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Archive for April, 2010

“Here. It helps.”

– Beckett offering Jameson’s to a guest.

But don’t forget Salvador Dali’s answer to John, Paul, George and Ringo when the Beatles asked him why he didn’t do drugs. You can imagine a twist of the famous mustache, an arch of the famous eyebrow.

“I am drugs,” he said.

Posted by Jon Owen.

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The tallest building in the world.

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Posted by Jim Swift.

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Sorry Såladin. Posted by Jon Owen. Hat tip to This Ain’t Happiness.

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I’ve made the case before that one of the most powerful, unique (and still underused), practical strengths of film language is its aptitude for metaphors of scale. Here’s a recent proof of concept. (Here’s another.)

And here’s the theory: the uncanny pleasure to be found in these macro-miniature toyscapes is so pronounced because paradoxes of scale appeal simultaneously to two separate brain regions: one responsible for processing metaphor, the other for metonymy. [See below for the neuroscience.]

In brief, these paradoxes are packed with comparisons of both kind (metaphor) and degree (metonymy). That’s shorthand, but will do for the moment. A miniature is a model metaphor for our own world, but the miniature relationships within that model are metonyms of compressed degree; the fisherman and the super-tanker suddenly don’t seem so different here – they’re both just toys in a toy universe. Whereupon we return to the broader metaphor in an endless, mind-churning loop.

[For an intro to the linguistic and neurological backgrounds of metaphor and metonymy see Saussure via Jakobson in this short paper by Edward Jayne.]

We’ll continue on this theme in future posts, but take the moment to revel in the ticklish pad des deux of brain regions which seldom even shake hands, and keep an eye out for possible metaphors of scale in your own work.

Here are some other well known examples of this neural enjambent using different scaling methods:

  • The snow globe opening in Citizen Kane.
  • The match cut to the sun in Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Jack Torrance studying the maze (and his tiny, tiny family), in The Shining.
  • Roy Neary sculpting The Devil’s Tower National Monument in his living room in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (An entire movie about the pleasures of scale).
  • The opening crane shot over the city of London in Olivier’s Henry V.
  • No image of this one, but the tiny moth returning to Gandalf’s hand on the Orthanc followed by the arc light reveal of an approaching eagle the size of a Beechcraft in Peter Jackson’s LOTR counts too.

We live in a universe of uncanny spatial relationships – hearts to heavens, bosons to branes (so far). These visual metaphors briefly close the gap on what are normally inconceivable gulfs of scale.

[Look to see this technique, using a tilt-shft lens with a DSLR or the Red Camera, coming to a credit sequence near you! (David Fincher, are you reading this?)]

Shot on a Canon DSLR. Posted by Såladin. Thanks to Keith Loutit.

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When renowned chef Eric Ripert and Le Bernardin flew a famous Puerto Rican pig master, one of his prize yearlings, and a sack of island fired charcoal direct to the Bronx for a slow flame roasting (courtesy of a Buick ‘driveshaft’ – see the vid), Josh Ozersky and I had to make our way to the smoky altar. I grabbed our new Canon 5D Mark II, and guided by a wayward GPS through the urban labyrinth of the south Bronx (my first trip in fifteen years a New Yorker – and an hour long ‘adventure’), we eventually arrived at a Puerto Rican community center and the site of the sacrifice. We spent the day shooting, (and eating and drinking) and the result has prompted Narrative Arts’s involvement with Josh’s daily food documentary: Ozersky.TV/ (bookmark or subscribe if you please), with Ben Leventhal (of eater.com). We launched today.

The camera was magnificent in each environment. I shot with the handy 24-105 f.4 and made a picture profile in camera to bring out the golden tones of the pork and the bronze/pewter interiors of Le Bernardin. With lens stabilization, hand-held is a buoyant, fluid daydream and the action on the focus and zoom rings is smooth and steady with just the right tension. It’s the finest camera I’ve ever worked with.

Link directly to Ozersky.tv/ for many more vids over the course of the year with the finest chefs, best dishes, supreme purveyors, and most celebrated eateries in New York city, the boroughs – and soon the world.

Shot with Canon 5D Mark II. Posted by Såladin. Thanks to Jeff Larson.

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What many current Hollywood directors will be watching in hell.

It’s subtle, but just as though you’ve held your breath, the tension mounts with every passing second in these heroically long takes.

Posted by Jon Owen. Special thanks to the steely eyed insights of Jim Emerson.

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