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Wag the Dog

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Caroline O'Donnell

on 9 October 2018

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Transcript of Wag the Dog

Film Poster
Why is this a set text for 'Whose Reality?'

How is it different to Foe?

What are the big ideas here?

What is the significance of the cinematic form?

Points to consider...
Film Poster
What will you be required to do for this AoS?

Option 1:
Create and present one extended text, in one of the following styles: a persuasive text, an expository text, or an imaginative text. The text is to be created for a specific purpose, audience, context and form.

Option 2:
Create and present an extended text in the hybrid form (i.e. a combination of forms) that may cover one, or a combination, of the persuasive, expository and imaginative styles, created for a specific audience, purpose and context.

You are required to draw upon appropriate ideas from
Wag the Dog
as well as from your supplementary reading.

The length for the extended text should be approximately between 800-1200 words.

Your text must be accompanied by a written explanation. Length should be around 200-250 words and include FLAPC.

What will you be required to do?
Wag the Dog has strong elements of noir, or neo-noir.

Look at lighting and framing in this clip:

Little natural light
Uneven shot composition
Not a simple two-camera shot

Contrast with CIA

Neo noir and Wag the Dog
Alternate film poster: what is the image composed of?
Government and the media

Government and Hollywood

Political spin

Power and the lengths some will go to to retain it

Manipulation of consumers/electorate

Massaging the message

The pageantry of politics

What are some of the big ideas of the film?
Wag the Dog
A film by Barry Levinson
Continuity editing (also look for eyeline, close ups , medium shots and shot/reverse shot, pt-of-view, stationary cameras)

fill lighting, side lighting

Camera work
Dolly shot/tracking shot, angles, walk and talk
shot/reverse shot
Close up, medium shot etc

Continuity editing, gaze, ellipses v jump shot
mise en scene
Scene from editing suite


Cinematic conventions
Film Noir
Classic Film Noir
Film Noir was coined by French film critics (circa 1946) who noticed the trend of how '
dark', downbeat and black the looks and themes
were of many American crime and detective films following the war.

They reflected the tensions and insecurities of the time period, and counter-balanced the optimism of Hollywood's musicals and comedies.
Fear, mistrust, bleakness, loss of innocence, despair and paranoia are readily evident in noir,
reflecting the Cold War period when the threat of nuclear annihilation was ever-present. The criminal, violent, misogynistic, hard-boiled, or greedy perspectives of anti-heroes in film noir were a metaphoric symptom of society's evils, with a strong undercurrent of moral conflict, purposelessness and sense of injustice.

There were rarely happy or optimistic endings in noirs.

(sourced from http://www.filmsite.org/filmnoir.html)

Neo-Noir: film noir, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media

Features include:
harsh lighting
lighting contrast
focus on feet
uneven shot composition
femme fatales
hats (!)
Noir and Neo Noir
Plane scene
Film Noir not strictly a genre, but a style. How is it used to highlight the tone and message?

Black Comedy
(humour that makes light of an otherwise serious subject matter)

(Holds vices, abuses, shortcomings of individuals/corporations/government up to ridicule - may feature irony and exaggeration)

Example: 'The President cannot employ an illegal immigrant'
Black Comedy and Satire
Dramatic crescendo
Linear structure

series of escalating yet deflected crises:

11 days to go
Firefly girl - Albania has the bomb, sheaf of wheat, American voices song.

8 days to go
War is cancelled - brave serviceman left behind. Song: Ol' Shoe.

6 days to go
Schumann is a rapist - Shoe campaign
Song: Courage Mom

5 days to go
Plane crashes, questions are being asked- Schumann is 'injured' and will be delayed

Schumann is shot - Schumann's hero's funeral
Song: Men of the 303

'What is better than the triumphant return of a war hero?' Approval rating is 89%
Structure and Turning Points
Robert Evans

Stanley Motts
(supposedly based on Robert Evans)
Famous and egotistical producer
excess, extravagance, cynicism

Conrad Brean
Government fixer, Spin Doctor
More consistent and reasonable (on the surface)
Shady, unreadable

Winifred Ames
PR adviser, organiser
platinum blonde
Voice of morality but sells out quickly

Why is the colour of the kitten so important?
Rain, fog, water

Close ups of phones, computers, technology

Memorial Statue
Dog at the funeral

Strange combination of manufactured innocence obscuring shady undertakings
Symbols, emblems, talismans
Good Ol' Shoe (4:00)
What is the significance of the songs?

What is supposed to evoke in the voters?

Significance of language

Parody of 'We are the World'

'Courage Mom'

Leaked by White House staff

Mission Accomplished

War can cause a bounce in the polls:


Political Context: Why go to war?
Pulitzer Prize winning photo
Vietnam War 1972
CIA involvement in foreign wars to destabilise governments for own purposes

The Vietnam War - became the most unpopular war because of media

Recently declassified Watergate tapes (Kissinger)

First Gulf War

Clinton's impeachment

WMD - the bigger the lie, the more believable (Chilcott Report in July 2016)

Children overboard

Russia and the Ukraine: Also a PR war
Historical Context
Why does the dog wag its tail?
Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.

(English idiom)
Intersection between symbolism, music, sentimentality and patriotism.
Three word slogans
Latin quote from Juvenal
'Bread and Circuses'

Used as template for Hunger Games, which also borrows from reality TV (eg Big Brother)

3 word slogans

memes (see youtube link)
Popular Culture and Politics: Panem et Circenses
'If you do your job right, nobody should notice'

The war isn't over until I say it's over.'

'You don't want to change horses in midstream.'

'You can't have a war without an enemy.'

'War is show business, that's why we're here'

'You can't have a war and not have a hero.'

It's the best work I've ever done in my life because it's so honest.'

'You know what this reminds me of?' (repeated gag)
Quotes and Cliches
Hollowmen (2:1 Shared Interests)
Australian satire - selling an empty idea
The Hollowmen
What is the significance of the final frame?
Final Frame
Bill Clinton's denial
Full transcript