Archive | August, 2012

TAKE THIS WALTZ: Some things you do stick

26 Aug

–Spoilers ahead- watch the film first!–

A: On Tuesday Lisa and I went to see Take This Waltz. She’s come down from Sydney for a few weeks and it was so lovely to be able to catch up and see this film together. Sometimes I feel like who you see a film with can make a huge difference to how much you like it. I hate seeing a film with someone and you can just tell that they hate it or they want to go to sleep. But I had a feeling that both me and Lisa would adore this film and I was right.

This film hit me hard. It was beautiful and lyrical but also felt intensely personal and intimate. It’s the kind of film that sticks around. I haven’t felt such a connection with a film since Young Adult. I almost didn’t want to read other reviews on it because I didn’t feel the need to know anyone elses opinion on it. But I did a quick google before I started writing this and was shocked at the two words that kept being repeated.. immature and frustrating! That was the opposite of my experience! Does that mean I’m Immature and Frustrating?

The New Yorker says ‘The underlying theme is that, though everyone is beautiful, some are more beautiful than others—stick with your own kind, because nature (physical nature) will triumph, and you’ll always be in competition with the people who resemble Michelle Williams, who will have their choice. ‘ …… WHAT?? This is not what I got from the film at all. Either the person that wrote this is a little bitter and jaded.. or I’m incredibly naive and really didn’t understand what I was watching.

What do you think Lisa? Did you get any of this from the film at all?

L: Anna, I am very surprised to hear this take as I didn’t get this from the film at all. In fact I thought the film was saying the exact opposite. Are we sure this reviewer actually watched the film because I think the only way you could come to this conclusion is if you stopped watching three quarters of the way through.

I loved the way this beautiful and haunting film captured the dark truth about searching for happiness in a relationship. Too often in life we think we will only be happy if we just buy those new clothes, get that new guy or go to that great new restaurant, we put the answer to our happiness outside ourselves and by doing so we are permanently restless. Which is exactly how Margot feels. She is, by Daniel’s description, eternally restless. She is looking for a man to end this restlessness and when she falls for Daniel she thinks she has found the answer. But the answer alludes her.

In fact in a complete contradiction to ‘The New Yorker’ review I believe that the message of this film is that relationships are not about looks, or even sexual attraction because all that fades. Relationships are about being there for each other and about recognising that no other person can make you happy, you have to do that for yourself.

I also really loved the way this film brought to life the patterns we have in relationships, what do you think about this Anna?

A: In her marriage to Lou it was like they had their own language. You could tell that everything had been discussed already, every in-joke had been made. It was great to watch a genuine portrayal of this degree of intimacy, although the baby talk was slightly nauseating. The frequency of the ‘I love yous’ as their relationship starting breaking down was also very honest.  It was great to see her then try and repeat these things to Daniel at the end. She sits on the toilet in front of him, Lou kissed when she did this but Daniel just walks out of the bathroom. She says ‘I Wuv you’ to Daniel and he looks at her like she’s mad. When she goes back to visit Lou their language is basically gone. They talk like two serious adults. ‘Some things you do stick’ he says to her when she wonders about the chance of reconciliation. I found that heartbreaking. Their relationship was like a world. It seemed so solid and impenetrable, when watching the film I didn’t think their was any way that could end. But it does. It’s gone and there’s no going back.

Something I didn’t really think about until after, is that Margot doesn’t really have her own friends. The only person that is her friend alone is Daniel. Everyone else that she spends time with is part of Lou’s family, and you never hear any mention of her family. Do you have any ideas about why this is?

L: I think this is because Margot is the kind of person who wants to be consumed into a relationship. She believes the relationship holds the answers to all her problems and as such I imagine she ditches her own friends for whoever the man of the moment is. I think having friends of her own would encourage her to find her own identity and I think that is the thing she is desperate not to do. She won’t write, she won’t pursue her own interests, in fact she spends the entire film either chasing or running from Daniel or trying to rekindle the love with her husband, which to be honest she does mostly by whining and following him around.

I think Margot is afraid of who she might find if she tries to simply be with herself. In fact I think that’s what’s happening with her relationship with Lou, he has his own thing, his book and their relationship is comfortable and intimate and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. And since she is desperate not to get to know herself, she turns to Daniel to start the journey all over again. The problem is that at the end of that journey, she has less than she had with Lou because their comfortable little world worked for her and when she transparently tries to recreate it with Daniel,  it’s clear that she has lost something she loved.

I think this film really does a great job in examining the value of romance. In a world where most films hold up romance as identical to love, this film shows us the difference and says romance might be the new and shining thing that gets a relationship started but love is the old and steady thing that keeps it going. I think perhaps the best line in this film, is when Margot and Lou’s sisters are discussing their boredom with there husbands in the pool shower and one Margot’s sister in laws is saying how sometimes she would just like something new. Then an naked old lady turns in the shower opposite and says ‘New things get old’, a line which I think epitomizes the message of the entire film.

A: I liked that line too. Although I think it might have been a bit of overkill to have that line against the younger naked ladies and the older naked ladies in the shower. The image kind of showed the message anyway and both at the same time felt a little preachy to me.

I like your point about her relationship with Lou giving her the perfect platform to actually be herself and persue her own goals and that’s why she went running. Really she was terrified of having to face herself.

The last shot of the film is her sitting on the theme park ride alone. Earlier in the film she sits on it with Daniel, which is a great scene, filled with so much fun and tension. I wasn’t sure what this last shot was meant to mean. Is she finally okay with spending time alone? Or is it meant to be about the cyclic way relationships work. No matter who she’s with she’ll always be by herself to some degree after the romance wears off?

L: Actually you are probably right, the scene itself is pretty heavy handed. Then again, I am a fan of cheese so I’m less sensitive to a heavy hand. I think the preachy element may have occurred due to the filmmakers need to tell the audience her own feelings about the story.

I think you are right about the scene on theme park ride it’s about her always being alone no matter how many distractions she finds to hide behind. The ride in and of itself is another distraction. I think the ride is a great representation of her restlessness, the cycle that she is stuck in.

Well I think I am going to sign off. This film really does stick with you and has so many insightful messages about the patterns and cycles in relationships. It is a great insight into the lengths people with go to run from themselves and makes a powerful comment about the illusions of romance. Any last thoughts Anna?

A: I guess the most important line in the film is ‘Life has a gap in it, it just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.’ A bit depressing, but very true.

Definitely in my top ten for 2012.


Magic Mike: Excellent and not just because of the naked Channing

12 Aug

Now while I have to admit I had a lot of fun finding the image for this particular review, I have to clear one thing up, Magic Mike is not just about naked guys. Now a lot of my friends have made fun of this movie, a lot of my friends wanted to see this movie but next to no one I know took this movie seriously. Nearly everyone thought it would be a cheesy romp about guys waving their crotches in peoples faces.

One person who did take this movie seriously is Channing Tatum. Magic Mike is based on Channing Tatum’s experiences when he was 19 years old working as a stripper in Tampa. Channing pitched the idea to serious director Stephen Soderbergh and financed the film along with Soderbergh. Soderbergh is famous for his breakout film ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’ with Uma Thurman in the 1980s and has since then directed films like Oceans Eleven, Erin Brochovich and The Girlfriend Experience.  Now for those of you who don’t know what co financing means, it means that Channing put up a 3.5 million dollars of his own money half of the 7 million dollar budget of this film.

That means that Channing Tatum whose individual worth is 14 million put up a fair chunk of his change betting that his film would do well. And while not many of my friends may be taking this film seriously a lot of people are going to see it. To date Magic Mike has grossed 110 Million dollars at the American box office and who knows what overseas which means that Channing Tatum will be raking in over 50 Million dollars in pure profit. Are you taking the film seriously now? Channing Tatum has been in 3 films this year the other two being ‘The Vow’ and ’21 Jump St’ both have which have earned more that 125 million dollars. All I can say is ‘damn that kid is having a good year’.

Now some of you might argue that commercial success is not reason to take a film seriously. In fact some might say that the reason the film has done so well is because of all the beautiful naked men in it and while I’m sure the lure of Joe Manganiello was part of its success I think the reason it has been such a big hit is because it is also a great film.

Magic Mike is the stripper name of Mike Lane a 30 year old entrepreneur who has a number of shady cash businesses. All in the name of making money towards his custom furniture business. A dream of his since he was a kid, Mike has saved up 13 thousand dollars to put towards the cause.  His most lucrative job is as the star attraction of an all male revue at Club Xquisite .

Enter Adam ‘The Kid’ played by Alex Pettyfer a 19 year old lost boy who has walked out on his football scholarship, because of his hard partying ways and is living with his sister Brooke. He has just been fired from his low paying construction job and is bored to death with everyone and their demands for him to live a responsible life. Running into Mike trying to escape his sister’s boring boyfriend on a night out, they develop a bromance and Mike introduces Adam to Xquisite. There is an emergency when one of the strippers passes out from too much booze so Mike has the brilliant idea of sending Adam out to lose his stripping virginity and after a successful run, he joins the crew.

The drugs, the girls and the self destruction, the world of male stripping is not all abs and baby oil and while the Kid is loving his new life a little too much Mike has his eye on a better life and a better class of girl and that’s where Brooke comes in. Magic Mike is simple story extremely well told. The look of the film is both grungy and sexy while the characters are very well drawn. Particularly Mike and Adam, Channing brings a wonderful vulnerability to this role which is a pleasure to watch.

But my favorite character in this film is Brooke. In a world full of sexy abs with no brains or morals, she brings a sense of integrity and honesty to the story. In a role that could have easily been over acted Cody Horn, brought just the right mix of sexy and real to the table and broke my heart with her amazing raw emotion. The dialogue and acting in the last couple of scenes between her and Channing was world class.

Hilariously funny but crushingly honest, what make this film so great is it’s authenticity. While women might be flocking to the cinema to see Channing shirtless, what they are getting is a real story. Sure that story is about male stripping but doesn’t make it any less valuable or worth seeing. So if you thought this film was dumb and just a run on from the stupidity that is ’50 Shades of Grey’, think again Magic Mike, is quality and I don’t just mean the abs.

Game of Thrones Season 2: The Problem With Adaptation

7 Aug

Now everyone knows that I loved season one of ‘Game of Throne’ but did season 2 live up to the hype. First let me say that season two is not up to the same calibre as season one but I don’t believe this has anything to do with its writers, I think the books are entirely to blame. Adaptation is always tough ask and the new trend of adapting book series into TV shows is untested and bound to hit a few hurdles. Given this would still say that adapting the 2nd book of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series is almost mission impossible. The second book ‘A Clash of Kings’ brings in a whole new set of characters, largely ignores many of the old ones and has story lines taking place in over seven locations, not exactly adaptation gold.

First off let me start by stating for the record that I haven’t read the books. I have been told that the show is a lot easier to understand if you read the books and hopefully someday I will, however I am a firm believer that an adaptation should be able to stand on it’s own. It should not act like a petulant child and keep running back to it’s source material and yelling that if you’d read it, it would make sense. It either works or it doesn’t, there is no half way.

So lets begin with problem number one, too many new characters.  While it is customary to introduce a few new characters in a second season that amount is usually limited to around 3 or 4. Look at an older program like ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ new characters in season two Spike, Drusilla, Oz and maybe Kendra, clear concise easy to remember. But with HBO’s new generation of television with endless budgets and source material to keep in mind cast numbers have really started to multiply. True Blood for example introduced at least 8 or 9 new characters in its second season and the numbers are going up every year. However this year ‘Game of Thrones’ really took the crown and thanks to its insane source material was given the great task of introducing around 40 new characters. This number doesn’t include the numerous characters they put off introducing until season three since they thought it might be too much. I think it’s a little late for that.

While some of the new characters are great and well worth the introduction others I could have done without. I am sure they were vital to the source material but when if you can’t figure out what’s happening, does that really matter. It was getting particularly difficult to keep all the men of the Night’s Watch straight, yet I really enjoyed the Wildling Caster and his disturbing wives/daughters. Similarly Stannis Baratheon and his many followers were very confusing. Although the naked pregnant Red Priestess Melisaandre of Asshai was a bit of highlight even if occasionally I’d like to forget it.

While there are many many more characters the most memorable for me are Jaqen H’ghar and Brienne of Tarth. Jaqen’s  gruesome mentor relationship with my favorite character Arya was a pleasure to watch. While Brienne’s conversation in the last episode with Ser Jaime Lannister had excellent chemistry and can only mean great things for the pair in season 3. Unfortunately all the fantasy genre names don’t help matters when you are trying to remember who people are. This massive onslaught of characters made watching the program an exhausting experience and I was often only able to watch one episode before I gt tired and switched to less taxing material.

Big problem number two locations. Sewing together stories with so many locations is extremely difficult. The beautiful and mythical Quarth with Daenerys Targaryen, The Iron Islands with the very irritating Theon Greyjoy, Winterfell, King’s Landing and over The Wall in Wildling country, there are more but I can’t remember them. Again books are limitless and can tell stories from hundreds of locations but TV has a different format and the changing locations and short scenes so as to fit everyone in really got  grating.

By trying to fit all these stories in, the season never really seemed to get going, the flow was affected and the meat the story was never really gotten to. When you have too much material you spend too much time setting things up and not enough time exploring. This being said the most effective exploration of character this year was that of Tyrion Lannister his journey from a clever manipulator in season 1 into a great leader and hero in season two is the clearest and best written character arch of the season.

Ending off on a personal note I found it really hard to finish watching season two. Devouring season one is less that an week, I stopped watching season two mid way through full of confusion and irritation and couldn’t go back. Feeling lost and bored I wanted to give up, until both my brother and good friend encouraged me to keep going. I’m glad a I did and found the last couple of episodes particularly the penultimate great viewing. Keep that in mind when you feel like giving up but if you do, I don’t blame you, this adaptation is a lot to handle.