Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Showgirls

The concept of this series is such: I choose a movie. We all choose our favorite shot(s) from said movie. I link up to everyone's choices each Wednesday. It's an eye candy free for all celebrating those single images in movies that we just can't live without. They're either the prettiest, the most telling, personally resonant, quite unexpected or just plain delightful.

Today's episode: Paul Verhoeven's gaudy masterwork SHOWGIRLS (1995). It's loud. It's trashy. It's colorful. It's spectacularly itself. Something all movies should strive to be. So, very briefly, I considered this shot from the opening sequence.


Because the "HUGE" graphic makes me giggle. It can't have been an accident that that's the word that flashes in neon just as Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) pulls into Las Vegas. "I'm gonna win."

I almost went with anything from Nomi's first performance like these.


I love how distorted and fleshy the first image is (that's the movie, too) and that Nomi is a blur. Isn't she the spazziest (live action) protagonist of all time? She's basically a rampaging toddler and definitely the most inelegant "dancer" ever captured on film. It's not just that famous pool sex scene that's epileptic. This girl seems constantly beset by seizures, whether she's throwing fries, hitting friends, dancing or lapdancing, shoving innocent human resources personnel against walls, eating potato-chips, buying dresses from "ver-sayce" or running out into oncoming traffic (which she does at least twice during the movie). The second image is unexpectedly demure as she prepares to strip. Aren't the pinks and yellows gorgeous? It's not deep focus (shame) but it's wonderfully composed to allow you to see Cristal's (Gina Gershon) volcanic entrance at the same time in the background.

Speaking of backgrounds. There's so much going on in some of the frames, so many characters milling about with their own stories and agendas that I'm not even joking when I say that it occasionally feels like a Robert Altman movie... if the master had constantly snorted cocaine rather than puffed Mary Jane.


Some of the chaotic teeming energy is undoubtedly aided by the use of long takes. Thankfully Verhoeven lets DP Jost Vacano's camera roam around the room in a few key sequences rather than relying on a million edits. We love long takes, yes we do. Way too few filmmakers ever think to use them.

But I finally had to settle on my favorite dance sequence for the best shot. It's the climax of sorts (though Showgirls really doesn't know when to quit -- abbreviate the two major subplots involving a rapist rocker and a womanizing choreographer and the movie is suddenly zippier), which finally brings our two anti-heroines together in costume, though they've rehearsed this number alone before in one of the movie's very best scenes.


To me that just says it all. It's a blue movie (pun intended), the anti-heroines are dressed identically "You and I... we're exactly the same" but their expressions are so different. Cristal is your devious delicious Bitch Goddess (the name of the show within the show), Nomi is the bizarrely innocent whore/plaything.
Come on, slave girl.
Now, this slave girl is about to push her master down those monster stairs but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
You know the best advice I ever got? You're up there on stage, hoping on a spot. Someone gets in your way, step on 'em. If you're the only one left standing there, they hire you.

That's about it. Thank you and good night, ladies and gentlemen. Elvis has left the building.
'...Best Shot' Players
Give it up for these whores dancers! You click the link. You see the post. They show you what you want to see...
  • My New Plaid Pants ass + palm trees + vomiting dolphins... "It doesn't suck!"
  • Nick's Flick Picks ♪ listen all of y'all this is sabotage!
  • Antagony & Ecstasy the solar plexus as phallus? Whaaa
  • missemmamm honors Nomi's relentless thumbs and (starry) eyes
  • Stale Popcorn "the creature from Nomi's Lagoon" great writeup
  • vg21random believes in the hair & makeup. I agree. (In fact, I 100% believe that this movie deserved a few Oscar nods: makeup and Gina Gershon as Best Supporting Actress being the two most egregious snubs.)
 Other Films in This Series
*

29 comments:

Bia said...

I love how David Schmader says in the commentary when Nomi is having sex that someone should get her some insulin. She's so manic.

This film has probably made a fortune from home video sales since being deemed a flop.

NATHANIEL R said...

Bia -- well, it's definitely rewatchable. so home sales make a lot of sense. But in reality, it didn't do so badly at the box office. at least WELL over the any other NC-17 take.

Michael said...

I've never seen this! But I can't get it through Netflix.. my parents would revoke all Netflix privileges!

JKlorfein said...

This is by far my favorite online feature idea of the week, maybe the month, maybe the summer.

Favorite shot: The dolly in on Nomi as she eats her burger on top of her blue convertible, parked in front of the Sphinx. After 85 minutes of frantic, frenzied absurdity, activity the movie "pauses" (but of course the camera never does - it still tracks) for a moment that takes what would be an an ordinary, boring moment of post-industrial American life and reveals it as something completely ridiculous.

And that's why SHOWGIRLS mattered so much to me growing up in Atlanta, and that's why it's the one of the best American movies of the 90's.

Miss Tufsy said...

Funny today is the day you do Showgirls because the Burlesque trailer is now up, and the colors remind me so much of it.

vg21 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vg21 said...

Nathaniel, that HUGE is just huge, I have never noticed. Also, the pic from "twin scene" is so great. I am not a fan of that particular number but this shot is just brilliant. It absolutely captures how insecure/innocent Nomi is in this environment despite (or therefore?) being so "epileptic" throughout the movie.

By the way, any chance you got my shots? I emiled you the link. You can tell me if it's not "linkable", I can take criticism well:).

Mirko S. said...

I'm a great Verhoeven's fan (btw, I hope he will come back on a director's chair soon).

I love Gina in this (and I know I'm not the only one...no matter what razzies or, in general, mainstream Hollywood could think about her) and my fav moment is the kiss between the two girls...

my best "les kiss" is from a movie despised by the majority of feminists around the world? what a kinky person I'm...

NATHANIEL R said...

Mirko -- that rehearsal/twin scene is maybe my favorite in the film. I just love Cristal and I really do think Gina Gershon is Oscar worthy in that movie... so much understanding of overall film style / tone / subtext and how her character is key to all of it. It's one of my proudest moments that way back in 1995 when everyone was hating on it, I nominated her in my own faux Oscars... albeit unpublished. Sigh. I didn't need any critical reassessment to appreciate her for the ages performance.)

Miss Tufsy -- i guess i should watch that.

JKorflein -- check out STALE POPCORN for a great writeup on that very scene/shot.

vg21 -- i'll have to check my e-mail settings. I never saw that e-mail but I have linked up to your post now. THANKS FOR PLAYING.

I realize i probably shot myself in teh foot with the Angels In America thing. Who is going to watch 6 hours of something for this series? But I hope at least one or two fanatics will join me ;)

Sean said...

And don't forget the most AWESOME score that Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame provided with such gems as "Goddess" and "Angel". I was so pissed when they only released the songs from and "inspired" by the film CD. At least it had some cool stuff on it too, but I still want that score to this day.

NATHANIEL R said...

yeah some of the musical phrasing (instrumentally and "nanana" speaking) is pretty key to the best moments.

Hayden said...

Speaking of this, the Burlesque trailer just came out.

NATHANIEL R said...

i shall write abou'tit

Hayden said...

I hope Cher and Stanley Tucci are your only yes's and the rest is a giant "NO" without any maybe so's.

Hayden said...

(And I don't even like Cher!)

Dean said...

I really like this series already.

NATHANIEL R said...

Dean -- thank you. i think it'll be fun. Of course it'll be way more fun if more people participate.

Hayden-- just posted.

Craig said...

The icing on the tits -- sorry, having prurient thoughts today.

"I ate dog food, too, when I was broke".

Michael C. said...

Any way to see Angels in America online? Can't rent it from iTunes or Netflix instant view?

Tim said...

Make that two people who think Gershon deserved an Oscar. Such a fantastically self-aware performance.

Hayden said...

P.S. You'd be remiss not to include The Fabulous Baker Boys in this series.

NATHANIEL R said...

Hayden -- if i were to do that series i would have to print out every image from every participating blog and make it into wallpaper for my entire apartment.

and then the boyfriend would kill me.

The Bening said...

we suggest The Grifters, Bugsy, Bening Julia, Running with Scissors and American Bening for future episodes of this new series.

why didnt you start with one of those?

Mary said...

I'm late but I definitely had to participate. It's my favorite movie and I love your blog.

http://missemmamm.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/showgirls-shot/

NATHANIEL R said...

Mary thanks. I have included your post in this post.

yay more images.

vg21 said...

Thanks for linking me, Nathaniel. I just love how technology fails every time I really need it.

I'll definitely do Angels in America though and send it to you. I never give up:).

Vertigo said...

Yesterday I watched Showgirls for the firs time and... what the hell? So this is that legendary bad, awfuly bad movie?

The answer is no. Yeah, it's campy, cheesy and sometimes very over the top (acting, dialogues), but I really like this mix of music, neons, sex and night life of Vegas.

Cinematography was really good. My favourite shot? The one from Nick's Flick Picks: http://www.nicksflickpicks.com/showgirls11916.jpg
Beautiful colors and composition.

NATHANIEL R said...

vertigo -- exactly. it is not the terrible thing it's cracked out to be at all. it' sjust ABOUT terrible people, terrible ideals, terrible dancing and terrible gaudiness :)

it's funny to me that something like SCARFACE is so loved while SHOWGIRLS is so hated since it's, in its own way, something like a male version of this given that Scarface also revels in its crazy excess, hugely underlined OTT performances and vulgar american dreams of prosperity no matter the human cost)

Vertigo said...

I don't like Scarface and I think it's one of the most overrated movies. The only good things in it are Miami, music and of course Michelle Pfeifer. She not only looks stunning, but she is way better than everyone else in it, including grotesque and, as you say, over the top acting from Pacino. Oh, and "Say hello to my little friend" is good line : )