Previous Joints

Thursday, 28 February 2013

He Really Is Kind of A Big Deal: Will Ferrell



When I first cooked up the idea for this humble blog, guest posts were at the center of it. I truly believe that everyone is a "film buff", whether they like it or not. Somewhere along the line, a film or an actor has made an impression and I wanted to get as many of those experiences expressed on this blog as possible. This next piece from Jessica Young is exactly what I had in mind when I dreamt up this little site. She's a hell of a writer and her passion for film is obvious for all to see. She also happens to be pretty awesome, follow her on twitter @goonersgirl008.

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The chances of Will Ferrell winning an Oscar are slim. The chances of him being nominated are similarly small. However, he has managed to carve out a career in comedic film that many would envy. 

He’s not gonna land on the cover of People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” or a similar title in another publication, but I would argue that he is dead sexy in his own way, and his own level. Funny is sexy, and some Hollywood pretty boys need to get that memo.

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From “Night at the Roxbury” to “Step Brothers” to “Talladega Nights” and “The Other Guys” to the anticipation of “Anchorman 2”, he’s come a very, very long way.

He’s not a method actor who loses himself in a role, but he has an innate timing. He got his start on Saturday Night Live and mastered many real-life personalities from George W. Bush to Alex Trebek to Janet Reno, and many original characters including Craig Buchanan (the Spartan cheerleader) and Steve Butabi from “Night At the Roxbury”.

He evolved from that SNL guy dabbling in movies to Frank The Tank in “Old School” and then “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”, which Ferrell co-wrote with Adam McKay (who directed). Those were the breakout performances that pushed him and his frequent collaborators, Judd Apatow (producing) and McKay to another level.

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This isn’t a Will Ferrell biography, and I do not have the time to get into every one of his roles, but the point of this is that I can quote just about any Ferrell role, from Steve Butabi to Ron Burgundy to Allen Gamble. I love films, and I love to laugh, and Ferrell has made me spend an insane amount of time watching, re-watching and quoting his movies. He puts himself on the line, he makes himself the punchline, and that to me is insanely endearing. He doesn’t do it in a stupid way, he’s not doing “Jackass” like stunts (though I like “Jackass” and watched it from it’s inception) to make people laugh, he’s nodding his head to the side, streaking, getting shot in the neck by tranquilizers, and walking the beat downtown.

If you follow me on Twitter, you are guaranteed to see a few Ferrell quotes with “Anchorman” and “The Other Guys” racking up copious characters. And frankly, 140 is very restrictive with some classic lines. From the “big deal” line to “Baxter, I don’t speak Spanish”, it’s nearly impossible to not to crack a smile, or fall into a full-blown laugh fest. He plays pompous ass so well, but then is equally convincing as the sweet, Buddy the Elf in “Elf”. He is diverse, and he is willing to try different things. “Kicking and Screaming” and “Stranger Than Fiction” aren’t particularly memorable, and I haven’t done a repeat viewing of either, but I applaud him for not going for the easy gag every time. And kudos to him for “Casa De Mi Padre”, doing a Spanish language film and shaking things up even more. He’s not a 1-note guy, but he’s created many awesome and always memorable characters.


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Aside from the big screen stuff, he’s also a co-founder of “Funny Or Die”, with comedic content on a viral stage. From his “baby” sketch to Patrick Stewart/Simon Pegg’s “Olympic Ticket Scalping” vid, it’s come a very long way over the course of the last 7 years. The Ferrell/McKay production company, “Gary Sanchez Productions” is pumping out “Funny Or Die” content, producing “Eastbound and Down” (with the insanely funny Danny McBride, and Ferrell in a recurring role as Ashley Schaffer), and multiple films like “Step Brothers”, “The Other Guys” and now “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

I can’t wait to see “Anchorman 2”… and I know that there’s a big amount of hype for it. Can it live up to the cult status of the original? I don’t really know, maybe or maybe not, but with “Step Brothers”, “Talledega Nights” and “The Other Guys” as any indication, he could top it.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to read this blog. It’s the first I’ve ever written, as Twitter rants don’t really count. And big thanks to Mr. Chocolate TeddyBear for the invitation. He, like Ron Burgundy, is kind of a big deal.

Stay Classy, people!!!


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Case Against Inception





Christopher Nolan – there isn’t a director out there that I'd single out for over hyped fan-boy praise more than this guy.

I genuinely love him.

He’s made films that I attribute to my raging love of cinema. The very first time I watched Memento, I was so shocked and inspired by what I had just seen that I instantly replayed the film. The Prestige, a criminally underrated film, is one of my favourites of all time. And if anyone was to say that the Batman films had to be part of the conversation about the greatest trilogy of all time, next to the Toy Story and Godfather films, I wouldn’t laugh at them. He’s a hell of a director.

But for me, he has two black marks on his record. One is Insomnia; I don’t necessary think it’s a bad film, I just didn’t understand it and unlike most Nolan films, it left no impression on me.

The other black mark is the main subject of this post – Inception


I should really love Inception; In fact, the first time I watched it at the cinema, I really did. I remember telling my Mrs that it was the best film I’ve ever seen in my life. I went back the very next day to the cinema and my mind hadn’t changed.

What blew me away was the concept of hacking into other people’s dreams and how it was realised in the film. I can’t think of many introductory sequences that can top Inception's.

I also think Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in this film is outstanding. He, above all else, sells the concept of the film and that is no small feat.


The very best films stand well against the test of time. The Godfather is my favourite film of all time because every time I watch it, it feels like the first time. The problem with Inception is that the more I watch it, the worse it gets.

BBC’s Mark Kermode drove this idea that Inception is an intelligent film that treats the audience with respect. I really dispute this. Watching Inception feels like I’m being lectured to, being told how to think and babied through the rules of this world. Why the hell can’t I work it out for myself? Ellen Page, who I think is an extraordinarily gifted actress, is only in this film for the purpose of being lectured to. I feel sorry for her, because it gets tiresome real quick.


Speaking of Ellen Page, the other thing that disappoints about the film is the assemble cast, with the exception of Leo. There are a lot of ‘meh’ performances in this film. In fact, some performances boarder between ‘meh’ and just plain bad. This was the first film I'd ever seen Tom Hardy in and I really wasn’t impressed. Marion Cotillard, who I absolutely love as an actress, makes me cringe in this movie; she leaves all the hard work of selling their characters' experience in Limbo to Leo. If the hotel fight scene didn’t exist I would have found Joseph Gordon-Levitt forgettable in this film. Ken Watanabe is just bad.

All of this surprised me because Nolan’s track record suggests that there aren’t many better directors out there who can handle ensemble casts of this stature. What went wrong?




What I find most depressing about this film is the pace. I am not an impatient man; Once Upon A Time in America is close to 4 hours and I love it to bits.

The pacing in Inception is all wrong and, I’m afraid, that was Nolan’s job. Huge chunks of this film feel lethargic, especially when the dream concept is being explained.

Again, apart from the opening scenes and part of the hotel scene, the action sequences haven’t aged well at all. I particularly find the snow covered final sequence to be boring and predictable. Again, Nolan is at fault here.


I don’t feel great writing this post because I hold Nolan in such high regard. I’m still fuming that Warner Brothers were not brave enough to employ Nolan as the director of the next Superman film. I also think Sony should abandon their adventure with Sam Mendes and hire Nolan to direct the next lot of Bond films.

But Inception doesn’t deserve the praise it gets. People talk about this film like it's a modern classic and to my mind, its not. Nolan over-indulged in this film and might have let his ego run away from him because he can and has done so much better than Inception.     




                                                             @ChocoTeddyFilms

Friday, 22 February 2013

Up in the Air: Dissent




  

In the absence of a comment section, I promised I’d do dissent posts a lot more, because god knows not everyone agrees with me.

My “Up in the Air” piece resulted in a lot of interesting feedback. One of my followers on twitter, @girliest_gooner, asked:


“Your post about confronting your sexism was very honest and i'm glad you are trying to change. [but] are you really trying to change though?”


To be fair to Girliest (great name), that is an interesting question and I genuinely don’t know the answer. How do you change? As I said in previous posts, I grew up listening to gangster rap music, which isn’t the most progressive art form in the world. So what do I do, stop listening to Dr Dre?

Fortunately, Roro80 has an answer to my problem:


"Really interesting article — brave, I think. Catching yourself is the first step. The next step: consciously replacing the thought with a different thought. Then it becomes natural to think the new thought. It’s like when someone points out some annoying turn of phrase you’ve made a habit of that you didn’t realize you were even saying — first you have to notice it, then you consciously replace it, and eventually it’s gone."


Sounds like a plan.

Anyway, another reader, Dean Esmay, flat out disagreed with my reading of Up in the Air:


“The usual term for a man who’s cheating with another man’s wife is a “kept man” or “man on the side.” “Consort” and “boytoy” and “paramour” are also often used. They are frequently used in a positive and encouraging sense, especially “boytoy” and “paramour,:
The usual reaction to the man who’s cheated on is to be mocked; that’s the historical term anyway; he’s been cuckolded, poor sap, poor loser, couldn’t keep his woman happy so she had to stray.
A problem I had with this analysis is that in Up in the Air, we had no reason at all to believe that Clooney was in the habit of sleeping with other men’s wives. It’s not even hinted at. Why make any such assumption? Furthermore, there’s a much more straightforward reason to feel for him and not for the young woman who fires people for a living: he’s an old pro, he’s been at this a long long time, and at first he seems utterly ruthless but you can see hints of pain and sympathy in him from the beginning, and further, you see how utterly empty his life seems to be, and how lonely he seems to be, and how he seems to be on a path to redemption, to finding a happiness he’s never had… whereas the younger woman character is just starting out, is far more cast iron… but then she also redeems herself and quits this horrible game and goes on to something better, whereas an apparently disappointed and crushed Clooney appears to be resolving himself to a life of bitter isolation: he thought he’d found love only to be lied to, and continues this terrible life of his because he appears to have no options (or lets himself think so anyway).
A further problem is the notion that we never have movies that celebrate women who cheat? Then why do we not feel hatred for Ilsa in Casablanca, even though she very clearly wants to leave her husband for Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick? We just feel sorry for them both that she stays with her husband. In fact almost no one seems to remember: this whole story is about how we want her to leave her husband for Rick, and Rick feels bad about that. She’s a cheat, but do we hate her? No, we just feel sorry for her.
Did people hate the character of Katharine Clifton in The English Patient, even though she was unambiguously an adulteress? I don’t recall much talk of that, or feeling that way. In “Unfaithful” we’re supposed to be relieved when the wife gets back together with her husband after her adulterous affair.
And nobody hated Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” until it became obvious that she was actually being manipulative and destructive; we don’t hate her for cheating on her husband, we hate her for what she’s doing to Dustin Hoffman’s character and life. We don’t even give a damn about her husband.
As we already know, women cheat on their husbands as often as men cheat on their wives these days, although most of the time men don’t even know it (up to 95% of the time according to some sources). In fact part of the more common sexism of today’s society is the whole notion that men are more prone to cheat (they aren’t) or that men who cheat are “celebrated” when in fact any look at popular music and movies and TV shows most frequently shows cheating men as villains, with only rare exception; indeed, in our popular culture, castrating or outright killing a man who cheats is considered high entertainment; if you want to talk about real sexism, there it is for you.”


When George Clooney’s character, Ryan, goes back to his flat, his very attractive neighbour makes an appearance. Now, for me, its strongly hinted that they had a fling or two in the past and it was likely that he ended it. That’s what makes me believe that he has been a womaniser in the past. As for the rest of the comment? I have nothing to say. Everyone reacts differently to movies. That’s the beauty of them.

Anyway, thank you for your support. Look out for three new posts next week.

 Follow @chocolateteddybear. And if you want to write a guest post, email MrCTBear@gmail.com.




Margin Call: What the hell happened in 2008?





Please go and watch Margin call. I just wanted that to be the first thing people read, just in case they don’t bother reading the whole post.


Margin Call is this gem of a film I found late last year, from a director (J.C. Chandor) I’ve never heard of and a cast which is nothing short of stellar.

The film is about the early stages of the 2008 financial breakdown and what a Wall-Street investment bank does to protect its organisation. At least that’s what I think it’s about because truth be told, I don’t think I fully understand the film.


And I guess that’s the point. What happened in 2008 is complicated. At least it’s too complicated for simpletons like myself to understand.

What happened in 2008 is the reason why so many people are suffering and struggling today, but ask me to specifically tell you why and the only answer I’d be able to give you is: “credit crunch.” Ask me what “credit crunch” means and you’re fresh out of luck.

Oh, and “sub prime mortgages” which is what I think this film is also about.

So, in the film, Sylar, I mean Zachary Quinto, discovers that the firm, which looks a lot like Lehman Brothers, holds a lot of valueless assets which threatens to destroy the company. I think. So his boss, the villain from the Da Vinci Code, tells his boss, Keyzer Soze, who tells his boss, Jean from the Mentalist, who tells everybody’s boss, Scar from the Lion King – and he finally makes the decision to dump these poisonous assets which is more than likely going to kill the whole market. Hence, the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

I think.


The brilliance of this film is seeing how the modern day Sith lords (bankers) live. A lot of dialogue rings true to my mind; bankers thought that they ruled the world, that they were the reason any good existed in our average and dreary lives.

There is a chilling bit of dialogue between the scary albino monk from the Da Vinci Code (I think his name could be Paul Bettany):

“People wanna live like this in their cars and big fuckin' houses they can't even pay for, then you're necessary. The only reason that they all get to continue living like kings is cause we got our fingers on the scales in their favor. I take my hand off and then the whole world gets really fuckin' fair really fuckin' quickly and nobody actually wants that. They say they do but they don't. They want what we have to give them but they also wanna, you know, play innocent and pretend they have no idea where it came from. Well, thats more hypocrisy than I'm willing to swallow, so fuck em. Fuck normal people.”

What’s chilling about this part of the film is how believable it is. On every angle. Its believable that a banker who was directly involved in the meltdown would have said this and believed it. And on some level, there is a hint of truth in what he says. We, the normal people, didn’t bat an eyelid when things were all gravy, so do we really have the right to have the moral high ground now?


Anyway, like I’ve said, I don’t understand all of this film, which is chilling because it highlights that I don’t understand why the earth almost ceased to exist not so long ago. I wonder if I am the only person in this position?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Green Lantern: The Road Back

The next writer is the reason why I have read the "Batman: The Long Halloween" series and the "Superman: Red Son" series. He drag me kicking and screaming toward a love of comics and I am eternally grateful. I call him Dr Batman (long story), but today he's going to kick knowledge about how the Green Lantern film franchise can be saved. Ladies and gentlemen, Luke James Halsall.

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For the majority of comic fans and society in general, the Green Lantern film was seen as a flop. It did make a profit (just) but fans of the comic were not happy with the way Hal Jordan was presented and the effects on the CGI suit. I did not have any of these complaints and quite enjoyed the film, but I am not here to discuss that. I am here to show you how the franchise could be resurrected and how what was meant to be part one to at least a sequel but more likely a trilogy of films could still work out with a soft reboot.

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Lets look at the facts of Green Lantern the film. I think everyone would agree that the events on Oa were impressive and it was a shame that we did not get more of this. I think the biggest problem that people had with the film were that they thought a guy with a magic ring was stupid (be prepared for Iron Man 3 with the Mandarin), they did not like the effects nor did they feel like they really got to know Hal Jordan. So for part 2 we need a soft reboot. It needs to do a lot of things that a typical origin film does again, just like The Incredible Hulk did after Hulk. We don’t need to see how Hal became a Lantern once more; instead we need characterisation.

In my opinion, it was obvious that part 2 was going to be The Sinestro Corp War and this would have been spectacular. If we stay in this universe then we have Sinestro taking the power of fear and therefore we should keep with this. But we don’t need to go into a fully fledge war to start with. This film should be a blend of early Sinestro Corps War, The Road Back and the critically acclaimed Green Lantern/Green Arrow series. The Road Back was a story set in the 1980s when we saw Hal Jordan go on the road and finds himself once more to become Green Lantern. This would work perfectly as our opener part to this film as we would start to bring real depth to the character. As an interlude I would start with a scene in space. It could be a sleazy little city on a planet where a sinestro ring starts to make recruitments, just like they did in the comics. I think this would be a beautifully subtle way to start the film and build intrigue. Further add many of the ideas from Green Lantern/Green Arrow (GL/GA) here and I think you have a winner. In GL/GA, Hal and Ollie are on the road and as they go along they witness many of the great injustices in society. From fat cat businessmen making money out of the poor, to the Native Americas losing their land, to even drug abuse - this was a fantastic run and I urge anyone to read it. Also, I would have Hal hardly use the ring in this opening act. He needs to show the audience what he can do without the ring, and show who he is. Hal Jordan is fearless and would not step down from a fight if he thinks it is the right thing to do. He has often risked his life (and lost it) to do the right thing and therefore I think this is a key thing to make clear to the film audience. Hal Jordan is fearless and is a utilitarian; he does what is best for the many when it outweighs the few.

From here we could have Killowog coming down to Earth to plead for Hal to return because of the threat of Sinestro. With Hal’s return to Oa he could go through more training and we could see him becoming the Lantern we all know and love. The final act is a battle against Sinestro - not his entire corps, not yet anyway! Here we can see Sinestro try to destroy the Green Lantern Corps (GLC) and has Hal try to shout him down from his stance. Finally Hal, with help from the corps, will knock Sinestro down and be victorious. This learning path will make Hal realise he wants to be a pilot and return home to Coast City. The final scene of the film should show the army that Sinestro has built and even though the GLC have locked him away in a psi-cell the worst is yet to come.

In my opinion by doing this wee bit of rebooting, you could have a great film for everyone to jump onto and would lead nicely into the final act of the trilogy: The Sinestro Corps War.  

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You can check out Luke's other articles and criminological studies at Geek Syndicate: http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/.
 
Luke's blog where you can stay up-to-date with what he is doing: http://lukejameshalsall.wordpress.com/.
 
You can check out Luke's ebooks off his amazon site: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Luke-James-Halsall/e/B004YTKLA2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.
 
Luke's Hoodie: Reality Killed the Vigilante is the first book of its kind- a novel that becomes a comic that becomes a novel again. With a reading, music, film/TV list of things that inspired Luke: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hoodie-Reality-Killed-Vigilante-ebook/dp/B00A284S9E/ref=la_B004YTKLA2_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1361027022&sr=1-11 or http://www.comicsy.co.uk/lukehalsall/store/products/hoodie-reality-killed-the-vigilante/.
 
Luke will be apart of the third issue of reads: http://www.averyhillpublishing.com/reads/.
 
He's basically kind of a big deal. Follow him on Twitter @LJHalsall.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Confronting My Own Sexism: Up In The Air



This is a difficult post to write. It’s hard admitting your flaws, especially when you have an ego as big as mine.



Back when I was at University, there was this TV show my best friend introduced me to - The Dead Zone. It was about a teacher who got into a car accident and was comatose for X amount of years. When he regained his consciousness, he finds out that he has superpowers – when he touches people, he can see past/future events. 

There was an even better film based on the same Stephen King novel which was directed by David Cronenberg and stars Christopher Walken. You should check it out.


Anyway, back to the TV show. While the teacher was in his coma, his fiancée had their baby and got married to someone else (obviously). This last point stuck out to me and no matter what the fiancée character did in the show, I never warmed to her. In fact, I was down right hostile to her. So much so my best friend always questioned why I hated her so much.


These same feelings for a female character recently resurfaced thanks to another TV show, Homeland. Morena Baccarin’s character erked me so much that, again, my best friend asked why?

If I was being kind to myself, I would explain it as a dislike of someone who has betrayed their one true love – their childhood sweetheart. I am a card carrying member of the Disney’s Love Conquers All Club (this should actually exist); I believe in soul-mates, and in my opinion Jessica Brody defiled this idea.


I would happily go on with my life believing that this was the reason I showed such resentment to these characters if it didn't smell so much of horse scrap.

If I believe so much in true love and hated betrayal then why wasn’t I annoyed at Damien Lewis’ Brody for boinking (the very hot) Carrie? Why do I cheer on characters like Mad Men’s Don Draper without questioning his loyalty to his wife? Better yet, why was I so angry when Don’s wife, Betty, went out and did some cheating of her own?

Horse shit, is horse shit, people.

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Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air is the film that made the stench of my own crap too overwhelming for me to ignore. The film is about a man that literally lives his life out of a suitcase and has a job of amassing frequent flying miles by firing people (this may not be an accurate description of his job). But this guy is George Clooney and it’s a know fact that you can’t hate George. George is cool.
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Up In the Air has two elements. The first is that the film is a story about the 2008 financial meltdown and the impact the crisis had on everyday workers in small to medium sized businesses across America – not the elite bankers heavily featured in news coverage at the time.

Watching a fictional character clinically fire fictional workers with what I can only describe as charm is brutal and unnerving. The first time I watched this film, I remember naively asking whether such as job (corporate downsizer? Firer? Satan?) exists – and if so, can you really take pride in your work, especially during an environment like 2008?


Clooney is the glue that holds this film together. He is frighteningly believable in the role of Ryan Bingham. What makes it even more scary is that you grow to like him because, as I’ve said above, Clooney is cool. Ryan Bingham is of the same line as your typical movie gangster who you know is a rotten person, but who you root for them anyway because they do their dirty work with such – cool. 






The Second element to this film is its love story. In fact, in my opinion, this film is a love story first. Clooney’s Ryan meets his match when Vera Fargmiga’s Alex makes an appearance very early on in the film. 

They first meet at a hotel bar and start to flirt over their knowledge of rental car companies. They go mano-a-womano and duel over their loyalty cards, which results in Alex getting turned on over Ryan’s frequent flier miles. She out sexts him. It's all very romantic.

Throughout the film, Alex slowly melts Clooney’s resistance to having anything but a fleeting relationship with anyone and he eventually hands her a key to his apartment which he loathes to call home. More importantly, he invites her to his sisters wedding so she can meet the family he almost wishes he didn’t have to bother with. 

Alex gets Ryan to change his philosophy on human interaction and in the world of this film, that is a big deal.


This all ends with Ryan making the typical rom-com last minute dash to Chicago to declare his undying love for Alex. What he finds in Chicago is a married woman with kids, who is shocked to see her male-mistress (I don’t even know what the male term for mistress is) standing in front of her family home. Every single time I've watched this film, the only word that comes out of my mouth during this sequence is “bitch”. But why?




Vera Fargmiga’s character is the female equivalent of Ryan Bingham. In fact, she maybe marginally less reprehensible as she doesn’t fire people for a living; yet, it’s her I call a bitch and its Clooney who I feel sorry for. Why?


In fact, throughout the whole film, Ryan treats intimate human emotion as a form of weakness that he systematically tries to get rid of in his own life. So again, why do I feel sorry for him?


At the end of the film, Alex coldly (fires) explains what Ryan was to her all along - an escape from her everyday life. Somehow, I don't believe that Ryan hasn't himself had to make the same phone call that Alex has just made to him.




So the question still remains, why the animosity towards Alex? It’s simply really - there must be something about strong, but more importantly, promiscuous women which doesn’t sit well with me. To make it more plain – there must be something about female characters that treat sex and relationships the same way as their male counterparts do that makes me angry.


It’s ok to see a man treating a woman badly, but god forbid a woman sleeps around. Bitch!



I’m not proud of feeling this way. But I do feel this way.



This sexist way of thinking isn’t confined to movies, I see it everywhere in culture. If a sports or movie star gets caught cheating on his girlfriend/wife then he’s a “lad” - but a woman does the same thing, then she’s a whore. Google what happened to Rita Ora and her Kardashian ex-boyfriend; the coverage, especially if you were following it on twitter, was horrific.


There is a double standard.


The only solace I can take is that I acknowledge I have a problem and that I know this way of thinking is wrong. All I can do is question myself one film at a time and work on being a better person.


For what its worth, Up in the Air is a very good film, I’m just not sure that it’s an enjoyable film. I don’t like what that film says about me as a person.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Tarantino is Like Nas





There’s this bloke on Twitter who supports the same team as me and happens to be a very good writer. Over the weekend he wrote about a sporting moment I will never forget, but as an intro to his story he wrote the following:


“I’ve always felt that Quentin Tarantino doesn’t so much make great films as make great scenes. The kind that get the heart pumping; saturated as they are with wit and drama. Large parts of his movies are actually plodding pastiche padded out with some swears and a bit of the old ultra-violence. But with the rising inflection of Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, the opening chords from an old Steeler’s Wheel number striking up or the sway of Pam Grier’s hips, a powerful spectacle occurs that hangs the whole film together.” (http://soccerwithoutlimits.com/arsenal-lehmann-villareal/17481/#mrcAdJCZjsm17HoM.99)


I get it, this is only Tim’s(@LittleDutchVA) opinion – but I’ve heard this argument before. It has started to get louder ever since Inglorious came out. An argument which I feel is hugely unfair.



On one level, Tim is absolutely right. Quentin makes films which are broken down into episodic sections, usually arranged in an unchronological fashion. It’s a bloody great unoriginal gimmick. In most cases these episodes are dripping with laugh out loud humour, intrigue, tension - and the element that everyone concentrates on – violence.

My point is this: If every episode is great, doesn’t that make the film as whole great?
 …

I think Tarantino is suffering from what I call the Illmatic disorder. Illmatic was the first album released by the rapper Nas. Now, Illmatic is widely considered to be iconic and a game changer in rap music. Every rap album after Illmatic, sounded like Illmatic. 

Unfortunately for Nas, everything he did afterward was compared to his awe inspiring debut. No matter how good the music he releases gets, it never seems to be as perfect as Illmatic.

Tarantino is suffering the same fate as Nas.

 

Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are mammoth films. Unfortunately for Tarantino, his films after Dogs and Fiction were not as fresh, and this has giving detractors an opening to criticise him. [Note that the word fresh was used, not good]

And it’s obvious that Tarantino knows this, hence the change of tact in his last films. QT is starting to dampen down (he hasn’t quite abandoned it) on his gimmick and so his films have started to go soft in the middle because of this. The genius in his scenes is still there, but he seems to overindulge a little more than he used to; that Inglorious scene in the Nazi bar is a prime example.


Tarantino will always divide opinion. So, essentially, this article is pointless. Most people reading this have already made up their minds about the man and that’s fine. But I do think that people have stopped judging Tarantino’s work on their own merits. His new work is constantly being compared to his past – and this conflict is starting to show. 

Django and Inglorious are both, in my opinion, fearless and brilliant. Both are flawed but, again in my opinion, are very important films. I hope QT doesn't lose his fearlessness - I hope he carries on trying to break taboos.



Thursday, 14 February 2013

West Side Story, South Park and Fight Club: A Mother's Love Affair With Movies



I'm more excited, nervous, anxious and proud about this next piece than any post on my blog - that is because, thankfully, I didn't write it. My good friend Ellen W did.

Ellen is this stupidly smart woman I met in Scotland while I was studying for my masters. She has two young kids and I badgered her to write something. The result is the charming little piece below.

Enjoy the first guest post.

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I’m not much into films. In fact, scrap that. I used to be into films. I used to watch films all the time. Every day, sometimes several a day. But then I became a mother. And now, my free time is precious. Too precious to potentially waste it on yet another predictable rom-com masquerading as something interesting. So now, I use films like medicine, prescribing the ones I know I’m not allergic to for specific ailments.

If it’s a cold, wet Sunday afternoon and I have some menial task to do (like peeling a mountain of potatoes or rebuilding my son’s Lego - again), I put on West Side Story to ease the drudgery. I sing and cry and am completely emotionally wrecked by the end of it. “Bernardo muerto!” Ugh, gets me every time. Classic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.



Which leads me nicely onto the next one. When I am an emotional wreck, when I haven’t left the house for days, and I’m rocking the ‘exhausted crack whore’ look that all mothers rock at some point, I need something that’s going to pick me up and make me laugh at the pitiful excuse for a human being that I am. The film that does that is South Park the Movie. I know every word to every song. I giddily prance around like gay Satan, I march like a soldier at the USO Show bit, and I do awesome impressions of all the SP kids. I’m going to use this to embarrass my children when they are naughty teenagers. I promise.

And last but by no means least, we come to the film I put on when I want to speak every word of a movie over the top of the actors: Fight Club. Yes, at the age of almost-30, I *still* know all the rules of Fight Club. And yes, I have to do this alone, as it annoys the crap out of my husband. In fact, I have to watch all these movies alone due to the sheer singy-dancy-cringyness of it all. Not that I care, but other people don’t take kindly to it. When I take the notion to watch a film, this is what happens:

Husband: “What movie you putting on?”
Me: “West Side Story.”
Long pause.
Husband: “I’ll go and read in the bedroom for a bit.”
I smile to myself and start doing vocal warm-up exercises.

Huh, it appears I actually do like films after all. Maybe I’ll stick on Fight Club tomorrow...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tomatoes and White Chicks




I still use Rottentomatoes.com before I commit to emptying my struggling wallet of £10 at the cinema. I can’t even remember when I started doing this; it must have been sometime after I started University in 2005.

I never went to see a film unless it had a minimum of 70% on Rottentomatoes. Why 70%? It was a number that gave me enough reassurance that the film I was paying to see was going to be entertaining.

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Rottentomatoes.com is the ultimate film review site. Usually, reviews give a film a rating score or in some cases the review has a positive or negative tone; Tomatoes gathers these reviews for a film and aggregates a “tomatometer” score from it. For example, Looper has a 93% score, while Hustle and Flow has an 82% rating.

Fair enough - until a couple years ago I discovered that I was missing pretty decent films because they fell well below my 70% threshold - as did some of my favourite films. For example, the classic Eddie Murphy film “Coming to America” is rated 68%. The 2008 cult hit “Taken” is given a 58% score. But, the film which broke the straw for me was 2004’s "White Chicks".

15%!

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White Chicks is about two African-American brothers (black to you and me), who are also FBI agents and are assigned to protect two socialites sisters (who happen to be white). Along the way, to save their jobs, they have to go undercover as the sisters – hence the title “White Chicks”.

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I personally love White Chicks - the film that is - although, my lady is white. But all of this is beside the point.

White Chicks is a silly film, it doesn't even pretend to be serious. Every thing about the film screams slap-stick and farce – and that's fine by me. Also, in my opinion, this film is harmless.

A review from the BBC, featured on Rottentomatoes, says:







Wayans takes one (unfunny) joke and runs with it far beyond the realms of plausibility.”


Unfunny? Says who? I've sat and watched this film more times than I care to admit and the jokes stood up every time. I’ve watched this film with my sisters, their friends, my friends and their families and we all laughed together.

I think a lot of the hate toward the film stems from one uncomfortable place, as the following reviewer, also featured on Rottentomatoes, states:


                   “It's bad enough watching a dreadfully unfunny really awful comedy, but watching a very racist comedy makes it all the worse.”


Now, like I've said above, I've watched this film with a lot of close friends and a lot of those friends are white and they all laughed harder than me (maybe its a good time to remind people that I'm black). Now I’m not saying all of these individuals represent the feelings of all white people toward this film – they don’t. But this accusation of White Chicks being racist is an interesting one.


In my opinion, White Chicks could be seen as a minstrel movie in reverse. This is why I understand and I am sympathetic to the opinion that this film is racist.

Reading about and watching old Minstrel shows is very uncomfortable for me. The disrespect and disregard white actors had for black people makes my stomach churn – but I am unsure whether the same malice is present in White Chicks.

I'm not even sure that White Chicks is a critique of white people in general. I think it’s a film that pokes fun at RICH white people – i.e. the Hilton sisters.

Also, black folks don't get away lightly in this film. Terry Crews’ character, Latrell, is the embodiment of the over sexualised black male that preys on innocent white women and literally leaves them in wheel-chairs after he mounts them (*coughs).

But if you still subscribe to the view that White Chicks is racist, I understand. But then, in my mind, you’d be saying the whole culture of black comedy, from Richard Pryor on down is racist – White Chicks is of that ilk. There isn't a joke that is made in White Chicks that I haven’t heard Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, David Chappelle or Chris Rock say in a more explicit, and yes, funnier fashion. But White Chicks is funny.  



So the only reason I can surmise why White Chicks is controversial at all is because these black actors are in white-face.



I’m trying to wean myself off Rottentomatoes, but it’s hard. I’ve been using that site for a long time and it has now become habit. I understand that films are communal experiences, and Tomatoes tries to get consensus from that shared experience.

But how many good films have I missed out on because reviewers mischaracterised the movie?

This isn’t just an issue with films, you’re seeing the same problem in all creative media. Metacritic, anyone?

We need to find a new way to evaluate films and for the sake of my life I don’t know what that way is.


Make up your own mind about White Chicks. Don’t bother buying it, I'm sure it will be on Channel 5 very soon.


Friday, 8 February 2013

First Week



 

  It’s a daunting thing writing a blog. I’m one of those people who constantly second guesses themselves and asks “why should anyone care what I think?”



Despite this, more people than I thought kindly put up with the bad writing, read the posts and said nice things about them. Thank you for your kindness.

My ideas around this blog are constantly evolving; nothing is yet set in stone. I don’t envision the blog being a review site of new films, there is plenty of those about. I see it as a platform to have deeper, more personal conversations about movies that have made a real impression on me or guest writers – whether that impression is good or bad.

There will be no star system or number system or thumbs up/down system. Lists however...


Just a couple of frequent questions that I’m being asked on Twitter and Facebook:

How often will you be posting? Three times a week – Wednesday to Friday. No reason whatsoever behind this, just laziness.

Why no comments section? This is an idea I stole from Andrew Sullivan’s political blog, The Dish. It’s not that I don’t want to discuss my blog or I don’t want to hear criticism, I really do – I just prefer for people to email me their thoughts at MrCTBear@gmail.com. Like The Dish, I plan to use reader’s comments as separate posts airing agreement/dissent and answering them that way. It may work out, it might not.

How can I become a guest writer and are there any criteria? Email me at MrCTBear@gmail.com.  No, there are no rules on what to write about, I just ask that you don’t make it too long and you write about films in general.

Is your name really Mr Chocolate Teddy Bear? Yes, yes it is.




The guest posts will be the life blood of this blog, I truly believe that. I’ve already got a few guest pieces banked and all of them are smarter, funnier and better written than anything I could ever come up with. So please, if you do fancy writing something for the site, or have written something already and would like it on the site, email me at MrCTBear@gmail.com.


Coming up next week: “I almost ignored the magic of Disney’s Cinderella”, “Death to Tomatoes: A defense of White Chicks” and the first guest post.



Again, thank you for your time.  

I Wanted to Write About Django, But I Ended Up Writing About a Pimp

This is not Jamie Foxx





I wanted my second film post to be about Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and how I think it's the most important black film of my generation.

But, I've only seen Unchained once and I don't fancy breaking a blog rule so early on. So instead I’m going to write about a film which I had Django like feelings for.

Hustle and Flow.


Did you know that Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for their song “It’s hard out here for a pimp”? Not only did they win an Oscar, they performed the track at the ceremony --- in front of people --- probably in front of Morgan Freeman. I'm just going to leave that thought, and the below video, out there.





I’m one of those idiots who consider themselves a hip-hop head. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what that means, all I know is that I am a big fan of rap music and consume a lot of what hip hop culture has to offer.

To put it another way, I bought a pair of Beats by Dre headphones for 3 reasons: It had Dr Dre’s name on them and I am a big fan girl of his; It’s the closest I am ever going to get to Detox; The headphones actually sound alright. The reasons are actually in that order – sound quality last. £300. Feel free to insult me, I deserve it.

At 19, I was just starting university and I remember bemoaning the lack of great modern hip-hop films (for me, "BoyZ in the Hood" was the last one). Then Hustle and Flow came along. I absolutely loved it.


Craig Brewer’s Hustle and Flow is about a low down dirty pimp’s struggle to becoming a (local) rap star.

If you asked a 19 year old Teddybear why he loved Hustle and Flow, he’d tell you pretty much the same as what a 26 year old Teddybear would. The film has a brilliant cast. Terrance Howard’s pimp, DJay, is a wonderfully repulsive, yet venerable character; Taraji Henson is absolutely sensational as the pregnant prostitute, Shug; Anthony Anderson’s Kay embodies a black man's frustration better than Djay himself. Bluntly put, in 2005, Hustle and Flow was the hip-hop movie I was looking for and with a majority black cast that deserved every plaudit it got and more (Note: the white actors in this film are pretty damn great as well).

The story is well executed. Craig Brewer doesn't put a foot wrong in the movie. You can also tell that the director has a damn good understanding of hip-hop cooked up in the American south.   

Make no mistake, this is a very good film.


The issue I have with it now is entirely my own. It’s aged badly on me. Now when I watch, instead of nodding to the beats or rooting for DJay as he stomps the living day lights out of Ludacris, I sit there awkward and cringing. I know this is unfair on the movie, and I am about to be even more unfair.

Hustle and Flow reminds me of a time when I wanted to be a rapper. I wanted the same things that DJay wanted. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am embarrassed that I related so closely to a horribly abusive character like DJay.

As stupid as this sounds, Hustle and Flow reminds me of the pre-Obama era; a time when most young black men would laugh at you and quote 2-Pac if you told them they could be/ or there would be a black president. This film reminds me of a time when success was being a rapper or an athlete and when it was cool to call women “bitches” or “hoes” – damn it, I did it myself during my ill-fated career as a hardcore rapper (don't kid yourself, I can still spit). This film paints a clear, negative but fair picture of the young black man in 2005 – not just the disfranchised young black man.

I know that is nit picking and I should just shut the F up and enjoy the movie – but – this movie is bloody important for black cinema. Successful black movies are rare. Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for crying out loud.


Hustle and Flow is why I’m trying to tamper my opinion over Django Unchained, a film that I am wild about. Django is clearly an important film, it is also clearly a hip-hop film and for me the film tries to paint a positive picture of the black man.

I just don’t know if this film will age on me like Hustle and Flow.