Imagine my surprise when I went to the cinema to see the trailer for an all new adaption of THE GREATEST. LOVE STORY. OF ALL TIME.
Romeo and Juliet is one of those works that most people get quite a young exposure to. Unlike the other Shakespeare play that people are likely to study for their Junior Cert (The Merchant of Venice) Romeo and Juliet is part of our cultural shorthand. It’s been misinterpreted and analysed over and over for nearly 400 years and for the last century has been the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays on stage and screen. Everybody knows the plot by heart even before they go in. Two kids from warring families hook up, get married then kill themselves. It’s kind of the Star Wars or Sixth Sense of Elizabethan drama, in that the twist in Romeo and Juliet is so well known that it isn’t even a twist anymore. Starting in the first act as a comedy, the sudden shocking murder that leads into the later acts was a bit of a swerve back in the day. Turning from jolly and light to dark and brooding, it’s not really a love story as much as it’s a story about how shit feuds are. The lovers in this story are the pawns in the quarrels of their parents.
Judging by the flat, airy trailer this adaption is going to take itself quite seriously and play the subject matter very straight. It won’t have the intense longing and tension of Zeffirelli’s film or the riotous over the top 90s excess of Baz Lurhmans 1996 effort. Each version has always said something about the era in which it was made. Particularly Baz Lurhman, whose best skill is portraying opulence and excess, as seen recently in the great Gatsby. Romeo + Juliet also started that explosion of late 1990s classic literature adaptions set in high school- you had O (othello) Ten things I hate about you (the Taming of the Shrew) Clueless (Emma) and cruel Intentions (dangerous liaisons) among others. A lot of these versions woefully missed the point of their source material and being loose adaptions with the original dialogue and characters changed distances them from their source material particularly with the Shakespeare adaptions. Still, hard to believe about 15 years ago the hot trend was for adapting dusty classics into teen movies.
Overall, will this be an iconic bench mark for a generation? It’s obviously following in the footsteps of Julian Fellowes beloved Abbey, but also weirdly enough in the footsteps of Taylor Swift’s hilarious fan fic version of the Romeo and Juliet tale told via her video for ‘Love Story.’ It’s a bit uncanny. The irony there being that the respective soundtracks for the 1968 and 1996 versions have gone on to become as well remembered as the films themselves
whether it was the contemporary pop of 1996 or the big, sweeping score of 1968. That was the key with those versions, I think. 1968 felt big and dangerous in it’s own way- hell, Olivia Hussey who played Juliet wasn’t even allowed into the premiere, because of the rating- a rating that was high because of her own brief topless nude scene shot when she was 14. It was edgy, man. It still it today. 1996 felt… opulent. It played up the hysteria of the feud and the tensions between gangland families and subtly, to the long standing antipathy between the Irish and Italian communities in the US and the tension between old and new moneyed families. What I’m saying is both iconic adaptions did something striking. This new one just looks.. brown. Even the freaking poster is brown.
It remains to be seen what 2013 will look, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If the flat delivery and lifeless pretty faces of the trailer are anything to go by, this won’t be anything special.
Niamh ‘Sorry I’ve been away for so long’ Keoghan
So today is an ACTUAL bank holiday Tuesday! Wow, these don’t roll around often. So as is often my wont, I spent the morning lying in bed, watching the 1997 disaster-histori-romantic-epic that is Titanic. I have a little maxim which is- If you enjoy something, have the moxie to enjoy it sincerely. I’m not into this ‘I love it ironically’ business. if you’re enjoying something for it’s badness, then that means you don’t like it- you can enjoy things you don’t like, and you can recognize that the things you do like are flawed and problematic in places. So I enjoy Titanic. I enjoy it sincerely, as a decent film, and yet I can also LOLz along at the sillier aspects of the production. So here I present both my drinking game rules and my sincere fondness for Titanic.
I’ve been obsessed with Titanic since I was little; I am a bona fide hobbyist, growing up in a house filled with books all about the wreck and the social history surrounding it. I spent many’s a long day playing in the park next to the old White Star line office in Cobh, co. Cork, and seen the rotted old pier from which the passengers of Titanic fetched their boat. When I was five (which is the point around which I start remembering news events and film releases) the James Cameron film came out. Back in the day, my parents went to cinema maybe once in five years and we had a collection of about 10 movies on video tape, so my nostalgia is pretty narrow from that era. I clearly remember the night my parents went with my grandparents to see it in the pictures, and I remember countless evenings sitting down to watch the cassette tape because it was basically the only non-Disney film we had.
So I have seen Titanic countless times, from the age of 5 to 20, and I have to admit I have always wondered why it gets as much hate as it does. I mean, I’ve heard people call it a shit movie. I’ve heard people call it the worst thing they’ve ever seen. I really don’t get this. I will hold up my hands and admit that it isn’t my favourite film or the best film I’ve ever seen, but I don’t think it gets it’s dues. So here are three broad things I like about Titanic
1. The Special effects
The special effects in Titanic blew my mind when I was a kid and while they have aged, they’re still stunning. I would call Titanic the first film of the 21st century style- I know it was pre-2000 and pre- 9/11 but it has the sort of scale and ambition you see in a lot of later films like Lord of the Rings and particularly Chris Nolan fare. Here the special effects are for spectacle but I think they stand out because they’re based in a familiar world and reality- one of the reasons Avatar didn’t strike me as a special effects MASTERPIECE is because that’s *all* it was. Once you marvel at the blue people running through a CG forest for a few minutes, it gets boring. Contrast with say, the motion capture performance Andy Serkis gave for Gollum in Lord of the Rings- the fact that Gollum is inhabiting a world that we can somewhat recognize makes it so much more effective.
2. The performances
Titanic does have something in common with Avatar in that they both have stock stories- Avatar is Pochahontas, and Titanic is a basic inter-class romance that happens to be set on the worlds most ironically marketed ship. Where they differ is in how these stories are executed and on the basis of screenplay, Titanic blows Avatar out of the water. It’s just a better told story, performed with better actors. The cast here all fill their purpose- baby Leo di Caprio idealism-ing it up as the romantic lead, Kate Winslet being all repressed and suicidal, Billy Zane being fantastically evil.
3. The Screenplay
I will defend this mother fucking script. Fuck everyone I will.
A lot of people get hung up on the love story element of Titanic and I’ll admit, I’ve never seen why. Sure, it’s a love story. Is that the only reason it’s bad? Because if it’s decently performed by an excellent cast, I don’t see the problem. The tension of a love story usually lies on ‘will they or won’t they get together’ but here the tension is the fact that the audience knows there’s a cosmic deadline of sorts- and so the story becomes not just ‘will the forces of class and society tear them apart’ and rather ‘who’s gonna die, are they gonna live, FUCK an iceberg! etc.’
I have heard the complaint that the film only focuses on two (fictional) people and not on a selection of passengers, like ‘A night to Remember’ does. Well, firstly if you wanna see a Night to remember, watch freaking a Night to Remember. (no really do it’s a classic film). I don’t mind anchoring the story on a few people out of 2200 passengers; having an inter class romance also serves to show us the contrast in conditions and lifestyle on the ship. I’ve seen other movies based on real life disasters and histories that followed just one person- The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, Schindler’s List, the English Patient, Gladiator- and they’re all fine. I don’t see the problem with focusing on just one set of people. Besides, the film does have a massive recognizable cast of extras and it’s a bit of a punch when you notice each of them dying as the film goes on.
Now, saying I like the movie, I don’t deny it is FULL of bad lines, cliches, tropes and memetic moments. Keeping this in mind, in the spirit of good fun, I created a drinking game to go along with the film. Here it is in it’s entirety
THE TITANIC DRINKING GAME
Every time the title of the film is mentioned in Dialogue, everyone must cheer and down their drink
Drink every time Jack or Rose get wet
Men- take a drink every time Rose says ‘Jack’
Women- take a drink every time Jack says ‘Rose’
(They say each other’s name a lot; please only play this rule if you want to get really wankered)
TAKE A SIP EVERY TIME-
The movie passes the Bedchel test (2 named women have 1 conversation about something that is not a man)
The Heart of the Ocean theme plays
The modern framing characters say something cynical
There is an ironic ‘this ship will never sink’ line
Frabizio ‘Italian-izes’ a swear word (e.g. ‘Bastardo’, Mother Funkolo’)
a real life character is portrayed on-screen (Bonus points for shouting ‘OH HI <Character’s name>!’ and waving)
You laugh out loud at a cheesy line/Old Rose says something sentimental
KATE WINSLET SHOTS (take a shot of your choice whenever the following happens:)
Kate Winslet’s American accent slips
Kate Winslet has a topless scene (Applicable to any Kate Winslet Movie)
Rose’s mother/Billy Zane say something sexist to Kate Winslet
FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN
the script has social commentary
you hear trad music on the soundtrack
There is an epic panning shot of the ship as the music swells
I won’t go a long way to defend Titanic as the best movie of ALL TIME- I do think it’s got a lot of silly 90s sentimentality on it (Mostly personified by Billy Zane) but it holds up. I can only ever see the backlash for this movie coming from the fact that it’s a love story, and I just don’t get that. It’s a decent, if cheesy, movie, and it looms quite large in my personal nostalgia. Maybe that’s why I’ll defend it and be fond of it, due to childhood nostalgia goggles, but in recent years I’ve still enjoyed it.
If nothing else, the drinking game is fun.
Niamh ‘You’re not the king of the world, you’re just on the front of a boat’ Keoghan
The Hobbit:An unexpected Journey and Peter Jackson’s attempt to stretch out a 300 page book over 3 films. The film is a hoot, but it’s frustrating- the pacing is just terrible. It’s unforgivable. Last night a party a friend of mine said the beauty of the Hobbit is that it’s Peter Jackson celebrating the previous trilogy, and doing that again.
Let me say to this, BITCH PLEASE. Peter Jackson, you are allowed celebrate JACK SHIT about your masterpieces. That’s like me writing fan fic of my own novel. That’s bullshit. The Hobbit is a very different story to the Lord of the Rings- Essentially, it’s a heist movie written as a jaunty quest. The parts of the Hobbit that work best are the moments where it’s lighter, funnier and softer than the Lord of the Rings. This isn’t supposed to be three movies long. This isn’t supposed to be epic and about the fate of the world. It’s supposed to be one guy on an adventure with some dudes, with HINTS towards a larger world and story behind it.
This is a terrible trend I have noticed. Ladies and Gentlenerds, we have become a spoiled race. There is money in our fare, and the industry, hereafter referred to as ‘the man’ know this. They know we will shell out 15 euros a pop to see our beloved stories played out in iSense 3D with an advanced 48 framerate, from a premier seat. The Man knows we’re going to buy the overpriced box set with seven hours of special features and surround sound. They also know that we’re likely to illegally download the fucker for free once good DVD rips become available. They even know we’ll buy the special edition director’s cut DVD.
Since Harry Potter Deathly Hallows was split in two, studios have been slicing films willy nilly, in the knowledge that they will bump up their harvest crop. There is a concentrated effort to get bums back into seats again after six months to cream a little bit out of you, considering the rise in illegal downloads. This is, to me, really problematic. It feels like I’m complaining about a good thing. How can I not like getting MORE HOBBIT? Surely having 2 movies to finish Deathly Hallows was better than rushing it? What’s my problem?
The problem is that some stories need 3 movies, and some need 1. Some stories can be told in one book, while others need seven doorstoppers to get them done. All of these are valid, and they’re all good- The Sally Lockhart Quartet is a brilliant 3 books (and one pretty good book…), while Neverwhere is one cracker. V for Vendetta is a classic collected in one single edition now, while Sandman needed 13 volumes. The problem is that The Hobbit is one book. It only needed 2 films, and that was if you put in EVERYTHING. If you threw the kitchen sink and a massive dance party scene in, you’d still only have two movies. Jackson’s included bits from the apendices in this film, but it feels hollow. He did the same in the Lord of the Rings with the Arwen/Aragorn subplot, but there it worked because it was contextual. Most of the story runs along the same timeline as the main plot, and concerns one of the lead characters. It doesn’t feel clunky or too out of place- it’s a quest after all, and Aragorn’s subplot of wanting to get with Liv Tyler informs his later determination to take back his crown. It totally works there.
In the Hobbit however, it’s just there for padding. There was clearly no critical eye or care given to what mattered and what didn’t. It was just all thrown in. It’s an attempt to create a trilogy on the scale of the original films with the same aesthetic and vision but in trying so hard to be The Lord of the Rings, it scuttles so much of what could have made it a new beast. I don’t want to see the Lord of the Rings- I have a 12 hour long, 6 DVD boxset of the entire extended cuts, with 5 different commentaries. I don’t want Peter Jackson to pay tribute to his masterpiece- I want him to make the goddamn Hobbit!
Even bringing back the old guard- Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett- for such substantial roles kills off any hope of attaching to the new cast. They seem to be trying to make James Nesbitt ‘happen’ as a wacky sidekick, but then he’s sidelined off so Hugo Weaving can rush in. the attempt to put The Hobbit on the scale of the original trilogy makes it fucking impossible to try and see it as anything new, which is a problem. Thoren Oakenshield is painfully boring and brooding. When it was Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn doing the same schtick it was compelling, but here it left me cold. Martin Freeman is fantastic, as is Andy Serkis. their Riddles in the Dark scene is fantastic.
One of the reasons Lord of the Rings films were so important is because they were huge. In 2001, people were blown away it. The scale, the ambition, the fact that it seemed to have a real talent and artistry behind it. It pretty much defined the 2000s in film for me. They were something utterly new and jaw dropping. I first watched the trilogy in 2008 on a shitty portable DVD player while lying in bed, and the Balrog blew me away. Helms deep was stunning. Shelob, Moria, the entire creation of Gollum who was the first ever completely integrated motion capture performed character in a live action film. The forced perspective that makes me believe that Elijah Wood actually is only 3’9 and therefore shocks me when I see he’s actually a fully grown man. It just blows me away. It’s a beautiful, frightening, ambitious fantastic trilogy that changed the world of film.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERZZZZZZZZZZ
Seriously, I’m not taking responsibility for this if you get spoiled. Snape Kills Dumbledore.
So I saw the avengers tonight! Boy I have a list of things to comment on- What would you know, you’re reading it!
SONG THAT IS THEMATICALLY RELEVANT (because it’s what I heard in my head when Chris Evans walked on screen)