IT’S FINALLY HERE! HULK TACKLES THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!

http://badassdigest.com/2012/07/26/film-crit-hulk-smash-hulk-vs.-the-dark-knight-rises/

HELLO FRIENDS.

HERE WE FIND OURSELVES ONCE AGAIN, READY TO GO BACK INTO THE DEPTHS OF ACTION FOR THE FINAL CHAPTER OF OUR JOURNEY.

AT THE VERY START HAS TO SINGLE OUT AND THANK THE WONDERFUL TOM TOWNEND, THE INCREDIBLE CINEMATOGRAPHER AND HULK’S PARTNER IN THIS SERIES. HULK STATED THIS AT THE BEGINNING, BUT DO NOT DARE MISTAKE THE MOMENTS WHERE HE SPEAKS UP IN THESE COLUMNS AS HIS “SOLE CONTRIBUTION.” EVERY SINGLE CONCEPT AND IDEA ON DISPLAY HERE WAS BORN OUT OF OUR CONVERSATIONS AND COLLABORATION.

ON DAY 1 HULK & TOM TALKED ABOUT HOW ONE GOES ABOUT THE INCEPTION OF ACTION SCENES, HOW IT WORKS FOR AUDIENCES, AND WHAT STORY-TELLING CONCEPTS ARE AT THAT CORE.

ON DAY 2 WE EXPLAINED THE WAY TO EXECUTE THE ACTION WITH COMPOSITION, CLARITY, SOUND DESIGN, AND CAREFUL EDITING CHOICES.

AND TODAY? WELL, TODAY WE PULL BACK AND EXAMINE THE EXCEPTIONS OF PERSONAL STYLE/TONE WORK, BUT ALSO THE PROBLEMS THAT CAN ARISE FROM ANY OVERT “STYLIZATION.” THEN WE’LL DELVE INTO THE REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS/OBSTACLES OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, AND FINALLY WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM ALL OF IT.

LET’S GET TO IT.

PART 6 – THE BOURNE EXCEPTION

SO HULK & TOM ATTEMPTED TO PROVE YESTERDAY THAT TAUT FILMMAKING = THE SHIT, BUT THERE IS ANOTHER REASON IT IS SO REFRESHING… AND THAT IS BECAUSE WE ARE COMING OFF A NEAR-DECADE OF BAD SHAKY-CAM.

IT’S NOT A HUGE LEAP OF FAITH TO SAY THAT PEOPLE HATE SHAKY-CAM RIGHT NOW, BUT LOST IN THIS HATE IS THE FACT THAT JUST A MERE DECADE AGO, IT SEEMED REVOLUTIONARY. BUT THE RELATIVE TIMELINESS OF THE STYLE IS ACTUALLY NEITHER NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. WHAT IS HERE AND THERE, HOWEVER, IS THAT MOST PEOPLE SEEM TO BE HATING THE DEVICE ITSELF INSTEAD OF THE POOR USE OF THE DEVICE. JUST LIKE THE EXPOSITION EXAMPLE A FEW DAYS AGO, THE SHAKY-CAM AESTHETIC DOES NOT INHERENTLY SUCK.

FOR THE RECORD ANY CONCEIVABLE CINEMATIC DEVICE, WHEN USED CORRECTLY, CAN BE EFFECTIVE. THE PROBLEMS ONLY START WHEN THE DEVICE IS USED POORLY. WHAT CONSTITUTES POOR USE? USUALLY THE CAUSE FOR OFFENSE IS REVEALED THROUGH THE MERE USE OF A DEVICE FOR THE WRONG REASONS: CRAMMING IT WHEN IT DOESN’T SERVE A REAL PURPOSE OF TONE OR NARRATIVE, MERELY TRYING TO COPY A POPULAR STYLE, OR OUTRIGHT STRIVING FOR “COOL.” IT’S ALMOST A GUARANTEE TO FAIL MISERABLY.

THE PROBLEM SORT OF STRIKES DEEP INTO THE HEART OF ANY FILMMAKER, SOMETHING AKIN TO “OKAY WHY AM I REALLY DOING THIS SHOT IF I’M HONEST WITH MYSELF?” BUT IT’S A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK BECAUSE MORE OFTEN THAN NOT IT WILL STEER YOU INTO THE RIGHT DIRECTION, SOMETHING THAT SERVES THE STORY, CHARACTERS, AND CERTAINLY THE TONE.

SHAKY-CAM CAN STILL DO THESE THINGS, WONDERFULLY EVEN.

THE POPULAR USE OF SHAKY-CAM FIRST CAME INTO THE MAINSTREAM IN A BIG WAY WITH SPIELBERG’S AFOREMENTIONED SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. THE EFFECT OF THE AESTHETIC WAS HOW IT THREW THE AUDIENCE INTO AN EXPERIENCE OF HARROWING REALISM. EVERYONE ALWAYS SAID THE SAME THING, THAT THEY FELT LIKE “THEY WERE REALLY THERE.” IN USING THIS DOCU-STYLE(12A) SPIELBERG CREATED A IMMEDIACY TO HIS NARRATIVE. THIS WAS, AND IS STILL, THE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF SHAKY-CAM: THAT IT CAN MAKE THINGS FEEL TRULY “REAL” IN A WAY THAT STYLIZED ACTION NEVER QUITE CAN.(12B)

BUT SAVING PRIVATE RYAN DIDN’T SUCCEED JUST BECAUSE THE FREAKING CAMERA SHOOK.

HERE IS THE ENTIRE LONG-ASS, HARROWING, AND BRILLIANT OPENING SCENE OF THE MOVIE. HULK SPOKE OF THE CAUSE + EFFECT BEATS ON DISPLAY IN THIS SEQUENCE IN THE EARLIER IN THE SPIELBERG SECTION, BUT CHANCES ARE YOU DON’T ACTUALLY REMEMBER A LOT OF IT. SO LET’S REVISIT THIS SUCKER VISUALLY.

THE SCENE IS AMAZING BECAUSE IT COMBINES THE HARROWING SHAKY AESTHETIC WITH SPIELBERG’S UNCANNY FOCUS ON BASIC CAUSE + EFFECT (THE DOOR OPENING AND PEOPLE GETTING SHOT, THE HELMET, THE PHONE OP, THE CARRYING PEOPLE WHO TURNS OUT DIDN’T HAVE LEGS). BUT REALLY, ALL THE PRINCIPALS WE’VE TALKED ABOUT ARE ON DISPLAY: IT HAS FREQUENT OBJECTIVES BEING CALLED OUT (SENDING THE SNIPER TO TAKE OUT THE TWO ON THE RIDGE, HOW TO TAKE THE RIDGE), EVEN WITH MOMENTS OF CHAOS IT STILL HAD NUMBER OF SHOTS ESTABLISHING SENSE OF THE IMPORTANT GEOGRAPHY (WORKING THE WAY UP THE BEACH, TO THE RIDGE AND THEN OVER INTO THE BUNKERS), IT SILL HAD NUMBER OF MOMENTS AFFECTING THE TONE (THE SOUND DESIGN GOING OUT WITH THE RINGING IN THE EARS, THE COMPARATIVE STILLNESS BEFORE THE SNIPER TAKES THE SHOTS, AND THEN THE MOMENT OF CALM WHEN THE BATTLE IS OVER).  EVEN THE SHAKY-CAM SEEMED TO USE FIRST-PERSON AT TIMES TO HELP THE IMMEDIACY SEEM EVEN MORE RELEVANT, AND ANOTHER BRILLIANT TONE-AFFECTING MANEUVER. HULK MEAN, THERE IS JUST SO MUCH MORE GOING ON THAN THE STUPID SHAKY-CAM DEVICE… BUT, SADLY, THAT’S ALL PEOPLE SEEMED TO TAKE AWAY.

(REALLY IT JUST SPEAKS TO HULK’S TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY BUT THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT NOW)

IT REALLY FELT REVOLUTIONARY.

HOLLYWOOD TOOK NOTE, BUT IT REALLY WASN’T UNTIL THE BOURNE FILMS BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH SHAKY- CAM AND PROVED THAT IT COULD TRANSLATE TO HOLLYWOOD ACTION BLOCKBUSTERS, THAT THE FORM REALLY TOOK OVER. AT THAT POINT EVERYONE SEEMED TO THINK THAT SHAKY-CAM WAS NOW THE WAY TO GO INSTEAD OF A WAY TO GO.  A HOST OF IMITATORS FOLLOWED AND BUTCHERED THE DEVICE TO NO END. MOVIES USED IT WHERE IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. PEOPLE USED IT AS AN EXCUSE TO THROW UP 10 MINUTES OF ILLOGICAL CHAOS. NO WONDER PEOPLE JUST GOT SICK OF IT SO DAMN FAST.(12C)

ALL THE WHILE, NO ONE SEEMED TO REALIZE THAT IT THE ACTUAL PLOT, GRAVITAS, AND CHARACTERIZATION OF THE BOURNE FILMS THAT MADE THE REALISM FEEL SO DAMN VIBRANT, NOT JUST THE STYLE. AND BESIDES, PAUL GREENGRASS IS ONE OF THOSE GENIUS TYPES WHO KNOWS HOW TO, FOR LACK OF A BETTER PHRASE, MAKE IT WORK.

TOM: Yeah, I love the ‘mess’ of the Moscow tunnel car chase in the 2nd Bourne film even if it seemingly goes against so many traditional action principals. The mess panics the viewer – and the panic = excitement.

RIGHT. AND LUCKILY, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY ONE OF HULK’S FAVORITE ACTION FILMS EVER. BUT HULK ARGUE CAR CHASE WORK BECAUSE GREENGRASS UNDERSTANDS IT IS ACTUALLY A BALANCING ACT.  HE BUILDS UP ENERGY WITH HIS SHAKY AESTHETIC, BUT EVERY 3-7 SECONDS OR SO THERE’S A WIDE, NON-SHAKY SHOT THAT REALLY SHOWS OFF WHAT IS HAPPENING. THESE ARE THE PUNCTUATION MARKS. HE CREATES REAL, FOLLOWABLE MOMENTS AMONGST THE “MESS.”

SERIOUSLY, PAY REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE SCENE. THE SHAKING IS WHAT YOU NOTICE AT FIRST, BUT IN BETWEEN THE SHAKING, YOU HAVE TRADITIONAL MOVIE SEQUENCE. AND THAT’S WHAT ALLOWS THE SCENE AND AESTHETIC TO WORK PROPERLY.

DAMN THAT GOOD.

AGAIN, GREENGRASS USES THE SHAKY SHOTS TO ESTABLISH THE TONE OF CHAOS AND GET THE HIGH LEVEL OF ENERGY AND REALISM THAT HE WANTS, BUT HE STILL GIVE US ENOUGH OF WHAT WE NEED. THE ACTUAL CHASE IS COMPLETELY BLOCKED OUT AND ARTICULATED. THERE STILL ENOUGH CLEAR GEOGRAPHY. WHEN SOMETHING CHAOTIC HAPPENS, THE CAMERA PULLS BACK AND RESTORES ORDER. NOTICE WE HAVE SENSE OF WHERE CHARACTERS ARE IN RELATION TO EACH OTHER. NOTICE WE STILL UNDERSTAND HOW BOURNE NEGOTIATES THE FINAL TAKE-DOWN OF KARL URBAN’S CAR. NOTICE HOW IT WORKS. GREENGRASS USES THE SHAKY-CAM TO GET THE ENERGY HE WANT, BUT HE THEN BALANCES/INTER-CUTS  WITH MORE TRADITIONAL ACTION SHOOTING.

SO REMEMBER, SHAKY-CAM, EVEN IF FALLING OUT OF STYLE, CAN STILL BE VERY EFFECTIVE.(12B)

IT’S NOT THE DEVICE, IT’S THE EXECUTION.

PART 7 – “BAYHEM” AND THE PROBLEM OF SO-CALLED-STYLIZATION

QUICK! NAME ONE, SINGULAR MOMENT FROM THE TRANSFORMERS 2 ACTION SCENES.

CHANCES ARE YOU CAN’T. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

FOR STARTERS, BAY’S ACTION TENDS TO HAVE NO ACTUAL SEQUENCING OR PUNCTUATION MARKS. IT AN ENDLESS SLOG OF MOVEMENTS THAT “LOOK COOL” BUT COMPRISE NO REAL “MOMENTS.” SURE A CHARACTER MAY DIE IN SOME “COOL” SLO-MO WAY, BUT IT NOT A PUNCTUATION MARK BECAUSE IT NOT REALLY CONNECTED TO ANY MEANING, EITHER CHARACTER-BASED OR TO THE ACTION THE PRECEDED IT.

MOST OF THE TIME YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL WHO IS WHO (THIS WAS EVEN BEFORE THE ROBOTS).

AND THEN THERE IS THE MATTER OF TONE. BECAUSE WITH BAY IT SEEMS BE ALL THE SAME SINGULAR, BIZARRE TONE. SERIOUSLY, EVERY SINGLE ACTION SCENE IN THESE MOVIES FEEL THE EXACT SAME EVEN IF THE SETTINGS JUMP. DAY. NIGHT. DOESN’T MATTER. WE TALKED ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE DIFFERENT TONES AND HE NEVER, NOT ONCE UTILIZES ANYTHING  OTHER THAN THE TONE  OF… WELL… LET’S JUST CALL IT “MICHAEL BAY TONE.” IT’S LIKE HE COMPLETELY FAILS TO REALIZE THAT ACTION IS JUST ANOTHER WAY OF STORYTELLING. AND TO HULK THAT CREATES CINEMATIC CATASTROPHE WHEN THE ACTION SCENES TAKE UP THE ENTIRE RUNNING TIME OF YOUR MOVIES.

YES FOLKS: MICHAEL BAY,WHOSE MOVIES COMPRISE ALMOST NOTHING BUT ACTION FROM START TO FINISH, IS ACTUALLY BAD AT ACTION.(12D)

BUT THAT’S WEIRD RIGHT? TO BE FAIR, LOTS OF PEOPLE LIKE MICHAEL BAY… OR AT LEAST NO MIND HIM… OR AT LEAST LIKE LAUGHING AT HIS STUFF… OR JUST HATING ON… WHATEVER IT IS PEOPLE KEEP SEEING HIS FUCKING MOVIES. THERE HAS TO BE REASON, RIGHT?

FELLOW CRITIC TODD GILCHRIST HAS A UNIQUE TALENT FOR DISCERNING THE COUNTER-INTUITIVE REASONS FOR WHY PEOPLE RESPOND TO CERTAIN MOVIES AND HULK THINK HE CAME UP WITH GOOD, NON-PATRONIZING THEORY ON THIS MATTER. TODD’S POINT THAT WHAT MAKES BAY’S ACTION “WORK” IS THAT HE IS ONE OF ONLY DIRECTORS REMAINING WHO REALLY TRIES TO CONVEY A SENSE OF MASSIVE SCALE TO HIS ACTION SCENES (GIANT BATTLES IN DOWNTOWN LA! ALL OF CHICAGO! BLOWING UP LANDMARKS! GLOBE TROTTING!). THIS WAS A VERY POPULAR CONVENTION IN 90’S CINEMA AND HE NOT ONLY DID IT THE “BEST” THEN, BUT HE SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY ONE STILL DOING IT TODAY. WHICH MEANS THERE REALLY IS A PLACE FOR IT IF THAT MAKES SENSE. LIKEWISE, TODD MENTIONS THAT BAY ALSO ONE OF THE FEW WHO STILL REALLY COMMITTED TO INTEGRATING PRACTICAL EFFECTS WITH CGI. MOST OF US BITCH ABOUT “WEIGHTLESS CGI” IN SO MANY FILMS THESE DAYS, BUT IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT… ISN’T BAY’S CGI OFTEN PRETTY WELL-INTEGRATED INTO REAL WORLD “WEIGHT”? THIS IS A COMPARITIVE STATEMENT OF COURSE BECAUSE THERE ARE PLENTY OF TIMES HE DOESN’T, BUT ON THE WHOLE HE SEEMS TO BE ON THE INTEGRATING PRACTICAL SIDE. HECK, THROW IN THE FACT THAT BAY TRULY WARY OF 3D (INCLUDING HIS OWN RECENT OUTPUT) AND IT MAY SEEM LIKE BAY MIGHT HAVE SOME REALLY GOOD INSTINCTS TO WORK WITH.(13)

I KNEW YOU LIKED ME

SHUT UP.

THIS ALL JUST MEANS THE PROBLEM IS THAT MICHAEL BAY CAN’T PUT THOSE GOOD INSTINCTS AND ABILITIES TOGETHER INTO SOMETHING MORE COHESIVE… AT ALL… AND THE MORE HE LEFT TO HIS OWN DEVICES, THE WORSE IT SEEMS TO GET. THERE’S NO REAL WAY TO SAY IT OTHER THAN HIS ACTION IS JUST PUT TOGETHER ALL WRONG. THERE RARELY CAUSE + EFFECT, THERE NO LINKING, THERE NEVER A SEEMING OBJECTIVE, HE CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTS TENSION WITH BAD JOKES, PEOPLE SCREAM ALL THE TIME, YOU NEVER KNOW WHO ANYONE IS, THE SENSE OF GEOGRAPHY AND SPACE COMPLETELY ABSENT (WHICH MAYBE HIS WORST OFFENDER), AND THE TONE CAN OFTEN FEEL BORDERLINE-BIPOLAR.

WHAT DOES ONE CALL THIS?

ONE CAN ONLY CALL THIS BAYHEM.

THE WORST THING TO INCLUDE IN ARTICLE IS WITH THE SADLY FAMILIAR “WEBSTER’S DEFINES….” WELL HULK GONNA GO ONE UP ON ALL YOUR ASSES…. AHEM.

URBAN DICTIONARY DEFINES BAYHEM AS:

1. The cinematic conceit of blowing shit up on a large scale, in slow motion and (usually) at sunset.
2. A portmanteau word employing the concept of the inevitable incendiary mayhem employed by uberhack Michael Bay in lieu of characters, a script or a a pube’s-weight of reality.

THAT’S GOLD JERRY, GOLD.  IN HULK’S TIME-LINE THE FIRST TIME HULK HEARD THE WONDERFUL TERM “BAYHEM” WAS ACTUALLY FROM YOU TOM AND IT IS COMPLETELY FANTASTIC.

TOM: Nah, ‘Bayhem’ has been knocking around for a while – at least since The Island. I think I first read it in a Drew McWeeny (née Moriarty )  ‘appraisal’ on AICN – and not necessarily used in a pejorative fashion at that time.  I don’t know where it was first coined. (HULK NOTE: IT IS UP ON URBAN DICTIONARY IN 2007. KUDOS TO ANYONE WHO TRACES THE PUN’S ORIGIN)

But Hulk, you’ve covered the aesthetic problems, but I’ll show you why it’s not exclusive to his action. Armageddon is a guilty pleasure -a quite dreadful film but one that I derive endless amusement from.  But there is an approach to the narrative that serves well as an illustration of what is generally wrong with the way action sequences are also handled in a Michael Bay film.

The US Navy fly Bruce Willis off his oil drilling platform, take him to (Washington DC? Kennedy Space Centre? I forget… It’s not important) and tell him that an asteroid is coming in 2 weeks time and only his skills can make NASAs plan to destroy it work.  Immediately he announces that he can only help if the collection of rednecks and social reprobates that he works with are part of the team.  So far, so silly; so good.

Then there is a montage in which the army and police round up his cohorts and Brucie goes to remonstrate with Ben Affleck who he was in the process of trying to shoot with a shotgun when the Navy helicopter turned up to collect him. Bruce has been away from his oil platform for what?  A day?  With a limited time until doomsday I doubt the authorities waste a moment before finding Brucie’s guys.  But seemingly, in (at most) a 48hr period they’ve managed to scatter themselves to the 4 corners of North America.  They’re gambling and hanging out with pole dancers in Vegas, burning across open desert on Harley Davidsons, and Ben Affleck has even managed to buy and manage his own small field of oil derricks in (Texas? California? Again, not the point). What the fuck?

Sure it makes for a funny montage full of sexy women, sexy motorbikes and sexy sweaty oil spattered Ben Affleck but seriously, what the fuck?  I don’t think Brucie authorised shore leave in his absence.  How have they all got so far in such a short space of time?  This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Worse than that it’s a complete fucking insult to the audience.  Bay is effectively saying ‘none of you dumb fucks will ever question what I’ve done here because I’ll bamboozle you with pounding music, flashing lights, some of the leftover chicks from one of my Victorias Secret commercials and Ben Affleck wearing an oil stained wife beater from a 1980s poster.’ And it’s that disregard for basic temporal logic and utter arrogance towards what any reasonable audience member might expect from rational story telling that also pollutes Michael Bays action sequences.

THIS ACTUALLY VERY INTERESTING POINT BEING RAISED. AS TO THIS SPECIFIC FILM? YES, HULK AGREE. TO THE PROBLEM OF THE CONCEPT IN GENERAL? HULK CAN’T SAY HULK AGREE.

TO EXPLORE THE ISSUE OF “LOGIC” IN FULL THOUGH, HULK IS GOING TO REVISIT IN UPCOMING COLUMN. BUT BASICALLY HULK THINK THE CONVENTIONAL “REAL LIFE LOGIC” ABOUT WHAT SOMEONE WOULD DO NOT ACTUALLY MATTER IN MOVIES AS LONG AS THE TEXT CONCERNING ITSELF WITH MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, MAINLY CHARACTER LOGIC OR DRAMA LOGIC. THE THINKING IS AKIN TO ALL THE CHEATING CUTS AND POOR LOGIC IN SPIELBERG’S MOVIES. THE LOGIC DOESN’T MATTER CAUSE MOST OF THE TIME WHAT IS HAPPENING SERVES A BIGGER NARRATIVE PURPOSE. BUT THINK ABOUT THE TIMES WHERE SPIELBERG’S POOR LOGIC DOESN’T SERVE A BIGGER PURPOSE (HOOK, INDY 4, ETC). THAT’S WHEN PEOPLE FREAKING POUNCE. SO GETTING BACK TO BAY, HULK BELIEVE IT NOT NECESSARILY THE RIDICULOUS PLOTTING AND CRAP LOGIC THAT’S RUINING IT, BUT THE COMPLETE LACK OF COHESION IN TOTALITY, WHICH BLOWS PLOT HOLES IN HIS MOVIES THAT FIVE MILES WIDE. HULK ARGUE THERE A WAY TO PRESENT A MOVIE SO THAT LOGIC DOESN’T MATTER, BUT BAY SUCKS SO GOD DAMN MUCH AT TONE/CHARACTER CONSTRUCTION AND HIS REASONS FOR INCLUDING THESE SCENES ARE JUST SO DAMN NAKEDLY STUPID, THAT THE POOR LOGIC STARES YOU IN THE FACE. IT’S A BALANCING ACT. THE BEST EXAMPLE THAT HULK CAN THINK OF IS NOLAN’S THE DARK KNIGHT. EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THE JOKER’S PLAN, FOR LITERALLY THE ENTIRE MOVIE, NEVER, EVER, IN ANY WAY MAKES ANY SENSE. THE LOGIC IS MIND-BLOWINGLY INANE. SURE, SOMETIMES THE PLAN MAKES THEMATIC/CHARACTER SENSE (SOMETIMES) BUT IT SO DOES NOT MATTER WHATSOEVER BECAUSE NOLAN CRAFTS A BRILLIANT CAT + MOUSE STORY WITH TENSION AND LINKING AND SUCCESSION. THE MOVIE NEVER STOPS STEERING YOU AND YOUR EMOTIONS/INVOLVEMENT WITH ABJECT CLARITY. SO AGAIN, HULK NOT SURE LOGIC-LOGIC MATTERS IF THE MOVIE-LOGIC WORKS. BUT HONESTLY TOM, HULK PRETTY SURE YOU KNOW THIS TOO AND IT WASN’T PART OF YOUR POINT AT ALL. HULK JUST SAW AN OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT IT AND REALLY IT’S ANOTHER, MUCH BIGGER DISCUSSION.

WHERE WAS HULK? OH YEAH, THE IMPORTANT THING TOM IS THAT YOU ARE ALSO RIGHT. HE SCREWS UP STORY IN THE SAME WAY HE SCREWS UP ACTION.

TOM: Thanks?

HULK LAUGH.

BUT LET’S SHOWCASE EXACTLY WHY THE ACTION DOESN’T WORK, NOW VISUAL AIDS…

…HULK JUST REALIZED YOU COULD CALL BAY’S WORK “VISUAL A.I.D.S.”… GOD THAT’S A TERRIBLE JOKE. HULK GOING TO HELL. MOVING ON…

HOW ABOUT A COMPARISON: TAKE THE IMPLIED CHAOS OF THE BOURNE CHASE ABOVE AND COMPARE IT TO BAYHEM, WHICH HAS ACTUAL CHAOS. HERE’S THE CHASE SCENE FROM THE ROCK.

NOTICE HOW OFTEN THE BEATS ARE NOT LINKED. SURE THERE SOME SHOTS STRUNG TOGETHER, BUT IT’S MOSTLY JUMBLED. THERE’S NO FLOW. THE CLOSE-UPS AND RAPID ZOOMS IN AND OUT ARE RIDICULOUS. THE IMPACT OF EVENTS ARE NOT ORCHESTRATED, THEY ARE EITHER BLUDGEONED TOGETHER OR NON-EXISTENT. THE ACTION IS NOT A STORY. AND YET NONE OF THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF ACTUAL SUBJECT MATTER: THE LAMBORGHINI, THE HUMVEE, THE CRASHES, THE IDEAS THEMSELVES ARE FODDER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER A GOOD, INTERESTING CHASE.

WHICH BRINGS HULK TO ANOTHER IDEA FOR THE REASONS PEOPLE RESPOND TO MICHAEL BAY: HE VERY GOOD, IF NOT THE BEST, AT CATERING TO THE COOL IDEA: GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING, ADVANCED MILITARY TECH, CONSPIRACIES, BATTLES AT FAMOUS LANDMARKS, COMIC RELIEF CHARACTERS. IT ALL COOL IDEAS AND PEOPLE LIKE WHAT HE TRYING TO DO. AND LET’S FACE IT, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO GO TO MOVIES AND NO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FACT A FILM IS LACKING STRONG TONE (THOUGH HULK ARGUE A MOVIE WITH STRONG, VISCERAL TONE WILL WORK ON ANYONE, EVEN IF SUBCONSCIOUSLY). WHICH MEANS THEY AUDIENCE DOSN’T CARE IF THE MOVIE PLAYING TO THEM AS LONG AS IT PLAYING IN FRONT OF THEM. IN THAT CASE THE COOLNESS OF THE SUBJECT MATTER THE ONLY THING THAT MATTER. THEY ARE UNENGAGED, DISCONNECTED, AND DETACHED. THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR “COOL” TO SWOOP IN.

AND WHO HULK TO ARGUE WHAT REALLY “COOL” ANYWAY?

HONESTLY, EVALUATING MICHAEL BAY IS FURTHER COMPLICATED BY THE FACT THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WATCH HIS MOVIES FOR A KIND OF META ENJOYMENT, MEANING SO MANY PEOPLE WATCH THEM KNOWING THEY’RE GOING TO BE SHIT. PART OF THIS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE BIG MOVIES (AND MOST RECENTLY CENTERED AROUND A BELOVED CHILDHOOD TOY LINE, WHICH APPRENTLY PEOPLE GO APE-SHIT FOR. LOOK FOR HULK’S TEDDY RUXPIN MOVIE IN THE FALL) WHICH MEANS THERE IS THIS WEIRD SOCIETAL PROMINENCE THAT JUST DRAWS PEOPLE IN. THEY WANT TO BE A PART OF THE CAMPFIRE DISCUSSION, EVEN IF THE DISCUSSION IS ABOUT HOW THAT ONE GUY IN THE CAMP SUCKS.

AND BEYOND THAT, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WATCH AND ENJOY JUST HOW AMAZINGLY STUPID THEY ARE OR HOWEVER IT IS WE IRONICALLY ENJOY THINGS.  KEEP IN MIND HULK INCLUDES HULK-SELF IN THIS CAMP TOO. HULK WILL NOT GO OUT OF WAY TO SEE, BUT FINDS FODDER IN BAYISM ALL THE SAME.  EVEN THIS COLUMN IS PART OF IT. TOM MENTIONS THE ARMAGEDDON AMUSEMENT AND THE BAY MOVIE KIND OF LIKES IS THE ONE HULK JUST CRAPPED ON FOR THE BAD CHASE: THE ROCK. HULK LIKE NOT BECAUSE IT IS GOOD OR BADASS OR ANYTHING COOL LIKE THAT, BUT BECAUSE IT SOMETIMES FUNNY… SOMETIMES INTENTIONALLY (NIC CAGE’S PERFORMANCE)… SOMETIMES NOT INTENTIONALLY (CONNERY’S PERFORMANCE). IT IS A DISTINCTLY META WAY OF LOOKING AT MOVIES.

BUT TO RESTATE: THERE IS NO WAY TO ARGUE BAY IS GOOD AT CONSTRUCTING ACTION SCENES BEYOND THE SCALE AND THE SUBJECTS THEMSELVES.

AND WHEN HE STRETCHES FOR ANY KIND OF “STYLE” IT IS STYLIZATION WITHOUT MEANING.

… THEN THERE ARE THE TIMES HE JUST HAS TERRIBLE IDEAS:

SO WAIT, WHY THE FUCK HAVE WE BEEN TALKING THIS LONG ABOUT MICHAEL BAY?

TOM: [Shrugs].

OH YEAH, IT IS BECAUSE MICHAEL BAY IS BOTH 1) A MIRROR OF OUR CULTURAL FOCUS ON “COOL” AND 2) SO BIG IN THE ARENA OF ACTION THAT HE IS A TRENDSETTER. THIS IS, YOU KNOW, DISTURBING AND STUFF, BUT IT WHOLLY INFORMS THE FACT THAT WE CANNOT PRETEND THAT BAY IS IN ANY WAY SINGULAR/ALONE IN THE DISPLAY OF TONE-DEAF ACTIOIN STYLE. HE MAY BE UNIQUE IN HIS BRAND OF BADNESS, BUT STYLE-WITHOUT-MEANING SEEMS TO BE ONE OF, IF NOT THE CENTRAL PROBLEM OF ACTION TODAY.

THE ISSUE CAME UP RECENT PIECE/DISCUSSION OVER ON BADASSDIGEST.(14A) THE INCLINATION TO PROVIDE SOMETHING COOL-LOOKING CAN OFTEN GO AT DIRECT ODDS WITH DRAMA. I.E., DEVIN FARACI MENTIONS IN THE ARTICLE THAT A MOVIE LIKE 300 HAS SO MUCH THAT COOL ABOUT IT, YET OFTEN THE FILM’S ACTION IS OFTEN COMPLETELY INERT IN TERMS OF EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT. LOTS OF PEOPLE LOVE THE ACTION IN THE FILM (IT IS PRETTY AND COOL), BUT IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE.

THINK ABOUT THE PRINCIPALS WE DISCUSSED TIME AND TIME AGAIN OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS AND WATCH THIS CLIP:

HULK LOVE THAT THE SCENE LABELED “INSANE” BECAUSE IT’S IN THE SAME VEIN OF CALLING IT COOL. IT’S ACTUALLY A NEAT IDEA FOR A SCENE (HOLDING ON ONE SHOT AS GUY GO THROUGH BATTLE) AND THE EXECUTION MUST HAVE BEEN BITCH TO PULL OFF (IT USES SLIGHT OF HAND OF COURSE). AND SURE THERE’S LOTS OF TANGIBLE, NEAT CONCEPTS, BUT IT DOESN’T WORK ON A BASIC DRAMATIC LEVEL. ANY ENJOYMENT OF THE SCENE IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF “META ENJOYMENT.” SINCE THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO EMOTIONALLY RESPOND TO, THE SHOT IS ONLY PRETTY AND WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE. WEIGHTLESS.

THEY ARE IN GOD MODE. THEY ARE NOTHING LIKE INDY.

AND FOR PETE’S SAKE, THE MAIN REASON CINEMATIC REASON TO HOLD ON A LONG SHOT IS TO GIVE THE MOMENT TENSION (REMEMBER THE TAUT FILMMAKING SECTION?), LIKE THE WAY CUARON HOLDS THE LONG SHOT OF THE CAR ESCAPE IN CHILDREN OF MEN. MEANWHILE, SNYDER’S LONG SHOT HERE DOES NOT ATTEMPT TO HOLD ANY TENSION WHATSOEVER. AND WHEN IS THE CHARACTER EVER IN DANGER? THE SLOW-MOTION IS ONLY USED TO SHOW HOW GNARLY AND COOL IT IS WITH THE SLICING OF RANDOM ENEMIES. IT IS COMPLETELY UNLIKE THE MOMENTS OF SLOW-MOTION IN BRAVEHEART, WHICH WAS TRYING CREATE TENSION BEFORE MOMENTS OF SUBSTANTIAL IMPACT.

AND FOR DOUBLE PETE’S SAKE. SLOW-MOTION ESSENTIALLY STOPS THE DRAMA OF YOUR SCENE. IT HAS TO BE USED VERY, VERY, VERY CAREFUL. YOU HAVE TO BE SETTING UP SOMETHING BIG WITH CHARACTER RESONANCE, WHICH IS WHY THE ATTACK THE BLOCK FINALE WORKS WITH THE SLO-MO.

TOM: Thanks!

NO PROBLEM. ULTIMATELY, SNYDER’S SCENE ONLY SEEM TO WORK AS DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL SKILL. EMOTIONALLY IT IS NOTHING. THE WORST PART THAT THE SCENE MIGHT HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER IF THERE WASN’T ANY SPEED-RAMPING AND IT JUST STRAIGHT THROUGH SHOT OF THE MAIN CHARACTER WREAKING HAVOC. IT MIGHT HAVE HAD TENSION. INSTEAD IT IS LITERALLY A LIKE WATCHING A 2D SIDE SCROLLER VIDEO GAME. AND YES, THE SCENE IS  SURE FUCKING “INSANE” BUT IT DOESN’T WORK

WELL… HULK TAKES THAT BACK… THE SCENE MAYBE WORKS A LITTLE BECAUSE FOR ONE SAVING GRACE (OR PERHAPS A SAVING THROW?).)(14B)

SEE, WHILE MUCH OF THE ACTUAL ACTION IN 300 IS AIRLESS AND COOL, SNYDER IS AT LEAST SMART ENOUGH TO USE SINGLE PUNCTUATION MARKS IN BETWEEN TO SORT OF ADD MEANING TO SOME STUFF… SOMETIMES. LIKE IN THE “INSANE” SCENE ABOVE IT ENDS WITH THE SOLDIERS BRAGGING ABOUT HOW AWESOME THEY ALL ARE AND SAY “LET’S MAKE ALL SWIM!” OR WHATEVER.  WITH THAT LITTLE ADDITION, NOW ALL THE “‘COOL” PART OF THE SCENE BEFORE ACTUALLY WORKS AS QUALIFYING SET-UP TO THEIR BOAST. IT ALLOWS THE SCENE TO WORK AS A DISPLAY OF THEIR ABILITY WHICH IS THEN USED TO STRIKE FEAR IN THE OTHER SOLDIERS. AND THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. IT WHAT GIVES THE COOL ACTION THE WEIGHT AND MEANING. IT’S WHAT MAKES IT A (KIND OF) STORY… THE PROBLEM THAT IT SORT OF TAKES FOREVER TO GET THERE AND IS STILL KIND OF BORING AND OVER-INCLINED TO COOL. BUT THE IMPORTANT PART IS SNYDER EVENTUALLY FIGURES OUT A WAY TO USE SOME BASIC CAUSE + EFFECT… OF COURSE, HE THEN UNDERMINES THAT WITH THE GORGEOUS, BUT WHOLLY UN-INVOLVING SLO-MO SHOT OF THEM FALLING OFF THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF…

BUT HEY. CAN’T WIN EM ALL.

HULK REALLY WANTS TO CONVEY THAT IT IS NOT NECESSARILY THE SPEED-RAMPING ITSELF THAT IS THE PROBLEM. HULK THINK SNYDER ACTUALLY A PRETTY SMART GUY WITH A FEW HABITS THAT SOMETIMES WORK GREAT AND SOMETIMES DON’T REALLY WORK AT ALL. BUT IF WE RETURN TO THE CONCEPT OF THE BOURNE CHASE, WHERE IT IS POSSIBLE TO BALANCING PERSONAL STYLE WITH THE BASIC TENETS OF ACTION, THEN THERE IS A TOTALLY CONCEIVABLE WAY THAT SNYDER’S SPEED-RAMPING INTERESTS COULD WORK. IT JUST TAKES BALANCE AND A FOCUS ON IMPACT + DRAMA.

IT TAKES SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

IN THIS OPENING SCENE FROM WATCHMEN, SNYDER USES THE SPEED-RAMPING MORE FOR CLARITY INSTEAD OF COOL. THE ENTIRE SCENE IS MORE CONCERNED WITH THE MOMENTS OF IMPACT. CREATING DANGER. THE BEATS OF THE ACTION LARGELY BASED ON CAUSE + EFFECT (THE KNIFE THROWS, THE REVERSALS, THE BREAKING OF WALLS + CONCRETE). BETTER YET, THE SOUND DESIGN IS COMPLETELY SHARP AND FOCUSED. THERE IS EVEN AN ADDED LITTLE BIT OF TONE WORK AND COMMENTARY, AS SNYDER USES “UNFORGETTABLE” UNDERNEATH THE SCENE, THUS IMBUING THE ACTION WITH A KIND OF LYNCHIAN-IRONY-LITE. AND THE MORE YOU LEARN ABOUT THE COMEDIAN AND THE PLOT LATER IN THE FILM (THAT THE WORLD IS A CRUEL, VIOLENT JOKE), THEN THE MORE “CORRECT” THE SCENE FEELS.

THIS SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TIME TO MENTION SOMETHING THAT IS TOTALLY IMPORTANT: WE ALL HAVE THE NATURAL INSTINCT TO BE COOL. IT’S ALL PART OF THE HUMAN INCLINATION TO BE ACCEPTED AND MAKING MOVIES JUST AN EXTENSION OF THAT IN SOME WAY. BUT REMEMBER THE KID ON PLAYGROUND WHO TRIES TO BE COOL INSTEAD OF GENUINE? YEAH. IT OFTEN GOES POORLY.

WELL, THE SAME IS TRUE OF MOVIES. THE NOTION OF STYLE IS SO DAMN SEDUCTIVE AND YET IT IS A WHOLLY FALSE GOAL. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE ZACK SNYDER OR MICHAEL BAY, IT IS JUST SO CRITICAL TO IDENTIFY AND SUPPRESS THE INCLINATION TO MAKE THINGS COOL BEFORE YOU MAKE THEM WORK. IT’S WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK COME OFF AS “GENUINE,” JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE! AND THUS STRIVING FOR COOL ABOVE ALL ELSE CAN ONLY HURT YOUR WORK.

BESIDES, HONESTLY THE CHANCES ARE THAT DECENT-TO-GOOD CHARACTER DESIGN CAN TAKE CARE OF ALL THE “COOL” YOU NEED (LIKE INDIANA JONES’ AWESOME OUTFIT) SO THAT’S AS FAR AS THE CONCERN REALLY NEEDS TO GO. AND THE FUNNIEST PART OF ALL OF THIS IS THAT IT IF YOU MAKE ACTION THAT WORKS AND INVESTS PEOPLE, THAN NO MATTER WHAT IT WILL INHERENTLY BE COOL. SO THERE NO REAL NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

SO WHY DOES COOL IN MOVIES MATTER SO MUCH? WHY THIS IMMENSE PRESSURE? IT CAN’T JUST BE THE INCLINATION OF THE DIRECTORS RIGHT?

RIGHT.

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE REAL CRUX OF THE “COOL” PROBLEM: MARKETING.

HULK NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO DERIDE MARKETING, HELL HULK WORKED IN MARKETING AND FIND DEMOGRAPHICS AND SYSTEMIC ANALYSIS TO FASCINATING… BUT HULK RECOGNIZE IT HAVE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT GOAL FROM STORYTELLING:

MARKETING IS PURELY ABOUT SALES.

STORYTELLING IS ABOUT CAPTIVATING AN AUDIENCE THAT IS ALREADY THERE.

THE TWO ARE AT ODDS. AND THEREFORE “THE BUSINESS OF COOL” IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT IN MARKETING THAT IT IS IN MOVIES. MEANING THE IMAGERY OF 300, WHICH IN TERMS OF STORYTELLING IS OFTEN WEIGHTLESS, SURE WORKS DAMN FUCKING WELL IN A TRAILER. THE SLO-MO AND SPEED-RAMPING ADHERE BEAUTIFULLY TO THE PRESENTATION OF SUCCESSIVE, A-CONTEXTUAL MOMENTS, SUGGESTING A LARGER EXPERIENCE  OF COOL AND ATTITUDE.(15)

THE NET RESULT OF THIS KIND OF ALLURE IS THAT IT GETS BUTTS IN SEATS AND MISREPRESENTS THE NOTION OF SUCCESS. YES WELL-SOLD MOVIES ON THE FIRST WEEKEND DRIVE THE BUSINESS, BUT IT IS STILL SHORT SIGHTED WHEN IT COMES TO ACTION TENT-POLES. WHY? BECAUSE THE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY IN SUMMER MOVIES IS A PROPERTY AND PROPERTIES ARE BUILT OFF OFF GOOD PRODUCTS WHICH HAVE LONGER BOX OFFICE PLAY.  AND GOOD PRODUCTS ARE GOOD MOVIES WITH GOOD STORIES (99% OF THE TIME). SO IF YOU MAKE A FILM WHERE THE ACTION/CHARACTERIZATION IS GOOD, THAN IT CAN TRANSCEND THE AUDIENCE THAT JUST LOOKING FOR THE MARKETED COOL, THEN YOU WILL CREATE A MOVIE THAT HAS LONG -ERM ECONOMIC VALUE. REMEMBER, EVERYONE CAN ENJOY SOMETHING THAT IS GOOD. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER IT IS THRILLING, FUN, OR WHATEVER. BUT IF YOU WANT THE LONG TERM FUTURE FOR YOUR FRANCHISE THEN IT HAS TO BE GOOD.

GOING BACK TO EVERYTHING WE’VE TALKED ABOUT: “GOOD-NESS” IN ACTION IS ABOUT RELATING AND PARTICIPATING: INDIANA JONES HAS THE WHIP AND THE HAT BUT HE ALSO HAS THE FEAR AND THE TERRIBLE LUCK.  WE FOLLOW JASON BOURNE NOT BECAUSE HE CAN KICK ANYONE’S ASS AND CAN GET OUT OF ANY SITUATION, BUT BECAUSE HE IS DESPERATE, AFRAID, AND TORMENTED. WE CARE ABOUT NEO’S FIGHT SKILLS BECAUSE WE CAN ACTUALLY SEE THEM.  WE CARE ABOUT THE VIOLENCE IN TARANTINO MOVIES BECAUSE HE BUILDS UP THE ANTICIPATION WITH INCREDIBLE SKILL. AND WE ARE EXHILARATED BY TWO GUYS STANDING ON SIDES OF A HOTEL DOOR BECAUSE OF THE ACTION-COMPOSING-SKILL OF FILMMAKERS WHO BROUGHT YOU BARTON FINK.

IF YOU MAKE SOMETHING THAT COMPELLING, THEN IT WILL INHERENTLY BE COOL.

TOM: This discussion of cool is pretty interesting because there is something evasive about it too. There’s real questions about veracity of image. For example, now here’s an angle. For the record, I love watching this sort of stuff:

It seems to be the real life embodiment of something every young boy dreams of – fucking flying like a bat out of hell. Even if it is more akin to “Falling, With Style” (©Buzz Lightyear).

There’s been such a proliferation of high quality amateur footage of people throwing themselves off fucking cliffs and buzzing hillside spectators posted online in the last few years that it was crushingly inevitable that such a sequence would make it’s way into a big action movie and low and behold Mr M. Bay skewered the zeitgeist by shoehorning it into Transformers 3: Dorks of the Moon.  In fact, so heralded was the flying suit sequence, all I knew about the film’s story before I saw it was ‘the Apollo moon landings had a secret agenda’, ‘in this one the kid who talks too fast is looking for a job’ and ‘THERE’S DUDES IN FLYING SUITS’. That’s 3 generations of idiots lining up at the box office right there with those 3 promises!

But the flying suit sequence was crap.  Really crap.  Not just because the plot purpose for people to be risking life and limb in that fashion seemed pretty tenuous but visually it failed to evoke even a 10th of the visceral thrill crappier YouTube footage does.

Why is that?  The presentation of the ‘flying’ in Bay’s film was competently filmed (though the cheaty CGI comps were better than the real McCoy) and even he can’t fuck up geography when it comes to ‘objects heavier than air will always fall to the ground’.  Sure, we don’t care much whether a bunch of ‘red shirts’ make it in one piece but surely the sight of a human being performing such a perilous action is innately thrilling?  No, it would seem not.

It’s no accident that I knew that there was a flying suit sequence in the film.  The Transformers publicity juggernaut had been very careful to give maximum exposure to the fact that the sequence had been performed by seasoned flying suit nut-nuts, had been filmed ‘for real’ in downtown Chicago and represented a ‘cinematic first’. As a prospective audience member you would be handing over hard earned cash at the box office to see a faithful documentation of a spectacular event especially staged for Transformers 3.  P.T. Barnum would’ve approved of the hoopla and, in industry parlance, ‘awareness’ surrounding this particular action scene.  None of your ‘CGI robots that can do anything’ here folks, real life death defying human beings performing a unique stunt.  Pass the smelling salts.

But when we see amateur footage on YouTube it IS real.  That implies a lot of things including the ghoulish potential that we’ll see a really hideous injury or fatality occur, that the requisite ‘health & safety’ considerations that rule a film set haven’t been adhered to and as a consequence what we see will be far more dangerous.

Simple distinction, right?  Well no.  What cinema can construct for us should be equally compelling, if no more so, by attaching narrative importance to the action depicted.  ‘If these guys fuck up the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE IS DOOMED!’ Compelling.

But not half as compelling as ‘JESUS WEPT, THAT LUNATIC MISSED THAT PINE TREE BY INCHES!  FUCK ME HE’S DOING 180mph AND IN SERIOUS DANGER OF GETTING A GRASS STAIN ON HIS KNEES!’-

HEY, HEY YOU ENCROACHING ON HULK SPEAK!

TOM: Deepest apologies green one.

If memory serves me (and did you know that we struggle to form memories of images presented in 3D as easily as those in 2D – MRI scans show quite different patterns of brain activity depending on which format; shit you’ll never hear about from James Cameron) Bay made a basic error in the way in which he covered the sequence.  Amateur footage always interpolates two basic camera positions – cameras fixed to the flyer and a straight man at ground level who captures the flyer’s as they ‘blow by’. Edited with a modicum of skill and some groovy techno music there’s always a neat rhythm of exhilarating ‘reach out and touch the sky’ moments punctuated with window shattering near misses which vitally give a sense of speed in relation a fixed position.  By contrast Bay’s many methods of covering the same action too often  failed to show how fast people were traveling against a static point or tried to enhance that by pushing the camera against the direction of travel.  Though, in fairness, this isn’t why the scene failed.

As I’m sure you can tell I’m finding the precise reason a bit nebulous.  After all a very similar sequence (strictly ‘sky diving’) in Star Trek was fun and thrilling.  It had clearer stakes (stop the bad guys from destroying an entire planet, oh and by the way, the only way to do this, with minutes to spare, is to plummet head first towards a tiny target) but involved a very similar spectacle.

Can that be the only reason why the Transformers scene failed to thrill?  The relative irrelevance of why people were performing their stunt?  Or is there more to it than that.  After all, the people in YouTube clips have no clear objective beyond ‘FUCKING GNARLY THRILL SEEKING’.  And by most accounts that shouldn’t be enough to be a compelling ride for the passive observer.

Anyways, I’m all out of synonyms now.

TOM. YOU JUST BLEW HULK’S BRAIN OUT BACK OF HULK’S HEAD.

TOM: Thanks?

NO, THAT WAS TREMENDOUS. VERACITY IS A REALLY INTERESTING COMPONENT TO ACTION. ONCE AGAIN IT ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE TOPICS THAT PROBABLY NEEDS IT’S OWN COLUMNS AND INVOLVES A LOT OF SEMIOTICS AND STUFF. BUT IT REALLY, TRULY RELEVANT TO ASKING US “WHAT ARE WE REALLY RESPONDING TOO?”

AND IT REMINDED HULK OF SOMETHING.

THERE IS ONE LAST TID-BIT TO ADD TO THIS “COOL” CONVERSATION ABOUT STYLE AND IT IS A VERY, VERY IMPORTANT ONE.

THERE ARE DIRECTORS CURRENTLY OUT THERE WHOSE WORK IS SO STEEPED IN THE LANGUAGE OF POPULAR AND CLASSIC GENRE/ACTION/AESTHETICS THAT THEY ARE BOTH DIRECTLY ENGAGING WHAT IS THE CURRENT “COOL” CINEMA AND YET WHOLLY TRANSCEND IT. THIS GROUP OF FILMMAKERS INCLUDES SOMEONE YOU PERHAPS FAMILIAR WITH:

EDGAR WRIGHT.

            PICTURED: BADASS

HULK MENTIONING HIM FOR SOLE REASON OF ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THERE IS A WAY OF HANDLING THE DIRECT USE OF IN-VOGUE CINEMATIC STYLINGS WITH A HIGH-WIRE ACT OF NARRATIVE/META FILMMAKING. SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, AND SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD ARE NOT ONLY HIGHLY PROPULSIVE, HILARIOUS FILMS, BUT MANAGE TO DIRECTLY ENGAGE THE TRENDS AND STYLE OF COOL CINEMA, AND YET SUBVERT IT, YET STILL NAKEDLY LOVE IT, YET FURTHER COMMENT ON IT, AND ULTIMATELY TRANSCEND IT. HE CAN LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE ID OF BAD BOYS 2 AND FIND A KIND OF WONDERFUL CINEMATIC JOY AND IMBUE THE LANGUAGE OF BAYHEM INTO HIS OWN FULLY-FORMED, UNIQUE CINEMA. BUT WHAT ENSURES THAT ALL THESE HIGHFALUTIN COMPONENTS WORK IS ALWAYS THE FACT THAT HIS MOVIES ARE STEEPED IN NOT JUST THE LANGUAGE OF THE MORE CURRENT CLIMATE, BUT DEEPLY IN THE HISTORY OF ALLCINEMA. AND WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAT ANY OF THIS COMPLICATED STUFF, IS THE FACT THAT HIS MOVIE ARE JUST GREAT, RELATE-ABLE HUMAN STORIES AT THEIR CORE.

TOM: I hear he produces things too.

INDEED! HULK JUST THOUGHT WE REALLY SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT POSSIBLE TO REALLY ENGAGE THE LANGUAGE OF CURRENT CINEMA, BUT THE PROBLEM OF EVEN BRINGING THIS UP IS THAT IT WOULD START SOMETHING THAT IS SOOOOOO NOT A BASICS CONVERSATION. ANALYZING THE DIFFERENT LEVELS THAT HIS FILMS WORK ON (OFTEN SIMULTANEOUSLY) WOULD TAKE SOME SERIOUS DEEP TISSUE ANALYSIS AND THIS SUCKER IS LONG ENOUGH. SO CONSIDER THE DISCUSSION A PROMISE FOR THE FUTURE.

YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED THAT THIS PART OF THE ESSAY ON STYLIZATION WAS FAIRLY TANGENTIAL AND  SCATTERED IN CONVERSATION, BUT THE NATURE OF THE CONVERSATION SORT OF CALLS FOR IT. THERE’S A LOT MORE ABSTRACT, PSYCHOLOGICAL REASONS FOR THESE PROBLEMS SO BY ADDRESSING EVERYTHING AT PLAY YOU CAN SORT OF GET A CLEARER PICTURE, BUT THERE’S REALLY NO A, B, C THINKING WHEN IT COMES TO WHY PEOPLE OVERLY-STYLIZE THERE FILMS. STILL, HULK THINKS WE’VE SUFFICIENTLY COVERED THE PROBLEMS OF COOL + STYLIZATION RIGHT?

TOM: Er….Safe to say.

MOVING ON!

PART 8 –  LOGISTICS, LIMITS, AND THE REALITY OF THE 2ND UNIT

A LOT OF PETER JACKSONS ACTION WORK IS JUST WONDERFUL. IT’S FULL OF WONDER AND AWE, OBJECTIVES, BEATS, CAUSE + EFFECT AND ALL THAT GREAT STUFF. AND THEN THERE FEW SCENES THAT ARE SORT OF INFAMOUSLY BAD AND PEOPLE TOTALLY POOP ON THEM. FOR INSTANCE, PETER JACKSON SOMETIMES GETS CRAP FOR THE LAME WIZARD FIGHT SCENE IN FELLOWSHIP. AND TO BE HONEST, YEAH, THE FIGHT SCENE PRETTY LAME.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM… PETER JACKSON DIDN’T FILM IT.

IT WASN’T EVEN FILMED BY THE 2ND UNIT DIRECTOR, BUT ONE OF THE MANY 3RD UNIT DIRECTORS. IF HULK REMEMBERING THE DOCUMENTARY RIGHT, HE WAS SOME FRESH FACED KID GETTING CALLED UP TO THE MAJORS. AND TO BE FAIR HE HANDLES THE EMOTION OF THE SCENE RIGHT AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS, BUT THE ACTION ITSELF PRETTY AWKWARDLY STAGED.

HOW DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN? HOW CAN JACKSON LET IT SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS? WELL. LET’S LOOK AT THE DIRECTING/2ND UNIT CREDITS OF FELLOWSHIP SHALL WE?

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Marc Ashton …. second assistant director
Richard A. Barker …. first assistant director: second unit (as Richard Barker)
Guy Campbell …. key second assistant director
Emma Cross …. second assistant director: second unit
Carolynne Cunningham …. first assistant director
Louise Harness …. key second assistant director: second unit
Belindalee Hope …. second assistant director: miniature unit
Eric Houghton …. third assistant director
Chris Husson …. third assistant director
John Mahaffie …. second unit director
Richard Matthews …. third assistant director
Ian Mune …. additional second unit director
Geoff Murphy …. second unit director
Dave Norris …. first assistant director: second unit (as David Norris)
Guy Norris …. additional second unit director
Joanne Pearce …. second second assistant director
Liz Tan …. first assistant director: second unit
Skot Thomas …. second second assistant director
Martin Walsh …. first assistant director: miniature unit (as Marty Walsh)
Simon Warnock …. first assistant director: second unit
Katie Flannigan …. third assistant director (uncredited)
Marcus Levy …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)
Barrie M. Osborne …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Rick Porras …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Edith Thompson …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)
Fran Walsh …. additional second unit director (uncredited)
Stephanie Weststrate …. additional second assistant director: second unit (uncredited)

YOUR REACTION: HOLY CRAP THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE.

HULK + TOM’S REACTION: THIS THE REALITY OF BIG-BUDGET FILMMAKING.

IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE IS EITHER SOLELY RESPONSIBLE OR PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR A SHOT THAT ENDED UP IN THE FINAL MOVIE. WITH THE VAST NUMBER OF LOCATIONS, HUGE PRODUCTION CREWS, AND DAUNTING SCHEDULES, ACTION SCENES JUST TAKE WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH TIME TO BE SOLELY HANDLED BY THE MAIN DIRECTOR. AND HONESTLY, DIRECTING ACTION IS PRETTY FREAKING BORING COMPARED TO THE NUANCE OF HANDLING AN ACTING PERFORMANCE. THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY DIRECTING ACTION NOT A VERY EXACTING PRACTICE. IN FACT, IT REQUIRE SUCH PATIENCE AND SKILL BECAUSE IT SO DAMN MONOTONOUS, THAT IT TAKES SERIOUS CHOPS. BUT SO MUCH OF IT JUST COMES DOWN TO SPENDING FOREVER TRYING TO GET THE NATURAL CHAOS TO FALL INTO PLACE JUST RIGHT.

TOM: have you read Vic Armstrong’s autobiography? It’s a nonsense ‘aeroplane’ book but very telling. It’s distressing to read how ‘action’ is seconded away from the director ALL THE TIME. Who’s film is it then? Action scenes are the raison d’être of summer tentpoles but I still want an auteurs stamp on everything. Tone & character are built on the specifics of these shots and sequences and editing style as much as anything else. It’s an unfortunate function of Hollywood economics and working practises that one ends up with essentially two authors on action films. The flip side of course is people like Chris Nolan. Highly publicised rejection of 2nd unit but shitty bad action director as well :-(

HULK HAS NOT READ IT, BUT WILL DEFINITELY CHECK IT OUT NOW. BUT YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. MOST OF OUR ACTION IS BEING DIRECTED BY PEOPLE WE DON’T KNOW, LIKE IN THE CREDITS ABOVE. THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY 2ND UNIT DIRECTORS AND THEIR CREWS BAD OR LACKING IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM (HONESTLY MOST OF THEM PRETTY AMAZING), BUT IT SPEAKS TO YOUR EXACT POINT CONCERNING THE “AUTEUR STAMP.” WE ALWAYS WANT THAT SPECIAL THING THAT IS HANDLED BY THE VERY BEST CINEMATIC MINDS.

THAT AMAZING COEN BROTHER SCENE IN NO COUNTRY? THAT WASN’T SECOND UNIT. NO, THAT STUFF WAS PERSONALLY HANDLED BY THE TWO OF THEM AND HULK THINK THAT COMES ACROSS COMPLETELY.

BUT WITH THE BIG BUDGET STUFF, EVEN IF THE SEQUENCE BEEN STORY-BOARDED COMPLETELY, THE REALITY AND PRACTICALITY ON-SET JUST A DIFFERENT THING. EVEN SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS A DIFFERENT LENS MAKES IT A DIFFERENT SHOT COMPLETE WITH A DIFFERENT FEELING. SOMETIMES A DIRECTOR JUST HAS TO ACCEPT THAT IT’S OUT OF THEIR HANDS. HULK BEEN IN THE ROOM WHILE DIRECTORS WATCHED DAILIES OF STUFF DONE BY 2ND UNIT AND EVEN IF IT NOT EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT, THEY HAVE MAKE THAT DECISION OF IF THEY WANT RE-SHOOT IT. WHICH NOT ONLY COSTS LOTS OF MONEY/FUCKS UP THE SCHEDULE, IT TAKES UP TREMENDOUS AMOUNT ENERGY AND FOCUS, WHICH CAN OFTEN BE SPENT IN BETTER WAYS.

A LOT OF TIMES THEY RIGHTFULLY RECOGNIZE THAT WORKING ON A DRAMATIC SCENE IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT

AND BY THE WAY TOM, HULK COMPLETELY AGREE ON YOUR NOLAN POINT. AND SO DOES THIS GUY WHO HAS A VERY POPULAR VIDEO GOING AROUND THE INTERWEBS NOW. HE APPROACHES IT WITH EDITOR-LIKE PRECISION THAT WHOLLY ON POINT, BUT HULK WISH HE’D BRING A FEW MORE QUALIFIERS IN BEFORE HE STARTED TALKING. IN TERMS OF EDUCATION IT LOOSES PEOPLE TOO QUICK… ALSO, SALT? REALLY?

BACK TO THE POINT, NOLAN HAS INCREDIBLE STRENGTHS AS DIRECTOR AND HULK ADORES INCEPTION, BUT INDEED. THE VAST MAJORITY OF HIS BASIC ACTION = CRAP. AND WHAT IS PERHAPS MOST ODD ABOUT IT, IS THAT HE’LL THEN HAVE THESE PARTS OF SEQUENCES THAT ARE SO FANTASTIC (THE TUMBLING DREAM HALLWAY, THE BATPOD EJECTION, THE 18 WHEELER FLIP) THAT PRETTY MUCH REDEEM EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SEQUENCE. HULK JUST THINKS IT’S STRANGE THAT PEOPLE THINK HE A GOOD ACTION DIRECTOR. HIS ACTION MOSTLY WORKS BECAUSE HE USUALLY MAKES REALLY, REALLY GOOD MOVIES FIRST (AND THE AFOREMENTIONED GREAT MOMENTS ROUND IT OUT). BUT HULK WORRIES THAT PEOPLE ONLY GO NUTS FOR NOLAN BECAUSE HE MAKE THESE SUPER-SERIOUS MOVIES WHICH LEGITIMIZE PULPY STUFF. DOES IT REALLY NEED TO BE LEGITIMIZED LIKE THAT? OR HECK MAYBE PEOPLE LIKE HIM FOR THE SAME REASON HULK DOES, HE’S NOT AFRAID TO BE COMPLICATED, NARRATIVE-WISE OR CHARACTER MORALITY-WISE.

BUT  YOU’RE RIGHT TOM, IT REALLY JUST MAKES THE WHOLE “NO 2ND UNIT” THING KIND OF SILLY.

TOM: They’d likely help.

THE ISSUE INFORMS ANOTHER ONE THOUGH…

AS DEEP AS HULK DIVES INTO MEANING AND SEMIOTICS OF MISE EN SCENE FOR THESE CRITICAL ESSAYS, HULK ALSO HAVE ONE FOOT IN THE REALISM OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS. THERE IS THE FAMOUS ANECDOTE (THAT HULK IS ABOUT TO POSSIBLY BUTCHER) ABOUT A REPORTER ASKING KUROSAWA WHY HE CHOSE TO COMPOSE A CERTAIN SHOT THE WAY HE DID. KUROSAWA ANSWERED HONESTLY: [BECAUSE THERE WAS A SHOPPING MALL TO THE LEFT OF THE FRAME AND A HIGHWAY TO THE RIGHT OF IT]. IT’S SUCH AN AMAZING ANECDOTE, BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. HALF THE TIME THAT WILL BE THE CASE WITH ANY GIVEN SHOT. THERE ARE REAL LIMITS TO THESE THINGS.

FOR ALL HULK’S TALK OF “ACTION IS SO SIMPLE! BE SMARTER’ HULK KNOWS THAT MAKING AN ACTION SCENE IS REALLY NOT EASY WHATSOEVER.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PERSONAL STORY TO HIGHLIGHT: HULK ONCE WORKED ON A SCENE AND BUDGET-WISE HULK X AMOUNT OF TIME TO FILM IT. THERE WAS NO WIGGLE ROOM AND NO EXTRA MONEY. NOW YOU WILL KNOW THAT HULK LOVES “TAUT FILMMAKING” AND HULK HAD ENTIRE ACTION SEQUENCE STORY-BOARDED AND FULLY PLANNED WITH D.P. BUT THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO GET THE ACTION TO WORK IN A LOCKED FRAME, WAS QUITE SIMPLY TAKING FAR TOO LONG, DESPITE THE FACT WE WERE MOVING FAIRLY QUICKLY AND THE FOOTAGE WAS COMING OUT GREAT. BUT NOT FINISHING WAS SIMPLY NOT AN OPTION. SO WE ADAPTED IN TWO WAYS: UNLOCKING THE HEAD TO MOVE THE CAMERA AND BE SURE OUR ACTION WAS ACTUALLY CAPTURED IN FRAME, BUT THUS AFFECTING THE STILL AND “TAUT” TONE WE WANTED. AT THE SAME TIME, WE HAD TO ABANDON OUR PLAN TO ALTERNATE OUR SET-UP POSITIONS SO THAT THE ACTORS POSITIONS IN THE “GEOGRAPHY” WERE KEPT AS COHERENT AS POSSIBLE. BOTH DECISIONS ALTERED THE FINAL PRODUCT AND GAVE US A “MESSIER” SCENE THAN WE INTENDED, BUT THE DECISIONS WERE WHOLLY NECESSARY. WE ADAPTED THE BEST WE COULD IN THE EDIT AND STILL MADE THE WHOLE THING WORK. WAS OUR ORIGINAL PLAN TOO AMBITIOUS? MAYBE. SHOULD WE HAVE SCHEDULED EXTRA TIME? ABSOLUTELY. BUT THIS THE REALITY OF ALL FILMMAKERS. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE A BIG BUDGET FILM, BECAUSE IF YOU ARE THAT MEANS YOU PROBABLY HAVE A MOVIE STAR. AND IN CASE YOU ARE UNAWARE, MOVIE STARS HAVE SET TIME LIMITS AND CRAZY SCHEDULES SO THEY’RE ALWAYS OFF TO THE NEXT PROJECT. THE TIME CONSTRAINTS ON BIG BUDGET FILMS ARE NOT BETTER, THEY ARE WORSE. AND THE PRESSURES CAN COME FROM ANY AND ALL PLACES: WEATHER, HEALTH PROBLEMS, YOU NAME IT! BUT YOU HAVE TO BE READY TO ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES.

WHICH WHY WE MUST UNDERSTAND THIS A HUMAN PROCESS. THERE IS NO PRESS THE “GOOD ACTION SEQUENCE BUTTON” IN AN EDIT BAY.

BUT AT THE VERY SAME TIME, HULK & TOM’S ENTIRE ARGUMENT THAT WE CAN STILL DO BETTER. WE CAN STRIVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE DOING WITH CINEMA AS BEST AS POSSIBLE. AND THE MORE WE PREPARE, THE MORE WE INHERENTLY UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE WORK, THE BETTER WE CAN DEAL WITH KNOWING HOW ON-SET CHANGES WILL EFFECT THE SCENE’S STORY AND TONE, AND THUS, THE MORE WE WILL BE ABLE CONTROL WHAT SHOWS UP IN THE FINAL PRODUCT. WE JUST CAN’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE CORE PRINCIPALS. LIKE WITH THE CAUSE + EFFECT THING. THERE IS A REASON HULK SPENT SO MUCH TIME WITH THIS PART AND IT IS BECAUSE HULK THINKS PEOPLE LOST SIGHT OF IT.

PART 9 – EPILOGUE / YOU

SO CONSIDER THIS LAST BIT A PIECE OF ADVICE-

TOM: Wait, I was promised Ewoks.

HULK TRYING TO BE POIGNANT HERE.

TOM: Sorry.

TO THOSE WHO WATCH MOVIES AND CRITIQUE THEM, HULK & TOM WANT YOU TO HAVE MORE OF A DISCERNING EYE TOWARD WHAT MAKES ACTION WORK. RECOGNIZE WHAT WE CAN DO BETTER BUT ALSO REALIZE WHY WE MAY FALL SHORT. TRY AND RECOGNIZE WHAT MIGHT BE THE FAULT OF POOR CONCEPT AND WHAT MIGHT BE THE THE RESULT OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS. FOR EXAMPLE ONE AWFUL CUT IN A SEQUENCE IS A PRODUCTION MIS-STEP, WHEREAS 8 OKAY CUTS SHOWS POOR CONCEPT AND UNDERSTANDING. SEE? IT NOT THAT HARD! JUST REMEMBER THAT IN THE WAKE OF REALITY, THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS INVOLVED.

AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WISH TO GO FORWARD AND MAKE YOUR OWN PIECES OF ACTION?

AT THIS POINT, IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS THAT FILMMAKING IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. IT TAKES TIME TO UNDERSTAND AND GET BETTER AT IT. THERE ARE REASON YOU ARE A “YOUNG” DIRECTOR AT 35. AND EVEN IF YOU KNOW EVERYTHING THAT IS THE “RIGHT” THING TO DO, YOU WILL MAKE THE WRONG DECISIONS IN MOMENT. BUT WITH REPEATED EXPERIENCE IT WILL WILL COME TOGETHER. IF YOU KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN, EVERYTHING YOU WILL NEED TO LEARN WILL BE TAUGHT TO YOU IN THE ACTUAL PROCESS OF DOING IT. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT TO INCLUDE IN SHOOTING-SCRIPTS YOU WILL LEARN IN PRE-PRODUCTION (“IS IT STILL THE SAME DAY?” “WHAT CLOTHES ARE THEY WEARING?”). EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO IN PRE-PRODUCTION YOU WILL LEARN IN PRODUCTION (“HEY WAIT, WHERE ARE PEOPLE GOING TO GO TO THE BATHROOM?”). EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LEARN ABOUT PRODUCTION YOU WILL LEARN IN EDITING (“YEAH, GUESS WE REALLY NEEDED A PICK-UP SHOT THERE… FUCK.”) AND EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LEARN IN EDITING YOU WILL LEARN ONCE THE WORK IS RELEASED (“I GUESS THAT SCENE DIDN’T WORK” OR “THAT DIDN’T GET A LAUGH” OR “MAYBE THAT RUINED THE MOVIE AFTER ALL”). AND THE NEXT TIME YOU START OVER YOU WILL KNOW EVEN MORE AND THEN IT IS JUST A PROCESS OF GETTING BETTER.

AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, TAKE THE FOLLOWING PIECES OF ADVICE ON YOUR ACTION SCENES:

DON’T THINK OF SOMETHING COOL.

THINK OF A PROBLEM/THREAT AND THEN FIGURE OUT HOW THE CHARACTER COULD SOLVE IT.

THINK ABOUT LINKING THAT PROBLEM IN A SERIES OF PROBLEMS.

THINK ABOUT LAYING THE GROUND WORK AND SETTING FIRST.

THINK ABOUT GIVING THE ACTION SPACE.

THINK ABOUT CLARITY.

THINK ABOUT PURPOSE.

THINK ABOUT CAUSE + EFFECT.

THINK OF IT IS AS A STORY.

AND WITH THAT…

WE ARE ROOTING FOR YOU ALL WITH THE FULL SINCERITY OF OUR HEARTS,

AND WE WISH YOU WAY MORE THAN LUCK.

<3 HULK & TOM

            HULK HAVE NO IDEA WHY TOM IS PIPPEN

TOM: Thanks?

IT’S OVER!

ENDNOTES!

(12A) BUT DO NOT DARE CONFUSE WITH TODAY’S POPULARITY OF THE DOCU-STYLE FILMMAKING TREND “FOUND FOOTAGE.” THEY ARE VERY, VERY DIFFERENT THINGS.

(12B) SORRY FOR THE FOOTNOTES SO CLOSE TOGETHER. HULK TRY BE BETTER AT THAT BUT SOMETIMES IT IMPORTANT. HULK JUST SIMPLY HAVE TO MENTION THAT THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TO IMPLY THAT TRADITIONAL, STYLIZED CINEMA CANNOT FEEL “REAL.” IF YOU WRAP UP YOUR AUDIENCE IN THE STORY AND EXPERIENCE THEN ALL CINEMA, WHETHER ANIMATED OR SURREAL, CAN BE TRANSPORT YOU SOMEPLACE “REAL.” AND THAT IS THE TRUE MAGIC. THE POINT WITH SHAKY-CAM IS THAT IT CAN BE USED TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE “THIS IS THE REAL WORLD YOU’RE IN RIGHT NOW” IN A SLIGHTED MORE GROUNDED, TONAL WAY. THAT’S ALL.

(12C) THERE WERE OF COURSE MANY MOVIES AND TV SHOWS THAT USED IT BEAUTIFULLY: IT MADE PERFECT SENSE FOR THE INTENSITY OF THE SHIELD AND FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS USED IT FOR HUMANITARIAN AIMS. BUT ONE PLACE WHERE SHAKY-CAM WORKED SO WELL AGAINST SEEMING INTUITION WAS WITH THE NEW BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. SHAKY-CAM WORKED FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY DECIDED THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO THEIR TONE WAS TO GROUND THE VIEWER IN THE REALISM OF THEIR SCI-FI WORLD. MEANING IT WAS NOT TO SIMPLY MAKE “SILLY” SCI-FI SEEM MORE REALISTIC, BUT TO AMPLIFY THE TONE OF A SHOW THAT WAS ALREADY STRIVING TOWARD REALISM. MAKE SENSE?

(12D) AND TO BE COMPLETELY FAIR, MICHAEL BAY IS ALSO TERRIBLE AT STORYTELLING.

(13) CONSIDER THIS PART OF HULK’S BELIEF THAT IT NEVER GOOD TO TRY AND DISMISS SOMEONE COMPLETELY… IN THAT CASE YOU’D ALSO HAVE TO IGNORE FOOTNOTE #12.

(14A) NOT TO BEAT THIS DRUM AGAIN, BUT HULK WANT CLARIFY THAT HULK’S THESIS ON “COOL” ACTION SOMETHING HULK STARTED BEFORE THIS ARTICLE COME UP. IF HULK SEEM OVERLY-WORRYING AGAIN IT JUST A MATTER OF WANTING TO CLARIFY HULK NOT LIFTING IDEAS. WE SO USE TO PEOPLE LIFTING IDEAS IN INTERNET CULTURE IT ACTUALLY WORRY HULK. BESIDES, THE FACT THAT LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING THE SAME THING MORE SPEAKS TO THE FACT THAT THIS ISSUE IS THE REAL F’ING DEAL: ACTION-CRAZY HOLLYWOOD HAS NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH ACTION.

(14B) SECOND D+D REFERENCE OF COLUMN! SHIT GETTIN NERDY UP IN HERE!

(15) AND YET AS MUCH AS TRAILERS WANT TO SELL A “VIBE” THEY ALSO HAVE THE PECULIAR TENDENCY TO GIVE AWAY BIG BLOCKS OF STORY, IF NOT ALL OF IT. WHAT’S FUNNY IS THAT TRAILERS ARE SO COMPLETE IN WHAT THEY COVER OF THE PLOT, THAT THEY ESSENTIALLY CREATE 2 MINUTE VERSIONS OF THE MOVIE. PEOPLE THEN GO TO THE THEATER KNOWING ALL THE MAJOR BEATS THAT ARE COMING AND THEY ESSENTIALLY THEREFORE SEEKING A THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE COOL TRAILER THEY WATCHED. CONCEPTUALLY, IT IS DOWNRIGHT BIZARRE. HULK ALSO KNOW FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE THAT THIS TRAILER CHOICE STEMS FROM ONE POORLY WORDED QUESTION. SEE, MARKETING “EXPERTS” USE FOCUS GROUPS TO TEST TRAILERS WITH RANDOM VIEWERS AND ASK THE SAID VERY STUPID QUESTION: “WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF IN THIS TRAILER?” 90% OF MEN SAY “MORE EXPLOSIONS AND BOOBS.” AND 90% OF WOMEN SAY “I WANTED TO KNOW MORE OF THE STORY.” IT’S OUTRIGHT FACT. AND AS A RESULT, WE GET TRAILERS THAT ARE NOTHING BUT EXPLOSIONS, BOOBS, AND THE WHOLE DAMN STORY. WHAT THE MARKETING “EXPERTS” NOT REALIZE WHATSOEVER THAT THEY ESSENTIALLY ASKING A QUESTION THAT LEADS THE AUDIENCE TO A CONCLUSION THAT UNDERMINES THE INTENTION OF MARKETING. MARKETING IS MEANT TO LEAD SOMEONE TO SAY “I WANT MORE OF WHAT I JUST GOT A TASTE OF THERE.” INSTEAD THEY ESSENTIALLY GIVING PEOPLE A COMPLETE PRODUCT EXPERIENCE IN AN EFFORT TO SATISFY THEM RIGHT THEN AND THERE, BARELY REALIZING THEY JUST RUINED IT. THEY THINK THEY ARE SELLING SOMETHING “SATISFYING” BUT THEY ARE UNKNOWINGLY MAKING TRAILERS IN HOPES THE TRAILER-VIEWER THEN GOES “I WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN.” IT IS WHOLLY WRONG-HEADED… THEN AGAIN, YOU COULD GO IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION LIKE J.J. ABRAMS AND TEASE AND PRETEND EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR STORY A MYSTERY EVEN IF ITS NOT… HULK’S POINT IS THAT, LIKE NEARLY EVERYTHING, IT’S ABOUT BALANCE.

FINE... HAVE SOME EWOKS.

PREAMBLE: YESTERDAY, HULK PUBLISHED THE FASTEST CLIMBING ARTICLE IN THIS BLOG’S HISTORY.  IF YOU DIDN’T READ IT, YOU CAN DO SO BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

THE RESPONSE TO THE PIECE HAS BEEN TRULY HUMBLING, AND HULK HAVE MANY SINCERE THANKS TO Y’ALL.

SO HOW ABOUT WE EMBARK ON DAY 2?

CINEMATOGRAPHER EXTRAORDINAIRE TOM TOWNEND BACK AND WE READY TO ROLL (NOTE: IF HE HEARD HULK CALL HIM THAT HE WOULD GET ALL BASHFUL AND DEMURE. BUT AS EVIDENCED IN THE PRIOR COLUMN, HE PRETTY BRILLIANT).

SO YESTERDAY WE TOOK ON THE CONCEPTS AT THE CENTER OF CREATING GOOD ACTION: STARTING WITH SIMPLE IDEAS, TREATING THE ACTION AS A “STORY,” THE BASICS OF CAUSE + EFFECT, AND HAVING OBJECTIVES.

TODAY CONCERNS HOW ONE GOES ABOUT THE EXECUTION OF THOSE CONCEPTS. WE HAVE 3 PARTS FOR YOUR ASSES: GEOGRAPHY, TONE/SUSPENSE, AND “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.”  IN WHICH, WE WILL TALK THE MATRIX, KUNG FU, JACKIE CHAN, SOUND DESIGN, CAT PEOPLE, TAUT FILMMAKING, QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DIALOGUE SET-UPS, THE COEN BROTHERS RELATIVE AWESOMENESS, AND… DAVID LYNCH? WHAT THE FUCK?

LET’S DO IT:

PART 3 – GEOGRAPHY AND “SEEING THE FRAME”

YOU MAY ASK, “HULK, WHY DO KUNG FU FILMS WORK IF THEY’RE NOT REALLY USING CAUSE + EFFECT AND MORE JUST GUY’S PUNCHING THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER?”

HULK WOULD ANSWER, “THAT A TERRIBLE QUESTION. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, DO YOU?”

… LUCKILY IT’S JUST A FAKE QUESTION HULK MADE UP TO PROVE A SILLY POINT: A GOOD FIGHT/KUNG-FU SCENE HAS JUST AS MUCH CAUSE + EFFECT AS ANY OTHER GOOD ACTION SCENE, IT JUST WORKS AT MUCH, MUCH FASTER PACE. BUT IN ORDER FOR IT TO WORK, ALL THE PUNCHES, BLOCKS, AND REVERSALS HAVE TO MAKE SENSE TO THE VIEWER. SO WHEN YOU SEE TWO PEOPLE FIGHTING, YOU HAVE TO SEE THEM FIGHTING.

THE WAY TO DO THAT IS WITH A CERTAIN WORD PEOPLE THROW AROUND A LOT WHEN TALKING ABOUT ACTION SCENES, AND THAT IS WORD “GEOGRAPHY.” WHAT IT MEANS IS THE UNDERSTANDING OF CHARACTERS IN PLACEMENT WITH EACH OTHER AS WELL AS THE SPACE AROUND THEM.

IT SOUNDS RELATIVELY SIMPLE, BUT HULK ASSURE YOU THAT AFTER DEALING WITH THE PRODUCTION COMPLICATIONS OF BLOCKING, SHOT SELECTION, AND THEN EDITING, THEN EVEN THE MOST HEAVILY PRE-VISUALIZED SEQUENCE CAN COME OUT LESS COHESIVE THAN IMAGINED IN THE FINAL PRODUCT. AFTER ALL, 3O SECONDS OF GUYS HITTING EACH OTHER ON SCREEN USUALLY TAKES DAYS TO FILM. WHICH MEANS IT IS VERY, VERY EASY TO LOSE TRACK OF HOW THINGS FIT TOGETHER IN THE CHAOS OF PRODUCTION.(9C) WHICH MEANS THAT WHEN SOMEONE IS FILMING A FIGHT SCENE, THE OVERALL COMMITMENT TO GEOGRAPHY HAS TO BE PARAMOUNT.

FORGIVE A QUICK NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO ACTION “GEOGRAPHY” BUT IT’S IMPORTANT FOR THE NEXT POINT. SAID HISTORY GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS: IN THE DAWN OF MOVIES THE FRAME WAS STILL PRIMARILY THE “THEATER WINDOW” WHICH MADE EVERYTHING LOOK LIKE A FILMED STAGE PLAY. SO REALLY GEOGRAPHY OF PEOPLE AND ACTION WAS PRETTY MUCH A GIVEN. EVEN IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF FILM NOIR (INSERT 90 MILLION AWESOME FILMS AS EXAMPLES), WHICH USED A MUCH MORE STYLIZED FORM OF FILMMAKING, THE STYLE WAS PRETTY MUCH COMPOSED OF WIDE SHOTS AND LOTS OF INSERTS THAT FOCUSED ON CLARITY. THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE WAS THE LIGHTING AND COMPOSITION WAS FREAKING AWESOME. EVEN THE 60’S/ 70’S ACTION MOVIES (DIRTY HARRY, THE GREAT ESCAPE,  BULLITT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) USED THE INVENTION OF CINEMA SCOPE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE WIDE-FRAME. ACTION WAS STILL RULED BY MASTER SHOTS.

LIKE THIS:

THEN THE CINEMATIC REVOLUTION OF THE LATE 70’S CHANGED THE LANGUAGE OF HIGH FORM CINEMA ALL TOGETHER.  THEN SPIELBERG AND LUCAS TOOK THAT NEW FILM LANGUAGE AND USED IT TO CHANGE POPCORN CINEMA. SPIELBERG SHOT HIS ACTION FOR MAXIMUM AUDIENCE TENSION AND LUCAS SHOT HIS ACTION FOR MAXIMUM PACE (AT THE TIME THAT IS). THE EFFECT WAS REMARKABLE, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT BOTH FILMMAKERS RITUALLY SACRIFICED GEOGRAPHY IN THE NAME OF THESE OTHER CONCEPTS. LUCKILY, THEY WERE SO GOOD AT THOSE OTHER CONCEPTS THAT THEIR WORK WAS REVOLUTIONARY. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE GENERATION THAT FOLLOWED THEM MISSED THE MARK AND TOOK THE “STYLE” AND “PACE” OF BOTH FILMMAKERS, WITHOUT REALIZING THEIR GENIUS WAS IN THE CONTENT OF DRAMATIZATION, NOT THE CINEMATIC CHEATS. THUS, THE 80’S/90’S WERE LARGELY DARK TIMES FOR ACTION COHERENCE AND GEOGRAPHY, SAVE FOR A FEW BRIGHT SPOTS OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMA.

ENTER THE MATRIX.

…OF THE MANY OF THE THINGS THE WACHOWSKI BROTHERS DID RIGHT (AND WRONG), THEY AT LEAST UNDERSTOOD THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN ALL THEIR FIGHT SCENES WAS GEOGRAPHY.

TOM: In all the hooplah, some people forget that it really is such an important movie outside of its own context (and sequels). The popular introduction of Hong Kong fight choreography to mainstream Hollywood raised the stakes – endless punches and tussles look lame now. Unfortunately the silly physics is what Hollywood adopted instead of the ‘flow’ and ‘shape.’ We got bullet-time jokes instead of people aping the most important thing – one specific fighting action leading to another specific fighting action – cause and effect on a macro and highly engineered level. The Dojo fight in that movie is a rare example of Hollywood getting it right.

BOOM. EXACTLY. FOR ALL THE FANCY NEW TECHNOLOGY + SPECIAL EFFECTS, IT WAS REALLY JUST GOOD OLE-FASHIONED KNOW-HOW WITH CAMERA ANGLES THAT MADE IT THE MOVIE WORK (ALONG WITH HEAVY COMMITMENT TO BASIC METAPHORS AND STORY TROPES). AND THAT DOJO SCENE IS EXEMPLARY OF EVERYTHING THE MOVIE DID SO WELL.

SO WHY DON’T WE TAKE A LOOK?

WHILE THE ACTION ITSELF IS RATHER DYNAMIC AND COMPLICATED, WERE YOU EVER CONFUSED ABOUT WHERE SOMEONE WAS IN RELATION TO THE OTHER? OR HOW THEY PULLED OFF AND EXECUTED A MOVE?

TOM: Nope.

THE CAMERA IS ALWAYS JUST FAR ENOUGH BACK TO SHOW THE WHOLE MOVEMENT. IN FACT, THE MOVEMENTS OF THE ACTORS ACTUALLY DICTATED WHERE THE CAMERA SHOULD GO NEXT, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. NOTICE THEIR RELATIONSHIP, THE WAY THE CAMERA SEEMED TO FLOW OFF OF THE ACTOR’S ACTIONS, AS IF IT WAS REACTING WITH EQUAL GRACE. IT BEHAVES ALMOST LIKE A DANCE PARTNER. BUT EVEN WHEN THE CAMERA IS MOVING, IT IS NEVER SO DISTRACTING AS TO MAKE THE CAMERA MOVEMENT THE MOST ACTIVE PART OF THE SCENE. IT’S NEVER TRYING TO BE “NOTICED.”

TOM: Right, it’s low stakes showboating that only just avoids pastiche.

OOOH. GOOD WORD CHOICE!

TOM: Thanks!

SO NOW LET’S GO BACK TO OUR EARLIER POINTS. NOTICE WHAT TOM TALKING ABOUT WITH THE MACRO CAUSE + EFFECT. KUNG FU IS FREAKING BEAUTIFUL, BUT STILL SIMPLE IN THOSE “STORY-TELLING” TERMS: MOVE. REVERSE. MOVE. REVERSE.

AND NOTICE THE EFFECTIVE USE OF OBJECTIVES IN THE SCENE! NOTICE HOW MORPHEUS PROVIDE THE GOALS AND EXPLAINS EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENING. HE’S NOT JUST NARRATING THE ACTION, BUT ALSO THE EMOTIONAL/CHARACTER ARC FOR NEO. AS LAME AND CLICHE AND ON THE NOSE AS ALL THOSE EMOTIONAL BEATS ARE, BY MAKING IT SO DAMN CLEAR IT ALLOWS ALL THE FANCY-PANTS ACTION TO HAVE ACTUAL STORY MEANING.

TOM: Yeah, not sure The Matrix needs the sly character exposition of Silkwood… though it couldn’t hurt.

HULK LAUGH.  BUT SEE HOW IT ALL STARTING TO PIECE TOGETHER? CAUSE + EFFECT/OBJECTIVES TIE RIGHT GEOGRAPHY BECAUSE BOTH STRIVE FOR THE GOAL OF CLARITY. AND GEOGRAPHY IS SO IMPORTANT IN HAND TO HAND FIGHT SCENE BECAUSE IT’S WHAT TELLS THE STORY. SO NOW IT’S COMING TOGETHER TO MAKE A CLEARER PICTURE OF HOW ACTION WORKS.

BUT LET’S TAKE FIGHT SCENES ONE STEP FURTHER WITH THE ALL-TIME GREAT OF KUNG-FU ACTION: JACKIE CHAN.

                                                   FUCK YEAH!

JUST SO YOU KNOW, HULK ADORES JACKIE CHAN. HULK EVEN BELIEVE HE ONE OF CINEMA’S GREAT HEIRS OF PHYSICAL COMEDY. MAYBE IT’S JUST THAT HULK GREW UP ON HIM, BUT HULK THINK HE PROBABLY HAVE MORE IN COMMON WITH THE SPARKLE OF BUSTER KEATON AND CHARLIE CHAPLIN THAN PROBABLY ANY OTHER CINEMATIC FIGURES, THOUGH HULK WILLING TO ACCEPT ARGUMENTS. (9D) SO EVEN THOUGH HIS HOLLYWOOD OUTPUT IS LESS STELLAR THAN HIS HONG-KONG OUTPUT, EVEN THOUGH HULK ADORE HIM, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WHAT HE DOES STILL WORKS IN THE MOST BASIC CONCEPTS OF ACTION.

EVEN THOUGH JACKIE IS WORKING IN THE KUNG FU GENRE, WE’VE PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED FROM SPIELBERG THAT LAUGHTER, ELATION, AND FIGHTING ENJOYMENT WORK IN EXACT SAME TERMS OF SET-UP/DELIVERY. SO IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND AND INTEGRATE THEM SEAMLESSLY, YOU CAN CREATE INTERCHANGEABLE FORMS OF JOY. HULK BELIEVE THIS THE REASON JACKIE CHAN THE MOST POPULAR KUNG-FU IMPORT OVER OTHER GREAT CHOICES: HE CONSTANTLY TRYING TO THRILL YOU OR MAKE YOU LAUGH EVERY TWO SECONDS OF AN ACTION SCENE. AND IT’S NOT JUST HIS FIGHTING ABILITIES, WHICH ARE JAW DROPPING, BUT THE FACT HE UNDERSTOOD THAT BY USING CAUSE + EFFECT SO CLEARLY THAT HE COULD ENTERTAIN ON SEVERAL DIFFERENT LEVELS IN WHOLLY RAPID SUCCESSION.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A SILLY STATEMENT, BUT HULK SO HAPPY THAT JACKIE WAS A PRODUCT OF TRADITIONAL ASIAN CINEMA. UNLIKE AMERICAN FILMS AND PERFORMERS, ASIAN CINEMA REALIZES THAT SUPER IMPORTANT LESSON THAT IF YOU’RE SHOWING SOMETHING GREAT THEN THE CAMERA NEVER HAS TO DO ANYTHING.

LET’S SEE HIM AT WORK, PARTICULARLY AT A SCENE THAT MOSTLY INVOLVES HAND TO HAND FIGHTING (INSTEAD OF USING PROPS, WHICH HE IS FAMOUS FOR) TO MAKE OUR POINT. WATCH HOW MUCH HE CAN AUGMENT THE BASICS OF FIGHTING, MAKING EACH PUNCH AND KICK LOOK UNIQUE IN THE CONTEXT OF ALL THE OTHERS. AND IF KUNG-FU MOVIES ARE NOT YOUR THING, FORGIVE THE PUERILE NATURE OF THE HUMOR IN THIS SCENE AND BAD-DUBBING. THIS IS WHAT KUNG FU MOVIES DO , SO HULK ASKS YOU TO BE PATIENT AND JUST LET IT BUILD. BUT AGAIN, WATCH HOW LITTLE THE CAMERA DOES:

FIRST OFF, LET US JUST ACKNOWLEDGE IF MATT DAMON DID THIS IN AN ACTION MOVIE THE ENTIRE EASTERN SEABOARD WOULD HAVE SHIT ITS COLLECTIVE PANTS (FOLLOWED OF COURSE, BY EACH SUCCESSIVE TIME ZONE). INSTEAD, THESE AMAZING FEATS ARE SOMEHOW REGARDED AS JUST “THAT STUFF THAT JACKIE DOES.” BUT THERE ARE REAL LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY.

NOTICE IN THE CLIP HOW SHORT THE ACTUAL SEQUENCE OF HITS ARE PER OPPONENT. IT IS NOT AND ENDLESS SERIES PUNCH AND KICK COMBOS. HE MOVES FROM BAD GUY TO BAD GUY SO QUICKLY (READ: LINKS THEM) THAT IT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AND FEELS LIKE HE’S PROGRESSING, EVEN THOUGH IT IS JUST THE SAME FOUR BAD GUYS OVER AND OVER. JACKIE UNDERSTOOD THAT YOU HAD TO PUNCTUATE MOMENTS OF FIGHT SCENES LIKE SENTENCES: WITH REVERSALS, FLIPS, FALLS, JOKES, TURNING ATTENTION, FUNNY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, AND ALL THESE FUNNY PUNCTUATION MARKS FLOW IN THE COURSE OF THE ACTION. YES, THE FIGHTING HAS AN ACTUAL RHYTHM.  AND IT’S NOT JUST BECAUSE JACKIE IS AN ABSURDLY TALENTED FIGHTER, IT’S BECAUSE THE FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY SO WELL-DESIGNED IN FIRST PLACE.

AND AGAIN, THE CAMERA NEVER GETS IN THE FREAKING WAY.

BET LET US ALL BE HONEST, LOTS OF ACTORS ARE JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO FIGHT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THIS LEVEL (AND THEN THERE’S THE PESKY, THOUGH TOTALLY HUMANE MATTER OF INSURANCE) BUT THE LESSON OF THIS KIND OF STUFF FOR HOLLYWOOD SHOULD OBVIOUS: STRIVE TO PRODUCE THIS LEVEL OF ACTION.

POST-MATRIX HOLLYWOOD IS OBVIOUSLY WAY, WAY BETTER AT OFFERING HIGH QUALITY MARTIAL ARTS AND FIGHTING THAN BEFORE, BUT LOTS OF TIMES HOLLYWOOD IS STILL JUST “HIDING” THE ACTION SO IT DOESN’T LOOK LAME. WELL HULK ARGUE THAT NOT REALLY AN EXCUSE. NOT THIS DAY IN AGE. ACTORS TRAIN FOR MONTHS. FUCK, EDGAR WRIGHT WAS ABLE TO MAKE MICHAEL CERA, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD AND EGG, HULK MEAN ANNE, FROM ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT KICK ALL SORTS OF RELATIVE ASS IN SCOTT PILGRIM. HULK MEAN, JUST FREAKING WATCH:

SERIOUSLY HOLLYWOOD? CERA, WINSTEAD, AND MAE WHITMAN JUST HANDED YOU YOUR FUCKING ASS. SURE, EDGAR WRIGHT MIGHT BE A ONCE IN A GENERATION FILMMAKER (MORE ON THAT ON DAY 3), BUT WHAT THIS SCENE PROVES IS THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, HAVE ANY EXCUSE.(10A)

YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER. MOST OF THESE ACTION MOVIE STARS ALREADY HAVE A BREADTH OF FIGHTING EXPERIENCE. AND EVEN THEN OUR FACIAL REPLACEMENT SOFTWARE IS LEGITIMATELY PERFECT NOW AND HOLLYWOOD’S STUNT MEN AND STUNT COORDINATORS ARE SO FUCKING AMAZING AT THEIR JOBS THAT THERE’S JUST NO EXCUSE. HULK WANT TO SEE WHAT THEY CAN DO. APPARENTLY, TOM CRUISE WAS APPARENTLY A NO-BULLSHIT MASTER SWORDSMAN BY THE END OF HIS TRAINING FOR LAST SAMURAI, BUT HULK WOULDN’T KNOW FROM WHAT THE MOVIE SHOWED… SO PULL BACK THE CAMERA AND STOP OVERLY CUTTING FOR FUCKS SAKE…. SORRY. HULK GETTING  A LITTLE SMASHY. (10B)

GETTING THE CAMERA OUT OF THE WAY MATTERS, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING WELL-CHOREOGRAPHED.

NEED PROOF? THIS TIME LET’S WATCH AN AMERICANIZED JACKIE CHAN MOVIE. HECK, HOW ABOUT THE ONE WHERE HE SQUARES OFF AGAINST THE OTHER IMMORTAL KUNG FU LEGEND, JET-LI! NOW UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A FIGHT THAT KUNG FU FANS WAITED FOR FOR DECADES… AND WATCH HOW IT TREATED “SIMILARLY” UNDER AN AMERICAN DIRECTOR, BUT DIFFERENTLY ENOUGH THAT IT ROBS THE SEQUENCE OF EFFECT:

WHY THIS SCENE FEEL SO DIFFERENT?

IT BECAUSE THE ACTION MOMENTS LACK PERSONALITY AND BEATS. THE TRANSITIONS ARE LIKE “OKAY, NO WE’RE KICKING BACK AND FORTH, NOW WE PUNCHING BACK AND FORTH.” THERE ARE NO REAL PUNCTUATION MARKS, JUST ENDLESS SUCCESSIONS. AND RATHER THAN STRIVE FOR REAL IMPACT, IT STRIVES TO BE BEAUTIFUL/ARTFUL. SURE THE CAMERA IS TECHNICALLY “FAR BACK” A LOT OF TIMES, BUT IT HAS A NUMBER OF TIMES IT CUTS WAY TOO CLOSE FOR SOME ILL CONCEIVED REASON. BASICALLY, THE CAMERA TRY TO “HELP” TOO MUCH.  AND IT FLIRTS WITH HAVING THE GEOGRAPHY IN PLACE, BUT EVERY TIME IT CUTS TO HIGHLIGHT SOMETHING”COOL” IT ONLY GETS IN THE WAY OF WHAT WE REALLY WANT TO BE SEEING.(10C)

AGAIN THESE ARE JUST BASIC CAMERA AESTHETICS. WHAT THAT CLIP MISSES MOST OF ALL IS THE SPIELBERGIAN ELEMENT OF INVENTIVENESS THAT WAS PRESENT IN THE DRUNKEN MASTER CLIP.

AND NOW TO FINISH THIS PART OFF, IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN! LET’S GO BACK TO ATTACK THE BLOCK:

TOM: Ironically, whilst the preservation of ‘screen’ geography has been praised in reviews Joe & I were also trying to hide ‘real’ geography. The A-B journey of the script is built from a totally illogical actual journey – to provide the landscape for various action beats.

THAT AMAZING TO HULK BUT KNOWING PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, ABSOLUTELY TRUE. BUT HULK REALLY FELT LIKE EVERYTHING REGISTERED RATHER WELL. YOU HAD SENSE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD, WHERE EVERYONE LIVED AND HOW TO GET AROUND, EVEN IF THE PHYSICAL LOCATION NO MATCH AT ALL.

TOM: I’m glad it worked. We had the advantage of a location with very consistent and modular architecture and the sequence was set at night which meant that only what was lit was what you saw and true linear geography could be kept vague.  But we wanted to try and keep things consistent within our screen geography and were diligent about establishing what was in front, behind, to the left, to the right, up and down…

Again, it seems repetitious of me but at the root of everything was the script.  When one sees a character on screen doing something perilous everyone likes to feel that this was still their best option.  Otherwise one starts to loose faith and identification with the character.  To keep the actions of the gang grounded they had to always seem to be making decisions consistent with their established character and circumstances so to force them into jeopardy (which is were all the exciting fun stuff is, right?) there had to be a series of reasonable obstacles between them and physical freedom and/or atonement.

Moses makes 3 bad choices in succession at the start of the story (attempt to mug someone, give an alien a punitive kicking & accept the offer of dealing hard drugs).  Then in the subsequent 3 sequences each of those choices he made start to backfire on him and until the end of the film him and his comrades are hemmed in by the fallout from their own behaviour.  The 4th ingredient is the geography of the location, especially the titular ‘Block’ and the script was very specific in it’s description of the building, the placement of characters apartments within it and particular (but not unrealistic) quirks such as there being no elevator access to the top floor, only one entrance or exit, metal security gates on only a select number of apartment doors, etc.

The doyen of these sorts of mechanics is Die Hard, my all time 2nd favourite film set in a tower block.

HULK LAUGH.

BELIEVE.

PART 4 – TONE, SUSPENSE, AND THE ART OF GOING “TAUT”

A WOMAN WALKS DOWN AN ABANDONED HALLWAY.  SHE SENSES SOMETHING UNSEEN. SHE SLOWS. THE MOMENT BUILDS. AND THEN SOMETHING JUMPS OUT AND SCARES THE FUCK OUT OF HER/THE AUDIENCE.

WE’VE SEEN THIS A MILLION TIMES BEFORE. IT IS NOT A NEW IDEA. IT IS NOT A “COOL” IDEA. SO WHY DOES IT CONTINUE WORK TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN A MILLION DIFFERENT FORMS?

YES, CAUSE + EFFECT IS ONE BIG PART OF IT (THE SCENE IS PRETTY MUCH ALL SET-UP), BUT SINCE THERE IS NO CLEAR VISUAL EVIDENCE OF WHAT ABOUT TO ACTUALLY HAPPEN, WHERE DOES THE TENSION COME FROM? WHAT CREATES IT? WHAT IS ACTUALLY SETTING YOU UP?

SOMETIMES ACTION IS ABOUT THE SEEMINGLY INTANGIBLE THINGS, THE ACTION WE DON’T SEE. THE TENSION COMES FROM A “FEELING” WE GET. AND WHEN HULK TALKS ABOUT HOW A MOVIE FEELS THE WORD TO USE IN THAT SITUATION IS TONE. DOES THE SCENE FEEL TENSE? FUN? CHAOTIC? SAD? THAT IS WHAT TONE IS. AND MOST TIMES THE POINT OF A SCENE IS NOT ABOUT WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, BUT HOW THE SCENE FEELS.

THE AESTHETICS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY PLAY A PART IN TONE OF COURSE. HULK THINK MOST PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THIS INTRINSICALLY: THERE IS THE DARK AND MOODY SOURCE LIGHTING OF DRAMAS AND THE HIGH-KEY BRIGHT LIGHTING OF A ROMANTIC COMEDIES. BUT WHILE THE EFFECT OF CAMERA AESTHETICS ARE DEFINITELY IMPORTANT, THEY ARE SLIGHTLY OVERRATED BY THE PUBLIC COMPARED TO SOMETHING ELSE:

SOUND DESIGN!

                                                BEEP BOOP.

SOUND DESIGN IS ABSOLUTELY THE FIRST THING RESPONSIBLE FOR EFFECTIVE TONE ESTABLISHMENT. THIS ABSOLUTELY INCLUDES THE SCORE BY THE WAY. BOTH THE SOUND DESIGN AND SCORE WORK IN CONJUNCTION TO PROVIDE THE “FEELING” OF A MOVIE AND PLAY THE AUDIENCE ON A WHOLLY VISCERAL LEVEL, MEANING SOMETHING YOU INHERENTLY REACT TO IN AN UN-PROCRESSED MANNER. SAD MUSIC MAKES YOU CRY. SCRAPING METAL MAKES YOUR CRINGE, ETC.

SO LET’S GO BACK TO THE EXAMPLE OF THE WOMAN WALKING DOWN THE ABANDONED HALLWAY. OUR FIRST EMOTIONAL CUE THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG WILL LIKELY COME FROM SOUND. IT WILL BE SUBTLE. ALMOST SUBCONSCIOUS. THINGS WILL SUDDENLY GET QUIET. THE SOUND DESIGNER WILL USE PERHAPS A SLIGHT DRONE OR HIGH-PITCHED WHINE TO GET YOUR EARS AND BODY TO RESPOND. WE HAVE A VISCERAL REACTION TO THESE SOUNDS EVEN IF OUR BRAIN IS NOT ACTUALLY PROCESSING IT. THE SUSPICION WILL THEN BE CONFIRMED WITH VISUAL CUES FROM THE WOMAN (HER SLOWING DOWN/LOOKING INTO THE NOTHINGNESS). THE FEELING WILL BUILD. PERHAPS A SLIGHT MUSICAL CUE TO “HEIGHTEN” THE EMOTION. AGAIN NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENING, BUT THE AUDIO TELLING US SOMETHING WRONG BEFORE IT EVEN HAPPENS. AND THEN IN THE EVENTUAL MOMENT OF ACTUAL ON-SCREEN ACTION, WHEN THE THING JUMPS OUT, THE SOUND DESIGN WILL CLIMAX OR RELEASE, THUS ENDING THE BUILD.

TOM: Stop right there. You all have to watch and enjoy this:

TOM: Surely the progenitor of all ‘lone woman getting spooked in an alley’ sequences.  I believe that the device of a sudden, loud (but justifiably ‘diagetic’) noise on the soundtrack, which makes the audience jump but which proves not to be the expected threat, is known colloquially as a ‘Lewton’s Bus’ to this day.

HULK TOTALLY HEARD THAT BEFORE BUT DIDN’T KNOW THE REFERENCE! UGH! AMAZING!

YOU DEAR READER WILL RECOGNIZE WHAT WE TALKING ABOUT HERE AS TEXTBOOK HORROR DEVICES, BUT THE SOUND DESIGN/SCORING OF ACTION SCENES USES EXACT SAME LOGIC, EITHER WITH A BIT MORE SPEED AND SUCCESSION, OR NICE LONG BUILDS TURNING INTO EXTENDED SEQUENCES.

LET’S LOOK AT A VERY WELL-MADE FILM BY EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ANTI-SEMITIC/SEXIST/CRAZY ASSHOLE. CONCERNING OUR EARLIER PARTS, THE SCENE YOU ARE ABOUT TO WATCH IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF CAUSE + EFFECT AND YET A TERRIBLE EXAMPLE OF ESTABLISHING GEOGRAPHY. THIS IS OKAY BECAUSE IT MAKES UP FOR ANY GEOGRAPHY PROBLEMS WITH TREMENDOUS ABILITY TO BUILD TO THE ACTION WITH SOUND DESIGN/MUSIC.  PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO JUST THE AUDIO IN THIS  SCENE AND HOW IT FEELS:

GREAT USE OF TONE RIGHT? THE WAY THE SOUND ECHOES AS THINGS MOVE SLOW? THE WAY THE MUSIC GOES IN AND OUT.? THE WAY IT PROPELS ONCE THE ACTION ACTUALLY STARTS? THE WA IT PUNCTUATES THE ACTUAL MOMENTS OF IMPACT? THE THINGS THAT MAKE THIS SCENE WORK ARE THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPALS OF THE HALLWAY SCARE ANALOGY, JUST AUGMENTED TO FIT BOTH DRAMA AND ACTION.

HULK WANT TO USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS SOUND WITH A REALLY WEIRD EXAMPLE AND SHOW THAT EFFECTIVE SOUND DESIGN CAN PLAY PART OF ANY KIND OF MOVIE AND CONTROLS YOUR INTENTION/MEANING WAY MORE THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE.

THAT EXAMPLE IS DAVID LYNCH.

WHEN WE TYPICALLY THINK OF DAVID LYNCH, WE THINK OF HIS AMAZING/CRAZY IMAGERY: THE BABY IN ERASERHEAD. OR FRANK WITH OXYGEN TANK. OR THE SCARY HOMELESS MONSTER BY THE DUMPSTER. THESE ARE THE SUBJECTS, BUT THEY ARE NOT THE TONE.

DAVID LYNCH’S WORK, IF IT HAS ONE RUNNING THEME, SEEMS TO BE CONCERNED WITH THE EXISTENCE OF DARKNESS JUST UNDER THE SURFACE OF “ORDINARY.” IN EXPLORING THIS THEME HIS WORK EITHER OUTRIGHT SHOWS THE SUDDEN INVASION OF THE MACABRE INTO TRADITIONAL WHOLESOME SETTINGS, OR HE PRESENTS OVERTLY-PRISTINE IMAGES THAT ARE TAINTED BY SOMETHING SEEMINGLY PERVERSE.

TO EXECUTE THIS SECOND OPTION, LYNCH TAKES GREAT CARE TO PROVIDE UNSETTLING FEELINGS AMIDST THE “ORDINARY” SUBJECTS HES’ SHOWING. HE’LL PUT STRANGE DRONES AND WHINES UNDER SCENES OF DAILY HOUSEWORK AND OUR SEEMINGLY MUNDANE SUBURBIA. HE’LL SHOW SOME CUTE PEOPLE ACTING OVERLY-NICE, BUT WITH CREEPY SOUND DESIGN THE WHOLE THING BECOMES SUPER-SUPER CREEPY. IT ALWAYS MANAGES TO SET UP THE REST OF THE MOVIE, WHICH WILL GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE INTO TRULY DARK PLACES. AND LYNCH ACCOMPLISHES THESE SIGNIFIER  JUST BY USING COUNTER-INTUITIVE SOUND DESIGN.

AGAIN, IT’S THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPAL: YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG EVEN YOU’RE NOT SEEING IT. WHEN THE POINT COMES AROUND WHERE LYNCH STARTS TO UNRAVEL YOU WITH HIS IMAGERY TOO, HIS MOVIES ENTER THIS BRILLIANT HEIGHTENED STATE OF FILMMAKING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FIRST MOMENT IN BLUE VELVET,WHERE KYLE MCLAUGHLIN DISCOVERS THE FIRST HINT TO THE DARK UNDERBELLY AROUND HIM, IS PERFECT LYNCH. A TINY SLICE OF BODY HORROR COMBINED WITH A GREAT SOUND DESIGN CUE. IN THIS SCENE, NOTICE THE “WHINE” HE USES TO LINGER OVER THE SCENE AND RE-eNFORCE THAT EVEN THOUGH THE SUBJECT IS WRONG, THERE IS SOMETHING EVEN MORE WRONG BEYOND IT. CHECK IT OUT:

THE SOUND DESIGN SAYS EVERYTHING ABOUT THE TONE IN THIS SCENE (NOTE: HULK COULD HAVE PICKED WAY, WAY, WAY CREEPIER SCENES FROM LYNCH, BUT THIS MORE APPROPRIATE FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES).

GO AHEAD. JUST DARE ME TO HAUNT YOUR DREAMS.

LYNCH MATTERS BECAUSE IT SHOWS WHAT INTERESTING DEPTHS YOU CAN GO TO BY MESSING WITH THE SOUND IN YOUR MOVIE. YOU CAN CHANGE GENRES, YOU CAN IMBUE FEELINGS, BUT MOST OF ALL YOU CAN MAKE AN AUDIENCE FEEL TENSE.

SO IF YOU’RE MAKING AN ACTION MOVIE, DON’T FORGET THIS.

DON’T JUST SETTLE FOR MUSIC THAT PROPELS THE AUDIENCE THROUGH YOUR SCENE WITH RECKLESS ABANDON (JUST TO KEEP THEM PLACATED). USE YOUR SOUND DESIGN TO AMP UP TENSION (FOR EXAMPLE, SPIELBERG DOES THIS BEAUTIFULLY IN JURASSIC PARK). PLAY WITH THEIR EMOTIONS, USE HORROR BEATS AND CONCEPTS AS YOUR “SET UP” BEFORE YOU DELIVER THE ACTION GOODS. HOLD THE TENSION. IT WILL WORK SO MUCH BETTER IN TERMS OF DRAMA AND AMPLIFY YOUR CAUSE + EFFECT.

HOOOLLLLLLLDDDD!!!!!!!

SO… LET’S GO ONE STEP FURTHER AND ASK WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COMBINE THE LESSONS OF TENSION AND SOUND DESIGN IN TO THE LARGER SENSE OF FILMMAKING? SPECIFICALLY, HOW DO WE TAKE THIS SHARP SOUND DESIGN AND ACHIEVE THE SAME RESULT WITH CINEMATOGRAPHY AND EDITING? AND THEN HOW MARRY THE TWO INTO SOMETHING THAT AMPLIFIES THE TONE? AND YET SO IT BOTH CLEARLY SHOWS THE ACTION AND YET STILL HEIGHTENS IT?

HULK ARGUE THE WAY TO ACHIEVE ALL OF THIS IS WITH “TAUT” FILMMAKING.

ADMITTEDLY HULK LOVE TAUT FILMMAKING. IT SHOWS PERFECT UNDERSTANDING OF CINEMATIC PRINCIPALS AND QUITE HONESTLY, IT JUST HULK’S FAVORITE KIND OF FILMMAKING TO WATCH. WHY? BECAUSE IT OFFERS THOSE OF US WHO DEEP-TISSUE ANALYZE A MOVIE AS PART OF OUR INDUSTRY, A CHANCE TO REALLY TRULY “FEEL” A MOVIE. IT IS PURE CINEMA. AND HULK KNOW THE WORD “TAUT” NOT THAT DESCRIPTIVE, BUT WHAT IT ESSENTIALLY MEAN THAT TENSION AND IMPACT RULE THE SCENE ABOVE ALL OTHER FACTORS.

TAUT FILMMAKING USUALLY FEATURE A LOCKED OFF, NON-MOVING CAMERA (STILL SHOTS). THE CAMERA WILL PREFER STAY ON SUBJECT AS TENSION BUILDS UP. IF IT USES TRACKING SHOTS THEY WILL BE DELIBERATE AND SLOW (THINK KUBRICK). THE MOMENTS OF ACTUAL ACTION WILL OFTEN BE QUICK, VISCERAL, AND GRAPHICALLY VIOLENT. IF THE ACTION SPREADS OUT AND THE CHARACTERS/SUBJECTS BECOME KINETIC THE CAMERA WILL STILL STAY LOCKED OFF, BUT THE EDITING WILL QUICKEN PACE TO REFLECT THE CHANGE IN MOVEMENT. IT WILL BE JARRING, BUT NOT DISORIENTING. IN GENERAL, TAUT FILMMAKING WILL NOT USE TWO SHOTS WHEN ONE WILL DO AND EVERYTHING IS VERY, VERY DELIBERATE.

NEED SOME EXAMPLES? THE HISTORY GOES BACK TO GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM IN THE 20’S, BUT YOU’LL SURELY RECOGNIZE IT IN HITCHCOCK OR ROBERT BRESSON (A MAN CONDEMNED TO DEATH ESCAPES(1956) (10D) IS ONE OF HULK’S FAVES!). THERE’S THE FRENCH CONNECTION, JAWS, THE CONVERSATION, DAS BOOT, ALL OF SCORSESE’S ACTION, AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING KUBRICK EVER DID. MORE RECENTLY WE HAVE MOVIES LIKE THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HEAT, PAN’S LABYRINTH, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING CRONENBERG). EVEN TRUE-ART CHARACTER DRAMAS CAN COUNT LIKE KIESLOWSKI’S BLEU.

AND AS LOVER OF TAUT FILMMAKING HULK CAN NO WAIT SEE NICOLAS WINDING REFN’S DRIVE (COMING OUT THIS WEEK!). THE FOLLOWING CLIP IS FROM THE MOVIE YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO CHECK OUT. IT IS TREMENDOUS AND INCORPORATES EVERYTHING WE’VE TALK ABOUT SO FAR CONCERNING ACTION SCENES AND TAUT FILMMAKING: CAUSE + EFFECT, TENSION, STILLNESS.  IT CAN’T BE EMBEDDED, BUT SERIOUSLY, CLICK LINK AND WATCH IT:

http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/mediaPlayer/10934.html

… TENSE… EXHILARATING…. WOW.

THAT CLIP IS A PERFECT REPRESENTATION OF “TAUT” FILMMAKING. HULK BARELY FEELS LIKE HULK HAVE TO EXPLAIN ANYTHING! THAT WHAT COMPETANT FILMMAKING DOES, YOU JUST BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR IT AND HOW IT WORKS END UP HITTING YOU RIGHT IN THE DAMN BRAIN. THE MUSIC, THE STILLNESS OF THE SHOTS, THE TENSION, THE DELIBERATE MOVEMENTS. AND BEST OF ALL, THIS “TAUT” FILMMAKING AND ALL THE CINEMATICS THAT MAKE THE SCENE WORK ARE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NEW.

HOW NOT NEW ARE THEY? LET’S REVISIT OUR GOOD OLE’ FRIEND WAGES OF FEAR (1953). THE FILM’S GROUNDWORK LAID IN THE FIRST HOUR WHERE THEY CREATE THE CHARACTER TENSION, WHICH SETS THE STAGE FOR SEVERAL CONFRONTATIONS. WATCH THIS GREAT SCENE BELOW OF SEVERAL CHARACTERS FIGHTING OVER THE PLAYING OF MUSIC IN A BAR. NOTICE THE SUPER-DELIBERATE BEHAVIOR OF THE CAMERA AND THE CARE WITH WHICH IT CONVEYS THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

NOTICE THE FILM’S INTENT ON CLARITY. SURE, THE AESTHETICS ARE NO LONGER IN CINEMATIC VOGUE (THE BLACK + WHITE, THE SQUARE ANGLES, THE LINGERING PACE), BUT HULK TALKING ABOUT INTENT.(10E) EVERY SHOT SO F-ING SPECIFIC. EVERYTHING DESIGNED TO ESTABLISH INFORMATION. AND SOON IT BUILDS. SOON IT SWELLS. FINALLY THERE IS A CONFRONTATION WITH PALPABLE TENSION. IT’S AN “OLDER” FILM, BUT THE FEELING AND TONE IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO UNDERSTAND. IT SECRETLY THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPALS OF THE DRIVE CLIP.

OKAY TIME TO SWITCH GEARS IN THIS TENSION/SOUND DESIGN/TAUT DISCUSSION AND BRING UP ONE MORE WAY IN WHICH YOU CAN DIRECTLY EFFECT ACTION IN TERMS OF TONE:

DIALOGUE

NOW YOU MAY HAVE ALSO NOTICED SOMETHING ABOUT THE MOVEMENT OF THAT LAST SCENE FROM WAGES OF FEAR AND THE FOCUS OF THE DIALOGUE… IT MAY HAVE REMINDED YOU OF SOMEONE… THERE WAS ONE SHOT IN PARTICULAR THAT RINGS TRUE OF A FAMOUS DIRECTOR… HULK IS TALKING ABOUT THE SLOW TRACKING SHOT OF THE FEET WALKING TOWARD THE TABLE…. ANY GUESSES?

SO THE PERSON IT MAY HAVE REMINDED YOU OF IS ONE QUENTIN TARANTINO.

TARANTINO HAS TALKED EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF WAGES OF FEAR(11) AND PARTICULARLY THE DIRECT EFFECT ON HIS NOW FAMOUS BAR-ROOM SCENE FROM INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. THE SIMILARITIES SHOULD BE OBVIOUS: THE SETTING. THE MUSIC. THE TENSION. THE DRUNKENNESS. THE DIFFERENT WANTS OF THE CHARACTERS AT ODDS. AGAIN, THE BASTERDS SCENE IS VERY MUCH IT’S OWN UNIQUE THING AND HAS SPECTACULAR VITALITY, BUT TARANTINO IS ALWAYS SMART ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THE LESSONS FROM GREAT FILMS.

CHIEFLY, THAT WORDS CAN BE YOUR BEST WEAPON.

PICTURED: AGREEMENT

YES DEAR READERS, EVEN DIALOGUE CAN HELP ESTABLISH TONE AND SUSPENSE IF YOU USE IT IN THE EXACT SAME WAY AS ACTION.

IT REALLY IS NO ACCIDENT THAT TARANTINO HAS MADE HIS CAREER OF BUILDING TENSION WITH DIALOGUE. THINK ABOUT IT: MR. ORANGE TELLING THE BATHROOM DRUG STORY IN RESERVOIR DOGS. THE EZEKIEL SPEECH FROM PULP FICTION. THE SUPERMAN ANALOGY IN KILL BILL. AND PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRETY OF INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (LANDA’S JEW-HUNTER SPEECH, THE CREAM-DESSERT IN THE CAFE, THE INTERROGATION ABOUT MOUNTAIN CLIMBING). NOTICE THE KEY ELEMENT OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE “SPEECH” SCENES IS THAT ONE PERSON IS ESSENTIALLY HOLDING A SECRET FROM THE OTHERS, AND FROM THERE THE OTHER CHARACTERS ARE PLAYING WITH FACT THEY MIGHT KNOW. SERIOUSLY, THAT ONE SINGULAR DEVICE IS AT PLAY IN EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE SCENES.

AT AS A RESULT, THOSE SCENES ARE TENSE AS ALL FUCKING HELL.

YES, MOST OF US ARE NOT WIZARDS OF DIALOGUE LIKE TARANTINO, BUT HE IS REALLY JUST USING A BASIC SINGULAR DEVICE (ONE THAT HITCHCOCK USED A LOT TOO) AND THEN PLAYS AROUND WITH THE DIALOGUE TO TWIST AND TURN THE AUDIENCE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. SO NEVER, EVER FORGET THAT THE BASIC PRINCIPALS ARE THE SAME. NEVER BE AFRAID TO HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS IN THE SERVICE OF TENSION (WHILE KEEPING IN MIND A FOCUS ON ECONOMY). PLAY WITH THE AUDIENCES EXPECTATION AND HAVE CHARACTERS PLAY WITH EMOTIONS OF OTHERS. IT WILL THEN PLAY/FUCK WITH THE AUDIENCE.

AND IF YOU USE IT RIGHT, LIKE IN TARANTINO’S BAR ROOM SCENE, THEN THE GREAT DIALOGUE SET UP CAN EXPLODE IN WONDERFUL MOMENT OF CHAOTIC-ALL-HELL-BREAKS-LOOSE ACTION:

NOTICE THAT THE BRIEF MOMENT OF ACTION HAS ABSOLUTELY NO CAUSE + EFFECT, NO TANGIBLE OBJECTIVES, NO CLEAR GEOGRAPHY, AND RESEMBLES UTTER FREAKING CHAOS, AND IT IS SO TOTALLY OKAY.

AND THAT’S BECAUSE THE AMAZING SCENE OF DIALOGUE THAT COMES BEFORE SETS UP THE CHAOTIC DELIVERY OF THIS BRIEF SCENE EVER SO CAREFULLY. IT IS ONE “EFFECT.” THE BRIEF CHAOS ENTHRALLS US BECAUSE WE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THE CHARACTERS BY THIS POINT OF THE SET UP (TESTAMENT TO TARANTINO, WE WERE INTRODUCED TO MOST OF THESE GUYS AT, LIKE, THE BEGINNING OF THE SCENE). REALLY THE SCENE WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AS ONE MOMENT OF CHAOS.

AND DON’T DARE FOR ONE SECOND ASSUME THAT IT’S BECAUSE TARANTINO DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO “STAGE” ACTION BECAUSE KILL BILL PROVED THAT BEYOND ANY KIND OF DOUBT. (11B) SPECIFICALLY WITH THE VERY LAST SCENE WITH BILL, WHICH WORKS IN A VERY, VERY SIMILAR MOMENT ENDING WITH A BRIEF EXPLOSION OF (WELL-CHOREOGRAPHED) VIOLENCE.

REMEMBER, WE MAY NOT GENIUSES, BUT WE CAN USE THE PRINCIPALS AT WORK HERE.

SO ONCE AGAIN, LET’S RETURN TO ATTACK THE BLOCK – TONE IS ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL ASPECTS OF HOW THE ACTION WORKS IN THAT FILM, BECAUSE UNLIKE MOST HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS, THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH LOW-BUDGET CONSTRAINTS AND AN INTIMATE SCALE,.SO IN ORDER MAKE EACH SCENE FEEL DIFFERENT THEY CHANGED THE TONE AND LANGUAGE OF EACH SCENE: THE ATTACK ON THE AMBULANCE USE HORROR LANGUAGE AND MUSIC CUES. THE ESCAPE ON THE BIKES USE CHASE LANGUAGE AND PROPULSIVE MUSICE. THE FIRST ATTACK IN THE APARTMENT USE FIGHT SCENE LANGUAGE (MOSES’S “NINJA” MOMENT). THE  SECOND ATTACK STARTS OFF WITH THE SAME FIGHT SCENE LANGUAGE AND THEN ABRUPTLY INVERTS IT WHEN THINGS START GOING WRONG. THEN THE SCENE OF TRYING TO GET TO RON’S WEED ROOM TURNS THE TONE BACK TO HORROR, BUT THIS TIME WITH EFFECTIVE STAPLE WITH THE “CHARACTERS BEING LOST IN THE FOG WHERE THE UNSEEN INSPIRE DREAD” THING AND USING EERIE “ATMOSPHERE” SOUND CUES. THEN THE LAST ACTION SCENE, WHILE BEING A BIT MORE STYLISTIC, STILL SUPER-CLEAR WITH THE OBJECTIVES/STAKES AND USES THE SLO-MO AND GREAT MUSIC TO RAM HOME EMOTION. PLUS THEY INCORPORATE OUR MAJOR CHARACTER MOMENTS. TO REITERATE, THE ENTIRE FILM HAVE ALL ACTION SCENES TAKING PLACE IN AND AROUND THE SAME APARTMENT BUILDING AND YET THEY ALL FEEL UNIQUE BECAUSE THEY SMART ENOUGH TO ESTABLISH DIFFERENT TONES.

TOM: Thanks! And just to mention, the biggest struggle on ATB was generating a sense/feeling of dangerous kinetics with fairly low speed travel. But then again it’s not like we could go too far in the other direction. Try this one on for size:

YOU’VE SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT TARKOVSKY INTO A CONVERSATION ABOUT ACTION FILMS! CONGRATS!

TOM: Thank you. It’s one long shot and wouldn’t at first seem to be ‘action’ in any usual sense but I defy anyone to watch that scene and not feel an unbearable level of tension by the end.  Even if one doesn’t have foreknowledge of what the task is that the character has set themselves (or its wider implication in the narrative) all the right elements are there, just presented in an unconventional fashion.  One could argue that the scene is an exercise in frustrating a viewer more used to a different pace of visual story telling, or just dismiss it as an academic attempt to try the patience of anyone. But by exploring ‘real time’, rather than abbreviating it with edits, the net result is surprisingly the same.  I’ve no idea where this might shore up any of your arguments as it would seem to contradict them on a surface level but it’s always fascinated me that something so painfully slow and drawn out can become exhilarating.

REAL TIME INDEED. WHAT DID TARKOVSKY CALL FILMMAKING AFTER ALL? SCULPTING IN TIME. BUT ENOUGH TARKOVSKY.

LET’S MOVE ON AND PUT THIS SHIT ALL TOGETHER!

PART 5 – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

THIS PART FIVE IS GOING TO BE VERY SHORT. THAT BECAUSE HULK GOING TO SHOW A CLIP THAT, WELL, PRETTY MUCH SHOWS AND EXPLAINS HOW TO DO EVERYTHING WE’VE TALKED ABOUT SO FAR.

“RECENTNESS” BE DAMNED, HULK ARGUE THE BEST ACTION SCENE EVER IS IN NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

HOPEFULLY YOU SEEN IT BEFORE. IF NOT, HERE’S ALL THE BACKGROUND YOU NEED: A CHARACTER NAMED LLEWELEN MOSS STUMBLED ONTO THE CARNAGE OF A DRUG DEAL GONE WRONG. HE TAKES THE MONEY LEFT AT THE SCENE AND RUNS. THE UNSEEN DRUG BOSSES THEN SEND THEIR BEST HITMAN, ANTON CHIGURGH, TO FIND AND KILL MOSS AND GET THE MONEY BACK. AND UNFORTUNATELY FOR MOSS, ANTON CHIRGUGH IS BASICALLY THE ANGEL OF DEATH PERSONIFIED. AT THIS MOMENT ANTON HAS BEEN TAILING LLEWELEN FOR BIT AND HAS FINALLY CAUGHT UP TO HIM:

FUCKING.. A.

THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING WE TALKED ABOUT. CAUSE + EFFECT. SET-UP/PAY OFF. SHOWING LOCATIONS TO USE AGAIN (WHEN IT COMES BACK AROUND FOR THE DEAD HOTEL CLERK). THE LOCKED-OFF CAMERA. THE ALTERNATING TONE OF STILLNESS, ANTICIPATION, AND ACTION.

WHAT IS PERHAPS MOST AMAZING ABOUT THE SCENE IS THE WAY THEY EDIT IT MAKE IT FEEL IMPOSSIBLY KINETIC. THEY DO THIS BY CUTTING TO ANOTHER TENSE SHOT THAT MAKES PERFECT LOGICAL SENSE, INSTEAD OF JUST MOVING THE CAMERA RAPIDLY. BEST OF ALL, EVERY SINGLE TIME AN ACTION OR BEAT IS ABOUT TO REGISTER TO THE AUDIENCE, THAT ACTION (USUALLY A GUNSHOT) HITS THE EXACT BEAT .01 SECONDS BEFORE OUR MIND DOES, THUS GIVING EVERY SINGLE MOMENT TRUE VISCERAL IMPACT (WHILE STILL GIVING ENOUGH SET-UP FOR US TO UNDERSTAND).

IT IS A MASTERCLASS.

REALLY. HULK NOT SURE YOU TRULY UNDERSTAND HOW HARD IT IS TO GET THAT KIND OF PERFECT TIMING AND PACING IN AN ACTION SCENE. TO BE ON SET AND TO PERFECTLY UNDERSTAND HOW TO TIME THINGS WITH YOUR ACTORS AND CREW. AND THEN TO GET IT TO TRANSLATE ON FILM SO THAT IT CAN BE PERFECTLY CUT IN THE EDITING ROOM… IT LIKE… HULK MEAN… THEY JUST…  GOOD GOD.

BUT JUST LIKE TARANTINO’S DIALOGUE, LET’S BE HONEST. THE REST OF US ARE NOT THE COEN BROTHERS. WE JUST HUMAN… AND THEY CLEARLY NOT.

BUT WE CAN CERTAINLY ASPIRE TO BE LIKE THEM.

PICTURED: MAYBE THE BEST SEMIOTICS MOVIE OF ALL TIME

SO THERE WE HAVE IT! DAY 2 IN THE BOOKS!

HULK & TOM HOPE YOU ENJOYED AND FOUND IT INFORMATIVE AS DAY ONE.

TOMORROW WE TACKLE PARTS 6, 7, 8, AND 9 TO FINISH OF THE SERIES. SINCE TODAY WE COVERED HOW TO “EXECUTE” SCENES IN IDEAL FASHION, TOMORROW WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT EXCEPTIONS THAT CAN WORK, THE IMPETUS AND PROBLEMS OF “STYLIZATION,” THE CRIPPLING PROBLEMS OF PRODUCTION LOGISTICS, AND ALL THE PRACTICAL ADVICE WE CAN GIVE TO YOUNG FILMMAKERS. IN DOING SO WE’LL COVER MURDER’S ROW OF: GREENGRASS, SPEILBERG (AGAIN) MICHAEL BAY, ZACH SNYDER, CHRIS NOLAN, EDGAR WRIGHT, PETER JACKSON, AND YOUR MOM.

<3 HULK & TOM

ENDNOTES!

(9C) HECK, HULK SAW A MOVIE THAT BROKE THE 180 LINE THE OTHER DAY WITHOUT ESTABLISHING NEW GEOGRAPHY… OH YEAH, THAT WAS MOST MOVIES.

(9D) JAQUES TATI?

(10A) THIS IS NOT TO IMPLY HULK DOESN’T LIKE THOSE ACTORS. HULK ACTUALLY LOVE THOSE ACTORS. BUT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEIVABLE REASON THAT THEY SHOULD BE THE PRINCIPALS IN A BETTER FIGHT SCENE THAN WILL SMITH OR VIN DIESEL… IT SHOWS THAT SOMETHING ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF ACTION FILMMAKING.

(10B) HULK’S MAIN ARGUMENT THIS: IN HIGH SCHOOL HULK AND A FRIEND MADE KUNG FU FILM FOR FILM PROGRAM. SOME OF THE ACTION IN IT LEGITIMATELY BETTER THAN SOME HOLLYWOOD MOVIES THAT POPULAR AT TIME. THIS NOT TO IMPLY WE AWESOME, WE JUST SEMI-CAPABLE KUNG FU PEOPLE. WHICH MEANS THAT HOLLYWOOD’S STANDARD TREATMENT OF TWO GUYS FIGHTING EACH OTHER IS PRETTY MUCH SHIT…. AND YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT. THE 12 FOOT BIG GIANT GREEN HULK KNOWS KUNG FU… SO WATCH YOUR ASS.

(10C) OKAY. SO IF YOU EVER WANT TO KNOW HOW DIFFERENT ASIAN CINEMA IS FROM AMERICAN CINEMA AT THE TIME OF JACKIE’S RISE TO PROMINENCE, SEE THE PROTECTOR (1985). IT IS AN ATTEMPT TO INJECT JACKIE INTO THE TYPICAL 80’S SLEAZY ACTION MOVIE. IT IS THE WORST KIND OF HORRIBLE. THEY TRIED TO TURN JACKIE INTO THE STOIC, SUNGLASSES-WEARING BADASS AND DEFIES EVERY POSSIBLE ATTEMPT FOR HIM TO DO SOMETHING PHYSICALLY INTERESTING. HE SPENDS THE ENTIRE MOVIE DRIVING AROUND WITH DANNY AIELLO AND FEATURES THOSE AWFUL 80’S GUNFIGHTS. IT IS ONE OF HULK’S LEAST FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME BECAUSE IT IS THAT SPECIAL BRAND OF CLUELESS.

(10D) IT ALSO KNOWN AS “A MAN ESCAPED” BUT BRESSON ALWAYS WANTED THE FULL-TITLE SO HULK GOING WITH HIM.

(10E) LET’S HAVE THE QUICKEST POSSIBLE CONVERSATION ABOUT “OLD” MOVIES. THE IDEA THAT OLD MOVIES ARE “SLOW” AND “BAD” IS BOTH 1) A WHOLLY UNDERSTANDABLE IMPULSE TO A NEW VIEWER AND YET 2) QUITE POSSIBLY THE DUMBEST POSSIBLE THING ONE COULD EVER SAY. SO DON’T. WATCHING AN OLD MOVIE IS TO GO BACK AND TRANSLATE WHAT THEY WERE DOING INTO THE CINEMATIC LINGUISTICS OF THE TIME AND RECOGNIZE WHAT THEY AFFECTED THE CONTEXT OF FILM HISTORY. IT IS TO UNDERSTAND CINEMA’S UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. SURE SOME MOVIES “WORK” BETTER IN TERMS OF DATING, BUT TO OUTRIGHT INFER THEY WERE ‘BAD” MOVIES SIMPLY BECAUSE OF DIFFERENT HISTORICAL STYLIZATIONS IS AKIN TO WALKING UP TO WALKING RIGHT UP TO HANK AARON AND SAYING HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO HIT HOME RUNS.

(11) UGH… THIS THE SORT OF THING HULK WOULD NORMALLY BACK UP BUT HULK CAN NOT FIND THE CLIP OR ANY WRITTEN REFERENCE TO IT. THIS LACK OF SUPPORT WOULD TRADITIONALLY REQUIRE THAT HULK OMIT THE DETAIL, BUT THIS ISN’T A 100% ACADEMIC SETTING AND TO PUT IT MORE SIMPLY: HULK DON’T WANNA. SO WE’RE GOING WITH HULK’S MEMORY ON THIS ONE… AND IF HULK’S BEING HONEST HULK’S MEMORY PRETTY DAMN GOOD.

(11B) TARANTINO FAMOUSLY BURNED ABOUT 1 MILLION FEET OF FILM ON THAT MOVIE, MOST OF WHICH WAS UNUSED BECAUSE HE WAS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO “SHOOT” ACTION FIRST.

WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE GOOD?

IT’S RATHER PERTINENT QUESTION NOWADAYS. IT SEEMS ACTION SCENES ARE A COMPONENT OF EVERY KIND OF POPULAR MOVIE. AND WE BUILD HIGH-STAKES SUMMER TENT-POLE MOVIES AROUND NOTHING MORE THAN A VAGUE CONCEPT AND THEN TREAT THE SET-PIECES LIKE THEY’RE ONLY THING THAT MATTER.

FOR SOME REASON, WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THIS IS “THE WAY” TO DO THINGS DESPITE THE FACT THAT RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTING THE FACT THAT A GOOD STORY WELL-TOLD IS THE THING THAT TRULY RESONATES WITH AUDIENCES. BUT BECAUSE ACTION SCENES DOMINATE THE BOTH THE INCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF FILMMAKING, HULK WORRIES THAT THE EFFECTS NOW TOO DEEPLY-ROOTED IN THE FOUNDATION OF MOVIE CULTURE. MEANING HULK THINKS OF ALL THE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG KIDS WHO ARE TOTALLY INTO MOVIES AND TRYING TO REPLICATE THEIR FAVORITE ACTION SCENES AT HOME. WHAT ARE THEY TAKING AWAY FROM WHAT THEY’RE SEEING? CHANCES ARE IT’S NOT THE GOOD THINGS.

THIS PROBLEM RAISES A REALLY GOOD QUESTION: IF ACTION IS SO IMPORTANT AND INGRAINED INTO OUR CONSCIOUSNESS… WHY AREN’T ACTION SCENES BETTER? (i)

IT’S SURELY NOT A QUESTION OF RESOURCES. TODAY’S MOVIES HAVE EXORBITANT BUDGETS. INCREDIBLE PRODUCTION TOOLS. ARMIES OF CGI MAGICIANS. EVERYTHING AT THEIR DISPOSAL… SO WHAT’S MISSING HERE? HOW ARE THESE OH-SO-CRITICAL ACTION SET-PIECES NOT WORKING BETTER? ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE THE ONLY THING WE SUPPOSEDLY CARE ABOUT?

HULK THINK THERE A SIMPLE ANSWER:  MOST PEOPLE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO UNDERSTANDING OF HOW BASIC ACTION WORKS ON SCREEN.

LET’S START ON A CULTURAL LEVEL. HULK GOING TO ASK YOU TO THINK OF THE WORD MOST OFTEN USED BY PEOPLE TO DESCRIBE GOOD ACTION. GOT ONE? WHILE THERE LIKELY NO SINGULAR ANSWER, HULK ARGUE THE MOST POPULAR WORD USED WOULD BE “COOL.”

HULK FIND THAT WORD VERY TELLING. FOR ONE, THE MEANING OF THE WORD ACTUALLY SUPER-VAGUE. THIS IS PARTIALLY BECAUSE “COOL” IS THE DEFAULT, LONG-RUNNING ADOLESCENT-NONSENSE WORD. BUT EVEN IF IT’S VAGUE EVERYONE KNOW WHAT AT LEAST MEANT BY IT. MORE SIGNIFICANTLY, HOWEVER, IS THE FACT THAT COOLNESS IS SOMETHING THAT IS INHERENTLY EVASIVE. MARKETING EXECUTIVES SPEND MILLIONS EVERY YEAR TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S “COOL” AND SO THE VERY  IDEA THAT ONE CAN TRY CAPITALIZE ON IT AND SHOWCASE WITH ACTION IS LIKE TRYING TO BOTTLE LIGHTNING. REMEMBER, COOL CAN ONLY BE AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT, NOTHING MORE THAN A VIBE. WORSE, IT WHOLLY DEPENDS ON THE VIEWER’S TASTE.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS BAD WORD CHOICE IS THAT DETERMINING WHAT’S “COOL” IS NOT AN EMOTIONAL REACTION, BUT A CEREBRAL ONE.  EVEN IF IT’S LARGELY SUBCONSCIOUS, CALLING SOMETHING COOL IS MORE OF AN EVALUATION THAN A REACTION. IN ORDER FOR SOMETHING TO BE COOL IT HAVE TO IMPLIES THAT ONE HAS TO UNENGAGED, DISCONNECTED, AND DETACHED.

… AND THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT IN A MOVIE.

YOU WANT BE ENGAGED. CONNECTED. ATTACHED.

ENTHRALLED.

WHICH MEANS ACTION SHOULD NEVER SOLELY BE COOL. AND IT SHOULD NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES JUST BE THOUGHT OF AS JUST A BUNCH OF COOL SHIT HAPPENING ON SCREEN. THE BELIEF IN SUCH A THING SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A VIAL MYTH. MUCH LIKE HULK’S HATRED OF 3 ACT STRUCTURE, THE MAIN PROBLEM OF CALLING THINGS COOL STEMS FROM  THE FACT THAT OUR CULTURAL USE OF THE WORD NOT INSTRUCTIONAL OR DESCRIPTIVE ENOUGH WAY TO CATEGORIZE HOW ACTION WORKS. AND SINCE WE CANNOT DESCRIBE IT RIGHT, PEOPLE TAKE AWAY THE WRONG LESSONS.

PICTURED: WRONGNESS

SO WHAT MAKES ACTION WORK?

THE BEST PHRASE TO NARROW IT DOWN = AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION.

THE AUDIENCE DOES NOT SIMPLY “WATCH” ACTION. EVERY SINGLE BEAT SHOULD IDEALLY WORK AS A 4 PART PROCESS: AN AUDIENCE MUST FIRST ANTICIPATE THE ACTION, THEN THE AUDIENCE MUST UNDERSTAND THE ACTION (WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SEEING), THEN THE AUDIENCE MUST FEEL THE ACTION, AND ULTIMATELY REACT TO THE ACTION. AND WHEN YOU DO THAT? THE ACTION BEAT WILL WORK LIKE FREAKIN’ GANGBUSTERS.(1)

NOW, HOW ACTUALLY DO THAT? ONE CAN ACHIEVE THAT KIND OF REACTION BY STICKING TO FEW BASIC TENETS OF ACTION: “CAUSE AND EFFECT“, “HAVING OBJECTIVES“, “UNDERSTANDING GEOGRAPHY“, AND “TONE AND SUSPENSE.” AFTER THAT IT ABOUT “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER“, “UNDERSTANDING WHEN AND HOW TO GO AGAINST THE RULES“, KNOWING “PRODUCTION LOGISTICS“, AND ULTIMATELY “NOT BEING MICHAEL BAY” (YES THAT GET’S IT’S OWN PART).

SO RIGHT NOW, HULK GOING TO START DIVING INTO EXPLAINING ALL THOSE TENETS USING ALL OF HULK’S FAVORITE ACTION SCENES, WHICH EXEMPLIFY HOW THOSE CONCEPTS WORK.

HULK PRESENTING THIS ESSAY IN A NINE-PART, 70 PAGE, 20,000 WORD EVALUATION OF HOW ACTION WORKS, BUT DON’T WORRY THOUGH! TODAY’S “DAY ONE” COLUMN WILL JUST COVER THE FIRST TWO TENETS (CAUSE + EFFECT AND OBJECTIVES) AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY. YES, IT’S TRUE! HULK ACTUALLY BREAKING UP ONE OF HULK’S HULK-SIZED COLUMNS! IT WILL BE BETTER FOR YOUR PUNY HUMAN-SIZED EYEBALLS.

BUT THE BEST PART OF THIS IS HULK NOT GOING DOING IT ALONE!

HULK HAVE A SPECIAL GUEST FOR YA’LL AND HE KNOWS ABOUT THIS STUFF WAY, WAY MORE THAN HULK DOES.  SO EVERYONE PLEASE WELCOME MR. PRARIE OYSTERS HIMSELF, TOM TOWNEND!

SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW ALREADY KNOW HIM, BUT IF NOT, YOU MAY INDEED KNOW HIS WORK. FOR STARTERS HE THE FREAKIN’ CINEMATOGRAPHER OF ATTACK THE BLOCK AS WELL AS SEVERAL DOCUMENTARIES, TV SHOWS, AND SHORTS. HE’S ALSO WORKED AS A CAMERA OPERATOR AND SECOND UNIT D.P.  FOR DOZENS OF AMAZING PROJECTS, SUCH AS 28 DAYS LATER, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MILLIONS, PROOF, HARRY BROWN, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN AND ALL OF LYNN RAMSAY’S FILMS TO BOOT. THE RANGE OF GENRE HERE STAGGERING, AND IF YOU EVER SEEN ANY OF THOSE MOVIES THE YOU’VE SEEN EXCELLENT CINEMATOGRAPHY AND A SURE-HANDED DEMONSTRATION AND THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF TONE.

HE ALSO SHOT THIS RECENT AWARD-WINNING VIDEO… YOU KNOW… THE CRAZY-UBER-FAMOUS ONE:

THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHAT APPEARS IN THIS ARTICLE WAS BORN OUT OF OUR DISCUSSIONS AND HULK ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIS CONTRIBUTIONS.(2)

YOU WILL BE TOO.

TOM: I had no idea I was going to be popping up as some sort of Jiminy Cricket character.

HULK LAUGH. THIS REALLY GOING BE A LOT OF FUN AND HULK ACTUALLY REALLY HAPPY WITH HOW INFORMATIVE AND INSTRUCTIONAL THIS PIECE HAS COME OUT.  SO MANY OF THESE HULK COLUMNS ABOUT HOW MUCH CERTAIN THINGS SUCK, SO IT NICE TO BE WRITING SOMETHING ABOUT HOW STUFF WORKS AND HOW TO DO BETTER.

HULK & TOM CERTAINLY REALIZED/LEARNED A LOT WHILE WRITING IT, SO WE HOPE YOU DO TOO.

SO NOW THEN …

PART 1 – CAUSE + EFFECT: ONLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER

SO THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE ACTUALLY INSPIRED BY HULK’S RECENT VIEWING OF CAPTAIN AMERICA.

WHILE HULK LOVED THE MOVIE FOR WHOLE BUNCH OF REASONS, HULK THOUGHT THE ACTION ALTERNATED BETWEEN MOMENTS OF GENUINE FUN, BEING SERVICEABLE, AND A BUNCH OF SOMEWHAT-LACKING MOMENTS. STUDIO HEADS MAY BE AGHAST TO LEARN THEIR PRECIOUS SET-PIECES NOTHING COMPARED TO THE MOVIE’S WELL-WRITTEN CENTRAL RELATIONSHIPS, BUT PERHAPS IT A LESSON THEY SHOULD TAKE HEED FROM. BUT IN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY CERTAIN SCENES WORK AND OTHERS DO NOT, IT THE PERFECT MOVIE TO ANALYZE, EVEN IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT. IN FACT, THE LACK OF CLIPS ALLOWS US TO TALK ABOUT THE ACTION AND ESTABLISH A LANGUAGE TO USE THAT WILL BE VERY IMPORTANT GOING FORWARD. AND DON’T WORRY BECAUSE WE’LL HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH CLIPS AND VISUAL AIDS TO EXPLAIN THINGS LATER ANYWAY.

BUT REALLY, CAPTAIN AMERICA IS THE BEST MOVIE TO USE BECAUSE IT’S PROBLEMS/SUCCESS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ACTION: CAUSE + EFFECT.

TOM: Hulk, you set this one up for now, I’ll come back once we get to that guy with the whip.

SOUNDS GOOD.

LET’S START WITH ONE OF THE MOST BASIC PROBLEMS OF THE ACTION IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: THERE ARE A LARGE NUMBER OF ACTION BEATS (BEATS MEANING MOMENTS/SHORT SEQUENCES) THAT SEEM TO OPERATE WITHOUT STORY CONTEXT. IN CASE IT’S NOT OBVIOUS, PROVIDING CONTEXT IS CRITICAL TO ACTION. THE MOST OBVIOUS SANS-CONTEXT SCENE INVOLVES AN EXTENDED MONTAGE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE WHERE CAP AND HIS BUDDIES ESSENTIALLY SWEEPING THROUGH THE RANKS OF HYDRA FACTORIES. NOW HULK UNDERSTAND THE PREMISE: GOOD GUYS TAKING DOWN BAD GUYS. AND WE ALSO UNDERSTAND THE IMPETUS TO CONDENSE THE INFORMATION/SCALE INTO MONTAGE (IN TERMS OF NARRATIVE IT’S DEFINITELY THE RIGHT CALL), BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S HANDLED WELL IN TERMS OF EXECUTION. IN ALL HONESTLY, HULK THOUGHT IT ACTUALLY MOST BORING SCENE IN MOVIE. WHY? BECAUSE THE BEATS THEMSELVES HAVE NO SEQUENCING OR CONTEXT AND SADLY, THEY ARE MOSTLY IMAGE-BASED, MEANING THEIR SOLE GOAL IS TO STRIVE FOR “COOL.”

FOR EXAMPLE, SEVERAL OF THE QUICK IMAGES THE MONTAGE DISPLAYS ARE: CAP BURSTING IN SHIELD-FIRST AND FIRING A HANDGUN. CAP LEAPS AND HANGS ON TO A CHAIN. CAP JUMPS OFF A GIANT TANK AS IT EXPLODES BEHIND HIM… THEY ALL GREAT IMAGES BUT SINCE THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY GO ON JUST LONG ENOUGH TO TREATED AS LIVING, BREATHING “BEATS” AND NOT JUST A SUCCESSION OF IMAGES, IT MAKES THINGS PROBLEMATIC. THEY END UP FEELING LIKE INTROS/CLIMAXES TO SOMETHING WITH NO BUILDUP. WHY? BECAUSE THEY’RE LONG ENOUGH TO DEMAND CONTEXT YET OFFER NO CONTEXT.

IN THE SAME SEQUENCE THERE’S SHOT WHERE THE FRENCH GUY LIES DOWN AS A TANK DRIVES OVER HIM AND HE STRAPS A BOMB TO IT. AGAIN, IT’S COOL, BUT IS WEIGHTLESS BECAUSE THERE IS NO CONTEXT. AND THE MONTAGE’S MOST EGREGIOUS SCENE OCCURS WHEN CAP STRIDES ATOP A TANK MAKES SOME WEIRD, CONFUSING MOTION AS SOME OTHER GUY SUDDENLY COMES BY AND THROWS GRENADES UP AND CAP THEN AWKWARDLY DUMPS THEM IN.  THE SCENE NOT ONLY CLUNKY, BUT EVERYTHING IS ALREADY HAPPENING A STEP BEFORE THE AUDIENCE CAN REGISTER WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROCESSING. THERE IS NO LOGIC. IT IS NOT ONLY CONFUSING, BUT IT REMOVES THE DRAMA FROM EVERYTHING. THERE’S NO STORY. IT SIMPLY COOL SHIT HAPPENING ON SCREEN.

IT NOT COMPELLING AND, YES, EVEN MONTAGES HAVE BE COMPELLING.

TO BE FAIR, MOST OF THE OTHER SCENES IN CAP NOT NEARLY AS DETACHED AS THIS SEQUENCE, BUT THEY STILL FEATURE LOTS OF SAME PROBLEMS. THEY FOCUS ON COOL/IMAGERY AND UNINTENTIONALLY RENDER THE A LOT OF ACTUAL ACTION BEATS BORING. SOMETIMES IT SI BECAUSE THERE NO CONTEXT AND SOMETIMES IT IS BECAUSE THERE AREBASIC FAILURES IN LOGIC…

NEAT, BUT WHY THEY NOT JUST BURNING HIM? HE RIGHT THERE.

SO WHEN AND HOW DOES CAPTAIN AMERICA DO ACTION RIGHT? WELL, THE BEST ACTION BEAT IN THE FILM IS ACTUALLY VERY, VERY  SIMPLE.

THEY INTRODUCE A SITUATION WHERE CAP AND BUCKY (HIS FELLOW SOLDIER) ARE SEPARATED BETWEEN TWO TRAIN CARS. CAP IS IN THE FRONT CAR FIGHTING ONE BIG BAD HYDRA GUY AND BUCKY IS IN THE HIND-CAR SHOOTING THE OTHER BAD GUYS. THEN BUCKY RUNS OUT OF BULLETS AND THERE’S STILL ONE LAST HYDRA BAD GUY  STALKING HIM FROM BEHIND A SHELF. CAP TAKES CARE OF HIS BIG GUY IN THE FRONT CAR AND COMES BACK TO BUCKY’S CAR AND SEES THE SITUATION AT HAND. CAP THEN LOOKS UP AND SEES A SHELF IN BETWEEN HIM AND HYDRA BAD GUY. THEN, IN A SERIES OF QUICK BUT DELIBERATE MOVEMENTS: CAP OPEN THE DOOR, THROWS BUCKY HIS GUN, THEN RUNS FORWARD AND PUSHES A BEAM ON THE SHELF FORWARD. THE BEAM KNOCKS THE HYDRA SOLDIER BACKWARD, RIGHT INTO VIEW OF BUCKY, WHO IMMEDIATELY SHOOTS HIM. BING. BANG. BOOM. BAD GUY TAKEN CARE OF AND IT TOTALLY THE BEST ACTION “BEAT” IN THE MOVIE.

IT’S COMPELLING. IT’S FUN. IT’S THRILLING.

IT’S A LITTLE STORY.

OBVIOUSLY, THERE ARE OTHER ELEMENTS THAT HELP EXECUTE THE BEAT (GREAT TIMING, ANGLES, ETC), BUT THING THAT MAKE IT SO STRONG THAT A PERFECTLY UTILIZES WHAT WE CALL “CAUSE + EFFECT.”

IF ACTION IS NOTHING MORE THAN THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF CONFLICT THEN IT MUST UTILIZE THE SAME RULES AS DRAMATIC CONFLICT, MEANING ONE MUST ESTABLISH A CREDIBLE THREAT. THE ACTION BEAT DESCRIBED ABOVE CREATES A FAMILIAR, EVEN CLICHE SITUATION OF CONFLICT (“OH NOES, I AM OUT OF BULLETS!”), BUT IT IS STILL ONE THAT PERFECTLY ESTABLISHES A REAL THREAT: BUCKY IS CORNERED AND HE HAS NO WAY OF DEFENDING HIMSELF. IT GIVES URGENCY TO CAP WHO IS USUALLY JUST THE “INFALLIBLE HERO” AND NOW PUTS HIM IN WHAT WE CALL DANGER BY ASSOCIATION. THE SCENE THEN ESTABLISHES THAT CAP SEES THE SAME EXACT PROBLEM THAT THE AUDIENCE DOES. IT THEN ESTABLISHES THE SHELF AS A POTENTIAL SOLUTION. IT THEN EXECUTES THE FALLOUT SWIFTLY AND WITH CARE. THE ACTION BEAT ESTABLISHES A CONFLICT AND THEN QUICKLY SEEKS TO SOLVE THAT CONFLICT, USING ALL THE INFORMATION IT HAS PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED.

YUP, LIKE A GEOMETRIC PROOF, GREAT ACTION ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING.

NOW GO BACK TO HULK’S FOUR POINTS IN THE INTRO AND THINK ABOUT THIS ACTION BEAT ONE LAST TIME: 1) ANTICIPATION 2) UNDERSTANDING 3) FEELING 4) REACTING.

WE ANTICIPATE THE PROBLEM BY ESTABLISHING CREDIBLE THREAT (NO BULLETS).

WE UNDERSTAND (THE CAMERA SHOWS CAP SEEING THE PROBLEM, TELLING THE AUDIENCE TO REGISTER AS WELL).

WE FEEL THE MOMENT (THE ACTUAL GUN TOSSING THEN CAP HITTING THE SHELF AND BUCKY SHOOTING HIM VERY WELL PUT TOGETHER. IT NOT SO FAST THAT WE NO UNDERSTAND THE GEOGRAPHY, BUT IT STILL FAST ENOUGH THAT WE FEEL THE IMPACT. THAT BECAUSE THEY JUST .01 SECONDS AHEAD OF AUDIENCE, WHICH GIVE IT SENSE OF BEING “FELT” BEFORE IT PROCESSED).

LASTLY, WE REACT WITH ELATION.(3)

PICTURED: ELATION

ACTION IS ABOUT SETTING UP SERIES OF STEPS THAT THE AUDIENCE CAN FOLLOW AND REACT TO. WHEN YOU ANTICIPATE THE PROBLEM, THE CONFLICT BECOMES PALPABLE. THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCES DRAMA. WE CALL IT “CAUSE + EFFECT” BUT REALLY IT’S THE MOST BASIC DEVICE OF ALL KINDS OF STORY TELLING, NOT JUST ACTION.

THING ABOUT IT. IT’S THE BASIS OF COMEDY (SET UP: PUNCHLINE), THE BASIS OF HORROR (SET UP: SCARE), AND YES, THE BASIS OF ACTION (SET-UP: PAYOFF). AND THE MORE YOU CAN STRING TOGETHER A SERIES OF GOOD ACTION BEATS (MULTIPLE SET-UPS + PAYOFFS) THE MORE YOU CAN CREATE MEMORABLE ACTION SCENE. ESPECIALLY IF YOU CAN IMBUE THE BEATS WITH MEANING OF CHARACTER AND NARRATIVE, OR MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE HUMOR IF SO DESIRED.

GOING BACK TO OUR EARLIER PROBLEM WITH THE MONTAGE, REMEMBER THAT THE CONTEXT MATTERS.

THE TRAIN SCENE COMES HOT OFF THE HEALS OF THAT BORING MONTAGE SEQUENCE AND IT STARTS WITH CAP AND COMPANY STAND ATOP A MOUNTAIN OVERLOOKING THE HIGH SPEED TRAIN. THEY THEN ALL SIT AROUND AND PROVIDE CONTEXT, EXPLAINING THE INCREDIBLE DANGER OR RIP-LINING ONTO A MOVING TRAIN AND ESTABLISHING THE THREAT OF REAL DANGER. THEN WHEN THEY ACTUALLY RIP-LINE, THEY ALMOST DON’T MAKE IT (PEOPLE DOING THINGS WITH EASE IS “COOL” BUT BORING AND NOT INVOLVING, RIGHT MATRIX SEQUELS?). FROM THE TOP OF THE TRAIN, OUR HEROES THEN SNEAK ON BOARD AND THE SEQUENCE TURNS INTO THE BEST ACTION BEAT HULK EXPLAINED ABOVE. WHICH MEANS THE BEAT HAS SUBSTANTIAL RESONANCE BECAUSE THEY ALREADY ESTABLISHED MUCH HIGHER STAKES, CONTEXT, AND DRAMA.

THE AUDIENCE WAS PRIMED FOR IT.

BUT BEST PART OF THE ACTION SCENE REALLY COMES AFTER THE BEAT MENTIONED ABOVE. THE VERY SECOND AFTER BUCKY SHOOTS THE “SHELFED” BAD-GUY WITH CAP’S GUN, RIGHT WHEN THE AUDIENCE HAS THAT GREAT MOMENT OF RELIEF, THE ANGLE CHANGES AND REVEALS THERE ANOTHER BIG SOLDIER RIGHT BEHIND THEM. OUR ELATION NOW UNDERCUT BY ANOTHER THREAT.

MEANING THE ACTION BEATS ARE LINKED.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER IS FANTASTIC (BIG SPOILERS TIL THE NEXT NOTICE) THE SNEAKY BIG SOLDIER FIRES AND CAP BARELY BLOCKS IT. CAP FALLS OVER AND BUCKY PICKS UP THE SHIELD TO PROTECT HIMSELF. THE BIG SOLDIER FIRES AGAIN, DISLODGING THE SHIELD AND KNOCKING BUCKY BACK OFF THE TRAIN. BUCKY GRABS THE SIDE, BARELY HOLDING ON. CAP REALIZES HIS BEST FRIEND IS IN TROUBLE, SO HE QUICKLY GRABS THE SHIELD DISPOSES OF SOLDIER AND GOES TO SAVE BUCKY… BUT CAP ISN’T IN TIME. BUCKY FALLS TO DEATH. WE’VE SEEN THIS KIND OF SCENE SO MANY TIMES, BUT BECAUSE OF THE CONTEXT AND SET UP IT WORKS. AND THEN IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. SEVERELY DISTRAUGHT, CAP TRUDGES ON TO CAPTURE THE RED SKULL’S SECOND IN COMMAND; A BITTERSWEET TRIUMPH. (END SPOILERS) THEN THE VERY NEXT SCENE LINKS THE BITTERSWEET EMOTION OF THAT MOMENT BY SHOWING CAP IN A BAR AND HAVING A NICELY-OBSERVED EMOTIONAL SCENE WITH PEGGY.(4) THIS IS WHAT A GREAT ACTION SCENE DOES. IT HAS MEANING BEYOND THE PHYSICAL ACTION AND THE EFFECTS GO WAY BEYOND WHAT “COOL.”

NOOOO! LOOKING COOL IS ALL THAT MATTERS!

THAT’S THE REAL KEY TO CINEMA, RIGHT? TO INTEGRATE ALL THE ASPECTS OF A MOVIE SO YOU CONSTANTLY HANDLING MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONCE: THRILLING ACTION, CHARACTER ARCS, HUMOR, WIT, DRAMA. YOU REALLY CAN PUT THEM ALL ON DISPLAY IN THE SAME SCENE IF YOU KNOW HOW TO GIVE EACH ASPECT RESONANCE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU UNDERSTAND CAUSE + EFFECT.

THERE’S AN EARLIER SEQUENCE IN CAPTAIN AMERICA THAT DOES THIS SPECTACULARLY AND IT OCCURS RIGHT AFTER CAP’S TRANSFORMATION. NOT ONLY DOES THE SCENE BEGIN WITH A HUGE CHARACTER BEAT (THE ONE INVOLVING PROFESSOR ERKLINE) BUT THE SCENE IS FULL OF CHARACTER-FOCUSED ACTION. STEVE ROGERS LEARNS HOW TO RUN, JUMP, FIGHT AND EVEN DEFENDS HIMSELF WITH A STAR-ENCRUSTED CAR-DOOR. THAT’S RIGHT, THE FILM’S FIRST REAL ACTION SCENE GIVES US A VISUAL SHOWCASE OF HIM LEARNING HOW TO BE CAPTAIN AMERICA ON THE FLY. AND IT WORKS SO WELL BECAUSE IT COMBINES SO MANY DIFFERENT ELEMENTS TOGETHER WITH DIRECT CAUSE + EFFECT.

THE MOMENT THAT BEST HIGHLIGHTS THIS VERSATILITY COMES AT THE END OF THE SEQUENCE. CAP PURSUES THE HYDRA AGENT TO THE DOCKS, WHERE HE GRABS A YOUNG CHILD AND THROWS HIM IN THE WATER TO GET CAP OFF HIS TAIL. IT A FAMILIAR MOMENT THAT WE’VE SEEN MANY, MANY TIMES BEFORE AND WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT TO EXPECT: CAP NOW HAS TO SAVE THE CHILD FROM DROWNING. BUT INSTEAD OF THE FAMILIAR WE GET SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD. CAP LOOKS DOWN TO SEE THE KID TREADING WATER JUST FINE AND DANDY. THE KID SHOUTS BACK “I CAN SWIM MISTER, GO GET HIM!” NOT ONLY IS THE LINE READING PRETTY HILARIOUS, BUT THE AUDIENCE COMPLETELY ATE THAT SHIT UP. WHY? BECAUSE JOHNSTON SET UP THE MOMENT PERFECTLY. HE KNEW THAT THE AUDIENCE WAS EXPECTING SOME LAME AND DRAMATIC. HE KNEW THAT CAUSE + EFFECT WITH ACTION WORKS THE EXACT SAME WAY WITH COMEDY. HE KNEW YOU COULD USE THE EXACT SAME SET-UPS.

THIS SCENE FROM CAPTAIN AMERICA HAS SO MANY THINGS GOING ON WITH CHARACTER, ARCS, HUMOR, AND DRAMA THAT IT SCENE CAN SUCCEED REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU THINK OF THE ACTUAL AESTHETICS OF THE ACTION. IT IS ALWAYS THE EMOTIONAL STUFF, MEANING THE CONTENT, THAT COMPELS YOU. BUT WHEN YOU CAN COMBINE EVERYTHING TOGETHER WITH A WELL-COMPOSED ACTION SCENE THEN THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. THAT’S WHAT JOHNSTON’S  “I CAN SWIM MISTER!” MOMENT DOES, IT ELEVATES THE ACTION.HULK WOULD EVEN CALL THAT MOMENT DOWNRIGHT SPIELBERG-IAN.

OH SNAP.

THAT’S RIGHT. HULK JUST REFERENCED THE BEST CAUSE + EFFECT FILMMAKER ON THE PLANET.

THIS GUY

OKAY, SO FIRST HULK SHOULD QUALIFY WHAT MAKES SPIELBERG DISTINCT. HIS PLACE IN THE PANTHEON IS ASSURED NO MATTER WHAT HULK THINKS, BUT HULK REALLY SHOULD EXPLAIN HIM CAREFULLY SO WE KNOW HOW HE “WORKS.” HULK FEEL LIKE SPIELBERG IS BOTH UNFAIRLY HERALDED AS GREATEST AMERICAN DIRECTOR, AND YET AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, HULK FEEL LIKE HE IS ALSO UNFAIRLY LAMBASTED AS NOT BEING ARTISTIC/CEREBRAL ENOUGH. IT’S NOT THAT HIS MAINSTREAM-INCLINED DISPOSITION IS HOLDING HIM BACK (THAT IMPLIES HULK IS ESOTERIC), BUT INSTEAD IT’S THE FACT THAT THAT VERY THE THING THAT MAKE SPIELBERG SO DAMN GOOD IS ALSO THE VERY THING THAT LIMITS HIM:

SPIELBERG IS ALWAYS ABLE TO SHOW HIS EXACT INTENTION IN A SCENE.

MEANING THERE IS NEVER A SINGLE DOUBT TO WHAT SPIELBERG MEANS IN A GIVEN MOMENT. THERE IS NO AMBIGUITY TO ANYTHING HE EVER DOES.(5) TO PROVIDE COUNTERPOINT WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE PROBLEMS OF SPIELBERG’S DEAFENING SINGULARITY, HULK THINK THE GREATEST AMERICAN DIRECTOR =  STANLEY KUBRICK. IN ANY GIVEN KUBRICK SCENE THERE LIKE 90 INTERESTING THINGS GOING ON. IN A GIVEN SPIELBERG SCENE THERE USUALLY JUST ONE INTERESTING THING GOING ON, BUT IT IS REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WELL-EXECUTED (THIS CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE IS THE ABSOLUTE REASON A.I. IS FASCINATING, BUT DEEPLY FLAWED).

SPIELBERG MAKE SENSE NOW? OKAY COOL.

THE REASON FOR THIS EVALUATION IS BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT TO HIGHLIGHT SPIELBERG’S SINGULARITY WHEN DISCUSSING THE UNQUESTIONABLE FACT THAT HE IS THE ABSOLUTE MASTER OF CAUSE + EFFECT FILMMAKING. AND IF CAUSE + EFFECT IS THE MOST CENTRAL TENET OF ACTION, DRAMA, AND COMEDY, THEN IT’S ALSO NOT AN ACCIDENT THE SPIELBERG IS THE MOST POPULAR MAINSTREAM FILMMAKER IN AMERICA AND MAYBE THE WORLD.

THINK ABOUT ALL THE BEST SCENES FROM SPIELBERG’S MOVIES AND THINK ABOUT THEM IN TERMS OF CAUSE + EFFECT AND SET UP + DELIVERY: THE PULSING OF THE WATER CUPS AND THE ENSUING T-REX SEQUENCE FROM JURASSIC PARK. THERE ARE NO “KINETIC” MOMENTS IN THAT SEQUENCE, BUT INSTEAD IT RELIES ON A SUCCESSION OF MOMENTS OF DREAD AND SUDDEN IMPACT, EACH LINKING TO THE NEXT HORRIBLE SITUATION. THE PERFECT CAUSE + EFFECT SEQUENCE. THINK OF THE SHARK REVEALS/SCARES IN JAWS. IT NOT ONLY FREAKS YOU OUT WITH A SUCCESSION OF HORROR BEATS, BUT MANAGES TO CAPITALIZE ON A NICE CAT-AND-MOUSE-CHASE THROUGHOUT THE NARRATIVE. THE MOVIE HAS A DISTINCT TETE-E-TETE (READ: CAUSE +EFFECT) ALL BUILDING TO EPIC “SMILE YOU SON OF A BITCH.” THINK ABOUT E.T. WITH ELLIOT ON THE BIKE DROPPING INTO THE RAVINE THEN LIFTING UP AND FLYING INTO THE SKY. THINK ABOUT THE IMAGES HE USED TO SET UP THAT MOMENT.

WITH SPIELBERG, IT’S NEVER JUST A TACTIC THAT IS SOMETHING THAT’S FOR MERE ADVENTURE FILMS. THINK ABOUT SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. EVEN WHEN THOUGH THE FILM WAS FOR IT’S INVENTIVE USE OF THE DOCU-STYLE, THE REASON IT REALLY SUCCEEDED WAS BECAUSE IT WAS STILL FUNDAMENTALLY ROOTED IN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION AND CAUSE + EFFECT. YOU PROBABLY REMEMBER THE CRAZINESS/FEELING OF THE OPENING D-DAY SCENE, BUT THINK ABOUT THE CONTENT. HOW DOES THAT  SEQUENCE BEGIN? WITH A BOAT PREPPING FOR DEPLOYMENT ON D-DAY, THE DOOR GOES DOWN, BUT EVERY SINGLE SOLDIER IN FRONT SHOT INSTANTLY. SET UP + DELIVERY. LATER A SOLDIER CLIPPED IN THE HELMET SO HE TAKES OFF THE HELMET AND EXAMINE IT, THEN GETS SHOT IN THE HEAD. CAUSE + EFFECT. LATER, TOM HANK’S CHARACTER TALKS TO A PERSON ON THE PHONE LINE, TURNS AWAY, TURNS BACK AND THEY’RE DEAD. SAME THING. THE SCENE FEELS CHAOTIC BUT IT NOT JUST “STUFF HAPPENING.” IT’S JUST THE STYLE OF THE SCENE IMPLIES CHAOS, BUT THE ACTUAL SEQUENCE IS STRAIGHT-UP ACTION BEATS AND CAUSE + EFFECT. EVEN SCHINDLER’S LIST USES THE SAME TENET CONSTANTLY, ONLY TO HIGHLIGHT TRAGEDY AND ATROCITY.(6)

NOW, LET’S TIE THIS EVALUATION INTO EARLIER HULK POINT. THINK ABOUT HOW OFTEN YOU COULD DESCRIBE SPEILBERG’S WORK AS “COOL”… YEAH, YOU NOT FIRST DESCRIBE IT THAT WAY AT ALL. AS INVENTIVE AND THRILLING AS IT IS, HIS WORK IS RARELY “COOL” IN THE WAY WE THINK OF COOL … ACTUALLY, IT’S MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE SQUARE. BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER ONE IOTA BECAUSE YOU ARE SURE AS HELL INVESTED.

SPEILBERG’S ACTION GENIUS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH COHERENT DIRECTION OR MISE EN SCENE. IT HAS TO DO WITH BEING SURE YOU INVESTING THE AUDIENCE ABOVE ALL ELSE. SPIELBERG IS EVEN INFAMOUS FOR “CHEATING LOGISTICS” CONSTANTLY. HE CHEAT SPACE, TIME, PROXIMITY, GEOGRAPHY AND HE GETS AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE HE SO GOOD AT USING THOSE CHEATS TO MANIPULATE TENSION AND DRAMA OF SCENE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. IT IS THE LOGIC OF SUSPENSE, NOT THE LOGIC OF LOGIC. AND IT’S WHAT HE CARES ABOUT MORE THAN ANYTHING. HE ALWAYS CREATES A VISUAL “STORY” THAT IS SO DISTINCT AND YOU THEREFORE REMEMBER HIS ACTION MORE THAN ANY OTHER FILMMAKER.

SO IF WE GOING TO EXAMINE SOME SPIELBERG THAN YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT HULK LEFT OFF THE BEST EXAMPLE OF CAUSE + EFFECT ACTION IN HIS OEUVRE: THE INDIANA JONES TRILOGY. (7)

STATEMENT OF FACT: INDIANA JONES = THE PERFECT ACTION HERO.

FUCKING A.

AS TOTALLY FUCKING COOL AS ABOVE PICTURE IS, INDIANA JONES DOES IS NOT FIGHT  “COOL.” HE DOES NOT ACT LIKE HE IS INVINCIBLE. HE DOES NOT HAVE AN ENDLESS SUPPLY OF AMMO. HE DOES NOT BRUSH ASIDE ANY THREATS AGAINST HIS PERSON LIKE THEY ARE NOTHING. WE NEVER MARVEL AT HIS FEATS OF ABILITY. AND FOR YOU FELLOW GAMING NERDS, HE NEVER, EVER IN “GOD-MODE.”

NO, THE THING THAT IS AWESOME ABOUT INDY IS THAT HE IS DISTINCTLY HUMAN. HE ALTERNATES BETWEEN FALSE CONFIDENCE/BRAVADO AND ABJECT TERROR. HE IS PROFESSOR-LEVEL INTELLIGENT, BUT ALSO ON OCCASION PRETTY DUMB. HE IS COCKSURE IN CONVERSATION AND YET BUMBLING AT THE MOST CRUCIAL MOMENTS. BUT NEVER DOES HIS FEAR OR INABILITY TRANSLATE TO ACTUAL COWARDICE, JUST THE SHEER HUMAN AND EMOTIONAL RECOGNITION OF BEING IN OVER ONE’S HEAD.

HE IS BOTH WHAT WE WANT TO BE AND ALSO WHAT WE ARE AT EXACT SAME TIME.

AND SINCE HE IS SO HUMAN, WHAT INDY DOES BETTER THAN ANYONE IS GET HIMSELF INTO JAMS AND THEN BARELY GET OUT OF THEM.

TOM: Ah yes, lovable Indy. I’ve often considered where the modern action scene was born and I have to say that Raiders impressed back in the day. It does exactly what you say, right from the beginning: multiple strands of action beautifully balanced in the edit, clear character stakes, cause & effect, etc.

EXACTLY. YOU KNOW WHAT?

LET’S WATCH THE SUPER-DUPER FAMOUS OPENING OF RAIDERS AGAIN AND THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING HULK & TOM TALKIN’ BOUT. AS THE AUDIENCE JOURNEYS TOWARD THE IDOL, THEY SET UP EVERY SINGLE THING THAT GOING TO LATER HAPPEN DURING THE ESCAPE: THE PIT, THE ARROWS, THE STEPS. IT ALL THERE. THE LINK BELOW HAS NO SOUND (DAMN COPYRIGHT, THIS FOR EDUCATION PURPOSES!) BUT THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY HIGHLIGHTS HOW VISUAL AN ENTIRE ACTION SCENE CAN BE:

THIS SEQUENCE, WITH ALL OF THE SET-UPS, PAYOFFS, AND IMMEDIATE LINKING, IS ABSOLUTELY THE HEART OF ACTION. HULK MEAN HOW GREAT IS THIS? INDY IS ALWAYS ABOUT FINDING HIMSELF IN A NEW AND FAR WORSE JAM: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE, INTO A VOLCANO, AND INTO HELL. AND IT IS BY FAR THE MOST EFFECTIVE MANNER OF ACTION-STORYTELLING AND THEREFORE THE MOST EXCITING WAY TO INVOLVE AND THRILL AN AUDIENCE.

BUT NOTICE  THAT IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T COHESIVE OR “REALISTIC” EDITING. SEE HOW OFTEN SPIELBERG CHEATED? HOW THE LAST SECONDS OF THE DOOR FALLING TAKES FOREVER? HOW NONE OF THE BOULDER SHOTS CUT TOGETHER? BUT NONE OF IT MATTER!

TOM: That’s nothing. The truck chase in Raiders cheats like hell and gets away with it. Trees, buildings, open desert, 1000′ cliffs – all appear and disappear as serves the mechanics of the action.

EXACTLY. SPEILBERG’S ENTIRE OEUVRE SEEMS TO VIOLATE THE VERY NOTION COHESION, BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE HE’S SIMPLY TRYING TO PUT THE SCENE PERFECTLY IN TUNE WITH CAUSE + EFFECT.

BUT PERHAPS THE BEST THING ABOUT SPIELBERG IS HE KNOWS BETTER THAN ANYONE THAT A  SET-UP FOR DANGER CAN BE PLAYED FOR A LAUGH (THUS INFORMING THE “I CAN SWIM MISTER!” MOMENT FROM CAP). HULK CAN’T FIND A VIABLE LINK TO IT, BUT THE OPENING OF TEMPLE OF DOOM JUST AS STRONG WITH CAUSE + EFFECT DEVICES, BUT SPIELBERG USES HALF OF THE “DELIVERIES” TO GO FOR LAUGHS. WOMEN GETTING PUNCHED, THE ICE MIXING WITH THE DIAMONDS, AND THE EXTRAORDINARY CAPPER WITH INDY SAYING “SO LONG LAO CHE!” THEN CLOSING THE DOOR WHICH READS “LAO CHE AIR FREIGHT.” AGAIN, IT THE SAME EXACT SAME NOTION SET-UPS, BUT THE REACTION/RELIEF COMES IN FORM OF LAUGHTER. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY IT SHOWS THAT THE TWO CAN MIX WONDERFULLY. AND FROM THAT POINT ON, THE MOVIE REALLY NEVER STOPS LINKING ALL THEIR BEATS TOGETHER. IF YOU PUT IT SOLELY IN THOSE TERMS, THEN TEMPLE IS A CAUSE + EFFECT MASTERPIECE.

TOM, HULK TRYING THINK, THERE ANY OTHER GREAT ACTION SET-UPS THAT BRING COMEDY MOMENTS YOU CAN THINK OF OUTSIDE OF SPEILBERG?

TOM:  Outside of Spielberg? Great, well that disqualifies two of the greatest moments ever, which are both in, of course, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

HULK LAUGH.

TOM: The first is the shoot out in Marion’s bar in Nepal, which is a perfect Swiss clock of a sequence with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns – all set against the perfect hourglass device in the form of a fire which threatens to engulf  proceedings.  A dark laugh is elicited when it seems Major Anold Toht (I confess, I looked that up) has chanced upon the vital medallion in all the confusion, only to discover that it’s literally too hot to handle.  Then, when it looks like it’s all over for Indy, pinned by the last man standing who has a gun aimed at him at point blank range, the shot that rings out comes from Marion’s gun.  A deus ex machina of sorts since we’ve been led to believe that Marion is stupefied at this point but a permissible one given that she’s established her ability to drink giants under the table already.

AND NO FORGET, THAT SCENE OPENS WITH ONE OF THE BEST LEFT-FIELD SCARE-TO-LAUGH DEVICES EVER, WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED, “TOHT’S COAT-HANGER.”

TOM: Out of nowhere indeed. The other great moment is, of course, this:

TOM: On reflection the laugh elicited from Indy shooting the showboating swordsman is at the expense of his true characterisation.  It’s a callous and ‘ungentlemanly’ action and displays an unfair advantage in a film which revels in usually stacking the odds heavily against the protagonist. But that’s also what makes the moment work.

RIGHT, IT PLAY RIGHT INTO SET UP/DELIVER. EVERYONE OUTRIGHT EXPECTS THE BATTLE. AND HOPEFULLY EVERYONE KNOWS THE FAMOUS STORY OF HOW IT WAS ACTUALLY PLANNED AS A BIG FIGHT SCENE, BUT HARRISON HAD THE RUNS AND SOMEONE SUGGESTED THAT GETTING THE SCENE WOULD BE SO MUCH EASIER IF HE JUST TOOK OUT HIS GUN AND SHOT HIM. PURE SERENDIPITY AND PROOF A CAUSE + EFFECT LAUGH CAN BE 1000 TIMES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ANY COMPLICATED “COOL” SEQUENCE. PLUS IT DIRECTLY ANSWERS THOSE PESTERING MOVIE-LOGIC QUESTIONS: “YEAH, WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST TAKE OUT HIS GUN AND SHOOT HIM?” BUT REALLY IT MORE THAN THAT. IT ABOUT THE DUALITY OF INDY/US AND GETS TO THE HEART OF THE MOVIE’S IDENTITY.

TOM:  Spielberg abounds in stacking the odds against Indy and therein lies the charm of the series.

The famous punch into the propeller wing executes this idea perfectly, all with a steady escalation of perils that impede a simple objective – stop the ark from leaving by plane.  First the giant Nazi boxer, then Marion inadvertently locking herself in the plane and the concussed pilot forcing the controls, then a fuel spill that threatens to ignite – which in turn awakens another poleaxed Nazi, etc, etc.  Spielberg’s mastery at this point in his career was not just his confidence with cause and effect but his ability to have so many elements running in parallel.  The effect on an audience is one of almost unbearable tension as the problems that face the protagonists have no one clear solution and again, with the path of flammable liquid pouring towards a naked flame there’s an in built time limit to proceedings.  I always liken this device to watching an escapology act; a clear demonstration of the hurdles that have to be overcome as we see the escapologist being demonstrably cuffed and bound then a knowable time limit imposed when they’re dumped into a tank of water.

HULK LOVE THAT IDEA. AN ESCAPOLOGIST, WORKING ON ALL THE DIFFERENT PARALLELS. THAT PERFECT AND VERY “SPIELBERGIAN.”

TOM: And I can’t honestly think of an action set-up that confounds audience expectations in the manner that your Captain America example does, but I hold dearly the clock tower sequence from Back to The Future, which successfully fuses genuine action stakes with humorous misadventure.

OOOH, OOOH. HULK FOUND SUPER CRAPPY LINK, BUT IT WAS THE ONLY ONE NOT REMIXED WITH, LIKE, GTA OR THE SIMPSONS. STILL, IT AT LEAST SHOWS EVERYTHING TO JOG YOUR MEMORY:

TOM: Again the geography to this moment has been previously illustrated in perhaps the most pedantically diagrammatic fashion in film history; we’re treated to a scale model demonstration of exactly how the sequence is supposed to go down later in the story; only for a massive spanner to be thrown into the works when a falling tree disconnects the vital power line from the improvised lightening rod on the clock tower. Here we have a literal ticking clock device as the countdown to 10.04pm begins and we have a very Spielbergian escalation policy in effect as first a section of the tower ledge gives way, then Doc Brown’s turn ups start to rip, the DeLorean stalls at the starting line and once plugged back in to the lightening rod the cable is still fatally foreshortened by the felled tree and disconnects at ground level…  With all this in effect the viewer is knotted up in hernia inducing tension by the time the lightening bolt finally lets rip.

Despite a smattering of action throughout the film, this moment has been earned through far less kinetic means though.  In fact the entire plot is driven by a need to undo all the potentially disastrous consequences of Marty McFly’s accidental time travel; harnessing a lightening bolt at a precise time being the ultimate conclusion to that quest and established an hour earlier in the story.  Of course the humour in this scene is derived by entirely different means than the Captain America example.  Firstly the two protagonists (who unconventionally are battling the march of time and forces of nature, rather than a bad guy) put in overtly comic performances and the stakes are so phantasmagorically high and absurd they play more convincingly in a humourous arena.  However, for that to be compelling, the laws of cause and effect are still religiously adhered to.

LOVE IT. PERFECT EXAMPLE. AND IT IS NO MISTAKE THAT SPIELBERG, ZEMEKIS, AND JOHNSTON ALL ARE FRIENDS/WORK TOGETHER/LOVE EACH OTHERS WORK.

ALL THEIR “SUMMER” MOVIES  ARE FUN, THRILLING, AND FOR EVERYONE (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY). STILL, THE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THEM IS NOT “BE EXACTLY LIKE THESE GUYS” BUT TO RECOGNIZE THE PRINCIPALS THEY USE TO INFORM YOUR OWN ACTION.

HULK NOT ARGUING THAT HEAVILY TELEGRAPHING ALL YOUR SETS UPS OR USING TONGUE AND CHEEK TONE THE WAY TO GO WITH EVERYTHING. HULK JUST SAYING THAT IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THESE DEVICES ARE THE HEART OF ACTION. EVEN IF YOU’RE PLAYING YOUR ACTION SUPER-DEADLY-SERIOUS, THE APPROACH OF CAUSE + EFFECT SHOULD BE EXACT SAME. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL BE DIFFERENT IS THE TONE (WE’LL GET TO HOW TONE WORK LATER THOUGH). AND REMEMBER THAT INJECTING A MOMENT OF LEVITY INTO YOUR MOVIE NOT SOMETHING TO FEAR.

WAIT, DID NICKY KATT MAKE THIS SCENE WORK?

NEVER FORGET THAT TEMPLE OF DOOM, FOR ALL IT’S SILLINESS, HAS JUST AS MANY UBER-DARK MOMENTS IN IT TOO (THE SEMI-BIRTH OF PG-13!). HULK ARGUES THAT IT IS ACTUALLY THE LIGHT-HEARTED SILLINESS THAT SETS UP THE GRAVITAS OF THOSE DARK SCENES. AND IT ALL CULMINATES WITH THE GRAND AUDACITY OF THE  “PREPARE TO MEET KALI… IN HELL!” MOMENT WHICH ENDS THE MOVIE. IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE, BUT HULK ARGUE YOU SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID TO PLAY WITH IT OUT OF FEAR.(8)

HULK GOING JUST KEEP HAMMERING THIS WHOLE CAUSE + EFFECT MANTRA. NOTHING MATTERS MORE THAN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION.

SPIELBERG KNOWS THIS.  AND THAT’S WHY HE’S SPIELBERG.

HE ALSO PRODUCED THE MONEY PIT

BRINGING IT HOME, LET’S ROUND OUT OUR CAUSE + EFFECT ANALYSIS BY LOOKING AT A VERY PARTICULAR FILM OUR SPECIAL GUEST INVOLVED WITH: ATTACK THE BLOCK (IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN YET AND IT’S IN A THEATER NEAR YOU, GO SEE IT! BUT ALSO FEEL FREE SKIP DOWN TO NEXT PART IF WANT TO AVOID ALL DETAILS BEFORE YOU DO).

THE FILM WAS BUDGETED FOR A MEASLY 9 MILLION DOLLARS AND YET IT THRILLING MOVIE ABOUT AN LONDON-CENTRIC ALIEN INVASION.  HOW DID THE FILMMAKERS ACCOMPLISH THIS FEAT? WELL FOR STARTERS IT HAS TEXTURED CHARACTERS, A TIGHT/ECONOMIZING PLOT, AND RESONANT THEMES, BUT FUCK THAT SMARTY-PANTS FROU-FROU NONSENSE, LET’S TALK ACTION!

OF COURSE THE FILM MAKES GOOD USE OF  CAUSE + EFFECT. NOTICE HOW OFTEN THE FILM’S OPENING CONSTANTLY SET UP LOCATIONS/ITEMS IT WILL USE LATER: THE UNION JACK ON THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING, THE STREET WHERE THE POLICE WAGON WILL BE ASSAULTED, THE TWO CONNECTING WALKWAYS WHERE A CHARACTER SETS PRECEDENCE FOR A JUMP THAT HAPPENS LATER. THE ENTIRE FIRST ACT TAKES GREAT CARE TO CUT TO INSERT SHOTS OF LOCATIONS THAT WILL FEATURE THROUGHOUT FILM.

ATTACK THE BLOCK HAS NO DESCENDING BOULDERS OR CRAZY SET-PIECES TO UTILIZE, SO IN ORDER TO MAKE THE PERFECTLY NORMAL SETTING “POP” THEY TAKE EXTRA CARE TO FEATURE SHOW THESE ORDINARY PLACES. THEY MAKE THEM DISTINCT. IT BASIC SET-UP AND DELIVERY. EVEN THE FILM’S CHASE SCENES KEEP THE CAUSE + EFFECT CONCEPT VERY SIMPLE. SHOW ALIEN CHASING, SHOW KID TRYING HARDER TO GET AWAY, SHOW BOTH IN RELATIVE DISTANCE WITH ALIEN GAINING. PUNCTUATE WITH NARROW ESCAPES. THEN LINK THEM ALL TOGETHER (AND REMEMBER JUST CAUSE THE CONCEPT SIMPLE NOT MEAN IT SIMPLE TO EXECUTE, BUT MORE ON THAT LATER). IT GREAT. AND IT ALL CAUSE + EFFECT.

TOM: The first thing to say  about Attack The Block is that all the action ‘beats’ in the finished film are all in the draft of the screenplay that I first read.  It was massaged and molded every step of the way of course, but Joe had clearly thought everything through while putting pen to paper and this made the script an invaluable document to fall back on.

Brainstorming and story-boarding led to further embellishment then the realities of  what the locations, schedule and post production budget could afford reined things back in, but always one knew what was vital and what wasn’t.

The most taxing sequence was the chase back to the block simply because it featured moving vehicles.  Wisely Joe had decided that the best way to handle this was to split the gang up.  That way each character got their own ‘moment’, which seemed democratic, and the physical task of organising things on screen became manageable ‘sub’ set pieces.  The vehicles each character had were picked as an extension of their characterisation and the proficiency with which they tackled various perils were also meant to reflect who they were.  Knowing all this in advance of drilling stunt performers and fretting over visually effective camera angles and all the other things that become preoccupations on set is I’m sure why we rarely missed the wood for the trees.

Further to all this Joe had an iron clad formula that he wanted to apply to every moment.  Fearing that we lacked the resources to do lots of ‘really cool shit’ (and the desire to do ‘really cool shit’ is always there) Joe was adamant that every stunt was sandwiched by a legible close-up of the relevant character.  I guess, going on the principle that at any given moment the viewer is (hopefully) sharing the characters sensations the best a film can do to enforce that is to act as a virtual mirror.  Close-up shots of people’s faces reacting to a threat, expressing fear or triumph, is something cinema offers that other mediums can’t.  [as an aside, the 1st person point of view shot that tops the trailer for the Amazing Spiderman is COOL AS SHIT but the very best moments in the Raimi Spiderman films were always when Peter Perker had lost the mask and we saw him reacting to things with a look of apprehension or physical strain.  That's when we 'feel' the stakes]. It sounds like obvious stuff but I think it’s often forgotten or marginalised in edits and it’s the easiest way to keep the sense that ‘crazy stuff’ is grounded in some sort of relatable real world setting.  It also took some of the pressure off the so called ‘money shots’ since we knew we wouldn’t be blowing up aircraft carriers, crashing 18 wheelers through plate glass buildings or any of the usual $100m ‘shizzle’.

HOLY CRAP. HULK DID NOT PICK UP ON THE CLOSE-UP SHOTS TECHNIQUE, BUT GODDAMN IF THAT NOT PERFECT. HULK CAN’T GET OVER HOW SMART AND SIMPLE THAT IS…. IRONCLAD INDEED.

TOM: Of course Hulk, one still has to be careful how one handles the cast in situations like these:


TRUST.

PART 2 – THE IMPORTANCE OF OBJECTIVES (AND DON’T WORRY THIS PART WAY, WAY SHORTER)

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN THE GOOD GUYS RUNNING FROM ENCROACHING BAD GUYS AND YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHERE THEY ARE GOING? THEY’RE JUST RUNNING AWAY.

IT HAPPENS CONSTANTLY. NOW THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH WANTING TO ESCAPE CLUTCHES OF BAD GUYS, HULK MEAN, FUCK, THAT’S A FUNDAMENTAL ASPECT OF ALL ACTION CINEMA. BUT IT’S JUST THAT SO OFTEN MODERN MOVIES DON’T GIVE THE A DISTINCTION OF HOW THEY SHOULD GO ABOUT IT. IT MERELY, “QUICK, RUN!” BUT REALLY IT SPEAKS TO A MUCH LARGER POINT: HOLLYWOOD DOES NOT UTILIZE THE “TANGIBLE OBJECTIVE” NEARLY ENOUGH.

AND IN CASE IT’S NOT OBVIOUS, OBJECTIVES = SO DAMN IMPORTANT.

WHY? BECAUSE THEY ESTABLISHE THE GOAL FOR AUDIENCE. BECAUSE IT CREATES A RALLYING POINT FOR THE CONFLICT. BECAUSE IT ALLOWS THE AUDIENCE AN EASY AND CLEAR WAY TO PARTICIPATE. AND WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE THE AUDIENCE ONLY WATCHES. WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE, THERE IS ONLY THE CHAOS OF INTENT. (9) THE OBJECTIVE GIVES ACTION A NARRATIVE. IT FACILITATES AN ARC. IT BEGS A CONCLUSION.

CONSIDER ALL THE GREAT OBJECTIVES OF FILM HISTORY: A PROTON TORPEDO IN THE EXHAUST PORT (JUST BELOW THE MAIN PORT!), DRIVE 88 MPH RIGHT AS THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT AND IGNITE THE FLUX CAPACITOR,  FIND THE WIZARD AND JUST FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD, STEAL THE ENTIRE CASH DEPOSIT IN THE VAULT OF THE BELLAGIO, GET THE WARRIORS BACK TO CONEY ISLAND,  ESCAPE THE NAZI PRISONER CAMP, FIND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, WHAT IS ROSEBUD?, WHO STOLE MY BICYCLE? I NEED THAT BICYCLE!, GET RID OF THE GUY IN THE CAR WITH NO FACE BEFORE BONNIE GETS HOME, FIND BUFFALO BILL AND HERE USE THESE DISTINGUISHED CANNIBAL TO HELP YOU, FIND PRIVATE RYAN,WHO MURDERED LAURA PALMER? (AN OBJECTIVE SO GOOD IT KEPT NORMAL PEOPLE AROUND THROUGH ABSTRACT-CRAZINESS),  AND, OF COURSE, GET REIMBURSEMENT AFTER SOMEONE PEED ON YOUR FUCKING RUG.

NOW NOT EVERY MOVIE NEEDS A GREAT OVER-ARCHING OBJECTIVE TO SEE THE PLOT THROUGH, BUT LET’S NOT FORGET, IT CAN CERTAINLY FREAKING HELP. AND NOTICE HOW MANY OF THE MOVIES HULK LISTED NOT EVEN TRADITIONAL ACTION MOVIES. IT’S JUST THAT OUTLINING GREAT OBJECTIVES FROM THE ONSET PROVIDES IMMEDIATE CONTEXT AND CAN CREATE INSTANTLY SCENES OF TENSION AND CONFLICT IN TRYING TO RESOLVE THAT GOAL. OBJECTIVES IMBUE ACTION SCENES (AND REALLY ALL SCENES) WITH MEANING.

TOM: All this objectives talk got me back to pondering where the modern action scene was born. Clouzot’s ‘Wages of Fear‘ is one of the earliest films I can think of that has ‘modern’ feeling action beats, editing, shot design. But really it uses objectives better than any film I can think of…

PERFECT STARTING POINT! IF YOU NEVER SEEN WAGES OF FEAR(1953) DO YOUR SELF FAVOR AND GO SEE.

THE PLOT IS FAIRLY VERY DIRECT AND YET COMPLETELY INGENIOUS. A GROUP OF POOR, DESPERATE SOUTH AMERICAN MEN ARE HIRED FOR A SUICIDE MISSION IN WHICH THEY HAVE TO DELIVER  TRUCK LOADS OF NITROGLYCERINE TO OIL FIELDS FAR AWAY. THE JOURNEY IS PERILOUS AND THE SLIGHTEST BUMP CAN EXPLODE THE CARGO AND KILL THEM INSTANTLY… SO YUP, THAT’LL CREATE SOME F’ING TENSION.

BUT NO MISTAKE THE FILM THE FILM FOR REPLAYING THAT SINGULAR DANGER OVER AND OVER AGAIN. THE MOVIE SPENDS FIRST HALF SETTING UP THE CHARACTERS AND DESPERATION OF THE SITUATION, ALLOWING THE LAST HALF OF THE MOVIE TO PLAY WITH REAL CONSEQUENCES (SINCE WE KNOW THE CHARACTERS SO WELL). AND WHILE THE SUSPENSE HANGS OVER THE ENTIRE JOURNEY, CLOUZOT INTEGRATES THAT SUSPENSE WITH SEVERAL OTHER PLOT-LINES/DEVICES. SIMPLE AUGMENTATIONS LIKE HAVING A BOULDER FALL INTO THE ROAD AND NOW THEY HAVE TO USE SOME OF THE NITRO TO BLOW IT UP (ALSO AT THEIR OWN RISK). IT ALSO TAKE GREAT CARE TO LET THE TENSION GET THE BEST OF PEOPLE SO THAT THE CONFLICTS BECOME CHARACTER-BASED, SEWING DISTRUST AND EVENTUAL RIVALRY BETWEEN THE TWO CARGO TRUCKS.

THE AV CLUB ACTUALLY WROTE A GREAT PIECE ON WAGES OF FEAR AND THEY HAVE A VIDEO ON THIS PAGE YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY WATCH (IT UN-EMBEDDABLE). IT SHOWS THE AFOREMENTIONED BOULDER SCENE:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-wages-of-fear,47047/

NOTICE THE EFFECT OF THE OBJECTIVE? HULK KNOW THAT IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS, BUT IMAGINE WHAT THIS SCENE WOULD BE LIKE WITHOUT A CLEARLY EXPRESSED OBJECTIVE. IMAGINE IF IT JUST THE OPENING OF THE MOVIE AND WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT GOING ON. OF COURSE YOU SAY THAT RIDICULOUS SUGGESTION, BUT THINK ABOUT HOW MANY MOVIES PRESENT ACTION SCENES WITHOUT THE OBJECTIVES BEING KNOWN. SERIOUSLY, YOU’D BE AMAZED HOW MANY BITS OF ACTION WILL BE PRESENTED SANS OBJECTIVE IN THE NAME OF… UM… MYSTERY? HULK DUNNO. BUT BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR IT.

OF COURSE WHEN DEALING WITH THE FACT THAT THEIR ACTION SCENE IS PURPOSELESS, SOME FILMMAKER’S SOLUTION TO THE ENSUING LACK OF AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION IS JUST TO FILL IN THE “BORING” WITH AS MUCH WHIZZ-BANGS AND BUSY-FRAMES, AS POSSIBLE (HULK SOUNDS LIKE OLD-FART). BUT THAT REALLY A WHOLE OTHER PROBLEM. JUST REMEMBER THAT OBVIOUS OBJECTIVES, AS DUMB AS THEY MAY SEEM, CAN COMPLETELY CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF WHAT YOU SEE ON SCREEN. (NOTE: WE GOING REVISIT WAGES OF FEAR IN ANOTHER PART OF THIS PIECE BUT IF WANT SEE IT ALL THE ENTIRE MOVIE ON HULU PLUS).

HULK JUST CAN’T STATE IT ENOUGH: NEVER BE AFRAID TO CLEARLY OUTLINE WHAT YOU ABOUT TO DO IN ACTION SCENE.

HERE’S A SUPER-SIMPLE EXAMPLE OF THE TOP OF HULK’S HEAD:  PRETEND WE WANT HAVE A SCENE OF PEOPLE DEFENDING A MEDIEVAL FORTRESS. AS THE BAD GUYS SWARM, WE THEREFORE MAKE THE DECISION TO HAVE THE LEAD CHARACTER TELL TWO OTHER CHARTERS TO “HOLD THE GATE! DON’T LET THEIR HORSES THROUGH OR WE’RE DEAD!” NOW IS THIS DIALOGUE INSTRUCTIONAL AND ON THE NOSE? FOR SURE. BUT NOW THE AUDIENCE GOING INTO THAT FIRST MOMENT OF ACTION AND THERE ARE HIGHER STAKES TO THEIR SIMPLE ROOTING INTERESTED. NOW THEY PARTICIPATING INSTEAD OF JUST WATCHING. AND IF THE SCENE DIDN’T HAVE THAT OBJECTIVE CLEARLY EXPRESSED? IF THE BAD GUYS SWARMED AND IT JUST CUT TO THE TWO CHARACTERS RANDOMLY RUNNING TO THE GATE AS BAD GUYS IN HORSES CAME THROUGH? QUITE FRANKLY, IT WOULDN’T WORK AS WELL. THERE WOULD BE A WAY IN WHICH THE AUDIENCE STILL CLEARLY “GETS IT” BUT THERE IS A LOST OPPORTUNITY TO RAISE THE STAKES AND GIVE THE SCENE STRONGER MEANING.

HOW ABOUT REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES? THINK ABOUT HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, WHICH IS A MOVIE THAT DOES NOTHING BUT CONSTANTLY ESTABLISH THE NEXT OBJECTIVE.

AIM FOR THE EXHAUST PORT! JUST BELOW THE MAIN PORT!

IT’S NOT LIKE DRAGON IS JUST USING NONSENSE MACGUFFINS EITHER. FOR EXAMPLE, ONE OF THE EARLY OBJECTIVES IS HOW HICCUP WANTS TO FIX TOOTHLESS’ WING AND THEN THERE IS A SERIES OF TRIAL + ERROR BEFORE ACCOMPLISHING THEIR GOAL. THE USE THE OVERARCHING OBJECTIVE NOT TO BUILD TENSION, BUT TO SEW THE SEEDS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP AND GAINING TRUST. THEY USE THIS “ACTION” AS STORY. JUST LIKE THE ROCKY TRAINING MONTAGES.

THEN THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SCENES WHERE HICCUP HAS TO TRY AND BEAT THE CAPTURED “TRAINING DRAGONS” AND IT IS ALL VERY INSTRUCTIONAL/SPECIFIC IN HOW TO DO THAT (ALL OF WHICH SET UP ACTION BEATS LATER IN THE MOVIE TOO). BETTER YET, THEIR METHODS OF INSTRUCTION OFTEN CONTRAST WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT HICCUP GAINED FROM HIS TIME WITH TOOTHLESS. MEANING THE OBJECTIVES REFLECT PERSONALITY AND THEME. IT USES THE ACTION CONFLICT TO CREATE CHARACTER ARC.

AND EVEN WHEN IT’S OBVIOUS STUFF LIKE THE BATTLE AT THE FILM’S CONCLUSION, ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE BARKING ORDERS AT EACH OTHER TO BE SUPER-CLEAR ABOUT EVERY SINGLE OBJECTIVE. AS A RESULT? ALL THIS CLARITY GIVES WEIGHT TO EVERY SINGLE ACTION BEAT ON DISPLAY.

NOW MAYBE THE FILMMAKERS TOOK THE CARE TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING BECAUSE IT’S “JUST A KID’S MOVIE” AND THEY WANTED TO BE SURE EVERYONE UNDERSTOOD, BUT GUESS WHAT? SOMETIMES UNDERSTANDING NOT ABOUT “PLACATING LITTLE IDIOTS” AND INSTEAD ABOUT KEEPING THE AUDIENCE INVESTED.(9B)

YUP, IT’S DEFINITELY NOT JUST FOR FAMILY FARE. FOR INSTANCE, FUCKING INCEPTION.

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM

HULK LOVE HOW THERE A SMALL SEGMENT OF PEOPLE WHO CLAIMED THAT MOVIE WAS SIMPLY A “MIND-FUCK,” BECAUSE IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO TRUE. ONCE IT DROPS OUT OF THE INITIAL DREAM HEIST, THE FILM TAKES AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE TO CLARIFY, WELL, EVERYTHING. THE LOGISTICS OF EXTRACTION, DREAMS, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE ARE, WHILE CERTAINLY COMPLICATED AND INVOLVED, STILL EXPLAINED TO YOU VERBATIM RIGHT BEFORE ALMOST EVERYTHING HAPPENS. EVEN IT’S DONE SO IN A RATHER WORDY/ON-THE-FLY MANNER, THE OBJECTIVES ARE CONSTANTLY LAID OUT BEFORE THE ACTION. THE EFFECT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY AND IT IS NOT AFRAID TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING IN O.C.D.-LEVEL DETAIL:

IMAGINE IF YOU WERE SITTING AT TABLE FOR LUNCH AND SOME PRODUCER WAS EXPLAINING INCEPTION’S APPROACH TO EXPOSITION/OBJECTIVES TO YOU: A MOVIE THAT JUST CONSTANTLY EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. IT WOULD SOUND AWFUL, RIGHT? BUT THAT’S ONLY BECAUSE WE HAVE THIS WEIRD BELIEF THAT IT IS THE EXPOSITION ITSELF THAT IS THE PROBLEM AND NOT HOW IT IS USED. INCEPTION HANDLES ITS INFORMATION IN A KINETIC, FAST-PACED WAY AND IT’S MAIN NARRATIVE STRENGTH COMES FROM THE FACT IT STRIVES FOR CLARITY ABOVE ALL ELSE (WITH A FEW MYSTERIES INTENTIONALLY HELD BACK OF COURSE). AND IT EVEN MANAGES TO BE CLEAR ABOUT SOME REALLY COMPLICATED THINGS. AS LONG AS YOU TREAT YOUR OBJECTIVES CINEMATICALLY, EXPLAINING SOMETHING CAN BE MOVIE-GOING JOY. ALL IT TAKES IS SOME GOOD MUSIC, CROSS-PURPOSE EDITING, OR EVEN A WELL-TIMED JOKE.

TOM: But never forget it doesn’t have to be on the nose either. The great thing about objectives and exposition is that you can integrate them right into characterisation. An old tutor of mine always gave an (obscure) example from ‘Silkwood‘:  Meryl Streep is on a the plane to NYC and when offered her in-flight meal asks the air hostess “how much?”  In one misunderstanding – that the meal is gratis – we know that she has never flown before.  Another example is in Jaws when Chief Brody wakes up and complains that the sun never used to come in through the bedroom window.  Straight away we know that this is his first summer season at the Amity police dept and by extension that he’s an outsider and not a seafarer.

What I like about a certain type of exposition is when we, the audience, understand something implicitly without it being overtly stated, either through dialogue or action.  It just seems more subtle and deft that way.  At the beginning of Die Hard John McClane goes to meet his wife at her office Christmas party, checking in at the security desk he discovers that she’s reverted to using her maiden name, Holly Gennaro.  This tells us all we need to know about the state of their marriage.

My criticism of Inception would be that Ellen Paige’s character has no function other than to be a conduit for the audiences questions.  She’s the ‘new girl’ and has to have everything explained to her at length to keep the viewer up to speed.  This would be more acceptable if her ability to create fiendish mazes – the talent she was allegedly recruited for – had any great bearing in the final (5th, right?) act.  But it doesn’t.  She’s really just the pipsqueak who asks pertinent questions.

HMMM. HULK DIDN’T MIND HER IF ONLY FOR THE FACT SHE LENDS THE NECESSARY HUMANITY TO THE OPERATION, AND THEN SPECIFICALLY COBB. NOW IS THIS HUMANITY JUST AS SHOE-HORNED FOR NECESSITY PURPOSES AS HER EXPOSITION ROLE? WITHOUT A DOUBT. BUT HULK FORGAVE BECAUSE HULK STILL FELT LIKE A PERSON TO HULK. OR MAYBE IT JUST THAT HULK STILL LIKE ELLEN PAGE. ANYCRAP, MORE IMPORTANT STUFF:

ONCE AGAIN LET’S GO BACK TO ATTACK THE BLOCK, WHERE THE USE OF OBJECTIVES CRITICAL. BEFORE EVERY ACTION BEAT IT SEEMS THE KIDS ALL MAKE SURE TO AGREE WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT TO DO: “LET’S GET BACK TO THE BLOCK” OR  “LET’S GET TO RON’S WEED ROOM.” FOR THOSE WORRYING THAT ALL THIS CONSTANT INFORMATION CAN BE REDUNDANT, OR WORSE, BORING. DON’T WORRY. GOOD WRITERS AND FILMMAKERS KNOW HOW MAKE IT WORK. IN ATTACK IT PLAYED FOR A JOKE.:”WHAT’S RON’S WEED ROOM?” / “IT’S A BIG ROOM FULL OF WEED… AND IT’S RON’S.”

TOM: [Nods happily]

SWEET. OBJECTIVES CLEARED! DAY ONE IN THE BOOKS!

SO JOIN US AGAIN TOMORROW FOR DAY TWO OF THREE, WHEN HULK & TOM COVER PARTS 3, 4, AND 5 OF THE SERIES, WHICH WILL COVER SUCH WONDERFUL TOPICS SUCH AS: GEOGRAPHY, KUNG-FU, TONE, SUSPENSE, SOUND DESIGN, TAUT FILMMAKING, CINEMATOGRAPHY, AND “PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER” WITH THE BEST ACTION SCENE OF ALL TIME.

THINGS ARE REALLY GOING TO START COMING TOGETHER THEN AND WE’LL HAVE A MORE COMPLETE PICTURE OF HOW THINGS WORK IN TOTALITY. TODAY WAS JUST THE STARTER KIT!

ENJOY AND SEE YOU THEN!

<3 HULK & TOM

ENDNOTES!

(i) PLEASE NOTE: HULK STARTED THE FOLLOWING LONG-FORM ARTICLE WELL OVER TWO MONTHS AGO. TWO WEEKS A WEB VIDEO SURFACED AND WENT VIRAL AND IT APPARENTLY TACKLE LOTS OF SAME CONCEPTS. HULK YET TO WATCH IT, BUT THIS SORT OF DISHEARTENING AND HULK NOT WANT YOU THINK HULK COPYING. THIS MAY SEEM OVERLY-CAUTIOUS, BUT SOMETIMES IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE DISTINCTIONS IN THIS MEDIA CULTURE GLUT WE GOT FOR OURSELVES.  AND TO QUOTE FERRAN ADRIA: “CREATIVITY MEANS NOT COPYING.” MOVING ON…

(1) CONCERNING THIS PROCESS THERE IS A REASON HORROR MOVIES ARE SORT OF THE PERFECT PURE GENRE. THESE RULES ARE SO CLEAR AND EFFECTIVE THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF FILMMAKERS UNDERSTAND THESE CORE CONCEPTS AND HOW TO EXECUTE THEM. SPECIFICALLY, THE HORROR MOVIE “SCARE” INHERENTLY DESIGNED TO WORK WITH THESE 4  PARTS OF THIS AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION SEQUENCE BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE ON THE PLANET.

(2) SOME OF YOU MAY BE SUSPICIOUS THAT HULK ABSOLUTELY PIMPED ATTACK THE BLOCK WHEN HULK SAW IT AND NOW HULK WRITING CHUMMY ARTICLE WITH THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. THERE NO FUNNY BUSINESS OR ULTERIOR MOTIVES. THE TRUTH THAT MR. TOWNEND SIMPLY READ HULK’S MUCH-DESERVED LAUDING OF THE MOVIE AND THEN SENT ALONG A KIND NOTE OF APPRECIATION. SINCE THEN, HULK AND MR. TOWNEND STRUCK UP FAIRLY NICE CORRESPONDENCE ABOUT MOVIES AND SUCH. WHEN HULK WAS THINKING ABOUT WRITING THIS ARTICLE, HULK ASKED MR. TOWNEND IF WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE. HE KINDLY SAY YES. WHICH, YOU KNOW, IS SUPER AWESOME AND KIND OF HIM. ANYWHO, THAT WHAT HAPPENED SO NO NEED FOR MISTRUSTING HULK’S TAKE ON ATB . AND AGAIN, FOLLOW TOM ON TWITTER!

(3) AGAIN, HULK UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF THE MONTAGE SEQUENCE AND IT GET ACROSS LOTS INFORMATION. BUT COMPARE AGAIN WITH THIS ACTION BEAT. SO WHAT’S ANOTHER REASON THE THE MONTAGE ACTION NOT AS COMPELLING? THERE NEVER ANY THREAT. IT JUST TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS. THINK ABOUT THE GREAT ROCKY MONTAGES. EVEN IF THEY WERE PREDICTABLE, EVEN IF THE MUSIC DID THE HEAVY LIFTING, WHAT MADE THEM WORK DRAMATICALLY IS THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME KIND OF STORY TO THEM. ROCKY WOULD GET BETTER AT WHATEVER THINGS HE WAS DOING AND THEY WOULD USUALLY CULMINATED WITH SUCCESS AND AWKWARD MAN HUGS.

(4) HULK ALSO LOVED THAT SCENE DIDN’T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GOOD-WILL AND HAVE PEGGY AND CAP CONSUMMATE THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN THAT MOMENT OF SADNESS. NOT ONLY WOULD IT BE CHEAP. IT WOULD SAY ALL THE WRONG THINGS. SOMETIMES THE BEST WRITING IS KNOWING WHAT NOT TO DO.

(5) THOSE WHO CITE “MUNICH” AS A THEMATICALLY COMPLEX FILM YOU ARE CORRECT IN TERMS OF THE SUM OF THE IDEAS PROVIDING CONFLICTING THEMES, BUT THE MOVIE APPROACHES IT WITH BI-POLARITY. ONE SCENE SUPPORTS ONE THOUGHT WITH ABJECT CLARITY. THE NEXT SUPPORTS THE OPPOSITE WITH ABJECT CLARITY. THE COMPLEXITY COMES FROM SIMPLE JUXTAPOSITION OF NON-SUBTLE TERMS. BUT RARELY IS ANYTHING ACTUALLY AMBIGUOUS… ACTUALLY, THE ONLY TIMES THAT ARE IS WHEN A CHARACTER JUST TELLS THE MAIN CHARACTER “IT’S AMBIGUOUS.”

(6) NO EXAMPLE PERHAPS MORE TELLING OF SPIELBERG’S OVERT COMMITMENT TO THE CLARITY OF CAUSE + EFFECT THAN THE LITTLE GIRL WITH THE RED COAT IN SCHINDLER’S LIST. IT BEYOND CLEAR. IT OVER-CLEAR IF SUCH A THING EXIST.

(7) THAT RIGHT. HULK SAID TRILOGY.

(8) UNDERSTANDING WHEN EXACTLY TO PLAY LAUGHS AND WHEN TO BE SERIOUS NOT A “BASICS” DISCUSSION THOUGH. THAT ACTION 102 ARTICLE, MAYBE. FOR EXAMPLE, HOW MANY MOVIES DEPEND ON STOCK WITTY BANTER (ESPECIALLY 90’S MOVIES) OR STICK IN THAT OBLIGATORY AND SUPER TELEGRAPHED SERIOUS MOMENT IN 3RD ACT WHERE HERO MIGHT ACTUALLY BE IN TROUBLE FOR A SPLIT SECOND? THESE STOCK DEVICES NOT NECESSARILY THE ENEMY, BUT IT JUST EASY TO MAKE THEM FEEL ROTE IF THEY USED FOR THE WRONG REASONS. IF THEY JUST SHOE-HORNED IN THE AUDIENCE CAN FEEL IT. AND VICE-VERSA, DEFYING EXPECTATION CAN BE VERY TRICKY BECAUSE YOU CAN GET LOT OF CRAZINESS-FOR-SAKE-OF-CRAZINESS. SOME OF THE MASTERS KNOW HOW TO PLAY WITH EXPECTATION BRILLIANTLY. GUYS LIKE KUBRICK, KAUFFMAN, TARANTINO AND WHEDON… AND FOR THE RECORD DON’T MISTAKE TARANTINO’S MASTERY OF EXPECTATION AS BEING MERE BYPRODUCT OF HIS OUT-OF-SEQUENCE STORYTELLING. IT REALLY BECAUSE HE JUST KNOWS STORYTELLING.

(9) WHICH, OF COURSE, IS NOT TO SAY CHAOS CAN’T BE VALUABLE. A FEW SECONDS OF WELL-TIMED CHAOS CAN BE VERY EFFECTIVE. BUT IT CANNOT GO ON FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. AND EVEN AT THAT, IT SHOULD NOT BE USED AS OFTEN AS IT IS USED.

(9B) THIS ACTUALLY ONE OF HULK’S MAIN ARGUMENTS AGAINST JJ ABRAMS. HE SO UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED AT CREATING THE AIR OF MYSTERY, BUT PERHAPS NO DIRECTOR LOSES MORE AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION BY REFUSING TO CLARIFY THE INTENT OF HIS CHARACTERS OR THE MOTIVE OF ANY OF THE ACTION. WHAT HELPS THE MYSTERY OFTEN HURTS THE ACTUAL DRAMATIZATION… IF HE COULD REALLY FIGURE OUT WHEN TO GO MYSTERY AND WHEN TO SET UP OBJECTIVES IT WILL BE AMAZING. HE HAS AN INCREDIBLE SET OF TOOLS AND HE’S JUST ONE SIMPLE REALIZATION AWAY FROM PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.

HULK ON TWITTER:

FIRST OFF!

THESE LISTS PERSONAL. IT HARD SAY ONE MOVIE BETTER THAN ANOTHER, ESPECIALLY WHEN BOTH MOVIE ARE GOOD AND BOTH HAVE DIFFERENT AIMS. THAT BE SAID, HULK TEND TO REWARD FILMS THAT TRANSCEND RATHER THAN EXECUTE THE STANDARD… EXCEPT WHEN HULK… DOESN’T… IT DEPEND.

SECOND OFF!!

HULK STILL HAVE SEE MORE MOVIES. AT TOP LIST: BLUE VALENTINE,  ENTER THE VOID, MONSTERS, MCGRUBER, RABBIT HOLE, THE FIGHTER, CYRUS, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, 127 HOURS, THE GHOST WRITER, EXIT THROUGH GIFT SHOP, AND OTHERS… WOW.. THAT LOT… SORRY, BUT HULK GOTTA PAY FOR THIS SHIT UNLIKE LOTS OTHER CRITICS. SO THIS LIST CHANGE

THIRD OFF!!!

HULK PICK 13 MOVIES CAUSE HULK ALWAYS DRAW LINE OF MOVIES IN “TOP TIER” FOR YEAR. IT CAN BE ANY NUMBER. THESE FILMS FEEL LIKE IN CLASS OF OWN.

(NOTE: NOW UPDATED TO 15 AS HULK JUST SEE TWO NEW MOVIE)

FILM CRIT HULK’S TOP 15 FILMS OF 2010:

WARNING: ACTUAL ACTORS

15. THE KING’S SPEECH (ADDED IN UPDATE)

THE KING SPEECH SEEM LIKE KIND OF OSCAR BAIT MOVIE POISED TO CHARM OLD PEOPLE, AND THEN BORE YOUNGER FOLK WITH DISCERNING TASTE. TRAILER NOT REALLY HELP DISSUADE THAT WITH ALTERNATING WACKINESS FOLLOW BY SWELLING GRAVITAS.  BUT THE KING SPEECH ACTUALLY FANTASTIC. IT ASSURED. EVEN-KEELED. WELL OBSERVED. ALL WACKINESS PERFECTLY IN CONTEXT. FIRTH GIVE ONE OF BEST PERFORMANCES OF CAREER (AND HULK NO CAN WAIT FOR HIM TEAM UP WITH COEN BROS). BETTER YET, IT ACTUALLY CHARACTERIZE BOTH CONTEXTUAL IMPORTANCE OF MONARCHY AND SPECIFIC TIME IN HISTORY. IN SHORT, THE KING SPEECH RATHER GOOD.

JAMES FRANCO. HE'S SO HOT RIGHT NOW

14. HOWL

IT NOT REALLY A MOVIE. IT REALLY JUST READINGS OF HOWL SET AGAINST ANIMATION AND JAMES FRANCO DOING INTERVIEW/IMPRESSION AS/OF ALLEN GINSBERG. AND IT GREAT. AFTER ALL, THAT ALL IT REALLY REALLY NEED.

THIS WILL MAKE SENSE... SORT OF

13. I’M HERE

THIS FILM SHOULD COUNT EVEN LESS, CAUSE IT ACTUALLY A SHORT. BUT 30 MIN LONG ENOUGH FOR HULK CONSIDERATION ON THIS LIST. SPIKE JONZE CONTINUE TO AMAZE HULK. HULK HAVE GO BACK TO THE KANYE SHORT WHICH SHOWCASE SPIKE’S ABILITY BUILD UP MONOTONY/SEEMINGLY RANDOM EVENTS ONLY HAVE IT CREST INTO POETIC, POIGNANT MOMENTS. KANYE’S SUDDEN, FINAL EMOTIONAL STANDOFF WITH HIS INNER “WILD THING” SHOWCASE JONZE CAPABLE OF  SUCH MOMENTS OF UNEXPECTED, SHOCKING HEARTBREAK. AND HE DO SO FROM CONCOCTING THE STRANGEST IMAGES… SO WHEN COMES TO “I’M HERE” WE GET THE SAME IDEA. MORE GLORIOUS STRANGE POETICISM FROM SPIKE JONZE: CHECK OUT ENTIRE FILM HERE ONLINE: http://www.imheremovie.com/

WHY ALL CHILDREN NOT HAVE SCOTTISH ACCENTS TOO?

12. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

GOOD FOR DREAMWORKS. READER MAY NOTICE HULK PUT THIS ABOVE TOY STORY 3. SOME SAY THIS BLASPHEMY. THAT FINE. PROBLEM WITH TOY STORY 3 FOR HULK IS IT FEEL LIKE NOTHING MORE THAN REHASH OF AMAZING EMILY SEQUENCE OF TOY STORY 2… ONLY DRAWN OUT TO 2 HOURS. DON’T GET HULK WRONG. HULK ENJOY TOY STORY 3 VERY MUCH. AND HULK APPRECIATE EXISTENTIAL CHUTZPUH OF 3RD ACT AND ALL, BUT PIXAR WAS GOING EXCEPTION  AND ORIGINAL DIRECTION BEFORE TOY STORY 3 (WITH WALL-E + UP)… SO WHY GO BACK AND RETREAD? IN END IT JUST FEEL LIKE NAKED CASH GRAB EVEN IF THAT NOT PIXAR M.O. (THO WHEN LOOK UP BOX OFFICE, RATATOUILLE AND RECENT ALL NOT DO AS WELL AS TOY STORY’S + NEMO, ETC… SO PERHAPS NOT UNFOUNDED) … MEANWHILE, DREAMWORKS FINALLY MAKE ACTUAL MOVIE WITH HOW TRAIN DRAGON. THE STORY DONE RATHER WELL AND SOMEHOW IT ORIGINAL FEELING FILM. HULK KNOW, HULK KNOW! IT TAKE TONS FROM OTHER MOVIE BUT THE AMALGAMATION TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL. ANYCRAP, HULK LIKE IT BETTER. SO THERE.

"NO. YOU DON'T JUST DROP THE R'S. SHORTEN THE VOWELS TOO OR ELSE YOU'LL SOUND LIKE A NEW YORKAH"

11. THE TOWN

SO FILMCRITHULK MAY OR MAY NO BE FROM AREA OF THIS MOVIE ORIGINALLY. SO SURE, THERE ONE PART OF HULK THAT APPRECIATE ABILITY OF TOWN TO “GET THINGS RIGHT” SO TO SAY… YET THERE OTHER PART OF HULK THAT WORRY ABOUT ROMANTICIZING OF  BOSTON MEAT-HEAD TOWNIE GANGSTERISM (AND YES, THIS A THING). BUT TRUTH IS, NEITHER REALLY MATTER. THE TOWN SIMPLY WELL-MADE AND FOCUSED MOVIE. HEIST SCENES REALISTIC YET RATHER INTENSE. CHARACTERIZATION FLUID. MAIN ROMANCE ORGANIC. IT FRAMEWORK IMPECCABLE. IF HULK HAVE ONE WORD USE TO DESCRIBE, HULK SAY “BALANCED” BUT MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, THE TOWN (+ GONE BABY GONE) SHOW AFFLECK DYNAMIC AND HAVE BRIGHT FUTURE. AFFLECK DONE GOOD.

YOU CAN NO DRINK TEA UNDERWATER. SHE NOT EVEN HAVE CUP.

10. SOMEWHERE

HULK DETAIL THOUGHTS HERE. THIS FILM REALLY GROW ON HULK.

"THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS MOVIE IS PEOPLE WILL STOP MISTAKING YOU FOR MICHAEL CERA... HOPEFULLY... PEOPLE ARE PRETTY DUMB."*

9. THE SOCIAL NETWORK

PLACEMENT OF SOCIAL NETWORK ON HULKS LIST VERY TRICKY. IT MOVE AROUND LOTS. SOMETIMES HULK PLACE AS HIGH AS 5. AND HULK DO SO CAUSE FIRST HOUR BEYOND EXCEPTIONAL. IT BALANCE PROPULSIVE FILMMAKING AND CAREFUL ARTICULATION. HULK LOVE IT CAUSE IT DO THINGS WELL MOST MOVIE NOT BOTHER DO AT ALL. LIKE DIALOGUE, ETC… BUT SECOND HALF MOVIE TEND WANDER FOR HULK (EVERYTHING POST-TILT SHIFT RACE SEQUENCE). THERE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY BECAUSE OF REAL NON-FICTION ELEMENT HULK KNOW… BUT HULK FEEL LIKE THEY SPEND SO MUCH TIME SETTING UP ENDING AND THAT TIME COMPLETELY LACK FOCUS OF WHAT COME BEFORE. WORSE, HULK FEEL LIKE SECOND HALF LOSE TRACK OF ZUCKERBERG ALL TOGETHER. THIS SOUND LIKE INANE COMPLAINT CONSIDERING ALL THIS MADE UP WITH POIGNANT, BITING ENDING… HULK LOVE WHAT THE SOCIAL NETWORK HAVE TO SAY, AND HOW IT SAY IT… BUT STILL HULK CAN’T SHAKE SOMETHING ABOUT AIMLESSNESS OF LAST HOUR. SOCIAL NETWORK TRANSCENDENT, YET LIMITED. YEARS FROM NOW WHO KNOW WHERE THIS BE ON LIST? EVEN IN WRITING THIS, HULK FEEL LIKE IT CHANGING HULK’S MIND.

*AND HULK LIKE MICHAEL CERA TOO DAMMIT. EVERYONE STOP COMPLAIN.

"ALL RIGHT LET'S GO FIND SOME MORE SQUIRREL GUTS"

8. WINTER’S BONE

THERE THREE THING THAT ELEVATE THIS QUIET, ABSURDLY WELL-MADE OZARK NOIR: 1) JENNIFER LAWRENCE AS REE. SHE INCREDIBLE. SHE CARRY WEIGHT OF ENTIRE MOVIE AND HAVE DO SO MANY THINGS WITHOUT REALLY CHANGING OUTWARD BEHAVIOR. NOW HULK JUST WORRY ABOUT LACK OF GREAT ROLES FOR JENNIFER LAWRENCE CAUSE NO GOOD ROLES FOR YOUNG WOMEN. 2) FILM SO ASSURED. DIRECTOR DEBRA GRANIK HAVE SUCH SENSE FOR ENVIRONMENT. 3) WINTERS BONE MADE TRANSCENDENT BY JOHN HAWKES. HULK  MUST GET SPOILERY NOW SO TURN AWAY IF NO SEE MOVIE… THERE NOTHING MORE AMAZING IN FILM THEN WHEN AUDIENCE CONSTANTLY CHANGING ITS MIND ON CHARACTER PURELY THROUGH NATURE OF THE CONTEXT. EVOLUTION OF HAWKES’ CHARACTER KIND OF BALANCING ACT THAT NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DO. AND IF THAT DON’T WORK MOVIE FAIL ALL TOGETHER… “THIS GOING TO BE END OF THINGS?”

THEY ALMOST FILMED MOVIE LIKE THIS

7. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

TRUST EDGAR WRIGHT. IT THAT SIMPLE. AT FIRST, MANY REACT AND UNFAIRLY MALIGN PILGRIM AS “HIPSTER BULLSHIT” (NONSENSICAL TERM THERE EVER WAS ONE). IN DO SO, WHAT THEY MISS IS ENDLESSLY INVENTIVE AND BADASS FILM. IN FACT THIS FILM ABOUT BEATING UP HIPSTERS. SO POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MAY HAVE… MISUNDERSTOOD. BETTER YET, PILGRIM ANCHORED BY SIMPLE FOCUS ON MATURITY IN RELATIONSHIPS AND DO SO IN REALISTIC WAY, FAR REMOVED FROM TRADITIONAL LOVE STORY RHAPSODY. BUT THE EDITING OF OF FILM MAY BE BIGGEST WINNER. IT TAKE DEEPLY EPISODIC NARRATIVE AND TURN IT STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS FLO-MATIC GENIUS. HULK IN AWE… OF COURSE, IN COMICS THERE NICE FOCUS ON MALAISE AND REAL LIFE JOB STUFF AND HULK WISH THAT HAVE SOME REPRESENTATION, BUT THAT MINOR. THE FILM PERFECT COMPANION PIECE TO THE BOOKS… THERE NO HIGHER COMPLIMENT.

JESUS

6. BLACK SWAN

ARONOFSKY TYPICALLY ON-POINT. THE MAN DIRECT HELL OUT OF MOVIES. BLACK SWAN GET DEEP UNDER HULKS SKIN. IT VISCERAL BODY HORROR + REALISTIC PORTRAIT OF RIGORS OF BALLET. AND IT ESSENTIALLY HAUNTING META-REWORKING OF SWAN LAKE ITSELF. BRILLIANT. BUT REALLY “BLACK SWAN” IS NATALIE. SHE TRANSCENDENT (HULK KEEP USING THAT WORD. HULK KNOW. BUT HULK DOING IT FOR REASON. HULK TRYING CONVEY WHAT MAKE MOVIE MORE THAN GOOD). NATALIE’S WHITE SWAN MORE NATALIE WE SEEN BEFORE, BUT TO WATCH UNRAVEL AND WHEN FINALLY SHE HAVE TRIUMPHANT “BLACK SWAN” MOMENT IT TRULY ENTHRALLING.

IF YOU SEE HER YOU ALREADY DEAD

5. KICK ASS

HULK FIND THIS MOVIE THE MOST COMPLEX THING COME OUT THIS YEAR BELIEVE OR NOT… LIKELY YOU NOT. WHERE WATCHMEN HAVE LOT TO SAY ABOUT POLITICS, HUMANITY, AND CULTURE. KICK ASS COMMENTARY STAY ALMOST SUPERHERO SPECIFIC. (AND LET HULK TELL YOU, HULK KNOW THING OR TWO BOUT SUPERHERO). KICK ASS ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTOOD ITS MOMENT. IN WORLD WHERE SUPERHERO ORIGINS/DYNAMICS STALE AND ROTE TO AUDIENCE, KICK ASS ELEVATE COMIC VIOLENCE INTO ACTUAL VIOLENCE (GETTING COMIC FAN WORKED UP/ENTRALLED/AMAZED) THEN USE TIMELY INJECTIONS OF GRISLY REALISM TO TURN MOMENTS AND EXPECTATIONS ON HEAD (THINK THE STABBING, THE VIDEO, ETC). THIS NOT TO “FUCK WITH AUDIENCE” OR COME WITH SOME INNER MOTIVATION TO “GO DARKER” THIS BRILLIANT WAY OF ACTUALLY GETTING CYNICAL COMIC AUDIENCE TO REACT. TO CARE. THE AUDIENCE NOT LIKE “OH AWESOME!” THEY ACTUALLY SAY “OH NO!” KICK ASS HAVE ACTUAL HUMAN GRAVITY. KICK ASS ACTUALLY GET JADED COMIC NERDS TO CARE. AND IN END THEY CREATE MOVIE THAT ULTIMATELY SUPERHERO AFFIRMING PIECE OF WORK. IT VERY MODERN+ADULT TAKE ON SAME MESSAGE THAT COMICS GIVE YOUNG KIDS. THAT REMARKABLE TO HULK… PLUS DOUBLE BONUS FOR MATTHEW VAUGHN CAUSE HE GET RID OF RIDICULOUS SEXISM/RACISM OF COMIC AND CLARIFYING MESSAGE HULK STATED ABOVE. COMIC NO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT IT SAYING. MOVIE DID… MARK MILLAR SUCKS.

RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE... JERKS

4. TRUE GRIT

THE COEN BROTHERS HUMBLE HULK. THERE WORK ALL TOO GOOD. THERE NOT SINGLE NEGATIVE THING SAY ABOUT THIS FILM. IT FLAWLESS. COENS WRITE “AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE” HERE ACCORDING TO BARRY PEPPER AND HULK AGREE. EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE COULD BE CONSIDERED BEST IN FILM. SERIOUSLY, HULK CAN MAKE ARGUMENT FOR BRIDGES, STEINFELD, DAMON, BROLIN, PEPPER, THE COL., AND EVEN BEAR MAN ALL HAVING BEST PERFORMANCE…  [HULK SHAKES HEAD]… IT JUST TOO GOOD… ONLY REASON THIS MOVIE NOT HIGHER CAUSE… CAUSE… IT NOT TRANSCENDENT LIKE SOME THERE OTHERS? MAYBE CAUSE IN END IT JUST STRAIGHT-UP WESTERN? (UNLIKE, SAY, 3RD ACT INVERSION/POETICS OF NO COUNTRY?) … MAYBE CAUSE HULK KNEW COENS COULD MAKE THIS MOVIE IN THEIR SLEEP? … WHICH INCREDIBLY UNFAIR TO THEM AND ALL OTHER FILMMAKER… BUT… BUT THEY JUST TOO GOOD!

GRETA GERWIG WONDER IF THERE MISPRINT ON STILLER'S CHECK FOR LITTLE FOCKERS... THERE NOT.

3. GREENBERG

EVERYBODY SEEM MISS THIS. THAT SHAME. NOAM BAUMBACH OFTEN MAKE FILM THAT LIKE DAGGER TO HULK’S HEART (WHICH MEAN DAGGER PRETTY STRONG, CAUSE HULKS GREEN SKIN TOUGH). HE MAKE SCATHING YET PERFECTLY FAIR FILMS. AND THERE SOMETHING VERY SPECIFIC THIS FILM CAPTURE. SOMETHING ALMOST WITHOUT DEFINITION: THE PAIN OF GROWING UP AND FEELING YOU MISS OUT ON SOMETHING DEEPER WITHOUT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS. OR THE FEELING OF WATCHING OWN LIFE PASS YOU BYE EVEN WITH BEST INTENTIONS. NOW, THIS SOMETHING LOTS OF CHARACTERS EXPRESS IN MOVIES ALL THE TIME (USUALLY BEFORE STARTING AFFAIR OR CHANGING LIFE OR SOMETHING) BUT NEVER IT FEEL REAL. NEVER IT FEEL EARNED. IT MERELY PRESENTED AS JUSTIFICATION FOR MOST DUMB PLOTS TO BEGIN. BUT IN GREENBERG. ALL TOO REAL. BAUMBACH KNOW TREAT MALAISE NOT EXISTENCE OF SADNESS (OR, LIKE, DRUG INDUCED COMA). AND BETTER YET BAUMBACH KNOW MOVIES WITH THESE AFOREMENTION “LIFE CHANGES”  MOVIES JUST ATTEMPT FOR WRITER TO JUSTIFY SELFISHNESS. BECAUSE BAUMBACH KNOW IN END MATURITY ABOUT THE EMBRACING THE SADNESS OF SIMPLE DEVOTION TO OTHER PEOPLE. ABOUT THE PAIN OF SELFLESSNESS.  IT CAPTURE A KIND OF REALISM HULK NEVER REALLY SEE IN MOVIES. STILLER REALLY, TRULY DELIVER. AND GRETA GERWIG JUST PHENOMENAL. SHE HAVE EXACT UNDERSTANDING OF HER CHARACTER. THIS EASILY ONE OF HULK’S FAVORITES OF YEAR.

"WEE BOUNCING OFF YOUR TEETH"

2. FOUR LIONS

YES. THIS FILM ABOUT TERRORISTS. THIS NOT REALLY MATTER.  HULK NOT INTERESTED IN HAVING CONVERSATION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THAT VALID. (ASKING WHY SOMEONE MAKE FILM LIKE THIS ANSWER TO IT OWN QUESTION) BESIDE IT NOT “WHAT” FILM ABOUT. IT “HOW” IT ABOUT. AND “HOW” OF FOUR LIONS = REALLY, REALLY FUNNY. HULK LAUGH HARD. HULK LAUGH CONSISTENTLY WHOLE WAY THROUGH (LUCKILY, HULK NEVER WATCHED TRAILER. IT SPOIL LOTS). BUT ALL THIS JUST REQUIREMENT FOR BEING GOOD COMEDY (WHICH FOUR LIONS IS). WHAT PUSH THIS MOVIE TO DIFFERENT LEVEL THAT IT HAVE SOMETHING SAY ABOUT WHY SOMEONE SUBJECT THEM SELF TO HARDCORE IDEOLOGY. FOUR LIONS UNDERSTAND THE MOTIVATIONS BE ANYTHING REALLY. AND THEY NO HAVE BE OVERT. FROM FEELING LIKE OUTCAST. TO FAMILIAL. TO REPRESSED SEXUALITY. TO JUST BEING STUPID BEYOND COMPARE. AND OFTEN WHAT PUSH PEOPLE FROM BEING IDEOLOGUE TO OUTRIGHT TERRORIST, IS SIMPLY MATTER OF CIRCUMSTANCE AND TIMING. SO WHEN FILM REACH WHIMSICAL/HAUNTING FINALE (SET TO APHEX TWIN’S AVRIL 14!) IT ALL BECOME SURREALLY POIGNANT. IF YOU THING HULK EXAGGERATING, YOU NOT FAMILIAR WITH CHRIS MORRIS. THIS NOT JUST A FUNNY/GOOD FILM. THIS IMPORTANT FILM.

JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT... BADASS

1. INCEPTION

HULK NOT NOLAN FAN BOY. HULK APPRECIATE ELEMENTS OF HIS WORK. BUT HULK HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS TOO. SO TRUST HULK WHEN HULK SAY HULK NOT PREDISPOSED TO LIKE INCEPTION… YET WHEN HULK SIT DOWN TO SEE, HULK ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY BY THIS STAGGERING ACHIEVEMENT.  HULK THINK INCEPTION A LANDMARK FILM AND VERY DEFINITION OF THAT WORD HULK KEEP REPEATING: “TRANSCENDENT.” INCEPTION WORK AS STYLISH THRILLER. IT WORK AS HEIST MOVIE. IT WORK PSYCHOANALYTIC FRENCH NEW WAVE FILM. IT WORK AS LEONARDO’S BEST WORK. IT WORK AS TOM HARDY SHOWCASE. IT WORK AS JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT BEING DEBONAIR BADASS. IT WORK AS ATTEMPT REMIND HULK TOM BERENGER STILL ALIVE. IT WORK AS ALL THESE THING.

HULK FEEL LOT OF PEOPLE MISTAKE IDEAS IN MOVIE FOR JUST BEING  “IS IT ALL A DREAM?” TYPE-BULLSHIT. THEY MISSING FAR BIGGER QUESTIONS. NOLAN NOT INTERESTED IN NATURE OF REALITY, BUT OUR REACTIONS TO NATURE OF REALITY. WHICH WHY MOVIE SPEND SO MUCH TIME ON PSYCHOANALYSIS. NOLAN INTERESTED IN HOW WE DEAL WITH TRUTHS ABOUT SELVES AND HANGUPS. HOW IT PARALYZE US AND SNEAK INTO DAILY WORK. ALL THIS FASCINATING, AND PSYCHOANALYSIS OF EACH CHARACTER TIE DIRECTLY INTO THEY PLOT MOTIVATIONS. NOLAN WANT KNOW WHAT DRIVE U?. WHAT DRIVE AN IDEA? WHAT DRIVE HIS OWN FILMMAKING? WHAT DRIVE NARRATIVE AND EXCITEMENT? AND HE ADDRESS ALL AND MORE SO.

AND FOR RECORD, HULK FIND ARGUMENT ABOUT WHOLE MOVIE/WHICH PARTS “IS REAL” VS “IS NOT REAL” TO BE BAFFLING. NOLAN DOING VERY CLEAR THING. NOLAN DOING OLD MATHETMATIC TRICK OF “ALL ANSWERS WITHIN SET X”… MEANING NOLAN CREATE MOVIE WHERE BOTH EXPLANATIONS (“REAL” / “NOT REAL”) WORK ENTIRELY (NO EVIDENCE SO STRONG AS TO OUTWEIGH OTHER). THE MUCH-TALKED-ABOUT-ENDING JUST HAMMER THIS POINT HOME. IT NOT ONE OR OTHER. IT BOTH. AND THAT THE REAL TRICK.

BUT BACK TO PSYCHOANALYSIS BEING FOCUS OF MOVIE (NOT DREAMS), SOME SAY NOLAN CHEAPEN FILM BY MAKING THE THEMATICS LITERAL MCGUFFINS, BUT HULK THINK THAT THE GENIUS! NOLAN TURN PURELY ABSTRACT CONCEPT OF SYMBOLIC IMAGERY, SON/FATHER RELATIONSHIP, AND GUILT/REGRET INTO COMPELLING-AS-HELL-HEIST FOR MULTIPLEX AUDIENCE! HOW THAT NOT SOMETHING TO BE CELEBRATED? HULK FEEL LIKE THAT REALLY NOT BEEN ACHIEVED SINCE HITCHCOCK KNOCK EVERYONES ASS OUT OF WATER DOING SAME THING.

THE LOVE FOR THIS ONE SORT OF DISSIPATE LATELY… HULK NOT SURE WHY.

HULK THINK INCEPTION A “NEXT LEVEL” FILM.

AND THE BEST OF YEAR.

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