Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A is for Ava...

Seeing as it is the last day of August, I shall use this post to talk about one of the true goddesses of the silver screen- Ava Gardner. Like Liz Taylor, Ava has become more reknowned for the gossip and stories surrounding her personal life and tempestuous relationships, namely with Frank Sinatra.

Ava is a very well-known actress, but nobody gives her the credit she deserved for her performances, including herself. She was no Bette Davis, but Ava brought a realism and earthiness to the screen that hadn't been seen in female actresses before. She has performed some rather one-dimensional characters like Kitty Collins in The Killers- looks out of this world beautiful, but her lines and character are one of the most bland femmes fatale in film noir.

However, watching her in Mogambo, The Barefoot Contessa and The Night of the Iguana, she is fantastic.  In fact I would say that Ava Gardner was one of the first actresses in film where it felt like she wasn't performing, the line between acting and becoming the character had faded and she became her characters fully. This worldly quality she possessed is truly spellbinding, for when she was given roles that were multi-dimensional, she could be a strong woman but could also express a fragility that was subtle. In fact, I would go as far as saying that Ava was the most complex actress of her time, even when she played big and brash characters she always showed how there was more to them than the side they showed and she made it 100% believable. And yet, Ava got none of the credit she deserved compared to others at the time like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, who were praised more for their acting which in my opinion, was not as good as Ava when she was at her best and given the chance.

I suppose the only accolade she ever received was an Oscar nomination for her role in Mogambo. She is absolutely marvellous in that film, and far from the MGM acting class pupil she was at the beginning of her career.

Ava Gardner aged 16.
Ava was beautiful in all her movies, but if you want to see her at her most beautiful, look at her photos taken before she went to Hollywood. Untouched, unaltered- natural Ava is truly what artists would probably call the perfect woman. When we read about Southern Belle's bewitching everyman in their town- Ava is the perfect match, being a Southern gal herself, she is the true Belle of every county.

Offscreen, Ava was inspirational beyond belief. I implore you all to read her autobiography My Story, for you will find not only a compelling read but a compelling life about a strong woman who stood by her values, and lived life to the full. I wish I had her strength and passion for everything.

Please remember Ava, not only for being one of the most beautiful women to have walked this planet, but for being a solid actress and remarkable woman, who brought more to film than many care to acknowledge.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Titanic: A Kubrick moment?

James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic is one of those rare phenomenon in film where a picture completely captures the hearts of the moviegoing public, to the point where it becomes an instant classic.The lovers Rose and Jack, the haunting theme song and the dazzling effects that recreate this enormous and legendary vessel are all worth the price of admission alone. I am not going to review this great movie however, instead I am going to share what I noticed during one scene of the film that I don't think anyone else has noticed or thought was important enough to mention.

There is a scene in Titanic where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters the first class premises of the ship for the first time. He has never been near such luxury before, and if he has even been close, this time he is dressed as a member of the elite passengers and is therefore treated as royalty. This scene takes place around the famous grand staircase on the ship, which is covered by an enormous domed window. Jack looks up at the this great domed glass ceiling, as if it is another planet. He is gazing at the globe, and underneath the globe (Jack looks down at the staircase) we see the beautifully dressed rich, in all their silks, furs and jewels, strolling calmly, speaking to each other in refined and educated language. Jack is looking at a completely different world to the one he comes from. He comes from the poor ranks of society- where people struggle to get by and have only a few possessions to their name. He has seen the rich before, but not from this perspective. He is now in their world and a part of their world, even if it is only for the evening. I couldn't find the clip on YouTube but here are photos that give the idea:

This reminded me greatly of the sequence in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey that comes straight after the ape man or caveman throws a bone into the air. This scene shows a spacecraft or some sort of satellite orbiting the earth. We as an audience are seeing earth from the perspective of an outsider, and we are the spacecraft, floating around this world that we have never seen so vividly before. This is the similarity. Jack is the spacecraft, the domed glass ceiling is the world, and both are mere spectators of this beautiful new sight. Here is the scene at 0:14...

You may think my observances are far-fetched, but to give my argument more ground there is one other overlapping quality that convinces me of James Cameron's inspiration or mini-homage. During both sequences Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube waltz is playing.

This is not the most interesting observance made about a film, but I must ask that next time you view Titanic and 2001: A Space Odyssey, observe these sequences and see if you think there is a strong enough similarity between both.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tarzan: Where have I seen that before?

Disney's Tarzan is one of the studio's unsung greats. Their telling of the tale of the ape man is surrounded some of the best animation/ computer effects ever done in a film, Disney's animators created a jungle that seemed real enough for us as an audience to become lost in it, and fall in love with it. Again, Disney does not fail with it's characters who are just as lovable as any of it's predecessors. And of course, the soundtrack, although it is all mostly sung by Phil Collins, is full of upbeat, exciting songs, along with a very beautiful score in the more serious parts of the film. Yes Tarzan has everything and more you would expect from a Disney film, and I'm sure that Walt Disney would be more than proud of it.

The aim of this blog post is to share my thoughts on the many references to previous Disney films in Tarzan, which cannot be ignored. They are not signs of Disney getting sloppy and using material that they have used before, not at all. I see Tarzan as a homage to all the Disney classics, as well as a classic in it's own right. We could even call it, the Once Upon a Time in the West of Disney's animated films.

I think the most obvious reference in Tarzan is to The Jungle Book, and before you roll your eyes, it's not because they are both set in a jungle. Both follow the story of male being brought up by a group of animals; for Mowgli is was a wolfpack, for Tarzan it is a family of gorillas. However, where Mowgli can seemingly act like any animal he wants but is ultimately still human in how he walks, Tarzan has become the link between man and ape. That is one of the aspects I think Disney did brilliantly in this film, they made it believable that Tarzan was one of the gorillas, even to the point where he had to learn English to speak to the humans that arrive, because he only speaks in 'gorilla'.

Another big reference to previous films was the character of Kerchak, leader of the gorilla family. This character is impressive in his sheer size, imposing presence and his wisdom for the group. But this character has elements of so many other characters: namely Mufasa, the Beast, Chief Powhatan and the Great Prince of the Forest (Bambi's father). Kerchak has a similar role to Mufasa and Powhatan- they are both leaders and both have wisdom of age that helps them protect their family. There are many moments in Tarzan where they show Kerchak looking down at Tarzan, always alone and high up- this is very similar to Bambi's father. As for his similarity to the Beast, both have the same voice- frightening but tender, much like their character.

The character of Tantor as a baby elephant, I think everyone will have noticed, is remarkably like the baby elephant in The Jungle Book- similar blocked-noise, squeaky, cute voices. Both are adorable friends to our main characters. In fact, even the mother of Tantor is pretty much identical in voice and character to the mother of the elephant in The Jungle Book.

As for the villain, he is quite unique apart from a slight similarity to Governor Ratcliffe. Both British explorers who have no respect for the foreign people/animals who inhabit the land they are trying to take over or make money from.

We cannot forget Jane's father, Professor Porter who looks like nearly every father figure in the Disney filmography. The sultan, King Hubert, the King from Cinderella and Maurice are all short, with a white hair and a big white moustache. Aside from that similarity, this character is very fun and original, bringing a lot of comedy to the film.

On the other hand, our damsel in distress is breath of fresh air after the other Disney heroines. I love Belle, Ariel and Jasmine, but compared to Esmeralda, Mulan and Meg who have a sharpness and strength that you don't find in the princesses. Jane is also British, making her incredibly funny for you can see the American view of the Brits- the characteristics usually being prim 'n' proper, and a little silly times.

As for the character of Tarzan himself, he is really very different to other Disney males. There is so much intensity with this character, and for once, I do feel that our hero really does love our heroine. Like Hercules, it feels that the hero loves her personality, instead of the 'love at first sight' formula that is found in so many of Disney's films. Wonderful as these conventions are, it is lovely to see a romance blossom throughout the film, and is beautifully expressed in the number 'Strangers Like Me'.

What I really love about Tarzan is that it is a real journey. It starts with Tarzan's biological family's journey, then with Tarzan's journey to become an ape, then his journey to learn from humans- ultimately his journey of life and we totally feel a part of that. Phil Collin's does a fantastic job with the soundtrack, so much so that we want to be in that jungle, and we even feel a bit tearful with his almost ambient score when Tarzan finally finds his original home and discovers his real parents.

Last but not least, the visuals in Tarzan are out of this world. Thanks to computer technology, Disney's animators managed to create intricate jungle branches and vines that appear like a video game or a rollercoaster, taking us on this fun ride that Disney has never visually been able to do before.

Tarzan is one of Disney's most exciting films boasting wonderful characters, memorable songs and breathtaking visuals, it a must for anybody who just wants to escape for a couple of hours. And for all you Disney fans out there, keep an eye out for the many references to it's predecessor, there are many more which I have not mentioned but are well worth noting. It is Disney's homage, and finale to a decade where the studio came back to life bigger and better than ever, before continuing with lesser films, and having only Pixar to redeem the company's former glory.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Use of make-up in American Beauty: Beyond the plastic bag...

A lot of people who discuss or critique American Beauty more often than not comment on the beauty that is in front of our eyes but we are blind too- e.g. the floating plastic bag. However, I am just going to comment on what I have noticed whilst watching the movie numerous times, and the other ideas of beauty that is explored or hinted at during the film.

Make-up is a major player in this movie in showing what is perceived as beautiful and how make-up is used to create the illusion of beauty/ enhance beauty. I will analyse the female characters in this movie- Carolyn, Jane, Angela and Barbara (Ricky's mother).

Firstly, Carolyn. Carolyn Burnham is obsessed with image and appearance. She wants her home and business to look like it is successful and as it should be, so she does that by certain coverings up. As she clearly states, 'She must live that image' and she agrees with Buddy's philosophy- 'In order to be successful, one must project a successful image at all times'. Owner of her own real estate business, Carol must look the image of a successful business woman, even though she is losing out to local competition. She always has immaculate hair, snazzy suits, but most of all, she wears a dark red lipstick. Not only does it look classy, but it makes her look like she lives a glamorous lifestyle, and it makes her seem younger than she is because red lipstick is known for being a sexy thing to wear.

Beginning of film

End of film
Secondly we'll look at Jane. Now Jane is a self-conscious teenager who hates the way she looks, and at the beginning of the movie she wears a dark red lipstick to make herself feel sexy, and she wears a lot of heavy black liner that is not only quite provocative, but quite rebellious too. Of course, after she meets Ricky she becomes more confident because he thinks that she is beautiful, and as she progressively feels more confident in herself, the make-up slowly gets more  reduced to just mascara, to no make-up at all at the end of the movie.

Beginning of film
End of film
Thirdly is Angela. Now at the beginning of the film Angela is aware of her sexual allure but she is an innocent girl who hasn't actually had real attention off another man. But when she realises that Jane's dad Lester is seriously attracted to her, she starts to flirt with him, and we see at school that she tells people that she sleeps around and is really sexually experienced. This is all a lie, and the more lies she tells, the more of an image she has to project, so she turns from quite natural make-up at the beginning of the film, to a a lot of make-up girl seeking attention and trying to look sexy. She wears dark blue eyeshadow on her eyelids in a smokey-eye fashion making her eyes look sultry, and she too dons the red-lip. At the end of the film, when Angela tells Lester that she is a virgin, she starts to cry because she feels stupid. The crying causes her make-up to run which symbolises her mask of being this experienced siren if you like, is washing away, or falling apart. She is just a young girl trying to act like a developed and sexually aware woman.

And finally Barbara (left), who lives a bare, boring- basically doesn't have a life anymore, wears no make-up through the movie. Her face shows her life as it is- empty, blank and dull. She is not covering up anything, she is showing exactly who she is.

Aside from the characters, I'm going to briefly bring to your attention the idea of beauty- what does the title American Beauty mean? When I think about American Beauty I think Marilyn Monroe because she was the dream image of every man during the 1950's, and even today is thought of by many as the ultimate dream, perfection of woman. The 'perfect size' measurements for a woman have been Marilyn Monroe's measurements for over fifty years. This relates to American Beauty because of it's most famous scene, Angela lying nude on a bed of red rose petals.

Marilyn Monroe
Now Angela is blonde like Marilyn, and is wearing red lipstick- Marilyn's trademark. But most of all, this scene is unmistakably similar to Marilyn's first photoshoot that was printed in Playboy magazine. Instead of petals we have red velvet, but the image is strikingly similar. I have not read anywhere that Marilyn's photo was the inspiration but I believe that there is a strong chance that her photo was the basis for the scene.

So yes, please when you watch American Beauty observe the plastic bag, etc, but please also look at the clever and insightful use of make-up in the film because it is remarkable and incredibly revealing. Fantastic film with so much depth. Next time you watch this, do exactly as the films subtitle tells you to... look closer.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Trouble With Icons...

One thing I cannot fathom is why people say they are a fan of someone, when they don't know anything about them. Our world is full of icons like James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, and we are constantly surrounded by calendars, stationary, handbags, pencil cases and other decorative items bearing their image. But when you see someone wearing a James Dean t-shirt, does that person even know who James Dean is? When you see someone looking at a poster of Audrey Hepburn saying "I love her" have they even watched any of her films? Do they know or even like Elvis Presley's songs? When I see a poster of Kurt Cobain, regardless of whether the poster is a cool photo, or if I know he is iconic and most people admire him, I will not buy it simply because I only know two Nirvana songs and that he died young.

How can you be a fan of someone, or purchase something that has an image of a certain famous person, if you do not know who they are, their work or their life? The fact is you can buy it, but if fan's of that person ask you what their favourite song/ film is, you're going to look pretty stupid.

I am a big Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and James Dean fan, so when I go to a friend's house and they have a Marilyn poster on their wall, I would immediately be slightly happy that I found a fellow fan and ask them, 'What's your favourite Marilyn film?'.

I know there are some great photos of the icons, and they do look cool on your wall. But I'm just saying, if you're that interested to buy a photo/ t-shirt of this person, why not look them up? Check out their work? That way your purchase will mean something, and look even more better in your home. And trust me, these people aren't icons for nothing- when you look at their work you can see why they became so famous and admired.

For anyone interested: check Elvis's greatest hits just to get a taster, and watch some of his live performances. He was a great comedian, performer, and his voice was beautiful but powerful too. As for Marilyn, she was a comedic genius, not just a gorgeous woman- watch The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot for her at her comedic best, and then for her more dramatic performances watch Bus Stop. Regardless of her harshest ( and usually, jealous) critics, Monroe could act in serious roles, and gave some heartbreaking performances when given the chance.

Audrey Hepburn is an angel, you can't not like her. Everything she does brings a smile to your face, and her films are always full of humour, romance and entertainment. Check out Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady. You'll fall in love with Audrey like everyone else.

And finally, James Dean- don't go by his most iconic performance in Rebel Without A Cause, although it is brilliant, his greatest performance is in East of Eden. He's as cool as he was back in the 1950's, and you can see why he inspired so many great actors like Al Pacino.

You'll be pleasantly surprised with all of these icons once you've checked them out, and if you haven't, then maybe you'll regret buying that picture you thought looked so cool?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Stage Fright: Hitchcock's Unsung Brilliance

Alfred Hitchcock- the man who shocked the world during the 1930's-1970's with his masterpiece thrillers is still today, as revered and talked about by film critics and film theorists more than any other director. 'The Master of Suspense' is famous for so many classics that have stood the test of time like Rear Window, North by Northwest, The Birds, Strangers on a Train and Psycho to name a handful. Yes directors like Wilder, Leone, Ford, Huston and Scorsese have made many great films, but none can boast a more solid quality and quantity of work than Hitchcock.

However, it is disappointing that in that body of work, many look over some of his less-successful and less-acclaimed pictures, like Stage Fright (1950). Even Hitchcock looked down on it because of the 'false-flashback' in the movie, which he called his second greatest error in all his works.

But please, do not let Hitchcock's perfectionism or film critics who praise his most famous film discourage you. Stage Fright is my favourite Hitchcock film, it may not be his most innovating and suspenseful, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and contains much of Hitchcock's directorial greatness.
Boasting a sensational cast headed by Jane Wyman, who although is not as remembered today, was a big star at the time and an Oscar-winner. Also in there is one of my favourite British actors, Alastair Sim, lending his comic abilities beautifully to the film. There are other fine performances from Richard Todd, Michael Wilding , Sybil Thorndike, and every other actor in this film makes a considerable contribution that makes the film so wholly wonderful. Of course, we cannot forget Marlene Dietrich, playing herself masterfully. She not only looks sensational, but she sings songs like 'Laziest Gal in Town' memorably, and also shows her comic abilities in the picture.

The plot is basically about a man, Joanthan (Richard Todd) who is being helped by his friend Eve (Wyman) to escape the police who suspect him of murdering the husband of an actress Charlotte (Dietrich). This actress was having an affair with our fugitive, and killed her husband, but after sending her lover back to get her things, he is spotted by the maid and reported to the authorities. Eve is also in love with Jonathan and wants to help him be cleared of murder, but needs evidence against Charlotte. By posing as her maid, getting help from her father (Sim) and getting friendly with the detective working on the case (Wilding), Eve tries to gather as much evidence against Charlotte as she can. The film is full of love, laughs, deception and ends with a
massive and frightening twist.

Just some shades of Hitchcock's brilliance which I would like to point out is how we never see the door shutting behind Jonathan when he goes back to get Charlotte's dress. The camera simply zooms over the car, into the house with the sound of the door closing behind us- seemless and flowing. I also love the scene in the theatre store room, whre Eve finds out Joanthan is a murderer- Hitchcock only has the eye's of both lit, thus showing Eve's realisation and fear at the fact she is alone with a murderer, and showing the madness in Jonathan's eyes, the wild eyes of a murderer. And finally I absolutely adore how Hitchcock lights Dietrich, possibly paying homage to how Von Sternberg would light her immaculately in her earlier career.

There is an extreme close-up of her face, softly lit to show her beauty, but with focused shadow around the edges showing her darker side e.g. having her dog shot, convincing Jonathan to kill her husband.

Stage Fright is definitely one of Hitchcock's unsung treasures- fully entertaining, with a superb cast and some cleverly constructed shots by the man himself, it is worth a watch. It is different to the others because it isn't so serious and dark, there is a lightness and humour that makes it refreshing. A perfect film for a lazy day. And ofcourse, don't forget to look out for Hitchcock's cameo.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: Memorial

Back in March this year, I had just returned from my day of lectures at university and as usual, checked my Facebook for any messages and had a quick look through people's status's. I then noticed that a beautiful photo of Elizabeth Taylor in Giant was posted by a friend, however to my shock and great sadness, the letters 'RIP' were above it. I was so shocked and gutted, that the world had firstly lost one of the last true Hollywood legends, and secondly, because the world had lost one of it's greatest humanitarians.

Unfortunately, one of the main issues surrounding Liz and her life is the fact that she had had eight marriages. But who cares, it isn't important. What is important to remember about Liz is her inspirational work for charity, and of course her legacy in acting.
Liz was one of those people you always heard about, and before I had actually seen her in a film I only knew her as someone who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, who had violet eyes, and was married eight times. But then I saw the film A Place in the Sun, and my word I was literally stunned by her beauty. I was 17 at the time, and Liz was 17 when she portrayed Angela Vickers in the film. Immaculately dressed, with sparkling eyes, a dreamy face and a figure to die for- Liz was the epitome of the term 'movie goddess'. She was bewitching on screen not just because of her appearance however, but because of her enormous presence and compelling performance. For a 17 year-old, Liz had all the charm, sophistication and dramatic talent that made some of the more experienced actors in the business, look average. The first time she meets Montgomery Clift in the film, is one of the most memorable moments in film. She is wearing one of my favourite gowns, a white tulle evening with a flowery bust, and looks like a dream. Nor wonder Monty falls in love with her the first moment her sees her.

Her other performances like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant and Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? to name only a handful, are outstanding, and stand like beacons in the world of female performances. There is a fierceness, a passion and yet a great subtly to all of Liz's roles that really are an honour to behold. A double-Oscar winner, she has been honoured by her peers, and deservedly so.

Aside from her achievements in pictures, Liz has raised more money for charity than most celebrities on this planet put together. Thanks to her, the urgency of tackling AIDs and helping AIDs sufferers became known to the world.
I did cry for a bit when Liz died, and my boyfriend asked me, 'why are you upset over a celebrity dying?' like I was being over-the-top. And I simply replied that she wasn't just a celebrity. Dame Elizabeth Taylor was one of the greatest women who lived. She gave so much to film, to humanity and to the world as a whole, that her losing her is a terrible loss. But thankfully, her inspiring life and works are still here in her films, her books and her interviews, to remind us of the wonderful things she taught us, and everything she gave. Liz Taylor will continue to be an inspiration to the world for generations. Thank you for being an inspiration is so many ways.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Godfather Part II: Memories

There is a very strange feeling one feels when watching the second installment of the mafia saga. It is a masterpiece in filmmaking, however I do not enjoy it as much as the first one. I prefer the New York setting of the first movie, the events in the narrative, and the performances by James Caan and the incomparable Marlon Brando. Aside from this preference, the second film is still one of the greatest films ever made. Here are just a few of my thoughts on the picture...

One of the most common replies I get from people when I ask them if they have seen or if they like The Godfather Part II, is 'De Niro is in it'. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I was cynical at first hearing that they cast someone to play young Vito Corleone. I thought, who on earth is going to make this believable? Brando has created such a unique character, only Brando can do it. But of course, I was totally wrong. De Niro gives the most mesmerising performance I have ever seen. Whilst retaining some of the mannerisms that Brando had made given the character i.e. touching his cheek, low, husky voice, he also made it completely his own. By combining Brando's older Don, with his own Younger Don, De Niro also managed to make the role his own, whilst merging a realistic and very believable similarity with Brando's. De Niro is simply spellbinding, not to mention looking his breathtaking best! He makes it impossible to take our eyes off Vito Corleone. He deserved his Oscar for this.

Al Pacino really portrays Michael Corleone superbly. We truly feel that this is a man who did not want the life he is now living, who is trying to escape the evils of what his life involves, but who is constantly pulled back in darkness by enemies and even, his own family. He brings the character of Michael Corleone to a whole new level, and the scene where he finds out that his wife Kay has had an abortion, is full of force. We can see the rage building in his eyes, to the point where even we want to run out of the room.

My favourite scene in the film is when young Vito and his family are returning from their holiday in Siciliy and there is a very brief shot of them all on the train. Vito is holding Michael in his arms, and tells his son, 'Michael, say good-bye'. It is an adorable shot. In the first film, it is clear the entire way through that Vito did not want Michael to get involved in the business, but knew that he was the only one of his sons who could do it properly. He could see himself in Michael alone. And that shot of them on the train, as well as a previous shot of Vito holding Michael as a baby telling him he loves a lot shows it seemlessly. There is a fatherly-son bond emphasised in this film between Vito and Michael and it is beautiful to watch.

One scene that really caught my notice, but didn't at first because I was too exicted for Brando to make an appearance (he doesn't by the way), was Michael's flashback of his father's birthday on the day of the Pearl Harbor attacks. The whole family are sat around the table awaiting their father's return. It is here that Sonny says how much he disagrees and despises those who fight in wars for a country that isn't in their blood, to which Michael responds that he has already enlisted in the marines. Sonny is furious and even Tom, lovely sweet Tom is massively disappointed. The only one that congratulates Michael and goes to shake his hand is Fredo. The sad thing is, that even though Fredo betrayed his brother terribly, he stuck by Michael and gave him his support when no one else did at this particular moment. I found that scene particularly moving for it occurs just after Michael has Fredo killed. At first I was really gutted that Brando doesn't appear in the final scene, but looking at it now it's better without him. We don't want to see his father's reaction.

The image of Michael sat at the table alone whilst his family all greet the father in the other room, then dissolving to the memory of Michael and his father on the train leaving Sicily, then fading to an older Michael- is much more powerfuly. Silver streaks running through his jet black hair, dark circles under his eyes, and a tired look in his eyes- we see that Michael is again alone, with no support.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part2: A Deceiving Disappointment

Leaving the cinema after watching the long-awaited finale of the Harry Potter series, I was teary-eyed and very emotional. When the first film came out I was the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione, so like others my age I feel like I had grown up with them, and as with the series ending, it was an upsetting reminder that my childhood was over.

Do not let the emotional punch that this movie consistently brings deceive you, but by the looks of many film critics and people on my Facebook, it already has. I'm afraid the final Harry Potter is an insult to everything J. K. Rowling created in her books, and to everything the previous films achieved. I never thought that arguably the most expected film of this century so far would feel rushed, unplanned and an overall mess.

Let me make it clear that unlike many fans of books who criticise every film adaptation with comments like you left this scene out, it's nothing like the book. I understand that in order to adapt a book for a film, certain elements must be cut out and others must be focused on in order to keep the film flowing, entertaining and at a reasonable duration. And I am the first to congratulate everyone involved in the previous seven Harry Potter movies for adapting it so brilliantly for the screen. Even the penultimate film which many called slow and boring, I accepted for being less action-packed than the others because it was a build-up to what should have been a non-stop, action-adventure in the final film.

Some of the world-leading artists in special effects worked on the final film, and yet nothing about the effects was spectacular, apart from maybe the death eaters attacking the protective dome around Hogwarts. When Harry and his friends break into Gringotts, it is supposed a heart-racing and terrifying sequence that has on the edge of our seats. If I was on the edge of my seat it was to try and make-out what was going on because the set was much to dark cramped. Not the Gringotts we saw in the first film or as described in the book. And Bellatrix's vault full of gold and other treasures was far from breathtaking. Also, they didn't even explain the Horcrux they were looking for in that vault even though for those who hadn't read the books would be confused why it would be so important to Voldemort, or indeed what it actually was.

The Battle of Hogwarts should have been on an enormous scale of scenes that raise the barrier on battles in film. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the great battle is full of show-stopping moments that literally took your breath away and left you thinking 'how the hell are they going to beat that!'. A never-ending and hideous army shocks us first. Then we see giant trolls, flying monsters, catapults, giant elephants- it is an unstoppable conveyer belt of evil that seems undefeatable. And that is exactly the battle of Hogwarts should have been like. In the books and the films, characters talk of how Voldemort has been regrouping with all the evil creatures of the world, and yet the only creatures we see are the dementors who don't shock us anymore and the spiders. Now I am absolutely petrified of spiders, but even I was disappointed with how they appeared in the film. In the book, Voldemort calls on them, and Ralph Fiennes has shown in The Order of the Phoenix just how terrifying he can make Voldemort when it comes to summoning certain elements in battle. But no, the spiders just appear, scurrying through the crowd. No massive order from Voldemort's lips, no quaking of the floor and everyone looking towards the forest terrified, and no big entrance for the spiders. They just appear out of thin air and last about ten seconds.

Bellatrix and Mrs Weasley are supposed to have a really long and drawn out battle- both are powerful witches going neck to neck. And yet for some reason they have Mrs Weasley wobbling around like an idiot, and the Bellatrix wobbling around. This is supposed to be a tough duel where both witches are equal in power therefore increasing suspense at who will die. But no. It was a short and pathetic excuse for a duel.

When one of the Weasley twins was dead on the floor- unless you had the read the book you wouldn't even know who was dead! They show the back of his head, which could be any of the Weasley's. None of the family are crying except for Ron. It is a joke!

Nevil Longbottom's speech to Voldemort was cringeworthy and too long. It made Nevil look like an idiot, firstly because he was talking total rubbish, and even Voldemort looked stupid, he wouldn't stand there and listen to Nevil for that long. And why did they have the whole Nagini chase in Hogwarts?  Nevil kills Nagini infront of the crowd who are looking at "dead" Harry.

The acting was at it's worst. Now I am a huge defender of the Potter cast. Daniel Radcliffe has had very unfair criticism in the past, he massively improved in The Goblet of Fire. But the acting here was just weird. When Harry has killed Voldemort, Ron and Hermione don't run over to him like oh my god is he dead, are you ok? No, they just smirk and act embarrassed because they are holding hands. Nobody congratulates Harry or gives him a pat on the back even though he just defeated Voldemort.

And don't even get me started on Voldemort's death. This was to be the pinnacle of the film. J. K. Rowling did all the work for the filmmakers- she set the scene. Harry humiliates Voldemort infront of the entire crowd saying how the elder wand never worked because Snape killed Dumbledore because Dumbledore ordered him too. He rips into Voldemort completely saying how Snape never worked for him, and how he is an idiot and it is because of this humiliation that Voldemort gets so furious he casts the avada kedavra spell on Harry even though he was just told that the wand would never obey him, and the spell backfires and kills Voldemort instead. Not only does Voldemort get killed, but he is spreadeagled on the floor, and veryone is staring at disbelief that he is dead. Just think how incredible they could have made this death scene if they had stuck to the book?

All the cast, all the extras in the Hogwarts courtyard watching the humiliation of the villain who has almost ruined their lives. They have Ralph Fiennes, one of the greatest actors in history who is the best at playing villains and for being frightening beyond beliefs when he is angry. And Harry can finally answer all the questions that we have been asking throughout the film; can finally sum up and humiliate this man who has killed all of his family. But no. Obviously, the makers of the films thought it would be better to have Harry and Voldemort flying around the castle stupidly, and that it would be better for Harry to actually beat Voldemort in a battle and for Vodlemort to crumble and disappear into the air (which by the way is the exact same way Bellatrix dies so we don't want to see that twice).

This film, could have been in the same league as The Lord of the Rings finale. A finale where everyone i that cinema leaves absolutely blown away by the effects. So much powerful imagery could have been used. All they had to do was stick to the book for the scenes they chose to include and they would have been fine. But they changed it and threw everything that was great about the franchise down the drain.
This film is an embarrassment! I am gutted that they ruined it. It just feels like they didn't plan it and just wanted the film released as soon as possible. The biggest film of the century, and yet it is not one I would recommend.

The only good part of the film was Snape's memory (even though it was retarded that they changed the location of his death from the Shrieking Shack to a boathouse that doesn't exist). That's the only part they did a good  job on.

I don't care if they did things because of their budget or because of time- that is not an excuse. They should remake the entire film from scratch. I am not one of those die-hard Harry Potter fans but this is unacceptable. Do not let the tears blind you from the fact that this film is a joke, when it should have been one of the greatest adventures that cinema has ever seen.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

LA Confidential: Basinger as Lake-a-like

We are all familiar with the character Lynn Bracken- a prostitute modelled to look like film star of the 1940s Veronica Lake. With Lake's famous peek-a-boo hairstyle, a lavish and luxurious home and beautiful gowns, Bracken looks every inch the movie star. Although it is clearly stated in the film that Bracken is modelled on Lake, I was shocked at how much she did not look like the chosen Hollywood goddess, but rather more like Rita Hayworth.

Not only does Kim Basinger have very similar features to Hayworth, but even the way stylists did her hair in the movie was more Hayworth than Lake. Aside from the fact Hayworth usually has red hair, her widow's peak was a little higher than you'd find in a peek-a-boo hairstyle, like the one used on Basinger.

Even at the end of the movie, when Bracken has left prostitution and her hair is clipped back, she looks more like Hayworth, especially from the film The Lady From Shanghai.
Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken

Veronica Lake, the actress whom Bracken is supposed to be a lookalike of.
Rita Hayworth, whom I believe Basinger looks more like. Especially facially.

Bracken later in the film, where she is no longer emulating Lake. Still looks like Hayworth though.

Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai.