Classic Movie Quest: “Great Expectations (1946)” and “Bringing Up Baby (1938)”

Monday 25 February, 2013

Great Expectations (1946)

Great expectations. what can I say about the 1946 version of Great Expectations, starring John Mills and Alec Guinness?

Well, to reflect my real opinion, I’ll try to keep it brief.

I had Great Expectations for this film (I saw an opportunity and I seized it) and they all fell flat.

Admittedly, I didn’t know the full story before I watched the film, I’ve never read the book. I do like Dickens, though, so part of my expectations were based on that.

It’s hard to say whether it’s the film I had a problem with, or the story and the characters from the original novel, if the film is considered close enough for that.

The main problem I had was that I didn’t find any of the characters likeable, but I didn’t dislike them enough to care to know their back stories and they’re motivation anyway. In one way, they are real reflections and representations of flawed people you find in real life throughout history, in another, there’s nothing else to them and I found them too boring, and annoying, to watch.

I would go into a summary of the story, but it’s too complex to sum-up adequately  All I can really say is that I found it to be a story of loose ends tied up with the help of a contrived love story.

If the novel is better than this film depicts, maybe when I watch a later version I’ll end up feeling differently.

1 point for good acting, another point for brilliant casting.

Bringing Up Baby (1938):

I had to stop watching this film when Katherine Hepburn’s character stole Cary Grant’s character’s clothes to get them “pressed”.

If there’s one thing that gets my blood boiling, it’s manipulative people getting their way because they make out that something they’ve done that upsets, annoys or disturbs the person was just them trying to be helpful.

I didn’t see what happened next, but in real like the manipulative person tells the upset person that they were only trying to help, they’re being unappreciative and there’s no need to be like that. I wasn’t to watch another minute of it for fear that that was going to be used as some sort of RomCom plot device, considering her actions up until that point were lesser one’s of the same variety.

I can understand how that situation might have been funny and read differently back when the film was set, back when the film was made, but I’m surprised to find just how much people like this film in this day and age of political correctness and social awareness gone mad. This is the day and age where Tom Thumb is considered racist and ableist, and yet Katherine Hepburn’s Character’s actions are accepted as romantic comedy hi jinx.

…But then we’ve recently been given 50 Shades of Gray, which is also considered romantic for some unfathomable reason, instead of the abusive and unsafe relationship it really is, so I don’t know why I’m so surprised, really.


Classic Movie Quest: “Dr Strangelove” and “Bonnie & Clyde”

Sunday 17 February, 2013

Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying blah blah blah etc etc.

Starring Peter Sellers. I didn’t go into this completely blind, I knew 2 very important things:

1) It was a Peter Sellers movie, which meant it was guaranteed to be weird and a peculiar brand of funny.
2) It was satire based on the Cold War/Russian Spies/Nuclear Weapons fall out.

Unfortunately, that sums up all I can say about the plot (if there was one…) and in turn the characters. I couldn’t gel with it. Maybe it wasn’t my brand of humour, or maybe it was and it just fell flat for me. Either way, I didn’t find it funny enough to stick with it through the mind-boggling quick-cut narrative. I can’t say whether this is a good film despite my dislike of it, because it was just too bizarre for me to form an opinion on it either way beyond “dislike”. Maybe the point of the film is to power through the bizarre elements for the sake of experiencing the humouress parts? I don’t know. I really can’t say…

So, I gave up at the 40 minute mark. I might have given it more time, as I did like the board room scenes, but I felt like I already knew them and how those scenes would pan out thanks to watching Monsters Vs Aliens. Which I think says more about me than it does the film, unfortunately…


Bonnie & Clyde

Yet another film I went into blind (I have got to stop doing that). I knew nothing about the film beyond the fact that it was based on real-life events and people.

Unfortunately, not knowing much about the real people other than the basic fact that they were real people that were part of a criminal gang made it even more difficult to tell what was basic fact, what had been through the Hollywood Plot Device Machine, and what was somewhere between the two extremes. And I still haven’t really looked into them, so admittedly I’m still just as ignorant as I was before watching it.

Comparing it with Titanic, which was a very real event dramatised with (somewhat questionably-) plausible but fictional events, it’s hard to see these people really existing. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe they were so detached from society, that the film is more accurate than what I’d like to believe. The film, from what I saw, didn’t delve very far into the rest of the gang and that’s what baffled me further. Am I really meant to believe that two self-named “bank robbers” were able to just pick up willing strangers along the way to join their gang, with just a friendly conversation? Is that how it really happened? I wasn’t expecting an executive hiring process but it’s just so unbelievable to think they met these random people just completely by absolute random happenstance and that those people just willingly agreed to join them! Them, as in Bonnie & Clyde, known fugitives of the law!

And whilst I’m on it, at the point where Bonnie Parker is declaring to everyone within hearing distance that they’re “bank robbers”, not only is there no “they” about it, because Clyde had done all the robbing alone up to that point, but also when they did eventually attempt to rob a bank together for the first time robbing a bank together, Clyde went in with his gun, Bonnie was in the car… and the bank was empty. It had gone bust. So even then there was no “robbery”. Yet there she was, claiming plural bank robberies!

As a film in and of itself, from the 40 minutes I forced myself to watch, it was boring and overly romantic. I felt like the director behind the film was trying to make these people characters three dimensional people that I was meant to sympathise with, or at least Bonnie Parker; But from the moment she encouraged Clyde’s attention (And I feel awful saying it like that but that seems to the most accurate way to describe her actions towards him at the beginning), all sympathy points were dissolved and made null and void.

And if that’s the way it really happened, there’s not much I can say, is there? The film becomes even more frustrating to watch.


Now This Is Definitely A Review: The Seventh Seal

Saturday 9 February, 2013

What do you get when you mix a LoveFilm account, a film buff that has yet to see many of the highly acclaimed classics, and a list of those aforementioned classic films everyone must see in their life time?

You get me, sitting in bed watching the classic and highly acclaimed Swedish “horror film” The Seventh Seal. This is a review: A Failed Journalist style. Hopefully that won’t put you off reading it!

In short, it’s about a knight who plays chess with Death, a pasty faced man in a long black coat. He, as in the knight, goes on a bit of a journey to get answers to Life, The Universe and Everything, and people die.

In long, it’s about a knight called Antonius Block who starts a game of chess with Death, the pasty faced fellow in a long black coat, starts winning and then goes on a journey through a village and ends up befriending some street entertainers. He accidentally gives away how he’s beating Death at chess so far, to Death himself (OHNOEZ)…. And it takes place during the plague.

The Street Entertainers are a 3 men circus troupe, consisting of 2 men, Skat and Jof, and a woman called Mia. Mia and Jof are husband and wife, and they have a bouncing baby boy called Mikael.

Whilst Antonious Block and his squire Jons are in the village, at the same time as the troupe, Skat runs off with the village blacksmith’s wife for a brief affair, and the blacksmith takes a disliking to the troupe. Understandably. And then later on in the film, he has a change of heart when his wife goes back to him, and they all, minus Skat, carry on going through the woods in a wagon together.

Around about the same time, Block’s Squire, Jons, accumulates a female villager. Yes, accumulates, and no, that’s not a euphamism. Well…

First he rescues her from being killed, then he tries to kiss her, then he points out that he could have done much worse, and then tells her she owes him and so she better go along with him. So she does…

I’ll be honest, I found the film very interesting but confusing. At the fifty minute mark, I had yet to see how this film could be a horror film. I mean, horrific things were implied, but not so much seen on screen.

Most of the eery, chilling atmosphere was disrupted by the street entertainer troupe. I found they made the film lighthearted and that confused me, and I wondered whether it was for a paradox effect due to them singing, at the same point where Skat runs off with the Blacksmith’s wife, about The Black One (presumably the devil or death wrapped up in the plague). But then that theory was dashed when their performance was interrupted by a Priest and his group of flagellants. They believed that the plague was a form of punishment from God, so they were punishing themselves so that God didn’t have to.

All lighthearted confusion brought on by the troupe’s jesting get up and singing was forcefully sucked out of the atmosphere in favour of dark, eery confusion brought on by the chanting, the crying, the whipping and the young girl with a crown of thorns on her head…

Despite it being set during the Plague, people dying en masse was mostly implied. Nothing truly graphic happened on screen, and maybe it’s the implications and the knowledge of what was happening off screen that was meant to be the horror for most of the film. Or maybe it’s not, maybe the old Hays Production Code was in effect and did genuinely have an impact on how horror-filled the first 50 minutes of this film was meant to be, and it’s just that i’m desensitised to what was found to be truly horrifying back when people were seeing this film for the first time due to today’s society being as desensitised to horror as it is, generally.

But then I hit the fifty minute mark and understood what made this film undoubtably a horror film.

Death keeps popping up to play chess, so Block is never free, and the nearer to the end of the game they get, the more desperate for answers he is. A girl who is said to have met the devil gets burnt at the stake. It was mostly off screen, but they showed the stage, fire and stake being set up. She was tied up, Block took pity on her and gave her something “to help with the pain”, and they rode away into the night before she died.

Jof, known for his “Visions” which most people don’t believe, sees Block playing Chess with Death, whilst Mia can only see him playing by himself, and they run off to safety before Death kills them all.

Death announces the next move will be checkmate and says he will return, leaving Block, his squire Jons, The Blacksmith, his wife Lisa, and the village girl to return to Block’s home with his wife Karin.

This is where it actually felt chilling for me. I’ve always had a fear of omnipotent presences, and Death coming back to take their lives was pretty frightening, but in a calm and eery sense. Block was visibly disturbed, and Jons prayed, but the rest welcomed him and accepted their fate.

Death just stood there, with his eery smile. They had no power, no say so in the situation, they just have to go along with is, as is the case when your time really is up in the real world, be it by sickness, age or a fatal accident. This film very much reminds it’s viewers that dying isn’t usually up to us, it is a decision made for us.

The last we see of them all is when Jof sees them “dancing in a line” across the road at the top of the dunes. Jof, Mia and little Mikael are the only survivors.

If I hadn’t have watched to the very end, I’d have been left dissappointed and confused. But I watched it to the end and not only can I accept it as a horror film, but I’m also able to appreciate it on a shallow level as well see it has many other levels should I feel the need to delve into them, and I’m sure that those other reveal even more horrifying and chilling factors with a proper analysis.

The end, for example, made me wonder whether Death was just a metaphor for the plague all along anyway. And that when they died, did they die of the plague, leaving the remaining street entertainers plus baby free of the disease? Was the plague a metaphor too?

I’m convinced that it was all just one big metaphor, either way, but I can’t decide what for. It just might be up for a free for all fest for people to decide for themselves what it was a metaphor for, if it indeed was a metaphor.

Now, the real question is: Did I enjoy the film?

Yes. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again. I know a good film put together with great acting, scene work and directing when I see it, but the 50 minutes it takes for all the strands to come together to make a horror film is too long for me.


Cruel Irony, Much?

Friday 1 February, 2013

I’ve said before about the inaccessible “accessible bathrooms”, and the transport for disabled people that put cost effectiveness over usefulness of service, and now I have a new one to add to the list.

Up until recently, I was in the process of trying to get an electric wheelchair. It’s all more complicated in some ways than you can imagine, and simpler in some other ways than I could have hoped for.

In order to get an electric wheelchair, it’s standard procedure to have a Visual Field Test, just to prove that the potential user (in this case, me) has enough vision and peripheral awareness to be in control of a powered chair safely.

Failing the test means that a powered chair will be unsuitable. I know for a fact that I have freaky (in a good way) peripheral vision, and such good Crowd Awareness that it’s like a 6th sense. Unfortunately, I also struggle so much with depth perception, thanks to dyscalculia, that I ended up giving up driving lessons. Distance measurements meant nothing to me, I could never tell if a gap was too big or too small for the car so i always assumed it was too small, and it just generally made it difficult to get comfortable with driving.

Still, there’s a difference between driving a car and steering a wheelchair, one being a metal box surrounding you and protecting you, and the other one being a chair on wheels that leaves you open to the elements, so overall I wasn’t all that worried about the test… until I actually saw the machine they did the tests on.

It was a box, like a television, on top of a desk, and inside the box was an LED Board. The idea was to focus on the red light and when you see one of the LEDs flash, you press a button. You’re meant to sit right up close and rest your head on the cushioned rests so that you can see the whole LED box.

Well, the first problem was that there was no good height to get the box at, and there was no way to get my wheelchair or me closer to the box. Sitting up as straight as possible, my back still needs to be supported to the point of minor reclination, and after a few minutes any leaning forward I’dve managed to do, pain sets in so I’d have to sit right back so that my cushion could support me properly again, making the effort pointless and taxing.

This device was completely wheelchair inaccessible, and I had no way of sitting to meet it half way. The 10 minutes I’d tried to was a complete disaster. I could see the red light fine, and if the flashes were happening in the top half of the box, that was fine. But any flashes at the bottom of the LED board was blocked by the plastic casing around the “window”. And then the red light disappeared completely. The optician who was seeing to me (no pun intended) had to leave the room to get the optician of a higher level in the staff chain of command, because it was quite clear I was failing this test through reasons not related to what the test was meant to be testing for.

The optician was lovely, don’t get me wrong, and both of them did their best to accommodate me. He had the device off the desk and onto a computer chair, tried various heights of both the desk and the chair but it just wouldn’t do. Unless you can rest your head on the cushioned casing, most of the LED board is blocked by the very casing it’s enclosed in.

He apologised, and did a basic manual test instead, which I passed by the way, but I couldn’t help commenting on the irony of the whole situation, and the very fact that the device is not fit for purpose.

In other opticians and in hospitals, there’s probably better forms of the device used to carry out these tests. I just always seem to be in the wrong places to get to them. But once again, I can’t just be the only one this happens to, it just feels that way from other people’s responses.

I’m just lucky the Optician was sympathetic enough, and confident in his own abilities, to trust a basic manual test instead of voiding my form due to being unable to carry out the test. But then if that had happened, I’d have been well within my rights to complain.

Instead, I’m settling for a letter of suggestion to send to their head office. I might not be fond of making myself some sort of spokes person, but if I want to see changes happen, what else can I do?

It’s like I said last time, if I want to see changes happen, I have to help make them happen because very few people will do it off their own say so.

And in case anyone is wondering, I am now a card carrying member of the Electric Wheelchair Owner’s and Driver’s Club. Well, I would be if that club actually existed…