Writing About Movies

This post does not really have much to do with the idea of the Anthropocene, but I was thinking about the other half of the class – the “screening” aspect – today. I was finishing up the last of the reading assignments (the blogs about movies) and I was thinking to myself, “who figured out all of this stuff?” I have never really analyzed any films very thoroughly, as we are about to start doing and I am feeling a little nervous about it. It requires a lot of attention to dissect all of these tiny details and pick up on subtle clues as to what is really happening. The “shot at a time” sessions that Roger Ebert talked about in his blog seem really interesting. The idea of stopping a film and discussing what is going on then and there makes a lot more sense to me, as opposed to waiting until the end when you’ve forgotten half of what you saw. That being said, being able to pick up on details in  a film such as the tendency for the right side of the screen to be considered “positive” seems slightly hard to do and pay attention to! Hopefully it won’t be quite as difficult as it seems. Does anyone else feel this way?



2 responses to “Writing About Movies

  1. I suppose it is a skill that has to be acquired. It is kind of hard to stop a film and analyze especially when you’re trying to figure out what is going on with the plot in order to tie it all together. That is probably why you might have to watch the film more than once. But I never knew about the positive or negatives in film until I read that article by Ebert. That was pretty interesting.

  2. One of the interesting aspects of what Ebert is talking about is how much of it we already “know.” Not consciously, maybe, but most of us have watched enough movies that we have internalized a basic sense of cinematic “grammar” and “syntax” and the like. We easily recognize heroes and villains, we anticipate key plot twists, we are fluent in the standard editing practices of most Hollywood films (like the shot/counter-shot format of a conversation between two people) — we have learned these things through repeated exposure, in something like the way a child learns his or her native tongue, even though it is mostly “subliminal” and inexplicit.

    Having said that, you are of course right that precise analysis and deeper insights are difficult to achieve, and there’s a lot to be said for Ebert’s shot-by-shot process (which we unfortunately won’t be able to replicate, unless you do it on your own!). I agree completely with Ava — it is a skill, a form of literary analysis really, that requires practice. All we are trying to do is begin to develop a basic cinematic literacy, which is in the first place largely a matter of paying close attention to what we see and hear on the screen, and beginning to apply labels to the things we already “know.” It will be fun to hear and talk about our responses to these films!

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