From Here To Eternity

The year is 1941. Prew (Montgomery Clift) has requested an Army transfer and ended up in Hawaii. His new captain, Holmes, knows his reputation as a keen boxer and is anxious to get him on the company team. Prew refuses, he’s given it up, but Holmes isn’t used to being told no and enlists all of his subordinates to make his life hell until he relents.

There’s more to it though: turns out a certain smoldering sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) starts seeing the captain’s wife (Deborah Kerr). Prew’s tumblr_mrqbi1zbfr1qzgwh4o1_500friend Maggio (Frank Sinatra) keeps running into trouble with a stockade sergeant (Ernest Borgnine) with a mean streak. And Prew himself is falling in love with Lorene (Donna Reed). It might seem like normal every day stuff, except you and I know what’s coming: Pearl Harbor. It’s awful to know what’s around the corner for them, how petty all of these problems will seem soon enough, if any of them are left to still have them.

Montgomery Clift really threw himself into the role, learning to play the bugle and taking up boxing, and this in turned forced better and better tumblr_myepenqdmm1qzgwh4o1_500performances from his cast mates. Burt Lancaster was so nervous to act alongside him he’s visibly shaking in their first scene together. Sinatra was just grateful for the part. You may know that Mario Puzo fictionalized his movie career in The Godfather; a certain studio exec is convinced to hire him after finding his prized horse’s head in his bed. In real life, it was a lot less dramatic: Sinatra was married to Ava Gardner at the time, and she happened to have some pull with Columbia. Or at least that’s the version everyone agrees to.

The now-famous scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr (who were romantically involved in real life) rolling around on the beach was banned by the MPAA for being too erotic. If you were lucky enough to see the scene included in the movie at the theatre, it was probably foreshortened because tumblr_lhgtk3owtx1qb515bo1_500lots of naughty projectionists would cut out a slice to keep as a souvenir. Censors demanded that Kerr’s swimsuit be skirted so as not to be too “provocative.” And that wasn’t the only modification made. In the book, the captain’s wife gets gonorrhea from her philandering husband, but that part is conveniently edited out. And in the credits, Donna Reed is credited as a “social club employee” which is 1950s code for hooker. And the military had their own standards to contend with: you couldn’t portray military sloppiness, hypocrisy, brutality…or homosexuality. Not to worry. The gay stuff was also left out, along with all the other juicy bits that led to the novel being called From Here to Obscenity by some. But that scene. The scene on the beach. Makes me want to recreate it when we’re in Oahu today (it was in Halona Cove), but only if I can find a modest skirted swimsuit.

 

Punch-Drunk Love

Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) leads a solitary existence in order to hide his self-hatred, and his violent outbursts. Constantly harangued by his 7 sisters and too insecure to ever stand up for himself, Barry has no coping mechanisms PDL_BAM.jpgand no healthy relationships. But then he starts colleting pudding. It’s only half as strange as it sounds: he discovers a contest loophole where if he buys an enormous amount of pudding, he gets to fly for free. This is the only bright spot in his world of self-loathing until two people pull his life in different directions.

The first is Lena (Emily Watson), a quiet but sweet woman who seems to genuinely like him despite his obliviousness, and let’s be honest, his weirdness. Her tenacity entices him outside of his shell and things are actually  looking up until “Georgia”, a phone sex operator, begins extorting him for all he’s worth.

When Paul Thomas Anderson announced that his follow-up to Magnolia would be “an Adam Sandler comedy”, it was greeted with laughter. When Punch-Drunk Love premiered at Cannes, however, Anderson won the Palm d’Or for imagesr0pkepkodirecting, and Sandler would go on to be nominated for a Golden Globe. Anderson had become somewhat known for his multi-character films and wanted his next work to subvert expectations, and boy did he. He was the first director to cast Adam Sandler and expect great things from him. He gave him real material to work with and Sandler rose to the occasion.

Punch-Drunk Love is a strange little film, even among PTA cannon. It’s gorgeous to look at, completely saturated in brilliant colour schemes emphasized by director of photography Robert Elswit’s use of film stock that allowed him to shoot in underexposed conditions, giving greater depth to the film’s shadowy look.

The sound of the film is distinguished too: Jon Brian composed the music Punch Drunk Love handshake.pngduring the film’s music. The score’s unusual tones and sounds would then be played on set, influencing the atmospheric tone of the film. Anderson brought it Gary Rydstrom on sound mixing, an atypical move as Rydstrom, the chief sound editor for Pixar, normally works on big special effects movies, like Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan. All of these abnormal pieces form a whole that’s off-kilter and intoxicating.

And while I could go on all day about my love for PTA, you’ve probably noticed by now that this series is about one thing: Hawaii. Sean and I are in Hawaii, so I’m writing about movies who shot there, and earlier when I said that Barry punch-drunklove_bestbought a lot of pudding in order to see the world? The first place he goes is to Hawaii. His Hawaiian trip, inspired by love, is the first self-actualized thing he does for himself. The framing and composition open up as Barry steps outside of his comfort zone, and the confines of his loneliness. Barry is often shown wearing blue, a blue boy wearing his depression, but in Hawaii, pink becomes the colour of prominence, the colour of sweetness, empowerment, and romance. It literally chases the blues away. Although, to be fair, I think Hawaii has the tendency to do that for everyone.

 

 

Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch is one of my favourite Disney movies, one that I think flew under a lot of people’s radars but deserves some special attention. It’s a fun watch that’s got some real jerks to the heartstrings, with its themes of family and inclusion.

Lilo is an orphaned 6 year old girl who is cared for by her older sister, Nani. Nani is struggling to fulfill the sudden role of parent and has social services breathing down her neck with the usual threats (Ving Rhames tumblr_mqjpzfpnac1rjxfbno1_500voices the social worker, although you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking the character bears a striking resemblance to the gangster he played in Pulp Fiction). Nani thinks that some joy and stability will be brought into the family if they adopt a dog, but the mutt they actually come home with is Stitch, not a puppy at all, but an alien genetic experiment who is so out of control he’s been banished to Earth.

Stitch does indeed wreak havoc in their lives, but he’s lovable and adorable and irresistible. So is Lilo, and if you give them a chance, this duo will definitely warm your heart.

The film takes place in Hawaii (on the island of Kauai, which is where Sean and I are today) and so of course it’s beautiful. The animated locations are real Hawaiian spots that I look forward to visiting. It looks so gorgeous because although it’s computer-coloured, it is indeed hand-drawn, and was the first Disney film since Dumbo to use watercolour-painted backgrounds. It was such a lost art that they had to train their artists in the technique, but the result is exactly what you’d want from a tropical paradise. The water scenes are particularly exceptional, and lots of their designs are consciously based on marine life, which keeps the subtle theme running throughout the film. Disney purposely wanted to make a throw-back film that would feel warm and old-fashioned (although it’s one of the rare Disney films that takes place in present day). You can see other shout-outs to bygone Disney traditions too – like some of Stitch’s fellow aliens, who look an awful lot like Piglet, and Tigger.

Lilo & Stitch was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animation but lost to Spirited Away, which is hard to argue. The same little girl who voiced Lilo (Daveigh Chase) also provided the dubbed voice in Spired Away. While Spirited Away is largely considered a modern day masterpiece that just happens to be animated, Lilo & Stitch is hands-down the one I’d rather rewatch, and a big part of that is the successful rawintegration of lots of Hawaiian culture into the film. Although it’s scored by Alan Silvestri, he collaborated with Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu, a veritable hula master. It’s no coincidence that I’ve always treasured the soundtrack. Hula plays an important part in the film. To accurately capture the dance, Disney took their animators to a halau (a hula school) where they studied the techniques. An introductory hula dance is modeled in the film, and I look forward to seeing the real thing live at a luau tonight. 

The Descendants

Matt King’s family has lived in Hawaii for generations. He and his numerous cousins own 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai held in trust, which ends seven years hence. It makes sense to most to just sell the land, speculation of which has featured prominently in island gossip – after all, to whom they sell could literally change the face of Kauai.

Matt (George Clooney) is a humble enough guy, choosing to live on his attorney’s salary rather than on the wealth that comes with being a land owner. However, his perfect Hawaiian life is a ruse. His rocky marriage is 2011_the_descendants_006surviving only because of his wife’s coma. His 17 year old daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) has been sent off to boarding school due to bad behavior but she returns as her mother is declared brain dead to reveal the nature of the fight she’d had with her mother. It’s all a lot more than Matt feels he can handle, especially now that he’s effectively a single parent.

It’s a satisfying movie about the messiness of life, beautifully filmed on location around Hawaii.

In  1992, Hurricane Iniki tore apart many chicken coops on Kauai that housed birds used for cockfighting. By the time The Descendants went into production, there were thousands of feral chickens roaming the island. In the Kauai scenes, chickens are sometimes seen wandering through the shot. Sometimes the crew had to shoo chickens away before a take. Animators observed the same thing when they were working on Moana, which is why her sidekick is a rooster named Heihei.

Matt decides that he’d rather not sell the land.  “We didn’t do anything to own this land, it was entrusted to us,” and if they sell it, “something we were supposed to protect is gone.” Perhaps losing his wife reminds him of the importance of a family’s legacy. Certainly the film gently reminds us of the land’s fate should it be sold to a developer: contrasting the rolling green hills, we also see condos and golf courses and resorts-in-progress.

The movie fails to engage in a meaningful way about what it means that Matt’s family – “haole as shit” (a derogatory term for white immigrants) – owns so much Hawaiian land. It’s still not as bad as Aloha, a movie about Hawaii featuring an all-star cast of white people.

Sean and I are in Hawaii and on the lookout for feral chickens as we speak.

 

 

1976 in Film (Happy 40th Sean)

Sean and I are cruising around the Hawaiian islands to celebrate his milestone birthday, which is why you’ll find a common theme in the movie reviews here  for the next week and a half.

1976 was a noteworthy year in film. Rocky was the highest grossing movie, and it won the Oscar – for best picture AND best director (John G. Avildsen). It was p5214_p_v8_aaNetwork though that all but cleaned up in the acting categories – Peter Finch for best actor (he was the first actor to win posthumously); Faye Dunaway for best actress, and Beatrice Straight for best supporting actress. The fly in their soup was Jason Robards for All the President’s Men – poor Ned Beatty was shut out. In an upset, Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born) won best original song over Gonna Fly Now from the Rocky soundtrack but I don’t need to tell you which has had the more lasting impact culturally.

George Lucas began filming Star Wars in 1976, perhaps sensing that little Sean would definitely need to grow up playing light sabers. In a stroke of genius, Lucas waived the half-million-dollar director’s fee in order to maintain complete ownership on merchandising and sequels, which means that today he’s a mother fucking billionaire.

Carrie came out in 1976. So did Family Plot, Alfred Hitchcock’s final film taxi-driver-movie-1976starring Bruce Dern. And Freaky Friday with Jodie Foster. And Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. And To Fly!, a documentary about the history of flight produced by the National Air and Space Museum that was the second-highest grossing film the of the year and was the highest grossing documentary of all time until Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004.

Kelly Macdonald, voice of Merida, the heroine from Disney’s Brave, known for roles in Trainspotting, Gosford Park, No Country for Old Men, and Boardwalk Empire was born in 1976 (the bitch. She’s married to my favourite bassist ever, Dougie Payne). So was fellow redhead Isla Fisher.

Rashida Jones turned 40 this year too. She’s currently working on the script to Toy Story 4. Reese Witherspoon turned 40. David Oyelowo turned 40. Cillian 3t0kxqbttyjlMurphy. Benedict Cumberbatch. Audrey Tautou. Colin Farrell. Happy 40th to all.

Ryan Reynolds has been making 40 look good for nearly 2 months now, paving the way for the likes of Sean to do the same.

Albert Brooks made his film debut in 1976 in a little movie called Taxi Driver. Jessica Lange made hers in King Kong and Brooke Shields first appeared in Alice, Sweet Alice.

1976 was kind of cool outside of film too: the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The first commercial Concorde flight took off. Innsbruck, Austria hosted with Winter Olympics (and Montreal the Summer). The Toronto Blue Jays were ramones-ramones1born. Apple was founded by a couple of punks you might have heard of, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The Ramones released their first album and the Sex Pistols play their first shows, but it’s (Peter) Frampton Comes Alive! that tops the charts. The Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns in triple overtime in Game 5 of the NBA Finals – still considered the greatest game of the NBA’s first 50 years. The CN tower, then the world’s tallest free-standing structure on land, opened to the public. Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford. Megamouth sharks are discovered off Oahu, Hawaii 4c33c725f6feaf2ce254254f6f1201fc(nothing to be concerned about Sean, I’m sure it’s just coincidence you’re both turning 40 in the same place). Bob Marley survived an assassination attempt. California repealed their sodomy law. Peyton Manning was born. And Ronaldo. And Mark Duplass, just a day after Sean. And as much as I love me some Duplass, Sean is still my favourite thing from 1976, and I’m so glad I get to spend the day looking for megamouth sharks on a submarine ride on the ocean’s floor with him.

 

 

 

 

Just Go With It

While I don’t always admire Adam Sandler movies, I do admire his work ethic. Every movie is just an opportunity for him to take another glamourous vacation with his family and friends, and call it a tax write-off. He seems to have a soft spot for Hawaii, and who can blame him?

maxresdefaultJust Go With It was worth another trip to the islands – Maui, to be specific. Well, the movie is deliberately vague, because sometimes they’ll start out on the island of Maui and then magically end up in Kauai: the magic of Hollywood, folks!

The title pleads for you to “just go with it” and you’ll have to in order to enjoy this thing even a modicum. It’s a sad little premise, in that Adam Sandler is a player who wears a fake wedding ring in order to pick up empathetic dates who he never has to commit to.  Until he meets his dream girl, played by bikini  model Brooklyn Decker, and now he has to orchestrate a fake divorce in order to be available to her. He blackmails  his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) into posing as his soon to be ex-wife, and her son cleverly milks it for a trip to Hawaii.

After some allusions to Pretty Woman, the movie is pretty much just a tropical setting and some classic Sandler shenanigans. Jennifer Aniston is a stand-out:nicole_kidman_just_go_with_it_pto5zmo_sized she really makes you remember what fine comedic timing she has. So while this in no way is a good movie, it’s kind of enjoyable if you squint hard enough. Actually, my favourite part is when Aniston and her college arch-nemesis played by Nicole Kidman do a hula-off. You could watch that scene, have a laugh, and not feel too bad about yourself.

Jennifer and Adam were friends for more than 20 years before they got around to making a movie together. They met before either was famous, and she’d go watch him do his stand-up before sharing a cheap meal. Now they’ve each had their mega-success, so why not take their respective crews to the most beautiful place on earth? Nicole Kidman maintains that she loved the experience of making this film no matter what the critics said. Her kids and even her parents were with her. Adam’s wife and kids appear in the movie, and so does Brooklyn’s hubby. Who wouldn’t want to work from Hawaii? This week, though, I’m not working. In fact, right about now I should be hiking up a volcano on Maui. Aloha!

Miss Sharon Jones!

When a film includes punctuation in its title, it’s a signal that you should pay attention. The exclamation adorning Miss Sharon Jones is no anomaly. The woman is a phenom worthy of exclamation. Often called the female James Brown, you’ll notice the similarities not just in the soulful tone of her voice, but in her tireless performance.

Sharon Jones didn’t find fame until middle age. Before then, she’d paid the bills with 0c3581d044fe83696f1bc8c18349abdacorrections work on Rikers Island. But then the music business started paying attention and audiences marveled at her powerful energy and her joyful performances. Touring with her band, the Dap-Kings, Jones’s career was taking off when she was suddenly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. Director Barbara Kopple is with Jones during her treatment, and Miss Sharon Jones! is a testament not just to the music, but to the immense effort Jones goes through in order to make it.

It is difficult to see such a formidable, vibrant artist brought down by disease. Her energy onstage is unreal, and her positivity stays with her even as she languishes in bed with nothing but daytime talk show hosts to keep her company. This documentary focuses on faith and perseverance, but never fails to remind us of Sharon’s individuality, her humanity, and her quest to squeeze more out of life.

Great music is often tinged with mortality, and that’s where Miss Sharon Jones! distinguishes itself from the biopic documentary genre. This is not a rise to fame 03-miss-sharon-jones.jpgrecounting, it’s more about facing down death with graciousness, gratitude, friends, and yes – music. Always music. It’s clearly Jones’ passion and her greatest motivator. But the people she plays it with and shares it with are just as important, perhaps even more so as her health fails and her recovery is rocky. There is a stark contrast between her life as a performer and that as a cancer patient, and the best parts of this film are found right in that crack, where Miss Jones is unafraid to be honest, and to share this journey with her fans just as she shares her music, and her best self on stage, where Jones is really, truly alive.

I am sad to report that although Miss Jones was well enough after the documentary to grace the stage and bring music to the people once again, her luck didn’t last. She has another good year before cancer struck again, and she performed whilst in the middle of chemo, drained on stage but still giving it her all.Coincidentally, she passed away on November 19th, the very day I sat down to watch and review this movie. This documentary makes it glaringly obvious how much she will be missed, and by how many.

Things To Come

Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy teacher who takes pleasure in thinking and inner life. She’s a recent empty-nester with a rocky marriage and a demanding mother. If she were to suddenly be shed of all those ‘obligations,’ would it be tragic or frankly freeing?

The very plot of this movie, languid as it is, is a bit of a philosophical question: how to reinvent one’s life at every stage, even (especially) when you don’t have control over what’s happening. It’s a nuanced, detail-oriented portrait that offers lots of little observational gifts that rewards close attention.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things To Come (L’avenir) is about a woman who is 201609145_5_img_fix_700x700picking up the pieces of her middle age and trying to formulate some acceptable version of the future for herself. She’s disconnected from her youth and perhaps her old passions, but she’s not done, far from it. The film, and Huppert’s performance, has a stiff upper lip: she submits to a series of diminishments with cool detachment, but we watch as these changes slowly affect her relationships, even the one she has with philosophy.

Isabelle Huppert has had a busy year at the movies, and this film is proof positive as to why: she’s exceptional. Here she gives a performances that is restrained, wary, economical, but never closed off. She’s accessible even in her reserve. Her director, Hansen-Løve, is traditional but meticulous in her story-telling. Compositions are beautiful, editing is fluid, each frame simple and still. The focus is on Nathalie, who appears in nearly every minute of the film, as she grapples with change while trying to remain her stoic self. The film is about charting a new course, sometimes late into life, and the effect an uncertain future will have on a body. But at it’s most basic, Things To Come is about a woman still struggling with identity, and there is no actress better suited to the role that Huppert, who pulls off uncertainty with dignity and aplomb.

 

 

Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7th 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.

It’s been 75 years since that fateful attack on US soil, and 15 years since Michael Bay made a movie about it, and people are still arguing about which one was worse.

Oof, okay, sorry. No more joking about it. Sean and I are actually in Honolulu right now, visiting the Pearl Harbor site, and that’s a super-somber thing for uss_arizona_memorial_4sure. But beautiful too, in its way. There’s a floating memorial right over top where the USS Arizona lays beneath the ocean. You take a small shuttle boat over to it, and you can walk around on the very spot where it happened. It’s a lovely memorial, sobering as it is built right over the battleship, where 1102 of the 1177 crewmen killed still rest. In aerial shots, you can make out the outline of the ship. Lots of quiet moments to think about this loss of life.

Does Micheal Bay’s movie afford the same opportunity? Not so much. The spectacularly bad dialogue makes it hard to take seriously. And critics derided the love story, though lots of Pearl Harbor-era veterans thought it pretty accurate. It’s maybe not the kind of love story we’re used to today, but if you compare it to a romance from the actual 1940s, it’s not so far off the mark. pearl-harbourPlus, war and love make us do crazy things. Michael Bay, however, is just the worst choice to convey those things. The 40 minute action sequence: superb. Very Michael Bay. Very explody. It’s even in the Guinness book of records for movie with most explosives used. There’s one shot of 6 explosions in “Battleship Row”, which was staged on real Navy ships. 6 ships, 600 feet each, rigged with 500 bombs on each boat, using 700 sticks of dynamite, 2000 feet of cord and 4000 gallons of gasoline. It took 7 months of coordination, a month and a half to rig them, permission from the government of Hawaii, the EPA, and the Navy, plus 100 extras on hand and 6 planes flying overhead, and 14 cameras to film it and in the end, it was a 7 second explosion that was stretched to 12 seconds on screen. That’s how Michael Bay do.

Otherwise it’s bloated and clichéd and weak in both plot and character. Bay has a special kind of super power where he routinely takes 3 hours to say very little, and almost never authentically. But there’s a lot of flag-waving. 1503b4f462b99050922864481f727176Wouldn’t you like to see Michael Bay and Clint Eastwood in a flag-off? Who would drop first? Pearl Harbor manages to make a spectacle out of a profound moment in history, where blood was shed by real people embroiled in their own acts of love, intimacy, bravery, fear, courage, and duty. But those stories never get told. Instead, Michael Bay offended the Japanese by upping the “barbarism” of the whole thing, which also insults American vets, who would be right in thinking the real event was bad enough. A better tribute to those who died, and those who survived, is found at the memorial, where a 23 minute documentary is shown, and manages in those 23 minutes to be more honest and more informative than Bay’s 183.

 

 

 

 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Heartbroken over a breakup with his TV star girlfriend, Peter takes his tears on vacation to Hawaii only to find that his ex is there too – with her new boyfriend!

You’ll find a theme here over the next 2 weeks: Hawaii. And that’s because Sean and I are Hawaiing it up ourselves. I made up that word, but I couldn’t have made up the great state of Hawaii because it’s just too beautiful and magical for normal people to process. That’s why they put it way out in the middle of nowhere, so that you’d have to really want it, you’d have to earn it in the getting there. The travel is so arduous that by the time you debark, you’re in deep need of a vacation, and as luck would have it, you’re in paradise.

forgetting-sarah-marshallForgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed on Oahu, which is the island we happen to be flying into today, and from which we will embark on our cruise in a few days (near the beach where the plane’s fuselage from Lost was filmed, which I like to believe is not an omen).

It’s a romantic comedy for guys. Peter (Jason Segel) is messed up and fsm-pinavbewildered, but why not be bewildered with an orchid in your hair, right? Segel wrote the movie based on many of his real-life breakups, like from his own TV-star (ex)girlfriend, Linda Cardellini (they starred in Freaks and Geeks together). He wrote the part of Aldous Snow with  his Undeclared costar, Charlie Hunnam, in mind but it was Russell Brand who brought Aldous to life and then kept the character alive in Get Him To the Greek.

I wonder if the movie theatre on our ship will be playing Hawaiian selections. I also wonder if, on one of our multi-island destinations, we’ll find out whether or not the rumour Sarah Marhsall shares is true: is one of them really filled with lepers? Stay tuned to find out!