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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 | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Cinematography (138)

Sunday
Sep012013

Podcast: Fall Film Preview... "Lady Stuff Coming Up!"

Labor Day Weekend is notoriously unfriendly to movie openings unless you can find a gem at your arthouse... so Katey, Joe, Nick and Nathaniel are looking ahead to the Fall Film Season on this week's podcast.

Films speculated upon include Ridley Scott's The Counselor, Alfonso Cuarón directing Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Steve McQueen & Michael Fassbender reunited for 12 Years a Slave, George Clooney's Monuments Men, Spike Jonze's HerAugust: Osage County and many more. We answer these fives questions and you should, too, in the comments...

• Which two movies are you most excited about?
• Which performance are you most curious to see?
• Which film are you most suspicious of?
• Whose life is going to change this fall when their movie hits? 
• Which premiere party would you most like to attend? 

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Please note: There won't be a new podcast next weekend since ½ of us will be festing in Toronto and dashing madly from screening to screening. 

Fall Film Preview 2013

Thursday
Aug292013

Best Shot: Butch & Sundance & Their Girl

It figures. I try to throw a curveball in our often actress-centric blogging by choosing a guy's guy movie, a buddy Western for Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the most frequent face that pops up in your choices is the momentary it girl of the late 60s Katharine Ross. In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) she plays the school teacher Etta Place, essentially "the girl" of the narrative (and not much more complex a role than that) and twice over, too, since she's shacked up with The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) but also in 'what if?' love with Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) as evidenced in the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head" interlude early in the film. Redford & Newman? Lucky girl.

Which leads me to this very scientific poll for TFE readers (as suggested by forever1267 in the comments). Butch and Sundance are a pair in the movie but unlike Katharine Ross you can only have one. Make your choice based on '69 only!  

 


Now that that's out of our systems, let's choose a best shot. And good God (God = Conrad L Hall) there was much to choose from)

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug222013

"In the dark all sorts of things come alive"

I'm a day late getting to The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) for Hit Me With Your Best Shot but I think the drama queen players onscreen would understand: they're often behind schedule and over budget themselves, victims of their own masochistic impulses and grandiose ambitions!

To understand my choice of best shot, a brief preface as spoken by the film itself. About twenty minutes into the film the fledgling producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) and his hungry director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) are trying to figure out how to transcend the limitations of their budget on a B movie called Attack of the Cat Men. If they're movies are always terrible they'll never get out of B pictures. The cat suits look shoddy and cheap but Shields has a stroke of genius when he suggests that they never show the title characters at all. 

Shields: When an audience pays to see a picture like this what do they pay for?
Amiel: To get the pants scared off 'em.
Shields: And what scares the human race more than any other single thing

[TURNS LIGHTS OFF]

Amiel: The dark
Shields: Of course. and why? because the dark has a light all its own. In the dark all sorts of things come alive.  

And a final question

Now what do we put on the screen that will make the backs of their necks crawl?"

Once we've moved away from the context of this conversation (the B picture calling card) and into the shark-infested waters of their subsequent powerful Hollywood careers, this final question begins to haunt us properly. 

Though it might not be popular to say I find The Bad and the Beautiful something of a muddle in its impulses between melodrama and satire. It wants to swim with sharks but it lacks that final killing bite. Perhaps it's the way it which its three stories dovetail in the final scene which suggests that we ought to admire the shark and excuse all the blood in the water. I wish the movie had found a way to end shortly after its scary Act Two finale. For its then when we get the answer as to what would make the back of our necks crawl: Human Nature. 

BEST SHOT

GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT"

Kirk Douglas's ugly soul-baring in a vicious pitiful monologue hurled at both himself and his star and love Georgia (Lana Turner) culminates in this moment when he is reduced to animalistic snarling in the shadows. It's a great inversion of the playful showmanship at the beginning of the film, and more terrifying than any supernatural beasts in B pictures could ever hope to be. In this superb sequence, which stands your every hair on end, Minnelli and Surtees have found a way to riff on both the frequent visual motifs of their movie (where figures in shadow are often watching brightly lit movie creens) and illustrate the lurid thrill of the movies themselves. They only come alive in the dark.

see seven other "Best Shot" opinions from this classic

Don't forget!
On August 31st we'll discuss Gloria Grahame's Oscar win from this movie iin the return of the Supporting Actress Smackdown! Next week we're Best Shot'ing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Join our movie-loving club!

Thursday
Aug222013

Visual Index ~ The Bad and the Beautiful

In Hit Me With Your Best Shot, an open source series if you will, movie-lovers are asked to select their choice for the pre-selected movie's finest visual moment. Movies are both communal and private experiences so its rewarding to look at them through multiple sets of eyes. This week's film is Vincente Minnelli's Hollywood-on-Hollywood drama The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) which holds the odd distinction of winning the most Oscars ever (5) without a corresponding nomination in the Best Picture category. (The Academy was weird about the Movies About Movies genre that year since they practically ignored the all time classic Singin' in the Rain) The most deserved of TBATB's historic five Oscars was surely for its stunning black & white cinematography by Robert Surtees, an enduring presence in Oscar's roll call from the mid 40s through the late 70s.

I think you'll really like these nine pieces on the movie (on seven different shots)... even if you haven't seen it! Click on any of these "Best Shots" to read why it was selected by these movie lovers.

Antagony & EcstasyWe Recycle Movies

Minnesota Gneiss - FIRST TIME BEST SHOT'ER !

I Want to Believe

Film ActuallyThe Film ExperienceAllison Tooey

Dancin' Dan

The Film's The Thing

NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT AUGUST 27th
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) available on Netflix Instant Watch, so please consider joining us. All you need is a pair of eyeballs, movie love, screen capture capability, and a web place to post your choice for the chosen film's very best image.

Wednesday
Aug212013

Robert Redford is "The Natural"

To celebrate Robert Redford's imminent return to cinema in "All is Lost" Team Experience will be surveying some of his classics and key films. Here's Anne Marie on The Natural.

Robert Redford is as American as apple pie and baseball. Actually, it might be equally accurate to say that apple pie and baseball are as American as Robert Redford. Like Jimmy Stewart before him, Redford personifies the American Man ideal. But unlike Stewart's earnest Everyman, Redford, with his golden boy good looks and sweet-but-sardonic smile, is the Mythic American Man model. Redford is not the star you relate to; he's the star you admire from afar. Robert Redford has spent most of his career playing variations on this character, but nowhere is his inherent legendaryness used to greater effect than in the 1984 film The Natural. The Natural is a movie about the American Myth through the lens of the American Pastime.

It would be easy to mistake The Natural for "just another sports movie." The plot certainly reads as another sentiment-drenched schlock-fest.  Roy Hobbs, a nobody who's past his prime, changes baseball and wins a championship with his talent, his courage, and a baseball bat struck by lightning. (I rolled my eyes even as I typed that.) However, to take this movie too literally is to miss its point. 

The Natural plays on a grander scale. Roy Hobbs is the Arthurian Hero wielding a legendary weapon. It's no coincidence that he leads a baseball team called the Knights. Barbara Hershey, in a small but striking role as the woman who ends his career before it begins, is Temptation. Glenn Close makes a rare appearance as the Good Woman, representing the wholesome life Hobbs missed before but could win back. Kim Basinger makes a not-so-rare appearance as the Sinful Woman, a blonde version of Temptation that Hobbs will have to overcome again. These are Characters with a capital "C," more important for what they symbolize than for who they are. If you don't believe me, watch how often characters are backlit. Strong backlighting is cinematography shorthand for Significant And Symbolic Character.

Glenn Close as "Good Woman" a few years before evil was her forte

I have to confess: I usually hate sports movies. I, like Margo Channing, detest cheap sentiment, which is the currency most sports films trade in. The underdog story is overdone. There are only so many sacrifices a man can make for a game before I question his priorities; and really, Rudy made one sack in one play, so why are we cheering mediocrity?

By that measure, I should hate The Natural too. But I can't. Maybe it's Robert Redford's rugged handsomeness (there is no such thing as "middle-aged" Redford; like wine, cheese, and good art, he just gets better with time). Maybe I just really love watching Barbara Hershey vamp. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for movies about the American Dream, where one person can change the world thorugh earnest hard work. Whatever the reason, The Natural remains a personal favorite, as well as a classic.