Tuesday, May 08, 2007 

One Shot, One Kill

Before I begin, let me say I most definitely ripped this idea from another blog I ran across the other day. It contained many more examples, some I found boring (the guy is a real student of film and occasionally his exposition is a bit much and too technical for my taste), so I only included the ones I was more familiar with and could personally speak on. I didn't steal anyone's words, only some inspiration and the links to some YouTube video examples. The idea was so great, though, I had to share and sort of do my own.


I think I first gained appreciation for the continuous tracking shot when I watched SWINGERS, believe it or not. Jon Favereau and Vince Vaughn's characters, two aspiring actors and incurable lounge lizards, just kept going on and on about "money" shots in movies they liked (while a RESERVOIR DOGS poster hangs on the wall behind them) and the both agreed that Scorsese's uninterrupted walk with Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco in GOODFELLAS as they navigate a seemingly endless trip that begins at a back entrance in the Copacabana and ends with a special and private table for two in the front row, was about the most impressive thing either of them had ever seen done with a camera. Then director Doug Liman knowingly apes or pays homage to, depending on your point of view, said shot by following their small group of nighthawks as they gain admittance into one of the many clubs they frequent.

Goodfellas (1990)
dir: Martin Scorsese
Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci

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From that point on, I started paying close attention. By the time BOOGIE NIGHTS rolled around in '97, I was able to truly appreciate the opening, whose genius likely slipped by most people, set to The Emotions' "The Best Of My Love." P.T. Anderson had my attention long ago with HARD EIGHT but he finally had the world's eye on him with the subject matter contained here and the cast. Watch as the camera begins outside, above the streets of '77's San Fernando Valley and the Boogie Nights nightclub in Reseda, as it follows Luis Guzman walking Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore to their table, then catches up with Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and Nicole Ari Parker, leaves Guzman to find Burt and Julianne once again as Heather Graham rolls into the frame and then trails behind her through a crowded dancefloor before finally landing on our unlikely hero, Mark Wahlberg bussing tables.

Boogie Nights (1997)
dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore

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Chan-Wook Park's OLDBOY is the second installment of his much-talked about "Vengeance Trilogy" (which some believe were part of the inspiration behind the recent Virginia Tech shooter's slaying) and might be the best of the bunch. One portion you are certain to never forget is when the protagonist, Oh Dae-Su, fights his way down a hallway filled with an innumerable amount of thugs with only his wits, pure brawn...and a hammer.

Oldboy (2003)
dir: Chan-Wook Park
Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu

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True story: the only reason I discovered John Woo back in '92 was because when I saw his HARD-BOILED on my local video store's shelf, I thought it was a live-action adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name. It turned out to be a lucky mistake for me. For a long, long while afterwards I considered Woo the absolute best at filming action sequences and while I admit to liking THE KILLER more, it's Hard-Boiled that contains one of the best shootouts ever comitted to celluloid.

Hard Boiled (1992)
dir: Jon Woo
Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung

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Most people jumped on Tony Jaa's jock the minute they saw ONG-BAK. Me? I wasn't impressed. At least, not with the movie. Jaa, on the other hand, was incredible and I couldn't wait for a vehicle that would allow him to showcase what he could really do and allow him to truly cut loose. I found that in '05's Tom Yum Goong, renamed for American consumption as THE PROTECTOR. To be completely honest, the story here isn't much better or really all that different from Ong-Bak but my God is it action-packed! There are too many portions to rave about and they generally come in pretty rapid succession but only one sequence left me breathless, as if I had been IN the scene myself, at it's conclusion and all I could say was, "Jesus Christ...was that all ONE SHOT?" Sadly, there are quite a few parts where I suspect there are cuts...basically whenever the camera takes its attention off of Jaa and focuses elsewhere. You'll see what I mean when you watch the clip. It's still no less amazing when seen in its entirety.

Tom Yum Goong aka The Protector (2005)
dir: Prachya Pinkaew
Tony Jaa, Nathan Jones

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I missed CHILDREN OF MEN in theaters and it was something I regretted deeply after reading all the positive reviews from critics and fans I respect and even moreso when the Academy Awards rolled around. The following sequence isn't the first one I noticed as being continuous in the movie (that one comes later, as Clive Owen makes his way down a war-torn street and into a building under even heavier fire. I'll include both even if I suspect the second shot isn't continuous and contains a cleverly hidden cut; when Owen reaches the foot of the stairs the camera pans upwards and the blood-splattered lens is suddenly, yet subtly, clean again). My advice is if you have not seen this incredible and thought-provoking movie yet, do NOT watch this scene as it contains a major plot point and would completely spoil the film for you. For those of you who HAVE seen it, enjoy reliving one of the most genuinely shocking moments of Alfonso Cuaron's new modern classic.

Children of Men (2006)
dir: Alfonso Cuaron
Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor

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I have an unhealthy obsession with Joss Whedon's dialogue that's almost on par with my love of Mamet, Tarantino and Smith. But even after a healthy diet of seven seasons of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and five of ANGEL, I was initially reluctant to give FIREFLY a chance because generally, I'm not a fan of science fiction. It took a friend to describe it to me as a live-action COWBOY BEBOP (one of my favorite anime series ever) and the impending release of full-length feature SERENITY before I finally caved in and bought the first and only season (it was cancelled after airing eleven of the fourteen episodes) on DVD one particularly slow weekend.

I love this scene, the movie's opening, not only because it re-familiarizes die-hard Firefly fans with all their old favorite main characters but it serves as an introduction for new viewers and does a fantastic job of showing Mal's entire crew, their basic function, the base aspects of their personality and gives you a feel for the Firefly universe through showing you the decor around the entire ship.

Serenity (2005)
dir: Joss Whedon
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor

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