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Movie and TV Show Irritants

Have drugs rotted their brains?

Opinion page by Duane Alan Hahn.

Page Table of Contents

 

Slow Motion Sucks

I hate slow motion. I know movies can't have nonstop action, and I don't think they should, but it's more interesting to keep the speed up at least during the actual action scenes.

 

For example, I thought Mission: Impossible (1996) with Tom Cruise was OK, but Mission: Impossible II (2000) was a huge disappointment because it seemed like 95% of the movie was in slow motion. The behind the scenes action footage of M:I-2 was much better than what they had in the movie because it was at normal speed.

 

I've heard many reasons why movies and TV shows have slow motion, and 90% of those reasons stink. I know that any artsy-fartsy film school flunkeys who read this will soil themselves and start crying, but that's their problem.

 

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about using high-speed film to shoot models and small explosions to make them look real (that's great stuff). I'm talking about things such as running, fighting, driving, and stunts of any kind.

 

To me, faster is more impressive. For example, a noisy, fast, fairly close-up view of a violent crash of some kind is more startling and terrifying than some slow motion crash that takes so long you could go for popcorn and come back and the crash still isn't over. A crash can be extended by using different camera angles and reaction shots instead of falling back on crappy slow motion.

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Get On With It

George Lucas used to have the same kind of thinking that I did about getting on with it and not spending 5 billion years showing the expensive environment that was created for the film (until he went over to the dark side). Seems like a lot of filmmakers think the more money and effort you spend on the setting, the more time you should spend showing it. Whether it's a physical set or a CGI world, just get on with it. If you want to show off the hard work and money that went into the setting, have the characters do meaningful things in that setting and if you have everything in focus, the audience will see how great the environment is without slowing the film down just to show the setting.

One of the fatal mistakes that almost every science fiction film makes is that they spend so much time on the settings, creating the environment, that they spend film time on it, and you don't have to spend too much film time to create an environment. What they're doing is showing off the amount of work that they generated and it slows the pace of the film down. The story is not the setting, the story is the story; it's the plot.

George Lucas from From 'Star Wars' to 'Jedi': The Making of a Saga

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Focus! Focus!

Watch many old TV shows from the 1970s and you will see something that can twist your eyes into knots. It's that stupid way they un-focus the camera either at the start or at the end of a scene. You will still see that every once in a while, but it's rare. Thank God!

 

Another thing that sucks is when filmmakers put everything out of focus except for the thing or character they want us to pay attention to. Many methods used by misguided filmmakers tend to break reality and kick attention off the story and onto the technique. When most people watch a film, they don't want reminders that they are only watching a movie.

 

Everything should be in focus. If Orson Welles could do it all of those years ago with Citizen Kane, we should be able to do it today. Some ignorant people will argue that we don't see everything in focus. That is true, but we can choose what we want to focus on in real life. Film should not 'take our eyes away from us' and force us to look somewhere by blurring everything else. That is a cheap, second-rate technique no matter how many of your favorite directors do it. Don't let them brainwash you into liking it.

 

There are better and more realistic ways to pull attention to the thing or character you want people to look at. You can use things such as lighting, color, or movement to make a thing or person stand out in a scene. People will look where you want them to look. It just takes a little extra planning. Death to rack focus!

I asked Welles once why he'd wanted to have everything sharp in pictures, which was unheard of, and he said he thought that it was quite simple. The eye sees everything in focus so why couldn't the camera? He said it was just as dumb as that. Why can't I see everything in focus with the camera if I can with my eye? And so that was the attempt to try to make it work—Everything sharp like the eye sees. But that's very difficult to do and still is difficult to do. There was a phrase made up for it at the time called pan focus. I asked Orson what it meant—he said it didn't mean anything.

Peter Bogdanovich (adapted)

Commentary from the Citizen Kane DVD (2001 double disc)

Shoot the world and let the audience decide what they want to look at.

Mike Proudfoot (as recited by Brian Helgeland on the A Knight's Tale DVD)

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That Damn Unsteady Cam

When I see, everything is stable, even when running or looking around. It's like I see with a Steadicam built into my head, and as far as I know, most people see that way too. I was happy when the Steadicam was invented because we could finally get rid of the bouncy, jerky camera work of the past. I must have been dreaming.

 

If you've been paying attention over the years, you've probably seen thousands of movies, TV shows and commercials where they think it's cute to jerk the camera around in an attempt to make it look like you are seeing through eyes of what seems like an insane person. The camera shakes around, looks at a hand, an ear, a leg, the whole person, a lamp, a foot, and so on. Just give us a plain, steady shot and let us decide where we want to look.

 

TV shows such as 24 use a similar technique where they bounce and jerk the camera in an attempt to simulate what you might see on your local TV news, but some directors are learning to tone it down. That's good since jerking the camera around doesn't make me think it's real and it doesn't simulate how I see. And as I said at the start of this section, I and most people that I know of see things like we have a built-in Steadicam in our heads. Our view is not all bouncy and jerky and any director who sees that way himself should have his vision or his brain checked. The hand-held 'shaken baby' look does not pull you into the story, it pulls you out of it.

 

A person who knows what he or she is doing can shake the camera a bit to simulate turbulence, earthquakes, space battles and so on and that will be acceptable to everyone. It would probably look silly to see actors being bounced around on a gimbal without having the camera shake a little, but you might be able to get away with zero camera shake depending on how you shoot it. I have seen some really terrible camera shake over the years, especially when they try to do it digitally instead of really shaking the camera.

I think you never want a sense that the camera is doing anything other than presenting you with the information.

Barry Levinson

Commentary from the Wag the Dog DVD

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Lens Flare Folly

From the e-mails I have received, I now know that I'm not the only person on the planet who hates lens flare. If I made movies and I had the budget and time to do what I wanted, I would have all lens flare taken out.

 

What's worse than lens flare is that they are adding fake lens flare to movies. I want to use CGI to take out lens flare, and these people are putting it in to make it look more 'realistic.' Well guess what? Lens flare isn't realistic. The only reason lens flare ever existed was because of the limits of technology. Now lens flare can be erased from any movie using computers and that will help people forget that they are watching something through a camera lens. We should be taking lens flare out of movies, not putting it in.

 

When you watch a movie, you're supposed to forget that a camera is involved. You become part of the movie. It becomes your reality for a short time. Lens flare breaks that reality by making you realize that you are merely watching a movie.

 

Yes, I know there are thousands of little lens flare nerds who wet themselves every time they see a new lens flare in a movie because it's so pretty. Just pat them on the head and send them off with something shiny and they won't bother you anymore. And it's not just the lens flare nerds. Many people have been trained to accept and even love lens flare since it has been around so long, but once it's gone, they'll start to love the lack of lens flare over time.

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Shadows and Reflections

It's amazing how many times there are shadows or reflections of the camera or crew in high quality films. For example, Ronin (1998) with Robert De Niro, seems to have camera-related shadows and reflections throughout the whole movie. (Speaking of that movie, did you see the poorly animated smoke from the back of a car? It's hard to believe.)

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Uncomfortably Close

This too close technique comes and goes over the years. We'll have many years when things aren't so bad and then a whole group of goofballs decide it's cool to do such extreme close-ups that we can see dust mites crawling on people's nose hairs. If someone's whole face doesn't fit in the shot, you are too close.

 

Some directors also do this with fight scenes. They get so close that you don't know where people are or who is doing what. You can't tell what is going on and it makes you wonder why they bothered showing up for work.

Shoot the world and let the audience decide what they want to look at.

Mike Proudfoot (as recited by Brian Helgeland on the A Knight's Tale DVD)

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A Ringer Called Ramps

Ever since I was a kid, I hated movies and TV shows that had cars that fly into the air whenever they come into contact with another car, a pile of boxes, or whatever. You can see that the car is obviously using a ramp, so it ruins the reality, the believability, the trust they worked so hard to earn.

 

Instead of going back into the 1970s, I'll give an example from the 1990s. They did such a good job in the movie Speed (1994), starring Sandra Bullock, to help us believe some incredible things and then they blew it with the bridge jump. I could have believed it if the part of the bridge they were starting from was higher than the other part, but both parts appeared to be the same height. Not only did the bus make it to the other side, the front went up in the air as if a magical, invisible ramp appeared to help them.

 

As I said, that one scene ruined what could have been a great movie and all they had to do was make the other part of the bridge a little lower and we could have believed it with very little grumbling. If you want to do stupid car jumps in movies, at least try to make them semi-believable.

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Sex Scenes Stink

If I want to see people having sex, I'll buy porn. I don't need to see that in regular movies and TV shows. Of course people have sex, but why do we have to see it? It slows the movie down and makes it seem like a cheap exploitation film. Do we have to see every private moment? Maybe all filmmakers should start putting cameras inside toilet bowls so we won't miss out. Let's have the main character of an action movie squeeze out a few for the sake of realism.

 

Let's just have some things as a given and move on with the story.

 

 

 

 

Hydrofracking is Evil

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My Film Preferences

If the camera is on the move, use a Steadicam or attach the camera to the middle of a board that two people carry, which I hear is the poor-man's Steadicam. I also heard that if you don't have two people and you're using a smaller camera, you can hold it by the tripod.

 

Don't jerk the camera around in a lame attempt to add excitement. The stuff you're shooting should be exciting enough, and if it's not, why are you making a film?

 

Have everything in focus, even if you have to use tricks do get it done.

 

Take out lens flare and don't put any fake lens flare in.

 

For me to enjoy a movie, the craziest stuff can happen, but it must seem reasonable. There must be some kind of logical flow from one thing to the next, even if that flow is not obvious and is revealed at the end. If the movie yanks me out their reality with something that was clearly caused by poor writing and a lack of attention to detail, I shouldn't be blamed. I'm not a stoner, so I don't have the "relax dude, it's just a show" attitude where I'm happy as long as there is movement on the screen.

Related Links

Related Quote

TV is an endless cycle of producers tweaking something until it's unwatchable. That might mean changing hosts, changing the format, whatever. Shows need to evolve to stay interesting, but it's much easier to make big stupid changes than to actually fix little things that might be wrong with the original. They also always think, "Hey this is popular, let's rerun it 48 times a week and kill it!"

"Joey Bastard"

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Disclaimer

View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.

 

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