Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Halfway Point of 2015

At the halfway point last year, I had seen 24 theatrically released films from that year. I tie that figure this year with a few caveats since A Most Violent Year came out December 31st, Still Alice had a blink-and-miss qualifying run in 2014 and Jane Wants a Boyfriend technically doesn't have an official release date yet. In any case, here are those films I have seen in alphabetical order:

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Boy Meets Girl (2015)
  • The Boy Next Door

  • Cake
  • Cinderella (2015)
  • Clouds of Sils Maria
  • The DUFF

  • Ex Machina
  • Furious 7
  • The Last 5 Years
  • Inside Out

  • Jane Wants a Boyfriend
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • Jurassic World
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Paddington
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Predestination

  • Spy
  • Still Alice
  • The Wedding Ringer
  • Wild Tales

Lots of boy-meets-girl films so far from the movie actually titled Boy Meets Girl to Jane Wants a Boyfriend and of course the Disney boy-meets-girl film Cinderella. There's a psychotic boy meeting slightly older girl in The Boy Next Door and a mad boy meeting imperator girl in Mad Max: Fury Road. There's a geeky boy meeting a girl robot in Ex Machina and of course a dog-soldier hybrid boy meeting a girl who inherits the universe in Jupiter Ascending.

There's also a lot of Anna Kendrick as she has starred in three films, the most of any actor. A slew of other actors have appeared in two films including Oscar Isaac, Jason Statham, Kristen Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Allison Janney, and Stellan SkarsgÄrd. Channing Tatum will join them after I see Magic Mike XXL in a few days.

In terms of favorites, Mad Max: Fury Road is out ahead by miles though Oscar nominee Wild Tales comes close as do Pixar's latest Inside Out and the hilarious Spy. The latter of which features many of my favorite female performances so far this year in Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and Miranda Hart. Other noteworthy female performances include Michelle Hendley in Boy Meets Girl, Sarah Snook in Predestination, Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year, Charlize Theron in Mad Max, Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina, and finally Kristen Stewart in both of her films with two legendary artists in Julianne Moore and Juliette Binoche. As for the guys... thumbs up for Chris Pratt in Jurassic World, Jason Statham in Spy, Tom Hardy/Nicholas Hoult in Mad Max, and Oscar Isaac in both of his films. Finally, a shout out to the last few minutes of Furious 7 with that touching tribute to Paul Walker.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Equality and Pride

This week has been quite eventful in terms of LGBT rights with the historic SCOTUS ruling making same-sex legal in all 50 states that I really haven't had time to process it all except to say finally and thank goodness for everyone who fought the fight so valiantly.

I did go to the Gay Pride Parade in New York City today and the emotions ran high. Don't really have much else to say so I'll leave y'all with two tumblr posts below I reblogged today:


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nothing but the music...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

The Red Shoes is yet another film I had only heard about, but can now cross off my list thanks to this series. It's a 1948 British film about a ballet dancer (Moira Shearer as Vicky Page), her meteoric rise after catching the eye of a company owner with exacting taste (Anton Walbrook as Boris Lermontov), and her subsequent downfall when her love of dance gets in the way of her relationship with a talented composer (Marius Goring as Julian Craster). The film prominently features the new ballet "The Red Shoes" based on a Hans Christian fairy tale of the same name in which a woman is unable to take off a pair of red shoes she's been given, forcing her to dance day and night to the point of near-death, a not so subtle reference and foreshadowing to the film's main plot.

The shot above is from the ballet, which happens right in the middle of the film, and clearly outlines the main conflict of the film moving forward. Vicky is happy with her boyfriend, but the allure of the red shoes (aka her career as a top ballet dancer) is too great especially as it is literally dangled in front of her. This love triangle of sorts dominates the latter half of the film which is why my pick for best shot is another shot during the ballet that more artfully showcases this relationship.

Best Shot

Obviously spliced to get all of the main characters into frame, it's a powerful image showing each of them in their natural element. Vicky is in the spotlight, wearing the titular red shoes and dancing. Meanwhile Julian is below conducting and lost in the music with Boris up in his dark balcony, watching, judging, brooding. It's clear that for two of the characters "music is all that matters... nothing but the music" which Boris repeatedly reminds others throughout the film and yet he's the one who let his feelings get in the way and instigates their professional break-up in spite of greatness they were all making.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bang Bang Boom!

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

This week the film chosen is Magic Mike just in time for the sequel's release a few weeks from now. Scantily clad men stripping and gyrating to music? Yes, please. And yet looking back at Magic Mike's release in 2012, I was less than enthused to see the film. With the exception of Contagion and the fluffiness of the Ocean's Eleven films, Steven Soderbergh hadn't impressed me for nearly a decade and I was highly, highly allergic to Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum. Little did we all know we were in the midst of both of their McConnaisance™. And while much has already been written on McConaughey and his scene-stealing character Dallas, I want to dedicate my post on Tatum.

Pre-2012, Tatum was one of my least favorite actors. He "won" my award for Worst Acting Performance for his 2011 film The Eagle. In my write-up trying to explain why I found him so unappealing, I wrote that I "find him dull and blank-faced" and realized that I was simply immune to his charms. Flash forward a few months and suddenly, his charms had won me over from the one-two punch of Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street. Much to my chagrin, I placed him in my Top 10 Performers of 2012 So Far list. But in 21 Jump Street, he showed he could make fun of himself while in Magic Mike he finally had a vehicle that showed off his natural easy charisma where he could dress up as Marilyn Monroe in one scene and then literally rock the house with his hypnotizing moves in another.

So even though the movie follows the journey of 19-year-old Adam played by Alex Pettyfer and McConaughey steals every scene he's in, Tatum is the undeniable lead, grounding the film with a sort of awareness and presence I honestly did not think he possessed. Fortunately, Channing's been proving my initial assumptions wrong since then and why his career has taken off. My best shot speaks to this a bit...

Best Shot

Here, Mike has just finished a routine and the ladies are all over him, ripping his shirt off and throwing money at him just as Hollywood and movie fans have been at Tatum befitting his high demand. Okay, no one is probably ripping his shirt off, but you know they want to!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For his sake and mine...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Amadeus won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham's portrayal of Antonio Salieri, the court composer whose jealousy of Mozart's talents drives the film's narrative. It's a powerhouse of a role for Abraham enabling him to play the older, bitter Salieri confessing his sins to a priest as well as the younger, manipulative Salieri humble and smiling in public while plotting Mozart's demise in private.

While the movie is all about Salieri and his complicated relationship with Mozart, its Salieri's complex relationship with God that left a lasting impression for me. After all, from a young age all Salieri wanted to do was praise God through music, disavowing himself from all vices and keeping himself chaste so he can devote his life to his music. Enter Mozart, vulgar and crass as can be, and yet whose music was just like "hearing the voice of God." Compared to that, Salieri recognizes his own mediocrity and blames God for giving him just enough talent to recognize the genius of Mozart's work, but not enough to create something similar himself. Even worse, he resents that God would choose to bestow such a talent to a "boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy." Ultimately, he vows to "hinder and harm" God's chosen instrument in Mozart while burning a crucifix as if to signal to the audience how serious he is of his new life goal.

And so in a film with such a lavish production, operatic music, and endless supply of wigs and costumes, it's a quiet, almost bare scene where Salieri prays to God that caught my eye.

Best Shot

Here, Salieri begs God to send Mozart away, praying "for his sake and mine." Abraham's acting here is just phenomenal, subtle and still so evocative. His face and his hands, filling the frame, do the heavy lifting, making us feel all the emotions he's experiencing--hopelessness, jealousy, anger, sadness, confusion, etc. Of course, this happens prior to his point of no return (when he burns the crucifix) so it's an apt prayer that unfortunately goes unanswered.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Brief Thoughts Before the Tony Awards

Since I do live in New York City, I try my best to see as many Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway shows as I can, albeit at a discount usually. This year, I think I did relatively well especially with regards to this year's Tony nominees, which is why I'm excited about Sunday's award show. Plus it also seems that unlike the last few years, many of the categories are nail-biters in terms of which show or which actor will win. Regardless the Tony Awards are always a hoot to watch with performances from the musical nominees and usually game hosts, this time with the fabulous Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth.

So let's talk musicals! The Best Musical category is probably the most contentious this year. An American in Paris and Fun Home lead all nominees with 12 nods each while Something Rotten! has 10 and The Visit has 5 (and the legendary Chita Rivera). I've seen and loved Fun Home and Something Rotten! and hope one of them wins it. Something Rotten! in particular, which I've seen twice, has been an addictive earworm and its musical performance is the one I'm most looking forward to on the big night. As for Best Musical Revival (won the past two years by two musicals I've obsessed over aka Pippin and Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the sumptuous production of The King and I looks to prevail over On The Town and On the Twentieth Century. With high demand for the other two, I was only able to see On the Town which was fine more than great for me despite a few truly fun numbers.

In terms of acting, I think everyone is again holding their breath to see if Kelli O'Hara can finally win her first Tony especially with the love they've shown for her show giving The King and I 9 nominations. With that said, it's yet another brutal line-up for Lead Actress in a Musical consisting of two actresses from the top two nominated shows and two legends in Chenoweth and Rivera. Lead Actor is equally competitive with any of the five men nominated looking likely to pick up the trophy. In the Featured categories, it'll be interesting if there'll be some vote-splitting happening with Something Rotten!, An American in Paris, and Fun Home all with multiple nominees. The latter especially has three in Featured Musical Actress!

Like every year, my track record for plays are abysmal. Unlike last year though, I did manage to see something that was not only Tony nominated, but seems to be the front-runner i.e. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. With 6 nominations, that atypical play (a West End awards-winning hit) looks to go head to head with Wolf Hall for Best Play, which leads all plays with 8 nods. As for Best Play Revival, many seem to think the Bradley Cooper-starrer The Elephant Man will edge out the Carey Mulligan-starrer Skylight, neither of which I've seen so who knows?

Both actors, Cooper and Mulligan, then seem likely to win their first Tony Awards for Best Lead in a Play, but that's far from a lock. Cooper will have to contend with Curious Incident's Alex Sharp and Wolf Hall's Ben Miles while Mulligan's biggest competition is the Queen herself, Helen Mirren, in a role that has already won her heaps of awards. Just as a quick aside, yay for my TV favorites Elisabeth Moss and Ruth Wilson getting nominated here, but boo for no love for Jake Gyllenhaal (who was in Constellations with Wilson which I regret not seeing). Since I haven't seen many plays and don't know much about their roles, I have nothing to say with regards to the Featured Actors only to root for names I do recognize like Allesandro Nivola, Annaleigh Ashford, Patricia Clarkson, and Julie White.

Of course, I'm sure a lot of people are already thinking about next year's Tony Awards. Hamilton. Hamilton. Hamilton. I foolishly missed it when it played Off-Broadway this year, but you better believe I'll be seeing this before next year's Tonys!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What a girl had to do to get arrested....

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Dick Tracy is a 1990s film based on the famous comic strip character of the same name. The movie's aesthetic is heavily influenced by comics and it's certainly why it's still a film many remember and talk about. I mean it's not because of the plot, which was flimsy and a bit all over the place. But who cares? It's pretty! Right at the beginning these two wide shots show off the brilliant art direction and were close to being my pick for best shot.

And then Madonna. Before seeing the film for this series, I thought I had actually seen it already when I was younger. But I definitely didn't, because if I did I wouldn't have been shocked when Madonna showed up. I loved her in this. Her natural charisma and talent was a match-made in heaven with the femme fatale blond bombshell character she plays in the film. And to be honest, the camera loves her. For example, in my pick for best shot...

Best Shot

Yes, it's Madonna and Child. Both are the two recent forces complicating the main protagonist's life and it's great Warren Beatty the director decided to go for this shot as a way to underline that. And while the kid is in red, all eyes are on Madonna, however, in all of her confidently sexy glory. And just because I really couldn't get enough of her in the film, I have one more shot of her...

It's actually THE final shot of her Breathless Mahoney performing in the movie and her energy is electric. It's worth to note that this is happening during the big climactic shootout and everyone else in the club are running for cover. She doesn't stop performing and it's fabulous.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sarah Michelle Gellar Reunites With Old Castmates! Huzzah!

If you're a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan (and who isn't?) and especially if you enjoyed her previous roles as Buffy Summers and Kathryn Merteuil, then this week was just wonderful.

First, Gellar posted on her social media this adorable photo with her previous Buffy co-star Alyson Hannigan. Willow and Buffy reunited! Now that Joss Whedon is seemingly done with comic book superheroes for now, can we talk about a reunion special perhaps taking place adjacent to Sunnydale?

But then Gellar wasn't done with reunions! Just a few days ago, she posted this photo on her Instagram alongside her previous Cruel Intentions co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair eliciting a super gay gasp and squeal from me!

A photo posted by Sarah Michelle (@sarahmgellar) on

And then to find out they were actually together to see a Cruel Intentions musical was just too much. She and Blair then knocked me out by re-enacting their infamous kiss. More details and photos here.

I wonder which previous co-star she'll hang out next.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Three oldest and best friends...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

To celebrate the centennial of the great Orson Welles, three films of his were assigned (Citizen KaneThe Magnificent Ambersons, and The Lady from Shanghai). I picked his second film The Magnificent Ambersons about a wealthy family dealing with personal changes/drama in their lives during the turn of the century. In the heart of the film is a starcrossed romance of a man trying to woo again an old love and a woman who keeps appeasing her selfish son by not giving into her true feelings. My pick for my favorite shot features these these two...

This shot doesn't really have read Wellesesque (or would that be Wellesian?), but I love it because of Agnes Moorehead, who plays Fanny, shown here on the right as the jealous third wheel. Her jealousy just reads so clearly here on her face and posture. Not to mention how great it is to juxtapose her displeasure with the other two looking lovingly into each other's eyes completely and utterly oblivious to Fanny and her feelings. Fanny's misplaced belief that she should be with Eugene and not Isabel essentially drives the action of the film as she stokes the fire of suspicion and disapproval of Isabel's already selfish son by telling him there might be something inappropriate happening between his mother and her new gentleman caller (his father, Isabel's husband had recently died).

Wished I had more time to re-watch and do a closer analysis of this shot or another shot, for example one of the many indoor shots. Welles penchant and skill for interior shots is already plenty evident in this early work. But alas this was a "see once, write a quick post on it, and then go on vacation" type of deal.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why don't you speak?

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Bright Star is one of those films I feel I should love more, but just don't. I saw it in theaters when it came out and while I thought it looked gorgeous and the performances were uniformly excellent, it left me a bit cold. I chalked it up to my unfamiliarity with John Keats as well as Jane Campion's understated style. A recent re-watch confirmed my initial feelings despite my increased love for Ben Whishaw during the past few years as well as being a fan of Campion's recent work on television.

And yet picking a "best shot" proved almost impossible because of the film's unquestionable beauty. So I'll just briefly talk about four of my favorites shots with my eventual pick in the end.

I mentioned Campion's subdued style, but this dissolve shot is simultaneously understated and bold. It must have been tempting to put many of Keats words literally on screen, but the film waits for this moment when Fanny misses Keats so much that it makes sense for her to visualize him while she reads his words.

All of the actors are great, but Whishaw is the film's MVP for me--naturally sad, effortlessly romantic, and quietly intense. In this shot, his longing and frustrations are palpable with the love of his life so close and yet still out-of-reach.

This shot is a very close runner-up since it displays so many things I really liked about the film--the costumes, the flowers, the use of light, the touching, her penchant to be proactive, his penchant to let her.

Best Shot

My best shot comes from one of my favorite scenes (probably my favorite) in the film. In a film with mostly subdued feelings, this particular scene is electric with emotions, mostly from Whishaw, who leaves behind understated Keats for this glorious moment of unbridled passion. Abbie Cornish also plays Fanny uncharacteristically here choosing to remain mostly silent instead. In the meantime, Brown, comically and villainously played by Paul Schneider, is in top form. I could've picked any shot from this scene, but I chose this one, because I love that all of their faces are obscured. It's as if they all just couldn't look one other from all of the deep emotions they're all feeling in this moment.