Thursday, 31 March 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Heist Movies

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

All my picks are or have been remade. My guess is that heist films are timeless and can easily be remade. But when films are remade across the pond, its 9 times out of 10 been bad. A suggestion is - just don't remake British classics in modern US. 

The Ladykillers
As much as I love the Coen brothers, they're remake is just not good and in no way a match for the towering brilliance of the Ealing Comedy original. The Ladykillers is absurd when you think about it but at the same time pure genius on all fronts. A literal band of misfit robbers plan to rob a security van at Kings Cross station, part of the play is an alibi in the form of Mrs Wilberforce, a kindly old lady who has a room to rent. The robbers pretend they are am amateur string quintet and 'practice' while making their plans. The robbery goes off without a hitch but it is the fallout afterwards that is trips them up as one by one their greed gets the better of them. A true original.

The Italian Job
Going with the car colours which happen to work for the UK and US. I've only ever seen the end of the original, which is rather annoying as it gives it all away, sort of. My Dad loves the original Italian job and thought this wasn't too bad. I can't even remember what they're stealing, why they were stealing or what was happening. Whatever, I only watched it because Edward Norton was in it. I recall this film came out near to the time when Jason Statham started to ruin his career and there was the car chase but thats it. 

Ocean's Eleven
This is a remake so slick I can't be angry with anything that happens in the film. Clooney, Pitt and Damon, now a power trio. The cast actually boasts some brilliant talent here as well as having Soderbergh directing. I confess I've never seen the original film and I really should see it as I love this one very much. I didn't like the franchise tha followed, those were unnecessary. A heist that takes a team of 11 to complete and isn't just about the money but for something more, with a very entertaining Vegas background and Don Cheadle trying his hardest to convince us he's cockney, what more could you want.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Blind Spot Series: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others came out in 2007 (in the UK) and it conjured up a storm. Winning the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and the BAFTAs as well as winning many other awards in Europe. I was in college when the film was released but that point I never really saw foreign films at the cinema, only at home. It was around this time I got my first job so I had money, finally, to spend on DVDs. The Lives of Others was one of the first DVDs ever bought. I started to watch this film in 2007 but for some reason, I stopped. The film, like many others, remained on my shelf for years until after University when I culled my collection. I ended up giving the film away to my aunt and uncle who likes it. I included the film in my list as I thought it was a modern classic, especially as Ulrich Mühe, who starred in the film, died soon after the film's release. He was a notable actor in Germany and this, I would have thought would have been his breakthrough. After 7 years I watched the rest of the film, remembering where I left off. 

Set in 1984, East Germany, the Stasi are spying on thousands of citizens and forcing thousands to spy for them. Gerd Wiesler, a well known and well established Stasi officer agrees to monitor a notable playwright, Georg Dreyman, after his superiors, one eager for a promotion, the other wanting to break Dreyman up with his well known actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria. It transpires that the Minister of Culture has black mailed Christa into performing sexual favours to avoid being black listed, unknown to Dreyman. With Wiesler listening and wtaching, he asists in Dreyman discovering whats been happening. After the suicide of of one of his best friends who was black listed some years ago, the once loyal Dreyman writes an article to be published in West Gemany about how the government doesn't care about the high rate of suicides. Weiesler, who has now started to sympathise with Dreyman doesn't report this activity. But when Christa is arrested for buying medicine, she is forced into revealing that Dreyman is the author of the article, but again Wiesler steps in and removes the unregistered typewriter used to write the article from Dreyman's flat, thus clearing him of any charges. But in a tragic twist, Christa wracked with guilt runs into the road is hits by a lorry, killing her. Wiesler, now in disgrace is moved to an undignified department within the Stasi.

 Years later the wall comes down, he walks out of the Stasi knowing that the organisation will also fall. A few more years later Dreyman finds out that he was under surveillance and requests the records. The transcripts do not reflect the real events and he realises that an officer had helped him. Dreyman finds Wiesler, now a postman, but chooses not to approach him, instead he dedicates his latest book to HGW XX/7, Wiesler's code number, thanking him.

 There is far more to the film than I can summerise but these are the bare bones of the story. One thing that struck me was the moment the Berlin wall comes down in 1989. All that is celebrated is a fellow Stasi agent in the same place as Wiesler hears in the radio about the wall and then they all walk out after Wiesler. Nothing more is said. These large events in history do not matter to a character like Wiesler. He understands what is happening and what will happen and decides methodically what is to be done.

The emotional balance in the film is off kilter but it is on purpose and the characters are elevated because of this. Wiesler barely shows any emotion throughout. His small expressions are like delicate little ticks that lets the audience know what this character is feeling. He feels compassion when Christa dies and hope when he buys a copy of the book deicated to him from Dreymen. His anger and disgust is more obvious but he knows better than to lash out at any moment. At first he comes across as ruthless when teaching a class of recruits on how to tourture someone but gradually you can see his world slowly shattering as he wakes up to the type of organisation he has joined.

It's been a long time coming and I can't decide whether the wait hindered my opinion or enhanced the experience of the film. I'm annoyed as I can't remember why I stopped and why I gave the film away. I bought it specifically because it had won awards and had been recommended. In some ways, I'm glad it took me 7 years to finish the film as I now have knowledge I didn't have back the. I now recognise the cast of the film and have seen other films they've been in. The subject matter is also more familiar to me and I can appreciate German cinema after studying film studies for 2 years and film and TV for a further 3. My own knowledge has also improved. But had I seen it 7 years ago I feel I would have been more affected by the characters and the story. I am stunted in some ways that i cannot always just enjoy and appreciate a film for what it is, a story with interesting characters. 

My expectations were high for this film and it did deliver. The story itself is just one of many about those who suffered at the hands of the Stasi, I felt like I was watching a ghost film. The shadows of an excellent film were there but I felt too much like an outsider. I'm not sure if I can explain this well enought to get across my weird standing on my viewing experience. I hope it is clear that the film was what it promised to be, a story about dissolution, desperation and how kindness can be unexpected.

To see where it all started and for an excellent insight to film, have a look at The Matinee and have a look HERE for more Blind Spot posts from other bloggers.  

Friday, 25 March 2016

Fandom Friday: Geeky Wears

I don't usually buy 'geeky' wears but I do have a few tshirts that fall under this category, I've also had to sell a few things too, just for th usual reasons, they don't suit or they don't look/fir right. I don't like to wear tshirts but all the best designs on them. I've bought from Society 6 before and from TeeFury as I like designs that are inspired by films and TV.

My picks are all from TeeFury as I recently bought a couple of tshirts (making them my own once they arrived) from the site. Here are my favourites:

I love these 'bromance' designs by Nan Lawson.

I love Roller Derby so these pin-up like poses by the Gotham City Roller Derby Girls, villains and our favourite Marvel super heros/agents were too difficult to resist. I have the Catwoman tshirt and I wore it to a game!

I had been eyeing these Studio Ghibli inspired designs for a while...

Being a huge Futurama fan, these caught my eye, especially the Suicide Squad inspired design.

And I've always loved X-Men themed designs, these have been my favourite.

Last but not least, the Rey and BB-8 inspired designs. The Little Prince and Adventures of Tintin are just brilliant. In fact I have bought the latter I loved it so much. Can't resist Tintin themed things. I still have my Tintin man tshirt somewhere.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Music Biopic

There are so many great music biopics out there, but there equally ones that aren't so jazzy. I thought I'd choose a range of musical genres. Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

Walk the Line
I love Joaquin Phoenix so of course I ran to see this film when it first came out. I knew a little bit about Johnny Cash and had heard some of his music before. I knew he was infamous as well as famous, but casting Pheonix was a stroke of genius. Johnny Cash even approved him for the role before he died. He was electrifying. I also loved that he sang all of of the songs too so naturally I own the soundtrack too. How Johnny Cash went from singing hymns to country music and from being the 'black sheep' of the family to being one of the most famous singers is pure brilliance throughout.

Where is Tom Hulce?  Well, he's now an award winning broadway producer but for me, he'll always me the insane incarnation of Mozart and of course Quasimodo from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. The esteemed Salieri relates to a priest how he killed Mozart out of jealousy. Just like the poster and trailer says, its about music, madness and murder and its simply superb.

  Ian Curtis, from Joy Division, was a name a read about frequently during my school days. His name and Richie Edwards (former Manic Street Preachers musician who disappeared) were always on the cover of NME (New Musical Express) which I read every week when at school. I liked some of of Joy Division's music and I liked a few other bands who had been compared to them. Of course Joy Division, after Curtis' death went on to become New Order. The film chronicles Ian's marriage to Deborah Curtis when they were 19 and 18, the formation of Joy Division, his struggles with epilepsy, his affair with Belgium journalist and his suicide at the age of 23. This was another film wth excellent casting, before he was famous Sam Riley is a perfect fit for Ian. The film is beautifully photographed which is no surprise as it was photographer Anton Corbjin's directorial debut film.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Like A Fox

I'm surprisingly hyped for Disney's Zootropolis. I love Disney movies but I'm pleases to see them heading back to animals. Princesses and songs are great but after the over kill of Frozen, I was keen for something different.

I must have watched the trailers hundreds of times and even wistfully looked the at the new Funko Pop figures. I'm a sucker for a unlikely pair teaming up to fight crime/solve a mystery and with Judy Hopps, a rabbit and Nick Wilde, a fox as the lead characters, I've been won over already.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a thing about foxes. I even have a tattoo of one on my arm. Foxes are always the villain in stories and folk tales but there are a few that are either heroes or just fantastic.

In the Fables comic, there is of course a fox, Reynard in fact. He is known mainly as a trickster and there is a whole wiki page about him and his history HERE. The character is based on this legendary character. But he isn't an evil character, he's sly and manipulating but he sides with the 'good' fables every time.

In The Animals of Farthing Wood, Fox, that's his name, is the leader of the group of animals fleeing their home as its destroyed. Technically it was children's TV show but it barely had any comedic moments, plus lots of characters were killed off or injured dramatically. I loved this when I was younger.

One of my all time favourite Disney films is Robin Hood. Taking a legendary, sometimes mythical figure in English history, robs from the rich to give to the poor and adding animals is pure brilliance. Making the hero of the story a fox may at first seem like an odd choice but as foxes are quick, sly, clever and let's face it cool under pressure, a fox is perfect. 

I wasn't too fond of this tale of a doomed friendship between a fox and a hound, but Tod the fox and Copper the hound are adorable when young. The real story behind this Disney sugar coated adaptation is sad and I understand the changes but I couldn't casually watch this for fun.

Quote unquote fantastic Mr Fox is, fantastic. But in this brilliantly constructed stop motion animated film of Roald Dahl's classic short story, Mr Fox is another, in a long of Wes Anderson creations, a bad dad who is full of himself. He is a clever fox but he gets carried away, ultimately he does redeem himself. He is also quite a snappy dresser too.

Looking forward to Zootropolis next week and for any future fox stories, but nothing beats this fox here.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Fandom Friday: Geeky Tattoos I Have Or Want

 I always thought I wouldn't be able to get a tattoo a they were painful. But the desire for one was great. I took years to decide what I wanted and it always came back to two things, Tolkien and Alice in Wonderland. The tattoo for the latter was too complicated and I had no idea if I could stand the pain or the sittings it would take. I had seen a couple of friends with their amazing colourful gigantic tattoo and heard the stories. So I went for an illustration from one of my favourite books from childhood and adulthood too. Smaug.

My sister and I got our tattoos on the same day. Her's was one she designed and was her second. This was my first tattoo. As I could stand the pain, I got another a year or so later. My little tribal fox was planned almost as soon as I got my first but I took my time to get it. I'm working my way up to something more intricate and also saving up for something more detailed, but it all comes down to whether I can stand the pain. In a world where tattoos don't hurt, these would be my 'geeky' choices.

Of course I would have an Alice in Wonderland illustration, ideally involving the Cheshire Cat.

I love Tolkien's world and I think a tattoo of the Leaves of Lorien would be beautiful.

I'm a huge Fables comic fan, particularly James Jean's art work. I dream of having the cover of volume 2, Animal Farm, somewhere on my person, possibley on my upper back, but its just a dream.

Or just having James Jean's normal, weird and wonderful art work on me, or a mixture of both.

 These, unfortunately are all too detailed and therefore painful and expensive. I have two tattoos but I still plan on more, in fact my sister and I will planning our next ones together.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Happy Bloggerversary!

After 6 years, Ever So Ethnically Confused is still going strong!

On this day back in 2011, I wrote my first post. It was very different to how I write now, for one thing, it was only a paragraph long!

I think I started the blog to get writing and I was preparring myself to leave Uni as well document my shoot and my disseration. I loved this title for my dissertation post. Again very short and to the point.

True to my word though, I wrote the dissertation in 3 days and edited and printed on the 4th day. It's the only way I could have got it done. I also didn't leave my room for 3 days straight, but neither did my housemates. We all did Film Production so we knew the drill and deadlines.

So, on this day 6 years ago, I wrote this post.

It was a theory I still stick to and its been backed up by proof. There has been a Buzzfeed article about it to, and if its been on Buzzfeed its got to be a real thing. It's not always a bad thing, it just means, well something different.

This day also marks my last day at my current job where I've been for over 2 years. It's time to move on and I couldn't be more excited (and nervous) about my new job on Monday.

Today also happens to be St Patrick's Day where everyone tries to prove they are Irish and the actual Irish just drink and have fun. My claim to an Irish heritage is just that, my name, Hogan. But I will celebrating tomorrow.

Happy St Patrick's Day to you all and Happy Bloggerversary from theoretically one crazy Hogan!

Thursday Movie Picks: Intersecting Stories

Usually, intersecting stories means the newest rom-com and 'how many 'famous' people can we fit in one film' but it can also mean, an excellent ensemble cast and hard hitting drama. Maybe that's going over the top. I went for a Mexican, Polish and Irish film this week, makes it different from my usual American and British picks.

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks.

Amores Perros
I expect this to be a popular pick just because of the brilliant Alejandro González Iñárritu's vision, as he wrote and directed this film which was debut feature. Three stories which intersect through a fatal car crash. I've read that the classes in Mexico City are very far apart and they only way for the three protagonists to meet or interact is in this way. Working class Octavio, who goes into dog fighting to save money to run away with his sister-in-law, Valeria, the rich and famous model left in a wheelchair after the accident and the homeless/hitman El Chivo, who cares more his dogs than people. It's gritty but you become obsorbed in the stories. Plus, Gael García Bernal is in it, love this actor.

11 Minutes
To be fair, this is a cheat pick as it hasn't been released in the UK or US. I saw this film at the BFI Film Festival in October. Each 'story' covers 11 minutes of each character with a view point. They all intersect in small ways at first until a the massive pay off sequence near the end where every character we've seen so far is featured. It was Poland's official entry to the Oscars 2016, alas, it was picked but its a damn good film. I wrote a longer post HERE if anyone is interested. I really hope it gets release date soon.

Like Amores Perros, several characters all collide, at first, through a bus crash and cross over throughout the film. It's a black comedy with heartbreak, crime, reality TV and a debate over whether a female character has a moustache or not. It has a great cast and in parts genuinely funny but its quite dark too.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Something Wicked

Last week after probably 10 years, I went to see Wicked the musical for the second time. Unlike films which you can go to whenever you please, a theatre trip takes planning and saving, depending on what seats you want. My friend has been dying to see the show and I was more than happy to go. We had amazing seats, front row of the dress circle and we didn't pay an arm and a leg either.

The show was just as amazing as I remember with a few songs I had clearly forgotten. The songs, music, costumes and the story were all perfect. After the show ended, I thought it was about time I read the books. My friend during Uni had read them all and tried to get me to, but I of course had my 'no more than 300 pages' rule, which is silly but its more about concentration. But if its a good book, it doesn't matter.

I remembered sometime last year, it came to my attention that an artist had created artwork for an animated version of Wicked. I assume the musical, as its a little more child friendly than what I've heard about the book. The artwork is amazing and it has been drawn in the style of Disney. It was all over the internet back in 2013 but with my recent trip back to the musical and the building news about the possible film adaptation of the musical too, I thought I'd bring the art work. The artist is Minkyu Lee who worked on The Princess and the Frog and the art work was created while she was interning at Disney. Hopefully the spark of interest and everyone's enthusiasm could be enough for a prompt from the Mouse House but with the musical soon on it's way, I'm not too sure.

It would be amazing to see a 2D version of the film, alas I think this is just a dream as we all know, Disney favours 3D. But I can dream.