Month: November, 2012

Top ten memorable scenes: #9 Pan’s Labyrinth

At number nine is the pale man scene from Guillermo del Toro’s excellent Pan’s Labyrinth.  This film was a pleasant surprise to me, but lot more brutal than I was expecting … not such a bad thing considering its subject matter.  Pan’s Labyrinth is a visceral journey through Ofelia’s (played by Ivana Baquero) troubled mind and gives a very thoughtful account of the way she deals with the horrors of war.  I chose this scene from many that were extraordinary in this film.  Despite being constructed around the classic “look behind you!” trope this simple scene is so much more when viewed in relation to the rest of the film.  It cinematically paints Ofelia’s mental allegory for her real world desperation, her struggle with temptation, and the evil that ensues.  I found the pale man to be a unique yet familar horror, and one that twangs on the nightmarish “I see you at all times” motif.  You can see the clip here.

Top ten memorable scenes: #10 Mission:Impossible

I was daydreaming the other day, replaying in my mind some of my favourite movie scenes. So I thought I’d attempt to offer my top ten. These scenes are not necessarily from good films, but each scene is memorable for one reason or another, and has made an indelible impression on me. With so many to choose from it will be difficult keeping it to ten … but here goes. Starting with number 10 and counting down over the next few weeks:

#10: The cable drop sequence in Mission: Impossible

Brian De Palma’s foray into the Mission: Impossible franchise is easily the best of the four films to date. Despite many a movie goer’s recent propensity to dislike Tom Cruise, I think that he is excellent in this film. Mission: Impossible is actually quite a good film and certainly parts of it are excellent, like this scene. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is literally hanging by a thread as he is is lowered by Franz Kieger (Jean Reno) into a room full of intruder alerting sensors in this, the most memorable, and I would argue iconic, scene of the modern spy/action genre. The hero, his sidekick, an oblivious employee, a rat and a betraying bead of sweat, make up the characters in this tension filled scene. The scene itself is not a complex one and the key to its success is nothing groundbreaking. But it is the precision to which it is constructed that makes it work so well. This is a scene built around what it lacks: a backing track, gratuitous use of sound, over zealous camera movements. Yes, this is an exercise in restraint combined with a rythm of tension and ease.

Ngati and communication

Just uploaded an abstract from “Ngati, and alternatives to the dominant model of communication in a Western society”, an essay I wrote back in 2009. You can read it here.

20121121-084035.jpg

Whip It, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Ruby Sparks

These are the last three films I have seen and I thought I’d give a couple of brief thoughts. All three have large dollops of “quirky” with a twist of romance and comedy. For the most part they are all entertaining films, although none gallop into fresh fields, choosing instead to head down the well trodden path of awkward youth. I had big hopes for Ruby Sparks whose directors, Dayton and Faris succeeded in winning me over with their last outing, Little Miss Sunshine. Unfortunately things have changed in the last six years and Ruby Sparks, though an interesting premise, misses the mark by quite some way … and the jury is out on Paul Dano as an actor. Safety Not Guaranteed, likewise is built on an intriguing premise but ultimately fails to deliver. Both seem to have visions of grandeur but get bogged down in production gimmicks. Whip It is hands down the better film. Barrymore’s directorial debut delivers a no nonsense plot that has a protagonist with genuine depth. All three try hard to be original and endearing but Whip It succeeds where as the other two, entertaining as they are, sink under their own weight.

20121119-203622.jpg

Colours in movie posters from 1914 to the present

Here’s an interesting study. Vijay Pandurangan has analysed the colours in movie posters from 1914 to the present. Here’s his graph (with the most recent years at the bottom). Look at the increase in cyan and reduction in magenta in recent years. Indicative of colour grading technologies and the trend towards a cooler palette contrasted with warm oranges. Not too sure what happened in 1924.

20121107-220055.jpg

Exams over, now onto thesis … and Aronofsky’s films

It’s so nice that exams are over. They always feel like an exercise in memorisation rather than anything else, and my memory has never been that good … or I have a lazy memory, I can never tell which. Now that I’ve dispensed with film noir I’m starting to solidify my area for thesis research which you can see here. It’s looking more and more likely that I will be focussing on films by Darron Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan).  If conflict between nature and science, and a heavily stylised and abrasive examination of paranoia is your bag then I highly recommend Aronofsky’s first feature film Pi (1998). Imagine Copola’s The Conversation with a large dollop of David Lynch on the top. I revisited Pi again, after over a decade and found it to be more rewarding on second viewing. However, this may be because I am a more informed viewer than I was fourteen years ago. It really is an amazing film.

20121107-195726.jpg

Pi (1998), directed by Darron Aronofsky