Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) lives in NYC, has a nice apartment, and a well paying job. He seems to have friends and goes out. He also has sex a lot. He's an addict, and his routine is thrown into a disarray when his talented, yet messed up younger sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), needs a place to stay and moves in with him.
Shame is a complicated story that is told in a quiet way with sometimes just a look or a hand movement. Steve McQueen directs with a keen eye to character and development. The build up is slow and requires our full attention. We are watching deeply flawed characters who lash out, act out, judge one another, hurt themselves, are charming, and full of pain. The way they behave is frightening. They hit what we would think is rock bottom, but is it? Rock bottoms are all personal experiences. So the ending is left open because these characters feel very real and real people don't always have an ending that is tied up neatly with a bow.
There is one scene that was absolutely beautifully shot. It's a scene in a fancy lounge bar where Sissy sings a song. The camera stays close to her face and we watch her transform before us. In that one song, we see all her hopes and dreams and failures. We see her brother's too.
Shame is a film for mature audiences. It has graphic scenes, but the most uncomfortable moments are those scenes where we don't know what will happen. The quiet ones. The ones where we sense a rage or addiction is boiling over. The fear of what will happen if or when it does.
This film is for moviegoers who want to be challenged, and who aren't uncomfortable with being a fly on the wall. It is a voyeuristic journey into the deepest and sometimes darkest recesses of the human psyche.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Hugo is a film adapted from the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and it's Martin Scorsese's first foray into family friendly entertainment. And he's done a good job. Hugo is about an orphan boy, named Hugo, who lives inside the walls of the Train Station in 1930's Paris. He steals mechanical parts so he can fix the automaton his father was working on before he died, and it's not easy to find parts, live in the walls, keep the clocks running, and stay out of the way of the Station Inspector's sights. Hugo believes if he can make the automaton work then somehow his father will be able to send him a message.
For those who may have read my blog before, you might have read my thoughts on the book, which I loved!( http://screenspinster.blogspot.com/2011/08/in-books-invention-of-hugo-cabret-by.html ) So I was naturally curious about the film version. The book had captured my imagination and transported me into this world. Would the movie do the same? Well, yes, and no. I liked the film. It is beautifully shot (I skipped the 3D version as I hate 3D) and it's a feast for the senses. The train station, where much of the story takes place, looks fantastic, and the automaton came to life on screen, and the giant clocks and all their mechanisms looks realistic and magical. That being said, I wish I had liked it more, or loved it. It's a fine film, well made, with a heart warming story. I was really drawn to Ben Kingsley's character, Papa Georges, and his backstory was told with tenderness and was full of colour.
I think my problem with the film is the casting of the lead character. I didn't particularly believe Asa Butterfield as Hugo. For me, there was just something off about his acting. I felt he was trying to be Hugo, instead of actually being Hugo. There was a lot of eyeball, eyebrow, and lip acting. If you see the film you'll understand what I mean. I can't help thinking that if someone else had been cast in this important role that I would have loved the film instead of kind of liking it.
That being said, a film that I kind of liked that was made by Scorsese is still one of the best films currently playing.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
My Week with Marilyn is a small film about a true event. Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) goes to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, (Kenneth Branagh), and there she meets a young man by the name of Colin Clark, and she lets him into her world. She flirts with him. She's vulnerable with him. She's sexy with him. She's coy. She's destructive. She's pathetic. She's irrational. She's all encompassing, and he can't resist her. She's also married to Arthur Miller (played by an unrecognizable Dougray Scott). But this brief love affair doesn't go further than a few kisses, and is all rather innocent.
The film's plot is simple and on the thin side, but what it lacks for story more than makes up for it with the performances. Everyone is great in their roles. The era and look of a 1950's film set is perfect. The costumes are rich and textured, and the look of the film sucks you into a bygone era. And as almost all critics have noted, Michelle Williams does a superb job as Marilyn Monroe. (An Oscar nomination is sure to come). Williams embodies the spirit of Marilyn, and she disappears into the role. Even though she's not technically the lead, she takes over whenever she's on screen. Perhaps a fault of the film is that the lead, Colin Clark, played by Eddie Redmayne, is a bit of a bore and he's more reactive in the role than active. It's really all about Marilyn and when Williams is on screen, you can't take your eyes off her.
Overall the film is sweet and has a delicate touch towards its characters and its look. It doesn't shed any real new ground on Monroe's life, so if you're a die hard fan you probably learn nothing new, and if you're newer to Marilyn, you might get a better understanding into why she was so intoxicating to those around her, and why she's stood the test of time to become an icon.
P.S. Emma Watson does a great job in a small role as a wardrobe girl who falls for Colin. She's slowly inching away from her Hermione persona.
The Muppets are back! The Muppets are back! The Muppets are back! Did you hear about The Muppets? They're Baaaaaaaaack! (waves arms in the air ala Kermit)
I've been waiting for the return of The Muppets for a while now, even though they haven't really gone anywhere. They still do Television movies and are plastered all over merchandise, but they haven't been on the big screen since the 90's with Muppets from Space. And it is a welcome return. There's just something so innocent and sweet and yes, of course, nostalgic, about these felt creatures. I can't even bring myself to call them puppets because puppets aren't real, but somehow The Muppets seem real and the delusion must live on.
The Muppets are no longer famous and have gone their separate ways. The Muppet Studios is in disarray full of debris and cobwebs, and it's going to be destroyed by an evil Oil Tycoon, played with delightful evil pleasure by Oscar Winner Chris Cooper. Walter, a muppet who lives in Smalltown with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel) learns of this diabolical plot point and he, along with Gary and Gary's girlfriend Mary (the lovely Amy Adams channeling a 1950's housewife), find Kermit and the gang to save the theatre with a live telethon. And the gang is indeed back! All the originals are there, along with Walter (the new guy), and they're as fun and silly as ever (I do miss that Ratzo Rizzo didn't have any lines).
The jokes are the same with lots of in-jokes about the old Muppets, the tv show, and the thin plot of even this movie. There are musical numbers that are fun, but not very memorable. There is no Rainbow Connection type of song, but a couple do linger after the credits have rolled.
Overall, the film is a lot of fun. It's a trip down memory lane. I laughed out loud a lot. I even got teary eyed toward the end. Jason Segel has written a love letter to the muppets, and we are lucky that he's such a bona fide fan as well. It's not perfect, but if you love the muppets, or even like them (and who doesn't?) then you can't be cynical about it, and you just let yourself exist in its presence.
Go see The Muppets. Recapture your childhood memories, or make news ones. The film is magical because it makes you believe that muppets do exist. That being kind and earnest are noble things to be. That good guys do have their moments in the sun, and on an extremely personal note, I've realized that I am a muppet in human clothing.
Ask yourself, are you a muppet or a (wo)man?
8.5 out of 10
Thursday, November 10, 2011
I want to run away and join the circus, and not just any circus. I want to be a part of Erin Morgenstern's black and white magical circus with its countless number of tents, its caramel apples, mulled cider, and the infinite bonfire.
The Night Circus is a fantastic first novel, and I was intrigued by the premise. A circus wanders the globe, mysteriously showing up in fields,
and is only open from sunset to sunrise, hence the title of the book, and it is called Le Cirque des Reves. Behind the circus there is a game going on, a game of life and death (although the players don't yet know this) between the Illusionist Celia, an innate magical being, and Marco, a man taught how to be magical. They eventually fall in love and the circus becomes jeopardized.
Morgenstern paints a lovely and imaginative picture of what this circus would look like, and smell like. It's a page turner, but not in a suspenseful way, it's more about the layers she's created. We get to experience the circus as a bystander sometimes, then a circus goer, then as a member of the troupe. It's an ensemble piece, and there are a few characters to get to know. I really was drawn to Herr Friedrick Thiessen, the clockmaker who becomes a Reveurs (someone who loves the circus, a hardcore fan). I also really enjoyed Poppet and Widget, babies born of the circus, in the circus, the night of its opening.
The story itself spans about thirty years, but continues long after the main events have concluded. But I do have a quibble about the ending. It's a bit unsatisfying. I felt as though more would be revealed, or at least a a better reason as to why the main characters, Celia and Marco, were thrust into this fame by their mentors. The reason given was rather lame, and disappointing. I also think that the book could have used more editing. At times, the descriptions were a bit convoluted and the image that was trying to be conveyed was a bit messy (at least in my mind, I suppose I could blame my spinster brain for that). I also found the two main characters to be aloof, which, at times, made it difficult for me to connect to them, and to really, truly care about their journey and subsequent destiny. That being said The Night Circus is still a wondrous read and should not be skipped.
8 out of 10.