Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Director's Chair: Scorsese's Best Titles

The LAMB is holding the latest installment of their Director's Chair series from April 28th-April 30th. And while I'll also be submitting my two Scorsese Posters posts, I wanted to write something new for the event.

I got to thinking about movie titles, about how some of them become synonymous with their films, their poster art, or even a single iconic image. But I wanted to separate the text from their attachments (the signifiers from the signified) and rank my favorites--based on the premise that the words were being used as a title for a movie, but not necessarily the movie I already connect them with. In short, what do the words themselves represent and how do they work apart from the famous films?

Number 5.
Gangs of New York.
Right away, hundreds of images fly through my brain. The New York City skyline, gritty urban streets, graffiti, violence, police lights, police tape, hand signs, murder, blood, thugs, the East/West Coast rivalry of the mid-90s, youth, and on and on. Then the questions begin. Is this a documentary? What decades would it span? If it's a narrative film, what decade would it take place in? Are these present-day gangs armed with a heavy arsenal of automatic weapons or are they closer to Jets and Sharks? "DID THEY REMAKE THE WARRIORS?" would certainly have to be asked. This combination of words, Gangs of New York, immediately triggers imagery and prompts inquiries. Isn't that what very movie should do (I'm looking at you, Salt)?

Number 4.
What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
I'm a fan of longer titles. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney. This one elicits thoughts of pick-up lines, crowded bars, maybe an element or two of danger. This could work for a colorful 1960s rom-com (think Cactus Flower) or a low-budget indie drama--possibly set in New York. On its own, WaNGLYDiaPLT (pronounced Wangly Dia-plat) is an interesting title but it does sounds a little cliche. Honestly, if I read this title in smaller festival lineup, I'd probably skip it. That being said, it inspired me to write a film based on my favorite pick-up line, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car.

Number 3.
Boxcar Bertha.
Talk about triggering vivid imagery. This movie could be about circus freaks, an obese Depression-Era hobo, or even a female pro wrestler. Sure, those are all pretty similar, but the point is: Boxcar. Bertha. I'm interested.

If someone here asked me, "Have you ever seen Boxcar Bertha?" I would immediately open a new window and log in to Netflix. There'd be no way I could respond, "No, what's it about?" and then wait for their reply. If the DVD art didn't look horrendous (I will judge a DVD by its cover), it'd be at the top of my queue just waiting for me to send back Project Runway: Season 5, Disc 4. You've got to admire anyone willing to label their quality product with a name like this.

Number 2.
The Color of Money.
A lazier writer would have just named it "Green."

Number 1.
The Last Temptation of Christ.
What a great title. You're already familiar with the main character, you recognize the finality of the situation, and its got great cadence. The rhythm of the words hits you three times. The LAST TempTATION of CHRIST. The only thing the marketing people would have to do with make sure everyone knew it wasn't a "Christian" film.


Simon said...

Long titles rock, okay? Love them.

Andrew K. said...

I'd say that The Age of Innocence wins, but of course it's disqualified because Edith Wharton's the one who named it. The Last Temptation of Christ, is a close #2 though.