Exploring Edgar Wright Movie References

Every director claims to be a movie geek. But there’s movie geeks, and then there’s Edgar Wright. The director, who casually drops lists of his 1000 favorite films when he’s not working, seems to view movie references as a bit of a sport. If you’re not spotting at least a dozen influences or outright homages in his movies, you probably need to rewind – and if you’re watching his earlier films like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, just give up trying to count.

While Wright has increasingly been moving away from overt name-checks in his movies, he still manages to bury familiar score snippets, costume choices, and plot threads in all of his work. Here are just a few.

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the world's end 1

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: The World’s End is Edgar Wright’s best movie. By far.)

This week at the movies represents an oasis in the summer-movie desert, with the arrival of Edgar Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver. This new action film represents a slight change for Wright, who’s a) never made a film set and shot in America before and b) hasn’t been the sole writer of any of his past projects. He’s best known as the co-writer and director of the Cornetto Trilogy, comprising Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, all genre hybrids co-starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Now that Baby Driver is headed to theaters, there will no doubt be various (justifiable) appreciations written of Edgar Wright’s films to date; as a still-young filmmaker, he’s only now made six films (including A Fistful of Fingers, which, until recently, hadn’t been released in the United States in any form, so I’m excluding it from this essay). At the top, I want to emphasize something before I delve into the Unpopular Opinion at the core of this piece: I’m a big fan of Wright’s filmography, including the delightful, exuberant, and intense Baby Driver. Each of his films is remarkably assured and confident, hybrids that all feel singular instead of like carbon copies of their forebears.

But I feel now as I felt the moment I walked out of the theater in 2013: The World’s End isn’t just the best of the Cornetto Trilogy. It’s Edgar Wright’s best film, period.

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Edgar Wright Wes Craven tribute

Over a twenty-three year career spanning TV and film, Edgar Wright has honed his craft to become one of the most inventive, exciting filmmakers working today. With his genre-bending screwball comedies, Wright has developed an instantly recognizable style, culled from filmmakers before him, like Sam Raimi, Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers and more, and given his own unique twist. With rapid-fire montages and close-up cutaways, Wright fully embraces the visual aspect of the visual medium of film (something a shocking number of modern filmmakers seem to overlook). With Wright’s latest film Baby Driver speeding into theaters this week, it’s time to look a selection of the best scenes from his film career.

Spoilers for Wright’s films follow. 

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Baby Driver Music Featurette

In 2005, I watched a new horror comedy titled Shaun of the Dead. I had not heard of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, or anyone involved with this quirky little piece of entertainment. And something struck me big time about this movie: the incredible editing and music choices. And since Shaun‘s release, Wright has proven that he is a master at mixing cinema with the energy of a music video, all the while not losing his grip on the story.

In Wright’s latest movie, Baby Driver, music plays a key role within both the story and structure of the movie. And if you know Wright’s filmography, you know that he has been honing his music video talents for years to create a film like this. So in celebration of Baby Driver‘s release, let’s take a look at the greatest music-driven sequences in Wright’s movies.

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The 13-ish Best Edgar Wright Movie Characters

The 13-ish Best Edgar Wright Characters

Edgar Wright‘s latest feature film hits theaters this week, and by all accounts Baby Driver is another winner blending action, laughs, and Wright’s own unique sensibilities. (Don’t take my assumption for it though, check out Jacob Hall’s review out of SXSW.) Wright has yet to deliver anything less than a very good time at the movies, and while a lot of factors go into an acclaimed film, one of his many strengths as a filmmaker is in the variety of fun and fun-loving characters he packs into his work.

The scripts are obviously key to the films’ highly quotable nature, but pairing the words on the page with particular performers is what ultimately results in such memorable characters. That combination has resulted in a bounty of fun, funny, and fascinating characters in Wright’s films, and while some are leads, others only manage a few minutes of screen time. It’s an issue of quality trumping quantity, and it’s why someone with two scenes in a movie can be far more memorable than someone who’s in nearly the entire thing. What I’m saying is Shaun of the Dead‘s Ed is an obnoxious twat whose “funny” behavior upsets the film’s delicate tonal balance and ultimately keeps it removed from absolute greatness. Look, I don’t like saying it anymore than you like hearing it, but there it is.

It’s also why the list below is heavy on the male members and light on the ladies. Wright’s films feature plenty of women, but you have to look all the way back to his UK television series, Spaced, to find an example of one with meat on her character’s bones. But that’s a think-piece for a different time. For now let’s keep things moving with a look at the best characters in Edgar Wright’s feature films.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Edgar Wright Music Reel

There are a myriad of ways that we could compliment Edgar Wright. From his economical, near flawless scripts to his fast and fierce shooting style, you can spot an Edgar Wright film from a mile away. But one of the things I look forward to the most is how the director Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs the World uses music to enhance his movies, making for some of the most memorable scenes from his career.

A new video features some of Edgar Wright’s greatest uses of music in film, television and music videos. Even if you’ve seen all of Edgar Wright’s movies, there’s probably some footage here you haven’t seen before, especially in the music video arena. Watch the Edgar Wright music reel after the jump. Read More »

VOTD: The Visual Comedy of Edgar Wright

Hot Fuzz Cornetto

Who doesn’t love a good video essay, especially when it’s timely and eye-opening? Enter Tony Zhou, who ade an 8-minute video called “Edgar Wright – How To Do Visual Comedy.” The thesis here is basically that most mainstream comedy is directed in a very lazy way. There are close-ups of people talking, recognizable landmarks, pop music playing, and other such staple elements. For his own films, on the other hand, Wright comes up with fun, innovative ways to portray scenes other movies would do simply. This energy and pizazz naturally creatures humor in the filmmaking, instead of just relying on a screenplay.

This thesis is especially interesting considering the rumors of Wright’s departure from Ant-Man over creative differences. Did Marvel and Disney not trust Wright would make Ant-Man everything they wanted it to be? Check out the video Edgar Wright comedy below. Read More »

Worlds End Outline small

Edgar Wright‘s The World End opened in August 2013. Rewind two years before that to the time when the film was early in development, and he and co-writer Simon Pegg basically had the whole thing figured out. Pegg took to Twitter to post an awesome close-up of his and Wright’s rough, very early outline from August 2011. That’s a small version above, the close-up is below. Read More »

Watch This: Edgar Wright Explores the Art of Close-Ups

shaun

The first time I saw Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, I was blown away by the close-ups. They seemed to bombard me at every turn in the film, their rapid-fire nature grabbing me by the metaphorical collar and pulling me face first into the next scene. Wright went on to make several more films which make ingenious use of the close-up, and I became so intrigued by these shots. What was Wright’s purpose for them in each film? Why did he seem to employ them so copiously? How did he fit them into his shooting schedule?

Edgar Wright generously agreed to chat with me at length on this topic. I edited our conversation into a video essay exploring the art of close-ups. Check it out after the jump and be sure to pick up Edgar’s The World’s End on Blu-Ray when you get the chance.
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Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby

No year in cinema ever shapes up exactly the way we’d expect. In fact, it’d be boring if one did. Still, when faced with the promise of a whole new year of movies, I can’t help try and predict which ones I’ll love or hate. I put my best guesses in list form last year, and I did it again this year.

Now, in the spirit of journalistic integrity (or, less charitably, critical solipsism), it’s time for me to look back at my most anticipated films of 2013 and see just how reality measured up to expectation. Hit the jump to see how great or terrible I was at guessing what’d be my favorite films of 2013.

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