Beautifully, almost as if it were meant to be, this weeks movie and focus in Textual Crossings (my lit class) was The Black Dahlia and adapting prose, and how sometimes it just doesn’t work. The main focus throughout Textual Crossings has been about looking at how the story world of certain narratives can be manipulated and extended so as to allow for new narratives to be told. Essentially, the backbone to any adaptation or cover is the want or need by the creator to extend from the original story world.
Sometimes this does not always work out, and this weeks screening focused on that using Brian De Palma’s 2006 The Black Dahlia in which the narrative of the original story becomes convoluted and confused as it weaves in and out of original, with a heap of super unhelpful casting choices and non-sensemaking plot lines leaving the audience completely baffled, exhausted from trying to keep up and bored senseless by Scarlett Johansson.
A simple google of ‘The Black Dahlia and why it’s the worst movie ever’ gave me this WONDERFUL piece, including all you need to know about the movie which I will put here:
The Black Dahlia is based on the novel by Elmore LeonardJames Ellroy, which centers around a true crime unsolved mystery that occurred in Hollywood in 1947 when a young would-be actress was found gruesomely murdered. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart play two Los Angeles detectives who become increasingly obsessed with the case. There’s some kind of love triangle between them and Aaron Eckhart’s girlfriend Scarlett Johansson. Then Josh Hartnett sleeps with Hillary Swank. Something else happens. Aaron Eckhart is murdered when he is trying to murder Scarlett Johansson’s ex-boyfriend who got out of jail. Something. There’s…a clown painting. Josh Hartnett moves in with Scarlett Johansson and she asks him to fix a broken bathroom tile which is how he finds a bunch of secret money, so he sleeps with Hillary Swank again. Then something happens and I don’t know. He’s in a house? There was a porno and the porno was made in this shitty house and it turns out that Hillary Swank’s mom killed the would-be actress because she’s an alcoholic? She shoots herself and then later Josh Hartnett confronts Hillary Swank and she has an Academy Award you know, for best acting? And he shoots her. Because something happened. He was like “did something happen?” and she’s like “yes,” and he shoots her for it. Then he goes back and Scarlett Johansson is always wearing a neglige because of World War II or whatever. The end.
Narrative is important, people.
Anyway, here’s a really bad rap song that plays in my head when I think about majoring in literature (lit) studies, have fun
Today Daniel spoke to us about narrative, and just how important causality is to the telling of a story.
|||EVERYTHING IS STORY ||| STORY IS EVERYTHING”|||
It was the lectorial I’ve found the most engaging so far, Daniel presented some really awesome videos to contextualise the concepts he presented. Especially after working on Project Brief 3 recently, and attempting to create a logical progression of events and ordered sequences to create a plausible narrative about someone, the difficulty of making a story flow as well as the importance of doing so became very evident.
Daniel described three important elements of causality
1. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
This takes time, a character cannot simply be dropped into a scene and the audience expected to know how or why they are there, or how they will affect the narrative. When new characters appear, Daniel described that there will often be an event that will establish some of the characters traits or their background – which allows the new character to emerge from a blank canvas and become a fully formed character to the audiences due to their reactions to said event. I had never really critically examined the way characters are introduced into narratives, but the way Daniel phrased this happening during the Lectorial made a lot of sense to me.. (When I’ve done all of my PB4 Annotated Bibliography readings and have some time to watch something guilt-free I’ll be sure to keep an eye out on how characters are introduced, and their development)
The chronological sequence of events within a narrative obviously contains the clues that allow an audience to submerge themselves into a story that they aren’t a part of – I guess that this is imperative to good storytelling.
The culmination of all of the preceding action. And how angry are you when you sit through a film for 2 hours and none of the problems presented are cleared up at the end and you’re expected to face the harsh light of day outside of the cinema and act like everything’s okay. It’s not. Maybe resolution is the most important element of narrative, to leave the audience with a good taste in their mouth.
A QUOTE FROM THIS WEEKS READING
“The stuff of story is alive but intangible” Robert Mckee, Story, p135
Humans have long since been motivated to pull apart a story to understand how and why they are made. Why do we do this? Daniel noted Aristotle as one of the oldest known literary critics, whose writing on narrative, matter, genre, theme, dictation, melody and spectacle among other things paved the way for literary criticism, and his writings are still of importance today. This made me realise how little I know, of Aristotle and his writings, maybe that’s something else I can look into when I have some free time.
At one point in the presentation Daniel compared the stories of religious figures such as Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad and Buddha as containing elements of the heroes journey, as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with A Thousand Faces, much like those found in modern pop culture references like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Star Wars.
A succinct summary of the heroes journey from The Hero With A Thousand Faces:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man”
Justin and I paired up, as per usual, for the class activity in which we plotted the emotional highs and lows of The Lion King, and then attempted to rate the characters according to prominence during each act of the movie. I struggled a little with the character prominence due to the amount of time it’s been since I saw the film, but the overall activity was great to do. At the end a few groups plotted their findings, across a range of different movies, on the board and they all followed a similar format, ranging from high emotional intensity to low over the course of the movie. I can’t think of a film off the top of my head which keeps the emotional intensity on high for the majority of the film but it would be exhausting to watch.
Daniel mentioned that there is no such thing as an original idea, only the re-telling of a story in a different way and it is this – the way a plot is told is the exciting part of story telling.. Is this another reference to post-modernism? The way stories are told follow certain themes or patterns which gives audiences an idea about what to expect, and if audiences can recognise the signs they will have some idea of what will happen in the unfolding of the narrative.
Daniel showed us Red Hot Riding Hood, Tex Avery’s 1943 cartoon re-make of the well know folktale. I thought this was a great example of different ways stories can be told, giving a re-imagination of time, place and characters.
Most of our workshop time was dedicated to working within our PB4 groups and starting to plan our approaches to this investigation. We were given some butchers paper and pens and given some time to just brainstorm ~ to think about our research area in broad terms and then begin to refine our topic area and discuss the way we would eventually present our project. The guidelines for PB4 aren’t defined definitely, I guess to allow groups to really focus on the various skills brought from each member, leaving presentation method up to interpretation so each group can choose a mode more suiting to their research.
Immediately, Alex, Julia and I knew we were going to make something film based, as that’s where their interests and skills lie ~ I was and am quite happy to do anything really because I’m not really sure where my skills lie at the moment and I’m not opposed to learning something new through this project brief.
We divided ourselves into 3 main areas of research
~THE INSTITUTIONS THEMSELVES~
We refined our collaborative contract in regards to our dispute resolution mechanisms ~ something I hope we don’t need to use ~ and we brainstormed our approach within the idea of using film. We came to the conclusion that perhaps a documentary or report style of film might suit our project as the more we thought about our areas of research, especially regulation, our research would best be shown through a filmic representation of facts. Perhaps using interviews with people within certain media institiutions would serve as a backbone for our facts, also to help the information flow a little more freely and break up perhaps just the sounds of our own voices.
We also begun our research on our annotated bibliographies which are due next week. We decided that perhaps we could split into our chosen areas of research within the huge and relatively vague banner of ‘institutions’, so Alex took over researching media institutions themselves(such as Disney), Julia took regulation and I went for audiences.
This weeks focus on sound has got me thinking about how sound effects what we hear. I really like lyrically poetic music, and the way certain lyrics can help to paint pictures or transport you to a completely different time or place. Although that’s a very personal thing that will differ person to person. So instead of using that as an example, I got thinking about things or places, other than music, which use sound to get a point across. So I look to radio. Obviously radio needs to utilise sound to even become more than a pen to paper thing, to become something that can be experienced by almost all. Radio is worldwide, but a program that really sticks out in my memory as being one that is edited in such a way that it draws you right into the story, the place, the people; is Triple J’s Hack program. “Shoving the J in journalism”, Hack is a half an hour show that runs every afternoon Monday-Friday, with each episode centring around 2-3 issues and delving into them. The show aims to focus on issues relevant to Australian youths and young adults and stands to be one of the better sound-based projects I’ve ever heard. So here’s todays, for an example of how background and archive sounds are used to transport the listener to where the stories are unfolding.
“Today we explore the parts of the Australian story… that we’re NOT proud of. We explore the meaning of the Cronulla Riots and our relationship with Indigenous Australia. With guest Joe Hilderbrand and Shannan Dodson.”
“Texts are the material traces that are left of the practice of the sense-making – the only empirical evidence we have of how other people make sense of the world.” – Brian Morris, week 7
What is a text, and what is textual analysis in media studies; and where does the textual analysis tradition come from? These are some of the questions Brian attempted to indulge us with the answers to throughout this weeks lecture. Textual analysis rose as the response to two concerns, 1) the study of effects (cause and effect) and, 2) a mid 20th century turn against the idea that everything is ‘good’, are there other ways we can look at certain texts?
It is through textual analysis that people can pull apart the cultural meanings and signs hidden within any one text. As Alan McKee said in 2003, “text” is just “a convenient term for all of the elements of culture”. It’s through all of this that we come to the understanding that textual analysis isn’t about determining whether or not any one text is right or wrong, but this form of analysis is more concerned with the methodology around what the text can do in the way of sense-making of the world it is produced.
Textual analysis relies on the assumptions humans make when they see certain signs or signifiers, and what these assumptions say about the person, and the world around them in which certain texts are made within.
Jasmine then talked to us about the affordances of sound. I thought that this was a great lecture about how important sound can be in telling or re-telling a story. I learnt a bit about aural semiotics and the way sound creates and gives perspective in a piece, determined by what sounds are granted priority through the use of figure, ground and field sounds.
Project Brief 3, a portrait of someone else. This project brief fell in line with some unprecedented life issues which, in turn, have left me here, late on a Sunday night, finishing up this assignment so as to hand in something I’m not 100% happy with just to reach a deadline. It’s my own fault, and I guess I’m glad I’m in this position now because I definitely don’t want to be in it again.
In my third Project Brief I used my housemate, Bianca, as my subject – she has an infectious energy that is unparalleled in most humans I meet. Enthusiastic, bubbly, open, she was next in line after my original subject had pulled out. But as soon as the cameras were on, her persona and voice inflections changed dramatically. This really threw a spanner in the works for my original idea, which was to have her tell a story, which I would play over a mix of found and original footage. This isn’t what happened because a lot of the conversation I ended up with, after a night and morning of filming were unusable. Even with the use of cheat sheets with reminder topics on them, what was left was just too much of my voice trying to lead the conversation. I had never factored in to my schedule that some people react differently in front of the camera and had left no time to re-film. I guess it’s just a lesson about collaboration; you can’t rely completely on others – because people are different. Working with someone means working around people’s weaknesses and finding their strengths – something I didn’t give myself enough time to do.
Up until this Project Brief I had just dismissed filming and editing as things I didn’t like to do, but this is only because I didn’t know how to do them. I have the ability to create pieces of media that I am proud of, even though I haven’t made that obvious in my work so far, and with a bit of time management and an open mind I will be able to learn the skills to create something exciting, original and ‘me’. Unfortunately Project Brief 3 wasn’t the one.
This week we had a chance to have a look at everyones PB3’s. Going around the room there was some seriously good work. Some stand-outs for me were Sally‘s insight into her friend Tom and Tim‘s PB3 about his Mum in which he seamlessly used the voice over technique I was hoping to use (but I failed miserably). We were also given a chance to critique and praise each others work in small groups by using the ‘hat’ system.
RED HAT: initial instinctual response
GREEN HAT: potential creative possibilities
YELLOW HAT: something you liked about the piece
BLACK HAT: negative response
Some of the feedback I gave Sally was: ~RED HAT~ the audio component of the piece really worked well, which complimented the fact that her project was about sound/music, also her found footage components really worked well. ~GREEN HAT~ Sally could have used more footage of Tom actually speaking to the camera because, the parts where we did see him speaking, it had the feeling of comfort or familiarity, obviously showing that his personality isn’t influenced negatively when in front of a camera (or on stage). ~YELLOW HAT~ the black and white effect given to Sally’s footage not only made the film flow well from original to found footage, but also shaded the piece nicely, giving it a feel of an old music documentary or something similar. ~BLACK HAT~ I honestly could not think of a black hat to give Sally’s PB3!
We were then divided ~randomly~ into our groups for our Project Brief 4 assignment! I was placed in a group with Alex and Julia, I’d never worked with either of these two before, but they also weren’t strangers so I’m really glad for the opportunity to get to know them a bit more and work with some new humans. We were given the media ‘idea’ INSTITUTIONS. So here goes.
This weeks lectorial was split into two parts, in the first we were told about library researching techniques. At first I wasn’t sure if this lecture would be beneficial at all ~ how hard can searching a data base be??? We’re digital natives right?! ~ but it actually was. I learnt a few handy skills relevant to searching specifically the RMIT Library database, skills I will use when researching future assignments.
We also then talked about collaboration, in preparation – I assume – for our PB4 in which we will be required to work in groups to present a media portrait of an IDEA. We talked about what collaboration can achieve, the strengths and limitations of collaborating, some tips for creating effective and successful collaborative projects and some approaches to it.
I thought that our Lectorial was interesting and it got me thinking about some collaborations I know and like. I’ve mentioned earlier about my love for music ~ especially hip hop ~ a genre in which collaborating in all of it’s forms is very evident. Whether that be rappers and DJ’s working together to create a song or album, artists working together with musicians to create video clips, posters or merchandise. So here are a few of my favourite hip hop inspired collabs…
^Kanye featuring Rakim, KRS-ONE, Nas and DJ Premier (2007)
^This band, One Day is made up of a bunch of m8s who are all in other bands like Horrorshow, Spit Syndicate, Jackie Onassis, and Joyride’s solo ventures. Works out alright, right?
Sound is so important to our consumption of media, and our creation of media. It’s is probably the most important element of tying together any story or edited piece of footage but is often forgotten about because it isn’t ~seen!. The thing is, when sound is done well, we don’t notice it but when it is missing from a piece or not perfected it is hard to look beyond. I am not musically talented in any way but sound is an imperative part of my days. There’s not a moment in my life that passes without me having a soundtrack playing in my headphones or my head. Music, and what is means to me and how it’s affected my life has been and will always be really important to me.
We were given a chance to experiment with a Zoom H2/N recorder during the second part of our workshop today. Justin and I went out into the world and had a play around. It was a great exercise to get out there and experiment with our levels and how outside noises can affect our end product. This is a big thing to think about heading into the production of our PB3, and how we’re going to need to think about our filming locations to we can limit the amount of outside noises or disruptions that could affect our product.