APRIL Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

AprilRecap

Spring is in the air!! It’s still relatively cool this weekend and the sun was being bashful yesterday so we spent some time at Minneapolis Museum of Art on Saturday during its Art in Bloom exhibition. It’s so lovely to see cherry blossom tree bloomin’ at the park across the street… it was a perfect Spring day!

MplsParkSpring

So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(click on image to read my reviews on those marked w/ an asterisk)

Born to Be Blue
Born to Be Blue

MeetThePatels
Meet the Patels*

The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book*

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire*

Look Who's Back
Look Who’s Back

Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship

The Lobster
The Lobster

Purple Rain
Purple Rain


Films watched at MSPIFF

Bollywood Hollywood
Bollywood Hollywood

My Internship in Canada
My Internship in Canada*

MrPig
Mr. Pig*

Beeba Boys
Beeba Boys*

Dragonfly
Dragonfly*

A Copy Of My Mind
A Copy Of My Mind*

The Fencer
The Fencer*

L'Attesa
L’Attesa*

Sing Street
Sing Street


I ended up seeing only nine films at MSPIFF on the big screen. Alas, I didn’t have time to watch any of the online screeners, but I hope to watch them later this month. If I had to pick three out of the ones I’ve seen at MSPIFF, it’d be The Fencer, Beeba Boys and Sing Street. So in total I watched 17 new-to-me movies which is quite a lot by my standards! I’ve reviewed pretty much ALL of the MSPIFF films except for Sing Street which I will do so next week!

Rewatches

Of course I’ll always make time for Sam Riley, so I rewatched the WWII drama Suite Francaise with my girlfriends on movie night on the first week of April, and Control which is still as cool and heartbreaking as the first time I saw it. There’s always time for period dramas too, of course, so I did manage to fit in the BBC miniseries of Sense & Sensibility after I saw the delightful Love & Friendship that’s based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel. I also watched The Mummy, we weren’t planning on it but saw it came across the screen as we’re browsing Netflix and thought, what the heck. It was still pretty entertaining, though the whole time I was thinking about Brendan Fraser’s dismal career trajectory. So apparently the reboot starring Tom Cruise is set for June 2017!

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MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

I’ve watched quite a few music-related films lately, be that biopics or fiction, and I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit. It was tough to pick just one favorite this month given how many great indie films I’ve seen this past month. But I picked two that no doubt have awesome 80s-themed soundtracks as well as being immensely entertaining. So it’s three for three for John Carney, as I’ve enjoyed all three of his feature films so far (the first two being Once and Begin Again). Nice to see Carney went back to his Irish roots with Sing Street.

As for Purple Rain, it was a bittersweet experience watching it. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before yesterday, but I certainly ended April movie watching with a bang. The live performances were really the reason to see this, but Prince were decent in the dramatic scenes too, plus it’s a treat to see Minneapolis (esp First Avenue club) being featured prominently. Of course I teared up during the Purple Rain scene. Prince was absolutely phenomenal as one would expect, but that song was also very emotional in the context of the film (in which his character dedicated to his dad) and also emotional given the music icon’s no longer with us.

MoviesOftheMonth


Well that’s my recap of April. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

April 2016 Blindspot: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

StreetcarNamedDesire

It’s been ages since I wanted to see A Streetcar Named Desire, not sure why I’ve put it off. I feel like I have watched it as one day I actually watched a bunch of clips from this film on youtube. There’s of course the famous scene where Brando yelled ‘Stellaaaaaaa…!’ that’s been parodied many times over, but I definitely need to see it to understand the significance of this steamy Southern classic.

Based on a hit play by Tennessee Williams, it’s one of those rare films that happen to be directed by the same person who did the original Broadway production, Elia Kazan. It’s interesting to see Vivien Leigh as yet another Southern belle, as I’ve only seen her in Gone With The Wind (1939), but really, the appeal of this film for me is Marlon Brando, whose brutish performance is the quintessential sexy bad boy.

As with any of my blindspot reviews, there are definitely spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film yet, proceed with caution.

First Impressions

Well, what can I say… my first impression had more to do with Marlon Brando. Can you blame me? I mean look. at. him.

tumblr_o2qnvyjTWj1qd6639o1_500tumblr_o2qnvyjTWj1qd6639o3_500 From the first moment he came on to the screen when he saw his sister in-law Blanche at his house, Brando’s definitely got a magnetic presence like nobody’s business.


The trivia section of this movie on IMDb is filled with interesting tidbits. So apparently fitted t-shirts could not be bought at the time, so Brando’s apparel had to be washed several times and then the back stitched up, to appear tightly over the actor’s chest.

Err, what was I talking about again?

Ok so obviously there’s SO much more to the movie than Brando’s immense sex appeal, though obviously this role cemented his sex-symbol status.

A classic story adapted beautifully on the big screen

I could see why there are still countless stage adaptations of Williams’ classic story all over the world. Even though time has changed and to a certain degree, gender roles and social norms have evolved, the very core of the human condition still remains. Stories that deals with obsession, distorted reality, fears of aging, etc. are still relevant today and will always remain so. The film version underwent a major change in terms of the homosexuality of Blanche’s late husband, due to the Production Code demands that the film toned it down. The same with the depiction of rape, though it’s implied that Stanley did rape Blanche with the scene of smashed mirror and a firehose spurting onto the street.

StreetcarNamedDesire_mirror

It was a clever way Kazan dealt with the strict Code, and also when Stella was in bed the morning after Stanley hit her. She had a big, gleeful grin on her face that indicated they had um, a very satisfying make-up sex.

Kazan’s big screen adaptation not only look beautiful in black and white, but it has an atmospheric and moody feel to it. I read that he worked closely with the production designer to create the authentically sordid look and literally had the walls around Brando and Leigh closed in on them during filming to create a claustrophobic tension within the space. Well that worked because that constricted feeling practically ricochets off the screen and into my living room!

Blanche and Stanley are such an interesting pair to watch on screen because there’s all this nervous energy around them. They’re attracted as well as repulsed by each other at the same time, at times they couldn’t even reconcile the two, which creates such interesting dynamic.


Kazan doesn’t immediately expose that Blanche’s dark past and the fact that she’s got mental issues, but it’s more of a steady buildup that escalates to the boiling point. The more her brutish brother in-law relentlessly torments her, the more she goes off the rails.

I’m constantly torn in how I feel for the characters as well, which is what a good movie should. A good character is not simple, one-dimensional and how we feel about a character could (and perhaps should) change as the movie progresses. Well, I initially feels sorry for Blanche but also exasperated by her, even if she couldn’t control it. As with Stanley, what starts out as a carnal attraction to this brooding, hunky man (as any full-blooded woman would) quickly changes to disgust and repulsion. I literally want to strangle him many times as I watch the movie, especially his treatment of his pregnant wife!

StreetcarNamedDesire_Brando_Hunter

Performance wise, the film definitely belonged to Leigh and Brando. The British actress played yet another American Southern belle but in a completely different role. Leigh definitely got to display her vulnerability even more, especially towards the end when Blanche’s gone completely mental. It’s interesting that she had played the character in the London production under her husband Laurence Olivier’s direction. Per IMDb, she later said that Olivier’s direction of that production influenced her performance in the film more than Elia Kazan’s in this film.

Brando has had many memorable roles in his illustrious career, but no doubt this is one of the earlier ones he’s most remembered for. His intensity is second to none, there’s few actors who are as explosive on screen in terms of presence and charisma as Brando.

Kim Hunter was pretty memorable as Stella, but I think every cast member was practically outshone by the two leads. So was Karl Malden as Blanche’s potential suitor. I think both were believable in the roles, it just didn’t leave a lasting impression to me. I guess it has less to do with their performances, but more about the strength of the two leads. I wish Brando had won Best Actor as well, but then again I hadn’t seen the other male performers of that year.

StreetcarNamedDesire_KarlMalden

Does it live up to the hype?

The film won four Oscars out of twelve nominations and also rank #47 in AFI Top 100 Films. Elia Kazan was certainly one of those stellar directors who have won acclaimed in film AND on broadway, winning multiple Oscars as well as Tony awards. I’m always astonished when a story could work as well on stage as on screen.

I have never seen the stage adaptation, but my impression of the film was that it was sexy, gritty, but deeply unsettling to the point that by the end I was just quite revolted by the whole thing. None of the characters are likable except for Stella, Blanche DuBois’ devoted younger sister. I think that was the point though. This wasn’t going to be a cheerful movie with a happy ending and there’s also very little humor to give you relief from all that tension.

StreetcarNamedDesire_Stella

I’m glad I’ve finally watched this film from start to finish. It’s one that won’t easily escape from one’s memory. I have to say though, compared to other classics like say, Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or Roman Holiday, I’m not sure this is something I’m keen on watching again. It’s just not a pleasant film overall, and I don’t find it to be an emotionally-gratifying film either as it’s hard to care for any of the characters. That said, it’s definitely essential viewing for cinephiles. The story is such an intriguing character study that is chock full of riveting-but-inherently-imperfect relationships.

Final Thoughts:

The film ending is apparently different from the stage version. In the film, Stella no longer trusts her husband and she took her baby and leaves. We hear Stanley yelling ‘Stellaaaa….’ again as he did in the most famous scene in the film. I read that in the stage version, Stella chooses to be with Stanley as her sister is escorted to a mental institution. I’m not sure which version I prefer, I think it’s riskier to have an ending that isn’t tied neatly with a big red bow, though not necessarily better.

Regardless of the different ending, there are certainly plenty of thought provoking themes to grapple with. Delusion, denial, forbidden passion, and tragic irony… Williams’ timeless play has all the ingredients for an engrossing story, and Elia Kazan certainly had what it takes to do it justice… both on stage AND on screen.

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Check out my full 2016 lineup by clicking the graphic below

Blindspot2016


Have you seen A Streetcar Named Desire? I’d love to hear what you think!

2016 BLIND SPOT series film picks

Blindspot2016Ok, so I dropped the ball last year on this Blindspot series as I wanted to spend more time on my script. I’ve also blogged a lot less for the same reason and will continue doing so until my script is done. But given how much I’ve enjoyed discovering *old classics* or acclaimed films I’ve missed over the years, I thought I’d do it again this year. But instead of doing 12 films, I opt to do just 10 films in 2016.

As I did last year, I try to cover a variety of genres here, and include at least one that I don’t normally go for. In this case, I include… I’m also putting in one of the films I missed in 2015 (The Big Sleep). I included mostly classic films here but there are a couple that fulfilled two criteria I wanted to be represented on my list: a foreign film that’s preferably directed by a woman. Well, After the Wedding is an Oscar-nominated Danish film by Susanne Bier and Andrea Arnold‘s Fish Tank fit perfectly. I also have to have at least one period drama on here, and why not one directed by a woman (Sofia Copolla’s Marie Antoinette) as I’ve pledged to participate Women in Film‘s #52FilmsByWomen movement. Do join if you haven’t already!

Anyhoo, here’s my 10 picks in alphabetical order:

  1. 8 1/2 (1963)
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  3. After the Wedding (2006)
  4. American Graffiti (1973)
  5. Fish Tank (2009)
  6. Funny Face (1957)
  7. Laura (1944)
  8. Marie Antoinette (2006)
  9. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  10. The Big Sleep (1946)


Per usual, I will just pick at random which film I want to see in a given month and I shall try to publish it in the first week of every month.


The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.


Well, have you seen any of these films? Which one(s) are your favorite?