Only 4 days to go!
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Only 4 days to go!
Saturday, 28 November 2009
(For some very annoying reason my embedding feature isn't working, and neither is copy and paste, so i can't embed videos or paste the code, so you'll just have to follow the link. Enjoy.)
The soundtrack is amazing, i got it a couple of months ago. The anticipation is almost killing me.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
“Their wives have sense like them...” An argument for the importance of female characters in Shakespeare’s plays.
Shakespeare’s female characters have a hard time. Vastly outnumbered by male characters, often marginalized in the plot, and originally written to be played by men, it is easy to see why many critics have either focused on their flaws or disregarded them entirely. Shakespeare named no play named solely for a woman; no female name appears except as the second part of a male-female couple. This could be an indication of a dislike of women on the part of the playwright, perhaps an (incorrectly) perceived inability to write women strong enough to carry a play, or simply a sign of the time and culture in which the plays were written. This essay will, I hope, address the question of why Shakespeare’s women are still regarded as inferior to his men, and put to bed the idea that “most [of Shakespeare’s] women have no character at all”.
A.C. Bradley stated that “it is only in the love-tragedies, Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra, that the heroine is as much the centre of the action as the hero. The rest,” as he puts it “are single stars.” By this I assume he is taking the view adopted by many before and since, that the female characters serve more as an impetus for plot progression than as fully formed characters in their own right. The characters can certainly be read that way, Ophelia is simply weak and mad, Lady Macbeth only wants power, Cleopatra only sex, but reading in this way is entirely uneven; why subject the male characters to intense Freudian psychoanalysis and take the women purely on face value? Upon closer reading all of the female characters have emotions, motivations, flaws and strengths equal to their male counterparts, or as Emilia from Othello puts it, “their wives have sense like them: they see and smell,/ and have their palates both for sweet and sour / as husbands have” (4.3.93-95).
For centuries Desdemona has wrongly been considered naive and weak-willed, as a “helplessly passive” girl going to her death without a fight, despite the huge amount of textual evidence to the contrary. The statement that “everyone in the play fails to understand her, and fails her” seems far more apt. The woman described by the men who surround her, the “maiden never bold” (1.3.95) whom every man puts on a pedestal, is banished as soon as Desdemona herself enters the stage. We see before us a woman unafraid to stand up to her father and the heads of state in order to marry the man she chooses, regardless of the consequences. Neither is she the “cunning whore of Venice” (4.2.88) described in the latter half of the play; in fact, Desdemona throughout treats everyone she speaks to exactly the same, honestly, politely and openly. In a play as male dominated and set in such a feminine free environment as this, we are given a heroine who cannot be dismissed as a peripheral character or simply a catalyst for action. She has more lines than anyone excluding Othello and Iago, and shares a dramatic position equal to either of them. The play would quite simply not exist without her. Unlike other tragic heroines she seems to have no great flaw; she is not a shrew, nor maddened by ambition or blinded by love. Desdemona presents to us a fully rounded character, a creature of intense tenderness, but also of wit, humour and courage.
These characteristics are far more common for female characters in Shakespeare’s comedies, where the women are given more scope and are allowed to direct the action in a different way. I think this is summed up best in the introduction to ‘The Woman’s Part’ by stating that “in the comedies women are most often nurturing and powerful; as their values educate the men, mutuality between the sexes may be achieved...In tragedy...their roles are at once more varied, more constricted, and more precarious.” If the values of the tragic heroines, Desdemona’s understanding, Cordelia’s level-headedness, even Lady Macbeth’s guilt, had influenced their male counterparts there is a sense that the outcomes of the plays could have been quite different. In the comedies the heroines bring about the resolution in a way entirely absent from the tragedies. The men of the comedies listen and are influenced by the women, in the tragedies “the men’s murderous fancies are untouched by the women’s affection, wit and shrewdishness” and thus a peaceful resolution is never reached.
The heroine most in control of any Shakespeare play is almost undoubtedly Rosalind from As You Like It. Rosalind’s actions direct the play; it is her choice to hide in the Forest of Arden, her idea to adopt disguises, her agency which brings the four couples together at the end. Shakespeare gives her character all that she needs to do this, “in wit and energy, Rosalind has no male rival”. Even this wit is unlike other Shakespeare heroines. As opposed to Catherine or Beatrice, Rosalind’s wit has no hint of shrewdishness, and is directed solely at lovers and women. Rosalind being both a woman and in love, she makes herself the butt of her jokes as much as anyone else, thus making her seem both self aware and self deprecating in a way that other heroines are not. Orlando’s character pales in comparison, he appears almost one dimensional, and were Rosalind not so persistently in love with him the match would seem dreadfully uneven.
The adoption of disguises, especially men’s clothes, allows the comic heroines a freedom never afforded to their tragic counterparts. These disguises gain a woman entrance to places she would never normally be allowed and let her act in a way which would be unthinkable for a respectable lady. It is by dressing as a man that Viola gets Orsino and that Rosalind gets Orlando. In disguise they are allowed to speak as men, and are spoken to openly, as friends. Orlando looks to Ganymede for advice where he had “Not one [word] to throw at a dog” (1.3.) upon his first meeting with Rosalind. She is free to tell him what she really thinks, rather than being constricted by propriety, “male dress transforms what otherwise could be experienced as aggression into simple high spirits”. The element of disguise is denied to the women of tragedies, and consequently they are never given a platform to discuss their true feelings with the men of the play without fear of retribution. Had Desdemona been able to adopt a disguise and convince Othello of his wife’s fidelity the play might have ended in a different manner. When Emilia stands up to Othello and Iago in the final scene she is threatened and eventually killed for her trouble, despite tempering her outburst with an explanation, “’Tis proper I obey him, but not now” (5.2.195), and speaking nothing but the truth. Had she been a man there is a greater chance she would have been listened to and gone unpunished.
This gender bias on the part of the characters undoubtedly has something to do with the time in which the play was written, where “the employments of women, compared with those of men, [were] few; their condition and of course their manners, admit of less variety”. Men expected their wives to be subservient, and even though Queen Elizabeth’s power and influence are undoubted, the society was still dominantly patriarchal. It is interesting to note that the women of the comedies, with all their wit, charm and influence, are all unmarried, whereas the stifled, thwarted and ultimately destroyed women of the tragedies are parts of couples from which they cannot or will not escape. Being spouses, they are controlled by the will of their lord, which inevitably brings about their downfall.
The question of whether female characters are unimportant in Shakespeare’s plays is, to me, one with a fairly obvious answer, but perhaps I am being obtuse. There is no question that the plays would not be the same if the female characters weren’t there, if Romeo or Antony were plays in their own right. Replacing the female characters with male ones would also entirely change the elements of the drama; undoubtedly Romeo and Julian would find an audience, but the essence of the tale would be altered. I find the accusation that “Shakespeare did not bring forward his female characters into a full and striking light” to be entirely without merit. Working within tighter parameters than the male characters and hampered by the constraints of society, gender and class, these women are still written as complex characters, both gifted and flawed, each of them “capable of passion and pain, growth and decay”.
 William Richardson, Essays on Some of Shakespeare's Dramatic Characters to which is added an Essay on the Faults of Shakespeare (London : J. Murray and S. Highley, 1797), 5th edition, p.361
 A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, 2nd Edition (London, The Macmillan Press, 1905) p.7
 Bradley, p.179
 Philip Edwards, Shakespeare and the confines of Art (London, Methuen, 1968) p.123
 William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. E.A.J, Honigmann (London, Arden, 1997). All subsequent quotations are from this same edition.
 Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz and Gayle Greene and Carol Thomas Neely, The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1983) p.6
 Neely, Carol Thomas, ‘Women and Men in Othello: “What should such a fool/Do with so good a woman?” in The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, p.215
 Claiborne Park, Clara, ‘As We Like It: How a Girl can be Smart and Still Popular’, in The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, p.107
 Claiborne Park, p.108
 Richardson, p.341
 Richardson, p.339
 Lenz, Greene and Neely, p.5
Aren't i smart?! I promise the fashion, man-boobs and film-geekery will be back very soon.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
If you’re expecting a review slating this film you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This film is far from high art or great film making, but it isn’t trying to be. The filmmakers know they’re making a film for horny teenage girls and their equally horny mothers, and they deliver exactly that. This isn’t deep or meaningful, it has no message or moral, but it’s fun, silly, and annoyingly engrossing.
However hard you might be trying to avoid it, you probably know the story. Bella Swan (Stewart) is madly in love with vampire Edward (Pattinson), but he dumps her for her own safety. She becomes severely, pathetically and a little comically depressed until she gets back in touch with Jacob (Lautner), her super hot friend who happens to be a werewolf. It’s hardly Shakespeare.
The film sticks faithfully to the book, adopting its strange pacing (the climax takes place in about 10 minutes right at the end of the film, after an hour and 40 minutes of build up), but sucking out most of the intentional humour. Most of the laughter comes from the copious amount of bare male chests in gratuitous slow motion. Not that I’m against buff men wandering around topless, but after 2 hours all those nipples start to detract from the action. And then there’s the creepy aspect of it. If it makes you more comfortable, try to forget that Jacob Black is supposed to be 16, so every time you let out an involuntary moan at his spectacular chest you could potentially be put on some sort of register. Edward is supposed to be 17, so you’re not allowed any of that either, sorry to disappoint.
There are some nice shots, but all in all the cinematography is un-dynamic, and the same goes for the soundtrack. The film is not supposed to rattle any cages, it’s for the fans, and it knows what the fans want. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, it takes time to cover every aspect of the book, but does so without losing momentum. If you hate the books, it stands to reason that you’ll dislike the film, but if you are a Cullen fan then you won’t be disappointed. If you’re ambivalent then you could do worse than spending a rainy afternoon staring at R-Pattz man-boobs, who knows, you might even enjoy it.
Monday, 23 November 2009
The first thing that strikes you about Humpday is how homemade it feels. The aesthetics, the dialogue, the acting, all of it, make it feel like a movie you and your friends could have made, only a hundred times funnier, more tender and quite simply better than you could ever hope to achieve. From the first shot you feel for the characters. Each of them are written and acted with such subtle perfection that it feels like you're watching some kind of absurdly funny docu-drama.
The basic story follows two college friends who have grown up and taken very different paths, one settling down with a wife and prospective children, and one travelling the world trying to be an artist. Over the course of a drunken night they decide to enter "humpfest", and amateur porn festival, with a film pushing the boundaries of art, namely two straight men having sex.
The premise might sound like a Will Ferrell vehicle, but stick it out. The natural-ness of the actors and the low-key beauty of the cinematography make this one of the most human films i've seen in a long time, as well as one of the funniest.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Fantastic Mr Fox
People who haven’t seen this film have issues with it. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, but it seems like every time I bring it up someone pipes up with a contrary opinion. True, the voices are American, the directors and writers and producers are American, only the bad guys have English accents, but really, are we so closed minded as to reject a film based on the fact that it’s an American adaptation of a British story?
True, Wes Anderson is American, but so what? Fantastic Mr Fox was the first book he ever bought, he begged for the rights to it over 10 years ago, he gained the approval of Roald Dahl’s wife, and he lived in Dahl’s house whilst writing the screenplay, all of the sets and props in Fox’s home are exact replicas of the furniture in Gypsy house. What more do people want? Yes the story is fleshed out, but it is a short story. As Dahl’s wife puts it, “it had to be embroidered.” Anderson and Noah Baumbach retain the core of the story, stating that they “wanted to write a Roald Dahl movie,” rather than just taking the story and running away with it.
The story follows Mr Fox (Clooney), his wife (Streep) and his teenage son, Ash (Schwartzman) as they move to a new tree near the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, the three meanest farmers in the world. Mr Fox has given up his bird thieving ways to become a newspaper man, but the proximity to the farms proves too tempting to resist, and he’s soon back to his old ways. What follows is a kind of Ocean’s Eleven meets The Animals of Farthing Wood, but far more whimsical.
The stop-motion animation in the film is wonderful, lending the film a handmade, old fashioned quality. It isn’t slick, but it’s not supposed to be. Seeing the workings behind it, looking out for the imperfections, is what makes the whole film work. It’s not perfect, but it is created out of love, its flaws are what make it special, a theme reflected through the story and the characters.
What I love about the film is that it is still so obviously a Wes Anderson movie. The direction and the storytelling hasn’t changed to fit the animated genre, he adapted the genre to perfectly fit his own directorial style. The dysfunctional family dynamic recognizable in all of Anderson’s films is still there, as is the trademark shot composition and the hilarious deadpan dialogue. If anything it works better animated than it does in live action.
A fantastic vocal cast, stunning visuals, hilarious dialogue, and genuinely captivating set pieces, could you really ask for anything more from an adaptation of one of the most popular children’s stories of all time? This is an adaptation for people who grew up with the story, it’s a kids film for adults, and i urge everyone to go see it right away.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
My new laptop, Joe Kavalier, has a built in camera. I abuse this feature regularly by annoying my friends on facebook, and i thought i'd try posting a video on here too. In retrospect, i probably should have thought of something to say before embarking upon this exercise. Sorry for that.
Wow, the image is completely messed up, i have no idea why that happened, it was fine when i reviewed at after filming. Also, i think the sound is a little bit off, giving me a king of freaky ventriloquist effect. All in all i think the experiment failed, but i'm still posting it because i think if i sort it out it could be kind of a fun addition.
Anyway, tell me whether this is a good idea or a bad one and i'll react accordingly.
To this end he has taken it upon himself to grow the offensive ‘tasche and has been parading it about for many months risking possible violence from the general public for appearing to be a Nazi crackpot, but generally just appearing to be “a bit of a dick”. The show opens with his musings about why the moustache and seems to have taken the blame for Nazism, the effect his new moustache would have upon those he met, and more importantly what affects it might have on himself; “was it the toothbrush moustache that was evil? Would I become evil if I grew one” The program is full of his thoughts on the subject, but the show rapidly moves onto more substantial material.
Herrings satirical point, that a racist is less racist than the rest of us, because a racist sees the world as only a handful of different skin tones, where as the rest of us feel the need to divide the world into 195 different nationalities, is possibly his finest work. "If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves the way a racist sees them – 'What are we doing? Why are we fighting? I'm a Paki, you're a Paki.'" He is able to construct this argument so well into his candour that any inappropriateness is forgiven.
As Herring himself wrote to the Guardian, defending his show from reviewer Brian Logan “The show examines our attitudes to ethnicity and questions whether the way humans choose to divide themselves is obfuscating their essential similarity. It challenges racism, but also liberal assumptions about cultural identity”.
A trait that is common in Herring’s stand-up, is the clear feeling that they don’t have to pander to an audience. Just over half way into the show Herring embarks on a good 10-15 minute, largely jokeless, tirade against any member of the audience who did not vote in the last European election, thereby allowing the BNP to gain 2 seats in the European Parliament.
Using this to point out that fascism is not dead and gone, but “it is, and always has been, inherently ridiculous, and it can be damaged and even destroyed by laughter”. If every photo opportunity Nick Griffin has for the BNP had a backdrop of people wearing a toothbrush moustache (Herring helpfully hands out square inches of Velcro after the show from a bucket marked with a swastika, the Hindu symbol of peace) they will never be taken seriously again.
At points the performance does start to lag, but all in all the show is often hilarious, constantly thought provoking, and a highly complex take on the attitudes of the society surrounding us, with a bit of silliness thrown in for good measure.
His show leads the audience through his romantic failings on a charming journey of self discovery through repeated mistakes. Amstell talks us through ideal men, falling in love with fantasies, and how not to chat up movie stars (upon meeting Jared Leto, his perfect man, at a full moon party in Thailand, he apparently uttered the immortal words “Your beauty in Requiem for a Dream detracted from the narrative.” Mr Leto walked away.).
An idea which lingers throughout is that life is short and that everybody dies, perhaps not the richest vein of comedy gold, but a surprisingly uplifting one. Amstell convincingly argues that in order to be happy, and get your requisite amount of “rumbly-tumbly” you have to live in the moment. Perhaps it’s time for he and I to take control our identical love lives. The worst that can happen is we create some new material for a stand up show. If I get rejected, I’m blaming you Mr. Amstell.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Pixar’s latest offering, the story of Carl, an old man who flies his house to South America to fulfil a lifelong dream, has already garnered a huge amount of praise. No doubt it will win Oscars and be held in the hearts of young and old alike. This is Pixar and that is what they do best. The amazing thing is that every film of theirs is better than the last. You think they’ve hit their peak with Ratatouille, and then Wall-e comes out. You think Wall-e is animated film perfection, and here comes Up. The company seems unable to do wrong, and in my opinion Up is their greatest film to date, which automatically puts it as one of the best animated features in cinematic history.
This is, of course, a very strong statement, and one that I do not make lightly. Almost everything about the film is pitch perfect. The vocal talent is outstanding, the animation is beyond compare, and the set pieces in either 2d or 3d (yes I did watch it both ways, more on that later) are breathtaking. Pixar know how to make a film that will delight every single audience member, and they do it by never talking down to their audience.
The writing of the film is extraordinary in its subtlety. The opening montage, which by now you will undoubtedly have heard about, takes the viewer through the lifelong relationship of Carl and Ellie in less than 5 minutes, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. The sequence contains no dialogue, and yet effortlessly portrays the enduring love, hardships and heartbreak of this couple’s life. This may be the first children’s film to deal with infertility, ageing, death and abandonment, and it does so in such a way that children will understand and empathize with, without having it spelled out for them. A similar display of restraint is in a scene where Russell, the chatty yet charming Junior Wilderness Explorer accidentally brought along for the ride tells Carl about his Dad. No description of his situation is given, but in a few well chosen words his whole home life is revealed. It is this saying so little which says so much.
This is not to say that the film is all tears and intensity, it’s also one of the funniest Pixar have ever done. The cast of supporting characters, including Kevin the giant bird and Dug the talking dog (a clever plot device wherein the dog’s master creates computerized voice boxes for all his pet dogs sets up some of the funniest dialogue in the movie) are all hilarious without pandering to kids film clichés. Again, the comedy comes just as much from the writing as from the visuals.
The look of the film is absolutely stunning. There are moments that are almost photo-real, especially smaller details which, when put in the picture lend a sense of reality to the whole film. The lead characters are allowed to be more caricatured when put in this realist setting without us losing any connection with them. In 2d the film is breathtaking, beautiful and fun, but in 3d it becomes real. As with a lot of the 3d films coming out at the moment, the extra dimension isn’t used for thrills so much as to add depth and realism. Things don’t jump out of the screen at you as much as gain due prominence whilst others fade into the background. The only downside of 3d is the lack of vibrancy of colour. Because the glasses are tinted at times it feels like watching a film with your sunglasses on, but the loss is hugely outweighed by the gain.
So Pixar have done it again, they have made a beautiful, hilarious, heartbreaking film which leaves you uplifted and wanting more, and they do it by respecting their audience both young and old. This is a lesson other animation studios need to learn if they are ever going to try to compete. Pixar are so far ahead of the game that it is difficult to imagine anyone else come close, but if it means more films of this calibre then I, for one, would like to see them try.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
I went up to London to see my friend Poli, whom i love and who is moving to Nottingham, along with my best friend Kelsea. This means i shall have to occasionally venture into the midlands and that makes me sad. Before she left, in a bid to postpone that inevitable journey, some quality London time was suggested, and so we met up.
If you read this blog with any regularity, or even if you just look at the pictures, you might notice i have a minor obsession with a certain fabulous french blogger named Garance Dore. If you read her blog you will no doubt know that for London fashion week GAP asked her to design a range of ridiculously limited edition t-shirts for them, in conjunction with an exhibition of her drawings and photographs and anything else she wanted to put up. If you've seen me in the past month you will have seen me wearing one of these shirts. I love it.
I went to the exhibition on the first day it opened, looked around with Poli, and bought one of the shirts. Its the first time i've been on the ball enough to snap up anything limited edition, and i was very pleased with myself. The only bad thing was that both Poli and i forgot our cameras.
I went back up 2 weeks later because Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist himself was in town to do a book signing, and i had to see him in the flesh. Since Garance is his girlfriend i thought she might be there too, and if truth be told i was more excited about meeting her, she has one of those blogs that when you read it you immediately feel that you two would be great friends.
So i'm strolling down Carnaby Street, after spending ages picking out my outfit, and i walk straight past Scott, flanked by his assistant Tracy and gorgeous Garance. He looks like a mobster from an old film, short and stocky in a perfectly tailored suit, with a girl on each arm. I immediately text everyone i know. I go in to Liberty, where the book signing is going to be later, and they have no books for sale yet, so i head back to the GAP, armed with my camera this time, and begin snapping away at the exhibit.
Suddenly i turn around and who should be there but Garance herself, looking radiant and approachable at the same time, a glass of champagne in one hand and killer heels on her feet. I mustered all my courage and said hello. We talked for a little while about blogs and fashion and what i study at uni and films and how Scott might be directing one (you heard that here first, he hasn't even said it on his blog yet!) and got on just as well as i assumed we would. She offered me some champagne and asked me to stay around for a drink while she did some interviews. Of course i accepted.
Next thing i know, the doors of the shop have been closed and there's a bouncer with a guestlist checking people's ID's. I have stumbled into the midst of a genuine London Fashion Week party, rubbing shoulders with he editor of french Elle and being complimented on my hair accessory by a writer for i-D. I turn around and there is Scott, the Sartorialist, right next to me, looking slightly shy and in deep conversation. I don't have the balls to say hello to him, he's far too cool, but i watch him for a while and even snap a dreadful picture, just to prove to you that he really was there.
I stick around, drinking Bellinis and pretending to be a reviewer for a magazine so cool and underground that none of these old world fashion moguls will have heard of it. I work for Cheekbone, delivered by ninjas every half hour because that's how fast our trends change. And i people watch. I wish i had better pictures, because the people were amazing. Unnaturally beautiful, so stylish you immediately feel like a bag lady, and yet so friendly. I want one of these parties every day!
The room was crowded, and at one point i got punched in the arm. I turned to see who it was and there was Scott, again, looking very apologetic and asking if i was ok. I mumbled something unintelligible and grinned, and he turned back to his conversation. Verbal communication with the Satrorialist. Now when i die i'll go to fashion heaven!
Then he ran off to go to the press opening on his signing, and i decided that i should probably eat something, so i left, saying goodbye and thank you to Garance, who gave me a hug and told me good luck with my films, and exited back into the real world. I ate something and then went to go to the book signing, and this is where disaster struck. I had decided to wear heels, and after being on my feet all day and walking all across London (because it's too pretty to take the tube) I was beginning to regret that decision. My feet were aching. I went into liberty and immediately faced the longest queue I'd ever seen. I took my shoes off and settled in for a long wait.
About 5 minutes later a security guard came up to us and asked if we had books already and that if we didn't we should go buy one somewhere else because they had sold out. It was 7:05 and the books had gone on sale at 7. I put my shoes on and headed up to Oxford street to buy one from borders. Borders had shut down. I dragged my aching feet down Regent street, but there were no bookshops. My numbed toes went all the way through Soho and were bleeping by the time i got to Shaftsbury avenue, only to find out that they had sold out too. There were no sartorialist books in London and the tip of my toe had dislocated.
I decided to give up. I had met Garance, been punched by Scott, gone to a fashion week party and drunk slightly too much champagne, and my feet were hurting so much a considered walking across London barefoot. I snuggled up in a chair in Starbucks and read vogue, and felt very fashionable indeed.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
I love the little looks they give each other. Gene Kelly's eyes are so expressive. He's the first person i ever had a crush on, and i still love him just as much. He's just so lovely.
London Book Signing
Monday Sept 21st
6 to 8 pm
Liberty of London
Great Marlborough St.
Downstairs in the Men's Department
Look how cute he and Garance were at the New York signing.
Would it be uncool of me to wear her shirt? I bought one and it's beautiful and really limited edition, but it might be like wearing a band t-shirt to that band's gig, you know?
I'm gonna be so stressed choosing an outfit, you have no idea!
Wish me luck.
Friday, 18 September 2009
The other world appears ideal, with loving parents, good food, and visually stunning set pieces which had the whole audience ooh-ing and aah-ing like little kids, but even during this, there is a much darker undertone. The inhabitants of the other world have buttons for eyes, and though nothing outright threatening is said, there are subtle signs that all is not what it seems.
As a fan of sinister fairy tales, stop-motion animation and geeky glasses, Coraline was a film I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Directed by Henry Selick, of “Nightmare Before Christmas” fame, and animated in much the same way, there are bound to be parallels drawn between the two, but this film is darker and more finely tuned than the former. It doesn’t shy away from the horror which so many fairy tale adaptations avoid, and it is much the better for it.
The 3D aspect of the film was one I was sceptical about at first, but my doubts were banished before the film even started. Watching trailers in 3D, and even just the Universal logo, had me gasping. The reason I think it works so well is that they don’t overuse it, it isn’t a gimmick. Things don’t jump out at you, but rather the images have an added depth to them which makes them seem real even whilst being utterly fantastical. The pleasure of seeing a 3D jumping mouse circus has to be seen to be believed, and is almost worth the ticket price on its own.
Coraline is at once terrifying and beautiful, laugh out loud funny and hauntingly believable, and one of the best children’s films I’ve seen in years. This film will turn you into a kid again by reminding you just how magical the cinema can be.
If you’ve seen the trailer then you know the premise, boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl doesn’t. It’s that simple, only it’s not. (500) Days of Summer is a breath of fresh air in a world over-run with run of the mill romantic comedies. There is no gross out humour, no boobs, and no overweight man children. What is there is a refreshingly real, intimate and surprisingly innocent film about the courage it takes to fall in love. And that’s not to say that it isn’t funny, it is, it’s hilarious, but the humour comes from a relatable, identifiable place rather than a squirrel attack in the woods or someone stepping in dog poo.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin) plays Tom, a boy who still believes in the notion of all or nothing, lightning-strikes-once love. He’s like John Cusack in Say Anything for the iPod generation. The writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, say the film is semi-autobiographical, that they are representing themselves through Tom. Although undoubtedly biased, this could be why he is probably one of the most ideal men ever written. I warn you ladies, you will fall in love with him, but you shouldn’t, because he’s mine.
Zooey Daschanel (Yes Man) plays Summer, the beautiful, super cool and quirky girl of Tom’s dreams. You can see why he loves her, she’s easy to love, but there’s also a darkness there which is revealed as the film goes on. She’s not as perfect as she seems at first, which is the problem with love at first sight, by the time you realize, it’s already too late.
The story is told in a fragmented, non-linear structure, winding back and forth through Tom and Summer’s on-again, off-again romance, or, as the writers call it, “a romantic comedy meets Memento.” You look through memories as Tom remembers them, sometimes seeing the same moment more than once, each time with an entirely different meaning. It doesn’t pretend to be an objective point of view, it is Tom’s memory, reflecting his experience of love. And yet, unlike so many male protagonist romantic comedies of late, the women are not seen as nagging, bitchy kill-joys who want to settle down and stop the men from having fun. These men love women, possibly more than they deserve to be loved.
Credit should be given to first time feature director Marc Webb, whose direction is sure and precise, whilst seamlessly allowing for split screens, dance sequences, omniscient narrators and a cartoon bird. He knows he’s got something special and isn’t afraid to let it loose. These stylized elements, rather than detracting from the realism, somehow accurately convey just what it feels like to be in love. It’s not ironic, it’s honest. Under the humour and whimsy of (500) Days of Summer, there’s a fundamental truth at play: Yes, love can be cruel, harsh and difficult but it’s also, by far, the best thing life has to offer.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
A talented and mostly unknown young cast and equally talented if somewhat underused group of comedians elevate what could easily have been a generic children’s adventure into something for the whole family to enjoy.
Set around a family's 4th of July weekend getaway in Michigan, Aliens in the Attic is an adventure comedy where the children have to fight off an alien invasion whilst keeping their parents clueless as to what's really going on. The family and their cousins rent a house in the middle of nowhere, idyllic for the parents and deathly boring for the children, in order to achieve some good old fashioned togetherness. Little touches such as the twin cousins Art and Lee (Henry and Regan Young) not even looking up from their Nintendo DS when they realize they have arrived add a touch of humorous realism to what is essentially an overused plot device, and immediately endear the characters to the audience.
These are not the sugary brats of so many live action kids’ films. Even the little sister (Ashley Boettcher) doesn’t fall into the overly cute trap, instead utilizing a comic timing unusual in someone so young. The two older boys, especially Tom (relative newcomer Carter Jenkins), are both charming, but the attempt to add some teenage angst to the character, Tom is too smart and is failing school on purpose, prompting an argument with his father ending with the words “I don’t want to be like you, I want to be cool,” strikes a false and slightly unnecessary note. It does allow for a “maths is cool” revelation towards the end of the film, and a supposedly heart warming reconciliation with his father (Kevin Nealon) but both feel slightly like overkill, there are enough subtle allusions to the strain on their relationship without this overt description of it.
The idea of having to keep the parents out of the drama as much as possible is a clever one, with much capacity for humour. The Aliens have a mind control device which only works on adults, so for the safety of their parents and the rest of the world, the children have to keep them in the dark. The two adults who get in the way and are consequently turned into mind controlled zombies are older sister Bethany (Ashley Tisdale)’s uber-annoying boyfriend Ricky (Robert Hoffman, who plays the role of a complete jerk so well that it almost goes past funny and back to horrifically annoying, more than once I wanted to give him a slap, just in case) and sweet old Nana Rose (comedy veteran Doris Roberts). The children get control of the remotes for each of these characters and play them like the best computer game ever invented. Some very comic moments, such as having Ricky slap himself repeatedly in the face or run full pelt into his ridiculous car proved a hit with the audience, both young and old alike. The climax of this device is a full in Matrix style fight between Nana and Ricky, the action dictated by the games constantly played by the twins. This is Tekken with geriatrics.
The let down of the whole thing is the aliens. Numbering only four in total, all the characters are so obvious, and their individual roles so small that the vocal talents of J.K. Simmons and Thomas Hayden Church are almost entirely wasted. Apart from some moments obviously designed to entertain the adults, including a sly visual reference to Alien, there is nothing to grab the attention, they are simply not scary enough. If children’s films through the ages have taught us anything, it’s that a bit of danger goes a long way, kids like to be scared. The sooner filmmakers realize this, the easier their jobs will be.
A film with good comedic potential and a cast to remember and look out for, this film would be greatly improved by the inclusion of an actual threat, thus elevating it from the generic kid’s adventure stuff to something worth watching again.
Monday, 31 August 2009
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Man, I was thinking about unrequited love. I figure it's best to just walk that shit off. Find someone else to be excited about. It's like if you love ice cream but your ice cream man friend won't give you any. Maybe he's got a good reason. It cuts into profits. Who knows? But he likes you as a friend and wants to hang out anyway. It just drives you crazy to hang out with that dude, even if he's being reasonable from his point of view. So don't hang out with him. What, you ONLY like ice cream? It's ice cream or nothing? Don't be an asshole. Learn to love donuts.
Something to think about, even if you do prefer ice cream to donuts.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
No context is really needed, and if you haven't seen the film then go out and watch it right now. Basically they met on a train and spend the evening walking around Vienna. This scene takes place about a third of the way through the film, when they are still getting to know each other.
If i can direct a scene as perfect as this one, i'll be a happy girl.
Hope that made your day a little brighter.
Friday, 31 July 2009
If there's a more Wes Anderson/Jason Schwartzman quote out there, well, it'd probably make me laugh just as hard as that one did.
Basically, this film is one of the reasons i'm glad i'm alive right now.
Opinions? Too Anderson, not enough Dahl? Or quirky and cool and a mixture of both genius minds? I know what i think, what about you?
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Now this question is answered, thanks to this foolproof flow chart.
Click to enlarge.
Put on a scarf!
Monday, 27 July 2009
Doesn't it look like the most fun set to be on?
I can't wait to see it.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Anyway, he wrote this one, and i think it's really beautiful, it actually brought a tear to my eye.
See what you think.
I’m off over here,
And she’s out by the sea,
I’m not over her,
And she’s not under me,
Think back to when the music died,
We choked among the herd,
And tried, with numbing nostrils fried,
To forfeit our reserve,
We fall upon the fading floor,
While rockers round us roll,
With their rotten, raging, roasting roar,
All their loosing is control,
I’m lying on the grass,
With my head up in the sky,
I reach out for the stars,
And they fail to reply,
Sometimes she’s an extra mile,
And then I find her gone,
Sometimes, when she’s lost her smile,
I like to paint it on,
I wouldn’t want to chaser,
If she didn’t make me run,
And when I really face her,
Well, that takes out all the fun,
But, wait, she turns and faces me,
She lingers on her lips,
In shock this siren places me,
My tortured tongue; it trips,
I meant that roses are often red,
And violets rather blue,
But, instead, I lost my head,
And offer some to you,
The conversation crumbles,
I’m just another perv,
The risqué retard stumbles,
Which is less than I deserve,
When I call out to her,
She walks away from me,
I’m caught over here,
And she’s off by the sea.
Isn't it lovely? Alex Whyman, remember the name, future poet laureat right there.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Friday, 24 July 2009
Hope you have a bright Obama day.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
I've narrowed it down to these 2 i think, unless anyone knows where i can find a 50s style one. Any opinions greatly appreciated.
Ok, number 1. It has a frigging hood for crying out loud!
Next one, slightly cheaper, tres sexy, but possibly less special. I'd probably get it in navy, although they do have it in shiny gold or zebra print! (of course, if i did that then i'd only be wearing it for pole dancing rather than swimming, and i'm sure there are cheaper pole dancing outfits out there!)
So, what do you think?
And this guy? Well, i'll add him to the future husband list.
Paper Binge is billed as an evening of “yummy films to inspire and delight,” and it certainly did that and more. The evening started with a beautiful set from the devastatingly attractive and talented boys from “The Morning Orchestra,” setting exactly the right tone of relaxed, sunny happiness before the films began. To see for yourself, catch them at Fletch at St. Andrews at 1pm on 24 May.
The films themselves, a collection of animations almost all under 10 minutes long, were very diverse, switching between the comic, the tragic, and the downright ridiculous. Stand-out films for me included “My First Crush” by Julia Potts, a beautiful line drawing and collage animation, taking recordings of real people talking about their first crush and animating them into birds, polar bears and dogs. The absolutely hilarious “KJFG No5” by Alexei Alexeev, starring a band made up of a bear playing a tree, a bunny drumming on a stump and a wolf wailing, who have to hide from a hunter, was so simple, and very short, but had the whole audience in tears. Also present was the Oscar winning animated short “La Maison en Petit Cubes,” a tragic tale in pastel and water-colour of an old man surviving a flood by building house on top of house, who scuba-dives down into his past through the rooms he’s been forced to leave.
Separating the two halves of the show was a question and answer session with two of the directors, both of whom work for Passion Pictures, animators made famous worldwide for their work with “Gorillaz” and the amazing “Sony Bravia” adverts. Their pick for favourite film of the evening was “Revenge is Cold,” the absurd but charming story of a professional bird assassin, who happens to be a cactus named Antus, and his run in with Woody Burns, the matchbox who dreams of turning into Steven Bernard, a lighter. Antus leads Woody to the North Pole and leaves him there with nothing to burn while he goes off to see his internet girlfriend, an igloo. Woody gets his revenge by melting the igloo and turning into a Zippo, the king of lighters. If it sounds strange, just wait till you see it. It was written by a 12 year old during a workshop with underprivileged children in the Camden area, and then animated without changing the script or story in any way, and the result is something you have honestly never seen before.
Anyway, something silly to waste a bit of your time and hopefully make you smile. This is what would have happened had Postsecret been around during some of history's most important events.
The British are coming, quite possibly one of the funniest things i've seen in a long time.
I'm writing a story at the moment, and i have a couple of old film reviews i'm gonna put up, as well as some i need to write this week, so i'll hopefully get back to posting fairly regularly.
Thursday, 4 June 2009
On tuesday, after spending the day laying on the grass reading McSweeney's Thrilling Tales, a book of genre short stories, sci-fi, adventure, horror, all in 1940s Dan Dare style, i went to the pub for a pint with my friend Tom and bitched about how bored i was (i know, it'a a hard life!). I mentioned that i was thinking of going to write club that evening, but hadn't written in ages, and Tom told me to write a story in the hour i had before write club started. I asked him what it should be about and he said something along the lines of "make it about animals whio escape from the zoo and then infect the human race so that they all die."
I took on the challenge, but twisted it a bit, and here's what i got. I'm acutally pretty proud of it, considering it took less than an hour.
After it got bad and before it got worse
Two days after they escaped it started turning up on the news. Joe and I were in bed reading the paper and he pointed it out; two more dead in London, on top of the seven yesterday. They didn’t say what it was, but warnings had been issued telling everyone to keep their pets indoors, just to be safe. We had no pets. I stole a sip of Joe’s coffee and whispered into his ear that my feet were cold, and we stopped reading the paper.
The day we went to the beach the death toll reached one thousand. The initial opinion that the deaths were caused by the uncommon heat had long since gone up in smoke. We knew it had something to do with the animals, but we didn’t know what. The sun was warm on my skin and the water was cool. The animals were in the city and we were safe and young and in love.
His father died, my brother died, best friends, cousins, nieces, but we survived. We joked that it was our love that kept us strong, the strength of it keeping us immune. I wasn’t entirely joking when I said it, and neither was Joe. What else could it be? 70% of the city was gone, the deaths were spreading across the continent, and almost everyone we knew was infected and killed either by the virus or by the extermination crews which roamed the streets. There was an armed blockade every mile dispensing food to the dwindling survivors. Their presence was an unnecessary comfort; we had all the protection we needed as long as we stayed together, our love a barrier against disease, a preventer of death. We would marry in the spring.
We no longer listened to the news bulletins, the lists of the dead and the dying didn’t concern us, they weren’t ours. We transitioned quickly and painlessly into life in this new abandoned world. Still went for long walks, though only during daylight, still went to the beach, but stayed out of the water for fear of the fish. If we saw an animal we’d shoot to kill and continue with our day. The sight of Joe with a gun in his hand, barrel still smoking, knowing he’d just saved our lives and our love was the most profound aphrodisiac I’ve ever known. The baby was due in the summer. With no hospitals, no doctors or nurses, and no drugs, I must admit I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the process, but I know Joe will see mw through. We’ll call her Alice and she’ll live in our wonderland.
I noticed the bite while we were in bed. Two semi-circles of red pin pricks encircling his perfect ankle. He didn’t tell me how he had got them, and I didn’t ask. My pregnancy was more difficult than we had expected and I stayed in bed most of the time. Joe looked after me as he always had, going to the nearest blockade for food parcels and information. After I noticed the mark Joe stayed with me in bed. In order to get food you had to undergo a full body exam to make sure you weren’t infected. If there was any suspicion, you were handed to the extermination crews. Better safe than sorry. The food ran out faster than we thought it would. Tap water hadn’t been safe for months.
Joe now spent as much time in bed as I did, a fact which bothered neither of us as much as it should have. We were still young and in love, and our love was still as strong as the locks on our door. The baby stopped kicking. We were both too tired to move. Curled together in bed, dirty pillows and crumpled sheets, swathed in each other’s stale sweat, shifting in and out of consciousness. We survived in our love when the world died. We would die, still in love, leaving the world together.
People who don’t understand, people who never felt a love like ours, might say we were foolish. They might suggest going to find food, going to the blockade for medical aid, splitting up to search for help. They might tell me I was weak for giving up, for allowing myself and my baby to die because I didn’t want to leave his side. What they’ll never understand is that doing that would defeat the point. Staying together had kept us alive this long, we had lost everything but each other and our love, and neither of us wanted that to end.
Joe died this morning. The starvation, the infection and the loss of little Alice proved too much for his strong, beautiful body to take. I took my pills an hour ago. The soldiers give them out with the food parcels and we had a stockpile of them. After it got bad but before it got worse we used to quote Tom Leher and contemplate poisoning some pigeons, if they hadn’t all been wiped out already. The real reason we kept them remained unsaid, though we both knew. How could either of us hope to survive in this empty world full of animals if our love, our safety net, our soul had left? I took them with a glass of wine and climbed in to bed next to him, together as only we could be, at the end of our lives, at the end of the world.
Opinions are, as always, greatly appreciated. I can tell what my obviuos influences for this story are, but i'm not going to say them, because i want to see if other people pick up on them. Tell me what you think.