Sunday, 6 March 2011

Movies of the Month

This is probably a stupid title for this post as we're only a few days into March but I like alliteration, what can I say?  Also, I watched the three films that I'm about to give mini reviews to within a 30 day period, so calling them Movies of the Month seems completely valid, at least in my head....  As with the previous fashion post, feel free to skip over this if you just come here for food, or if you haven't seen the movies yet and want to avoid spoilers!

True Grit

True Grit was a film I'd been looking forward to for a long time, and while I enjoyed it and believed that it deserved its Oscar nominations, it was a little different to what I expected.  The film follows 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) as she attempts to track down Tom Chaney (Josh Broslin), the man who killed her father.  Accompanying her are US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a man rumoured to have "true grit" who Mattie hires, and Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants to apprehend Chaney for the many other crimes he has committed.

Being a fan of the Coen Brothers' movies, I found that True Grit was not as offbeat or bizarre in style and tone as I had been expecting, especially compared to some of the Coens' classics like O Brother Where Art Thou?.  However, the Coens' famously artistic cinematography can be seen throughout True Grit, with many very beautiful shots.  Sadly I couldn't find any of the shots I was looking for online, as apparently only stills of the characters are available, but the moments that really stood out to me were Mattie's glance back at the corpses leaning against the hut in the snow, and the clifftop shot of Cogburn facing down four of Chaney's men - these were classic Hollywood western moments turned into art.

Cogburn's brilliantly delivered line 'You are not LaBoeuf,' following the arrival of the bear-doctor guy creates a moment of humour in the movie, but even this scene is beautifully shot, creating a desolate, muted-coloured scene of bare trees and flurries of snow.  Although True Grit has some serious themes, I feel that Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon bring the film to life in the way they portray their (sometimes darkly) funny characters. 

Also, Hailee Steinfield is fantastic as Mattie, and I would love it if she got the role of Katniss in the movie adaptations of The Hunger Games (the series of 'Young Adult' novels that I am currently reading and may review here at some point, if I ever recover from the trauma and tragedy that they have made me suffer).  It's refreshing to see a film where a girl is allowed to shoot people and be a badass without also being a spandex-wearing sex symbol, I'm looking at you, Sucker Punch!

Never Let Me Go

I went to see this movie with friends with no idea of what it was about.  All I knew was that it had Andrew Garfield in it, and as he is a total hottie, this was more than enough to convince me.  Never Let Me Go centres on the life of Kathy (Carey Mulligan), and her best friends Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield).  The story begins in the 1950s with the characters' childhood at boarding school Hailsham.  However, hints soon creep in that the children's lives are not as perfect as they seem, culminating in their discovery that all the children at Hailsham are clones, created for the sole purpose of providing organs for others in order to unnaturally prolong their lives.

While the film's premise makes it seem like a sci-fi thriller, Never Let Me Go is in fact more like a touching, tragic love story, but with serious and condemning ethical questions.  Set primarily in the English countryside, the film is aesthetically very beautiful, with this surface beauty creating a thin veneer over the ugliness of the realities of the characters' lives.  I was completely unprepared for the levels of tragedy in the film, with many of the scenes sticking in my mind long after I left the cinema.  One poignant moment in my opinion was Ruth's death, her heart monitor flatlining like in so many medical dramas but provoking no reaction from the doctors, who calmly finish removing an organ and leave Ruth on the operating table with her face uncovered, the end of the breathing tube left carelessly in her mouth.  However, the most distressing scene in the film was Kathy and Tommy's visit to their former Headmistress to apply for the 'deferral' of their donations for a few years, as they are in love and want to spend more time together.  Tommy shows the Headmistress his drawings to prove his love, only to be told that the drawings the children were made to do at Hailsham were not to enable the teachers to look into the children's souls as he believed, they were to determine if the children had souls at all. So sad, poor Andrew Garfield! :(

Tetley disliked the ending of the film, saying that it was frustrating that Kathy and Tommy made no attempt to escape when their fate was revealed.  Personally I liked this aspect of the film though, as it emphasised the hopelessness and inevitability of the clones' situation, and the way their upbringing had mentally conditioned them to the extent that escape could never cross their minds.  Plus, some dramatic escape attempt might have brought the film a bit too close to the plot of The Island, a film with similar but far less emotionally presented themes to Never Let Me Go.  The film can be relentlessly bleak, but it is also beautiful and very thought-provoking, plus there was Carey Mulligan's super-cute hair and Andrew Garfield's amazing awkward teenager walk to keep me happy!  Have a bonus picture of Andrew Garfield being all moody in a scarf:


To lighten the mood slightly, I'm going to finish off with Rango.  It's the second animated movie I've seen this year after Disney's Tangled, and while Tangled was a fun and pretty film, I found it very light and forgettable compared to a lot of my Disney favourites, and certainly not 'a return to Disney's classic days of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid' like some critics claimed.  Rango, on the other hand, is very far from being a sterotypical kids' movie.  A summary of the plot may make it sound generic: Rango, a lonely pet lizard (voiced by Johnny Depp) is separated from his owners, and inadvertently becomes the hero that a small desert town needs.

However, the main thing that separates Rango from the endless half-term releases of animated films is its character design - the inhabitants of the town of Dirt are anything but cutesy, sanitised Disney-esque creatures.  The first character we are introduced to other than Rango is a wise old armadillo, giving profound advice whilst lying in the middle of the road with a car tyre-track splitting his body almost entirely in half. The rest of the animals aren't much better, all scruffy, weather-beaten and more often than not comically wounded in one way or another.  The film's many bizarre sequences also makes it seem more like an adults' film, such as Rango's theatre-inspired imaginings, or his hallucinations of the Clint Eastwood-esque 'Spirit of the West' character (disappointingly not voiced by Clint Eastwood himself).

The highlight of this weird yet enjoyable film has to be the way in which it , like True Grit, (is it weird to compare these two movies?) plays homage to traditional Westerns in its portrait of frontier town Dirt, yet still emphasises that its characters are animals.  When the wise, shaman-like raven character plucks his feathers while staring off into the distance, Rango asks him if he's communing with the spirit world and he replies 'No, I'm moulting, it means I'm ready to mate.'  For a more straight to the point highlight, the film also features Bill Nighy as a snake with a gun for a tail - what's not to love?

Probably my favourite thing about Rango was its Greek Chorus-like band of Mexican owls, I probably would have seen the movie just for them because they were amazing!

Have you seen any great movies lately?


  1. I was not diapointed in the end just in the characters and not even thinking of the possibility but still finding time to cry in the street. Also the movie lacked Sean Bean

  2. For a solution to all your problems, watch The Island