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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (107)

Wednesday
Jul032013

Visual Index ~ American Graffiti's Best Shot(s)

Where were you on 7/2? Hopefully watching American Graffiti (1973) to better appreciate today's edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", our collective series in which we invite anyone who loves movies  'round the web to select their favorite image from a pre-selected movie. [Next Wednesday we'll be discussing the brilliant and disturbing Dead Ringers (1988) so do not miss that.] This week we return to simpler times...

1962 by way of 1973, in point of fact, courtesy of George Lucas's first Best Picture nominee, the very fine nostalgia fest American Graffiti which we thought an appropriate choice for the 4th of July Holiday. more...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jun292013

"Where were you in '62?"

Don't forget that Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns Wednesday evening July 3rd. In this series we all watch a movie together and post and write about our favorite image therein.

I chose American Graffiti (1973) for its Americana value for the Holiday week and for the simple fact that I've never seen it and I'm always trying to fill in those gaps in my Oscar knowledge. 

Are you joining us?

Queue them for the next three episodes: American Graffiti, Dead Ringers and Mary Poppins

Friday
May312013

Visual Index ~ Hud's Best Shot(s)

I know it's my own fault since I failed to post on Fantasia last week but I was a bit sad that we had a lower than usual turnout for Hud for this week's "Best Shot" selection (the last of our weekly viewing assignments until the series returns in July for the second half of Season 4). If only so we could all enthuse together about one of the all time great taglines...

the man with the barbed wire soul

...and how it's not false advertising.  

I wish this fine western drama from Martin Ritt had a reputation as humongous as, oh, the one enjoyed by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which I reference primarily because it's also a electric quartet-powered black and white masterpiece from the 1960s and just as worthy of obsessing over.

The following shots, chosen by our wee club this week [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May302013

Cold Eyes and Weary Bodies in "Hud"

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we're celebrating Hud on it's 50th anniversary

Though I readily concede that its my own prejudices as a Yank and a cityboy that get in the way, I rarely associate nuanced feeling with the western genre or artful dialogue with a Texas twang. So Hud (1963) plays like a miracle to me, a major one. This adaptation of Larry McMurty's novel (he would later write screenplays including Brokeback Mountain, which plays like a distant cousin to this 1960s masterpiece) never feels anything less than authentic in its Southwestern reality and yet its pure poetry. Consider this callous but perfectly sculpted line of dialogue from Hud (Paul Newman in arguably his finest hour) to his nephew Lon (Brandon deWilde) who is worrying about Homer's (Melvyn Douglas), the paterfamilia's, waning health. 

Happens to everybody - horses, dogs, men; nobody gets out of life alive

But I'm not really here to talk about the rough beauty of the dialogue in Hud -- though it's never far from my mind -- but the language of the eyes and the body delivering it. And, I rush to add, the award-winning cinematography and composition which package the unimproveable ensemble up so potently. Look at the shadows and the way Newman, bathed in light, become a handsome devil (essentially the truth of his character) his famous blue eyes less like inviting pools of water than icy death. 

But we'll return to close ups shortly. Much of Hud is shot in medium and long shot and everywhere you look, limbs are dangling and swaying and whole bodies are sneaking brief moments of rest, perched on porches, settling into chairs, or suggestively refusing to leave their beds. Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal, as the family's housekeeper Alma, both won deserved Oscars for their inspired work, and they beautifully capture not just the details of their characters but the physicality of people who've worked their bodies every day of their lives whether cattle rustling or scrubbing dishes. The younger characters Lon and Hud, are less exhausted, though there's still a kind of future arthritic effort to their jerky performative posing. 

runner up for best shot. Hud is a big deal

Lonnie: I'll go with you Hud.
Hud: What big deal you got lined up, sport -  a snowcone or something?"

Take one of the best scenes in Hud on the porch of the family house while the characters eat peach ice cream and enter and exit the frame without the camera following them (though Hud is quite cinematic, this particular scene is blocked like a play). Lon and his granddad have a fascinatingly evasive exchange about Hud's dead brother (Lon's dad) and why Homer dislikes his only living son "He knows. You don't need to." Douglas delivers each line with evasive though never rude gruffness, his cards held tight to his chest. When Hud enters the scene and announces a run into town, Lon shifts his attention to the uncle he idolizes but doesn't understand. There's this exquisitely telling funny shot of him mirroring Hud's pose -- while Hud mocks him but invites him to tag along anyway. How brilliant that it takes a second to even figure whose shadow is thrown onto the wall.

The withholding father and his ungrateful child finally  have it out in the film's centerpiece, a truly seismic emotional clash (the first hour being foreshadowing tremor and the second cruel aftershock) which Hud believes is entirely about his dead brother - the son Homer adored - which Homer denies. The righteous father tears into Hud as a man without principle, without empathy for his fellow man, without care for the world around him. Hud listens with silent hostility (he knows it's true) in one of the most gloriously lit and perfectly acted close-ups in all of cinema - my choice for best shot - as water from the well drips down his angry face. That's the closest he'll ever get to human tears in the film though Hud may have once shed them for the mutual loss that ripped them apart 15 years earlier. His cool eyes shift with a cruel smile as the room falls silent until he finds an unexpected nonsequitor to hurt both of them, and shoves the dagger in.

his mamma loved him but she died

My mamma loved me but she died."

This scene never fails to tear me up inside and deeply impress me for myriad reasons but precisely for the writing, the lighting, blocking and precise direction by Martin Ritt (Norma Rae, Cross Creek, Sounder) and the peak moment of Newman's indelible cold, cruel star turn.

Frank Langella the actor recently dissed Paul Newman's acting reputation in his memoir "Dropped Names: Famous Men & Women as I Knew Them" saying that while he was a great movie star he was not a great actor. His reasoning was that Newman lacked the one thing that Langella figures all great actors have - danger.  I can only surmise that Langella never saw Hud. For Paul Newman was both a great movie star and a great actor and Hud is the proof of it. Even if his career had ended there he'd still be legendary. There's enough danger in his hostile beauty in Hud to scar everyone in his orbit. 

Hud: I don't usually get rough on my women. Generally don't have to. 
Alma: You're rough on everyone. 

Other "Best Shot" Must-Reads on Hud For its 50th Anniversary

 

 

Thursday
May232013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Fantasia"

Sorry for the delay on this one. Last night got away from me a little. Okay, a lot. Like Mickey's multiplying brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" the problems in finding blog time just kept expanding. But here we are. This week I asked the Best Shot club to  look at Disney's ambitious Fantasia and choose their Best Shot from the "Rite of Spring" sequence since that riot-inducing Stravinsky composition is now 100 years old and I have a thing for Centennials. Ambitious "Sorcerer" level bloggers were asked to also choose a best shot not from the film as a whole but one from each musical sequence.

 Refresh your screen periodically for more...


Cinesnatch
 I knew Vinci would go the sorcerer level and choose a shot from each segment because he does that anyway even when I don't ask. Image explosions every week over at that blog! 

The Film's The Thing Abstew's magic couldn't cure him of being too sick to write up the shots this week but he still found time to conjure them. Dedication!

Hop Low (swear to God, he has a canonical name, and you can thank me whenever there's a Disney night at bar trivia that I've just helped you to win), the best example in Disney's many long decades of work of instilling personality into a non-speaking character whose face never changes. His clumsy, out-of-step dancing is pretty much as sweet and delicately-expressed as it gets, right up until he finally gets it together in and quickly arrives perfectly in place just in time for the music to stop. That's the moment in the shot I've chosen: when even the clumsy little kid is able at the last second to get everything perfect. An absolute treasure of American animation.

Antagony & Ecstacy is a True Sorcerer of the "Best Shot" series and gives you seven articles for the price of one, covering everything from Mickey Mouse's expert redesign, anthropomorphic mushrooms and exquisite control of color palettes. (If you aren't a regular reader of Tim's blog and you are obsessed with Disney animation, you are missing out. He writes about it often and with much insight)

We Recyle Movies Anne continues to break her writing hiatus for this series and we love her for it. She's also got a shot for every segment and also knows her film history. Here's one observation I wholeheartedly second:

Ostriches eating oddly-shaped fruit is never not funny.

The Entertainment Junkie Jason all loves those animals on parade, the mixture of profane and sacred and has a real recurring thing for reflected images in this series -- which I totally get. I always want to choose them, too!

Dancin' Dan remembers which parts he fast-forwarded as a child (The Rite of Spring - ha!) and loves the feeling of gliding, captured in the "Waltz of the Flowers" section

My own choices are coming soon...

NEXT WEEK'S FILM, the spring finale of Hit Me (which will return in late June or early July), is the 1963 classic "Hud" starring Paul Newman which won three Oscars including Cinematography. It's available for rental on Netflix and instant watch on Amazon Prime.

 

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