Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Geniuses at work - Part 1 of 2 - Richard Curtis

I tend to contradict myself a lot. And by that I don't mean that I often disagree with myself, nor that I quickly change my mind about things (though I sometimes do). What I tend to mean is that I very often take to contradictory things... Such as for example, wanting a stable peaceful life whilst anyway craving change, or the fact that I often find myself imagining what it would be like to be in the spotlight and yet I am so embarrassed when any kind of attention falls on me.

In this same way, I found myself this week thinking hard about why I would class two so-different film scriptwriters/directors as my favourites. I am in fact talking about Richard Curtis (as most followers of my blog would have noted already) and Paul Weitz. I intended originally to compare the two but I find there is so much to say about each of them in his own right that an entry about each of the two, no one of them a lesser genius, would be more appropriate.

These two directors (and even their scriptwriting) are as different as it can get. Whilst Richard Curtis is the bumbling Englishman who writes about love, Weitz is an American-born director and a permissive one at that when it comes to character.

Of course I can only comment about them with regards to films I have watched so this is in no way a generalization about their works. From what I can gather, however, Richard is a fool for love and admits to the topic being a fascination for him. Furthermore, he believes that love stories are no less realistic (or even more-so) than the more seriously-inclined films. For after all, he reasons, is love not one of those things that really does happen? Why are romantic comedies given less credit for their romantic fantasies, which usually after all do deal with plausible scenarios?

Curtis' writing explores the day-to-day in a more interesting light, injecting however that twist that makes it less plausible... The megastar who falls for the man in the street? The very public figure of the Prime Minister unashamedly having a relationship with the person who makes his tea? The stiff Englishman who goes on holiday after a heartbreak and finds his perfect match in a much-younger, Mediterrarnean woman despite their inability to communicate through a language barrier and then proposes to her without any prelude of real interaction?

My sceptisicm aside, I find Curtis' work, both written and direction, genius. He can weave ten or so plots into one film, blending them in to become a part of a whole, rather than just seperate storylines. I am talking here about Love Actually (2003). This is well-planned in the continuity of the music from one scene and story to the next, as well as the voice-over at the beginning of the film, stating what is to become a sort-of motto for the characters, if they can only seek to find it out for themselves.

Another trick that Curtis uses to link all the stories is the setting and intertwined relationships, with Emma Thompson's character being not only the wife of Harry (who is taken with Mia, in turn a friend of Mark who is obsessed by his best friend's wife played by Keira Knightley as Juliet) but also a friend of Liam Neeson's character Daniel and the sister of Prime Minister David (aptly played by Hugh Grant) whose love interest Nathalie is a next-door neighbour to Mia. Meanwhile Colin Firth's character is in turn a friend of Mark, Juliet and her husband, there are the necessary excuses to make this into one story about them all. Curtis also cleverly turns Billy Mack's performance on TV as the excuse for airport personnel's negligence when it comes to stopping (or not) the boy Sam from escaping into a 'passengers-only' area. Meanwhile stand-ins John and Judy, with a story seemingly all their own, turn up at the school Christmas concert that most other characters are attending. Also, one of the crew members from the film they are shooting turns out to be Colin Frissell's best friend... Colin being the waiter at Peter and Juliet's wedding, during whose reception we can already see Mark's loving looks as he video-tapes Juliet's actions whilst Sarah's chatting away on the phone already, in what is a preview of these two's upcoming personal story.

I will never cease to be amazed at the complexity of this particular project of Curtis (and talented producer Duncan Kenworthy). In a clip on the DVD of 'Love Actually' Richard explains how the idea for the whole project came out of his multiple stories still waiting to be written, which he calculated would take around three years each should he turn each one into a stand-alone film. Not really tempted by spending the rest of his life writing one romantic comedy after another, he chose instead to incorporate them all under the cap of his very firm personal belief that "love is everywhere"... A phrase that Grant's character points out but which Grant says does not present his own view as he is the more negative type who tends to believe more in the world of "hatred and greed" that the voice-over in the film dismisses as irrational.

I could go on and on with this commentary but I am sure I have overstepped the line already and am keen for you readers to return for my next part of this entry... Paul Weitz and his edge of reason. So I leave you to your day as I trudge off to my own office job, unfortunately nothing as exciting or even marginally interesting as the films and scriptwriting and acting I so love to write about.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

American Dreamz (2006)

I haven't been around much I know. And when I have leave from work the workload in my life seems to get worse, if that is possible. Because while I am working, I give myself some slack. And when I am working we don't take up the more time-consuming home projects. And I don't try to get my son out of the house as often as I possibly can to distract him from becoming hyper through not enough stimulation.

But I am now going to brush all that aside and talk about today's post. Whether I am working or not, I do not often find enough me-time at one go to enjoy watching a new film. Because when I watch a film I've never seen before, I have to watch it from beginning to end, and also with no distractions.

Therefore I only yesterday finally managed to see American Dreamz (2006), a film I bought a while ago to add to my Hugh Grant collection but which to be honest, I did not have very high hopes for given I had not read any good reviews about it. On the other hand, the fact that it was directed by Paul Weitz who happened to also co-direct About A Boy (my favourite film of all time) with his brother, had me hoping to be impressed.

And impressed I was, I must say. Now I have to admit I am not a big fan of American comedy films such as American Pie or Scary Movie and would rather have more understated English jokes through witty use of language such as the kind found in scripts by Richard Curtis, than sit through a satire of the American Life. So when at the start of the film I was confronted with the more American approach (even very apparent in the way the story flits from one scene to the next and even from one side of the world to another) I braced myself for a thumb down on this film. (No wonder I'd bought the 2 film box set for Eur2, I thought).

I was intrigued by Hugh Grant's character Martin Tweed from the start (and not just because of good looks but most of all because of the ingenuity of Grant's performance as a self-loving personality with non-typical behaviour to a break-up that has you wondering what this guy is really like). I also liked (in the sense that the character made sense and not in that I sympathized with) Mandy Moore's character's relationship with boyfriend William Williams (could they have made this imbecile into more of a laughing stock?).

I am not sure what the audience's reaction to the different characters is supposed to be. I am almost certain Martin Tweed is meant to be a revolting type but trust me to not only pity him but also marginally understand him. Same with Mandy Moore's character. The correct word for her would be (excuse my language) a bitch but I do understand where she's coming from when she first SPOILER ALERT dumps William. I would have done the same!

There are two more main characters in this film, neither of whom is worth a paragraph on here as they are stereotypes or rather, inverted stereotypes I must say, and too uninteresting in my opinion.

So what is it that makes this film tick for me? Well, Tweed's character is as 3D as they come. He might be someone who, as Moore's character tells him, gets so much ass-licking that he gets a treat out of finding someone who doesn't even try to butter him up, but he is a realistic big-shot deep down. In fact, his are the most honest and truthful insights to character in all the film and left me wondering was it maybe history (such as how he says his mother suggested he was a failure) that turned him into the cynical bastard that he tries to portray, an armour I believe, guarding his inner self. By the end of the film I was sure that I was in love with him, big ego and all.

Meanwhile, stepping away from Hugh's controversial character to another reason I loved this film: the last few minutes of the film wrap up the whole plot nicely in a literally sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat finale, a finale that had my heart beating as hard as that of the characters in an uncomedic end. A sad ending really, but not sad as in bad filming. Rather, it was sad in a twisted ironic turn of events.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Marrying My Favourite Character :-)

There is a game I have been meaning to play. I've read it, or a more compact version of it I should say, that featured only three films, three characters and three choices. This blogger (excuse me for forgetting which blog) asked her readers which of the following characters they would choose to a) kiss, b) marry and c) have for a best friend forever. The three characters in question were:

Alex Fletcher in Music and Lyrics
William Thacker in Notting Hill
George Wade in Two Weeks Notice

The answer invariably read that William would be the guy to marry and I can so understand that! He's marriage material if any character ever was :-) However most replies contained an admittal to not having seen one or another of the three films. Now what if it so happened that not only have I seen all these three but also so so many more of Hugh Grant's films, old and new?

It gets trickier then to choose doesn't it? I mean, being a woman I wouldn't choose to marry his gay character Clive Durham in Maurice (1987). Nor am I inclined to prefer him as Chopin in Impromptu (1991) when it comes to choosing a life-partner. But William Thacker from Notting Hill would have some hard competition if Michael Felgate from Mickey Blue Eyes (a 1999 film like Notting Hill) were to show up. Though Michael does lie to Gina in the film, so I think he's out as a prospective partner. Charles in Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994) is also a sweet thirty-something year old, too cute to forget once met. He also, like me, believes in that thunder-bolt. He seems however less of a dependable guy than William.

I never really took to Hugh Grant's character Samuel in Nine Months (1995) and in An Awfully Big Adventure (1995) he plays SPOILER ALERT yet another gay part. Which leaves us with only a zillion more films and characters to choose from. George Wade seems to me not only nice but also a witty and dependable person beneath his spoilt exterior and I am so in love with realist Alex Fletcher from Music and Lyrics (2007). I obviously could never consider marrying Hugh's character the Cannibal from Cloud Atlas (2012) and I have yet to see and fall in love with his doctor character in Extreme Measures (1996). I have also yet to see Sirens (1994) but I doubt a priest would be my preferred kind of husband. Also, it would never do to marry a cad so unfortunately suave and sweet-talking dashing irresistible Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones (1991 and 1994) cannot be a finalist in this game. Nor could David the prime minister in Love Actually (2003) given my hate of politics and the limelight.

But what about Paul Morgan in Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009) I like him a lot but he is a bit of a wuss and let's face it, he does have a one night stand whilst being married. So he's out too as a prospective partner. Which leaves me with Will Freeman, Mr Cool guy with not a care in the world in About A Boy (2002). I love Will, he has a sense of humour and he does change by the end of the film. Still, I gather the reason I like him so much is because of that lovely face (which is for once the focus, not being upstaged by floppy hair running amuck) which is less wrinkled than that of the older Alex Fletcher.

Well as I said already, I love love love Alex Fletcher (he has a tendency to repeat himself in the film). So that's it ladies... I have made my decision. Alex Fletcher from the eighties band Pop! it is for me! :-)

Monday, 4 August 2014

What's Up?

There is no excuse good enough for how long I've been away. Granted, I was spending my writing-time on my novel, which is now taking a very definite shape, style, and storyline. I hope also that my characters are becoming as well-rounded as I imagine they are. I must admit I envy main character Jeanne at times for her relationship with a dream man conjured up mostly, I have to admit, on my own vision of the perfect-looking male. What I do not envy her is all the confusion in her life that runs throughout all of the story and is, in fact, an integral part of it.

But novel aside, I have little news to report from my little world. Life continues for me as it usually does for someone who is wife, mother to a very hectic and scarily inventive four-year-old, worker, home-owner and also novelist. Oh, and maybe I should mention home-manager too, as I'm the one doing up our budget, setting up shopping lists, seeing to our savings and anything else that needs to be paid/seen to/phoned about etc. My latest irksome episode in this particular saga is my voiced-on-the-phone frustration at particularly bad service received by my usually happy-client-making laundry-cleaning provider.

What else to say? I am also forever cleaning out my closets, literally I mean, no secrets involved. My four-year-old has finally got a waist too big for the 12-18 months shorts he's been using up to now so have done a bit of clothes-shopping (a treat even if they're not clothes for myself, now if only I could not have an out-of-control kid tagging along any time I do this!) As for myself, been spending too much money on DVDs and books to have much of a budget left over for clothing though I got three pairs of shoes to see me through the summer and hopefully still be good for next year's too.

And now that I have updated my blog (in no timely manner) I feel excused to go off to sleep at 1am, despite my constant resolution to sleep early. Good night, till next time.