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The Imitation Game ; 2014

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Director: Morten Tyldum
Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance
Country: United Kingdom

Today is the day of the Academy Awards and I went to watch The Imitation Game with my cousin. I didn’t know much about the film, except that Benedict Cumberbatch was in it, so I didn’t really care for it because nothing about it caught my interest and the title didn’t catch my eye either. I also didn’t know about Alan Turing, who I now find to be a very fascinating figure after reading about him after hearing an interview with Cumberbatch on Fresh Air. If it wasn’t for Fresh Air, I would have never watched this film. Thank goodness for my commute coinciding with Fresh Air on KPCC because I very much enjoyed this movie and the interview made me understand some scenes a bit better, such as the scenes of Turing running.

I jokingly hate on Cumberbatch due to his popularity on Tumblr but after listening to his interview on Fresh Air, I could see his appeal. I loved the interview and he did a great job selling this film (intentional or not) so I was itching to watch this movie and was curious about Cumberbatch as an actor since I’ve never seen him act. I never even heard his voice until the interview! I also like to hate on Keira Knightley for some irrational reason — I found her to be rather annoying in movies — but I realized that I should stop hating on her because I thought she was good in A Dangerous Method and I liked her a lot in this film. I always found her to be very pretty but in this film, her looks didn’t overshadow her performance, which I found to be nice since I stopped seeing her as just a pretty person but as an actress. It’s rather dehumanizing to just care about looks, no? So it’s nice that I wasn’t just like, “Oooh she is so pretty!” but more like, “Gosh, Joan Clarke is a fascinating character!”

What I loved about the movie was the script because at the beginning of the movie, Turing (Cumberbatch) says in a voice-over, “If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things […] When I am finished — when I have told you that I am finished — you are free to think whatever you like. But until then, you will trust that while this story will be hard for you to understand, everything I am saying I am saying for a reason. […] Pay attention.”
Why I find this beginning voice-over so important is because language is a key part of this film. Not only is the Enigma about language but the character of Turing is based on language. His childhood relationship with Christopher is based on language since it was Christopher that introduced him to cryptology and it was through his use of it that he was able to (or at least attempted to) reveal his feelings for Christopher. Turing names his machine “Christopher” is something to note too.
It is also through language that we see how Turing can’t get along with people around him but it is also through language that we see how his relationship with Clarke is different. Turing’s interview with Commander Denniston is hilarious for the audience (I really loved the comic moments in the film, which are also mostly based on, you guessed it, words) but you can see why Denniston dislikes Turing and why others are so turned off by him. I don’t think Turing dislikes people — it’s just that he cares for how words are phrased, which is why we come back to what he says in the beginning of the film: “everything I am saying I am saying for a reason”. When Cairncross asks Turing about going to lunch with him and the rest of Hut 8, he repeatedly says, “I said we were going to get some lunch?” and says, “I had asked if you wanted to have lunch with us.” and Turing says, “No you didn’t. You told me you were getting lunch.”
Even though it appears to be that Turing doesn’t know about social cues, with Clarke, he seems to understand how language works. Turing mentions how he is confused by language and in a scene, young Turing tells Christopher, “When people talk to each other they never say what they mean. They say something else. And you’re supposed to just know what they mean. Only, I never do.” but when he tries to get Clarke to be part of his team, he grasps how to play the game. He is able to say things so that Clarke’s parents can hear things they would want to hear so that Clarke can work at Bletchley Park. He’s also shown as a caring person when he asks Clarke to marry him so that she could continue her work and not be pestered by her parents. The way he breaks off his engagement to Clarke by using harsh words were on purpose. At first I didn’t understand why he said such nasty things to Clarke to end the engagement when Clarke was fine with the kind of marriage they would have (to be honest, it sounded like an awesome marriage to me!), but the scene when we see Clarke and Turing in the 1950s explained why he said such things. Can I just say that the scene with Clarke and Turing in the 50s was heartbreaking? I almost cried! When Turing can no longer do a crossword puzzle, you can see the horrors of the chemical castration and what it’s doing to a brilliant man. Turing wanted Clarke to have a normal life because he couldn’t have it and was possibly bitter about it (which is what I get since he realizes that he can’t get along with other people because he doesn’t understand social cues and what people mean when they say certain things) but Clarke turns it around and tells him how it is extraordinary people like him who save lives and do something great. I love how Clarke says what Turing tells her: “I think that sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
Of course, the script would not come alive if it weren’t for the stellar performances of the supporting actors and Cumberbatch because so much is said through words but through body language as well. Without such competent acting, the script would have fell flat.

I also LOVEDDDD the movie because of the portrayal of Clarke. The film made me think that Clarke was a person of note, brought to the forefront of how women were seen during the 1930s-1940s, and I even wondered why there weren’t movies about Clarke when she was as much of an interesting person as Turing. Like holy cow, this woman was brilliant but society was not appreciative of her intellect because she was a woman and I felt that the movie made sure that the viewers were very aware of this. Yay feminism!

Some people seem to have issues about this film because some people might say that this film doesn’t put enough emphasis on Turing’s sexual orientation but I liked that it wasn’t all ~in your face~ about it because I saw the focus of this film to be about language and what it took to break the Enigma. I can see why people might be upset because it might not be… gay enough (?)… but what I thought was good about the film was that it might open up people’s minds about a sexual orientation that isn’t heterosexuality. It portrays a man who had to suffer for something that was seen as a crime and it’s heartbreaking to see a brilliant man turn into a shell of himself at the end of the film and I hope the film makes people who are against homosexuality to think that people who are gay are not bad and aren’t sinners or what have you. One can’t help but think that it’s wrong that Turing has to go through “hormone therapy” because what he did was seen as indecent. Just because someone is gay, does it mean that it is right to ruin a brilliant man? I’d say, “Nope nope nope.” When Turing asks Detective Nock, “Am I a war hero? Am I a criminal?”, Nock says that he can’t judge him and while Turing realizes that Nock can’t help him with the criminal charges, at least Nock acknowledges his indecision, which I see as a reflection of the possibility for people to open their minds about homosexuality. I found Turing to be a likeable character, which I think makes homosexuality more approachable (erm… I don’t know if I’m phrasing my thoughts well) to people who might be uncomfortable about it. A small step, but an important step in my eyes. Just my opinion.

Should this film win the Oscar for best picture? In my eyes, no. Out of the Best Picture films that I have watched (Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and now The Imitation Game), I think Birdman should get the Oscar but I think that Boyhood will get it. Or maybe Whiplash? I don’t know what Whiplash is about (Except that it’s about a drummer? That’s what I gathered from a quick glance of the poster.) so maybe that will win? If American Sniper wins, I might roll my eyes. Actually, I’m pretty sure I will. I’m so judgmental, hahaha!
Should Benedict Cumberbatch win for Best Actor? I have no clue but I loved how his acting seemed so effortless. After a few scenes, I forgot that he was Cumberbatch but saw him as Turing because his acting seemed so naturalistic. It wasn’t even like acting but seeing someone naturally, which I think is a sign of good acting. If I’m forgetting that someone is acting, that means that they’re doing an great job, right?!

Anyway, I really, REALLY enjoyed this film and I want to rewatch it. I wouldn’t mind buying a DVD of it if it has good special features!

IMDb Link: The Imitation Game

The Shining ; 1980

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel
Country: United Kingdom, U.S.A.

This entry is dedicated to my friend Stephanie, who is the only one who knows how much I dreaded watching this movie and was willing to do a Kubrick marathon with me. Thank you for being an awesome friend!


Finally, Stephanie and I were able to watch The Shining and resume our Kubrick marathon. I was scared since I do not like horror films at all and I am so glad that we got this movie out of the way. It was worth the watch, but no way am I rewatching this again! (Unless it is with bunnies.)

What made the movie most frightening for me was the use of sound, particularly the score. It complemented the actions on the screen perfectly and created the most unnerving atmosphere. For example, towards the end, when Wendy (Duvall) is looking for Danny inside the hotel, the chant-like music seemed to reflect the hotel’s ghosts coming to life but it also added drama to the scene. I felt very scared watching that scene due to the music and what Wendy was going through. Although I haven’t watched many horror films in my life, I do know that sound plays a large role in the genre, but Kubrick’s use of synth music did a great job in evoking eeriness, claustrophobia, and tension. It was the music that made me jump and feel like I was on the edge of my seat, more than the actions on the screen.

A few things that caught my attention was the exterior shot of the Overlook Hotel (ref. Picture 2) and the acting. When I saw the shot of the hotel, at first, I didn’t even see it until I looked closely at the shot. I wondered why Kubrick chose this hotel because it blended with the surroundings and the shot looked weird. After thinking over it a bit, I thought that the shot worked because it made the hotel look ghostly in the “is it there or is it not there?” sense, which seems to foreshadow the supernatural things that are to happen later on in the movie.
As for the acting, in the beginning, I thought that Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall’s acting was incredibly hokey. It was if I was watching a B-movie and I thought that Nicholson in particular was hamming it up. In retrospect, I wonder if this was intentional and if it was, maybe it was an indicator for Jack’s (Nicholson) descent into madness as the hotel takes a hold of him. When Jack is interviewing for the caretaker position and when he calls his wife about it, something about him seems off and inauthentic, but when he decides to do his best to “correct” his wife and child, there is nothing about him that seems fake. As the movie progressed, I stopped thinking this and thought that the chemistry between all the major players in the movie was perfect. I stopped thinking that Nicholson was being hammy and I started to find Duvall to be less and less grating and was rooting for Wendy. Often times when I watch movies, I’m thinking, “YOU IDIOT, WHY AREN’T YOU DOING SO-AND-SO?!” but Wendy was sympathetic and perfect in portraying a loving wife and mother who is frazzled but doing her best to survive and save her son. When Jack is breaking through the bathroom door and talking/singing about little piggies (brilliant moment in acting, by the way), Wendy looks horrified due to what is happening, but when she finally acts and slashes her husband’s hand, her face expression is a combination of fright and guilt over having to hurt her husband. I loved how Wendy was very active and how you could see that there were many thoughts racing through her head, and she tried to think of what she can do to get out of the situation that she is in. She wasn’t some useless woman who gave up and wailed about her woes, but she tried her best to save herself and her son.

What I found enjoyable about The Shining is that it’s not a horror film that’s all about screaming and being scared. There is nothing wrong with movies like that since it’s a completely different experience, but The Shining made me become invested in the plot and the characters rather than watching out for the next scream moment. I’m a fan of straight forward endings, but after watching this movie, I had fun thinking about what certain scenes meant and I have to give props to a movie that let’s me enjoy thinking about something. It also seemed that it was a film that was fully aware of the nature of films in regards to how they are watched and how there is no right interpretation in regards to a movie or any artistic work. I have never been so aware of the mise-en-scène until this movie — the amount of red used in this movie makes you even more aware of its usage. In regards to interpreting film, it reminded me of my early years in college and how I struggled with the idea of what’s the “right” way of looking at a movie until a professor told me to stop stressing and that there is no right or wrong. A person can have their own views and if they can support it, then all is peachy keen. It doesn’t mean that others need to agree or that one needs to agree with others’ points-of-view, but these various perspectives can lead to discussions and further thinking.

Stephanie told me about The Shining re-enacted by bunnies and showed me this wonderful video. I found it absolutely hilarious and adorable and had to watch it on repeat. What amazed me was how successful the video was in capturing all the key scenes and I didn’t find it scary at all. I thought that the “staring” part (ref. Picture 3) was really funny because I didn’t expect to see that within the 30 seconds. It’s impressive how much information can be crammed in 30 seconds.

I would love to watch this movie again, but since I’m a big fat chicken, it’s going to be one of those movies that I admire but can’t rewatch. I can see why so many people are a fan of this movie and I have great appreciation for it as well. I’m really enjoying the Kubrick marathon and so glad that a friend is partaking in it as well. The next film we’re going to watch is Barry Lyndon!

IMDb Link: The Shining

Fire Over England ; 1937

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Director: William K. Howard
Actors: Flora Robson, Raymond Massey, Leslie Banks, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Morton Selten, Tamara Desni, James Mason
Country: United Kingdom

This entry is for the Viv and Larry Blogathon.

I have been meaning to watch Fire Over England because it stars both Olivier and Leigh so I thought that it would be perfect that I watch it and blog about it for the marathon. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed by it. There were so many big names behind it, specifically Erich Pommer, Alexander Korda, and James Wong Howe and it was obvious that it was a huge production, but it felt like a bit lacking. It reminded me of the large historical films that Hollywood made, for example the 1938 Marie Antoinette where there were great costumes and sets, but that was it. Even the actors seem like nothing and the beautiful costumes just overpower them.

Although I watched this film for Olivier and Leigh, the actress that stood out was Flora Robson. She had so much presence as Queen Elizabeth and was absolutely perfect. She WAS queenly and it was as if you were watching the real Queen Elizabeth (or how I imagined Queen Elizabeth was like). I was a disappointed by Olivier’s performance and I thought that his performance in this film supported the arguments that people made about how he was not a screen actor but a stage actor. He was so lovely in Pride and Prejudice and to see him less than perfect in this film made me a bit sad. I felt that he was a bit hammy, and not the good kind like John Barrymore, but from what I understand, this film was made earlier in his career before he reached the zenith of his career. I didn’t see any potential in him as a film actor solely based on this film but on the other hand, Vivien Leigh showed the potential that she had. Despite being a newcomer compared to Olivier when it came to acting, she showed energy and passion. Even though she had a minor role with a rather flat character, there was just something in her face and the movement of her body that just screamed out POTENTIAL TO BE A BIG MOVIE STAR. I cannot put my finger on it but there was just something about Leigh that I liked in this film. It was fun to watch an early film that she starred in and I think it’s the energy that I felt in her performance that made her performance in Gone With the Wind so great. That bubbly energy and drive that showed through in her performance in Fire Over England made me think that it was the right choice to choose Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. I guess what I love so much about Vivien Leigh is that you feel this energetic drive every time you watch a film with her in it — you feel something that makes you drawn to her and she seems to be so open, vulnerable, and raw as if she exposes and gives everything in her film performance. I felt a bit of that in Fire Over England and that energy really shows through in Leigh’s future great performances such as Gone With the Wind, Waterloo Bridge, and A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s such a shame that I wasn’t able to write something nice about Laurence Olivier because I admire him as a film director and actor. I guess his talent just didn’t shine through in this film or I just wasn’t feeling his performance but it’s ok because I’ll be blogging about my all-time favourite Olivier film performance tomorrow!

IMDb Link: Fire Over England
Where to buy: Amazon.com

An Education ; 2009

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: Lone Scherfig
Actors: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams.
Country: United Kingdom

It is becoming more and more rare to not only find a film that has a smart, intelligent female character as the lead, but one who is an active agent in the narrative. An Education, adapted by Nick Hornby from Lynn Barber’s memoir of the same name, is a film that does just that. This time capsule to 1960s suburban London is coming of age tale is one that tells a familiar story, but does so as un-Hollywood as it can.

Sixteen year old Jenny (newcomer Carey Mulligan) is an overachieving cellist who is pressured by her parents into spending all her time working towards getting into the university of their dreams, Oxford. Jenny, in her suburban existence, desires culture – specifically that of the French variety. Whether it’s listening to Juliette Greco records instead of studying for Latin, or dropping the French phrase whenever she can, Jenny is someone who is always demonstrating her knowledge, but craves finding it elsewhere. Luckily for her she finds it in the much older David (Peter Sarsgaard), who quickly sweeps her off her feet and charms her hard nosed, albeit well meaning, parents. It ends up, not surprisingly, that the life of David and his friends are not as perfect as they appear to be and Jenny must end up making some morally culpable decisions. It’s difficult not to when the trio, including David, his friends the charming Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny’s well meaning though psychologically unemployed girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike), do everything they can to make Jenny feel smart and special. She gets caught up in the games that adults play, but never lets herself get completely lost. Things go from morally grey to worse by the end of the film, leaving Jenny far from the position she imagined herself in.

The most refreshing part of the film is the agency that Jenny takes. She willing gets involved with a group of people who are far from “the right” people her parents wish her to be with. She knowingly participates in deceiving her parents, in participating in criminal activities, in jeopardizing her chances at Oxford. Every action she takes is done consciously and she is as responsible to what happens to her as is every other character. The humanity of the film, which stems from it staying loyal to the memoir and not delving into familiar Hollywood tropes, makes certain that no character is entirely guilty or entirely innocent. With this un-Hollywood quality of the film Jenny is not a clueless heroine being swept away by a sinister older man, but an intelligent, mature young woman who makes a mistake but saves herself in the end. Mulligan shines here, able to be both self assured and vulnerable, able to play off the series of contradictions that make her character so authentic.

Winner for Best Cinematography and the Audience Choice Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Lone Scherfig’s An Education is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted but primarily one of the most authentic portrayals of a young woman on screen.

Drop Dead Fred ; 1991

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Director: Ate de Jong
Actors: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall, Marsha Mason, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher, Ron Eldard
Country: U.S.A. / United Kingdom

After finishing with finals and packing, I relaxed with my friend to watch this film because I told her I wanted to watch a comedy. I have heard about this film from another friend who is a fan of Rik Mayall and I wanted to watch this film since I adored Mayall in The Young Ones. Anyway, I don’t know why this film has such low ratings on IMDb, but I loved this film and found it to be absolutely adorable.

Although a bit predictable, it didn’t impede on the story about a woman who learns to be her own person. Lizzie (Cates) is the wife of a two-timing husband and although she knows that he is cheating on her, she doesn’t care because she loves him. Her controlling mother brings her back home and that is when her imaginary friend from her childhood comes back! Drop Dead Fred (Mayall) is a troublemaker who likes to have fun and sometimes has good intentions, but he ends up creating chaos due to his want for fun. Lizzie tells Drop Dead Fred that he has never helped her, but in the end of the film, we find out how much he ends up helping her to truly grow up and be on her own and how he has helped her best friend, Janie (Fisher), as well.

The comedy can be a bit on the “immature” side, but I found all of it to be quite hilarious. From reading reviews, I realized that most people mainly had problems with the comedy and found it to be crude, but if you’re not a person who takes themselves too seriously, you should be fine. For example, if you find the following situation to have the potential to be funny, you should be fine:
Imagine a living room with pristine white carpet (recently cleaned) and furniture only to be soiled by having doggy-doo spread all over it!

If you aren’t too offended by that, please give this film a chance. Also, Drop Dead Fred’s outfits are to die for and he has the most amazing hairdos! His hairdo in the second screencap is by far the best I’ve seen in any film. And of course, that is one of my favourite scenes, along with the scene when he also looks between Lizzie’s mother’s legs and makes a hilarious comment.

IMDb Link: Drop Dead Fred
Where to buy: Amazon.com