Monday, 15 February 2010

(500) Film of Empire - Day 152 - Valentine's Day

Such is my sad little life that I am all alone on Valentine's Day, but that means I'm free from having to pay over-inflated prices for cards, chocolates and flowers.
After an afternoon of rehearsals for the second show I will be in this year which will be a cabaret of Music from the Movies, how perfect is that for me, I retired to the comfort of my sofa with a curry banquet for one (is there anything more depressing on Valentine's Day than ordering a curry banquet for one? Answers on a postcard please) as it was time for a double bill and started with a romance... a True Romance!

157 - True Romance - 4 stars
The course of true love never runs smooth and that certainly the case for Clarence and Alabama, a comic book and movie nerd and a call girl, who get mixed up with white Rastas, mob bosses, movie producers, and a stoned Brad Pitt along the bumpy road to love.
One of the major criticisms of Tarantino, and at times a very valid one, is that he doesn't know how to edit himself. He writes and writes and writes but is very bad at cutting things out of his own work. Inglourious Basterds is his best work in years and gets better with multiple viewings but it doesn't alter the fact that it is a bit too long. Then there is Death Proof, half an OK film and half of self-indulgent waffle between annoying female characters.
However True Romance might be Tarantino's best film because it is not directed by him. Tony Scott directs this with his usual visual flair mixing fast cutting, gun fights, action, music, etc with the high octane style that served him so well through 80's action films like Top Gun, etc but still knows when to slow things down to serve the dialogue, which is unmistakabley Tarantino.
Whether it is Clarence talking to a woman at a bar about Elvis or Kung Fu movies, Galdofini's mobster discussing how the act of killing becomes diluted, it has a familiar ring to it that comes from Hollywood's enfant terrible.
And it is in this film that we get Tarantino's finest scene; Walken vs Hopper in 'the liar scene'.
I encourage you to use the link and watch the scene in its entirety but to summarise, Walken is at his most chilling as a mob enforcer determined to get Hopper to spill the beans on where his son Clarence is. Hopper knows he is screwed either way so turns the tables on Walken's Sicilain mobster with a classic history lesson. Tony Scott uses simple shots to allow the two actors to go back and forth with each other and the classical music over the top creates one of the best face offs in cinematic history.
Now I don't want to spoil the ending of the film, but since it is Valentine's Day and I'm in a bitter kind of mood I would have been much happier to have seen the film end with Tarantino's original ending, which is available on the DVD if you want to see it.

A change of pace now and I'm watching Little Miss Sunshine that holds a special place in my heart as it was the first movie that I watched with the first girl I ever loved and the only relationship I've ever had. We had a great year and a half before it ended but we've remained close friends and she still knows me better than anyone.
It's funny how films or songs can suddenly transport you back to a certain place or time in your life, make you feel and remember things that can make you feel happy or sad, and all from just a chord or lyric or image. That's why I love movies so much, they are my true Valentine. Because they will always be there, even if no one else is.

402 - Little Miss Sunshine - 4 stars
The original little film that could, and did by grossing over $100 million worldwide and winning awards left, right and centre. This resulted in every quirky indie hit being labeled as "this year's Little Miss Sunshine".

The reason this film succeeds is down to the quality of the acting. There is not a poor performance between the dysfunctional family, mixing established character actors like Kinnear, Collette and Arkin with rising stars Dano and Breslin. The standout performance however comes from Steve Carell as Frank, the gay, suicidal uncle. It is a deeply moving and charming performance as you can see his journey from despair to reconnecting with his family. It is a million miles away from Brick in Anchorman or The 40 Year Old Virgin, and continues the tradition of comic actors playing it straight e.g. Bill Murray and Jim Carrey.
The climax of the film is a critique and mockery of the Bizarro world of US child beauty pageants. Seriously, look at some of the kids Olive is competing against. They resemble children but their faces look like grown ups, deeply disturbing (for more evidence check out Bruno for the depths the parents will sink to to promote their children).
However its the weird and wonderful that win out in the end thanks to the funniest dance sequence since Napoleon Dynamite.

Days remaining - 213 Films remaining - 280

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