Monday, March 23, 2015

Go ahead, arrest me!

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.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is an anthology film by the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica consisting of three short stories starring the legendary Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. All three are huge names not only of Italian film, but cinema as a whole. I was exposed to De Sica and Mastroianni in college when I took an Italian Cinema class one semester and had the opportunity to view De Sica's The Bicycle Thief (still one of my favorite films) and Mastroianni in the classic 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini. I'm less familiar with Loren's work, even now, as most of my knowledge of her comes from pop culture osmosis.

With that said, I had a real great time seeing both Loren and Mastroianni in this film take on the different characters and relationship statuses. So without further a due, my best shot picks for each film segment...

Adelina of Naples

Here Loren plays Adelina who comically keeps getting pregnant to avoid jail time to the joy-turn-consternation of her husband Carmine played by Mastroianni. This segment is bustling with people in most of its frames from their neighbors of their close-knit community always willing to lend a hand to the seven or eight children they have. So my pick of best shot is of Loren's Adelina all alone in her cigarette-selling station (with two of her kids) after the other girls have fled for fear of the cops. Not only do I love this shot because of the great background of the ascending stairs, but also because it's wonderful seeing Adelina so steadfast in her taunting of the cops. So daring.

Anna of Milan

My least favorite segment features Loren and Mastroianni as a couple out on a drive. She plays Anna, rich and listless, and he plays Renzo, frustrated and hopeless. She's married to some unseen rich guy and who has paid for the Rolls Royce they're taking out for a spin. De Sica has some slick camera movements here giving this mostly driving, no-plot segment some of its momentum, but for the most part I wasn't a big fan. So it's probably why my pick of best shot was at the end with Renzo walking away from the wreckage (of the car, of his relationship) with flowers he bought from the boy in the background in tow. As the film fades to black, we see Renzo about to toss the flowers aside. Fleeting beauty.

Mara of Rome

The final segment takes place in Rome in a rooftop apartment overlooking the picturesque Piazza Navona where Loren plays a high-class escort named Mara and Mastroianni plays Rusconi, one of her clients. He's expecting to spend some quality time with her, but there's always something to get in the way. For her part, she meets and enchants Umberto (played by Gianni Ridolfi), a young priest-to-be who is visiting his grandparents who live in the apartment next to Mara's. For my best shot, I was tempted to choose a shot that displayed the effortless sexual appeal of Loren, the comical expressiveness of Mastroianni, or the gloriousness of the balcony set overlooking the Piazza Navona. Instead, I went with a shot of Umberto, cutting quite a striking figure in his priestly garments. In fact, Mara actually pauses from her gardening/singing to take it all in. Granted, she's most likely reacting to him being a priest more than anything, but I'd like to think she also saw something she liked. Wink wink.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's a bold one you are...

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.

With it being St. Patrick's Day and all, the film chosen this week was John Ford's Oscar-winning movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne as a well-to-do Irish-American coming back to Ireland to put down roots who then falls in love with a fiery local played by the captivating Maureen O'Hara. Hilarity ensued.

The film is shot gorgeously with Ireland's greens and O'Hara's reds making the biggest impact for me as is evident in many scenes where she is asked to run through verdant fields as shown above. She's actually running home after a particularly hot encounter with Wayne's character at his new place which she was cleaning as "a good Christian act." What ensued though was slightly less Christian when he discovers her with him pulling her back from leaving and with the strong wind from the outside rushing in plants a kiss on her. The whole windy scene is technically my "favorite shot," but the one below pre-kiss really encapsulates the combative and passionate nature of their whirlwind relationship.

Best Shot

So even though I realized halfway through that I just don't "get" Wayne, the film's visuals and lighthearted tone plus his compatible chemistry with O'Hara carried me through.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I wanna live a normal happy life...

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.

Paris is Burning is a 1990 documentary that recounts the underground drag ball scene of late 80s New York City as well as the gay and transgendered African-American and Latino communities involved in it. The film provides an essential (and still relevant) look at gay and trans life through the exploration of this specific subculture highlighted via actual ball competition footage as well as the one-one-one interviews with the leading players of the time.

With how important, critically-acclaimed, and ground-breaking this film was at the time (and still is as a cult favorite), I'm ashamed to say that I saw it for the first time only yesterday and even more embarrassed to admit being aware of its existence only a year ago. Its short 78-min running time belies the amount of cultural knowledge it provides from the specifics of drag ball culture (categories, houses, etc.) to the origins of voguing and throwing shade. At the heart of it is the film's exploration of how the ball scene enabled the disenfranchised community to find an empowering, supportive, fun, and safe outlet to deal with their very real fears and realities of homophobia, racism, poverty, and AIDS.

I didn't think too hard then about picking my favorite shot when I saw the film since I was too busy learning about a world I previously didn't know. Shot by then NYU film student Jennie Livingston, the documentary's gritty aesthetic is both a product of its time and a fitting reflection of its subject matter. The elaborate costumes and the energetic dance routines made it tempting to pick a shot from the ball competitions, especially any and all voguing routines. But most of my favorite shots were actually of the people during their intimate one-on-one interviews with the filmmaker from Dorian Corey's extended makeup scene to Pepper LaBeija smoking to Venus Xtravaganza lounging in bed. My pick for best shot is from one such scene...

Best Shot

In this shot, Octavia from the House of Saint Laurent is speaking about wanting to live a "normal happy life" which might mean marriage, kids, or being famous and rich. She's flanked by photos of models and celebrities she aspires to be, especially her idol Paulina Porizkova whose picture is right above her, dead center in the shot. While not representative of the documentary as a whole, it's still a lovely snapshot of someone vocalizing and visualizing their dream, regardless of how out-of-reach it may be, which Paris is Burning wholeheartedly encourages for all.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I don't supposed I'm used to dancing...

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.

It's very fitting for The Sound of Music to kick off the sixth season of HMWYBS since it's not only a classic film that was so beautifully shot, but it also celebrated its 50th Anniversary yesterday. Unfortunately, I actually didn't have time to re-watch the entire film, but this is the sort of film that literally every shot chosen would be a fantastic choice. My first thought was actually to pick the scene above with Maria getting caught by the nuns at the very start of the film. I'm just a big fan of Julie Andrews comical look and windswept hair juxtaposed by a line of judging sisters.

Then my next thought was perhaps something from my favorite song, which is weirdly enough "The Lonely Goatherd" (which my grade school class performed ages ago). It's a lovely and random diversion from the film proper with the kids and Maria putting on a puppet show for Captain Von Trapp, The Baroness, and Max. But there really wasn't any "best shot" possibilities during this sequence since most of my love for it is due to the fun song and the yodeling. Luckily there's a reprise of sorts later on...

Did you know that the beautiful instrumental music Maria and the Captain dance to a few scenes later in the film is a re-arrangement of the tune of "The Lonely Goatherd"? I actually never made the connection until recently and it just made me love that already great scene more. The scene, of course, is Maria and the Captain showing his kids how to dance The Ländler and is pretty much the turning point in the movie where Maria realizes she has real "falling in love" feelings for the Captain (and vice versa). The entire dance sequence is lovely and a highlight in a film full of them. My pick for best shot is towards the end of their dance with them not actually face to face...

Best Shot

I just really love the look of fear/realization/longing that's so clear on both of their faces. Look at him reaching out for her hand unseen afraid she might just take it, but more afraid she might not. It's such a small moment in such an epic film, but like both of them to each other, it's hard not to fall in love.