The Hobbit

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AuthorTopic: The Hobbit
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #50
We're just interpreting and reacting to your words, man. It seems that you're oppressed by sound.

[ Sunday, May 04, 2008 19:31: Message edited by: Drew ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #51
A distinction can be drawn between manipulating emotion and discouraging creative, independent, spontaneous, expansive thought. They often go together, but they do not necessarily. Storytelling in any form may involve some measure of emotional manipulation; Shakespeare certainly used it. Now, he used it more subtly than movies tend to and in ways that left the audience more freedom of response; the result was sometimes beautiful. So the emotional flooding isn't bad even in our movies, unless it is tethered to an evil suppression of freedom.

I agree with you about Shakespeare in general, but I was disappointed to see this comment, particularly coming right after a screed about free thinking and artistic vision:

quote:
Originally written by Clavicle:

...choosing to adapt what is widely considered Shakespeare's worst play is the height of guts... unfortunately, even she wasn't able to save it...
It isn't widely considered that, it's widely assumed to be that. It's widely assumed by people who give undue weight to their old professors and teachers, who gave undue weight to Victorian literary critics who condemned the play for its blood and gore. It isn't popular today because it isn't on the short list of ten or twelve Shakespeare plays that are frequently read in school, or performed. But in Shakespeare's day Titus Andronicus was actually among his most successful and popular plays. And having read Titus and half of the rest, I fail to see any way in which it doesn't live up to his usual standard. So when you say "she wasn't able to save it," I'm confused. What did it need saving from, other than T.S. Eliot's fanboys?

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? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #52
I dunno though. Can't a soundtrack, properly executed, augment, rather than supplement, the film? As far as the idea that there was a golden age of film, I cry fowl. Yes, DUCK! Because there were a whole slew of crappy, maudlin films that had overbearing soundtracks. Sure, one or two a year were decent, but that is the same as today. Only a percent or two are good stuff, and those are rarely big-budget stuffs. It just hurts to see a person take a position on soundtracks that is essentially indefensible. Sure, most of them are bad, and cover up flaws in the direction, writing, or acting, but sometimes that isn't the case. So it isn't the soundtracks that are bad, it is the decisions made that are bad. Like, after spending 5 million dollars, why do they keep spending more to bring a crappy movie to the cinema, when it would demonstrate integrity to just wave a magnet over it?

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Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 4153
Profile Homepage #53
In defense of laugh tracks: If you're looking at a traditional sitcom, or pretty much any form of comedy, a lot of the humor comes from bad things happening to people. If not bad things, then unpleasant, awkward, confusing, or seriously bewildering things that would wreck a normal person's day, and would often not be funny. The laugh track reminds us that we can laugh at these things, particularly with the most awful moments of Schadenfreude. Of course, it's subjective, because a laugh track will only save so many shots to the crotch before you just can't laugh anymore.

Another benefit to laugh tracks is that they give the viewer the illusion that they're in a room full of people laughing along with them. A shallow illusion, admittedly, but it's an angle that might've been considered.

I'll admit that there are other types of humor, because otherwise we'd be a sad sad bunch. But the everyday type of humor (in-jokes among friends, nonsense uttered at 3am, Arrested Development-style awkward stuff) translates poorly to sitcom form, most of the time. That is, it's hard to make something like that last on network tv (see Arrested Development) and to maintain that same level of excellence (one could argue that SNL fits here).

So in conclusion, laugh tracks might just be a necessary element of the craft. Or if not necessary, then at least a well-recognized element that does in fact have a purpose. Personally, I don't particularly like them, but I don't seem to hate them as much as Clavicle does.

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Posts: 4130 | Registered: Friday, March 26 2004 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #54
If the laugh track consists of actual audience laughter and not canned stuff, I think it can add quite a bit. I Love Lucy, for example, has wonderful audience laughter where you can make out individual people who just lose it and crack up completely in different, amusing ways.

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Profile #55
quote:
Originally written by Ephesos:

That is, it's hard to make something like that last on network tv (see Arrested Development) and to maintain that same level of excellence (one could argue that SNL fits here).
Rita
Ann and George Oscar Bluth
Heck, George Oscar Bluth
the seal
the hand
the surrogate

That was a decent show.

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Synergy, et al - "I don't get it."

Argon - "I'm at a loss for words..."
Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Warrior
Member # 15187
Profile Homepage #56
Drew:
I'm not oppressed by sound, I'm oppressed by thoughtless applications of sound that destroy what might otherwise be a good or even a great film.

Salmon:
Exactly my point: There're good soundtracks and there're bad soundtracks. I thought I'd already expained that at least twice? Including what makes a good soundtrack and what makes a bad one?

Ephesos: Although I understand your point: With good, clever writing, I don't see why you'd need to remind an audience that it's okay to laugh at something?

Slarty:
First: 'Emotional manipulation' should never be confused with a simple presentation or exposure of humanity with might or might not effect an audience emotionally. One is dishonest, the second is honest.

Second: Yes, you have a good point about how the play is interpreted. To be honest: I haven't read the play; I've simply trusted the opinion of somebody else, whose opinion I trust strongly, who has read Titus Andronicus, along with most of Shakespeare's other works... so in that aspect I was relying, really, on somebody I view as a trustworth 'authority'.

Anyhow... you have a point with how certain works come to be viewed and critiqued and canonized or dismissed... I've long had an argument, myself, with the literary canon... I think it's long overdue for a change. There are a number of authors that should be removed and a number who should be added, in my opinion.

What I meant when I said that Taymor "wasn't able to save it" was a number of things. First, the ending: It was funny as hell, but the thing with... do I remember this right.... a fork penetrating somebody's hand? Was a little too much... plus there were parts of the film that just seemed... well... less than Shakespearean. The part with the woman writing in the dirt with her arm stubs... I think I remember thinking: Why does she finally do this now and not before? And again: that scene was a little overdramatized. There was a little bit of that almost campy drama that was just a little too much. I guess that's just my taste, or my first impression.

I guess it's time for a second viewing. Yes, definitely.
Posts: 178 | Registered: Saturday, March 8 2008 08:00
? Man, ? Amazing
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Profile #57
For the record, most of Arrested Development does require prompting to let the audience know it is actually okay to laugh at certain things which would otherwise be off limits. Like the **** and the **** * ******* and when *** censored ***** *****.

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Synergy, et al - "I don't get it."

Argon - "I'm at a loss for words..."
Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #58
I think we're in agreement, except we view pulling emotional strings with music as part of the art of film and you view it as a cheap way to duck responsibility for making a film that does it without using music.

I can understand your view, but here's mine: music has been having emotional impact since there has been music. It's one of the things music is supposed to do. (I recommend Tolstoy's "The Kreutzer Sonata" highly on the subject.) Film is supposed to have emotional impact too.

quote:
And this means treating every element of the film with sensitivity, intelligence and imagination. A bad sounddtrack can kill a film far more easily than a good soundtrack can make a film.
Agreed! But just because a film's soundtrack evokes emotional response on it's own, even if the movie doesn't merit it, doesn't make the soundtrack bad. There are, in fact, terrible movies with good scores. They don't become good movies; there may be some audiences "fooled" into being moved more than they should be, but that shouldn't be a condemnation of the soundtrack.

—Alorael, who can agree with your view of film scores only so far as Hollywood deliberately permits and encourages sloppy acting and directing because it can be covered up with a kitschy soundtrack. If the elements are independent, though, the movie is good or bad as the sum (or more than the sum) of its parts, and having a score that plucks those heartstrings isn't dishonest. It's art.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #59
I suspect you may just have a tin ear.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #60
I agree about the literary canon. And I believe you're thinking of the fork-shoved-down-the-throat -- oh, Alan Cummings -- though I may be forgetting some incidental violence.

quote:
... less than Shakespearean. The part with the woman writing in the dirt with her arm stubs... I think I remember thinking: Why does she finally do this now and not before?
I had the same reaction. The moral of the story: don't steal your plot from Ovid :) But that frustratingly irrational behavior is hardly unusual in Shakespeare; I had the same reaction to Hamlet too, and (in about ten different places) to Julius Caesar.

The movie is 'overdone' in some sense but I don't think that's a bad thing, in this case. If the whole thing was restrained and sensitive it would be a boring but gory production worthy of its ancient critics. Titus Andronicus is an extremely FLAT piece of writing, with the potential to expand in a flurry of directions, and constantly begging the interpreter -- audience, director, or whoemever -- to imagine upon it. What impresses me so much about Taymor's version is that she builds on the text with all these great excesses, without ever taking away the freedom of the audience to do so. Indeed I think if there is any theme Taymor brought out it is an exhortation to think for yourself in the face of atrocity: with the expanded role of the little boy, and the Croatians in the amphitheater, and so on.

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Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #61
quote:
Originally written by Slarty:

And having read Titus and half of the rest, I fail to see any way in which it doesn't live up to his usual standard.
Really? Because it's definitely his worst tragedy. Everything he wrote later was better. The kind of complexity and emotional subtlety that he gives, say, Othello is completely absent from Aaron. He didn't drop onstage brutality (cf. King Lear), but he made it tremendously more effective later on. Basically everything that he did in that play got re-worked and improved in later plays.

That said, compared to other Elizabethan plays of the time and earlier, Titus was head and shoulders above most of them.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #62
Kel, I certainly agree that Titus was in some ways a proto-tragedy for Shakespeare, and its characters are less explicitly complex. That doesn't make it automatically worse for me, though. Titus is not my favourite Shakespeare play, and I'd never compare it to, say, Hamlet; but I prefer it to Othello and some of the others.

And actually, I disagree that complexity and emotional subtlety are absent from Aaron. Compared to Othello there is more that is implied, rather than explicitly stated, and this is characteristic of the whole cast. Aaron's speeches towards the end (including, yes, the "Zounds, ye whore" speech) prompted me to go back and reread all his earlier lines when I first read them.

Oof, I didn't expect to end up debating this. Idris Anderson would be proud. :P

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Slartucker is going to have a cow when he hears about this," Synergy said.
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Warrior
Member # 15187
Profile Homepage #63
Drew:
A tin ear?? Hah! Ask me about music, some day.

For Nirvana:
I'll only argue that manipulation cannot, in itself, be art. Manipulation can only be craft, and it's generally not a respectable craft for good artists. Manipulation can only degrade a work of art, whether you notice it or not or enjoy it or not, for the very reason that it interferes with the very device that turns an artist's work into art: the [relatively] free mind of the interpreting audience.

Slarty:
Yeah, when I used the phrase "over-the-top", in reference to Titus, I meant it as a compliment in the way that Fellini, whose work I love, was over-the-top (honestly: How many directors can get away with telling his/her actors/actresses to say anything they like and then dub something else in afterward, totally out of sync with the person's mouth, and have the picture come across as a brilliant work of high art?)... but when I said Taymor's film was "a little too much"... I guess that outlines the sort of delicacy you encounter when you're going for campy or even when you're going for wildly-creative. Fellini could pull it off. I'm not sure if Taymor, as imaginative as she is and as much as I love her work, has learned yet how to pull it off as a director. (I've just put a library request out on Oedipus Rex, by the way, so I'll get to see a little more of her work, although that film is dated earlier than Titus... I did, by the way, think that Frida was an excellent movie and very well done.

But now you've inspired me to go read the play (Titus Andronicus), too, before watching the film again... I remember glancing at the play after I saw the film the first time, just to see if all that stuff was really what Shakespeare actually wrote... and was surprised (and amused) at how faithful her film seemed to be to the actual text.

(And finally: No, I don't think any of us thought we'd be debating this, post-Hobbit, even me. Do I get punished for starting all this? I don't think it was my fault, but... well, whatever. It's not the first time a bunch of people have jumped on me for suggesting something slightly unpopular. I'm sort of used to it, by now.)
Posts: 178 | Registered: Saturday, March 8 2008 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #64
Clavicle: Have you read Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories"? You'd appreciate his distinction between enchantment and magic.

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"Slartucker is going to have a cow when he hears about this," Synergy said.
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Warrior
Member # 15187
Profile Homepage #65
I haven't yet... I'm on it, though!
Posts: 178 | Registered: Saturday, March 8 2008 08:00
Warrior
Member # 6934
Profile #66
I think this discussion is entirely worthy of the topic, even though we're not yet talking about the music of the Ainur.

I do find myself in disagreement with a lot of things stated/claimed here, but that's fine. I am no friend of all-embracing truths.

This, however, is the reason why I am a bit peeved by Clavicle's (though sound-sounding, yet oddly arcane) definition of art (and lack of manipulation). I would argue that no work of art can be unmanipulative due to the premise that the artist chooses his theme/method/medium very carefully (lest he be inspired by something only true artists experience, i.e. being kissed by a muse).

Manipulating someone into thinking about something they wouldn't have thought about otherwise is just as fine as getting them to think about it by pure chance. The free mind of the audience is something you might wish for, but should it exist, it would not allow for unwanted manipulation anyway. If, however, it accepts being manipulated into anything, even the manipulation itself might be artistic in nature.

I do comprehend the notion that the audience eventually should be the judge of what is true art and what isn't, but it's not a democratic vote. It's an opinion .

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Always try to be true to yourself - unless you suck
Posts: 183 | Registered: Sunday, March 19 2006 08:00
Warrior
Member # 15187
Profile Homepage #67
I understand what you're saying... but I'd argue that, there being a difference between manipulation by the artist and manipulation by the audience's own thoughts and emotions, the two should never be confused. The former necessarily hinders the latter. One of the funny things about art is that no matter how hard the artist tries to deliberately convey an impression: it seems to have this irresistible tendency of being 'taken the wrong way' by at least somebody. That's because art works by impression, not by communication. You the artist juxtapose a few ideas in order to help yourself figure them out and, while the result might mean one thing to you, the artist, it will mean something else to me, the audience.

So... art and message are different. Impression and manipulation are different.

Most people don't like intellectual explanations of art . . . that's understandable. But even if you don't want there to be an intellectual explanation: that doesn't mean an intellectual explanation doesn't (or shouldn't) exist. I'm not trying to suggest that art be straightjacketed (I'm the one who likes weird art, after all); I'm only trying to explain why bad soundtracks destroy otherwise good movies.
Posts: 178 | Registered: Saturday, March 8 2008 08:00
Warrior
Member # 6934
Profile #68
Mmmh... interesting. I'll think about this and retort in due time (I have to go to bed now, since I'm throwing a big birthday party tomorrow).

One thing, though: I realize this is sort of a circular regression, but the bad soundtrack is something which resonates in your mind as manipulative to you, yes?

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Always try to be true to yourself - unless you suck
Posts: 183 | Registered: Sunday, March 19 2006 08:00
Warrior
Member # 15187
Profile Homepage #69
Of course I interpret it personally as manipulative. When I'm watching a film and I start to feel like I'm being manipulated, I get annoyed. That not only kills the film for me, it also distracts me. But... it doesn't take a psychological researcher to see that Hollywood soundtracks in particular (not to mention TV) are widely used (and near-universally successful) as a means of manipulating the audience. I think I'm intelligent enough and educated enough to be able to distinguish a soundtrack designed to manipulate the audience from a soundtrack which is as relevant to the film as every other element... the lighting, the performance, the writing... sound should not be treated as a means of telling the audience how to feel at any given moment, it should be an active and relevant part of the film.
Posts: 178 | Registered: Saturday, March 8 2008 08:00
Warrior
Member # 6934
Profile #70
No matter how I turn and twist it, I'm not convinced. I obviously agree that a bad soundtrack is not helping any film.

What startles me is the post-modern approach that a proper story (piece of art etc.) be received by the audience only, without the artist(s) having a say in the matter. 'We don't care about what the artist is trying to tell us' is a famous quote for this approach. But it's only half the truth. A piece of art is created by craft of manipulation in that something is turned into something else.

When I tell you a story I choose characters, setting, style, theme and what not. When I make a film I might want to use actors to interprete certain parts of the script. If I want music to accompany my story that's my choice as well. Why is the use of a soundtrack manipulative when the use of an actor is not?

Any bad link in this process will break the chain. A bad script, a bad actor, bad music.

I guess I know what you mean when talking about Hollywood soundtracks trying to give a bad film emotional momentum so that at least an unimaginative audience won't be bored to death. This is sort of music/noise Hans Zimmer and his merry band of IT composers produces by the Terabyte.

I would argue, though, that a lot of these films are crap anyway. I would also argue that it's a matter of taste whether I like a particular piece of music. I liked being manipulated into believing that Darth Vader was a mean dude by John Williams' score.

[ Saturday, May 10, 2008 07:07: Message edited by: Locmaar ]

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Always try to be true to yourself - unless you suck
Posts: 183 | Registered: Sunday, March 19 2006 08:00
Shaper
Member # 6292
Profile #71
I get Clavicle's point and concur that, in general, at least the typical American movie has a reputation for using cloying techniques like music that instructs you how you are supposed to feel about the scene you are witnessing. I usually feel insulted watching such less than truly artful films, because they appear to assume the viewer is stupid and would not know how to feel about the scene without the emotional cue. Or the ones which use dense, swelling music to convey a sense of drama or tragedy, because the script, acting, and direction are incapable of conveying the feeling without it. Fortunately, it's not too hard to sniff out the typical lame movie ahead of time after you've seen a few dozens of these.

That said, I love well-implemented music that creates a more potent and poignant immersive experience. I guess that Star Wars wouldn't be half the movie it became, without the score by John Williams, for one obvious example.

-S-

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Posts: 2009 | Registered: Monday, September 12 2005 07:00
Shaper
Member # 32
Profile #72
Soundtracks are not used in a manipulative way, but rather to enhance the moment. Without a soundtrack most films would suffer greatly.

Imagine how boring the fight between Anakin and Obi-wan would have been without Battle of the Heroes. What about the Ride of the Rohirrim? And lets not forget To Zanarkand, without which FFX would suffer greatly.

We have a sense of hearing, why not use it. Just wait until movies start utilizing more of our senses. One day you might just be able to taste how epic the Lord of the Rings is...

[ Saturday, May 10, 2008 04:33: Message edited by: Lt. Sullust ]

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
真実長ガス
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #73
The Star Wars soundtrack is -- obviously, I think -- a soundtrack that is well fitted to the film and enhances it. Clavicle, maybe it would help if you could give a few examples of cloying (good word) and manipulative soundtracks? I think we have all heard some...

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Slartucker is going to have a cow when he hears about this," Synergy said.
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Shaper
Member # 6292
Profile #74
This causes me to inquire, is there anyone else who felt that the LoTR movies lacked too much of the charm conveyed in the books? I thought the films decently depicted the visual grandeur of Tolkien's world and the intensity of the drama. I felt they missed the richness and warmth of many of the relationships, especially when going so far as to skew the loyalty of Sam to Frodo for dramatic effect, when Sam abandoned Frodo near Cirith Ungol. I thought this undermined the all too rare story of undying love and faithfulness which Tolkien wrote into that relationship. Modern Hollywood chose to sully it with a wholly contrived, emotionally manipulative threat to the friendship, and this was the equivalent to me of sappy music trying to wrest unearned feelings out of me. It felt like a cowardly change to introduce. I would have stayed true to Tolkien and depicted a belief in a friendship that nothing could assail. Hollywood may mostly be too cynical to stomach such a depiction in purity and sincerity.

I look forward to seeing how the Hobbit(s) fare in the hands of director Guillermo del Toro. I saw Pan's Labyrinth recently and was impressed with the intelligence and care that clearly went into his direction. It is a lovely fantasy film, though tinged with the darkness and edginess indulged by the man who brought us Hellboy and Blade. I think del Toro is less cloying in his delivery and more demonstrative of his trust in the intelligence of his audience.

-S-

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