Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Midterm essay

First, I’d like to clarify why I’m writing this. I was going to write an essay on the Machinima genre and origins but decided an essay on the movie I made would be better. I’m not writing this in formal formats and languages because my project isn’t about this essay- it’s about the movie. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts, intentions, meanings, and comments on various subjects regarding “Nice Men”.

1) The “so what?”- When making a point where a thesis can’t be written, it’s important to blatantly state it somehow. Otherwise, you run the risk of your audience missing it entirely. The point of this project was to be able to say “Look at what I can do without anybody’s help. Try doing THIS 50 years ago. No sir, you need technology to do this.” Our present day technology has changed storytelling to THIS form! I find it impressive that w/ simple tools at my control, I can depict a meaningful story without actors, setting descriptions, musicians, scriptwriters, or any other outside help. True, I needed someone to make the program, but that being granted, the rest was all me. If I gave the project to someone who knew how to use the program, they could duplicate it in an hour or less. How impressive!!

2) The story- In depicting a story in order to show “storytelling”, I needed the classic script. I borrowed a page from Levi-Strauss’ theories on myths. I chose two opposing forces, set them against each other, and resolved it. That’s the basics of any story. Then I stole some elements from Vladimir Propp’s ideas and recreated the basics of an “irreducible narrative”. To be blatant, here’s the plot of “Nice Men” as I see it: Two characters are introduced as being buddies, the hero and the villain. Some event outside the direct control of the hero splits the two. Then a prize is introduced, sometimes a throne or riches but in this case, Emily. The villain comes back and there’s a skirmish which the hero loses (mostly). The villain then takes the prize. The hero is outcast and banned. He breaks the ban and returns, often w/ a branding, like a scar. The villain and the hero fight, the villain is defeated, the hero takes the prize.

3) The mumbling- I was using fake actors so I wanted them to have their own language too. I decided to make my subtitles ‘translate’ instead of just read. I didn’t want this to be a silent movie, I wanted it to be foreign.
4) The hidden elements- My favorite parts of narratives are the “easter eggs”, the hidden secrets that fly beneath normal perpection, but are obvious when pointed out. If you picked them out from “Nice Men”, kudos. I hope you felt a small thrill. For the ones you missed, have fun finding these your second time through:
a. The black vs. white: Seth wears black and Will wears white. Sybolism obvious. Also note how Will loses his jacket (becoming whiter) in the desert, where he’s ‘purified’.
b. Smoking: This is Will’s scar. He tells the thugs he doesn’t smoke, but when he’s beaten and returns, he drops a cigarette to go approach Seth. Will’s experience gives him a new characteristic, and shows a more “badass” style to his character instead of a wimpy one.
c. Supporting roles- The Indians that are killed early on are the same actors that beat up Will for Seth. Bet you couldn’t tell til I told you.
d. The title screen says “Nice Men has been APPROVED by someone without any ATHOURITY to do so.” Nyuk.
e. “Random Dance Party” is inspired by the endings of “Something About Mary”, “40 Year Old Virgin”, and “Reefer Madness” where the whole cast sings a song.
f. The wakeup scene in the sand is a tribute to “The Count of Monte Cristo” (movie, not book).
g. The actors’ names are amalgams of kids in the daycare class I teach. The movie’s name was randomly suggested by the computer. I almost when with “Jumping Penguins”.
h. Will’s early mention of a supply convoy is a Star Wars reference.
i. If Seth’s swooping in on Emily seems a little quick, good. It’s a potshot at Queen Anne in Richard III (that whore).
j. Bloopers- There are so many. Let’s start at the top. At various points in the movie, the horses have saddles that disappear and reappear. The opening rifle shot is actually a rocket explosion. The beat-up scene is actually a sewn scene. The setting “extremely severe” wasn’t enough for me, so I put in two. In the knife vs. unarmed fight scene, Will should be carrying a knife. He even bends down to pick it up after dropping it. I took it out to make him tougher. That’s why the gutshot looks so strange. Also, that knife is some KA-BAR style knife…totally anachronistic. The woman ‘conducting’ the dance party is the preacher from the wedding. Quick dye job, eh?

So that’s it. Now you’ve got the serious parts and the light-hearted parts of why “Nice Men” is so awesome.

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