Lee Thomas | Lifestyle Editor
While plenty of people enjoy the experience of watching movies as an escapist respite, countless observations can be made about life, art, and humanity through the medium of film.
Although sometimes earning a reputation as being meaningless due to the overabundance of Michael Bay films and teen comedies; at its best, film can be used to expose a wide cross-section of the world population, tell important stories about the human experience, or express an artistic message.
Much of this is an attempt to create more educated and cultured individuals. By-products of which can include the breaking down of antiquated ideals, as well as promoting empathy for the plight of others in order to co-exist in a more loving and unified manner.
“People can change their ideas on the world and become more thoughtful and progressive through watching a film,” said Cinema Studies Professor Jans Wager. Important commentaries on our portrayal of gender roles, race and social class can be viewed through even the most unexpected films.
A brief example is the portrayal of the lead female characters in recent blockbusters Mission Impossible 5 and Jurassic World. In MI-5, the female lead realistically takes off her heels to run; in Jurassic World, she’s still wearing them at the end after running from dinosaurs through a jungle for most of the film. A small detail like this says a lot about the roles we are comfortable seeing women in on screen and is worthy of examination. Surprisingly, MI-5 comes out with the more enlightened portrayal, because the truth is, women probably don’t run for their lives in heels.
“Feminism was at the forefront of my interest in film analysis. It made me start thinking about gender and then I started paying attention to masculinity,” explains Wager. In her book Dames in the Driver’s Seat: Rereading Film Noir, Wager explores the portrayal of masculinity in films such as Fight Club, which helps illustrate the range of analysis on gender, and provide for a more full exploration of the topic.
Along with social commentary, there is an abundance of artistic aspects to analyze.
Critics employ a variety of film analysis methods. Some try to separate narrative function from visual meaning. A good combination of both seems to be the prevailing theory.
Analyzing characters, their roles and archetypes, and the meaning they provide to the story is a great place to start. Next, focus on the content of different scenes, possible interpretations, and how these scenes have been intertwined to make the story of the film complete.
Mise en scene (costumes, hair and makeup, set design), lighting, sound, cinematography, editing and special effects are just a few of the aspects that can be analyzed from a technical level.
Discussion amongst friends and family in order to more fully comprehend a film can help, but a second watch after a first evaluation can greatly increase understanding and appreciation of a film. Reading reviews from critics also aids in providing different perspectives.
Mostly due to technological advancements, there are more films using new and experimental techniques, formats and delivery methods than ever before. This has provided us with more high quality content, and has allowed television and web content to be more widely accepted as culturally important. Add that to the millions of classics and the breadth of available material is staggering.
In this revolutionary era of shifting societal attitudes and identities, the availability of information and ease of idea exchange due to technological advances greatly supports the study of film. The time is prevalent to challenge our beliefs and search for meaning. It’s a very interesting time to be analyzing this form of art.
Resources: For a comprehensive list of reviews by American critics, Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic; For a well-established, philosophical perspective, The Hollywood Reporter or The New York Times. Also visit grantland.com/Hollywood-prospectus/ as well as laineygossip.com/Movie-Reviews-and-Previews/ for cutting-edge reviews and commentary on the star system and filmmaking process.