Study Guide

Airplane! Zooms and Close-Ups

Zooms and Close-Ups

Anyone who's ever seen any movie ever should recognize the dramatic camera zoom and close-up. Once, these techniques were creative ways to set the stage for a dramatic reveal, or to highlight emotion on a character's face. These days, the overly dramatic zoom and close-up are tried and true camera techniques to be employed for comedic effect, given their now cliché, melodramatic quality. Parodying the liberal usage of such cinematographic techniques in the popular disaster films of the '70s and '80s, ZAZ use well-timed zooms and close-ups masterfully throughout Airplane!.

Within the first five minutes of the film, Ted and Elaine's inaugural exchange ends with a dramatic zoom on our intrepid hero, who hilariously punctures the building tension by looking directly into the camera, and remarking solemnly, "what a pisser." Later in the movie, ZAZ use a dramatic zoom to put an absurdist twist on a cliché action movie moment from Rex Kramer. Finally, a close up on Dr. Rumack coupled with an ostentatious lighting cue add some absurdist melodrama to an otherwise uninteresting line about the pilots' dinner orders.

These moments, ultimately, are made by a good old cliché zoom, ZAZ subverting old fashioned melodramatic cinematographic techniques for the sake of silliness.

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