In "In the Cut Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight)," I sought to pinpoint any and all possible reasons for the confusion I've always felt while watching part of an action sequence in "The Dark Knight." Some dismissed it as nitpicking (which is their prerogative), that criticism should be limited to looking at a movie in real time. But I felt I should go beyond the familiar critical generalizations ("Adjective!" "Adverbly adjective!") and try to locate precisely what I found disorienting and understand why I found it that way.
A few others, unfortunately, became confused about what I actually said or did not say in the 19-and-a-half-minute video, so I thought, for the record, I should publish a transcript to make it easier to reference. (Then I can just send links to those who misunderstand or misrepresent.) I don't write out a script for these essays -- I watch the movie, record what I want to say and then edit my remarks. So this, to the best of my ability, is an annotated transcription (with certain passages in bold for emphasis) of the narration in the finished video:
TITLE: "It's quite easy to over-cut a sequence: make it visually exciting and lose track of what is happening and who the characters are....
"Where you can't follow action, it's not just action, it's the whole movie you can't follow. Action is very difficult, it has to be very carefully planned and conceived."
-- Lee Smith, editor ("The Dark Knight," "Inception"), interviewed in The Australian, October 30, 2010
[More from that interview here.]
NARRATION: The thing is, what he's talking about there is, I think, one of "The Dark Knight"'s most painfully obvious shortcomings. Its visual grammar is a mess and sometimes that results in scenes that are just incoherent.
So, when I saw that quote about action from the editor of "The Dark Knight," I thought maybe I should go back and take a close look at one of the movie's most famous action sequences and look at it like an editor, and try to figure out what information was being conveyed, shot by shot, and what it was that maybe I was missing...
The Grand Poobah shared the following recently and which struck me as just the thing to put in here - for it amounts to someone inventing a moving still akin to those seen on the front page of Harry Potter's famous newspaper."You know how people sometimes say that jazz is the only truly American art form? Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online. That said, PopTart Cat is not exactly on par with Thelonious Monk. But photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" -- elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video." - fastcodesignAnd sadly, they won't work in here; Movable Type doesn't like animated gifs. It's easily solved however, just visit Far Better Than 3-D: Animated GIFs That Savor A Passing Moment to see an assortment in play!
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of the Newsletter! Marie writes: the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, in addition to being the final resting place of many a famous name. From Édith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt and Chopin to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Georges Méliès, the well-known sleep on the tree-lined avenues of the dead and which you can now explore in a virtual 360 degree tour...
"I am your host! Und sagen..."
Here they are, eleven of the most famous opening shots in movie history, plus a bonus that I threw in just because I like it. Prepare to smack your head and say, "D'oh! I knew that!" But don't give up -- keep sending in your nominations for great opening shots, along with your explanations for why they set up the movie so well, to: jim AT scannersblog dot com.
Congrats to Daniel Dietzel, who got all ten right, but did not hazard a guess about the two bonus shots -- and to Jeremy Matthews, who got nine out of the top 10, but also correctly identified both the bonus/tiebreakers!
And come back Sunday for the answers to the original Opening Shots Pop Quiz.
Now, the answers to the Opening Shots Quiz 2: 10 Easy Pieces (+2):
An extended family moment: Blanca, Hector, AJ.
Never send a business reporter to do a critic's job.
I'm sometimes amused by the naïveté of my critical and academic colleagues when it comes to the business realities of how movies are made, and why they turn out the way they do. They tend to view movies as a purely creative medium, and dismiss the influences of marketing and commerce on the "end product." But, on the other hand, whenever I read reports about "the biz," I'm equally amazed at how they approach movies as if they were factory-tooled widgets, nothing more than the products of corporate and marketing deals and decisions. The truth is, of course, that most movies are creative compromises, the results of a vast and complex set of inter-related artistic, commercial and economic judgments.
You'd never know that from Jon Fine's series of posts at his Business Week Fine On Media blog about so-called "product placement" in this season's episodes of "The Sopranos." Fine thinks the proliferating brand-name mentions are "suck-uppy" and rates them on a "one-to-ten scale of egregiousness" -- although, he reports, "'The Sopranos,' a show I like very much, does not do product placement in the fee-for-sense. Nor does HBO, although at times they've played footsie with the idea."
Fine doesn't acknowledge that there may be a number of creative reasons why real products and brand names are used on the show -- aside from the usual deals that allow nearly all movies and TV shows to keep their budgets down by gaining access to free consumer goods, from cars to soft drinks, that are used on screen. "The Sopranos" happens to be about people for whom bling means just about everything, despite all their talk about maintaining old-fashioned "family values" (you know, like omerta). It's a show about people in a strictly hierarchical social structure (organized crime, the mob, La Cosa Nostra)who pursue crass, vulgar, conspicuous consumption as a signal to others that they're advancing their station in life. Their lives are all about "product placement."