Valentine Special – A tribute to the film-related influences that inspire ‘Hearts Want’

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Today is actually the only night where I don’t have somewhere to be this week which is a treat for me. So my hubby and I are going to get some takeout from one of our fave restaurants (most likely Thai) while my hubby treat us w/ some chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. #yum

I often post something romance-related on V-day, such as favorite unconventionally-romantic films, cinematic romances or favorite romantic couples. But for this year I thought, since my short film is an indie romance, why not share some of my film influences (whether it’s authors, filmmakers, talents or films) over the years. My short film is a subset of the feature screenplay of the same name. It centers on former lovers Lily & Jacques who reunite for a play by their drama teacher after seven years apart.

If you haven’t seen it yet, below is the teaser to my short film…

Jane Austen

This is no surprise at all to those who’ve read my blog regularly or follow my filmmaking journey. I mentioned in my the film’s crowdfunding campaign that the story is partly inspired by my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.

There’s something so timeless about long lost love and second chances… and how the heart doesn’t always fully recover no matter how long time has passed.

A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman… He ought not. He does not.
– Captain Wentworth

Seven years has passed when Anne Elliot were reunited with Captain Wentworth, but he hasn’t forgiven the fact that she had broken their engagement. The agony of repressed feelings and fear of losing the ones they truly love is something so relatable even in modern society… and the fact that the story is told from Anne’s perspective, a woman, makes it all the more significantly poignant.

I love that in Persuasion, Anne pointed out to Wentworth’s friend Captain Harville that many literary works in that day were all written by men. ‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story’ Anne says. That’s all the more reason I wanted to tell Hearts Want from the woman’s perspective, who also has to own up to the decision she made seven years prior when she left the man she loved.

The beauty of Austen’s work is that they’re filled with wonderful, fully-formed female characters! Yes there are iconic men like Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, but for me, it’s the inner strength of Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood that always inspire me. Their patience and endurance seems like a lost art in today’s world, but don’t let their demure demeanor fool you, nor mistake their perseverance for weakness. As I’ve mentioned in this post, Elinor loves ardently but she’s also fiercely realistic and principled, and she perseveres despite her emotional suffering. In essence, she is a survivor.


Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Though I don’t go to the theatre as much as I would have liked, I’ve always been fascinated by the world of theatre. I have seen Phantom of the Opera three times on stage, including the not-so-successful sequel Love Never Dies in Adelphi Theatre, London.

The critics panned this cinematic adaptation but I LOVE the lush visuals and sensuality of this POTO adaptation. There’s such a titillating mystery of love in a historic, vintage theatre. The setting of where a film is set can add so much to the atmosphere and mood of the film, especially in a romance. That’s part of the reason I set the love story of Hearts Want in a theatre and I insisted that we filmed it in 100+ year-old The Southern Theatre in Minneapolis. It may not look like it from the outside but the inside could’ve been an antique theatre somewhere in Europe.


Amma Assante’s Belle

As a fan of period dramas, I’ve seen a boat load of them, but it’s rare to see a strong woman of color at the center of the story. Belle is a historical romance set in 18th century England, so naturally it’s scandalous for a prominent figure in London society to take in a mixed-race girl as an adopted daughter.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in ‘Belle’

I love that Belle is an intelligent, elegant and headstrong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her own mind. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is exquisite in the title role and her beauty definitely inspires my female protagonist Lily, who’s a mixed-race woman born in London.


Jane Eyre

True love is never easy. It doesn’t get more tumultuous than Jane & Rochester’s gothic romance. As the old adage says… “If you love someone set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” Easier said (or watched) than done, surely.

Every time I watched a Jane Eyre adaptations (the 1983 with Zelah Clarke & Timothy Dalton and 2006 version with Ruth Wilson & Toby Stephens are my personal faves), I’m always in awe of Jane’s resolve to stick to her principles.

Inspiration can truly come from many forms. I don’t usually listen to pop music, my car radio is always tuned to Classical MPR, so I often come across certain songs from YouTube. I remember seeing this music video of 1983 Jane Eyre set to a song called The Reason. I thought the lyrics about being sorry for the hurt one’s caused and wanting to start anew resonates with me so much… we all have made mistakes in the past, don’t we all wish we get a second chance to make things right?


Stanley Weber

Every writer needs a muse 😉 This dashing Frenchman isn’t exactly the first actor who’ve inspired me in my literary journey. A certain Scotsman actually inspired me to write a novel that I never got around to finishing.

But Stanley is the first actor who’ve inspired my first screenplay! It just so happens I had seen him in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as I just started writing my script and I was instantly smitten.

Photo by Madame Figaro magazine

Yes, the tall, wavy-haired, blue-eyed actor is extremely easy on the eyes, but the more I learned about him, the more I was intrigued by his versatility as an actor (juggling theatre, tv and movies in his native France and beyond) as well as his zest for life. I’d think that people who has such a passion for life would just be as passionate about love when he falls for someone. The Parisian also seems like a free spirit with a voracious love for the ocean (hence the sailing scene in Hearts Want), motorbikes, and traveling. Heck even his Instagram photos are inspiring!

If I had a time machine, I’d transport myself to Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris to see Stanley on stage in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Interestingly enough, the play has a Minnesota roots as the protagonist is from St. Paul! There are similarities between the play’s male character Mat Burke to Hearts Want‘s Jacques, in fact, my feature script opens with a scene from this very play!

So yeah, thank you for the inspiration Stanley… he’s definitely my dream leading man if I ever get to make the full version of Hearts Want 😉

Casablanca/Roman Holiday

The ‘love is letting go’ theme is perhaps more beautiful to witness in the movies than to experience in real life. Few romances are as heart-wrenching as the love story of Rick and Ilsa set during WWII. The WWII-themed play at the beginning of Hearts Want‘s short was partly inspired by this film, though the leather bomber jacket Jacques’ sporting is directly inspired by Gregory Peck’s 12 O’Clock High.

Speaking of Mr. Peck, some of you might know I was at one time obsessed with him. In fact I still owned a bunch of his dvds. The one that gets played a ton is Roman Holiday, and that beautiful but bittersweet finale gets me every single time.

I’ve mentioned that exquisite scene in my tribute to Roman Holiday

Joe walking alone in the empty palace corridor as everyone has left, his steps echoing as he reluctantly leaves the building. As he passes the two guards, he still takes a glimpse towards the stage once more. Empty. The music swells up, forcing us to realize they’re never going to see each other again. Joe keeps on walking towards the camera and disappears, carrying the memory of that day in Rome that he too will cherish for as long as he lives. Best. Finale. Ev-er.


Her

I remember seeing this film on a nearly empty theatre at a press screening and I almost couldn’t move when the end credits rolled. It’s the story of a lonely writer dealing with an impending divorce who finds love when he least expects it. There’s such a captivating male vulnerability in Joaquin Phoenix’s soulful performance as he slowly but intensely falls for his AI Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson).

The euphoric joy and intense sadness he feels for Samantha is so palpable, it’s perhaps one of the most emotional love story I’ve ever seen. Just because the love story is not between two human beings doesn’t make it less emotional. Samantha said it best…

“Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a socially-acceptable form of insanity.”


Age of Innocence

I recall a review that says something about the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain depicted in this film. It’s certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.

Newland Archer: You give me a first glimpse of a real life, and you ask me to carry on with a false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Visually-ravishing as well as a visceral depiction of the agony of love. I guess I’m a sucker for tragic tale of impossible love, which has been done countless times, but few are as beautifully-crafted as this one.


Notting Hill

Last but not least… I have to include at least one rom-com and nobody does the genre as well as Richard Curtis! The Anglophile in me naturally gravitates towards the London scenery, which is practically a character in itself in the film! It really makes me want to set my story in England, though I ended up choosing a small seaside town south of London that has a prominent theatre Hearts Want, it’s called Chichester. There is one a similarity between Julia Roberts’ Anna Scott in that my protagonist Lily is a successful actress, but of course the circumstances of the story is completely different.

In any case, I thought the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the film’s protagonist and the world he lives in.


Ok so I don’t necessarily count Shakespeare as one of my major influences, despite having seen quite a number of his plays. But I’ve always admired playwrights, hence I have a playwright (Martin) as a prominent character in my feature script and Hearts Want is the name of his play that reunited Lily & Jacques.

The Bard certainly knows a thing or two about writing romances. As he says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

The course of true love never did run smooth.


Thoughts on these talents/films? What are some of your own film influences?

,,,

Wordless Wednesday: the unrequited love of ‘The Age of Innocence’

WordlessWednesdayIn honor of the double birthday of Michelle Pfeiffer (57) and Daniel Day-Lewis (58), I thought I’d highlight their work (and scorching chemistry) in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. It remains one of my all time favorite period dramas (and one of my faves of the 90s), and that unrequited love story never fails to move me to my core.

Words fail me to describe the beauty of this story… so I’m going to borrow the words of Roger Ebert: “It was the spirit of it — the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain. The idea that the mere touching of a woman’s hand would suffice. The idea that seeing her across the room would keep him alive for another year.”
AgeOfInnocenceageofinnocence_still

Newland Archer: You gave me my first glimpse of a real life. Then you asked me to go on with the false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

tumblr_li78h0dD3V1qzyy9go1_r1_500

Ellen: I think we should look at reality, not dreams.

Newland: I just want us to be together!

Ellen: I can’t be your wife, Newland! Is it your idea that I should live with you as your mistress?

Newland: I want… Somehow, I want to get away with you… and… and find a world where words like that don’t exist!

ageofinnocence_still2This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.


What’s your thoughts on The Age of Innocence?

Flix Blog-a-thon: Double Feature Theater

A few weeks ago, my blog pal Marc from Go, See Talk invited a bunch of us to participate in this fun blog-a-thon called “Double Feature Theater”.

The idea here is that we all get to imagine ourselves as bona fide Theater owners. As such we set up our schedule for a week’s worth of Double Features Monday-Saturday, with a Triple Feature on Sunday. The criteria is completely up to you to pair the movies be it actors, directors, a common theme, original/remake, you name it. Start your post beginning what you’d show on Monday, a sentence or two of why or how they’re related and so on for the rest of your fictitious week.

Truthfully, I rarely go see two movies back to back. The only time I’ve actually seen a Double Feature in a theater was when I was 15 with my mother and one of my brothers on New Year’s Eve (it was the last time I went to the movies with my mother as she passed away six months later). The movies? Tango & Cash and Showdown in Little Tokyo! Yes, my mom was pretty cool indeed 😀 I still smile every time I remember that, I actually don’t recall much from either films, but the experience of going to see them with my mom will always be dear to my heart.

With that in mind, I’m going with a bit of nostalgia them for most of my Double Feature Cinema week. Ready? Here we go…

MONDAY – Comedy


Well, what else could beat the Monday blues but a pair of side-splitting comedies! If you haven’t seen The Gods Must be Crazy yet, then you’re in for a treat! I picked this one as a movie that always makes me laugh meme last year, and once you see the trailer you’ll know why. Top Secret is one of my all time guilty pleasure, this spoof of WII spy movies is a brainless, riotous fun in the vein of Naked Gun and Hot Shots. Val Kilmer is a hoot as a rock ‘n roll singer getting caught in a Resistance scheme, oh and Omar Sharif also had a silly cameo!

TUESDAY – Action

Ok, with work piling up and workload mounting, why not get some release by watching some bombastic shoot-em-up? Both Die Hard and Face/Off have some awesome villains (both Hans Gruber & Castor Troy get a mention on my bad boys list), plus the full-on action with quotable one liners make these two fun to watch back to back.

WEDNESDAY – Science Fiction


These two are considered the top of this genre for good reason. I had recently re-watched The Matrix on Blu-ray and it still delivered that ‘whoa’ moment. The thought-provoking ‘what is reality?’ premise as well as the kick-ass action sequences set the bar for sci-fi action movies since. As for Jurassic Park, it’s definitely in my top 3 favorite Spielberg movies. I can never forget the moment the chopper descended on the island with John Williams’ iconic theme song in the background. I still get goosebumps when John Hammond says with utmost glee, “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”

THURSDAY – Crime Thriller


It might be a bit heavy to watch two of the most intense crime thrillers on the same night. But if you can handle Heat and L.A. Confidential combo, I think it would be one helluva time at the movies! The ensemble cast & performances are top notch here, and so are the plot twists and turns that will get you talking about ’em all over again. I think these two films are the best work from director Michael Mann and Curtis Hanson, respectively.

FRIDAY – Romance


Ahhh… Friday is here. Why not take your dates to see a little… ok, a lot of romance 😀 Both Moulin Rouge! and Somewhere in Time are both period dramas that takes place just a couple of decades apart, both are hopelessly romantic, even if they’re a bit on the dismal side. But hey, you’ve got some wonderful music and gorgeous people falling head over heels in love to keep you spellbound for a few hours, what’s not to love?

SATURDAY – Period Dramas


It wouldn’t be a complete week in my theater without some mesmerizing period dramas. It’s no surprise I adore Sense & Sensibility. It’s one of the movies I love with a passion and one that has a bunch of memorable rain scenes. Throw in the best crop of British cast, including one of my all time favorite Alan Rickman, naturally it’s one that I would always recommend.

The second feature, The Age of Innocence takes all that pent-up passion up a few notches, courtesy of Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer’s explosive chemistry. The unrequited love story is heartbreaking, and never has the display of unbridled desire coupled with intense anguish be more bewitching to watch. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also marvel at the gorgeous cinematography, oh and the stunning opening sequence.

TRIPLE FEATURE SUNDAY – Superhero movies

Well, after all that romantic stuff, do you think I gonna let my geeky side go by the wayside? Not a chance! 😀 So for the Triple Feature Sunday, I’ll be featuring three of my favorite superhero movies! Trust me, it’s really hard to narrow it down to just 3. I was going to include the first Superman movie which I think is still the best of the franchise, but I decided to go with Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins instead. For the third feature, I figure it might be interesting to combine both the Marvel and DC superhero movies with a film that deconstructs the whole superhero mythology altogether: Unbreakable. I admire M. Night Shyamalan’s original concept, an impressively poignant and nuanced film that delves deep into the basic notion of good vs. evil.


Well, I hope you enjoy what I’ve got playing on my theater for the week. Which day(s) would you be stopping by?

The Art of Movie Title Sequences … and My Top Ten Favorites

Hello all, this is my last post for at least a week as I’m flying to London tomorrow night (God willing the volcanic ash doesn’t wreak havoc on our travel plans!). However, look for two special guest posts next week so please check back later.

I promised on my Rocknrolla post last Friday that I’ll be posting my top ten favorite movie sequences. But before we get to that, let me share a few great websites on movie titles. One in particular, watchthetitles.com, with the fitting tagline ‘Forget the film, watch the titles‘, has a nice way of saying what a great movie title is all about:

The very best title sequences not only succeed in putting the audience in the right mood for the movie, they transcend their proper function and venture off into the realm of something far deeper and far greater. They are the signifiers of contemporary pop culture and an art form in their own right.

The pioneer in this business is a graphic designer by the name of Saul Bass (view his bio courtesy of DesignMuseum), who’s collaborated with famous movie directors the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese. His most famous work include the opening titles for Psycho, Vertigo, Spartacus, and in the 90s, he created the title design for four of Scorsese’s movies: Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence and Casino.

Another cool resource for movie titles is artofthetitle.com, which features film and television title design from around the world. They also feature interviews with the designers themselves, such as Kyle Cooper, whose work I admire (a lot of them are in my top ten below). Oh and this site list their top ten James Bond opening sequences, I remember growing up watching those sexy opening montage with girls and guns, which are considered risqué where I came from that they actually censored the bare breast of the underwater dancing girl in For Your Eyes Only! As cool as those were back then, I’m sick of seeing those sexist visuals of girls dangling off of a gun, slithering/gyrating away, which is why the title sequence for Casino Royale is such a breath of fresh air!

I think movie titles, whether they appear at the beginning or the end of the movie, are part of the fun of watching movies, in a lot of cases, they’re better and far more entertaining than the movies themselves. With that said, I give you my top ten favorites (in random order):

1. Stranger than Fiction

..

2. The Age of Innocence


3. Casino Royale

..


4. 300



5. The Incredible Hulk

Courtesy of Artofthetitle.com

» View the video and read Kyle Cooper’s interview in artofthetitle.com

6. Up in the Air

Courtesy of Artofthetitle.com

» View the behind-the-scenes video on makingof.com site.

7. Sherlock Holmes



8. Thank You for Smoking
…v


9. Catch Me If You Can


….

10. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


So your turn, folks. Please share some of your favorite title sequences!