Sheila writes: Lists are always fun to discuss. They are certainly launch-pads for great conversation. I saw this clip a couple of days ago (shared by Rogerebert.com contributor Nell Minow) and thought I would share it. It's a lot of fun: The Top 10 Business Movie Speeches. What would you include on such a list?
An interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky about his deeply personal The Dance of Reality, working with Peter O'Toole, the healing power of cinema and why Twitter is the literature of the 21st century.
Marie writes: many simply know her as the girl with the black helmet. Mary Louise Brooks (1906 - 1985), aka Louise Brooks, an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress famous for her bobbed haircut and sex appeal. To cinefiles, she's best remembered for her three starring roles in Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) directed by G. W. Pabst, and Prix de Beauté (1930) by Augusto Genina. She starred in 17 silent films (many lost) and later authored a memoir, Lulu in Hollywood."She regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her." - Roger, from his review of the silent classic Pandor's Box.
I met John McHugh in the autumn of 1966, when I was a cub reporter on the Sun-Times and he was a rewrite man, two years my senior, on the Chicago Daily News. We are still best friends. He worked the overnight shift, and among his duties was taking calls from readers.
After midnight, they wanted to settle bets. "And what do you say?" McHugh would ask. He would listen, and then reply,
"You're 100% correct. Put the other guy on." Pause. "And what do you say?" Pause. "You're 100% correct." If he was asked for his name, he said, "John T. Greatest, spelled with three Ts." He explained, "They can never figure out that that means."
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.
I still have plenty of excellent Opening Shots submissions to edit and post -- and I'm doing my best to get frame grabs to accompany them whenever I can. (Quiz answers coming soon, too.) To no one's surprise, "Star Wars" (1977) has been the most popular nomination -- and for good reasons. But do keep 'em coming. I think of new brilliant opening shots every day, so if your initial ideas have already been mentioned, keep thinking. (Or, if you'd care to add to the discussion of a particular shot, Comments have supposedly been enabled on certain posts -- though I have to approve 'em first.)
A few notes about terminology, just so we can be sure we're all speaking the same language:
shot: a continuous image on film, from the time it begins (when the camera is rolling) until a cut (or fade out or dissolve) takes us to the next image. Sometimes the word "take" -- as in continuous shot -- is used interchangeably, although it is more specifically used to refer to one of several attempts to "get" a certain shot during filming. The editor often chooses between several takes of a given shot, and may cut them into shorter shots, or inter-cut different takes with other shots.)
pan: when the camera pivots horizontally, usually on a tripod. If a shot is strictly a pan, the camera does not move from its location, it just swivels -- as if you were standing still and turning your head. It can, of course, be used in various combinations with any of the other techniques below. The opening shot of "Psycho" is a simple pan. Later, a zoom and a crane shot are used in the opening sequence.
tilt: like a pan, but a vertical movement rather than a horizontal one. The camera does not "pan" up the exterior of a skyscraper from a position on the sidewalk across the street; it "tilts" up. The last shot of Robert Altman's "Nashville" is a simple tilt up to the empty sky.
dolly shot: a shot in which the camera actually moves -- usually when mounted on a dolly or a crane, and often on tracks which have been put down to ensure a smooth-gliding and precise movement.
tracking shot: sometimes used interchangeably with "dolly shot," but technically a shot where the camera moves with, or "tracks," another moving object in the frame -- whether from above, below, ahead, aside, or behind. (See opening shot of "Birth" -- which also appears to use a crane and a Steadicam.)
crane shot: a movement where the camera is mounted on a crane (and sometimes a dolly as well), usually to rise above, or descend to, the scene of the primary action. Lots of movies end with crane shots that raise up on a crane and sometimes dolly back at the same time (think of "Chinatown" or "Silence of the Lambs").
handheld shot: any shot in which the camera operator simply holds the camera manually, whether standing in one place or moving around within the scene. Often characterized by a certain shakiness that we're used to experiencing as more immediate, immersive, or documentary-like than a solid, mounted camera, which can feel more detached and "objective."
Steadicam shot: a Steadicam is a gyroscopic device that, as its name indicates, can be used to eliminate the shakiness of handheld shots for a smoother, more fluid movement -- as if the camera is floating on air. (See "Halloween" for a dazzling example.) In a landmark shot at the beginning of Hal Ashby's "Bound for Glory" (photographed by Haskell Wexler), the Steadicam operator is actually on a crane and lowered to the earth, where he steps off and continues the shot at ground level.
zoom: a zoom lens is simply a sliding telephoto lens that smoothly enlarges or reduces the size of objects in the frame optically, like looking through a adjustable telescope. The camera doesn't necessarily move (though it sometimes does that at the same time), but appears to magnify or decrease whatever it's looking at. As you zoom in on something, the image appears to "flatten." (Recall the famous shot of Omar Sharif riding toward the camera across the desert in "Lawrence of Arabia" -- he never really seems to get any closer because of the long telephoto lens that is used.) The dizzying "Vertigo" effect (after Hitchock's innovation in that film) involves dollying in and zooming out at the same time (or vice-versa) -- an effect employed memorably in a shot of Roy Scheider on the beach when a shark is sighted in "Jaws."
Q. You didn't like "The Usual Suspects" because of the ending. I liked the ending, the dark atmosphere director Bryan Singer created, the acting (especially by Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey and Chazz Palminteri), and the movie as a whole. The last time I had this much fun at the movies was at "Pulp Fiction." Maybe you should ask random people from the audience, because you could be the only one who didn't like the trick ending. (Mike D'Alessandro, Acton, Mass.)
CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA - "There's no use kidding ourselves," Lewis Gilbert said. "The appeal of this film will be based on sex and violence, of course. But the difference is, this will be the first sex and violence epic. Usually sex and violence are counted on to sell themselves, and so that sort of thing is made cheaply..."