Let me tell you this useless information

Friday 12 June, 2020

Some years ago I watched a cheaply made, badly put together documentary about the history/progression of the music industry. I watched it on DVD through LoveFilm, sometime between January 2013 and before Amazon took over LoveFilm completely. I can’t remember it’s name. I wish I couldn’t remember the documentary at all to be honest…

There was this snippet that talked about the music video, and the documentary narrator stated that there were three claims to the creation of the concept of the music video. Keep in mind, there was absolutely no footage or statements shown that proved these bands/artists actually made these claims, just photos/video footage as the narrator spoke.

The remit for creating the concept of the music video was that it had to be a video exclusively to work alongside the music, not on stage footage or a TV show performance repurposed for the sake of a music video.

The first was The Beatles, which seems believable.

The second is David Bowie, which, if I saw evidence of it I’d believe it, but I’m not so sure on the creation element. There are musical interludes in A Hard Day’s Night which were specifically written to show the audience that this was a real band they were watching, a purposefully directed visual element to work with the musical one. And a Hard Day’s Night predates David Bowie’s first music video.

The third was Cher.

No, I don’t understand that one either.

There was no mention of Queen, who actually have stated they created the concept of the music video with Bohemian Rhapsody. They had a director and everything!

But were they really the first? Again, A Hard Day’s Night’s Train scene where they’re singing I Should Have Known Better fits the remit too, and so do the musical interludes in Help!

The problem is, when you search for this information, you get the Queen claims, and you get forums where people are absolutely sure it was The Beatles. They’re no more informed than I am. (I don’t see any mention of Cher though, or this terrible documentary) So you have to take what you find with a pinch of salt. Is this all egos at battle, or, maybe they did all create a concept of the music video, but different ones at different times? And you put all those elements together, and it’s what you get today.

Maybe at some point in the future, a better quality documentary will cover this exact topic and put me out of my misery, because this has bugged me for years now. Hell, maybe there’s already one floating around right now waiting for me to watch it!

The Love Affair Is Over

Friday 7 March, 2014

As you may know, I have been quite the fangirl of LoveFilm over the years. I’ve been a member since 2010, when The So Called Good Friend suggested I become a member, after my operation left me bed-bound, quite bored and with very little to do. It was marvellous! (The lovefilm subscription, not being bed-bound and bored) I could watch almost anything and everything, I was easily getting my money’s worth from them, and despite a few hiccups here and there, they have given me excellent service!

And then redesigned their listing system, and I wasn’t very keen on that… which was fine, because they listened to people’s comments and they fixed what people didn’t like. The redesign ended up combining what people really wanted from the way the old site was with the redesign LoveFilm were quite adamant to force on to us.

And then just a couple of months after that, they merged with Amazon. Or Amazon bought them out. I’m not sure which one it actually is, but basically, Amazon got involved. It had it’s good points and it’s bad points, actually. It seemed to allow for a better range of television shows, it widened the range of things you could watch online and it allowed LoveFilm members access to Amazon Pilots. Those were all good points…

The bad points, though, well, first of all, to stay “true to providing a service fit for it’s name”, it chucked the games rental. Which was a real kick in the teeth to me, I’d just switched to the all inclusive package to include games! Not to mention I was planning and having to rewrite a third How To entry, because the little changes on top of my infrequent use of Lovefilm at the time meant that I felt the information I had wasn’t good enough to justify a whole new entry, as well as being too much of a rehash of what I’d already written on my previous entries.

And then… Amazon itself. Amazon does not deal with it’s customers very well. It doesn’t even deal with it’s employees well. Before I gave up using Amazon altogether, the quality of the products I was buying went from reliable and unquestionable to junk items at a Carboot Sale. And I say that as a massive fan of Carboot Sales. I found I was able to buy less and less straight from Amazon, especially for a price that didn’t leave you bankrupt, and had a lot of problems with even the highly rated third party vendors. Complaining to the relevant email addresses never really got me anywhere, and then I learnt about how awful the working conditions were. So I stopped using Amazon.

So, when LoveFilm changed to “Lovefilm – An Amazon Company”, I was sceptical about it’s future, both as a good company and something I’d be happy to carry on with using. There are too many times where companies merge, or where one gets swallowed by another, and it changes the business for the worse. So many times when this happens, original customers of the original company are left disgruntled and left out in the cold. With that in mind, I prepared for the inevitable.

By which I mean, I got a trusty notebook and I made a list of all of my lists. Once a week, I’d cross out the titles that I’d watched, I’d add to relevant lists when titles became available from out of the reserved, and added any titles I’d added in a spree to the lists on the site. I am nothing if not prepared and fastidious when it comes to my DVD renting.

Which is why the instant the switch over happened, I wasn’t happy. And I wasn’t alone in not being happy. The switch over was not smooth, the switch over was not quick, and from what I can gather from social network and other LoveFilm fanatics aboot the place, the switch over was not wanted at all. At the fastest turn around, people can get through up to nine discs in a week, six or seven is more realistic. And they were paying less than £14 for it. There were graded packets which were aimed at the more leisurely viewer and people who were streaming only. The switch over changed these packages completely. People were expected to pay about the same price for one less disc a go. Now one disc for a bit less doesn’t sound that bad, but let’s go to the average fastest turn around, that’s three less discs a week, that can be nine less discs a month. That’s about the same price for nine less discs!

And not just that. LoveFilm used to have a Pay Per View system, but it wasn’t working for them, so they removed it in their redesign. Every item to stream on their site was viewable for every member on a streaming package. Only their package limitations limited them. With the change over to Amazon, an unlimited streaming package literally just means you could watch as many things as you want with no time or broadband usage limit. Most items to stream on the new Amazon Instant Video service, which is what the LoveFilm instant package has become, are PPV. And they’re not cheap!

I’ll be the first in line to say that LoveFilm didn’t have the best films available to stream, their dvd stock was much, much bigger, but this so called unlimited package takes the cake! If you’re spending £7 for an unlimited service, you then shouldn’t have to spend over £100 to watch every episode of a series, or £3.99 for a film, on top of what you’ve already paid.

Most of the confusion of the switch over, probably the main reason many people were left very unhappy by the switch over, was that the LoveFilm package was split into two components. The postal delivery service is called LoveFilm By Post; Self explanatory but actually hard to find, no sensible navigation and actually no extra information at all. Once your account moved over successfully, you could see your lists in their entirety, but no easily located place to see what discs are being sent out to you or how to add titles to your lists, which is a pretty important part of the dvd rental service.

The streaming service is now called Amazon Instant Video Prime. Which has nothing to do with an Amazon Prime Account, which is it’s own component to Lovefilm Streaming. All available information about streaming for the first four days post switch over said, “All films available to Prime users”. People were left very confused. People, including myself, couldn’t figure out whether Amazon had forced a Prime account on to them or whether there was a problem with the site.

And then users were figuring it out for themselves, because the phone lines weren’t being very helpful and their twitter account had gone on radio silence, apart from the tweets advertising how good their new services were. It wasn’t that switched over users were given Amazon Prime accounts with the expectation to pay £70 every year for it, nor was it that the website was broken.

Amazon Prime, as in the Amazon VIP purchasing service was separate, but it gave all Prime members truly unlimited access, at no extra cost, to the video streaming service. Well, “no extra cost” as in apart from the annual Prime fee, which was about £49 but increased to £70. The video streaming service switched over from LoveFilm, was just “coincidentally” named Prime. As a coincidence. And not in any way a deliberate attempt to confuse people, at all.

So, there were unhappy faces all around, really! And that’s just online! I had to call up to cancel my account, and after being on hold for thirty minutes, the person I spoke to falsely claimed that my cancellation wouldn’t go through in time before my next payment, which was the next day, so I’d have a full month paid for, wouldn’t I like that full month to get used to this new service?

I said no. She said I had to call back once my discs had been stated as returned anyway, in order to cancel, and there was nothing she could do to help me further, with apologies. I cancelled the postal part online myself, and the next day had to ring up to cancel the streaming part because I couldn’t find that part online.

It’s been a week since I cancelled and I have not been charged at all for the new month that would have started had I not cancelled when I did. Just by luck, my discs had arrived the morning after I’d tried to cancel. Which was why I was trying to cancel, actually. I didn’t want more discs to be sent out and the whole process stalled even further.

So lies on top of a poor quality of customer service and misinformation. I will let the waiting times ranted about on twitter speak for themselves. The first morning of the switch over, people were in queues or up to half an hour. It settled down to 10 minutes by that evening. The next day, people were tweeting about queues for up to half an hour again, twenty minutes throughout most of the way and then five to ten minutes by that evening. Ten minutes at most for the third morning, spiking up to twenty minutes for a good portion of the afternoon and evening, and back down to ten minutes by that evening.

I’ve asked around, quite a few people said the original queue time for LoveFilm was between five and ten minutes, as started by the recorded voice on the phone.

Tweets started being flooded by some sort of review cross-posting in connection to Amazon Prime, so it was hard to keep track past the fourth day, but most tweets were questions, rants of confusion and statement of intent to quit LoveFilm. Even now, most tweets about the change over are not positive ones. Yes, I bet people who have the money to spend in one big amount are quite happy with their new Amazon Prime services, but those of us who have been with LoveFilm for years have been trampled over. You get a fair amount less than what you did with the original LoveFilm, and if you want exactly what you had with LoveFilm, you have to pay a lot more in one go for it.

LoveFilm was on of the few remaining services around that really treated their DVD rental customers and streaming customers equally. Which was why I was quite happy to stream whenever I was able to, which was rarely, as well as still work my way through the DVDs. And now, I do say this with a bit of apprehension, it’s been ruined. Because I wouldn’t be surprised if six months from now, LoveFilm by post gets phased out completely.

Why do I think that? Because whilst customers who focused on wanting a streaming service were confused with what was what, LoveFilm by post was just neglected completely, despite all lists being screwed up and merged. A lot of people who had a problem sorting the LoveFilm by Post stuff out were merely told to wait until it got sorted and look around the streaming instead. As well as being expected to be fine with paying about the same for less, with no guarantee of a next day delivery service. Alright, LoveFilm couldn’t guarantee that either, it was subject to the postal service. But when the post ran smoothly, it was almost always a next day delivery service. With LoveFilm by Post, delivery for DVDs was second to any Prime customers renting DVDs. And they’d get the priority, and anyone else was subject to the remaining space/time left over after the priority of Prime went through.

And almost every other service is just stream only. So why not this one, too? It’d be foolish to think they value their customers after they’ve proved repeatedly how much they don’t.

SO for all of that, I have left LoveFilm. I am sad about this, but good riddance to Amazon Rubbish. I hear most people who have left LoveFilm have moved to Netflix. People who can’t stream are looking into CinemaParadiso.co.uk, which does have a similar package system to LoveFilm, but the prices are much higher. It’d be £22 a month for four DVDs a go, and still no games. Could be worth it if you have a fast turn around, but that’s a monthly sum just a bit steep for me. I can’t justify that for myself, so for now I’m getting what I can, when I can, from my local Library. Which serves me well in DVD rentals, as well as supporting my local Library, and sticking it to hungry businesses trampling on the little man.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go after LoveFilm’s transmogrification into Amazon, and are a bit lost; As well as the ones I’ve already mentioned, there’s also blinkbox, which is streaming only, and Blockbuster is making a comeback.

And for anyone worried or wondering about my LoveFilm Classic Film Quest, worry not! That’s what the Library will come in use for. Well, for as long as the Library remains open, anyway.

Please, if you have any comments, suggestions and whatnots, feel free to reply!

Classic Movie Quest: Empire of the Sun

Sunday 23 February, 2014

I know this probably sounds like a broken record, but this was another film on my Must See Classic Film list. It is based on the semi-autobiographical book of the same name, by a man called J.G Ballard.

Not having read the book, I can’t compare how closely the film follows it. But to me, it would be strange to take something which is based on experiences, but dramatised to make it fiction, to be further dramatised and fictionalised for the sake of a film…

But anyway, about the film. It stars Christian Bale and John Malkovich. In fact, this was the film that apparently boosted Christian Bale’s career. From what I saw, because this was another film that didn’t make it past the 40 minute mark, it’s based in the times of the Pacific war in the 1930s, and is about a child, Jamie Graham, who becomes an orphan after being separated from his parents during a mass evacuation in Shanghai.

Here’s my first problem with… well, it’s not so much the film, it’s the character’s actions which brought about the film’s rolling plot point. I simply can’t stand a character who ignores instructions and falls victim to their own mistakes.

First he sees a boat in the harbour, opposite his bedroom window, flashing it’s light in a form of communication (light Morse code?), and flashes back with his own torch! He’s not that young of a child to not have any form of common sense. He should have known that that was not a good idea.

And then there’s an explosion. I’m not sure whether that’s coincidental or whether his light flashing back created a signal for the boat to fire at them, but either way, it was not a smart move and could have ended up with him being killed. He was lucky he moved away from the window when he did.

And then there’s the mass evacuation. There’s people everywhere, the crowd crush just by itself is dangerous, but these are desperate people just on the edge of rioting. Jamie and his parents have to leave their car and escape on foot. He’s meant to keep tight hold of his mother’s hand… but then he loses his toy aeroplane, and let’s go of his mother’s hand.

There’s a war going on, there’s mass panic, there’s a real danger they all could be killed just by being on the street, and he thinks his toy plane is important enough to risk not only his life, but the life of his mother’s as well!?

He doesn’t listen to his parents and he doesn’t do what he’s told. I know, that doesn’t mean he deserves to lose his parents or end up in a prisoner of war camp, and there was no way of knowing what exactly the outcome of his actions would be, but surely even a child of his age should have known that doing what he’s told = good and clever, and not doing what he’s told = unknown but definitely negative consequences for him and all else involved!?
Pretty much straight off the mark, I wasn’t liking this child and his precocious ways, but this plunged me even further to not like this character. And it makes it hard to concentrate on the bigger picture of the film when you have so much trouble even sympathising with the main character.

At least he had the common sense to listen to his mother when she told him to wait for her back at their house. But unfortunately all damage was done by then. The house was in disarray, especially his parent’s bedroom. All signs pointed to his mother being there but being taken, and to add to everything, the servants were looting the furniture.

He stayed in the house for some time, surviving on whatever was left to eat and drink, but eventually he ran out and had to flee onto the streets to find the Japanese had taken over.

I think his aim was to be taken prisoner by the Japanese, going by his exclamations of surrendering. But not even they wanted him.

I gave up shortly after John Malkovich’s character came into it and tried to sell off Jamie’s teeth.

I think, whilst part of my dislike of this film is obvious, I also find it very hard to sit down and enjoy films that you can’t really say you enjoy at the end of it. I know I say I can dislike a film for some reason, but appreciate how good the film is anyway, but a film like this… where I can’t appreciate how good the film is anyway, because of it’s focal point, and I dislike it for the same reason… It’s almost pointless in me trying to stick with it.

Because I’m not going to be able to get to the end of the film and say “Well, as much as such and such annoyed me, it was really enjoyable! It had a great message!”.

Because I can’t see past the barriers of this child’s lack of common sense. It would have been a very different story if he’d have acted a different way in the first place, and on the downside, that could have made for an even more sad story. But at least it might have been a story I could say “Well, I didn’t like the topic, but what a film!” about it, like I could with Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse, Now!

And it’s a shame, and I know it says more about me than it does about this film, because this was based on a novel, which was loosely based on a man’s life. And you can’t really critique a film’s depiction of actions which could have really happened. You just end up critiquing the person’s actions.

So, for that reason, I say if you’re more of a sympathetic type of person who likes to see a character grow and learn during difficult times, this film might be worth giving a go. It is, after all, considered a classic.

But for me…
I give it a 1/10. And that’s just for the acting.

Classic Movie Quest: Doctor Zhivago

Monday 10 February, 2014

Before I begin properly, let me just say that getting a comprehensible review out of this film was, for me, more difficult than the clichés of getting blood out of a stone and pulling teeth combined.

Which is why this review will be so short! You could either have comprehensible or short, or unintelligible but long. I went with the former and trust me, you’ll thank me for it.

And now without further ado:

Doctor Zhivago is one of those films that almost everyone considers to be one of the most bittersweet romantic films of all time, along with Casablanca and Gone With The Wind. It stars Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Alex Guiness and Tom Courtenay, and it’s set during the times of the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

Here’s what I got from the first watch, before I gave up in a fit of mass confusion:

A young woman by the name of Tonya is meant to be Yuri’s daughter, even though they’re of similar ages. Her Aunt Lara/Larissa is having an affair with the same man her mother is having an affair with, all the while Billy Liar (Aka, Tom Courtenay, but I couldn’t remember his name at the time of the first watch) is starting the Russian Revolution.

You can see where I got horribly mixed up. At least, I sort of did on a second watch. Unfortunately whilst a second watch did help with what I’d got confused over, it didn’t change the film from being boring and still difficult to follow for me.

So, what I got from the second watch was this: Yuri Zhivago’s half brother is searching for his niece, who may or may not have the same name as the girl Yuri Zhivago grew up with, after he became an orphan.

Yuri Zhivago grows up to be the eponymous Doctor Zhivago. Tonya returns from Paris, and her and Yuri Zhivago get married.

Tom Courtenay’s character takes part in a protest that turns violent after involvement from the Coassacks, and he get’s stabbed for his troubles. He goes to the woman he’s in love with, Lara, to be looked after, and also to hide his gun.

Unfortunately for Tom Courtenay, Lara’s having an affair with her mother’s “friend”, who on second watch I’m still unsure whether she’s also having an affair with him or not. She get’s found out, the mother attempts suicide, Doctor Zhivago comes to the rescue.

To make matters worse for Lara, and I don’t mean that lightly, when Lara realises she wants out of the affair, the mother’s friend attacks and rapes her. There’s a whole avenue of a sexist, patriarchal society rant that I could go down from this part alone. But I won’t, because it’s pretty self-explanatory. That man thought he had the right to do that, and he didn’t, and times haven’t changed even today.

I think that’s about where I stopped, both times. You can see how just one small detail made the difference for those fourty minutes, the story of who was who to whoever was a bit clearer.

But it is a very involved sort of film. It’s not one you can watch lightly. From what I saw, I’m not even sure how people could even call it romantic, especially seeing as if the scene with Alec Guiness is to be believed, Doctor Zhivago went and had an affair whilst he was married. Is it that affair that’s meant to be romantic? That’s not very nice for the other parties involved.

So yes, a very heavy film. Maybe the acting and the directing is what got it put onto The List, but I’m a bit lost on the story, in more than one ways. And I say that as someone who knows that sometimes, these films are just on the list because, despite the convoluted plots that can be their ruin, or the hit and miss dialogue which make them difficult to stick through, they’re a golden well for media analysis. The fun of analysing can come from the very things than can make films unwatchable.

This film isn’t one of them. Or at least, not for me.


Classic Movie Quest: Seven Samurai

Tuesday 7 May, 2013

This is one of the very few Classic Films on the list that I went in knowing the basic story of due to it’s stint on the TCM channel, which was a channel left on in the background quite a lot in my house. I never sat down and watched it, but I was always informed of the plot whenever I asked about it.

So, now I have watched it, what do I have to say about it?

Well, it’s good. It’s very good, in fact! But it is on the longer side of running times. It has the total time of 207 minutes, which is three hours and fourty-five minutes in lamens terms. That is just on ten minutes longer than the extended version of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not unusual for the era, hell Gone with the Wind is a full half an hour longer, but given the slow pace of the film and the use of subtitles which need your full attention, pitched against my own short attention span, I could really feel the length.

The basic story is about a poor village being under attack by bandits, who plan to come back at the end of harvest season in order to give them (the village) a chance to successfully flourish so that they (the bandits) will have more to raid.

Does that plot sound familiar to you, too? It took me a while, but it suddenly hit me when drafting this review:  The Three Amigo’s, A Bug’s Life, The Magnificent Seven, to name but a few.

But back to The Seven Samurai.

During the reprieve from the bandits, the villagers manage to round up hungry Samurai warriors who are willing to work for food. It adds to the strain on their already dwindling stock, but the villagers stick to eating millet so that the Samurai can eat the best of the rice.

It’s hard to tell whether the Samurai are ever truly respected without any trace of fear the villagers had for them when they were finally rounded up, but one thing’s for sure, they’re afraid of the Bandits a lot more. They listen to the Samurai and they learn from the Samurai, and in the end, they try to protect each other, they fight together, and any loss is mourned together.

There’s a bit more to the villagers than what I might be making out. They aren’t a hiveminded community. There is one member so afraid of the reputation the Samurai have, he shaves his daughter’s hair and has her stay as far out of the way is possible, so that the Samurai don’t lure her in and take her innocence. It doesn’t work, she falls in love with the youngest Samurai and that all causes a bit of a scandal…

All in all, it really is a very good film, but it’s quite slow going. It’s a story that draws you in on an empathy factor, but there’s not much a person can relate to. There have been remakes in other forms, many times, and I think they might tell the story a bit better.

I’d recommend this film if I knew them to like this type of indepth, drawn out type of movie. I understand why it’s considered a must-see, but there’s no point seeing it if it’s not your type of movie or you can’t appreciate it for it’s slow pace. I won’t be watching it again, though.


Classic Movie Quest: Some Like It Hot

Monday 22 April, 2013

This is really another film that I went into blindly, and that hasn’t worked out well for me so far, if I’m honest. And of all the people I mentioned this film to, only one person had both seen it and liked it.

Well, maybe that’s the key, because I can honestly say that of all the films I’ve watched so far for the Classic Movie Quest, I enjoyed watching this one the most! I actually properly laughed at the bits people are meant to laugh at. That hardly ever happens with me!

It’s very loosely based on a French “drag comedy” called La Cage aux Folles, a film which has a closer American remake in the form of a film called The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Hank Azaria. That’s another film which never fails to make me laugh every time, for the record.

And alright, it’s not the most politically correct of films in this day and age. If two men dressed up as women and successfully infiltrated a woman’s band in order to escape the mafia after accidentally witnessing a mass execution – talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time – in real life, it’d be, quite frankly, very weird and worrying, especially for the women involved.

But it would still have the air of so surreal, you have to laugh to it, if you disregard the seriousness of the Saint Valentines Day Massacre… And built on that, you have this comedy.

It stars Tony Curtis (Joe), Jack Lemmon (Jerry) and Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane). Like I said, it’s about two men, both talented musicians, who accidentally witness the Saint Valentines Day Massacre and have to go on the run to avoid being killed by said Mafia. They dress up in drag, join a women’s band, one catches the eye of a womanising millionaire with a yacht, and hilarity ensues.

Some parts do come off as skeezy, which is unavoidable. Both Jerry and Joe compete to gain the affections of talented ukulele player and solo singer, Sugar, and, Jerry more than Joe, struggle to remember that doing so would put their disguises at risk. Which is why Joe takes up yet another disguise as a millionaire with a yacht, taking advantage of the fact that a real millionaire with a yacht named Osgood Fielding III has not only docked at the beach, but is vying for Jerry-in-drag’s attention.

This film is nothing more than a farce, it is meant to be seen as nothing more than a comedy, but for the time it was done and set, it’s actually quite a “modern” story. I mean this in the most positive way, but it borders on Carry-On-Film territory for most of the film. And for a farce, it makes for a good example of the social conventions that are only being questioned today.

Of course, all good films have to go wrong before they end on a happy note. The Mafia make another appearance, there is a chase which is just as funny as it is life-threatening, and poor Sugar is left chasing their tails as they end up on Osgood’s boat, safe from the Mafia once again.

Luckily, she can jump really well, but unfortunately for the now less-than enthusiastic Jerry, Osgood still wants to marry him despite knowing he’s a man. Talk about modern!

I really did like this film. It is dated, but there’s no getting around that fact, considering it’s a black and white film from 1958 based in 1929. It is not for anyone a part of the Social Justice Warriors or take Political Correctness to the extreme, but I would recommend it to those who know a good laugh when they see it, and I definitely would watch it again.


The Other Boleyn Girl: After The Re-watch

Sunday 14 April, 2013

So, five years after the first viewing and I’ve finally filled in some of those gaps.

Just to re-iterate, I first watched this film whilst at university. I watched it as part of my Natalie Portman Cataloguing, and that is apparently all I took away from the film after that first watch.

I’m ashamed at myself for not remembering that Anne’s sister was called Mary. That is probably one of the many Tudor-related facts I learnt at school, and even forgetting that specific one, the era itself is one big clue and I could have made an educated guess had I really thought about it. Women and young girls were either called Anne, Mary, Margaret, Jane or Catherine/Katherine were the most popular names of the time.

But forgetting a name is just the start of my problems.

Henry Percy? Forgot about him completely. I don’t remember learning about him in school and I certainly didn’t remember that whole subplot in the film.

Another person I blanked out on was the character of William Carey, Mary’s husband, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. I think I can safely say that this is the worst thing to forget of the whole film, because the true story starts when Mary and William get married, and it spirals on from there. There was a bit of a possible error, or maybe it was poetic license, but in the film they make Mary out to be the younger sister who, un-traditionally,is the first of the two girls (three children) to get married, which is something Anne comments on more than once.

In real life, Mary was the eldest of the three, so being married first was expected. But if this was poetic license, admittedly it did allow an increased conflict between the sisters more than the historical accuracy would have allowed.

Back to William Carey. In the film, he is a man of modest means, which is probably what drives him to jump at the chance to be in the king’s court when Mary gets chosen to be the “queen’s newest lady in waiting” against the wishes of Mary herself.  Everybody involved of course knew that by “Queen’s newest lady in waiting”, they meant “King’s latest mistress”. And although he didn’t seem all that keen to have his wife play prostitute to the king, he didn’t seem to put up much argument against it.

I suppose you could argue that it was skirting the line of treason, arguing with the king’s wishes, but I highly doubt that had anything to do with William Carey’s lack of opposition.

Now, I admittedly still had to fast forward through a few scenes, but I remembered having to fast forward through scenes so I should have remembered the scenes outside of fast-forwarding, but I think it’s clear I didn’t take in about 85% of the film in first viewing.

I mentioned yesterday that I remembered a miscarriage. Now after re-watching, I actually mis-remembered the scene where Mary had a mid-way bleed and combined it with the scene where Anne loses her baby.

Just two things related to that which I can’t really go without commenting on.

1) Whilst Mary was “lying-in” with King Henry’s baby, she is still married to William Carey, so why the hell didn’t he visit her? It’s clear why Henry didn’t, but William? Surely he understood the position his wife was in (oh god no pun intended) and if he’d have cared about her at all, he should have visited. Obviously I’m saying this about an account given by a film, I’ve no idea whether this is how it really happened or not. But if it is how it happened, then shame on him in real life, and if it wasn’t how it really happened, just how they chose to show it in the film, then why? Are we meant to just forget about him and focus on the soap opera-esque two timing King Henry’s got going on?

And 2) Anne losing her baby and chosing incest instead of telling King Henry that she lost the baby for fear of losing her position in the court (cough his bed cough)… I forgot that whole entire story line of the film and I don’t even have to guess why.
But from what I know about Anne Boleyn, there’s no actual evidence she committed incest with her brother, and more reasons to believe that the claims were made to purposefully tarnish her name.

And talking of her brother, I spent this viewing reading him as gay. Not sure whether that was intentional or even historically accurate, but there was something there not quite between the lines that suggested “homosexual”.

And then there was the whole bit with Catherine of Aragon. Making Mary sing, not giving up her marriage to Henry or her crown without a fight, the whole trial. I should have remembered that, but with almost everything else, that never stuck in my mind either.

And last but not least, the farmer. What can I say about the farmer? With the white shirt that didn’t seem quite the right clothing for a farmer…

Well, I can ask where the hell was he! Did my mind make him up!? Was he some figment of my imagination that dug his heels into my brain because I apparently found the film too boring to commit it to memory?

Either I have watched another film at the same time, with a farmer in it that fits my description, or I watched an extended version of the film and there is actually a farmer that fits that description, or I’ve gone stark raving bonkers. Because I was so sure I saw a farmer in the film, and even worse, I’m sure I mentioned it to my friend, about how strange I found it that a farmer, of all trades, was wearing those kind of clothes, and my friend agreed with me. Unless she was humouring me, which is possible.

And the rest of the film, the parts and historical figures I’ve not mentioned or singled out, just show how appalling our history is. Which is something that we need to learn about, and to remember, so that we improve our society in the future so that we never repeat those days. Maybe from more historically accurate sources than this Hollywood film, though.

All in all, i’m glad I re-watched the film, so that I could satisfy my need to fill in the blanks. But as a film, it’s nothing more than a sensationalised period drama that dragged out embellished historical accuracy with beautiful scenery and beautiful people in wonderful period costume.

There are a lot better Tudor-based films out there that tell near enough the same story.

The Other Boleyn Girl: Before The Re-watch

Saturday 13 April, 2013

They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and if there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s my good memory that my mind possesses  As in the actual ability to memorise things, not a specific memory, just to make myself clear as to which one I’m talking about.

Add that to my life long love of films, there’s not many films out there that I have watched that I don’t remember in reasonable detail, and the ones that I don’t remember much of, were ones that I watched when very sick with the flu.

So, to watch a film when I wasn’t sick with the flu to then go on to forget 99.9% of what happened in it, it’s not just worrying, it’s annoying, and I have to rectify it.

Which is why I’m about to re-watch The Other Boleyn Girl starring Natalie Portman, courtesy of LoveFilm.

I first watched The Other Boleyn Girl when I was in university, when one of my flatmates leant me the DVD, and I’d have to say it was one of those films were I was glad I watched it, but it wasn’t really my sort of film. That might be why I’ve forgotten 99.9% of it, I tend to block certain plot devices and scenes from my memory if I don’t like them, without even realising it, but I usually remember the general plot for disliking the rest. This is the opposite of total recall, this is next to nil recall, which is very much against my norm.

So, before re-watching it, I’m going to sum up what I do remember, and then come back to see how much of it was right or just my imagination filling in the blanks.

All right, so, Eric Bana plays The infamous King Henry The 8th, Natalie Portman plays Anne Boleyn <strike>who kept a tin which all her hopes and dreams were in<strike> and Scarlett Johansson, plays her sister whose name I can’t remember.

King Henry, infamous for his six wives and the way he treated them, had affairs with both sisters, both of them becoming The Other Boleyn Girl – seemingly a play on the phrase “The Other Woman” – at various times throughout the film, the title reflecting how they felt about King Henry’s attention wavering between the both of them. There were some scenes I fast forwarded through, Anne either had a baby who sadly died or lost a baby through miscarriage, more scenes I fast forwarded through (Jesus, the Tudors had a lot of sex!), a good looking farmer who I remember thinking had a very nice shirt on but i’ll be damned if I remember what he had to do with anything, but his shirt was memorable because it was a bit on the ruffly side. Then there was more about Scarlet Johanson’s character and then Anne Boleyn’s head got chopped off.

I did think for a while that that was all there was to that film but after a conversation with a friend of mine, the same one who’d lent me the DVD in the first place, in fact! Where she talked about various scenes that I don’t remember happening, I have to admit there must be more to that film than my brain took note of.

And that’s my mission for this weekend. I will watch the film and report back on my findings tomorrow.

Classic Movie Quest: All About Eve

Monday 25 March, 2013

I don’t know if this will surprise anyone or not, but I genuinely liked All About Eve. I really liked it!

Despite figuring out the twist of Eve lying about her life and how it lead to her latching on to Bette Davis’s Margo almost as soon as the character starting tell her story to the whole group, I still found the film interesting enough to keep watching through to the end. Just knowing that one piece of information didn’t give the rest of the film away (As apose to something like the 6th Sense, which I figured out half through the film and spend the other half hoping that it wouldn’t end in the cop out I was imagining it could be. Predictably, it did), especially as we’re already shown the ending at the beginning and the rest of the film is shown in flashback form.

I think what kept my attention despite my brain already spoiling the big shock for me, is the fact that by now, it’s a common plot twist found in many television series and films by now, regardless of genre, on top of the sheer fact that I like these sort of twists when executed well. A La Folie Pas Du Tout, for example, is one that is executed very well and a must see if you’re a fan of either All About Eve or Play Misty For Me.

And that’s because there’s a whole story to unravel besides the twist. I might have known Eve was lying, but I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what was the truth, I didn’t know how it lead to the end scene, which we saw first, and I certainly didn’t know how I’d feel about the characters as the story progressed.

It’s very easy to see Bette Davis’s character as a bitter old woman, resentful of a younger fresher face on the scene, paranoid to the highest degree over her friends finding a place in their group for this young up-and-comer who started out as a lowly fan. It’s very easy to see her as the rest of the group see her and the situation, that Margo is anticipating the fall of her career after reaching forty and can’t handle aging, and sees anyone younger as the enemy, and anyone helping anyone younger is also the enemy.

But the thing is, is that even if you know the twist or not, the audience sees the manipulation side of it too. Eve is an opportunist and she carries around a kicked puppy look wherever she goes. Margo’s friends have taken her under her wing, they give her opportunities because they feel like she deserves them, and she eats them up because she knows the worse she makes it for Margo, the easier it is for her to take her place. After all, she is a very good actress.

We see as she moves in on the characters, one by one, from Margo to her friend Karen, wife of the Lloyd Richards, who writes the plays that Margo stars in, to Lloyd himself. She orchestrates situations where she has to fill in for Margo, with a theatre critic watching.

It’s mesmorising. Watching it all unfold is honestly mesmerising.

And doesn’t it say something about the ignorance of the acting industry that a woman hitting forty is just as at risk of losing grip on her career in today’s society as she was over fifty years ago? Alright, so it’s got better over the last couple of years, we are seeing more genuinely older ladies on the screen and in theatre, I think that’s down to the way we percieve middle age these days. But older women actors are few, far between, and in the majority. The parts aren’t as varied as for other dynamics, that’s for sure.

But back to All About Eve. I can’t fault it at all. Bette Davis, Anne Baxtor, Celeste Holm and the rest were amazing. This film deserves it’s place on the list of Must See Classic Movies. I would watch it again and I would recommend it.


Classic Movie Quest: Casablanca

Sunday 17 March, 2013

Casablanca, the film that originally sparked the idea for the Classic Movie Challenge, due to everyone’s surprise, shock, horror and disgust of my never having seeing this film before.
“What? Never!?” They’d ask in disbelief.
“Nope, never” I’d reply, “It’s not really my kind of film.”

But they’d insist that there’s no such thing, that this is a film that has something for everone, and that I must absolutely watch this film some day in the near future.

Well, six months later since it was last suggested to me, that’s exactly what I did.

I’m afraid to go against the grain on this, but whilst this is a good film and the acting is excellent, I don’t get the fuss. In all honesty, I found this film to be caked in overhype.

The story is basically about an American man, Rick Blaine (Bogart), who is stranded in Casablanca, which is in the temporarily pro-German Vichy French “protectorate” of Morrocco and runs a secret illegal casino frequented by a large variety of people who otherwise wouldn’t normally share breathing space with each other. In lamens terms, Casablanca is a town in the middle of nowhere, Morocco, and has a population dynamic made up of Nazis, locals, and refugees of various Occupied Countries who are waiting for tickets out to safer places.

The tickets (called transport papers in this) aren’t just expensive for those in poverty, they’re impossible to get. The only way seems to either be to pass on information to the corrupt police or to steal them from someone who already did, which was the method of poor old Peter Lorre’s character Ugarte. Ugarte only lived long enough to pass them on to Rick for safe keeping, he was taken in by said corrupt police shortly after and later died in custody.

Poor old Peter Lorre.

Admittedly, this isn’t sounding too much of a bad story so far. Not the strongest of films to keep me entertained, but not bad. Unfortunately, all of that was established and took place within the first twenty minutes, and it all went downhill from there.

No matter what anyone says, this film is absolutely, 100%, a love story that just happens to be set in the specific equivalent of Occupied France. (See the whole Protectorate thing above.) Rick has held a candle for his long lost love Ilsa Lund, played by Ingrid Bergman, for far too long. He has banned his piano man and possible best friend Sam (the famous Sam!) from playing “As Time Goes By” within his hearing for fear it’d remind him of the heart ache, and unfortunately for him, that’s exactly what Ilsa wants him to play the second she sees him. I don’t know if we’re meant to sympathise with Ilsa’s so called tragic love story or not at some point in the film, but I certainly didn’t. Mostly because it’s not really a tragic love story, it’s a love story set during what was a very oppressive, very stressful tragic time. Really, considering everything, I’d say she of all the characters had it the most easy. Unlike her husband who was a known fugitive needing a way of escape, and unlike Rick who’d already risked his life for the good cause and ended up in Casablanca.

I did like the battle of the the national anthems, though. Not just that the everyone in the bar sung along to a national anthem that might not have even been theirs to spite the Nazis, but it also showed that Rick wasn’t as neutral as he was making out to be. He nodded, he gave the orchestra permission, he didn’t stop them overpowering the voices of those singing Die Wacht am Rhein. For as bland as the rest of the film was, on a whole, that part wasn’t.

And for an extra bit of trivia, I looked it up to see whether Hornblower borrowed the idea of having the little boy singing La Marseille to the Marquis in the episode The Frogs and The Lobsters, which was set during the French Revolution, and apparently they did.

And my problems with this film doesn’t cloud my judgement – it is a very good film for those who like these sort of films. People can think deeply about it if they’d like to, or they can stick to the more shallower levels and just admire the supposed tragic love story. The acting is fantastic, the music is perfect. It might not be pitch-perfect to those perfectionists out there, but the singing and the instruments all have that natural sound for it that doesn’t need to be pitch-perfect.

But I can honestly say that my favourite part of the whole film was when it ended. The story tied up and Rick got away.

I’m aware that as a generalisation, I might be that one exception, but there really isn’t something for everyone in this film. There’s better love stories out there, there’s better films about war oppression. I’m only glad I watched this film to put an end to the recommendations that follow the shocked faces.