Thursday, 31 March 2011

The In-Justice League

I’m currently in my third year of a Modern Languages degree at Birmingham University and so am on my year abroad. I was in Valencia (Spain) between September and January and am going to be in Frankfurt (Germany) between April and July. The main problem with going to two such developed countries is that they are able to dub most films, meaning that if I want to go and see a mainstream film such as Harry Potter when I am there, I have to see it dubbed. Imagine Alan Rickman dubbed! I know, it upsets me too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 came out during my term in Spain and the big geek that I am I coordinated a home visit with the opening weekend so that I could get the proper experience. Dubbing is bad for several reasons: 1) In a franchise such as this you are used to certain voices and only these voices go with the faces on screen, 2) Foreign films often use weird voices to dub, 3) The sync with the mouthing is always off.

Luckily for me I get back from Frankfurt around the time HP and the Deathly Hallows part 2 comes out, so crisis obverted, unluckily for me I am missing several other crucial films. Any fellow geeks out there will also have noticed and enjoyed the surge in comic book films coming out in the past decade, especially in the past few years since Disney bought marvel. Both Marvel and DC seem to be building up a collection of heroes to allow them to create an Avengers and a Justice League franchise respectively. This year’s Comicon announced the cast and crew of 2012’s the Avengers. Every summer sees at least one superhero on the screen, last year’s Iron Man 2, most importantly 2008’s the Dark Knight. This summer has gone all out: (April) Thor, (June) X-Men First Class, The Green Lantern, (July) Captain America – The first four of which I shall not be in the country for! Why do this to me? Why bring out this many the one year I won’t be guaranteed to go and see all and as soon as they come out? If I come back home for a visit I am going to have to coordinate my arse off to get to see as many of these as possible.

Superhero films to get excited about in 2012: (May) The Avengers, (July) The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises.

Top 5: I have decided to do a top 5 theme for this blog. This entry I have decided on…

Top 5 Foreign Films (appropriate as I am on my year abroad)

1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
- Japanese
This is my favourite Studio Ghibli film. I prefer the more recent films as I believe Miyazaki has developed greatly in his drawing style – I find his older films slightly basic in style, whereas here looking at the drawings is half the fun - but also I prefer his more surreal plots. Sophie, the main character, is turned into an old woman by a witch’s spell which leads to her living in a moving castle with the wizard Howl. English dubbing I find can work on animated films and in this film the voices (Christian Bale and Billy Crystal especially) are perfectly cast. It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, it’s fun and it’s sad: my top Ghibli and my top anime. If you like this, the other Ghibli films to watch are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, also beautiful and surreal.

2. The Lives of Others (2006)
- German
It’s a brilliant and tragic German film that beautifully represents the struggles to have independent thought in East Germany during the GDR years. The acting is perfect and like most European films, the film makers don’t have the option to just go for the most attractive, most “it” actor of the moment. Foreign films are all about talent over commercial success. I can find foreign historical films dull – I was not a fan of Downfall, though it is considered one of the better German films – but this keeps you drawn in and tensed up throughout.

3. The Educators
- German
This is probably my favourite German film. You have to love Daniel Brühl, the closest thing Germany has to a movie star, who plays the co-lead male, Jan, who, along with Peter (Stipe Erceg), breaks into rich families’ houses and leave messages such as “The years of plenty are over”, trying to shake up the capitalist system. They end up kidnapping one victim and we are presented with the debate between capitalism and socialism. People my age will love this because most students – like me – like to go through a hard-line left, idealist phase. Furthermore, though political, it also has a love triangle and relatively attractive youths and can almost be seen as a thriller for a German film. Though this could be criticised for being quite black and white in areas – the youths’ opinions are very “capitalism is evil” - you are presented with an empathetic opposition figure in the right wing Hardenberg. A friend of mine has also criticised the excessive use of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah – remember that period when it was in everything? I like this song and am much less willing to see fault.

4. The Motorcycle Diaries
The main perk to this film – and to most Hispanic films I have seen – is Gael Garcia Bernal’s face. If you are interested in Che Guevara this is a good look at what created a revolutionist out of a medic. If you want a good look at Che Guevara’s later, revolutionary years, Che Part 1 and 2 are a very good example and Benicio del Toro appears to have borrowed Che’s face.

5. Paris, je t’aime
- French
I love this film because it’s not just one film, but lots of little films placed next to each other with one thing in common, the setting of Paris, a layout which is relatively unique in films. You are likely to find some of the short films dull – like with short stories it takes a lot for me to become engrossed in something so much shorter than a regular length film – but you are also likely to enjoy some of them, it contains such a rich diversity. There are few directors that I can name that haven’t contributed and for me, a massive fan of being able to name actors in films, the genius cast is very exciting: Steve Buscemi (what isn’t he in?), Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Miranda Richardson, Gaspard Ulliel (have you seen his face?!), Natalie Portman, etc. The genres are is so diverse – from a gothic, black and white vampire short to an understated conversation between ex-husband and wife in a fancy restaurant – anyone could be pleased by this.

Note: New York, I Love You, a sort of spin-off, is also fun just for its multiple plot lines and enormous cast, but in removing the obvious distinction between films – Paris, je t’aime has titles and directors named at the beginning of each and is cut in such a way that each is like a new entity – merely blending into a new one like a new scene and repeating characters in different shorts, it loses what makes the French version special. Also, it is much more miss than hit than Paris, je t’aime is.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

An Introductory Rant

When people ask me what my hobbies are the only answer I can give is reading and watching films, which is useless as almost everyone enjoys these pastimes but I don’t really have any other hobbies per say… Sports mostly bore or frighten me. Watching films may not seem like a legitimate “hobby” but unlike most people I make a commitment to watching films; I take pride in the amount of films I watch. Whenever possible, I like to go to the cinema once a week at the least, which can mean having to see incredibly mediocre films but it also brings a high awareness of what’s out and means that I rarely miss a good film. I like to think that I have seen many more than the average person aged 20. I like to memorise actors’ names that I see recurrently. I have an ongoing subscription to Empire magazine to make sure I don’t miss an issue. I do make a hobby out of film viewing.
Reading comes into this as well. I love it when a film adaptation of a book I’ve read is released. If a film is advertised that I like the look of and it derives from a book I will hastily read the book if necessary before the film comes out. The book is usually better than the film, being the original version of the story, capable of going into more depth, allowing you to imagine things how you think they should be, and the experience of reading it is less fulfilling if you have seen the film and know what is going to happen. I find a film loses less if I already know the story from a book, you are watching a new interpretation other than your own, a visual version of the novel. However, there are flaws to this system. I have become obsessed with Haruki Murakami’s books and finding out that Norwegian Wood was to be released a few weeks ago, I rushed to read it and then went to see the film soon after. Going through the same story twice in such close succession can make the second time a little tedious. That being said, it was a brilliant book and the adaptation was very faithful, the actors played the characters well, as I’d imagine them, and I love watching Japanese films as the country is so beautiful.  
If asked to name a few of my favourite films there are several which have to be mentioned: the Lord of the Rings trilogy cannot be beaten. It has the perfect combination of story (I genuinely believe it is one of the best stories every fabricated), cast, scenery, music, special affects,… I’m sure there’s more it should be given 10/10 for. I remember getting chills down my spine as I went to see the Fellowship when I was 11 and the film opened with Galadriel’s voice over. Very few films should be allowed to be 3 hours long, let alone 9 if you consider the entirety, but the Lord of the Rings definitely does its length the most justice. I think my need to read a book before the film comes out may even stem from my father’s condition that I could not see the Fellowship until I had read the novel. I was reading 100 pages a day to ensure I was ready for opening night.
Gladiator is also what I like to call a perfect combination of elements. The acting is fantastic, Joaquin Phoenix may be crazy, but this is one of the best performances ever as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t care if Russell Crow is a dick, he can act. The music makes me want to cry, I can’t watch it without getting teary and the outfits and the landscape and the coliseum make the film a piece of art.
A film that completely struck me the first time I saw it in its uniqueness is A Clockwork Orange. It’s so weird and the music is so bizarre but it is one of the few films originating from a fantastic book I think completely captures the spirit of the book and can equal it in star rating.
Tim Burton is my idol, my god. I could put many of his films on here, though Edward Scissorhands would probably come top, having been one of my favourite films since I was about 7. I don’t care if he casts the same people over and over and all his films look the same, the gothic look is his signature, it’s his own world he’s created and Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp belong in that dark, sad, beautiful world. Also, I have a massive girl-crush on Helena and so think she should be put in all films ever made.
To round off I’ll talk about the film I went to see most recently: Submarine. Who doesn’t love Richard Ayoade? Who wouldn’t want to see a film directed by Moss from the IT Crowd, if it’s anywhere as genius as the bra he took into Dragons’ Den. Craig Roberts is brilliant as Oliver, he’s so stoic and bleak for a teenager. The kids are overly mature almost and the whole atmosphere to the film is a bit grey, a bit old, not very child-like, but in its humour it could be seen as very child-like: Paddy Considine’s upsetting mullet for example. Go see it if you like proper British cinema, it’s very Welsh. The music is all by Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, who is very good at creating the feel of a generation before him, which the film needs.
Film updates: This Friday, 1st April, looks very exciting for films - for me anyway - with Source Code (mmm, Jake Gyllenhaal), Killing Bono (mmm, Robert Sheehan, Irish accents) and Suckerpunch (no mmm, but you need ot read the concept) all coming out.