Notes on Genre
Notes on Genre ENG260
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Talia A. Lubin on Wednesday March 4, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENG260 at University of Oregon taught by Dr. Anthony Hayt in Winter2015. Since its upload, it has received 110 views. For similar materials see Media Aesthetics in Foreign Language at University of Oregon.
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Date Created: 03/04/15
Media Aesthetic 260 Notes Genre 1 Genre Story type that employs similar topics plot structures and character types 2 Used by studios to market films and to help group stars by their star texts a It s very easy to say quotsuch and such is the best action movie out right now Such and such is the funniest comedy in America 3 Genre relies on both convention and innovation to give us something familiar but with a new twist a If we go see the exact same movie over and over again we are going to get bored so there has to be something newdifferent 4 Often relies on iconography or image patterns that have cultural meaning light vs dark a cowboy hat a motorcycle etc a conography of the motorcycle in America has a lot of meaning Equated with youth rebelliousness etc 5 Often employs archetypes which are symbols embodying a specific value a In America motorcycle rider young rebellious screwtheman kind of character Cowboys embody stoicism selfreliance selfdetermination values of manifest destiny striking out on one s own in the wilderness b These archetypes don t translate from one culture to another on a 11 ratio 6 Often genres are structured around a myth or cultural stories that tell of some important moment or truth for a society A lot of narratives can be boiled down to a myth often biblical myths a Star Wars is very heavy on Christian mythology Someone being born and plucked out of obscurity to save everyone 7 Genres are not to be confused with modes or styles even though there are overlaps between genres and modes Genre is the type of story that is told mode is how a story is told or the style used to tell that story Documentaries are considered a mode 8 Mode a Noir i Defined by a time period a design aesthetic and a worldview and all of these are flexibly defined 1 Historically influenced by the delayed disillusionment of 1930 s America as well as the frustrations of WWII and postWWII society a Big emphasis on staying strong and keeping things moving forward there was this cultural disillusionment that was delayed 2 Narratively influenced by postwar realism and societal desires for real stories a In film this was sort of the first real rise of the character type of the antihero hero of the story that we root for but some of the hero s actions are outside of what would be considered good 3 Stylistically influenced by the German expats who first made film history with the German Expressionistic style Narratively influenced by the American pulp fiction of the 1920 s and 1930 s and especially by the hard boiled tradition ofJames Cain Dashell Hammet and Raymond Chandler ii Stylistic markers 1 Lit for night and generally very dark overall Film noir means dark or black film This isn t just about how they looked The noir or darkness is also about the storylines and the version of humanity that the films show Preferred oblique and vertical visual lines rather than true horizontal a Ex The opening of Sunset Blvd 9 opening shot of a curb with SUNSET BLVD written on it Instead of the curb being shown level or horizontal it is at a diagonal All lines in the shot are at an angle Actors and setting given the same lighting treatment a Usually main characters are highlighted in a scene given some kind of spotlight In most noirs whatever the lighting in the scene is that is what is used for the actors as well If the character is in shadow then that is how they are shot They don t use additional lighting to highlight the faces of the important characters Tension built by tightly controlled cinematics instead of actor motion Actors are often very stagnant Rain rain rain A lot of rain Makes great reflections rainy street or rain coming down windows Nostalgic and romantic narration about a lost past set against a predetermined fate characterized by hopelessness Use of voiceover Almost every noir has voiceover of some kind or another that treats the past with a rosy and romantic filter Characters in film noir tend to assume that they are stuck where they are and are going nowhere good Complex chronology which emphasizes the loss of a better time and a careening whirlwind of life toward disaster iii Common Noir Tropes 1 The detective remember it s a mode and not a genre so we aren t talking about a detective or crime story However a lot of noir films do have some kind of detective a Often a professional but smalltime dick but sometimes just an innocent guy swept up in a scheme trying to find his way out b Disillusioned with social order and his place in it c Lives by his own morals and makes up his own version of the truth to fit those morals accordingly d Perhaps the earliest example of the antihero in American film 2 The femme fatale a The woman who seems to need help at first but ends up ensnaring the hero in a plot that is his undoing b Often set in direct contrast to a good girl who is cast aside by the male protagonist for the femme fatale 3 City as character a Can happen both in terms of geography and in terms of the mood of the city b Often the city is as important in the story as any given character it defines who those characters are and it oppresses their movement their actions and their judgment 4 Stagnation a Characters are not hopeful for the future for change for upward mobility They are paranoid and defeated A happy ending in a noir film is just everything returning to the status quo A more normal ending is everyone dying iv Noir was thought to end by the 1940 s for the most part Was revived in the New Hollywood era a bit Taxi Driver and then there weren t too many after that for a while Now we have neo noir films that take many things out of the noir handbook but update them in lots of ways tech noirs The Matrix Blade Runner etc v Blue Velvet 1986 breaks out of the noir mode by maintaining a streak of cheesy hopefulness throughout the film to the point that at the end it is offputting and the viewer kind of wishes everything had gone badly like in a classic noir film 9 Six main genres in classical film theory a Comedy main emphasis is on humor These films are designed to entertain the audience through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics of real life for humorous effect Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending the black comedy or dark comedy being an exception One of the oldest genres in film some of the very first silent movies were comedies as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions without requiring sound Ex Charlie Chaplin films Blackdark comedy employs farce and morbid humor which in its simplest form is humor that makes light of subject matter usually considered taboo Black humor corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor humor about very unpleasant serious or painful circumstances Any humor that treats serious matters such as death war disease crime etc in a light silly or satirical fashion is considered gallows humor b Westerns primarily set in the latter half of the 19th century in the Amercan Old West However the themes and archetypes could be translated into another setting So for instance Star Wars is considered by many to be a western set in space vi Roots in the literature of the knight errant in early European stories and poems the knight errant wandered from place to place on his horse fighting evil of various types and wasn t bound to any fixed social structure other than his own innate code of honor Arthurian romances Portrays the conquest of the wilderness and the subordination of nature in the name of civilization Embodies the spirit struggle and demise of the new frontier Depicts a society organized around codes of honor and personal direct or private justice rather than one organized around rationalistic abstract law The popular perception of the Western is a story that centers on the life of a seminomadic wanderer usually a cowboy or a gunslinger Use of vast barren and arid landscapes Setting becomes a character in and of itself Superhero films are being considered a new mode a new way of telling a western Just because a film isn t in the exact same setting the American frontier the issues of that genre or film can still be translated and updated into another more modern setting Genre is changing all the time but those throughlines are still there c Melodrama i Both a genre and a mode 1 The genre is defined by the movie s main story being focused on emotional excess 2 The mode can be employed within any genre to emphasize pathos as an aspect to the story but where that emotion is not the film s main storytelling technique ii One of the most prevalent examples of melodrama is family melodrama 1 The family can be used as a motivating force in action movies war films sports stories comedies romantic comedies horror etc iii The two other main types that may or may not share characteristics with family melodrama are female melodrama closely linked to questions of the family and romance and male melodrama most often seen in action war and sports films what does it mean to be a mandrive male emotionquestions about masculinity and the underlying pathos of masculinity iv It is very hard to find an American movie without some motivating pathos aspectmelodrama mode to it There are very few but you could count the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an exception d Musicals songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative often accompanied by dancing Songs can be used to propel the story forward e Horror seeks to elicit a negative emotional reaction from the audience by playing on the viewer s primal fears f Crime films that focus on the lives of criminals The stylistic approach to a crime film varies from realistic portrayals of reallife criminal figures to the far fetched evil doings of imaginary archvillains
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