SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I heard you talking on the phone about some “doctor” you think is all-powerful.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: On your phone, you were telling someone about this “doctor” you found, could do all these — come back from the dead.
SEK: Wouldn’t surprise me.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: Is his name “Jesus”?
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: What’s his name?
SEK: I don’t actually know.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: Yet you said you’d trust him.
SEK: Sounds like me.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I can tell you his name.
SEK: No, really, it’s fine –
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I know his name. He whispered it in my ear every night until –
SEK: No, really, you don’t understand –
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: His name is –
SEK: “SATAN,” I know, his name is “SATAN.”
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “SATAN.”
SEK: I know.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: As in, “THE SATAN.”
SEK: I’ve had this conversation before, quite a few times, in many a context.
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “LUCIFER.”
SEK: Please, I know what you’re gonna –
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “BEEZLE THE BUB.”
SEK: I think you mean “BEEZLE OF THE BUB.”
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: You would know better than me.
SEK: Because I’m a Jew?
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: And yet you live right next door.
Author Page for SEK
Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Live Bait,” marks the return of the Governor, the former leader of Woodbury, who led a failed attack against the prison after one of Rick’s people, Michonne, killed the zombie that had once been his daughter. The Governor was last seen skulking outside the prison gates at the end of “Internment,” the previous episode, which is significant because we know he ends up clean-shaven and, ostensibly, alone. That means the opening sequence in “Live Bait” must be a bluff, since he’s camped out with the two soldiers from Woodbury he didn’t murder after the botched assault on the prison.
“Internment,” as I demonstrated last week, was about being alone in a crowd, but “Live Bait” is a little more literal with its isolation: the Governor’s abandoned by his two remaining men three minutes into the episode, and director Michael Uppendahl it at pains to remind you of just how lonely being alone is, first with an off-balance long shot of the Governor’s solitary tent:
We expect an unbalanced shot of the Governor, because he’s an unbalanced man. He murdered his soldiers for failing him, instead of upbraiding them and regrouping for another attack. The use of the long shot makes him look smaller — diminished — as if he can control nothing. He’s “the governor” of his own tent, but nothing more. When he returns to Woodbury, the now-abandoned town he once ruled, the camera seems to be telling us that he’s more in control:
Unlike the previous shot, this one is centered, and although we don’t see him setting the fire behind him, the composition strongly suggests that he’s the one who set that fire. He dominates the frame in a manner that communicates a sense of control, suggesting that the fire is his way of dealing with unpleasant memories, especially of his own failure — and confirmation of this dynamic occurs later in the episode, when he burns the photograph of the wife and child he couldn’t save. This shot suggests that the Governor’s got his shit together, that he’s more in control than he was in the first. However:
He’s not. We’re back to the off-kilter composition and utter isolation of that first shot. That he’s bearded and shambling means we know that this isn’t the version of the Governor who we’ll see outside the prison gates at the end of “Internment.” Something will happen in the interim, and that something is the Chalmers family, who he meets in an abandoned apartment.
As he slowly becomes a member of their family, Uppendahl’s direction takes an interesting turn. For example, when Lilly Chalmer cleans the wound he acquired securing oxygen tanks for her dying father, the level of framing shifts down about three feet…
I watched Man of Steel again yesterday, and all I can say is that on second-viewing, I’m impressed by Zak Synder’s subtlety. He captured Superman’s insectile origins quite superbly — native Kryptonians fly aback demon dragonflies and travel the stars in space-beetles! — and never once tried to compare this creation of two Jews writing at the advent of the Second World War to anything inappropriate:
I was also impressed by his integrity. During the hour-and-a-half-long climactic fight scene, Snyder could have gone for gore and showed the human toll of Superman’s decision to move the fight from one heavily populated area to the next, but he never let you forget that the Real Victims™ are people too, my friends:
I mean, Zod was blinded by our Terran sun when he threw Superman into that 7-11′s gas pumps. It was just an innocent bystander! Fortunately, Superman’s here to avenge those pumps’ deaths:
Zod will have none of it. “I’m stronger than you, a warrior bred,” he tells the symbol of Truth, Justice and the Americans Who Matter, right before tossing him into one of our most sacred temples:
Now Superman’s the one having none of it. “YOU CAN BREAK MY PANCAKES, BUT YOU CAN NEVER TAKE MY –
But before Superman can stop Zod from trolling the planet, a minion throws a U-Haul van that you can rent for $19.95 a day by calling 1-800-GO-U_HAUL at an army helicopter, so he can’t worry about the broken pancakes, because he has a more important person to save:
JESUS CHRIST — no pun intended — are you an idiot? You already saved him. 7-11 is fine. What you mean he’s still in danger?
I don’t care how that shot’s framed, Kal-El. She’s about to literally shoot that man with eye-lasers. Where are your priorities?
THANK YOU DETECTIVE STABLER. Maybe we can grossly manipulate him into –
Did you just 9/11 Metropolis? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can’t you save anything?
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
That’s it, I’m done.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Internment,” may well have been the strongest in what’s shaping up to be the strongest season to date. It was directed by David Boyd, one of the most talented men you’ve never heard of. He’s been the director of photography on such visually uninspiring fare as Firefly and Deadwood, so it should be no surprise that the composition and shot selection in “Internment” was barely this side of breathtaking.
What do I mean?
For one, Boyd’s use of close-ups in this episode weren’t used to cheaply intensify scenes whose dialogue lacked emotional impact. Unlike, say, the opening credit sequence of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which closes in to bring the pain and reassure you that the police always have your best interest at heart, the close-ups in “Internment” function as the necessary conclusions to terrible arguments.
Consider, for example, this close-up of Rick’s gun:
It’s the culmination of the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he-pick-up-arms subplot, but instead of having Rick say something about it, Boyd just places Rick’s gun in-frame and lets it speak for itself. Note, though, that the gun’s slightly off-center, a screen-position people have been trained by Hollywood to hate.
The audience, then, is primed for something to happen — and conventionally, that “something” would be that the camera shifts to the left and “properly” frames the gun, dead-center, since it’s the most important element in the shot.
Boyd knows that’s the expectation — he knows that his audience craves symmetry in its compositions — but instead of conceding to audience expectations, he recapitulates the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he argument:
When Rick’s pea-bearing hand enters the frame, Boyd racks the focus, shifting the emphasis from the arms he just took up to the green thumbs he put them down for. In a single shot, then, Boyd’s reminded the audience of the Big Decision Rick had to make, but he did so without having to use dialogue as a crutch, as the show so often has. What could have been a tossed off transition between scenes in which characters indulge in unnecessary expository monologues is, instead, a seemingly tossed-off reminder of past soul-searching.
There’s a story to tell about the odd configuration of my Facebook page, I just don’t have the time to write it. But I’ve trained you well, Dear Readers, so surely, you can come up with something awesome if I prompt you thus:
Remember SEK’s NEIGHBOR? The one who thought SEK belonged to a gang because of his backward hat? Well, this morning SEK decided it was about time to start watching The Sopranos, and so when he was driving home from the grocery store and saw his NEIGHBOR, SEK thought it’d be a great idea to slow his car to a crawl and give NEIGHBOR a good eye-fucking. The fake neighborhood “police” started driving around until, finally, MR. POLICEMAN — with NEIGHBOR in tow — knocked on SEK’s door.
MR. POLICEMAN: Have you been threatening this man?
SEK: What? No.
MR. POLICEMAN: Is that your car?
MR. POLICEMAN: He says a man in a hat was threatening him this morning.
SEK: (points to hair) I’m not wearing a hat.
NEIGHBOR: It’s you! You have a hat!
SEK: I’m sure I do somewhere. What’s this about, officer?
MR. POLICEMAN: Have you been speeding recently?
SEK: I’ve been in Houston, my sister just had a baby. Wanna see a picture?
NEIGHBOR: He has a hat!
MR. POLICEMAN: So you haven’t been speeding?
SEK: I haven’t even been here.
NEIGHBOR: Ask him about his hat?
SEK: Do you need a hat, sir?
NEIGHBOR: I want to see your hat!
SEK: Officer, should I get him a hat?
MR. POLICEMAN: I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Sorry to have bothered you, sir.
NEIGHBOR looks at SEK. SEK waits until the officer turns around, then eye-fucks NEIGHBOR again.
NEIGHBOR: ASK HIM ABOUT HIS HAT!
MR. POLICEMAN: (to NEIGHBOR) We’re done here.
NOT REALLY AN UPDATE: For the record, what I thought was going to happen turned out to be funnier. What’s the point of living life as if it were performance art if it refuses to perform? Sigh:
The fake neighborhood “police” just drove by, and I can’t help but wonder what they’re looking for: “Suspect is an off-white late-model academic, so use extreme caution, he may have an ethnicity. Repeat: he may have an ethnicity.”
(And after they bust in and shoot me, they’ll be all like, “It’s terrible, sir, it’s terrible. The books! THEY”RE EVERYWHERE. On the floor, there’re little ones on the table, looks like he broke their spines. OH THE HUMANITIES!”)
That is, however, only the second-best hat picture I’ve seen recently:
Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Isolation,” focused on who was with whom and the tightness of the quarters they shared, i.e. how isolated every single person in this episode wasn’t. The title of this week’s episode, “Indifference,” is equally ironic, because the entire episode is about inappropriately caring too much — whether it be Rick caring about Carol enough to banish her, or Daryl caring more about Bob the Alcoholic than he should’ve.
But that’s not what I want to discuss this week. Not because it’s insignificant, as it clearly isn’t, but because in visual terms, this episode is much more about what people do than who they are or what they feel. The episode announces as much in the opening shots:
The jump-cut from the medium shot of Rick bandaging his hand to the close-up of his hand while he’s bandaging it is Brock’s way of gesticulating wildly at this episode’s theme, which I’ll call “The Terrible Things We’ve Done With Our Hands.”
Before you object that every episode of The Walking Dead features many hand-oriented shots, since characters are constantly thwacking walkers through the head, let me assure you that I already know that. Brock’s shot selection in “Indifference” isn’t different in kind from other episodes, but in degree. Consider the second sequence with Rick before the introduction rolls…
But according to this soon-to-be-former security officer at — wait for it … wait for it … — the University of California, Irvine, that’s why he never puts it on his hamburgers:
Believe it or not, that’s only the second best screen capture I scored for this story.