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Archive for the ‘2010s’ Category

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

Pitch Perfect ; 2012

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Director: Jason Moore
Actors: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson
Country: U.S.A.

I had to think a lot about this movie and what I would write about. At one point, I wanted to just post “WTF” in big letters, but then I figured that I’d regret writing that when I look back at my entries because I wouldn’t remember why I wrote “WTF”. It would be like the time when I looked back at diaries I’ve written when I was in elementary school and I’d see entries that said, “I’m so mad right now that I’m not even going to write about it because I’m so angry.” Now I look at those entries and wonder what I was so mad about.

While watching this movie, the only thoughts I had throughout the entire film was, “What in the world? What is this? Is this real? WTFWTFWTFWTF.” I couldn’t understand this movie at all and I didn’t get why. I wasn’t sure if this movie was a comedy or what because I think I chuckled nervously throughout the movie. It was just THERE and my brain couldn’t make head or tail out of it. I was still very confused by it for several days and one day, while I was sitting in a tub, singing very badly, several thoughts about this movie popped up. I started to wonder if my brain was so used to thinking, “ANALYZE ANALYZE ANALYZE” that I couldn’t relax and enjoy it. Another thought was that I watched so many old films that I’m stuck in the bygone era and can’t understand contemporary comedy. I remember thinking that the dialogue was crude and I disliked a lot of the jokes, which made me think that I was unconsciously comparing old comedic films to current ones. Some would attribute it to political correctness but many of the jokes rubbed me the wrong way, which surprised me because I didn’t think that I was an overly politically correct person. I don’t think that I was being snotty while watching this movie and I wasn’t planning on comparing it to other movies as well, but this movie came from left field and I had no idea what was going on and how to digest it. Even my raging dislike for a cappella didn’t overcome this confusion by making me think an irrational thought such as, “I HATE THIS FILM BECAUSE OF A CAPPELLA, END OF STORY.”

Another thing that startled me was that I felt that many aspects of the movie, particularly sets (location?), camera movement, and acting was like a B-movie. It was hokey, borderline bad, and the only thing that made it visually good was the crisp quality of the picture and the colors. When I say colors, I don’t mean a beautiful or brilliant use of them, à la Sirk, but that everything was evenly lit so the colors looked nice, like a nice family photo.

And I just have to add, I really, REALLY detested Bumper (DeVine). I guess I can’t hate on Adam DeVine because he was successful at making me want to punch Bumper in the face, but his character was like Barry in High Fidelity (2000), except that I grew to tolerate Barry but I never grew to tolerate Bumper. I know that he’s supposed to be a character to either dislike or laugh with, but I found him overbearingly obnoxious that I wondered how DeVine could make a character so annoying.

I’m still not too sure why I was so thrown by this film, but I can say that I don’t want to rewatch it on my own time. If my friends all agreed and said that they wanted to watch it, sure I’ll watch it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t think it was a huge waste of time and maybe if I do rewatch it, I might like it immensely, but my first impression of this movie was bewilderment, which is a feeling that I have never gotten from a film until this one.

IMDb Link: Pitch Perfect

The Great Gatsby ; 2013

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke
Country: Australia, U.S.A.

I dedicate this entry to my friend, Poopsie, who has known me for thirteen years and calls me a film snob. I swear to God that I’m not!!! But maybe I might come off snobby in this entry? *wiggles eyebrows* No, she’s right, I am a snob. Speaking of pretension, this is what I could call snobby: The New Yorker.

When I heard that there was going to be another adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I felt a combination of excitement and dread. Excitement, because I thought that Baz Luhrmann might be the perfect director to direct the story, but dread because I wondered if ANY film could do the book justice. Also, I grew up watching the 1974 version (ROBERT REDFORD, HNGGGGGG) so I’m going to be perfectly frank with you, I’M BIASED.

Then the trailer came out, and I was excited to see Leonardo DiCaprio (I love him as an actor), but instead of feeling in awe of DiCaprio, I laughed when he came on the screen. What kind of indicator was THAT? And on top of this, I saw that Ziegfeld Follies was misspelled so I had my little immature moment (aka “snobby moment”) going “What the fuzzy?!”. According to a comment that was left in an article that my friend sent me, there is a newsreel clip where Ziegfeld is spelled Zeigfeld, and maybe Luhrmann was acting even snobbier than all 1920s fans/snobs by making some abstruse reference to a newsreel clip, but COME ON. Ziegfeld is a big name so HOW COULD YOU MISSPELL THAT? Feeling miffed and confused over DiCaprio, I became reluctant to watch this movie and didn’t plan to watch it.

In a turn of events, I ended up at a theatre, and I told Poopsie that the actor I am looking forward to the most is Tobey Maguire. When I found out that he was cast as Nick, I was really happy to hear that — definitely more excited than hearing that DiCaprio got the role of Jay Gatsby despite my fondness for him. Well, like most people, Poopsie was horrified to hear that I was looking forward to Maguire and I’m going to tell you guys now: I still stand by my approval of him.

I found the movie fun to watch and all I could think was that the film was a sensory orgy. I didn’t know what to listen to nor where to focus my eyes on because there was so much to look at and sounds sometimes overlapped to create a certain feel. Visually, the film itself was very Luhrmann-esque (think Moulin Rouge) and my first impression was that it was nothing more than a lot of glitter, but that made me think even more about it.

First off, DO NOT COMPARE THIS MOVIE TO THE NOVEL. Like many people, I tend to compare film adaptations to their source work, but recently, I have been trying to stop doing that. After watching this film, I decided that comparing a book and a movie is like comparing apples and oranges and that there are some things that only movies can do and there are some things that only written works can do. I tried to watch this movie with an open mind (it also helped that it’s been 10 years or so since I last read the book) and I tried my best to not compare it to the novel’s themes or story line and to only take in what was shown in front of me. It was rather effective since I found the movie to be well-paced and fun to watch.

After the initial reaction wore off, I began to think that the movie was very “empty”. Despite trying to prevent myself from comparing the film to the novel, I felt a little sad that the movie felt like it was all about the visuals and the themes of the novel weren’t present in the film at all. How I saw it was that the story was just a backdrop, or even an excuse, to have such resplendent visuals, and that all that mattered were the images and nothing else. Pretty much what I ended up concluding about the movie was that it was like nice on the outside but nothing on the inside. But then I thought, “Would this movie hold up on any level if there was no story? Or if the source material was a bad one at that?” Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is on the verge of being a melodrama on the story level and it appears that the only thing that Luhrmann took from the novel was the love story with the themes in the novel being completely lost. After much thinking about this, I think that my initial thoughts are wrong. The film isn’t meaningless — on the contrary, Luhrmann uses this seemingly glib film to underscore the emptiness related to wealth when it is surfeit and the superficial nature of American patricians.

In many ways it reminded me of Josef von Sternberg’s films where image is most important. Just like von Sternberg (reference Image 4), Luhrmann’s visuals are lush, but unlike von Sternberg, I think that Luhrmann’s Gatsby has visuals with meaning. At this point, I see many of von Sternberg’s films made in the 1930s to be purely visual pieces where the story is used just as an excuse to compose beautifully composed moving images. But does a purely visual piece mean that a work is meaningless? Does meaning give worth to a movie? I think this is where subjectivity comes into play because when I watch some experimental films, I don’t feel like all I saw was images but that there was something more to it. Is it because I’m watching a narrative film that I expect to not feel this “emptiness” and that I’d take something away from the movie and its storyline? What would Gatsby be without the visual overload? I don’t even know what to think of all this. I should rewatch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette because I think that that film will be the perfect film to use as a backdrop to aid me with my thoughts and questions. Anyway, coming back to what I was saying, I don’t think it’s just beauty for beauty’s sake with this film but instead, Luhrmann quite appropriately uses excessiveness. After all, don’t we associate the Roaring Twenties with extreme extravagance? And it was because of Luhrmann’s style that made me think in the first place that he would be the perfect director for this film.

Coming back to Toby Maguire, the reason why I liked him so much was because of this “emptiness” that I speak of. Even as Nick, who has the most “soul” in the movie, he appears to be stiff and cold. Maguire’s acting style doesn’t make me see Nick as a warm character but instead, his acting is just another aspect of the movie that emphasizes the lack of warmth and genuine human interaction within the upper crust.

Also, was it only me or was there a picture of Norma Shearer (ref. Picture 5) in the party scene where Nick gets drunk? I had a mini fangirl moment while watching the movie. I love that woman too much. I don’t remember the picture too clearly, but it kind of looked like this one. I was also happy to see Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man (ref. Picture 3), Mae Murray’s name, Blood and Sand, and Douglas Fairbanks’ name. I need to learn how to stop fangirling whenever I see references to things I like. Will I ever grow up?

Image credits:

IMDb Link: The Great Gatsby