All posts by Mike

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Enter the Ninja

Enter the Ninja (1981) is a really terrible movie, and it’s Wikipedia page is in need of an update, but some of the sets do have pleasing mid-century modern pieces. Additionally, I inadvertently figured out where this death scene came from. And honestly, it loses something as a meme-like clip on Youtube. This is by no means a recommendation to watch this film (let alone purchase it on Blu-ray), but experiencing the scene in the context of the movie itself, caused me to rewind it repeatedly between a state of utter confusion, half-laughs, and a lot of um-ing.

Shots: What Price Hollywood (1932)

What Price Hollywood (1932), directed by George Cukor and starring Constance Bennett, has a number of fascinating dissolve sequences. The first occurs when Bennett’s character Mary Evans is shown dreaming of fame in Hollywood. In a close-up, Mary repeatedly raises her head amidst glittering flashes, when a smaller full figure version of Mary is superimposed. In doubling images, a star is born 1, and a smaller Mary grows in stature as if released from her own magical Academy Award capsule.

What Price Hollywood (1932), Directed by George Cukor and Starring Constance Bennett

  1. Based loosely on silent star Colleen Moore’s experiences in the picture business, What Price Hollywood, written by Adela Rodger St. Johns, is frequently cited as the original story for the later versions of A Star is Born, released in 1937 (Janet Gaynor), 1954 (Judy Garland), 1976 (Barbara Streisand), and 2018 (Lady Gaga). David O. Selznick, the producer of What Price Hollywood, approached Cukor to direct the 1937 version, but Cukor declined as the plots were too similar. RKO thought so too and considered a lawsuit. Ironically, Cukor directed the 1954 version. 

Shots: The Big Combo

I watched The Big Combo (1955) again last night. This shot stuck out to me as a great use of light, shadow, and space, with characters entering from the depth and foreground, and exiting frame right.

The Big Combo, starring Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace, directed by Joseph H. Lewis with photography by John Alton
The Big Combo (1955)

Starring Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace, and directed by Joseph H. Lewis and with photography by John Alton, a later film in the classic noir period, the film frequently gets mentioned for its cinematography1. There is something a little late-night-TV about the movie, and its 1.85:1 aspect ratio makes it a more contemporary touchstone where style is concerned.

  1. Currently, an image from the end of the film lives at the top of the Wikipedia entry for film noir

Best of 2018 (Music)

My “best of” list is pretty brief this year, largely thanks to Apple Music deteriorating my notion of music ownership to subscribership and my subsequent listening on that platform vacillating between: Bad Finger, Donna Summer, Joy Division/New Order, and Pink Floyd (weirdly, because I actually fucking hate the ‘idea’ of Pink Floyd). So here are my 4/5:

  1. Beach House – 7 (album 1)
  2. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy (album 2)
  3. The Good, the Bad & the Queen – Merrie Land (album 3)
  4. Sheck Wes – Mo Bamba (video)
  5. Pi Ja Ma – Ponytail (song)

Shots: I Was Born, But…

Four figures move in a shot from Yasujiro Ozu’s 1932 film I Was Born, But… The first are Keniji and Ryoichi, who upon reaching agreement exit right. After the boys go, a train enters in the far background and passes through the composition, seemingly pushing Keniji and Ryoichi along on their journey. Finally, their dog follows suit up until a mooring rope says, “Sit.” Alone, only the dog’s eyeline narrates that which is beyond the frame.

I Was Born, But... (1932)
I Was Born, But… (1932)

Shots: Three Shot from Mean Girls

A friend of mine posted a game on social media where you list ten definitive shots that influenced you. I do not think I could ever cull through my brain to select those decisive shots, let alone rank them. However, there are shots that I see from time to time that I find myself drawn too. This felt like a good reason to start an intermittent series of posts devoted to shots that I happen to feel are fantastic.

Below is a three shot from Tina Fey’s adaptation of Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, which would become Mean Girls (2004), directed by Mark Waters.

I show this shot a lot to students and remark that if it was broken up into a number of close ups, it would lose its magic and comedic effect. Each face has its own thought and emotion that relates to its fellow faces, allowing for the eye to endlessly bounce between each writing a narrative.

Three Shot from Mean Girls
Three Shot from Mean Girls