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Signature Style / Live-Action Films

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  • Quentin Tarantino films are talky, often with long, rambling, roundabout conversations full of old pop-culture references and hipster philosophy that somehow feel natural while still containing dialogue no normal person would ever speak. Most of his films are pastiches of other films and genres, and often feature cinema or the entertainment industry itself as a recurring subject. Some of his films are episodic in plot structure, with "chapters" or chunks arranged out of order. Lots of violence and swearing are to be expected. Due to Author Appeal, women's bare feet will often be highlighted. Tarantino is also fond of a particular shot where the camera passes through a wall or ceiling, which is only later revealed in a subsequent shot. Also has at least one Trunk Shot in each of his movies. Also, all of his films contain the phrase "Your reputation precedes you", or some slight variation.
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  • David Fincher lights every single one of his films with the same shadowy, yellow or blue mood lighting, he rarely uses close-ups except when showing something very important, avoids handheld camera work, and favors shooting from a dolly, using motion control software or CGI.
  • David Cronenberg loves gore, body horror, sexual deviance, and Mind Rape. Basically, if it causes passions to flair in otherwise intelligent people, he’s there to analyze it. Accordingly, he also eschews flashy editing and rarely, if ever, moves the camera, giving his films a clinical, objective feel.
  • Shane Black loves Christmas and will usually incorporate the holiday into his movies even when you least expect it.
  • John Woo uses slow-mo, Guns Akimbo, and lots of doves flying in his Heroic Bloodshed movies. Themes in his movies usually focus upon family, loyalty and betrayal, and usually feature two brothers or other people on opposite sides of the law who develop a bond of friendship and usually have to join forces against a mutual enemy who is threatening both.
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  • Marc Webb likes deconstructions, emotionally centered storytelling, and complex, realistic characters interacting with and subverting genre tropes.
  • The films of Guillermo del Toro will often favour a specific and small palette (amber for Hellboy, blue-green for Pan's Labyrinth, yellow/blue for night/day in Blade II), will frequently go Beneath the Earth, put something slimy in a jar, and always always always include some reference to Roman Catholicism. And clockwork.
  • In Alejandro Jodorowsky movie and comics, you can expect more religious symbolism than you'll find anywhere else and a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending. (sometimes — like in Fando & Lis and The Holy Mountain — played for laughs). Jodorowsky displays a keen style of absurdism and everything absurdly symbolic, probably meant as a mockery of various religious beliefs and contemporary practices. His work mixes the celebral and intense with the satirical. He also has a thing for bald women.
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  • Things written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright tend to have clever foreshadowing and dramatic-ironical dialog. Phrases will be repeated, once innocent, once really sad or menacing. They tend to be filled with homages to other works, usually geeky ones. They also feature main characters eating a Cornettos. Wright's directorial style includes fast cuts and lots of close-ups, often played for laughs by over-dramatizing the mundane.
  • Woody Allen movies generally feature a nebbishy, fussy Jewish New York Author Avatar who is stuck in psychotherapy, spouts self-deprecating one-liners and Ingmar Bergman references, and gets into romantic entanglements with inexplicably attractive women. Visually, his films tend to have a specific look and feel: Warm colors (when he's not shooting in black-and-white), and scenes with as few cuts as possible, occasionally using oners. Soundtracks heavily favor classic Tin Pan Alley tunes, especially Cole Porter (who naturally appears as a Historical Domain Character in Midnight in Paris).
  • If you're watching an 80's John Hughes flick, expect it to have some humor with at least one angsty teenager thrown in. It's often set in a Chicago Suburb with yuppies. Expect some realistic dilemmas and human drama mixed with something larger than life (in Home Alone, Kevin is a believable kid but the slapstick is really cartoony and unrealistic).
  • Alfred Hitchcock films have a number of recurring features:
    • Often there's a guy or girl unjustly accused, on the run from someone, who has at least one dysfunctional parent, and/or who suddenly vanishes when the love interest takes center place.
    • The motif of abuse of hospitality (either by the guest or the host) is also prevalent.
    • Most female main characters will be blonde, due to Author Appeal.
    • Hitchcock famously made a nonspeaking cameo in every film. In fact, his cameos became so widely known that he was forced to restrict them to the first 10 minutes of his films so viewers wouldn't be distracted from the plot while they looked for him.
    • Also there's lots of voyeurism depicted.
    • He also uses lots of extreme close-ups, and will shoot his dramatic set pieces in either extremely public or extremely private places, to emphasize that you are not safe anywhere.
  • The Coen Brothers like to make pastiches of other works. Their films often play with language, using heavily stylized dialects from various locations and time periods. Proper heroes are few and far between, with even the most sympathetic characters being criminals or morons. They like to use exaggerated camera movements, an influence from their time working with Sam Raimi. They often have one character who personifies pure evil. Expect copious amounts of slapstick, The Walrus Was Paul symbolism, and large, howling men behind desks as a sign of power. No matter how realistic or nuanced, may fall into World of Ham, especially in their comedies. Also, nearly every movie the Coen Brothers have made is centered around the unforeseen consequences of some sort of crime gone wrong, and a huge chunk of their movies have seemingly meaningless Word Salad Titles (Raising Arizona, Blood Simple., The Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker Proxy, etc.).
  • John Milius (of Conan the Barbarian the movie fame) apparently never met a monologue he didn't like, we have to keep those damned commies out of America, and guns/swords are good. Very, very good. He is also is a big fan of mythology and mythological storytelling. Both Conan and Apocalypse Now also feature the hero killing the villain, who has become a wicked father of sorts to the hero, in a temple and then breaking the cult of said villain.
  • If awkward sexual dysfunctions/kinks and Crapsack World suburban mundanity abound, you're probably watching a film directed and written by Todd Solondz.
  • If you are watching a Tim Burton movie you will stumble into at least two of these elements: a character who Looks Like Cesare, German Expressionism, mutilated or unusual hands, gothic-style spirals, characters with parental issues, settings styled after 1950s B-movies, grim and surreal atmospheres, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, a score by Danny Elfman, and dogs.
  • Danny Boyle's films are frequently marked by the use of sky-high levels of contemporary pop and electronic music, and protagonists emerging from or entering into a toilet.
  • Michael Bay's films are all explosion-heavy action films with large casts, extremely large-scale action sequences, and plenty of macho hero worship. They are also generally right-wing, supportive of Cowboy Cops and militarism. His films usually feature a control room and a shot with two people (usually the heroes) standing close to each other while the camera circles around them.
  • Likewise, Roland Emmerich even discussed how his reputation is as a "destroyer", given his pechant for Scenery Gorn and Monumental Damage. The only exception was Anonymous.
  • M. Night Shyamalan's films are frequently set in Philadelphia and will sometimes feature shocking twists or a Creator Cameo.
  • If you're watching a film by legendary Japanese film director, Ishiro Honda, chances are the film will feature people being overwhelmed by either armies, giant monsters, or some other antagonist. This stems from him being drafted into the Japanese Army during WWII. It's safe to assume the whole ordeal left a HUGE impression on his psyche.
  • Oliver Stone's films tend to include a lot of stock footage.
  • Dario Argento's trademarks include masked killers, dark gloves, women being pushed through plate glass, tracking shots, and heroes who are involved with some sort of artistic/creative profession who are usually foreigners.
  • Zack Snyder and his slow-mo. To a lesser extent, using extensive green-screening and CG to create very rich images that look almost like art.
  • Yasujiro Ozu is known for his very personal style. Most of his films are family dramas. He uses a number of distinctive shots over and over again, including low-angle shots about 1-2 feet off the ground and shots of characters looking directly in the camera. His editing, transitions, and use of music also follow very specific rules.
  • Spike Lee often makes films Spike Lee Joints about race relations in America, using New York as a setting. More often than not, he also is either the main character or prominently featured in the supporting cast. Expect to see Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, or Michael Imperioli (but never all three) in the supporting cast. Towards the end of any of his films, expect to see a shot centered on the protagonist standing still, while only the background moves forward. That other wiki has a pretty big section on the subject.
  • Sam Raimi films, especially his early ones, often had a fast-moving POV shot rapidly zooming toward a character. He is also fond of dolly zooms, in which the landscape behind a character seems to change size in relation to the character. He often combines the hyperactive camerawork with slapstick humor. He frequently casts his brother Ted Raimi and his longtime friend Bruce Campbell in small roles.
  • The films of Akira Kurosawa tend to have dramatic camera angles, either very low or very high, using telephoto lenses to flatten the perspective, with a distinctive "Wipe" transition; weather elements used to heighten or contrast the mood of a scene; minimalist music; tragic heroes or anti-heroes who have either risen from a lower status, or fallen from a higher, often returning to their previous status; and explorations of the human psyche and condition, particularly among the poor and marginalized. They're also very likely to include Toshiro Mifune in a starring or prominent role.
  • Zhang Yimou films are identified for the striking cinematography of his films, particularly the dominance of one or two colors in any given scene (or the oversaturation of too many colors in the place scenes in Curse of the Golden Flower). He is also notable for making a lot of films that are family epics (fittingly for a family-oriented society like China), and his early realistic films (as opposed to his later Wuxia) focus on the effect of 20th-century modernity on ordinary Chinese.
  • Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most important French filmmakers of all time, and despite having a wide variety of styles, he has a lot of recurring styles- Red White & Blue (the colors of the French flag) prominently together in a single shot, strongly colored lighting, Anna Karina, in-dialog references to other films, cameos of other filmmakers (Fritz Lang, Samuel Fuller, etc.), voice-overs, abrupt silence, unexpected nudity, and adults doing goofy and childish things.
  • Olivier Assayas is fond in all of his movies of filming in several different languages, and then deliberately refusing to subtitle, in order to increase the audience's alienation from the characters.
  • James Cameron has a number of signatures:
    • Pre-Titanic, there was always at least one nuclear weapon in the mix (Judgement Day in the Terminator films, A stolen warhead in True Lies, a recovered warhead in The Abyss, and "Nuke the site from orbit" plus the exploding reactor in Aliens).
    • He likes shots of feet in a nonsexualized manner. There are many shots of feet or some equivalent stand-in, such as a tire, thudding down onto the ground, sometimes crushing things as they do so: a Terminator's foot crushing a skull in T2, the APC's tyres crushing an alien, the undercarriage of the Harrier jump jet making a mess of parked cars, and less extreme examples like the regimented thumping of Navy SEAL combat boots onto the deck, followed by Lindsey Brigman's high heels, the Power-loader's feet slamming down onto the deck as the lead-in to "Get away from her you bitch!" in Aliens, or Jake Sully wiggling his new toes in Avatar.
    • Strong female characters, either as an Action Girl or a strong-willed Non-Action Guy.
    • A love/hate relationship with technology stories.
    • Heroes are always blue-collar, lower-social-echelon people: (Aliens: Corporal Hicks is competent, badass, and caring, while Lieutenant Gorman is not; Ripley vs. Carter Burke plays the civilian version of this. The rig crew in The Abyss are great guys while the SEALS are mostly stand-offish at the least; Bud Brigman goes to disarm the warhead although he knows it's a one-way trip. Jake Sully gets to be lower-echelon in three different worlds at the same time in Avatar; he's just a grunt to the lab guys, he's a newcomer and a cripple to the soldiers, and he's an untrustworthy alien to the Na'vi. If you're the one person in the world who hasn't seen it yet, guess who's on top at the end of the film.)
    • He apparently likes blue so much that his movies tend to have really long sequences in blue, ranging from the Color Wash in the Terminator films to the all-blue fauna of Pandora in Avatar.
  • Christopher Nolan:
    • Most of his films are a Mind Screw, with non-linear narration and highly complex characterisation.
    • All of his movies have the common theme of guilt, where the male lead regrets having set in motion a chain of events that ended up killing:
    • And in his later movies (more or less since Batman Begins), he revealed his love for minimalist architecture (like Lucius Fox's workshop, Bruce Wayne's penthouse and Batmobile garage, the 2nd level and the limbo), mountains (Nightmute, the Himalayas, Colorado and the 3rd level), cities with skyscrapers (Gotham, Hong Kong and the 1st level), and the Orient in general, with The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception.
    • There well also be mention to theatrics or the element of illusion. Batman Begins uses words like "dramatic" and "theatrics" in the dialogue frequently, The Prestige talks about misdirection and its use in magic, and Inception focuses on "creating the world of the dream", as well as use of misdirection to hide what is dream and what is reality.
    • A common theme in Nolan's work is "A good lie is better than the truth." Who really killed Leonard's wife in Memento, who really shot Eckhart in Insomnia, Who Rachel really loved/ Who killed Harvey Dent's victims in The Dark Knight, Fischer's love for his son, and the nature of the dream world in Inception. There is either self-deception involved by the end or a cover up made for the greater good.
    • His movies also haves very strong, very heavily emphasised motifs and foreshadowing that will require you to watch more than once to understand their significance. The two birds in the cage in The Prestige, one of which is killed during the trick; "I don't like trains" and the fluttering curtains in Inception; even the posters for The Dark Knight highlight the triad of Batman, the Joker and Harvey Dent (good, evil, and both).
    • He also has a love for tasteful, high-end men's fashion. If the men are dressed better than the women, chances are you're watching a Christopher Nolan movie. Nolan himself shows up to sets in a suit every day.
    • He also likes using real effects instead of CGI. Examples include: the exploding hospital in The Dark Knight, the rotating corridor in Inception, the crashed plane in The Dark Knight Rises, the docking scene in Interstellar, and the Tumbler.
  • Sam Mendes loves films about screwed-up familes (literal and metaphorical) and morally and emotionally damaged characters, all lovingly covered with scenery porn. He would also end his films in a bittersweet manner and likes to unravel crucial plot points, emotions and suspense through visuals and detail.
  • Sergio Leone loved close ups. He also always used multiple scores by composer Ennio Morricone (who was a classmate of his). Frequently he would use the music to achieve all kinds of effects, from building tension during the showdown in the Dollars Trilogy to telling the entire story of Once Upon a Time in the West. He also liked to put an emphasis on diagetic sound, and enjoyed playing with conventions, eliminating the Black and White Morality that had been so prevalent in Westerns before, plus some of the greatest examples of casting against type.
  • Paul Greengrass loves shaky, hand-held cameras.
  • Stanley Kubrick: Very far on the cynicism side for Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism, lots of hallways and tracking shots (he was particularly fond of the Steadicam), almost always an adaption of a book, mentally unstable protagonists, classical music (many times used for ironic effect), tons of Black Humor, the Kubrick Stare and above all meticulous attention to detail. And at least one scene involving a toilet.
  • Kevin Smith films usually feature foul-mouthed geeks who discuss geek topics with foul mouths. Hockey, video games, comics, perverse sex acts and various pet films and filmmakers will be featured or discussed.
  • Judd Apatow films usually feature copious profanity, Male Frontal Nudity, sex and stoner jokes, and a large amount of improvised dialogue. He also tends to work with the same cast of actors a lot.
  • Tyler Perry's films all have similar styles, in fact almost all of them are in the same continuity. Usually there is an educated black woman who has an abusive husband or background and usually at least one child. She will at some point leave her husband (this may have happened before the movie starts) and meet another man who is usually a good Christian blue collar worker. The movie will end with them getting together. Often the movie has an All-Star Cast of the most popular black actors at the time.
  • Steven Spielberg
    • Daddy issues. It's not really a question of whether they'll be included in a movie he has any part in, but rather how much, how blatant, and how central to the plot they'll be.
    • Also, idealism even in his darkest movies, and a single person's struggle to beat unfavorable odds and\or make a difference.
    • As far as visuals go, he loves having shots of characters staring in shock at something off camera.
  • Nearly every movie directed, written, or produced by Robert Halmi Sr. and Jr. deals with a variation of Parental Abandonment, either emotional or physical. It doesn't matter what book or biography is being adapted, the central theme or plot will be changed to be entirely about a missing or aloof parent of the main character.
  • J. J. Abrams includes a fair amount Lens Flare, Magical Realism, ball-shaped McGuffin designs, and retro-aesthetics reminiscent of genre films made by Lucas and Spielberg.
  • Terrence Malick: Lots and LOTS of Scenery Porn framing a slow-moving, meditative plot with voice-over narration that is used more to meditate philosophically than it is to actually narrate the events of the film.
  • Wes Anderson films can be easily spotted by regular use of wide-angle, straight-on still shots for scene establishment, quirky characters with numerous relations between them, a clean sans serif font for location names, and dipping into the B-sides of hits from the 1970's and 1980's to fill out the soundtrack. Most of his characters are either unsatisfied upper class people or industrious working class people apsiring to be in the upper class. Characters will always wear very distinctive costumes. His works usually feature Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, among a larger Production Posse.
  • Robert Bresson cast actors with little to no acting experience, to the point that he referred to them as "models" rather than actors. His dialogue is given a flat, almost deadpan delivery, while the actors' movements are meticulously orchestrated. This all gives his characters a detached, robot-like impression.
  • Terry Gilliam's films usually feature dark, hallucinatory visuals shot in a wide-angle lens. His films also tend to have a Downer or Bitter Sweet Ending. His animation features heavy use of vintage photograph cut-outs. His films also tend to be filthy and feature charactors crawling through mud, or covered in other kinds of dirt.
  • Christopher Guest's films are all mockumentaries with largely improvised dialogue, taken from his experience working on This Is Spın̈al Tap. He also works with an extended Production Posse.
  • Luc Besson's action films almost always feature a badass Invincible Hero who goes against ridiculous odds. If it's not on behalf of a woman, it's often a woman herself. Besson usually pours a lot of work into an action packed opening scene, which in several cases even ends up overshadowing the grande finale final showdown. This even carries over into films of which he was not the director, but involved as (executive) producer.
  • Howard Hawks movies, if they're serious adventure films, will have a small group of men - sometimes with one or two women - who are elite professionals performing a dangerous job. If you're in their club, you will share their cigarettes and get an Affectionate Nickname, and occasionally there will be a sing-a-long. Also you'll die if you're not good at your job. There's also lots of overlapping, speedy dialogue, which likely inspired Tarantino.
  • Writer/Director Shane Meadows makes films about working class people in the Midlands of England.
  • Ridley Scott has visually beautiful movies which usually have grim settings and not very happy endings. Also look for strong presence of female characters, the death of the the father (or both parents in some cases) being relevant to the main character's (even sometimes the villain's) motivations, emphasis on hands, the military being involved and slowly placed openings.
  • Films with screenplays written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Total Recall, Screamers) tend to take place in a grim industrial future where a callous Mega-Corp owns everyone and everything, and is engaged in some kind of horribly exploitative activity like strip-mining entire alien worlds of natural resources. Meanwhile the real danger is lurking just under the surface, discovered accidentally by our Working-Class Hero, and no one in a position of power can be relied on to deal with it, or even care about it.
  • Joe Dante is known for black comedy, references to 50's B-movies and cartoons particularly Looney Tunes, references to his past films, and tends to use actors like Dick Miller and Robert Picardo.
  • Some common tropes of Mike Leigh films include:
    • Scripts devised from extended improv with actors.
    • Long takes.
    • An eventful get-together.
    • Fertility woes.
    • Alison Steadman
    • Timothy Spall
    • A working-class woman all but completely ground down by the horribleness of her circumstances.
    • An aspiring lower middle-class housewife who is an intolerable snob. She may or may not be driving her more working-class husband away from his roots.
  • Paul Verhoeven loves graphic violence, nudity and religious symbolism. His projects are often science fiction, but he has done other genres as well (neo-noir in Basic Instinct, historical fiction in Flesh+Blood, Soldaat van Oranje, Zwartboek, and so on).
  • John Landis always sticks "See You Next Wednesday" somewhere in his movies.

Alternative Title(s): Film


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