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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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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Is there any movie you would have given all four acting Oscars to? 

"TOOTSIE since I think Hoffman, Lange (lead), Pollack, and Garr are marvelous" BVR

"WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF in full support of an acting sweepDREWB

"SINGIN IN THE RAIN My choice for the movie with Best Acting in All Categories - deserveS more credit as a full-tilt acting exercise" COLIN

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Nancy, what will the coven do to a reader who doesn't vote on Beauty vs. Beast?

they would kill her"

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Entries in Cinematography (174)

Wednesday
Apr152015

Taxi Driver is *about* the movies

Taxi Driver is about the movies. That's my thesis at least. Oh sure it's about a few other things, too. But consider this: as early as the very first shot of Travis Bickle's yellow cab on duty, it drives right across a movie theater marquee (showing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) via our low angle view. 

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Massacre? An overstatement of foreshadowing perhaps but we will get to the killings in two hours. On the other hand, since we're in Travis Bickle's headspace even more than we're in the cab, you could argue that the massacres start much much earlier. In one of Taxi Driver's most famous images, Travis, alone in a theater trains his finger pistol on porn actors on the screen and begins to fire away. It's a frighteningly short jump from finger guns to actual guns and we watch him training them on random civilians in the street from a window as well as on actors on the television set.

But what prompts the descent into violent fantasy/reality?

I'd argue that the key to understanding Taxi Driver, this reading at least, is Martin Scorsese's racist, misogynist, and altogether terrifying presence in the backseat. About halfway through the movie Scorsese's unnamed fare directs Travis to sit with the meter running outside a building and the camera drifts up, on Scorsese's orders, to frame, quite literally, the target of the director's violence in a window, his supposed wife in silhouette. The director is directing and storytelling within his own directed story.

"I got some bad ideas in my head"The fare shares his violent fantasy of murdering the woman and her lover. From that moment on, Travis himself is caught up in his own violent fantasies. Is Taxi Driver suggesting that violence or evil is contagious and transferring it directly from the auteur to his muse? Or is Scorsese's fare the driver's own fantasy, a convenient projection in the rearview mirror. Many movie fans take the events of Taxi Driver literally, but I'm not so sure it's happening as we see it. Just as Travis sees it. Consider the epilogue in which he is regarded as a hero and even the girl who rejected him reevaluates. The last thing we see in the movie appears to be Travis looking at himself in the rear view mirror in a collision of quick cuts, jittery camera, and reflected street lights.

At one point in that disturbing director/muse fare/driver scene, the camera drifts from Scorsese's shadowed face to Travis's. As it lingers on Travis's face we're hearing Scorsese's voice "You think I'm sick don't you." In the very next scene Travis expresses concern to a fellow driver that he has bad thoughts in his head. Was this one of them -- Travis in conversation with himself?

best shot

Like Patrick Bateman decades later, maybe Travis 'doesn't exist' or doesn't want to. His co-worker tells him, "You become the thing you do." And the movie seems to agree.

Travis reduces his humanity throughout Taxi Driver, even physically, as he slims down to better hide how many weapons he's now carrying. Soon he is only violent fantasy. And then violent reality. This, my choice, for best shot tells us as much. Travis, whatever he was, is less and less that. Travis is a weapon. In a viewfinder. Scorsese is framing him for us but Travis Bickle is always staring right back in one of the most unsettling films of the 70s. 

 

TONIGHT AT 11 - THE FULL BEST SHOT INDEX 

Wednesday
Apr012015

Best Shot Visual Index: Mommie Dearest (1981)

For our April Fools tradition of celebrating 'bad movies we love' (last year it was Can't Stop the Music) we opted for Frank Perry's ill-fated but extremely memorable Mommie Dearest (1981). The film, which was quickly adapted from Christina Crawford's 1978 best-selling memoir (published just a year after her famous mother's death), starred Faye Dunaway as the great movie star and Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid as Christina, Steve Forrest as Crawford's longtime boyfriend Gregg Savitt and Rutanya Alda as Crawford's loyal assistant Carol Ann. The book was controversial in its day, with many stars defending their former co-star but the stories stuck in the public consciousness and the movie lives on in infamy. It was greeted with much derision, winning multiple Razzies (the entire principle cast just listed was nominated in their individual acting categories) but Dunaway's work, oft-quoted and beloved to this day in certain communites (ahem), has always had its share of valiant defenders.

Paul Lohmannn (Nashville, High Anxiety) was the director of photography and here are the films most memorable or "best" shots, according to participants around the web.

MOMMIE DEAREST BEST SHOTS
13 images chosen by 14 blogs
Click on the images to read the corresponding articles 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar252015

"Yesterday Today and Tomorrow" - Best Shot Visual Index

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot subject is Vittorio de Sica's gorgeous comic love song, three of them, to Italy and super-sized movie star charisma. Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are special on their own but together it's something else again. Vittorio de Sica is one of Italy's great directors but usually when people reference him they're talking about neo realism and his classic The Bicycle Thief. That's nothing at all like this colorful playful romantic comedy. The film was shot by Giuseppe Rotunno who also lensed Rocco & His Brothers (previously covered in this very series) and later went on to an Oscar nomination for the Bob Fosse masterpiece All That Jazz (1979). Yesterday Today and Tomorrrow was a hit, another feather in both stars caps (they were already international superstars) and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and a BAFTA for "Foreign Actor" for Mastroianni but today it's underdiscussed.

It remains most famous for one scene in particular, Sophia's modest but ultra sexy little striptease pulling a stocking down to the horny delight of childlike Marcello. The stars later riffed on that scene together in Robert Atlman's fashion comedy Pret a Porter. Since there are so many images in this post (one from each short film from most of the participants) they'll have to go after the jump. And if these images and great articles don't convince you to see this Oscar winner, all hope is lost!  

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar172015

"Is this a courtship or a donnybrook?"

Top o' the morning...er... evening to you and a Happy St. Patrick's Day. To prepare for tonight's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we started the morning off right  by screening the John Ford classic The Quiet Man (1952). For those who haven't seen the film, it's about a rich American (John Wayne) who moves back to his ancestral homeland determined to settle down and immediately falls passionately in love with a fiery stranger (Maureen O'Hara) before he's even learned her name or bought that home which which to settle down into; O'Hara has that affect on people. One of the reasons I love watching old movies that I only have vague familiarity with (usually as a child) is that they're altogether different when you watch them as an adult. I've loved O'Hara since I was a child but I tended to avoid John Wayne movies (Red River is the only one of his films I've seen more than once, entirely due to Montgomery Clift). Which is why I was quite surprised to be drawn to John Wayne's stoic but expressive performance here and nearly chose this image as my best shot

I'm limiting myself to three images after the jump. It's so difficult because this movie is gorgeous. It won the Cinematography Oscar and its not hard to see why...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar032015

Visual Index ~ The Sound of Music (1965) "Best Shots"

Each Tuesday night we ask anyone with a pinterest, blog, tumblr or what have you to post their favorite shot from a preselected movie. To kick off Season Six: The Sound of Music (1965) for its 50th Anniversary.

Unlike its obvious counterpart in belovedness, The Wizard of Oz (previously featured in this series) it was wildly popular from the day it opened. If you adjust for inflation it remains the third highest grossing film of all time after Gone With the Wind (1939) and Star Wars (1977). Like GWTW, its production trouble seems to have magically made it a stronger film rather than torpedoing it. Funny how fate works. For example Christopher Plummer's contempt for the project (he turned it down several times and loudly denounced it afterwards) bleeds through but affects the movie in surprisingly perfect ways, balancing the sweet with just enough sour. 

In short, it's one of 'Our Favorite Things'. 

Best Shots from
THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb142015

Best Cinematography: Can Chivo Do a Back-to-Back?

If Oscar were a beauty pageant (we know it feels like that sometimes but it's not) the previous winner in each category would have to hand over their tiara Oscar to the next winner. In that case let's hope the world's favorite DP is ambidextrous since he is probably passing the statue to... himself.  After years of worthy nominations without winning, the genius DP Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, who won last year for Gravity, could well win again for another virtuoso turn that's also an aesthetic triumph. But how common are back-to-back wins exactly in the cinematography categories? It used to happen on occasion when there were two cinematography categories (black & white, and color) and thus twice the number of winners but once the category was fused in 1967, it's only ever happened once: John Toll did it in the 1990s with Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Still it's hard to imagine Lubezki losing on the 22nd. Budapest surely won't sweep and it's the only other Best Picture nominee in the category. Mr Turner and Ida would make very worthy winners but they seem unlikely for reasons of size, popularity, mood, country of origin. As for Roger Deakins. His nominations each year are becoming Streep-esque. It's not that Unbroken isn't handsome looking but it's hardly one of his tiptop achievements. Deakins still trails the late George J Folsey (Meet Me In St Louis) for most nominations without a win in this category (13/0) but he'll tie him the very next time he's up to bat. If Unbroken had been better loved he could have made a run for it.

The Nominees:

Birdman - Emmanuel Lubezki
Grand Budapest Hotel - Robert Yeoman
Ida - Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal
Mr Turner - Dick Pope
Unbroken - Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Birdman or Mr Turner

My ballot for this category