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 Wind Rises (2013)
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Dear Prospective Viewers Of The Wind Rises,
I know what you’re wondering—which version to see. Both are out now, some theaters even playing both, and you don’t want to spend your money on the wrong one.
Well, I’ve seen both, and I’m here to help.
Continue reading The Wind Rises: Sub or Dub?
When YouTube started to happen, it seemed like the great leveler. Kids in their basement suddenly had distribution equal to that of the major Hollywood studios. And following in the wake of cheaper and better video equipment, it looked like the control of all media had shifted from ‘The Man’ to the everyman.
The results of this have been dismally revealing.
Thanks to the internet, and YouTube, we now have confirmation that 99.999% of all art completely sucks. Before, we could only look to the establishment and their putrid output to see how bad everything is. But with every person on earth making stuff, and throwing it up on there, we now have proof that almost nobody can make anything good.
Continue reading I Want To Talk About The Internet
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
Promised Land (2012)
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Screenplay by John Krasinski & Matt Damon
Story by Dave Eggers
Promised Land is a good movie. And Gus Van Sant is a good director. And Matt Damon and John Krasinski are good actors and writers.
This is a movie that nobody saw last year. It’s a small movie, the kind that still gets made by mega celebrities like Matt Damon but that nobody sees because the market is pretty well taken over by other kinds of movies like Taken 2 and The Vow. But I’m not here to wax pretentiously about lowest common denominato, fluff that ‘Hollywood’ is so ‘evil’ for churning out. (The hipsters have that market well cornered.) I’m here, rather, to talk about Promised Land. But first, about Gus Van Sant.
Continue reading Promised Land: Good Job, Gus