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Saturday Afternoon Chess thread 04-25-2020 | Main | Saturday Overnight Open Thread (4/25/20)
April 25, 2020

Saturday Evening Movie Thread 04-25-2020 [TheJamesMadison]

Credit Where Credit is Due

I've always been curious about credit sequences. Not as to their purpose in any way, but in how they have this great tendency to be much more abstract than the rest of the film that follows. In many films, they're almost short films unto themselves that add nothing directly to the overall narrative, and yet regular audience will sit quietly and watch them anyway. In a marketplace where plot driven storytelling is generally king, to have a regular feature appear in mass marketed movies that is essentially an experimental film.

First, a history

For most of the history of movies, especially American movies, credits were done almost exclusively at the beginning of films. They were a simple list of those involved with the film over still images that were meant to evoke the rest of the film set to some music from the film, acting as a sort of overture. Casablanca is a good example:

These are informational with little artistry on display.

The form evolved to allow more interesting things to occur at the same time, moving them from purely informational to the more experimental extensions of the films themselves. Saul Bass was one of the biggest names in Hollywood graphic design for decades helped in no small part because of his work with Alfred Hitchcock like in the opening credits to North by Northwest:

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly fits this bill rather well too:

There were exceptions to the rule (Apocalypse Now comes to mind), but it did become a rule from the Director's Guild that the director of a film had to have his name in the opening credits. You may be thinking, "Star Wars didn't list the director's name." And you'd be right. George Lucas actually paid a $250,000 fine for Irvin Kirshner over The Empire Strikes Back as his producer and then quit the Director's Guild over it. But, the change to opening credits had already formed because the biggest movie of all time wasn't doing opening credits. Opening credits largely became a free for all after that with directors being able to go from putting everything up front to everyone at the end. Mel Gibson just uses the title of Braveheart at the beginning while Andrew Davis did all of the credits over the course of fifteen minutes. Hell, Christopher Nolan didn't include any written titles at the beginning of any of his Batman films.


That's all well and good, but it doesn't get to my point about how many modern blockbusters have essentially small experimental films at the start. The most easily identifiable example of this is, of course, the James Bond franchise. From Dr. No's collection of colorful balls set to Monty Norman's iconic theme:

To Spectre's weirdly erotic evocation of tentacles:

The movies all begin with a sequence that may or may not have anything to do with the rest of the story and then stop for a 3-minute short film set to music, and audiences tolerate it. In fact, in the instances of the Bond franchise in particular, audiences actually look forward to it. I find that interesting. My favorite of these is probably Goldeneye:

Other Favorites

I have an affinity for credit sequences that tell the entire movie's story in one go. The most stylish and fun one in my mind is Catch Me If You Can, Steven Spielberg's film about Frank Abagnale:

In terms of credit sequences that are more informational, the original feature film of Superman had a great combination of score by John Williams and cosmic visuals really help sell the otherworldly nature of the hero's origins. The credits sequence to Superman Returns essentially repeated this with CGI planets. Here's the original:

Watchmen, Zach Snyder's take on the classic comic, went a different route, using the credits as a history lesson of the world within the movie up to that point, showing us an alternate history of the United States from the 40s through the 70s set to Bob Dylan's "The Times, They are a-Changin'". I've always really liked this one:

All of these are examples of the films breaking from the rest of the story in terms of style from straight narrative to something more esoteric. I simply find that interesting.

What Else Is There?

What are your favorites? Share some links.

Movies of Today

Opening in Theaters:
Nothin'. There's a virus, dontcha know.

Next in my Netflix Queue:
Two-Lane Blacktop

Movies I Saw This Fortnight:
Onward (Rating 3/4) Full Review "The movie's messy, especially in its first half, but the core of the movie works really well. " [Disney+]
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Rating 4/4) Full Review "A great film told with tenderness and verve all at once." [Personal Collection]
Parasite (Rating 3.5/4) Full Review "It's alternatively extremely funny, horrifying, and even touching. It can be all three in seconds, and it ends up working because the tone never really jumps. It's evenly and expertly filmed with an eye towards black comedy and tragedy mixed into one package." [HULU]
The Death of Stalin (Rating 4/4) Full Review "This is some of the most entertaining history, especially history that is so cruel and hideous, I've seen in a long while." [Netflix Instant]
Bloodrayne (Rating 0/4) Full Review "Literally everything about this movie is laughably bad. From the lighting to the acting to the writing to the action, everything is bad." [Amazon Prime]
Champagne (Rating 1.5/4) Full Review "This movie is really messed up, and it seems to have absolutely no idea." ["Library"]
Marty (Rating 3.5/4) Full Review "The movie is touching, surprisingly well made, and really well acted." [Amazon Prime]
Patriot Games (Rating 2.5/4) Full Review "So, the individual pieces are actually quite fun, but it's the connective tissue between them that leaves me scratching my head most of the time." [Amazon Prime]


Email any suggestions or questions to thejamesmadison.aos at symbol gmail dot com.
Follow me on Twitter.
I've also archived all the old posts here, by request. I'll add new posts a week after they originally post at the HQ.

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