Posts from April 2011
18: Mr Smith Goes To Washington (DVD)
What I though Mr Smith Goes To Washington was about: Having only known it by reputation, I though Mr Smith would be about a small town bloke who, when raised to a high office, was disgusted by corruption a the heart of the political system. Nevertheless his innate goodness would find a partner in the democratic system, and his purity, amplified by the sheer power of democracy would show that it is not the system but the corrupt people that make politics so disappointing.
What Mr Smith Goes To Washington Is Actually About: How to win out by cheating.
The best thing about “I Wanna Sex You Up” is its bounce – the first swingbeat Number One (and so the first modern R’n’B number one in some sense) is full of springy confidence. Compare it to the New Kids’ hits from a year or so before and this is an altogether slicker proposition – the boyband and street music elements on those records were awkwardly cut together, whereas “I Wanna Sex You Up” feels unitary. The beat and samples here mesh with the crooning and pleading, and the whole thing feels deliciously light. At its heart New Jack Swing was an updating of doo-wop – groups of kids standing on imaginary corners, harmonising, playing off each other, serenading passing girls. And “I Wanna Sex You Up” has some of the weightlessness of doo-wop – that repeated “woo-oo-oo-oo-ooOOoo” hook an anti-grav belt round the song’s waist.
17: The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec (Cinema)
I really want to try and link the order I write these in, you know, with amusing parallels between very different films. But as it happens, like the two Camilles, Adele Blanc-Sec is also about a woman living in Paris. The titular adventuress may first be encountered in Egypt, but she is clearly a woman of Paris. Indeed, once the initial Pterodactyl attack is over and done with in the first five minutes, she appears to be the only woman left in Paris (if you leave out her comatose, plot driving sister).
Film 2Oh!! stats update: Seen 90 films, written about 16 (including these two)
Talking about Cheri the other day reminded me that in the last sixth months I have seen three other films with the same setting of turn of the century Paris about high-end socialite prostitutes. I saw Gigi at the end of last year so it doesn’t quite fit into this project, (and possibly thank heavens I don’t have to take apart Thank Heavens For Little Girls). But two I did see this year were two versions of the same story, Camille – based on La Dame aux Camélias by the younger Alexandre Dumas (cut and paste courtesy of Wikipedia). One of my winter pleasures was to work through a box set of Greta Garbo talkies (of which more soon), of which Camille was the middle one I hit. On a quiet night I slipped the DVD in and through fat fisted wangling and surprise the 1921 version of Camille (with Rudolph Valentino) started playing as an extra on the DVD. Intrigued I kept watching….
15: Camille (1921) (DVD)
Silent films clearly rely on the visual, both for storytelling purposes but also to drag in their punters. If every story was set in the same neighbourhood as the viewer then there could be less of a draw. The setting of Camille is part of its innate charm, and this early flapper movie really does try to stuff the film with outrageous sets and costumes. Valentino plays the male lead Armand, but this is before Valentino’s made it huge and the film belongs (much like the Garbo Camillle) to the lead actress, here Russian actress Alla Nazimova. Nazimova plays Marguerite (the lady of the Camelias, hence the name of the film) with an unhinged gusto. The story in itself is pretty simple, Armand falls for loose courtesan Marguerite, and oddly for her she reciprocates. They nip off to the countryside, where love blooms and she decides to settle down with him. Then his family step in to say they will disinherit him if he marries this woman on loose morals. Therefore she decides to push him away to save him. And as ever in this kind of drama, someone ends up coughing up blood and dying of consumptions (all the better for deathbed confessions my dear).
14: The Fast And The Furious 5: Rio Heist aka Oceans 14 (cinema)
I have seen every Fast And The Furious film in the current cycle in the cinema. Even Tokyo Drift. The travails of undercover cop turned bad guy Paul Walker and bad guy staying a bad guy Vin Diesel have been an entertaining pleasure of mine for the last ten years or so. (Even Tokyo Drift). Part of the pleasure is in this being a franchise centred around unreformed bad guys, they race cars, they steal stuff and whilst they don’t set out to kill people, people inevitably die (poor old Michelle Rodriguez). It has given up trying to reform them, they are now career criminals and there is something refreshing about a franchise which has accepted that bad guys can be fun to watch (cf Crank!) And somehow despite losing all of its lead characters in Tokyo Drift (that’s why no-one saw it) they are all back here in Rio plus Dwayne Johnson – who has to wear a beard lest we mistake him for Vin Diesel. For some reason these big bad car thieves and street racers want to re:make Ocean’s Eleven, just with added car stunts. Indeed they stuff the film with a gang of nine of them, plus a few extras, it truly is as stuffed as a soap opera with extraneous characters. Stuffed with car thieves who decide to rob a police station. Mainly because it is a stupid idea and thus a great idea for a stupid franchise. And if that makes no sense from a story telling point of view, wait til you see the physics of this film. Really. It is laughable.
Which is great because I like laughing.
The best of the year’s many film-tie ins, Cher goes at this girl group classic like a charging rhino. On the original – more restrained than this, obviously, but still a belter by 1964 standards – Betty Everett plays a self-righteous teen, convinced that a snog is the only way to prove her beau is The One. Cher, on the other hand, is singing this at least partly in her Mermaids character, an eccentric single mom (apparently – like most people, I didn’t see it).
13: Cheri (DVD)
Despite appearances, Michelle Pfeiffer’s character is not called Cheri. This is distracting.
I kind of regret not seeing Cheri in the cinema. I like Stephen Frears anything goes approach to his recent directing career, bouncing from good to bad project. He strikes me as a very anti-auteurist director,which is not to say he isn’t stylish but the style always seems subservient to the project. And here the project is a fluffy costume drama, a return to Dangerous Liasons territory. Without any of the heft. Its the story of Michelle Pfeiffer’s aging Parisien prostitute’s hold over her younger paramour, and what happens when he goes off and gets married. It looks great, but is a bit fluffy and inconsequential. But any period film that comes in at 1.30 I would be loathe to call bad. It is at least concisely entertaining.
Part of the secret of the brevity is the addition of a narrator who fills in a lot of the information in advance, and even delivers the
dramatic conclusion showing it. Tell don’t show is very much in evidence at the start and end of this film
I’ve seen 79 films this year and have written about 11 of them. Can I catch up?
12: Sucker Punch (cinema)
sucker punch ~ n.
1. a sudden surprise punch, esp from behind
2. a sudden unexpected defeat or setback
Whilst there is much wrong with Sucker Punch as a film, there area also enough grubby hands over its structure that you get the feeling that blame needs to be spread. Its near total failure at all levels of course makes it an extremely fascinating film, the very name of the film being an example. Why exactly is this film of nested fantasies called Sucker Punch? When you look at the definition of a Sucker Punch, there seems only tangential relationships between the plot and this kind of unexpected twist. So is it?
a) The unexpected setback to Zack Snyder’s career, which up to now had been commercially and artistically* successful
I’ve seen 76 films this year and have written about 10 of them. Can I catch up?
First a bit of housekeeping: the two films I had already written about this year were both in Narnia week and were:
11: Limitless (cinema)
For a film about someone who gets very smart, Limitless itself is only a B average student. Whilst it is not wholly stupid about the effects a brain enhancing drug could have on society, it picks and chooses its scenarios carefully. It considers the obvious that others may have had access to the drug, that you may wish for more wishes. But its biggest problem is its very title. Because there are lots and lots of limits inherent in the scenario presented in Limitless.
I’ve seen 74 films this year and have written about 8 of them. Can I catch up?
8: Oranges And Sunshine (cinema)
There is something nice about knowing that Jim Loach, Ken’s son, despite being a regular director of Footballers Wives back in the day, is resolutely a chip off the old block when it comes to feature directing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Ken would have made Oranges And Sunshine in the same way, but an interest in highlighting injustice, and exposing the scandals of the State are clearly shared by father and son. And who in this day and age would dare have a social worker for a heroine?
Oranges and Sunshine is the tale of Margaret Humphreys, Nottingham social worker who uncovered the programme of mass state emigration of care home kids from, the UK to Australia, and her trying to discover who they are. Its an odd affair, where the villain is mainly long gone governments, plus a few abusing Christian brothers.