Category Archives: Film

Wonderwall

Apple Years

 

Between 1968 and 1975, George Harrison released six albums on the Beatles’ record label, Apple. The first record Harrison released was called Wonderwall Music, it was the soundtrack to a film directed by Joe Massot called Wonderwall. Maybe I should watch this film then.

Wonderwall tells the story of obsession. A scientist is obsessed with his work. His life revolves around it and he doesn’t notice anything around him. Not his coworkers, not his apartment. He lives amongst the stacks of papers that line the walls of his apartment.

Suddenly, in a rage, Professor Collins knocks a frame off his wall, exposing a hole. Through this hole he spies in neighbour. His boring life is exposed, and Professor Collins gets a glimpse into the swinging sixties.

Collins begins obsessing over Penny Lane, the woman next door, and the life lived by her and her boyfriend. Collins wishes he could be there living that life. Instead he’s stuck inside his own life. Living alone.

Wonderwall is more of a sketch than a film. There’s an unfinished quality to the story. There’s very little dialogue, Lane never speaks1, and we drift off into these fantasies of Collins’ mind. The fantasies are more reflective of the hippy genre than it is of the character’s senses. While he wishes to be a part of swinging London, he’s not on acid, leaving the audience wondering where these drug-fueled visions are coming from.

While Jane Birkin gets top billing as Penny Lane, she never speaks. Her role is to look beautiful and for Collins to leer. The brief moments of semblance of a characters are glossed over. We learn a brief moment of her life, slightly more than Collins knows. There’s an interesting question there: should the audience see more than Collins sees or should the audience see everything? I’d opt for everything make her a full character, but Massot goes for neither. The director instead shows us a quick glimpse into a possible world of Lane’s; never making her a full character, but making her more than Collins’ obsession. It’s a strange middle ground to be in, a horrible middle ground.

WonderwallConsent is barely touched upon within the film. We see that Collins understands what he is doing is wrong, but continues to invade Lane’s privacy. Collins has a vision of his dead mother shaming him for his inappropriate actions, but never touches upon this again.

Making matters worse, Massot has Collins become the hero of the film. He saves Lane’s life seemingly justifying his actions.

This is where we truly see how poor of a filmmaker Massot is. None of the characters evolve or change, and the actions they take, the bad, horrible actions they take, never go unpunished, instead get rewarded. These actions are not rewarded for social commentary, but seemingly are rewarded due to lazy writing. Collins becomes a hero for breaking into Lane’s apartment, he ends up calling the police and cheating the woman out of the death she desires.

Collins doesn’t break into Lane’s apartment to save her. Instead he breaks in to be a creepy stalker. He just happens to come across her dying.

I don’t think the film will ruin my appreciation for the album Wonderwall Music. Well it’s not a well known album, it’s a great one. It’s nothing like any of George Harrison’s other works and shines because of it. Harrison experiments with Indian ragas and musical tropes he never had the ability to experiment with in The Beatles or as a pop musician.

Harrison’s work fitted the film quite wonderfully. While much of the film didn’t have any form of dialogue, Harrison’s soundtrack created a soundscape that helps transport the viewer away from the mundane as Collins’ wonderwall does for his boring life.

  1. I’ll get back to that shortly []

Her

Her. Wow. It’s hard to write a review about a film that is just so plainly good. Spike Jonze’s latest film is about a man unable to let go of his past. He’s living a lonely life, until one day a new operating system is released, and he finds companionship and love in his new artificial intelligence.

Her is an insanely beautiful love story between man and machine. It’s told extremely effectively, and Jonze proves once again that he is a master storyteller. Jonze hits screenwriter gold, where every piece of the film falls perfectly in place to advance the story. He excels at crafting this complex, but simple concept.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn performs

I was excited. I was going to the cinema for the first time in a while to see the new Spike Jonze film, Her.

It was sold out.

Instead we opted to see the new Joel & Ethan Coen film called Inside Llewyn Davis.

Bit of a break down.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer.

Davis is down on his luck.

Davis is broke.

Davis is couch surfing.

Davis’s performing parter is not around.

His debut solo record Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t selling.

The film is a rock and roll road trip film. Except replace the rock and roll with folk, and make the road trip a minor part of the film. How it follows with the rock and roll road trip tradition is that it’s a film about character more than plot. This can be great, but I feel that Davis wasn’t a strong enough character to fill the film. I left feeling underwhelmed1. His tale wasn’t that epic, and he didn’t change or grow as a person.

For a film about the 1960s folk scene, the music wasn’t that good.

The ridiculous song, “Please Mr. Kennedy” is the highlight of the soundtrack, and that’s mostly because of Adam Driver’s backing vocals. Justin Timberlake puts in a decent performance, but doesn’t wow, and Oscar Isaac is good. The best performance of the film is John Goodman, but the Coens must know this from past experience.

It was funny and charming, but left me with a feeling of disappointment. I know the Coens can do much better.

  1. If that’s a word []

Don Jon

There are only a few things I really care about in life
My body
My pad
My ride
My family
My church
My boys
My girls
and my porn.”

Joseph Gordon-Dreamboat has been building quite an acting career. With Don Jon, he makes his feature-length directorial debut. Not only that, Gordon-Levitt also wrote the screenplay. Warning alarms should be going off, but he’s proven himself to be an intelligent man.

When he was promoting (500) Days of Summer, Gordon-Levitt was well aware of something it seemed most of the audience wasn’t, that his character was chasing a dream, and thus treating the woman, Summer, with unrealistic expectations. Something which is so human and easy to do.

He takes that and explores it further in Don Jon where Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is chasing a dream only known to him through pornography, while Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) is chasing the dream only found in romantic films. Barbara would be that woman who, incorrectly, would find Gordon-Levitt’s character in (500) Days of Summer to be an ideal man.

I think the biggest failure of this film is Barbara; the woman is mirroring Jon’s perceptions of love and relationships, so dramatically, but the film very much never evaluates her thoughts, except to confirm that Jon has changed. This film could be more effective if it put the two characters on equal footing. Rather than Jon being a developed character and Barbara a caricature, they could have ran two parallel stories.

Jon finds a better sexual partner in Esther (Julianne Moore), who is looking for a good lay, but no relationship. I honestly think she picked extremely poorly. If you’re looking for a no strings attached relationship, you don’t go for the man you have to teach how to be a respectful and open sexual partner, but that’s part of the problem of the film.

The entire relationship between Esther and Jon is extremely forced. Esther has been disrespected time and time again by Jon until he is out of his relationship with Barbara and wants an easy lay. This wouldn’t be a problem if Esther’s character was able to be a character without any self-respect, but her role in teaching him to be a good human to his fellow sex-partners is contrary to her lack of self-respect.

The sexual relationship between Esther and Jon just happens, it feels forced and unnatural.

Family can stop reading now…

Then there’s the sex… much like his religion, it seems transactional.

The film is filled with church scenes, where Jon goes to confession, and for a transaction of Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer1, Jon is forgiven. For an orgasm, Jon must go to school, must become the ideal man for Barbara. Then there’s Jon’s opinions on sex, and why it’s inferior to masturbation.

  • Missionary only
  • He has no interest in giving oral, unless to get oral
  • He thinks women have no interest in giving oral, unless to move things along quickly
  • Condoms are horrible
  • No money shot

Okay, I’ll agree on one thing, condoms are horrible, but the rewards outweigh the losses. I did grow up in the 80s and 90s when people were dying from sex… use a condom, make no babies, get tested.

The rest… oh my god! What the hell are you doing wrong? It has to be you! I can’t even fathom what he’s doing wrong to find all these limitations on sex. Sex should be a time when people come together2 to have fun and experiment. Fears should never enter into it, and if one is open to trying new things, they’ll find it easy to do with someone they respect, even in a one-night stand.

I think Gordon-Levitt is trying to say this with Jon’s and Esther’s relationship and the redemption that comes with that, but jeezy creezy, it’s not done so well. We don’t see enough of Jon’s and Esther’s relationship to really see Jon’s transformation, instead it’s instant. As if listening to her for 30 seconds explain why she’s been crying the full film is enough?

Bah!

I expect better next time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

  1. Catholics, did I get that right? Signed, a Jew. []
  2. tee hee []

Born Standing Up and The Jerk

Steve-Martin-Book-Cover-webI decided to read Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up. The book focuses on Martin’s career as a stand up comedian. It’s a strange thing to think of when it comes to Steve Martin, as he stopped performing stand up comedy before I was born.

The book starts at his young days learning the craft while working at Disney Land in the magic shop, and slowing follows his career.

The book is more than just a plain telling of his story, one that I don’t think had been told before, but instead Martin is writing a how-to for stand up comedians. Martin began, not as a comedian, but an entertainer, and through much of his early career, that’s how he saw himself. As an entertainer, his comedy act was able to take on elements that really pioneered a new kind of comedy. He incorporated magic, banjos, fake arrows through his head, and even tours of the theatre’s vicinity with audience in tow.

Steve Martin talks about how to build up one’s material, and how to master it through performance. He worked hard, and long to get where he ended. Much like The Beatles who mastered their craft while playing hours on end in Hamburg, Martin would play hour long sets to three people with ten minutes of material. There he mastered his craft, eventually taping his shows so he could listen and evaluate and help his comedy evolve.

If you know anyone who says they’re a “comedian” and by that they mean they play a tiny club in Toronto and no one laughs, buy them this for their birthday.

The book inspired me to rewatch The Jerk. Apparently much of the film is based on Martin’s stand up act. It was my second time viewing the film, and it didn’t seem to hold the same appeal it had during the first viewing. I won’t say I was bored, the film kept my attention, but it wasn’t as funny as it was the first time, unlike The Three Amigos, which I could watch a hundred times (and probably have).

TIFF 2013; or how I learned to queue

Prisoners

Prisoners

You may have heard of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal who star in Prisoners, but you probably haven’t heard of Denis Villeneuve, unless you’re weird like me and enjoy uncomfortable but intelligent Quebec film.Villeneuve is probably most famous for his Oscar nominated Incendies or his docudrama about the École Polytechnique massacre appropriately called Polytechnique.

Prisoners is Villeneuve’s first English-language film, and the first example of…

If you want to make money, go English.

In this film, two families are celebrating Thanksgiving. Their two young daughters go missing… UH OH! You think that’s the events getting bad, you’re mistaken; things go from bad to worse. Gyllenhaal plays the cop searching for the girls; he provides the procedural part of the film. Jackman plays a dad who’s out for revenge; and that’s where the shit hits the fan.

I left the film on a high. The film was masterfully shot and executed, and it will have your heart racing.

The Grand Seduction

The Grand Seduction

Contender number two for the award of

If you want to make money, go English.

The Grand Seduction is a remake of a French Canadian film called, oddly, La grande séduction. The producers figured, “Hey! We’ve got something good here, it’s a pretty universal story, we can make money by letting anglos see it!” Except they thought that in French. The producers got Don McKellar to direct the film, and I couldn’t think of a better reason to see a film.

In The Grand Seduction, a small Newfoundland community has been impoverished for years living on welfare. Murray’s wife moves to town (St. John’s) to work. He feels less of a man and finds himself in the position of needing to bring work back to his community. He realizes that one of the many hurdles is that the harbour1 needs a doctor. Thus begins the grand seduction, making Dr. Lewis fall in love with this small community. Oh, and Gordon Pincent provides much comic relief.

How I Live Now

How I Live Now

Why are teenagers so dumb? That’s what I thought through most of the film. After a nuclear detonation in London, an American teenager is too stupid to get on a plane back to the U.S. because she loves the guy she met a week ago. Why are they outside?!?! Have they not heard of radiation?

Kevin MacDonald’s film is okay. It’s an interesting look at children in a post-apocalyptic world, but my god children are stupid. Also, you hear Kevin MacDonald’s name and you expect a comedy.

Le-Demantelement_reference

Le démantèlement

Jesus Christ, this film is depressing. The director described the film as stories of little ends of the world, you know, but in French. It’s the story of a man and his relationship with his daughters, and a story of a man and his relationship with his world, specifically his farm. Gaby is getting up there in age, his daughters are adults and living in Montreal, he’s living alone with his dog tending to his sheep farm.

The film is beautifully shot, quiet and paced like life on a farm. It’s still as the world collapses. 8 thumbs up!

The Double

The Double

The was expecting to crown Le démantèlement as my “best of,” but then The Double wooed me. Richard Ayoade’s second feature film as director, it was nice to see him return to the role. I, and most, know him mostly as Maurice Moss, the nerdy tech in BBC’s The IT Crowd.

Or maybe you know him as Saboo, a member of the board of shamen on The Mighty Boosh.

Or even as terrible actor Dean Learner in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

Or just him improving…

So what was I saying? Ayoade’s first film Submarine is a charming film in a similar style to Wes Anderson’s films. This new film is a complete departure as The Double is based on a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel of the same name. Stylistically, it feels like the little brother to Terry Gilliam’s brilliant film Brazil. The Double borrows heavily from Gilliam’s film, and creates a world that somewhat mirrors Gilliam’s. It works extremely well to take the film out of time, but at some points does hurt the film by its obvious “homage.”

The film is funny. It’s damn funny, and Jesse Eisenberg delivers his best performance while Wallace Shawn reprises his role from The Incredibles.

It’s damn good.

  1. It’s a harbour, not a town. []

The Valkyrie Directive

For those who have seen the new Star Trek films, you’re aware of how poorly women are portrayed. As far as I can recall, we have Uhura, and… and… and… oh, there’s the green girl who Kirk bones, and Carol Marcus who seems to only be in the film to show her in her underwear. I was going to put that shot in my blog post. I decided it against it, and instead will feature a shot of the original Carol Marcus, a scientist, and mother, an ex-love, a human…

Carol Marcus

Why I mention this is because The Valkyrie Directive is actually looking at women in Star Trek critically, and it’s an interesting read. The author is doing a multi-post evaluation of costumes in Star Trek; from the mini-skirts of the original series to Troi’s cosmic-cheerleader outfits to the practical and sensical outfits of Deep Space Nine to Seven of Nine’s and T’Pal’s catsuits in Voyager and Enterprise

What’s interesting is that while the casting of Terry Ferrell and Nana Visitor isn’t all that different from the casting of the female cast of TNG, the way these women dress is drastically different.

Jadzia Dax

All I’m really saying is if you love Star Trek, and care about equality and all that, check out this tumblr.

In Review July 2013

My goal is to read 5 books, see 20 films, buy 20 albums, go to 15 concerts and attend 3 plays in the second half of 2013.

I’m not doing great at my goal.

Books I’ve read (0/5):

Films I’ve seen (4/20):

  • Cars 2
  • Children of Men
  • Cherry 2000
  • Much Ado About Nothing

Albums I’ve bought (0/20):

Concerts I’ve attended (1/15):

  • Poor Pilgrim Island Show

Plays I’ve attended (0/3):

Cherry 2000

Roll in the soap

Sam Treadwell is having a lovely evening at home, chatting with his android when they decide to have a roll in the soap. If he had consulted his android’s owner’s manual, he would have known that moisture and electronics do not mix. Sadly his android short circuits and dies.

I never actually thought there would be a film about a man’s love for his Fleshlight, but here we are. This man is so distraught by the death of his sex toy that he goes on a mission to find a replacement to upload her personality into. He’s shown all sorts of choices, but none are Cherry 2000, a long discontinued model. He decides to go into the lawless badlands to search for a replacement Cherry 2000. He needs a guide and he finds… Melanie Griffiths.

Melanie Griffiths

Together they fight the bad guys who seem to have no motivation for trying to kill our heroes. Until at least Treadwell finds his robo-fuck, but then Treadwell realizes that he’d rather fuck Melanie Griffiths.

I somehow think this film was originally written as a porn film, but they took out the sex scenes and nudity. When we were discussing what to watch, we knew that it used to be shown on CityTV during late night programming, which made us all expect a lot more boobs, rather than none. If you choose to watch this film, beware, no breasts.

The dialogue was terrible, and the acting only made the film worse, but somehow, I still enjoyed this trainwreck of a film.

Children of Men

At the suggestion of a friend I watched Children of Men. In the near future, no one can procreate, the youngest human has died. He was 18 years old. After hearing the news, bombs go off. Government is closing its borders to foreign nationals, as terrorism becomes an every day reality. Theo Faron is asked to escort a foreigner to safety. It turns out the woman he is trying to save is pregnant and about to give birth.

vlcsnap-2013-07-12-01h12m06s82

The film was really good. While it was a negative dystopia, that were slivers of hope. Interesting scenarios, and a good examination of a government controlling its people.

vlcsnap-2013-07-12-01h21m15s211