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Entries in title sequence (12)

Thursday
Jul102014

"Outstanding Main Title Design," An Undersung Emmy Category

If you're a carbon based life form, chances are you feel a certain amount of affection for the opening notes and images of the main title designs of certain TV series. These things have a way of seeping into our DNA.

I cannot watch True Blood's titles, for example, without singing along "...I wanna do bad things to you ♫" and it would probably take my Emmy award if the Outstanding Main Title Design were handed out only once every 10 years. Unfortunately it has been ripped off ever since and now every remotely creepy TV series aims for a mix of slow-mo vs sped up montage of religious, violent, and sensual grotesquerie from American Horror Storyto Penny Dreadful. But True Blood's titles were the perfect marriage of everything that makes that show that show. It's actually even BETTER than the show itself.  True Blood lost this category in its year to the adorable pop up multiple identities of The United States of Tara

My other favorite main title of a current series is Game of Thrones. I don't watch the show for reasons I've long since overshared but I think the opening titles are refreshingly original, a masterwork even. For what it's worth Game of Thrones won this Emmy in 2011 (Trivia Alert: David Fincher's two-time Oscar winning editor Angus Wall, who we've interviewed in the past, was the creative director!).

Even in the YouTube/Gif era when we are all accustomed to obsessing over the tiniest mnemonics of our favorite things, this category is rarely remarked upon. So let's discuss this year's nominees after the jump

THE NOMINEES THIS YEAR? Stroke the kitty to continue...

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Friday
May022014

Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Linkdown

Art of the Title has an amazing 3-part retrospective / interview with title designer Pablo Ferro. His work includes: Bullitt, Married to the Mob, Dr Strangelove, Beetlejuice, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and so many other greats
The New Yorker "why Mean Girls is a classic" even esteemed publications got into the 10th anniversary frenzy. Good piece from Richard Brody
The Dissolve Joaquin Phoenix will headline the next Woody Allen film, the one after Magic in the Moonlight. The prolific auteur isn't slowing down his one-a-year pac. Phoenix isn't slowing down either; remember how just a few short years ago, people thought Phoenix's career was over? The joke was on us.) 

 

Vulture Bilge Ebiri sticks his neck out for "Why Adam Sandler Matters"
Paper Mag 5 Most Swintessential Moments from Tilda Swinton's career. Love this though none are her actual acting & filmography which is tops. 
Playbill Idina Menzel & Julie Andrews talk FrozenWicked and The Sound of Music Live! on "Watch What Happens Live". Julie is very magnanimous about Carrie Underwood but I love the hint of 'i'm aware you all think i'm just being diplomatic' utter vagueness of "acting is acting is acting". Ha!

I thought she was great. Listen, she made it her own. But listen: acting is acting is acting."

The Wire pontificates on Emma Stone's career now that redundant superhero movie is in theaters. Shouldn't her career be so much more by now?
Cosmopolitan interviews Amy Schumer on 'sneaky feminism,' Parker Posey, plastic surgery and Judd Apatow's Trainwreck
Pajiba this is how you assemble a damn cast. On Joe Swanberg's wonderful ensembles 
AV Club is fear of TV cancellations a thing of the past? Shows with low ratings are no longer automatically doomed and fan passion counts for far more than it once did.
Gothamist wonders if James Franco is doing okay. Get out of bed! 

Today's Must Read
Cléo wonderfully provocative piece on "Samantha" in Her (now on DVD) from Angelo Muredda:

Early on, Samantha is eager to establish herself as, if not a human, then at least something more ambitious than a machine. She proudly proclaims that what makes her her is the ability to grow through her experiences. “So basically,” she says, “in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.” The latter part of that statement reads as a veiled threat to Theodore, who seems rather stalled in his moody present state as a sad man who writes other people’s love letters for a living despite being unable to sign his own divorce papers. It is a succinct expression of the film’s male smugness: that a girlfriend who begins excited about the world and her boyfriend’s witty emails is still a girlfriend who will one day leave.

 

Friday
May022014

What's the Best Film Title of All Time?

I posed this question on Twitter the other day and got some interesting responses. The question popped to mind because The Film Society is hosting a Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective this month and I've always worshipped the title The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). It's just unbeatably evocative and memorable. Hollywood prefers more generic titles of course; recently John Carter of Mars, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, How To Catch a Monster, and Can A Song Save Your Life were abbreviated and drained of all specificity and interest.  

Here were some responses I received to challenge those "bitter tears" from awesome people like Shane, Clara, and Conor ...

 

I have to admit they're true contenders. Maybe you'd like to add a film title to this honored list?


Tuesday
Apr082014

From Russia With Love's Visual Style

On the 50th anniversary of "From Russia With Love"'s US release our friend and James Bond expert Deborah Lipp (she even wrote a book about him!) is here to talk 007...

Sean Connery in "From Russia With Love" released 50 years ago today in the States

After 23 official films and 2 unofficial ones, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond adventure, remains the greatest of them all. Considered an iconic film in many ways, it may surprise the casual Bond viewer to note that certain "iconic" aspects of the Bond franchise were missing from or created in this film.

Let's focus on From Russia With Love's extraordinary visual signature on this anniversary

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, featured the production design of Ken Adam. Adam is justifiably famous. In Dr. No, he designed such sets as the nuclear launch room, and, needing one last set when the budget ran out, came up with an exquisitely simple interrogation room, as perfect as any of his more elaborate work. Adam worked on a total of seven Bond films, creating such sets as Goldfinger's Fort Knox and the hollowed-out volcano lair in You Only Live Twice. He is considered synonymous with the look of James Bond movies, but he didn't do From Russia With Love. He was busy working on Dr. Strangelove—go ahead and revisit the war room scene in Kubrick's film and ask yourself if it doesn't look an awful lot like a James Bond movie.

No, art direction for From Russia with Love was done by Syd Cain. Cain is kind of impressive. Like Ken Adam, he did multiple Bond films and worked with Stanley Kubrick (in Cain's case, on Lolita). 

The eye-popping chess tournament scene in From Russia with Love, in which the chess game takes place on a raised dais above a checkerboard floor mimicking the chessboard itself, is Cain's work. The movie also featured Blofeld's yacht-based lair, extensive scenes on the Orient Express, and location footage in Istanbul augmented by opulent set design. In fact, opulence is a good word to hang on Cain's work, and FRWL is an opulent movie.

Another iconic visual element in Bond films is the title sequence. Title design by Maurice Binder is considered part of the Bond signature, and Binder was there from the beginning. Dancing girls, silhouettes, sinuous animated movement, and the famed gunbarrel sequence were all Binder's designs. He did the title sequences for every Bond film from the first one in 1962 through License to Kill in 1989. Except two: From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Robert Brownjohn did those. 

FRWL's title sequence features the credits projected on the mostly-nude body of a bellydancer. It's beautiful and so very Bond, so typical of Binder's signature work that you may wonder if Brownjohn wasn't influenced by the first Bond title sequence. He wasn't: Dr. No's titles are a psychedelic explosion of colored dots. Male and female dancing silhouettes come in around the 1.40 mark, and by 2.15 we're into the "Three Blind Mice" sequence—three blind beggars who turn out, as the movie begins, to be assassins. Nope, the sensual body of a woman in Bond titles wasn't made iconic by the iconic Bond title designer. 

From Russia With Love is great for many reasons: Plot, dialog, cast, and locations all play important roles. But the visual style is a key component. How interesting, then, that it stands separate from what we think of as "the" Bond style.

 

Thursday
Mar202014

50 Years in the Pink

Tim here, extending our unexpected and unplanned tribute to 50-year-old Peter Sellers movies by one day, following Diana’s lovely tribute to The World of Henry Orient. For today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Pink Panther, the arch-‘60s caper film that begat Sellers’ iconic Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the pratfall-prone Frenchman who remains the actor’s most famous character this side of a certain wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi (and Dr. Strangelove ALSO opened in 1964, which was just an all-around great year for Sellers).

The film itself is a fascinating relic, a by-turns hilarious and lumpy encapsulation of what European high society looked like as filtered through the comic sensibilities of Blake Edwards of Tulsa, OK. Scenes of breathless physical comedy rub elbows with elegant caper film machinery and deadening longeurs as Claudia Cardinale rolls around on a tiger skin while suffering from a wobbly case of dubbing. [more...]

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