It’s a moment of both joy and lamentation, as Hit Me with Your Best Shot –the fabulous series conducted by the great Nathaniel Rogers- starts its sixth, and final, season. Lamentation because I’ll miss participating -and checking out other participant’s picks. Joy because, like I just said, participating is fun.
Now, on to talk about the actual movie. This season opens with Ghostbusters, a movie -I must admit- I had never seen before last night. You will have to forgive me if you are one of those people who swear by the movie, but I was quite underwhelmed by it. I wouldn’t call it bad or anything, just merely ok. And maybe it’s one of those things where you had to encounter the movie as a child to love it, or maybe it’s the fact that people built it up for me too much, but the reality of the situation is that Ghostbusters = an ok movie.
But Best Shot has always been about appreciating cinema, even if what you’re seeing isn’t as engaging as you would hope, and especially when what you’re seeing doesn’t strike you as particularly great cinematography. The way this series works, of course, is you pick what you think is the best shot of a particular movie. How do you pick the best shot of a movie whose photography isn’t particularly interesting to you? Those are the challenges that make this so much fun.
That being said, I wouldn’t say that I found the photography in Ghostbusters to be bad. I mean, it’s no Tree of Life, but it doesn’t need to be. What impressed me the most about director Ivan Reitman and cinematographer László Kovács’s work were what I’m calling their “frontal” compositions (sorry for my lack of cinematic vocabulary). What I mean by that is all the many shots in Ghosbusters that are shot with a wide lense, and position the action right in front of the camera, as if we’re looking straight ahead into a painting, or a window. You know, the kind of shot that is all over Wes Anderson’s movies.
To put this into context, here are a couple examples from the movie:
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan, but I response to his aesthetic for a reason. These “frontal” wide shots are not only elegant, but they can be very effective, especially in comedy. First of all, because they set up a spacious world (thanks to the deep focus of the lense) that the director can build upon by adding, subtracting, or moving elements within the frame. Second, because it’s fun to see things pop in and out of frames, especially when the frames are static. It’s almost like seeing a painting being disturbed, or a magic trick where something unexpected enters the equation of the expected. It’s also undoubtedly reminiscent of newspaper comic strips.
All of this brings me to my favorite moment in the movie. One that, is shot this way, and one that uses elements going out of the frame in a very smart way, but is not a comedic moment. I’m talking about the moment when Sigourney Weaver is attacked and possessed in her apartment. More specifically, about the moment when demons pull her -sitting on a chair- toward their brightly-lit portal. Sigourney -and the couch- fly by right in front of us on screen, and then, they disappear. One minute you see her, and the next you don’t. The language of cinema can be simple like that.
I know. This would’ve worked better as a GIF, but I couldn’t find one. And I’m not technically savvy enough to make one myself.