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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd 

 

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Thursday
May022013

The State of the State of Cinema

Hey everybody, it’s Tim, here to add my two cents to what has been, incontestably, the film story of the last few days: the sprawling, self-described “rant” delivered by Steven Soderbergh as his keynote speech on the State of Cinema at the San Francisco Film Festival on April 27. The San Francisco Film Society has made the video of his entire speech available, accompanied by a not-quite-accurate transcript; it’s worth checking it out in either form, though I found it easier to puzzle out what the director was getting at in the text version.

By all means, it takes some puzzling. I yield to no-one in my love of Soderbergh, but there’s no denying that his speech is very much a rambling, discursive piece, meant to be enjoyed as conversation, rather than analyzed closely for a structure it very much does not possess. It’s pure stream-of-consciousness (it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to find out that it was predominately improvised), and that’s okay: anybody who has listened to one of Soderbergh’s DVD commentaries is well aware that when he gets to rambling, some very keen insights on the nature of the art form tend to come tumbling out...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May022013

Link 15 

New York Times Deanna Durbin, juvenile Oscar winner and 30s/40s star, has died
Rope of Silicon the first suggestive poster for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac ...
Nymphomaniac ...which also now has an official website
Us Weekly Reese Witherspoon talks about her arrest and taking responsibility for the crazy 
People Seth Rogen's mancrush on Zac Efron. I'm wondering what the "expletive" was but FWIW Zac is "very veiny" 
DP/30 David Poland talks to actress Alicia Witt
NPR the music from The Great Gatbsy (2013) 
Empire Logan Lerman joining Brad Pitt in the WW II tank thriller Fury 

All Superheroes All The Time. Must Be Summer
Vulture a practical guide to not hating Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man Three. This is amusing but Gwynnie is actually wonderful in the movie. Take that! 
YouTube a teaser for The Wolverine that I like more than that big trailer
The Playlist Quicksilver & The Scarlet Witch confirmed (sort of) for The Avengers 2. I'm confident that Joss Whedon can do right by witches (duh!) so yes, please. 
Movieline A sweded Iron Man Three parody from Thailand 

(Sort of) Off Cinema
The Stranger an excellent and funny piece about professional basketball's first coming out by heterosexual filmmaker Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals, The Business of FancyDancing
ValleyWag an oblivious startup party from AirBnB themed on The Great Gatsby 
In Contention this is a few days old but fun. President Obama as Daniel Day Lewis as President Obama 

How Had I Never Seen This?
Meryl Streep with Adam Guettel ("Rain") 

As a lifelong Streep fan and also someone who loves Adam Guettel -- some of you may remember I recently saw him do a rare live performance -- how had I never even heard of this collaboration? Or is my memory going already? Thanks to TFE Reader Rene for pointing this out to me in the last Meryl post.

 

Thursday
May022013

Double Indemnity (Pre 'Body Heat' Post Coital) 

Hit Me With Your Best Shot Episode 4.8

Double bourbon is fine, Walter."

As a baby cinephile in the 1980s I grew up with Body Heat (1981) as my noir of choice. Before I had any biblical knowledge of my own, I was utterly enthralled by Kathleen Turner's come-hither challenge and roaming hands, William Hurt's 'not-too-smart' insatiable lust and that broken window in a sticky Florida summer. For reasons that seem immature/absurd now, I avoided Double Indemnity for many years afterwards feeling 'I'd already seen it'. Never mind that Body Heat was less a remake than an "inspired by" or that Body Heat's reign as the Best of the Neo Noirs does nothing to diminish the bewitching "rotten to the core" vortex of Double Indemnity's scheming plot and sexual shenanigans.

Different noirs for different eras. But the long shadow that Body Heat cast on my early views of this entire genre is probably why my choice for this week's "Best Shot" is this seemingly minor one from Billy Wilder's 1944 classic. 

Seemingly.

This shot occurs at the end of a long "love scene" early in the picture between Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck --  the collected Best Shot articles have many insightful comments about this unimproveable star turn) and Walter (Fred MacMurray) as they dance around their sexual and murderous desires. The scene is filled with talking in the shadows -- I could watch Stanwyck plot silently and minimistically for another two hours on loop --  and three bits of physical intimacy, an arm grab, a kiss and a 'comforting' embrace. The scene is then interrupted by a narrative flashforward. When we return to the scheming duo, they're presented to us like so. Phyllis side-eyes her willing rube, gazes at her hands (a repetitive gesture... just how much blood is on them?) and stands up to leave with this bit of disingenuously banal needinees...

will you phone me?

Double Indemnity has many gorgeous shot compositions involving diagonal shadows and I love all of them. But its visual prowess and ideas extends beyond venetian blinds. This is an atypical shot in the film's visual composition because, despite the square frame, it's very horizontal... as befits a post-coital tableau.

Yes, they've 100% just had sex even if they're still in the same clothes as before the flash-forward. We've never seen Walter with his guard this down though Phyllis, inscrutable Phyllis is still the exact same woman. Sealing the deal of this scene's brilliance for me is the costuming and cinematography: Phyllis has never before been clothed in such a tactile way (fuzzy sweaters must have equalled instant boners back in the 40s and 50s); and the lighting choice is provocatively counterintuitive since it's Phyllis, the not so innocent and virginal, who is bathed in soft light while Walter in shadow.

P.S. A runner up...

This shot, from the final confrontation between Phyllis and her conquest, could inspire novels out of context it's such rich and decadent. In context, which is what we should be talking about, it's a triump of both Art Direction and Cinematography; that same living room, which we've returned to multiple times, never feels as sinister in any other shot. The composition also allows Walter's shadow to enter the frame before him, which is telling, and then has both the regretful man and his dark shadow in frame, both separated. It's also my favorite example of Double Indemnity's great use of venetian blind shadows -- usually involving Walter -- and the diagonal tension they bring to each of his scenes withough the film having to resort to anything as crude as canted camera angles.

Straight Down The Link...
Aliston Tooey on Phyllis' spidery web
Amiresque "drive thru beer!"
Antagony & Ecstasy on Stanwyck's unparalleled femme fatale triumph
Cinesnatch this week's film coincides with some Best Picture Oscar revisionism here
Entertainment Junkie loves Stanwyck's satisfaction
Film Actually 'the stillness speaks volumes'
The Film's The Thing 'a messy bit of business in Aisle 3"
I Am Derreck on Walter's double secret life
Pussy Goes Grrr the scorpion and the frog
Victim of the Time considers the 'ugliness' of Double Indemnity
We Recycle Movies talks LA Architecture and venetian blinds

.... or see all the stills in chronological order

Next Week, Wednesday May 8th:
David Lean's Summertime (1955) with Katharine Hepburn in Venice. Join us by selecting your own choice for "best shot"

 

Wednesday
May012013

Visual Index ~ Double Indemnity's Best Shot(s)

 

From the moment they met it was murder."

The fact that Barbara Stanwyck never won a competitive Oscar could drive anyone to the deadly deed!

For this week's edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot we asked fellow denizens of the web to look at Double Indemnity with us. If you click on any of the still's selected as "Best Shot" after the jump it'll take you to the corresponding article, eleven of them in total.  This movie is a stone cold fox. 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May012013

Say What? A Streep and Her Dog

Awww. Meryl Streep walking her dog in Manhattan.

Amuse us by adding a dialogue or caption to this photo in the comments. I'll select a winner later.

 

Wednesday
May012013

Something Portman This Way Comes

JA from MNPP here - by now I think most of you have probably heard the news that Michael Fassbender is going to play Macbeth for the director of Snowtown. (Any fans of Snowtown up in here? I found it monstrously, emphasis on monstrously, effective.) Speculation immediately turned to what actress would play the scheming Lady to his doomed King - I saw everybody from Tilda Swinton to Emma Watson mentioned (and no doubt somewhere Sally Kellerman whispered her own name into the wind, too).

Well today we find out his former Jane Got a Gun co-star to be that never was Natalie Portman will be the one whispering deadly somethings in his ear, and... people don't seem happy, from what I can gather? I have to admit I'm kinda skeptical myself. I like Natalie, I thought she deserved her Oscar for Black Swan, but Vincent Cassel wasn't wrong when he told her she can nail the White Swan but she has some trouble with the darker side. Can she summon the wicked gravitas you need for this role?

I mean, we need somebody in this part that can convincingly tell Michael Fassbender that he doesn't have, you know, the sufficient manhood, ahem. So yeah... now that I think about it pretty much anybody's doomed, having to sell that whopper. "The Scottish Play" is a curse after all!