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Entries in Hit Me With Your Best Shot (150)

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 ...

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

 

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