Monday, January 27, 2014

3 Questions

Sorry for the delay in posting these - My Williams book just came in two hours ago!

1) Williams states that melodramas typically begin and seek to end in a "space of innocence". What role does home and the establishment of a "space of innocence" play in melodramas, and what are some examples of spaces of innocence in popular Disney films?

2) Williams states that a feeling of loss is crucial to crying's relationship to melodrama. In other words, people often cry during melodramas upon realizing that is is too late for a certain course of action, or out of joy upon realizing that something occurred "in the nick of time". For example, we all cried when it was too late for the rescuers to save Jack in the Titanic. What role do the feelings of "too late" and "nick of time" play in melodramas, and are these feelings essential ingredients in the recipe for a powerful melodrama?

3) In Playing the Race Card, Williams frequently mentions that effective melodramas offer a combination of pathos and action. Earlier this year in class it was mentioned that comedies often do not win Oscars over dramas and thrilling action films. Do you think that the lack of pathos and action in comedies plays a significant role in their failure to win frequent Oscars?

1 comment:

  1. 1. By establishing a home or “space of innocence,” in a melodrama, a writer creates a comfort zone for readers or viewers. Because of this, when a story wanders beyond the confines of the comfort zone, emotions are tense and everything feels more high-strung. This definitely contributes to the feelings of melodrama. Williams explained how “lost innocence provokes nostalgia that in turn provokes pathos.” By seeking this space, melodramas emphasize how this role is missing and increases emotional attachment. Some Disney examples are Snow White running away and seeking a life apart from the evil, homicidal queen. Ariel in The Little Mermaid leaves the ocean, her home, to find true love on land. However when she is granted legs Ursula has taken her voice. The “space of innocence” she seeks is not her home in the water, but a life on land in which she can use her vocal chords and is no longer attached to an evil sea witch by her deal to trade her voice for legs.

    2. Saving something “in the nick of time” or worrying that some rescue will come “too late” is essential for melodramas because it intensifies the pathos tied with these events. Whether there was a time crunch or not to save Jack in the Titanic for instance, audience members would be worried and nervous for his well being, but by adding the time pressure it strengthens these feelings of unease. Either way viewers really have no control over the events, but the added time constraint makes viewers feel even more helpless. Often times this is emphasized in movies to increase suspense. For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1936 film Sabatage has a scene where this young boy is supposed to deliver a bomb (which he doesn’t know that it is) to the opposite side of town by 1:45. The viewers get to see his journey across town and various distractions. Throughout this venture, there is a tick-tock like sound in the orchestra music in the background and constant shots of clocks keeping the audience aware of his time slipping away. As 1:45 draws nearer and nearer we worry that he will be able to deliver the package and get away to safety “in the nick of time.” In the end the bomb goes off while he is still on a bus. However, this added time pressure most definitely intensified the melodramatic qualities for this scene.

    3. A primary reason I believe dramas and thrilling action films continue to trump comedies for Oscar, particularly best picture, is because these movies typically have a deeper emotional complexity. While I am a big fan of comedies, run-of-the-mill comedies today are often stuck with a relatively flat story line and rarely have underlying messages. While there are still many comedies that can be classified as having “deeper meanings” it is just easier and more common for dramas to have these sub-textual meanings. I find that today comedic films that get most recognition at award shows are often action or drama that then incorporate comedy into the situations and screenplay. For instance Tarentino’s Django Unchained would not be considered a comedy and yet there were moments throughout the entire movie that had audience members laughing. This movie was more of a commentary on our country about 200 years ago and it addressed many dirty aspects of slavery that most movies never mention. It would be inappropriate to have some of the graphic scenes that were included in Django in a typical comedy. There is a fine line between using comedy to relate audience members with a taboo subject and mocking that subject for audience amusement. Another popular drama last year was O’Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. Typically it would be quite inappropriate to laugh a mental illness, but this movie was able to portray the good and the bad many people face ever day while maintaining both serious and comedic tones. Overall, I’d say general comedy movies are indeed lacking the pathos and action necessary for winning Academy Awards.


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