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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top05-12-2015 05:02:17 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Tonal Purity in Entertainment

So, I'm watching Re Cutey Honey and I know that some of you would prefer that Utena had less outright silly episodes (and odds are someone wishes they had less serious ones), so I thought I'd ask your thoughts on entertainment that doesn't keep to one major tone the whole time, that changes its pacing, visual sense, genre or big emotions sort of willynilly.

Should a serious horror movie shot mostly in the dark stick to that or would big bursts of color or silliness not faze you? Can you watch SKU straight through without a hard tonal change annoying you?

Re Cutey Honey was three forty minute long episodes, each with a general unity of characters and story, but with a different style of pacing, color scheme, and set of techniques (Millennial Powerpuff Girls Rainbow of Speed; Earth Tone Classic Anime Slow Low-Lip-Flaps). As opposed to something like Gossip Girl, which is essentially the same show every episode, or the X-Files, which could get goofy as heck, but generally stuck to implausibly dark rooms and vague ominousness. The current Daredevil series seems to pretty much be the same tone every episode, not that it isn't strong in its tone and aesthetics.

Is it different to you if it's a series vs a movie? What about non-audiovisual entertainment? Should a song or an album pick a damn theme and sound and stick with it? Go crazy? Is a painting or a poster more effective if its aesthetic sense is unified and aimed in one direction? There's a wonderful live recording of Werewolves of London where they play their way into it with a piano improvisation and the rest join in, but nobody cheers until it gets full bore pop, then the crowd goes wild. I can never tell if that's just them happy they recognize an old favorite of it's a cheer of "thank god he's stopped being damn weird and he's playing a hit song!"


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#2 | Back to Top05-12-2015 08:39:50 AM

ShatteredMirror
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From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 8858

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I prefer movies to show some degree of consistency, since they're just the one movie. I do appreciate moments of humor in a serious movie, or serious moments in a funny movie, but I want them to fit with the overall tone if that makes any sense. Gallows humor in a serious movie fits, slapstick... well, I'm not saying it couldn't, but most people making movies these days couldn't pull it off.

I feel differently with a series, since even a short series is generally longer than a movie. Keeping the same tone and pacing throughout the entire series feels very monotonous to me. I'm one of those who appreciates the weird fluffy Nanami episodes in Utena, I like the different view of the characters that they provide, and their humor is a breath of fresh air in a series that is otherwise pretty grim. But in the case of the Nanami episodes, while they do have a different tone from the other episodes, they do keep to the same themes - Nanami thinking she's laid an egg, and not being able to talk to anyone about it, and then when she does talk to Touga about it he seems to be assuming that she's speaking some sort of code (or is he?).


Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.

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#3 | Back to Top05-12-2015 11:11:12 AM

Yams
Nest Boxer
From: Crystal Millenium
Registered: 02-13-2007
Posts: 960

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I hate to bring up 'it depends' in these kinds of conversations...it almost feels like cheating.

But a tonal change is what made me really enjoy watching Ergo Proxy, while it made others hate or drop it. The futuristic, detective style beginning ends abruptly and changes to an episodic, post apocalyptic, meandering plot. While that was my favorite part of the series, many were turned off by the change and felt cheated. I felt the opposite way about Mawaru Penguindrum. They dick around for so long about that stupid diary that it just turned me off the rest of the series. Then you have something like Ouran High School Host Club, which is absolutely hysterically loony and yet when it turns around to deliver some sadness and feels, it just works.

I think what it comes down to is a tonal change that is true to the series as a whole (the Nanami episodes are not filler, each one has at least one important moment or an intriguing line of dialogue). A change in mood is okay, but to feel like you're watching an entirely different series can be jarring - not always unpleasant, but your mileage may vary.

Last edited by YamPuff (05-12-2015 11:11:40 AM)


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#4 | Back to Top05-12-2015 12:26:08 PM

Nocturnalux
Qualified Duellist
From: Portugal
Registered: 09-10-2007
Posts: 741

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I agree that it depends but I am more likely to appreciate changes in tone in a series than in a movie.

I too greatly appreciated Ergo Proxy precisely for its unorthodox take.

Gintama, of all things, also manages to pull it off remarkably well. It is 90% sheer insanity of the pure slapstick kind but the remaining 10%, when it gets serious, it manages to be more emotional and convincing than a lot of 'dark' anime out there. And even though one knows it's coming as each arc tends to hit its climax with a shift for the very serious it still packs a punch. To this day Gintama is one of the few anime that has managed to make me smile and cry, at times in the same episode.

But when done wrong it can completely ruin fiction. Case in point, Akame ga Kill. It tries to be dark and edgy along the same lines as Berserk only with gags, loads of fanservice and the mandatory harem built around a very generic shounen MC. This results in emotional moments being completely ruined by very bad placed parody that is not even original, having such gems as the MC walking into the tsundere just as she is changing. No one has ever seen that, no.
It becomes very difficult to at all take seriously.

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#5 | Back to Top05-12-2015 09:20:27 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
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Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

Any jazz artist will tell you that a little dissonance makes a piece more interesting.  I think filler episodes can make tonal dissonance work in many ways.  And I think what's disorienting about the Nanami episodes of SKU is that they don't quite commit to which of those ways they're going with.

So you can do dissonance the way Avatar: The Last Airbender does.  Avatar's filler episodes can be goofier than the main plot, even in the middle of a very serious arc, but overall are well calibrated to the show's tone as it develops over three seasons.  It also helps that Avatar has multifaceted and emotive characters who are capable of laughing out loud one minute and being gloomy the next, the way people can do in real life.  Most SKU characters have a more limited emotional range, so goofiness comes out in this kind of stilted way, at worst like a high school student reacting to the jokes in SparkNotes Hamlet.

Or you can do dissonance the way Puella Magi Madoka Magica does.  (Or Higurashi When They Cry, or even Haruhi Suzumiya.)  These shows have tonal dissonance in spades, and that's obviously an intentional artistic decision that is intended to keep the viewer off balance so that the hard impacts hit harder.  What's crucial for making this work is that the tone should shift gears the way a T-boned car shifts lanes.  It needs to give you whiplash.  (You probably know what I'm talking about, but if you don't, go watch the first episode of Higurashi, which is a work of art unto itself and executes this perfectly.)  But the Nanami tone shifts in SKU are not stark enough to give you whiplash in this way.  They are goofy, but they're also bizarre, just like the rest of the show; they don't make you forget that you're watching a show where you can get sucker-punched out of nowhere.

You can do dissonance the way Star Trek: The Next Generation does.  In back-to-back weeks you'll have Beverly Crusher hamming it up in a poorly conceived dramatic show about her family, Jean-Luc Picard starring in a serious piece about the nature of humanity, and Data goofing off on the holodeck.  But that works because the show is episodic.  It doesn't have arcs.  There is nothing for the filler to interrupt; it's all filler.  The same is not true of SKU. (-- or is it?  Why exactly is it filler when Nanami turns into a cow but it's totally serious when Keiko makes goo-goo eyes over Touga and later joins the ranks of the Expendables?  If Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku played while Utena fought Cow Nanami,  would that turn the cow episode into a non-filler episode?  Is Tatsuya's episode filler, even though it would clearly not be filler if Mikage had stabbed him with foliage?  If Saionji had kidnapped Anthy and taken her to the cafeteria instead of the dueling arena, would that turn that episode into filler?  These are very deep questions indeed.  But the question is really about tone shift, not about What Is Filler.)

And lurking in the background of this whole discussion are the Shadow Girls, whose skits I think stick out tonally within episodes the same way that Nanami episodes stick out within arcs.  The Nanami episodes and the Shadow Girl skits have in common that they are tonally dissonant, that it's not clear what they're doing there, and that most viewers either love them or hate them.

I'm not sure what the conclusion is.  Mostly I am etc-wankdude ing.  Maybe the answer is that Ikuhara also is etc-wankdude ing, and that frankly we kind of like that in a show like SKU, at least in moderation.  (Or we don't.)

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#6 | Back to Top05-13-2015 12:16:37 AM

OnlyInThisLight
KING OF ALL DUCKS
Registered: 01-15-2008
Posts: 4411

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

In regards to series that seem to do tonal 180s like Madoka:

Changing tones is a tool for storytelling, so how well it works for the viewer depends on how skilled the user is, the preferences of the viewer and the quality of the materials (characters, setting, plot, etc.).  For me, the tone change has to be necessary for getting across the story the artist is telling, the characters have to be both dimensional and flexible enough to work in the new tone, and, I think most importantly, the tonal shift has to be a better one.  You don't go from serious and moving to slapdash comedy and irreverence.  A tonal shift should mark an increase in emotional and intellectual complexity and development for characters, not a De-evolution.  To do otherwise is to mock the viewer for ever feeling invested in the first place.


I am looking so fucking hard at you, Samurai Flamenco.

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#7 | Back to Top05-13-2015 01:48:50 AM

Sparky
Touga Topper
Registered: 01-31-2015
Posts: 58

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

OnlyInThisLight wrote:

I am looking so fucking hard at you, Samurai Flamenco.

I was about to post that I couldn't believe nobody had mentioned this yet. That show was a rollercoaster for sure.

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#8 | Back to Top05-13-2015 04:41:38 AM

Snow
Troublesome Insect
From: in the wolf
Registered: 09-30-2013
Posts: 642

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

OnlyInThisLight wrote:

Changing tones is a tool for storytelling, so how well it works for the viewer depends on how skilled the user is, the preferences of the viewer and the quality of the materials (characters, setting, plot, etc.).  For me, the tone change has to be necessary for getting across the story the artist is telling, the characters have to be both dimensional and flexible enough to work in the new tone, and, I think most importantly, the tonal shift has to be a better one.  You don't go from serious and moving to slapdash comedy and irreverence.  A tonal shift should mark an increase in emotional and intellectual complexity and development for characters, not a De-evolution.  To do otherwise is to mock the viewer for ever feeling invested in the first place.

Well put. I think Toradora executes the tonal shift brilliantly.It does wonders for character depth and makes you care about all characters, not just the main couple.

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#9 | Back to Top05-13-2015 06:40:54 PM

Arale
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From: collective human consciousness
Registered: 12-07-2014
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Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

If it is an important part of what makes the series unique, then I think it's good to keep. Utena's silly moments don't feel forced in, they feel appropriate.


im a shadow play girl irl

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#10 | Back to Top05-13-2015 08:46:42 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I just started rewatching the live action You're Under Arrest. Still love it, but I forgot how quickly the first episode, especially, can change gears between precociously silly and freaky trauma drama. "Oh god that pimp and internet troll is going to make that little girl kill herself! But, first, look: these cops are immature and have a crush on each other! Blushing! Colleagues going, "etc-love OOoooooh!etc-love"


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#11 | Back to Top05-13-2015 08:53:39 PM

Jacrad
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Registered: 03-25-2014
Posts: 145

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I absolutely love tonal changes! It's part of why I like Steven Universe, Teen Titans, Full Metal Alchemist, and of course Utena.
Something that I say when people ask me what kind of shows I like is that I like shows that have a good balance of serious and silliness. Full Metal Alchemist has themes of human sacrifice, going against god, and paying dearly for consequences because you didn't understand the full extent of what you were doing. But it also has tons of slapstick, zingers, and dark humor galore. Hell even it makes a joke about Ed eating ridiculous amounts of food into a significant plot point.

Repeated exposure to just about anything will lessen its effectiveness. I don't see any reason why that wouldn't apply to the various arts as well. It's part of the reason we have so many art movements that are in stark contrast to one another. People get tired of the status quo and limiting themselves to a certain set of principles. So they either take the norm are turn it on its head or go to the extreme opposite of it.

Of course, how effective the author is at managing this tone shift is crucial if they care to retain their original audience. There really is no simple rule on how to manage it though. As Satyreyes pointed out, the work can have different needs to make the tonal shift work. I don't think Nanami-esque episodes would have worked in Madoka Magica. It needs to be a dramatic shift.

This whole subject actually ties in to a theory I've had for a while. I personally think that comedies have the potential to deliver the most impact on tough subjects. You raise the viewer's emotion and then drop it like an anvil. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a great example. It is generally a funny show with lots of shenanigans. It's very inviting. But there are a few episodes sprinkled throughout the series that are deliciously anvilious. There was an episode where Will and his cousin Carlton are given permission to borrow an expensive car but are racially profiled, pulled over by a cop, and put in jail. Will is hysterical about the injustice and we're made to find his reaction humorous as Carlton tries to reason that the cops must be doing this for some just reason. Then at the end Carlton's dad delivers a heavy line about how he too had tried to reason with himself about what happened when he was pulled over, the first time. The episode had kind of a slow burn because after you hear that you realize that everything Will had been saying was right and that you probably found it funny.

I do have to admit though. While I'm  a fan of it in most media, I don't particularly like it in music. Like, I hate it when there are decently long pauses in a song. There's a few where I like  it being there but it's pretty rare. And generally it's a very serious song.
I question if duration plays a role in that. Like does less time automatically equal to less effective tone shift?

satyreyes wrote:

Is Tatsuya's episode filler, even though it would clearly not be filler if Mikage had stabbed him with foliage?

This had me dying. Thank you~

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#12 | Back to Top05-14-2015 10:49:41 AM

Nocturnalux
Qualified Duellist
From: Portugal
Registered: 09-10-2007
Posts: 741

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

I did not find the tonal change in Madoka to be all that drastic. It is probably because it's a very Shaft-like anime even by Shaft standards, from the very start it had a sinister atmosphere to it. Of course, it does become increasingly dark as it progresses but it set the mood almost from the word go.

Strangely enough I find the tonal shift in Sailor Moon to be much more shocking. It starts out as a whacky comedy with a blubbering heroine often being mocked by very silly monsters-of-the-week. And it stays in that mode for quite a while even as it slowly becomes more serious so that by the time the first season finale rolls by all the quirky antics are gone and everyone is in dire danger. It sets a pattern for the rest of the series, too.

The reason why I reacted differently to these two anime is probably a matter of expectation. By the time Madoka rolled by there were already expectations for the magical girl genre conveying plenty of darkness underneath the fluffy surface while when I watched SM I was a kid with no idea of what to at all expect.

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#13 | Back to Top05-14-2015 11:39:40 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

That's true!  Genre savvy can affect how we perceive the tone of a show.  Like, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is also a magical-girls-fight-evil-with-love show, but we don't expect it to suddenly become grimdark, because it's already being subversive by using boys.  If it were using girls like a "normal" show in that genre (e.g. Madoka), we would expect badness to start pretty early, because it's got to be subversive somehow.  Sailor Moon, of course, created the mold for this kind of show -- before there was a genre to have savvy about -- and so its tone shift comes as a surprise even though it happens slowly by comparison with Madoka.

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#14 | Back to Top05-14-2015 02:26:35 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

The more I think about it, I really do enjoy musicians who'll change it up dramatically, especially within a song. Stan Getz. John Zorn. Melt Banana. Sun Ra. Parliament. All those eager-to-improvise piano or guitar types. Billy Joel doesn't get enough credit for being able to play his way in or out of absolutely anything, to bridge any succession of melodies. The Girl from Ipanema is like three different but pure pop songs laid arm in arm. The best Beethoven really goes places. There's something orgasmic when a note-for-note cover disintegrates as the lead guitarist or the drummer or whatever just blows it up and "forgets" what they were playing.

I love that James Brown and the JBs negotiated increasingly complex formulae regarding how and when they could improvise so they could actually get the "real" parts of the song in during the set. It's more labyrinthine than some expressly avant-garde compositions and it's purely motivated by James Brown wanting to sing the written words vaguely how they're put together.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#15 | Back to Top05-14-2015 02:33:29 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

You know, literally a couple hours ago on the treadmill I was thinking about how Queen has a number of songs (Bohemian Rhapsody, Don't Stop Me Now) that have rockin' middles sandwiched between gentle piano intros and outros.  And the moment in Bohemian Rhapsody when it goes from "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meee" into the headbang part is so gorgeous.  I didn't even connect it to this conversation until you brought up music, DD.

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#16 | Back to Top05-14-2015 02:45:35 PM

ShatteredMirror
Yaoi Pet #1
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 8858

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

Pretty much any time a show or movie shows something very intense and full of action while accompanied by soft, melancholy music is a hit with me.

I just re-watched the series finale of Utena. "Missing Link," AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. etc-love


Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.

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#17 | Back to Top05-14-2015 09:02:06 PM

Anthiena
Egghead
From: ...the space between your ears
Registered: 10-21-2006
Posts: 1107

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

Some shows dearly need it. In the case of Higurashi, the comedy actually serves as both relief in the comedic sense and stark relief to the violence that happens both overtly ([The MC beating two girls to death over what turned out to be only his own delusional paranoia]) and covertly (Sadako's abuse, Shion's exclusion from the rest of her family). I watched the live action movie made for it-and it just felt less shocking and more 'oh, just another slasher flick.' Without its hilarity to both relieve the viewer and to underscore its dark tones, it just didn't work and gave you no reason to feel bad for anyone and proved actually to be a plotpoint. It's narrative chiaroscuro at it's finest.

Last edited by Anthiena (05-14-2015 09:02:54 PM)


I stopped seeking to be sought after. That wasn't being true to myself.
I want to become someone who can exercise power. I want to become a prince. - Ikuni

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#18 | Back to Top05-16-2015 09:13:02 PM

Nocturnalux
Qualified Duellist
From: Portugal
Registered: 09-10-2007
Posts: 741

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

satyreyes wrote:

That's true!  Genre savvy can affect how we perceive the tone of a show.  Like, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is also a magical-girls-fight-evil-with-love show, but we don't expect it to suddenly become grimdark, because it's already being subversive by using boys.  If it were using girls like a "normal" show in that genre (e.g. Madoka), we would expect badness to start pretty early, because it's got to be subversive somehow.  Sailor Moon, of course, created the mold for this kind of show -- before there was a genre to have savvy about -- and so its tone shift comes as a surprise even though it happens slowly by comparison with Madoka.

It'd be very interesting to see something like Binan but done seriously. The closest I can think to the 'magicl boys' motif that is not a comedy is Saint Seiya. It's of course not precisely 'magical boys' but there are transformation sequences, evolving cloths that get all shiny and loads of named attacks. Hardly any humor either which at times backfires as some of the really heavy handed drama veers on silly on occasion. At least in the original, Lost Canvas managed to keep the cheesiness under control.

Speaking of tonal dissonance, few do it better than Korean movies. To the point that whenever I watch a Korean movie tagged as 'comedy' I already expect to be reduced to tears about two thirds into it. It is more difficult to transition from whacky comedy to highly emotional territory in a movie but Koreans know how to do it brilliantly.

Back to anime, one of the most extreme examples is Shadow Star's Narutaru's ED. It's not all unusual for OPs and in particular EDs to be deceiving, Madoka's OP immediately comes to mind, but Narutaru really takes the cake. What is by far one of the most disturbing anime ever conceived has a happy go lucky ED complete with an upbeat tune and super deformed characters designed as a children's drawing. It has got to be deliberate and adds a layer of creepiness to what is already pure nightmare fuel. Then again, from its inception Narutaru was meant to be the epitome of dissonance since it's basically 'pokemon meets Evangelion'.

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#19 | Back to Top05-16-2015 09:54:23 PM

OnlyInThisLight
KING OF ALL DUCKS
Registered: 01-15-2008
Posts: 4411

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

Anthiena wrote:

Some shows dearly need it. In the case of Higurashi, the comedy actually serves as both relief in the comedic sense and stark relief to the violence that happens both overtly ([The MC beating two girls to death over what turned out to be only his own delusional paranoia]) and covertly (Sadako's abuse, Shion's exclusion from the rest of her family). I watched the live action movie made for it-and it just felt less shocking and more 'oh, just another slasher flick.' Without its hilarity to both relieve the viewer and to underscore its dark tones, it just didn't work and gave you no reason to feel bad for anyone and proved actually to be a plotpoint. It's narrative chiaroscuro at it's finest.

The hilarity, I think, also helps balance out the screaming amount of Moe and combined with the violence, paints that Moe as satire rather than pure fetish.

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#20 | Back to Top05-17-2015 05:08:42 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

satyreyes wrote:

You know, literally a couple hours ago on the treadmill I was thinking about how Queen has a number of songs (Bohemian Rhapsody, Don't Stop Me Now) that have rockin' middles sandwiched between gentle piano intros and outros.  And the moment in Bohemian Rhapsody when it goes from "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meee" into the headbang part is so gorgeous.  I didn't even connect it to this conversation until you brought up music, DD.

The fake out drifting away in Bicycle Race really does it for me. Queen was and remains a very smart and often daring band.

Several of my students seem to be having a hard time taking the "real world" portions of Princess Bride in conjunction with the fairytale/Mogenstern parts. Some of them prefer the fictional Goldman bits, some prefer the Buttercup and Westley stuff, but there are loads of complaints that one is too pessimistic and the other too hopeful, why couldn't the story be somewhere in the middle? and things like that.

I'm so used the book, I wouldn't expect the dissonance to actually bug anyone that much. I guess that's the thing, though, it is dissonant until we get inured to it or learn to expect it in things.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#21 | Back to Top05-17-2015 05:52:19 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Tonal Purity in Entertainment

Your students might also be used to the movie, which is a straight comedy.  There's a frame tale, but it's just more comedy, not frustration and heartbreak.  I really like the book, but there's no question that it wasn't what I expected after watching the movie.  They're both good art, but they're different kinds of art.  And the movie in particular is art that is aimed at nerds, and you know how nerds feel when something isn't what they expected it to be.  emot-tongue

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