Jan 21, 2013

Anna Karenina (2012) / appreciation for Aaron Taylor-Johnson's mustache

"You can't ask why about love."

I'm being very honest with the title there. I really am not going to talk about the movie Anna Karenina that much. I'm just mostly going to talk about Aaron Taylor-Johnson's mustache. I wish I was kidding.

Anna Karenina was very much what I expected it to be. It was quite pleasant to watch, not just because of the certain mustache, but also because of the beautiful sets and the cinematography and the costumes. Joe Wright has directed many films that I have enjoyed watching, first and foremost Atonement, which is one of my favorite films of all time, and which also made me fall irrevocably in love with James McAvoy. And which I haven't seen in a few years, actually! Gee, I need to fix that. And see if it's still favorite material.

I am one of those people who have always liked Keira Knightley. Admittedly, most of my positive sentiments for her derive from Atonement (and that gorgeous green dress!), but I've enjoyed her other performances, too. If nothing else, she can definitely pull of a sophisticated, 18th/19th century aristocrat lady.  By the way, the make-up department should get an Oscar for making Jude Law look so unattractive. That takes some skill, yo!

I find it amusing that Matthew Macfayden has been demoted from being Keira Knightley's love interest to being her brother. Ouch! The years have not been as kind to Mr. Darcy as they have been to Elizabeth Bennet. (Macfayden is eleven years Knightley's senior, though, so it's only fair that he retires from romantic leading roles earlier than her.) I liked his character, though. Comic relief is always likable.

The film was a tad too long, and at times felt very aimless. I'm not sure about the necessity of some of the subplots. Like I'm not sure whether I liked the way they used the stage as a device in telling the story. It felt strange, and confusing in the beginning.

The romance of Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky is the heart of the story, so I guess it is the thing that has to be blamed for the film leaving my mind un-blown. I mean, of course I find the premise completely believable: Bring me Aaron Taylor-Johnson wearing that mustache and the hair and the uniform, and have him shoot a few of those seductive glances at me, and I'll leave my imaginary husband before you can say, "It's ironic that Jude Law plays the decent, saint-like husband who gets cheated on by his wife who falls for someone young and good-looking".

Anyway. What I most enjoyed about the film was the beginning: when they brought in Aaron T-J (damn you, dude, for getting married and changing your last name into something so long and troublesome to type) and painted the picture about what a charmer and a heart-breaker he is, and then had him and Keira exchange some of those lingering looks loaded with sexual tension, and showed him kissing hands in intense and intimate close-ups. Ooooh. Yeah, after that no member of the audience can blame Anna Karenina for ruining her life for this young hunk of a man.

Let's review:

The best things about Anna Karenina, pt. 1: The smoking hot glances full of pure sex and seduction.
The best things about Anna Karenina, pt. 2: The super hot close-ups of kissing of hands.

Unfortunately, after the hand-kissing and the sex-glancing have worked their magic, and Anna and Vronsky fall in love so swiftly and randomly during one dance that you think you're watching a Disney animation, my interest and hopes for the film drop significantly, not to to be raised again.

Not even letting us witness the two of them kissing, more passionately and more up close than any of us in the audience feel comfortable watching, could revive the excited feelings I felt in the beginning. Because, in the end, I felt we didn't get to see enough layers in the characters. We see they are both very attractive, but we don't really get why that attraction turned into love. But, well, you can't ask why about love, you know. Still, I wanted to go a little deeper. I didn't end up caring about the characters too much.

What I did care about, however, was Aaron Taylor-Johnson's mustache. It's weird. One should not look good in a mustache. Who really wears a mustache? Except for Charlie Chaplin and Hitler, and only one of them looks good wearing it. A mustache and a head full of fake blond curls is not the easiest combination to rock, especially if you are obligated to charm all of Earth's female population while doing it. So, two thumbs up for Aaron T-J for showing that mustache can be the new sexy. We can only hope he'll adapt that look to the Kick-Ass sequel, too. Really, honestly, seriously: Not many young men could pull of that look.

The best things about Anna Karenina, pt. 3: The mustache.

I went to see Anna Karenina in the cinema of my childhood and teenage years, which was so nice, because it had been ages since the last time I went there. The audience consisted mostly of high school kids, who had come to see the film as a class assignment. Me and and my friend felt old, and oddly envious of the lucky 16-year-olds, for having such simple lives, and just hanging out at school, only dreaming about their future, instead of having to live it. Anyway, the teenagers giggled at certain parts that made them feel uncomfortable, and that made me feel uncomfortable. At times I didn't have an idea why they were bursting out laughing. Oh well. Perhaps you can't ask why about unintentional comedy, either.

Then I came to think that had they made the Star Wars prequels ten years later, Aaron Johnson (or Taylor-Johnson, whatever) could have been the perfect Anakin Skywalker that Hayden Christensen was never quite able to be. He actually might have made some of the awkward romance scenes work, too, with a few of those Glances of Seduction. Might have. Just something I hope to have a detailed, vivid, lengthy dream about tonight.


I start writing these things, thinking I have hardly anything to say, because the film didn't have much of an impact on me, but then I end up writing a post, comparable to a Tolstoy classic in length. Oh, the power of a good mustache. I'll finish by quoting the actual novel, and maybe thus fool you into thinking that this has been a very intelligent and sophisticated post, indeed.

He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.

~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Jan 12, 2013

Life of Pi (2012) / welcome to Pi's ark

"It's an amazing story."

Life of Pi scored eleven Oscar nominations earlier this week. I felt the pressure and went to see it. Someone who wishes to call herself a movie fanatic has got to do what someone who wishes to call herself a movie fanatic has got to do.

Life of Pi begins as tale of our main character growing up, describing the humorous events of how he got his name, Piscine Molitor Patil, and how he then came to be called simply Pi. Things turning more tragic, we then see him leave for a voyage that will change his life. The ship is caught in a storm, and Pi finds himself in a  lifeboat, alone with a fierce Bengal tiger. What follows is incredibly beautiful visual images of all the things Pi and the tiger see and experience, equally incredible turns of events, and a lot of growling and exposed, sharp teeth. It all comes down to an ending that you don't expect, or even look for. How you are left feeling, exiting the cinema, is up to you.

What I expected to get out of this film all had to do with the visuals, because the trailer doesn't give much of a hint about the story and storytelling; it just shows some of those images that you get to enjoy, praising the modern CGI up to the heavens. Really, I love what they are able to do nowadays. The colors are so bright, the details so sharp, the non-existing things so realistic. Still, I need much more than CGI from a film, no matter how incredibly good the technology is. Life of Pi is very much like Hugo was for me last year: enjoyable to look at, a nice story, but not nice enough to stir anything below the surface. Or that's how I felt until the very last minute. Or second-to-last, or whatever. In the end, Life of Pi dived pretty deep. Almost as deep as that endless sea that surrounds Pi and Richard Parker.

Speaking of seas, this is the second film I saw in cinema this week (don't worry bank account, awards seasons don't last forever...) with the sea doing some serious damage. If I'm not careful, my adoring love for oceans might turn into a trauma of some level. Thanks to the modern CGI technology.

I think that's all I have to say. I'll let the pictures speak for the visual awesomeness of the film. As for the deep diving, learn more at your nearest cinema.

"I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye."

Jan 10, 2013

The New Normal / when Klaine grew up

"I want us to have baby clothes. And a baby to wear them."

I don't know if I really like Ryan Murphy. Perhaps he is not the easiest person to like. But I guess I have to admit the man is a genius on some level. I mean, he once created that show which I kind of liked for a while, I don't remember what it's called, I think it's a four-letter word starting with a G, meaning joy and cheerfulness, or something.

...You have just read my spectacular introduction to my post about The New Normal, a new-ish sitcom by Ryan Murphy, the man behind Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story and Glee. It tells about David and Bryan, who have a really lovely relationship, but what they are missing is a baby. They find Goldie to be their surrogate, and with her they also get her 9-year old, precocious, eccentric daughter Shania, and her conservative, brutally offensive, and confusingly young grandmother. Together they make a family that ten years ago would've been really strange and groundbreaking and original, but now, with Modern Family and all that, we are just looking at quite a stereotypical 2013 sitcom family. Like, normal. I'm not sure if this what they were going for with the title, but anyways.

I hadn't watched The New Normal until today. I'd thought I should and would, partly because it's a Ryan Murphy show, and me and Ryan Murphy shows share a nice history (Except for Nip/Tuck. And American Horror Story. Hmm. Anyway!), but mostly because I loved Justin Bartha in National Treasure, more than I love American history. The New Normal just won the People's Choice Award for Best New TV Comedy, actually! I guess I could say that's why I was inspired to watch the first episode, but no, I only just noticed it won. Earlier I just noticed that The Hunger Games and the lovably dorky Jennifer Lawrence won a lot (P.S. I love you, first photos from Catching Fire!), and that RDJ always gives the best, sexiest acceptance speeches, and that Chris Colfer also won and said he finds it flattering when people exploit him in their fanfiction, which I thought was both a hilarious and extremely dangerous thing to say. Anyway! I should get some award for rambling. These posts are getting more and more out of hand...

After watching the first episode (for a random reason I guess we'll never know), I watched the second episode, and then the third, and continued until I'd watched all the episodes that have come out so far. Don't freak out, there's only been twelve, and the episodes are sitcom short. The show is nothing new, really, or utterly genius like Glee, but it's fun and I really like the characters (although some more than others).

And it's a bit like Glee, to be honest: First, what's up with RM and Ohio? Also, there are at least three actors in the show that have also guest-starred on Glee. And character similarities... The Nana character is offensive and fires her absurd opinions and insults at everyone's faces, but there is reason and heart underneath her plain-colored tracksuits, um, I mean jacket suits. Bryan and David are more or less what we could imagine Kurt and Blaine to be, fifteen years after high school. I mean, you easily could've had Darren Criss play the college-graduate David in those flashbacks, with the big curly hair and dorky/cool glasses. Just add a bow-tie. Well. Don't you worry, Kurt and Blaine! When you grow up you can leave that dreadful place also known as Fox, and move to NBC, and then you can kiss more, like normal couples! (I'm not complaining, of course. No one hugs like Klaine!)

Ryan Murphy has often said Kurt is based on himself in high school. Now, I don't have to read any interviews to know who Bryan is based on. Come on, who is that name fooling? To rub it on our faces even more, (B)ryan runs a popular TV show called Sing, starring a lot of young people like a kid in a wheelchair who isn't actually in a wheelchair and who wears weird pullovers, and someone I'm pretty sure he called Lea before naming her his favorite. And then once he decided to break up a fan favorite couple on the show so that teenagers would cry for months. Touche. I might be past teenage, but dang it, the sun hasn't shone quite as bright since the damnable day Klaine broke up.

I feel like I've done nothing in this post but talked about Glee and mocked The New Normal itself. It's not news that I like talking about Glee. Like it's not news that there are similarities in these two shows (I mean, I'm pretty sure some of those lines about daring to dream and being proud of who you are were actually quoted word-to-word from Glee). Like it's not news that Ryan Murphy is most inspired by Ryan Murphy (which is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean, who am I to judge, having once again spent another day watching a show of his). Like it's not news that I don't know where I'm heading to with this paragraph. I think I was trying to make a transition to talk about my favorite characters.

I love Justin Bartha in this show as much as I loved him in National Treasure. He single-handedly saved that movie from Nicholas Cage, like he almost saved National Treasure: Book of Secrets from yet another Nicholas Cage. He's just a really cool actor. And I like David, the butch gay of the bunch. I also like Shania, the quirky young girl with the personality and the glasses that no one can help but associate to Little Miss Sunshine. (Not a bad thing!) Completing my top three is Nana Sylvester, or whatever her name is, 'the last real American', the biggest Republican in the world.

The New Normal is a fun, cute show. And there must be something slightly addictive about it, since I just watched all the episodes in one afternoon. I've been mocking it for resembling Glee, but there has really been extremely little singing, and honestly, I wouldn't be fooling anyone if I said I didn't like the Glee parallels. Like I said before in this horribly meandering post, The New Normal is nothing new, though. Except for some idiots in Utah who banned it from the state television, and also for 38 idiots who signed a hilarious petition I found online, demanding NBC to stop airing the show. Christian society and innocent children, and all that, you know. Sometimes I forget how some people still find certain things so new and scary. Oh well! I'll be very happy to keep watching this same-old-same-old, and hopefully they'll even make another season! With the People's Choice Award fresh in their back-pockets, they just might. More Justin Bartha for me! (Please make National Treasure 3! Without Nicholas Cage.)

I am truly sorry if someone decided to read this post, hoping to actually learn something about the show mentioned in the title. Well, that's not how I roll, unfortunately.

Jan 8, 2013

The Impossible (2012) / two hours on the verge of tears

"The most scary bit for me... when I came up, and I was all on my own."

When it comes to movies, I'm definitely a weeper. But I tend to save most of the weeping to times when I'm alone: I'm not a cinema weeper. I get a bit teary-eyed, or sometimes I even have to hastily wipe my cheek for an escaped little tear that I couldn't blink away. But I don't openly bawl like a baby. Although apparently there are exceptions. Or an exception. I've never cried in a cinema like I just did! Really, it was exhausting.

It's been eight years since Boxing Day 2004. Horrible things have happened after that, too, executed by both people and nature, but the tsunami in South East Asia is likely to linger on everyone's minds, because it so closely touched so many people, all over the world. The Impossible tells the true story of one of the families, caught in the middle of the horrifying mayhem.

The film was good. I can't say I liked it, because I don't think anyone can really like weeping for two straight hours, but it was a very good film. It doesn't feast in the horribleness of the true events, and the wave part itself (even if the one of the scariest, most distressing scenes ever) is over very soon, so the emphasis stays on the family, and their desperate quest to reunite. I was actually really scared, expecting the wave, knowing it would come soon, and I just wished I could have continued to watch the idyllic family holiday in the paradise. The special effects were horrifyingly convincing. I adore oceans, love staring at them, but the sea was the villain in The Impossible. Scary as hell, too.

Acting-wise the film was quite perfect. Naomi Watts has already snapped several nominations, and for a reason: she had to cry almost as much as I did. The young Tom Holland, playing the eldest son of the family, has also been recognized. Personally, I think his role was the most challenging one, and he quite unexpectedly ended up being the most significant person in the story, for me. He's so going to be a star, that kid. (Just found out Tom Holland was actually playing Billy Elliot in the musical in London at the time I went to see it. I wish I'd remember if he was the Billy in the performance I saw...) Ewan McGregor pulled my poor heartstrings, too, with all that emotion of a desperate father and husband. (Having just re-watched the Star Wars prequels, I couldn't help but wonder, between all the tears, where in the hell was all that emotion when he needed it in the Revenge of the Sith? Oh well, too good acting by him would've looked weird beside all that other awkward, melodramatic "acting"...)

By the way, Charlie Chaplin's daughter was in the film, too! I didn't realize it when watching her scene; only when I saw her name in the end credits I was able to link it to her face. Thanks for the tears, Geraldine! I must have had dry eyes for at least a minute and then you came along... I must say the youngest brothers acted extremely well, too, for being so young. And they were very cute.

I have one big critique. The trailer for this film SUCKS! I genuinely hope I had not seen it before seeing the film. It is one of those stupid trailers that give way too much away. I realized that immediately after watching the trailer. Too much information, and not in a good way! It should come with a warning: "Watching this trailer will ruin all the suspense of watching the film for you! Also, don't wear mascara to the cinema."

To return to the weeping thing (like I hadn't been referring to the weeping thing in every other sentence)... Seriously, this was a cinema crying record! Almost any film crying record! When I wasn't openly bawling  my eyes out and getting my whole face soaking wet, I was blinking or swallowing a lump in my throat. I can't come up with a film more emotionally exhausting... Well, Schindler's List, maybe, but that one's in a league of its own.

The Impossible is not the kind of film you'd want to see again and again. Once is enough. It's heavy, devastating, and exhaustingly moving. It gives you a piece of hope, only to point out how horrible things still are, and there's no way this story can end happily. It reminds you that Christmas 2004 was really not that long ago, and this is a film that many people around the world will not go see, because eight years is not enough to get over certain things. It shows that reality beats fiction, any day. It makes you want to go and hug your family, embarrassingly tight.

Like I said to my friend when we parted, I definitely need to watch some Glee before going to bed tonight. Isn't that the most wonderfully, pathetically convenient thing about films? However distressing they are, afterwards you can always drag yourself back to your own, simple life, and start worrying about your own, simple problems. Because it was just a film. Even if based on very, very real events.

Jan 5, 2013

Lord of the Lists

My annual Christmas holiday Lord of the Rings Extended Edition rewatch inspired me to draw up some lists. They are related to the films, of course, because I sucked at reading the books. Before I get started, however, I'd like to present to you the one and only quote from the books that made such an impression on me that it has lingered in my mind. It's from The Two Towers, uttered by Treebeard.

"Those were the broad days. Time was when I could walk and sing all day and hear no more than the echo of my own voice in the hollow hills. The woods were like the woods of Lothlórien, only thicker, stronger, younger. And the smell of the air! I used to spend a week just breathing."

I love the idea of just breathing seven days straight! Haha, that's actually exactly what I felt like doing after returning back to Finland from China.

Now, from Tolkien's Middle-Earth to the one of Peter Jackson, and my favorite things about it.

Jan 3, 2013

New Year Resolutions 2013

After 2011 and 2012, I thought I'd make 2013 a bit easier for myself. At least in theory. In avarage, I chose much more recent movies for this year, less Oscar winners, and not a single Hitchcock! Then again, I can't imagine enjoying myself too much with the likes of Mr. Sylvester and Mr. Arnold, running around killing things and being all macho and brutal and manly. But I guess these are classics, too, and I definitely wouldn't watch those movies volunteerily. This makes them perfect candidates for my traditional New Year resolutions! Ahaha, bring the pain!

January: Alien (1979)

February: Amadeus (1984)

March: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

April: Rocky (1976)

May: City of God (2002)

June: The Color Purple (1985)

July: Rambo (1982)

AugustOn the Waterfront (1954)

September: The Terminator (1984)

October: Raging Bull (1980)

November: Fargo (1996)

December: Die Hard (1988)

Jan 2, 2013

2012: A Summary of a Year

Another year over. It was a good one. I think I say that every year, but never mind. When it comes to films, and getting excited about them, 2012 was actually hands down better than 2011, for me.

Here's what you will find in this post: three films from 2011 that I have to mention now, because had I seen them last year instead of this year they would've been in my top films in 2011; an honorable mention, because I didn't blog and thus give away top spots in 1997; TV shows that I was hooked on; some people, both real and fictional, that I liked this year; seven films that I liked the most in 2012.

(The picture above is from Lust, Caution, which I actually saw in 2011. I wanted a picture to reflect something of my 2012 in total, just like I chose such pictures to the equivalent posts of 2010 and 2011 (Chaplin, and The Wizard of Oz). I needed a very Chinese picture, because that's what my year was. I remember really liking Lust, Caution, so there I got my necessary Chinese picture.)

Jan 1, 2013

2012: New Year resolution review

The deal was this. I'm going to wrap the thing up very bluntly. Some might be offended by my bluntness, as these are quite big films we're talking about, and I'm just going to bash some of them with no elaborations.

I'm going to give stars from one to five, according to the level of pain and/or boredom that watching each film caused me. One star being an enjoyable watching experience and five stars being a total nightmare (I probably fell asleep or started cutting my toenails to pass the time and get it over and done with). I'm wonderfully confusing, am I not?


JanuaryAnnie Hall (1977) ** Probably kind of liked it, don't exactly remember. I really can't tell if I'm thinking of this film or Manhattan, because I saw them both around the same time, and I'm probably mixing them up in my head. Anyway, still not a fan of Woody Allen.

February: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) *** I don't know. I have sort of positive memories about this film, but it didn't leave a lasting impression of anything. I like Washington, though.

MarchApocalypse Now (1979) ***** Well, I had to give five agony stars to some film, and when I think about it, this was be most boring watching experience I remember from this year. (This was the bluntness I was talking about.) I didn't get it, at all.

AprilChinatown (1974) **** Not really much more joyful experience than March (although I actually saw this in November, but never mind). I don't remember what was up, probably was too bored to concentrate.

MayBraveheart (1995) **** It was Mel Gibson killing stuff and faking an accent. I guess for some people that's a joyful movie watching experience, but not for me.

JuneBack to the Future (1985) * So good! I want to see some sequels. And a remake, please. This was the black sheep this year, as I'm not supposed to like these New Year resolution films this much. The point is that it's painful.

JulyTaxi Driver (1976) *** Not nearly as annoying as I expected! I thought this would be more like that horrible Scarface, but it wasn't actually half bad. I never knew he's talking to a mirror when he says "You talkin' to me". Just like Kick-Ass in Kick-Ass! (Yeah, I know, I'm a real loser, comparing Taxi Driver to Kick-Ass, when I should be comparing Kick-Ass to Taxi Driver, because I'm pretty sure that Taxi Driver came first and they were actually referring to it in Kick-Ass. Oh well, you know me.)

AugustNorth by Northwest (1959) *** Again, at times quite fun and not-that-boring-at-all, but still, it wasn't all joy. Got boring towards the end.

SeptemberMetropolis (1927) ** Quite interesting and quite cool! I just love me some silent films once in a while.

OctoberVertigo (1958) ** I'd say I liked it slightly more than the previous Hitchcock. San Francisco is lovely.

NovemberFrom Here to Eternity (1953) *** It's like Pearl Harbor! Without most of the cheese. It was a fine movie, I just got annoyed by the super masculine men and super feminine women.

DecemberIt Happened One Night (1934) * A good old romcom! Literally. It's a romantic comedy that is good and old. It started dragging a bit in the end, but I really did enjoy myself a lot, especially during the first half.

Films watched in 2012

In 2012 I saw 177 movies in total. 74 of these were rewatches (of which about half were either The Hunger Games, or The Avengers, let me tell you...), which makes it 103 previously unseen movies. I saw 18 films in cinemas.
In comparison, in 2011, the figures were: 163 films in total; 52 rewatches; 111 new films; 23 films in cinema.

I saw the most movies (27) in January, and the least (4!!! Seriously!) in June. The high number of rewatches probably has to do with being in China, where I mostly watched my dear old DVDs brought from home. Also, the drop in cinema visits can be blamed on the same wonderful country, because having been (and still being) so broke after coming back home, I've hardly had the money to pay for expensive movie tickets.

Still, I watched fourteen more movies in 2012 than 2011, so let's call this a victory.
Complete list below.