Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Finding Nemo" throughout a Three Act Structure

The classic Hollywood structure for a film is the “three act structure.” This typical structure seen in almost every film is contrasted by Shakespeare’s tragic structure in which consists of downfall stories. The three act structure conveys triumph stories that rely epic morals and “feel good” sensations. In the three act structure, everyone knows the story will end is a good resolution even with it’s building anticipation. This structure consists of a first, second, and third act - with the climax more towards the end. In the classic Pixar film, Finding Nemo, Pixar relies heavily on the three-act structure. However, despite its rigid appeal to structure, Finding Nemo is still refreshing and stunning. Finding Nemo proves that Hollywood’s typical style can be creative and complex.
In the first act of Finding Nemo the story of Marlin and Nemo is set up. The inciting incident is the event in which literally hooks the audience’s attention. The inciting incident happens at 14’ to 30’ into the film. This occurs when Nemo wanders into deep water and is captured by divers. Within this first act, the audience senses the strain on the father-son relationship – Nemo and Marlin – for Marlin is too overprotective. This first act is the introduction to the film and the rest of the first act Marlin is trying to solve the problem of finding his son. The first act sets up the protagonist – Marlin. The first act also strategically places a plot point into the film – Nemo is captured so how will Marlin save him? The mini climax occurs when Marlin decides to go after his son into the deep blue ocean.

The plot point of the first act is the transition to the next act – act two. This act rises to complications into which is rising action. Over the next hour (30’ to 85’). Marlin, our new protagonist, is caught in a whirlwind of the new surroundings of the new world. Act two escalates the stakes of the film. In this rising action, Marlin must commit to the finding of his son – at this moment he cannot return. While rising action of Marlin and Dory fighting the sea partake, the major plot point two exists when Darla (the dentist’s niece who loves to torment fish) arrives; Nemo is stuck to play dead. However, his father thinks he is dead. This plot point (at 70’) turns the film into hopelessness by thinking Marlin failed. The mini climax takes place when the audience learns that Nemo is not dead and is flushed down the sink. Interesting, however, Marlin in the second act learns to take control of his future. This is a key point of the second act – in which Marlin’s character is building just as the action is building.

The mini climax propels the action into the third act when Nemo escapes. The third act partakes just at the point when it seems all is failed. The climax (at 85’) is the thrilling chase between father and son. Nemo is searching for his dad only to find out that Dory is caught in a fish net. The climax takes on when Marlin learns to trust his son to save Dory.  The third act also consists of a resolution (at 92’) – when Marlin is reunited with Nemo for life. This resolution is the “feel good’ moment of the film that makes the three act structure worthwhile.

The three-act structure gives the audience that sense of closure to a film. It gives the audience the peace that although their emotions went through a whirlwind of torment, they have resolution that everything worked out okay. In each act of Finding Nemo, a question was asked, and then answered in the next act. Although Finding Nemo had a fresh new take, Pixar strategically used the three-act structure to capture the attention of audiences for years to come.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sitcom Structure

When I flop on the couch to watch TV I want something I can expect. I want something I just can release my daily constraints onto. I want some comic relief. Modern sitcoms have intentions to free people from daily stress. People want to come home to a stress-free environment – watch television to give them some humor, comic relief, and some sense of structure in their life. The sitcom structure can attest to that. The storyline is straightforward. We know there will be humor. We know that although there is conflict - everything will be okay. We know that there will be mini-resolutions.
These mini resolutions are key to the impact of sitcoms. In the midst of these mini-resolutions, the sitcom is amusing but it gives the sitcom moral support. It persists to impact the viewer in a positive way. These mini-resolutions are typically juvenile but teaches the audience valuable lessons. It persists to take the structure of the sitcom in full circle – from beginning to end. It takes the audience into little mini shows that don’t take thought to watch. Typically, one doesn’t have to update on the previous episodes to understand the story in the next episode. These mini-resolutions are refreshing. They are exactly what the audience wants – a stress-free and comical environment that everyone can relate to on a daily basis.
The original ABC show “Full House” advocated the sitcom structure. “Full House”, although cliché, offered viewers daily lessons that everyone can partake in. “Full House” gives mini-resolutions in every episode. In a recent re-run of “Full House,” a Tanner sister decides to borrow her sister’s sweater but spills mustard on the sweater. The rising action exists when Stephanie is debating about telling DJ, her older sister, about the stain. Some comical relief takes place in the middle of the show, but in the end, a mini-resolution exists. Such as that Stephanie tells her older sister yet instead of anger and resentment, forgiveness takes place. The resolution of her sister forgiving her takes place – the cheesy lesson is molded into the audience’s minds. Each episode has similar structures – rising action, resolution, and then lesson. Each episode gives that mini-resolution and lesson that implies to everyone, which makes “Full House” so appealing because everyone can relate.
This structure of the sitcom can ultimately lead to success. Its mini-resolutions despite their cheesiness are something relatable. It provides that structure in people’s lives. It provides comical relief, yet provides the lessons of moral much needed in society.

Below is a clip from "Full House" I could not embed it because of technical difficulties. This clip proves "Full Houses" sitcom mini-resolutions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shots have Power!

Shots in movies can be huge motivators of emotional impact in people. Shots can not only convey orientation, information, and important detail but have a way of grasping the attention of the audience. They have a way of provoking joy, tears, or fear in the emotions of the people. Shots are key to making an awarding winning film – strictly based on the power of shots. Shots have the power to make or break a film. Shots are critical to emotion.
            In Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg is a master mind in creating shots that capture the attention and emotions of the audience.  In the beginning scene from “Saving Private Ryan,” Spielberg uses a long shot, low angle shots, close up shots, and medium close-up shots to support the emotional appeal in his story.
            Spielberg uses a long shot in the very beginning combined with a high angle shot to give the retired captain a powerless, hopeless feel. The captain is walking in an Arlington National Cemetery and the camera pans to him walking by himself surrounded by gravestone crosses. This camera shot adds an emotional appeal. It proves the captain is feeling hopeless surrounded with painful memories. The high angle gives him a feeling of less power.

            Spielberg also uses close up shots to give important detail to what the viewer needs to know. The viewer needs to know that the soldiers are scared and shaking. Spielberg uses a close up shot to show that their hands are shaking with fear as the solider opens his water canteen. This gives the audience a more shocking and chilling reaction to the film.

          He also uses medium close ups to portray the emotion that the characters feel. These shots conform the emotions of the characters. They go from general to specific. They convey relationship shots with the other soldiers. One of the shots is that the camera dollys from one to solider to the other showing their relationships with one another and the emotions they are battling with in terms of the future battle they are about to partake upon. Thus showing the intensity and fear in all of their faces. Another shot Spielberg used was a medium close of the captain in the cemetery to convey the sadness in his face and show the misunderstanding of his family members in the background. This shot exemplified relationship information.

           This key examples prove that shots HAVE POWER. Shots are the essence of a quality film. Shots can direct emotions to fear, joy, or sorrow.  They have the power to overcome one’s emotions and take one on a 2 hour journey. Shots – have power.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Star System

           The best form of promoting a film is attracting people to what they already know and enjoy. People don’t like change, they like consistency. When people find an actor or actress that they enjoy watching on the big screen, they often stick to watching them in all movies. When an actress or actor captures the hearts and imaginations of audiences, stardom prevails and stardom is the best Hollywood mechanism that can exist. Hollywood uses the stardom system to promote their films. When people are familiar with a star, they flock to see the film, typically without any information regarding the film. People just want to see their beloved star. The star system helped Hollywood grow extensively. Throughout the 1920’s through 1940’s, the overwhelming popularity of stars helped production companies sway their opinions on who to cast and what genres to cast the beloved stars in. Stars were the perfect, cost effective advertisements for their films. Stars made what Hollywood is today!
Even as Hollywood was just beginning to take off in the 1920s, so did people’s infatuation with the actor and actresses they were watching. Stardom existed early in Hollywood history. Even stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Rudolph Valentino were a big hit in the early 1920s. These stars were attracting audiences so quickly that studios were more concerned about who starred in their film than the film itself. Typically, the stars predicted the success of a film. Stars were also known for particular traits. Such as Judy Garland and Gene Kelly were known to sing and dance during their films. These type of actresses swayed studios to make more musical genre films. Studios conformed to whatever the genre their particular star was associated with in the early days of Hollywood. Warner Bros studio star Humphrey Bogart was associated with crime films. But as his stardom persisted and he developed a dedicated audience, Bogart changed audiences’ viewings from crime to gangster to detective only within a few years. This dedication of the audiences that people were not watching the film itself but people were watching him. Thus proving that the star system was a tangible way for studios to achieve success in their movies.
A good example a beloved star that changed history is Shirley Temple. Shirley Temple was a 20th Century Fox star that captured the hearts of all audiences. She was one the most popular child actresses of all time. She became the essence of superstardom – she could sing, dance, and act. She was an epic success to 20th Century Fox Studios. Fans adored her cheerful attitude and people were attracted to her innocence. Eventually 20th Century Fox sold millions of dollars worth of products that advertised her name. They sold dolls, records, clothing apparel, and more. She was the stable actress for 20th Century for many years in the 1930s. When MGM was casting Wizard of Oz, Fox refused to loan Shirley Temple out to the MGM studios. Shirley Temple was a tool for promotion to 20th Century Fox. She proved that the star system was tangible for studios of the early Hollywood age.
Beloved stars captured the hearts of the American people. Even modern Hollywood uses stars to sell tickets at the box office. People like consistency and familiarity. It’s a comfort that will always be in American film. Stars will always have an impact on the structure on the Hollywood studio system – stars are the essence and money of American film.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The New Family Unit?

Television has changed drastically throughout the decades. The influence that media has on society wants to change as well. In the 1970s family-based TV sitcom “All in the Family,” Archie Bunker represents a typical father figure of the decade. Archie is a typical outspoken racist who seemingly voices his opinion to anyone willing to take it. “All in the Family’s” idea was to recreate the typical American household of the time – a household that involved racism and discord. This portrayed family life style influenced the way 1970s family units modeled as “normal.”
However, only a few years later, TV producers wanted to portray a typical family without the racism and conflict. They wanted to reverse the negative influence TV had on families. They created an award-winning TV sitcom called “Everybody Loves Raymond.” This show portrayed the perfect family model. The Barone family had conflict, however, they were not wrought with racism and sexism. The Barone family modeled that all conflict can be resolved in the end unlike the Bunker family in “All in the Family.” TV producers wanted to change the way America thinks about family. Of course families will have conflict! Of course families will not be perfect! But all families can work together as a uniform family unit and be successful.
“All in the Family” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” dealt with a similar concept – the family life. But each show demonstrated differently how the family unit should behave. The Bunker family proved racism and male dominance were normal if not vital in the family. The Ramone family proved that working together with similar interests was successful. The Bunker family was an exaggerated appeal of the typical American family in the 1970s. Modern sitcoms want to eliminate any exaggeration with family life. With the current studies of how easily media can influence behaviors, TV producers want to sway families into a more concrete family life style – that involves teamwork with the husband and wife.
TV producers want to show what families SHOULD look like in “Everyody Loves Raymond.” The Ramone family dealt with children, neighbors, and common everyday problems. They solved these problems with integrity but with added humor. On the other hand, the Bunker family dealt with racism, injustice, political matter, or “everyday problems.” However, the Bunker family didn’t solve these problems with integrity but rather a swayed biased family unit that added further strain to the family unit. Both shows dealt with “everyday problems” but both shows handled the situations very differently.

This clip from "Everybody Loves Raymond" proves that a family unit without conflict can actually exist....