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Did you know that Hugo Weaving looks great in a dress made of beach slippers?

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I never knew that you can make a dress consisting entirely of beach slippers. Even less did I imagine that the same dress would look gorgeous on Hugo Weaving.

Usually I don’t pay that much attention to movie costumes, but in the case of The Adventure of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert it’s hard not to.

In an interview the director Stephan Elliot reveals that the dresses fell apart as soon as the shooting of the film was over. Due to budget restrictions they were hold together by means such as scotch tape and string. But this didn’t stop the designers Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner from getting the Oscar award the award for best costume design in 1995.

Apart from being a vehicle for dress designing, this film also tells the story about two drag queens and a transsexual who contract to perform a drag show at remote resort in Australia. We follow them as they’re traveling in a pink tour bus, performing in villages on their way, causing reactions ranging from rage and horror to devotion.

It’s the kind of movie that puts you in a good mood, and not only thanks to the bright and colorful dresses. Of course the trio will face some challenges during their journey through the desert, but there’s never any doubt where the trip is heading. You’ll end up with a smile on your face, a light heart and inspiration to be yourself, even if it means dressing up in a dress of slippers.

Before anyone mentions it I admit that there are moments when the humor falls into the cheap, clichéd and awkward territory, which I’ve seen previously in other Australian movies like Muriel’s Wedding. But when you’re so charmed by everything else about the film, it’s easy to overlook and forgive. The sight of the trio of Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp performing a drag dance to Mamma Mia is irresistible.

If you can’t stomach hearing I Survive yet another time and if you find the idea of a hat that looks like an ostrich more appalling than fun, this movie might not be for you. But for the rest of us it offers a temporary cure from the melancholia of the season

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliot, AUS, 1994) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

November 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Loncon3: Five days in geek heaven

with 25 comments

LonconLogoI’m starting to write this post with the intention to share some of the atmosphere and the joy I felt as one of the approximately 8 000 members of the world science fiction convention of 2014, Loncon3, which took place in London in the middle of August.

I know already that I will fail. How could I possibly give you an idea of what it was like? Should I begin with the symphony orchestra that played the Star Wars suite so well that the audience of several thousand science fiction fans refused to let go of them until they had played the Superman intro another time?

Or should I try to make you understand how cool it was to have a one hour long conversation with Adrian Hon? He’s one of the creators of the running app Zombies, Run! and also the author of A History of the Future in 100 objects, which is one of the most inspiring, thought-provoking and fun-to-read science fiction books I’ve encountered in years. He’s so interesting that you feel smarter just being around him.

There are so many moments of wonder to choose between. I saw a real guy from NASA, how about that? And how about the science fiction fan from New Zealand, who clearly was “one of us”, but also had been working at Weta since the beginning of the Lord of the Rings movies. He had now advanced from making elf ears to doing digital special effects. He revealed that it takes a couple of weeks to make just a few seconds of fire breath from Smaug.

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The audience. Photo: Sofia Karlsson

There were moments of darkness. I went to a panel about the usage of drones an was stunned by the testimonies we got there from former soldiers who had served in Iraq and shared what it’s like to kill people with the help of drones and why it’s problematic.

The programme
With up to 20 different events going on at the same time in parallel programme tracks, you could only see a fraction of what was going on at any given moment. My experience is completely different from the one of anyone else. There was a special program track for academics. People who like young adult fiction could spend their entire convention discussing only this. For film fans there were a number of movies and panels to choose between. Fans of literature, art, music, science, anime and games – everyone had plenty of content available just for them.

We’re really a diverse group of people when you think of it. And yet there’s something that keeps us together: the love for things that are imagined. Some of us prefer visions of the future that build on science and are fairly plausible, others are fans of fairy-tales for adults, scientific or not.

A safe spot
I would say that fandom is a place that is slightly more tolerant for differences than the ordinary world outside. It’s a safe spot for everyone, from my experience. I’ve been a science fiction fan since the middle of the 80s, an I’ve never been harassed or looked down upon because of my gender. There are other female fans who disagree on this, but nothing I’ve heard of has been anywhere near the level of misogyny that has been reported recently from the gaming community. I’m sure that even more can be done, but even as it is now, I dare say that the science fiction fandom has come a great deal further in terms of gender equality, diversity and inclusion than society in general.

Hugo winners of 2014. Photo: Johan Anglemark

Hugo winners of 2014. Photo: Johan Anglemark

Equals
Like all worldcons, Loncon3 was entirely run by volunteers – many hundreds of them – who do it for fun, not for profit. And this is what sets it apart from commercially run conventions. You don’t go to the convention as a customer and you’re not mostly a target for marketing from various movie and game franchises. While there is a small area where you can buy books, art and t-shirts from vendors, it’s not what the convention is about.

Whatever you pay to get inside (which honestly isn’t all that much considering what you get) isn’t an entrance fee. You’re buying a membership- As a member of the convention you’re there on the same terms as everyone else. Those who run it, those who participate in the programme, those who listen to panels and participate in discussions – we’re all there as equals. Your appearance at the convention may not cause the same queues as George R.R. Martin. But basically you’re just as responsible as he is for making it a great convention. We are science fiction fans having a great time together.

I’ve already mentioned a few of my top moments at my convention and here  are some more highlights. Remember though: this is by no means the whole thing. It’s a sample of what I saw, which was a lot more than this. And all in all there were over 1 000 programme items.

Signing queue for the very popular George R.R. Martin. Photo: Johan Jönsson

Signing queue for the very popular George R.R. Martin. Photo: Johan Jönsson

Space on screen
A panel discussion about the different visions of life in space that are offered in movies with Elysium and Gravity as examples of extremes, where one goes for realism and the other one for political consciousness. The most interesting perspective was given my Chris Baker, who worked as a concept artist on Gravity, was surprisingly lukewarm towards the movie he’d been a part of making.

Time in the Novel
The science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson held an interesting talk, where he compared the narrative pace in works by various authors, with Virginia Woolf and Olaf Stapledon as examples of two extremes. One of them can let millions of years pass over a page, the other one can linger over a few seconds for pages. Robinson wrote off the prevalent “truth” that “show, not tell” always is better. It’s all more like music. There are different beats and you need to know when to use what. Something that is just as true in the case of movies.

Sherlock Holmes and science fiction
This was a lecture by the scholar Amy H Sturgis, who spoke about the many connections between science fiction and Sherlock Holmes. I already knew about Data’s inclination towards dressing up as SH at the holo deck in Star Trek TNG, but it turned out there’s a lot more to it.

Zombies Run! New Ways to Understanding Games
The writing team of my favourite game was there and since more or less the entire audience consisted of fans like me it turned into what I’d call a love party for the fans.

Audrey Niffenegger’s lecture on HG Wells
HG Wells was a president of the English PEN, and in the honour of him, the author of the bestseller The Time Traveler’s wife held a wonderful lecture about the power of imagination, inspired by one of his novels. It was said that this lecture will be available on the net at some point, though I haven’t been able to find it yet.

Furry Fandom: Not What You Think
This was one of the least attended events that I went to, but definitely one of the nicest. Members of the Furry Fandom described what it’s about and also made a demonstration of what a furry dress can look like. If you ever thought that it’s related to kinky stuff in the bedroom, I can assure you it’s not. Furry fandom is a place for highly creative and adorable people who are brave enough to not give a crap about what others think of them and while I doubt that I’ll ever be a part of them, I’m glad that they exist. I was a little shocked to hear though that their upcoming world convention will attract some 5 000 people. There might be a day when furry fandom is bigger than science fiction fandom, believe it or not.

The Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Johan Jönsson

The Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Johan Jönsson

Book covers: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
A panel of artists, art directors, editors and writers presented some of their favourite and no-so-favourite cover artwork. This was immensely fun to watch and also made me think about movie posters. I really would like to pay more attention to those than I do. There’s a great deal of work put into them. Some are great, others not. There are entire blogs that focus only on this and I have no ambition to become an expert, but I would like to give my opinion about it every now and then, from the perspective of a consumer.

The Hugo Awards Ceremony
To be completely honest, it wasn’t that much to be excited about. Award ceremonies rarely are to be honest. And the Hugo’s don’t even have the budget of the Oscars. Besides there had been some fuzz around the appointment of the hosts. The first one was swipped out because some people had found some of the humour things he’d done in the past offensive. We ended up with the authors Justina Robson and Geoff Ryman, who did their best to not be offensive to anyone. And that doesn’t make for good entertainment. Nevertheless I can’t deny that it was a little cool to be in the same room as some celebrities. The creators of the TV series Game of Thrones were there and received their award in person. Some Doctor Who actors were there too. They didn’t get any award, but fans could talk to them and get their pictures taken.

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The fan village and the exhibition hall. Photo: Johan Anglemark

The Fan Village and the future worldcons
Finally I need to mention the fan village. While I spent a lot of time listening to various lectures and panels, I also spent some time hanging around with science fiction fans from all over the world, friends as well as new acquaintances. Every night there were parties with free booze thrown by different groups of fans who were aspiring to arrange a worldcon in the future. (We ran a Scandinavian one too, where fans were treated with Swedish vodka and candy). If I had been a little tad younger and a little more unwise I would no doubt had stayed up longer and become quite wasted. But I prioritized sleeping so I could get up in time to enjoy the programme items. Next time maybe, if the programme isn’t as awesome as it was in London.

Speaking of which: if you’ve been with me this long you may wonder about how to catch a worldcon in the future. When and where will you find it? Well, the next two are already decided: Spokane in 2015 and Kansas City in 2016. The following one will be chosen through an election next year.  Helsinki in Finland is one of the candidates and I hope they’ll win, because that would mean that I’d attend for sure.

If should also mention that there will be a Nordic convention next year, Archipelacon, which is held at Åland, a group of islands situated in the sea between Sweden and Finland. Obviously it will not be anywhere near the size of a worldcon, but smaller conventions are nice in the way that you get a lot closer to the writers. You’re more likely to get the chance to meet them in person. The guests of honour are George R.R. Martin, Karin Tidbeck and Johanna Sinisalo. If you’re planning a holiday in Scandinavia and have a soft spot for science fiction and fantasy, this may be something for you.

There is one more little thing that I wanted to report about from Loncon3: I saw a lovely little science fiction movie from Sweden, LFO: The Movie, which you probably haven’t heard of since it only has been shown at film festivals until this point. But it deserves a blog post of its own.

For this time I’ll finish my report from the five days I spent in geek heaven. My only regret is that it was my first worldcon. I should have done this way earlier in my life.

 

Edit: A commenter pointed out that I didn’t talk in this post about the fanzine part of fandom. This is definitely an overlook from my side. I just didn’t spend a lot of time with that at this con, but it’s a topic that is very close to my heart. The making of fanzines is the origin of the fandom which I’m proud to be a part of. I wrote about it a few years ago at my former blog.

Written by Jessica

August 31, 2014 at 10:35 pm

The Velvet Café’s top list of 2012

with 51 comments

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When is the best time to make a top list of 2012?

There are different opinions available about this, especially among bloggers who like me live in a country that isn’t in North America or UK, which get to see most movies months before the rest of the world.

Do you want to join in the craziness around New Year when the majority put up their lists, even if it means that you haven’t seen half of the movies that get the most buzz? Or do you wait until you’ve seen them, which could take to April or May and then publish a list that nobody cares about anymore since they’re halfway into 2013?

In the end it’s a personal choice that you need to make. There’s no right or wrong way to do it if you ask me, as long as you’re consequent about it.

I’ve settled for making my list early, mainly because I don’t want to sit by the side line when everyone else is making up their list. I want to take part in the discussion. The downside is that my list contains movies that others consider belong to 2011. So be it.

The rules
My rules are the following: movies that either had their first theatrical release in Sweden or were released directly for DVD can be taken into consideration. Screenings at film festivals don’t count, since they’re so limited and out of reach for most of us, including me.

If you wonder why I haven’t included a certain movie, chances are that I haven’t seen it yet. Here are some examples of movies which I’ve seen getting a lot of love, but which will be 2013 films as far as I am concerned: The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ruby Sparks, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, Seven Psychopaths, Anna Karenina, The Hunt, Flight, Django Unchained, Frankenweenie, Les Miserables, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Sisters, Your Safety Guaranteed, Stories We Tell, Café de Flore, Sessions.

In the name of transparency I’ll also mention a few other movies that have been released in Sweden, but which I haven’t got around to see: Lawless, The Grey, Cosmopolis, End of Watch, The Raid: Redemption, Haywire, Ted, On the Road, Bernie, The Hunter.

And now ladies and gentlemen – bring on the list! This time, after being bugged about it repeatedly by a fellow Swedish blogger, I’ll present it starting from the bottom, saving my favourites to last.

Honorable mentions

First a few movies that didn’t make it into the actual list but which I want to give a nod:

The Amazing Spider-Man: You could argue that it was too early to do bring another version of this to the world. This doesn’t take away from it that this was very well made and provided solid entertainment.

Elena: If you think of Russia as gloomy, Elena gives you right.  This is a film about gloomy people in gloomy settings, leading gloomy lives with gloomy prospects. My problem with it was that I couldn’t sympathize with the people it depictured. Still it was well crafted in a minimalist way, where even long shots in complete silence are filled with meaning and tension.

Easy Money II: The Swedish thriller Easy Money gave the director a ticket to Hollywood where he made Safe House, which was a decent thriller that made surprisingly well at the box office. The follow-up has a different director but is just as good. I hope this too can get international attention, despite the silly title.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights: My dislike for Heathcliff kept me from embracing this film fully. But I can’t deny it was beautifully shot.

I saw a lot of great documentaries that I loved but couldn’t fit into the list:  Palme, Woody Allen: A Documentary, Bully, Marley, For You Naked

Holy Motors
Holy Motors
– unlike most others I didn’t fall in love with it; it was a little bit too obscure for me. But I can’t deny that some of the scenes are very memorable.

Hope Springs was surprisingly dark and funny, especially the first half, which reminded of a good episode of The Treatment.

Take this Waltza little forgettable, but the shower scene stayed with me.

The Hunger Games – thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. From my review: “She resembles quite a bit to the character she played in Winter’s Bone: a resilient young woman, as tough as any action hero, down-to-Earth, nurturing and love giving to some extent, but never so much that it becomes a weakness and a burden. I want her to become my big sister.” 

marigold hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
– or “Love geriatrically” as someone called it, which is pretty much spot on. It was easily digested and had a lovely cast of the elite among British actors

War Horse – like a prolonged episode of The Little House on the Prairie, with some added war scenes. Too sentimental for most viewers, but not for me, who had grabbed a cold and was in the perfect mood for something comforting.

Hysteria – while I never got around to blog about it, it deserves to be mentioned here. I thought this little comedy about the invention of the vibrator was jolly good fun and we worth a watch when you feel like something light hearted, easily digested.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol gave me exactly the kind of spectacular ride that you expect from a big budget action movie. Action ballet at its best.

sinister
Sinister
– the scariest movie of the year.

To Rome with Love – which by no means was one of Allen’s strongest movies. Stories that would have been perfect for five minute short films were drawn out more than what were healthy for them. Still: I had a few good laughs at some of the ideas and for the sake of my old and persisting Allen love, this movie gets a little nod from me.

25-40 (Alphabetic order)

50/50 – probably the funniest cancer movie I’ve seen.


TheAvengers1
The Avengers

I could never have imagined I’d enjoy a superhero movie this much. I blame Joss Whedon.

Bullhead
I needed a hug after watching this immensely depressing Belgian movie about some dark sides of farming that you really don’t want to know about. Be warned if you’re sensitive.

Brave
For once the animated princess didn’t have marriage as her highest priority!

Carnage
People throwing up on the screen is rarely fun to watch, but seeing Kate Winslet doing it over a bunch of exclusive art catalogues was priceless.

Coriolanus
Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.

the_dark_knight_rises_1

The Dark Knight Rises
Some people found pleasure in nitpicking this film. I just went with it and enjoyed the spectacle. And this comes from someone who even doesn’t like superhero movies very much.

deep-blue-sea
The Deep Blue Sea
This was such a beautiful film about love and about life choices. Melancholic with a ray of light, just the way I love it.

Hugo
Martin Scorsese lets his inner film geek out in full freedom. I was enchanted, despite the 3D.

The Intouchables
From my review: “I laughed. I laughed a lot. Actually I can’t remember last time I laughed as much in a theatre. And while it’s not a sad film by any means, I also got something dusty in my eyes as I we finally got to see the real people, whose story this film is based on. Tears – not of pity, but of joy over how much life can offer, even if you come from a situation that seems hopeless at a quick glance.”

kid with a bike
The Kid with a Bike
A small film that dealt with big issues: love, loss, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. I’ve seen several good child actors this year and Thomas Doret was one of those.

Killer Joe
This was a very disturbing movie that I’m not in a hurry to see again, but I liked the dark, twisted humour for reasons that I can’t explain.

magicmike
Magic Mike

The Full Monty remains my favourite movie about male strip dancing, but I still had a lot of fun in the company with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, who surprised me with their dancing skills.

Tomboy
Tomboy
A beautifully made film about every person’s right to be themself, using any kind of gender identity wihtout being questioned and harassed for it.

Your Sister’s Sister
Three people, one cabin in the woods, a lot of improvised conversations. It was funny and gripping and I loved it.

12-25 (Alphabetic order)

royal
A Royal Affair

I can’t recall last time I saw such a good costume drama – well made in every detail and with wonderful performances by MadsMikkelsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard.

Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
This documentary about the efforts from the mighty banana industry to try to stop the previous movie Bananas was exciting like a thriller and had me cry with frustration as well as joy. It’s the kind of film that inspires you to become a better person and make a difference to the world.

Bill Cunningham New York
A loving portray of a fashion photographer in New York made me start watching the people I meet in the street in a new way.

 The-Cabin-in-the-Woods
The Cabin in the Woods
More fun than scary was this film, which I still refuse to talk about at length due to its spoiler sensitive nature. I’m not particularly knowledgeable in the horror genre, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

The Descendants
From my review: “There’s always something soothing about watching millionaires struggling with their lives, ending up eating comfort ice cream out of the box in front of the TV. Deep down we’re all the same – fragile, messed up and uncertain about where our journey will take us.”

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
While I’m not a fan of the 48FPS/3D experiment, I still liked The Hobbit quite a bit. The riddle guessing encounter between Bilbo and Gollum is probably my favourite scene of all in 2012.

Into the Abyss
From my review: ”Immensely sad and dark, it stayed with me for days afterwards. It made me grateful about having the life I have, on the more shallow waters, far, far from the abyss.”

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
A sweet, simple and absolutely charming little comedy about an eventful day in the life of Jeff, who lives in his mother’s basement and makes decisions following “signs”.

laurence_anyways

Laurence Anyways
While probably a tad too long, this is a beautiful film from an extremely talented young filmmaker – visually and emotionally stunning.

The Muppets
The day after watching this I had a muppet singing inside of me. This was the film that brought me the biggest smile in 2012.

Rust and Bone
This movie was made with great care and very good acting performances by Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts.

takeshelter
Take Shelter
The storm is coming. For real or just in Michael Shannon’s head? There are different opinions on this. But I loved how Take Shelter used images to let us into a person’s mind on an emotional, intuitive level.

Tyrannosaur
A man beats his own dog until it dies. Then he cries over losing his best friend – the dog. This is the start of Tyrannosaur and it’s almost unbearable to watch, but still a remarkably well played and gripping drama that also provides at least a glimpse of hope.

weekend
Weekend
Two people who talk in an apartment during a weekend, like a mix between Queer as Folks and Before Sunrise. My heart melted.

1-10 (with a little bit of cheating, I hope you don’t notice)

the artist
10. The Artist
It was a love letter to the world of movies, surprisingly fun and entertaining, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Skyfall
10.
Skyfall
I thought Bond was due for retirement a long time ago. Skyfall proved me wrong. It offered excitement and entertainment as expected, but also new perspectives on Bond and M. Particularly I loved how it dealt with Bond’s middle age crisis.

chronicle
9 Chronicle
You would think that people with superpowers as well as found footage were worn out concepts, but Chronicle managed to make something fresh and fun out of both. Spectacular compared to the budget. I wanted to become a filmmaker myself after watching this.

prometheus
8. Prometheus
I got to explore strange new worlds, I saw truly alien aliens, I watched big things blow up in a big way and I gave my imagination a good tickle. That’s all I the sci-fi geek inside me asks for.

ARGO

7. Argo
From my review: “ I was taken aback at how thrilling Argo turned out to be, considering it was a story where the outcome was clear before the start. When my 18 year old complained afterwards about how her stomach hurt after all the tension during the two hours, I knew exactly where she came from. This was by far the most white-knuckle movie experience I’ve had this year, which I think is a sign that the people who put it together clearly know their craft.”


looper
6.
Looper
Mind bending science fiction movies set in an alternative universe or the near future is my favourite genre. Looper didn’t disappoint me.  Out of all films from 2012, this is the one that I most of all would like to re-watch and see if I can figure out all the timeline twists the second time around.

searchingforsugarman

5. Searching for Sugar Man
Has the maker of Searching for Sugar Man improved the story about the forgotten artist Rodriguez a little bit to make it a better film? Maybe. Does it matter for how good a film this is? No. Searching for Sugar Man left me with some good songs humming in my head and with a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach and a sense that anything is possible and you never know what direction your life eventually will take. Not a bad thing.

lifeofpi
4. Life of Pi
This movie is among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It makes you think about questions about the nature of stories, about faith and about life and death, without going preachy. It leaves you with a room to think and breathe and form your own beliefs or non-beliefs. It made 2012 end with a bang.

moonrise

 3. Moonrise Kingdom
Some movies will grow in your memory. I loved this film because it was beautiful, had a thoroughly enjoyable score and because it was goodhearted and ended on a positive note. This makes it stick out in my usually rather gloomy film diet and I’d be happy to see it again whenever I need some refreshment.

amour
2. Amour
Once again Michael Haneke has made a film about things we’d rather not think about. This is probably how many of us will end our days. We’ll either “loose it” as our bodies stops functioning or – which is worse – watch someone close to us go through this without being able to help. But our denial doesn’t make this go away. It’s as if the director gently takes our hand as we make this walk into darkness, showing us what lifelong love means. It made me cry, but ultimately I think it’s more uplifting than depressing.

weneedtotalkaboutkevin

1. We Need to Talk about Kevin
It would be an understatement to say that Kevin is a troubled boy. But this film isn’t primarily about Kevin; it’s about his mother. It’s a dark story, told in many colors that makes you think about the nature of love and the source of evil. Can lack of love make someone evil? Is it possible to forgive someone who has taken away everything from you? If this person is all you have left, do you even have a choice? I saw this film in the beginning of 2012 and it’s still resonating inside me, especially in the light of several events in US during last year. I wish this film wasn’t as relevant as it is.

My international 2012 list

Finally: here is another version of my top 10 list, where I’ve removed the films that are considered 2011 releases in most countries. Remember that I still miss out on films such as The Master, Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts of the Southern Wild, since they haven’t open where I live (and I don’t do illegal downloads).

1. Amour
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. Life of Pi
4. Searching for Sugarman
5. Looper
6. Argo
7. Prometheus
8. Chronicle
9. Skyfall
10. The Cabin in the Woods

Well, that was it. It’s been a fantastic year for movies, hasn’t it?

muppets

Written by Jessica

January 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Halfway through 2012 – here is my top list

with 44 comments

I woke up a morning and realized that we’re halfway through 2012. I know – it’s crazy! How did that happen? To me the year has all but started.

So what do you make of 2012 so far? I thought 2011 was a very good year for movies; the question is – will 2012 match it? Possibly. I made my personal top list of the year so far, covering my top 20 movies. I think there are quite a few gems here and there are a couple of movies in the pipeline that I have high hopes for.

But before we start I want to get one thing out of the way:

Yes, this list includes some movies that you might think belong on a 2011 list, depending on which country you live in. I’ve decided to make my top lists from my personal perspective, following when the movies became accessible in a theatre for me. Many films don’t open inSwedenuntil several months after their theatrical release in US orUK. This was the case with several of the Oscar nominees, which didn’t arrive here until late spring.

Also keep in mind that my appreciation for a movie usually changes over time. Some films that I didn’t immediately embrace have grown; other movies that I liked at first have turned pale as time has passed. When it’s time to make the full-year-list of 2012, some of those movies may very well have changed positions, depending on my mood of the day. I’m notoriously inconsistent.

And that’s the end of the disclaimer section. Let’s move on to the list!

1. We Need to Talk about Kevin
The events in this film have been dealt with before in movies, but not from this point of view, I’d dare say. Tilda Swinton was excellent as the mother of the troubled kid Kevin. The cinematography and particularly the usage of colours are etched into my memory.

 

2. Take Shelter
The storm is coming. Or is it? Do the things that take place on screen really happen or are they hallucinations of a mentally ill person? Some people had doubts about the interpretation. I didn’t. But what we can agree about is that it’s a fantastic little movie, with a brilliant performance by Michael Shannon.

3. Tyrannosaur
A man beats his own dog until it dies. Then he cries over losing his best friend – the dog. This is the start of Tyrannosaur and it’s almost unbearable to watch. From there it goes worse. But provided you can stand watching it, this is a remarkably well played and gripping piece of drama, providing at least some glimpses of hope in all the misery there is.
 

4.Moonrise Kingdom
After three rather depressing movies I wanted to break up this list with something more lighthearted, bringing a bit of hope and happiness into the world. I can’t think of a worthier candidate than Moonrise Kingdom.

5. Prometheus
Prometheus got a bit of a beating due to some ridiculously high set expectations after the successful marketing. It’s no Alien, but despite its flaws I enjoyed it immensely. I got to explore strange new worlds, I saw truly alien aliens, I watched big things blow up in a big way and I gave my imagination a good tickle. That’s all I the sci-fi geek inside me asks for.

6. The Artist
I watched The Artist several months after everyone else, so at the point where I got to it they hype and the backlash were both over with since long. It was a love letter to the world of movies, surprisingly fun and entertaining, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

7. Bullhead
This is another dark film that is tough to watch due to some very intense and violent heavy scenes, on par with Tyrannosaur. Take caution before you watch this if you’re the sensitive kind.

8. A Royal Affair
This Danish costume drama took me by surprise. It’s well acted, well designed, well plotted, high class craftsmanship in every aspect. Highly recommended unless you really can’t stand costume dramas.

9. Chronicle
Chronicle? A found footage movie about youngsters with superpowers? Are you kidding me; how can you put this over serious movies including several Oscar candidates? I can because this debut film out of nowhere charmed me completely with its fresh take on genre that I’m usually not overly excited about.

10. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods breaking into the top 10 might have to do with that it’s one of the most recent films I watched, so I still have it fresh in memory. Regardless, I had fun watching this, and “fun” is nothing to sneer at. So I’ll bring it into my top 10 to inject yet a bit more of entertainment, giving a break to all the gloomy films I usually watch.

11-20 (Unranked, alphabetic order):


The Avengers
I could never have imagined I’d enjoy a superhero movie this much. I blame Joss Whedon.


Carnage

People throwing up on the screen is rarely fun to watch, but seeing Kate Winslet doing it over a bunch of exclusive art catalogues was priceless. 

The Descendants
From my review: “There’s always something soothing about watching millionaires struggling with their lives, ending up eating comfort ice cream out of the box in front of the TV. Deep down we’re all the same – fragile, messed up and uncertain about where our journey will take us. It’s like hitchhiking. Life will take you into places you didn’t plan. You just need to learn to cope.”


Coriolanus
Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.

 

Hugo
Martin Scorsese lets his inner film geek out in full freedom. I can’t imagine anyone else who would have been allowed to make a film celebrating film restoration and Georges Méliès. But he could afford it and as the film lover I am I loved it.

The Kid with a Bike
This was my first encounter with the Dardenne brothers and I hope it won’t be the last.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sometimes when I go to a theatre all I want is a quick ride with a big budget action movie offering spectacular action and decent actors. This was exactly this and it served me well.


The Muppets
There wasn’t a single kid in the theatre when I watched The Muppets, and I’m not even sure of how funny it is for a child who didn’t grow up with those puppets. I did though and I had a blast. As I said in the review: “On the outside I was a frustrated office worker with a Monday Blues. But hidden inside there was a singing and smiling muppet.”

Tomboy
I wish this film didn’t need to be done. I wish everyone could be allowed to be themselves, using any kind of gender identity they wanted to without being questioned. Sadly enough we’re not there yet. And this film should be shown and talked about at school.

50/50
Cancer and humour doesn’t sound as if it mixes well. But in this film it did.

A couple of mentionings

There are several movies that didn’t make the cut this time, but which very well can end up somehwere on the top list by the end of the year. As I said initially: my ratings change from day to day. The current runner-ups are Warhorse, Elena, Wuthering Heights and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

I won’t talk much about bad movies, mostly because I’ve seen so few of them. So far this year there have only been two movies I’ve given a 1/5 star rating. Interesting enough they represent two extremes on a scale of artfulness. On one end we have Rock of Ages, which had an abundance of cheese but no soul. On the other end there’s Alps, which no doubt had higher artistic ambitions, but felt equally heartless, empty and boring.

So, which are your ups and downs so far this year? Which films are you pretty certain will remain on the list when it’s time to narrow down the top 10 of 2012?

Come and dream with me

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” My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travellers, adventurers, magicians… Come and dream with me.”

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

I wish I had found up those words myself, but I’m afraid I haven’t. It’s Georges Méliès who says them in a scene in Hugo as a film screening is about to start.

I don’t know who put them in his mouth. Maybe it was John Logan, the screenwriter. Maybe it was in the original book. Or who knows, maybe it was Martin Scorsese who had come up with them in the hope that he one day might use them in his Oscar speech?

Regardless of which, something happened inside me as I heard those words. It felt like a beam of light finding its way into a forgotten storage room. Something came alive, just like what had happened to the automaton in the movie.

Once again I felt the magic of cinema and it sent shivers along my spine.

When Hollywood embraces you with a group hug that includes all filmmakers and film fans from the dawn of movies until today, it’s hard to not to be moved, especially if you’re a cinephile.

I’m not entirely sure how well it works on non-cinephiles, who don’t care particularly much for film restoration projects and wouldn’t watch a silent film even if they were paid to do it.

If I had been a member of the marketing department at the film company, I probably would have had some doubts about the potential of this movie. I would ask a lot of uncomfortable questions.

“Exactly who do you think is the target audience? Who did you have in mind? Adults? It’s a fairly tale! Kids? It’s about silent films, can they care about such things? Can we really get back the money it will take to make all those effects you have in mind? Why not settle for something… simpler?”

But fortunately I don’t work there. And fortunately Martin Scorsese has probably been so successful in the past that he’s allowed to do something that is more personal than commercial. He’ll be forgiven.

So here I was, enjoying the hell out of this film, splashing in cinematic enthusiasm and nostalgia and sense of wonder.

Sure, the 3D effects didn’t add all that much to be honest, but at least they were so well employed that they weren’t in the way for my enjoyment of the film. Well, apart from when it got really emotional on a couple of occasions and I started to cry. Crying with glasses on is never a good idea. For movies like Hugo, they should provide them with wipers.

For various reasons I feel a bit under the ice as I’m writing this post. While not completely broken, I’m kind of scratched. A little bit emo if you want to put it that way.

But if Hugo taught me anything, it is that broken things can be fixed. There’s hope even for the mechanisms you thought were beyond any help.

Come and dream with me, says Scorsese to me. He doesn’t have to ask me twice.

Hugo (Martin Scorsese, US, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

April 12, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Hugo, Uncategorized

German, female and silent – a different take on Hamlet

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Did you know that Hamlet in fact was a woman in disguise? The only reason that she was dressed like a guy was that her mother was taking measures to secure the succession of the throne. At least if we’re to believe a certain Dr Edward P Vining who in 1881 published the book “The Mystery of Hamlet”, where he presented his ideas.

This book is the source of inspiration for what probably is the oddest version of Hamlet I’ve seen in my entire life. Not only is Hamlet played by a woman (a Danish actress named Asta Nielsen, who was one of the first international movie stars). Hamlet is also German and doesn’t say a word since it’s a silent film.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m happy to have a film club in my city, which not only has access to an old fashioned, gently renovated theatre; they also show silent movies once in a while with live music to go with it. In a world of conformity, worldwide releases and box office records, it offers something different – the flavor of experiencing something exclusive, something not everyone else has access to or is able to enjoy.

You’re like people who frown at bag-in-box wine, importing their bottles directly from a special castle no one else has heard of. You’re like someone who won’t eat a bar of chocolate with less than that the cacao beans have a sort name and specified origin. It’s the very opposite of mass consumption.

Not taking this aspect into account, just looking at the film as such, I have to admit that it ended up with an average rating. For sure it’s interesting to watch the androgenic Asta Nielsen and the music was beautifully performed. But my interest dropped as time went by and the uncomfortable (though historically correct) seats started to have an impact on my bum. One hour would have been fine. Two hours and 13 minutes was a little too much of the goodness, regardless of how different it was to the films I usually watch.

Perhaps there is a truth in what the silent film fans who recently were guests at Ryan McNeil’s podcast In Between Days. Their recommendation for a beginner of silent film watching was to leave out the drama and go for the comedies, since they’re way more accessible. A 2 hour + Hamlet adaption might be something that mostly speaks to the more experienced hardcore fans.

My greatest enjoyment of the night turned out to be a short bonus film, The Film Primadonna. This film, or should I rather say fragment, consists of the 250 or so remaining meters of what once had been a full length feature film. The other 1500 meters have been lost on the way. Like Hamlet this film also stars Asta Nielsen, but here she plays a contemporary film star. So essentially this is a film about film making in 1913, and that’s what made it so interesting. You can read and learn every so much about the childhood of the movies or you can watch Hugo for that sake, but it feels more real when you watch a film set through the eyes of another film maker from a century ago.

Hamlet (Sven Gade, GE, 1921) My rating: 3/5

The Film Primadonna (Die Filmprimadonna, Urban Gad, GE, 1913) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

March 29, 2012 at 1:00 am

My thoughts of the Golden Globe winners

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The Golden Globe winners were announced last night and once again I experience the frustration of living in a small country where the movies generally arrive months after their international launches.

There was a lot of love for The Descendants and The Artist, Hugo got a nod as well and what can I say? I haven’t watched them and won’t watch them for a long time. I saw about 50 or so new movies in a cinema last year, but quite a few of them are considered “2010 movies”. I’m like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris: I live in the past.

But for whatever it’s worth I’ll throw down a few comments on those I’ve seen on the list.

Best Foreign language film: A Separation. I liked it well enough, but there were several other foreign language films I liked better and I’m frankly a little bit baffled at how much love this movie has gotten.  For me it was an easy choice: The Skin I Live In, which not only was my favourite foreign language movie, but my favourite movie overall, if you rule out films that were released in 2011 in Sweden but are considered 2010 movies internationally.

Sadly enough it isn’t likely that The Skin I Live in will get any Academy Award, since Spain chose to send a different movie as their contender. (Can a movie that hasn’t been nominated by their country even be awarded?)

Best animated movie: The Adventures of Tintin. No surprise there. I guess it was a weak year for animated movies, but would rather have seen Rango as the winner.

Best screenplay: Midnight in Paris. As a dedicated Woody Allen fan I’m always delighted to see him getting a nod, even though I honestly don’t consider it one of his best movies.

Best supporting actor: Christoffer Plummer/Beginners. This choice gets a big “yay!” from me. It’s one of my favourite movies from last year and Plummer’s performance contributed a great deal to this.

Written by Jessica

January 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized