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  • Last month Vudu approached us and said,

  • hey, we're launching a new free movie streaming service called Movies On Us.

  • And we're big fans of the show.

  • If we sponsored an ep could you guys maybe help us get the word out?

  • And because the only thing we like more than movies are free movies we said,

  • you betcha.

  • And their catalogue has some great flix that might well have landed on top of

  • a top-ten list or three.

  • But we all felt that an unranked, brilliant moments episode would be

  • the fairest way to highlight the best of their selection,

  • without calling into question the immense

  • journalistic integrity we've built up by picking, No Country for Old Men,

  • The Third Man, Citizen Kane, and The Mirror, over and over and over again.

  • So we picked three moments from their catalog we think you'll like

  • about characters and the visuals used to reveal them.

  • And the nice thing about this partnership is that you can finish this list and

  • then literally go binge watch all three of our choices on Vudu's Movies On Us for

  • free, right now.

  • Because you weren't actually going to get anything done today, were you?

  • We didn't think so.

  • These are three brilliant moments in the visuals of character.

  • (Music)

  • If you pick up a basic book on cinematography and

  • flip through its pages to its obligatory list of different kinds of shots,

  • odds are you might find information on the different meanings of each one.

  • For instance, high angle shots, they'll tell you, are for

  • making a character look weak and small.

  • Whereas, low angle shots are for making them look big and strong and powerful.

  • And it's kind of true.

  • A high angle is what it looks like to look down on someone just like a low angle

  • looks like looking up.

  • And it's not too big of a stretch to suggest that the height comes with

  • power and status sometimes, but it also often doesn't,.

  • Do these characters look weak here?

  • Do these ones look powerful?

  • Are they even supposed to?

  • We certainly bring visual associations in from our experience as

  • humans in life with eyes.

  • And we bring in visual associations from our history of cinema experience, too.

  • But there's a third source of visual association we can use to make meaning

  • out of what we see on screen.

  • And that's from within the film itself.

  • Smart directors in good control of their craft build associations

  • between images and meanings early on.

  • Only to cash in on them later by recalling them, remixing them, rehashing them,

  • or subverting them to great effect.

  • And filmmakers can use this kind of visual shorthand to create strong motifs that

  • they play with in order to reach much deeper meaning than just low shot,

  • strong, high shot, weak.

  • And one of the places this really pays off is with character.

  • Good characters are rich with inner life, with hidden wants and fears and depths and

  • secrets and history.

  • But we can't exactly put them on screen so easily.

  • Literature is great at this.

  • Words on a page are an excellent surrogate for an inner monologue.

  • Reading them can put our mind through the exact mental paces

  • of a character in any given state.

  • But with the exception of voice over,

  • cinema can only access that information indirectly.

  • You probably heard great actors praised as having expressive faces or

  • eyes that are windows into their souls.

  • And while it sounds nice, all it really means is that their

  • external appearance gives us lots of information about their internal world.

  • But image systems can be a way in, too.

  • Filmmakers can use the nuance and

  • expressivity of shifting complex imagery to clue us in to the internal landscape of

  • their characters that might be otherwise inaccessible.

  • Check it out.

  • Our first moment comes from Like Crazy.

  • A beautiful little indie romance that won the grand jury at Sundance back in 2011.

  • Where Anna and Jacob, played by Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, have fallen in

  • love at university and spent the summer together after graduation.

  • But Anna's student visa expired with the school year, and

  • on her next trip to visit, she's detained an denied entry for the violation.

  • While Jacob waits helplessly on the other side of immigration control.

  • >> You will not be allowed to leave the airport.

  • Two agents from Homeland Security are going to come in here after I leave.

  • You will be placed back on the plane immediately and returned back to the UK.

  • You understand?

  • You have any questions?

  • Hi Jacob, it's Anna.

  • I'm sorry I missed your call again.

  • It's been pretty busy here.

  • Are you around at about 5:00 today?

  • >> With hardly a word these two shots tell us everything we need to know about where

  • Jacob's head is at and his relationship along with it.

  • The defeat, the fatigue, the depression, the exhaustion.

  • They're contained in not just his body language, staging, and lighting, but

  • in their visual contrast across these systematized images.

  • Images built with respect to each other, not just in their own little bubbles.

  • Imagine the sequence differently with only one of these two parallel shots.

  • It could play like this.

  • Hi Jacob, it's Anna.

  • I'm sorry I missed your call again.

  • >> Or like this.

  • (Music).

  • Hi, Jacob, it's Anna.

  • I'm sorry I missed your call again.

  • >> And while neither of those variations are exactly rays of sunshine,

  • they don't quite carry the same defeat as the original.

  • Because the image system director, Drake Doremus,

  • employs is like a giant real-time spot-the-difference puzzle on screen.

  • And the existing similarities draw all the differences into sharper relief,

  • forcing us to see the characters change.

  • But there's also something to be said about the power of the gap, too.

  • The span of black between the shots isn't just a side note or

  • useless punctuation mark,

  • it draws our attention purposefully to a space of time between these two moments.

  • And carving out some space there implies an in-between, and

  • it invites us to draw inferences about what happened.

  • And with images as clearly similar as these,

  • there isn't much space between them except for more frustration.

  • The darkness must have contained, well, a whole lot of darkness.

  • Compare it to this.

  • >> Hi Jacob, it's Anna.

  • I'm sorry I missed you call again.

  • >> Cut this way, it's almost like an instantaneous arrival, but

  • with the simple addition of this pause, this breath.

  • Jacob's defeat carries the weight of weeks or months of separation and

  • we feel it through how we are directed to see it.

  • In fact, Doremus employs a number of smart image systems like this all throughout

  • Like Crazy.

  • Like this one here and this one here.

  • (Music)

  • It all track how their relationship and emotions shift by drawing contrasts and

  • juxtapositions rather than just simple direct inference, and

  • it's everything we love about brilliant visual filmmaking.

  • And that's really the key to this type of visual system.

  • It allows us to track the nuances of change by holding most everything's static

  • so that the differences can spring to light in contrast.

  • It's like a science experiment.

  • You control all the variables except for one and

  • a clear picture of its effect emerges.

  • And change is very important for character.

  • In movies, we almost always expect them to grow or, at the very least, arc.

  • Of course, tracking inner change on screen is just about as difficult as accessing

  • an inner state, so we're turning, again, to the visual systems to lead the way.

  • This one comes from a little Duplass brothers mumble core film called

  • Jeff Who Lives At Home.

  • And if you know the Duplass brothers and their mumble core,

  • you know that neither are exactly famous for their visual precision.

  • The film is more found and captured in the moment than precisely constructed.

  • And you can see this from pretty early on where the camera has this pseudo

  • documentary, office like style complete with handheld searching and

  • quick bump zooms.

  • >> Are you tired of feeling sluggish?

  • Do you feel like life is passing you by?

  • Then there's a reason you're watching this right now.

  • Just pick up the phone and

  • start the new chapter to your life.

  • (Sound) >> Hello.

  • >> Yo, Kevin.

  • >> No, this is Jeff.

  • Where Kevin at?

  • >> And it's like this pretty much pretty much the whole way through,

  • mostly close ups focused on interpersonal interaction.

  • Actor-centric, where they kind of just point the camera and let it roll and

  • see what happens.

  • And bump zooms, lots and lots of bump zooms.

  • So Jeff's journey, chasing after the universe's signs and signals and

  • various strange men named Kevin finally leads him

  • to save the lives of two children and their father.

  • And when all is said and done, he sits down, watches the news, and this happens.

  • >> And coming up next.

  • The story of two girls, their father, and

  • the main who was in the right place at the right time.

  • >> We had lost our dad.

  • I just really can't even imagine it.

  • I'm just really thankful he was there.

  • >> We'll be right back with that rescue tale of local councilman, Kevin Landry and

  • his two little girls.

  • (Music)

  • All that and more when we come back.

  • (Music)

  • >> Did you catch that?

  • No, not that the guy's name was Kevin.

  • We all got that part, but the visual can see, the zoom.

  • Here, watch it again. >> We'll be right back with that

  • rescue tale of councilman, Kevin Landry, and his two little girls.

  • All that and more, when we come back.

  • >> Compared to every other bumpzoom throughout the entire film,

  • this is the only one that's slow.

  • It's subtle, almost too subtle.

  • But we think it's perceptible precisely because we're so

  • used to the pace of the normal bump.

  • It's like one deep breath compared to regular breathing.

  • Like the focused landing of a mindful thought compared to the everyday

  • scattering of attention.

  • It's like the filmmakers picked this one key moment for just one instant to lean in

  • quietly and say, this, this right here is important and real.

  • And with an hour and

  • 16 minutes of build up the cumulative effect of a slow zoom vacuum built up

  • enough pressure to turn even a microscopic bump into a visceral experience.

  • And why spend so much time and effort on this?

  • Because it's the very moment where Jeff's worldview is confirmed.

  • Where his doubt is erased.

  • His confidence is shored up.

  • His arc is complete and he's able to finally go by the wood glue

  • that has been the maguffin driving the entire plot.

  • And we can feel this, because we are able to see it.

  • Because the filmmakers embedded the internal change in the external visuals.

  • And they've given the audience the same kind of feeling of small revelation while

  • watching it that Jeff has while experiencing it.

  • Which is precisely what makes it brilliant.

  • (Music)

  • But these visual systems aren't always in service of character change.

  • Sometimes they're about a lack thereof.

  • Where the similarity of images can help us to compare and contrast,

  • it can also recall us to a previous thought, emotion, or memory.

  • Like a visual abbreviation.

  • And remind us to think or feel or remember that way again.

  • Young Adult is a brilliant film that plays with our expectations of character growth.

  • It introduces us to Mavis, a seemingly vain,

  • depressed alcoholic teen fiction writer and we see her do this.

  • >> So all told, I spent a year in Southeast Asia.

  • >> Why?

  • >> Long story short, I ended up a volunteer teacher in (Foreign).

  • >> My god. Yikes!

  • >> Yeah, it was probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

  • >> Of course,

  • sure, totally.

  • (Music)

  • And then over the course of the film, we watch her faced with her own flaws and

  • broken down by her failings.

  • Much like we would expect in any film about a character's growth,

  • until she reaches her lowest point.

  • The place we expect a character to be right before they decide to change.

  • And then she ends up here.

  • >> I saw you every day.

  • You had this little mirror in your

  • locker shaped like a heart.

  • And you looked in that mirror more than you ever looked at me and

  • I was at my best.

  • And with this single shot everything comes rushing back.

  • We want so badly for her to have changed, to have grown,

  • to have given up her selfish ways that, when the shot returns,

  • visually recalling us to that earlier moment, we know by association that she's

  • at the same decision point, and it fills us with dread.

  • Not again.

  • Be different, be changed.

  • And you