Monday, July 18, 2011

The First Anniversary

I started this thing a year ago today, to catalog a few cool shots that were swirling around my subconscious. In that time, I've put together over 500 repeated images, sounds, words, and themes. I wasn't expecting it to go this long and I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep it alive, so I figure now's as good a time as any to examine this thing. 

One of my favorite parts of this site is viewing a filmmaker in context. In Stanley Kubrick's images, for example, we can see an internal conversation with bonafide American classics, the European elitethe deeply avant-gardebubble-gum escapist fare, the fine arts, and all sorts of miscellany which entered into his (by all accounts dizzying) intellect. And on the other hand, how can you not be inspired by his work? It can also be fascinating to watch a director's work evolve through the years, and even become a major contributor to another great visual stylist.  

So contrary to what some people have assumed, I do not believe the titular concepts I'm exploring are mutually exclusive. I believe you can have an homage which is a coincidence - two images which reach into a similar place in the artistic mind, a ripoff which becomes something more, or even a coincidence which enhances the meaning of the original. It's all a bit subjective, though. I mean, some moments are clear and unabashed ripoffs and others are probably just a coincidence, but overall, it's a grey area. Are all these 500+ images products of parallel development or of artistic necessity? Does it matter? Why should we care at all?

I look for an answer in Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent," which I quote in the sidebar. Elsewhere in that work he says:   

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of ├Žsthetic, not merely historical, criticism.

Like poetry, cinema at its most basic form is a communications medium, a language of light and motion. Those truly great moments - I think of Chaplin at the end of City Lights, of Peter O'Toole blowing the match out in Lawrence of Arabia - manage to speak, on some primal and inscrutable level. This, in part, is why I'm so reluctant to put any text on this site; it's not possible to translate that language to words without losing something essential of the irrepressible beauty and majesty not just in movies but in The Movies, and all that silvery idea represents.

For as long as I've loved anything, I've loved the movies. That unique language of cinema - a creole of  just about every other communication and entertainment media - is intoxicating. There's a totality of presentation which literally overwhelms the senses (remember when you saw Jurassic Park on the big screen?) in a way few other artistic endeavors can. Each and every film is a message from a small coalition of cast and crew, an invitation to see a bit of the world through their eyes, and therefore every film creates a world distinct from our own. A film can be a vision of a world that should be or that may have been, but it is always a world that necessarily and inherently is not ours at present (Even documentaries. Especially documentaries.). Oftentimes it's a familiar world, one which grazes the sides of life close enough that we forget it's a fiction.

That's why it's so fascinating to me, to experience a moment in a film when you can catch the filmmaker's influence. How much more powerful the climax of Stagecoach is when you realize that John Ford is paying tribute to his mentor Griffith! Or when you realize that Spielberg has been recreating the films of his childhood! If a film is seeing a glimpse through someone else's eyes, a moment of recognition in that film is like seeing into their heart.

Anyway, happy first to my website. If anyone managed to make it to the end here, and if anyone's still checking in on this site, throw me some feedback in the comments.


  1. This is one of the best blogs on the Internet and this post is a great summary of why.

    Licensing alone probably makes it an impossible feat, but Shot Context would make a great book.

  2. your blog is awesome, never stop.

  3. Thanks guys! Much appreciated.

  4. congratulations on your first anniversary of this wonderful blog. hopefully, you can keep it up for many more years to come!!!

  5. I like reading what you write about movie stuff
    -chise master

  6. Your's is one of my favorite blogs I have found in 2011. Really appreciate the time/energy/expertise you put in to this project.

  7. Just wanted to echo that I love this site. I agree that adding text can be superfluous. It's great how isolating a shot can enhance one's appreciation for the film as a whole.