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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (178)

Tuesday
Aug122014

Visual Index ~ Suddenly Last Summer (1959)


This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode is devoted to the film adaptation of Tennessee William's Suddenly Last Summer (1959) in which a brain surgeon (Montgomery Clift) whose hospital is in dire need of cash is enlisted by a filthy rich woman (Katharine Hepburn) to perform a lobotomy on her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) because that niece keeps telling lies about her dead gay son. Got that? That's just the kick-off to the crazy.

This sensationalistic film, which was the third and final onscreen pairing of bosom buddies and immortal stars Taylor and Clift, was nominated for three Oscars: Two Best Actress nominations and Art Direction.

 

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959)
Cinematography by Jack Hildyard
Shots are displayed in their rough chronological order. Click on the shot to read the corresponding article.
11 Shots Selected By 12 Participants

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Tuesday
Aug122014

Elizabeth Taylor in "Suddenly Last Summer". Oh how that star burned.

This is an episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot

"Suddenly... last summer" is spoken so often in Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Joseph L Mankiewicz & Gore Vidal's adaptation of Tennessee Williams play, that it starts to take on a kind of trancy grandeur. The actresses retreat inward, psychologically, in the thrall of their own theatricality, the overheated jungles of art direction around them, and surely their good fortune to be playing Tennessee Williams characters.

my favorite scene in the film

To a minor degree the repetition of "suddenly...last summer" is not unlike the effect of Rita whispering "Mulholland Drive" like an incantation in Mulholland Dr. The comparison seems apt since both films are batshit crazy sexually charged nightmares in which a beautiful brunette has selective amnesia issues.  But let's not drift away to 2001. We stay in 1959. And two beautiful brunettes is exactly what I want to talk about since Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor loom large in my own movie fantasies, as two of my all time favorite actors. 

Suddenly Last Summer might seem dated in some respects as psychological films often do as science progresses but Elizabeth Taylor's star power hasn't aged a day. She's impossible to look away from and aces the tricky role of Catherine Holly, a woman who is fully sane but goes a little mad sometimes... and not just from the PTSD she's clearly suffering. Taylor is a smart enough actress to go for gray shadings in both Catherine's sexuality and psychology even when the gorgeous lighting by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai) is so high contrast and her monologues go so extremely black (the absence of memory) or white (the blazing white beach where her trauma began).

more after the jump

best shot

The beach was very white. Oh how the sun burned. It was like the eye of God watching us, burning, burning. There was no air that day. The sun had burned up all the air. Outside it was like inside a furnace.

And then they came...

This image seizes me. Elizabeth in the sun; Monty eclipsed. 

Which you might say is true of the movie. Both Actresses were Oscar nominated but Monty is constantly overshadowed. I'd argue that his is this adaptation's most difficult role because there's so much less to work with that it's easy to disappear as the surgeon ricochet's between two madwomen. He's best in this, his first scene with Liz; they loved each other dearly offscreen and their chemistry always blazed. It's a long duet in which he coaxes her towards memory and they flirt and spar not a little. The structure of the scene will be somewhat mirrored in the film's climax, Catherine's memory returned.

By contrast Monty practically disappears in his scenes with Katharine Hepburn, where he goes frustratingly blank even when the role suggests so much more than he's giving, particularly in Violet's insistent refrain that he is like Sebastian, her dead (gay) son, in this way or, undoubtedly, that. 

runner up images after the jump if you're a completist or so inclined to consider more options...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug062014

HMWYBS: The Saddest Children in the World Trilogy

For this week's Best Shot episode, the last 'detour' before the final three classics for the season, I wanted to introduce all of you to the short films of Jamie Travis. The Canadian filmmaker has only made one feature, the phone sex comedy For a Good Time, Call... (2012) and he's been making a living with commercials and the MTV series Faking It of late.  His true claim to fame and the reason we should all root for bigger feature film things to come are his two short film trilogies.

Jamie Travis and the trilogy that hooked me

I first became obsessed with his work when I was on a festival jury and saw the first film in the Patterns trilogy, a trilogy which might be semi-accurately described as a fusion of Lynchian nightmare, oddball musical, and romantic dramedy. A few years ago I geeked out and embarrassed myself when I met him at a retrospective of his work at the Nashville Film Festival. It's not every short filmmaker who wins shamelessly adoring fans and festival retrospectives of their work!

For Best Shot, we're looking at his first trilogy 'the Saddest Children'. The films are only related by subject matter but they're worth watching in order because they get better and better and give you the opportunity to watch an artist perfect his original voice. What follows is my short write up on each film, followed by the Best Shot choices on other fine blogs. Click on those photos to be transported to the adjacent articles and make sure to watch the films themselves. As per usual reading other pieces makes me think "why didn't I see, respond to, or  get that in that way?!" which is half the reason I love doing this series.

WHY THE ANDERSON CHILDREN DIDN'T COME TO DINNER (2003)
In which three morose seven year-olds long to escape the mother who keeps overfeeding them...

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Wednesday
Jul302014

Bergman's Ghosts

This is TFE's late entry into the Hit Me With Your Best Shot gallery of Cries and Whisper's finest moments

Ingmar Bergman will never die. We need not be literal about this. Yes, the great Swedish auteur passed on in 2007 but his rich inimitable* filmography is not of the corporeal so much as its of the spirit (however despairing) or at least the deep recesses of the psyche, if you'd care to differentiate. In collaboration with fellow geniuses cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actress Liv Ullman he captured many of the greatest close-ups in the whole of cinematic history. In a Bergman/Nykvist/Ullman close-up it's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul, fully visible even when its bathed in shadow. 

Yet even revealed it's still unknowable. 

best shot

When I first saw Cries and Whispers in college while pursuing my own self-guided lessons in film history, I was astonished by the film's signature move. Each of the  three "living" characters, if you can call them that, the sisters Maria (Liv Ullman) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and the family's housekeeper Anna (Kari Sylwan) are given bookend close-ups. These closeups house memories or dreams or scenes from their point of view. The closeups fade to red and are accompanied by indecipherable whispering. The impression isn't as simple as a haunting; Agnes (Harriest Anderson), who isn't afforded this expressive close-up luxury is still alive when this first starts happening. This unfathomably perfect artistic motif has already removed the film from the literal by the time Agnes dies at which point the film becomes even more incredible, disturbing and profound. What is haunting these women? Any answer feels correct whether you've imagined regrets, the abyss of death, life itself, or the living nightmare of toxic relationships.

See everyone else's choices for "Best Shot" here...

For completists of if you're curious I've included the two runner up shots I considered as "Best" after the jump

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Tuesday
Jul292014

Visual Index ~ "Cries and Whisper" Best Shot(s)

Tuesday night means Best Shot. This week we're looking at Ingmar Bergman's biggest success stateside both at the box office and with Oscar voters. If Cries and Whispers is not quite his most famous classic today, it remains one of the true essentials within his celebrated filmography. This mysterious and utterly gorgeous film won Bergman's longtime DP Sven Nykvist the first of his two Oscars for best cinematography. It concerns three sisters, one of whom is dying, and the family's maid. Naturally it's very depressing. But great art always transcends.

If you're running late with your choice for Best Shot, take heart and finish watching. My own entry in this "best shot" party will be up tomorrow so yours can be too. I have a good excuse. Today I finalized all the prep work for both the '73 Smackdown festivities (running from Thursday to Saturday here) and all the bookings for this year's Toronto International Film Festival so that you can be assured coverage of that festival this year. This year I'll be staying for the entire festival so there will be more coverage than even last year. I'm so happy about that I practically broke into a hearty round of "O Canada".

But Canada can wait. Tonight we head to Sweden for an unmissable classic... 

CRIES AND WHISPERS - BEST SHOTS
9 participants. Click on the photos for the corresponding articles 
this post will be updated again tomorrow night with any late entries received 

a reprieve from the bold crimson but one which nevertheless shows the emotional damage...
-Lam Chop Chop

 

the single best film in Bergman's canon, merciless but profound, bleak but beautiful...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

Anna, the housekeeper, seems to be the only one capable of true human connection...
-Coco Hits NY

my best shot for purely aesthetic reasons... 
-Film Actually

 

Maria's flashback, though, finds yet another use for the color red...
-The Entertainment Junkie 

Bergman even stated that in the screenplay red represented the interior of the soul... 
-The Film's The Thing 

She tried to make her pain aware to the movie itself, but it did not hear her... 
-Pop Culture Crazy 

 

Tinted in crimson (the color of the soul, according to Bergman)... 
- Best Shot in the Dark

It's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul...
- The Film Experience 

... at least one more article to come but please do enjoy these a.s.a.p.

ICYMI last week's episode was very well intended as we looked at this year's most experimental arthouse hit, Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson. Here's what's coming next. Only four more episodes left this season so join us. I promise it's both challenging and rewarding to participate.

Tuesday
Jul222014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Under the Skin

Each week we pick a film and ask brave cinephiles to choose what they think of as its Best Shot. Next Tuesday is Ingmar Bergman's Oscar winner for Best Cinematography Cries & Whispers (1973) but before we get to that dying sister merriment, let's travel to Scotland where Scarlett Johansson is luring men to their doom. Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin is mysterious enough that it need multiple eyes to decipher it. And the film even repeatedly suggests you do the looking what with it's eyeball construction (?), predatory gaze, and actual dialogue.

Do you want to look at me?

We do, Scarlett, we do.

I normally show the choices in chronological order within the context of the film but given Under the Skin's brooding enigmatic events and telling repetitions, the articles are displayed in the order they were brought to my attention from the Best Shot club members. 

BEST SHOT(s)  UNDER THE SKIN
Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Cinematography by Daniel Landin.
19 shots / 23 participants. Click on the images for the corresponding article
MAJOR VISUAL SPOILERS FOLLOW - DO NOT CLICK IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE

Click to read more ...

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