Thursday, 17 September 2009

(500) Days of Summer

So, I haven't done a review in a little while and thought it was about time for another! For reasons I can't quite explain, I was almost beyond excited to see this film. I suppose for one thing I am yet to see a bad review of it, and those I have read described it as a vibrant, touching little indie movie - my kind of film-nutshell! I was also attracted to the story's twist, when so much of Hollywood tells us that when you meet 'the one' you just know it instantly, you know they are the only person who can make you happy. So what happens when 'the one' doesn't actually feel the same way? What if someone's 'one' was the other person's casual relationship? This is the case with Tom and Summer, the girl who filled 500 of Tom's days.

The witty tone that runs throughout the film is there from the off, before you have even seen any characters or any credits. There is a disclaimer stating that the film's content is purely fictional and any similarity of characters or events is purely coincidental. Well that's fair enough, right? And then, 'Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.' Ouch! With an outlook like that, and a warning from a God-like narrator that 'this is a story of boy meets girl, but it is not a love story', you start to get the idea that this is a bit different from the usual films frequented by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Finally.

Now, after seeing the disclaimer and seeing the brief flashback of Tom and Summer's childhoods I was a little worried that this could be a totally bitter portrayal of one of the writer's failed relationships, changing Jenny Beckman-the-bitch's name to Summer and exorcising his demons. But it is kind of refreshing to see that, even though she breaks Tom's heart, it is not because Summer is a bitch; she was actually very upfront about what she did and did not want from the relationship. Whilst the majority of the film centres on Tom; his feelings, his point of view, his reaction after the break up, you still get to see enough of Summer's side of it so that you don't hate her. As in life, they both have their faults. In terms of gender roles and stereotypes this is a bit of a quirk on the general trend, and it is both refreshing and interesting to notice how 'normal' the film would be if the roles were reversed.

Another aspect setting the film apart from the rest is it's non-linear structure. I loved this. You see the excitement of Tom's first glimpses of Summer directly juxtaposed with the wreck she left him when their relationship ended. The things he loved become the things he hates. I have read that the structure is supposed to show how certain memories are triggered by small things, like a card, or a song, and how Tom constantly re-runs events with Summer to try and see where it all went wrong. The audience and Tom have to piece it all together until it makes sense, and this can only happen once Tom takes his little sister's advice - not to just look at the good memories, the bad ones are just as important.

Coupled with the non-linear structure are the film's occassional quirky effects and tangents, they all reinforce Tom's feelings and are appropriate to his character, but have been done in ways I had never really seen before. I won't give them all away, but there is a certain dance sequence following a certain event that had me literally crying with laughter! Another scene I think really captures something I imagine most of us are guilty of - having our expectations of a certain situation shattered so completely by what turns out to be the reality. Universal experiences like this are what make the film so relatable, and you just know that genuine feeling and real experiences have been poured into the script to be able to come up with it. In my opinion this is what so many films are lacking at the moment, if people made films because they really believed in them then the quality would be so much higher.

Now, I cannot write about this film any longer without mentioning the soundtrack that it has been widely commended for. Music features in the storyline itself as it is Tom and Summer's mutual liking for The Smiths that gives the first spark to their relationship, so their songs often crop up, as well as a mix of Wolfmother, Regina Spektor, Doves and Feist - to mention a few - and also, my 'song of the moment', The Temper Trap's 'Sweet Disposition', and the fact that it is in the film makes me love the film and the song even more!...But I do realise that's probably just me...

With the heavy influence of The Smiths, along with the characters' vintage indie dress sense, there is an interesting mix of old and new, giving a sense of nostalgia to a modern world. I liked this effect in 'Donnie Darko', and I suppose here it is presumably for the benefit of those who can still vaguely remember their first love, or 'the one that got away', and the clothes and music help to travel back and remember that time.

So, if you hadn't guessed it, I kinda liked this film! Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt fit the roles perfectly, there are great songs and quirks galore, and anyone can relate to it, the perfect film if you are happily in a couple, have just been dumped, or are still optimistically on the lookout for 'the one'. Just remember, it might not be who you think.

500 Days of Summer - 5/5

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It's Not Exactly Shakespeare, but...

...I've written a play, and it was performed to an audience! Well, by 'play' I mean a three minute sketch, and by performed to an audience I mean it was performed by those involved in a small company called 'Behind the Bike Sheds', an artistic collective who were looking for short sketches for their recent production, and I happened to have a few spare minutes in between phone calls at work and gave it a try! But, whatever, it had a script, there was a stage, so, it's a play!

Now, in case this is all sounding a bit random, I shall confuse you even more. The specifications for this sketch were that it had to be around three minutes long, and had to either have a chair as the main focus, or mention a chair at least three times. The performance's title was 'A Room Full of Chairs', and that was what all thirteen featured sketches were about. I had a look on the organisation's website, and in the past their shows have been about the word 'Crunch', 'One Flew Over the Looking Glass' and 'Unidentified Luggage' - all of which invite a lot of thought, imagination and the opportunity to be pretty abstract and 'out there'. The group's aim is to be a platform for artists of various disciplines to showcase their work, be it artists, writers, actors, set designers, dancers etc etc. In the performance I watched, which took place at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (lovely part of London!), there was certainly a lot of variety in the way people interpreted an item as simple as a chair.

My sketch was on first (which I took as a pretty good sign, maybe?) and had a chair as the sole focus. I only featured two characters - both male - and one starts the conversation with 'Do you remember what we were talking about the other day? Well, I did it in the chair!' and a series of crossed wires and double meanings follow, in which one character and the audience believe he is detailing having sex with his girlfriend in the chair, when in fact it is something much more innocent. Yes, I laughed to myself at work as I wrote it, and even got a couple of laughs from the audience too! (I was expecting awkward silence...!) Some of the other sketches were much more inventive - one in which a rather desperate man had bought a conversation about chairs to use on a date, one where a group of people in a waiting room discuss and argue about 'chair rights' once one person declares that a chair is not taken, and one musing how a chair always seems to be lurking in the background in every case they have seen of spontaneous combustion. I'm sort of quite glad I wasn't able to come up with the last one myself, my mother would be worried.

All in all, the experience lasted for about an hour, in which I laughed, was confused, and at times a little freaked out, but always entertained! The actors that brought the scripts to life were all very talented, as they carried off even the strangest ideas well, and with my script the actors and directors made it just as I had imagined! It cost just £3 to watch and was a really interesting way to spend an afternoon, I will definitely be keeping a lookout for their future performances.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

New York - The End!

The time had finally come for us to say goodbye and go back to the land of cows and marmite and short buildings, but before heading to the airport there was still time to have just a little bit more fun. In a library. Oh yeah! New York Public Library, to be precise, the one that appeared in 'The Day After Tomorrow' and 'The Sex and the City Movie' - and it seems anything I've seen on a television screen can't fail to be exciting! The building is very different from those surrounding it, with its' detailed heavy stonework and columns making it look very traditional. This is continued inside, but is much more ornate, and honestly breathtaking - the films do not do it justice, and I don't think my writing can either - just go and see it, it's awesome! We wandered through the marble halls and staircases until we found the long study rooms with walls covered in books...and pretended to be studying there for the sake of a photo. A bit sad I know, but I don't care!

We also stumbled across an exhibition of the Declaration of Independence that the library was holding for a short time, which we could view for free - very important at the end of the holiday! It showed the personal letters from George Washington and the various newspaper articles at the time as the declaration was being finalised. I have to admit to being fairly ignorant of the ins and outs of American history, but even I found it really interesting, especially to think of how different the world would be if America had not been granted its' business folk would not be fuelled by Starbucks' skinny frappuccinos, or the like, for a start!

As the time ticked away we just about managed to fit in a final New York experience, shopping on 5th Avenue...unfortunately it was only window shopping (especially in Tiffanys!) but it's nice to see how the other half live. And I was only a little bit jealous. For us, our purchasing power only stretched to one of the delightful stores full to the brim of nearly every imaginable item with an 'I heart NY' sign stamped on it/ made into a Statue of Liberty or Empire State building shape. Tack galore but it has to be done! I spent a disgusting $60 on presents my family probably didn't want - but I believe that everyone secretly wants pens, keyrings and fridge magnets as presents.

Unfortunately it was time to go to the airport and fly through the night back home. It had been a wonderful holiday, and although it was not my first time to New York, I think this trip really showed me what the city was all about - an eclectic mix of everything you can think of, with a little of what you can't. Even if you lived there I don't think it would be possible to find all the gems the city has to offer, but it would be really fun to try!