Monday, May 9, 2011

class assignment - writing style

Zooming through space.

In the first paragraph, address the content of the article: what do you think are its most interesting points? What do you most agree (or disagree) with? And in the second paragraph, write some remarks on the writer's style. How would you describe their writing style? What are some sentences or phrases that stand out to you, and why?

I think the most interesting point of this article is the the personal tie to my art and newfound zoom technology...
i recently just realized how beautiful the motion of zoom is, to capture something up close with the smallest intimate details then pan out and capture the bigger picture.
i also thought it was interesting that 'zooming' has had its popular and unpopular times in history and has bounced back and forth.. the way it can give an improvisational feel or an optical rhythm just shows the great range that the use of zoom can give...
i like the way he writes but sometimes it doesn't flow that easily for me... he seems very excited and wanting to give a lot of information about the subject but if it was split up and categorized a little better i think it'd flow better. but he is very very descriptive and gives a ton of information without me having to use another source to find out more facts..
"The Tarkovskyan zoom is spirit, breath (the zoom's movement into the landscape echoes the mysterious wind that blows across the field near the beginning of the film). It realizes the promise of photography: unmooring perception from space. At the same time, it insists on the earth and its presence."
this is personally my most favorite quote in the article because it gives me so much inspiration as an artist, cinematographer, and photographer... i like the way he describes the use of zoom as something more than just a technique but as its own art form. it gives it that much more of an artistic meaning..

by kasey hartsock



Quentin Tarantino became an overnight success as a writer and director when his film Reservoir Dogs premièred at the Sundance film festival nineteen years ago. His unique and reliable style has led him to become one of Hollywood’s best know and revered independent writers/directors of our time. Tarantino’s style incorporates nonlinear storylines and exaggerated cult, TV and film clichés. He also samples and blends a range of cultural heritages and film genres. Tarantino’s eclectic familiarity with music allows him to pick and pull from a broad spectrum musical periods and musicians. Tarantino’s masterful use of dialoged is the glue of that binds his films together, applying dialog thickly and stretching it out, imparting tension and depth in his scenes.

Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, to separated parents. He moved to California when he was a child and was raised by his mother. Tarantino first got involved with acting in his drama classes in Junior. High School and continued them through high school. Tarantino dropped out of high school to attend acting school at the James Best Theatre Company. Later Tarantino worked at The Video Arcade and movie rental shop where he spent the majority of his time critiquing and discussing films with his co-workers and customers. Recently when asked if he went to film school, Tarantino remarked, “No, I went to films.” It’s no doubt that the hundreds of hours Tarantino spent watching and discussing films while working at the Video Arcade helped to develop the style prevalent in his films.

After the success of his first film, Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino was approached to work on numerous Hollywood projects, instead of jumping at the first opportunity that came he opted to continue work on his own screenplay “Pulp Fiction.” Directed by Tarantino, co-written by Tarantino and Rodger Avery, “Pulp Fiction” became a huge success when released in nineteen ninety-four. Like most of Tarantino’s films “Pulp Fiction” takes a non-liner path throughout its American crime story line:

1. Prologue—The Diner (i)

2. Prelude to "Vincent Vega and Marseilles Wallace's Wife"

3. "Vincent Vega and Marseilles Wallace's Wife"

4. Prelude to "The Gold Watch" (a—flashback, b—present)

5. "The Gold Watch"

6. "The Bonnie Situation"

7. Epilogue—The Diner (ii)

If the seven sequences were ordered chronologically, they would run: 4a, 2, 6, 1, 7, 3, 4b, 5. Sequences 1 and 7 partially overlap and are presented from different points of view; the same is true of sequences 2 and 6. In Philip Parker's description, the structural form is "an episodic narrative with circular events adding a beginning and end and allowing references to elements of each separate episode to be made throughout the narrative." Other analysts describe the structure simply as a "circular narrative"( Wikipedia).

This “circular narrative” style keeps Tarantino’s audience engaged and calculating for themselves. It also creates additional plot layers and nuances that allow for greater understanding of the film after it’s viewed multiple times. Many of Tarantino fans sight these plot layers and nuances as a reason for the director’s success.

At the end of the Prologue, Tarantino kick-starts his opening credits with one of the strongest dialogue into score transitions I have ever experienced. He moves from the character Honey Bunny’s line: “Any of you fuckin' pricks move and I'll execute every one of you motherfuckers”, and overlaps her last words with a remixed, amped up and modernized version of a traditional Greek song from the 1920’s Misirlou, preformed by Tim Rothh, Amanda Plummer/Dick Dalee & His Del-Tones. Tarantino skillfully, with the ease of the change of the dial, or in this case plugging an audio sample of an FM dial change, moves into "Jungle Boogie" by Kool & the Gang weaning his audience off the adrenalin of the last scene and preparing them for a windows-down car ride with Samuel Jackson and John Travolta. This scene is a great illustration of how Tarantino orchestrates a soundtrack that covers a gambit musical genre.

The dialogue in “Pulp Fiction” is signature Tarantino scripting. One of the subtle but consistent strategies that Tarantino employees, is excessive explanation or rudimentary descriptions. This often takes place between two characters in a personal exchange and functions as a verbal jockeying heightening the ambient tension in the air. An example early in the film is the exchange between Samuel Jackson (JULES) and John Travolta (VINCENT) where Jackson is explaining what a

TV pilot is:

VINCENT “What's a pilot?”

JULES “Well, you know the shows on TV?”

VINCENT “I don't watch TV.”

JULES “Yes, but you're aware that there's an invention called television, and on that invention they show shows?”


JULES “Well, the way they pick the shows on TV is they make one show, and that show's called a pilot. And they show that one show to the people who pick the shows, and on the strength of that one show, they decide if they want to make more shows. Some get accepted and become TV programs, and some don't, and become nothing. She starred in one of the ones that became nothing.”

Tarantino not bound by traditional notations of film genre is free to make aesthetic choices that impart nostalgia in his audiences. He does so in a multitude of scenes in “Pulp Fiction.” When Vincent arrives at Mia’s house a prominent reel to reel stereo is in the background disorienting the viewer and creating a doubt as to the time period during which the movie takes place. This is buttressed by Vincent’s attire which could come from a multitude of time periods. This whole scene functions to slightly dislodge the viewer’s opinion of the era and transition them for the fifties dinner scene Picture 1.png

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Tarantino continues to sample a multitude of time periods throughout “Pulp Fiction.” Another great example is the scene with the taxicab that Butch escapes from after winning the fight which he was supposed to lose. We see the cab skid around a corner just as another car slams on its breaks. Looking at the car it is obvious that it is a modern to late 20th century car. Because Tarantino has subtly mashed up time periods in previous scenes, we as the viewer barely notice the absurdity of scene, but rather, subconsciously absorb the nostalgic film cliché of the 1920 “ish” cab ride and confession. Even the cabbie has a Hollywood cliché appearance.

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Many of these signature Tarantino stylistic approaches are found in his other movies. In the “Kill Bill Volume One,” Tarantino adopts and samples an even wider group of filmmaking styles. He uses strategies of Italian spaghetti westerns, Japanese chanbara films and Hong Kong martial arts films. The Mexican standoff is common scene in both volumes of “Kill Bill”. Tarantino takes this Hollywood cliché and adds a sense of parody to it. An early scene where Uma Thurman (The Bride) and Vivica A. Fox (Vernita Green) are engaged in a knife fight is a great example of the parody of the Mexican standoff. Excerpt from the screenplay:

The Bride backs up into the mess of the now totally demolished living room. The two woman stalk each other, each holding her blade, each looking like they know how to use it, each waiting for the other to make a mistake so they can plunge their blade deep into the other one. Blood and sweat drip off of the faces of the two women locked in life and death combat.........When the back kitchen door opens, and a FOUR-YEAR-OLD LITTLE GIRL, carrying a lunch box steps inside.

FOUR-YEAR-OLD GIRL Mommy, I'm home!

The two warrior women, whose eyes reflect only combat concentration, suddenly switch upon hearing the four-year old's voice. The Housewife's eyes flash a look of pleading to the eyes of The Bride. The Bride seems to answer back; "Okay." The Black woman and the white woman hide their edged weapons behind their backs, as the Four-Year-Old Little Girl walks into the newly destroyed living room.

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Again Tarantino throws the viewer a curve ball when he depicts the background of The Brides first target O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Lu) on her list of revenge killings. The narrator is not a different character, but rather the main character The Bride, in her voice we hear this dialogue as the scene is illustrated in a Japanese anima style:

It was at that age, a half-Chinese, half-Japanese American Army brat witnessed the murder of her Master Sergeant father. And the rape, then murder of her mother at the hands of Japan's most ruthless Yakuza boss, Boss Matsumoto. She swore revenge...luckily for her, Boss Matsumoto was a pedophile.

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The illustration flash back allows Tarantino to take a stylistic license embedding an epic nature to the circumstances surrounding the orphaning of O-Ren Ishii creating compassion and respect for Ishii’s antagonistic role. Another one Tarantino’s signature dialogue scenes appear when the narrator describes Ishii’s accent to the crime syndicate of Tokyo. An under boss has just spoken a grievance against Ishii during this aside scene:

O-REN “Silence! Of what perversion do you speak, Tanaka? “

BOSS TANAKA (JAPANESE) “I speak, Mistress Ishii,....of the perversion done to this council, which I love more than my own children, making a female half-breed Chinese American bitch its leader.”

Then... Faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket,... O-Ren's samurai sword is unsheathed... Boss Tanaka's head is liberated from its body... The head hits the floor... And from the spot between its shoulder blades, a geyser of blood shoots up in the air. The BOSSES who were shocked at Tanaka's words are even more flabbergasted at O-Ren's response.

O-REN I'm going to say this in English so you know how serious I am.

As your leader, I encourage you to -- from time to time and always in a respectful manner, and with the complete knowledge that my decision is final -- to question my logic. If you're unconvinced a particular plan of action I've decided is the wisest, tell me so. But allow me to convince you. And I will promise you, right here and now, no subject will be taboo...except the subject that was just under discussion.

O-REN (ENGLISH) The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or my American heritage as a negative is, I collect your fuckin head. (now completely American) Just like this fucker here. Now if any of you sonsabitches got anything else to say, now's the fuckin time.

O-REN (ENGLISH) I didn't think so. (pause) Meeting adjourned.Picture 15.png

Scenes like this and the previous animation allow Tarantino to develop his characters backgrounds in a way that is not possible in a linier story telling fashion.

As Tarantino’s films become more mainstream, the potential for them to become diluted increases. In the coming years it will be interesting to see how Tarantino handles his popularity. As for now though, Tarantino’s awareness and use of Hollywood clichés, his blending of popular culture and unrivaled score sensibility has allowed him to define himself, in crowded lineup, as one of the most revered of independent directors of our time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Directives for the Final Stretch

Between now and the final, there will be no more additional blog-posting assignments. Use the time to finish your final projects, and to catch up on any blog-posting assignments you haven't completed yet.

Recommended Viewing/Reading, related to Walkabout

Clips from a documentary on the Yolgnu actor David Gulpilil:

Gulpilil (who was known as an accomplished dancer), performing some traditional dances:

Two articles on, and a review of, a multimedia theatrical "re-imagining" of Walkabout:

Tom Block, "The Face on the Barroom Floor"

I chose to write about this article because I think that Tom Block has a sincere, realistic take on depictions of violence. He talks about the prevalence of violence in film and television, noting that despite its popularity, violence is rarely depicted in a way that affects us as it should. He points out that film directors seem to care more about the number of deaths in a film than about how much impact a single act of violence can have on an audience. A pile of corpses won’t even make us flinch if we are not shown the real ugliness that it takes to put someone in that state. Block believes that the entire point of depicting gruesome violence should be to show us how terrible and sickening that side of humanity can really be, and yet that point is usually glossed over by the highly dramatized fight scenes found in films, so that we are left with violence without any substance.

Block’s writing style is fairly straightforward and casual; he makes his point without coming off as long-winded or disinterested. Here is a phrase I found interesting: “Our contemporary filmmakers tend to care only about body counts, without ever following through on their punches or actually affecting us emotionally with their maimings and gorings, which is surely the only legitimate excuse for such bedlam to begin with. In Chinatown we never quite recover from seeing Jack Nicholson’s nostril bisected by Polanski’s switchblade before the movie is barely a quarter old, while in Die Hard and the Bruckheimer movies bodies are stacked up like cordwood, yet no one in the audience thinks of choking on their popcorn. It’s unreal.” This sort of writing is really engaging because it feels like Block is giving his sincere opinion on the subject, without dressing it up or down.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Final Project

For the final project I would like to do an installation/sort-of performative piece that responds to the question does art/cinema need the real. Throughout this class we have watched such an eclectic mix of films and I have been thinking about this question quite a bit. My goal is to be able to give my answer to this question through this piece.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Film Blog Examples

Required Reading/Writing

For this week's assignment, I want you to pick ONE reading from the below list of online articles on film. None of these articles are directly related to the film we watched today -- they are simply examples of what I think is good writing on film. I'm hoping they can provide you with inspiration on ways of writing about or dealing with film -- none of them are really "academic" or "book-report-y," they just show writers who have an interesting perspective, and who are genuinely engaged with their subject matter. Hopefully it will provide some inspiration for your final project. There is no common theme among the writing, and they show various styles, and also various uses of still and film clips, to make their arguments.

Before next week's class, I want you to read one of the below articles, and write a two-paragraph response to the article on the class blog. In the first paragraph, address the content of the article: what do you think are its most interesting points? What do you most agree (or disagree) with? And in the second paragraph, write some remarks on the writer's style. How would you describe their writing style? What are some sentences or phrases that stand out to you, and why?

Here are the articles:

Tom Block on depicting violence:

"Arbogast on Film" on subtext in the 50s "giant bug" horror film Tarantula:

Mike D'Angelo on Spielberg's suspense technique in Jaws:,45876/

David Bordwell Jackie Chan's action-film editing, versus the lackluster action editing in a late James Bond flick:

Outlaw Vern on the absurdities of Tron Legacy:

The "Self-styled Siren" on Paul Newman's acting career:

Chris Fujiwara on the use of the zoom in different films: