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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

Bats: Audio iPhone / GH4

Bats have been showing up to our backyard around 9 at night. Krissy filmed them with her iPhone and played the clip back to me, pointing out that there was an intermittent static and clicking noise that could be heard. As a control, I made a video on my iPhone and a GH4. The same thing happened on my phone, but did not occur on the GH4. In both clips, there is an occasional higher pitched bat squeak. I don’t have an answer for what exactly is occurring with the static sound, but my guess is that it is the result of bat sonar and Apple’s electronics. While you might have to turn up your volume a little to hear it1, the sound is audible even on laptop speakers.

Bats – Audio iPhone / GH4 from Mike Gray on Vimeo.


  1. In the clips I have raised the levels 10db. 

Dissolving Sister Clodagh

When Deborah Kerr’s Sister Clodagh chases after Kathleen Byron’s Sister Ruth in the phantasmagoric climax of Black Narcissus (1947), a dissolve spins Sister Clodagh from one room to another, briefly letting Clodah’s ghosting robes erupt through the floor in the same shot.

Here, a dissolve is used in an image on image, but not in a lazy Michael Stoops manner, but rather to accentuate panic and confusion. It’s also a unique editing strategy employed in a film that has several editing registers used throughout. It is probably not a coincidence that the same editor, Reginald Mills, worked on both of the Powell and Pressburger productions The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. Click here for a gif.

Black Narcissus (1947)
Sister Clodagh dissolves through the floor.

Haunted by Dissolves: Night Flight 8.24.84

It’s possible that my adversity to dissolves is rooted in the pre-appointment consumption era of television, its interrupted experience, and multi-camera setup. The denim on denim complaint never really registered with me, but if I was to make sense of it, the “same image” on a “similar image slightly later” could serve as an analogy to get me over to that side of the table.

Night Flight - 8.24.84
Image on Image like Denim on Denim

Either that or I am just haunted by Michael Stoops.

Haunting Dissolves of Micheal Stoops on Michael Stoops from Mike Gray on Vimeo.

Loss of Mt. Rainier

This summer I am making a short film I wrote called Loss of Mt. Rainier. In the film, a social media star falls into a catatonic state and has his body abused on the way to the top of Mt. Rainier. It’s a dark comedy that is a loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Loss of Breath”. We have a super cast-n-crew working on the film, many of whom are associated with the Olympia Film Collective. I couldn’t speak more highly of all the talents involved. Today we launched a Kickstarter for the film, which you can check out below.

Click on the following link to visit the Kickstarter for Loss of Mt. Rainier; you can watch our video to learn more about the movie.

A Dissolve from The Red Shoes

I’ve often said that I don’t like dissolves, but I’m coming to realize what I actually don’t like is lazy ones. While it is borderline cheap, in a dissolve in The Red Shoes (1948), Moira Shearer’s Victoria Page gazes across time and space to a clock; the effect is quite pleasing. It’s a cheap I wish I’d see more frequently.

The Red Shoes (1948)
Moira Shearer’s Victoria Page gazes at a clock

Like Red Dust

Red Dust (1932) starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, directed by Victor Fleming
Like Red Dust

Red Dust (1932)1 starring Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, and Clark Gable, and directed by Victor Fleming, is currently streaming on FilmStruck as part of a Harlow retrospective. The colonialist themes render the picture unsurprisingly problematic for the period, but Harlow and Astor steam up the film with infidelity and betrayal; the movie only cools off when someone casts an icy glare.

It’s my sense that modern audiences have something of a disconnect when understanding Harlow’s sex appeal, but in Red Dust her bravado and infinite impudence is nothing short of hypnotic2. She’s a fighter, and her flippant allure gets a bold underline from her foil in Astor’s sophisticated polish.


  1. I did this drawing with Speedball India Ink and a Speedball pen and nib drawing in a Strathmore 460+39 300 Series Bristol Journal. Prior, I had been drawing on a sketch pad that was not designed for pen and ink; in contrast the 100 lb. smooth paper of the Strathmore pad is fantastic. My high school art teacher, Mr. Burgess, introduced me to the technique, and about two years ago I picked up a set of pens. Shortly after we moved, and in the ensuing shuffle of boxes they got lost; the other week I found them and ordered the Strathmore pad. 

  2. Heather Addison’s essay “Transcending Time: Jean Harlow and Hollywood’s Narrative Decline”, published in the Journal of Film and Video, vol. 57, no. 4, Winter 2005, provides an excellent contextualization of Harlow’s stardom, and as Addison puts it, “Hollywood’s Cult of Youth” (35).