All entries for Monday 14 November 2005

November 14, 2005

Films Worth Watching At The End Of The Year

… and there are many. You have no idea, huh?

(Note: Not strictly speaking end of the year, as UK releases tend to be later compared to the rest of the world. So backward.)

MUNICH

As soon as he finished promoting War of the Worlds, Spielberg dived straight into this one – leaving him six months from production to release date, which was even shorter than for War of the Worlds. He might not finish it in time for the Oscars. Starring Eric Bana, the story is about a group of Mossad-hired assassins sent to kill the Palestinians who were involved in the killing of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Not your favourite action thriller, this one – seems more like a serious exploration of guilt and the damnation of one's soul in participating in something one can never reveal about.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Read below.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

For a lot of people their interest in watching this one is due to having read the book and liking the story. I couldn't give a damn about the story – it's set in Japan, involves the curious world of the geisha, is directed by Rob Marshall (reason enough to see it), and stars three major Chinese actresses.

KING KONG

Originally I thought – ach, give this one a miss. I never liked LOTR, and King Kong? What the hell? The first trailer was a disappointment. Then details arrive – it's gonna be three hours. Now I'm paying attention. Any movie over 2 hours I usually like – or if not, will try my very best to enjoy. Long movies are great. Then there's Jamie Bell, rising young star. Then there's Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody. And Jack Black in a serious role. And then more trailers appear, and the special effects looks more sound than LOTR. So yeah, I'll be watching this on the big screen.

RENT

Starring Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs … and a whole bunch of other people we don't know. Early previews indicate this one would be good. Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes …

SYRIANA

Do you like political conspiracy thrillers? I do. They're so difficult to write – but when written well, hoo boy, it doesn't take car crashes to excite you. No, mere words are needed to send you going crazy over suspense, mouth agape. This one has a long cast list – (a very fat) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper … and so on. The trailer was not bad, great choice of music – does suffer from giving too much details though.

THE NEW WORLD

From the director of The Thin Red Line. Story of John Smith and his men arriving at the New World. Captured, he gets to know no other than Pocahontas. This isn't your cartoony Pocahontas – she's like 15 or something. They try and understand each other – but soon the Indians and the white men will have no peace. Trailer indicates scenes were Pocahontas is taken back to white man's land.

SHOPGIRL

From a novella written by Steve Martin. A dramedy that slants more towards drama. Seems to be about loneliness, trying to make connections. Looks interesting. Stars Claire Danes and Steve Martin and Jason Schwartman. No, there aren't any sex scenes between him and Isabelle Huppert here.

THE FAMILY STONE

Another film with hundreds of movie stars. The list goes – Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and so on. Looks like a good comedy, with charm and feel-goodness.

JARHEAD

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal – another rising young actor very shrewdly choosing his roles. Directed by Sam Mendes. If you know that name, I know you're going to the theatre already. A war film where the soldiers get bored with war coz nothin's happenin'.

PRIME

Meryl Streep. Reason enough to watch a movie, don't you think? Anyway, Meryl Streep is a therapist with a patient in the form of Uma Thurman scared of embarking into a relationship with a guy younger than her. Meryl Streep is also a mother with a son in the form of Bryan Greenberg who's just found himself a girlfriend. Those two parts of her life collide – go figure. Trailer indicates it'll be really funny.

CASANOVA

Okay, I'll be honest. The only reason I wanted to see this one was because of the last bit shown in the trailer. Heath Ledger plays Casanova, trying desperately to court Sienna Miller. He arrives at her house with a pig in tow. "May I enter the house?" Sienna Miller sends her maid to greet him. "My mistress says the pig cannot come in."

Then she grabs the pig. "But the animal, we'll take." Door slams.

THE PRODUCERS

From the twisted mind of Mel Brooks, apparently. It's not Tim Burton twisted though, but it's really really funny. Starring Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman (again) and Will Ferrell. Two producers decide that the best way to make money is to produce a flop. And very quickly they find the flop they were looking for – Springtime For Hitler. Guaranteed to shock and anger! Some of the wittiest lines ever found in a trailer …

(After Uma Thurman does a dance …) "I'd like you to know, my dear, that even though we're sitting down, we're giving you a standing ovation!"

Uma Thurman: Do la dance again!


Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain

Forbidden Territory

By Sean Smith – NEWSWEEK

Nov. 21, 2005 issue – Two weeks ago, Ang Lee showed his new film to an audience in Los Angeles, and afterward he stuck around to answer questions from the crowd. Director Q&As are pretty common in the movie industry, and Lee—who won an Oscar for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and has directed such acclaimed films as "The Ice Storm" and "Sense and Sensibility"—has done more than his share. But something strange happened this time—the same thing that happens almost every time Lee screens "Brokeback Mountain." "People don't have many questions," he says. "Most of the time, they just stand up and tell me how they feel." When they're still crying, he already knows.

Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx ("The Shipping News"), "Brokeback" is the tale of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two ranch hands who, in the summer of 1963, are hired to herd sheep on Wyoming's Brokeback Mountain. There, separated from the rest of the world, their laconic friendship develops, almost by accident, into a sexual relationship. As the summer ends, the two men are forced to separate, and they discover that their feelings for each other are stronger than they imagined. Jack dreams of buying a ranch together. Ennis thinks they'll be killed if anyone suspects their relationship. And so they marry women and have children, and for 20 years live apart, seeing each other only on rare camping trips, trying to hold on to the innocence and beauty of that first summer on the mountain. Inevitably, the longing and frustration, the years of repression, lead to a devastating conclusion.

Proulx's story caused a sensation when it appeared in The New Yorker eight years ago. Its raw masculinity, spare dialogue and lonely imagery subverted the myth of the American cowboy and obliterated gay stereotypes. It also felt like a sledgehammer to the chest. "This is a deep, permanent human condition, this need to be loved and to love," says Proulx from her home in Wyoming. "While I was working on this story, I was occasionally close to tears. I felt guilty that their lives were so difficult, yet there was nothing I could do about it. It couldn't end any other way."

The film, written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, is a near-perfect adaptation of Proulx's work. It has already earned the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and is almost certain to be an Oscar contender. More than that, though, "Brokeback" feels like a landmark film. No American film before has portrayed love between two men as something this pure and sacred. As such, it has the potential to change the national conversation and to challenge people's ideas about the value and validity of same-sex relationships. In the meantime, it's already upended decades of Hollywood conventional wisdom.

The day Jake Gyllenhaal was cast in "Brokeback," the chatter around the industry was not about what a wise choice he'd made. "It's the most stupid move he could make," said one top producer over lunch that afternoon. "It'll alienate his teen-girl fan base and could kill his career. What a waste." It's always been considered risky, if not career suicide, for actors with A-list aspirations to play gay roles. Tom Hanks's performance in "Philadelphia" helped a little, but even Hanks didn't kiss another man on screen. Gyllenhaal and Ledger don't dodge it. The kissing and the sex scenes are fierce and full-blooded. But if the actors were taking a risk, they sure don't seem to think so. "I never thought twice about it," Ledger insists. "For one thing, I never felt like I had anything at stake, and I think if you make decisions based on society's opinions, you're going to make boring choices. What terrified me was self-doubt. I knew that if I was going to do justice to this character, to this story and to this form of love, I was really going to have to mature as an actor, and as a person."

Yes, they get asked about the sex a lot. "I'm amazed, really," Gyllenhaal says, laughing. "Everybody is soooo interested in it." And their conversations with journalists have given them fresh insight into straight-male psychology. After seeing the movie, Gyllenhaal says, male reporters will enter a room to interview him and almost always follow the same routine. "They come in and they're all, like, 'I just want you to know I'm straight'," he says, and laughs. If they've been moved by the film, he says, they often rationalize it by saying things like "Well, it's really more of a friendship." No, it isn't. "It's a love story," Gyllenhaal says. "They're two men having sex. There's nothing hidden there." Ledger has a theory about why the movie makes some men uncomfortable. "I suspect it's a fear that they are going to enjoy it," he says. "They don't understand that you are not going to become sexually attracted to men by recognizing the beauty of a love story between two men."

That discomfort would seem to make the movie difficult to market. When the trailer plays in theaters where there are a lot of young men in the audience, it's often met with snickers or outright laughter. How do you get those guys to see the movie? You don't. "If you have a problem with the subject matter, that's your problem, not mine," Schamus says. "It would be great if you got over your problem, but I'm not sitting here trying to figure out how to help you with it." In an early meeting, Schamus told Lee that, from a marketing standpoint, they were making this film for one core audience. "Yes, of course," Lee said. "The gay audience." No, Schamus said. "Women."

When it came time to design the poster for the film, Schamus didn't research posters of famous Westerns for ideas. He looked at the posters of the 50 most romantic movies ever made. "If you look at our poster," he says, "you can see traces of our inspiration, 'Titanic'." Still, questions remain about whether the film will play in rural America, and whether it can make a profit if only women and gay men go to see it. But Schamus says that by selling off the international distribution rights, Focus has already broken even on the film. "Literally, if your mom and my mom go to the theater, we're in profit," he says, laughing.

And it's likely that more than our mothers will buy tickets. The constant stream of positive word of mouth is turning it into a must-see for film lovers. More encouraging to the filmmakers, however, is that it's often having a profound effect on people—even the most seemingly cynical. At the Toronto Film Festival, Lee and the cast faced off against a room of reporters who had just seen the film. One blogger raised his hand and stood up. He didn't have a question, he said. He wanted to apologize. "For the last year on my Web site I've been calling this 'the gay-cowboy movie'," he said. "I just want you to know that I'm not going to be calling it that anymore."

Yes I'm straight, but I'm definitely watching this one.


Noon, Monday, Week 8

Where am I now?

The Script – is not yet finished, but at least I found a way to continue the story.

My RAE Project – is still vague. The others who are more enthusiastic about economics (which includes like 98.6% of third year econs students … lemmings) have probably found their topics, their one question. But at least the tutor seems obsessed about my scatter diagrams.

My Two Essays – are far from completion. This year, they seem to have made it very difficult for us to write essays. Picked titles where there is like, one relevant journal (not that relevant after all) – basically no help, no starting point for us to branch out from. I'm not freaking coming out with new explanations or arguments to write these essays, these 2000-word essays. It is a waste of my time. Much of economics is.

I still have other random stuff to do. Where is that package? I need to call to get my £100 pounds back.

And I still don't know how to take control of my moods. Moods are like horses – some people seem able to just grab the reins and direct the horse. Me? I'm in the carriage, too lethargic to come out and take control of the horse.

So what now?

I slip away and die.

"You deserve to die, you worthless whiner," so says you.

Whine whine whine,
Nothing you can dine.


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