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Entries in Cinematography (254)

Tuesday
Apr192016

Best Shot: The Beguiled (1971)

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot subject is Don Siegel's fascinating whatsit called The Beguiled (1971). It's little like Siegel's other collaborations with his muse Clint Eastwood and assigning it to a genre is also difficult both of which might explain its fairly quiet reputation. With the news coming that Sofia Coppola will soon be remaking it, our eyes drank every frame up. And wow is this story of a wounded Yankee grifter in A Confederate girl's school ripe for a revisit. You might say that imagining how Coppola's halflidded female gaze might view this is nearly as exciting as the movie itself but in some ways it already feels like a Sofia Coppola film. Profound interest in sensual and anthropological gazing at the desires of women who can't articulate their desires? Check!

Some of the English language posters are hilariously false, suggesting it's a shoot-em-up manly western. One poster actually has four men on it when Eastwood is the only man of significance in the movie and practically the entire film involves a group of women buzzing around and hypnotized by the sick man in their midst. So I've illustrated with a French poster that feels right.

Best Shot choices are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Apr172016

April Foolish Predictions: Visual Categories

Hello Dear Reader! Your host Nathaniel checking in from a screening and chart-making frenzy. I'm heading off to my jury meeting at the Nashville International Film Festival (New Directors competition) to bestow prizes. But I wanted to point you to chart updates (the remainder will premiere this week to complete our April Foolish tradition). So let's talk costume design and cinematography and such. (lots more after the jump)

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr132016

Visual Index: Best Shots from "Witness"

Hit Me With Your Best Shot revisited Witness (1985) this week to celebrate the continuing excellence of the Australian cinematographer John Seale. It was such an unexpected treat to see him doing ambitious ravishing and inspired work as a septugenarian (Mad Max Fury Road) that rivals anything he did in his 30s (Careful He Might Hear You), 40s (Rain Man) or 50s (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley) and though he didn't win a second Oscar he did win our renewed ecstatic fandom. Seale's earliest Oscar nomination came for his work lensing the gorgeous moving cop drama Witness (1985).  Here are the results of our "Best Shot" challenge from the participants. The more eyeballs the merrier so join us one of these weeks alright?

WITNESS (1985)
Directed by Peter Weir. Shot by John Seale
Click on any of the 12 images to be directed to the corresponding articles
(Nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Cinematography) 

 I really liked how well rounded all the Amish characters are...
-Rachel's Reviews 

How does violence affect a child?
-Film Mix Tape

Christian Bonamusa

 

He apparently took plenty of inspiration from Flemish and Dutch painters of the 17th century (art history student alert!)
-Magnificent Obsession 

The cinematography in this whole sequence is breathtaking...
-Cinema Cities 


It *is* a crime thriller, but it's more heartfelt and intimate and could very well be categorized as a love story... 
-Sorta That Guy 

The movie isn’t what I expected, but in ways that were very pleasant. 
-Wick's Picks 


In its best moments, Witness is some straight-up Terence Malick magic hour Days of Heaven shit...
-Dancing Dan 

That atypical reserve gives the cop drama a unique contemplative charge within its genre. 
- The Film Experience

I went for a shot that embraces the silence...
-Scopophiliac at the Cinema 

a romantic drama that forgets its supposed to be a thriller until the last 20 minutes
-Drink Your Juice, Shelby 


Perhaps the most impressive moment of Ford's career 
-Cinematic Corner

 

What is your favorite shot from Witness? When was the last time you'd seen it?

Next week on "Best Shot": Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page in THE BEGUILED (1971) to be remade by Sofia Coppola (!)

Tuesday
Apr122016

The Act of Seeing in "Witness"

Peter Weir's Oscar nominated Witness (1985) was not chosen for our Best Shot series for its title, though that's as apt a logline for this series as any. The title refers to young Samuel Lapp (Lukas Hass, in a sterling child performance) but it neatly doubles as a surprisingly hushed command to the audience out there in the dark.

Lukas Haas figures it out at the police station

The story may spring from an abrupt violent murder in a public bathroom which Samuel sees, wide-eyed, from a bathroom stall but there's very little about the hit drama that is as in your face as its story beats and genre might otherwise suggest. From its earliest longshot of Amish villagers coming into view above a field of grass, to its sublimely casual farewell of its last shot (with two men crossing paths outside the home of the woman they both love), the movie is surprisingly gentle and patient.

Though violence bookends the events and the movie's sheer quality grants it that Oscar ready "Best" scale, Witness is actually something of a miniature. Weir focuses nearly all our energy on watching our good cop hero John Book (Harrison Ford, perfection), live among the Amish as he hides from the bad guys, figuring out his next move, rather than hunting them down. That atypical reserve gives the cop drama a unique contemplative charge within its genre. And Peter Weir and John Seale's beautiful work in composition and lighting keeps you entranced throughout whether you're watching barn raising, peach canning, or cow milking, or a very odd couple (city cop and Amish widow) hoping the other isn't seeing their longing. The light through windows and from sun or (often) lamps is always artfully caressing these marvelous faces (kudos to casting director Diane Crittendon for going with unknowns or barely knowns for the Amish characters and giving Viggo Mortensen his first feature film role). In another amazing shot about seeing, the Amish father finds his daughter and the cop dancing in the barn and they're lit behind by the lamp and the headlights from Book's car. It's one of the only shots that feel theatrically staged but it works because it's so heightened, the father's distorted suspicious understanding and the couple feeling guilty about sins they haven't yet committed.

But it's an atypical shot, in which we're essentially barred from looking, that emerges as one of this great film's most potent images

Harrison Ford earns this Oscar nomination.

In this phone call sequence, John Book realizes that his partner has been murdered. He hangs up the phone and the camera waits behind him as he processes and makes a second far more impulsive call. Though we're not seeing our star in the traditional sense his character and the details of his current situation are laid bare. The barely surpressed rage in his voice and his slew of profanities and threats paired with the camera angle seem to be protecting Book from himself, the way Book self-edits and is careful to behave as a guest in Rachel's home. The crisp details of the image (the textures of that borrowed Amish hat, the sweat on his hair, the minute shifting in his knotted neck) all add indelibly to this frightening flash of a good man letting the beast out.

Tellingly the very next shot of John Book, has him back in the horse and buggy, head bowed momentarily as if with shame. And then he explodes again when he sees a tourist taunting his new Amish friend (Alexander Godunov). Book may not be truly assimilating but his alien experiences are forcefully reshaping him in this exquisitely judged movie. 

Monday
Apr112016

Tomorrow Night 

Tomorrow night at The Film Experience - Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Witness (1985). Peter Weir's 80s classic (nominated for 8 Oscars, and not undeservedly) is currently available on Netflix. Revisit and join us.

Tuesday
Apr052016

Best Shot Peck Centennial: Roman Holiday & To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck was an instant sensation at the cinema. He was nominated for Best Actor in his very first year of the movies for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and the hits just kept on coming: The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Twelve O'Clock High (1949). The Academy became less interested in nominating him after that the 1940s but for his Oscar winning and most iconic role (To Kill a Mockingbird) but audiences never stopped loving him. He had key hit films for over 30 years in his big screen career.

Though he was a very politically active liberal he was never interested in running for office himself but he  proved to be an influential politician within the industry itself as a key AMPAS president. 

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in honor of Peck's Centennial, we gave participants the choice between what are arguably his two greatest films, Roman Holiday (1953) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar222016

Hit Me With Daredevil Season 2's Best Shots

I asked Hit Me With Your Best Shot participants to choose an episode or multiple episodes from Daredevil's second season on Netflix -- however they wanted to do it -- and write up their choice for a Best Shot. Because the second season has been available for less than a week, we're eschewing the traditional Visual Index so you don't have anything spoiled for you. Read with caution and quit on the episodes you haven't yet seen.

9 heroic blogs
Blue Canary (S1) 
Awards Madness (S2. Episode 1)
The Film Experience (S2. Episodes 1-3)
Sorta That Guy (S2. Episodes 1-3)
Cinematic Corner (S2. Episodes 1-6) 
Magnificent Obsession (Entire Second Season)
I Want to Believe (Entire Second Season)
Wick's Picks (Entire Second Season + a little Jessica Jones
Movie Motorbreath (Entire Second Season) 

NEXT TUESDAY:  We're a little early for April Fool's Day but we're still doing a notorious bad movie from a respected director, the psycho sexual sci-fi Zardoz (1974) directed by John Boorman and starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling

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