Movies and Tea #20 – Lost In Translation

After the success of The Virgin Suicides for her follow up Sofia Coppola drew inspiration from her father filming a real Suntory whiskey commercial with Akira Kurosawa in the 1970’s to crafts a tale which is not only a love letter to Tokyo but also one of two lost souls in a city were neither of them speak the language while generally confounded by the world around them leaving them to dwell on their own personal issues.

It’s a premise which you hardly expect to turn into a huge hit for Coppola not only with critics but more surprisingly with the general movie going audiences who for some reason really warmed to the film.

Further Viewing

Tourism
Her
In The Mood For Love

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Death In Vegas – Girls
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey

Listen to the Show

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Friday Film Club: Anastasia + Frog Dreaming

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Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick – Anastasia (1997)

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Most definitely a loose adaptation of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, Anastasia in this animated film takes a more light-hearted take on the story as it adds in fantastical elements to it like a soul-selling sorcerer and talking albino bat on the villain side of things while on the “good” side of the spectrum, because it is a bunch of con men to begin with, adds a little cute dog to the mix and an amnesiac girl to their journey. There’s a lot of comedic moments especially with the villain sidekick Bartok, voiced by Hank Azaria as well as cute elements as well as romance of course. Because..what’s a princess animated film (although non-Disney) without adding a suitor to the mix.

The animated film starts off with eighteen year old Anya (Meg Ryan) who, after an accident during the escape ten years ago, has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything from her youth and her whereabouts and after leaving the orphanage as decided to find her way to Paris except without an exit visa, she is advised to reach out to two con men, Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammar). Surprised by her resemblance to the real Anastasia, they take her to Paris in hopes of getting well-rewarded for returning her to the royal family now in refuge there. While being taught the answers to some of Anastasia due to Dimitri being a young servant when he was a child, he soon realizes that Anya’s memories are slowly coming back as she reunites with her family through the questioning.

Anastasia isn’t a history lesson to say the least. In fact, it’s more of a princess story mixed with humor and adventure. There’s a lot of beautiful romantic bits here between Anya and Dimitri. Anastasia is a beautiful character, whether as amnesiac Anya or the princess Anastasia and that has to do a lot with the beautiful job that Meg Ryan does voicing her. However, the voice cast here is pretty great with John Cusack and Kelsey Grammar mentioned above as well as Hank Azaria who captures Bartok with so many funny moments to make this a really entertaining time. At the same time, the fantastic Angela Lansbury voices Marie, who is Anastasia’s grandmother as well as Christopher Lloyd as the voice of Rasputin, the evil sorcerer whose initial plan ten years ago went array and now wants to make up for it.

Anastasia might be a 1997 animated film but the charm behind it is always there. Visually, the film still is amazing to watch. In terms of soundtrack, the music is beautiful as well as some wonderful songs like Once Upon a December being one of the favorites that captures the scene so well. It truly is a beautiful story fit for both adults and children.

Elwood’s Pick – Frog Dreaming (1985)

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If your a Ozploitation fan then Brian Trenchard Smith will already be a familiar name especially when his filmography made up a large part of Australia’s exploitation scene while also finding time to direct curious family friendly adventures like BMX Bandits which introduced the world to Nicole Kidman and this film which saw him casting Henry Thomas best known for playing Elliot in E.T The Extra Terrestrial who here plays Cody an American boy transplanted to Australia after his parents death to live with his guardian Gaza who essentially lets him run wild in the local community while working on his inventions which often demonstrate MacGyver levels of creativity . When Cody hears of a monster living in the local quary which the locals call “Donkegin” he sets out to discover the truth while recruiting his friend Wendy (Rachel Friend) and her sister to join him on this quest much to the dismay of their parents.

A fun adventure movie which like Stand By Me and The Goonies remembers the innocence and curiosity of youth, something which is often lacking from it’s current day counterparts as nowhere to be found are the smart mouthed kids outsmarting the dumb adults. Instead we get here are a group of kids trying to solve the kid of mystery wrapped up in urban legends that I know all too well from my own rural upbringing were my summers were spent much like Cody terrorising the surrounding countryside and the this simple charm which really makes the film such a fun film for a lazy sunday afternoon viewing.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

The Virgin Suicides – Elwood’s Take

The debut feature film from Sofia Coppola, it’s also one which came out of a series of events as after being given a copy of the book by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore which she soon after set about adapting into a script despite not having the rights to the book which were owned by Muse Productions who had already commissioned a script from Nick Gomez. With the rights to the project lapsing amongst issues with Gomez’s script Coppola saw her opportunity to pitch her own script while the book would also make her realise her own desire to be a director knowing how the book should be filmed.

While I consider myself a fan of her films much like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi this is a film which I have always struggled to get into as it suffers the same issues as Jeffrey Eugenides’ source novel though when it comes to the film it’s hard to place were the issues with the film lye as for a debut Coppola shows a lot of confidence behind the camera crafting a distinctive visual style as she paints a picture of suburban tranquillity and white picket fences alongside the dark intentions harboured by the Lisbon girls which they hide under the veil of perfection and as the living fantasy for the boys they leave to try and piece together what ultimately lead to their demise.

Much like Stand By Me Coppola’s debut is a coming of age tale with a dark edge in particular the allure the girl world inhabited by the Lisbon girls a yearning shown through the audience and the boys glances into this world through window or telescopes and it’s a theme established early on when one of the boys is invited to dinner taking the opportunity to root through the girls bathroom with a fascination that makes even the most mundane of items like perfume bottles and sanitary towels seem like sacred and rare objects. While Coppola certainly might have a reoccurring theme of burgeoning femininity throughout her films but here she actually manages to capture the curiosity of adolescent boys about girls and the adult world.

Narrated by Giovanni Ribishi playing an unidentified grown up version of one of the boys it’s made clear from the start that this is a mystery which even as adults they are still trying to figure out why it happened forming a morbid link to their past which still binds them together even though they have gone off to live their own lives. Despite this there is still the hope that when you watch the film that you might discover that missing detail which clarifies the mystery. The use of the narrator equally helps to tie together the multiple memories of the girls allowing characters to slip in and out of the girls lives outside of the main group of boys.

Despite the small budget and being a first time director here Coppola really pulls together an impressive cast from tapping into her own contacts to bring aboard Kathleen Turner who she co-starred alongside in Peggy Sue Got Married while her father Francis passed the script to James Woods the pair providing a much underrated performance as the girls parents. Woods here giving a much more subdue performance than we have come to expect from him while much like Turner its a pitch perfect supporting role that really provides a backbone for the film with Woods playing the mild mannered Science Teacher balancing out his over protective wife. At the same time seeing how they try to deal with the turbulent lives of their daughters from the opening attempted suicide by the youngest daughter Cecilia and the role they possibly played in her actions, while later attempting to protect their other daughters from the pain of the real world by keeping them within the family home. None of which is played with any of the overbearing parent cliches such as while Turner’s character might be a devout Catholic she’s not putting any of the girls into the cupboard of shame.

When it comes to the girls they are sadly undeveloped with the exceptions of the groups wildchild Lux (Dunst) and youngest daughter Cecilia whose role is limited but whose suicide bother her failed attempt which opens the film and her eventual demise serve as the catalysis for the events which follow as a memorable meeting with Danny DeVito’s Psychiatrist pushes for them to explore interactions outside of the family home something that Lux fully embraces along with her burgeoning femininity leads to it’s own impactful moment when she meets the school Lothario Trip Fontaine (Hartnett). The other sisters meanwhile never get the same development so that while they are present they are for the most part interchangable especially given so few moments to shine like the party their parents throw for them in the family basement only to find the boy / girl awkwardness hampers any meaningful interaction.

While the opening to the film is certainly strong it’s around the third act that the film suddenly stumbles and while there are certainly still some charming scenes such as the boys and the Lisben sisters using secret phone calls and messages sent through carefully picked records everything feels too aimless and lacking the flow to really pull the film through and certainly along with the clumsy epilogue to the story which while it might highlight how life continues to move on it just felt like it was causing the film to overstay it’s welcome.

Between this film and her initial short film Lick The Star Coppola is marking herself out as a talent of note, let alone a different breed of director to her father Francis Ford Coppola who comparisons would inevitability be drawn. But while he favoured grand scale epics Sofia showed her an eye for more intimate stories even though she wouldn’t truly nail down her style until her follow up Lost In Translation and while I certainly wished I enjoyed this film it’s at best a film if it’s flaws weren’t so noticeable.

Friday Film Club: Upside Down (2012) & Night Watch (2004)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  Upside Down (2012)

As we start out Season 3 with Sofia Coppola’s filmography, it only seems suitable to talk about a movie with Kirsten Dunst. Upside Down is a 2012 fantasy romance film set in a fictional world where the gravity pulls in opposite directions. The rich live in the Up Top and the poor live in the Down Below. The population from Down Below is illegal to go to Up Top however the people from Up Top can pay big money to enjoy ceiling entertainment in the Down Below as an experience. In comes Adam and Eden who met when they were teens and some misunderstanding pulls them apart. A decade later when Adam soon sees Eden again on a show, he is determined to go to her through finding a position in the offices to easily access the passage to the Up Top. 

In the lead roles is Kirsten Dunst as Eden and Jim Sturgess as Adam who play teen lovers who have been separated and trying to reunite. The charm of any romance is the chemistry between its characters. While the story here is set in a fantasy world, their romance is fairly normal except for the hurdles that blend into the world that this is set in. There’s a lot to love between them because what they have is cute and sweet. In the supporting role is Timothy Spall who plays Bob, who is Adam’s coworker and he is a charming and inspiring character and one of the highlight roles of Upside Down. 

The CGI elements are visually appealing. Sure, there’s some issues with the whole concept and the physics but for a romance story and not one all about science fiction and how it all works, it’s easy to see past the flaws and focus on the point of the film and that is the romance between Adam and Eden and their determination to be together and taking a leap of faith in the name of love. Upside Down hinges a lot on how much you like romance films as well as how willing you are to buy the premise. 

Elwood’s Pick – Night Watch (2004)

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Based on the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko, Timur Bekmambetov’s film adaptation has the distinction of being Russia’s first horror movie. The film set in modern day Moscow see’s the forces of light and dark upholding a fragile truce which has held since Medieval times when it became clear to both sides that neither held a clear advantage over the other. To uphold the truce the forces of light formed the Night Watch while the forces of Darkness formed the Day Watch to ensure that the truce was upheld by both sides. However when a powerful neutral “Other” threatens to upset the balance depending on which side they choose, both sides find themselves in a race to discover who they are.

Shot for a mere $4.2 milion which clearly in Russia goes a lot further as here we are presented with a film which not only looks incredible as epic medievil battles rage on the roofs of tower blocks while building crumble you would think that Bekammbetov is working with the same kind of budget as the Hollywood mainstream. At the same time here he brings to life a world were amidst the urban sprawl of the city vampire lurk in the shadows, witches perform rituals to help jilted lovers get back at their former partners and a nurse’s depression might just responsible for the catastrophic storm raging over her tower block.

Following Night Watch agent Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) a low level mage who spends his nights looking like a city worker much like his fellow agents as they cruise the streets in big yellow trucks and interest contract to the flashy clothes and sports cars of the Day Watch one of which getting to live the live of a famous pop star when she’s not on duty. Certainly it’s a very grounded approach to these fantastical characters and part of what makes the film work so well, more so when it’s combined with a vicious edge which see’s clashes between the two sides not involving sparkly vampires flashing through the air but rather bloody and brutal clashes as we see when Anton is forced to tackle a pair of rogue vampires. That being said anyone who saw Wanted will know that Behammbetov is no slouch when it comes to producing exciting and inventing action scenes and this certainly the case here as well.

On an initial watch the plotting and world can seem alittle complex but certainly this is a film which rewards a second viewing with the mythology expanded further with the problematic sequel Day Watch which thanks to Behammbetov taking on Wanted and seeing the offer to direct the proposed third film Twilight Watch putting him in an artistic rut. As such Day Watch is left feeling like two films edited together as it brings a rushed end to what could have been a fantastic trilogy. Still viewed as a stand alone or as part of a larger saga there is still a lot to enjoy with the film providing the perfect entry point into this world

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Round Up

Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation – A three part mini-series in which Tarantino sits down with film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss five films which impacted him from a diverse selection which includes Point Blank, Valley Girl and Boogie Nights

Visitations – Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah of indie production company SpectreVision visit the homes and workshops of some of their favorite creators in the genre community and beyond, including Taika Waititi

 

Movies and Tea #19 – The Virgin Suicides

Season 3 is here and kicking off our season long re-evaluation of Sofia Coppola’s filmography we  look at her 1999 debut film “The Virgin Suicides” as she builds upon her first short “Lick The Star” as a group of boys attempt to solve the mystery behind the Lisben sisters from the effect they had on thier lives through to the girls taking thier own.

We not only look at the film and question who Coppola intended the film for but also establish the key themes of her work aswell as how she was able to stand out in her family’s film making dynasty.

Further Viewing

The Wolfpack
Blue Velvet
Stand By Me
13 Reasons Why – Season 1
Girl Interupted
Sucker Punch

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Playground Love – Air Feat. Gordon Tracks)

Listen to the Show

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Itunes
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Stitcher

 

Friday Film Club: Death Proof (2007) & A Smile Is Very Alluring (2016)

Hi folks and welcome to the The Friday Film Club where both myself and Kim will be highlighting a film which we feel is worth checking out. At the same time we would love to hear your own selections whether your choosing to just name them in the comments section or join us in arguing the case for your film on your blog, let us know and we will share it below.

Kim’s Pick –  One Smile is Very Alluring (2016)

One Smile is Very Alluring, also called Love O2O is a movie based on a novel by Chinese author Gu Man. An interesting element is that it was also made into a TV series in the same year. While its easy to do a comparison of the two with both of them having their own positives, the movie version was released first and because of its confined length, is packaged with more focus on the romance side rather than the inspirational youth entrepreneur sort of story. At the same time, what stands out for One Smile is Very Alluring is that its romance is focused on a more positive type of relationship rather than more typical Chinese romantic dramas that tend to be all about bringing in emotional breakups and cry fests. 

One Smile Is Very Alluring tells the story of a random meeting between two people. The first is Xiao Nai (Boran Jing), the popular boy in school who doesn’t really care for anyone else but his own circle of friends but as both good grades and handsome looks, making him the crush of all the girls in the university. The second is the department belle, Wei Wei (Angelababy) who has a lot of book smarts but also is the top female online game player on the same server as Xiao Nai. Xiao Nai’s love at first sight moment was not Wei Wei’s beauty or her smarts but from his meeting her randomly as he saw her join into the online game battle and the dexterity of her motions and controls. He approaches her in the game, also being the top player on the server and start their relationship there. The conflicts that occur throughout their cute beginning involves a lot of the outside elements involving online bullying as well as rumors and career issues. 

There’s no doubt that the story itself is slightly generic but it’s also because it breaks away from the typical sad drama element and keeps things fairly positive that makes this movie very feel-good. At the same time, it has some strong cast behind it, especially since it marks the beginning for a few actors and actresses that have now gotten some fame in Chinese dramas other than its two main leads. Boran Jing has been in the business with a lot of his work mostly involved in movies, like The Bullet Vanishes. Opposite him is Angelababy who has been in some Hollywood films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Hitman: Agent 47 and really delivers on the role of Wei Wei being both smart, beauty and the online gaming elements. The setting is both in reality and in the gaming world with a lot of other gaming references as well. Sure, it has some generic flaws but its a rarely seen positive romance with a decent amount of chemistry between the two that its worth a visit, especially a nice starting point to get into this story before deciding to check out the TV series, which fleshes out the story more. 

You can check out Kim’s TV binge of Love O2O as a companion piece to the movie HERE.

Elwood’s Pick – Death Proof (2007)

With Tarantino currently courting as much praise as he is controversy for his latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood this time surprisingly not for the violence nor controversial language but rather from Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon taking offence of how her father is potrayed in the film especially when he loses a fight to Brad Pitt’s ageing stuntman in a scene designed to show the battle between new and old Hollywood. Of course it should be noted how little qualms she has about selling out her father’s legacy and likeness to sell everything from booze to cleaning products.

Still considering how Tarantino is hardly a director to be rushed and who also currently plans to retire with his next film which will only be his 10th but as is always the case when he does finally release a new film we look at his back catalogue which this time has seen Jackie Brown receiving a renewed interest and appreciation like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch both films initially being relegated to the bottom of the pile only to raised to the upper ranks upon fresh viewing but for myself the title most worth revisiting would always be this film.

Suffering a problematic release as it was torn away from its original double feature presentation Grindhouse after the Weinstein’s got cold feet and distributed both Death Proof and Planet Terror as solo films much to the dismay of us folks in the UK who were left feeling kinda cheated only years later finally getting a blu-ray release of the double feature experience. Still now the dust has settled on that whole fiasco Death Proof can finally be appreciated for the unique charms as Tarantino gives us a slasher movie with a twist with the psychotic former Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) using his custom stunt car to orchestrate vehicular carnage on his victims.

Initially introducing Radio DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and her pals as they make a stop off at a bar on their way to the Lakehouse only to soon fall foul of Stuntman Mike and pulls a real surprise in how Tarantino essentially introduces and kills his group of girls so that he can introduce a second group featuring Stunt woman Zoe Ball playing herself along with a group of fictional friends with plans to go for a test drive a replica of the Vanishing Point car (a white 1970 Dodge Challenger) only for them also to catch the attention of Stuntman Mike who is once again on the prowl.

Much like Kill Bill Vol. 1 here we have a movie were Tarantino is setting out to just have fun than create the kind of deep world building that we get in the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, instead he is creating the kind of movie that the characters in those films might go and see. At the same time he approached the film with the aim of create his own car chase movie worthy of holding its own alongside the movies he clearly holds so dear like the aforementioned Vanishing Point as well the likes of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and White Line Fever which are unsurprised paid homage to.

As such like Mad Max: Fury Road the film is essentially an excuse to film an extensive and not to mention totally kick ass car chase movie, which takes full advantage of Zoe Bell’s Stuntwoman background by having her riding the bonnet of the car for the first half of the chase like a human hood ornament in a possible nod to Fair Game (1985)

Were the film really falls apart is when Tarantino attempts to include characters outside of the main girl groups whose banter is fun and almost a return to the quotable patter which made his early films so memorable, while Eli Roth’s inclusion like all his attempts at acting makes you wonder why he was included. Equally on fantastic form though is Kurt Russell despite not initially being on his shortlist having rumoured to have gotten the role when Mickey Rourke dropped out. Despite this Russell owns the role with a performance which as eccentric as it is high energy as he clearly is getting a thrill out of the girls not being the easy kill he was expecting as the two cars tear up the asphalt.

Sure it might not be his strongest film but for pure popcorn thrills and excitement it’s well worth giving it another look either as part of Grindhouse or in it’s extended standalone form.

So you’ve seen our picks for this week’s double feature but what are your movie watching plans this weekend?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Round Up

Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation – A three part mini-series in which Tarantino sits down with film critic Amy Nicholson to discuss five films which impacted him from a diverse selection which includes Point Blank, Valley Girl and Boogie Nights

Zobo With A Shotgun Podcast – Zoe continues her history of extreme cinema with a look at the cinema of 1984 – 1989. Continuing her world domination you can also check out her new webshow The Unrated Cut as along with her co-host Chris Nials they discuss thier favourite extreme horror cinema.

Visitations – Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah of indie production company SpectreVision visit the homes and workshops of some of their favorite creators in the genre community and beyond, including Taika Waititi, Ana Lily Amirpour John Landis and Dan Harman

 

Film School: Sofia Coppola

“I try to just make what I want to make or what I would want to see. I try not to think about the audience too much.”
— Sofia Coppola

Director, producer, Oscar-winning screenwriter, actor, model, fashion-label owner, photographer. Sofia Coppola is both the ultimate insider, born into the famous Coppola dynasty, muse to Marc Jacobs and married to a rock star (Phoenix’s Thomas Mars), yet at the same time frequently making films critiquing the phony world of Hollywood a fact, some might see as biting the hand that feeds, as a privileged filmmaker attacking celebrity culture while happily drawing on an extraordinary network of contacts.

Starting out as an actress in her father’s film making appearences in the Godfather trilogy before stepping into the role of Michael Corlone’s daughter for part 3 when Winnona Ryder dropped out, only for critics to savagely highlight her flat performance, critisism that still seems to follow her around today.

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However when it came to following in the family legacy her first writing piece came with her father’s portion of “New York Stories” with the segment Life without Zoe about a schoolgirl who live in a luxury hotel and helps an Arab princess recover her stolen jewelry. Rather than choosing at this point to further pursue this inital break Coppola instead opted to studying painting before switching to photography which inturn has carried over to her work often being noted with her shot construction.

As a director her work draws influence from the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism which she was introduced to through her father while citing her father’s Rumble fish, alongside Breathless, Stanley Kubric’s Loita, and John Hughes Sixteen candles amongst her favourite films.

Filmography

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Lick The Star – Short (1998)
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Lost In Translation (2003)
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Somewhere (2010)
The Bling Ring (2013)
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
The Beguiled (2017)

Director Trademarks

  • In comparison to the epic films of her father Francis’ like The Godfather and Apocalypse now Sofia’s films are intimate and smaller in scale. Instead she chooses to follow characters suspended in moments of transistion.
  • Her films are muted in colour and filmed in natural light creating lonely dreamscapes guided by sound while at the same time despite her critical and commerical sucess she has continually chosen the creative freedom of independent filmmaking over big budgets.
  • Coppola’s films are not driven by plot, but rather themes favourites including lonelyness, teen culture, stilted ambition and burgeoning geminity with her films often featuring female characters facing a turning point
  • Character’s emotion state shown through visuals, while her films are shot with a documentary sensibility and ambient sound aswell as featuring a signature follow shot.
  • Coppola has shot exclusivly on film with the exception of Bling Ring  which to date is her only film to be shot on digital.

 

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