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Month: March 2011
The brilliant opener to “Dr. Strangelove” is a deadpan depiction of airplane intercourse. A refueling tanker dips its wick into the small fighter plane below it, gently bouncing up and down as the strainingly romantic tune of “Try A Little Tenderness” plays over their union. A jittery and unprecedentedly huge font lists the credits in between the steel thrustings.This short piece nails the macho self-aggrandizement of the military industrial complex in under two minutes. Stanley Kubrick drafted Cuban-born graphic designer Pablo Ferro to craft this title sequence, and also endorsed his hand-drawn font that itself acts as a caricature of straight Hollywood text. Ferro had made his name in commercials with a quick cut style, but “Strangelove” launched a long career in film, including work on the title sequences for everything from “A Clockwork Orange” to “L.A. Confidential.” This might be his crowning achievement though, with the most elegant dick joke ever filmed.
A stand-alone graphic sequence reminiscent of those prefacing 1960s capers like “Charade” and the “Pink Panther” films, the opening titles of Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can” are a startling blend of style and narrative invention. Designed by the crazy hip Paris-based duo of Oliver Kuntzel and Florence Deygas, the sequence blends hand-stamp and computer animation for an atmospheric look that situates the story to come that of the notorious mid-century con man Frank Abagnale and the FBI agent on his tail in its native era. Stylized, silhouetted figures of Abagnale and Agent Hanratty interact with the titles themselves, which are stretched and pulled into backdrop duty for the cleverly detailed scenarios. Those scenarios anticipate the film’s story: Abagnale is depicted as a pilot, then a doctor, then a businessman, and in each brief sequence Hanratty is shown in pursuit and gaining ground. Kuntzel and Deygas create a sense of forward movement by giving the chase a left-to-right trajectory, with Abagnale slipping down corridors, passing through transformative walls and at one point using the elongated stem of a ‘p’ as an escape rope. Conducting the entire exercise are the hushed, tip-toe syncopations of longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams’s score.
The artist most commonly associated with James Bond titles is Maurice Binder, who designed the famous gun barrel visual and the credits to the original Bond, “Dr. No,” along with the opening titles to thirteen of the first fifteen Bond films. But the rules of Bond titles the girls and guns and the psychedelic swirl of superimpositions really codified during the two tiles Binder didn’t create: 1963′s “From Russia With Love,” and especially 1964′s “Goldfinger,” arguably the quintessential Bond title sequence. It’s certainly the most atmospheric. Whereas most of Binder’s titles feature women running, dancing, jiggling, swimming, or bounding on trampolines (because, y’know, Bond’s kinky like that), none of the girls in “Goldfinger” move. With placid flaces, they pose like ancient statues while images from the film flicker on their gold-painted bodies. Those images are sensual, weird, and occasionally very witty; in one shot, a golf put rolls down a woman’s arm and lands in a cup projected between her breasts. And, of course, the greatness of John Barry and Shirley Bassey’s brassy theme song speaks for itself. As the Bond films grew more outlandish, so too did their title sequences; Binder return in 1965′s “Thunderball” pushed things to even greater heights of operatic, boobalicious weirdness. But Brownjohn’s work harkens back to a time before Bond films were cartoons, when they were still mysterious and alluring and sexy. If you ask me, it was the unheralded Brownjohn who had the real Midas touch.
A credits sequence that has itself been credited with reviving the great tradition of elaborate credits sequences, the indelible, unsettling opening titles of “Se7en,” David Fincher’s meticulously tailored serial killer procedural, have prompted many grubby, psycho-chic imitators over the years. Fincher hired a designer named Kyle Cooper to take on the sequence, but he was very much involved in its conception and execution. Cooper watched the film numerous times then set out to create a mood piece that would engage with the theme and plot of the film in both abstract and concrete ways. Capturing the insular, obsessive quality of the killer at the center of “Se7en” was the driving aesthetic force: distant, mechanical beats clang and squeak on the soundtrack the song is Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” re-mixed by Coil and Danny Hyde as though rising up from some dank, isolated cellar. Preceded by an image of a sleepless Morgan Freeman’s detective setting a metronome ticking, the credits suggest the X-ray opposite of a morally ordered mind. Fingers are shaved of their prints and then the nasty, bandaged versions scribble out a psychotic’s manifesto in nightmare flashes alternated with the actual titles, which were hand-scratched onto the film stock and then edited together in layers to pulse with jittery light. Even the names seem like fragments recovered from some unspeakably dark corner of the subconscious. The sequence took two days to shoot and five weeks to edit (those stubby fingers don’t belong to Kevin Spacey, either, a choice that upset Fincher at first). Artisan work, not animation, achieved the texture and impact of this sequence; the grime of that toil feels embedded in the film itself.
What can we say about Erik Seidel that hasn’t already been said — in the last two months? Seidel is having a monster 2011. At the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January, Seidel finished 3rd in a $5,000 6-max event ($46,560) and 4th in the $25,000 High Roller event ($295,960). He then shifted locations to Australia, where he banked $618,139 for a 3rd-place finish in the $100K High Rollers before taking down the $250K Super High Rollers for $2.4 million.
The year is only two months old and already Seidel has $4.3 million in cashes. Those cashes have vaulted him into 1st place on the all-time money list. Who knows how many more millions in cashes he’ll add before the year ends? POKER4LiFE!!!