The ins and outs of film editing: the good.

I've been asked by a City Limit reader what makes a film's editing good as opposed to bad.

First, the good.
Some editors claim that invisible editing is the best, such as in this fantastic New York Times article on editing. While I think it's true that the best cuts are generally the ones you don't notice, some conspicuous cuts can also be used to great effect. All That Jazz has cuts like these. They add an entire new rhythm to the film, where dance sequences become not only about dancing, but about the way in which you view it. Your whole perspective can be changed by the pattern of edits.

Other movies can use editing to slow a movie down or speed it up. Pacing is one of the most important aspects of a film. If you're bored while watching a film, it might be because it's not well-written, or because it's visually unappealing, or it could be that it's just poorly paced. Some movies, such as any Michael Bay film, cut often and keep scenes short so that things feel brisk and move along at a good clip.

Others, such as Alien, play with the pacing by cutting less or more. A key scene has the character Brett searching for the alien in a cargo hold. The scene could be edited to have his search be quick. But the cuts are few and far between, and time sloooows dooooown. Once he finds the alien, the cuts speed up and before you know it the scene is over, Brett is dead. Quickly, we're in the next scene and back to a more moderate pace. Film posters often use the cliche "A ROLLER COASTER OF A FILM," but the analogy applies here. Imagine the very start of a wooden roller coaster. As you climb he first hill, it's all anticipation and it feels like it takes forever, then suddenly you drop, twist and turn, and before you know it, it's over.

Coming soon... bad editing.

further reading: wikipedia article on Film Editing

Freddie and the Trojan Horse.

There's a new EP by one of my favourite bands. In fact, the name of this blog is the title of one of their tracks (only because "This Must Be the Place" was already taken). The song's called "Freddie and the Trojan Horse." It's by The Radio Dept and the title track is apparently about Sweden's "right-wing" government. You can stream the song online and even download the cut for free. I recommend it.

Audio tape tape dispenser.

Tell me this isn't cool. It's an adhesive tape dispenser that looks like an audio cassette. If only it weren't $25 plus shipping from Britain.


My new banner.

I have a new web banner (see above). It's made from a section of an earlier project I did many months back. That project involved rotoscoping stills from some of my favourite films. This was originally to practice some new software I was learning (Adobe Illustrator), but soon became a project that I really loved to do and thought looked great. Check out some of the images I made. Name as many of the movies as you can.


Clothes I can't afford.

I was thinking today... "if money were no object, what clothes might I buy?" I searched around and found these. Does it work as an outfit?

TOTAL COST: $241.50

My 100 favourite films. Entry #13: Alien.

Alien (1979)
directed by Ridley Scott
starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto
country: UK
genre: Sci-fi / Horror

Visuals: 10
Writing: 8
Everyday watchability: 5
Number of characters who survive to the end of the film: 1

This movie would definitely still make the cut if this list were only ten entries long instead of 100. When I was in junior high, I rented this movie from the corner video store many many times. So many times that my mother would sigh and say, "You rented that movie again?!" But I loved it, and didn't really know why. Based on her reaction, I figured it was just a guilty pleasure. It wasn't until much later that I realized I liked it was because it was a great movie. Just fucking fantastic. Alien was very much unlike the horror movies it followed and it was the template for many horror movies after it.

The first thing it did was hide the monster. Most movies would constantly show you the creature, as if you were to be horrified by its very construction. "Oh look at that hideous thing!" But most times, it just wasn't scary, especially when you could see a zipper. In Alien, you only get flashes and snippets of the creature. My theory: People are scared of the unknown, so the less they know, the more they're scared.

Another thing this movie did: nothing. For a good half an hour, nothing really happens. The characters wake up and eat and land on a planet and walk around. After half an hour, there's a brief moment of action. It's another 25 minutes after that when the shit really hits the fan. Movies are still trying to imitate this structure, but few manage to do it well. Somehow in Alien, the nothing is kind of exciting...

Other pluses: the set design; the creature design,; the acting; the dialog; the cinematography; the editing and the amazing score, one of Goldsmith's best.



They let me make these scratchpads at work. I designed these in Adobe Illustrator and printed them on specialty paper. Then we cut them, glued them on the top edge, and then cut them again into these sweet pads. They're each 5.5" x 4.25" and have 50 sheets with a thick paper backing.


My 100 favourite films. Entry #12: Libeled Lady.

Libeled Lady (1936)
directed by Jack Conway
starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy
country: USA
genre: Comedy / Romance

Visuals: 6
Writing: 7
number of films William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in together: 14

This movie isn't very exciting visually, and while the writing is good, it's certainly does have the snap of the Thin Man films or the wit of His Girl Friday. But it's got great actors. William Powell is smarmy and dryly hilarious, Myrna Loy is sharp as a tack and Jean Harlow is just cute. All in all, it's an enjoyable film with a number of great moments, such as when Powell pratfalls his way through a river or when he tells Myrna Loy she's too fragile to be touched. Oh, William Powell, you're my hero. You and Fletch.


A few of my favourite things.

my Rover, a Diana clone

I know that wise men say that material goods aren't...well...good, but some things definitely have meaning beyond their material utility. I wanted to share a few of my favourite things. These are the things I would go for if there was a fire because they're a constant reminder of the people that gave them to me.

item: beanie
I picked out the yarn and my friend knitted this for me over the course of a few months. It's warm and soft and snug and keeps my ears warm. It's perfect.
item: 1970 Scwhinn Continental
This was my dad's bicycle when he was in his early 20's and he gave it to me some time back. It's heavy as well, but it's gotten me around practically every day for the past six months. Plus, it's brown. I'm not sure what I'd do without it.
item: Lomo Lubitel 166U
This gift was a definite surprise, and a perfect gift. It came at a time when I was feeling inspired, and using this camera was entirely different from my trusty SLR. It really got me thinking about each frame in a new way.
item: grey Van's
I know they're just shoes, but they make me feel good every time I put them on. I don't know what that is, but I feel like myself in them. That's good, right?

Colors is awesome.

Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct. Colors is a magazine originally started by the clothing company United Colors of Benetton. It only publishes four magazine's a year, but each one is a gem. Each issue covers a different topic, with some in the past including race, violence and AIDS.

A recent issue was about eco-sustainability and was present as a guide to the island of Vörland in the Summer of 2057. It's one of the few remaining hospitable places on the planet due to global warming and therefore a popular tourist destination. People come to ride the pedibus (powered by the legs of the riders), taste one of Muhhamad's Vebabs (kebabs made entirely of vegetables) and stay at the Motel Kärlek (where the electricity is generated through the movement of the beds, so getting it on is encouraged). The issue is brilliant in a kind of annoying way, where I feel like I've been living in an imagination cave, and wonder why I didn't think of any of this.


My 100 favourite films. Entry #11: Ni na bian ji dian (What Time Is It There?).

Ni na bian ji dian (What Time Is It There?) (2001)
directed by Tsai Ming Liang
starring Kang-sheng Lee, Shiang-chyi Chen and Yi-Ching Lu
country: Taiwan / France
genre: Drama

Visuals: 10
Writing: 6
Everyday watchability: 3
Number of different shots: 102
Average shot length: about 68 seconds
Number of non-static shots: 0

If you missed it just above, this movie is comprised completely of long takes. I think the shortest shot is about 5 seconds long while the longest runs over 2 minutes. And practically every shot is gorgeous. The plot involves a Taiwanese man who becomes obsessed with a woman who buys a dual-time watch off of him. While she vacations in France, he sets all the clocks he can to France time. The movie plays out slowly, but with images this nice, I can't help but be sucked into the story. It's about obsession and desire and the need for fulfillment, and it's both heartbreaking and beautiful.


My 100 favourite films. Entry #10: Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
directed by Steven Spielberg
starring Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban and Teri Garr
country: USA
genre: Sci-fi

Visuals: 10
Writing: 7
Everyday watchability: 6
Number of different versions of the film: 3 (at least)

Close Encounters came at a time very early in Spielberg's career, when he was still in love with making films for the sake of making films, as opposed to making them because it's his job. Watching the film to this day, I can still see the joy of creation in every scene and every frame. I see the doe-eyed optimism and an eagerness to create something new, alter something old, and push the boundaries of studio filmmaking. Close Encounters is gorgeous not only for its immaculate cinematography and amazing acting, but for being a clear view of a filmmaker at love with what he does.