Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alba Gu Bragh

In preparation of the upcoming worthless holiday, when every college co-ed claims they are part Irish (regardless of their actual heritage), I’ve prepared an anti-Patty list of sorts. Whether you are a slighted Scot suffering  a St Patty’s day slump, a non-Scot looking for a bit of culture, or you simply need a film to watch while munching on haggis and swilling some whiskey, this list is sure to hit the spot. I’ve tried to pick a little something for everyone, but I do have a life and thus did not feel the need to include every movie located in Scotland. These are just a few films I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another.
Without further ado and in no particular order or rank:
·         Braveheart (1995) Mel Gibson, James Cosmo, Angus Macfadyan, Catherine McCormack, Brendon Gleeson, Sophie Marceau, David O’Hara ( plays the Irishman but is actually Scottish!)
I couldn’t very well talk about movies set in Scotland without paying homage to Braveheart. Some may sneer and make snide comments that Braveheart is historically inaccurate and therefore does Scotland an injustice. I dis-agree, I see this movie as a story meant to remind every Scot how great it is to be Scottish, and every non-Scot to long for a heritage so rich and meaningful. Regardless of the truth behind the story of Braveheart, William Wallace is a national symbol of perseverance and pride. I weep every time I see this movie at the love he had for his country and potential he saw in underdog Scotland to rise up against Longshanks’ and England’s tight grip.
I’m not providing a summary of this movie’s content, cause I’d rather you watch it and find out for yourself, and perhaps invite me over to watch with you! I will caution that this movie is quite bloody, if you have a weak stomach you may want to stare at your toes during the battle scenes.
Quotes:  Young William Wallace: “I can fight”
               Malcolm Wallace: “I know. I know you can fight. But it’s our wits that make us men.”

·         Local Hero (1983) Burt Lancaster, Peter Reigert , Fulton Mackay
This film is so incredibly good! Please find a way to rent it, it isn’t highly available, but is worth the effort. McIntyre, a man who works for a Texan oil company is chosen to fly to Scotland to buy quite a hefty bit of land along the Scottish coast. He is basically picked because his boss thinks he is of Scottish origin, when in actuality his parents had changed their last name when they emigrated from Hungary because they thought it sounded American. But what will really keep you watching and what makes the film stand apart from other films is the beauty of MacIntyre’s journey from a materialistic Texan blow hard to one who falls in love with the simple things of life (by way of Scotland’s endless charm). When McIntyre returns to Texas, he is not the same man, Scotland has forever changed him. Lovely, this film is quite lovely.
Quote- MacIntyre:Where's the door here?
Urquhart: There is no door. Just knock on the window.
MacIntyre: How do you do business with a man who has no door?
Victor: The ethics are just the same.

·         Mr. Foe (Hallam Foe) (2007) Jamie Bell , Sophia Miles , Claire Forlani
Hallam’s mother commits suicide. Hallam misses her and becomes obsessed with people watching. He is especially drawn to Kate who bares a strong resemblance to his deceased mother, an awkward relationship ensues.
This is one of those kooky dark indie films filled with eccentric drama-ridden characters that a lot of viewers can’t stand. I happen to love this kind of off kilter cinematic experience that makes a person a bit uncomfortable and pushes boundaries. I can’t say that I sympathize with Hallam, but am extremely aware of his humanity. Hallam is in a world that no longer makes sense to him, his particular circumstances may not resonate, but this sentiment certainly does.
Quotes- Kate: “I'm a real live human being Hallam. Sometimes I want sweet; sometimes I want sour. Sometimes I don't know what I want. My sh** stinks. I'm going to die someday. If I look like your mother, it's just a coincidence. Am I telling you anything you don't already know?”
·         Trainspotting (1996) Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller , Robert Carlyle  

Renton is on Heroin, he is trying to not be. Lots of withdrawal, lot’s of bad trips. Dirty, dirty toilet. Pooping in bed, accidental sex with a minor, aids, dead babies.  Yikes this movie has it all.
Some people say Irvine Welsh writes for shock value.  Trainspotting certainly contains some pretty dicey subject matter, but if it is shocking, it’s because it is real, it happens. Welsh takes a tell all/show all approach to the world of heroin and Scotland’s youth and it is brilliant. If you don’t like foul language or lewd acts…don’t watch this or anything else written by Irvine Welsh.
Quotes-  Mark Renton:  “Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized by. We're ruled by effete a**holes. It's a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won't make any f**ing difference!”

·         The Acid House (1998) Lots of people you’ve never heard of. Irvine Welsh makes a cameo appearance.
Like Trainspotting? Looking for something even seedier? Here is a lesser known Irvine Welsh piece that should make you feel better about your own existence. Acid House is actually composed of three smaller stories. All politically incorrect and offensive. Good to watch if you are feeling extremely cynical and want to see life as a heap of garbage that will continue to stink and rot. This sounds like I hate the film. I don’t, it’s well written and has the distinct Irvine Welsh attitude and vocabulary laced throughout that I am comfortable with by now but it is lewd and cringe worthy,  it acknowledges the things in life most people would rather not think about. Quite dark. Oh and not surprisingly for Welsh, it’s main topics are sex, drugs and misery.

·         Greyfriar’s Bobby: The true story of a dog (1961) Adorable dog, the actors don’t matter!
A step back in to the wholesome after all that debauchery listed above. Greyfriar’s Bobby is a touching family movie (Disney no less) about a shepard and his dog a Skye terrier named Bobby. After  making a trip to Edinburgh, the shepherd dies and Bobby remains fiercely loyal to the point of sleeping on the shepherd’s grave. So heartwarming! Watch out it may make you (and the kids) cry a biteen.  Overall it’s pretty hokey, but tells a great story and has pretty decent acting to boot. It’s a shame they don’t make family movies like this anymore.

·         Tunes of Glory (1960) Alec Guinness , John Mills, Susannah York
Oscar Nominated for Adapted Screenplay. Two commanding officers, one battalion. Loyalty, hurt feelings, tragedy. Who will reign supreme? Not exactly one that you’ll put on your favorites list, as it drags at it’s start. However, once it picks up the pace, Tunes of Glory is pretty darn hilarious (albeit somewhat predictable). Watch it for Alec Guinness if for no other reason, he was one of the greats.
Quotes- Major Sinclair: “Whisky for the gentlemen that like it. And for the gentlemen that don't like it - Whisky.”

·         Dear Frankie (2004) Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Jack McElhone, Sharon Small
I rented this movie despite my general dislike of Gerard Butler and was pleasantly surprised to find that it combined two things of great interest to me; sign language and Scotland!  While the plot is a bit all over the place and the time line is at times inscrutable, the story is sweet and the scenery absolutely breathtaking. Oh yeah, the acting doesn’t stink either (previous conceptions of Butler be darned). Here is the gist of what you need to know.  A Mother tells her deaf child (Frankie) that his father is out to sea. Frankie tracks the ship and finds out the ship will be docking in their small Scottish town. Mom needs to find someone to pretend to be dad (enter Gerard butler). Saying anymore would spoil it, but I will tell you it is definitely a chick flick, no bones about it.
Quote- Lizzie “Frankie wasn't born deaf. It was a present from his daddy.”

So there you have it. A short list of Scotland based films. Have any favorites you didn’t see here? Feel free to leave a comment and share.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Changing your fate with a magic hat.

 The Adjustment Bureau- Starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt
                                             Directed by:  George Nolfi
What better way to start a Movie Review blog than with a theology heavy Matt Damon flick. I know, I know. You are thinking “This isn’t a movie review at all, it’s simply a vehicle for Cassy to gush about how amazing Matt Damon is”. I’ll admit, I do see all Matt Damon movie’s in the theatre, regardless of genre or depth. He’s not a bad looking guy, and I happen to enjoy looking at him. That being said, I’d like to remind you that I can remain impervious to the charms of Damon’s smile and impartially review his films, and have in fact found several of them to be utter time wasters. For example: The Legend of Bagger Vance was a marathon of a yawn fest and the more recent Green Zone was trite and self-indulgent.
Are you convinced that I have no bias toward Matt Damon films? If not, take a break, go enjoy a nice refreshing pineapple juice, listen to some smooth jazz, and come back with a clear mind ready to start reading anew. 

********************************Mind Clearing  Break****************************

Feel better? Less judgmental?
 Alright now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

*The Actual Review*
If you’ve  seen a preview for The Adjustment Bureau, you are probably  aware that this is not a cotton candy film, it’s got some weight and covers some pretty hefty topics. This, in truth, is what made me want to see The Adjustment Bureau. I love movies that make you think, that leave you with questions about life and the “big picture”. The Adjustment Bureau tackles the big picture questions of freewill vs. predestination, and true love vs. all the adversity that life has to offer. Not sure you want to pay ten bucks to have to think hard enough to understand these topics?  Sound like a recipe for an overly theological, intellectually driven disasterpiece? I see where you might think that, but hold tight. This film doesn’t whack you over the head with inscrutable symbolism and you don’t need a phd to understand the message George Nolfi  and Philip K. Dick, author of The Adjustment Team were trying to get at. I'd tell you what that message is, but then you'd have no reason to see the film (Damon not withstanding).
Without spoiling the film, here is what you need to know. Matt Damon plays David Norris, a young politician who runs for and ultimately loses a seat on the U.S. Senate. Before giving his concession speech, Norris runs into Elise Sellas (played beautifully by Emily Blunt). Instantly, Norris and Sellas are struck by a palpable chemistry. Norris is so inspired by his feelings for Sellas that he scraps his original concession speech and speaks unscripted and from the heart. This speech has the potential to set Norris back on the fast track to holding some big political offices. This speech is all a part of “The Plan”. “The Plan” is what this movie is all about. In this interpretation of the world, every human being’s life has been mapped out from the beginning of time, they each have their own pre-set plan which is where all the predestination vs. free will ideas come in. Things are complicated when Norris decides (yep despite the plan, people can still make decisions for themselves) to go against the plan to pursue Elise Sellas. Once Norris decides to pursue Sellas he affectively changes both of their “plans” and not necessarily for the better.
This is the point in the movie where I really started to question what perceptions of mine were shaping the way I viewed this movie. Was it holes in the plot that made this movie unbelievable, or was it personal belief? For instance, I was struggling with Norris’ choice to risk his happy, successful future for the chance to be with a woman he barely knew. Furthermore, when he met Elise, he was having a monumentally crappy day and his entire attitude and outlook on things seemed to change with the flip of a switch. Though the chemistry between Damon and Blunt was fantastic (seriously I don’t think I’ve seen Damon with such believable and enjoyable on screen chemistry with anyone since he acted with Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting), it seemed like a stretch to me. But why? Perhaps, because I don’t believe in love at first sight, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could convince themselves to throw it all away on a hunch that some girl was the bees knees. Which brought me to the second big question, is this movie trying to say that true love is more powerful than “the plan”. This seems flawed. If love can cause a person to buck the plan, why would the creator of “the plan” also create love? And here, you can draw your own parallels between God (or whatever higher power you believe in) and the creator of “the plan” (the movie calls him The Chairman).
Why would a movie so blatantly raise such big questions without giving a solid answer to wrap it all up in the end? If you ask me, it’s a pretty smart thing to do. Had the movie taken a side, fewer people would enjoy or identify with it’s premise. Leaving it open allows the viewer to decide for themselves in a sort of choose your own adventure sort of way. For this, I applaud George Nolfi on a job well done. Maybe next time around, he could explain the significance of the magical hats but for now let’s not split hairs.

If you didn’t enjoy this review, I won’t hold it against you. I guess it just wasn’t in “the plan”.

C’s overall film rating: 3 of 5 stars