"Movies"

Date:  3/08/2006

 

I'm just going to write about stuff that I have talked about before with people to some extent.  Now everyone can read how crazy I am.  First, I'll start with movies.

-Special Effects
-Here On Earth
-My Favorite Pop Song

"King Kong As A
  Post Jurassic Park
    Special Effects Movie"

To make a long story short, when Spielberg was going to make Jurassic Park, he was at first going to go with stop-motion animation.  That's when a physical model is manipulated one step at a time to achieve the illusion of movement.  You know - that "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Rudolf The Rednosed Reindeer" look, or even, the original "King Kong" look.

But someone shown him that you could animate the dinosaurs using computer models and animation.  He was sold on it.

So Jurassic Park was made using full-scale mockups as well as computer generated images (CGI).  And it was made well.  Dinosaurs - though the "star" of the film, weren't on screen very much.  And when they were they were used sparingly.  The T-Rex didn't appear until nightfall well into the film.  There were just two, if I recall, raptors chasing kids.  Not fifteen of them.

But then we entered into what I call the era of the Post Jurassic Park Special Effects Movie.  What happened was that computers and their animation software advanced much faster than the level of spectacle on the screen.  Special effects became, per-shot, cheaper.  You could do more for less.  If you already drew and programmed an animation for one dinosaur or giant robot, why not just put 2 more in the scene?  Or 20 more?  Or 200 more?  Or 2,000 more?  It wasn't like in the old days where things had to be painstakingly copied using photographic tricks or hard replicating with a computer - since someone already figured out how to make a dinosaur or giant robot move, you could just as easy apply all of that labor and effort into making a scene with an unlimited number of images.  All it took was a little more operator supervision and LOTS OF COMPUTING.  But computing is pretty cheap.  It really is.

So what the heck am I talking about, you say?  Well...

  • The Matrix Reloaded - You know the scene where Neo is being accosted by an increasingly multiplying number of Mr. Smiths?  Neo fights and fights and the Mr. Smiths keep on coming.  Neo uses lamp posts, neckties, chopsticks - ANYTHING to get the advantage.  But there's literally a ga-jillion Mr. Smiths marching on him.  This scene goes on for at least 5 minutes like this.  Solution?  Neo just flies away.  Why was I shown 4 extra minutes of fighting when the solution was to fly away?  Why didn't he fly away in the first place?  Did I need 4 more minutes of Mr. Smith mobs to get the point that Neo was outmatched?  No. 

    I was just tired after that scene.
     
    I was tired during the whole movie.
     
    There was so much being thrown on the screen non-stop because it was economical to do.  In the old days, a special effects scene lasted only long enough to get the point across.  They used to only show what they needed to get the point of the effect across so they would have the least work possible and so they could make that work look the very best possible.  Matrix Reloaded - and other films now - typically chose camera angles that would maximize the the special effects load.  Each special effects shot shows more but it is worked on less.

    Whether or not each individual shot was economical to the story telling was inconsequential.  The spectacle was cheap.

I have to say I liked the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong.  But it is a Post Jurassic Park Special Effects Movie

What is better than a rocky island surrounded by an ominous fog?  A 20 minute sequence showing how the ship is surrounded by the rocks and the way the rocks look like skulls - and finally the ship running around on the rocks.  Why?  We KNOW they make it to the island.  This is the cheapest kind of suspense - I have to suspend my own knowledge that they will get on the island to be the least bit excited by the prospect of the ship sinking.  In the old days, they would have gotten onto the island as fast as they could because no one cared about how you maneuver a ship in shallow water.  No one cares about that now - but you can make the scene for a lot less money now.  If you already drew the ship on the computer, you might as well make it do all kinds of crazy things on the screen, right? 

But onto the dinosaurs. 

In the original King Kong, Kong fights one tyrannosaur. 

What is better than Kong fighting one big tyrannosaurus-like monster?  How about three of them - at the same time?  What's better than him fighting three of them?  Fighting them for 20 minutes.  What is better than that?  Fighting them... while swinging from ropes and vines and branches.  Kong wins the fights.  We knew that.  I had to check in and out during the action sequence - oh, it isn't over yet, okay, wait...didn't he just throw him that way and switch Anne over his other hand, like, 4 punches ago?

What's better than a 2 minute, 20 dinosaur stampede?  How about... 200 dinosaurs stampeding for 10 minutes?  I didn't know Jack Black could run so fast for so long to avoid all of those stamping feet.  I don't think anyone could. After all of this, the dinosaurs fall off a cliff like Lemmings.  It all feels like a waste of time.

For some reason, computer generated creatures are more expendable than anything that ever lived inside of a Tokyo-smashing Godzilla movie.  Hundreds of creatures can be created and wiped out with a click of a mouse on a graphics station.  If it is so easy to destroy them on screen, why put them there in the first place?   The dinosaur ends up being cheaper to put on screen than the human actor trying to run away from it.

What happens is that more special effects movies practice this idea of multiplication.  Is isn't how the effects progress the movie, but how can the effects be progressed into being a spectacle.  The problem is that a spectacle isn't very spectacular anymore when you've seen it before - even a dinosaur get's tiresome when there's 200 of them on screen at the same time.  Storytelling economy gives way to the temptation of the easily reproducible spectacle. 

I just find myself asking "Why is this taking so long?" 

King Kong could have been a 120 minute long movie.

"The Here On Earth
       Scenario And Ending"

I've actually engaged in long discussions about this before.

The Here On Earth Scenario is this:

A young woman and a young man have known each other all of their lives.  You know, one of those "next door neighbor" things.  Of course they are in love.  It is practically arranged.  The girl usually has some kind of fatal melodramatic disease.  In one way or another, a hot-shot Jonny-Come-Lately shows up in town.  The girl is curious.  The Jonny-Come-Lately stands for everything the other young man is against.  The girl has a dilemma - stay with what she knew, or be adventurous.  Usually the Jonny-Come-Lately is very insensitive, knows nothing about previously mentioned melodramatic disease, and only develops a spine until the second to last reel of the film.  Which one will she choose?

By the way - the theatre is probably composed of couples on dates.   The guys probably think their relationship is stable.  They are not rich.  They are not flashy.  They are, you know, normal t-shirt wearing dudes.  There's probably some jerks, but most of them are probably good guys.

The Here On Earth Ending:

Against nearly ALL internal motivations in the plot, the girl chooses the Jonny-Come-Lately.  Most of the film built him up as the enemy - we sympathize with the young man who has his entire would turned upside down.  At least, that's what the men in the audience think.  What we end up having is an unrealistic and unsatisfying ending.  When the girl ends up dying - and she will - the Jonny-Come-Lately will go on with life, buy a Porsche, and find another girl to love and get married, have kids, the whole nine-yards. The other young man will only have memories of a girl he loved but never got the chance to properly be with.

Again, most of the people in the audience are probably in pretty stable relationships - or desiring that.  Old Hollywood would have confirmed the value of stability and endurance. The flash-in-the-pan Chris Klein character would have been rejected in the final moments of the film.  No male watching this movie in the theatre with their girlfriend could possibly be the Chris Klein character.  They are Josh Hartnett.  The Chris Klein character would be outside waiting at the stoplight to burn Josh Harnett's muscle car away away with his new BMW in an illegal street drag race, not taking his girl to a chick flick.

The audience is left with the notion that what you have right now is only as good as what comes around the corner next, not what is tangible before the person.

I hate this movie.  Probably because I've never been Chris Klein. 

Variations of the Here On Earth Ending:

  • The Wonder Years. No, Kevin and Winnie don't end up together no matter how you think it happened or wished it turned out.  She finds someone else while working at a summer resort or something, he moves on. 
     

  • A Walk To Remember, except the main character Shane West is the Jonny-Come-Lately and the steadfast young man Mandy Moore has always loved is actually God.  Instead of trading one for the other, she gets both, and when she dies, Shane West gets to keep Jesus.  That's WAY better than Mandy Moore -  and she's VERY pretty in that film.
     

  • High Fidelity.  Almost.  John Cusack defeats The Here On Earth Ending, like only John Cusack can.

"The Best Single Pop
        Song Track Ever"

I prefer bands to most "pop music".  But anyway, this will surprise people.

I think the single-most PERFECT pop song is Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun.  It has everything.  It is catchy.  It LIVES INSIDE YOUR EAR once you hear it and you can't get it out.  I can never get tired of listening to this song.  And in the beginning there is this really cool stereo separation with the synth-keyboard - it surprises me EVERY time.  The sounds in the track fit the vocals perfectly.  Anyone can sing along.  This is one of the best tracks ever recorded.

 

 

// Chad@HartPH.Com //

 

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Copyright: 2006 - Chad A. Hart