House Logo

Ray Liotta (#110 of 3)

Poster Lab: Killing Them Softly

Comments Comments (...)

Poster Lab: <em>Killing Them Softly</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Killing Them Softly</em>

You really can’t miss the irony in the Killing Them Softly poster designs, as both of them are about as soft as a shell casing. Be it the graphic of a loaded pistol pointing in your face, or the ultra-loud placement of sans serif font atop Brad Pitt’s shotgun wielder, this ad campaign aims to hit you hard, just in case that title was at all misleading. Released to coincide with Killing Them Softly’s premiere at Cannes, where the crime drama lost the Palme d’Or to Michael Haneke’s Amour, the first poster looks a whole lot like the front of a trendy T-shirt, and not just because of the flag fabric in that sunglasses silhouette. If not for the title, one would be forgiven for thinking this was a glimpse at H&M’s fall line, its flipped stars and stripes all set to grace the rack alongside screen-prints of neon monsters. It’s a groovy design, for sure, and its adherence to just a few badass elements ably communicates the no-nonsense cool the film is clearly after. Again, it’s decidedly tough stuff, an amalgam of three very masculine bits of “USA!” iconography: the flag, the gun, and the aviator sunglasses. That the whole image calls to mind a certain bandana-rocking, great American train robber is mere gravy.

Sopranos Week: I Believe in America

Comments Comments (...)

<em>Sopranos</em> Week: I Believe in America
<em>Sopranos</em> Week: I Believe in America

With the final episodes of The Sopranos soon to air on HBO, it’s worth considering where the show fits in the pantheon of great mob stories that have been committed to film. Yes, The Sopranos is a TV show, but as such it is sui generis and can only be compared to films.

In one self-referential scene, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) and her family are eating dinner while her ex-husband laments how Italian-Americans are portrayed in movies about the Mafia. Her son, Jason, counters that mob movies have replaced westerns as the dominant narrative of the American experience. A self-serving viewpoint, perhaps, from a show like The Sopranos, but it’s also an observation that is hard to dispute.

Steadi’s Daddy: An Interview with Steadicam Inventor Garrett Brown

Comments Comments (...)

Steadi’s Daddy: An Interview with Steadicam Inventor Garrett Brown
Steadi’s Daddy: An Interview with Steadicam Inventor Garrett Brown

Author’s Note: Since the Steadicam discussion seems to be flowering into something more than an argument about a piece of equipment, rather than change the subject with a totally different post, I’ll stay the course. What follows is reprint of an article I wrote about the history and aesthetics of the Steadicam, built around an interview with the device’s creator, Garrett Brown. It was originally published in the Winter 2005 issue of Film Festival Reporter magazine, which is edited by my friend Scott Bayer, a journalist and filmmaker.

Garrett Brown might be the most influential filmmaker that the moviegoing public hasn’t heard of. Throughout his long career, the 62-year old Philadelphian has been a mostly behind-the-scenes presence in the industry, working as cinematographer, cameraman, inventor and teacher. Yet his impact has been as profound as that of any auteur, star or studio executive, thanks to his greatest invention: the Steadicam, a combination camera and body harness that merged the improvisational freedom of the handheld shot with the elegance of the dolly, and expanded the frontiers of cinema.

In the 30 years since the camera made its debut in director Hal Ashby’s Woody Guthrie biography Bound for Glory—in a still-dazzling shot that began atop a high crane, drifted to earth and then wove through a camp full of migrant workers—the Steadicam has become a star player in some of the most visually and dramatically memorable sequences of the past three decades, sequences that advance the narrative while subtly commenting on the meaning and uses of movie language.