Death of the Critic

Anatomy of a Scene

Anatomy of a Scene - The Matrix

Written by: Tom Blaich

Matrix_Lobby


It is harder than you might think to make a great action scene. But it isn’t that hard to make a good one. Just get an engaging actor, give them a big gun, and a crowd full of goons to let loose upon. A scene like this is entirely serviceable, but many directors try to make it more complex by incorporating too many characters, with too confusing of action, and all of a sudden, you don’t know what is going on anymore. What was once a good action scene has become terrible. A good scene needs to remain clear, no matter what. You should be able to identify the positions of characters and how they are moving through the world, without unnecessary establishing shots bogging it down, all while remaining compelling and heart pumping.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Dredd

Written by: Tom Blaich

Dredd


Violence can be abrupt, and horrible, and graphic, but at the same time, it can be oddly beautiful. 2012’s
Dredd adds its own take on the action genre through its highly-stylized depiction of violence that is at once horrific yet also strangely beautiful. The titular Dredd is taking along a new recruit onto a mission for her to prove herself before she is otherwise forced out of the judge’s academy. She is our surrogate throughout the film, the naïve lens through which we can start to interpret the horrors that we see.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Alien

Written by: Tom Blaich

Alien_Ripley


Alien has changed so much as a franchise since it was first made. It went from science fiction horror to action to crossover monster battles. But it all started with this, a few people trapped on a ship with their worst nightmare. When we talk about horror, we speak a lot to tension, that feeling of building unease that makes us worry about what is coming next. More importantly, it makes us almost beg for it to happen. Alien begins with almost an hour of it, moodily piling on the tension before taking it away all at once.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Chef

Written by: Tom Blaich

chef_header


Sensuality is a difficult thing to portray. Making a man like Jon Favreau sexy is only adds onto the challenge. He falls well outside the lines of “conventional” good looks, especially those of Hollywood’s masculine ideals. But the scene where he cooks for Scarlett Johansson in his apartment is as sexy as any we’ve seen. It combines light and playful shots with loving attention to detail to bring you a veritable feast for the senses: aural, visual, and more, as you can almost smell and taste the pasta that he makes for her. It is a scene about simplicity in many ways, in the midst of a turning point for his character, foreshadowing the rest of the film, and perfectly encapsulating his passion as a chef.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Heat

Written by: Tom Blaich

Heat


Characterization through action is what defines film. “Show, don’t tell” is the mantra repeated to writers across the world, yet it is rare that we actually see it done well.
Heat takes this to heart, and the first time that we see our cast of ne’er-do-wells assembled together on screen, we instantly get a sense for who they are, the relationships they have with each other, and the direction the film is headed in. They do this with a combination of action and horror to create a sense of dark foreboding around the group of men.

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Anatomy of a Scene - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Written by: Tom Blaich

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When a movie tells you how it is going to end, you know as a member of the audience that the ending matters less than the journey to get there. And over the years it has become almost a trope, where a movie opens with the main character in a very bad situation, before flashing back to find out how they got there, then promptly letting them escape. But then there are movies like this one, where they don’t engage in the trope. Jesse James dies in this movie. We know it from the second we look at the cover or walk into the theater. He is going to die, and we are going to have to watch.

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Anatomy of a Scene - No Country for Old Men

Written by: Tom Blaich

No_Country_for_Old_Men


It is rare to see a truly evil character. Films are full of villains, but the truly evil ones are few and far between. Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is one of the rare few that is simply Evil. It isn’t only what he does that makes him evil, but how he does it. His introduction has him being calmly led to a police car and driven to a station, where we watch as he slowly escapes his bonds before wrapping the chain of his handcuffs around the deputy’s throat. There is a look of exhilaration, of excitement on his face as blood begins to spurt from the deputy’s neck, and his boots squeak across the floor. Nothing is said, and the only thing you hear are gasps of exertion and the sound of a man struggling vainly to try to save his life.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Foxcatcher

Written by: Tom Blaich

Foxcatcher


The end of a character’s life is so important. We’ve watched hundreds of heroes die over the years, brought down in the line of duty in a noble sacrifice to save others, gasping out a final message before they finally succumb to mortal wounds. Death in movies is often very clean, very romantic almost in its depiction. But occasionally reality creeps in and death becomes something ugly. In
Foxcatcher, we watch the descent of two men into shadows of their former selves. Promising Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz who will do anything to win, and enigmatic millionaire John DuPont, a man who has everything he could need, but nothing that he wants.

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Anatomy of a Character - Pulp Fiction

Written by: Tom Blaich

Pulp_Fiction_Jules


Repetition is a powerful thing, and showing cycles can lead to powerful implications.


Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies of all time. There is something about the characters and dialogue that clicks together and works in a way that many films strive to achieve.it is a set of very strange people all caught up in some of the most eventful and important days of their lives. And in the center of this maelstrom, we have Jules, the fast-talking, bible-quoting, gun-toting hitman with a soft spot for cheeseburgers. In many ways, the entire movie revolves around the character arc of Jules and how he changes throughout the film.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Sicario

Written by: Tom Blaich

sicario-movie-poster-wide


Sicario
might be my favorite film of last year. Excellent cinematography, soundtrack, and story drove the film, backed up by some of the best acting I have seen in a while. Emily Bunt was fantastic as the driven Kate Macy and Josh Brolin was infuriatingly calm as the anonymous CIA agent Matt. But the star of the show for me was Benecio del Toro’s performance as Alejandro, who dominated the screen whenever he entered the frame. Dark, mysterious, aggressive, and caring, he presented an interesting and conflicted character that stayed just mysterious enough for you to want to know more about him.

At the climax of the film we found Alejandro sitting across from the cartel boss, Alarcón, who they have been hunting for the entire movie. Alejandro has snuck into Mexico through a drug tunnel that he assaulted alongside a team of Delta operators, Matt, Kate, and Reggie. He captures a lower level meter of the organization and uses him to sneak into Alarcón’s house, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake as he takes a seat at the family’s dinner table.

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