01 September 2012

TOP 5 | Films of August

Tiny Furniture
Lena Dunham | 2010 | 98 m | Col | USA | Comedy, Drama

It depicts ordinary urban life so well - that's why so many people (me included) can relate to it.  But I did find it hard to warm up to the protagonist in some ways, as she allowed so many of her love interests to walk all over her.  She also complains a lot, but eventually I thought this was more funny than annoying: "Aura would like you to know that she's having a very hard time."

I was inspired to watch this after watching finishing the first season of Girls, written and directed by Lena Dunham.  My friend Chelsea recommended that I watch girls, and also read this article from the New Yorker, which she said "discusses how some of the greatest romances in life/ relationships in life are friendships between women - and how little they are captured accurately in the arts."

Hable con ella (Talk to Her)
Pedro Almodóvar | 2002 | 112 m | Col | Spain |  Comedy, Drama | TSPDT C21st #10

Natural acting.  Heartfelt performances.  Dynamic pacing.  It's the story of two men that share an odd friendship while they care for their girlfriends who are both in deep comas. The protagonist was loveable, and expressed himself in such a 'normal' fashion, but the thing he actually did were completely mad.  The plot rolls on in a pretty incredulous fashion, but it's believable somehow.  The futura chapter markers that pressed forward reminded me of a Wes Anderson film, but I dare say the influence was from Almodóvar.

Johnny Guitar
Nicholas Ray | 1954 | 110 m | Col | USA | Western | TSPDT #210

This month was Nicholas Ray month at the Danish Cinemateket.  I only saw The Live By Night, and Johnny Guitar (I skipped Rebel Without a Cause because I've already seen it on the big screen twice, and reviewed it here).

It was beautiful to watch this classic on the big screen - my jaw actually dropped for the first five minutes because the picture and colours of the western landscape were so dazzling.  It felt completely immersed in what felt like a three-dimensional space.

I love a "hidden identity" in a film, and Johnny provides this, as he is in fact Johnny Logan,  one of the fastest to draw the gun in the West.  I loved watching the characters reaction to him change as they gradually found out the truth.

Joan Crawford plays Vienna: owner of a saloon with a shady past, who's calmed by the clinking sound of the spinning roulette table: "Spin the wheel, Eddie!"  She is kind to her employees, graceful as a ballerina, yet ballsy as hell when faced with her enemies.  When enraged, her thick eyebrows and prominent lips generate more fear than the guns she wields.

One couldn't help by be thoroughly impressed with the costumes - as the villains wear funeral clothes for the second half of the film, contrasting so brilliantly in the landscape.  And look out for the dazzling white frock that Joan wears as she tries to express her innocence.  Unfortunately, pulp culture has tainted my perception of Joan Crawford's yellow and red number at the end of the film, I think she looks like Ronald McDonald.  Isn't that silly?  Otherwise I think I'd love it.

Emma, played by Mercedes McCambridge, stands out as one of the meanest, bitchiest villains I have seen on the silver screen.  I really do hate her.  I still do.  She's a nasty, nasty, mean, mean bitch.  This, combined with Joan Crawford's formidable stature leads one of the most memorable showdowns between the two women.  Although the film is named after Johnny, the women of this film hog the limelight.  Vienna says earlier in the film: "A man can lie, steal... and even kill. But as long as he hangs on to his pride, he's still a man. All a woman has to do is slip - once. And she's a "tramp!" Must be a great comfort to you to be a man."

The script was beautifully written - so many one liners and quiet but powerful reflections on life.  This is probably the reason I look forward to watching this film again in future.

Terms of Endearment
James L. Brooks | 1983 | 132 m | Col | USA | Romance, Comedy, Drama

Terms of Endearment is a film that follows the relationship between a mother and daughter, both strong-willed and marching to different drums.  It is a classic tear-jerker.

Debra Winger plays the daughter, Emma, and boy is she an incredibly talented actor.  I hadn't seen her in many films before, although I now realise she was a big name in the 80s and 90s.  She also starred in Shadowlands, a biographical film on C. S. Lewis which I saw this month.

Shirley MacLaine plays the barking mad mother Aurora.  I love seeing how the mother's criticisms  just bounce off her daughter.  This really stayed with me:
Aurora: I just don't want to fight anymore.
Emma: What do you mean? When do we fight?
Aurora: WHEN do we FIGHT? I always think of us as fighting!
Emma: That's because you're never satisfied with me.
Emma's best friend Patsy (Lisa Hart Carroll) plays a wonderfully dedicated friend in the film.  Aurora's lover is played by Jack Nicholson, an ex-astronaut, with Jack's usual drawl that suits his character to a tee.  His character arc is surprising uplifting, given he is generally such an cad for most of the film.

The film is mainly dialogue based, and reminded me a little of 'Love Story'.  Given that the film stretches over a couple of decades, it made me reflect on my own life and the decisions we all make.  I would definitely enjoy watching this film again - I'm inspired mostly by the dialogue and acting.

Elizabeth: the Golden Age
Shekhar Kapur | 2007 | 114 m | Col | UK | Biography, Drama, History

I thought the cinematography was incredible, so much so I couldn't help but take constant screen shots on my computer.  I loved the high angle shots, and Queen Elizabeth's bright costumes that contrasted so much with her surroundings.  I wasn't as thrilled with the script as the last film.  And I think that the closing notes of the film were a little misleading: from memory I don't think that the rest of her time on the thrown was smooth sailing like the text purports.  Cate Blanchett was enchanting as always, she really makes acting look so simple.


Honorable mentions:
  • Ratatouille
  • The Right Stuff
  • Klovn: The Movie
  • Hugo
  • Tonari no Totoro
  • The Live by Night
  • Brutility in the Stone (short)
  • Philadelphia
  • Shadowlands
  • Validation (short)