02 October 2012


This article in the New Yorker asks the question: what happened to all the variety in movies? Serious dramas? Gone. It argues that the six major studios have shrunk their repertoire to three kinds of movies: 1. blockbusters, 2. animated features for families, and 3. genre movies—thrillers, chick flicks, romantic comedies, weekend-debauch movies and horror movies. "Studios play for a series of small and medium-sized winners rather than constantly trying for the big killing; they could reduce costs by paying stars and directors minimal amounts up front and dividing all revenues at the back end by fixed percentages—that would bring the initial costs way down and allow them to greenlight more daring projects." Read it!

Thirty-seven photos show East Germany's remarkable transformation from a miserable anti-capitalist environment to an attractive free enterprise environment.  Capitalism might not be perfect, but it's glossier.

How interesting that Ronald Reagen was supposed to play the lead in Casablanca instead of Humphrey Bogart, but was forced to turn it down as he had been called up for service in the American army.  An article from The Atlantic, on the 70th anniversary of the film, discusses a story where "every character, it seems, could be the subject of a movie just as compelling as Casablanca".

    01 October 2012

    TOP 5 | Films of September

    Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano | 2011 | 112 min | Col | France | Biography, Comedy, Drama

    This is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, and as a box office phenomenon in France, apparently the french thought so too.  It's a moving story of a superrich quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) that hires a brash French Senegalese hustler from the projects (Omar Sy) as his new carer.  He was warned by a friend not to do this, that "these street guys have no pity," but he replies, "That’s what I want. No pity." The film shows their friendship that develops, as they both glimpse into each others worlds, and the story generally follows the conventional Hollywood "buddy love film" template with great flare.

    Opening scene.  Big fan.  I think it's the best opening scene I've ever seen in a movie.  Could that be true?  Really?  I'm racking my brains - hmmm, well I do love the beginning of the Royal Tenenbaums, okay, and there is A Clockwork Orange, and Manhattan, of course Once Upon a Time in the West, Patton...... but rather than being visually dynamic or moving, this scene is just downright funny.  Instantly entertaining.  I felt completely engaged with the characters. And now as I type this I have Earth, Wind and Fire's 'September' in my head!

    Moonrise Kingdom
    Wes Anderson | 2012 | 94 m | Col | USA | Comedy, Drama, Romance

    I was very excited to see this film - Wes Anderson being one of my favourite directors.  Probably not my favourite, but definitely worth watching - it's romantic, nostalgic, quaint.  The film follows the adventure of two young lovers in 1965, that run away from home together.  Various authorities join forces to apprehend the young lovers, as a violent storm is brewing off-shore.  It triggers my own fond memories from childhood - whole days explorations in the bush, or on the beach, and seeing life as a great expedition, and also some not-so-warm memories: feelings of isolation and seclusion, and realising that adults are not quite as smart and perfect as you once thought.  This re-evaluation of 'the world of adults' is visualised beautifully through the unforgiving perspective of Suzi's binoculars.  Of course, the film also boasts Wes' trademark warm colours, immaculate symmetry, distinctive characters, and whimsical humour.

    The film opens as 12-year-old Suzy (Kara Hayward) and her siblings listen to Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra - this music of midcentury classical composer Benjamin Britten is the central motif of the film.  And just as the Young Person’s Guide reveals the interplay between differing musical instruments, so too do the broad array characters of the film, to create this symphony of a film.  I would have liked it if they took it a step further, and actually identified each character with an instrument or variation, (Peter and the Wolf style) - or perhaps they did and I just didn't notice?

    Whit Stillman | 1994 | 101 m | Col | USA, Spain | Comedy, Drama

    I saw this film probably 10 years ago, and it was a pleasure to watch again now, having grown up a bit, and having actually been to Barcelona.  I love this style of film.  This style of dialogue.  These characters.  It's an urban comedy of manners, set at the tail-end of the Cold War when there was rising anti-American sentiment in Barcelona.  The film's protagonist is Ted (Taylor Nichols), an American salesman, is visited out-of-the-blue by his cousin, Fred (Chris Eigeman).  I love Fred.  He is what makes this film so interesting.  He has no loyalty to his cousin, or when he tries to, it's much to Ted's detriment.  He's acidic and dry, a textbook "vulgar American" that saunters around in his army uniform, impervious to the constant taunts of "Fascist!"  It's a brilliant commentary on cultural identity and perception.  I wish I made this film.

    Das Leben der Anderen - "The Lives of Others" 
    Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
    2006 | 137 m | Col | Germany | Drama, Thriller | TSPDT C21st #36

    "In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives" - IMDb.

    I have been meaning to watch this film for so long and I'm glad I finally did.  Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck - I gotta say, what a name!  This film made me realize that I've watched so many other films located behind the iron curtain, but never any located in Berlin itself.  It reminds me slightly Coppola's 'The Conversation', the voyeurism, and the transformation that can take over people as they observe a subject for extended periods.  The character arc of the protagonist is most enchanting - so moving I feel it in my chest.  I don't want to give to much away, but as Jeffrey Overstreet said: "The Lives of Others illustrates, with only a dash of sentimentality, the truth that integrity leads to vulnerability and sacrifice."  This is one of my favourite messages of all.

    Richard Linklater | 2011 |  104 m | Col | USA | Comedy, Drama

    If you didn't see this with me, you're lucky.  I roared with unrestrained laughter during this film - probably much to the chagrin of the more restrained Danes sitting around me.  And my boyfriend.  Poor thing.  I honestly couldn't help it - Jack Black just cracks me up.  He is so fucking funny.  He lifts an eyebrow and I laugh.  I admit, I'm completely ridiculous when it comes to this.  He's the theatrical version of that situation where you start laughing even before a person begins to tickle you.

    But it wasn't just Jack Black that made this film worth watching.  The film concerns locals from East Texas, in fascinating detail.  Indeed, it celebrates American small-town life, showing it as rich, warm and complexly layered.  The film also deals with how one can justify a crime when one holds a sturdy moral code.  I had so much fun watching this film, and definitely recommend it to all.  I'm so happy that Cinemateket offered this to members as the free film of the month, otherwise I think I would have missed it!

    Here's a funny segment from the film, where a Carthage, TX resident describes the '5 States' of Texas...

    Honourable mentions:
    • Dead Man
    • Coffee and Cigarettes
    • Stranger Than Paradise
    • Limits of Control (although probably not worth mentioning, it tested the limits of my control for sure)
    • In The Name of the Father
    • My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown
    • Rachel Getting Married
    • Beau Travail
    • Dancer in the Dark
    • Shaun of the Dead
    • Religulous
    • Bernie
    • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
    • The Wicker Man

    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)

    25 July 2012

    How to leave the planet?

    Douglas Adams at his best.

    Reminds me of an earlier post: How to get as far away as possible

    13 June 2012


    Plato believed that drinking, if done correctly, prompted a form of self-revelation. He stated that wine exposes the drinker's true character by intensifying emotions while stripping away emotions and self-control. Learning to compose oneself when drunk - by getting drunk, acting foolishly, and then being ashamed the next day could prepare men to deal with other intoxicants: "anger, love, pride, ignorance and cowardice," wrote Plato. "We can add wealth, beauty, strength, and everything else that turns us into fools and makes us drunk with pleasure."

    23 April 2012


    { Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni Sarkozy }

    08 March 2012

    Strawberry Fields Forever

    A good Beatles music video is always enjoyable.

    05 March 2012


    Influencers is a short documentary that explores what it means to be an influencer and how trends and creativity become contagious today in music, fashion and entertainment.

    The film attempts to understand the essence of influence, what makes a person influential without taking a statistical or metric approach.

    25 February 2012

    31 January 2012


    { Piotr Kamler's 'Chronopolis' }

    Awesome. Special. Effects.

    30 January 2012

    Dive in

    Sark wrote this as her first self-published piece of artwork as a description of how she intended to live her life each day.  It became a best-selling poster and Stark has now written over 11 books.

    17 January 2012

    This is not a suit

    This Is Not A Suit (2010) United Kingdom (Directors: Adrien Sauvage, Chris Gaunt, and Jon Clements; Screenwriters: Adrien Sauvage and Madeleine Morlet) - An instructional guide to the art of dressing that explores the creative quandaries of the mind. Who is the designer? Well, we will look into that. Here we learn the principles of easy dressing as you have not seen them before.

    Reminds me of The Perfect Human.  Stunning cinematography.