Spring Spectaculars

Welcome to summer! Last Thursday marked the longest day of the year and the official first day of summer, so I’m here to recap some of my favorite finds from this spring. Here we go!

Circe

The long-awaited second novel from one of my favorite writers, Madeline Miller, was released this spring and it did NOT disappoint. As usual, Miller brings a beautiful touch of humanity to the deities of Greek mythology. This book follows the story of Circe, daughter of Helios and one of the first witches of all time (you might recognize her name from The Odyssey). It is a journey of discovery and empowerment, and the spells aren’t even the most magical thing about this novel. Readers familiar with The Song of Achilles can expect another marvelous dose of Miller’s poetic prose and quotable lines.

circe

Big Little Lies

This HBO show came highly recommended to me by three people who know me very well, but it still took me months to get around to watching it. I binged the entire show in one day, and then immediately watched it again over the course of the following week. It is a masterpiece. The first minute of the show reveals a murder, but we don’t know who was killed, or who the killer was. The next six episodes take you back to the beginning, introducing you to characters without telling you who did what. There is no clear protagonist, because you can understand the perspective of each character and their motivations. At any given point, the killer could be anyone, and anyone could have died. The finale is extraordinary and ramps the tension up to 100. Perhaps my favorite thing about the show is that it actually allows women’s stories to be the focus, rather than letting male perspectives dominate things. This is a show about and for women– about their strength and perseverance and choices and support for each other. It is hauntingly beautiful, brilliantly cast (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley), and impeccably written. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Please keep in mind that the show carries a content warning of domestic violence, abuse, and rape. 

big little lies hbo.jpg

Jurassic Park

The book! I first watched this movie back in high school, and while it was certainly enjoyable, I didn’t entirely understand the hype. I went through the full trilogy in college, and then of course watched Jurassic World when it was released in 2015. But I picked up the book by Michael Crichton this spring and was completely floored. No one told me what a phenomenal piece of writing I was in for! Originally published in 1990, I felt the same way about this novel as I feel about Dracula: I wish I could have read it when it was first released. Before it sparked an entire genre. Before it was commercialized, monetized, and parodied. Before time and acclaim and movie deals revealed every conceivable twist and character introduction and plot point. Because even though I know plenty about the universe of Jurassic Park (just like I know plenty about vampires), this book had me quite literally on the edge of my seat. Crichton is a master of building tension and foreshadowing. He utilizes varying POVs with such success, and crafts an adventure that is wholly absorbing even if you already know the story.

jurassic park

The Greatest Showman

So here’s the thing. I really like musicals. I love the production and the drama and the glitzy song/dance numbers. I’ve watched Burlesque more times than I can count for those very reasons. But these days, there aren’t really many good musicals being released. La La Land fell so short for me. Sing Street was almost as laughable as Rock of Ages. Hairspray tried. So did Into the Woods. But Greatest Showman hit so many of the right notes (pun absolutely intended). Keep in mind that in order to avoid the reality of Barnum’s rise to fame, the movie is more of an “inspired by” take on the tale rather than a “based on a true story” body of work. However, the movie pairs gorgeous costumes and choreography with the best musical soundtrack since Chicago. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it actually is full of great songs. Although it’s too late to catch it in theaters, I would highly recommend watching this movie on the biggest screen you can find– all the extravagance was made to be immersed in.

the greatest showman silhouette

Red Rising Trilogy

Some of you might remember when I read the first book in this series and how much I loved it. I ended up devouring the rest of the trilogy– even though I took two weeks to read the final book because of how anxious I was that everyone I cared about was going to die– and loving it. Dystopian novels tend to be one of my favorite genres, and I haven’t come across anyone who does it better than Pierce Brown. His timeline stretches over the course of several years, but manages to fill the span seamlessly and without feeling forced. His diversity isn’t quite on par with my ideal scenario, but he imparts so much strength and bravery to his characters. The books are an easy read, almost like YA, but unlike a YA dystopia, these books don’t shy away from the brutality of the situation. I’m not putting any fan art from the series here because spoilers, but PhantomRin on tumblr has some stellar characters interpretations and if you’ve read the books you should absolutely take a peek. #BreakTheChains

red-rising trilogy


And that’s that! These were some of my favorites from the past several months. Did you read or watch anything this spring that stood out to you? If so, let me know in the comments!

Spotlight on Cinematography: Shades of Blue (round two)

the life aquatic with steve zissou
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) || Robert Yeoman (DP)
beetlejuice
Beetlejuice (1988) || Thomas Ackerman (DP)
charlie and the chocolate factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) || Philippe Rousselot (DP)
fear and loathing in las vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) || Nicola Pecorini (DP)
la la land
La La Land (2016) || Linus Sandgren (DP)
iron man 1
Iron Man (2008) || Matthew Libatique (DP)
the royal tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) || Robert Yeoman (DP)

Spotlight on Cinematography: Shades of Green (round two)

And we’re back! I was hoping to share an official post about color in film before starting a second round of color-themed cinematography posts, but hopefully it’ll be coming along soon! (It’s one I’ve been planning for a long time.) In the meantime, enjoy this batch of green frames!

la la land
La La Land (2016) || Linus Sandgren (DP)
captain fantastic
Captain Fantastic (2016) || Stéphane Fontaine (DP)
the handmaiden
The Handmaiden (2016) || Chung-hoon Chung (DP)
atonement
Atonement (2007) || Seamus McGarvey (DP)
saving private ryan
Saving Private Ryan (1998) || Janusz Kaminski (DP)
moneyball
Moneyball (2011) || Wally Pfister (DP)
django unchained
Django Unchained (2012) || Robert Richardson (DP)

Spotlight on Cinematography: Neon Lights

It’s funny how once you’ve noticed something, you start seeing it more and more frequently. I really loved the below frame from La La Land, featuring a focused pink neon glow over a club entry. After seeing that frame, I started to notice more frames featuring that dreamy pink glow. Here are some of my favorites!

san junipero
San Junipero (2016) || Gustav Danielsson (DP)
la la land
La La Land (2016) || Linus Sandgren (DP)
guardians of the galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) ||  Ben Davis (DP)
charlie and the chocolate factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) || Philippe Rousselot (DP)
american hustle
American Hustle (2013) || Linus Sandgren (DP)
fear and loathing in las vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) || Nicola Pecorini (DP)
moulin rouge
Moulin Rouge (2002) || Donald McAlpine (DP)

Spotlight on Cinematography: Dark, Dark my Light

Darkness and stark light in movies help to create negative space, which functions to draw the eye to certain focal points and heighten drama. Sometimes, negative space also creates a feel of tension by emphasizing the solitary nature of an object or highlighting the lack of surroundings. In scenes like the one from Chicago, seen directly below, the shadowy negative spaces makes the glitz and glamour of the scene really stand out. The frame from Moonlight, however, uses shadows and negative space to emphasize the space between the two boys, thereby increasing the tension of the moment. Extreme light and extreme dark are both useful visual tools for filmmakers.

chicago
Chicago (2002) || Dion Beebe (DP)
moulin rouge
Moulin Rouge! (2001) || Donald McAlpine (DP)
la la land
La La Land (2016) || Linus Sandgren (DP)
fight club
Fight Club (1999) || Jeff Cronenweth (DP)
moonlight 2
Moonlight (2016) || James Laxton (DP)
hero
Hero (2002) || Christopher Doyle (DP)
stoker
Stoker (2013) || Chung-hoon Chung (DP)
snow white and the huntsman
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) || Greig Fraser (DP)
we need to talk about kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) || Seamus McGarvey (DP)
neon demon
The Neon Demon (2016) || Natasha Braier (DP)
mr nobody
Mr. Nobody (2009) || Christophe Beaucarne (DP)
matrix
The Matrix (1999) || Bill Pope (DP)