1/2/2007

All Movie Talk, Episode 14

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Best of the Year: 1990-1999 (1:35)
  • Trivia Question: Hollywood Walk of Fame (21:25)
  • Oscar Watch 2006: Nominations Update (22:28)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Tracking Shot (31:44)
  • Top 6: Travelling Shots (36:31)
  • Good Bad Movie: Night of the Lepus (53:07)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (64:48)

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Show Notes:

Best of the Year: 1990-1999

Trivia Question: Hollywood Walk of Fame

Only one person has five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for each of the five disciplines honored.

Oscar Watch 2006: Nominations Update

Not too much has changed since our first Oscar Watch. The various critics associations and other groups, such as the Golden Globes, have handed out awards and/or nominations. Despite the hype in the media about the Globes, neither of us feel they’re a particularly good indicator of Oscar success.

Probably the only real surprise of the early awards is the traction that United 93 has received, thanks to being named the film of the year by quite a few critics groups. Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren have snagged a lot of recognition from the critics, and Martin Scorsese appears to be the leader for director, along with his film The Departed for Best Picture.

Be sure and listen to Episode 11 and use the special code when you play the Academy Awards Predictions Game.

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Tracking Shot

A tracking shot is a camera movement where the entire camera is mounted to a cart of some sort and the cart runs on tracks laid on the ground. The cart and the camera are pushed along the track, creating a very smooth movement (contrast it to the much less smooth handheld shot).

The term “dolly shot” is often used as a synonym for tracking shot, as the cart the camera is placed on is a dolly. If you read screenplays or hang around film geeks, you will find references to camera movements such as “dolly in” or “push out,” and these generally refer to a tracking shot that moves the camera toward or away from the subject of the shot.

Tracking shots are generally expensive to set up. Laying track takes time and whenever you move the camera around in an unbroken shot everything about shooting a scene is more complicated. Thus, generally directors like to reserve them for fancy moves. Often tracking shots are quite long, and many of the most celebrated shots in the movies are extended tracking shots.

Combining the tracking shot with a zoom is a very famous effect that Alfred Hitchcock brought to prominence in Vertigo, where he used it to illustrate the fear of heights exhibited by the story’s protagonist. By zooming out as the camera is pushed in, the perspective of a shot changes in a very noticable and unnatural fashion, causing a sense of strong disorientation for the viewer. Many filmmakers since have used this type of shot; recently, Peter Jackson used it in The Fellowship of the Ring to suggest the menace posed by the Ringwraiths.

Top 6: Travelling Shots

See our separate Top 6 entry for more information about our picks.

Good Bad Movie: Night of the Lepus

The 1972 film Night of the Lepus shirks even cheap special effects techniques and settles for miniature sets and cross-cutting to try to make cute little bunny rabbits look gigantic and imposing.

Even Dr. Bones can’t save this flick, which — and we wish we were making this up — is about giant rabbits terrorizing the American southwest and “threatening man’s very existence.” And it’s not a comedy. It may be a parable about nature and overpopulation, but mostly it’s about bunnies stomping over houses in slow motion.

The funniest normal-creature-becomes-giant-and-terrorizes-people movie ever made? Quite possibly, and this is a sub-sub-subgenre that’s full of unintentional comedy gold. Worth your time if you’re looking for a movie to mock, unless you suffer from leporiphobia. But if you do suffer from an irrational fear of rabbits, you probably already figured that out.

 
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17 Comments »

  1. Rifty (64) said,

    January 2, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    On Night Of The Lepus, and DeForest Kelley and the Dropping Rock.

    Wouldn’t he have dropped the rock in the rabbit hole so that, if he DIDN’T hear it strike the ground, it would be because it landed on a Bunny? I mean, that’s the way it occured to me when I first heard it.

    Granted, the anti-gravitation thing is funny, and maybe I missed the joke (you guys deadpan your jokes pretty well).

    -Rifty

  2. Sam (405) said,

    January 2, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Rifty: That was probably the theory — that, or, the disturbance would disturb the herd and get them to moving about. But even when the rabbits were in the mine, they weren’t packed so tight you couldn’t see the floor. Initially, it was tough to find them in there. The rock hitting the ground doesn’t tell you a thing.

  3. siochembio (82) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Stephen: regarding “Schindler’s List” and the characterization of Ralph Fiennes’ character, Commandant Goeth, as TOO evil. I was actually fortunate enough to attend a talk by a Holocaust survivor, one that was in Goeth’s camp at one point. Her opinion of the movie: “They made him look like a saint in comparison to real life.” So, I will have to take issue with that critique of the movie - yes, he apparently WAS that evil, if not more.

  4. Sam (405) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    It’s a weird thing — we think of fiction as being more outrageous and dramatic than real life, and that may be true most of the time. But fiction is held to standards of realism far stricter than reality itself.

    I rewatched Schindler’s List over the weekend, the first time since 1994, and inasmuch as I never stopped considering it the best film of the 1990s, I was shocked at how much of its greatness had waned in my memory. I’d forgotten several absolutely wonderful scenes and certain beats in scenes I remembered well that made them all the better. It’s an incredible film.

    Anyway, I watched it with Stephen’s criticisms in mind, and I just can’t agree. The film is constructed of one great, great scene after another — just about any random three scenes in another movie would turn it into a classic — and yet those scenes of Goeth stand out all the same.

    And perhaps because they stand out, maybe they’re easy targets for criticism. But an easy target isn’t always an appropriate target. I think if this were a work of pure fiction, maybe the point would stick. But the horrors of the Holocaust are unfathomably evil, and it was perpetrated by the kind of people that could shoot Jews on the street without blinking an eye. Would it have been more realistic, or less, if the primary Nazi character in the film had been a more moderate villain?

    But one of the things that’s absolutely amazing about the film is that despite portraying Goeth in such a dramatically over-the-top way, he never ceases to be human. He wasn’t a demon. He was a human being (something we should never forget) with complex passions and urges he cannot quite grapple with. It is riveting (however horrifying) to watch him think through his feelings for his Jewish maid. He’s clearly in love with her, or would be, if he did not consider her subhuman. Equally fascinating to watch is the episode where Schindler tries to convince him that true power is in forgiveness and restraint, and so Goeth briefly wrestles with that idea before he finally decides to reject the philosophy in a stunning close-up wherein no words are used to explain the thought process, but you can see it happening all the same.

    There has certainly been no shortage of Holocaust movies, and many of them are great. But I don’t know of any other that is so dense with the complex psychological factors at play, that is so telling about how people cope (or do not cope) with and within such a horror.

  5. siochembio (82) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    It’s been about five years since I’ve seen “Schindler’s List,” and I want to watch it again soon with my husband who has never seen it. For me, it was my Seminal Movie Moment. My father took me to see it in theaters (Newington Cinema!) when I was 13 years old, and it completely and utterly changed the way I saw movies. Before Schindler’s List, movies were entertainment. After Schindler’s List, movies could be art, could have a message, a point. For that reason (and I think that’s a pretty good reason), it will always be my favorite movie. (yes, I recognize that it could have been another movie that did that to me, but it wasn’t. It was Schindler’s List at 13 years old.)

    I agree very much with your point about Goeth being human and yet still being so very very monstrous. It’s such a very very fine line that adds so much depth to the character.

    I also enjoy how in the end they mention that Schindler got divorced a couple times (I think I’m remembering correctly). The fact that he’s a hero is undeniable, but he’s not perfect, and the movie makes that point very well, I believe. It’s an important point to make, to humanize Schindler and not simply view him as a saint.

  6. Grishny (156) said,

    January 12, 2007 at 10:27 am

    I watched Schindler’s List for the very first time last night, finally spurred to do so largely due to the comments in this topic. Actually, I haven’t quite finished it, but I’m probably just a few scenes from the end. It is a long movie. I hadn’t even planned to view as much of it as I did, but it’s very engaging and it sucked me in; before I knew it it was nearly half past midnight and I couldn’t stay up to finish the film. I’ll watch the remainder tonight.

    I just wanted to comment on how well it shows Schindler’s progression from greedy materialist who just wants to manipulate terrible events for his own personal gain to a man who genuinely cares about his workers and is even willing to give up a lot of the wealth he has made in order to secure their safety. I think I appreciated that aspect of the story more than anything else; at least what I’ve seen so far.

  7. ThePhan (128) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Okay, so I listened to this a million years late, but a few thoughts:

    -To my shame, I’ve never seen Schindler’s List. I’ve really wanted to see it for about six months, but every time I go to rent it, a parent (specifically, one of mine) says, “Don’t rent that. We own it.” And yet I can never find our copy. I think I give up and am just going to spend the money and rent it anyway.

    -The movie Forrest Gump made me think of (a movie I also loved) … Big Fish. Although the stories and movie are pretty different, they felt to me like they had a similar tone, although Gump was certainly somewhat lighter.

    -I went and looked up on Gene Autry’s official website, and it says: “he is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, one each for radio, records, film, television and live theatrical performance (including rodeo).” So apparently rodeos count as live theatrical performances.

    -I shared Rifty’s theory on Lepus, that the guy expected to hear a SPLAT or maybe some sort of angry rabbit noise if he dropped a rock on them. Either way, that’s still not the way to go. (However, as a side note, if one counts Frank from Donnie Darko, I am genuinely terrified of at least one rabbit.)

  8. Sam (405) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

    It would have made a much better story if it were always somebody else’s parent that kept saying that.

    Anyway, rodeo! That makes perfect sense. Thanks for clearing up that little mystery.

  9. Stephen (221) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Wait… renting movies? I vaguely remember something called that in the 20th Century. Wasn’t it sort of like a primitive version of Netflix?

  10. ThePhan (128) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Quick side comment: Netflix doesn’t work as well for me as my sole source of movies. If I got it I’d definitely still rent stuff at video stores, because most of the time I’m thinking, “I want to watch a specific movie. And I want to watch it now.” And by the time I put it in an online rental queue, and it ships to me… I no longer want to watch it so much. Heh. Unless Netflix offers “download and watch” options or something.

    Anyway, now that I have my list at hand, my favorite films of the ’90s, just because I like listmaking.

    1990 - Oh, gosh. I liked a lot of these. I loved Awakenings, have a soft spot for Edward Scissorhands, but SERIOUSLY love Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, so I think I may have to pick that one, which pretty much nobody’s ever seen except for my family.

    1991 - I like Beauty and the Beast. I like The Silence of the Lambs. Those movie are rather different. I also loved Into the Woods, but that was a TV movie which was essentially a filmed version of the Broadway musical, so I will refrain from picking it. I think I liked Silence of the Lambs more than Beauty and the Beast, although I like them both in very different ways.

    1992 - I liked Aladdin, My Cousin Vinny, and Newsies (probably my favorite - a truly great original live-action musical, which hadn’t been done in a while). Unforgiven was one of those movies that’s good but I didn’t particularly enjoy watching it.

    1993 - Yikes, I like a lot of movies from here. Okay, absolute favorites. Groundhog Day is fun. I also liked both Searching For Bobby Fischer and Shadowlands. However, I think the one I actually enjoyed the most was Remains of the Day.

    1994 - I did like Forrest Gump. The Lion King was good. I liked Shawshank much, much better than I thought I would. Favorite, however, is probably Widows’ Peak, which is rather a fun little movie.

    1995 - As Sam was reading this list in the podcast, I kept thinking, “I like that movie. And that one. And that one.” Adored Before Sunrise. Cold Comfort Farm is a really fun, lesser-known comedy. Sense and Sensibility, Toy Story, Twelve Monkeys, and The Usual Suspects - all really good. Personal favorite probably LEANING toward Before Sunrise, but that’s not a definite choice.

    1996 - Although I like Emma and the Japanese version of Shall We Dance? (I have an awful lot of romantic comedies on here for not liking the genre very much) my eternal favorite HAS to be Waiting For Guffman. Not quite as hilarious as Spinal Tap, but the theater theme gave me that extra connection to it. I kept giggling as moments looked suspiciously like plays I’d tried to organize with my drama group…

    1997 - Eh. Haven’t seen anything from this year that I’m totally crazy about. Men in Black and Grosse Pointe Blank were both fun but didn’t leave any lasting impressions. I do remember enjoying Conspiracy Theory.

    1998 - I am hard-pressed to choose between The Truman Show and Zero Effect. I think I’ll go with Truman because I’ve accidentally seen it like three times and I still like it.

    1999 - Wow. This one is hard. Although I liked Malkovich, Iron Giant, Fight Club, Matrix, and Toy Story 2, none of them ever became a favorite. (For me Malkovich started out AWESOME and ended PRETTY COOL but the medium-late 45 minutes or so made me space out a bit.) I guess Iron Giant comes the closest to being a favorite, although Fight Club is close behind.

  11. Grishny (156) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    “Netflix doesn’t work as well for me as my sole source of movies. If I got it I’d definitely still rent stuff at video stores, because most of the time I’m thinking, “I want to watch a specific movie. And I want to watch it now.” And by the time I put it in an online rental queue, and it ships to me… I no longer want to watch it so much. Heh. Unless Netflix offers “download and watch” options or something.”

    Funny that just after reading that comment, I should discover this little bit of news:

    NetFlix to Stream Movies and TV Shows

  12. ThePhan (128) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Ooh. Now THAT I would use.

  13. Aaron (35) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Hahaha, yeah, you picked great timing, seeing as they literately announced that today. Of course they say they’re going to roll it out over the next six months, so it’s probably not going to materialize for a while.

  14. Sam (405) said,

    January 16, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Here’s a New York Times article on the subject that seems very comprehensive.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/technology/16netflix.html

    Personally, I’m incredibly excited about that. There are a lot of new release movies I think would be fun to watch between DVDs that I can’t justify using a queue spot for. Preempt my forthcoming Truffaut marathon for “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid”? Doesn’t make sense. Then again, maybe watching Anacondas doesn’t make sense in the first place. But I’m sure I could use up the 18 free hours they plan to provide their standard subscribers.

  15. Grishny (156) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I wonder how long it will take Blockbuster to introduce something similar? Right now it seems they’re pretty much NetFlix’s only competition in the mail-order video market, and they’ve just introduced the bonus of letting mail-order customers return their videos to the store as well as by mail.

  16. siochembio (82) said,

    January 17, 2007 at 11:49 am

    My problem with Blockbuster’s “You can return it in the store and get a new one right away!” campaign is that their in-store selection is pretty limited. There’s precious few movies IN the store I’d really like to see. I’m really into old movies and foreign old movies right now, so Blockbuster, with it’s fifty copies of “Talladega Nights,” is really no good to me. I’ll stick with my Netflix. *huggles queue*

  17. LaZorra (60) said,

    January 29, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    So I’m way behind on listening to episodes, but I would totally subscribe to a Serum-of-the-Month Club.

    That is all.

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