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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (141)

Friday
May302014

Two Quickies: How Green Was Maleficent's Valley?

How Green Was My Valley's Best Shot?
I did not forget and I'm grateful to the Best Shot participants who are so faithful and who turned theirs in on time. I fell too behind but here is my choice...

Since I can't choose "every shot of the main street" which John Ford and his cinematographer Arthur C Miller shoot in so many narratively compelling and beautiful ways with any and all the characters, I selected this one, which contains none of the main characters. Unless you stop to consider that the main character is actually the town and its people. This shot is so elegiac, like the coal miners are attending yet another funeral when it fact it's meant to be a celebratory moment. And they're actually outside the local bar... which is right next to the church...which is just down the hill from the coal mine. For all the film's sentiment -- something that threw me off the first time --  the emotional content isn't simplistic. It's generally both beautiful and barbed. The push and pull between nostalgic sentiment and brutal truth always works best in the film's silent-movie moments where no one is narrating and the dialogue is completely secondary to the images. The men look so defeated here, in prayer as they gather for a choral performance which also doubles as an impromptu depressing farewell for more fired miners, who are leaving the village behind.

Please join us next Tuesday night for Zorba the Greek (1964) -  Watch it and pick / post your best shot.

3. While You Wait For an Official Maleficent Review...
I haven't yet fully figured out my take on Maleficent. Maybe I won't? It keeps shapeshifting in my head.  Bird. Man. Dragon. Wolf. I know that many web critics can churn out 1000 words on something they saw 2 minutes ago and do it seemingly all the time. I envy them but a truth: I need more time than that to let movies percolate.  But I did manage to sift through a few of my feelings in this conversation with two movie people I adore: Mister Patches and Katey Rich on their podcast "Fighting in the War Room."

Have a listen and try out their wonderfully frequent podcast if you haven't already.

Tuesday
May272014

Visual Index ~ How Green Was My Valley 

In five seasons we've never done a Best Picture winner for Hit Me With Your Best Shot . But not intentionally. So, here's the first. I asked all willing participants to watch the chosen film - in this case John Ford's 1941 film How Green Was My Valley -  and choose what they think of as the Best Shot. (Next week we're looking at another major Oscar player Zorba the Greek to kick off June's "year of the month" which will be devoted to 1964 so please join us... especially if, like me, you've never seen it. Let's fill those gaps in our Oscar viewing, together!)

How Green Was My Valley is marvelous to look at. Though its reputation has been dulled by beating Citizen Kane to Best Picture that year it's easy to see why it won Best Cinematography for Arthur C Miller (not the playwright) among its 5 Oscars. 

"How Green Was My Valley" Best Shot(s)
click on the photo for the corresponding article at these 8 fine blogs

Doing their very best impression of 19th Century British landscape paintings. And yet, the future sneaks in...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

 

Ford later revisited a similar provincial landscape in "The Quiet Man" with vivid Technicolor results, but the black-and-white cinematography here is just as lush...
-Film Actually

The beauty of the early scenes makes the ravages of time seem all the more cruel... 
-We Recycle Movies 


I just looked at these images and couldn’t imagine them being photographed any other way…
-Coco Hits NY 

Pretty scenery? Check. Religion, singing, and coal mining all have something to do with this moment? Check...
-Allison Tooey 


- The Film Experience 


Capitalism vs. religion, new ways vs. old ways. These are the main tensions of the history of industrialization...
- The Entertainment Junkie 

An uphill battle against the smoke and ash that threaten to cover her town...
-Lam Chop Chop 

If you haven't yet seen it, do these shows make you want to?

Tuesday
May202014

Visual Index ~ X-Men's Best Shots

A long time ago in an X-Mansion 30 miles away*... the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series began. It was July 2010 when, on a 10th anniversary rewatch of the mutant team franchise kickoff I came up with the series. Only two people joined me for that first episode and one of those images is lost to the whims of jpg storage on the internet but the series grew quite a lot from there. With X-Men Days of Future Past nearly upon us (well, it already took me. It took me, with the stink of filthy mutant dna on its breath, and I liked it. I liked it!) it's time to honor Bryan Singer's influential superhero team movie again.

This was a rerun Hit Me episode of sorts so participation is low but you'd all best be back for the next few episodes! Promise me you'll gaze upon the movies and make judgments - blue pinky, adamantium claws swear it.

8 BEST SHOTS FROM X-MEN (2000)
Directed by Bryan Singer / Shot by Newton Thomas Sigel
Click on the images for the 9 corresponding articles

Shots that go "WUMPH!", and not shots that sneak in and tap on the shoulder...
-Antagony & Ecstacy 

Isn't it a beauty, narratively speaking?
-The Film Experience 

...an arresting impression.
-Best Shot in the Dark 

I had to go with this shot because of the relationship between Rogue and Wolverine in the movie...
-Missemmamm


You know, people like you...
-Intifada 

How much he doesn't give a fuck...
- The Film's The Thing 


So weirdass and INLAND EMPIRE-like...
-Against the Hype 

A fascinating "eureka!" moment and a humourous one at that...
-Film Actually 

 

Tragic, scary and playful...
- Coco Hits NY 

 

Hmmm. I thought there'd be more of Storm (kidding). But no, I did think there'd be more Mystique! What's your favorite shot in that movie... or have you forgotten the whole thing?

* Charles Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters is in exotic Westchester, right? So close!

Monday
May192014

Remembering X-Men (2000)

It's Mutant Week! With X-Men Days of Future Past, the 4th X-Men movie upon us nearly upon us -- Yes, fourth, shut up...Last Stand and both Wolverine solo movies do not exist...lalala ♪ I can't hear you -- we should celebrate Marvel's homo superior this week, even if we have to do so by way of 20th Century Fox.

Herewith a retrofitted piece celebrating my choice for "Best Shot" from the first movie. (If you'd like to play the Best Shot game, post your choice by tomorrow night and I'll link up in the index) 

In some ways the original X-Men (2000) is a tentative and mediocre movie: the budget limitations are obvious, Halle Berry is as lost as you remembered (though Storm is a strangely minor character), and the central evil plot is just dumb. But in other ways it's undervalued and not just because of the downward spiral that followed after the sequel.

X-Men makes smart choices about narrowing its focus for a first film (centering on Wolverine & Rogue) and the one character it totally reimagines -- that'd be Mystique -- is a major success.

What's more director Bryan Singer actually makes use of the widescreen in his mise-en-scène. Too few filmmakers do, just shoving everything into the center of the frame or shooting everything in relentless close-up. Even action sequences are shot with a preference for top of head and chin shaving close-ups these days but, much like musical numbers, action sequences are more memorable and coherent when they include whole bodies in the frame. And even though Singer's compositional tricks get a bit repetitive, like the recurring out of focus introduction of characters in the background, which you can see above, they're aesthetically pleasing.

X-Men was lensed by Newton Thomas Sigel, who has shot all of Singer's movies since The Usual Suspects (1995). This is my favorite shot in the film, Wolverine lost in the X-Mansion, bewildered by the new sites. He sees his reflection multiplied, across the team uniforms. Isn't it a beauty, narratively speaking? And Jackmanically speaking, too.

What are your fondest memories of the first film? 

Tuesday
May132014

Frames Within Frames in Labyrinthine "Blow-Up" 

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot topic is in honor of the release of the book Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave.  Imagine my surprise, given that dedication, when I watched Blow-Up for the first time since I was maybe 17 or 18 and realized that Vanessa is barely in it! Oops. Her presence looms large and plays tricks with the memory. Is it because we are constantly staring at her photograph and she takes on mythic dimension. Or is it because the actress herself is adept at playing not quite a flesh and blood woman but a projection, a prism of Mysterious Woman? 

But, then, Vanessa aside. What isn't tricky about this enigmatic classic? The plot, as skeletal as it is, centers on a womanizing fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who sneakily follows a statuesque beauty (Redgrave) and her lover on their stroll through the park. He snaps away. Later he becomes convinced that while he was shooting them an actual shooting took place and he's inadvertently caught a murder in progress on the negatives. But has he? I love this noncommital bit of dialogue between the photographer and his friend late in the movie...

Click to read more ...

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