Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 79

First impressions are a powerful thing, and in films they set the tone for the whole film.

What film has the best intro?



Panelist: BevfromNYC

Duh, Gone With The Wind. Nothing more needs to be said.

Panelist: ScottDS

This one's a tough one but you know what intro immediately gets me into the movie? The opening of Lethal Weapon 2. We're literally thrown right into the action with Riggs and Murtaugh, mid-car chase with their fellow officers. (The Looney Tunes fanfare over the WB logo helps, too.) The usual mayhem, lights, sirens, fleeing civilians, a helicopter, property damage... it's all very exciting and just fun to watch! (I actually prefer this film to the first one.) "Diplomatic immunity!"

Panelist: T-Rav

I don’t know if I would call it the “best,” but I really like how Pulp Fiction begins. At first you think Rango (that’s his name, right?) and Yolanda are planning a crime, then you’re led to believe “oh, they’re just talking hypothetically,” and then turns out they really are about to rob the joint. It’s a great metaphor for the movie in general, when you think about it; confusion and misdirection only gradually becoming clear.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

Star Wars. 'Nuff said. Seriously, you see a planet, you are told there will be a cool story, then you are blown away by the big honking star destroyer that is about to blow away the rebel ship. That scene sets up the entire movie and tells you everything you need to know about both sides.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Recognizing that films viewed more recently have a built in advantage, I offer up the following three films whose intro's all had a huge impact on me (starting with most recent) - Inglorious Basterds, Mulholland Drive, and From Russia with Love. As for the latter, admit it, when you looked down at the face of Connery lying dead in the garden, they had you going for just a second. :)

Comments? Thoughts?

68 comments:

K said...

"Thief" 1981 James Caan. Tangerine Dream soundtrack and one of the best primers on safecracking evah. You see this scene
redone in a lot of subsequent movies.

LINK

T-Rav said...

Does someone want to count up how many times Bev has answered a film question with Gone With The Wind? Anyone?

Goodfellas has a pretty unforgettable intro, too; just three guys driving in their car, then it turns out they have a dead body in the trunk. Casino did the same sort of thing, only not as good.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, We're looking at getting Bev counseling... from the Margaret Mitchell Institute.


That's a great description of Casino the whole movie actually... "it did what Goodfellas did, only not as good."

AndrewPrice said...

K, Interesting -- both Michael Mann's name and Jerry Bruckheimer appear in the credits.

Dave Olson said...

This one is so obvious. "Star Wars". Nothing more needs to be said, but I'm an American so I'll say a lot anyway.

Far too many movies these days start out with a great intro, then fade to black, and a caption comes up saying "(number) (length of time) Ago..." Think "Iron Man". Tony Stark is ambushed and wounded, then we see "36 Hours Ago..."

None of that crap with "Star Wars". Remember that this film was released in 1977. The year before, "Logan's Run" won the Oscar for its now laughable visual effects. Nobody was really prepared for what they were about to see. So the title crawl fades away, we pan down to a planet (whose name, like the word "Ewok" is never mentioned in the movie) and suddenly a spaceship is zooming away, running while shooting over its shoulder, so to speak. And then, the big enchilada. The Star Destroyer chases the smaller ship, taking what seems like an hour to pass overhead. Amazing. With just one shot we already know who to root for and who to boo-hiss at.

Other notables: "Rear Window". We get introduced to a great number of supporting characters outside Jeff's window, and the camera's leisurely stroll through his apartment tells us everything we need to know about him: He's a bachelor and an action photographer, who is on the mend from an injury sustained while working. It worked so well that Zemeckis did the same for "Back to the Future".

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, "but I'm an American so I'll say a lot anyway." LOL! Bravo!

Totally agree about Star Wars. That intro absolutely tells you exactly what you are about to see, who to root for, who to boo at, what the stakes are and everything. It's a brilliant intro.

On movies doing the opening flashback... I agree and disagree. I think it's a very valid device when it's incorporated into the film. For example, when the story builds to that moment only it misleads you and it takes you there from a different direction than you were expecting, then it's a great way to play with the audience. It can also be used to inject irony or to give the audience a real surprise by playing with their expectations.

But few films do that. Most films just don't know how to introduce their characters in a way that anyone will care about, so they show you part of the climax in the hopes that will keep you entertained while they slog through their intros.

K said...

Touch of Evil - classic opening

LINK

AndrewPrice said...

K, That is excellent. That is an incredibly tense scene. There must a dozen times where you are sure the car is about to explode, but doesn't. And then every time you get away from it, it either catches up to you or you catch up to it. Excellent direction!

Anonymous said...

Let me see. While I may not have a favorite, here are some that I think are pretty good...

"John Carpenter's The Thing"- I'm no animal lover, but a guy shooting at a dog from a helicopter in Antarctica can only have you saying "What's going on here?"

"The Great Escape"- We meet all the important characters and learn their traits, quirks, and personalities. Everything we need to know is cleverly established before the ringleader (Big X) even arrives.

"Night of the Living Dead"- Car travels along deserted roads of rural PA...to a cemetery! That, of course, leads to the first zombie attack (which, for all purposes, still appeared to be a normal person from a distance). It's almost like the dead are saying their home has been violated, and now you're gonna pay! Did I mention, "They're coming to get you, Barbara?"

"Crocodile Dundee II"- I can't help it. It's a nice setup. Mick tosses some dynamite in the water, stirs the fish, and then grabs two of them. Then you see he's actually in New York Harbor and all the harbor cops converge. (It also appears this isn't the first time he's done this. Some people never change.)

And Andrew, after reading your praise for 'Star Wars'...is it just me, or have you been watching Mr. Plinkett's reviews again? Would you also say that the scene is so genius that it's possible George Lucas had nothing to do with it and may fought against its inclusion in the movie?

Gotta sleep now. Be back tomorrow.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I haven't seen Plinkett in a while. We just share a passion for film... and pizza rolls. I love that line though about something being so smart that it's clear Lucas had nothing to do with it! LOL!

Good call on your selections -- all very different, but all very memorable and they all help set up exactly what you're going to see. "The Thing" is really striking because it totally makes no sense at all that someone would be hunting a dog with a helicopter. It's a shocking moment that sets you up for an excellent mystery to come. It's very memorable.

I also really love the Great Escape opening because it is like being let in on the ground floor and it's fun to see all the personalities right up front. I think that save you time later as the story can focus on plot rather than needing to invent cool ways to introduce each actor later. It's a great way to handle a famous ensemble cast.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Speaking of John Carpenter.. his Touch of Evil homage opening shot in Halloween is pretty amazing.

Lord of War bullet sequence is pretty effective I must say.

The Matrix opening scene with the 1s and 0s and then the cps flashlight and the Carrie Ann Moss proceeds to kick their ass in a most excellent way. Most of us weren't ready for the visual feast that was about to be unleashed. Yeah it was warmed over Intro to Philosophy screenplay -- but what cool looking twaddle!

Star Wars of course is first in my heart... I was 9. The theater rumbled and that Star Destroyer was bigger than anything I had ever seen in a movie before.

Commander Max said...

I agree Andrew, Star Wars did have one heck of an opening. It's hard to believe that Star Destroyer was only 3 feet long. It was true masterful film making. I think Mr Plinkett was right. The opening of Raiders was really good as well, I'm sure it was Spielberg's idea.

Another movie that had a great opening was ST:TMP. The K'Tingas looked great, I wish they made the film that scene implied.

Superman had a great opening sequence. It didn't disappoint after that.

I can think of a lot of films that had really great openings. Only to have things fall apart after that.


Backthrow said...

Best intro? That's easy--

THE TINGLER

I guess these aren't too bad:

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (the first 10 minutes)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
RAISING ARIZONA
TOUCH OF EVIL
ZULU
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
GOLDFINGER
THE ROAD WARRIOR
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
STAR WARS
THE HAUNTING (1963)

--oh yeah, and FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

ScottDS said...

Yeah, Andrew is pretty spot-on with Star Wars - it's literally a perfectly-designed shot that tells the audience everything they need to know with no dialogue.

The openings of Empire and Jedi aren't too bad either. (The star destroyer sending out probes and the Imperial shuttle making its way to the new Death Star - not as iconic but still interesting and mysterious.)

A few other ideas:

-Close Encounters - the smash-cut from black to white
-The Blues Brothers - Jake being escorted from one end of Joliet to the other, ending with him walking past those larger-than-life doors to the opening notes of "She Caught the Katy"
-Alien 3 - I know, a lot of people feel betrayed by what happens but I love it... Fincher knew how to set the tone and that tone is, "You're f---ed!"
-JFK - the editing here is a miracle, featuring Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" speech, followed by a recap of the JFK administration up to 1963, then the assassination... featuring old footage, new footage, and new footage processed to look like old footage... and those John Williams military drums
-Manhattan - New York City, black and white, Gershwin... 'nuff said!
-The Naked Gun - Frank Drebin defeats the world's terrorists in a single scene! :-D

BevfromNYC said...

"Does someone want to count up how many times Bev has answered a film question with Gone With The Wind? Anyone?"

T-Rav and Andrew: Probably less times that someone has mentioned "Star Wars", "Star Trek", or the "Raiders" series...|B-P

BTW - The opening sequence in the first "Star Wars" movie is a good choice too, but not as good as "GWTW"...and anyways, GWTW has it all, love, war, and alien invasions!

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that occurred to me, in fact. :-)

Terminator 2 was another movie with a memorable opening sequence--Arnold at the bar and all. The fact that the background music cut from a George Strait song to "Bad to the Bone" cracks me up a little. Or at least I think it was George Strait. Some country song, I don't know. It was amusing, though.

PDBronco said...

I think most of my favorite openings tend to come from musicals. All of these tend to do a great job of setting up the mood of the movie:
All That Jazz - great cattle call montage with George Benson singing "On Broadway"
West Side Story - birds-eye view of NY working down to snapping fingers
Show Boat (1951 version) - let's start with a string of production numbers!
State Fair (1945 version) - a great way to set up the excitement of going to the state fair
Sound of Music - spinning Julie Andrews, 'nuff said
One non-musical pick - Patton - from that moment you believe that George C. Scott is George S. Patton
And one that isn't quite at the very beginning of the film, but really get's the film started - the Santa Fe number in Harvey Girls

Outlaw13 said...

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK...first time I saw it I was riveted.

PATTON George C Scott's speech is a classic.

TOMBSTONE I really like how the characters are introduced to the viewer in the beginning.

TOP GUN It establishes the feel of the entire movie and I think people forget how big a part the music played in that film.

Several have said it but Star Wars is iconic.

tryanmax said...

My visceral reaction is the opening of Dark City. It puts you in a disoriented, confused state from the first frame. Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you're the type that has to know, this movie hooks your right away.

BTW, not a particularly memorable intro, but here's a clever incorporation of opening credits: LINK

PDBronco said...

Did anyone mention Jaws yet? If not, I'm surprised. And if you mention Jaws, you have to mention Airplane!

If we're talking Bond, I'd agree with From Russia With Love, and would add In Her Majesty's Secret Service - mainly for the "That never happened to the other guy!" punchline.

If you can tell from my other post, I tend to like cold openings. Here's a great non-movie/movie parody cold opening from Animaniacs:
http://youtu.be/B7vJnQtgrG4

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I think the opening to Halloween is excellent. The whole "walk home" is actually my favorite part of the film.

The Matrix opens really well too. It's such and interesting opening because it starts like a strange movie and then goes really bizarre.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, The opening with the Klingons is great, it is too bad that it's kind of deceptive opening as to what you will see.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, In fairness, there are ONLY five films: Star Wars, Star Trek, Raiders, Gone With the Wind and Porkey's the Revenge. ;P

Yeah, I love the alien invasion in GWTW! :)


P.S. I thought your answer was great.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Good list!


Scott, I like the opening to The Blues Brothers as well.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Terminator opens really well. It not only tells you everything you need to know about what is happening, but it sets up Arnold's character and has "bad-ass" cred right away.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, Musicals definitely need to set the stage from the very beginning with one of their better songs. Totally agree about Sound of Music. Along the same vein, I like the opening to Cabaret a lot as well.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Raiders has a great opening. Not only does it introduce Jone perfectly, but it's riveting, as you say. That opening also gives you more of a complete film than so many films made today.

Kenn Christenson said...

Jaws has a pretty classic (and terrifying) opening scene. AND it's not just an add on "hook" - it's a definite part of the story.

"The Abyss" has an intense opening, with the sub sinking.

Have to agree with the intro to "Top Gun" it's the best part of the movie, IMHO - probably because it was REAL! The rest of the movie degenerates into H'wood's idea of a fighter pilot. At least it was pro military.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Dark City definitely throws you into a mystery. It's well done.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, Airplane! LOL! Great opening!

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, I agree about Jaws. I like the fact that it's part of the story. It feels like cheating to me when you see an opening that ultimately has nothing to do with a story.

shawn said...

"Star Wars" without a doubt.
"Alien" is nice and eerie, setting the stage for the following horror.
"Blade" slam bang opening at the vampire nightclub.

ScottDS said...

Kenn -

I almost mentioned The Abyss as well.

T-Rav said...

Bev, you know we're just kidding you about GWTW. Seriously, it does a trump a lot of other movies. :-)

The most classic opening sequence I can think of, though, belongs to Citizen Kane. "Rosebud...."

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, Alien is a nice intro. It's funny how shocking the lights coming on can be.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I've always like Casablanca's opening... "... and wait, and wait... and wait...."

Rosalind Russell's entrance in His Girl Friday is a tour de force of fast-talking, hot dame, screwball comedy greatness. It's the perfect introduction of character and place (newsroom).

Gladiator's opening battle scene is great too And Saving Private Ryan's of course... Speilberg does openings quite well... Minority Report's was effective too

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I know Ridley Scott did Gladiator... poor grammar on my part. :-)

Anonymous said...

Straight off the bat without thought Star Wars comes to mind and given time to think of it (and seeing other peoples replies) I'll stick to it. For the reasons both Andrew and Dave mention.

I'll also agree with T-Rav about Pulp Fiction, Rustbelt about The Great Escape, Floyd about Lord Of War and The Matrix, Backthrow about Mad Max, ScottDS about The Blues Brothers,

I'll also add Snatch, Star Trek (reboot), Austin Powers and The Watchmen.

And as a director Quentin Tarantino regularly does the best intros to his movies, they have a similar feel and get me excited to watch one of his movies.

Scott

Jason said...

I always liked the opening of Star Trek VI. After Cliff Eidelman's brooding score, we suddenly get the big explosion of Praxis followed by the shock wave, then we cut to Sulu drinking coffee on the Excelsior bridge. Then things start a shakin'. Probably my favorite Star Trek movie opener.

Someone mentioned Raiders, which brings me to an opening I wouldn't consider the best, but I still like it. It's the "Anything goes" musical opener from Temple of Doom. Some people don't like this opening at all, but I think it's actually visually nice to look at, especially with the red banners flying in the air, and if nothing else, it sets the tone for the movie...TOD had a lot of "anything goes" in it!

Brn said...

The Sheepman (1958) has a great and funny intro as Glenn Ford arrives in town.

Suckerpunch's intro is another great start to a bad movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Private Ryan is a fascinating opening. I would actually say that the movie goes steadily downhill after the opening.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Tarantino always has excellent moments in his films, things that are memorable just from a visual perspective, even if they aren't the film itself.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Floyd, Speaking of Spielberg, here's another one -- Poltergeist (yeah, I know... Toby Hooper). Anyway, I love how the dog walks through the house stealing food as the family sleeps. It really sets up how normal this family is and at the same time, how vulnerable they are as they sleep.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, That's probably the strongest opening of any of the films because it really pulls you right in and sets the tone. The other movies all seem to start slower.

AndrewPrice said...

Brn, I'm not familiar with The Sheepman.

Suckerpunch had some good visuals, but what an awful movie.

Anonymous said...

So many things come to mind.
Several people have mentioned the opening to Star Wars. It is iconic and it still holds up all these years later.
The opening to Jaws is incredible. The moment the woman runs into the water you're internally screaming NOOOOOOOO. Then even though you know what's coming the tension is terrible. The fact that the shark isn't seen in that scene makes it even more terrible. I remember the first time I saw Night Of The Living Dead. The two people are in the cemetary as the person stumbles towards them. The woman is concerned but the man is laughing at what he thinks is a drunk and then BAM! It's a zombie and you're right into the story. The first time you see The Thing you wonder "Why are they shooting at that dog?" I love the opening to A Fistfull Of Dollars. Eastwood is completely nonplussed as the goons shoot at his mule's feet and it bucks him off.Then he walks back towards them,pausing briefly by the undertakers."Three coffins,old man." There's the opening to Big Jake,where Richard Boone rides up,briefly talks to the foreman,then kills him.
Continued below
GypsyTyger

ScottDS said...

Jason -

Great calls on both Trek and Temple of Doom.

Re: the former, Nicholas Meyer actually wanted to license Holst's The Planets but it cost too much money.

Re: the latter, I love the opening of Doom and I wish more action-adventure movies would start off-kilter like that. (Though that's the kind of thing that only works in sequels where the characters are already known to us.)

Anonymous said...

I've always been struck by the opening to Deliverance.As soon as the movie opens you're watching the crew ride down the road in the truck while they make small talk with each other. There's no buildup to the trip.The introduction to the characters occurs while the story is already in motion. I love the opening voiceover to The Crow.
The opening to Full Body Massage is great. It starts with the wind blowing back Mimi Rogers' hair as she drives home in the convertible and within 10 minutes she's examining the second best pair of breasts ever created in a three way mirror.I wasn't reading The Great Film Debates when # 28 was posted but she's my answer.In case you're wondering,the best pair were worn by Dolly Rebecca Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas,by the way.
continued Below
GypsyTyger

ScottDS said...

^I think we found a winner. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sharky's Machine opens with Burt making his way through the railroad yard on his way to the meeting with the drug dealer,which turns into the shootout that goes wrong,getting him transfered to vice and setting up the story.First Blood begins with no backstory at all,just Sylvester Stallone hitch hiking up the road.
But the single best opening ever is the beginning of Rocky II. The previews ended,the house lights went down,and then with the voice over from the first film the big yellow letters roll across the screen,one digit at a time rather than just having the whole title pop up. Then the 14th round of the first fight comes up,with the announcer screaming "Balboa can't even get his gloves up to protect himself" as you watch Balboa take that terrible beating,then rally. Then it goes into the ambulance ride to the hospital and you're into the new movie. I saw Rocky II before I saw the original and within 10 minutes,without having watched the first story I was completely sympathetic to the character of Rocky Balboa,who I once posted on this site was the greatest movie hero of all time.
I didn't really mean to go on so long but once I started it just kind of unspooled. :) I've watched alot of movies.
GypsyTyger

EricP said...

Blade Runner -- City-scapes bursting with flames, lightning and flying cars taking us to Leon's explosive Voight-Kampff test. Hell, yeah! All the more impressive being 12 years old and seeing it for the first time on a drive-in screen.

Anonymous said...

Damn Damn DAMN! While Rocky II is still the best,how could I forget The Terminator- "That battle will be fought here,tonightRaiders of The Lost Ark,The Road Warrior and The Dark Knight, Which of course opens with the crooks wondering about the Joker,and the iconic shot of Heath Ledger,from behind,standing on the street corner holding the blue gym bag and getting ready to plunge Gotham City into terror and mayhem.
GypsyTyger

Dave Olson said...

I know that the above comment will get deleted soon, but I just have to say to assholes like that: Thanks for ruining the internet for all of us.

ScottDS said...

If anyone's reading this, the comment to which Dave is referring was just more spam.

[sigh] It sucks, but someone's gotta clean it up. :-)

Outlaw13 said...

Just remembered, the opening to Watchmen was pretty awesome, I'm kind of torn about the rest of the thing though.

BIG MO said...

Late to the party here. (Saw the question yesterday but couldn't respond.) My vote for the best opening is Glory, from the old "Tristar" credit through the end of the Battle of Antietam sequence. The re-enactors performed wonderfully depicting camp life, on the march and battle. Especially chilling was when Shaw and the Union soldiers approach a split-rail fence lined with Rebels, the 100 or so CSA re-enactors let loose a volley almost as one. (For a Civil War nut, it's impressive discipline for everyone to fire simultaneously.)

The voiceover from Matthew Broderick as Shaw reading from some of Shaw's letters is effective, particularly ending with the quote from Emmerson.

What really pulls the opening together is James Horner's stunning music, which includes voices from the Boys Choir of Harlem.

rlaWTX said...

Raiders.
Star Wars.
Since the comment above about Tombstone (which is in my absolute fav movie list), I've been trying to remember the intro and can't. Guess I need to rewatch it.

djskit said...

Late to the party but the "book-end" opening and closing of "The Searchers" always impresses me.

The opening of the door, the camera stepping out to the vistas of Monaument Valley, the wistful tune.

The ending? The same only in reverse. Walking back into the house, with Ethan Edwards alone on the porch - always the outsider - the door closes. The End.

Anonymous said...

Major League. It opens with the montage of the decline of Indians baseball playing out over the song then goes right into the meeting where Margaret Whitton hands out the list of has beens and never beens that she plans to invite to camp.That sets up the call to Tom Berringer. The call that will awaken a slumbering hero,destroy the ambitions of a tyrant and restore a city's tarnished image of itself.
GypsyTyger

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, Excellent list! I agree completely about Deliverance. It's such an understated opening, but it really works to draw you into the feel of the film and let you understand who the characters are.

AndrewPrice said...

Eric, I agree about Blade Runner I like that the version where he doesn't speak especially well because you're just taking it all in.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for deleting it.


Dave, We get his with a TON of spam. There have been days where we've gotten over a 1,000 such comments.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I kind of liked Watchmen, but the more I saw it, the less I liked it.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I haven't seen Glory in many years.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, LOL! I can't remember the opening either. Maybe the wedding shooting?

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, I like it when films find ways to close out the same way they started. It gives a feeling of continuity.

Dwizzum said...

Good topic. I see some of mine are mentioned here already, like Bladerunner and The Matrix. How about 2001? The whole Dawn of Man sequence is sets the tone for the whole film.

Anonymous said...

Tardy to the party, but:

Scream's opening sequence-- Totally sets the tone from the get-go, powerful enough to stand alone as a short film

Dawn of the Dead's opener, re: TV station in chaos-- those things are always supposed to be so scripted that the chaos of the station illustrate's society's concurrent disintegration.

Alien3's mix of quit, tight cuts and credits on space excellently sets the tone of the movie. I'm the *other* guy on the board that loved it.

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