1/30/2007

All Movie Talk, Episode 18

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Oscar Watch 2006: Reactions To the Nominations (1:42)
  • Trivia Question: Double Nominations (15:46)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Pan, Tilt (16:16)
  • Top 6: Movies That Play With Time (19:08)
  • Industry Trend: Sound, Part 3 (38:19)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (55:36)

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Show Notes:

Oscar Watch 2006: Reactions To the Nominations

Be sure and listen to the episode to get the special code to play in the Academy Awards Predictions Game. We have some great prizes for the top three finishers who enter the code. Each winner will get a copy of Making Movies by Sidney Lumet, while the first place winner will get to choose two DVDs from the following list, and the runner-up will get to choose one:

  • All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • Breaking Away (1979)
  • The Conversation (1974)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? (1967)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Trivia Question: Double Nominations

In 1944, at the 17th Academy Awards, the same actor was nominated for the same role in both supporting and leading actor. He later broke his Oscar practicing his golf swing.

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Pan, Tilt

A pan is a camera movement that involves the camera moving along a horizontal axis, i.e., it moves sideways. If you have a camera on a tripod and you swivel the camera from left to right, you have panned it. A tilt is the same idea, but vertically (so up and down).

These are very common moves that are significantly easier to shoot than shots where the camera actually moves around, and they also have a more distant feel to them. While a complicated travelling shot makes us feel like we’re actually part of the action, pans and tilts allow directors to capture moving action at a distance.

These camera moves are often used in subtle ways, to give a sense of motion and fluidity to otherwise static shots. They can also be used in very attention-grabbing ways, such as a 360-degree pan shot. And of course pans and tilts can be combined with other camera movements, such as handheld travelling shots, to produce a large array of effects.

Top 6: Movies that Play with Time

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

Industry Trend: Sound, Part 3

Check out René Clair’s fascinating essay about sound, written in 1929 at the dawn of the sound era. This article forms the basis of much of this week’s segment on sound, wherein we discuss how silence and sound can be used artistically.

In particular, we discuss the work of Alfred Hitchcock, who was a master at using sound — and the absence of sound — to create memorably evocative moments on the screen. In The Lodger, we see great visual imagery to compensate for the lack of sound. In Blackmail (1929), one of Britain’s first sound films, we hear an expressionistic use of sound that creates a haunting impression on the viewer.

Although we do not believe silent films to be inherently superior to sound films, we do believe that silent film has a potential that many, if not most, moviegoing audiences overlook. As René Clair says, silent film has the power to cause us to lose our sense of reality by immersing us completely in a world of pure images.

For modern audiences, it may take two or three earnest experiences with silent film to understand the power of the medium. Like watching black and white films for the first time, it takes a little bit to get used to the form. But we believe this effort is worth making, because silent film can create certain types of experiences that sound films simply cannot.

Not all silent films are easy to start with, however. We recommend initially staying away from straight dramas, even some of our favorites, like Greed (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), and The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). Instead, perhaps cut your teeth of any of these:

Comedies

Adventures

Science Fiction/Horror

 
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8 Comments »

  1. wintermute (157) said,

    January 30, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I think the first silent movie I saw was Metropolis. I fell in love with it immediately, and really felt the other-worldliness that you describe. It really set me up as being a fan of silent movies.

    Wonderful film.

  2. siochembio (82) said,

    January 30, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Good recommendation about watching silent movies. When I started watching silents, I consciously decided to start with the comedies in order to get used to the style. From there I jumped to melodramas and sci-fi/horror, and after THAT I was able to watch Potemkin and Birth of a Nation/Intolerance, etc.

    So good call. It worked for me.

  3. Eric (44) said,

    January 31, 2007 at 4:15 am

    I absolutely love silent movies. I have yet to see one that I haven’t liked. Ever since I first watched Intolerance (on a crappy computer screen, in Real Player, with a vaguely distorted piano track), I have wanted very strongly to make a silent movie, a good silent movie. I swear someday I’ll do it.

    Don’t know if this is a good one to get started on, butThe Last Laugh is one that has particularly stuck with me. It’s a silent, of course, but it has no dialogue at all, which is unusual even for the time it was made. Not counting the opening titles (which are scant anyway), there’s only one title in the entire picture, and it wasn’t even originally intended to go in it. The great thing is, though, that you don’t need the titles or dialogue at all. The story is clear and remarkably powerful without them. I didn’t even notice the first time around that they weren’t there.

    A note about Metropolis, though, is that you probably shouldn’t go into it expecting a story about robots. That’s the angle that gets played up for some reason, but the robot (”man-machine”) doesn’t play nearly as big a role as it’s made out to. I was surprised, actually, by how political the movie was, as wwell. It’s definitely a movie whose visual style I would love to rip off in a film of my own.

    You mentioned David Lynch at the end; couldn’t you just see him doing a silent?

  4. Sam (405) said,

    January 31, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Eric: I would watch a David Lynch silent movie if only to see what the title cards would say.

  5. Aaron (35) said,

    January 31, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I think the robot angle gets played up because it’s the first (significant?) movie to have robots in it, as well as (I think) one of the earliest anythings to have robots in it.

  6. Ferrick (140) said,

    February 1, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for filling us in on the next Top 6 topic. The only downside is that I have to wait until next week to find out how closely our lists match up. Oh, the suspense! I may throw up.

  7. SplishFish (29) said,

    February 26, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I happened to catch part of a show on my local PBS about theater history in Milwaukee. It had some interesting observations about silent movies and sound.

    Something that I didn’t think about (but makes perfect sense once it’s pointed out) is that early movies transcended the language barrier because they didn’t have sound. Sure, there were title cards, but most of the feature was perfectly understandable whether you spoke English or not. Keeping in mind that Milwaukee was a German-speaking town in the early 1900’s, it’s easy to see how a purely image-based entertainment would be appealing.

  8. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 4, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Hey, I guessed the movie right for the trivia question. Just guessed the other leading actor. Cool.

    Also, I am working on trying to interest myself more in silent movies. I keep watching them and being less interested in them than I feel I should be. Part of this is, I think, because I am *far* more linguistic than I am visual. Dialogue carries the movie for me, probably more than it does for most people. I have much more difficulty being interested in the visually artistic part of film. I’m hoping this is something I can grow to like, or work my way into enjoying and appreciating, but I suspect I won’t ever be an avid fan of silent movies.

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