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Entries in Cinematography (197)


Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Amadeus" (A Visual Index)

For this week's Best Shot topic, Milos Forman's scrumptious musical duet between jealous Salieri and genius Wolfgang. It was called Amadeus and it was very very good and very very popular -- raking in big box office, too. Though it never landed in the box office top five it had major legs and ended its reign as the 12th highest grosser of 1984.

The music drama won 8 Oscars (from 11 nominations) but curiously one of the prizes it lost was cinematography! The DP was Miroslav Ondrícek who had also been nominated for the previous Milos Forman picture Ragtime (1981).

Amadeus is so visually luxurious that I figured it would be a hard assignment and these eight images surprised me and I can't wait to dig into the articles. Unfortunately I had a computer mishap -- something is not working about my screengrab program (argh-the timing) -- so my own pick for Amadeus will have to wait. But please do read these articles and consider the visual choices. I'm not even going to attempt to put these in chronological order. It's a massive three hour film with lots of performances and difficult to place shots from the luxury overload. Today's Best Shot choices, from brave cinephiles round the web who dare to play this game, are presented in the order in which they were sent to me.

click on the photos to be taken to the corresponding article 
Next Wednesday: MAGIC MIKE (2012)... grab your singles and pick a shot to shove them into 

Forman wisely draws a visual (and comedic) parallel between the two appearances of the mask.
-The Entertainment Junkie 

When all you can do is seethe in your utter failure...
-Drink Your Juice Shelby 

In a film with such a lavish production, a quiet, almost bare scene caught my eye...
-Sorta That Guy

Hard to pick a shot because its best visual moments come from clever cutting and juxtapositions...
-Coco Hits NY

'It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God...'
-54 Disney Reviews

Thematically, I can't think of a more blunt message statement... 
-Antagony & Ecstasy

-Movie Motorbreath 

If every Oscar winner was as loose and irreverent as Amadeus...
-Serious Film 

This resplendent film earned every one of its 8 statues.
-Film Actually

The perfect metaphor for the movie's dynamic...
- The Expert Newbie *first entry* 

"I'm frightened!!!" Yet she was fearless. Cynthia Nixon at 18
-Paul Outlaw



A Portrait of Everyone Trying To Decide What To Write About "Dick Tracy" For HMWYBS

Perfect right? Thanks Kathy!

I totally forgot that Kathy Bates was in this movie. And that she's amusingly mystified when asked to transcribe Mumbles confession. Or maybe she's distracted thinking 'Misery comes out in 5½ months and then you'll see what I can do!'

I'm currently mulling over 23 screengrabs for Dick Tracy (1990) trying to choose just 1 for its 25th anniversary. This movie is so good looking, in a super-saturated drunk on the color wheel way. So if you're also struggling or forgot that Best Shot was returning today after hiatus (I know several people did) I'll extend the BEST SHOT deadline to tomorrow night.

But in the meantime cue up Madonna's "I'm Breathless" CD and remember how good those Stephen Sondheim songs are as you check out these entries from blogs that finished in time! (Consider it appetizer and main course and tomorrow night dessert for any latecomers to our weekly Visual Party.)

Coco Hits NY - selects a clever moment of cartoon logic
The Entertainment Junkie - on converging visual elements
Film Actually - loves the film noir long shots
Dancin' Dan - goes understated for a loud movie 
Antagony & Ecstasy - admires the graphic storytelling
Paul Outlaw- wants to reverse Madonna & Beatty's positions in this potent frame 

And don't forget that next Wednesday night June 10th is Amadeus (1984) and there won't be any extension of that deadline because the film leaves Netflix Instant Watch very soon and it's three hours long (but oh so good) so you might want to get a headstart on your selection for that one. Yours truly hasn't seen it since the 80s and is so excited to revisit it.  



Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Michael C here to review my most anticipated film of the summer. Isn't it wonderful when anticipation and quality go together?

With each passing Summer the concept of the Event Movie gets a little more cheapened, a little more downgraded. Like eyes adjusting to darkness, we see weightless CG blurs collide with other weightless CG blurs and deem it good enough. That is until a film like George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road comes along to rip the curtains down and the light flood in. No, that image is not strong enough. Fury Road tears through the multiplex like a great cleansing fire, leaving the great herd of lesser, timid blockbusters scattering to escape its path. 

It may seem an odd declaration to make about a franchise reboot, itself the third sequel in a series dormant since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. But Miller proves that any project can attain greatness with the right spirit of reckless ambition. The prevailing mentality is that an established brand is an excuse to play it safe, to scrub a rehash of the original story down to a neutered PG-13 so as not to risk alienating a single ticket buyer on Earth. George Miller goes full tilt in the opposite direction, embracing the franchise’ twisted id...

Click to read more ...


Podcast: Max & Furiosa On The Road

Nathaniel welcomes back Anne Marie and regular Nick Davis and new guest Kyle Stevens to discuss George Miller's critically drooled over action masterwork Mad Max Fury Road. Though is it really as good as they say? We look deep at that misdirection of a prologue, the hallucinatory visuals, and the central conceit vs the female characterizations. We even talk Oscars a little bit. There are a few spoilers so it's best to see the film before listening if you care about such thing.

Please to enjoy and continue the conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of this post or download from iTunes.  

Companion Links
Michael's Fury Road review
Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero"
Kyle's Twitter Account - Follow him. He's fun!

Fury Roadcast


1979: Revisiting The Black Stallion

In honor of the Year of the Month (1979) and horse racing’s most exciting month – with the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, being run today – Lynn Lee revisits a childhood favorite movie, The Black Stallion.

As a little girl, I didn’t ride horses but I loved reading about them, from Black Beauty to Misty of Chincoteague to just about every book in the Black Stallion series.  Naturally I loved the Black Stallion movie and watched it multiple times in my pre-teen years.  I recently decided to watch it again and see how I felt about it over two decades later.  Here are the five things that struck me most strongly this time around:

1. How quiet the film is.
There’s barely any dialogue.  That makes sense for the first half, most of which takes place on a desert island where the two shipwrecked protagonists, the boy Alec and the Black Stallion, slowly earn each other’s trust.  But even after they’re rescued and return to society and enter a big honking horse race, the quiet remains.  Most of the human characters have only a handful of lines... [More]

Click to read more ...


Best Shot Special: The Orson Welles Centennial !

HMWYBS: Mid Season Finale 

Orson Welles  burst on to the cinematic scene in 1941 with Citizen Kane, which has led numerous film polls across the decades as the 'Best Film Ever Made'. (Kane's nearest rivals for the title in frequent pollings here and there seem to be Vertigo and The Godfather) It famously lost all but one of its Oscar nominations (Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz his co-writer took the Original Screenplay prize, Welles' only competitive Oscar) but genius is rarely fully appreciated in its time. Incredibly, the writer/director/actor was only 26 at the time but he was no one hit wonder adding several more classics to his filmography before his death at 70 years of age in 1985. For today's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode, our midseason finale (the series returns on June 3rd), I asked participants to choose between Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, my personal favorite of his), and The Lady From Shanghai (1948) depending on what they felt like watching.

Gawk at beautiful screengrabs from those movies from 10 Best Shot participants. Click on any of them to be taken to the corresponding article singing that shot's praises...

Click to read more ...


"A bright guilty world." - On The Lady From Shanghai

Hit Me With Your Best Shot S6.10
Mid Season Finale (See all the pics tonight at 11!)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Directed by Orson Welles. Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.

Though we're usually tasked to watch the same film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, today for the Orson Welles Centennial, participants had their choice of three films. I chose The Lady From Shanghai (1948) largely because the only image I ever see for it online is Orson Welles seizing Rita Hayworth, both of them reflected by mirrors in the über famous "Crazy House" finale. It's one of those movie sequences you learn by osmosis just watching other movies (remember Woody Allen's take on it in Manhattan Murder Mystery?) even before you get around to this 1948 noir (Technicall IMDb says 1947 but it was released practically everywhere in 1948). Though the hall of mirrors contains roughly 50 shots that could justifiably be called "Best" it's their proximity and their dizzying accumulation of lies (all about to shatter) that really does it for me so I looked elsewhere.

The Lady From Shanghai is gorgeously uncluttered. It's as if only the basic tropes have room to exist: the femme fatale, the narrating dupe, the shadows, and the crimes. It's so self aware it even toasts its own genre halfway through...

Here's to crime!"

You might even call it minimalist despite the famously baroque visual finale. It was the fourth Orson Welles picture and the first to be ignored entirely by the Academy when it opened in the summer of 1948 but it won the important battle: standing the test of time.

The movie plays its hand immediately, informing you that Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) will be Michael O'Hara's (Orson Welles) undoing. But every time you look at her, which is often since Welles and Lawton Jr give Hayworth star vehicle closeups throughout, you hope it won't be true.  One very smart recurring visual motif is that Mrs Bannister is bathed in light more often than she's in shadow. She so clearly has her own key light that at the tail end of the movie's first sequence, when Welles jumps in a horse drawn carriage with her, their images seem artificially conjoined since he's so shadowy and she's so bright.

But this lighting motif is a lie, one you catch if you a) believe the narration and b) listen to the dialogue of the film's oiliest and most repulsive character who refers to the paradise around these rich sharks as a  "bright guilty world." One notable exception, the one I'd select as Best Shot if I could have two conjoined images to illustrate a point, is when Elsa and O'Hara meet in an quarium. This time they're both bathed in shadows though something is very different about the shots: when O'Hara stands next to the glass they're like harmless magnified fishies; when Elsa picks a spot to stand the marine life is far more disturbing, gasping for air. 

But for Best Shot I'm going minimal, and brightly lit, conveying the intoxication of Rita Hayworth. The shot below is breathtaking in its sensuality; Elsa gets the full glamour treatment, the glistening eyes and slightly parted mouth, the soft but ample lighting. But Welles doesn't rest on his co-star and lover's beauty alone. There's an impressive array of choreographed movement that keeps whiplashing the camera back to her, reclined, through lots of business with her three men and one cigarette. You're constantly aware of the relationships between the four principles. This is is not a typical triangulated affair or evil quartet but a circle with Elsa Bannister always at its center.

best shot

And since we're speaking of juxtapositions, if you pair this hypnotic sequence -- your eyes are getting heavier... You will do whatever Rita breathily implores! -- with an even more brightly lit but far less serene shot of her face in the climax, this star turn reveals itself as quite a bifurcated triumph; it's half fawning iconography (until the mask of her glamour finally drops) and half shifty performance. 

By all means if you haven't seen this movie -- or any of Orson Welles's masterpieces, do. 

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