A Letter To Youtube Channel “CinemaSins”

There’s a Youtube channel called “CinemaSins”.  They do a series of videos called “Everything Wrong with _______ in ___ minutes”.

I think they’re meant to be funny. They’re not funny. I hate these videos. I don’t find them funny. I find them aggravating.

Here’s why I find them aggravating.

The first video I saw of theirs was this one: Everything Wrong With The Avengers In 3 Minutes Or Less. During this video they completely pick apart every tiny little aspect of the movie and fault everything a “sin point” or something, and then at the end give the movie a total sin score of whatever.

I love The Avengers movie. I saw it in theatres 3 times. Watching the above Youtube video infuriated me. I did not like having someone criticize and nitpick every little inaccuracy in something that I loved. In addition, there were a LOT of things that these Cinema Sins guys gave sin points to that weren’t faults or inaccuracies or anything, they were just the CinemaSins guys opinions on something that was happening. Furthermore, there were points that didn’t even make any sense, and they gave points to things that they were completely wrong about. These weren’t just things like continuity errors or prop malfunctions, things that are legitimate errors in films. No, the majority of sins they point out in the movie are just opinions or sarcastic comments. This infuriated me even more.

I wish I had the time, patience and know-how to make a rebuttal video to their video. I wish I could do a “Everything Wrong With CinemaSins ‘The Avengers’ Video” video because MY sin point end count for their video would be pretty high. I’m going to give some examples of how wrong these guys are in their videos. I’m going to try to limit the number of examples, because I could list A LOT. There were too many to choose from, but I think I picked the ones that best illustrated my point.

Am I saying that The Avengers is a perfect movie? No. No movie is perfect. What I am saying is that the Cinema Sins guys were wrong about almost everything in their video. For example, at one point Captain America and Iron Man are arguing and kinda getting all up in each others faces. The CinemaSins guy said:

“Cap and Iron Man almost kiss,”

and added a point to the sin total.

My reaction was “What? No they didn’t! That’s stupid and wrong… and kinda homophobic. Minus one point.”

During the scene when they first show the S.H.I.E.L.D. helecarrier emerging from out of the ocean they said:

“The helecarrier is hella-stupid.”

No, it isn’t. That’s just your opinion. Minus one point.

Another one was when they said:

“Cap gets AIDS from handling bloody baseball card.”

What the fuck??!?!

Where did CinemaSins get that horrible idea?? Why the fuck did they think that was funny? Why did they give it a point?

Later, during the Chitauri invasion, CinemaSins said:

“And suddenly, there was Bruce Banner on a motorcycle,”

and gave the movie another point. This made no sense. What’s wrong with Bruce Banner arriving on a motorcycle? He fell off the Helicarier, so he couldn’t get to New York with Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America. He can’t fly like Iron Man or Thor. It would’ve taken him waaay too long to walk. I know Bruce is a doctor and a genius, but would he know how to steal a car? Why was him arriving on a bike wrong? Were Bruce’s parents killed in a motorcycle accident, giving him a severe phobia of bikes? If so, then this point would been legitimate. Otherwise, there is no reason to nitpick this. It makes no sense to give this a sin point.

Aha! Someone gave me the theory that they were alluding to the idea that Bruce seemed to acquire the motorcycle “out of thin air”. I counter that theory with my own theory that the CinemaSins guys weren’t smart enough to figure out that he got the motorcycle from the same guy he got the clothes from. I figured that out during my first viewing, and I thought it was pretty obvious. That old guy was obviously a security guard hired to watch the unused building that Bruce fell into. How would that man have gotten to work? He must have used that motorcycle, and then lent it to Bruce. The clothes he lent to Bruce were fairly old and worn, and so was the bike. It made logical sense to me. I found out later that there was a deleted scene which shows the security guard lending the bike to Bruce.

Ok, I concede that not everybody who watches the movie once will be able to figure that out where Bruce got the bike, but the CinemaSins guys must have watched the movie several times to make their video, and if after multiple viewings they couldn’t make the connection, then they are showing their lack intelligence.

And then, the comment CinemaSins makes about the scene towards the end of the movie when Bruce gets into Iron Man’s car is:

“Are Banner and Stark dating now?”

Again with the veiled homophobic comments, CinemaSins? Seriously, what is wrong with Tony giving Bruce a lift?  I mean, Bruce is a nice guy and probably would have given the security guard his bike back after the battle, assuming it was still intact, and I will point out again that Bruce does not have a car. CinemaSins seems to think that Bruce is only allowed to walk to wherever he needs to go.

So, then I thought to myself “If watching them nitpick to death a movie that I love made me angry, what if I watched them nitpick to death a movie that I didn’t really like? Would I find it funny?” So, I watched their video Everything Wrong With Twilight In 6 Minutes.

They made a couple of good comments, but there were some points that were just so stupid and wrong that it frustrated me. For example, about 0:27 seconds into the video the guy says something like

“This giant two-story house only has one bathroom,”

and proceeded to give the movie a sin point.

Seriously. That is stupid and wrong.

First, the house isn’t “giant”. Second, it’s fairly common for older houses to only have one bathroom. The house I grew up in was a two story house with only one bathroom. Most of my friend’s houses were the same. There’s nothing wrong with that. To me, that just means the CinemaSins crew were fortunate enough to grow up in houses with more than one bathroom.

Lucky them. Must have been nice. (sarcasm)

Therefore, they should subtract one point from their total for Twilight (not that it would make much of a difference).

Ultimately, the point I think I’m trying to make here is that it seems as though the CinemaSins guys are trying to rack up the highest point total that they can possibly get for each movie they skewer, even if it means that they have to make shit up (which they do, a lot). This cheapens their videos, and it detracts from any humor they were trying to achieve.

CinemaSins,

zoidberg feel bad 2

3D Or Not 3D, That Is The Question.

Yay, the newest movie fad. Woopty-shit.

I hate watching 3D movies. I hate wearing those stupid glasses overtop of my regular glasses. They’re awkward, freaking uncomfortable and actually becomes fairly painful after an hour and a half.  It wouldn’t be so bad if there were ones that were made to clip onto glasses that people are already wearing, but no. Wearing those stupid glasses actually detracts from my enjoyment of the movie. I go out of my way to avoid seeing a movie in 3D because I dislike the experience so much.

I’ve seen over a dozen 3D movies in theatres in the past few years and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been impressed by the 3D. By far the best 3D movie I’ve ever seen was The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole. Holy shit that movie was stunning. There were more than a few times during that movie where I thought my jaw was going to hit the floor. I was watching it with a friend and we would frequently turn to each other with a look of astonishment and amazement on our faces. That was good 3D. Second best 3D was A Christmas Carol, the CGI one starring Jim Carrey. Third best was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the 3D was only used in the first 30 minutes of the movie, the rest of the movie was normal. Fourth was Avatar and fifth was The Nightmare Before Christmas. That’s it. That’s my entire list of good 3D. Are you sensing a little bit of a theme here? Three of those movies are completely animated and one of them is almost completely animated. All of the other 3D movies I’ve seen have not impressed me much.

I recently saw the new Godzilla movie in 3D. I remember the opening shot of a helicopter flying over a jungle, and I remember that being in 3D. The entire rest of the movie I kept thinking “So, where’s the 3D? Why am I paying extra money to see a 3D movie when the movie doesn’t even look 3D?” I honestly don’t think any of the rest of the movie was 3D. It was very lackluster and underwhelming. I ended up feeling disappointed and kind of cheated.

It’s getting to the point where I don’t even think movie studios put any effort into making good-looking 3D. I think all they do is stick “3D” on the end of the title and jack up the price, hoping nobody will notice. It’s just a gimmick and I don’t think it’s worth it most of the time. Not every movie needs to be in 3D. Christopher Nolan was asked to make Inception in 3D and he chose not to. He said that he thought the 3D would take away from the story, and I think he’s right. I think studios should just give up on the 3D fad and use the money that would have been spent on 3D on better writing or directing or something that puts more quality storytelling into the movie. It’s the whole “style over substance” crap that pisses me off.

CGI Is Not A Band-Aid

Note: this post is going to be primarily about live-action movies, not animated movies like Toy Story.

I am getting a little bit tired of the overuse and heavy reliance on CGI to do everything in movies nowadays. I feel as though some directors use CGI as a substitute for quality. Sometimes it feels as though directors go “Just slap some CGI on it and it will make money.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times where there are few options but to use CGI. It would be extremely difficult to make movies where giant robots fight each other or have massive alien ships drop down out of the sky without the use of CGI.

There’s a movie critic on youtube who I watch regularly called The Nostalgia Critic. He posed a video about his views on the over-reliance on CGI, and I agree with the majority of his views. There were just a few things I wanted to add to what he said. You can watch his video here.

I feel as though CGI should be used to enhance the visuals, not be the only visuals. I like how Chris Nolan will go for physical effects instead of simply using CGI. For example, in The Dark Knight during the chase scene with the Joker in the semi and Batman on his bat-cycle Christopher Nolan actually flipped the real semi head-over-heels onto it’s roof! That was AWESOME! Sure, it could easily have been done with CGI, but Nolan chose to do it the hard way, with a huge piston underneath the truck to flip it right the fuck over! Also, at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises he actually dropped a real plane out of the sky from another plane! I loved Jurassic Park because there were lots of animatronic dinosaurs along with the CGI ones. Lord of the Rings had a lot of CGI, yes, but it also had a lot of practical effects, camera tricks like forced perspective, miniatures and “big-atures”. I think that if some special effect can be done practically, then why use CGI to do it? What I want to stress here is that I’m not against the use of CGI, I’m against heavy reliance on it to “make” the movie. It’s the old “style over substance” debate. If your movie has problems with the script or direction or whatever, you can’t just slap a giant CGI band-aid on it and say that it’s fixed. On top of the overblown CGI messes of today there is the new fad of  3D everything, but I’ll discuss that next month.

*BWAAAAAM* INCEPTION!

This post is rated “S” for spoileriffic!

I love the movie Inception. I love the plot, the cast, the direction, the special effects (and the non-reliance on CGI), the score, and everything! Not only that, I love the trivia surrounding the making of the movie. There are so many strange coincidences going on behind the making of this movie. I find it fascinating. First of all, there’s the unusual circumstances behind the cast. Now, in the script of the movie there is a specific song used as a plot device. That song is Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien“. Later, when the studio heads were casting the characters for the movie, they decided to cast actress Marion Cotillard as the character of Mal. They subsequently  came to the realization that Marion had previously played Édith Piaf herself in the biopic La Vie En Rose. So, then they had a little bit of a dilemma. Would they have to change the  song? Would using an Édith Piaf song in a movie which also has Marion Cotillard in it be too weird? Would audiences think this was done on purpose, and would it ruin their enjoyment of the movie? The director, Christopher Nolan, was going to change the song, but the composer, Danny Elfman, persuaded him to keep it, and I am glad they did. 

Another strange coincidence in the movie is the casting of Ellen Page. She is most well-known for her role as the titular character in the movie Juno.  She was nominated for an Oscar for best actress in 2008 for that role, but lost to none other than Marion Cotillard. Well, I find that interesting.

Back to the music, I want to restate a comment I made in an earlier post when I say that composer Hans Zimmer is brilliant. This is why I think he is brilliant: Inception Music Comparison. He didn’t just slow down Non, je ne regrette rien and play that during the dream scenes, he wrote an entire orchestral score to sound as though it was the original song slowed down. And then he made it better. I love all the songs on this score. Hans Zimmer even did a concert before the premiere of Inception in Vienna in 2010. Here’s the video: Inception Concert in Vienna. It’s about 21 minutes long, so it’s not a very long concert, and Hans himself is playing the piano at the end. Love. That. Shit. It gives me goosebumps. The choice to keep Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien as the key song was the right one, as it fits the movie perfectly. Inception is all about regret, and the lyrics are perfect with that theme. You can find an english translation here.

I was reading some of the trivia about the movie on IMDB and here’s one of the pieces that I thought was awesome. It says:

In an interview with ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Christopher Nolan explained that he based roles of the Inception team similar to roles that are used in filmmaking – Cobb is the director, Arthur is the producer, Ariadne is the production designer, Eames is the actor, Saito is the studio, and Fischer is the audience. “In trying to write a team-based creative process, I wrote the one I know,” said Nolan.

Here’s a link to IMDB’s Inception trivia page if you want to read more. I recommend it.

Now, down to the meat of the matter: the plot. I personally love movies that play with your brain, and, man, this one was a big one.  The very last 5 seconds of the movie I was like “Oh… Ohh….Ohhhhhh… GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! I can’t believe he ended the movie like that!! Leaving the audience hanging like that, that takes Balls of Brass!!” You can’t NOT talk about it afterwards. It affects you. I personally believe that the totem would eventually fall over and show that Cobb is back in the real world. I know that there are strong arguments against that possibility, but I want to believe in the super ultra-happy ending!

I loved the whole use of the totems as plot devices. I love the fact that Cobb doesn’t use his own totem, he uses Mal’s. That tells you a lot about him. I also love the choice of totem made by the characters Arthur and Ariadne. If you remember, Arthur used a loaded die. I find that this speaks a lot to his character. He is a man who does not like to take chances. He will not go into a job if there is any uncertainty about the outcome. He is reliable, rational, and will always have your back. Most people don’t remember right off the bat what Ariadne used as her totem, but it was a chess piece. Specifically, it was the bishop. Now, in chess the bishop is seen as the advisor to the king, and in the movie the king would be Cobb. Think about it. Ariadne is the voice of reason that Cobb desperately needs at that point in his life. I wish we had gotten to see what the other character’s totems were.

Of course, Ariadne herself is a key plot point. The name Ariadne is taken from Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Minos, who had a giant labyrinth. Theseus was put into the Labyrinth by King Minos as a sacrifice to the minotaur inside the labyrinth, but Ariadne helped him escape by giving him both a sword to kill the minotaur and a ball of red thread with which he could find his way out. In Inception, Ariadne gives Cobb the will to battle his personal demons. I think she also is sort of a personification of the thread. It is with her help that Cobb is able to save Fisher and Saito and get back to reality.

I love that the majority of the special effects were done without the use of CGI. I’ve got a separate rant about the overuse of CGI in movies, and I’ll go into all that later. I love the the hotel hallway fight scene. It was AWESOME! I love that there was hardly any CGI used in that whole scene. I still have no idea how they did it!!  I love that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did almost all of his own stunts during that scene. I love the scene at the beginning of the movie when Saito’s dream is collapsing and Cobb is standing there watching all the water burst in through the upper windows. I know that was done with these huge water cannons. Practical effects. I love the scene with Ariadne and Cobb when they’re talking at the little cafe and Ariadne learns she’s in a dream and it starts collapsing and shit starts exploding everywhere. I keep flinching during that scene because I almost expect a piece of something to come flying at me. Also, I love the scene where Cobb is telling Ariadne about how Mal died, that kills me every time.

The last thing I wanted to mention about this movie is something that came months after I saw it. When it came out on DVD I had to own it right away, so I immediately bought myself a copy. I wish i could have bought a blu-ray copy but I did not have a blu-ray player at the time. Fortunately, my very best friend in the whole wild world bought herself a super awesome blu-ray copy in a fancy package, took the blu-ray out and gave me the package! I love that woman! So, this package is one of the coolest movie packages I have ever seen. First of all, it comes in a mini silver briefcase just like they use for the machine in the movie except it says Inception on the front. It’s a nice, well-made case. I use it a lot. Inside the case was a bunch of crazy merchandise. I love movie memorabilia, and this case had a lot! It had a replica spinning top totem just like the one Cobb uses, except it also says Inception on it. I got 7 of these gorgeous little postcard-sized sized posters of each of the characters with their “role”. They are as follows:
Cobb = The Extractor
Arthur = The Point Man
Ariadne = The Architect
Eames = The Forger
Mal = The Shade
Saito = The Tourist
Fisher = The Mark

The briefcase also contained a mini comic book detailing the events that occurred just before the start of the movie. All of these items are amazing and wonderful and I love the hell out of each of them, but there’s one more item I want to talk about. It’s the weirdest item of all and one that is easily overlooked. It’s an instruction manual on how to work the machine from the movie. When I first saw this I was in near hysterics. I mean, what a bizarre and brilliant thing to include. When you look back on the movie you’ll realize that they never once explain how that machine works. You’re just so wrapped up in following the plot that you don’t even have time to wonder how the heck that thing works, you just suspend your disbelief and accept that it works. Well, I’ve got the bloody manual for the thing! I know some people could say the fact that Christopher Nolan didn’t put anything in the movie about how the machine works is a sign of lazy writing, but I disagree. This instruction manual is my proof that he did think about how the machine worked. If he had included such a scene in tbe movie the run time might have been too long or it may have ruined the pacing. It took Christopher Nolan 8 years to write this script. Think about it. EIGHT YEARS! This just proves that there was no lazy writing anywhere.

So, there you have it. My rant about Inception and the weirdness surrounding it. Hope you found it as interesting as I did.

Where’s That Voice Coming From?

Hooray! No new post for February! Procrastination powers in full effect! (Like anybody besides my mom reads this blog anyway :-P)

Anywho, for the month of March I want to talk about that commonly used storytelling device: The Narrator. I’m pretty sure it’s the oldest storytelling device because, you know, the whole telling stories to each other in the olden days and what not. People have been doing this since forever. As society has evolved, so has our means of telling stories. Back when radio plays were the big thing, a narrator was pretty much essential. You had to have some way to describe what was happening to your audiences. However, movies are a predominantly visual media, and, as such, narration isn’t as necessary as it used to be. The saying “Show me, don’t tell me” is a good one to ascribe to.

Before I begin I am going to give you a head’s up that I am not going to talk about documentaries, although they tend to utilize a great deal of voice-over narration. I am specifically going to focus on movies with fictional stories.

I’ve heard people say that having narration in a movie is a sign of poor writing. For the most part I would agree with that statement. Of course, there are  examples of movies with good narration, but many times it is used as a crutch, especially in movies where there is a lot of narration. On the other hand, a little bit of narration can be a good thing, particularly if the movie plot involves a lot of complex ideas and scenarios. One way to avoid having narration is  by having a bit of text appearing on the screen at the beginning of the movie, like in Star Wars.  I find this to be very non-intrusive. You can get a quick bit of back story, and then you’re done. You don’t have to do any more reading and you’re free to enjoy the rest of the movie. Just don’t have pages and pages of exposition for your audience to read. They’ll likely fall asleep before your movie starts.

Narration can be done in several different ways. One example of narration is when one of the characters in the movie is the narrator and they are telling their story to another character. It’s kind of like the character is doing a monologue to another character, and then there’s usually a flashback or something that happens and the monologue continues over top of that.  Iron Man 3 is a good recent example. The narration was kept fairly brief, and was totally in character the entire time. This particular example of narration lead to one of my favourite scenes in the movie. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet.

Another kind of narration is when one of the characters narrates to no one in particular. This is also the style that is used most often, and it can be done several ways. The character could be writing a journal and be doing a voice over narration of what they are writing (i.e. The Hobbit). The character could be telling the story out loud to whoever may be listening, usually the audience (i.e. The Shawshank Redemption). Furthermore, the narration could just be the thoughts of the character, allowing the audience to hear what the character is thinking (i.e. Fight Club). This thought narration style is not used very often because it is difficult to pull off. You need to have very good writing and a good actor in order to make it work. It is very easy for this style to come off as cheesy and amateur.

My least favourite kind of narration is when some unknown, omniscient narrator tells the story to the audience. An example of this is Idiocracy. That kind of narration often bothers me because it takes me out of the movie. I end up thinking too much on “Where is that voice coming from? Who is that supposed to be? Who are they talking to? Show me, don’t tell me!”

Memento is an interesting example of a movie with narration. It utilizes several different styles of narration and subtly switches between them. In this film the narrator is the main character, Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia. He does at least three different styles of narration throughout the movie: the “character telling the story to the audience” style, the “hearing the character’s thoughts” style and the “character narrating to another character” style, but it never becomes intrusive or annoying. It is a testament to the writers of this movie. This is a perfect example of narration done well. It greatly help the audience to connect to Leonard and his disorder. It gives the audience a window into what is going on inside the his brain, something that would otherwise be difficult to do if one is not already familiar with this disorder.

So, those are examples of different styles of narration that I’ve personally noticed being used in movies. There are probably others that I hadn’t thought about or haven’t seen yet, or maybe I’m the only person who has ever really thought about narration this much so as to notice different styles. It is entirely possible that I’m overthinking it all.  In fact, it is highly likely that I am overthinking it all.

Most of the movies I mentioned above are examples where the voice-over narration is done well. Now, I shall show you an example where it is done very badly: The Last Airbender. No, not the cartoon, the movie. Yes, I sat through this movie once. The Nostalgia Critic does a pretty good job at explaining how bad the narration is in this movie in his review. Here’s the link to the video: The Last Airbender – Nostalgia Critic. Skip to about 28:48 in the video. There we are given an example of the “character telling the story to the audience” type of narration. In this instance the character of Katara says “My brother and the princess became friends right away.” Instead of showing us her brother and the princess becoming friends, the writers and director decided to simply tell us that they become friends. This hinders the audience from becoming emotionally invested in the relationship between those two characters. This a prime example of lazy writing and lazy directing. This is also trying to compress an entire season’s worth of TV show plot into a 90 minute movie, but that’s a rant for a different day.

So, now you know more about voice-over narration. Fat lot of good it will do you ;-P

An Open Letter to Everyone in the Movie Industry

For the love of everything holy STOP USING THE FUCKING SHAKY CAM!!!

I am seriously getting pissed off by all the movies using shaky cams. It’s distracting, unnecessary and amateur, and it causes headaches, eye strain and nausea in your audience.

For those of you who don’t know, allow me to explain what this shaky cam is. It all seemed to start with the movie The Blair Witch Project. It’s the style of camerawork where the picture is shaking and bouncing up and down, as though it was shot by someone holding a hand-held camera while running. In The Blair Witch Project, the shaky cam was necessary because it WAS shot by someone holding a hand-held camera while running. Unfortunately, many other big-budget movies have used this technique. Why do they keep doing this? It’s stupid!

Actually, I should slightly alter my previous paragraph. There are movies where the shaky cam is allowed, in films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Chronicle, and other “found footage” type movies. From Wikipedia: “Found footage is a genre of film making, especially horror, in which all or a substantial part of a film is presented as discovered film or video recordings, often left behind by missing or dead protagonists. The events on screen are seen through the camera of one or more of the characters involved, who often speaks off screen. Filming may be done by the actors themselves as they recite their lines, and shaky camera work and naturalistic acting are often employed.”

There is a perfectly good reason why the shaky cam is used in the above movies, because the characters in the movies are the ones filming. They are not professional camera people, they don’t have access to tripods and other things which would smooth out their shots. The characters themselves are running while holding the camera, thus the footage is bouncy and hard to follow. I would even go so far as to say that in these types of movies the camera itself is a character. I know it’s an inanimate object, but I think it’s true.

Therefore, I will begrudging forgive “found footage” style movies for using shaky cam. I will also forgive some documentaries, but they still need to use it sparingly. They should try to use a tripod or something whenever possible.

There is no excuse for using shaky cam in other movies, especially big budget hollywood blockbusters. In the past dozen or so years it feels that the number of these big budget movies using shaky cam has increased enormously, and the degree by which the camera is shaking is increasing as well. Just reading the Wikipedia page on shaky cam irritates me. I remember watching the third Bourne movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, and feeling queasy because of the camera shaking. I remember a scene where two characters are sitting in a cafe having a hushed, secret conversation, all the while the camera is shaking all over the place like it was mounted to a jackhammer. That scene was painful to watch. More recently, I watched Man of Steel, another movie riddled with shaky camerawork. At the beginning of the movie Russel Crowe is having a meeting with some high council people, and the camera would not hold still! It was vibrating like I do after I’ve had too much sugar.

Both of these scenes were dialogue heavy with no action whatsoever. Why couldn’t they hold the damn camera still?? I really want to know why the directors and camera people felt it was necessary to bounce the camera around during these scenes in particular. It felt as though the directors knew these scenes had no action in them and tried to inject some action into them by bouncing the camera around. It felt amateur.

You can’t add action to a non-action scene by shaking the camera!

Michael Bay, director of many action movies including the Transformers franchise, is well-known for his shaky cam use, especially during action scenes. During the scenes where one transformer is fist-fighting another the shaky cam makes it extremely difficult to determine which giant, shiny metal robot is which. You can’t tell which one is the one you’re supposed to be rooting for.  You can barely even tell what each is doing to the other. It comes out as an incomprehensible mess of metal rolling around on the ground. It is as though you are trying to watch a professional wrestling match while riding a mechanical bull.

Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum and Green Zone, was also criticized for his use of the shaky cam during those movies. Some viewers referred to it as “Queasicam”. Greengrass used more than the usual shaky camera motion to make it intentionally jerky and bouncy, coupled with a very short average shot length and a decision to incompletely frame the action. This took away from my enjoyment of these movies. I couldn’t see the action happening because it was out of frame half the time due to the camera shaking. My eyes could not keep up with what was happening on the screen, and I felt nauseated.

Zack Snyder, director of 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch had actually rarely used shaky cam until Man of Steel. He had been known more for his slow motion action shots. Slow-mo is a very old technique where the action would be progressing in real time, and then would slow down significantly. This allows the audience to view the action in all its glory. You can clearly see what is transpiring, what exact actions the character is taking, what the result of these actions are, and what the character’s next move is. Here’s an example from 300. He’s gotten a lot of criticism for his use of slow-mo, and I personally disagree. I say “Screw you, critics! I love how Zack Snyder used it in his previous movies.” Everything was shot smooth and clear. I could actually SEE what was happening through all the action and chaos. I had no trouble discerning which character was which during a brawl, I was able to follow the action in combat scenes easily, and I felt it added more drama and punch to everything it was used on. I was quite happy with his direction until I saw Man of Steel. Gone were his glorious and smooth slow-mo shots. In its place was the jerky, jumpy shaky cam. I was a sad panda. I can only hope that this was a one-time occurrence.

Zack Snyder, I miss your slow-mo!

People of Hollywood, audiences want to be able to see the action that is happening on screen. They don’t want to see a jumpy, shaky mess. They certainly don’t want to see a jumpy, shaky mess during a non-action scene! So enough already!

Edit: Ok, ok. You’re allowed to use a little bit of shaky cam, but only during action scenes.

Scores and Soundtracks

No, they are not the same thing.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the difference between the two. This website does a good job at explaining it (even though it does use Twilight as an example) -> http://www.examiner.com/article/soundtracks-101-what-is-the-difference-between-a-soundtrack-and-a-score.

Basically, soundtracks are usually a collection of songs done by bands or artists and are often featured in specific scenes in a movie. Some of the songs are written specifically for the film or are inspired by the film, and some of the songs predate the movie and are used by the director because they fit a particular scene.

Scores are usually instrumental (meaning without lyrics) and are often done by a composer and orchestra. This music is played as sort of background music during the movie. It’s used to enhance the mood and tone of what is occurring on screen. You never hear songs from a movie’s score on the radio.

A good example of a soundtrack song would be “Skyfall” by Adele.

A good example of a score song would be the James Bond Theme Song.

What I want to talk about is how much I’ve come to love movie scores.  Most people don’t pay any attention to a movie score, and that makes me sad because there are some really amazing songs out there. I could sit here for months and just post links to film scores that I love. Even if you don’t like orchestra music, there are lots of other styles of movie scores out there. Trent Reznor won an Oscar for his score for the movie The Social Network, and it consisted of sort of minimalist electronica. Marilyn Manson was hired to do the score to the first Resident Evil movie, and he created a score full of industrial metal creepiness. There are a lot of big name musicians who have recently dabbled in writing scores, and it’s fascinating to hear what they come up with. The majority of them say that it’s very different than writing a song for an album or something, because the music has to go along with what’s happening on the screen. Some of the tracks end up being fairly brief and some are quite lengthy, depending on what’s occurring on screen. A long action sequence might need to have a long, energetic song to accompany it. You can see how it might be difficult for someone not used to writing music that way.

It makes me happy when professional score composers get their name recognized, as their work is often overlooked and unappreciated by moviegoers. Some examples of really good composers and their work are:

  • Danny Elfman – The Simpsons theme, Beetlejuice, Chicago, Good Will Hunting, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman (1989), just about every Tim Burton movie ever, etc.
  • Howard Shore – The Lord of The Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Hugo, Gangs of New York, Dogma, Silence of the Lambs, etc.
  • Klaus Badelt – Pirates of the Caribbean, Equilibrium, Constantine, etc.
  • John Williams – Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter 1-3, Superman (1978), etc.
  • Hans Zimmer – Rain Man, Twister, Driving Miss Daisy, Thelma & Louise, The Lion King, Gladiator, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Man of Steel, etc.

Hans Zimmer is my favourite. He’s done a LOT. He’s one of the reasons I really wanted to make this blog in the first place. Know his name, people! I honestly enjoy just sitting down and listening to movie scores, and Hans has done some of my absolute favourites. Now We Are Free from the Gladiator score is such a beautiful song. I find his work on the Inception soundtrack to be sheer genius. Check out this video called Inception Music Comparison to get an idea about what I mean. I didn’t notice this when I first watched the movie, and then I saw that video and thought it was brilliant. It blew my mind. I personally think that the whole Inception movie is genius, but I’ll rant about that at a later time.

He was nominated for an Oscar for that, but he lost out to Trent Reznor’s The Social Network score. I love Trent to death, but in my opinion, Hans should have won. I know he got some flack for this score from critics who claim he just took an already existing song and simply slowed it down and that’s all he did, but I disagree completely. He did so much more than that. Also, there’s the other songs from the score which don’t borrow from Edith Piaf’s song (i.e. Mombassa, One Simple Idea, and my favourite, Time). I listen to the Inception score all the time. 

Another thing I wanted to talk about is Hans Zimmer’s score from the movie Mission: Impossible II. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t all that good of a movie, but the score is really good. I love the spanish guitars in the song “Nyah“, but the song I really want to talk about is “Injection“. I don’t know if I’m the only person who feels this way or whether this was an intentional aspect of the song, but, to me, this song feels as though it has a subtle, quick tick-tick tick-tick feel to it, similar to that of a stopwatch, which is completely appropriate considering what is happening in the movie at the time. Let me set the scene for you. Also, spoilers (even though this movie came out over 10 years ago).

So, Tom Cruise breaks into the secret lab to destroy all the supervirus samples before the bad guy arrives and steals them. He’s about to destroy the last one when the bad guy shows up with the love interest, Nyah, as his hostage. It’s about here that the song starts. Bad guy gets Nyah to go get the virus from Tom Cruise and bring it back to him because he knows Tom won’t shoot the girl. The part of the song I was referring to as having a ticking clock feel starts at around the 1:35 mark when Nyah foils bad guy’s plan by injecting herself with the virus and a surprised Tom starts his stopwatch to keep track of how long Nyah has to live. Then gunfire and actiony stuff happens, all the while a sense of a countdown is playing subtly in the background. Around the 3:32 mark there is a break in the gunfire, giving Tom and Nyah a moment to discuss how she just gave herself a death sentence. It is here that the Spanish guitars of Nyah’s theme are repeated. I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s getting this ticking clock feeling from this song. I probably am. The more I listen to this song, the more I believe that the ticking is there and is intentional. Also, I can hear it quietly at the beginning of the song as well, which could be an instance of foreshadowing. Am I reading too much into this? Probably, but it’s things like these that I love to talk about and discuss with other people.