An open letter to Sir Ridley Scott

July 1, 2006

Ridley Scott on set

Dear Mr. Scott,

Jim Moran and me developed an editorial policy at 24LiesASecond that restricts our contributors to write about films they appreciate. The concept behind it being: Why waste words on what you think stinks, when there’s plenty out there to love? It’s a policy that I’ve really taken to heart and intend to stick to on Lost in Negative Space.

But alas, not for now…

You see, this is an emergency. Someone really needs to I feel the need to warn you that – in spite of the pats on the back the suits nice gentlemen at Fox might be giving you at the moment – for a director of your considerable stature, churning out turds like your latest film A Good Year (2006) is nothing less than a fucking disgrace strikes me as something of a disappointment.

It’s not that I don’t admire your work. Alien and Blade Runner are masterpieces of genre cinema that I value deeply, and despite its narrative problems on a purely visual level, I consider the director’s cut of Legend to be one of the most mesmerizing fantasy features ever directed. I realize it’s hard to sustain such a high level of brilliance throughout an entire oeuvre, but not even GI fucking Jane little could have prepared me for the crap I had to endure what I was to behold at the Cinema Expo in Amsterdam last week.

Here’s the thing. About a quarter of an hour into A Good Year, I realized to my great shock that I was looking at an attempt at comedy… and not a very succesful one at that. Trust me, Sir, leading man Russel Crowe is many things, but droll isn’t one of them. What’s more: I couldn’t escape the impression that I was witnessing the product of an old man a filmmaker with nothing left to prove much to say or show. Let me put it this way: In case you’re looking for a few blurbs to polish up the newspaper ads, my suggestions would be either ‘NUMBINGLY BORING,’ ‘UTTERLY PREDICTABLE,’ or ‘MADDENINGLY MORALISTIC.’

Yes, I’m sure the wine and the cigars tasted good around the sun-soaked vineyards of that wonderful French estate where most of your shoot took place. And no, I certainly have no complaints about A Good Year‘s lush cinematography, although you’d have to be a moron to fuck up a shot in the Provence. But I came in expecting to see a film by Ridley Scott, the visual stylist… not to watch his freaking holiday snapshots!

‘Everything matures… eventually’ seems to be the tagline that the copywriters at Fox made up to promote your film in days to come. The real question, I suppose, is how you choose to mature.

Yours truly,
A worried admirer


Embarrassing Movie Posters #1

July 1, 2006

Embarrassing Movie Posters #1

 


Jim Emerson’s Opening Shots Project

July 1, 2006

Jim Emerson, the founding editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com, and a 24Lies reader to boot, has a fascinating project going on at his Scanners blog, focusing on opening shots. It’s a truly wonderful read with many remarkable contributions (don’t skip 24Lies author Bob Cumbow‘s take on that famous Steadicam shot in John Carpenter’s Halloween).

I made a personal contribution with a description of the opening shot of Ken Russel’s Altered States (1980). Here it is:
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Altered States opens with the image of a fluorescent, egg-like shape surrounded by darkness. It is a window. From below, in comes a floating human figure (William Hurt as Prof. Eddie Jessup), who appears to be immersed in liquid. Surrounded as he is by the dark oval frame of the window, he resembles an embryo inside a mother’s womb. The camera slowly tracks back to reveal that Jessup is inside a horizontal tank in an empty room. As it tracks back even further, the viewer detects the edges of a second window, rectangular this time. In front of that window sits a bearded scientist in a laboratory, who carefully monitors the room with the tank holding Eddie Jessup.

altered2.jpgAltered 2Altered 3

In the film, science tries to discover the essence of the Self by use of altered states of consciousness. The opening shot prepares the audience for this very process by taking the viewer through different layers/windows of consciousness: from the symbolic birth of the Self, via self-awareness, to self-examination; from subjectivity to objectivity. The soundtrack amplifies this trajectory, going from bubbly water effects and steady breathing through an oxygen mask, to the buzz of lab equipment and clicking of buttons.
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For many more examples, visit Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog.


A Journey Into Negative Space

July 1, 2006

A beginning is a very delicate time…

As I was catching my breath from a pretty exhaustive 24LiesASecond article published a while ago, the desire cropped up to take a break from long form for a while. My celluloid fantasia had taken me in all kinds of crazy directions – sometimes relevant, sometimes less so – and many scattered thoughts and subjects were still whirling around in my head, ready to be explored. There was no way I was going to make sense of these any time soon, and to be honest, I didn’t want to. I rather enjoyed the storm of free association waging behind my eyes.

Faced with this strangely pleasant lack of coherence, an old idea reared its ugly head… You guessed it: Why not start a blog?

I’ve been thinking about starting one ever since I found out the form existed, but one small matter had always managed to discourage me: A fear of not being able to deliver the proper amount of content. Unlike my friend Dennis Cozzalio – fellow 24Lies contributor and the Takashi Miike of bloggers (for proof, just visit Dennis’s excellent Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule), I’m a deliberate slow writer. And not just because English isn’t my native language. The incurably prolific Stephen King once said about himself that he writes “like a fat lady diets.” Well… I’m more like an anorexia patient trying to gain weight.

Of course, such an excuse isn’t good enough. Who was I kidding? There are no deadlines in the blogosphere. And the cool thing about blog posts is that they don’t have to be fully developed. They can be afterthoughts, sideline scribbles, sketches… indeed, negative space. If my 24Lies articles are to the point, a blog could be beside it.

So here we are: Lost in Negative Space. Between the lines, beyond the screen, beside the point.

It’s good to have you here, my guest. Sit down, have a drink, click around. If you like what you see, drop a note in the comment section. I’ll appreciate it. Now let’s get started!


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