Eating my words

27 09 2007

Remember the time I expressed scepticism about the claim that Halo would be one of the biggest releases of the year, bigger than Spiderman 3 and Harry Potter 7?  Well, turns out I underestimated it, since Halo 3, as reported by the Beeb, is the biggest selling media release in one day ever, beating previous record holder Spiderman 3 (and therefore beating Harry as well).

Just goes to show – video games are big business, and even legends like me can make mistakes 🙂 !


My journeys

27 09 2007

The walk up to the school is not much fun in the pouring rain on a Tuesday afternoon, or the frosty cold of a Thursday morning, especially if you spent the weekend at home with a severe cold and a headache.  My attendance has not been perfect, but what can I do?  When I don’t come up I miss a lesson and receive a stern lecture.  When I do, half the time there is no lesson, so I’ve walked all that way for nothing.

Today was one such instance, but at least now I know what I’m doing in my metaphorical journey – that is, the critical study.  I e-mailed Adam this question:

“To what extent has the increase in mainstream television dramas dealing with fantastic or speculative subject matter (e.g. Heroes, Doctor Who, Lost, etc.) coincided with, or directly influenced, an increased public interest in science fiction and fantasy?”

He said it was OK, so I’m beginning work on it now.  I might need to modify it a bit to make it more relevant to the subject (plus I reckon it’s a little wordy, personally) but apart from that, I’m ready to go!

Analysis 7: “Basket Case” ~ Green Day

24 09 2007

I haven’t been skiving, I’ve been really ill, so thanks everyone for caring.  To make up for it, I analysed another video.

Green Day are a very popular band, but they’re also a controversial band because they keep alienating significant portions of their fanbase. This song was a single from Dookie, the band’s major label debut. I’ve chosen it to analyse because of the unusual techniques used in it.

1. This video was shot in an insane asylum, and one of the first sights we see is of men in white coats and a steel shutter door being closed. The whole video was shot in black and white, and then colourised, contributing to the eerie, demented feel of the video. Visible in the first shot is a masked inmate who’s mask is the only thing that is colourised, making him look odd and out of place. We see close ups of the music equipment being set up, and a white-suited guy presents a rather nervous and confused Billie-Joe Armstrong (i.e. one who looks like is suffering from some kind of breakdown) with a guitar. He abruptly comes out of character and begins to play.

2. The other band members are wheeled in. It is clear that they are inmates, both by their slightly confused and abnormal behaviour and the way people in white coats are directing them around. This is especially apparent for Mike Dirnt. Close ups are used to show Armstrong’s eyes darting around nervously as he sings. Note that this song is itself about a kind of mental breakdown, so the video fits the lyrics quite well.

3. In the second verse, we see Armstrong standing against a white wall in a shower room. A high-angled camera shot makes him look small and insignificant, and yet his black clothes make him stand out. We see Tré Cool being wheeled down a corridor in a wheel chair by a white-coated man – note one of the masked dudes like the one at the start in the background. It cuts back to Armstrong (the room is more clearly identifiable as a shower room in this instance) and then to Dirnt, who is looking bored, resting his head in his hands.

4. This seems an appropriate place to comment on the performance element of the video. We see plenty of shots of different band members playing the song, as though performing live (they may well play like this in the studio too, I guess). Frequent cuts from different angles stop the audience from losing interest. A brief cut to Dirnt staring out of a window, perhaps in desperation, cuts back to him performing, then a shot of Armstrong is obscured by a masked figure walking past the camera. A barrage of rapid cuts echoes the machine gun-like drum roll. Note more masks.

5. Cool is wheeled to a counter where a white-coated woman provides him with some sort of medicine or drug. He grins as he swallows it. “Grasping to control..” sings Armstrong as the camera pans around, showing various people behind him. The pan is jerky, as though performed with a handheld camera, contributing to the surreal nature of the video.

6. OK, so what about those people in masks wandering around? They seem to be doing a lot of strange things, creeping around, playing with exercise balls, and coming right up to the camera. They seem to be the inmates, and they remain uncolourised (except the masks themselves) throughout, which makes them look decidedly weird. More so even than the drugs we are shown close ups of. There is more crazy stuff as first Cool, and later Armstrong, is surrounded by flying fishes and his own eyes – a hallucination caused by the drugs seen earlier, perhaps? It’s interesting to note that Cool smiles whereas Armstrong looks kind of confused. Dirnt smashes a window in a fit of apparent frustration.

7. The video is full of bright colours which makes it seem simplistic and, at the same time, OTT. This contributes to the feelings of crazyness. We see a white coated man inspecting the window that Dirnt smashed, which I found rather amusing.

8. At the end of the video, the metal shutter is closed in front of the camera. This place is closed, and it seems Green Day are to remain inside. Through the shutter we see them stop playing and just stand there.

Kind of loopy, kind of disturbing,  or a clever portrayal of anxiety disorder?  Make what you will of it.  Personally, I think it rocks, but that’s just me.  Make up your own mind on YouTube.

 Fingers crossed I’ll be back in school tomorrow.  The least catching up I have to do, the easier time I’ll have.

A useful site

19 09 2007

Bored and with nothing better to do one “study” period (i.e. as I am typing this) I was browsing Adam’s website.  It includes a link to this site, which is pretty helpful for the critical research study:

I may make use of it in future (i.e. the next time I am bored with nothing better to do).

Beginning my journey

18 09 2007

I’m considering focusing on either “world cinema” or “TV drama” at the moment (something tells me that “Why does community radio suck?” would not be considered an appropriate question).

That’s considering.  My journey has not yet started.

What is the man in “Just” saying?

17 09 2007

The number of hits for this blog has gone up, not dramatically, but nonetheless noticeably, since I wrote an analysis of “Just”.  There are lots of people who want to know what the man says.  Why do they all lie down?  What could he possibly say to make them do that?

The answer is… well, nobody knows.  Radiohead certainly aren’t saying.  I’ve read various suggestions – “Down is the new up” (which is the name of a then-unpremiered and still-unreleased Radiohead song), perhaps?  Or maybe “Radiohead are playing in a flat up there, and if you lie down on the ground and tilt your head like this, you can hear them through the pavement”?

We don’t know, and the frequent cuts mean you can’t lipread it.  For all we know it’s gibberish.

But that’s not the point.  It’s all about your interpretation.  What do you think he says?  That’s what makes it clever.

Personally, I would say that what he says doesn’t matter.  It’s the effect it has on the people who hear it that’s important.  He had a good reason for lying there, and wouldn’t tell them what that was because he didn’t want to put them through it as well.  They pressed him, and they paid the price for their curiosity.  They did it to themselves, and that’s what really hurts.

So just be grateful you don’t know, else you’d lie down on the pavement too…

Analysis 6: “Helena” ~ My Chemical Romance

17 09 2007

My Chemical Romance are not the most widely respected of rock bands, but you can’t really fault them on the music video front. I was spoilt for choice for which to analyse – should I do “I Don’t Love You” (clever use of CGI, and bursting with semiology and mise-en-scène points, plus blowing up a guitar and an amp in slow motion always looks cool) or “The Ghost Of You” (cuts between a 1940s dance, complete with ’40s guitars and haircuts, and the D-Day landing, combined with a touching narrative) or maybe “Welcome To The Black Parade” (mixes bizarre narrative about a terminally ill patient with dark homage to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)? In the end I decided on “Helena”.

1. The setting of this one is a church, with everyone dressed in funeral gear (black suits etc.). Visually speaking, this whole video has quite a gothic tone (more on that later). At the start, Gerard Way is standing at the pulpit in front of some candles. A close-up on some order of service-type booklets tells us that this is “In Memory of Helena”. People file into the church, incense is wafted around and mourners pass a coffin where the body of a young woman (presumably named Helena) is lying. A close-up shows a woman’s crying face.

2. There are many frequent cuts between two scenes – the first, the band performing at the front of the church, the second, Gerard Way in the pulpit singing as the mourners dance. In the latter, Gerard Way is cast as some sort of preacher, leading the service.

3. When the chorus begins, Gerard Way lifts his arms and the mourners stand up with books and sing along (inaudibly) as though singing a hymn. At the end of the chorus, they sit down again.

4. During the second verse, there are frequent close-ups of the band playing. Mention should perhaps be made at this point of Gerard Way’s performance style. Simply put, it’s a little OTT, but his expressions and hand gestures are undeniably emotive. A high-angled shot is used to show the dancers lying on the floor and moving into various poses, possibly, given the context, symbolising death.

5. The congregation stands up again for the second chorus, and Gerard Way falls to his knees at the front of the church and reaches out, wide-eyed, towards the camera, which zooms in on him. The other musicians are shown briefly, and a pan shows the mourners singing, but the main focus of the camera is Gerard Way, and the dancers writhing behind him. He looks up to the sky as though despairing or crying to a loved one in Heaven, and a high-angle shot emphasises this. There are several cuts between him and the corpse, until, at the end of the chorus, he shuts his eyes…

6. …And the corpse opens her eyes. At this point everyone bows their heads and puts their hands together as though in prayer, and while their eyes are closed, the corpse dances down the aisle, unseen by any of them. This is a very gothic image, to my mind. A close-up shows her feet lowering themselves to the ground, and then there she is, in all her pale, undead glory. Tossing her bunch of flowers aside, she moves down the church, passing her hand over the head of a praying woman, and comes right up close to the camera, seizing it (note that the fourth wall is broken). Then she pushes it away and twirls around in a graceful, ballet-esque manner, before – this is clever – there is a cut to her feet twirling and coming to a halt, and when the camera cuts back, she is holding the flowers to her chest, gives a little gasp, shuts her eyes and falls backwards. Then there is another cut, and she lands back in the coffin. This whole sequence is very weird, and perhaps symbolises that her spirit lives on, or maybe a voyage to the afterlife.

7. I’m singin’ in the rain… oh, no, wait a minute, that’s something else. Cut to outside where we see some appropriately black umbrellas being put up and the mourners dance with them. It is raining heavily as MCR (plus one extra) carry the coffin down the steps. There are more close-ups of Gerard Way’s face as he sings, now displaying an expression of grief.

8. From inside the hearse, we see the coffin being loaded into the vehicle. Gerard Way shuts the door with a loud thud, this being the only use of diagetic sound in the video. He looks in through the window in the door at the coffin, perhaps saying a final goodbye to the deceased. His expression is grave. Then he turns and walks away. The funeral – and the song – is over.

And that’s the analysis.  Morbid, or what?  Anyway, here’s the video on YouTube.  Sorry about the resolution; it used to be available in shiny Warner label-uploaded format, no less, but that video is no longer available.