Ok let’s talk about the 1970 BBC Little Women

You know, when I saw clips of this one in class I immediately assumed I wouldn’t like it. The wigs are… painfully present, and the acting seemed too stiff. But actually, when I binged the first 5 episodes last night I found myself quite enjoying this adaptation. My original plan was to binge both the 1970s bbc version and the 1978 miniseries last night, stopping one series once it got tiresome and making the switch to the next. I never made it to 1978, however, because I never got bored during the 1970 version! And, listen, I know I’m pretty much in the minority here by voicing a favorable opinion of this adaptation, but here’s the thing: I don’t like the BBC version because it was good, I like it because it’s enjoyable. Not to say there weren’t decent parts, which we’ll get into in a moment, but overall, it’s a cheesy, melodramatic, flatly lit TV series. And I have bad taste.

Alright so let’s get into this. I think instead of a point-by-point or character-by-character structure, I’m gonna go with a chronological organization of my points, just due to the sheer mass of content a TV series possesses and also because I have a lot of opinions. Below is a transcribed/elaborated transcript of the notes app on my phone that I was putting my thoughts down on. There will also be pictures. This is very serious business (someone call grandpa Laurence lmao).

  • Right off the bat, the first scene is an odd choice. I get wanting to start in medias res like a TV show or sitcom would, because when you only have 20-30 minutes or so per episode, you want to get straight to the action, but it’s kind of jarring. Also, it kind of stings a little because Little Women as a story already has a classic beginning so there’s not really a need to change it. At least, not when you’re replacing it with Amy shrieking.
  • The sibling fighting in this one is a lot more aggressive, they actually like yell at each other and scuffle which I can’t tell if I’m into. On the one hand, the family is a lot more believable (to modern audiences perhaps) and it sets up the Jo/Amy rivalry well, which none of the previous ones have really bothered to do. On the other hand, it’s irritating.
  • The British actors need to work a little on their American accents. I just heard someone say “sofer”. sofa!!!
  • Like, Hannah is straight-up British here, right? I honestly can’t tell what is happening with the choices here but it makes me giggle.
  • The audio mixing right here where Jo is talking to Hannah aside from everyone else is BAD. I can’t see any of the other characters in the frame, yet I can hear them all perfectly at the same volume as Jo and Hannah’s conversation, and the result is muddled and confused.

The WIGSS
  • I can’t get any farther without saying it: I’m so sorry to whoever that is playing Jo, sweetie, they should not have done that to you, that wig is absolutely atrocious and it looks big enough to host a family, like maybe that one that lived in a shoe.
  • Mr. Laurence got me WEAK in this first scene he’s in. It is one of the most insanely trope-y, clichéd set-up for conflict I’ve ever seen outside of this scene in John Water’s Crybaby. I probably watched it like three times. First, the blocking. Laurie is standing behind his Grandfather, who is pouring himself a drink, and they are both facing away from each other, so each character is addressing his lines to a wall. It’s all very dramatic, but the icing on the cake for me is the conversation where Mr. Laurence mentions “the business” so often it feels like a parody. Like, I wasn’t watching Little Women anymore, I was watching like Days of Our Lives or something.

“Son, it’s time for you to start the business” “But I HATE the BUSINESS” “But son, the business is in your BLOOD!”
  •  So then, if this business conversation wasn’t dramatic enough, we get an absolute MASTERPIECE of cinema where Laurie and Grandpa Laurence tag-team a huge exposition dump of Laurie’s backstory with his parents, and the music stuff, and it ends with this perfect zoom of Laurie being like, “YOU forGET, grandfather, that I am HALF-ITALIAN!” and then fleeing into the night or whatever time of day it was supposed to be on what is clearly a soundstage. I just, I don’t know, if you don’t think this is funny I’m not sure what to tell you. I just love how over-the-top BBC decided to be when bringing the drama.
Maybe it’s being immature and melodramatic, maybe it’s being half-Italian
  • Amy’s pigtails are the best wig decision this show made. They’re fun and remind me of Dolly Parton.
  • Meg’s character is wayyy more vapid in this version, they basically make her a ditz. hmm.
  • To be honest, Laurie gives off some creepy vibes, he’s like empty behind the eyes. OH MY GOD wait I know why he creeps me out. He reminds me of this guy who used to come everyday into the frozen yogurt shop I worked at and get diet (skinny8) froyo, and then try and hit on all the young women who worked there. We called him Skinny8 Man. He had been banned by past managers, but I guess the current one didn’t care, and he started coming in right at close so he’d be alone in the store with the workers. One night, he came in at close, and one of my coworkers whispered about him to a newer employee. Skinny8 Man heard this, and was apparently very pissed, because after he left, he posted to the Froyo shop’s facebook page under the pseudonym of a “mom” named Christie and left a long, creepy incel manifesto about my coworker that was definitely not written by a mom named Christie. I mean, it said that my coworker “hangs her breasts for the sailors and all of god’s green earth to see” like excuse me sir pls for the love of god get some therapy before you murder a woman next to a dumpster. Anyways, this Laurie looks exactly like that guy.
  • Brooke! Finally a man with 70s hair thank godd

groovy, baby
  • I do like that they’re playing up Laurie’s music plot and his character flaw of laziness. It gives him more to do than just be emo over Jo.
  • You guys, Beth is weird again lmao is she.. Scottish? 1949 Beth vibes

Beth being Beth
  • I know I just absolutely slaughtered Laurie by comparing him to Skinny8 Man, but he also kind of reminds me of the guy from that one x files episode who eats hair

This guy^
  • Ok, in the dance scene, Meg being an airhead kind of works with Brooke being all awkward and goofy in this adaptation, and it’s legitimately kind of cute.
  • Ok I take it back, I only like it when she’s with Brooke, when she’s not and I see what they did to her character and how she’s just like a simple, vapid fool with no wit or substance, I become like personally insulted.
  • WHY DOES HANNAH TALK LIKE THAT MY GOD
  • Every Laurie scene makes me crack tf up, I’m so weak this man is a serial killer. Like, I feel bad that I keep dragging him, but tell me why his line delivery has to be like this. Like, there’s a way to tell Jo in the library that you watch her bright, warm house when you are lonely in your palace of cold masculinity, and you envy her the family life she has, that isn’t creepy. It’s not creepy in the book, but for some reason this Laurie has to say shit like “Have you noticed me watching you” with his weird dead eyes and I’m like Jo get out he’s gonna wear your skin!! Maybe this adaptation is meant for people who like Netflix’s You.
  • Speaking of the library scene, finally an adaptation that has Jo excited about books, although I am missing Katherine Hepburn’s line delivery, this scene feels empty without her
  • Meg’s line, “Oh I’m so excited my fingers are all thumbs” ???
  • BOOK BURN BOOK BURN finalllyyyyy book burn. This is the only part I remember from when I was a kid, and I’ve been waiting for an adaptation to include it.

“Sorry that your life’s work was just ruined, but you have to understand that your 11 year old sister has ‘adult feelings’, which is a completely normal thing to think and not at all strange”
  • Marmee’s justification for Amy burning Jo’s book is so odd and kind of problematic. Like, making it about Amy having a crush on Laurie, or more accurately, depicting her feelings towards Laurie as “adult” feelings, made me a little uncomfortable and was unnecessary. I get wanting to set up the Amy/Laurie relationship early, so the payoff of them getting together makes sense, but having Marmee say the sentence, “It’s hard having the body of a child and the feelings of a grown woman” is gross. Amy’s a child, and they should let her be a child, not talk about how she’s mature in her feelings or something, because that just sounds like something pedophiles would say. I think if they just left that line out, they could’ve implied Amy having a childhood crush and it would’ve been fine. Like, her having feelings was implied well enough through her complaining about Jo hogging Laurie, that’s all we needed.
  • I think boating instead of ice skating is actually a good substitute, I didn’t mind it at all, tho I don’t know why you’d need to change it.
  • Another creepy Laurie alert: it was “just his luck” that he happened upon the sisters lmao no you are a stalker, sir
  • Interesting that they added Mr. Brooke to the Castles in the Air scene. It makes it less about the meta-narrative and the themes of “what you want isn’t always what you need”, and more about the tension between Meg and Brooke. I thought having him hear Meg wish for wealth while knowing he can’t provide that for her was good set-up for their main conflict, and made me actually care about Mr. Brooke as a character.
  • when he says, “I rather think it’s unattainable” aaaa hello pride and prejudice moment the YEARNING the ANGST
  • Beth could try to emote a little bit about the baby that just died in her arms
  • This adaptation has a lot of weird zoom-ins. This one zoomed super quickly onto Jo’s face because gasp! the Scarlet Fever!
What is going on
  • Amy praying for Beth’s health by screaming directly into a slowly zooming-in camera was one of the oddest cinematic experiences so far. Felt like it was out of a B horror movie.
  • None of these actors are up to the challenge of portraying grief, this is painful to watch
  • They included the Laurie letter prank on Meg, which I had completely forgotten about from the book. I like the extra drama and bits that can be included in a TV series.
  • Episodic nature of tv kind of a better medium for this story in many ways, at least in the beginning part of childhood, when Alcott’s story was more episodic. I like the pacing of this better than most of the movies.
  • The casting of Mr. March is kind of odd to me, he looks like he owns a large jewel or an oil company. It’s interesting that he has a conflict about feeling distant from his children. I don’t remember that from the book, is it added? See what I mean about TV, even Dad March gets a storyline
  • The proposal scene with Jo and Laurie is not nearly angsty enough for my liking. Laurie is so sarcastic and goofy about it the whole time, it doesn’t even seem like he really cares. These two do a great job of convincing me that they’re better as friends. Also didn’t like that apparently Laurie kissed Jo offscreen when she didn’t want it.
  • I know that this was in the book too, but like the thing where Laurie picks up one drink of alcohol at Meg’s wedding and Meg preaches at him about the horrible habit of drinking is weird, like if you don’t want him to drink, then why do you have booze at this party. Also it was one drink. Meg totally thinks marijuana is a gateway drug.

Mr Brooke and his “friend” have some tension, in my opinion
  • The scene of Jo and Laurie messing up Meg’s cooking is there to show Meg’s new distance from her sisters because of her marriage to Brooke, but I still didn’t like it because it was obnoxious
  • It’s weird seeing normal petty marital bickering in a period piece, I kind of like how it grounds the narrative, though this whole Meg/Brooke episode feels the most like a sitcom out of all the episodes so far.
  • I like the running joke of Sally Moffat
  • At the end of this episode, Meg THROWS A PILLOW right into Brooke’s face and that is the last scene, I’m so shocked and thrilled that this is how they decided to end it, and on that note, I think I will be signing off because this post has been going on long enough.

This is a lot

 

 

Midterms and Longing for Weirder Adaptations of things

It’s currently midterms and I feel like I’m drowning in all the work that I currently have to balance, so this is gonna be a shorter post I think. I’ve been thinking a lot about just how many adaptations Little Women has and it’s absolutely insane. Like, there’s an anime? And a stage musical?? Why is it that all over the world, people are connecting with and adapting this story in particular, especially when the story in question is not the most diverse. There’s something interesting about all these people seeing themselves in this text that doesn’t actually represent them, and I think it would be compelling if, in future adaptations of Little Women, people played a little bit more with subverting the source material or reclaiming parts of the text. Where is Little Women’s the Wiz? I feel like it’s been long enough to have that exist in the cultural zeitgeist, but maybe that’s just me. It seems that Greta Gerwig at least took a step in this direction, adding different monologues and messing with the film’s timeline, and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that that version is the one I’ve enjoyed the most out of all the Little Women content I’ve consumed. Still, I would like even more alternative takes on the narrative. At this point there are certainly enough by-the-book adaptations to last us for an extended period of experimental Little Women content, though I will say that both the 30s and 40s adaptations of the novel do leave quite a bit out, which might indicate that Little Women would be better suited to a television series? Which leads me into…

Next week I’ll be discussing some of the Little Women TV show adaptations of the 1970s (I think the most depressing thing about this is gonna be the lack of 70s style in a period piece, but I’ll hold out hope that at least someone in the cast has Farrah Fawcett hair).

Oh! Also I found this article that felt relevant of someone binging through 15 hours of Little Women adaptations in one sitting: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/we-watched-15-straight-hours-of-little-women-and-things-got-weird/2019/12/20/a0f35a66-1dec-11ea-8d58-5ac3600967a1_story.html

See you in the 70s!

If the March family doesn’t look like this, then I don’t want it

 

Little Women 1949

I think it’s fair to say that, personally, I feel that the 1949 adaptation of Little Women was a definite step down from its 1933 counterpart. It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen or anything, it was passably okay, mainly aesthetically pleasing with all the super-saturated colors, but sometimes it felt cartoonish in a not-as-good sort of way. For instance, all the characters in this one seemed incredibly flat, and lacked depth. I also don’t know how I felt about the fact that most of this movie (all of this movie?) took place on a very artificial looking set that made me feel more like I was looking into a big Yankee Candle store and not Civil War era New Hampshire. At some points I liked the flat, colorful effects the painted backgrounds gave the film, but at other times it just made the universe of the film feel small and even more artificial than the flat character acting already made it feel.

Also, I need to talk about how weird the actress playing Beth’s performance was in this adaptation. This tiny child looked so evil the whole entire film and I have no idea for what reason. Why did the actress choose to read all her lines in a melodramatic whisper and super intense martyr eyes? She is so spooky, especially when she comes home from the Hummels with scarlet fever. The entire scene, chiefly the special effects makeup that’s absolutely caked onto Beth’s face, feels like it’s cut out of The Exorcist and not ultra-wholesome Little Women. It’s so jarring compared to the rest of the narrative. And why does she look so young? Beth is supposed to be older than Amy, the youngest, and Amy looks about five years older than Beth the whole time. I understand that this was probably a choice to emphasize Beth’s frailty and meekness, but it’s an odd detail to change that I don’t think was necessary.

I had more issues with Laurie again in this adaptation. Now, instead of looking like a puppet boardwalk barker, Laurie looks ancient as a teenager. Seriously, he looks so old. And it doesn’t help that the actor doesn’t imbue Laurie with any of his banter and playfulness that made him such good friends with Jo. Instead, he is played pretty stale, with so little chemistry with Jo that I didn’t ever fear or hope they would get married. I don’t even have much else to say about him, he feels like he was just also there. I don’t know why that’s surprising, seeing as both these adaptations have now pretty much ignored everyone but Jo in structuring their narratives.

Ok I looked at more pictures of Laurie and he looks normal actually, I don’t know, but he still looks way too old in the beginning

Bhaer is also unlikable in this one, though he at least provides more chemistry with Jo than Laurie did. Firstly, I feel a bit silly that I thought the pun of Professor Bhaer being introduced in a bear costume was very fun and endeared me to his character when it was also in this one, and therefore probably in the book and I just forgot about it. Bhaer in a bear didn’t save this adaptation, however, since I thought the character came off as weirdly possessive and insecure in the performance. He kept fixating on Laurie and whether or not Jo was in love with him, and whether or not she values her friends and family over him, a guy she just met. Like, when Jo tells him she needs to leave to go back home because of Beth falling ill again, his first reaction is to guilt trip her about leaving him for her “old life” instead of sympathy and empathy for what she must have been going through. Trash.

This is all Meg gets to do^

Mr. Brooke was unremarkable during his two minutes of screen time.

I did like that this version included the childhood chests all the sisters had with their names on them, albeit only for a minute. The scene in the novel where Jo nostalgically looks back at all the sister’s chests filled with their childhood items once one of the parts of the book that made me cry, but in this adaptation I felt nothing. I think that’s been a major flaw in the two adaptations so far. Neither of them produce the nostalgia for the loss of childhood that the book (or Gerwig’s 2019 version, but that’s for later) does, because neither of them succeed in fleshing their characters out enough for the viewer to feel like they’ve grown up and changed, and that time has passed. The 1933 movie and the 1949 one both have a very surface level reflection of the passage of time, one that does not spend time looking back as much as it does passively moving on to the next plot point, which is something you really can’t do when adapting an extremely character driven novel.

So yeah, basically I’m dissatisfied with these film adaptations so far and how shallow they’ve seemed.

At least it gave us Amy’s leaf dress

And this iconic shot

Little Women 1933

My favorite scene in the film^

Alright, I have some thoughts on the 1933 version of Little Women. Firstly, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to, and I will admit the original bias was solely because it’s old (I know, I’m an uncultured swine). I was just worried that, because the plot of Little Women isn’t a super traditional, escalating story structure that works towards a climax, and is instead more meandering through these women’s lives in a very character-driven manner, it is very easy to make a hollow or dull adaptation of the story if your character actors are stiff and unrelatable. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised that the performances still had all that character in that cheesy overacting 1930s film kind of way. And that’s not really a dig, it’s just how a lot of older movies are; like, there’s a little too much telling and not showing of exposition in this one, especially in the beginning where characters are basically like “hello Jo, one of the March sisters, of which there are three more, and boy don’t you miss your dad in the war, by the way that man doesn’t know how to budget” and Jo’s all, “Yes it is me Jo, the most independent little woman” and it’s like, we could’ve been shown literally all of that, but it’s 1933 so they didn’t feel like it I guess. Also 1930s crying is so… cartoonish? Any time anyone cried they would literally go “eheheehehhhh” into their hands, it’s very dramatic.

Another technical gripe I have with this adaptation is the lack of establishing shots that lead to a lack of clarity in distinguishing the location of some scenes. Notably, when Jo is exiting the writer’s office where she sold her first story and any time there is a journey to or from New York. Jo will be at home and then the next scene is just in a completely different city and it takes a couple seconds to reorient the viewer, which wouldn’t happen if there was just a simple establishing shot of the NY building or the skyline or something. I just feel like some of the transitions between settings were pretty blink and you’ll miss it. Also, I think this is just another characteristic of old films, but the close-up shots of characters always look aesthetically divorced from the rest of the movie. They’re lit so softly and differently from the rest of the scene, and though they are successful at bringing all the focus on one character’s emotions, it is a bit distracting.

Ok, now for the fun part which is my unsolicited opinion on all the characters in this one, starting off with my hot take that all the March sisters except Jo got the short end of the stick on this one, especially Meg. There was a lot of small stuff cut out of this adaptation for its run time to still be just shy of two hours, and the effect of that was to make Little Women Jo’s story and not that of the sisters, who mainly stick to the periphery of the story. They all get about equally good characterization bits in the beginning, especially Amy mispronouncing words with her affected voice and crying at the schoolhouse. But somewhere throughout, they all just disappear into the background and we only focus on Jo. Meg really suffers from this, as this adaptation made her extremely boring to me. She doesn’t really get to do much, and all of her more interesting conflicts with learning to budget and the complications of maintaining a marriage are removed, as is the very fun and cute dance scene where she gets all dressed up. If you’ll notice, that is Meg’s entire plot and character motivations, so it’s unsurprising that she is so lame here. Amy gets a bit more, but still the ice skating/book burning debacle was removed, as was her perspective of her time at Aunt March’s and pretty much all of her time in Europe where her and Laurie’s relationship gets fleshed out. Beth has most of her plot intact, from what I can remember, and I think that actress did a wonderful job. The result of all these little character moments missing (even Jo burning Meg’s hair unless I missed it? And the Pickwick Society!!) is a film that has all of Little Women’s working parts but a little less of the story’s heart and nuance. The relationships between the sisters don’t feel as real, because we don’t get to see a lot of their petty conflicts. There’s barely any fallout between Jo and Amy when Amy gets to go to Europe! I think what the movie managed to keep in was accomplished well, but I think what it omits is its greatest failure. Mainly, I’m just confused on how it was still two hours even with all that missing, do they just talk super slowly? Anyone, please explain this to me I’m begging you.

I’m just gonna come out and say it: Laurie is not cute in this adaptation, he looks like a puppet. Admittedly, as a lesbian I have some high standards for men, but I just don’t trust him. He never stops smiling! I think the actor here was able to portray all of Laurie’s boyish playfulness, but struggled immensely in capturing the character’s underlying moodiness and melodrama. But then again, that’s probably just another side effect of this movie’s propensity for removing important character scenes, as Laurie didn’t have his drama king drink throwing scene with Amy in Europe to establish his flaws. I don’t know, I guess I did quite like how both Laurie and Jo were portrayed so obnoxiously, as it seemed a bit more accurate to how it would actually be to hang out with the two of them. Like, I love Jo, but she’s probably a bit abrasive in person, let’s not kid ourselves.

Also, I will allow this adaptation to pat itself on the back to be the first one to make me actually understand the appeal to the Jo/Bhaer relationship. The two actors have great chemistry, and you can see how Jo acts like a better version of herself when she’s around him. It also helps that Bhaer first appears onscreen as a bear (get it). I found that endearing.

Ok, last thoughts lightning round:

  • this adaptation kind of ignored Marmee as a character (no hulk moment of “I’m always angry”)
  • Aunt March was very good in everything she did
  • Amy’s line “I’d rather get scarlet fever and die than go to Aunt March’s” is very good once you know what’s coming
  • As much as I’ve griped about the overacting of this movie, I found most of Jo’s performance to be very nuanced and compelling, especially the hair scene where you can tell she’s overcompensating and there are definite layers to her acting
  • I really like the score and all the dresses, esp Jo’s dress here:

That’s all for now! Until next weeeeek

 

Castles in the Air

This week, we talked a lot about the closing chapter of part one of Alcott’s Little Women, and it got me thinking about the concept of nostalgia and how Alcott uses that emotion to create the novel’s greatest strength. What keeps so many people coming back to Alcott’s novel is its emotional rawness and the relatability of the coming-of-age themes present. I feel like the way Alcott is able to portray the life and characters in Little Women so well is because she allowed so much of herself and her life to seep into the page. This really begins to have a thematic impact and truly take root in the “Castles in the Air” chapter, where the March sisters and Laurie detail their wishes for the future, enumerating upon what they think they want and need for their life’s ultimate story arc. Jo wishes to become rich and famous off of her writing, something of a self-insert of Alcott’s past self and her wishes for publishing Little Women. Meg dreams of being wealthy and finally having all of the lavish possessions she’s ever wanted. Amy wishes to be a famous artist, while Laurie desires to travel the world, and Beth just wants to stay home and take care of the family. What’s immediately striking upon a reread of this book is that one notices that none of their dreams actually came true. What they thought they wanted when they were younger turns out to not be their priority when they grow up to be adults and have to compromise for others. Sometimes what people want the most is not what they need (Is that stealing from the Rolling Stones? ha). This disconnect between wishes and reality, between Jo’s imagined and lived futures, is telling in that for Alcott, her book becoming so popular became more of a curse to her than a blessing. Balancing her own plan for the novels and fans’ many insistent wishes for their own outcomes to play out upon the page was an irksome exercise to Alcott and turned out to maybe be a future she wouldn’t have wished for. It makes me wonder if my current ambitions will change or if what I want right now really is what I need.

Little Women, the Book

Little Women, the novel by Louisa May Alcott is a seminal work for many women, as its narrative still remains universal at its core. The issues of each of the March sisters are diverse, encompassing a variance of experiences. Whether you consider yourself a Jo, an Amy, a Meg, a Beth, or even a Laurie, there’s a character-type within the story that to some extent will be relatable to you. It’s this aspect of the story that makes it so strong and enduring; Alcott’s ability to balance the development of all of these characters within a still cohesive narrative creates such a believable universe that it brings people back to the same story over and over again.

One critique I do have of the novel is the lack of diversity represented in it, especially as a novel that was written in the Civil War era. The time period makes the absence of non-white characters even more conspicuous, and I understand the perspective that Alcott was coming from as a white woman of that era (it probably wasn’t something she considered in writing it, though she was an abolitionist), but I can’t help but focus on the gap of representation in the novel from my contemporary perspective. It doesn’t help (or maybe it does) that Jo is pretty queercoded as a character. Her interactions with her male best friend, Laurie, wherein she is perfectly content with the relationship remaining platonic while he develops romantic feelings, is painfully relatable for many middle-school lesbians with male best friends. As is her tomboyish nature in childhood and her disinterest in romance in general, preferring to pursue her own interests rather than finding love and being so upset at the idea of marriage when it comes to losing her sisters. All of these things could be excused as still being characteristic of a straight “spinster”, but there is overwhelming consensus that it is equally as indicative of the sapphic experience as well.

Overall, however, Little Women is a powerful novel whose good aspects help compensate for its flaws, and it still holds a special place in my heart. Especially Jo. And Laurie. But we’ll get to that later.

Next Week is Little Women, Right Now I’m Watching Camp Rock

So, breaking from my normal structure on these posts, this time I’ve decided to list some of the reading film devices I noticed in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Camp Rock.:

  • There are a weird amount of zooms in this movie, almost exclusively in melodramatic, over-acted scenes. Most of these scenes also included a long-winded monologue.
  • I just want to know who was in charge of this movie’s wardrobe department and why they apparently hated every member of this cast. Every outfit has so many layers for supposedly taking place at a warm summer camp. Although I will say that they did do a good job of making the “cool” people stand apart from the rest of the cast by dressing them in sequined dresses and/or leather jackets.

Like, seriously, what is this ^^

  • A lot of the shots are really stagnant and I don’t think I noticed a single transition that wasn’t just a simple cut in this movie. There also wasn’t a supreme variety in camera angles. Overall, this made the movie look pretty cheap and uninteresting to the eye.
  • The acting in this movie is so hammy and over-exaggerated, it was pretty cringy to watch, and made all the close-up shots look very awkward.
  • This movie is a musical, and pretty much all the music is diegetic, with very few exceptions. However, the way the music is mixed doesn’t make sense for it being diegetic. And I’m not just talking about a backing track appearing out of thin air to accompany the singer. For instance, when Joe Jonas was singing to Demi Lovato by himself with an acoustic guitar, you could hear multiple voices harmonizing with him, despite Jonas being the only one in the frame.

So yeah, just a fun way to say that once you start reading film, there is no escape from noticing these techniques, even in something as bad as Camp Rock.

Film Analysis Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

Alright, so you know how last week I was like “before we analyze Little Women as a series of adaptations, we first need to know how to read films in general” or something to that effect? And then I talked for forever about mise-en-scène and cinematography and was like “great, we’re done, now we know how to read film”. Well guess what, there’s actually even more terms that I did not explain at all, and that, believe it or not, are pretty important to understanding the language of film. So I give you part two: The Camera is Moving Now.

Ok, so, Camera Motion or Mobile Framing is exactly what it sounds like: the motion of the camera during a shot. There are a couple different main types I’ll discuss today, namely pans, tilts, dolly/tracking shots, crane shots, handheld/steadicam, and POV shots. It is at this point that I would want to insert gifs that would explain the motion in these terms, but I cannot for the life of me get gifs to insert into this blog, so you will just have to rely on the power and eloquence of my words.

PAN: A pan is when the camera moves horizontally from side to side on a fixed axis.

TILT: think pan, but make it vertical and badabing badaboom you have a tilt.

DOLLY/TRACKING SHOTS: In these shots, the camera is on a track or platform that moves across the ground, following the action.

CRANE SHOTS are when the camera is on a platform moving through the air. This platform could be anything from an actual crane to a helicopter.

HANDHELD SHOTS: The camera is held in the hands as opposed to with a tripod or platform, giving the footage a chaotic feeling. A subset of the handheld shot is the STEADICAM, which is a device that helps to stabilize the camera during handheld shots so that the camera movement becomes much smoother.

POV stands for Point of View, and POV shots are shots where the camera shows what one would be seeing if the camera was located at their head. Essentially, the camera becomes a stand-in for a character’s eyes, and it feels like the audience is that character. POV shots are a staple of the slasher genre and are effective at establishing themes of voyeurism in movies.

And, finally, an exciting bonus camera movement, a ZOOM! Zooms are when the focal length of the camera lens is changed to either magnify or minimize a part of a shot. Unlike in a tracking shot, the camera itself is not moving or following an action. Instead, it is just the camera lens that is being manipulated.

Next, we must discuss how all these shots are edited together. What transitions are used in between each piece of a film?

CUT: By far the most straight-forward and common edit. In a cut, two shots are just placed together back to back. One ends, another begins.

WIPE: a wipe occurs when one shot is wiped off of the screen to transition to the next one. Think Microsoft Powerpoint and Star Wars.

FADE: A shot appears gradually out of darkness, or the reverse.

DISSOLVE: similar to a fade in/out, but one shot fades out while another is simultaneously fading in, so that for a time both coexist in the frame at once.

Anddd, that’s all I’m doing today, I hope that was somewhat informative and understandable without visual examples.

Until next week!

 

 

Film Analysis Fundamentals

Before we can dive into analyzing the Little Women adaptations specifically, it is important to first cover the general rules of film analysis. Specifically, mise-en-scéne and cinematography.

The mise-en-scéne refers to the elements that set up a particular shot or scene of a film. Some examples of characteristics that are used in the setting of a scene include setting, costuming/make-up, lighting, and acting. To really explain what all this means, I’ll show you a screenshot from one of my favorite movies, Dario Argento’s 1977 film, Suspiria.

SETTING: Argento is using a studio setting (the set was built for the movie as opposed to shooting somewhere on location). This room is filled with many white twin beds that are placed close together around the perimeter of the room, creating a feel of mass evacuation/shelter or one of a communal camp/slumber party atmosphere. Either way, the closeness of the beds and lack of boundaries emphasize a lack of privacy. There is a large curtain forming walls which serve to separate the students in the school from the authority figures behind the curtain, making a divide defined by power into a physical one as well.

COSTUMING/MAKE-UP: The actresses in the scene are all wearing large, loose-fitting button-down or wrap garments that show that they are getting ready to go to sleep.

LIGHTING: The lighting might be the most important element of this scene, and it is certainly extremely important in the majority of this film as a whole. the curtain dividing the faculty from the students is backlit with an ominous red glow, revealing the silhouettes of their mysterious figures without allowing the viewer to make out any details. The color red is often associated with passion, power, and blood, which implies the true role of the faculty of the school revealed later in the movie. The girls, however, are lit from the left with a cool white light, separating them from the red color of the faculty’s side of the room.

ACTING: The students in the foreground appear relaxed and leisurely through their poses, while the faculty appear stiffer and more rigid in their silhouettes.

All of these elements set the overall tone of the scene, and serve to keep the viewer under the spell of the film as it plays out.

Next in analyzing or “reading” a film is the cinematography of a shot, or what happens once the camera starts moving and recording action. Elements of cinematography include the aspect ratio, the framing of the shot (long shot, close-up, medium shot, etc.), the camera angle, camera movement, and composition. I’ll continue with another example from Suspiria, this time a gif that should move.

ASPECT RATIO: The aspect ratio of this film is a standard widescreen 2.35 : 1

FRAMING: Since the subject is depicted from the neck/top of shoulders up, I would consider this a close-up shot.

CAMERA ANGLE: The camera doesn’t appear to be angled from a high or low angle, instead appearing to face the subject straight-on. Usually high/low angles are used to emphasize the power or lack thereof that a character possesses in a scene, with low angles usually denoting power/strength and high angles showing the subject as smaller and powerless. Another camera angle is a dutch angle, which tilts the camera on its axis and creates an unsettling, disorienting effect.

CAMERA MOVEMENT: The camera is still in this shot, though some examples of movement that could’ve happened would be a zoom, tilt, or tracking (when the camera follows a subject).

COMPOSITION: In this shot, Argento is using the Rule of Thirds to position the main character in the scene; she is positioned directly in the left third of the frame, leading our eyes first there, and then to the right third of the frame once she turns and a yellow light flashes.

All the elements of both mise-en-scéne and cinematography are present in every film made, and serve as the basis through which analysis can be made. In moving forward with the Little Women adaptations, these characteristics of how each movie is made will effect it’s relation with the source text and how the audience will interpret the characters.

See you next week!

First Post woohoo an Introduction

Hey! Basically this blog is just gonna be a journey of my deep dive into the entire Little Women canon, some of which I’ve seen before and some of which are entirely new to me. I saw the 1994 adaptation as a child, and only just recently read Alcott’s original novel after seeing Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation which seemed to be controversial within the Little Women community, but which I fall into the camp of absolutely loving. But I’ll get to those arguments later.

So that’s where I’m at in my current Little Women knowledge, but as for a small personal intro, I’m a 21 year old senior in college at VCU and I’m a cis lesbian so that’s the perspective we’re looking at this media with.

Can’t wait to start this journey!