Cinematic tradition suggests that Hollywood films, like plays, are divided into acts. Thompson (1999) streamlined the conception of this largescale film structure by suggesting that most films are composed of four acts of generally equal length—the setup, the complicating action, the development, and the climax (often including an epilog). These acts are based on the structure of the narrative, and would not necessarily have a physical manifestation in shots and transitions. Nonetheless, exploring a sample of 150 Hollywood style films from 1935 to 2005, this article demonstrates that acts shape shot lengths and transitions. Dividing films into quarters, we found that shots are longer at quarter boundaries and generally shorter near the middle of each quarter. Moreover, aside from the beginnings and ends of films, the article shows that fades, dissolves, and other non-cut transitions are more common in the third and less common in the fourth quarters of films.
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan E. Delong
James E. Cutting, Catalina Iricinschi and Kaitlin L. Brunick
This article presents a new method to create maps that chart changes across a cinematic narrative. These are unlike narrative spaces previously discussed in the literature—they are abstract, holistic, dynamic representations based on objective criteria. The analysis considers three films (All About Eve, Inception, and MASH) by counting the co-occurrences of main characters within scenes, and 12 Angry Men by counting their co-occurrences within shots. The technique used combines the statistical methods of correlation, multidimensional scaling, and Procrustes analysis. It then plots the trajectories of characters across these spaces in All About Eve and Inception, regions for characters in Inception and MASH, and compares the physical arrangement of jurors with their dramatic roles in 12 Angry Men. These maps depict the changing structures in the visual narrative. Finally, through consideration of statistical learning, the article explores the plausibility that these maps mimic relations in the minds of film viewers.
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan DeLong
This is an amendment to the article "How Act Structure Sculpts Shot Lengths and Shot Transitions in Hollywood Film" by the same authors published in Projections 5(1), summer 2011.
The Illusion of Progress in Popular Film
Vicki L. Eaklor
The film The Kids Are All Right, centered on a lesbian couple and their two teenage children, was released in 2010 following a media blitz selling it as a groundbreaking film. Many queer viewers (like this author) eagerly awaited this supposed step forward in lesbian representation, only to be disappointed once again by mainstream stereotypes and tropes. This article takes a close look at the film against the backdrop of lesbian images and themes in “Hollywood“ films, particularly in the last twenty years, and argues that continuities, while sometimes more subtle, override the illusion of progress in portraying lesbians. Finally, there is speculation about why genuine change in mainstream film may be impossible under current societal and economic systems.
German popular filmmakers who participated in the Denk ich an Deutschland series brought a range of conflicting impulses to their meditations on Germany, including the universalizing tendencies of popular culture, together with the personal and political strains often present in documentary films. With varying degrees of success, each director agitates national identity via an idiosyncratic selfhood, a process which in turn expands our notions of Germany beyond generic convention. The best of the five films discussed in this essay—directed by Doris Dörrie, Fatih Akin, Katja von Garnier, Sherry Hormann, and Klaus Lemke—feature their creators' struggle to box themselves out of a larger collective identity. By modeling their own existential Bildung, they chip away at an otherwise implacable German identity and provide a psychic service for Germans potentially more salutary than the way Hollywood films sustain American identity.
The topic of violence in moving image media has retained its salience and controversies over several decades, and Stuart Bender returns our interest to the subject in his analysis of depictions of war violence in movies and video games. Bender is a working filmmaker as well as a scholar and university educator. This combination of skill sets enables him to blend a filmmaker’s attention to the craft of creating moving images with a scholar’s attention to the historical, theoretical, and cultural contexts in which moving images circulate and are produced. He is interested in why viewers describe certain depictions as being realistic even under circumstances in which various elements of cinematic style take those depictions away from the known contexts where battlefield violence occurs. He compares Hollywood films from the classical and modern eras with video games in order to advance a conception of realism based on viewers’ perceptions of the accretion of detail within the surface design of shots and scenes. He situates what he terms “reported realism” with reference to existing traditions of realist theory in cinema.
As this issue of Screen Bodies went into production, the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was concluding, and Vogue published a short online piece on Hillary Clinton’s sartorial choices for her acceptance speech. While Clinton had often worn brighter, bolder colors and styles for her major appearances, on this evening she donned an ivory suit—a simple canvas against which to continue painting an image of the woman behind the candidacy. At the same time, the Internet continued to disseminate more negative reviews of the rebooted Ghostbusters (2016)—starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, directed by Paul Feig, written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig. I think the film is (pace Lucille Ball) funny and brave. It hilariously reverses many sexist tropes and assumptions out of mainstream Hollywood films; it is crude and inappropriate in the best of ways; and responses to it—especially patriarchal, masculinist, heteronormative, and racist ones—continue to demonstrate the importance of critical comedic revisions for feminist interruptions of established paradigms.