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Showing posts with label Can Doesn't Mean Do. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Can Doesn't Mean Do. Show all posts

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lensbabies, Tilt-Shift Photog, Vacuum Commercials, Oh My!

So, when you've covered the basics of theme, character, beginning, middle, end all the way up to blocking, what else can you do? Hmm, create atmosphere! [Cue jazz hands] But "Can" Doesn't Always Mean 'Do.' Snazzy camera or visual effects can be great, but context should always be the measure.

Lensbaby photo of Dresden Hauptbahnhof
by Sven Storbeck
The Lensbaby seems to be trending of late (Lensbaby examples at PP Magazine). Maybe it's because of the Lensbaby's recent portability to film cameras. Maybe it's because filmmakers *in droves* just like the look. Maybe it's because cool visuals is all some narratives have to offer in the end. Relying on the look of a film definitely has its place. The look helps to set tone. Just like music helps to set mood. But with selective focus now showing up in major vacuum TV commercials and USA Network shows like *Fairly Legal*, something seems to be in the air.

Sometimes these things work for a film. Sometimes they're one of the few things working for a film. E.g. Noé's *Enter the Void* had some highly engaging digital/post visual work though potentially disorienting for some. Rachel Ward's *Beautiful Kate* uses extensively what appears to be a Lensbaby for dreamy flashback scenes . . . to good effect. *Fairly Legal* is a sort of pastiche show and the selective focus+time lapsed insert shots of San Francisco somehow mesh with its light charm tone. In these cases, the look suited or made the piece endurable.

Tilt-Shift Photo of Sibiu, Romania
Wikimedia Commons: cc by-sa Amorphisman
But we've all seen movies where we wondered why the camera lingered so long on X (*Solaris* highway scene--why?) or why that shot of a rocking chair was there--what does it have to do with everything else you're showing us? How does it fit? *The Social Network* provided a moment like this for me. The film was primarily dark scenes and tonally restrained. Then in the middle of the film appeared a Tilt-Shift Photography1 scene: the rowing scene. Definitely remarkable. Definitely caused me to perk up. And just as soon as it was done, I started to wonder why--why now, why this, where is *this* coming from and where is it going? It was jarring.

Being a good cinematographer or a good singer or a good anything doesn't mean having to throw in everything AND the kitchen sink. You listen to Ella Fitzgerald and know she could sing runs around 90% of the world's singers but doesn't. --Jeff Cronenweth, I've thought you were wonderful since *One Hour Photo.* Why that shift of look for that one scene?

5-minute drum solos can be amazing. They also run the risk of becoming irritating or seeming self-indulgent. Shots and edits and styles need context. Except when randomness is intentionally at play in a work. Continuity, cohesion--these are in the pantheon for characters, stories, and film look.


1See examples of real Tilt-Shift vs. a post "Blur Mask" (Mask + Gradient Lens Blur) at The Cleverest.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Post: Awards Voting Season & Movied Out

Just rediscovered this blog yesterday. Opened it 5 years ago, posted once about an arduous (first) cattle call, that is, *casting* call adventure, then forgot all about it. Self-talking isn't really my thing; self-talking into ether even less. But I'm going to give it a go. My preference is for ideas, topics: technology, films, society. . . . I('ll) try to keep the narcissism to a minimum.

So, first post: The Grueling Film Awards Voting Season: A Sort of "About Me"

I am a filmivore. And it's voting season. So, I'm rushing to go watch some final nominated films right now to be able to cast my Spirit Awards votes before the deadline. [Independent filmmakers, how can you not champion independent film?] After a tally last week, in the last 13 months I've watched about 290 films, all new to me. Previously watched films weren't included in the tally, but I also don't usually actively rewatch films. Excluding *The Devil Wears Prada*, which I feel compelled to watch every time it comes on TV. (I think I relate too closely to the Andy character.) And the first 4 Chapters of *Inglorious Basterds*.

I love film, but I treat it a bit like poetry: impressionistic. Films are experiential and about what general reaction they incite in you. I remember that, my general overall impression. A (hopefully sweet) memory that you don't need to *relive* to relive.


This viewing scrambling is a bit like an endurance test. Last year, I recall dashing all over town to hit several theaters to see *A Single Man*, *The Last Station*, and . . something else all in the same day. For some reason, I missed every sponsored screening and had to go the commercial viewing route. This year, I'm not in NY so IFP screenings weren't even an option. This crunch time, I'm trying to squeeze in *The King's Speech* and *127 Hours*. As well as *Never Let Me Go* (I really like Mark Romanek, so I have high hopes for him). I managed to catch *True Grit* (2010) and *The Fighter* last week (as the lone person in the theater). For a film fan, this season is just an excuse to kick into hyperfilm drive.

After ~300 movies in one year, I'm approaching a February movied-out stage. Few new-runs of interest playing in theaters and at the point of having run out of things to watch on Netflix again (I've seen too much), movie-watching's sliding into feeling like a chore. And when the thrill is gone, it's time to put things on hold.

On the positive side of this, the impatience I feel when watching certain movies continues to make me a different kind of editor and shooter. I like slow, I like contemplative, I like fast, I like it all, but what I don't like is dead weight == > dead air. Anything that is not meaningful to the whole should be cut. Non-thematic repetition is just excess. And there's little that's more unappealing than watching wanton filmmaker excess on film. Anything that gets in the way of cohesion is a detriment to the experience. That bowl of fruit or sky or rocking chair or pretty girl might provide a beautiful frame, but unless it fits the overall tone of your film, 5 langourous cutaway shots of it serve no one any purpose.

"Can" doesn't mean 'do.'