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)

Shaving: Pt. 3

Some time ago, I wrote about how I shave with a 2 blade razor and how unfortunately Gillette has basically stopped selling the line I use in the US. I was buying the blades off of Amazon. I finally gave up.

Now I just buy the disposable version from Target or Amazon. I don’t like using disposable razors, but they are about 95% as good as the replaceable blade version and about 50% of the cost. So it goes.

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.