strange_complex: (Fred Astaire flying)
My first film of 2017, seen this afternoon with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy at the Hyde Park Picture House. They were, of course, showing it in tribute to the late Debbie Reynolds, and I'm pleased to say that she got a healthy audience and a round of applause at the end.

Ironically, having made a point of clearing my review backlog so that I could start my 2017 film reviewing with a blank slate, I find I don't have a huge amount to say about the actual film which I didn't already say four years ago when we saw it at the Cottage Road cinema. I can certainly say that I came out of the second viewing feeling just as enthusiastic about it as after the first, though. It is a bit bare-faced about crow-barring the song and dance numbers into the plot, but you forgive it anyway for doing so with a nod and a wink, and for being so consistently funny and beautiful the whole way through. And I think it's probably humanly impossible not to be just a little bit in love with Gene Kelly by the end of it all.

One thing I see I didn't mention in my last review (but [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan did in a comment!), and which deserves due tribute, is this wonderful Silent Movie Vamp Lady in her spider-web dress:

Singin spider web dress.png

Singin spider web dress 2.JPG Singin spider web dress 3.JPG

Simply, wow!

One more thing which should be noted here, and which I've only just realised while filling in the tags for this entry: I have now been reviewing all the films I see here on LJ consistently for ten whole years. Here's where it all began, with Metropolis in January of 2007. I have sometimes got behind on my reviews, and felt burdened-down as a result, but overall I am heartily glad that I have done it. It has definitely helped me to get an enormous amount more out of what I see, both at the time of viewing and while writing about it afterwards. I think it has also enabled me to home in more efficiently on films I will actually like. Whether I will keep it up for another ten years from now remains to be seen, but I certainly don't intend to stop any time soon.

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strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
I saw both of these with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan as a New Year's Eve double-bill at the Hyde Park Picture House yesterday, from our favourite seats on the left-hand side of the balcony.


45. Some Like It Hot (1959), dir. Billy Wilder

First of all, it does have to be acknowledged that this one particular film probably bears about 90% of the responsibility for the transphobic myth that trans women are really just straight dudes who want to infiltrate women-only spaces and ogle cis women. It didn't invent that idea, and nor is it now necessarily the direct cause of most people absorbing it, but it is a major theme of the film, and must surely have given it a very big cultural boost. So I think it's important to say that whenever talking about this film, as a small way of helping to chip away at the real-world potency of that very damaging myth. On a similar note, I also found the scenes in which Tony Curtis' character, in persona as Shell Oil Junior, coerces Sugar into sex by pretending to be sexually unresponsive and in need of 'help' to fix him pretty gross as well. I get that disguise and deceit are ancient staples of romantic comedies, and never more so than in this one, but she was totally into his Shell Oil Junior character anyway. She would very obviously have willingly and enthusiastically have had sex with him without that extra layer of lies and manipulation, so to me they broke through the romantic comedy genre conventions and out into some distinctly rapey territory.

But I am perfectly capable of separating out those things from the rest of the film in my mind, and seeing it for the of-its-time romantic musical comedy it is meant to be. As a star vehicle for Monroe it is magnificent, with her performance of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" capturing her appeal perfectly. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are perfectly paired as the two protagonists, the Chicago gangsters are brilliant, the music is great, the physical farce fantastic and the witty dialogue to die for. Plus, for all my reservations above, I also think that by showing male characters experiencing male treatment of women at first hand, and by including scenes with strong homosexual overtones (both lesbian ones between Sugar and Curtis-as-Josephine and the famous "Well, nobody's perfect" ending between Osgood and Lemmon-as-Jerry), it probably helped to achieve some social steps forwards as well as backwards. So, if the movie isn't perfect either, that doesn't mean it isn't still a great watch.


46. The Apartment (1960), dir. Billy Wilder

Part two of the double-bill was the next year's follow-up movie from the same production team, which brought back Jack Lemmon as the leading man. It's still a comedy, and starts out looking for all the world like a farce, but it has a dark undertone from the beginning, because of the way it portrays sleazy executives laughing it up together as they coldly conduct affairs in Lemmon's character's apartment, and him conniving in it for the sake of material promotion, while at the same time being very obviously strung along and exploited himself. Then, half-way through, the darkness bursts violently to the surface when one executive's to-him-casual (but to her serious) fling attempts suicide in the apartment. The overall arc is actually very moralistic - Lemmon discovers his moral compass and is rewarded with True Love, the chief sleazy executive gets his come-uppance, and the young lady (Miss Kubelik) rediscovers her sense of self-worth. But gosh, you do get put through the wringer along the way.

This made it a good second film for the double-bill, though. It felt a little more 'cerebral' than Some Like It Hot (if that's quite the right word), which worked well for its early evening slot once you'd been warmed up by the comedy first. It was certainly more moving, anyway - I found myself sniffing back tears as the end credits rolled, which you just wouldn't get from Some Like It Hot (unless, of course, Chicago mobsters had killed your grandmother, you insensitive clod). But it has in common with the other film all those classic qualities of slick pacing, seemingly effortless photography and of course a brilliant cast. Though his character isn't very nice, I actually thought Fred MacMurray was absolutely brilliant as Sleazy Executive Mr. Sheldrake, hitting that perfect note between oiliness and plausible charm which seems to be so characteristic of American Presidents (Nixon and Regan particularly spring to mind). It is essential to the whole plot that we should be able to believe Miss Kubelik might attempt suicide over him while simultaneously being able to see that he's a schmuck, so MacMurray had an important job to do there, and did it really well. I'd like to see more stuff with him in now on that basis. I also loved both the characterisation and the performances for the two Jewish neighbours, Dr. and Mrs. Dreyfuss - relatively small roles (especially hers), but ones which felt very human and three-dimensional al the same.

While Some Like It Hot has fun playing up the glamour of the 1920s jazz age, The Apartment is now just as fascinating for being set in its contemporary present day. I particularly enjoyed seeing how large-scale corporate office culture might have operated in 1960s America, complete with lobbies, elevators, desk diaries, rotary card index files, calculating machines and telephone exchanges. And I liked the insights into Lemmon's bachelor life-style as well, which was so close to and yet not quite the same as its equivalent today - frozen meals for heating up in the oven rather than microwave meals, a TV remote-control unit with a dial on it fixed to his table, and of course the time-honoured pokey apartment for one. In less cheery news from the 1960s, though, I was disquieted to realise that Miss Kubelik is obviously at risk of getting into trouble with the law for having attempted suicide, so that the whole thing has to be hushed up. We have moved beyond that, suicide-wise, in both the US and UK since, but that is still exactly where we are with drugs, leaving addicts unable to seek help for fear of punishment (not to mention at risk from unregulated products), and it's about damned time we sorted that out.

Back to The Apartment(!), it also turned out to be a Christmas / New Year film, which I guess was yet another reason (on top of release-date chronology and the tonal move from pure comedy to black comedy) why it needed to be the second half of the double bill. Miss Kubelik makes her suicide attempt on Christmas Eve, spends a few days recovering at Jack Lemmon's apartment, and then finally dumps her Sleazy Executive in favour of him on New Year's Eve. Not quite the Christmas-to-New-Year experience I would wish on anyone in reality, but still in its own way something to get us in the mood for our own NYE celebrations which followed.

Films watched 2014 round-up )

And now I believe it is time to get started on my films watched in 2015. :-)

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strange_complex: (Janus)
The Year of Augustus is officially over at last, and it's time to wish you all a happy and healthy 2015! May it be full of goodness and satisfaction for you all.

I spent my New Year's Eve this year seeing Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960) at the Hyde Park cinema with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan (both of which I shall write up separately), before returning to my place where we were joined by [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy and Mr. & Mrs. [twitter.com profile] ZeitgeistZero for champagne, canap├ęs, a cosy fire and lots of wicked laughter. It was a lovely evening, and has only left me feeling moderately delicate today, so all in all just right.

Under strict instructions from [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau, we made sure to compile the annual Death List and Scandal List, which we do most years and which I have occasionally published here (example), but which I don't think we got round to last year. The rules are that if anyone on the list dies or becomes embroiled in a scandal in 2015, we all get 10p, though I'm not sure from whom - ourselves, probably. Also, it's fine for people to be on both lists. Re the Death List, some people are on there in hope, others as a protective charm (since people on the list very rarely actually die), and some out of pure pragmatism, but I will leave it to you to guess which. And re the Scandal List, we have suggested specifics in some cases, in which case we get double points if those come to pass, but we still all get our statutory 10p if those people are involved in any kind of scandal, even if it's not the one we predicted.

So, without further ado, and in the utterly random order we wrote them down last night while drunk, here goes:

2015 Death List
Prince Philip (who has now taken Mrs. Thatcher's traditional place at the head of the list)
John Craven
Ex-Pope Benedict XIV (oops!) XVI (natural causes)
Current Pope Francis (suspicious circumstances)
Elizabeth Butler Sloss
Beryl Bainbridge (ah - actually, just looked her up on Wikipedia now, and it turns out she died in 2010. So nul points for us there I think.)
Katie Hopkins
Michael Heseltine
Kirk Douglas
Terry Pratchett
Alan Bennett
David Hockney
Mark E. Smith
Paul McCartney
Ken Dodd
Rolf Harris (in prison)
Stephen Hawking
Clint Eastwood
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran
President Muhammad Fuad Masum of Iraq
President Assad of Syria
George Bush Snr
Bruce Forsyth
Jimmy Tarbuck
Mickey Rooney
Maggie Smith
Paul Daniels
Any current Blue Peter pets
Mike Lee

2015 Scandal List
Justin Bieber (glue sniffing)
Nigel Farage (auto-erotic asphyxiation and / or found with an orange up his arse)
Boris Johnson
Katie Hopkins
Bono
Gary Barlow
Ed Miliband (turns out to be a LARPer)
Richard Dawkins (converts to Islam)
Jeb Bush
Jedward (it's possible that at this stage we were drifting into playing word association)
Any male BBC news reader
Lorraine Kelly
Neil & Christine Hamilton
Noel Edmonds
George Lucas
Damien Hirst
Paul Daniels
The McCanns
Noddy Holder

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strange_complex: (Metropolis False Maria)
Seen this afternoon at the Hyde Park Picture House with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy. I'll keep my notes on it short, as I've got a looming deadline, so can't spare much time or brain-juice for non-work writing at the moment. But I enjoyed it hugely and can highly recommend it.

Obviously we all know the crack for this film - that it's a careful pastiche of a 1920s silent movie. And so it is, and it does that beautifully, capturing all the motifs and devices of the era, all the while tipping the audience a knowing wink about what it is doing. We see a great deal of the business of film-viewing and film-making, both literally through the developments of the plot, but also more allusively through the use of paintings, photographs, screens, mirrors, windows etc. Similarly, the mannered use of the silent movie genre very obviously renders every reference to sound and / or silence heavily significant, and an enormous amount is done with this throughout the film - though I won't spoil it by saying exactly what

I wasn't 100% sure about the gender politics of the main romance plot. The older male character starts out as a hero of silent films, but then wrecks his own career by refusing to make the move into talkies, enters a downward spiral of debt and booze, and ends up in half-dead in hospital - and yet the young bright rising female star is still supposed to think he is worth rescuing from his own idiocy. Then again, though, she does get to build up a dazzlingly successful career entirely in her own right, be independently-motivated and self-assured throughout the movie and - yeah - rescue the poor little gentleman in distress at the end. So maybe it's not so bad.

I'm not surprised everyone has been raving about the little dog, but actually I liked everyone in this movie, including John Goodman, whom I normally avoid like the plague. As for the dresses, sets, finger-waves, cinema palaces etc - oh yeah, baby! Everything I was hoping for. :-)

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strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
So - yeah. Now that I am over the immediate trauma of breaking my glasses (but not by any means the underlying *grrrrr*), let me tell you about my weekend.

Friday night was very sociable - you could even have accused me of being a bit of a butterfly. First an hour in the Wrens with [livejournal.com profile] nalsa, [livejournal.com profile] maviscruet, their young ladies and assorted other friends, during which we discussed flickr business cards, the top three best-known British monarchs and the fall of the Roman empire. Next, a curry at Hansa's with [livejournal.com profile] hieroglyphe and [livejournal.com profile] johnnydefective, over which we talked about academic job prospects, [livejournal.com profile] johnnydefective's naughty office pranks and filmage in general. Finally, down to the station to meet up with The Sisterly One and her partner (Nicolas), who were coming to stay for the weekend.

We were all kinda knackered after we got back to my flat, since they'd had a whole day of work plus a long train journey, while I'd been cleaning the house all day and then butterflying all evening. But not so knackered we didn't have time to chat for a while and for me to give Charlotte an early birthday present (her actual birthday is today - woo!).

Saturday saw us heading off on a big adventure - to Roundhay Park Tropical World! Yay! It was very hot inside, but we saw lots of extremely cute and interesting animals, such as ring-tailed lemurs, bushbabies, lion-faced golden tamarins, blue macaws, enormous carp, bats, striped grass mice, turtles, snakes and meerkats! (*squee-squee-squee*) They were definitely the best - and come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen them in real life before. So that was cool.

After Tropical World, we ate much-needed ice-creams, and took a long walk round the park, seeing people playing cricket, a fake castle and millions and millions of seething tadpoles as we did. Then it was across Leeds by bus to show off my new house and have coffee in Headingley, before heading on down to the Hyde Park Picture House to see Sunshine - more about that in a separate 'films watched 2007' post.

Sunday was quiet and chilled, after a lot of walking around outdoors the previous day But we did find time to simultaneously look at architecture and do some shopping in Leeds city centre. Charlotte got some nice skirts, I got rechargeable batteries for my digital camera and some pretty sandals for the summer, and Nicolas got some good photos of the Edwardian arcades.

Finally, they headed off to catch their train, since Charlotte wanted to be back in London for the day of her actual birthday, and I pootled off home to enjoy the previous evening's Doctor Who. Which seemed solidly back on track after the slight wibble that had been the Dalek two-parter.

So nice all round, really. Just a pity I had to top it off today by breaking my glasses!

strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Recent days have seen:

Sunday afternoon - Oculus and The Call of Cthulhu )

Sunday evening - Mavis' bonfire party )

Tuesday evening - GamerZ )

Wednesday evening - Ange, Cat and Anche Libero Va Bene )

Tonight sees pintage with [livejournal.com profile] big_daz, and the weekend a jaunt down to Oxford for the nuptials of [livejournal.com profile] boblink and Tree. And then, d'y'know - next week I think I will stay in a bit!

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