film jargon

A re-viewing of The Talented Mr. Ripley, and I am quite undone at how divine it still is. Sun-kissed Ischian vistas, mid-century metropolitan ennui, pulsing Henry Scott Tuke-esque homoeroticism, glacial Hitchcock elegance, morning lolling about in piazza cafes and afternoons idling in the Musei Capitolini, typewriters and telegrams, capricious cruelty and horn-rimmed glasses, existential decadence amongst the ruins of iconoclastic piety, the curve of Matt Damon’s mouth (and Bosie-incarnate that is young Jude Law), and a bust of Hadrian as a murder weapon. It is, dare I say, my ‘aesthetic’?

shixpe  asked:

Hello! Don't know me but I know people. So I wanted to ask if you knew of a term for the set props used, say in SPN, that are never addressed (like chekhov's gun or something), but are meaningful and may have subtext. Like the items over Dean's bed, signs, decor/paintings, flowers maybe. I think my brain invented a word that it doesn't even remember, because it doesn't exist.

Hehe, I’ve seen you around a bit. Sorry if any of the below sounds condescending. When I get these asks, I try to be as informative as I can.

There are a few possibilities. Motif maybe? Motifs are usually like.. patterns.. but we usually just lump everything in my experience. We usually just called set dressing or props that conveyed character presence or meaning “associations” or “setup calls”. Since symbolism in movies is associative, and anything in the narrative that calls a payoff, we just called them what they are.

There may be people who have specific names for them, but other than Chekhov’s “X” I haven’t really seen any specific words. That doesn’t mean the words don’t exist. People in film rename and redefine things all the time. It’s one of the reasons we used definitions more than terms when I was in school. You could argue about something, and then learn you were talking about the same thing coined by a different person. Even the terms for sequence structure of a movie are debated. People agree that 3 act movies have sequences, but not on how many, or what they’re called.

 When I was in college, we’d go through scenes (like the opening from Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums) and pick out associations for characters (Mostly colors in this case, because Wes Anderson) and then discuss them after. The Royal Tenenbaums uses color saturation to convey meaning for example. How bright the color is transfers to the associative character’s passions and mindsets. 

In SPN, the colors, patterns and objects are “associations”. They use association very strongly. Associations are traceable elements with simple connections on their own. They’re sort of like the first introduction of a character in a screenplay. The first time a character’s name appears in a screenplay, it’s always in all caps in the action. This is so that character can be traced back to their introduction easily. How an association is incorporated indicates its symbolism, and its repetition in scenarios is what gives them meaning and allows for more complicated readings. My favorite ones in all of SPN are the items over Dean’s bed you mentioned. They are the easiest type to read. They’re consistently placed, easily legible without being too obvious, change when they should without losing simple explanation and are very traceable.

When I taught film, I showed Hot Fuzz as my movie for “setup and payoff” because everything in that movie is pretty much made of that concept. (It’s actually really neat watching it unfold). I used “setup calls” for the scenarios and props in that movie too. It’s pretty much any element that has to be addressed later (or should). The Pink Unicorn plush in Suicide Squad is an example of failure to respond to your setup calls. It’s also a blatant disregard for the Rule of Threes. 

Setup calls can be objects or dialogue, but when they’re objects, they’re usually given an insert. One of my film teachers joked by calling this “insert attention” but I don’t think it’s an official term. A creepy doll getting an insert in an early scene and turning out to be evil is an example.

There are a lot of “rules” in film, most of them I’ve heard as the definitions rather than the terms though. Their usually a series of “if then statements” like this: 

“If a sharp thing gets an insert, someone’s gonna get stabbed.”


“If it’s purple, someone is going to die”, or “If a gun is shown or mentioned, it must go off eventually.” 

And my personal favorite: 

“If someone states an absolute before the finale, it will be addressed(usually challenged).” 

This is why the end of S8 makes me side eye TPTB a little.

Honestly, it’s perfectly fine to have your own terms for things. You just have to define them and get them out there. I’ve heard all sorts of terms when I was in college that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else, but I see them in movies all the time. 

If you think of the word, let me know. It may very well be a term and I just don’t remember right now. My memory is kind of terrible. If it’s not already a term and can be defined separately from other ones, define and coin it! Maybe it’ll catch on.

The House That Boys Built [2016]

Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Emma Stone, Ben Mendelsohn.

In a post-9/11 America, is there anything that has beentalked about, explored, and picked apart more than post-9/11 America itself? It has taken on the status of a near-automatic cultural touchstone for all mainstream cinema. Whether it’s the eternal struggle against the surveillance state or a summer blockbuster that incorporates faux-found footage of a collapsed building; America is infatuated with looking into the mirror at its own bruised psyche. Years, even decades, are spent picking at scabs yet there still remains a mystery as to why blood keeps appearing.

Spike Jonze’s first major picture since his gruesome tennis injury is the latest film to look in that mirror. The House That Boys Built is another bout of self-analysis theatre that takes the viewer down a rabbit-hole of the United States in 2016. Unlike Terrence Malick’s ham-fisted approach to last year’s Dawn Chorus, Jonze manages to make a full-bodied feature that doesn’t dwell on introspective self-pity or take 120 minutes to build to the inevitable and played-out “Is War Justified?” argument. You wait and you wait for something like that to happen, but before you know it, the credits are rolling.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Can you give your opinion on this year's Cannes edition? Any impressions, to-watch films?

brief impressions: overly mainstream this year, and self-conscious in a way that it hasn’t been in past years, preoccupied with social media and simpering adulation that belies its substantive base of quality cinema and filmmakers. Nevertheless, the thematic elements of this year’s festival were quite salient - deconstructing the bourgeoisie and the global refugee crisis. The latter wasn’t quite glamorous enough for the festival, so awards went to the former, under the illusion that acknowledgement is as good as a solution. There was also a great deal of…aimlessness among the films, languorous pacing mistaken for profundity. A strong French and Russian presence, with some jewels from Algeria and Argentina. The Square was a safe choice for Palme d’Or, but Krotkaya or Happy End would have been the wise ones.

Some preliminary favourites:

Happy End (Haneke)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Lanthimos)

Un Beau Soleil Interieur/Bright Sunshine In (Denis)

Krotkaya/A Gentle Creature (Loznitsa)

I Am Not a Witch (Nyoni)

L'Amant Double (Ozon)

Sicilian Ghost Story (Grassadonia and Piazza)

En attendant les hirondelles/Until the Birds Return (Moussaoui)

Based on a True Story (Polanski) (urghhhh)

The Rider (Zhao)

L’Atelier/The Workshop (Cantet)

Top of the Lake (Campion)

anonymous asked:

What is your opinion on contemporary American cinema? Do you find it as dull and derivative as I do (very much so)? And which living and working directors (American or not) do you find to be the most exciting and inventive right now?

I find contemporary American cinema to be fractured. Aimless. And yes, most certainly derivative. The lifeblood and originality of filmmaking has been sucked from American cinema, leaving it desiccated and caricaturistic of what cinema ‘ought’ to be. I suspect much of this has to do with the dominance of studios and marketing and other such forces which make me wretch at the thought. A handful of directors and actors/actresses are spread thinly across mediocre projects that continue to be financed regardless of quality. I confess, American cinema was never a favourite of mine to begin with; I always tended to find it overly self-aware and self-conscious (even Allen at his best was overly concerned with pageantry disguised as self-deprecation; Kubrick alone remains superior and immutable). American cinema needs a vigorous dose of new voices, it seems – the Scorseses and Allens and Spielbergs (and new ‘cinemaaaa’ darlings Andersons and Finchers and Tarantinos and Nolans) have been churning out the same derivative twaddle for far too long. It is critical to hear more voices from the margins, from people who are undaunted and unconventional . The vitality of everyday life is missing from modern American cinema, too wrapped up in mannering and posturing for awards season and pretense rather than illustrations of the human experience.

That being said, I do see some hope in one area of American film, and that is in the horror genre. (Independent) American horror has never been better than it is now, moving beyond the slasher absurdity of the 1970s and 80s, and being actually, well, interesting. Film like House of the Devil, It Follows, You’re Next, The Witch, Spring, and The Guest are subverting genres and expectations of classic horror cinema in a feverishly exciting way, recalling the nascent dread like much of the British rural horror catalogue from the 1960s and 70s.

As for current directors? I’ve appended but a fraction of an ever-expanding list (not even including those who are dead) to capture those filmmakers of whom I have seen every film and without hesitation will see the next one (no Americans, incidentally). The crispness and clarity of their work leave me invigorated and suffused in wonder at their understanding of psychocinema. I await with bated breath their next masterwork. I would entirely recommend each one’s entire filmography (but have suggested my personal favourites in parentheses; some are, distressingly, exhaustive).

  • Abbas Kiarostami (Ta’m e guilass [Taste of Cherry]; Nema-ye Nazdik [Close-up]; Copie conforme [Certified Copy])
  • Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank; Wuthering Heights; Red Road)
  • Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man; The American; Control)
  • Aparna Sen (15 Park Avenue; Mr. and Mrs. Iyer; 36 Chowringee Lane)
  • Béla Tarr (A torinói ló [The Turin Horse]; A londoni férfi [The Man from London]; Sátántangó [Satantango])
  • Catherine Breillat (Une vieille maîtresse [The Last Mistress]; Anatomie de l'enfer [Anatomy of Hell]; À ma soeur! [Fat Girl])
  • Christian Petzold (Jerichow; Barbara; Phoenix)
  • Claire Denis (Trouble Everyday; White Material; L'intrus [The Intruder])
  • Denys Arcand (Les invasions barbares [The Barbarian Invasions]; Love & Human Remains; Jésus de Montréal [Jesus of Montréal])
  • Götz Spielmann (Revanche; Oktober November; Antares)
  • Joachim Trier (Oslo, Aug 31; Reprise)
  • Joanna Hogg (Archipelago; Unrelated; Exhibition)
  • Michael Haneke (Caché; La pianiste [The Piano Teacher]; Das weiße Band [The White Ribbon])
  • Nicolas Windig Refn (Valhalla Rising; Drive; Bronson)
  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak [Distant]; Kasaba [The Town]; Kis uykusu [Winter Sleep])
  • Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; A Zed & Two Noughts; Prospero’s Books)
  • Peter Strickland (Katalin Varga; Berberian Sound Studio; The Duke of Burgundy)
  • Sally Potter (Orlando; The Tango Lesson; Yes)
  • Susanne Bier (Elsker dig for evigt [Open Hearts]; Brødre [Brothers];  Efter brylluppet [After the Wedding])
  • Steve McQueen (Hunger; Shame; 12 Years a Slave)
  • Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Cloud Atlas; Drei [3])
  • Tomas Alfredson (Fyra nyanser av brunt [Four Shades of Brown]; Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In]; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Xavier Dolan (J'ai tué ma mère [I Killed My Mother]; Les amours imaginaires [Heartbeats]; Lawrence Anyways)

anonymous asked:

If can go in depth a little but what would you say you need to know to be a really good cinematographer? How much of the technical jargon do you need to know? What about books about cinematography what do you recommend ? Thanks

This has been sitting in my inbox for a few weeks because I wanted to give you an in-depth answer, so here ya go:

You need to know as much as you possibly can about every camera system and format that is available to you. You need to understand the strengths and limitations of each format so you are able to confidently make decisions about which camera is appropriate for your film and shooting situation.

You need to know how exposure works. You must understand shutter angle, aperture, and ASA. You should know what each of these does within the camera, what it does to your image, how you have to compensate by alternating any of these, and how you can creatively control each of these to your advantage. 

You need to understand everything about lenses. You should know the characteristics of different sets of lenses so you can choose which to use to your creative advantage. You need to understand focal lengths and the effect that different focal lengths have on faces as well as environment. You need to understand aperture so you can chose a set of lenses that is appropriate to the amount of light you will have access to, as well as making sure your lenses have the same t-stop so that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot when switching lenses and realize one is a t/2.1 and another is a t/4.

You need to understand filtration and how you can use different types to create the images you want. There is all kinds of filtration so I won’t go in depth with it, but at least know ND and BPM and the increments in which these are measured.

It’s important to understand different types of lighting and the feeling that each of them can create. Know the different types of lights you’ll need to create different looks. Know the difference between Fresnels and HMIs and the situations in which you’d use these. Know the difference between daylight and tungsten color temperatures and consider when they would be used. You can, and will, spend your entire life studying and understanding light. These are things you’ll learn over time, but lighting is the art of cinematography.

The more about your tools that you understand, the better a cinematographer you will be. The less you know, the less control you have over your image.

Some great books to read for cinematographers:
Cinematography for Directors by Jacqueline Frost
Cinematography: Theory and Practice by Blain Brown
Motion Picture and Video Lighting by Blain Brown
Digital Cinematography by David Stump
The Five C’s of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli
Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook by Harry Box
The Filmmaker’s Eye by Gustavo Mercado
The Visual Story by Bruce Block
Notes on Cinematographie by Robert Bresson (more about filmmaking in general than cinematography, but a delightful read)

I hope this was helpful.