3/28/07

April 10, 2007

Hey, if you’re looking for what we did Yesterday, on 4/9/07, go down to the next entry.  Sorry.

“What does it mean, what does it mean!?”

-Jack Skellington

Today we talked about 3 terms you need to know. Theme, Tone, and Presentation.

When a young fan wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis asking for advice on how to be a writer, Lewis responded, “Decide what you want to say, and then say it as clearly as possible.” Here Lewis was talking about a little thing called theme. A theme is the overall message or argument that a film is trying to make.

Movies (and all other works of art) are about something. Even bad movies are about something. Even Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is about something. It has a theme, even if it doesn’t want to. Screenwriter Paul Schrader says, “When you write, you have to know in some way what you are about to do… There has to be some sense of why you are doing this.”

For some movies, the theme is obvious.

Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility;

An Inconvenient Truth: The planet is gradually getting warmer because of things we humans are doing, and we can change it;

Star Wars, a New Hope: If you are selfish and run away from the fight but then change your mind and decide to do the right thing and help your friends in the fight against evil, it’s better to wait until the fight is almost over and then swoop down out of nowhere and blow away Darth Vader so Luke can get a clear shot. That way you’ll be safe and be a hero.

Other movies take more thought to figure out what it’s really trying to say. But this is the most important thing to learn in this class. Every director is trying to tell you something. But just like any other profession, there is a great variety in purposes and intentions among directors. Some are like clowns and just want to cheer you up. Some are like doctors or coaches and encourage you to do things that aren’t very fun but are good in the long run. Some are like political activists and want to change the public’s mind about a certain topic. And unfortunately, some are like drug dealers and don’t care about you or what happens to you as long as you pay them money. It’s up to you to figure out what they’re trying to say, and decide how you feel about what they’re saying.

So a theme is the message or moral of a story. Tone, on the other hand is the overall mood or feeling of a film. To figure out the tone, think to yourself “How does it make me feel?” Tone is easy to notice in music. Metallica or Slayer or Nine Inch Nails have a particular mood to them, a way they want you to feel when you listen to them. And that mood is very different from The Beach Boys. And all those are different from Led Zeppelin or Radiohead or Sufjan Stevens or Gnarls Barkley.

Presentation is how the work of art is made. In music, the presentation would be the instruments, the sound effects, the notes and chords. The Beatles’ presentation started out with two guitars one bass one drum set and two or three voices. Over the years they added more instruments like organs, horns, and strings, or sometimes subtracted and only used one piano or one guitar. They also got more complicated in song structure, changing from 4/4 time to 3/4 time in the same song. Def Lepard or Van Halen had a different presentation. They preferred distorted guitars with high pitched guitar solos.

These are things we need to think about when watching movies. What is the theme? What is it trying to say? What is the tone or mood? How does the director feel and how is he trying to make me feel? What is the presentation? How was it made? What did they do with acting, movement, lighting, editing, music and all that? Once you’ve explored these questions, you’re on your way to personal truth, and an A in this class.

We listened to two songs and watched one short film. Come in during project to listen to them and watch and fill out the worksheet.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvINxJFOcCU

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