The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)… the intertextual monument to Anderson’s brilliance

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 8.3

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I am truly afraid to write about this film. I think that this film firstly requires more than one viewing, most certainly, but more than that I feel that this film is quite a turning point for my favorite director, Wes Anderson. Why then, does this frighten me?

Anderson’s off-beat, fast shot-reverse-shot, one line dialogues has suddenly entered the commercial film world with this beautifully crafted extravagant wonder of a film. But is this not a dangerous path that Anderson is heading down? Commercialism is a mistress very few survive. And I fear for Anderson’s unique, indie-type of loveliness.

With this film Anderson brings back many of his favourites like Adrien Brody (so funny!), Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman. But he also introduces new hits like Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan and it feels like all the roles were written for each of these people.

This movie has the most beautiful scenes and cinematography. The luxurious old hotel makes the most beautiful background for this magically told story. And the relationships between these characters, the hotel and the beautiful snowy setting of Budapest really comes together in a fairytale-type of way.

Anderson once again uses some of his previous innovative spaces in this film; the train (Darjeeling Limited), town-house (Royal Tenenbaums) and the music tradition of Anderson’s previous films is also continued in this masterpiece.

The use of colour in this film, although very suggestive of the questionable sexuality of Monsieur Gustave, is a very effective ‘character’ in this film that serves as not only a cinematographic tool, but also forms part of the narrative.

Although not my favourite of Anderson’s films, I extremely enjoyed this lovely, extravagant, display of Anderson’s wealth of imagination.

Want to read more on The Grand Budapest Hotel? Try these…

the grand budapest hotel (2014).

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Roger Ebert: Grand Budapest Hotel

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Romeo + Juliet (1996)… for I never saw true beauty ’til this night!

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Romeo + Juliet

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.9

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Dearest reader,

Like probably most second language English learners, I did this Shakespeare play in my final year of high school. I had a wonderful teacher who definitely is the reason that I love Shakespeare so much, today. But one thing that this teacher of mine did not teach me was a love for Shakespeare movies, and this one in particular.

In fact, she described this movie as a disgrace to the Shakespeare legacy and while we were watching it she pointed out all the incoherences. Whether this was because she could not understand it herself, or because she literally just hated this movie, she sure did convince me that Baz Luhrmann made quite a mess of the R+J remake.

It was not until I was discussing Baz Luhrmann with a colleague, about a month ago, that I really started thinking about this movie…

To me Luhrmann is just one of those directors that can do no wrong. Seeing The Great Gatsby in 2013 confirmed that he not only has an eye for exuberance, but that he also has an eye for the classics and, along with that, is not afraid of anachronisms (he rather uses them to his advantage).

The way that he relocated R+J is the first amazing thing about this movie. Moving this movie to the 21st century, he also moved it to Verona Beach (instead of Verona), which is quite brilliant. The change of setting allows him to explore characters further than the almost two-dimensional  characterisation that the theatre allows. By using costumes, locations and props that promote 21st century connotations, he certainly gave the characters more depth.

Another brilliant stylistic choice that Luhrmann made was to stick to the original dialogue. Together with the changed setting and the greater foundation of connotations for the modern viewer, it made Shakespearian English modern, while keeping it poetic. I believe that anyone can watch this movie and follow it completely without having substantial knowledge on Shakespearian English.

Lastly, the point that my colleague made and which is the single most brilliant thing about this film, is the fact that it proves what your English teacher have been telling you all these years: Shakespeare is timeless.

Up until today, we could not find a situation where Shakespeare was not accessible to the modern reader, or a situation where the ‘lessons’ that Shakespeare teaches was no longer accessible to the modern viewer. Luhrmann proves this by placing R+J in the 21st century, while keeping the original dialogue and plot. In fact, almost nothing is changed from the original plot, while Luhrmann adds clever little ‘tricks’ to help the dialogue fit (like naming the guns ‘swords’).

Amazing movie! For Shakespeare lovers, for Luhrmann lovers………. for everyone!

Want to read more on Romeo+Juliet? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Romeo + Juliet

Rolling Stone: Romeo + Juliet

 

Frozen (2013)… reliving the enjoyment

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Frozen

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.9

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2294629/?ref_=ttmi_tt

Dearest reader,

Our winter in South Africa is now in full swing and therefore I want nothing more than to snuggle up with coffee and a good movie, and sometimes it helps when that movie is also about winter…

This is probably the fourth time that I have watched this film and like the great animation classics (for example: The Lion King, Beauty and The Beast and Shrek), I can watch this film over and over again and still find something new to love about it, every time.

But this time I just once again picked up on the feminist perspective that this film takes. What makes it so successful is that the film does it so subtly that someone ignorant of these perspectives would not really pick up on it, but for a more trained feminist-ear, it truly is music to the ears.

I specifically want to comment on two scenes involving Anna, where this perspective is emphasised. I also want to make a ‘coming-of-age’ kind of reading of her character. The first scene that I was talking about, was the one where Elsa (and later Kristoff) makes it clear to her that one does not marry someone that you have just met. In terms of the very male dependant princesses we’ve had over the last decade it really is refreshing to see one with more modern points of view. By making this rash decision, and also by leaving her whole country in his hands without a second thought, really emphasises her immaturity and Elsa’s strong independence.

The second scene that, to me, is relevant is the scene where Anna performs an act of true love and in doing so saves herself. She not only takes a feminine standpoint, but she does it while simultaneously ‘coming-of-age’.

Think about it…. the immature, love-stricken Anna singing Love is an Open Door has transformed into a realistic, responsible princess who not only chooses to save her sister above herself, but who also takes a stand for her own heart by punching Hans, and all this from a feminine viewpoint?? What a brilliant movie!

As with all great animations, the humour in this film is just superb. You literally keep laughing out loud, embarrassing yourself over and over again. Of course, you cannot mention this movie without noting its music; every song is beautifully written, catchy and/or dreamy.

Want to read more on Frozen? Try these…

Frozen – 2013

Frozen Review.

A Review of the Film ‘Frozen’.

Frozen

 

Say Anything (1989)… standing with a boombox in front of my window

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Say Anything

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 7.5

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098258/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

Staying with Cameron Crowe  this week (I reviewed his Almost Famous earlier this week), I watched this iconic coming-of-age film, Crowe’s first movie. The image of John Cusack standing by his car holding the boombox over his head has certainly become a very recognisable symbol of love.

But, to me, this is not the most interesting thing about this movie. What makes this movie so unique is the fact that the person who ‘comes-of-age’ is not the narrator. We, as the audience, view this story from Lloyd’s perspective and Lloyd is watching Diane come of age. Lloyd does not change her, ohhh no, he just helps her establish a personality away from her father, which is normal for a girl her age. In other word, Lloyd is her ‘coming-of-age catalyst’.

Neither of these two characters, though, are the most relate-able characters in this film. No, that character would most definitely be Corey. She writes 65 songs for her lost first love and I cannot help but recognise myself in that pining. The actress, Lili Taylor, portrays the character so well that you can literally feel her tense up every time she sees Joe. She thinks she is able to give Lloyd some advice because she already experienced heartbreak, but nearly all her advice turns out to be the wrong advice. Aren’t we all a little like that? Thinking so often that we can ‘teach’ someone heartbreak?

Lloyd, of course, is the ultimate boyfriend. He is sensitive, caring, funny, does not take himself too seriously and is not afraid to express how he feels. He also has this adorable trait of lapsing into verbal diarrhoea every time he feels awkward, which is hilarious. I like Cusack so much more back then than I do now (expect for his role as Ed in the movie Identity which I loved); I think this was some honest acting from him and it was awesome!

Because of my intense love of coming-of-age films and the fact that this movie is so enjoyable with more than a few laugh out loud moments, I give this movie a 9!

Want to read more on Say Anything? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Say Anything

NYTimes: Say Anything

Film Threat: Say Anything

Once (2006)… upon a love song

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Once

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 8.8

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0907657/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

“This is a very little film with a very large heart.”- San Francisco Chronicle

So finally I’ve watched this infamous film that people have been raving about since it first appeared in 2007. And I have to say that I am a little disappointed…

The film uses slow narrative, shaky cam and relatively unknown actors to tell the story of different heart breaks and its impact. What I should perhaps appreciate more about this film is the fact that it does not have the typical, over-romanced ending or even the star-crossed lovers idea, it is just a normal story about normal people dealing with love, poverty and work while actively pursuing their dreams in music.

Another new perspective that this film provide, is the fact that both the loves of the main characters are broken and the union between the two of them does not broker their love, but rather reinstates their love for this previous lover. This is a very different discourse to the usual, ‘happy-ending’ narratives that especially RoCo’s favour, because a new love would serve to extinguish the previous love.

Having said that, the music in this film is most amazing. The different songs and their contextual meaning within the film is clearly underlined. That man, Glen Hasard’s, voice is something spectacular to behold; he knows his voice and its limits and is therefore able to play with the sounds and pushes the music as well to be all that it can be.

Although this film can sometimes progress slowly, and I just do not like shaky cam, it is otherwise a film that is a real treat to watch and is highly recommendable

Want to read more on Once? Try these…

 Roger Ebert: Once

Once: Review

Once

 

 

Under the Skin (2013)… Scarlet, Scotland and nothing else you’d expect

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Under the Skin

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441395/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

Dearest reader,

I live in a very, if not the most, conservative part of South Africa. Showing this film at our local cinema must have been a great risk for the cinema. Starting out with about fifteen people in the cinema, halfway through we were only seven and only five brave candidates stuck with this movie to the end. The slow-moving story, inexplicable actions, nudity and intense face studies must have been more than any sturdy South African could face.

-But me and my two best friend…. we absolutely loved it!-

The biggest controversy (I am not sure if this is the right word, maybe attraction?) surrounding this film was the fact that we were going to see Johansson just as she was, unedited and nude, she was going to be 100% real and in that regard they certainly did not disappoint. It was truly an experience seeing an actress of her caliber willing to appear in such an unforgiving light.

The other thing that sets this movie apart from everything you have ever seen is the fact that Johansson literally went out on the streets and picked up men. The men that you see in this film is not an actor, but someone like you and me.

I will now give you my interpretation of this film, and I welcome any debate as this is only my opinion… (SPOILERS AHEAD)

This film is, of course, part of the monstrous feminine literature. And when the movie starts, this is emphasized over and over again. She feeds on these men in a very passive manner, almost ‘re-forming’ them for her nourishment.

As a ‘machine’ or an ‘alien’, she has no remorse about her actions (look out for a very disturbing scene involving a baby and a beach). She uses sex to lure these men, although she has no idea what sex is. When she picks up the deformed man, she transcends this alien state and lets him escape.

What follows is a series of events that lead to her ‘humanisation’. For the first time, she is cold and she needs to sleep. She lets this very plain, normal man look after her- she even ends up kissing him. When things between them turn sexual, and she actually (in a very moving scene) discovers what sex is all about, she flees, afraid of herself and of him.

She meets a man in the woods that tries to rape her, he literally rips her human form, leaving her sitting with the remains of herself in her hands. He, seeing her alien form, sets her on fire.

The point that I think this film is trying to make is that all of us use each other. She used the men, just as both the aforementioned men used her. The difference being that as a women she transcends her monstrous state, but the men end up destroying her. A comment on heterosexual relations, or maybe a feminist critique? You decide!

Want to read more on Under the Skin? Try these…

Under the Skin.

Under the Skin.

Short Reviews: Under the Skin (2014).

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014).

Ps. Visually, this film is a treat. Every scene is carefully thought out. The landscape, desolate Scotland, is both a wasteland and a promised land, in other words a contradiction in itself.

Almost Famous (2000)… Falling in love with Penny Lane

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Almost Famous

My rating: 9

IMDB rating: 8

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181875/?ref_=ttmd_ql

Dearest reader,

Again, I have to confess that I am a rock ‘n roll junkie. I buy and listen to vinyl, anything from the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin to Kiss and Journey. It is the music I grew up with and I will forever be rocking to You can’t always get what you want, while jamming my air-guitar…

But rock ‘n roll is not the only reason why I love this movie; I love the fact that it is not about a band trying to make it, but a journalist, I love that William is just a kid but everyone still gives him a chance, I love how the movie is not about how rock ‘n roll ‘corrupted’ him, it is rather about a whole lot of different people at different stages of their lives just trying to come to terms with who they are (and it’s a coming-of-age film- yeah!!!).

Ahhh… Penny Lane. What an amazing character! From a feminist viewpoint she is everything that feminists tries to stand for, but just like it sometimes happens you fall in love, or real life just happens, and your views are tested to the limits and your heart just ends up broken. She is, of course, the ultimate muse. She inspires while she corrupts, she bemuses while she breaks your heart, she is yours but never fully, and that is what makes her such an awe-inspiring character.

The movie also comments on a lot of stereotypical ‘band-issues’ from the rock era. The intertwinement of their sexual relations, their ‘artistic’ anger outbreaks and their hyped drug-induced lifestyle are all emphasised. The role of groupies are also explored; as women who was not only willing to sleep with anyone famous, but women who were ‘the ultimate fans’, desperate to bring out the best in the bands that they followed.

I also like the fact that ‘truth’ is explored in the sense of ‘fan truth’ versus ‘in-depth truth’. A band, or anyone famous for that matter, displays a certain ‘truth’ to his fans that almost always increases his public image. In other words they blow up a certain aspect of their being and that is the ‘self’ that they sell to the world. ‘In-depth truth’ is another thing altogether, William in this movie sees the band as a friend, a fan and a critic. As a friend he is perhaps shown the most truth by this band, as a fan he is shown the ‘fan-truth’ and in this film William has to combine the two, which is not an easy thing to do, to form a critics’ opinion.

The last thing I want to emphasise is that this film transports you to 1973, on a bus, on tour with Stillwater, 100%- and that is amazing. This film was made fourteen years ago and I think it now has even more relevance than then, because we are so desperately looking for meaning that finding it again in rock ‘n roll may not be a bad way to go.

Want to read more on Almost Famous? Try these…

Almost Famous 2000- A movie review

“Almost Famous” Review.

Almost Famous (2000).

Almost Famous (2000) Film Review.