Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Power Of Editing: Any Given Sunday

Editing is a powerful tool. With proper touch, shots can be configured to convey anything an editor desires. Matched with engrossing sound, nondiagetic or otherwise, editing can produce an epic and often powerful result. Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday is a perfect example. Editing embalms the entire film, livening up the football action with quick cuts and matching it with powerful sound to convey emotion and empower the scene. Other scenes feature beautifully partitioned parallel editing that emphasizes and reinforces the emotion occuring in speech at the given time. In Any Given Sunday, editing empowers the moment.
During football scenes, seconds in time are skipped by efficiently parched jump cuts that not only speed up time for the movie, but add power and excitement to every crunch of football pads and grunt between players. Quick jump cuts, matched with close-ups and medium shots to put the viewer close to the action, illuminate the frenzy and anger inherant in football and add an extra layer of devastation to every second skipped over in the film. Watching football without such immense attention to editing and structure is still intense, but it lacks the power and thud that you feel with every well orchestrated jump cut in the movie.
Time can also be slowed down effectively in these scenes. In certain situations time slows and the scene is put into slow-motion to properly encapsulate the viewer in the moment. This happens most often when balls are in flight, allowing the onlooker to feel a tension in regards to it's final destination. The slowdown can also allow spatial recognition and disparage the sense of nasuem that can come with an assortment of jump cuts. Slow-motion also occurs in normal process of game-changing or important plays, as routine moments are lengthened so the viewer can feel the importance in the moment. Normal speed would have lost that power and engrossment in the scene. Time is otherwise slowed in moments of adulation - such as when the team celebrates it's final playoff victory. Most importantly, this switch from speed - jump cuts - to slowing down motion - slow-motion - is important in the rocking boat of emotion and fervor that comes with every football game.
Sound further strengthens the intention of the jump cuts and need for forcefulness in every bone-jarring hit. Diagetic but exaggerated collisions are heard with every football scene in the film. This onscreen sound makes the audience cringe with every collision. A powerful and sprawling nondiagetic soundtrack ignites each moment in the action, perfectly reinforcing the emotion Stone wants the audience to feel with each few minutes in the movie. Quick techno music allows the audience to feel the speed and expeditiousness of the game. Sound can also reinforce emotion in scenes that illuminate emotion or conversation between characters. More methodical, empowering hums enlighten and strengthen some of the head coach Tony D'Amato's speeches and emotional battles with his star quarterback in the movie. With these sounds, good moments become great. The package of diagetic and nondiagetic on and offscreen sound perfectly aligned with the jump cuts and parallel editing reinforce the intention of the director and emphasize the emotion of each given moment.
Editing also gives NFL-like feel to football scenes acted out by amateurs. Using jump cuts and slow motion the audience is given the false impression of extreme speed that most of these actors do not possess. Matched with embellishing sounds and rehearsed scenes these typically above-average athletes can come off as heros and football legends. Jamie Foxx is surely a good athlete but he is not capable of breaking highlight reel runs or flipping over all-star opponents. Lawrence Taylor, NFL legend and legendary linebacker Luther 'Shark' Lavay in Any Given Sunday is glorified as a star player in the swan song of his career. In real life he would be mashed around by NFL players due to the natural entropy that occurs with age. Through editing, the audience still believes that Taylor is capable of making game-changing plays and bone-jarring hits with the addition of speed-enhancing jump cuts and powerful thuds generated by sound inserted after the fact.
A few scenes best encapsulate the emodiment of these techniques and efficiently use all or most of them to most efficiently convey the intention of saturating the viewer in the barbaric and enthralling nature of the game. The most notable are a portion the final drive of the Shark's playoff game, the stirring lunch conversation between the coach and quarterback Willie Beamen, and the final speech by D'Amato before the final game.
Starting halfway through the final drive of the playoff game, a long shot establishes the field position of the team at midfield and the excitement of the crowd. A jump cut pulls us right into the play, showing Beamen dumping the ball off to a reciever in slow motion so the audience can properly evaluate and register the moment in their cerebrum. Shortly after a series of rapid jump cuts with diagetic thuds amp up as opposing players jam into him and take him to the ground. A play that would have taken seven or eight seconds is instead condensed into three or four without improperly disorienting the viewer. Condensing said time also gives brevity and legitimacy to a play that otherwise would have looked extremely amateur - and not one done by professional football players. Stone manages to maintain continuity editing all the way through the movie and scene. A series of close up reaction shots follow, as we see D'Amato, the crowd and players react to the first down. A moment of slowdown occurs as we see an opposing player backing up off the line of scrimmage. A nondiagetic growl eminates, implying the animality of the game and the nature of this drive. Jump cuts again speed up the period between plays until Beamen takes a timeout and he is hurriedly jump cutted towards the sideline. An exchange between the coach Tony D'Amato ensues until a casual joke relieves the tension. At the moment of said joke a nondiagetic track illuminates the moment of bond between the two. Without it, the moment would have felt all the less powerful. Beamen speeds back out onto the field as more close up shots of D'Amato follow to properly register the power of the previous moment and the momentum therefore generated. Power and speed is emphasized throughout.
The lunch argument between D'Amato and Beamen again demonstrates the power and emotion generated by editing. As Beamen settles into the home he takes note of a movie featuring gladiators on D'Amato's big screen. This immediately refers to the overt metaphor of football and it's players as the gladiators of today. D'Amato and a gladiator are juxtaposed in a crosscut implying their similarities. The diagetic sound of the television overwhelms the audio of the moment as the screams and cheers of the crowd match the conversation between coach and quarterback. The conversatoin begins with reflections of the legends of football past as we soothe into several shots that dissolve from one legend to another. From there shots of both the two and the gladiator scene itself switch back and forth until finally the gladiator scene dissolves into a close-up of D'Amato. The two sit and eat dinner, exchanging jarbs and shot-reaction shots until cuts are made back to the gladiator scene and later clouds that slowly part and gray. As the conversation intensifies and the bitterness radiates the clouds turn gray and the gladiator scene turns violent. This accentuates the intensity of the moment as calm, blue skies turn for worst, both metaphorically and literally as the scene slowly works into the next rainy, disheartening game at the apex of the heated argument. Without the shots of the graying skies and combative gladiators this scene would only be an argument. With it it manages a intense, blackened feel that cleverly juxtaposes with the following scene, enriching the power of not only the conversation but the next game.
When D'Amato begins his pregame speech to the team before the final game he is enshrined in a medium shot. There is no music and he warms up slowly, emphatically dishing into his emphasis on inches. With each phrase he uses a cut puts a different player on a pedastal, showing player reaction to each of his jarring words. As the speech gains momentum a nondiagetic track adds an uncalcuatable strength and passion to his words. More cuts show the stirring emotions in each of the team's main characters as they seem to feel, as the audience does, the power of D'Amato's words. As the speech hits an apex the music does too, igniting the fervor of the team as D'Amato pushes them, as does the editing, into their final game.
These scenes are only a few of the examples that show how editing empowers the movie. These strategies are repeated over and over again to liven up all of the emotional and powerful moments that saturate Any Given Sunday. The best way to fully appreciate these well orchestrated edits are to imagine the movie without them. It would end up being a rather mundane, slightly exaggerated documentary on football. One without much of the power. Or emotion. Or flow. Using properly structured jump cuts, slow motion, and sound throughout Any Given Sunday, editing empowers the moment. Editing empowers the movement. On any given sitting, atypical motion can be made epic through carefully twisted editing. Through properly placed sound. Through effective time condensation. In Any Given Sunday, editing makes it epic.


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