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October 07, 2009


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Steven Santos

I'm always perplexed when cinematographers light green screen exteriors like interiors. Even non-experts pick up on how fake this looks.

I also believe directors today are addicted to composites to get the "perfect" background, as opposed to having any abilities to shoot on location and deal with the imperfections.

I saw "A Serious Man" a couple of days ago and they relied on actual locations with detailed set dressing and it wasn't that big a deal that in some exterior shots the sun was a little too glaring. It's okay if it doesn't look too pretty and polished. Who knows? You may get caught up with the emotion of the film rather than admiring the landscapes.


Yeah, but I noticed some bad cuts in "The Departed", too. And what is it the character (Dot?) says in ZEROVILLE? "Fuck continuity"?

Ah, I know what you're saying. I'm just being contrary today.

The First Bill C

Scorse and continuity are natural enemies*; for some reason nobody noticed until Jim Emerson paused THE DEPARTED.

(*This isn't even a dig--I consider it part of his whole aesthetic at this point, almost a leitmotif.)

Anne Fletcher is just a dreadful filmmaker. 27 DRESSES has the most hilariously mugging extras I've ever seen.

The First Bill C

Whoops. I of course meant "Scorsese." That seems a fitting typo, though.

D Cairns

You can still blame the editor if they haven't successfully covered the problem inherent in the footage. So it's both their faults.

It comes back to the director if the film isn't engaging enough to pull your attention away from the mis-matched cuts. Scorsese covers shoddy continuity with the virtues of pace, intensity, and cutting that follows the drama rather than the minutiae of whether of not Paul Sorvino has a cigar in his mouth.


Do not see The Invention of Lying if incompetency like this bothers you (among many other types of incompetency). Comedy, for some reason, has become a genre where basic craft is excused. For all its good vibes and ingratiating performances, I Love You Man was an excruciating viewing experience, if only because I kept thinking to myself, "Someone got a chance to make a feature motion picture, and he opens it with helicopter shots of downtown LA." Incompetency at worst, and one visual cliche after another at best. At some point, "Hollywood" (yes, it's not a single homogenous entity) decided that comedies are filmed scripts, while action, sci-fi, melodrama, etc. at least get the chance to be real movies. For this reason, I'm grateful for The Hangover (flawed but at least professionally shot) and Adventureland. I'm even happy that Judd Apatow got one of the top DPs in the world to shoot pretty pictures of his wife and kids frolicking in the grass. Come on, comedy directors: no reason you can't also be auteurs.


The First Bill C - Well, the missing bandage in "The King of Comedy" is pretty well known. But the truth is that I didn't notice the mis-matches in "The Departed" until Emerson's post on it, so...

Nick Ramsey

For all of Scorsese's love of classical Hollywood and his early directorial desire to be a studio craftsman, his films don't really come out of the tradition of "invisible editing" but rather the New Wave, Italian art cinema, American independents, etc. I don't watch Lubitsch expecting to see disjointed editing or Godard to see seamless continuity.

I haven't seen the "The Proposal" but I would venture a guess it has different aspirations, comes from different traditions, etc., than a Scorsese flick, which provides even less of an excuse for its poor editing.


Tarantino's not big on continuity, either. You can almost hear Sally Menke scrambling to match action in the background.

"I'm always perplexed when cinematographers light green screen exteriors like interiors."

Light-matching between two separate pieces of film is a goddamn nightmare in general, but this in particular is a problem. The short answer is the sun is ridiculously difficult to fake as a source when you're inside. If it's overcast, that can help, since it's diffused light. But a high K source with that level of candlepower? Forget it.

There's also the problem of the green screen itself. You can't have even the slightest uneven coloration on the damn thing or you just added $10,000 to the post cost. As a result, most directors prefer to sacrifice realism, since 90% of the audience will either miss it completely or not care, so they don't blow their budget.

Arthur S.

There is this wonderful entry on Thelma Schoonmaker in Film Reference website...which explains how innovative she and Scorsese are...particularly how they elucidate how "By traditional standards, Schoonmaker's editing borders on the "bad." "


And explains how she had to make new standards to judge their work by.

Scorsese explains in SCORSESE on SCORSESE that as much as he admires Ford and Hawks, he is closer to Eisenstein and Hitchcock in terms of his aesthetic.

Tom Russell

Ramsey has it right re: Scorsese's editorial influences, and the first Bill C. is right in saying that Scorsese and continuity editing are natural enemies. Continuity/invisible editing is a "realistic" mode, whereas Scorsese's cinema is unabashedly romantic/visionary. He's never tried to be a naturalistic or realistic filmmaker, and his best films pulse with bursts of pure cinematic beauty.

(Speaking of which, cinephiles who are active on twitter might be interested in this Saturday's live-tweeting, led by yours truly, of Scorsese's towering masterwork, the one true crown jewel of his ouvere, the best film from one of our greatest living filmmakers: KUNDUN. Details at livetweetsducinema.blogspot.com.)

Tom Russell

I was writing my comment while Arthur posted his, but I just wanted to thank him for the link and emphasize that in talking about "Scorsese's editorial influences" I of course meant "Scorsese & Schoonmaker's".

Arthur S.

KUNDUN is indeed one of his most special films. The final mandala montage is something else. More hallucinogenic than the whole of APOCALYPSE NOW.

Mr. Peel

"Hey Marty! KUNDUN! I Liked it!"

Scott Nye

I saw an interview with Scorsese once where he specifically mentioned that looking for continuity is a waste of time, and he'd rather edit to make the performances as good as they can be than where a damn glass is sitting. Props.

Oh, and I saw about fifteen minutes of THE PROPOSAL while I was waiting for another movie (I'd apologize for being "that guy" who disrupted the movie, but...it's THE PROPOSAL), and boy...I didn't think it was possible for Ryan Reynolds to appear actively bored in a film, but the day has come at last.

Glenn Kenny

Not to do any special pleading for Scorsese, but the kind of bad cut that crops up in his films is somewhat different than what bugged me about the cuts in "The Proposal." Mismatched eyelines and disappearing sausages and beer cans are one thing, and yes, the kineticism of Scorsese's style and the dynamic performances compensate for them and/or make them less noticeable. What goes on in the bad cuts of "Proposal" is different; it's cutting from motion to what looks like a pose. The over-the-shoulder shot of Craig Nelson swigging scotch from a tumbler and his arm coming down is followed by a shot in which Nelson looks literally frozen, as if he's waiting for the director to call "action." It's almost like a jump cut. Which would be fine, had that been what the filmmakers were going for. But they weren't.

By and large, I'm not big on combing through films for "errors." I never much liked Premiere's "Gaffe Squad" feature, and used to try and argue against its existence, which you can imagine wasn't a particularly well-recieved position. What got me about "Proposal" was really the overall preponderance of sloppy technical work—there's also an elaborate effects-driven bit involving Sandra Bullock, a dog, and an eagle that's just too mortifying to discuss, and, to add insult to psychic injury, is also a model of crap craftsmanship. Bad for business, I say.


Yeah, I knew -- and I imagine everyone else who commented about Scorsese after me did too -- what you were talking about, so I'm sorry I even brought him up. But clearly people like talking about Scorsese.

Scott Nye

Or, at least, more people are capable of talking about Scorsese than THE PROPOSAL. And what I meant to say was, clearly this lack of basic craft was in service of nothing. Certainly not performance.

Earthworm Jim

And along the same lines, why do Hollywood directors these days bother to shoot crap like this in 2.35:1 widescreen? That format used to mean something. Now it's become the default option for directors who have no clue how to successfully frame for it. Bad filmmaking is somehow less egregious in 1.85:1.

Jason M.

But it's still egregious. And remains so at any aspect ratio.

It's definitely a special kind of depressing, though, to be aware of the many great and brilliant ways that 'scope has been used throughout the history of cinema while watching a particularly uninspired movie shot in glorious widescreen with all the care of a multi-camera sitcom.

James Rocchi

ALSO, why make Bullock Canadian, but so not-Canadian? I'm not saying sh had to be carrying the Stanley Cup, but?

John M

"You can still blame the editor if they haven't successfully covered the problem inherent in the footage. So it's both their faults."

Well, if you're gonna be anal about it, it's the script supervisor's fault.

Editors can't always (or even often) "cover the problem." If a director sucks, ain't no amount of fancy editing gon' cover that up.

D Cairns

Part of the editor's philosophy has to be that ANY problem can be fixed by editing. I wouldn't want to work with an editor who didn't believe that, because they'd be inclined to give up. It may not be true, but in the edit you must have faith (during the shoot it's better to believe that nothing can be fixed later).

And this has nothing to do with fancy editing, it's just GOOD editing.

Of course, if the direction is really bad, that's likely to create problems that can't be solved, but a level of base technical competence in the flow of shots can be achieved.

Script supervisors can't spot everything, and they can't stop an editor making a bone-headed decision later, and anyway the great supervisors of yesterday are mostly gone now that people can check playback if a gaffe is suspected on set.

Marcia shern

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Michael Adams

Spielberg is the most amazing case. Many of his films, especially Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dumb, are filled with continuity errors, while others seem relatively flawless.


Funny that you mention Hitchcock's rear projection. I was thinking about a scene in SHADOW OF A DOUBT recently. Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright are sitting in the town square talking. The street scene behind them is bustling vital and totally fake. But if you look past the phoniness of the rear projection, the action seemed more natural than if they'd shot on location. There were no extras walking to and fro looking "directed", no pristine cars. Just real people going about their business. It seems that green screen would be a great way to accomplish this today. Too bad that's not the case. See also, THE BUCKET LIST.

greg mottola

Along the lines of what Joel Gordon said above, I can tell you that in my experience there is an attitude at the big studios that comedies don't need to be remotely cinematic. Comedies often get much shorter shooting schedules than other genres, with the expectation that its "master, closeup, closeup, call it a day". I also recently got this note from an exec visiting the set: "We like brightly lit comedies at our studio" (which my dailies weren't).

I really do dislike green screen background composites. As phony as rear-screen can be, at least it has some goofy analog charm (beautifully exploited by filmmakers like Todd Haynes). On superbad we did all the cop car stuff with rear projection instead of green screen. I was forced into a lot more green screen on my new movie -- because of the great number of effects shots and our not-so-big budget, it was the only option. At least its mostly only for driving stuff.

As an aside, I have a friend who worked in Thelma Schoonmaker's editing room -- Thelma liked to say: "matching is for pussies".

Earthworm Jim

Fascinating stuff, Greg. Kudos on making "Adventureland" a good-looking film despite that pressure. Did you get more leeway on "Paul" since there's an action/genre element to it?


Wow. Looks like that studio exec shares at least one brain cell[*] with some spanish TV execs, the ones in charge of Spain's native-made sitcoms. You think "Friends" had dull, boring lighting? Wait until you see "Los Serrano".

[*] Or maybe it's THE brain cell, the one that all movie and TV execs in the world share. That would explain a lot.

greg mottola

alas, on 'Paul', our initial 60-day schedule plus two weeks of second unit was cut back to 50 days with NO second unit. But my DP, Larry Sher, was very gung ho to help me make the most of it. Thanks for the kind words on the little carnival picture.

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