Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Requiem for a Dream

Not only had I not heard of this movie before it arrived this morning, I knew nothing about it before I put on this evening, other than that the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly was in it.

I think this story would have worked exceptionally well in the book that it was taken from. Books have the ability to go slow and be beautifully written, but for me I'm never convinced that it can translate well into film. A passage of prose discussing the difficulties of addiction, solitude and the failure of dreams can be so much more expressive than what can be shown visually. Which straightaway for me meant that this film was always going to be a poor substitute for the novel.

As it is the acting is exceptional, all four of the main characters so much depth and range - who knew that was possible for a Wayan?!? On top of that the cinematography was sublime and really took you into the feelings, hopes and despairs of the characters in a way that dialogue simply couldn't.

But having said that I still think the film really struggled to get to grips with the story that it wanted to tell. For me I will take two things from the film.

Firstly, a wonderful scene between the mother and her son, where she expresses her isolation, boredom and neglect by all around her - why do I bother to make my bed in the morning, wash the dishes, etc. no one is ever going to see them because no one ever comes to visit. I find it haunting because I think that is so easy to get to that stage. The exchange between mother and son is so simple and so well crafted, but I'm not sure it really gets the right message to me about addiction.

Secondly, I think the way that we deal with people suffering from addictions is abhorrent. In fact I think the way we in society deal with anyone with a mental health difficult is much the same. Which again wasn't really what the final scenes of the film were supposed to show; the slip and slide into addiction and the consequences of it were overshadowed by an extraordinary lack of civility shown by those in society who were dealing with those who were addicted.

It is a very interesting movie, but I'm not sure it really does what it needs to make it into the Top 100 movies of all time. I'm going to read the book at some point, and hope that it is as good as I expect.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

12 Angry Men

I'm not sure why more movie-makers don't go for the simple story-line. Today in order for a movie to get the green light it seems to need so much money thrown at it, special effects or 3D as mandatory, a ridiculously high paid actor to play the lead irrespective of whether or not they are any good, and the prospect of at least one sequel and maybe a prequel. Oh and if there is any money left over maybe we can get a script-writer who can do more than trot out the same old tired cliches.

In 12 Angry Men you have a movie made in the way all movie's should be.

The story is more important than anything else, and yet the premise is so incredibly simple. When we ask a group of our peers to make a decision on the guilt or innocence of one of us, it really would be a fascinating experience to sit and observe them making their deliberations. In 12 Angry Men that is exactly what we get, but with a slight twist there needs to be an unanimous decision.

For just over an hour and half you are gripped. Yes it probably is a little obvious (and maybe a little contrived) but for the duration you are pulled along with some outstanding acting performances. How do you get consensus in a room of 12 people when you have a whole range of different views with each person carrying different personal baggage? At what point do you follow the crowd and at what point do you stand up for what you believe in?

I've been in those situations before when having a debate with someone who just won't accept anything other than their opinion, irrespective of logic and reason. It is incredibly frustrating. Yet what do you do when you need consensus? How do you go about convincing that person? What if there is more than one that needs convincing?

Henry Fonda manages to cajole and coax the other 11 jurors around to his way of thinking, which truthfully is never in doubt from the moment the movie starts. What is beautiful is the way in which he does that. This movie is one to watch and one to watch again...

I am truly gutted that this is the first time I have ever seen this movie. Where has it been my whole life??? When I reached the end I was sorely tempted to watch it all over again, and it is without a doubt one of my top ten movies of all time.


I usually don't have a problem with historical dramas that have very little basis in history. In this list alone I enjoy Gladiator and Braveheart in equal measure, while the war movies don't make me too irked at the fabricated American supremacy. Yet Amadeus from start to finish is just loathsome.

Mozart to me was a musical genius, and not the vaudeville type character that was portrayed in this movie. I see absolutely no reason why he needed to be played in that way whatsoever. It was cheap and tawdry, and did absolutely no justice to either Mozart or indeed Salieri.

I think part of the problem for me was that for the cinematic release too much was edited out to make the story make sense. For instance why did Constanze dislike Salieri in the penultimate scene of the movie? Apparently in the Director's cut that is explained, yet to me it was just another example of quite a weak storyline.

I could forgive the historical inaccuracies if the story-line made sense, but the supposed enmity between Salieri and Mozart (which is the whole point of the film) is in no way shape or form apparent. Or perhaps the director/script-writer is trying to suggest that Salieri is as bad at that as he is at composing?! If you want to make Salieri the boogeyman then the least he could do is do something horrific to merit it.

I was about to say something positive about the acting, and suggest that Abraham was probably deserving of his Oscar, however after trying to think about what it was he did well I am left stumped.

Overrated, ridiculous story-line that makes no sense and fails historically, how did this make it into the Top 100????

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Seven Samurai

What has become my regular Wednesday night activity (I've done it at least twice) of watching two movies back to back was very nearly ruined this evening, by firstly, a dodgy disc (curse you Tesco/lovefilm!) and then secondly, by my inability to stay awake.

What probably did not help matters was that the film I was left with was in Japanese with subtitles, and that it wouldn't play on my laptop - cue small screen and me having to lie down to see the screen (Maybe it is time I invested in a TV and DVD player)

I've become fascinated by Japanese history since making the decision to teach it for Advanced Higher History. The ritualistic elements and rigid caste structure that plague Japan through to the mid-nineteenth century (and perhaps beyond) are a wonder to behold, and always make me question why they managed to survive with little transgression. The Seven Samurai is another fabulous rendition of those very issues.

From start to finish we see the respective roles of farmer and samurai, the expectations thats society has of each, and perhaps even the personality that was allowed for both. The villagers feared what the samurai could/would do to them, while at the same time also recognised the necessity of those very same people. Similarly while initially reluctant the samurai sense their own duty towards protecting those villagers, and I think the closing dialogue shows that more than anything.

The battle scenes are wonderful, the characterisation is phenomenal (although I really wish I didn't find Japanese names so difficult to remember!) and the story-line itself is simple but very effective.

My one slight criticism is how annoying I find the villagers. Their incessant wailing and moaning is a little too much for me. While they very much would have been subservient to those above them in the chain, I sincerely doubt they would have been quite so pathetic. These people after all faced numerous bandit attacks and were required to do whatever was asked of them by those above without complaint.

Overall though I was genuinely pleased with the film, I just wish I was slightly more awake!

I am also aware that I have not updated this blog in weeks, and now have about ten reviews to catch up on... aren't you all so lucky?!!?