The way it's supposed to be done

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Broadman, Dec 3, 2001.

  1. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    I just felt like jotting down a few observations. Feel free to read, ignore, enjoy, comment, flame, etc.
    Last week I watched two spy movies that I enjoyed: Spy Game and Topaz.
    As my faith in movies has all but vanished (can Lord of the Rings bring it back?) I don't go to movie theaters. But my friends dragged me to see Spy Game. It wasn't bad. I've never been a huge Redford fan (never said I didn't like him either), and he was fine. I always thought Brad Pitt was a fine actor for a Hollywood pretty boy, and he did well here, too. And it was nice seeing that chick from Braveheart again. The story was cool enough and kept me engaged. Not a masterpiece, but didn't make me want to gauge my eyes out.
    A few days later, I watched my roommate's copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz. Unbeknownst to me before I watched it, it is also about spies. Involving an intriguing story about a French spy on a mission for the US in Cuba, the mystery element is well executed and kept me guessing. The acting is subtle and stylish, without trying too hard to be "cool." An amazingly gorgeous actress played the role of a Cuban anti-Castro intelligence agent. Folks, they don't have women in Hollywood who look like this anymore. What a shame.
    The thing that hit me about these two films was the stark contrast in direction. Hitchcock took time to develop shots, providing a generous but not wasteful sense of place. The direction and the pacing let me actually watch the film. In Spy Game, everything is fast and shaking, cut scenes and flashes here and there, with lots of "intense" closeups. It's enough to make one of weak constitution get motion sickness, and Spy Game is still better than most of what's out there.
    FYI, I am only 23, so I'm no old codger when I say, "Slow down!" It's as if current movie makers are saying, "We don't have enough faith in our stories or actors, so we'll shoot everything at you so fast you won't have time to realise what a crummy movie this is." It's like someone pointing behind your shoulder and saying, "What's that?" only to kick you in the groin when you look away.
    Topaz didn't have to rely on a grand finale action sequence to close the film (not that there's anything wrong with that, in moderation). Instead, it focused on the political / mental power plays of the characters.
    I'm not blindly comparing the two movies, or saying one is better than the other. Obviously they're from different time periods, different movies, etc. I just think it's interesting to look at two spy movies back to back from two different generations in filmmaking.
    And to tell you that Topaz is better.[​IMG]
     
  2. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I don't know how many of Hitchcock's films you've seen, but if you were impressed by Topaz I think you'd be knocked out by many of his other films. I'm not saying Topaz is a bad film, but it's not one of Hitch's strongest.

    If you haven't seen them, check out:

    North by Northwest

    The 39 Steps

    Rear Window

    The Man Who Knew Too Much

    Vertigo

    Psycho

    Strangers on a Train

    Saboteur

    The Lady Vanishes

    just for a start.
     
  3. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    With so many great movies, I still have a hard time with the fact that Hitchcock never won an Oscar for Best Director. He did end up with a Lifetime Acheivement Oscar though, so at least he got one.
     
  4. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Obviously all art has eras and movements.

    Film art of the 90's/00's is smack in the middle of this hand camera/jerky camera/MTV cut movement. We see lots of directors utilizing it, some better than others.

    The best directors know how to incorporate current style into their filmmaking without letting it dominate the film. Soderburgh is an example here. He is making good use of the steadycam, often doing some of his own DoP work.

    Even Baz managed to make the quick cut style work well in Moulin Rouge, but that's because he became master of the style rather than letting the style master him. He made it serve his purpose. Unfortunately the average director and especially the hacks tend to let the style dominate them instead, and any good narrative techniques or unique visual style is tossed aside.

    Films of other eras had these sorts of problems, it's just that those cliches are so current and obvious now. Plus, the "lesser" films that copied the current style poorly simply fall off the map and are forgotten.

    The day will come when some other technique/style becomes the rage. Then when we look back to today only the very best films of this era will remain on the map representing this current style.
     
  5. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Seth,

    A very perceptive account. David Fincher is another great example. He essentially pioneered this style on MTV, but he never let the storytelling eclipse the story. Which is why he is David Fincher.

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  6. Bill Buklis

    Bill Buklis Supporting Actor

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  7. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    George, I've seen most, possibly all the movies you listed, so I'm Hitchockian (gosh, doesn't that sound dirty?).

    Sure, Topaz isn't typical of Hitchcock's style, but it's still good.

    Traffic's strength, IMO, lies more in its subject matter, story, and performance (yes, I actually do think Douglas is a decent actor). Frankly, I found the yellows and blues, jittery camera work, and grainy picture annoying at times. I felt like yelling at the screen, "OK, yellow means Mexico, I've got it, thank you, now can you please use normal people colors so I can see what the hell is going on?"

    Granted, the only Sodergergh films I've seen are Traffic and Erin Brokavich, but I'm not a big fan of his. I don't think he's a bad director, I just don't see what the big deal is. Brokavich isn't my kind of film, so I didn't really enjoy it (seemed like a pretty typical "poor country girl does good" story that wouldn't have been nearly as successful, if at all, without Julia Roberts' star power). Soderbergh does what he he does well, but I don't understand why he's lauded as some genius. Is it something in any his films I haven't seen?

    Anyways, back to the topic, yes, I understand that different styles go in and out of fashion. I guess I'm just partial to the older style, a la Topaz vs Spy Game. It's easier on the eye, provides a stronger connection to the characters, allows me to focus on the story more, and just seems a bit, I dunno, classier and more dignified. Of course, this is all IMHO, etc and so forth.
     
  8. Chad Ferguson

    Chad Ferguson Supporting Actor

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    I personally think that the quick cut style can work very well, best example I can think of would be Natural Born Killers, or any of Oliver Stones later films. You can take a slow a paced scene, and put in quick cuts making it fit an action movie perfectly. Requiem for dream did this great as well. The technique can work, but it is over used by all summer blockbuster films.
     

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