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Author Topic: Films with gimmicks
snopes
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What movies can you think of that employ some unique feature or unusual gimmick throughout their entire length? I'm not referring to films that have surprise endings or twists or lead viewers to believe one thing and then spring startling "reality tricks" on them in the closing moments -- I'm thinking of movies in which unusual storytelling or technical features are an integral part of the entire film. Some examples would be Hitchcock's "Rope," which was shot in one continuous take (actually several carefully planned ten-minute takes, since that was the maximum amount of film a Technicolor camera could hold at the time); "Memento," in which events unfold in reverse chronology; and "Incubus" (starring William Shatner), in which all the dialogue is spoken in the artificial language Esperanto.

What other examples can you come up with?

- snopes

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Chimera
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Toy Story. Ooh, Pixar animation.

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Snafu
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...or the animation (is that what it is?) in Waking Life.
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snopes
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*Sigh*

Dozens (if not hundreds) of computer-animated films have been made in recent years, so there's nothing really unique or unusual about Toy Story.

- snopes

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Felessan
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Night Watch - the subtitles change format depending on who's speaking.

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Nion
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You might bark at this one too, but what about "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"?

I know that there were "live action/animation" films before it, but I mean this one was revolutionary! Cameras panned around with abandon, on all degrees of their axis. Animators had insisted on still shots or "2-D" shots in the past in order to make animation more easy to achieve. The cameras in this movie had free reign.

They also used these weird rubber puppets to train the actors on where to look and how to act for when the characters were added later. Complex mechanisms were set up to knock dishes over, send papers flying, knock furniture over, all on cue.

Multi-layer animation cels were utilyzed to allow for highlight and shadow on the cartoon characters to enhance the realism and make you believe they were really there in the scene. I remember hearing about how the technique used on Jessica Rabbit's dress at the Club Maroon(?) was a technological breakthrough at the time.

I'd say it's much more than just a gimmick, but it sure didn't hurt ticket sales either. [Smile]

ETA: I also remember some kid's movie a few years back that had this whole "scratch 'n' sniff" thing goin' on. At the right moment, A graphic with a number that corresponded to a number on your "scratch pad" would appear on the screen. Scratch it and smell what the characters were smelling in the movie. [Wink]

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snopes
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quote:
I know that there were "live action/animation" films before it, but I mean this one was revolutionary!
But sound was "revolutionary" at one time, and so was color, and so was stereo sound, and so was 3-D, and so was Cinemascope, etc., etc. I'm looking for films that were (and still are) unique in some way; I'm not seeking to compile of a list of "First (or best) use of <insert feature here> in a movie."

- snopes

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timbobmc
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quote:
Originally posted by RelicMan:

ETA: I also remember some kid's movie a few years back that had this whole "scratch 'n' sniff" thing goin' on. At the right moment, A graphic with a number that corresponded to a number on your "scratch pad" would appear on the screen. Scratch it and smell what the characters were smelling in the movie. [Wink] [/QB]

Kid movie? The only scratch and sniff movie I remember was Pink Flamingos , a John Waters film starring Devine. One of the scents was sh*t. Hardly a kid's movie. [Eek!]

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skeptic
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Schindler's List. The black and white filming was very haunting, and if I remember correctly, the only colour was the red dress worn by the little girl on her way to the gas chambers.

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Nion
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
quote:
I know that there were "live action/animation" films before it, but I mean this one was revolutionary!
But sound was "revolutionary" at one time, and so was color, and so was stereo sound, and so was 3-D, and so was Cinemascope, etc., etc. I'm looking for films that were (and still are) unique in some way; I'm not seeking to compile of a list of "First (or best) use of <insert feature here> in a movie."

- snopes

Well I still think it was unique, given they did it all without the aid of computer technology. *sniff* lol

But I mean come on. You can't expect more than a handful of movies like that. Almost any gimmick gets copy-catted eventually. Schindler's List is no longer unique. Hell, that "Good Night and Good Luck" movie just came out . . . in black and white. There's been others as well. There was that one weird comic-book thingy that did all black-and-white except for some red here and there gimmick as well. Maybe a "revolutionary" list would be easier? [Big Grin]

timbobmc: That was DEFINATELY not it. lmao I think it was some Nickelodeon-backed movie or something.

ETA: More ranting. lol

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BringTheNoise
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
Some examples would be Hitchcock's "Rope," which was shot in one continuous take (actually several carefully planned ten-minute takes, since that was the maximum amount of film a Technicolor camera could hold at the time); "Memento," in which events unfold in reverse chronology; and "Incubus" (starring William Shatner), in which all the dialogue is spoken in the artificial language Esperanto.

Rope no longer qualifies as Russian Ark is actually shot as one continuous shot (no cuts at ALL), and Irréversible is also in reverse chronological order, thus Memento is no longer unique.

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Snafu
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OK, what about the original 13 Ghosts?

If you wore 3D glasses you saw the ghosts, and if you didn't, well, you didn't see the ghosts.

...I think.

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Faith
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
What movies can you think of that employ some unique feature or unusual gimmick throughout their entire length? I'm not referring to films that have surprise endings or twists or lead viewers to believe one thing and then spring startling "reality tricks" on them in the closing moments -- I'm thinking of movies in which unusual storytelling or technical features are an integral part of the entire film. Some examples would be Hitchcock's "Rope," which was shot in one continuous take (actually several carefully planned ten-minute takes, since that was the maximum amount of film a Technicolor camera could hold at the time); "Memento," in which events unfold in reverse chronology; and "Incubus" (starring William Shatner), in which all the dialogue is spoken in the artificial language Esperanto.

What other examples can you come up with?

- snopes

Nitpick: although it is commonly reported that Rope is formed entirely of 10 minute takes, it actually isn't - many takes are shorter. Robin Wood discusses this point at length in "Hitchcock Revisited". He finds it interesting as a titbit that is passed on without it being checked out. Of course, this does not invalidate your point that the film is composed of a number of very long shots.

Back to the topic, how about Fahrenheit 451 and its spoken credits?

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Nion
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Well, 3-D isn't original. Also, I'm sure you'd see the ghosts, they'd just be all blurry and whatnot. [Smile]

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Chimera
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quote:
Originally posted by Snafu:
OK, what about the original 13 Ghosts?

If you wore 3D glasses you saw the ghosts, and if you didn't, well, you didn't see the ghosts.

...I think.

You can see 3-D objects without glasses, they just look blurry.

ETA: Oops, spanked by RelicMan.

Hmm... I was originally thinking of movie first type gimicks. But if I'm understanding the question correctly what about the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Its one of the few shows I know with that level of audience participation. Although like all good things I now hear there are copy cats (including, oddly, the Sound of Music).

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Danvers Carew
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quote:
-- I'm thinking of movies in which unusual storytelling or technical features are an integral part of the entire film.
I think Pleasantville fits your criteria. Modern day characters enter a black-and-white 50s sitcom world through their TV, and slowly awaken the characters, turning them into glorious Technicolor. It's integral to the storyline, but a technical gimmick.

A few other films have used the technique of black&white with one or two instances of colour popping through (Schindler's List and Sin City are the first to pop into my head), but these are stylistic things - Pleasantville is kind of unique in that the black&white and colour gimmick is integral to the plot

Russian Ark (2002) is a 96 minute film using a single continuous unedited shot. It doesn't have any cuts like Rope.

Passion of the Christ is entirely in Latin and Ancient Aramaic - I don't know if you'd count that. It's in a dead language, rather than just a foreign language, which is pretty gimmicky I reckon. The earlier Sebastiane is also entirely in Latin - there's probably a few more actually.

Um, Bugsy Malone has an all-child cast, all the way through, playing adult roles and so on - that's a bit of a gimmick too.

eta: spanked by several people. Grrr.

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faceless007
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I have not seen Lars von Trier's "Dogville," but doesn't it take place mostly on a bare stage with objects drawn on the ground, even though all the actors act like they exist in a fully formed-world?

"Sleuth" has a pretty good gimmick, but you don't really get it until the end of the film. *SPOILER* There are only two characters in the whole movie, even though you're led to believe at many points that there are more. It's based on a play, which my dad saw in college, and he said the program for the play gave fake names and biographies for all the "actors" who play the other characters.

I'm not sure if "Magnolia" would count, since it's probably not the first film to have a cast of a dozen or so characters whose lives all intersect in strange ways, but that was the "gimmick" that drew me to the film to begin with. "13 Conversations About One Thing" has that device as well.

If a non-linear structure (common as it is today) is enough to qualify (since you mentioned "Memento"), "Pulp Fiction" and "Run Lola Run" also probably count. Maybe the latter more than the former, since "Pulp Fiction" wasn't all that unconventional with stucture.

I have not actually seen "Rashomon," but its premise is well-known to me, and it sounds like it would qualify. Last year's Chinese film "Hero" might count for the same device: past events told through differing points of view, some of which are entirely false.

"Rear Window" is shot entirely from James Stewart's apartment except for a few shots at the end.

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WingedBear
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regarging 13 ghosts, from imdb:

"The movie was filmed in "Illusion-O" and a pair of special glasses where needed to see the ghosts. This resulted in a number of sources incorrectly stating that the film was originally shown in 3D. The "ghost viewers" contained a red filter and a blue filter but unlike 3D viewers, both eyes would look through the same color filter. One color would cause the ghostly images to intensify while the other color caused the images to fade."

I would consider Rope, Russian Ark, and Memento to be gimmick movies as the makers didn't expect people to copy the gimmick for every movie. I would even agree with Roger Rabbit, because they went to a lot of trouble to mix real and animation while making it look realistic yet distinct.

As far as sound in films or the first computer animation films; the makers knew that others would follow them, so the trick was only in being the first.

So I wouldn't say it has to be unique to be a gimmick, just that the makers didn't consider it to become a standard or used very often (e.g. Rope and Russian Ark are over 50 years apart).

Along those lines, I would include What's Up Tiger Lily? and maybe even the MST3k movie.

ETA: Minor spelling/grammar

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Chimera
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How about "Clue" it had a few different (I'm thinking 3) endings so you wouldn't know who did it (even if you heard someone give away the ending it might not be the same ending being shown in your local cinema)?

While it was basically an arts festival type film and probably just one in what will be a long strand of "professional" style amature films I'd have to say (for the time being at least) "The Arristocrats" is unusual. It shows that anyone in today's day and age can make a professional looking film with a $5,000 dollar camera and no real plot at all (ok they actually used a couple cameras but that's not the point). The point is anyone can go down to Wal-Mart and buy everything needed to produce a film. The movie world is now open to Billy Bob, Billy Jean, and Uncle Joe Bob.... Its not confined to Hollywood anymore.

Talking about amaturish films... What about the "Blair Witch Trials"? I've never seen it but I've heard its first person and somewhat believable to some.

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mastershake
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In Mike Figgis' "Time Code" (2000), the screen is divided into four segments each showing a different segment of the film shot in real time. I actually found it kind of boring, but it was an interesting idea.

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SPOILER ALERT
SPOILER ALERT
SPOILDER ALERT

I don't know if it's unique for movies, but M. Night Shyalaman's "The Sixth Sense" had Bruce Willis' character not finding out he was dead until the very end. It was also unusual in that it was shot entirely in sequential order. To be fair, though, Shyalaman got the idea for Bruce Willis' character from an episode of Nickelodean's "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"

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timbobmc
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Sorry, RelicMan, the movie I ws thinking about was Polyester , same director, same star, different story.

I did a quick search and found a Rugrats movie was scratch and sniff. But since I don't watch Nickelodeon or enjoy the Rugrats (horrid animation) I'm not surprised I missed that one.

The Blair Witch Project I enjoyed. It was filmed in first person, giving the illusion that the events really happened, but I never believed it was anything by fiction. I didn't bother with the sequel.

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Ulkomaalainen
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Actually I doubt that these meet snopes' criteria, but I wanted to chime in anyway:

The French movie "Huit femmes" (8 women) has a cast of only - you guessed it - eight women (plus a man who's seen three times or so from behind). It's very much like a theater stage with approximately 90% or more of the movie being staged in the house's main lobby. Added that all characters wear a "defining colour" it at least has a feeling of "difference".

The German movie "Lola rennt" lives up to it's tagline of "every second you make a decision which may change your life" (roughly translated) in showing the very same situation three times, where minimal changes in the start of a day result in very different endings.

Actually, the "unique" criterion seems hard to meet. Magnolia, one of my all time favourite movies, has this small intertwined cast, but "Huit Femmes" gets close, and there may be dozens others. "6th sense" made me want to find out whether they did it right, so I actually watched it two times in a row, but this is a great, but somehow "just another" story twist to me. In some movies you have actors talking to the audience, sometimes even directly, but they're not unique.

Ulkomaalainen

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faceless007
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Ah, a few more came to me.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not is a French film starring Audrey Tatou. The first half of the film tells one story, and then the film rewinds back to the beginning and shows everything from a different perspective which is supposed to be shocking. The film doesn't really work, though, just because by knowing that gimmick, you sit through the whole first half knowing it's all a big fraud anyway. And the setup of the first half is rather clumsy; it's very easy to see how the story is being manipulated throughout. In fact, the first half consists almost entirely of the main character telling other people about events (we rarely see the events themselves), so it isn't a tough leap to figure out she might not be entirely truthful in what she says.

Primer is also pretty interesting in its structure. It's mostly linear, but still doesn't tell the audience many things clearly, and only gives the bare minimum amount of information for things to just start to make sense. It's about time travel, which is why the structure is important. It's hard to explain; you have to see the film to understand how it's sort of gimmicky.

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Chimera
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There was a movie called "FlatLiners" (or something like that). I don't really remember the film but it seemed each character had a different colour/element(?) associated with him/her. I may be mistaken but I remember thinking something was interesting about the film and it wasn't the story.

"Toys" (staring Robin Williams) had interesting visual effects. So did "The Lawnmower man" IMHO but I can't recall any plot to them. Maybe something about toy store ownership on the first... but definitely not enough of a plot (IMHO) to go see the film. The constantly bizzar (like sleeping in a duckie) however will stay with me for ever. Actually so will "The Wall", I still don't know what it was about (war?, drugs?) but it had cool images.

What about "Dark Star" for being one of the few sci-fi based movies with no major battle sceenes (unless you count the brief battle with the beach ball alien)? It was just a bunch of burnt out hippies trying to amuse themselves. Or the "Pit and the Pedulum" (not the Alfred H version but the one with the witch exploded herself with gun powder at the end while getting burned at the stake and taking out her executioners with her? Or "The Wicker Man" where the xian cop was considered the odd one throughout the film (instead of the good guy)? I know that there are several movies where traditional roles are reversed but I think they are few and far between.

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Em
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Dead men don't wear plaid (1982) starring Steve Martin.

It's a film noir take-off, with scenes from various old movies edited in as part of the storyline. I haven't seen it in ten years or so, but I remember it as being very well done.

The whole movie is in black and white so that the film noir scenes fit in properly.

It must have been fun to write. I wonder what the producers of the original films thought of it.

ETA: For unexpected plot twists, I can't go past The usual suspects (1995).

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Lindiglo
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Parapluies De Cherbourg/ The Umbrellas of Cherbourg- every line of dialogue is sung.
Invitation to the Dance is all dance, no speaking.
And what's that Bogart picture, filmed in the first person?

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KennRice
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Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) is shot on a single set, the lifeboat.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) for the underwater sequences.

Quest For Fire (1981) was filmed entirely with a made-up caveman language.

Paper Moon (1973) was filmed in B&W long after color movies became the norm.

Ken

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Santa Mari-a
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quote:
Originally posted by Lindiglo:

And what's that Bogart picture, filmed in the first person?

I'm not sure if this is the one you mean, but there was a film based on Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake where the actor playing Marlowe (I think it was Robert Montgomery, not Bogart) is never seen except in reflections, since the entire film is from his point of view. The ads said, "Starring YOU and Robert Montgomery!"

The entire cast of The Women was...women. Not a single male character (are there even any male background extras?) except for a shot of the back of a man's head when the errant husband returns at the end.

I wouldn't call it a "gimmick," but the nearly four-hour length of Gone With the Wind was unheard of back in 1939. I think the ticket price was also exorbitant for its time, something like $3.50.

The Kansas scenes at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz are in black and white, the rest in color.

The Terror of Tiny Town was a Western with a cast of all "little people."

Tod Browning's Freaks had actual, well, freaks, not ordinary-looking people with makeup.

Silent Movie by Mel Brooks was a silent movie about the making of a silent movie.

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snopes
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quote:
I also remember some kid's movie a few years back that had this whole "scratch 'n' sniff" thing goin' on. At the right moment, A graphic with a number that corresponded to a number on your "scratch pad" would appear on the screen. Scratch it and smell what the characters were smelling in the movie.
That's close, but I still wouldn't count it because the unique element wasn't actually part of the film itself.

- snopes

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Ganzfeld
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How about The Jazz Singer (1927), with a soundtrack that matches what the actors are saying, just like a play on the stage. That was a cool gimmick.
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quote:
Rope no longer qualifies as Russian Ark is actually shot as one continuous shot (no cuts at ALL), and Irréversible is also in reverse chronological order, thus Memento is no longer unique.]
I said "unique" OR "unusual" because I know it's unlikely there is a gimmick that hasn't been used more than once. If the other expressions of a particular film gimmick are lost, obscure, very old, foreign, or low-budget movies that hardly anyone outside of hard-core film aficionados would be familiar with, then the more famous versions (to U.S. audiences) are still suitably unusual for this purpose.

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quote:
Back to the topic, how about Fahrenheit 451 and its spoken credits?
It's in the right ballpark, but that element doesn't run all throughout the film.

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quote:
How about The Jazz Singer (1927), with a soundtrack that matches what the actors are saying, just like a play on the stage. That was a cool gimmick.
Actually, it didn't have a soundtrack that matched what the actors were saying. It was a silent movie into which some musical scenes with synchronized sound were inserted.

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Ganzfeld
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Oops. I wonder why they called it a "talkie" not a "singie".
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