Tag Archives: the burbs

On Exposition

jurassicexposition


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.
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Remakes: Everyone’s Favorite Complaint

carrie


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.
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The 10 Most Overrated Classic Movies

godfather

Nope, not gonna touch this one. Too easy.

It’s easy to pick on classics.  In fact, by virtue of being considered ‘classic’, they’re almost assuredly not as good as they’re said to be.  Anything so beloved is automatically suspect.  This is not contrarianism; it’s healthy skepticism.  In an age where most people still aren’t atheists and science is constantly hindered by new age nonsense, skepticism is beyond necessary.

I figured I’d apply that maxim to culture and pick the ten most overrated classic movies ever made.  But, like I said, it’s easy to pick on the big ones.  Casablanca, The Godfather, and Gone With the Wind all have their place in history, but that doesn’t make them better than Back to the Future.  And they aren’t.  Not artistically, and certainly not in our collective hearts.

However, here, rather than just list the most acclaimed classic movies and call it a day, I really wanted to hone in on some particular titles that I find obnoxiously overrated:
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Not All Movies Should Have Jokes, But All Movies Should Have a Sense of Humor

fargo2
Click for bigger version.

There is a moment in Fargo (I’ll never stop talking about Fargo) that makes me die with laughter every single time I watch it. The movie is packed with black comedy and irony and brilliant deadpans (the license plate joke, holy shit) and some basic but perfect physical gags (Jean Lundegaard bursting out of the shower draped in its curtain like a kid in a homemade ghost costume), but I ain’t talking abaout all that stuff. I’m talking about the stills above. This moment seems to be more of an editorial in-joke than an actual written joke, but of course you never can tell with the Coen brothers. After Jean’s dad and Stan Grossman and Jerry discuss the plot’s central ransom over breakfast, Jerry is at the counter. The beaming cashier asks how Jerry’s meal was. After he answers rather shortly, he comes back with an affable “How you doin’” and when it cuts back to her, we see her cock her head to the side before it cuts again. All she does is cock her head to the side. No response, no change in expression, just a slight pitch. It’s hilarious. It’s insanely funny.
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The 10 Best Movies Ever Made

kane


The cinematic powers-that-be tend to decree that Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made, or sometimes Raging Bull.  I don’t have a problem with that appraisal.  It’s fun.  Lists are fun—they expose people to cool movies they may not have heard of, and cause debates over who’s the most badass horror villain from the 80s, or what the best movies for libertarians are.

However, what is annoying is that whenever these movie freemasons decide that Vertigo is the third-best movie of all time or something, it causes all the opinion-scavenging cinephiles-in-training to rant their little hearts out about how The Rules of the Game or whatever really deserves to be ranked third-best. These lists also do a good job of tricking people into thinking The Godfather is artistically superior to Back to the Future, which is ridiculous.
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