Today in film theory: A thoughtful critique of “Bayhem”

Michael Bay, love him or hate him, is an auteur, a director with a definitive and immediately recognizable style that overshadows every film he produces. Every moment of, say, Transformers or Armageddon is coated in Bay’s fingerprints. His frenetic and explosive style has earned him an ignominious place in the film industry, but even more … Continue reading “Today in film theory: A thoughtful critique of “Bayhem””

Michael Bay, love him or hate him, is an auteur, a director with a definitive and immediately recognizable style that overshadows every film he produces. Every moment of, say, Transformers or Armageddon is coated in Bay’s fingerprints. His frenetic and explosive style has earned him an ignominious place in the film industry, but even more so than some acclaimed and successful directors, Bay’s signature “Bayhem” is unmistakably his.

As befitting a director of such wide consumption and reputation, film analyst Tony Zhou has produced an eight-minute video dissecting how Michael Bay works. His sweeping camera shots, intense angles, and shaking intensity are no mistake; they find root in such classic films as Star Wars and West Side Story. Whatever you think of Bay’s films, this video demonstrates that he is not a director who simply throws his movies together. His carnage is meticulous.

Michael Bay’s only film in our collection is Pearl Harbor (HU DVD 752), which is featured throughout this video. It’s not a terrific movie, but it’s arguably a good example of how Bay operates.

Newly unearthed first works shed light on famous directorial styles

Directors with large bodies of work often develop distinctive styles. Once you these signatures for the first time, their earlier films become exciting treasure hunts for glimpses of their trademarks yet to develop. You might get a glimpse of the Coen brothers yet to emerge, for example, when watching Blood Simple. If you enjoy playing … Continue reading “Newly unearthed first works shed light on famous directorial styles”

Directors with large bodies of work often develop distinctive styles. Once you these signatures for the first time, their earlier films become exciting treasure hunts for glimpses of their trademarks yet to develop. You might get a glimpse of the Coen brothers yet to emerge, for example, when watching Blood Simple. If you enjoy playing this game, you’re going to have a ball with two new short films that recently emerged online. They’re the first works by notable directors Tim Burton and Lars von Trier, and you can already see seeds of each of their styles taking root.

Burton’s film, a bizarre 1982 low-budget retelling of Hansel and Gretel with an all-Asian cast, it’s almost immediately noticeably his product. Though the production stark, Burton’s hand is evident, and the film resembles a live-action The Nightmare Before Christmas. The witch’s costume especially screams Burton-esque dark whimsy.

Von Trier’s short, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is a dialogue-less spot-motion adventure starring three bunnies that he directed at age 11. This one bears almost no resemblance to the psychosexual chaos that Lars von Trier would become notable for in the future, but like most of his films, it is totally inscrutable.

These are the earliest known works of both these directors, and they’re a great watch of fans of either. We imagine that first films by future great directors will be far easier to find, so it’s exciting to find weird gems like this lying around.

Science confirms that Paul Thomas Anderson is the master of your eyes

The intersection of science and art has always yielded fascinating insights. As much as filmmaking is an art that requires a carefully trained eye and excellent talent to pull off, scientific studies often find surprising and actionable evidence of how we process and respond to images. That might take some of the artistry out of … Continue reading “Science confirms that Paul Thomas Anderson is the master of your eyes”

The intersection of science and art has always yielded fascinating insights. As much as filmmaking is an art that requires a carefully trained eye and excellent talent to pull off, scientific studies often find surprising and actionable evidence of how we process and respond to images. That might take some of the artistry out of the process, but it tells us exciting things about the human brain.

This great example comes from The DIEM Project, which studies eye tracking of moving images. Researchers tracked the eyes of eleven people who watched the same clip from There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson is a gifted director, and he has a keen eye for composition; the selected portion combines long takes, close-ups, and tracking shots.

As you can see from the circles that represent where a person was looking, we are all immediately drawn to contrast, whether that’s a bright object in a dark room or a moving object in a static scene. The most interesting example might be the long shot of a car at the end of the clip. Even when the car is obscured by scenery, everyone’s eyes are focused tightly on the right edge where they expect the car to appear.

This video is a great demonstration of how a master filmmaker can command an audience’s attention with motion and composition. The next time you find yourself watching a static scene in a just-okay movie, you might wonder where the little eye circles would fall.

Learn the secrets of Disney animation in 3 minutes

Walt Disney once employed a team informally known as the “Nine Old Men,” nine of the greatest animators of all time and the artistic forces behind nearly the first forty years of Disney animation. If you watch classic Disney movies today, their bold and fluid animations are still astounding and a great artistic accomplishment. Two … Continue reading “Learn the secrets of Disney animation in 3 minutes”

Walt Disney once employed a team informally known as the “Nine Old Men,” nine of the greatest animators of all time and the artistic forces behind nearly the first forty years of Disney animation. If you watch classic Disney movies today, their bold and fluid animations are still astounding and a great artistic accomplishment. Two of Nine Old Men, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, explained the “12 basic principles” behind their iconic style in The Illusion of Life, a book that is now considered one of the most important animation reference works.

But let’s face it, this is about animation. You want to see it in motion, right?

Artist Cento Lodigiani put together a great 3-minute clip demonstrating each of the twelve principles, from basics like “staging” to advanced ideas like “follow through.” Lodigiani is not a Disney animator, but it’s easy to see how many of the illustrated principles apply to films like Snow White and Fantasia. Especially “secondary action,” which you can see at play in “Whistle While You Work.”

There’s of course more than twelve principles to quality animation, but this is a fun, non-technical peek into what goes through the minds of great animators.

Filmmaker IQ whets your appetite with a history of movie trailers

We love Filmmaker IQ and their video crash courses on the history of film. In the past we’re posted about their lesson on aspect ratios. This time around, they’ve prepared a history of movie trailers. You can either follow along in the video (embedded above) or read the article for roughly the same content. Trailers … Continue reading “Filmmaker IQ whets your appetite with a history of movie trailers”

We love Filmmaker IQ and their video crash courses on the history of film. In the past we’re posted about their lesson on aspect ratios. This time around, they’ve prepared a history of movie trailers.

You can either follow along in the video (embedded above) or read the article for roughly the same content. Trailers started as interstitial ads that played after short films, but thanks in large part to companies like the National Screen service, they soon became their own thriving industry.

We won’t re-iterate too much more, because the video from Filmmaker IQ is exhaustive and worth watching. If you’ve ever been curious about when the first trailers started to make it big (would you have guessed as early as 1913?), this lesson is for you. Take 15 minutes out of your Sunday and give it a watch!

Footage surfaces from Jerry Lewis’s disaster-piece The Day the Clown Cried

Perhaps the most notorious film in Hollywood lore is The Day the Clown Cried, the unreleased magnum opus of comedian-director Jerry Lewis. Intended as a moving drama about a clown living during the Holocaust, The Day the Clown Cried is by eyewitness accounts an unmitigated disaster. Harry Shearer, one of the few to see the … Continue reading “Footage surfaces from Jerry Lewis’s disaster-piece The Day the Clown Cried”

Perhaps the most notorious film in Hollywood lore is The Day the Clown Cried, the unreleased magnum opus of comedian-director Jerry Lewis. Intended as a moving drama about a clown living during the Holocaust, The Day the Clown Cried is by eyewitness accounts an unmitigated disaster. Harry Shearer, one of the few to see the final cut, described it as “drastically wrong.” Lewis and the screenwriters were reportedly embarrassed by the film and barred its release; to this day, the 87-year-old Lewis refuses to discuss it in interviews.

Despite this, clips of the film have emerged on the Internet. A few months ago, footage from a television documentary about The Day the Clown Cried hit YouTube, containing at least several minutes of a rough cut from the movie. This week, even more footage hit the web, though this latest 15-minute batch consists primarily of behind-the-scenes segments. Still, it’s fascinating that this footage somehow saw the light of the day considering Jerry Lewis’s insistence that the film remains buried.

Perhaps one day we’ll see the final product, but for now, we’ll have to settle for this.

Today in “Is this the future of film?”: Is Making a Scene the future of film?

If we need more evidence that digital distribution is changing the way we make and consume films, look no further than Making a Scene. It’s unusual short film series released by, of all publications, The New York Times. Each film in the series, directed by Oscar-winner Janusz Kamiński, lasts less than a minute and features … Continue reading “Today in “Is this the future of film?”: Is Making a Scene the future of film?”

If we need more evidence that digital distribution is changing the way we make and consume films, look no further than Making a Scene. It’s unusual short film series released by, of all publications, The New York Times. Each film in the series, directed by Oscar-winner Janusz Kamiński, lasts less than a minute and features a performance by a notable celebrity including Robert Redford or Cate Blanchett.

It’s an odd choice for a film project, but it’s the sort of experimental format that would only really make sense online. The phrase “independent film” tends to evoke a certain type of art house material, but increasingly, projects like Making a Scene are redefining what to expect as we continue into a bold new era of filmmaking.

Film Studies for Free explores fan culture, and so can you!

We love Film Studies for Free, a blog that curates links to openly accessible scholarly film resources. You might notice them in the blogroll on the right-hand side of this page (they’re a little below the Music Library… keep looking!) We wanted to highlight a particularly good recent posting from FSFF about researching fan culture. … Continue reading “Film Studies for Free explores fan culture, and so can you!”

We love Film Studies for Free, a blog that curates links to openly accessible scholarly film resources. You might notice them in the blogroll on the right-hand side of this page (they’re a little below the Music Library… keep looking!)

We wanted to highlight a particularly good recent posting from FSFF about researching fan culture. So much scholarly ink is spilled over movie-making we often forget how integral fan and media reactions can be in the film world too. FSFF’s index is quite comprehensive, focusing primarily on print film publications but also research methods for studying fan culture.

This isn’t exactly easy reading, but it’s a valuable guide for anyone interested in researched film fan and media culture. Maybe you didn’t even know that was something you could research until now!

The Farce is strong with this video: old blooper reel from Star Wars unearthed

It’s nearly customary at this point for movies to include gag reels, either as a bonus during the credits or as a special feature on the DVD release. Hilarious as they may be, outtakes from The Avengers are very much expected. That’s why it’s so unique that this new blooper montage from the original Star … Continue reading “The Farce is strong with this video: old blooper reel from Star Wars unearthed”

It’s nearly customary at this point for movies to include gag reels, either as a bonus during the credits or as a special feature on the DVD release. Hilarious as they may be, outtakes from The Avengers are very much expected.

That’s why it’s so unique that this new blooper montage from the original Star Wars recently appeared on the web. The movie is 36 years old, and we’re still finding footage from discarded takes to put online. None of the cast or crew likely expected that this would ever see the light of day, so it’s fun to see their candid reactions – especially Alec Guinness’s panicked reaction upon realizing he’s in a movie with a Wookie. The highlight is easily the botched Stormtrooper invasion that ends with a significant chunk of the set being destroyed.

No doubt that more of these clips will be unearthed from the Lucasfilm archive as the release of the next movie in the franchise approaches. Enjoy this fun little piece of film history!

Why widescreen? All aspect ratio questions answered in 18 minutes

The average media consumer is probably familiar with two aspect ratios, 4:3 and 16:9. Those are the dimensions commonly associated with standard-definition and high-definition TVs, respectively. Most media we consume has been formatted into one of these ratios for the sake of home viewing, but as you’d know if you’ve ever had to watch a … Continue reading “Why widescreen? All aspect ratio questions answered in 18 minutes”

The average media consumer is probably familiar with two aspect ratios, 4:3 and 16:9. Those are the dimensions commonly associated with standard-definition and high-definition TVs, respectively. Most media we consume has been formatted into one of these ratios for the sake of home viewing, but as you’d know if you’ve ever had to watch a letterboxed film, studios still choose to film in wider and narrower formats. Yet some filmmakers like Yasujiro Ozu say widescreen looks like “a roll of toilet paper.” Why?

FilmmakerIQ.com has put together a terrific 18-minute primer on the history of aspect ratios. Everyone has something to learn from this video, ranging from why 4:3 caught on as the first aspect ratio to how the experimental Cinerama format played a role in the development of widescreen. This was very much made for the most hardcore film buffs, but if you’ve ever gotten frustrated by the black bars on a movie you watched, this video might answer a few questions.