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May 09 2007

Serenity Opening on List of Best Long Tracking Shots. The opening scene taking viewers throughout the ship has been included in the Daily Film Dose blog's new list of the best loooooong tracking shots.

(I hope this wasn't posted already...I've been moving and have been a bit out of touch).

This link sets my inner film nerd on nerdtastic fire. Thanks!
Heh. It should be noted that it wasn't actually included in the original list, but the blogger added it due to "popular demand."
I have to say, as cool as that long shot is (and the really cool thing about it is the way it maneuvers through some pretty freakin' awesome set design and the way it introduces all of the main characters), the actual entire opening sequence of Serenity, of which that long shot is just the culmination, is even better. Long shots are feats of cinematography. The opening sequence is a feat of editing and writing (all those awesome transitions from one scene to the next, to the next... great stuff!). It's really remarkable, and the long shot is really just the icing on the cake.
This is one of the best film scenes I've seen in awhile. Brilliant! Only by Joss.
Thanks for this! My friends roll their eyes when I get so worked up over long takes, especially in Serenity. I'm glad my favorites got mentioned (how could they not)--Paul Thomas Anderson's two and the one from Children of Men. Oh, and that one on the spaceship. I just love how PTA always guides us through with one character, then dropping us off with another, then another, leading us to a destination. Joss' way of working seems to be sticking with one character on the journey. Although the amazing beginning of "Conviction" followed all the characters. Yeah, did I mention I geek out over this stuff?
Hey Captain B....I was super-psyched about the inclusion of PTA's Boogie Nights and Magnolia too, as well as Children of Men. Joss and PTA are my two faves, and Children of Men was my favorite movie of 2006(and the best since Serenity).

If y'all haven't seen Children of is more than a must-see. Try for the big screen if it aint too late.
So cool that Serenity is on the list, but I'm so happy that The Protector was on there, one of the best long shots ever.
Now this is a link that gets me excited! And the article covers all of the great long tracking shots I could think of off the top of my head. Can't think of any that were missed, actually. Great to see "Serenity" included - even if by popular demand. It's not like it was the only addition made, there's a few notable ones there in the update.
Huh. I saw this on Metafilter earlier, skimmed it for Serenity, and totally missed it anyway. I'm glad someone else has better eyes.

Heh. It should be noted that it wasn't actually included in the original list, but the blogger added it due to "popular demand."

Ohhh... duh, me. That's some nice popular demand.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2007-05-10 03:24 ]
Awesome list. And CaptainB, I too geek out over long tracking shots. Even incorporated one into my first screenplay.
I liked the second long shot in Children of Men even more than the first, but they were both good, I guess. This list is missing Episode III's start, though.
I'm *so* glad to know that I'm not the only one who geeks out over this stuff. Joss the Director, in the company of Orson Wells and Hitchcock, where he belongs. Let's hear it for "popular demand".
I've never understood the bad rap of the long tracking shot as an egotistical "look at me" tactic by the director. If it serves the story, creates something visually pleasing and creates an "oh wow" moment for the viewer, isn't that what being an artist is all about?

And CaptainB .... another fan of the opening sequence of Convictions, here. Not just the tracking shot but the odd angles, another Joss trademark that was very much in evidence in Serenity.

Did anyone watch the first video, from Touch Of Evil? It is truly awesome. I wonder if there is a Directors Cut video of this classic available. They show it every once in a while on one of the Classic Movie channels, but not with this shot intact, I'm pretty certain. *Does happy film geek dance.*
Where is Halloween?
Where is Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith? It has a long badass opening track shot.
That it is, but -- I say again --

Where is Halloween?
Seems like you might be able to make requests The Dark Shape, drop him a line ;).

If it serves the story, creates something visually pleasing and creates an "oh wow" moment for the viewer, isn't that what being an artist is all about?

True, but the problem with some long takes is that they often don't serve the story and also make it obvious to the viewer that they're watching a film i.e. they highlight the mechanics of film-making rather than highlighting the story and in some cases actually break the fourth wall which is something a film should do only for a very good reason IMO (in 'Snake Eyes' for instance De Palma pulls up through the ceiling of the room we're in and goes over walls and back down - it's wonderfully executed and very stylish but straight away you're looking at the camera work and not watching the film).

'Serenity's works so well because it's done for a good reason (to help the story flow through a fair bit of well disguised character and narrative exposition - and in this instance I definitely count Serenity as a character because the camera really shows us her shape and where things are), it doesn't break the physics of the film's world and it's not (to me) particularly distracting (it's not visually 'flashy', in fact, one of my favourite aspects of the opening oner has nothing to do with the camera, it's the sound design and the way conversations continue before and after the camera passes the characters, as if this is a real world with real people in it).

'Children of Men', same thing. The director uses a oner to create a sense of immediacy, to involve the viewer even further in the story, not to distance them or point out how visually brilliant he is with a camera - even though I think he is (and I also prefer the later long take, in the camp, though they're all good).

Some film's are suited to the 'visual spectacle' style of long take ('Snake Eyes' which is creating a sense of Vegas' artificiality and the seediness beneath the glamour arguably is) but most require the 'hide in the background, serve the story' style. The trouble only really comes when the shot doesn't suit the film cos then it's just the director indulging his or her self.
I agree, Saje .... there are instances where a oner can distract from the film itself and make you aware of the director working the shot. And even when it's masterfully done, a film geek such as myself, after watching a time or two for the sheer pleasure of something well done, will begin to deconstruct the process, just for fun.
Which is why I never watch a commentary on a DVD before watching the film/show at least once without it, part of the fun for me is to form my own opinion before hearing what the writers or director was actually going for.
I also agree about the use of sound in the opening sequence of Serenity, the way the conversation flowed through the camera work. I'll never understand why it wasn't a giant box office blockbuster.
I've been thinking some lately about how my interest has waned on the old-skool 'verse topics that used to bring me here and get me all engaged and chatty. Enough time has passed that I'm just not passionate about revisiting the old debates. It's topics like this and specifically, like Saje's post above that keep me coming back. Smart and well-written commentary that expands my brain beyond this world, while using this beloved world to illustrate the point. Good stuff. (Plus, there's the funny -- see gossi, above.)
Heh barest, just when you think you're out, we pull you back in (and ta, BTW ;).
Joss Whedon is the master of One-ers. My favorite story oriented single shots are in Serenity, at the beginning of the 5th season premiere for Angel, and in The Body.

I also adore a good action scene with a single shot, and the best ones I have seen would be the one in The Protector (because you know how awesome the stunts have to be coordinated and how much stamina that must have taken) and the one in Children of Men towards the end.

Unfortunately action one-ers tend to be much more impressive on the big screen so the Protector one that they show on youtube is cool and all, but it isn't as awesome as seeing it on the big screen.
Just found this courtesy of IMDB. It's an esquire article entitled "five things you can't say in hollywood", and one of the five is:

"Lengthy, ultracomplex, and artsy single takes have become more hack than MTV-style rapid-fire montages."

Now, obviously Joss and the 'verse are an exception, but I do have to agree the technique is getting a little too popular, especially with those who don't know how to properly deploy it.
Actually, there's a lengthy but interesting article here about how the apparently single long take towards the end of Children of Men was done, explaining use of hidden FX. You'll have to register (or get a logon from BugMeNot, like I did) to read it, but it is well worth it, if you are interested.

(I'm afraid I am a nay-sayer on Children of Men overall as a movie, though, because the script and acting were so bad, but the cinematography and overall look was great)
Just found this courtesy of IMDB. It's an esquire article entitled "five things you can't say in hollywood", and one of the five is:

That entire article is bunk. But I'll stick with the topic at hand - they throw out the suggestion that the tracking shot style has become hack and yet can only manage to throw out three examples from the last fifteen years.

Also, the simple assertion that the technique is becoming popular is hard to believe in this cut-cut-cut world. Where are the recent examples of this being used too much and not in the right way?

I think some of the examples on the article linked above are showy more than critical to the story, but the idea that hack directors are using this technique more and more boggles the mind. (I doubt it's even in Brett Ratner's capability!)
I think a long shot is really good if a viewer does not notice it is a long shot. I dragged my father to Serenity and after the film I asked him what he thought of the long shot at the beginning. He didn't recall the long shot and when I told him when it was he would not believe there had not been any cuts in that sequence.

One might ask what is the use of a long shot if one doesn't notice it, but it does tend to create a certain closeness to the action, with the risk of losing everything when you notice you're watching a long shot. So I guess my father kind of proved the beginning of Serenity was a great long shot.

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