Tag: film diary

film diary

Film diary 2013

film diary 2013

  1. The Hobbit (Peter Jackson, 2012)
  2. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)
  3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
  4. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
  5. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
  6. The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
  7. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
  8. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1950)
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951)
  10. The Impossible (Joan Antonio Bayona, 2012)
  11. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Behn Zeitlin, 2012)
  12. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
  13. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, 2012)
  14. Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
  15. Waterloo Road (Sidney Gilliat, 1945)
  16. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
  17. Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010)
  18. In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland, 2011)
  19. Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
  20. The Razor’s Edge (Edmund Goulding, 1946)

film diary

Film Diary Friday (on a Monday): Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Some things are better enjoyed at certain periods of our lives. I can think of several examples of books and films I tried reading/viewing in years past and just couldn’t be bothered, only to change my tune when I tried them later. Twin Peaks (1991-1992) is a perfect example. I remember my former roommate and pop culture/crafting maven Tatiana marathoning this show about 5 years ago when we lived together, and didn’t think much of it then. It wasn’t until this past Christmas when I was still unemployed and I had plenty of time to kill that I gave it another go…and loved it.

David Lynch’s strange soap opera-turned-cult phenomenon centers on the town of Twin Peaks, Washington where the body of high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) has been found on a beach wrapped in plastic. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan as one of the most charming and quirky male characters in TV history) is sent in by the FBI to investigate. He teams up with local law enforcement to unravel the case, only to be sucked in to a bizarre, nightmarish otherworld where dreams, reality and time operate differently and no one is who they seem. Twin Peaks launched many famous faces including Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle and Mädchen Amick.

Laura Palmer is in high school? Sheryl Lee is like 35

With the success of the show, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost planned a series of films that would explore the mysteries of Twin Peaks‘ uncanny elements. Fire Walk with Me was the first and only film to actually be produced in this series. Essentially a prequel to Twin Peaks, the first part of the film follows Special Agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak. Yes, that Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland), who are sent by Agent Gordon Cole (Lynch) to a small town in Washington to investigate the murder of waitress Teresa Banks. After finding a vital clue, Chester Desmond disappears. Enter Special Agent Cooper, who has been dreaming about the Black Lodge. Cooper has visions of the killer’s next victim, a blonde high school girl who is sexually active and likes taking drugs. The film then jumps forward a year to follow the last week in the life of the girl in Cooper’s vision, Laura Palmer.

“Diane, something about this case gives me a strange feeling…”

Fire Walk with Me was obviously intended for audiences who were already familiar with the TV show. There are many familiar faces: Shelley and Leo Johnson, Bobby Briggs, James Hurley and Leland Palmer and the inhabitants of the red room, to name a few. But there are also key characters from the show that didn’t make it into the film — Audrey Horne and Sheriff Harry S. Truman, most noticeably — and are sorely missed. Some characters in the film are played by people other than the actors who embodied them in the show, which makes me question whether the original cast members were unavailable or simply uninterested in reprising their roles for the big screen. The film touches on many of the plot twists that unravel in the show, but without solid knowledge of what these twists and nuances refer to, it would be hard to piece together what happens in the film without getting confused. In fact, I feel confused simply trying to explain how others might feel confused, which is, in itself, confusing.

On the whole, Fire Walk with Me is typical, dizzying Lynch but lacks the suspense and chilling creepiness that permeate films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. I enjoyed meeting many of these characters again and hearing Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic theme, and I suppose it was nice to see Laura Palmer alive, but one of the best things about Twin Peaks is that although it’s a bit of a mindfuck, it’s also a really great mystery. In the film, everything that had slowly been revealed in the show is spelled out directly. For example, it took several episodes to reveal who really killed Laura Palmer, and in the film we see it happen. It probably wouldn’t have worked as a film otherwise, but even though I already knew what was going to happen, the film felt like one giant spoiler, and I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.

If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, Fire Walk with Me is worth a watch, but perhaps only to remind you how much more amazing the show was.

Rating: B –

film diary

Film Diary Friday: The Artist

Jean Dujardin and Bernice Bejo in The Artist

I was going to post this yesterday, but then I got a job, so the first in a series of Film Diary Fridays will be on a Saturday. Hopefully this will be an exception and not a rule. Anyway…

These days, more often than not, I leave the cinema feeling cheated of the majority of the money I paid to watch a film. I don’t think I’d be out of place saying there’s a lot of grade A shit that somehow manages to get financed and produced in Hollywood. I mean, I am hard-pressed to name one film in the past 10 years that’s actually been worth the extortionate ticket prices. That’s why I cherish those films that are released once in a blue moon that actually have substance and creativity, and remind me just why I love movies in the first place. I’m happy to report that on Wednesday I experienced one of those once in a blue moon moments when I went to a preview screening of the awards ceremony front-runner and critical darling The Artist.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in Hollywood. Like real-life Douglas Fairbanks, the tiny-mustachioed Valentin swashbuckles and charms his way across the silent screen and  into America’s hearts, thereby making him the hottest property at Kinograph Studios. Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo) is one of Valentin’s biggest fans. When she drops her autograph book while the press are taking photos of Valentin after the premier of his latest film, she accidentally lands on the front page of the Hollywood Reporter, launching her quest to become famous. She gets a job as an extra dancing in Valentin’s next film A German Affair, and quickly becomes Hollywood’s new “It” girl.

While Peppy’s star is on the rise, Valentin’s is fast on the decline. When talkies are introduced in 1929, he laughs them off as a fad. The Kinograph studio chief (played with robust charisma by John Goodman) gives him an ultimatum: make the switch or he’s finished. Like Louise Brooks did in her heyday, Valentin decides he doesn’t need to talk on screen. Audiences love him. He spends his last penny directing and starring in what he hopes is his magnum opus, Tears of Love. But the fans don’t come and Valentin realizes how quickly a star can be replaced. “Make way for the young.” Broke and destitute, Valentin drives himself to the brink of self-destruction, only to be pulled back by the girl he made famous.

The Artist isn’t a complicated film or even a very innovative one. Instead it’s a heartfelt homage to Hollywood’s cinematic history.  My love for classic films, and Hollywood films in particular, may be why I loved this one so much, but I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed it regardless of my cinematic tastes. What stood out for me the most were the performances. Jean Dujardin was note perfect. He’s loaded with charisma and mastered the suave but silly facial expressions that were made popular by actors like Fairbanks and John Barrymore. Bernice Bejo was also lovely, and there were great supporting performances by John Goodman and James Cromwell (as Valentin’s loyal butler and chauffeur). Last but certainly not least, was the amazing “performance” by Uggie the terrier, a modern day Asta to Valentin and Peppy’s Nick and Nora.

This review would not be complete without mentioning the ending, which was the best thing possibly ever. Whoever did the choreography for the dance sequences ought to get an Oscar. These days, when mindless, action packed blockbusters rule the silver screen, it seems ironic that the film to break the monotony should be one that uses a formula that was popular nearly 100 years ago. But The Artist is like a vintage wine, the “older”, the better, and it definitely goes down smooth. I hope all of you who get the chance to see it love it as much as I did. It’s extremely nostalgic without being sappy and without trying too hard. All of the allure and magic of classic Hollywood cinema has been recreated here, and I was thoroughly enchanted.

Grade: A


film diary

Film Diary: 2012

One of my New Year’s resolutions (among many) is to keep track of all the films I watch in 2012. I had attempted it in 2011, as well, but didn’t make it past about June. Someone please slap me if I’m not more diligent this year!
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)
  • Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959)
  • Heartbeats (Xavier Dolan, 2010)
  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicious, 2011) x 2
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)
  • The Woman in Black (James Watkins, 2012)
  • Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967)
  • My Name was Sabina Spielrein (Elisabeth Marton, 2002)
  • A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011)
  • Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2011)
  • Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
  • Safe House (Daniel Espinosa, 2012)
  • Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
  • Trishna (Michael Winterbottom, 2011)
  • Bel Ami (Delcan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod, 2012)
  • 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller, 2012)
  • The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)
  • Kid with a Bike (Jean-Piere and Luc Dardenne, 2011)
  • Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life (Werner Herzog, 2012)
  • A Night to Remember (Roy Ward Baker, 1958)
  • Marathon Man (John Schlesinger, 1976)
  • Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Marc Rothemund, 2005)
  • Accident (Joseph Losey, 1967)
  • Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)
  • Ballets Russes (Daniel Geller and Dana Goldfine, 2005)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011)
  • La Haine (Matheiu Kassovitz, 1995)
  • A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
  • Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Andersen, 2012)
  • Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
  • A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
  • Carrie (William Wyler, 1952)
  • Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947)
  • A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2010) x2
  • The Divorce of Lady X (Tim Whelan, 1938)
  • The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)
  • War Horse (Stephen Spielberg, 2012)
  • Great Expectations (Mike Newell, 2012)
  • Searching for Sugarman (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)
  • Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012)
  • The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
  • The Untouchables (Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, 2011)
  • Brave (Mark Andrews, 2012)
  • Bruce Campbell vs The Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992)
  • Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)
  • Call Me Kuchu (Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall, 2012)
  • Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Stephen Spielberg, 1984)
  • The Social Network (David Fincher, 2011)


My 90 Minutes with Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh

Vivien Leigh Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier

Vivien Leigh, marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in London, 1956. The real deal.

Almost everyone who knows me and my taste in films/my appreciation for Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh predicted I’d hate My Week with Marilyn, the debut film by director Simon Curtis based on the diaries of Colin Clark. They were right – to a point. The film as a whole is pretty entertaining. I laughed quite a bit (although not always during moments that are supposed to be funny). But I also found myself saying, “what?” and “really?” more often than not. You see, I gave an honest go at having no, or at least low, expectations. I knew it wasn’t going to be a masterpiece of cinema, so it was better than I expected. But from a fan perspective, I wouldn’t call it a “good” film. Not by a long shot.

Clark’s diaries, published as The Prince, The Showgirl and Me (see the documentary made from the book) and My Week with Marilyn were combined to form the basis of the script. Clark (Eddie Redmayne) had family connections to the film industry. His father, Kenneth, was a famous and very wealthy art historian who was the director of the National Gallery and head of the Ministry of Information Films Division during the war. He was also good friends with the Oliviers. When Colin expressed interest in going into filmmaking, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond) persuaded Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) to give him a job on her husband’s next picture, The Prince and The Showgirl, in which he was set to co-star with Hollywood’s it girl Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Clark details his time working as 3rd assistant director to Olivier. His job consisted of doing whatever anyone told him to do. Somehow he ended up becoming a confidant of the notoriously problematic and troubled Monroe, and My Week with Marilyn covers the week Clark spent in fantasy land with his favorite blonde bombshell.

Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh as Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh as Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier

Colin Clark had a knack for words and his books make for fun, light reads. This is the sort of reading one might do at the beach, or, in my case, by the pool at my old apartment in southern CA. I quite enjoyed the little insights he gave into the world of my favorite celebrity couple. To be honest, I’ve never cared much for Marilyn Monroe. I recognize her overwhelming star quality, but she’s never moved me as an actress, and the fact that she dominates the pop culture market from beyond the grave (rather like James Dean and Elvis) is off-putting. Therefore, whether Clark’s claims of love on a sunny afternoon near Windsor are true or not is of little interest to me. What his books aren’t are very serious or in-depth. Consequently, the film isn’t very serious either and what we are treated to is a bunch of over the top caricatures of larger-than-life celebrities.

Michelle Williams gives the best turn of the entire film. She doesn’t have the charisma or the curves that the real Marilyn possessed, but she gives an honest attempt at projecting the troubled vulnerability beneath the sex symbol exterior. As the film seems to be a showcase for a possible Oscar nomination, it would make sense that she was allowed to give a deeper exploration of her character. There are times when I did feel sorry for “Marilyn” but everyone around her was so over the top and silly that it was hard to take anyone seriously. Judi Dench phoned in as Sybil Thondike and will probably get an Oscar for her 3 minutes of screen time. Emma Watson is a pointless space-filler as Lucy the wardrobe girl in her first post-Harry Potter role. Dougray Scott was a guy with a cliche and silly New Yorker accent – oh, I’m sorry he was supposed to be Arthur Miller (anyone remember him from Ever After with Drew Barrymore?). Julia Ormond is a lady named Vivien Leigh who thinks she’s no longer loved because she’s 42.

Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in My Week with Marilyn

A hot mess

The worst performance was given by Kenneth Branagh. Let me rephrase that, my least favorite performance was given by Kenneth Branagh. All the critics seem to be wetting themselves, saying how he’s a shoe-in for an Oscar and how brilliant he is at capturing the hammy essence of Sir Laurence Olivier. Hammy is right. One could glaze him up and set him on the table for Christmas dinner. I’m sure he’s been waiting to play Olivier on screen his entire life, so now that he’s finally gotten his chance, he went all out with it. In constructing the character, Branagh took some cues from Olivier himself, using facial prosthetics such as a fake chin to give him the famous Olivier cleft (not to mention enough make-up to make him look like a drag queen in training), although he only really looks like Larry in some instances; he simply doesn’t have the fantastic bone structure. He also tries on various voices and dramatic gestures as if to prove he is an actor.

Kenneth Branagh and Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

Play acting

The real Laurence Olivier once said of people in his profession, “We ape, we mimic, we mock, we act.” This is exactly what Branagh does. He plays Olivier as a camp, completely over-the-top buffoon, out to steal the show by being loud and obnoxious and trying to get all the laughs. He mimics Olivier but never attempts to get beyond the surface. This is not entirely his fault. There are some instances where he might have had the opportunity to dig a little deeper, such as those involving Vivien Leigh. For example, there is one scene that takes place in a screening room at Pinewood. Larry and Vivien are watching the daily rushes from the film. Seeing the young and beautiful Marilyn flounce around on screen makes Vivien upset and she begins degrading herself (how cliche can this portrayal of Vivien Leigh get, honestly?). Larry, using the nickname he lovingly bestowed on his second wife, takes Vivien in his arms and says, “Oh, Puss, you’re ten times the actress she is.”  In a flash, her mood changes (she was crazy, don’tcha know?). “If you could see the way you look at her,” Vivien passionately emotes. “I hope she makes your life hell,” she concludes before storming out of the room. Colin, who witnesses the scene from the doorway, comes in and offers Larry a cigarette, which he takes with slightly shaking hands. In real life, Laurence Olivier’s marriage to Vivien Leigh was on the rocks at this time, and she suffered a miscarriage during the making of the film, adding an extra layer of misery to the stress of dealing with an unprofessional co-star. When he takes the cigarette offered him by Colin in the screening room, we get the tiniest glimpse of what could possibly have been the human side of Laurence Olivier, but the film cuts to the next scene before Branagh can go any deeper. It’s a pity, because in this film Larry comes off  as not only cliche but also as a complete tit. What’s so disappointing is that these really are the common perceptions of Laurence Olivier today–that he was camp, a hammy actor and a mean person–and Branagh’s performance, as well as the way this film is scripted and directed, serves only to enhance rather than dispel these views.

For the average viewer who knows nothing about the real people being depicted, My Week with Marilyn probably seems like a good film, or at least some fun, light entertainment. For fans, however – particularly those of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier – it will probably be a disappointment. This film is extremely shallow. The real Monroe, Olivier and Leigh were legends in their own time and they embodied an aura of glamour and mystique that was so essential to classic Hollywood cinema. The actors playing these people completely pale in comparison. For me, My Week with Marilyn just proved that they really don’t make ’em like they used to. If you’re looking for pure, cliche entertainment, this may be the film for you. If you’re hoping for an in-depth glimpse into the secret lives of some of the most famous personalities of the 20th Century, best head elsewhere.

Grade: C