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Any Given Sunday (1999) – Enhancing an Inspirational Speech through Cinematography and Editing

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999)

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Directed by Oliver Stone (W.; JFK; Platoon; Natural Born Killers). With Al Pacino (The Godfather; The Godfather Part II; Scarface; Dog Day Afternoon; Insomnia; Serpico), Dennis Quaid (The Right Stuff; The Big Easy; The Rookie; The Day After Tomorrow; Traffic; Vantage Point), Cameron Diaz (The Mask; Shrek; My Sister’s Keeper; Being John Malkovich; Gangs of New York), Jamie Foxx (Collateral; Ray; Law Abiding Citizen; Django Unchained), and many others.

Any Given Sunday chronicles the rise of a struggling fictional professional football team, the Miami Sharks. Al Pacino plays the team’s coach, Tony D’Amato.

During the climax of the film, the Sharks fight for glory in the playoffs vs. the Dallas Knights. Before the game, D’Amato delivers the now-famous motivational speech to his players in the away team locker room. My goal here is to highlight some cinematographic choices which enhance the scene. First, let’s watch:

The first shot of the scene depicts the exterior of the locker room. The sign on the door reads, “POSITIVELY NO VISITORS.” From then on, we are situated inside the locker room. By first seeing this excluding sign, we feel honoredprivileged, to be able to share in this intimate moment with the rest of the team.

The camera is handheld, and shots are at eye level (whether it be from the eyes of the players looking up at a D’Amato, or from the eyes of D’Amato looking out at the players). These techniques make us feel as though we are another person in the locker room, experiencing first-hand the intensity of the pre-game gathering, more specifically the passion and brotherhood felt by the eager players and the vulnerability and energy felt by D’Amato. At one point, D’Amato states, “Look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes.” We are enabled to do so by cinematographer Salvatore Totino. Side note: to see another well-known example of an eye level, handheld camera, watch this clip, part of the final scene of Chinatown (1974):

The editor chooses to use relatively tight shots until D’Amato speaks the line, “We are in hell.” Just as he says this, a startling cut brings us out to a wide shot looking down on the locker room.

Before the “hell” line (example shots):




The shot immediately after the “hell” line:


This is most likely an intentional depiction of the struggles that the team faces. Physically, in this wide shot, the team is situated within the depths of the red-colored portion of the walls, representing hell.  This striking visual aids in our understanding not only of the team’s challenges and disadvantages, but also of D’Amato’s tragic life decisions, which he mentions in his speech. However, there is hope. The religious symbolism (the Eye of Providence and the cross) suggests that God is keeping watch over the team, and hope remains; their ambitions can still be actualized.

One final thought: you may have noticed the strange series of shots during which D’Amato and Jamie Foxx’s character (Willie Beamen) have a, so to speak, “moment.” Shots of D’Amato are juxtaposed with his voice giving the speech, but in these particular shots, he is not speaking but is instead pointing at Beamen:



Although I wasn’t a huge fan of this choice, I can see that the filmmakers were trying to establish a unique, distinct, and slightly surreal connection between D’Amato and Beamen, a connection which would stand out through visual/aural dissonance (and some slow-mo).

All in all, this is meant to be a brief post pointing out some cinematic choices. For more on cinematography and editing, check out my blog in more detail. Many of my posts are related to cinematography and/or editing, but in particular, start with my posts on Promised Land and The King’s Speech.

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