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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:58 pm 
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The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
jonah.77 wrote:
His films seem to me to be cut nearly as fast (if more intelligently) than your average blockbuster. I'd welcome any empirical evidence to the contrary.

Cinemetrics can be useful for this sort of thing. Its database for Zemeckis has some big gaps, but it's not bad -- the BTTF trilogy, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath, Forrest Gump, an excerpt from Roger Rabbit. The BTTF films and the Roger Rabbit segment have pretty typical shot lengths for their time, but Cast Away comes in at 9.5 seconds and What Lies Beneath at 7.1 seconds. None of the other top 10 films from 2000 come in at longer than 4.8s. Meanwhile Forrest Gump has an ASL of 8.9s, compared to around 4.5s for The Lion King, 3.5s for True Lies, 7.5s for Pulp Fiction, and 7.6s for The Shawshank Redemption. (The "Simple" and "Advanced" modes can give very different results -- "Advanced" calculations are usually shorter -- but all of these were calculated with the "Simple" mode, so the playing field should at least be level.) It would be nice to have the animated films in there as well, but from the available data it seems that mid '90s-early 2000s Zemeckis preferred takes not only longer than the blockbuster norm, but longer than what he himself was doing earlier in this career. (Though I suspect the 9.5 seconds for Cast Away is the outlier in his case.)

Thank you for doing the leg work. I agree this suggests that Zemeckis has a greater fondness for the long take than many other contemporary Hollywood directors. But if you look at some other figures that story is nuanced a bit. The median shot lengths of his films (in a sense a better measurement of what a "normal" shot might be) is still a bit higher than average, but not by quite as much. More important, though, is that the standard deviation (the average distance between a shot and the average, if that makes sense) for Zemeckis's films is very high compared to their peers. The SD for Gump is 11.3 seconds; for Cast Away, it's 15.8; for What Lies Beneath, it's 12.8. The SD for other Hollywood millennial films tends to vary between 4 and 6 seconds.

This tells us that Zemeckis tends to vary his shot lengths more: there's a greater mix of quick editing and longer takes (much like his mentor, Steven Spielberg). This seems right to me. It makes more sense than suggesting Zemeckis is a "long-take director" as Preminger was in the 1940s and 1950s (when his average shot lengths ranged from 13.5, for The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, to 34.2 for Carmen Jones).

I do agree that one near-constant with Zemeckis (well, since Back to the Future and especially Roger Rabbit) is his interest in a kind of manufactured mise-en-scène that ultimately transcends the presence of anything unproblematically profilmic. A simpler way to put this is that Zemeckis is keenly interested in special effects and their ability to allow him to transcend the limitations of traditional shooting. However this seems to me far more interesting on the level of craft (how Zemeckis makes his films) than on the level of an "auteurist" thematics.

In any event, it certainly means that tagging his approach as "Bazinian" (as Dave Kehr has done) is all but meaningless. Bazin's ideas were less programmatic than many assume, but even his defense of an effects-driven movie, The Red Balloon, is grounded in an appreciation that the effects work is integrated into the depiction of a recognizable, everyday Paris (someone, maybe Bazin, called it a "neorealist fantasy"). You can hardly apply the same defense to something like Beowulf.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:27 am 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
colinr0398 wrote:
Wasn't the big issue with Cast Away at the time all of the blatant Fed Ex product placement?

I remember people making a lot out of this, but in the director's commentary Zemeckis explained it wasn't product placement, he just wanted to use a real-world business instead of creating a distracting fake one. I believe him. Product placements are generally throw away moments, but this one, Hanks' job, was central to the character's arc and to the general irony of the narrative (guy over-concerned with small slices of time is granted all the time in the world).


Short of an actor breaking the fourth wall and selling you the item in the middle of the movie, I generally have no problem with product placement. Fake brands rarely work, outside of satire. The closest that seems acceptable I've found is fake teams in football movies, because as often is the case (like with North Dallas Forty or Any Given Sunday) the NFL would never associate themselves with something that portrays less-than-admirable behavior within their ranks.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:09 am 
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When Dave Kehr was named adjunct curator at MoMA, it was only a matter of time before they put together a retrospective.

What Lies Beneath: The Films of Robert Zemeckis runs September 29–October 18, 2015.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:33 pm 
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FWIW, I have checked out a few films from the MoMA retrospective, and they seem to be using some really good looking DCP's,most notably Used Cars which looked far better than expected - did they do a 4k restoration on that? It looked so good, a few shots that weren't shot so well (or possibly blown up - a MS of Jack Warden near the beginning looked like it) look stunningly bad next to their surrounding shots.

I still have mixed feelings about his work, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was incredibly enjoyable, still my favorite of his films and one that seems more immune to familiarity than Back to the Future.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:13 am 
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Polybius wrote:
I'll admit, I kind of like Contact. It has it's flaws (McConaughey's Palmer Joss, yet another tiresome reiteration of his perpetual Don Meredith act)
Happy to note that he seems to have worked his way out of that particular box canyon over the last few years.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 5:06 am 
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I wonder what he makes of the Cubs doing so well right now. He is from Chicago after all.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 9:17 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am
He's from the South Side, so he's not going to care. The Cubs joke in Back To The Future 2 was most likely a knowing wink to his allegiances.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 9:26 am 
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It would be an incredible serendipitous coincidence if the Cubs finally won the World Series this year as they do in BttF2. Additionally, do we know for sure RZ isn't a Cubs fan? Just because he is from the south side doesn't automatically means he roots for the Sox. I see plenty of people wearing Mets hats in the Bronx.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 9:40 am 
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Bob Gale weighed in though not favorably, but he's from St. Louis.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2015 9:56 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am
aox wrote:
It would be an incredible serendipitous coincidence if the Cubs finally won the World Series this year as they do in BttF2. Additionally, do we know for sure RZ isn't a Cubs fan? Just because he is from the south side doesn't automatically means he roots for the Sox. I see plenty of people wearing Mets hats in the Bronx.

He might have gone all LA on us, but in town, there are strict borders that must be adhered to.
http://www.sbnation.com/2015/10/9/9483527/white-sox-bar-to-give-out-free-beer-for-every-cardinals-hr-vs-cubs


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:24 am 
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Ironic they might lose it all tonight.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:10 pm 
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Zot! wrote:
aox wrote:
It would be an incredible serendipitous coincidence if the Cubs finally won the World Series this year as they do in BttF2. Additionally, do we know for sure RZ isn't a Cubs fan? Just because he is from the south side doesn't automatically means he roots for the Sox. I see plenty of people wearing Mets hats in the Bronx.

He might have gone all LA on us, but in town, there are strict borders that must be adhered to.
http://www.sbnation.com/2015/10/9/9483527/white-sox-bar-to-give-out-free-beer-for-every-cardinals-hr-vs-cubs


I was born on the South Side, but was raised as a Cubs fan.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 2:26 am 
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The official BTTF Twitter jokingly speculates that the space-time continuum was thrown off by the '94 strike.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:04 pm 
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Thought this was cute. In what seems like a rare appearance on American television, Bob Hoskins tells David Letterman that his very young son stopped talking to him for days after seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit? because in his mind, anyone who had Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck etc al as their best friends and didn't bring them home to meet his children was a complete a**hole.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:39 pm 
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Dug this tribute to Chuck Berry from Glenn Kenny, especially what he writes about Back to the Future.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:24 pm 
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While I'm sympathetic to the need to defend the honor of such an important artist, and I certainly can see how a quick look at the sequence in question would bring forth accusations of racism, I think this oft-repeated criticism has always displayed a failure to understand what actually happens in the film. Back to the Future -- apart from some of its advertising taglines -- never asserts that Marty "invents" Chuck Berry's style of music, because in the film's universe "Johnny B. Goode" already exists for him to cover it. The joke -- which I admit is one of the weaker ones in the film -- about Chuck's "cousin" calling him on the phone to show off his temporary bandmate's licks is that Marty goes into manic Van Halen mode as soon as the phone is held up. Even if Chuck had heard Marty conventionally covering the song, presumably it would have just encouraged his pursuit of ideas already in his head -- not least because by November 1955, when the scene takes place, both "Maybellene" and "Thirty Days" had already been released.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:48 pm 
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Also, the only reason McFly opts to play this music is because of his admiration for it. He isn't clueless about its origin, only the other characters in the scene are. So even in the skewed reality of the film, never for a moment are we to think that McFly "invented" anything.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:44 pm 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
McFly isn't clueless about its origin, only the other characters in the scene are. So even in the skewed reality of the film, never for a moment are we to think that McFly "invented" anything.

That doesn't work within the circular logic of time travel. Michael J. Fox's character is copying what he heard from Chuck Berry who presumably picked it up from McFly, etc etc according to the plot's infinite time loop.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:46 pm 
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dustybooks wrote:
The joke -- which I admit is one of the weaker ones in the film -- about Chuck's "cousin" calling him on the phone to show off his temporary bandmate's licks is that Marty goes into manic Van Halen mode as soon as the phone is held up. Even if Chuck had heard Marty conventionally covering the song, presumably it would have just encouraged his pursuit of ideas already in his head -- not least because by November 1955, when the scene takes place, both "Maybellene" and "Thirty Days" had already been released.

Nice literal reading, but coming from the same minds behind the "Imagine" scene in Forrest Gump, I don't think real-life chronological details ever came into play during the joke's conception.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:39 pm 
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That's not an accurate rendering of time travel as practiced in the BTTF series though. It's not an infinite loop, as shown by the fact that the characters are capable of changing history. At the start of the film we are witnessing the present day as it exists without the fiasco of Marty's accidental backtrack through time. Just for example, the events in 1955 lead to the "Twin Pines Mall" becoming the "Lone Pine Mall." (The infinite loop theory, however, does apply in the Bill & Ted films!)

Again, I'm not challenging the fact that the sequence can have a sinister reading, just saying that I think it's unintentional. As for Gump, no disagreement about its problems but Zemeckis and Gale didn't write it and I think it's almost universally agreed that his films underwent a drastic change when he/they stopped writing them. Back to the Future is much more of a piece with I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars than what came later, I'd argue.

Sorry for geeking the board up, everybody.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:17 am 
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dustybooks wrote:
...The joke -- which I admit is one of the weaker ones in the film -- about Chuck's "cousin" calling him on the phone to show off his temporary bandmate's licks is that Marty goes into manic Van Halen mode as soon as the phone is held up...

What is not shown is that McFly returns to a 1985 where Berry is revered as a guitar-shredding genius who jump-started heavy metal in 1956 and the Beatles never happened.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:25 am 
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hearthesilence wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:
McFly isn't clueless about its origin, only the other characters in the scene are. So even in the skewed reality of the film, never for a moment are we to think that McFly "invented" anything.

That doesn't work within the circular logic of time travel. Michael J. Fox's character is copying what he heard from Chuck Berry who presumably picked it up from McFly, etc etc according to the plot's infinite time loop.

I understand that's the case within the film, but the viewer is in on this joke. In no way is it trying to convince anyone in any real-world sense that McFly innovated rock & roll music, added to the fact that McFly himself, within said skewed reality, would not make that claim. To me it'd be more offensive had there not been that cute phone call aside. It's certainly an argument I can see from both sides, though, but I'm firmly planted on the "harmless" one.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:04 pm 
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I think dustybooks is right to bring up the earlier Zemeckis films (though I also agree in thinking that the 'Chuck Berry nexus' in Back To The Future is a small moment that anticipates Forrest Gump co-opting every piece of celebrity and pop culture in a much more problematic way!), as something like I Wanna Hold Your Hand is entirely about that tension of your fictional movie characters on a quest to meet the real Beatles coming up against the problem that you cannot really have them interact with their idols in any kind of world shattering way, as that would disrupt the historical record too much! So instead we get moments of personal connection that are meaningful for our characters but not hugely impactful beyond their wider circle of friends. One of the girls is never going to surprisingly marry John Lennon from their single meeting for example - the best that can happen is actually being in the audience for the Ed Sullivan Show recording, or serendipitously being inside the car chauffeuring the whole group away from a crowd of screaming girls!

(This could actually be a fun 'Other List' thread: I'm sure it is used a lot but what other films feature that plotline of a group of friends going off on a mission to meet some kind of over-idealised celebrity figure only for that quest to entirely fall apart and they actually find out that the truly fulfilling part was the journey itself? With or without them running into the celebrity 'by accident' right at the end anyway!)

You know, the thing that always concerned me about the Back To The Future films is just how the real Clint Eastwood gets treated in this universe? Is he seen as some kind of parody figure of the historically existing Clint Eastwood from 1885? Would he ever become a full blown movie star, or forever have to accept that he was named after someone who drove their train into a ravine? (Speaking of which, does that make Buster Keaton a plagiarist too? The time paradox wormhole is endless! :wink: )


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:21 pm 
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To be clear, I didn't think there was malicious intent - the idea behind the whole gag just seemed shoddy coming from someone who didn't know their material (i.e. Chuck Berry's life and work) as well as they would have thought.


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 Post subject: Re: Robert Zemeckis
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 1:22 pm 
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Roger Ryan wrote:
dustybooks wrote:
...The joke -- which I admit is one of the weaker ones in the film -- about Chuck's "cousin" calling him on the phone to show off his temporary bandmate's licks is that Marty goes into manic Van Halen mode as soon as the phone is held up...

What is not shown is that McFly returns to a 1985 where Berry is revered as a guitar-shredding genius who jump-started heavy metal in 1956 and the Beatles never happened.


What is shown is that the creator of Darth Vader is seen living in a spruced-up average 3-bedroom house in suburban California.


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