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« Conscious Uncoupling | Main | Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "L.A. Confidential" »

Visual Index ~ L.A. Confidential's Best Shot(s)

It's Tuesday night, time for another Hit Me With Your Best Shot. This week we're looking at Curtis Hanson's 1997 Best Picture nominee L.A. Confidential, which was nominated for 9 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Cinematography (Dante Spinotti) both of which it lost to the 52,000 ton Titanic. But it's a lot of people's idea of a modern masterpiece so I was fascinated to read what others had to say about the movie.

See it through multiple sets of eyeballs, in this case 17 of them by clicking on any of the thirteen shots selected ... and please do comment if you like something you read. The series only works properly when people participate. 

Arranged in rough chronological order

Making news just like they make movies...
-Coco Hits NY 

Opened up and unnervingly close at one and the same time...
-Timothy Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

At its heart, Curtis Hanson's stylish exercise in film noir tropes is a reflection on manhood and masculinity...
-RJ, Home Film Schooled 

A clever tip of the hand, although not an overly obvious one...
-Allison Tooey 

A turning point for the character...
- Andy Hall, Three Pounds Lost 

The birth of Shotgun Ed reveals a confident directorial eye...

Just as I became disillusioned, my shot would reflect the disillusionment of Ed Exley...
-abstew, The Film's The Thing 

Is it possible to pinpoint the exact moment when a performance wins an Oscar?...
-Michael Cusumano, Serious Film 

Despite the cool dusky warmth, Bud still walks in haunted noir shadows... 
-Nathaniel R, The Film Experience

One of my favorite moments in Kevin Spacey’s career...
 - Robert Hamer, Awards Circuit 

The rain pours as Bud’s hard-boiled mask crumbles... 
-Derreck Johnson 

That's how you die when you're in close-up...
-Cal Roth 

I'm just the guy they bring in..."

A live wire, always ready to brawl when necessary...
-Shane Slater, Film Actually 

At any given point, any of them could be on either side...
-Jason Henson, The Entertainment Junkie

After all his moralizing, Exley has rolled in the dirt...
-Margaret, We Recycle Movies 

One of the reasons I love this shot is that it really fleshes out the character of Bud White...
-A Fistful of Films 




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Reader Comments (21)

Loved this when I saw it in the theatre and was happy to find when I watched it this weekend for review that it had lost none of its style or punch. I did find that I was even more enamored of Kevin Spacey's work here than ever, it's without question some of the best work he's ever done and I found that all my best shot candidates involved him somehow.

I have no problem with Kim Basinger's win although I probably would have voted for Julianne Moore but this is some of the best work Kim ever did. I've always been glad that the film lead to renewed attention for the magnificent Veronica Lake, always undervalued even by herself, she appeared in a lot of slop but she can't be beat in This Gun for Hire, I Married a Witch and Sullivan's Travels. One misstep I think the film made was showing Veronica in a clip from This Gun for Hire and then constantly telling us that Kim looked like her, she didn't. She looked great but she resembled a blonde Rita Hayworth more than anyone.

All that aside my best shot is Kevin Spacey's final shot before he heads over to Dudley's house and unwittingly his doom. He's on the street and framing him on one side is the Frolic sign and on the other the movie marquee advertising "The Bad and The Beautiful".

I'm not sure if it was intentional but there seems to be many references included in that one shot. First a nice hat tip to the previous scene where Exley and Jack Vincennes confront Johnny Stompanato and Lana Turner, who of course Exley mistakes for a prostitute. I have to say though that the actress playing Lana is an even poorer match to the real Lana than Kim is to Veronica. It's an amusing scene though.

The other reference has to do with the previous scene to the street scene where Kim uses her beauty to seduce Exley into a trap and the following one where bad cop Dudley Smith awaits Vincennes, adding an extra layer to the marquee. With all that it's also beautifully framed and full of the lurid colors of the night that add into the noirish feel of the picture.

Great film without one bad performance and I forgot how hot Russell Crowe, who is flat out great in his part, was at this time.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

joel6 -- yeah, Russell Crowe unquestionably became a movie star here. It took Oscar a bit to catch up of course. And agreed on Kevin Spacey. I've often complained about him and became allergic to his work after 1999 but DAMN he's good in this movie.

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So glad I rewatched this in anticipation of HMWYBS. It was one of my favorites when it came out - so layered and complex. But rewatching it, with another seventeen years behind these eyes, I saw it very differently. I was less concerned with the corruption, crime, and mystery, and more in tune with the connection between Lynn and Bud - bruised souls. World weary and ready for a change.

Sid Hudgens' set-ups hadn't stuck in my memory. His exploitation of closeted "Hollywood homos" and "ingenue dykes" struck me exceptionally hard this time around. Infuriating that this was probably not far from the truth, not all that long ago. In fact, I didn't even remember Spacey's Jack Vincennes heading to his "bust" early to let the young gay actor off the hook. I've pondered Vincennes' motive for doing so several times since.

For the record, my best shot was the same as that of "RJ, Home Film Schooled" though I also loved the interrogation shots with the one way mirror, and Vincennes' first bust of Matt Reynolds (with the movie theater in the background).

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

And was Danny DeVito not PERFECT for that role? If Boogie Nights was going to lose the SAG Ensemble, it really should have been to this rather than Full Monty, right?

If the Academy had a Casting category I like to think this would have been nominated.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

I'm so happy this is back!

Hope it's not too late to contribute; I've posted my own pick for Best Shot over at my livejournal (Allison Tooey; Critic and Commentator), under the title "Even Seedy can be Glamorous".

Heh, and it looks like I'm not the only one who picked a certain shot...

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Tooey

Great Movie. Very much critically celebrated when released but somehow never achieved the cult status that people thought it was destined for. Kim Basinger and Guy Pearce were supposed to become much bigger stars after this? What happened? I can understand the Kim Basinger situation. Hollywood is cruel to women. But there is no real explanation as to why Guy Pearce is not as big of a star as Hugh Jackman. Frankly I think Pearce is the better actor.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

Guy Pearce famously became a drug-addicted narcissist. When he could work nobody wanted to work with him. Looks like he's finally been able to turn things back around. I hope the best for him.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

I would've preferred a Julianne win but Sigourney shoulda won her long overdue oscar for The Ice Storm,agree Kim is a wothy winner from a weak line up bar Moore and is better here than some recent winners!!!

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

I am so busy and frustrated because I really really wanted to join this time, but since I cluldn't make it, I just went to Youtube to select the frame I never forgot, the scene when Spacey dies. OMG such a terrfici actor he once was. Skilled, precise, perfect!

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

So so so many options with this film! When shot compositions and lighting are so consistently excellent, it can be tough for one to stand out as more iconic than any of the others, and the amount of detail present for analysis in everyone's selections is a true testament to that. Those interrogation room reflective shots are master classes in smart cinematography, and that shot of a blood-spattered Ed has so much more going on in it than ever crossed my mind in my few times watching this -- thanks to CineMunch, abstew, and Andy Hall for revealing layers I hadn't previously considered!

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

RJ - agreed. my favorite thing about doing this series is that it does open my eyes to different ways of looking at a picture. but I think my very favorite observation this time is from Home Film Schooled. the note on the bonus shot is so brilliant.

March 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I LOVE this film, so I'm extra sad that being sick forced me to miss this week's HMWYBS. I don't even know off-hand what my best shot would have been; the film is full to bursting with them - as these posts show! Great work, everyone!

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Sorry I didn't have time to rewatch this fantastic movie. Great pic for this segment.

Tony T--from a woman's perspective, Guy Pearce is creepy. Good actor for key supporting evil-guy roles (Lawless, Iron Man 3), but there's something about his style/performance as a leading man (Mildred Pierce) that sets me on edge.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I love how these are so unexpected! I really thought I'd see about ten of that classic poster shot, but these surprised me, in a good way!

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Man, I wish I'd had time to do this - L.A. Confidential is one of my all-time favorite movies. Great choices by everyone, especially Home Film Schooled. The bonus shot has a nice counterpart (counterpoint?) later in the film, when Bud's present but distracted at another interrogation (Sid's) until Dudley calls him over. This time, the focus is on Bud's face, and even though he does his best tough-guy glower (and Sid pretends to be cowed by it), you can tell it's just an act in a way it maybe wasn't before.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Also, from another woman's perspective, Guy Pearce is a hottie. But there is a slightly...predatory look about him. Those all-the-better-to-eat-you-with teeth, perhaps.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Great choices! It's the first time since I watched the film in 1997, very surprised by it.

Hope I'm not too late:

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterremy

lylee - crap. now i'm wondering what you would have chosen. thanks a lot for dangling that carrot. and YOU MUST join us

March 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@Pam - Pearce does excel in the creep but it makes some of his performances more interesting. Letting his freak/Creep flag fly a bit in this role and Mildred Pearce was definitely a good thing.

Although he has had several performances where he plays it 'straighter' - just watch Memento (probably his best performance after LA Confidential), Animal Kingdom or The Proposition for examples. He's definitely more than a 'good actor for key supporting evil guy roles' although he does run the risk of getting typecast and doesn't get nearly enough meaty lead roles.

I remember thinking he was pretty great in The King's Speech too but, like much of the film, I can't seem to recall specifics now and have no desire for a re-watch.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

This movie is pure perfection and one of my top 5 favs of all time. There are seldom a strong ensemble acting as in L.A. Confidential. Really want to see this masterpiece again

And yes, Sigourney Weaver should have been nominated and won for her icy turn in The Ice Storm. She was hilarious, sad and such a beautiful bitch :)

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I'm completely enamored with this concept you've got going on here! I'd like to participate next movie y'all do that I'm very familiar with. How do I get involved?? :)

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

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