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The Linguini Revival: Praising oddity in film

Best Movies I’ve seen this year (2)

I love lists, they’re meaningless, but they’re fun to make and fun to read. I don’t go to the cinema much, school takes all my time, there’s usually nothing that interest’s me(like last year),  its expensive and being sixteen means I haven’t got money to spend all the time. I usually wait to see the ones that I missed at home. But this year has been particularly frustrating. I’ve missed so many good movies (Toni Erdman, I, Danial Blake and so many more), it was a great year in general a bit like 2013 with movies like Nebraska, American Hustle (one of my favourite movies, I know it’s not exactly the type of movie we talk about here, but I’m doing a review,I think its slightly underrated)  and 12 years a slave (which was good but not as good as everybody thought it was). With so many great movies out I put an effort to go occasionally and here is my list for my top 5 favourite movies I saw that came out this year: (note that I haven’t seen La La Land yet, which looks great)

Here are first of all a few honourable mentions:

arrival

-First of all Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, a movie you’ve probably already seen so I won’t say much about it, but if you haven’t, it’s an alien invasion movie with cool linguistic theories and a Kurt Vonnegut side to it. Despite tiny issues I have with it, it was thought provoking tale about a woman’s journey and the way we look at time, with Amy Adam’s understated performance moving me to tears (she kills it like she always does).

the-113th

-The next movie I didn’t even have to leave my room to see is The 13th, Eva DuVernay’s Netflix documentary. A bold movie about black incarceration in America, brilliantly made with useful graphic designs. It instructed me on something I knew was a problem but had never really ‘thought’ about.The facts enraged me, making me want to run in the streets and hit some politician in Washington in the face. Oh, and great use of music. If you’re reading this and haven’t already seen it, like… why? (If you don’t have Netflix, just get it for this movie, their best original work).

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Café Society, Woodey Allen narrating a story about a young man’s rise in the 20’s socialite world in both New York and Los Angeles. Honesty it’s not a good movie, the production design is weak and lazy, Kristen Stewart is miscast in her role, and the story is unsatisfying.I’m even surprised I’m even mentioning it, but I have a great memory of going to watch it with my sister and I mean how many times do we get to see the director of a movie like Radio Days make a movie today? Sure he’s not the greatest, but I really loved his movies as a kid.

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-The last mention is just my geeky brain talking, Rogue One. Yes, if you’re going to criticise it properly it’s not perfect, the first half is wonky, the characters aren’t developed enough (except Jyn and Cassian because I love them both) and too much is going on. But I can’t criticise it, because if I made a Star Wars movie, this would be it. I love the concept, I love the fact the heroes are not “special” or “the one”, just ordinary people who sacrifice their lives and that is beautiful.

5. It’s just the end of the world-Xavier Dolan

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Latest movie from wunderkind Xavier Dolan, adapting Jean Luc Lagace’s classic play, about a young men returning home, after years of not having seen his family, to tell them he will die. There’s a lot that bothers me about this movie, probably because I read and studied the original play (Jean Luc Lagarce) at school. The main problem is the extentat which  he changed the original text, (curse words that were never there, and soils it)the text is the play, whiteout it’s brilliance it’s just a banal family story, which is what this film borders on being. However, what I do appreciate about Dolan’s adaptation is how both the play and the movie are slightly autobiographical of their creators, it becomes his story, his work of art, the same way Lagarce’s play was his, which brings me to why I love this movie. I believe that a great director is one where you can see his mark on screen, even see him. This is the case here, Dolan brings the camera so close to the actors faces, as though he were stepping on their feet, they are no longer here, they blur and disappear, and all we see is him, Dolan. It’s a claustrophobic film, the camera is like Dolan’s eye and he looms aver the characters almost sinisterly. Oh, and Gaspard Ulliel is at his usual best of course (frankly out of an absurdly starry cast, Marion Cottiallard, Lea Seydoux et Nathalie Baye, he stands out as the most outstanding).

4.Little Men – Ira Sachs

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I’ve never seen any of the director’s movies, but darn it am I impressed. Sweet movie about a friendship between two young boys living in Brooklyn while their parents argue over adulty stuff. Great actors especially Paulina Garcia who builds an anintriguing and complex character.But what will stay with me are the scenes where the two-boy ride on their scooters capturing perfectly the wonder and briefness of the few days left of “childhood”

3.Paterson – Jim Jarmush

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Adam Driver plays a driver called Paterson in Paterson. (Yes, I am quoting Mark Kermode but it’s the best way to describe this movie), and the movie follows his life, day to day, from Monday to Sunday. Adam Driver is one of myfavourite actors (if you haven’t noticed yet I’m a huge Star Wars fan) and despite the fact that he plays brilliantly and fits the role perfectly (I can’t imagine another actor, pitch perfect casting) the dog Marvin out-acts the entire cast (no wonder the movie won the Palm Dog Award at Cannes, no seriously that a thing and deservedly so). Marvin is the of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg of this movie, projecting Paterson’s every emotion. This movie is an observation on the poetry of a town that inspires artist to create. To explain in other words, Paterson is Paterson. He is the poetry of the town. And only the Japanese man at the end understood that. “Aha !”

2.Voyage à travers le cinéma français – Bertrand Tavernier

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Joy- just joy. No other word can describe what I feel about this three-hour long documentary about French cinema. And the time flies by, I gasped as the end credits started rolling: “What it’s already over?”. I could have easily spent another two hours listening to Tavernier talk about Jean Gabin’s greatness and La Grande Illusion (easily my favourite movie). If you haven’t seen any classic French film well, go watch a few then come back and watch this. If you love French cinema, well, this is your perfect movie (when it comes to French cinema, it’s not a question on hating it or liking it, it’s just love, you love or you don’t know.)

1. Frantz – Francois Ozon

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I am guilty of loving movies with symbolism (it’s the same thing with novels), and especially movies with a commentary on the end of a decade, an era, an art form. The death of something. Well, I was in luck here because it has both. A German girl Anna, mourning the death of her fiancée Frantz after the war while falling in love with a French soldier who knew her lover during the war. This is a perfect lasagna movie (layered movie), you can read it in multiple ways and have your own interpretation about the plot. I loved the quasi Hitchcockian style of Ozon in the way he built the suspense and played with our minds. But above all, this movie is not about Anna, it’s not even about Frantz, it’s about France.I’m not going to say more, I rather you enjoy and be surprised by the movie. I believe this is a misunderstood movie by most critics, who consider it to be a simple war love story, oh no, it’s everything BUT a love story. By far my favourite movie  that came out this year.

Reader, I hope you have a great 2017, if its as bad as this one you know where to go to dream. Cheasy? Nah, it’s New Year Eve, cheese day at it’s best.

L.L Wooden

Favourite Films of 2016 (1)

Every cloud has a silver lining… The bright light of 2016 came from a projector in a dark room, shinning upon a silver screen. The 31st of December often marks a turning point, a “point 0”. Resolutions are made, chapter ends and hopes rebuilt at the dawn of the year. Sadly, what has characterised 2016 is the seemingly ever growing list of people far and near dying. I do not wish to linger on the past. Life may not always be a long and peaceful stream, but what we’ve been doesn’t count as much as to where we’re going. The past tends to haunt us and the future frighten us, that is why the present escapes us.

Movie theatres offered places in which we could escape the hustle bustle of daily life. Therefore, I shall reflect on movies that were highlights in 2016.

(No particular order)

Café Society, Woody Allen cafe-society-bandeau

A simple story seen through a subjective camera, reminiscent of Woody Allen’s earlier movies, such as Manhattan and the whimsical escapism of The Purple Rose of Cairo. In an enchanting time travel, we escape in this glitzy world of socialites and aspiring Hollywood movie stars. Set between sunny LA and grey New York, we are truly California Dreaming, and packing up our good vibrations. Numerous portraits of different characters flash before our eyes, shot after shot. The society mentioned in the title is this one composed by humans whose lives take place in this underground café, mirroring the dark matrice of cinemas. Nostalgic and melancholic, this film is truly enchanting. The film ends with a New Year’s party, filled with hope and anxiety.

The Shallows, Jaume Collet-Serra 

Surprising, I know… It IS a B movie in a list of artsy-farsty shananigans… I entered the cinema not expecting much, and got out not thinking much about anything at all. Not only is it a story about holding onto life and fighting, it is a movie about a mother-daughter relationship.

Juste la fin du monde, Xavier Dolanjlfdm

In Juste la fin du monde, silence screams louder than words, and seems to suffocate the characters. Based on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play, Xavier Dolan adds breath to this stifled and claustrophobic environment. While Xavier Dolan attempts to render an intimate family portrait, Juste la fin du monde demonstrates the struggle to know one’s neighbour through a series of shots focussing  on the character’s backs. A personal “coming of age” movie, the end of the world is one’s individual death. Xavier Dolan asserts his author-ity, questioning the closeness between the narrator/author (visually interpreted by the camera’s stalking nature) with the character. Xavier Dolan is ever present, yet presents this universally themed movie, cathartic in its emotional density.

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch

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This film, centered around poetry and the arts, has the meter, rhythm and beat of a poem. The days of the week mark the change of verse, and the repetitions resemble anaphores and the abnormalities are the stylistic changes in a poem. Paterson (Adam Driver), the central character who lives in Paterson (NJ) and considers William Carlos Williams to be his hero, and treasures his collection of poems “Paterson”. Paterson, the character, is a mirage. His name, blazoned on the front of the bus, appears and disappears flickeringly. He moves unseen in his bus, listening to the sounds and movements around him. A cleverly filmed movie. Jarmusch plays with suspense as tension is built by holding things on the edge.

The 13th, Ava DuVernay 

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In these times, this documentary feels like something we need to make statement and help spread awareness on the matter. Ava DuVernay demonstrates the links between slavery and the US penal system. Expertly constructed and the Selma director delivered a clear message. She highlights the “mythology of black criminality”. Toni Morrison writes in Beloved, these sticking words: “White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way . . . they were right. . . . But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place. . . . It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread . . . until it invaded the whites who had made it. . . . Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.”

Honourable mentions: Everybody wants to get some, Rogue One…

Movies I want to watch, that haven’t come out in France:

1. Moonlight

2. LA LA Land

3. Jackie

Send us your suggestions for the year to come.

Best wishes.

JJ. Wooden

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sassy Princess: A hero for the ages

Have you ever met a princess as sassy as Leia? I certainly hadn’t when I watched Star Wars for the first time at the age of six, when I officially met her with this iconic line: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”. The way she’s lying there, her arm on her hip, she oozes nonchalance and debonairness. She may as well be saying “What took you so long?”.  Let’s be honest, out of all three from the first trilogy, Leia stood out as the most original and refreshing (even at six I could tell her role was subversive). Sure, Han Solo is… Han Solo, but he still fits in our image of the “cowboy”, the all-American rascal. Thanks to Harrison Ford we have a three-dimensional character with so much wit he is almost real, and ripped out of the canvas bag of his architype, but he is still, essentially, a “Cowboy”. As for Luke, now I must make it clear, I have never been a fan of the character, to be honest I couldn’t give a damn about him (Mark Hamill is a different story, he’s terrific). Stories about the “special-one” always make me want to role my eyes. They just don’t make any sense to me. I won’t deny, he does have a nice arc and by Return of the Jedi he had become a proper hero. And that’s exactly my point, Luke is the archetypical Hero in every sense of the term (just look at The Hero with A Thousand Faces (1947) by Joseph Campbell). But Leia? Had history of cinema ever really seen anything like her? Sure, she does look like some space medieval person or whatnot and she is a “princess”, but is she really? To even call her a princess is subversive, her attitude and wit is everything that we don’t expect from that architype. In Force Awakens, she was called General, which is her actual role, however her older title had that touch of irony which befitted the character so perfectly. Oh, I could start a whole ode on her utmost bravery and general awesomeness, but I won’t bore you too much with that, you’ve seen the movies, you know she’s great. But there is one scene that always made me love her more (and snob Luke more). After having seen her home planet blasted to oblivion which essentially represents everything she ever knew, her friends and family, her childhood, her memories, her home, not to mention that it was her own father who commanded the explosion genocide (yes, I am aware that Leia is a fictional character and that her planet Alderan doesn’t exist but that traumatised me as a kid). And yet, after having gone through all of that she was the one who had to comfort Mr. Special Jedi over here, sure he had just seen his master/father figure die before his eyes, but come on, surely, watching your home planet be blown up must be more distressing? Nope, she carries on.20-luke-and-leia

 

I was always impressed in episode 6, how she was the one to save Han, I don’t know, I just thought it was cool. I loved how roguish she looked holding a shaken and vulnerable Han (THE Rogue) in her arms. About Episode 6, as a child on my first viewing of that movie, I was disappointed by the gold bikini, I regarded it as inappropriate and overtly sexual, and considered her to be above that, especially after having seen her save Han. However, later I watched with glee as she strangled that brut of a slug with the same chains he had enslaved her with, which left me with a sense of triumph. Jabba the Hut always repulsed me (like everyone, I believe, unless you’re Diego Luna). His sleaziness terrorised me more than Darth Vader ever did.

She’s the real hero here, well the one I looked up too as a kid anyway, the one I inspired me the most. Her wit, her attitude, her unabashed personality, the way in which she never even seemed to question her actions, and her confidence that transcends all stereotypes. Which is thanks to Carrie Fisher’s undeniable talent and real life personality.  She redefined my image of a (space) monarch as a child. She is probably closer to the great historic female monarchs then any stupid Disney movie (I’m sorry they just bore me, never liked the songs). Just think of Isabelle of France who was named the She-Wolf or Margaret of Valois who had to deal with the French Religious wars (she had a good life but you know having St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre a few days after your wedding doesn’t make the honeymoon any livelier), and so many more. But in my geeky brain, you say princess, I say Leia. She was my childhood hero and formed my vision of what a hero could be, which is why Carrie Fisher’s recent death has touched me to the same extent Robin William’s did a few years back. People die, it’s a part of life. So, it’s not like I’m mourning exactly, but it’s this strange morbid mixture of the death of a human being and this symbol that her character represented (hope and bravery), not to mention the level at which she took place in our psyche is what perturbs me. I will always associate Carrie Fisher to Leia despite her other wonderful work, the character will always be my childhood hero; and now she is gone.  Star wars is the place you could escape as a child in a galaxy far, far away, away from the worries of this world and watch as the light side (life, hope)  vanquished the dark side (doom and death ). Her passing brings Star Wars back down to earth. I would like to leave this page with Fisher’s own beautiful and poetic words:

 

“So, I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

 

LL.Wooden

PRAISING ODDITY: WHY THE LINGUINI INCIDENT IS IN NEED OF A REVIVAL.

IF you have heard of this film, you may be a David Bowie fan, looking out of your window for the smallest sparkle the Starman left behind. This was, I must confess, my case. This
is not meant to be a straight-foward review but an explanation of why this film is, according to my sister and I, the worthy mascot of our blog and what it stands for. It is the film that inspired us to go on a mission that consists of praising neglected and shunned films.blog-1

On Rotten Tomatoes, the “tomatometer” is not available for the critic’s score. Furthermore, The Guardian wrote an article entitled: “The Linguini Incident: a Bowie re-release nobody needs to see” and Variety calls it an “uninspired, poverty row production”. On the contrary, even though The Linguini Incident shines with quirkiness and energy and is to me, in the heritage of endearing rom-coms that Audrey Hepburn is known for. It also made me think of a more recent movie in a similar style, with somewhat echoing characters: She’s funny That Way with Imogen Poots. We basically think that more people should watch this gem of a film. Aside from the film in itself, it is quite interesting to note that its director, Richard Shepard was 25 when he made the film, and had the guts to send David Bowie his script. I am in no way saying that Mr. Shepard is an unrecognised genius or that his script was bad and not to be seen or an excuse for the film’s low ratings. But, kudos to him. Set in a surrealist themed restaurant, Rosanna Arquette plays Lucy, a quirky aspiring escape artist. The fact that she lives in the shadow of her past achievements as a child prodigy and her grand farther’s ties to the great Houdini as his booking agent, constructs her as a sweet, loveable character. Her plans to rob the surrealist themed restaurant she works at (appropriately named Dali) are intertwined with Monte’s (David Bowie) own plans to rid himself of huge amounts of debt. Respectful of the rom-com tradition, the film begins with the leads being bitter with one another, and the movie ends with a kiss.
Enough with the plain stuff… Lets get to what we really want to talk about: why the linguini movie is the worthy mascot of our blog.

The Linguini Incident doesn’t actually have a linguini incident. I expected it to have a
scene reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch,”Mr Creosote blows up” from The Meaning of Life, where the characters are submerged in a sea of pasta. The poster suggests this as it presents the character’s faces intertwined in the linguini, recalling the detail from Klaus Voorman’s cover art for “Revolver”. Yet, there are no “tart à la crème” gags. Or in this case, “pate à la tomate” gag. The mention of linguini acts as a metaphor for the film’s haphazard story line, truffled with equally wacky characters. The poster’s design deserves a special mention. It pretty much says what the movie is on the tin: unexpected, topsy-turvy turns of events, bondage jokes related to Lucy’s escapology pursuits and it states simply, that all is not what it seems in this film.

We believe that the criticism this movie has received is not fair. Sure, the script is wonky at times but it is quotable, funny, lighthearted and brought to the screen by energetic actors. While the film follows the rom-com recipe, it ends up subverting it, hence making an original, and cringe-free movie. The movie is as strangely cosy as Lucy’s apartment, filled with Houdini memorabilia.

I don’t quite know where to start listing what we love so much about this movie, because it is a true exemple of the devil being in the detail: from the the liquid watch, being a reference to Dali, to Thomas Newman’s (American Beauty) charming and nostalgic score. Other details such as the long breadsticks, the restaurant’s eclectic style, the waitresses’ 1960s silver dresses make this movie stand out. Lucy’s escapologist 1920 costumes reminded me of Barbara Streisand’s skater costumes in Funny Girl, therefore placing the movie in the “awkward and relatable girl finds love” tradition. Moreover, the film is set in a gritty looking New York city Some of the shots are nicely composed and convey the film’s ambiance grappled between the strange dream-like, underground world in which the characters work, and a gloomier, greyer version of daylight’s reality: arti

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If we were to analyse the first frame, I’d point out the empty fair, contrasted with the character’s childish candy floss. The film introduces Lucy’s character trough a dirty mirror. Mirrors are often used to contrast reality and fiction, therefore this enables us to see that the movie distorts reality. Just as Lucy aspires to be an escape artist, the film attemps to escape reality.

Eszter Balint as Vivian, the eccentric clothes designer, is the funny third wheel (if I may say), providing laughs as the robber or “East Village performance artist”. Other minor characters such as Jeanette (Marlee Matlin), the sassy cashier and the unexpected yet sly villains, Cecil and Dante (Buck Henry and Andre Gregory), are underlying ingredients to this linguini.

The Linguini Incident, too chthonic to be called a cult classic, is a pleasure to discover, it almost feels like one’s own (Chthonic: the word alone is chthonic). It has what I look for in rom-coms and its edge makes it satisfying to watch. This film begins our journey: praising neglected or disregarded films. To do so, we will highlight the films we consider to be cult classics in the edgy world.

The Linguini Incident, is what we want to call: a linguini movie: twisty plots, strange, full of quirks (I’m sure we’re all going to beg that the word quirk and its derivatives should no longer be used), yet like a trusted dish of linguini, we are satisfied.

Fact: the film is also known as Shag-a-rama, Austin Powers would add: “Shag-a-licious, baby”.

JJ. Wooden

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