Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Holiday Viewing 2011.

As many of you know we finally managed to take a break after a very busy year, revisiting Southern Spain. You can read about our exploits at Fort Bravo by following the link. Texas Hollywood - Spain 2011. This time I did not have to take a portable player and a pile of DVD’s! Thanks to the genius of Apple we have the iPad on which you can down load your viewing pleasure before you depart and watch a movie anywhere. So just to keep up to date I submit a short ramble on each of the films I managed to watch.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) 

It was Charles Crichton most successful film, other than of course the brilliant Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) in which Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway hatch a plan to smuggle gold bullion out of the country disguised as Eiffel Tower paperweights, A Fish Called Wanda (1988) that I selected for the outward plane journey.  Not being a great lover of travelling at hundreds of miles an hour thousand of feet above earth I thought this particular movie would take my mind of it, and I was quite right.  The film is a cracking UK comedy crime drama co-directed and written by its star John Cleese. It boasts a first class cast headed up by two Monty Python stars the afore mentioned John Cleese as the lawyer Archie Leach and Michael Palin. The plot, which in this kind of film is never that important, involves one Wanda Gershwitz who is involved in a diamond hoist. Not satisfied with her share she attempts to manipulate the three men involved and the defence solicitor of one of them, endeavouring to keep the proceeds all for her self. The greedy Wanda is played by the attractive Jamie Lee Curtis, the other three villains are her so called ‘brother’ Otto West brilliantly overplayed by Kevin Kline, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the London based gangster George Thomason who thinks he’s the brains behind the operation is played by the British actor Tom Georgeson best known for television work and Thomason’s right hand man and animal lover Ken Pile is amusingly portrayed by Palin.

Jig (2011)
Wigs and Dresses!!!!!

This movie, part funded by BBC Scotland, is the first time the competitive world of the Irish Dance has ever been filmed by an outsider. Sue Bourne, a documentary filmmaker, produced and directed Jig (2011), which documents the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships that were held in Glasgow in March 2010. The competition lasts for one very intense week and involves three thousand dancers from all around the world, their families and their teachers. This obsessive world involves young competitors dressing up in wigs and outfits that can cost thousands of pounds, they sport fake tans and heavy makeup and reputedly love every minute of it, but after watching this rather melancholic affair I would suggest that these very determined youngster’s are in fact under extreme stress! An enjoyable film for around 60 minutes but after that it gets a little tedious.

Among Giants (1998)

Sheffield Yorkshire: A team of men lead by middle aged Ray and his young flatmate Steve find cash-in-hand employment painting electricity pylons.  When Gerry, a young fancy-free Australian backpacker, joins the team its not long before Ray, who has two kids and is separated from his wife, falls in love with her and wants to settle down. Problems arise when Steve realises that he is also in love with the girl and both men find out she is not quite ready for domestic bliss. Among Giants (1998) star’s the late Pete Postlethwaite as the ganger Ray with James Thornton as the slightly immature Steve and Rachel Griffiths as the worldly-wise Gerry. Direction is by Sam Miller, best known for the TV series This Life, and its written by Simon Beaufoy, who won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Danny Boyles Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The original idea for the film came from a documentary Beaufoy wanted to make about painting giant pylons, an idea that was eventually turned into this work of fiction. It was on the back of Beaufoy’s other big writing success The Full Monty (1997) that a producer was found and the film was made. After training given by the Electricity Board’s climbing experts some of the shooting actually took place on real pylons, which looked hellishly scary. An interesting British romantic comedy drama with believable acting from both Postlewaite and Griffith but the script could have done with a little more oomph.  

The Informant (2009)

Maybe it was me, but I did not find The Informant (2009) very entertaining or exciting, to be honest I thought it was a bit confusing! Perhaps I was just not in the mood for this very talky political parody? The film is an American fact based “comedy” drama about Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a high level corporate executive who was involved as a whistle blower in the Lysine price fixing conspiracy, which was a deliberately organised attempt during the mid 1990’s to raise the price of animal feed.  This collusion involved five different worldwide companies including the American company that Whitacre worked for, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). He was the highest-level executive in US history to become an FBI informant. Directed by Steven Soderbergh whose quality of work, does vary from the sublime (Sex, Lies and Videotape 1989,Traffic 2000) to the ridicules (Oceans Twelve and Thirteen, Che 2008).

Arlington Road (1999)

My journey home, accompanied by a strong head wind, included the very interesting conspiracy thriller Arlington Road (1999).  The plot involves the widowed University professor Michael Faraday (the ever dependable Jeff Bridges) who begins to suspect his new neighbours Oliver (Tim Robbins) and Cheryl Lang (Joan Cusack) are involved in a terrorist plot. Faraday gradually becomes obsessed with proving to the FBI that his suspicions are correct. Director Mark Pellington, who has been named to direct the remake of the brilliant Spanish/Mexican horror movie The Orphanage (2007), cleverly allows the viewer to continually question whether the Lang’s are really terrorists or is the professor, who we discover is a specialist on the subject and lectures a class, imagining the whole thing? Although not well received by the critics I thought it to be a stylishly tense and exciting movie, perhaps my opinion was affected by the turbulence?

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