Sunday, December 07, 2003

Alex's Final Wrap Up Post 

What can the reader (you) expect to find within this meager group authored weblog? Let me explain a little of the blood and sweat that went in to this blog and the finality of our project. Basically, our blog discusses films in which a large amount of reasoning is involved in discovering the true plot of the movies. In other words, psychological thrillers that make you think. The audience can expect to see the true nature of how film makers create a popular film. Using several different films such as 'A Beautiful Mind', 'The Usual Suspects', 'Fight Club', and 'The Sixth Sense', the individual elements are exposed to the microscope as we dissect the movie's qualities in order to show why a movie is popular. Our thoughts in this weblog represent the fruits of our labor. Hopefully, this weblog will not spoil the movie for the reader, but enlighten the reader to the truth within the movie.

Before I sign off for the last time, I would like to extend my appreciation to my group members for all the hard work that they willingly put into this project. It would not have been the same without you. Thanks to Michael Norris, Sara Cantu, Aarthi Kannan, and Nishi Andra

Exploring Aarthi's posts 

Aarthi does an excellent job of discussing the significance of the Usual Suspects in this post. I completely agree that the Usual Suspects is groundbreaking in this genre of film. The entire movie opens a whole new dimension using this type of storyline twists. The mysterious question throughout the film should clue the audience into who Keyser Soze is but the acting is so well it never happens.

The ironic nature of the film is a good point as well. Obviously there’s nothing usual about this film or its characters. The fact that the entire lineup could have been orchestrated by Kint/Soze brings in an entire new dynamic to the film. What can you trust in the film? Aarthi makes the point that perhaps none of the story you heard was what really happened.

Along with the details, several other things in the movie should’ve clued the audience in but Aarthi is right, we were blindsided by the ending. It’s a testament to Spacey’s acting that none of the audience ever questioned the narrator. Personally, I would’ve suspected Dave Kujan before I would have ever suspected Verbal Kint.

group wrap up  

I (nishi) had a blast working on this project. Definitely the fact that we had to watch great movies was an added bonus. The group functioned very well and the level of corporation was wonderful. I think we all learned from each other and appreciated each other’s input. We were willing to work most of the issues very civilly. Overall we as a group enjoyed the movies, and working with them.

i can't believe it is the end 

It was truly pleasure to have worked with such good group of people. I have learned from my group members as well as my analysis of the movies. The project has helped me become a better movie watcher. Since we were analyzing the movie it was easier to pick up on the finer details that we missed or rather I missed. By analyzing the movie I was also able to understand the metaphors and hidden meanings that the directors have in the movies. The symbolisms were very well shown. Working on this project just helped appreciate the movies.

Nishi's Usual Suspects 

Nishi stated a valid point pertinent to the web log topic and argued it with several key pieces of evidence. She states the film is thought provoking. Most audiences would agree with her assessment because the film is very complex and provokes thought through clever twists. In order for the audience to understand the movie they must think in depth about the different parts of the plot and how they pertain to the movie as a whole. Nishi also addresses human nature as a reason for the deep thought of the movie. My interpretation of her post is that human nature is multivariable with no clarity on the number of layers in a single person. Nishi continues with specific examples on how the character Verbal Kint causes thought provocation. In my mind, he is a god example of the depth of human nature. Nishi concisely explains her argument in an orderly and consistent way. If you would like to read her entry, feel free to click here.

Aarthi's Wrap Up post 

Doing this project was one of the most enjoyable things I got to do and for which I get credit too! Although, in the beginning we did not know what to write about and just decided to write about the movies we saw, I think it all fell into place at the end where Sara wrote about the cinematography, micheal about character development, alex, nishi and I about the plots and general details about the movie. I do not think anything else can top watching movies and getting credit for it! We all got to analyze great movies in detail and come up with totally unique points. I got to know and noticed a lot of stuff in the movies that I never really saw before. I loved going through IMDB and reading all the trivia for these movies.

Well thats it I guess...enjoy going through our blog!

Sara's Final Wrap Up post 

My wrap up post... wow.. the end of an era for some of us. I really enjoyed working on this project, at least compared to most school projects. I got to watch a bunch of really good movies and analyze their camera angles and eat popcorn for class while hanging out with some really cool people. I don't think you can beat that very easily. I also felt that I learned some very interesting effects of camera angles and how they can be used to exemplify some very important information in the video and i learned various other things from reading my peers blogs. We had some difficulty coming up with what we would write about but really it all worked out quite nicely. I can't think of much more to say than : thanks guys for giving me some very great ideas and for being such great partners.

Exploring Michael's post on Fight Club 

Michael makes some interesting points in his blogs about character development for this type of film. In particular i was drawn to the analysis of the duality of the characters in Fight Club. To a certain extent you could argue that it's a fairly good comment on society in general. I hadn't really though much about the societal implications inherent in the movie so reading Michael's blogs really made me think about it in a different way. Michael mentions that a bunch of people in the movie have dual characters, namely the cops who are going to cut out his balls. So then I went back and started thinking about every once else with a dual character from the guy at his office with the office supplies, to the guy in the local food court, to Bob to the guy at the bar with the huge metal thing on his head. It's not just the duality of the characters but also a distinct voice on how so many people are distraught with their average lives. Everyone who joins Fight Club is someone who is dissatisfied with the life they are forced to lead so they go crazy for a little while and then go back to their mundane and drab life. Tyler says: our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. " Chuck Palahniuk was probably one of those crazy delusional people until his book made it into a movie. It's really a great comment on the problem of very many people here on Earth and i didn't even think about it until i read Michael's blog... crazy stuff huh?

Analyzing Alex's Entries 

For our last entry (yay!), we decided to write about each other’s writing. I’ll be talking about Alex’s entries. Alex has a nice unique way about expressing points about the movies. He usually comes up with totally unique observations. For example, in his post from ‘A Beautiful Mind’, his opening paragraph talks about how filmmakers need to balance the subtle hints throughout the movie and not be too obvious at the same time, should not be too unclear. This I think was an excellent point as there have been quite a few movies which are total disasters as psychological thrillers exactly because of this.

Alex also consistently develops his arguments, and gives good supporting reasons for his argument. In his entry about Fight Club, he systematically lists examples where we can see the sub-plot developing (which goes on to become the main plot). Alex effectively conveys his ideas about manipulation of audience perceptions. While I mercilessly expose all the nuances and twists of the plots of the movies, Alex tries to not totally give away everything in the movie. In Usual Suspects, he does not outright say who Keyser Soze is although everyone else(including me) did in their entries. He completely does not reveal the ending of Fight Club. Despite not explicitly explaining the ending of the movies, Alex artfully explains how the directors manipulated the audience. Had great fun working with you Alex!

The Usual Suspects 

The movie was fantastic and thought provoking. This is a very important characteristic of a movie because it keeps the audience engaged not only visual but also my making them think. To think during a movie is very necessary in order for one to grasp the maker’s point. The creator of this movie most definitely makes some very good points about human nature and most importantly trust.
The director makes viewers sympathize with the narrator of the story and this allows the viewers to trust the narrator, Verbal Kint, therefore the people believe the narrator without questioning his credibility. The viewers sympathize with the character because he is handicapped and has a crippled leg. Beside the physical deformities the personality of the character itself is very pathetic. Verbal seems to be a “push over” (for the lack of a better word) or rather easy to ignore and he allows people to speak him down and he seems very emotional. The U.S customs officer Dave Kujan sees all these characteristics in Verbal and therefore he feel that he can trust him because he feels that verbal can’t lie. We as the audience believe Verbal as well; this shows that a person makes judgments about someone else according to their appearance; and verbal takes advantage of this fact to mask the fact that he was the master mind.

Friday, December 05, 2003

More on the Sixth Sense  

Because i didn't get enough in on that first entry and dangit! it's a good movie, more analyzation of the Sixth Sense is needed. Camera angles and director's choices will again be my focus. One of Shayamalan's favorite techniques is the "shot from behind something else" shot. Within the first minute of the movie he does it twice: first from behind the wine bottles then from the banister. There are several more throughout the movie including the entire video of Kyra's which is taken from behind the bookshelf. Another important camera angle is the ariel view when Dr. Crowe is shot. The use of red is important throughout the movie, it's something that sticks out a lot because of the generally muted colors but you see it on the door handle to Malcom's basement/work area, Cole's sweater after Derrick's party and the balloon earlier in that scene, and Kyra's mother's dress. Probably the most important shots in the film are low angle and high angle shots. Shyamalan uses them all over the place to make the ghosts look as intimidating as possible, and Cole as small as possible. There are too many to really count. Close up shots include the thermostat when the first ghost appears and the temperature drops twenty degrees, the door handle to Kyra's room as well as the door to Malcom's room, and the tape player when he's discovering the extra voice in the tape. I think the most interesting choice is the moving camera. This technique is used when Cole is having his most traumatic experiences where the camera becomes Cole's vision basically. I personally think it's really effective b/c it gives a sense of urgency to the scene.

My toughts on A Beautiful Mind 

A Beautiful Mind uses audience manipulation in a very interesting way to develop John Nash as a character. In contrast to Fight Club where the imaginary Tyler Durden manifests the unnamed narrator’s desires and aspirations, the imagined characters in A Beautiful Mind are barriers John must overcome. Several key integral characters are the result of John Nash’s schizophrenia and he must learn to live with them. This is a new unique way to utilize audience manipulation to develop the character a little bit.

The strength of this movie like many we’ve explored in our project lies in the rapid transition to a new interpretation. Before the audience realizes John’s disorder is present, the audience thinks of John Nash as a soldier fighting against the communists. He quickly shifts from a brave genius to a more multidimensional character with flaws like the rest of us. The audience feels more attachment to John if he has problems like all us do.

Sixth Sense 

The case with ‘psychological thrillers’ is that they trick the audience into following a plot while a sub-plot has been developing throughout the movie. At the end of the movie, in a single dramatic scene, the sub-plot is artfully revealed to the audience which creates a beautiful impact on them. As Alex puts it, the subtle hints which indicate the sub-plot have to be balanced well throughout the movie. This is a major factor that contributes to the success of a thriller.

I found the plot of Sixth Sense to be totally unique (maybe there have been other movies, but I had not watched any with a plot similar to Sixth Sense). The general storyline that everybody follows is, a psychologist (Malcolm Crowe) trying to help a kid (Cole Sear) who says that he sees dead people. While the audience follows Malcolm, the sub-plot that has been developing is that Malcolm himself is a ghost. If we take a second look at the movie, all the subtle hints that are well placed out throughout the movie suddenly jump at us. His wife’s apparent neglect of him…People not seeming to hear him when he speaks to them….His wife taking Zoloft.

A review by Mr. Roger Ebert (From the Chicago Sun Times) points out the fact that, “Crowe asks Cole, "What do you think the dead people are trying to tell you?" This is an excellent question, seldom asked in ghost stories, where the heroes are usually so egocentric they think the ghosts have gone to all the trouble of appearing simply so they can see them”. I agree to a certain extent but not completely. As of late, this approach to finding out ‘what the ghosts want’, has been appearing in a lot of books and movies. But this movie artfully exploits this theme. With a blend of good cinematography, dialogues and storyline, it beautifully fits into the description of a ‘psychological thriller’.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Sixth Sense 

The sixth sense was the only scary movie that I enjoyed watching. The movies itself was very well made and the clues were very well disguised. The clues were all apparent but only to a person who has seen it before. All the actors acted very well and it was very convincing. What makes this movie wroth while is its ability to pull the viewers into the movie. The director is able to keep the audience attentive by having anecdotes about other people. At same time the stories give the clues for the more or rather the bigger story. The stories start at the end and then they reveal themselves. For example the audience will see the ghost first, then they learn about the person and then what happened to them; such structures causes curiosity in the audience and thus they pay attention.
Another way that he is able to grasp the viewers attention is by presenting them with a different world that they are discovering along with the Cole, one of the main characters that is able to see dead people. Most of the time when Cole sees a dead person the camera is behind him and the viewers get the feeling that they are following Cole. The camera following Cole gives the feeling that the viewers are discovering the situations with Cole, they are surprised at the same time as Cole and the viewers are really pulled into the movie.

A Beautiful Mind 

Changing an audiences perceptions mid-film may cause undesired psychological effects in the audience (i.e. the "what the **** is going on in this stupid movie; I don’t understand" effect). Filmmakers must take into account this negative feedback when making their film. In order to prevent this, filmmakers balance subtle hints throughout the film with a good twist and a plausible ending. The correct balance of these properties and an entertaining and captivating plot will ensure the success of the film.

The film, 'A Beautiful Mind,' presents one of the best balances of the aforementioned features. The beginning of the film is plausible and encompasses many subtle hints that confirm the plot twist. The opening scene contains a professor’s speech about great mathematicians who paved the way for our country through various feats including the art of code breaking. Coincidently, John Nash is sought after by the US Military to work as a code breaker in order to prevent nuclear disaster. After beginning this work, John Nash begins to notice oddities about his life like shadowy figures trailing him. These little hints will eventually support the plot twist of Nash’s disease. The final supportive evidence is observed when Nash realizes that certain people must be delusions when he sees that the little girl never grows older. Because of this unique blend, the plot entices the audience with a partially misleading plot line filled with many hints pointing toward the true nature of the plot. The filmmaker distorts the audience's perception of events occurring within the film through clever twists in the plot. The film causes the audience to rethink their perceptions of the plot and challenges them to recall the subtle hints in order to justify the plot twists. Only a sharp observer will catch the subtleties that mark the difference in perceptions between the delusional John Nash and the perceptions of the characters around him.

Monday, December 01, 2003

The Usual Suspects 

The film, 'The Usual Suspects,' starts in the middle of the movie in order to relate the beginning of the film through the perceptions of a single character, Verbal Kint. As Verbal is being questioned in the police station, he relates the adventure of the five usual suspects from their meeting to their deaths. The usual suspects happen to be five known felons: Keaton, McManus, Hockney, Fenster, and Verbal. They are suspected of stealing a shipment of old gun parts destined to be melted down into usable steel, but the police have no clue which one stole the truck shipment. They are brought in for a line up in order to be given the runaround in hopes that one of them would slip up and spill the beans. However, their meeting is not a coincidence, but a beginning. They are supposedly brought together by the elusive and mythical Keyser Soze because they stole his property during their career in crime. The following events are meticulously planned by the crime lord in the pursuit of an unknown goal. Soze uses the criminals to exact revenge on his enemies under the guise that the criminals will be blowing up a ship containing a competing drug lord’s drug shipment. The shipment instead is the man who knows who Keyser Soze is. In the end, a massacre onboard a burning ship and a mystery remain. Who is Keyser Soze? The only remaining witness of events is Verbal Kint. At this point the story line picks back up with the present and resolves the plot.

The use of this form of plot presentation allows for a lot of leeway when Verbal relates the actual facts of the adventure to the US Customs Agent David Kujan. This discretion between the actual events and Verbal's perception and following relation of events becomes blatantly obvious in hindsight. Verbal's representation of events deliberately misleads the audience into a false perception of the characters and facts in order to advance the true plot. It is only when Agent Kujan discovers Verbal’s disseating in review of Verbal’s account that the audience becomes fully aware of the true chain of events. Agent Kujan finds more than he bargained for when he discovers who Keyser Soze really is.

The not so Usual Suspects 

The Usual Suspects brilliantly uses audience manipulation to enrich the film. The scene at the end as Verbal leaves the police station is brilliant. After opposing the overconfident Customs official Dave Kujan throughout the film, Spacey’s character walks away with one of the greatest cinematic upsets. He is able to outwit a half a dozen talented career criminals, law enforcement’s best and brightest, and the audience. The viewer’s interpretation of Spacey’s characters shifts from a pathetic petty criminal character to a brilliant motivated mastermind who we all admire despite his atrocious activities.

The rhetorical question the audience asks themselves at the end sums up the brilliance of this movie: why didn’t I see it sooner? In part, the acting is terrific and Spacey plays his character so brilliantly that we can only take pity on the character. In the end, his character is engaging enough to convince us of the big lie and to convince the other characters in the film. Dave Kujan’s pit for Verbal’s character prevents him from seeing the obvious like Spacey’s perfect acting prevents the audience from seeing it as well.

Engaging, intellectually provocative, superb character development.