Friday, April 3, 2015

BOOK VS MOVIE: Maurice

Opinions have changed within the last hundred years. Before, we lived in a society that if you weren't a straight white male, you weren't going to get very far in life. Granted, that's still somewhat a situation nowadays but the amount of bigotry has lessened considerably.

Such opinions on homosexuality have altered since the days of Stonewall and days before. Indeed, people have become more open (pun not intended) on the matter in recent years. But even before this was no longer a taboo, people like Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal were daring enough to write about it. (Strictly writing. They had limitations back then unsurprisingly.)

E.M. Forster was one of several names to focus on homosexuality in their work. For Forster, it was in the form of Maurice, which surely would have sparked outrage had it been published in the era it was written in. (Forster wrote it after Howards End but it wasn't published until 1971, a year after his death.) The scandal that would have ensued aside, it's a quiet yet deeply moving piece of literature.

James Ivory's film keeps the spirit of Forster's novel very much alive (albeit there are a few minor tweaks here and there). Like the other Ivory-directed Forster adaptations (A Room with a View and Howards End), it displays a defiant nature beneath the genteel veneer. And seeing as how the film was made in a more liberal time than Forster's, it allows Ivory to depict what Forster could merely allude to.

So which of the two is better? Both Forster's novel and Ivory's film are achingly beautiful pieces of work and neither have a weak point. So again, it's hard to determine which is the victor. Then again, there is another choice...

What's worth checking out?: Both.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Damned United

By some means, Tom Hooper has been a somewhat controversial name in Hollywood. Not because his films focus on discussion-worthy topics but rather his abilities as a director come into question whenever he has a film released.

The two films that earned Hooper awards attention -- The King's Speech and Les Miserables -- are also what brought said controversy. But none of this got attached to any of his earlier works. (Okay, with maybe the exception of some episodes of John Adams.) One such early work is The Damned United, and thank God it hasn't been affected.

Thanks to the script by Peter Morgan, The Damned United is a fascinating film to watch. (And this is coming from someone who's not that big on sports.) Sure, some elements were added for the sake of drama but when has a film based on real events been 100% truthful?

Starring in The Damned United is Michael Sheen, an actor who doesn't get the right amount of recognition he deserves. Here, Sheen continues to prove he's a very viable actor. (Though anyone who's seen Frost/Nixon, another excellent Morgan-scripted film, would know that already.) His depiction of Brian Clough is of a man who's impulsive and demanding but very much a human being.

The Damned United is easily Hooper's best film. (Something that no one should be surprised by if they've seen it themselves.) Along with Morgan's script and Sheen's performance, the cinematography by Ben Smithard is stunning. (Much better framed than Danny Cohen's work for Les Miserables.) Seriously, be sure to see it.

My Rating: *****

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Fistful of Moments Blogathon


Andrew over at A Fistful of Thoughts has started a blogathon that revolves around, well, your favorite cinematic moments. The rules follow as such:
1) Pick a number between 1 and 100 (any more than 100 is just gaudy)
2) Choose that many cinematic moments that are either your all time favorites or ones that could, on any given day, be your all time favorites
3) Post them on your blog (or Tumblr or whatever) with the above header (or one you create for yourself)
4) Send me the link by either posting it here in the comments or getting ahold of me on Twitter (@fististhoughts)
But what qualifies for a cinematic moment? Well, Andrew explains it as this:
We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think "man, this is what the movies are all about". We relive those moments in our mind's eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it's edited together. It could be the way the moment uses its actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.
Having seen a wide array of films over the last several years, it wasn't easy to select just a few (or, in this case, ten) moments. But thankfully I persevered. My choices start after the jump.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Five Senses Blogathon

My Filmviews is hosting a blogathon where, if you couldn't guess from the title, revolves around the five senses. The idea follows like so:
As you know the body has five senses (although some movies might suggest there is a sixth one): Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell and Touch.
So what’s the idea behind this blogathon? For each of these senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).
My entries start after the jump.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why I'm Still Alive

*TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE*

I know I don't talk about myself very often online but this is something that I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. More after the jump.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Red Road

The opening moments of Andrea Arnold's Red Road focus on Jackie (Kate Dickie) at her job as a security surveillance monitor. Her life outside her job feels rather empty. (She's distant from her family.) But during one of her shifts, she recognizes someone from her past.

That someone is Clyde (Tony Curran), an ex-convict. Jackie starts stalking him through both her job and in real life. It boils down to a confrontation of aggressive means. Very aggressive.

Many films in recent years have taken advantage of the surge of technology. Sometimes it's used for comedic means, other times romantic. But the smarter films use technology for horrifying purposes, and Red Road has the latter in spades.

What Arnold does with Red Road is she makes a film of this nature through a female perspective. Normally this type of film has male predators and the women are reduced to helpless victims but here, the tables have turned in a big way. (Who said women have to be sugar, spice and everything nice?)

All in all, Red Road is very effective though it does start to lose steam towards the end. (It also features a very convincing sex scene.) Thanks to the work from Arnold, Dickie and Curran, it's a film that focuses on the dark recesses of human behavior. You can never really tell what a person is like when you first met them.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lilting

Grief is a feeling that no one should have to encounter at any point in their life. It's a feeling that makes one think that they'll never be able to carry on. But once they accept what has happened, the dark cloud looming above them slowly begins to fade away.

Hong Khaou's Lilting is one of the latest films to focus on the subject of grief. Following the untimely death of Kai (Andrew Leung), his mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) and boyfriend Richard (Ben Whishaw) try to come to terms with their loss. Despite a language barrier, Richard tries to make peace with Junn. But will he succeed?

Lilting is different from other films about grief. It doesn't linger on the feeling of despair that often comes with grief. The film instead revolves around carrying on with the passage of time. To anyone who's lost someone dear to them, it's not as easy a task as previously assumed.

Similar to A Single Man, Lilting is a film of sumptuous yet subtle details. Whether it's the set design or Urszula Pontikos' cinematography, it's a film of simple riches. Sometimes the smallest details leave the biggest impact.

Lilting is a quiet and deeply intimate film, something not frequently seen in modern films. It's emotional without being heavy-handed, sentimental without being melodramatic. In short, it's a very beautiful film.

My Rating: *****