Russell Crowe

Proof of Life…Meg in a different role

meg-blog3Way back when, Meg Ryan was the light-hearted romantic lead. And she fitted it perfectly. Any RomCom that came out with her in it was an automatic “watch”. Well, that was the case for me and my circle of friends. And tucked in somewhere between the delightful You’ve Got Mail and Kate & Leopold was a more serious Proof of Life.

And you know what? She pulled off this role very well. I really enjoyed her out of that light-hearted stereotype we’d gotten to know her as.

Here she is Alice Bowman, living in South America with her husband Peter (David Morse), who is kidnapped by guerillas opposing the pipeline plan he is working on. Desperate to get him back, she hires negotiator Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) to try secure Peter‘s release.

Having had some marital tensions leading up to the kidnapping, she is placed in a full stress situation of getting him back but at the same time spending many long hours with Terry. This stirs up some interesting situations. Which Meg Ryan pulls of so convincingly. What I enjoy about her role here is how she manages to pull us into her conflicting emotions of being the concerned wife but also feeling an attraction to the rescuer. And not once do we “see” her RomCom persona in Proof of Life as can tend to happen when actors focus on one type of role. This just shows how wonderful Meg Ryan was as an actress (“was” because I haven’t seen her in anything since Kate & Leopold).

That final scene always leaves me wondering how things would have turned out if circumstances had been different.

So, here’s to you Meg Ryan. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday for Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies “The Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon”.

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Musical Notes: Folsom Prison Blues – Russell Crowe

Did you know? Russell Crowe? He’s a musician too. Yep…and he does a darn good rendition of Folsom Prison Blues with “his” band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts or TOFOG. If you can get hold of the album Other Ways of Speaking have a listen to the last track “Swallow my Gift / Farm Noises / Folsom Prison Blues“. More specifically, the last piece of the last track i.e. Folsom Prison Blues. Good fun to listen with wonderful energy.

My DVD of A Good Year has some Russell Crowe music videos on it – great music I must say.

Here you go (although I prefer the album version):

Girl Week: The Lady (The Quick and the Dead (1995))

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“The Lady”, now that’s a cowgirl. I mean who has such presence that, when riding into a dusty little town, everyone stops to stare? And she hasn’t even done anything yet.

Sharon Stone takes on the role of this mysterious stranger who rides into the town of Redemption to enter the Quick Draw Contest. This tournament is held by ruthless and evil mayor Herod (Gene Hackman) who also takes 50c of every Dollar in town. In return “they gets to live”. The reasons for her being there unfold as quickly as the tournament progresses. A lady of few words, she wants to finish what she came for but things don’t happen as quickly and easily as she’d like them to. In a way, this is her saving as it gives her much needed time to plan. And gives us some insight into this woman. At times, she is hard yet very often we see her nurturing, kind side – she shows this with The Kid (a very young Leonardo di Caprio), Mattie Silk and Katie during various situations. She stands up to the men that need standing up to and is side-by-side with those who earn that of her. What most people don’t see in her is that she’s scared. But then, if she wasn’t, it wouldn’t be normal. Having these qualities brings admiration and support from the town. That says it all.

This Western, directed by Sam Raimi, is always great to watch. Yes, these are some “oh really?” moments, but come on…it’s a movie! Sharon Stone is perfect in her role and comes across as a realistic match to Herod. That said, Gene Hackman must be one of the meanest villains (and mostly verbally so). Leonardo di Caprio, 21 years old, already shows his great acting skills as The Kid who’s mouth is as fast as his gun. And then there’s Russell Crowe as former outlaw turned preacher (and hmmm…the only one who ever mentions The Lady’s real name).

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The Romantic in me…

For starters, don’t read this if you don’t want me spoiling things for you. So:

I’m a romantic. Let me rephrase. I’m a hopeless romantic. The one who thrives on that tumbling, twisting feeling in my stomach when two characters finally fall in love. But not just any two characters. No, they have to be strong and independent with lots and lots of oomph! Their journey to each other mustn’t be obvious and definitely not soppy but also not the overused “we hate each other but actually love each other” type. In fact, the romantic kick I need is the kind that is not typically “romantic drama” or “romantic comedy” formula driven material. Don’t get me wrong, in order for my escapism to be satisfactory, I do want a happy ending (otherwise, what’s the point?) but, not the cheesy guy-and-girl-get-together-as-you-predicted-from-the-first-few-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after, but a rich, rewarding, more realistic ending where there is genuine hope that they will stay together. Here are the ones that are my absolute best:

One of the most romantic movie moments for me is in Centurion, where Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) and his two roman colleagues come across the dwelling of Arianne (Imogen Poots). Quintus Dias has been a tough, yet intelligent, ruthless Roman until this point. She has been living on her own (I admire her), using the guise of being a witch to keep men from the nearby garrison away. Without a moment of doubt, she holds her own but for some reason (fate?) she lets Dias and his men into her home, risking her life. These two form such a natural bond that Dias sees her home as the place he ultimately belongs. He doesn’t give up his quest for her, she doesn’t beg him to stay, yet, their actions are so much more romantic, more real because of this. Nothing like a good cat-and-mouse action movie with such tenderness thrown in to give a bit of a pace reduction for just a few minutes yet having such an impact.

Then, moving on to one of my favourite films in general, but, also one of the most romantic. The Last of the Mohicans. Wow, now there is romance. In the wild frontier of America, you get this absolute heart-wrenching love.  What is more romantic that Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Uncas (Eric Schweig) running through the carnage of an attack to save the women they have come to love. Or the waterfall scene where Hawkeye says to Cora (Madeleine Stowe) “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you” and Uncas just holding Alice (Jodhi May) not requiring any words. In fact, the Uncas/Alice love story is so understated that it leaves me wishing it had been more prominent. But then, had that been the case, I doubt it would have been as heart-felt, as real, and as rewarding, even though, she does get a bit needy and helpless at times. But, thinking about it, how much more could have been said about their love than Alice throwing herself off the cliff to be with Uncas?

Yellow Sky, now that’s an amazing film. This 1948 black and white film is absolutely fantastic with James ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Gregory Peck) taking his bank robbing gang across the desert to hide out in a ghost town. Here he comes across Constance Mae (Anne Baxter), disguised as Mike, and her grandfather. As the story unfolds, Stretch discovers that Mike is Mae but, we also see the contradiction of Mike/Mae where she is tough and holds her own, yet, at other times wants to be a lady. This is so much more rewarding that the usual man saves damsel in distress scenario. He simply lets her be who she really is and vice versa.

Ah – Robin Hood, the Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett version. I just love the amazing love story that develops between Robin Longstride and Marion Loxley. There is utmost respect for each other from the moment they meet. Both are strong and independent without ever changing who they are for each other. The most romantic part is, not when they finally dance together or when they bid each other farewell stating their love, but, when Marion arrives on the beach of the Cliffs of Dover to help fight. They stand by each other, working together yet always staying true to themselves.

And man, oh, man. I spent the entire first season of the brilliant Peaky Blinders wanting, needing, silently begging Thomas (Cillian Murphy) and Grace (Annabelle Wallis) to get together. I was tortured to the last episode for that to finally happen and therefore it had so much more impact. Grace makes all the right (or wrong, depending on your stance) decisions fully knowing the potential consequences yet staying true to herself while rationally knowing she shouldn’t be falling in love with a tough, uncompromising gangster.

Then, the Swiss Family Robinson (1960) deserves a mention. Yes, Roberta (Janet Munro) comes across as the stereotype helpless damsel to be rescued, but, cut me some slack here – watching Fritz (James MacArthur) and her fall in love is just beautiful. She may not be the strong independent woman at first, but, she rises to the challenge and puts her whole heart into the situation that has come her way. This story leaves me wanting more but, realistically, all that needs saying is said and anything more or less would not have worked. I guess what it comes down to is that by leaving the viewer craving that feel-good effect, the goal has been achieved.

Then there are those films that leave you wishing, wanting the hinted or implied romance being developed more. The likes of The Quick and the Dead (Sharon Stone’s Ellen and Russell Crowe’s Cort), Broken Arrow (Christian Slater’s Hale and Samantha Mathis’ Terry), and oh my gosh…Ironclad where the brilliant James Purefoy’s Thomas Marshal and Kate Mara’s Lady Isabel develop an understated relationship. Ultimately, for me, the romance is in the strong women and the men who love them. Or, maybe, it’s the fact that these films have romances second to the main story and therefore have so much more impact. But, that “addictively” strange lurching feeling, that’s when I know a scene has worked with me, regardless of the actors (being good or bad) but the fact that they have successfully portrayed an emotion that has reached the audience.