Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for August, 2010

The Best Shots of Bring It On

August 26, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

These screencaps probably evoke more delight for those who’ve watched Bring It On than for those relying on the isolated evidence above. Which is partly my fault, since the shots I chose don’t bring out the best in director Peyton Reed’s striking colour and composition choices. But it’s also an inherent flaw in choosing shots from this movie for the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series, since Bring It On‘s unflagging momentum is aided by its brisk editing, and it gathers an ensemble gifted with expressive physicality. (And what’s a cheerleading movie without either of those?) So not only do these single frames fail to do justice to the giddy movements that the lead actors (Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku) each contribute to these respective scenes, but they are cut together with so many unmissable reaction shots of shared joy that it’s more accurate to say that, rather than shots, these are my favourite sequences of Bring It On. (more…)

The Best Shots of Black Narcissus

August 19, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

Black Narcissus‘s acclaim as a “colour masterpiece” doesn’t quite nail its fascinating austerity, especially when it closes up on Deborah Kerr’s face. Why explore the movie’s odious take on Oriental exoticism, which is where much of its “colour” lies, when it is far more interesting to watch Kerr’s Sister Clodagh as she struggles to establish a school isolated in the Himalayas? (No knock on cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who fully deserves his Oscar.) Without any guidance but her resolve, the young Sister Clodagh has to steel herself against her own insecurities, the pervasive sensuality, a local agent’s religious skepticism and raffish charm, the natives’ linguistic and cultural barriers, her fellow nuns’ weaknesses and falterings. These troubles shape a rare, compelling portrait that illuminates why she wears such hardness in her demeanor, as do so many other Sister Superiors before and since.

Oh, and here’s another: the flood of her memories. When we first encounter Sister Clodagh, she is framed in her off-white nun’s habit, already abstracted to her role. It is only a full hour in that she begins to dissolve (quite literally, in the visual sense) into flashbacks of her days prior to making her vows. These slow dissolves are my favourite parts of the movie, forging our impressionistic sense of Clodagh’s various psychological states:

What’s especially brilliant about these flashbacks is that they are never explicitly presented as part of Sister Clodagh’s troubles, unlike nearly every other plot point. Or at least initially: (more…)

The Best Shot of Angels in America

August 12, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. When that topmost shot appeared, it instantly triggered the latent Lust, Caution part of my brain. Not to suggest that Roy Cohn (Al Pacino) and Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson) share an… acrobatic relationship like Mrs Mai and Mr Yi’s, of course, but they are quite similar in other ways:

The title Lust, Caution fits their situation aptly. In Angels in America‘s multi-protagonist narrative, Roy and Joe take the parts of conservative, anti-gay Republicans forced to face up to the realities of the people they’ve demonised: Roy contracts AIDS through one of his illicit, off-screen encounters, while Joe finds himself losing the battle against his desire. Playwright Tony Kushner, who adapted his own script for the screen, conjures a few other such doublings across political lines. By this point, Joe has fallen for and cohabited with his out gay co-worker Louis; both have spurned their lovers of a few years for each other. The spurned lovers, Joe’s wife Harper and Louis’ ex-boyfriend Prior, meet via some sort of arcane telepathic corridor, and acknowledge that they signed into their failed relationships mostly due to erotic attraction. And both Prior and Roy, stricken with AIDS, start having rather different visitations upon them of an afterlife-y sort.

They’ve made their choices about power. The framing says it all. (more…)