Review

Animal Farm…thought provoking

I’d always “known” about Animal Farm by George Orwell but it is another of those books that, embarrassingly, I’ve never gotten around to read. Until now…and I should have read it a long time ago. But then, I’ve always believed that a book finds you at the right time…

…you see, I’ve been on a serious reading drought for the last, hmmm, two years…but, recently a work colleague recommended it. Said it was a nice thin book that I’d get through quickly. Hmmm, ja, maybe, we’ll see…besides, I don’t like asking people for their books…but somehow I asked after all…

Well worth it. And yes, it is a quick and easy read, but by no means to be underestimated. It is thought provoking both while you are reading and long afterwards.

The story, is about a bunch of farm animals who are convinced of a cause. Of getting rid of humans and running the farm themselves. Such they do, starting off with reasonable ideals and living well as a community. But, from the get-go, you have an inkling around the cracks that are inevitably going to appear. Of course, as the story unfolds, these cracks get bigger and bigger and by the end, the initial cause is no longer recognisable, although, you saw this coming all along. It’s all so clear. Well, obviously not to the animals. Or maybe it was?

While the allegory is on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the following Stalinist era, I wouldn’t restrict it to that – reading it, many other situations/events came to mind. In fact, we can simply go down to a general human nature level with this book. I’m sure you too will be able to pick out people you know. Look no further than your circle of acquaintances (possibly even friends), people you engage with at work or just the community on the whole. Interestingly, Mollie, Boxer, Clover and Benjamin immediately brought known people to mind, even Moses seemed familiar. In fact every single animal or group of animals could be associated in some way or other in the current time.

As for the helplessness or inevitability of the situation…nothing more frustrating than being the outsider who just knows where it is all heading. And the signs are so clear. I just wanted to scream at the animals…can’t you see where this is all going? But so too I guess is the real life situation…frustration at why people just can’t see what is happening. Frustration at why people don’t change things, or why they don’t change things earlier. Why they allow themselves to be brainwashed, to become indifferent, to just accept things, to accept others’ egotistical goals and power kicks. It is seemingly easier for many to remain in a comfort zone, even if it isn’t an ideal one, than to stand up for things, to question, to challenge. To simply accept someone else’s “me, me, me” approach. And so often, the gripes are vocalised but never actioned upon because status quo appears to be better than to ruffle feathers. To just continue because “it is done”. But, this is a touchy subject, one that I will ponder some more, take it offline.

And on a different note, ahh, the book itself…visually, striking. I had it lying on my desk at work and the cover caught the attention of quite a few people.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) looks really good too. Just bought it and can’t wait to get stuck into it!

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Sexy, oops, I mean, Mean Villain…

…gosh, what’s on my mind? This is the Great Villain Blogathon…right? And I’d put my name down for Prince John from Robin Hood (2010)…right? And, my mind is clearly elsewhere because I got sidetracked…right? Wrong…because…actually, the real villain here is not Prince John (Oscar Isaac)…he’s merely being, should we say, gently guided, by the sexiest nastiest man with ulterior motives. Oooh….but there’s just something about Godfrey, who just wouldn’t be the same if played by any other actor than Mark Strong.

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I’d very quickly realised that Prince John is simply a spoilt brat who wants his way. And he’s too busy having his way (not with his wife) to really pose any threat. Yes, he might have his moments, purely out of having some sort of power kick, but Godfrey, he’s there ever so subtly, or not, steering things. Weaseling his way into everything. Being English “when it suits me” French when that works better.

Godfrey has this presence from the very start. He’s clearly not phased by airs and graces, so comfortable is he around Philip of France during their (and our) first encounter. With that introduction comes…a perfect piece of music that will forever be associated with him…this one:

…it is Godfrey for me…staccato, slightly evasive, yet with an underlying hardness, energy, gradually increasing in drive, just like this man…all to gradually crescendo to a point where he eats the human blood stained oyster. The things people do. He encourages his men to plunder from the dead and doesn’t hesitate a moment to yank on the lance embedded in a dying knight. All in a day’s work it seems. And he’s so smooth when he does this.

And if his initial presence isn’t enough, somehow the scar on his cheek from Robin’s arrow simply makes him meaner in terms of personality as well as looks. Oh, and according to seasoned expert Prince John, the “ladies will love you all the more” for it. It amplifies is sexiness, oh no, did I write that again? “villain-ness” while he’s always listening, always scheming:

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Addressed as “my Lord” by both the French and the English, this man will casually instruct his men to get rid of someone or patiently wait in the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself. Strategically positioning himself during court meetings, saying just the right things, while Prince John is too busy dealing his family and greed issues. Wait…isn’t that an ever so slight (sly) smile on his face as he is about to officially serve the crown? Nicely played Godfrey, nicely played:

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“Choose carefully the spot Godfrey, where you would place your dagger”, so obvious to everyone including William Marshal (William Hurt). A man to be wary of.

Villain Banners 2019This must be one of the most heartless villains…who gives an old man news of his son, proudly telling him that “I’m the one who killed him” (left in a French ditch)??? To entice a fighting reaction from a blind man…plain mean.

Yet, at the end of the day, things must come to an end for him. And, while cowardly trying to race from the battlefield, this villain has had lots of personality. He has a certain presence that doesn’t even need his “signature” theme music. You notice him in all the scenes he’s in. He’s so bad yet somehow I feel drawn to him. He has the blatant audacity to pursue his goals. The way he holds himself. Confident, almost elegant. And while I obviously don’t support his behaviour, it is this type of character, acted perfectly by Mark Strong, that allows that “guilty pleasure” of being drawn to the bad guy. Because, that’s what movies allow us. Escapism.

For my previous entries to the Great Villain Blogathon, pop past Villain, Villain on the wall (here) and Meanest of the Mean…Ma-Ma (here). I’ve also written a piece on Mark Strong as a character actor in A Strong Character… (here)

And of course all the other entries to the Great Villain Blogathon can be found here (Shadows and Satin), here (Speakeasy) and here (Silver Screenings).

Here some impressions together with his theme song:

10 Things I Hate About You…

10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_film.jpg 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is already (!!!wow, can’t believe it!!!) 20 years old yet it never feels that way…I still enjoy watching it as much as I did when it came out.

First things first, the plot: Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) transfers to Padua high where he is smitten on first sight with Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik). Telling his new friend Michael (David Krumholtz) that he would like nothing more to date Bianca he finds out that she isn’t allowed to date. This due to strict dad-rules which unexpectedly change: Bianca has a sister Katarina ‘Kat’ (Julia Stiles) who everyone deems scary, anti-social, ant-establishment etc. So, “knowing” that nobody would ever think of even approaching Kat, dad allows Bianca to date if Kat does. And the challenge is on! Find a guy crazy enough to date Kat so that Bianca can do so. Enter Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) the guy who has supposedly eaten a live duck, done time, donated his liver etc..

Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, you know you’re in for a good one when a character is introduced accompanied by Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. And that’s the refreshing part…Kat doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her and she is who she is, having “swore I wouldn’t do anything just because everyone else was doing it”. The reasons become clear during the movie but I really think this is such a valid point. As is Patrick’s comment to Cameron of “don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want”. So there you have it…the guy who uses his flip knife in science to dissect a frog isn’t all that bad. Oh, and he even buys her a Fender guitar instead of flowers and chocolates to apologise for messing up:

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I never tire of watching this one. While it may be predictable, it is still a pleasure watching the characters fall in love. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger have really good chemistry together and at the same time are convincing in their outward “mean and scary” demeanor yet showing their underlying true personalities in just the right quantities at the right time. But it isn’t just these two. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Krumholtz, Larisa Oleynik and Andrew Keegan (who plays stud Joey Donner) gel well together with their respective characters being absolutely believable. The magnitude of teen high-school problems and dilemmas come across perfectly.

So, if you haven’t seen this one yet, go give it a go. It really is worth the watch. And, after that, you could even give the series a go. I thoroughly enjoy it too (watching episodes here and there when the mood strikes) and it is a pity that it never got past the first season.

Head on over to Pop Culture Reverie and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for some more entries into this It’s a Young World Teen Movie Blogathon. And finally…enjoy the week ahead.rebelbanner

 

 

Some (ever changing) Thoughts: Adore (2013)

Adore-headerI’ve just finished watching Adore (aka. Two Mothers) for the umpteenth time (trailer at the end). And, as always, my thoughts on this change. Don’t you just love movies that make you think? Make you question? Make you come to different opinions each time?

Once again…I’m pondering the thought of this mother-having-a-relationship-with-her-best-friend’s-son-and-vice-versa. Hmmm….

Oh, before I go on, best I tell you what this movie is about. We have best friends (since childhood) Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) who now have, almost, adult sons. They too are best friends as well as neighbours living on the beautiful coast of Australia. And somehow, it comes out that each son has feelings (beyond just those “normal” of a guy to his friend’s mother) for the other’s mother. Seemingly this has been the case for a while but it is only acted upon now (so that we have a movie, of course). What results is a very strange situation. And that is where my thoughts keep changing…

…so, while I don’t judge (and please don’t judge my thoughts here) people on their preferences in relationship and the age-gap (if it works, that’s fantastic) that comes with some of them, during this viewing it has kicked in that at the beginning of these relationships the sons are barely out of their teens (18/19 years old). And their mothers well into their 40s, if not more. So, for some reason, this has now made a difference on how I feel. In fact, Roz even says what I tend to agree with…that they as mothers should allow their sons to have girlfriends. Because, let’s face it, Roz and Lil are lovers, not girlfriends, to Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frecheville). She might have a point: There should be that option for the guys to experience their teens and how it is to fall in love then. Teenage love is different to that one later in life. They shouldn’t be pulled into this type of toxic  relationship just yet. Yes, much later in life, then fine, let them feel free to make up their own mind. Or…is love oblivious to age? Even for teens?

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And yet again, I’m wondering…are they already men enough at this stage to decide on the relationships they want to pursue? After all, a few years later, they both meet girls their age and as much as they feel they have to follow the “norm”, things just don’t work out. What point is there if they aren’t happy?

Ultimately, I guess they all need to make up their own minds but the hard part is watching them pull down those outside of their circle of four. The hurt they cause. You’ll wonder who is to blame for it all. Was it all necessary? Ian asks “why can’t you leave things as they are?”. Even though, at some point as a viewer there’s a feeling that they should just have followed their hearts all along. Or not. Gosh, I don’t know anymore!

Let’s not even get started on the mothers…is it love? Is it lust? Or just a means of confirming that they still have what it takes to be attractive? Lil could have the attention of a man her age yet she is not interested. Granted, she turns him down (multiple times) even before the relationship with Tom starts. Next thought is if they (Tom and Lil) get things going purely because Roz and Ian do so or would they have done so eventually regardless?

This movie throws so many questions out there. Here are my thoughts from a previous post (Adore…Friendship on a different level). At the end of it all, right or wrong, I will watch this one again despite the negative reviews it received. It isn’t a feel-good movie, but it is good. And a thought-provoking one leaving you with the image below together with thoughts on what the situation is from here on out (quite different from the similar image of the poster at the start of this post, which is taken from early in the story):

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Here’s the trailer (not for sensitive viewers due to nature of some content):

Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

In a Nutshell: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

the_guernsey_literary_and_potato_peel_pie_societyI’m often amazed at how single events or encounters can change so much. In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a “simple” letter inquiring after a book changes Juliet Ashton’s (the wonderful Lily James) life altogether taking her from a comfortable (but unfulfilled) London to Guernsey. All because of the resulting letter exchanges.

In Guernsey she meets the people in the titular society and is drawn into their lives. Intending to write about them (she’s a successful writer) and their experiences under former German occupation in World War II, she doesn’t only find these people, but also herself. Sounds cliché, yes, but it really is a lovely movie and not as soppy as you’d think. Heartbreaking at times but also uplifting in terms of the will of humans and what they do to survive. Or the ultimate sacrifices made to make a small difference to someone else. But…not heavy either.

Absolutely well worth the watch. It stars Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Glen Powell and Penelope Wilton. You’ll even be treated to Bronagh Gallagher we all remember from The Commitments.

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Peaky Blinders…series 3 excellent as ever

peakyblindersseries3I just can’t get over how brilliant this series is. From the very first episode in series 1 right to this last episode of series 3…all I can say (and do say to everyone who’s looking for something great to watch) is…”watch it”.

Ok…so I’m way behind with watching (I’ve had the Series 3 DVDs waiting since their release, series 4 too) but I just haven’t had time. I guess that is rubbish because the moment I had a chance to watch the first episode of this series I was hooked (as per series 1 and 2) and finished all episodes in two days. I guess time can be made.

In this installment of the BBC crime drama, a wedding serves as a kickoff for business (what else would you expect?) and so the Shelbys get involved with the Russians, their jewels and weapons. A dodgy Father John Hughes has his share in a whole lot of dirty negotiations and Alfie Solomons is brought back into the wheeling and dealings. If you know the series so far, then you know that you’re in for lots of backstabbing, corruption, family disagreements (and agreements) and the works. Even the women surprise you in this one.

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The story is always intriguing and you never see the twists and turns coming. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack and stunning cinematography, this is one of the only series that I’ve ever watched and not given up on (the other being Rome).

Just be warned…you will sit there in disbelief as the last scene plays out…

…and now I just have to start series 4. Tommy Shelby…what a bastard you are.

Here are some thoughts after Series 1: Peaky Blinders – a work of art and how Tommy Shelby is totally crush material: Sexy Crush…Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby