5/15/2007

All Movie Talk, Episode 33

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Director Spotlight: Stanley Kubrick, Part 1 (1:27)
  • Trivia Question: Lunatic At Large (20:19)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Coverage, Master Shot (21:12)
  • Top 6: Robot Movies (27:53)
  • How To: Be the Slasher (44:29)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (54:51)

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Show Notes:

Director Spotlight: Stanley Kubrick, Part 1

What is it that makes Stanley Kubrick such a wonderful director, somebody who continues to capture the minds of viewers who are not normally movie buffs?

Kubrick began his career in the early ’50s as a director of unremarkable short documentaries, but by the end of the decade he’d make several interesting films and two bona fide classics — The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957).

His pace would slow down from there on out, and his movies would be made at a slow drip in his last years, though he was always working on something (he was cutting his final film at the time of his death in 1999). But that pace is understandable considering the greatness of his films: Spartacus (1960), Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) — if we don’t stop now, we’ll just end up listing his whole filmography.

His films are varied, but as with any artist several themes and motifs emerge. Kubrick was obsessed with obsession, and it seems clear that he was at the very least obsessive about his work, a constant perfectionist known for making gigantic demands of his actors.

Kubrick’s films, which he always had a hand in writing, often deal with obsession, coupled with some strange environment, as a dehumanizing force. Many critics and scholars speculate the reason he famously demanded so many takes is precisely because he wanted to dehumanize the performances of his actors.

This dehumanization is perfectly captured for Kubrick by the military, and he made several films about the military and war — none of them particularly flattering to the armed forces. These films tend not to focus on combat; as always Kubrick seems more interested in institutions and behavior than in anything else.

He was also keen on pushing the envelope. 1962’s Lolita, an adaptation of the controversial novel, gives a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile and caused quite a stir when it was released. Kubrick didn’t deal in gore or pornography, but he didn’t shy away from graphic images of violence or sex.

Visually, Kubrick had a style all of his own. His camera focuses extensively on faces, and he favors extended close-ups of actors looking at the camera from angles that are slightly off-kilter. This is not surprising, given that so many of his films are intense psychological portraits.

What might be surprising is how often he found sweeping images in what might otherwise be smaller stories. The Shining (1980) is a movie about claustrophobia but is one of the first movies to feature the Steadicam system, which allowed Kubrick to shoot long, winding takes with a very agile camera. Visual treats such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or the period piece Barry Lyndon (1975) offer a wealth of giant and lush images.

In the next episode, we’ll go through Kubrick’s filmography in more detail, covering his movies one by one.

Trivia Question: Lunatic At Large

Our mystery director once commissioned a script called Lunatic at Large, which he was hot to film before misplacing it for decades. Recently, that director’s son-in-law, a man named Phillip Hobbes, found the screenplay and now intends to produce it.

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Coverage, Master Shot

Shooting coverage is the term for shooting a scene from a variety of angles, giving editors more footage to work with in the editing room. A single scene, of course, usually consists of a lot of shots that are then edited together. A conversation between two characters may be filmed several different ways: a shot of just one character speaking and reacting (a one shot), a one shot of the other character doing the same, and then a two shot where both characters are in frame at the same time throughout the conversation.

The shot that features all the characters in the scene at once is a master shot and could, if necessary, be used by itself for the scene. In addition to shooting the scene from multiple angles and distances, a director may capture multiple performances at each angle. This gives the editor a wealth of material to work with.

Often, watching people have a conversation (or perform another routine task) is not visually interesting, so by editing together a variety of shots, the film is able to maintain a sort of visual momentum. Shooting coverage also helps to work around takes when actors flub lines or other unforeseen circumstances mess up part of a take, and it also provides important protection in the event that a section of the film itself is damaged.

Top 6: Robot Movies

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

How To: Be the Slasher

Hate teenagers who have sex and get high? Us too, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide. They key to being a good slasher is to kill with a bit of flair. Why kill people in their homes when you could do it in an abandoned carnival? Listen to the podcast for our three-pronged approach to effective killin’.

 
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2 Comments »

  1. joem18b (231) said,

    May 17, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I watched “The Killing’ last night and in scene 16 on the dvd it sounded to me like Elisha Cook flubbed a line. He’s sitting at the kitchen table with his wife at 4 in the morning and he says something about how Sterling Hayden will cancel the heist if the wife blabs. This is just before she says that Hayden made a pass at her or whatever and Woods covers his eyes.

    I backed it up and listened again. One of those cases where the actor starts to say one word and quickly switches to a different word. Not natural - not as if the character has changed his mind about what to say, but more like the actor staying on script.

    Assuming that the glitch is really there and I’m not just hearing things, does it mean that Kubrick didn’t have another take to use, or that he just liked this take in spite of the glitch? Because it’s unusual to hear something like this in a major movie, especially a classic, isn’t it?

  2. Sam (405) said,

    May 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Wow, that’s weird. I’ll have to look at that.

    It’s unlikely that the latter day Kubrick would have permitted this, unless he had a different opinion of how the flub sounded (he might have thought the hint of uncertainty was good for the character), but with The Killing being his first major feature, it’s tougher to call. He might not have noticed, or perhaps more likely, he didn’t have the money to fix it. I don’t think he developed his tendency to shoot skillions of takes until quite a bit later.

    Nice catch.

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