Monday, 17 March 2014

Musing Monday - Dive Into Documentaries

Dive in to Documentaries 
Telling the life of F1 racing driver Ayrton Senna, this fast-paced documentary grips you from start to finish using a combination of archived interviews; raw racing footage; and Senna’s personal home videos; that allow us to truly see the glory and struggles of a man in the sport he loved so much. Even with no prior knowledge of the man or the sport this film allows you to truly connect with Senna in a time where politics in F1 and his bitter rivalry with Alain Prost came to blows. This film is easily one of my favourites.  

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters 
A documentary that takes you into the world of arcade gaming and a lust for high-scores may not sound too appealing, but I have rarely felt such a strong will, while watching a film, for one man to conquer another. Much like Nintendo’s Donkey Kong game, this film has us yearning for Steve Weibe (the Challenger) to overcome all the obstacles in his way (a questionably rigged team of validators and the interrogation over his machine, among others) so that he can ultimately defeat the brilliantly wicked villain of this film Billy Mitchell (the current high score holder) and claim what is rightfully his: that Donkey Kong High Score. An excellent immersive documentary.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to his Son about his Father 
One of the most heartfelt documentaries of all time. A man set out to record the life of his late good friend Andrew Bagby so that his newborn son could know more of his wonderful life. What begins as just this, with moving interviews with friends and family and footage from Andrews life, sharply turns into a haunting search for justice over his murder. This is a heart-wrenching story that has you holding back both tears and anger as you desire to uncover the truth. 
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
This somewhat unusual film takes us to Tokyo to meet 85-year-old Jiro Ono, the owner of a Sushi Restaurant in the less than glamorous Ginza Tokio Subway Station. Nevertheless, through his traditional and fiercely dedicated style, we learn that this man has earned the coveted 3 Michelin Stars. As his waiting list begins to exceed his likely years left, his son Yoshikazu must prepare for the daunting task of stepping into the shoes of his lauded father. A beautiful tale of a humble, yet driven, man and a dip into Japanese family culture and cuisine.

Searching for Sugar Man  
This Best Documentary Oscar winner is an inspired story of two South African men hoping to find their musical hero and icon, Rodriguez, who, although being an unknown in the United States where his records were released, went on to become a soundtrack of the apartheid movement in SA. With rumours of his suicide these filmmakers try to track down the truth, instead what they found was extraordinary. The songs have been in my head ever since.    

Friday, 14 March 2014

Flashback Friday - Rope (1948)


‘The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create.’

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 picture Rope, still proves to be one of the most brilliantly acted and suspenseful films to date. This tale of two young men, who, as we join the story, strangle their ‘inferior’ classmate, are so enraptured by the idea of a ‘perfect murder’ that they invite their friends and family to a dinner party that very same evening, with the body still hidden inside a chest in the very same room.
 John Dall, as Brandon, gives one of the most twisted performances in cinema as he continually pushes the boundaries of this morbid situation: inviting David’s fiancĂ©e to the party; moving the food onto the same chest the body lies; and, maybe to his miscalculation, bringing their old teacher Rupert (James Stewart). Phillip (Farley Granger) grows increasingly nervous over their antics and is shown time and time again being unamused by Brandon’s confidence. 
 The film, based on a play in 1929 Rope’s End, and inspired by the real life murder of Bobby Franks in 1924, all unfolds before us in this one living room in one evening. It shocks me that such a brilliant piece has never been reintroduced onto Broadway or the West End, however it wouldn’t surprise me that it is due to the brilliance of Hitchcock’s work. 

 Alfred Hitchcock famously stated that suspense stems from the audience being informed and that is no more true than in this production. Our knowledge of this macabre circumstance is what makes the film so incredibly gripping and Brandon’s brash black humour so daring. 
 James Stewart (who starred in 3 other movies with Hitchcock), presents a fantastic juxtaposition of logic to Brandon’s unusual philosophies on murder. As the evening rolls on and the absence of David draws a worried tone from the other guests, Rupert begins to focus on Brandon’s earlier  comments on murder and ‘inferior beings who are unimportant anyway’. The escalation of the suspicions and questions leads us, as the viewers, through a fantastic maze of deceit and interrogation, with Phillip becoming increasingly unable to handle the pressure and attention. 

 For myself, Rope highlights how timeless a movie can be and how, no matter the developments in effects or scale, we can still discover true quality in earlier works, whilst it’s inspiration from a true story highlights Hitchcock’s view that just ‘a glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality’

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Spotlight on: Wes Anderson

Spotlight on: Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson is the man of the moment (and no that’s not just amongst hipsters), his newest movie ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is currently sat at No.3 in the UK Box Office. This is despite having only been released last Friday and in roughly 200 less cinemas than the Top 2. 
 I was lucky enough to see the film on Saturday and it confirms to me that Wes Anderson makes some of the most beautiful movies there have ever been. His attention to detail in all parts of production make a viewing of one of his movies, and I can assure you they are all as good as each other, a real event of entertainment. This unique style of his, that stretches right back to his first feature ‘Bottle Rocket’, has gone from being one only witnessed by his cult-like following, to a staple on the film calendar.
 The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story of the film was brilliant and through some impeccable dialogue, Gustave’s hilarious adventures were of an almost childlike, yet sometimes dark, nature. The achievement of this balance is entirely down to the stellar cast, who must be one of the best ensembles of all time, featuring: Ralph Fiennes; Edward Norton; Adrian Brody; Jude Law; Bill Murray (of course…it’s now their 7th Collaboration); Willem Dafoe; Jeff Goldblum; and with a fantastic debut for Tony Revolori, playing Zero. Extraordinarily that list still doesn’t even cover the breadth of stars this film roped in.
 Now for those who have seen Fantastic Mr Fox, and I hope that’s all of you because it is an amazingly styled and shot adaptation, Wes Anderson has delved back into this wonderful set creation for The Grand Budapest. This has allowed him to insert his stylistic touch on a much larger scale and thrust us deeper into the world he has so wonderfully created. 
 For me, the warmth of character relationships in Wes’s films (think Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom) are what makes them such a draw for me. Combined with the colourful, quirky sets (think Fantastic Mr Fox),  and extravagant costumes (think Life Aquatic), and that distinctive comic dialogue (think Rushmore) is what makes Wes Anderson’s films a step above the rest for me. I can be assured that when I go through the doors of the cinema, I’m escaping into another world, a spectacle of enjoyment. 
- Bottle Rocket (1996)
- Rushmore (1998)
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
- The Life Aquatic w/Steve Zissou (2004)
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007)- Favourite
- Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Quiz Time: 
1. How many films has Owen Wilson co-written w/Wes?
2. What is the main character of Rushmore called? 
3.Who voices Mr.Fox?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Where-in-the-World Wednesday - A Few Favourites

- To begin this feature I though of nothing better than to mention and review some of my favourites from around the world. I’ve tried to pick 3 from different countries for some variety but I can tell you it was nigh-on-impossible to narrow these down.

Cinema Paradiso - Italian

Possibly my favourite film of all time. I say possibly because I don’t like to be caged in with a definitive answer. For me it has it all: an adventurous, passionate child in Toto; an amazing yet grounded role model in Alfredo; an inspired capturing of first love; the haunting changes of adulthood; a caring family; the struggles of death; and the opportunities of a new life. The tale is magnificently displayed on screen and for me crosses any language barrier there is. It’s final scene is one of the very few times I have found myself in tears at the end of a movie. 

 The Lives of Others - German

 The Lives of Others is an intensely suspenseful capturing of one man’s isolation ultimately resulting in obsession. Set in East Berlin, 1984, this veteran member of the Stasi, Captain Weisler, undertakes the role of monitoring a young playwright and his actress girlfriend. Left in an dusty room to listen over their most private conversations, Wiesler (played superbly by Ulrich Muhe) develops a sympathy for their situation. The director von Donnersmark takes us through this journey with an immense display of character development and a story that may seem to have little action ends up being a gripping film. Truly a must see!   

Intouchables - French

A relatively recent picture, only released in 2011, this true story is transported onto the screen with two incredible performances from the lead actors. This collision of two vastly different men, from infinitely different backgrounds, results in one of the most beautiful friendships ever captured in a movie. A wealthy quadriplegic, Philipe, needing a carer picks the most unlikely candidate for the position, Driss, a young man from the suburbs just after his unemployment benefits. Told through a flashback it reveals how they show each other their own world and how this unusual exposure to one another enhances their views. The dancing scene alone is enough to make this list.  

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Oscars and the Grouch

Newsday Tuesday

Oscars and the Grouch

For most people the Oscars (or Academy Awards, although that didn’t help with my title) is a night of glitz and glamour, of film celebration and acting merits. For me it is a coffee fuelled late night, beginning at around 1:30am in the UK, which often results in me getting more tetchy as the evening rolls on. This year’s movies were a great bunch and aside from a few films I managed to have watched them all and give my own opinions. Now we both don’t have time to cover all of the films so let’s focus on the main winners shall we: 

12 Years a Slave - Best Picture/ Supporting Actress/ Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
For me this seemed an obvious winner for Best Picture. It had everything the Academy holds dear. Firstly it was a hard-hitting drama, it is rare to see Best Picture go to anything else, for instance Comedies and Action films stand little-to-no chance. The true story, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, hang on wait, no it was Solomon Northup’s memoirs, delved us into the world of slavery in the United States and one man’s struggles in his attempt at freedom. The acting was superb, especially by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Luptia Nyong’o (frankly the awards presenters deserve Oscars just for pronouncing those right), and although Chiwetel (I’d like to think we’re on a first name basis) missed out on the Oscar Statuette the nomination was completely deserved, and in the majority of Oscar lineups would have been his. 

Gravity - Best Director/ Original Score/ Sound Editing & Mixing/ Cinematography/ Visual Effects/    
                    Film Mixing
I don’t think I have long enough to describe my distaste for all the accolades this film has garnered. I went to see this in 3D at the cinema and whilst I can appreciate the outstanding visual effects and cinematography, for which they definitely deserved the awards, the overall movie left me angered that all of that time was wasted on this script. The movie itself seemed so ridiculous and Sandra Bullock’s character was just so insufferable that, like George Clooney’s character, I would have happily drifted into space to get out. The whole story of a bloody medical engineer being put in space after barely any training to repair the Hubble Telescope is laughable and that doesn't even begin to cover the stereotypical Vodka in the Russian Spacecraft and actual Ping Pong bats in the Chinese vessel. The point where she randomly guessed buttons, like Homer Simpson in a nuclear meltdown, I actually moved forward in my seat to leave. I could go on (in fact I already have gone on too much), but it angers me that this film was so lauded by the critics and public alike. 

Dallas Buyers Club - Best Actor/ Supporting Actor/ Makeup & Hair Styling  
There is one word to sum up this film - Aids Acting. The two leads were absolutely superb. Matthew McConaughey (I’m in my second week of lessons on how to spell that name, think it’s going well), was breathtaking as the lead and has put himself right back on the map after being a go-to romcom actor of the last decade. Jared Leto seemed destined to win from the moment he put on a dress and a wig, although I personally would have like to see the award go to someone else, Barkhad Abdi and Jonah Hill spring to mind with two wildly different but also incredibly vivid character portrayals. 

The Rest - 
Frozen - Best Animated Feature Film - DESERVED - Disney is back!
Spike Jonze - Best Original Screenplay - Her - DESERVED - Unique and original.
Cate Blanchett - Best Actress - DESERVED - Anyone but Sandra Bullock!
The Great Beauty - Best Foreign Language Film - SHAME - Was rooting for The Hunt.
20 Feet from Stardom - Best Documentary - Not Seen - Unfair to Comment
The Great Gatsby - Best Production Design/ Costume Design - Fair Play DESERVED
‘Let It Go’ from Frozen - Best Original Song - DESERVED - Catchy as a cold (just came up with that).

The Ceremony - 

Unfortunately for Ellen Degeneres I really feel she added nothing to the ceremony other than trying to act like ‘one of them’ with Hollywood’s biggest stars. The now infamous ‘selfie’ (pictured below) and numerous Twitter and Samsung references were so poorly veiled that it spoiled the moments she tried to make humorous. That pizza joke dragged on far too long and the audience were as uncomfortable as the delivery man by the end of it. Disappointing. The adding of all the Best Original Song nominees to the proceeding seemed to have been a last minute thought as they looked over the lack of material Ellen had between awards. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

In the beginning...

In the beginning...
Hello and welcome to my very own movie blog. I know what you’re thinking - “Wow that’s so original, coming up with an idea for a movie blog all on your own! Why has no one else thought of that? Choo-choo, next stop, Millionaires-ville!” - and I’d like to thank you for your kind words. The format of this will be quite simple:
Musing Monday - Do you get it? It’s like the title of the blog. I’ll be keeping you on your toes with crackers like that all week so watch out. On this day (sounding a bit like the Bible again there, might have to tone it down) I’ll be discussing a bit of everything. Most likely will be a review of a film I have recently watched & my thoughts on this blogging business. Right that’s enough of Monday I know you want to skip ahead, it’s exciting I don’t blame you. Now just breathe and calm down, here’s…
Newsday Tuesday - Firstly that is one fantastic name right there, it rhymes and everything. I wanted the others to be just as strong as that name but it was taking to long. If you haven’t guessed already this will be about News: upcoming films, maybe throw in a trailer or two, the possibilities are…well, pretty limited. 
Where-in-the-World Wednesday - You see what I mean, it’s difficult to do these rhyming names, so I just gave up. Anyway I wanted a section on World Cinema (to steal from the politically correct but recently bankrupt Blockbuster store of my hometown), or also known as Foreign Films if you are just xenophobic. (“Wow that’s quite strong out the box accusing someone of being xenophobic on the first post don’t you think?” “Ah well lets just all roll with it”). The genres in this section will vary wildly, some weeks maybe Action/Adventure, the next maybe Romance or Drama. Wow, isn’t this getting good!
Director Thursday - I know what you’re thinking, you’ve completely given up on the catchy titles and it’s only Thursday. Well for your information I was thinking of putting Direct(h)or Thursday just so it rhymed slightly, so I think we should all be grateful that we avoided that awful, and potentially blog-damaging, play-on-words. This will be a spotlight on certain Directors, either ones who are on upcoming projects or just some of my favourites.
Flashback Friday - Boom! Where did I pull that great name from? (Honestly I don’t actually remember, but it is far too good for the creator of ‘Director Thursday’ to have come up with on his own. I just hope it isn’t Copyrighted). This will be a look back at some of the all time classics in Movie history. Hop into this bloody hilarious time machine and there is no parameter on how far back we’ll go. Except as long as it is not before the 1890’s otherwise there really won’t be much content. 
…and there you have it! Ladies and Gentlemen, I do hope you’re ready for this wild ride of entertainment…I know I’m not.  
Coming Up Tomorrow on Newsday Tuesday: An extremely belated Oscar Roundup
(This blog must be about movies because good god did you see that picture of delicious popcorn?! Is it Sweet or Salted though? Who knows I copied it from Google Images.) 
Question time - What’s your favourite type of popcorn?