Weekend Roundup: Holy Motors and Mrs Brown

Happy Monday everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. Still can’t believe two months have come and gone in 2013. Well, because of the press screenings that usually take place on weekends, I don’t go to the cinema on weekends. Here are my mini reviews of the two movies I saw:

Holy Motors (2012)

HolyMotorsPosterI have to admit I have not heard of this French film at all until a few months ago when I read some really rave reviews of this. It sounds so batty and bizarre, and though I don’t really have a huge taste for surreal cinema but I was intrigued enough to check this out.

From dusk ’til dawn, we follow a man by the name of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traveling by a white limousine around Paris to a series of nine “appointments.” His chauffeur Celine makes sure he gets to each of those appointments in time, and at each stop, Mr. Oscar transform into new character, one more bizarre than others, but we’re never told just why he does this. From a gypsy beggar, to a motion capture artist like Andy Serkis, he does his own make up and disguise in his well-equiped limo.

The two most bizarre ones to me is when he’s dressed like a leprechaun-looking thing and kidnaps a fashion model (Eva Mendez, channeling Cindy Crawford here) during a photo shoot at a Parisian cemetery and takes her into a cave. It gets even more bizarre after that, trust me. And the other one is the motion capture stuff where he’s doing all kinds of Ninja moves, and then a woman dressed in the mo-cap suit with all the dot markers and the two start to perform a sex act inside a digital production facility and being projected as some reptilian beings on the monitor screen.

The film’s narrative is quite challenging to follow, not to mention the fact that we have no clue just who Mr. Oscar is and why he does what he does. I was willing to go along for the ride and oh, what a trip this is. Director Leos Carax mixes all kinds of genres, as iTunes described it, it’s a monster movie, film noir, romantic drama, musical, crime thriller, futuristic sex fantasia rolled into one, yet it also defies each and everyone of that genre at the same time. It reminds me of Paris, je t’aime a bit but with just one actor in its multiple ‘storyline.’ It’s tough for me to even explain just what’s going on throughout the 2-hour running time, I think if you’re curious about it, just go see it.

HolyMotorsStills

My favorite segment is of Mr. Oscar and Jean (Kylie Minogue) where she sang the movie’s theme song Who Were We. I’m still humming that lovely song, it has kind of a haunting quality about it. The music is actually quite memorable here, there’s also an accordion interlude called ‘Let my Baby Ride’ that’s quite awesome. My late mother played the accordion so that instrument holds a special place in my heart.

I’m not surprised this film won so many film festival awards, and was nominated at Cannes and César. I’d even think it’s worthy to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Oscar. The cinematography is beautiful and unique, it shows various parts of Paris that’s not always all romantic. Lavant’s performance was noteworthy to be sure, that’s got to be a challenging role for any actor. Holy Motors is perhaps more of a cinematic experiment than a conventional film. I don’t think this fantasy film is for everyone though, but I do think if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, you might actually enjoy it. I know I did, and parts of me are weird-ed out by it, even terrified at times, but also mesmerized at the same time. Yet it’s also strangely moving, it somehow appeals to my heart even when my brain fails to comprehend just what is happening. In a sea of movies that lack imagination and originality, I certainly appreciate it when something offbeat like this comes along.

four reels


Her Majesty Mrs. Brown (1997)

MrsBrownPosterIt’s been ages since I saw this film and I have to admit that my initial interest in this film was because my former crush Gerry Butler had a supporting role here. This is in fact his feature film debut.

This film stayed with me for years and has become one of my favorite films about the British monarchs. This would make a great double feature with The Young Victoria, as that one depict the royal romance between her and Prince Albert. In this one, the Queen is in a depressed state following the death of her husband and the whole Balmoral estate is pretty much in a state of mourning as a result.

John Brown is brought in especially as he was one of Albert’s favorite servants. His rather irreverent, frank behavior doesn’t exactly bode well for the royal staff, but soon he found favor with the Queen and their unlikely friendship proved to be good for her mental health. No doubt their relationship created a stir, as you could imagine how scandalous it is for a queen to be hanging out with the queen. There’s of course jealousy arising amongst the queen’s advisers who saw their own influence diminishing as the Queen favored Brown’s advice. The staff, as well as the Queen’s own son the Prince of Wales (Bertie), think Brown’s influence is bad for the Queen’s reputation.

What I love most about this film is the unlikely friendship between two people from two very different worlds. It’s such a pity that someone in the Queen’s position could not confide in anyone even at a time she needed to most, everyone in her circle seemed only concerned about their own status in connection to her. Brown on the other hand, did not care about status nor power. He might be stubborn and hard to deal with at times, but he genuinely cared for the Queen and protective of her well-being. He even shushed a bunch of ‘paparazzi’ who followed the royal party hunting.

MrsBrownStills

Dame Judi Dench is superb, her Oscar-nomination here is well-deserved. It’s a brilliantly astute portrayal that displayed her incredible range. Whether it’s conveying inconsolable grief or a subtle hint of glee following a robust dance with Mr. Brown, she’s always so believable. Billy Connolly is perfectly cast here in a dramatic role. I’ve always found his comedic style rather impudent, and there’s a bit of that here, but he’s so natural as John Brown and he has an effortless chemistry with Dench. Butler’s pretty effective in his small role as Brown’s younger brother Archie. Boy his Scottish accent was still sooo thick here, it’s funny that he’s been cast as Americans nowadays as he still can’t lose that brogue completely. Oh, there’s also an amusing scene of the two of them running into a cold lake fully nude 😉

I adore this film and the cinematography of the lush Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning. I guess John Madden and Dame Judi have a great rapport together. She also won an Oscar under his direction in Shakespeare in Love for only being on screen for a mere eight minutes!!

four reels


I also saw BBC’s 2007 version of Persuasion, mainly to see Rupert Penry-Jones as Capt. Wentworth. I like parts of this movie, but overall it leaves me wanting. This is such a wonderful story of lost love and second chances that deserves a worthy adaptation. Ah well, I’ll leave that for a future post 🙂


Well, that’s my weekend recap. What about you? Seen anything good?

Top Five Favorite Movies about British Monarchs

I’m sure you’ve all heard about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement this week. I had no idea they’ve been dating for more than eight years, sounds like their romance is the stuff that dreams are made of. I haven’t been following news about them pretty closely, but from the occasional tidbits I heard, they seem like a good match and it’s nice to see they truly choose to be with each other. It’s cool that William gave his mother’s engagement ring to Kate… I kinda teared up when I read William saying that the giving Diana’s ring to his fiancé “… was my way of keeping her close to it all.”  (Updated 4/26/11 – well, since the royal wedding takes place this weekend, my prayer is for William & Kate to have a wonderful and lasting marriage as grand as the wedding itself!)

In honor of the happy couple, I’m picking five favorite movies about the British monarch of the last couple of decades (I figure there’ll be too many if I don’t put a 20 year limit!). Here they are in order of release:

  1. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997)
    I have to admit this movie was on my radar because it’s Gerry Butler’s feature film debut. Butler didn’t have a big part, but he was pretty memorable as Archie, John’s supportive brother. But I’ve come to love this movie for the beautiful story of love and friendship between a grieving Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) who’s still mourning her dead husband and her servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) who adores her. It’s through their special friendship that she ‘comes back to life’ again, but their relationship caused quite a stir.

    Dench and Connolly are both wonderful as the Queen and Mr. Brown  (Dame Judi was nominated for an Oscar for her outstanding performance). Connolly is known for his comedic work but he proved to have some dramatic chops here. This movie is touching, funny and heartwarming, helped by a tight script and beautiful cinematography. The scenes of Balmoral Castle and the Highlands could double as a Scotland tourism promo.
  2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    Not exactly a film about a particular royal family, but Queen Elizabeth I plays a big part of the plot as a prominent supporter of English theater. It’s arguable whether Gwyneth Paltrow deserved her Oscar as Viola, the cross-dressing actress who auditions for the part of Romeo. No matter, I think the movie itself is enjoyable, it’s more of a rom-com set in the late 16th century London that focuses on the Bard’s forbidden romance that provides rich inspiration for his play. I guess even Shakespeare can get writer’s block 😀

    According to Wikipedia, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kenneth Branagh passed on the lead role, but I quite like Joseph Fiennes in this, he’s a passionate and captivating actor. This movie boasts a fabulous, mostly British cast: Judi Dench (again – and she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her mere eight minute of screen time!), Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everet, Colin Firth and Ben Affleck.
  3. The Queen (2006)
    The story takes place post Princes Diana’s death. The Queen’s decision to retreat to her hideaway in Scotland’s Balmoral Castle upset the heartbroken public and puts pressure on newly elected PM Tony Blair, who constantly tries to convince the monarchy to address the public.

    The film itself isn’t perfect, but I was captivated by Helen Mirren’s sympathetic but believable portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II. She truly owned this film and elevated it above what it would have been under a lesser talent. It’s not just the amazing makeup work, but Helen Mirren had her mannerism and body language down to a science. The monarch is often portrayed in less-than-favorable light, but I like the fact that this movie didn’t seem to pass judgment on the Queen and carefully illustrated her as a truly complex character. Michael Sheen is also stunningly convincing and charismatic as Blair, I guess it helped that he has an uncanny physically resemblance with the real guy.

  4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age – (2007)
    There is a good reason why I adore Cate Blanchett and considers her my all-time favorite actress. Her versatility is mind-boggling, in the same year she portrayed Queen Elizabeth I, she was also Bob Dylan in I’m Not There… both of which were nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 (she should’ve won both, IMO!)

    Just like The Queen, Blanchett’s the best part of this sequel of the 1998 version. Queen Elizabeth I endured various political crises late in her reign of nearly 45 years, court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada; as well as a personal dilemma as he fell for Sir Walter Raleigh, played by the ever-s0-dashing Clive Owen. It’s arguable if this one lives up to the original, some call it style over substance. But I think it deserves to be on this list merely on Blanchett’s phenomenal acting.
  5. Young Victoria (2009)
    This is the only one out of the five that I saw at the theater. I am a big fan of Emily Blunt and intrigued by the fact that this is about the younger version of the same queen in Mrs. Brown. Blunt at 26 with her luminous skin was quite believable as the teenage Queen who came to the throne at 18. The movie dramatizes the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s 63-year rule and her enduring, almost fairy-tale romance with Prince Albert. Rupert Friend is quite charming and sympathetic as Albert, who admired and respected the young queen when everyone wanted to control and manipulate her.

    The assassination attempt towards the end took a lot of liberty from reality, but it sure makes for a dramatic scene. Mark Strong plays one of his many villainous roles as the queen’s adviser John Conroy, he portrayed him so convincingly that I really loathed him in this movie! The movie feels tedious at times, though those moments allow you to marvel at the beautiful scenery and intricate costumes. The music is beautiful too, I’m even considering buying the soundtrack.

***

Please note that at the time I made this list, I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, but I predicted that it might very well make my list. Sure enough I was right, I even championed for it in this Oscar Best Picture Fight Club and it won!


So, what are your favorite movies about British royals?

….