Sunday, 27 February 2011

In Praise Of The Title Sequence…

Yes, the Oscars are upon us once more! The 'Guardian' 'Independent' highlights a curious omission from its plethora of awards:
It's often the first thing you'll see of a movie and, depending on that movie's quality, it may be the last thing you remember. Yet the title sequence goes curiously unheralded by the film industry.
It wasn't always so, in a way:
There was once an Academy Award for Best Title Writing – the calligraphic text cards that stood in for dialogue during the silent era – but there has never been one for the finest credit sequences.
And that is indeed a pity. Because the best title sequence can complement a film wonderfully. And of course, this being the Age of the Internet, someone has gone to the trouble of amassing an online collection of the best:
The best place to visit in search of more of these neglected wonders of film art may well be The Art of the Title Sequence, a website set up in 2007 by the designer Ian Albinson and his collaborator, Alex Ulloa, to savour great title sequences. Albinson and Ulloa insist they're no experts, but they are energetic and discerning fans. "We've grown safe with the assumption that our readership is more intelligent than we are," say the pair of the site, which is frequented by assiduous, knowledgeable commenters. "The resources are there for people to discover whose work they enjoy most."
And not all those chosen are from the best films - sometimes, they are from the worst:
Among the unexpected clips in their growing catalogue are titles from Sahara and The Island of Dr Moreau – two of the bigger flops in recent film history, but featuring opening credit sequences that stand alone. The site's archive contains familiar classics – the films of Martin Scorsese's early period, say: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull. But it also demonstrates some less conventional uses for the title sequence, such as the animated infographics that precede 2007's War on Terror thriller The Kingdom, providing a primer to the history of Saudi Arabia; or the ambitious, five-minute prologue to Watchmen (2009), which sets up an alternate chronology of the Cold War and the superheroes of its title.
And as well as 'Watchmen' (surely one of the most m,emorable in recent years), it features another personal favourite:
One of the more celebrated sequences of recent years was that for the opening of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can (2002), an animation that distilled the plot of the film, and recalled the era of Bass, Binder et al.
Which makes it all the more surprising that they lack an appropriate award:
Yet the major film awards have yet to take notice. "Just after we did the title sequence for Catch Me if You Can we were approached by a journalist in France who asked us if we'd be in LA to pick up our Oscar," Deygas recalls. "He was surprised when we told him there wasn't one. But for us the best award is that even now, eight or nine years later, when we mention that we created that sequence, people say they still remember it, and they love it."
Indeed! It's about time they had an award category all their own...

Update: Thanks to PeterJ in the comments, it's actually the 'Indy'. Amended. *blush*

7 comments:

Henry Crun said...

Best title sequences of all time have to be those used for The Pink Panther films.

Quiet_Man said...

I loved the title sequence for Blade Runner, gave the impression of a world that we could recognise, yet clearly was not of our time.

Edwin Greenwood said...

The title sequence is the only part of Eastenders I ever watch. After that I switch over.

PeterJ said...

That fascinating piece is actually in the Independent, Julia. Otherwise, well said.

JuliaM said...

Whoops! Corrected, cheers!

FrankC said...

Surely, "Don't call me Shirley", the best title and closing sequences were from "Police Squad". Only six episodes, but each one was a gem.

JuliaM said...

"Best title sequences of all time have to be those used for The Pink Panther films."

I always love a mix of animation and reality.

"I loved the title sequence for Blade Runner, gave the impression of a world that we could recognise, yet clearly was not of our time."

Yes, stunning visuals.

"The title sequence is the only part of Eastenders I ever watch. "

I can't manage even that, usually! Unless I'm watching it purely to Tweet about it.

"Only six episodes, but each one was a gem."

Only six? I thought there was seven?