Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Representation of Ethnicity in 'The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story'

Throughout the clip the ways in which ethnicity is represented is shown in a number of various ways using camerawork, editing, sound and Mise-en-scene. 

At the beginning of this clip, we are presented with a claustrophobic elevator scene where an African American man and a Caucasian woman are standing in. Immediately, the stereotype that African American men are aggressive is matched when he begins to shout at the woman for not listening to her.  This aggression is emphasized further by the fast cut editing that occurs. 

A stereotype of white people involves them feeling that they have the most power and knowledge. This is countered in the first scene when the black man says ‘you just didn’t take me seriously’. From this we can understand that the man has given advice to the lady which she went against this was clearly the wrong choice and a close up of her portrays her failure.  This scene also shows the woman from a slight high angle shot – stereotypically showing her in an inferior position to the black man who clearly has control of this interaction. This is clear as he is shown from a low angle shot – to portray his dominant position. Additionally, in this scene the black man states that the woman ‘never wanted a black voice’. It is clear by the way he says this that he becomes fairly emotional – which is a characteristic that is not usually portrayed in black characters.

In the second scene a coalition of African American is stood outside of a community church talking to press in unity. This could suggest the correlation between the stereotypical view that many black people are a close community. This is additionally supported by the group of African American’s stood together at the top of the staircase pathway in. This represents a countertype of the original idea that black people do not usually gain much authority or power in society, however in this case they are seen as the centre of attention across the nation.  The power that this coalition has at this present time is clear due to the positioning of them compared to the media outlets. Below, are all the Caucasian news reporters and press workers whereas the coalition is firmly stood above them. This is translated in a number of shots using a high angle to show their dominance compared to their viewers in this situation.

As this scene progresses we are introduced to the Shapiro couple that are watching this new broadcast live. Immediately it is clear that this couple is extremely wealthy due to the mise-en-scene that is shown from this pan shot from the TV screen to the intrigued couple. The upper class home is filled with expensive furniture and decorations such as leather seats, a gold desk clock as well as chandelier in the next room. The fact that a couple of white ethnicity are portrayed in this way supports the stereotype that it is typically Caucasian people that live in such luxury.

In the next scene we are introduced to the trial’s judge Lance Ito. The position of a judge is one of great power and the person with this job must be fairly wise. A few seconds into the scene were are shown a close up of Judge Ito who is of Asian ethnicity. Stereotypically, Asian people are known to be highly educated and scholar, supporting the judges position in this job as he would be believed to be wise. This educated background that can be stereotypically portrayed through this close-up shot through mise-en-scene. The close-up shot shows the judge wearing a pair of glasses. This item is typically used to represent somebody that is smart which again supports the stereotypical idea that people of an Asian background are typically represented as smart.  The Judge is seen as the man to convince in the next scene in the court room. After each statement is made by representatives, the camera cuts to a reaction shot of the judge to take in is wise perspective of what is being said. 

Overall, this clip shows a varied amount of ways in which different ethnicities are represented through the use of mise-en-scene, camerawork, editing and sound in The People vs. OJ Simpson. Many stereotypical views are supported throughout about certain ethnicities – such as Asians being academical, as well as a number of countertypes, which go against stereotypical beliefs – such as the fact that black people are not usually portrayed in a dominant and powerful way, however in this clip this is clearly argued against. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Why Did Ex Machina Succeed at the Box Office?

Ex Machina is a British Si-Fi movie, written and directed by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd), about a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who wins an opportunity to work alongside his company’s CEO in a ground-breaking experiment involving highly advanced and realistic A.I. The movie was made with a small budget of $15,000,000 and grosses over $36 million worldwide, receiving mostly positive reviews. These figures are an extremely obvious statistic that shows that Ex Machina was exceptionally successful at the box office. However, there were a number of factors that could have contributed to its success.

Firstly, the movie genre could be a vital reason for its success. Ex Machina is considered a Si-Fi Drama. Since the reign of Star Wars in the 1970s, Si-Fi has become a very popular and well established genre for film makers to create. However, it is also extremely hard to pull off success with, as majority of them are low budget or poor produced flops. However, Ex Machina was able to effectively deliver the key components in order to make a realistic and unique movie. There are a number of reasons why Science Fiction movies do so well at the box office. Firstly, it is extremely hard to beat the level of escapism that Si-Fi has. The genre is a much more fascinating place to delve into in terms of the fantasy world. Also it is having an interesting aspect of a usually grounded layer of scientifical background to it in order to make the whole story appear much more believable. In Ex Machina, the scientifical concept is The Turing Test. This test is carried out by a human (judge) whose job is to talk to mysterious others that may or may not be a programmed machine. To pass the test, the judge must be tricked into thinking that the machine is a real human. This source material and background research provides an intriguingly unique idea for viewers to become invested into.

The release date of the movie may be a significate factor to its success. Ex Machina had a fairly odd release schedule with a gap of almost three months between the UK (21st January 2015) and the U.S (24TH April 2015) releases. The gap between these releases may have had an overwhelming effect on the success of it. In the UKs opening weekend of the film in January, the movie collated $1,640,871/ £1,077,288. However, the majority of the movies money was made in April in the U.S, with a Weekend Gross of $5,349,500/ £3,511,668 shown at a peak of 1255 screens, (excluding the four screen limited release on the week of the 12th April). The gap in the releases could have triggered talk about the movie, with British and other nations film reviews being released. This would create ‘buzz’ in the U.S, where most money would be earned due to its size. This could have been a marketing method to start, although a risky one if critics and viewer dint like the film. The movie ended up grossing $36,659,611 /£24,074,610 worldwide, doubling its $15,000,000/£9,850,600 budget.

The production companies and director’s influence could also have had contributed to Ex Machina’s Success. The production company DNA Films are known for producing well known movies such as ’28 Days Later (2002), 28 Weeks Later (2007) and Dredd (2012). Another Company involved in production was Film4 Production. Film4 Productions is a British film production company that co-financed Ex Machina alongside Universal Pictures International. They are well known for movies such as Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Four Lions (2010) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). These production companies are greatly experienced with a great portfolio of titles under their belt. This means that the producers would be able to produce in effective ways to craft the best movie possible. Also, the movies they have produced in the past can be used as a marketing technique. For example – Placing their top films below their names in trailers to get people to want to watch and those titles are well known and loved. The Director of Ex Machina is Alex Garland. Well known for writing screenplays for movies such as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later and Dredd, Ex Machina was Garland’s directorial debut, and was also responsible for the role as screenwriter. Garland’s roles in the production of the film were a huge responsibility if he had failed, the movie would not have been a success. Instead, critics would give the movie low scores and far fewer people would have wanted to view it, therefore making much less money at the Box Office.

Another reason why I believe that Ex Machina succeeded at the box office is the marketing tactics that were used. The marketing team of Ex Machina used a number of techniques in order to get the word out about the film. Firstly, as discussed earlier the three-month gap between the release date in the UK and U.S was used as a way to gain wider interest from a Nation that was clearly understood to earn the movie the most money. Being well received by the UK would create ‘buzz’ in other countries leading up the U.S release on the 24th April 2015. Another thing that was done as a possible marketing tactic was limited screenings. Around two weeks before release, the U.S screened Ex Machina at 4 screens. This was possibly done purposely to attract a wider audience. The movie’s marketing team also created a number of trailers, teasers and TV Spots to promote the movie. These were used as a way to grab hold of an audience; teasing the plot to them. Trailers and Teasers were posted online on social media, YouTube etc. as well as in cinemas as previews. The idea behind trailers is to get viewers interested and excited about the movie and want to watch it without spoiling too much of the plot that people feel they know what will happen and not bother to go and watch it.

The timing of the when Ex Machina was in production was also a key aspect to why it was such a success. In present day, film makers have access to technology that is greatly advance and can take advantage of it to create superiorly realistic movies. The development of CGI means that Si-Fi movies, and VFX (Visual Effect) in movies in general can be produced with ease by extremely talented people. In the past, film makers tended to use practical effect much more often due to how unrealistic CGI was; film makers felt that using CGI to frequently could look out of place and take the audience out of the moment. This is also true for over-using CGI.In Ex Machina, a mix of CGI and costume design was used in order to create Ava (the main android in the movie.) Costume Designers created a complete one-piece skin tight suit, which was then edited using CGI in specific areas of her body. This was done after the six-week shoot of the film in 2013.

A usual reason for a movies success is the inclusion of big name actors that can attract an audience and fans to watch their movie. However, for Ex Machina this is one thing that it lacked. Instead, casting director Francine Maisler and director Alex Garland settled for rising stars including leads - Domhnall Gleeson - (About Time, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Unbroken), Oscar Isaac - (Drive, A Most Violent Year, Robin Hood) and Alicia Vikander – (Anna Karenina, Seventh Son, The Man from U.N.C.L.E). This shows that the movie must have been seen by the public as an interesting concept in terms of its plot. The success of this movie seems to have had a huge impact on the actor’s careers, especially Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac who have been casted in the latest entry in the Star Wars Franchise (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.) Being casted in a franchise with such prestige shows the effect of their talents which could been seen in Ex Machina as they gave well-acted performances.

Overall, I believe that Ex Machina’s success was down a number of various factors including its unique idea, the marketing, viewers demand in terms of genre and its fairly experienced production companies and writer. The performances, plot and screenplay were well presented in the movie and therefore allowed much praise around the world from viewers and critics, earning it great reviews and therefore greater interest to turn a profit of over double its budget ($15,000,000/£9,850,600) and thus becoming a success at the Box Office.