2017 Film Adaptations I’m Looking Forward To.

Film, Things to Look Forward To

Just doing some Sunday morning research into 2017 book-to-film adaptations I’m excited for. Here are my top picks:

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1963 ONE OF THE GIRLS Vintage Book Cover - Trashy Novel.JPG

 

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Wading With Blake Lively in “The Shallows”

Film, Rave!

First things first – Blake Lively is gorgeous. The camera loves every unconventional angle of her face. Her long, fairy-tale blonde hair flaps as though in sync with wind patterns. She really is Barbie Goes Surfing. But, that is as shallow as “The Shallows” gets. It’s a clever way for the director to subvert the viewers’ expectations that the film they are about to see is a story of a pretty girl in distress. Once all pretences have been plucked away, “The Shallows” becomes a bona fide thriller.

The plot of “The Shallows” isn’t all that original or unique. In this genre of filmmaking, originality isn’t necessarily as pivotal to a film’s success as the actor’s willingness to survive throughout the following 90 minutes or so. Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a recent medical school dropout due to the emotional duress of her mother’s death. She decides to visit the same beach her mother visited years ago around the time she found out she was pregnant with Nancy. Therefore, the visit to this beach is setting up the film to be an exercise in healing and closure. The imagery here becomes integral to the plot’s development. The clear, blue waters represent the confrontation of one’s past, and the beaches’ absence of people can only set up our protagonist on a journey to confront her emotions and feelings without any distractions.

When Nancy leaves her cell phone in her backpack on the beach before embarking on what is to be a very terrible surfing adventure, she’s saying goodbye to the life she lived and immerses herself into a baptism of sorts. A symbolic rebirth, if you will. I don’t know if this is what the director envisioned, but as someone who has seen many, many films, I feel like this subtext is too coincidental to let slide by.

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Aside from meeting two local surfers, Nancy is solo on this journey. After speaking with her father and sister (represented by some smart visual methods by the director) on the cell phone she leaves back on the beach, she gets in the water. After taking in some waves, she sees an enormous whale carcass floating in the water. Clearly noticing it’s a sign of danger, she decides to take the next rolling waves back to the beach. This is where the action starts.

A big, menacing shark decides to bump Nancy’s surfboard and take a big chunk out of her leg. Running on adrenaline, she takes refuge on a nearby reef, where she devises a makeshift tourniquet for her profusely bleeding wound. Spending the night in intense pain, she has a glimmer of hope the next morning where she sees a local man on the beach. Trying to signal him to get help, she only succeeds in having him get in the water (after stealing her cell phone) and getting eaten by the shark. This shark is ruthless…and hungry. And clearly only frequents this particular beach.

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There’s more waiting for help, and there’s plenty more blood. Instead of becoming the stereotype victim in thrillers, Nancy is resourceful and resilient. She seems to understand that there might be a way to safety, and with the comic device of an injured seagull by her side, she tries to outsmart the shark and get to a nearby buoy which has flare guns.

What follows is a little bit of cat and mouse between Nancy and Shark. They’re both great swimmers, and begin to mirror one another in terms of motion and behaviours. The film is relatively short and clocks in under 90 minutes, thus the tension is not drawn out. This short running time also prevents the viewer from screaming out “Bad Idea!” or tsk-tsking aplenty at the screen.

In films such as “The Shallows” where a lone popular star is in peril for two hours, (see Gravity or Cast Away), the story is often just a way to showcase a certain actor’s acting abilities. There’s no really getting way from bad acting in a film where there is only one actor on-screen (minus a CGI shark, of course). Blake Lively certainly does not disappoint in this respect. She commands the screen, her likeability radiating in every scene. I don’t quite get why there’s so much ambivalence regarding Lively’s screen presence. It’s actually sort of hypocritical in that when Lively is being criticized for her acting, critics usually comment on her beauty. The two can be mutually exclusive but not in Hollywood, apparently. It’s like some big revelation that a pretty actor can act.

Pleasantly surprised by “The Shallows,” I recommend it to those who like fun, and thrilling, summer blockbusters. It won’t change your life, but it will certainly entertain you for a good 86 minutes.

 

 

A Conjecture on “The Conjuring 2”

Best of 2016, Film, Rave!

As a film scholar and enthusiast, I am often asked why do I like horror films so much. What is it about the genre where bloodshed, psychological warfare, and disturbing images intrigues me? To this question, I do not have an answer. Like with traditional art and sculpture, describing the feelings that accompany a particular piece is impossible. Same goes with film, in my humble opinion. The film going experience is less about the representation of a series of images used to form a narrative but about the visceral, more emotional responses the audience has to it. It is often these feelings that can make a film extremely successful or a major flop.

Before I begin to wane philosophically on the nature of cinema, I am bringing my focus back onto my most recent cinematic experience with the film The Conjuring 2. A sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, the aptly titled The Conjuring 2 acts more as a partner piece to its predecessor rather than relying upon the conventions that so often mire sequels today. As opposed to a continuance of a particular story, The Conjuring 2 extends the world of Ed and Lorraine Warren, “Paranormal Investigators”,  into another time and place. This installment finds the two charismatic and spiritually complicated characters in 1977 London, England, where muted greens and plush carpets adorn every depicted scene. It’s all so 70’s. The Warren’s task this time is to assist a family who is experiencing strange, paranormal phenomenon in their City-subsidized house. Reports of levitation, unexplained sounds and the demonic possession of Janet, one of the four Hodgson children being plagued by these nightmarish incidents.

Instead of resorting to a plot play-by-play, I instead want to center more on the tangential elements of the film. The narrative is interesting in many ways. It develops enough back story of the Warren’s to support their intentions throughout the film without becoming iterative of the first film. There are also many unique questions asked throughout the movie, whether intentional or not by the director I do not know. These questions prompt the viewer to take each and every depicted character’s motivations with a literal grain of salt, giving the film an air of  incredulity. This incredulity compliments the skepticism that accompanies the Hodgson’s families attempts with convincing the authorities of their supernatural situation. The dialogue and cinematography, like the apparent ambiguity of the verity of the films’ events, are subtle and provocative, leaving the viewer with the dilemma of whether to believe what they are seeing, or to laugh off the incidents being presented as though it was one big elaborate hoax.

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The plagued Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe)

I mention the idea of a hoax because The Conjuring 2 is based on actual events reported by the Hodgson Family in 1977 London. What makes it so unique is that some the events depicted in the film are, in a way, re-enactments of the real life events that were recorded audibly and visually. Known as the Enfield Haunting, I ask you to Wikipedia it to see how the film successfully relayed the real Hodgson’s family experience into film as a piece of art.

I propose that aside from the traditional horror/thriller film tropes at play in The Conjuring 2, there’s also a whole lot of subversion going on. Yes, this film has components often associated with ‘popcorn flicks’ or mindless entertainment, but there’s also various concepts lurking below the surface, below what you as the viewer and the Warren’s as characters, cannot see. It’s a feeling that’s invoked. This feeling lies somewhere between skepticism and sympathy.

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Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren

Acted the hell out of, The Conjuring 2 is a solid, welcome addition to the horror genre canon. As Lorraine Warren, Vera Farmiga shines with tenacity and inherent conflict. Her scenes with that terrifying nun are a sight to behold. The younger actors, particularly the revelatory Madison Wolfe who portrays the possessed (?) Janet Hodgson, is stellar. Instead of pulling a Linda Blair-esque performance, her role is subtle and quite sad. But this film is less about the acting and more about the feelings.  Is The Conjuring 2 scary? Yes. Is it a classic horror film? Maybe. Is it an exercise in the power of cinema? Most definitely.

 

 

An Interview with Premier Photographer to the British Stars: Roger Sargent

Best of 2016, Concert, Film, Music, Random Musings

After building up suspense over the past few days, it has come time for us to reveal our extremely fortunate opportunity to post our exclusive interview with the man behind all of the photographs highlighted in the clues.

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Oasis

Roger Sargent, savant photographer of some of British music’s biggest names EVER, graciously accepted an interview request from Reading Other People. This is the man who photographed everyone from Suede to Blur, from Paul Weller to Richard Ashcroft. And, oh,  did I mention he’s the genius behind the infamous Libertines record we posted a few days back?

Now, for your reading pleasure, check out our intimate interview with the awesome-beyond-words Roger Sargent.

Reading Other People (ROP): First of all, I thank you a million times for allowing me to interview you. It’s an honour. Your portfolio is literally a whos-who of not only my all-time favorite artists, but a testament to timeless photography. How do you go about selecting your subjects?

Roger  Sargent (RS): I literally go with what I’m currently buzzing off. I think throughout my life I’ve always retained that excitement for the new, it keeps me young (ish) and inspired. New bands are less jaded and still love being around each other. So largely I’m continuing to discover new bands the same way I always did – radio, word of mouth, YouTube. There are fewer and fewer magazines left now so I tend to contact the bands and labels direct.

ROP:  How did you come upon a career in photography? You clearly have an innate talent to capture both the solitude and intimacy of your subjects.

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Liam Gallagher and Tom Meighan

RS: When I was fifteen I kinda new what I wanted to do – shoot for NME. I was lucky enough to achieve that about five years later having studied photography at university. I think one (of many) things that my course leader Daniel Meadows taught us was “if it’s not good enough, you’re not close enough”

ROP: Cat Power…The Libertines…true renegades of rock music. Is there something about their ferocity that attracts you?

RS: I like to feel (at first) a little intimidated by bands, great artists always have that spark and potential for chaos. The feeling that literally anything can happen.

ROP: How do you choose to style the shoot? Do you let the artist be organic, or is there more staging going on?

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The Libertines

RS: That really depends on who. Some artists have an innate sense of self others need a little help. I like when bands look like a unit, that something gels them together. That can even be an abstract uniformity. It’s easy enough to tweak things but way more satisfying when it’s all “there”.

ROP:  Is there a medium that is your true favorite? Photography? Video? An amalgam of both?

RS: At the moment video, but it’s still pretty new to me. The two have so many similarities. I’m a little down on the photography medium because there are increasingly fewer outlets for it to exist. But everything changes and it’s not like it will die. But it needs to be valued more.

ROP: You shot the Boo Radley’s! Were you able to get “Wake Up, Boo” out of your head at all whilst shooting?

RS: Ha! No! But happily so. I was there during the recording of the album. It’s still a great favourite of mine. Happy times. Though Martin (Carr) told me recently he still can’t listen to any of those records, which is a shame.

ROP: What’s your take on modern music today? Who have you been listening to?

RS: There’s loads of great stuff happening at the moment. I tend to listen to what I’m involved With. So, Sunflower Bean, a lot. Fat white Family, Sleaford Mods.

 ROP:Who is your dream subject to photograph, either alive or dead?

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Richard Ashcroft

RS: The Doors would have been fun. But honestly, it’s the next truly exciting talent I’m more interested in.

ROP: Your portfolio is like a scrapbook of my favorite artists. Where’s the Belle and Sebastian pic?

RS: I did shoot them live once….but back in the day they were incredibly camera shy and hated the NME. Two things that didn’t help!

ROP: If you had to choose three words to describe your style, what would they be?

RS: Honest, intimate, reflective.

ROP: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and photographers around the globe?

RS: Be unique!

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Roger Sargent

 

Visit Roger’s website  st https://rogersargent.carbonmade.com/ for more info about him, and to check out more of his portfolio.

While the rest of the world watches the Super Bowl…

Film, Random Musings, Things to Look Forward To

I’ll be watching “Night Thoughts”, a film accompaniment to Suede’s newest album of the same title.

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The new album is moody, atmospheric, and above else, super brit-poppy, all of the key tenets that have made Suede one of my favorite bands of all time.

Shot by the mega-talented Roger Sargent (https://rogersargent.carbonmade.com/), this one is for the ages, and definitely one for those with “Killing of a Flashboy” on their iPhones.

Finding Joy in “Joy”

Best of 2015, Film, Movie Reviews, Random Musings

First of all, I just don’t get why there exists any kind of vitriol for David O’Russell clever and heartful film Joy. Why there continues to be a polarizing response to the film baffles me. I found the film to be a class in master acting and a clever soundtrack to the difficulties that abound with familial relations, especially with the introduction of money.

The story is a simple one. It’s essentially a rags to riches story of Joy Mangano, the inventor of The Miracle Mop. The film chronicles the many trials and tribulations of her journey to getting the mop to be a success. Along the way, we are introduced to many characters, some of which propel the story forward, some whom are nothing more than background (Sorry, Dascha Polanco).

Jennifer Lawrence commandeers every single scene she is in. She’s radiant and powerful, unlike the women around her. A barely recognizable Virginia Madsen and the ever-shrill Isabella Rossellini are mere foils to what Joy will never be.  The male co-stars are mainly supporting Joy on her quest to wealth.

I found the film to be quick-paced, full of well-written dialogue, and above all else, funny. Jennifer Lawrence can really do no wrong. She’s fierce, funny, vulnerable and resplendent all rolled into one. Check it out.

 

 

 

You’re Just Like a Movie: My Fave Films of 2015

Best of 2015, Film, Random Musings

I tend to shy away from ranking anything. When you assign a number to something, it implies a place on an imaginary hierarchy, automatically becoming contrived and unimportant. That is why when  I’m highlighting some of my favourite films of 2015 they will be in absolutely no order. So just because I write about Carol first doesn’t mean it was my absolute fave…

Carol

There are cheekbones for days in Todd Haynes’ ethereal Carol. It’s a bit of a love story, but more of a human story. It chronicles the intracies of a controversial love with hues of yellow and brown that evokes emotions you never thought you had. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are so committed to their roles that it’s hard to remember that they are actors in a movie because the veracity of their performances are THAT good.

 

Welcome to Me

Trust me – there will come a time when the name Kristen Wiig and ‘Academy Award winner’ will go hand in hand. Wiig is a revelation in Welcome to Me – a film that borders more on the truancy of adulthood then a piece on borderline personality disorder. It’s funny but you’re not laughing at Wiig – you’re giggling because you understand that depicting mental instability doesn’t have to be such a downer.

 

Mistress America

Not terribly different than Welcome to Me, Mistress America is a cerebral take on the delusions of grandeur that encompass youth. Greta Gerwig is as lovable and articulate as ever in her portrayal of a girl who bounces from dream to dream as the film moves from scene to scene. It’s charming and sweet, but not so much so that the eyes are rolling. It’s a statement piece with the resounding message that Gerwig can carry a film all by herself.

 

The Age of Adaline

So i really, really like Blake Lively, and not for the obvious reasons (that hair, that mole). I find her understated and underrated. In the nostalgic The Age of Adaline, Lively portrays a woman who doesn’t age, allowing the filmmakers to depict her in styling unseen in many years. The movie is formulaic but solid, with supporting characters that are committed to their roles and to the story of overarching love and hope.

 

Amy

For those of you who follow us on Reading Other People, then you know of our love for the Amy Winehouse doc Amy. Check out my post on that film later if you’d like. It’s a tour-de-force of de-facto filmmaking that still triggers emotions months after having seen it.

 

 

A Good Little Movie: Some Thoughts on “A Good Marriage”

Movie Reviews

So you all know we are BIG Stephen King fans here at Reading Other People. We’ve all read the requisite tomes that collectively form the terrifying King library. From IT to The Shining, we’ve all grasped fear in very tangible ways, all as a result of the ferocious and creative mind of one single person. I had read somewhere that there were plans to make “A Good Marriage”, from King’s short story collection Full Dark, No Stars, but never heard anything again until I was cruising Netflix this evening and the film showed up as a recommendation for me (Thank you Netflix gods – right again!).

Obviously I started the film up right away and watched intently. Joan Allen plays Darcy, a rather complex character who has to make the unfortunate discovery that her SPOILER ALERT! is actually a serial murderer. Don’t you just hate when that happens? Anyway, after explaining to Darcy that it’s not really the husband killing these people but rather a voice in his mind (that once belonged to a deceased high-school friend) that is committing these heinous crimes and note the man that she just celebrated a wonderful 25th year anniversary party with.

Uh oh. She Found Out.

Uh oh. She Found Out.

Darcy is visibly torn. Should she turn her husband in and ruin her children’s lives, as well as her own, with gossip and idle chatter for the rest of their days? Or should she continue living with her husband who has avowed that he (the voice) will never kill again? That’s what we call a tough decision, folks.

Surprisingly, Darcy takes the latter option, but obviously she has something up her cream-colored, linen-sheathed, loose-fitting sleeve. After a night out of excessive drinking to celebrate the finding of an obscure penny that her husband was looking for for eons (which she planted – smart woman!), she throws him down the stairs in their home as he is bringing her some fizzy water. She then has to bludgeon him as the stair-falling incident just didn’t cut it.

Right when we think it’s all fine and dandy, a mysterious retired officer with a lung condition shows up. He brazenly tells Darcy that while it would be hard to justify, he knows that her husband was the serial murderer. Aghast, Darcy kicks him out. She then has an extremely tender scene with the near-death officer just a few minutes later where she is granted some redemption for her actions.

The Fateful Dinner

The Fateful Dinner

The film was surprisingly effective. While obviously shot on a low-budget, the film essentially stays within the confines of the family home. Representing the nuclear family with serious perforations at the seams, the home is a spider’s web of lies and deceit within the strangely large basement and bedrooms. There is lots of room literally and figuratively in the movie for deception to grow and fester, which it does.

The acting was spot-on. Joan Allen is a master actor. She gives her heart and soul to any role she’s acting in and Darcy is no exception. Her husband, portrayed by Anthony LaPaglia, is sardonic and charming. Their children are as one-dimensional as they need to be because the plot doesn’t really require anything more. It’s a story of the boundaries of love and the power of hate. It’s a tense thriller, reminiscent of What Lies Beneath but without all the supernatural dead-girl in the bathtub stuff. Check it out.