One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling. This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot, explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story. We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including: composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more. We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.
Most years have a few high-quality genre pieces to offer, some years see the release of a genre-defining film and a solid collection of supporting movies, and every now and then there are collisions where two absolute classics are released side-by-side (see: 1968, 1977, and 1982). But, there’s nothing quite like what happened 20 years ago. Eleven science fiction films of note were released in 1997, spanning all subgenres. This piece will discuss each of these films, heralding 1997 as a seminal year for cinematic science fiction.
The fourth entry in Plot and Theme’s year-long look at the filmography of Stanley Kubrick. Check out all entries here.
In 1962, Stanley Kubrick adapted the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita for his sixth feature film. Though published only 7 years earlier, Nabokov’s novel was already reaching the status of a classic work due to its controversial subject matter, witty wordplay, and themes of erotic fantasy, hebephilia, and sexual predation. Working with Nabokov on the screenplay, Kubrick’s adaptation faithfully recreates the key aspects of the novel, capturing the sexuality, irony, and tragedy of a man who lusts after a prepubescent girl.
Still shackled by the Hayes Code, Lolita was thought to be unfilmable, and the director himself later expressed that had he known how severe the censors were going to be, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to adapt Lolita. Fortunately, he did.
Paul Greengrass’s United 93 is more than a harrowing dramatization of the events of September 11th, 2001. It’s also a profound treatise on the significance of information, and how ignorance leads to irrationality, uncertainty, and fear. This piece will look at three aspects of the film and how each is intimately tied to the availability of information: the plot, the characters, and the themes. The plot is revealed slowly, as a sense of dramatic irony permeates the spectator’s interpretation of the events. Characterization is established by reactions to the inexplicable, and then corresponding responses as more information becomes known. Even the ultimate thematic statements hinge in the treatment information in United 93. Greengrass concludes that information is power – especially in the hands of individuals.
The Terminator (1984) is a better film than Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The three other movies in the franchise are utter garbage and will not be discussed further. And, if you’ll lower your pitchforks for long enough, this piece will provide several arguments asserting the superiority of The Terminator. I’ll compare three aspects of the films and explain how The Terminator bests Terminator 2 in each: 1.) The overall plot-theme of the story, 2.) The structure, pacing, and the effectiveness of the storytelling, and 3.) The characters and their respective arcs. I will show that the first film showcases a stronger and more original plot, streamlined structure, and more interesting characters. After remarking on the sequel’s deserved accolades, the stark verdict will follow: Terminator 2 is exemplary, but The Terminator is the greater film.
The third essay in a year-long analysis of the films of Stanley Kubrick. Check out the schedule and explanation here, where you can also find links to all the completed pieces.
Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas and written by Dalton Trumbo, may be the best Swords-and-Sandals story ever put to film. The film is a powerhouse but is easily the least “Kubrickian” film in all of the great director’s filmography. This is mostly due to Kubrick sharing control with Douglas, who produced the film and had final cut, and the writer Dalton Trumbo. In this piece, I’ll detail the circumstances surrounding this intense collaboration, starting with the political climate and background of the film. I’ll continue on with the story and characters developed by Trumbo and Douglas and finish with Kubrick’s stylistic contributions to the film. Though all three creators approached the film with their own intentions and goals, they were still able to produce an irrefutable classic.