Friday, January 28, 2011

Themes and Titles

I sat down to write a post on Dexter, but in doing so my brain got stuck on one thought:

This thought expanded into multiple others, as they're apt to do, all falling under the apropos title: "Titles".  Suddenly, the Dexter post could wait.

The question is, why is that title sequence so good?

I'm sure someone with an art degree could answer that question.  But I'll take a shot: it's because it merges the slightly disgusting/demented with everyday life and tops it off with a dark, but quirky theme.  In the end, it creates an air of unease, and yet there was nothing even remotely unnatural about what occurred.  In the end, it gives you the right idea of what the show will be, drama with more than it's share of very dark humor.

Here are some of the other great title sequences, all which superbly set the mood for their respective contents.

Catch Me If You Can

This one stands out in how well it preemptively tells the story of the film.  The entire titles simply show a G-man chasing an impostor through clever animation tricks.  Reminiscent of Inspector Clouseau chasing the Pink Panther, except the darker  music and lack of pratfalls sets it in a much different light.  There is no other way this could fit the movie better.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Very similar to Catch Me If You Can's title sequence, except without a unifying theme.  Fun fact though: watch them after having seen the movie, and you'll realize how many callbacks they employ, from the thief, to the party, to even the constant books.  Also, if you read the text when it appears, you'll notice it's more relevant than first thought.  Great titles, and a horribly underrated movie.


For a break from the storyboards, here's a simple and short one.  This show is the new X-Files, and just as good.  The titles are very to the point, and the best part is the apprehensive buildup to nothing at the end.  Nothing to jangle the nerves like lacking a musical climax, which might not seem a good thing but it fits overly well with the show which loves to leave people on edge as much as possible.  Bonus: Check out the retro titles from one of the best episodes of the series, "Peter".


At the end of the 90's this short lived show appeared on UPN, a.k.a. the network of death (while FOX might cancel things at random, UPN ensures no one will ever see it).  A great show bringing the strip to life, with Daniel Stern as Dilbert (what happened to that guy?) and Larry Miller as the Pointy-Haired Boss (a.k.a. perfect casting).  The titles put it all in perspective: all of evolution was simply so we could lose ourselves to technology and eventually be trashed by our bosses.

Thank You For Smoking

Another non-story sequence, but playful and exquisitely themed.  Sets the mood for the movie perfectly.  But there's not much else to say.

Band of Brothers/The Pacific

Included as, in my opinion, they set the somber mood well.  Nothing extravagant, just simple and dramatic.  Also, two great miniseries I highly recommend.

Quantum of Solace

This one might be stretching it, and some might say Casino Royal had better titles (definitely a better song), but this marked the return to normalcy with Bond: themed abstraction with plenty of female tossed in.  Also, I think in general it's well put together.

As for comparison, look how far it's come in just 15 years:

I make no apologies for embedding that, after all it's actually a good movie. Even if the titles do suck.

Bonus Content:

Human Target

Season 1's titles. Actually took a bit to grow on me, but they fit well, especially that theme. Too bad Season 2 saw them change to a new composer who couldn't write his way out of where writing music would help him escape...

In order to point out the real unifier to all of this: for me, it's all in the music.

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