This is the fifth film I saw as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the last of four consecutive films I saw within a 10-hour period.
I mostly wanted to catch this due to Anton Yelchin. I find that there are certain actors that I'm attracted to watching them in roles that are supporting or not in famous movies or TV shows - i.e. before they became famous and anyone cared about them - and I always look forward to films or TV shows they do, and at some point their career took off. There are a few but the only other one that comes to mind at the moment is James McAvoy (now the darling export of British cinema).
Anton Yelchin I first saw playing the alien-human hybrid kid in the first few episodes of the epic mini-series Taken, and partly because of the type of character he is playing there I was immensely captivated by his performance. Since then he has appeared in the TV show Huff (with Hank Azaria) and the Nick Cassavetes film Alpha Dog (along with Emile Hirsch and Justin Timberlake ... the film flopped); both of which I did not see.
Here he is playing the eponymous (I love it when I get to use that word!) Charlie Bartlett, who's basically a teenager craving for acceptance from his schoolmates and gets into trouble at all the schools he's been in (without any fear of consequences or shame) to gain it. I guess I like characters like these because they are so different from all the modern flawed-to-make-realistic heroes ... characters who seem to sail through their lives onscreen with a content look on their face and have next to nothing 'character arc' ... Hollywood screenwriting rules be damned.
Again, I don't want to describe too much of the film, but to summarise the review I'd say this - that it holds itself up pretty well considering I just saw two films which were among the best films I've seen all year says quite a bit about this film.
I guess the film has some similarities - indeed, might well be partly inspired by - Harold and Maude. Not the old woman-young boy relationship part; I'm referring to the troubled, rebellious but quirky teenager part. In fact, the film goes so far as to sing the song composed by Cat Stevens (listed in the end credits as Yusuf Islam now) which was regularly sung and is completely identified with Harold and Maude.
Again, it felt like it wasn't about one single thing in particular - though it is about one character in particular, of course. It deals with Charlie himself and his exuberant self-esteem, the principal whose life is on the verge of falling apart (and it doesn't take much to guess that Charlie's appearance is bound to impact that), medicative drugs and the prevalence of such in American society, teenage behaviour in general, psychology, growing up and shedding innocence ... essentially, everything to do about the uncertainties of being a teenager (with the principal bit being the odd one out).
How Good The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Liked It: 7.5/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 25 mins
PS - Interestingly, in both Charlie Bartlett and Molière, both films which are named after its protagonists, have both the protagonists play acting as different types of personalities in a montage sequence.
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This is the fourth film I saw as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the third of four consecutive films I saw within a 10-hour period.
I didn't expect to like this one so much.
To begin with, there were lots of reasons why I might like it: Romain Duris, it's in French, it's a period piece ... plus, it's a comedy, which I don't get enough of usually (but got quite a lot of, rather surprisingly, in recent weeks).
Molière is a famous French writer whom I've heard of but don't know anything about. Apparently he writes and performs farce - anyway, it was a long time ago. The story is set in the 17th century.
Yet if you think it's a biopic - which I thought it was initially - you're wrong (and so was I, naturally). Instead, the film explores (fictionally?) the motivation for Molière writing comedies. In fact, it begins with Molière's declaration that after 13 years of performing farces and gaining his goodwill into the private theatre of the King's brother ... he is tired of it and wants to perform a tragedy. Then a letter delivered by a young girl changes his mind - and the rest of the film is about the history and what led Molière to change his mind.
And what amazingly funny stuff that is. Essentially, to escape prison, Molière was offered a position to teach a Don Quixote-type rich man how to act (which Molière immediately recognises as ridiculously impossible) in order to steal the heart of a bitingly-intelligent young Marquise to be had as a mistress. The story quickly becomes about other things, but that's the starting point.
And the film is funny because of the performances and the script. Romain Duris is intense, as always - but all the other characters are compelling in their own way too, and not a single false note among them. For some reason, I sort of see a little bit of famous actors in some of the characters (none of which were played by internationally renowned actors, but they are famous in Europe itself); Laura Morante, who plays the rich man's wife, reminded me of Juliette Binoche and contains within herself the same sort of charm, while their daughter Henriette Jourdain, played by Fanny Valette, reminded me of Emmy Rossum.
As for the script, it mostly appeals because of its wit - they must have done a fantastic job with the English subtitles, though it wouldn't surprise me if it's even funnier in French. The witty lines are, of course, in keeping with the fact that Molière is a brilliant comedic writer (I assume).
And yet, like Kabluey, when it sinks into drama, it does so naturally and without screwing up its pacing or taking the audience out of it. I was thoroughly engaged, and like Kabluey, the audience was laughing constantly - in some moments, laughing out loud.
One of the best French films I've seen this year - on par with Hors De Prix.
And I haven't even talked about how excellent the production design and cinematography and music are. Well, they are, that's all you need to know, I guess.
How Good The Film Is: 8.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 8.5/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 30 mins
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This is the third film I saw as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the second of four consecutive films within a 10-hour period.
It is also easily the best film among the selection for the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Aided by a very, very effective promotional strategy (that is in line with the concept and ingenuity of the film) ... that of a large, adorable blue mascot that looks a lot like Marvin the Paranoid Android - i.e. the drooping head, as if depressed. It was walking around Broxton St, the street entirely taken over by the film festival. How effective was it? Well, it got everyone talking about it, saying how excited they wanted to see it, and, by virtue of the film actually being really good, got full house screenings throughout its run.
The synopsis is written as Lisa Kudrow being the wife of a soldier who's serving his time in Iraq, not being able to cope, thus reluctantly enlisting the help of her useless brother-in-law Salman ("Salmon?" asks his boss, "... no, like Salman Rushdie the writer", says Salman; ... "you mean Sal-man", his boss corrects him). Now, the surprise is that the useless brother-in-law is the protagonist of the story.
Wasn't exactly the most enticing story, and I wasn't interested initially. I did wonder about the significance of Kabluey the blue mascot, and how it's used almost symbolically, like a smiley. Symbolically not as in it has some sort of hidden meaning, but something that induces laughter or a tendency to think it's 'cute' (hence comparison with smiley).
In fact, so popular it was that it sold out, and I had to queue on the stand-by line under the sun for a whole hour ... and it was worth it.
The movie definitely announces writer-director-actor Scott Prendergast as a formidable force in the world of quirky comedies. His script is very, very natural and unforced; it's character-driven, such that the stuff that happens to the characters are so weird and sometimes seemingly untypical of such a genre, yet seems true to the characters because it doesn't matter, because it's everything about how the characters react to their situations. His direction is not showy, but entirely appropriate and in the flow according to the pacing of the script. And his acting ... well, he fits the character perfectly.
(Writer-director-actors are such rare things. The ones that come to mind are Emmannuel Mouret, whose film Changement D'Addresse I saw at the COLCOA French Film Festival; and the night before I just saw The Baxter, which I liked, which is made by Michael Showalter.)
I keep heaping praise on it, yet I hesitate to say too much about the film. Suffice to say that you really don't know how the story will twist and turn to the end, and that one really doesn't know how it'll end ... and that you'll care about it - always a good sign. Suffice to say that it was a laugh-fest from the beginning of the film all the way to the end, and no gross-out jokes, but lots of gags and excellent delivery of lines. (Right down to the evil nephew, who looks not much older than four.)
Let me just say that I'd really wish this film will be considered for Best Picture next year - it seems to fit the 'we all love it but no one's gonna vote for it coz it's not serious enough but we all love it anyway' category held by Little Miss Sunshine last year (and Seabiscuit and Chocolat in previous years). I actually liked it more than Little Miss Sunshine. This one's quirky, but isn't aware of it, and is done with such sincerity that ... gosh, it just deserved to be rewarded.
I hope I'm not just having this reaction only because I've discovered (along with a few others) a film in a film festival that's real good that might not make it to wide distribution because of its indie-ness.
How Good The Film Is: 9/10
How Much I Liked It: 9.5/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 20 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Original Screenplay
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This is the second film I saw as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival - the first of four consecutive movies within a 10-hour period.
Probably the most interesting thing about this film - what made me interested in it - are the appearances of the actors Nick Stahl and Erika Christensen. The movie plays to that; it jumps straight into the action (of the two characters) - not much, considering it's about how their characters are stuck in a vault - and fills in the details leading up to said detention in the vault later in the story.
Unfortunately that's almost the only asset of the film.
Nick Stahl, whom I sorta like but always thought had a rather distinctive (read: weird) face, never comes across as anything but his character (which is a major compliment I give to actors), who's just an average joe tired of ATM machines taking a $1.50 surcharge out of every withdrawal he makes, which seems to be the original starting point of the whole concept of the movie from the way the director emphasised it (even though the film isn't all that much about that particular issue ultimately). Erika Christensen plays the freelance bank-robbing henchwoman who quickly becomes Stahl's character's ally in getting out of the vault. The whole thing is basically a bank heist gone wrong.
Now, when you hear bank heist, you'd probably think of The Inside Man, the last bank heist movie. The set-up here is similar in a nominal way; but the intelligence of the characters differ by a huge gap. The villain is constantly desperate and emotional. The police captain in charge is ... played with a childish streak.
Actually it's all down to the dialogue. It's trying to be smart - you hear it through the witty play with certain words or sentence structures in the lines. However it plays wit over on-the-nose dialogue, which is a pretty low foundation to build upon. Some lines did make me laugh, but on the whole I kept thinking that ...
... yes, this is an indie film. One that fails to break out of its class and is, hence, without class.
How Good The Film Is: 6.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 6.5/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 10 mins
PS - The (and 10 tips to actually get away with it) part of the title would have been smart ... if they had been specific tips rather than general advice like 'expect the unexpected' or 'shit happens'.
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This is the twenty-eighth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I had been avoiding this film for some time, because I knew it would be depressing and harrowing and all that stuff. It is directed by no less than Michael Winterbottom, who has two major characteristics as a director; (a) realism that is almost documentary in fiction films, which fellow Briton director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) also engages in; (b) versatility of genres, in which he is among the likes of Marc Forster, Gore Verbinsky and Johnnie To. He is just as versatile and prolific as any of them - in the past half-decade he's made a comedy (Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story), a couple of hard-hitting documentaries (In This World and the absolutely, devastatingly harrowing The Road To Guantanamo), a rather pornographic experimental film (9 Songs) and sci-fi (Code 46).
In this story about the murdered WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl, we pretty much know the outcome - and nothing much else. That, however, is enough to generate a very taut and heartbreaking sense of doom of things to come, even though the film barely shows us the life of Daniel Pearl and instead focuses on his wife Mariane Pearl. It is well made, utilising the docu-realism style of shooting real events - namely the handheld and the non-classical, non-linear editing style - that is never showy nor distracting (granted we modern audiences are used to such movies by now).
Nothing really stands out in the film, in the sense that every dept rises to the challenge and work as one piece to create an objectively emotional film (i.e. no manipulation, unlike, say, the works of Ron Howard ... which I happen to like, but for different reasons). The supporting cast are entirely believable and earnest in their portrayal. The music is typical of its genre, yet well-executed enough that I'd like to get the soundtrack. I noticed that the sound effects are rather sharp (lots of hard-hitting high frequencies) ... especially when it's showing the streets of Karachi which are montages of chaos and noise, of blaring horns and shouting men, of gritty colours and choking environments (which Winterbottom uses to make the point of how damn near impossible it is to find a single man).
The one thing that does stand out, inevitably, is Angelina Jolie. She fits the role perfectly - a reviewer commented that might have something to do with the fact that she is a humanitarian and a mother, which are qualities that Mariane Pearl embodies very strongly. It's always remarkable to see a celebrity actor sink into a role and disappear into it - and Angelina Jolie is one of the few percentage who are able to do that.
When I say objectively emotional, I meant that the film never really brought me to tears, but it certainly affected me strongly. The scene when Mariane was notified of the devastating news and she breaks down is entirely natural and truthfully filmed - we sympathise with her, but don't actually share her grief. Instead, I find myself in the shoes of all the other people waiting outside her room - not entirely sure how to react; to comfort her, or to leave her alone? (I'm not saying Angelina Jolie's performance isn't good enough - far from it, I think that scene itself should justify an Academy Award nomination, the way she lets go and then pulls back her emotions and then finding it letting go again.) Surprisingly, the most emotional scene to me was when Mariane toasts everyone farewell and reminds them that they have tried their best, and for a moment there no one knew how to eat at such a dinner.
How Good The Film Is: 8.5/10
How Much I Liked The Film: 8/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 3 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Actress
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I saw this as part of the line-up of the Los Angeles Film Festival at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, which is really, as the name suggests, an open-air theatre, except that they erected a blow-up screen to project images on it ... which makes it a pretty cool, if slightly more noisy, venue to watch a film.
Arctic Tale took 12 years to make, and its makers, Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, who came up to the podium to speak a little about it, were clearly proud of it. Ravetch goes on to say that he believes that he has come up with a new sub-genre of documentary with the film, and calls it 'wildlife adventure'.
Dude, March Of The Penguins won an Oscar already lah.
As for the film itself, the images they collected were certainly impressive - polar bears are cute big or small, walruses are funny (except when they're small, which is when they're cute), and images of ice in all its form are always awe-inspiring. But nothing really that jumps out and makes us go 'wow ...'; unlike, say, the image of a killer whale flipping a baby seal 300 ft into the sky in Deep Blue.
They employed Queen Latifah to do the narration for the story they wanted to tell with the images they collected - wise choice. Queen Latifah is great, and turns out she's a pretty good narrator too. The problem ... is the story.
Far too simplistic. Too condescending. Where March Of The Penguins caters to adults as much as kids, Arctic Tale really forces an all-American tale on the images - a story of a journey that seems to follow the basic myths of Hollywood storytelling far too closely to be credible as a story that happened in the arctic biosphere, and one where there are constantly setups of good against evil, where the walruses are always good and the polar bears are occasionally one or the other. And on top of that, the obvious use of sound effects, which, well, of course, entertains the kids in the crowd and the kid inside us ...
... but which disappointed me because I thought I was going to watch a natural wildlife documentary.
Anyway, the film will probably enjoy a good run in the likes of IMAX theatres where it really belongs, and possibly garner an Oscar nomination for the effort it put in.
I mean, hey, 12 years on polar bears and walruses logging 800 hours (or 1.7 million feet) of footage is pretty obsessive.
How Good The Film Is: 7.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 7/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 5 mins
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This is the second time I saw a film at the Mann Chinese 6 theatre (next to the Kodak Theatre). It is a sneak preview - the musical film will be out in the US July 20th.
John Travolta is almost certainly going to receive at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination (or, if the Academy wants to fool around like it sometimes does, Best Actor ... bleh).
It's also the first potential Best Picture nominee of the year. (If it isn't already obvious, it's bound to compete in the Best Picture - Musical/Comedy award in the Golden Globes.)
As is evident, musicals are making a comeback, thanks to Moulin Rouge, but most of the musicals so far tend to reinvent the wheel and try something different or do something more modern. (It certainly pleases the bones of the critics, who all in one voice say they liked Once because there is no contrived breaking-out-into-song scenes.) Here, the remake of John Waters' 1988 musical Hairspray stays pretty traditional, in that characters do break out into songs (and, more importantly here, dances), everything is glitzy and glamourous and perfect (even though it contains a message that probably should have included some ugliness to make its point) ... and everything stays artificial.
But it works. It's fun. Every character smiles all the time. It's almost wall-to-wall songs and dances here. It's cheerful, entertaining.
It's entertainment at its most (unrealistically) gleeful and cheerful.
And very well casted. John Travolta was half-convincing as Edna Turnblad - but he doesn't have to be completely convincing, for part of the fun is knowing that it's Travolta in a fat suit pulling off very feminine moves; we know it, the filmmakers know it, and it's like the movie winks at us whenever Edna is on screen. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky brings along a gleeful sense of optimism to the main character Tracy, and is pretty convincing as the chubby, fat girl who nevertheless pulls off amazing dance moves. Zac Efron is marvelously casted as the man-boy who, strangely, is only the object of affection of two girls - Tracy and ditzy, bitchy blonde Amber; he has an attractive face, has a great voice, and dances fantastically well. Queen Latifah is great as ever, Allison Janney is great as ever, Michelle Pfeiffer is back after some years of not acting, and Christopher Walken is ... being himself, pretty much (except that this time his grin never contains any hint of sarcasm or irony).
My favourite casting choice, however, is James Marsden as the host of the afternoon dance TV show, Corny Collins. He smiles, no, grins like some madman constantly throughout the whole film, has a great TV show host voice, and more than any other character makes the audience smile simply because he is smiling. And yet, in a brief scene where he has to confront Michelle Pfeiffer's malicious TV station manager, he imparts the moral conscience of his character with utter seriousness that is credible. Too bad his role is too small to garner him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
The songs are great of course, but mostly I enjoyed the dances. I've always, loved, LOVED the gym hall dancing sequence in West Side Story ('Mambo!'), because of the amplitude with which the dancers swayed their limbs and the extremely expressive way they all twist their bodies around. With Hairspray - although the dance styles are probably different, but not being an aficionado in dance styles I wouldn't know - we get that for almost the entire movie. You just have to watch it.
The story? Who cares?
How Good The Film Is: 8.5/10
How Much I Like The Film: 8/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 5 mins
Oscar Nominations That It Deserves: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Travolta), Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Sound (Mixing), Best Original Song
PS - John Waters makes a pretty funny cameo. You have to know who he is to catch the joke though.
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This is the twenty-seventh film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas. It is a sneak preview, a fairly complete one, actually - the only missing thing are the end credits. The film is not due to be released until September 28th.
The film starts off with a show of graphic cards and titles - the style of which I have yet to find the name/terminology of - describing the history of Saudi Arabia and its politico-economic relationship with the United States since its inception in the early 20th century, past the Sept 11 attacks, thus giving the audience a basic background information about the setting of the film and thoroughly flinging us within the story.
The film wastes no time - at 1 hr 45 mins, the script and the film itself is lean, fast-paced, and packed full of exposition and dramatic conversations and full-blown action sequences, that it heralds a new trend of filmmaking style that echoes Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End and before that Children Of Men, where the audience is forced to absorb lots of information, inevitably missing some of them but not too much so they at least understand the gist of it, but just enough to throw them into perpetual confusion. As people who know me know, I like confusion in films (on the condition that the writer and filmmakers themselves know what's going on and indicate so throughout the film).
The rapid pacing is aided by extreme handheld shots that echoes Michael Mann's Miami Vice and 24, and is further heightened by quick and profuse cuts between angles that virtually never lets up until the film reaches its denouement.
As for the story itself, I'm glad to say that it, like most action films wanting to deal with the subject of terrorism nowadays, aims for balance, i.e. America is good and bad, (name your antagonist country) is good and bad. Actually, in a way the Americans are the stereotypes here, whereas the Saudi characters manage a lot more range, as the four main American characters, played by Jamie Foxx and flanked by Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are all good guys. In fact, the most sympathetic character is the lead Saud, Colonel al-Ghazi, who aids the Americans in their investigation at risk of offending the more fundamentalist of Sauds.
The film is not entirely unpredictable - the foreshadowings do kinda give away who's going to die - but it is so ferocious in its direction, in its writing, in its acting, in the way the action sequences were shot, that really there are no complaints. The car wreck sequence recalls that of M:I-3; the shootout sequence recalls that of the ending in Miami Vice. Especially in the shootout, you get a sense that there is more to come, then more than that, then even more. Even Black Hawk Down didn't have that many RPGs fired within 5 minutes of running time. The action sequences are brutal and unflinching - mostly to do with the sound effects, where they definitely don't give audiences a chance - they let loose the high frequencies of the bullets and bombs and other explosions. (I get the sense of progression in the sound effects in films - more and more, we are at liberty to hit the audience with frighteningly painful sound design. I just hope we don't reach the point where we actually kill someone in the cinema by inadvertently starting a heart attack with the wrong exact frequency ... just like how we killed someone watching The Passion Of The Christ due to technologies in simulating physical violence.)
As a result, director Peter Berg (also an actor, you've seen him in Collateral) has crafted a highly frightening film. And if you have any wits about you, you won't just interpret the film as saying that all Saudis are to be feared, even though at every moment in the film there is a certain sense of paranoia around the American FBI agents, a feeling that at any moment someone will pull out an RPG launcher or machine guns and fire at them and kill some of them. Few dramatic action films pull that off nowadays - and pull that off whilst maintaining entertainment, now that's rare.
The opening sequence I highly approve of. I'd have done it that way myself.
Another thing that is great about the film, is the music, done by Danny Elfman in a genre that rarely uses his talents. (I'm assuming that nothing I heard in the film today was temp music.) It is certainly a departure from his signature style, and here he composes frenetic, pulsing percussion-laced score which mostly serves to amplify the tension and suspense throughout the entire film. It is by no means an original style to score a terrorist action film set in the Middle East - what Elfman does is to make it more effective. I'm just sorry that I have to wait a few more months before the score hits the stores.
One can go about discussing the politics as portrayed within the film, as Americans (among others) are wont to do, but that is beside the point. I do feel that the filmmakers had something to say with the film - Rachel Weisz's Oscar acceptance speech come to mind with the phrase 'an angry, angry film' - but I decided there's no point engaging in the debate.
The film did get me thinking about the efficiency of guns. In this film, as in real life, you shoot a person, through the head or through the chest, and they die. If it sounds like an obvious statement - well, you know it's not obvious or else I wouldn't have stated it. Just think about it. Someone fires a gun and punctures another person's body and sends flesh bits and blood splattering the other side of the body, and that person dies. One death. Then think about ten deaths. Then think about a hundred. And then when you watch the final dialogue in the film, remember this paragraph, and perhaps you will know what I'm getting at.
A film that I didn't expect to praise (due to use of rock music in the trailer, bad move), but here I am, praising it.
How Good The Film Is: 8.5/10
How Much I Liked The Film: 8/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 10 minutes
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Sound Mixing
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These were the films I Netflixed in the past few days, and all of them affected me tremendously in different ways.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP
Made in 1943, directed by the powerhouse duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (very famous British directing team in early British cinema, though really it's Powell doing the directing for the most part). Michael Powell is a most gentlemanly director - in an interview I could see that from the way he speaks, as if from a remnant from the past.
Anyway, I didn't exactly expect to like this film - it's 2 hours and 43 minutes, exactly the length of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, except, of course, at a much slower pacing. But the film intrigued me within minutes - the music was jazzy and funny, and it turned out to be a comedy which I didn't knew it was. By the time I got to the end of it the film, I had gained a lot of respect for the film, not just because it engaged me all the way - a tall order, mind you, particularly for classic films - but also because it was a more intelligent film than most films these days.
I was surprised by the non-linear structure - the opening sequence is the very end of the story of the adventures of Colonel Wynne-Candy, the central character, of which NOTHING makes sense to us (for at least 15 minutes, mind you), as we see a bunch of soldiers-in-training cheat and take over London and capture the Colonel in a military exercise. Then it does a most modern transition - we see the annoyed Colonel arguing with the young upstart of a soldier who engineered the takeover in the Turkish pool, the camera dollies past them (bird's eye shot), and Clive Candy reappears at the other end of the pool as the young man 40 years ago, and the movie begins properly.
Yes, the movie spans forty years, and it is remarkable how it transitions through the period - through an absurdly funny staight-cut montage of the animals Clive Candy hunted and shot over the years slowly filling up the wall in his private den. We go through episodes of his life, all of them engaging because of the gentlemanly and witty way everyone talks and conducts themselves.
Another thing about the film is that there is a subplot about the friendship between Clive Candy and a German officer, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, whom the film paints as a very German but very sensible man. They both have many things in common and liked each other immediately - easy enough before the wars that separate them, but remarkably their friendship lasted through the wars. Which is probably the reason why Winston Churchill hated the film and wanted it banned - it paints a sympathetic picture of the German and blames the war on the Nazis. This assessment sounds right today; back then I suppose it is easier to just assume all German's are evil to avoid confusion. But anyway, I find it remarkable that a film dared to portray a good German, especially considering the War was not over in 1943.
And a comedy about gentlemen and war in 1943. Fancy that.
It even has a brilliant scene near the end of the film where Theo lectures Clive on the changes of warfare methods since 'the last one' - a scene which I did not expect to see in a film made at the time.
Another thing - the movie also allows us glimpses of London in the 40s. In fact, one thing that really tickled me was the shot of the shop selling newspapers promoting the Colonel's latest campaign - it was called W. H. Smith and Sons.
One more thing. The same actor, Roger Livesey, portrays Colonel Wynne-Candy throughout the entire film - and ages magnificently. He starts off fairly thin with no moustache and a full head of hair, and ends bald and rotund and old. I have absolutely no idea how they achieved that in the 40s - if it was prosthetics it's brilliant work. But it's hard to imagine prosthetics existing at the time. And it can't be that Livesey grew fat for the role - not that quickly. However it is done, it totally trashes the work they did for Russell Crowe and Jennifer Conelly in A Beautiful Mind, which was nominated for Best Make-up and Hair during the Oscars.
As for why the film was called The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp - I have absolutely no idea. It just sounds funny. Roger Ebert knows why and talks a little about the history behind the idea of the film - read his review for more information.
But I implore you to watch it. One of the least boring of classic films. And, for a film made during a time when acting styles are still show-offy, theatrical and embarassingly awkward, the film manages to contain nuance.
Damn, that music is catchy.
THE GIRL IN THE CAFE
An HBO film written and produced by the infamous Richard Curtis, starring the ever so brilliant Bill Nighy and ever so exquisite Kelly McDonald.
Perhaps the most exquisite film I've seen in years.
It's a most intriguing combination - an American company producing a most British film about British characters in an intimate, romantic drama set against the backdrop of full-blown politics of the G8 Summit held, of all places, in Reykjavik.
What the hell ...?
But, by golly, the filmmakers made it work. The writing is superb, the directing masterful. The acting - you've got to see it. Bill Nighy and Kelly McDonald portray shy and reserved characters trying to find a way to get to know each other. And from that point on, we never know where the film will take us. (Think about it, the last thing you expect a film to do is to go from romance to the G8 Summit in Iceland.) Yet the film works because it is so true to its feelings and the developments never ring false.
It won the Emmy award for Best Made-For-TV Movie.
One of the best movies in years.
TOUCH OF PINK
I caught this film mostly coz Jimi Mistry is in it, who, say what you will, I think catches the eye of everyone, be they gay or straight or female.
This is one of those gay films where the gay characters are played by straight actors, there are no pornographic sex scenes - which means it chooses to focus on the drama and the fact that it is a 'gay movie' is beside the point.
And these are the rare examples of gay movies that are actually good.
The movie flutters between comedy and drama, and does so skillfully so that it isn't jarring. It's about Alim, a gay Indian born in Mombasa and grew up in Toronto and left for London in order to get away from his overbearing family (as usual in any film about Asians). He has a happy relationship with a British guy, Giles (played by Kris Holden-Ried, who, I'm not afraid to admit it, is very attractive and has 'the look'). Then his mother flies over from Toronto to see him and to get him to come back for Alim's cousin's wedding. So far, so 'The Wedding Banquet', right? Then the movie changes course, and again, we're not entirely sure where the film is taking us, as it moves into cliched areas and then changes tack every so often. The result is a movie with very rounded characters - we get to understand Alim, his mother Nuru, and Giles, and even the supporting characters like the cousin with a secret, and Alim's Uncle and Aunt.
The movie, intriguingly, includes Kyle McLachlan playing the Spirit of Cary Grant, seemingly for no reason except to give Alim an imaginary friend to talk to. Whatever it is, it is at once distracting and refreshing. Can't really tell whether McLachlan did a good job - but McLachlan himself admits it's not meant to be an exact representation. I mean, try getting Cary Grant to mention homosexuality in all campy seriousness ...
All in all, a well-written and ultimately well made film, better than one would expect from a little known film. Don't let the fact that it's a 'gay movie' stop you from watching it if you have the chance. And truly, no sex scenes.
The film also makes another point - stories about homosexual characters naturally generate conflict and thus makes good drama. As long as they are treated as stories and handled well, rather than as pornography.
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