Is This Just Me?

Is this just me, or does everybody secretly wish for an alien invasion? Or something of that ilk, the kind of situation where a person could credibly sacrifice himself against tremendous odds to save the world?

Where a man could carve a legend for himself simply by standing up to the powerful oppressors and saying no?

Where a population could rise up and unanimously tell the invaders "No more. I reject you. With a Molotov cocktail!"

No? Just me?

Yeah, I figured as much.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The curiousities of Film Taste (Alternatively: Yes I like Indie Romcoms, they're awesome)

In between Labwork, and Computing, and Presentations, and Problem Sheets (those bleeping problem sheets...) I quite often like to relax with a film. Now my tastes do run pretty broad, I'll watch most forms of sci-fi or horror or fantasy at least once, I'll watch documentary's or comedies, from Shakespeare adaptations all the way to Comic Book movies.

But there is one genre, just one, that transcends them all for me, one genre where I can watch it and feel nothing but happy afterwards.

I speak of course, of the Indie Romcom.

Now, I've never quite been able to pin down what it is about Indie romcoms that makes me love them so, that keeps me hooked in a state of near addiction to them. Part of it is definitely the soundtrack: a decent indie rock soundtrack can make all the difference in a romcom. Take Garden State, for example. The writing is good, the acting is above par and the storyline is beyond touching...but it's the soundtrack, packed with things like Let Go by Frou Frou, that really sells it, that makes it resonate so deeply with me.

Another thing is the fact that quite often, Indie Romcoms don't have to have the couple staying together to have a happy ending: just look at 500 Days of Summer, a film that I would characterise as one of the most positive ending films I know...and yet, right from the start, it's firmly established the lead couple are wrong for each other, and end up staying apart... the message is that love exists, but that doesn't mean you're neccesarily in it. In a world where corporations and mass media want to push this idea of a perfect, brilliant relationship, there are these films managing to put the radical idea out there that relationships are hard, that you can give a relationship everything you have and more, only to see it all come to nothing.

Ultimately, the more I write this, the thing that occurs to me is that all of these films manage to balance the romance and the comedy well by one important factor: the romances really are just that, romantic. They feature human characters showing their vulnerabilites and growing as characters. Big budget romcoms starring the likes of Reynolds or, god forbid, McConaughey, lack this, trading character for overly made up cutouts acting the motions of "girl and guy meet, fall in 'love' and the go through wacky hijinks."

The other thing that really defines Indie romcoms compared to other romcoms is the way storylines are treated. Without meaning to keep harping on about it, while Garden State focuses on the romance of the lead characters, it never loses sight of the story, it never forgets even for a moment the journey Braff's character is on outside of the romance. Starter for Ten makes the University Challenge competition the true focus of the film, where other films would have used it as little more then a framing device for the love story, Starter manages to integrate the romance into the plot, rather then conforming the plot to the romance.

Now I know not everyone has the same taste as I do, I get that. But I know, from the bottom of my heart, I'd rather watch Michael Cera and Kat Dennings bonding over night of music and coming to terms with their own faults then watch idiotic blonde female protagonist be won over by idiotic jerk male protagonist's poorly written lines or cheesy pseudoromantic gestures. I don't want an endless stream of sex jokes or stereotypes, I want to see two humans interacting in a romantic fashion.

And goddamnit, I want to listen to decent music while it happens.

Signing off,


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Gullivers Travels

So, I went to see Gullivers Travels the other day. I wasn't really sure what to expect, since every Jack Black film I've seen since School of Rock has disappointed me on some level or other.

I'm happy to say that as of Gullivers Travels, that record was broken.

It's hard to say what it is that makes the film work so well, but I'm gonna give it a go. First off, the casting is excellent. Jack Black's performance is top notch, easily equal to anything else he's ever done, but in my opnion it's Jason Segel's performance as the love struck Horatio, desperately trying to win the heart of a princess his society forbids him to court, that really steals the show. Maybe I'm biased on this one, it's a fact that I'm a fan of Segel, and I can see how a lot of people might be...annoyed by his fake accent in this one, but for me, it just works. Emily Blunt makes for a very compelling, if ultimately unexplored romantic interest and Bill Bailey makes a hilarious king. What we see of Catherine Tate as the Queen is good, but unfortunately, this is a lot less lines then I'd like to see from her.Chris O'Dowds villian is actually very plausible, (or at least as plausible as this film gets) but ultimately, he's chiefly just there to move the plot along and contrast the protagonists.

The aesthetic of the film is...stunning. Whether it's the theatre reenacting Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and Titanic as Gullivers life, or Jack Black being forced to dress up as a doll by a giant baby, it's very rare that theres something in the scene that doesn't make you at least chuckle. The effects are...well, I really enjoyed them. I've said in the past that 3-D often isn't worth the effort, but it REALLY works here, being used almost exclusively to give the film depth, rather then relying on cheap oohs and aahs by making stuff pop out of the screen. This combined with the fact that unlike Tron Legacy, which I mention in my last post, Gullivers Travels is a very well lit film, so it really works. Effects like Jack Blacks stream of pee are...questionable, but work.

As for the script, well this ones a personal opinion. I found it hilarious, right down to little touches and flourishes in the jokes, but honestly I do think this is one where it comes down to personal taste. If you enjoy the sheer awesomeness of Jack Black stopping a generations old war by performing "War" (Huh? What is it good for?) by Edwin Starr, then you'll like it.

It's not a perfect film, I'll admit, the relationship between Gulliver and Darcy seems tacked on and hurried, with very little development and frankly, I think the film could have used a few more scenes showing that. At times the pacing seems to be dragging a little: while watching Jack Black play guitar heroes with a bunch of lilliputians acting as the console is utterly hilarious, it does slow the middle of the film down.

It's worth noting, it really is a case of Gulliver in name only, anyone hoping for the satire and insight of the original text will be sorely disappointed, but if you go into it separating it in your mind from the book, then it comes across very well.

So, in summary, I would advise you to go and watch Gullivers travels, it's not perfect, but it is very good, and a very good way to fill a lazy afternoon.

Thanks for reading folks!