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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (227)

Wednesday
Jul272016

HMWYBS: "The Turning Point"

Bancroft & Maclaine reminisce in The Turning PointBest Shot 1977 Party. Chapter 2
The Turning Point (1977)
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Cinematography by: Robert Surtees

When The Turning Point is remembered today, on the rare occasion that you hear it name-checked, it is nearly always in connection to its status as Oscar's all time loser (11 nominations without a win). That "achievement" was later shared when Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985) met the same Oscar fate, entering the competition as a very big ticket and coming away empty-handed. It's surely no coincidence that both films are women's pictures. Oscar has grown increasingly wary of films about and for women over their 88 year history; that's not a mark on the films themselves but a stain on film culture and the Oscars. 1977 was in some significant ways, the very last Oscar year to be dominated by women. The sole "boys" movie up for the top prize was Star Wars, which perhaps also not coincidentally became the film which most Hollywood films aspired to be thereafter. Yes, 80% of the Best Picture nominees in 1977 were actually about women. Can you imagine it?!? That's a huge percentage which has, alas, not happened again in the 39 years since. Most Best Picture years since have been the reverse of those numbers, when in a more sane world it'd be about 50/50 since, you know, that's actually how the human race breaks down. 

Bronze. I think this is trying to be the film's signature image, but there are two many climaxes preceding it and following it to quite pull it off.

But now we're straying into Oscar stats when what we really want to talk about is this ballet melodrama and its gauzy prettiness. Worthy of 11 Oscar nominations? Surely not but that's not because of its subject, its genre, or its cast of accomplished women. 

The still rising director Herbert Ross (best known today, arguably, as the director who warred with Julia Roberts on Steel Magnolias) had come to fame on Goodbye Mr Chips (1969) and two Barbra Streisand movies (Funny Lady & The Owl & The Pussycat) but 1977 was undoubtedly his career peak. He directed not one but two of the five Best Picture nominees that year (The Goodbye Girl & The Turning Point). The cinematographer Robert Surtees, on the other hand, came to The Turning Point late in his very illustrious career, already a three time Oscar winner. One imagines it's the theatrically lit dance sequences (and there are a lot of them, even if few are given room to really breathe) that secured the nomination but I've opted not to focus on them lest we simply be sighing and sharing 43 photos of Mikhail Baryshnikov in his prime. (Good god, that man.)

Silver. Four characters and many of the film's themes intermingling playfully...

And besides, The Turning Point is more of a soap opera than a ballet drama, however much it thinks of itself as the latter. If the film had been more focused and self aware (the movie has way too many characters and too many competing arcs going on it might have really embraced this beautiful shot above which is preceded by a beautifully casual line of dialogue.

Do you want to see something wonderful?

In the shot, which feels like a coda to the climax (though there's 15 minutes left) we see Deedee (Oscar nominated Shirley Maclaine) and Wayne (Tom Skerritt), two former dancers, spying on their ballerina daughter Emilia (Oscar nominated Leslie Browne) rehearsing with an eccentric old woman who was once a prima ballerina. It's a funny, and sweet moment and though you can't quite make it out in the screenshot above given the quality of the print we're looking at, you see all four characters and it's a gorgeously casual visual reminder of the movie's ideas about generational baton-passing, parents vicarious living through their children, and the bittersweet acceptance of shifting roles when people age out of what they thought of as their life's calling.

Best Shot.

But honestly, the movie is too muddled to really nail that. So my choice for best shot is something simpler but quite  impactful, even with its beigeness and muted lighting. The movie has spent so much time focusing on DeeDee's restless reluctance to make peace with her now decades-old decision to become a mother and leave the stage, and her envy of both her daughter and her best friend Emma (Oscar nominated Anne Bancroft, who is sensational so I apologize that these shots don't focus on her!) that even after a sweet mother/daughter moment with the flowers, in what should be the happiest scene for all involved, she turns away from the party. It's a wonderfully composed stinging image; DeeDee is never happy with where she is.

And as she turns away from the joyful gathering behind her, the one she should be enjoying celebrating both her passion (ballet) and her beloved daughter, we know exactly what she's looking at, before the editor even cuts there. It's Emma, just as lonely and struggling, in the darkness of an empty stage. 

BEST SHOT 77 - WANT MORE?

Here are other articles from this weeklong party celebrating the Films of 1977:

Dancin Dan on Film gazes at Julia
Timothy Brayton who has really gone the extra mile with writeups on nearly the whole category already!
• Christian Bonamusa loves the hats in Julia and the aftermath in The Turning Point
• Film Mix Tape looks at both Islands in the Stream and Close Encounters 
• Rachel's Reviews looks at Close Encounters 

Up Next: Looking for Mr Goodbar, a must-see time capsule of sexual revolution angst, fear, self-loathing, curiosity, and great performances. You can watch it on YouTube.

Monday
Jul252016

HMWYBS: "Islands in the Stream"

Best Shot 1977 Party. Chapter 1
Islands in the Stream (1977)
Directed by: Franklin J Schaffner
Cinematography by: Fred J Koenekamp


No, dear readers, quit humming.

Though this post is retro it is not about Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers' classic Grammy-winning 80s duet. Islands in the Stream is also the name of a 1977 movie very loosely adapted from a collection of possibly unfinished Ernest Hemingway stories which were released after his death under this title. I regret to inform that I had not even heard of it, the film or the book. The three sections of Hemingway's posthumous book include his previously published "The Old Man and the Sea," something I had heard of. (I'm not an animal.) 

The poster to your left begins with the tagline:

How long has it been since you've seen a really good movie?

Which was maybe not the best marketing tactic in March of 1977 considering what a sensational film year 1976 was and it had just ended. What ingrates! But that's a topic for another day.

George C Scott and David Hemming watching Scott's boys fishing

The internet doesn't provide much quick info on what people thought of this film back in the day but it does hold the scrappy distinction of being a first quarter release that ended up competing at the Oscars an entire year later (and we know how depressingly difficult that is to pull off).  After the jump, a few thoughts on the movies visuals and a little inappropriate ogling of 80s hunk Hart Bochner in his film debut...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul192016

Best Shot(s): Disney's "Zootopia"

Each year we throw an animated movie into the mix of our Best Shot season. It's a handy reminder that Best Shot is about more than just camera work and lighting actors and sets but how filmmaking teams choose to tell the stories they're telling. But even if we think of it only as a celebration of cinematography, animated films have been upping their game there, too, famously hiring high profile cinematographers as consultants as CG animation really took over the world in the last 20 years.

Since we're counting on Zootopia,  one of the year's most beloved films, to be one of the nominees (though it's too early to say "frontrunner") for Best Animated Feature we give it pride of place here today now that it's out on BluRay and DVD. My own choice will come tomorrow due to a last minute screening. But please do enjoy these Best Shot articles from around the web today.

ZOOTOPIA
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush 
Production Design by: David Goetz and Dan Cooper
Lighting: There are over 45 people listed in Zootopia's credits with "lighting" in their title. 

There are so many great things about this film, but it's its world building I'd like to focus on...
-Sorta That Guy 

People say the messaging is too heavy-handed... I would like to introduce you to something called a FABLE!
- Rachel's Reviews 

It's so damn noir... 
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

Despite how simple and brief, it still manages to be the defining moment of the film...
-Conman at the Movies *new participant*


The film’s lesson of appearances vitally works in both ways...
-Film Mix Tape

Judy and Nick’s arc is great. And for me, it culminates here...
- Storyphile 

I have a lot of feels about this masterwork...
-Anna, Look! *new participant*

 

Next Week's Special Party (Monday-Friday)
1977's Cinematography Nominees. Pick one of the five films and join us. Details here!

Saturday
Jul162016

Next Two "Best Shot" Episodes: Zootopia + Cinematography of '77

Watch the movies. Pick a shot. join us! You can see all the past episodes here.

 

Tuesday Evening, July 19th
ZOOTOPIA (2016, Howard, Moore, Bush. 108 minutes)
It's the second biggest global hit of the year and now that it's available for home viewing let's have a second look at this delightful animated comedy about a utopia threatened when predators go wild again. 

BEST SHOT SPECIAL: Mon Jul 24- Fri Jul 29th
Oscar Battles: Best Cinematography 1977

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Vilmos Zsigmond
ISLANDS IN THE STREAM Fred J Koenekamp
JULIA Douglas Slocombe 
LOOKING FOR MR GOODBAR William A Fraker
TURNING POINT Robert Surtees 

Choose one or more of Oscar's 1977 Cinematography nominees for your "Best Shot" pleasure. We'll reajudicate the cinematography Oscar battle of 1977 over the final week of July. If this sounds crazy, please note that 1977 happens to be our "Year of the Month" and four of those five titles were also nominated for Best Supporting Actress so we'll be watching them anyway for the Smackdown so this is time management...albeit of an ambitious kind. That week at the blog we'll post our favorite image from each of those movies one a day along with links to whichever you've discussed at your blog, tumblr, twitter, or facebook. 

 

Tuesday
Jul122016

Best Shot(s): Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Commence squealing. For what could be more delightful than an evening with two perfect musical comedy performances? It's time to talk Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The film, currently streaming on Netflix, was the runner up in our Readers Choice polling for Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
20th Century Fox. Released on July 15th, 1953 in New York
Director: Howard Hawks; Cinematographer: Harry J Wild 
Starring: Jane Russell as 'Dorothy', Marilyn Monroe as 'Lorelei', Charles Coburn as 'Piggy', Elliott Reid as 'Malone', Tommy Noonan as 'Esmond Jr'

Howard Hawk's classic was not the first iteration of the story. It was based on the stage musical which itself was based on a book which had already spawned two non-musicals. The 1949 stage musical, a huge hit on Broadway, had introduced Carol Channing to the world. New star Marilyn Monroe got Channing's  star-making "Lorelei" role for the screen. (The same thing would happen to Channing sixteen years later with her other signature role Hello Dolly) But sometimes a movie turns out so spectacularly well that it's impossible to imagine it existing in any other shape than the one it's in, all other versions prior or subsequent feel like faint cultural echoes. 

Best Shots after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul062016

Visual Index: Working Girl's Best Shot(s)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Working Girl (1988)
Director: Mike Nichols
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus

I wasn't fair to Working Girl in 1988. When it won the reader poll easily for coverage here on Best Shot, the old grudge flared up again. 'Why do people love this movie so much?' I thought. You see the Oscar race is often distorting. In 1988 Working Girl was a last minute disrupter with its Christmas bow, and I never forgave it for costing Bull Durham, Running on Empty, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit major nominations and prizes. There's no proof of course that it did -- but I believed it wholeheartedly.

But watching the film again, away from that distorting horse race, I could enjoy it fully without name-checking those films I held more dear. There's so much to enjoy all told. "It plays," as they say. It plays beautifully. Now don't get me wrong. I still wouldn't have nominated it for six Oscars. Six! But let's not return to the grudge and let's enjoy this mainstream bullseye and the cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, one of the cinema's greatest DPs. He's 80 now and still doesn't have an Oscar. He should be near the very top of Oscar's list for an Honorary.

See Nathaniel's 3 favorite shots and other Best Shot choices 'round the web after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul052016

Let the River Run... To "Best Shot" Tomorrow Night.

Just as a reminder we have a very full very accessible month of Best Shot coming up. I'll give you an extra day on Working Girl (1988) -- your reader's poll pick now streaming on Netflix. So, we'll post the roundup tomorrow (Wednesday) night instead of tonight. I figured everyone is probably nursing hangovers from fireworks and parties today and getting caught up on their regular lives.

But if you're eager to get started in reading about the Best Picture nominated hit comedy, a first 'Best Shot' entry is already up at Film Mix Tape. Check it out.