The summer is in full swing, and it is time to update you with the goings-on here at Plot and Theme. The standard formula will apply to this State of the Blog post: we’ll look at the past month, talk a tad about the new movies that are on the horizon, and make outlandish promises about the posts I am going to write this month.
Very early in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, as Doc (Kevin Spacey) sketches out the plans to a heist on a chalkboard, he explains to his crew that the driver “Baby” (Ansel Elgort) has tinnitus and chooses to drown out the constant hum by listening to music. Once he’s done with the obvious exposition, he puts down the chalk and exclaims, “Wow, I drew this entire map while explaining that. I’d say that’s pretty fucking impressive!” Thus Wright places his tongue firmly in-cheek, and we immediately understand the tone of the film: weird, energetic, and not taking itself too seriously.
It is a sin to write this. Mr. Stanley Kubrick told me so:
2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content.1
Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly bypasses verbalized pigeonholing, but that doesn’t mean the film defies explanation and discussion. The present piece will analyze how Kubrick succeeds at the rather lofty goal of creating this “visual experience” by looking at three key cinematic components that Kubrick uses to tell this story. First, we’ll look at aural components like dialogue, music, and soundtrack. Then, we’ll delve into the visual components like special effects and cinematography. Finally, we’ll deal with thematic components, focusing on Kubrick’s use of archetypes. Together, these components produce a rare beauty: a pure expression of cinema and the power that it has to inspire the imagination.
George and Harold are two fourth graders with a penchant for potty humor, hanging out in their treehouse, and creating their own comic books. The cream of their crop is Captain Underpants, a broad knock-off of Superman, right down to his exoplanetary origin story, bizarre mishmash of superpowers, and proclivity for dressing in – you guessed it – underpants. George and Harold are just a little more to-the-point with their superhero.
The opening sequence of The Dark Horse depicts Genesis Potini wandering through the rain muttering to himself, intercut with his older brother teaching him the game of chess when they were both children. He stops in a store with a few chessboards set up, and continues his frantic word salad as the shop owners look on nervously. Then, Genesis starts moving the pieces with a preternatural celerity, waxing poetic chess theory, comparing the relative qualities of the Sicilian defense and the Scotch game. The preamble continues until Genesis is discovered by his handler and whisked back to the mental hospital. The title flashes across the screen, and we understand the fundamental themes of The Dark Horse immediately: dealing with mental health, the importance of family and community, and the transformative power of the game of Chess.
Pixar is renowned for original storytelling in the realm of animation. Often, the stories spun by these visionaries wonderfully meld style and substance together in a way that please both children and adults. And while the Cars franchise started off in this same vein, the sequel was a clear sub-par cash-grab. It’s easy to see why: merchandise from Cars was one of Disney’s biggest cash cows. You got keep that cow fat, so Cars 3 is the product. The plot, characters, and themes are familiar: anthropomorphic cars trying to win races to prove that they can still win races, with themes of obsolescence, expectation, following dreams, and believing in people (or, in this case, cars). Cars 3 is all of this and exactly nothing else, another lap around the track.