Category Archives: Revisiting Classics

Midweek Line Up |10 Films with Inspirational Lighting

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The Cinema encyclopaedia is so vast, that just naming 10 extraordinary films under any category is likely to cause serious fights, even among close cinephile friends. Nevertheless, take a look at these classics mentioned in this list of films with some great use of light to enhance the film, featuring works of Terence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, and even David Fincher. Despite missing many names, this list is a good place to start studying the effect of lighting on cinema.

Find the list here: 10 Films with Inspirational Lightning

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A Shot of Short | Presto (Doug Sweetland/Pixar)

This delightful film is about Presto, the magician and Alec, his rabbit in a hat who plots revenge against the overbearing and cruel magician. While the rabbit in a hat trick brings Presto great fame and fortune, Alec is left to languish in a cage, a carrot just out of reach.

Alec is decides not to take Presto’s abuse any longer and rebels giving the magician a taste of his own mean spirited medicine. The rabbit is determined to get the last laugh at the expense of his demanding employer. The film is filled with slapstick, magic hats, vaudevillian antics, all in five minutes of screen time.

When searching for the style of the short, Sweetland decided that it should be like Tom and Jerry with Presto in the Tom role and Alec in the Jerry role. There was a melding of the old and the new.

It wasn’t Sweetland’s original intent to bring the feel of old style cartoons into this film until he found his story not only called for it but would thrive because of it. He found that the art of directing an animated film was something like “boot camp” where he would have to shape and refine his vision.

Through hours of work Presto morphed from the amiable magician to the comic antagonist with the kind of relationship with Alec that would bring to mind classic pairs like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. They were meant to be antagonists, to do battle and once again the rabbit was going to gain the upper hand.

– via www.filmschoolrejects.com

A Shot of Short | Big Business (Hal Roach)

For many contemporary audiences, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy exist more as archetypes than memorable performers in and of themselves. The Laurel and Hardy comedies had an undeniable influence on mismatched comedy duos throughout the twentieth century, ranging from Abbott and Costello and the Warner Brothers cartoons to the Honeymooners and, derivatively, The Flintstones. Many of their catchphrases have been ingrained into popular culture so completely that they have been unknowingly attributed to later sources  (most notably Homer Simpson’s iconic “D’oh”). Before succeeding in the sound era, however, Laurel and Hardy were masters of the silent slapstick comedy short as a team with Director-Producer Hal Roach.

Big Business, a short silent released in what many consider to be the last real year of the silent era, showed how, unlike many of their silent film contemporaries, Laurel and Hardy were able to successfully make the transition to the sound era by relying heavily on primarily visual and physical comedy. The plot is the kind of simple material oft found in comedy shorts; Stan and Ollie are Christmas tree salesmen in California who enter into tit-for-tat rallies of escalating hijinks with a would-be customer.

The appeal to audiences of all ages is apparent in the cartoonish gags for which the pair are so well-known, due in no small part to Laurel’s lead creative role on the writing team, frequently challenging his co-writers to one-up one another to even more ridiculous and hysterical bits. The film was entered into the National Film Registry in 1992 and retains the goofball charm it held for audiences around the world.

Courtesy: www.tasteofcinema.com

Tuesday Treat| THR’s 1967-review of The Graduate

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I have watched this Mike Nichols’ movie and read the Charles Webb’s book. I am a fan of both, and partial to neither. Today is the 48th anniversary of the movie hitting the screens and The Hollywood Reporter has dug out its review of it from back then. We are so thrilled they did. Yep. Absolutely. Thank You!

There is nothing about this film that does not warrant justified praise in multiple superlative terms. The writing, direction, acting, editing and sound are all complementary to each other and it is the mark of a skilled and aware director like Mike Nichols that he has combined all of these to create frames speak to the audience. A special mention to the immensely profound songs performed by Simon & Garfunkel. They add another dimension to the shape and form of Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman), creating a character who is in equal parts sympathy-inducing and exasperating.

Friday Fun Fact about The Graduate

Hoffman is incomparable as the graduate, born to high-society, suburban parents, getting visibly pulled and pushed around by the conflicts around him and inside him. His classic seduction by his father’s partner’s wife, Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) is now the stuff of legends. But he falls head over heels in love with her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross). More confusion ensues. The climax of the film is what defines the film. We think it is definitely among the top movie endings in the brief but vast history of cinema. We wouldn’t want to ruin the film for you if you haven’t watched it, but let’s just say, the adage “winning the battle does not mean one has won the war.”

As you can see, we cannot stop gushing. We hope you enjoy reading this review.

‘Graduate’ Will Benefit From Word-of-Mouth Plugs.” 

 

 

His Master’s Voice | Sergei Eisenstein

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Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (1898 – 1948)

Soviet Russian film director and film theorist

Pioneer in the theory and practice of montage (film editing)

Films of note: Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925), October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928), Alexander Nevsky (1938), Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Roger Ebert’s Review)

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Back in 1982, Steven Spielberg, who had made a mark with ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Jaws’ and more recently, launched Harrison Ford as the cocky but immensely lovable Indiana Jones in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, made a movie about friendship between a human boy and an alien lost on our planet. I cannot count the number of times I have watched ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’, but I can tell you that it made me whoop with joy and weep with sorrow every time I watched this bittersweet story unfold.

While I have never doubted the greatness of the movie, I have often heard people say that ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ is a good film, but definitely not a great film. Fair enough; to each his own. But I came across this review of the film by the phenomenal film critic Roger Ebert, and I felt the desperate need to share it.

Ebert, in this review, writes to his grandchildren, aged 7 and 4, about the time they all watched E.T. together. He is simultaneously humbled and impressed with how much more he understood this already-favourite film because of the reactions of his grand kids to it.

Sharing the review from rogerebert.com


September 14, 1997 

Dear Raven and Emil:

Sunday we sat on the big green couch and watched “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” together with your mommy and daddy. It was the first time either of you had seen it, although you knew a little of what to expect because we took the “E.T.” ride together at the Universal tour. I had seen the movie lots of times since it came out in 1982, so I kept one eye on the screen and the other on the two of you. I wanted to see how a boy on his fourth birthday, and a girl who had just turned 7 a week ago, would respond to the movie.

Well, it “worked” for both of you, as we say in Grandpa Roger’s business.

Raven, you never took your eyes off the screen–not even when it looked like E.T. was dying and you had to scoot over next to me because you were afraid.

Emil, you had to go sit on your dad’s knee a couple of times, but you never stopped watching, either. No trips to the bathroom or looking for lost toys: You were watching that movie with all of your attention.

The early scenes show a spaceship landing, and they suggest that a little creature has been left behind. The ship escapes quickly after men in pickup trucks come looking for it. Their headlights and flashlights make visible beams through the foggy night, and you remembered the same effect during the ride at Universal. And the keys hanging from their belts jangle on the soundtrack. It’s how a lost little extraterrestrial would experience it.

Then there are shots of a suburban house, sort of like the one you live in, with a wide driveway and a big backyard. A little boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) is in the yard when he thinks he sees or hears something. We already know that it’s E.T.

The camera watches Elliott moving around. And Raven, that’s when you asked me, “Is this E.T.’s vision?” And I said, yes, we were seeing everything now from E.T.’s point of view. And I thought you’d asked a very good question, because most kids your age wouldn’t have noticed that the camera had a point of view–that we were seeing everything from low to the ground, as a short little creature would view it, and experiencing what he (or she) would see after wandering out of the woods on a strange planet.

While we were watching, I realized how right you were to ask that question. The whole movie is based on what moviemakers call “point of view.” Almost every single important shot is seen either as E.T. would see it, or as Elliott would see it. And things are understood as they would understand them. There aren’t any crucial moments where the camera pulls back and seems to be a grownup. We’re usually looking at things through a child’s eye–or an alien’s.

When Elliott and E.T. see each other for the first time, they both jump back in fright and surprise, and let out yelps. We see each of them from the other’s point of view. When the camera stands back to show a whole scene, it avoids showing it through adult eyes. There’s a moment, for example, when Elliott’s mom (Dee Wallace Stone) is moving around doing some housework, and never realizes that E.T. is scurrying around the room just out of her line of sight. The camera stays back away from her. We don’t see her looking this way and that, because it’s not about which way she’s looking.

Later, we do get one great shot that shows what she sees: She’s looking in Elliott’s closet at all of his stuffed toys lined up, and doesn’t realize one of the “toys” is actually E.T. We all laughed at that shot, but it was an exception; basically we looked out through little eyes, not big ones. (For example, in the scene where they take E.T. trick-or-treating with a sheet over his head, and we can see out like he can through the holes in the sheet.)

Later, in the scenes that really worried you, Raven, the men in the trucks come back. They know E.T. is in Elliott’s house, and they’re scientists who want to examine the alien creature. But there isn’t a single moment when they use grownup talk and explain what they’re doing. We only hear small pieces of their dialogue, as Elliott might overhear it.

By then we know Elliott and E.T. are linked mentally, so Elliott can sense that E.T. is dying. Elliott cries out to the adults to leave E.T. alone, but the adults don’t take him seriously. A kid knows what that feels like. And then, when Elliott gets his big brother to drive the getaway car, and the brother says, “I’ve never driven in forward before!” you could identify with that. Kids are always watching their parents drive, and never getting to do it themselves.

We loved the scene where the bicycles fly. We suspected it was coming, because E.T. had taken Elliott on a private bike flight earlier, so we knew he could do it. I was thinking that the chase scene before the bikes fly was a little too long, as if Steven Spielberg (who made the film) was trying to build up too much unnecessary suspense. But when those bikes took off, what a terrific moment! I remember when I saw the movie at Cannes; even the audience there, people who had seen thousands of movies, let out a whoop at that moment.

Then there’s the scene at the end. E.T. has phoned home, and the spaceship has come to get him. He’s in the woods with Elliott. The gangplank on the ship comes down, and in the doorway we can see another creature like E.T. standing with the light behind.

Emil, you said, “That’s E.T.’s mommy!” And then you paused a second, and said, “Now how did I know that?”

We all laughed, because you made it sound funny, as you often do–you’re a natural comedian. But remembering it now, I asked myself–how did Emil know that? It could have been E.T.’s daddy, or sister, or the pilot of the ship. But I agree with you it probably was his mommy, because she sounded just like a mommy as she made the noise of calling E.T.

And then I thought, the fact that you knew that was a sign of how well Steven Spielberg made his movie. At 4, you are a little young to understand “point of view,” but you are old enough to react to one. For the whole movie, you’d been seeing almost everything through the eyes of E.T. or Elliott. By the last moments, you were identifying with E.T. And who did he miss the most? Who did he want to see standing in the spaceship door for him? His mommy.

Of course, maybe Steven Spielberg didn’t see it the same way, and thought E.T. only seemed like a kid and was really 500 years old. That doesn’t matter, because Spielberg left it open for all of us. That’s the sign of a great filmmaker: He only explains what he has to explain, and with a great movie the longer it runs, the less has to be explained. Some other filmmaker who wasn’t so good might have had subtitles saying, “E.T.? Are you out there? It’s Mommy!” But that would have been dumb.

And it would have deprived you, Emil, of the joy of knowing it was E.T.’s mommy, and the delight of being able to tell the rest of us.

Well, that’s it for this letter. We had a great weekend, kids. I was proud of how brave you both were during your first pony rides. And proud of what good movie critics you are, too.

Love, Grandpa Roger

Friday Fun Fact | The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan)

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The Sixth Sense, most popularly known for the line “I see dead people”, was filmed in sequence, and this particular line was voted as the #100 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007, and as the #44 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100). It is one of only four horror films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture; the other three were The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs(1991).

The director, M. Night Shyamalan, deliberately used the color red to depict when the world of the living and the world of the dead would crossover. If red was in a scene where that was not the case, he would change it. Look at the following cases in point:

  • The door to the church where Cole and Malcolm first interact is red, and the statue Cole takes from the church has a red robe.
  • The doorknob to Malcolm’s basement is red.
  • Cole’s school uniform jacket is reddish (maroon); he is often approached by the dead people while at school and/or wearing his uniform.
  • Anna wears a red dress at the restaurant where Malcolm is late for their anniversary.
  • When Malcolm is watching his wife Anna in the shower and notices her prescription in the cabinet, it’s in a reddish-brown container.
  • Lynn Sear’s nail polish is red when she is pointing out the white spots (ghosts) on all the pictures of Cole in the hallway.
  • Cole’s ‘free association’ writing is in red ink; the writing presumably records things he’s heard from the dead.
  • At the birthday party all the visible balloons are pastel-colored, except for the red balloon that floats up the stairway and leads Cole to the small closet.
  • Cole is wearing a red sweater when he is attacked by the spirit in the closet.
  • Cole’s blanket at the hospital is reddish (pink) when he confesses to Malcolm that he sees dead people.
  • The birthday gift Anna gives to Sean is in a red box and she is wearing red when the two of them embrace and Malcolm breaks the shop door.
  • When Malcolm listens to a taped session with Vincent, as he turns up the cassette recorder volume the control numbers go from white to red.
  • Kyra Collins appears in Cole’s fort, and the blanket covering it is red. The box containing Kyra’s VHS tape is trimmed in red and has a red-lined interior. The outfit worn by Mrs. Collins at Kyra’s wake is bright red, and she is the only person wearing a bright color.
  • In the video, the soup Mrs. Collins brings to Kyra is tomato soup, and the bottle of pine cleaner Mrs. Collins adds to the soup has a red cap on it.
  • The bicyclist Cole sees next to the car is wearing a red helmet.
  • The blanket that Anna Crowe covers herself with while watching the wedding video is red.

Reputedly, Haley Joel Osment got the role of Cole Sear for one of three reasons: First, he was best for it. Second, he was the only boy at auditions who wore a tie. Third, M. Night Shyamalan was surprised when he asked Haley Joel Osment if he read his part. Osment replied, “I read it three times last night.” Shyamalan was impressed saying, “Wow, you read your part three times?” To which Osment replied, “No, I read *the script* three times.”

Friday Fun Fact | Terminator 2: Judgment Day – James Cameron

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the first film to have a production budget of more than US$100 million dollars. When the project was first announced in late 1984, the projected budget was $12 million. The final budget was $102 million. With the film’s domestic box office adjusted for inflation, it is the top grossing R-rated action film of all time. This was the first film to break $300 million at the “international” box office.

Given Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s $15-million salary and his total of 700 words of dialogue, he was paid $21,429 per word. “Hasta la vista, baby” cost $85,716.

During filming, a lot of situations emerged when the local citizens confused the movie sets for actual locations. A female passer-by actually wandered onto the biker bar set thinking it was real, despite walking past all the location trucks, cameras and lights. Seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in the bar dressed only in boxer shorts, she wondered aloud what was going on, only for Schwarzenegger to reply that it was male stripper night. Another time, local residents in Lakeview Terrace held a protest outside the Medical Center when it was dressed up to be the Pescadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. They quickly realized it was in fact only a film set. And then, the steel mill effects were so convincing, some former workers from the plant (which had been closed for over 10 years) thought it was up and running again.

A Shot of Short : Lumiere Brothers’ First Films

Ever wondered what the first films looked like? They were clearly so new as a medium that the audience, as well as the camera owners went beserk trying to find out everything that a movie camera could do; exactly the way you and I went crazy checking out each of the features of our first smartphones or DSLRs.

The Lumiere Brothers ( Auguste and Louis) were the first filmmakers in history. They patented the cinematograph, which allowed simultaneous viewing by multiple parties. Their first film, Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon (Workers leaving the Lumiere Factory), shot in 1894, is considered the first true motion picture.

True to the idea behind the invention of movie camera, the motive was not to tell a story, but to capture movement. That it became a popular means of storytelling is another piece of history.

This clip also includes another short of a speeding train approaching a platform. Considering people had never seen anything like the moving pictures ever before, at the first ever screening of this short, they jumped out of their seats, afraid that the train would run over them. Watch this video containing the first few films of the Lumiere Brothers, also considered the first ever movies in the world.

A Shot of Short: The Hand (Ruka) | Jiri Trnka


The Hand is Czech animator Jiri Trnka‘s last and greatest work. He used puppets and stop-motion technique to make a bold statement against state repression. The film is about a sculptor visited by a huge hand, which seeks the completion of a sculpture of itself. By rejecting the imposition, the artist is constantly pursued by the hand, ending with induced suicide and the hand officiating at his funeral. The Hand is considered a protest against the conditions imposed by the Czechoslovak communist state to artistic creation.  Although the film initially had no problems with censorship (which Trnka blamed on carelessness or simple ignorance), after his death copies were confiscated and banned from public display in Czechoslovakia for two decades.

Jiri Trnka was a Czech puppet-maker, illustrator, motion-picture animator and film director. In addition to his extensive career as an illustrator, especially of children’s books, he is best known for his work in animation with puppets, which began in 1946. Most of his movies were intended for adults and many were adaptations of literary works. Because of his influence in animation, he was called “the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe”, despite the great differences between their works. He received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustrators in 1968, recognizing his career contribution to children’s literature.

In view of the current stir at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, we share this short in solidarity with the students there.