Monday, November 27, 2006

Strangely More Inept Than Fiction

My sisters and I ran out to see the latest movie with Emma Thompson in it, Stranger Than Fiction, because we have been huges fans of hers since Dead Again.

Well, the picture fails terribly in many areas - casting, direction, production design, and, of course, writing, and so it would be lamentably forgettable, except for one thing. The film repeats over and over a shocking technical blunder that we just don't get to see in Hollywood films these days. Long after we stopped trying to follow the film's mess of a story, my sister and I were waiting expectantly for the sound boom to peek-a-boo into every scene.

I've scanned both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and nobody seems to be commenting on what is to me an astounding technical gaff...pun intended. I can't figure out how this could have happened in modern technically obsessed Hollywood. And then, I can't figure out why the critics are covering for this kind of inexcusable screw-up.

It starts early in the film and goes all the way to the end. My sister noticed it before me,

"Hey, what's that black thing bouncing on the ceiling."

"Humph. It's the boom."

"The what?"

"The boom...Maybe it's going to be a plot point. You know, maybe the whole story of his life is actually being made into a fiction movie."

A scene or so later, there it was again. A dark fuzzy ellipse bouncing down between the two actors.

"There it is again."

"Yeah. What a mess. Is it possible that nobody was watching dailies of this project?"

"No. No. It HAS to be on purpose."

"Yah think? Why not? This film is so beyond credibility that the idea that the whole thing might be a film in a film is intriguing."

A few scenes later it was back. Bobbing in and out. And then again a scene later."

"I know what it is. Will Farrell is really tall. Maybe the boom operator is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that he is towering over Dustin Hoffman."

"No, no, no. I'm telling you it is on purpose. They couldn't have that many screw ups in the film."

But then, there was the boom again, hovering over a scene with just Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. I think the boom must have intruded into the screen about fifty times during the film. How weird is that? Does this mean that the director was not looking into the camera enough? Or that the cinematographer was asleep? Or that the producers didn't have time for the dailies? (Help me out here, Jan.) Whatever it is, Stranger Than Fiction ends up being truly much stranger than any other movie I have seen for a while. The one thing Hollywood can usually boast about is technical craft.

Putting a good spin on it, watching for the boom to peek into the scene was really the only suspense in this terrible film. Pass. A big booming one.

4 comments:

christopher said...

I didn't see any boom mikes in my viewing of Stranger (which I liked), although I have seen them to great comic effect in some other films. Your experience may have been the fault of the projectionist, not the filmmakers.

Here's an informative bit from an imdb newsletter:

"A little-known fact is that boom mikes are actually captured on film most of the time. The camera's viewfinder actually shows (and records on film) a greater area of the scene than will appear in the final product. Markings are etched in the viewfinder to indicate to the camera operator the extents of the "viewable" film (called the "live" area). An area beyond that (called the "safe" area) is also marked; it is in this area that the camera operator directs the boom operator to place the boom microphone.

"When the film is developed, processed and printed, the film beyond the safe area is cropped, but often not the safe area itself. It is up to the projectionist to correctly align the camera and the blinders so that only the "live" area is visible. As films have different aspect ratios, this adjustment needs to be made for every film.A boom mike that appears in the final product may or may not be the fault of the filmmakers; quite often it is."

http://www.imdb.com/Newsletter/newsletter-12

Anonymous said...

I didn't have that experience either. It could be that the film wasn't properly adjusted in the projector in the theater in which you were watching it. They can be adjusted to show the "non-safe" zone.

Tim Bass said...

It is, indeed, the projectionist whom is at fault here Barb. Although I felt the film was nothing short of genius! I think it may be the best fim of the year. Dark. Funny. Surreal. An amazing picture. Not enough room here to get into why I think it is so perfect. But...as far as the boom goes, next time go and complain to the manager! (By the way, if the picture is too dark, that is also the theatre's fault. Most theatre managers think by 'dialing down' the bulbs in the projectors they are saving a ton of money. They aren't. AND they are making the movie-going experience terrible for us. I always complain when I see this!!)

Anonymous said...

i saw the film and noticed the same thing. It happend so many times that we thought it was part of the film as well. I'm surprised that more people haven't noticed this.