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The Lost Art of the Intermission

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 

I went to see Alton Brown on stage last night, and at the intermission it got me to thinking about how movies don't use them anymore. Obviously this has been the common practice for about 40 years now, but it occurred to me that movies can still be long as hell. It seemed this started with Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, in which it was still in the collective memory enough that an intermission was considered, but Costner turned down the idea as not to interrupt the narrative.

 

Except the intermission in the past actually could serve a narrative. There were pragmatic reasons, revolving around reels needed to be switched, audiences not wanting to sit still for more than two hours, and the incentive to go to the lobby and buy snacks, but filmmakers learned to incorporate this into the structure of the film. 

 

For instance, Gone with the Wind's big moment before the intermission is Scarlett's "I'll never be hungry again!" This signals in the second half how Scarlett will be more self-reliant and go to extreme measures to care for her family.

 

And as the French writer Jean-François Marmontel explained, as I learned from Wikipedia, the intermission can be a period in which the action does not in fact stop, but continues off-stage. "The interval is a rest for the spectators; not for the action," wrote Marmontel in 1763. "The characters are deemed to continue acting during the interval from one act to another."

 

And this got me to thinking about long movies that could benefit from an intermission in terms of massaging out the narrative. We all joke about how The Dark Knight Rises seems to miss a story beat where Bruce escapes from the pit and suddenly we're back in Gotham, and Bruce is too. Could an intermission allow for the off-screen events to be more palatable? Obviously things are still happening off-screen even without an intermission, but that break would allow the audience to feel the time passing.

 

I'd compare this to the sense of time passing between episodes of a TV show. With Game of Thrones season 7, for instance, a common complaint was that there was no sense of distance and that characters could seemingly teleport everywhere. This had been commonplace in earlier seasons, but due to the shortening of season 7 from the usual 10 episodes to 7 it felt like no time was passing at all. The episode when Jon Snow and his suicide squad are stuck on a frozen lake, for instance, might benefit from being over two episodes, as the break would make it feel like several days had passed rather than the hours it feels like within the episode itself. 

 

This is kind of a separate argument, but it's a byproduct of what a recent io9 article talks about, namely that serialized television has become a disease. With the immediacy of binge watching and episodes feeling like long movies, oftentimes with a continuous narrative, there's no sense that characters are part of a living, breathing world and that anything is happening off-screen.

 

So back to movies, I'm not really sure how this problem can be solved. With rumors that Justice League may be three hours long, it seems studios aren't learning their lessons in terms of length. So while knowing this can't actually be fixed in reality, just to play a thought exercise, what movies would benefit from an intermission helping to alleviate the sense that events are happening without any buildup? 


Edited by Bartleby_Scriven - 10/22/17 at 2:42pm
post #2 of 88

I thought the rumors were that Justice League is 118 minutes long?

 

Anyway, I would love intermissions to come back for movies.  And not even just long movies.  I think I've mentioned it here before, but seeing PSYCHO and ET in concert required both films to have an intermission built into the show because of the live orchestra.

 

PSYCHO's intermission break happened at the perfect moment in which the narrative officially shifts to Norman's perspective.

 

ET's intermission break happened right after the film's iconic first flight scene with Elliot and ET crash landing, fading to black.

 

Both of them felt SO right.

 

 

 

Having an intermission for TDKR for Bruce's return?  I think that would work really really well!

 

 

I've also watched a couple of blockbuster Hindi films which were both around 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  Both had intermissions baked into the runtime at the proper 'act break' (though my viewings of them didn't actually stop the movie for a 15 minute break).

post #3 of 88
Thread Starter 

Ooohhh, that sounds great with Psycho and ET. And yeah, not just with long movies.

 

For instance, 2001: A Space Odyssey is about 2 and a half hours long, but the intermission comes right after the astronauts get into the pod to talk in private, and it's clear that HAL is reading their lips. Quite a chilling cliffhanger. 

post #4 of 88

Back at university, I used to live with a guy who would take the intermission on his Ben-Hur DVD extremely seriously. I was sat watching it with him once and, when we reached the intermission, he told me to come back in fifteen minutes as he wanted to listen to the intermission music (I recall reading somewhere that it was composed specially for that movie) and have the experience be as authentic to its original release as possible. I kind of envy that, as I simply don't have the patience for it. If the remote control had been in my hands, we'd have fast-forwarded to the next part of the movie.

post #5 of 88

To go back to Nolan's DARK KNIGHT movies...

 

A nice one for TDK would be to go to intermission right around the fallout of Rachel dying and Harvey getting scarred.

 

Probably go to intermission right as we see Harvey's face for the first time.

 

"NO... NOT YET."

 

Though, because TDK is so much more relentless with its moment to moment momentum, there's really no 'time gap' to take advantage of with an intermission.

 

 

Also, Bart.  You haven't checked out SULTAN yet, but if that one is hard to access, I'd recommend DANGAL.  It's on the netflick now!  It's quite good.

post #6 of 88

Another INTERMISSION idea.  Pretty obvious one, I think.

 

Go to intermission after Furiosa learns that The Green Place is no more.

 

"HWOOOAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH"

 

(intermission)

 

Return to quiet nighttime chat and daytime planning that eases the audience back in before the insane finale.

post #7 of 88
Thread Starter 

Recommend Dangal because it's very long and could use an intermission? 

 

Also, has anyone seen the "roadshow" version of The Hateful Eight that includes an overture and intermission? I know in the general version on video that I saw at the halfway point Tarantino suddenly has a voiceover to sum up what's come before, and it's kind of jarring without an intermission. 

post #8 of 88

I recommend Dangal because it's a solid father/daughter sports drama...

 

AND because it's a long movie that had an intermission built in!

 

 

I saw the roadshow version of Hateful Eight.  Yeah, I can see that QT VO being really weird without the intermission.  I mean, it's not as if it's not already weird WITH the intermission!

post #9 of 88
I also saw the roadshow version of "Hateful Eight" with the intermission. It also has a nifty overture, which movies generally don't have anymore. I love the overture at the beginning of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."
post #10 of 88

I'm trying to think up a good intermission moment for INTERSTELLAR... and I'm struggling to think of an obvious one.

 

I was thinking MAYBE go to intermission right on Matt Damon being released from cryo and weeping in McConaughey's arms?  But that feels too early in the movie for a break.  Could be wrong though!

 

I just find that intermissions traditionally tend to kick in right at the end of the first two-thirds of the movie to lead into the 'low point' before ramping back up for the finale.  And INTERSTELLAR is just kinda clunky because it doesn't really work well with that.

post #11 of 88
Thread Starter 

Nooj and I are hashing this out via instant messenger, and it occurred to me that even as theatrical releases stopped using the intermission, VHS home video releases of long movies always came in two tapes. Everyone remembers the two tapes with Braveheart and Titanic. So even as formats shifted there was still a forced break there for a bit. 

 

It's really the advent of DVD and now streaming that allows the option of pausing at any time, or binge watching for 10 hours. Nooj made a really good made point form is therefore affecting content, with movies now being designed for moments that can be viewed on YouTube on phones. 

 

Fascinating. 

post #12 of 88
I remember the director's cuts of the Lord of the Ring movies coming on pairs of DVD's as well. The only one that feels well timed is Fellowship of the Ring; the end of the first disc is the conclusion of the meeting of the minds at Elrond's house where the Fellowship first assembles, and Pip asks, "where are we going?"

More recently, Blade Runner 2049 would have benefited from an intermission. I've yet to bring a timepiece that I can look at without lighting up the entire theater, but putting the intermission right after K retrieves the wooden horse from the furnace and confirms that his memories were real feels right to me. The second act can pick up with K's visit to the memory crafter, right before he follows the dirty bomb particle traces to Vegas.

_
Edited by Reasor - 10/22/17 at 3:52pm
post #13 of 88
Thread Starter 

Right before the trip to Vegas feels a little more appropriate. Like Nooj says above, about two-thirds of the way into a movie right before the low point. Plus it's a major aesthetic shift, with the orange world of Vegas, and right before a big narrative shift with Deckard joining the story. 

post #14 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

 

 

It's really the advent of DVD and now streaming that allows the option of pausing at any time, or binge watching for 10 hours. Nooj made a really good made point form is therefore affecting content, with movies now being designed for moments that can be viewed on YouTube on phones. 

 

Fascinating. 

and now we're talking about how trailers have essentially played some part of this kind of thing for decades

 

everything old, nothing new!

 

 

in terms of sex always being a go-to tactic in some form when it comes to selling movies, I recalled some of the discussion around the SUPER 8 trailer and calling out THIS SHOT:

 

 

... as Paramount's marketing trying desperately to sneak some sex appeal into a movie about mystery box monsters and kids making a movie.

 

Was this shot even in the movie?

post #15 of 88
Best Intermission for:

Jurassic Park - T-Rex roar right after road attack

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Monkey death
post #16 of 88

I always liked the one in "Lawrence of Arabia." Comes right at Lawrence's highest point, and splits the film into his rise and fall quite nicely.

post #17 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnotaur3 View Post

Best Intermission for:

Jurassic Park - T-Rex roar right after road attack

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Monkey death

the jurassic park one sounds good at first glance, but I don't think that's the moment for it because it would cut into the overall progression of things going wrong at the park along with Nedry's downfall

 

your raiders idea sounds too early in the movie for an intermission.  I don't think the movie is quite past the halfway point there.

 

 

 

 

because it's not just about stopping the movie at any cool/iconic dramatic moment!

 

your ideas are more like commercial breaks for the movie playing on cable, which I generally find disruptively irritating

TV LEVEL IDEAS!!!

 

DO THIS BETTER

 

TRY AGAIN

 

 

 

was going through overlong comic book movies in the past years and thought of an obvious one for CIVIL WAR

 

Rhodes goes down.  Tony shoots Falcon out of anger and stews in his rage.

 

(cut to intermission)

 

Come back to Zemo's continuing to execute his plan elsewhere.


Edited by mcnooj82 - 10/22/17 at 4:30pm
post #18 of 88
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

the jurassic park one sounds good at first glance, but I don't think that's the moment for it because it would cut into the overall progression of things going wrong at the park

 

your raiders idea sounds too early in the movie for an intermission

 

 

 

 

because it's not just about stopping the movie at any cool/iconic dramatic moment!

 

your ideas are more like commercial breaks for the movie playing on cable, which I generally find disruptively irritating

TV LEVEL IDEAS!!!

 

DO THIS BETTER

 

TRY AGAIN

 

 

 

was going through overlong comic book movies in the past years and thought of an obvious one for CIVIL WAR

 

Rhodes goes down.  Tony shoots Falcon out of anger and stews in his rage.

 

(cut to intermission)

 

Come back to Zemo's continuing to execute his plan elsewhere.

This is good, because something that bugs me with Civil War is how Cap and Bucky leave the airport and go straight to the Hydra facility in Siberia, while Tony goes to the hospital, then the Raft, THEN flies to Siberia and seems to arrive right behind them. An intermission would create this bubble of ambiguity that would obfuscate Cap and Bucky's flight.

post #19 of 88

My intermission suggestion for Jurassic Park would be right after Grant reassures that he will protect the kids as they huddle up in the tree to get some sleep, and he tosses the raptor claw to the ground. 

 

Fade to black on the close-up of the claw on the ground.  Grant has pretty completed his character arc right then and there.

 

INTERMISSION

 

Then come back to Hammond and Ellie's talk in the dining area, starting with the shot of Jurassic Park merchandise... easing the audience back into things.

 

The scene following that is of the next morning with the brachiosaurus waking Grant and the kids up.

post #20 of 88
Thread Starter 

Goooooooooooddddddd.

 

And, of course, Captain America: The First Avenger's intermission starts right after Cap brings the POW troops back to camp and Bucky says, "Let's hear it for Captain America!" 

post #21 of 88

OF COURSE

post #22 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

My intermission suggestion for Jurassic Park would be right after Grant reassures that he will protect the kids as they huddle up in the tree to get some sleep, and he tosses the raptor claw to the ground. 

 

Fade to black on the close-up of the claw on the ground.  Grant has pretty completed his character arc right then and there.

 

INTERMISSION

 

Then come back to Hammond and Ellie's talk in the dining area, starting with the shot of Jurassic Park merchandise... easing the audience back into things.

 

The scene following that is of the next morning with the brachiosaurus waking Grant and the kids up.

Damnit. I was just typing the same place. I think that is a fantastic place for an intermission.

post #23 of 88
Thread Starter 

Funny thing about Tarantino is he's obviously operating with intermissions in mind (as Kill Bill is broken in half, Death Proof reboots itself at the midpoint, Django's would be right before they get to the plantation, Hateful Eight actually has one), but Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds have an episodic nature that don't lend themselves to it at all. 

 

I suppose Basterds would be after the shootout at the pub, when they find out about all the Nazi higher-ups that will be at the theater. But Pulp Fiction doesn't really have a turning point, does it?

post #24 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

 

 

And, of course, Captain America: The First Avenger's intermission starts right after Cap brings the POW troops back to camp and Bucky says, "Let's hear it for Captain America!" 

for Winter Soldier, I WAS going to say that the movie would go to intermission on a close-up of Steve just having learned that Bucky is the winter soldier... but that visibly perfect moment for it doesn't have the room to breathe because we're immediately seeing him get arrested and put into the vehicle in which he explains to Sam and Natasha about who Bucky is... along with them immediately being rescued by Maria.  It's all too quick.

 

So I think the intermission would come a little later... after they find Fury is still alive and then we see the scene with Robert Redford slapping and resetting Bucky.  Redford leaves the room with Bucky screaming...

 

INTERMISSION

 

Come back to Fury laying out the basic situation and then Cap taking the lead into the overblown finale!


Edited by mcnooj82 - 10/22/17 at 4:56pm
post #25 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

But Pulp Fiction doesn't really have a turning point, does it?

It really can't, since each story is essentially self-contained from one another and putting an intermission on one of those short stories could feel like it's putting extra weight on that particular story (which would likely be THE GOLD WATCH, since it's the middle one).

 

The only intermission I would suggest is that it happens after THE GOLD WATCH.

 

INTERMISSION

 

Then come back to the BONNIE SITUATION

post #26 of 88
Thread Starter 

Yeah, the turning point is Jules believing they've experienced divine intervention and Vincent denying it. We know Vincent has made the wrong choice, because we've already seen him die. 

 

Still, it's not a clean break. But that's the nature of the movie!

post #27 of 88
When I saw Star Wars in concert, the intermission was right after the Falcon lands on the Death Star. Not a very appropriate moment if you ask me (and the film and orchestra sort of rewound and played the last few minutes again after the break).

I think a lot of films would suffer from an intermission. Films like Raiders and Fury Road rely on momentum, which gets ruined if you stop either film dead for fifteen minutes, no matter how apt the stopping point might be.
Edited by Richard Dickson - 10/22/17 at 6:09pm
post #28 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post

When I saw Star Wars in concert, the intermission was right after the Falcon lands on the Death Star. Not a very appropriate moment if you ask me (and the film and orchestra sort of rewound and played the last few minutes again after the break).

I think some a lot of films would suffer from an intermission. Films like Raiders and Fury Road rely on momentum, which gets ruined if you stop either film dead for fifteen minutes, no matter how apt the stopping point might be.

 

but but but... my fury road suggestion above!!!

 

the movie DOES take a moment to slow the momentum down before ramping it up again!

 

Raiders, I'm still not sure where a good one is in this game!

 

and yeah, that star war intermission sounds pretty bad

 

 

What was cool about seeing where they put ET's intermission was that the orchestra continued playing a modified version of the cue even after the film faded to black after ET and Elliot land in the forest.  It took the cue as it was in the film and then built it up to a glorious concert suite finish.

 

GREAT SHOWMANSHIP!!!

post #29 of 88
For Heat, the end of the gunfight is an obvious choice, but I'd keep it going a little longer, until Breedan's wife Lily learns of his fate in the bar. That comes about 1:54 into the film, with about an hour left. In The Insider, after Bergman returns from the hearing and finds his wife has left him.
post #30 of 88

Subotai gets it!

 

going for THE INSIDER is just manipulating me INTO THIS!!!

post #31 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

 

but but but... my fury road suggestion above!!!

 

the movie DOES take a moment to slow the momentum down before ramping it up again!

 

But the film itself takes that break in an organic way.  It doesn't need a fifteen minute pause to create it.  I feel like we're trying to shoehorn something on things that don't need it because it was something that used to be done.

 

As for Star Wars, I think that break came there simply because it was roughly halfway through the movie.

post #32 of 88
Oh I am absolutely shoehorning this into movies! That goes without saying! It's how I'm playing the game.

I'm not at all suggesting that fury road would be improved with an intermission break.
post #33 of 88
Thread Starter 
Play along with the thought experiment, Richard!
post #34 of 88

I finally saw Barry Lyndon, that had a pretty rockin' intermission. Great movie, too.

 

post #35 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

the jurassic park one sounds good at first glance, but I don't think that's the moment for it because it would cut into the overall progression of things going wrong at the park along with Nedry's downfall

 

Not at all. That was always a great break seeing it in the cinema as a child 10 fucking times. The following scene is sort of set up as a clean break too. The whole conversation about computer code is so obviously dull as to warrant the brain to completely check out of. 

 

Which also makes it an obvious intro back into the film. The overall progression of things going wrong is the entire second half of the movie anyway. You want the audience to take a break, but you don't want them thinking they've seen the whole enchilada. That T-Rex looking you dead eyed in the camera makes you thirsty for more. 

post #36 of 88
no

I thought about that computer code scene afterwards or even after the final line of the scene with Sam Jackson saying "I can't get the park back online without nedry..."

nedry's whole thing comes in soon after

All that stuff is going on in a general sequence one after another. To cut it off at the T-Rex just because it's a cool theoretical moment to end it is no good because it would stop the momentum of everything going wrong that specific night.

my suggestion is better!

MrTyres agrees!

(all in the context of this silly what-if game!)
post #37 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post

no

I thought about that computer code scene afterwards or even after the final line of the scene with Sam Jackson saying "I can't get the park back online without nedry..."

nedry's whole thing comes in soon after

All that stuff is going on in a general sequence one after another. To cut it off at the T-Rex just because it's a cool theoretical moment to end it is no good because it would stop the momentum of everything going wrong that specific night.

my suggestion is better!

MrTyres agrees!

(all in the context of this silly what-if game!)

 

I get it... I just don't think the momentum is there when we get the computer code scene. It's a break. A 30 second break, but a break nonetheless.  You want the movie to start back with the code and then get the audience back into its groove again with that Nedry line. 

 

It's ALL theoretical, jesus. 

post #38 of 88
quiet

no

all part of the the park failing due to nedry's shenanigans

also, that hard cut from the T-Rex's roar to the tech problem mundanity is fun and very specific

quiet

shh shh
post #39 of 88
I love that cut. I try to replicate it every chance I get whenever I edit a movie.

Also, imagine the movie doesn’t even say intermission. The movie stops for it right after that cut, lights fade up, audience is like “woah!”
post #40 of 88
that would be the way to end a sneak peak for the movie on a Jurassic Day or something

and if you love that cut, why would you suggest getting rid of its impact by going to intermission there???
post #41 of 88

Because it gives it a different dimension.

 

Must I validate everything for you?

post #42 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kyle Reese View Post
 

I finally saw Barry Lyndon, that had a pretty rockin' intermission. Great movie, too.

It's a movie that's intentionally bifurcated, but as an easily distracted old guy, I welcome it. 

 

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, to me, is its Western equivalent. What would be a good intermission there? Maybe after the death of Hite?

post #43 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnotaur3 View Post
 

Because it gives it a different dimension.

 

Must I validate everything for you?


​it gives no different dimension other than interrupting a cumulative effect Spielberg is going for with those series of sequences

 

I require you to run everything by me from now on

 

I cannot let this tomfoolery stand

post #44 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnotaur3 View Post

Best Intermission for:

Jurassic Park - T-Rex roar right after road attack

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Monkey death

 

The actual intermission for Raiders (which is the last intermission I can remember) was after Indy gets the shit beaten out of him by Bomber Pat Roach who then gets his face minced.  It ended with him and Marion running from the plane and started again when you see the explosion in the distance behind Belloch

post #45 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post


​it gives no different dimension other than interrupting a cumulative effect Spielberg is going for with those series of sequences

I require you to run everything by me from now on

I cannot let this tomfoolery stand

Then end this thread. Because any point of any of these films would disrupt their natural continuous flow.

Next!
post #46 of 88

no

 

not true

 

because there were lots of movies made with natural act breaks or technical limitations (reel changes) in which an intermission or pause in narrative momentum would actually make sense... right down to VHS tapes for long intermission-less movies that were split at reasonable breaks in the narrative (like Braveheart and Titanic)... or my examples of ET and Psycho

 

and in the case of Bart's TDKR example, maybe even benefit the film

 

 

you just happened to choose a part in jurassic park that would disrupt its intended flow

 

your Raiders example would actually be a nice break if not for it being well before the usual intermission point

 

 

do not end this thread

 

CONTINUE!!!


Edited by mcnooj82 - 10/23/17 at 9:16pm
post #47 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Bain View Post
 

 

The actual intermission for Raiders (which is the last intermission I can remember) was after Indy gets the shit beaten out of him by Bomber Pat Roach who then gets his face minced.  It ended with him and Marion running from the plane and started again when you see the explosion in the distance behind Belloch

actual intermission?

 

Raiders had one???

 

that's a nice place for it!

post #48 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnooj82 View Post
 

actual intermission?

 

Raiders had one???

 

that's a nice place for it!

 

It's the only intermission I can actually remember.  And it really stuck with me.  Every time I've watched Raiders since, I've thought of it.

post #49 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnotaur3 View Post

Then end this thread. Because any point of any of these films would disrupt their natural continuous flow.

Next!

Seconded.
post #50 of 88

oh no, not brad!!!

 

well... I SUPPOSE if we're to move on from this line of thought, this thread has now lost its purpose and I'll have to bring it into the justice league thread...

 

 

with talks of runtime, grading, and scoring!

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