Monday, March 14, 2011

Movie Monday: Seabiscuit

Hey folks! It's Monday already- wow!

Anyway, as you might have noticed, this week's Oscar-nominated movie is one of my all-time favorites...


It's one of those awesome underdog stories, about three broken men and a broken horse, who enter each other's lives and help each other up-- and take America by surprise.

I love underdog stories. Total sucker for 'em.

And when we first watched this, I was grumbling because I wouldn't voluntarily want to watch an "animal movie." Ha... which this actually isn't, though one might think it is.

Anyway, I love this movie so much.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's book of the same name by Gary Ross, also directed by Ross.


Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard

Jeff Bridges as Charles Howard & Elizabeth Banks as Marcela Howard

and Chris Cooper as Tom Smith

The level of detail these people went to in making this film is amazing. And I'm not just saying the sets and the costumes looked good.

I mean, Gary Ross took apart the shooting script, writing down the emotional goal of each shot, each sequence, each specified direction. To quote (sort of...), he took the shooting script and made it less dry and clinical- he gave it reason and feeling. 

For instance, the scene where Howard loses his son. The upward-tilted angles when his son's driving the car is to illustrate that he's this kid having a hard time seeing over the dashboard. Ross chose not to show the collision, but to leave it to our imagination- instead cutting straight to the phone call that Howard gets about the crash, because that message was more pivotal than the actual event. 

Yeesh. I watched that sequence leaning forward in my seat, eyes wide open, look of distress creeping over my face..... heh.....

Here a few screenshots I took of the sequence-- sorry, YouTube video, low resolution, yeah.... hopefully they'll still help.

(Howard's son driving the car, going up a hill)

(one of those upward angle shots)

(another one- sorry, you can see the little red time thingy underneath...)

(going from seeing the two cars coming towards each other down the single lane road- then cut to the ringing phone)

The few shots afterward of Howard holding his son's body and crying, and the funeral were all done wide with low, muted sound-- to give those people in the scenes their privacy as they're grieving. Again, treating the story as completely real, because it is, in fact, based on a true story- and the way he shot that sequence not only gave respect to those real people, but also aided the storytelling in a huge way, because it added a whole 'nother level of realism. 

At least, I was moved.

(shots from the above paragraph)

(wide shot of funeral... only shot of funeral, actually)

I was blown away by this movie the first time I saw it, simply because of sequences like that that demanded the attention of the audience and told the story effectively, artfully, and efficiently. The moments they chose to convey the story through images, with a complete lack of dialogue, got my attention. 

The depth to which he used simple images to communicate emotion to the audience was amazing. Like this scene below, which obviously a lot more meaningful if you see it in context, but it's still a beautiful scene anyway.

(Whoops....  my dear mother caught it-- methinks Red does say g*dd*mm*t near the end of the clip- sorry about that...)

And this scene, waaay before the one above.

If you can, go straight to 5:10 and then end at 6:10. This little sequence actually made me want to cry the first couple times I saw this movie....

Because you get that this young Red Pollard loves horses, loves riding, and that's what he wants to do with his life. He loves it. It's something he wants to do so badly, so deeply-- and you see it when he's watching the one guy on the track as he races by on his horse, and then we go back to Red and his eyes are teared up-- that spoke more volumes than any dialog. You see how badly he wants to have that thing that the jockey has.
I think any person would understand that. I certainly did. Everyone has that one thing that they love to do with all their heart, something that sort of fulfills them, and in that moment of understanding there's a connection between the audience and Red. By mere images.

Not to mention, the use of sound, music, and dialog (or lack thereof) was all brilliantly done.... it was done very deliberately.

For the filmmaker:
Anyway, so the one thing that I really pulled from this movie was to have a reason for every shot, every angle, every lighting and sound choice. Take it apart and analyze and do everything with a purpose. It'll show, and it'll benefit everyone involved. Because truly, that's half the storytelling in filmmaking - the detail and reason for the technicalities.
And see how much of the story really needs the dialog-- how many things that you initiatlly have communicated through dialog- see if you can't use stronger images to do it instead. Good exercise for the brain, lemme tell you :)

*whew!* Well, I think that's it! Please, please please tell me if this was helpful/beneficial/coherent. 

Aha, and here's a little nifty video of some bonus material. I found this little video quite helpful, too. Good points on directing :)


Joryn said...

Quite coherent, Director ;)

I loved the little bonus material video at the end! Maybe I'll have to watch this movie now...

The Director said...

YES! Come over and we'll watch it together! :D :D :D