Books to Movies, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff

The Quaint Reimagination of ‘Mr Holmes’

MR. HOLMES opens to a soft, glowing view of the English countryside rather than the gloomy mood of Baker Street in London from where the popular detective resides.

The film is based on a novel by Mitch Cullin called ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’ eighty-eight years after Sherlock’s final appearance in his maker Arthur Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow.

I have a problem with reimagined stories. The ones that are plucked out of the classics and placed in a different setting which could either put them in a far worse situation than they’re supposedly written, or perhaps the writer is trying to borrow a bit of success. After Bill Condon’s stint with the last two Twilight sagas — well, I’m a bit nervous as I even think of those two films.

HOWEVER, from what I’ve seen, there is good intention for Sherlock Holmes in this story.


Ian McKellen plays the 93 year old Sherlock. Unlike his other roles and the other 70 or more actors who played the literary detective, he looses his charm but the wit is just the same. Perhaps I’m allowed to say that he won the role just right. He permits himself to be just as vulnerable as his character is allowed to be — amidst the imagination and output that his maker, Arthur Conan Doyle, and his dearest friend Dr John Watson has created for fans, in here McKellen allows Sherlock to take himself away from the shadows of the two, hoping to recreate a name for his ‘own’, despite the old age.

The film stays true to Sherlock’s old self: he is a beekeeper during his retirement years, he no longer dons the hat and the pipe (although in the film he claims he detests smoking and that he rarely wears the hat) and proudly claims that it is logic that bounds him as a human, never imagination. Imagination was always Dr Watson, his famed sidekick, was best known for.

Now living in the post-Watson late 1940s era, Mr Holmes is retired, aging, and hoping to win back memories for an old case. He arrives from Japan and as the film bounces back and forth to the old case showing a woman whispering though never uttering a word, to memories of his visit in Japan in search of a plant that would help him regain the strengths of his memory.

He is accompanied by Mrs Munro and her son as he exiles himself with his bees. Laura Linney plays the housekeeper, trying to keep the pace with an accent, although they should’ve just let her be. The boy who plays her son, Milo Parker, wins every scene as he helps Mr Holmes with his bees and with the case.


As Mr Holmes finds out the true events of his last case, one that involves a Mr and Mrs Thomas Kelmot (played by Hattie Morahan and Patrick Kennedy) he too finds out the reason for meeting the Japanese adviser Matsuda Umezaki, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, which is far more than digging out war zones in search of a mysterious plant.

Mr Holmes unfolds like a true-blue mystery. The elusiveness that was once written about this character is gone, and all we have is a character who’s just as human as we are. Or perhaps that’s just me, getting tired of all these charismatic interpretations here and there. Holmes was never written to be charismatic. As the character says in the film “I have no time for imaginations.”


This review originally appears in Film Police, bylines by this blog’s author.

Books to Movies, Colin Firth Is The Man, The 500 Film Challenge

#1: Bridget Jones Diary 2: The Edge of Reason

Film Title: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

1 January 2014

I’ve never seen this in full and so on New Year’s day, just as I was thinking that my year was going to start in a wreck, I managed to find this on HBO.
This one’s not a hard one to find, but in it’s simple plot and witty dialogue about a thirty-something former Singleton being totally overwhelmed by couplehood, I find my self elated. I can actually relate to her character even when she was a singleton and I was no longer one.

Bridget Jones 2 begins on New Years day, when everyone is invited to her aunt’s Turkey buffet and today she finds herself in appropriate clothing: still in a knitted sweater that looks cheesy but doesn’t entirely make her feel alone since it’s the same knitted sweater that was knitted by her hopeful future mother-in-law. And her boyfriend, the dashing Mr Darcy is also wearing one.

She’s still committed to the same things: to snog, to quit smoking, and to have a better career. To watch this film makes me want to do things: to quit smoking, to snog whenever I want and I can with the one I love, and to get a better career.

We still find her entangled with the same old bastard issues with Daniel Cleaver, but here we find a new issue when she finds herself jealous with Mr Darcy’s new colleague: the beautiful Jacinda Barrett.

Its fun to watch. Isn’t too bad. Directed by Beeban Kidron, screenplay by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral and all those other great British romcoms), Andrew Davies (Sense and Sensibility) and Adam Brooks (Wimbledon).

Books to Movies, Movies, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff


I can remember when I was younger when my dad had told me about JFK’s assasination. Equipped with a strong imagination when I was a kid as I read him on our one and only Encyclopedia, my dad had told me how he made this impact not only to the American people but to the whole world.

To quote a line on this current film about the assassination of JFK, “My brother just killed the most important man on the entire world.” 

My boyfriend and I decided to watch this over that film that I still heavily feels has ripped off a their story from a Japanese manga about the youth’s hunger for kill. I saw the trailer for this several days ago and I had interest in what POV it may provide in that long time conspiracy about the assassination of JFK.


A friend of mine from the office told me that the reason behind JFK’s death was due to the Illuminati. Dad tells me that the CIA is behind his death. I too have the same feeling, but for whatever reason it may be, this film will definitely give you a little insight on what happened from the time he was assassinated, to Harvey Lee Oswald’s arrest and his death a day after, and the two’s funeral on the fourth day.


Upon JFK’s arrival in Dallas, we find people in offices, in the streets, in shopping markets getting excited to find the young President. I guess real shots of his descent from the airplane were used in the film but we will never see the face of the man who acts as JFK. Dr. Charles ‘Jim’Carrico, played by Zac Efron is a charming representation of the doctor who first examines the late president. He later looses his coolness when he realizes who he’s about to operate on. This film also stars Paul Giamatti who plays Abraham Zapruder, a textile man who shot the footage of JFK’s assassination from 30 yards away through his 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Model 414 PD.


Another notable performance in this film comes from James Badge Dale who plays as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother, Robert. Within less than 24 hours of the late president’s assassination, he learns that his brother has been accused of killing the president. Finding a different perspective in the story, Dale portrays a character who represents the people infuriated with this person who doesn’t seem to have a soul in killing the nation’s beloved president, and at the same time he tries best to remember that Lee Harvey Oswald is still family. Another point of views come in to play, such as FBI Agent James Hosty, played by Ron Livingston who was investigating Lee Harvey Oswald upon Oswald’s return to the US in 1962. Billy Bob Thornton plays Agent Forrest Sorrels of the Secret Service who was assigned to escort the president for his Dallas trip.

Nobody could have played the role of Mrs Marguerite Oswald than Jacki Weaver who’s high pitched voice has indignantly protested that her son Lee Harvey was working under orders of the US government.

This film is based on the book Four Days in November: Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi, written and directed by Paul Landessman who writes the script with sublime intensity. This is a delight for conspiracy theorists because although it doesn’t clearly depict who is behind the assassination, the film feels accurate in depicting the events that took place in those four days.

Gripping, thrilling, and entertaining. Though it feels like it was a written novel, to think of it being based on a larger true story makes it even more interesting for a rewatch.

Books to Movies, Movies, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff

#51: Life of Pi

I have given you two stories. Which story do you prefer?

12 March 2013



#51: Life of Pi

Directed by Ang Lee

Starring Gautam Belur (Pi, age 6), Ayush Tandon (Pi, age 13), Suraj Sharma (Pi, age 16), Irrfan Khan as the adult Pi, Tabu (Gita Patel, Pi’s mother), Adil Hussain (Santosh Patel, Pi’s father), Ayan Khan (Ravi, Pi’s older brother age 7), Mohammed Abbas Khaleeli (Ravi, age 15), Vibish Sivakumar (Ravi, age 18), Gerard Depardieu (the Cook), Po-Chieh Wang (Sailor), Rafe Spall (Writer/Yann Martel), Shravanthi Sainath (Anandi), Andrea Di Stefano (Priest)

Screenplay by David Magee

Produced by Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark

I have never read the book but as I saw its title on the bestseller’s list when I was twelve, I thought it was about a man who was named after Pi, the mathematical symbol and thought it was a book about that. After a great interest in this year’s Oscar list (in which I notice all of them are about two hours long), I found myself immersed in this film’s trailer alone, wondering what the experience was to watch this, and then catch up with the book afterwards.

It is one of the greatest cinematic experiences I’ve ever enjoyed in years. The film begins as a writer played by Rafe Spall (One Day, Prometheus) visits Pi Patel after being referred to him by his uncle to tell him of the incredible story of his life. At this point, Pi is played by Irrfan Khan (New York, I Love You) as an adult. He looks at the writer with doubt but proceeds with telling him the story of his youth.

Piscine Molitor Patel was apparently named after a famous French swimming pool in which his uncle considers to be the cleanliest swimming pool he’s ever been on. But as he grows up in the French district of India, he changes his name to “Pi” after being teased as “Pissing Pi” and automatically becomes a school legend after he explains to everyone in school how his name is related to the mathematical symbol and jots down the entire meaning of the symbol in its numerical order during his first day in Math Class.

His family used to own a zoo, as he tells the writer his fondness for animals. One particular animal has caught his interest, a bengal tiger named Richard Parker. As he attempts to see the tiger eye to eye by handing him a piece of meat with his bare hands, his father runs in angrily telling him that animals are unreasonable beings. “They have no soul and they do not think like we do.” By proving his point, his father an ever reasonable man brings in a goat, ties it on Richard Parker’s cage and within a few minutes Pi and his brother along with their mother witness the tiger devouring goat. He was born a Hindu, but he is also a Catholic and a Muslim. He explains to the writer that “You never know your God until you are introduced to Him.” And that all he’s ever really wanted to do was to love God and to understand him in all three. His faith in God plays a vital role in the story.

Soon his father decides the family must move to Canada since the family business can no longer flourish in India, they set off for Winnipeg, Canada on the ship called Tzimtzum, a Japanese Freight ship along with all their owned animals. The only noted scene where Gerard Depardieu appears is when the family gets their meal. Since they are all vegetarians, Pi’s mother requests to get a vegetarian meal but the cook (Depardieu) continuously prepares rice/porridge, sausages, with gravy and garnish on top. Pi’s father takes rage on the cook insisting that they be given proper food. But the cook reminds them that he cooks for sailors, not zoo owners. Thus the entire family feed on rice and gravy on top. Later on while the whole family is asleep, Pi wakes up to a noise he hears from outside. He tries to awaken his brother but he refuses to wake up. He steps out of their cabin and sees that there is a storm outside. Several of their animals are released, two Toucans and a struggling zebra among others. He admires the storm, watching the marvelous waves struck against each other. Up until he witnesses one of the crew members fall into the ocean and half of the ship being devoured completely by the ocean. His instincts tell him to rescue his family, in which he attempts to do. He goes back into the cabin and we are sent into a 3D masterpiece of including the usual setting when one gets into the water, where all sound is mute and desolate. I admired this part, because although I didn’t see this on 3D, I felt Pi’s panic when he jumped into the water to attempt to rescue his family. Though he searched deep into the ship, he was not able to find them. He swims back out, still in search of his family, but he is immediately taken by a crew member to take the lifeboat. A panicked Zebra jumps into the Lifeboat and the cook and Pi falls into the water.  But Pi swims back up and gets into the lifeboat.

After the storm he finds himself in the lifeboat with an injured zebra, and riding on a net filled with bananas is an orangutan they named Orange Juice. Pi asks Orange Juice where her baby is but the orangutan just gives him a smug. Out of the blue a spotted hyena emerges from beneath the lifeboat’s tarp and taunts Pi. Pi swings the boar at the hyena but it spots the injured Zebra. With all the occupants of the lifeboat starving from seasickness, the hyena attacks the Zebra and then later on attacks Orange Juice which immediately rages Pi. Suddenly the tiger Richard Parker emerges from the tarp and attacks the hyena. Pi immediately thinks he might be next and so he swings the boar at the tiger. Richard Parker takes his swing at Pi and throws him off the boat. The next few scenes I won’t reveal but all I can say is that the only animal left is the tiger.

He adopts several survival plans, attempts to outwit Richard Parker but fails, and oftentimes succeeds. A scene in which they finally share the boat is remarkable, both cinematic and story-wise.

Richard Parker


I have found myself asking if it is possible for a man and an animal to communicate in this way. The relationship between two survivors are evident: they have to stick with each other so they can both survive. When Pi attempts to steal the boat from Richard Parker after hunting for fishes, he suddenly finds himself caught in a situation on whether to trust his instincts or to stick with his conscience. This animal did somehow save his life earlier. And so they both stick with each other, even after discovering a floating island that literally gives meaning to the term Virgin Island. On their 227th day of being shipwrecked, they land in Mexico where they both part ways, almost half dead.


But what Pi couldn’t understand, and even us the audience could not understand at this final moment between the two is when Richard Parker walks, away from the boat, without even looking back at Pi, but stops before he jumps into the jungle. He stops for a moment, and you would expect him to look back, but he doesn’t. Pi tells the writer how devastated he is when Richard Parker just left him there by the shore. When he is rescued by the villagers, he cries out loud, not because of hunger, but because of the pain this tiger has left him.

Yet another heartbreaking part of this story is added, when Japanese investigators visit him in the hospital for the ship’s insurance. Since he is the only living survivor of the ship, he is asked of how the ship sank and how he survived. But as he tells them of the story which includes the animals, his family sleeping in their cabins, lost away into the depths of the sea, none of them believes this. And so, Pi makes up a story, a less fantastic account of sharing the lifeboat with his mother, a Buddhist sailor with a broken leg, and the cook. The cook kills the sailor in order to eat him and use him as bait. His mother later struggles with the cook and pushes him to a smaller raft and the cook stabs her and she falls overboard. He returns to the lifeboat and kills the cook. The writer notices the comparison between two stories: Pi’s mother is the orangutan, the cook is the hyena, the zebra was the sailor, and Richard Parker the tiger was Pi himself. Pi asks the writer which story he prefers, with doubt and cynicism one would chose the second, but the writer attempts to mask his doubt and tells Pi that he prefers the story with the tiger in it because “it is a better story”. Pi grins back at him to which he responds “And so it goes with God.” The writer asks if he doesn’t mind that he use that story, Pi tells him that the story is his, it’s up to him to do whatever with it. As the writer glances back at the insurance report and sees that they have written in their report that Pi survived with an adult Bengal Tiger for 227 days.

Suraj Sharma’s performance as the 16-17 year old Pi Patel is remarkable, especially in parts wherein he had to react with the tiger. I haven’t seen any of his works yet but his performance is astonishing, one must look forward to the part in which he weeps upon killing a fish, and although he is supposedly hungry and tired, him making up the second story while weeping in parts that needs weeping to is just impressive.

It was perhaps a good decision to adapt the film into mostly 3D effects to capture that poetic, and epic masterpiece in which most scenes had to be shot in water. I must read the book to get some facts straightened up. A must-see movie for fans of the book, for those who like Action and Adventure, and for those who plan to go back to their faith in God.

Books to Movies, Classics, The 500 Film Challenge


13 November 2011

This 1967 french film by Robert Bresson is based on Georges Bernanos’ novel entitled Nouvelle Histoire de Mouchette (1937).  I saw this with my twin on a Sunday morning in exchange of listening to 60’s music or attending Sunday mass. Before I had to go out and watch some films at the Italian Film Festival (which I shall blog on later..).

Starring Nadine Nortier as Mouchette,this film tells us the story of a young girl living in a French rural village whose life gets harder and harder as she enters adolescence. Her father and brother who’s always drunk, and her mother dying from cancer, Mouchette struggles to keep herself standing in these unfortunate situations.

Mouchette (which apparently means little fly), is weird and awkward. But her sad life and face, which makes it even more believable whenever she cries silently, sort of represents us as a whole. As Ruthless Reviews puts it:

Her plight, then, becomes the plight of us all; a parable for the world entire, filled as it is with injustice, boorishness, and incivility. As Joan of Arc before her, she is martyr incarnate, and the assault on innocence and decency makes fools and cowards of us all.

This is my first chance encounter with a Bresson film. Set in black and white, I am expecting a sort of a Vittorio De Sica setting of injustice. But Bresson’s Mouchette has proved that his is quite far original. He puts us kindhearted folks into a long, and straining “awwwwwwwww” moment before the end of the film wherein, every suffering that our little heroine has endured finally ends in a splash.

Each scene in which we expect this little girl to at least shed a little happiness in her eyes is being taken away by yet another sad result. Oh and yes, if you have seen The Dreamers, this one’s the last clip shown before that film ends with an unsuccessful suicide attempt from Isabelle (played by Eva Green).


Books to Movies, Semi-bad films

#428: Water for Elephants

May 8, 2011

After his son forgets to visit him at the nursing home, ninety year old Jacob Jankowski (played by Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild) decides to go to the circus on the later time of the night. Two circus workers find him standing in front of the circus getting drenched in the rain and invites him to come inside. He then informs one of the co-workers named Charlie played by Paul Schneider (was also in Elizabethtown) his story of what it was like to be part of a one of the greatest shows on earth, the Benzini Brother’s Circus in 1931,who’s also intrigued by the how the famous Circus is also infamous for it’s disaster. The story then goes into a flashback to the Great Depression wherein a young Jacob Jankowski, played by Robert Pattinson (Twilight, How To Be, Little Ashes) a Cornell student back then studies to become a veterinarian and soon after taking his final exams learns that his parents dies in a fatal car crash. Jacob decides to leave school, saddened by the loss of his parents whom also leaves him with a huge debt and no house to live. After walking and walking, leaving his future to whatever awaits for him far away from his old home, he jumps into a moving train where he meets Camel and a group of sweaty men who offers him a job on the train.

The next morning he realizes he’s hitched a ride in the famous Benzini Brothers Circus train, after having breakfast he does unusual jobs like cleaning out horse poop and staring at the workers build the huge Circus tent. Yes, same as us, he too stares out in amazement (instead of helping out..) at how the huge tent is built. Same as any young man or woman who ventures out in a new world, Jacob is amazed at how this alternate universe begins, where everything is possible from flying trapezes and women breathing and blowing fire.

He then meets the show’s star, a white horse and a couple more horses being cared for by the showmaster’s wife Marlene (Witherspoon, who somewhat looks like Marlene Dietrich). He attempts to help her out with his knowledge on animals but she strays away, for fear that her husband might catch them perhaps.

The show’s showmaster August is played by Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Green Lantern, and will later show in 2011’s Carnage) who yet again portrays a backstabbing, creepy evil villain who seems nice at first. Yes, I feel like a little girl afraid of a man who might’ve killed my parents in my dreams but seem like a very kind gentleman in real life whenever I see Christoph Waltz play his character. That seems to be the effect. But it’s fine, and it works in this film as well.

My several complains about this film does not include the fact that Robert Pattinson plays the part. For anyone who have not seen his earlier works (Little Ashes, How To Be, well his stint in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Remember Me, and a very funny but weirdly played role in Love and Distrust.), I tell you that he really is potentially good. This film lacks a bit of development between Jacob’s parents and him. We don’t get to see much of a family thing here, except for a few smiles and then kaput, they die from a car crash. I know, I know it’s so that we can get to the point straight away on how Jacob meets the love of his life in a time when everything was still being crafted as a pill for complications.

This Reese-Rob tag team works—- in five minutes. And then we remember they used to play as mother and son in “Vanity Fair”. Although they’re both great actors, you just somehow couldn’t put a finger on it. Even the Christoph-Reese battered couple, thank god they were placed in roles wherein they somehow hate each other. Otherwise, it might’ve been a solution for me to walk out of the theatre.

The interaction though with the animals were great and commendable. The feeling of being in a 1930’s circus is there, with the big close ups and wonderful costumes and stunts. The film is quite a visual to the eye, but I feel like I’d rather read the book.

Books to Movies, Classics, The 500 Film Challenge, Thriller Shocker

#348: Apt Pupil

23 August 2011

I feel a bit guilty for not being able to keep up with my posts. It’s a great satisfaction to watch more than one film a day and talk about it for hours until you end up talking about another film, and so on. So I obliged myself in watching my sister’s latest flicks (well, not exactly the latest but newly owned films) which I can add up in my growing list of films I’ve seen this year. Today, I’ve rewarded myself with a Brian Singer classic Apt Pupil which stars the late Brad Renfro opposite Ian McKellen (Gandolf in the LOTR film adaptation). This film also stars Joshua Jackson and David Schwimmer.

Brad Renfro, who grew popularity in the 90’s in the Joel Schumacher film The Client plays the role of Todd Bowden, a young achieving high schooler who grew fond of Nazism after passing his paper about the holocaust. On his way home he realizes his elderly neighbor who aliases as Arthur Denker was a former Nazi Obersturmbannführer named Kurt Dussander who escaped from the war and is now considered a war fugitive. Todd knows the old man’s real name and his old profession and he blackmails him into telling him stories of the holocaust.

The more he spends time with Dussander, the more he seems to be detached with his studies, his own normal unconscious slate, even with his girlfriend. In turn he conceals his bad grades from his parents, turning to the man he blames to be causing his sudden failure. Dussander then uses the boy’s situation to sort of “control” him in a way, like pretending to be his grandfather during his parent-teacher counselling with guidance counselor Edward French (played by David Schwimmer). Due to this meeting with the guidance counselor, Todd is forced to stay frequently after school at Dussander’s house to do errands, study harder, pass his grades and do one last chore for him.

One evening Dussander, while dressed in his army uniform provided to him by Todd as a notorious gift, he is noticed by a hobo neighbor of his while picking up empty bottles of wine. They meet again the next evening on a bus ride home. The hobo thinking that he might trick the old man by giving him more wine and afterwards money insists on helping Dussander with his groceries. A sinister turn of events occur once Dussander permits the hobo into his house. He stabs the hobo in the back and drags the bleeding man into his basement up until he gets a minor heartattack. He kicks the bleeding hobo into his basement and rings up Todd.

He advises Todd that he needs him to do a chore for him and that he cannot do this as he is having a heartattack. Todd lies to his parents telling them that he needs to read a letter to Denker.

As soon as he arrives Denker’s home, he finds the old man having a hard time breathing as well as the dinning room in rumbles. Denker, still not finished with his evening plans asks what to do since he’s having a hard time breathing. Todd remains to be confused, as what every twelve year old boy in that case would feel (panic would never be the first reaction they would admit), but follows anyway since there seems to be nothing that he can do (except, I don’t know. go home. forget about the old man and let him die there..). He asks Denker what had happened. Dussander/Denker says he’s done it as an act of self-defense. As Todd screens the room, he finds the man lying in the basement, still with a knife stuck behind his back. We’re taken into a close shot between Todd and the lying man and the door. Which could possibly mean that there’s something fishy in this scene.. and voila! Denker shuts the door leaving Todd with the hobo. In this scene, we’re supposed to believe that this is where Todd unleashes his pristine evil, that sense of pleasure he’s been dreaming of, he’s been reading about, and he’s been thinking and finally will be able to live about. But for some reason the execution seems natural. Natural in a way that makes Todd a natural evil person, not something of an Apt pupil as the title serves.

Anyway, so the hobo dies of course. The cops arrive, as well as Todd’s parents. The teacher and his pupil have created a story for themselves wherein a guy had forced himself into the old man’s home while the pupil reads to him a letter, in German. Denker is forced to go to the hospital as well despite fear of compromising his identity in public. Todd cleans up the mess left at the scene and throw away every evidence of that night and of Dussander’s real identity. But trauma is as strong as a very nurtured memory. Apparently Dussander’s roommate in the hospital turns out to be an old detainee at the death camp in which Dussander was a high official with a very familiar face.

And so, Dussander chokes himself to death rather than sparing his life on a death sentence, Todd graduates high school in high honors, and Edward French’s undeveloped character gets a little breath of rehab from Character Development and plays a minor role in uncovering the real relationship between Dussander and Todd. Todd’s narcisistic evil character blackmails Mr. French by coming to terms with his ex-Guidance counselor’s sexuality.

Not bad for a suspense film. As for an adapted story from a book? Nah, I was never really a fan of these books – to – film genres, except for Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice though. I haven’t read the book version of this but I’m hoping it’s better.

If you are scared of Nazi inspired films, then this will be a huge shocker for you. But if you’re more interested in what Brad Renfro had to offer, then I recommend you watch this film. He was never, by any chance, overpowered by Ian McKellen’s unsurpassed talent. It’s script, I must say, would be convincing, just as long as you don’t have the book version in mind and for comparison.

Books to Movies, Classics, Hitchcock, Movies, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff, Thriller Shocker

#359: The Birds

The Birds is Coming!

10 August 2011
This would be the third time I’d watch this nature-gone-berserk thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock in my entire lifetime. Written by mystery-crime novelist Evan Hunter (if you’d notice in the opening credits, his name too gets 50% credit, same as Hitchcock’s. That’s ’cause according to Evan Hunters short biography about this film and his work experience with Hitchcock entitled ‘Me and Hitch’, Hitchcock had asked the projectionist to place Evan’s name to 50% in the opening credits, right before Hitchcock’s credits would come in at 50% as well of course.) who worked on the screenplay in September 1961. The film was released in the Museum of Modern Art Theatre on 27 March 1963.

The movie is based on the novella of the same name by suspense writer Daphne Du Maurier. The book however is about a farmer and his wife whose crops are being attacked by massive flock of birds until they too were attacked. When Hitchcock approached Hunter about the story, he said that he didn’t want to work on a farm in Britain and most certainly would not use an inarticulate farmer and his dreary wife as main characters.

And so, a couple of brainstorming after, they came up with famous characters such as glossy blonde beauty Melanie Daniels (played by then unknown Tippi Hedren, who ironically had her then infant child named Melanie. Yes, she turned out to be Melanie Griffith. Who knew.), the brunette school teacher Annie Hayworth (played by a low-voiced Suzanne Pleshette), the bachelor criminal lawyer Mitch Brenner, his mother Lydia played by Jessica Tandy, Cathy Brenner, and of course Hitchcock’s feathered friends who brought terror to Bodega Bay —- a total of 3,407 pieces of birds.
The story apparently begins as a screwball comedy between Melanie and Mitch when they both meet in a bird store in San Francisco. Mitch mistakens her for a saleslady when he recognizes her face as the daughter of a big newspaper company as well as for her being in court recently for something she did in a fountain in Rome. Melanie plays along as Mitch asks if he can buy some lovebirds for his sister’s birthday this weekend. Later on when they both uncover that they were only fooling each other, Melanie gets his plate number and rings up one of her friends to locate his address. She too buys lovebirds and sends this to his address only to find out he’s gone to Bodega Bay for the weekend. She leaves in her convertible, wearing a mink and a green dress very much looking like the grand socialite that she is. She rents a boat and travels to the Brenners’ home to drop off the lovebirds and leaves a note for Mitch’s younger sister. As she travels back to the other end of the dock Mitch sees her and drives all the way to the other side to fetch her. It would have convinced me that this would be the start of an icky love story. But as soon as Melanie gets to the other dock a seagull attacks her for no reason. Suddenly thousands of birds begin to flock the town, which had caused in burning a local gas station, creating massive frenzy while several school kids attempt to do a fire drill “silently”, and attack homes by simply pecking and coming into chimneys and crashing into windows.

Forty-eight years later, we still don’t know why the birds attacked Bodega Bay. Many speculate that this may have been a real story that happened in California which Hitchcock may have been inspired from apart from the Du Maurier story. This remains a true classic in which cinephiles and movie-lovers must see above any other suspense film on their list.

Books to Movies, Classics, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff

Movie #497: Last Tango In Paris

February 12, 2011

I saw this film about a year ago but chose to watch it again for this list last night. What attracts me most about this movie is the fact that Marlon Brando is in it (thanks to my sister’s heavy influence to me regarding Brando’s existence) and for the fact that I like Maria Schneider’s fashion sense (and her hair) and because it’s a Bertolucci film.

A young Frenchwoman begins a sensual affair with a widowed, middle-aged American businessman whom lays out the grounds that they won’t reveal their names, talk about almost anything without providing any details about their identities in real life, and their relationship be mostly concentrated on sex. Marlon Brando (Streetcar Named Desire) plays the middle-aged american, Maria Schneider (The Passenger) plays Jeane, also stars Jean- Pierre Leaud (The 400 Blows) as Tom, Jeane’s artsy-actor boyfriend.

This film is unlikely famous because of the butter scene wherein Brando shoves in a chunkful of butter into Schneider’s rear in which she confesses in an interview that the scene was real, and that she felt raped and manipulated by both Bertolucci and Brando. But according to Brando’s autobiographer Patricia Bosworth’s book, he and Schneider remained friends until his death in July 2004. He thought of Schneider as a daughter-slash-sister(which I thought was a bit creepy especially in one scene wherein he was giving Jeane a bath) and they were said to have had a really good friendship.

I fell asleep towards the end but I watched it again though as I woke up. For art aficionados, Francis Bacon’s works are shown in the opening credits, too. For Paris enthusiasts, most of the scenes are centered on beautiful Parisian bridgewalks. For gore-lovers, there’s a scene wherein Brando talks to his dead wife and where the clean-up lady cleans the bathroom where his wife killed himself. For french-learning, english-speaking peeps, be sure to switch on the subtitles for english because most of the conversations (no matter how American Brando sounds like) are in french.