, the idea of nonconformity. A specific scene in the clip shows on the lower half of a man dressed in a suit and tie. This is most likely an image of the boy’s father. It is who he could become one day. He has the choice to choose his path, he could either be the free seagull or the confined man in the tight suit. So, do we conform to society or explore our own path?

 

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The Evergreen State College
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