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
These characters are so. Fucking. Boring.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro
Warning: spoilers ahead.
2013 was supposed to be the year that saved big screen science fiction. When this summer’s lineup began filling out, I had more anticipation for this movie season than I’d had in years. Names were popping up like Blomkamp, del Toro, Shyamalan (fuck the haters), Abrams, Cuarón, Wright (and Pegg and Frost), and startlingly, there seemed to be more original properties on the horizon than sequels/adaptations: Elysium, After Earth, Gravity, Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Ender’s Game, Star Trek Into Darkness, The World’s End, etcetera. From what I saw of the trailers, these movies didn’t look like your typical disaster porn invasion movies, á la, Battle: Los Angeles or Transformers (except Pacific Rim, though its premise justifies, and even necessitates it) nor were they part of the insufferably relentless deluge of Marvel/DC sequels and spinoffs (except Into Darkness, whose trailers gave it the tone of a Dark Knight movie; y’all looking forward to Thor: The Dark World?). I loved the designs I saw in the Oblivion trailer, I liked the visual approaches of After Earth and Ender’s Game, and I love the idea of Sandra Bullock leading a stranded-in-space drama.
Continue reading Pacific Rim Is The Dullest Movie You’ll Ever See About Giant Robots Fighting Sea Monsters
Shyamalan wants you to look at this image and see evil. That’s a beautiful thing.
The Happening (2008)
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
There exists a phenomenon in the arts where an artist, or a given work, is so bursting with subtle, glorious aspects that only fellow artists in the field or truly knowledgable critics can pick up on that when ‘civilians’ check it out, they see it as simply empty and stupid and boring. Their untrained eyes are so fixed on the surface elements that they miss the masterful sleights of hand underneath. This happened with The Happening. What’s unique here though is that filmmakers, for some reason, have yet to jump in and defend it and help civilians understand its wonderful aspects—probably because, for the most part, they themselves are just as clueless.
Continue reading The Happening: A Filmmaker’s Film
Django Unchained (2012)
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Warning: Very mild spoilers.
Look, I’m not saying that Django Unchained is a bad movie. Or that Pulp Fiction is either. They’re both good movies. Tarantino has never made a bad movie. The good parts of any one of his films always seem to outweigh the bad—the two with the strongest good-to-bad-part ratios being Inglourious Basterds and Jackie Brown. Those two are damn near perfect. All the others are either ‘very good’ (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, From Dusk Till Dawn, True Romance) or just ‘good’ (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Death Proof, Django Unchained). And Death Proof is a bit more solid than Django in my opinion, therefore, Django is his worst since Pulp Fiction. (By the way, I should point out that yes, I’m fully aware that Tarantino wrote, but did not direct, From Dusk Till Dawn and True Romance. If I don’t mention that, some fanboy will point it out in the comments like he knows something I don’t or whatever. Well guess what, hypothetical fanboy? You know nothing I don’t. So you can take that hypothetical fact and shove it. Although, and I don’t wanna get off on a tangent here, but isn’t it weird how often people fall for that ‘Quentin Tarantino Presents’ thing? There are people in this world that legit think Tarantino was involved in the writing or directing or whatever of The Protector, Hostel, and others. Swear to god. I worked a video store, dude. I know things. And that’s honestly the tip of the iceberg as far as ‘weird things customers think’ goes. I’ll have to do an entry or entries about my video store days one of these days…)
Continue reading Django Unchained: Tarantino’s Worst Since Pulp Fiction