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.

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.