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Entries in westerns (23)

Sunday
Jul122015

SDCC Day 3: Multitudes of Peggy & Hateful 8 News

Anne Marie here with more from SDCC. Most of Saturday's buzz surrounded Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (about which Nathaniel already posted a YNMS), but if capes and cowls aren't your thing, here are 5 other entertaining bits of news from San Diego Comic Con.

5) EW's Women Who Kick Ass Panel assembled a great lineup: Kathy Bates on American Horror Story, Hayley Atwell on Agent Carter, Gwendoline Christie on Game of Thrones, Jenna Coleman from Doctor Who, and Wonder Woman herself, Gal Godot. Someone make this an actual superhero team please. 

4) The Sherlock Special sneak peek. Little explanation given for the Victorian setting, but it's fun to see Bendandsnap Cabbagepatch don the deerstalker.

3) Suicide Squad teaser is all anyone can talk about, but Warner Bros hasn't yet released it online. Fan consensus: Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn > Jared Leto's Joker. I just want to see Viola Davis eat that steak.

2) Hateful 8 Panel, interviews, and new poster. Notice that very important cinephile bait bit in the right bottom corner. Good tagline, too. Tarantino revealed that if he can't shoot on actual film, he won't make them anymore and TV might be a possibility. Best news: he convinced the legendary Ennio Morricone to compose his first western score in decades. The Original Score Oscar prediction chart already updated as a result!

1) Hayley Atwell's Dubsmash Videos. The Agent Carter star alleviated her boredom (and ours) with a Dubsmash challenge to her Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. buddies. She also posed with a huge group of Comic Con attendees doing Peggy Carter cosplay

 

Friday
Apr102015

Crawford Week Finale: To Those Who Can't Blend In!

This week's Joan Crawford mania, sparked by back-to-back best shot eppys (Mommie Dearest and Johnny Guitar) and a coincidental shout out to Mildred Pierce on Mad Men / reader question about Golden Age actresses, made this week something of an accidental theme week. For those who weren't feeling it, too bad! [Glenn Close voice]

Joan's not going to be ignored, Dan."

Joan cannot be denied. Nor can she blend in. Which is the topic of this final Joan post, my very late pick for that Best Shot party (I wasn't the only latecomer!). Let this one serve as a toast not only to the two time Oscar-winning cinematographer Harry Stradling Sr, but the costume designer Sheila O'Brien.

Best Shot. Joan, glowing like the sun in the center of the frame where she belongs.

There are many things to love about this western oddity but the single most amusing detail is that Joan has three costume changes during the extended climax. There's no time for a costume change like that time when you're running for your life! In the scene which really caught the Best Shot club's attention she is playing piano calmy in the center of her saloon (and the frame, naturally) in an enormous fluffy girly white gown. This change comes late enough in a picture in which she's only ever otherwise worn pants, that you know it's an in-your-face move meant to make a statement. (With the added benefit of pissing off her equally butch rival, Mercedes McCambridge). It's also the first time in the picture in which things go really wrong for her. Her lover Johnny Guitar momentarily rescues her from certain murder and they flee into the darkness. He's worried that she's like a great big lantern with that white dress on in the nighttime. So Crawford switches it out for an outfit that's.... wait for it... Bright red. Way to be inconspicuous Joan. A very brief time later, while still trying to avoid taking several bullets she switches that one out for... BRIGHT YELLOW. 

You will never catch Joan Crawford in camouflage. She will only spend time in the shadows if she can be beautifully lit emerging from them (see the whole of Mildred Pierce). A true star will not / can not blend in. Go ahead and put her in the center of the frame in shockingly bold colors, with nothing else to distract us. All eyes will stay on her regardless.

P.S. Curiously, though the costume designer Sheila O'Brien lived to be 80 years old, dying only a few years after Joan herself, she only served as lead Costume Designer on six Hollywood pictures, after a promotion from the wardrobe department. Five of the six were Joan Crawford vehicles so the Star obviously liked her, or Miss O'Brien worked very hard to appease the Star. Either/Or.  In fact, her first non "wardrobe credit" was "gown executer: Miss Crawford" (such a violent title!) on 1949's Flamingo Road, after which she became a lead designer. She was Oscar nominated for the popular Crawford picture Sudden Fear (1952). Her last Crawford picture Female on the Beach (1955) carries the immortal tag line:

She was TOO HUNGRY for love... to care where she found it!"

Weirdly O'Brien only has two credits after her time with Crawford and they're both years later. Did she upset the tempestuous diva? What happened to her? I'm suddenly desperate for a biopic on her. I bet there are skeletons in that wardrobe closet. 

Exit Music. Play us off, Joan!

Wednesday
Apr082015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Johnny Guitar" 

Tru-Color meets True Star-Mojo in this fever dream of a gender-bending Western, this week's "Best Shot" topic. Herewith some shot choices around the web (click on the pics for the articles) and a few of my thoughts as well, as your host. 

Director Nicholas Ray, too little known today, was on a real roll in the 1950s, and between his best loved films, noir classic In a Lonely Place (1950) and ur teen angst drama Rebel Without a Cause (1955) came this divisive oddity Johnny Guitar (1954).

We'd call Johnny Guitar a feminist Western except that the women have basically switched roles with the men rather than proven their equals. Sterling Hayden and Scott Brady as "Johnny Guitar" and "The Dancin' Kid" are, despite their considerable masculine attractiveness, essentially the passive "girls" of the picture, romantic objects or helpful companions who would rather not get caught up in bloody showdowns. Joan Crawford, at her butchest, definitely wears the pants in this movie literally and figuratively. Further complicating the highly discussable gender dynamics (the secret to why the movie had a second life if you ask me) is the inimitable Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small. She's styled not unlike Joan's twin and she may or may not be in love/lust with The Dancin' Kid or Johnny Guitar or Vienna but she's definitely harboring repressed passions! 

BEST SHOT CHOICES FROM OUR LITTLE AWESOME CLUB
(which you may join at any time - Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is next Wednesday!) 
8 shots chosen by 11 blogs 

Crawford strikes her movie star pose every single chance she gets."
-A Fistful of Films

I wasn’t completely sold on Johnny Guitar as a movie. I am sold, however, on Joan Crawford as a movie star."
-Coco Hits New York 

Sterling Hayden, epitome of masculinity, holding a dainty, PERFECTLY CLEAN, bright blue & white teacup."
-Dancin' Dan 


An image of things that shouldn't go together being forcibly wedged into one place...
-Antagony & Ecstacy 

Hilariously takes her enemies to task seemingly without a care in the world...
-Sorta That Guy 


A quick glimpse of the frame could be easily mistaken for a shot from, say, a Quentin Tarantino film, or perhaps a Russ Meyer film."
- The Entertainment Junkie

As if having her rival be dragged out and hanged wasn't enough, Emma's gotta be all small about it and make sure that everything is destroyed..."
-The Film's The Thing 


 It's a rare Western where two women are given the meatiest roles... and I loved how the central conflict boiled down to a showdown between them."
- Film Actually

[Paul Outlaw actually chose the piano shot but his runner up is this - love his comment on it!]

 There's no time for three costume changes like that time when you're running for your life...
-The Film Experience 


'It' their fight. Has been all along.' "
-The Spy in the Sandwich 

 

NEXT WEEK:
Taxi Driver (1976) which you have no excuse not to join in on. It's easy to find!
 [Amazon Instant | Netflix Instant | iTunes]

 

Monday
Mar092015

We Can't Wait! #13: The Hateful Eight

Team Experience is counting down our 15 most anticipated for 2015. Here's Michael...

Who & What: Fresh off the biggest box office hit of his career (and a second Oscar for writing) Tarantino returns for another go at the western genre. This story set in Wyoming a few years after the Civil War, involves eight outlaw types holed up in a mountain pass to wait out a blizzard.

The auteur promises The Hateful Eight will be no less than a cinematic event with exclusive 70mm engagements explicitly designed to remind people of the power of the theatrical movie experience and stave off the tide of digital projection. So, yeah, not lacking for ambition.

Why We're Excited About it: Love them or hate them, it is hard to deny Tarantino’s films are always worth seeing, discussing, dissecting. It's worth noting that while everyone has been focused on Quentin's film’s flashier, button-pushing aspects, the jittery auteur has managed the neat trick of getting mass audiences to line up for some daring, experimental filmmaking. On top of which he can always be counted on to give movie stars the material to reach new career high points. This time out the cast is a thrilling mix of old Tarantino favorites (Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Sam Jackson, Michael Madsen) Django bit players with beefed up roles (Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins) and Tarantino newcomers who could do wonders with the right role (Demian Bichir, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum). 

Samuel L Jackson tweeted this photo in November from a rehearsal. From left to right: Dern, Jackson, Leigh, Tarantino, Bichir (back to camera), Russell, Goggins, Madsen, and Roth

What if it all Goes Wrong? The loss of Tarantino’s brilliant, longtime collaborator, editor Sally Menke, was felt in Django, particularly in that film’s shaggy final act. Here’s hoping he manages to regain the sharpness this time. Also, if you are one of those fading fans who believe it’s been all downhill since Jackie Brown, there is no sign that Hateful Eight is anything like a return to maturity. On the other hand, a story about criminals holed up together told through a series of interlocking flashback does give off a strong Reservoir Dogs vibe. 

When: Currently slated for November 13 by The Weinstein Company. (Will it stay there? Django Unchained didn't open until Christmas.)

Thursday
Jan292015

Sundance: Fassbender Wanders The Frontier In The Unsatisfying "Slow West"

Michael C here reporting from an unseasonably warm Park City

John Maclean's Slow West is an ambitious western that falls short of its lofty aspirations because of its thin execution and its dud of a protagonist. The protagonist is 16-year-old Jay Cavendish played by Kodi Smit-McPhee as a naif spectacularly ill-equipped to deal with the dangers of frontier travel in 1870. The voice over from Michael Fassbender's tough guy bounty hunter opens the film with the observation that it's a miracle Cavendish made it as far he did without getting murdered. We in the audience size him up with his innocent doe eyes and his still-waiting-for-puberty physique and we quite agree. He would surely have been doomed had Fassbender's Silas not taken him under his wing as a travel companion. 

This all would be a fine dynamic for a film, the weathered cowboy dropping a cold dose of reality on the young fool with his romantic ideas about true love and the West. Unfortunately, Slow West tries to push the idea that Jay is some kind of pure soul with poetry in his heart who can impart a lesson to the brutes like Fassbender about aspiring to something higher. Actually I thought the kid came off like a dope...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec022014

Team FYC: The Homesman for Cinematography

Editor's Note: For the next ten days or so as awards season heats up, we'll be featuring individual Team Experience FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, SAG, Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Manuel to kick things off. 


Rodrigo Prieto is one of the best cinematographers around. From the gritty urban landscapes of Amores Perros and the color-coded visual triptych that is Babel to the painterly tableaus of Frida and the kinetic Iranian vistas of Argo, Prieto has been slowly amassing quite the filmography, working with the likes of Alejandro González Iñarritú, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodóvar, Oliver Stone, and Ang Lee. It was the first collaboration with that two-time Academy Award winning director that netted Prieto his first Oscar nomination for capturing the breathtaking mountains that shepherded the tragic Western romance of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.

He’s back in contention this year for another twist on the Western with Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman. The film focuses on Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and George Briggs (Jones) as they make their way from Nebraska to Iowa in hopes of delivering three unstable women to the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep) whose husband runs a church that cares for the mentally ill.

A patient and meditative film, The Homesman showcases Prieto’s great gift for making (in this case mid-) Western landscapes look sublime in the Kantian sense of the word. The barren lands Cuddy and Briggs traverse are grand, vast and majestic; “nature considered in an aesthetic judgment as might that has no dominion over us" as Kant would say. Much of The Homesman depends on the awe-inspiring and terrifying notion of that ever-receding horizon, at once limitless and infinite; promising evermore possibility while denying ever attaining it. In The Homesman, nature is both desolate and beautiful, something Prieto’s endless painterly frames evoke throughout Jones’s film. But while it’d be easy to attribute Prieto’s accomplishments to capturing the natural beauty of the Nebraskan wilderness, what struck me about Prieto’s lensing is the way his static frames both boxed these characters with a relentless indifference that indexed the harsh wilderness around them while also lighting them with a warmth that honed in on where the film’s empathy for the five travellers lies.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the way Prieto recycles seemingly clichéd images of a silhouetted lonely horse-riding figure lit by a brazen, fiery light: man framed against a godforsaken world. They’re two small moments that show Briggs and Cuddy succeeding over man and nature alike; both beautifully-lit and framed by Prieto, making use of an ever-receding natural light in one and of a blazing fire in the other. They’re striking, yes, but they also beautifully illuminate these characters’ resilience even as they’re being swallowed whole by the wilderness around them.

Can Nebraska make it two in a row in the cinematography category, after Phedon Papamichael’s nomination last year? The big push for Jones’s film seems to be in the Best Actress category, but I’m hoping that as voters queue this up for Swank’s wonderfully realized performance, they’ll also give props to Prieto, who’s overdue for a return trip to the Dolby.