Favorite Movie Beginnings
This is a list that will be perpetually updated. Mostly for my own reference. Because of my general OCD, I’m seeking my own top ten of each. I watch so many movies though, I tend to forget a lot of the things I’ve seen. Well, not actually “forget”, more like… bury deep into my subconscious ;-)
Favorite Beginnings —
Spring Breakers (2012)
I first saw this film at Nite Owl Theater (an underground-style movie theater in Miami), the night of my birthday. It was projected on 35mm, with a scratchy print and a loud bassy mix by the projectionist. That shit blew me away. Normally I find the filmmaker, Harmony Korine, pesado. But for some reason this movie really spoke to me. And it all starts with that intro. No movie captures the excess of late-capitalism the way this opening scene does. The imagery is both celebration & commentary; an alluring mixture.
Enter the Void (2009)
This movie was so hyped when I was in film school. All my experimental film friends were salivating at the release of this thing. I had never seen Gaspar Noe’s films, but I was aware of his reputation at the time as an extreme art-house filmmaker. We ended up getting an early release digital copy of the movie, which we played in the private movie theater the film school had. The opening title sequence of Enter the Void was a revelation. It’s cinema canon. Gospel. The rest of the movie was shit. Moments of beauty surrounded by hours of shit. But the high of that opening title sequence has never left me… PS: I dig Noe’s latest stuff.
Boogie Nights (1997)
The classic opening one-shot. Starts with a neon sign (as most things should) and ends with a bunch of sexy people in a sexy place listening to sexy music staring sexily at each other. Fuck yah. This shit slaps, and you know that. I don’t even have to tell you. The entire movie is a gorgeous sweep of male angst.
Gray’s Anatomy (1996)
The opening sequence of this strange movie/documentary by Steven Soderbergh is psychedelic in its intensity. The majority of the movie is a surreal staging of a one-man monologue by stage performer Spalding Gray. And yet… AND YET! The first 10ish minutes is a series of high-contrast black & white film interviews of various strangers recalling gruesome medical stories involving their eyes. Although the imagery itself is technically “boring” in the sense that it’s just talking head interviews of plain anonymous people in plain anonymous settings, the things they are talking about are so extreme that you can’t help but squirm in your seat and be thankful for your eyes. An exercise in psycho-cinematic dynamic range.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The original psychedelic opening sequence. The super-impositions, the overlays, the sound design & music, the strangeness of it all… And yet it properly sets the stage and adds up to something in the end. An incredible example of a bold extension of style, and the successful landing of the effect. Few movies hit higher & harder than Apocalypse Now. And it starts from the very first frame. This is how you weird.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This movie nails all the tropes: cinematic language; science fiction; transcendental ontology; narrative structure; grandiose spectacle; production methods. It’s a classic. I don’t have to tell you that. But the intro is still worth noting, as decade after decade this movie still speaks to millions of people on a profoundly spiritual level. The thing that’s interesting to me about the opening scene of 2001 is the way it sort of says another thing (outside of ‘cool style’): Every time you watch this movie, you are experiencing the alignment of these astral bodies — Playing the movie causes the universe to align momentarily; Therefore prepare to enter the star-gate which is 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think a lot about this idea, movies as ritual…