HIGH NOON: Pure Visual Storytelling

High_Noon_posterFormer marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), when he learns that local criminal Frank Miller has been set free and is coming to seek revenge on the marshal who turned him in.

When he starts recruiting deputies to fight Miller, Kane is discouraged to find that the people of Hadleyville turn cowardly when the time comes for a showdown, and he must face Miller and his cronies alone.






Best Actor in a Leading Role – Gary Cooper
Best Film Editing – Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Dimitri Tiomkin
Best Music, Song – Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”, sung by Tex Ritter


Film Review

The New York Times Review


Official Trailer


The final showdown

Amongst the many qualities of this controversial western, there is the clarity of a visual storytelling design to build up tension and suspence.

See below examples of framing patterns and motifs.

Framing the passage of time


The railway and the bad guys waiting

Lonely Hero

The waiting montage


The Arrival and Shoot out


The hypocrisies of a good town

MUNICH: a question with no answer in sight.


After the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and their coach at the 1972 Olympics, the Israeli government secretly assigns Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) to carry out a series of strategic retaliations. With the help of a driver (Daniel Craig), a forger (Hanns Zischler), a bomb-maker (Mathieu Kassovitz) and a former soldier (Ciarán Hinds), Avner conducts a worldwide operation, targeting 11 individuals.

As the assassinations pile up, Avner begins to doubt the morality of his actions.

KarenBallard_munich3Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Editing (Michael Kahn), Best Music (John Williams) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay Tony Kushner and Eric Roth) this difficult production received zero statuettes.

A difficult subject matter and an ending with no clear (or easy) answer to the central question have made this movie very controversial, even misunderstood.

At the end, after that Avner asks “what did we accomplished?” with vengeance, the camera reveal the Brooklyn skyline and the Twin Towers in the distance. Considering that the movie was shot in 2004, the towers were of course added in post production.

Although Spielberg has tried to reduce the importance and the meaning of this final shot (like in this interview for the German Newspaper The Spiegel, http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2006/01/steven_spielber.html), this final statement is clearly available for everybody that want to see it. But not everybody apparently can.

In the many times I’ve shown this movie in my classes, most of the students missed the meaning of the presence of the Twin Towers and they think it’s just a nice shot that reveals the famous Brooklyn skyline.

This example allow me to repeat, as I often do in class, that the word “just” doesn’t belong to filmmaking. It takes time, money and commitment to point the camera in a certain direction.

There is always a reason.

Munich end

But maybe, beyond politics and critics, the recount of the Munich terrorist attach and Israeli Secret Service’s mission, might be one of Steven Spielberg’s finest achievement.

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WARGAMES: a lesson still to be learned


In 1983  this teenage movie written by the young Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes was nominated as Best Screenplay against screenwriters like Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, co-written with Barbara Benedek), Ingmar Bergman (Fanny & Alexander), Nora Ephron (Silkwood, co-written witn Alice Arlen) and Horton Foote (Tender Mercies).

The movie was also nominated for Best Cinematography (William A. Fraker) and Best Sound (Michael J. Kohut, Carlos de Larios, Aaron Rochin and Willie D. Burton).

And for director John Badham (that was called to substitute Martin Brest and correct his approach considered by the producers too dark) this was a second movie in a year that attracted the Academy attention. The other was Blue Thunder, nominated for Best Editing.

But besides recognitions by the peers WarGames became quickly a cult movie. A movie for the young generation of computer nerds that finally found a movie that gave them justice and, even, the status of heroes.

Original Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OyoNR4kiJ0

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“Ordinary People” a forgotten gem

MV5BNTQwNTc4NzYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDEzMjEyMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_I decided to open a new series of screenings for my students at the Santa Monica College with one of my all-time favorites: a forgotten gem called Ordinary People. Great, Oscar worthy script by Alvin Sargent (from Paper Moon to Spider Man 2 and 3) adapted from Judith Guest masterpiece, impeccable directing by Robert Redford and extraordinary performance by the entire cast: Timothy Hutton (first time on the screen, first time Oscar Nominated and Winner), Donald Sutherland (underrated, amazing performance), Mary Tyler Moore (out of her confort zone, Oscar Nominated) and Judd Hirsch (with one of his finest performance, nominate for an Oscar against Timothy Hutton).


The Original Trailer


A legendary oscar race.

oscars-logo-2Talking about the quality of films throughout the years and how the list of extraordinary movies that every year deserve the famous Academy statuette is getting smaller and smaller.

Remember this: in the year 1981 when ORDINARY PEOPLE won best Picture, amongst the competitors there were: Raging Bull, Elephant Man and Tess. Robert Redford won best Director against: Martin Scorsese (Ragin Bull), David Lynch (Elephant Man), Roman Polanski (Tess) and Richard Rush (The Stunt Man). Continue reading

Why TED TALKS are relevant for filmmakers? Curiosity!

There is one word that I consider a must characteristic of every filmmaker: curiosity!

Often you hear the saying: write what you know. I prefer the alternative: write what you are curious about! It’s more fun and, probably, your point of view will represent a new, skewed way on the subject matter.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less): . TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Their motto, TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, it’s definitely a juicy invitation for all of us who are always looking for new inspirations, challenges and knowledge.

I’ll share some of the TED Talks that I’ll find along the way. In the meanwhile let me share a special one.

The 2023 Peter Weyland’s TED Talk.