…for black-and-white widescreen cinematography than myself. Serious widescreen, I mean — 2.39:1.
Off the top of my head the most mouth-watering monochrome scope flicks are Woody Allen‘s Manhattan (dp Gordon Willis), Martin Ritt‘s Hud (dp James Wong Howe), Robert Rossen‘s The Hustler (dp Eugene Schüfftan), Jack Cardiff‘s Sons and Lovers (dp Freddie Francis), Jack Clayton‘s The Innocents (also Francis), Daryl F. Zanuck‘s The Longest Day (dps Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz) and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man (Francis again).
Eric Messerschmidt‘s black-and-white capturings in the Mank trailer look perfectly luscious. Monochrome dessert with whipped cream and a cherry on top. But for a period film already praised for casting an ultra-scrupulous eye upon the minutiae of 1940s Hollywood life, I’ve been wondering why Fincher and Messerschmidt chose to shoot Mank in an ultra-wide aspect ratio when 1.37 was the compositional norm back then.
Nobody except The Big Trail‘s Raoul Walsh and dps Lucien Andriot and Arthur Edeson had shot anything in black-and-white widescreen back then, and certainly nobody was thinking or dreaming in such terms, so why is a super-exacting film like Mank upsetting the apple cart of our common visual perception of that era?
I wouldn’t call this a huge concern of mine, but I’m wondering what the thinking might have been. My guess is that Fincher and Messerschmidt did some tests and decided that despite the historical incongruity, they’d simply fallen too heavily in love with widescreen scope to let it go.
Fact-based dramas are presumed or expected to be mostly real. Liberties are always taken, of course, and now and then a scene or two will be invented out of whole cloth. What matters, of course, is whether or not the inventions are emotionally satisfying. If a scene works, all is forgiven.
Off the top I can think of two such scenes that hit it out of the park. One, the “Carl Bernstein fakes out Martin Dardis‘s icy-mannered secretary” scene in All The President’s Men, which was completely invented and co-written by Nora Ephron and Bernstein himself. And two, the pens scene in Ron Howard‘s A Beautiful Mind. Even the allegedly venerated ritual of Princeton mathematics professors presenting pens to a respected colleague was completely fabricated.
Can anyone think of others? I’m not talking about lying docudramas. That’s standard Hollywood procedure. I’m talking about made-up scenes that really deliver the goods, and are even regarded in some quarters as the high point of a film in question.
Although I have to say I felt truly crestfallen when I heard Dave Chapelle say the following to David Letterman [listen below]: “I believe that God is in control….no matter what I worry about…I trust that this creation has a purpose….something perfect exists…we have to believe in something, otherwise why would you continue?”
HE reply: “God is in control”? Tell that to the millions who were marched into showers and gassed with Zyklon-B. Why did they continue despite many of them smelling or at least sensing their fate around the corner? Because they had no option but to live and strive and keep trying despite the odds. Because continuing is mandatory.
Last night’s SNL wasn’t just unfunny — it was in-and-out unwatchable. I briefly turned into Joe Biden as I said to the screen, “C’mon, man…this isn’t working!” Okay, the Village People thing was moderately okay. Conceptually the “Madam Vivela” fortune teller skit was pretty good — I wanted it to work but the dialogue never landed. The African tourism skit was basically Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love — not funny in 2012, not funny last night. The Bachelor skit was awful. Adele’s opening monologue was a struggle (why would she say she doesn’t know American politics because she’s British?) but her singing was great.
“[The last Presidential] debate was so frustrating to watch. Did anyone else yell lines at the screen that they wish Biden had said? When Trump said he’s been good for the stock market, I was like ‘Joe, [during the Obama years] the stock market went up four times higher than Trump’s stock market. You have the ball. You’re standing above the rim. Why will you not dunk it?'”
One, Joe has never been a dazzling debater, and he never will be. Two, Joe might’ve dunked it if he was 60 or 70 or even 75. But he’s 78. Three, people seize up when the pressure is on — it happens. And four, Pete Buttigieg would’ve dunk-slammed it like a star, but a certain demographic within the Democratic Party shut him down. And here we are.