Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Notorious - more in-depth paper

[Oh, what the hell - here is my original draft, featuring more of the film, which was too long for the assignment. I had some extenuating circumstances at the time, so I was granted the opportunity to rewrite it and bring it in at exactly three double-spaced pages. I still think there's some good stuff in this version, and the two posts serve as examples of expanding my scope or limiting it.]

The first part of the analysis -- the cellar scene -- can be seen here, starting at the 6:09 mark (though I recommend watching from the beginning).

The second part of the analysis -- the bedroom scene -- can be seen here, ending at the 2:13 mark.

Notorious - scene breakdown

[I wrote this about a year ago. I had a longer version that I felt was more fully realized, but the professor was strict on keeping it to three pages, even though we had to cite three outside sources, which I'll include in the notes.]

In Notorious (1946), Alfred Hitchcock at times burdens the film with flourishes of camerawork that threaten to distract from the more assured and subtle direction in other significant moments of the story. Hitchcock and his director of photography Ted Tetzlaff create suspense through some gorgeous set pieces, yet other scenes feel didactic, the exposition unnecessary. In the pivotal sequence in which Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) realizes that his new bride Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) is an American agent, the style is too egregious to possibly work as a metaphor for the breaking of the deceitful veneers of the characters.

The Royal Tenenbaums - scene breakdown

[I wrote this for a critical studies class in 2006. It's longer than what I've posted before, due to the required length. I believe the assignment was just to break down any scene in a film, without citing any outside work.]

The sequence during The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) wherein Richie attempts suicide illustrates the power of matching style and substance together. The scene is effective dramatically not only because its tone and approach capture the unique reality of the moment, but also because its structure is strikingly different from that of the rest of the film. This abrupt break in style (particularly of editing) lends a super-natural quality to the event, which of course fits the emotional content of the character’s action as well as marks a critical shifting of the plot. Close analysis of this dynamic technique will reveal the method in which structure adds to the meaning of the scene.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Take Shelter

The new film Take Shelter begins as a simple but intriguing character study of Curtis (Michael Shannon in an award-caliber performance), a blue-collar family man plagued by disturbing visions of a coming storm. It develops into an engrossing family drama and a commentary on how systemic socioeconomic problems can worsen the stigma of mental illness – all while the film builds a sense of measured dread and uncertainty as to what might happen. It’s as if David Lynch and Terrence Malick were equal influences on writer/director Jeff Nichols.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the new “cancer comedy” 50/50, based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer and its effects on his relationships, and the actor is an ideal choice: he has built up audience goodwill with his roles in the last few years, so that we’re naturally inclined – beyond the usual interest afforded a protagonist – to want to see him be well, even as he struggles with his loved ones. Though the film’s title is taken directly from some internet research that Gordon-Levitt’s character Andy does on his chances with the rare form of spinal cancer he’s diagnosed with, it can be also be thought of the way in which this psychological burden might be shared with those close to him.