Tag Archives: raging bull
On this episode, I am joined by fellow Smug Film contributors Jenna Ipcar and Ned Martin. We discuss all things movie theaters—from our best and worst movie theater experiences, to the best theaters we’ve ever been to. As always, we go on tangents along the way, take a quick break for a movie joke by comedian Anthony Kapfer, and close the show with questions from our mailbag.
If you have a question for the show, leave it in the comments or email us at Podcast@SmugFilm.com.
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By the way, the beautiful painting above is by artist Marianne Kuhn, and it is called Naro Cinema Norfolk VA. You can see the full painting and buy prints of it at FineArtAmerica.
Movie Stuff Referenced in this Episode:
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.
Since we started this website, I’ve always felt like I was on a mission. A mission, despite the fact that, at the end of the day, nothing anybody says about art matters at all. Art is an individual experience—even in a group, it’s an individual experience. I can’t convince you of anything, and you can’t convince me. And it should be that way. But right now, fuck all that.
Ghostbusters is high art. Ghostbusters should be thought of the way the Mona Lisa is—as this sacred, unachievable thing forged from genius—because that’s exactly what it is, and it’s been my mission to explain that concept. There are only about a dozen great movies, and these movies are untouchable. They are perfect in every way, and they represent the ultimate synthesis of story, performance, writing, color, music, and all the myriad elements that come together to make whatever is on screen at any given moment the perfect thing.
People don’t give a fuck about art. They like things all willy-nilly and just regurgitate whatever fucking nonsense someone says about why Raging Bull is brilliant. Fuck all that noise. Movies like Ghostbusters are advanced. They do all of the artistic shit Raging Bull does, but for the purpose of entertainment, of making you soak into the movie. That is beautiful, that is advanced, that is transcendent, and that could only happen a dozen times in about a century because it’s insanely hard to do.
And Ghostbusters isn’t even his best movie.
Since Hollywood decided to do Rocky vs. Raging Bull, I figured I’d do the same.
Stories are a template. For practical purposes, the story is the plot (it actually isn’t, but just bear with me). A story is only as good as the way it’s told. Rocky has a decent story, a story we’ve heard a million times, but it’s told with care and craftsmanship. Rocky, the story, executed as the film Rocky, is transcendent—whereas Rocky, the story, executed as the film The Mighty Ducks, is okay I guess. Raging Bull is not a story—it’s information about a guy, dressed up stylistically. That doesn’t make it bad, but, it makes the two difficult to compare.
My Streets (2009)
When I was sixteen, I made an extremely bad feature-length film called The Velvet Autumn. It’s two hours and thirty minutes, and it makes absolutely no sense.
The reason it doesn’t make any sense is because at that time in my life, I was obsessed with the visual construction of a movie, and I didn’t yet understand that you don’t just construct images, you construct them in a way that expresses a story. I was consciously working off of the Raging Bull hypothesis—that you create the images first, and your story will come later. Scorsese did a better job at this than me, although he had access to much better materials and had way more experience. But in any event, The Velvet Autumn, and Raging Bull alike, are proof positive that the hypothesis is incorrect—you gotta have the story first.