reading the pictures

While I initially thought that Roger Ebert’s How to Read a Movie seemed intimidatingly long from the scroll bar (it turns out it just had a vast comment section), it turned out to be a short summary that comprehensively covered the basics.

The literal sea of comments that take up more than half the page (!!!)

Overall this article puts a huge emphasis on how the left side of the screen is negative; with the right being positive, as it is more dominating. This is a universal trope, even present in cultures that read from right to left. As such, the rightward movement appears more favorably than its counterpart. Similarly, the top of the shot dominates over the bottom and the foreground has more strength than the background (this one is pretty obvious in my opinion). The text continues on to emphasize the usage and significance of these techniques, even providing a film example with Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious.

Why Watch This- Retro Movie Reviews] Notorious 1946 - Been & Going

Throughout the article, Ebert strongly emphasizes that all of these concepts are not rigid and they can be (and often are) subverted. This comes as no surprise to me, as throughout storytelling and filmmaking, the concept of subverting tropes is often employed. While I often enjoy analyzing the thematic and story elements of films, I don’t really know that much when it comes to the visual and cinematographic aspects, so I feel like I learned a lot. I will definitely take everything I learned into consideration whenever I watch a film or even a TV show.

Now on to checking out some cinematic techniques.

Tarantino // from Below

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Though this shot centers on Gogo it still shows The Bride as a dominating figure

At first glance, the characters look dominating. Applying what I just learned, I have a better understanding of why. Firstly, the top is dominant over the bottom. An angle that is over the character’s eyeline enhances them, and low angles make them appear god-like. These types of shots are iconic to Tarantino’s ultraviolent films, emphasizing positions of power, and the strengths that weapons hold.

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Sunmi’s highly camp ‘You can’t sit with us’ music video references classic movies and pays homage to the nostalgia of video rental stores. It features a from below shot in a scene of violence immediately drawing reference to Tarantino’s work.

The Shining // Zooms

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The iconic “Kubrick stare” zoom

While not really touched on in the article, zooms can play a huge factor in telling a story. A zoom-in can draw attention to a character, while a zoom-out does more to show the scene than the character, while still establishing their existence. Such shots are staples of many films directed by Kubrick, with the term “Kubrick stare” even being coined in reference.

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