Thursday, June 13, 2013
Sample Movie Deconstruction (5 A)
“Avatar is primarily an action-adventure journey of self-discovery, in the context of imperialism and deep ecology.” Wikipedia
Another aspect to consider when looking at endings is how the plots and themes and characters are brought to completion. What is the message that is left in the air? A movie or a novel may effectively tie together the ribbons into a neat bow and still not be pleasant. How do you want readers to walk away from your novel—what word or image or metaphor is important to linger?
The quote above accurately shows both the theme and the conclusion behind Avatar, regardless of how much viewers agree. It doesn’t leave the audience in confusion. Imperialism results in death and destruction. The world must respect the ecosystem of its roots. Jack Sully discovers peace. All viewpoints that are open to continued conversation or argument personally. However the closing image is Sully as a Na’vi, a tribe of peace who nurture their ecology and whose culture does not practice imperialism. Image metaphor.
The series Firefly addressed all its story questions as well in the final movie Serenity. Since the series got cancelled before Joss Whedon had the opportunity to develop the whole story, he produced a movie sequel rather than leave fans adrift. The situation in the opening episode of Firefly with Reynolds and Washburn fighting for freedom from the Alliance comes to a full battle scene at the end as well—completing the circle. Each main character’s storyline is brought to completion, although not happily to many fans, and the mystery behind both the Reavers and River comes into full light and disclosure. Mal Reynolds has fought a successful battle, opposite to the opening sequence. Truth has won out over deception. Serenity, the spaceship is still able to fly. Serenity—the state of being serene—at peace. Word metaphor.
1. What ending image did your movie use? Was it a metaphor that has lingered?
2. What would have been better, in your opinion?
3. What word or image or metaphor do you want your novel to end with?
Share: Why do you consider your choice for your novel the right one?
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Sample Movie Deconstruction (5)
“At the end of a scene, we want to feel that something important occurred. A change took place. The fortunes of the character and the path of the story have shifted.” Donald Maass
Not only does each scene need to fulfill this movement, but also the end scene needs to maximize and bring to completion the story’s beginning question. In the first blog I asked you to journal if the movie met your expectations and why or, why not? If it did not, chances are it did not fully answer the beginning question, or at least not to your emotional satisfaction. Have you ever wanted to throw a shoe at your television in frustration at a bad ending?
The character needs to be transformed in some way. His perspective on life has shifted. Her values have reshaped. Something new has been added to life or some hindrance removed freeing up a new beginning.
The beginning story situation needs to be resolved, even in an ongoing series. If there has been a murder—justice, if romance—decision, a journey—completed. The main character can leave the question or possibility that he will return again, such as Indiana Jones, but the main quest, conflict or dilemma right now has to be answered.
Sometimes both can be answered with a surprise or twist, but that too needs to fit naturally within the genre. For example, in Avatar, at the beginning all Jake Sully wants is to be able to walk again and he is willing to do whatever is asked to fulfill his personal need. He really doesn’t care about anything or anyone else. At the end, he is willing to die for the Na’vi. However instead of death he becomes one, with full restoration of his body beyond any possibilities he could have ever conceived.
1. Go back to your notes and write out exactly how and why the character changed and the story question became resolved.
2. Are they reasonable or not? Are there holes? Is there emotional satisfaction?
3. What could have been an alternate ending?
Share: What would you have changed in the ending if you could?
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Sample Movie Deconstruction (4A)
“A Turning Point is like a cliffhanger—a moment when the story is taken in a new direction and we wonder what will happen next.” Victoria Lynn Schmidt. Ph.D.
Each point has a goal a purpose, to catch the viewer or reader up into the atmosphere and conflict. If done well it catches us unawares. We might think we know where the story is going but the shift changes everything. The person is not who we thought. The danger is nearer. The betrayer is a loved one.
However these points also need to connect to the seeds planted in the very beginning. Rosenfeld says the purpose of the beginning is to lay a foundation, pull “the reader into the action of the significant situation”, and “create a sense of mystery or suspense by withholding information.”
Here are the rest of my turning shifts from the first episode of Firefly that I shared last week. I’ve marked in bold the pieces that sparked a mystery for me.
Eight) Dining area—meet passengers
Meals—comment made “here to judgment day”
Nine) Mole discovered on board
Ten) Callie shot
Eleven) Argument—establishes himself as captain. I don’t ever remember anyone saying his name. (Reynolds)
Twelve) Reevers—fear evident
Thirteen) Whitefall—land is desert setting/old West echo/shoot-out
Fourteen) Reevers attack on planet—saved barely
Fifteen) Close—offers to let the doctor stay on board despite being a fugitive
“still flying means a good day”
1. Look at the focus point of each shift you noted in the last journal prompt and write next to it what characteristics echo back to the beginning scene you’ve journaled out?
Share: Which of my above creates the most curiosity for you in this sequence? What does it make you want to know?
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Sample Movie Deconstruction (4)
Now that we have a working scene list, it provides a visual map to help identify and focus balance. Later, too, we can examine which scenes were external, or internal, and what function did they provide overall, as character development, plot sequence, or setting, or atmosphere.
Depending on the storyline and genre, the framework of a movie or novel will include different sections or categories. Whether set up as a Three-Act structure, or as a beginning, middle, and end sequence, there are specific turning points that cause a directional change apart from scene endings. Each scene has its own focus point, or beat, that marks one from the previous and from the next. However these markers imply an even greater shift, even in a quiet story.
In the movie you’ve watched can you identify a prologue and/or an inciting incident? Where does Act One, Act Two, and Act Three appear? What marks the climax/resolution?
Look also for possible parallel versions of the above as well. For example, are you tracking the movie as action, so plotting out these turning points by events? Or do you primarily view it as character driven, so note emotional and thematic shifts.
In the movie Count of Monet Cristo, both can ‘plot’ lines can be tracked. For example, is the inciting incident when his best friend, Mondego, becomes jealous of Edmond’s relationship with Mercedes, which increase when Bonaparte singles Edmond out for a secret reason? Or does it occur when Edmond is arrested?
Share: Which was the most startling? Why?