Story Song

The Ballad of Love and Hate by The Avett Brothers

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Love writes a letter and sends it to hate.

My vacation’s ending. I’m coming home late.

The weather was fine and the ocean was great

And I can’t wait to see you again.

 

Hate reads the letter and throws it away.

“No one here cares if you go or you stay.

I barely even noticed that you were away.

I’ll see you or I won’t, whatever.”

 

Love sings a song as she sails through the sky.

The water looks bluer through her pretty eyes.

And everyone knows it whenever she flies,

And also when she comes down.

 

Hate keeps his head up and walks through the street.

Every stranger and drifter he greets.

And shakes hands with every loner he meets

With a serious look on his face.

 

Love arrives safely with suitcase in tow.

Carrying with her the good things we know.

A reason to live and a reason to grow.

To trust. To hold. To care.

 

Hate sits alone on the hood of his car.

Without much regard to the moon or the stars.

Lazily killing the last of a jar

Of the strongest stuff you can drink.

 

Love takes a taxi, a young man drives.

As soon as he sees her, hope fills his eyes.

But tears follow after, at the end of the ride,

‘Cause he might never see her again.

 

Hate gets home lucky to still be alive.

He screams o’er the sidewalk and into the drive.

The clock in the kitchen says 2:55,

And the clock in the kitchen is slow.

 

Love has been waiting, patient and kind.

Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign,

That the one that she cares for, who’s out of his mind,

Will make it back safe to her arms.

 

Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.

Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor.

He says “Love, I’m sorry”, and she says, “What for?”

“I’m yours and that’s it, whatever.

I should not have been gone for so long.

I’m yours and that’s it, forever.”

You’re mine and that’s it, forever.

This song is by one of my favorite bands, The Avett Brothers. When I first read about this option for the assignment, I immediately thought of The Ballad of Love and Hate. It’s the perfect “story song,” about two characters called Love and Hate. Of course, “Love” and “Hate” are just vague placeholders for the names of two lovers; the song isn’t about a specific relationship between two people, but a general story of what a relationship can be and the two roles individuals play within that. The inciting incident is immediate – Love writes a letter and sends it to Hate. She’s been away on vacation without him, and you get the sense that he is resentful. It feels as if Hate is afraid of Love leaving him for good, so he acts out and drinks and says hateful things because he doesn’t want to lose her, so he’s attempting to protect himself by acting like a jerk. There is one moment where Love takes a taxi and the taxi driver seems to fall in love – “as soon as he sees her, hope fills his eyes,” and then he tears up at the end because “he might never see her again.” This shows that Love is beautiful and kind – which is pretty much the opposite of Hate. The story progresses as Love flies home, Hate walks through the streets and ends up drinking alone, and finally the resolution when Hate “stumbles forward and leans in the door,” home at last. Hate finally apologizes to Love, who has been waiting for him the whole time, “patient and kind.” While it’s not the happiest story song, it definitely tells a story that audiences can relate to. You could probably make a movie out of this material; it’s a classic setup of a relationship between two opposites, trying to make it work. It’s kind of a weird feeling to break down a song that I know by heart – thinking of the lyrics as an actual narrative and not just a simple verse of the song makes me appreciate how well written The Ballad of Love and Hate is!

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Oh, Casablanca…

Casablanca is one of those movies that Hollywood just doesn’t make anymore. It’s full of intrigue, romance, Nazi’s, and liquor – really, all the elements you need to make a stellar film. Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, the infamous and tortured Hemingway hero who operates a local American “gin joint” in Casablanca, a refuge for refugees during World War 2. A woman from the past shakes up his world when she returns with her fugitive, activist husband, Victor Laszlo, in search of exit papers to escape to America. Soon Rick finds himself involved in a love triangle with the beautiful Isla Lund and Laszlo. The police prefect in Casablanca, Captain Renault, is working closely with the Gestapo to detain Laszlo, who has been a fugitive from the Third Reich ever since he escaped from a concentration camp. The two storylines eventually collide at the end of the film, when Rick’s ruse to whisk Isla off to American unfolds and Laszlo ends up on the plane as Rick watches from the tarmac with Renault. Although Casablanca is over seventy years old, it is just as entertaining as any modern drama. The inciting incident comes for Rick when Isla shows up in his “gin joint, out of all the gin joints anywhere in the world.”

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The film follows Freytag’s pyramid loosely. There are a series of events that set off the storyline, starting with the announcement of a murderer on the loose in Casablanca and the scene where individuals are being rounded up in the street. That sets up the background neatly, and lays out a few plot points to be developed. Everything is connected, which helps make the story more intriguing. Few people, especially in 2016, can relate to an alcoholic ex-pat who simply gets caught up in the shady activities of a few people, but you end up rooting for Rick to get the girl and get on the plane and leave Laszlo behind. Character development isn’t incredibly well done, but it’s done enough through dialogue between certain individuals that a viewer doesn’t really need a whole lot of extra information. There are quite a few extraneous characters to keep up with, especially since most of the characters do actually add to the plot in some way. My issue with the characters is that they’re very plot driven – we get that Renault is corrupt, but we don’t really get why he is the way he is. Maybe that’s my own baggage getting in the way, as I really appreciate when a character is well rounded and seems “real.” The only one who felt remotely “real” to me was Rick, and even then he just acted like a jerk for most of the movie. You see him begin to come around towards the end, as he decided to do the right thing and send Laszlo to American instead of trap him in Casablanca with the Gestapo, but that was even a little predictable. As for Ilsa, she was pretty flat. Her stereotype is that of the beautiful woman who weaves a tangled triangle of lovers, and she is almost completely driven by her emotions. The dialogue is one of the best parts about this movie. It’s so accurate for the characters that you expect them to say what comes out of their mouth.

 

That being said, if you don’t analyze Casablanca and the different aspects of the film and just watch it for what it is, then it’s an excellent movie. But the more I think about it, the more faults I begin to find, and I’m not sure that I’m appreciating it for what it is. After all, the movie was filmed in 1942 in black and white, almost exclusively on studio sets. Like Rick, the moral of the movie is a little difficult for me to corner. Does one do what’s best for love, or do you do what’s best for yourself? Do you devote your life to a cause like Laszlo, or do you take care of only yourself, with little regard for actions of others, like Rick? Do you go with the beautiful woman on the plane to America, or do you stay in limbo with the rest of the war refugees? These are all important questions in the film.

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In terms of mood, Casablanca did have me yearning for war torn Europe in a weird way. The inhabitants of Casablanca itself are so far removed from the conflict, that they’re able to enjoy these new lives and forget about the horrors happening back home. Many of them are waiting indefinitely to travel to America, but they can have a drink while they wait at Rick’s. The film made me want to fall in love with someone during a time of crisis, which probably wouldn’t make for a very healthy relationship, as demonstrated by the feelings Rick has towards Ilsa after he leaves her in Paris and then appears again, years later, with her husband. Regular people just don’t behave that way.

 

A definite strength of the film was the storyline, which kept it moving and kept it interesting. The characters worked well as instruments of the plot, but not as individuals in their own right. It works well seventy years later because it harkens back to the “golden age” of films; dashing, brooding men, beautiful women, exotic locales, and more intrigue that one can stomach – while not being cheesy or overdone. I’m tempted to give it an A, but my more cynical side is leaning towards a B+. Casablanca, while an excellent film, was certainly not designed to be authentic to any particular aspect of the real world. It feels like a movie, designed purely for entertainment and consumption, more so than many other movies I’ve seen. I didn’t watch this expecting to relate to the characters, but I was a little surprised when I didn’t find them very relatable by the end (coming from the girl who literally related to the ghost-possessed Dad in Insidious, this is a point of contention for sure.)

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In sum, I liked Casablanca, but I didn’t like thinking about why I liked it. I didn’t like breaking down the characters or their actions or even the plot; because that made me realize how little there really was to break down. Hollywood doesn’t make movies like this anymore for a bunch of reasons (namely, color film) but also because I think American audiences want more depth from their films, which is what Casablanca was lacking. So, here’s looking at you, Casablanca, for making me question why everyone raves about this film so much.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams” is a fantasy drama, laced with comical realism that comes in the form of farmer Ray Kinsella constructing a regulation baseball field in the middle of his cornfields, because “the voice” told him to. Quite literally, he begins to hear a voice saying, “If you build it, he will come,” and begins seeing visions of a baseball fields in his corn.  Ray has a wife, a daughter, and a mortgage to think about, so many community members view his commitment to this vision as ridiculous. His “quest” of sorts doesn’t end with the field – he travels a long distance to find multiple people, including a reclusive author from the sixties. Ray ultimately draws the 1919 Chicago White Sox to the field to right wrongs from their past and right a relationship from his own past. Ultimately, the story asks, “Will you do what it takes to fix past wrongs?” as Ray not only helps the White Sox find peace by playing baseball again, but finds peace within his own life as he finds peace with his relationship with his father.

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It’s hard to pin the film as one specific genre, because there is something that’s comical, moving, and sad about a farmer building a baseball field so a ghostly baseball team can play one last time. Ray changes multiple lives and brings peace to these individuals through his quest; while retaining a positive attitude and a relentless desire to carry his actions through. It’s funny (read: baseball field in the corn), it’s sad (the Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball after throwing the 1919 World Series), and it shows Ray struggling with caring for his family but carrying out his responsibility to the individuals who come to the field.

The story entertains on the basis of one ordinary man doing a few extraordinary things. It’s certainly entertaining that only Ray, his wife, and daughter can see the baseball players but there is also a deeper meaning in that Ray literally gives up his livelihood to build a field and find these individuals and bring them “home,” in a sense. The story is complete and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction; not only is everyone’s life enriched or changed for the better, but Ray’s situation is turning around as you see the cars streaming into the farm to pay to watch baseball – that is exactly the kind of attention that will allow the Kinsella’s to keep their farm.

photo posted on www.post-gazette.com
photo posted on http://www.post-gazette.com

I think “Field of Dreams” is worthy of award recognition because it deals with a weird plot and some heavy undertones very elegantly. The dialogue is real, the characters relatable, and the story just moving enough that you feel privileged to have watched these characters overcome their obstacles. Ray and his family were well rounded; Ray didn’t come off as crazy and delusional, his wife wasn’t nagging and hysterical at the thought of her husband losing the farm, and their daughter rounded out the family as the sweet, precocious, innocent young kid. Even the antagonists, from Ray’s brother in law who practically talks his sister into selling the farm, to the angry PTA mom who wants Terrance Mann’s book banned, you feel for the struggles of the Kinsella family. They are simply trying to do the right thing for themselves, without interruption from any outside party.

“Field of Dreams” follows the Freytag Pyramid Story Structure pretty well. It has a clear inciting incident in the voice telling Ray to “build it, and they will come.” The rising action deals with him building the field, dealing with opposition from outsiders, and then his search for Terrence Mann and Archie “Moonlight” Graham. Finally, the climax is the men’s return to the farm, where the baseball players are together at last and get to play the game they love again. Mann follows the team into the field to discover something worth writing about again, and at the very last second, Ray’s father appears on the field as the youthful, young baseballer he once was. Ray meets his father on the ground he loved and is able to see his father in a new way. The resolution is, of course, the line of cars coming from town to the farm to partake in America’s pastime and inadvertently pay the Kinsella’s mortgage. I agree with Blake Snyder’s identification of the film as belonging to the “Out of the Bottle” genre. Ray literally brings back the spirits of individuals to fulfill their last wishes.  There’s no monster, no superhero drama, and no central “buddy love” going on.

 Ray Kinsella is kind of the accidental hero – he was not looking to go on this “quest,” nor did he ever really understand why he was doing what he did. Ray just understood that someone, somewhere was depending on him to deliver the field and bring them to the land they loved. That being said, the characters on the whole are pretty well rounded. They seem so realistic, like Annie Kinsella could be the mom that hosts book club and bakes brownies for the Girl Scout bake sale, but makes sure her daughter Karin invites all the kids in her class to her birthday party. Ray is the reluctant, affable farmer with a penchant for a good baseball game. Terrence Mann is the conflicted former activist who feels that he no longer stands for anything, and is searching to regain his passion. And finally, Shoeless Joe Jackson is a man struggling to what he loves again after a lifetime of being banned. Everyone can relate to these characters and their struggles in some kind of way.

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Overall, “Field of Dreams” is one of those movies that makes you want to move to Iowa, buy a farm, and take up baseball as a pastime. It’s a movie about good people doing good things for other people who just need a little help, and it’s a movie about following your intuition even if you don’t really know why. I’d give the film an A – any movie that deals with a man hearing voices, a baseball field on a farm, and a mostly ghostly cast, and deals with it well, certainly deserves an A!

Almost Famous

Almost Famous made me cry. I don’t know if it was because I watched it at 11pm on a school night, or because I drank multiple cups of coffee during the film, or even if it was because I fell in love with Russell Hammond, but tears fell down my cheeks as the credits rolled. The film follows William Miller, Penny Lane, and the band Stillwater across the country as the “mid-level band struggles with the pressures of fame,” to roughly quote the script. William’s whole pretext is that he’s an incredibly smart kid who’s skipped a few grades and graduating high school at 15. His “rebellious” sister has run away from their “intense” mother to become a flight attendant, and he has just gotten an offer from Rolling Stone to travel on tour with Stillwater and write a story on them. It’s easy, all he has to do is interview the members, stay off drugs, and make them “look cool,” according to his editor, his mother, and the lead singer.

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If you couldn’t already tell, this plot certainly leaves room for shenanigans. There’s infidelity, drugs, sex, rock n’ roll – but on the other hand, love, clarity, and some personal growth. I won’t spoil the ending, but the William you meet in the beginning that is eager to make friends with the band isn’t the same William as the one sitting in the private plane as they fly through an electric storm, spilling secrets left and right. It wouldn’t be a true drama if there wasn’t an emotional falling out between main characters.

That being said, there is a moment towards the end after the band members have spoken with a fact-checker from Rolling Stone about William’s article that illustrates the spirit of the movie perfectly. “Maybe we just don’t see ourselves the way we really are,” says Russell, the guitarist with mystique. Jeff, the lead singer, has just gone off on a rant about how he never said half of the quotes William used in the article – truth is, he did, but he realizes he doesn’t like how he sounds.

A central frustration throughout the film is that journalists are always unmerciful to rockstars, but you begin to realize it’s the other way around. William reported what he saw and what he experienced, which was exactly what those guys didn’t want to be. You get the feeling that they spent so long trying to be “real,” that they became the stereotype. If you had to pinpoint it, the inciting incident is that phonecall from Ben Fong-Torres, illustrious editor of the Rolling Stone. Fong-Torres enables William to travel with Stillwater, thus allowing him to break out of his normalcy and experience life as he never thought possible.

The film is certainly entertaining. It’s two hours of good lines, good laughs, and certainly good music. But it also takes you on an emotional journey that one doesn’t quite expect. The characters come off as “real” rockstars, in the sense that they behave exactly as you’d expect as a young band on the rise. The only two that get any kind of substantial development, however, are Russell and Jeff, but only to a certain extent. Russell often acts in ways I don’t expect; in the end he realizes that his relationship with Penny wasn’t the most important relationship in his life – it was his relationship with William. I had spent so much time watching Russell play the moody guitarist – who did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted – that when he called Penny to make amends, the last place I was expecting him to show up was William’s house. Too often, in dramas especially, the characters are utterly predictable. This movie was not about a band, their groupies, and their rise to fame, but a band, their fans, and how the relationships we form with people impact our lives.

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The main character conflict that arises multiple times throughout the film is the dynamic between Jeff and Russell. Jeff is the stereotypical lead singer; he’s egotistical and dramatic and disheveled. Russell, while equally disheveled, is mysterious and thoughtful. He’s self-assured and confident, but it’s not misplaced. Naturally, the two are at odds and resort to fighting at least twice throughout the duration of the movie. Their conflict isn’t resolved as neatly as the emotional damage that Russell causes to William by denying all of the facts in his article (which is resolved at the very end), but you get the feeling that the band moved past egos and t-shirts and went back to their roots – which was their deep love for the music.

As a whole, Almost Famous was a wonderful success. It was interesting and intelligent, dramatic and bold, glamorous and delightfully dirty. It was a small window into a golden age- the “death throes” of rock n’ roll. It gave the viewer a chance to transport into 1970’s America, away from their theatre or bed or living room couch, and travel with rockstars. It was a success because it was larger than life, but it felt like it could be your life, if you were just a little bit more carefree and adventurous.

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As a whole,  Almost Famous was a wonderful success. It was interesting and intelligent, dramatic and bold, glamorous and delightfully dirty. It was a small window into a golden age- the “death throes” of rock n’ roll. It gave the viewer a chance to transport into 1970’s America, away from their theatre or bed or living room couch, and travel with rockstars. It was a success because it was larger than life, but it felt like it could be your life, if you were just a little bit more carefree and adventurous. Almost Famous was one of those movies that, had I watched it in high school, would have led me to develop a love for late 70’s rock n’ roll, brown suede, and a longing to visit Morocco. Watching it now, however, I’m left with a feeling of contentment that Almost Famous is not the real world, nor does it claim to be even a reasonable facsimile of that. William, Penny, Jeff, and the rest existed authentically as individual characters in what was certainly not “real life” for many people. It is a good movie because even the characters know that their lives, scripted within every inch, are nothing more than a circus for the rest of the world to watch.

Story, Character & Baggage

After reading Chapter One, I found it really helpful to learn about the different types of characters, the different types of heroes, and the different types of stories. Of course, I’m aware of these things when I watch a movie normally, but I’m not dissecting every character trait and piece of plot as it’s unveiled. Reading about these things almost felt like learning how the human body works – I don’t often think about all the different pieces and parts that work together to make the whole!

Reading the traits of a “Hemingway hero” (for example) makes them seem more like a character and less like someone living in my neighborhood; in a weird way, it makes the character seem flat, like they’re bound by their traits and nothing else. Naturally, they are, because these aren’t real people, but interpretations and combinations of real people. It’s weird to look at film characters as exactly that, and not real people. Thinking about it now, the “Hemingway hero” characters are ones that I’m drawn to most often. I’m a fan of his writing, so it makes sense that I’m drawn to characters with traits similar to the ones he created!

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If you get a chance, google “hemingway memes“. 

The one piece that didn’t totally blow my mind was the chapter on conflict. All of those categories were things that I totally use to screen movies on – for instance, I’m not a fan of Man vs. Nature. That whole idea just has zero appeal for me, so if I pick up a movie like 127 Hours, chances are I’ll set it back on the shelf (which is exactly what I did with that movie – I was not about to see beautiful James Franco literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.) Conflict has to happen in movies to keep the plot moving and to keep the audience interested; a movie without any sort of conflict is just boring.

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How is he so calm?!

Overall, reading about what makes a story, what makes a character, and what makes a story important was way more interesting that I anticipated. I’m pretty evenly torn between what draws me to a film more, whether it’s character or story. I love both. A good story can carry a poor character, but then again, a good character can carry a poor story. A good example of this is The Princess Bride – that is such a hard story to translate to a screenplay. That book was William Goldman’s baby, and it stressed him out so bad to be on set as the screenwriter that he missed many days of filming. Thankfully, the writers were able to do justice to his story and created an incredible plot for the characters to live with. The story is larger than life and so are the characters, and thankfully that translated to the silver screen.

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William Goldman, drawn by Bo Hampton, with Westley as the Man in Black and Buttercup.

A really great example of a story that has become super important to people is the Star Wars franchise. The reboot this year was HUGELY popular and will surely remain so with this new generation of viewers. I stumbled across a short article that asked, what’s more important? The Star or the Story? It talked about how once a story reaches a level of popularity, of cultural significance, much like star wars has – it doesn’t matter who’s in the movie or who the characters themselves are. All that matters is continuing that narrative. In this case, the character or “star” has been eclipsed by the story.

So if I had to choose, I would say this: “A moment between characters is the stuff stories are made of.” Thankfully, someone already said that for me – visit the hyperlink to see a cool webpage with some great quotes about character creation and plot development!

 

What Film Means to Me

What Film Means to Me

Hey y’all! My name is Alice Byrd and I am junior at Gardner-Webb University.  I am from Asheville, North Carolina, where I was born and raised. As an only child, I spent a lot of time with my parents and with friends, but I still had a lot of free time to fill on my own. One of my earliest memories is picking out movies and cartoons to rent from our local Blockbuster store, which (sadly!) is now a relic of the past. Film and TV shows have always been a big part of my life – movies are an excellent way to pass the time, and my favorites often keep me company while they play in the background as I clean my room or do homework. These include (but are certainly not limited to) The Princess BrideTalladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and The Terminal. Yes, I can quote most of these movies by heart.

Needless to say, film has been a familiar medium to me for a long time. I love all types of movies – from artsy, indie “think” pieces, to blockbuster hits, superhero adventures, and horror flicks, I will watch just about anything. Movies are a common ground between all types of people, and that’s another reason why I love film. Some of my best memories with my best friends are the times we’ve gotten together and had movie nights. From high school to college and beyond, film has brought people in my life together and created a shared experience that is unparalleled. Movies are about speaking a common language with individuals that gets you laughing, arguing, or interested in watching something else, in a way that few other topics do.

Alright, now that all the serious stuff is out of the way – I’ll let y’all in on a secret. I am a HUGE Pirates of the Caribbean fan! I remember watching the first movie with my aunt, way back when, and the scene that stuck with me the most was when the pirates are walking underwater to board the ship and they’re complete skeletons. That was so freaky, yet so fitting with the story, that I was hooked. I don’t know wether it was the swashbuckling action and adventure, Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley, or the killer soundtrack that got me! On the opposite side of things, I’m also a huge Back to the Future fan. Those movies never get old to me!

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I am so excited to see what this class holds this semester! Oh,  about the picture – I spent a month in Italy this summer and found random graffiti on random ruins of an old castle in the hill town of Orvieto that spelled my name – thought it was too funny not to include on my intro post!