Last and greatest film project

The major film project fourth quarter is up to you. Extend and deepen* what you are able to do in any (socially acceptable) genre you choose. At least 4 minutes. No camera out the car window shots unless pre-approved. Due May 29/30
* you will be asked to explain exactly what aspects of this final film are a “stretch” for you – doing/trying things that you have not done before

Senior exams:

  • Red 3 – May 31
  • Blue 2 – June 5

Seniors are exempt from final exams in those courses in which they have earned at least a B- for the 4th quarter and the year for a full year course.



Morpheus: Free your mind.

[Morpheus jumps from one building to another a long distance away]

Neo: Whoa.

Neo: Okey dokey… free my mind. Right, no problem, free my mind, free my mind, no problem, right…

Exposition | The Matrix

This year I’m finding the exposition in The Matrix clumsy and slow and clunky. But apparently in 2013 I didn’t think so, and I linked to an essay at AVClub about how well the Wachowskis handle exposition at the beginning of the Matrix — Morpheus explains without really explaining:

Right off the bat, this whole “nobody can be told” business. Of course they can be told. I can do it in two sentences: “Everything you think you experience, this entire world, is actually a computer program. In real life, it’s around 2199, and you’re lying in a vat with a dozen tubes sticking out of you, being used as a living battery by sentient computers, as you have been since the day you were born.” What Morpheus means is that nobody would believe it without being shown the evidence. More to the point, the Wachowskis know perfectly well that it’s much more exciting for the audience to share Neo’s intense bewilderment when he suddenly awakens inside his vat, bald and naked and with plugs sticking out of him. At the same time, though, Morpheus can’t just say, “Hey, wanna know what the Matrix is? Take this pill.” Neo might actually go for it—he seems beyond the point of no return before he even enters the room—but it’d be a damp squib from a dramatic standpoint. Hence the circuitous rigmarole, as Morpheus proceeds to describe the Matrix in detail (“when you pay your taxes”?!) without really saying anything at all.

There’s another element as well, though—one that has a significant bearing on the plot: At its heart,The Matrix is a movie about free will, which is to say, about choice. That’s best symbolized when Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the red pill and the blue pill, with red representing truth and freedom, and blue signifying illusion and denial

And for only $12.99, you can buy a paper explaining the film’s relationship to film noir:




”Memento” is like an existential crossword puzzle, or a pungent 50’s B-thriller with a script by Jorge Luis Borges. The film’s story and setting are boilerplate noir. Leonard, attired in an expensive silk suit, cruises a bleached-out Southern California landscape of anonymous motels and abandoned warehouses.

AO Scott


Major longform piece about Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar) in the New York Times:

Part of the reason his work has done so well at the box office is that his audience members — and not just his fans, but his critics — find themselves watching his movies twice, or three times, bleary-eyed and shivering in their dusky light, hallucinating wheels within wheels and stopping only to blog about the finer points. These blogs pose questions along the lines of “If the fact that the white van is in free-fall off the bridge in the first dream means that, in the second dream, there’s zero gravity in the hotel, then why is there still normal gravity in the third dream’s Alpine fortress?????

Most people, of course, don’t take their Nolaniana to such extremes. But there are enthusiasts out there who lose themselves to the limbo of Nolan’s expansive, febrile imagination. The IMDB F.A.Q. about the meaning of the end of “Inception” makes “Infinite Jest” look like a pamphlet on proper toaster installation. The Internet has become lousy with intersecting wormholes tunneled by warring pro-Nolan factions.

That his films manage to be both mainstream blockbusters and objects of such cult appeal is what makes Nolan a singular, and singularly admired, figure in Hollywood.


Article in The Atlantic on how Memento was pivotal in Nolan’s career:

After its U.S. release on March 16, 2001, it was nominated for two Oscars in the Original Screenplay and Editing categories, and although it lost both, it established Nolan as a director to watch. His next project was a remake of the Nordic crime drama Insomnia with Al Pacino and Robin Williams in 2002, before Warner Bros. tasked him with reviving the Batman franchise in 2005, betting big on the hope that an indie director could make the world’s most famous superhero cool again. Nolan succeeded, and he hasn’t looked back since, mostly making widescreen genre epics with huge budgets. Nevertheless, every movie he’s made has one thing in common with Memento: extreme attention to detail.

And for obsessives:

But I share this takeaway:

I believe the answers are all there in the film, but the terms of the storytelling deliberately prevent people from finding them. If you watch the film, and abandon your conventional desire for absolute truth – and the confirmation of absolute truth that most films provide you with – then you can find all the answers you’re looking for. As far as I’m concerned, my view is very much in the film – the answers are all there for the attentive viewer, but the terms of the storytelling prevent me from being able to give the audience absolute confirmation. And that’s the point.

– Christopher Nolan, From James Mottram’s “The Making of Memento”, 2002, Faber and Faber Limited, page 26.


Interesting point about how our image of a actor’s roles in other movies can affect our reading of a film:

The most interesting part of that for me is that audiences seem very unwilling to believe the stuff that Teddy [Pantoliano] says at the end and yet why? I think its because people have spent the entire film looking at Leonard’s photograph of Teddy, with the caption: “Don’t believe his lies.” That image really stays in people’s heads, and they still prefer to trust that image even after we make it very clear that Leonard’s visual recollection is completely questionable. It was quite surprising, and it wasn’t planned. What was always planned was that we don’t ever step completely outside Leonard’s head, and that we keep the audience in that interpretive mode of trying to analyze what they want to believe or not. For me, the crux of the movie is that the one guy who might actually be the authority on the truth of what happened is played by Joe Pantoliano … who is so untrustworthy, especially given the baggage he carries in from his other movies: he’s already seen by audiences as this character actor who’s always unreliable. I find it very frightening, really, the level of uncertainty and malevolence Joe brings to the film.

– Christopher Nolan


Note: Memento is another is another in a very long line of film and TV shows that use rape as a plot engine for a man to have agency and do heroic-seeming things. This trope is coming under increasing attack as just being lazy screenwriting.

Sound design/Foley

Tech assignment, due April 24 – April 25 (Tues/Wed):

2 minutes of multiple-clips film, all audio replaced.

Show two versions (= 4 minutes):

  1. edited/assembled, with original sound
  2. edited/assembled, with replaced sound


  • No dialog (unless you feel you just have to, in which case it you have to talk to me and has to be looped/dubbed/ADRed) ; really, just do “action.”
  • Minimum (i.e., for a “C”) of 10 different effects,
    • at least 5 of which are Foleyed by you,
    • at least one of each – “footsteps, cloth, props”
    • at least 4 of which are prerecorded sound effects,
    • and at least one of which is ambient sound, either 
      • recorded by you (get it when you’re out there; c.f., Krill sailing film) or
    • from a library
      that unifies several different shots, enhancing the illusion that they are seamless/sequential (i.e., “all this is happening one after the other, I just happen to be looking this way and that way”)
  • Not funny — the goal is to create an illusion, not trash it. (OK – one funny sound, if you have to.)
  • All audio is balanced, clip-to-clip – the audience (me!) should not have to ride the gain to balance loud and quiet sections.
  • Explore the sound effects (especially “ambience”) that come with iMovie (2011 or 2013); in addition, the web is packed with free sound effects.
  • If you want to play with split screen to show off your Foley chops (i.e.,  a BTS on one side, as in Track Stars, below) iMovie help is here.
  • Note: if you want, you can do a music video – e.g., Jordan’s “Black Bird,” Alex’s “Believe” (ft Koda) – multiple clips, all sound replaced with original sound recorded by you, sound effects added.

Classic demo of old-school Foley work:

Basic tutorial on multiple audio tracks in iMovie 2011:

Basic tutorial on audio in iMovie 2013:

More sophisticated editing – The Precision Editor: