Archives for August 2012

Remembering Neil Armstrong

I could not let this week go without saying how profoundly sad I was to hear the news of the passing of Neil Armstrong over the weekend at the age of 82. As I said on my Facebook page at the moment of Sally Ride’s passing:

I grew up in what we now know were the waning days of the “space race”/ Cold War, where the threat of nuclear obliteration was only bested by the scientific discovery that sprung up in the wake of the quest for world dominance.

Just the other day I was thinking about space again and a childhood film that I LOVED from the 1980’s Space Camp (1985). I just KNEW that was going to be me in a few years time. Alas, I did not reach those heights, but the curiosity of what is out there always stuck with me.

Looking around the world wide web I was pleased to find out that more people share in my sentiment when it comes to remembering the first man to land on the moon’s surface. Here is just a sample, my “mix tape”of sorts from a few film sites that also reflected on the life and achievements of a man who dreamed big and for a brief moment in time was among the moon and stars …

 

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Wide Sargasso Sea (BBC-TV, 2006)

This week’s pick is another television film – the 2006 BBC adaptation of Jean Rhys’ 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. This is not to be confused with the 1993 film.

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Synopsis of the Source Material (I am greatly oversimplifying here)
In what can only be classified as a novel prequel to Charlotte Bronte 1847 Jane Eyre. Wide Sargasso Sea takes a look at the pre-Jane life of Edward Rochester during his years in the Caribbean and his entering the doomed marriage with Antoinette Cosway (Jane Eyre’s Bertha Mason). Antoinette/Bertha is a white Creole who finds it hard to fit into society and it is from her vantage point that we see her make that steady decline into the “madness” of the “lady in the attic” as described by Ms. Bronte.

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For all its virtues and entertainment it has provided me over the years, Jane Eyre (both the book and subsequent film adaptations) are very staid, emotionally cool pieces. Wide Sargasso Sea (book and film) are, on the other hand, a lush, exotic and sensual examination of the people and events surrounding them. Warning, this filmed version (starring personal faves Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall) retains a lot of the overt sexuality from the source material. So if you are not familiar with the source material or the context in which it is placed, then this may not be for you. In other words, there is no “traditional” period romance going on here.

But for me the performances, especially that of Spall, made this a worthwhile watch. In very nearly every I see him in, he impresses me with his ability to embody a character.

I recognize that my appreciation for the intended aims of this film may be an outlier, but bear with me – there is a little bit of history here. Many many years ago, when I was in high school, a major block of our English literature study involved close examination of this and Jane Eyre. Heck I was even tempted to “break the rules” and catch the 1993 film upon its initial release, although I was not of age at the time. Ultimately, I did not have the guts to go through with it; but since that time, I have always been intrigued by the imagined world Antoinette/Bertha inhabited prior to her confinement in Thornfield Hall. This narrative provided an alternative glimpse into that world, even if from a post-colonial, feminist perspective.

Although it was not originally broadcast in the US, Wide Sargasso Sea is available for rental/purchase on DVD or via Amazon Streaming.

Be sure to check out Todd Mason’s blog for more awesome, overlooked or forgotten titles.

Have any of you seen this version OR the 1993 film?

What did you think about it?

Have you heard of/read the novel?

 

What are YOU Watching this Weekend?

I pose the above question because frankly not much is going on in the box office. We are entering a lull stage at the multiplex that starts at the end of the summer (the kids are readying for a return to school – if they are not there yet) and the serious season will begin in a few weeks. So what is a cinema-goer to do?

That said, looking at the list of weekend releases, there appears to be only one film of (slight) interest out in wide release …

Will you be seeing this? If not, what is in store for you?

In Memoriam: Tony Scott

Over the past several days, I debated about whether or not I should post something about Tony Scott, given the sensational dimension the circumstances surrounding his passing has wrought. Upon further reflection I decided that it is apt because, no matter what surrounds a person’s passing, it is always appropriate to reflect upon their life and work, especially when with one who gave so much to the entertainment of the masses.

It is in that vein that I present to you my top three films (no particular order) in his impressive oeuvre.

 

Crimson Tide (1995)

Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman jockey for power on a submarine. Enough said. Oh yeah and Viggo Mortensen was in it too 🙂

 

Enemy of the State (1998)

Is this type of conspiracy really possible? For me it did not matter because I simply loved this action-packed espionage thriller, a suspension of

 

Man on Fire (2004)

Yeah I know it is a remake and not a perfect film, but it kept me engaged all the way through. And it’s Denzel Washington – plus who could resist Christopher Walken as the biggest “hype man” in cinematic history.

 

Honorable Mention to The Last Boy Scout (1991) chalk this one up as a case of a very, very guilty pleasure.

(And yes, no Top Gun on this list – for whatever reason, this film never floated my boat).

How about you? Comment below …

Tuesday’s Overlooked: The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)

My selection for this week’s addition to Todd Mason’s Overlooked Films series takes a look at the 1996 romantic comedy, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers) and starring Janeane Garofalo, Uma Thurman and Ben Chaplin.

In this modern take on the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac, Garofalo is radio show host Dr. Abby Barnes, who when not offering her listeners veterinary advice, is quite the well-rounded, cultured woman – she reads great books and plays the violin. It is during one of these calls that a listener, Brian (Chaplin) becomes quite taken with her and decides to pursue her.  Not confident enough in her own appearance, she describes herself as her tall, dreamy and dare I say beautiful, neighbor Noelle (Thurman) – who let’s say is a little less about the world than her accomplished neighbor.

I will not ‘spoil’ too much of the plot except to say that (as you can probably imagine) one thing leads to another, leading to a quite interesting denouement …

What I like about this film is Janeane Garofalo’s performance. Her deadpan delivery may not work for all but it definitely works for me. And in a world where almost anything seemingly passes for a romantic comedy, this is a film that has enough substance to go along with all the extra trimmings I expect when I sit down and catch a rom-com.

Now that is not to say that this film is not without its flaws (it surely is). For one (at least in my opinion) it relies heavily on the premise that Garofalo is not attractive (which I think she is in the film) and that Thurman is the epitome of gorgeousness. Obviously these are both very subjective lines of reasoning that you either accept or dismiss; if you can, go ahead and enjoy!

(want further proof of how much I liked this film? in college I had the poster affixed to my dorm-room door!)

A Good Weekend for Film Options

Happy Friday everyone! Another work week has drawn to a close and it’s time enjoy ourselves.

As per usual, I started my weekend planning by taking a look at this week’s options in the cinema. It actually looks pretty good – there is a little something for everyone – action, family, drama, musical and thrillers, there is no shortage of films to suit almost every taste. Here is a list of this week’s releases:

Even with these various options, I think this will be another “lay low” weekend where I hope to catch up with all the movies I have been planning on watching but have not gotten around to.

 

So what will you be up to?

7 x 7 Time

Many thanks to Ruth of Flixchatter fame for passing along one of what I like to call the “getting to know you” memes 🙂 This one is the 7 x 7 Link Award.

The 7 x 7 Award highlights a blogger’s favourite pieces of work and is passed on to others so that they too can do the same as a way to promote posts and/or blogs.

 

So without further ado …

1.Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

When I was young I dreamed of being a prodigious child athlete. First sport = gymnastics and then tennis.

 

2. Link to one of the posts that I think best fits the following categories

a. Most Beautiful Piece.

I don’t know so much about ‘beauty’ in the aesthetic sense, but the piece I wrote in dedication to my dad on what would have been his 65th birthday (he died less than two months shy of it in May 2010) was one that came straight from the heart and I hoped adequately represents what he means to me … he was (and remains) one of my best friends.

 

b. Most Helpful Piece.

The piece I did this year for Mothers Day when I asked my mom what some of her favorite films were. This piece made me realize that my mom and her movie selections have definitely left a lasting impression upon me and also informed the films that I have come to appreciate over the years. So in essence, it helped me understand myself a little bit better.

 

c. Most Popular Piece.

In terms of straight-up page hits = Tudors on Film

 

d. Most Controversial Piece.

I purposely try to steer away from controversy because I am afraid of offending people but I guess one that I debated going through with an posting was my overlooked piece on the film Coco Avant Chanel. Mainly because subsequent to seeing the film, I found out more than I wanted to know concerning the legendary fashion designer.

 

e. Most Surprisingly Successful Piece.

(Again based on page hits) My dedication to Dame Elizabeth Taylor at the time of her passing. This was another impromptu mental dump where I just wanted to give a straight, personal cinematic assessment of her life and work.

 

f. Most Underrated Piece.

One of my earlier (and quite frankly poorly written) pieces from way back in 2007 about Children of Men. It is for films like this (especially at the time) that I was inspired to discuss my love of film.

 

g. Most Pride-Worthy Piece.

My piece on moral obligations in filmmaking. If only for the reason that I think it is the piece I spent the most time contemplating and trying my  best to present a well reasoned and  balanced argument on the subject.

 

3. Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

Yvette at in so many words …

Sergio at Tipping My Fedora

Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club

Candice at Reel Talk

Dan of PT Snob

Newlywed Pete of I Love That Film

Dawn of Noir and Chick Flicks

 

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Closing Ceremony

For the second (and final) installment in my ‘Summer Olympic Movie Review,’ I decided to combined it with this Tuesday’s Overlooked film series, so graciously hosted by Todd Mason of Sweet Freedom.

(left, the DVD cover, right, the real Wilma Rudolph)

This pick is another TV film featuring a groundbreaking Olympian, this time in the form of Wilma Rudolph, who came overcame living in the segregated South and the crippling effects of polio, to collect three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

The film, Wilma (1977) was directed by sport documentarian Bud Greenspan and starred, Shirley Jo Finney as Rudolph with support from Cicely Tyson and in his professional acting debut, one Mr. Denzel Washington.

This is yet another title I remember seeing as a child. It is funny really, to think that this is the type of film programming we could expect from our major networks – it literally is a lifetime ago.

This title was previously available on Netflix, but it looks like it is unavailable at the moment. It is also available on DVD.

Reaction Piece: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

This film first caught my attention following the buzz it had coming out of the Sundance Film Festival. At the time, I really did not know too much about the plot or themes of the film, but from what I could gather, it was a story from another place (and possibly another time).

Over time, I gained a little more insight into what the film was about until, I visited the film’s website for a pretty comprehensive synopsis:

In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

It is true; this film has an otherworldly quality to it especially when one considers that it is set in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – even if it is not an America that we are used to seeing. Still it is but it is magical, mystical and yet a very natural place.

Of course the credit for this visioning goes to director Benh Zeitlin and cinematographer Ben Richardson.

Equal credit props to the relatively inexperienced cast, who all turn in solid performances. In particular, the film’s young star, Quvenzhané Wallis, shines bright in a role that could easily have sunk into unbearable despair. She captured the audience’s heart and minds with a performance that usually belies someone of her age, wisdom or (lack of) experience.

Granted the ending did not yield any waterworks on my part – it does not make it any less emotive and touching. In fact, I connected with our heroine from the perspective of a person (albeit a little older one) who is dealing with the imminent loss of a parent.

Overall, the film left me feeling that in spite of the tragedy that has fallen upon our hero, she will persevere and rise above her circumstances and be all the stronger for it.

What Will Reign Supreme this Weekend?

Will HOPE SPRING eternal? …

 

Will you be BOURNE again? …

 

Will you follow THE CAMPAIGN? …

 

Or will you do something else? Share your plans below.

Have a great weekend!