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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" doesn't have the electricity of the original, mainly because we've already seen it. Nothing more is really revealed…

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To Be Takei

“To Be Takei” is a conventional documentary that has a surprising emotional heft. A fun, informative exploration of the life of actor, activist and Trekkie…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#68 June 22, 2011

Marie writes: this past Monday, the Chicago Sun Times updated "Movable Type" - a program used to create blogs. Roger's journal for example. Other newspapers might use "Word Press" instead; same idea though. Any-hoo, it's hosted on the "new" server at the Sun-Times and as is customary, you have to login to use it. It's online software. Meaning you're totally at the mercy of any freakiness that might be going on.I mention this because there was indeed some weirdness earlier (server choked) and that, plus the fact Movable Type does things differently now, put me behind schedule. So I don't really have anything for the front page. I can go look, though!  Meanwhile, just continue reading and if I find anything interesting, I'll let you know....Ooo, clams...

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Opening Shots: 'Juggernaut'

From Richard T. Jameson, Editor, Movietone News, 1971-81; Editor, Film Comment, 1990-2000:

The opening credits of Richard Lester's "Juggernaut" (1974) play over a neutral backdrop that can just barely be detected as an undefined image rather than a simple blank screen. Whether it's an out-of-focus image or something more elemental -- say, the granules of the film emulsion itself -- is hard to say. The basic color is a beige-y grey, with now and then the merest hint of a diagonal band of something warmer attempting to form across the frame. On the soundtrack are noises similarly difficult to ascertain; some suggest hammers falling, an unguessable project under construction, while in other select nanoseconds we seem to be listening to something beyond the normal range of hearing -- the mutual brushing of atoms, perhaps, in an unimaginably microscopic space. In short, nothing; and the essence of everything.

The first shots cut in after the (swiftly flashed) credits have ended, and we get our worldly bearings. An oceanliner is preparing to depart an English port and, among other things, a dockside band is tuning up. I say "first shots," but we won't cheat: there can be only one opening shot, and it's over with before we barely register it. And indeed, why register it? It's nothing dramatic. Indeed, it's barely informational. There are streamers, fluttering limply and unremarkably in the breeze. Send-off streamers; bon voyage and all that. Most of their brief time onscreen, they're out of focus, because that's a gentle way of easing us from the shimmering nothingness behind the credits and into the coherent imagery of a movie we are obliged to pay attention to. Besides, this is 1974, five years after cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and "Easy Rider" had made rack focus a fashionable, sometimes almost fetishistic aspect of self-consciously contemporary moviemaking. (Not that Kovacs worked on "Juggernaut": the DP is Gerry Fisher, working with Lester for the first and last time.) So out-of-focus and then in-focus streamers, no big whoop. And the movie moves on.

It's only on a second viewing that these streamers may hit us like a fist in the chest. For the essence of the shot is that there are two streamers in particular traversing the frame in clarity. And one is red, one is blue.

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Movies 101: Opening Shots Project

"Barry Lyndon" opens with a bang.

Any good movie -- heck, even the occasional bad one -- teaches you how to watch it. And that lesson usually starts with the very first image. I'm not talking necessarily about titles or opening sequences (they're worth discussing, too -- but that's another article); I'm talking about opening shots. As those who have been reading Scanners (and my Editor's Notes on RogerEbert.com) know, two of my cardinal rules for movie-watching are:

1) The movie is about what happens to you while you watch it. So, pay attention -- to both the movie and your response. If you have reactions to, or questions about, what you're seeing, chances are they'll tell you something about what the movie is doing. Be aware of your questions, emotions, apprehensions, expectations.

2) The opening shot (or opening sequence) is the most important part of the movie... at least until you get to the final shot. (And in good movies, the two are often related.)

The opening shot can tell us a lot about how to interpret what follows. It can even be the whole movie in miniature. I'm going to talk about some of my favorites, and how they work, and then request that you contribute your own favorites for possible publication in future Scanners columns.

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