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Cinema

The Danish Girl (2015)

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Emerald Fennell, Adrian Schiller

Adapted from a 2000 David Ebershoff novel of the same name, The Danish Girl is a film with a temerity as great as its momentousness. On a more profound degree than what can be observed in most cinematic productions today, it tackles transgender issues and how they have always been present in history yet never truly grasped by the billions.

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Einar Wegener is a Danish painter who intends to aid his wife in her aspirations to rise in the field of art. When Gerda’s model falls through, Einar serves as a substitute, and dolled up in silk stockings and lovely dresses, the alluring Lili emerges, an alter-ego that Einar, after attending a gathering in her clothes, later develops doubts on whether the beautiful woman remains just a façade. When Hans Axgil, Einar’s childhood friend comes into the picture, the unrest within his mind only intensifies, and he faces a formidable decision – to become the woman that he knows he is, or to stay the man that his wife married.

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Initially, the film gives way to the establishment of the characters’ primarily normal lives. It shows their attributes as individuals, their careers, their own struggles, and their life as a happily married couple. This provides the audience with an extensive knowledge on the personalities of the main two, forming a certain kind of familiarity that allows the people to connect with them on a personal level. This bond is what will arouse the most poignant throes of empathy in the viewers later in the film; it is to this bond that a view can owe the fullness of the experience.

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By turns saddening, enlightening, and gut-wrenching, this movie is a must-watch for all those who seek a motion picture that offers something more… different.

 

Troy (2004)

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Rose Byrne, Sean Bean, Peter O’Toole, Saffron Burrows, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson

In Ancient Greece, a forbidden fraternization between a passionate Prince and a wedded Queen ignites a flame that will later burn down one of history’s greatest cities. Paris, Prince of Troy, elopes with the beautiful Helen of Sparta, an act that enrages the powerful Menelaus, and the forces that he commands.

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Paris and Helen’s romance is a legendary paradigm showing how love can – quite literally – burn a city to cinders. The way the film gives the audience a brief view of how the choice of love appears so simple and enticing through Paris’ eyes just before exhibiting the severity of his foolishness’ repercussions is a clear delineation of love’s many faces. Moreover, the movie shows the different planes on which men’s loyalties lie. Hector, gallant and dutiful, fights for his country; Paris, passionate and daring, fights for love; and Achilles, confident and insolent, fights for long-lived glory. The film accentuates how these loyalties determine the decisions that each character chooses to make, thus placing in line all ensuing happenings.

I personally admire the screenwriter’s adherence to the cultural norms of the setting. Several lines and scenes quite accurately present the objectification of women (e.g. Briseis as a war prize) and the imploration of godly assistance especially in decision-making (e.g. King Priam’s refusal to give permission to attack the Greek camp due to the priests’ intervention) as customs in that era.

Moreover, the cinematography is amply impressive. I daresay that the fire and the gore appear convincing enough to solicit several gasps from my absorbed self.

Even with these commendable points, though, the director misses many opportunities to delve deeper into other characters’ personalities, at times rendering them dull and predictable. This shows a blatant straying from the original Iliad, where Hector’s tendency to be overconfident in his strategies is a visible character flaw and Agamemnon’s appreciation for subtlety is highlighted. The director fails to portray the people as multi-faceted individuals in his effort to focus the spotlight on Achilles’ individuality. Over all, I find the movie excellent as a standalone work, but unsatisfactory as an adaptation of its written basis.

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The film is highly recommendable to adolescents, since it holds quite an assortment of sensitive content that may be too graphic for children under thirteen. In line with this, teenagers are likely to bear interest in Greek history and literature, especially when it is presented through creative media. The movie’s storyboard, direction, and consistent displays of explicit substance are more than adequate to ensure the maintenance of the teenage audience’s attention. With its daring and informative attributes, this film might well rouse the literary enthusiasts within the world’s youth. Wouldn’t we all want to see more past-aware future-builders?

Love Me If You Dare (2003)

Directed by: Yann Samuell

Starring: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe, Joséphine Lebas-Joly, Emmanuelle Gronvold, Gerard Watkins, Gilles Lellouche, Julia Faure, Laetizia Venizia, Elodie Navarre, Nathalie Nattier, Robert Willar, Frederic Geerts, Manuela Sanchez, Philippe Drecq

The film pivots on two childhood friends, Sophie and Julien, who meet under hapless circumstances. Sophie, a poor Polish immigrant, bullied and toughened by detriment, is assisted by a callow Julien, and through a toy tin box, their dare-built comradeship develops. The plot chases them on a mischievous trail to adulthood; only, the time arrives when their mischief turns into mad mayhem, and they have long since crossed the borders of rationality.

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Commencing with a hazy picture and a vibrant palette, the cinematography had me spellbound from the start. The deviant visuals keep the flow of the scenes riveting as they evolve with the shifts of the time setting — as Sophie and Julien grow, so changes the palette, getting more distinct and realistic as they pass adolescence. Besides this, it would also do to commend the film artists, for the very appealing add-in material. The incorporation of a bit of art, and the lovely sound overture make the movie all the more striking.

However startling (and I wholly mean this as a compliment) the movie is, though, like all things, it has its own shortcomings. Even with the protagonists’ natural chemistry, they come to a drawback in forming and exuding that sense of sympathy that is to be expected in the genre of romantic drama. This may be intentional on their part, but for my idyllic writer’s eye, it appears as a deficiency. Understand that instead of feeling the high of that victorious exhilaration during the moment of their reunion, there was only the feeling of roguish fulfillment after witnessing something that should have occurred way earlier. In spite of these minor pitfalls, the movie remains a historical magnum opus. Reckless, potent, and constantly astonishing, this film is perfect for any day — or any time of the day.

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Note: Watch this with subtitles, unless you can comprehend fluent French, which I’m pretty certain you can’t.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky, Michelle Nicastro, Kevin Rooney, Harley Kozak, Franc Luz, Tracy Reiner, Estelle Reiner

Can men and women ever just be friends?

Admittedly not being a fan of the romance genre, my expectations were quite squat when this film was recommended to me. Boy, were my expectations ever backhand-slapped this hard. The story follows freshly-graduated Sally Albright and Harry Burns, who are first immersed in each other’s (mandatory) company on a drive to New York City. Harry is then dating Sally’s friend, a fact which led to an assortment of complications when Sally identifies that the boy is trying to make a move on her. Throughout the ride they exchange opposing views on male-female relationships, and after an edgy exchange, they ultimately separate on bad terms. Five years later, their paths re-intersect in an airport, where they reveal to each other that both of them are involved in happy affiliations, and Harry attempts to strike up a friendship with the lady, using the aid of a few lies and some allegations that there are some exceptions to his previously mentioned male-female-friendships-are-urban-myths theory. Again, they separate on bad terms. It’s another five years later, after Harry’s divorce and Sally’s breakup, that they meet for a third time at fate’s bidding – and this time they do decide to be friends.

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Frankly, this is one of the films whose timelessness overcomes all its technological backwardness. If anything, the time setting only multiplies its charm by tenfold. This movie introduced to me a lot of household concepts which I wasn’t ever really forced to grasp before, such as the hypothetical “transitional person” and men’s attraction-based take on inter-gender relations.

Character-wise, the movie’s people, although lacking in diversity, are all so striking. Each one has their own lives. The screenplay director does a spectacular job at infusing all the little quirks into everyone’s individuality. Even if they make sure that the duo stands out and the supporting cast are rooted on existing stereotypes, each has their own idiosyncratic background, distinctive traits and all.

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The film is slow-paced, but I understood that the minutes are faithfully squandered on detail – elements all crucial to the movie’s themes. Every word is significant, but subtly so; the dialogue is witty such that most times I am obliged to summon all my willpower to resist the urge to applaud. If you seek a simple, golden, compelling romance, then this is the film for you.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Johnny Simmons, Mark Webber, Mae Whitman, Ellen Wong

Upon seeing Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Evans on the movie’s character list, I immediately took the liberty to presume I was in for a good one. The plot revolves around a 22-year-old musician by the name of Scott Pilgrim, who was notorious for kiss-and-ditching many young ladies after a bad breakup with his ex-girlfriend (who was, to his great chagrin, excelling in the music industry, much unlike his own garage band.) After encountering the enigmatic Ramona Flowers in a strange dream, he becomes smitten with her, accordingly dropping his most recent conquest, 17-year-old schoolgirl Knives Chau, for the purpose of pursuing the alluring mystery. He then figures out that the way to Ramona’s heart was set with obstacles – the girl’s lengthy list of ex-lovers, buff and bloodthirsty, all ready to pounce on her apparent new interest.

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The opening graphics were refreshing, as comic-film adaptations are uncommon (with an exception for Marvel’s cinematic masterpieces.) Mr. Pilgrim’s slapstick asides, combined with splashes of color and off the wall visual effects made for an interesting watch.Upon seeing Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Evans on the movie’s character list, I immediately took the liberty to presume I was in for a good one. The plot revolves around a 22-year-old musician by the name of Scott Pilgrim, who was notorious for kiss-and-ditching many young ladies after a bad breakup with his ex-girlfriend (who was, to his great chagrin, excelling in the music industry, much unlike his own garage band.) After encountering the enigmatic Ramona Flowers in a strange dream, he becomes smitten with her, accordingly dropping his most recent conquest, 17-year-old schoolgirl Knives Chau, in order to pursue the alluring mystery. He then figures out that the way to Ramona’s heart was set with obstacles – the girl’s lengthy list of ex-lovers, buff and bloodthirsty, all ready to pounce on her apparent new interest.

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There were such times, though, when the flashes and the supplementary texts became rather intrusive, therefore interfering with the total enjoyment of the film. Instead of feeling the whirlwind variety of sensations that I’ve grown to associate with good movies, there was an aura of constant jejunity throughout the watch, causing it to appear as if it were some sort of jokey child’s play. I suppose this steady humor should be typical of a comedy-themed piece, but the film failed to arouse in me any climactic emotions at all, adding to the fact that its pace was rather sluggish and there were certainly moments that I considered skipping some minutes just to see if I was getting anywhere important. It’s also my stance that the screenwriter may have focused too much on Scott and Ramona’s personality development, that they were unsuccessful in giving justice to the other characters’.

However, despite its shortcomings, the sound lineup was not displeasing, the chief ethical lesson (self-respect before anything!) was definitely deserving of positive appraisal, and if I’m going to be completely honest, it was Michael Cera’s ever-priceless facial expressions which mainly urged me to stay to the end.

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