Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Beguiled (1971)

Just like last week Nathaniel at the Film Experience hasn’t picked a movie for the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series and so I put it out to my twitter to decide. This weeks winner was Jacob Scott who suggested I watch the original The Beguiled from 1971. The remake is coming out any day now and won Sophia Coppola best director at the Cannes Film Festival. I really like doing this each week because it allows me to either reexamine a film from a cinematography perspective or look at something new I never would have seen otherwise.

So what about the original? It’s a weird little movie that I’m glad I saw but didn’t strike me as a classic romantic thriller. For a lot of the film it felt like I was watching a TV movie (the 70s version of a lifetime thriller) but then it would occasionally do cinematic things.

The Beguiled stars Clint Eastwood as John McBurney a Yankee soldier who is taken in by a ladies school run by Martha Farnsworth played by Geraldine Page. At times it feels more like a cult than a school. Nobody is allowed to leave and the girls don’t seem to be getting much of an education.

As John begins to recover he gets to know each of the girls including Martha, who has a very twisted backstory of her own. They don’t really cite scripture but it’s more the civility and social rules of the South are their gospel. They even read through the books of manners like it is the Bible.

Each of the girls approaches John from a different way. One is the innocent virgin, another is the temptress, another is a bargainer, etc. He even gets to know Hallie, the slave, who he bonds with as a prisoner but also is at odds with because he seems to have no power over her sexually. There are a lot of tense scenes in the film and they do a good job making it feel like a pot of water about to boil over. There is obviously sensuality but it is mostly about temptation than actual participation. Envy of course also plays a big role in the story.

In picking a best shot I wanted to go with something that showed both John and the women but it’s a film that has very few group scenes. It is mostly 2-shots and close ups. Often you will have a shot from behind a woman, panning from the woman to John or a fade out where you see a woman and then it fades into John.

So for the best shot I decided to go with a pivotal scene where we see Martha’s back and John and Edwina across the table.

Overall Grade- B

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Martian

This week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot Nathaniel at The Film Experience is taking a week off and so I thought it would be fun to continue the series and ask my twitter followers for a suggestion. My follower Ken Gardner was first to pipe in with The Martian as his suggestion and I was happy to comply! I think I will do this more because it was fun to have something completely unpredictable to watch.

I have previously reviewed The Martian so you will want to check out that review here. Back in 2015 it was one of my favorites of the year, so does it hold up? Yes, yes it does!

Back in my original review I said ” I loved the character of Mark Watney and found even the smallest victories compelling. Plus, the overall story of his rescue is so exciting!” and I’d still agree with that assessment. If you don’t bond with Mark and Matt Damon’s performance than you won’t like this movie. It’s as simple as that. Fortunately I did so I had a blast watching it, even on the rewatch.

I think what makes him so great is he is an optimist. I’m so tired of cynical movies with bitter characters. Here you have a man who has every reason to give up but he doesn’t. He keeps going and he does so in such a likable engaging way. When he cheers, you cheer. When he faces obstacles you feel tense and frustrated. That is SOOO refreshing.

A lot of the success comes from the novel that manages to explain the science without being boring. I know nothing about thermodynamics, botany or physics but author Andy Weir and screenwriter Drew Goddard do such a good job breaking the science down, making the simplest of things compelling and easy to understand. When Mark creates water for instance or grows potatoes it isn’t confusing but a thrilling victory.

Ridley Scott also does a great job creating a believable Mars environment that feels barren and yet beautiful. It’s what I imagine Mars looks like, which is really all that is required of a director.

I admit the ending is a bit sillier than in the book but the ensemble cast is so good I buy it. I love that the entire world cheers the rescue of one man. How great would that be if we could all grasp the value of the one person? I love movies that make me cheer and The Martian definitely is one of those films.

All that said, my best shot is probably fairly pedestrian. The reason this movie works is Matt Damon. He earns his Oscar nomination for best actor by creating a believable survivalist that I was rooting for all along the way. I love Mark Watney in the novel, and I love him in this film, and I think you have to give a lot of the credit for that to Matt Damon. He makes him a character we want to be saved.

Just as he is telling us how bad a situation he is in, Mark reminds us he is a botanist and “Mars will come to fear my botany powers“. This is my favorite shot because it encapsulates the script and character of Mark, which is so much fun to watch.

Make sure you are following me on twitter for my daily superhero showdown and other opportunities to suggests videos and posts like this one!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Parent Trap (1961)

This week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at the Film Experience has selected a film right up my alley- The Parent Trap (1961).  This is the original version of the movie. Not the superb remake starring Lindsay Lohan in 1998 (that’s how you do a remake right!).  I’m excited to talk about this film because I really do adore it.  It is one of my favorite live action Disney films.

The premise is simple enough. 2 girls meet at camp and surprise! They happen to look just like each other. It turns out they are twins separated at birth. Now they start up a scheme to switch places and bring their parents back together again. It’s not the most original story in the world but it is what they do with it that works so well. And most of the credit goes to the charismatic and wonderful cast. Hayley Mills is amazing as the twins. She gives them each individual personalities and manners of talking. Even when they have the same haircut and clothing I still know clearly who is Susan and who is Sharon.

I also love Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as the parents. They have terrific chemistry together and you buy these two people have always been in love with each other but have let their passionate natures keep them apart. I even love it when she ends up slugging him in the eye in one spirited argument. It feels believable for their characters that it might happen. Under all that fiestiness is of course passion and love for each other. It is classic!

The movie is also really funny. I love Maureen O’hara when she flirts it up with the local Reverend (Leo Carroll) come to go over wedding plans for Mitch and his fiance Vicky (Joanna Barnes). She is hilarious as she drives her ex crazy in front of the Reverend in a bath robe!

Vicky is a very stock gold digging horrible girlfriend you often see in romantic comedies. They can’t have her be too great or we won’t want him to get together with Maggie very much. However, here the trope works because they get a lot of humor out of it. I love when the girls submarine her on the camping trip because I could be equally spooked in the great outdoors. I hate camping and if bear cubs were licking my feet I would have words just like Vicky!

The beginning scenes at camp are also hilarious with the most epic sabotage in movies. I think every kid dreams of pulling those kind of pranks off at camp or with their friends. (I was never big into being pranked but I thought the idea of it was hilarious). It never becomes dour or depressing but is light and fun.

Now to my best shot. I realize this movie caused some controversy upon its release because many kids felt they could get their divorced parents back together. This is perhaps a strange testament to the effectiveness of the picture, but I think these complaints miss a key point of the film. Parent Trap isn’t saying all parents should get back together. Of course not. It is just saying THESE TWO PEOPLE should get back together.

As I said, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith have palatable chemistry together. They belong together. It’s as clear as day. The final scene when they talk and embrace is really well written, and I love when Mitch tells Maggie all the silly things he misses about her, and she tells him to wash the stew off of his shirt. It’s just great romantic comedy writing.

So, I picked this picture of the two smiling at each other.  This is why the movie works and why I love it.

BEST SHOT:

What do you think of Parent Trap 1961 or do you prefer the remake? Put in the comments section and what would be your best shot? Please share!

Overall Grade- A

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Wonder Woman (TV 1976)

This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel at The Film Experience has given us a fun challenge. In honor of Wonder Woman we were assigned a 2 part episode of the iconic 1976 Wonder Woman television show to pick a best shot from. The episode is called The Feminum Myystique and it aired November 6 and 8, 1976

I used to watch Wonder Woman reruns when I was a little girl but it had been years since I revisited it and I must confess I found it to be a complete delight. I may have to get this show on bluray!

Lynda Carter radiates charisma as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Her smile disarms you immediately and yet she is no bimbo especially as Diana working in the navy. It is easy to compare her to Christopher Reeves’ Superman as both are strong, immortal characters with old fashioned charm but I never viewed Reeves’ Clark Kent as all that bright like Diana is. Anyway, they are both great.

In this double episode a group of Nazi spies are trying to get information on the latest US fighter jet.  Diana’s sister, Drusilla (Wonder Girl), comes to bring Diana back to Paradise Island but becomes abducted by the Nazis. Eventually Queen Hippolyta and the rest of the Amazons must group together to defeat these Nazis. This requires them to understand men and evil in a way they never had before.

I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes. I suppose I like traditional superhero narratives with good guys and bad guys facing off with little weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that we so often see now. It’s just simple smarts and goodness facing off against Nazis!

The best shot becomes difficult because it is shot in a fairly standard way without a lot of epic moments. So, the shot I have chosen is a more subtle one. Towards the end of part 2 Hippolyta tells the girls about lying:

“I know it’s impossible for you to lie but men don’t know that.

They lie all the time”

What I love about this moment is I feel we have lost the ability to be cheeky when it comes to the sexes. Everyone is always offended by everything. Look at the uproar over a lovely notion of a women’s only Wonder Woman screening? It has to be used as some kind of feminist revenge plot by idiotic men…

Anyway, we can’t tease each other or have fun any more. It’s all cries of misogyny from women and anger over radical feminism from the men. I include myself in this group.

I love being a woman and I don’t think we are the same as men- thank goodness. It’s ok to admit differences and tease each other every now and then.

Just have fun with freakin Wonder Woman folks and chill out!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Moonlight

I am very excited to tell you all that Nathaniel over at the Film Experience is bringing back the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series! This is a really fun series where he picks a film and then any bloggers who want to participate pick one screenshot that he or she feels best captures the film in question. I have really enjoyed participating when I can (content and time leave me out of a few of them) and I would encourage all of you to join in. It’s really neat to see what shots others pick. You can see my entire series so far here.

So, the choice to bring back the series is the recent Academy Award winner Moonlight. I did a mini-review of this film but never did a full blog post. At the time I gave it an A- and now I have seen it 3 times and I stand by that grade.

Moonlight is a tremendous film that allows you to walk around in the life of a gay black boy/man named Chiron. It is divided into 3 acts- Little (child), Chiron (teen) and Black (adult).  Chiron faces many challenges including poverty brought on by a crack-addicted mother. Of course, he also has sexuality that is not welcome in his community and an innate shyness that makes it hard for him to open up to others.

As we walk through the life of Chrion we see joyous moments where he connects with a man named Juan and his girlfriend Teresa. Juan teaches him how to swim and to avoid bitterness and anger at his mother. Then in the teen years Chiron develops a relationship with a schoolmate named Kevin. This is handled with tact, poignancy and devastation when he is eventually betrayed.

The final act has Kevin and Chiron reuniting and this was the only issue I had with the movie. Up until that point everything had been so vivid and realistic and I just didn’t buy these two men would come back together like they do. It honestly felt a little bit cloying when it should have felt empowering after all Chiron has been through. It’s not awful but just what separated an A and an A- for me.

All of the acting is amazing in Moonlight including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and nominee Naomie Harris. The cinematography is intimate and beautiful and the music is perfect. I might even like the score better than the La La Land score.

For me the second act was the most moving. I guess because I have been bullied I related to it quite strongly and the highs and lows in that segment were very moving. I think Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron should have gotten more praise for his performance because he is asked to go more places and show a variety of emotions.

So, now to my best shot. Because I loved the second act most I picked this shot of Chiron practically looking at the camera desperate for a way out. It’s like he is calling out to the audience to save him and I wish that I could…

Overall Grade- A- and definitely smile worthy

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Splash

This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at the Film Experience has picked a nostalgic film from the 80s that was a lot of fun to revisit- 1984’s Splash.

It might seem obvious given my love for Little Mermaid that I would also love Splash but the mermaid movie has to be good to gain my approval. However, despite both having mermaids the two films are very different and I like both.

The Little Mermaid is more about Ariel’s journey and less about her relationship with Eric (at least to me). Splash is more about how Eric would have responded if Ariel had just kissed him the moment she first saw him!

As I was watching Splash I couldn’t help but think about the remake that is planned with Channing Tatum as the mermaid and Jillian Bell in the Tom Hanks role. I am very curious to see how this goes down because not many movies do you have a man being as aggressive in pursuing  a partner as Daryl Hannah is with Tom Hanks in the original Splash.

In fact, even in the original film I don’t think it would have worked if the two performers weren’t so likable and had such good chemistry. We need to instantly accept them as a couple. We need to believe that he would propose in the 6 day time frame she has. We need to buy her openness and his falling for her head over heels.

So for my best shot I picked a moment which exemplifies why Splash works. Madison has just bought Allen a giant water fountain (never mind how she got it into the apartment. It works…). He asks her why she did this and she says ‘because I love you’. He hesitates and says “I love this present” and then he can’t help himself saying “and I love you”. Then they kiss.

If I didn’t believe these two people this scene would be so groan inducing but I do so I like it. That’s why this has to be the best shot. It’s a girl giving a guy a giant water fountain in his apartment and yet I love it!!

splash best shot2PS. This may be the last episode of Hit Me with Your Best Shot as Nathaniel is considering stopping the series and this is the last of the season. I just want to thank him for encouraging me to see many movies like Safe and The Red Shoes. I understand if he decides to cancel the series but it has been a great experience participating when I could.

Hit Me with Best Shot: Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

close encounters posterOpinions are an interesting thing. We can have a response to art at one time in our life that is a certain way and then at another it strikes us completely differently. So was my experience with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Directed by Steven Spielberg when I saw it in my 20s I was bored. I don’t know if I was expecting a movie like Independence Day with alien action (which ironically bored me on the rewatch) but at the time it seemed boring.

Now as a grown up adult I look at it and scratch my head at my earlier thoughts. How could I possibly think this movie was boring? It has so many characters and so much going on that it almost feels a little disjointed at times (especially in the beginning). Isn’t that funny?  A completely 360 degree turn around for me on this film. Who knew!

I think what really struck me this time around was its commentary on media and communication. Perhaps it is just seeing the Republican Convention and the Democratic  Convention starting, but I’ve seen so many people passionately trying to explain what is crystal clear to them (including myself I might add) and being told they are insane in response. There are so many scenes like that in Close Encounters. People know what they saw. They sometimes have the scars to prove it and yet they are told they are delusional.

Richard Dreyfuss is so good as an electrician who has a UFO encounter and his wife and others won’t believe him. He gets more and more manic as the signs grow and that makes people push away from him even more. The same thing happens with Melinda Dillion’s Jillian who’s son is taken by the spacecraft and people still don’t believe her.

We as the audience have seen the spaceship in bright technicolor so we know they are right but the other characters either ignorant (lots of scenes of people playing unaware of situation), or chose to not believe and some lie. Is that not also how communication is today more than ever? We either don’t know, chose to not believe or we are lied to and that goes for both sides of the political spectrum.

John Williams score is so great in this; although I did think the ending with the music was a little silly. In fact, I don’t know if I needed to see the aliens at the end because they weren’t really what the movie was about. Still, it’s not a huge problem.

My best shot is probably a strange one as there are dramatic shots of spaceships I could pick but my pick goes back to this commentary on media that impressed me. It’s a news conference where the leaders are trying to explain away what the people know they have seen. I think the way this guy is holding up the plate mocking their concerns shows how we often do the same today with people who hold passionate views different than our own.

close encounters of 3rd kindNathaniel at The Film Experience is doing a week-long series of best shots for the 1977 Cinematography nominees, so Close Encounters best shots will be posted today, and the rest on proceeding days. None of the others sounded very interesting to me so I’ll probably just stick with this but you should check out the blog for the posts.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Zootopia

I haven’t participated in Hit Me with Your Best Shot in a while because of traveling and not being interested in the selections but this week I had to participate! If you don’t know Hit Me with Your Best Shot is a series by Nathaniel over at the Film Experience where a bunch of bloggers all watch the same film and pick one shot that conveys that film to us. You can see all my entries here.  Like I said, this week I had to participate because the topic is Disney’s latest animated classic Zootopia!

I have spoken, dissected, reviewed Zootopia in about every way you can. My friend AJ and I spent over 90 minutes discussing every last detail of the film.

I even recently reviewed The Art of Zootopia.

But I want to address one of the complaints I’ve heard about the film. People say the messaging is too heavy-handed and that the metaphor falls apart. To those that make this claim I would like to introduce you to something called a FABLE!

fableAs the definition implies a fable is a story that exists to teach a lesson usually to children. To me saying Zootopia is heavy-handed is as insane as saying the Tortoise and the Hare  or the Boy Who Cried Wolf are too heavy handed. THEY ARE FABLES!!! Again, they exist to teach lessons to children. Are nursery rhymes heavy handed? Do we need to not read the Lion and the Mouse or other Aesops Fables to kids any more because they are too heavy-handed? Give me a break…

I mean what’s next someone claim the tortoise and hare metaphor is flawed because it doesn’t show a broad range of athletes in the race! Of course not, all fables and all metaphors are at a certain point flawed. But they teach the lesson they are meant to teach to children. Talk about overthinking it.

But Zootopia isn’t just a fable for children. There’s lots for adults too-

Now what makes Zootopia special is it takes a fable about prejudice (amongst other things  that people always forget about like bullying and never giving up) and adds a detective story that’s very entertaining. It has all the flavor of a film noir buddy cop story we used to get in the 80s with great chemistry between Judy and Nick. AND even more than that it has amazing world building with an incredible attention to detail for each of the lands of Zootopia. The voice acting is superb and it has tremendous heart.

But even adding to the greatness of Zootopia is how funny it is.  There are tons of background jokes in signs, dvd covers and the like but there also great primary jokes. My favorite that still makes me laugh each time is Mr Big and his skunk rug. This is a play up on the Godfather meant to entertain adults.  Everything down to the design of the wedding is a perfect send up and it makes me laugh.

In this scene with Mr Big, you also get some key elements of the fable.  We learn that “My child. We may be evolved, but deep down, we are still animals.” Deep down inside we all have weaknesses and prejudices we pretend aren’t there but that is no excuse. Through the story Judy realizes her own ‘deep down inside’ feelings and learns to be a better person (or bunny)!

So for me the best shot combines humor, beautiful lighting and design, and a memory of what Judy has just learned. It has everything I love about Zootopia- a film which I think is the best Disney non-musical since 101 Dalmatians and one of the only truly memorable movies of 2016

zootopia best shot

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Star Wars: Force Awakens

I’ve talked a lot about Star Wars: Force Awakens on this blog. I’ve written editorials, done podcasts and given my review. In fact there is an entire page dedicated to Star Wars content as well as a playlist on my youtube channel I would love for you to check out.

So with all of that said Nathaniel over at Film Experiment picked Force Awakens for this week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot. You can see all of my best shot series including some I have done on my own with Batman/Superman/Marvel and X-Men movies.

Since I have already talked so much about Force Awakens I will keep this entry relatively brief. I loved the film.  It was my second favorite of 2015 after Inside Out. Going into Force Awakens my favorite Star Wars film was New Hope. Why? Because it was the one that made me cheer the most and was the best theater experience I have ever had up until FA. I saw a rerelease before Phantom Menace and the entire audience was cheering and so into it. I loved it.

It might be blasphemous to say but I think Force Awakens takes what I loved about New Hope and improved upon it.  I honestly don’t see the huge complaints over Rey. I think it is dumb and a little sexist. She isn’t that different than Luke who also blew up the death star using the force with no real training. Nobody complains about that…I love Finn and the idea of a dissenting storm trooper. I loved Kylo Ren and found him to be a pretty nuanced villain for Star Wars.  He’s a true apprentice something we never got with Darth Vader in the trilogy or Anakin in the prequels. I loved seeing the old players and cried when Han died.

Could they have done without another Death Star? Yes but that did not lessen my enjoyment of the film a bit. It isn’t perfect but I sure had a great time watching it and I’ve seen it probably 10+ times and still love it. Call me a fangirl. I don’t care.

So this is my best shot. The light saber battles in Force Awakens are the best in Star Wars history. It felt like a weapon, like a rod of fire, which I have never felt before. In the final battle between Kylo and Rey she is on the defense the whole time and he is injured. Finally she senses what Maz Kanata told her and under great adrenaline pushes kylo forward.  I love this expression and I love this movie!

force awakens best shotTake that you Mary Sue morons… 😉