Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset
Directed by Richard Linklater
Story by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, screenplay by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
(number 116)

The start of this movie states that how you interpret the end of the first one shows whether you’re a cynic or a romantic. The first scene is actually incredibly meta and self referential, especially since Jesse’s book is written about the night he spent with Celine.

They also set to rest very fast the actual ending – just at first they both claim to have not been there. Celine wanted to but her beloved grandmother died and was buried on that very day and Jesse although he had been there doesn’t want to admit it. Of course, Celine sees straight through him and is at first embarrassed and sorry, laughing at him in a very real reaction.

The differences from the first movie are first that it’s in Paris, second that it’s nine years later and third that it’s set during the day time and not over night. It allows for the beauty of Paris to shine through, the beautiful sunny day lighting up the characters, the buildings and the river.

The first movie had a time deadline as well, Jesse getting a flight, but this movie’s time deadline is a lot closer, it’s only a couple of hours they have and she’s forever suggesting he get going and he’s forever suggesting that one more thing they could do together until he’s walking up the steps to her apartment and holding Che the cat. Because of the first movie and because of how much crap these two vent at each other, you really want them to be together. You want the ending to be about the two of them finally making a life together. Although the ending is a bit ambiguous as to what will happen from there but they are together and they are smiling, so… it’s a lot happier.

Does it make me love the people? The same as with the first one, the two leads are charming and interesting. The beautiful thing is that since they are 10 years older the naivete of the characters in the first movie is gone, they’re more worldly and more educated and that’s really nice to recognise when you watch them back to back.

Bechdel test: Again with the no, it’s mostly just Jesse and Celine talking at the other people are mostly not named. Celine talks to her female neighbour but I’m pretty sure it was about Jesse, and of course, the neighbour isn’t named.

Best line:
Celine: No, it’s not even that. I was fine until I read your fucking book, it stirred shit up. It reminded me how romantic I WAS, how I had so much hope in things and now I don’t believe in anything that relates to love. I don’t feel things for people any more.

State of Mind: Love! And sunshine and songs! I want to go to Paris! And write! And also sleep because I watched this film back to back after two others and I am movied out.

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

I am feeling somewhat fever drunk…. sometimes I get high when I have a fever and I think that is happening now. I figured this is as good a time as any to make one of these lists. If it stops making sense, well, this is your disclaimer for why.

Modern Medicine . I went and saw my doctor on Tuesday morning and although he advised that this was most likely a viral infection and that the best treatment was sleep he also gave me some other advice (cough syrups don’t work?) and new asthma meds to stop my chest getting too bad with it. And panadol keeps my fever down and allows me to rest so I love that too. Plus vicks vaporub 😀

My brain. Okay so I knew I wasn’t well enough for work this morning so after letting them know, I went back to sleep and I went super deep and was woken up by a text from my lady. The good news is that waking up suddenly meant I had full recall of the fairy tale LARP I had just been dreaming, so I made some notes and I have the makings of a new LARP and it’s not even a dark scary one like the last few I’ve dreamed.

My lovely darling girl because she is happy to be a dork with me and dress up to go to see the new Dr Who at the cinema, and she loves food the same way I do and she is not afraid to call me a dick when I’m being one and she’s beautiful and I love her.

Impending travel omg it’s super close. It’s almost near enough that I can start refining my ‘to pack’ list, which is stupidly exciting to me. America! Summer! OMG! and I got my tickets so it’s really truly happening. I’m a bit terrified of being in San Fran for a few days on my own, but I think it will actually be awesome sauce.

Honourable Mentions: Peter Alexander pjs: warm and absorbent of gross fever sweats, people who offer to fix your computer, flatmates who cook dinner and clean, electric blankets, texts from lovely people, having an endless supply of notebooks so when you fumble blindly for one you can find one, apple juice and foot and hand massages.

Is that enough now? I think it’s enough.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Linklater and Kim Krizan
(number 208)

Life from a train and the way it makes you think of new ideas. Linklater is brilliant for human conversation and I think this is one of his first ventures into a film which is just about people shooting the shit. I first saw this movie on video just a couple of years after it came out when I was 17 or 18 and had some girls over for a sleepover. I remember kind of hating it, because I couldn’t understand why anyone would care about two people talking.

I think as I got older I started to enjoy it more because I saw the charm of the connection Jesse and Seline have. Also because it’s sort of a time capsule, and also also because I’ve seen so many slow art house movies that I have a lot of patience for the pace of the film. I’ve learned a lot more about how to read into movies and see what the film maker is trying to show us – in this case – it’s pure love of humanity and connections that humans make to each other.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are wonderful in this, they totally carry this film and it feels effortless. They’re both charming and interesting.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is like, first love bottled. It’s pure 90s from hr long floral dress over a t shirt to making me remember being a teenager in the 90s and having long talks with people over night. The simple connection you can have to someone just by listening to a song together but missed with this fantasy of exploring a strange foreign city with a beautiful stranger.

Jesse is essence of American – being named after a cowboy (as Seline points out), wearing leather and explaining about how he can’t speak another language and her being gorgeous, ethereal French and so very deep. I love the contrast of how they view their own lives – discussed in the quiet of a church. Seline feels she is an old woman, looking back on her life and Jesse feels he s a 13 year old boy who has no idea what he’s doing, like he’s pretending to be an adult.

I also love that they talk explicitly about sex and whether they should have it or not. It’s nice to have them being explicit and open about sex.

Bechdel test: No, although Seline talks quite extensively to the palm reader, no one in this play is named but for Jesse and Seline.

Best line:
Celine: I hate when a stranger on the street, like a strange man, will tell me to smile. Like to feel better about their boring lives…Each time I wear black, or like, lose my temper, or say anything about anything, you know, they always go, “Oh it’s so French. It’s so cute.” Ugh! I hate that!

Jesse: This friend of mine had a kid, and it was a home birth, so he was there helping out and everything. And he said at that profound moment of birth, he was watching this child, experiencing life for the first time, I mean, trying to take its first breath… all he could think about was that he was looking at something that was gonna die someday. He just couldn’t get it out of his head. And I think that’s so true, I mean, all – everything is so finite. But don’t you think that that’s what, makes our time, at specific moments, so important?

State of Mind: Ambiguous endings done right. There’s two points open to interpretation: did Jesse and Seline sleep together and of course the more important one: did they both turn up in 6 months to meet each other again? Pessimists say no, optimists/romantics say yes. Of course this question was answered in the next film, but more on that later. I like this kind of ambiguous ending because it doesn’t make you question if what you saw was real or not but instead, what you think will happen next. I like this movie a lot, it’s sweet and lovely and it definitely makes me love humanity.

Plus Ethan and Julie’s little smiles as they think about what just happened, separated on different trains are incredibly charming.

Watched movie count

Aladdin (1992)

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Written by the two above and apparently 18 other people. I did read that Robin Williams improvised so many of his lines that they couldn’t get an academy nomination for the script.
(number 330)

I had to laugh in the first few moments, as my relatively new DVD has a changed lyric right at the start. ‘Where they cut off your hand if they don’t like your face’ has become ‘where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.’ PC gone mad? I’m not sure of the benefit of this line change since they still have lots of talk of beheadings and the bit where Jasmine nearly has her hand cut off for stealing.

Loving memories of Robin Williams, Rest In Peace, dude.

I watched this movie many many times in the 90s, I played the video game on Sega Mega Drive, my sister and I sang along to the soundtrack. But I haven’t seen it too much in the last few years. I wasn’t aware that Abu causes so much of the conflict. He’s always stealing stuff even in the midst of them trying to escape the guards, he is the one who touches a forbidden treasure in the cave of wonders which sets off the whole drama.

The story is centred mostly around who will marry Jasmine. Jasmine’s entire modus operandi is that she wants freedom and independence, and sadly this is something she never really gets. She gets the freedom to marry the man she loves but she has to stay in the palace which she was trying to escape. It’s sort of annoying. In the main love theme Aladdin shows her the whole world, promises it to her but there’s no evidence that she gets any more than that. On the other hand ‘A Whole New World’ is an excellent song and brilliant to karaoke duet to.

The big bad guy is Jafar, forerunner to Scar – smooth and English accented. His sidekick Iago is hilarious and voiced by Gilbert Gottfried which always makes me think of this video…

Aladdin has a massive self esteem problem, which is the core of the conflict of the climax of the movie – he doesn’t believe he can tell Jasmine who he really is without her hating him. He continues to lie to her so that Jafar has power to reveal it all in a shocking way. One of those classic romantic stories where if they’d only communicated then there’d be no problem apart from the evil sorcerer, anyways.

The bit where Jasmine gets redone into an ‘evil’ red outfit used to make me feel sort of weird, but I think it’s because it’s a really sexual sequence. Very Slave Leia, she’s in red and chains and she seduces Jafar as a distraction. A bit uncomfortable in a kid’s movie! Although it’s still not a patch on the Esmerelda/Frollo shiz from Hunchback.

Does it make me love the people? Yes. Aladdin is a little two dimensional but he has an appealing confidence and mischevious nature which we are conditioned to adore and Jasmine is sweet and good with just a little spunk to her.

Bechdel test: Nooooooo. There’s just one named female character, Jasmine. Literally every other character who has a name is a male. Even the magic carpet is referred to as a ‘he’ and it’s just a freaking rug that moves. I guess this really was Disney trying its best to appeal to only boys.

Best line:
Genie: I’m in the mood to help you dude!

State of Mind: Just as good today as it was back then, although as ever, more women would be appreciated.

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

It’s all sleety haily rain outside and bitterly cold so I am first and foremost thankful to have a house which has a heatpump and a bath and an electric blanket and my Totoro onesie. My Dr Who bathrobe is also deliciously warm and snuggly.

My beautiful, funny, lovely and clever Anna. There’s other adjectives that I want to use but I know she gets embarrassed when I blog about her so I am trying to be restrained. We went a month without seeing each other and then we spent just one weekend together and it was not enough. Although it was a lovely weekend and I get to see her again tomorrow, so that’s good.

Peter Alexander’s outlet shop in Onehunga Dress Smart – I got the softest, warmest hand sweaters ever there. Okay they’re technically mittens but, they’re the hand sweater-iest things I’ve ever owned. Plus y’know, I probably own enough PJs now to go for a month and have a new pair each day. THIS IS LIVING!

Honourable Mentions: Texting, getting movies off my list blogged, sewing, cross stitch, weird dreams, decluttering, donating to charity, taking photos aaaaaand hot toasted sandwiches.

God help the Girl ~ I’ll have to dance with Cassie
this is an excellent cheery 60s inspired dancing song

District 9 (2009)

District 9
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
(number 175)

Racism, apartheid and xenophobia. This movie throws you in the deep end with the employees of MNU who have been hired to deal with the forceable eviction of the aliens (Prawns) to a barbed wire enclosed camp they won't be able to leave again. Sharlto Copley plays the inimitable Wikus Van De Merwe who you just hate straight away as being the white dude who embodies all that’s wrong with ingrained cultural racism.

Of course, the other main character is the alien Christopher Johnson. A scientifically minded alien with a son who is introduced part way through.

The special effects of this film are what makes it though. The work Weta did on the aliens, the alien weaponry and the body transformations… it's all horrific and totally believable in the context of the premise that they’ve set up. I especially love the moment when one of his eyes is affected by the transformation and it goes larger than his regular eyes.

I remember showing this film to my parents and my mum’s reactions were a kind of perfect reflection of the emotional punch of the story. At the start of the film she was afraid of the prawns, she hated the way they looked and was afraid of them. By the end of the film she was pretty much crying for their plight and complaining about how awfully they had been treated.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, especially the alien people. Christopher Johnson is the alien we see who is trying the hardest to integrate (wearing a complete set of clothes, able to read human language) and he is also working to free his people. Activate their ships and get them off a planet that hates and extorts them.

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not relate it to the history of South Africa and apartheid, the idea that it could be repeated again with no apparent concern from the majority of the population is chilling. But in the same way it’s important for Japan to keep telling stories where there’s a massive explosion or two, I think it’s really important for South Africa film makers to tell these stories, use them to explain the cultural make up of their country and try to come to terms with the things that were done. I can’t give more insight than that, beyond a term in 4th form studying apartheid in social studies I know very little of the history, but I do know it’s important to talk about it and look hard at these ideas to better prevent it happening again. Films like this are important.

Bechdel test: No, there are only a handful of named women characters and they only talk to the camera in interview situations or to Wikus.

Best line:
Christopher Johnson's Son: we're the same!
Wikus: we're not the fucking same.

State of Mind: I love this film, but the action sequences could stand to be trimmed quite a lot. The ultimate build of the story is immensely satisfying though and you have to love the special effects.

Watched movie count

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Written by Hayao Miyazaki based off the book by Diana Wynne Jones
(number 239)

I watched this with Anna although I have seen it many times before. I saw this first at the International Film Festival in the Embassy, although this time I watched it in English. It’s a lovely, atmospheric movie about accepting oneself, improving the lives of others and believing in love. The English version is very good, Christian Bale provides the voice of Howl and Lauren Bacall is the voice of the Witch of the Waste.

I dunno why but I find sequences of people cleaning up make me really happy. I love seeing all the stuff get cleaned up and organised and the room going from mucky to sparkling. It’s one of my favourite bits from Fruits Basket as well, anime seems to have it as a bit of a trope, giving time to showing a character cleaning house. Actually I’ve loved bits in books like this too, like that one Enid Blyton book where they find a run down house in the middle of a forest. What’s the appeal? Cleansing as a character restart maybe?

The movie is an adaptation of the book by the fantastic Diana Wynne Jones and when I first saw the movie I was quite sad that they had taken away some of Sophie’s power and given it to Howl instead. I don’t mind so much watching it now, perhaps because I haven’t read the book in so long. I like that they retained Sophie’s ageing/de-ageing as part of the story – a reflection of how she is feeling at the time. The more down on herself she is the more she reverts back to the cursed age the witch gave her.

Does it make me love the people? Always. I adore Calcifer from the first moment he speaks but I also love the wizard Howl, with all his emotional outbursts and charm, and of course Sophie with her temper, her way of taking other people in. There’s an incredible amount of forgiveness and acceptance that Sophie displays and the nice thing is that it’s not something that is made a fuss of in the story, it’s just a part of who she is as a character.

It’s, like pretty much all the other Ghibli movies, visually stunning. Lush landscapes and watercolour flowers. Lots of mountains and open blue sky. It made me miss the landscapes we saw zooming through Japan on the Shinkansen.

Bechdel test: Yes and very early on. Sophie talks to her sister Lettie about the weird way she got home, and about being safe, and she talks to the Witch of the Waste about lots of things over the course of the movie. Anna pointed out that when talking to her sister Sophie also expresses the opinion that she doesn’t need any man (their absent father in this case) worrying about her, because she can take care of herself.

Best line:
Howl: I feel terrible, like there’s a weight on my chest.
Sophie: A heart’s a heavy burden

State of Mind: Dreamy. Although possibly because I started to nap a little during the movie, but it is a very dreamlike film visually. The music is soothing and generally pastoral which probably helped as well.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Good Morning, Vietnam
Directed by Barry Levinson
Written by Mitch Markowitz
(number 371)

Young Robin Williams and baby Forest Whitaker star in this comedy about the Vietnam war. Adrian Cronauer is inported from Crete to Saigon to add some comedy to the morning radio show. He of course, pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable comedy. He is sweet, making friends with Vietnamese locals and teaches them English.

I wanted to watch this movie this week after the horrible news of Robin Williams’s death. I also have Aladdin on the list and probably Good Will Hunting so those might come up soon too. It seemed a fitting tribute to watch one of his films which I had never really sat down and watched, and one which made him so famous and which was also on my 500 list.

With my heightened awareness of the treatment of homosexuals in movies, I’m not sure how to feel about Cu Ba Nguyen playing Jimmy Wah. The character is pretty much out, asking the soldiers for photos of naked actors, asking Cronauer for photos of the soldier’s ankles in their leather boots. He’s very camp, he’s the owner of the bar which all the GIs go to. During a race fight he shouts out “Everybody saying ‘gook’ but it’s all right!” He felt like a caricature for sure, but one who knew that and was often sending himself up because he knew that’s how he’d get by with all these gun toting Americans around.

Adrian, when he’s taken off the air is clearly shown to be suffering depression and it all felt a bit… a bit close to what I imagine may have been happening in Robin Williams’ life. There’s a scene where his car ends up between some trucks of young soldiers who all admire him, and it perks him right up – but there’s a desperation in his performance, he’s trying so hard to make them laugh. He ends by asking all of them what their names are, repeating in between jokes ‘take care of yourselves, be careful’ and as they drive off he promises to remember them. His sad expression is faded out on, and the next scene of him on the air segues into violence and nastiness over the soundtrack ‘what a wonderful world’. Ouch. Ouch, man.

It’s hard not to see this performance as a personal one, given the circumstances, but then maybe one of the things that made Williams such a great performer is his ability to inject his own personality, his own life into the characters.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, the leads, the minor characters who weren’t evil and I think they did a lot to humanise the Vietnamese as well. Showing them not as aliens or the enemy but as real people. There was the massive betrayal of Sparky working with the VC and laying mines, but the movie ends on such a powerful note, showing the GIs and the Vietnamese playing make shift baseball and laughing with each other. It was legitimately heartwarming.

Bechdel test: Nooooooooo. As with all the other Vietnam war movies there are only like, two women.

Best line:
In the midst of too much Robin Williams improv to choose anything, I pick a Forest Whitaker line instead…

Garlick: No things are not all right. A man does not refer to Pat Boone as a beautiful genius if things are all right.

State of Mind: That was pretty lovely. A bit dull in the middle but, definitely good and one I’ll watch again. Sooo much lighter than the other Vietnam war films I’ve seen for this list. So much. There were sad moments, and violence, they didn’t gloss over those things, but it had such a big heart and so many laughs, which… well. That’s Robin in a nutshell isn’t it?

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

Most successful handmade Christmas presents ever – merit badges! I was really pleased with how these things came out before Christmas, they didn’t take too long and it was fun coming up with designs, but the best thing about these badges is that the people I’ve given them to are using them and wearing them. Example…

Looking forward to travel! Next month I have a two week trip to America (L.A, Portland and San Fran) and then I’m back for a week and then a week in the Gold Coast and I’m a bit nervous and a bit excited. I had an interesting serene dream about travelling and seeing whales and generally I feel good about my upcoming adventures.

Aaaand flying up to Auckland tomorrow to see Anna! Yay :3

The Film Festival was a really good one for me this year. I was a little afraid of seeing this one film. The Babadook and it indeed was very scary but it was so incredibly well made and interesting I really rate it. I’ve been telling people to see it all week.

Honourable mention: Ice creams, new music from movie soundtracks, decluttering, crafting, a new giant TV screen, comics, my fancy phone, catching up with old friends, taking people to movies and new Monster High dolls.

1936 army boys on LSD

A very cool flashmob of the circle of life

La Belle et La Bete (1946)

La Belle et La Bete
Directed and Written by Jean Cocteau based on the story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
(number 303)

I had been wondering how I’d track down a copy of this old film and then they listed a newly restored copy in the film festival so I booked myself a ticket! It’s an amazing Gothic film, very over the top by today’s standards but it had a beautiful dreamy quality to it which I really enjoyed. Jean Marais played the Beast and the human character fighting for Beauty’s attentions Avenant, and Josette Day played Beauty with a lot of grace.

There’s a lot of hand waving in the plot – many things explained away as magic, and some confusing stuff where the beast’s hands and clothes smoked sometimes… but it didn’t in any way impact the enjoyment of it. Like the title card asked us to do, I adopted the ‘artlessness’ of a child. More like, I went back a bit to childhood and I enjoyed the dreaminess and the fairy tale-ness. I remembered about the shape of the story which is so familiar and relaxed into the film, I guess you could say.

The special effects of the enchanted castle were really good – the arms holding candleabras and the doors opening automatically. The moving statues, it was all very beautiful. The make up to make the actor into the Beast was very cool too, he looked so felted and fuzzy. I especially enjoyed the scene where his wee round bear ears pricked up and moved around because there was a deer in the area. Super adorable!

The film, as I imagine most French Gothic Romantic stories is hyper stylised, with some very over the top physical acting. There were a couple of scenes that put me in mind of watching a ballet, huge gestures and exaggerated emotional responses. It was pretty neat, to be honest, because although I’ve never seen this story as a ballet, I do love fairy tale ballets.

The Beast was a great Gothic hero, lots of ‘dangerous’ rage and self loathing emotions, very Heathcliffe-esque. I mean, I guess there is a lot of self loathing built into the original story. The whole tale is centred on how people look – Beauty’s sisters are vain, Beauty is beautiful, the Beast is hideous, and they played up all of these aspects in this movie. I guess I just didn’t expect the Beast to constantly be saying ‘I’m hideous! Don’t look at me!’ but hey, it all worked.

Does it make me love the people? It does. Beauty is very good and kind, but she was pretty sassy to the Beast which made my affection for her increase a lot. The Beast was very emo and that appealed to me, he wasn’t creepy either, instead insisting right from the start that the house was Beauty’s and he was hers to command.

Bechdel test: It does! Félicie and Adélaïde talk about clothes and going out, and how they have to put up with having no money. They talk about lots of things actually, and to Belle, although she mostly speaks to men.

Best line: Hm, the problem with seeing this in the cinema is that I can’t remember my favourite lines… maybe… Eh, there was

Beast: you pet me as you would an animal.
Beauty: you are an animal

but there was some more deep stuff which I liked too. Sadly

State of Mind: That was neat!

Watched movie count