Celebrating Great Films

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Bruges

#193 at time of writing.

This gloriously unconventional film gets its interest from politically incorrect black humour and extended sequences of subtle tension. It's a drama of consequences, occasionally contriving unlikely coincidences to make its point, but pulling it off with style in the end. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson excel as the protagonists at the core of the film. With an emphasis on characters and quirkiness instead of action, these hit men with hearts deliver a crackingly entertaining story.

Irish-English writer-director Martin McDonagh had previously made a short film called Six Shooter, which I watched immediately afterwards. The short had all the quirkiness and darkness of his feature-length effort, but without the satisfying neatness. He's a playwright by trade, which perhaps comes through in his writing, and it's fascinating to watch his development as a filmmaker. He must have been pleased as punch with a BAFTA, an Oscar nomination, opening Sundance, and a worldwide box office of $30million. The Bruges Tourist Board must've been dead pleased too. I wonder what he'll do next?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Some Like It Hot

#79 at time of writing.

This film must have been uproarious when it was released, a kind of Something About Mary of the Fifties, and it still has bucketloads of charm. With its classic plot and timeless slapstick humour, it's funny, sexy, and more than a little risqué (sufficiently so that it received a Condemned rating from the National Legion of Decency).

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis look like they're having a lot of fun wearing lacy frocks and high heels, and Marilyn Monroe steals the show with her boop-boop-a-doop style.

Some Like It Hot was released at the end of the repressive 1950s at a time when the advent of television was threatening, and the influence of the Production Code's censorship restrictions was weakening. Director-producer Billy Wilder challenged the system with this gender-bending comedy, filled with sexual innuendo, unembarrassed vulgarity, free love, spoofs of sexual stereotypes (bisexuality, transvestism, androgyny, homosexuality, transsexuality, lesbianism, and impotence), sexy costuming for the well-endowed, and a mix of serious themes including abuse, alcoholism, unemployment, gangsterism and murder.

Stories abound of Marilyn Monroe's erratic behaviour on set, often showing up several hours late and forgetting her lines. She suffered from stage fright and refused to leave her dressing room, or sometimes insisted numerous retakes of simple scenes until she was satisfied. She apparently required 47 takes to get "It's me, Sugar" correct. After take 30, Billy Wilder had the line written on a blackboard.

She disliked Tony Curtis after hearing that he had described their love scenes as "like kissing Hitler." In his 2008 autobiography, Curtis notes that he did make the statement to the film crew, but it was meant as a joke.

During filming, Monroe discovered that she was pregnant. She suffered another miscarriage in December 1958, as filming was completed. None of this troubled personal life comes through on screen, though; all we see is Marilyn's trademark sultry dumb-blonde magic.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 34

I'm on day 34 of my mad challenge to write 1000 words a day and get my novel finished by the end of the year.

It generally takes me at least a couple of hours, and sometimes twice that, to come up with 1000 reasonable words - so fitting that in around my day job has been challenging.

I've recently been suffering from a touch of stir-crazy since realising that I'm still not even halfway through and I have barely spent any time with my wife (who, bless her, has been remarkably supportive), let alone my friends and my films, for over a month.

At least, during the month of November, I'm in good company. Thousands of wannabe writers are torturing themselves in a similar way for NaNoWriMo. They're aiming to write 50,000 words in 30 days (about 1,700 per day) - I've so far managed a piffling 27,000 in 34 days (about 800 per day).

Yes, that means I'm currently 7,000 words behind. Well, I've got the day off tomorrow, and there's still a couple of hours left before I conk out today...