Saturday, June 18, 2016

The 2nd Annual SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon


Steve over at Movie Movie Blog Blog has brought back his successful blogathon from last year. Last time around, I wrote about The Long, Hot Summer (mainly as an excuse to objectify Paul Newman and his Greek god physique). For this year I again chose a film where I could ogle the leading man without any sense of shame. The film in question?

(1951, dir. Elia Kazan)

Ah, the post-war era of Hollywood. This was when directors and writers started not giving a damn about the censors. They wanted to see how far they could push the limits of the Production Code. All it needed was that one film to start such a revolution.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Order in the Court! The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon


Theresa of CineMaven's Essays from the Couch and Lesley of Second Sight Cinema have teamed up for this examination of courtroom pictures. There have been many over the years from comedies to dramas to thrillers. My film of choice?

(1960, dir. Stanley Kramer)

Sure, you may have been thinking more along the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird or 12 Angry Men but I wanted to focus on one not often held in the same regard. (Also I wanted an excuse to re-watch it.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Royalty on Film Blogathon


Emily of The Flapper Dame is hosting a blogathon where the subject matter is of the regal society. There have been lots of films (especially in recent years) about both fictional and real-life royalty. I opted for the former. My film of choice?

(1953, dir. William Wyler)

This is just one of those films where it's next to impossible not to like. Not one element of it feels dated and it's still lovely on re-watches. (Honestly, we need more films like this nowadays. Do away with big CGI'd explosions and gratuitous nudity. We just need a simple story.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sing Street

If there's one thing that can unite people with ease, it's music. Whether it's one song or an entire genre, people use this form of expression to connect with others. (In more ways than one sometimes.)

John Carney frequently has music as the main theme (so to speak) in his films, and his latest Sing Street is no exception. (Carney being a musician prior to becoming a director definitely has something to do with that.) Much like his earlier films, there's charm amid the many original songs of Sing Street.

Set in 1985 Dublin, Sing Street chronicles the many plights that come with growing up: school, bullies, precocious crushes, things of that nature. But Carney also shows how there can be bright spots in otherwise bleak situations. (After all, haven't we all felt that way at some point when we were younger?)

On an unsurprising note, the soundtrack for Sing Street is really good. And not just the likes of Duran Duran, the Cure and Spandau Ballet. No, the original music of the film is catchy to an almost ridiculous degree. (And yes, at least one of the songs will be stuck in your head.)

Sing Street is an utter delight of a film. You'll find yourself smiling from ear to ear several times throughout, a rarity amongst today's films. It's easily one of those titles that you have to see, preferably more than once.

My Rating: *****

The Man Who Knew Infinity

There's always a complicated matter in biopics about some of the greatest minds that ever lived. On the one hand, you want them to be accessible to the masses. But on the other hand, you don't want their achievements to be dumbed down just so the film could be enjoyed more. It's a difficult balance.

Some focus more on the genius' personal life (The Theory of Everything) while others alter details of said personal life (A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game). So where does Matthew Brown's The Man Who Knew Infinity fall under? Well, it focuses more on the achievements (which is probably a first in God knows how long).

The subject of The Man Who Knew Infinity is Srinivasa Ramanujan (played here by Dev Patel), who created and rediscovered many mathematical theorems. Indeed, he's not as well known as the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein but he should be amongst their ranks. After all, what he discovered nearly a hundred years ago helped us understand the universe more.

But as is frequently the case with biopics, The Man Who Knew Infinity falls short. It doesn't pick up until the third act, and the script feels sluggish in spots. Still, the work from Patel and Jeremy Irons makes up for the script's faults. (Not by much but they do.)

The Man Who Knew Infinity is an average film about an extraordinary person. In more capable hands this probably would've rivaled the other genius biopics out there. Alas, all we can do is imagine what such a project would've been like.

My Rating: ***1/2

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Many times we've seen the older man pursue the younger woman (or, on rare occasions, the younger man), a sometimes pitiful attempt for them to feel young again. Sure, it's a familiar formula throughout fiction but why does the inverse so seldom happen? Is it simply Hollywood's so-called fear of showing women as more than just props?

Michael Showalter's Hello, My Name Is Doris is a nice example of the latter situation though decidedly of a less serious nature than other fiction of this nature. (Apparently men pursuing women is expected while the reverse is a sign of desperation.) That said, it still works.

In the title role of Hello, My Name Is Doris is Sally Field, who like many actresses in her age group tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to roles as of late. (She has two Oscars, for Pete's sake!) But here, she shows that she's always a welcoming presence.

Hello, My Name Is Doris also depicts an attempt to live one's life after most of it has already slipped by. There's no real deadline in having your life entirely in order. It's fine if you try new things at different points of your life. All that matters is that you're happy doing them.

Aided by a solid performance from Field, Hello, My Name Is Doris is an endearing title. It shows the awkwardness behind casual relationships, a normal aspect found within life. Nobody and nothing in life is perfect or goes as planned. We just have to find a way to make it work for us personally.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BOOK VS MOVIE: High-Rise

There's always been a morbid sense of curiosity towards the decline of human civilization. Works set in dystopian locations depict how far we as a society can devolve. How much closer are we to completely rejecting the many mores of life?

Of course there have been those works that managed to foretell the possible decay of what it means to be civilized. Most of these predictions were made by those who for the most part didn't live to see their fiction become reality. But the few that did must've been horrified.

"Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months." So opens J.G. Ballard's High-Rise, establishing the novel's bleak nature. What Ballard shows in slightly over 200 pages is the swift deterioration of the titular high-rise's residents and their self-inflicted isolation from the rest of the world.

While staying mostly true to Ballard's vision, Ben Wheatley's adaptation does feature an out-of-place element of optimism. (The foreshadowing throughout is also rather blatant.) The level of debauchery is amplified further in Wheatley's hands, which adds a strange, calming dissonance in some scenes but deep-seated horror in others.

So which is better: Ballard's novel or Wheatley's film? Ballard made no bones about the inevitable collapse of civilized society while Wheatley glorifies and very nearly embraces it. (Some things are best left to the imagination.) Though it's clear which one's the preferred one.

What's worth checking out?: The book.