Long shot. Medium shot. Close up.
We'll let Yale define these and how they blend together (screen shots from this site).
If the same object were filmed at different shot scales it would often signify quite differently. Shot scale can foster intimacy with a character, or conversely, it can swallow the character in its environment. Orson Welles exploited divergent shot scales in Citizen Kane (1941) to demonstrate the changing power relationship between Charles Foster Kane and his lawyer. As a boy, his figure is lost in the snow at the back of the shot as the lawyer arranges for his adoption. As a young man he rebels against Bernstein's oversight, rising in the frame as he asserts himself.
A framing in which the scale of the object shows is very small; a building, a landscape, or crowd of people will fill the screen. Usually the first or last shots of a sequence, that can also function as establishing shots. The following examples of framing from Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999) and A Summer Tale (Conte d'Ete, Eric Rohmer, 1996) well illustrate the range of uses of this particular scale.
These two extreme long shots are also establishing shots. However, their primary function is different. Whereas Rohmer gives us a standard establishing shot that introduces the locale where the main characters are about to meet, Kubrick uses the ballroom shot mainly as a brief transition between two more important scenes. While the two shots above have similar sizes, some extreme long shots can be significantly larger, particularly if shot from the air with the help of cranes or helicopters. This kind of extreme long shot is also called 'bird's eye view' shot, since it gives an aerial perspective of the scene.
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is small; a standing human figure would appear nearly the height of the screen. It makes for a relatively stable shot that can account for movement without reframing. It is therefore commonly used in genres where a full body action is to be seen in its entirety, for instance Hollywood Musicals or 1970s Martial Arts films.
Another advantage of the long shot is that it allows to show a character and her/his surroundings in a single frame, as in these two images...
Framing such than an object four or five feet high would fill most of the screen vertically. Also called plain americain, given its recurrence in the Western genre, where it was important to keep a cowboy's weapon in the image.
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is fairly large; a human figure seen from the chest up would fill most of the screen. Another common shot scale.
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large. In a close-up a person's head, or some other similarly sized object, would fill the frame. Framing scales are not universal, but rather established in relationship with other frames from the same film. These two shots from Eyes Wide Shut and A Summer Tale can be described as close-ups, even if one starts at the neck and the second at the upper chest..
Framing scales are usually drawn in relationship to the human figure but this can be misleading since a frame need not include people. Accordingly, this shot from The Color of Paradise (Range Khoda, Majid Majidi, Iran, 1999) is also a close-up.
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body usually shot with a zoom lens. Again, faces are the most recurrent images in the extreme close-ups...
...demonstrate. With regard to the latter, it should be noted that while all of these film terms equally applies to animation, the technical procedure to achieve a particular effect can be very different. For instance this last frame is a drawing of Totoro's teeth, not a zoom on his face, as  would have been the case in a live-action film.
Director: Roland Emmerich
The Earl of Oxford, who supposedly wrote all of Shakespeare's plays: Rhys Ifans
Young EoO: Jamie Campbell Bower
Queen Elizabeth: Vanessa Redgrave
Young QE: Joely Richardson
The Queen's Old Advisor Cecil: David Thewlis
Cecil's son, Robert: Edward Hogg
Ben Jonson: Sebastian Arnesto
William Shakespeare: Rafe Spall
Earl with the long, long, long hair: Xavier Samuel
Earl with curly red hair, who doesn't think before he acts: Sebastian Reid
Roland Emmerich is the director of such large-scale blockbusters as: Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 10,000 BC (2008), and 2012 (2009).
Emmerich's movies perform well at the box-office, due to novel plots that often involve special-effects laden mass-destruction (Alien attack, Large Lizard attack, Global Warming attack, Mayan Calendar attack). The movies are often thrashed by critics.
I liked Independence Day, but Godzilla disgusted me. I was really excited for The Day After Tomorrow: unfortunately, the movie bored me so much I wanted a large radiated lizard to kill me. Because of TDAT, I didn't bother with BC or 2012.
When I heard he was directing Anonymous, I was intrigued. While I ended up not liking the plots of most of Emmerich's movies, their scope pleased me. Long shots galore. The extreme long shot is the only way to do justice to the special-effects his movies are known for. These are what give his movies such a feeling of space and epic-ness. (Wolfgang Peterson's Troy would have been a much different movie if it hadn't utilized so many long shots. Same with Zach Snyder's 300).
I am a huge advocate for long shots. I HATE close-ups and medium close-up shots. (But I am a fan of extreme close-ups).
Because, to me, close-ups and medium close-ups take the same skill level as high school and college sports (respectively). And you'll notice that most directors never nominated for an Oscar use close-ups and medium close-ups almost exclusively.
It takes MLB/NFL/NHL/NBA-level skill to control all the details that are included in long shots (which means medium long shot, long shot, and extreme long shot). It takes patience and diligence. I have zero figures to back up this statement, but I bet 90% or more of movies nominated for the Oscar's "Best Picture" category have more total long shots and extreme close-ups than total close-ups and medium close-ups. Long shots and extreme close-ups appeal to the elitist in me. (Shot selection is one of the major reasons I like The Illusionist better than The Prestige).
Note, that older movies, like from the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, rarely used facial close-ups, and used medium shots less than they did long shots. Why has this changed? I don't know. Maybe because of the famous line from Sunset Boulevard: "All right Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Maybe it has to do with the time-frames modern directors have to shoot, what with short production times and actors/actresses having only so many days they're available--it's easier to not have to worry about making sure all the extras are in place, that the set is large enough; you can eradicate worrying about such things by keeping the frame tight on the actors and actresses.
Update 4/9/12: just saw Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments for the first time. So fucking cool. Modern directors don't film like that. That's what I want out of more movies today.
So I was curious what kind of scope Emmerich would bring to what is not an effects laden, mass-destruction filled film. Since most dramas, especially thrillers, are character-heavy, dialogue-heavy, most directors stick with medium shots and close-ups. The environment is not important: the people speaking are.
Check this clip from 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
So I was hoping that Emmerich would bring to, what appeared to be (and is), a dialogue-heavy movie the same epic-ness of a disaster film or Peter Jackon's King Kong.
And the trailer teases at this.
What's disappointing is that, if you just watched the trailer, you saw something like 90% of the extreme long shots in the movie.
What do I mean?
Emmerich directed the movie very much the way everyone else would: lots of medium shots and close-ups.
Did I Like It:
Yes. Shot selection disappointment aside, yes.
But. The movie isn't without flaws. The acting in the distant flashbacks, when the Earl of Oxford is 18-ish and the Queen a little older, was hilarious to me. I couldn't take those sections seriously. And one of the first scenes shows Ben Jonson arrested and questioned, beaten for incorrect answers. The backhand blows aren't even close to his face. The scene went a long way to lower my expectations.
Rafe, as Shakespeare, made me laugh a lot. I liked the presence he had on screen too. Ifans is amazing.
OH. The scenes showing the "Shakespeare" plays were so fucking cool to me (even if the film does make it look like Julius Ceasar ends with the death of Caesar). I do applaud Emmerich for those moments.
Overall, I found the acting strong, the plot enjoyable. Emmerich and writer Jon Orloff wanted to avoid comparisons to Amadeus, which is why Anonymous operates as a political thriller. But I sort of wish it was more like Amadeus. The tragic figure of the Earl of Oxford had a lot more dramatic potential (despite already being the center of the film).
The twist amused me.
At one point, the Queen tells Oxford "None of your plays will ever bear your name." And gives a little speech about Oxford never being attributed to his work. In the context of the film, it makes sense to say this (though it's a bit melodramatic and spelled-out), but in terms of the scene I thought it came out of no where, was forced.
I would pay to see it a second time.
What It's Good For:
-following shifts in time
-listening to lots of dialogue.
-being sort of a mix between Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and The Count of Monte Cristo
-don't think it's as good as either PotC: CotBP or TCoMC
-if you hate british accents...
-if you're such a die-hard Shakespeare fan that you will go into a violent rage at the mere premise of this movie, much less the inaccuracies about when the plays were first performed, this film could bother you
-shifts in time
-lots of dialogue bothers some people
% Character / % Actor's personality
Ifans: 100/0 (unrecognizable)
Sebastian Armesto: 70/30
Edward Hogg: 100/0
David Thewlis: 100/0
Rafe Spall: 0/100 (this is exaggeration, but watch this interview below and he mutters and mumbles the same way he did as Shakespeare. And he seems very much himself. You could argue he's still "in character" the way Ifans is, but....uh...I don't think so.)
Richardson: haven't seen her enough
Bower: 50/50 (watch him in an interview and his facial expressions seem more a part of his personal body language)
Ifans: The Replacement; Exit Through the Gift Shop
Shakespeare as character: Shakespeare in Love
Using language to ignite strong feelings: V for Vendetta; Hero; Dead Poets Society