Author Archives: ryanaugustowski

Sound in Film: Gravity

For this week’s blog post, I decided to write about Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris. This film takes place in the vacuum of space. In fact, only one scene shows the actors on Earth. I decided to use this film to explore sound because the amount of silence in this movie is almost deafening. 

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Space is a vast vacuum. There is no way for sound vibrations to travel unless one is touching another to pick up the vibrations, or using the radios. The entire opening scenes of this movie were breath taking. I first saw this film in IMAX and can still remember how powerful the silence was and how large the director was able to portray space on the big screen. This was no easy task by any means. At first I believed the film’s sound was actually glitching in the theater until I realized they were really portraying the reality of sound moving through the vacuum of space. 

 

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Throughout this movie, you see realistic examples of how sound travels through space. First of all, there is no music in the film. The film makers wanted this to seem as real as possible. There are various cues I didn’t even realize the first time I watched this film, until i saw it again and everything to make sense. The explosions in space are even silent, and the audience hears many of the sounds faint at first, until the person or object gradually gets closer. I believe this was an extraordinary use of sound in a movie. It took the director’s knowledge and what must have been painstaking work of actors and sound editors to make this film truly remarkable and as real as can be.

 

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Ryan Augustowski

Blog Post 8: Editing

For this blog post, I thought that it would only be natural to talk about Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream starring  Ellen BurstynJared Leto, and Jennifer Connelly, among many others. This film takes place in Coney Island, New York, during a time period where Brooklyn wasn’t exactly the most ideal place to be. The film follows the lives of 4 people, of which seem to lead fun and interesting lives either taking drugs, selling drugs, or both. As the film goes on you see the lives of the characters start to go downhill due to their increasingly desperate addictions until they finally hit rock bottom.

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I thought this film was perfect to talk about for the chapter on editing. Darren Aronofsky and Lead Editor, Jay Rabinowitz, didn’t just create a film talking about the dangers of drug use, in fact, didn’t explicitly have any characters say “don’t do drugs” once. They used the powerful techniques of editing the film to give the audience an in-depth look into the lives of the characters, so powerful, it seems as if we are there with them. 

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There are a very high number of cuts in this film (I googled it, over 2000) I believe the director used this technique to show the audience how out of sync these characters were with their own lives due to their addictions. They also filmed this in darker, more dreary colors to indicate the type of environment these characters are coming from. When the characters would begin their respective vice, there was always this sequence of shots depicting various drug use with fast cuts and loud sound that, for me anyway, made the audience want to cringe each time they saw/heard it. There are a lot of wide angle shots shown when the characters are partying and on drugs, and shots from above looking down when they are coming down, and in the mother’s case very rapid movement shots, all to show the audience what it is like to be on the drug featured in that scene. I think this is one of the most powerful techniques because this is the only film I have seen where the director tries to make the audience feel for themselves what it is like to be on the drugs depicted. 

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Ryan Augustowski

Versatile Acting- Tom Hanks

One of the things that has always fascinated me in modern film was the ability of certain actors to dramatically change from role to role in film to film. After watching one film with a certain actor and getting a chance to connect with the character, audience members get their minds blown a few months or even years later when that same actor is in a completely different role playing a completely different character. I believe there is no one better to demonstrate the ability of versatile acting than Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks is known for a number of different roles throughout the years. In Robert Zemeckis’s 1994 Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks plays a mentally challenged man who has a very positive outlook on life, no matter how bad the situation. It is amazing to see Hanks play this role so well and so consistent. Throughout the film, Tom Hanks must use the same slower southern drawl while at the same time keeping to his character’s stiff and a bit awkward demeanor. Forrest is a very influential character and as the film progresses, you see his life progress. I find this fascinating in acting because many times is the case, the film is not shot in progression. It takes a great actor to be able to go from one scene where they may be younger playing a powerful role, to shooting another towards the end of the movie in sequence where the character grew much older.

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Move on to 2000, In Robert Zemeckis’s Castaway, Tom Hanks is playing a completely different role. In this film, Hanks plays Chuck Nolens, an average FedEx employee who becomes stranded on a deserted island. I find the acting in this film completely amazing for the simple reason: there is not much character sound. I believe this is when an actors true colors show. Hanks ability to grasp the audience on his acting skills alone with very little voice. For this film, Tom Hanks had to not only lose weight, but gain it again to prepare for the role. This is an incredible example of just how far actors will go to accurately portray the character in the film they were casted for at the moment, regardless of work they did in the past.

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Once again, move on to 2013, John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks, where Tom Hanks plays none other than Walt Disney himself shows just how truly versatile he is as an actor. In fact, he was the only person aloud to portray Walt Disney in film. Hanks prepared by reading transcripts and watching the actual Walt Disney in early video recordings of staff meetings as well as listening to the actual tape recordings of his meetings with P.L. Travers and accurately and appropriatly portrayed Walt in a way the audience would imagine him to be. Hanks had to adapt to life in the 1960’s for this film and on screen, it seemed he did it with ease. After the film you notice, not only was Tom Hanks comical in this role, but convincing too. He was Walt Disney.

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Ryan Augustowski

(Originally published 3/25 personal blog)

Post #6 Cinematic Properties of the Shot: Schindler’s List

For this week’s blog post, I decided to look into Stephen Spielberg’s Shindler’s List starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley, among many others. This film takes place during the time of the Holocaust in Poland. Oskar Schindler, known for being greedy and only looking out for his self interests, winds up saving 1100 Jews from persecution. Though this film was released in 1993, I found it interesting that Spielberg decided to shoot almost the entire movie in black and white.

I think Spielberg’s decision to shoot the movie in black and white was an outstanding choice. Black and white film immerces viewers in that 1940’s time period. It brings out the historical perspective of the film, and is able to highlight the acts of violence taking place making for an extraordinary sense of realism. Shooting in black and white also has a documentary feel to the film too since most documentaries before 1960 are all associated with black and white shooting. 

Contrasting tones play a huge role in this film as well. Due to the black and white style of shooting, in order to enhance emotion in the film, there are heavy uses of whites against blacks in the film. For instance, dark blood against white snow, or the victims fair skin against the dark gas chambers really brings out the emotional weight of the film. I believe this film is a great testament into the past, but also a reminder of just how cruel the human race can be. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys an accurate historical perspective into two extremes of mankind, senseless murder of individuals and coming from that, relentless compassion toward strangers.

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Ryan Augustowski

Avatar – Blog Post 5

For this week’s blog post, I decided to watch James Cameron’s Avatar starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver, among many others. This film takes place on the moon Pandora with the main character, Jake Sully, a disabled army man using an actual robotic avatar that he controls as if it was him.

After reading what Mise-En- Scene actually was, this movie immediately stood out to me. Every single aspect of this movie involves an extremely high detail of design; in the characters as well as the settings, and especially the decor. Image

Each setting on Pandora is a very highly detailed computer animated scene. The setting at night is even more amazing with the many contrasting colors caused by the bioluminecent plants that interact with the environment. The wide range of plants make up for a beautiful decor to help add to the already breathtaking setting of Pandora.

The amount of detail even in the decor is never sacrificed. Even smaller plants are highly detailedImage

Perhaps the most vivid detail of all are the actual characters in Pandora. Every aspect of these creatures are captured from the patterns on their face and features such as their large cat like eyes and ears right down to the freckle like spotting on their faces. Each Avatar also has their own distinct personality complete with their own sense of cultural identity such as necklaces or beaded hair or even colored streaks.

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For me, as well as many others, each time watching Avatar, has me thinking to myself “I wish I can visit Pandora.” I think part of the great success of this movie has a lot to do with the design. Just recently, as a matter of fact, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida has decided to create a vast new land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Pandora, to give visitors a chance to finally go and visit this amazing place and interact with the characters, walk through the setting, and lose sense of reality in the decor.

Ryan Augustowski

Blog Post 4: Elements of Narrative- The Hangover

For this blog post, I have decided to write about Todd Phillips’ The Hangover starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha, among many others. This film takes place in Las Vegas, NV on what is supposed to be one last night of partying as a single man for Doug before he ties the knot in marriage.

When I was reading the chapter on Narrative Structure, this movie immediately popped out at me. This movie begins basically at the climax in which Phil is on with the phone with Tracey explaining to her that although the wedding is five hours away, they cannot find Doug and are most likely going to miss the wedding. The sequence of events then backtracks to two days earlier when they are lucid and getting ready to leave for vegas. Once they arrive in Vegas, they find themselves on the roof that evening giving a toast to the bachelor, “to a night the four of us will never forget.”

The camera plays a pretty nice job at narrating the next day by focusing on a sped up shot of the Las Vegas skyline from the roof showing us the rapid transition from night into day without even needing words this time. The rest of the movie puts together various clues, such as why is there a tiger in the bathroom or why is Stu missing a tooth, like a giant puzzle of the night before in order to try and find Doug. I think this movie was an awesome approach at Narrative Structure, throwing out the usual mountain like sequence of events, and giving off a new and exciting story line with twists and turns throughout the movie. Highly recommended for comedy lovers.

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Ryan Augustowski

Blog Post 3: Genre – Too Big to Fail

Over the weekend, I decided to re-watch Too Big to Fail, an HBO drama directed by Curtis Hanson. This film is based on a non fiction book, Too Big to Fail, looking back at the events that took place to cause the financial collapse of 2008. 

This film’s genre is considered a drama, which I think was an interesting twist on movies like this. Most of the time there is a movie about Wall Street, usually you get a lot of corruption or drugs or sex. Not only does this film not have any of those aspects, it is the most accurate portrayal of events based on testimony for viewers to have a chance to get a glimpse into what those responsible were thinking at the time which ultimately brought major financial institutions to the brink of collapse.

While watching this film, it is easy to forget you are watching a drama. It is filmed as though you are also in the board rooms with everyone. Everyone read about these events in the papers but no one got the chance to actually see what happened inside. The director wanted to give viewers an inside look at what everyone was going through so every detail including characters are as close to the real events and people as possible. It is hard to remember you are watching a drama as this film has similarities to a documentary. I recommend this film to anyone who would like an unbiased look into the events that caused the financial collapse.

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Ryan Augustowski