Tiny Couch Review

20180119 162007

Essentials: Films That Taught Me Cinema Things in First Year.

Film school was years ago for me but the films I watched in first year helped me understand cinema and how to really make a movie, and the energies and mindset needed in order to complete a monstrous task such as completing a movie. These five films to this days are films that I can go back to, if I ever need to remember the basics.

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1. Notorious
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 classic, is probably the only movie I really refer to people when they ask about movies that will teach directing, because it’s the one movie I reference. The film helped me understand the elements that appear on the screen. This was used in film in teaching us about the many other elements that are embedded within the screenplay itself and how unearthing these elements will help you and supply the film with dramatic power, cohesion and clarity that needs to be on screen. I watched this film a lot when I was really trying to grasp dramaturgy/spine of a film. The film is really perfect if one wants to learn blocking and the impact blocking a scene perfectly can have.
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2. Jaws
Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s monster hit is a fan favourite. The film’s first twenty minutes was very impactful for me and how from just those twenty minutes, I went from 'I want to edit' to 'I want to write. The film was shown in first year screenwriting class and it was used to teach us the importance of having a hook. The first twenty taught me the power of having a hook, characters, plot, structure, performance, cinematography, editing with music and sound. They helped with direction and writing. I also learned of how almost every movie follows the same structure and if you watch them carefully you can spot all the similar elements each film has. The film’s screenplay was also used to show the importance of understanding how a screenplay works and the power of knowing that.

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3. Nosferatu
This 1922 Dracula classic, along with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Okay Nosferatu, as old as it is, taught me something very important, and that is people use art/films to express how they feel and also as a reflection of the world around them. Up until that point I just wanted to make movies because I loved them and they seemed cool. Nosferatu and the history of German Expressionism (and other movements) made me understand that cinema is much more than about being a cool thing. Expressionist filmmakers used settings in the future/present as a way to comment on their social surroundings. Narrative high in psychology, this also was to show the state of mind of those effected by the war (often men who went insane/mad or were paranoid and disillusioned) – the effects of the world war on men and women were portrayed is such a stylistic way that involved supernatural creatures and incredible mise-en-scene.
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4. The Great Train Robbery
Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 is argued to be the first western film made, but for me it’s the first silent film I ever watched and from it I learned how I can tell a story through emotion and acting without dialogue. This, along with, A Trip to the Moon and The Lumiere Bros classic, The Sprinkler Sprinkled, are probably film school go-to's because of what they teach about narrative and the evolution of cinema from the silent era till now. This has also influenced experimentation in me, I thought to myself that if people in 1895 and 1900’s could tell stories in such a unique way (at the time) what’s stopping me from doing the same?
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5. A Reasonable Man
Gavin Hood’s A Reasonable Man, which can fairly be called his debut as an “acclaimed” filmmaker, explores South African traditionalism and mythology with a backdrop of an early post-apartheid era. This film is truly wonderful and I was shook at the level of artistry. The films contrasts are heavy with blacks and whites learning democratic interaction while a past of war, death and segregation still hovers. Hood wrote, produced and directed the film, and starred as Sean Raine, an ex-soldier who defends a herd boy after his accidental killing of a baby. The accused claims he killed a Tikoloshe – known widely in South African folklore as an evil being that roams houses at night. This film is a must-see because of its portrayal of multiple binary oppositions (film speak, yikes) and its lending of different conflicts. The various subplot lines meticulously give the story density, while still maintaining common themes – like forgiveness, truth as a perception and liberty. How the protagonist is a hero in fighting for the herd boy but is also a troubled man himself, draws parallels between different people and/or demographics. It essentially proves to be a film to study, especially for writers.
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