Dec 19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) / back, there, again

directed by Peter Jackson / starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, etc...

SPOILER ALERT! I probably can't keep my mouth shut about some spoilery things.

"I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure."

I just got back from Middle Earth. I chose to return in 2D. Unfortunately there seemed to be something wrong in the sound system of this particular Middle Earth, and I was constantly hoping for a magical remote to turn the volume up, up, up. It was difficult to get lost in the world of Middle Earth when all the time I could hear grasping and popcorn chewing and some annoying teenages giggling and burping in the back row. But, Middle Earth is full of obstacles and foes, and part of the journey is to fight them off; shut the disturbances out, and just enjoy the biggest nostalgia trip of the decade.

And that's what the first part of the Hobbit trilogy was. And not just for me; for all the audience and, I can imagine, for most of the cast and crew, too. So what if the whole movie rides on the success of The Lord of the Rings. These movies aren't made to top LotR. LotR can't be topped. They are made because every single person in the audience smiles whenever they hear the Shire theme, and because seeing Gandalf again seems like meeting an old friend, and because everyone gets chills when they hear the familiar cough of Gollum and see those eyes flickering in the shadows.

I went to the movies today with very few expectations. Of course, this has been a very expected journey, and I've been following the rocky road that the making of The Hobbit has been, especially in the beginning. But there was amazingly little hype, for me. I haven't read The Hobbit. Because me and Tolkien don't have the smoothest of histories. I took me three years and three restarts and a promise on my eternal soul (=New Year resolution) to wade through The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So I haven't yet found the courage to try and tackle LotR's little brother, even though it would surely be a much less painful experience. Because of the less intimidating length of the book. And I'll read The Hobbit. Maybe I make the promise as soon as this New Year's Eve.

So, I went to the movies not knowing what to expect. Well, strike that, I did know kind of what to expect. I knew this would not be like Lord of the Rings. I knew it would be lighter, less epic, less dark, and quite frankly, not as good. Like many others, I assume, I always just looked at this as a wonderful chance to go back to Middle Earth; like I said, a huge nostalgia trip. Comparing The Hobbit to LotR will only lead to dissatisfaction, unless you do it in the spirit of nostalgia. Which I will do. A bit later.

Now, I will discuss the films in two sections. In The Hobbit, there was some old, familiar stuff, and then there was new stuff. There's no doubt about which stuff I liked more. But I will discuss both.

New Stories, Faces, Places, Discoveries

Unsurprisingly, I was not as interested in the new characters, places, and their storylines, as I was in the old gang, and all the talk and events referring to what would go down in sixty years. Yet, I did get a little giddy when we travelled on the map (oh, the map, I love you, map!), and got introduced to whole new places and new peoples and new history of Middle Earth! Like, oh, I never knew what was going on on this side of the map! The new cities were quite cool, looking distinctively Middle Earth-esque, but still different from everything else we've seen before.

I cannot say there were any new characters with the potential to rise to the prestigious company of my ultimate Middle Earth favorites. There were a lot of dwarves, but few I can tell apart in my head, and even fewer that I can remember by name. There is Gimli's old man, Gloin, who shares the same hair with his son. There is Thorin, aka If Aragorn Was A Dwarf. I mostly just found him a bit annoying. He doesn't have a sense of humor, and he's kind of a bore. I guess someone always has to be the solemn and boring leader. What else... One is called Kili, and if Thorin is Aragorn, he is Legolas. "Hello, everyone, I'm here to demonstrate that dwarves can be handsome, too!" He has a brother called Kali, I think. (Apparently it's Fili, not Kali. Haha. Ayways.) Then the chubby one, the comic relief dwarf. And the Cold Feet actor, and his character I actually liked, and he stood out for me a little. And then... a few others. Another potential New Year resolution would be to learn all the names of the dwarves.

New villains. There was the disgusting pile of fat that was definitely inspired by Jabba the Hut. He even had the annoying, giggling little sidekick. The big white orc was a bit boring, perhaps mostly because he had to do with Thorin's story, and I'm just not really into that. Though he looked cool in the light of the fire, his scars all red and ugly. Also, the dragon's eye was very nicely CGI'ed.

Finally, a familiar character, with a new face. I haven't heard any arguments about this: Martin Freeman is the perfect young Bilbo! I love Peter Jackson for being so determined to get him for the part. He fitted so well in the hobbit feet and the hair that he didn't feel like a new face at all, but rather someone we've always known. Freeman was born to play a hobbit. Bravo. And the young Bilbo is such a lovable, relable character, and it's such a joy to see him grow into the hero we all know him to be.

"The years haven't been kind to us, my dear Frodo. You are chubby and defiled, and I just look waxy."

Back to the Future

They don't keep repeating it for nothing: The Hobbit really did feel like going back home, in many ways. Familiar faces. Familiar places. Familiar swords. The Ring. Familiar lines (Gandalf just loves calling his friends 'fools'). Familiar feelings and moods. The map. Familiar landscapes. Familiar music.

It is strange how much joy a little melody can arise in a person. Or not that strange, if the melody is the Shire theme and the person is a LotR fan. Even though the new theme music was very good, I just loved that they'd brought back so many pieces from the best film score in the world. It was wonderful, hearing a familiar tune and instantly knowing which feelings you should be feeling in that particular moment. I love you, Howard Shore.

Seeing Frodo again was perhaps the comeback that I was most delightened by. It was crazy enough, watching one of the production videos where Elijah Wood talks about walking to the set of Shire for the first time, when he was 18. "I'm 30 now", he says, standing there in his full Frodo costume, looking almost exactly like he did back when the teenager me fell for those big blue eyes and put up pictures of them all around her room. Just... can't process how weird and cool and scary and wonderful it is. And then, seeing Frodo wear those familiar clothes, putting up the "party business" sign, and then grapping a book and saying that he'll go and surprise Gandalf and doesn't want to be late... It's almost too neat a way to connect the film to its predessedor, but I didn't mind one bit. It was just damn awesome.

(It can be argued that Elijah Wood has finally gotten a bit sturdier, and lost some of that wide-eyed innocence that was so charming in his original performance of Frodo. I'll allow him that. He's a friggin' 30-year-old hulk of a man now, even though for me he'll be a Bambi-eyed 18-year-old for all eternity.)

I'd say the scenes with Gollum were my favorites in the whole movie. It's just endlessly bewildering what the genius of Andy Serkis teaming up with some kick-ass technology can do. And we thought the CGI was awesome ten years ago? Well it's even better now. Gollum just looks insanely good. The riddles and the inner monologues of Gollum/Smeagol, and the Ring, and the damn amazing moment when Bilbo holds the Sting on Gollum's throat, about to finish him off, and Gollum looks so sad and confused and beaten, and we hear Gandalf's words in our heads ("True courage is about not knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.") and remember the conversation Frodo and Gandalf had in Moria, about Bilbo's pity, and how his decision not to kill Gollum will influence the lives of many, and it's just so cool. Oh, Gollum. He's such a masterpiece of a character, and I feel for him so much I'd give him a hug if he wasn't so disgusting.

Galadriel is still the most beautiful thing ever. The feminist in me will resist the temptation to bitterly point out that she was the only female chacater in the whole movie, next to a few harp-playing female elves, and she only showed up for five minutes in the middle of a monstrously long movie. Oh well, that's how Tolkien rolled, so I guess I can't complain. She stopped by and was the most beautiful moment in the movie, and that'll have to do.

Gandalf and Ian McKellen deserve all the praise in the world. Elrond knows headgear is always in fashion. And I don't know if there is anything as legendary as Christopher Lee. The man just radiates legendary.
The old gang back together. Literally, they're all really old.

Should I have fun and play a critic for a moment? The story of An Unexpected Journey wasn't very coherent. There was so much random, seemingly unconnected stuff. Like, all of a sudden I'm looking at a brown wizard reviving a hedgehog. Maybe for Tolkienists it makes sense, but I'm just confused. Instead of a clear story arc, there was one action scene after the other. Oh, fighting rock monster giants. 'Kay. The weird thing is, I wasn't the least bit bored, not once. It didn't feel like two and a half, almost three hours.

And really, not having read the book, I don't know what they could've done better. Sure, they could've spent the entire time in the cave with Gollum, or travelled forward in time and went to hang out with teenage Merry and Pippin, but I don't think that's what happens in the book. But, again, there is not use comparing The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings. The story is so much smaller in The Hobbit. This is not about the fate of the world as they know it. This is just a little adventure. The lighter mood allows more humor, more slapstick, more burps, more songs, less anxiety, less death, less tragedy, less Oscars. I went to the cinema for a huge fix of nostalgia, and what I got was exactly that. It is clear from the outcome how much Peter Jackson loves the Middle Earth he's created. In case the Mayans were right, I won't mind if this is the last movie I ever saw.

...I hope they're wrong, though. Because I need to go to New Zealand. So bad. Seriously. Just give me an excuse and I'll go. Money, too. Please. I also can't wait for Christmas holiday and my traditional Extended Edition marathon. At least that is something I can make happen. I have to catch up on the Hobbit production videos, too. I think there are a few I haven't yet seen.

Part two is a year away, and I'm okay with that. The thought of a year's worth of waiting doesn't make me too anguished. I'll be very happy to see the second part, of course, and return to the wonderful world of Middle Earth again. Don't we get to see Orlando, too, next?

I really want to go on an adventure now! Might start with an unexpected journey to the corner shop.

"Home is now behind you. The world is ahead."

Nov 24, 2012

From Snow White to Ebony Black: the Evolution of a Disney Princess

What makes a Disney princess? Is it the gorgeous hair? Is it the tiny waist? Is is the cute little animals she always seems to befriend? Is it the stunning singing voice? Is it the kind, good-hearted nature? Is it the weakness for handsome princes and other masculine yet noble men? Is it the mysterious ability to attract evil forces to distress her life? Is it the fool-proof guarantee for happy endings?

More or less, it is about all of these. Maybe more about the good heart and less about the tiny waist. Or the other way around, I don't know. Anyway, the concept of a 'Disney Princess' means something, at least for me, and it should for generations of little girls before and after me. While boys had superheroes and ninja turtles and jedi knights, we had Disney princesses to look up to and model ourselves after. (I wish I could say that I was one of those cool, modern girls you pretended to be Donatello in their little make-believe games, but sadly, no.)

When it comes to Disney heroines, some things never change. You can find a few good examples of such qualities above. But some things have changed, parallelling the changing of the world. There's no way there could have been a Mulan or an Esmeralda starring the first Disney feature films, and on the other hand, in this day and age they would not raise a character like Snow White as a protagonist anymore.

I guess I ended up having a bit more feminist point of view to this post than I was originally supposed to, but never mind. Also, it slowly grew to be monstrously lengthy.

Warning: There is a chance your childhood idol gets bashed a little. But don't worry, most of MY childhood idols are quite safe!

Nov 22, 2012

Every revolution begins with a spark

And every wait for a Hunger Games movie begins with an incredibly cool motion poster. I remember seeing the similar poster for the first film, and the shivers were huge, because that was the first piece of the movie Hunger Games that we ever got. Now, I think I just grinned and looked stupid. Another cool logo. Tick tock, it's a clock. See the poster here.

The premier of Catching Fire is still a year away, so the hype should be kept to the minimum. But I can hardly wait to see the first pictures of Finnick and Johanna and all the other new characters! And the arena, with the pink sky and all! Ok, no more hype.

"This is no place for a girl on fire."

A year. A friggin' year...

Nov 13, 2012


In the past couple of days (that can mean two days or two weeks or more, however you want to see it) I've had way too much free time (meaning I have hardly any lectures but SHOULD be doing IMMENSE amounts of independent study), so I've found myself making some dips in the nostalgic pool of my past passions and addictions. There's been the usual, more recent stuff like The Hunger Games and Klaine, but I also enjoyed some Chaplin comedy again the other day, and really feel like I need a fix of River Phoenix, too. And all this Episode VII talk makes me want to put on another 6-movie marathon, because it's been way too long.

Today I made the fateful mistake and was silly enough to read one of my posts from the early summer of 2010. That time was important in my fangirling life in the sense that Lost ended in May, and I was left nursing a hole bigger and more aching than no other fictional work has ever left in me (except for the Harry Potter books, maybe). This means that I wrote a lot about Lost. And now I read one of those post. And you know, if I give Lost my little finger, it'll soon have my whole hand. Both hands. And feet, and all my other limbs, too. I'm lucky I don't have the DVD's at my flat right now. Still, another Complete Lost Marahtron is an inevitability waiting to happen.

"Dear diary. Still on the bloody island. Today I swallowed a bug."

Good times!

In other news, I am currently occupying myself in catching up on my New Year Resolutions (I'm trying to tackle August at the moment, so there's still some way to go), being addicted to Breaking Bad (pun kind of intended) and feeling sorry for myself for being so broke that I'm not free to go to movies anytime I feel like it. Then again, I'm silly and easily persuaded, so the other day I agreed to go to see Paranormal Activity 4 with some friends. I've only seen the first one (and I'm pretty sure I was drunk at the time), and I haven't seen a horror movie in cinema since The Ring 2, which is for a reason. So, at the theatre I noticed that the new Bond was playing at the same time, and I started a passionate persuading process to convince my friends to go see that instead. We couldn't make up our minds, so at the ticket booth one round of rock-paper-scissors made the decision. I lost, and slept with the lights on the following night. And it wasn't even a particularly scary movie! I don't know how I slept after The Ring 2. Maybe I didn't.

Now I'm just waiting for The Hobbit, while hoping no one will say a word to me about Breaking Dawn Part 2, because I know I'd just say what the hell and throw that money to the wind.

I mentioned Breaking Bad; I should really write a post about it, it's a pretty cool show. Apparently I'm also writing my Bachelor's Thesis on it. Humanities, you know...

Also, I have a massive, Disney-related post on the way, which I've been working on for a year or something. It's the bomb! Although it has nothing to do with Breaking Bad. That Jesse Pinkman slang is just contagious.

EDIT// It's soon 1am and I've been sitting here for hours watching and listening to Disney videos on YouTube. This is going to be a long night...

Oct 31, 2012

My TOP 5 Favorite Fictional Couples: The Happy Ending Edition

It's been a while since April 2010. That's why this post needs a little update. The love stories of most of the couples on the previous list, epic as they be, had very unhappy, dramatic and premature endings. This time I'm not looking for epic, necessarily. I'm looking for potential happily-ever-afters. I don't know if that tells something about the amazing emotional growth I've done in the past two years, or that my taste has just become boring, but never mind. Just dig in. (I even omitted Jack and Rose. Can you imagine. They were my number one in 2010. I feel like a sorry little traitor for doing this! But epic had to give way to happy endings. That's how my world works in 2012.)



5. Tom & Gerri (Another Year, 2010)

These two shoved Hermione and Ron off of the list! Did someone see that one coming, because I didn't! I saw this little film last year, and a few things about it have lingered on my mind: 1) The bit in the beginning with Imelda Stauton's horrifyingly and impressively depressed character, 2) the pitiful mess that Lesley Manville's Mary turned out to be, and 3) Tom and Gerri, who were healthy and happy and normal among all that depression and anxiety.

If you're looking for a happy ending, don't go knock on Disney's door, pay a visit Tom and Gerry's idyllic little house. Tom and Gerry are so content and normal that it's almost weird. They have normal conversations about everyday things, and neither of them is secretly a CIA agent. You do not often see such elderly couples in movies, perhaps because they don't offer the friction and conflict that usually make a good movie. Still, I found it really refreshing and reassuring that it does not always take a huge amount of drama to make a good movie couple.

"It's going to rain again."

4. Jim & Pam (The Office, 2005-)

I watched all the seven (plus) seasons of The Office earlier this year, and it's such a great series. (After that I was all ten seasons of Friends in a row, and then of course wanted to include Chandler and Monica in the list, but unfortunately there's only room for one couple from a comedy show.) It's laugh-aloud funny, with such a memorable and distinctive scale of characters. Jim and Pam were some of my favourites from the beginning. Who wouldn't love a good old "will-they-won't they"? It is delicious and fun to watch how their friendship gradually develops into a happy relationship, and later into marriage and babies. The whole storyarch is written and acted in a very realistic and moving way.

Some argue that Jim/Pam is incredibly boring now, with no drama bigger than changing diapers, and yes, maybe unrequited, denied or hidden love indeed makes better television. Of course the lingering, secret glances and Jim finding excused to hang around the reception was a lot of fun!  However, I still love Jim and Pam, and wish nothing but good for them in their future in The Office. (It's been like six months since I've watched an episode! I seriously need to catch up. Hope Jim and Pam are still together, because a divorce would be slightly awkward for my Happy Ending Edition.)

"I just needed you to know. Once."


3. Katniss & Peeta (The Hunger Games, 2008-2010)

If you thought I'd be done talking about The Hunger Games - just because I said I would - you were very wrong, unfortunately. But this has to do with the books, instead of the film, so that's a welcome change. This is the only couple in the list who doesn't live in our present world. And since there is a tragic sense to the epic story around them, they could almost be disqualified from my Happy Ending List. But I was forgiving. Mostly, because I really wanted to write about these two. And they did get their ending together, even if it wasn't 100% happy.

There are many interesting aspects to the relationship of Katniss and Peeta. First, they have the most horrible ship name, EVER. First, it is not the regular boy-meets-girl-boy-falls-in-love story. Or actually, from Peeta's point of view it's exactly that. But since Katniss is the one in the center if the story... Girl meets boy, girl has to try and kill boy, then girl has to pretend to fall in love with boy in order to stay alive, girl shoots squirrels, incites a rebellion and saves the world, and then, finally, girl grows to love boy.

Another fascinating thing about Peeniss Katniss and Peeta is their reversed gender roles. Katniss hunts, Peeta bakes and paints. Peeta is always open about his feelings and wishes for a proper relationship, while Katniss doesn't feel comfortable showing her emotions and thinks romantic relationships are merely in the way. It's definitely a refereshing angle when it comes to young adult literature, or any other form of romantic narratives.

The love of Katniss and Peeta sure took a long time to bloom, and we never really got to enjoy reading about their life together, but I'm just happy that Katniss finally realized what the rest of us had known from page one (or whatever the page is where he is first introduced): it is just impossible not to love Peeta!

"You love me. Real or not real?"

2. Kurt & Blaine (Glee, 2010-)

Klaine. Klaine, Klaine, Klaine. I don't know where I got any joy in my life before there was Klaine.

These two amazing young actors portray these beautifully and carefully written characters with such wonderful sincerity, emotion and subtlety. As far as storyarchs go, this couple has definitely had the best, most coherent and believable one in the history of Glee. (And you know, they're not always very big on coherent storyarches...) Plus they're hot.

As TV characters, Kurt and Blaine push boundaries. They are a homosexual couple, portrayed alongside heterosexual couples, and although Fox doesn't let them kiss quite as much as damn stupid gross more traditional Finchel (Finn/Rachel), for instance, they come across as normal and sweet and true, without a trace of mocking stereotypes. I genuinely think they have changed the world for the better, at least a little bit. They have definitely made my world better. Just a little fix of Klaine, and I'm all smiles and warm and fuzzy feelings, and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. There is seriously no way I could ever get enough of these two. Yes, I know it's a little sad.

Since I once again took my time with writing this post, there has been some development, as Klaine famously (in my world, at least; I don't know how well it was covered in National news) hit the roughest path of their relationship so far. I'd very much like to see their Facebook profiles, because I don't know what their status is at the moment. Sure, a tiny little detail like a break-up wouldn't change the fact that I adore Kurt and Blaine from the bottom of my fangirl heart. And they'll always end up together, anyway. You know it.

"I'll never say goodbye to you."

1. Celine & Jesse (Before Sunrise, 1995; Before Sunset, 2004; Before Midnight, 2013!!!!)

"I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away."

 They were my number three in 2010, and now they have climbed all the way to the top. There is one adjective that I keep repeating every time I bring up these movies and this couple, and I'm sorry but I'm just going to repeat it a little bit again. Jesse and Celine are so REAL! Both characters as individuals feel real, the storylines of both films feel real, the conversations they have feel real, the connection they share feels real... Everything about them and their story feels real. They are like a wonderful little piece of real, actual life.

And it's not just that they are real. (Because I think they are very real. I don't know if I mentioned that already?) In their case you can talk about soulmates, because their connection is so unique, so special, how they understand each other and feel around each other, how they can't let the memory of each other go during the nine years between their first two meetings. I don't know, I guess that's what they call soulmates.

So, Jesse and Celine, my number one favorite fictional couple. And of course this is a bit ironic, because Jesse and Celine actually never were a couple... Yet! I was so endlessly happy when they announced Before Midnight, to be released next year! Another nine years has passed, and I can only imagine what will be going down in Greece. Maybe they actually are a couple now? In Ethan Hawke's words it's going to be 'ferocious', so I guess the atmosphere will be slightly different compared to the romantic Sunrise and the nostalgic Sunset. Still, no doubt, it will be just as real.

"Baby, you're gonna miss that plane."
"I know."

Sep 7, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (and he takes his time...)

directed by Christopher Nolan / starring everyone who has even starred in anything at all

Warning: A bit of a SPOILER ALERT. Also, beware of the total lack of sensible analysis.

I feel I could've written this post before I even before saw the film. I had strong expectations about how I would react to Nolan's Batman number three, and they ended up holding almost 100 % true. Would've loved to surprise myself, but nah. Maybe some other time.

Let me first briefly review the history me and Nolan's Batman movies share. I saw about half of Batman Begins something like a century ago (okay, five or six years might be more accurate), but never got to finish it because I had to return the loaned DVD (or VHS or film reel, or whatever people watched movies on on 2006) to the store. As far as I can remember, this has been the only time in my life I rented a DVD/video and didn't have the time to finish the movie. I don't really remember anything at all about Batman Begins. The villain might have been called the Scarecrow, or something, and he was something like the Boggart in Harry Potter. Maybe. I could and very well suspect myself to be wrong. I'm too lazy to check.

The Dark Knight I did see, the whole thing, and also more than once, in cinema first and then a couple of times on DVD. And yeah, it's a good film, but I doubt I ever would've bothered to watch it more than once hadn't it been for Heath Ledger. Because almost all the charm in the movie, for me, relies on the Joker.

So, when it comes to me and Nolan's Batman, you can hardly talk about a love story of a lifetime. Now we come to the third movie, The Dark Knight Rises, which I saw last weekend. I know I'm behind my time, and everyone in the civilized world saw the film ages ago, but it only arrived to this far-away part of the universe (also known as China) earlier last week. (And you know, going to the movies here always presents a bit of a challenge. (And you can only get SWEET popcorn, uuugh wtf!)) I went to the cinema knowing I would have to spend three freaking hours there, and that I probably wouldn't enjoy all of those hours. I still would have to see it, of course, because, duh, it's Nolan's Batman, and of course I would appreciate the quality of it. And then, by the end of it, I would again be left wondering what it is that all the other movie fans in the world see that I fail to. And so it was.

The biggest problem in the film, for me, was obvious: 165 minutes?? Seriously, Nolan, give me a break. The noble Sir Batman could've tried rising in a bit hastier manner. I bet I would've enjoyed myself twice as much had I missed the first half of the running time. The other half was pretty good and excting, but I even don't remember what happened during that first hour and a half. Let me see... Anne Hathaway pretended to be a waitress. I remember Michael Caine talking about stuff and having fantasies about Europe. That's all that comes to mind. At least the second half had that cool Star-Spangled Banner scene. Otherwise all that action and ka-ba-boom mostly just managed to bore me, like the case usually is. And Batman and Bane both had such boring fighting techniques. No special, cool weapons, no agile jumps, no clever tricks and tacticts. Just brutal power, yaaarrrr. Boring!
Speaking of Batman and Bane, or Bale and Bane. I think seeing Bale in The Flowers of War helped me get over some of the problems I've had with him in the past. I didn't really mind him as Bruce Wayne. Whether or not I minded him as Batman is another story, but oh well, I just can't stand the way he talks when he's got his suit on. Annoyingly ridiculous. Bane is an alright villain. But it's a tough job to follow Heath Ledger's Joker. Plus I had difficulties understanding what he says. Subtitles would've been great! I mean subtitles in a language other than Chinese.
Joseph Gordon-Lewitt's young and noble-minded police officer is good-looking seems a bit one-layered and clicheed for a film like this. But of course I liked him, because he's a likable character, and I like characters who are obviously likable. It's always a pleasure, of course, to watch such veteran actors as Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman. Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard looked super beautiful, all the time, and so did all the other females in the movie. Oh wait, there were no one else. So yeah.
Another problem was that too much of the time I didn't know what was going on. This is mostly thanks to Makuuni, and their 7pm deadline. Had it been 8pm, I would've had time to finish Batman Begins once upon a time in 2006 and today I would've caught all the references and understood the movie better and certainly liked it better, and wouldn't have been so confused about why Cillian Murphy suddenly appeared to do one scene out of the blue. So thanks a lot, Makuuni. If this was America I'd sue.

So, I guess you can tell that I wasn't exactly blown away by the movie. Sure, the quality of it was great. There were some fascinating ideas and concepts; like that prison was wonderfully horrid. But, although I do know it's just the thing that makes Nolan's Batman movies stand out, I'm not too much in love with the seriousness of it all. I like my comic book adaptions and superhero movies made a bit more tongue-in-cheek. After all, we're talking about grown men wearing animal costumes.
Oh and one more thing: The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most stupidly and borigly named films ever. I hope Nolan makes one more film set in Batman's world and calls it Robin Falls Down.

Sep 4, 2012

I need to talk about We Need to Talk about Kevin

"I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure."
I watched a film this morning and I have a feeling it was one of those films that linger in your mind and reserve a spot somewhere in the back of your head. It was also one of the best films I've seen in a good while. Granted, I haven't been watching too many films in a good while, but still.
We Need to Talk about Kevin is a story of an unusual relationship between a mother and a child. That relationship is supposed to be a tender, caring one, full of unconditional devotion, loyalty and love. What if, for some unexplicable reason, it isn't so? What if a mother isn't able to love her own child, as something about that child just seems to be off? Is it the child's fault, or the mother's? Is it anyone's fault? Is it so that the mother doesn't really love the child, because there is something wrong with him? Or is it so that there is something wrong with the child because his mother never really loved him?
The films plays with a lot of questions, but doesn't give any straightforward answers. And you can't really be handing out any absolute truths, when the topic is this. We are so deep in the darkest corners of the human mind, that no one can know for sure what's going on. When a 15-year-old boy does something like Kevin in the film, you can bet everything hasn't been completely okay in the environment he grew up in. On the other hand, you can also bet that some other child growing up in a similar environment wouldn't turn out the same psychopathic way. It's about the balance between nature and nuture, how they both mold a person, and how sometimes the combination of the two results in a sick, violent mind.
You don't hear many stories about the families of the young men who shock and terrify and anger the world with their mindless acts. It's a very difficult subject, because you don't know whether you should feel sorry for them or blame them. Maybe both. I kind of expected We Need to Talk About Kevin to be a story about a poor, poor mother, who despite her best, sincere efforts, couldn't stop her son from doing a horrible thing, because she didn't see it coming. Instead of this (kind of boring-sounding) tale, we get a mother who definitely is not a saint, either. You can see how she's losing it from the beginning, how she just doesn't know how to be a mother to her son. And as he grows up to be, frankly speaking, a completely horrible, manipulative brat, you just know there's no way of fixing the rotten relationship. And everyone suffers.
Tilda Swinton is just magnificent in this film. I can't really imagine anyone else giving such perfect, soul-bearing performance, and conveying the mother's silent suffering like that. Damn, the headwork she must have done, preparing for the role. And we will definitely be seeing more from the young kid, Ezra Miller, who is so chilling and creepy as Kevin that I'm convinced he's actually a psychopath in real life.
It's very interesting to read everyone's thoughts about the film, especially the final scene and how differently everyone has interpreted it. For example, I, as a hopeless optimist, wanted to see a glimpse of sincerety and hope in the final interaction between the mother and the son. Someone else saw the same remorseless Kevin, in another act of manipulation. The beauty of it is that we can't know for sure what was going on. Maybe reading the book might give a hint. I'm definitely going to do that.
It's the night of the day that I began by watching We Need to Talk about Kevin, and my thoughts are still circling around it. I expect this to be one of those films that never quite leave me. And I will see it again. I just need to remember that whenever comes the time when I'll start thinking about having children, I won't be again watching this movie as light early morning entertainment on my day off.

Sep 2, 2012

The Flowers of War (2011) / 金玲十三钗


directed by Zhang Yimou / starring Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Zhang Xinyi
Nothing goes without a hitch when you're in China. In case you didn't know, I indeed happen to be in China right now (have been for seven-something weeks), and just came to discover that even writing a post about a film is easier said than done. I haven't been watching too many films lately, thanks to this damn country and my busy and tiring schedule. However, today I saw a film that I liked, and what is more, felt inspired to maybe even write a post about it. Hurray, right? And it was a Chinese film, too.

Well, I wrote half of the title to the post and then checked the film's IMDb page. I noticed the original name of the film is Jin líng shí san chai. 'I wonder how that translates to English', I thought. 'I have to check that out!' Well. Easier said than done. Google Translator doesn't cooperate with me right now, so I've been forced to use other means.
I've been sitting here for a half an hour now, and this is what I've found out: Jinlíng is what they used to call the Western part of Nanjing - the city where the film is set (and Nanjing was called Nanking at the time of the film's events... Make up your mind, will you?). Shí san is thirteen. That one I actually concluded by myself, as my enormous knowledge about the Chinese language includes numbers from one to ten. Sure, I couldn't be certain, because then again, shì also means 'be', and several other things, so I couldn't be sure about it before I saw the film's title written in Chinese characters (金玲十三钗 : the third symbol means ten and the fourth three (and that's pretty much all the symbols I recognize... I'm pathetic)). So, 'Nanjing thirteen'. What about chai? (Before I had time to do more research I had to go and have dinner, and sleep and then go to work. New day, more research.) One meaning I found was 'hairpin'. Well, that doesn't make any sense. Then I finally found it! Chai can also mean 'beauty', as it did in an ancient Chinese novel 'Dream of the Red Chamber'; the main characters are referred to as 'the Twelve Beauties of Jinlíng'. Bingo!
So. The name, Jin líng shí san chai, or The Thirteen Beauties of Jinlíng, is a modification based on the characters of the 18th century novel. Why thirteen? If you've seen the film, you'll know.
...Now, do you see what I mean? Saying that everything, everything is easier said than done when you're in China? Jeez. Well, since I now know what the film I just saw is called (or think I do; it's possible that the title translates to something completely different), maybe now I can move on and actually start talking about it. Or at least approach the point when I do.
I hadn't heard about this film before a friend of mine mentioned it when I was talking to her on Skype. Maybe I had come across it before; I did a lot of research (=googling) on films made and set in China before I came here. If so, I probably just pushed it aside immediately, because of Christian Bale (not the biggest fan of the actor). But as my friend described the film in a few words ("The Japanese attack a Chinese city and kill a bunch of people..."), I thought, 'Hey, sounds kind of familiar'. I'm actually just reading a book about it. So screw my dislike on Christian Bale and screw the running time that is too long for my taste (two and a half hours). I had to see the film!
The Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, is what they call a six-week-period that took place in the Chinese capital at the time, in December 1937, when the Japanese troops violently took over the city, mindlessly killing, torturing and raping. Cheery, right? It's only natural that I've taken interest in it...
(Okay, NOW, let's get to the point.) In The Flowers of War Christian Bale plays a jackass American, who finds himself taking refuge in a Catholic church, with some school girls and a group of local prostitutes. (Yesterday I was describing the plot similarly to another friend and I realized it kind of sounds like the beginning of some high-budget adult movie...) The hard way they learn to work together, to try and escape from the Japanese surrounding them.
I really liked the film. Sure, it was a tiny bit too long, and yeah, Christian Bale still puts me off a little, and yes, some scenes were too graphic for my taste. And yeah, whenever there's a film like this, with two countries at war, and the story is told from a specific point of view (so it's taking a side), I wish they wouldn't show the "enemy" as 100 % evil; because they never are. Like in most good Holocaust movies there is always one good Nazi: in The Pianist there's that poor little soldier who has a shitty end, and in Schindler's List there's Schindler, and so on. (And by the way - true story! - the Nanking Massacre they had their very own Schindler: a Nazi called John Rabe who helped establish a safety zone to save innocent civilians.) I'm not saying we should sympathize Nazis, but nothing is black and white. In The Flowers of War the Japanese are evil, barbaric, cruel, soulless. Period. Of course, you can't tell this particular story with the Japanese as the good guys. But the film was shamelessly, 100 % anti-Japanese. Maybe it has to do with the relationship between China and Japan. I guess, even today, not everything that happened in the past has been forgiven...
I ramble. News?

Like I was saying, I really did like the movie. Here's something that I liked about it:
I understood some of the Chinese! Like two words, tops, but still! And I was able to tell Japanese and Chinese apart! Success!
There were so many women! Haha. Okay. Even though the main character is a man, and the story was told pretty much from his point of view, but he is surrounded by strong female characters. And the interaction and solidarity between the girls and the women is much much more interesting than the boringly predictable love story.

How the atmosphere was just dark enough. With lighter, funnier, more encouraging scenes sprinkled here and there. It was all in good balance. Of course, the overall tone of the film was dark, and sure it doesn't leave you with a smile on your face, but they had found some natural ways to lighten up the horrible context the characters lived in.

The film had some very nice and elaborative cinematography. At times I just wanted to freeze the picture, because they would've made such beautiful works of art to put on the wall. And the slow motion. Haha. I like slow motion. And Chinese women are so beautiful! Maybe next time when a Chinese woman or girl comes to me and communicates that she's ugly and yellow, and I'm so beautiful, I'll just give them a mirror and ask them to take another look.

I must say I kind of even liked Christian Bale in this. Or maybe I just liked Christian Bale for doing this. I mean, not many Hollywood actors have worked in an all-Chinese films in the past. I guess I just appreaciate his bold choice of doing something unusual. Bale says he also enjoyed working in China, as the only Westerner in the cast, but good old China just might ruin its chances of ever getting him back there; apparently he showed too much interest in potentially meddling with China's domestic politics, as he attempted to visit a human rights activist. So he might not be allowed to return. Lovely.

The Flowers of War is based on a novel by Yan Geling. I want to read it! And other books she's written. (I had to check whether she's a she or a he. These Chinese names all sound the same to me. (Although, speaking of Chinese names, I have to point out the sophistication and knowledge I show when writing the Chinese names in this post. For example, even though on IMDb it reads 'Xinyi Zhang', I knew better and wrote 'Zhang Xinyi', because that's how it would be written in China: family name first, because family is considered more important than an individual (at least that's what one of my China books said, and I read those like the Bible...))).

I should also watch more Chinese movies. Going to see a Chinese film in a cinema here would be so great, but I'm afraid these people are not familiar with the concept of English subtitles, at least not in Shenyang. So, unfortunately seeing a Chinese film here would be too much of a challenge, unless the dialogue of the film consisted of saying hello, thank you, bottoms up, and repeating the numbers from one to ten. And I don't think I'd pay to see that film.

Well. I ended up writing less about The Flowers of War and more about everything else, but no one should even try acting surprised.


Jun 3, 2012

Lilja 4-ever (with a pinch of Jedward)

I finally made myself watch Lilja 4-ever. People have been saying I should see it for, well, forever, but I'm not good with films that are depressing. I love movies because the make me feel happy and forget all the real problems of the real world, and I usually only tolerate horribly sad films if they are documentaries, or called Schindler's List. And yes, I had to stop to relieve myself of the anxiety the story caused me, both in the middle of the film and after it, but of course it was a good one and I'm glad I finally watched it. But the pain of the world is heavy on one pair of shoulders, ever if they are unproportionately broad for a lady (and mine are).

Luckily my newly-found happy pill has so many videos uploaded on YouTube that it is impossible to watch all of them, which means I have found an inexhaustible source of happiness and I don't ever have to worry about human trafficking again, because I can always just watch the tongue video and forget all about all things evil! (Or even better, the one with the banana eating.) Hah, okay, seriously now. There is a good moment for Weltschmerz, but such moment is not in the middle of the night. In the middle of the night is a good moment for happy thoughts, denial and keeping your mind off of bad things, and thus, Jedward.

Sigh. You start writing a post, thinking you know what you're writing about, and end up writing about something quite beautifully beside the point. Oh well!

May 28, 2012

Jedward, the new happy pill

Hi, my name is Eeva and I am currently writing my first and second-to-last essay of the semester. Oh and I am also studying so hard for my one last exam. I'm the best student.

Ok, first, I don't know how I managed to avoid writing a single academic essay this year until now. Well, I do know that the first deadline for those essays was about a month ago. Second, I really was writing the first essay, but then I though I'd just quickly stop by in YouTube and listen to that one track that was stuck in my head, and then continue. Oh well. (Third, I've been spelling 'essay' 'essey', until I just noticed something fishy and fixed it. But only after checking the dictionary. It's really been a while since I've written proper English. This post must be full of all kinds of lovely typos. Enjoy!)

So yeah, here I am, writing a post about Jedward instead. Haha. Be proud of me. Who or what the hell is Jedward, you say? I don't disapprove. If you were enthusiastically watching the Eurovision Song Contest either this year or last year, you probably have an idea what I'm talking about, but if no, you're bound to be just as clueless as I was until last Tuesday when I was watching the first semifinal with my friend. I've traditionally had very little interest towards the said competition, and I think this was actually the first time I ever watched both of the semi-finals AND the main show. I don't own a TV but my friend does and since she lives across the street we've taken on a habit of hanging out in her place, watching all kinds of crap television has to offer. Good times!

Anyways, we were watching the semi-final, and first I of course got my mind blown away by the Russian grannies. Seriously, they are the most endearing thing ever! I just kept laughing and smiling like an idiot. Let me also say that my other favourites were Turkey (that boat, hahahaha, brilliant) and Estonia (not only because the language always sounds so funny), and that will be the end of the Eurovision discussion.

(This does not technically count as Eurovision discussion, because it's leading to something else.) So, then Ireland came on, and I remembered the jumping twins from last year (I must have been watching at least with one eye, then) and I thought they were really fun. Incredibly cheesy British pop! Whoo! Love it! Still, I wouldn't be writing this post now, had we not found our way to YouTube and stumbled across this following clip. (The description says: "This may change your life." So I was warned, right? Hahaha...)

It's a different thing watching these boys (ok, I guess they're technically men, but with that behavior, I don't think we can talk about anything else but little boys, bless them) perform and watching them talk. Jedward (it's John and Edward, by the way, in case you didn't know, and I don't see why you would know) performing is fun and catchy, but Jedward talking is just... well. First I was like what the hell, and then I laughed my ass off. The way they talk is incredibly annoying, and I don't know where all that energy and ridiculousness and all those childish jokes come from and why it never stops, but oh my god, they are also so freaking adorable. So, after this video there were a lot more videos, and they have made my week a lot better and crazier and all kinds of silly.

Jedward begun their journey to fame in Britain's X-Factor. They were called John and Edward back then, but the pair took in the new name when their fans came up with it. And now here they are, if not a world-wide then at least Europe-wide phenomenon, also referred to as Jedmania. Maybe they are not quite like The Beatles yet, but can't blame them for not trying.

In recent years I have most often gotten obsessed with things that are fun and happy (with the exception of The Hunger Games, which definitely isn't either), most notably Glee. Glee has been my number one happy pill for years now, and Jedward has had a very similar effect on me. I know it's not great art, I know it's stupid and silly and they can't even sing that well (quoting Simon Cowell, "it's not right, but it's okay"), I know this is not something a cool, self-respecting 23-year-old university student would freely admit to like, but luckily I've never considered myself particularly cool or anything. Also, I won't be 23 for another week, so I'm completely off the hook.

Seriously though, it's both understandable and sad that they've got a lot negative attention, and hateful comments online, á la Twilight and Justin Bieber, etc. It's unsurprising that they do, them being two young, extremely cute blonds, who dress in funny clothes and wear make-up and tons of hair product, and make gloriously cheesy pop music and do equally cheesy dance routines, love Britney Spears, and talk in funny, feminine voices, and act nothing like cool studs in their twenties should. Girls love them, and for some reason people have a need to dis everything that gets too much love from young females. Haters gonna hate. There will always be idiots, and unfortunately the YouTube era gives them an unreasonably loud voice.

Idiots aside, I have nothing but love and some eye rolling to give to these young men. They are a pair of kids who obviously have a tremendous blast doing what they are doing, and who happen to get along so freaking well. And it's a twin thing. There's just something about twins. They are a bit like real-life Fred and George. They wouldn't be nearly as much fun if there were only one of them. They seem to absorb most of their energy and their comedy from each other, and it's actually pretty damn sweet.

Obviously this cannot last forever, because 1) at some point the joke will get old, and 2) sooner or later everyone grows up. It's just interesting to see whether the first one will be me, John or Edward. Until then, here's a selection of photos and videos and quotes. If I was fourteen I totally would've decorated my room with pictures of Edward by now. Shame I'm not!

May 8, 2012

The Avengers (2012) / super cool, super fun, super handsome

directed by Joss Whedon / starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson

If you're looking for two hours and twenty-two minutes of fun, who you gonna to call? The Avengers.

Poor Earth. I bet there is no other planet in the universe that hostile extraterrestrial forces have more special interest in. Those evil things are always attacking us! What have we ever done? Luckily, the Earth also seems to inhabit an unusual amount of super people. And they're all funny and witty and cool and extremely good-looking. So Earth should not worry.

I don't know what it is about superheroes, but they are so incredibly cool, aren't they? Even if they weren't technically super. Maybe it's the dark, troubled stories they usually have in their past. Maybe it's because they can do things ordinary people can't, and that makes good action. Or maybe it's just because of their beautifully superior physique? Haha. Seriously though, once again I found myself wondering why more women are not into superhero movies. Even if you are not that much into action or the super scientific fantasy aspect of it, who wouldn't be into those flexed, perfectly built biceps, the sweat pouring down those handsome, strong facial features and the intense looks in the deep, fearless eyes when they charge into action, performing all kinds of incredible stunts, wearing tight, cool uniforms that really do justice to the beautiful, beautiful male body. Ahem. Not that I'm personally into superhero movies just because of that. Hahaha, okay, moving on!

The cast is full of huge names, big stars, many of whom have played their characters before and established a fan base. It must have been such a challenge to fit all those stars and personalities in one movie, trying not to favor anyone too much and give everyone their moments in the spotlight. And I think they succeeded. I'm sure there was a temptation to raise RDJ's Iron Man above others, him being the best-known, extremely popular actor, and the character's two films having been such hits. And of course he got many of the funniest lines and dramatic scenes, but who also got his share was Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, a hero previously unknown to non-comic book freaks, including me. So yay, good job.

Robert Downey Jr. is a king, of course. That charisma is just hard to match, and so is his ease of stealing the spotlight. Iron Man is not really my type of superhero, but Tony Stark, in the capable hands and with the fast-talking mouth of RDJ is irresistibly charming, and oh so hilarious. He is the natural leader of the gang, but like I said, luckily he saves some space in that spotlight for the rest, too. I've said so much about RDJ over the years of my fangirl life, that I'm just going to stop right here.

I thought Thor was a very boring movie, and the story is not that interesting to me. I mean, demigods? Blah. Haha. Anyways, I did kind of like Chris Hemsworth's Thor in this movie. I liked how he fitted together with the others. And I like that hammer. It's so cool, just flying around. (And I have a Thor themed shirt. It says, "IT'S  HAMMERTIME!". And I made a quiz online, determining which Avenger I am, and I got Thor.) But if we talk looks (and we do, since we are talking about a movie with an insane amount of very handsome men), he's not really my cup of tea. Lovely arms, though.

It must be tough to be Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. You are the only woman in a movie bursting with super masculine men with huge personalities. You have to wear a super tight, super low-cut costume, because the audiences will also be bursting with more or less masculine males. You have to work really hard to get to play with the boys, and you still don't have quite as big a role in saving the world as the rest. You even get a minimal amount of jokes. And they all asume you are good in communication and relationships ans persuation, just because you're a she. That all being said, I did like the character. She was quite the badass, and she didn't have nearly as many stareotypically girly moments as she could have had. She wasn't even thrown into a forced love story, although for a while it seemed like she would. That's another great thing about this movie: no unnecessary romantic subplots! And not a single sex scene! Yay! (Oh, wait, why am I happy about that again...?)

Like I mentioned above, I wasn't familiar with Hawkeye before, so I had no expectations about him. But he won me over pretty much the second he slid down on that rope. Ah, there's some silent, subtle charm about him. And the eyes! Jeremy Renner has really intriguing eyes. Makes sense that he was cast in this particular role, heh... Anyways, Hawkeye was a very pleasant surprise. It's so cool how nothing shakes him, and he is so completely fearless that it comes across almost as indifference. He's just so cool. And that bow. Damn. Why are bows so cool? First Katniss and now this fellow. I bet by the time Brave hits cinemas I will be roaming in the woods trying to make myself one...

I really hated Eric Bana's Hulk back in the day, and that's why didn't see the Edward Norton version. So I'm not really one to make comparisons, but still, Mark Ruffalo's performance stood out. Bruce Banner must be the most complex character of the bunch, and Ruffalo made him oddly lovable, yet implicitly dangerous, unpredictable and strained. Banner/Hulk caused the only proper goosebumps I got (that line towards the end before he turns green). And some of the best laughs, too. Hahaha. The epic Loki versus Hulk showdown. And the little moment of bro-bonding with Hulk and Thor. Hahaha. And well, there's something really enjoyable about watching Hulk just go and, well, smash.

Among all these super cool and badass heroes, Captain America is still my favourite. I'm not sure what it is about those stars and stripes, but my little fangirl heart sure beats for the star-spangled man. Of course he's incredibly corny at times, with his unwavering love for his motherland and his ridiculous compulsion to do the exact right thing and be 100 % righteous and good and honorable 25/8. I mean, a superhero without a dark side? How lame is that? Only it isn't. I was a fan of Captain America in the 40s, and I'm a fan of him now. Some of my favourite parts of the movie were about him reacting to the strange place he'd been pulled into. I could've watched the whole two hours of just that. That flying monkey moment was the funniest gag in the whole movie. (Biased? Me? Yeah I am!) He is a fascinating blast from the past with his gentlemanly manners, his trust for comradeship and loyalty, and the dauntless hope and persistence of a true war hero. I looked at him and still saw that skinny little man who always used to get his ass kicked for the good of mankind. He's my captain, period. And of course I don't mind that Chris Evans happens to own the most flawless body in history. But that's not the point. Haha.

So, in summary... Favourite actor: RDJ. Favourite character: Captain America. Best performance: Mark Ruffalo. Best female: Poor Scarlett. Best-looking man: Jeremy Renner (!! What? I think I'm serious, though...). Best weapon: the hammer.

That enough? You done? No? Sorry, this became a super long post. And super rambling. And I'm not even done yet. I'll try to wrap up now. Here are the rest of my random thoughts, presented ever so randomly. It won't be pretty but at least it'll be over soon.

Loki is an amazing villain. He's super evil, but not pure evil, which is good, because pure evil doesn't usually make the best villains. We know there's a reason why he is evil, so in a way we can feel for him. But at the same time, of course, we can loathe him for being such a little diva. And laugh at him, because luckily the movie isn't afraid of making a fool out of him. That's another awesome thing about The Avengers: it doesn't take itself too seriously. Just seriously enough. I loved the scene in Germany. I love it whenever someone plays the Hitler card.

I also liked Agent Fanboy, or whatever his name was. And New York. Poor New York. While Earth is always hassled by various aliens and monsters, no city gets more punches aimed at it than poor New York. And, I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of liked the 3D. Kind of. It wasn't revolting. And I liked the action. I get a little bored when there's too much action, but I don't think I got bored more than once or twice. Because the action was pretty crazy and awesome and creative. Well. The interaction between the characters was even more awesome, so maybe I would've cut some minutes of the action to let the relationships develop still a bit further. But well, I'm a girl in that way.

I want more Avengers movies! And more Captain America! And more Marvel! More superheroes! Also, I want to read comic books. Now, quickly woman, click the damn button and publish this mess before some more interesting thoughts pop into your head and you naturally have to share them.

P.S. I'm not sure if I have clearly stated what my opinion of this movie is, so here you go: I think The Avengers was a hugely entertaining movie, with a kick-ass scale of fascinating characters and good-looking actors, with brilliant action scenes and awesome humor, and with that mystical something that made the movie work so well, even though there were definitely too many spoons in the pot, and too many cooks to potentially spoil the borth or the soup or whatever. So, bravo. As far as superhero movies go, this was the best I've seen since... ever? Or Kick-Ass.

"If we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it."

Apr 24, 2012

Shit just got girly

Life is like Chocolat turns two today. That means it's been exactly two years since that lonely, post-stomach bug Saturday night, when I started my blogging career, which has since branched outside the comfortable zone of movie blogging, as I keep creating new blogs like it's crack, or something. Not that I know if it's approapriate to compare this to crack, I don't know anything about crack, I'm just trying to sound tough to compensate for the girly bug that has just struck my beloved blog. Sorry to say this but I really like this new layout. Girly is good.

What makes this anniversary even more disgustingly girly is that I watched The Notebook today, in the name of a bittersweet tradition. I'm still suffering from the silly fact that I happened to watch Dear John on the day I created this blog. And I need to have traditions, so I have to make myself watch a Nicholas Sparks film every year, every single year! It's torture. Like I wrote last year: "Shame it was indeed a Sparks movie I happened to watch on the day I created my blog, and not one of those extremely highbrow and intellectual art house films I usually watch every night. Ahem." I still stick to that statement. And The Notebook still sucked. It sucked when I was sixteen and it still does.

(Okay, there were one or two scenes that I liked, and where I might've felt a little something, but overall it's such a boring and cheesy story. It's the favorite movie of Marissa from The O.C. which quite fitting because she's equally boring and cheesy. Haha. Anyway.)

Happy birthday to my blog. Next year you'll reach the negative age of three, and I'll be watching The Lucky One. Can't wait, ha! I really need to get rid of this tradition at some point...

If you're wondering what Kate has to do with all of this; well, I don't know. But she's just so pretty.

Apr 16, 2012

Titanic (1997) / the world's greatest love story, or what?

directed by James Cameron / starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, Kathy Bates

To write a post about Titanic. What an intimidating, yet alluring thought! I have decided to take on the challenging, yet inevitable task. This will probably take a very long time... And yes, it did: I began writing this post in September 2010; and I try not to rewrite much because it's interesting to see how my perception of the film has changed since then (good luck trying to guess which parts I wrote just now and which in 2010 or in between...). With the rereleased 3D version now playing in theathres, this was the perfect time to finally finish this post. I don't know if I could ever say enough about Titanic, or ever find the right words to express what it means to me, but here's my best shot.

It's been 84 years, and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.

 Every has their own Titanic story. This is mine: When the film came out, back in 1997, I wasn't old enough to see it in cinema (my parents made sure of that), so I just bitterly listened to my Spice Girls cassettes and tried to shut out everyone around me, going on and on about this cool new movie and Leonardo DiCaprio. When I finally saw Titanic on my twelfth birthday, the counterreaction had already begun, and it wasn't that cool to like it anymore. And anyway, I didn't understand much about films back then. I must have been about 15 or 16, when I watched Titanic for the first time in years, and actually saw what they had been fussing about back in the 90s. Since then, I've watched the film regularly, somehow growing more and more fond of it everytime. It just never seems to get old. Every time I watch it, I feel just as strongly as the last time. If there indeed will be a day when I'll outgrow Titanic, it won't be anytime soon. I can see myself still weeping over the story when I'm 80.
 God himself could not sink this ship.

Titanic is a huge film, a great film, and anyone saying something else is still stuck with that counterreaction. Yes, I can accept that it is not for everybody's taste. Yes, I can accept that the love story is a bit much for some people. Yes, I can accept that some see the story and certain scenes as corny and sappy. And yes, I know some people think it's insuperably unrealistic that, for example, Rose didn't die of hypothermia, but come on; it was established a long time ago that being a major character in a film gives you an edge in what you can live through. Just shut it, haters. I ain't gonna listen to no haters.

While I understand (though not necessarily agree with) the criticism, I don't understand or accept the dismissive attitudes many people have towards Titanic, JUST because there is a love story. All that "the most expensive chick flick in history" crap. It's just as much a historical portrayal of a time and an event as it is a love story. It is fucking annoying and so offensive that if something attracts unusually lot of attention from young girls or women, it's immediately labeled as trash. Makes me furious. But ha ha, you stinky little haters. God himself could not sink this movie, and that's a fact.

Ah, forget it, boyo. You're as like to have angels fly out your arse as get next to the likes of her.

Kate is such a babe as Rose. Of course, Kate is always a babe, and actually so much more than just a babe, she's amazing and incredible and awesome. But Kate as Rose is a real package. That wavy red hair, those rosy lips and cheeks, that curvy figure, and that enviably gorgeous wardrobe. On the count to three, name your favourite Rose outfit! One, two, three, the white light pink/light blue one she wears on the night of the lovemaking and the accident! Contender number two is the dark red dress, with all the lace and the exquisite embroidery and the white gloves, the one she wears for the dinner and the "real party" in the steerage. And there are more favourites, but better leave it at that. (The dress in the picture does belong to those favourites, though.)

Rose might be my all-time number one movie beauty, but there is more to the character than her gorgeous looks. Her unwillingness to fall into the mold desingned for her, and to do what's expected of her makes her a very special, empowering female character. Of course she has her damsel-in-distress moments, and she only gets the chance to grow into an incredible, independent woman because a certain gentleman comes along, but there is admirable strenght and fearlessness in Rose all along (I'm all the time writing "Kate" instead of "Rose"...). You go, girl, fight that stupid 1910s discriminating class and gender role system!

You have a gift, Jack. You see people.

While Kate is clearly the star of the film, the rest of the cast shines, too. There's really no one who wouldn't give a satisfactory performance. Everyone from Bernard Hill's Captain Smith, the horrible Cal and the awesome Unsinkable Molly to the crew members, snooty rich people and the little boy who cries for his father in the flooding hallway (hello, tear streams), they all do a great, convincing job, bringing alive a variety of interesting characters; some based on real people, some not, but they all make me want to know their backstories, how they ended up on Titanic and what happened to them.

And Leo, oh, Leo. Leo is such a little boy. A damn cute one, though! I can't understand how come I never had a crush on Leo's Jack when I was younger, and on the age when I practically had a crush on everything that moved and resembled a man. I almost feel like having a crush on him now, for crying out loud! If only I hadn't overgrown all that foolishness by now... Ahem. Ok let's change the subject.

When the ship docks, I'm getting off with you.
This is crazy.
I know. It doesn't make any sense. That's why I trust it.

The lines above are probably my favourite lines of the whole film. Those are the last words they say before the tiny little iceberg incident, after which everything begins to go straight towards hell. This is the last happy moment. Often in an epicly epic film like Titanic the characters are easily shadowed and overruled by all that epicness. You're just 'WHOA THAT'S FREAKING EPIC!!' all the time and don't really mind if the characters are blown up or torn to pieces, because that'll give a good opportunity for some more epicness.

Iceberg, right ahead!

 However, when watching Titanic, when the moment I know will once again end all the joy and happiness is inevitably approaching, I want to freeze the frame right there and pretend they lived happily ever after. Because I genuinely care about the characters. Sometimes when watching the movie recently I've almost felt a kind of an anxiety - like I wanted to jump through the screen and single-handedly help the ship turn the couple of extra metres and avoid the damn iceberg and give Jack and Rose their happily ever after they so much deserved. Maybe I should get a shrink to tell me what conclusions I should draw of this kind of behaviour? Oh well, maybe he'd just say I've watched the film a few times too many and am forgetting that there's no use jumping through the screen for rescue because the ship already sank a century ago. And that maybe Jack and Rose never really deserved the happily ever after, because ultimately the relationship wouldn't have worked anyway. We've seen Revolutionary Road, right? They would've ended up cheating, bored and pissed off, anyway! ... Okay, now I'm just kidding. Jack + Rose = true freaking love! (Ok. This I wrote sometime in 2010-2011. I'll get back to the topic later, with some new points of view.)

 Well, I believe you may get your headlines, Mr. Ismay.

I believe you did, too, Mr. Cameron... Or have you established the name "King of the World" already? Hah. I don't like James Cameron. I think he seems greedy and arrogant and unpleasant, and it's a shame, really, that he happened to make this one great movie, because otherwise I'd be free to dislike him all I want. Oh well. I will forgive him some of his greed, because this one special thing happened to come out of it. Just cancel the Avatar sequel and I'll forgive you some more! Hmh? Maybe I'll forgive you for making the first Avatar? Sound good? No? Didn't think so. You greedy bastard. Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to go on and praise your film some more.

You jump, I jump, right?

Titanic is full of legendary scenes and iconic lines. Everyone has moments in their lifes when they feel like going, "I'm the king of the world!", or "I'm flying, Jack!". Seriously, tell me you've never recreated those moments yourself? Haha. I'm just waiting for the day when I get to spit a "I'd rather be his whore than your wife" at somebody's face. That'd be epic!

All those legendary moments, and the whole story, reallly, have obviously spawned countless parodies, some better than others. All the same, it all proves that Titanic is one of the biggests things in popular culture, EVER. It is always safe to joke about and refer to the movie, because everyone has seen it. Really, everyone. If there is one movie that you can assume all the people in the room have seen, it's Titanic. Titanic is just that big. (This section also could've had "Freud, who is he? Is he a passenger?" as a headline. Haha.)

I'll never let go, Jack. I promise.

Titanic is a special film for me. It's one of my ultimate favourites. Some days I feel like it's THE favourite. Oftentimes it duels over the first place with Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings usually wins, but, granted, mostly because I actually like Peter Jackson a lot. Sorry, Jim Cameron. Your loss. Ha! I know. That really must have broken his heart.

Anyways. Number one favourite or not, Titanic rules, and it has always been a significant part of my life as a film fanatic, and it remains so. I'll never let it go.

Dawson. Rose Dawson.
Finally, here is something that has recently (actually recently, as in April 2012 recently) occured to me about Titanic. It is not really a tragedy. Um, okay, strike that. I don't think I can get away with saying something like that about a story where 1500 people die. What I meant was, the tragedy is not that Jack dies and so him and Rose don't get to have a life together. The tragedy is that a life was lost to save another. As we know, Jack saved Rose, in every way that a person can be saved. Without Jack, she would've either jumped to her death from the back of Titanic that night, or lived on to marry Cal and to eventually end her miserable life in some other way.

So, that the paths of those two people came together was crucial to the survival of Rose. Now, what if Jack and Rose both had survived the accident (and they might have, Jack too, had Rose gone with that second life boat Jack and Cal put her in; really, think about it!) and, like they'd planned, run off to build a life together? Maybe they would've been happy, right? Then again, maybe they indeed would've turned into that Revolutionary Road couple I was joking about earlier. I mean, they did not really know each other, or really love each other. Obviously they fell in love, in the way people often do, meaning they were intensely attracted and drawn to each other; but they did not have time (they knew each other for like three days, after all) to grow into love; not the epic, romantic kind of love, but the deep caring kind of love that comes out of years and years of mutual life. I mean, haven't we all experienced those sudden, epic, forceful emotions, when a young, silly heart thinks it knows what it wants and needs? Epic is epic, but epic is also unrealistic.

I'm not saying Jack and Rose did not care about each other, because evidently they did. He filled a void in her painfully empty life, and I'm certain she was just the person he wanted to have on his side in his last moments, just the person he was happy to die for. But the complicated, real life beyond the decks and halls and cargo holds of Titanic might have ruined that young, innocent, perfectly blooming love.

I am sure Rose did grow to really, deeply love Jack; at least the memory of Jack. But it's not like she was never able to let him go and love again. Her heart came to life thanks to Jack, but it didn't die with Jack.

In that way, it is not a tragedy that Jack died and Rose had to go on without him. He had already lived quite a life, while she was stuck in a path where she couldn't find happiness. Ending up on that ship together was the best thing that ever happened to both of them. Jack died, but got to experience something amazing in the last days of his life. And his death had a noble purpose that made it count, and he died knowing that. Rose went on, like Jack as his dying wish asked her to. She never let go, and lived a full, happy life.

Before, I looked at Titanic as the world's greatest love story. But now, I guess, I look at it more as the story of how Rose was saved. I don't know, maybe this is the way everyone else has always viewed the story, but this was kind of an epiphany for me. Maybe I'm just slow. Or maybe I've been too blinded by the epic romance to see the bigger picture.

...Or maybe I've just turned into a cynical old woman, who doesn't believe in epic romance anymore. Haha. (If only... I wrote this previous part some days before I went to see the movie in cinema, and afterwards I almost felt like erasing the whole thing. Screw the mature and sensible and realistic definitions of love! I just can't help it, the Titanic romance still gets me, and it gets me so hard. And god damn my pitifully romantic self, but I fell in love while they fell in love, felt their passion and excitement, and was happy to do so. Surely it is not the best love story ever, or anything, but when it comes to epic, larger than life, mindblowing love, there's no topping Jack and Rose. I so want to be eighteen and fall epicly, even if momentarily, in love and run around a luxorious ship doing things and feeling things I've never done or felt before! Yes! Epic is good, epic is great! Let's just skip the iceberg.)

A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets. But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me... in every way that a person can be saved. I don't even have a picture of him. He exists now... only in my memory.