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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We're in this together...

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 was Nine to Five starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and, in her film debut, Dolly Parton. It's a film I had always wanted to see, but I just never got around to seeing it until a couple days ago.

From the opening sequence, I was hooked. Parton's popular song playing to a montage of women getting ready and going to work put me in the right mood to enjoy this wonderful tale of three women working together to put their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss in his place. From his first scene, it's quite evident how awful their boss is condescendingly telling Violet (Tomlin) and Judy (Fonda) how important teamwork is in the workplace and how unfortunate it is that "as girls" never got the chance via sports to experience this evidently manly (and thus essential) thing that would help them succeed in life. Little does he know, teamwork will be his downfall as the three seemingly different ladies end up bonding together over their mutual frustrations with their boss and eventually teaming up to make his life hell. Their initial moments of bonding are delightful as we see all three commiserating over some cocktails in a bar and then having a "ladies pot party" at Doralee's (Parton) place. Both scenes gave me two runner-up best shots, the first in the bar because I love its composition and the second in Doralee's house because I enjoyed how happy they all looked.

My eventual pick for best shot still features all three ladies, because I do love all of the shots with all three of them in the frame...

Best Shot

All three are in a power position, standing straight and confident with their arms crossed, like how men are encouraged to stand and how women are discouraged in the same manner. Plot-wise this is the point in the film where they find their ace in the hole to deal with their despicable boss. Granted, the film then takes its various twists and turns since this isn't even halfway through the film, but for this one moment they're on top and it's fabulous. Fast-forward to the very end of the film where expectantly they do come out on top and (again filmed in the same frame) decked in red, white, and blue, they celebrate their hard-fought win... as a team.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Matt Bomer XXL

This new character poster for Magic Mike XXL featuring Matt Bomer hit the internet yesterday and good golly, I've lasciviously enjoyed it since I laid my eyes on it. So count me in when this movie opens in July 1st. I'm only human.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One of these days, I'm gonna get organiz-ized...

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 main character in Taxi Driver Travis Bickle is a character that is constantly on the edge of self-destruction living in a city he literally sees as hell on earth. Becoming a taxi driver is one of the ways he tries to handle his situation enabling him to isolate himself from the city and its occupants while at the same time still being vigilant. His very short-lived relationship with Betsy, an angel amidst the filthy mess, is another attempt to cope the best way he can.

Of course, that relationship doesn't work out and soon after that his presumed safe haven inside his cab is rocked by an unnerving moment with a passenger (played by director Martin Scorsese) who tells him that he's going to kill the woman, his wife, they're watching. Fearing the "bad ideas" in his head after these experiences, Travis goes to a cabbie friend of his for advice who tells him that once "you do a thing, that's what you are." All of this then leads up to the turning point of the film, nearly halfway through the movie, which then features my pick for best shot...

The first appearance of the Organiz-ized poster is mostly why I picked this shot, because not only does it tie into his brief happy moment with Betsy earlier in the film, but also to the latter half of the film when his quest to get "organized" devolves into something truly messy. It's also a quiet, contemplative moment for Travis writing in his diary about the need for a change after his harrowing experiences I noted above. This is the turning point in the film when he decides to cope by turning himself into an avenger of sorts through discipline and violence. It then becomes, to me, the last moment prior to him being pushed to the edge.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Paid off my boys and I'm closed...

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.

If more Westerns were like Johnny Guitar, I probably would've seen a lot more films in the genre. Alas, Johnny Guitar is atypical in its camp and more especially in giving two of its best roles to women, specifically Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. Crawford plays Vienna, an enterprising saloon owner, who faces the ire of the locals who consider her an undesirable outsider. McCambridge's character Emma is an old-time rival of Vienna who seems hell-bent in fueling the fire (and literally does later in the film) of suspicion on Vienna and anyone who associates with her. Their back-and-forth animosity and sniping are my favorite parts of the film even if McCambridge's Emma is a little too one-dimensional in her hysterical villainy.

With that said, McCambridge really gives it her all, with her facial expressions and body language, as evident by all of the above shots of (mostly) her, all of which I strongly considered for my best shot. The one at the bottom left especially where she's flanked by her mourning attire wearing posse is such a striking shot.

But my best shot is from the exact same sequence since after all who is the posse and Emma looking at but a smirking Vienna in all her piano-playing glory...

Best Shot

There were many different iterations of this shot. Some slightly closer, a few further away. Her head would sometimes be turned away, etc. Any and all of those shots would be a fine pick since the things that make this a great shot are constant in this sequence. First, there's that wonderful white dress of hers which is juxtaposed beautifully with the rock and earthy background (a gorgeous production detail on its own) as well as the all-black-wearing lynch mob she's addressing. Her makeup, posture, attitude, and line deliveries do the rest as she hilariously takes her enemies to task seemingly without a care in the world. It's a power play through and through and one that fits so perfectly with this role in this film played by this particular actress.

So now that we got that out of the way, I have an actual serious question. Can anyone tell me why this film was titled Johnny Guitar and not Vienna of the West or something? The photo at the very top of the post would be my pick for the image to go with the new and improved title. Right?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

And the winner is...

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 beating, bleeding heart of Mommie Dearest is the complicated and abusive relationship between Joan Crawford and her daughter Christina whose autobiography the film was adapted from. Faye Dunaway and Mara Hobel have great chemistry with each other playing mother and young daughter respectively. Both were nominated for Razzie Awards with Dunaway winning Worst Actress and while I could see why Dunaway's over-the-top performance may have elicited this reaction from some, Hobel seemed to really capture well both the innocence and its loss living with such an overbearing mother.

So my picks for favorite shot gravitated to the two of them together in frame. An early contender was the shot above from the beginning of the film during Christina's lavish birthday party. It's the first time we see a non-baby Christina interacting with her mother and it's quite clearly the honeymoon period of their relationship. Matching dresses and smiles all around. The shot I picked is a quick one showing Joan's hilarious reaction to the camera man telling them that the grass stain on Christina's dress should be cleaned. It's then the first time the audience sees Joan disapproving something related to her lovely daughter.

My next favorite shot is that beautifully composed sequence of Joan walking in on Christina imitating her in front of a mirror. Joan reacts quite negatively to this and proceeds to yell at her daughter whilst dramatically cutting her hair. It's harrowing and disturbing and the pained looks on the actresses faces repeated in the three-way mirror amplify the scary moment as you can see below.

But my pick for best shot is the complete opposite of that shot. It's the night of the Academy Awards and Joan, nominated for Mildred Pierce, stays at home. When it's time for her category, she holds tightly to an equally nervous Christina. When she's declared the winner, both are sincerely elated and their ecstatic reaction is my best shot:

Best Shot

Perhaps the fact that it's so unrepresentative of the film and their relationship as a whole is why I picked this moment of true happiness for both as my favorite shot. Certainly, it's all downhill from this moment on with the infamous "No wire hangers" sequence to directly follow this scene and the mother-daughter relationship crumbling even more soon after that when Christina is sent away to boarding school. So yeah, I'm a sucker for the happy moments. Now, bring me the axe!