Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Beauty & The Beast (With Admiration for Disney and the Reprise)

To see more entries in this week's 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot', visit Nathaniel Rogers' The Film Experience!

Although Aladdin is my favorite of the Disney fairy-tale musicals, Beauty & The Beast is a very close second. Belle is my favorite of the cartoon princesses--like many of my female friends--not just because she was the only brunette but also because she loved to read and was an outsider because of that. My friends and I as children were basically different versions of her. Therefore, this film has always had a special place in my heart.

(The one thing I don't like is its creation of the 'Belle/Beast' syndrome: girls who loved the film as a child are more apt to be in relationships with complete beasts of men in hopes they'll change because the film taught them that with love and devotion you can change ANY MAN! So many female friends of mine I can diagnose with chronic 'Belle/Beast' syndrome.)

Looking at an animated film for a great shot is a different experience solely because as a viewer I'm so much more concerned with the beauty in the drawings. Disney's hand-drawn animation is rarely rivaled, and Beauty & The Beast is such a gorgeous piece of work. Out of all of the shots and moments in the entire film I had to succumb to the most famous scene. There's no wonder the ballroom scene is as famous as it is since it's the culmination of a carefully built love story and is beautiful in its combination of hand-drawn animation and remarkably subtle CGI. With Mrs. Potts singing that fantastic song in the background there just isn't anyway the scene could go wrong. When I saw this frame in particular I actually got misty:
How beautiful is that?!  The Beast shocked at his relationship to this girl, whilst Belle is exuding comfort and love.  It's an amazing moment and is why Disney will always have a fantastic reputation, no matter how many times they rape their classics for sequels. Quick rant: I would think that with the success of Tangled and the continued respect and love for their past fairy-tale musicals that they'd realize there is a HUGE market for these films still.  They're idiots and don't fucking understand a damn thing. Pixar has the CGI market cornered!  You are known for your hand-drawn classics so GET TO IT.  (Although Tangled was quite amazing in the way they used CGI)

My other favorite shots:

What I realized most about this exercise is how good Disney is at giving their characters sung soliloquys, and how each time they've given these moments to their characters it's been my favorite part of the films (the Aladdin one being my favorite):

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Elle -- Women in Music Issue

Elle's next issue features a big spread of fabulous shots of various women in the music industry.  From Willow Smith to Stevie Nicks, every genre, age, ethnicity, and body type is accounted for.

They happened to feature my 4 favorite female artists of the past couple of years who are never auto-tuned and write all of their own music.  One of these I have seen live, and I would kill to see any of the other 3.  Kudos to them:
Her voice and lyrics are absolutely amazing in their power and simplicity.  If you haven't purchased or listened to her albums 19 or 21, I recommend you do so immediately.  

Florence Welch from Florence+The Machine
This girl is a goddess in style, performance, and lyric.  She has written what is perhaps my favorite song of all time: 'Cosmic Love', and I am so excited for their next album to drop later this year.  It'll be so epic.  Also, her concert was a serious religious experience for me.  I came out of that building completely changed.  

This woman has not made an album since 2007's  amazing 'The Reminder', and I know she's working on one now but it can't come fast enough.  I listen to that album more and more each year.  Like Florence+The Machine's 'Lungs' it never gets old.  Each song classic.  Her other albums are just as good and have just as many gems.  I do love '1 2 3 4' but find SO many of her other songs even greater.  CHECK HER OUT!

'Body Talk' is the BEST POP RELEASE of 2010.
'Robyn' was the BEST POP RELEASE of 2008.
'Dancing on My Own' was my favorite song of last year.
I've featured her on the blog many times before, but I can't say enough how amazing she is. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stuck-In-My-Head Sundays: Patrick Wolf - "The City"

I've been M.I.A., and I'm so sorry for those who visit the site!  To tell you what's going on in two weeks I went from a part-time job in Hartford, CT and living with my parents to a full-time job in New York, NY with an apartment lined up to boot.  It's been madness.  Not to mention I haven't even moved in yet, so expect posting to slow a bit until I get settled in the next two weeks.  After Easter Sunday I'll probably be back to a regular routine!

A good friend of mine with wonderful music taste recently introduced me to this Patrick Wolf song.  With all of my traveling to and from New York I've been walking the streets with it frequently playing (since it's on my most-listened-to playlist) and it's such a perfect and fun pop song.  Enjoy it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


If you haven't seen this, you need to.  My best friend Mary introduced me to this a week ago and I can't stop watching it.  The Harvard Sailing Team group does sketch comedy performances every Friday night at the People's Improv Theater in NYC for $15 a person.  This is hilarious, though:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reunion: Atonement

So it's common knowledge by now that Joe Wright has announced his next film will be an adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina starring his frequent muse Keira Knightley.  What isn't quite so common knowledge iis my complete adoration of their two collaborations: Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.  The former is my favorite Jane Austen adaptation ever (I don't really like the BBC one, and Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility is great but not nearly as amazing), and the latter is one of my favorite films of all time, adapted from one of my favorite novels of all time.

Already I'm dying of excitement for Anna Karenina.

Then today Joe Wright announces that Kelly MacDonald and Benedict Cumberbatch (who played the creepster Paul Marshall in Atonement) have joined the cast.

But he's waiting out for two actors to join the cast.  Who are they?

A.k.a. Briony in Atonement

A.k.a. Robbie in Atonement

It's unknown what parts in Anna Karenina they would play, but all of these people together again making a film has me very excited!

The Goonies

Before this past Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, I had never seen The Goonies.  It's craziness and I was very ashamed of this fact. A very good friend of mine who raves about the film finally forced me to watch it and so we took our PB sandwiches and milkshakes and sat down for some childhood fun.

My only thought:

I wish I had seen this when I was 8.

I liked The Goonies quite a bit, I can't lie. I think it's Stand By Me mixed with Indiana Jones and a little bit of Home Alone thrown in. With a formula like that you just can't go wrong. Yet the 22 year old me enjoyed it but didn't love it. I think if I'd seen it 14 years ago when I was watching Scream and the Halloween movies instead I would've enjoyed it much more (and perhaps not be so messed-up!).  So it's with a very sad face that I give The Goonies just a paltry B. It's a film that was made for children, and that shows. It's B-level Spielberg in the sense that it has the childlike wonder and adventure but is lacking the extra dimension to push it to another level. There's something missing now that I've seen it as an adult, and I realized that I'd rather be watching Stand By Me instead.

P.S.: I love this reunion shot of the characters from a bunch of years ago:

Admiration: The Low-Budget Menace of Gareth Edwards' Monsters

First off, is that poster not completely amazing? What a striking image. The film delivers on that image and the queer fear it strikes with the tentacled reflection in the eye of the mask. Gareth Edwards' Monsters is much like this poster in the sense that the titular monsters are for most of the film obscured. Our main characters--real-life couple Whitney Able (Samantha) and Scoot McNairy (Andrew)--are aware of their presence and see them, but since our camera tails them and not the monsters the audience is frequently left out of getting a glimpse of these malignant aliens.

This is what low-budget horror/sci-fi should be about, and what the good ones capitalize on. These kinds of films focus on what is not seen as opposed to what could be seen. When you have a budget of $800,000 it's hard to make CGI aliens that look half as good as what Spielberg did six years ago in War of the Worlds (which in itself wasn't all that great). Edwards knows this and up until the last 10 minutes of the film gives us aliens lurking around every corner or right over the camera, but never directly in the lens.  This also increases audience's fear, thereby increasing our sympathy for the main characters and making the whole film that much more effective. Edwards could've bitched and moaned about his low budget and the relative inability to make great CGI effects, but instead he turned this to his advantage and made a film so delicately structured and paced that the finale event is both horrifying and heartbreaking. It's masterful work from start to finish.

I'd been wanting to catch the film for awhile, and was very impressed by what I saw. It's no surprised that Gareth Edwards will next be rebooting the Godzilla franchise. It's just unfortunate that his skills will be wasted on that barf. Let's all hope that he's a 'one for them, one for me' kind of guy and will take all the money from Godzilla to make an original idea that's just as magical as Monsters.


(Monsters is watch-instantly on Netflix and I recommend you check it out!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Final Casting: The Hunger Games

Liam Hemsworth (Triangle, The Last Song)

Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right, Bridge to Terabithia)

I think this is actually all kinds of perfect.  I do love Josh Hutcherson as an actor and I LOVE Peeta in the novels so I'm clearly on Team Peeta.  I love that they picked such different actors for the two roles since it will really give a great juxtaposition between Katniss' suitors and add to her difficulty in figuring out which man is the right one for her. 

So far I'm quite happy with the way this film is turning out!

Fab 5: Guy Pearce Performances

In honor of my recent viewing of Animal Kingdom and Memento I figured it's time to look back at a sorely underrated performer: Mr. Guy Pearce. Pearce has been acting since the early nineties with consistent focus on great projects and even though he sold out to Hollywood once (coughcoughTheTimeMachinecoughcough) it was an interesting failure of a blockbuster. Most of the time Pearce is relegated to supporting roles but he always seems to pull of something amazing in the background.  When he does get those elusive lead performances he almost always knocks it out of the park.  My favorite 5 Guy Pearce performances, GO:

The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

The King's Speech is a showcase for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, yes, but when I saw the film I was more stunned by Guy Pearce's performances as King Edward VIII.  He plays the abdicative King as a loose cannon, but grounds him in his love for Wallis Simpson. He emanates with desire to leave the royal family and steal away with his love, and plays this disdain for the public eye completely different than Firth's.  It's a virtuoso performance with zero scenery-chewing, but it's just as effective as any supporting performance I'd seen on screen in 2010.

Factory Girl (George Hickenlooper, 2006)

I may in the minority in my admiration for the performances in Hickenlooper's Factory Girl.  Besides Sienna Miller's on-point and suprisingly dimensional Edie Sedgwick, Pearce is there in the background--as with most of his performances--providing something remarkable.  His Andy Warhol isn't perfect by any means and easily could be cartoonish since Warhol's look and personality is so iconic.  Pearce plays off this possibility for failure by visibly having a great time on-screen, and this energy seeps through the screen and brings Warhol to life.  It's great fun and desperately needed in a film that focuses so heavily on the crash and burn of Sedgwick's life.

The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005)

Something Guy Pearce doesn't get to do enough of is bring the crazy. Since Pearce is such a grounded and warm actor he plays quirk alot but not enough batshit-insanity. I had seen bits and pieces of Hillcoat's The Proposition on IFC TV for many years before finally sitting down to watch it two summers ago, and besides loving the film I really adored seeing Pearce get to stretch his acting chops a bit.  As one part of a crazy criminal family Pearce's Charlie Burns is unpredictable dynamite. So unhinged is his character that the audience can't help but get nervous every time he appears on-screen.  The best part about the crazy is that it isn't hair-pulling, screaming, scene-stealing crazy but a volatile ticking time-bomb of crazy.  He has his loud moments but for the most part grounds it in a reality that is made ever scarier by his propensity to explode.

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

I've already written much about Memento recently, but I'm always struck by the way Pearce is the anchor of that film. As I've said prior in this post, he's an actor who emanates so much energy and vulnerability in his performances that grasps the audience from the moment he comes into the picture.  It's the presence of the X-factor of course, and in Memento it's his performance just as much as it's Nolan's direction and screenplay that has made the film such a stand-out from a banner time in cinema.

The Adventures of Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994)

There are two reasons why I picked this performance as my favorite.  First is that Pearce's Adam/Felicia is the comic stand-out of an already quite-funny film.  It's no wonder that this was his breakthrough performance because it's everything about Pearce's subsequent performance rolled into one: energy, lived-in, dimensional, fun, grounded, and reliably fantastic.  The other reason is that he is so effiing salty in this film.  The guy is beautiful and it's nice to have the combo of a great performance and amazing eye-candy.  Yum indeed.