Jules Does

Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Sometimes growing up is hard. You learn new things about yourself and the world, things that mean you often have to revise what you thought was ok or good in the light of new information. This can be a good thing, a pleasant thing which makes you appreciate the things you’ve loved better. Alternatively, as so often happens, we find out something unpleasant that makes us reconsider our fave. We can behave in several ways here.

1. Reject the new, unpleasant information and go about your day, believing what you’ve always believed in an unproblematised way.

2. Absorb the unpleasant information and reject everything you liked about the thing you loved.

3. Find a way to reconcile the two.

In some cases, Number 3 isn’t possible. However, we must do our very best not to let scrupulousness stain our enjoyment of things that gave us pleasure – it is still possible to believe certain things deeply while also loving things that might conflict with that belief. This cognitive dissonance is how many of us get through our daily lives with anything like enjoyment.

Case in point: The Princess Bride. If you haven’t seen this movie, I am basically begging you to find a copy and watch it. It is maybe the best movie ever, and it’s family friendly (with the exception of one word towards the end) and generally utterly beautiful and thrilling – swordfights! giants! true love! Come back when you’ve seen it and we can talk.

The plot of The Princess Bride revolves around Buttercup (played by Robin Wright, the best actress ever), a beautiful girl living on a farm in the country of Florin, and Westley (Cary Elwes), a farm boy who works on her farm and loves her, always saying ‘As you wish’ to her requests, while secretly meaning ‘I love you’. *Siiiiiiiigh* However, the lovers’ relationship is complicated when Westley goes to sea to seek his fortune and is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves captives alive. Buttercup then becomes engaged to the loathsome Prince Humperdinck, but who are these strange people trying to stop the wedding? And who is that man in black? The plot is related by a grandfather, who is reading the story as a book to his poorly grandson (don’t worry, it’s just run-of-the-mill illness, not some horrible disease).

First things first: I adore this movie. I genuinely believe it might be one of the most perfect films ever made. Much of that is down to the fact that The Princess Bride, along with Beauty and the Beast and My Fair Lady, formed a cornerstone of my childhood film consumption,  and why not? Beautiful people, dashing men, swordplay, a great deal of humour and some really excellent lines combine to create a gorgeous story about love, and who wouldn’t love that? Westley may also have been my first crush, although I earnestly believed that he wasn’t actually a real person, but a Disney Prince come to life (I still kind of stand by this).

Tell me I’m wrong.

However, from a feminist standpoint, the film is far from perfect. Much of this is, predictably, connected with the portrayal of its titular character, Buttercup. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hollywood has two fairly straightforward ways of presenting movies set in mental institutions. We experience the setting through the eyes of a new patient, one who seems relatively “normal”, who has been admitted for reasons which seem more to do with their status as a social misfit than any mental problem. Through this character’s intervention, the other patients begin to enjoy their lives, casting off many of the more debilitating aspects of their conditions in the name of acceptance, while the hospital bureaucracy strives to shut down the protagonist’s joyful forms of intervention and management. We thus see that it is not the patients who are mad, but society etc etc etc. (Girl, Interrupted; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Alternatively, we travel with an outsider (a relative, a health worker) into a mental health institution to meet an intriguing patient who is making strange claims or who appears to have strange abilities. The protagonist’s interaction with this person ultimately changes their life even as it leaves the original patient relatively unchanged from their status at the beginning of the film. (Rain Man, K-Pax)

Park Chan-Wook’s I’m a Cyborg (But It’s OK) is thankfully like neither of those two possibilities outlined above. The protagonist is a young woman named Young-Goon who has a bizarre, near-fatal ‘accident’ in the radio factory where she works, which is interpreted as a suicide attempt. What appears at first to be schizophrenia is revealed to be something a little more strange: Young-Goon believes she is a cyborg, albeit one without a clear purpose, and her gruesome “suicide attempt” was actually to recharge her failing power supply.

More (and spoilers) under the cut.

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For this week’s K-Pop Academy Homework, I watched a film about a historical event in Korea, reviewed it and drew some conclusions about Korean history. Enjoy!

There is a huge wealth of Korean historical films and dramas, for which fans such as myself are immensely grateful. My favourite K-Drama ever is certainly Sungkyunkwan Scandal, a wonderful epic about royalty, cross-dressing and education in the Joseon Period (in this case, the late 18th century). The costuming is stunning, the plot relatively taut throughout, and the people are *gorgeous*. Did I say that last bit out loud? For this week’s homework, I watched the 2005 Korean movie The King and the Clown, reviewed it and assessed what I could glean from it about Korean history.

Before we start, a brief word about the dangers of learning from films. I love movies, truly I do, but movies are supposed to be stories, not accurate historical documents. They have to adhere to certain story-telling tenets and not leave huge gaps between the action, or people will get bored and go watch White Chicks 2 (yes, White Chicks 2 is everyone’s go-to replacement movie). If you believe absolutely everything you see in movies, you will end up being horrbly wrong about certain facts and will wind up irritating people who actually know something about the subject. Possible errors include:

  • Thinking the Trojan War took 6 months instead of 10 years.
  • Believing that the WWII Enigma machine was captured by the Americans, not the British.
  • “Knowing” that the Emperor Commodus reigned for about a month before being killed in the arena.
  • Picturing Jesus as a blonde white guy.

Gah, so many errors! Nevertheless, movies can be interesting sources of historical fact, particularly for smaller details like fashion trends and so on, so I’ll do my best to pick the wheat from the chaff.

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Despite growing up in the desert, I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns. Maybe it’s their intense focus on rugged, angry-looking men, or their espousal of traditional (read: sexist and/or racist) views. Maybe it’s all the guns and the low-voiced growling, or the way there’s always one guy who gets shot, clutches his chest and falls dramatically from a height. Maybe it’s the way they filmed night-time scenes during the day and then tinted them, making the sky a queasy shade of dark blue populated by unusually bright clouds and no stars to speak of.

Shane changed my mind. That is because Shane is basically cowboy Batman. 

SPOILERS FOR BOTH BELOW THE JUMP.

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DISCLAIMER 1: I can count the things I know about anime on one hand using only my thumbs. I’ve heard enough to know that Miyazaki is the master of the art form (although further recommendations in the comments would be much appreciated), but of his work I’ve only seen My Neighbour Totoro, a film which I can only describe as whimsical (which is dangerous, given that ‘whimsical’ is generally applied to 1. Things which aren’t whimsical and are just silly or 2. Wes Anderson). As a result I brought very few preconceptions to Howl’s Moving Castle, although I suspect I would feel differently about it if I had seen Spirited Away, the film which won Miyazaki his Oscar.

DISCLAIMER 2: I have not read the original source material for the film, the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, so I can’t compare the treatment of the subject matter in the two media.

That said, let’s get on to the review [Mild spoilers ahead].

The film is about a young lady named Sophie, who is turned into an old woman by a local sorceress, called The Witch of the Wastes, after an encounter with the enigmatic and magnetic wizard Howl. In order to hide her condition from her ditzy mother she runs away onto the Wastes outside her town and, with the help of a sentient scarecrow, she hops onto Howl’s moving castle and sets herself up as the resident cleaner. The newly-minted family faces a variety of challenges, including a looming war with a neighbouring kingdom.

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  I find lists very helpful, from ‘The Top 10 Worst Bugs Ever’ to ‘100 Books to Read Before You Die’ (I know, I know). So when I read that Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera had been voted 8th best film ever by Sight and Sound‘s poll of film critics, it seemed like a spectacular stroke of luck that it was going to be shown at the Prince Charles Cinema about a month afterwards. So I did what every list-ophile would do, and went to see it.

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