Edgar Wright Reinvents How Sound Can Be Used In Film

Film

Sound is typically a boring and overlooked aspect of movies, not because it is inherently boring, but because most directors do not recognize the advantage of using it in different ways. Director Edgar Wright takes sound and, as he does with everything else, makes it extraordinary in his films.

Wright uses something called intensified continuity, defined by David Bordwell in Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film as “traditional continuity amped up, raised to a higher pitch of emphasis.” Wright uses sonic intensified continuity particularly in scene transitions throughout his feature films, including Hot FuzzShaun of the Dead, and Baby Driver, among others.


Wright’s Use Of Sonic Intensified Continuity

In one scene from Hot Fuzz, Danny (Nick Frost) is showing Nicholas (Simon Pegg) a flip book and the flip book sounds become amplified and morph into the short and exaggerated sounds of a door opening, a pen writing on paper, and general motion sounds before transitioning to a conversation between the two in a different setting.

While the typical establishing shot used as a transition can be effective, it is overused and there is nothing special about it. In most cases, the boring transitions are the times when viewers will take out their phones and scroll through Twitter until something draws their attention back in. Wright never needs to draw their attention back in — he never loses it.


Excessive Swearing In PG-13

Wright also creatively uses sound to circumvent R-ratings. The MPAA allows only a few swear words in PG-13 movies before it becomes an R-rated movie. The MPAA enforces these rules so that audiences are aware of what they are walking into (or what they are letting their children walk into). Many directors try to avoid an R-rating because it limits the audience and therefore the box office success.

Edgar Wright manages to keep the spirit of swear words in his movie by using sound to cover them up. In one scene from Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Julie (Aubrey Plaza) is swearing at Scott (Michael Cera), but a beep sound and a black box over her mouth mask it. In this situation, adults will understand that she is still swearing and children will not, therefore maintaining the intended dialogue while keeping it PG-13.


Wright’s Use Of Diegetic Music

In a scene from Shaun of the Dead, the main characters are in a pub hiding from zombies. Doors are barricaded; lights are off. Ed turns on an arcade game and suddenly the zombies approach the noise from outside. When a single zombie enters the bar, the juke box turns on to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Everyone grabs a cricket bat and begins circling the zombie while hitting him over and over again to the beat of the song.

In a scene where non-diegetic music (music that only exists to us viewers) would typically be used, Wright found an opportunity to introduce diegetic music (music that is playing within the world of the film) for heightened effect.


Wright’s most recent film, Baby Driver, didn’t just make sound an interesting part of the film — it made sound the whole film. Most movie trailers are intensified by matching the beats to the visuals or cuts. Edgar Wright does this throughout every single one of the film’s 113 minutes. The film is an action musical.

In Baby Driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver who drowns out his tinnitus by always listening to music. With the use of this diegetic music, the sound is as critical to his role in the film as it is to ours. Baby dances along streets to the music just as his car swerves and screeches to the music.


When you think about the qualities of certain movies, sound is probably the last thing you think of. All films have good sound — if they didn’t, nobody would watch them. But what the majority of films fail to do is use it creatively.

There’s something incredible about watching a film that a director has seemingly poured every ounce of his creativity into and then watching his next film and realizing he had more creativity than you thought possible.

Ad Astra Is Not A Space Movie… And That Is Why It Succeeds

Film

 

The following contains spoilers for Ad Astra:

One of my favorite movies is About Time — a movie about life’s small moments and the people we share them with. It just so happens that it also involves time travel.

I feel the same way about Ad Astra. It is the only space movie I like because it is not a Space Movie. Space Movies like Gravity and The Martian are likable but forgettable. Space Movies like Interstellar are simply awful — yes I’m sure.

Ad Astra was set in space, but it is about something much smaller yet much much bigger than that: human relationships.

It shows us that a father and son’s relationship is more exciting than the marvels of taking commercial flights to the moon or landing on Mars. It doesn’t propose that space is exciting at all. It has normalized it, but the contrast between their casual space travel and our lack of such doesn’t draw attention to itself or feel unnatural.

Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, is struggling with the new knowledge that his father is believed to be still alive. He goes along with the mission he is sent on: to communicate with his father in an effort to stop him from causing further damage to the whole solar system with the project he was sent out there to work on.

McBride tries to be stoic while beginning this mission, though emotion creeps in in small, but visible, doses. A subtle portrait of masculinity, he tries to repress the feelings of love and abandonment he feels for and from his father. Only when he sends out several radio communications to his father does he begin to assess what he is feeling and come crashing down.

These emotional scenes are enhanced because of the juxtaposition with the ordinary feeling of seeing space exploration.

It never makes us feel like we are being pulled out of the film. Rather, we are pulled in to the emotional journey, for which space is simply the backdrop.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper: Views of Shallow

Film

On Sunday night, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed “Shallow” from A Star is Born, in which the pair played Ally and Jackson Maine, respectively. The film, which marks Cooper’s directorial debut, went largely unrecognized by the Academy. With eight nominations heading into the night, the film walked away with just one win: Best Original Song.

Each year, the Best Original Song nominees perform throughout the ceremony. Though the Academy tried to scratch this for the sake of hitting a 3-hour run time, complaints kept the tradition (mostly) alive.

A Star is Born was released on October 5, 2018 and “Shallow,” of course, went on to earn its Best Original Song nomination on January 22, 2019.  Long before nominations were announced, Bradley Cooper revealed to Variety that he already shared ideas with Gaga for their potential Oscar performance, saying, “I started texting her the whole pitch of how we should do it. So we’ll see. There might be a cool, unorthodox way we could perform it.”

There are a lot of different ways they could have performed it (perhaps have Alec Baldwin introduce them a la the SNL scene in the film), but when the time came, it became clear that it wasn’t the performance they had an unorthodox idea for– it was the filming of it.

The camera is filming from the stage as the piano is brought out and Cooper and Gaga emerge from the audience. If it looked weird, it’s because performances are never shown from this angle. The camera is always in the audience, or at least facing the stage. If it looked familiar, it’s because this is exactly how every performance was filmed in A Star is Born.

In all of the concert scenes, which were filmed in between acts of Stagecoach and Glastonbury, the camera is on stage with the performers. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique spoke with Carolyn Giardina on The Hollywood Reporter‘s Behind the Scenes Podcast, sharing that Cooper asked him, “What do you think if we just shot from the stage and never saw the audience perspective?”

In an interview with Film School Rejects, Libatique recalls an early conversation with Cooper:

“Remembering an experience he had being backstage at a show and the feeling that he had. Just being there looking out at the audience amongst the stage and amongst the band and all people around the stage. What that sort of feeling was. He had the idea to shoot it from that perspective only and forget about the audience’s point of view”

This style of cinematography, while ostracizing the audiences within the film, brings the audience of the film closer to the story. The closest we come to identifying with any audience within the film is when Ally’s father sits at home watching his daughter on YouTube with his friends and discusses how many people have seen the video.

Because of the cinematography, we care about Ally’s career on a personal level, not as fans. We feel more important than the audiences in the film– we feel like the friend, the sibling, the parent. The cinematography makes the film about Ally and Jackson as human beings with their careers as an added layer. The film is not treated like a concert with dialogue thrown in the middle.

The camera remains in their personal space not just on the stage, but in personal moments as well. During the wedding montage, the camera is right in Ally’s face. This same framing is used as she performs “I’ll Never Love Again” at the very end of the film. In the final moments of the film, she looks into the camera, acknowledging that we were there the whole time.

 

British Shows to Watch on Netflix

Film

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams | Co-Editor-in-Chief

 Netflix can be overwhelming with its ever-changing and sometimes bizarre categories with shifting titles every month. You know how it goes: you don’t have the energy to go digging through all of the options so you just go straight to your old reliable (probably The Office). In an effort to get more out of the Netflix experience, I’ve rounded up some options for your winter-break viewing (or finals week procrastination-not the recommended option). Because Netflix does have so many choices, I limited this list by British television shows and films. This is for the anglophiles:

1. Sherlock

This series follows one of literature’s famous duos: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but this time it is set in modern-day London. This series has three seasons so far with only three episodes in each. The good news, though, is that every episode is an hour and a half long.

2. Ripper Street

This show is also set in London, but this time it is set in the Victorian era. Matthew Macfadyen plays Detective Inspector Reid, who, along with his team, puts himself in danger in order to solve crimes and murders happening in London after Jack the Ripper’s time.

3. The Crown

For the royal-obsessed, this show begins with the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and continues on from there with flashbacks to her childhood here and there. As the royal family is very private, this drama ponders what goes on in private moments and conversations.

4. The Queen

In this film, Helen Mirren stars as the Queen of England. While The Crown follows her entire reign, this film focuses on one brief time: the day after Princess Diana’s death. Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair, then Prime Minister who was adamant about how the Queen should respond to news of the tragedy.

5. Broadchurch

This show is not for those who like closure after each episode. This series begins with the death of a young boy and follows the detectives who tirelessly search for his killer in a small coastal England town.

6. The IT Crowd

This British comedy centers around two men who work in IT but struggle to interact with others in socially acceptable ways. It follows them as they come to terms with the woman who knows nothing about computers but joins them as head of the IT department.

7. Fawlty Towers

John Cleese of Monty Python plays Basil Fawlty, a man who runs a hotel with his wife Sybil. This show follows their funny interactions with customers and fellow employees in this hotel where everything seems to go wrong.

8. The Imitation Game

This Oscar-nominated film follows Alan Turing as he and his team work to crack the enigma and win World War II. It also features flashbacks to Turing’s childhood to give us insight into his personal life.

9. Atonement

This film features James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as two people in love. However, things fall apart when her sister places accusations on him and he is forced away. Things are complicated further by their roles in World War II.

Op-Ed: More Great Gerwig, Please

Film

Written for Mosaic by Kitty Williams | Co-Editor-in-Chief

On January 7th, stars were gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the 75th Golden Globes. Natalie Portman and Ron Howard presented the nominees for Best Director. Certainly breaking from the teleprompter in front of her, Portman leaned into the microphone and said, “Here are the all male nominees.”

[Enter Lady Bird]

Greta Gerwig is an actress, screenwriter, and director who is nominated for Best Director for her Best Picture-nominated film Lady Bird. This year she is the only woman in the Best Director category. More shocking is the fact that she is one of five women ever to be nominated for this award.

The other nominees included Lina Mertwuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to ever win. She won for her film The Hurt Locker, which was about a bomb disposal team. It also won Best Picture that year.

There’s a trend with Oscar nominated films and that is that they are always about something really dramatic. Often, the main character is going through a really traumatic life experience. In addition, there are car chases, gunfights, and relationships formed and broken.

This is where Lady Bird does something different. It is simply about a high school girl’s relationship with her mother. It also touches on her other relationships in life. One of her past credits as a screenwriter and actress was for Frances, Ha. This film, in a very similar way, focused on two best friends and their evolving relationship through a collection of small moments. Gerwig has a talent for taking ordinary moments and making them important without forcing them to be extraordinary.

Gerwig said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Oscar Nominee Night, “Stop a woman in the street and ask her what her relationship is like with her mother. You won’t get a one word answer.”

Everyone can sit in this movie and see some part of them in a character on screen. It speaks a universal language in the most sincere way. This is the kind of story that needs to be told. This film isn’t the saddest, but it will make a viewer cry if only because they feel understood. If that isn’t deserving of an Oscar, I don’t know what is.

“Different things can be sad. It’s not all war.” –Lady Bird