Why I love films

I’ve been neglecting my film reviews a bit recently. Other writing has taken hold of me, and life has gotten in the way. But I wrote this, about why I love films and always will.

When you watch a really good film it’s like you live inside it for a while. You get to step outside your own life and into someone else’s. You don’t have to think about bills or washing or boys or girls or the horrible things happening in the world or that text from your mum you need to reply to. For those few hours, in a dark room with strangers, you can live through someone else. And I think that is the most wonderful thing in the world.

You come together, in a specific place at a specific time and you get to share something with a room full of people you have likely never met before and probably never will again. And all of these random people share the same emotions and stories and characters. That’s why it’s so wonderful when you say to someone ‘have you seen this film?’ and they reply with an emphatic yes, declare their undying love for it, and in that instant you have a connection with them through the film you have shared. You know you have likely laughed and cried at the same moments, your hearts have swelled at the same grand sweeps of score and you’ve both had your breath taken away at a twist in the tale.

And when you rewatch a film like this, one that made you forget everything else in the entire world, you know for sure you can return to that magic. When the lights go down in the cinema, when the adverts end, as the BBFC sign flashes up on screen and you hear the music for whichever production company the film belongs to – my heart honestly flutters every single time. Sometimes if I see an advert on TV that I’m used to seeing in the cinema (always Barclays) I get that little flutter then too.

And knowing about films makes it all so more exciting. Recognising actors, seeing them flourish in different roles and flop in others… seeing a director develop as time goes on, and doing it all backwards, so you’re watching early Tarantino three years after you watched Django Unchained, your first. So you learn, and develop as a film watcher.

Chloe Moretz once said of films – “Instead of getting drunk or doing drugs you can go see a movie for an hour and a half and escape and be someone else and live a different life, if only for a little while.”

And I think that is the most wonderful thing that films can do. They tell stories, on screen, in a visual and tactile way. They can make millions of people, across decades feel the same feelings and learn the same lessons. It means that sat in my bedroom in south London watching old films, I’m connected to so many more people that have gone before me, and that will continue long after me.

University films

When coming to university, and leaving home, I wanted to bring movies with me that would remind me of home, and that meant something to me. Here’s what I chose to take with me, and why.

Singin’ in the Rain

When I was younger I would watch this on repeat, enchanted by all the dance numbers and the friendship between the three leads. It reminds me of home and of my dad doing his impression of Lina Lamonte, in a silly high pitched voice, laughing to himself at – “I earn more than Calvin Coolidge; put together!”

Frances Ha

Frances Ha is a film about a twenty something year old, trying to make her way in a big city, with not enough money, and trying to find stay true to her creative nature. So basically, when moving to London to do drama it seemed like the right thing to do to take it with me. I first saw this in the oldest cinema in Dorset, The Rex in Wareham. Lovely.

Annie Hall

I first watched Annie Hall two years ago, and it was my first Woody Allen film. I was instantly enthralled by the cynical sense of humour, the wonderful outfits and the pure brilliance of the comedy. As I watched this for the first time, I started crying at the end. My dad said “what are you crying at??” and I replied with tears running down my face – “it’s just so good”.

“Why are you crying at Annie Hall Sian? You’re not meant to cry at Annie Hall. No one’s ever cried at Annie Hall.”

Trainspotting

Trainspotting is a film so disgusting and yet so exciting that I couldn’t bear to leave it at home. Danny Boyle’s visionary work combined with the strangely uplifting message – “choose life” means that although this film does contain drugs, poo, death and creepy babies, it manages to instantly cheer me up. I’m also a massive fan of Danny Boyle’s earlier and even darker Shallow Grave which is worth finding if you haven’t seen.

Fight Club

I’d been waiting to get my flat key for five minutes and the welfare and diversity officer had already told me that she loved my “I am a Feminist” t shirt. In my head everyone’s university experience includes student marches and rallies, and every student across the country is politically active (I am aware this is silly). Fight Club is so inherently anti capitalist (ironic I know considering the money it made) that it seemed like the perfect student film. Don’t think I’ll be joining the student fight club though.

Blue Jasmine

On a rainy Saturday last week, I FINALLY saw Woody Allen’s 2013 hit Blue Jasmine, which has earned both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins many an acting nomination. I’m far too behind the times to be writing reviews about it, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.

In Hollywood today, its pretty hard to come across really well developed female characters, who aren’t constructed just to be a mother or wife. But something Woody Allen does, and has done all of his career, is write great female characters, who are flawed, majestic, normal, wonderful examples of womanhood.

And aside from Allen, who it feels difficult to praise when thinking about what Mia and Ronan Farrow have been saying, Blanchett and Hawkins are magnificent – as indeed are all of the cast, who all have a bring a very Woody Allen-esque feel to their performances.

Blue Jasmine is essentially a tale of acceptance and learning to be happy with who you are, a lesson that surprisingly doesn’t come from the main character. I think that says a lot.

Kill Your Darlings

I have been waiting SO LONG to be able to talk about this film.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr Kill Your Darlings is about the birth of the beat generation, the most influential period in the lives of writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. Ginsberg is young and naive, going away to college in the hope of living up to his father’s expectations. There he meets some fellow students intent on creating a literary revolution, changing his life forever.

As someone who loves literature, loves teenage rebellion movies and loves Daniel Radcliffe, for me this film is perfect. The soundtrack, the style, the story, the script, all of it combines to deliver you a slice of history, served up with a side of drugs, alcohol and heartbreak. Daniel Radcliffe gives such a brave and beautiful performance, it never once crossed my mind during the film that it was Daniel Radcliffe ‘of the Harry Potter films’ – his portrayal of Ginsberg is done with tremendous care.

Plus, I got to speak to him at a film event after a screening of the film. I babbled on at him (down at him, he is quite short and I am quite tall) about how much Harry Potter changed my life and made me love film because of all the wonderful people in it, and he very kindly agreed with me and said “yes me too – I’d never read a book before I did Potter.” He was gracious and humble (and handsome) and meeting a childhood hero and getting to see him in a film as brilliant as Kill Your Darlings all at once made it the best day of my life. So far. I’m yet to start a literary revolution so we’ll see how it goes.

Kill Your Darlings is in cinemas Friday December 6th. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – a review by Lizzie

Lizzie Niemier kindly offered to write a review of the Hunger Games for my blog after she went to the premiere (where she asked Stanley Tucci “are you have a good night Mr Tucci” and told Jennifer Lawrence she was going to vomit on her dress). What follows is all her own words. 

I liked it because it was like the book which is what you want from a film that is supposed to be from a book. There was a lot of kissing and like, after nearly every kiss there was a spit string which was ew. Also, how is Willow Shields the same age as my little brother like what????? And how do they make j-hutch look taller than j-law in the movie when in reality he’s like a foot shorter I think this movie deserves an oscar purely for that, I am impressed.

It was really actiony but also it was actually supposed to be because the book has bare action. Sam Claflin’s American accent was a bit funny, like sometimes it was English and sometimes it was American, but I dont mean like varying from scene to scene it was different, I mean it was different syllable to syllable. Also there was a bit where Katniss is sliding into a pond or some other kind of body of water on her belly and no one else laughed but I did. It was quite a serious bit of the movie so I get why people didn’t laugh but it looked funny so yeah.

There were a lot more turkeys in the movie than I was expecting.

Jennifer Lawrence is a Goddess. I am bare impressed with Francis Lawrence bc I wasn’t sure about him cos I quite liked how that Gary bloke did the Hunger Games .but I loved the way f-law did catching fire especially as he had large shoes to walk in (idk if that’s the right saying soz if I’m wrong). F-Law did the fire on the chariots better than gary thingy did. My friend gabs probably won’t like the dress that effie wore for the reaping bc it was made of butterflies. I cried like four times.

Good movie. 10/10 would watch. I met Jennifer Lawrence at the premiere. She said she liked my dress. (This review is written by a j-law fan so is definitely 100% biased).

Gravity (2013)

Well. I certainly made the right choice in breaking my cinema fast with this film. You’ve probably heard the hype about this new film by Alfonso Cuaron, but if you haven’t then I will fill you in.

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are two astronauts mid mission when they are commanded to abort and return to ship immediately. From there on in, things get pretty hairy.

It’s a film about second chances and the desire and fight to live. Sandra Bullock gives a 5 star performance, and I would be surprised if she didn’t get at least nominations, let alone wins. She is just incredible, and commands the screen for the whole 90 minutes. Her performance feels like a throwback to Sigourney Weaver in Alien, and its so refreshing to see a woman on the screen for a role that has nothing to do with her body or her sexuality. She is a brilliantly written character and it’s worrying how exciting that is. Clooney is also fun, managing to be funny and confident without being annoying or snide.

The look of the film is, corny line here, out of this world, and the camera skill and the technicality of it are breathtaking – outer space was made up entirely digitally with only the faces of Clooney and Bullock being filmed, and the way the whole thing is shot and the sound is used really makes you feel like you’re in space with them. The film does a brilliant job of pulling the audience out of their seats and creating bags of tension, bearing in mind that for all of the film there are only one or two people actually on screen.

One of the jobs of film is to evoke feelings within humans through metaphor and supposed circumstances, and Gravity does this through its story, characters and through what you see on screen. It is utterly sensational in both its script and its execution and you would be mad to miss what will surely be a top winner in the awards season.

Fun Fact Alert: in the time it takes you to watch the film, the International Space Station has done one entire circuit of the earth.

Attack the Block (2011)

On Film4 this week (Tuesday at 9pm to be precise) they are screening the 2011 film Attack the Block.

The film features Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost and Jodie Whittaker amongst a cast of younger stars who make up a gang forced to run from the aliens attempting to attack the block of flats they live in.

It’s fast paced, funny, dramatic stuff from Joe Cornish on his debut film. He manages to perfectly capture the street talk without feeling patronising or like an embarrassing dad trying to be ‘down-with-the-kids.’ With a low budget the aliens and special effects look good and it’s always fun to see Nick Frost appear in anything, even with his long hair.

The kids who make up the gang which the film centres on were found in schools and through open auditions and each of them gives a strong performance, particularly Franz Drameh as Dennis, the leader of the gang – you might recognise him from the BBC’s Some Girls.

It’s a film that’s got funny moments, as well as heartfelt ones and manages to not just be another gritty movie about life on an estate; it’s much more interesting than that. It gives the young people a voice as well as letting them fight back, rebel and be shown to be doing something for good.

It’s on Film4 on Tuesday, so make sure you get it on record.