Monday, January 31, 2011

Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.

“Pretty Little Liars” is the latest American teenage drama to captivate me and give me something to look forward to on a Tuesday morning. Based on Sara Shepard's unflinching teen novels of the same title, It revolves around four girls: former fatty-turned-it-girl Hannah Marin (Ashley Benson), a swimmer who’s harbouring her feelings for her friend Maya due to her strict conservative parents Emily Mitchell (Shay Mitchell), competitive Spencer Hastings who feels the need to compete with her catty elder sister for everything (Troian Bellisario), and Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale), who has spent a year abroad in Iceland and on getting back, is carrying on with the dishy Ezra Fitz, who is soon revealed to be her English teacher. From the intro alone, there’s more than enough spice and suspense to eclipse a whole season of The O.C., but to complicate matters, the thing that binds the girls together is their having used to be friends with the school’s ultimate Queen Bee, Alison diLaurentis, a charismatic, beautiful, but very, very cruel-minded girl who enjoys putting others down, playing games and treating people like puppets. Said Alison went missing a year ago, and her body has only just now been found. But Alison’s legacy still lives on when each of the four girls start receiving texts and e-mails taunting each of them with their secrets.

Essentially, “Pretty Little Liars” can be described as a sort of Heathers-meets-gossip girl-meets-Desperate Housewives. And, considering how I like all thereof those things, it’s no surprise that “Pretty Little Liars” proved a highly engaging and entertaining watch. The performances are accomplished, Bellisario is the only one who truly stands out for me but all the girls do their jobs capably, the plotline has enough twists to constantly keep you guessing, and the opening credits, god lord. It took me a good give minutes to fully realise how creepy the opening credits truly were, but they’re creepy in a genius way. In between trying to track down Alison’s killer and who the identity of the mystery “A” is, the girls have plenty of love problems, family woes and other troubles, so there’s tonnes to keep you entertaining. Oh, and the outfits are to die for, unsurprisingly. Yet despite each of the four leads looking gorgeous throughout, I still found
myself rooting for and caring about their characters, despite the mistakes they made, a mark of good/interesting characters. What I love about “Pretty Little Liars” is that as each episode goes on, more secrets are revealed, and we find that Alison is far from the pretty sweet little girl she would have everyone believe she is, and how the secret about her is darker and a lot more disturbing. So I highly recommend “Pretty Little Liars”, get on it!

And, as it's Monday, I want to show you two pieces of real mmmm. Ladies and gents, check out your Spider Man leading man and lady, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. I lovelovelove Emma's white dress isome girl. Aaaargh.ul, swaggerous, talented, awesome girl. Aaaargh.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three movies about teenagers and one about stammering.

Screening Log (24/01/2011 – 30/01/2011) My exams ended on Friday, so I’ve basically just had a big-ass movie binge since then (along with catching up with Pretty Little Liars, which is fan-bloody-tastic!)

PhotobucketLost and Delirious (Léa Pool, 2001)
Mischa Barton plays shy, unsure Mary “Mouse” Bedford, who feels alienated from her dad and stepmother, who at the start of the film drop her off in a girl’s boarding school. She’s placed in a room with Piper Perabo’s charismatic wildchild and her popular best friend Tory (Jessica Toree). She soon realises that Tory and Paulie are more than just friends, and whilst Mary gets used to the idea and Paulie loves it, Tory has trouble admitting to herself that she could be in love with another girl. Lost and Delirious is beautifully shot and scored, and although there are moments which descend into laughable histrionics, it still remains a hugely affecting and poignant look at young love and loss. Mischa Barton in particular impressed me me; whereas I’d always found her annoying in The OC, here, her subtle performance is more on the level of her great work in Lawn Dogs, the epitome of youthful charm and sweet innocence.

Mean Girls 2 (Melanie Mayron, 2011)
Er. Jo (Meaghan Martin) joins a new school, where, through a sequence of events, she is offered money to be friends with the school loser, Abby. Jo’s college fund is non-existent, so, whilst being morally opposed to the offer, accepts it as she’s financially compromised. Her befriending Abby does not sit well with the school’s mean girls, also known as The Plastics, who rule the school with an iron fist, inadvertently starting a war with them. What ensues is a range of bitchy schemes which seriously cross the line and are just downright unfunny. The whole film is just a cringe from start to finish, Martin has no charisma to carry the film and Desperate Housewives’ Maiara Walsh lacks the Machiavellian-yet-engaging quality that Rachel McAdams’ Regina George . What made the original so funny were all the pithy one liners and great banter from Tina Fey’s A-grade script. This film failed to raise a single chuckle from me, and the one good performance came from Jennifer Stone as the loveable loser Abby. The rest was just a total fail.

The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)
Colin Firth stars as Albert, the Duke of York. Being royalty, he is expected to give the odd public speech or two. Unfortunately, he has a big case of the stammer. Through meetings with Geoffrey Rush’s maverick speech therapist Lionel Logue, he slowly begins to gain confidence and gains ascension to the thrown, and goes on to be recreated as King George, who delivered many of England’s speeches during the war.

I was a little underwhelmed by The King’s Speech, truth be told. I’d heard so much about it, and the trailer looked excellent, but the film left me somewhat cold. Whilst I thought Firth and Rush were uniformly excellent and loved their rapport with each other, and the score by Alexandre Desplat was a masterwork in film music, the rest didn’t really do anything for me. Helena Bonham Carter was completely blah and the it all looked and felt like a bit of a TV-movie, albeit a strong one.

Mean Creek (Jacob Aaron Estes, 2004)
Wonderful taut, gripping drama wherein Rory Culkin (following Mischa Barton pleasantly surprisingly me in Lost and Delirious, the formly dubbed “annoying Culkin kid” does so too) stars as Sam, a boy who is getting bullied by George, an overweight and troubled boy with learning difficulties at his school. His brother Rocky and his loose cannon friend Marti decide to invite George on a boat trip and teach him a little lesson. Unsurprisingly, the whole claustrophobic set-up is just set for a fall. The acting from the young cast are very good in Mean Creek, and I’m extremely impressed with how the film doesn’t point any fingers, instead just telling the story. In the end, it’s all fairly sad and bleak, but the journey is well worth it; Ryan Kelley is the stand-out as the sensitive Clyde.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Oscar Nominations 2011: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Full list here

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Good
- Hailee Steinfeld's nomination! It's her first film role and a child performance as good as Saoirse Ronan in Atonement and Ivana Baquero in Pan's Labyrinth, two other performances I adore. The whole "pushing her into support" was a severe case of category frauds, but it's not the first and won't be the last time a kid has been pushed into supporting to boost their chances (see also: Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon) and let's be honest, everyone does it (see also: Jake G in BBM, Jamie Foxx in Collateral), and she's not hurting anyone (apart from maybe Mila Kunis. Whom I also love, but in a more lesbian way), and if I get over my massive girlcrush on Mila I'll happily admit that Steinfeld's performance eclipsed Kunis', so in that sense, good is good!

- Christopher Nolan not getting a Best Director nomination for Inception. Oh, how I laughed. :DDDDD Cannot stand that film. Second least favourite of 2010. If I had my way, it would be leading the charge at the  Razzies

- Screenplay & Song love for my favourite film of 2010, Toy Story III.
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- Melissa Leo, Amy Adams and Christian Bale getting duly nominated for their excellent performances in The Fighter (though they were sure-locks). The latter two will be favourites to go on and win, and deservedly so.

Bad
- 127 Hour's score getting nominated. I mean, really? It was just bloody sounds.

- The Social Network for Sound Mixing. Are you joking me?!

- Jeremy Renner getting nominated for The Town. I'd heard so much hype for his performance, but really, he just came off as surly. I cannot believe he got in ahead of Garfield. Speaking of which...


Ugly
- The Academy treating Andrew Garfield not dissimilar to how Mark Zuckerberg treated Eduardo Saverin. This was my reaction to his snub:
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I am NOT a happy bunny!

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Oscar Nomination Predictions.

I’m in the middle of exams, so I’m just predicting the main categories. And score, 'cos I love me my film music :-)

Best Film
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Alt: Winter’s Bone

I'm still not used to this 10-instead-of-5 nominations malarky. It really, really devalues the Oscars, if you ask me. And Inception? PAH.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Chris Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Alt: Danny Boyle, 127 Hours

Pretty standard, I’d say. I’ve seen all but The King’s Speech, and of them, Fincher is my favourite and the likely eventual winner. I’ll keep my (less than impressed) opinions about Inception to myself, no?

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert DuVall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Alt: Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine


I’ve only seen Bridges’ and Eisenberg’s performances, both of which are solid turns. I really enjoyed Marky Mark in The Fighter, but he doesn’t seem to have gathered as much pre-cursor buzz, so I’m not predicting him, despite him being one of my favourites.

Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Alt: Julianne Moore, The Kids are All Right

I don’t know what’s going with Hailee Steinfeld in terms of category placement; she’s quite clearly lead, but I think the FYCs have pushed her as supporting. Now sometimes, the Academy make up their own minds (like Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider), but if they accept her as lead, I don’t think she’ll get nominated, which is a shame so I’ll take her getting nominated in supporting because even though it’s category fraud, a nomination’s better than none at all, non? And I love Julie Moore, so despite the fact that I haven't seen The Kids are All Right yet, I want her to get another nomination <3

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield , The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Alt: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

I’m not gonna lie, I really don’t see the big deal with Jeremy Renner’s performance; he was just all psycho-y. Rebecca Hall was the best performance in that film. I don’t see the Oscars “doing a BAFTA” and nominating Pete Postlewaite for the same film, so this is the safe five. I will CUT A BITCH if Andrew Garfield doesn’t get nominated, he was wonderful. Oh, Andy.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Alt: Mila Kunis, Black Swan

Awww, I really, really, really wish Mila Kunis were getting nominated, but the pre-cursors just don’t seem enough for her, plus I don’t know if her free-spirited ballerina is “baity” enough for the Oscars. Anyway, I’d love for her to get nominated. However, were Kunis to get nominated, it seems that Hailee Steinfeld would be the opportunity cost, and I loved Steinfeidl in True Grit, her getting nominated would be a score one for the young action heroines that Ivana Baquero in Pan's Labyrinth missed out on. Plus Steinfeld was so natural and wonderful. So I'm so conflicted! Having seen The Fighter last night, I am fully in support of Adams’ and Leo’s nominations; I can’t decide whom I like more, but if Melissa Leo does win the Oscar, good for her!

Original Screenplay
Blue Valentine
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech
Alt: Black Swan

Right, so, why am I going for a Black Swan snub in favour of Blue Valentine? I dunno, I just think they might do it to “compensate” for Ryan Gosling not getting nominated. Plus I’ve heard reviews about how ~~true to life~~ the script is, so perhaps it will resonate with the Academy voters who are stuck in loveless marriages. Again, I’m shaking my head at Inception’s joke of a script getting nominated, but whatever.

Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story III
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Oh dear god, I sincerely hope 127 Hours’ script doesn’t get nominated (hai. I’m on a rock. Hai, I’m chopping off my arm. Hai, film’s ended.), but I can see Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (the twosome responsible for Slumdog Millionaire’s script – now that was a nice screenplay) getting nominated. The others, I’m cool with. I’d love if Toy Story III (my favourite film of 2010 at this moment in time) won over The Social Network, but that ain’t happening, and The Social Network is my second fave film of 2010 and I loved the banter, so I can deal. The lines coming out of this guy's mouth were hilar:


Score
Alexandre Desplat, The King’s Speech
Randy Newman, Toy Story III
John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Hans Zimmer, Inception

Whilst I deeply enjoyed The Social Network, one thing I cannot for the life of me fathom is all the hoo-ha over its score. That’s the only Oscar that I have a problem with it getting. I really liked Desplat’s score to the seventh Harry Potter film, but obviously The King’s Speech is the score he’ll be getting nominated for. And despite holding Inception in the absolute lowest regard, the music in it was pretty decent.

Other?
My main Oscar wish is that “Never Say Never” from The Karate Kid gets nominated for Best Song. It’s actually written by Justin Bieber, and I don’t know if I can be dealing with him as an Oscar nominee, but the song sums up the film so well, plus there’s a swaggerous breakdown rap in the middle. I rate it.


Oh, and should Andrew Garfield not get nominated? This is gonna be my reaction:

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Paradine Case (Alfred Hitchcock, 1947)

Photobucket“You’ve seen Mrs Paradine. What does she look like?” asks Gregory Peck’s on-screen wife Gay Keane (played by Ann Todd). To which Peck’s Tony Keane, the defence lawyer trying to prove the innocence of said Mrs Paradine, a woman on trial for poisoning her elderly blind husband to death, answers “Strangely attractive.” He’s being honest, and, at that time, he thinks it’s an innocuous comment. But knowing films, and knowing life, things don’t quite work like that. The Paradine Case, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser known films, is essentially a courtroom drama that centres on the did she/didn’t she of the enigmatic Maddalena Anna Paradine, and whether she is, as she claims, innocent, or if she’s harbouring a darker secret.

PhotobucketBefore long, Peck’s lawyer, a man who wants to see the good in everybody, is smitten with his subject, a fact that his wife is quick to notice. “She’s too fine a woman” he argues as her chief main argument for being innocent, and whilst it is clear that she is hiding something, he’s determined to prove her innocence. His falling for the exotic and mysterious Mrs Paradine would be understandable, if it wasn’t for the fact that he has a beautiful wife of his own at home, played to perfection by Ann Todd, who, when the quintessential Hitchcock blondes are listed, really does deserve to be on there. She knows she’s losing her husband to Mrs. Paradine, but she still encourages him to be her defence lawyer because she knows in her heart that he is the best man for the job; “Just because a man fancies another woman, you don’t treat him like a criminal”. It’s a beautifully nuanced, balanced performance by Todd, which wonderfully illustrates how her initial fear turns to despair and then bitterness, and acts as a sort of antidote to Celia Johnson’s similarly frustrated housewife in different scenarios in Brief Encounter. Some critics have slated the character and the performance as whiny, but I read it differently; what we have is a doting wife feeling her beloved slipping through her fingers. Who wouldn’t feel bad about that?

The script is my favourite thing about The Paradine Case, and it features some lines that are wise beyond its years, from Mrs Keane’s very own none-too-convincing assertion that “I wouldn’t like a woman to be hanged – any woman – just because my husband had a rendezvous with her” to some astute observations on men being men, “Men who’ve been good too longing for the mud and want to wallow in it” as well as “the best men always end up with the worst women’ . Then there are a few Hitchcockian flourishes in style that he would later employ in his more prominent films, that really give the film its character; the most memorable being Andre Latour's slow, tense entrance to the courtroom, which was done with rear-screen

Ethel Barrymore, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance, gives fine supporting work and Charles Laughton is never not a delight to watch, but my favourite performance of the whole film belongs to Joan Tetzel, who plays the outsider looking in, but can see right through Tony Keane. Her character has a wide range of caustic phrases and feels like a Patricia Hitchcock in Strangers on a Train-lite, and is a joy throughout. There is a high element of suspense and mystery through the film as, Mrs Paradine refuses to play all the cards that are in her deck, and even more baffling, seems determined to protect her late husband’s valet, the only other believable suspect in the case. The film’s main shortcoming, unfortunately, is the stark lack of chemistry between Peck and Valli . Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious this certainly ain’t.

The did they/didn’t they theme is one that is present in a fair few Hitchcock films (Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, etc), but the courtroom – and familiar spin in The Paradine Case gives it an extra edge. Whilst it is perhaps not quite polished or enthralling enough to sit up there amongst Hitchcock’s finest, it is still a very good film in its own right. Well worth checking out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It’s Only Real when you’re not around (Screening log 10/01/11-16/10/11)

I watched three films this week, all 2010 releases, two set in Boston, one set in between a rock.

127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)
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You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve heard the hype, you know what it’s about. And, not that I take IMDb ratings as a messiah, but, it received a pretty high rating on IMDb, and truth be told, I expected more. Instead, I found 127 Hours to be fairly boring at points; quite clearly what we have here is about 60 minutes of material dragged out into a cinema release with the help of some fancy effects on the computer. But on the bright side, James Franco is excellent; he almost makes the film worth watching and although his character seems fairly everyday and I found it hard to care about his “flashbacks” to mistakes he’d made, his survival strategies when stuck made for compelling watching. Needless to say, I was more than a little grossed out by THAT infamous arm amputation scene, but I thought Franco’s dedication to the role and all-round performance was brill. He, and he alone, ensures that this film was not a total bust. Must try harder Danny Boyle; Slumdog Millionaire and Sunshine this most certainly ain’t.

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
Two years ago, two of the five (remember when the Oscars only nominated five films for Best Picture? Those were the days) Oscar nominated films for Best Picture were Slumdog Millionaire, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by Danny Boyle, and David Fincher, respectively. In the case of those two films, I loved the former, didn’t mind the latter. Now the tables are turned, though not totally; I think 127 Hours is “alright”, and The Social Network is “very good”, though the intensity of my feelings toward it aren’t anywhere near as strong as they are towards Slumdog (do you remember when I first saw it, how hard I bummed it on my blog , in a manner that I save for bumming films I only truly really adore a film, as I did with Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds). Random bout of nostalgia is random, I know, but my point is, I find it quite sad that as of yet, no film in 2010 has really blown me away. I really like Toy Story 3, but I like it less than I liked Up, Inglourious Basterds and Fish Tank, my top 3 from 2009, and less than I like Slumdog Millionaire and WALL-E, my top 2 from 2008, and less than The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Atonement from 2007. Every year there’s one or two films that really blow me away. I need a film from 2010 to make me go “woah”, and to quote that whiny do-gooder Bono, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for."
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I enjoyed The Social Network a fair bit. I didn’t think the story of how the smug anti-social nerd who invented Facebook would be of interest to me, but I got extremely engrossed in it and, lamentably, recognised myself in him. Obviously I’m never going to be a billionaire, of course not, but what I recognised in him was how he came home from a bust date and went straight on livejournal to whine about it. Now that, is familiar behaviour, haha. I think Jesse Eisenberg did a very good job in the lead role, making his hard-to-like character at least compelling to watch, and his on-screen chemistry with wingman Andrew Garfield was nicely done. I LOVED Andrew Garfield in it (surprise, surprise), his “you’d better lawyer up, asshole” speech was mega, and his character gives the film sound grounding. Justin Timberlake was an embarrassment, I can only imagine Fincher bunged him in the film to get teenage girls to watch (a similar strategy that is employed by Ben Affleck with Blake Lively in The Town, more on that debacle later) and there were various other supporting actors who didn’t cut it for me. But overall, I found the story of the origins of Facebook just about justified a two-hour screentime, with some moments of comic relief coming from these two twins and Max Minghella’s character. Also, I’m not purposely being a philistine here, but I did detect tones of Citizen Kane throughout, especially in the ending, when Zuckerberg, having made his dynasty and lost some money in the settlement (but what’s a few million for the creator of Facebook?) just sits there and refreshes the page constantly after adding his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. The message could not be more clear; he wanted to be a billionaire, so frigging bad. But it couldn’t buy one thing, no matter how he tried. That, right there, is Mark Zuckerberg’s very own Rosebud moment.

The Town (Ben Affleck, 2010)
PhotobucketFrom the trailers, I was all over this film, and was deeply disappointed when I couldn’t go see it with my housemates, time constraints non-permitting. However, I managed to watch it on a sleepless night this week, and I’m… still in two minds about the film. On one hand, you’ve got a perfectly interesting heist movie with a glittering A-list cast and some tense, gripping scenes (Jem surprising Doug when Doug is on a date with Claire, the woman they took hostage when carrying out the first bank robbery). On the other, it just… didn’t really do it for me. One of my main problems with The Town was Blake Lively’s acting (or lack thereof); obviously as a non-Bostonian I can’t rip her too hard for the accent, but from the likes of Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, I have a vague idea about how it’s supposed to sound, and I think she got that, and turned it up to 20. Her acting was also just terribly over the top and all-round cringe inducing; I totally get that her character is clutching at the straws and realising that the one thing she has – her beauty – isn’t enough in this day and age, and that’s a terribly sad revelation, but instead of making Christa a tragic icon, she was just, well hilarious, with her half-drunk stagger and mumble mouth. Ben Affleck was tolerable, John Hamm has the blandest of characters but does well with him, and I’m undecided about whether Jeremy Renner’s surly, borderline psychopathic turn as Jem was genius or ridiculous. Pete Postlethwaite, in his second-to-last performance, is fairly terrifying. But the one standout performance from the film comes from Rebecca Hall, and oh how she lights every scene she’s in. It’s her and her alone that makes The Town worth watching; Claire is just about the only character I didn’t find totally deplorable (apart from the police) and we, like Affleck, find ourselves falling in love with her. And, whilst the whole “bad-guy-gone-good due to his love for a beautiful woman” isn’t exactly new, I did like the romantic strand of The Town, and I found myself half-rooting for the Affleck/Hall romance, half wanting Rebecca Hall to get with John Hamm for some reason. Lol. Oh, and the score irked me, scored by David Buckley and Harry Gregson-Williams, it was clearly a case of “too many cooks … decided to plagiarize Thomas Newman”, because I heard shades of the Cinderella Man and Shawshank Redemption scores throughout. Furthermore, the ending, that was all a bit Shawshank-y, but, unlike Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, I didn’t find myself ever wanting Ben Affleck to have a happy ending. Plus, I don't take too well to having my favourite film plagiarized, funny that. Thus, I have very mixed feelings towards this film. If there were any justice in the world, Rebecca Hall ought to be garnishing awards buzz for her turn. The rest of the movie? I can live without it, truth be told.

As for TV, this week I've been watching Come Fly with Me and Not Going Out, both which make me chuckle. The banter is strong in the latter! Oh, and Hollyoaks! The lulz.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Language. Sex. Violence. Other?

I don’t think I need to tell you about my weird little obsessive compulsive obsession with film ratings and what film gets classified what. For example, I found it dead interesting that Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood originally got a 12A in the UK, then the distributors themselves actually asked for the rating of the film to be lifted to a 15 (for that scene where Daniel Day-Lewis attacks Paul Dano). I really loved that they did this; I watched the film when it was a 15, and although I doubt many under-12s would fancy watching a film like that with their parents, the memory of watching films like King Kong and The Dark Knight with a bunch of boisterous chavs in the audience, almost ruining said films for me, is almost too much. So I respect that the distributors of There Will Be Blood went against the grain in appealing film ratings (usually, as in the case of films like Chicago and The Da Vinci Code, the distributors ask for the film to be down-rated (usually from an 15 to a 12), to broaden the audience and hence revenue.) It’s very refreshing to see in one case, that the distributors cared more about getting the right people to watch their film, not caring a jot about how much/little their film made.

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I’m writing this entry mainly about two 2010 films, both produced by the Weinstein Corporation, both tipped for Oscar nominations. The first, The King’s Speech, is one of the front-runners. Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, it tells the story of King George VI of the House of Windsor and how, through the guidance of his maverick speech therapist, he manages to overcome his stammer. I’m yet to see the film, but I just know I’ll adore it; I welled up at the trailers alone and it just seems to be the kind of inspirational, funny British movie that sits very well with the House of Bung. This film drew particular attention for its MPAA and BBFC ratings, both of which were appealed by the Weinsteins; in the former case they were unsuccessful and the film stayed an R, in the latter they succeeded and the film went down from a 15 to a 12. This film was a curious case, because the reason it originally got the 15-rating was due to, ironically enough, 15 uses of the f-word. Now, BBFC are usually quite rigid in their treatment of the f-word; say it once or twice in a film that’s already in 12A territory, fine (for example, The Tourist, The Social Network), say it thrice or more when the film is already cutting the fine line between a 12A and a 15, and it could well be the f-bomb that broke the camel’s back (many feel that Slumdog Millionaire, though vaguely disturbing at points, was chiefly rated a 15 due to the four or five uses of the f-word, in Hindi and in English.) Thus, by just looking at statistics, by all intents and purposes, The King’s Speech ought to be rated 15, fair and square. However, the case for appeal in this situation is that all 15 uses of the f-word came in one word, and, as indicated by the film warning that the BBFC have on the film poster, the word is not used aggressively (Made in Dagenham, which probably contains around 15 uses of the f-word, merits its 15 because many of those usages were angrily said), not directed sexually, but rather, in the context of speech therapy. It’s certainly a bit different. By keeping it a 15, they would have deprived quite a substantial audience from watching the film, and, unlike There Will Be Blood, The King’s Speech strikes me as the sort of film that a wide range of ages would want to watch. Bearing in the mind that the rest of the film is apparently harmless, I think the BBFC got this one right. A 12A seems its correct rating, and the MPAA should follow suit and down-rate it to a PG-13.

The other film is as contentious over the rating, but this time it is not about a few curse words. Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, charts the dysfunctional and ultimately shattering relationship between their characters Dean and Cindy. It's all very "love will tear us apart, again", and the film intercuts the decline of their marriage with earlier scenes of bliss together, and, unsurprisingly, sex is an integral part of the film. It is sex that is the cause for contention here; the film originally got an NC-17, which baffled director Derek Cianfrance, Ryan Gosling and the Weinsteins themselves. Apparently it is one emotionally charged oral sex scene (man-on-woman) that got the NC-17 rating, and Ryan Gosling was quoted to have questioned the decision, comparing Blue Valentine’s NC-17 to Black Swan’s R-rating, when both films had licky-licky. This situation of a film getting bumped up from an R to an NC-17 due to a scene of male-on-female head has happened before, in 2003, with The Cooler. It interests me greatly that in both these films, they both got a 15 rating, not even the highest rating in the UK, no questions asked, though comments were made in the BBFC profile of Blue Valentine that the sex scenes pushed the upper boundaries of a 15. Blue Valentine was finally given the R-rating that distributors wanted, and rightly so, I say; a little oral sex never hurt anyone.

The BBFC rating films which were originally given the NC-17 in the US like the aforementioned Blue Valentine, The Cooler and Monster’s Ball a mere 15 raises an interesting point; we’re Brits, we’re supposed to be prudes and slap a ban on sex and sex on film. Yet it’s interesting, because quite evidently, sex scenes (provided they’re between consenting legals) are not that big a deal over here. A smattering of films crossed the line between PG-13 and R in the US due to their supposed sexual content, such as last year’s Never Let Me Go (Andrew Garfield, unf), and from earlier years, Marie Antoinette, Match Point, Three Times and 2046. Yet each and every one of these films got a mere 12A in the UK, meaning that as long as the kids were with their parents or an older brother/sister, a five-year-old could watch Scarlett Johansson do kinky stuff to Johnathan Rhys-Meyers, or watch Tony Leung embark on his voyage of sexual discovery, etc. Here is where my opinion differs with that of the BBFC; I think that each and every one of those films (bar perhaps Marie-Antoinette, which could do with being a 12A I guess), really pushed the 12A boundaries, and the BBFC would have done better to err on the side of caution and bung them a 15-rating. With the BBFC, violence and horror is generally more of an issue in films; films like The Sixth Sense and Season of the Witch got passed a 15 for their scenes of horror. Said films only got a PG-13 in the US. The bigger issue here is with violence, rather than sex.

One thing that I am in agreement with the BBFC with though, is whilst they have a fairly lenient treatment of sex, they are nonetheless not afraid to make overly-crude films a 15. From this and last year alone, Dinner for Schmucks, Date Night and Couple’s Retreat, three films evidently made for the PG-13 audience (and indeed, that is the rating they got in America), got a 15 rather than a 12A over here. Although I am yet to see the latter, I’ve seen both Steve Carrell outings, Dinner for Schmucks and Date Night, and think that a 15 is the right call. In the former, there is just far too much discussion of the clitoris and in the latter, jokes about nipple clamps and orgies are scattered about smuttily. I think parents ought to be very grateful that the BBFC has sacrificed those film’s commercial appeal in favour of avoiding a conversation with their eight year old kid that goes something like “mummy, what’s anal sex?” (James Franco and Mila Kunis’ characters have an argument about the matter in Date Night, latter wants it, the formers doesn’t. LOLZ).

All in all though, I really love reading the BBFC warnings for each individual film that is released in the UK. It interests me a lot that The Lovely Bones’ trailer had a higher rating (15) than the film itself (12A). This makes me chuckle because I would say that was indicative of the quality, too. It also interests me to know that both The Da Vinci Code and it’s pre/sequel Angels and Demons had to have certain scenes bunged out to achieve the 12A rating that it wanted. Also, reading the BBFC descriptions give me a fair warning to have my wits about with certain films, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, by checking out the bbfc website and reading their write-ups, it also gives me an idea of what films I never want to see, and The Serbian Film, which sounds absolutely revolting, is one that I wouldn't watch with a ten-foot-bargepole. On the whole, I do think that the BBFC does a good job, although their consistency has to be questioned now and then. Whilst I’m not particularly fussed by their decision to rate The Dark Knight a 12A (it was very dark, but it got a PG-13 and so big is the Batman franchise, that I sort of knew they would; they got massive backlash for it but I imagine that had they rated it a 15, the backlash would have been even greater due to the quantity of kids who wanted to but couldn't view the film), but their stance on the c-word confuses me somewhat. It used to be that just one or two aggressive uses of it could automatically make a film an 18 instead of a 15. Yet, Chloe Moretz, playing an 11-year-old, says it in Kick-Ass, AND there’s already a tonne of graphic violence in that film, yet it only got a 15. The BBFC definitely “Dark Knight”-ed things there; ie forewent perhaps the true deserved rating of the film in favour of pleasing the masses. But then, I’m having Double Standards now, because if the c-word were to automatically make a film an 18, then Atonement should be one, and I think that film is very definitely a 15.

So at the end of the day, whilst there is an element of science to classifying films in the UK, personal judgement comes into it too. Sitting there with a tickbox of the amount of times certain words, lewd acts occur, etc, are important, but equally important is just using your head, and thinking “would I want my kid to see this?” My little brother picks up far worse language than is displayed in The King’s Speech at a Spurs game, so I would have no qualms taking him to see that with me. Answering nosy questions about where the clitoris (as Steve Carrell does in Dinner for Schmucks) is though? Probably not. And also, it is worth bearing in mind that different things trigger “danger” for different people. One homophobic idiot sent the BBFC a letter of complaint about Mamma Mia! being rated a PG because it showed two men kissing. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is dumb.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sexiest film Characters of 2010.

Not gonna lie, I am a bit of a horny bung. I love doing these lists, because it is essentially just an excuse for me to trawl through the web for yummy pics of yummy people.


Men
01. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
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I remember, back in 2009, when me and my two best friends Luke and Anna were in the Little Theatre, Bath, watching The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. It was a horrifically shoddy movie and we were not impressed. However, there was one bright spot to the entire film, and that came in the form of Jewish cutie pie Andrew Garfield, or, as I thought of him, “him off Sugar Rush.” 

It was such a delight to see him cast as the awkward, clumsy comedy part, as that is a role that I feel suits him to a T. Little did I know that in 2010, he’d be turning heads in a huge fashion in sci-fi drama Never Let Me Go alongside Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, as well as the probable Oscar winner for Best Pic, The Social Network, a film I’d just watched yesterday. And not only does he give a wonderful performance, but he is just so, irresistibly cute, dorky and fine! I would quite happily be his groupie.


02. Rupert Grint, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
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Oh, Rupert! Whilst the seventh Harry Potter film didn’t fill me with as much childish glee and thrill as, say, Prisoner of Azkaban or Order of the Phoenix did, Rupert Grint, was, as ever, a joy to watch throughout. And, when he takes his shirt off? Goddamn. Little boy’s all grown up!

03. Zac Efron, Charlie St. Cloud
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Watched this on New Year’s Eve with my mates and, I was the topic of some jesting because my cheeks were literally going red whenever Mr. Efron was on screen. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Zac Efron, but one thing remains sure – I do think he’s fit.

04. Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy & Cillian Murphy, Inception
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Now, as you may or may not know, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of Inception. Ha, that’s somewhat of an understatement; it currently stands as my second least favourite film of 2010, just behind Enter the Void. But, I can’t deny no way my d-d-dirty mind was perving on the fit guys instead of watching the pretentious film itself. I was loving the homoerotic undertones between Gordon-Levitt and Hardy, Cillian Murphy is never not beautiful, and Leo, even though he had more than a touch of the Shutter Island crazy that he sported in the other film of 2010, works a suit very well indeed.

05. Taylor Lautner, Twilight: Eclipse
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I hate me too, don’t worry. But that body! UNF.

And, a few Non-film entries…

Peter Crouch, footballer (Spurs)
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Standard, innit. Crouchie didn’t exactly set goal-scoring records alight in 2010, but one of his few goals that he did score – the winner in the fourth place showdown between Manchester City and Tottenham, was enough to bung Spurs into the Champions League. I still maintain that he should have started in all the games for England in the World Cup too, then we may have actually got somewhere. But oh well. Tall giant is tall. And awesome.

Robert Sheehan, The Misfits
The Misfits was one of my main discoveries of 2010, and I now adore the show. It’s essentially Heroes-meets-Skins, but unlike Heroes, there’s a small number of characters so that we can actually follow the plot and we’re not swamped with pseudo-Science, and unlike Skins, the characters aren’t posers who think they have swagger when they’re just slutty. Anyway, Robert Sheehan’s Irish accent, corkscrew curls and cheeky chappy demeanour made him completely irresistible, especially when he’s slashing it up with Iwan Rheon.

Frank Lampard, footballer (Chelsea)
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Huh. As if he wasn’t gonna get a mention!

Gurls
01. Mila Kunis, Black Swan
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02. Eva Mendes, The Other Guys
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03. Emma Stone, Easy A
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04. Kaya Scodelario, Shank
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05. Tamsin Egerton, 4.3.2.1
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Monday, January 10, 2011

BAFTA Rising Star Nominees!

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Gemma Arterton
Andrew Garfield
Tom Hardy
Aaron Johnson
Emma Stone

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Haha, I remember whining two years ago of Gemma not being nominated. Well, now's her time! But although I love her, I don't think she should win this year; I just don't think she's a rising star so much as a star who's already risen. (two years ago, easily. She was in a handful of movies and starred in BBC's Tess of the D'urbevilles, which to this day is my fave performance of her's). Emma Stone carried Easy A and Tom Hardy almost made the trash that was Inception worth watching with his cheekiness. But the guy who deserves it this year is the STUNNING Andrew Garfield, or as I still think of him, "him off Sugar Rush". Get it!

The Social Vexwork.

I'm currently watching David Fincher's The Social Network, and I must say, I love how the protagonist goes on livejournal to whine about his fail of a love life. Because that doesn't sound familiar at all. ;)