“Because modern horror is usually this masochistic titillation bullshit, a lot of people in interviews will tell me [The Witch] is not a horror film, it’s a psychological suspense thriller with supernatural elements,” he said, putting on a tone of faux-snobbery. “And I’m like, ‘O.K., that’s cool.’ But then fucking Edgar Allan Poe isn’t horror, either. “What’s important to me about horror stories,” he continued, “is to look at what’s actually horrifying about humanity, instead of shining a flashlight on it and running away giggling.”
I love these drawings by Delmer Daves for his adaptation of the 1957 3:10 to Yuma. It makes me so happy to see these things sketched out and then see how they really came to life, just like they had in mind.
“When you’re an actor, you can act on your own, but you kind of need to get hired. You need to be chosen. And when you’re chosen to act in something, the thing itself is already validated—it’s already real in some way. But for the most part, people who are creators—writers and directors—are always starting from zero. Nobody is asking them to make what they make. Every time you set out to create something from nothing that nobody has asked for, you feel the void more than you do in any other art form. I do, anyway. I’d never experienced that with a film before Frances Ha, where at first there was nothing, and then there was something because we made it. Frances Ha felt like I gave birth to it. And then I realized that that’s what you have to do on every single project for the rest of your life, if this is what you want to do.”
Reading Amazon reviews of MAGIC MIKE reinforces my view that it might be one of the most incredible acts of cinematic subversion of our time. Soderbergh tricked a bunch of horny Midwestern housewives into watching a super dark treatise on modern American culture by cloaking it in the trojan horse of a “sexy Channing Tatum movie” (and made a bucket of money while doing it).
FURY ROAD getting a bunch of bro’s to watch a dystopian, feminist revenge flick and SPRING BREAKERS tricking tween Disney fans into seeing a fucked up Harmony Korine neon fever dream are the other other recent examples that come to mind.
How—if at all—do increasing or changing representations of acoustic trauma articulate with changing notions of nation, security, and warfare? Tinnitus is the top disability in American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and untold numbers of westerners have experienced it after terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid, London, and Boston. It does seem plausible that consequence-free cinematic explosions began to strain credulity (not to mention morality) after such attacks, even for those who have not directly experienced acoustic trauma. Tinnitus offers an economical representation of trauma in films that aspire to some level of realism and empathy—and in fact, researchers view tinnitus and PTSD as related. Could a nation’s trauma be sounding in the ears of its onscreen heroes?
I remember writing that there was a robbery, and a car jumped the curb and went through the window of a car dealership. And then they shot it. I said, “Wow, this is crazy. I write this stuff, and they go and do it.” So then, of course, the ambition increased.
In the Cut, Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight). I really, really liked this dissection, by Jim Emerson, of a chase scene in The Dark Knight. I think the scene still communicates on a sequence-of-events level – chase goes underground, trucks smashes car, weapons are fired, Batmobile rams a dump truck – but there are definitely ways the editing makes it less spatially coherent or viscerally “real”. You can set aside whether that makes the scene good or bad, or whether it undermines or supports whatever Nolan’s intentions were. It’s still a nice primer and breakdown of how they communicate narrative through the frame, and how ignoring or adhering to visual conventions affects how you understand what you see.
“The less money you take, the more freedom you have. I’ve never made a film where I don’t have final cut. And I can’t imagine doing that. That just seems like it would be turmoil. I edit because that’s where you learn how to direct, really. All the answers of what you should have done are in the editing. I miss out on being able to be in a conversation with someone, and I can see where that can be a really valuable thing—to have someone with more of a distance to be having a dialogue with. You write alone, and scouting is really lonely. Then you do this really intense thing with a lot of people. Afterwards, I usually feel like I want to hide away with my film again and go through the process of making sure that every possible thing has been tried. I’m a big believer in letting your film be bad for a while, and not trying to get to a good cut too quickly. I just want to be involved and I want that process, because it makes me think of what lens I should have used or what I should have done. It’s such a learning experience that I hate to miss out on it.”
“Comedy thrives inside a fixed frame. It’s not an essential element, but as with dancing and magic tricks, it’s always more impressive if the viewer can see the performer’s hands and feet at all times. In Sherlock, Jr, Keaton moves the camera when he has to, during all of the movie’s crazy chases. But even then, the motion is limited: Keaton tracks alongside the actors, or he attaches the camera to the front of one of the moving vehicles so that he can keep all the action inside the rectangle.Sherlock, Jr. is at its funniest, though, when the camera stays still, and the characters move in and out, like figures in a side-scrolling platform videogame. Maybe that’s because the fixed frame emphasizes the characters as characters, arriving into the picture exactly when needed for the plot—and sometimes remaining stuck there, like the projectionist, never confident that he can find a way to break out of the box.”
Noel Murray kicks off our Movie Of The Week discussion of the 1924 classic Sherlock, Jr. with an examination of how Buster Keaton’s physical comedy thrived in a fixed environment of boxes and lines. [Read more…]
In Grand Budapest Hotel we move from the present, more or less, to events in the 1980s, then the 1960s, and eventually the 1930s, which constitute the central episodes.
Anderson has shot the frame stories in different aspect ratios. It’s 1.85 for the near present and the 1980s, when the Author recounts meeting the hotel owner. That meeting, set in the 1960s, is shown in 2.40, the anamorphic aspect ratio. The central story, taking place in the 1930s, is presented in classic 1.37, or 4:3 imagery. With typical Anderson butterfly-collector wit, each era gets a ratio that could have been used in a movie at the time. It’s remarkable that Anderson could persuade Fox Searchlight to let him do this, but it’s also a gift of digital projection: This play with ratios wouldn’t have been possible on film.
I knew something was up, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
“I get that same queasy, nervous, thrilling feeling every time I go to work. That’s never worn off since I was 12 years-old with my dad’s 8-millimeter movie camera. The thrill hasn’t changed at all. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, it’s actually increased, because now I appreciate the collaboration. When I was a kid, there was no collaboration, it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself. My job was constantly to keep a movie family going.”
“Shooting a movie is the worst milieu for creative work ever devised by man. It is a noisy, physical apparatus; it is difficult to concentrate—and you have to do it from eight-thirty to six-thirty, five days a week. It’s not an environment an artist would ever choose to work in. The only advantage it has is that you must do it, and you can’t procrastinate…”