Saturday, February 28, 2009

Retail Therapy? Sounds good....



I’m still trying to finish this family Halloween family I’m writing which seems to be cursed. First of all my PC broke down completely and had to be rebuilt so I’m only getting it back this evening after a week and a half. Then it turns out that the back-up I did failed to save the most up to date copy so I’ve lost about 15 pages! And my website content seems to have gone! Grrrrr.

After all this hassle and after a week of fairly worthy festival movies, Confessions of a Shopaholic and a bag of chocolate pretzels seemed like the best plan. And I must admit that it was a lot better than I thought it’d be. Isla Fisher is funny as the hopeless spender Becky and there’s a great supporting cast (Joan Cusack and John Goodman as her parents, John Lithgow as her uber-boss). I did think Hugh Dancy was a bit weak as her love interest and as my merciless companion pointed out, he had crap hair (her thoughts, not mine). But overall, a great switch off your brain flick – and just think, your credit card debt will NEVER be as bad as Becky’s…..

Retail Therapy? Sounds good....



I’m still trying to finish this family Halloween family I’m writing which seems to be cursed. First of all my PC broke down completely and had to be rebuilt so I’m only getting it back this evening after a week and a half. Then it turns out that the back-up I did failed to save the most up to date copy so I’ve lost about 15 pages! And my website content seems to have gone! Grrrrr.

After all this hassle and after a week of fairly worthy festival movies, Confessions of a Shopaholic and a bag of chocolate pretzels seemed like the best plan. And I must admit that it was a lot better than I thought it’d be. Isla Fisher is funny as the hopeless spender Becky and there’s a great supporting cast (Joan Cusack and John Goodman as her parents, John Lithgow as her uber-boss). I did think Hugh Dancy was a bit weak as her love interest and as my merciless companion pointed out, he had crap hair (her thoughts, not mine). But overall, a great switch off your brain flick – and just think, your credit card debt will NEVER be as bad as Becky’s…..

Monday, February 23, 2009

JDIFF update Part Trois

The last day of the festival loomed: I went on one final cinematic binge which took in three films – Marley and Me, Last Chance Harvey and the perennial classic, the Surprise Film. I hadn’t put as much effort into the Surprise Film as usual because I won last year (twas The Escapist) and it seemed unfair to win again…. Plus I had no idea what it was.

Marley and Me – a cheerful film which doesn’t make me want to have a dog (or at least without it being trained to within an inch of its life). No matter how much Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s home seemed to get wrecked by Marley, it always seemed to look immaculate. They must have had a secret, off-screen Brazilian maid.

I then saw Last Chance Harvey, which was a serious preview (it doesn’t get released til June). Dustin Hoffman’s depressed jingle-writer romances Emma Thompson’s airport worker against an attractive-looking London backdrop. As a lady said in the Q&A, it’s utterly predictable but executed in such an enjoyable fashion that you don’t mind somehow.

Lastly, the Surprise Film. By the time we sat down in our seats I was convinced that it was The Boat That Rocked but it actually turned out to be… Hamlet 2 starring Steve Coogan. He’s a pretentious drama teacher who decides to write an ill-advised sequel to Hamlet and stage it at his local high school. Fun and games result. It was funny but could have been way better and I’ll admit that I can only take a certain amount of Steve Coogan. His screen time in Tropic Thunder was about right!

So that was the JDIFF 2009. I had a great time but one wish I do have is that they would organise some round-table sessions (like in Austin), where Irish producers/directors and Irish screenwriters could meet. It could only be mutually beneficial and would clear at least some of the confusion about how to meet industry types over here. Maybe for 2010….??

JDIFF update Part Trois

The last day of the festival loomed: I went on one final cinematic binge which took in three films – Marley and Me, Last Chance Harvey and the perennial classic, the Surprise Film. I hadn’t put as much effort into the Surprise Film as usual because I won last year (twas The Escapist) and it seemed unfair to win again…. Plus I had no idea what it was.

Marley and Me – a cheerful film which doesn’t make me want to have a dog (or at least without it being trained to within an inch of its life). No matter how much Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s home seemed to get wrecked by Marley, it always seemed to look immaculate. They must have had a secret, off-screen Brazilian maid.

I then saw Last Chance Harvey, which was a serious preview (it doesn’t get released til June). Dustin Hoffman’s depressed jingle-writer romances Emma Thompson’s airport worker against an attractive-looking London backdrop. As a lady said in the Q&A, it’s utterly predictable but executed in such an enjoyable fashion that you don’t mind somehow.

Lastly, the Surprise Film. By the time we sat down in our seats I was convinced that it was The Boat That Rocked but it actually turned out to be… Hamlet 2 starring Steve Coogan. He’s a pretentious drama teacher who decides to write an ill-advised sequel to Hamlet and stage it at his local high school. Fun and games result. It was funny but could have been way better and I’ll admit that I can only take a certain amount of Steve Coogan. His screen time in Tropic Thunder was about right!

So that was the JDIFF 2009. I had a great time but one wish I do have is that they would organise some round-table sessions (like in Austin), where Irish producers/directors and Irish screenwriters could meet. It could only be mutually beneficial and would clear at least some of the confusion about how to meet industry types over here. Maybe for 2010….??

Sunday, February 22, 2009

JDIFF Update Part Deux...

I decided this weekend to really go for it and have a film festival binge so kicked things off by going to see Cherrybomb – a fairly entertaining teens-gone-bad tale set in Belfast. It’s stylishly shot and contains some excellent performances, although I’ll never be able to watch Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) in the same light again….

I followed that up with Genova, which stars Colin Firth as a grieving father who goes to live in Italy with his two daughters. There was to be a public interview with Colin Firth after the screening and the audience was, let’s say, female-heavy. The atmosphere was loaded with lust-driven oestrogen and by the time Mr Darcy himself appeared there was a deathly silence, rather like being in church. There was an unspoken agreement that if anyone made a noise while Mr Firth was talking, they would be ritually poisoned to death with Chanel No. 5. Colin Firth himself appeared slightly freaked out by the whole thing and came across as a nice, self-deprecating kind of guy. He was thoroughly embarrassed when they insisted on playing part of his singing role in Mamma Mia. The film? Looks great, really enjoyed it, but the plot is virtually non-existent. It all hangs on the gorgeous scenery and good acting.

Today I started with Bitter and Twisted at Cineworld. This was an Australian flick about a dysfunctional family. So dysfunctional that by twenty minutes in I had lost all interest in the characters and was tapping my fingers on the armrest. It was like a really grim episode of Neighbours, only with ugly people. So I implemented one of my New Year’s resolutions – to walk out of any film that was worse than Only You (the worst film I’ve ever seen, despite starring Robert Downey Jnr).

I escaped, had a quick scan of the Cineworld board to see what else was on, and sneaked into a screening of Push. This turned out to be ludicrously, hysterically bad – and highly entertaining. The only thing that disappointed me was Chris Evans, who after redeeming himself by being brilliant in Sunshine, seems to have decided to take an axe to his own career. Don’t do it Chris!

Last film of the day was Five Minutes of Heaven with Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as two men who are due to meet as part of the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. One is a former loyalist terrorist, the other is the brother of the man he shot dead in 1975. It sounds like a something which could easily drift into being sentimental or too grim, but Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel avoids both, creating a powerful drama that you get utterly drawn into. Both actors and Hirschbiegel appeared afterwards to answer questions and described the different ways they approached their roles: Neeson decided not to meet the man he character is based on, while Nesbitt spent a lot of time with his real-life counterpart and based a lot of his performance on the real guy. My opinion after seeing it? Neeson gives an excellent but slightly removed performance, but James Nesbitt completely inhabits the role of Jimmy Griffin and is the most memorable part of the film.

JDIFF Update Part Deux...

I decided this weekend to really go for it and have a film festival binge so kicked things off by going to see Cherrybomb – a fairly entertaining teens-gone-bad tale set in Belfast. It’s stylishly shot and contains some excellent performances, although I’ll never be able to watch Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) in the same light again….

I followed that up with Genova, which stars Colin Firth as a grieving father who goes to live in Italy with his two daughters. There was to be a public interview with Colin Firth after the screening and the audience was, let’s say, female-heavy. The atmosphere was loaded with lust-driven oestrogen and by the time Mr Darcy himself appeared there was a deathly silence, rather like being in church. There was an unspoken agreement that if anyone made a noise while Mr Firth was talking, they would be ritually poisoned to death with Chanel No. 5. Colin Firth himself appeared slightly freaked out by the whole thing and came across as a nice, self-deprecating kind of guy. He was thoroughly embarrassed when they insisted on playing part of his singing role in Mamma Mia. The film? Looks great, really enjoyed it, but the plot is virtually non-existent. It all hangs on the gorgeous scenery and good acting.

Today I started with Bitter and Twisted at Cineworld. This was an Australian flick about a dysfunctional family. So dysfunctional that by twenty minutes in I had lost all interest in the characters and was tapping my fingers on the armrest. It was like a really grim episode of Neighbours, only with ugly people. So I implemented one of my New Year’s resolutions – to walk out of any film that was worse than Only You (the worst film I’ve ever seen, despite starring Robert Downey Jnr).

I escaped, had a quick scan of the Cineworld board to see what else was on, and sneaked into a screening of Push. This turned out to be ludicrously, hysterically bad – and highly entertaining. The only thing that disappointed me was Chris Evans, who after redeeming himself by being brilliant in Sunshine, seems to have decided to take an axe to his own career. Don’t do it Chris!

Last film of the day was Five Minutes of Heaven with Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as two men who are due to meet as part of the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. One is a former loyalist terrorist, the other is the brother of the man he shot dead in 1975. It sounds like a something which could easily drift into being sentimental or too grim, but Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel avoids both, creating a powerful drama that you get utterly drawn into. Both actors and Hirschbiegel appeared afterwards to answer questions and described the different ways they approached their roles: Neeson decided not to meet the man he character is based on, while Nesbitt spent a lot of time with his real-life counterpart and based a lot of his performance on the real guy. My opinion after seeing it? Neeson gives an excellent but slightly removed performance, but James Nesbitt completely inhabits the role of Jimmy Griffin and is the most memorable part of the film.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Update on the film fest and the pitching

The pitching is over - for now at least. I pitched to 13 people and ended up sending treatments/scripts/loglines to 10 of them. It's too early to tell if anything solid will come of it, but even if nothing else emerges I learned the following:

  • I'm not bad at pitching! Plus practice makes perfect.
  • A load of useful people's names and email addresses.
  • What isn't working in my loglines.
  • That the ideas I currently only have treatments for are viable and that I should go ahead and write the scripts. This alone was great to establish as there's nothing worse than blindly writing a script without knowing if there's a market for it.
All this, plus it was fun! The only downer I'm having this week is that I've realised that between this and the trip to Austin I now have loads of contacts in the U.S. and NONE over here. I just do not know how to break into the Irish market, or even how people sell scripts here. Do producers accept pitches? What are they looking for? I'm not sure where to start - but as I see it I have two choices: give up on Ireland altogether and just try to sell U.S.-based scripts or get my thinking cap on and come up with a strategy...

Saw an Irish film called Our Wonderful Home tonight at the IFI as part of the festival. It's the most depressing film I've ever seen - even beats Hotel Rwanda. A guy called Ivan Kavanagh wrote, directed and edited it, which I would question because it seems to me that he lost any objectivity by going that route. Overall it was well-acted but not remotely entertaining - I'd never watch it again and wouldn't imagine that it's going to do well at the box office. It provides the most disheartening view of Dublin - and Ireland - that I've ever seen and I didn't give a shit about any of the characters. If they'd all died in a spectacular nuclear apocalypse and come back to life as robots about halfway through that would at least have cheered me up...

Then I ran from the Q&A with everyone saying the same thing politely ("it's very depressing, though, isn't it?) to Mise Eire, which as my viewing companion pointed out, is very historically interesting but contains far too many funerals. Plus it stops right before the War of Independence, which surely cut out a lot of the most compelling stuff? Nonetheless, I did spend some time looking for my great-grandad, who allegedly appears in the movie at some point but had no luck. All the men looked the same in their hats and the old footage wasn't the best in terms of picture quality (surprising that!).

Ah, Irish movies. Can't beat em, can't get one made...

Update on the film fest and the pitching

The pitching is over - for now at least. I pitched to 13 people and ended up sending treatments/scripts/loglines to 10 of them. It's too early to tell if anything solid will come of it, but even if nothing else emerges I learned the following:

  • I'm not bad at pitching! Plus practice makes perfect.
  • A load of useful people's names and email addresses.
  • What isn't working in my loglines.
  • That the ideas I currently only have treatments for are viable and that I should go ahead and write the scripts. This alone was great to establish as there's nothing worse than blindly writing a script without knowing if there's a market for it.
All this, plus it was fun! The only downer I'm having this week is that I've realised that between this and the trip to Austin I now have loads of contacts in the U.S. and NONE over here. I just do not know how to break into the Irish market, or even how people sell scripts here. Do producers accept pitches? What are they looking for? I'm not sure where to start - but as I see it I have two choices: give up on Ireland altogether and just try to sell U.S.-based scripts or get my thinking cap on and come up with a strategy...

Saw an Irish film called Our Wonderful Home tonight at the IFI as part of the festival. It's the most depressing film I've ever seen - even beats Hotel Rwanda. A guy called Ivan Kavanagh wrote, directed and edited it, which I would question because it seems to me that he lost any objectivity by going that route. Overall it was well-acted but not remotely entertaining - I'd never watch it again and wouldn't imagine that it's going to do well at the box office. It provides the most disheartening view of Dublin - and Ireland - that I've ever seen and I didn't give a shit about any of the characters. If they'd all died in a spectacular nuclear apocalypse and come back to life as robots about halfway through that would at least have cheered me up...

Then I ran from the Q&A with everyone saying the same thing politely ("it's very depressing, though, isn't it?) to Mise Eire, which as my viewing companion pointed out, is very historically interesting but contains far too many funerals. Plus it stops right before the War of Independence, which surely cut out a lot of the most compelling stuff? Nonetheless, I did spend some time looking for my great-grandad, who allegedly appears in the movie at some point but had no luck. All the men looked the same in their hats and the old footage wasn't the best in terms of picture quality (surprising that!).

Ah, Irish movies. Can't beat em, can't get one made...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pitchin' Online

The reason I haven't seen more films during the opening weekend is that I'm taking part in an online pitching event organised by Fade-In magazine in the U.S. Basically you talk for up to 10 minutes to 10-13 agents/managers/producers/development execs over three days. Or seeing as I'm eight hours ahead of them, three nights - and tonight is the last one. I have 6 people left to pitch to - have done seven pitches so far since Friday and have had three no's, 2 requests for copies of my treatments and 2 maybe's. I have my fingers crossed for the rest of them!

So far the only problems have been that Skype can be a bit tricky sound-wise, especially at busy periods when it's this long-distance, Fade-In have cocked up the schedule at times and I've missed some of the Dublin Film Festival...

Pitchin' Online

The reason I haven't seen more films during the opening weekend is that I'm taking part in an online pitching event organised by Fade-In magazine in the U.S. Basically you talk for up to 10 minutes to 10-13 agents/managers/producers/development execs over three days. Or seeing as I'm eight hours ahead of them, three nights - and tonight is the last one. I have 6 people left to pitch to - have done seven pitches so far since Friday and have had three no's, 2 requests for copies of my treatments and 2 maybe's. I have my fingers crossed for the rest of them!

So far the only problems have been that Skype can be a bit tricky sound-wise, especially at busy periods when it's this long-distance, Fade-In have cocked up the schedule at times and I've missed some of the Dublin Film Festival...

JDIFF movies so far...

After the fantastic Doubt on Thursday night, the next film I saw during the Dublin festival was the Turkish film Dot yesterday afternoon. It was an okay-thriller about a man who steals an ancient Koran and then tries to atone for his sins. Taught me quite a lot about Turkish calligraphy, mind!

I then rushed home to do some online pitches (more details later) and returned to see the Palm d'Or winning French movie The Class. This is a fictional movie shot like a documentary about a high school teacher in a rough Parisien district and his class of 13-year-old students. Brilliantly performed by its non-professional cast, this is an unflinchingly honest look at the realities of being a teacher. Francois, the teacher in question, never fails to challenge his class yet it is clear that he cares deeply about their uncertain futures. The script is funny and acerbic - I highly recommend this one and it should be required viewing for anyone who thinks controlling a class is easy!

Then this morning I saw the utterly brilliant Gran Torino. This is allegedly Clint Eastwood's last film as an actor - if so it's a fitting swansong for him. We first see his character, retired Detroit auto-worker Walt Kowalski glowering at his wife's funeral, gazing in bewildered rage at the congregation. It's hard to know who he is more angry at: his wife for dying and leaving him, his two grown sons and their repellent families or the young parish priest whom he refuses to engage with.

Walt is a simmering presence throughout the film - never has there been a more angry old man and the fact that he is the main character is one of the things that makes Gran Torino so enjoyable. He is an unrepentent and unflinching racist, calling his Vietnamese neighbours zipperheads (and worse!) and telling the young priest that he is nothing more than an overeducated virgin. He's rude and unpleasant - and yet totally watchable.

The film sees Walt getting unwillingly involved in the lives of his next-door neighbours: shy son Thao and his outgoing sister Su, as well as their mother and grandmother. Thao is being targeted by a local Asian gang, who want him to become a member. When their efforts to recruit him spill onto Walt's property and he threatens them with a gun, he becomes a hero to the neighbourhood and an enemy to the gang. The scene is set for a bloody showdown - but on the way we see a chance for redemption as Walt gets Thao a job and against the odds, starts to view him as a friend.

With shades of his old characters Dirty Harry and William Munny haunting this movie, Clint Eastwood commands the screen from his first moment and it's his film all the way, but he is supported by an outstanding cast, many of whom are not pro actors. This is possibly Eastwood's most personal films in years and it is certainly one of his best.

JDIFF movies so far...

After the fantastic Doubt on Thursday night, the next film I saw during the Dublin festival was the Turkish film Dot yesterday afternoon. It was an okay-thriller about a man who steals an ancient Koran and then tries to atone for his sins. Taught me quite a lot about Turkish calligraphy, mind!

I then rushed home to do some online pitches (more details later) and returned to see the Palm d'Or winning French movie The Class. This is a fictional movie shot like a documentary about a high school teacher in a rough Parisien district and his class of 13-year-old students. Brilliantly performed by its non-professional cast, this is an unflinchingly honest look at the realities of being a teacher. Francois, the teacher in question, never fails to challenge his class yet it is clear that he cares deeply about their uncertain futures. The script is funny and acerbic - I highly recommend this one and it should be required viewing for anyone who thinks controlling a class is easy!

Then this morning I saw the utterly brilliant Gran Torino. This is allegedly Clint Eastwood's last film as an actor - if so it's a fitting swansong for him. We first see his character, retired Detroit auto-worker Walt Kowalski glowering at his wife's funeral, gazing in bewildered rage at the congregation. It's hard to know who he is more angry at: his wife for dying and leaving him, his two grown sons and their repellent families or the young parish priest whom he refuses to engage with.

Walt is a simmering presence throughout the film - never has there been a more angry old man and the fact that he is the main character is one of the things that makes Gran Torino so enjoyable. He is an unrepentent and unflinching racist, calling his Vietnamese neighbours zipperheads (and worse!) and telling the young priest that he is nothing more than an overeducated virgin. He's rude and unpleasant - and yet totally watchable.

The film sees Walt getting unwillingly involved in the lives of his next-door neighbours: shy son Thao and his outgoing sister Su, as well as their mother and grandmother. Thao is being targeted by a local Asian gang, who want him to become a member. When their efforts to recruit him spill onto Walt's property and he threatens them with a gun, he becomes a hero to the neighbourhood and an enemy to the gang. The scene is set for a bloody showdown - but on the way we see a chance for redemption as Walt gets Thao a job and against the odds, starts to view him as a friend.

With shades of his old characters Dirty Harry and William Munny haunting this movie, Clint Eastwood commands the screen from his first moment and it's his film all the way, but he is supported by an outstanding cast, many of whom are not pro actors. This is possibly Eastwood's most personal films in years and it is certainly one of his best.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Have No Doubts About This One

Thanks to the wonders of my season ticket I got into the sold-out opening film of the Dublin Film Festival last night - the Oscar-baiting Doubt. It was all very entertaining from the moment a composed but slightly nervous Grainne Humphreys got up to introduce the JDIFF line-up 2009. Two French guys spoke after - a well-dressed man called Alexandre from Pernod Ricard on behalf of Jameson who made a funny but very cheesy speech peppered with references to the whiskey in question. Then Thierry Fremaux from the Cannes Film Festival, who was charming and just slightly patronising (he kept calling JDIFF a "leedle festival". I mean, it is small, but come on!).

So what about the film? Well I can see why virtually the whole cast is up for an Academy Award. There are brilliant performances all over the place as Meryl Streep plays a monstrous nun in charge of a 1960's Bronx school who clashes with progressive priest Philip Seymour Hoffman. Streep's character Sister Aloysius suspects that Hoffman's Father Flynn has been making advances on the school's only black pupil, Donald Miller. But has he? Or is Aloysius simply seizing the opportunity to destroy her hated rival? The young and innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) is dragged into the middle of their battle, as is the pupil's mother (Viola Davis, who is outstanding in a very small role).

To say any more would be to ruin this duplicitous treat, which is the kind of film that stays with you and leaves you wondering for days after about apparently throwaway details. John Patrick Shanley has done a great job of adapting his own hit play - unlike many plays-turned-movies the scenes never feel stagey. Keep a close eye on all the action - and enjoy!

I Have No Doubts About This One

Thanks to the wonders of my season ticket I got into the sold-out opening film of the Dublin Film Festival last night - the Oscar-baiting Doubt. It was all very entertaining from the moment a composed but slightly nervous Grainne Humphreys got up to introduce the JDIFF line-up 2009. Two French guys spoke after - a well-dressed man called Alexandre from Pernod Ricard on behalf of Jameson who made a funny but very cheesy speech peppered with references to the whiskey in question. Then Thierry Fremaux from the Cannes Film Festival, who was charming and just slightly patronising (he kept calling JDIFF a "leedle festival". I mean, it is small, but come on!).

So what about the film? Well I can see why virtually the whole cast is up for an Academy Award. There are brilliant performances all over the place as Meryl Streep plays a monstrous nun in charge of a 1960's Bronx school who clashes with progressive priest Philip Seymour Hoffman. Streep's character Sister Aloysius suspects that Hoffman's Father Flynn has been making advances on the school's only black pupil, Donald Miller. But has he? Or is Aloysius simply seizing the opportunity to destroy her hated rival? The young and innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) is dragged into the middle of their battle, as is the pupil's mother (Viola Davis, who is outstanding in a very small role).

To say any more would be to ruin this duplicitous treat, which is the kind of film that stays with you and leaves you wondering for days after about apparently throwaway details. John Patrick Shanley has done a great job of adapting his own hit play - unlike many plays-turned-movies the scenes never feel stagey. Keep a close eye on all the action - and enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I'm Just Not Into This Movie

After Bride Wars I was nearly afraid to venture to see another rom-com but on a snowy Friday something fluffy seemed appealing. So I joined a very female audience (about 98.9%) to see He’s Just Not Into You. This quote, if you remember, came from an episode of Sex and the City, which spawned a highly-successful self-help book and now this film.

My verdict? Well it’s nowhere near as much of a crash crash as Bride Wars but this is still no Pretty Woman. A stellar cast (Jennifer Connolly, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson) is seriously under-used in this interweaving story of couples coming together and falling apart. The central premise, as outlined by straight-talking barman Alex (Justin Long) is that if a guy does anything other than ask for your number (i.e. give you his number, say he has to go away on business etc), he’s not really interested. Of course, there are also male characters who don’t understand when they are being strung along – Kevin Connolly plays a poor sap who is being driven to distraction by femme fatale Scarlett Johansson, who in turn is being played for a fool by smarmy lawyer Bradley Cooper.

But the real message turns out to be (yawn!) “don’t judge people by their appearance”. What a ground-breaking concept!

While none of the parts are especially well-written, the male characters are much better served rather than the girls. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character GG is easily the third most annoying film female I’ve encountered (she is only beaten by the two harpies from Bride Wars). If Martians every decide to judge humans solely by modern romantic comedies, they will conclude that women are brainless, shallow creatures with no pastimes other than stalking men and being bitchy to each other. This is annoying because it’s not impossible to write decent female parts in these movies – see 27 Dresses for an entertaining example – but too often the girls in rom coms are reduced to being unpleasant paper cut-outs.

Anyway, go and see this movie with your female friends if you want an undemanding couple of laughs and your expectations aren’t too high!

I'm Just Not Into This Movie

After Bride Wars I was nearly afraid to venture to see another rom-com but on a snowy Friday something fluffy seemed appealing. So I joined a very female audience (about 98.9%) to see He’s Just Not Into You. This quote, if you remember, came from an episode of Sex and the City, which spawned a highly-successful self-help book and now this film.

My verdict? Well it’s nowhere near as much of a crash crash as Bride Wars but this is still no Pretty Woman. A stellar cast (Jennifer Connolly, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson) is seriously under-used in this interweaving story of couples coming together and falling apart. The central premise, as outlined by straight-talking barman Alex (Justin Long) is that if a guy does anything other than ask for your number (i.e. give you his number, say he has to go away on business etc), he’s not really interested. Of course, there are also male characters who don’t understand when they are being strung along – Kevin Connolly plays a poor sap who is being driven to distraction by femme fatale Scarlett Johansson, who in turn is being played for a fool by smarmy lawyer Bradley Cooper.

But the real message turns out to be (yawn!) “don’t judge people by their appearance”. What a ground-breaking concept!

While none of the parts are especially well-written, the male characters are much better served rather than the girls. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character GG is easily the third most annoying film female I’ve encountered (she is only beaten by the two harpies from Bride Wars). If Martians every decide to judge humans solely by modern romantic comedies, they will conclude that women are brainless, shallow creatures with no pastimes other than stalking men and being bitchy to each other. This is annoying because it’s not impossible to write decent female parts in these movies – see 27 Dresses for an entertaining example – but too often the girls in rom coms are reduced to being unpleasant paper cut-outs.

Anyway, go and see this movie with your female friends if you want an undemanding couple of laughs and your expectations aren’t too high!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Harvey Milk is here to recruit you…

Milk is a surprisingly upbeat film about the life of gay activist Harvey Milk. This is surprising, given that Milk was assassinated at only 48 by a disgruntled political colleague. Milk, however, managed to fit a lot into his relatively short existence and the film celebrates his life as much as his death.

The film starts with 40-year-old Milk working as an insurance salesman in New York. Still relatively closeted, he is spurred to change when he meets the much younger Scott Smith (James Franco) and decides to move to San Francisco with him. There they open a camera shop in the burgeoning Castro district and Milk becomes heavily involved in the emerging gay rights movement, firstly merely as an activist and then as a politician. He is finally elected as a City Supervisor and it is in this role that he meets his future killer, the angry and unstable Dan White.

The opening credits show genuine footage of a gay bar in the early Sixties being raided by police and its well-dressed, mostly middle-aged clientele being herded into police vans. From here on, the gay community’s struggle to achieve even basic human rights is angrily but articulately depicted. Milk became involved in the battle against Proposition 6, which would have made it possible for gay teachers and other public workers to be fired on the basis of their orientation. It is a depressing fact that even as this movie was opening in the States, gay couples’ right to marry was being repealed in California.

Sean Penn gives a winning performance as Milk and he is ably supported by the rest of the cast - in particular by Emile Hirsch as the irrepressible campaigner Cleve Jones. It’s a credit to Josh Brolin’s talents that he is able to win some sympathy from us for Dan White.

Milk could have been a very depressing experience but here Gus Van Sant and his writer Dustin Lance Black have created a joyful tribute to Harvey Milk’s life that is truly moving.

Harvey Milk is here to recruit you…

Milk is a surprisingly upbeat film about the life of gay activist Harvey Milk. This is surprising, given that Milk was assassinated at only 48 by a disgruntled political colleague. Milk, however, managed to fit a lot into his relatively short existence and the film celebrates his life as much as his death.

The film starts with 40-year-old Milk working as an insurance salesman in New York. Still relatively closeted, he is spurred to change when he meets the much younger Scott Smith (James Franco) and decides to move to San Francisco with him. There they open a camera shop in the burgeoning Castro district and Milk becomes heavily involved in the emerging gay rights movement, firstly merely as an activist and then as a politician. He is finally elected as a City Supervisor and it is in this role that he meets his future killer, the angry and unstable Dan White.

The opening credits show genuine footage of a gay bar in the early Sixties being raided by police and its well-dressed, mostly middle-aged clientele being herded into police vans. From here on, the gay community’s struggle to achieve even basic human rights is angrily but articulately depicted. Milk became involved in the battle against Proposition 6, which would have made it possible for gay teachers and other public workers to be fired on the basis of their orientation. It is a depressing fact that even as this movie was opening in the States, gay couples’ right to marry was being repealed in California.

Sean Penn gives a winning performance as Milk and he is ably supported by the rest of the cast - in particular by Emile Hirsch as the irrepressible campaigner Cleve Jones. It’s a credit to Josh Brolin’s talents that he is able to win some sympathy from us for Dan White.

Milk could have been a very depressing experience but here Gus Van Sant and his writer Dustin Lance Black have created a joyful tribute to Harvey Milk’s life that is truly moving.