Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Director Trademarks of Note

I often wonder what my director trademark would be if I were indeed a director. I'm not a 100% but I'm thinking it would probably have something to do with cats, a character eating a sandwich and Jesus lurking in the background. I guess those would be fairly obvious ones to spot but what the hey we can't have it all. I've always been obsessed with trying to spot director trademarks so as a special Tuesday treat I've compiled a few of my faves to always keep an eye out for. Let me be clear that these aren't necessarily my favorite directors- rather their trademarks are my favorites.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley the manly has several trademarks usually having to do with classical music and really long shots done in one take. The two that I find the most interesting- and the ones that people often miss however are the bathroom shots, and the shots of a character with his head bent downwards and his eyes looking up.

The Bathroom Shot: The key to discovering the bathroom shot is realizing that these aren't just any old bathrooms. The bathrooms in these said shots are usually extravagant in some way- and the scene that uses said bathroom is usually of great importance. My favorite- and probably most people's favorite example of this would have to be from The Shining.

It's a key scene of course- Delbert Grady informs Jack that he's always been the caretaker but just look at how incredibly awesome that bathroom is! The deep reds- is possibly one of the greatest bathrooms that ever lived!! Of course there is another bathroom that deals with importance....but I blocked out all that rabid granny, moldy boob action a long time ago....ugh.
Other great bathroom shots:

Full Metal Jacket- Gomer Pyle shoots his head off
A Clockwork Orange- Alex reveals his true self after singing "Singin in the Rain" while in the bath.
Eyes Wide Shut- Crack ho OD's in Sydney Pollacks hugely extravagant bathroom early on in the film. Tom Cruise goes to check the situation out.

The Kubrick Stare: This is a trademark that I always sort of knew about but never really paid attention to until I saw this photograph. What does this positioning of the head and the face mean? Is the character in question debating two extremes? Are they truly at war with themselves and the concept of good and evil? Having the head go one way and the eyes a different way would certaintly suggest this- and when you look at the characters it's a pretty obvious assumption to make. This trademark is definitely one of the more interesting ones to me- and I would argue one of the more subtler ones, until you take a step back and really notice it.

Quentin Tarantino

The Trunk Shot: I remember discovering this trademark long before my friend who was a diehard Tarantino fan ever did. The day I told him about it he was blown away, how could he miss it- he wondered in a anguish. Indeed- how you ever miss a trademark that is so prominent in each and every film.

On a sidenote I have not seen Inglorious Basterds- can anyone verify the "trunk shot" in that?
Does a ditch shot count?
Steven Spielberg

Daddy issues: Stevie has gone on record saying that his childhood wasn't the happiest- due to his parents divorce, he often had trouble connecting with his father, which is probably the best reason for the existence of many of his main characters having that very same problem.

E.T. : Eliot's father left town to sleep with some tramp.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: Lets us all in on the secret that he never had the best relationship with his dear old dad.
Jurassic Park: We learn that little Timmy and his annoying sister's parents were divorced- leading to Timmy almost reaching out towards Dr. Grant as a substitute father figure. An idea that Dr. Grant is not comfortable with but later adapts to and lets the little tykes sleep on his shoulders while the Brontosaurus eat leaves around them.
Hook: Peter obviously has some poor parenting skills- neglecting his sons baseball game for instance! Tsk Tsk.

M Night Shyamalan

Home Invasion: Sure your first director trademark you might think of would be the all too annoying twist ending- but I like to point out the little less obvious! Home Invasions are startlingly and overtly present in a lot of Shyamalan's films.

The Sixth Sense: In the beginning, Vincent (Donnie Walhberg!) invades Malcolm's home wearing his underwear and toting a gun!
Unbreakable: The ending crime that allows David to save the day involves the home invasion that results in the death of the two parents and the saving of the two girls.

Signs: The aliens invade the farmhouse.
The Village: The evil porcupines invade the homes of the villagers.

Sam Raimi

Oldsmobile Delta 88: Longtime fans of Raimi's shouldn't find this one as a surprise as the car makes a cameo in just about every Raimi film- most famously as the car in The Evil Dead- and more recently as Slyvia Ganush's car in Drag Me to Hell. Heck it even pops up in Spider-Man movies!

Well that's all for now! Did I leave your favorite director's trademark out? Let me know!


Tash said...

Great post! I'm loving the idea of your trademark being Jesus just hanging out in the background. Kind of reminds me of in the movie True Romance, where Elvis shows up every now and then to help out Clarence, but you only ever see him in mirrors or all blurry.

Franco Macabro said...

Nice list!

Another director that has a trademark is Guillermo del Toro. Dont know if you've noticed this but he puts the gears of a watch in all of his films! His first film, Cronos, is all about a little watch that can make you immortal.

The first Hellboy had a villain who had to wind himself up.

The second Hellboy film has Hellboy fighting against giant robots on top of giant gears.

He also loves putting things in plastic! This is really weird, but its true! If you see everyone of his films has a character beneath plastic bags! Check out his films and you'll notice it.

Tim Burton films also have daddy issues. In everyone of his films, the father figure treats his son badly and doesnt appreciate him.

1- Sleepy Hollow - Ichabod Cranes dad is a religious zelot who tortures his wife.

2- Edward Scissorhands - Vincent Price, the father of Edward left him incomplete. To top things off, Wynona Ryders dad is a loopy kind of guy who never really knows whats going on

3- Nightmare Before Christmas - On this film, one of the main characters, Sally, has an over protective parent who is always grounding her and never lets her go out.

4- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Willy Wonka's father didnt appreciate him at all for who he was, so much so that Willy Wonka had to run away from home to do what he really wanted to do with his life.

5- Big Fish - This is one is all about an "evil" dad who constantly lies.

Wednesday's Child said...

This is one of the most unique ideas for a post I've seen in a long time! Great work.
As far as your cats and sandwiches trademark idea, maybe you should have a recurring theme showing a cat enjoying the delicious ham sandwich the cat's owner dropped while said owner was falling to the floor dead. People (including me) love their cats, but you know those furry little bastards would never think to call 911 for your dying ass if there was a sandwich involved. And Jesus would definitely be a chill guy like The Dude in The Big Lebowski and nothing like the "don't fuck with the Jesus" Jesus. I'd put the cool Jesus in a movie anytime. He could be a part of your stable of actors just like Geoffrey Lewis was for Clint Eastwood in the 70s.

Andre Dumas said...

Thanks you three!

My Jesus obsession stems not from religion but from the mere fact that I used to write a live journal that often had Jesus as my pot smoking friend. This concept was later used as Jesus was the main character in my short story, "The Jesus Letters" in which he is very much the "cool" version of Jesus as you say Wednesday's Child! All religion aside I really do think Jesus is da bomb.

Thanks for the added ones Film Connoisseur! I did not notice the watch thing that Guillermo has going but now I will surely keep an eye out. I think The Tim Burton one is one that I had an inkling but would never actually realize it until it's laid out for you- much like you have wonderfully done! And I love it- I wonder if Tim Burton also had a daddy issue growing up?

deadlydolls said...

Great idea and execution! You could also add the obligatory foot shot for Tarantino, but that's just icky. I'd also present Paul Verhoeven for inclusion with the kickass female as one of his trademarks, and Stuart Gordon as all things Lovecraft.

Dod said...

I love this post - anything that draws my attention to the little things. I like looking for little "easter eggs" in certain directors' films. John Woo's use of doves and often the double-handed pistol firing come to mind, too.

It's kind of like how now - thanks to you - I notice "way to go moments" in movies more. My eyes have been opened!

Chris H said...

I always liked Spike Lee's thing where he'll have two characters walking and talking, but he'll place them on the dolly so it looks like they're kind of floating.

ekdumas said...

For Inglourious Basterds, the guy isnt really in a ditch. He's just lieing down on the ground, but excellent posting none the less sis!

WickerGuy said...

That montage of 4 images is one I made and uploaded to Wikipedia. It's gone since WP prefers galleries to montages for legal reasons. I respect the decision, but I'm glad to see it's live somewhere else.