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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 10:51 PM

Part of my recent DVD viewings of 1960's movies. Interesting police procedural with striking use of multiple screen montages. Spike Lee must have seen this because "Clockers" has the similar twist of the investigator appearing like a spectator in the flashbacks as the criminal describes what happened.

It strikes me now that "Zodiak" only stands out because we've been so starved for serious adult dramas from Hollywood. A movie like "Boston Strangler" was more innovative in many ways.

What we had back then in the 50's through 70's were many adult dramas that were still made for mass entertainment, i.e. they still had strong characters and situations and the story moved along.

Recently I heard an interview with Tarantino talking about "Grindhouse" on NPR and he mentioned showing the cast and crew the 1970's movie "Macon County Line". He was making the point that America prides itself on making films driven by story, that we are "the classic storytellers" as opposed to making art films. But he said that modern movies made in Hollywood aren't driven by stories, they are driven by situations, the structure of a situation comedy -- they are all set-up and pay-off now. A story unfolds over time and we follow it, even if we don't know where it is going, because of the skill of the storyteller. "Macon County Line" follows these guys as they travel through the south, and eventually a sheriff becomes convinced they are responsible for the death of his wife and he seeks revenge near the end of the movie. Taratino said that if the studios made that today, it would only be about the third act: the whole movie would be about the situation of the sheriff seeking revenge and the pay-off would be to see how he pulls it off. The studios no longer have faith in stories that unfold in unpredictable ways; they want a strong set-up and a bunch of pay-offs.

It reminded me of the interview with Kurosawa's screenwriter for "Seven Samurai" about how at some point they wrote a script about the most famous fights by swordsmen of samurai history, but after Kurosawa read the final script, he threw it away, saying "a movie can't just be a string of climaxes". But unfortunately that describes a lot of movies today, which is why they might be fun to watch once for the cheap thrills, but you have no desire to see it twice.
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#2 Angeliki Makraki

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:34 AM

Have you seen the French Connection ? A lot livelier and more real than Zodiac. I loved seeing it again.
It reminds of Costa-Gavras Z. Hollywood seems so stilted and everything too perfect compared to this
movie, which looks like a real documentary.

Edited by Angeliki Makraki, 01 April 2007 - 12:37 AM.

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#3 Chris Burke

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 11:20 PM

Part of my recent DVD viewings of 1960's movies. Interesting police procedural with striking use of multiple screen montages. Spike Lee must have seen this because "Clockers" has the similar twist of the investigator appearing like a spectator in the flashbacks as the criminal describes what happened.

It strikes me now that "Zodiak" only stands out because we've been so starved for serious adult dramas from Hollywood. A movie like "Boston Strangler" was more innovative in many ways.

What we had back then in the 50's through 70's were many adult dramas that were still made for mass entertainment, i.e. they still had strong characters and situations and the story moved along.

Recently I heard an interview with Tarantino talking about "Grindhouse" on NPR and he mentioned showing the cast and crew the 1970's movie "Macon County Line". He was making the point that America prides itself on making films driven by story, that we are "the classic storytellers" as opposed to making art films. But he said that modern movies made in Hollywood aren't driven by stories, they are driven by situations, the structure of a situation comedy -- they are all set-up and pay-off now. A story unfolds over time and we follow it, even if we don't know where it is going, because of the skill of the storyteller. "Macon County Line" follows these guys as they travel through the south, and eventually a sheriff becomes convinced they are responsible for the death of his wife and he seeks revenge near the end of the movie. Taratino said that if the studios made that today, it would only be about the third act: the whole movie would be about the situation of the sheriff seeking revenge and the pay-off would be to see how he pulls it off. The studios no longer have faith in stories that unfold in unpredictable ways; they want a strong set-up and a bunch of pay-offs.

It reminded me of the interview with Kurosawa's screenwriter for "Seven Samurai" about how at some point they wrote a script about the most famous fights by swordsmen of samurai history, but after Kurosawa read the final script, he threw it away, saying "a movie can't just be a string of climaxes". But unfortunately that describes a lot of movies today, which is why they might be fun to watch once for the cheap thrills, but you have no desire to see it twice.



It seems that in the 70's, a movie such as The Boston Strangler or say The Passenger or French Connection, took there time to let a story unfold. Takes were much longer. Much of what you just said. This is a subject that I think about a great deal lately, it is comforting in a way to hear others noticing the creative doldrums Hollywood is in these days.
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 03:38 AM

I think it's a trend. People will get bored with the formula, someone will have a mega-hit with an adult film and everyone will jump on the bandwagon. The only thing certain is change. In the meantime, there's always room for another American Beauty or Dances With Wolves. The real pinnicle of film was 1939 anyway. :D

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 07 April 2007 - 03:41 AM.

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#5 Evan Winter

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 06:05 AM

Insightful thoughts and also interesting because they run counter to what we're often 'taught' in music videos; which is that narratives don't work well because once you've watched a storyline video you have little desire to see it again whereas events/climaxes/situations, in videos, have far greater replayability (hence the vast predominance of these types of videos).

It also seems that Hollywood may find so much box-office success with their big summer films for precisely this reason. It's way more fun to ride the same roller-coaster twice than to hear the same camp-fire tale twice. That said, I personally appreciate a well told story more than watching the movie equivalent to a 'roller-coaster'. But, on the other hand, I can't deny enjoying my popcorn films right alongside the rest of America.

...I'm such a movie fence-sitter...
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#6 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 06:53 AM

I far more enjoyed reading "Clockers" than watching the movie and no offense to Spike and crew
but the images generated in me by Richard Price's writing resonated far more strongly than what I
saw in the film which I remember had an odd, unpleasant to watch contrastiness to it (maybe just the
particular theater?)

For example, both "Silence of the Lambs" and "Manhunter" (80's film of "Red Dragon") have Hannibal
Lecter in them, portrayed by different actors in starkly different sets and are both extremely
effective. In "Clockers" I felt that the picture did not succeed as the book had in telling the story,
even bearing in mind that perhaps the story may have to change somewhat when told in a different
medium.

I'm not sure that it's fair to say that Spike must have seen "The Boston Strangler". Perhaps, but he's
taken some unfair criticism over the years, such as being called the "black Woody Allen" in the 80's
to which he responded by saying when would the critics ever call somebody the Italian Woody Allen
or whatever. Also, there are certainly similarities in stories, and amomg other things "Clockers" is a
strong narrative of police procedure. Maybe Richard Price saw "The Boston Strangler" (except he also
spent two years walking around a tough housing project doing research.)

I watched "The Boston Strangler" last fall and was struck by seeing a classic Hollywood icon such as
Henry Fonda on screen in such untraditional style, with so many split-screen shots. There are a lot,
more I think percentage wise than in an episode of "24" but I'm not sure that it would be fair to say
that the producers of that show saw this movie and therefore.... Maybe they saw "Woodstock" or
Abel Gance's "Napoleon" or simply chose split-screen as a storytelling technique without any particular
reference.

I think that "The Sixth Sense" is an example of a movie that has a big payoff because it takes the time
to tell a complete story, not just set up a situation that requires a shoot-out. When I saw it, I had heard
that there would be a big twist in the movie and still it took the entire length of the movie to get to
that point, a true storytelling climax, that incredible moment of realization when the Bruce Willis
character suddenly understands and through his acting so does the viewer.

Look at "Say Anything" as an example of a movie that in typical Hollywood fashion would be done based
on the way the romance plays out but instead includes the father in a way that is a full third act.

Tarentino is smart but kind of irritating. He was on "The Tonight Show" and laughing about how the
"Grindhouse" production bought up a bunch of classic muscle cars from guys who were thrilled about
them being in the movie but would "never" have sold them at any price had they known that they would
be crashed. How would Mr. Tarentino like it if a filmmaker built a set lined with all the vintage movie
posters and pop culture paraphenalia that he (Tarentino) likes and then burned that set for a scene?

Speaking of derivative, in an issue of "Premiere", Oliver Stone is quoted as saying that Quentin
Tarentino "makes movies about movies."

Whom do you blame? Look at Clarence's car in "True Romance" and the accompanying music.
Do you think for a second that maybe you're watching a shot from "Badlands"? I know people
who think of "True Romance" as a Tarentino movie but Tony Scott directed it.

Somebody once wrote that without Woody Guthrie there would have been no Bob Dylan and without
Bob Dylan there would have been no Bruce Springsteen and without Bruce
Springsteen there would have been no John Cougar (Melloncamp) to which John Melloncamp respectfully
replied that he sure as heck wasn't whom he was because of Woody Guthrie.
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#7 Justan Zimmerman

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 12:14 PM

I'm not sure that it's fair to say that Spike must have seen "The Boston Strangler". Perhaps, but he's
taken some unfair criticism over the years, such as being called the "black Woody Allen" in the 80's
to which he responded by saying when would the critics ever call somebody the Italian Woody Allen
or whatever. Also, there are certainly similarities in stories, and amomg other things "Clockers" is a
strong narrative of police procedure. Maybe Richard Price saw "The Boston Strangler" (except he also
spent two years walking around a tough housing project doing research.)


I was going through back issues of American Cinematographer a few weeks ago and read the article on "Clockers." In it, Spike Lee recounts with great pride how he was able to quote another film - "The Boston Strangler" - without producer Martin Scorsese realizing until he told him. I don't think this makes Lee any less of a talent. He even adapted this stylistic devise to one he was already known for - having the actors move on a dolly along with the camera. (I always thought that was a nod to Scorsese's "Mean Streets" when the camera is mounted to Harvey Keitel. Scorsese probably got the idea from a half-forgotten 40s noir or obscure Italian film, which is how I always thought the art of filmmaking and cinematic language progressed.)

Anyway, "Clockers" is a decent movie adapted from a phenomenal novel. I still need to see "The Boston Strangler."
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#8 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 02:39 PM

I was going through back issues of American Cinematographer a few weeks ago and read the article on "Clockers." In it, Spike Lee recounts with great pride how he was able to quote another film - "The Boston Strangler" - without producer Martin Scorsese realizing until he told him. I don't think this makes Lee any less of a talent. He even adapted this stylistic devise to one he was already known for - having the actors move on a dolly along with the camera. (I always thought that was a nod to Scorsese's "Mean Streets" when the camera is mounted to Harvey Keitel. Scorsese probably got the idea from a half-forgotten 40s noir or obscure Italian film, which is how I always thought the art of filmmaking and cinematic language progressed.)

Anyway, "Clockers" is a decent movie adapted from a phenomenal novel. I still need to see "The Boston Strangler."



Bravo job on the research, Justan. I agree that people can utilize techniques without
rating any lower for doing so, such as the great scene in the pool hall in "Mean Streets"
with the long handheld shot chasing the fight, which Scorcese cited as a technique picked up
from Samuel Fuller.

It's also worth considering that genre films have certain conventions. Nobody would get mad if
a western had a shootout in which the sherriff and the bad guy draw on Main Street,
even though it's been done many times,
although I think that any filmmaker would like to put his own spin on it.

However, I certainly know of cases in which people have done things and been proud of
themselves for thinking up something cool only to be informed that it had been done before.

Would you be able to say the date of that issue of "American Cinematographer"? I'd love to
read the "Clockers" article and particularly see what it says about the look of the film in terms
of how I remember it.

"The Boston Strangler" is a fascinating movie in its style, cast and quick glimpses of 60s
Boston. There is a lot of debate in Boston currently with a book out by a Boston t.v.
producer saying that the real strangler got away and that the man most likely responsible
for at least some of the later stranglings is living in New Hampshire, where by the way he has
been fired from his job and ostracized since the book came out.

"Freedomland" is another good novel by Richard Price, although not as good as "Clockers".
I haven't seen the "Freedomland" movie yet though.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 03:03 PM

I liked "Clockers" -- I didnt mean to imply that it was a negative thing to steal a good idea from "The Boston Strangler", just that I made a guess that Spike Lee must have seen it (or the screenwriter.)
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#10 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 04:13 PM

I liked "Clockers" -- I didnt mean to imply that it was a negative thing to steal a good idea from "The Boston Strangler", just that I made a guess that Spike Lee must have seen it (or the screenwriter.)



I can't recall you ever being negative on here and not only was it a good guess, I saw both movies
too and I like to think that I notice stuff but I never even made that connection.

Another of Richard Price's novels, "The Wanderers", was made into a film and directed I believe
by Philip Kaufman and although I liked both, they were vastly different experiences. The novel was
gritty and real. The movie was on some level of hyper reality, at least in parts as I remember,
but pretty entertaining.
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#11 Justan Zimmerman

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 06:41 PM

Would you be able to say the date of that issue of "American Cinematographer"? I'd love to
read the "Clockers" article and particularly see what it says about the look of the film in terms
of how I remember it.


I don't recall the exact issue, though it was definitely in the latter half of '95. I was actually looking for the article on "Casino" but that issue had been stolen from the library. While perusing other issues from that year I came across the "Clockers" article. Since the cinematography was obviously inspired by Robert Richardson, I figured it was worth a read.

Philip Kaufman has made two of my favorite films - "The Right Stuff" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" - yet I can't bring myself to watch "The Wanderers" for fear that it will ruin Price's novel for me. Despite being set decades earlier in another city, the book was like the bible to me and my friends in West Philly while growing up.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 08:56 PM

I don't recall the exact issue, though it was definitely in the latter half of '95.


September 1995 issue.
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#13 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 09:54 PM

I don't recall the exact issue, though it was definitely in the latter half of '95. I was actually looking for the article on "Casino" but that issue had been stolen from the library. While perusing other issues from that year I came across the "Clockers" article. Since the cinematography was obviously inspired by Robert Richardson, I figured it was worth a read.

Philip Kaufman has made two of my favorite films - "The Right Stuff" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" - yet I can't bring myself to watch "The Wanderers" for fear that it will ruin Price's novel for me. Despite being set decades earlier in another city, the book was like the bible to me and my friends in West Philly while growing up.


Justan, it's been so long since I've seen "The Wanderers" movie that I'm curious to take another
look
at it. If I find a copy, I'll check it out and let you know what it seems like now. Put it this way, last
time i saw it was at the drive-in.

You might enjoy this story is since you liked "The Wanderers" novel so much. I got to meet
Richard Price and I asked him about the chapter with the two kids on the roof and one telling the
other that he can fly. I said that I thought that it was absolutely brilliant but somewhat
disconnected from the
novel overall since those two characters are marginally involved in the story and yet got a
chapter.

I said that I suspected he might know that but couldn't resist cutting the chapter (which is more of
a short story set in the same project) because the writing is just so fantastic how could you cut
something so great?

He laughed like I had him pegged and he shrugged and said "Yeah, that's pretty much it."

Oh yeah, every time I hear Smokey Robinson's "I don't like you but I love you" I think of "The
love song of Buddy Borsolino". Big playground, Little playground...wow, memories.








September 1995 issue.


That's great. Now on my list is:

1. Get and read the "Clockers" article.
2. Watch "The Boston Strangler" again.
3. Watch "Clockers" again.

Thanks!
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#14 Angeliki Makraki

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 01:48 AM

It seems that in the 70's, a movie such as The Boston Strangler or say The Passenger or French Connection, took there time to let a story unfold. Takes were much longer. Much of what you just said. This is a subject that I think about a great deal lately, it is comforting in a way to hear others noticing the creative doldrums Hollywood is in these days.


what are some other good 60 + 70's movies
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#15 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 08:36 AM

"what are some other good 60 + 70's movies"

Klute - a 70s film with a 'dark' atmospheric look.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 10:29 AM

Klute - a 70s film with a 'dark' atmospheric look.


I'd watch practically everything shot by Gordon Willis in the 1970's...
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#17 John Holland

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 10:33 AM

Plus shot in Panavision anamorphic with very low light , and 100asa neg ,prob pushed a stop .
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Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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Glidecam

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