Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Your usual discriminating kindness...

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.

Excuse the very short entry for this week's Best Shot as I just came back from a trip very much like the one Marlene Dietrich took in Morocco. Okay, maybe not much like her adventures in Morocco where she falls in love with a soldier and gets the attention of a rich fellow. Must be nice.

She strikes quite a figure though throughout the film especially in her opening song number decked out in tophat and tails and where my favorite shot comes from. She's just so sure of herself in this moment. Even with the rain of boos, she commands the screen, and the audience, with sheer confidence and presence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All of it. It's all true...

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 want to begin by saying that I was never a big fan of Star Wars growing up. I knew of it obviously and my brother and friends were very much into it, but it was one of those big pop culture phenomena that I managed to avoid getting into for the most part. Even with renewed interest in the franchise in the early Aughts with the prequels, I remained largely unfazed by it all (the mixed reception of these didn't help). But I had to see Star Wars: Force Awakens on opening weekend, because it was the event movie of the year and I was intrigued to see what a fresh perspective J.J. Abrams and company would bring to this beloved franchise. And what they delivered was an enjoyable blockbuster with a lot of heart in no small part to the handful of new actors and characters that really made the film for me.

Of course I'm alluding to the great trio of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. Upon my re-watch of the Force Awakens, the only real thing I was able to articulate was how happy I was whenever one of their faces were on screen. The joy and wonder they brought to the film and their characters isn't something that one can really manufacture. Not to mention Adam Driver who had to delve into a whole different set of emotions, trickier in a lot of respects than the other three. His *important* scene with Harrison Ford's Han Solo is probably the best acted scene in the whole film.

So I had plenty of shots to choose from where the camera just lingers on the great faces of these characters like so...

But I ended up with this relatively simple shot as my Best Shot:

Best Shot

I picked this shot because of Boyega and Ridley's faces, but mostly for the moment. This is when Han Solo tells them both that the Force and the Jedi, all of it, is true. And then just this look of hope, wonderment, perhaps even a little fear fill their faces. It's the turning point of both of their lives which has already been severely upended very recently. It's the moment that they actually realize that they're finally a part of something bigger. Because sure they already had a mission for the Resistance, but this is something mythical becoming reality right in front of them. In a way maybe I had the same look when I saw Force Awakens, this pop-culture force made real in front of me. I finally got it.

Bonus: My roommate picked her favorite shot as well! It's a damn beauty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Do not ever leave 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.

Even though I took French History in high school, I remember very little of it now and thus still got a bit lost while watching La Reine Margot, a period film by director Patrice Chéreau. The film, known in America as Queen Margot, takes place in the late 16th Century amidst the great unrest between the ruling Catholics and Protestant Huguenots. The film opens with the arranged wedding of the title character Margot, sister of the Catholic king, to the Huguenot King Henry of Navarre. Then what follows is a lot (a lot) of murders and sex (sometimes at the same time!).

It was hard for me to care for a lot of the characters in this film because its weight feels overpowering with its massive cast and the screenplay's unwillingness to hold its audience's hands through the numerous deaths and changing alliances. I don't necessarily begrudge the film for doing this, but just a observance as a first-time viewer. With that said, the film's other technical attributes were something to behold like its costumes, production values, and its painterly palette. Plus the main characters of Margot, Henry, and Margot's lover La Môle were the best fleshed out thus at least ensuring the film its emotional throughline.

The star-crossed affair between Margot and La Môle was the thing that left a lasting impact for me. Apart from the objective beauties of both actors (Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Perez), their whirlwind romance to me felt perfectly set amidst the inter-religious turmoil engulfing France and its citizens. And so my pick of best shot...

Best Shot

They've just finished making love and the last words she utters to him were "Do not ever leave me" and yet he must and he does. And so even though they got as close as two people ever could, they are also constantly apart from forces beyond their control. Thus this shot to me perfectly encapsulates it all--their messy and beautiful love affair amidst all the dark ugliness and unrest of the world. In that sense, it's a powerful image that lingers through to their inevitable tragic end.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

That is the thing about the present...

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.

Short films are great. Because of their length, they have to be efficient in their story-telling and it's always a treat to see how certain filmmakers achieve this. In both True Skin and World of Tomorrow, the two short films we were asked to watch for today, the world building is key to getting the most of their narrative.

True Skin is just 6 minutes long and yet in its first 60 seconds, it's able to show the audience exactly the kind of world our main character find himself living. And that world is full of people who have chosen to augment themselves using cybernetic implants not only because it's the new trend, but more interestingly because those who don't do this find themselves seemingly discriminated against as my favorite shot shows us below.

The narration gives us all this information, but the film's visuals really makes it feel alive and this shot at the end of this intro sequence is both informative and chilling. And it's enough to give narrative weight to the predicament our protagonist finds himself in for the rest of the film.

World of Tomorrow is a longer film, but its world building is just as impressive especially since its world is largely abstract. It's a future where the internet has integrated itself with the outside world as an outernet that is represented by a series of lines and shapes. The best thing about this short film though isn't exactly its deceptively simple visuals, but its dark humor and great script. The film is elevated when there is an interplay of its distinct look and smart writing such as the sequence with the Boy in the Glass or the young girl counting the the shooting stars aka dead bodies falling into the atmosphere. Or like in my favorite shot...

I admit this scene doesn't showcase the film's signature dark humor, but look at how beautiful the scenery is, looking like some modern art piece. It's actually one of the more sobering moments in the film that leads to perhaps the best line: "That is the thing about the present, Emily Prime. You only appreciate it when it is the past." Indeed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Flaccid, flaccid, flaaaaaaacid....

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.

"What do I see? That's the question I'm most afraid of."

"I see me! Actress, woman, star and lover."

Death Becomes Her is a darkly comedic fantasy film directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn and the one and only Meryl Streep. Willis and Hawn are both good, but Streep is such a force, isn't she? We know she excels in dramatic roles, has a skill for accents, and is a wonderful singer/dancer to boot (as evident by her hilarious performance that opens up the film), but her comedic chops gets featured here to my absolute delight.

Streep is always such an expressive actor using her whole body and her face to convey just the appropriate emotion or message. In this film, she's asked to be vulnerable, mean, funny and so much more and she took to it all wonderfully. One of my favorite sequences highlighting her demonstrative gift happens early in the film as she reunites with her nemesis.

In the first shot, for example, you can almost feel how tense she is and her whole face and body language is giving us such a pitch perfect Miranda Priestly (14 years earlier). The second shot is even more telling especially when you think that right after it she immediately turns around and puts on the most fake smile and making it work. This was almost my pick for best shot, but that honor actually goes to Streep and her tongue.

Best Shot

Look at that silly shot. Now, what did I say about Streep being an expressive actor? This moment is in the midst of her big fight with her husband, calling him all sort of names including repeating the word "flaccid" more than a few times. She berates and taunts him and Streep is just so damn committed, tongue and all. It's a random moment in the film, but even here Streep doubles down. Perhaps the script said she sticks out her tongue right there, but I bet it didn't and it was just Streep being glorious herself.

So what do we see? Meryl Streep... actress, woman, star.