Friday, April 29, 2016

That is a lie...

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.

As late as this HMWYBS entry is, it's still not as late as my introduction to Akira Kurosawa which came just last year when I saw Rashomon just to check it off my bucket list. Unsurprisingly, I really liked it. So why didn't I immediately watch more of his films? I wished I knew, but thankfully with Throne of Blood I got to see my second Kurosawa film and well, it was great.

I knew the film was loosely based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth," but that really was all I knew about the film. Transposing the story to feudal Japan is both ridiculous and genius infusing this adaptation with a bold sense of identity. It's at this point I wish I knew more about a lot of things like Shakespeare's dramas, Japanese theater history, Kurosawa's cinematic style, etc. in order to delve more deeply into this beautiful film. Instead, I'll just focus on the one thing that stood out even to a Kurosawa neophyte like myself, his captivating and scary Lady Asaji Washizu, his Lady Macbeth.

The film for me didn't really begin until she makes her first appearance, a statue of a figure sowing doubts to her husband. Her stillness is what caught me off-guard as she simultaneously rages a storm within her husband and the film at large with just words. My pick of best shot though is the first time she moves...

Best Shot

She turns her head slowly, but surely towards her husband and with a deadly smile pretty much calls him a liar. It's such a small scene and yet so damn memorable, because the performance is just THAT good (and chilling). That really is the only time she moves at all during that whole sequence and yet by the end of that scene the audience knew she was a force to be reckoned with.

And now with two films I've really liked from him, I guess one question remains: Which Kurosawa film should I see next?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This place needs a man...

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.

I've never seen The Beguiled, but like Witness last week it's about a tough and handsome guy who is injured and taken into custody to heal in a strange environment. But whereas Harrison Ford catches the eye of just one woman, young Clint Eastwood in this film enchants about half a dozen or so of the fairer sex. Of course his charms are all in the service of surviving his precarious position of being wounded behind enemy lines. I'm not exactly sure if I liked the film, but it was definitely an viewing experience.

At the very least it gave me the chance to see a film with young Clint Eastwood and so I guess seeing him as the "hot guy" needed some getting used to. Despite his good looks and charms, the whole household being enamored with him stretched credibility, but I supposed that too was in service of what transpires to him in the end. And he *is* easy to look at and thus his face is my favorite shot.

Best Shot

He's sitting with Martha, the one in charge, and this is where she tells him that perhaps he would consider staying since they needed a man. I just love how his beautiful face is framed in darkness with some of it hidden as well much like his intentions and his past. Danger awaits.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don't know much about history...

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.

One of the things I love about this blog series is that I'm given a chance to watch films which I wouldn't have seen otherwise. Mostly it's a rewarding experience though sometimes it's not. Thankfully Witness falls into the category of amazing discoveries especially as the film is also one of my blind spots. Not only did I assume this was just one of your run-of-the-mill crime thrillers, but I had no idea that Harrison Ford actually picked up his one and only Oscar nomination for this film.

Apart from giving us a chance to ogle at young Harrison Ford for nearly two hours, the film itself is superb. It *is* a crime thriller, but it's more heartfelt and intimate and could very well be categorized as a love story as well. A lot of this is due to the film's unique locale, setting most of the action in the beautiful Amish countryside among its quiet people as well as the searingly hot chemistry between Ford and Kelly McGillis.

A lot of my favorite moments in the film takes place between the two of them. Two great shots in particular highlight the film's intimacy via these two characters:

The first shot is McGillis taking care of Ford by bandaging his shot wound while the second shot is towards the end of the absolutely beautiful and touching sequence of them dancing in the barn. The second shot especially is crackling with sexual tension only to be broken up by her father thus leading to my pick for favorite shot...

Best Shot

It's not the most intimate of shots and yet it's clear something intimate was interrupted. Ford gets a lot of praise in this role, but McGillis is just as fantastic. Look at her face and stance here. While Ford, the tough city cop, seems to shrink from slight embarrassment, she stands firm with complete resolved evident in her face. I also love how the barn looks in the background lit mostly by the car's head and rear lights giving it a warm, ethereal feel. Who knew a crime thriller could provide me with such feelings and yet this one did.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

So happy, Mr. Bradley...

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.

In celebration of Gregory Peck's centennial, we were asked to pick one of his two most popular films, To Kill a Mockingbird and Roman Holiday, to watch and pick a favorite shot from it. I decided to cater to the romantic in me and finally watch the latter film for the very first time. It was an excellent decision as I was transported to a time when smart romantic comedies were being made with the care and passion that director William Wyler and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo obviously had. The latter was blacklisted and had to remove his name while Wyler had to strongly convince the studios to shoot on location in Italy.

Peck, of course, is also wonderful in the film as the tall, dashing and handsome reporter, but it's the glittering debut of Audrey Hepburn as the wayward princess looking for an escape that makes the film an all-time classic. In fact, the shot of her looking in a mirror in front of the hair salon, reminiscent of her very iconic shot in Breakfast at Tiffany's, was a close pick of mine for my favorite shot since it also highlighted the film's overarching theme of having the freedom to follow one's desires.

But what really makes the film is not just Wyler's gorgeous black and white lensing or Trumbo's funny script or even the two leads' strong individual capabilities. What makes the film great is the chemistry among Peck, Hepburn and Eddie Albert (who played the amusing third wheel in most of the film). It enabled the audience to buy the quick camaraderie among themselves as they gallivant throughout Rome even with all the secrets and lies they were all juggling. This relationship-building between the characters paid off brilliantly with the final sequence when they all must meet each other formally for the first time as princess and reporter/photographer. This entire sequence is my pick for best shot.

The anticipation expertly builds as the camera largely stays still following the progress of the princess making her way down the front row of reporters. The audience is left imagining what will happen once she gets to the two men she spent most of the day with the day before. Will there be a big scene? Will there be drama? Of course there was none of that, just friendly, polite looks and smiles and a brief exchange of words before she had to move on. One of the most remarkable things about this whole scene to me is just how much was left unsaid among all three characters, but the audience could easily imagine what each  probably would've wanted to say to one other. If I *had* to pick *one* best shot, it might be the very end of the sequence as she's getting ready to turn and head back to the life she's always known. The subtle look of Hepburn hints at indecisiveness, but also new resolve. She had her memorable holiday and it's something she'll never forget.