‘You made a woman meow?!’

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When Harry met Sally is 25 years old.  Now, as readers of this blog know, the chick flick (with a few exceptions) is not my favourite genre.  However, this gem from 1989 is one of the good ones.

The film centres on the relationship between Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and Harry Burns (Billy Crystal).  They first meet as graduates when they car share from Chicago to New York.  Harry blatantly fancies Sally, which appals her as he is dating her friend.  Harry is plain-speaking whilst Sally skirts around the issue, ‘Miss Hospital Corners’ as Harry calls her.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan)

The film follows the pair as they grow older and date various people.  I love their best friends Marie and Jess, played by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby.  Their presence and chemistry with Crystal and Ryan is perfect.  Harry and Sally become close in their 30’s, after bumping into one another in New York, and start hanging out, but can men and women ever really be just friends?

Sally: I have as much of a dark side as the next person.

Harry: Oh really? When I buy a book, I read the last page first.  That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends.  That, my friend, is a dark side.

Nora Ephron (RiP) wrote the screenplay.  She really hits the nail on the head as to the way men and women view each other and relationships, whilst always maintaining the pace and brilliant, witty banter.

This film is a fabulous advert for visiting New York, particularly in the Autumn.  Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are both at their most charming.  If you like your romance with spark and wit, with a touch of reality, then When Harry met Sally is for you.  The Harry Connick Jr soundtrack is perfectly suited throughout.

Harry: If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted…..  That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with.

This post is for my lovely friend Ali.  We have watched this film together since we were 18 and we know every line! xx

 

 

 

 

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

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I first watched this film with my best friend on a rainy day in Cambridge, in 2009.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the film and it also left us extremely keen to visit Barcelona, hence a trip is on the cards for next year!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona has an ensemble cast that I love; Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall.  The film follows two best friends (Vickie and Cristina) on holiday in Barcelona.  They are both very different personalities.

Vicky and Cristina

Vicky (Hall) is reserved, cautious and clever.  Vicky is studying for her Masters in Catalan Studies.  She is engaged to the nice, but slightly dull and ‘safe’ Doug.  Cristina (Johansson) is a creative, free spirit who is single.  She goes from one bad relationship to another and doesn’t know what to do with her life, so she decides to tag along with Vicky to Barcelona.

Juan Antonio with Cristina

Whilst staying at Vicky’s godparents, the girls explore Barcelona and meet seductive artist, Juan Antonio (Bardem).  They both like him and vice versa, but the reserved Vicky keeps this to herself and Cristina embarks on a relationship with Juan Antonio.  Throw into the mix the beautiful, but unstable, Maria Elena (Cruz) who turns up….Juan Antonio’s ex-wife who still loves him.

The real leading lady, after Penelope’s brilliant Oscar-winning turn as Maria Elena, is Barcelona itself.  Arty, creative, passionate and bewitching, much like Juan Antonio beckoning Vickie into something new and wonderful, with an element of risk.  Originally, Woody Allen wrote a screenplay that was based in San Francisco, I really cannot imagine this film anywhere else except Barcelona.

Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz)

Vicky: “No. Look, I’m not free. I’m committed. You know what my theory is? And when I drink, I get brutally frank. I think that you’re still hurting from the failure of your marriage to Maria Elena, and you’re trying to lose yourself in empty sex.”

Why do I love this film?  Vicky represents the cautious, ‘do what’s right’ side, play it safe side of myself.  Part of me is similar to Cristina, creative and still not sure what to do with my life.  I like the realness that Woody Allen brings to the relationships between these characters and whilst realistic, this film is still nonetheless charming and romantic..

 

Images: IMDb

 

Black Narcissus

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Powell & Pressburger’s Black Narcissus is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, along with The Red Shoes, The Life of Pi, Cinema Paradiso, Amelie and Malena.

Shot in 1947, this film did not have the special effects that today’s films use and yet it still delivers.  Many directors and actors cite Black Narcissus as a great example of stunning cinematography.

Black Narcissus

Beautiful as the film is, the cast and story are wonderful too.  I grew up watching a lot of movies from the 30’s and 40’s and what I like about these eras are the number of stories written for women.  These were proper stories instead of women running around in short skirts being ‘ditzy’.  Personally, I feel this is the best performance Deborah Kerr has given in a film.

A group of Anglican nuns move into what used to be an old palace in the Himalyas to set up a convent. They want to run a school to educate the local children, as well as administer first aid and help the sick.  Tensions start to mount between Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who is mentally unstable, and Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), who has only recently become Sister Superior.  The nuns rescue a young girl called Kanchi (Jean Simmons) from a beating and take her back to the convent to live.  They seem part-horrified, part-intrigued by the young girl’s blatant sexuality.  Caught up in this is Mr Dean (David Farrar) who acts as an agent between the nuns and the locals.  Sister Ruth sees that Mr Dean likes Sister Clodagh and becomes irrationally jealous of their burdening friendship as she likes him herself.  Things escalate and lead to a dramatic conclusion.

Sister Ruth with Kanchi

Even though the air is fresh, the mountains/surroundings are vast, the flowers bright, and the sky is blue, as a viewer you can feel the intense claustrophobia that starts to effect the nuns’ behaviour.  The old palace has a brooding menace that haunts every shadow and corner.  You can see how somebody already unwell could lose their mind.

Mr Dean with Sister Ruth

If you love old movies, beautiful cinematography and a good tale, then I thoroughly recommend Black Narcissus.

Sister Ruth and Sister Clodagh

What is the most beautiful film you have ever seen?

 

My Favourite Books: The Chocolat Trilogy

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I normally write about films, but, being one who hates being boxed in and this still being a fledgeling blog, I wanted to follow my compulsion to write about some of my favourite books.  Henceforth, here is my first book post.

Most people have heard of Chocolat by Joanne Harris, read it, and/or at watched the film adaptation, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.  I watched the film quite late after it’s release, in 2005, really enjoyed it and then bought the book (usually the other way round for me), which is even better.  When I realised that there was a sequel, The Lollipop Shoes was duly bought.  Then, in 2012, the third novel was released, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure and I bought it ‘hot off the press’.

Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

Chocolat follows Vianne (who lives like a traveller, going where the wind takes her) and her daughter, Anouk, who end up in the village of Lansquenet in the South-West of France.  They ruffle the feathers of the villagers by opening a chocolate shop during Lent.  Vianne also raises eyebrows with her free-spirited approach to parenting.  Their presence, along with Vianne’s divine chocolates, has a strange effect on people, bringing out their personalities and desires.  Will Vianne settle in Lansquenet and will the villagers accept her?

In the sequel, The Lollipop Shoes, we find Vianne and Anouk living in the Montmartre, Paris.  Vianne opens a new chocolate shop.  She also has had another daughter, Rosette, since the first novel.  A mysterious stranger, Zozie, turns up in their lives.  Zozie is charismatic and seemingly kind, but her intentions are far from good.  Tired, confidence lost and fed up of moving from place to place, how will Vianne deal with this threat to her family?

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure sees Vianne and her daughters return to Lansquenet, after Vianne receives a letter from an old adversary.  Things have changed in the village since she left and new troubles have been stirring.  Can Vianne help her old friends in Lansquenet?

I could not put these books down.  I feverishly read each one and literally could not wait to read them again.  Beautifully descriptive, Joanne Harris has created such wonderful characters that you cannot help, but fall for them, even Monsieur le Cure!

I particularly love The Lollipop Shoes.  The book ensnares you from the start and has the tone and pace of a modern fairytale for grown-up’s.  Departing more into fantasy than Chocolat, I feel the author has written the book she always wanted to.  Having holidayed in France as a child, I really feel the warmth for this wonderful country exuding from these books and accuracy in it’s depiction of village life.

To sum these books up, they are a joy to read. If you get as fed up with chick-lit and formulaic thrillers as I do, give these wonderful stories a try.  I hope you fall in love with them too.

Growing up with Star Wars

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I’ve mentioned before that when I was at first school, most of my friends wanted to be Sandy in Grease, but I wanted to be Princess Leia.  I even got my Mum to put my hair in Leia-type hairdo’s, involving plaits mostly.  The boys let me play as none of them wanted to be Leia.  They were too busy arguing over who was Han and who was Luke…..and Chewie and the droids.

Iconic scene from Star Wars: Luke on Tatooine

Any child born, or growing up, in the 70’s would literally have to have been from another planet if they had not at least seen, what is, the most famous movie saga in the world.  That instantly recognisable operatic movie score from John Williams.  The closest anything else has come to Star Wars is Harry Potter, but that is for another post.

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars, he was writing a space adventure for children to enjoy.  He never envisaged it would reach such stratospheric levels of fandom, love and devotion. He says he was inspired by westerns, the old-fashioned good vs. evil and that good always wins in the end.

The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Yoda

I remember my brothers collecting the Star Wars spaceships and figures.  I was bought My Little Pony and Barbie, which utterly bored me.  I was forever playing with Lego and Star Wars toys when I wasn’t riding my bike, or climbing trees.  I was a little tomboy.  Hence my admiration for Princess Leia.  I loved the scene in Return of the Jedi when she leaps on a speeder bike in pursuit of a biker scout, for example.  She didn’t wait for the boys to deal with the dilemma/problem.

That ending. Gulp….

I was 8 when I saw the Empire Strikes Back (the same year I saw ET) and I remember crying when Han got frozen, confusion at that paternity revelation and the ending.  It couldn’t end like that, could it?  As an adult, Empire is my favourite of the trilogy.  It is the operatic, dark, second act.  However, back to my childhood, I was relieved when good won out in Jedi and loved the cute ewoks, but my brothers found them annoying.  However, the boys got Leia in a gold bikini so they shouldn’t complain.

Return of the Jedi

My teens, which I hated, came and went.  In my early 20’s the trilogy was rereleased at cinemas ahead of the new prequel, The Phantom Menace.  I had never seen the films at the cinema as I was only 2 when Star Wars came out.  I dragged one of my best friends along and after seeing Star Wars, she really looked forward to the next two films.  Seeing certain scenes such as the X-Wing attack on the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City and the speeder bike chase on Endor was amazing.  To a child, this would be pure cinematic magic.

Wicket. Cute.

So, in 1999, the day tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace, I got up early and booked tickets for myself and two best friends for the first showing.  On the day, queues were going round the block and people were offering three or four times the price for a ticket, but nobody was selling.  There was an air of hushed excitement when we all filed in, which I’ve never experienced before in a cinema………it was all for nothing.  It just didn’t have the charm, or magic.  The best thing Star Wars-related that year was Simon Pegg’s episode of Spaced called ‘Chaos’.  Simon Pegg is another huge fan of the trilogy.

Mace Windu. Bad-Ass Jedi. Purple Lightsaber.

I dutifully watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, hoping things would improve, the latter film being the best of the prequels.  I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd who copped all the flak.  He was just a kid.  Lucas should have cast an older Anakin and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (forgiven because of Black Swan) were wooden and awful.  Then there was the awful Jar-Jar Binks….. There were a few good scenes and glimpses of what could have been, in all three movies.  Ewan McGregor hit his stride as Obi Wan in Clones and Revenge.  Darth Maul was the best thing in Phantom.  Mace Windu was the best thing about the whole trilogy.  Too cool for Jedi school.

Episode VII Cast Meeting

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  My 5 year old is now Star Wars obsessed.  Star Wars is his world.  Luke Skywalker is awesome and my son wants to be a Jedi when he grows up, alongside acting, directing and winning the Tour de France. Of course.  He will be 7 when Episode VII is released in December 2015.  I cannot wait to take him to the cinema, along with my husband, my brothers and nephews.  This is a film with huge expectations, build-up and excitement, much like Christmas.  I have every faith in JJ Abrams being the man for the job.  I think the force is strong in this one.

Images: IMDb

The 90’s: The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption regularly tops favourite and greatest film movie polls.  The film was only released in 1994, but it feels like it’s been around forever.  It didn’t perform well initially, although it only opened as a limited release.  When it was rereleased in 1995 because the film was nominated for seven Oscars (which, the film should have won IMO) the film performed much better at the box office.  Like many other brilliant films though (The Bourne Identity being a good example), The Shawshank Redemption came into it’s own when it was released on vhs, fast becoming a much loved movie.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A story by Stephen King, adapted into a screenplay and directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic.  Set in 1947, it tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned in the notorious Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover.  Andy maintains he is innocent, much to the bemusement of other inmates. The story is about this, but mainly about the improbable friendship that develops between Andy and Red, a ‘lifer’, played delightfully by Morgan Freeman.  Shawshank also focuses on the rather grim side of prison life and how Andy copes with it.

There are so many memorable moments in this movie, like when gentle prison librarian, Brooks, gets parole, but on returning to the outside world, he cannot cope with it.  Memorable moments in films are not always happy.  We need to remember that prisoners are human beings too.

Brooks

Then there is the quote below from my favourite scene in the movie, where Andy plays the Marriage of Figaro through the PA so the whole prison hears it.

Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Red and the other inmates

Why do fans (including myself) love this film so much?  Shawshank makes you feel sad, happy, angry, uplifted…..so many emotions throughout.  It’s an old-fashioned story about finding hope in a hopeless place.  The cast are fabulous and, for those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean when I say, what an ending! To describe the ending in any way for anybody who has not watched Shawshank, would ruin it.  You need to watch this film with an open mind and enjoy it……

Andy: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Andy and Red

Trivia:

Of all the brilliant work he has done, this is Morgan Freeman’s favourite film

Rob Reiner wanted to direct, with Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Red and Andy.  Thankfully Frank Darabont decided he would direct.  I don’t feel the movie would have been the same without Tim and Morgan in those roles.  You believe this friendship is real and that is the heart of this film.

Images: IMDb

My Movie Heroines

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There is always talk that there is a lack of role models/heroines/strong women in movies for young girls and women to look up to.  I disagree.  I made this list pretty quickly.  Male heroes are more ‘trumped up’ and we hear more about them, but it doesn’t make the heroines that exist less valid.  My list is compiled of my personal movie heroines, it is not complete and there are more I could add, but my post would be too long if I did.  I have made my list starting from the bottom.  I hope you enjoy reading and let me know in the comments section who your favourite movie heroine is and why!

18.  Roberta Waterbury – The Railway Children

Roberta (third from left) – The Railway Children

Selfless.  Risks her own life to stop a train from crashing.  Thinks quickly and calmly in an emergency.  Smart girl.

17.  Iris Henderson – The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Iris (2nd from left) – The Lady Vanishes

Persistent.  Can’t be fobbed off.  Whilst everybody tries to brush Iris off as a delusional and hysterical girl, she perseveres in finding the missing Miss Froy, with, or without help.  The recent tv version made Iris look like a hysterical girl.  Not impressed.

16.  Lola – Run Lola Run

Lola – Run Lola Run

Calm in a crisis.  Brave.  Quick on her feet.  Funky hair.  Lola is literally running to save her man’s life.  Refreshing for the girl to be the one saving the guy.

15.  Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook

Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook

Straight-talking.  Smart.  Funny.  Doesn’t put up with anyone being rude to her.  She knows a wounded soul when she sees one….because she is one too.  She saves Pat from himself and helps him find true love, not the fake love he thought he needed.

14.  Jo March – Little Women

Jo March – Little Women

Clever. Bookish.  Stubborn.  Free-spirited.  Ambitious.  She does not want to be shackled by what is seen as proper and right for a young woman in the time she lives in.  She wants to do her own thing and pursue her dream.

13.  Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs

Clarice Starling – Silence of the Lambs

Intelligent.  Calm.  Doesn’t scare easily.  In a ‘man’s job’.  It wasn’t that long ago when there weren’t many women in the FBI.  Dealt with Hannibal Lector when others couldn’t.

12.  Mattie Ross – True Grit

Mattie Ross – True Grit

Brave young girl.  Living in an unforgiving time, which was not kind to children or women.  Seeks justice for her family and will not give up until she gets it.

11.  Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Protective.  Kind.  Athletic.  Smart.  Takes her little sister’s place in the games to protect her.  Very handy with a bow and arrow.

10.  Sarah Connor – Terminator 2

Sarah Connor – Terminator 2

Athletic.  Tough.  Calm.  Trains until she could join the marines because she’s so tough.  All to protect her son and try and save mankind in the future.

9.  Black Widow – Avengers Assemble

Black Widow – Avengers

Kick-Ass.  Unflappable.  Daredevil.  Can hold her own in the Avengers/SHIELD environment.  Not impressed by all the testosterone flying around.

8.  The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo – Kill Bill

The Bride – Kill Bill

Strong.  Kick-Ass.  Intelligent.  Persistent.  She will not stop until she has taken vengeance against Bill and his assassins who murdered her unborn child and left her for dead, on her wedding day.  Besides, she makes a yellow tracksuit look cool.

7.  Hit Girl – Kick Ass

Hit Girl – Kick Ass

Small.  Mouthy (erm, one word springs to mind). Kick-Ass. Brave.  Vigilante.  Hit Girl proves that size certainly does not matter and holds her own against so called tough guys/villains.

6.  Ellen Ripley – Aliens

Ellen Ripley – Aliens

Protective.  Maternal.  Brave.  Strong.  Intelligent.  I mean, come on, have you seen the films?  Look what Ripley was up against. One cool lady.

5.  Mystique – X-Men series

Mystique – X-Men

Blue.  Kick-Ass.  Strong.  Loyal.  Knows what she wants.  No pushover.  I love that Mystique (after First Class) is comfortable in her own skin.  She doesn’t see why she should have to conform to a certain look and feels she should be accepted for who she is.  I love that.  Very relevant to young girls who think there is only one acceptable body shape, thanks to the media.

4.  Eowyn – Lord of the Rings

Eowyn – Lord of the Rings

Still waters……  Does not sit on the sidelines.  Brave.  Eowyn is a brilliant swordswoman.  She wants the chance to fight for her land and people, just as the men do.  Disguises as a man and manages to enter the battlefield.  Kills the Witch-King.

The Witch-King: “No man may kill me!”

Eowyn: “I am no man!”

3.  Violette Szabo – Carve her name with Pride

Violet Szabo – Carve Her Name with Pride

Intelligent.  Brave.  Calm.  Fluent in French.  Worked as a special ops agent for the British during the second world war. During her second mission, she got captured, was tortured and interrogated before being executed.  Amazing lady and this was a true story.

2.  Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter

Studious.  Bookish.  Intelligent.  Extremely Polite.  Caring.  Amazing witch.  Most loyal friend ever.  For young girls, Hermione is a brilliant character to look up to.  She knows her education and studying are important, she does what is right and she stands by her friends.

“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!”

1.  Princess Leia – Star Wars saga

Princess Leia – Star Wars

Regal.  Witty.  Clever.  Handy with a blaster and speeder bike. Calm.  Han Solo-snaring.  There weren’t many heroines in films when I was little that would have made this list.  There were too many princesses of the Disney type, or screaming bimbos.  Princess Leia is the first one that made an impression on me.  I like the way she spoke and handled herself.

Leia:  “Somebody has to save our skins……into the garbage chute fly-boy!”

 

Images: IMDb