Annie Hall (1977)… “Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat… college.”

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Annie Hall

My rating: 10

IMDB rating: 8.2

IMDB link: Annie Hall

Dearest reader,

Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.

 I am starting and ending this post with quotes from the film, because I wish that I could memorise every single thing that is said in this film seeing that it is so honest and endearing that it speaks to both the neurotic and romantic inside of you.

You know how you read about a film again and again, and you just convince yourself that it simply cannot be as good as they make it out to be? Well, this film is nothing like that! I have been a Woody Allen fan from the first time that I saw Midnight in Paris. I fell in love with the way he not only sees the world, but with the intellectuality he uses to approach subjects such as love.

Then with his films To Rome With Love and Fading Gigolo I saw more of the original Woody Allen wit and I was mesmerised! Gathering up all my courage, I set out to watch Woody Allen’s most famous film and it made my year!

Relationships are hard, this Allen underlines again and again, and when you find that special somebody you have to hold on, right? What if you can’t? My favourite modern English writer, Elizabet Gilbert, says (describing soulmates): “A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.” 

That, for me, is the case with Alvy and Annie. They are a perfect fit; Alvy opens Annie up intellectually, while Annie works on Alvy’s narcissism. The un-chronological timeline supports this idea that although you can see these two people are a good match, you know that on some level they are disconnected- the one always expecting more than the other one is willing to give.

I think that it is often true, and the film also speaks about this, that on a subconscious level we believe that our significant other should either make our faults disappear or overshadow them with their own good attributes. In reality, a relationship highlights our bad qualities, just as Alvy gets more neurotic and Annie gets more ditsy.

While giving the account of this (failed?) relationship, the camera often turns to Woody Allen where he addresses the audience directly. He pleads with them to understand, to get them on his ‘side’. Still, and that is how brilliantly the movie is made, you know the pleading is useless. You know he only has himself to blame and although the story is told from his perspective, he gives a very objective overview of the relationship.

I can understand why some people do not like this film. It speaks to a lot of the really personal things one experiences in a relationship and how you usually want a film like that to end is with a massive declaration of love, but that is not life. Most probably one will agree to stay friends and not see one another for years thereafter, but their impact will remain bigger than any of those that comes before or after them.

Alvy Singer: I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.

Want to read more on Annie Hall? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Annie Hall

Review: Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s Best Movie Ever.

Annie Hall.

Annie Hall ★★★★.

Annie Hall (1977).

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The Paperboy (2012)… “I’m the only one. I’m your mercy. I’m your arms wide open. I’m your pants.”

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The Paperboy

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 5.8

IMDB link: The Paperboy

Dearest reader,

After Lee Daniels made Precious in 2009 and before he made The Butler in 2013, he made this film. Classified by most as a ‘miss’, or as Peter Travers from the Rolling Stone puts it: “This hot mess got booed by the snobs at Cannes”, this film has not received the attention that I think it deserves.

The late and great Roger Ebert said the following about this film: “The Paperboy is great trash, and as Pauline Kael told us, the movies are so seldom great art that if we can’t appreciate great trash, we might as well not go at all.” And for me, nothing could be truer! This film is a study of the human condition, the repressed is brought forward and highlighted- using markers of gender, race, sexual orientation (even fetishism) and social class.

I absolutely loved the 2014 hit-series True Detective– in fact love is not a strong enough word! This film has a lot of the same things that made that series amazing (except Matthew McConaughey, of course): first of all it is also set in the mystical South, studying people usually ignored or overlook by glamorous Hollywood. The Human condition is studied while the psyche is highlighted; each of the characters becomes a representation of an aspect of the self- and the viewer has to self examine. The landscape becomes an extension of these fractured or deviant psyches as it is represented as a wasteland of sorts.

The most exciting part of this film, however, is the actors. There is not one actor that does not step out of his/her comfort zone to give an absolutely career-changing performance. With this role McConaughey starts his transformation into Rust Cohle and Ron Woodroof, by playing Ward Jansen the star reporter from Miami whose homosexuality and fetishes makes him a marginal character in this movie.

John Cusack is definitely not the boy holding a boombox over his head in Say Anything anymore, he plays the (wrongly?) accused killer on death row, Hillary van Wetter, whose obsessive love for Charlotte causes some electrical moments. Zac Efron is one of the biggest surprises, he plays the 20-something college drop out, Jack Jansen. He is certainly the sensitive type, but he has repressed anger towards his mother that manifests in both fits of rage and an over-emphasised obsessive sexuality.

Nicole Kidman is most certainly the biggest surprise. Two hours before watching this movie I was discussing with my friends the fact that she always plays the same roles, but in this film she steps out of that upper-class, composed dignity to portray Charlotte Bless the Southern ‘Belle’ who is obsessed with the idea of romance.

Yes, this film tends to be melodramatic but it is such a sweaty, saucy ride that it is most definitely worth the watch.

Want to read more on The Paperboy? Try these…

Roger Ebert: The Paperboy

Rolling Stone: The Paperboy

NPR.org: The Paperboy  

They Came Together (2014)… “Why don’t you just take a jerk, you hike!”

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My rating: 6

IMDB rating: 5.5

IMDB link: They Came Together

Dearest reader,

The premise for this movie is quite seminal; let’s take everything wrong with the RomCom genre and movie industry in general, blow it up to larger-than-life proportions and show it to the average movie-goer hoping that they would recognise themselves… Was it successful? I am honestly not sure!

Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, comedy heavyweights, star in this ridiculous romantic comedy that parodies everything we have come to love about the genre. It soon becomes clear that this movie has a very direct message: This is how ridiculous you would look trying to fashion your relationships around the fantasies of the RomCom.

The question for me is, are we not overestimating the general viewing public? Hollywood is very much built on the foundations of fantasy. The influx of RomComs, in especially the 1990’s to early 2000’s, is built around the idea that you can be a romantic hero. You can be the clumsy girl with awkward fashion sense and still find a prince. But are we ready to break through that idealism?

A friend of mind is currently doing a thesis on the changing state of the Disney princesses. Disney, is also very much built on the fairy tale/fantasy assertion. Looking at the princesses, we see that Disney is also venturing into creating the more liberated princess, breaking the usual “damsel-in-distress” mould. And let’s face it, Disney has for a long time not been for children only.

After considering this, it is maybe fair to say that this film is maybe exactly what the industry needed. We live in a (post-) postmodern world where everything has been done before and subsequently everything goes and therefore, I think, we need to embrace cultural explorations such as these.

(The poster is one of the most funniest things about this movie, be sure to check it out)

Want to read more on They Came Together? Try these…

They Came Together (David Wain, 2014) 1/4.

They Came Together: Wet Hot New York Romance.

They Came Together Review (15).

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)… “I’m not the hero. I’m the guy in the crowd making fun of the hero’s shirt; that’s who I am”

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My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.2

IMDB link: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Dearest reader,

Comedy is such a bizarre thing. The reason why I found this movie quite hilarious was the fact that it blended very obvious humour with “clever humour”. It would be an understatement to say that I did not like the movie Ted, and therefore I went into this film with some degree of scepticism, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The thing about making a parody is that you have to have a good understanding of the source material. In order words, for Seth MacFarlane to be able to so effectively make fun of the Western, his knowledge of the traditional Western has to be quite good. This, I think, contributes to the success of this particular movie.

WiseGeek.org states that the characteristics of a Western are the following:

  • It takes place in the American West (i.e. the frontier)— Check!
  • Set between the 1850s and 1900s— Check!
  • Westerns include cowboys usually wearing bandannas, denim and Colt 45s — Check!
  • Conflict between settlers and Indians— Check!
  • Settlers build isolated homesteads or live in small towns, which often boasts a main street, a jail, a livery stable and a saloon— Check!

Subsequently, it can be said that the humour in this film relies quite heavily on a certain amount of intertextuality. In order for the viewer to fully understand all the humorous nuances, a certain amount of familiarity with the intertext, in other words the Western, needs to be present. In that sense, I think it was necessary for the writer to add “obvious humour” to not alienate those that are not familiar with the Western genre.

All in all, I think that the film was quite successful in the sense that it not only provided comic relief, but also provided humour on two levels to attract a larger audience.

Want to read more on A Million Ways to Die in the West? Try these…

Movie Review: A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014).

Movie Review: A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014).

A Million Ways to Die in the West Review (15).

A Million Ways to Die in the West (R).

Mood Indigo/ L’ecume des jours (2013)… Things change, people don’t

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Mood Indigo

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.5

IMDB link: Mood Indigo

Dearest reader,

If Wes Anderson made something like the Beatles’ music video for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I imagine that it would look something like this movie. This film is the visual accumulation of everything that, to me, is amazing about the indie film industry. There are see-through cars, tables on skates, eels coming through the tap and a small live-in mouse that is almost like Colin’s conciousness.

Underlining all this craziness is one of the main characters, Chick’s, obsession with a philosopher named Jean-Sol Patre, remind you of anyone? Of course, Jean-Paul Satre! The Patre character even has a companion named the Duchess de Bovouard (like Simone de Beauvoir). Chick gets so obsessed with Patre, and I think it is safe to assume he is a symbol of his teachings, the existentialism (within the frame of existentialism, the absurd is not only normal but expected), that he loses all his money and eventually his life.

But the thing I love most about this movie is not only the beautiful initial colour scheme or the off-beat cinematography or the creative overload that is this movie’s core, it is rather the way in which this film deals with sickness and grief.

What do I mean by this? After Colin and Chloe fall in love and their whirlwind romance results in marriage, Chloe is diagnosed with a water lily growing in her lungs. Her symptoms are fainting spells and a terrible cough. After tests the doctor determines that the only possible remedy is to surround Chloe with so much flowers that the lily in her lung will wilt. Isn’t this so similar to everyday life? As soon as someone falls ill, we try to smother the illness by as many presences as possible; by visits and cards and flowers.

The longer Chloe is incapacitated, the more the house starts falling apart. A kind of fungi boards up the windows, the ground is covered in dirt and the money start running out. This is also applicable to everyday life, an illness infects the whole house. People are afraid to enter, and it is almost as if your house is marked and influenced by the internal decay.

Although the sickness clears up, it has already spread to the other lung and Chloe’s death is inevitable. Colin keeps on fighting till the bitter end. His latest job is, strangely enough, delivering bad news to people. He knows that Chloe is unwell, still he is unprepared for the moment his job takes him to his own house for Chloe’s death announcement. This is most certainly true of everyday life, especially when someone is ill for a long time, we expect their death. We sometimes even wish the moment would come sooner so that they could experience some relieve. Still, when the moment finally comes, death is always a surprise and more final than we could ever imagine.

Drained by all the medical bills, Colin can only afford a pauper’s funeral. He fashions the coffin from household items and as the people from the funeral agency come, we can see him suffer because of their nonchalant treatment of the body. When she is eventually merely dumped into the hole, Colin is devastated. We try to make the funeral of our loved ones as special as possible, but in the end it is nothing more than a colourless journey through a darkened forest and ghostly waters, ending in the final lost of someone special.

The colour in this film is quite amazing. It starts out as a feast of different bouquets of the brightest colours, and the more the movie progresses the more the colour is lost. Eventually all colour is lost and the last 30 minutes of the movie is entirely shot in black and white, symbolising both decay (moral and physical) and death.

The film has not received a lot of good reviews. Director Michel Gondry, who is famous for movies like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind steps into very murky waters with this “whimsy” (rogerebert.com) rendition of the novel by Boris Vian (Froth on the Daydream). If you are a Audrey Tautou fan, you will not be disappointed as she is still one of the most charming faces in cinema. In my opinion, definitely worth the watch as a seminal film.

Want to read more on Mood Indigo? Try these…

Mood Indigo Review.

Mood Indigo (L’ecume des jours).

Review: Mood Indigo (2014) – Michel Gondry.

The colorful, fantastical ‘Mood Indigo’ teeters between charming and insufferable.

Houdini (2014)… Adrien Brody!

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Houdini

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.8

IMDB link: Houdini

Dearest reader,

If you haven’t been noticing that biography is quite the ‘it-thing’ in literature at the moment, you have probably been living under a rock. From Walk the Line in 2005 to Lincoln in 2012, we are systematically revisiting all our great legends.This film is no different, and to me, the power of a biographer lies in his ability to be both in love with his subject, but also hyper-observant of the hero’s faults (and, of course, most heroes have a lot).

The thing this movies captures most effectively, to me, is the grandeur of Houdini. His acts were extravagant and, like his personality, very daring. He also performed in an age where, especially in America lavishness was quite prominent and that the movie captures as well.

They say that behind every great man, is a great woman… I, being of the feminist inclination, experience Bess as a very solitary character. His love for her I experienced as obsessive, rather than endearing. Of course, all of this is based on fact and they needed to stay as true to the source text as possible, but still it was interesting for me to note this.

A lot has, in fact, been said about the value of the source text versus the commerciality and visual pleasurability needed for modern audiences. While making a series for the History channel sends a certain kind of message, the amount of sensation needed to keep modern audiences interested almost always undermines the source text.

The source text for this particular film is Houdini, A Mind in Chains: A psychoanalytic portrait written by Bernard C Meyer in the 1970’s. Being a psychoanalytical portrayal really makes this movie more than the tell-all biopic that we are use to seeing. Houdini’s obsession with fame is explored, his need for the constant escapes is explored, his fetish with the near-death is placed in the limelight, but the most psychologically taxing thing that the movie highlights is Houdini’s unnatural connection to his mother.

Houdini is in fact sketched as the ultimate Oedipal-hero. Coined by Freud, the sufferer of the Oedipus complex dynamically represses emotions and ideas in the unconscious that is concentrated on a child’s desire to have intercourse with the parent of the opposite sex. The successful resolution of the complex entails identification of the child with the same-sex parent. An unsuccessful resolution can then again lead to neurosis, paedophilia and as Feud thought at the time, homosexuality. Fixation on the parent from the opposite sex during psychosexual development therefore leads to mother-fixation (or father-), as is clear from the film,

The result of this complex, as is clearly illustrated in the film, is Houdini’s quest for contact with his mother after her death. The obsessive intensity with which he pursued the so-called ‘fakes’ is evident of the obsessive nature of the relationship. Bess is also compared to his mother, as both the visions he has of them are of them smiling lovingly to him.

This film is quite a visual treat, while the narrative is just as entertaining. Certainly worth the experience.

Want to read more on Houdini? Try these…

Escapism – Houdini (2014).

Houdini.

History Debut’s Houdini, Saving Us From Another Night Of Their Wretched Reality Programming.