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Entries in Cinematography (260)


HMWYBS: Marlene Dietrich Double Feature

For this week's Best Shot episode we featured two Josef Von Sternberg & Marlene Dietrich pictures. The famous Director/Muse pair made seven films together but we asked Best Shot volunteers to do either Morocco (1930) or Blonde Venus (1932), their first two Hollywood pictures. Let's get right to the choices - click on the photos to enjoy the corresponding articles and participating blogs...

MOROCCO (1930)
Directed by Josef Von Sternberg. Cinematography by Lee Garmes
Nominated for 4 Oscars including Cinematography

What becomes a legend most?
-Dancin Dan on Film

It bizarrely holds together even when the seams look like they are going to burst apart at any second from being buffeted by sand...
-Scopophiliac at the Movies

She strikes quite a figure though throughout the film...
-Sorta That Guy 

Directed by Josef Von Sternberg. Cinematography by Bert Glennon

An impression she gives you in one moment she might take back with force in the very next...
-The Film Experience

The frame is much less fussy when Helen is in her element.
-Film Mix Tape 


Dietrich, you little so and so!

For this week's Best Shot Episode: Marlene Dietrich. I asked participants to choose either Morocco (1930) or Blonde Venus (1932).

Her most fascinating scene in Blonde Venus: the confession.

Is Marlene Dietrich a good actress? This question haunted me while watching Blonde Venus, the fascinating Pre-Code movie in which Dietrich plays dozens of archetypes within a brisk 93 minutes: loving mother, drunk floozy, hot temptress, frigid lover, forest nymph, martyred saint, gold digger, confident androgyne, isolated immigrant, jaded bitch, dazzling entertainer. It's enough to give you whiplash if you're trying to get a bead on Helen Jones, her cabaret singer / struggling mother in Blonde Venus (1932).

On the one hand she does everything "wrong." She rarely modulates her voice. Her characterizations aren't especially cohesive -- an impression she gives you in one moment she might take back with force in the very next...

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Thelma & Louise Pt. 5: Crossing Over

25th Anniversary Five-Part Mini Series Event 

Pt 1 (Anne Marie & Margaret) 
Pt 2 (Nick Davis) 
Pt 3 (Daniel Crooke)
Pt 4 (Nathaniel R) 

Pt 5 (Finale) by Laurence Barber

It feels awfully daunting to write about the ending of this film, and not just because, as Nathaniel pointed out, ditching the cop who pulled them over isn’t Thelma or Louise’s finest hour. As an Australian who has experienced outback heat, that scene always makes me feel a bit nauseous even if the way their doing away with this discipline daddy is pretty amusing. More logically, they could have made use of his handcuffs to disable him instead, but you have to appreciate that Callie Khouri hasn’t constructed these crimes around what feels like pattern behaviour. Aside from Thelma’s charm assault/armed robbery, their transgressions feel genuinely like two women thinking on their feet.

Also, you catch a glimpse of a shotgun behind him as he trades shades with Louise so I’ve always believed he figured his way out somewhere down the line (shoot the lock, dummy!).

Thelma: Officer, I’m real sorry ‘bout this.”

Louise: I apologise also.”

1:40:00 This aspect of the scene has always spackled over my misgivings about it too. Much has been said and written in recent years about the way women over-apologise, exercising a kind of ingrained cultural deference to male authority. In this scene, however, their apologies become a subversion; the way Sarandon half-heartedly apologises tells us that she’s given up caring about the needs of men in any meaningful way.

Replete with her new Aviators – a hot new look Scott drinks in with a zoom that feels as awed by Sarandon as we do by this point – Louise and Thelma jump back in the Thunderbird and put rubber to the road, the final stage of their road trip stretching out before them. In a brief cut back to the police part of the plot, Harvey Keitel gravely intones, “Dreams will only get you so far, and luck always runs out.” Lighten up, toots...

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Thoughts I Had on a Second Viewing of "The Force Awakens"

This week's Best Shot topic looked back at the remake of Star Wars (1977) affectionally dubbed The Force Awakens (2016). Not that the Force ever got any rest. Pop culture could never let Star Wars be, even in the many years between films, so I'll keep this mercifully brief. But it seems strange how little attention we'd given it during its phenomenally successful release during the Christmas glut. For the record though I didn't find the movie all that much more than a fun recycling feat, a second visit reminded me just how well it performs its recycling feat of the unique Star Wars combo of family friend fun, rousing adventure, easily readable almost pantomimed humor, and broad good vs evil drama (aka the Force's light side and dark side) 

a few random thoughts to begin...

• How jealous do you think Batman was when he saw Kylo Ren's ship?

• Stormtroopers can bleed? They've died such unmessy G rated deaths for 39 years. One colored blast topples them with no carnage.  I love this disorienting image of a Stormtrooper, confused, and very much not in military formation. Send this one to reconditioning!

3 more random thoughts, 3 exciting moments, and 3 best shots after the jump...

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Visual Index - The Force Awakens' "Best Shots"

The Force Awakens may have dominated the world when it debuted at Christmas time but all our Christmas times are devoted to the Oscar race so we didn't truly give it its due here. And thus it's our pick this week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot (though we don't normally do movies this recent) to give us a chance to spend a little more time with Luke, Leia, Han, Finn, Rey, and the galaxy's new collective boyfriend Poe Dameron.

My own Force Awakens post is here if you missed it. I had been running late. Let's blame Thelma & Louise (I've been distracted). The power of the Dark Side or the Light are no match for the Force of Great Actressing in my galaxy right now and close close by.

Alright. Let's see what the Best Shot club chose...

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Thelma & Louise, Pt 2: The Venetian Blindside

25th Anniversary Five-Part Mini Series Event 

When we left our heroines in Pt 1 of our 25th anniversary lookback at Thelma & Louise, they were fleeing the scene of their (first) crime but Louise needed a cup of coffee and to collect herself. Anne Marie & Margaret, our own superheroine duo in Los Angeles were grappling with the surprise killing of a would be rapist. Was it rage and pride that motivated Louise to shoot after she had already saved Thelma? It certainly provoked audiences but was there any other way to play the film's themes?

Louise is trying to plot their next move when we return to them, just before they jump back in their '66 Thunderbird - Editor

Pt 2 by Nick Davis

Now's not the time to panic. If we panic now, we're done for."

24:50 You could say this is the moment where Thelma and Louise shifts from a movie about two women fleeing some problems, at least temporarily, to two women solving a problem, probably permanently. Sure, I'll run to any movie where two women let their hair down, but I will fucking jet-propel myself to any movie where two or more women join forces to think their way out of a fix.  Well, not Mad Money.  And not The Boss.  Okay, there are exceptions.  But Thelma & Louise is the glorious rule, and this is where the drama of deduction, cognition, mutual examination, and deep self-reflection really kicks into fifth gear.

I should mention that I saw this film in the theater at 14.  Sheltered and naive about sex and violence, I didn't completely understand what rape was--which is to say, I think I learned it here.  I had never had a drink, much less been drunk, or even seen a margarita.  Ironically, the post-shooting moment when Thelma and Louise start spiraling into unknown territory was  when I started to connect with their world and feel common ground with the heroines.  I didn't know from waitressing jobs, fishing trips, honky tonks, convertibles, freeways, mesas, relationship troubles, shitty husbands, hitchhikers, horny moods, pistols, or structural misogyny, but I absolutely related to relying on wits to think your way out of a problem, and disclosing aspects of yourself in how you did so, and concealing parts of yourself at the same time.

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Best Shot: Queen Margot (1994)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Queen Margot (1994)
Director: Patrice Chereau. Cinematography: Phillipe Rousselot. 
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Vincent Perez, Jean-Hugues Anglade, and Virna Lisi 
Awards: 2 Cannes jury prizes, 5 César Awards, 1 Oscar nomination.

They say that death always takes your lovers..."

When I was young and extremely sexually naive, let's say hypothetically in High School French class, I was startled to discover that the French phrase "La petite mort," which translates literally to 'the little death' referred to a sexual orgasm. I had no idea why these two towers of Human Obsession, Sex and Death, would be linked up like twins. But the movies, ever the personal tutor for young cinephiles, kept forcing the connections.

Which brings us to the decadent, opulent, erotic, violent and visceral 16th century French epic Queen Margot, this week's Best Shot subject. (The shot choices are after the jump due to the graphic nature of the film...)

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