Sunday, August 31, 2008

17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)

My top 100 has so far seen it all: guilty pleasures, romantic comedies, thought-provoking dramas, animated films, etc. But the one genre that is massively under presented is fantasy. Part of the reason for this is because I don’t see all that many. Another is that the ones I have seen just don’t do it for me, sadly. Whilst Pan’s Labyrinth is not strictly just a fantasy, Guillermo del Toro does incorporate a lot of elements of fantasy in it, and it stands proudly as the only film of its type on my list.

Pre-adolescent Ofelia is a wide-eyed wanderer who immerses herself in a world of books. Along with her heavily pregnant mum, she is propelled to an unfamiliar lifestyle into living with her stepdad in the midst of Franco-era Spain, Ofelia lives in a world of fantasy to avoid facing the stark grittiness of real life.

One day at night she is led into a labyrinth, wherein she meets a faun who promises to make her a princess if she can carry out three tasks. Sounds simple, no? Well, not if the tasks involve placing stones in a giant toad’s stomach and evading the terrifying Pale Man…

Ofelia’s stepdad, El Capitan, is a cruel and sadistic bastard with very little consideration for anything apart from getting things done his way, and producing an heir (seeing his wife as little other as a womb for his son to grow in). In one unforgettable scene, he attacks two rabbit poachers (who he imagines to be trespassers) in the most brutal and disturbing way imaginable, only to discover that they were indeed hunting rabbits. He’s no nonsense, no morality, no soul, and he is feared by all around him.

However, there are those who are brave enough to rebel, albeit quietly and behind his back. Mercedes, his servant, is secretly supplying food and ointments to the rebelling soldiers, and the town doctor is doing the best he can to keep the sinking hoard alive. But one feels that El Capitan, with his bullish resolve, is a force to be reckoned with, and any things going on behind his back, he soon cottons on to.

Meanwhile, Ofelia is pursuing her adventure in her quest to become princess. What starts out as exciting and whimsical for her, soon escalates into something much, much darker. The Toad tasks was scary and a bit minging, and Ofelia gets into trouble because she ruins her new dress. But that is nothing compared to her second task, where she must steal a dagger from the chambers of the Pale Man, an eyeless, boney monster that sits still, until food from his chamber is consumed. When he doesn’t sit still, he’s out for the kill. And finally, she must use the dagger as the faun tells her to, in the biggest challenge, and sacrifice, of them all.

Pan’s Labyrinth is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There are elements of war movie scattered about, with the grainy battle scenes and focus on the casualties of war. It is also a fairy tale; a twisted one at that, but a fairy tell, about a girl and her quest. And then there’s the drama, with the dark story of a girl who suspects she is losing her mother to a pregnancy that isn’t good for her, and her being left, alone, in a place she hates and a stepdad she hates more.

The two worlds of real and imagery come together the ingenious art direction of Eugenio Cabellero, and Guillermo Navarro's lush cinematography. The musical score by Javier Navarrete is also excellent in how it uses the theme of a hummed lullaby and presents this theme in many different forms – aided with a thick orchestral palatte – to modulate the tone from daydream, to nightmare, and back again. And Guillermo del Toro, who knows how to direct a fantasy like no-one you’ve ever seen (this year’s Hellboy 2 was rollicking good fun) ties everything together masterfully, expertly paralleling Ofelia's own terrible reality with an equally terrifying and terrible fantasy.

And, of course, there’s the cast. Sergi López has created one of the most despised villains of all time. I personally feel that his character in Dirty Pretty Things was even more despicable, but El Capitan certainly comes close. The audience feels a heavy sense of grim satisfaction when he finally gets his comeuppance. Maribel Verdu also gives a good supporting turn, as the put-upon servant who loathes her employer, but has to live everyday without showing it.

But the film absolutely belongs to Barça-born Ivana Baquero, whose big eyes and dulcet Spanish tones carry the film. As Ofelia, she is smart but slightly naïve, tough externally but fragile inside, and, through her endless reading, has become eternally curious about the world around her. In entering the fantasy world, she encounters creatures and events that are as horrifying as those in the world she is trying so hard to escape. But most of all, she is a good, kind, person. Ofelia’s bravery and dedication to her task put her through some appalling ordeals, and in the end, I wanted her to succeed and find redemption more than anything else in the world.

Too funny.

You thought you were pissed off about Warner Brothers delaying the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Hitler's taking it even worse!

Bung Bung.

And Ron's hair looks odd, but Rupert is adorable as ever:

01. What are your thoughts on the upcoming Blindness?
02. If you could bring only three things with you to University, what would they be?
03. The line “Why so serious?” – scary, or funny?
04. What’s the most money you’ve blown on a DVD?
05. When did you first discover old Hollywood?


After some thinking, you know what?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Cutest Films.

01. My Neighbour Totoro
An initial flop in Japan, people slowly came round to loving My Neighbour Totoro. It tells the story of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, 11 and 5 respectively, who move to the countryside for the health of their sick mother. Their house is near a forest, and soon they’re encountering mysterious and intriguing woodland creatures. These woodland creatures are utterly adorable and so, well… cute. And even though the film is very innocent, devoid of any evil characters, Miyazaki isn’t afraid to take a walk on the dark side too, meaning that this never veers into saccharine-Disney mode. And honestly, Totoro, Neko Bus Chu Totoro and Chibi Totoro are just so. darn. cute.

02. The Road Home
If you want to see how likeable Zhang Ziyi was before she became a full-blown diva, check out this film, in which she plays (in flashbacks) a girl who waits patiently for her love by the road. My heart literally broke and I was bawling my eyes out when, in once scene, the food she was carrying for him (I think it was dumplings) rolled down a hill, and the wife too, cries. Along with Not One Less, The Road Home also captures the impoverished, hardness of Chinese life, yet does so with a nostalgic fondness. Beautiful.

03. Monster’s inc
Mainly for Boo, the type of character that I usually find annoying in a film, but in Monster’s Inc, she completely won my heart. And the final look on Sulley’s face when he opened the door… ♥

04. The Spirit of the Beehive
05. Ponette

06. Wall-E
Sorry, I know I've said this about a thousand times, but - Eve was just so cute! Her giggle! And also, the whole holding hands thing. And the umbrella thing. And the scene where Wall-E and Eve were flying through space. They all left me feeling lighter than air.

07. The Hudsucker Proxy
Timmy Robbins swinging the hula-hoop... lols.

08. The Cave of the Yellow Dog
09. The Apartment
10. Jerry Maguire

01. University. Discuss.
02. What do you think is the funniest TV programme?
03. What is the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard?
04. What’s the crappest holiday you’ve ever been on?
05. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte? [Sex & the City girls].

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Because I'm bored, I thought I'd compile my list of...


(this was 2007's list).

25. Umbrella (Rihanna)
24. Pennies in my Pocket (Emilio Estefan)
23. The Moneymaker (Rilo Kiley)
22. Glory Box (Portishead)
21. Jackson (Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash)
20. The Lady is a Vamp (Spice Girls)
19. Homecoming (Kanye West)
18. Hey Jude (The Beatles)
17. Seasons of Love (Rent OST)
16. Underneath Your Clothes (Shakira)
15. Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen)
14. All These Things that I’ve Done (The Killers)
13. Brandy Alexander (Feist)
12. Lullaby (Dixie Chicks)
11. November Has Come (Gorillaz)
10. Alison (Elvis Costello)
09. Sinner Man (Nina Simone)
08. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (Queen)
07. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)
06. Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
05. Hallelujah (Rufus Wainwright)
04. Samson (Regina Spektor)

03. Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie (Joanna Newsom)
One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Again, the real meaning of it’s a little obscure, but I love it because it’s so pretty, heart-rending, nostalgic, whimsical and weird. Favourite lines are “Your skin is something that I stir into my tea” and “and you are starry, starry, starry”, which gives me shivers every time I hear it.

02. Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
Sexual awakening is the dominant theme in this song, which was played in Pulp Fiction, as Springfield sings the age-old story of a girl becoming a woman (ironically, Girl you’ll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill was also on the PF OST). Lots of my favourite female artists have covered it, including Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton and Nancy Sinatra, but the original is the definitive. Sexy, soulful and terrific for dancing to whilst getting dressed. And the thought of being seduced by someone you shouldn’t sounds very enticing. “Being good isn’t always easy?” So true.

01. Rocky Raccoon (The Beatles)
I first heard this back in 2007 when I had my iPod on shuffle, sitting on the train to somewhere. I had uploaded all of The Beatles’ songs, but I hadn’t actually heard some of them before. Rocky Raccoon hit me like a bullet. It tells the story of a young lad who tries to avenge the man who stole his girlfriend. It’s a sad love story with an old western saloon melody and probably has some of the most random lyrics ever, probably containing thousands of layers I’d never thought about, but my my, what a pretty song! I really love it, it’s breathlessly sad, beautifully song but extremely catchy. When I’m extremely emotional, just listening to this song makes me cry.

Keira Knightley Vogue Photoshoot.

She looks beguiling in some, bewildering in others. Click on the photos for the bigger picture.

It looks a bit like they've fiddled about with a binliner and bunged it on her head.

Lampshade head!

She is REALLY pretty and noir-ish in this one.

I really like her hair in this one.

The general thought from me is that these are pretty good, even if the clothes are a bit weird. Maybe Keira should become a full-time model? ;)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Screening Log.

I never keep this damn things up, but that ain’t gonna stop me starting again. No sirree. Alright, films I saw this weekend.

High School Musical 2 (Kenny Ortega, 2007)
Hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. Terrible acting, predictable plot, contrived characters… it was neither a step up nor a step down from its predecessor. Actually, one thing it did lack was catchy songs. HSM had “We’re All in This Together” which I’ll never forget because we sang it because we sang it in our Sixth Form Revue, as well as “Getcha Head in the Game” and “Stick to the Status Quo”. Only “Bet on it” from HSM2 will linger in my memory, and that was for Zac Efron’s dodgy dancing as much as anything. One thing that really brought the lolls, however, was how that girl was always conveniently around to play the piano whenever Troy and Gabriela needed it. Ffs.

Never Been Kissed (Raja Gosnell, 1999)
Oh, ♥. It may be because I’m feeling amorous because of the season, or me feeling soppy because I believe I’m in love, or pure nostalgia for my secondary school (cringey days and all), but practically everything about this film was endearing to me. 

Firstly, you’ve got Drew Barrymore at her loveliest, as newspaper copyright editor Josie. In order to make it as a reporter, she needs to go undercover in a high school. She, like most of us, had a pretty torrid time at high school, and after some initial failures in trying to be cool, her brother (played by David Arquette) helps her make it with the cool crowd. 

There’s a great supporting cast (including the ever-lovable John C. Reilly), some hilarious moments (the bananas…lol) a cute soundtrack, but what I loved most about this film was the chemistry between Barrymore and her teacher Michael Vartan. 

The ending, though broaching morally dubious territory, considering he thought she was a student the whole time, was still lovely, and I was so happy for Josie.


Ballad of a Soldier (Grigori Chukhrai, 1959)
Continuing with my “watching a film ‘cos it’s Russian”, I went for this minor masterpiece. Ballad of a Soldier points out how single minded and silly it would be to beef on the Russians and the beauty that an individual is capable of. Like Turtles Can Fly, Ballad of a Soldier captures the detrimental effect of war toward the country and the individual. It’s about one soldier, who possesses all the attributes that a good person should have, and is granted 6 days to go on leave: 2 to get there, 2 to spend with his mother (wherein he plans to fix her roof) and two days to return. However, in his journey, he comes across a range of people that need help, and in helping them, delay his arrival. He also develops a romance in the film, but we’re not even treated to a kiss… :( We’re told from the off that he doesn’t survive the war, but that didn’t stop me crying my eyes out at the end. Completely moving and heart-breakingly beautiful, this is highly recommended.


As you might have noticed, I quite like Brokeback Mountain. As you also may have noticed, I really quite liked the part when Ennis and Jack re-united after four years, and it all came out in that beautiful, sexy, wonderful kiss. It was probably my first viewing of Brokeback Mountain, on January 7th 2006, when I should have been attending orchestra practice in Bromley, but I was really in a cinema, avidly watching the kiss, that piqued my weird (but not uncommon amongst teenage girls) love for manlove. So, I present thee, my three favourite male OTPs.

Jack Twist and Ennis & Mar
Well, naturally. Nothing more about their beauty can be said that hasn’t been said a million times already on this blog, so before I piss anyone off by repeating myself further, just bathe in these gorgeous images from my 6th favourite film of all time:





John-Paul McQueen & Kieron
Aka the hot resident from Hollyoaks and the priest-become-devoted boyfriend. Pretty much the sole reason I watch Hollyoaks (aside from the much-loved schadenfreude factor), and I just love the idea that a man would change his beliefs entirely to be with the person he loves. There’s something of the Romeo Montague about it.

Robbie Keane & Gareth Bale (DISCLAIMER: UNTRUE!!!)
I’m particularly fond of this pairing as I invented it all myself, beginning with cute young Gareth getting an innocent crush on his Tottenham teammate in part 1 to the two men finally bunging in part 7. Along the way, I do more than my share of Atonement-references, especially in part 5, Robbie's Note, which borrows a plot device from McEwan’s novel (sorry!). Until a few weeks ago Gareth was the same age as me, and as such, I poured a lot of myself into him, something which my friends who’ve read the slash will vouch for. It’s not ever going to be a literary piece of gold (especially as I repeat the fact that Robbie has blue eyes, Gareth has blue eyes, Robbie is Irish and Gareth is Welsh about a million times), not to mention the liberal borrowing from Nina Simone and Feist song lyrics, but I do think it’s good for a laugh in a High School Musical kind of way. Especially when I make Robbie say “Bung it in”, which becomes somewhat of a euphemism by the end.

Top 5 of 2007 Vs. Top 5 of 2006.

Naff pic I know but I’ve only just gotten Photoshop so there!

In the blue corner, we have The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Atonement, Persepolis, No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

In the red corner, we have Pan’s Labyrinth, The History Boys, Offside, Volver, and Red Road.

Now, for me, Diving Bell < Pan’s
Atonement = History Boys
Persepolis < Offside
No Country for Old Men < Volver
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford > Red Road

With three wins and a draw, 2006 takes it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Carrie & her clothes.

Carrie Bradshaw/SJP knows how to dress. Looky.




















I has major fashion envy right now.