Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Chicken Run

chicken run2I’ve been eagerly awaiting this week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot as it is an animated film, and one that I happen to love at that- Aardman animation’s 2000 Chicken Run.

I know this is about chickens instead of turkey but it has become a bit of a Thanksgiving tradition at my house to watch Chicken Run.   It certainly beats Free Birds as a Thanksgiving film and I don’t think there are any other movies about poultry.  Am I wrong?

I watched it again today and was delighted all over again.  This will be more like a traditional review from me since animation is my blog focus but at the bottom I will have my best shot like normal.

If you haven’t seen it, Chicken Run is a claymation, stop motion animation take on a prison escape movie like The Great Escape.

It focuses on Ginger (Minnie Driver), a plucky chicken at Tweedy egg farm who refuses to be satisfied with a life at the farm.  She is really the only intelligent chicken in the lot.  Well, there is the braniac chicken but she’s the only one that seems to understand what they are up against.

The design of the farm is brilliant with hen houses that look like the cabins of the Great Escape. All of Ginger’s attempts to escape feel very reminiscent of those pictures. I like this shot the bunk has 17 on it like Stallag 17, another famous prison war movie.

chicken run9The chickens end up failing in all of their attempts and Farmer Tweedy gets suspicious the “chickens are organizing!” which his wife Mrs Tweedy thinks is insane.  She’s the main villain of the picture and a lot of fun in a Cruella Deville type fashion. Her dream is to turn the chickens into pies and she buys a giant manufacturing machine to make the pies.

chicken run6With the purchase of the new machine Ginger is about to lose hope when a rooster named Rocky comes flying in to the farm.  Ginger knows he is from the circus but thinks he has somehow learned how to fly.  To Ginger this could be their salvation.  Perhaps he can teach them how to fly!  chicken run17Of course what he isn’t telling them is he is shot out of a canon and can’t fly, but he needs to hide out from the circus while they are in town so he plays along and begins training them on how to fly.  This involves a really fun montage of chickens doing pushups and the like.

chicken run20There’s also an amazing sequence where Rocky and Ginger get caught in the pie making machine.  It’s in the spirit of Indiana Jones and adventure movies with all kinds of obstacles to conquer.  It blows my mind when you watch this scene and remember it is all done with moving clay figures inch by inch.

The ending plays out in a fairly predictable way for this genre of movie but Mrs Tweedy is pretty scary, maybe too much for some kids? As is always the case it depends on the child.

chicken run19

Thing that makes this movie special is the writing.  It is funny throughout.  Not just the homages to escape movies but the dialogue is witty and will make you laugh.  Pter Lord and Nick Park bring the same type of humor we got in Wallace and Gromit with perhaps more of a visual component added in.  (Karey Kirkpatrick is the screenwriter with a story by Lord and Park).

All the other aspects are very strong including great music by John Powell and Harry Gregson- Williams.  I particularly like “Flip, Flop, Fly” a great swing number!

Plus, I like the way the chickens look.  I like the smoothness of the skin and the feather collar and feather underneath.  To me it is a pleasing design. All the sets are incredibly detailed and intricate especially when you consider they are all done by hand (stop motion animation is unbelievable).

chicken run10I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it.  It’s a delight in every other way so I can ignore a somewhat predictable story.

For me it is a big win!

Overall Grade- A


Hit Me with Your Best Shot can be difficult because do you pick the shot that gave you the most pleasure or the one that looks the best?  The two are not always the same.

My favorite joke in the movie is when Ginger tells the girls about the pies and Babs (the knitting chicken) says “I don’t want to be a pie.  I don’t even like gravy”.  I don’t’ know why but that cracks me up every time.

But the shot of her saying that line isn’t that great.  I will go with the line just after it and you can see the mayhem on the part of the hens at this news.  I think it is emblematic of the entire film, the claymation style and I love the expressions on the chickens faces.  So great!

chicken run12My youtube review can be found here

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Safe

This week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot is another film I had never heard of (hence great thing about being a part of the project!) called Safe.  It is directed by Todd Haynes and is definitely not for everyone.  In fact, I can say confidently that most of my normal readers will hate it.

safeYou see how it says “Best film of the decade” by the Village Voice on this poster? Well, let’s just say that Safe seems exactly like the kind of movie which would be the best film of the decade for the hipster Village Voice magazine.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it but it is such a weird movie.  It’s slow and puzzling and not a lot happens.  Most of my readers will find it extremely boring but I thought it was interesting.  Not one I will watch again but it was strange enough to be worth a watch.

The story centers around Julianne Moore’s Carol who is a homemaker that suddenly becomes ill without any seeming cause. It is later defined as ‘multiple chemical sensitivity’.  The movie never really explains if this is a quack diagnosis or a legitimate illness.  The doctors in the movie don’t seem to buy into it but she just keeps getting sicker.

They send her to a shrink convinced it is a psychiatric problem but he is of little help.  She tells him “aren’t you supposed to be the one asking all the questions”. But it may be a psychiatric condition because she does seem to be embracing chemicals like when she gets a perm and a manicure at the same time (any more chemical thing than that?). safe3

It’s hard because we don’t know enough about her before the illness to know whether it is psychiatric or not.  She’s a very strange character. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

Safe is one of those art-house pictures where the suburbs are stifling and housewives do nothing but go to lunches and have babies.  They try to make her husband seem like a bad guy but I never really bought that.  He doesn’t ever get angry.  He comes and visits her later on and he does ask questions. She’s so quiet and mousey that I felt kind of sorry for him.  How is he supposed to know what is going on when she is so non-communicative?

safe4But regardless it is clear they don’t have much love as a couple and are more comfortable with their lifestyle than anything else (both of them). Then Carol gets sick and she keeps running into different chemicals whether at a baby shower or at the dry cleaners.  Eventually she ends up in the hospital where she see’s an ad for a treatment center.

It is billed as a clean spa but it turns out to be a cult led by Peter Dunning played by Peter Friedman.  He uses a lot of self help junk that in the end blames the ill for their illness and doesn’t really help them to get better.


In fact, Carol seems to be getting worse despite eventually moving into a completely sterile igloo.  This hastening is blamed on her in the counseling sessions.

safe9And yet is it her fault?

She’s still sick but oddly enough in her new home she is happy, cult and all.  So what is Carol sick from? And will she ever be safe?

We leave the movie with her smiling and happy.  The people in the cult have thrown her a Birthday party.  They seemingly love her.  What does that mean for her?  I have no idea! That’s what makes this movie weird.  The cult is a happy ending and seemingly preferable to suburban life. So weird but it oddly works.

safe8As someone who has dealt with my own share of mental illness I found Safe’s lack of answers both intriguing and frustrating.  I like to think there is the one thing I can do that will solve the problem and I will never have a panic attack again but that’s just not the case.  I’m not sure if that’s the message of the movie?  Maybe?  Who knows?

Best Shot-

Safe looks great throughout so it is hard to pick a best shot. Cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy did an excellent job capturing the isolation of Carol in her 80’s suburban life.  I’m sure a lot of people will pick this shot but at the beginning we see Carol in a long panning shot drinking a tall glass of milk.  Behind her are painters with fumes, plastic that smells and she’s staring right at the camera which is unusual for  any movie.

Carol feels very small amongst all the whiteness on the curtains, painters, cupboards and even her milk.  This moment not only foreshadows the future allergens that will consume Carol but it also shows how unnatural she is in her own environment.  Look how stiff she sits in her chair, and who drinks milk in a room like that with people painting?  Why not go outside and drink? There’s just something so strange about it and in a way that captures this movie.  It’s a weird but intriguing film.



Hit Me with Your Best Shot: VMA Noms

So last minute change Nathaniel over at Film Experience has decided to switch things up for our Hit Me with Your Best Shot movie club.  Instead of our normal watch a movie and pick a shot, the assignment is to watch each of the nominees for best cinematography at the MTV Video Music Awards and pick a shot from each of them.

I have to say going into this I am really only a fan of one of the songs.  Not that they are bad just not my taste (I’m not much into hip hop).  I’m also not that up on the current music scene so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

But here goes.

1. The first video is the song Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar

Even for hip hop fans I don’t really get the appeal of the music but the video is nicely done.

This video starts out with a community grieving the loss of a boy and girl at a funeral.  But the children wake up out of the caskets and proceed to dance.  I think this is supposed to mean the exuberance which is lost to violence.  I really liked these 2 kids dancing so that’s why I picked this shot.


2. The next song is Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran- a bit of a slinky costume on the dancer on this one.  Just warning.

Not a whole lot to this video but a very pretty dance number and I like dance so that’s great.  This is actually the only song of this group I like and own.  I think Ed Sheeran has a nice tamber to his voice and the song has a very good hook.  They could have done I think a little bit more with the song, been a little more creative but it’s a nice number.

I thought this moment with the lighting and the splits of the dancer was beautiful (sorry I don’t know the technical terms).  They should get this dancer on Dancing with the Stars.  She’s great.


3. Next is Taylor Swift Bad Blood featuring Kendrick Lamar.

I actually like Taylor Swift (I know it is for some reason cool in certain circles to hate on her) but for a pop songstress I enjoy her tunes.  This song I’m not crazy about probably because of the hip hop elements but the music video is pretty cool and certainly ambitious.

There was a lot of cool shots to pick from this video but I went with a shot of the 2 boxers because I think boxing is empowering and have enjoyed doing some of it myself.  I think it is a particularly awesome trend for women- get all that angst out!


4. Next is FKA Twigs “Two Weeks”

This song I really didn’t care for and I wasn’t a big fan of the video either.  I don’t know who this singer is but I think you have to be a Beyonce or Mariah Carey to pull off this kind of diva Cleopatra kind of video.

But at the end we get an image of someone (the queen I guess?) under water and that was beautiful so that’s my shot.


5. Lastly, we have alt-J “Left Hand Free”

I have heard this song and it is an okay even if I can’t understand a single word he says. It feels very derivative of other artists like Cat Stevens but most in this genre probably does.  The video sure looks like they are having fun!  I need to hang out with these folks.

As an open water swimmer I particularly enjoyed the scenes at the river.  I wish I could be at that river floating down that gorgeous water!!  (Well I kind of was last weekend at Bear Lake!).  But it looks really fun, so that’s what led to my shot.  I wonder where this mysterious river is with the rope swing we always see in movies and TV? Looks fun!


Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Sunset Boulevard

sunset17This weeks choice for Hit Me with Your Best Shot movie club is the classic Billy Wilder directed and written film Sunset Boulevard.

If you haven’t seen it the film stars Gloria Swanson and William Holden in a film noir drama about a struggling writer who gets involved with a delusional star from the silent movies named Norma Desmond.  Most movies are about not giving up hope and achieving your dreams (even if it ends tragically).  Sunset Boulevard on the other hand is a bit of a cautionary tale of when those dreams become obsessions and keep you from living a full life. Great Expectations is mentioned in the beginning and in many ways they are similar.  Both stories have a male protagonist who dreams of greatness and women who can’t let go of lost dreams.

Today watching Sunset Boulevard reminded me of a guy I knew when I was about 25.  He believed he was destined to play in the NBA.  He actually had a vision from God that it was his calling.  Unfortunately he had not been good enough to make the college team at UofU.  Nevertheless, he would give these motivational speeches about the power of a dream and all.  It not actually happening didn’t seem to phase him much like Norma Desmond. On one hand this kind of vain ambition may seem charming but on the other it seems like a lot of wasted energy when new perhaps better dreams could be fulfilled.

Anyway, in classic noir style the film tells you the grim results of the crime with brooding narration at the onset.  This allows us to focus entirely on characters because the plot has already been spelled out.

Because it is so character driven a movie like Sunset Boulevard depends entirely upon the strength of the actors for its success.  Luckily in this case Holden and especially Swanson are up to the task.  It’s a cliche to say but Swanson is mesmerizing in every scene.  One gets the impression Norma Desmond would be proud of the leading lady portraying her!

That’s not to take anything away from Wilder or cinematographer John F Seitz because their work is very strong. What they do enhances the great efforts of the actors making it all work together nearly flawlessly.

For example, one thing I noticed while looking for a shot is the way Wilder makes Norma feel both large and small depending on the moment.

Gloria Swanson it turns out is only 4’11” (William Holden is 5 ’11” which would normally be short but a foot taller than his costar in this case).

When he needs Norma to feel powerful over Joe she has buns in her hair or they are sitting.  Here are some examples:

sunset3 sunset13 sunset14 sunset15But when Norma is losing control we see her being looked down on or seeming as tiny as Swanson really was.

All the doors in the house are massive and dwarf Norma.
Norma looks so tiny next to this giant ship bed
All the reporters looking down on her as she makes her grand exit.

sunset7 sunset11 sunset12Before I give my shot I will say that Sunset Boulevard is one of the few classics I would love to see a remake on.  The reason why is I love the musical version by Andrew Lloyd Webber (definitely his most underrated).  The music is very strong and I can see Meryl Streep eating up the part of Norma Desmond.  (Norma’s only 50 after all!).

Glenn Close is also iconic in the role as can be seen in one of the best songs

Can’t you just see that being a great movie?

Best Shot-

In this shot Joe is finally leaving Norma.  He spills the beans on all that Max has been doing to prop up her delusions of grandeur but she seems to be oblivious to all he is saying.  He is telling her “there is no shame in being 50 except when you are trying to be 25”.  Instead of paying heed she is giving a performance almost as if there is a spotlight over her head.  Look at the way her hands are at her throat like a Shakespearean actor doing Hamlet.  It’s almost as if she expects applause.

sunset18Then she says “I’m the greatest star of them all”.  He leaves and says goodbye and she says “No one ever leaves a star.  That’s what makes them a star”.  Once having tasted the greatness of being adored and loved Norma mentally cannot handle being small (she even says ‘I’m big. It’s the pictures that got small’).

Madness for Norma is a better alternative than being abandoned.

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

I’ve looked at the Hit Me with Your Best Shot project as kind of a book club for movies.  Just like in a book club you get to see what other people think and gain from their perspective.  You also sometimes love or just like the books assigned and sometimes you don’t like them at all.

Well, this weeks selection is I’m afraid the latter, a movie I don’t care for called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  I know many love it and it was nominated for many awards, but  I don’t like it (which makes picking a favorite shot rather difficult). If I made a list of ‘top 10 overrated movies’ this would definitely make that list.

My main flaw with the movie?- I don’t like the flying! 

The whole appeal of martial arts movies is that the fighter has the potential to kill his or her opponents with their body.  They do not need any assistance or super powers to get the job done.

You watch some of the old Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies they completely dominate their opponent from start to finish.  Maybe they had nunchucks or a pole but the power was always from their own body.  I’m aware some of these kung-fu movies can be over the top in their execution of the stunts and it end up looking ridiculous but it is always meant to appear like one man fighting with just his body.

That’s where we get into problems with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  By making the characters mystical and capable of flight it takes away all the tension and excitement because the vulnerability is gone.  They can fly away like Superman and walk on walls like Spiderman.Seems pretty invincible (and predictable) to me.

Most of the time the fights seem to end without any real victor because the loosing player can just fly away.  This is way less satisfying than a bloodied up opponent after facing Bruce Lee in a fight.  It makes the fight scenes feel very boring because it is so obviously choreographed and our heroes aren’t really going to get hurt. Again if you can fly away how bad can things really get in a fight?

The problem is these flying fight scenes are most of the movie, so my not liking them means I don’t really like the movie.  I think it is boring and I don’t think the special effects have held up very well.  They look kind of corny to me.

The main story is about 2 women Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen (Zhang Ziyi) as they try to protect a sword for Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat). They have various romantic adventures along the way and lots of flying fights. That’s about it.

The Shot

Some of the cinematography is nice and the performers are all gifted (how I wish we could have just left the Peter Pan antics and let them fight!).  But probably the part of the movie I like the best is that it has 2 strong female leads that are the main protagonists of the story. These women are as formidable as any men if  not more so and for a martial arts movie that is very cool (some of the Jackie Chan movies are particularly misogynistic).

So for me the best shot of the movie is when Jen and Shu Lien are fighting at the beginning and when they stay on the ground the movements are almost too fast to get a good screenshot of.  Nevertheless, this is the one I came up with.  It is pretty amazing and certainly way more impressive than any flying.


Hit Me with Your Best Shot: The Red Shoes

It’s time for my third entry in the Hit Me with Your Best Shot film project done by Nathaniel over at the Film Experience

I’m really excited about this project because it is kind of like a book club- in that it is interesting to see what other people think about the same movie, all watching it at the same time.  Plus, it introduces me to new films I might not have discovered on my own.  I won’t be able to review every movie because of content (as last week’s Magic Mike selection demonstrated) but the one’s I can I’m very enthusiastic about.

red shoes4This week’s choice is The Red Shoes which is a film made in 1948 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (known as The Archers) .  It is a movie I admit I had never heard of before but of course it is a classic (so  many of those it’s hard to keep track of all of them).  And it is fortunately a classic for a reason.  It is a stunning movie about passion, work, love and dance.

Frequent readers to this blog will already know one of my favorite topics in film is work. Why we work? How we balance work?  When have we over-worked?  How do you know what work to do?  What is passion and what is too much?  What about the doldrums when we are miserable at work?  I love comedies, dramas, even cartoons about work.

Well, in The Red Shoes you have a woman that has an unusual job- she is a prima ballerina.  At the beginning I was a little bit confused about who all the characters were and what was going on.  If this happens to you stick with it.  It all gets explained.  The ballerina in question is named Victoria ‘Vicky’ Page (Moira Shearer) and through an aunt of hers she is introduced to Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook).  He is an eccentric strange man who’s obsession is having the greatest ballet company in all of France.

As the director he ends up giving Vicky a shot when his ballerina gets married and is fired (there is no option of a working woman in this film).  Vicky’s first role is as the lead in a ballet called The Red Shoes based on the Hans Christen Andersen story.  It is written by the conductor Julian Craster (Marius Goring) who is new to the ballet company like Vicky.

I don’t want to give too much away because I went into this movie completely fresh and I’m glad.  Basically it is about Vicky’s battle between her love or personal life and her passion for dance or career.  There is an extended ballet sequence which is a stunning surrealist masterpiece.  I loved this shot from that dance.  You can see both the home and the dance reaching out to Vicky.

red shoes 3There is also a great scene towards the end where Lermontov tells Vicky ‘you cannot live two lives’ and she must choose what she wants. (I have to admit I was a little bit let down by the ending but given it was 1948 it is kind of understandable). Even in modern times most working women will tell you ‘you can’t have it all’.  Something is always sacrificed whether it is work, family or both.

red shoes 1The Shot-

But my favorite shot from The Red Shoes is from the ballet.  One of the things I noticed is whenever Vicky is dancing she is always smiling. You can tell she is so happy and perhaps that is the best litmus test of all?  Whatever makes you happy than try do as much of that as you can…It may not be your career but make it the thing you work for.

In a way watching her dance reminded me of the movie Ed Wood (I know strange comparison but hear me out).  He is so happy making his terrible movies.  The smile on his face never leaves.

So rarely is great passion matched with talent, so especially in Vicky’s case she should embrace what gives her that big smile. That’s why I picked this shot.  I love the dancing, red shoes and the smile.

red shoes2

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Amadeus

This post marks my second entry in The Film Experiment series called Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  It’s a fun project where various bloggers all watch a movie (or pick 1 out of 3) and then have the difficult task of selecting 1 shot that in your eyes captures said film.

My first entry was the daunting Citizen Kane but today proved to be difficult in its own way. This weeks film is a different kind of masterpiece- Milos Forman’s 1984 film Amadeus. (Which was my 1984 selection in Movies From My Life btw)

amadeusBased on the play from Peter Shaffer it tells a fictionalized version of Amadeus Mozart’s (Tom Hulce) life.  It is done through a foil and narrator Antonio Salieri (F Murray Abraham) who in his words is ‘the patron Saint of mediocrity”.  He wants to compose music so badly but he is not given the special talents by God, which he bitterly resents especially when a buffoon like Mozart seems to be so blessed.

Part of the problem is Salieri’s warped view of religion.  He thinks he can make a deal with God.  If he is a ‘model of virtue’ than God will bless him with great talent.  If this was the case then we would all be making deals with God…Salieri claims at the beginning that he works hard, prays and gives many lessons for free.  This reminds me of the rich man who asks Christ what he needs to do to make it into heaven.  “Sell all your possessions and give to the poor”.  He goes away sorrowing.  Jesus knows there is that one part of his heart which is not given to God. Salieri is much the same way.  He goes through the motions of faith without being open to God’s plan for him.  He thinks he can earn the benevolence of God and that he knows what is better for his life than God- the ultimate in pride.

This is when that green-eyed monster called envy creeps in and Salieri allows it to fill his heart.  Whenever he hears Mozart’s music he is overcome by its perfection and the animosity grows stronger until it finally births a plan for revenge- not just on his rival but on God for being so foolish in his gift-giving. He even burns the cross he is so bitter.

amadeus5As is usually the case with envy Mozart is completely oblivious to the hold he has over Salieri.  He has plenty of his own demons to focus on with a father who is never happy,  substance abuse and a public that is not always accepting to his work.  In the great irony Salieri is one of the few who consistently realizes the genius of Mozart and yet that leads to his eventual death and demise.

Amadeus does a lot of things as good as any movie I’ve seen.  It looks great, the opera’s feel real and lush, music is sublime, costumes wonderful and a little surprising (for example, the pink wig is unexpected in a period piece).  But all that aside its greatest achievement to me is two-part:

1. It shows how envy will ruin your life.  Unlike last years Whiplash, Amadeus seems to say that we are either born with talent or we are mediocre. Mozart needs no Terence Fletcher to beat the talent out of him.  It’s just there.  That may be true but surely Salieri could have done better if he had not allowed his rival to overtake him? He certainly could have been happier. As an old man he is in despair, mired with guilt and all because he couldn’t be happy at the blessings of another.  No wonder envy is a deadly sin!

amadeus32. It shows the sublime beauty of a person absorbing a masterpiece better than any film I’ve seen.  That moment when Salieri first hears Mozart’s music is perfect.  He’s just looking at the notes on the page but he hears it in his mind and it almost overwhelms him, even years later he is overcome with the beauty of the music. This is why he thinks it is God speaking through Mozart because only a deity could inspire such breathtaking work.

The problem with the grandeur of music shots is you really need the whole scene to get the majesty of it.

You need to hear Salieri talking about the ‘almost comic’ start, “just a pulse” and then the wind instruments and an “oboe. A single note, hanging there unwavering.  Until a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such a delight” ‘  This is music “filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God”.

I think that’s the most beautiful description of music or art I’ve ever heard.  But like I said, you need the whole scene (a tribute I think to Shaffer’s amazing script).

So I will go with the envy shot.  I am going to pick old Salieri with very convincing makeup.  In the narrative he has just determined his plan for revenge on Mozart and God.  He describes the funeral and what a delicious day it will be for him. Pointing to himself he says “And God is forced to listen! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once in the end, laughing at him!”  You can just feel the bitterness oozing out of this face. I love that he is pointing at himself because it is the envy in his heart that is the problem not God, not Mozart, not anyone else.


amadeus18But in fact, he is the only one left laughing at himself. “Mediocrities everywhere I absolve you!”

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Citizen Kane

For months I have enjoyed viewing my blogging buddy over at Coco Hits New York Conrado Falco’s posts called Hit Me with Your Best Shot.  It’s part of a series of posts sponsored by The Film Experiment which is a blog/podcast on movies.  The idea is you post the best shot (or sometimes 2) that exemplifies a classic film.

The reason these posts excite me is because I have a great love for photography as my grandfather, father and brother are all professional skilled photographers. My brother Ben Wagner is now the founder and CEO of Poler LLC clothing but he has done both film and still photography for all kinds of publications.  Anyway, photography was a big part of my family and I think that is why I love movies and in particular looking at the stills of a movie and how they all work together to evoke a particular mood or moment in the film.

On Conrado’s last Hit Me post he invited me to participate and I figured why not?  Well, of course the first one I do has to be Citizen Kane!  Only the greatest cinematography ever in a movie.  Widely argued as the greatest movie ever made, it is tough to argue that it is the best crafted movie with cinematographer Gregg Toland creating a work that has yet to be topped.  Literally almost every shot in the movie could be used for this project!

citizen kane6Most people know Orson Welles was given free rein in Citizen Kane directing himself in the story of Charles Foster Kane who is widely seen as a sub-in for newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.  Kane starts in obscurity but rises to be the richest most powerful man in the world.  And yet on his death bed he is practically alone and his one word is Rosebud.

Then for the rest of the movie a reporter named Jerry Thompson seeks to find out what Rosebud means and who Charles Foster Kane really is.

I love this movie but I am out of my league attempting to give any kind of professional analysis of the shots.  I know some things that impress me but I am sure there is much more a truly skilled technician would be able to tell you.  I highly recommend listening to the Roger Ebert audio commentary on the blu-ray.  It’s fascinating.

So the 3 shots I picked are…

citizen kane4Here’s a man who runs a newspaper, a tabloid no less, but what does he have going into the eternities?  Nothing but himself. He is infinitely alone.  citizen kane3After he insists Susan Alexander really is a singer he forces everyone to like her and forces her to sing just to prove he is right.  This image of the light bulb, his face and the newspaper with the headline about Susan is basically his life in one shot. He is exuberant, bright, sad, staring, and causing furor where ever he goes.

citizen kane5This is a shot from the beginning when Thompson gets his assignment to research Rosebud.  They have just finished watching the Kane newsreel about the great man’s life and all the reporters are nothing but shadows.  How apropos for someone about to find out the ‘hidden meaning’ of a word and a man’s life.

The lighting Toland and Welles achieve is astonishing.  The way shadows are used and light reflecting off of people in not just one interesting way but many in one shot is mind blowing.  He has many shots with a person that is blacked out facing the characters on the screen.  All we see is like a police outline and can look at the light and the reactions of who they are talking too.  Here is another example.

citizen kane2I guess that’s 4 shots then.  Give me a break.  It’s Citizen Kane for goodness sakes!!

What do you think of my shots?  It’s really a rite of passage for any film lover and I have the Citizen Kane boxed set collector’s edition which I highly recommend.  You’ve got to see it!