Please please share your thoughts on Wonder Woman? Thank you! :)
ANYONE WHO WATCHED WONDER WOMAN (2017) DIR. PATTY JENKINS AND WASN’T COMPLETELY IN LOVE IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED
So we all knew it was going to be emotional to FINALLY have a female superhero movie, but the movie exceeded those expectations. The fight scenes were incredible and so focused on Diana and what she was capable of – the men basically weren’t even there. The fuckin no man’s land scene SAVED MY LIFE. Superhero movies are known for being heavy handed and this one didn’t escape that for sure (the love speech at the end was….a lot), but that scene was so well done…they didn’t have to stoop to some Éowyn knock off line of “I am no man,” we were allowed to just see her do what real women do - step up and do it. Even though that wasn’t the first time we’ve seen her in full Wonder Woman costume on screen, it felt like it was, like it was the first time I’d EVER seen ANY hero before and it took my breath away. By far the best Superhero Reveal Moment I’ve ever seen. My girl taking out bullets right and left, drawing fire from the entire German army!! Fuck me up!!!
You can’t talk about this film without talking about gender role reversals. Chris Pine was So Perfect and I think they really couldn’t have pulled the movie off if they’d cast any other white boy in the role. He was funny but genuine, capable but never arrogant, charming but not entitled about it. He learned quickly what Diana was capable of and respected her for it, always moving to the sideline during the fight scenes (the shield moment with the bell tower comes to mind - who needs a sniper when you can fuckin launch a god at the shooter??), knowing that these were her fights and never trying to mansplain her out of them. He wanted to protect her, but didn’t underestimate her - all the things that a typical female romantic interest does in these kind of movies. It was amazingly well balanced, so much so that I didn’t even mind the romantic sub plot. Plus he was almost entirely naked there, way to play to the audience my dudes!!!!
The historical context did the movie such a great service. The outward displays of sexism became so ridiculous when faced with Diana, who genuinely had never had to deal with the patriarchy’s bullshit before. It didn’t just make the men in London look pathetic and mean, it cast a large shadow over the way that women are treated today.
The Dark DC Gradient™ on all the shots isn’t my favorite but it did Chris Pine’s fuckin bright blue eyes a huge favor
Gal Gadot was so fuckin good??? Not only was she beautiful, like really really distractingly beautiful, like I kept having to force myself to pay attention to the dialogue cause I, like Steve Trevor, could not stop looking at her (and she’s standing next to Genuine Stud Chris Pine and still?? SHE’S SO BEAUTIFUL). But she was way more then that, her performance was spot on. Diana was naive, commanding, strong, compassionate - while never being reduced down to just a one note version of these things. She felt so real to me, in a genre that spends very little time on character development. Even in the sappiest parts of the script, she sold it. She absolutely sparkled.
Some of the best dialogue was the back and forth between Diana and Steve when she’s asking questions about mankind/London - it was cute and funny without being too overdone or obvious, which it easily could have been
The villains weren’t much to write home about, but they didn’t need to be. The movie was so laser focused on Diana and Steve that they really didn’t matter, you could self insert whatever you wanted to there
Themyscira is the ideal for I too want to hang out on the beach and never see a man again
Also that lesbian line, and how stupid male reviewers blindly did not understand it!!! Fuckin drag em
But also the fight scenes on Themyscira were INCREDIBLE. I wish that first section had been a bit longer just because I was enjoying it so much, but it was so refreshing to see all women on screen - women who fought and loved and supported each other. Incredible.
I haven’t enjoyed, really enjoyed, to the point of not having to think about the message or the structure or how much fuckin time I’ve wasted listening to some male superhero talk about honor or some equally boring garbage, since The Avengers came out in 2012. Even then, Wonder Woman felt like something else entirely. It leaned on many of the same tropes and sequences, but there was enough reinvention in between (particularly the characters, who I felt were much more fleshed out then any superhero movie I’ve seen before) to make it feel fresh and exciting. This so easily could have been a throw away movie, a chance for movie execs to point and say, hey we tried with women that one time!! But Patty Jenkins, and Gal Gadot, and all the other women who worked on this incredible production, knew what was at stake, and weren’t going to let that happen. Every time I see a little girl dressed up as Diana Prince, on her way to the theater, my heart fills more and more. During the film, I found myself on the verge of tears five or six times - sometimes because it was so beautiful, to see a woman who felt so real being strong and vulnerable and saving the damn world, but other times because the plot itself genuinely moved me. Wonder Woman is revolutionary for the industry, sure, but more importantly, it’s just a damn good movie.
In the second film, Yondu’s role is vastly expanded. We discover that the real reason he didn’t bring Quill to his father, Ego, wasn’t actually because Quill was a child and therefore small enough to gain access to places grown men couldn’t reach.
The reasons weren’t selfish at all.
Instead, Yondu was protecting Peter from a capricious deity with a murderous intent. “He may have been your father, Quill,” Yondu says of Ego as he rescues Star-Lord, “but he wasn’t your daddy.”
We crash headlong into the revelation: This dangerous man with his crazy whistle-arrow-of-death and crew of thieves and ne’erdowells is in fact one of the bravest people we’ve ever encountered in the MCU films, going up against a diabolical Celestial to save a little boy’s life.
Then Yondu dies, saving his boy. It’s just another in a litany of heroics that Yondu never boasts about, never lays claim to. It’s beautiful and sad and by far the best death the MCU has given us. The death and the scene after are among the most riveting in any of these films.
Yondu isn’t Captain America or Iron Man in terms of his importance to the franchise, but he’s not a minor character either. As Paul Tassi points out, he’s the real star of the second Guardians film (or Michael Rooker is, in any case.) He stole the show, sure, but I’d go one further and say that he’s become one of the most significant figures in the MCU period.
- Erik Kain for Forbes: Why ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy 2’ Is The Most Important Marvel Movie In Years
If I can ever get around to it, I’ll write a film essay on why Revenge for Jolly is probably one of the best takes on mass shootings in America.
The end of We Need To Talk About Kevin:
“You tell me why.”
“I used to think I knew, now I’m not so sure.”
But it’s bullshit ambiguity. It’s what CNN/Fox News/MSNBC do any time this happens. “We will never know!”
Every single scene of Revenge for Jolly, meanwhile, makes it clear exactly why what happened, happened. You get to know these guys. And you understand how every problem has added up and has driven them both utterly mad.
I would give the shirt off my back just to know how you’d look in it.
Anonymous requested : “Is that my shirt?” for a Jily prompt but I mistakenly deleted the ask when I was cleaning out my inbox of some years-old THG-fandom asks, sorry. Read it on ffn or AO3
is seated at the Gryffindor table eating a hearty serving of fried eggs and
toast and talking to her friend Marlene when they come traipsing into the Great
Hall like a scene from a Muggle film. Judging by the dark circles under all of
their eyes, none of them got any sleep last night. It doesn’t make them any
with his long, sleek, shimmery black hair and a careless smirk set on his
handsome face, has always been one of the most beautiful people she has ever
seen; even when they were eleven and weren’t exactly on the best terms there was no denying his ethereal beauty. Remus, all rugged and scarred and
managing to look somehow both seventeen and eighty at the same time – it’s that
haunted look in his eyes, she thinks – comes alive with the grin that his
friends bring to his face. Peter, who has always been nothing but eager smiles
and quick, witty one-liners and blue eyes in a boyishly charming face, is
shorter and far less impressive to look at than his friends, but manages to fit
in seamlessly all the same. Finally, there’s James Potter, the tallest of the
bunch, arguably less handsome than Sirius but still with his fair share of
admirers thanks to the easy grin, the effortless humor, the contagious
laughter, the eager, open, friendliness that he exudes, the perpetually messy
hair and deep, soft, charming hazel eyes that draw focus to a pleasant face.
heart skitters when she looks at him, finds him already watching her, heading
straight for her. The playful grin turns boyish and eager when their eyes meet and she has to look away before she bites her lip and gives it all away.
He is wedged between Sirius and Peter, an arm draped over each of them, but he
wrenches himself away from them and drops into the empty seat on her left,
tossing an arm over her shoulders.
Lily. Marlene,” he says with a nod for the blonde to her right.
James.” Marlene smirks at him as Sirius, Remus, and Peter take up three spots
across the table from them. “Boys.”
may I say, you’re looking quite fit today,” Sirius says, eyeing her over the
table even as he loads up his plate with bacon and eggs.
you may,” Marlene says loftily.
her silky, wavy blonde hair, vibrant blue eyes, and curvy build, she is no
stranger to boys like Sirius Black hitting on her. Still, Sirius is one of the
few boys who manages to makes those comments and walk away unscathed. She
claims it’s because their respective best friends are dating and it would be
awkward to face him day after day knowing that she had all but hexed his balls
off, but Lily suspects it’s more than that.
flicking her hair over her shoulder, Marlene turns her attention away from Sirius,
fixes a charming smile on her face, and leans toward Remus across the table.
When she speaks, her voice is high-pitched and just slightly breathy. “Hey, did
you finish that Defense essay yet?”
wants to laugh, knowing that Marlene’s efforts are lost on Remus, who is not
just oblivious to female interest, but actively tries to avoid it and therefore
will not be seduced into helping Marlene with anything.
about,” Remus says, watching suspiciously as she takes his plate from him and
fixes him a heaping serving of the sausages sitting in front of her. “You want
my notes, don’t you?”
I’m in completely over my head here,” Marlene drops the seductive tone and
hands his loaded plate back.
I don’t actually take notes in Defense.” He cracks a rueful smile when she
Against the Dark Arts genius over here,” Sirius says, nudging Remus with his
don’t take notes in anything,” Lily points out, doing her best to ignore James’s
wandering fingers on her leg.
genius is not limited to any one subject,” Sirius insists.
“Funny your grades don’t reflect your genius, then,” Marlene says.
to her, James laughs. Lily bites her lip to keep from joining in. She can’t help
but to crack a smile when Sirius tosses a chunk of bacon at James, who catches
it and throws it back at him.
can use my notes if you let me copy your History of Magic notes,” Peter offers
offense, Peter, but you’re not exactly the top Defense student,” Marlene points
out with a sigh.
not,” Peter says. “But I stole Remus’s essay yesterday and took notes on it.”
knew I didn’t leave it unrolled!” Remus exclaims.
got a deal, Peter.” Marlene grins and shakes Peter’s hand across the table,
both of them happily ignoring Remus’s scowl.
this, Potter.” Sirius lifts a spoonful of jam and makes to fling it at James.
you hit me, Black, you’re a dead man,” Lily says darkly. He eyes her for a
moment, takes note of her wand sitting next to her hand on the table, and
wisely drops the jam.
“My hero,” James places a hand dramatically over his heart and leans over to
catches her chin instead of her lips when she turns her head at the last
second. He sighs and lets his arm fall from around her shoulders. “You’re not
still cross with me, are you?”
ever should I be cross with you?” Lily says.
you shouldn’t!” James insists.
thing I’m not, then!” she snaps, and turns her back on him to speak to
Marlene, who is now watching them with wide eyes. He may be her boyfriend, and
she may be the only person in the world who finds him more attractive than
Sirius Black, and her heart may skip several beats whenever their eyes meet,
but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t make him pay for his indiscretions.
had a cross girlfriend or two in my day,” Sirius stage-whispers to the rest of
them, “and she’s definitely cross.”
just barely resists the urge to stick out her tongue at him or maybe glue his
tongue to the roof of his mouth.
doesn’t make a sound or touch her or anything of the sort, but Lily is as aware
as ever that James is staring at her. It’s a bit difficult to ignore someone
staring at you when said person is sitting barely two inches away, but she
gives it her best effort, chatting with Marlene, Remus, and Peter in between
bites of her breakfast. Next to Remus, Sirius is clearly taking advantage of
James’s inattention, doing something with his wand under the table. She has a
brief moment of pity for her boyfriend before she remembers that he definitely probably deserves whatever Sirius has in
that my shirt?” James asks suddenly.
freezes, a forkful of egg halfway to her mouth, and looks at him. “No.”
a silly thing to lie about. It’s his favorite shirt in the world. He’s worn it
just about daily since his parents gave it to him for Christmas three years ago
and he would know it anywhere. There’s a telltale stain just below her left
breast where Sirius spilled Doxy venom on him back in fifth year – he still has
the scar on his chest to prove it – and a hole the size of a knut where the
too-long sleeve bunches up at her right wrist.
it is. That’s my Puddlemere United shirt.” He reaches towards her as if he
wants to rip it off of her but seems to think better of it and merely brushes
the back of his bruised hand along the navy blue material covering her arm. If
it were one of the boys caught wearing his shirt, she is sure he wouldn’t
hesitate to rip it off them regardless of the number of onlookers.
breath hitches in her chest when he leans in close, his chest against her
shoulder and his mouth at her ear. “It looks really fucking good on you.”
turns her face towards him, undeniably affected by his hot breath on her and
his gravelly tone in her ear. Still, when he leans in to kiss her, she places a
hand on his chest to still him less than an inch from her lips. “I missed you
sorry,” he says, and tries to kiss her again.
“We had plans. You ditched me,” she reminds him.
“I… It was Sirius’s fault!”
pardon?” Sirius says around a mouthful of bacon.
you hadn’t got tickets to see the Chudley Cannons play Lancashire!” James
exclaims. “They’re both shit teams anyway!”
they’re such shit teams, why did you ditch your girlfriend to watch them?”
Remus asks slyly.
why did you cheer harder than anyone else there when Rookwell made that goal?”
Peter adds with a soft, amused snort.
James brandishes his empty fork across the table at his friends.
blame Sirius,” Lily says sternly as she scoops another bite of egg onto her
fork. “He didn’t force you to do anything.”
watches with a pathetic pout on his face as she pretends to concentrate all of
her attention on her breakfast.
don’t blame me,” Sirius says.
looking away from Lily, James throws a greasy sausage at Sirius, hitting him on
the nose and ignoring his protests.
Quidditch! I have poor impulse control when presented with Quidditch! You knew
that and decided to love me anyway!”
you admit it’s your fault,” Lily prompts.
all my fault. I’m stupid and I chose Quidditch over you and it wasn’t even
worth it, even if Rookwell did make that spectacular goal. Anyway, not
important. Still not better than spending an evening with you.” He leans in
close again, presses a quick kiss to her neck before she can stop him. One hand
tangles in her hair and the other creeps slowly up her thigh beneath the table.
“Or a morning, an hour, a few minutes.”
few minutes? You need to work on that, mate,” Sirius laughs.
perhaps he has, and a few minutes is all they need,” Marlene counters, sparing
Sirius an unimpressed glance as she reaches across the table for a strip of
bacon. “Something you should work on, maybe.”
gapes at her. Before he has a chance to get his thoughts in order enough to
retort, Lily’s wand is in her hand and pointing at him. He chokes, grabs his
mouth, and glares at her with his tongue firmly plastered to the roof of his
mouth. She smiles at him and turns her attention back to her boyfriend, who
only looks ever more turned on now that she has hexed his best friend.
heated gaze is her undoing, but she tries to hide it with a lofty sigh as she
studies him thoughtfully. “You do look rather pitiful.”
not entirely true. What he looks is desperate
with his wet, pink lips and dark, round, wide eyes. It makes her feel desperate.
She leans in close to him, feels him take a deep breath, either steadying
himself or breathing her in, she’s never too certain. His fingers drum a tattoo
high on her thigh under the fabric of her skirt. She hums in delight.
you can make it up to me.” She is sure to keep her tone husky, a bit raspy, the
way she knows he can’t resist.
from her, Sirius watches with one arched brow, a knowing smirk playing on his lips,
all insult and injury forgotten. Remus rolls his eyes and looks away pointedly,
the corners of his moth upturned just slightly while Peter laughs openly at the
wide-eyed stare James is giving her. Marlene just grins at them, not that
either of them notice what any of their friends are up to.
rises from the bench and drapes herself over James, her chest against his back,
arms hanging over his shoulders, hands trailing down his firm chest to his abs,
her mouth hovering just next to his ear. “I think I’ll keep the shirt on this
jaw is slack when he turns his head and tries to kiss her, but she backs away
quickly, and turns to walk from the Great Hall without looking back. He trips
over shoelaces suddenly tied together – Sirius’s sneaky doing earlier, no doubt
– and she hears him hit the ground cursing unreservedly, followed by the
laughter of several nearby students.
never does take much teasing to get him going. When he catches up to her
seconds later, a blazing look in his eye, and takes her hand to pull her along
at a faster pace, she knows she’s in for a real treat.
knows how to work silently at the back, never ever mentions that he’s
exhausted because he knows that actions speak louder than words. He works as an idol and lives under the spotlights,
he shows a good example to the teenagers and shows positivity to the public. It’s not frightening that someone is better than
you, it’s only frightening when there’s someone who’s better than and at the same time works
harder than you.
MAMA, because he wore shoes with wrong shoe size, he injured his right
ankle when he jumped down from the table. His performance was as perfect as usual.
Even though he was injured, he kept on performing for the whole 14 mins. Along with
the applause and cheering, he limped up leaving the stage. When EXO was
announced as the Dae Sang winner, the members was giving their speech on the
stage, he was receiving treatment at the hospital.
at the airport, he was worried that the fans might be worried for him, even
though he was holding crutches in hands, he smiled so sweetly like nothing happened
while waving to the fans.
Showtime Press Con, he was asked how was his injury, “ I think it’s a pity, so
now I am working harder to prepare myself, please anticipate!”
because in 2013 he was injured and not able to stand on the stage to receive the
awards with the members, so on 2014 MAMA, when the MC announced that EXO was
the winner for Dae Sang, this was his reaction :
you thinking at that moment..?
his busy schedule, he was once again taking the plane alone. Because his right
ankle was injured again, he can only sing while sitting on the stage. He apologized
for causing EXO not able to present a perfect stage. Recently, he became slimmer and tanner and yet
he’s still apologizing to us..
He’s not a
talkactive person, but every time he speaks, every word warms our heart
Q: Please say
something to praise yourself
Q: 2014 is nearing
the end, please say something to wrap up the year
want other people to say EXO-Ls are not following the rules.”
please be careful of flu, drink more water.”
from now on”
believing in each other.”
I acted as a fans, I feel that loves from the fans is precious , thank you so
“I will not
be blinded by familiarity”
Ocean, it’s really beautiful.”
at the front rows are only taking pictures, stop taking pictures and get high
it is the beginning of his acting career. As the first member of EXO to take up
a role as an actor, and because he’s an idol, there are tons of people out
there waiting for him to fail and make fun of him. But once Han Kang Woo
appeared, countless of haters are falling for him. We as your fans are so proud
EXO TLP Concert in Seoul, he rushed to
the set of IOIL to start filming until early in the morning
midst of member lineup changes causing only EXO-K was carrying on promotion on
music stations, yet he still appeared in every single performance even though
he’s filming for his drama during that time.
filming schedule, he couldn’t join the other members but had to take the plane
Singapore less than 24 hours.
everyone was doing the Ice Bucket Challenge and he got nominated by one of his
sunbaes. But because of his schedule, he didn’t do it. Some people were really
mad at this matter. But with his excellent acting skills as a ALS patient, he
fought back and left their mouths hanging wide.
He was so
thin during those days. Because he wasn’t resting properly, sometimes he even got
swollen face. But it’s still considered as okay because as an idol, singing, dancing and busy
schedule, it is his life. However, in IOIL, he was on barefoot in almost every
shoot: walking/ running on the tarmac roads, on the stones and cycling. And in the
movie Cart, the scene which he got slapped was real, he said “After getting
slapped I went blank and started laughing.”
| A Day to be Remembered | He received his
first ever acting awards, APAN Star Awards Best Newcomer Awards.
his schedule was packed, he never missed any stage, concert and variety show
filming. If it’s group schedule, he will attend it no matter what and do what a
main vocalist should do. For EXO, he rejected SBS Acting Awards Best Newcomer
Awards.; For EXO, he rejected movie premiere invitation; For EXO, he rejected
movie premiere from well-known director. This is him, EXO’s main vocalist D.O.,
new rising actor Do Kyung Soo.
What is your favorite non-Austen period novel? Movie?
Okay I’m gonna do a rundown of all my favourites because making me pick one is just mean. (Also at one point in my notes on the following books and films I just wrote “Bagels” and I can’t for the life of me think what I might have meant or autocorrected that from. Maybe a shopping list started to take form. I don’t know.)
(If the film Miss Austen Regrets and book Longbourn by Jo Baker count as non-Austen then include them.)
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India - 2001 (Sports! High stakes! Sticking it to the Colonial Man!)
Mozart’s Sister - 2010 (Beautiful music! Gorgeous androgyny! GIRLS CAST TO PLAY THEIR ACTUAL AGE AND NOT SOME 20-SOMETHING PRETENDING TO BE FOURTEEN!)
Possession - 2002 (I’ve tried the novel, and A.S. Byatt has some beautiful prose but her structures sometimes do my head in, so never finished it. Ignore Paltrow as best you can and enjoy lush Victorian Gothic mystery and the ending is one of the most poignant things I’ve ever been pleasantly surprised with on film, and it leaves you wondering about many, many things…)
Jodhaa Akbar - 2008 (You could put Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in the worst commercial ever made and I would watch it. Costumes, scenery, and, as a friend once put it “I’m not sure how they did it, but they just had a sex scene without any sex.” Bravo.)
Water - 2005 (Deepa Mehta is such a fantastic filmmaker and I loved this whole trilogy but Water is my favourite.)
Elizabeth - 1998 & Elizabeth: The Golden Age - 2007 (The costumes! The caMERA ANGLES!!! The compli-fucking-cated mess that is Elizabeth I.)
[Okay Tumblr won’t let me embed any more trailers, but those ones are easy to find, they’re out there.]
Vatel - 2000 (Any foodie who is also a fan of The Sun King and his era will dig this one. A great score, baddie Tim Roth.)
Alternatively, in the same era: A Little Chaos - 2015. Storyline is a little weak, but it’s so beautiful and the cast is great and the M U S I C. Kate Winslet. Alan Rickman. Helen McCrory. STANLEY TUCCI.)
Also: they’re not films, but TV shows - honourable mentions to the Spanish series Gran Hotel. It’s like a good version of Downton Abbey, only sorta on crack and with a tonne more murder mysteries; and while I have some Issues with its so-called hero and some comparatively weirdo plot-points in S3, overall, it’s fantastic and I’m obssessed. Please don’t mix it up with the Italian re-make which looks horrible in every way. Like, main actors dressed in a poorly-sewn-table-cloth-bad.
And shout-out to the new CBC/Netflix series Anne. I will defend this show to the DEATH, alright? They’ve gone bolder and fresher and have managed to involve period realism in a moving way while retaining the sunshine-and-pinafores element that so many people love about L.M. Montgomery’s work. There’s heaps of women with production credits, and I think it shows. Geraldine James is already my favourite Marilla after one episode, and I feel like R.H. Thompson (HEY JASPER DALE HEEEEY!) and Amybeth McNulty are likely going to become my favourite Matthew and Anne, too. People have complained about this series going off-book and in particular some have condemned it sight-unseen because the writers/directors are putting a feminist spin on it and OH GOD THEY SAID FEMINIST QUICK WE GOTTA SET EVERYTHING ON FIRE BECAUSE CHILDHOOD IS RUINED, but honestly it’s just perky and gorgeous and scrappy and nobody can tell me to my face that Kevin Sullivan didn’t go all the fucking way off-book from the very beginning so I am not gonna sit here and insist that the Megan Fallows Anne of Green Gables was perfection which could never be improved upon because that’s just a plain lie. It was nice and it has its place but it’s time for some new blood. (And NOT the telefilms they’ve also come out with recently with Martin Sheen, bless his heart, but they took a brunette child actor and dumped an atrociously stark box of red hair-dye on her before drawing on her freckles and then telling her to please play everything theatrically to the back of the house even though there is a camera ten inches from her face.) I am HERE FOR ANNE. RIDE OR DIE.
AND NOW, FOR BOOKS!
After that you might assume my L.M. Montgomery recommendation would be Anne of Green Gables and sure I won’t say DON’T read them, but for my money the Emily of New Moon trilogy is more my jam and I wish to God and Netflix in all my prayers that there might someday be a decent adaptation of them.
I was really into Cassandra Clark’s Abbess of Meaux mystery series for a time, but then things went a bit pear-shaped in what I think was the fourth(?) book and everything was OOC and honestly I haven’t caught up on the later books after that and they seem to be self-published now but I am a sucker for nuns and mysteries so I’ll probably get back into it when I have time.
The Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight and The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim. Vacation-reads! Beautiful prose, some wry wit, and fun hijinks. If you’ve ever wanted to run away and live in an isolated cottage in the wilderness for a little while, these are for you. [ETA: I recently got my hands on a copy of The Jasmine Farm so THANK YOU to one of you who recommended it I am loving it so far only I don’t see the appeal in Andrew so wtf Terry you can do better.]
Edward Rutherfurd’s geographical history novels–Sarum is the classic to start with, but the others I’ve read are very good, too. (London, New York, and I’m now working my way through a first-edition of Russka.)
Amy Levy. A M Y L E V Y. Criminally under-recognized Jewish Victorian novelist and poet. Novellas Ruben Sachs and The Romance of a Shop. (RS a beautiful and bittersweet story about the conflicts between love, identity, and expectations, and some would say a response to George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. TRoaS reading a bit like a less treacle-sweet variation on Little Women, where four sisters try to make their way in the world by setting up their own photography studio in late 19th century London.)
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgkin Burnett. Colonialist racism appears in this one, so be warned. Still the book is a THOUSAND times better than the utterly dreadful adaptation known as The Making of a Lady. Jane is better, Emily is better, Walderhurst is better, pretty much EVERYONE IS BETTER. The pacing is better. The plotting and suspense make actual sense.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. A classic, and the grand-daddy of every secret-identity superhero.
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Like, it makes me MAD how good these books are.
And last but not least, a non-fiction selection in Vere Hodgson’s WWII diaries: Few Eggs and No Oranges. Nothing else has ever brought the experience of living (or trying to) under the shadow of the bombs and the threat of invasion quite like these diaries. Fascinating details, engagingly written, and at times a stark reminder that the Allied victory we take for granted in our history could by no means be counted on by the millions who dwelt in daily uncertainty.
Alright, kids, let me tell you about one of my favorite movies, SUMMER STOCK!
For those who haven’t seen it, or even those who have, it’s a fucking weird plot. Judy Garland runs a farm (I mean, sure, did you see the overalls?) and her overly-dramatic sister, Abigail (played by the thoroughly lovely Gloria De Haven), brings an entire musical theater troupe (headed by the perfect talent and sex machine that is Gene Kelly and his goofy buddy Phil Silvers) to the family farm to use the barn for rehearsals. Joe (Gene Kelly) is engaged to Abigail, and Jane (Judy Garland) makes everyone help out on the farm, which, as actors and dancers, they are horrible at in the most comedic fashion. Eventually Abigail leaves the show with the show’s star, and Jane takes her place. Obviously Joe and Jane fall in love because after a straight-up tap dance battle in the barn, how could you not fall in love? The most well-known thing about the movie is probably the “Get Happy” scene where Judy Garland sings one of her best-known songs in a hat and jacket with men falling at her feet (see picture bottom right).
Beyond the music and cast and cute (stupid) story, I love this movie because of the backstage stories. Facts about production include:
No one wanted to hire Judy Garland because she was fat and a complete drug addict (story of Judy’s fucking life). Gene Kelly was hired first, because Gene Kelly is a fucking genius of song and (mostly) dance and has charisma like no one else. He and Judy had already done two movies together (For Me and My Gal, which was Gene’s first film and I’m pretty sure his only B&W movie, and The Pirate, which is a triumph of nonsense which is only worth seeing a scene where Gene Kelly dances all sweaty in REALLY short shorts. God bless.), so Gene knew Judy’s talent and loved her and they were friends. He put up his OWN MONEY and made sure the producer and director knew Judy and loved her like he did. Gene wanted Judy for the movie and wanted to make sure she would be comfortable and supported.
As I said, Judy was fat in most of this movie. “Hollywood fat” which in the 1950s and on her five-foot-tall frame with her round face just makes her look kinda pudgy and cute. Why was she “fat”? Because she was trying to get sober. She’d been on uppers her whole life to keep her dancing and singing for literally 12-20 hours a day. So she was trying to wean off the pills, and it ruined her metabolism and she got “fat.”
Despite being “fat” she dances like no one’s fucking business. Gene Kelly is arguably the greatest dancer on screen of all time. And in the dance battle scene in the barn (photo below left of the movie poster), she matches him step for step PERFECTLY. Like they are 100% equally matched. Except for probably Cyd Charisse, or maybe Ann Miller, I’ve never seen anyone dance with Gene Kelly as masterfully as Judy Garland does. And she does it about 3 dress sizes above her normal working-weight. Size obviously has zero to do with talent or ability, but for someone who is definitely not used to dancing at that weight, she does it better than I’ve ever seen her in any film.
THE NEWSPAPER DANCE. Gene Kelly, as is a staple of his movies, does a solo dance number. This one (pictured bottom left), is done with a sheet of newspaper, a squeaky board, and two stairs on a stage. And it’s brilliant and perfect and so creative. The athleticism of it is astounding (and a huge turn-on).
There is one scene in the movie where Judy magically loses like half her body mass (only to regain it one scene later), and that is the Get Happy number. After the first screening of the film, everyone decided Judy needed a big solo. She has a few songs in the movie, but nothing that really pops. So they gave her Get Happy and choreographed and filmed the number a few months after the film wrapped. It was inserted near the end, and other than the fact that Judy lost all the weight in the interim, you’d never know it wasn’t originally intended to be in the film. It was rumored that this scene was actually filmed for another film years before, but that isn’t actually the case. It was intended for Summer Stock, it was just an afterthought. And it’s the best afterthought ever, and one of Judy Garland’s most iconic music numbers from her adult career.
In conclusion, this movie is great and the best part about it is the fact that everyone involved literally made it to save Judy Garland’s career because they loved her and believed in her talent.
Like most Edgar Wright films, there are plenty of smart connections and literary elements to discover. They’re not hidden, but they’re subtle enough to make you feel clever when you find them. Like when you first realize that the music in a scene is syncing up with the gunshots and action, it’s exciting. Baby Driver (2017) has that.
Guys, this movie is so exciting and fun. It’s a joyride, and probably one of the best uses of pop music in any movie ever.
Just rewatched Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Man Without a Past” cos I’m teaching a class on it tomorrow, I forgot what an anarchist film it is (not intentionally, I’m sure)… it has probably the best mutual aid interaction of any film ever: it’s a patch of industrial waste ground just outside of Helsinki where people live in old shipping containers, and the scene opens with a young guy fucking with an electricity pylon with a screwdriver - buzzing electricity - then he’s unrolling cable, hooking up a box to one of the shipping containers. Then the older guy who lives in it has a draw of his roll up and asks: “what do I owe you?”… to which the young guy replies; “If you see me face down in the gutter… roll me onto my back”
Last year, I made my first video top ten (which you can see here), and while that was fun, as it so happens I’m a bit too busy right now to go through all the trouble of making a video at the moment. So here we are, back to the old way of doing things.
On an interesting side note, I found an unintentional theme in my list this year. Many of my films are in some way about the creation of art, as well as the price paid to be a great artist. Also, many of these movies could be seen as “coming-of-age” films. Once again I find myself astonished at how many great films came out in a single year (and I haven even seen all of them yet). So as usual, you can find my long list of “honorable mentions” at the end.
Like always, this is just my personal top ten films of the year. Even if we share the same tastes, I guarantee you that my list would be different than yours. It’s just too subjective.
So starting at number ten and counting down… here we go!
10. Mr. Turner
As far as pure craftsmanship goes, “Mr. Turner” is perhaps the most well made film of the year. Mick Leigh is a master, and every shot is purposeful and completely stunning. The film itself looks like an old beautiful painting. Timothy Spall sinks deep into his role as J.M.W. Turner, and it’s probably his best performance to date. The deliberate pacing and lack of traditional structure might turn away some viewers, but “Mr. Turner” is nevertheless a great work of art, and a portrait of a fascinating man.
I knew very little about this film before seeing it, and I think that’s a good thing. From the opening scene, I instantly fell in love with this darkly funny film. At it’s core, there’s some rather deep subject mater, and yet “Frank” cleverly offsets this with some truly hilarious moments that keep the film entertaining throughout. Domhnall Gleeson is outstanding here, but of course, the real star of the show is Michael Fassbender, who gives an incredibly expressive performance despite the fact that we can’t see his face. I enjoyed nearly every moment of this picture, and it’s definitely one that you need to see.
Some films just belong in the Critrion Collection. Ida is one such film. It’s haunting and artful and features the best black and white photography I’ve seen in years. The sharpness and contrast of every shot is remarkable. The narrative is beautifully simplistic. In fact, the minimalistic nature of the film as a whole is part of what makes it so special. “Ida” is sparse, gorgeous, and masterful. Certainly one of the best foreign films of the year.
7. Only Lovers Left Alive
Vampires are cool, but Tom Hiddleston and Tida Swinton bring it to a whole new level. These old lovers have seen it all, and while they still appreciate art, science, and philosophy, they’ve grown tired and indifferent while mankind continues to make the same mistakes. Jim Jarmusch’s film is a special kind of vampire story, because it may be the first one to really capture just how lonely, dangerous, and exhausting being immortal really is (or would be). "Only Lovers Left Alive" has a deliberate pacing that glides slowly along with it’s characters. Along the way, we learn how they live and what they’ve grown to appreciate, and it’s all quiet fascinating. It’s my opinion that “Only Lovers Left Alive” ranks as one of the very best vampire films ever made.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Wes Anderson film can always put a smile on my face. His last few films have been some of his best, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is certainly no exception. This film is so beautifully stylized, and so hilariously funny, I find it hard to believe that there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this film. The cast is fantastically entertaining (especially Ralph Fiennes), the colors are vibrant, the humor is clever, and the filmmaking is flawless. When I saw “Moonrise Kingdom”, I said it might be Wes Anderson’s best film yet…. when I saw “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, I said the same thing.
5. The Duke of Burgundy
Captivating and visually arresting, Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy” is one of the most compelling films I saw all year. It’s beautifully shot, colored, and textured with elegant pacing and precise direction - I really can’t say enough positive things about this film. It’s surreal and challenging while retaining a soft and gentle nuance of love and tenderness. “The Duke of Burgundy” certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it extraordinary and deeply inspiring.
I know many cinephiles will probably place “Boyhood” as their number one film of the year, and I wouldn’t fault them for that. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is one of the most innovative and uniquely profound films ever made. Shot over the course of 12 years, we literally watch Mason grow up before our eyes. It’s a remarkable experience unparalleled by any comparisons I could make. We owe it to Linklater for having the guts to push our medium forward in such a beautiful way. This will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, and it’s easy to see why.
3. Birdman: (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Simply one of my favorite cinematic experiences in a very long time. In the first scene, I made a mental note that we were in a long take, but to my wonder and astonishment, that long take never ended. There are, of course, cuts and interludes (this isn’t a “Russain Ark” situation) but the effect is very much thatAlejandro Iñárritu’s film is one singular shot. It’s remarkable, but could be called nothing more than an impressive gimmick if the film itself wasn’t so strong.
This is the best cast ensemble of the year, and the cinematography is gorgeous (made more impressive again by the long takes). But “Birdman” also has some interesting things to say about the creation of art, as well as the criticism that always accompanies it. It’s an intriguing film, and one with something to say. I loved every minute of it.
2. Vi är Bäst!
Every year, there are films that just seem to come out of nowhere and surprise me. Before it was released, I knew nothing of “We Are the Best”, nor was I familiar with Lukas Moodysson’s previous work. However, this film was perhaps the most enjoyable film I saw all year.
If you know nothing of this film, it’s the director’s adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel “Never Goodnight” (by Coco Moodysson). It centers around three young teenage girls living in 1980s Stockholm who start a punk band - despite two of them not knowing how to play an instrument. While the band plays an important role in the film, some of the most interesting scenes are when the girls are simply hanging out. The performances from these three young ladies are perhaps the most natural I’ve ever witnessed from anyone their age. At times, it seems that they’re not even acting at all, as if the cameras just happened to be there to catch these authentic moments. These girls are so funny, enduring, and most importantly, real. This film understands what it really means to be a hardcore punk. And that is a rare thing. I really can’t say enough good things about “We are the Best”. You just need to see it.
And my number one film of the year is…
This is not the most ambitious film of 2014. It’s not a space epic. It wasn’t shot over twelve years. It doesn’t give the illusion of being one continuous shot. It’s not even by a famous director. Yet, “Whiplash” was the single most thrilling piece of cinematic art I saw all year.
“Whiplash” tells the story of a young ambitious drummer who dreams of being one of the great jazz musicians of our time. He soon finds himself under the mentorship of a cutthroat teacher who is willing to do whatever it takes to push his students to the limit. The film shows painful abuse and heartache, but then just when you think the film will find contentment in an obvious solution, it aggressively charges forward into the single most intense, passionate, raw, violent, and beautiful final scene of the year. A scene that made my heart race until it finally cut to black, and the credits rolled. Then, and only then, did I finally catch my breath. This film bleeds with a passion that’s visible in every aspect, from its photography, to its editing, to the stellar performances. Enough can’t be said about Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. They both give 100% to their roles, and it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
I found “Whiplash” to be painfully relatable at times… and I’m sure that contributed to my fondness for the film itself. Nevertheless, I think everyone should see this amazing work of art. Damien Chazelle has crafted a challanging look at what it truly means to be a young artist with high ambitions. The road to greatness is filled with suffering, pain, loss, frustration, blood, sweat, and tears… and it seems the filmmakers here understand the price that is paid.
So there you have it - My top ten films of 2014. Please let me know what your favorite films were! Now, some of you may have noticed that a certain favorite director of mine not on this list…. so please see my honorable mentions below.
Inherent Vice - I know! I know! I can’t believe it either. P.T. Anderson is my favorite director, and I do love this film…. it just didn’t move me like his other work as done in the past. “Inherent Vice” is great. I just like 10 other films more.
Gone Girl - Yet another one of my favorite directors. David Fincher is to the point where he really doesn’t make bad films anymore. The craftsmanship is just too good.
Calvary - This is a touching and somewhat heartbreaking portrait of a priest genuinely trying to live a good life. A thankless job to be sure. It’s bleak but Brandon Glesson gives a wonderfully tender performance.
The Babadook - Rich with metaphor, this is easily one of the best horror films in years. Love it so much, and you really need to see it.
Under the Skin - Who could forget this surreal work of art from Jonathan Glazer? Scarlett Johansson does wonderful work here.
Jeune & Jolie - “Young & Beautiful” was an underrated French film from François Ozon. I really loved it a lot, though I might be in the minority.
Snowpiercer - Joon-ho Bong is a crazy good director, and “Snowpiercer” is a thrilling sci-fi action movie far more worthy of your time than most summer blockbusters.
Top Five - Chris Rock made an excellent film with a deep Woody Allen influence. I really hope he will continue this style into future projects.
Foxcatcher - A remarkable film. Bennett Miller is on a roll. There’s really nothing to complain about with this film. See it.
The One I Love - A fantastic little gem from Charlie McDowell. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are great.
The Imitation Game - A very sharp screenplay, and a brilliant performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.
A Most Wanted Man - The last leading performance from my favorite actor.
Guardians of the Galaxy - Finally, Marvel made their finest MCU film yet. It’s fun and fast and a really great watch.
Unfortunately I did not get the chance to see “A Most Violent Year”, “Winter Sleep”, “Goodbye to Language 3D”, “Leviathan” and serval other foreign films. I’m sure they all could have made my list if I had seen them.
malia_james: New video coming out in the next few days, but haven’t had time to post my other favorite frames from the @niallhoran vid! My OCD won’t let me post the new stuff before these fill their own section. I had the pleasure to work with Niall and his crew on something else last week, but you’ll hear more about that soon. Thanks again to my lovely crew on this one. This top frame is one of my favorite images from any video I’ve done EVER. I walked 8 miles around London at night looking for the best place to shoot this scene and this was the only area I wanted to film in.
“In keeping with his status as the most humane filmmaker working today on the world stage, Asghar Farhadi has given us a bevy of impeccable screen performances that elicit our sympathy without ever forsaking the complexity of character that have come to define his growing filmography. In The Salesman, Farhadi sketches two very different portraits of wounded male pride, one mapped over the course of the entire film and the other in only a handful of scenes.
As Emad, a modern-day teacher and actor who resorts to increasingly drastic measures when his wife is assaulted in their new apartment, Shahab Hosseini, who won Best Actor at Cannes in 2016, charts the alarming evolution of a good-natured everyman into a hawk-eyed vigilante without ever painting in broad strokes. Emad’s guilt-ridden slow burn is a wonder to behold as it’s the rare depiction of instability that hinges on the inner shifts of a thought process, which Hosseini delineates with a readable, clear-cut precision that silently encourages everyone in the ensemble, no matter their role, to match his innate prowess.
As a mysterious, nameless figure who wanders into the movie right around the 100-minute mark, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini supplies an excellent, crucial performance whose particulars cannot be elucidated without spoiling most of Farhadi’s third-act revelations. That being said, what Sajjadi Hosseini accomplishes is nothing short of miraculous: a thorny character study told in miniature that earns our pity without ever making any direct appeals for it. Sajjadi Hosseini ultimately comes to dominate the film, not because he lunges for our attention, but because his commitment to the part is so disconcertingly complete that it obscures our own perception of the actor’s choices. He performs with the selfless verisimilitude of a Rossellini player and, in doing so, bridges the divide between our world and that of the film, which is really the most any actor can hope to accomplish, no matter the amount of lines or scenes.” — Matthew Eng
Guardians of the
Galaxy was a fantastic film, a
real masterpiece for just how oddball and different it was from the
rest of the Marvel cinematic universe. It was so different, with such
a great group dynamic, great actors, and plenty of kickass scenes…
this was lightning in a bottle, and there’s no way to catch that
They did it again. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is
every bit as good as the original, and what’s more… I actually
think it’s a bit better. How
is this? HOW COULD YOU TOP THE FIRST? I’ll explain, but be warned:
after the plot synopsis, there’s gonna be a few spoilers, so just
what are the Guardians up to this time? After doing a mission for the
Sovereign race, the Guardians end up pissing them off because Rocket
stole some precious batteries. During their escape attempt, the
Guardians end up being saved by a mysterious stranger… and that
stranger is none other than Peter’s dad, a strange being named Ego.
While Peter, Gamora, and Drax
head off to Ego’s planet, Rocket and Groot get kidnapped by the
ravagers, who mutiny against Yondu. Shit starts going down, and now
the two groups gotta get back together to guard the galaxy yet again,
though this time the threat may be even greater than ever before…
(I notice you aren’t posting any Delicity stuff lately - is that because Felicity got engaged or are you not sure about the ship anymore? I still have a feeling there may have been at least a one-sided crush - him to her - at least at the time. Anyway, I wrote you this, about the famous kiss we all want to think was once there in that elevator scene. Feel free to ignore if you don’t think it’s appropriate anymore!).
The best kiss ever
They filmed a kiss, and it was the best kiss ever. He has no doubt at all about that.
Gareth likes to use a lot of improvisation. The script was really simple: “Scene, elevator, interior; Cassian and Jyn; their eyes meet and they kiss.”
So they did. They gazed at one another, long, slow, intimate, looking into the depths of one another’s eyes. Imagining all the pain and fear, the grief, the desperation; imagining how they both know that this moment is a respite of a few minutes at best, before the end. That they both know how broken his body is; and that although she knows, she will not leave him. That they know they took every chance till the chances ran out, and now they are here.
It was perfect; beautiful and heart-breaking. Eyes locked together, the light coming and going as they move towards one another, hesitant, drawn ineluctably to one another. Her blue-green eyes and his dark ones, all the light and colour of the universe, all the life of the galaxy in their gaze, all the hope and longing and loss. They moved together so slowly. Gentle, exhausted. Their lips touched so tenderly; almost shy, yet with so much sweetness. Not a sexual kiss, no tongues; but a kiss that lingered nonetheless, that longed and was sensual with all the awareness of lost possibilities, lost touch, all the love that might have been.
It will be, he’s sure, one of the great cinema kisses. Two lost souls who found renewed life in one another; two damaged fighters who found wholeness and purpose; two lonely, lonely people who found love. Afterwards he shivers, remembering the intensity; the blending of his own feelings with the role he was playing, as his lips brushed against hers at last, and settled, and pressed close. The intimacy, the tenderness. Yes, definitely one of the great screen kisses.
Except, when they see the rough cut, it’s not there.
Oh, says Gareth, it interrupted the emotional arc of the scene. The climax needs to be the embrace, right at the end, on the beach, you know? Don’t worry, the audience will get it. We don’t need an actual kiss…
He walks her back to her hotel afterwards. The moon is a few nights past full. They stop at the entrance. It’s warm and quiet and late; a car goes by in the distance, and she looks up at him in the moonlight and the brighter beam of the passing headlamps. For a moment it’s almost like looking down at her on-set, beautiful and sad in the shifting light and dark. Her eyes are wide like the sea. Her lips are like all of his dreams.
She says “It was a good kiss, though, wasn’t it?”
“Yes…” For a moment he can’t breathe, remembering. He makes himself inhale, a conscious effort; smile, act normal, give nothing away, cause no embarrassment. “Yes it was. It was a great kiss.”
She smiles. That broad glad smile he’ll always cherish, forever more. “Yeah. Well. Goodnight, Diego.”
And here’s my list of the most anticipated films of 2017! There are loads of really exciting films coming out this year, and while my most anticipated film is a no-brainer I hope you find the rest of the list interesting.
Honourable mentions: The Handmaiden, Okja, Mute, Beauty and the Beast, Manchester by the Sea, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Moonlight, Wonder Woman, Kong: Skull Island, Baby Driver, Split, The Book of Henry and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
n.b. I’m in the UK, so several of the films I include here have already has a release in the US. We’re always playing catch-up!
1. Star Wars Episode VIII
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher
Plot: Having taken her first steps into a larger world, Rey continues her epic journey with Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker in the next chapter of the saga.
Why be excited? I could just write ‘because it’s Star Wars’, but since I believe in putting effort into these things I’ll try to be somewhat more articulate. I really adored The Force Awakens, and it filled me with a sense of wonder and joy I hadn’t experienced in the cinema for a long, long time. I loved the new characters it introduced (particularly Rey, Kylo and Finn) even more than the stalwarts of old, so the promise of seeing their stories continued in the next episode is thrilling in the extreme. I also happen to be a huge admirer of Rian Johnson’s work (I particularly love The Brothers Bloom), so I’m incredibly excited to see Rian’s “weird thing” (imo, the weirder the better!)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Issey Ogata, Tadanobu Asano
Plot: The young Portuguese Jesuit Sebastião Rodrigues is sent to Japan to succor the local Church and investigate reports that his mentor, a Jesuit priest in Japan named Ferreira, based on Cristóvão Ferreira, has committed apostasy.
Why be excited? I’ve long admired Scorsese and shamelessly stan his editor Thelma Schoonmaker, so am thrilled to see them collaborating on a film that tackles such an obscure and fascinating period of history. The cast is top flight, and the magnificent trailer does a fantastic job of evoking the tension of the scenario. Silence is also Scorsese’s passion project (he’s been trying to get it made since the 1980s), and suffice to say I happen to find passion positively infectious.
3. La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons
Plot: The story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts.
Why be excited?Whiplash hit me like a ton of bricks when I caught it on blu-ray last year, and it easily has one of the best endings of any film I’ve ever scene. The quality of Chazelle’s previous offering alone would have been enough to get me hyped for this, but it’s also a musical that honours the golden age of Hollywood. That, combined with the stellar reviews, makes this unmissable for me.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris, Brian Gleeson
Plot: Mother concerns a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence
Why be excited? This will be Aronofsky’s first film since the batshit crazy biblical film that is Noah, and I’m fascinated to find out what the hell Mother even is (seriously - we know much more about Episode VIII than we know about this). All I know is that I will follow Aronofsky’s career for as long as he continues to make movies.
5. The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones
A Cold War-era fairytale about a mute woman who falls for an amphibious man.
Why be excited? Much like Mother, we know very little about The Shape of Water. I’m very excited for this film for the same reason that I’m excited for Mother - I love del Toro’s work, from The Devil’s Backbone right through to Crimson Peak. Del Toro is fantastic at melding fantasy with real-world struggles (see: The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth), so I’m extremely intrigued to see him returning to a theme that he’s handled with aplomb before. The delightfully surreal synopsis only compounds my excitement.
Note: Considering how old and well known this story is, I figured putting out a spoiler warning is pretty useless. Nevertheless, I don’t go into detail about plot points specific to this particular adaptation, so this review is spoiler free!
“Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back; For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack” - The Law of the Jungle, by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling’s original 1894 magnum opus is truly one of Literature’s greatest works. Drawing upon his experiences growing up and working in Colonial India, Kipling created a vivid series of stories about the Indian Jungle that enraptured generations of readers. A masterful wordsmith, he created a Jungle that was both terrifyingly dangerous and intoxicatingly inviting. He populated this world with anthropomorphic animals in order to teach children lessons in respect and morality, with memorable characters like Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, Raksha, Kaa and of course, Mowgli, the Man-Cub. Like many, I fondly remember having it read to me as a child, and to this day it’s one of my all-time favourite books.
And also like many, I loved Disney’s animated 1967 take on the original story. It was an almost completely different beast from the original story, but it was a wonderful movie that, while lacking much of a plot, was nevertheless charming with it’s humour and its songs, and holds a special place in the hearts of millions of children and those like me who are children at heart.
And now here we are, almost half a century on from Disney’s initial animated effort, and once again, after some slightly less than memorable live action remakes in the 90s, the Mouse House has unleashed upon the world yet another. But this one delivers. Guys, this one meets the hype. It’s freaking phenomenal.
With game-changing, spectacular, photorealistic CGI and an impeccably picked cast, Jon Favreau delivers a marvelous adaptation of The Jungle Book for this generation - one that pays homage to it’s animated predecessor, draws thematic inspiration from its source material, all the while creating a compelling narrative of it’s own accord - which could very well be the definitive adaptation of Kipling’s timeless tale.
There were numerous ways they could’ve screwed this one up. This film is the latest in a long line of live action remakes that Disney is recently producing of it’s animated classics. Some have been better than others. Maleficent, for example, despite a stellar performance from Angelina Jolie, was so obsessed with putting a contemporary spin on a well-known antagonist, and rewriting events in order to make the titular villain more sympathetic, that it was utterly devoid of the original Sleeping Beauty’s charm. The outrageous amount of CGI didn’t help matters either, and it ended up looking like a fake mess. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake, meanwhile had issues with a meandering plot. Last year’s Cinderella, however, was a breath of fresh air. In deciding to make a faithful adaptation of the animated classic, Kenneth Branagh’s movie was received well by both critics and audiences.
It’s thus that adapting the Jungle Book posed a tricky situation for Jon Favreau, and screenwriter Justin Marks. Had this movie been overly faithful to the 1967 animation, modern audiences would probably scoff at it. However nostalgically people remember talking animals singing about the Bare Necessities of life, a whimsical, live action musical with a lack of threat probably wouldn’t cut it. Too faithful to Kipling’s original text, and it would be considered too “dark and gritty” (as is all the rage today in Hollywood) for the typical Disney demographic. It would also probably lose the trademark Disney charm that people so fondly remember the original with. So what did they do? They combined the best of both worlds, of course, to great success. While setting a new bar for the standards of CGI in movies today.
As charming as the 1967 version was, it had a very basic plot and lacked a good deal of narrative heft. As befitting the works of Walt Disney, it was very child-friendly, which it ought to have been. But as a result, stakes were significantly lowered. Shere Khan ran away from fire after being distracted by those Beatles vultures. Again, very cute and child friendly - which isn’t to say Favreau’s version isn’t for kids, because it certainly is. Show this to any child and I bet they’d be totally enraptured by what’s unfolding on-screen. But Justin Marks, using themes from Kipling’s novels, lends a great deal of gravitas to the screenplay, and gives more depth to characters like Shere Khan and make them genuinely evil. There’s nothing particularly horrifying, but certain sequences may have especially young children, under 10 perhaps, holding their parents hands. It’s totally fine though - using more “mature” themes allows the audience to feel a real sense of danger, as well as a more clear, concise, and centralized journey for Mowgli to undertake from the start of the film to the end, especially in comparison to the animated movie. The wolf mantra heard repetitively throughout the movie is taken from one of Kipling’s original poems from the books, and allows to solidify the movie’s messages of the strength in both individuality as well as companionship.
Marks’ screenplay at different times changes the tonality of the movie from a humorous comedy, heartfelt emotional drama, to a thrilling revenge story, with the lush jungle as a backdrop. But remarkably, just like Kipling’s original story, these shifts in tonality don’t seem jarring at all. Scenes and sequences move smoothly from one to the other, and even the songs (the film includes “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na be Like You” from the original - it would be sacrilegious if they didn’t). which some people found to feel a little odd from the rest of the movie - I thought were spontaneous and added beautifully to the film.
The CGI in this movie, truly, is breathtaking, and arguably the best in any movie I’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous to believe that every tree, every leaf, every drop of water, every strand of hair on the animals’ body, was created on a computer. “Location shooting” wasn’t the vast Jungles of India. It was a studio in LA. It’s clear to see how painstaking the process must have been to the animators, but their hard work definitely paid off. I don’t think we’ve seen such a leap in CGI technology since Avatar in 2009 or Life of Pi in 2012. At times it definitely felt like I was watching a nature documentary, as opposed to a fictional fantasy story. There are even some shots where water would splash upon the camera lens, adding a great depth of depth and immersion to the cinematic experience.
The cast was, as I previously mentioned, was impeccably picked. Ben Kingsley is wonderful as the stern but loving fatherly Bagheera, complete with his RP accent. Bill Murray is just perfect as the laid back and easy-going Baloo. There’s not many people who could’ve held a candle to Phil Harris and his original version of the “Bare Necessities”, but Murray rendition is just as brilliant. His role as Baloo is probably his best work in ages. Likewise is Christopher Walken’s King Louie, now a Gigantopithecus ape, since Louis Prima’s orangutan wasn’t native to India. And his cover of “I Wan’na Be Like You” is just perfect. His voice and accent fit the song so well. Lupita Nyong’o brings a warmth and motherly love to Raksha, and the seductive, dulcet tones of Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa really give you chills. As for the antagonist, the great Shere Khan, Idris Elba brings a menacing East London-accented gravitas to the iconic tiger. He’s a genuinely terrifying villain, and his interplay with Mowgli and delivery of lines has to be commended. There’s absolutely nothing to complain about the voice talent on display here.
Which brings us to basically our only human character in the film, Neel Sethi’s Mowgli. This kid is just brilliant. He portrays Mowgli with just the right amount of naivete, enthusiasm, humor, heart, bravery, and cuteness. We watch or read the Jungle Book through the eyes of a child, and Neel is the perfect audience surrogate, reacting like we would with a child’s amazement and wonder at the extraordinary events happening around him. On the rare occasions that his delivery of lines may slip up, or his eyes are looking in another direction it’s important to keep in mind that he was a) only 10 years old during filming, and b) a kid with hardly any acting experience acting not along with other humans, but literally nothing but green screen and boxes and tennis balls. It’s extraordinary how he managed to carry the whole film by himself, and you can’t help but think that if they cast the wrong kid, the entire movie would’ve probably fallen flat on it’s face. There are seasoned adult actors who act in front of a green screen and come off as utterly wooden and lifeless. Neel knocked it out of the park. An incredibly talented young man, who I’m sure has great things ahead for him.
I was initially hesitant about the idea of a live action remake of the Jungle Book, but safe to say I was more than satisfied with this film. It’s one of those rare movies that I can seriously find no serious fault with. If anything, I only wish we could see those Beatles tribute band Vultures in live action. Apparently Favreau even planned for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to appear as cameos, but sadly the scheduling didn’t work out.
But the movie as a whole was spectacular - fantastic voice talent, brilliant photorealistic CGI, and a heartfelt, emotional narrative at it’s core. It’s a wonderful story for families, and is just 2 hours full of pure escapism. A massive well done to all the cast and crew.
All thoughts turn now to Andy Serkis and WB’s completely separate adaptation, Jungle Book, now since delayed from next October to October 2018. Set to be closer to the spirit of Kipling’s novel even more than this one, it’s hard not to get excited with talent such as Serkis, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Benedict Cumberbatch behind it. There’s also a sequel planned for this one, with the same creative talent returning, so it’s all the more reason to get excited, especially with the wealth of Kipling’s original stories left to adapt. But those are still a long way away, and for now, we can rest content with what I believe to be the most definitive adaptation of Kipling’s text. A masterpiece.
Ok, just for a sec, forget about all these conspiracies. Now, why would they cut out a scene that was so important and emotional that Martin wanted to do it alone, so that he could do his absolute best acting ever??
Also, why did they talk about this when they knew that this scene wasn’t even included in the episodes?
Nothing of this makes any sense and they wonder why we are getting more and more crazy.