The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

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The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby felgon123 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:54 am

Introductory thoughts: The current state of the film distribution is abysmal. A bizarre taboo has been placed on almost all American film. You can name in a single breath all of the directors who come up with any semblance of regularity. Virtually no one has seen any of the films that do come up, which explains why the questions are always boring and repetitive, and those who wish to learn film for quizbowl understandably do so by writing on the same slender array of answers that quizbowl has adopted into its absurdly restricted canon. Having spoken to many fellow quizbowlers about this, I know that these problems are widely acknowledged, though if I am unaware of a strong conservative viewpoint on this issue, and someone would like to defend the current state of film questions, please do so, as I hope a productive discussion will emerge in response to this post. Currently, due to the fact that the questions are always so insipidly written and the answer selection so uninspired, I get the sense that no active writers are particularly invested in sustaining the status quo, which shows favorably on my current endeavor. Here, I will explicate in greater detail some of the central problems, along with their easily enacted remedies:

1. The distribution, in spite of its excessive focus on foreign film, does not represent foreign film with any degree of adequacy. Fellini, Godard, Truffaut, Bergman, and Kurosawa account for over half of all foreign film questions. Obviously film is a small category, but it should not be possible to narrow down every tossup to two or three answers from the first clue. The origins of this particular selection of directors is unknown, but the reason it perseveres is clear: the writer of any given set, knowing that he/she can only write a handful of film questions, usually chooses to write on the most frequent quizbowl answers for the purpose of learning. Thus, few writers of academic film questions have seen the films they choose to write about (which causes a significant problem of quality which I will discuss later). Due to this self-aggravating problem, even someone like Werner Herzog, a foreign art film director who enjoys great popularity in America, seemingly an ideal answer choice, comes up only rarely. To those who may persist in disagreeing with my argument that quizbowl desperately needs more questions on American film, at the least they should work to expand the canon so that it no longer ignores such eminently important and widely studied directors as Fassbinder, Kieslowski, Renoir, Vigo, Wenders, Kluge, Visconti, Chabrol, Syberberg, Clouzot, Pudovkin, Pasolini, Bresson, Pabst, Ophüls, Rossellini, Schlöndorff, Straub and Huillet, Melies, Mizoguchi, Wajda, Ozu, Tati, Varda, and Dovzhenko. I am not at all opposed to questions on foreign film; to the contrary, not nearly enough foreign film comes up in terms of diversity.

2a. The treatment of American film is misguided and insufficient. For the most part, only classical Hollywood cinema achieves any representation in the arts distribution in quizbowl. I find this particularly strange, because art cinema is largely defined by how it differentiates itself from the technical and thematic approaches of classical Hollywood. Classical Hollywood films are important because of their historical significance and because of their relationship to the art cinema, but they are, by and large, considered to be “trash” in the quizbowl sense. If a tossup on It Happened One Night belongs in the arts distribution, then a tossup on Tron (another film of questionable quality but undeniable significance in the history of cinema) belongs in the arts distribution as well. Very few directors whose careers began in classical Hollywood are generally considered to be auteurs; Welles, Hitchcock, and Wilder are the clearest examples. The 1950s is a sort of transition period in which the power of the studio system faded and more directors achieved creative control and innovated within conventional genres; for instance, Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray, and the early films of Stanley Kubrick. The 1960s onwards marks a mostly unrestrained period of what I would refer to as “American auteurist cinema” in which many internationally significant directors emerged and exerted final cut privilege over their films, either by setting up independently or forcing a deal with a studio in the Hollywood system. This is the as of yet unexploited gold mine of quizbowl material. America has produced many great films and many great directors in the last five decades, and many quizbowlers have seen these films and are familiar with these directors. Therefore, writing more questions on American film will expand and diversify the canon while largely decreasing the average difficulty of film questions. Also, the questions will naturally become higher quality, since instead of feeling compelled to write on foreign films he/she has not seen, a writer may use English-language films with which he/she is directly familiar, which I will expand on shortly. In considering the status of post-classical American directors in relation to their foreign counterparts, I would draw up two loosely defined categories; there is no absolute division between these, and certainly no universal standard for determining them, but I will use them to illustrate a general concept. The first class encompasses the directors who consistently demonstrate control over their oeuvre, often writing their own screenplays, and whom scholars widely analyze as auteurs. This class includes Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese, David Cronenberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Robert Altman, Bob Fosse, and the Coens. The second class covers directors whose body of work includes both influential art films and purely commercial ventures of no critical interest, sometimes due to an earlier phase as an auteur followed by a descent into lucrative hack jobs. Ridley Scott illustrates this phenomenon very well; whereas Robin Hood and Body of Lies certainly have no place in any arts distribution, his early films like Alien, a work of enormous influence much commented upon in Marxist and psychoanalytic critiques, undoubtedly belongs in the arts distribution. This may sound radical to some of those whose quizbowl experiences have unconsciously persuaded them that only foreign films can be art, but I trust that anyone with a basic grasp of the ever-growing body of film scholarship will agree with me when I say that the inclusion of screwball comedies from the 1930s as fine art while excluding more modern American films like Alien, and apparently only due to the fact that many people have actually seen them, is an utter absurdity. Into this second class of directors I would also place Sidney Lumet, Roman Polanski, David Fincher, Michael Mann, Robert Zemeckis, Arthur Penn, Clint Eastwood, Gus Van Sant, Rob Reiner, Brian de Palma, Jonathan Demme, William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Terry Gilliam, Alexander Payne, David Lean, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh, Francis Ford Coppola, and even such wildly popular directors as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, and James Cameron. I understand why many would see my treatment of these directors as a cause for concern, for it may appear that I am coming dangerously close to recommending Star Wars and Titanic as suitable subjects for academic questions, but I believe this risk can easily be averted with some simple reasoning. As always, the line dividing art from trash can become quite tenuous at times, and it is not a topic on which universal agreement will ever be possible, but I do think it can be navigated with relative ease by considering two criteria: critical attention and historical significance, the latter of which can justify the inclusion of a borderline film in the arts distribution if the body of criticism around it is somewhat scanty. I know that my suggestion is imperfect, but I nonetheless believe it more than adequate for the purpose at hand. The bottom line: American film is watched and studied all over the world, and quizbowl needs to stop ignoring it.

2b. Some additional notes: I reiterate that I drew the distinction between the two classes of directors above for the purpose of illustrating the problem of the art-trash boundary, and I have little interest in debating the placement of any particular individuals, as such a debate is irrelevant to the general concepts I laid out. Also, my list of directors is in no way exhaustive, and those I did list were all drawn from my own very much incomplete knowledge of American film. I would also like to mention the fascinating emergence in the last decade of foreign directors comfortable working in both their native languages and English who have made significant contributions to English-language cinema, including Michel Gondry, Alfonso Cuaron, Fernando Meirelles, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whom I did not list above due to their ambiguous status regarding language.

3. In their present dilapidated state, almost all film questions are simply degenerate literature questions, which largely defeats the point of including film in the arts distribution at all. To state the obvious, film is a multitrack audiovisual medium, so logically, film questions should always make use of clues which reward the actual viewing and hearing of a film rather than the reading of a plot summary, or even the reading of a screenplay. Since films are meant to be watched rather than read as screenplays, I often find that I cannot remember the names of many of the characters in many of the films I have seen, which underscores the uselessness of the current standard tossup on a director, which is frequently little more than a list of character names. All film questions should make use of at least one or two clues describing elements of the mise-en-scene, editing techniques, camera position and movements, or the use of music and non-diegetic sound. Since film is a multitrack medium in which all of these elements coincide, creating uniquely identifying clues by noting how the director combines more than one of these elements is not difficult. Example: I want to write a tossup on 2001: A Space Odyssey. “This film makes notable use of a graphic match cut” is clearly a useless clue, but “this film includes a notable graphic match cut between a bone and a spaceship” (pairing an editing technique with particular images) is a unique and interesting clue transcending the level of dull plot summary.

Closing thoughts: David Bordwell has described how the first standard-bearers of modern film criticism became overly enamored with the European art cinema of the 1960s, which was “so strong an intellectual presence…that it shaped conceptions of what a good film was.” The scholars of the world, of course, have long since overcome this excessive preoccupation with that period of innovation in film, and did so long before the birth of good quizbowl, so why quizbowl silently endorses it remains an enigma to me.

The quantity, quality, and diversity of film questions in quizbowl must increase, because in their sad state at present, film questions lack the merits to justify their existence.

Edit: Minor terminology correction, additional directors.
Last edited by felgon123 on Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:54 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby MLafer » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:33 am

I agree with most of what you said, though I feel many people will pass over this as a wall-of-text. I think the greatest contributing factors to the stagnation of the film canon are A) People too afraid that submitted questions won't be answered and B) For whatever reason, there seems to be a lack of interest among quiz bowlers about film in general. I try to write a film question whenever I submit a packet, and I feel like almost the majority of the time that question will be cut from the packet, or, if a bonus, stuck at the very end - even in upper-level events like Minnesota Open.

There have been times in the past where one category, once completely ignored, suddenly springs to life and becomes a rich source of question material. For example, I started playing a very long time ago, and when I started the only two answers in Celtic mythology were Finn McCool and Cuchullain; the only Japanese authors asked about were Mishima and Kawabata. When people started asking about, say, Math ap Mathowny or Soseki, almost nobody could answer those questions - and now almost all good players can answer them. I think a similar breaking-in period needs to happen in film, regardless of whether conversion suffers or not, because most of the directors you listed are objectively important (oh no, canon!). I'll end with recommending the site They Shoot Pictures as a fine source for important films, both American and foreign, classic and modern, and hope people begin to take your advice.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:30 am

Great post--and I say this as someone who doesn't really know about film. The space of acceptable answers should definitely be enlarged and made more recent and American, and film clues should have something to do with "film-ness" instead of mere plot summaries.

I would recommend to edit your text simply to create more paragraphs.

EDIT: I also want to see a film tossup one of these days on "Alien" in which all the clues are Marxist criticism. That would be excellent, even if I have no chance of answering it.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cheynem » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:47 am

Yeah, good post. I've attempted to write on "classic Hollywood film" in most of the tournaments I edit.

Tommy, could you perhaps post some examples of film questions that you find deficient in terms of clues/writing style and ones that you find strong (it doesn't have to be actual questions if you're uncomfortable doing so)? I agree that visual/audio clues are important, but they sometimes seem hard to get across in a quizbowl way (for example, I've seen a number of questions on "On the Waterfront," but none really say anything about the scene in which Terry confesses to the involvement in the murder and the ship's whistle drowns out his words, a striking visual/audio scene--is that the kind of clues you're looking for? Perhaps things such as the discussion of tracking shots in films like Notorious and Young and Innocent for Hitchcock or Touch of Evil for Welles, or the many, many visual clues for Citizen Kane that sometimes seem glossed over for lines of dialogue--the sudden appearance of the cockatoo, the jump cut that includes 40 years of time, the fact you never see Mr. Thompson's face clearly, Gregg Toland's cinematography and the utilization of ceilings, the tracking shot showing the stagehand plugging his nose, etc.).
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby ValenciaQBowl » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:49 am

I write a film toss-up or bonus for every Chicago Open packet I co-write (well, for really everything I write!), and I think they've all made it through editing. I got to see Lafer power my TU on "films from Australia" at CO last year, which was gratifying, as his recognition of a description of the opening of "Walkabout" was rewarded.

I would guess the main reason the film canon in QB is narrow is simply because the overwhelming majority of players are young (under 23 or so) and just haven't had time/inclination to see a lot of "serious" movies. If one wants to score points, he's far better off studying literature rather than film, so if one knows film it's because he actually wants to see those films. I think we just have to accept that you have to save your TUs on Gregg Toland for masters-level competitions, which is fine in my view. But incorporating filmic elements like lighting or sound as clues to canonical films is good practice.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Auroni » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:54 pm

This was an interesting read and I agree and symapthize with most of your points. I have written some substandard film tossups in the past (on directors from _Italy_ for ACF Fall, on _On the Waterfront_ entirely from screenplay clues, ie a degenrate lit tossup). I also wrote a tossup on Tokyo Story for some tournament, which I thought was better, after taking the time to watch the movie.

So it's clear that better film tossups come from actually watching the movies in question. However, that feels like an unreasonably long research time to gather clues for just one question. Do you have any recommendations for sources for writing good film tossups with interesting and important non-plot clues?

Also, out of curiosity, how good could tossups on individual scenes from films be? I am thinking of the shower murder scene from Psycho in particular.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cheynem » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:00 pm

It seems like that shower murder scene would be impossible to write. Nothing happens beside the murder. The only shots are of the shrouded killer, Marian screaming and being stabbed, and the knife. You could do some behind the scenes context stuff, but that seems to descend into trivia. Obviously you could do some good tossups on other individual scenes or answerlines related to scenes (perhaps "Xanadu" for a hard Citizen Kane tossup?), although it seems like just tossing up the movie would in most cases be a better idea.

For American films, filmsite.org is helpful. That link Lafer had to They Shoot Pictures is helpful. What I would also do is even when reading a more dry wiki type summary, Youtube what appear to be notable scenes and watch them and at least get a feel of what is going on besides the dialogue or events.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Auroni » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:17 pm

Well, there are a few other things to mention. For example, Hitchcock originally wanted no background music, but there was the shrieking violins that the film score composer added, plus the chocolate used for blood, plus the influence that scene had on future movies)
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:18 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
So it's clear that better film tossups come from actually watching the movies in question. However, that feels like an unreasonably long research time to gather clues for just one question. Do you have any recommendations for sources for writing good film tossups with interesting and important non-plot clues?



I haven't written many film questions, but I know that the UVA library has a bunch of film encyclopedias with in-depth but readable articles. Google books could probably serve a similar purpose.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cody » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:19 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:So it's clear that better film tossups come from actually watching the movies in question. However, that feels like an unreasonably long research time to gather clues for just one question. Do you have any recommendations for sources for writing good film tossups with interesting and important non-plot clues?
My favorite resources in general are Strictly Film School (my favorite film site but, sadly, no longer updated) & Senses of Cinema; they tend to include such tidbits (ex. Strictly Film School on Dreyer's Passion de Jeanne d'Arc & Senses of Cinema on Dreyer's Passion de Jeanne d'Arc).

I agree with Mike that using YouTube to find "notable" scenes would probably be helpful for adding some context; I'm not sure, however, how complete YouTube is in that regard.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Mike Bentley » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:20 pm

Cheynem wrote:It seems like that shower murder scene would be impossible to write. Nothing happens beside the murder. The only shots are of the shrouded killer, Marian screaming and being stabbed, and the knife. You could do some behind the scenes context stuff, but that seems to descend into trivia.


Dave Letzler wrote a tossup on this for either CULT or COLT which I thought worked fine.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby vcuEvan » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:26 pm

I can see why Tommy's list of foreign directors might be giving people concerns about dead questions. I think the most important part of the post, and the one I hope people really take to heart, is the point that movies people actually watch can be in the arts distribution. Asking questions on films by Scorsese, Coppola, Aronofsky, Kubrick et al is a rare chance to both expand a distribution AND make it easier.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cheynem » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:28 pm

Dave's tossup on it is quite good (I had forgotten this tossup and looking back at it, remember getting it early based on his excellent early clues). However, his lead-in clues are very trash-based which is fine in a trash tournament but probably not what Tommy is calling for here (he uses clues from the films What Lies Beneath and High Anxiety). Dave correctly wrote the tossup, though, using almost entirely context clues (what happens afterwards, its significance in the film), which to me is the only way to really write a tossup on it unless this was a very short tossup.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Sam » Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:29 pm

I'm not sure "writing about movies I have seen" is a guarantee of better questions. Things critical consensus has decided are important may be completely missed, and I may overestimate the notability of things which randomly strike a personal chord with me. (This problem obviously holds for most subjects, not just movies.) I suspect reading a suitable number of secondary sources, such as the ones listed in this thread, would lead to better questions (and could also give a better sense of whether a movie is worth tossing up in the first place).
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby felgon123 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:18 am

I appreciate the interesting sources you all recommended, which will, among other things, definitely help writers without much experience in film to get a general sense for the historical context and critical importance of potential answers.

Mike, you provided some excellent examples of useful audiovisual clues. Considering how many tossups have been written on seemingly indescribable paintings, in which one has nothing but a single image to work with, I think it should be quite easy for writers to glean distinctive audiovisual clues from films, in which one has so much more material to work with. Also, although this requires more previous knowledge or research on the part of the writer, tossups could incorporate interesting clues about films alluding to other films, paintings, etc. For example, a tossup on Panic Room might mention Fincher’s visual quotations of Rear Window and The Killing.

Auroni, I personally wouldn’t write tossups on individual scenes or sequences, as I think that would be akin to writing a tossup on, say, “Act V of Hamlet,” unnecessarily increasing the difficulty of a tossup that could just be on the work with almost all of the same clues. As much as I would like a tossup on “the slaughterhouse sequence from In a Year with Thirteen Moons,” a tossup on Fassbinder is clearly the way to go. I do think, however, that tossups on characters, locations, and events from films could be very fruitful, though of course one must be careful that the difficulty remains appropriate. For instance, I could easily write a solid tossup on “Dorothy Vallens’s apartment” from Blue Velvet, but obviously the canon would need to expand and mature for a couple of years before that would be a viable answer at even the most difficult tournaments.

Evan, you are correct that my argument about American film is the central focus here; foreign film, of course, is important too and should continue to be asked about, and I’d like to see some of the foreign directors I mentioned gradually make their way into the canon as well, keeping a stern eye on difficulty.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:27 pm

I agree with what you are saying, but found this very exhausting to read. As a person with some experience of pontificating on the boards, I would urge you away from making encyclopedic posts demanding people fix their writing because I found that people are more likely to focus on controversial (and in this case blatantly false) claims made early in the post--such as "virtually no one has seen the films that do come up" and that Godard, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Truffaut are ignorant choices for the most important foreign film directors in the US--and ignore nuances you introduce later in your post.

I've always tried to include film questions in the tournaments I edited, though I'm apparently among the mythical subset of people who like Fellini and Bergman, and make an effort to include them in every tournament I edit. When I edit a tournament I always sit down to watch a couple films to write questions on them, last year for Regionals I watched 8 1/2 and Rashomon (twice!) to write good tossups. I always found this practice to be an enjoyable break from the grind of editing a tournament, but other people might not have the time for it. This makes me worry that the call for more cinematography clues will discourage people further from writing on film because they would have to watch the film and understand its visual effects to be able to write a question that isn't "degenerate." Moreover, I'm not entirely sure how I would describe the cinematography of someone like Sven Nykvist if there aren't flashy jump cuts between two noticeable images to describe. Lets win the battle of getting film questions into the distribution before revolutionizing how they are written.

I think the key issue is changing the expectations of the tournament editor. Right now it's taboo to criticize a tournament for having skewed sub-distributions, but I think there needs to be an expectation that editors should balance the misc arts distribution across the whole tournament and especially try to include a decent number of film questions and not let opera take up the vast majority of the distribution.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. » Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:31 pm

Yeah it's not at all accurate to say that Truffaut and Fellini are unimportant in the abstract, although I'm not sure Tommy's saying exactly that. The more important idea here is that this canon is really artificially constrained when there's actually a lot of fine academic material that people will know. At some tournaments, you're more likely to hear a tossup on Ikiru or Louis Malle than you are to hear one on, say, Raging Bull or Sunset Boulevard, which seems off. I would actually say that if, as someone interested in film, you'd like to expand that distribution, it's important to establish that there's interesting and knowable material with which to do so. That's the crux of this thread.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby felgon123 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:21 pm

Ted, when I said that “virtually no one” has seen the films that do come up, I was specifically describing the quizbowl community, not the entire world. In that context, not only is my claim not “blatantly false,” but also I would go so far as to claim it is not false at all, because you and I (and the few other people in quizbowl who have watched a nontrivial number of foreign films) do, in fact, amount to “virtually no one.” In my experience, even most quizbowlers who do have a strong interest in foreign art film simply have not gotten around to watching much of it.

I am unsure what “Godard, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, and Truffaut are ignorant choices for the most important foreign film directors in the US” is supposed to mean, but if you are accusing me of saying that those directors are not important, you didn’t read my post very carefully, as I said nothing of the sort. To the contrary, all five of them are extremely important, and I very much enjoy their films, but they are not important enough to dominate an entire sub-distribution. I am glad you agree with me that we need more film questions, and since you didn’t address this point directly, do you agree with me about the need for more American film to complement the foreign film?

Also, I honestly don’t think asking for one or two audiovisual clues is “revolutionizing” the way film questions are written. In response to the concern you pointed out, I repeat that I am not recommending that writers attempt to describe in general terms a director’s or cinematographer’s style, but rather to give distinctive descriptions of the audiovisual elements of a specific scene or shot, which is not difficult to do, even without any understanding of the technical elements of filmmaking.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby bmcke » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:41 pm

There was a Blithedale Romance thread that sort of acknowledged that a crucial function of quizbowl is to distinguish between levels of Blithedale Romance-knowledge held by people who have never actually read The Blithedale Romance. Most movies are shorter than most books, and a lot of people actually see them -- even quizbowl people. This is part of why movie tossups are satisfying and why we like them so much.

(Obviously it's just anecdotal data to say that a lot of the people I meet are familiar with classic movies, but I don't want people's standard of what's knowable to be warped by an audience that's trained themselves for what they hear in quizbowl.)
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Wackford Squeers » Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:12 pm

I agree with most of what's being said. I did show the first post to my mom, a film scholar, too see what she thought, though. Her only comment was that people shouldn't start writing questions on Darren Aronofsky before ones on Spike Lee. In addition, she thought that the all male list was also sort of artificially constrained, considering their are at least a few historically important female directors (Riefenstahl, Varda). My two cents is that pre-war German film is an area where we could mine in order to break the New Wave/Kurosawa/Bergman hegemony. Lots of people have seen and analyzed films like M, Metropolis, Nosferatu, and the Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby List of Fighting Spirit characters » Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:48 pm

In addition to all the aforementioned ways one could creatively expand methods of writing film clues, I think you could add circumstances of production (type and method of film used, impetus for making the film in the first place) as well as additional commentary by famous film critics and historians (say, a review of the film by Pauline Kael or Gene Siskel) as additional clues that cinephiles (who should by all rights be rewarded in this subdistribution) are very savvy on and would reward research that goes beyond simply viewing the film, the way we already do for literary works. Also, I think it is very viable to write a tossup on something like the influence of the soviet shot from Battleship Potemkin.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Masked Canadian History Bandit » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:41 am

felgon123 wrote:American directors... David Cronenberg


Actually, David Cronenberg is Canadian. This completely invalidates your entire post. Sorry, eh?

But in all seriousness, having more varied and creative film answerlines would be cool.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby cvdwightw » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:49 pm

Tommy, I'd be interested in you looking at the 2008 and 2009 All Movies Tournaments and citing some clues (or even whole questions) that illustrate the points you're trying to make, and perhaps some answer lines from those tournaments that indicate the direction you think canon expansion in more "mainstream" tournaments ought to go.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby theMoMA » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:45 pm

I'll join the others calling for film question reform manifesto paragraph structure reform.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cheynem » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:03 pm

I was thinking about this during a discussion regarding a NASAT question (a good question) on Chinatown. Tommy wrote the question to reflect some of his ideas in his "manifesto," which is to reward more knowledge of having actually seen the film (i.e. visual clues, more emphasis on a diversity of clues than simply character names or plot points). As I said, I think he succeeded in this. However, I would not have buzzed on a lot of the early clues in the tossup despite greatly enjoying the film and in fact having written questions on Chinatown in the past. By this point, I don't mean Tommy's clues were bad or the tossup was bad, but rather it illustrates a certain difference I think in how people remember films. Despite the obvious truth that films are an audio-visual medium, sometimes, at least for me, character names/lines of dialogue/plot points stand out for me a lot more than visual clues. I would not have buzzed on those (again, fine) visual lead-in clues, but I would have buzzed on, I dunno, the mistaken bit about overhearing "apple core" for "Albacore"; Gittes being unable to find the shiny object in the pond (Mulray's glasses); Gittes pretending to be the son of an anti-Semitic dude at the rest home, etc. These are all more dialogue/plot clues that I would have buzzed on.

My point with all of this isn't that I know the bestest clues and other clues are illegitimate, but that I don't see anything INHERENTLY wrong with film questions that rely more on plot/dialogue clues because those are helpful too--I like visual clues in tossups too and if you want to include those in your questions, great, but I'm not certain if questions should be required to use "multitrack audio visual" clues. I should note that part of this is probably based on how recent you've seen a film--at least for me, the longer period of time after I've seen a movie, dialogue/plot points stay in memory farther than visual/audio clues (unless they are particularly memorable)--this was particularly true when writing my film tournament (I think you can tell the questions on works I've seen more recently than others).

My other point is that it takes a level of skill to utilize these multitrack audio visual clues. As Tommy alludes, just saying something like "a jump cut between a man dying and a woman screaming" is rather imprecise and probably useless. The NASAT film questions rather skillfully mixed character names or plot points or concrete information with such clues in order to allow for confident buzzing.

Anybody else have thoughts on this?
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby RyuAqua » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:33 pm

Mike, I think your concern actually a pretty good illustration of a good thing that keeps good quizbowl fresh and interesting - namely, that different questions can take different approaches to the same topic and both legitimately reward the knowledge people can have. If two Chinatown experts are squaring off and one remembers dialogue/plot better and the other remembers audiovisuals better, I don't see much wrong with the audiovisual guy beating his plotty friend to this question; next time, another question might do things the other way, and both should know they can prepare for that. I see this as pretty analogous to the different ways that lit or visual arts questions have already written about the same topic but managed to change the focus each time.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:04 pm

To Matt's point I would add that you're experiencing more of the artwork if you learn to notice audio/visual aspects of films as you see them, and if quizbowl is rewarding such things it makes for better film-viewing. There's no reason why you, Mike Cheyne, or any quizbowler needs to be a "plot/character rememberer" rather than adapting the way you relate to artworks. I don't mind saying I've started reading differently since getting into this activity, and now I take a notebook whenever I go to a museum or historical site or whatnot to jot down ideas, not just because they are nascent quiz questions but because they help me retain more of the flood of information the world offers. So the next time you watch Chinatown, do so with a Casalaspian eye. (Note that I haven't seen the question, but would be interested to.)
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby felgon123 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:02 pm

That's a fine point, Mike, and I certainly don't have a problem with including the type of clues you prefer, as my questions should evidence. I just think it's important to mix in some audiovisual clues as well, often in conjunction with screenplay clues. For instance, I think really good clues can be made by giving a possibly non-unique plot element along with the audiovisual context in which it occurs in the film. The first two sentences of my tossup on The Shining illustrate this approach:

In one scene in this film, the camera points straight up from the floor at the face of a character banging a metal door and shouting, “Go check it out!” In another scene in a bathroom with solid red walls and a white ceiling and floor, that character’s jacket is wiped by a man who mentions how he “corrected” his daughters. This film repeatedly uses floor-level tracking shots to follow a boy on a blue-seated tricycle through a building in which he has a vision of a torrent of blood gushing from an elevator. For 10 points, name this Stanley Kubrick film in which Jack Torrance pursues his family with an axe and famously exclaims, “Here’s Johnny!”
ANSWER: <i>The _Shining_</i>

I agree that truly distinctive and recognizable clues using only audiovisual elements are more difficult to write, and often harder to buzz on than lines of dialogue. Describing a given frame from a film in enough depth to be unique may sometimes take an unreasonable amount of question space, as well. So I think this compromise by merging bits of plot and dialogue with audiovisual context makes clues generally easier to write and easier to buzz on. Others can judge whether they agree.
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Re: The New Oberhausen Manifesto: Film Question Reform

Postby Cheynem » Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:14 pm

Yeah, the Shining tossup is a really good example of mixing visual/plot clues.
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