Archives for March 2012

Opening this Weekend …

Another weekend is upon us; the last weekend of March in fact. Time is surely flying by. We are quickly approaching that wonderful time of the year: BLOCKBUSTERS!

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at what is on offer in a cinema near you (possibly):

 

 

 

 

And the rest of the pack …

 

* Also opening today: the Norwegian feature, Turn Me On, Dammit! gets a wider cinematic release.

As for me, I will be catching a couple of films that ahead of the Tribeca Film Festival. I will also be working on my review for Mirror, Mirror, which I saw on Wednesday evening.

So what are YOU going to be watching this weekend?

Have a great one folks!

Revisiting “Out of Africa”

For this latest installment of commemorating the 100th anniversary of Universal Studios is Sydney Pollack’s 1985 romantic drama Out of Africa starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

This was always a film that I thought was “too grown up for me,” it being a proper adult film and all. So it was several years before I mustered up the resources to catch it.

Based on actual events, Out of Africa is the account of Danish writer Karen Blixen’s (pen name: Isak Dinesen, portrayed by Streep) life in Kenya from her loveless marriage to the philandering Baron Bror von Blixen (portrayed in the film by Klaus Maria Brandauer) to her friendship and romantic relationship with game hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Redford).

As to my personal response to the film, I think the critical consensus provided by Rotten Tomatoes says it all:

Though lensed with stunning cinematography and featuring a pair of winning performances from Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Out of Africa suffers from excessive length and glacial pacing.

EXACTLY, could not have said it better myself. The film is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking and greatly benefits from a sweeping soundtrack from legendary composer John Barry. I addition, I really connected with the title performances.

But in the end, watching the film was a tedious experience. With a running time of 161 minutes, there were moments I thought about switching it off but reconsidered in the hope that the action (as it were) would eventually pick up.

One thing that may have been picked up in your reading of this piece is that I describe Redford’s character as “British.” Robert Redford? British? Alas, he does not don a British accent in the film although at least from my perspective, it is greatly implied that Denys is of British extraction.

One final note: I guess it is worth mentioning that one of the most memorable scenes in the film is the moment Redford washes Streep’s hair along the riverside. This is one of those moments that I never fully understood the romantic significance of. Let me know what you think (as a bonus, the clip gives a hint of Streep’s Danish accent):

AWARDS AND RECOGNITION

This film had awards lobbed at it. Let’s start with the Academy Awards – Out of Africa received 11 nods and won 7, including:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Sound
The film also won 3 Golden Globes.

FUN FACT: Another of Karen Blixen’s noted works, Babette’s Feast, was turned into an Academy-Award winning film of its own.

Photo Stills from “The Host”

Check out these still from the upcoming (in 2013) film The Host (photo credit: Alan Markfield).

Based on the Stephenie Meyer (Twilight series) novel of the same name, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, William Hurt, Diane Kruger and Frances Fisher.

For those (like me) unfamiliar with the story, here is a synopsis (courtesy of Open Road Films):

Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact. Most of humanity has succumbed. When Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories.

But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Hope that does not give too much away …

The Host is directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) and is scheduled for release on March 29th, 2013.

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Island in the Sun (1957)

This week’s selection as part of TODD MASON’S weekly series OVERLOOKED FILMS is the 1957 feature directed by Robert Rossen, Island in the Sun. The film has an all-star cast that includes Stephen Boyd, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge and James Mason.

Controversial at the time of release, the film deals with the topic of miscegenation. Check out the trailer below:

 

Surely the film has some flaws, namely the lack of chemistry in the Fontaine/Belafonte dynamic. I for one never buy them as a plausible couple. And the Dandridge / John Justin coupling is only that much more believable. Much like Darryl F. Zanuck’s other attempt to tackle racial issues, Pinky (1947), Island in the Sun fires but ultimately does not strike a resonate chord.

At the time of the film’s release, critical reception was largely negative with several groups concerned with the ‘unsuitability’ of the film’s central plotline. In spite of this, the film was financially successful for the studio (20th Century Fox).

So you may ask, why am I highlighting it as an overlooked film? Despite its shortcomings, I think that it is a film that should be seen for the following reasons:

  • Given the era in which it was produced, it was an admirable effort to tackle racial politics. In that way, it is a ‘successful failure.’
  • Any opportunity to see Dorothy Dandridge on screen is well worth it. She was an immense talent who unfortunately did not fit the mold of Hollywood starlet and her career tragically suffered for it.
  • For viewers who only know Joan Collins (below) from her TV role in Dynasty, here is an opportunity to see her in an earlier role. Stay tuned for a plot twist involving her character.

Until next …

The iluvcinema Reading List

I would never declare myself an avid reader. But I do make a deliberate effort to read several books in a given calendar year. In fact, I end up at various stages of a collection of books which are in varying stages of completion. As always, they will get read – it is just a matter of WHEN. The answer is always EVENTUALLY.

My current “book du jour” is Stephen Fry’s autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, which I started this morning on my way into the office.

As I make my way through this and a few other titles over the next couple of months, waiting, in a pile on my desk, in my Amazon.com wish list and sundry other forms, is a collection of cinematically-oriented texts whose pages are ready to unfurled. Here is a sampling of that collection:

      

With any luck, throughout the remaining 8 months of the year, I will be updating iluvcinema readers as to what I think about these and any other titles I come across.

In the meantime, now it’s your turn, what are some of your favorite movie-related books? They can be fiction or non-fiction.

 

Happy 70th Mom!

On the occasion of my mother’s 70th birthday, I have decided to take a look at some of the films that were released in 1942. I was quite surprised with all that was on offer; among the notable omissions are:

  • To Be or Not to Be
  • Saboteur
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • The Major and the Minor
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy,
  • Holiday Inn
  • The Glass Key
  • For Me and My Gal 
  • In Which We Serve
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • The Road to Morocco
  • The Talk of the Town
  • This Gun for Hire

As you can see I had a lot of films to choose from. But after much deliberation, I have narrowed the list to “my” top 10 (in no particular order):

Woman of the Yearthe film that started it all; the first of 9 films starring Hepburn and Tracy.

hepburn tracy woman of the year

 

Random Harvest – I know that I should laugh at many of the movie’s pivotal scenes, but seriously some of the plot’s twists and turn are quite preposterous.

 

Now, Voyager – I just love this film. It is romantic melodrama at its finest, with a little psychiatry on the side.

 

The Palm Beach Story – a rapid-fire screwball comedy brought to you courtesy of Preston Sturges.

 

The Man Who Came to Dinner – a perfect example of a stage play successfully adapted for the silver screen.

 

Bambi – my favorite character is Thumper; when I was little, I wanted one of my own.

 

In This Our Lifeunder John Huston’s direction, this film stars Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis. I really like this melodrama in a ‘guilty pleasure,’ soap opera way.

 

I Married a Witch – not widely seen but a wonderfully charming fantasy comedy.

 

Casablanca – you must remember this … and treasure it always.

 

Cat People – on its surface a straightforward, B-movie thriller. But a closer look reveals so much more.

Weekend Viewing Options

I ask myself: why am I even doing this today? This is hands-down the weekend of The Hunger Games.

 

For those who have not been sold by this film, not to worry. You have a few other options at your disposal, including:

The Raid: Redemption

 

 

The Deep Blue Sea

 

October Baby

——

So what are you going to be seeing this weekend?

Food For Thought: A Look At “Forks Over Knives” (2011)

For months, my fellow meat-eating brother was trying to get me watch this Forks Over Knives. And now I have.

The main framework for Forks Over Knives is the story of the personal journeys of pioneering researchers in the field, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyntaken. The story is moved forward when the film’s writer and director, Lee Fulkerson, after receiving a startling diagnosis, consults with specialists who recommend he begin a whole foods, plant-based (no meat, no dairy).

From this point onward, the film makes the case for the claims of Drs. Campbell and Esselstyntaken regarding the ability of  the plant-based diet to protect and, in many cases, reverse, several chronic conditions that medical science have told us can only be taken care of in pill form.

The film lays this information in stark contrast alongside the debilitating health affects the ‘Western Diet’ has had on people in America and the worldwide. It achieves this by challenging the conventional wisdom we have about what is ‘good for us.’

For anyone who has even a passing interest in what they put in their bodies, the information is not necessarily new. But it takes on an interesting and ‘info-taining’ dimension through the data shown and personal narratives from people whose lives have been changed and saved from altering what they eat.

On the downside, if you are someone not so convinced by the arguments for adopting a plant-based diet, the delivery in this program could come across as being a bit preachy. You can walk away feeling inadequate about the choices you have made. It does not help that when we see folks shopping, they are often seen at Whole Paycheck … I mean Whole Foods; for many people, this is not the most accessible of food sources.

In addition, the alternative perspective is given very little screen time, which is understandable, but I would have liked to see both sides of the dietary argument presented in a more balanced way.

One final observation – the counter-argument often made against those consuming a plant-based diet is that its practitioners often lack (or are deficient in) several key vitamins and nutrients. It would have been nice to see them (possibly) refute this contention and prove that yes, you can get all the essential nutritional content from the FOK (forks over knives) eating plan. I suppose the producers presumed that the evidence they presented in the films as it related to disease prevention and treatment is enough to win skeptics over. And let’s face it – that IS a very strong argument in its favor.

Personally, as someone who eats meat (although I have had brief ‘flirtations’ with vegetarianism) I found this doc to be very informative and from what I can tell, based on convincing science. In addition, as someone who lost one parent to cancer and is currently dealing with the chronic (but manageable, if not reversible) illness of the surviving parent, the presenters and key players have made a very convincing case. So much so, that I very easily can see myself tweaking some of my eating habits and persuading my family to implement some of what was presented.

In the end, am I convinced enough to TOTALLY give up all meat-based products? Not likely. But information=power and it allows us to understand and better evaluate food choices.

Loved the Movie, REALLY Loved the Music (An Appreciation of “High Fidelity”)

Over the past years there has been a spattering of mention of my appreciation for the 2000 Stephen Frears feature High Fidelity here on my blog. Now I would like to pause to mention some of my favorite bits from the film.

For the uninitiated, here is the logline:

When his live-in girlfriend walks out on him, a Chicago-based music store owner with a penchant for top-five lists, goes on a path of self-exploration.

Source: Wikiscreenplay

The ensemble cast, lead by John Cusack, features Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Lisa Bonet, Sara Gilbert, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tim Robbins.

While I have not read the Nick Hornby book on which the film is based (set in London), I look forward to reading it (someday). To date, I have read one of Hornby’s autobiographical books (31 Songs) and am currently reading his most recently published novel, Juliet, Naked, published in 2009.

For me what makes High Fidelity an enjoyable watch is … frankly everything! From the witty dialogue to the effective use of the pieces to camera, I can watch this film over and over again. But above all else, the use of music throughout the movie sends this film to another level for me. In fact, whenever I catch the film, I watch it all the way through to the end credits so I can hear one of my favorite Stevie Wonder tunes (Note: do not watch if you have not seen film — possible spoiler):

 

As hard as it was to do, I have narrowed down the list of some of my favorite scenes from the film (WARNING: Some clips contains explicit language):

 

LET’S GET IT ON

 

“MUSICAL SNOBS”

 

TOP 5 SONGS ABOUT DEATH

BONUS:Stevie Wonder/Cosby Sweater

Now for the bad news – as with any soundtrack that you may decide to purchase there will be notable and disappointing omissions. Take a look at this Wikipedia entry about the soundtrack, which includes music played in the film, but not on the purchasable soundtrack.

Go ahead; make your own mix tape.

What did you think about this film? Are there any films in your library that resonate the same way for you?

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: In the Loop (2009)

This week’s selection as part of Todd Mason’s ongoing blogging series, Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, is the 2009 British political comedy In the Loop. This title was previously referred to on Todd Mason’s blog when he was talking about political TV shows. And as Todd mentioned to me yesterday while this film may not exactly fall into the purview of “Overlooked Cinema,” it definitely deserves much more notice and recognition than it received upon its initial release.

Here is a synopsis of the film (Source: Official IFC Films website):
From the creative team behind the award-winning BBC series The Thick of It, In the Loop pokes fun at the absurdity and ineptitude of our highest leaders. With everyone looking out for number one, and the fate of the free world at stake (but apparently incidental), the hilarious ensemble cast of characters bumbles its way through Machiavellian political dealings, across continents, and toward comic resolutions that are unforeseeable.

I previously heard about this film at the Tribeca Film Festival and missed my opportunity to see it. When it received a wider theatrical release, I felt like it came and went. A little while later, I ended up watching it on cable one day and am so glad I did. The sheer ineptitude of the key players is on one hand hilarious, while also sadly being within the realm of possibility (if a little less hyperbolic).

In the Loop features an all-star cast that includes James Gandolfini, Peter Capaldi (my personal favorite character), Tom Hollander, Anna Chlumsky, Chris Addison, Steve Coogan and Gina McKee.

Check out the trailer here:

In the Loop is directed by Armando Iannucci and co-written by Jesse Armstrong,  Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche.


Awards and Accolades:

Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival 2009, Tribeca Film Festival 2009, Los Angeles Film Festival 2009
Nominated for: Best Adapted Screenplay & Outstanding British Film (BAFTA), Best Film, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor(British Independent Film Awards), Best Screenplay (NYFCC Awards), Best Adapted Screenplay (Academy Award)
Winner: Best Screenplay (British Independent Film Awards)