Reading Movies, Like Watching Movies with your Brain

Wow, that was a great read. In his article, Roger Ebert talks about the technical aspects of cinematography, which I found incredibly insightful. His notion (not his originally, but he relies on it heavily) of “intrinsic weighting,” has brilliant insights into how the cinematography contributes (or detracts) from the story itself. The idea that the right side is positive, and diagonals show motion are so well thought out, and he says that going against intrinsic weighting can be just as meaningful as going for it. Then, he analyzes the scene from Notorious and combines all his ideas in “real time,” (my word). I would love to see him analyze The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I think is one of the most interestingly shot movies. The scenes, and often subjects are almost always centered and symmetrical. According to his article, Ebert would say this provides balance and objectification. I know it’s not one of the movies I’m required to watch (those are below), but I wanted to share it because I think it’s a fantastic movie.

What struck me the most about this article, wasn’t even so much the content, it was the apparent humility of Ebert – something that was totally lacking in some of the art critic methodologies I talk about here. He acknowledges that there isn’t really one correct way to interpret a shot in a video, and that to me should be a defining characteristic of all artistic critique.

…they are scrutinizing films with the same intense curiosity, and that’s the real point.

Roger Ebert

Kubrick: One Point Perspective and The Shining Zooms

I chose Kubrick because I have seen almost all, if not totally all, of his movies. I love what he can do, and I love some of his quirks as a director (he never did rehearsals, he just kept the camera rolling the whole time. “Here’s Johnny” was unscripted in like, the 82nd take or something and Jack Nicholas was just exhausted and frantic). Let’s first talk about one-point perspective.

I alluded to this above in my gushing of The Grand Budapest Hotel, but this video shows just how much Kubrick uses this method too. Having the one-point perspective gives symmetry to all of his scenes that, to Ebert, puts them at rest. I’ll discuss this a little on the next video, but for the OPP video, I’d like to focus on this scene from Clockwork Orange. Here the stark lighting above has a heavenly, salvation vibe to it, and there’s even a faint pyramid visible on the back wall that appears to be pointing into aforementioned salvation. The contrasting dark, grimy prison yard with its high walls, and the dark clothing by all the characters works to show that they are in a bottomless pit of institutionalization. The last is that Ebert talks about the right side being positive and dominant, and the left being negative and subordinate; here, we have the prison guard and ostensibly the only exit on the right, while the chain of prisoners with their backs to the wall are lined up on the far left.

A Clockwork Orange

Now let’s talk about my all time favorite horror movie, The Shining. Kubrick uses the zooming to show comprehension. When someone wakes up, it zooms out as their world is getting larger, when someone is going to bed it zooms in to show theirs is getting smaller. When someone is becoming either enlightened (albeit, to a bad thing), the camera zooms in to show their focus is narrowing. The camera also zooms in when someone’s going crazy, probably for the same thing – they’re beginning to live inside their own head. Now for some trivia from the director commentary on the blu-ray of this movie (I’m doing this from memory): the whole time they were filming, Danny Lloyd (the kid, also named Danny) didn’t know he was in a horror movie. Also, the filming technique for the tricycle scenes used a new type of camera called the steadicam, and they had to modify it so it could be used so close to ground-level.

Hitchcock Loves Bikinis

Trivia: he was in all his movies. That’s the only one I know. Moving on. Hitchcock Loves Bikinis makes the point that everything is all about context. Plain and simple. He shows that two identical reactions can result in two different impressions based on context.

I’m not super familiar with his movies, but there’s one scene in The Birds that I do remember, and I’m actually focusing on it for it’s use (or lack thereof) of music. I love this scene, because now-a-days horror movies rely so heavily on music for suspense, but Hitchcock doesn’t use any, and I think it works as well, if not better. The double zoom at the end is pretty baller too.

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