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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (171)

Friday
May222015

Hit Me Amadeus

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT, our cinematography-loving series, returns from hiatus on June 3rd (just under two weeks from now!). Here are your first three movies so start watchin' em! Spread the word, rent the pictures, pick a shot and join our more-the-merrier visual party.

DICK TRACY (1990)
Wednesday, June 3rd

Before live action takes on illustrated fiction were regular, and definitely before they were respectable, Warren Beatty brought his terrific eye to this pop colored live-action conjuring of the classic syndicated detective comic with outlandish looking villains and femme fatales. (Like Sin City minus the gruesome machismo and way more color / fun.) Nominated for 7 Oscars including Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro), the all time best haul for a comic adaptation outside of The Dark Knight. and still the record holder for most wins (3). [Netflix  | iTunes | Amazon]

AMADEUS (1984)
Wednesday, June 10th

Right before this leaves Netflix Instant Watch let's dive deep into arguably the best biopic ever made, Milos Forman's lush battle of wills and talent between Salieri (F Murray Abraham) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Thomas Hulce) the last film ever nominated for two Best Actor Oscars (before category fraud campaigning rendered those a thing of the past). Nominated for 11 Oscars including Best Cinematography (Miroslav Ondrícek) though it lost that one despite 8 wins elsewhere. [Netflix | Amazon

MAGIC MIKE (2012)
Wednesday June 17th

Before the XXL sequel hits theaters for the 4th of July holiday, let's stuff some dollar bills into Channing Tatum's G string in Steven Soderbergh's overachieving male stripper drama. Soderbergh's love of yellow filters (he does his own cinematography as "Peter Andrews") can grate, but this movie is worth drooling at, excuse me looking at again. Nominated for Zero Oscars because... it's a male stripper drama. But obviously this is the one Matthew McConaughey should've won his Oscar for. [Netflix | iTunes | Amazon]

Wednesday
May062015

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 ...

Wednesday
May062015

"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. 

Thursday
Apr302015

Visual Index ~ Bright Star's 'Best Shots'

We're almost to the mid season finale of Hit Me With Your Best Shot. This week's episode looks at Jane Campion's sorely underseen Bright Star (2009). The romantic drama about the poet John Keats and his unconsummated love with the headstrong Fanny Brawne was lost in the 2009 shuffle, but is a true beauty and a worthy entry in Jane Campion's tremendous filmography. It introduced the film world to the then 34 year old DP Greig Frasier, who had previously made shorts and obscure features, before Campion's film provided his breakthrough. He went on to plum assignments like Foxcatcher, Zero Dark Thirty and Snow White and the Huntsman. Frasier has yet to be Oscar-nominated but he's already one of the best DPs in the business.

Even more impressive, given that Bright Star is such a successfully intimate portrait of new love, is that the movie introduced its star Ben Whishaw to its film composer Mark Bradshaw; they were married just three years later. 

Bright Star's Best Shots
11 images chosen by 13 participants
(in the order the articles came in this time)
Click on the pictures for their corresponding articles 

One of the prettiest things I've ever seen.
-Zitzelfilm

Bright Star is all about the subtle touches of skin..."
-A Fistful of Films 

...so many beautiful images that also happen to be encapsulations of the universal aspects of falling in love"
-Coco Hits NY

What is it that she spies beyond the boundaries of her domesticity, fenced off by windows and hidden behind opaque curtains?"
-Lam Chop Chop 


In a film with mostly subdued feelings, this particular scene is electric with emotions..."
-Sorta That Guy

The years have been kind to the film..."
-Film Actually

 

This is the first time i’ve done a HMWYBS where I was absolutely disinterested with a film..."
- I Want to Believe

 

Fanny, trapped and bleached of color, but already pushing against her confines with a creative act."
-Anne Marie, The Film Experience 

a film about four things: romance, Romanticism, being outside, and costuming..."
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

What is young love if not...
-Evan Stewart

I truly and deeply hope that more people will seek this film out."
-Movie Nut

 Unrequited love...
-Hey Norge

Campion has rightfully earned a reputation as a fiercely feminist filmmaker..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 

 

NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT IS THE MID-SEASON FINALE. YOU HAVE A CHOICE OF ONE OF THREE MOVIES FOR THE ORSON WELLES CENTENNIAL:  CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS or THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. See something you've always meant to see and pick a shot. You won't regret it. 

 

Thursday
Apr302015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's Bright Star

Have you participated in Hit Me With Your Best Shot? Visual index coming tonight! 

As an end to this month-long series on Jane Campion, Bright Star presents a perfect kind of artistic summation for the writer/director. This John Keats romance is part of a tradition of filmmakers and playwrights making art about art. Though presumably about the life of an artist, the  finished play or film acts as its creator’s thesis statement about sublime inspiration (Minnelli’s Lust for Life), beauty and pain (Julie Taymor’s Frida), the thin line between madness and creation (Scorsese's The Aviator), or the creative process (Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George). Inevitably, these films and plays are as much about their creators as they are about their subjects.

Jane Campion had already made one such thesis statement earlier with An Angel at my Table, a biopic designed to explore the relationship between otherness and originality. By telling the story of Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) from the perspective of his fiance Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) in Bright Star, Campion explores not the creation of art, but rather art’s creative power. The audience sees Keats through Fanny’s eyes - Campion does love personal narratives - and so both Fanny and the film blossom into color. But first, we must be introduced to our young protagonist.

Campion's colorful thoughts on art and love after the jump...

Best Shot

"White. A blank canvas, or page."

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr282015

"Best Shot" Mid Season Finale

Why not join the merriest movie club? You only have to 1) watch the movie, 2) take a screengrab of your favorite image and 3) post it somewhere online saying why you chose it. It's that easy!  Here's what's coming right up... only two episodes left until we break for a few weeks. 

Wednesday Night, April 29th BRIGHT STAR (2009)
Thursday Night, April 30th... (you have an extra day due to forgotten scheduling conflict chez moi)
We're joining Anne Marie's "Women's Pictures" series for a Jane Campion (she's been the topic this month). Drown in the beauty of this flowery poetic romance between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and fashionista Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Cinematography by Greg Frasier who Oscar has yet to notice for shame. 
[Amazon Instant |  Netflix Disc | iTunes]

ORSON WELLES CENTENNIAL
WEDNESDAY MAY 6th
mid season finale of HYMYBS 

Your choice experiment! 
CITIZEN KANE or THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS or THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI 
Let's make this one special - challenge a friend to play to expand our club! If they don't have a web space, share their pic as well as yours in your article. To celebrate this cinematic giant on his 100th birthday, experience either his compromised but incredible family epic (...Ambersons is my personal favorite) or Shanghai, the stylish Rita Hayworth noir. If you're feeling really ambitious take on his behemoth debut which many consider the greatest film of all time. 

SHANGHAI (87 minutes): Amazon Instant | iTunes
AMBERSONS (88 minutes): Amazon Instant | iTunes | Netflix Disc 
KANE (119 minutes): Amazon Instant | iTunes | Netflix Disc