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Entries in Cinematography (270)

Wednesday
Jun222016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 2: Firing Squads and Flop Sweat

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Oscar-winning classic, Team Experience is revisiting the picture, tag team relay style. In Chapter 1, Nathaniel discussed our first look at George and Martha as they "welcomed" Nick and Honey into their home for a late night boozy marital bout. The first true bomb had just gone off when George realized that Martha had broken their "rules"... we rejoin the party now as George strikes back.

 Pt 2 by Daniel Crooke

My first wallop by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was in my early years of high school after developing a formative penchant for emotionally explosive character dramas, iconic Hollywood movie stars, and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Once I learned of this film’s existence, I snatched up the first secondhand DVD I could find. It may have proved a bad role model; I shouted and scowled around the house for days, hunched in doorways with a clinking tumbler full of iced tea. The drama was just too magnificent to leave on the screen and, especially in this section, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have so much fun spitting poison that their hysterical wickedness becomes infectious.

Through my green teenage lens of inexperience, I thought George and Martha should divorce immediately, move on with their lives, and leave this self-destructive cycle in the rear view. Jesus, can you imagine their Tinder profiles? Now that time and experience have obliterated my preconceptions of the idyllic American relationship, I can plainly see that they need one another to survive. They’ve got an arrangement in their marriage that – however revolting or sadomasochistic it may seem to the outsider – more or less works for them.

32:11 ....As long as they stay within the bounds. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jun222016

Best Shot(s): The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Season 7 Episode 16


The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Written and Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus 

When you watch a lot of movies you inadvertently end up drawing comparisons between films that you wouldn't have thought to put in conversation previously. It's as if you've accidentally become a guest programmer of a repertory theater or a local festival. Such was the case this week when I (not intentionally) watched Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) nearly back to back and shook my fists to the heavens and cursed the name of anyone who ever regurgitated the lie that you have to "open up" stage plays to make them work on screen. 

Tears. not totally bitter yet but she's getting there.

Sometimes half the power of a text is in its site-specific constriction. So I went from George & Martha's messy drab campus housing with a bar (or at least its contents) in every room, to the stylish studio apartment of fashion designer Petra Von Kant which was paradoxically both over-decorated and minimalist, and both frozen in place and ever-shifting without explanation (Wasn't the bed over there in the last scene? Can these mannequins move around the room at will like the toys in Pixar movies?). I loved every second of both films and especially, perhaps paradoxically for someone who prefers short movies, the foreboding sense that there was no way to exit either film, ever, unless you accepted your fate and drowned in their contagious neuroses.

All it takes to make a play cinematic when it becomes a movie is great filmmakers. That's it. That's the whole formula...

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Thursday
Jun162016

Best Shot: "One From the Heart"

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot was derailed by a very tough communal week and also a busy one for entirely different reasons for yours truly. But a few of our regular participants soldiered on. Please read their lovely pieces on this underappreciated Francis Ford Copoola curiousity from the early 80s. I think you can see a bit of it in the DNA of Moulin Rouge! if you need extra incentive to watch it on Amazon Prime.

Antagony & Ecstasy chose...

The film that was meant to be a quick cheapie designed to provide a financial shot in the arm to the fledgling American Zoetrope, but instead almost destroyed the company that Coppola had dreamed up as a sort of director-driven filmmaker's commune. It's one of the most idiosyncratic films of its era, overwhelmingly pleasurable despite being entirely unlikable and toxic in every possible way. I have no idea if it's a great film or a terrible one that could only have been made by a great talent. Frankly, I don't know that I care one way or the other: when all is said and done, we have the film itself, and I adore it even as it maddens me.

Sorta That Guy chose...

Apparently Coppola insisted that the whole thing be shot on a sound stage to make it feel more artificial, which he might have seen as a good thing, but... 

Dancin' Dan on Film chose...

To call Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart "stylized" would be an understatement. To call it "artificial" would be even more of an understatement. It is, by a pretty good margin, the strangest American film I've ever seen, and were it not for Nobuhiko Obayashi's completely batshit insane House, it would be the absolute weirdest fucking film I've ever seen, period.

 

Next Tuesday June 21st
I promise we will get back on track with RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER'S THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT. Please watch it on any of these services and join us. It's shot by one of my all time favorite cinematographers, Michael Ballhaus. [Hulu | Amazon | Netflix | iTunes

Tuesday
May312016

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 

BLONDE VENUS (1932)
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 

Tuesday
May312016

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...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May262016

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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Wednesday
May252016

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...

Click to read more ...

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