“Been There, Seen That”
THE MIDDLE SEAT: Column by Steve Matuszak
Let’s talk this week about something that every single movie-goer experiences – artistic hijacked redundancy. Sorry, I wanted to sound very artsy and hip, allow me to use a clearer phrase – shots and edits in movies that are endlessly recycled.
And what’s really funny is, apparently the editors, directors, producers and more all think we don’t know that they are STEALING the idea from a film they have seen before.
To all who make movies, please STOP using the following techniques:
The individual or couple arrives at a climactic moment, argument, geographical area, etc. and, when they stop, the camera (likely operated by guy with a steadycam) moves round them in a circle as they turn their heads to look around.
• Yes, it gives a sense of movement and energy. It’s a good move. But it is has been DONE! Move on and find a different way of achieving the same emotional and dramatic effect! One word – LAZY!
Beginning a movie with downward facing, slow moving shot over the tops of the buildings in Manhattan!
• Is anybody else sick of this establishing shot for a film. I have seen the tops of NY buildings more than King Kong! Show me something new – maybe the sides or alleys! Anything besides those $%@#! roof tops!!!
At the climactic moment when a character feels the utmost pain of their life, booming up in the air away from them as they look up and outstretch their arms!
• It was brilliant in “Platoon”, still looked good in “Philadelphia”, but it is OVER – FREAKIN MOVE ON!! And stop adding in the circling from #1 while you are booming up. At least stop making the actor rear their head back and scream! I can’t stand it! If you are a director, and you imagined shooting the last few sentences I just wrote as a scene, and you imagined using that technique to shoot me yelling up at the sky while booming away .. I’d like you to know that I hate you. P.S. – must you always add rain?
As any scene ends that has something circular in it, focusing on that circular object (including person’s head) and then cross-fading from that to the moon!
• I think this one speaks to itself. We get that you had that planned. We are proud. You are very clever. Now … go do something original!
Suggesting a scene is from the past by making it B&W, grainy, shaky or anything else we have seen before – or, editing to that scene by a wavy, watery effect.
• Just stop. Please. For everyone’ sake. We GET that it is in the past because the actor’s hair and makeup are different. We get it’s a dream.
Speaking of dreams, having everything that happened be just a dream by having the actor wake up and sit up suddenly.
• You wonder why people go nuts and hurt other people in a Burger King – there’s your answers, actors waking up from dreams, face into the camera, sweating.
Moving the camera all over the place, fast or slow, in any way ever done before.
• OK, why so generic? Because, there is good and bad here:
• Tony Scott – “Man on Fire”. He used movement in a unique way along with color filters, editing and sound. Brilliant, created a whole new way of seeing a narrative through cinematography. Tony knows what he’s doing, he is a professional. You – Joe Smith with a Sony HD camera you got for Christmas, put it on a tripod!
• Danny Boyle – “Slumdog Millionaire”. He raced us through Mumbai as if we were racing ourselves.
• Tom Tykwer – “Run Lola Run”. This guy literally invented a new way to edit and tell linear story.
• I could go on and on – “Memento”, etc. Point is, there are innovative ways of using movement and sound as editing features.
• “The Blair Witch Project” – made me throw up. ‘Nuff said.
• Bruckheimer – now enough has been said.
• “Spider Man 3” & “Transformers” – In the fights I have no idea what is going on. Slow down, let me see what the $@!*& is happening!
Horror Films. We think there is going to be someone around the corner and then .. to our relief there isn’t. Pause, then the actor turns around (or closes the refrigerator door) and BAM – there’s the scary person!
• Yes, we get that you had us fooled. We relaxed and then you GOT US! Well, I should say, you used to get us. We all know that, even though it was only the cat, just wait a second and right after the “family pet made the noise relief” you will try and scare us.
Using nudity so there is nudity in the movie but has nothing to do with the story.
Examples – BAD:
• “Open Water”. What the $@!&*@! Why did she have to be nude in bed alone. What did that tell us about her, her relationship with her husband, her scuba diving? You did it to sell tickets. Lame.
• HBO, Showtime & Cinemax. Every series you make. GREAT series! Just “no reason nudity” (lately – Spartacus & Game of Thrones).
Examples – GOOD:
• The Hairy Ape – Eugene O’Neil. The guy playing the Ape HAS to be nude. It’s integral to the story. Put him in shadow so you don’t see, or show, whatever, but it’s INTEGRAL.
• “The Piano”. Because it matters to the character, the other character, the plot, etc etc etc.
• We could debate all day whether you even need to ever SHOW the nudity, but .. point is, if you do, it should be for a reason, because it’s all the audience will look at and care/think about while it’s on screen.
Coming from far away to someone(s) in a window (home, spaceship, etc.) and then, punching seamlessly through glass to action and people close up inside.
• Yes it’s an amazing technical effect and is VERY cool. But I have seen it so many times I walk into glass doors now I am so inoculated to it!
Confession, this was a blast to write. So please, join in and tell me ones I didn’t think of. These were literally just the first ten off the top of my head. I want to hear from YOU! Come on, what have you seen more times than you can count? Bring it!