July 5, 2010

THE WRITE STUFF: WHEN YOU CANNOT DIRECT AN ACTION SEQUENCE, YOU SHOULD BE VERY, VERY QUIET (AND I MEAN, HUSH, DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK)

When I look at something like this – what should have been a rather exciting heist roughly half into the movie The Losers, I just have to sit back and laugh. At the sheer incompetence of the thing. Why incompentence? The shots are all blocked okay, aren't they? Lighting? All there. Some kind of non-descript downtown in some non-descript American city.

So you cannot blame the cinematographer. Nor the lighting, or otherwise Christian Bale (not in this movie, I am making a point here) would have gone "we are done, professionally" on somebody's ass.

Who's left to blame? The writer? Uh, no. He probably wrote something like AND THE CHARGE EXPLODES. THE VAN IS LIFTED UP INTO THE SKY. CHAOS ENSUES.

That's how much "writers" in Hollywood usually write about a scene. Because, see, it's all about the director. The director has a "vision". The "writer" has to use very small words and be as stupid and non-descript as possible as to not step on that director's "vision".

A director has a vision? Oh, fucking please.

German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said that if you have visions, you should consult a psychiatrist. You don't need a vision. You need a plan.

The director here? The one with the "vision", but no plan? Sylvain White of Stomp The Yard and I Always And Forever Will Know What Happened On That Day Seven Summers Ago That We Are Desperately Trying To Forget.

So, Mr. White, this one's all on you. Come on down!

Accept your asswhupping like a man! And don't you come with excuses! You had a vision, didn't you? You're the guy with the microphone on the set. You are – like every director – god! Everybody does what you tell them to do! And this is what they did, eh?

Come on down, Mr. White! Accept your "I had no fucking clue what I was doing" award! Come on down! And tell me about your "vision"!

Let us go through the abortion of a direction frame by frame, shall we? And remember, kids, this one takes place during rush hour in a downtown area. Keep that in mind at all times.


When you are doing a frame that follows directly the beginning of a prolonged firefight on an open street, with dozens and dozens of cars around the main action, please have extras in the cars. And by extras, I don't mean one single business-suit attired old guy who stumbles into the frame from the right, without any regard for his life, looking like he's at a show in Orlando, Florida.


Even better than that? Right in the middle of the death zone, you have what appears to be a bike cop walk through the frame! While in the back, people are shooting in all directions (I'm not even going to get into the fact that there was another cop a frame earlier, who – I shit you not, people – looked like he was directing... traffic! Note how both cops (this one you see here, netflix the movie to see the other) never once reach for their guns. Or duck. Or take cover. Nope. Because that's not who we are.


But wait! It gets better! See this here? In the middle of a firefight that's been going on for at least two minutes now (the smoke in the back of the frame? That's tear gas), Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the other dude are maybe 40 metres away from the death zone. See this frame? Look carefully. Not a single person has left his car. There's no chaos. There are no people trying to get away. Nope. Everybody's right where they are supposed to be. Safety first, kids. Stay in your cars, lock the windows and let Pappy Cheney protect you!


And even when they blow shit up... nobody's moving. What is this? Baghdad? Is this one of these moments, where you go, oh, well, it's the wrong time, I guess, to stop sniffing glue (and if you don't know what I am referencing, shame on you)


But my favourite shot? This one, at the end of the sequence. Please remember that Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his buddy are roughly 40 metres away from the death zone. In heavy traffic. After minutes of shooting. And tear gas. And a helicopter whisking away a van.

And the one, single reaction you get? Look to the right background of the frame. Where there should be people running and screaming. But what you get is – I shit you not – a single granny, who tip-toes in an almost Keystone Cop manner, looking briefly back and then stopping, as if an idiot in the director's chair said, well, that's far enough now, Grandma.

Yes, Mr. White. This one's all you.

And I have seen far too many movies with "direction" like this. From "professionals", who apparently do not possess the ability to direct a scene that requires more than the foreground framing. Don't worry about the reactions, eh? Or what would really happen in a firefight in heavy traffic? Or even... how to make this look cool. 

I have had my own experiences (as some of you may have noticed while reading this blog) with artists, who took the short cut. Who went, why bother with a master frame when it is enough to go American or go close? After all, who will notice?

I will. I have. And I am. Noticing it every single fucking time.

And I don't respect you.