|Doesn't Tell a Story|
|The Real Christine Chubbuck|
Independence Day: Resurgence is known for its panoramic beauty complete with high-tech gadget living and social advancements that reveal a world where everything has gone right. Unlike the first film, earthlings have worked out its problems and joined as a single, human entity. Although Resurgence isn't a bad movie, you can't help but feel like something is missing. Cameos appear in galore with some characters having passed away while others, including the kids, have moved on to great and wonderful things. And, since the great battle of Independence Day played such a big role in everyone's lives, all the kids have careers in the Air Force too. Yet, despite all this plenitude, something is missing. This film only got a little more than 1 star on Netflix and I think I know why. Narrative unity. There wasn't a strong enough theme to keep this war story together.
Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters is a 1950s drive-in classic that turned a $70K budget into a $1M profit. Despite being a mega-monster film about radioactive land crabs eating human beings, the Crab Monsters has little to no special effects. Corman relied exclusively on plot devices to keep the audience interested. This makes Crab Monsters an interesting film to study as it shows the beauty and power of great screenwriting. The screenwriter in question is Charles B. Griffith, a man who cleverly spun a tale about giant crab monsters with only a few scenes of exposition and a lot of tension in between. Consider Crab Monsters to be a Hitchcock-inspired thriller that's weird, fun and perfect for kids. There isn't a boring frame in it and a mysterious virtuoso violin that plays in the background sets a foreboding mood while the team of researchers investigate the mystery of the previous expedition team.
Identifying Theme in Callaham's Godzilla (2014)
Or, How David Callaham Wants Us to Get Along and Stop Eating Each Other
Finding plot devices isn't that hard. Just look for elements that repeat themselves throughout the film. Callaham's Godzilla contains patterns from the very first scene, at Joe Brody's house, where his son, Ford, teams up with mom to put on a surprise birthday party for dad. The camera tracks the boy wearing a green t-shirt with a string of "Happy Birthday" letters trailing from behind, like a Godzilla tail. This shot is no mistake. It's Callahan's attempt to tell a story about how about every monster in the world - including humans - have families too. Godzilla, a tale of peace and mayhem in a battle filled with creatures looking for the same kind of love they got from the day they were born.
Zen Buddhism is perhaps one of the oldest religions in the world. Its main purpose is to induce a state of enlightenment through a practice called meditation, an emptying of the mind. Meditation is often used in conjunction with another technique called a koan. A koan is a paradoxical riddle that befuddles the practitioner to the point of frustration and enlightenment. A famous example would be: Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Another example: How does a man give himself coordinates for outer space if he needs to go into outer space to get the coordinates? Answer: Interstellar.
(Spoiler Alert - The ending revealed in more ways than one)
(Spoiler Alert - The ending revealed in more ways than one)
Terminator Salvation is a sci-fi operatic war story that centers around a hero - John Connors - whose destiny is to save humanity from artificially intelligent machines. The story runs like an American militiaman's nightmare where personal freedom is lost at the behest of a terrible New World Order. Fighting Americans, scattered throughout, are glued to their transistor radio with the hopes that Connors will make Resistance dreams come true. Salvation views like a visually panoramic Mad Max film with cheesy Godzilla-like machine monsters that breath fire on its victims. So what's so horrible about the first scene? A plot device gone wrong.
Star Wars is often associated with the special effects grandeur introduced by George Lucas in the late 70s. New heroes and new aliens captured our imagination as well as the really cool planets they lived on. Of course, we can't forget the truly awesome X-Wing and Tie Fighters that sparred in the depths of space. But that's what not Star Wars is all about. The story had a soul and that soul came from the inspiration of one man - Joseph Campbell, a mythologist who popularized the notion of the hero’s journey.
Birdman is a fast-paced drama that cleverly uses panning and tracking shots to tell a compelling story about a man ready to meet his dead end. It's probably a story common in Hollywood - the real Hollywood - not the fictional one, although Birdman would have you doubting both. The film starts with the protagonist, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), levitating a few feet from the floor like a superhero in deep meditation. But Riggan isn't a superhero anymore. Nor can he levitate from the floor. He's just an ordinary man who can sit on his behind because the levitation is really a plot device called magical realism, the act of having a fantasy superimposed on the real world. It's also the reason why Birdman's ending is so hard to figure out. Riggan isn't the only one doing the fantasizing.
The Zero Theorem, by Terry Gilliam, is a tragi-comedic tale easily mistaken for another Brazil. The world seems superficial and dangerous. The streets are crowded and filthy. Everyone has gone cosplay crazy with Batman as their new messiah. At the center of it all is one Quothen Leth, an honest man sucked into the black hole of his lonely, shallow environment. But Terry Gilliam has a deeper story to tell, one that cleverly exposes Leth's true predicament. Leth, in many ways, is an anti-hero who shows how dystopia can be self-induced rather than imposed by the state. It's a story about a man who creates his own misery and it is this that makes The Zero Theorem different from Brazil.
If you see enough, a pattern starts to develop. You've got the egghead scientists who figure out ways to kill the alien monsters. You've got the military men who figure out ways to kill the monsters. You've got cute women who keep saying they could kill monsters too.
I said I liked the movies. I didn't say they were mature.
The Atomic Submarine like most action movies follow a simple formula. There is a problem, complications and a resolution. It's fun to watch. I don't mind the low-budget special effects. In fact, it makes it all the better for me because I want to enjoy the story.
What does the film Locke have in common with scientific studies about the passage of time? Pacing. Scientists believe we experience a slower passage of time when we pay more attention to what we're doing. That's why time goes by when we're having fun. We're pleasantly distracted and lose our sense of time. The same works in the movies. Action scenes go by faster because we're not paying attention to details. A slower, dramatic scene is the opposite. The attention to detail makes time feel slower. So, how were these principles used to make Locke more entertaining?
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It's been ages since the first flood-hero set sail on the high oceans of Planet Earth. The story has played itself out thousands of times since ancient history. But recently, Hollywood gave it a new breath of life with the new film featuring Russell Crowe. The proof is in the profits. We are still willing to pay big bucks to relish in the fantasy of total annihilation a la world flood. But what most people don't realize is that this interest has less to do with special effects and more to do with Archetypes.
An archetype is a term that describes a recurring pattern found in literature. It could be a type of person, an event or any other story element that keeps coming up. Some stories are considered to be archetypal because that's when the pattern first formed. Noah's Ark is one of them.