All Movie Talk, Episode 15

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Best of the Year: 2000-2005 (1:32)
  • Trivia Question: Finder’s Fee (22:31)
  • Industry Trend: Sound, Part 1 (24:01)
  • Top 6: Mysteries Where the Mystery Is Unimportant (41:16)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Crane, Handheld (56:39)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (61:13)

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Show Notes:


A title card, more formally an “intertitle,” refers to a shot of printed dialogue that is edited into a silent movie to let the audience know what someone is saying or thinking. Title cards may also contain expository information, serving the function of a voice-over in sound films.

Best of the Year: 2000-2005

Trivia Question: Finder’s Fee

Finder’s Fee (2001), a small film about poker and a winning lottery ticket, has a strange creator. Our mystery person not only wrote and directed this film, but he also hosts a popular reality television show.

Industry Trend: Sound, Part 1

They talk! Sound in the movies goes all the way back to their birth, when Thomas Edison and his lab head William Dickson were pioneering early film machines and cameras. The Kinetophone, c. 1894, was an early invention that basically combined a phonograph with film viewers. While not technically synchronized — that requires some sort of method of ensuring that the sound and picture be kept together — it did provide sounds and pictures at the same time.

These film viewers made way for projectors by the end of the century and the silent era began. The silents would be dominant up until 1927, though they hung around for several years after that. But even the earliest projected films featured live musical accompaniment, ranging from solo pianists improvising tunes to composed scores performed by full orchestra.

During this time period there was a large number of experiments in synching up sound and image, including a failed revival attempt of the Kinetophone, but they generally didn’t last. In the early 1920s, an inventor named Lee DeForest came up with a system called Phonofilm, a method of recording sound optically onto the film, where it would be reproduced by sound systems with a light sensor. It did not catch on with Hollywood, though DeForest spent the better part of the ’20s making and marketing short sound films.

Around 1926, two new sound systems cropped up. One was Vitaphone, embraced by Warner Bros., and used 33 1/3 records to store sound. Synchronization was achieved via an extra gear added to the projector that kept the record synched up with the images. Warner’s first sound film using this process was Don Juan (1926), which had sound effects but no spoken dialogue. Warner’s The Jazz Singer (1927) is the first film to feature synchronized spoken dialogue and singing — though much of the film is still silent — and is a smash hit, ushering in the talkies.

Around the same time, 20th Century Fox was backing Movietone, an optical sound system similar to Phonofilm. Fox produced Movietone News, newsreels with sound. More interesting to film lovers is Sunrise (1927), one of the greatest films of the era and a movie that used Movietone for synchronized sound effects and music (though there is no spoken dialogue). Despite the huge early success of Vitaphone, it is phased out in favor of Movietone and other sound-on-film systems.

There aren’t many major changes in sound technology for some time. Despite some experiments in the 1930s and ’40s, stereo sound doesn’t become mainstream until the 1950s, when movie theaters are heavily competing with television. The 3-D film House of Wax (1953) is the first general release stereo film.

Aside from a few gimmicks, sound mostly develops in a steady pace toward increased channels and greater fidelity. Many of these are associated with Dolby Labs, a company that pioneered methods of cleaning up background noise in optical film systems. The THX system, created by Lucasfilm in 1983, is a famous attempt at ensuring that sound (and picture) quality are up to par at theaters.

Top 6: Mysteries Where the Mystery Is Unimportant

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

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Crane, Handheld

A crane shot is a camera movement achieved by putting the camera on a platform mounted to a crane. It allows the camera to swoop up and down and in and out, achieving fantastic points of view that would never be possible were the camera stuck on the ground. Crane shots are very flashy and can be combined with tracking shots to create unbroken shots that are as dazzling as they are impossible-seeming.

The Stunt Man (1980), a great movie about the movies, includes several fun scenes demonstrating the use of cranes during filming.

A handheld shot is a camera move that is nowhere near as fluid as a tracking shot or a crane shot. Instead, handheld shots are shots where the camera is held by a camera operator. This allows the camera to move anywhere a cameraman can carry it, but without anything to stabilize the camera the shot becomes very jerky.

Despite technology that allows directors to achieve the freedom of handheld shots without the shakiness, many directors enjoy handheld shots for their immediate feel. Documentaries have long used handheld shots, and so directors of narrative films employ handheld shooting to achieve a documentary feel. In particular, action movies that want to pull the audience into the chaos of a battle use handheld shots.

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  1. Rifty (64) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Ha. I was actually in a production of Clue that was based on the movie and adapted to the stage. It was totally bizarre, and none of it made any sense, but it was one of the funniest shows ever. I was Professor Plum, which made me happy, cause Christopher Lloyd is one of my favorite actors.

    Also, loved the cut bit at the end. That’s my favorite. “Look at those camera guys go…”

    And one final question I’ve been meaning to ask forever… You have the opening theme, and then the guy goes “Allll Movie Talk.” Whose voice is that saying that?


  2. Grishny (156) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Somebody asked that question several months ago after the first episode aired. The answer was “Sam.”

    My work team all dressed up as characters from the movie Clue for Halloween last year. I was Mr. Green.

  3. Dave (130) said,

    January 10, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    I’m amazed at how crappy 80s movies apparently were. I recall during the 70s segment thinking that even though I hadn’t seen a lot of those movies, I at least knew about them and knew their reputation as good movies. Then the 80s segment comes along, and Sam is forced into mentioning stuff like “Ghostbusters” as being among some of the year’s best films. I mean, I like Ghostbusters as much as the next dude who grew up in the 80s, but if you’re busting that out in a list of “among the year’s best” anything, you’re obviously having to scrape the bottom of the barrell looking for quality films.

    The 90s and 00s seem to be reverseing that trend, at least. Most of the Academy picks and most of Sam and Stephen’s picks I’ve at least heard of, many I’ve seen, and most of them seem like quality movies to me. Well, except for Fargo and Moulin Rouge. Feh.

    Also, I totally loved Stephen’s five minute commercial for The Wire. That was great.

  4. Rifty (64) said,

    January 10, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    So, I just finished listening to Episode 15 again, and I picked up on the 2007 best pick of the year, which I missed the first time around, cause I was distracted while listening to it, and I felt a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind…

    please o please tell me that the April 1st episode (or whichever one comes on the tuesday just before that) is going to be you two just completely deadpanning made up crap through the whole episode. Please? That would be AWESOME. Cause I think it’s awesome when you guys do that.


  5. Ellmyruh (20) said,

    January 21, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    I’m playing catch-up, just listened to this episode and had two things to say:

    1. The Wire rocks. I don’t have cable but someone at work kept telling me that I HAD to Netflix it. I finally did this summer, and the result was that I upped my Netflix movie limits just so I could get the discs faster. Who knows when I’ll be able to watch season four, though. I really wish the show would get more recognition; if people paid more attention to it than to CSI(s), they would have a better understanding of life.

    2. The ending was hilarious.

  6. Nevermore (17) said,

    January 22, 2007 at 3:02 am

    I’ve been reading through many of the posts, especially side topics, since AMT started, but this is the first podcast I’ve actually listened to (and it was mainly to hear what was said about the mysteries where the mystery can be ignored - I love mysteries and love a good Agatha Christie and of course a parody here and there).

    It was great, and I’ll try to tune in more often. The sound history was very intriguing, by the way. And the 2007 picks of the year. Hilarious.

    21 weeks, 2 days to go…

  7. Ellmyruh (20) said,

    January 22, 2007 at 3:41 am

    Nevermore: What happens in 21 weeks and 2 days? I’m just wondering if I should be expecting a global implosion or a coupon for free chocolate.

  8. Nevermore (17) said,

    January 22, 2007 at 5:04 am

    Ellmyruh - It is highly irrelevant to anything of any importance. First, though, I need to let you to know/remind you that I live in Australia and so I’m eight or so hours ahead of US time and our school terms are completely different.

    Last year, in March, my friends and I were bogged down with back-to-school blues. In order to help us trudge through the general dullness of school routine, I decided we needed something to look forward to. Thus was born the First Annual Psychotic Mutant Pigeon Convention. On the 20 of June, 2006 (in Australia, the date read 20/06/2006 — actually a coincidence), we celebrated this event with a spontaneous celebration. Over here, there are 21 weeks and 2 days until the 2nd celebration of Psychotic Mutant Pigeons. But it’s really just an excuse for a party. Included this year, will be a showing of “The Birds” and “Psycho” (thus paying tribute to the Psychotic Pigeons).

    Like I said, completely irrelevant, but of course, feel free to celebrate the Annual Psychotic Mutant Pigeon Convention with your friends, family and local pigeons.

    21 weeks, 2 days to go…

  9. Ellmyruh (20) said,

    January 28, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Nevermore: Any excuse for a celebration can’t be too bad. You could always thrown in a Ninja Turtles movie just to get the “mutant” part in there.

  10. siochembio (82) said,

    February 4, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    So, I’m behind in the podcasts, and I just listened to the rest of the “best of” series about the 00s.

    You are both such heros of mine now due to “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “Crash,” and because everything you said about all three of those movies was how I felt about them. I once heard someone say of ABM that it was destined to win the best picture award of 2001 because it was the most boring of all the nominations.

    And yes, playa-hatas, “Crash” is a damn fine movie.

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