Yes you're half way into your shopping list, or not even started, but here are five ways to enjoy the inevitable movies that you've watched every vacation. Maybe it's your tradition, I for one enjoy having a marathon of A Christmas Story. The point is, instead of tuning out the movie that you've seen time and time again, try doing some light studying to better your video production skills.
1. Identify a clear conflict and resolution. When do characters have homeostasis? What is really at the bottom of the conflict of characters? Between the protagonist and the antagonist there is the tension that is supposed to keep the audience attentive. Among many are human vs. society, a great case can be made with It's a Wonderful Life for George Bailey needing to change his behavior with society. A human vs. human conflict can be seen in A Christmas Story with Ralphie battling various adults for a prized gift. Perhaps a movie will have multiple types of conflict, give it a shot and determine what that conflict is, then don't forget to look for whether it actually resolves. Chances are, Christmas movies are going to come to a conclusion, it generally helps the audience feel at peace.
2. Analyze the compositions from shot to shot. Even if you're watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, there are conscious decisions for each composition. A closeup on Snoopy can direct our attention to the always-cool beagle. Then a wide shot with the whole gang will give us an idea of where the characters are in relation to each other. These establishing shots are essential to differ the animated short from a comic strip where characters might appear to be in a bare room (see Garfield). Plus, notice if shots are from one character's perspective, or do they vary?
3. Listen for which sounds are crucial for the story to move forward. A snapping stick, a dropped fork, a roll of thunder, these are a few of the sounds that indicate to me that something revolutionary is about to come about. Let us go back to A Christmas Story where our family is sitting at the table eating dinner and the doorbell rings. Extreme tension fills the room when talking ceases and high strings take over the soundtrack. The events that follow are quite divisive. Another example of sound moving the story forward is heard during montages. Similar to music videos, montages are joined with a strong piece of music and generally fill in back story which will help characters progress.
4. Look to the backgrounds and notice details. Almost enough said. This advice really comes from video's background in still photography, a good background is essential for an appealing visual. Try to notice if other characters show up in the background, do they continue in character, or has the directer opted for limiting the depth of field to get the background out of focus. You don't want people in the background to be so unnatural that they look out of place. If our characters are chasing each other on a busy street, maybe bystanders by would naturally stop to look.
5. During commercials, can you count to three seconds before the shot changes or moves? So of course, the 90 minute movie you could've brought on DVD ends up lasting two hours. Here's a little exercise that will make any commercial interesting. Commercials are generally thirty seconds on the dot, so their timing is of utmost importance. The basic principle is to catch your eyes and keep them there, the three seconds seems to be just right for keeping people engaged. And for kicks, try looking at each of these five points to apply to commercials.
Have some fun with these and don't stress over them. So pop in a favorite because movies can sure beat a cheese log when it comes to entertaining.