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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (144)

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 ...

Tuesday
May062014

"We don't like the twins" - On Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977)

I've seen 3 Women exactly 3 times. Look at me all numeriffic. Each time it shapes-shift fluidly like its still half submerged in the embryonic waters of pools, aquariums, nursing home baths, and dream floods that keep engulfing the women, particularly Sissy Spacek as "Pinky" (or "Mildred" depending on how you read the picture). She's the most permeable of them all.

Permeable, maybe, but never painlessly transforming; if the movie camera had never discovered Sissy Spacek's face in various stages of psychotic breaks (see also Carrie) it would have missed its calling entirely. 

The first time I saw the film it was like looking a crystal clear umbillical cord between Persona (1966) and Mulholland Dr (2001). The second time it was a singular experience, untethered to other films from my favorite genre (Women Who Lie To Themselves™) and played as a remarkable feat of interiority and actressing (Shelley Duvall won "Best Actress" at Cannes and that jury deserves a prize of its own for going there.). With this third screening 3 Women morphed into a messy horror comedy, a pitch black and deeply uncomfortable but still funny horror comedy about social autism, menstrual cycles, and the terrors of having no center and no support system to reinforce your youness. Follow?

Whichever film 3 Women is while you're watching it, it's impossible to miss its obsession with twins.

We don't like the twins. You'll learn about them soon enough"

Or, I'd argue more emphatically, its obsession with triplets; two identical, one fraternal. Though Altman's undervalued picture spends most of its time with the odd twosome of Millie (Duvall) and Pinky (Spacek) and though Pinky's initial trajectory seems to be very Single White Female in her urge to be with (or just be?) Millie, we're almost always dealing with triplets; the third is easy to miss, never identical and nearly always silent. Whether we're looking at actual twins (unfriendly blondes Polly & Peggy) or one woman reflected who appears to be two, or two women who appear to be three or four (reflections galore and too many images to screencap) or an actual rarer three-shot of the film's stars there's always some sort of triangulation going on when the image is placed in its narrative context.

Which is why my choice for "Best Shot" multiplies the multiples yet further and encapsulates absolutely everything that's so rich and weirdly specific yet vaguely disconnected about Millie and the movie itself. Millie has just been displaced from her own bedroom by Pinky when she returns to work and talks about nothing but Pinky.

I think she'll be back to work next week. The doctors really thought she was going to die. What's worse there could have been brain damage! 

Millie, singular and perpetually out of place Millie (note how Duvall towers over the other women like some absurd weed that needs pruning), trails her oblivious co-workers down the hallway in a continuous shot, talking non-stop as she does for the entire film. No one is listening despite her dramatic flourishes. Each of them are paired with their twin, literal or figurative ("Doris the Chinese one - she and I are best friends") shutting Millie out entirely. The last line as the undifferentiated women begin to dissipate out of the shot is brilliantly apt. It starts out all inclusive before it shuts someone out with its casually exclusive desperation. It's as lonely as Millie's foldout bed outside the now shuttered bedroom door. 

She asked about each and everyone one of you... especially the twins."

There's every reason to believe that Millie didn't like Pinky as her perpetual shadow/other before the medical drama. But now she's alone again. And what could be worse than that?

More 3 Women?
Here's a Visual Index of all the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" entries 'round the web. 

Oscar Shut-Out
Oscar voters had no time at all for 3 Women despite their fondness for Altman in the 1970s. I'd gladly hand it nominations for Actress, Director, and Art Direction for starters. In fact, an early aborted mental draft of this article was entirely about the art direction. 

Programming Note
One change in the upcoming schedule. I didn't realize that Warner Bros / DC had chosen an official day for Batman's 75th (the date of his birth is complicated) so we'll postpone that Batman-related Best shot episode until July in the second half of this season

 

Thursday
May012014

"You're going to be the patient, and I'm going to take you in"

Millie: Okay, now what's wrong with ya? 
Pinky: Nuthin'
Millie: Well there's gotta be something wrong with ya."
Meet Millie (Shelley Duvall, Cannes Best Actress Winner / BAFTA Best Actress Nominee) and Pinky (Sissy Spacek). You won't ever forget them once you do. Join us Tuesday night when Hit Me With Your Best Shot looks at Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977). It's available on Netflix Instant Watch, Amazon Instant, and iTunes. Watch it, choose a shot, and play along!
Tuesday
Apr292014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Mean Girls (2004)

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we're reairing one of the earliest of episodes. We invited new readers to select a shot if they weren't around in 2010 when "Best Shot" first began so this survey of Mean Girls best shots, as chosen by each participant (click on the link for the corresponding article) is an fusion of old and new pieces 'round the web. Here's my choice:

And what I originally wrote:

The camera tracks Regina through the hallway after she's hatched her brilliant revenge plan. She's regained control of the screaming rage we saw in the prior scene and she's just gliding through the hallways, with a neat hint of actressy athleticism. Gone is the sex kitten and in her place the marathon runner. 

The shot functions like a reverse Hansel & Gretel; the witch leaving a bread crumb trail. In the bookend shot that follows the camera is still moving, gliding away from her, but the witch isn't. Witness her hungry self-satisfaction while she watches the children gobble up the crumbs; They're already baking in her oven!

So, that's my choice. What's yours?

14 MORE BEST SHOT(s)
as chosen by 16 of the greatest people you'll ever know
click on the image for the corresponding article 

a blink-and-you-miss moment in the film... absolutely hilarious."
-Sorta That Guy 


The best performance of her career..."
-Coco Hits New York 


The conspicuous gap between them...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

No shot in the film makes me bust out loud laughing more..."
-Best Shot in the Dark 


I love to think about Regina...
-Intifada 


Each of "The Plastics" has great lines, but Karen takes the cake"
- Dean A 

This could not be more on point."
- I Want to Believe 


...captured the insanely fun spirit of the film but also encapsulated the plot really well."
- Awkward is What We Aim For 

And she's not just maintaining a place among North Shore royalty, she's threatening to take over..."
-Cinemamelie


She even describes herself as 'a woman possessed'..."
-Film Actually 


...a wicked Madonna from a Renaissance tableaux."
-Movies Kick Ass

The queen of the jungle..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 


Daniel Franzese, far and away the funniest part of Mean Girls"
- Serious Film 

Her flock who've come to worship..."
-Musings and Stuff 

 

My pick for Best Shot has actually accrued more meaning over time....
-Dancin Dan

 

Oh you girls keep me young I luv ya..."
-The Film's The Thing 

 

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Next on 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' - JOIN US
05/06 Altman's strange / wonderful Three Women (1977) with Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek
05/13 Antontioni's mod classic Blow-Up (1965) Vanessa Redgrave and a mysterious murder 
05/20 Choose any or multiple Batman films. Pick and post your fav shot for his 75th

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