Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Christmassy Grumble

Every year, usually but not necessarily starting November, shops deck up in Christmas gear and start selling it too, sometimes even before the month dedicated to the dead (now see... that in itself should already be indication enough that we are not to be festive!)

Maybe it's due to my childhood and mum's yearly grumble about 'having to do' the decorating, or maybe not, that I am not so keen to decorate the house early. Whilst my target for getting into the festive mood is the 8th of December (a feast and therefore always a day when I am home, whatever day of the week it may be), my husband postpones even further and we find ourselves putting up the decorations and the tree on the 13th (well make it the 14th this time around!) so that really, is it even worth all the effort when they are only going to be on view for three weeks max?)

As Christmas draws near, my excitement starts building I must admit, as I let my friends' love for the season spill over into my lesser-inclined mind. However, not only do I dread all the tinsel-sweeping that comes with setting it all up (and the headache of where to store the empty boxes till they are to return, filled, to the garage in the new year), but I also get fed up of it all really quickly! This year is no exception. Or rather, to be more precise, this year our tree had no place to go since our house is now much more ready and therefore full of furniture, than it used to be and it now stands as a roundabout in between the kitchen area and the living room, leaving us only the space to pass one at a time between it and the back of the sofa, which didn't used to be there last year (and actually when we still had some space left for the tree that was not in the middle anyway!)

And so I ashamedly admit, I can't wait to put it all down. Well, not all exactly, maybe. Crazy as it sounds, knowing the cushion behind my back as I watch something on the telly has a red cover and is something Christmassy makes me smile. And I really love my husband's idea of decorating the new shelves we've installed and how he did it. As always, the Christmas wreath with its flowers and candles in red and gold seems to me lovely and the snowmen standing guard on the top of the cabinets that have, since last year, moved from my office area to the dining room, I also well-appreciate.

So I think, after all, it's just the dreaded tree I'm after removing when I count down to the new year and mentally see myself packing it all up in boxes again for a year. Now aren't Christmas trees ornamental beauties as a rule? I do think that when I see other peoples, but try as I may, excluding one time which was last year, I never seem to think our tree has been properly set up. There is either too much red or too little tinsel, not enough decorations or maybe too many. There were times I wanted to do away with all the old ornaments that were passed on to me from mum's tree (she stopped setting one up when she last moved house and she seemed to announce it with relief!) but now I seem to love the old things, some of which date back to the seventies I am sure.

As you can see, I don't even myself know just why I keep looking at our too huge tree and asking it to be better next year. Maybe, just maybe, it is because of memories embedded in our histories after all.

Friday, 19 December 2014

As it is almost Christmas... A Christmas Classic, Actually

As of yesterday morning, my latest entry on EVE is up and I must say, it was a nice surprise (I never know for when exactly it is scheduled). Given what a horrible day I was having, it was one thing that put a smile on my face! Not going to keep you in suspense any longer now, here goes the link:

http://www.eve.com.mt/2014/12/18/a-christmas-classic-actually/

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Michael Hoffman Film - Restoration (1995)

Michael Hoffman is an American who won a scholarship to an Oxford college in England where he realised his fascination with the young pompous Englishmen's ways on campus, so different from what he was used to in his own country, could easily translate into a film. And so the student film Privileged was born. However since I have unfortunately still to find this treasure to add to my DVD collection (yes, as you guessed it does star a young Hugh Grant in his first ever role), I will instead today be talking about another film that Hoffman directed in later years and which is Restoration (1995).

Whilst in this film, too, Hugh Grant makes an appearance (Hugh does seem to love to work with the same people over and over), the main star of this venture is definitely Robert Downey Jr., around whose character the story evolves. For Downey is Robert Merivel, a bright young doctor much more absorbed in worldly things than in his vocation, to the chagrin of his best pal John Pearce (played by David Thewlis who is better known for his part as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter series).

The story follows Merivel through what he thinks is his lucky break, which turns out to be also a disappointment when the one lady he falls in love with is very clearly the one he can't have. But life must go on and unfortunately also without his previous fortunes, so that he ultimately goes back to caring for the sick, first at his friend Pearce's sanitarium and later, following more bad luck (and some valuable life experiences too), back to where he started in London, caring for the ones that really need a physician. This time it is the plague and under the name of his now-dead friend Pearce, Merivel does good wherever he goes until the time comes when he is once again summoned to the King's palace where his good fortunes originally started. It is there that his conversion to a better man really becomes complete and not only so, but I believe also where he finally totally lets go of his love which had gone unrequited. Despite the plague and the Great Fire of London of 1666, Merivel's story ultimately ends on a happy note.

I must confess I was impressed with Robert Downey Jr. in this project, most especially because in this film he is stripped of his usual confident onscreen persona for most of the two-hour journey. It is his soulful eyes, in fact, that work overtime this time, portraying all the inner feelings of the worldly-but-naive Merivel who, for the most part of the film, is subjected to disappointments of every kind. The character in question is the kind that starts out as a cad but ends in conversion to a better person  but which has the audience on his side from the very first. Downey is one of few people who can pull off this stunt.

Meanwhile, if Downey plays the cad, this time real-life hottie Hugh Grant plays only a minor role and even that, in a ridiculous costume and wearing too much make-up, so much in fact that I am quite ready to believe that a non-fan might miss it being Hugh altogether. Dan Whitehead's unauthorised biography suggests this role might have been his way of staying out of the spotlight directly following the press-storm around his 1995 arrest. I concede to the fact that only a hard-core fan could possibly like his character Elias Finn and then only on the merits that we (fans I mean) can never get enough of the typical Hugh-character stutter and fidgety type.

If I were to rate this film, I'd be quite confused on whether to rate high or low, simply because it excels in some aspects whilst disappointing in some others. The storyline (borrowed from a book by the same title and which refers to England's Restoration period) is original and the historical setting and costumes impressive, but there still seems to be something lacking in this film, especially in its first part, something I can't quite seem to pinpoint. And to add insult to injury, Merivel's excessively frilly clothing and curly wig, despite being in keeping with the era in question, are quite unnerving on the usually self-proud figure of Downey, making him look like a fool. But that could be because I am only reviewing this nineteen years after it was filmed, and quite a while after Downey's name became synonymous with Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

That Tiny Silver Lining For This Week

There isn't much to say this week because frankly, nothing much happened. Or rather, a big something called surgery happened at the start of the week and has left me a little out of it and doing not much else all week. It was supposed to be just a little something, a tiny incision to remove the roots of a wisdom tooth that broke so bad they wouldn't come out when the dentist pulled it out, in pieces. But as things are bound to be, it turned out more complicated than not only I but even the surgeons thought it would be.

So I am now nursing the stitches whilst looking each morning at a swollen face that had me in the A&E last Thursday for being so bad. Apparently this is the one case in the world where sleeping actually makes your situation worse! The surgeon kindly explained to hubby and me when I turned up panicking that it's something to do with oedema and the body trying to keep safe from infection following the bruising bla bla bla and which seems to happen when I lie down. So he warned me that this would be happening every morning for a few more days, this gross huge swelling that even reduces my ability to open my left eye properly whilst turning my cheek right below the said eye a seeming purple at times. Meanwhile talking of purple, my lip ain't looking too good either, mostly due to the repeated blows it received during surgery because of my extra-small mouth (my small mouth only every seems to cause complications on the health front, and I used to think it looked cute!!)

The one thing interesting that did happen on Monday just before surgery turned out to be something of a booster for the literary side of me. Always wary of bus timetables, I made my way to the hospital early in order to avoid chancing lateness. Which left me with two hours to spare after I got there (trust the bus to be early when you are!) So for lack of anything better to do, I stalked an Agenda newsagent for over an hour as I willed the time to pass so that I could get the procedure over with (little did I know what I was in for!) One hour in a shop is a long time you know? After I mentally scanned all the rows of magazines for at least three times, finding none worth parting with money for, I moved on to the books sections. I say sections because they were spread over more than one area.

Each bookshelf got a good seeing to, and many books with interesting names, covers, authors I'd heard of, made it into my searching hands. What was I looking for? As I turned each one over to read the synopsis and mull over whether I thought the storylines original, intriguing, worth reading and so on, I put each plot in line with that of my own novel, as yet partly in draft and partly sitting in my mind or in little notes in my files. I will not diss any of the books that I saw, and I am sure that there are many as interesting or even more so than my own little imaginative literary project. But that said, I think I can safely say the exercise made me believe that my novel, too, deserves a space in that Agenda and only another writer can understand me fully when I say, the thought of seeing my book in print gave me a moral boost so big it helped me write a scene I'd been stuck on for months.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reviewing Extreme Measures

This is an old film from 1996 and yet thankfully I found to buy this first Simian production easily enough. (Simian Films is the production house opened up at the time by Hugh Grant with then-partner Elizabeth Hurley and which has by now been closed). For those that might not have heard of it, Extreme Measures is a thriller dealing with ethics in medicine and neurological experimentation, based on a book by the same name. Due to an aversion to gore, I googled this film and read all the reviews and comments I could get hold of to ensure I would be able to see it without squirming (well I did look away a couple of times because of some ugly scenes). Despite the uncertainty of how many times I would jump out of my skin whilst watching (hence I implored my husband to watch it with me) I am a loyal fan of Grant's works and couldn't give up watching a non-horror film of his at least once.
If there was ever a film that Hugh Grant starred in that should dispel the common perception that he plays the same character over and over, it is this one. It sees him play the good doctor, Guy Luthan, who is thrown into a world of crime, deceit and too much gore and pain. It was difficult, especially at the start, to take him seriously with those soft blue eyes and the floppy hair all over the place, since this time it would have seemed out of place to have him constantly running his hand through it to calm it down. But as the film progressed and the good doctor turned private detective of the most heroic kind, I got used not only to a totally serious side to his acting but also to seeing him with blood on the face and oozing from his nose and eventually the bullet wounds. That is not to say I enjoyed watching his smooth face covered in red or his hair matted from the blood. And with this mention of hair I must comment that he had a good hair cut in this film (and one that hid the mark on his face just in front of the ear). But if the hair looked good and the makeup was to my relief (and his as from what I gather he hates makeup) non-existent, I must say that he could have done with waxing off that monobrow if he wanted those non-fans to become followers.

Now on to the film itself, I must remark that there are quite a few twists and turns, both literal (once Guy finds himself in an underground labyrinth of tunnels full of train tracks) and not. Having read the summary of the film, I thought I had it all figured out and that I was just watching it mostly out of curiosity and for yet another view of those baby blues. But time and again during the course of almost two hours I was proven wrong or had to admit there were things the reviews had not told me, which is just as well as I love a good surprise. And surprises there were, for even whilst the viewer almost immediately gets to know who is meant to be the big man on the bad side, you can never be sure of the rest of the characters. Being Hugh's usually blundering 'nice guy', Luthan does not keep much of what he learns to himself and I was quick to point out to my husband how this was not the ideal thing for a 'detective' to do. But trust the film to prove that I was always wrong in who I regarded as a possible threat to him. I was also, ashamedly, surprised that our good doctor chose always to look out for his patients first and foremost, even when they were anyway on the brink of death and he was risking his own skin in doing so.
I think my loyalty at times got the better of me as I pleaded with Hugh Grant to leave them alone and just run, or asked some villain to 'please now, enough, stop hitting him.' I must seem a real moron whenever I watch what I call 'an HG Film' that can in any way put his character in danger, or in one case unfortunately even death. It is inconceivable to me that someone would be blind enough to harm such good looks but then again maybe that is why I have never been cast in a thriller myself (I'd only be good at the romantic comedies I guess!).
Before I make you gag with my recurring mentions of the dark haired man with pools of blue for eyes, let me move to commenting on the last part of this long film. It is unusual in a thriller for the bad guys to win but with so many bends in this plot I could not be sure of that. And I will also not tell, for the sake of those who still intend watching this unique presentation of Hugh's and would rather find it out for themselves. And I will also not tell you what awaits Guy Luthan at the very end of the film, not only unexpected to the audience but definitely also to himself.




Friday, 21 November 2014

Short Review About A Long-Ago Time (The Lady and The Highwayman 1989)

I am not one to watch Romance films. Even for the imaginative fanciful side of me, the genre screams too soppy and is usually, in my opinion, devoid of plot unless absolutely relatable to the love story. This counts also for the written Romance.
 
However nothing (except maybe for the really squirmy scary scenes!) can keep me away from watching any film or series that Hugh Grant's been in. So having seen only a clip of 'The Lady and The Highwayman', I got curious enough to actually buy the DVD. After all, what is a collection unless it is complete?
 
The film is apparently based on a book, one which is therefore now a good candidate for my film-tie-in books part of the collection. But aside from the fact that I did find the story pleasing enough to now want to read, my job today is to review this film from twenty-five years ago, which in the film world is considered too long ago.
 
The story is set in the confines of a historical background, though I must plead guilty to not knowing anything about the time in question and therefore the accuracy of this film in its regard. However I must applaud the authenticity of plot (unless I have obviously missed similar plots for not being a follower of the genre).
 
I must admit to shaking my head a couple of times in the course of watching this story with regards to some excessively 'coincidental' scenes such as how Lucius (aka Silver Blade) could so easily know that and find Panthea when she is in trouble. The film does not give the reason... has he been stalking her, is it pure coincidence, is it deus ex machina? Also too unbelievable the synchronisation between Panthea's minute of execution and her lover's timely saving her from sure death. Having had my little grumble, I do believe it is permissible in Romance to have such coincidences and magically resolvable problems as long as they help the lovers along.
 
As always, I have researched this film for facts as well as other people's opinions of it and was disappointed to read on a blog that one particular person, for thinking Hugh Grant so badly-acting in this film, has in all these twenty-five years never shaken off her image of him as Lucius, in whatever other film of his she might be viewing. Since we're on the subject, I do not think Grant's acting was bad at all, though I am sure that he was much more believable in other later roles. The one problem I do find with his portrayal of Lucius is that in this case, the highwayman could not have been as shy a person as Hugh sometimes made him out to be? In a 2012 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Hugh Grant himself mentions how at times he had difficultly keeping his voice firm and highwaymanly enough for the role. But that just adds to his cuteness, don't you think :-)

On to the outline of what I think is a well-executed film. It centres around Lady Panthea Vyne, a young woman of noble birth, and the notorious Silver Blade (played by a young Hugh) who she meets, seemingly quite by chance, in her hour of need. Silver Blade rescues her from the lecherous, brutal, lying tax collector Drysdale (you might have guessed I dislike this character!) who has pushed her into marrying him. To make the highwayman more humane and likeable, he even helps her bury her dog whom her husband's just killed.

After they run off on a horse into the sunset together, Silver Blade escorts her home where the plucky girl is intent on keeping house, despite apparently being a female orphan (and now knows her brother's been killed). This set up does not last for long, for her aunt descends upon her home to lure her to go and live with her and this older woman, a good old friend of the King, succeeds in introducing Panthea to the royal way of life and this is where her troubles, and true love, really start. It is here I stop my narration for those who might be now curious enough to watch the whole film for themselves. All I will say is, despite the soppiness and extreme bravado of the characters, which might be quite exaggerated for our times, there is something quite endearing in the love of these two young people and well, I couldn't help falling in love with them myself. Give me a good old Robin-hood-type highwayman any day :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I've Got News or... What is Bridget Jones without Daniel Cleaver?!

I have not been able to post an update for this week but now I have something I want to post more than my planned entry... My column at www.eve.com.mt is finally up and you can find my first article at:

http://www.eve.com.mt/2014/11/18/what-is-bridget-jones-without-daniel-cleaver/

Hope you enjoy :-)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Bad Weather and Good Films

A post on here is well overdue and I must say I had quite an eventful last week. However I do have a policy not to go into the too personal on this blog and so I am anyway at a loss as to what I could go on about. So here is the gist of my thoughts about this last week (as already stated excluding the personal):
 
The weather has definitely turned now! I still remember saying this on the blog back on 9th September and I was so wrong as the chilly weather lasted a mere few days back then and went back to being obnoxiously hot. But last week has showed us that the wintry weather seems here to stay. It is still not cold, considering we're practically mid-November but the deluge usually reserved for the first September rain has hit badly now instead. The first bad weather-related experience occurred two Wednesdays ago when a single hour of very heavy rain once again flooded our valley, leaving me and my son stranded just metres away from where my mother's car was parked. Needless to say, son and I both got a good soaking.
 
It's funny how my mind works mostly through connotations and just that word 'soaking' brought an image to mind - that of Tim and Mary running through the rain on their wedding day in the trailer for 'About Time', which review you can find here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/its-about-time.html
 
Which in turn brings me to talk about my latest findings related to filming. I have not only discovered, started and finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey, but I also read the book by Beryl Bainbridge entitled 'An Awfully Big Adventure' and on which a film by the same name is based (you can find my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/an-awfully-big-adventure-1995.html ) The book is a little difficult to follow but totally worth a read. I hope to write a review relating book and film when I have some time.
 
I unfortunately have to go now but I promise to try and have something more interesting than getting my socks wet in the rain to say next time.
 
 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

About A Man: Hugh Grant

He is the man the tabloids love to hate, most especially since he turned the tables on the press with the publication of his taped conversation with Paul McMullen, in which the latter unknowingly confessed to the dirty tactics of the press as well as the involvement of people in high places. Later, Grant served as a witness in the Leveson Enquiry into phone-hacking and is to date a director and frontman of HackedOff.

Yet whilst the less-serious journalists hate him for all this, they must also deep down be thanking him for the multitude of times he came in handy for writing interesting titbits about his life. Since the paparazzi photographs of Hugh with the beautiful girl in the safety-pin dress by Versace twenty years ago, the press have never left him well alone. In fact, when he got arrested in 1995 at Sunset Boulevard for ‘lewd conduct’, the incident received so much coverage that unfortunately I have met people who know little about him and yet, when I mention his name, they are quick to point out that one episode in his life. When Hugh manly owned up to being in the wrong on Jay Leno's 'Tonight' show only a week or two later, he made what many refer to as a 'public apology' (as if the public was due an apology for his private affairs?!). Since then, the press has taunted him in all possible ways, many times publishing stories or details achieved by underhanded means. They have gone to great lengths to provide the public with juicy details (and sometimes pure fiction) from the life of a man who first rose to fame in 1994 as the bumbling toff Charles in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'.

That year he made the front cover of the UK Edition of Premiere, his lovely model-perfect face captioned 'SWOON! The rise of Hugh Grant'. But his acting work goes way back, before he became a public symbol of both good looks and charm. From his debut in 'Privileged' (1982), he went on to get an important part in 'Maurice' (1987) for which he won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and then his main actor role in the French Production 'The Bengali Night' (1988). His acting is to be admired in both these films, even at the young age of twenty-seven (back then very lean, boyish-looking and absolutely adorable).

Other old films of his include 'Impromptu' (in which he pulls off the Polish Chopin's part to snobbish perfection) and 'Sirens', as well as Roman Polanski's 'Bitter Moon' in which he co-stars with Kristin Scott Thomas who also appears in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' as his best-friend Fiona. His earlier films seem to indicate an interest in projects that defy accepted norms, exploring that which is unacceptable and at times immoral. I hazard a guess that this might have intrigued a young witty and intelligent Englishman who was bright enough to receive a scholarship to Oxford, where he studied and graduated with a degree in English, before choosing to pursue an acting career.
  
He is self-deprecating about his acting abilities and it's been over ten years since he declared he would stop making films. And yet few actors could brag not only his notoriety but also his achievements. One of his biggest films of all time has to be 'About A Boy' (2002), based on the book by Nick Hornby, in which only Hugh Grant could pull off to perfection the part of a cad that the viewer cannot help but love and side with. For his interpretation in this film, GQ named him 'Man of the Year' but theirs is only one of a very many honours bestowed upon him for his brilliance. On winning his Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a motion picture Comedy in 1995, he made what must have been one of the most original (and mockingly honest) speeches I ever heard. It was to be the first of a series of awards that include a BAFTA for Excellence in Film and an Honorary Cesar for Lifetime Achievement.

I am not yet done with my praise for the person who I must admit is to me an inspiration and a hero, maybe my muse and certainly my idol. But if I were to draw this article out any longer I am in danger of losing those readers who are not Granters like myself. So whilst wishing him more success and hoping that the world never runs out of new Grant films to watch, I leave you till next time. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Everything Has A Price (even moving furniture you've bought already!)

So yesterday I finally got my small wish of changing round the furniture in my little office area at home. Now how hard could that be, you may ask. Actually moving the furniture around was not a big deal (well, I didn't even move it myself so how could I consider it hard?) But only when you need to empty a seemingly small piece of furniture do you realise just exactly how much you were storing in it!

My husband agreed to moving it all around and setting up everything to do with the printer, speakers etc all over again but he had one request. I was to do all the emptying so that he could do it all at one go, knowing too well he would otherwise be waiting around for me as I picked each item, trying to decide where it should go.

So I set about whilst he was still asleep following a nighttime DJing session so that by the time he woke up the cupboards and shelves were all bare (well apart from an antique statue and a set of framed film cells there was no way I would be getting out before the last second, being so over-protective of them). Whilst a temporary desk in the dining room was piled high with books, storage boxes, tablecloths and sofa throws, all of which resided permanently in said furniture, our dining table was piled high with files. The tv unit held a precarious tower of more office-related items and the new coffee table struggled under four more piles. A sturdy packing box suffered under the weight of all the frames and nicknacks I'd also removed.

At which point the miserable task started of cleaning under where the furniture had been. As you might guess, cleaning beneath furniture that is too big to move during the weekly cleaning ritual is a little yucky. And, for me, also very itchy! Being a sufferer of allergies I'm sent into a panic of hand-scrubbing at every little task that involves me handling anything dusty (now don't get the wrong impression, I dust often enough!).

So whilst little things send me to the sink multiple times, doing any dusty project this big obviously sends me into the shower for disinfestation, hair and all. Only, I didn't bargain for the fact that this was an even bigger task than the usual ones, like sweeping the front yard of a home that is 1) in a country where dust particles are all over the place and 2) there always seems to be one neighbour or another who's doing up the house... on an island that uses the soft and quickly eroding limestone for building, which in itself sends my friends the dust particles up into the air all too easily.

So now, ladies and gentlemen, not only am I having sneezing fits and talking through my nose, but I also have what seems to be an allergic eye infection. Which is why I now leave you as my vision blurs over and the tears start again of their own accord.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Just An Update

I sit and stare at this page today, knowing the articles I have worked on lately are awaiting the possible approval of a professional magazine editor and should he like my pitch it would not do to have uploaded them here already.

So instead I turn to relating the latest from my little world. As I mentioned in my last entry, my son got ill again. A week on he is still sick and away from school for yet another week it seems, as per the doctor's advice. And whilst I am hoping and praying this time I don't catch whatever he has, I have been suffering from... horror of horrors... tooth pain! Seems like not only did I have a bad wisdom tooth but it also broke into lots of pieces so that a visit to the dentist was not enough to get it all out, meaning that dental surgery now awaits me :-(

Since I have made a new rule for myself that I will not only see and mention the bad things in life without also seeing the good, I must mention yesterday's meeting with a dear friend at my house. The film club idea might have flown off into the future when I'll hopefully have not only a car but also an older and therefore more understanding and obedient son but that does not stop me chatting with my friend about anything and everything to do with films and books. So despite my toothache, I had tons of fun discussing 'About A Boy' (book versus film), 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and 'About Time' among others. We also touched on the topic of 'the villain', which to me is much more intriguing than the hero in films!

I must off now to check on my son (playing camping with a tent in his room) hoping by my next entry the toothache will be gone (or lesser in intensity at least)!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Me Being Blue... Or Not?


Blue is my favourite colour but this is nothing to do with it. I am talking about feeling blue. I spoke last time of being ill practically throughout a whole month and wondered why that happened. Well, why on earth I blamed it on being an after-effect of unhappiness beats me as two out of three times it was because my son was ill and diligently caring for your sick child does result in contagion. And now he's ill again. So not only did I cancel my September appointment for a hair dye and a play date between my son and his second cousins (which would also have been an excuse to meet up with my own cousin), it seems like we're going to do this all over again! My Wednesday appointment at the hairdresser is not only long overdue (ask my white hairs) but I'm also having to cancel it again (and get more white hairs from the frustration of doing so). I also begrudgingly postponed this morning's invitation to one of my few friends for coffee over at my house. An idea to form a film club was nipped in the bud when I reasoned there was no easy way I could manage it with a demanding hyper child tagging along and no car to drive to wherever it was happening and this meeting was the next best thing. Which is why it now had to be postponed, just to make me that little bit madder at the whole setup that's my current life.

But there's always a good side to life, is there not? (Ok sometimes it's not so much a 'good side' as a 'not bad' side but in this case definitely a good side.) I am talking about my collection. Now I am not a very materially-oriented woman (in fact I'd say I am an under buyer as a rule, even when it comes to clothes and shoes) but when it comes to the few material things I buy, I love them with a passion. So I will today be using my collection as a source of happiness... I will go through all the film titles searching for the one to watch tonight (if my son manages to get a good night sleep) and maybe have some minutes to continue reading the biography that is a part of my related books collection, which book turned out surprisingly enough to be more of a source of information about the films I own or which are on my list of 'to buys' than really interesting as a biography (because of it not being well-written or very informative and is badly edited I mean).

And with these thoughts I leave you so that I may attend to a more pressing issue that is eating whilst I can, with my today very clingy son peacefully asleep for a bit due to the flu and the drowsy effect of Neurofen. So goodbye till next time.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

On Two Unrelated Things

Here I am once again ready to write and upload my entry. Now sometimes I upload articles which I would have spent ages writing and rewriting and editing, then uploading them in the hope that they prove interesting enough to attract a following. Other times, like today, I just sit down and write an entry to upload there and then. I know only that I intend on talking about two totally u related topics which have come up in my life this week.

The first is 'The Happiness Project', by Gretchen Rubin. It is a book I had read before but with being ill the whole of September, I thought it was time to revisit it in the hope of bettering my situation. Because I have been feeling less happy than unhappy lately and I thought that was either a direct consequence of being ill, else I was so constantly ill because I was so down to start with. Either way, when I trudged to the doctor's waiting room for the umpteenth time last month (ironically the very last day of the month), I picked it off my bookshelf and spent the long tedious wait reading. I thought I remembered it all still, especially as I try as much as possible to practice all my findings from this book. However it seems it was time for a refresher because it gave me the much-needed boost not only to accept myself as I am all over again but also made me itch to take up my own happiness resolutions again. All in all, my life is better for reading Rubin's book (and also her other book 'Happier at Home') and I have to admit that although it alone could have never relieved me of the depression that settled upon me with motherhood (and lasted for a horribly long three and a half years) it nonetheless helped a lot... It was the self-help book I needed. It taught me those stupid little things that are so obvious and yet go unnoticed like that you can change no one but yourself. Funnily enough, the knowledge of these little things as well as the boost the book gives you to start working on those areas in life you feel need attention make me happier in themselves. Which does not mean, however, that I will leave it at that. Once again I will strive to note those things that would make me happier if I changed them, learn to accept those things that can't be changed, and focus every day on doing that which makes me the happier in the long term. One example I can mention is that only a couple of days after I started re-reading this book, I was toying with the idea of whether or not to go shopping for a pair of much-needed sturdy comfy boots for the winter. I so didn't feel like trudging off to the shops on the first day that my son was back in school and I could relax at home. But I knew that that was the one day I was sure not to have any other commitments to see to. So I reasoned that getting it over with would make me happier in the long term than choosing to stay home, only to find a couple weeks later that I was I still boots-less when it started to rain cats and dogs. I am so happy to have got that over with that very same day, the relief of crossing an errand off my to-do list is twofold... satisfaction and a happiness booster.

Now on to the other topic up for today's post. I have yesterday seen 'Sirens' 1994 for a first time. It is impressively directed by John Duigan and filmed in Australia. For those of you wondering, yes... This is another Hugh Grant film and I think I could class this as one of the best when it comes to his acting. In fact, it is a pity that this film premiered at the same time as Four Wedding and A Funeral and so got totally ignored in the frenzy surrounding Curtis' romantic comedy which made it big for both its creator (Curtis) as well as Hugh Grant.

This is one of those films I researched extensively before deciding it was worth buying. Many reviews mentioned the nudity and the sexual content of the film but did little justice to the story. However I did stumble on one commentary that mentioned a witty interpretation and a plot-of-sorts, despite the general impression that this one was all about coming to terms with the erotic side to humanity. Now I could not very well say this is a PG film that I would ever allow a child to watch but neither is it intent in its pursuit of the steamy scenes at the expense of the story. In fact I have to admit that the lewd conduct of most of the characters (and here an aside to make it clear that Hugh Grant is excluded from my comment as he is not in any nude scene and I believe he never signs on to any such contracts) is in keeping with the storyline and important to it in fact. So despite the fact that I personally look back more fondly on the scene with the koala briefly making an appearance and the more eye-appealing scenes with Hugh's character Father Anthony Campion constantly in some conversation or other, I have to admit that were the actors (and actresses more to the point) fully clothed then the story might not have worked.

This is not a film for the mind to linger on after the credits come up but I am however still trying to figure out my own version of one disturbing phrase uttered by Father Campion. When his wife, full of guilt, wants a heart to heart to absolve herself from her transgressions, he is quick to tell her it would be best not to tell him anything of what she might have done as it is good to have some secrets. This seems to me very irrational though in view of Anthony's character development it very much makes sense in the context of the story. And in fact, for the couple in question, this does work out for a better relationship but I truly wonder, in the real world, would that honestly work.

I must off now as I am already breaking my resolution to go to sleep on time (meaning around tennish) but I leave you with my two cents' worth about Hugh's interpretation of the young prudish and full-of-himself Father Anthony 'Tony' Campion... I have never seen any other actor interpret a character in such a way that the shock, disbelief and worry of the character invoke in the viewer the amount of pity and comradeship that he does, even with a character that the viewer has already deemed unlikeable in his piety and snobbish behaviour.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

About Time


I am really embarassed to say I only watched this Curtis film for a first time around ten days ago. About time huh? I have no valid excuse other than I have been trying to catch up on watching all of Hugh Grant's films and TV series (except for the really scary ones!), dating as far back as 1982 (finding to buy Privileged is proving frustratingly difficult if not impossible).


Now I do love to tear a film into all its little bits and pieces and it was a joy to do so with this one. Its familiar writing, English setting and typical Curtis characters had me in dreamland for two hours (or more actually, as I kept pausing the film to take notes!). Now I don't usually do that (stop a film at all on a first viewing) but there was just so much to take in, so much also that I wanted to jot down, that it was necessary and also fun to watch it with my notepad in hand.


From the very start, the film drew me into Curtis' world with the familiar voiceover, this time by Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Tim. Not only is this a repeat of the way in which Love Actually and Notting Hill start, but it is very close to the Notting Hill scenario in that it is used to convey the main character's view of the little world that makes up his every day. Even the accent is decidedly similar to that of Hugh Grant. Only Tim is a red-haired guy of average looks and shy demeanor and reminded me more of Curtis himself when younger than the thirty-eight-year-old Hugh as William Thacker. In fact, this got me thinking. I have heard Richard say in a clip that Four Weddings and a Funeral was inspired by a real-life incident where he did meet a girl at a wedding who was staying at the same pub as him and like Charles he had decided to crash at some friends' instead. Unlike Charles, he went on to his friends' and sat there thinking 'what if'. So now I ask, what if this was his take on that night? Tim goes back in time over and over to chance dating the girl he likes.


But the similaries between Tim and Richard are nothing compared to the multitude of similarities between the script of this film and those of Curtis' other big titles. There are so many phrases that took me back in time. "I'm so sorry" (allusive to the spilt orange juice scene in Notting Hill and yet another sorry from William after the paparazzi scene), "the love of my life" (Billy Mack in Love Actually), "there is this one thing" (PM David to USA President in Love Actually) and "see what happens then, shall we?" (Bridget Jones to Daniel Cleaver) might be easy enough phrases to find time and again and so also in About Time. But not so the more elaborate "I just wondered, whether by any chance" which is quite the kind of stuttered phrase you would expect of Charles in Four Weddings and A Funeral. Also not easy to forget that "it was the day that would change my life forever" in About Time is comparable to William's "this was the day that was going to change my life forever" in the 1999 Notting Hill.


As I focus on wording and so on Tim's phrase "It was the summer of suntan and torture" I toy with the idea that torture in love also seems to be a recurrent trend for Curtis' main characters. Charles is made miserable by the thought that he is yet to find a girl he can settle down with and marry. Meanwhile William is in agony over Anna's very existence whenever they are apart. Also, in Love Actually, the Prime Minister is distressed in his original intent of ignoring Nathalie and Harry is constantly tortured by the guilt and desire of seeing Mia. The one divergence I find in Richard's style of script as compared to his older ones is his non-use of monologues. Despite that Richard finally took Hugh Grant's advise that no one in real life does that, I must agree with Richard that people do speak to themselves when alone (or at least I do!).

There are many other things in this film that had me grinning and lapsing into flashbacks of other films. Tim crashes at Harry's place at one point in the film and in his very first conversation with Harry, the latter mentions Warhol (Anna Scott and William discuss Chagall, another painter, in Notting Hill). Maybe an indication that Curtis is, like me, a lover of art that's full of bright colour? Also Harry's scruffy unkempt kitchen screams 'bachelor' and reminds me of the one used in the set that makes up W. Thacker's 'house with the blue door' (sorry if I ruined your image that there actually is a house in Notting Hill behind whose closed doors dashing Hugh acted his parts).

I could go on forever with the comparisons but I will leave it at just this last one before delving further into the plot and what makes this film tick. Right after their second 'First' date, Tim and Mary walk along a street in London in the same kind of spirit, mood and with the same interest that sees William and Anna down the road from Honey's birthday dinner to their 'whoopsidaisy' literal gatecrashing moment.

Now whilst Tim does not use Thacker's endearing phrase, his life seems full of whoopsidaisy moments that has him rushing for his dark-place time machine over and over from the very moment he is told of its existence. Curtis loves long films and good thing too, given this one would not work as a shorter version. It takes time, you know, to get your character to go back in time. And for all those of us who've said, at some point or another, how much we wish there was a time machine to take us back in order to avoid those dreadful faux-pas we've made in life, this is the film that shows us that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Isn't it lovely to go back in order to save your sister from a dreadful accident? To keep repeating those days you spent with your dad before that cold word cancer stripped him away from you? Now what if, in doing so, you lose not only the bad but also the good things that have come your way since?

This film is a lesson in gratitude. Maybe that is why the wedding here comes in the middle and not the end. This is not a romantic comedy first and foremost. Life, it seems, is more important than romance. Through love, all other things will then follow. The video montage that sees Tim and Mary forever hanging out at Maida Vale Station to the tune of 'How Long Will I Love You' might be beautifully presented (and remind me in some ways very much of the seasons sequence in Notting Hill) but it is also a hint of what is to come. They will love each other forever and therefore, not only through a wedding but also through births and deaths. Which leads me back to the film's creator who I am guessing not only believes in Love (regardless of whether marriage should be a key word) but also in Life and living it to the full, as I would hazard thinking that even the three pregnancies/babies that Tim and Mary have might have been conceived from Richard's own delightful family experiences? Which is why Tim chooses first to relive each day to make the most of it and later understands that what is important is not to go back but to make the most of what is.

This is essentially a film with a plot but that does not mean it is not also a masterpiece of writing and direction. It takes a witty person to make the conversations work here, especially in view that Tim must often blunder in order to have an excuse to go back to relive his scenes. (Which does not mean he won't blunder again!!) It also takes experience in order to direct a film that will span long years in the character's life whilst making the transitions seemless. And last but not least, it takes a good actor with impeccible pronunciation to bumble along from the start to the end of what is essentially a positive and artsy take on Life.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Procrastinating Sleep

It's a week since my last entry so I didn't want to go to sleep without at least posting something, however small. I have no long complicated article ready to upload so I will have to come up with something else interesting. Like what I did today, which wouldn't be at all interesting would it? Who cares that I set up my son's Playmobil farmhouse with a kitchen ready for breakfast and a bedroom with slippers ready by the bedside and a Playmobil girl's hat on the bed ready for her to wear? Or who would want to know that as soon as I looked at the shelf that houses our DVDs I immediately noticed something was amiss despite it looking like all was in order? I proved myself right when I found the 'About A Boy' DVD had fallen to the back of the shelf leaving a smaller amount of white on the front (I'm a bit obsessive about my DVD collection and have lately been putting all the ones with a white spine next to each other).

What you might be interested to know, however, is how long my son's bedtime ritual took! It was a hair-tearing experience (it seldom is not!) and this time he took all of ninety minutes to finally calm down in bed and accept sleep! Apparently bedtime is a nightmare for most parents and I must admit that despite having been an angelic obedient little girl myself, I always did have a problem with going to bed. Erm, truth be told, I still do! There is always something else to do, isn't there? Like read a few more pages of that book, think up the next conversation in my novel, a long bath that lasts forty minutes rather than the intended twenty... The list is endless and helps steer me away from my looming sleepy time. But what I don't get about my son's aversion to sleep, is that he does not even try to find an excuse to remain out of bed doing something. He is quite content lying in bed and calling me every minute or two to tell me he needs yet another pee, then some water, followed by milk, and then again he has a secret he must share with me despite it being one he's told me many times before and which is not a secret at all, given he tells it to everyone. So really, any excuse is a good one to avoid closing his eyes for his ten-hour sleep which he does need and complains if he doesn't get. But enough said, I must now off to my own bed in a room that will doubtlessly feel much like a sauna given the current heat, stickiness and humidity of a typical September on the Maltese islands. And with this small grumble I leave you, for I will otherwise turn this blog entry into yet another excuse to keep away from sleep. Goodnight all.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

An Awfully Big Adventure (1995)

I am writing this less than forty-eight hours after watching the film for the first time so that the impressions I got upon viewing it are with me still.

Unfortunately the DVD I bought is an Italian version so that whilst I could still watch it in English, I could not do so with English subtitles. Seeing as the film is British and lots of the actors spoke in a thick Liverpool accent I did find it difficult at times to follow which made it a little frustrating, given how I love to examine films and tend to pull each phrase in a script to pieces. However, despite this minor hiccup, as well as that I must have been expecting something a little different, I have to say the film delivered. Not only that, but it also proved to be one of those haunting ones that last with you long after the credits come up.

This one had been on my 'to watch' list for ages but it got prominence after I heard Mike Newell (the director) mention it during a commentary about 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (also filmed under his direction) in which he was talking about Hugh Grant and praised him for his acting in this particular venture which shows, he said, how Hugh can really act and not just do the stereotypical bumbling act. And I must say how right he was, for in this film Hugh plays a disgusting villain who not even I, try as I might, could justifiably like his character. The one thing I did notice, however, was that whilst his slicked down hair, unflattering spectacles and the expression most present on Hugh's face throughout the film do correspond with his character, any fan on looking closely can still see past that at his flawless white skin, the sculpted jawline and his very light-coloured eyes, and it still pained me when he got a good blow on the face.

But away from girly fantasies and back to the film, this is one like I'd never encountered before. The story focuses on the girl Stella (Georgina Cates), who I am yet to decide whether I could call a heroine. She is thrown into a world unknown to her innocence, where I believe both the men in her life are villains. There is no knight in shining armour in this script. P.L. O'Hara, played by Alan Rickman, is portrayed in reviews and articles I'd read before watching the film as the honourable man with true intentions. But whilst that could be considered true, I found his character also hypocritical and less to my liking than Meredith Potter's (Hugh Grant's sleazy character) for with Meredith, at least, you know where you stand.

I do love to look up information about films both before and after I've watched them and it bothered me to read that Rickman admitted to the film suffering comparisons to 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. This film is so decidedly different to Newell and Hugh's 1994 romantic comedy that putting them on the same table to examine is not only a bad idea but also undeservedly puts this dark comedy in a bad light.

I have never read the book by the same name (by author Beryl Bainbridge) on which this film is based, so I cannot comment on how closely or not the original story was followed. However I will now have to look it up. For there are a lot of  things in this film which are implied rather than spelt out and whilst this makes for a more-interesting film, right up to the disillusioned end, I would now love to probe deeper into the plot, the sixteen-year-old Stella and both the men in her life.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Morning Musings and a Happy Birthday mention


I had one of those heavy dreams last night, the kind which then accompany you even after you've woken up, though at times it all seems hazy by then and not much left remembered to think upon. Maybe it explains why so many thoughts flashed through my head on the ride to work this morning. It first started with the weather. The sky is overcast, the breeze chilly, the weather has overall turned as of this morning. And so I found myself talking about it to my husband. Now the weird thing is, I never talk about the weather! Not even when it could get me out of uncomfortable situations, not even for something to say, I am not good at talking about trivialities (to my husband's dismay who is not exactly a morning person!). Then my thoughts, after this cliche, started tumbling one on top of the other willing to come out of my head as processed comprehensible thoughts. But there were too many of them to make sense out of. Maybe it was the panic at not having an entry to write this morning. For after the series of film-related articles I found myself very much dismayed at knowing there would only be real life to talk about today. But that's what it is and what I have so I'll just try to make sense out of the jumble of notes I keyed into the IPad before stopping at this cafe' for my writing session.

Firstly, it is today a very important day. Not only is Apple giving a Keynote speech this evening (or evening in Malta time I should say) but it is also the fifty-fourth birthday of a very special someone... The one person I have never met and who has yet impacted my life so much that he is worth a mention. I am talking about none other than the person who is to me the greatest, and the dearest, personality (for I wouldn't call him just a celebrity). So Happy Birthday to the lovely Hugh Grant!

Now on to a less dreamy subject and yet the subject of dreams... One thought that passed through my head fleetingly today was how dreams seldom are translated well into real life. As soon as I thought this I had a vague impression that this subject of truth versus fiction was one of the themes from one of my Sixth Form literature books. It only dawns on me now that the exact subject had been Appearance versus Reality (in the much-hated King Lear). Back then I never understood how big a deal this was for the plot to work but now life itself shows you such things. I realize many things now that I didn't back in Sixth Form. Because I was a teenager back then. What teenager truly tries to make head or tail of life's greatest truths? I was more concerned at the time with my fashionable jeans, dying my hair the right colour, and keeping my stormy relationship going.

Next up for today and my last piece of knowledge before I bore you out of your wits completely, is the idea of permanence. This too, flashed into my head today, leaving me with its bitter aftertaste. I think it is most of us that crave normality in life to a degree and trust in permanence (that niggling feeling that things will never change) helps us make decisions based upon our current way of life, living arrangement, the people currently in our life. Without these constants (be they constants for a while or forever) there would be nothing to base assumptions on, nothing on which to make informed decisions, nothing on which to base our truth. Because life is, first and foremost, a truth that might be stranger than fiction, though not always so. Whether they think about it or not, everyone has priorities that set everything else in perspective to them. Be it a dream target, a little boy who calls you 'mama' or that belief you have that will condition you on everything else, it is the things that prove permanent in our life that help us make our decisions, for better or for worse.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Geniuses at work - Part 2 of 2 - Paul Weitz


I am back, with the second part of my critical analysis of favourite film directors, this time focusing on American director Paul Weitz and my interpretation of what makes his works stand out.


American Pie and About A Boy... that sounds so wrong! And yet yes, they are two films by the same directors, the brothers Weitz, who only later split ways and started directing films separately. I have to admit teenager-geared comedies were never high on my list of impressive films, not even back when I was a teenager! So 'From the directors of American Pie' did not spell good news for an unbiased viewing of About A Boy (2002). Add the fact that I had read the book by Nick Hornby and was already decidedly against the film directors when I read they'd changed the last third of the story - THE STORY - that I regarded as a masterpiece of our time and you had a recipe for a bad review at the least.


So when I reluctantly braced myself for the first watching of the DVD I was ecstatic (yes, I am not exaggerating) that the film delivered. A story that deviates from the book, but a story that still made complete sense when not compared to the plot in the book. I also found out that Nick Hornby himself had a say in the divergence from the original. But what impressed me most, I think, was the interpretation of the characters and the wow shots that helped greatly in making this what Hugh Grant (who plays main character Will Freeman) once called "an artsy fartsy one". Maybe that's what won me over, I am a sucker for artistic rather than mainstream productions.

In Will, the Weitz brothers could mould a drastic person who is distanced not only from love (cool sequence the one featuring his breakups and his obviously cringing face) but also from life itself. Will's voiceover at the very start of the film is testament to this, this lack of a bridge between his life (his island) and other people. He later even describes life as a TV show, his particular show being "the Will show", which he points out was not an ensemble drama. Granted that this character is an invention of author Hornby, I still give credit to the Weitz team for their interpretation and the correct use of voiceovers here and there in the story to present to us the real Will and what goes on in his mind, regardless of how he is acting with the people around him at that same moment. They must have had a field day brainstorming about what this character might do and how he'd do it. Even their unendless choice of cool-laidback-guy tshirts shows the kind of person Will is (and I must say I loved the Underground map tshirt, must see if I can get one!)

The real turning point for Will in the story is the Christmas lunch and so it was right of Weitz to put in the shot on the bridge just before that Christmas scene. Will the cool guy walks along a bridge in London, not only oblivious to all around him but also literally and figuratively walking against the sea of people (who interestingly enough were not extras but people going about their day as the shooting took place without closing off the bridge).

Fast forward a few years from the release of About A Boy, quoting here a poster that says "This may be the biggest British film ever made" and Paul Weitz teamed up once again with Hugh Grant, this time for the very different and very American 'American Dreamz' (2006). I had no qualms this time about watching something by the director of American Pie AND About A Boy. In About A Boy, the Weitz team had the opportunity of dealing with an extreme character and that very extremety is one thing that drew me to the film and made it, to date, the one I would nominate for 'best book character interpretation on screen'. When it came to American Dreamz, Paul Weitz wrote the script himself, and even directed it solo, though Chris Weitz helped with the production. (And it is here that I separate the two brothers and their works, with Golden Compass being the one directed by Chris Weitz which I saw and rated in one of my previous blog entries as a horror to watch. You can find my reasons explained in said blog entry entitled 'A Horror To Watch' dated 24 May 2014).

But back to Paul and his satire about Americans (reviewed in an earlier entry entitled 'American Dreamz (2006)' dated 16 August 2014 in which I have nothing but praise for the project). If in Will Freeman he had the facility of dealing with what I would call 'the edge' that a character can tread on only carefully unless he wants to fall off, then in the stereotypes that make up American Dreamz he had free reign with 'beyond reason'. Granted, it is difficult to imagine a young woman so obsessed by fame it would top her list of priorities over love (or at least romance) and even more unreasonable to present a President of the US who seems not to have any charisma or even adequate speech skills. And yet such people do exist.

Ironically, whilst presenting stereotyped characters, Paul seems fascinated by human thoughts, reactions, the real 'them' beneath the mask. Maybe that is why he presents (albeit being a caricature of the real person Simon Cowell) a main character in Martin Tweed who despite appearing to be someone sleazy, self-absorbed, egotistical and all other things negative, has enough depth of character to really mind the fact that he is not 'lovable', this being the key word he not only uses during a conversation of sorts with his assistants, but also apparent in his eyes (amazing acting as always by Grant) and actions as he first chooses to meet up with, and later think about, Mandy Moore's character Sally Kendoo, all the while showing a self-loathing and revealing that he'd had a mother who cruelly suggested he was not talented and no one would love him. I believe this to be one of the best scenes in the film, not because Tweed mentions his mother in the same sentence as obscene language (though she truly deserved it for her cruel words to Martin which created a person who must truthfully admit that he doesn't want "the fake bullshit that passes for love in this world") but because the dialogue here has to be among the best lines of the whole film. Through not-so-friendly banter between just-met Martin and Sally, Paul is able to bring out Sally and Martin's relationship-type for future reference. What character before this one openly admits to someone's face that they're not sure whether they like them? Even the character Sally herself is shocked as soon as she's uttered the words.

If About A Boy had fascinated me into rewatching it many times in the space of a week, so did American Dreamz, for a totally different kind of likeability, have me watching it over and over. In fact I watched it through three times in the space of five days. However whereas About A Boy is the one about character development and makes for good rewatching, the stereotype-full American Dreamz does follow a plot which, once known, removes the fun out of watching it again. And yet I will always keep it fondly in my DVD library, to go back to whenever I don't mind seeing once again the tragic end that befalls Martin Tweed at the end of the film. Because for all Weitz' effort at creating a character you should love to hate and making Martin Tweed a character who knows that, I myself was bewitched by Martin Tweed and in this case, it was Paul Weitz' drastic ending to the film that was, for me, more shocking than the character he made up.

It is certainly the case that I love Weitz' work for his 'big bang' (even literal in his film from 2006) and the way he can deal with characters that are, as opposed to those of Curtis' writing, not the ones you would love to meet.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Geniuses at work - Part 1 of 2 - Richard Curtis

I tend to contradict myself a lot. And by that I don't mean that I often disagree with myself, nor that I quickly change my mind about things (though I sometimes do). What I tend to mean is that I very often take to contradictory things... Such as for example, wanting a stable peaceful life whilst anyway craving change, or the fact that I often find myself imagining what it would be like to be in the spotlight and yet I am so embarrassed when any kind of attention falls on me.

In this same way, I found myself this week thinking hard about why I would class two so-different film scriptwriters/directors as my favourites. I am in fact talking about Richard Curtis (as most followers of my blog would have noted already) and Paul Weitz. I intended originally to compare the two but I find there is so much to say about each of them in his own right that an entry about each of the two, no one of them a lesser genius, would be more appropriate.

These two directors (and even their scriptwriting) are as different as it can get. Whilst Richard Curtis is the bumbling Englishman who writes about love, Weitz is an American-born director and a permissive one at that when it comes to character.

Of course I can only comment about them with regards to films I have watched so this is in no way a generalization about their works. From what I can gather, however, Richard is a fool for love and admits to the topic being a fascination for him. Furthermore, he believes that love stories are no less realistic (or even more-so) than the more seriously-inclined films. For after all, he reasons, is love not one of those things that really does happen? Why are romantic comedies given less credit for their romantic fantasies, which usually after all do deal with plausible scenarios?

Curtis' writing explores the day-to-day in a more interesting light, injecting however that twist that makes it less plausible... The megastar who falls for the man in the street? The very public figure of the Prime Minister unashamedly having a relationship with the person who makes his tea? The stiff Englishman who goes on holiday after a heartbreak and finds his perfect match in a much-younger, Mediterrarnean woman despite their inability to communicate through a language barrier and then proposes to her without any prelude of real interaction?

My sceptisicm aside, I find Curtis' work, both written and direction, genius. He can weave ten or so plots into one film, blending them in to become a part of a whole, rather than just seperate storylines. I am talking here about Love Actually (2003). This is well-planned in the continuity of the music from one scene and story to the next, as well as the voice-over at the beginning of the film, stating what is to become a sort-of motto for the characters, if they can only seek to find it out for themselves.

Another trick that Curtis uses to link all the stories is the setting and intertwined relationships, with Emma Thompson's character being not only the wife of Harry (who is taken with Mia, in turn a friend of Mark who is obsessed by his best friend's wife played by Keira Knightley as Juliet) but also a friend of Liam Neeson's character Daniel and the sister of Prime Minister David (aptly played by Hugh Grant) whose love interest Nathalie is a next-door neighbour to Mia. Meanwhile Colin Firth's character is in turn a friend of Mark, Juliet and her husband, there are the necessary excuses to make this into one story about them all. Curtis also cleverly turns Billy Mack's performance on TV as the excuse for airport personnel's negligence when it comes to stopping (or not) the boy Sam from escaping into a 'passengers-only' area. Meanwhile stand-ins John and Judy, with a story seemingly all their own, turn up at the school Christmas concert that most other characters are attending. Also, one of the crew members from the film they are shooting turns out to be Colin Frissell's best friend... Colin being the waiter at Peter and Juliet's wedding, during whose reception we can already see Mark's loving looks as he video-tapes Juliet's actions whilst Sarah's chatting away on the phone already, in what is a preview of these two's upcoming personal story.

I will never cease to be amazed at the complexity of this particular project of Curtis (and talented producer Duncan Kenworthy). In a clip on the DVD of 'Love Actually' Richard explains how the idea for the whole project came out of his multiple stories still waiting to be written, which he calculated would take around three years each should he turn each one into a stand-alone film. Not really tempted by spending the rest of his life writing one romantic comedy after another, he chose instead to incorporate them all under the cap of his very firm personal belief that "love is everywhere"... A phrase that Grant's character points out but which Grant says does not present his own view as he is the more negative type who tends to believe more in the world of "hatred and greed" that the voice-over in the film dismisses as irrational.

I could go on and on with this commentary but I am sure I have overstepped the line already and am keen for you readers to return for my next part of this entry... Paul Weitz and his edge of reason. So I leave you to your day as I trudge off to my own office job, unfortunately nothing as exciting or even marginally interesting as the films and scriptwriting and acting I so love to write about.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

American Dreamz (2006)

I haven't been around much I know. And when I have leave from work the workload in my life seems to get worse, if that is possible. Because while I am working, I give myself some slack. And when I am working we don't take up the more time-consuming home projects. And I don't try to get my son out of the house as often as I possibly can to distract him from becoming hyper through not enough stimulation.

But I am now going to brush all that aside and talk about today's post. Whether I am working or not, I do not often find enough me-time at one go to enjoy watching a new film. Because when I watch a film I've never seen before, I have to watch it from beginning to end, and also with no distractions.

Therefore I only yesterday finally managed to see American Dreamz (2006), a film I bought a while ago to add to my Hugh Grant collection but which to be honest, I did not have very high hopes for given I had not read any good reviews about it. On the other hand, the fact that it was directed by Paul Weitz who happened to also co-direct About A Boy (my favourite film of all time) with his brother, had me hoping to be impressed.

And impressed I was, I must say. Now I have to admit I am not a big fan of American comedy films such as American Pie or Scary Movie and would rather have more understated English jokes through witty use of language such as the kind found in scripts by Richard Curtis, than sit through a satire of the American Life. So when at the start of the film I was confronted with the more American approach (even very apparent in the way the story flits from one scene to the next and even from one side of the world to another) I braced myself for a thumb down on this film. (No wonder I'd bought the 2 film box set for Eur2, I thought).

I was intrigued by Hugh Grant's character Martin Tweed from the start (and not just because of good looks but most of all because of the ingenuity of Grant's performance as a self-loving personality with non-typical behaviour to a break-up that has you wondering what this guy is really like). I also liked (in the sense that the character made sense and not in that I sympathized with) Mandy Moore's character's relationship with boyfriend William Williams (could they have made this imbecile into more of a laughing stock?).

I am not sure what the audience's reaction to the different characters is supposed to be. I am almost certain Martin Tweed is meant to be a revolting type but trust me to not only pity him but also marginally understand him. Same with Mandy Moore's character. The correct word for her would be (excuse my language) a bitch but I do understand where she's coming from when she first SPOILER ALERT dumps William. I would have done the same!

There are two more main characters in this film, neither of whom is worth a paragraph on here as they are stereotypes or rather, inverted stereotypes I must say, and too uninteresting in my opinion.

So what is it that makes this film tick for me? Well, Tweed's character is as 3D as they come. He might be someone who, as Moore's character tells him, gets so much ass-licking that he gets a treat out of finding someone who doesn't even try to butter him up, but he is a realistic big-shot deep down. In fact, his are the most honest and truthful insights to character in all the film and left me wondering was it maybe history (such as how he says his mother suggested he was a failure) that turned him into the cynical bastard that he tries to portray, an armour I believe, guarding his inner self. By the end of the film I was sure that I was in love with him, big ego and all.

Meanwhile, stepping away from Hugh's controversial character to another reason I loved this film: the last few minutes of the film wrap up the whole plot nicely in a literally sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat finale, a finale that had my heart beating as hard as that of the characters in an uncomedic end. A sad ending really, but not sad as in bad filming. Rather, it was sad in a twisted ironic turn of events.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Marrying My Favourite Character :-)

There is a game I have been meaning to play. I've read it, or a more compact version of it I should say, that featured only three films, three characters and three choices. This blogger (excuse me for forgetting which blog) asked her readers which of the following characters they would choose to a) kiss, b) marry and c) have for a best friend forever. The three characters in question were:

Alex Fletcher in Music and Lyrics
William Thacker in Notting Hill
George Wade in Two Weeks Notice

The answer invariably read that William would be the guy to marry and I can so understand that! He's marriage material if any character ever was :-) However most replies contained an admittal to not having seen one or another of the three films. Now what if it so happened that not only have I seen all these three but also so so many more of Hugh Grant's films, old and new?

It gets trickier then to choose doesn't it? I mean, being a woman I wouldn't choose to marry his gay character Clive Durham in Maurice (1987). Nor am I inclined to prefer him as Chopin in Impromptu (1991) when it comes to choosing a life-partner. But William Thacker from Notting Hill would have some hard competition if Michael Felgate from Mickey Blue Eyes (a 1999 film like Notting Hill) were to show up. Though Michael does lie to Gina in the film, so I think he's out as a prospective partner. Charles in Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994) is also a sweet thirty-something year old, too cute to forget once met. He also, like me, believes in that thunder-bolt. He seems however less of a dependable guy than William.

I never really took to Hugh Grant's character Samuel in Nine Months (1995) and in An Awfully Big Adventure (1995) he plays SPOILER ALERT yet another gay part. Which leaves us with only a zillion more films and characters to choose from. George Wade seems to me not only nice but also a witty and dependable person beneath his spoilt exterior and I am so in love with realist Alex Fletcher from Music and Lyrics (2007). I obviously could never consider marrying Hugh's character the Cannibal from Cloud Atlas (2012) and I have yet to see and fall in love with his doctor character in Extreme Measures (1996). I have also yet to see Sirens (1994) but I doubt a priest would be my preferred kind of husband. Also, it would never do to marry a cad so unfortunately suave and sweet-talking dashing irresistible Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones (1991 and 1994) cannot be a finalist in this game. Nor could David the prime minister in Love Actually (2003) given my hate of politics and the limelight.

But what about Paul Morgan in Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009) I like him a lot but he is a bit of a wuss and let's face it, he does have a one night stand whilst being married. So he's out too as a prospective partner. Which leaves me with Will Freeman, Mr Cool guy with not a care in the world in About A Boy (2002). I love Will, he has a sense of humour and he does change by the end of the film. Still, I gather the reason I like him so much is because of that lovely face (which is for once the focus, not being upstaged by floppy hair running amuck) which is less wrinkled than that of the older Alex Fletcher.

Well as I said already, I love love love Alex Fletcher (he has a tendency to repeat himself in the film). So that's it ladies... I have made my decision. Alex Fletcher from the eighties band Pop! it is for me! :-)

Monday, 4 August 2014

What's Up?

There is no excuse good enough for how long I've been away. Granted, I was spending my writing-time on my novel, which is now taking a very definite shape, style, and storyline. I hope also that my characters are becoming as well-rounded as I imagine they are. I must admit I envy main character Jeanne at times for her relationship with a dream man conjured up mostly, I have to admit, on my own vision of the perfect-looking male. What I do not envy her is all the confusion in her life that runs throughout all of the story and is, in fact, an integral part of it.

But novel aside, I have little news to report from my little world. Life continues for me as it usually does for someone who is wife, mother to a very hectic and scarily inventive four-year-old, worker, home-owner and also novelist. Oh, and maybe I should mention home-manager too, as I'm the one doing up our budget, setting up shopping lists, seeing to our savings and anything else that needs to be paid/seen to/phoned about etc. My latest irksome episode in this particular saga is my voiced-on-the-phone frustration at particularly bad service received by my usually happy-client-making laundry-cleaning provider.

What else to say? I am also forever cleaning out my closets, literally I mean, no secrets involved. My four-year-old has finally got a waist too big for the 12-18 months shorts he's been using up to now so have done a bit of clothes-shopping (a treat even if they're not clothes for myself, now if only I could not have an out-of-control kid tagging along any time I do this!) As for myself, been spending too much money on DVDs and books to have much of a budget left over for clothing though I got three pairs of shoes to see me through the summer and hopefully still be good for next year's too.

And now that I have updated my blog (in no timely manner) I feel excused to go off to sleep at 1am, despite my constant resolution to sleep early. Good night, till next time.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Musings

I should really be asleep. So this will be a short one, about just how much I'm trying to stretch myself! As I explained in the last post, I seem to do nothing in moderation. Which is why when I do have a zest for life I have to go and try and catch up with a zillion things at once, making it virtually impossible to honestly 'catch up' properly on any of them. Which is probably why my blog doesn't get updated as much as it used to. Because I am trying to juggle writing a convincing novel with which I intend to amaze publishers enough to get a contract (I do not believe in self-publishing which is like saying you will always manage to get your story published, even if it does turn out to be rubbish and I want no rubbish but something a publishing house will be ready to go through the trouble for. I want perfection in fact.) whilst also trying to keep up with my small 'business' of making unique decorative votive candle holders, despite the fact that I panic wherever I have an order with a deadline. All this whilst trying to make an effort at keeping our home clean and tidy, or cleaner and tidier than it was turning out to be of late. Meanwhile I really must start on another project... The put-off-for-so-long Happiness Project from Gretchen Rubin's idea and book which I know would help me set down rules like 'Sleep enough' that I don't seem to comply with unless there are actually rules I need to be following. Whilst asking you to excuse me for the jumble of words, better referred to as train of thought I think, that is this entry, I leave you now to go to sleep, only 45 minutes later than my initial plan. Good night and take care to all.