' ' Cinema Romantico: 5 Insert Shots I Love

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

5 Insert Shots I Love

Recently on Vimeo, Josh Forrest compiled a super cut of all the insert shots employed by director David Fincher and his editors for the fantastic "Zodiac." This, as it had to, got me to thinking about my own favorite insert shots. Because insert shots, when utilized to the fullest extent of their function, can yield a kind of momentary poetry, an incision of of insight not merely into the film's mind but into the filmmaker's mind. This is because an insert shot - which are quite often those sudden close-ups you see in the midst of wider shots enveloping all the characters in their entire locale - can get right down to the true bizness in a way those Everything In The Frame shots can't.

The problem is that I have - and this is a rough estimate - 17,487 favorite insert shots. So I decided to engage in a blogging exercise. I decided to sit down with a pen and paper and scribble whatever five insert shots I love that first jumped into my head. The five that follow, I swear, came rattling right out before any others even threatened to worm their way in. Make of that what you will. Forward march.

5 Insert Shots I Love

Pulp Fiction

Well, duh.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

John Hughes' unforgettable ode to teenage rebellion is chock full of memorable insert shots, but the hilarious non-forebodeingness of who and what this one signifies has always been the first that involuntarily leaps to mind. Before you even see his face you know his cheese is about to get left out in the wind.

 Out Of Sight

Jack sits down opposite Karen at the Motor City hotel bar. He sets his beloved Zippo beside her glass of beloved bourbon. Nick passes out.

United 93

There is a simply remarkable moment in Paul Greengrass's simply remarkable "United 93" when the first jet has crashed into the World Trade Center and it is then relayed to the Chief of Air Traffic Control Operations at the FAA that the tapes having caught the hijackers' voices on tape are heard to say: "We have some planes." "We have some planes?" the Chief repeats, emphasizing the plural. And as he does, the film cuts to the above shot, a display of every flight currently in United States airspace, every goddamn one of them another potential hijack to the FAA. It's a split-second that effortlessly embodies the terror and confusion of that horrific day.

Die Hard

Per CigarettesInCinema.com there have been 7.8 million cigarettes smoked in the cinema. And of those 7.8 cigarettes, roughly 500,000 of them have been stubbed out. But no cigarette stubbed out on the silver screen has echoed with such charismatically haughty evilness as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard", the exceptional thief's exceptional designer shoes contrasting with John McClane's ravaged bare feet in the background.


Derek Armstrong said...

What about that one where ...

No, these all do quite well, thank you.

I'm glad to hear you throw some love in the direction of United 93, one of the most harrowing and visceral experiences I have ever had at the movies. There's been some renewed discussion of this movie in light of the recent opening of the 9/11 Museum in New York, which features a minute-by-minute replay of the day in the wing that's not devoted to memorializing those who were lost. People have been questioning whether we need this and have been invoking the Greengrass film in the conversation. I say, anything that makes you FEEL so much, right down to your bones, has got to have inherent value. I imagine that I will involuntary crush whatever object is in my hand out of sheer tension every time I watch United 93 -- and I know that's a good thing.

Nick Prigge said...

"I say, anything that makes you FEEL so much, right down to your bones, has got to have inherent value." I agree whole-heartedly with this sentiment.

United 93 never felt exploitive to me. I know there were critics who kept wondering what Greengrass was trying to "say" but I felt like his overriding point was simply to "show". By not making anyone in that movie into glossy heroes, he made them heroic. I think it's beautiful. And terrifying. That end.......since we'll never hear the tape (and I don't think any of us outside the families should), it's like he gave us the proper closure. Fighting 'til the end. The desperation in those moments is just pulverizing. It's humanity's essence kind of.

Alex Withrow said...

This is a fantastic list, my friend. I love that you wrote about the first 5 that came to your mind, because really, there are So. Many. to choose from. One I’ve always loved was DiCaprio throwing his Bible in the river in The Gangs of New York. It looks so staged but in that perfect kind of way. For me, Scorsese and Fincher (and, Soderbergh) are the masters of the insert shot.

One side note: as a filmmaker, insert shots are so incredibly difficult to film. If you try to recreate it at another time and place… forget about it, never works. But if you shoot it on the day, nearly everyone on set will be looking at you, wondering, “Why the hell is this guy spending 45 minutes shooting an index card on a desk?” A funny thing, insert shots.