Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)

Gone with the Wind demands the cinema experience. Now, we argue about films like Gravity and Avatar. But the argument still stands for films including 2001: A Space Odyssey and - with a re-release at the BFI and nationwide - Gone with the Wind. The very definition of Hollywood Epic, Gone with the Wind is one of the most successful films of all-time. Partly due to its longevity, Gone with the Wind, when ticket prices are adjusted for inflation, remains the top of the box-office – followed by Star Wars, The Sound of Music and E.T. Modern viewers, when faced with a four-hour, sprawling civil-war romance, will cringe at the thought. But it must be seen to be believed - Gone with the Wind lives up to its reputation.

Set prior to the American Civil War, we are introduced to spoiled Southerner Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) as she ponders which of two twin brothers she will dance with. Her father’s plantation, Tara, is her home and she is besotted with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) from the ‘Twelve Oaks’ plantation close-by. Unfortunately for Scarlett, Ashley is due to wed his cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Enter Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a cocky and confident sniper; a friend from Charleston to the Wilkes. His self-serving attitude seems to be the perfect match for Scarlett, but she is not impressed. She seeks Ashley, a man who wants a gentle lady – opposed to the brash, forward and demanding attitude Scarlett has. The civil war takes the men to war – a war Rhett believes is foolhardy for the Southerners – and Scarlett impulsively marries. He dies in the war and this becomes only the beginning of Scarlett’s constant struggle with love. Patiently, Rhett waits in the wings for her to become a woman with a heart – and we wonder whether a destroyed family home, the death of thousands following the war or Rhett’s immoveable presence will change her.

The time-period is fraught with tension as slaves are common-place, and in Gone with the Wind, they only seem awkwardly happy to help. While likeable characters use terms like “darkie” and “white-trash”, there is clearly a contextual issue we need to consider. Written in 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s novel portrays the upper-class white lifestyle in the South, as seen by the upper-class in the South. Though strange to watch, the lack of an honest perspective from others may be the only true concern - I doubt the slaves were as content in their ‘ownership’ as depicted in the Tara homestead. By the same token, the aggressive and expected sexist attitudes need to be put in context. Rhett’s unforgettable expectations of Scarlett as he carries her into the shadows of sex are deeply unsettling: “This is one night you're not turning me out.” he demands. But again, his treatment of her paints darker tones to the story, creating a fascinating conflict between two lead characters that shows how self-serving they are.

Vivien Leigh is flawless in the role and this re-release kicks off a BFI season on Vivien Leigh. Considering the search for Scarlett O’Hara is infamous unto itself, the casting of Leigh and the character she creates could not be more perfect – watch her brief acceptance of her Academy Award to see how different she is in reality. Clark Gable, a fan’s favourite, seems to plays it smug and satisfied which works for the role while Olivia deHavilland holds such sincerity that she is a perfect counterpoint to Leigh’s dastardly ways. Leslie Howard feels underserved, but he truly creates a character besieged by his lust for Scarlett against his upper-class ideals of love with Mellie. Maybe Ashley and Mellie are “right” for each other but he never truly rejects Scarlett.

The first act is clearly the strongest and includes iconic moments including Scarlett walking through thousands of injured and dead soldiers as they are slowly revealed through a steady camera moving higher into the sky. These shots alongside the vivid, burning oranges and red that light up the sky as characters stand in silhouette are almost exclusively attributed to Gone with the Wind. This new 4k restoration of the original 70mm print that, though square, is larger than the cropped widescreen version is simply mesmerising. Combine the awesome scale of the shots and incredible detail with Max Steiner’s unforgettable score, therein are the two additional elements that ensure Gone with the Wind remains a classic.

This is the time to see Gone with the Wind. Spielberg’s Lincoln last year set within the same time-period, both noting the importance of Gettysberg and the outcome of the civil war, would make an epic double-bill. Though the length of time it would take would surely remain a challenge. Returning to cinemas, Gone with the Wind has pace and scale, and an ideal way into the Golden Age of Hollywood. It deserves its praise and accolade. Recently, critics and audiences aggressively argue to others how important it is to watch Gravity at the cinema; Gone with the Wind is equally important to view in the cinema – and this is the moment to watch it.

This post was originally written for Flickering Myth

Again, I wrote a brief analysis on Gone with the Wind in 2010...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Frozen (Chris Buck/Jennifer Lee, 2013)

It only seems apt that now Disney has made a considerable amount from their Princesses brand, the most recent animated “classic” Frozen depicts the story of not one, but two princesses. Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen, Frozen harks back to a story that sits neatly alongside Tangled and Brave, as it tries to warm-up the classic, cold fairy tale with intriguing, but not ground-breaking, results.

Anna (Kristin Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are sisters and the Princesses of Arendelle. Elsa is destined to become Queen one day, while Anna has had to live her life watching Elsa from afar. Anna has been protected from the dangers of Elsa’s ice and snow skills following a close-call with death when both girls were young. After a brief prologue, the coronation of the new Queen is soon upon us and Anna meets the man of her dreams. But dreams are shattered when Elsa’s ice-powers are unleashed and revealed to all, forcing her to run away to isolate herself from the world - leaving Arendelle as a glistening, frozen city. Anna decides to find Elsa, and bring her back to Arendelle. With the support of mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and the snowman Olaf (Josh Gad, we set-off into the white plains and trudge through the snow to see if Anna can convince her sister to return…

Disney has had their eyes on this story for many years. Dating back to 1943, Walt Disney himself considered animating sequences from The Snow Queen to support a biography on Hans Christian Andersen. Passed from animators and producers since the 1990’s, it was only after the success of Tangled that Disney decided to dream up the idea in a different manner. This time, they focussed their attention on two sisters at the centre of the story – while the Snow Queen is not a villain but human and gentle, despite her dangerous powers.

These crucial changes to the story are what make Frozen innovative with a sibling story that will surely resonate with children. A context of snowscapes and detailed, twinkling snowflakes make the 3D animation worthwhile as snow falls in the cinema and sharp, ice shards jut out of the screen. The even film begins with a chanting chorus-number that harks back to The Lion King while the lead track, Let it Go, is catchy and likeable.

But inevitably, Disney has to include conventions that together become the “animation-formula”. Like the gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Mushu in Mulan, Olaf, the snowman, is brash and in-yer-face. His I’m-stupid-but-not-really humour becomes likable and his lack of knowledge of the sun is deeply tragic – though comedic. Alas, while one wacky character is effective, the snow-monster created to defend the Snow Queen is out of place (begging the question that, if the Snow Queen can create snow-monsters, she can surely create many more to stop the attack on her castle).

Though flawed, Frozen does seem to break the icy-mould with a finale that ignores convention (despite conventional male-female dynamics as Anna ultimately needs Kristoff - the big, brute of a man - to help her succeed). These final moments redeem any minor qualms and reveal that Disney is primarily interested in thoughtful storytelling. Disney are clearly adapting fairy tales with the intention of making something that lasts longer than the throwaway stories of Bolt and Brother Bear - and Frozen will have longevity. But, Frozen does slip and we are still a long way from the quality of Beauty and the Beast and the Princesses that defined the brand itself.

This was originally written for Flickering Myth

Thursday, 21 November 2013

150W: Sleeper

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Sleeper (Dir Woody Allen/1973)

The poster of Woody Allen’s Sleeper mocks James Bond. Rather than alluding to the suave-spy, it would’ve made more sense to note the influence of slapstick-star Charlie Chaplin. The playful, silent acting, set within a sci-fi context, serves to support a meeting of like-minded comedians as Woody Allen gets his closest to non-verbal, physical performance. Musician Miles (Allen) is frozen for 200 years, inevitably falling for Diane Keaton, as Luna Schlosser. Using actor Douglas Rain to provide a voice, as he did in 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is Allen leaning on sci-fi stimuli and using H.G. Wells and George Orwell as source material. The tone is what established Woody in his early years, and his disguise as a robot (a plug in his mouth creating a motionless face akin to Buster Keaton) is amongst the best sequences in his career. Sleeper is solid, straight-up comedy without the intellectual chitchat.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)

How can young teenagers be introduced to politics? Maybe through The Hunger Games. The sequel to last year’s nearly-$700m blockbuster success is upon us. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire again tackles political unrest in the districts as the 75th Anniversary of the games is due to begin. In the same manner as The Hunger Games, the opening moments of Catching Fire reveal our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) waiting for the mysterious Gale (Liam Hemsworth) - her real boyfriend. The end of The Hunger Games set up a false relationship between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) – a love that meant both teenagers won their Hunger Game – and so a love-triangle is forged. Gale loves Katniss; Peeta loves Katniss; we think Katniss loves Gale…

But this is not the heat of the story (though perhaps the core of the series), and the minor role of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in The Hunger Games is expanded upon. In Catching Fire, President Snow is acutely aware that Katniss is a threat to the dystopian world he controls. “You fought very hard in the arena, but they were games” he tells Katniss – which is strange because, the whole point of The Hunger Games was that though named as ‘games’ they actually were life or death. But we’ll ignore that because President Snow is an arch enemy. He is the Goliath to Katniss’s David. Stakes are higher and Peeta and Katniss are bound to each other as they travel the districts and witness the brutal state of the world. They see an old man raise his hand in support of rebellion before faceless militia murder him in front of the populace (though not in front of us). The tour comes to an abrupt end when President Snow announces the unique set-up of the 75th Quarter Quell … involving our favourite duo again. This time, rather than fighting random players from across the districts they are against the toughest and dangerous players of the previous games: the surviving winners.

Former friends of Katniss re-appear in Woody Harrelson’s ‘Haymitch’ and Lenny Kravitzs’ shamen-like fashion-designer Cinna, while Philip Seymour Hoffman’s game-maker has such a commanding presence, we pray he survives the film. Some moments almost give a sense of deja-vu as Katniss has a dress that bursts into flames while sat upon a Ben-Hur chariot and even the players are expected to be interviewed by Stanley Tucci’s eccentric game show host Caesar again (His pearly white teeth have never glistened so brightly). Indeed, recalling the first film, the vast majority of the film is spent prior to the games. By the time Katniss arises to stand amongst the players in the simulated environment, you only wish it could’ve balanced its time better. Learning from its predecessor, Catching Fire could’ve immediately started within the game (possibly flashing back to answer the ‘how’ question). Teenagers will surely watch the two films back-to-back and notice the similar structure.

Catching Fire will inevitably be appreciated almost-exclusively by the teenage target-market it intends to reach, but despite this, it tries to raise larger issues. In a world whereby an ex-presenter of reality TV-show Big Brother has touted an idea about rebellion while a Conservative Government runs the country, the relevance cannot be ignored. Fans of Katniss will hopefully connect the dots between the media, the government and rebellion – and its relevance to 21st Century politics. In that manner, Catching Fire, though openly playful about its connections to fantasy in man-eating baboons and skin-burning gas, it will start a dialogue and light a match in the minds of the young. Let’s hope Hollywood handle this carefully though, as Catching Fire only raises the questions – the further sequels will answer them.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Dom Hemingway (Richard Shepard, 2013)

A character that is as well-realised as Dom Hemingway deserves a better send off. Richard Shepard writes and directs this Brit-Gangster film that lets loose a persona that demands your attention from the moment he appears. What a shame it doesn’t satisfy your appetite by the closing credits.

After keeping quiet for 12 years, Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is released from prison. With best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant) he travels to France to receive his ‘present’ from big-boss Mr Fontaine (Demian Bechir channeling a Robert DeNiro style of class). After a riotous party, it ends in tears as Dom speeds off the road and Fontaine’s sultry wife Paolina (Madalina Ghenea) makes off with Hemingway’s bag of cash. Rather than a revenge-story, Hemingway is forced to figure out what to do next. What will he do about his daughter who doesn’t want to see him anymore? What will he do about his professional safe-cracking career now everything is digital? Everything is up in the air for Dom Hemingway.

At one point, Jude Law’s ‘Dom’ and faithful pal Dickie (Richard E. Grant) sit on the Eurostar. Hemingway is hung-over, moaning and groaning about his pain. Hemingway tells us a “dog shat on my soul”, as Richard E. Grant, uninterested and apathetic, is un-phased. He has seen it all before. In Withnail & I, Grant’s ‘Withnail’ verbalises the hangover-from-hell to Paul McGann as they speed to Monty’s: “I feel like a pig shat in my head!” he says.

Clearly, Richard Shepard has created a character that has the poetic anger of Withnail, the cockney-tone of Delboy and the facial hair of an X-Man in Dom Hemingway. Jude Law has never had so much fun, and Richard E. Grant exploits being the straight man to Hemingway’s drunken, forthright anti-hero. The “cock” monologue (hinting at an undercurrent of pseudo, masculine-pride) that opens the film seems to carry a confidence that starts the film off with a bang – but unfortunately it limps to deliver a final act.

Masculinity in the modern-age is a tricky affair too as the animalistic, aggressive man does not suit the accepting, culturally-aware father. Indeed, there’s a sense of old-traditions clashing with modern society as Dom is 12-years out-the-loop. Dickie seems to be stuck in the 1970’s as he wears vintage sunglasses and floral shirts. “I’m too fucking old and I didn’t bring the right shoes” is the response when things go ape in the forest and Dom Hemingway decides to strut across Fontaine’s property naked.

Unfortunately, despite a strong set-up as we are brought into the criminal world of Hemingway and Co, the heart of the story gets short shrift. Dom Hemingway’s attempt at building bridges with his daughter Evelyn (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) feels like a missed opportunity that could’ve been expanded upon. There is very little time for us to see these relationships develop and blossom and it is difficult to get a sense of history between all the characters. Instead, we are introduced to further London gangsters, complicating matters further. By the final moments, Dom Hemingway feels lost in the abyss – with no definitive sense of resolution. Jude Law will gain great respect for the role and the promising start gives the indication that Shepard surely should return to London for another Brit-based film. But it loses its way after Dom returns to London and rather than trying to amp up the action with a dramatic I’ll-cut-off-your-cock moment, the direction should’ve involved the family – or even the Mafia family from France that disappears after the car-crash. Dom Hemingway will charm you, but he won’t satisfy you.

This review was originally written for Flickering Myth

150W: Zelig

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Zelig (Dir. Woody Allen/1983)

Before Forrest Gump was Zelig. Feeding a fictional character into history is central to the story of Leonard Zelig. Prior to Christopher Guest and his popular use of mockumentary in This is Spinal Tap, Woody Allen was there in 1983 (Allen’s Take the Money and Run from 1969 is one of the earliest uses of mockumentary in cinema). This is the story of Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen), a fictional character in the 1920’s dubbed a chameleon due to his extraordinary skill in changing form when stood next to a different man. If stood next to Native-American’s – he turns into a Native American. Zelig is innovative, confident and intriguing but it lacks a sense of pace or urgency. Once you know the skill, the consequence is less fascinating. Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow and Adolf Hitler all appear but Zelig is uninspiring. Shouldn’t he be the most interesting? Turns out, he isn’t.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Interview: Richard Shepard (for DOM HEMINGWAY)

Richard Shepard is an actor’s director. He has worked with Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan and, now, Jude Law. He directed the pilot episode of Ugly Betty, episodes of 30 Rock and multiple episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls. Dom Hemingway, is Shepard’s glorious, character-driven London gangster film featuring Jude Law as the Dom himself with Richard E. Grant playing his right-hand man.

When I sat with Shepard, considering how unique Jude Law’s character is, I asked him where the titular Dom Hemingway came from:

Richard Shepard: What part of my dark brain did he come from? I wanted to make a movie in London and I wanted to make a movie about someone getting out of jail. I had to find the character. Who is this person? I was struggling with it. I wrote the first scene of the movie where he is just talking about his cock. It really came out easily and I wanted to spend time with him. Organically it just came. Here is this character and let’s see what happens with him…

Flickering Myth: London sounds like a key part of your thought process. Did you desperately want to film in London?

RS: Actually, I hadn’t spent much time in London, but I wanted to make a movie here. I’m from New York and it’s got a similar vibe to the city. [London] is an older city obviously but there is a street energy and a visual look and … the way people walk. I immediately just felt comfortable in London because it feels like New York to me. I wanted to spend more time here.

FM: What films inspired you in the writing and production of Dom Hemingway?

RS: Sexy Beast, The Hit and The Limey are character driven, genre movies - though The Limey is set in LA, it has a British lead-character. I love a good genre movie, but sometimes it can just fall into a shoot ‘em up or a heist movie, becoming less about character. I didn’t want to do that. With Sexy Beast, the crime at the end is secondary to all the tension before it. Primarily, it is just characters in a house because they are so rich. It gives you a genre satisfaction without giving it in a way you expect. It is less a “Guy Ritchie film” and far more of something that could attract a really great actor; a seminal character. I really wanted to create an indelible character and Dom is larger than life. As I was writing, I found this could be something really interesting. It’s totally enjoyable but there is much more to it.

FM: What about Dom himself – any specific characters that influenced him?

RS: I don’t want to sound pretentious at all but I hoped Dom is Shakespearian. He is larger than life – Falstaff-ian even. He is something big and you can’t take your eyes off of him. I could use Sexy Beast or Withnail and I – and movies which are important to me as a film goer. But while this character is larger than life, he is also as small as we are. I didn’t give him a rhyming cockney tone – it would be too obvious and would reveal, as a writer, that I’m not from London. I created a specific way of speaking for Dom and Jude [Law] was able to add his own South London thing.

FM: It is great to hear you talk so much about character. Your documentary on John Cazale (I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale), a fascinating 1970’s actor, is fascinating – and Richard E. Grant in Dom Hemingway does look a little like John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon

RS: I love the 70’s era and John Cazale was my acting hero. His characters were much quieter than Dom would be – he would eat John Cazale up, but Cazale would hold his own. John could easily have played Richard E. Grants part – possibly even Dom’s part because he was such a versatile actor. With Richard E. Grant, I was a big fan of Withnail and I and I was missing him in movies, I hadn’t seen him in a long time. I watched Withnail and I four years ago again and it holds up and it is so fu**in’ funny – why isn’t he in more movies? When I was writing this movie and Dom needed a friend, I thought he doesn’t need a cockney buddy, a Ray Winstone friend – he needs something completely different. It’d be interesting if it was a Richard E Grant type-role so I wrote it with him in mind. When casting, they asked who I’d want for this part and they said they’d get it to Richard E. Grant - Richard appreciated this. Part of his look, like Dom, shows how they are trapped in their glory days. Richard E Grant is trapped 25 years in the past when he may have been at his best, while Dom is trapped a because he was in jail for 12 years – so they are both a little out of step. It gives them a cool look as it is retro but it makes sense for their characters.

FM: Starting a film with a brash, bold monologue about Dom Hemingway’s cock immediately focuses your attention on masculinity and what it is to be man in the modern world. Was this intentional?

RS: I’m very interested in male friendship and the walls we put up. Dom is definitely a person who shoots himself in the foot all the time, ruining his own life. The movie is about taking one small step towards grace – one small step to see what’s important. The masculinity “thing” is like a wall of defence. The posturing of violence – all of that stuff – is a way to not have to deal with real emotions. But [Dom Hemingway] does need to deal with real emotions. All that stuff is really interesting. It gives him another layer – indeed, Dom and Dickie (Rihcard E. Grant] have a way with each other. You don’t have to explain it. Dom is a guy who is angry at everyone – but crucially himself.

FM: How was it working with Jude Law and Richard E. Grant?

RS: I had an amazing time with them. Jude is at a point in his career where he was ready to be given a role like this. He saw this as an opportunity for him – but it was scary. This is a character unlike anything he has ever played. He bares himself emotionally and physically - so we had a trust between us. His commitment was extraordinary too. He likes to rehearse and we rehearsed a lot making it much easier to shoot. We shot in France and London and every single day was a joy. Jude is such a professional and Richard too. As a filmmaker, the actors are going in with something to prove – this wasn’t a pay-check movie or something they have done before. That energy is very creative. We didn’t have a ‘heist’ plot to fall back on – the tension and drama is on the characters only. We knew we had to get it right. When the lead actor is unbelievably, fully committed, all the other actors were like “Fu**! I’d better work here!”.

Lots of it was handheld so the shots weren’t specifically planned. There is a scene with monkey portraits in the background and the actors didn’t know if the camera was on them. The camera could suddenly whip to them – and that’s great because when actors know a camera isn’t on them they can be almost phoning it in.

John Cazale upped the game in the same way – Al Pacino interviewed for two hours about how John made him better. I found that really interesting with John - and Jude Law brought the same thing to the party.

Thanks to Richard for the interview! This was organised and originally published for Flickering Myth.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

150W: Gravity

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón/2013)

Gravity is a masterpiece. Even if the concise lost-in-space plot doesn’t resonate, in almost exclusively five continuous shots, it’s a technical masterpiece. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (Clooney) fix satellites orbiting the earth when suddenly debris hits the group mid-mission, throwing Stone into space. Outstanding special effects mean you don’t even consider what is “real” and what is not. Intelligent use of 3D mean floating astronauts in the background and screws hovering in the foreground drag you into the abyss further, rather than detach your perspective. Director Alfonso Cuarón taps into known Sci-Fi properties as diverse as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, without losing a sense of ownership. Through a controlled, well-pitched score, Gravity is its own film using silence to terrify you. You are alone in space, in the middle of a crowded cinema. And the cinema is the only place to see Gravity.

Rating: 9/10

150W: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Manhattan Murder Mystery (Dir. Woody Allen/1993)

Could you be living next door to a murderer? This is the question Linda (Keaton) poses to her husband Lenny (Allen). His response is how “Well, New York is a melting pot…”. Woody Allen is on top form in this comedic, sensitive portrayal of married life. Our couple, Linda and Lenny, suspect foul play when neighbour Mrs House unexpectedly dies - and Mr House seems a little too comfortable. Initially, it is merely conversations over dinner, and phone-calls at night, but the plot thickens as we realise that the death of Mrs House isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. Running parallel, Linda and Lenny have their own demons they need to face as Linda flirts with recently-single Ted (Alan Alda) and Lenny considers playing away himself. Considering this was born of the Annie Hall script, it is clear this is one of the insightful and intelligent comedies that got away!

Rating: 8/10
Again, I wrote a review of this in 2010 and - if interested in seeing some rambling thoughts, click here

Sunday, 3 November 2013

150W: Thor: The Dark World

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Thor: The Dark World (Dir. Alan Taylor/2013)

Straddling Lord of the Rings fantasy and superhero action in London, comes Thor: The Dark World. Chris Hemsworth returns as the Prince of Asgard, Thor. This time, new villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) destroys much of Asgard intent on controlling the “Ether” – an ancient power that has become entwined within Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Thor and his merry band of Asgardian friends – including Avengers Assemble’s Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – are forced to protect Jane while ensuring that Asgard (and Greenwich in London) itself remains unharmed. More complicated than its predecessor, this sequel clashes horned-helmets and mystical forces with gusto, balancing Shakespearian language with a comedic sense of self-awareness. What a relief to see such a stylised form of story-telling opposed to the well-worn hero-in-city style of Spider-Man and Iron-Man. Inevitably, the formulaic shine of Marvel means it lacks risks and plays it safe, but it’s nevertheless a strong entry into the series.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 2 November 2013

150W: Celebrity

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Celebrity (Dir: Woody Allen/1998)

Celebrity is powerful. Leonardo DiCaprio, in 1998, was every teenage girl’s fantasy afterTitanic and appearing in a Woody Allen film titled Celebrity was an inspired choice. It wasn’t a huge success, earning $5m in the US alone, but Woody took a step back and placed Kenneth Branagh in the ‘Woody’ role instead. Branagh is Lee, a novel-writer and journalist, divorcing his wife, Robin (Judy Davies) of 16 years. Running parallel to Lee’s midlife crisis is Robin’s post-divorce romance with Tony (Joe Mantegna) as we see their relationship slowly blossom. Comic turns and celebrity-cameos a-plenty (including actors from The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire and The Simpsons) but something is unbalanced. Allen said, with Manhattan, he shot it in monotone to romanticise the city. The monotone choice, with great cinematography from Sven Nykvist, seems at odds with the unromantic celebrity world. An intriguing and engaging context but standard romance.

Rating: 5/10

This entry is part of Woody Allen Wednesdays on Flickering Myth

Nb-Interestingly, Celebrity was one of my earliest entries on my blog ... so if you wanted to take a step back in time and see some awful writing by my younger self, click here