Film [Part 2]

robert de niroIt’s the small things I tend to notice in films that often make my friends and family chuckle when I recall scenes. It must be the impressions I make of gangsters often with grapes in my cheeks. I could literally forget what happened in a film, plot wise, but still, I’ll remember what I want to remember. Like when Robert De Niro’s girlfriend in ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is late, and arrives wearing a beautiful white dress. They’re walking to the car when she asks him apologetically ‘‘been waiting long?’’ The gangster that is De Niro, puts his arm around her snug, and gazes into her eyes lovingly. ‘‘All my life!’’ he says smiling. As most probably do, I often notice the random person who may be walking through the background, the detail on the outfits the characters are wearing, and the difference that subtitles can make to a movie experience. My forte includes noticing the extras in a film and what they are up to, or the woman’s blouse that goes from ironed to creased within the same scene. The skill is seeing the first time that Kenickie in ‘Grease’ slouched during the entire movie so as to appear shorter that the lead character Danny Zuko. danny and kenickie

There’s something so distinguished though about eighties films, so much so, that I feel I should have been a teenager back then, wearing high-waisted mom jeans and riding my bike, unburdened by technology. These films are like a bottle of mascara at the end of its life; still useful, still great and full enough to leave a mark. The slow tempo of the eighties comes through in films like ‘Three Men and A Baby’ (1987), ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986) and ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985). In the early nineties, I was a pup learning to be human, so I caught up on cutesy films like ‘Father of the Bride’ (1991) ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993) and ‘Mrs Doubtfire (1993) at a later stage. Sunday films at my mother’s house over time became traditional, an opportunity to get everyone together. I would often call a family movie, a ‘Sunday film’ because a Sunday film meant an eighties soundtrack, possibly Eddie Murphy with rolled sleeves undercover in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ his laugh reminiscent of the donkey in Shrek. It may mean Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner in 1984’s ‘Romancing the Stone’, a great action film set in Columbia. Or it means watching 1985’s ‘The Goonies’, a film my friend Roshni made me promise to watch, so that we could be cool again and she would speak to me again on Monday. A film on my mother’s Arabic cable box can bring the family together. The comforting face of Adam Sandler in ‘Spanglish’ on MBC4 with Arabic subtitles may be playing on a Sunday. How my mother would say ‘‘that was a nice film’’ meaning that it bought a serene mood into the room, one that made her grown children cuddle with her on her king size bed.

Why do we switch off the lights when we watch films? To limit distraction or to celebrate
darkness? There’s no handling of things and your body is not moving through or over places when watching films; you’re essentially a tourist through just the eyes, windows of a house. You cannot touch what you’re feeling. But there is such impression, such elevated heart rates and waves of emotion. Simply put, a cinematic experience. You think you’re able to distance yourself from the murderers, bad luck in love characters or cancer patients. But are you really? Don’t we watch films to understand, empathise but mostly to relate. I’m sure, more often than not, that we reach for the films we have the most in common with. The films we don’t necessarily choose to watch but watch anyway, are sometimes the ones we cannot relate to. It’s like dealing with something you shouldn’t have to deal with. Like sitting in the cold when there’s a heater in the room. We suddenly become toffee-nosed critics, expert professionals and we know everything there is to know. Your place in the world is solid in that moment, so you’re fine to pry on fictional characters lives with no issue, because you are comfortable in your alcove but not so comfortable in your obligations maybe?mullholland

I once overheard my colleagues discussing a film called ‘HellBoy’, and I couldn’t help but laugh. ‘‘He’s not tryna be a monster though is he. He’s just tryna be a guy’’ Sometimes the movies we haven’t watched, are as appetising as films we decide to re-watch. When people describe them, though I haven’t experienced them, they sound like something I may have once felt, and I’m completely sold on the idea. Like putting weight on a swollen body part, if its bad you feel pain. If it’s good, it can soothe the itch. Listening to my colleague describe David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive made me think of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ but on crack. My university lecturer describing the first scene of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ had me momentarily arrested in thought of first scenes, brutal openings and the art of creating shock. I find that I return more frequently to films that do not open with a bang because I feel I know what’s coming around the corner. I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt. It’s the openings that are subtle, that we miss like a friend, that we come back to like you would a beloved clothing item, that become timeless.

There’s a film that begins in New York City on a grey morning and an orchestra plays a
popular melody, an overall sense of weariness and want fills the moment. A yellow taxi cab is pulling in and a wonderfully glamorous woman steps out of it. She wears a black evening dress and the bones of her back are peeking through. She’s wearing pearls, black chic sunglasses and her hair is in a up do. She’s outside a store and we see that she is poised and elegant; simply incandescent like the summer morning she’s entered. New York is asleep. Her beauty is offset by what she carries. It appears to be a doggy bag and a take away coffee. She reaches inside the bag and hangs a croissant from her mouth as she fiddles with her coffee and returns to watch the window display. The music is as pretty as the actress, as lovely and warm. She longs for something in the window, her head bent left in the shot as she eats in a pretty way. She walks away begrudged, but in a regal fashion and in comparison, you notice that the city is grubby. She is Holly Golightly; the orchestra is playing ‘Moon River’ with violins and this is ‘‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Like a perfume you find impossible to describe, I know this opening and entire film is a classic. I only ever want to give it my perched head and the attention it deserves.

Once, I went to a drive-in cinema in Mississauga, Canada on an evening when I had just
flown in, desperate with jet lag and dissatisfaction. We watched ‘Dark Knight’ and the experience was peculiar to say the least. I sat in a car with my cousins, no indication or warning of how important my seat choice would be before we squeezed in, all four of us in the back, two in the front. I sat behind the driver, eyes dragging. My cousin who was driving, paid a clerk who let us roll through and so we parked in what looked like a park in the day, a lonely climbing frame to my left had been wrecked with sand, scarred with sandal burns. Suddenly, my cousin tuned her stereo to a number she had written on a bit of paper, and there it was. We could hear everything coming from the glowing screen ahead quite far in the distance, blowing out of the radio speakers. I was impressed to say the least, now able to tick this off on my bucket list, but also at the mechanics of this thing. Then, I was quickly irritated as I moved my neck to try and get comfortable, practically pushing my sister to get a middle view that was veering near impossible and believe it or not, I ended up falling asleep and missed most of the film. Heath Ledgers death had been the first celebrity death to have really rocked me, and I refused to watch his last movie with tired eyes. I was supposed to come to my first outdoor cinema or drive in with the love of my life. In my head, we would procrastinate about things we had not yet finished, and we would slip out to watch something in a vintage car with a topless roof, the summer nearing the end, yawning. I never imagined watching my first drive in movie with a car full of teens, one with her shoes off, toes in the air, the other bored, head out the window and talking throughout. And there was me falling asleep, unable to stop myself, in two places at once.

 

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Film..

Whatever the intention, there’s something uncomfortable about a person who makes me repeat something I’ve just said. I cannot catch my earlier light-hearted expression, and the entire point has now been missed. They’ve lost the impression, the sentiment in my tone, the reason I said it when I did, the alchemy. A friend of mine does this a lot. I particularly dislike when I’m giving her my time, my close attention, hyper focused eye contact and I’m perched, physically showing an interest in her hesitations, her wonderful revelations. As if I were at the cinema, I begin straining my eyes to the light leaving her lips, wincing at the darkness drenched in backbiting blue. I’ve said something profound now, something classic. I’m talking one time only stuff, and this friend, who possesses the opportunity to listen to me, out of curiosity, possible equal respect even, turns to me and requests something like, ‘say that again!?’ or ‘stop, wait, start again’, attempting to pry herself from her phone or tablet.netflix2

It’s my personal choice to tell stories, ones replete with sketches and mementos captured by a life filled with several hilarious east African personalities, blended with a fondness for character. People make me repeat myself sometimes, simply so they can laugh at a joke again. As if the first chuckle failed to flex their core muscles the way they’d have liked, as if I were a human television set, a film on repeat. On some occasions though, my friends and family fail to grasp that my silence or my poise through the chatter, indicates a refusal to repeat myself. What I’ve said won’t be the same. It was something destined for that very moment which required they’re full attention. It was a story.

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I have no issue however repeating the lines that Ryan Gosling recites in The Notebook. Especially the ones in my favorite scene, where he’s literally imploring the love of his life to please choose him.

‘‘So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.’’

I listen with fresh ears at these words when I re-watch this film, because they’re lines I love, from a movie I adore. It’s the sentiment in his tone in that moment which I’ve memorized. It’s a moment with such affection, such sincerity, that my skin often produces goose bumps watching Gosling’s passionate pursuit of his love interest, Ally. Maybe it’s about understanding the concepts of too much and not enough, about unleashing romance in all its wonder, about appropriate timing when safeguarding an explosion of buried truth. Or about asking ourselves as Noah asks Ally, ‘‘Dammit! What do you want!?, what do you want!?’’ In more ways than one, film is a reminder of craving, need and passionate emotion.

I sleep in a Queen Daybed and if you were to lift its mattress, you would find built in drawer’s underneath filled with clothes, accessories, photo albums, books and lots of them. Spread over my books like icing, you’ll also find a bunch of DVD’s, films I’ve kept like children, covers that have aged as I have. Not with grace, but by force.

My kooky, black and white bookshelf beside my bed is embedded with Shakespearean quotes like ‘‘say as you think and speak it from your soul’’, the shelves bursting with books of course. I’ve dedicated the two bottom shelves, to films I’m more likely to re-watch on the weekends; days when I have the time to putter between the kitchen and Netflix, barefoot so I can feel the front rooms cozy carpet fuzz between my toes, the scent of freshly washed linen ready and waiting to be folded top of the dryer.

mbfwI reach for a film that I can pour myself into when in need of an emotional pick me up, a mental cuddle. I look for ones that capture the seasons, that capture the essence of my memories, a story line that dislocates me, one that creates a temporary forgetfulness of who I am. These are the movies I watch with a cup of tea or coffee bubbling in my hand — a hug in a cup. The ones that require me to create my own alcove on our firm couch, one fit to house my many personalities and countless moods as well as some food and shelter; meaning a small homemade nook, a fluffy blanket and red packets of Butterkist popcorn.   romancing

Outside, the earth is tired. The city moves with a cause for concern and it’s like finding something rotten in your fridge. The joie de vivre of the times seems to be dying in a place meant to preserve it. In film, exuberance seems alive through form. Or, the groan of life is able to seek refuge at least in untangling itself through character, through tales.

My home is my special place, similar to the rose-colored space I’ve reserved in my heart for Robin Williams and Jim Carrey; the same one where I also preserve Tom Hanks as an uncle type. The place where I’d often google him whilst lying down, just to check that Uncle Tom’s still alive. A residence where winter means Lana Del Rey, candles and hot water bottles, and summer means cold drinks, R & B music and crisps. Anything in between can house the reliable satisfaction that stems from caffeine. Films have always been valuable to me in a tremendously charming way. I can’t say that I don’t know why. It simply has been and still is one of the things I run to, to escape — a tree-house.

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A great movie can set alight tremors in me reserved for just that — a remarkable film. Why a film is remarkable to you is debatable. It’s too personal. To me, films are about seeing rather than watching. A film is a snow globe and you are covered in white. Your left cold by the end and your lips have become purple but it’s okay, because you’re now thinking of how trees breathe, the shape of water and if the moon is offended by the sun dodging it.

Loving Julia Roberts Wholeheartedly- Pt 1

julia-roberts-pretty-womanI understood obsession and awe early on in life when I first watched Julia Roberts on screen. Let’s look at Julia Roberts. As a whole I mean, really look at Julia Roberts. She’s perfect. That slightly pinched nose, her very normal smile accompanying that odd hysteria in her laugh, that green vein that dances on her forehead when she cries. That hair is iconic of course, but only due to the nostalgia. It’s as if the raging jealous vapours of the early nineties had rested on her head literally. If you look closely, there’s a pain in her eyes too. The question is, is there a lesson to be learned from loving women who are not always graceful, not always happy? Capture

I watched ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ a lot in my teen years on VHS and would label it my favourite movie. Not that I preferred to be pessimistic necessarily, but even as a teen, the realism that the protagonist did not get the man she wanted, stayed with me. He was never hers to keep. He simply wasn’t meant for her. I’d rewind the first scene and analyse the bounce of her hair; the red that was not ginger and not brown, but a flushed red hue. I then watched ‘Pretty Woman’ for the first time also on VHS, a copy my mother had bought a long time ago from Germany with no label, no cover, just a guarantee that it was ‘that film with the lady with the red hair and those long black boots.’  I thought how brilliantly simple that title was, how achingly true. How pretty she must have been for him to want to attempt to change her.  How charming was Richard Gere! How innocent I thought could a film about a prostitute could be? Not very. I recall, even in my teens feeling disappointed that Julia took on such a role. julia-roberts-945

Many other movies with Julia can still send me reeling, but more so the classic ones. In ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’, I wanted Julia’s eyebrows and her large Cape Cod beach house, minus the abusive husband of course. I hated her in ‘Stepmom’, in turn, hating myself for hating on Julia. How dare I? Still, I thought she held a coolness by virtue that I wished we all had inside us. In ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, I felt just as those young female students did; inspired by her will, her need to prove people wrong as she also did in ‘Erin Brokovich’ when she was an absolute badass and I loved it! Here, I realised not only was she naturally beautiful, but I decided that I respected her as an actress.    I encountered bliss when I went to see ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ with my best friend as we succumbed to Julia and her charms yet again, except this time we were women, grown women and we appreciated her tale of loss and discovery so much more because we had both encountered it in plain sight. nh

I walked through Notting Hill with my partner in the summer. The heat was subtle, rivalling the days earlier hot spell, offering an overall gist of serendipity in the air. I was happy, and it was summer in London. I felt the slight ripples from Julia’s coolness and the smell of old books blended like a family through the summer breeze, as I took slower, bigger steps. My sandals clicked, as if walking through Notting Hill meant I was now an actress, a music video extra. I wore a dark green maxi dress and shades and I felt like a movie star, in awe of a place I had come to know as belonging to, or I had at least visited before in my head many times.

The sky gawped at us blissfully, appearing to be powder like and sprinkled with marmalade as we thought of how the movie ‘Notting Hill’ had affected us both. He wrestled with a decision, choosing to call it ‘a nice movie’ though I knew it meant more to him. It was veiled in his voice when he said he would watch it again. Men sometimes assume women are drawn to toughness. But like how a hard sweet is better when it softens, displaying rations of sensitivity is often preferred. In comparison, I expressed that to me, the film was ‘perfect and made me cry.’

In the noughties, my movie collection began simmering as if a Bouillabaisse in a pot, as soon as I saw the title of ‘Notting Hill’, watched the trailer and noted that Julia was involved. These essential ingredients came to pass when I finally watched it. London, the bookshop, the girl in tears, the love – that line!

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

There’s nothing wrong with a film that makes you cry. Why invite shame? To be set off by a movie and to cry is to observe beauty that has maybe dislodged you, or there’s a sadness that you’re temporarily managing which is okay to feel. The film has summoned blue feelings, some tenderness you are expressing as a token of your investment in these characters. You’re laying siege to their lives and to their woes which are maybe yours too. Or maybe you had a bad day, and you want to cry, and Julia Roberts is on TV shivering and requesting that this man who has just rejected her, please love her. It hits a nerve in you. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m wrong for blubbering at ‘Notting Hill’, for letting it all out.

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An extraordinary woman, who led by example: Mona Lisa Smile (2003) Review

51ARNwdNLgLIt’s 1954 and Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), an art teacher at Wellesley, is trying to follow the high standards the school expects of her. As a teacher, her expectations made to benefit her female students, begin to leave a sour taste in that, her expectations don’t adhere to the Wellesley cycle of married students’ ideals. One’s where they prep for etiquette and poise toward their future marriages, or already married lives rather than their careers.

There come many twists and turns through the polished dormitories of Wellesley where young women own the gift of being able to recite textbooks by heart, yet are scared to dream.

Main life goals become pipe dreams for these characters, played by names such as Julia Styles and Kirsten Dunst, and a rebel played by Maggie Gyllenhall who are having problems with men, other issues they cannot yet see. Unfaithful marriages and dictatorship over their achievements is clear however does nothing to scare these women who believe life only begins at marriage.

Miss Watsons repetitive advice on balancing both love and career is short-lived as a crowd of uptight female students attack her for her open views, blaming her radical syllabus, her lack of knowledge even. Yet the reality of these women at Wellesley reinstates a recurring theme here, one of realistic goals within reach. Though marriage may be ideal for most these girls, it cannot promise happiness, only advertises it with no guarantees.

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Julia Roberts as teacher Katherine Watson

The moral of the script, reinforces the intriguing idea of the unexpected. Without the repetitive theme of marriage, the characters would be unable to tap into their potential . At the start, they all seem to want the same expected happy ending, though it does not suit them all. Many are not sure what to do instead of marriage though by the end, hence the fear and the fact that they are branded aimless wanderers. However, it must be said that aimless wanderers are not indeed aimless. Beyond definition, these characters invoke a certain ‘ce sera sera’ attitude by the end of this film which is uplifting, realistic and empowering. Open mindedness serves them well, making the ending of this film refreshing to say the least.

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Students at Wellesely