Tuesday 22 April 2014

Films I've watched recently. (Part one)

Sometimes I forget how much I love films. I get so distracted by how much I adore TV shows and books that I kind of forget what amazing storytelling can happen in just two neat hours (or I guess three and a half if you're Peter Jackson). 

Last year I gave myself the goal of reading 50 books in a year and passed that with 14 extra. This year I'm challenging myself to watch 100 films*, which feels a little daunting but I'm pretty confident that it's manageable, and I mean, what else am I doing with my time?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I had a real film watching binge and I thought it'd be fun to share a few of my thoughts about each film with you, so without further ado, some cheating.

The Grand Budapest Hotel dir. Wes Anderson

Okay so I didn't watch this one with the others in that week but I couldn't write a post about films I've seen recently without mentioning this, and who made the rule that this was all about one week of films anyway?? That's right. No one.

I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I am totally mad about Wes Anderson's films, I mean who isn't these days? No one I want to be friends with, that's for sure. (I am mostly joking. Mostly.)

The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of Gustave and Zero, the hotel's concierge and lobby boy respectively, and the adventures that befall them after Gustave inherits a beautiful and famous painting from a wealthy patron of the hotel. The story is told in three layers, with different aspect ratios utilised to distinguish between these different layers and time periods. Every frame is beautiful, but then, it is Wes, so what else would you expect?

In my opinion this is Anderson's most adventurous and funniest film yet. Everything is so precisely composed and timed, even the laughs, which actually makes them even funnier, and the whole caper is a delight from start to finish. I would recommend this film to anyone in a heartbeat but I think if you've never seen any of Wes Anderson's films then it might benefit you to watch one of his others first, if only so that you know a little of what to expect and can be appropriately blown away by how accomplished this newest offering is. 

Muriel's Wedding dir. P.J. Hogan

Okay, this is where the film binging really starts and I think I should just start off by confessing to the real reason for my even watching all of these films. As those of you who follow me on instagram or twitter probably know (shameless plugging: check) I saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the theatre a couple of mondays ago and loved it. I then spent the remainder of that week trying to fight my desire to watch the film for the first time, fearing that it wouldn't live up to the spectacle of the musical. Obviously I eventually gave in because I am week but you're going to have to wait for part two of this post to find out if my fears were justified or not. (Am I actually teasing my next post right now? It's almost like I'm an actual blogger or something.)

Muriel dreams of her wedding day a lot, listening to ABBA alone in her bedroom. She's sure that everything will change once she has that special day but the only problem is that she's never even had a boyfriend before. Then she runs into Rhonda, who she hasn't seen since school, and runs away to Sydney with her father's money, and Muriel's life really does start to change.

Muriel's Wedding actually reminded me a little of some of my favourite John Hughes films. Maybe it's just because it's the early nineties but I think it has something more to do with the near perfect balance between the lighthearted humour and the darker side of the drama in Muriel's story. Muriel's Wedding is seriously funny at times, but there's also a lot more to it that I wasn't expecting, which made for a pleasant surprise. And of course I enjoyed all the ABBA songs on the soundtrack. I can only hope that one day my life will be as good as Dancing Queen. (You'll get that reference when you watch the film, I promise.)

Billy Elliot dir. Stephen Daldry

Surely everyone knows the story of Billy Elliot by now? A working class boy from a mining family in the North of England discovers a love of ballet in the midst of Thatcher's rule and the miners' strikes of the 1980s. It is a beautifully British film, and British films are really where my true heart lies - don't tell all the other films.

The last time I watched Billy Elliot was years ago when it first came out on video cassette. That's right, video cassette. We still have the video somewhere I think, although I'm not entirely sure if any of our video players still work...

Anyway, I was a kid myself when I last watched this film so when I decided to watch it again I had no idea just what an emotional story it really is. I cried. I mean, I cry at films a lot, but I really cried. I thought every single part of Billy's story and that of his whole family was handled with such care and honesty. The way that Daldry shows the problems of the time in such a real way, as the foreground of the adults' lives but the backdrop of the children's, is just perfect. 

This scene in which Billy and his friend Debbie walk past a line of riot officers, Debbie trailing her stick across their shields as though they're just another part of the wall, is just a perfect example of what I mean. The political changes that plague Billy's father and brother are the background radiation of Billy's life and although he is aware of them, his dancing is still the foreground of his story. It's an amazing juxtaposition.

Kinky Boots dir. Julian Jarrold

Charlie inherits his father's shoe factory, only to discover that it's failing. By chance, Charlie meets drag queen Lola (nice shout out to The Kinks, Jarrold, that's one of my favourite songs too) and gets an idea for a new line of boots. Together with his ex-employee, Lauren, Charlie convinces Lola to help him design his new line of women's boots for men and save the company. And it's based on a true story!

Another wonderful British film. They may not be as glamorous as Hollywood but our films have heart by the truck load, and this is no different. It may not be a perfect film and there may have been times when I wanted to beat Charlie round the head for being so useless but I know, I know, it's all a story telling device, and maybe we wouldn't believe the character if he wasn't an arse sometimes. Gosh it's annoying though.

But aside from making me want to knock some sense into Charlie, this is a film with real soul and a heart of gold, and why did no one tell me that Chiwetel Ejiofor was in it?? Lola is a fantastic character, wonderfully portrayed by the script and by Ejiofor, and there's a whole cast of great supporting characters who really give life to the film. And Charlie's fiancé... well I guess she's necessary to the story. Kind of.

Well that's it for now! I don't want to overwhelm you so you'll just have to wait a few days for part two and the next four films. Have you seen any of these films? If you have then let me know what you thought of them in the comments! If you haven't seen any of them then I'd definitely recommend all of them, if I didn't already make that abundantly clear with my gushing about them all. Let me know if you have any recommendations for me as well, I'd love to hear them!

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*I am including re-watches but only once. So, for example, I've already watched both Catching Fire and Brave twice this year but they each only count for one. There isn't really any reason for that rule but I guess I have to have at least one, right?

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