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Archive for the ‘Melodrama’ Category

“Are you ready to go back to Titanic?”

In Film, gender, Melodrama, Oscars, Uncategorized on April 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Sarah S.

Confession: When Titanic first came out I saw it 8 times in the theater. I had a poster on my wall. I not only listened the soundtrack but I bought the album of Gaelic Storm, the band playing at the film’s third class after-party. I was 18 years old and I loooooved it. And I never fully rejected it as the years passed. When friends made fun of my affection, I noted that I had the weight of the Academy behind me. (Titanic was nominated for 14 Oscars, tying All About Eve, and won 11, tying Ben Hur and getting tied itself by LOTR: The Return of the King.) I also found Titanic-hating passé; one didn’t have to love it to acknowledged its solid acting, gorgeous sets and costumes, and stunning effects.

Age certainly tempered my enthusiasm, so I met with trepidation the news that not only was director James Cameron re-releasing the movie (15 years after its debut and right before the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking) but also that it was going to be coming right at you in 3-D. I tend to be as blasé about 3-D as Rose Dewitt Bukater is about the ship Titanic, so I fully expected to roll my eyes at this pointless spectacle. Well, I went, I saw, and I’m here to report back not only how Titanic holds up under 3-D technology, but also how my perspective on the underlying symbolism of the story has significantly shifted.

First off, the good: 3-D and Titanic actually work together. Cameron’s obsessive attention to set design and historical detail fit well with the layered look of 3-D cinema. 3-D often lessens lushness but in Titanic it works to emphasize the impressive look of the thing. Speaking of that obsessive attention to detail, the film’s one changed scene, courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson, diverges from its predecessor in its emphasis of the milky-way if nothing else. And the things you liked about the movie beyond its beauty, namely the acting and the romance between Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) hold up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chattering Good Stories: The Hunger Games and Other Revisitations

In Hunger Games, Melodrama, spoilers, YA on April 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Guest Contributor Taylor D.

There are times when, if you flicker your attention in its direction, your body will respond. You have to keep your mind OFF your nausea in order not to vomit. You must not allow yourself to recognize that your teeth could chatter or they WILL.

The other night, I went to see The Hunger Games. It was a long, wet end-of-March walk to the theater, and since the movie was at 6:30, I was planning on eating dinner afterwards. Throughout the film, I was aware of that strange bodily phenomenon. At any point during those two-plus hours, my teeth were clenched on the edge of chattering. Why this physical response? Here are some options:

1. I was cold.

2. I was hungry.

3. I was incredibly amped about seeing the performances.

4. I have no imagination and can only respond when movies show me how.

5. ???

All of these are a little bit true. I was cold and hungry, and I was very excited to see Jennifer Lawrence’s newest star turn. And although I DO have imagination, and books move me all the time – I’ll quote Nabokov on this in a minute – movies use music to ratchet up the emotional response, and this added value cannot be overstated. But I want to try to put some words inside those question marks. I think the question is this: WHY AM I TENSE WHEN I KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN? That’s where the chattering really lives, and it has to do with the consumption of stories.

Lots of movies are meant to provoke physical responses, possibly all of them. Linda Williams has named horror, melodrama, and pornography as the “body genres,” the forms of story most designed to get viewers’ bodies to respond, largely by featuring bodily excesses – terror, grief, orgasm – themselves. But laughter is a physical response too, so we should add comedy to the list; and tension, so we should add suspense, action, and thrillers; and gasps of wonder, so we should add epics and good animation; and so on. (Williams notes that “melodrama” is actually a broad category, one we could possibly expand to include some of these other genres, but her analysis focuses on tears rather than on tension, and I want to talk about tension.) The only movies that aren’t in some way bodily are the ones that are totally boring and do nothing to you (except maybe make you yawn – and yawning too is a physical response). Read the rest of this entry »

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