Monday, 31 August 2009

Being bad feels pretty good, huh?

The problem with being a movie manic like me is that, after a while, you become desensitized to film on general. A film may be really very good, but you've become so used to cinema in general that it just washes over you. It requires an exceptionally trandescendent film to snap you out of this state, and for me, this film was The Breakfast Club.

Seriously. I've become obsessed. I am in love. I've watched it three times in as many days. When eating dinner, I see Brian, Claire, Bender, Allison and Andy running through the school hallway. When vacuuming the house, I see them all dancing in the library. When about to fall asleep I see Bender's face (not like that. Naughty. Although I must admit, I am fairly in love with him). It's taken over my life. It's been a long time since a film did this.

The premise of The Breakfast Club is pretty simple. Five teenagers - Brian the brain, Andy the athlete, Allison the basket-case, Claire the princess and Bender the criminal are stuck in a day long detention on a Saturday. They're all from pretty different social circles, and have rarely interacted before this day. Each of them has a whole set of preconceptions and prejudices about the others, but as the day unfolds, they slowly come to realise that they are all much more than their respective stereotypes.

There's not much to say about The Breakfast Club that hasn't been said before in a million diferent ways. Suffice it to say, John Hughes, writer, director and genius, truly understood teenagers, perhaps in a way we don't ourselves. He understood the pain of pressure - pressure from parents, pressure from peers - the pain of not belonging and trying to find your place in life, and the vicious world of adolescence and high school. Although I'm way past high school now, and indeed never had it really bad anyway, this film struck a deep chord.

Technically, it's a great film. The script is both natural and nuanced, complex yet never over-complicated. The performances from the young actors are brilliant - all of them play carefully exaggerated, almost comical representations of their stereotypes at the beginning, deepening their performances as the film goes on and their characters develop. Judd Nelson in particular stood out to me as John Bender, the criminal of the group. At first a crude, rebellious, almost threatening bad-boy, his character slowly comes to show a vulnerable side as he becomes closer to members of the group, and Nelson masterfully captures this oh-so-subtle change while still keeping true to the character. 'Twas amazing to watch.

I should have hated this film. I hate teenage films. I don't really like the 80s. But this is completely different from any other high school film. Laughs aren't played at the expense of weaker characters. Clich├ęd romantic storylines aren't played out. This film actually has some heart and soul to it, and is fully respectful of adolescence and teenage-hood rather than patronizing and subtly mocking it - instead, it chooses to intelligently and honestly explore it. Plus, there's a curious sense of freedom to this film - a definite sense of breaking free (take note, High School Musical). Despite the fact that the kids are basically locked in detention, they still manage to escape - both literally, when they run through the hallways away from the evil Principal, and metaphorically, as they break the social boundaries entrapping them. And the scene when they dance wildly to We Are Not Alone speaks utter un-self-conciousness and freedom. Absolutely awesome.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Art of Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings films are awesome for many reasons - score, direction, script, visual effects...but the one part that has always stood out to me the most is the scope of imagination behind the art, set and costume direction. The films are just wonderful to look - awe-inspiring and heart-breaking-ly beautiful at the same time. Even watching them for the tenth time (and I think I've gone way beyond that by this point) never fails to bring about a feeling of excitement, happiness or fear as the camera tracks the Fellowship, explores Rivendell or pans over Mordor. So, unsurprisingly, a few weeks ago I checked three books out at the library - The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Art of the Two Towers and The Art of Return of the King, and I wholeheartedly recommend them. They show the thoughts and developmental processes behind making these films as magical as they are - be it through rough sketches, animation or mannequins, and they're just so cool. They are a tad expensive, so if you can get them through the library like me, well, you won't regret it. And no, I'm not being paid to advertise. I'm just a big dork :D

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

45. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Thank you all for all your kind words on the last post!! I am so uber excited I can't even begin to describe.

Anywhoo, a short post today until I start watching some stuff again.

In other news, Taylor Swift is awesome.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

yay, I got in!! I am still in a state of absolute shock, I just can't believe it. But I'm also so so so so so happy and excited.
quick run of the grades -
French - 525/600 A
German - 522/600 A
Maths - 527/600 A
And yes, I have registered the irony that, despite wanting to study languages, my highest grade was in Maths. Hmmmn...
Can't WAIT for Oxford :D :D

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Women (1939)

While I am an enormous fan of classic movies, particularly those from the late 30s and 40s, I've often experienced a lot of discomfort while watching certain ones. It's not because the acting is bad (hello, it's the era of James Stewart...) or because the script is weak. No. It's usually because of the extraordinary amount of sexist views that are, both directly and indirectly, portrayed in certain films from this period.

And so it was with The Women. Perhaps it's not so surprising that a film about infidelity (on the man's side of course) and divorce from this time will not exactly be on the side of Women's Rights, but still. There was just so much stuff that was insulting to women, and degrading to the idea of marriage. The idea that if a man has an extra-marital affair, it's absolutely ok - in fact, it means he's "lost" - and it is a woman's duty to support him through this difficult time. The idea that, if you do wish to divorce your husband for sleeping with someone else, that means you are a "coward" who doesn't have the courage to fight for her man, and it doesn't matter that you're desperately unhappy and can't bear to look at him. And, as the ending of the film neatly shows, to be in with a chance of holding on to your guy, it's not enough to be a good caring wife and a lovely mother. No, you have "grow claws" and go into uber-bitch mode. What is particularly irritating is that, at the start of the film, the main character Mary Haines (played by Norma Shearer) is shocked by her mother's proposal that she sit meekly at home while her husband fools around with someone else, and passionately declares that in these modern times, she doesn't have to put up with it. However, by the end of the film, this has all merely been put down to pride, "a luxury a woman in love can't afford". For goodness sake.

Obviously, it is just a film. Moreover, it is a film that was a complete product of its time. A time before the empowering of women during the war, a time when women had only recently earned the right to vote. Can't we just pass it off as an example of the period it hailed from and watch the comedy? I feel, however, that it's important to note that all films - indeed all art forms - have the power to influence and instruct even seventy years after they were first made. I'm not saying we should do anything ridiculous like ban it, but, my real question is, as modern people and in particular as modern women, should we be enjoying this film?

Because I admit now - I did enjoy it. I thought it was hilarious. A perfectly sharp witty script, an amazing cast of actors - everything that is perfect about films from this time. Except the old fashioned attitudes. Those stung a lot.

So, to end this rambling, my main question - is it a sexist film that is therefore to be hated, or a product of it's time, to therefore be condoned? If the latter, I can't help feeling that we have picked up more from the morals of the film than we intended to - that all manner of sins are to be indulged and condoned. But it was just such a funny and good film that I can't immediately write it off.

For now, I'm on the fence. But I can't help feeling that my strong rooted feminist principles will eventually succumb to my ardent love of cinema. I apologise now to all the feminists and Suffragettes who fought and died on my behalf. But I honestly can't resist a good George Cukor film.

What about all of you?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Favourite Book Characters of All Time

Remember when I did this post? Well, I've decided to do the book version now, as promised. Rather late I know, but hey, that's how I roll. Again, notice the distinct lack of psychopaths and morons that some people feel will make a good character. Instead, note the inordinate amount of child characters. It really seems I have no faith in adults. All characters are based on their book selves, and not on any film or TV versions. I just sometimes couldn't find pictures of original illustrations.

10. Pauline Fossil, Ballet Shoes

Because of her love for her sisters. Because of her determination to help. Because of her love of the stage.

9. Scheherazade, Arabian Nights

Because, unlike some other fairytale heroines, she actually has some guts. Because she prevents a massacre of innocents. Because she tells some awesome stories.

8. The Little Prince, The Little Prince

Because he's so gentle and charming. Because he represents childhood innocence.

7. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Because in a man's world, she's not afraid to fight. Because she always stays true to herself. Because she represents innocence in a thoroughly unjust time.

6. Artemesia Blastside, Piratica

Because she's cool and brave and tough. Because, even when she discovers her life is a dream, she keeps on at it.

5. Hercules Poirot, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (and others)

Because he solves murders. Because he does so in a curly moustache.

4. Lord Arthur Goring, An Ideal Husband

Because he's witty and charming and absolutely hysterical, yet (dare I say it?) earnest and passionate beneath it all.

3. Alice, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass

Because of her imagination. Because of her curiousity. Because of her thoughtfulness. Because my childhood wouldn't have been the same without her.

2. Bertie Wooster, Thank You, Jeeves (and others)

Because he quotes Shakespeare without knowing the quote. Because he abbreviates eggs and bacon to eggs and b. Because he remains engaged to girls he dislikes to not hurt their feelings. Because he steals policemen's helmets. Because he is the funniest and best comic creation ever.

1. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (and others)

Because of her loyalty. Because of her cleverness. Because of her determination. Because of her untameable hair. Because of her love for Ron. Because of her deep insecurities. Because of her kindness. Because she's been my hero ever since she first appeared on the Hogwarts express.

Monday, 10 August 2009

London 2009 Part II

Last part of the photos from the best city in the world. And no, I'm not biased :D For those who asked, the Muse walls from the last set can be found on the wall opposite Oxo Tower. 'Tis my favourite wall in the world :)

01 & 02 - The trees lining the Thames were wrapped in polka dot material as part of Yayoi Kusma's art exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.

03 - Inspirational street art on the banks of the river. 04 - The Hippodrome

05 & 06 - Roses in Regent's Park

07 & 08 - More Roses in Regent's Park.

09 - Foxgloves, I think they're called. Or something. Again, in Regent's Park. 10 - Me. I don't need to tell you where :)

11 - Trees by the Thames at night time. 12 - Baby ducklings on a canal.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I finally saw the latest Harry Potter film yesterday!! Yes, it did take me three weeks to see it. No, I do not feel like explaining why. Suffice it to say two weeks in the middle of nowhere and sudden office work my parents felt was life-and-death put the movie off for a good long time.

Anyway, Harry is now in his sixth year at Hogwarts and never before has life, both in the wizarding world at large and in Harry's own personal life, been so dark and frightening. As Harry begins to learn more about Voldemort's dark past, he must look ahead also to the future, where the terrifying presence of Voldermort lingers, while also trying to keep up with the shocking amount of hormones in Hogwarts in the present time.

This prevalent idea of romance is perhaps what makes this film so different from the previous films, and I'm not complaining. Admittedly, it was overdone quite a few times, such as when McLaggen, um, licks his lips seductively at Hermione (sorry, what?) or when Ginny, er, ties Harry's shoelace, but overall, the idea did work, mainly because it finally showed Harry Hermione and Ron as teenagers, an idea which weirdly enough has been missing from all the other films - the fact that these are adolescents growing up while also dealing with the presence of Dark magic. The romance also provided some good humour, especially when concerning Ron and Lavender - the scene where Hermione and Lavender fight over Ron's bedside with Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape looking bemusedly on was genius.

The acting had also improved. In some cases. Rupert Grint was brilliant as usual, with perfect comic timing and well played goofiness while also keeping Ron as a rounded character rather than a silly sidekick. Emma Watson was really good. Seriously. And I'm not just saying that. Her character finally shows some insecurity and vulnerability, which she plays well - the scene where she breaks down crying was really sad - and she is overall much more friendlier and at ease with the boys as opposed to the snappy bossy side she's been portraying for the past three films. I don't say any of this lightly, because while I think Emma Watson is a sweet girl, I don't think she's previously done a very good job with Hermione. But now in this film, I feel we're one step closer to the true Hermione Granger. Tom Felton, who has previously not had a lot of screen time was absolutely brilliant. I have never felt much for Malfoy, but Felton caused me to finally have some true empathy for the character, and he really captured the conflicted situation Draco is trapped in. Dan Radcliffe on the other hand was a bit of a mixed bag. There were moments where he made me sit up and think, "Wow. He's actually acting well here!" But I do have to say that for a great deal of the film he was stiff and awkward. The adult actors - though criminally underused - were all fabulous as usual, with Alan Rickman shining in particular. As with Malfoy, I'm not fond of Snape at all in the books, but I loved him in this.
The visual and aural side of the film were very well done. There was some absolutely stunning cinematography - a greeny grey palette was used for the most part of the film, creating a harsh yet beautiful atmosphere, and brilliant use of close ups and snappy editing added to the supense. The score was wonderful, possibly one of my favourites for a Harry Potter film, with the tracks Malfoy's Mission, Into the Rushes, The Friends and Journey to the Cave especially standing out. A lot of it was admittedly recycled from Order of the Phoenix but it was still wonderfully fitting and dramatic.

'Tis a shame the same can't be said for the rest of the film. While watching this film, I finally hit upon what's wrong with it, and indeed the whole series of movies. They're simply not dramatic enough. Often, something shocking or terrifying will happen and the characters will just stand there, looking calmly on. Case in point - when Ron is poisoned and is dying on the floor, Harry leisurely gets up and begins going slowly through the drawers, finds the Bezoar (eventually) and walks back to Ron to give it to him. There was absolutely no urgency or drama. This coupled with a fairly dodgy script and the enormous compression of a complex 600 page novel into 150 minutes creates a rushed, almost sloppy, effect - as if next to no effort has been put in. It is a shame, because the books have so much potential. I can't help wishing this series of films had been in the hands of a director such as Peter Jackson, who has made awe-inspiring grandeur and large scale fantasy his speciality. As it is, even with it's good points and it's fantastically dramatic score, the film does tend to be underwhelming and unsatisfying.

So, end conclusion? Well, if it wasn't a Harry Potter film I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much, or found so much to love. But it is a Harry Potter film. In the end, seeing these familiar characters and events come to life on screen is always a pleasure, even if it's not perfect. I can promise you now that the next time I watch it Ill probably have even more to complain about and criticise, but nothing, not even bad filmmaking, can stop me from loving these films.

Monday, 3 August 2009

He made the world to be a grassy road; Before her wandering feet

I never quite realised this, but I have a desperate desire to travel. This is quite surprising, as when I was a child, I was always determined to stay exactly where I was. All my friends would be planning travels and gap years and jobs abroad (we were big forward planners) but I was always determined to stay where I was. Short breaks were fine, but long periods away from England were unthinkable. Now it's different. I still want England to be my home base - given my deep love of London perhaps it's not so surprising - but I also long to see the rest of the world. This may sound morbid but I've recently become aware of my mortality, and I want to experience the world and all it's beauty while I can. So, for your reading pleasure, and because I am currently hurriedly typing away on my Granddad's laptop and therefore have no time to write some uninformed thoughtful film reviews, here is my list of places I've been and places I want to go.

♥ Paris, France
♥ Cologne + Berlin, Germany
♥ Brussels, Belgium
♥ Rotterdam, Holland
♥ Cairo + Luxor, Egypt
♥ Rome + Venice, Italy
Desperately Desperately Want To Go:

♥ New York (obviously)
♥ Santorini, Greece (I first read and saw this in Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. It seems beautiful and stunning)
♥ Barcelona, Spain (Saw it in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and the scenery and architecture look so beautiful and atmospheric. Also, it has an antique funfair nearby which I so want to visit!)
♥ Finland (my best friend's half Finnish, and when she describes her visits, it sounds like such a lovely place, with woods and lakes and so much natural beauty)
♥ Japan (They have awesome fashion sense. And it's just such a completely different culture to experience - it would be so much fun)

Your turn!! :D