A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for in 2016

24thankfulthings2016

To all my friends celebrating Thanksgiving today… I hope that you’re all enjoying yourselves, whether it’s time spent together with family/friends or just chillin’ with your loved ones (like my hubby and I). It’s nice to be able to sleep in today and going to dinner/movies later today. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 🙂

This has been quite a tumultuous year to say the least… but I always try to focus on the positive side of things. As this is a film blog, I thought I’d take the time to express my gratitude for blogging/cinematic-related things I’ve been blessed with this year… so naturally I have to start with…

1. My blogging friends who’ve supported my blog and comment regularly… Jordan, Keith, Cindy, Steven, Michael, Margaret, Jenna/Allie, Courtney, Nostra, Dan, Jay/Sean, Brittani, etc.

2. Living in a city with not one but TWO robust film festivals… TCFF and MSPIFF!

3. Being a part of TCFF staff as the official blogger, which allows me to meet wonderful filmmakers and talents.

4. Discovering indie gems at film festivals (esp. Blood Stripe and Moonlight at TCFF, and Beeba Boys and The Fencer at MSPIFF)


5. The wonderful opportunity to meet Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill during the MN screening of The Trouble With The Truth.

6. Discovering awesome new actors I’d love to see more of (I’ll be blogging separately on this later next month), special shout out to Kate Nowlin & Dominic Rains!


7. Getting an interview with the composer of Age of Adaline, Rob Simonsen, one of my favorite soundtracks I recently discovered.

8. The breathtaking New Zealand scenery in one of my fave films of the year, Hunt For the Wilderpeople.

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9. The amazing trifecta performance from the actors portraying Chiron in Moonlight

10. Wonderful classic films like Casablanca, which I rewatched on Thanksgiving eve.

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11. Female filmmakers in Hollywood & beyond…  here’s hoping to see even more of them in years to come!

12. Amy Adams’ performance in Arrival

13. Sam Riley‘s wonderfully-amusing performance as Mr Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

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14. Aneurin Barnard‘s soulful performance as Richard III in The White Queen miniseries (that spurred my obsession on the last Plantagenet King.

15. The delightful Love & Friendship & discovering the droll Tom Bennett as the scene-stealing Sir James Martin.

16. Awesome Marvel series on Netflix: Daredevil + Jessica Jones (hoping to catch Luke Cage soon!)

17. The Wonder Woman trailer… which I’m feverishly anticipating to see come Summer 2017!

18. The fun cast of The Magnificent Seven remake

19. The wonderful,  music of Sing Street… a love letter to the 80s and the power of music.

20. Viggo Mortensen‘s bravura performance in Captain Fantastic.

21. The arresting beauty of Jeff Nichols’ film LOVING, and the affecting performances of Ruth Negga + Joel Edgerton.

22. The wonderfully uplifting Queen Of Katwe, featuring wonderful performances of Lupita Nyong’O + David Oyelowo.

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23. The originality and thought-provoking concept of The Lobster

24. Last but not least… I’m thankful that I finished my script this year… plus having the opportunity to do a script reading later in January! 🙂

 


What are some of the things you are THANKFUL FOR this year? 

41 favorite cinematic things to celebrate my b’day

So today’s my birthday. I’ve been blessed to have been alive for 41 years! I have no qualms about admitting how old I am, heck you’re only as *old* as you feel and I feel forever 21 😉

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I was wondering what post to do for my b’day. I did a list of Favorite Films from Each Decade I Live Through last year and y’know what, I still love a bunch of stuff on that list. Just like many things in life, over the years you may feel differently about certain things and the same with cinema. You may grow to love something you weren’t into, or the other way around. So today, I want to highlight the enduring cinematic things that I still love to this day (and probably forever) … as well as new faves I discovered recently 😉

1. The oh-so-heartbreaking unrequited love in The Age of Innocence

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2. Timothy Dalton as James Bond

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3. Nora Ephron’s rom-coms… esp. Sleepless in Seattle & You’ve Got Mail

4. Spellbound… for introducing me to the impossibly beautiful Gregory Peck
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5. Casino Royale & Eva Green as Vesper

6. Period dramas based on the works of my literary heroines: Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell (North & South) & Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

7. Emma Thompson’s brilliant screenplay for Sense & SensibilityElinorQuote

8.  Roman Holiday (1959)

9. Gladiator (2000)

10. Sam Riley as leather-wearing, Samurai-wielding, bad-ass Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

11. Tango scenes in movies

12. Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon (Sense & Sensibility)

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13. Superman: The Movie… Christopher Reeve shall always be MY Superman

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14. John Williams’ Jurassic Park‘s score

15. The Gods Must Be Crazy… movie from my childhood that still makes me laugh

16. Phantom of the Opera (2004)

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17.The beautiful period drama Belle… and its star Gugu Mbatha-Raw 

18. Harrison Ford & Sean Connery pairing in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade

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19. Julia Ormond’s Sabrina

20. Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester (BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006)

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21. The immensely under-appreciated Return to Me (2000)

22. Casablanca (1942)… a classic epic I’m glad I got to see on the big screen

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23. Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral

24. One of the first Hollywood films I ever saw… Gone with the Wind (1939)

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25. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) … guaranteed to make me laugh for years to come

26. The exquisite scenery of Not Another Happy Ending… Glasgow AND Stanley Weber

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27. Great journalism movies… i.e. All the President’s Men

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28. The Bourne Trilogy

29. John Barry’s music for Somewhere in Time

30. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

31. Heath Ledger & Christian Bale in The Dark Knight

32. Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton (BBC’s North & South 2004)

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33. The musical scenes of The Sound of Music (1965)


34. Awesome movie car chases

35. Idris Elba (’nuff said)

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36. These 10 James Bond’s songs 

37. Hand-touching in period dramas


38. Disney Princesses Movies, especially Sleeping Beauty

39. Evocative rain scenes in movies i.e. this one from the sci-fi drama Franklyn (2008) w/ Sam Riley and Eva Green

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40. Paris in the movies

41. Last but not least… movies about writers, i.e. Sam Riley as Sal Paradise in On The Road

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Hope you enjoy walking down memory lane w/ me on my b’day. 

My entry to the Movie Roulette Blogathon

movie-roulette-posterWhen I saw this blogathon that Getter over at Mettel Ray Blog is hosting, I simply had to participate! What an awesome idea, and original one at that. It must’ve taken her ages to made five of those gifs.

Here are the rules:
1. There are 25 facts, you have to pick 5 or more and for each, you drag out a movie as an answer! *Click on the gif, hold it and drag out a single movie*
2. You can only drag out one movie for each statement, no do overs,
3. Write down your answers and feel free to comment whether they make sense or not.
4. Link back to this announcement, and link to the Movie Roulette Ultimate Gif Set as well!
5. Last but not least, have fun!

This proves to be quite fun to do, though I have to admit sometimes I pick the movie first then look at the facts [hope that’s ok Getter!] 😀 Ok, here goes:

1. This movie describes my mood in the mornings the best

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You’ve Got Mail

Every morning, first thing I check is my iPad for email/twitter/tumblr, etc. In a way, my online connection is what fuels my day 😛

2. I hate the main [male] characters of this movie, but I think they [are] still very hot

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This Means War

I abhor the daft idea of this movie but I still watched it [on the plane] for these two guys. I mean Tom Hardy AND Chris Pine looking every bit as gorgeous in every scene? Heck yeah!

3. I would make love to this movie’s plot, it’s amazing

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Casablanca

Glad I saw this on the big screen, thanks to TCM Rerelease! One of the best stories about unrequited love… beautifully done all around.

4. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about this movie… it’s so good!

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The Dark Knight

As I just happened to see this interrogation scene during Christopher Nolan’s lecture earlier this month, I remember thinking about how good this scene is. It’s so well-constructed and the two actors are absolutely perfect. It was mesmerizing and it really riled me up.

5. When I think of my childhood, I think of this movie

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Superman: The Movie

Well naturally. I saw this when I was a wee girl, probably 4-5, and even at that age, I immediately fell for Christopher Reeve. Yep, he set the bar VERY high for my future crushes.

6. Every time this movie is on TV, I turn it off and sit in complete silence instead

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Friends with Benefits

This movie actually never came on TV as I barely watch any TV. But if it were, I’d rather sit in silence or watch paint dry than watch this.

7. This movie makes me so emotional I even cried while watching it

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HER

I saw this in a nearly empty cinema and I’m glad there was nobody sitting near me as I was bailing my eyes out in some scenes. It struck me hard emotionally… it was a beautiful experience.

8. If I ever made a movie, it would be something similar to this movie

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Notting Hill

I’m referring to the basic idea of this film, and I’ve been toying w/ the idea for some time. In fact, this inspires me to resurrect the Fantasy Movie Pitch blogathon that a now-defunct blog used to do a few years ago.

10. I always wanted to punch this movie’s main character(s) in the face

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Twilight

I don’t usually get such a violent reaction whilst seeing a movie but can you blame me? I actually watched some clips of this as it’s now on Netflix Streaming [not sure why since I hated it the first time]. I had such a strong reaction wanting to punch these two silly that I simply turned it off.

10. I’m going to recommend this movie to the next person who asks me to recommend them a movie! (Challenge accepted!)

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Nightcrawler

I’ve actually been recommending this to people who haven’t seen it, and will continue to do so!


Well that’s been tricky but fun! What do you think of my picks?

Thursday Movie Picks #32: Oscar-Winning Movies

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I’ve been seeing posts on the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog, but I haven’t been able to participate. Well until now that is.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it, one of each. Today’s topic is…

OscarWinningMovies

The Oscar-winning movies can include winners of Best Picture, Best Animated Film and Best Foreign Film, but I ended up sticking with the main Best Picture winners. As I was thinking of doing a Top 10 list on this topic, you could say that these films would make my Top 5.

So, here are my picks of three films that deserve all the accolades they’ve received and I don’t hesitate calling each of them a masterpiece.

Casablanca (1942)

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Oscar Facts: Won 3 Oscars out of 6 nominations

I had the good fortune of finally seeing Casablanca for the first time two years ago (as I documented here), as part of TCM Theatrical re-release. Robert Osborne, the longtime TCM host, introduced the film and gave some background, which is cool. Unfortunately, he also spoiled the plot – I think he just assumed everyone had seen the film. But even with that snafu, I was so engrossed in the story right from the start. It’s got everything you could want in a movie – intrigue, romance, humor, great music, exotic setting, etc. But most importantly, at the heart of it is the engaging and unforgettable love story, beautifully-realized by Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. There’s really so much to appreciate in this film that I can’t possibly write in a paragraph or two.

The world will always welcome lovers ♬ As time goes by ♪

 The world will always welcome beautiful stories, too and that’s why Casablanca will always stand the test of time.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)

Oscar Facts: Won 11 Oscars out of 12 nominations

ThursdayPicks_BenHur

Here’s another Hollywood epic that shall stand the test of time. This is one of the first American films I saw as a young girl with my late mother and it made a huge impression to me then. I was in awe of the visual grandeur and all the epic action scenes, especially the chariot race. I have re-watched it countless times since and even with the technological advancement of movie-making, few scenes from today’s movies could match the intensity and the panoramic spectacle of the chariot scene, it’s 40-min of pure adrenaline rush that I wish I could witness on the big screen one day.

But visuals alone doesn’t make a movie and the personal redemptive story of Judah Ben-Hur is just as riveting. I love that it tells the story of Christ through the eyes of the protagonist and how an encounter with Him ultimately transforms his life in a profound way. It’s truly as epic as a film could get, a feast for the eyes as well as for the soul. Though it’s 3.5-hours long, it’s so well-worth your time and I know it’s one that I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. Both Charlton Heston in the title role and Stephen Boyd as friend-turned-foe Messala are superb, with a supporting cast

But this is truly William Wyler‘s towering achievement. He’s considered by his peers as a master craftsman of cinema, and rightly so. I just read on IMDb that Wyler was an assistant director on the 1925 version of Ben-Hur, who knew he’d go on to surpass that film in so many ways three decades later.

Gladiator (2000)

Oscar Facts: Won 5 Oscars out of 12 nominations

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I have dedicated a post for Ridley Scott’s magnum opus a few years ago and even today he still can’t reclaim the glory of this Roman epic. I’m going to self-plagiarize myself here as I still carry a torch for this film and each repeat viewing reminds me just spectacular it is. Gladiator is a visceral spectacle that offers a thrilling blend of intellect and physical strength.  Massively entertaining and memorable, it lived up to the promise of Maximus himself: “I will give them something they have never seen before.“ Oh yes, we’re definitely entertained.

I LOVE that both the hero and the villain are equally-matched in terms of how intensely they’re portrayed on screen. Both Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix gave tremendous performances, culminating to a thrilling and emotional finale worth cheering for. Like the two films I mentioned above, this film ticks all the right boxes to be considered a classic. Visually and emotionally satisfying, it also boasts one of the greatest soundtracks ever by Hans Zimmer. It’s the soundtrack that’s been copied many times over but never surpassed.

BONUS PICK:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

GWTW_OakTreeI just had to include this film as it’s also one of my earliest intro to Hollywood films and even eight decades later, this film is still being talked about. I’d call it a monumental classic, showing the best and absolute worst of American history during the civil war era. Some people didn’t care for the melodrama and it seems overindulgent at times thanks to producer David O. Selznick‘s constant meddling, but few films are as beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted as this one. There are just too many iconic scenes and dialog from this film, some of them I have highlighted here on its 75th anniversary. Whether you’d end up liking it or not, this is one of those cinematic gems every film fan should be compelled to check out.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen these films?

Music Break: 5 Memorable Piano Moments on Film

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As a big fan of classical music, I have always been a fan of piano music. In fact, I grew up listening to Richard Clayderman in the car nearly every single day as the French pianist is my late mother’s favorite.

This month’s music break is inspired by a scene I saw on Monday night. It was in the new drama Breathe-In starring Guy Pearce who plays a music teacher and aspiring concert cellist who’s tempted by a high school British exchange student in the form of Felicity Jones. There is a scene where she played the piano for him right after both being drenched by a thunderstorm. Brimming with breathless sexual tension, let’s just say their mutual attraction reached a crescendo.

It made me think of other memorable piano scenes in movies. Now, I’m not talking about films that are about musicians like Amadeus, Immortal Beloved, Copying BeethovenGreat Balls of Fire! or movies with piano/pianist in the title for obvious reasons (plus I haven’t seen The Pianist yet, but I’m guessing there are many piano moments in it). No matter what the genre, a well-choreographed piano scene is not just about the music itself. As some of these scenes exemplify, they can stir up various emotions, whether it’s sweet, fun, tense, happy, melancholy, or ominous.

Here are five to start with and I hope you, my friends, can add your own favorites in the comment section:

STOKER

Just like the scene in Breathe-In, the sexual tension is ricocheting off the walls and the ceiling of the whole room. So much so that one can’t help but squirm in one’s seat as the scene reaches its er, climax.

Casablanca

“Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake.” It’s one of the most misquoted line from Hollywood classics. I love this scene, it’s romantic but tinged with sadness. Ingrid Bergman never looked so luminous and As Time Goes By remains one of my favorite songs ever.

Corpse Bride

I didn’t plan on having an animated feature on this list but somehow I just remembered how much I enjoyed this scene. It’s one of my fave Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter many collaborations, and they made a sweet musical duet.

Groundhog Day

This is such a great movie as it’s full of surprises. I love Phil’s piano solo, especially when he played Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation on a Theme by Paganini, as in the music used in Somewhere in Time.

Moonraker

What, a Bond film? Well, why the heck not? I’ve shared it on this blog before that my early introduction to classical music was partly through Roger Moore’s Bond movies, as the Spy Who Loved Me introduced me to Mozart as Bond villain Stromberg played Piano Concerto No. 21. This scene is particularly memorable as it’s the first time Bond met his nemesis Drax, an elegant billionaire with a penchant for killer dogs and classical music.


As a bonus, I had to add this one in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Though really who notices the piano when you’ve got Michelle Pfeiffer in that red dress, ahah. Amazing that Jeff Bridges didn’t make one false notes watching her sexy rendition of Making Whopee.


Well, hope you enjoy today’s music break. What are some of YOUR fave piano moments in movies?

Special Collaborative Post: 10 Redeeming Films for Easter… or any other time of the year

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Image courtesy of River Valley Church Minnesota

Happy Easter everyone!

I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday. Fellow Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… I’m forever grateful for His atoning sacrifice. So in the spirit of personal redemption, I invited two of my best blog pals Terrence and Keith to participate in coming up with 10 redeeming films we’d highly recommend.

re·demp·tion
an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.

So, what’s a “redeeming” film? The definition varies, but borrowing from this Christianity Today article , we mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly.

So without further ado, I present to you our list…

[SPOILER ALERT: It should be obvious that in a list like this we’d be talking about some plot points about the film, so if you haven’t seen it, consider this a warning]

KeithIconKeith’s Picks:

Schindler’s List 

One of the most devastating and piercing movies about the Jewish Holocaust is Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”. The epic Academy Award Best Picture winner went to great lengths to offer the most transparent and realistic depiction of one of our world’s darkest moments. But as powerful and important as its historical focus is, there’s a lot more to “Schindler’s List” that just that. Within its brilliantly crafted 186 minutes lies one of the greatest stories of personal redemption you’ll find in cinema.

The lead character in the film is Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German business man and Nazi Party member using World War 2 as a means of financial gain. Schindler arrives in Krakow, Poland smelling profit. He buys a factory, hires local Jews for their cheap labor, and begins making supplies for the Nazi war effort. Schindler hobnobs with high-ranking Nazi officials and enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. But when a brutal Nazi Lieutenant arrives, Schindler’s eyes begin to open. A concentration camp is built and the Jewish ghetto roundup begins. Schindler sees first hand the murderous brutality of those he associates with and his heart is broken as he watches many who he’s grown found of victimized or slaughtered.
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Schindler makes it his mission to free as many Jews as he can from their certain death. He secretly uses his war profits and Nazi connections to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews. There’s no doubting his inner transformation. We see his life change before our eyes and even though his character would never say he has found redemption, I think it’s a beautiful picture of it. He does everything in his power to atone for his sins and not just with words but in deeds. And his sorrow for not being able to do more only verifies his genuineness.

Casablanca

If I had to list one movie that I would call my favorite of all time it would be the beloved 1942 classic “Casablanca”. It was one of the movies that introduced me to the magic of classic cinema as well as the starting point for the love I have of my favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. The film is as close to perfection as you’ll find with Bogie oozing coolness and the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman lighting up ever scene she’s in. There’s an amazing love story at the heart of “Casablanca” but there is also a wonderful depiction of a man’s self-sacrificial redemption.
Bogart plays Rick, the owner of a popular nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. He’s not beyond participating in a few shady dealing and he maintains a middle-of-the-road war position for the purpose of profit. We do get hints of a soft side to Rick but mostly he doesn’t stick his nose out for anybody but himself. Enter Rick’s old flame Ilsa (Bergman) who permanently damaged him when she left him at a train station in Paris a few years earlier. He’s mean and unforgiving to her until he finds out she and her husband are tied into the Allied war effort and are being hunted by the Nazis. Rick and Ilsa reconcile and their genuine love for each other softens his hardened heart.
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Rick turns away from the fence straddling and does the right thing. His redemption is shown through his personal sacrifice and it was all brought on by his willingness to love and forgive. Ilsa’s reappearance may have hurt him at first but the transformation her love brought is undeniable. Rick’s redemption may not be as profound as others in movie history but I think it’s a beautiful example of how true love can change even the hardest of hearts. What a great example of redemption and a perfectly fitting one as we talk about Easter.

3:10 To Yuma

Unlike the previous two characters and their stories of redemption, Ben Wade from the fantastic western “3:10 to Yuma” is undeniably a villain through most of the movie. Originally made in 1957, I prefer the 2007 remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Bale plays a father named Dan who is the only man willing to see that the captured murderer and thief Ben Wade gets on the 3:10 train to the Yuma prison. There’s a moving story about a father trying to prove his worth to his son. There’s also plenty of cool, well done western action sequences. But there’s also the story of Wade and his most unexpected shot at redemption.
Now let me go ahead and throw out a SPOILER WARNING here.As Dan is set to make the final push to the train station, Wade’s gang arrives to make sure he doesn’t get on board. All of the deputies and marshals skip out leaving this struggling father alone. But what folks don’t realize is that Wade has grown to respect Dan. Even more, Dan’s son and his constant belief that there is good in Wade ends up touching this wanted criminal. When its time to head to the station Wade’s gang comes with guns blazing. Dan is no match for them but it’s Wade who carries him all the way. Thinking they had made it, Dan is shot just as Wade is getting on the train. Wade, fully understanding the better man that Dan is, redeems himself by killing his entire gang and then boarding the train on his own just so Dan’s son can believe in his father once again.
310ToYuma
Now I suppose you could say Wade’s redemption wasn’t as pure or pronounced as Oskar Schindler’s or Rick Blaine’s. We are left to believe that he has no intentions of staying in Yuma prison very long. But you can’t deny his actions. Not only does his unselfish actions save a young boy’s life and rid the territory of some of its most brutal killers, but he also restores the love and admiration a boy has for his father. And he sacrifices his own freedom to do it. That’s where his redemption becomes clear. Sacrifice, true and genuine, often goes hand-in-hand with true redemption. We certainly get that from Ben Wade.


TerrenceIconTerrence’s Picks:

There are several films that deal with redemption as a theme, while the main story itself does not revolve around it. Everyone loves a story of redemption…that happy ending or fulfilling moment or triumphant success that appeals to the human heart and soul. Redemption movies tell great stories and are often more enjoyable due to the different levels of human emotion it reaches and touches. In my list of possibles were so many favorites (such as The Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, American History X, Star Wars, A Christmas Carol, Shawshank Redemption, The Ten Commandments, etc), but I decided to go with a few different ones this time around:

Les Miserables

Up until a few months ago, I had never seen any rendition of this story (on Broadway, on TV, on VHS, etc) and this latest version of Victor Hugo’s classic story brought this tale, unknown to me, to my attention in such beautiful fashion. No one can deny that redemption is a thread throughout as Jean Valjean seeks and finds solace for himself through giving purpose to his life by caring for the young Cosette. But, not only does Valjean seek and find redemption, the same could be said for multiple characters in the story. So touching, so moving, I am now a big fan of this story and almost regret having never watched/read it before (but there’s something to allowing this beautiful version be my introduction to it.

LesMiz

The communication of the characters and their plight through song translates so well with multiple strong performances full of power and emotion. Everyone hoping to find some true meaning, yet few really finding it. Jean Valjean himself saw the biggest turnaround and redemption and expresses that in his song “Suddenly” which I love to listen to. (Fantine as well, in the end). Hooper does a fantastic job portraying the toil of the “sins” of each character and their journey to recompense for transgressions made. Every character fights for redemption of sorts and Les Miserables is now one of my favorites in this category.

One worthy of being on this list, Les Miserables shows the rewards of hoping for and seeking redemption. People who rose above that which was miserable and found redemption for their souls.

Road to Perdition

Perhaps not a film that would come to mind when thinking of redemption, but it strikes a chord with me in this light because of Tom Hanks’ character, Michael Sullivan. Sullivan, a “muscle” member of the mob, ends up on the wrong side of their favor and now faces the trouble that he has inflicted for so many years. Loss, redemption, family, protection and more flood his mind and influence his actions as he now fights against the “family” he’s protected and fought for for years.

RoadToPerdition

Sullivan finds redemption (and purpose as the collector of payment for sins) through his last surviving son who goes on the run with him. In one of the best mobster movies, his character gives a look at one man in the mob and his inner struggle with conscience vs. duty. When the tables are turned, so are his priorities and he learns what his life should have revolved around and makes concentrated effort to make up for lost time and the mob circles in on him and his son on the run. A gripping movie that keeps you interested all the way to the surprising ending. Road to Perdition is a must-see redemption flick.

Despicable Me

Not expecting this movie on the list? I know, but Despicable Me is so great and it does share a message of redemption and that even the most evil conniving bad guy can find a happy ending and change his way. What greater message is there to tell kids? :) And what greater way to do so than with Gru, the minions, and three of the cutest little girls in search of a home and happiness (and a fluffy unicorn)?

DespicableMePic

Stuck in his ways of evil and surrounding by an army of minions who obey his every whim, Gru is out to prove he is the villain of villains. But even the greatest of bad guys can be conquered by love. And that’s exactly what happens when Gru finds his heart torn between his unexpected growing love for three little girls that come into his life and his love for evil plans and the fulfillment of them. It gets complicated further when another villain threatens his title and makes Gru choose. Redemption is shown after a choice made for selfish reasons turns to a choice made for others and the reward is seen. From best villain to best dad, Despicable Me is such a fun film with other themes as well, but one of the main ones being that of attainable redemption.


FlixChatterIconRuth’s Picks:

Before I get to my picks for this year, I’d still want to include the three I’ve already recommended a couple of years ago. All three indie films are not widely seen as they perhaps didn’t even play in a theater near you, but now they’re available to rent. I’d see all of these again in a heartbeat as they’re beautifully-made and never fails to inspire me. Click on the posters below to read the post:

2011_EasterPicks

For this year, once again I choose films that are not box office hit (save for one). The first three are under-appreciated and overlooked films that should be seen by more people. Some are more obvious than others, but they all have strong redemptive quality despite the personal transgressions and vice the character(s) go through.

Everything Must Go

Now, people might not associate a Will Ferrell movie with personal redemption and neither did I. I thought the trailer was hilarious but there seemed to something more beneath the surface and it was. Nick Halsey’s a broken man, not only has he lost his job, he also lost his wife who left him and threw all his possessions all over their front lawn. He decided to hold a yard sale and ended up striking a friendship with two of his neighbors, a young boy (Christopher C.J. Wallace) and a pregnant woman (Rebecca Hall) expecting the arrival of her husband. His unlikely friendship with the two of them somehow helped him in a path to reclaim his life back.

EverythingMustGo

Ferrell is much more watchable to me in a serious role (like this one and in Stranger than Fiction) and I instantly empathize with Nick, a man who’s hit rock bottom and seemed to be without hope, wasting his life away drinking beer and lounging on the sofa. The journey to personal redemption isn’t always marked with dramatic or sensational moments, but the simple things such as a kindness from a stranger and going out of one’s comfort zone can transform one’s life. The film depicts how our excess baggage, more in terms of emotional than physical, that often hold ourselves back.  It’s a slow but  film that display a surprisingly quiet, restrained performance from Ferrell, which also boast wonderful performances from Michael Peña as Halsey’s cop friend, and a small–but–memorable turn by Laura Dern.

Machine Gun Preacher

It’s criminal how poorly-marketed this film was, making it look like a *Rambo in Africa* type of genre film (as Claratsi pointed out in his excellent review). It’s a shame as this film deserves so much better. Based on a true story about an ex-con and drug addict Sam Childers whose new-found faith in God drove him to build an orphanage in Sudan following a mission trip to the region. Based on his autobiography Another Man’s War, its tagline pretty much says it all: “Save the children, no matter the cost.” Seems extreme perhaps, but this film showed the brutality of what happened to these African children as they’re being recruited as child soldiers, forced to slay their own family member in order to *save* their own. Extreme situation calls for extreme measures. Childers’ battle his own personal demons, which did not immediately vanish at the moment of conversion as some people seem to assume.

Gerard Butler depicted Childers with such conviction. It’s a brutally honest portrayal, Childers’ not simply a one-dimensional *white man hero* but a fascinating man full of rough edges but with a stern, compassionate heart. It’s heart-wrenching to see such a tumultuous journey, warts and all, because we’ve all been there at some point of our lives.

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The script could have been more compelling and nuanced, yet the redemptive quality of it is not lost on me. Childers may have rescued the children and did his best to protect them, but it’s these very children who in turn *save* him and give him a new purpose in life. The one quote that struck me from the film comes from one the orphans living in Childers’ compound: “If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, they have won. We cannot let them take our hearts.” It’s a poignant moment and certainly a thought-provoking one, as even as we do try to do the right thing, we’re often so consumed by anger and sometimes hatred, which could lead us back to where we were before we found redemption. (read my full review)

The Visitor

Personal redemption doesn’t always take one to hit rock bottom, sometimes a docile existence is just as in need of a reformation. Walter Vale’s life is not out of control, in fact, the economics professor lives a comfortable, albeit boring, life that suddenly takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of two immigrants in his home. Richard Jenkins gave a wonderful, sensitive portrayal of Walter, and he’s got a nice chemistry with Haaz Sleiman as Tarek.

TheVisitor

In my review of The Intouchables, some people mentioned that the story reminded them of The Visitor and certainly the unlikely friendship has some similarities. Tarek, a Syrian immigrant and his girlfriend Zainab, a jewelry designer from Senegal ended up living in Walter’s apartment, having rented it from a swindler who claimed it was his place. Walter initially freaked out about the whole ordeal, as one could imagine, but a friendship slowly developed between them as they learn to trust each other. I love the scene where Tarek taught Walter how to play the drum and they played with Tarek’s drum circle in Central Park. There’s also a sweet relationship that developed between Walter and Tarek’s mother Mouna who lost her journalist husband in a Syrian prison. Their friendship give Walter a renewed joy and a sense of purpose, as he’s become determined to help Tarek and Mouna to stay in the country legally. The depth and humanity of the story is heart-wrenching as well as uplifting, even if the outcome didn’t turn out the way we wish it would be.

Gran Torino

Now, this film is not exactly overlooked. It’s grossed over $200 million worldwide so it was quite a box office hit, but I’d like to include it nonetheless as it has a strong redemptive theme.

Clint Eastwood has played more than his share of grump, taciturn protagonists in his lifetime, but few are as curmudgeon-like as Walt Kowalski. Mourning the death of his wife, Walt’s become embittered of and loathe the world around him. The Korean War veteran’s sole prized possession is a 1972 Gran Torino which he keeps in mint condition. He loves his classic car as much as he resents his Hmong neighbors. One day, their paths cross as a Hmong teenager Thao attempt to steal his Gran Torino out of peer pressure and their lives are changed in ways neither one could’ve anticipated.

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At 78, his quip ‘Get off my lawn‘ is still as intimidating as his ‘Make my day.’ Eastwood snarls, glowers, and growls like nobody’s business and his friendship with Thao doesn’t immediately soften him, which creates some amusing scenes. But there’s no denying that the personal redemption is real as Walt slowly opens up his life to his new friend and his family. He’s come to care deeply for them as well, to the point of laying down his life to save them from the threats of the violent gangs that frequent the neighborhood. It goes to show that even the most hardened hearts is not beyond the point of redemption, and the grace from those he discriminated against end up being his own personal savior as much as he become one to them.


THANK YOU Keith and Terrence for your awesome contribution!


Hope you enjoy our recommendations, we welcome your thoughts on our picks. Now, what other films with redemptive theme would you add to the list?

Monthly Roundup: March Movie-Watching Recap

Though I’ve been blogging for over 2 years now, I’ve never actually done a monthly movie-watching recap before. But I’ve been inspired by EricAndy, Diana and Andina so from now on, I’m going to do this on the first or second day of the month.

Like Diana said on her post, I too feel so diminutive seeing how many more films my fellow bloggers see in a given month! I count myself lucky if I got to see four movies in a week, and this weekend I was hoping to see Carnage or Whistleblower but ended with a big fat zero as I was busy all day Friday and went to an Indonesian Festival at the University of Minnesota on Saturday.

Anyway here are the movies I saw in March:

  1. My Week with Marilyn
  2. Hunger Games
  3. Casablanca
  4. Three Musketeers
  5. Lambent Fuse
  6. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
  7. Senna
  8. Breaking Dawn
  9. Puss in Boots
  10. Contagion

Re-watch:

Favorite March Movie:

I’d say it’s a tie between Casablanca and Senna, they’re two very different films but both made a tremendous impression on me. I still plan on doing an appreciation post for Casablanca sometime this month.

So this month I only saw a total of ten new films [gasp!] with about three that I re-watched, bringing the total to a whopping… thirteen! [wince] Yes I know, it’s VERY low for even a common moviegoer, let alone a movie blogger!! I am hoping to see more movies each month and maybe even add one or two movies on week nights. Well the nice thing is, I was actually able to review most of the films I saw, whilst I still haven’t got around to reviewing a few of the movies I saw around the holidays (December/January), such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. I’ll do mini reviews of those films I mentioned in the near future.

Well, my goal is to watch 100 new films by the end of the year (by *new* I mean films I had not seen before, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a contemporary film released in 2021). So far I’ve seen 19 of those this year, which means I have to see an average of 10 films every month if I were to hit my goal 😀


Well, surely the lot of you saw way more films than I did. So what’s your favorite film(s) you saw in March?