May 11, 2017

Another Ode to the Best Shots in All of Cinematic History

Ready to take a second trip down movie memory lane?

A couple of weeks ago we shared Part I of CineFix's "Best Shots of All Time" series, giving us the chance to revel in not only the glory of cinematic beauty, but in the power of cinematic storytelling. Part II of the series went live today and it's every bit as enlightening and entertaining as the video that came before it, but instead of highlighting the very best in the shot size category, CineFix focuses on the greatest among five different shot types, including over-the-shoulder, dual layer, and the 2-shot.

Again, this isn't just a simple best-of list. CineFix goes into depth about the possible psychological meanings behind certain shots, as well as how filmmakers use those meanings to tell better, more dynamic stories. Check it out below:

If you're a film theory nerd like me, I just want to say two things to you: 1.) If you're feeling lightheaded from all of your nerdy excitement, put your head between your knees, and 2.) I know, right!?

To sate my obsession with cinematography and aesthetic theory I ask people all the time about their favorite shots from movies, and their reply seems to always end with, "It's just so beautiful." So, most of the time it's about aesthetics alone—the color, composition, framing of a shot. However, there is so much more going on within a frame than that. 

That's the main reason why this CineFix series is so great, because it breaks down why certain shots work on a narrative level—how aesthetics can actually be used to tell stories. The over-the-shoulder shot from Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas is a prime example of how the power of framing and composition can be harnessed to reveal something about a cinematic moment that words never could by playing with the way we're given information about the physical and emotional conflicts within a scene.

'Paris, Texas' (1984)

From the video:

The brilliance of it is in the obstruction, that in a shot about "looking" and "being looked at" there is something making it hard for them to do exactly what it is they want so badly. The emotional conflict—their struggling to connect after such a long time—is represented in the physical conflict of the scene—the actors in the space actually struggling to see each other, which is represented to us through visual conflict—an inability to see what it is we're being positioned to look at. 

Holy hell, that's good.

The five shot types discussed in the video are:

Over-the-Shoulder: Paris, TX
Dual Layer: Persona
2-Shot: The Master
Group Shot: Barry Lyndon
Crowd Shot: Metropolis

What are your favorite shots from each category and why? List them down in the comments below!      

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