When we talk about title cards, we find out that the proper term probably should have been “intertitle” for this topic, because we are not talking about the way the title of the movie is introduced. We are talking about those inserted cards that direct attention or provide structure. Of course, a couple of us include epigraphs, so it’s not all interstitial.
I think it is totally a title card, just not of the ‘inter’ variety. It silently sets the stage and then the bombastic title sequence begins. Not part of the crawl at all. I can’t think of another movie that does this (sometimes they will do title card -> opening scene -> opening credits), but that does not invalidate the pick. IMO.
If you were like me, you only knew that Kill Bill had something to do with Uma Thurman wearing Bruce Lee’s outfit from Game of Death when you walked into the movie theater. When the quote about revenge came up attributed to Star Trek, you knew you were in for a treat.
Are silent movies cheating, since they rely so much on interstitial cards to relay dialogue and setting and pretty much everything that isn’t overacting and pratfalls? I think that Nosferatu did some fascinating playing around with the form and function of title cards. It doesn’t just slap up some banal observation about what’s happening during, before, or after a scene. The tinting changes, adding a splash of color to a B&W movie. Fonts are extremely blocky and with serif (whatever the opposite of sans serif is). Gothic-plus. It transports the viewer into the frightening and oppressive world of vampire-infested Eastern Europe. They might be an insert shot of some scary book a character has stumbled over and is reading with trembling fingers.
Babe. That’s right, the “Charlotte’s Web” retread, the one produced and co-written by the guy between his Mad Max movies. Each new chapter is presented like a chapter in a child’s book, with the chapter’s title written out in friendly big letters. However, the movie recognizes that the audience may consist of young children who are as illiterate as producer Jon Peters. So a Greek chorus of field mice helpfully sound out the title in their Chipmunk-like squeaks. Even if the chapter title is awfully foreboding, like “Pork Is A Nice Sweet Meat”. I thought that was a nice way to be cute, dark, and courteous.
Agora. Man, I wish this hadn’t disappeared from Netflix Streaming again. Halfway through the movie, this story about stand up philosopher* Hypatia and a few guys who are Hot For Teacher stops and fades out. We, the audience, retreat to a safe distance, Low Earth Orbit. Drifting in orbit, we see that all the religious strife (bad) and scientific discovery (good) we’ve been learning about doesn’t have any relevance when zoomed out far enough. But that’s okay, because we’ve seen that while Hypatia’s science is primitive, her scientific method is fantastic. If she keeps on going the way she’s going, maybe she’ll get to a point where she can see the world from this vantage point.
Against this Google Earth backdrop, which coincidentally(?) resembles one of the visualization settings when playing CDs on a PS3, we get a couple of paragraphs advancing the story. “Get ready,” the text said, “we’re going to be jumping ahead a bit. The story is going to be darker and the characters are all going to be older, but not so old that we’ll be recasting the actors. Here’s what you need to know when we head back down to Alexandria. The Christians are getting too big for their britches, even more so than in the first part of the movie. Also, there are Jews.” I was shocked by this. People put infodumps at the start of the movie or at the end, never in the middle. This was a movie with a part one and a part two, and damn the three act structure.
That’s only sort of a reference to History of the World, Part I. The brilliant natural philosopher (or professor, we’d call her today, or theoretician or scientist) Hypatia lectured her students on her feet. However, she once used a maxi-pad in a comedy routine that would make Gallagher and Carrot Top blush. But I suppose the prop was appropriate for a period piece.
Runners Up -
Jackie Brown - Tarantino’s usual desire for structure expressed cleverly shows up again. The plot to smuggle an imperial bagload of cash is convoluted, and no one, not the audience or any character that isn’t Jackie Brown, can keep track of it all. So after a “trial run” notification we get a card saying they’re doing a “money exchange - for real this time”.
Any movie that puts up a title card over B-roll of a city’s ultra-famous landmark. Like, here’s a shot of the Washington Monument. Guess what, we’re in “Washington, D.C.” We’re flying over over the Golden Gate Bridge? Where could this scene be set? Oh, it’s in “San Francisco.” Wouldn’t it be funny if we see the Statue of Liberty in front of the Freedom Tower but the scene turns out to be set in “Albany, NY”, like the establishing shots were just a fake out?