There’s a great little story about how on the set of E.T., Spielberg slowly unwrapped a toy off camera to illicit a reaction from the young actor playing Elliott. I’ve always thought this story was a great way to explain how a filmmaker should approach exposition. Exposition is the easiest, most fun, and most misunderstood part of storytelling. But filmic exposition is generally stupid, because people are afraid of it.
Somebody once asked me, about my 50/50 Rule, “When making a movie, would you pay extra special attention to how it starts, since you lose interest in so many movies so fast?” The answer is decidedly no, because every frame of a movie is sacred and equally important. If you treat your entire movie like that, then you don’t need to spend extra attention to any one part of it. Exposition is too often just underestimated as something that has to be blown through in order to get to the fun stuff. To counteract this, the indies have bloated their exposition with way too much visual minutiae. You can build a ‘stark’, ‘oblique’, ‘atmospheric’ world with your story—you don’t need shots that hold too long on a girl as she wistfully puts on makeup.
Jurassic Park is my favorite exercise in exposition, and in a way, the entire movie is exposition.
Continue reading On Exposition
The late, great Ray Harryhausen. (1920-2013)
When I was a little kid my grandpa showed me King Kong, the 1933 one. King Kong doesn’t look real, but it looks good, because it looks right. Looking ‘right’ is the key.
Special effects are perhaps film’s biggest point of separation from the other arts. In literature, if you want a monster in your story, you just describe it. But a movie has to convince you what you’re looking at is real, even when you’re looking at the most not real things humans can dream up. This takes a perfect synthesis of human imagination, technology, and innovation.
Continue reading Special Effects: Why They Look Right When They Look Right
With the remake of Carrie out, it’s that time again for everyone to make their favorite complaint: “Oh god, another remake! It’s like they’re raping my childhood!”
If you’re going to put forth that Hollywood is in need some new ideas, I’ll listen. But it’s not as though this is a new thing. Movies have always mostly been sequels, remakes, or adaptations. Pick any random year since the dawn of cinema and I guarantee you’ll find as many as you do today.
Continue reading Remakes: Everyone’s Favorite Complaint
Field of Dreams. The undisputed king, for sure. But here’s ten other great ones.
It was a really tricky thing putting this together because they’re ranked on niceness, not goodness. Number two and number five are the best movies on the list. But they aren’t the nicest.
Niceness is even harder to define than coolness. Niceness is a warm and fuzzy feeling that a lot of art can generate. Probably the most popular example would be Norman Rockwell paintings. Niceness, like coolness, taps into our primal brains somewhere. We’re wired to feel it because it connects us to each other. But the problem with niceness is that it borders so heavily on cheese. Cheese done right is transcendent. But cheese done wrong is, well, cheesy.
Continue reading The 10 Nicest Movies Ever Made (If These Movies Don’t Make You Cry, You Have a Black Heart)