Here’s an amazing collection of behind-the-scenes shots of the Empire Strikes Back cast and crew. Although you wouldn’t know it from the smiles and off-camera mirth that it was a difficult film to make.
Quick, before it’s gone, check out Pulp Fiction, re-cut in chronological order:
Right after I saw the film for the first time, I tried to reconstruct the events in my head as they would have happened. It hurt. Later, when it came out on DVD, it was an easy matter of skipping to the correct scenes. I have to say it made for an uninteresting experience, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like Pulp Fiction is as thematically deep as say, an Ingmar Bergman film, or as avant garde as something sprung from the mind of David Lynch. Quentin Tarantino just isn’t that kind of filmmaker. What you see are three episodic short films that have a tenuous link to each other: Vincent and Jules and the briefcase, Vincent and Mia Wallace’s date night, and Butch and the gold watch.
I recall reading somewhere that Tarantino’s intention was to cut the film chronologically, but that his co-writer Roger Avery or perhaps his editor (and subsequently frequent collaborator until her timely death), Sally Menke, convinced him to make the switcheroo.
The conceit is gimmicky, but I’ll be damned it works. You see more of Samuel Jackson’s iconic character and his radical transformation becomes a much stronger denouement to the film. Here, Jules drops out of the picture before the midway point, never to be seen again. I suppose the film could have ended right there and it would still have resonance as its own, dark and quirky gangster comedy.
Let’s face it, most Xmas music doesn’t represent anything new or artistically interesting. Classics and traditional songs tend to be stale in their didacticism. And the holiday-neutral tripe is nothing more than bland confection.
This is perhaps the greatest artistic expression of the holiday. Even if you disagree with the intent or meaning, this song has something to say. Listen.
The song concludes with the best lyric:
Hallelujah Noël, bet it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve
So the world wide computer web network is abuzz with this, the teaser trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel film with the foreboding title Prometheus:
OK. No need to reach for a box of tissues. Yeah, it’s good eye candy and has some potentially terrifying moments, but not much else to go on. The film’s release is several months away, however it’s been talked about for several years. I’m just hoping it’s a great ride, full of surprise and terror and excitement, and doesn’t get gunked up with a moralizing “don’t mess with nature” story.
For me, Christmastime is an annual learning event.
It used to be all about travel and family and large group drama. Or contrived religious observances that had little meaning or fascination for me. Or a mad dash around the shopping circus to identify, locate and acquire stuff. Or solitary—and yes, welcome—plunges into days-long alcohol binges.
Then one day, I said, “Fuck it. Christmas is whatever I want it to be.” And every year, while I feel the pull of family drama, or commercialism, or boozy solipsism, I get to learn this lesson all over again.
In other words, make your holiday holy to yourselves. Otherwise, don’t bother and just sleep in.
New Yorkers can make subway commuting utter hell, but on those rare occasions when a spark of a New Yorker’s true character comes out to wake us from our blank faced torpor, it can be an amazingly affirming experience why this is the greatest city in the world.
Yesterday, two OWSers, young white dudes, boarded my subway car. Immediately one start his shpiel at an unpleasantly loud volume. If you’ve heard the beggars and the bible freaks on the subway, you’ll know the tone. I don’t want to hear this shit on my way home. No one does, but especially from a yahoo like this guy.
Anyway, he goes on about how OWS got forcibly ejected from Zuccotti the other day, 200 people were arrested, including a “NY Councilman, a Mr. Jimenez who represents… I don’t know… somewhere where they speak Spanish.”
“Somewhere where they speak Spanish” Huh??? This asshat just glibly dismissed oh, around 30% of the city’s population. Not to mention made the racist assumption that because Jimenez is a Hispanic name, he must of course represent a Spanish-speaking constituency.
I wanted to call this little shit out on this, but figured he’d turn it into some race-baiting argument. Turns out I didn’t have to, a black man on the car starts telling him that his comment was rude and offensive. “How can you say that?” he says. A older Hispanic woman next to him is smiling and nodding in agreement.
I turn and to hear more protests from others on the car. A young woman in that richly expressive Hispano-urban accent saying something about him not “knowing shit about New York.” A few Spanish curses from somewhere.
Meanwhile, instead of retreating to another car, our genius is getting irritatingly defensive: “Offended? Who’s offended? Raise your hands if you were offended.” This just irked more of the passengers. One woman, bless her heart, pointed right at the fool, looked him in the eye and said, “He is a City Councilman. You should have KNOWN where he’s from!” I started clapping. More cheers.
The subway arrived at my stop and unfortunately had to go. I would have loved to find out what transpired. On my way out the door, clapping as I go, I heard more applause behind me.
I fell in love with my fellow New Yorkers once again. I loved how they called this useful idiot out on his ignorance, refusing to tolerate his self-righteous tone. New York City may not be the freest city on the planet, but certainly the proudest. Here’s to you, fellow 7th Ave subway riders.
Find out if you can sit through 8-plus minutes of one of the most painfully overripe dialogue clichés:
At first, it’s excruciating. Then it’s sad. Then at around 6 minutes it gets really, really funny hearing it dubbed in a Chinese film. Even the venerable David Mamet stands accused, employing it in his otherwise excellent Spartan.
I was trying to see which film—at least in this compilation—was the first to use the line. It includes clips from Racing with the Moon with Sean Penn and Terminator, both from 1984. I wonder why this line gets so overused. In watching the clips, it’s obvious that in about 97% of the scenes it’s utterly unnecessary.
You know Stephen Tobolowsky, the actor? No? Remember Sammy Jenkiss?
Or how about Ned “Needle Nose” Ryerson?
Anyway, he’s been doing a fantastic podcast on /Film for about a year and a half now in which he tells very amusing, touching and inspiring stories about his life and career. Everything from wild times as a struggling young actor to classic movie moments on the set of Groundhog Day.
You’d think a b-list actor (in billing, certainly not talent) wouldn’t have that much to talk about. But Tobolowsky has resurrected the lost art of storytelling—every one plays a role in the drama, with foibles and success, pain and triumph. We fuck up. We succeed. We all have something to say. This guy just happens to do it exceptionally well.
Give it a listen.
IFC has published an exhaustive survey of the 50 greatest opening title sequences. More than just a list, each entry offers a well-written analysis along with behind-the-scenes technical details and an embedded video.
I especially loved the entry for #27 Taxi Driver (and also was amazed by the title sequence when I first saw the film):
There are only seven shots in the opening titles to “Taxi Driver.” Two of them are basically identical: Robert De Niro’s eyes in extreme close-up. The rest of the shots are things De Niro’s Travis Bickle sees out the windshield of his taxi. Dan Perri’s titles, and their emphasis on looks and looking, establish not only the mood of “Taxi Driver” but also its perspective. Whatever we’re going to see in the film to follow, we’re seeing through Travis’ eyes. And notice how he sees everything, too. The titles’ images of Manhattan are blurry or warped or slowed down, obscured by raindrops or tinted by color effects. The distorted imagery reflects the deranged mind observing it; he’s seeing things in a way that foreshadows his eventual mental breakdown. To us, it might look like an ordinary taxi passing through some sewer steam. To Travis, it’s a giant, lumbering beast passing through an enormous plume of Stygian vapors. This isn’t New York City; it’s Travis Bickle’s New York City. –MS
Interesting to note that, with a some exceptions such as Watchmen, very few on the list were from films made in the past decade. As expected, the celebrated Saul Bass is given due recognition as the best title sequence designer, back when there was more emphasis and reliance on the form to set up the story.
For more on title sequences, Art of the Title is a fascinating resource.
- graphic novel
- my movie
- thumbs up