Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My thoughts on last night’s episode of “Skins”

Eating disorders are being looked at more and more nowadays in TV programmes such as Hollyoaks, and in part 2 of 9 in the groundbreaking teen drama Skins yesterday, we follow Cassie, a Sixth former suffering from, amongst other problems such as low self esteem and self-harm, anorexia. We follow her day as she wakes up at one of the all-night parties that the show was so popular for, and gently kisses Sid Jenkins (the virgin of the Skins gang, and, in my opinion, one of the most handsome boys I’ve ever seen), before going home, where she sees her parents going at it (eww) in the kitchen. They pay her very little attention and when Cassie announces that she’s fit enough to leave rehab, their “Wow, that’s great!” reactions are entirely reminiscent of a teacher saying anything to get a hated student out of the way.

Anyone think she looks like Alison Lohman here?

Hannah Murray plays Cassie wonderfully. It could be so easy for a girl with mental illness, low self-esteem and an eating disorder to sink into the depths of farce, but she is completely realistic, despite portraying a character who’s obsessed with the words “wow” and “totally.” She is quite spacey and ditzy, but Cassie is also extremely intelligent (she can calculate mathematical sums quickly in her head), and above all, a kind person, and I was rooting for her throughout the episode. She’s just a breath of fresh air, lively, vibrant, in her own little world, and one of the few characters worth liking on this parade of smug teenagers with more STDs than Pete Doherty.

Cassie, like me, proceeds to get a bit of a crush on Sid, after he speaks to her during lunch, telling her that she should eat, and in a moment of brilliant girl power, she spills food on the twatty protagonist Tony (played by Nicholas Hoult, in a role more different from his breakout character in About a Boy than chalk is from cheese) because he is constantly saying that Sid smells and will never “pull”. Sid idolizes Tony and follows him about like a lost puppy, and also is infatuated with Tony’s slutty girlfriend Michelle. She doesn’t deserve him. And in being obsessed with her (and also coping with a mad drug dealer who wants to get him), he misses out on the jewel right in front of him: Cassie.

Throughout the show, Cassie receives texts saying “EAT!” from an unknown sender. She prays that it is Sid, and that it is him showing the interest in her, but in the bitterest of bittersweet moments, we discover that it was actually just her rehab driver. Or maybe, even, just a figment of her imagination. The episode yesterday was funny (the chavvy banter between the smug kids was fun to listen to), disturbing (watching two parents have sex in the kitchen where there baby son sits is not something I want to have to witness again), but
essentially, very poignant (witness Cassie desperately fingering a chocolate bar from a pile of many that she has stored, but can’t eat.) The show ends where her cab driver coaxes her into eating a burger, but the creators of the show don’t make it that easy for us; the show ends with the burger in her mouth. Swallowed or unswallowed, that is up to the viewers to decide, but all I know is that Cassie is one of the most wonderful creations in TV, and I hope she does get the happiness and good guy she deserves.

Here's a Regina Spektor music video set to clips of Cassie:

Tags: , , , .

Monday, August 27, 2007

73. Hable con ella (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002).


My favourite actors ever.

Don't believe anything I say, or you shall die.

This post is in participation with Piper’s Bizarro blogathon at Lazy Eye Theatre. If you believe any of what I am about to write, then, well, you haven’t been reading this blog often enough. I’m not serious, OK?!?!?

I really admire Sylvester Stallone as an actor. Rocky Balboa was one of the best film characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of having witnessed, and I’m delighted that he continued to make twelve others. Each sequel is as good as the last. Rocky rocks!

So, Hilary Duff. She’s like, so perfect. She can sing, dance, but best of all, her acting! I really don’t know which of her performances I like the most, for she was incredible in Cheaper by the Dozen and A Cinderella Story. But I gotta say, it’s Lizzie McGuire that was her deepest, most profound performance. Her honest, convincing portrayal of everyday girl Lizzie was like, so utterly inspiring! I want to go to Rome and become a singer like she did! Anyway, Hilary totally rocks.

An actress I like even more than “Hil” is the British Goddess that is Emma Watson. Honest to God, I can’t think of a better girl to play Hermione. As Hermione, she’s not at all annoying, and she is obviously so much better than Rupert Grint! People who say she merely acts with her eyebrows don’t know a damn thing about acting, she’s the Lee Strasberg of the 21st century, I tell ya!
… But I would turn down a friendship with Emma, point blank, if it meant I could meet my all-time idol, Scarlett Johansson. Honestly, could you get any more beautiful and talented than that girl? Her face never looks contorted, and her pouting is so beautiful. And her BAFTA win for Lost in Translation was immensely deserved, nobody does sitting around and looking cool than Miss Johansson! Oh, and that shag-in-the-lift episode with Benicio del Toro just shows how utterly classy she is; she’s such a Goddess!

Wow, I'd been in quite a bad mood today, but that really cheered me up! I suggest you lot all participate in this blogathon and make hate love and love hate. Go on!

Monday, August 20, 2007

My review of Atonement.

Okay, this is a review that I'm quite pleased with, and, along with the fact that I was one of the first in the world to watch this, I will be keeping this review as my top blog post for a while, so if you want to check for new entries, look under this post, because I'm keeping this up top for a while. :D

Atonement Review
Britain’s bestselling author Ian McEwan is a wonderfully rich and articulate writer, but he has often struck me (and I know I'm probably alone here) as a man of too many words. Enduring Love, despite its unique and gripping plot, was overly descriptive, and even his recent novella, On Chesil Beach, could have done with being 50 pages shorter. I felt exactly the same way about Atonement when I first started reading it, there were too many “rhymes”, too many adjectives, to a point where it almost seem to obsess with the minutiae and try to hold the story back. Then I realised that this time, it was intentional. Bringing the surprising turn of events that served the book so well onto the big screen was a huge challenge, but Joe Wright, who’s 2005 effort Pride & Prejudice ranked amongst one of the loveliest films of that year, was more than apt a man to do it: talented, engaging with his actors, focused and precise, he has given Atonement the big-screen fare, and more.

13-year-old Briony Tallis is a girl with a huge imagination who loves to write. The film starts at her completion of a play, “The Trials of Arabella”, a morality tale on love and the dangers of being too hasty with one’s emotions. From her opening line in the prologue, various multisyllabic words that I didn’t understand were employed, and the audience giggles at her pretension: evidently, this is a girl whose world is shaped with words, regardless of whether or not she understands them. Witnessing her sister Cecilia dive into a pool as their housekeeper’s son Robbie watches after her, Briony pictures as scene she has no understanding of, and, by the end of the day, she will have changed lives for the worse, and she will spend the rest of her life regretting and trying to atone this mistake.

The first act of the film, set in the picturesque country house, effectively conveys the sweltering heat of the British Summer and the mental unrest that comes with it. The camera never stays still, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey even used Christian Dior stockings over the lenses to portray the heat and its effects on the residents. As Briony starts thinking about what she doesn’t understand, trying to write a play of it, Dario Marianelli’s haunting score, which features the rhythmic tapping of typewriter keys, reverberates in the background, to continually remind the audience that something bad is about to happen.

And so it does. Without giving too much about the plot away, suffice to say it involves a note and a very dirty word. As anyone who has read the book will tell you, the line in which Robbie types out his innermost desires, is a very shocking jolt to the reader, not least because previously, the book had been so proper, so contained.. Even knowing that this moment would occur in the movie, I was still surprised by it. The word is glorified in the film, and each letter of that sentence is typed out, frame by frame, for the audience to read and work out for themselves. The word is then played back several times, to a point where it almost gets farcical.

That Atonement is not afraid to use humour in its deepest, most dramatic moments works to its advantage. There are several scenes with the young Briony (mainly involving her snooping) that made the audience laugh ironically, one scene in particular involving Cecelia at the dinner table. However, this is essentially a drama, and the pace and tone of the film are appropriate to its genre. To add to the genre, different events are replayed from different perspectives to show what something has the appearance of being, and what it really is. This device, though not new, works excellently for Atonement.

The second act of the film, set 4 years later, is much grittier and less pretty to watch. Robbie is now a soldier in France, and pines to get back to Cecelia. The horrors of war are not underplayed, and in one excellently-filmed tracking shot, the camera meanders through a chaotic mess of soldiers. Robbie, who had turned out so well before, has not lost practically all of his beauty, and retains only his accent. Similarly, back at home, soldiers with all sorts of disturbing injuries are shown. It is refreshing to see a film that, rather than portraying the war as some sort of patriotic honour, instead shows the horror and suffering that it causes.

In what could only be a nod to David Lean with his country houses, upper middle classes and epic romances, Joe Wright chose for his actors to give performances of the pre-Lee Strasburg era. And the cast rise up to the challenge admirably. As the young Briony, Saoirse Ronan is pitch-perfect, conveying her youthful innocence as well as whiny nosiness. Her sense of knowing about things she clearly doesn’t is infuriating, but Ronan prevents us from denouncing her entirely, reminding us that she is, after all, just a child. Keira Knightley, who will be keen to forget her “performance” in her other 2007 venture, Pirates of the Caribbean III, doesn’t do anything majorly wrong here, and at times even earns the audience’s respect and sympathies as the loyal lover. Romola Garai plays the older, more wise Briony with conviction and a touch of sadness (though one of her deliveries in a confrontation scene went a bit wrong and sounded wooden). However, she more than makes up for this, shining in one scene in particular where she converses with a French soldier.

But the star of the show is the one, the only, James McAvoy. In the Q&A that followed the screening of the film, director Joe Wright described Robbie as the highest form of a human being, and he is. Raised by a single mother, Robbie worked hard for everything in his life, but with success he is still a brilliantly warm and humble person. Even after he is put in the war to avoid staying in prison for longer, he does not whinge about it, but instead, gets through the day with the hope of seeing Cecelia guiding him through. James McAvoy plays this special individual with compassion and understanding. He has the accent and physicality of Robbie down to a T, but, more importantly, conveys his goodness, without ever having to resort to histrionics. McAvoy’s performance is a masterclass in subtle acting. In some pivotal scenes, it is actually his beautiful blue eyes that do the acting more than anything, and they speak more words than Briony’s ostentatious prose ever could.

There is more than a little similarity between Atonement and The Go-Between. Both tell of love between different classes, and an intruding message carrier between the two. Furthermore, Sarah Greenwood’s sensuous set design (in the first act) and accurate war holes (in the second), along with the sound design, which features buzzing bees, works cleverly on a subconscious level to add to the tension. Indeed, Atonement is a technically and visually stunning film. The hues in the first act are almost overly saturated with richness, and this contrasts starkly to the second act, where cold hospital wards and mucky brown war dugouts fill the screen. The costumes are all realistic and accurate, though I personally favour the glamorous designs of the first half, which include a mesmerizing green dress that Cecelia wears. The cinematography, which encompasses long takes, tracking shots, lingering pans all attribute to the visual flair of the movie. But the key stylistic element that stood out for me, was the score. The piano theme is elegiac and melancholy, and the cello and violins also add to the sadness of the romance. Also, the use of a typewriter as an instrument, though started oddly, soon becomes infectious and it even forces its way into viewer’s minds, making Robbie’s note (and the consequences) unforgettable.

Joe Wright and Working Title have made a film to be proud of. Amidst some incredible scenes (an extremely erotic library non-reading session between Robbie and Cecelia) as well as the fountain scene are amongst the many that will remain with viewers long after the credits have rolled. The quality and calibre of films that Working Title have turned out recently have been brilliant (Pride & Prejudice, Hot Fuzz, etc) and Atonement ranks up there along with my personal favourites Dead Man Walking and The Hudsucker Proxy. It is a wonderfully crafted, beautifully lush and immensely moving film that shows, above all, how storytelling can both destroy and heal. By the time the final surprise occurs (keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by a smug movie director), you may or may not have decided whether or not Briony has truly atoned for her mistake. But the film takes no sides, gives no easy answers. Perhaps the book was right, and, “the attempt was all.”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Go Hitchcock, it's your birthday, we're gonna party like it's your birthday.

So he is dead, but I just can't resist dedicating another post to my favourite director of all time. This is, after all, a man, so important, that he got an entire google logo dedicated to him:

My top 5 Alfred Hitchcock films:
01. Rear Window
02. Rebecca
03. Rope
04. Vertigo
05. Dial M for Murder

Best 5 Hitchcock films:
01. Vertigo
02. Rear Window
03. Psycho
04. North by Northwest
05. The Lady Vanishes

Favourite Hitchcock leading man/character? James Stewart, particularly as LB Jeffries in Rear Window. In the movie, he's a world-class action photographer with a broken leg, suffering the heat of the hottest time of the year, so hot that his neighbours keep their blinds and shades up day. He's been in his apartment for six weeks and has one more to go before the cast is removed. Utterly bored with everything, he looks through his telescope at his neighbours, which ranges from the pitch-perfect vibratto of the one-time opera singer practicing on the third floor; the trills of a flautist; and maybe even a murder...

I try to be like Grace Kelly.Favourite Hitchcock blonde: Of all time, It’s a tie for me between Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound, Notorious, Under Capricorn) and Grace Kelly (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief), but I’d definitely give Joan Fontaine a mention, simply for giving one of the best female performances of all time, in Rebecca.

favourite Hitchcock cameo: In Marnie where he enters from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by.

Some of Hitchcock’s best scenes:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wild Boys.

My top 25 favourite actors, chosen through a mixture of admiration for their talent, the films they appear in, the performances they’ve given, their personalities, how cute they are, and just how much they appeal to me.

Near misses: John C. Reilly, Mathieu Amalric, Moritz Bleibtreu, Matthew Perry.

25. Gael García Bernal
Best film: El Crimen del Padre Amaro
Best performance: Bad Education

24. Dan Futterman
Best film: Capote (as writer)
Best performance: Urbania

23. Will Smith
Best film: Six Degrees of Separation
Best performance: Ali

22. Shia LaBeouf
Best film: Holes
Best performance: A Guide to Recognising Your Saints

21. Jack Black
Best film: The School of Rock
Best performance: High Fidelity

20. Tom Hollander
Best film: Pride & Prejudice
Best performance: Pride & Prejudice

19. Joaquin Phoenix
Best film: Walk the Line
Best performance: Buffalo Soldiers

18. Gregory Peck
Best film: Roman Holiday
Best performance: To Kill a Mockingbird

17. Jeremy Irons
Best film: Lolita
Best performance: Kafka

16. River Phoenix
Best film: Stand By Me
Best performance: My Own Private Idaho

15. David Mitchell
Best film: Magicians
Best performance: TV’s "Peep Show"

14. Cary Grant
Best film: An Affair to Remember
Best performance: Notorious

13. Jake Gyllenhaal
Best film: Brokeback Mountain
Best performance: Brokeback Mountain

12. Rupert Grint
Best film: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Best performance: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

11. Jack Lemmon
Best film: The Apartment
Best performance: Save the Tiger

10. Jean-Pierre Léaud
Best film: The 400 Blows
Best performance: The 400 Blows

09. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best film: Capote
Best performance:Capote

08. Paddy Considine
Best film: My Summer of Love
Best performance: Dead Man’s Shoes

07. Morgan Freeman
Best film: The Shawshank Redemption
Best performance: Se7en

06. James Stewart
Best film: Rear Window
Best performance: Anatomy of a Murder

05. Haley Joel Osment
Best film: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Best performance: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

04. Leonardo DiCaprio
Best film: William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
Best performance: The Aviator

03. Tim Robbins
Best film: The Shawshank Redemption
Best performance: The Shawshank Redemption

02. Alec Guinness
Best film: Kind Hearts and Coronets
Best performance: A Bridge on the River Kwai

01. Marlon Brando
Best film: On the Waterfront
Best performance: A Streetcar Named Desire

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .