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As it was Christmas recently, I watched several films, all of which had girl in the title although not Gone Girl or The Girl With A Tattoo Who Kicked Nests And Played with Dragons. I saw:-

The Danish Girl

This looked sumptuous and was an endearing story of one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It was faction rather than fiction due to the loss of information about the case, and also because the film's director wanted to make a love story, even though Gerde, Mrs Danish Girl, was actually a lesbian. I read some criticism that trans characters should be played by trans actors - I would disagree with this for practical reasons (the film was about the actual transitioning and the growing dislike that Einar/Lily had for his body, which was displayed in its full maleness i.e. pre-transitioning). Also, actors do acting: that's their job. Ms Glenda Jackson didn't grow a penis to play King Lear. Eddie Redmayne did not have MD when he played Stephen Hawking. Daniel Day Lewis didn't develop cerebral palsy to play Christy Brown, even though he is known as the method actor's method actor. I am not comparing transgender issues to a disability, but the comparison to cisgendered persons playing transgender persons to blacking up isn't helpful - people can't change their race because they believe they have been born into the wrong body (unless they are Rachel Dolezal).

The Girl On The Train

Not as good as the book although which film is?* What I liked about the book was that the heroine was a fat, red, sweaty, damaged alcoholic who nonetheless solved the crime, and in this film she is the beautiful Emily Blunt. What was more unrealistic was that railside houses in the US are much further away from the tracks than in commuter belt Britain and you'd need bionic vision to spot shenanigans on a balcony. It was rather more difficult to conceal the identity of Megan's lover in a film; as soon as you don't see the face of the shaggee, you know something's up.

* High Fidelity, Brokeback Mountain, The Third Man, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The Girl With All The Gifts

This started out great as you wonder why a group of army types are holding children captive, and then descended into a schlock horror as a "black guy dies first" gang wander through a CGI city on a quest to Doesn't Matter Where, but was saved by the surprise ending, which creeped me out somewhat. It was also good to see a non-London landscape featured on film (in this case the Midlands): we may "have no prairies to slice a big sun at evening" but we have landscape that can be used as Hollywood utilises the deep south or the mid west or Manhattan as an additional character in a movie.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

As if Jim Jarmusch made a feminist vampire film set in Iran. Hang on, Jim Jarmusch did make a vampire film, but it was awful, mainly due to the mis-casting of Tom Hiddleston who is great at being Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, High Rise), but not great at being a louche bloodsucker. Someone like Jared Leto would have been better in that role. Or maybe an actual vampire. When will vampire actors be cast in vampire roles?

Hail Coen!

Mar. 10th, 2016 05:55 pm
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I went to see Hail Caesar and loved it. I am a big fan of Coenema, although it felt that in recent years that there has been a bit of a dip in quality. Burn After Reading was dreadful, people may have loved No Country and their remake of True Grit, but I was not one of them. Joel and Ethan are good writers - why do cover versions? And I find the perennial interest in psychopaths just dull; although Billy Bob Thornton was great in the Coen-approved TV version of Fargo, a bumbling criminal - Ed Begley Jnr, Kirsten Dunst, or Tim from the Office - is always more interesting and indeed, fun. But I thought A Simple Man was great, and Inside Llewelyn Davies funny and awkward and loveable.

Hail Caesar goes back to the Coens' love of Hollywood, to the golden age, although this age is coming to an end as illustrated by the continual use of clocks, watches, time throughout the film: the age of the studio system is coming to an end. Unlike Barton Fink, which was at the Nathanael West end of writing about Hollywood, this is more a loving parody of comic Westerns, drawing room dramas, Biblical epics and water ballets.

The protagonist, studio fixer Eddie Mannix, was a real person but his biography differs from the character played by Josh Brolin. I wondered if they wanted Bryan Cranston for the role, but he was off doing the other Hollywood film about Communism. The reds under the beds Communist plot in this film is very silly, involving a group of guys, hanging out at the house from North by North West, trying to convince George Clooney (playing a Kirk Douglas/Charlton Heston-esque character in the titular film about a Roman centurion converted to Christianity when he witnesses Jesus), to convert to Communism.

Like A Single Man, Hail Caesar's theme is religion; early on, Mannix meets with three Christian ministers and one Jewish rabbi, who explain the nature of the Godhead to him, that God is split between God and the son.. The rabbi (played by the dad from Six Feet under but channelling Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm), explains that his is an angry God, although the Christian disagree. Mannix, a Catholic, goes to confession every day to confess tiny sins (smoking) and, in being a fixer for the studios, doing everything from stopping naughty photographs, to setting up starlets with wholesome young actors, to quashing gossip column rumours, carries the weight of the weight of the world, he shoulders all of the sins of the studio. He is both old and new testament God, literally smiting actors when they misbehave but forgiving, redeeming others. Clooney is supposed to gaze at the on-set Jesus in awe, but this is the way he looks at Mannix when the latter re-converts him back to Capitol Studios and capitalism. Clooney spends all of the film in a Roman tunic and armour (he certainly has the legs for it), gets kidnapped and held for ransom and the Coens drop another sneaky reference to their former work as the ransom money in a suitcase gets lost.

There are brilliant set pieces, most notably an amazing dance scene featuring Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-esque dancing sailor in a scene which quickly turns homoerotic and some Busby Berkeley-style synchronised swimming featuring Scarlett Johansson, who surprised me by doing some rather good acting. Scar-Jo even does an accent! Later, her story changes genre, turning noir as she sets up a deal with a surety agent to adopt her own illegitimate child.

There are fun little cameos and details (Commie Tatum's dog is called Engels) and I adored Alden Ehrenreich, who played Hobie, the innocent rodeo guy turned singing cowboy turned serious actor, who loved nothing more than spinning lassos with his spaghetti. The scene in which the Noel Coward-esque Ralph Fiennes tries to make him say "Would that it were so simple" in a mid-Atlantic rather than Wyoming accent had me in fits. Usually I think films should have a good twenty minutes cut out of them, this one I would have been happy for another thirty minutes to be put in.

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I watched Pride and liked it a lot. I was expecting Brassed Off (although that was set in the early ‘90s during the second wave of pit closures) with added gay, but it was in actuality a very moving film about solidarity. About seeing what unites you rather than whinging about every little difference. This was exemplified when reading the IMDb reviews, one of which complained that it was a film for white people - where were the Black and Asian actors? Well, it was based on real people who were unfortunately white. Another commented that the film contained "bi-erasure", i.e there were no bisexual characters. These comments reminded me of when Suzanne Moore used The Wrong Word and was pilloried by trans-campaigners who should have, in my opinion, saved their energies to attack the people who are actual transphobes. Whilst admitting that the left doesn't always get things right, basically the enemy is, was, always has been, always will be Tories, UKIP and their ilk. Let us not forget that David Cameron voted twice against repealing Section 28.

The thirty year anniversary of the miners' strike hasn't been particularly covered in the media. Perhaps they felt they'd done their commemorating 25 years on. I seem to remember a 2009 Channel 4 documentary did mention the LGSM group, but I can't remember any details, so it's amazing and heartening that this slice of social/gay history was made into a feel-good, family-friendly film. I did not know or realise that miners fronted the Gay Pride march '85 or block-voted gay and lesbian equality into the Labour Party’s manifesto. You scratch our backs, we won't stab yours.

I also didn't know about Mark Ashton, who fitted so much into his awfully short life, or Jonathan Blake, the first person in London to be diagnosed with HIV, yet still going strong today at 65.

These are stories that need(ed) to be told - although I did wonder if slash fiction fans were going to be frothing at the, erm, mouth regarding the pairing of McNulty and Moriaty.

I also watched The Imitation Game featuring Benny Cumber's Important Acting. More than the historical inaccuracies (solving Enigma was done by a team not a lone, embattled, Brilliant Mind-esque genius, Turing got on with his fellow codecrackers, but he didn't discover the Communist spy), I was annoyed by the linguistic anachronisms. I'm pretty sure that upper middle class people in the '40s did not say "I'm done" for "I'm finished with this" ("I'm done in", maybe), "You're fired" would have been "You're sacked", "clever", not "smart" and anyone who studied Classics (which would have been all the public school boys) would have said hommer-sexual not home-o ("same" in Greek, not "man" in Latin). But I'm a pedant.

I did like the way the film pointed out similarities between experiencing social anxiety because you're on the autistic spectrum and feeling that you don't fit in because your sexuality is illegal, ditto keeping secrets: about your sexual preference, about your war record, and although Joan Clarke's part was bigged up, the story including her contribution to the Enigma project was welcome considering how women's scientific and mathematical accomplishments tend to get written out of history.

Interesting fact: Michael Cashman as Colin had a similar storyline on Eastenders in the '80s: he was burgled but the police were only interested in his relationship with his (technically) under-age 20 year old boyfriend; I can't believe the writers weren't referencing Turing's tragedy.
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What do you do when you're a rather faded Hollywood star, your good looks are behind you, and Hollywoodland aside, you're not being offered any character roles? You turn to directing and get your younger, cuter brother to star in the role you might have played ten years ago. Gone, Baby, Gone is a dark thriller directed by Ben Affleck and based on a book written by the same guy who wrote Mystic River and Shutter Island. Rather than a publisher, he might as well just pass his next manuscript onto Guy Pierce or Brad Pitt to option.

Like Shutter Island, I got the twist early on, but that didn't stop this being a great, grim, multi-layered story. Set in (an outpost of) Boston, this isn't the Massachusetts of Harvard, colonial architecture and Paul Revere, it's got as many corrupt cops, dead children, and moral grey areas with no easy answers as New Orleans. The stand-out scene features Casey breaking into the home of a gun-toting paedophile ring, the camera spins speedily from tracking shots of Affleck to the awful surroundings and back as he, and the audience, try to take in what is happening. We become complicit in the scene as the camera rests on a pair of bloodied child's underpants in the sink next to a bar of soap, broken in half. As I say, grim.

Apparently Dennis Lehane also wrote a few episodes of the Wire and this film also features Beadie as a deadbeat mum and Omar in a small role as police officer. That scar is for real, bruv. Their characters are better realised than the role of Angie, Casey's partner in fighting crime and girlfriend who had nothing to do save offer support to her boyfriend protagonist. At least the femmes fatales of the original noir films had roles to play.


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Wonder Boys

British campus comedies feature blow up dolls, condoms, tedious marriages, dinner parties. American ones have dead dogs, car thieves called Vernon, suicidal acolytes, weekend transvestites, and Marilyn Monroe's jacket. Michael Douglas is strangely great as Professor Tripp, Tobey MacGuire plays well, Toeby McGuire, as Tripp's biggest fan, and Robert Downey Jnr is as always, fantastic (every time I see him in some bilge like Guy Ritchie's Sherlock, I get upset for his talent) as Tripp's agent who wants to snare Tobey (professionally and sexually). John Boy Walton joins in as a cuckolded husband-cum-Marilyn obsessive, but Katie Holmes and Frances McDormand's characters are too lightly sketched for comment (women rarely get to play anything but muses and supportive wifey types in anything written by Michael Chabon).


Mid-west machinations. A teen lesbian tries to get herself expelled so she can go to an all-girls school. A teacher (post-Ferris Broderick) attempts to rig a school election because he hates one of the candidates who slept with his now sacked colleague - whilst Broderick tries to seduce his ex-colleague's ex-wife. And pre-Oscar Witherspoon as the candidate, determined to win the election at any cost. What happens to ambitious religious blonde women from Omaha? Republican wives, I expect.

Good Night and Good Luck

Clooney-directed biopic of Ed Murrow who spoke out against the McCarthy witch/communist hunts of the '50s. Just as M*A*S*H was really about the Vietnam war and The Crucible a reaction against McCarthyism, this is pretty much about the freedom of speech issues around the Iraq invasion/Guantanamo/extraordinary rendition and other such issues of the Bush era. Clooney doesn't impose too much of a narrative onto the story, he doesn't present Murrow and Friendly as heroes whose lives are ruined for their cause but end up victorious 'n' vindicated. It's a simple day by day account.

Nixon is not played by an actor portraying him as the Baddie, he appears as himself in TV interviews and speeches. When Nixon himself is investigated by the Senate, it is not a cue for victory. God Bless America is not played. It's something the newsroom is pleased about, but not the crux of the story. The actor playing Murrow was quite brilliant, a restrained portrayal of someone not quite a Maverick, not someone determined to bring down his 'enemy', but a journalist railing (in a reined-in kinda way) against the inequities of the time. The Jon Stewart of his day, if you will.

It's also extremely stylish, lovely lighting, beautiful shots. The only thing that irked me was the insistence on Murrow smoking in every scene. Did he die of lung cancer, I asked the internet, is that why the cigarettes? Yes, yes he did.

Soul Boy

I could dance all night like I'm a soul boy
But you know I'd rather drag myself across the dance floor
I feel like dancing on my own
Where no-one knows me and where I
Can cause offence just by the way I look

Uninspiring coming-of-age drama set around the Northern Soul scene of Wigan and Stoke. Rather than digging the music and the all night boogieing, our hero, Joe, just wants to get off with a hairdresser who frequents the Casino who in turn is dating the Alpha Male/top dancer/drug dealer. "Why do girls choose the prat with the Ford Capri over the genuine, nice, guy?" he moans. "Why do boys in films pursue the unattainable chick instead of the girl next door we know they'll end up with, and save us a lot of time?" I complained. Like Zoolander, Joe has a fatal flaw, he's an ex-ice skater who can't do spins - until he has a dance-off with the Alpha Male and then he whirls like Tonya Harding on dexedrine.

Anyway, the dance scenes were great, the music was great (although only one of the t
hree before eight was played) and the excitement of the soul boys and girls as the bus departed Stoke reminded me of the Cutie Coaches to the Sarah Xmas Parties that [info]richardbajor used to organise back in the day/the 90s (although I'm not sure you can walk back to Stoke from Wigan).

Northern Soul will be better.
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Arsenic and Old Lace

Two serial killer aunts, a mad lodger who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, a Karloffian criminally insane brother, a new bride anxious for her wedding night, Peter Lorre, and an irate taxi driver. How's Cary Grant to cope? By gurning, farce, and slapstick in this comedy horror in the days before such things existed.

The Disappeared

Spooky thriller set on a South London council estate. Matt's brother is one of several children to have disappeared off of the estate and his guilt, grief and mixing of medication with lager and spliffs leads him to be haunted by ghosts. The plot points many ways; is it the feral teenagers murdering children, Bulger-style? Was it Matt's dad? The next door neighbour? Is it all in Matt's fevered imagination? I half-guessed the ending, but it remained ambiguous as we were never sure whether the big bad was supernatural or not.

Sadly, this film was shown in one cinema when it was released - it's much better than the usual rom-com/faux-Gangster/thing with Simon Pegg in it that is the usual Brit flick fare.

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Reads like a blueprint for Broken Embraces with a disabled film director in love with his muse-protagonist (it would have been P Cruz had she not been 16 at the time) with a little of the pervy stalkerish behaviour of Benigno in Talk to Her. It riffs on mistaking sexual obsession for love (from both lead characters), the male gaze (once again), and the survival instincts of Almovodar's mujeres. With beautiful interiors and a saucy sex scene, natch.

Flashbacks of a Fool

Dreamy Daniel Craig vehicle in which his degenerate days as a fading actor in LA are contrasted with his innocent (ish - there is a wanking-in-a-ghost train scene) teenagehood in which the younger Craig (Joe) is seduced by a neighbour which leads to a crisis that makes him leave home. It is beautifully shot with a recurring image of light on water, from the sterile surrounds of Malibu beach to the long hot summer of '76 in what looks like seaside Sussex (although it was actually shot in South Africa). There are many close ups of Craig/Joe's limpid blue eyes.

We see the moment that sets Joe's life in motion as, on his way to a date with the Roxy/Bowie obsessive Ruth, he is persuaded to go into the neighbour's home to consummate their lust. But what would have happened if he hadn't? Marriage to Ruth, never leaving his home town? There is a fantastic scene when Ruth dresses Joe up as Brian Ferry and makes him her backing singer while she mimes to "If there was something". Although he is very much the secondary character in the scene, you can see the showing off gene that presumably led to his actorly ambitions. His life was always going to go the way it did.
millionreasons: (karen)

Hollywood ran out of ideas around 1990 and now makes nothing but remakes, franchises and sequels. So I thought I'd pitch some ideas.

Pretty In White

Andie (Katherine Heigl or Christina Applegate or Brittany Murphy) is dithering about whether she should get married to Blaine (Ashton Kutcher). She takes advice from Iona (Zooey Deschanel) who tells her that she always feels something was missing in her life because she never got married. She has an on/off relationship with Duckie (Michael Cera) who may or may not be the father of her child, Otis. Andie decides she will marry Blaine, but re-enter Steph (Colin Farrell) who gets Andie drunk, snogs her, then posts the photos on the internet. Eventually Andie makes Blaine realise that it was all a terrible misunderstanding and the wedding is back on. Andie makes her own wedding dress (sewing montage) and all is fine until Steph, accidentally on purpose, throws beetroot juice (from the juice bar that Iona now owns following the demise of her record shop) all over the dress. Andie decides to dye the whole dress pink, and she and Blaine marry. Andie is given away by Molly Ringwald who makes a cameo appearance as Andie's long lost mum. At the ceremony, Ilana tells Duckie that she doesn't know if he is her son's bio-dad but it doesn't matter because he's a great father to him anyway and they should all move in together. Duckie makes a mix-tape for his child.

The Man Who Played With Ice

After the success of the Stieg Larsson adaptations, Hollywood looks further north to Iceland and the Arnaldur Indridason crime series. Inspector Erlendur (Tom Hanks) and his deputy Elinborg (Julia Roberts) investigate murders in Reykjavik involving snow mobile chases across the glaciers, CGI puffins dancing, and elves whispering the murderer's name to Erlendur in a dream. The sexual tension between Erlendur and Elinborg is never resolved, leaving the door open for 2 or 3 sequels.

Meet the Moomins

Pixar animated film starring Robert de Niro and Renee Zwallegger as Moomin Papa and Moomin Mama, and Ellen Page and Justin Bieber as the Snork Maiden and Moomintroll. Special guest star Hugh Laurie plays the Hemlyn. Takes all the magic from the books by adding adult jokes that the kids won't get, turning the Hattifatteners into Muslim metaphors and manipulating the emotions so that Snuffkin leaving Moomin Valley is analogous to growing up which makes all the grown ups cry. The sexual tension between Moomintroll and the Snork Maiden is never resolved, leaving the door open for 2 or 3 sequels.

Brad's Bar

Brad (Bruce Willis) owns a coffee shop in Baghdad. All is going fine until Saddam invades Kuwait and a woman (Sandra Bullock) he had an affair with in Turkey a few years previously comes into his café for a skinny double shot low fat mocha. Of all the coffee shops in all the world, why did you have to come into mine? he asks her. You could have just gone to Starbucks. Brad comes to realise that his liberal principles don't work in a world where a man like Saddam can try to control the whole of the middle east and he starts gun running for the American forces. Heroically saving Ilsa, her husband, and his humorous sidekick Ali (Omar Djalli), Brad tries single handedly to take out Saddam, only to be stopped by a kindly Major who tells him, with a wink: “We have to withdraw, but don't worry, son, we'll get him next time”. The last scene is Saddam in his palace secretly making WMD, leaving the door open for 2 or 3 sequels....



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Perrier's Bounty

I'm not much interested in crime caper comedies or gangsters or Irish films (name me one film about Dublin that doesn't make it look uniformly depressing), but I am interested in Mr C Murphy, who is much too good for this movie. Poor Cillian, he only ever gets to star in small films or be a supporting actor in bigger productions. Always the sidekick, never the hero.

In this, Cillian, for reasons too boring to relate, gets involved with some burglar-cum-loan sharks and then ends up running around Dublin with his Father Jack-esque dying dad and suicidal next door neighbour/love interest whilst avoiding car clampers, dangerous dogs, two gangs of gangsters, and comparisons to Intermission.


It turns out Cillian does get to star in American films - pity this one went straight to DVD. It has the right ingredients - star cast: Susan Sarandon, Ellen Page, Keith Carradine and a great settting: small town America's seedy underbelly. Perhaps its subject matter was too dark for the general public/studio execs.

Set in the 50s or early 60s, I thought it was going to be a tale of transvestite gaining acceptance by small town mid-America, but it was a whole lot murkier than that. Deliberately riffing off Psycho, Cillian's two characters, Emma and John, know nothing of each other's lives. They are separate entities. Emma gets up, cooks John's breakfast then goes into the bedroom to change into John who eats his breakfast and goes to work. At first Emma stays in the house, doing domestic tasks, until she starts to venture out into the world where she's befriended by Lady Mayoress Susan Sarandon and dish washer slash prostitute, Juno, who turns out to have given birth to John's son through a strange plot twist in which John's late mother forced him to have sex with Juno. The internet had the opinion that John's mother was also a cross-dresser and John's transvestism is an attempt to become his mother, rather than to invent a wife for himself. John and Emma are increasingly at cross purposes with each other: John's anger at Emma creating her own life for herself and disagreeing with John's opinions has obvious parallels in the burgeoning women's movement (especially given Mayoress Sarandon's talk about attracting modern (i.e. independent) women's votes). Emma takes revenge on John by shaving off her eyebrows (ensuring he can't shed his female attire) and goes to bizarre lengths to 'kill' him off, leaving her alone and free.


Another film which deserved wider release: the troubling life of Joe Meek, indie producer almost 3 decades before punk took up the DIY ethos. The film starts off almost as a Carry On romp with the Tornadoes (then called the Outlaws) messin’ abaht on the stairs of 304 Holloway Road whilst shy songwriter Geoff Goddard (not played by Mathew Horne) looks on, and ends in madness, drug misuse, paranoia and murder, although the film implies that Joe Meek killed his landlady by accident rather than design.

Con O’Neill playing Meek is just great and there’s an all-star cast, well all-star if you count people who have been in TV sitcoms (Pam Ferris, Ralf Little, James Corden (surprisingly good)) and popstars played by yer actual popstars (Carl Barat, an S Club 7, that fellow from the Darkness), plus cameos by Rita Tushingham, Marcus Brickstock and (bizarrely) Jimmy Carr. Oh, and Kevin Spacey!

I didn’t know that many of the Tornadoes went onto become popstars in their own right – Chas from Chas ‘n’ Dave, Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix experience, Ritchie Blackmore, and Clem Clattini (who has played on more British number 1 hits than anyone else). However, Meek was the second most famous person to turn down the Beatles, and he also took a wrong turn in his ceaseless promotion of Heinz, the Belouis Some* of his day. Whilst he made stunning progressive pop classics in Johnny Remember Me and Telstar, his novelty hits were poor and, already 30 in 1960, the youngest of youthquake decades, he failed to move with the times and embrace beat pop, psychedelia, garage etc. Throughout the film, he sports a quiff and DA and wears a tank top and tie whilst his assistant moves to a mop top and Carnaby St sharp suit.

It’s always terribly sad when people die before their time and I do wonder what Joe Meek would have made of synthesisers if he’d managed to live for another 10 years. Five months after his death, homosexuality was finally decriminalised and whilst people’s attitudes took longer to change, it might have at least vindicated his sexual preference to himself. And, according to the film, he was only 3 weeks away from receiving his Telstar royalties, on hold for years because of a court case. If he’d have been rich and out of the closet, he might have held onto life until he could have played one of the first Moogs.

 * see the 80s.

Great article by Jon Savage on Joe Meek


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Whip It

Every teenage Twilight fan should be forced to watch this movie. Yep, it's formulaic, down to the minute that Juno stops wearing her specs (I said it would be after 24 mins, it was actually 23.38), but it's good, clean fun. Yes, there's a romance plot but it's entirely secondary to the love Juno has for her gal-pals and the team. The roller derby scenes were really exciting and beautifully choreographed, and kudos to Drew Barrymore who didn't cast herself as the motherly character, but as a girl who likes hitting things.

Shutter Island

Unfortunately, I guessed the twist four minutes into the film. Fortunately, there was enough Hitchcockian suspenseful drama, paranoid ambience and spooky goings-on to keep me entertained for the next two hours. Even L De Caprio didn't irritate me with his blandness as much as he usually does - although I still don't understand why a nation's teens found him devastatingly attractive back in the '90s.


The stupidly named Shia LaBeouf plays the stupidly named Kale, a regular teenager - until his father is killed in a car accident and he becomes moody and violent and is ankle-tagged and put under house arrest for the summer. His mother takes away his TV, X-box and i-Tunes and all that's left is reading War and Peace spying on his neighbours until he witnesses a murder and has only his camcorder, his goofy best friend and the hot chick next door to help him catch the perp. As teen homages to Rear Window it's not quite as good as Paul ZIndel's The Undertaker's Gone Bananas, but it has stuff to say about the stifling nature of suburbia, the male gaze, about isolation and surveillance. I'ts quite taut and tense until the last 20 minues when it turns into a dull slasher film. Shia LaBeouf is the poor man's Jason Dohring (except no-one knows who Jason Dohring is.)

Youth in Revolt

Another Michael Cera vehicle. He is the twee teenager who falls for a girl and then becomes a schizophrenic sociopath in order to get her. Well, that was my reading of the film. To impress Sheeni, he invents an alter ego: the chain-smoking, moustache-wearing French dud(e) Francois, sets fire to a car, drugs Sheeni (not in a roofie way), manipulates her friends and tells lies about her on/off boyfriend to his classmates. It reminded me of that annoying film where John Cusack stands on the roof of a car with a ghetto blaster to woo his loved one, giving hope to every dweeb who refuses to take no for an answer (indeed, Nick/Francois does not take no for an answer when Sheeni asks him to sleep on the floor). It's supposed to be a darkish comedy, but there are only three jokes in it.
millionreasons: (karen)

Nick and Norah's infinite playlist

I couldn't decide whether I liked or disliked this film. 10 years ago, I would have loved it. 20 years ago, I would've thought it was the best thing ever ever ever. The story of two indie-dweebs driving around NYC looking for a secret gig by a fictional band (the stupidly named Where's Fluffy), it's a romcom for alternative types. Instead of skating at the Rockefeller Centre, there's a gig at Arlene's Grocery; they don't go on a pony ride in Central Park, they eat at Katz's diner. Instead of the heroine having a sassy gay friend who offers advice on what to do, the hero has two sassy indie-gay friends who are in his band and tell
him what to do (but never get to kiss the handsome hunk they've picked up). It's kinda sweet, but I can never accept Michael Cera as a romantic hero, because I find him extremely creepy.

Poor Cow

Classic kitchen-sinker released in 1967 as feminism's second wave was hitting everywhere but Battersea. The poor man's Julie Christie, Karen White, pouts her way through this like a mixture of Babs Windsor and Mandy Rice Davies, an under-educated girl who thinks all you need in life is a man, a baby and a couple of nice rooms. You want to slap the stupid off of her. I suppose if the film were made nowadays, she'd be a Jade or a Jordan, achieving fame and notoriety but back in the 60s, a pretty, daft girl had a choice of getting married or doing peek-a-boo modelling. Joy does both. According to Wikipedia, she becomes a prostitute in the end, although that was never made explicit - she just always knew that the prospect of being "a brass" lurked in the background. I haven't read the book, but the film reminded me of 19th century 'downfall of a working class woman' type of French novels by Zola or Flaubert.

Be Kind Rewind

Similar to Empire Records, this film follows the fortunes of three video shop worker whose empire is under threat by bureaucracy and the larger chains. Much like Empire Records, the store is not saved (probably), but they discover that community, love and friendship are more important. The over-riding theme is not about love of film, but love of creativity; people renting out the remade films do so not because they're good but because they're creative, and they love being involved themselves (the message being: Create, don't just consume). Early on in the film, I wouldn't buy that people would rather have a crappily remade version of Ghostbusters than the original, but I suppose Gondry was making a point about Hollywood formulaic factory films vs something with a bit of creative spark even if it's not as glossy. However I certainly didn't buy the McGuffin of Frank Black wiping all the films because he'd become magnetic after being electrocuted.

Expect a remake set in a Crouch End DVD shop starring Simon Pegg as Mos Def and Nick Frost as his fat friend.

A Single Man

A reasonably faithful adaptation of the novel, Colin Firth works pretty hard at a) not being Mr Darcy and b) making the part his own and not just an imitation of Isherwood. However, the writers and director seemed determined to make the film a period piece. Isherwood wrote an 'of the times' book, but it was supposed to show his archaic Englishness against the backdrop of modernity. But modernity is soon ancient history and the whole funny specs, beatniks, don't mention the Bay of Pigs, do the twist thang seems rather contrived (apparently, the 'look' was designed by the Mad Men crew).

 This film is trying very hard to be Far From Heaven, the slightly sepia-toned characters are coloured in brightly when they feel emotion, but at least there was no voiceover (the book is mostly George's internal thoughts) and Jim's backstory was filled in (in the book, his death is more of a catalyst for George's state of mind). Julianne Moore is very good (but when is she not?*), managing to play a 60s drunken posh English woman in a not too Patsy Stone fashion.

However, Kenny is completely wrong, he was supposed to be a slightly stupid football lunk, not a sensitive proto-emo kid played by the About A Boy boy.

* 30 Rock

The Countess

Despite being in the possession of fallopian tubes and a (fine) set of knockers, I'm not that interested in costume dramas, but having watched and loved Julie Delpy's writing-directorial debut, I was interested in her second which again features the darling Daniel Bruhl. He plays the younger lover of Delpy's Slovakian-Hungarian Countess (there is supposed to be 20 years between then in reality there's 8) who is forced to leave her by his conniving father. She goes rather insane with grief and believes that it's because she's too old and so she starts murdering virgins in order to get their blood to keep her youthfulness. The lengths some women will go to to remain young – if only she'd had some Touche Eclat.

Delpy is commenting on the pressures on women to look young; she was 38 when she made the film, too old to play the ingénues that made her famous. As a director and a character, she uses the female gaze. She approaches, seduces and posesses Daniel Bruhl's character then films him lying beautifully lit and spread-eagled on the bed, the camera lingering on the lovely male form voyeuseistically.

We also see how power can easily be taken away from women. We're told that her strength and influence comes from her land, army and money, but she believes that her power is though her beauty. After refusing the offer of a Count's hand in marriage, her conspirators work against her, telling her that Queen Elizabeth I has lost her looks since the war with Spain. To the king, they present women as being too mad and vain to rule; at the same time he is signing weekly death warrants for witches. The Countess as a person and a character was undoubtedly evil, but as the men in the film carry out equally awful acts, she is punished for being a powerful and sexual woman.


millionreasons: (Default)

I loved this film. It featured some of my favourite things: Old Hollywood, the sleazy underbelly of Old Hollywood, and noir. Adrien Brody played a detective investigating the mysterious death of George Reeves, the first Superman (no relation) in 1959. Brody was slightly irritating; he seemed to be playing the character through a series of facial ticks and mumbling, but on the other hand, Ben Affleck, as Reeves, was just wonderful. Perhaps the character of a washed up Hollywood star resonated with him (remember when it was Ben that was the star and <Team America voice>Matt Damon </Team America voice> his sidekick?). Brody investigates a world of corrupt studio men, unfaithful studio wives, the obligatory Femme Fatale and the dark downside of fame without, of course, coming to any conclusions about Reeves' death.

Tell No-one

Once upon a time, French cineastes made tedious movies about love and existential angst and divorce and dinner parties. Then they made icky twee like Amelie* and that one about the schoolchildren. Then they started making thrillers and they were great. First The Serpent then Cache, and now this film in which a man whose wife was murdered receives an email from her eight years later. The obvious conclusion would be that it is someone pretending to be her for nefarious reasons, but that doesn't turn out to be the case.

All three films have a common theme; a family's complacent comfort is disrupted by something nasty from their past coming to spoil it - yuppie nightmare is the American term for it. In Cache and Le Serpent, it is a wrong-doing by the male protagonist to someone lower down the food-chain.  In Tell No-one, it's the opposite: a right-doing by the female protagonist that causes the issue and the bourgeois world that is the problem, with Monsieur Beck being abandoned by his peers yet aided by some mecs de banlieue, one of whom had a son that Beck helped, the type of flic-bothering racaille that Sarkozy et al detest.

Of course there was a massive plot hole in that Madame Beck had been persuaded to go into hiding in Madrid by her father telling her that her husband was dead. Given that the plot relied on technology and that Monsieur Beck was a respected paediatrician, he would have had a web presence and been very googlable.

* I know I am the only person in the world who didn't love Amelie. I much prefer Delicatessen, even if it was overly-inspired by Brazil (which in its turn had nicked too much from 1984).

The Woman in the Window

Psychology lecturer Edward G Robinson (the white bread Peter Lorre) is set up by woman of questionable morals Joan Bennett (the poor woman's Gene Tierney) in this Friz Lang noir with a twist to outwit the Hays Code. The following year, Joan set up Edward again in Scarlet Street which, like this film has a painting of Joan's character as the catalyst of the story. In Scarlet Street, Lang set out again to out-manoeuvre the Hays Code by letting the murderer go unpunished by the law (but driven mad by guilt), here, like the thrillers mentioned above, the story is a bourgeois nightmare, only literally this time.

Day Watch
I loved this film's predecessor Night Watch, but this sequel was a big old mess. Nominally about magician/Light Other Anton's search for his son who has gone to the Dark side (yep, Star Wars in reverse), it lurched from one sub-plot to another. Anton and his partner Olga switch bodies leading to hilarity and sub-lesbianism with Anton's would-be girlfriend, Swetlana. A Dark witch and a teenage vampire (yep, Twilight in reverse) have an affair (the Dark women are always dressed scantily. The Dark men aren't). Anton and Olga set off to Samarkand to find some magic chalk and then decide after all that it's in Moscow. There's some silliness with a magic bauble yo-yo. I ended up feeling I was watching a particuarly bad episode of Heroes, one in which Sylarchanges his motivation just before every act break.

Part of the reason it didn't stand up to Night Watch was the badly translated subtitles. Anton-as-Olga needs the toilet. Sweta tells him/her "Make sure you don't use the room with the picture of the little boy on it". Erk!

January 2017

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