Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Summer Plans

I know what you're thinking. Why would you make plans for summer 8 months or so in advance? Well, my dear readers, that's because I just got told that next year my school's theater department is taking a trip to New York. I, being the NY-obsessed boy I am, immediately asked them if I could join them. They said yes and that means I've got a chance (however small) of actually going to Broadway. Needless to say, this makes me a very happy camper, mes petits. The plan is to go and see four musicals (not chosen yet) and I'm lobbying to go see Hair. The show's gotten rave reviews and it has an amazing cast, so I'm dying to go. I leave you here with a couple of choice videos showcasing the amazing performers and specially the outstanding Gavin Creel.

Wish me luck, darlings.

Au revoir,

M. Cinema

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thoughts on Inglourious Basterds

Approaching a film like Inglourious Basterds is a complex thing. You don't just consider the film itself, but what went into making it and the history surrounding it. In the case of this film, that would be a more-than-a-decade-in-the-making script and Tarantino describing it as "epic". And with a two and a half hours length, it certainly feels that way. The film delivers on its promise of everything a Tarantino film should be and more. Allow me to elaborate.

Inglourious Basterds opens with SS-StandartenfĂĽhrer (Colonel) Hans Landa (Cristoph Waltz) and his arrival at a dairy farm. Landa (a.k.a The Jew Hunter) is there to perform a search for the last remaining Jew survivors in the area. While questioning the farmer who owns the property about the survivors, Landa remains utterly charming in a way no film Nazi has ever been, in my experience. He's eloquent, fluent in three languages (so far) and dangerously charismatic. He is also evil, ironic and absurd; in a thoroughly enjoyable way. Waltz deserves praise for bringing to life what Tarantino considered his greatest character ever. His Hans Landa is the kind of rotten character that you kinda want to watch get away with it in the end. Landa also provides unexpected comedy several times in the film; keeping his character solidly on our good side. I can thus honestly say there wasn't one scene he was in where I wasn't completely enamored with him. I wouldn't be surprised if Waltz got an Oscar nomination to go with his Cannes best actor award.

Escaping from Landa's clutches is a teenage girl named Shosanna (MĂ©lanie Laurent). Laurent delivers an outstanding performance here that shall get her (much like her compatriot Marion Cotillard) in the international spotlight. Laurent's face is very expressive throughout the film and it is clear from the luscious (quasi-fetishistic) shots Tarantino takes of her (specially near the climax, where she dons a red dress right out of cinematic mythology) that she is his star, his archetypal tragic siren. Even if Shosanna's revenge story is played alongside a bigger, more action-packed portion of the film, her tale still involves you in ways the rest of the plot, perhaps, can't.

It's through Shosanna's machinations that Tarantino's plot to rewrite history becomes possible. It is through her clever calculations that most of the climax is possible. Some of these machinations include flirting with Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), a Nazi war hero who is now getting his own Goebbels film, "The Pride of the Nation".

I had seen Bruhl before in Good Bye, Lenin!
and it must be said even as a Nazi war hero, he still retains his boyish charm. It is also through Bruhl's skill, however, that we get a glimpse at the darker motivations of his character.

Aiding the Basterds in their quest is Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), a German movie star working as a double agent. Kruger is pitch perfect as von Hammersmark; being at once charming, glamorous, and wonderfully diva-esque. Her character is a ton of fun, adding some welcome snark to the proceedings. Kruger pleasantly surprised me with this role, showing talent I hadn't realized she possessed. Don't get me wrong, I've never disliked her or anything; but she hadn't ever really stood out for me.

Also aiding the Basterds is Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), a suave British agent that pokes fun at the British stiff upper-lip humor stereotype like it's nobody's business. Fassbender is truly surprising here. Having previously only seen him in either small roles or his gruesome role in Hunger, I didn't quite expect the comic style he offers here. It is, nonetheless, a decent (if a tad small) part.

As for the Basterds themselves, their roles are relatively small (if idiosyncratic and special in their own way), but the focus remains on Brad Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine (a.k.a. Aldo the Apache). Pitt is here tasked with playing a character that has to be at once funny and menacing. It is in his heroic southern patriot that the Basterds leadership and morale rest. I had my qualms about Pitt's role when I first heard about it, but he quickly puts those concerns to rest once he's on the screen.

Which leads me to the director himself. Quentin Tarantino has always been a divisive director. His films often lead to fierce discussion between die-hard fans and skeptics. What I've always said is that even if you find his style abrasive and lacking taste, he is technically a good director. He certainly knows how to handle a camera's angles and how to communicate a clear vision. He also has a knack for pushing actors to deliver iconic, larger-than-life performances that don't go overboard. He is, ultimately, a director that loves movies. Those two things might seems bound to each other, but if one looks around there is clearly a shortage of cinema-loving directors. He is, for lack of a better term, our very own enfant terrible. A lot of directors wish such a label be applied for them. The difference between Tarantino and the avant-garde hoi polloi is that he actually has the talent and vision to back it up.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie a lot and wholeheartedly recommend watching it and even re-watching it. Much like the relationship with a friend, a Tarantino film always benefits from repeated visits.

Le verdict: ****

P.S. And because I'm a shameless actressexual with a thing for vintage looks, here's one of the alternate film posters and another image of Laurent, in-character. Everybody now: gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Gala Darling

As promised, here is my homage to the wonderful Gala Darling. Who is Gala Darling, you ask? Well, she's only one of the most marvelous inspirations in my life. I first became aware of Gala's work through StumbleUpon. Even though now I can't find the link anywhere, I remember the article perfectly. It was called Gala Darling's Rules for Life, and it featured a picture of a cotton-candy pink-haired girl and her five tips to be happy (and stylish!) in life. At the bottom of the article, there was a link to her site, iCiNG. I clicked on it and instantly fell in love.

iCiNG is a site full of helpful articles on everything from how to dress for a summer wedding to how to become your ideal self. Gala delivers these articles in such a thorough, caring way it's hard not to want to become a part of the community (for she's repeatedly stated iCiNG is as much her project as it is our community and that we're all a vital part of it). Her articles became an inspiration to me, an anchor during a particularly low point in my life. I credit her with much of the progress I made during that period and with the person I am today. No one else had ever, so unapologetically, told me that my differences were something to be cherished.

Gala Darling is a force of nature, an agent of change and goodness. The sheer volume of her articles is a testament to her undying commitment to provide content for her readers. And not just any content; valuable, interesting or just plain amusing content. What's more, her words ring true. She's not one of those people that just tells you to be happy and denies the existence of unhappiness. She was once herself very unhappy and negative and consciously decided to turn her life around. She quit her day job, started iCiNG and never looked back.

Aside from all of this, she's also phenomenally stylish. She always manages to make something look good and all her own. Her fashion advice is also seriously good; never failing to be at once helpful and amusing. And you can't help but love the pink-haired dynamo as she shares her outfits and ideas with you.

All in all, I love Gala Darling and feel a great deal of pride when I see my link on her site. So, what are you waiting for. Go and soak yourself in iCiNG.

Au revoir,
M. Cinema