10/24/2006

All Movie Talk, Episode 4

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Controversial Take: Movie Theaters (1:20)
  • Trivia Question: Orson Welles Movie (11:46)
  • Series Spotlight: James Bond, Part 2 (12:44)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Cut (28:48)
  • Top 6: Definitive Adaptations (34:51)
  • Film Spotlight: The Third Man (47:57)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (61:28)

Press the Play button below to listen to the podcast, or the Download link to save it. Here’s how you can download new episodes automatically.

Show Notes:

Controversial Take: Movie Theaters

Stephen feels that movie theaters are still the best way of seeing a movie, because the atmosphere, the size of the screen, and the quality of the image are all miles above what even the best home theaters afford.

Sam disagrees in many cases, believing that theaters are full of distractions and that regular technical difficulties at many theaters significantly detract from the movie-watching experience.

Adaptation (2002), a self-referential movie that’s about itself, is a doubly bizarre experience if the theater in which you’re watching it misframes the movie.

Please note that if you see boom microphones in shots or if the picture seems dim and dull, your theater management has botched the projection, perhaps intentionally so.

Trivia Question: Orson Welles Movie

This week’s mystery movie, starring Orson Welles, has nothing to do with Three Men and a Baby (1987).

James Bond, Part 2

This segment is an installment of our continuing discussion about the James Bond film series. See Episode 3 to hear about the origins of the series and the first few movies.

  • The fifth James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice (1967), begins the tradition of sending Bond to exotic locales. Recurring set designer Ken Adam does some of his best work in this one, and the villain Blofeld, played here by Donald Pleasence, shows his face for the first time.
  • The success of the Bond franchise inspires parodies and knock-offs that start cropping up, most notably Our Man Flint (1966) and a comic adaptation of Casino Royale (1967). In a testament to the longevity of the Bond franchise, the most succesful of the Bond parodies (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) is not released until 1997, a full 35 years after Bond made his big-screen debut.
  • Sean Connery leaves the role of Bond, and model George Lazenby is hired for the sixth movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), one of the best movies but a commercial disappointment. Lazenby opts out of doing further movies, a decision he later regrets.
  • The studio pays through the nose to woo Sean Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The transition between actors hurts the franchise a bit, however, as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was intended to introduce elements that would carry over to the next film, but the filmmakers backed off on this a bit after the poor reception of Lazenby’s work.
  • Roger Moore is hired to fill the role for the eighth installment. His first outing, Live and Let Die (1973), suffices and is perhaps notable for how little fanfare the movie makes about switching lead actors.
  • Moore’s second film, The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) marks a series low. It fails on almost every level, with flat action scenes and wasting the talents of Christopher Lee who is cast as the film’s villain.
  • After Golden Gun, longtime producer Harry Saltzman bails out and sells his part ownership of the franchise, leaving Albert R. Broccoli to produce future installments on his own.
  • Even after three films without him, Bond still hasn’t established itself as a viable franchise without Sean Connery. Can the series endure? James Bond will return in All Movie Talk, Episode 5.

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Cut

  • Cut functions as both a verb (to cut a movie is to edit it; refers to the days when editors literally cut pieces of film and pasted them together) and a noun (a cut is the abrupt change in scene or camera shot that comes from editing two different shots together).
  • The very earliest films of the 1890s consisted of unbroken shots that were very short. Around the time films started telling slightly more complex stories in the early 1900s, filmmakers began cutting together different shots and cutting out extraneous pieces of story.
  • The early director D. W. Griffith pioneered cutting as a visceral part of filmed narratives. His 1915 film The Birth of a Nation famously used cross-cutting — showing one group of people under attack, cutting to a different group of people riding to the rescue (unfortunately these rescuers were members of the Ku Klux Klan), and then cutting back to the group under siege — and it remains a textbook example of how to create action by cutting.
  • In the 1920s and ’30s, Soviet filmmakers including Sergei Eisenstein would study editing and the psychological impacts of cutting on an audience, developing a comprehensive theory of film editing which we will discuss further in Episode 6.
  • Many film scholars dislike too many cuts in a film, as they can be disruptive to the flow of a film. On the other hand, modern action directors like Michael Bay use this disruptive nature of cuts to inject a sense of excitement and chaos into fast-paced scenes.

Top 6: Definitive Adaptations

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

Film Spotlight: The Third Man

The Third Man (1949) sets an out-of-water American played by Joseph Cotten in a post-war Vienna filled with intrigue. Director Carol Reed, best known for this film and the musical Oliver! manages to create a surreal atmosphere through a haunting score, strange camerawork, and brilliant performances from the cast.

Understanding our discussion is probably helped if you’re familiar with two earlier film styles. The first is German Expressionism, a movement predominant in the 1920s. It emphasized using the camera as a way to express the psychological state of the characters and featured bizarre sets and lighting.

Film noir, an American style predominantly of the ’40s and ’50s, borrowed style from expressionism but was more realistic. It also focused almost entirely on crime and presented a bleak worldview to match its stark photography.

Though neither of us feel The Third Man fits into either of those styles, both undeniably influenced Reed’s artistic choices in the film.

For a more in-depth analysis of The Third Man and its relation to film noir, you may be interested in Episode Four of Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir a film analysis podcast dedicated solely to noir.

The music in this segment is an excerpt of The Third Man Theme, composed by Anton Karas. It is used without permission but is believed to fall under the fair use exemptions for critical commentary of United States copyright law.

 
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28 Comments »

  1. wintermute (157) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 7:48 am

    On the subject of the theatre-going experience, in Britain, most cinemas will throw people out for using phones, talking too loud, and things like that. Many even give their ushers night-vision goggles to spot people taping the movie. It makes it easier to concentrate than I’ve found in many American cinemas.

  2. Sam (405) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 8:07 am

    They used to do that here, too, back in the day. But theaters have cut costs so much over the years, they no longer even pay somebody to monitor the projection booth, let alone the auditorium itself. And when you’re trying to maximize profits, I guess it’s counterintuitive to throw out paying customers. I’d certainly be happier if theaters started kicking people out again, and I guess a few upscale theaters do still do that.

  3. Grishny (156) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 9:02 am

    I liked the longer running time for this episode of AMT. It was just the right length for listening to on my morning commute to work. Started it up as I pulled out of McDonald’s and hit hte road, and the final “CUT” sounded just as I pulled into my parking space at work.

    I um, enjoyed the show, too.

  4. Stephen (221) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 9:29 am

    Interesting to hear, Grish. We’ve generally tried to keep them at under an hour, but I’d be interested to know what you guys think is a good episode length.

  5. Grishny (156) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Well, I think around an hour is just about right. Then you can go a little under or a little over depending on the topics you’re discussing that week. And it is nice how you’ve got your episodes divided into clean segments, so that one can listen to it in chunks if need be.

  6. grimblegromble (5) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    So, are you guys actually going to defend the Villiage? That would be refreshing. Even my Shayamalan nut friend hates it, while I think it’s not all that bad. Not Unbreakable by any means, but a good movie. I’m still miffed about the flak Lady in the Water is taking.

  7. Randy (21) said,

    October 25, 2006 at 12:18 am

    I totally got the answer to the trivia question right away. Does that make me cool, or uber geeky?
    Also, I hada discussion in rinkchat the other night about the role of M. Specifically, why Judy Dench is M in this new one. Since Casino Royale is supposed to be the first of the movies, shouldn’t someguy be playing M?

  8. TBG (2) said,

    October 25, 2006 at 1:56 am

    Stephen, I loved your comments on the lack of appreciation of movie theaters. I actually work in the home theater department at Best Buy, and I still like movie theaters better. No matter how great your system, surround sound, tv’s, upconvert dvd players, the best cables you will never be as good as a movie theater. The picture quality, resolution, all that aren’t nearly as good as what you see on the big screen. Plus, you can’t beat 12.3 (12 speakers and 3 subwoofers) surround sound compared to a 7.1sound system in your home. Anyway, I agree completely, and great job on the “New Hope” episode of AMT.

  9. Stephen (221) said,

    October 25, 2006 at 8:17 am

    grimble: You’ll have to stay tuned to find out exactly what we have to say about The Village. I can say that I hated Lady in the Water and feel it has to be one of the year’s worst films. Not only was it bad, it was pretentious as all get out.

    Randy: I don’t think they’re trying to make this movie fit at all into any sort of timeline. Sam will correct me if I’m wrong, but the series hasn’t really ever worked if you try and figure out a chronology — I mean, Bond remains the same age constantly but all the movies are set at whatever time period they were released.

    TBG: I think you and I are the only two people who feel this way.

  10. siochembio (82) said,

    October 25, 2006 at 10:51 am

    Wow, love the trivia question - it’s the first one I’ve known right away! (mostly because it’s my husband’s favorite movie ever - child at heart and all that.)

    I completely agree that nothing can stand up to the experience of seeing a movie in a theater on a big screen. Not only are spectacles heightened, but the movie commands your attention. Even low-key dramas (Capote, for example, one of my favorite movies from 2005) are more effective; in essence, they “trap” the audience and hypnotize them, thereby sucking them into the world of the film. When I see (good) movies in a theater, I forget where I am. I am very rarely able to duplicate that feeling at home, and we’ve got a pretty decent home set-up.

    Yes, there are bad theater-going experiences. The worst one I had lately was Syriana, when three people decided to talk throughout the entire movie. I had to shush them twice, and they still didn’t shut up. Yes, it ruined the movie for me, especially considering it was a movie as complex and complicated as Syriana. But the positive experiences far outweigh the negatives.

    Love the podcasts, love the intro music (Maple Leaf Rag has long been a favorite of mine), look forward to more!

  11. mindless_drivel (29) said,

    October 25, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Both the theater experience and the home experience have their pros and cons. Nothing beats the spectacle of having a huge screen in front of you with powerful speakers surrounding you. However, the idiotic stunts of people are a huge con. This past Friday while I was watching the Prestige, during the final climactic scene three kids walked in from another movie they had just seen, walked down the aisles, cut across the theater two rows in front of me, and were having extremely loud cell phone conversations at the same time. Where’s my broad sword of vengeance when I need it? Theaters would be the ultimate viewing experience if it wasn’t for effing morons like those. Hmm… maybe I could start a club of movie theater vigilantes. Anybody care to join.

    I don’t mind the technical breakdowns so much because I just go complain to the manager and either the problem is fixed or I get free movie tickets to placate me. :)

  12. Dave (130) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 2:59 am

    Ok, so I finally listened to (most of) the latest episode. Bond segment was great. I’m disappointed Sam still clings to the wrong-headed notion that The Man with the Golden Gun is the worst entry in the Bond series. All right-thinking people know the real stinkeroo is Moonraker.

    I liked the controversial take a lot. I usually end up going to the theater only to see movies that I either *really* want to see right now (the Lord of the Rings movies are really the last example I can think of of movies I felt I “had to see” ASAP) or that I think will be “better” in the theater (mostly the big special effects pictures like X-Men and such). I know that seeing a movie in the theater can completely change my perception of it. I totally got tricked into thinking Independance Day was a great movie when I first saw it, by virtue of just being overwhelmed by it in the theater and being caught up in the buzz of the audience (much like Stephen’s experience with Scary Movie, I later realized how mistaken I was.)

    However, I often get sensory overload at a theater. I remember watching Gladiator in the theater and finding the big battle scenes ludicrously hard to follow and ended up not caring about them much at all. Of course, I found out later that half of that was Ridley Scott shaking the camera all around in the most nauseating fashion possible during those scenes, but part of it was just that I sometimes find the theater screen *too* big–I just can’t physically take it all in and process the image fast enough sometimes. I know often in big fight scenes you’re *supposed* to feel overwhelmed by what’s going on, but I often find that when I see the movie again later on my TV, I “get” what was happening finally because I can actually *see* it all and take it all in. And I don’t think I just sit too close to the screen, either, because I usually make a point to sit as far back as possible, often in the very last row just to make sure I *can* see the entire screen without having to dart my eyes around or (even worse) move my head back and forth.

    Two instances of this stick out in my mind. The first was definitely partially caused by being forced to sit too close. I went to the 11 am showing of Fellowship of the Ring the day it came out, thinking I’d miss most of the crowds going early and I’d at least not have to put up with any kids, it being a school day and all. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on some school nearby actually having a freaking field trip to see the movie, so the place was already mostly full with teenagers when I got there. I had to sit much closer than I wanted to, and spent the entire movie darting my eyes back and forth across the giant screen because I just couldn’t see everything at once. Although I liked the movie a lot, I went back and saw it again a few days later because I just hadn’t been able to follow a lot of it because of where I was forced to sit. Everything was just kind of blurry and out of focus in my head until I went back and saw it again.

    The second instance had nothing to do with where I was sitting, and everything to do with simple sensory overload. It was during Matrix Reloaded, in the big Neo vs 500 Agent Smiths fight. I basically stopped paying attention to that fight about halfway through because I was completely lost. I didn’t know what was happening and I just wasn’t able to take it all in. I remember talking to Stephen later about the scene and he was saying how he loved it, and I was all “You did? I couldn’t follow it.” It wasn’t until I saw it again on the small screen that I was able to take it all in and process the scene properly. I still don’t think it’s a stellar fight scene, but it works for me now as spectacle at least, whereas before, I was just too overwhelmed by it or something.

    Also, am I the only one who sees tracks during big action sequences in the movie theater? Is it supposed to be like that? During so many action scenes in movies I end up seeing something akin to when you try to play Quake on a cheap LCD monitor–all quick movements leave ghost image tracks in my vision. It’s never quite as pronounced as all that, but they’re there and I think they’re a lot of the reason I often can’t follow big action scenes. I almost never see them when I watch movies on my TV. Does anybody have any idea what I’m talking about?

  13. Stephen (221) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Interesting. For me things are the exact opposite: I’m much more able to process visual information when it’s gigantic like that.

    As for seeing ghosting, I’ve never heard of that happening with actual film. Because film is only running at 24 fps, you get pretty bad motion blurring of anything that is moving quickly. But that blurring is there on DVDs, too, so I don’t think it’s what you’re describing.

    Also, you have to admit that regardless of which side you come down on, it’s a pretty close call between Moonraker and Golden Gun.

  14. Sam (405) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 9:21 am

    I’m not sure I’ve noticed motion blur during action scenes, necessarily, but I definitely do notice it when I’m in the theater, and the camera does an extended pan in an interior location. So, you’re in a room, and the camera swivels from one thing, 180 degrees over to another. Anything like that, I have to pull my eyes away from the image momentary, because the motion isn’t smooth enough. And, like Dave, I never notice that same problem when watching a movie on television. You’re right, though — clearly the movies are being shown at 24 fps either way, so maybe it’s just something about how the image sustains itself between frames? Or the fact that with projected film, each frame is displayed simultaneously, while television updates each frame row by row? Not things we can perceive consciously, of course, but many claim those sorts of differences have even more dramatic subliminal effects than how much you notice motion blur.

    As for Golden Gun vs. Moonraker, I guess we’ll just have to see how that falls out in the next episode.

  15. Stephen (221) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Technically films on video are being shown at something approaching 30 fps if you’re watching them on standard-definition American TV, but that’s 30 interlaced frames and I’m not clear on exactly how the conversion process works. It’s definitely not like you gain an extra 6 fps but they have to do funky things to get movies into the NTSC video format.

    It could be that the detail lost on video means you simply don’t notice whatever blur is there already — it’s like how watching a DVD on a television often looks better than on a computer monitor. The monitor is actually a much better display, but the TV’s limited resolution hides flaws in the image so we perceive it as appearing better.

    I guess my eyes aren’t actually good enough to catch any of this, since I never have problems with blur or ghosting in theaters. Then again, I’ve never experienced motion sickness or anything like that, so I may be less sensitive to the phenomenon.

  16. Dave (130) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 10:10 am

    It could be that I *do* see the ghosting on DVD as well, it’s just not as noticeable on the small screen, or it’s less distracting somehow so it doesn’t leave an impression. I’ve also never been certain if what I’m seeing is something that most people also see, or if it’s just *my* eyes that are good/bad/whatever enough to pick up on it.

    I completely agree that it’s a close call between Golden Gun and Moonraker. But my thoughts ont he matter are that Golden Gun is just boring, whereas Moonraker is actively painful to watch. I know Sam also maintains that there is a scene or two in Moonraker that actually delivers, so Moonraker can’t be worse than Golden Gun, which has exactly zero scenes that work. My take on that is that the one or two “good” scenes in Moonraker actually serve to make the movie *worse*, because they are juxtaposed with all the rest of the horrid crap in the film, and you are constantly reminded that these guys *could* have done better. It’s sort of a teaser–they show you one decent thing, get your hopes up, then proceed to actively and aggressively shatter your hopes for the film. Too me, that’s worse than just being boring and/or nonsensical.

  17. Stephen (221) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 10:23 am

    The three nipple parts in Golden Gun are pretty painful…

  18. Dave (130) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Oh wow, yeah, that’s true. Three nipples… *shudder* Still, I’m standing by my choice. I’ll hold off on saying more about what I hate about Moonraker until I hear Sam’s take on it hopefully next week.

  19. mindless_drivel (29) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 11:34 am

    I’ve never noticed “ghosting” on either the small screen or the big screen, but then again, my senses are horrible. I have the near-sightedness and astygmatism of a 60 year old man and can hardly see a foot in front of me without my contacts. Cursed genetics.

  20. ThePhan (128) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    Okay, FINALLY here are my thoughts:

    -I hardly ever watch movies in the theater. I present my reasons:
    1. I don’t tend to be blown away by images being bigger. The spectacle of it all doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. I have to wonder if that’s at all connected to my theater fanaticism but as I think about it I can’t actually think of it any way it would connect.
    2. When I watch movies at home, I watch them downstairs at 2 in the morning when everyone in my house is upstairs sleeping. Dark room. No distractions. I go to a theater, and… yeah, as Sam said. Stupid people who like to talk through the movie (or, worse, give spoilers). Popcorn chompers. Cell phone checkers. And also I can’t wear my comfy pajamas and slippers when I go out to the theaters. :-) Or, well, I can, but I’m not sure I want to establish that kind of weird reputation for myself.
    3. And the cost. This is more appropriate since I have a wonderful extended family who upgrades their entertainment system all the time and gives our family the old, still-newer-than-what-we-had-before tech. And with that cost factor removed, it is much much much cheaper to watch movies on DVD than it is in the theaters.
    Okay. I’ve said my piece. I can now continue actually listening to the rest of the episode.

    -A story about a bad theater experience was going to be here, but will be entered instead in the separate thread about these stories.

    -Aha! We just defined “cut” in our film class this week. And the history of cutting and film editing in movies. And crosscutting. And D.W. Griffith.

    -Haven’t seen The Third Man, but I keep almost getting it. I suppose I should actually buckle down and watch it now.

    -We TOTALLY talked about the link between noir and expressionism in Wednesday’s film class.

    -I’M IN HERE! Heh.

  21. Dave (130) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Oh yeah, ThePhan reminded me of something else I was going to say. Stephen actually gives a pretty conservative estimate of what a “good” home theater setup costs. I know a guy here at work who claims to have spent something like $5,000 on his subwoofer alone. Now that’s a little silly, if you ask me. But he claims his system (which cost him total something like $40,000) is totally awesome and totally worth every penny. I claim he’s completely insane.

  22. Sam (405) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    ThePhan: That’s another thing I forgot to mention. I get uncomfortable sitting in theater seats for too long at a time. If they’re cushy enough, that’s better, but nothing a theater can offer can improve upon an air mattress and a pile of pillows slung across the floor. Which now reminds me of my Jordan’s Furniture Theater comment — why doesn’t a combo theater/furniture store have beds and recliners for seating??

    As for your film professor, I’m getting more and more suspicious. You’ll have to let me know if, next week, he suddenly starts crediting us. If so, watch your back, as I’m sure he’ll be trying to figure out who the mole is in his class.

  23. Eric (44) said,

    October 26, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    What happens if Stephen or Sam correctly guesses the trivia question?

  24. Stephen (221) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 12:36 am

    We win a million dollars from Regis Philbin.

  25. Ellmyruh (20) said,

    October 30, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    I had the same Fellowship of the Ring experience as Dave; Maryam and I met up and saw it together, and one of us (or both? I don’t remember who) was late so we wound up in the front row. I hadn’t read the books and I don’t do well when I’m too close to the movie screen, so the whole movie was kind of a long blur for me. I still haven’t read the books, seen the other movies or rewatched the first one — even though I have two of the movies on deluxe DVDs because I bought them for $5 each from friends who were upgrading and needed the cash.

    Oh, and if theaters would take the approach wintermute mentioned and actually have employees in every screening, I’d be much more inclined to risk a trip to the movies. I love the night-vision goggles idea, too, and they just need to add Tasers and they’ll be all set.

  26. Maryam (14) said,

    October 31, 2006 at 2:05 am

    Ellmyruh: I remember that, and I was thinking about mentioning it (but didn’t, for some reason). The problem wasn’t just the closeness of the screen; we were also at a crazy angle to it, and as well, we didn’t get in there until the hobbits were already in Bree, skipping a significant part of the beginning of the movie. That last was our own fault (I can’t remember who was late, either), but the theater shouldn’t even have seats where we sat. There’s just no way the view from that angle was anything other than distracting.

    More thoughts on the theater experience: I am a person who can not sit comfortably in a standard position, and I have to have a leg tucked up somehow, or resting on something else, or something. I have limited options for that in a movie theater. As well, the theaters often seem to have the sound turned up higher than is comfortable for me. And everyone has already mentioned just how annoying other patrons can be. And if it’s crowded and you’re short enough, the heads in front of you can be very much in the way.

    And yet, for all of that, I like going to the movies. I think the experience is better on the big screen, as long as you don’t have too many distracting problems. If there’s a movie I want to see in the theaters, and I have the opportunity to see it (and I don’t often, sadly), I’ll take that opportunity. It may turn out to be a bad experience, but there are enough less of those than good experiences for me that I’ll take the risk. There’s just no way that seeing a movie at home can compete with seeing it on the big screen.

  27. Stephen (221) said,

    October 31, 2006 at 2:39 am

    Just FYI: my experience (at numerous theaters) has been that if you get to a show and find there are no good seats left — e.g. only junk up front — you can ask the manager to swap you tickets for a later showing. I’ve never been refused and I’ve done it several times. One of the nice things about multiplexes is there’s always another show just around the corner.

  28. Ellmyruh (20) said,

    October 31, 2006 at 3:39 am

    Oh, yeah, Maryam made a good point about us missing part of the movie. I didn’t even remember that part, either.

    Come to think of it, I saw Seven Years in Tibet under similar circumstances (though I don’t think we were late), but I liked that movie.

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