Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Sky

I'm getting into the bad habit of taking pictures while driving. I swerve the car from left to right on the freeway while reaching back to fetch my camera, but in all honesty, I can't help it. After coming back from a hiking trip on Saturday, this is what the sky looked like on my way home.

Sometimes you have to stop whatever it is you're doing and look at the sky for a minute or two. It is amazing.

I'm flying to LA tomorrow to get a new passport. God willing, it will go smoothly. And then, Thanksgiving with Ringling friends and many hours of four-player tennis action on the Wii. I predict some good times coming up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chicago

After reading Keith Lango's comments about good staging examples found in the Iron Giant, I wondered, "Is there a live action film that really stands out in this respect?"

I'm sure there are plenty, but the first movie that came to mind was Chicago. It is such a good movie for many reasons, but the shot composition and use of staging principles to guide the audience's view across the screen is particularly remarkable. It really follows the golden rule of showing one piece of information per shot. Some examples:

There's a lot going on in this shot but our eye goes to the brightest part of the image:


The audience's head become abstract shapes that serve as foreground elements, adding depth to this shot:

The dark, massive figure on the right opposes the light, smaller figure on the left, creating balance:

The warm light on Catherine Zeta-Jones makes her stand out. The cool blue light makes everything else recede. Also, she is framed by the figures in the foreground:

Again, our eyes go straight to the brightest element. The verticality of the pole is balanced by the horizontal rectangle implied by the audience:

I don't know what rule this image exemplifies, but I like it:

Our focus doesn't always have to be on one thing. This shot is more about the pattern created by the black silhouettes inside the red rectangles, than the individuals:

Again, the emphasis on this shot is the collective, not the individual:
Some very nice silhouettes:

Foreground elements framing the main character:
Use of warm and cool colors to stress the evolving conflict between these two characters:

Warm colors stand out over cool colors:

The use of these principles is pretty obvious in a movie like Chicago. After all, most of the action takes place on a stage which facilitates the use of dramatic lightning and staging. But there are plenty of other movies that take place in several other locations where the composition is also superb. Welle's Citizen Kane, Leone's "Once upon a time in the West" and the Coen brother's "The man who wasn't there" are fine examples.