Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Camera Work

The film critic-o-sphere has been juddered off its axis recently, due to the hurricane of controversy that has whipped up over the fact that in Cyrus, the new Duplass brothers film, the camera zooms in and out a lot (the preceding sentence, I admit, is a pretty flippant way of broaching a topic I’m actually interested in). The problem, according to the film’s detractors, is that none, or at least very few, of the camera twitches and zooms employed by the Duplass brothers are justified by anything resembling a purpose. Glenn Kenny, in his not entirely negative review of Cyrus, puts it like this:
What I saw in the film were a lot of perfectly serviceable/banal medium shots and medium closeups that were almost constantly interrupted by a sudden, jerky, lunging-forward in perspective. One second, you're looking at John C. Reilly's face as he's saying something; the next, you're looking at his eyebrow, and contemplating just how little hair it has on it, and wondering why that is. The effect, frankly, was rather like taking a sizable slug of high-proof liquor, and having it come directly back up from your stomach, and just being able to catch it all in your mouth before you projectile-vomited it. (I allow that this is a somewhat specialized analogy.) Hence, I cannot say that I found myself even a bit on board with [Karina] Longworth's...defense: "You could say that Cyrus looks ugly, but that ugliness is an artifact of a working method." What "working method" is meant here? The method of drinking a shitload of coffee before you pick up your video camera, so that your thumb hits the zoom toggle on the handle at pretty much any goddamn time? Because if you tally up the number of zooms in this picture, and examine the contexts in which they manifest themselves, it becomes pretty clear that they really have no compelling reason for being.
.Having not seen Cyrus yet, I was only able to, at best, kind of see what he was talking about. Also, not having seen Cyrus yet, I was most unwilling to talk about it here at all, because, well, what do I know about it? Then, over the weekend, I was watching At the Movies, and saw Michael Phillips and A. O. Scott’s review of the film. Scott based his entire negative response to Cyrus on those zooms, and showed a clip of Cyrus to illustrate his point, prefacing the clip by asking Phillips, and the viewer, why the camera was doing what it was doing. What the camera was doing was, in fact, zooming in arbitrarily on John C. Reilly, and then pulling back suddenly, or, when Marisa Tomei enters the scene, zooming in on her. In the case of the Tomei zoom, you might say that, well, she just got there, and the camera wants to isolate her. Which would be fine, if she wasn’t already, not only center-frame, but the only thing in the frame at all that you might want, or feel compelled, to look at.
So I now had a better context for the negative reactions to the Duplass brothers’ style, but the main thing I thought when I watched that clip was “Oh, so it’s like Homicide.” Not Homicide, the David Mamet film, but Homicide, the TV show from the 90s that was about life on the streets. Put Andre Braugher in Cyrus, and you have everything you need to be an episode of that show, which, by the way, I stopped watching very early in its run precisely because of that fucking goddamn camera that wouldn’t fucking sit still. If memory serves, the creators, and directors, of Homicide went even further with this style, to the point that they’d have an actor in frame (let’s say it was Yaphet Kotto) talking, or drinking coffee, or thinking about life on the streets, and there’d be a cut, but the cut would be to a shot that was very close to the shot they’d just cut from. Not exactly the same shot, because this time Kotto would be a little bit to the left or right of where he had been – not geographically, but within the frame. What this implied was they had two cameras running side by side, and when it came time to edit the show they would sometimes cut between those to cameras, and I knew, as I watched those first few episodes, that they were doing so arbitrarily. I knew this because there was no reason possible for them to do that, no reason inherent to the images they were filming, or the story they were telling, that would explain those cuts. Or those Cyrus-y zooms, which Homicide (and NYPD Blue, while I’m at it) seemed to believe were as essential to visual storytelling as light, or having things to point your camera at.
.Now that I know what Glenn and other critics are talking about when they refer to the camerawork in Cyrus, I must say I am slightly confused by the fact that critics are getting so cheesed off about it now. I was cheesed off about this stuff years ago, but I’ve since become more or less resigned to it. I don’t like it any more than I used to, but this shit is everywhere – isn’t this a form of the whole “shaky-cam” movement that everybody has become so fed up with in action films? – and I have no sense that it’s going away anytime soon. The standard line on this kind of filmmaking is that it adds an “immediacy” and a “documentary feel” to the proceedings, and, in fact, this is the defense that Michael Phillips offered when A. O. Scott asked “Why?” (Although it seemed pretty clear to me that Phillips was playing Devil’s Advocate in the interest of moving the conversation along, and that he was neither ready nor willing to go to the mat for this one.) The first problem is what you mean by “immediacy”, because on its own it doesn’t mean anything. Do you mean that this kind of camerawork puts the viewer “there”, in the middle of the action? If so, then those viewers need to get both their eyes and their brain checked, because I suspect they have a fairly serious neurological disorder – for one thing, the human eye can’t “zoom”. Not only that, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a documentary that employed this kind of visual style; even Gimme Shelter betrays a steadier hand.
More thoughtful justifications for this style, and particularly as it’s used in Cyrus, have been mounted elsewhere. In the comments section of Glenn Kenny’s review, Richard Brody says:
The zooms in Cyrus provoke a sense of intimacy and tension, of nervousness and isolation. They're motivated by the directors' sense of mood, their emotional relationships to characters and scenes. The zooms reflect the filmmakers' distinctive feeling for the events they depict, for the texture of life. Which is to say, by their desire to see and to show things a certain way--and that desire is the essence of the cinema. And thankfully the filmmakers didn't have producers who walk around with little rule books in their pockets and ask them what the motivation for their zooms might be. Thinking about movies as closed-off dramas is indeed part of the problem.
Yes, okay, I can see this point, in the abstract. And it might be easier to see it in a more tangible way if I didn’t know that Homicide and NYPD Blue and so on did this exact same thing, all the time, in every episode (I may not have watched much of the former, but I watched plenty of the latter), whatever the context. It was the house style – violent scenes, love scenes, comic scenes, all get the same treatment. And they all looked exactly like what I’ve seen of Cyrus. Except in Cyrus, the Duplass brothers really mean it, I guess.
Which is unfair, because I’ve only seen a tiny bit of Cyrus, removed from any context. This is all true, and there’s no way around it. But this style is old – a good twenty years old, or more – and doesn’t signal to me any kind of individual creative stamp on the part of the Duplass brothers. It signals to me that they liked Homicide a lot. A lot of people did, but I didn't.
Plus, I think it’s probably safe to say that when he made White Dog (which is today’s Collection Project Film of the Day, don’t you know), Sam Fuller didn’t have producers bearing rule books following him around, either, but he still moved his camera (and here I’m expanding the argument out to include not just zooms, but general camera moves, which is what this whole argument is about anyway) in a way that indicated he knew how to work the damn thing. For example, look at the screengrabs below (provided to me by Glenn Kenny, and thanks again for the help). In this shot, Fuller is introducing Keys, played by Paul Winfield. With Carruthers (Burl Ives), Keys runs an animal training business. At this point in the film, we’ve met Carruthers, and learned that the dog of the title, which has been recently taken in by Julie Sawyer (Kristy MacNicol), is, indeed, a “white dog”, which means that it was trained from a pup to attack black people. Carruthers sees little hope that the violence can be trained out of the animal, and things are looking grim. Then we get a shot of a sign, “Carruthers & Keys”. At this point, understand, we have not seen Keys before. Here’s how Fuller introduces him.

Isn’t that great? Mind you, I’m fully aware that this shot loses almost all of its power in this format, but I think you get the idea. The camera pans past the name “Carruthers” on the sign, and focuses on “Keys”, before sliding down to Keys himself. This is Keys, and he is important. This kind of wonderfully blunt elegance can only come from a filmmaker who knows what the hell he’s on about. Maybe at 34 I’m already a crotchety old bastard, but I’d much rather this than a zoom that needs to be explained away later by saying “That’s just the way they see the world.”


Frank B said...

I see that "immediacy" argument all the time. I've also seen commenters on message boards admit that the lens flares in STAR TREK gave them a thrill and actually made the movie more exciting. There are obvious cracks I could make about magpies and aluminum foil, or babies and pinwheels, but I won't. It's all been said before.

Is NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN boring? Would it be better with 40 percent more random zooming? How about THERE WILL BE BLOOD?

Ultimately, drama is exciting because of WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE CHARACTERS, and if you can't engage your audience without doing camera handstands, you need to take a look at your script.

I'm not saying you have to lock your shots down like John Sayles at his least cinematic. Watch MAD MAX, or any Hitchcock film, to see an example of dynamic camerawork that pulls you into the story without making you want to sedate the operator. I just found your blog and haven't scoured the archives, but I assume you feel the same way about the current trend in fight scenes -- the mega-fast cutting of action shot way, way too close.

Good piece.

bill r. said...

Thanks, Frank. First of all, I have to lay my cards on the table and say that I enjoyed STAR TREK quite a lot, although the lens flares didn't make it more "exciting" to me, and I find that to be a particular strange thing for anyone to willingly admit. In fact, the idea of intentional lens flares, particularly in a space movie, has always struck me as absurd, because why would you want the audience imagining that a camera was floating around up there?

Ultimately, drama is exciting because of WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE CHARACTERS, and if you can't engage your audience without doing camera handstands, you need to take a look at your script.

Yes. This should be self evident, but I guess it's not. Though, of course, I seriously doubt that "exciting" is what the Duplass brothers are going for in CYRUS -- that word has become corrupted, like "entertaining" has, in a way that leads a certain kind of person to think it means "stupid". But surely they want their films to be visually interesting...right? I mean, right? If not, why the hell are they doing this in the first place?

And yes, I am down on this current trend in action filmmaking, although A) I don't think I've ever written about it specifically, and B) I'm sometimes able to find enough in the movies that use that style to enjoy them anyway. I like Nolan's Batman films, for instance. But then again, I very much prefer THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM to either of the other two. So there you go.

OlmanFeelyus said...

I remember remarking on this when NYPD Blue came out. What they did in that show was just move the camera slightly in an irregular rhythm, say every couple seconds or so. I was complaining about this to a guy who was in the television industry and he told me the reason they did this was to counteract the newish power of the remote control and so many channels. The theory was that viewers were often flicking quickly from channel to channel and any little thing that might get them to stop was worth it. Just the slight shift in the frame was thought to be enough to arrest the channel grazer and I have to say that it did have that effect on me at the time.

Frank B said...

I enjoyed STAR TREK as well. It managed to successfully reboot the franchise (excuse my language) and actually captured some of the pulpy technicolor fun of the old series, which is the only iteration I enjoy. But I think it would have been just as good minus the constant solar eruptions.

Maybe I should have said "engaging" rather than "exciting." In a nutshell: you should want to know what happens next, and if you don't, it's probably not for lack of Renny Harlin spinning sky-cam or fake-doc jittering.

Greengrass is obviously a smart and talented guy, but I prefer the first BOURNE, and not just for the more classical style. I think Potente gives it a humanity the others lack -- it's more than just running around. I also suspect the latter two films will not age well, though I know I'm in the minority on this. Styles will come back around and they'll look as dated as a rack focus from a dew bedecked leaf to a kissing couple, scored to Donovan.

It seems borderline insane to me to plan a stunt like the apartment explosion in part 2, build the rigs, block it, rehearse it, film it -- and then cut it down to four frames. As an audience member, I feel almost cheated. Guys are flying through the air! Am I wrong for wanting to SEE it rather than have it elliptically conveyed?

I know full well that to admit this opens one to charges of "you're behind the times, people process information differently now." To which I reply:
"shut up and go play with your fucking Transformers toys."

I also like both Nolan Batmans, though he still sucks at action. The difference between him and so many other directors working is that he doesn't feel the need to make his presence known in every damn shot, even if it's a quiet conversation scene. He has faith in his actors.

jim emerson said...

This is terrific -- I added a quote from you over at my place. You inspired me to add a clip from "Cyrus" to my post of yesterday and, good god, it's so mannered it's almost unwatchable. Downright embarrassing. There's nothing "spontaneous" about it -- just looks finicky and OCD, like the filmmakers are constantly aware that they have to be DOING SOMETHING -- ANYTHING -- with the camera to distract your attention from whatever's happening in front of the lens. Love the "White Dog" counter-example, too!

Bob Westal said...

I've actually seen "Cyrus" and while the camera work in the Bourne films irritated me, I barely noticed it in "Cyrus" -- probably because I was actually enjoying the movie quite a bit and involved in the story.

When I did, I figured it was because the movie was largely improvised and the operator was simply trying to catch something that was happening. I have to admit that, if I'm involved in a film, I often don't catch even obvious camera stuff like lenghthy oners. (I once reviewed a film composed entirely of single takes and I didn't notice until I looked at the press notes after seeing the movie.)

In any case, a strong story and good characters will -- with one exception noted below -- nearly always be able to overcome anything that I might not love about the camera work, and camera work I love will almost never get me to like a movie where the story and characters hold no interest. This is why I find myself often enjoying Kevin Smith but pretty much detesting Michelangelo Antonioni and not particularly loving "Metropolis" despite it's awesome (as in awe-inspiring) visuals. I know, I'm a sad, sad case.

I also happen to be a big fan of "Homicide: Life on the Street" and there I did find it an occasional distraction and sometime downright irritating, but never enough to make me stop loving the show. I have to say that if they'd rediscovered their tripod, I personally might have found it an even better show -- but would it still be the same show?

On the other hand, Lars von Trier was also a "Homicide" fan and I really think he used similar techniques in a way that really did create a emotional effect in some of his films. On the other hand his Automavision randomized computer camera gimmick thing pretty much ruined "The Boss of It All" for me. There are always limits.

bill r. said...

WalkerP - That's...depressing. But hey, NYPD lasted ten years, or something, so I guess they were really on to something.

Frank - It seems borderline insane to me to plan a stunt like the apartment explosion in part 2, build the rigs, block it, rehearse it, film it -- and then cut it down to four frames.

You're behind the times, old man! Let this new generation speak in its own voice, and so on!

No, I agree with everything you said, except I don't think Nolan quite "sucks" at action, but it's not his strength. Then again, INCEPTION looks like it might prove us wrong on that one, or at least that his learning. I hope so.

Ed Howard said...

I haven't seen Cyrus, and the camerawork sounds pretty annoying, but I will say that I often enjoy the rapidly-edited action scene trope more than most people seem to. Everyone complained about the Bourne-style opening scenes of Quantum of Solace, but I found them viscerally thrilling and yet not at all difficult to follow precisely what was going on; at its best, this kind of ADD editing really can achieve its stated goal of "immediacy" and visceral thrills. Which is not to say that it's never done poorly, in fact it often is. I think the first Nolan Batman, especially, has some pretty sloppy action editing, where it's not at all clear what's going on. Even in The Dark Knight, though Nolan seems to have improved a bit on that front, the scene with the Scarecrow and the multiple Batman impersonators is confusing as hell and could really benefit from some clearer staging. Like any device, though, I think it can be used either well or poorly - and right now it's just being overused.

bill r. said...

Jim - Thanks very much, I appreciate that. And you're right, there's nothing "spontaneous" about any of this stuff, or if it is, there's no point to it. Spontaneous is find, if you have a spontaneous idea, but if you're just, as Glenn Kenny says, thumbing the zoom button at random, then it's just empty.

Bob - I know what you mean about missing long takes. I do that, too, or at least I don't catch on that I might have just seen one until it's almost over.

As for your thoughts on CYRUS, well, I still intend to see the film. I've heard that it's funny, and that's enough for me to want to check it out. I can get past the things I criticize in this post, if there are compensations, but I'll still get fidgety about the camerawork.

From what (very) little I saw in the CYRUS clip, there was nothing sudden happening that the cameraman would need to work hard to catch. The Tomei zoom, for instance, happens while she's standing still. She's standing there for a few seconds, then it zooms in, and she's still standing there. Nothing to catch.

Ed - I tend to defend the action scenes in BATMAN BEGINS, because in that film it felt like Nolan was trying to present Batman as a Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot kind of figure -- the people he's fighting through most of the film have no idea what's happening, or what's attacking them, on in that sense I found much of it effective. But you can't do that forever. I agree that the Scarecrow scene in DARK KNIGHT was a bit clumsy, but after that I thought the action editing settled down pretty well.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill, you’ve done a great job here of working through your thoughts about this subject even without having seen the movie at the center of the discussion. I look forward to reading your thoughts once you do see it.

Brody and Longworth’s attempts to defend the way the Duplass Brothers use the camera in Cyrus sound a bit too much like after-the-fact rationalization to me, not to mention just a bit condescending. “Ugliness is an artifact of a working method”? Yeah, and that working method’s name might just be ineptitude. And I have a hell of a time accepting that “The zooms in Cyrus provoke a sense of intimacy and tension, of nervousness and isolation. They're motivated by the directors' sense of mood, their emotional relationships to characters and scenes.” That would imply that the camerawork was intended to draw the viewer in. If you don’t notice it or aren’t adversely affected by its ostentation, its flaunting of the "rules," as Bob didn’t, then it has failed Brody’s litmus test. And if you do, as I did, it’s probably because you’re cognizant of just how little illumination it’s bringing to the characters and their situation because the twitchy technique (“technique” implies forethought, which I am uncomfortable with, but whatever…) keeps throwing you (me) out of the scene.

I saw Cyrus Saturday night, and I can attest to Glenn’s reaction—every time that camera jutted forward or back, it was like an alarm going off in my head. I wanted to know what the hell was going on, why my perspective, let alone that of the Duplassi, was being so rudely adjusted. Bob’s right in that the story is engaging enough, at least initially, that the movie would have benefited from some sense of trust on behalf of the filmmakers that they understood their own story enough to let it play out instead to making us feel like a couple of jittery 13-year-olds were in control and completely unconfident in the story’s capacity to keep us moved and interested. I think the movie can be criticized largely on the basis of that camerawork, because personally whatever good feeing about the movie I had when I walked out (and I was leaning positive) eroded by midweek because all I could think about was how intrusive that camera was, how desperate it was. The annoying thing is, it could have been desperate in a meaningful way, in a way that reflected the characters’ own desperation. But sincerely, it threw me out of the movie to such a degree, in the viewing experience and in contemplation afterward, that I had more time to think about things like why John C. Reilly’s character doesn’t weigh his attraction to this gorgeous, kind of audacious woman (he falls in love with her when she catches him talking a piss in a bush and comments, “Nice penis”) against her obviously maladjusted relationship with her son and get the hell out of there when it starts getting really weird. Or why Marisa Tomei’s character doesn’t see that Reilly might not be the best catch in the world if he’s so glommy with her that he’s willing to put up with her creepy son to the degree that he does. The desperation both characters exhibit is ripe material for a director(s) who might be interested in translating those emotions into visually expressed ideas.

(Continued on Next Comment)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

But filmmakers like the Duplass Brothers treat the camera as if it were a burden, a distraction itself as Jim suggests, or even worse, a tool to doodle with and express their disengagement with the medium itself. As Bill says, if it were anything else, why would they be approaching their films in this way in the first place? I can’t say I’m too familiar with the so-called Mumblecore movement, but when someone like Aaron Katz employs a loose-limbed camera in a movie like his terrific, ironically titled Dance Party USA it’s to truly burrow into the characters and their milieu. He doesn’t use the low-fi tool of choice as an excuse to fritter away the expressive possibilities of the medium he has chosen, and he trusts in the camera enough to let it remain still with these people at crucial times, or at least not do overly caffeinated tricks in order to give the whole enterprise the feeling of a hipster’s shrug.

What could the roaming, restless, expressive gaze of an Altman have brought to something like Cyrus? Or the Dardennes Brothers? These are artists who don’t treat the camera as if it were a toy, a joke, who have no allegiance to the rules of classical filmmaking but are clearly well versed in what the camera is capable of, even when it is sitting still. The Duplass Brothers in Cyrus remind me of kids who want to write about illiterate characters and therefore don’t think they have to learn proper English first in order to do so. The Duplass “working method” is a shortcut to fawning approval from folks who ought to know better, and despite the fine, brave performances of Reilly, Tomei and Hill, it doesn’t make me want to see any more of their jittery filmmaking.

bill r. said...

Dennis - Zoinks! I think you just accidentally posted your review of CYRUS in my comments section!

Obviously, I can't directly respond to a lot of what you say here, as i haven't seen the film yet, but in reading some of the defenses of the Duplass's style, I did actually think of Altman myself. He mastered the art of letting his camera(s) pick up whatever there was to pick up, and to trust his actors, when improvisation was being freely employed (as the Duplasses do here, from what I understand) to say whatever is best to say, and for the audience to hear and retain and care about whatever they hear and retain and care about. If the Duplasses don't want to study the classic technique of Hitchcock or Fuller or Ford or Truffaut or whoever, then it sounds to me that they would benefit from Altman. But have they even seen his films? What films have they seen? Who do people like this study? Is it a Dogme thing, a conscious rejection of what came before? But at least Dogme gave us The Celebration.

I don't know. The style seems to me to come entirely from the thought "The camera should probably be doing something here". So maybe they're as bereft of visual imagination as, say, Kevin Smith, and THAT is what they're rejecting, as they should, but have nothing to fuel that rejection.

Also, you know, I did read an interview with Reilly where he said the Duplasses wrote a script, but then pretty much dumped it in favore of improvisation. Maybe they got scared because there was nothing left on screen that was theirs, unless they kept zooming in on shit.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Zoinks, part II! I have already looked toward recycling this, because I did want to write something on the movie eventually!

"Maybe they got scared because there was nothing left on screen that was theirs, unless they kept zooming in on shit."

I think there might just be something to this. I certainly don't buy that there's a Dogme-esque non-aesthetic-aesthetic at work here, because the way the camera is employed simply doesn't exhibit much in the way of intelligence whatsoever. It seems that the Duplass Brothers (who were there at the screening I saw beforehand and expressed amazement that their movie was being shown in one of L.A.'s poshest theaters, the Arclight-- as well they should) are rejecting style before any style has had the chance to coalesce even in the abstract. Which makes me think they would greatly benefit from getting a cable subscription and gluing themselves to Turner Classic Movies for about a year before they foist another "Duplass Brothers Film" on us.

By the way, I absolutely love Frank B.'s comment: "Is No Country for Old Men boring? Would it be better with 40 percent more random zooming?"

Josh said...

Nice piece, Bill. There are a couple of things I want to mention.

First of all, this Whedonhead thing where I point out that the "unstable" camerawork and "lens flares" in the Star Trek movie (also in Battlestar Galactica) were utilized earlier in Firefly and Serenity, where they actually made a lot of sense to me, thematically. It wasn't just about shooting the fantastic in a more "realistic" way. It was also about the sort of rundown, cobbled-together, beaten up aesthetic of the series as a whole.

I agree with Frank B that the first Bourne is the best. It was refreshing, even at the time, that Doug Liman shot the action in a very "old-fashioned" i.e. coherent way, like that chase scene in the Mini Coopers, where you can usually tell where Bourne is in relation to his pursuers.

As to Cyrus, the camerawork/editing annoyed me at first. That opening segment where Keener is in Reilly's apartment heading toward his bedroom, and there are several pointless jump cuts of her as she walks down the hall. It draws attention to itself, and that's pretty much all it does. After a while, though, I found myself not really noticing those "cinematic" flourishes. While the film did let me down at the end, I did become interested and involved in the lives of its characters. And the camerawork didn't really detract from the good performances.

Greg said...

I wish Dennis would just once elaborate on something. I'm so sick of reading his clipped, five word quickie comments. The man simply has no feel for detail at all.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Huh? Cyrus not so good. Didn't like. That seven!

Greg said...

Seven words. Does this guy ever shut up?

Bryce Wilson said...

I hate to interrupt all this genuine discussion with generic blog crap. So I will first ad that having watched White Dog twice in unprepared theaters, the discomfort was palatable, and exquisite. Tasted a little like Caviar.

I will add to this that I just wanted to let you know I gave you the Versatile Blogger Award


That and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee but the sentiment is genuine.

Bob Westal said...

I'm a bit late, but I feel the need to clarify slightly and elaborate but I'll try to keep between Dennis's poles of short and long length.

First, I want to clarify that I'm not actually arguing that the restless camera might have been caused by the cameraman trying to find the action but that's what I assumed at the time. Since Jay Duplass actually shoots the movies, however, I suppose it's possible it's a kind of tic from the improvised days that turned into a sort of nervous habit which he probably gets compliments on from some quarters.

Still, it occurs to me that shooting styles which are not so different from this are becoming very common, especially in comedies, though I'm sure there are varying degrees of effectiveness and skil. Still, I wonder what y'all make of the way that TV shows like "The Office" and movie comedies like "In the Loop" are made. (I saw "Four Lions" yesterday, an upcoming English ultra-ultra black comedy about Islamist terrorists where there an awful lot of it, but it did seem to fit the film's hilarious but sad/disturbing content.)

Personally, my reactions to "Cyrus" were 100% opposite to Dennis's, in that I've liked it more. I've been thinking about the performances and the story imperfect though it is (Dennis and the Siren have made good critiques there, I think, though I think they are far outweighed by its good points.)

To me, story and characters will always be king in movies and, since those are two most endangered aspects of filmmaking right now, I'm not about to let a little unmotivated shaky-cam ruin what I think is a very good movie for me.

Bob Westal said...

Oh, and Josh, good work on working Whedon into this. There's never an cinematic discussion that can't be improved by mentioning him. :)

Actually, though, I think that the lens flares, etc. in "Firefly" were a fairly conscious emulation of the style of certain seventies Westerns the W-man admires. He's cited specifically the all but impossible to see "Ulzanna's Raid" as a major influence, and I'm definitely reminded of some of the Eastwood films.