Thursday, March 13, 2003

Today is going to be busy for me.

I'm going across Sheffield to UGC all on my lonesome, for once, as K. is at work and I'm hankering to see a movie. As my friends will realise, this will involve me utilising public transport to achieve my goal, as I can't actually drive - I took driving lessons a long while ago, but never got around to sitting a test and, as a result, I tended to rely on my bike to get me around when I lived in Scarborough (where my bike still resides, awaiting pick-up).

Thankfully, Sheffield has a half-decent public transport system, at least in our neck of the woods, where there is a number 22 bus every ten minutes, and trams to get you to other bits of the city. It is the latter which I will be depending on today for the first time, and I confess to being a little nervous about getting on the right line, to get me to UGC, which is part of the Valley Centertainment complex.

After I see my movie, K. is meeting me and we're going to go around to the shopping mall unaffectionately known locally as "Meadowhell", in a potentially doomed attempt to score my younger brother Paul a suitable birthday pressie - I'm going to be staking out the Warner Brothers studio store, which is as much as I'm prepared to divulge at this point.

I might also take the opportunity, whilst there, to try and pick up a 'Teach Yourself HTML' book, to give First Season a digital spring clean, should my meagre coding skills be up to the task. Any suggestions as to suitable titles will be most gratefully received.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

And just to establish that my geek credentials are still functioning properly, please find a new link added to the template, paying just tribute to every salivating fanboy's favourite ass-kicking TV spy chick.

Or, to put it another way, is Jennifer Garner just super-cute or is she just super-hot? I really can't decide.

I'm as blocked with the writing of my "Far From Heaven" review as I was with my ultimately unsuccessful bid to review the extraordinary "Punch-Drunk Love".

This could be because both movies are better seen than discussed, because I'm not a good enough writer to do justice to either Todd Haynes' wonderful valentine to the golden age of Hollywood melodrama or P.T. Anderson's gutsy, intensely emotional and surreal romantic black comedy.

In general, I want to say only positive things about "Far From Heaven", and hope that this is enough to prompt you into going to the cinema and viewing this amazingly well-made, aesthetically gorgeous and incredibly moving picture.

Haynes has crafted a fantastic homage to the movies of Douglas Sirk, and one which can be entirely appreciated by even an ignoramus like me with little knowledge of movies pre-1970.

Julianne Moore is justifiably Oscar nominated for her role in this movie, playing Cathy, a New England housewife in the 1950's whose ordered existance is slowly ripped away from her when her husband Frank, a never better Dennis Quaid, comes out of the closet and undergoes gruelling psychological treatment, in a laughable, ludicrous attempt to 'cure' him of homosexuality (a treatment which, of course, only manages to increase Frank's self-loathing, makes him drink heavily and generally treat his wife and kids like strangers).

Cathy's life doesn't get any better when she confides in her African-American gardener, Raymond ("24" star Dennis Haysbert, who is quite magnetic in the role and magnificently dignified), develops a friendship teetering on the verge of true love and sets off a whispering campaign of poisonous racist bile and virulent, disgusting misogyny, revealing once and for all that American suburbia in the 50's was not the place to be if you were at all bothered about being different, and not about to conform to a constricting set of proscribed, immovable societal norms.

The plotline is less than revolutionary, certainly, but this is as much an exercise in style as it is a regular drama. An artist is very definitely at work here. To watch Todd Haynes' remarkable "Far From Heaven" is to be swept up in the greatest Sunday afternoon Channel Four matinee movie never made, so compelling is the acting, so rich is the technicolour cinematography and so bold and eye-catchingly colourful are the wonderfully-realised sets and costumes. Elmer Bernstein's score is a thing of lush beauty, too, sounding incredibly refreshing and magnificently sweeping when you spend as much time in a cinema as I do and hear a procession of Elfman/Williams-soundalike scores and pop song compilations masquerading as proper filmic accompaniment.

Go to the cinema, thoroughly enjoy this wonderfully made and fantastically evocative, old-fashioned drama, and be prepared to shed a tear or several by the time that you reach the amazingly moving closing scene of the movie (I had trouble holding it together, I don't mind telling you). "Far From Heaven" is a great night out at the movies.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

For those eagerly awaiting it, a stupendously positive review of Todd Haynes' excellent "Far From Heaven" is in the works, I assure you...

For those of you still wondering, our super secret preview movie yesterday evening was "Evelyn" ,the latest film from Bruce Beresford and producer/star, Pierce Brosnan.

This is, in the best sense, a simple story which has been told wonderfully by the sometimes erratic Beresford - If you told me yesterday that I'd be writing a rave review of the latest movie from the guy who made "Driving Miss Daisy", I might well have laughed in your face -and played fantastically well by Brosnan, who seems very much at home with the convincing, unashamedly emotional material which is at this small film's core.

Simply sketched, this is a film about the reformation of Irish family law legislation in the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of Brosnan's Desmond Doyle, a hard-drinking and sporadically-employed, Dublin-based painter and decorator, whose wife leaves him to bring up their three kids in poverty and as a single parent, at a time when the Catholic church had free reign to take ostensibly endangered kids and place them in their own, predictably grim orphanages.

A temporary care order intended to secure the well-being of Doyle's three kids becomes a more imposing barrier when it transpires that Desmond will not be able to apply for the sole custody of his children unless his missing wife also offers her consent, and as she is living in Australia, in an undisclosed location, that isn't about to happen. An appeal to a higher court, when Doyle's situation improves, ends in failure as Desmond's case founders on technicalities. The legal battle is far from over, but the unnerving prospect of trying to change Irish legal statutes and take on an apparently immovable, emotionless judiciary fails to discourage Doyle from getting his sons and eponymous daughter back, ultimately leading to a courtroom climax as nerve-racking as that of any contemporary legal thriller, and much more involving, thanks in part to the truth of the story being dramatised.

The trailer would have you believe that this film is an uplifting tale of a family split asunder, pitted against both church and state and probably full of sickly sentimentality, a Hollywood-ised depiction of Mother Ireland and stuffed to the very gills with blarney.

Not so.

Though this film doesn't shy away from telling an emotional true story, and playing the inherant pathos of the Doyle family's ordeal when necessary, it takes a higher road than a lot of movies of this type. Many opportunities for heart string-tugging are offered and taken, but are always in service of the story (The death of a major character is dealt with in a mostly matter-of-fact way, and occurs with the abruptness and arbitrary cruelty of real life) and the details of these quiet, but inspirational, lives. If you have a tear in your eye as the film draws to a close, you don't feel as though Beresford's direction and screenwriter Paul Pender's writing have manipulated you into emotional release - The storytelling takes time to introduce us to a cast of colourfully-drawn, intriguing ordinary people and their troubles and allows us to get to know them before they are put to the test.

Brosnan is excellent and succeeds entirely in playing a character light years away from the movie icon he's best known for embodying.
This is clearly a passion project for him, and he's ably supported by a well-chosen ensemble which includes "ER" star Julianna Margulies, the venerable and unsinkable Alan Bates, the singularly dependable Stephen Rea and "Project Greenlight"s hopefully unintentional hatchet man, Aidan Quinn. The key performance of Sophie Vavasseur, as the eponymous heroine, is also excellent and entirely unforced - this is not a precocious child actor and she gives a fine, endearing performance as a young girl suffering bravely through a terrible situation and seemingly surviving it mostly unscathed.

I loved this charming, moving and surprisingly funny film, I hope that you'll take the time to go and see it too, and fall for "Evelyn"s altogether subtle, life-affirming charm .

Bingo Bowden has a timely and all-too-accurate broadside on his blog today, which you can find HERE, concerning Mr Tony and Dubya's big, clever plans.

In my capacity as keeping-it-shallow, resident movie geek, I can only add the likes of "Three Kings" and "Black Hawk Down" to that list of cinematic research material.

Having read through more than my share of pro-conflict blogs in the last few weeks, and noticed how many of them are shilling for CDs to be sent to US troops in the gulf, it's surely a matter of time before such sites also start collecting pertinent flicks on DVD for the boys in the field...

Monday, March 10, 2003

Prepare to have your brain comprehensively fried by the very real evil that is Empire Online's Big Movie Quote Quiz. Your humble Blogsworth managed a piffling score on his own, and an only slightly better rating when ably assisted/carried to the finish line by his cooler, smarter, generally more ace and far lovelier better-half.

Don't come crying to me if your noggin explodes...

What will our super-secret, highly mysterious movie preview be tonight? If you didn't know, the excellent K., my lovely mother-in-law, Kate, and your Blogging Bloke have been invited to a sneaky preview of an unidentified movie, as part of UGC Cinemas 'Recommended' programme, which allows regular punters to recommend upcoming movies to their fellow cinematic consumers. There will be questionaire action and an attempt to frame some kind of opinion as to what the film was like, immeadiately after watching it (As anyone who heard my rave review of "Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace" subsequent to my viewing it will doubtless attest, this is not necessarily the most accurate guide to a film's lasting qualities).

If it's "The Core", I may be forced to do the Dance of Unlikely, Stupid Explosion Movie Joy.

If it's "Johnny English", I might yet do the Gurn of Idiotically Silly Comic Glee.

If it's "I Capture the Castle", I could assume the Pose of Sub-Merchant Ivory Bewilderment.

If it's anything else, your guess is as good as mine.

I just can't wait for 8:00pm tonight...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?