Posted in Film and Television

Cinematography Appreciation Post

Okay, so…the technical side of filmmaking went over my head for quite some time. In many ways, it still does. However, I think that may be one of the reasons why I find it so captivating as a medium. In short, the fact that technology and coding can be skillfully manipulated to create a movie is something that’s perpetually magical to me.

One well-known technical aspect is cinematography- how a movie is shot. This is a crucial part of the piece’s creative development, as good cinematographers can use their camera artistry to secure a certain aesthetic for the movie, or perhaps elicit a particular feeling from viewers.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of my favorite Hollywood camerawork…and I’ll share why I find it so effective. (Note: Because I can’t readily embed videos here, we’ll have to settle for GIFs!)

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1951: An American in Paris (Alfred Gilks and John Alton) The Gershwin brothers’ musical masterpiece is the standard by which all musical films are judged. From its dynamically-shot street scenes to that glorious 17-minute fantasy ballet, this movie’s cinematography oozes artistry. No matter how many years have gone by, it is still so easy to get enveloped in its dreamlike bubble of a time long gone.

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1993: The Piano (Stuart Dryburgh) Bloody hell…if you’d told me that I may someday have an urge to “jump the bones” of Harvey Keitel, I’d have said you were bonkers! But damn, does the camerawork in this love story make him look good! Aside from that, every angle in the movie is finely crafted and feels deliberate, like you’re watching events unfold in real-time. For me, that’s a hallmark of any great period piece.

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1998: The Big Lebowski (Roger Deakins) This cult “modern noir” flick from the Coen Brothers is an acquired taste for sure. But I can promise you, man- part of the reason you’ll find that taste is due to the movie’s slick yet dizzying camera antics. You get first-person views from the inside of a bowling ball (seriously) as well as a nice closeup shot of John Turturro’s tongue. Yes…it’s beautiful.

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2001: Amelie (Bruno Delbonnel) This colorful romance- which, if a person says they’ve only seen one French film, it’s probably this one- has been called a “true cinematic movie.” That could sound redundant, but what it means is that the film employs every camera trick at its disposal. Thankfully, this was done to incredible results. Viewers are in for a pleasure cruise through Montmartre as well as a firsthand look at its heroine’s psyche.

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2003: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Robert Richardson) The saga of assassin Beatrix “the Bride” Kiddo is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and the camerawork won’t let you forget it. The cinematography of both “volumes” in the Bride’s story is remarkable because it presents a tonal shift; we go from hyperactive-samurai-mania in the first to subtle introspection in the second. One thing is certain: the rapidly-changing angles and clever use of perspective enable the camera to almost act as another narrator.

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2015: Carol (Edward Lachman) Considering that photography is a major plot point in this movie, it would have been colossally embarrassing if the cinematography were not pitch-perfect. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, and we got an exquisite-looking period piece with some real pathos. Dramatic closeups of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara- among other things- highlight the expressiveness of both actors and pull us right into their worlds.

For you, what films got the best cinematographic treatment? Share in the comments!

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Posted in Personals

In Which I Purchase an Instax Camera

Last week, my boyfriend and I attended a party for one of his friends. There, I saw said friend (Veronica) snapping pictures with a Fujifilm Instax camera. I hadn’t seen one of these firsthand, so I asked her about it. And Veronica raved, telling me how much she loved the camera and how many creative (or sentimental) uses she found for the little Polaroid photos.

This, combined with my recent fascination with Amelie, a movie in which photo booths play an important role, intrigued me enough to purchase my very own Instax four days later. They come in all different colors; for me, it was a toss-up between the Flamingo Pink and Ice Blue. I went with the latter, then bought two packs of 10-sheet film rolls.

Reading the instructions and examining my new gadget on the bus, I couldn’t wait to try it out. When I disembarked, I loaded the first film roll and looked around for a suitable subject to photograph. Of course, a suburban neighborhood doesn’t have as many interesting things as the big city, but I improvised. I first thought I would find some colorful flowers- but then I spotted a lady walking her adorable dog and knew that it made for a better guinea pig (so to speak).

I asked the lady for permission to try out my camera on Lucy the beagle, and she agreed. Ultimately, I couldn’t get Lucy to look directly at the camera, so I settled for a clean profile shot. It was so cool watching the little Polaroid come right out of the top and develop before my very eyes! I offered to let the woman keep the picture of her dog, but she said I could have it.

Throughout the evening, I took a few more photos. Here are the four best ones…

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Clockwise from top left: Lucy the dog, Domino the cat, Tsum Tsums from Disney, and a woman (my mom).

It was a process of trial and error, for I also scrapped three shots that turned out pretty badly. Interestingly, all three were of objects, rather than living things or scenery. The picture of my Tsum Tsums is nice, but I learned that the Instax is not particularly suited to inanimate objects.

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Just for fun, this is a picture of my doll, Flora, which was taken with my iPad. As you can see, the Polaroid photos have a very different feel than these digital images. My iPad also doesn’t use a flash, whereas the Instax has a flash that always fires. A dial on the lens lets you control what kind of flash is used, and the camera helpfully suggests which one to select…but I’m still figuring that part out.

All in all, I’m really fascinated by this product. Once I fine-tune my usage of it, I think my Instax camera will be another good outlet for my creativity. And, a little retro flair never hurt anyone!

Posted in Theatre

Goodbye, Amelie: Shows That Could (in theory) Play at the Walter Kerr Theatre

The theatrical industry is kind of a funny animal. You just never know what will catch on and what won’t. Many things factor into this: word-of-mouth, critics, award season, marketing, and pure luck. And for one reason or another, Amelie (a musical adaptation of the beloved 2001 French movie) just couldn’t make enough stars align. The show (which I quite enjoyed) will play its final NYC performance at the Walter Kerr Theatre on May 21st.

This venue is named for Pulitzer Prize-winner Walter Kerr and opened in 1929. (Today, it is operated by the Jujamcyn Company.) With a seating capacity of just over 900, it is one of the smaller Broadway houses and therefore well-suited to plays and cozier musicals. Its external marquee, with the bright blue lights, is one of my favorites.

That being said, let’s look at a few shows that might inhabit this theatre as well as a few that won’t…but could, in theory.

heathers5 Heathers (New World Stages, 2014). Many a fangirl wished this show, based on the cult teen movie, would transfer to Broadway after its premiere run. Although that seems unlikely three years after the fact, it would still be hilarious to see a musical of this subject matter stand with the likes of Dear Evan Hansen or Come from Away.

taste0037_orig A Taste of Things to Come (York Theatre Company, 2016). Similarly, this small-scale show about women’s roles from the 1950s-60s probably belonged Off-Broadway. However, one of its calling cards was the fact that it also had an all-female cast and band; we could always use more of that!

cyclone0888r Ride the Cyclone (MCC Theater, 2016). This musical is about a group of teenagers vying for the afterlife in the wake of a horrid rollercoaster accident. It seemed to divide public and critical opinion but still managed to be nominated for several awards.

mbutterfly_content M. Butterfly (Planned for the 2016-2017 Broadway season). Now this production of David Henry Hwang’s classic play, directed by Julie Taymor, is confirmed to come to Broadway this year. The only question is which theatre will be chosen- and the Walter Kerr could be an ideal space.

twood_sg_07 The Secret Garden (Seattle Shakespeare Theatre, 2016). Rumors have been swirling that this acclaimed production of the show, featuring Daisy Eagan in a new role, has its eyes on a Broadway transfer.

Alternately, the powers-that-be could just annoy Lincoln Center Theater enough for them to bring Falsettos back.

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Posted in Fine Arts

Suddenly Surprise!

Good afternoon, my wonderful readers! I’m just writing a quick note to say that, because I have a special post planned for next week, today’s will consist of some favorite musical-themed GIFs. (None of these were created by me.)

We now return to your regularly-scheduled Puccini’s Chronicles programming.

Posted in Theatre

Puccini’s Chronicles STYLE: Curated by Broadway’s Newest Leading Ladies

Patti LuPone as Helena Rubinstein

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Think red palettes, pearl accented jewelry, and fashion-forward hats with an old-fashioned flair. Your inner diva is sure to shine.

Denee Benton as Natasha

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Think femininely with gossamer dresses, faux fur stoles, and wrist-length gloves. For extra credit, pair with a Tolstoy novel or cute accordion player (whatever you prefer).

Jenn Colella as Beverley Bass

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Think navy blues, aviator shades, and tennis bracelets (just because). Channel your inner pilot with a brave outlook and grace under pressure.

Phillipa Soo as Amelie

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Think checkerboards patterns, gold jewelry, and a classic bob hairstyle. Your aura of excitement and wonder draws people to you. Duck into a photo booth for some fun!

Posted in Theatre

Videos to Get You Pumped for NEW WORKS on Broadway This Spring

Okay, okay guys, calm down.

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Yes, I know the news came out today that Sara Bareilles will be succeeding Jessie Mueller as Jenna in the former’s own musical, Waitress. From what I’m seeing, half of the world is super excited and the other half is concerned. With some overlap between the two. The concerned side feels as such because they worry how this show’s almost-certain reappearance on public radar could affect the multitude of brand new musicals that will already be struggling to secure an audience just before Tony Awards time.

Well to these friends I say, “Never fear!” Puccini’s Chronicles is here to help. Today I’m going to share some awesome previews that are sure to entice folks into taking a chance on a new show. You know, along with their already-purchased revival tickets or 900th attempt at the Hamilton lottery. (Click on the name of the musical to watch the video!)

AMELIEWhat you’re seeing: A well-arranged selection of visual highlights from the piece’s pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles, set to a lovely duet from its stars, Philippa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

ANASTASIAWhat you’re seeing: Christy Altomare, as Anya, singing the beloved Oscar-nominated song “Journey to the Past” in Columbus Circle.

BANDSTANDWhat you’re seeing: A very cinematic trailer, complete with a bass-baritone narrator and appearances from the original Papermill Playhouse stars, Laura Osnes and Corey Cott. Also, keep an ear open for a Hamilton name-drop.

WAR PAINTWhat you’re seeing: The two leading divas, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, doing what they do best at the Guggenheim Museum.

Posted in Writing

Critically Thinking- How Amelie Poulain and Sheldon Cooper Fluster Me

Let’s get something straight here: I think the characters of Amelie and Sheldon are pretty dope, if you’ll pardon the slang, for various reasons.

But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to my raindrop of rage.

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Amelie Poulain and Sheldon Cooper- from the film Amelie and TV show The Big Bang Theory respectively- are two of the most beloved pop culture icons from the last decade or so. They have permeated into the hearts of Americans, inspired many Internet memes, and are instantly recognizable thanks to their great portrayals by Audrey Tautou and Jim Parsons. What is the essence of these two characters? It is, simply, the fact that they see the world very differently than most folks do. And herein lies the irony.

As I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, I am on the autism spectrum and tend to filter the world through a rather unique lens, to say the least. What others see isn’t always what I’m experiencing. I don’t mind it…in fact, I like it most of the time. Unfortunately, I’ve had numerous encounters where other people did not feel so positively. They lost their patience, thought I was weird, or simply could not understand my perspective. Now if I could line up each of those folks at this moment in time, I might ask what they think of Amelie or Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. And I’m willing to guess that a lot of them have gotten a fair deal of joy out of these two.

Why? Because their quality of seeing the world very differently…is endearing. It’s special. It makes Mlle Poulain and Mr. Cooper who they are. “How come,” I would then ask, “you couldn’t see me as such?” This unanswerable question is why I am flustered.

Amelie and Sheldon are part of the movement to make quirky the new cool. And I’m thankful for that. Yet at the same time, I feel somewhat resentful (of fictional characters, no less) that the differences making them stand out…are the very things for which I, and others like me, get grief.