Busy Week of Events

Another very busy week, both at work and at home. I’ve decided to take things one week at a time, while still planning a little ahead, because otherwise I might get overwhelmed. However, it’s been a week full of pleasant events.

Nahnatchka Khan (director), Ali Wong, Randall Park (co-creators and main actors) and Keanu Reeves

I managed to see two fun films: The Favourite, on DVD from the library, because I’d missed in cinemas (it was only very briefly on, despite the Oscar win of Olivia Colman), and Always Be My Maybe on Netflix. The latter cheered me up no end: a rom com with a difference; hugely believable and charming cast (and I don’t mean just that hilarious Keanu Reeves cameo); plus, it made me realise that Asian families are more relatable to Romanian families (especially when they are immigrants) than American ones (like The Ice Storm or The Royal Tenenbaums).

The Favourite is an over-the-top All About Eve in period costume but written for a modern audience. It manages to be both funny and heartbreaking, as is Olivia Colman herself as a sickly, fearful Queen Anne, never quite sure that anyone loves her for herself rather than for her power. Rachel Weisz was majestic, imperious and domineering (but also vulnerable) as Sarah Churchill, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by Emma Stone, although perhaps her blank look was deliberate, to convey both initial innocence and subsequent manipulation.

What is really important about both these films is that they are educational while being entertaining: they show Asian stories and women without men stories can be just as powerful, exciting, witty and nuanced as the more monotone mainstream stories we have become accustomed to. And with shows like Fleabag, Killing Eve and Gentleman Jack on TV, I’m delighted that it’s becoming more visible. Is it just a niche fashion, while in real life racism and homophobia run rampant? Well, let me at least try to believe that is not so for a short period while I watch these.

Reading updates: I’ve embarked on my American authors binge. I’ve read Laura Kasischke’s disquieting slow-burning psychological thriller Be Mine, Jane Bowle’s wacky misfit of a novel Two Serious Ladies and Kent Haruf’s plainly-written but powerful Plainsong. Reviews will be coming up shortly.

This week was also my younger son’s birthday – he’s turned an amazingly mature 14 and all the usual ‘when did that happen’ squeals apply here. So, as a birthday treat, while older brother was revising for his final GCSE week, I took the no-longer-quite-so-little-one to London for the Manga Exhibition at the British Museum. I will write more about the Manga Exhibition on another occasion, because I will go back to see it a second time with the other son. But then we followed it up with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel in Fitzrovia. The hotel is a very non-descript 1960s type block, but they’ve been very clever at creating a little oasis in the courtyard and serving an expensive but utterly delicious and spectacular afternoon tea inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

The courtyard cafe.
The amazing spread.
The choice of teas. We opted for Alice and Cheshire Cat.
An extra treat for the birthday boy, a nice little gesture from the cafe.
The tactic of leaving the best for last does not work when there is so much food…
My favourite thing were these cute little Drink Me smoothies.

It’s Not All Books: The Films I Love

A little twitter conversation with the delightful Janet Emson (if you haven’t discovered her book blog yet, it’s highly recommended, not just by me) had me uttering the words: ‘Dammit, Janet, I love you!’ This, in turn, led me to ponder which films I have really, really loved and watched again and again. The problem is, I love films (and books and songs) for different reasons.

For the subject matter and/or atmosphere:

The Department of (Mis)Information from Brazil.
The Department of (Mis)Information from Brazil.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil – for the zany, frenetic way it makes fun of dictatorships and the inability to acknowledge any mistakes

Ridley Scott: Blade Runner – for its despairing and visually unforgettable view of the future

Tarkovsky: Stalker and Andrei Rublyev – for showing like no other the pain of creativity and of a demanding God/or authority figure or simply the fear of the Unknown (and self) – we must have had endless discussions about what these films actually mean when we were students (having watched them on pirated copies, as they were banned at the time)

Kieslowski: Three Colours: Blue – for its lyrical depiction of grief and loss

Pretty much all of Hitchcock, with a penchant for Vertigo, North-by-Northwest and Rear Window

rashomonKurosawa: Rashomon – such a revolutionary way of showing different points of view, but also for the expressive face of Toshiro Mifune

Carol Reed: The Third Man – Vienna, black-and-white, whom can you trust and that zither… need I say more?

Robert Mulligan: To Kill a Mockingbird – did anyone not want a father like Gregory Peck?

Michael Curtiz: Casablanca – ties for one of the best end lines in films (see below), plus the luminous glow of Ingrid Bergman and the wit throughout is just wonderful

richardbeymerWest Side Story – no matter how many times I see it, it still makes me dance, sing along and cry – plus I wanted to be Natalie Wood and Tony (Richard Beymer) looked uncannily like my first boyfriend

For the male lead:

The English Patient- Ralph Fiennes to look after me when I am dying in the desert

plein-soleil-delonLe Samourai and Plein Soleil – Alain Delon as ruthless and dangerous to know (Plein Soleil is the French version of Ripley)

La Beauté du Diable – Gérard Philippe to sell his soul for me

judelawThe Talented Mr. Ripley – Jude Law steals the show as Dickie Greenleaf and makes us condone what Matt Damon is about to do next…

For sheer fun:

Rocky Horror Picture Show – my coming of age film

Some Like It Hot – I can still quote more than half of it, plus the best end line in all of film history (tied with Casablanca)

Bringing Up Baby – absurd but the wittiest dialogue between two of my favourite actors: Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant

The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets – the darkest, funniest Ealing comedies, I merely have to see Alec Guiness’ eyes to start laughing (not so much in his more serious roles later on)

The Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show - besides, I've got relatives in Transylvania, so there!
The Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show – besides, I’ve got relatives in Transylvania, so there!

And there are so many others, too many to mention. So, which films have you loved? Which films can you watch over and over again? Or are there any films that you only watched once but which left an indelible impression on you?