Drive (2011)

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
(number 340 – jumped ahead because it was on the shelf at the video shop and I was interested)

This is a tricky movie. When it came out I was very unsure about it, because it seemed interesting and it got an awful lot of love from movie critics, but I sort of thought it might be too nasty for me.

The movie is about a stunt driver in L.A. who also gets money working as a mechanic and driving for criminals. He has a very strict set of rules when it comes to the last, but you get the feeling that he loves to drive so much that he can’t stay away from the scene.

Ryan Gosling plays Driver with a kind of blankness that I think was meant to evoke Clint Eastwood’s man with no name, but something about his performance wasn’t gelling for me. Maybe Gosling doesn’t have the gravitas that Eastwood had, or maybe that character doesn’t quite work in the modern urban setting the way it works in the wild West but… it wasn’t quite working. The moments where he let concern or affection actually show in his face and in his actions were heightened from his lack of reaction at other times though.

As for the plot, it’s twisty and turny but also kind of… very predictable. Movies about crime and plans going wrong and car chases, these aren’t new stories. As a viewer I have a lot of experience in how these things pan out. There were surprises. Mostly the sudden and brutal levels of violence at unexpected moments, which were upsetting. A couple of times I actually closed my eyes because realistic violence is something I find hard to watch.

All that said, I did enjoy the slickness of the movie, and it had a lot of great actors in it. Although, as Anna says, Ron Perlman plays the same character in every movie – it’s such a great character that you don’t mind. Carey Mulligan did a wonderful turn as a doe eyed, vulnerable love interest – and I was sad that she didn’t get to do more.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, it did. I’m starting to notice that there are dedicated sections of movies devoted to making me love the main characters. It doesn’t get more obvious than Ryan Gosling tenderly carrying a sleeping child though XD Well, maybe Chad Michael Murray looking after sick kids in Christmas Cupid but that movie was anything but subtle.

Bechdel test: Nope. Christina Hendricks was there to be a sexy criminal and Carey Mulligan was there to be love interest/mother figure/vulnerable angel/object of desire.

The more movies I watch with this format of review in mind the more I am noticing the tendency for characters in movies to be male by default. If there is a character cast as a woman it’s a deliberate statement – she is love interest, she is sexy, she is destroying things for male character, etc. The base character default is of the male gender in so many movies. Of course not all movies, movies made specifically for women for example, but when it comes to movies about this kind of thing – I can’t think of any male characters who had to be gendered male, and yet they all are.

(I would like to see a version of Drive where Driver was female and nothing about the script was changed.)

Best line:
“You look like you’re hard to work with.”

Standard: “All right. So I illegally walked over to a seventeen year old girl. And I walk up and I say, “Hello, Miss. What is your name?” And she didn’t say anything. And then I said, “Well my name is Standard Gabriel.” Then what did you say?
Irene: I said, “Where’s the deluxe version?””

State of Mind: Not sure if want. It was good and bad.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter
Directed by Michael Cimino
(number 468)

Well….this was probably the hardest movie to watch so far… there’s a reason I try to avoid war movies. I’m really not good at seeing the horror… the awful things that people do to each other in a war situation. The pain of leaving loved ones behind, the trauma that people go through… it’s all a bit much for me, honestly.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. The whole first sequence is dedicated to showing these bright young men in their ordinary world, getting married and going hunting before they head to Vietnam. Getting drunk, loving life and being great friends to each other.

To say that it’s jarring when they head to Vietnam is an understatement, since the first thing that Steve, Stan and Nick see is Michael throwing a grenade into a bunker full of women and children. It doesn’t get any easier from there… beautiful little Chris Walken is made to participate in Russian Roulette… there’s horror of all kinds… It’s a hard movie. There’s no getting around how hard it is to watch.

I don’t know if I have much more to say? It’s fantastically acted, of course it is, it has De Niro, Streep and Walken as main characters. It’s beautiful and it’s vicious and it’s harsh. The reality of the war, the things people did and how it affected them.

There is a wonderful line of brotherhood though, where De Niro does everything he can to protect his friends. Even to the point of rounding them up and bringing them home. Well….. as best he can… oh god the heartbreak. It’s an extraordinarily long film as well, 180 mins + spare change.

Bechdel test: Nope. Some of the wives may speak to each other but it is about the men. Another definitely very masculine film, from the male point of view.

Best line:
“I want to go home!”

State of Mind: Relief it’s over and…. pretty much need to watch something comforting now. Pokemon go!

Things I Love Thursday

I can’t believe I’ve nearly been on holiday for a week! I feel like I’ve been doing so much.

Christmas! So much delicious food, laughter, giving people things, catching up with people, spending time with nieces and nephews and just… relaxing. I got some lovely presents.

Scorched almonds. They just rock.

Christmas Bubbles:

jennitalula bubbles

My wonderful friends always always. I got some extremely thoughtful and kind gifts this year, three books I’m very excited to read… no four… and of course the Robin plushie I adore. It’s just nice to spend time with people.

Honourable Mentions: New sheets, washing on the line, plants doing well, new plants, slowly unwinding, writing (finished a short story!), new things to watch and rewatch, video games, craft and sleeping in.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Happy Christmas Eve!

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directed by Henry Selick
(number 335)

Ellen noticed that I have seen this movie once or twice before… okay so… maybe I can recite along with pretty much the whole movie… Maybe.

The first time I ever saw this was when my brother took me to it in the film festival, in 1993 or 4 and I have loved it ever since. I owned it on video I think and then DVD. The soundtrack is so very lively and fun.

There are many flaws, the portrayal of women, the weird abuse of Sally by her creator, and her inability to speak to Jack about what she’s worried about. But it’s pure Tim Burton and it’s gorgeous to look at, so many wonderful moments and weird characters that I can let it slide.

Jack Skellington is a wonderfully flawed hero, who is convinced that his vision, his passion for Christmas is more important than anything else. He’s an ambitious dreamer who gets utterly caught up in his own dream – in a way that ultimately hurts people, but he works to remedy this – and the whole experience gives him energy to pursue his actual job with more of the same passion.

There’s a kind of subtle – do what you’re best at kind of lesson there… don’t aim too high, don’t dream to big – but I think the key is that Jack is too caught up to think about what he’s doing. Maybe if he was more mindful things would have gone better.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. And it fills me with all sorts of spooky Christmas spirit.

Bechdel test: No. Sally’s really the only female character with any plot and it’s entirely about how much she admires Jack, but cannot tell him that she thinks he’s being an idiot or that she loves him.

Best line: “But I never intended all this madness, never
And nobody really understood, how could they?
That all I ever wanted was to bring them something great
Why does nothing ever turn out like it should?”

“Next time you get the urge to take over someone else’s holiday, I’d listen to her, she’s the only one who makes any sense in this insane asylum”

State of Mind: always love 🙂

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Directed by Norman Z McLeod
(number 480)

Honestly the only thing I knew about this movie is that they are remaking it with Ben Stiller and that it’s about a man who day dreams a lot.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a lively, cute and funny movie about a man who works for a pulp novel publisher and whose daydreams are immerssive, bizarre and fun. Danny Kaye is Walter and he carries the entire movie, doing as many different antic turns as he can manage.

The plot is rather Hitchcockian, as Walter gets embroiled in a scheme of espionage and the Dutch crown jewels and discovers he is poorly equipped to deal with actual adventures. There’s a lot of confused reactions, ‘but I don’t know X!’ and people lying to him. Walter’s take on reality isn’t always cut and dry after all, and there’s a boy who cried wolf aspect to when he starts trying to complain about the weird things happening to him.

There’s a creepy relationship thing… he’s utterly under his mother’s thumb, and his fiance is a very infantile sort who baby talks to her lapdog. It’s all meant to symbolise the things he’s moving away from, the poor life that needs replacing, but still is an unsettling image of women. The femme fatale type who comes in and shakes things up is pretty strong and tricky, but ultimately it’s Walter who drives the story.

One downside: Unnecessary musical numbers – I mean, yes, they’re funny and impressive and often all in one shot… but they definitely interrupt the story and throw out the pacing. I would edit them out, personally.

Does it make me love the people? What’s not to love? The whole thing is vivacious and twisty.

Bechdel test: Well, yeah sorta. His mother talks to his fiance and her mother and they all compliment each other’s appearances.

Best line:

“Good evening, sir, may I look in your wife’s corset?”

State of Mind: Pleasantly surprised.

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King
Directed by Roger Allers
(number 327)

I have seen this movie many a time and used to own it on video, and we had the soundtrack so I know it very well.

This time though, I saw it at the drive in, which was an exciting new adventure out in Trentham race course. The screen was strung up on a building and the sound was transmitted over radio, so we tuned in for the soundtrack. Good fun, plus you can bring all sorts of snacks and eat them and you don’t have to worry about your rustling packets bothering other people.

The movie is fantastic. Epic music, painfully dramatic events, beautiful artwork. I especially enjoy the very wide shots which show lots of the sky. The stars… with Mufasa in them… gah. So many emotions. It’s clever and silly and heart wrenching and dear god if Jeremy Irons as Scar isn’t the best villain you’ve ever seen…. well, I don’t know what you’ve been watching.

Does it make me love the people? Where people means animals. I guess people are characters, so in this case all the emotions the lions are displaying….yes. It makes me love the characters. I adore Simba and Nala. But Rafiki is my favourite character now. He’s awesome.

Bechdel test: Nooooo….

Best line: [many]
“You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me.”

“Asante sana Squash banana, Wiwi nugu Mi mi apana.”

Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.

State of Mind: That was super awesome XD

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life
Directed by Frank Capra
(number 203)

I’m skipping well forward here because it’s Christmas and I wanted to watch it anyways. This movie is a huge holiday classic in the States but I can’t remember it ever being on TV when I was growing up. I first watched it a few years ago when I hired it from the library.

Of course I’d seen many versions of it, the old story where a character wishes they were never born and then they see how much worse off the people they love are. The Muppets have done it, but I mostly remember it on Family Ties (because I loved Michael J Fox so very much).

It’s a very familiar story shape, and this is where it all started. The things which lead George to want to die are very much real concerns even now, losing money, not knowing how to support your loved ones, losing your job… it’s all kind of… horribly relevant to today’s society as well.

James Stewart and Donna Reed are amazing in this, top of their games, effervescent and charismatic and endearing. Not to mention hilarious and absolutely devoted to each other.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. It doesn’t do much else except make me love people XD Well, except for evil Mr Henry F Potter, who is very bad indeed. Aside from him….

Bechdel test: As with many movies on this list, it’s a male POV movie, and although there are many named female characters, they only interact with George himself. Well… two little girls talk to each other but they’re talking about little boy George, so… doesn’t pass.

Best line: there are so many good ones, but this one is kind of the essence of the whole thing:

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

[but I also love: “He’s making violent love to me, Mother.”]

State of Mind: Dawwwwwww people are awesome. *wipes away tear* Happy Christmas!

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
(number 487)

I’ve seen this movie once before, on the plane on the way to or from Japan and well, plane movies are never really properly appreciated are they? I really enjoyed watching this movie again.

It’s a clever film, setting up a lot of little hooks which can lead easily into sequels of the world ending (for humans) and also tying into the Planet of the Apes movies. Lots of chilling moments, and lots of demonstration of humans being jackasses to animals. Hi Tom Felton!

Does it make me love the people? Not really. You kind of get the impression that humans are awful and had it coming. It might make me love the apes a bit?

Bechdel test: Well…. no. No, I can’t say that it does. There are only two named female humans – a nursemaid who can’t effectively look after John Lithgow in his alzheimers state and the Love Interest. Points to the casting director for making her a woman of colour, and for making her smart, but she doesn’t really fulfill any role beyond love interest. Then there’s the one named female ape Bright Eyes, who reproduces and then dies, so…yeah. It’s a movie about some men and some male apes.

Best line:

“Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”

State of Mind: Yus. Also sneezy. (But that’s hayfever I think, not the movie’s fault)

Excited for the sequel!

Things I Love Thursday – nearly Christmas edition!

Christmas is an odd time of year. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t suddenly morphed into a Christmas resenting grinch, but it really is strange for a lot of reasons.

It’s the end of the year and people are finishing up work, feeling stressed/pressured to get things done and looking forward to holidays. We’re all tired out and that brings emotions to the surface, so it’s especially important to be kind to yourself and to others at the moment.

The other thing about Christmas is that there are lots of charity drives and opportunities for you to make a difference to someone you may never meet. I helped Emma take the donations from my workplace to the car for women’s refuge on Monday. She had an envelope stuffed with cash, lots of gifts for children and gift vouchers for teenagers. It was pretty magical, helping to load it all up and imagining the people it will go to. (There’s one more day to take gifts to the Warehouse for women’s refuge, or you can make a donation direct here.

Or just give love, the best way you know how, a la Jerome Jarre.

Friends who know you so well they can see into your soul and tell you exactly what you’re doing (which you can’t actually see yourself, sometimes, because you’re too close to it), friends who buy you ice cream or take you to blow bubbles out in the sun, friends who are brand new and sweet and lovely, friends who are old and endearing and excited to see you, friends who you should really catch up with more often and miss, but life gets in the way. I love my friends.

Honourable Mentions: giving presents, chocolate, fairy lights, prescription sunglasses, seeds growing in the sunroom, strong sunflower plants, soft toys, cuddles, Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Secret Santa and texting late at night, random RP on social media. Tacos Thursday.

It’s in the singing of a street corner choir

aaaaand hipster song of the week: “Night sky” by Chvrches

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Rebel Without a Cause
Directed by Nicholas Ray
(number 477)

Skipped ahead a bit with this one, because I’ve had some trouble finding movies. Anyways, this is definitely one of those classic films which nobody seems to have seen. I was excited for it because of that and also because Hamish took me to see Giffiths Observatory in July and I was interested to see how it’s used. There’s a James Dean bust at the observatory now:

jennitalula james dean

This film is known as a James Dean vehicle, but more than that it’s Natalie Wood’s film as well. She’s amazing in it, displaying the same lonesome need for affection that Jim does, showing how much she wants.. and how uncertain she is about how to get what she wants.

The forerunner of American teen movies and what feels like the first display of the wise cracking, bad boy rebel (but secretly very hurt, emotional and loving) trope which I love so very much. This is a fantastic film. Dean’s Jim is funny, he’s tough and he’s sardonic. He is open about expressing himself to his father, and trying to shake the gang who has it in for him.

The character of Plato is an interesting third addition to the James and Natalie love story. He seems to adore Jim – and it didn’t go unnoticed by me or Ellen that he had a pin up of a male star in his locker at school. Plato is the character who would be played by Darren Criss now – all huge beautiful eyes and dark curls. I like to read homo-eroticism into things, but this seems pretty straight forward. There’s a scene where he falls asleep on the floor, Jim affectionately stroking his hair from the couch, where Judy is stroking James’s hair. Look… it’s just casual affection but…

well okay later Plato yells at Jim that he’s not his dad…

There are a lot of daddy issues in this movie, though. All three main teens have them. It’s good. Having daddy issues makes a good story XD

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. This is a top notch story, one that seems so familiar now because versions of it have been done over and over. The leads are all excellent, and you feel for them.

Bechdel test: No. There are a lot of named female characters who have large-ish roles in the film but they never speak to each other. Natalie Wood’s issues are all with her father, not her mother, although they are in scenes together.

Best line: Plato: Do you think the end of the world will happen at night time?
Jim: Nuh-uh, at dawn.

State of Mind: Love. Yeah this is awesome.