Hit Me With Your Best Shot S6.E11: DICK TRACY (1990)
Director: Warren Beatty; Cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro
Big Boy: YOU! How do you want it?
May I step on to the screen and interject and answer? Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) is at a very brief loss for words anyway since Big Boy Caprice (Oscar-nominated Al Pacino) just killed her gangster sugar daddy. I won't distract from the action. I'll wear something purple, designed by Oscar-nominated Milena Canonero, with a "Press" card sticking out my fedora so I fit right in to the six-color bluntly labelled production design schemes.
So how do I want my comic adaptations?
Nathaniel: [Excited... Breathless, really]. Want it Graphic. Want it Colorful
Breathless: ...Well I look good both ways.
That you do, Madonna. That you do.
And as befitting your singular femme fatale position in the most absurdly colorful homage to the mostly black and white noir genre, you're the only person that the genius costume designer won't dress in colors.
Breathless: I'm wearing black underwear.
Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty's expensive primary-colored movie adaptation of the 1930s era Chester Gould comic strip celebrates its 25th Anniversary this month. Though the movie's loud blockbuster arrival in the summer of 1990 during the Blonde Ambition phase (and arguable peak) of Madonna's career, and its subsequent winning Oscar night (3 statues) guarantees that we'll always think of Madonna first and composer Stephen Sondheim second when thinking of this summer hit (you don't wanna know how often I listened to Madonna's "I'm Breathless" cassette tape that year!) I chose this image of Dick Tracy, solo, as the film's Best.
In some ways, Dick Tracy is the quintessential Warren Beatty film. Or, rather, the quintessential idea of Beatty as a Star Filmmaker. In truth it's nothing like the movie star's other few directorial efforts (Heaven Can Wait, Bulworth, Reds) but in its relentless adherence to its concept, color schemes, and acting register it fits to a "t" the idea of him as a precise, meticulous, inflexible, seductive Hollywood force, always great looking and prestigious without quite being entirely universally respected. Dick Tracy gets his man even if it means bending the law he so cherishes and Warren Beatty gets what he wants even if that means going way over budget or taking years and years to realize his vision or charming and seducing everyone in sight until his ideas become their own.
Beatty's vision is obviously shared by his brilliant production team and as a result Dick Tracy is one of the most cohesive and distinctive of summer blockbusters. To a fault really. Though its eye-poppingly beautiful to look at its also a teensy bit exhausting in its precision and and adherence to its own rules. Other images in Dick Tracy provide a broader range of bold colors, or are more artful and humorous in their compositions, but this one... this image of Dick Tracy peering at criminals, is the movie. It's Warren Beatty staring intently into a comic strip he's coopted as hs own, and becoming his own self-contained panel in return. He's trapped within a bold green frame and with that trademark bright yellow hat, ever conscious of the power of his own potent iconography.
12 OTHER "BEST SHOT" CHOICES ROUND THE WEB
Click on the photos for the corresponding articles
I've included a couple of comments about images I also screengrabbed
Between this shot and all of Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, my love of curly blonde, confident women was solidified...
One of the great character intros. And what a song. The Oscar winning "Sooner or Later"
A clever moment ruled by the kind of cartoon logic Dick Tracy could’ve used more of.
-Coco Hits NY
There are only images that look like they were ripped directly from the garish four-color Sunday funnies...
-Antagony & Ecstacy
Vivid colors pop out nicely but do add to the sense of detachment...
- Allison Tooey
Sharp colors, cartoonish characters, and rigid camera placement. When these elements converge...
- The Entertainment Junkie
I didn't grab this image but it certainly is grabby, if you know what I mean. Storraro absolutely earned his Oscar nomination. The way the light just barely outlines these shadowy criminals is really remarkable. Even though they're pitch-black they each have their own signature color in razor thin outlines from the light hitting their backs.
Madonna's most interesting, most mysterious, most iconic performance to date...
- Paul Outlaw
I also considered this image, a potent fusion or its two notorious superstars. I am not totally in love with Dick Tracy's preference for montages but this image always makes me think of the "I'm Breathless" duet where Warren Beatty sings "Now I'm Following You" with Madonna... and his subsequent hilariously put-out supporting role in her documentary Truth or Dare.
Yes, it's Madonna and Child...
-Sorta That Guy
Despite its eye-catching cinematography, the film is curiously devoid of "money shots"...
- Film Actually
Enough to make you wish the comic book movies of today would leave the "real world" behind completely...
- Dancin' Dan on Film
This is where all that color that the film has been thriving on begins to rust and decay...
-Movie Motorbreath *first entry*
perfect comic strip
-Jen Small *first entry*
NEXT ON 'HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT'
WED, JUNE 10TH AMADEUS (1984)
WED, JUNE 17th MAGIC MIKE (2012)
There are only nine more episodes left this season. If you've always wanted to join in the fun, now's the time. Watch the movies and post a shot somewhere that we can link to. We promise you'll have fun choosing.