A cinephile’s dream

Hot buttered (or golden topping) popcorn. Or maybe nachos with cheese and salsa dip instead. Iced tea drink. A box of M&Ms for dessert. All overpriced when you go to a movie theatre but it is part of the experience, if you decide to indulge in, when you watch a film on the big screen.

A couple of days ago, I read an article on The Globe and Mail website highlighting their list of 30 must-see movies. After looking at their selections, it turns out I want to see half of the movies on that list. Looks like I’ll be indulging my closeted cinephile tendencies this fall. I honestly can’t remember a time where there seemed to be so much I wanted to see on the big screen.

But I’m not a big enough cinephile to head over to the annual Toronto International Film Festival partake in its events. I’m not into watching celebrities and movie actors walking the red carpet. To be in the middle of it seems maddening. Not really my cup of tea.

Anyway, my night out at the movies usually occurs about once every four to six months. So, I might be asking a lot of myself to watch 15 new theatrical releases between now and December. I could wait for the movies to come out on Blu-ray or show up on Netflix but I get the feeling these movies will be better enjoyed on the big screen.

I can say whole-heartedly that Dumb and Dumber To is NOT on my personal must-see list. Never saw the first movie, no way in hell am I going to watch this sequel.

From my list, I am most-excited to see The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch. God, that man can act. I’m also curious about the real-life person he portrays — British mathematician Alan Turing. Turing’s work during World War II interests me. I’m not a history buff by any stretch of the imagination. I guess certain aspects of history piques my interest.

The Penguins of Madagscar is another film I want to see. I simply cannot resist an animation film that features the talents of Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich. I’m such a fangirl.

Considering the acting chops of Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, No Good Deed should be an above-average thriller. I’m not much for this kind of thriller but I’m willing to give it a shot because of Elba and Henson.

Birdman, Foxcatcher, St. Vincent also rate high on my must-see list. It’s been awhile since I watched Michael Keaton in anything and by the looks of the trailer, Birdman looks promising. With Foxcatcher, I’m really looking forward to seeing Steve Carrell take on a dramatic role. The early buzz around this movie is Carrell’s performance is Oscar-worthy. I only know him as a funny man so this should be a treat to watch. And of course, I have to watch Bill Murray in St. Vincent. The man is hilarious and I loved him in Lost in Translation. Another funny man who could pull out a great dramatic performance. Now, I’m thinking of Robin Williams… sigh.

Watching a good film will be a welcome break from the busy fall I am about to enter. Harvesting the vegetable garden. Harvesting the apple trees. Preparing the yard and home for winter. Yes, I said winter. All the stuff I still need to do for the book launch… one of which is to get the book files to the printer this week. The files are pretty much ready but I’ll have a final look-through before the printer receives them. I’ll be relieved when they have it in their hands. Another step in the process.

Maybe I’ll celebrate this step by watching a movie.

In admiration of great storytelling

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars — Khalil Gibran

I spent yesterday morning watching a 2007 British short film called Inseparable starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Not a word of a lie, it was the best 12 minutes I ever had on a Sunday morning. And I’m not saying that just because Cumberbatch was the lead.

The film summary: A young father discovers he is dying and decides to give his ne’er-do-well twin brother a unique opportunity to turn his life around.

Yes, Cumberbatch was brilliant in playing the twin brothers. When has he not been brilliant? Anyway, aside from the acting, the cinematography and the film director’s choices were spot on. But what blew me away was the story. And I give the screenwriter, Matthew James Wilkinson, big props for that.

The story starts with a seemingly serene scene of domesticity and from there, it takes the viewer through a day that is far from ordinary, moving towards the moment the dying brother’s unimaginable decision, is revealed.

It was a story that, in the end, left the viewer with more questions than answers. Those are the kinds of stories I love. I’m not really a fan of happily-ever-after.

The final scene of the film was gut-wrenching. More so because of the sparing use of dialogue throughout the film. Again, big props to the screenwriter. When dialogue was used, it was important. It had purpose. It moved the story forward. For the characters, a lot of the dialogue was internal, dialogue the viewer never got to hear. We could only guess what they were thinking. But what you could see was their emotions and their body language. It spoke volumes. And that made the story riveting. That final scene was brilliant because of the lack of dialogue. Only one sentence was uttered at the end of the scene before the screen faded to black. Stunning.

Growing up, I was a bookworm. Now — not so much. I have a lovely collection of books I bought over the years but haven’t gotten around to reading. Some people buy clothes to relax. I buy books. I’m still making my way through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. I’m committed to finishing the collection no matter how long it takes me to do it.

Since I lack the time to really immerse myself in a good book, I do the next best thing — find movies that are great at storytelling. Sure, there are really crappy movies courtesy of really shitty or incomplete writing. You have to wade through a lot of films to find the gems.

I’m most attracted to movies that make you think long after you’ve watched it.

Admittedly, I never thought about the resonance of a film until I saw David Cronenberg’s 2007 feature film, Eastern Promises, which starred Viggo Mortensen. I was taken aback by the complexity and motives of the characters. Discovering and analyzing what drove them to do the things they did in the movie while I watched the movie was a watershed moment for me.

Before Eastern Promises, I only saw movies only as a form of entertainment. Escapism. Mindless escapism. With this film, I fell naturally into examining the characters, wanting to get to know more about them, questioning their actions and the reasons behind the actions, paying attention to the body language and clues in the dialogue that would fill in the life story of these characters. I was paying attention to the subtext for the first time. As nerdy as this may sound, I was thrilled about being able to read subtext. An epiphanous moment.

Again, big props to the screenwriter, Steven Knight, for creating those characters.

Although Wilkinson and Knight are screenwriters, not literary authors, there is so much to learn from them with regards to pacing, knowing what is important to the story, how to keep a viewer’s attention, the beauty of flawed and scarred characters and the beauty of a story’s twists and turns as you move your way through the film. Elements of great writing. Inseparable and Eastern Promises are just two such examples.

Watching Inseparable yesterday morning only reinforced observations made in the last year by a couple of friends.

One friend made the suggestion that I should try my hand at filmmaking. He only made that suggestion because I told him while I was working on the novel, I usually visualized the scenes in my head as if I was a movie director. I’m a bit picky about visual details when I write and I think it’s because I just naturally visualize the scenes in my head before I punch out the words on the keyboard. Anyway, I thought my friend was a little crazy for making the suggestion. I understood his reasons but it’s never been something I would ever have a real opportunity to try. I suppose never say never. We’ll see.

The other friend (my book editor, actually) had noted how visual my scenes were and how easy it was to create images in her mind as she read through my manuscript. She compared it to a screenplay or a teleplay. She didn’t suggest I try screenwriting but I think it wouldn’t have been a stretch for her to recommend it as something to explore.

Watching Inseparable made me think about screenwriting, about the possibility of trying my hand at it one day. There is a local film group who occasionally runs a screenwriting workshop. I wouldn’t mind learning the basics and seeing if it’s something worth pursuing.

Regardless of whether or not I try my hand at screenwriting, there is no denying Wilkinson and Knight inspire me in the craft of storytelling.

All I can hope for is to come up with great stories, tell them and maybe, inspire someone else the way those two screenwriters have inspired me.

Confessions of a fangirl

I am a fangirl.

There. I said it. There is no shame in being a fangirl. As long as the object of your obsession doesn’t issue a restraining order against you, it’s all good.

This became abundantly clear over the Christmas holidays when one of the specialty  channels ran a Doctor Who marathon leading up to the episode where Doctor Who (#11 —Matt Smith) regenerated into the new Doctor Who (#12 — Peter Capaldi, although I understand an argument has been made that Capaldi is actually #13, but we won’t go there). Can’t wait to see Capaldi in action as the new Doctor although I’m not sure when the new season will air here in Canada. So, looking forward to it.

It was David Tennant (the tenth Doctor Who) who drew me into watching the series. Serious eye candy if you happen to like his look. Watching him in Broadchurch just made my inner fangirl swoon and drool. Hmmm… swoon. You know, the funny thing is my friends will tell you they have never seen me swoon over anybody. Get pretty lusty — yes. Swoon — no.

I suppose one of the traits a fangirl exhibits is swooning. What the heck does a person look like when they’re swooning? I have to think about this.

OK, I don’t swoon. I get lusty and excited but it’s a good kind of lusty and excited. Anyway, let me wipe the drool off with my shirt sleeve before I continue.

Like any fangirl, I’ve become intensely interested in the object of my obsession. For me, it’s more like objects, not object. The intense interest is apparent if you examine my browser history, Netflix list or my most recent book acquisitions. You’ll find, aside from googling David Tennant, I’ve been googling BBC’s Sherlock and its leading men, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I guess I have a thing for men with accents. Hmmm, let me amend that. I have a thing for crazy-sexy-brilliant men who happen to have accents. But I think most women would admit to having that affliction, if that’s what you want to call it. Seriously, Jeremy Irons could read to me, an article on quantum physics, as a bedtime story and I’d be a happy girl. Actually, I’d be happier if he’d whisper the article into my ear.

I refer to all this googling as research since it seems I can be a bit late to the party, so to speak, when it comes discovering and following a show or a series, especially when it originates from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

On New Year’s Day, I watched the first two episodes of the first season of Sherlock and found myself thoroughly addicted to the show. Now, I’ve finished watching the first two seasons (or as BBC refers to them — series) and eagerly follow the show’s official page and BBC One official page on Facebook to keep up to date with the goings-on.

It kills me to know the final episode of the third season has just been aired in the UK which means the rest of the world will get to see it. When I say the rest of the world, I mean me. Sigh, if I only knew when the third season will appear on Netflix.

I guess I’ll content myself with watching the first two seasons again. Nothing like watching it a second time to see what I might not have noticed in the first go-round. But sometimes, watching the show over again isn’t enough.

Another by-product of me being so taken by the BBC series is I’ve started reading the literary Sherlock Holmes. Quite honestly, I grew up without ever having read a word written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are a lot of classics I haven’t read. My only exposure to Sherlock Holmes has been through TV programs and feature films. I consider Holmes quite ubiquitous. As a very young girl, I knew the name and who he was without ever having read the stories. Everybody I knew, knew who Sherlock was. I’m pretty sure the majority of them had never read the books either.

Before watching BBC’s version of Sherlock Holmes, my only substantial exposure to Holmes was through director Guy Ritchie’s 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes featuring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. Yep, more freaking eye candy for me. Hubba hubba.

I find it quite hilarious reading the Facebook pages. Thoroughly entertaining. Some of the fans who haven’t watched the third season, beg BBC or others who are watching it, to not put spoilers on the page. Never happens. Someone is always blurting something out about what they just saw or cursing the show’s creators and writers for doing something heinous to their searingly intelligent, but undeniably HOT, heroes.

Reading spoilers never bothers me. I watch the episode wondering how the spoiler occurs. It’s easy enough to be told that a character dies. But the interesting part is seeing how the show gets from point A (character still living and breathing) to point B (character dead as a door nail). And sometimes the spoilers have missed something, omitted something or has been slightly (and maybe, intentionally) erroneous. I take the spoiler stuff with a grain of salt and continuing watching. Besides I need my fangirl fix.

So, I carve out a bit of time every night, to read Sherlock Holmes before I go to sleep. Slowly becoming familiar with the literary Sherlock while I wait for season three of Sherlock to show up on Netflix.

The work of a fangirl is never done.