Jul 29, 2010

Paulo Coelho: Veronika Decides to Die (1998)

"When she opened her eyes, Veronika did not think 'this must be heaven'. Heaven would never use a flourescent tube to light a room, and the pain - which started a fraction of a second later - was typical of the Earth. Ah, that Earth pain - unique, unmistakable."

I'm bending the limits of my movie blog to discuss the book I just finished. Paulo Coelho is one of the most read and loved authors all over the world, and for a reason. He tells life-changing stories about normal people, and conveys positive energy, inspiration and spirituality to the modern world, so much in need of just those things.

Veronika Decides to Die was the second book I read by Coelho. (The first one was Zahir, which I didn't like that much.) It tells the story of Veronika, a young Slovenian woman, who appears to have it all: beauty, a job, a loving family. And yet she's not happy: for her, the future just doesn't seem worth living. So she decides to kill herself. However, she doesn't succeed. She ends up in Villete, a local mental hospital, where she's told the sleeping pills she took damaged her heart and she has only a few days left before it collapses. During those days she learns to value every moment and finds joys she'd never experienced before.

Needless to say, the book was very good. The mental hospital is a very fascinating setting, and my favourite parts of the book descussed specifically the concept of 'mad'. See, the book doesn't only concentrate on Veronika, it tells the stories of other inmates of Villete, too. The line between what is considered 'normal' and what 'mad' is incredibly narrow, and really, we're never that far from slipping to that other side. Which is a bit scary thought, but also somehow soothing. Being 'mad' isn't descriped as something too bad. Mostly is just caused by a reaction to a situation in life, or a way to cope.

The book also encourages us to be a little 'mad' from time to time - meaning, to do things differing from normal, to try things you'd usually try only in your wildest dreams, to take changes and leaps of faith. It has some very wonderful thoughts in it, and it really makes you think about the value of your own life, too.

Hollywood reacted to the huge popularity of the book and made a film about it in 2009, with Sarah Michelle Gellar (I first accidentally wrote Sarah Jessica Parker. Thank god not her.) playing Veronika. I'm going to see the film, but a bit suspiciously, afraid they've either Americanized the story or made it just... blah. (Like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The book was wonderful, and there wasn't really anything wrong with the movie, but it was just... blah.) Here's the trailer.

Jul 27, 2010

Mad Men (season 1) - the mad world of ad men

I bought the first season of Mad Men to see it as a test. The result of the test: I will have to see the second season, too.

Mad Men sets in a prestigious advertising agency in New York, in the early 1960s, in a glamourous era after the depression when people are desperately chasing the American dream. Mostly it concetrates on one of the most talented and desired man in the business, Donald Draper - his various affairs, mysterious past, problems at home and in the office. There's also a wide range of other interesting characers. Who, for me, are often more interesting than the main character. I guess I have a thing about favoring the supporting characters over the central one.

Don't get me wrong, Don Draper is a great character and Jon Hamm plays him very stylishly. In many ways his a difficult character - distant, serious, closed-up, not giving much away of himself, so mostly you just see this hard, polished, ice-cold shell, which is both intriqueing and intimidating. I grew fonder of him towards the end of the season, but can't still quite understand or approve some of his behaviour, arrogance and cynicism.

January Jones plays Don's wife Betty. January Jones has a very swell name! She also had a small role in the best romcom ever (Love Actually, if you didn't know), so thumbs up for that. Betty is a beautiful, young house wife, mother of two children and married to a handsome, successful man. Perfect, right? We know it isn't. Behind the flawless facade Betty is quite lost - a fragile, unhappy woman, who can't be totally honest to anyone, not even her terapist, nor herself. The cheating husband doesn't really help.

Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) is Don's new secretary. Young, confused, unexperienced, she tries to learn the ways of the office, both the written and unwritten rules. However, she has ambition and some ideas. Peggy was probably my favourite character from the very beginning. Just like the viewer, she was a newbie in this harsh environment. I like how she tries so very hard, but doesn't always know how to act or what to say in certain situations, making herself easy to mock by the self-satisfied, in-a-group-stupidity-condenses men of the office.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is probably the most annoying character - and yet one of my favourites. Pete's from a powerful family, wedging his value to the company. And he's a shameless climber, not dumb, but thinking a bit too much of himself and letting it show, lacking humility and sense of humour, when it comes to things below his belt. And not only figuratively. He's not very popular around the office because of his big mouth and unability show respect to certain authorities, and he often feels alone and left out. The storyline of him and Peggy was my favourite along the season.

Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is  the head of all the secretaries, teaching them the ways of the office, offering a shoulder to cry on and if necessary, bringing them down to earth when they aren't acting in an appropriate way. She's a very confident woman, with tons of attitude and curves to die for (just saying). She's also a favourite of mine.

Rest of the ad men don't get that much attention, but I'm looking forward to learning more about them. Expect for that grey-haired big boss Sterling. Pathetic old man. Sorry.

Mad Men's writing is what makes it so good. It's clever yet subtle. I love the time period and the clothes, oh, the clothes. From time to time the little feminist in me pouts her mouth at the mentality of the era - the place and meaning of a woman, the sexism and the dismissive honey/sweet heart/dear way they are talked to in the world still ruled by men (been there, experienced that, still in the 21th century...). And the cheating, oh god it's shameless and ugly. And then they practically slap their wives when they smile at the man next door. It annoys me, but at the same time that's what makes the show what it is: an accurate potrayal of that time. And it's always super cool when a woman dares to stand up for herself and doesn't settle on being alive just to please the man next to her. High five, y'all!

Silencing the little feminist in me in three two one now.

So. One season down. Second season is a must-see, we'll see when I'll get my hands on it. Mad Men is not the new Lost, but it was a good find anyway. The mission impossible continues soon, as I see if I can become addicted on True Blood on a second try.

Jul 25, 2010


Limelight (1952)

Directed by Charles Chaplin. Starring Charles Chaplin, Claire Bloom, Nigel Bruce, Sydney Chaplin.

Long story short: Calvero is a once-great comedian, whose fame has faded with his youth. By accident he befriends with a with a young, depressed ballet dancer Thereza. They support each other, and together try to achieve what Calvero once had, and Thereza hasn't yet had a taste of.

It's impossible not to see the autobiographical aspect of Limelight. Chaplin was 60 years old at the time, still a liked and recognized face, but clearly approaching the end of his career. This was indeed his last film produced in America - around the film's release he was exiled from the US. Limelight obviously reflects some of Chaplin's own experiences and feelings, but how much of himself did he really put on Calvero? Who knows. Calvero is a washed-up clown - hunted by the thought that he can't make people laugh like he did before, and hungering for that one more moment to shine, one more moment in the limelight. It's sad to think these ideas might've floated around Chaplin's head, too. 

Limelight is not the usual Chaplin. It's a drama with comedic elements, rather that a comedy with dramatic ones. I did chuckle a few times - for example there was a funny scene where Calvero talks to his grumpy landlady like they had some steamy love affair going on. Haha. There are also some vaudeville numbers, and Chaplin gets to show there's still some fire in those old bones. One of Calvero's acts was called "Tramp Comedian" - a great nod to the legendary character Chaplin created.

There are many lenghty, amazing dance and comedy numbers. The music is the fruit of lots and lots of hard work. Chaplin won his one and only Oscar for Limelight (not counting the Honorary Oscar), the music specifically. No wonder. (Well, that the Oscar was his one and only is more than a wonder.)

This was also the first time I heard Chaplin speak in a film and  first it felt SO WEIRD. But he was a wonderful actor - slapstick might have been his strong point, but his dramatic acting is really worth mentioning, too. His performance seems effortless and natural, as if he wasn't acting, but merely being himself. Which might not be too far from the truth. Calvero is a charming, witty old gentleman, and so was Chaplin. Claire Bloom is a bit melodramatic at times, but holds her head high next to her veteran co-star. Charlie's son Sydney also plays a role of a romantic pianist.

There's a lot of talk in Limelight, some of it's very philosophical, almost to the point of being pretentious. But though I still prefer him conveying the joys and sorrows of life through slapstick, he moves and touches this way, too. He was a thoughtful, intelligent man, and the dialougue of the film is skilled and just wonderful, discussing life, love, fame, aging, optimism, the will and unwillingness to live...

My mistake was I saw Limelight too early. I should have watched more of Chaplin's earlier films first, like The Kid, Gold Rush and The Great Dictator, and then finally see this film that reflects the late years of the comedian behind masterpieces, the man who made people laugh for a living. I will have to rewatch the film after some time, because there's really a lot to learn about its maker between the lines.

(And I'm intentionally saving The Kid for the last, because I know I'll love it.)

"Life can be wonderful if you're not afraid of it."

Jul 23, 2010

Inception - prepare your breath to be taken away, far away

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine.

Long story short: ... Okay, this is a bit difficult. So, there's a technology that allows you to enter people's minds and dreams and steal their secrets and ideas. And there's this one guy whose mind these other guys need to enter to plant an idea in there (that's called 'inception') ...and that's pretty much what it's all about. Kind of.

Isn't it just awesome, how something that's been hyped to be awesome actually turns out to be just that? I was so worried that I wouldn't like or understand Inception. And - even though I have to admit I didn't fully, totally, completely understand it - I did like it, a lot. And that's just awesome.

Now - a little praise. I feel like calling Chris Nolan 'a genious'. Seriously, who knew he could top The Dark Knight. He did! Oh man. The cast, then. Somehow they'd managed to cast only actors that I like. Leo - the usual dark and twisty awesomeness, Joseph Gordon-Levitt - oooooooh, hello eye candy (and more!), Marion Cotillard - favourite actress material, Ellen Page - I'm glad you didn't get your first Oscar for Juno, you'll get it for something so much better, Ken Watanabe - Ha! Chairman!, Tom Hardy - a new face for me but liked him immidiately, Cillian Murphy - something very freezing about him, in a good way, and of course Michael Caine - wonderful, awesome, that's all he knows how to be.

... I don't know how to start analysing and disentangling the film. I can say it was the best film I've seen in a good while - but at the same time I'm positive Inception won't become a favourite film of mine, because for me a favourite film means that I can watch it over and over again and every time it's just pure indulgence.  Inception is a brilliant film, so brilliant it's weird to think someone human came up with it, it's very very well made and it seriously is modern film making at its best - 'a triumph of modern cinema', as I mockingly descriped Eclipse a while back.

At the same time it's difficult, complicated, almost tiring, if you're not feeling at your sharpest. Half way through I felt a bit exhausted, because there was so much to take in and no break to catch your breath. It demands you to concentrate constantly and keeps your brain busy, provoking your thoughts. It's... well, like a maze. Which you can't crack just like that. And as brilliant as it is, and as much as I enjoyed it, it wasn't pure indulgence. So - if someone askes me in the end of this year what was the BEST film of 2010, I will probably say Inception. If they ask what was MY FAVOURITE film, I will say something else. Something silly like Toy Story 3 or Kick-Ass or Harry Potter. You know what I mean.

Anyway, at the end I was just glad I'd substantially understood what the film was about, had been able to follow all along and even guessed and predicted a thing or two. I call this a personal triumph, haha.

Dreams and the subconcious are a blurry and mysterious area of science, and thus very fascinating. Somehow in Inception they'd managed to take some things we know - like the feeling of falling that wakes you up - and compose a technology that you know is fiction, but it's made and explained so well it feels plausible and real.

The CGI was excellent, just excellent, and there was obviously a lot of it, but it didn't feel like they were gloating with it - special effects weren't the reason to tell a story (ahem, Avatar, ahem), but a tool to tell it. Also, they didn't shoot it in 3D, which in my book means a million thumbs up! Go, you.

Some random thoughts: I liked how that Edith Piaf song played quite a major role in the film. As you remember, Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for potraying the singer. Hans Zimmer's music is... like Hans Zimmer's music tends to be. I liked the film's humour a lot, it was subtle and clever. There wasn't much of it, but just enough to nicely lighten up the atmosphere when necessary. The ending... Aaaaaaaargh, damn you Nolan, you nasty nasty thing! (=Thank you! You are a genious, there I said it!)

What else... Oh, I don't know. My breath is still a bit taken away, I can't think clearly. The Perfect Film still remains unmade (as it hopefully will forever), but Inception shows it's always worth a try. And I hope they still remember this little film when the awards season kicks in.

"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange."

 EDIT // Damn, one just can't spell after midnight.

Jul 22, 2010

Flea market discoveries

Sometimes it's worth wandering between the stuffy, messy shelves. I came across a stack of old Episodi magazines 0,50 € each. And not that old, really, all of this year's issues were there, too, including the most recent one. Whoo! I was able to resist the urge to buy the whole stack. I was tempted, though. The Hunchback of Notre Dame dvd was also a must-buy. Not from the flea market, but still. The materialist in me is very happy.

... But the child in me not that much! I've been assuming that Toy Story 3 opens in cinemas next week, but turns out I didn't get the month right. So I'll have to wait until the end of August! Noooooooooooo!

BUT - always look at the bright side of life... 

Inception countdown: 2 hours 18 minutes

Jul 21, 2010


Tootsie (1982)

Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray.

Long story short: Micheal Dorsey is a struggling unemployed actor, who doesn't seem to get hired, because of his difficult nature and bad reputation. Desperate, he transforms into Dorothy Michaels. Maybe he will get lucky as she. 

tootsie - noun. Definition: woman. Synonymes: babe, dame, dish, doll, girl, honey.
It's generally recognised that men dressed as woman are very funny. Chaplin knew it (I remember seeing such short film), Billy "Some Like It Hot" Wilder knew it, Robin Williams knew it, and Finland's very own Marja Tyrni knows it. I just mentioned Charlie Chaplin and Marja Tyrni in the same sentence. Yikes. Sorry. Anyway. Dustin Hoffman certainly knows it too.

I agree - it is, nearly without exceptions, funny when a man dresses up as a female. It is kind of cheap and easy comedy, though, but Tootsie was a big hit back in the 80s, so I gave it a try. And yeah, the movie was pretty funny.

I like Dustin Hoffman. He's terrific in The Graduate and Rain Man, and wonderfully sympathetic in more recent films like Finding Neverland and Meet the Fockers. And generally, he just seems very cool. And again, he's great Micheal/Dorothy. He actually does a very good female impersonation! So it's not as ridiculous as in, for example, Some Like It Hot, when everyone totally buys that he's just a bit peculiar woman.

Bill Murray's character steals pretty much every scene he's in. He plays Michael's roommate Jeff, a straight-faced and sarcastic playwright. Jessica Lange was good - sure, she won an Oscar for the role. (It's odd that a comedy like this was nominated for about a million Oscars.) But I liked Teri Garr's neurotic Sandy much more.

The funniest scenes in the film obviously had to do with the cross-dressing. There were some very nice gags and absurd situations they'd managed to create around the scenario. It was funny how Michael began to understand the womanly problems and see the world from their point of view. At the same time the film made some pretty good points about the subject.

Um... Well. Here it's once again made clear that I should write about a movie straight after watching it, as I usually do. My mind is blank. Oh well. Tootsie didn't rouse that many thoughts in me. But it was a fine comedy (with a blah ending). And Dustin Hoffman rocks. I feel like watching Rain Man.

"What do you mean you don't have anything to wear?"
"She has seen me in all of these!"
"She hasn't seen you in that white dress."
"You cannot wear white to a casual dinner. It's too dressy."
"What about this thing?"
"No. I don't have the right shoes for it, I don't like the way the horizontal lines make me look to hippy, and it cuts me across the bust."
"... I think we're getting into a weird area here." 

PS. INCEPTION TOMORROW. TRYING NOT TO BE TOO EXCITED. (I'm telling myself it'll be the worst movie ever, so that maybe I won't be horrifically disappointed, if it's not the best one.)

Jul 20, 2010

W. - the man behind the scandal and hate

W. (2008)

Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks.

Long story short: The journey of George W. Bush - how a carefree collage kid grew up to be the most controversial man in the world.

Everyone has an opinion about George W. Bush, some stronger than others, some more reasoned than others. In many cases the opinion is quite negative. I personally have never had nothing much to say about the man - sure, I've never liked him, but neither was I ever very interested in mentally spitting on him. I don't care much about politics, so I only knew what the others were saying - that he's dumb and ignorant and he will personally be responsible for the third World War that supposingly would break out during his presidental term. And yeah, I was a bit chagrined when John Kerry lost, and then I watched Fahrenheit 9/11 and there were all these conspiracy theories around. So he wasn't very popular in my book, either.

Recently I've been reshaping my shaky opinion. I'm still not in love with the man, but mostly I just feel kind of sorry for him. I have no idea what he really is like, but I'm pretty sure there's more to him than what the public image have made us assume. And he probably doesn't deserve quite all of the hate and contempt. Again, I don't know much about politics, but I think the decisions, whether they are good or bad, are made by more than one person. But there's always that one person, who gets the credit or is held responsible for those decisions. It'd really suck to be the president of United States, wouldn't it? I think it would.
Hmm. I think I was supposed to be talking about the film. So. The George W. Bush of W. isn't very lovable to me. He has that Texas/redneck mentality that annoys me, especially the young Bush. He's a bit loud and harsh and just generally a bit unpleasant and unstable. But well, he has a brain he knows how to use. HOW he uses it, that's a different story... Anyway, Josh Brolin is very very good. So is James Cromwell. I've always liked the actor, whatever he does, but I never seem to remember his name. For me, he'll always be always the old farmer from Babe (I wonder if that old VHS still works...).

I think the film's purpose was to make us understand George W. Bush, to make him seem more human and easier to sympathize with. It didn't really do the trick for me, but then again, I wasn't a hater in the first place. And I have a problem with the stereotypically American hillbillys from Texas. Nothing personal, you fine people of Texas, if there are any in the whole state. ...Okay, enough now, I don't what to be too mean.

Anyway. I didn't really like the movie much. For me, rather than a bio pic, it was just a lot of talk about politics, and I happen not to like politics. I think it's calculating, dishonest and nasty business, something I don't want to be a part of, but all the same something that the modern society needs to work. Some parts of the film were interesting, but mostly I was just glancing at the clock.

And what it comes to George W. Bush, I don't feel I know or understand him any better now than I did before. I still don't know if he deserves to go down in history as the unliked, controversial, iffy president. But I suppose that's not my problem.

"I believe God wants me to be president."

Jul 19, 2010

Days of toys' lives: Toy Story

Toy Story 1 & 2 (1995 & 1999)

Directed by John Lasseter. Voices by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen.

Long story short: Andy's toys have a life of their own whenever the owner isn't around.

I don't know what the people at Pixar have for breakfast, but they must be some sort of super humans. I've seen no bad Pixar film. None! And most of them aren't just good, they are brilliant. Both Toy Stories belong to that category. I liked these movies growing up, but I dare say I like them even more now. The stories might be about toys, but there's no reason why adults couldn't relate to the plastic action figures and other childhood favourites.

The Toy Story movies are probably the most popular of Pixar animations. All the films are on IMDb's Top 250 list, the third one is currently #8 (and Inception is #3... Exciting, exciting... I don't know which one I'm looking forward to more, Inception or Toy Story 3...). And I can totally see why! I mean, they are just damn good movies, not only for animated/kids' movies, but generally speaking.

The concept of the movies is ingenious. There's something very appealing and fascinating about toys being alive and having a secret life behind our backs. While watching the second movie today I glanced at my dear old teddy (who still has a steady place in my room) and thought about things it might've been doing all these years. Then I thought I should dig out all of my old toys from the back of the closet and other places they've been stored away and give them all a big hug and tell them how much I loved to play with them. Well. I didn't. I should, though.

Overall the movies have very simple plots. The first one is about a new toy, Buzz, who threaths the position of Andy's favourite toy, Woody. The second one is about rescuing Woody from being shipped off to Japan. Simply, nothing fancy. And it works!

Much of the movies' charm, for me, comes from the little details - the wonderful personalities of the various toys, the little gags that the youngest viewers might not get ("How do you spell FBI?" and the Star Wars references in TS2) and all the genious, imaginative ways they've put the possibilities of the toy world to use (I love the tour guide Barbie, for example).

Buzz has to be my favourite toy. He's awesome especially in the second one. I love how he and Woody have become such a good buddies. And all the scenes with the other Buzz... "Tell me I wasn't this deluded." Haha. Slinky the dog is very sympathetic. And oh that poor Rex with those little hands... Jessie the cowgirl is a bit annoying. Otherwise everyone is very cool.

... It'd be funny to think of personalities to all of your own toys, too! What they would be like if they actually were alive... I mean, eh, they are, aren't they! I think my old teddy would be a gambler. He'd play poker and cheat just a little and win all the buttons and hair pins they'd be playing for. He'd wear my sunglasses and look super cool and all the Barbies would cheer for him.

... Anyway. Toy Story teaches a valuable lesson: hold on to your toys, be loyal to your friends, don't be prejudiced against new acquaintances, and always pack your angry eyes. And that it doesn't matter if you can't fly - falling with style is just as cool.

I can't wait till next week. It'll be awesome.

"Here's your list of things to do while I'm gone: batteries need to be changed. Toys at the bottom of the chest need to be rotated. Oh, and make sure everyone attends Mr. Spell's seminar on what to do if you or part of you is swallowed."

Chaplin - even legends have wild sides

 Chaplin (1992)

Directed by Richard Attenborough. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Paul Rhys, Moira Kelly, Dan Ankroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Geraldine Chaplin.

Long story short: It's the from-rags-to-riches story of Charlie Chaplin - how he grew up in the muddy streets of London, moved to America in a chase of a dream, created the most recognisable character in the history of cinema, became a legend, and how, after all this, he found love and peace and his very own happily-ever-after. 

Every one has a wild side. Even a legend. Especially a legend, I say.

I first watched this film earlier this year, because of a certain Robert, whose last name begins with Downey and ends with Jr. - and recently I've become a bit obsessed about everything that has to do with Charlie Chaplin. I can only thank RDJ! For he's a jolly good fellow.

On the first watch I knew hardly anything about Chaplin, but I enjoyed the film a lot, anyway. Now that I've read his autobiography (finished it earlier today) and seen some of his movies, I obviously enjoyed it even more. It's a great film, and hasn't got the attention it deserves.

Let's first get over the obvious. RDJ got his first Oscar nomination for playing Charlie Chaplin from his twenties till his eighties (the second one he got from Tropic Thunder in 2009, for a slightly, er, different role, but a brilliant one all the same). Frankly, I think it's his best performance to date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it remained his greatest for good. He's simply amazing. The role is challenging as hell! Not only does he have to play Charles Chaplin, but also the Tramp - and what do you know, he nails them both. Him not winning the Oscar is a tragedy. But oh well, he lost it for Al Pacino, so things could be worse. Still, I'm a bit bitter.

RDJ has always rocked the accents, and again my (sadly uneducated) ear doesn't have complaints about his Cockney way of speech. (I've linked this clip before and I'll link it again. Sorry, but it's brilliant.) Also, I think RDJ has that certain kind of mischievious, jaunty and charming presence, which fits very well to the mental image I've had about Chaplin. His Tramp imitation is also fantastic. I though it was good before, but after seeing the original version in action I was now able to spot the same mannerisms and gestures in RDJ's interpretation, and damn, he's more than good. Here's a clip about the creation of the Tramp. Watch and marvel.

The rest of Chaplin's broad cast is excellent, too. I especially like Paul Rhys, who plays Charlie's brother Sydney, and the women playing his various wifes and girlfriends, like Moira Kelly, who (a bit confusingly, but quite poetically) plays two different roles and Diane Lane, who I just think is one of the most traditionally beautiful women alive. There's also Milla Jovovich and Marisa Tomei... Anthony Hopkins plays a fictional character, the editor of Chaplin's autobiography.

And this is cool: Charlie Chaplin's real life daughter Geraldine Chaplin plays Charlie's mother - her own grandmother, that is.

I'm not usually very big on biographies - The Aviator, Walk the Line, Ed Wood... nah. Schindler's List is excellent, but you can't really call it a joy to watch. Chaplin IS a joy to watch. (Perhaps because it's about a man who is a joy to watch, played by a man who is also a joy to watch.) It's interesting and also funny, touching and very charming. Some scenes are very, almost surprisingly, slapstick-y, which fits in the mood of the film perfectly. It's not a perfect film, and somehow it feels like it didn't use all of its potential, but I liked it a lot, anyway.

One of my favourite scenes is the opening - the black and white images of Chaplin taking off his costume and make up. The look in RDJ's eyes tell's it all. There's a really strong feel of a depressed clown in the scene. It's just great. In the end there were some goosebumps and a few tears. The whole Honorary Oscar thing is just sincerely moving and it feels like one of those larger-than-life moments. And I love how there's some original footage in the film, too - clips from Chaplin's movies and from the Oscars, for example.

The make up team has done wonderful job in the film. Remember, it's the same 25-year-old Robert Downey Jr. playing both the 20-year-old and the 80-year-old Charlie Chaplin. And yeah, I'm buying it! sure, the oldest Chaplin looks a bit waxy at times, but it doesn't bother anyone. And of course, RDJ's amazing acting talents combined to that awesome make up equals a pretty convincing man of various ages.

Chaplin is a great film. It's about a great man, who I've seriously learned to admire during the past few weeks. He just rocks and I'd totally marry him if I could. Or at least I'd scream my lungs out at him and kiss the earth beneath his feet. Or something. Also, I want RDJ to drop the action block busters for a moment and do another epic drama. Please.

Here's the trailer of Chaplin. ("What do we do, Charlie?" "Smile.") It's seriously a very good film and I recommend it very warmly.

"If you want to understand me, watch my movies."

Jul 14, 2010

My favourite TV shows: Honorable mentions & future prospects

(I'm currently enjoying the last week of my summer job. So here's a timed post for you!)

To FINALLY finish My Top 5 Favourite TV shows list, I write one more post about those series that possibly almost might have made it to the list, but they didn't because it was too crowded. Just to remind you, this is what the list looked like:
  1. Lost (part two)
  2. Glee / Extras
  3. Grey's Anatomy
  4. The O.C.
  5. Prison Break / Skins
Now, to the five honorable mentions.

Muumilaakson tarinoita (Moomin)

I'll keep myself in check and mention only one childhood favourite. Of course I had to choose Moomin, because it's simply the best thing that's come out of tv (before Lost came along). I don't think I need to explain myself any further, everyone must understand the charm of these white, round creatures and their friends. I still find the series highly entertaining, some remarks insanely funny and the general philosophy just pure genious. I think I'll be a Moomin fan even when I'm 70. This is one thing worth feeling patriotic about.
"Jos minä löytäisin jostakin tarpeeksi pienen poikaystävän, olisin minäkin kevytkenkäinen."

Ally McBeal (season 4 only)

Why only season 4? That's the only season I've watched entirely. Why? Well, there's a small hint above. This winter I was at the peak of my Robert Downey Jr. phase, and watched everything I could that had anything to do with him. Including season 4 of Ally McBeal. I've watched random episodes of the show over the years, and I remembered only that f*cking scary dancing uga zaga baby. Hrrr. Anyway. The season was both very enjoyable and freaking painful. I put a bit too much of my soul into it. I knew all the time the season would end in tears - RDJ was struggling with drugs at the time so he was kicked out of the show. I loved RDJ's Larry more than it's healthy and wanted to marry him or at least Ally to marry him. I often felt disturbingly melancholic after watching an episode, especially after the season was over and they didn't live happily ever after. SIGH. What a wonderful, wondeful man. Damn you and your drug issues.


I'm not one of those people who love Friends more than life and can recite the dialogue of every episode. But everytime I happen to open the tv and Friends is on, I don't change the channel. I'm prone to forgetting how good the series actually is! Everytime I watch an episode I laugh and enjoy myself. My favourite character must be... um... Pheobe. Or Ross. Oh I don't know. Anyway, Friends is what I think when someone says the word 'sitcom'.
"Pheobe. That's, P, as in Phoebe, H, as in heobe, O as in oebe, E, as in ebe, B, as in bebe, and E as in... Ello there mate."

The Simpsons

Similarly to Friends, The Simpsons is the show to watch if you happen to open the tv at the right time and want to have fun for a half an hour. It's a genuinely funny show, with all the references and padorys of popular culture and the real world. The scale of characters is great, some of my favourites are the angry Scottish janitor, Abu with his wonderful Indian accent and of course Bart.
"Thank you, come again!"

Little Britain

For me, Little Britain was the representative of British humour until I found Extras. Little Britain mostly relies on men dressing up as women or homosexual-ish characters, catch phrases and repetive sketches. It's funny, yeah, but not in too big portions. My favourite sketches are the Prime Minister and his teenage girl-ishly jealous assistant ("Wha evaa!"), the teenage monster Vicky Pollard ("Yeah but no but yeah but...") and of course Andy and Lou ("Yeah, I know.").
"Computer says... no."

Now. The hole where Lost used to be. I'm 99 % sure it'll never be completely filled, and well, I don't think I'd even want that. But still, I'm in a quest to find new shows to get addicted on. Glee is my most recent discovery, but I need at least one more.

I have some candidates. I've watched the first few episodes of True Blood, and it was pretty good, though not OMG-FREAKING-AWESOME good. But I think I'll try it again some time. Same with Chuck, a show about a computer nerd, who accidently gets involved with goverment secrects. I've seen random episodes of Supernatural, and it's good and creepy and full of eye candy. I'm trying to get my hand on the first season.

I just recently bought the first season of Mad Men, because it was cheap and it's won six Emmys. And six Emmys can't be wrong. Right? I've now watched two episodes, and the characters seem pretty interesting and I'm really hoping I'll get involved in the story and become addicted and my search will be over. Fingers crossed...

Meanwhile... Any further recommendations?

Jul 12, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy feat. Chris from Skins

Okay, so I watched Driving Miss Daisy, because I found it at the library and it's a classic, but I'm not going to write about it like I usually do, for two reasons.

1) I don't really have much to say about it. It was a sweet little film, alright, but I seriously don't understand how it managed to win the Best Picture Oscar.
2) It's been the hottest day in 75 freaking years. I don't think my brain functions anymore.

So, instead I'll just give you a Youtube video (that actually DOES have something to do with the subject).


It features Chris from Skins, and in addition to some Driving Miss Daisy jokes it also includes one of the best lines of Chris, "If Rome won't go to Mohammed, then Mohammed will clap till it does". Ah, gotta love Chris.

... And now I'll go and melt the rest of my brain. Cheerio.

Jul 11, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Directed by Elia Kazan. Starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden.

Long story short: Blanche comes to visit her sister Stella and immidiately begins to clash with Stella's husband Stanley. (Okay, this summary sounds like a plot of a bad romantic comedy. It shouldn't.) 

A Streetcar Named Desire is based on a famous play by Tennessee Williams. I first saw the film a few years back and thought it was boring and anticlimactic and a typical classic. This spring I studied the play for a course and thought I should give the film another try - now that I'm more mature educated about the story and the characters. And well, I have to admit I still didn't love it, nor do I feel a need to see it again any time soon, but I kind of see why the film has earned its classic status and can appreciate the complexity of the story and the characters.

In many ways Streetcar resembles a play performed in a theatre. Almost every scene takes place in Stella and Stanley's shabby apartment. You can easily imagine how it would look on stage. There's a lot of talk and a little action, which is probably why it's so difficult to like.

Like I said, the characters of Streetcar are very complex. They are also very flawed, all in their own ways. Blanche, played by Vivien Leigh of Gone with the Wind, is weak, vain and phony, a true drama queen, always fishing compliments about her fading looks and struggling with her past. Marlon Brando's Stanley is a travesty of a man, very primative, brutally honest and sometimes violent, intentionally cruel and never caring much about other's feelings. Stella is kind of sweet, plain looking, the easiest character to sympathesize with, but avoiding the fact that her husbad is what he is, she always comes back to him no matter what he does, because she's just too attracted to him.

The performances are a key element in a story like this. Without the right cast it just wouldn't work. And yeah, the actors rock it, of course. Leigh is amazingly neurotic and annoying, and Brando is just so disgusting (behind that pretty face and awesome abs. I had a very brief Marlon Brando phase after I saw this the first time). It's interesting to learn how people's sympathies lie with different characters. For example I can only sympathize with Stella - in the end with Blanche, too, but never with Stanley. What a horrible man, seriously!

So. There has been some progress. Not anymore would I call Streetcar boring or anticlimactic. Still, it is a typical classic, and not a favourite movie candidate I can watch again and again. But respect to the people who made this film. And to Brando, who created one of the most despicable male characters ever, and earned his place in the history of cinema by being wet and half-naked, looking desperate and screaming "STELLA, STELLA" with all his might.

"I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Jul 10, 2010

Modern Times

After spending another awesome week in the woods (sorry for the silence, again) enjoying my summer job and the sunshine, I was able not to feel guilty for wasting a beautiful day by staying indoors, watching movies. This one I watched on the terrace, though, and it was only slightly too hot and bright for such activity. (Watching movies outside. On your own backyard. There's some modern times for you...)

Modern Times (1936)

Directed by Charles Chaplin. Starring Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard.

Long story short: The Tramp gets fired from his mind-numbing job at factory after suffering a nervous breakdown, and together with a homeless woman he struggles to get along in the industrialized modern society, trying out different jobs and dreaming of a better tomorrow.

As you might remember, I loved City Lights, so I obviously expected a lot from this film, too. At the same time, I was careful not to expect too much, because I didn't want to be disappointed. And yes, as I quite soon noticed, I didn't like Modern Times as much as City Lights, but was able to enjoy it anyway.

The film, in a typical Chaplin way, touches some very dark and serious topics, like unemployment, death, orphanhood, poverty, loneliness, industrialism... And yet it's a very hopeful and encouraging film. In other words, we smile though our hearts are breaking. Speaking of which, the music score is brilliant, again. Chaplin's hard work on that area (too) really shows.

I quote this from Modern Times IMDb board: "Find me a comedic actor today who can act, write, direct, compose, produce, sing, make social commentary, and roller skate like a madman all in one movie." Amen to that. The word 'genious' is sadly overused these days, but it would be a crime not to use the word when descriping Charlie Chaplin.

Modern Times was Chaplin's last film about the Tramp - it's also the only Tramp film with speech. However, it's not a full talkie. The sound is used in a very clever way: the only spoken voices we hear come from machines, techinical devices. We don't hear the Tramp talk, thank god, but we do hear him sing in my favourite scene, where he's forced to perform a song without remembering the words, so he sings complete gibberish but we are able to follow the story, because he dances and acts it out at the same time. It hilarious and very impressive, once again proving that Charlie Chaplin is the master of pantomine. (He's going on 50 here and still moving like a youngster.) These words of nonsense are the first and last words we ever hear the Tramp utter - how cool is that? (The Tramp's very last words can be read from his lips: "Smile! C'mon!" And we do.)

I'm not sure why I didn't like Modern Times as much as City Lights. Maybe it was just my current mood. Maybe City Lights' definite sense of a love story made me fall for it more - Modern Times is about friendship, rather than romance. But even if this film didn't quite reach my expectations, it was still wonderful, profound, sweet and heartwarming. And I will continue my expedition in the Chaplin universe. I think The Great Dictator might be my next stop.

Finally, a fact I can't fit anywhere else: Paulette Goddard was married to Chaplin at the time. She also (quote from IMDb) "was the leading contender for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Her inability to produce a marriage certificate to prove she and Charles Chaplin were married, and the appearance of Vivien Leigh on the scene, lost her the part". Bugger.

"What's the use of trying?"
"Buck up - never say die. We'll get along."

Jul 4, 2010

Happy birthday, America... and Gloria Stuart!

OH SAY CAN YOU SEE...! God bless America and all the wonderful actors and film makers the country has given us. Including Gloria Stuart, who turns 100 today. One hundred years! She's lived for a freaking century!

She was born in 1910 (as you, who are more gifted in the field of mathematics than I am, might already have guessed), two years before the first and last voyage of Titanic, which is cool for obvious reasons. She was an insanely productive actress in the 30s, I counted she starred in 42 films during that one decade only. (If I counted it right.) I've only seen her in that one little film that tells about that little boat. Anyway, she is awesome in it. Being in Titanic and reaching 100 years means I'll write a post about you on your birthday. That's a promise, ya'll!

(My dear brother saw that picture of young Gloria and he said (using our horrible local dialect): "Ei oo pahan näköönen!" This is hilarious, if you know my 16-year-old, girl-fearing, uncommunicative, geeky little brother. I'm not sure if he was serious. I kind of hope he was. Anyway.)

Jul 3, 2010

A poster just gave me goosebumbs.

Super cool. That's all.

Smile, what's the use of crying?

If Charlie tells me to smile, I smile.

This wonderful, wonderful melody was composed by Chaplin for his film Modern Times (1936) - which is next on my watching list. The lyrics were written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954. It's simply beautiful. And the lyrics are beautifully simple. I think I want this to be played at my funeral.

I love that video, too. It's impossible not to smile at that funny, charming, jovial fellow. Everything he does with his hat just cracks me up.

And I do smile! It's freaking beautiful outside, we have ice cream, I get to go to work again on Monday (I know, that's not normal. But my summer job isn't normal. It's awesome!) and Paris is only one month away! Not even this little hangover can stop me from smiling. (...Smile, though your head is aching, smile even though it's... half way down the toilet. Mine is not, just for your information. Just an example.)


Jul 2, 2010

And the radioactive spider bite goes to...

... Andrew Garfield! It's official. Andrew will play the new Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

A few days ago I made a cons & pros list of each Spidey candidate. Andrew's only cons were that he should use his talent to maybe do something a bit more, er, you know, dramatic, or whatever, and that because I associate him with Boy A, I might start crying during a Spidey film. BUT he was in my Top 3 so I'm very pleased.

I'm sure he'll make a wonderfully sweet and sympathetic Peter Parker and a surprisingly authentic Spider-Man. And it's about time the world gets to know him better. He sure has some serious talent. So the film better be good. You don't get to ruin his career.

So... Who will be the next Kirsten Dunst aka Mary Jane? I'm not really the one to speculate. But these are exciting time were living! I hope they get the film done quickly, these news kind of fed my interest towards this project...

(LEFT: Born to be a superhero? He sure knows how to handle a damsel in distress.)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - a triumph of modern cinema!

After this morning's nostalgia trip to the golden 30s, I went to cinema to marvel how amazingly much the industry has gone forward since those days.

(Above you can see me quietly mocking the superficialized, struggling-with-inflation present day Hollywood movies (which I - in spite of all - unconditionally and irrevocably love). This might become a very sarcastic and mean post. Sorry. I don't mean it. Much.)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

Directed by David Slade. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattionson, Taylor Lautner.

Long story short: Bella has to choose between her super cool vampire BF* Edward and her super hot werewolf BFF** Jacob. OMG you'll never guess which one she chooses!!! (Okay, really, something else happens, too. But that's what they always come back to.)

So. I will probably sound quite insincere and hypocritical here, mocking the film and the series, and yet I went to see this a day after the premiere and will go see the last ones, too and I'm writing a post about it and it will probably be very long. But Twilight is easy and fun to mock, because the mayhem around is just ridiculous. I promise I'll say something nice in the end. First I'll jeer and make some stupid sarcastic comments. Then I'll be nice and reasonable.

I read the books a year or two back. I didn't love them, but of course I wanted to know how it would end. (It ended badly. Like in a worst way a book has ended, ever. I'll get back to that.) The films are alright entertainment, for the right mood, and yes, I have the first one on my shelf, but hey I only bought it at the airport because I had to use the rest of my pounds, and...! Well. Anyway. The books are quite badly written, which is why it makes me embarrasingly angry when people say Twilight is the new Harry Potter or something. Er? No they aren't. You're wrong. Shut up.

Okay, so there's still that certain appeal to these books and films. Appeal for the girls, mostly. Though there are these so called Twilight mums that creep me out a bit. This hysterical fan culture makes the girls go crazy and thus the guys go all pissed off, because they don't want their girlfriends to be fantasizing about sexy sparkling vampires. And hell, I get it. This is exactly the reason I dislike Megan Fox. Anyway. IMDb's user rating for Eclipse tells a lot: at the moment it's 3.6 - 31.9 % gave it a ten, 48.7 % gave it a one. Most of the raters surely haven't even seen the film. Along with the huge popularity always comes the counterreaction.

Okay, enough about the phenomenon, for now. Eclipse was unintendedly comical. That's a major reason for the entertainment value. The action part is alright, mostly. The romance and drama side of the film, then, is where the comicalness begins. And it can be very frustrating and annoying, too, if you take it too seriously. Bella is the worst heroine ever. Don't follow her lead, sweethearts! Edward is a crazy, possesive stalker. Jacob is kind of normal. That's why I'm Team Jacob all the way! Nah. I'm Team Jasper. Or Team Charlie. Or Team Anna Kendrick. I'm glad they gave her more lines this time. That Oscar nomination truly paid off, eh?

Um, I was talking about unintended comedy? The CGI, man, there was better CGI on the first Star Wars, and this is the 21st century for heaven's sake, and you'd think they have money to make wolves that don't look like soft toys, but apparently not. They had cool wolves in Narnia. They had one pretty authentic werewolf in The Prisoner of the Azkaban. Ask those guys to make you a wolf, so maybe next time a dramatic scene won't be spoiled because the audience is laughing at a toy wolf. And Victoria's dead double dead body... Ha ha. By the way this new Victoria was just lame. The previous Victoria was a real badass. And her hair didn't look so much like a wig
Um um. K-Stew is still a bit annoying. R-Patz is stiff and awkward but I'll get to him (too) later. I don't think they have a stupid nickname for Taylor Lautner so I'll just call him Taylor Lautner. Taylor Lautner is alright, he doesn't annoy me because I like Jacob. Jasper aka Jackson Rathbone is hot (even better as a non-vampire!). I like his backstory and Rosalie's, too. I liked that he spoke with a slight Southern accent. Though I don't think he spoke like that before. Not that he spoke very much before. Emmett is funny. The only things I laughed at (that I was SUPPOSED to be laughing at) were some comment of Emmett's and Charlie and Bella's sex conversation. The characters felt real for a moment and were interacting in a genuine way! Wow! No, but it was funny.

By the way, I'm afraid I have to plea guilty for being a bad cinema goer this time. I hope our entourage's gigling didn't spoil any other teenage girl's movie experience. Couldn't help it, though! We were getting restless, because the movie just went on and on, and my friend asked me how long till it ends and I said ten minutes, and almost at the same time on screen someone asked how long till the Volturi gets here and someone else answered that a few minutes, maybe ten. Sorry, but the situation was funny and we cracked up quite badly. Speaking of Volturi, Dakota Fanning was chillingly good! That girl will get an Oscar one day. Not for a Twilight film, though.

I think this is a good place to say those nice and reasonable things I made a promise about. (Insert a pause here.) ... (A long pause.) ... I guess it's an official truth that Twilight films aren't GOOD, in the most profound sense of the word. (You know, when you saw the title of this post, you knew I was kidding, and so on.) BUT I don't think you can say they are bad. I mean, they are, aren't they, but after all Eclipse grossed 70 million dollars on it's opening day. That means there are a lot of people around who like the series and want to pay for seeing them. Remembering the concept of target group is important here. Of course Eclipse is a terrible movie for a 34-year-old mechanic, who likes Rambo and beer. Or for a cultured film critic, who enjoys Polish art house films and the work of Lars von Trier. Twilight isn't meant for those people. It's for the girls, who have a need to drool over handsome young men and dream about that romance that makes you bite your pillow. (I just made a Breaking Dawn reference. Outch.) So let them have their fun. I had Elijah Wood, let them have R-Patz. I'm kind of talking straight at myself here. I'm not the one to judge, I've been as bad as they are. Almost as bad.

Okay, not as bad. Twilight fans are crazy. Seriously. Which brings me to the other matter I was meant to get back to. I really feel bad for Robert Pattinson. I just read an interview where he said that he can't wait for the whole Twilight thing to be over. Can't blame him. I can only imagine how crazy his life is. Poor guy! Half of the world scream and faint in front of him, the other half would punch him in the nose if they had a chance. Roughly saying. I have done my part in this - I had my counterreaction phase and I was very enthusiastically mocking Pattinson for having a bad personal hygiene, because I read somewhere that he doesn't shower often, or something. I'd like to take that back now, Rob. I'm sure you smell very good. And I hope you someday get rid of the Twilight stigma. I don't know about his acting, playing Edward Cullen clearly isn't the best chance to show one's talents. But... We'll see. And I have to admit, he is kind of good-looking. In other words, very handsome. Just no my type, exactly.

This is crazy. I shoudn't have this much to say about Twilight. I'm not sure if I've even said anything reasonable. But. One more thing, and then I'll stop. Breaking Dawn, the last book of the series, will come in two parts, in 3D. Which I don't get. Sure, I get that people like money, but what the hell are they going to do with the movies? Breaking Dawn is a terrible book. Personally I think they should just pretend it was never written. The book's quite disgusting, and it has scenes I definitely don't want to see on screen, not even on 2D. And I'm not even getting started about The Anticlimax of All Time. BUT, it's kind of interesting, too. By now they've managed to take three mediocre books and make them into three mediocre films. Now, with an Oscar winning director, can they make a terrible book into an okay film? (Maybe. If they totally change the ending. And many other things, too.)

There. I think I got it all out of my system now. I don't know if I had a point, and if I did, I don't know if I managed to put it in words. Sorry. Here's a brief summary: Eclipse certainly isn't 'a triumph of modern cinema', but okay entertainment for the target audience, when not taken too seriously. And let's be honest, don't we all go to the cinema and pay for the ticket jus to see Taylor Lautner take his shirt off?

"I'm hotter than you are."

* BF = boyfriend. ** BFF = best friends forever. Just in case you aren't familiar with the wonderful internet slang of today's youth.

Jul 1, 2010

Chaplin's City Lights to light up a rainy day!

(Okay, it's not raining right now, but it was a moment ago. For a moment. Eh. I refuse to change the title. So let's hope for some rain! ... Not looking very good out there, rain-wise. Oh well. Let's all imagine it's the ugliest rainy October Monday afternoon ever.)

City Lights (1931)

Directed by Charles Chaplin. Starring Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherill, Harry Myers. (+ Produced by Charles Chaplin. Written by Charles Chaplin. Original Music by Charles Chaplin... You get the point.)

Long story short: The Tramp wakes up for a new day, attracting trouble and causing general confusion from the very beginning. By chance he meets the blind girl, who mistakes him for a millionaire. He buys one of the flowers the girl is selling and holds on to it like a great treasure. When the evening comes the Tramp meets a drunken millionaire, about to commit suicide. Charlie stops him, and they become friends, until the morning after the millionare sobers up. Later he meets the girl again, still pretending to be a millionare and when he learns she's in big financial trouble, he's determined to help her.

What can I say? City Lights is a classic, and for a reason. I try to avoid the excess of words of praise, but the film is simply wonderful. It's really a shame how the younger generation, including me until recently, is so very ignorant about this wonderful black-and-white world, where words are needless, because you have faces, expressions and body movements. Chaplin was under a lot of pressure to make this a talkie - I'm so glad he held his ground! (By the way, this is the fantastic Robert Downey Jr. in the fantastic film Chaplin, explaining in a fantastic way, why they shouldn't make the Tramp talk. Oh dear god that clip is fantastic.)

I love the nostalgic opening credits. And again, I love the shaky film quality, though it's significantly better now than in the early short films. And well, it's the 30s, after all. And Chaplin is a grown man in his fourties, an experienced film maker. It shows, really, the camera movement and editing is so much better! And of course this is a full-length feature, done with considerably more money and effort.

Needless to say, the film was very very funny. An example, the boxing scene, here. The plot is simple, and yet very clever, charming and touching. The ending was brilliance. Guess now I know where the origins of those open endings I like so much lie... Anyway. This was the first full-length Chaplin film I saw. Not the last one, though. (A trivial fact: City Lights was apparently the favourite movie of Orson Welles.)

You'd think that for a 21st century brat like me, silent films would be boring and difficult to follow, but no fear. I wasn't bored once. Me! A girl who yawns at most films made before the 90s. I'm almost hoping they'd go back to making silent films. Though it wouldn't be so much fun without Chaplin.

The man is simply a joy to watch.

"Be careful how you're driving."
"Am I driving?"