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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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TWO OPINIONS ON MAPS TO THE STARS
Nathaniel's Julianne Spazzing & Glenn's Cronenberg Finger Wagging 

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"If I had to guess why Cronenberg went with a largely "invisible" or even non-style style, I'd say it has to do with his approach to the narrative, which is kind of a bait and switch, setting us up for a hollywood satire and then giving us a final act that plays more like a myth or a fairy tale." -Roark

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Entries in Cinematography (142)

Tuesday
May132014

Visual Index ~ Blow-Up's Best Shots

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot topic is Michelangelo Antonio's new wave classic Blow-Up (1966) and we're dedicating it to Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave, the first biography written about her which is released this week from Pegasus Press. I read an advanced copy on my cruise last month. The author is Dan Callahan, who I know here in New York City and who is a tried and true Actressexual™ (and loved that word the moment Nick and I coined it). He's previously written a book on Barbara Stanwyck so you know he has good taste. Because he values actresses, the biography is more concerned with her gift onscreen and stage than her scandal-laden politics, though those details are there, too. (Dan also picked his favorite shot from the movie for our little weekly viewing party.)

Imagine my surprise when Vanessa Redgrave was barely in the movie! I had remembered the film quite differently but this movie is a slippery one, as you can tell from the write-ups. We had more dissenters than we usually get when we pull films directly from the canon.

Blow-Up's 7 Best Shots?
as determined by the brave cinephiles playing the Hit Me With Your Best Shot game
[Click on the images for the corresponding articles]

As critical an indictment of the camera eye as anyone who made his living on the backside of a camera could possible make." 
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

The photographer as minotaur in his own labyrinth...
- The Film Experience 


More than just a simple glamour shot..."
-The Film's The Thing 


 

We're just as paranoid as Thomas is...

- The Entertainment Junkie

 

 Redgrave makes you ask all of these questions and far more."
- Dan Callahan author of "Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave" 

Creating his own story using still frames..."
- Intifada


The guy can’t decide what he should be doing, and I think that’s my problem with the movie..."
-Coco Hits NY

I took my cues from Antonioni and his lead and went for something that captivated me simply for the mood it conveys..."
- Film Actually 

 

NEXT ON HIT ME
Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000). This film was part of our first season of Best Shot so this one, like Mean Girls last month, is a reprise. But if you weren't with us in 2010, now's the time to join the cause before the Mutants Strike Back in X-Men Days of Future Past which opens on the 23rd.

Tuesday
May062014

Visual Index ~ 3 Women's Best Shots

Given that 3 Women is a different picture every time I lay eyes on it, I'm dying to see what other people see in it, too. Thus, this brilliantly strange atypical Robert Altman is an ideal film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, wherein everyone is welcome to choose what they think of as the "best shot" from the pre-selected film.  Find out what others saw in this picture by clicking on the photos to read the corresponding articles at these fine blogs.

11 BEST SHOTS FROM 3 WOMEN (1977)

They float about as a pair throughout the film as creepily as those cinematic twins in another Shelley Duvall classic...
-The Film's The Thing 

She tries it on for size, decides she's gotten enough, and goes on her merry way... 
-Dancin Dan on Film

 

A magnificent construction that highlights all of these themes while subtly foreshadowing what will happen later in the film...
-The Entertainment Junkie 

I’m a sucker for shots involving reflections, so I find this one very beautiful...
- Coco Hits NY 

The film opens in a sort of dream space and never quite leaves even as many sequences (especially in the first hour or so) seem fairly straight forward...  
-Musings and Stuff 


I would attend the hell out of one of Millie's dinner parties...
- Stranger Than Most 

"Persona 2: One More Woman Makes 3"
-Best Shot in the Dark  

Point #2 is that this is the exact moment where the distinction between Millie and Pinky starts to break down...
- Antagony & Ecstasy 

Dreams can't hurt ya."
-Intifada 


Millie, singular and perpetually out of place Millie, with twins both literal and figurative...
- The Film Experience 

 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this creepy, disturbing film...
- Film Actually  

Next on Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) 

Tuesday
Apr292014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Mean Girls (2004)

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we're reairing one of the earliest of episodes. We invited new readers to select a shot if they weren't around in 2010 when "Best Shot" first began so this survey of Mean Girls best shots, as chosen by each participant (click on the link for the corresponding article) is an fusion of old and new pieces 'round the web. Here's my choice:

And what I originally wrote:

The camera tracks Regina through the hallway after she's hatched her brilliant revenge plan. She's regained control of the screaming rage we saw in the prior scene and she's just gliding through the hallways, with a neat hint of actressy athleticism. Gone is the sex kitten and in her place the marathon runner. 

The shot functions like a reverse Hansel & Gretel; the witch leaving a bread crumb trail. In the bookend shot that follows the camera is still moving, gliding away from her, but the witch isn't. Witness her hungry self-satisfaction while she watches the children gobble up the crumbs; They're already baking in her oven!

So, that's my choice. What's yours?

14 MORE BEST SHOT(s)
as chosen by 16 of the greatest people you'll ever know
click on the image for the corresponding article 

a blink-and-you-miss moment in the film... absolutely hilarious."
-Sorta That Guy 


The best performance of her career..."
-Coco Hits New York 


The conspicuous gap between them...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

No shot in the film makes me bust out loud laughing more..."
-Best Shot in the Dark 


I love to think about Regina...
-Intifada 


Each of "The Plastics" has great lines, but Karen takes the cake"
- Dean A 

This could not be more on point."
- I Want to Believe 


...captured the insanely fun spirit of the film but also encapsulated the plot really well."
- Awkward is What We Aim For 

And she's not just maintaining a place among North Shore royalty, she's threatening to take over..."
-Cinemamelie


She even describes herself as 'a woman possessed'..."
-Film Actually 


...a wicked Madonna from a Renaissance tableaux."
-Movies Kick Ass

The queen of the jungle..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 


Daniel Franzese, far and away the funniest part of Mean Girls"
- Serious Film 

Her flock who've come to worship..."
-Musings and Stuff 

 

My pick for Best Shot has actually accrued more meaning over time....
-Dancin Dan

 

Oh you girls keep me young I luv ya..."
-The Film's The Thing 

 

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Next on 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' - JOIN US
05/06 Altman's strange / wonderful Three Women (1977) with Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek
05/13 Antontioni's mod classic Blow-Up (1965) Vanessa Redgrave and a mysterious murder 
05/20 Choose any or multiple Batman films. Pick and post your fav shot for his 75th

Friday
Apr252014

Tribeca: Posturing Bank Robbing Beauties in "Electric Slide"

More from Nathaniel at the Tribeca Film Festival

Electric Slide
There's something about the Killer Films logo, that has me rooting for the film that follows every time. Christine Vachon's company has shepherded so many confrontational and interesting indie films and voices into the arthouse over the years that it has both a nostalgic pull AND an edge, and those things rarely come conjoined. 

Electric Slide, about a bank robbing loser in 80s Los Angeles, definitely has the confrontational edge part though it's not what you might call "interesting". The only likeable characters are way on the periphery (Vinessa Shaw is engaging despite very little to do as a furniture store employee) like the pretty bank tellers who really sell their brief moments of victimization and carnal attraction to Eddie. But as a film it's intensely narcissistic, less concerned with what you think of it, than what pose it's striking and whether you'd hate-fuck it. Eddie, the protagonist, is a slurry-voiced fey womanizer (Jim Sturgess, A-C-T-I-N-G, for better and mostly worse) who is a perpetual delusional fuck-up. Early in the film he speaks of Los Angeles as suffering from "Success Exhaustion" but he doesn't have that problem. He owes everyone money including a violent French gangster (Christopher Lambert in Eurotrash mode). He steals from wives he's sleeping with (Chloë Sevigny, owning her awesome wardrobe and Patricia Arquette, just owning). He takes up with a young beauty (Isabel Lucas) who is his only rival for empty vacant posturing, they're aspirational fashion models in place of characters. Or maybe that is their character in a soulless Bling Ring kind of way? Instead of repaying his debts withs his loot he keeps spending it. 

Electric Slide employs a countdown format with 10 'chapters' and though the film does become slightly more tense as it progresses what's actually happening in the scenes is so similar that the countdown is reduced to affectation rather than a storytelling technique. And much of the film feels arbitrary - you could remove any of its subplots or any single scene and it'd be the same film. Still, and all, the film is pretty to look at with enticing cinematography and interesting frame composition from debut director Tristan Patterson and his DP Darran Tiernan so I'd love to see another film from the pair. The production design (Michael Grasley, from Sympathy for Delicious) and costuming (Jennifer Johnson whose biggest gig in the past was Beginners) fetishize the 80s well, too. If it adds up to nothing more than a gorgeous hipster fashion editorial, so what? With so many indies so indifferently shot from either budget constraints or the lack of an eye for visual storytelling, sometimes surface beauty is its own reward. 

Visuals: A-; The Rest of It: C-

Tuesday
Apr152014

Seasons of Bette: The Letter (1940)

Multi-tasking again. Herewith a new episode of three recurring series: Seasons of Bette, "Introducing..." and Hit Me With Your Best Shot in which I, Nathaniel, refuse to show you Bette Davis's face. For here's a perverse truth: none of my three favorite shots of The Letter (1940) include it.

honorable mention: Leslie recounts her crime

Pt. 1 "Introducing..."
Meet Leslie Crosbee, murderess. We're only one minute into the movie when she unloads six shots purposefully nto the back of one Geoff Hammond who is attempting to escape her house. He doesn't make it beyond the foot of her steps. Her face is a frozen severe mask as she drops the gun. It's Bette Davis's most potent entrance into a movie yet.

Where the hell do you go after your protagonist makes an entrance like that? To her confession, as it turns out. William Wyler, here adapting a play by W. Somerset Maugham, is appreciated today mostly as a great actor's director, but he's so much more than that. He's not content to rest on the power of his actors alone, despite the three Oscars and multiple nominations they'd already received at this point. In one of his boldest moves, he even lets the entire cast turn their backs on us -- this movie is cold -- while Mrs Crosbee calmly recounts an attempted rape and the resultant murder in great detail. The camera (cinematography by Oscar favorite Tony Gaudio) becomes a kind of detached slave, following Bette's vocal cue and showing us now vacant rooms, steps and floorboards, as if it exists only as an empty stage for her drama. Given how rapturously and literally shady our leading lady is (oh the sinister cast shadows of film noir!) it's not much of a spoiler to tell you that she's a liar.

best shot: the equally shady widow

Pt. 2 Best Shot
The title character in this noir, is an incriminating letter written by Leslie which is in the possession of Mr Hammond's mysterious Asian wife (Gale Sondegaard in "yellow face"). The movie is casually racist, a product of its time, or at least suggestive of the casual racism of its time. Leslie's lawyer remark that Hammond's marriage to this woman, immediately makes the colonist of questionable character and thus presumed guilty of the rape Leslie has accused him of. And Leslie herself is the most verbally racist of the film's characters, grotesquely repulsed by Mrs. Hammond

Then i heard about that -- that native woman Oh, I  couldn't believe it. i wouldn't believe it. I saw her walking in the village with those hideous spangles, that chalky painted face, those eyes like a cobra's eyes. 

But fortunately for the film, this fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" in any scene in which she appears actually serves to level the playing field. That's especially true of this scene which is tricked up in every way possible with "Asian" signifiers in the scoring, decor, and "dragon lady" costuming (it's worth noting that Mrs Hammond is the only Asian in the film costumed and presented this way as if she's barely real at all but a projection of Leslie's own jealous and racist obsession with her). And in this case, doesn't one have to excuse or even applaud all the exoticism? If you're going to engage in an epic staredown with Bette Davis in which she must suddenly be cowered by you, you'd better bring it by any means necessary. Sondegaard and the cinematography do.

In a curious way, though, The Letter's most fascinating character is the man with six bullets in his back. What kind of a man could own the vengeful hearts of two such lethal women? In his own stiff way he's the perfect embodiment of film noir's powerfully confusing phobic relationship to the female gender. It loves them like no other genre while also living in perpetual fear of their power and agency.

runner up shot: Guadio & Wyler find several great uses for Bette's hands in this film. I love her fingerprints grazing her victim here.

To be Continued...
Tonight at 10 PM we'll post the visual index of all Best Shot entries for this famous noir. 
Thursday Seasons of Bette continues, back-tracking one year for Dark Victory since we fell behind.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Visual Index ~ The Letter (1940)

William Wyler's The Letter (1940) was nominated for seven Oscars in 1940 and remains a compelling example of two essential noir staples: dramatic lighting and the art of the femme fatale. I was watching it for Seasons of Bette, but the dramatic cinematography and Bette's heyday called out for a closer investigation from multiple sets of eyes...

The Letter's 11 Best Shots
in rough chronological order (click on the image for the 12 corresponding articles)

Her body language that it bleeds such layers into her character...
-A Fistful of Films

When William Wyler controls the moonlight, it shines with the all power of a Hollywood spotlight...
-We Recycle Movies

'Oh, it was all instinctive. I didn't even know I'd fired.'
- Sorta That Guy 


The right blend of scared innocent and hardened survivalist, enough to be believable to her in-movie audience while sending out signals to the theater audience... 
- Alison Tooey


We are witnessing a flashback occur in the present without leaving the scene...
 
- The Film's The Thing 


The shadows of blinds in the protagonist’s face might be something that we now immediately associate with film noir...
-Coco Hits NY

Wyler is founding noir right here...
- Cal Roth 


This fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" actually serves to level the playing field...
 - The Film Experience 

But what I really love about this particular shot is the costuming...
-Entertainment Junkie

 It's almost like a standoff in a Western, except the women aren't on equal footing... 
- Film Actually


One of the most visual performers of the sound era offers up an entire film's worth of great expressions...
-Antagony & Ecstasy


I try to think this is the moment where the film ends...
-Manuel Betancourt 

 

Next Tuesday night (April 22nd)
Disney's POCAHONTAS (1995). Can you sing with all the colors of the wind? If so, please join us by selecting your best shot. The more pairs of eyes, the better the cinematic visions. [More Upcoming "Best Shot" Episodes]

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