Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK VS. TOM HOOPER AND ART OF CINEMATIC AFFECTATION

The emperor has no clothes. 

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK VS. TOM HOOPER AND ART OF CINEMATIC AFFECTATION

1.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE PLACEMENT OF A CAMERA IN A FILM HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON YOU AS A VIEWER?

FOR SOME OF YOU, OF COURSE YOU KNOW THAT.

FOR OTHERS, MAYBE YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT. MAYBE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND JUST HOW MUCH A CERTAIN ANGLE AND WHAT IS PRECISELY SHOWN IN IT CONVEYS NOT JUST A VERY SPECIFIC MEANING, BUT HAS A DIRECT PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT ON YOU THAT RESULTS IN A CAREFUL AND PURPOSEFUL MANIPULATION OF YOUR EMOTIONS.

AND FOR MOST OF YOU OUT THERE, YOU INSTINCTIVELY KNOW WHAT HULK IS TALKING ABOUT, BUT PERHAPS DON'T UNDERSTAND THE SPECIFICS, THE LANGUAGE, OR MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL, JUST HOW MUCH IT TRULY MATTERS.

HULK HAS TALKED ON AND ON ABOUT HOW MUCH SOUND IS "THE ACTUAL VISCERAL EXPERIENCE OF MOVIES," AND THAT IS VERY MUCH TRUE, BUT THAT STATEMENT IS NOT TO DOWNPLAY THE STUNNING IMPORTANCE OF CINEMATOGRAPHY THAT CONVEYS BOTH INFORMATION AND FEELING TOO. EVERY USE OF ANGLES, SPECIFIC CAMERA, LENS, PROXIMITY AND FRAMING HAS A DIRECT CORRELATION ON HOW THE VIEWER TAKES IN THE INFORMATION. IT IS NOT AN ACCIDENT THAT THEY CALL THE FILM CAMERA "GOD'S EYE" BECAUSE IT'S OUR GATEWAY TO OMNISCIENT EXPERIENCE. AND IT ALL ADDS UP TO ONE VERY SIMPLE NOTION:

CINEMATOGRAPHY MATTERS.

AND BECAUSE OF THAT SIMPLE NOTION, HULK DREAMED A DREAM THAT TOM HOOPER KNEW WHERE TO STICK A FUCKING CAMERA.

2.

IT IS BOTH VERY EASY AND VERY PRECARIOUS FOR HULK TO SIT HERE AND LOB NEGATIVE ASSESSMENTS FROM AFAR. ESPECIALLY GIVEN THAT TOM HOOPER IS A RESPECTED PERSON IN THE FIELD AND HAS WON AN OSCAR FOR THE VERY THING FOR WHICH HULK IS CRITICIZING HIM. BUT THIS ISN'T ABOUT PUBLIC SNIPING OR THE TAKING DOWN OF SACRED COWS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IT EVEN GOES FAR BEYOND THE DIFFICULTIES OF SWAYING THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION AS THERE HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN ENOUGH PEOPLE DAMNING HIS CHOICES LATELY THAT SWAYING MAY NOT EVEN BE NECESSARY. BUT INSTEAD OF EXPLAINING SIMPLY THAT IT IS BAD, HULK THOUGHT IT WAS HIGH TIME TO EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHY IT IS BAD IN TYPICAL THOROUGH HULK-FASHION.

BECAUSE IN THE END, THIS IS ONLY EVER ABOUT US ALL UNDERSTANDING CINEMA BETTER. AND THERE CAN BE NO TRUER GOAL THAN THAT.

BUT BEFORE WE GO ON, HULK REALLY DOES HAVE TO EMPHASIZE JUST HOW MUCH HULK HATES THESE THINGS. HULK'S GOT TOO MUCH OF AN EMPATHETIC BURDEN TO FIND THIS TAKE-DOWN STUFF ANY FUN. SO THIS COMES FROM A BELIEF THAT WE SIMPLY HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT. WE HAVE TO ISSUE A WARNING TO THOSE OUT THERE DISCOVERING CINEMA THAT "THIS ISN'T THE WAY" OR SOMETHING EQUALLY SILLY. PERHAPS HULK'S NEVER HATE A MOVIE/DIRECTOR MANTRA IS THE IMPORTANT THING TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT WHAT IS TO FOLLOW. IT'S NOT ABOUT TAKING PEOPLE DOWN A PEG. IT'S ABOUT UNDERSTANDING WHY THINGS WORK AND HAVING THE BEST POSSIBLE CONVERSATION ABOUT IT IN THE PROCESS.

BUT WHAT IS PERHAPS MOST TROUBLESOME ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT MATTER IS THAT TOM HOOPER DOES SEEM TO BE RATHER GREAT WITH ACTORS. EXCEPTIONAL EVEN. EVERY PROJECT HULK HAS SEEN OF HIS IS FILLED FROM HEAD TO TOE WITH EXCELLENT PERFORMANCES, AND THAT MAKES IT WORTH HOPING HE COMES AROUND. IF HE WAS SIMPLY INFERIOR ALL AROUND, CHANCES ARE WE WOULDN'T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION (OR EVEN BE IN A POSITION TO HAVE IT). BUT THERE'S SO MUCH GOOD THERE.

AND SO MUCH BAD THAT GETS IN HIS OWN WAY.

3.

HULK DOESN'T TALK ABOUT CINEMATOGRAPHY ALL THAT MUCH IN THESE COLUMNS. THE REASON IS THAT IT'S KIND OF BORING TO DISCUSS. A LOT OF IT IS MINUTIAE. IT'S SCIENTIFIC. IT'S NERDY. AND QUITE FRANKLY, THERE IS RARELY A CASE WHERE ONE HAS TO BRING IT UP. AND THAT'S BECAUSE MOST PROFESSIONALS HAVE A DAMN GOOD IDEA ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE DOING WITH A CAMERA AND WHAT LOOKS GOOD AND IT ONLY SEEMS TO BECOME A PROBLEM WHEN THEY ARE BROUGHT IN THE WRONG DIRECTION BY AN ADVENTUROUS DIRECTOR (CUE THIS ENTIRE CONVERSATION).

THE OTHER REASON IS THAT HULK DOESN'T WANT TO PRESENT HULK-SELF AS SOME KIND OF AUTHORITY ON THE ISSUE. ONE OF THE REASONS HULK BROUGHT IN A COLLABORATOR ON THE ACTION COLUMNS WITH TOM TOWNEND, WAS THAT VERY APPREHENSION (ALSO TOM IS FUNNY AS HELL). BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE BASICS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE THEORY OF CINEMATIC AFFECTATION, HULK FEELS MUCH MORE CONFIDENT IN CONVEYING A FEW KEY IDEAS.

AND HULK OWES MOST OF IT TO THIS MAN.

THE MAN'S NAME IS GORDON WILLIS.

AND IN THIS HULK'S OPINION HE IS THE GREATEST CINEMATOGRAPHER OF ALL TIME. MANY OF THE REASONS FOR WHICH DEAL WITH AESTHETICS, MANTRA AND PERSONAL PREFERENCE, BUT YOU MAY NEED NO MORE CONVINCING THAN THE FACT THAT HE SHOT BOTH THE GODFATHER AND THE GODFATHER PART II. BUT LET US ALSO NOT FORGET HE SHOT THE PAPER CHASE AND ALAN J. PAKULA'S MASTERPIECES ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, THE PARALLAX VIEW AND KLUTE. OH, AND LET'S JUST THROW IN THE FACT THAT HE SHOT THE FILMS THAT EASILY QUALIFY AS WOODY ALLEN'S BEST IN ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, INTERIORS, STARDUST MEMORIES, ZELIG AND THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

... YEAH. PEOPLE HAVE HAD WORSE RESUMES.

BUT HIS INFLUENCE UPON HULK, BEYOND HIS WORK ITSELF, WAS PURE HAPPENSTANCE. IT WAS HULK'S FIRST CINEMATOGRAPHY CLASS AND AS A FRIEND OF THE PROFESSOR, HE CAME TO VISIT. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. HE'S THE KIND OF PERSON EVEN A BUNCH OF OVERLY-COCKY TEENAGERS WOULD SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO. BUT HIS ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE IDEAS WAS THE MOST REMARKABLE PART. HE HAD A NO BULLSHIT ATTITUDE THAT COULD CUT THROUGH ALMOST ANYTHING, BUT IT WASN'T AN ATTITUDE THAT WAS MEANT TO BE BRAZEN. IT WAS QUIET. IT WAS CONFIDENT. IT CAME FROM A SENSE OF WISDOM. AND THE ODD THING IS THAT RIGHT AFTER THAT VERY FIRST VISIT, HULK'S PROFESSOR SUDDENLY FELL ILL (HE ENDED UP BEING FINE, DON'T WORRY), BUT HE STILL COULD NOT COME IN TO TEACH FOR A LONG, LONG TIME... SO MR. WILLIS DECIDED TO "HANG OUT FOR A WHILE."

WHEN HULK SAYS THAT GORDON WILLIS WAS (SORT OF) HULK'S FIRST CINEMATOGRAPHY TEACHER, PEOPLE CAN'T SEEM TO BELIEVE IT. IT WAS LARGELY INFORMAL. IT WAS DUMB LUCK. AND SOMETHING THAT SEEMS MORE RIDICULOUS AS TIME PASSES. BUT HULK KNEW ENOUGH AT THE TIME TO DIVE HEADLONG INTO IT... PERHAPS TOO MUCH SO. HULK, EVER THE STUDIOUS GAMMA-IRRADIATED LITTLE MONSTER, WAS PERHAPS A BIT OVERZEALOUS IN FREQUENT QUESTIONS AND EMAILS. BUT LUCKILY, WILLIS WAS GOOD-NATURED ENOUGH TO HUMOR HULK.

BUT WHAT THE EXPERIENCE TAUGHT HULK IS THERE IS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH PRECEDENCE IN THIS WORLD FOR VALUING HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE SET OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT. HIS LESSONS IN THOSE FEW SHORT WEEKS CONSTITUTE A BREADTH OF KNOWLEDGE THAT HULK FINDS BOTH MORE TRUE AND MORE VALUABLE WITH EVERY PASSING YEAR. EVEN HIS RANDOM ASIDES CONSTITUTED SOME OF THE MOST PROPHETIC THINGS THAT HULK HAS EVER HEARD ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WITH THE FILM INDUSTRY (AND WILL STILL HAPPEN). SO OFTEN HE LAUGHED AT A BUNCH OF TEENAGERS WHO DIDN'T REALIZE THEY WOULD HAVE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES TO PLAY WITH CAMERAS AND INSTEAD FOCUSED ON THE CORE CENTRAL TENETS OF THE THEORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY. HE HATED COMPLICATED DIAGRAMS AND OVERT OSTENTATIOUS DESIGN. HE EMBRACED BASIC CINEMATIC NOTIONS THAT HE ARGUED "had been working just fine since the 20's, so don't knock 'em." HE COULD ALWAYS JUST MAKE IT SO CLEAR FOR US IN LEARNING PURPOSES "This makes us feel this" AND "That makes us feel that" AND ALL OF THESE NUGGETS HE CHALKED UP TO WHAT HE TALKED ABOUT THE MOST IN THE TERM: "Cinematic Affectation."

IN SHORT: HE ALWAYS ADVOCATED THE NOTION OF DOING THE MOST APPROPRIATE THING FOR A SCENE. CONVEYING THE MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION, WHETHER IT BE EMOTIONAL OR OTHERWISE, WAS THE ONLY JOB. HE BRUSHED OFF HIS FAMOUS SHOTS INCLUDING THE FAMOUS PULL-UP IN THE LIBRARY IN ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN: "[paraphrasing]: I had to show that they were looking for a needle in a haystack. So I just showed that. It didn't become famous because it was good shot. It became famous because it had the right information. It told the story." HE TALKED ABOUT HATING THE CONCEPT OF HAVING A SINGULAR STYLE, SAID YOU COULD NEVER JUST LAYER AN AESTHETIC OVER A FILM. YOU EVEN LOOK AT HIS WIKI PAGE AND HIS FIRST QUOTE ABOUT THE GODFATHER HITS YOU SQUARE IN THE NUTS: "You can decide this movie has got a dark palette. But you can't spend two hours on a dark palette. . . So you've got this high-key, Kodachrome wedding going on. Now you go back inside and it's dark again. You can't, in my mind, put both feet into a bucket of cement and leave them there for the whole movie. It doesn't work. You must have this relativity."

*COUGH COUGH FINCHER*

WHAT?

NOTHING.

OH, RIGHT. WRONG GUY. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT TOM HOOPER AND THE FACT THAT HE WANTED TO MAKE AN "INTIMATE" AND "ORGANIC" LES MIS SO HE FILMED THE ENTIRE THING IN CLOSE-UP AND HAND-HELD.

DESPITE THE FACT THAT THAT WAS INAPPROPRIATE FOR ABOUT 90% OF THE MOVIE.

YUP. HE PUT BOTH FEET IN THE BUCKET OF CEMENT.

4.

OKAY. SO NO ONE EVER ACTUALLY EXPLAINS WHAT MAKES GOOD AND BAD CINEMATOGRAPHY AND WHY A CHOICE WILL WORK IN ONE SETTING AND NOT IN ANOTHER. SO LET'S TALK CINEMATOGRAPHY THEORY BASICS WITH A LITTLE MINI-COLUMN THAT HULK WILL CALL: "CINEMATIC AFFECTATION 101." HULK ISN'T GOING TO EXPLAIN THE SHOTS IN DETAIL OR ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU CAN SUPPLEMENT THAT INFORMATION ANYWHERE. HULK'S POINT IS TO DISCUSS THE WAY THOSE SHOTS AFFECT YOU.

NOTE: IF YOU'RE A NEWBIE, STICK THIS LIST SOMEWHERE. AND LET HULK KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS.

A) FIRST UP HULK IS GOING TO EXPLAIN BASIC CONCEPTS OF "SHOTS." ONE JUDGES WHAT CONSTITUTES "A SHOT" BY THE SIZE OF THE SUBJECT, HOW MUCH WE CAN SEE OF IT AND HOW CLOSE WE ARE. A WIDE SHOT COVERS A LOT OF SPACE WHETHER IT BE A LANDSCAPE OR A ROOM, AND IT ESTABLISHES THE NEEDED SCOPE, GEOGRAPHY, SPACE AND CONTEXT.

B) MEANWHILE, A CLOSE-UP IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS FILMMAKERS HAVE AT THEIR DISPOSAL. IT BRINGS US CLOSE TO AN ACTOR TO SEE EVERY BIT OF EMOTION ON HER OR HIS FACE... BUT THERE'S A DELICATE ART TO IT. LETTING US CLOSE TO AN ACTOR'S FACE MAKES FOR SUCH A UNIQUELY INTIMATE MOMENT THAT IF YOU DO IT FOR TOO MUCH TIME IT LOSES ITS EFFECT. BUT IF YOU'RE TOO FAR AWAY IN A GIVEN MOMENT WHERE YOU NEED TO CONNECT, IT CAN BE EQUALLY DAMAGING. BUT WHILE FINDING THE BALANCE IS DIFFICULT TO PERFECT, MOST FILMMAKERS AND CINEMATOGRAPHERS STILL UNDERSTAND THE REMARKABLE POWER OF THE CLOSE-UP AND HOW IT MUST HAVE CONTEXT WITHIN A MOVIE.

C) A STATIC SHOT IS THE BASE LANGUAGE OF ALL FILMMAKING. IT PRESENTS THE SUBJECT PLAINLY, BUT THAT PLAINNESS IS ITS OWN LANGUAGE IF USED CORRECTLY (THINK OF HOW FILMS BUILD UP "NORMALCY" BY NOT STYLIZING THEIR FILMS AND BRING THE SUBJECTS TO THE FOREFRONT).

D) A HAND-HELD SHOT IS AKIN TO "GOD'S EYE" SUDDENLY BEING OFF-KILTER. NOW. IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY LEND ITSELF TO AN AUTOMATIC DOCU-LIKE AFFECTATION, WHERE THE INTENT IS TO MAKE GOD'S EYE HUMAN (THOUGH IT CAN IF THAT'S THE INTENTION), HAND-HELD IS MORE OF GENERAL WAY TO CHARACTERIZE THAT WE LOSE THE STABILITY OF THE STATIC SHOT AND EMBRACE A WILDER SENSE OF OUR CINEMATIC WORLD. IT IS THE SENSE OF THINGS NOW BEING SOMEWHAT OUT OF CONTROL AND UNEASY. WHAT HULK HOPES TO CONVEY IS THAT HAND-HELD DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY = REAL. COOL? COOL.

E) A DOLLY SHOT (CAMERA ON A RIG WITH TRACKS) PUTS THE CAMERA'S EYE IN MOTION, BUT JUST ON THE HORIZONTAL PLANE. IT PUTS THE ENTIRE WORLD IN MOTION AND GIVES THE VIEWER A SENSE OF CONTROL, BELIEVE IT OR NOT. WE FEEL LESS LIKE WE ARE WATCHING AND MORE LIKE WE ARE INVESTIGATING IF THAT MAKES SENSE. WHILE OUR PERSPECTIVE CAN MOVE, WITHOUT THE Y-AXIS IT IS MORE OF THE VOYEUR TRAVELING WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

F) A STEADY-CAM / CRANE SHOT FUNCTIONS LIKE A DOLLY, BUT WITH EVEN MORE  FLUIDITY AND USE OF THE Y-AXIS. IT IS THE TRUE GOD'S EYE VIEW. ALL-SEEING, BUT ORNATE AND QUITE POWERFUL. ALMOST DREAM-LIKE POWER. LIKE THE CLOSE-UP THERE IS A DICHOTOMY. NOT ENOUGH STEADY-CAM OR DIVING INTO THAT KIND OF SHOT WITHOUT A GOOD REASON CAN FEEL LIKE A SUDDEN BREAK IN HOW YOU SEE THE FILM'S UNIVERSE. BUT SINCE MOST HOLLYWOOD FILMS SHOOT AS MUCH AS THEY CAN ON STEADY-CAM THESE DAYS, THEY FALL VICTIM TO THE OPPOSITE EFFECT AND LOSE THE POWER OF THE SHOT'S REAL PURPOSE.

(NOTE: NOW IS AS GOOD A PLACE AS ANY TO TALK ABOUT THIS, AS POINTS D THROUGH F CAN ALL CONSTITUTE A SIMILAR TERM FOR A CAMERA MOVE CALLED A "TRACKING SHOT." PEOPLE USE THIS TERM ALL THE TIME AND THE WHOLE USAGE ISSUE SECRETLY DRIVES HULK FUCKING NUTS. AND THE REASON IS THAT PEOPLE MISTAKE "TRACKING SHOT" FOR MEANING "A SHOT THAT TRACKS THE SUBJECT," BUT THAT'S NOT WHERE IT COMES FROM AT ALL. HISTORY! ONCE UPON A TIME ALL MOVING SHOTS HAD TO BE DONE ON DOLLIES BECAUSE THERE WAS NO OTHER EQUIPMENT. AND FOR DOLLIES YOU NEEDED TO LAY DOWN ACTUAL "TRACK," HENCE "TRACKING SHOT." THE PROBLEM IS ONCE WE STARTED MAKING RUDIMENTARY CRANES AND EVENTUALLY STEADY-CAMS, A LOT OF PEOPLE KEPT CALLING IT "TRACKING SHOTS," BUT YOU WILL FIND CINEMATOGRAPHERS WHO ONLY USE THE TERM MEANING DOLLY SHOTS, ONES WHO USE THE TERM FOR JUST WHEN A SHOT "TRACKS THE SUBJECT FROM BEHIND" AND NOT ANYTHING ELSE, AND ONES WHO USE IT TO MEAN ANYTHING. JUST A TIP CAUSE IT'S SILLY SO HULK NEVER USES THE WORD EVER. DOLLY. STEADY-CAM. CRANE. THAT'S IT).

G) A DUTCH ANGLE IS MEANT TO MAKE US AND THE WORLD FEEL OFF-KILTER.

H) AS FOR CHARACTER EYE-LINES, MOST OF THE TIME A CHARACTER LOOKS "WITHIN 45" (DEGREES), MEANING THEY ARE COMMUNICATING WITH ANOTHER CHARACTER EITHER WITHIN THE FRAME OR JUST OUTSIDE OF THE FRAME, AND THIS GIVES US JUST ENOUGH VISIBILITY TO SEE THE FULL INFORMATION OF WHAT THEIR EYES ARE DOING AND COMMUNICATE THEIR EMOTIONS BEAUTIFULLY, WHILE STILL HAVING THE ADDED BENEFIT OF THEIR NOT LOOKING AT THE CAMERA/AUDIENCE AND BREAKING THAT EMOTION.

I) WHEN A CHARACTER LOOKS COMPLETELY AWAY FROM A CAMERA THEY INSTANTLY BECOME A MYSTERY, AND EVEN IF THEY ARE TRYING TO HIDE SOMETHING, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT WE ARE STILL MISSING THE QUALITY THAT BEST SHOWS THEIR EMOTIONAL CONNECTION (THEIR FACE). SO IF YOU TURN A CHARACTER AWAY, PLEASE UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH RESONANCE YOU ARE LOSING (HULK'S LOOKING AT YOU, EAT PRAY LOVE).

J) WHEN A CHARACTER LOOKS DIRECTLY INTO A CAMERA, IT IS... UNNERVING. OFF-PUTTING. CREEPY. EVEN SCARY. AND THAT'S BECAUSE UNLESS WE'RE A STAND-IN FOR A CHARACTER THE PERSON IS TALKING TO (THINK SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) IT IS EFFECTIVELY "BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL" AND THE SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH THE AUDIENCE. IT AUTOMATICALLY MAKES US THE VOYEUR. AND EVEN IF WE ARE THE LITERAL STAND-IN FOR THE CHARACTER P.O.V. SO THAT IT DOESN'T BREAK THE FOURTH WALL, IT SHOULD STILL HAVE THE DIRECT INTENTION OF CREEPING US OUT.

K) WITH LENSES YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY TALKING ABOUT TWO ARENAS: DEPTH AND ANGLE. A LENS WITH A DEEP FOCUS CAN SHOW LOTS OF INFORMATION IN BOTH THE FOREGROUND WITH THE SUBJECT AND DEEP IN THE BACKGROUND AS WELL. IT'S GOOD FOR LANDSCAPES OR WHENEVER YOU WANT TO PUT A SUBJECT IN DETAILED CONTEXT WITH THE SURROUNDING AREA.

L) A LENS WITH A SHALLOW FOCUS WILL MAKE ANYTHING NOT ON THE PLANE WITH THE SUBJECT SEEM OUT OF FOCUS, WHICH HAS THE BENEFIT OF JUST GETTING YOU TO FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS AND EVERYTHING IN THE BACKGROUND OR IMMEDIATE FOREGROUND SEEM UNIMPORTANT.

M) MEANWHILE THE ANGLE OF THE LENS AFFECTS THE SIZE OF THE INFORMATION DEPENDING HOW CLOSE IT IS. FOR INSTANCE, A "NORMAL LENS" WILL ACT LIKE OUR EYE DOES AND EFFECTIVELY CORRECT EVERYTHING SO THAT IT BOTH HAS A SENSE OF DEPTH, BUT APPEARS "FLAT" TO A CERTAIN DEGREE (FYI - OUR EYE, AKA THE WAY WE SEE THE WORLD, IS SUPPOSEDLY CLOSEST TO A 50MM LENS.)

N) BUT A "WIDE-ANGLED LENS" WILL MAKE EVERYTHING CLOSE TO THE CAMERA SEEM HUGE AND BULBOUS AND EVERYTHING FAR AWAY SEEM SMALL AND TINY. IT HAS A RATHER DRAMATIC, SURREAL EFFECT ON THE VIEWER AND IT LOOKS LIKE THIS:

NOTE: THERE'S A REASON CINEMATOGRAPHERS ARE OBSESSED WITH LENSES AND COULD KIND OF GIVE FUCK ALL ABOUT THE CAMERA: THE LENSES CONTROL WHAT YOU SEE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. IT'S THAT SIMPLE. SO MIX AND MATCH LENS ANGLE AND DEPTH UNTIL YOU GET THE CLARITY AND SIZE OF IMAGE YOU WANT AND IT CONVEYS WHAT YOU WANT YOUR STORY TO CONVEY.

O) WHEN IT COMES TO TONE AND COLOR, A WARM SUMMER PALETTE MAKES THINGS FEEL ROMANTIC AND SUMPTUOUS.

P) A COOL BLUE SHEEN MAKES THINGS FEEL DISTANT, COLD AND POSSIBLY UNRUFFLED OR "COOL."

Q) COMEDIES, ROMANTIC OR OTHERWISE, ARE OFTEN SHOT IN HIGH-KEY LIGHT (MEANING EVERYTHING IS REALLY BRIGHTLY LIT AND DETAILED AND THERE'S NO CONTRAST) WHICH MAKES THE ACTORS LOOK GOOD, BUT IT HAS THE ADDED BENEFIT OF MAKING THE AUDIENCE FEEL COMFORTABLE. SERIOUSLY, IT MAKES US FEEL LIKE NOTHING TRULY WRONG COULD HAPPEN. IT REPRESENTS SAFETY AND "MOVIE NORMALCY."

R) DRAMA IS LOW-KEY LIGHTING. HIGH CONTRAST. SHADOWS. LOTS OF SHADES OF GRAY AND GRADIENT. IT IS ESSENTIALLY MORE "DESIGNED" AND SIGNIFIES TO US A MORE SERIOUS, DANGEROUS, TRAGIC AND SAD WORLD.

TA-DA!

THAT'S IT! HULK COULD PROBABLY THINK OF A S-Z, BUT THAT'S ALL THE RELEVANT STUFF FOR TODAY. THEM'S THE BASICS AND HULK HOPES THAT WAS FAIRLY SIMPLE AND SELF-EXPLANATORY. AFTER ALL, THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

BUT WHAT A DIRECTOR OR CINEMATOGRAPHER DOES THAT IS TRULY REMARKABLE AND KIND OF LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE IS TO USE THESE BASICS TO THEIR ADVANTAGE TO CRAFT MOMENTS. LIKE HOW EISENSTEIN DISCOVERED STORY VIA EDIT, YOU CAN CREATE STORY VIA CAMERA INFORMATION. GREAT DIRECTORS MAKE YOU FEEL ONE WAY AND THEN PUSH YOU IN ANOTHER DIRECTION WITH THAT BASIC LANGUAGE. FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU'RE WATCHING A SCENE WHERE THINGS ARE STILL FOR A PERIOD OF TIME AND SUDDENLY THE CAMERA IS HAND-HELD AND SHAKY, IT GIVES THE AUDIENCE A WORRIED FEELING THAT SOMETHING BAD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. OR YOU CAN EVEN USE THE EXACT OPPOSITE TO THE SAME EFFECT, WHERE A CHARACTER WILL BE IN MOTION AND WE'LL BE COMFORTABLE WITH IT AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THINGS MAY GET RATHER STILL AND QUIET. WE'LL PAUSE WITH THEM AND FEEL UNNERVED THAT THINGS ARE PROGRESSING IN THE SAME WAY. CINEMA IS A LANGUAGE AND THE WAY WE USE IT, INVERT IT AND COMMUNICATE WITH IT IS EVERYTHING. AND WITH THAT UNDERSTANDING YOU CAN STRETCH THE LIMITS OF CINEMA, TEST THE BOUNDARIES OF ART AND JUXTAPOSE STORY AND MEANING AND THEMES AND SYMBOLS AND SHAPE OUR EXPERIENCE IN THE NAME OF SOMETHING BETTER. TO OUR HIGHEST POSSIBLE SELVES.

BUT THE BASICS HAVE BEEN, ARE AND WILL ALWAYS BE THE FOUNDATION OF HOW WE GET THERE.

5.

SOMETIMES IT'S EASIER TO TALK ABOUT THE BASICS OF CINEMA AND HOW TO USE THEM BY NOT TALKING ABOUT CINEMA WHATSOEVER. SO LET'S TRY THAT FOR A BRIEF MOMENT.

COOKING IS COOKING.

IT'S THE SCIENCE OF HEAT AND APPLICATION TO FOOD. TO COOK IS TO LITERALLY DEHYDRATE. THAT'S IT. BUT IT'S ALSO OTHER BASICS LIKE PARTICLES AND NUTRIENTS. IT'S WHAT TASTES GOOD AND EXCITES OUR BRAINS, TONGUES AND STOMACHS. AND NO MATTER HOW FAR ALONG WE COME IN OUR UNDERSTANDING, NO MATTER HOW MANY FOODS WE DECONSTRUCT OR MOLECULAR GASTRONIMIZE, THE BASICS ARE THE BASICS.

AND TO WATCH THE GREATEST CHEFS IN THE WORLD, AS THEY SOUS VIDE A FINE, TRUE JAPANESE WAGYU AND SERVE DEHYDRATED FOREST MUSHROOM WITH ESPUMA OF RED RADISH AND COMPRESSED "EGGS OF THE SUN" (JAPANESE MANGO), AND EDIBLE FORAGED WILDFLOWER, AND... TO POSSIBLY GET LOST IN THE DETAILS OF ALL THIS ORNATE PRESENTATION, IS TO MISS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY FUCKING WITH THE BASICS. IT'S "STEAK AND EGGS" WITH MUSHROOMS. AND IT'S JUST TRYING TO HIT THE SAME FLAVOR NOTES WITH DIFFERENT TERMINOLOGY.

SWEET. SALTY. SOUR. BITTER. UMAMI. THE WAY THESE FIVE THINGS ARE PLAYED WITH, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, ARE EVERLASTING. WARM. CRISPY. COOL. CLEAN. THESE TEXTURES THAT HAVE BEEN PLAYED WITH OVER AND OVER ARE EVERLASTING TOO. AND THE WAY WE BRING IT ALL TOGETHER IS COOKING. THE NAMES OF THE STARCHES AND ANIMALS AND DAIRIES AND VEGETABLES WHICH CONTAIN ALL THESE ELEMENTS MIGHT CHANGE, AS DO THE PROPER NAMES OF THE EQUIPMENT WE USE TO APPLY HEAT AND DEHYDRATE THEM, BUT IT IS ALL STILL COOKING. AND THE BASICS OF COOKING HAVE BEEN THE SAME SINCE WE THREW SOME MAMMOTH OVER A ROASTING PIT.

CINEMA IS THE SAME.

AND YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE BASICS.

6.

THE EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING LES MISÉRABLES IS ONE OF THE WEIRDEST THAT YOU CAN HAVE IN A MOVIE THEATER.

ON THE SURFACE, YOU HAVE THESE DELICATE, SOULFUL PERFORMANCES THAT YOU DO TRULY GET TO SEE. THERE'S NO DENYING THAT. THE PERFORMANCES ARE ON FULL DISPLAY. AND YOU ALSO GET TO HAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL MUSIC THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GETTING TO DISCOVER FOR THE FIRST TIME OR MAYBE EVEN RE-DISCOVER AGAIN. AFTER ALL, THE SHOW OF LES MIS IS GREAT AND HULK HAS SEEN IT MANY TIMES. THE STORY. THE TRAGEDY. THE THEMES. THE WORDS. THE SOUNDS. ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE BECOME CLASSIC FOR A REASON.

AND YET THE FILM SOMEHOW DOES NOT DO IT JUSTICE. IT DOES NOT STRIKE THE CHORD IT NEEDS TO. HULK MEAN, IT BARELY WORKS IN A PURELY FUNCTIONAL WAY BECAUSE ALL THE THINGS HULK CITES ABOVE REGISTER FOR YOU, BUT JUST BARELY. AND HULK IS POSITIVE THAT SO MANY PEOPLE WALKED OUT OF THE FILM FEELING LIKE SOMETHING WAS WRONG. MAYBE THEY JUST SAID IT FELT TOO LONG, OR DELVED INTO THE STANDARD LIST OF COMPLAINTS YOU HEAR FROM MOVIE-GOERS ABOUT WHATEVER IS THE MOST TANGIBLE DETAIL...

AND WHAT YOU PERHAPS DID NOT REALIZE WAS THAT YOUR EYE WAS CONSTANTLY AT WAR WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE.

TOM HOOPER WANTED TO MAKE AN INTIMATE FILM. HE WANTED TO MAKE AN ORGANIC FILM. HE WANTED TO MAKE AN EPIC FILM. HE WANTED TO MAKE AN INTERESTING FILM.

AND INSTEAD OF PICKING THE MOMENTS TO DO THOSE THINGS HE JUST SHOT THE ENTIRE FUCKING MOVIE IN HAND-HELD, DUTCH-ANGLED, WIDE-ANGLED, HEY-KEY-LIT, CLOSE-UPS WITH ACTORS STARING DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA.

... OKAY.

LET'S GO BACK UP TO THE BASICS SECTION AND LOOK AT THE AFFECTATION OF EACH OF THOSE DECISIONS.

SO HE WANTED TO TAKE A SOULFUL MOVIE, RIFE WITH DRAMA AND TRAGEDY, TELLING A TRULY EPIC, CLASSIC STORY BOTH IN TERMS OF SCOPE AND POLITICS, A STORY THAT FEATURES AN EMOTIONAL PERSONAL JOURNEY SPANNING DECADES WITH ALL THE CHARACTERS SINGING SONGS ABOUT HOPE AND LONGING...

AND HE FILMED IT IN A WAY THAT CONVEYS CHAOS AND DISCORD, OFF-KILTER WORLDS, SURREALISM, EVERYTHING-IS-GOING-TO-BE-OKAY-ROMANTIC-COMEDY-ISM, AND HE OVERUSED THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL OF CINEMATIC STORY CONTROL, CLOSE-UPS, BY DOING IT THE ENTIRE TIME, MEANWHILE EMPLOYING AN EQUAL METHOD THAT UNDOES THAT CLOSE-UP EFFECT BY HAVING THE CHARACTERS LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE CAMERA, WHICH HAS THE SOLE EFFECT OF BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL AND MAKING THE AUDIENCE UNCOMFORTABLE!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?

AND HE DOES ALL OF THOSE THINGS THE WHOLE FUCKING MOVIE?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!??

IT IS SUCH A BASIC AFFRONT TO EVERYTHING WE UNDERSTAND ABOUT CINEMATIC AFFECTATION. REALLY, JUST EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. HULK UNDERSTANDS HOW HOOPER COULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT HAVING A CHARACTER SING DIRECTLY AT US IN CLOSE-UP WOULD BE INTIMATE, BUT THAT IS ONLY THE CASE IF HE'S NEVER THOUGHT FOR ONE SECOND ABOUT HOW CINEMA ACTUALLY WORKS. PLUS IT SHOWS THAT ONCE HE SAW THE WAYS IN WHICH THAT METHOD WASN'T EFFECTIVE, HE DIDN'T HAVE THE UNDERSTANDING TO CORRECT IT OR SENSE THAT IT WAS WRONG IN THE FIRST PLACE, WHICH MEANS HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND HOW TO CORRECT AND EXPERIMENT. DOUBLE-PLUS IT'S JUST CREEPY IN NON-CINEMATIC CONTEXT TOO. GARFUNKEL AND OATES WROTE A SONG ABOUT IT YOU WEIRDO.

ADMITTEDLY, THE FILM HAS ITS MOMENTS WHERE THIS CHOICE KIND OF WORKS. ANNE HATHAWAY'S "I DREAMED A DREAM" IS THE MOST LAUDED PART OF THE FILM AND FOR GOOD REASON. IT'S WHEN HOOPER DECIDES TO INTERFERE THE LEAST AND PULL BACK A BIT AND LET HER PERFORMANCE COME TO US. SHE NEVER LOOKS AT THE CAMERA EITHER. IT'S SOULFUL AND AS CLOSE TO A STILL-SHOT AS WE GET IN THE FILM. IN CONTRAST, HULK IS ANNOYED BY JUST HOW MANY TIMES THE WHIPLASHING, FACE-PLANTING CAMERA WASTES HUGH JACKMAN'S SOULFUL TEARS. AND HULK KNOWS THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BLAME THIS CAMERA DECISION ON THE FACT THAT HE CHOSE TO RECORD SOUND LIVE ONSET AND THAT HAD A POSITIVE EFFECT (WHICH HULK COULD ALSO ARGUE AGAINST, BUT WHATEVER, HULK'S STAYING ON TOPIC FOR ONCE), BUT THAT'S ALSO POPPYCOCK. BOGDANOVICH PROVED THAT'S NOT NECESSARY. THIS CAMERA AESTHETIC WAS A CHOICE THROUGH AND THROUGH... A BAD ONE.

AGAIN, YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO MR. WILLIS TALKING ABOUT RELATIVITY. CONTEXT AND CHANGE MATTER TO THE VIEWER. CONVEYING THE RIGHT INFORMATION APPROPRIATE TO THE EMOTION ON SCREEN MATTERS. NOT LOSING THE POWER OF A CLOSE-UP FIVE SCENES INTO YOUR FILM MATTERS.

AND PERHAPS WHAT IS MOST DAMAGING TO HULK'S EYE IS THAT YOU STILL GET TO "SEE" THAT THE ACTORS ARE DOING GREAT WORK. YOU GET TO "SEE" THAT THE STORY IS GREAT AND "SEE" THE DRAMA AT PLAY, SO IT'S VERY EASY TO AESTHETICALLY LOOK AT EVERYTHING AND "SEE" THAT WHAT IS ACTUALLY CONTAINED WITHIN THE FILM IS DONE WELL. AND THUS, IT BECOMES SURPRISINGLY EASY TO "SAY" THAT IT IS WELL-MADE FILM.

BUT BECAUSE OF THE CINEMATOGRAPHY FLAWS, YOU ABSOLUTELY DO NOT CONNECT TO IT AS WELL AS YOU SHOULD. IT IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO PUSH YOU AWAY FROM ALL THE THINGS THAT IT DOES WELL.

AND THAT IS TRULY HEARTBREAKING.

BECAUSE EVERYONE DESERVES A GREAT LES MIS.

7.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT MOST PEOPLE WALK OUT OF THE MOVIE THEATER AND DO NOT UNDERSTAND SPECIFICALLY WHY THE MOVIE DIDN'T CONNECT WITH THEM AS WELL AS IT SHOULD HAVE. THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY GOT BORED. OR WHY THE MUSIC SEEMED TO GET TO THEM, BUT THE EXPERIENCE DIDN'T.

SO LET'S GET ANECDOTAL.

HULK SAW THE FILM WITH MAMA-HULK. THE THING TO KNOW IS THAT MAMA-HULK FREAKING LOVES MOVIES. SHE'S SEEN MORE THAN YOU CAN COUNT, CAN NAME EVERY OBSCURE ACTRESS FROM THE '40'S ON UP AND WHO WORKED WITH WHOM AND SO ON. ALSO HER FAVORITE FILM THIS YEAR WAS DJANGO UNCHAINED AND HER FAVORITE MAYBE EVER IS ABEL FERRARA'S BAD LIEUTENANT... SO YOU CAN GET A PICTURE. MORE IMPORTANTLY, SHE'S EVEN MORE WELL-VERSED IN LITERATURE BECAUSE SHE WAS AN ENGLISH TEACHER. MOVIES ARE A HOBBY, BUT BOOKS ARE HER LIFE. ALSO SHE ENJOYS THE OCCASIONAL BROADWAY SHOW. PUT IT TOGETHER AND SHE'S AN ENTERTAINMENT OMNIVORE.

BUT SHE'S NOT VERSED IN THE BASICS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY. NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE. SURE, SHE KNOWS WHEN A FILM IS PRETTY. BUT WALKING OUT SHE WAS CONFUSED BY JUST HOW MUCH HULK DISLIKED THE FILM. TO HER IT FELT OKAY.

THE CONVERSATION WENT SOMETHING VERY CLOSE TO THE FOLLOWING:

MAMA-HULK: "DID YOU LIKE IT?"

HULK: "NO. HULK ANGRY. HULK WANT SMASH THINGS."

MH: "WHY? IT WASN'T BAD OR ANYTHING. AND THE MUSIC, FOR ONE-"

H: "NO. HULK LOVES THE SHOW AND THE MUSIC IS TIMELESS. EVERYONE WAS GREAT IN IT TOO... IT WAS THE CINEMATOGRAPHY."

MH: "... DIDN'T NOTICE."

H: "HULK KNOW... HULK KNOW... MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T AND IT'S SO HARD TO EXPLAIN WITHOUT SEEMING SNOOTY... BUT HULK KNOWS YOU AND WHEN WE SEE THAT SHOW YOU CRY THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE THING, RIGHT?

MH: "PRETTY MUCH, YES."

HULK: "AND SO DOES HULK. AND DURING GREAT SAD MOVIES WE CRY TOO. BUT THE CAMERA LANGUAGE IN THIS FILM IS DOING ALL THESE SUBTLE WRONG THINGS TO MAKES US NOT CONNECT WITH THE MOVIE AS WELL AS WE SHOULD. IT'S USING THE LANGUAGE WRONG. AND SO WE DON'T CRY."

MH: "MAMA-HULK CRIED A LITTLE THOUGH."

HULK: "OKAY. OKAY, PUT IT LIKE THIS. YOU'RE AN ENGLISH TEACHER. PRETEND SOMEONE WAS PRINTING A NEW EDITION OF HAMLET. ONLY INSTEAD OF UNDERSTANDING THE WAY TO PRINT SHAKESPEARE'S WORDS AND FORMAT, PRETEND THEY JUST THREW ALL THE WORDS ON PAGES INTO ONE BIG PARAGRAPH AND DIDN'T CARE ABOUT THE LANGUAGE OR THE RHYTHMS OR THE PRESENTATION AND JUST PUT A NEW PARAGRAPH EVERY ONCE AND AWHILE."

MH: "IT'S A PLAY, THAT DOESN'T MAKE SEN-"

HULK: "WHATEVER, IT'S A BAD ANALOGY! THE POINT IS A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T REALIZE SHAKESPEARE WAS SUPPOSED TO LOOK A CERTAIN WAY WOULDN'T NOTICE. BUT OTHERS WOULD BE AGHAST. AND THAT'S WHAT JUST HAPPENED IN TERMS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY. THEY FUCKED WITH WHAT SHAKESPEARE IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE."

MH: "LOVE LES MIS, BUT IT'S NOT EXACTLY SHAKESPEARE."

H: "YOU GET HULK'S POINT, THOUGH, RIGHT?"

MH: "YES... THAT WOULD SUCK."

AND THEN WE WENT HOME AND ARGUED MORE OVER WINE AND PROBABLY ENDED UP TALKING ABOUT PRIME SUSPECT OR SOMETHING... IT'S HOW WE DO.

8.

IN THE YEAR 1968 JOHN CASSAVETES MADE AN INCREDIBLE FILM CALLED FACES.

THE ENTIRE MOVIE IS SHOT IN CLOSE-UP.

HULK BRINGS IT UP TO SHOW THAT HOOPER WASN'T EXACTLY MISGUIDED. BUT THERE IS A SENSE OF CRAFT... WELL. SAYING CRAFT WITH CASSAVETES IS A BIT OF A MISUNDERSTANDING AS HE WAS OFTEN FORCED INTO POINT AND SHOOT SCENARIOS BY BUDGET RESTRICTION. BUT HE STILL HAD AN ACUTE UNDERSTANDING OF THE EMOTIONAL EFFECT OF HIS SHOTS. AND THE CLOSE-UPS IN THIS FILM HAVE SO MUCH DEXTERITY AND UNDERSTANDING. HE USES STILLNESS TO LET YOU IN AT TIMES. HE USES THE PROXIMITY TO NOT LET YOU GET AWAY FROM THE PAIN OF THE ACTOR AT OTHER TIMES. HE UNDERSTANDS HE CAN UNNERVE YOU. SOMETIMES HE LETS YOU HAVE SPACE AND COMFORT WITHIN THE CLOSE-UP WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF BEAT. HOWEVER HE USES THE CLOSE-UP IN THAT FILM, IT IS OFTEN THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF HOOPER PUMMELING YOU FOR AN ENTIRE MOVIE.

IN THE YEAR 2000 SOME GUY MADE A MOVIE CALLED BATTLEFIELD EARTH.

THE ENTIRE MOVIE IS SHOT IN DUTCH ANGLES.

UNLIKE CASSAVETES' MASTERPIECE, IT IS WIDELY CONSIDERED ONE OF THE WORST MOVIES EVER MADE. ITS CHOICES ARE HAPHAZARD. NONSENSICAL. RANDOM. IT USES WIDE-ANGLES AND GOES DUTCH SO OFTEN THAT THE ENTIRE FILM IS A DISORIENTING ADVENTURE IN "WHY THE HELL IS HULK STARING AT THAT DUDE'S CHIN IN THIS SHOT?"

THAT'S THE THING ABOUT ALL OF THIS. IT'S ABOUT CHOICES. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT WITH A CAMERA, BUT WHEN HULK ASKS THAT ALL IMPORTANT QUESTION OF "WHY?" THERE BETTER BE A REASON FOR IT. AND WHEN YOU GET THAT ANSWER, IT BETTER SPEAK TO THE ACTUAL DESIGN OF WHAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FEEL FROM IT. OTHERWISE, YOU ARE NOT IN COMMAND OF YOUR MOVIE. YOU ARE NOT IN COMMAND OF YOUR CRAFT.

SO HERE'S THE RELEVANT QUESTION: WHEN IT COMES TO THE CINEMATOGRAPHY ALONE IN LES MISÉRABLES, A FILM WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN NOMINATED FOR A LOT OF AWARDS, IS IT CLOSER TO FACES OR BATTLEFIELD EARTH?

9.

THE BIG QUESTION IS THE WHY.

WHAT CAN CONVINCE A DIRECTOR TO MAKE A MOVIE LIKE THIS? HOOPER ISN'T JUST DOING THIS OUT OF SOME WILLY-NILLY APATHY. FOR SOMEONE WITH HALF A BRAIN, THERE ALWAYS HAS TO BE A REASON.

LET'S GO INTO HIS HISTORY. HE STARTED OFF WORKING IN TELEVISION FOR YEARS WHERE HE DIDN'T EXACTLY SET THE WORLD ABLAZE (WHICH IS FINE, PLENTY OF GREAT DIRECTORS HAVE COME OUT OF TV), BUT IN ENGLAND HE REALLY WASN'T ALL THAT HIGHLY REGARDED. THE FIRST TIME HULK EXPERIENCED HIS WORK WAS OF COURSE DUE TO THE FACT THAT HULK IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST PRIME SUSPECT FANS ON THE PLANET, AND HOOPER DIRECTED THE SIXTH ENTRY. THE THINGS THAT CAME TO DEFINE HIM WEREN'T QUITE ON FULL DISPLAY YET, BUT HULK TRULY NOTICED SOMETHING EVEN THEN... SOMETHING OFF ABOUT THE WAY HE CONVEYED INFORMATION. THERE WAS JUST A LITANY OF WEIRD CHOICES. BUT THE STORY AND PERFORMANCE WAS ALL THERE. AGAIN HE SHOWED UP WITH THE SAME BIZARRE LANGUAGE IN ELIZABETH I. HULK WONDERED "WHAT IS HE DOING?" BUT THE MINI-SERIES WAS SUCCESSFUL AND BY THE TIME JOHN ADAMS ROLLED ALONG, IT SEEMED THERE WAS NO STOPPING HIM. HE JUST BECAME MORE EMBOLDENED WITH THIS STYLE WHICH DIDN'T WORK REALLY. HULK ARGUES THAT HIS MINI-SERIES WOULD HAVE STORMED THE WORLD WERE HIS CINEMA NOT SOMETHING THAT LITERALLY DRIVES US AWAY. AND FINALLY, THERE WAS THE KING'S SPEECH. A MOVIE THAT MADE HIS REPUTATION AS A "SERIOUS FILMMAKER" AND THE BRITISH DARLING OF HOLLYWOOD. BELIEVE IT OR NOT THE BRITS WERE KIND OF CONFUSED BY THE LAUDING.... MAYBE WE WERE JUST TAKEN BY THE ACCENT. MAYBE AMERICANS JUST SAW A GENIUS THAT WASN'T THERE. BUT IN ALL THE PRESS THAT HE GOT TO DO FOR THE FILM, THERE WAS SOMEONE HE REFERENCED TIME AND TIME AGAIN, AND INSTANTLY HULK SAW THE ENTIRE THROUGHLINE.

HOOPER IS OBSESSED WITH KUBRICK.

AND THEN IT ALL MADE SENSE...

HOOPER DOESN'T KNOW FUCK ALL ABOUT WHAT KUBRICK WAS ACTUALLY DOING.

FOR THOSE UNAWARE (OR WHO MAY JUST DISAGREE), STANLEY KUBRICK WAS PROBABLY THE BEST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DIRECTOR OF ALL TIME. HE HAS MADE SOME OF THE GREAT ALL-TIME CLASSICS OF CINEMA WITH DR. STRANGELOVE, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY AND THE SHINING. YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN THOSE FILMS A THOUSAND TIMES. BUT HELL, HULK COULD WRITE A BOOK ABOUT EACH ONE OF HIS NOT QUITE AS CLASSIC BUT STILL TOTALLY CLASSIC FILMS. WHETHER IT IS LOLITA (THE GREATEST SUBTEXT MOVIE EVER MADE), THE KILLING (A BRILLIANT REVISIONIST THROW-BACK NOIR), BARRY LYNDON (IT'S AN ABSURDEST COMEDY!), PATHS OF GLORY (HIS ANTI-WAR MOVIE) FULL METAL JACKET (HIS WAR MOVIE) AND EYES WIDE SHUT (HIS UNSUNG MASTERPIECE). ALL INCREDIBLE FILMS, BUT THE THINGS THAT MADE STANLEY UNIQUE WAS HIS STYLE AND APPROACH. HE WAS RENOWNED FOR SUPPOSEDLY HAVING AN IQ OF 200 (WHICH WAS LIKELY, BELIEVE IT OR NOT), AND HAD THE TRUE MASTERY OF FILMMAKING TECHNICIAN SKILLS (AND MECHANICAL ENGINEERING ON THE WHOLE), WHICH HE EMPLOYED REGULARLY. HE WAS INFAMOUS FOR HIS PERFECTIONISM IN CAMERA SET-UPS AND INTRICATE LIGHTING. AND HE WAS PERHAPS EVEN MORE INFAMOUS FOR HIS DEMANDING PERFECTIONISM WITH ACTORS, WHY SO MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE DID SO MANY TAKES... BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT FOR ALL HIS EXACTING ATTITUDE ON THE TECHNICAL SIDE OF FILMMAKING, HE WAS ACTUALLY QUITE OPEN AND PHILOSOPHICAL WHEN IT CAME TO PERFORMANCE.

IT'S TRUE. WHEN HE SAT DOWN TO DO A SCENE HE HAD NO PRE-DETERMINED IDEA WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR WITH THE ACTORS, JUST THAT HE WAS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE MOST INTERESTING WAY TO POSSIBLY DO THE SCENE AND CONVEY NEW MEANINGS. HE WANTED TO FIND IT. HULK KNOWS THIS SOUNDS DOWNRIGHT LYNCHIAN, BUT IT'S TRUE. HE DID TAKE AFTER TAKE AFTER TAKE NOT UNTIL AN ACTOR GAVE HIM EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED, BUT UNTIL AN ACTOR SURPRISED HIM. AND THAT WAS USUALLY WHEN THEY DID SOMETHING UNNERVING, OR SOMETHING THAT COULD HAVE TWO DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS, OR SOMETHING WAS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF HOW YOU MIGHT THINK THAT CHARACTER WOULD BEHAVE. AND ALL THE WHILE HE WOULD BE CONSIDERING HOW THAT PLAYED WITH HIS LIGHTING SCHEMES AND CHANGED THEM TO REFLECT HOW THE SUBJECT WAS CHANGING IN PERFORMANCE. HE WASN'T BEING A PERFECTIONIST. HE WAS SEARCHING. AND HE DID ALL OF THIS UNTIL THE ACTOR GAVE A PERFORMANCE THAT FELT ALMOST SURREAL BUT DEEPLY-FELT, LIKE IT WAS VOMITING UP FROM THEIR BONES.

IT'S TRUE OF HIS ENTIRE RUN FROM DR. STRANGELOVE ON (A LOT OF THAT CREDIT GOES TO SELLERS FOR THE INSPIRATION), BUT HE WAS DEEPLY INTERESTED IN CREATING CINEMATIC WORLDS THAT WERE SOOOOOO UNLIKE OUR OWN. RIGID, FORMAL WORLDS THAT SHOOK US DEEPLY. HE MADE DIORAMA-LIKE SCENES OF STAGED ACTION. HE FILMED DEAD ON CENTER-POINTS. HE USED WIDE ANGLE LENSES. HE HAD CHARACTERS LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE CAMERA. BUT HE KNEW WHAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE ACTIONS DID TO CHANGE HIS SUBJECT MATTER AND AFFECT HIS AUDIENCE. HE USED ALL THESE THINGS TO A VERY SPECIFIC IMPORT.

HE WAS TRYING TO PUT THE AUDIENCE OFF-KILTER. HE WAS TRYING TO SHAKE US OUT OF MORAL AND CINEMATIC CONVENTIONALITY. HE WAS DIRECTING HIS MOVIES AT US FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF MAKING US UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT THEN USING THIS CRACK IN OUR EXTERIOR TO LOAD US WITH DEEP, TEXTURAL INFORMATION AND CODIFIED LANGUAGE. THE REASON 2001 IS SUCH AN OFF-BEAT FILM IS THAT HE UNDERSTOOD IT WAS THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THAT FILM WORK. THE WAY TO MAKE TRUE TRANSCENDENT CINEMATIC ART IS TO GIVE AN AUDIENCE A VISCERAL EXPERIENCE (WHICH HE ALWAYS DOES) AND CRACK US OPEN WITH UNNERVING PROVOCATION (WHICH HE ALWAYS DOES) AND THEN PROVIDE DEEP SYMBOLS WHICH MAKE US WANT TO ENGAGE THE FILM ON AN INTELLECTUAL LEVEL (WHICH HE ALWAYS DOES AND WE ALMOST ALWAYS RECIPROCATE). WHICH MAY SOUND CONFUSING, BUT LET HULK PUT IT LIKE THIS: HE WAS ESSENTIALLY CREATING THE BEST POSSIBLE ATMOSPHERE FOR SEMIOTIC DEDUCTIONS. LIKE ALMOST NO OTHER ARTIST WORKING IN CINEMA, HE UNDERSTOOD THE CORE DYNAMIC OF THE ART FILM AND HE MANAGED TO MAKE IT STRIKE SUCH A CHORD THAT IT TRANSLATED TO MAINSTREAM AMERICA. IT'S DOWNRIGHT BRILLIANT. AND IT'S BARELY SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF WHAT KUBRICK WAS REALLY UP TO.

AND LIKE MOST CINEMA-INCLINED FOLKS, TOM HOOPER LOVES THE EFFECT THAT KUBRICK HAS ON HIM. ALMOST ALL FILMMAKERS REVERE HIM BECAUSE IT WASN'T JUST A TURN OF PHRASE WITH HIM: KUBRICK WAS TRULY WORKING ON ANOTHER LEVEL. SO OF COURSE HOOPER LOVES HIM.

BUT HE CLEARLY DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THAT LOVE.

BECAUSE RIGHT NOW HE'S DOING THAT THING WHERE HE JUST TAKES ALL OF KUBRICK'S SHOTS AND STYLE AND DROPS THEM INTO HIS MOVIES WITHOUT KNOWING WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW OR WHY TO DO THEM. THE TRACKING SHOT WITH CENTER FOCUS AS THE KING AND QUEEN MUM TALK IN THE HALLWAY IN THE KING'S SPEECH? PURE KUBRICK. AND IT HAS ABSOLUTE NO PURPOSE IN THAT SCENE. LITERALLY NONE OF THE REASONS KUBRICK USED THAT KIND OF SHOT APPLY THERE. THE DISORIENTATING HAND-HELD WIDE-ANGLE LENSES ALL OVER LES MIS? KUBRICK WOULD SHOVE THOSE IN SPARINGLY AFTER HIS STILTED PHOTOGRAPHY TO SUDDENLY DISLODGE THE VIEWER ON PURPOSE (THINK THE FIST FIGHT IN BARRY LYNDON). HULK COULD GO ON WITH DOZENS AND DOZENS OF EXAMPLES, BUT THEY'RE ALL SIMILAR. KUBRICK USED A CHARACTER STARING INTO THE SCREEN BECAUSE HE KNEW IT WOULD BREAK THE FOURTH WALL AND MAKE YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE. HOOPER USES IT BECAUSE HE THINKS IT'S A WAY OF GETTING CLOSER TO A PERSON. KUBRICK OFTEN USED STANDARD WIDESCREEN FRAMING INSTEAD OF ANAMORPHIC BECAUSE HE LIKED THAT IT GAVE HIM MORE CONTROL IN FRAMING SURREAL PERPENDICULAR ANOMALIES THAT LOOK UNCANNILY DISTINCT FROM NORMAL LIFE. HOOPER USES STANDARD WIDESCREEN BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT KUBRICK DID AND RATTLED IT OFF AS BEING "CLASSIC" OR SOMETHING. AND DON'T FOR ONE SECOND COMPARE IT TO WHAT DE PALMA DOES WITH HITCHCOCK PHOTOGRAPHY BECAUSE DE PALMA ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS WHAT THOSE SHOTS DO AND USES THEM TO CONSTRUCT HIS OWN INTERESTING AND VISCERALLY SUCCINCT MASTERPIECES.

MEANWHILE, HULK HONESTLY THINKS HOOPER HAS NO IDEA WHY KUBRICK USED ANY OF THE SHOTS HE DID, NOR DOES HE HAVE ANY IDEA HOW ANY OF THESE SHOTS ACTUALLY AFFECT A VIEWER.

AND THUS IT BRINGS US SQUARELY INTO ONE OF THE MOST VILE AND MISUSED WORDS IN THE INTELLECTUAL CANON: PRETENTIOUS. WHEN TALKING ABOUT MOVIES, OR ART, OR INDIVIDUALS PEOPLE SEEM TO USE THE WORD PRETENTIOUS WRONG ALL THE TIME. MOST OF THE TIME THEY MEAN ESOTERIC. SOMETIMES THEY MEAN OSTENTATIOUS. BUT WHEN SOMEONE IS PRETENTIOUS IT MEANS THEY ARE REACHING FOR MERIT THAT IS UNDESERVED. IT IS NOT WHEN THEY ARE DISPLAYING APT INTELLECT IN A SHOWY WAY. THE INTELLECT IS TRULY NOT THERE. DAVID FOSTER WALLACE MAY HAVE HAD AN ESOTERIC VOCABULARY THAT DEMANDED A CERTAIN COMMITMENT, BUT HE WAS UNDOUBTEDLY BRILLIANT AND SOUGHT TO USE THOSE WORDS TO TRULY COMMUNICATE. AND WHEN YOU LOOK AT TOM HOOPER, HE MIGHT BE THAT RARE BIRD THAT TRULY DOES QUALIFY AS PRETENTIOUS. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE KUBRICK DYNAMIC, YOU SEE THAT HE'S MISSING THAT KEY UNDERSTANDING. AND WORSE YOU LOOK AT HULK'S SECTION 4 AND YOU CAN'T HELP BUT THINK... HE SEEMS TO BE MISSING THE FREAKING BASICS.

IT'S REALLY THAT BAD, FOLKS.

HE'S LIKE A TODDLER BLINDLY PANTOMIMING HIS DAD.

10.

PERHAPS THIS IS HARSH.

PERHAPS THERE'S A WAY WE'RE PUTTING A NEGATIVE SPIN ON ALL OF THIS THAT IS FAR TOO CHASTISING. MAYBE IT WOULD BE MORE KIND TO CHARACTERIZE LES MIS AS JUST A GRAND EXPERIMENT THAT HAPPENED TO FAIL. MAYBE WE SHOULD CELEBRATE HIM, EMBRACING THE NARRATIVE THAT HE IS THE DARING ONE WILLING TO BE BOLD AND DISCOVER NEW CINEMATIC AFFECTATION...

... MAYBE.

IN THE WORLD OF MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY, RESTAURANTS LIKE TO EXPERIMENT AND THROW THINGS OUT THERE AND SEE WHAT STICKS. AND, OF COURSE, THEY TEND TO GET A LOT OF RESPECT FROM CRITICS BECAUSE "HEY, THEY'RE DOING SOMETHING TANGIBLY INTERESTING!" FORGET IF THEY'RE ACTUALLY GOOD. TO BE FAIR, THE GASTRONOMY PLACES THAT DO IT RIGHT ARE INCREDIBLE, BUT THAT'S ONLY ABOUT A THIRD OF THEM. BUT IT'S THE WORLD OF TANGIBLE DETAILS WE LIVE IN. MAKE THE ISSUE MORE SUBTLE AND IT BECOMES MORE COMPLICATED. PUT NINE GREAT HOME COOKS UP AGAINST THE WORLD'S BEST ROASTER AND HULK CAN GUARANTEE YOU THAT ABOUT ONE OUT OF TEN GENERAL FOOD CRITICS WOULD BE ABLE TO TELL YOU WHAT WAS MADE BY THE MASTER ROASTER (MICHELIN JUDGES WOULD GET IT THOUGH). THAT'S JUST HOW THESE THINGS GO. IN A WORLD WHERE YOU CAN DO FUCK-ALL AND GET CELEBRATED FOR BEING GOOD WHEN YOU ARE SIMPLY BEING INVENTIVE (AND ACTUALLY GOOD) IS A THING THAT VERY MUCH HAPPENS, FAIR OR NOT. BUT THERE IS THE TRUTH: THERE IS UNDERSTANDING AND THERE IS UNDERSTANDING. AND IT IS TRUE OF ALL DISCIPLINES. COOKING IS COOKING.

AND CINEMA IS CINEMA.

AND WHEN YOU TRULY UNDERSTAND CINEMA YOU CAN TAKE THAT INVENTIVENESS TO AMAZING NEW PLACES. YOU CAN MAKE A REFLEXIVE WESTERN SLAVE REVENGE FILM IN THE SOUTH THAT'S TECHNICALLY PART OF A SERIES OF ITALIAN FILMS. YOU CAN DO A DOCU-STYLE EPIC WITH SUBTLE COMMENTARY WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER IS A MANHUNT ITSELF. YOU CAN SHOOT A FILM IN 70MM NOT FOR THE DETAIL OF A LANDSCAPE BUT TO FIND THE EMOTION WITHIN TWO ACTORS' EYES. YOU CAN EVEN MAKE A WHOLLY- SYMBOLIC-YET-VISCERALLY-COMPELLING FILM ABOUT YOUR HAUNTED LIFE VIEWED THROUGH THE PRISM OF PERFORMANCE ITSELF.

AND ALL OF THESE FILMS UNDERSTOOD THE BASICS.

WHEN GORDON WILLIS FILMED AN ASSASSINATION IN THE PARALLAX VIEW IT IS ONE OF THE MOST UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACHES TO SCENE THAT HULK HAS EVER SEEN. BUT WHAT MADE IT SPECIAL WAS NOT JUST HOW BLISTERINGLY INVENTIVE IT WAS, IT WAS HOW IT WENT ABOUT CONVEYING THE INFORMATION TO A VERY PRECISE EMOTIONAL PURPOSE. EVERY SHOT WAS ABOUT MAKING YOU FEEL A VERY SPECIFIC EMOTION IN BUILD-UP TO A GUT SHOT AND IT WAS THE EXACT WAY YOU WERE INTENDED TO FEEL. AND THAT'S WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT IT WAS THE WAY THE BASIC MEANINGS WERE ALL BROUGHT TOGETHER THAT WAS ACTUALLY SO REMARKABLE. SIMPLE ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION LEADING TO SO MUCH MORE.

CINEMATOGRAPHY MATTERS AND THERE IS AN AGE-OLD UNDERSTANDING OF THE BASICS THAT APPLIES TO HOW WE CONSTRUCT OUR VISIONS AND MEANINGS. WHEN HULK GETS MAD AT FOUND FOOTAGE BECAUSE IT BREAKS THE RULES CONSTANTLY BY TRYING TO GO HALF-WAY BETWEEN DOCU-STYLE AND CHEATING WHEN IT NEEDS IT, HULK GETS MAD BECAUSE HULK HAS NO IDEA HOW HULK IS SUPPOSED TO INTERPRET ANY OF IT. AND WHAT FOUND FOOTAGE GAINS IN IMMEDIACY AND CHEAP VISCERAL TACTICS, IT ULTIMATELY LOSES IN ITS INABILITY TO COMPEL AND BRING YOU IN BY OPTING FOR A STYLE THAT WILL ULTIMATELY PUSH YOU AWAY. THERE'S A REASON SO FEW OF THEM HAVE ACTUALLY WORKED, FOLKS.

AND LIKEWISE, WHEN HULK RAILS ABOUT DIGITAL CINEMATOGRAPHY IT'S NOT THE CHOICE OF SOME LUDDITE SAYING "OH, NO EVERYTHING'S DIFFERENT!" IT'S BECAUSE IT MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO USE THE LANGUAGE OF CINEMATIC AFFECTATION. WITH DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY YOU CAN IMBUE FILMS WITH A "COOL" AND "SHEEN" LOOK, BUT IT'S SO MUCH HARDER TO MAKE THEM SUMPTUOUS, OR FIND THE SAME COLOR RANGE TO CAPTURE THE GLORY OF THE SUN, OR EVEN GET THAT SOFT GLOW OFF A TUNGSTEN BULB. HULK DOESN'T LIKE DIGITAL BECAUSE IT'S SUDDENLY SO MUCH HARDER TO DO HALF THE THINGS IN CINEMA THAT WE'VE BEEN DOING FOR YEARS. AND THE BEST THINGS TOO. SURE, WE CAN STILL MAKE "COOL" FILMS, BUT HULK GENUINELY ARGUES WE'VE LOST THE ABILITY TO SHOOT ROMANTIC AFFECTATION THESE LAST FEW YEARS. AND THAT'S BECAUSE BASICS MATTER AND AFFECT US ON THE MOST VISCERAL, UNAWARE LEVEL.

AND AS WE HEAD INTO THE AWARDS SEASON, A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY ARTISTS AND CRITICS GET SO BENT OUT OF SHAPE ABOUT THIS STUFF. SOMETIMES THEY CHALK IT UP TO JEALOUSY. WHICH MIGHT BE A SMALL PART OF IT FOR SOME, BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT IT IS MORE ABOUT THE FACT THAT AWARDS SEASON IS MEANT TO BE ABOUT UPHOLDING A STANDARD. MORE OF A VALUE, REALLY. WE ARE TRYING TO SAY THAT CINEMA VALUES ART AND THEME AND RESONANCE AND EVERYTHING THAT WE HOLD DEAR AS A SOCIETY; A SOCIETY THAT IS PROPAGATED ON THE BACKS OF STORYTELLING, MYTH AND OUR ABILITY TO INTELLECTUALLY PROCESS ALL WE SEE.

AND WHEN SOMETHING COMES OUT THAT SEEMS TO UNDERMINE THOSE GRAND CONCEPTS - AND NOT IN THE MANNER OF USEFUL REBELLION, BUT OUT OF SOMETHING AS FUCKING LAME AS A PRETENTIOUS LACK OF UNDERSTANDING, AND THEN WHEN THAT PRETENTIOUSNESS IS DRESSED UP AND AMALGAMATED AND IT CAUSES PEOPLE TO ACTUALLY MISTAKE IT FOR THE GENUINE ARTICLE - WELL... IT MAKES THE PEOPLE WHO VALUE CINEMA KIND OF UPSET. IT SHOULDN'T BE THE KIND OF UPSET WHERE WE BEGRUDGE ANYONE OR THROW HISSY-FITS OR PRETEND THEY ARE ANYTHING OTHER THAN A PERSON TRYING TO DO THEIR BEST, BUT WE STILL HAVE TO UPHOLD THE VALUE OF CINEMA. WE HAVE TO SAY WHAT WE FEEL IS RIGHT.

WHEN HULK FIRST STARTED DOING ALL THIS IT WAS ABOUT CREATING A SPACE FOR LEARNING. HULK ISN'T TRYING TO BE A TEACHER, BUT HOPEFULLY SOMEONE WHO CAN MAKE A FEW POINTS AND FOSTER A GOOD CONVERSATION. AND WHO KNOWS, MAYBE THAT IS WHAT MAKES A GOOD TEACHER. THE POINT IS THIS IS A PLACE WHERE WE ARE MEANT TO VALUE KNOWLEDGE AND APPLICATION. AND THAT SOMETIMES MEANS SPEAKING OUT WHEN ONE FEELS THE WRONG THING IS BEING HELD UP AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO DO THINGS. AND WHEN AWARDS SEASON VALUES THE WORK OF AND WILL LIKELY NOMINATE AND AWARD SOMEONE WHO HULK, AND JUST ABOUT EVERY SINGLE PROFESSIONAL PERSON HULK KNOWS, THINKS LITERALLY HAS NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH A CAMERA... WELL... MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL.

BUT THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES.

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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