narratology   329

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Crimes of Grindelwald — Death By Author | Anatomy Of A Failure
Screenwriting is not like writing a book. To write for film:
1. Your time is limited, so you have to pick a few key character perspectives
2. Because of your limited time, everything also has to serve the purpose either of (a) pushing the plot forward, or (b) developing character, or both. Chekov's gun should have a delay.
3. You have to convey information visually, not (just) through dialogue or voiceover
Film  Harry  Potter  Magic  Narratology  Storytelling  Crimes  of  Grindelwald 
22 days ago by dbourn
White hero, sidekick of color: why Marvel needs to break the cycle
Maria Rambeau is an engaging character. By nature of her appearing in someone else’s film though, she’s also sidelined. Her story is not entirely her own; rather, she exists to give a white character growth, complete with a pep talk reminding Carol of her own worth.
It’s easy to trace this pattern across all of the MCU films. The only film that subverts this noticeable dynamic is Black Panther, which features an almost entirely black cast. And that’s not to say these are not wonderful characters who are hinted at as having rich interior lives. The characters would probably balk at the classification of “sidekick”. Yet they’re designated by the films as such, by virtue of their stories ultimately working to support the main character’s arc. All of them exist to help the lead work through some issue or trauma and provide logistical backup. We’re given glimpses at who they are as people, but rarely is that developed outside their relationship to the protagonist.
Whites  Comics  Comic  Books  Film  Racism  Marvel  Narratology  Storytelling 
5 weeks ago by dbourn
Collider revisits Watchmen after Ten Years
These superheroes ordinary, arguably disturbed people putting on latex and leather to take out their own internal problems on an idea of injustice. Like Iain Thomson wrote in his “Deconstructing the Hero” essay, “Watchmen develops its heroes precisely in order to ask us if we would not, in fact, be better off without heroes.”
Yet director Zach Snyder more than loves them, Snyder, ultimately—despite making them killers, sadsacks, and drama queens—admires them. Snyder can’t help himself from Always. Kicking. Ass. But the characters in Watchmen shouldn’t be cool—and you certainly shouldn’t want to be them—and that’s the beat Snyder missed by a mile. Alan Moore wrote, "For better or worse, the ordinary, non-telepathic, flightless humanoids hanging out on their anonymous street corner of WATCHMEN had come to seem more precious and interesting than the movers of rivers and shakers of planets.”
Watchmen  Comics  Comic  Books  Film  Narratology  Storytelling 
7 weeks ago by dbourn
Collider ranks Sherlock Episodes
13. After a Season 2 cliffhanger that saw Sherlock fake his own death in front of John, breaking his best friend’s heart, this episode had one major job: to deal with the emotional fallout from that decision and Sherlock’s inevitable return in a satisfying manner. It didn’t. It didn’t feel like John’s forgiveness was truly earned, or like we understood what Sherlock’s time on the run (without John) was like.
12. It tried to do far too much, and therefore succeeded at very little. It was weighed down by its larger-than-life plot twists. Ultimately, however, its biggest crime was in having Sherlock solve the Magnussen problem not with his brain, but with a bullet. It was disappointing to see a show that had once been so finely focused on the play between intellect (as represented by Sherlock) and emotion (as represented by John) as integral to the problem-solving process, introduce a third, all-too-common element to the mix: violence/murder as a solution. We have enough movies and TV shows that solve problems with bullets. One of the reasons why Sherlock was so refreshing was because it glorified other things. As if Sherlock’s assassination of Magnussen wasn’t enough, the episode ended by absolving Sherlock of all possible consequences for the crime.
11. We could have spent the entire season getting to know Eurus Holmes. Instead, we got most of her backstory and characterization stuffed into one episode, which made her feel much more like a plot device than a living, breathing character. When you’ve spent an entire television show proving that just because Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes are smart doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings or value people, drawing their sister in a way that deliberately conflates her remarkable intelligence with an inability to place value on life is neither smart nor believable. But erhaps most interestingly, we get to see what Mycroft looks like in high-stress situations that are out of his control.
10. Mary’s death wasn’t necessarily the problem (we all knew it was coming), but the way her death was used to create drama between John and Sherlock was not only offensive and lazy, but redundant.
9. This tells us a lot about how Sherlock himself views the people in his life.
8. It’s really all about how Sherlock and John are better together. Their co-dependency has officially begun, but it’s in the throes of its honeymoon period.
6. Early seasons of Sherlock succeeded not only because they had a cohesive narrative (mostly), but because they had a cohesive visual language. It wasn’t stylized for stylized visuals’ sake. It told us something about this central character. When you lose that cohesive visual style, Sherlock’s character doesn’t work as well.
5. After a season of relative low-stakes fun, everything became much more intense in “The Great Game” as Moriarty led Sherlock on a devastating goose chase where real people’s lives were at stake. Inevitably, Moriarty kidnapped John and strapped some bombs to him for good measure, forcing a hostage situation that articulated just how much these two had come to mean to one another.
4. eeps the focus on Sherlock and John’s relationship amidst the major addition of Mary into their lives. Refreshingly, it doesn’t present Mary as an obstacle to their friendship, but rather incorporates her into the two-now-threesome, while also giving some time to the central duo.
3. Would work so much better if Irene had bested Sherlock. Instead, Sherlock chickens out in the final minutes, having Holmes save The Woman instead. Still, it goes on to explore how one person can unsettle Sherlock’s stubbornly-held beliefs about himself and the world.
2. A great job of ambiguously introducing the character of Sherlock. It’s hard to get a read on this guy. Is he a jerk? Does he care? Does it matter? This is the real mystery that needs solving.
1. Demonstrated how good Sherlock can be when every decision, every action has weight, like when there is no easy or good solution, only the lesser of two terrible choices. Effectively building the tension. It started with Moriarty’s stylish robbery “attempt” of the Crown Jewels and slowly escalated until every one but John Watson believed that Sherlock was the criminal.
Ultimately, Sherlock had to take the most drastic of measures to keep his friend safe, not only breaking his best friend’s heart, but also betraying his trust at a visceral level in order to “win” (or come as close as possible) at Moriarty’s no-win game.
Sherlock  Holmes  Television  Narratology  Storytelling 
7 weeks ago by dbourn
Collider review of Captain Marvel
Every new Marvel superhero story has to perform the one task of getting the audience to root for a performer playing a new hero. It’s just a shame the co-writers and directors try to wrap the origin story in a mystery, which obscures what makes Captain Marvel unique and endearing.
The Captain Marvel marketing has been incredibly strange because it conceals one of the film’s strongest aspects, which is Captain Marvel’s personality. Although she’s not the first cocky Marvel superhero, she’s the first one with an attitude that feels earned. Guys like Tony Stark, Star-Lord, Thor, and Doctor Strange all have some level of power. Their movies get comic mileage contrasting their arrogance against their occasional shortcomings, and narrative catharsis when they are humbled and learn A Very Important Lesson about sacrifice. By comparison, Captain Marvel’s bravado feels earned, a result of a woman who’s had to work twice as hard for everything she’s ever received and never backed down from a challenge. She’s funny, whip-smart, and takes no crap. She’s a character you want to root for because her attitude feels incredibly human and relatable against her cosmic origin and backdrop.
The character’s confusing comic backstory is nothing so simple as a super soldier serum of a fortuitous spider-bite. There’s a lot more narrative baggage.
Origin stories can be a lot of exposition, and we’ve seen them done to death. What Boden, Fleck, and co-writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet have done here to try and spice things up is give Vers’ amnesia so that she doesn’t even know her real name let alone where she came from. This way the audience is discovering Vers’ origin alongside her. Unfortunately, that approach leads to other characters telling Captain Marvel who she is, and every time it has to lapse into reveals, it loses sight of her personality. The mystery of her origin is ultimately uninteresting, and it deprives Captain Marvel of a character arc or any notable weaknesses. She’s a superpowered person who doesn’t know her past, discovers her past, remembers her strength, and becomes even more superpowered as a result.
Interesting characters have flaws and foibles, and Captain Marvel seems afraid to give its title character anything that could be perceived as weakness. This in turn, deprives Captain Marvel of some of her humanity and the shading that other superheroes receive. Even Captain America, a totally moral boy scout gets the shading of giving up a chance at happiness in order to save the world.
Boden & Fleck further diminish their story by showing an utter lack of imagination in bringing Captain Marvel’s world to life. If you ever wanted to see what Guardians of the Galaxy would look like without James Gunn’s personality, Captain Marvel is your answer. Vers is on a Kree team, but you’ll never get to know any of them outside her, Yon-Rogg, and Korath (Djimon Hounsou), who you only know because he was in Guardians of the Galaxy as Ronan’s (Lee Pace) henchman.
And yet I can’t say that the story miscalculations or flat direction ever derailed the film because I was so invested in Captain Marvel, especially once she teams up with Fury. Although this Fury is a far cry from the cloak-and-dagger spy we’ve seen in previous Marvel movies, it doesn’t really matter because it’s so much fun watching Larson and Jackson bounce off each other. When Captain Marvel settles into the groove of a buddy movie, it’s an absolutely joy, especially when Mendelsohn comes along to steal every scene that he’s in. Once you throw in the friendship between Captain Marvel and her fellow pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), you’ve got a film where the characters are doing the heavy lifting and you’re invested in their actions even if the story beats feel staid and the visuals lack swagger.
Marvel  Comics  Comic  Books  Film  Narratology  Storytelling 
7 weeks ago by dbourn
20 Best TV Dramas Since The Sopranos
The West Wing
Because they say joy cometh in the morning.
The Shield
Because it defined the modern antihero cop.
The Wire
Because, indeed.
Battlestar Galactica
Because it reduced humanity to its essentials.
Deadwood
Because it knew the border between civilization and savagery was porous, and patrolled by opportunists.
Lost
Because at its best, it was the most fun you could have watching TV.
Veronica Mars
Because tough and vulnerable never went together so well.
Grey’s Anatomy
Because we all need our “person.”
Friday Night Lights
Because it had clear eyes and a full heart.
Mad Men
Because the sleekest surfaces can mask the deepest wounds.
Breaking Bad
Because on some level, we all want to be the one who knocks.
The Good Wife
Because it turned a victim cliché into a treatise on power.
Adventure Time
Because it made magic.
Enlightened
Because it knew that being good is hard work.
The Americans
Because it made even the unsexy (read: realistic) details of espionage — and marriage — thrilling.
Rectify
Because it understood patience.
Because it pondered the big questions without feeling ponderous.
Transparent
Because it redefined what a TV family could be.
Jane the Virgin
Because its loving sendup of telenovelas paired shocking plot twists with political bite.
Atlanta
Because it pushes TV’s boundaries through keen observation and inventive absurdism.
NYTimes  Television  Narratology  Storytelling 
january 2019 by dbourn
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - A Midwinter's Tale, and its Problems
Gryla and the Yulelads: their advent (if you will) didn’t reveal anything new or interesting about our lead characters. Even Madam Satan largely sat this one out, allowing Sabrina to borrow her Book of the Dead and building an elaborate voodoo gingerbread house of the Spellman’s residence, but all she really ended up doing was putting out the yule log long enough for the Yulelads to play some pranks.
As for the B-plot of Susie being kidnapped by Bartel the Santa-Demon, though the episode did end with a grim end for Bartel and a new home for the souls of his wax children with Grylda, like Grylda herself, it didn’t really do anything for the plot or character development, but also wasn’t interesting/scary enough to work on its own.
The return of Sabrina’s mother, Diana, should have been what held this episode together in order to give a teary, Christmas Special-worthy conclusion, but instead it again felt like an after-thought. In her final return, she says her unfinished business was making sure Sabrina was loved. It could have been a wonderful moment, but the episode wasn’t at all about how much her aunts love her … it was about how they were all running after Yulelads and Grylda and trying to save Susie and figuring out what to do with Leticia, which made that final acknowledgement feel hollow. We know Sabrina’s aunts love her, that’s been clear throughout the entire series and never once in doubt. What was it about Diana’s brief experiences here that convinced her though?
Sabrina  Witches  Television  Storytelling  Narratology  Horror  Humor  Magic 
december 2018 by dbourn
The Favourite - Explaining the Ending
By the end of the film, all three women are... stuck in their own personal hell.
Abigail, who escaped her horrible marriage and a life of sexual submission is now slave to another master. “My life is like a maze I continually think I’ve gotten out of only to find another corner right in front of me,” Abigail tells her miserable new husband mid-way through the film. By the end... her life of luxuries is dependent on the queen’s favor and she remains trapped in submission; still locked in her maze of sexual servitude.
Sarah, who cared about queen and country above all else, is exiled from both. Sarah was willing to sacrifice her husband to the war if it was the necessary price, she loved her queen very literally for most of their lives, and now she is banished from her life there. Her hell is in her absence.
As for the queen, her health is rapidly degenerating and she is more or less helpless without Sarah’s stern missives to follow. Left to her own devices, Anne binges on blue cake, throwing up between bites. Left in Aibigail’s care, the queen asks what would happen if she fell asleep in her mud bath and slipped under. “Imagine it’s hot chocolate,” Abigail says. To be with Abigail is to drown and choke on your indulgences. Without Sarah to care for her, Anne really and truly is left with no one who loves her, just her rabbits — the stand-ins for her true happiness — and the very manifestation of her trauma and grief take over the screen until they multiply and are all that remain.
The  Favourite  Film  History  Public  UK  Queen  Anne  Horror  Narratology  Storytelling 
december 2018 by dbourn
The Art of Supervillain Monologues
Functions of Supervillain Monologues:
10:58 - The Story So Far: eg, recapping the plot, emphasizing essential details, or filling in gaps in readers' knowledge
12:30 - Humanizing the Villain: the villain seeking to gain sympathy from the hero and/or reader
13:44 - Respect and Superiority: the villain wants the hero to understand him, believing the hero merits hearing the villain's story, perhaps because the hero is important or formative to the villain, that the villain has a high regard for the hero (you can catch his insecurity slipping with two little lines at the end of his monologue: "Am I good enough now? Who's super now?"). Also, the villain needs to feel superior to his nemesis. Gloating that he's proven that he's better than the hero.
16:20 - Villainous Theatricality: using artistic flourishes to their actions, putting on a show for the captive audience of the hero
18:17 - The Irrational Mind of Evil: the hero's perspective is one of moral clarity. A villain can contain contradictions, making for a more well-rounded character.
Film  Superheroes  Narratology  Storytelling 
november 2018 by dbourn
Hadley Freeman - Jonathan Franzen Was Mocked for Sharing His Writing Tips. Me? I’m All Ears
I read writers’ writing tips all the time, not because I think they’ll magically make me into as good a writer as, say, Tolstoy (“The best thoughts most often come in the morning after waking while still in bed”) or Hemingway (“Always stop while you are going good and don’t worry about it until you start to write the next day”), but because I’m nosy and these tips invariably say a lot more about the author than they do about writing (Tolstoy knew the value of staying in bed; Hemingway was a machismo-riddled bolter who left writing sessions as casually as he left wives).
The brilliant screenwriter, novelist and all round mensch, William Goldman, who died last week, was able to write stage directions more interesting than most novels: “Thirty-five and bright, [Butch Cassidy] has brown hair, but most people, if asked to describe him, would remember him as blond. He speaks well and quickly, and has been all his life a leader of men; but if you asked him he would be damned if he could tell you why.” I’ve read Goldman’s extremely enjoyable writing advice (“Thou shalt know thy world as God knows this one”), from his book, Adventures In The Screen Trade, about 1,017 times and – spoiler – I have yet to write a tenth as well as him. Similarly, Stephen King’s book, On Writing, is one of the most spine-cracked books in my home, and still that blockbuster novel eludes me.

The popularity of writing tips suggests a lot of people see fiction as a hobby anyone could knock off if they just knew the right tricks, as opposed to a job and a skill, and one requiring a serious amount of unique talent (although if Franzen said this, I honestly think he’d be pushed out into the Pacific Ocean on an ice floe).
Teachers and plumbers aren’t asked for their top 10 tips on how to do their job. Even acting – the only profession seen as more self-indulgent than writing – doesn’t sell this fallacy; no one’s asking Meryl Streep for her tips on how to play a bereaved mother, or Robert De Niro for his top 10 techniques for playing a mafia boss. The idea that any of us could write as well as Franzen, Goldman, or whoever, by literally writing like them is as absurd as suggesting that buying the same handbag as Kate Moss will make you look like the supermodel.
Writing  Narratology  Storytelling  Guardian  Publishing  Fiction  Literature  Novels 
november 2018 by dbourn
How American Horror Story: Apocalypse Should Have Ended
Since Episode 4, we know where the main storyline is heading: the witches need to stop Michael from ending the world - a confrontation between these two magical powers.
What the current ending did right:
1. It cleared up events set up throughout the season (eg, how the witches survived the apocalypse)
2. Great physical effects (eg, Madison's head blowing up)
But, emotionally and plot-wise, the ending had three weaknesses:
1. The build-up. It's not until Episode 4 that we learn what this season is about - ie, the witches must stop Michael. It promises an epic magical battle that we never get. Because Michael is so much more powerful than the witches, his confrontation with Madison, Marie Laveau, Coco, and Cordelia, it's not a fair (or suspenseful) fight. It was a one-sided massacre that the commentator would have forgiven if it would have resulted in giving Mallory the powers necessary to be a match for Michael. Instead, Mallory goes back in time to confront a less-powerful Michael, killing him a non-magical way (running him over with a Range Rover).
2. The ending meant that nothing mattered. The season focused on preventing the apocalypse only to learn it will happen anyway, because the Anti-Christ will still get born. You root for the witches to win throughout the season, only to learn the apocalypse will still happen, anyway. This includes unintended consequences of re-setting the timeline: Cordelia won't resurrect Myrtle Snow, Tate and Violet won't be reconciled, Moira won't be set free from the house to be with her mother, and Marie Laveau won't be freed from Papa Legba.
3. Tim and Emily seem to have been created solely to enable the ending we're given - an example of characters in the service of story, rather than the other way around. Because we don't know Tim and Emily, the shock of their child being the son of Satan doesn't have a stronger pay-off.
Proposed changes to ending; what would provide the most emotional and engaging ending?
1. Just as Michael isn't really a warlock, what if Mallory weren't really a witch, but is instead the archangel Michael, with an ability to manipulate time? This provides a foil to Michael. The witches can still battle Michael and given her enough time as well as the sacrifice needed for Mallory's powers as an archangel to manifest themselves.
Mallory goes back in time, inadvertently taking Michael with her. They return to Murder House, which is built on a gateway to hell and serves as a prison to the ghost-characters from Season 1.
Mallory would still need to kill young Michael, but she'd have the adult, fully-developed Michael to contend with. Also, the ghosts in Murder House would take sides in the battle.
Mallory would prevail and Murder House destroyed, releasing its ghosts - a fitting ending to Seasons 1, 3, and 9. The Murder House ghosts would have closure, the witches would survive and be heroes, and you'd have a major magical / supernatural battle as the conclusion, as promised since Episode 4 of this season.
Horror  Television  Narratology  Storytelling  Witches 
november 2018 by dbourn
Harry Potter: JK Rowling Writes Mystery
Deduction, interrogations, and clue-gathering as the heart of the Harry Potter books, portrayed here as mysteries that are "fair" insofar as they have a balance of the function of mysteries: asking questions and giving answers, in which readers have the opportunity to enjoy deducing things for themselves. The mysteries as solvable without being obvious (unbalanced examples include focusing on asking questions - JJ Abrams' "mystery box" or focusing on answers - Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' "Sherlock").
Rowling's technique for a mystery:
1. using vague language in order to hide clues (Lupin's "silvery white orb" boggart; in film, it's easier for the viewer to figure out that Lupin is afraid of the moon).
2. Muted Culprits - excluding certain characters from dialogue (we don't suspect Ginny Weasly opened the Chamber of Secrets because she never talks)
3. burying clues inside a list, then misdirecting the reader away from them to things the reader cares about more. By using fantasy, it's easier to list things that would otherwise be unremarkable.
4. using signature descriptions of characters without explicitly naming / identifying them. Rowling repeatedly uses a distinctive physical characteristic of a character to refer to them, using that same characteristic in this way over and over again. This conceals who a character is, while still making it possible for the reader to guess who is being referred to.
Writing  Literature  Harry  Potter  Mysteries  Narratology  Film  Storytelling  Fiction 
november 2018 by dbourn
57 Disney Animated Films, Ranked
It’s hard to rank the Disney animated films, and not just because there are so many of them. These are films that mean so much to so many people, that are inherently linked to powerful memories of childhood and have informed what we so many adults consider magical. Ranking their respective strengths and weaknesses becomes as much an investigation of why you loved something as it is to their relative worth as a creative endeavor. (Divorcing yourself of those emotions is mightily challenging.) Still, I tried to do just that, and wanted to share stories from the making of the movies as well, so you know just what went into that film’s success (or lack thereof). So, yes, this is a history lesson as much as it’s a critical appraisal. (My primary sources were Disney War by James B. Stewart, Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, and Walt Disney by Neal Gabler, plus the fantastic documentary films Waking Sleeping Beauty and Walt and El Grupo. I heartily recommend them all.)

But please, let us know in the comments what you think of this list, what Disney films you continue to revisit, and which of these 57 you hadn’t ever even heard of until this list.
Disney  Narratology  Storytelling  Film  Animation 
november 2018 by dbourn
Star Trek Movies Ranked
Star Trek has had an unusual road to its fandom. It began as a short-lived television series, and yet it’s a highly influential and long lasting franchise that has spawned four sequel series and thirteen motion pictures. These two formats can be incredibly different, both in terms of tenor and tone, despite taking place in the same universe with the same casts. It is, to quote Mr. Spock, “fascinating.”

Some make the case that this is a story that deserves to be told on a cinematic canvas, while others argue that Trek is best served as an episodic series. Some pay great homage to the feeling of the original series, while others feel like they should have aired on television. It’s a rich, diverse film franchise where even the failures are intriguing.
Narratology  Film  Storytelling  Star  Trek 
november 2018 by dbourn
Twitter
question out of interest re : Cobley 2001/2014 talks re TV narratives (p175) and exposure of audiences…
narratology  from twitter
november 2018 by beccabrown

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