Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Crazy Walls" and related tropes for graphic exposition

My note to day to several colleagues:
I'm working on an expository concept for a new project. I'm running
down a trope, a bit you might call "crazy walls", often used in
thriller movies, where the mind of the “crazy” antagonist is revealed
first and full-blown. The best example of this of the top of my head
was in "A Brilliant Mind" where we first see the genius’ blackboard
with manic scrawls or formulae linked by arrows. It produces a kind of
OMG this-guy-is-a-nutcase moment for the straight character.

The device can also be used by a sane protagonist --the de-coding
hero--fretting over a jerrybuilt cork-board with photos and post-it
labels linked with string, suggesting convoluted or esoteric
connections he has discovered. Other examples of the crazy wall might
be in the title sequence for “Rubicon”,  "The Number 23". Useful
variants could be any “wall” of display, personal shrine or collection
housed in a specific space.

What I'm really interested in is the expository potential for the
graphic itself, not so much the drama. Can you think of anyplace else
have you seen this trope used?

Thanks for any help you can give!!

Interesting idea you have.

These may not be dead on... but the are memorable for me.
There is a 'wall' in Usual Suspects that prompts the Kevin Spacey (character) with all
of HIS story components.  Detective character discovers he has been conned
right at the end of the movie... as Spacy is walking down the street.
The first 1:20 seconds is the piece of interest.

Se7en-Title sequence  (kinda graphic)

Momento  (awesome site.  Spend a little time on it... .and move your mouse
around for Easter Eggs)

Requiem for a Dream website.
(You will be 'fooled' by what appears to be a 1-900-website rediret Pop
Up... but stay with the site.... use your mouse on white screens.  Enjoy the
layers and complexities that are revealed with mouse movement.  If you feel
like you are at a dead in... mouse somewhere else and click on it.  Often
your screen will appear 'frozen'.  Just move your mouse and keep drilling

Sherlock Holmes
exquisite 'layering'

In the movie Amelie... there is a 'workbook' that is part of the story.  It
is a collection of photos the photomachine repairman constructed.... and
have some interesting graphics.

DIY segment

Fascinating wall

YouTube minimovie... with a couple of idea walls

Made of index cards?

Various walls

American Splendor

John to Steve:
Well, among other things, you've pointed me to the movie titles site which provides a lifetime of great ideas to steal.  Thanks, friend, for all of these, which send off sparks all over the place.

I know this was my quest, but obviously, you've already spent some time thinking about visualization of the abstract. You ought to check out, the zooming presentation tool, if (by some small chance) you have not seen it yet. It relies on the scalable nature of outline fonts to fly around text, jump scale and move laterally, allowing us to see context. The jumps in an x-y-z space are laid out in advance and rendered in Flash. There are other ways to do the same trick, but this could help with rapid prototyping. I see a lot of potential for this as a way of providing contextual understanding of non-linear processes and relationships.

I'm looking at all kinds of mind-maps. Any semantic or theoretical space (such as any map, a calendar, the Periodic Table of the Elements) in which, not just the text but the spatial organization is relevant and meaningful. Inspiration or Visio-built diagrams, if moved and "jumped" in After Effects could be cool too.

GoogleEarth “jumps” do with the planet what I want to do with ideas.

I liked this "crazy wall writer" for technique:

Hey John:
Sounds interesting.  Something kitchy I have always wanted to replicate myself!
Don't forget the "crazy wall" that's defined by the repetition of a word or phrase. Ala the "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" manuscript pages Shelly Duvall's character discovers in Jack's typewriter during Kubrick's "The Shining."  That was surely the reveal moment for her that he husband had gone insane.  Or take even miscreant Bart Simpson of cartoon fame, who's forced, every episode, to scrawl and re-scrawl some different character affirmation on the chalk board after school as punishment. Maybe that treatment makes him the malcontent he is? But actually, what's more insane, is he doesn't seem affected by it at all. Just part of his daily routine.

My other favorite type is the audience reveal pull out.  Where all the elements on screen seemed to be unassociated, but when the camera pulls back, a bigger pattern is clearly revealed. Not always something the protagonist has made out... yet.

There's a site called tvtropes that covers a bunch of these...

And one of my favorites: 

The Stalker Shrine (crazy wall)

Loved Rubicon. The characters in that would spread the materials (usually 3x5 cards with single words on them) out on the floor and "connect the dots."  Sorry to hear it wasn't picked up for a second season... a victim of Walking Dead's immediate, if visceral, success. (Must everything be zombies and vampires these days!) -Chris King, Reader's Digest

John -an interesting challenge. I need to think about this.  off the top I think of the CIA sculpture story  and music; Glenn Gould, John Cage.  more later.
 -Bill Clarkson

John- Happy Thanksgiving.  The place I see that device used the most is in all these cop shows like Traces, CSI, Law and Order.  Specific episodes are hard to remember, but the use that thing both from the 'figuring out the crime POV'  to the 'weird guy has shrine to the person he's stalking'  Maybe in the 'Silence of the Lambs' franchise.
-Mark Menza