Show contents, with start times:
- Controversial Take: Tron (1:51)
- Trivia Question: First CGI (11:21)
- Industry Trend: Sound, Part 2 (12:02)
- Top 6: Computer Movies (24:33)
- Series Spotlight: Antoine Doinel (39:42)
- Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (54:13)
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Controversial Take: Tron
Is the cult computer film Tron (1982) a good film or not? Though not released to too much critical acclaim, the quirky film about a programmer who is transported into his own video game has grown an audience of both fans and critics who appreciate its distinct visual style.
Stephen is not one of them. Though he agrees that it has an interesting look and definitely features groundbreaking special effects, he believes the story is paper thin and that too much happens seemingly at random. He also feels that the visuals, though intriguing, are somewhat murky and lead to a sense of the world being underdeveloped.
Sam, on the other hand, enjoys the story for what it is — rules seem somewhat arbitrary because it’s a video game. He appreciates the visuals as works of art, and he likes the way the human characters evade detection by behaving like computer programs and blending into the world.
On which side of this debate do you fall?
Trivia Question: First CGI
CGI, or computer-generated imagery, is the term for making use of computers to create visual effects in the movies. This week we have two mystery movies: one was the first film to use CGI to generate 2D images, and the other was the first film to use CGI for 3D.
Industry Trend: Sound, Part 2
In Episode 15, we discussed the technology behind sound in the movies. But how did this technology actually change the industry?
- Soundtrack records became available starting in 1928, with the release of The Singing Fool (obviously you can’t have soundtracks before sound). The featured song “Sonny Boy” sold over three million copies, more than tripling the previous record. In the 1980s, many films seemed to exist solely as marketing devices for soundtrack albums.
- Sound also gives directors a whole new way of conveying information to audiences. One of the earliest filmmakers to really take advantage of this was Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1929 film Blackmail illustrates how sound can be used creatively to portray a guilty conscience.
- Visuals, however, took a dive for a while. The silents at the end of the 1920s were among the most creative and innovative movies ever made. The sudden switch to sound, with all of its bulky recording equipment, stifled much of this visual creativity for many years.
- The advent of sound also killed a lot of careers. Musicians were hurt particularly hard, as movie theaters weren’t hiring pianists or orchestras to accompany the silents. Actors also had trouble finding work if they couldn’t sing: something depicted in Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Gloria Swanson are all examples of top actors who had difficulty in the transition. Charlie Chaplin, on the other hand, just kept making silent movies and got away with it, because he was Charlie Chaplin.
Top 6: Computer Movies
Series Spotlight: Antoine Doinel
The Antoine Doinel series, named for its protagonist, is a series of five autobiographical films made over 20 years by director FranÃ§ois Truffaut and starring Jean-Pierre LÃ©aud. Aside from being great films that are also a lot of fun, they’re an interesting experiment: no other film series really follows the life of a (semi-) fictional character over such a long period of time — we see LÃ©aud age along with the character.
- The 400 Blows (1959) is the most celebrated of the films. Made on a small budget, it’s one of the films that is credited with starting the French New Wave. LÃ©aud was 14 when he made the film, and he stars as a troubled boy who is smart but has a poor family life and gets into trouble. The film is acclaimed for its use of naturalistic acting and locations coupled with a very fluid camera and innovative, quirky editing. It’s the weightiest and most experimental of the series.
- We pick up a few years later in the short film Antoine and Colette, part of the anthology Love at 20 (1962), wherein we witness Antoine’s first love affair. It’s not meant to be, however, and the doomed romance foreshadows much of what will end up happening with Doinel later in life.
- The series moves into color with Stolen Kisses (1968). The film is a considerable departure in tone from the previous movies. It’s very episodic, and much of the movie focuses on a series of failed jobs Antoine takes on. It’s fairly light and airy and amusing, but both Stephen and Sam consider it to be just about as good as The 400 Blows. The shift in subject matter also reflects a shift in Truffaut’s career.
- Bed and Board (1970) was originally intended to end the series. We follow a married Antoine and his struggles to maintain his marriage. In this film we see Antoine finding happiness through art (writing, not movies), much like Truffaut himself. It has the most conclusive endings of all the films in the series.
- But a conclusive ending is no reason not to make another film, and Truffaut would revisit the character one last time with 1979’s Love on the Run. The weakest in the series, Love on the Run feels like a flashback episode from a long-running TV show. It’s not without merit, as we do see a further matured Antoine, and it continues many of the themes of the series.