Cinema Studies: The Croods

The Croods is a movie that has grown on me. I liked it the first time I watched it. Then after the second or third time, I really came to love its quirkiness.

The script had loads of gags and I laughed pretty hard at most of them. A lot of the funny moments were downplayed or cut from the film, which was probably a good idea. As for the story itself, I found a few of my friends turned off by the somewhat confusing story line. Mainly that the story begins with a focus on Eep and changes to Grug somewhere in the middle.

I actually don't mind this. I think it adds an edge to the story. It's something different, something rare, and something new. Which fits with the theme if trying new things.

As for the cinematic elements of the film:

Use of Blur:

The action shots were amazing and awesome. Seriously. The hunting scene at the beginning is one of my favorite scenes ever. Particularly the moment when Eep chases after the Liyote.

I might be biased because I'm a runner, but this sequence gets me motivated to run every. single. time.

It's amazing how blurry the action can be, yet we're still able to follow along with the characters.

And then there are moments within the action where we can focus on expression. It's like a delicate balance between motion and stasis.

Depth of Field:

I love this shot because of the blurry foreground and the blurry background. It reminds me of the animal planet documentaries of cheetahs or lions hunting. It brings that gritty nature vibe to the film.

Long Shots:

There were a lot of long shots that helped define the story and show off the new environments.

LOTS of long shots. I think my favorite shots are with the creatures in the foreground that are extremely annoyed by how loud the family is.

Analyzing the Croods and figuring out what I really liked about the film took me awhile, so it looks like we're going to have two Cinema Studies this week! The next film? One of my childhood favorites. Seriously, when this movie came out when I was a kid... I literally squealed when I first saw the trailer. Can you guess which one it is? Hint: It's about a horse. :D

The screencaps in this blogpost were from disneyscreencaps.com

Cinema Studies: To Catch a Thief

This film has it all. Colorful costumes, amazing compositions, car chases, romance, intrigue, and suspense!

But, after watching three Hitchcock films earlier this month, this one felt a little formulaic. The tempo and the slow build up of tension was similar to that of Vertigo and Rear Window. I felt like I knew the ending from piecing together little nuances in the beginning. Of course, this is the kind of film where you suspect everyone and a million scenarios run through your mind.

I love the compositions though. Seriously.

Check this out:

This is amazing. I hope, one day, I will do something this captivating. I'm still drooling over how amazing this is.

Also:

HA.

That was one of my favorite moments of the film! It's a great cut! I think I even laughed out loud. I was convinced for awhile that this dude was the Cat. But he wasn't. That would have been too easy. I think he was a bit of a Macguffin to throw people off the real thief suspect.

I think I've learned, as I wrap up Hitchcock month, that suspense isn't always shock and awe. It's a slow build up of emotions and tension. Hitchcock always does something different or unexpected in his films. Like the humorous yet unsettling cut above, there is always something captivating or different. Yet slow.

Pure genius, really. Thanks Hitchcock. This month was fun!

Cinema Studies: Rear Window

I can see from this movie how Hitchcock would be regarded as the Master of Suspense. There were so many details. So many things that were conscious of perspective. The story is brilliant.

There were a couple of things I noticed that set up the story, and more importantly, the opinion of the viewer.

1. Stella's 2 Cents

In the beginning, Stella, the nurse, talks about how she has a bad feeling about looking out the window.

STELLA
I can smell trouble right in this 
apartment. You broke your leg. You 
look out the window. You see things 
you shouldn't. Trouble. I can see 
you now, in front of the judge, 
flanked by lawyers in blue double-
breasted suits. You're pleading, 
"Judge, it was only innocent fun. I 
love my neighbors like a father." -- 
The Judge answers, "Congratulations. 
You just gave birth to three years 
in Dannemora."

I think many stories have a character that comes in at the beginning and kind of sets up the theme. Stella is that character because this speech gives us an idea of what could happen. We're already assuming that there will be trouble for Jeff because Stella mentions it.

2. We see something Jefferies doesn't see.

We see Thornhill leave with his wife. This sets up our opinion that Thornhill is innocent. So when Jeff starts concocting all these crazy theories, we still maintain that Thornhill is innocent.

These two simple set ups are strong cornerstones for the story's suspense. We're expecting Jeff to get in trouble with the law because he's harassing an innocent neighbor. When that DOESN'T happen, it's surprising, interesting, and, most importantly, suspenseful.

Film Techniques Learned:

Hitchcock used the viewfinder in the on-screen camera to vignette the parts of the story that characters were seeing through the camera. For example:

This was also used in the Croods. Like below:

This is such a fun technique! I can't wait for an opportunity to do this.

Another specific thing I noticed was the chiaroscuro lighting used at the climax of the film. What a great way to make it absolutely nail-biting! Suddenly the shadows are huge and you can't see everything. The contrast is heightened and so is the blood pressure. When this happens in a film, I hold my ears.

I was thinking someone was going to die at any moment. I did NOT read the script to this film beforehand, and boy am I glad I made that decision! Reading the script before this movie would have taken the magic of suspense out of it. My husband, Josh, had seen the end though. He was laughing at me when I was yelling "You idiot!" at the screen.

Another really nice touch was all the non-dialogue storytelling that was done, especially at the beginning. We aren't told how Jeff's leg was broken, we are shown the picture he took and the broken camera to insinuate that's how he ended up in a cast. And then Stella is the insurance nurse, which tells us that Jeff's company is paying for his medical care because he was on the job when the accident happened. It's very simple, yet there's no exposition. Later in the film, Jeff talks about standing in the middle of a racetrack and getting run over, which confirms to us that's how his leg was broken, but we already knew that.

On a final note, check out this orange sky:

Unexpected should have been the title of this film. Because that's what I thought of that amazing ending. Kudos Hitchcock. I rank this one with North by Northwest. Really liked them both.

The last film I'm watching for Hitchcock month will be *drumroll* To Catch a Thief! Stay tuned.

Cinema Studies: Vertigo

I did not like this movie.

And it's probably my own fault. This was a film in which reading the script before watching was probably a bad idea.

I was waiting for things to happen and it took forever... I had also anticipated a lot of the famed dolly zoom shots... but that is not what happened. Most of the film was slow, quiet, and had two people talking to each other. It didn't really feel suspenseful...maybe that's because I knew the ending.

I was also not a fan of the borderline abuse in the story. There wasn't really a 'good guy'. No one to root for or someone I wanted to win in the end. I didn't like the main character. That bothers me.

All that aside though, there are some amazing shots.

Since I didn't quite like this, I've thought about what I would do to make the story different. What could I do to pick up the pace and keep the audience entertained?

What if I slipped glimpses of the murderer into the background? What if there were more activities with more movement? Why would Hitchcock have so many static shots? Maybe he feels obsession rises in the still shots? Maybe that's something he was going for. How could that be enhanced or made better?

I really don't know how to answer these questions. I'm still very new to this and Hitchcock has a whole legacy of genius. I have so much to learn.

The next Cinema Study will be over Hitchcock's Rear Window, and I'm going to switch it up this time. I won't read the script beforehand. So I'll be going in blind. Maybe that will help me pay attention to the suspense.

Cinema Studies: North by Northwest

I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

I got to see a much older Cary Grant play the whirlwind role of Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. This was the first Hitchcock film that I've seen and it really blew me away. There were so many beautiful compositions in this film! I loved some of the surprising yet suspenseful shots! I learned a new film editing technique, called a Match cut! Overall, this was a great movie and I'd recommend it to anyone!

The Suprisingly Suspenseful Shot

One of my favorite shots of the film was this one:

The overhead angle is unsettling for the viewer. Why would Hitchcock do this? Because he's building suspense! Notice how Thornhill (gray suit) is being cornered compositionally? The eyes of the man standing up are above Thornhill's. This is both subtle and jarring. It's SO great!

The Beautiful Compositions

Seriously. Just drool over these for a moment.

When the credit screen was rolling in the beginning, I noticed that they were designed by Saul Bass (legendary graphic designer). I could see his influence throughout the film. Look how many grids and angles there are... from the skyscraper windows, to the train, to the bookcase, to rows of corn, to the forest of Mt. Rushmore, and even the house of the villain. Angles and grids everywhere!

The Match Cut

I learned a new film editing term called a Match Cut! It's a cut between two similarly composed shots that combines them metaphorically. North by Northwest does this at the end of the film:

This match cut skips the proposal, marriage, and connects one of the most suspenseful moments in the movie directly with the honeymoon. The first time I watched it, it was kinda weird. But it worked.

Incidentally, I found another match cut in the animated film, The Croods. It happens between the scene where Guy wakes up above a river of lava and then cuts to a similarly composed shot where he says "That was too close!".

It had great comedic effect! Plus it varies up the 'traveling' film in an interesting way. I'll be doing a Croods Cinema Study in the summer I think.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to studying some more Hitchcock films this month!