Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 2010 Commercial

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

In 2008 I worked as Director of Photography for the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival’s TV commercial. Filament Artists, a local creative services agency, handled production and post-production. Todd Hornsby was the producer and Sam McDavid was the writer/director. This year, the decision-makers at Sidewalk asked Filament to do it once again, and I had another opportunity to work as Director of Photography for the project. The Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival is now in its 12th year, and will be held in downtown Birmingham September 24-26.

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On-Screen Cliches – The Dramatic Walk-Off

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

If you watch a lot of movies, you will soon pick up on certain devices that are used over and over again, like a car that won’t start when the killer is closing in on the main character. One of the cliches that I’ve noticed is often used during a dramatic scene between two characters. Usually, the characters are at odds with each other and the scene is tense, filled with a lot of dialogue. Inevitably, Character #1 will end the conversation and then dramatically walk away from the confrontation. However, just before he/she leaves the room, Character #2 will stop Character #1′s exit with one last word. You might see this play out in an FBI office when the young, brash agent starts to walk away from his supervisor. Just before getting to the door the supervisor will say, “Agent Pearson.” At which point, the young agent will turn around. The two lock eyes for a moment and the supervisor adds, “Be careful out there.”

What other movie/TV cliches have you noticed?

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What I’m Watching: Seven Pounds

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

seven_poundsThere’s no doubt that Will Smith has impressive range as an actor. His emotional performance in The Pursuit of Happyness is one to be remembered, and I suppose he was hoping to capture lightning twice with last year’s Seven Pounds. However, Smith’s performance alone couldn’t prop up a film with very little in the way of story and execution.

The film is a very weighty drama, in which Smith plays Ben Thomas, a broken man seeking redemption for a past mistake. The ideas explored in the film (redemption, goodness, selflessness, sacrifice) are all valid and the story does a good job of promoting all that is good with humankind. However, the biggest failure with Seven Pounds is that it gives away too much too soon, and it’s attempt at a foreceful one-two emotional punch falls flat.

The ending is given away at the onset of the film and then quickly we are rushed back to the beginning to see all the events in chronologcal order. The hope is that viewers will sit on the edge of their seats, waiting to see why Smith’s character made that phone call in the first scene. However, because of what we know in that opening moment, Ben Thomas’ ultimate plan is known a little less than half-way through the movie. We are left to watch as Ben goes around meeting a host of characters upon whom he can impart his goodness, in an ongoing effort to ease his own guilt.

Seven Pounds is certainly an emotional film, but one that lacks any serious impact.

4 out of 10

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Pelham 123 a Mixed Bag

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

taking_of_pelham_one_two_threeGuest Review By Troy Wagner

The Taking of Pelham 123 is a wrong-place-wrong-time hostage thriller involving public transportation. Think Speed mixed with Inside Man. It’s a formula that, for most, should be familiar. And that’s the movie’s biggest problem – it all feels familiar.

Remakes have been the Hollywood house special for a while now. This isn’t news to anyone. The Taking of Pelham 123 follows the trend. It’s based on the 1974 movie of the same name,which in turn, was based on a novel published in 1973. And in 1998 we were treated to a made-for-TV-movie version.

It exclusively tells the story of New York City subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), whose normal day at work is made a little more complicated when a subway train, Pelham 123, is hijacked by four men. The head man, Ryder (John Travolta), demands ten million dollars in one hour, after which he will, surprise surprise, start killing hostages. Garber becomes the middleman between the gunmen and authorities, of which include a hostage negotiator named Camonetti (John Turturro) and the conveniently unnamed mayor of New York himself (played by Tony Soprano…no wait, I mean James Gandolfini).

The pacing of the story can best be described as “boiling water.” From the get-go, the tension steadily increases, leading to the inevitable confrontation. The film is most enjoyable during these tense moments of conflict and violence, but these moments do little to balance out the overall slow pacing of the film.

The performances are competent, with Denzel Washington doing the most with what he is given, becoming the likable, flawed everyman stuck in a hostage stand-off. John Travolta, unfortunately, seems to have lost his action movie edge. I felt as though I should feel sympathy for his character, but Travolta’s performace made it difficult. He hams up the “tough guy” routine so much that I could have served it for Christmas dinner. There’s an inconsistency in his portrayal, shifting quickly from the smooth criminal to the F-bomb-laden frenziness of a guy on the edge. The supporting cast is solid, but ultimately forgettable.

Pelham 123 also seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. Mix equal parts drama, action, and comedy, let bake for 106 minutes, and you get one confusing little package. The banter between Garber and Ryder becomes outright philosophical at points, questioning religion and morals, which feels about as out of place as it sounds. This is made all the more disorienting when the comically inept police force join in the fray. They’re on screen for no other reason than to offer director Tony Scott more ways to insert outrageous and unrealistic car wrecks and carnage.

The Taking of Pelham 123 isn’t awful, but it’s not particularly engaging either. There are scenes when I felt completely in the moment, but there were simply too many flaws to overlook. This movie doesn’t rank at the top of the “Worst Remakes” list, but don’t expect any Oscar material.

You can follow Troy Wagner on Twitter at

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What I’m Watching: ‘Melinda and Melinda’

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Melinda & MelindaHow one goes through life depends entirely on his or her perspective. One individual might see the tragedy inherent in a specific event, and yet someone else might perceive the same event to be a positive. Is the event itself tragic or comic, or does it depend solely upon your point of view?


This philosophical merry-go-round is the foundation for Woody Allen’s 2004 film, Melinda and Melinda. The film opens at a restaurant where four friends are in the middle of a conversation about life and relationships. Two of the friends are playwrights. One friend says that life is inherently tragic, but the other claims that life is inherently comic. A third friend sets the plot in motion when he asks the two playwrights to listen to a story and then comment on whether the tale is best viewed as a tragedy or comedy.

From that point, the film follows two parallel stories, centering on Melinda, a young woman trying to get her life back together after a series of bad relationships and self-destructive behavior. One story follows a dramatic interpretation, and one follows the conventions of a romantic comedy.

Commentary: The Premise

The premise of following parallel stories is engaging, although cliched and formulaic. This movie would not seem quite so original had it been produced as a stand-alone tragedy or comedy. But because both story arcs are shown side by side, the film is much more interesting. I think most people enjoy contemplating how life’s course can be set in one direction or another by events outside their control. It’s fun to imagine what if? scenarios, thinking how things could have been different, if only…

Commentary: The Dialogue

The dialogue in the film is a number of things – snappy, clever, poetic, and philosophical. Allen allows his characters to speak what many of us only think. The danger of doing so, however, is that a lot of the dialogue is too on-the-nose and expository. It doesn’t ring true for real life. Characters (Melinda especially) engage in reflective and introspective monologues that are often tedious. At times it feels more like a stage play than a film, but perhaps that’s the intent, considering that we are seeing this story through the eyes of two playwrights.

Commentary: The Comedic Interpretation

Of the two “Melinda” stories, the light-hearted, comedic tale is much more interesting, due to the talents of the actors on screen. Will Ferrell plays Hobie, a struggling actor married to an up-and-coming director played by Amanda Peet. Ferrell’s Hobie is charming and innocent, and he falls for Melinda (played by Radha Mitchell) when he realizes his marriage is going nowhere. Peet is equally likeable as the ambitious work-aholic filmmaker, striving to lock in the extra money to get her first feature into production. The dynamic between Ferrell and Mitchell is fun to watch, and the dialogue between the two rings truer than the dramatic counterpart of the film.

Commentary: The Dramatic Interpretation

The weaker of the two stories is the dramatic interpretation. Here, the characters are far less interesting, the dialogue far too stilted, and the acting too melodramatic. Aside from Mitchell’s performance, the ensemble around her was flat, stiff, and too over-the-top. Mitchell’s portrayal as the emotionally disturbed and suicidal Melinda really carried this portion of the film.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Melinda and Melinda explores some very human themes in very conventional ways, but presents them in a unique way.

5 1/2 out of 10

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