Archives for the month of: December, 2013

It’s been a long time since I read “The Hobbit”. I devoured that book before the first LOTR flick came to the cinemas, and although the story didn’t stick as profoundly as the epic brick of a sequel did, I have always remembered it fondly and deeply appreciated the fact that all the names in the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring were less daunting because I already knew some of them from “the Hobbit”.

Both me and my BF were underwelmed by the first installment of “the Hobbit”. It is not that it was bad, because it is not. It wasn’t that we weren’t entertained, because I can’t remember being bored. It was partly that we were sat in the third row in the London BFI IMAX cinema (and anyone who has sat this far to the front in this cinema knows you are in for some neck exercises of another world) but mostly it was the fact that when we walked out of the cinema, I could pin point the best scene of the movie (the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum in the caves).

I can’t pin point the best scene in “The Desolation of Smaug”. There are way too many.

And by way to many, I am not even talking in single, isolated moments like scenes. I am talking characters and notions that span sequences and scatter throughout the movie.

Number 1: Evangeline Lily as the Mirkwood elf Tauriel.

For one thing, this is where you will sit and have a small mind fuck, because it is Evangeline Lily, but with the make-up exentuating the typical elfen features (the cheekbones in particular) she has morphed into an elf version of Evangeline Lily. You sometimes recognize her, sometime not. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but that kept my mind occupied a fair number of times just in determining that it was actually her. I am not one to go hating on a strong female character with a cross bow anyway. Anyone who knows me will remember my excellent stunt at using the cross bow in the desert in Mongolia (or maybe just my Cuz who tries to forget that he sucked at it). Also slightly sweet and entertaining is the flirt between one of the dwarves (the young and careless Kili) and Tauriel with Legolas glooming with jealousy in the background. (To note, I do not mind Legolas in this movie, I see the benefits of as many tie ins as possible, but the weird thing is that he looks older, his eyes look wiser. I have a feeling this is a deliberate make-up and visual effects choice and will therefore be looking out for the reason why he suddenly turns childish and younger again. Or maybe he just got too old for make-up;)

Evangeline Lily as the (lowly) wood elf Tauriel

Evangeline Lily as the (lowly) wood elf Tauriel

Number 2: The Story

The whole story flow of this instalment is a lot more organic than the previous film. While the first one had a distinct feeling of stalling and dragging out events that really could have been dealt with swiftly (the numerous fights between dwarves and orks), this one moves rapidly forwards (or as rapidly as I would want it to) with hang-ups and detours that grow naturally out of the story lay-out. Look out for an epic, soon-to-become-waterslide, sequence where the dwarves and Bilbo escape from the Mirkwood elves and have to fight orks at the same time while in barrels down a rapid river. It is both exciting and hilarious.

Thorin being all manly dawrfy in the barrel run sequence

Thorin being all manly dawrfy in the barrel run sequence

Number 3: Smaug

Some people have complained that the sequence in the treasury of Smaug is too long. Now they can all go if they don’t want to watch it, but I wouldn’t cut a second of Cumberbatch’s glorious, fierce and fabulous dragon. Tyra Banks would have made that dragon America’s Next Top Model. He is sassy, moves like a slithering, glittering wave and has the pride and grace of an old Hollywood diva has-been. I love it. I love it more than when I read the book. No dragon has ever been able to meet the expectations that build up in my fantasy while reading about such fantastic creatures. Not until now. Peter Jackson alledgedly spent alot of effort getting the dragon right, and that effort has definitely paid off. Never would I have thought that something as unrealistic as a talking dragon (as if dragon in itself is not unrealistic enough) would be the dragon that makes me a reaffirmed believer in their existence (in past, present or future).

In this world of excessive VFX use, I rarely gush over it as it has become a norm and I usually am not impressed. This dragon impressed me. So there.

Bilbo facing the fabulous fierceness of Smaug

Bilbo facing the fabulous fierceness of Smaug

My usual measurement for a great film is fairly simple, vaguely arbitrary (although sometimes ridiculously predictable) and subject to mood swings. Feelings.

Does the movie make me feel anything?

Usually these feelings are sadness, happy tears, laughter, love, desire, anger, fear, hatred… And although “The Desolation of Smaug” touches on all of these emotions, it doesn’t really yank hard and make me cry a lonely tear (read loud, shaking sobs) or make me so scared I can’t keep watching. It gave me a much more important feeling, from beginning to end. It made me feel like a child again. Wonder and awe just bursting from the depths of my imagination.

Full suspension of disbelief. Giddy and silly. Full child.

Full irrevocable, unsustainable fleeting joy

Full irrevocable, unsustainable fleeting joy

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Slightly fed up with lists of the same Christmas movies everywhere, I decided to make a lists of movies that SHOULD be Christmas classics, but are not. These movies have heart, are well written and acted, sometimes borderline genius and most importantly, they are the epitome of feel-good movies.

So, you might ask, why aren’t these movies already on everyone else’s lists of Christmas movies?

Well, you see, the only issue her is, these movies don’t happen during Christmas 😉

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (2002)

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I remember the first time I saw this movie like it was yesterday. I had won tickets to a screening in my hometown and brought one of my friends along. We had never heard of the film nor any of its actors (Keira Knightly and Jonathan Rhys Meyers being two notables among the cast) and given that this was an independent British venture, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into.

I can still summon the state of pure bliss I had inside of me as we excitedly chattered and giggled, floating on a new found air of enjoyment on our way home. It is the first time I truly understood the meaning of a feel-good movie. “Bend it like Beckham” is the definition of a feel-good movie.

We follow Hindu-British Jesminder (Jess, played by Parminder Nagra) who comes from a rather traditional family where the girls should aspire to marry a rich doctor and know how to cook daal in the kitchen. Jess, however wants to play football. Through her friendship with Hammersmith Harriet’s Jules (Keira Knightly) she manages to steal away and play football on a higher level than with the boys in the park. But trouble arises as both girls fall in love with their coach, the ever smouldering eyed Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and as Jess’ family demands and football matches inevitably have to clash and a choice needs to be made.

The colourful juxtaposition of the grey and drab (sorry Britain) British suburban lifestyle with the deep pinks and paradise turquoise in the garbs and festivities of the Hindus, is what makes this film something more than just another “coming-of-age” story. The character gallery is so rich with believable and loveable characters; from Jess’ barbie doll sister and culturally confused father, to Jules’ conservative-but-wants-to-be-cool mother who steals any scene she is in.

I do not know why this is the first movie I think about when somebody says “feel-good”, and I don’t know how it makes me feel this good, but it continues to do so, and I bet that if the backdrop was how the Hindus struggle with celebrating or not celebrating Christmas in a Christian country, instead of the three day wedding they are going through in the movie,  it would be equally hilarious and a movie I would religiously watch every Christmas season.

But I guess football in snow is not that cozy 😉

UP IN THE AIR (2009)

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I recently watched this movie for the first time and almost beat myself up for not watching it earlier. From the poster, I thought this was another “The Terminal” type movie and having just watched that one, and it falling a bit short of my expectations, I didn’t really feel like venturing into this one.

Oh boy, have I been missing out.

The movie has George Clooney prancing around US airports as the self-important, 50 something Ryan Bingham who is hired to fire people for companies. And boy is he having a ball, strutting around with his tiny, wheely luggage, feeling like the king of the world, hoarding up on all the miles. But a snooty little girl (Anna Kendrick), freshly out of university, is endangering his perfect world of no commitment. She has suggested the firing take place online so that travel expenses can be cut. The company likes the idea. Clooney does not. Both his work lifestyle and sexual relationship with likeminded Alex (Vera Farminga) is thus in jeopardy.

What makes the movie a feel good movie, is essentially that you will be happy that you have someone in your life after watching it, because being alone eventually comes and bites you in the ass. It’s almost like this movie already could be set during Christmas times. It’s not like Clooney would notice that very much between his hotel stays and airport lounges.

The beauty of this film lies in the absurd job of firing people, which calls for a lot of funny and weird situations. In addition, it contains a lot of decent observations about life from both the perspective of the honed and life worn Clooney, and the bright and spirited Kendrick who comes with Clooney to learn the art of firing which he has perfected over several years. The little comments will make you laugh, the arguments will make you think and in the end you might reconsider the perceived glamour of a life on the wings. Believe me. I did the same type of life for a while, but driving. At least flying contains some sort of glitz.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)

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THE best romantic comedy in recent years. When it comes to Christmas, I really want to watch something romantic or something family. Obviously, my current all-time favourite rom-com needs to make the list.

On this one I will do you a favour and not say too much about what it is about, except that it stars Joseph Gordon Lewitt (so you really don’t need any other reason to watch it) opposite Zooey Deschanel. Its an independent American film, so you know it won’t be the way you think it will be all the way though, AND it contains some lovely visualisations of what feelings would look like if you could see them. It also jumps back and forth in time which always makes for an interesting way of watching a story in my mind. Probably also the factor that makes the movie feel more unpredictable than it really is.

This movie spans a timeframe of 500 days (WOW WHAT? REALLY?) so couldn’t have been a pure Christmas movie, but given that Bridget Jones’ Dairy (the first one) feels a bit like a Christmas movie because it starts and ends on Christmas and has significant scenes in that setting, it easily could have been one for  the holidays with a slight change of mind on the author’s side. And if the girl was named Christmas, then maybe that would have been the more natural route to go, and we would have (500) days of Christmas instead. (Oh God, just the idea of 500 days of actual, stressful, fatty food Christmas, made me vomit a bit inside.) But as the movie is now, it has more of a summer feel. But, I guess, in a cold (and in Norway stormy and snowy) winter, what better is there than to watch a feel-good movie that reminds you of a warmer time to come 😉

And again, not your typical feel-good movie ending, just like “Up in the Air”, but for some reason I feel good. I know why. Hopefully you will too.

KEEPING MUM (2005)

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I know this movie looks shit. That is what me and my cousin thought the first time we looked at the cover (and that was with the Norwegian title; “En hushjelp til besvær” -> directly translated “A Maid Upset”), but we saw the face of Rowan Atkinson, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas and Patrick Swayze and thought, hell, at least there will be good acting.

And it is funny. Believe me when I tell you it is funny. We were stunned in disbelief.

As with “(500) Days of Summer”, it is much better not to know what you have gotten yourself into, let’s just suffice it to say that the delightful picture of a tranquil and rather boring English parish will see a more entertaining morning as the maid Grace (Maggie Smith) comes to town with her own agenda for the family of the local priest (Rowan Atkinson). Both observations of life, characters and the dialogue is delightful and at its best hilarious.

It has always been a mystery to me how such a gem of a comedy could have been surpassed by the mainstream and the cinema screenings. It has first-class actors, and should have easily been sold world wide. But I didn’t hear about this movie till my cousin picked it out of a pile of random DVDs on sale.

So please watch it, and make this movie the cult classic it deserves to be. Hell, make it your new Christmas movie, because although there is no snow, this movie is definitely about family and family values. Although with a distinctly British feel. That is grey and drab 😉

Do you have any movies that should have been or could have been Christmas classics?

PS: “Up in the air” and “Keeping Mum” are available on Netflix. The other two you can borrow from me 😉

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