Tuesday, 9 March 2010

'The Others' Trailer Analysis

The audience is shown the title of the film at the end of the trailer, but uses its name at the beginning from one of the characters: "the others said they wouldn't leave us... but they did." Showing the title at the end fits in with the trailer's strong themes of mystery and suspense, and keeps the audience on edge for what the film is called. Suprisingly, the trailer doesn't say who is starring in the film, although the audience may recognise the central character, Nicole Kidman, who had past success in Bazz Luhrmann's 'Moulin Rouge!' and Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' before 'The Others'.

The audience is shown a great deal of action mainly towards the end of the trailer, using a combination of fast-motion shots and cut shots to create a rushed, frantic tone of the characters appearing to be haunted by ghosts. Some of these clips include Nicole Kidman running up the stairs, screaming through the banisters, the little girl showing her mother pictures she drew of the ghosts, the maid telling the children that she see's the ghosts too. The music used in the beginning of the trailer is quite simple and eeire, with no powerful instruments used. This carries on throughout the whole sequence, interupted by several bounds of a drum any time the trailer shows a shot that makes the audience jump. Because it is simple, the music doesn't really create a large impact on the trailer, but instead relates with the ghostly theme as the feel of the music is quite haunting and subtle.

The trailer does not come with a voice-over, and instead tells the story through the different shots of the characters and what they say and do. Towards the end of the trailer, several of the shots are played in fast movement, such as the shot of a nursery, which symbolises the fear of the characters and how their lives have become distorted since the ghosts have haunted their lives. Until the end, however, the general speed of the trailer is quite paced, with the effect of fading between each shot to signify the movement and precense of the ghosts.

The information we are given about the film starts with Kidman introducing three housekeepers to her house- and at the same time, introducing the audience to their homelife and background. The audience learns how the previous housekeepers "vanished... into thin air" and Kidman informs them not to listen to what her children might tell them, "my children sometimes have strange ideas, but you musn't pay any attention. Children will be children." The story begins to unfold with the children seeing and sensing mysterious things, such as a touch on the shoulder, or the curtains suddenly opening. When they confide in their nanny, she tells them that she sees the ghosts too and so will their mother soon. As Kidman rejects her children's stories, she starts to experience similar episodes: the chandalear rattling, walking into a room and frantically pulling off sheets of furniture as she might have 'seen' something, walking through a misty field with her voice-over: "there were voices, a boy and two women, and they were talking together."

The trailer moves on to the family becoming more involved with the ghosts, and trying to find a way of escaping them. One of the ghosts, an elderly woman, is even briefly revealed, and the trailer ends with the title 'The Others' crackling onto the screen with the voice-over the old maid: "sooner or later, they will find you", before ending with Kidman moving towards what appears to be her daughter playing with a toy covered in a large sheet. The audience can make out it is actually an elderly women underneath the sheet, and when Kidman demands to know where her daughter is, the woman replies in her daughters voice: "are you mad? I am your daughter!"

The trailer could be aimed at a wide rannge of audiences as it does not feature any gory or indecent scenes. There is a great use of suspense and making the audience jump, but the fear does come from the viewer's own imagination and interpretation of what the ghosts are going to do to the family. Also, the trailer doesn't reveal what's about to happen, and nor does it show them being physically harmed by them, so the trailer may appeal to viewers who enjoy a physcological horror where the storyline is more realistic and believeable for them.

Nightmare on Elm Street Trailer Analysis

The audience is told the title of the film halfway through the trailer, and again at the end. The use of this gives the viewers a clearer idea of what the trailer is about- obviously the term 'nightmare' suggests themes of horror and supernaturalism, whilst 'Elm Street' tells the audience that the film is set in a regular location with 'normal' characters who are unaware of what they about to endure. The audience are not told who is starring in the film, but at the end they are told of the producer (Robert Shaye) and the director (Wes Craven). The voice-over tells the audience that Craven was the same director of 'The Hills Have Eyes' and 'The Last House On The Left', two gruesome horror films of the 1970's who recieved mixed reactions from audiences. As these two films featured extreme scenes of blood and gore, the audience can expect that 'Nightmare on Elm Street' will probably be no different, as the director appears to prefer this type of horror.

The action we are shown in the trailer is mainly of how the villian's victims are affected, and how he harms them as they desperately try to escape. Unlike modern horror trailers, this trailer from 1984 goes straight into its plot without creating tension or any build-up. The effect of this could be to reel the audience straight away into the trailer, and keep them hooked throughout. What the audience is shown is a series of quick shots of a girl being thrown across a room covered in blood, a man being accused of murdering this girl, and the different characters trying to work out the reason for all these mysterious killings. We are also shown the trauma of the other characters as it becomes clear that the villian, Freddy Krueger, haunts and tries to brutally murder them in their sleep.

The music used for the trailer straight away sets its theme of horror or mystery. In the beginning, the eeire combination of a piano and a choir play before an electronic piece of music, a typical sound to resemble the 80's, begins to play when one of the characters mentions: "you just see... cuts happen". From this point, the music speeds up to create tension as the plot begins to unfold. It may seem that the electronic music used for the trailer is a slightly odd if it is supposed to signify horror and gore, but the cold, tense effect of the music resemble Freddy Krueger's iconic 'tool' that he uses to murder his victims: several knifes attached to a glove.

The trailer does come with a voice-over, who speaks in a menacing, villainous tone to create extra effect to the piece. Such voice-overs would probably be mocked in modern day, as now audiences are used to more realistic types of horror that they can relate to. But this old-style approach of using a 'melodramatic' voice-over builds up the tension for the audience. It also confirms for them the trailer's main theme, as trailers from the 80's did not use as much affects and cut-shots and different voice-overs as we do in modern day. The affects we can use in a trailer today help the audience realise what the film is about, whereas straight away in the beginning of this trailer, for instance, the voice-over had to immediatly begin with "the kids of Elm Street don't know it yet, but something is coming... to get them."

The speed of the trailer does not change, as no quick shots or fast-motion effects are used. Throughout the whole trailer, the shots all play near enough at the same pace; but through the speeding up of the music, it may seem that the trailer does become faster halfway through. At the end when the voice-over says the title, the music reaches its climax and stops, so that the audience can hear the title clearly and it will stay in their mind for when they next go to the cinema or want to purchase a DVD/Video.

The information we are given on the film is how several friends are haunted by the evil Freddy Kruegar who comes to them when they are asleep and they are powerless to defend themselves. They don't see him during day, only when they are asleep and he is in their mind. He still has the power to kill them and they can still feel pain, and the episodes they endure with him truely are nightmares as noone else can see them- making it harder for other characters to believe it and to start choosing innocent people as the culprits of the murders.

Despite being a trailer which anyone can see, the trailer does feature some scenes where the characters are about to be attacked, even at one point showing a girl soaked in blood as she is thrown about her bedroom. Because of this disturbing content, the trailer is not suitable for young children, but may appeal to some viewers who enjoy a horror film with a traditional storyline; the villian going after a group of vulnerable teenagers. Thus, the trailer is also aimed at teenagers as they can relate with the characters and their lives- making it more realistic for them and therefore creating a bigger impact for when they would watch the full film.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

How do post-modern media texts challenge traditional text-reader relations and the concept of representation?

Traditional concepts of representation in the media often show the audience the specific media product, directly connecting with the viewers and what they want to sell. The idea is to advertise the product's qualities and how they can benefit the viewer, with no irony or mixed messages so as not to confuse the audience in what they are presenting. For example, the advert for Loreal 'Roll-on True Match Foundation' shows A-listers Evangeline Lilly and Eva Longoria advertising a foundation made for 'matching your skin tone' with 'no streaks'. The women are attractive, with perfect skin to signify that the foundation will give similar results to the audience. They also appear happy with the product as they smile seductively at the camera, uttering Loreal's famous quote: "because you're worth it".

The foundation may stand out amongst the different techniques of how to apply make-up, but the advert itself is just one of many airbrushed models pouting at the camera and commenting how 'amazing' or 'perfect' the product is for them. The idea is to trick the viewers into thinking that they will be as beautiful as the models in the adverts if they purchased the product; whether it may be flawless skin, longer eyelashes, fuller lips, or luscious hair. Of course, what many viewers fail to realise, or simply overlook, is the fact that the women in the adverts are often photoshopped in order to appear more attractive- rather than the product improving their appearance, it is the computer.

An advert challenging this traditional idea of make-up adverts portraing a "fake" beauty is the 'Dove Evolution' advert. Aired in 2006, the advert begins with an ordinary and natural woman staring at the camera. During the process of the advert, she is constantly pampered to improve her appearance, and then later photoshopped to make her neck longer, her cheekbones more defined, her eyes larger, and her hair more tidy. The camera then draws back to reveal the woman's face on a large board advertising a new foundation, with the irony being that the foundation was not the only thing applied on the woman to make her look appealing to passers-by. This method of an advert within an advert is post-modern by its use of challenging the audience into their idea of beauty, and opening their eyes to the decietful tricks of advertising.

The advert, concluding with the phrase: "no wonder our perception of beauty is distorted... take part in the Dove Real Beauty Workshop for Girls", doesn't try to sell its message through attractive celebrities, but instead seems to criticise them as it favours a more natural and geniune beauty instead. With its post-modern edge standing out amongst the crowd of advertising, adverts such as these are often open to parodies and pastiches.

The most popular parody of the 'Dove Evolution' advert is the 'Slob Evolution' where a young and attractive male goes through a similar process of being changed, expect rather than being beautified he deteriotes into a slob through his continous intake of beer, cigerattes, and fast-food takeaways. The advert is humorous, and in a way pokes fun at Dove's message of 'natural beauty' as it suggests that there are people in society who are very attractive without being photoshopped; not to mention the idea of this being a 'natural man' so therefore he must be beautiful, according to Dove's message.

Another popular post-modern text that challenges traditional messages is the infamous Cadbury's Drumming Gorilla. Aired in 2007, the advert features a Gorilla building himself up to play the drums whilst the opening of Phil Collin's "Something In The Air Tonight" begins to play softly in the background. As the camera slowly zooms in, the audience can sense the tension of the gorilla as it seems to be waiting for its 'moment', before breaking into playing the drums. Surrounded by its traditional colour of light purple, and with the opening words "a glass and a half full production", the audience can guess that the advert belongs to Cadbury's, and prepare itself to be shown the company's latest chocolate. Yet the advert completely throws back its audience by presenting something that has nothing to do with chocolate, more so of this excessive feeling of 'sensation' you can get when waiting to eat it- "I can feel it coming in the air tonight".

Through its peculiar message, the advert caused an uproar in mixed reactions and parodies and re-makes. Audiences became intrigued why a gorilla, out of all things, would play the drums- making them stop to watch the advert rather than switching the channel. Afterall, isn't this advertising's main goal- attracting the attention of the viewer? On YouTube, the advert currently stands at 4,331,689 views, with its next post-modern advert, "Cadbury's Eyebrows", achieving 5,475,132 views. The advert's bizarre content attracts audience's through its quirky and different technique of advertising; viewers are able to remember it and thus remember the product- with the sale figures for Dairy Milk boosting by 9% since the advert to prove their success.

Cadbury's use of post-modernism is more popular than its past traditional methods of advertising chocolate, with Cadbury's Dairy Milk from 1982 achieving an adequate 14,495 views and Cadbury's Flake from 1985 standing at 111,676 views. The ratings show how audiences are bored with traditional adverts and their 'normal' method of advertising; the suggestive way the girl in the Cadbury's Flake advert bites the long stick of chocolate has been seen before. If anything, its predictable and audiences won't be interested in watching.

Through its post-modern style, the advert manages to invite the audience into taking part and being involved in the chocolate. Dozens of popular parodies made by viewers have been posted on YouTube, ranging from a "Christmas version" to an "Eastenders spoof", with the song used, "Something In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins soaring back into the music charts at number 14 in the UK Singles Chart and number 9 in the UK Download Chart. This proves how the advert has appealed to all different groups and ages. The parodies suggest a tone of familiarity; if a viewer is able to explore in the advert and enjoy making their own version, then there is, in a sense, a type of connection between the advert and its viewer; making them more inclined to purchase in its products.

Yet despite the phenomenal success, the Cadbury's gorilla also recieved some criticism. Reviewing on the 'TWA' (TV's Worst Adverts) website, one viewer commented: "What is the meaning of this? Eating mass-produced middle-market chocolate is like being a giant ape? It just makes NO sense at all!". A viewer such as this is perhaps used to the more traditional and 'straight-forward' technique of advertising where the audience is simply shown the product and its attributes without having to connotate or read between the lines. Nevertheless, the overall reaction of audiences was mainly positive, proving that post-modernism maybe is the key ingrediant to attract audiences in representation and media texts: "The advert is not meant to be relevant to the product, it's to simply "to make you smile", and it certainly made me smile. I haven't saw an advert for so long, that captured me the moment my eyes fell upon it, and didn't let me go until the end. It's brilliant!"

Monday, 2 November 2009

Drag Me To Hell Trailer Analysis

The audience is told the name of the film at the end of the trailer, creating more suspense since the viewers are left on edge till the very end to find out what this film is called. Throughout the trailer, graphic shots and quick-paced editing indicate what the film will involve; but it is the title at the end, “Drag Me To Hell” which confirms it’s haunting theme. The trailer also only reveals the director of the film, Sam Raimi, since he has had past success with 'Spider-Man' and 'The Grudge' and this would appeal the audience into thinking that 'Drag Me To Hell' would be equally as popular. The trailer does not however show the names of the main actors (Alison Lohman, Justin Long) until for a split second at the very end, since neither are that recognisable in the film industry; despite Long playing the lead part in Victor Salva’s Horror “Jeepers Creepers”.

The trailer begins with a combination of fade shots and paced editing, suggesting safe themes of mystery or romance for the film. Once the film's storyline begins to unfold, tension mounts up- the music becomes bolder, the editing becomes faster and more rapid, and the most amount of action is shown. The trailer shows little snippets lasting no more than a couple of seconds, and this is what reels in the audience since they want to see more. Footage of sayonces, the curses taken over the main character, and effects of the curse on other characters are shown; and the very last scene shows the main character being dragged down by what appears to be fire or daemons; common images used for 'Hell' which relates back to the film's title.

The non-diegetic sound of the piano in the beginning of the trailer is like the build-up to what the audience is about to see. It creates tension and doesn't really create a particular theme. When the main character comes face to face with the woman who puts the curse on her, the music becomes a little bolder to signify danger, and as the story unfolds, gasping, husky sounds are used rather than music to bring an eeire and supernatural feel. Once the curse takes its toll on the woman, bold music of drums, trumpets, and a chorus are used to signify the power and dominance of the curse taking over the woman.

Several voice overs of the woman are used, with quotes such as "they're coming for me" and "how do I get rid of this?". The effect of the voice-overs whilst showing different parts of the film give the audience a chance to see as much of the film's content as possible, whilst creating a disorted and more paced effect. As the music becomes faster, the use of the quick-shots towards the end also become more rapid to build tension for the viewers, contrasting with the beginning where the pace of the trailer was slow and relaxed; probably to reel the audience into a false sense of security.

The information we are given on the film starts with the main character eager to be promoted to being assistant manager at her work. Her manager informs her that the position will require making tough decisions, and she is given the chance to prove she can do this when she is approached by an eldery woman who wants an extension on her mortgage payment. When the main character refuses, the elderly woman begins to beg and plead, and is humilated by the main character when she pushes her away. The elderly woman seeks revenge on the main character, and puts a curse on her, the "larmia, the most feared of all deamons". This part of the trailer is shown through a series of cut shots and voice-overs, showing significant parts of the beginning of the film to show how the main character was given the curse.

Once the main character is attacked by the elderly woman as she leaves for work, the audience begins to learn what curse the main character has and how it is affecting her. Several of the shots shown play in fast-motion to signify fear and the speed of the curse. Yet the audience is not shown the main character being harmed by the different deamons, simply 'followed', and tormented. She then asks how to get rid of the curse, and is told that she can give it away. From this point, the music becomes more dramatatic and bolder to signify the climax of the trailer as the audience is now shown the effects of the curse on the woman through a combination of quick-shots: she is thrown up in the air to the ceiling, gasping for air as she nearly drowns in a pool of mud, thrown across a kitchen, and finally being over-powered by deamons which clasp at her and try to bring her down.

As the trailer features main themes of hell and curses, the trailer could appeal to audiences who are interested in the supernatural and who believe that curses such as these are real. The trailer could also appeal to those who are generally interested in ghosts and phantoms, as at one point the trailer shows a shot of a seance, and parts of the trailer do show the woman trying to over-come her curse by trying to connect with another 'parallel world'. The trailer is not aimed at young audiences as it does feature some content that may frighten them, as well as scenes that they may not understand- even at the beginning with the scene of mortgage payments and what the main character's profession involves. The overall theme of the trailer would also not appeal to audiences who do not believe in Christianity- atheists, for instance, who do not believe that Heaven and Hell are real and would not believe in such curses and deamons.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

How Would you Define 'Mad Men' as a Postmodern Text?

Postmodernism first became popular when it was used to describe various forms of art in the 1970's and 1980's. Today, it can be defined through culture and society; with its ideology rebelling against the popular cultural signs and media images which dominate our audiences into how they define themselves as to how they view reality. It is the "breakdown of the distinction between culture and society"; going against "the norm" and creating an entirely different world altogether.

In its world, surfaces and styles become more important; thus creating 'designer ideology’ where images dominate narrative through their deeper level of content and meaning. Postmodernists argue that society are much more interested in consuming images and signs for their own sake, and instead need to look further into their significance and gain the deeper values they may symbolise. Through its diverse and varied style, anything in postmodern culture can be developed, explored, or made into a parody. Yet if popular cultural signs and media images are taking over in defining our sense of reality for us (thus taking over content and meaning); then it is much more difficult to keep a meaningful and deep distinction between art and popular culture.

Does post-modern popular culture refuse to respect the pretensions and distinctiveness of art? Perhaps to a certain extent; it may be seen as disrespectful to lightly mock the visual images in which the majority of society a few centuries ago would have initially relied on for entertainment and communication, being mainly illiterate. If it wasn't for these vital paintings, adverts, and television drama's then we wouldn't even be able to make parodies now in modern day. Rather than disrespecting, post-modern popular culture expresses the art, it explores in the different ways it can be interpreted and presented, and compliments it by taking it to a different level. Nothing is original in post-modern society, only copies (according to Jean Baudrillard), and this is what he calls "simulacra". Only the first product or creation is the most valued, so art shouldn't be seen as disrespected by post-modern culture since it isn't being upstaged- postmodernism isn't trying to compete with the original art.

So how does Matthew Weiner's Emmy suave and sophisticated sixties set "Mad Men" qualify as post-modern? Starting with its opening credits, the audience is shown a sequence of an opaque figure, known as Don Draper, entering an office and dropping his black suitcase to the floor. Following on from this, he too starts to deteriorate as everything around him in his office melts downwards, signifying weakness and surrender. Draper then starts to fall past buildings imprinted with images of women, marriage, work, and families; with the implication of temptation as all these women, styled in a 50/60's fashion, appear lustful in their fishnet tights and red cocktail dresses. These surreal images evoke questions of gender and standards of both the drama and the character; is he faithful? Is he homosexual? What is his role if he is dominated by femininity? (At one point it seems as if he is being kicked by a lady's foot as she elegantly crosses her legs- or perhaps it is a failed attempt to save him?).

Gender and status are two of the main themes in 'Mad Men', reflecting on how men and women were represented in the 1960's and how their genders affected their roles in life. In the opening sequence, Draper is obviously dominated by these images of the different women; they are the sex showing authority as they tower above him and he is too small and powerless to handle any of it. But their smiling, alert faces show that these women are not full of hatred or revenge, but that they are more than happy to be a part of his life and they are eager to please him. They know that he is only using them to strengthen his own position and status, but he still needs them- and from this they obtain their own level of power.

Nonetheless, it still appears as if his whole world is crashing down around Draper, with the solemn sound of the violins contributing to this feel of depression and despair. His garb of a shirt and tie implies that he is a prisoner in his own career, that he cannot escape his hunger for ambition and money and as a result is rejecting his family and the vows and promises he has made. His "falling from the sky" relates to the tragic images of 9/11. According to USA TODAY, over 200 citizens jumped out of their office windows prior-collapse of the World Trade Centre in a desperate attempt to prevent the endurance of a more painful death, despite knowing that they would still be killed if they were to fall 1000 feet from the air. This implies that Draper may well be suffering from his own traumas, and if were to endure any pain at all, he would rather be in control of his own death and inflict the pain on himself instead of being the victim of another person's punishment. In other words, he would rather jump than be pushed.

This imagery of 9/11 is also the indication for 'Mad Men' being set in New York, which is of course was and still is one of the predominant states in America for business and economy. It also relates back to what was known as 'Black Thursday' on October 24th 1929 in Wall Street, New York, where the stock values dropped very quickly and many stockholders lost large amounts of money. 12 million Americans were left jobless with no money as banks, factories and stores closed; and as Will Rogers recalled in his nationally syndicated newspaper column for that day: "When Wall Street took that tail spin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of, and speculators were selling space for bodies in the East River."

As a leading global city famous for its finance and popular culture, New York is a target for conflict and mixed emotions. Draper could represent the city itself, as jumping out of your window in New York could now be associated with desperation and fear of failure. Behind the glamour of Broadway and frenetic atmosphere of Times Square, there will always be the struggle of "bad times", and this refers to Draper's job as creative director of the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Does he himself live in a world of propaganda? He obviously has his own affairs and problems, and so it resembles how even the wealthiest and most successful members of society can be vulnerable and deteriorate into poverty; making the audience wonder what this character has done to cause his fall from a high status.

Later into the series, we are given insight into Draper's dark past and how his troubled childhood could have influenced his current infidelity and rejection of family values. We learn how his mother was a prostitute and his father her client, and after his mother died in childbirth, Draper (then known as 'Dick Whitman') was raised by his father and his wife Abigail. Draper suffered years of physical abuse until witnessing his father being killed in a fatal horse accident, and he was thus brought up by Abigail and a man known as "Uncle Mack", whom he states in 'The Gypsy and the Hobo' that he shared a close relationship with, as well as with his half-brother Adam. Draper's bond with men and negative experience of women could be the cause of how he treats both sexes now; exploring in brotherhood to achieve a sense of security and avoiding emotional attachment to his mistresses in fear of being abandoned or betrayed.

Since the drama is set in the 60's, the audience could assume that the treatment of men towards women were because of the era in which it was set; men were seen as the dominant gender and women were placed as second class citizens. Yet Draper's attitude towards women could have originated from his own personal experience, with this also applying to Salvatore Romano; the homosexual Italian-American art director at Sterling Cooper. His sexuality is possibly the reason for his kind and compassionate treatment of the women in the office; he can relate with their needs and probably feels at his most comfortable with them. If the viewer were to look deeper into the character's pasts, they should be able to recognise that there can be reasons- instead of just generalising that all men behave the way they do in 'Mad Men' simply because "it's the sixties".

Draper's urge for identity and escape is shown when he was sent to serve in the Korean War in his twenties; where Don Draper, an engineer, was in charge of building a field hospital and Whitman was to assist him. After Don Draper's death (unknown to Whitman, Draper had gasoline on his trousers and Whitman accidently dropped his lighter- causing Draper to die in the midst of the explosions); Whitman took Draper's identity and returned home to begin his new life with the new identity as Don Draper. This highlights Draper's desperation to shut out his feeble and lonely past, where he was never respected and could have even been ridiculed for his name, 'Dick'. With his new identity, he can become something new and 'better', yet he will always have it on his conscience that he is living a lie. His dark secret is the cause of his mysterious and reserved persona and is the reason why people will never know the real Don Draper.

Parodies of ‘Mad Men’ have ranged from The Simpsons to Sesame Street, which proves that the drama has a deep resonance and appeals to a wide range of audiences' if viewers want to relate it with popular cartoons and kids comedies. On YouTube, The Simpsons parody of the opening sequence to ‘Mad Men’ has 381, 982 views (2/1/10), only approximately 5,000 views less than the original sequence (435, 917). Plus, this first post of the ‘Mad Men’ original sequence on YouTube was published on 20/07/07, whereas The Simpsons parody was published on 28/10/08- over a year later, and indicating that if both sequences were published on YouTube at the same time, then The Simpsons would have probably achieved more views and prove more popular.

In the parody, Homer Simpson seems to mock Don Draper of his serious and grave entrance as he drops down a lunchbox with a doughnut in it instead of a briefcase, falls down towards the ground imprinted with an elderly lady, and is left holding a lollypop at the end as he leans his arm across the chair in the classic pose. The parody invites interesting possibilities of what Homer Simpson would be like if he was the next Don Draper, and Sesame Street does the same in its opening as the puppet playing Draper falls after slipping on a banana skin.

This parody is actually a short scene showing all three puppets sitting around a table in their suits and hats, exaggerating the character’s bold personalities and inflated ego’s by repeatedly slamming their hands down on the tables, nodding their heads, and revealing their idea of ‘advertising’ (three adverts are shown of a bear and a pot of honey). The puppets cleverly show how the two characters are inferior of the puppet playing Draper, as they eagerly agree with whatever decision he makes. They also use cliché quotes such as “where’s the advert that’s going to grab us with happiness” and “well it’s been an emotional rollercoaster” and manage to educate as well as entertain. The parody appeals to young children because of the puppets and teaches them the simple techniques of advertising; what is on a poster that makes audiences “mad”, “sad”, and “happy”.

‘Mad Men’s’ opening sequence is a pastiche of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958), where the trailer shows the main character, dressed in a familiar smart suit and hat, afraid of heights: “a man possessed by the paralysing vertigo that made him afraid of high place”. Again, there is the wealthy and successful man terrified of becoming too superior and living in fear of separating himself from humanity and the enjoyment of life. The female in the trailer is also in awe of him and he takes complete control of her, clutching her to his chest and being the one to solve her problems. Only Don Draper can’t solve his wife’s problems or meet her needs, and he can’t prevent himself from becoming too involved in his craving for success.

It is at the end of the opening credits when the rapid pace of the music becomes more relaxed, that Draper transforms his outstretched falling pose into sitting down and casually leaning his arm up against a chair; revealing that even in times of danger he will somehow manage to regain his strength and power. His daring and intrepid character makes intertextual references to the opening sequences of James Bond; he too appears polished and clean-cut as he strolls onto the screen in a black and white suit, and at first it seems as if he is the one who is about to be shot through the point-of-view angle of the sniper. But the audience is tricked into thinking Bond will be the one to be killed when he suddenly turns to the side and shoots the sniper himself, and the similar colours used in the opening of 'Mad Men', black, white, and red; are also used in the opening sequences of James Bond; symbolising intelligence, mystery, and audacious confidence. The colours can also resemble the main colours of newspapers, referring back to advertising and how the characters in 'Mad Men' will always have their own private stories behind their image in the agency.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

How Steven Spielberg Creates Suspense in the First Two Scenes of "Jaws"

The film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975, features various techniques to create suspense and fear throughout the whole film. This is done using different types of camera shots and movement, music, and mis-en-scene. The two scenes I will be using as examples are the first opening sequence and the 5th scene.
In the opening sequence, the music begins very quiet and slow. The camera moves through the water, wading through the weeds- a point of view shot- as the music continues to play. This creates suspense and tension since we cannot see the shark, and the connotation within the point of view camera movement can make the audience feel that they’re in the water; possibly swimming away from the shark themselves.
The music becomes louder and bolder, creating the illusion that something is about to happen next. However, the scene switches to a beach party instead of going straight into the attack immediately. This leaves the audience in suspense as we have to wait and see for when the shark does attack.
The camera slowly moves along the people at the beach; known as a pan camera movement. There is a large fire in the middle, this indicates something dangerous as fire symbolises fear and emergency and panic. However, this symbol contrasts with the general mood of the beach party, as the mouth organ is being played; people are talking, drinking, and looking relaxed. This particular scene does not imply or hint that a shark attack is about to happen (partly because of the fire, as well as being the symbol for danger, it also creates warmth and passion- which is not found in the sea, where of course the attack takes place). So when the attack does happen, it is slightly unexpected. Despite expecting an attack at the start of the film, since it was involving the sea.
During the beach party, the camera pulls back to show a wide shot of the sea. The audience can hear noises in the background, and a tracking camera movement is used as a boy runs after a girl. There is no sound as the girl is swimming. Then the camera shows the point of view movement of the shark through the water and the bold music begins to play. This shot is almost a replica to the opening sequence. Since nothing happened during the beginning, the audience may feel that the attack will occur the second time round.
A low angle is shown of the girl slightly kicking her legs in the water. The camera slowly zooms in, and this shows the audience how close the shark is to getting the girl. The attack takes place; the girl thrashes around in the water screaming which creates a mood of fear and panic. There are also pauses in the attack, and this may be because the audience can savour it since it doesn’t happen all in one go in a matter of seconds. Again, the audience cannot see the shark attacking the girl, so we are left with our imagination to conjure up an image of this blood-thirsty predator.
The scene ends with a still camera shot of the sea. I think this creates a great deal of suspense since the peaceful and calm atmosphere is a contrast to the vicious attack moments before. The audience doesn’t know whether the shark is suddenly going to rise out of the water, or if the boy will swim out into the sea and therefore become killed himself; and this can create tension.
In the 5th scene, which is my second example, the scene takes place on a crowded beach. The camera uses a tracking shot of a young boy as he ambles up to his mother and pleads her to let him have another 10 minutes in the sea. The camera then follows him as he goes to get his lilo and this can create suspense since the audience isn’t sure whether the boy will be the shark’s next victim. In some ways, it seems it, because of the emphasis of “letting him go back in the sea” and the fact that his swim shorts are red (red being the colour that attracts sharks as well as being symbolic for danger, fear, and blood). However, some may argue that a young boy being killed by a shark is quite excessive and unnecessary for a film. So the audience is left in anticipation to see what happens.
A character in the film, named Brody, is also at the beach. He watches the different people and seems agitated.
The audience is introduced to different possibilities of the shark’s next victim. This can create suspense since we don’t know who it will be. First, there is the man throwing sticks in the water for his dog to catch- both the man and his dog are possible victims since they are near the sea and it may be that the man has to go in the water himself just in case his dog needs helping.
There is also the large lady floating in the water. Brody spots a black shiny shape swimming towards the woman; and then we realise that it’s just the top of an old man’s swim hat as he swims through the water. The camera shot is level with the water and large lady, so it may make the audience feel that they’re in the sea too.
Then, Brody sees a young woman screaming and splashing about in the water. He stands up, ready for action, and then realises it was her boyfriend lifting her up from the water. These two false alarms create suspense for the audience since they expect the attack to happen and it doesn’t. So when the build-up to the real attack occurs, some may not believe it will really happen- which may bring a shock for when it actually does.
A tracking shot is used as the boy rushes into the water with his yellow lilo, and the man calls for his dog. This implies that something fearful is about to happen since his dog has gone missing. This creates suspense since the audience does not know why and how the dog is gone; and whether he’ll return or not.
A low angle is used as the boy’s legs kick under the water, as the girl did in the beginning of the film. The attack is seen in the distance and the long shot indicates that the people on the beach are too far away to save the boy. A general panic occurs as people rush out of the water and again, we do not see the shark and are left with our own interpretation. During this, Brody realises what is happening and the camera quickly zooms in on his terrified face. The zooming-in camera shot signifies the attack as powerful and large, coming towards him; which of course reflects back on what the actual shark itself is like.
After the attack is over, a strange sense of calm settles. The yellow lilo washes up on the shore, soaked with diluted blood. A high angle is used, and I find this interesting since it means the audience is looking down on what is left of the boy; and most people would say we look down when we are mourning (looking down at a grave at a funeral, for example).
The colour yellow is used as the symbolic colour for danger and warning throughout the scene. The man who owns the dog is wearing yellow shorts, and his dog (so it seems) has been attacked by the shark. The boy was floating on a yellow lilo, and he became the shark’s second victim. This contrasts with the typical colour for danger (red or black) and it is normally the colour for happiness and sunshine. So already the audience can sense a tone of difference portrayed in this film.