Thursday, November 8, 2007

Magner's Irish Film Festival THIS WEEK!

Give it to the Irish to name a film festival after an alcoholic beverage! Don’t get me wrong, I love the Irish, I love Magner's and I love movies. I’ve been to Ireland twice and well, Magners (or Bulmer's as it’s known in the green country) was my life blood when I was abroad. But there is obviously more to the Irish than sheep, rolling hills and their boozing habits and they showcase it in their cinema. This year’s Magner’s Irish Film Festival begins today and runs until November 11. The festival offers viewings of today’s most contemporary Irish and Irish-related films.

The festival (BIFF) was founded in 1999 by Jim Lane and Peter Flynn, two Emerson College colleagues. Flynn has remained the director of the festival to this day. Irish at heart, an in genetics, Flynn is a native of Dublin and graduated from the University College of Dublin in 1994 with an MA in Film Studies. He is now a professor at Emerson College, teaching classes in film and history.

According to the Boston Irish Film Festival website:

“Increasingly filmmakers from Ireland and the Irish Diaspora are turning to the visual media arts to express themselves and their culture. Within the last ten years alone Irish cinema has emerged as a dynamic global phenomenon, expressing a culture focused on the island of Ireland but spread out to all four corners of the globe.”

In 2003 BIFF began an awards ceremony to accompany the film showings which celebrated the work of the great filmmakers.

This year, the festival is giving its Excellence award, which acknowledges the achievements of a particular actor in the Irish film and television industry. This year’s honoree is Aidan Quinn, who is known for his roles in contemporary American film and television as well as keeping to his roots in exclusive Irish movies. He has been featured in such American films as Desperately Seeking Susan, Legends of the Fall, and Music of the Heart. Head over to the Brattle Theater in Cambridge tonight at 7 pm, where they will be honoring Aidan Quinn and showing his Irish film Song For a Raggy Boy.

This year’s BIFF Award Winners are listed on the website. The best feature for this year is entitled The Front Line. This film was written and directed by David Gleeson. It follows the life of Congo immigrant, Joe Yumba, who moves to Dublin. He has escaped a life of civil war and crime with his loving family. Everything seems to be going fine until he is forced to become involved in a bank robbery scheme. They will be showcasing this feature tomorrow night at the Harvard Film Archive at 7 pm. Admission is $10.

Each winner’s film will be screened during the festival. Filmmakers representing each film will be present to accept the award and answer questions from audiences.

To see a detailed schedule of films and workshops see here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sweeney Todd - Trailer Official

Johnny Depp to sing??

Get ready to hear Johnny Depp belt out his best when Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, hits theaters on December 21.

I am somewhat of a big musical fan. I practically know every line to Moulin Rouge and Chicago and I recently was blessed enough to watch Legally Blonde: The Musical when it aired on MTV. Nothing like singing "Oh my god, oh my god you guys!" with your roommates on a random Sunday afternoon. It is a song from the film, if you don't believe I'm sure it will be on re-runs soon. It's pretty great.

Even though this is a little embarrassing to admit, the first time I actually heard of Sweeney Todd was while watching Ben Affleck’s disastrously un-watched film Jersey Girl, when his adorable little spawn with Jennifer Lopez wants to act out a bloody scene from the play for her school’s parent talent show.

The film, based on the famous Broadway musical, follows the life of Benjamin Barker. Living in Victorian England with his wife and daughter, the small town barber is forcefully deported to Australia thanks to a harsh judges’ order. He returns to England after many years with no reason to live except to get revenge on those who did him wrong and according to the synopsis on IMDB, “reaping the benefits of that bloody journey.” He does this by assuming Sweeney Todd as his alias and seeking vengeance by slashing throats, dumping the bodies from his barber’s chair and churning the bodies into human meat burgers. Hungry yet?

The film stars Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin and Mr. Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen as Signor Adolfo Pirelli.

It is never easy to bring these famed musicals to life on the big screen. The New York Times sat down with director Tim Burton to discuss his aspiration to make the film. According to the New York Times, Burton became obsessed with the musical living in London in the 1980s, seeing it over and over again:

"Around five years ago, he said, he stumbled on an old drawing he had made of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. To his surprise, “they kind of looked like Johnny and Helena.” The wheels began to turn. “Those kinds of things mean something to me,” Mr. Burton said.

Burton, who casts Depp in most of his films, had to think twice for this film since Depp’s singing chops were not exactly up to par. When Burton asked Depp, he replied with candor, “I may sound like a strangled cat,” and obviously agreed to participate in this groundbreaking piece of cinema.

For Sweeney Todd’s look in the film, Burton stopped at nothing to have the most demonic looking set and characters. Burton always has to add his own personal flair to every film he takes on. Just think of the classic Willy Wonky & and the Chocolate Factory and compare it to Burton’s bizarre take on little Willy in 2005’s Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. In the case of Depp’s voice, Burton said: “It started to dawn on me that I knew what Sweeney sounded like before, and I knew that it was up to me to go far away from that. He needed to be, for lack of a better word, slightly more punk rock.”

This will most likely be another musical that I grow quite fond of.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Darjeeling is not just a tea anymore

In true Wes Anderson fashion, The Darjeeling Limited has an array of dysfunctional characters, a lot of dry, witty humor and of course, those slow motion scenes that tug at the heart strings.

The film follows the three Whitman brothers who have not spoken in a year since their father's untimely funeral. Owen Wilson portrays the eldest brother, Francis who for a lack of better words, is a control freak. He brings together Peter and Jack, played by Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman. Peter holds onto the past by carrying around trinkets from his father's life, such as a pair of sunglasses that still have the prescription in them as well as an old razor. Jack has not been back in America since his father's death. He has lived in France and has had a tumultuous break up with his girlfriend, which is showcased in Hotel Chevalier, a 13 minute prequel that was shown before the main feature. The three set out on an adventure of spiritual self fulfillment on a train in India, aptly named the Darjeeling Limited. Francis hires an assistant who sets up their itineraries every day, with printer and laminating machine in tail.

Being the control freak that he is, Francis has to have everything settled and ready to go whenever he wants it to. He eagerly orders meals for his estranged brothers, who comply without hesitation, until it becomes too much to handle and arguments and fistfights become the only way to handle it. Francis is also injured, having crashed on his motorbike and was actually dead for a minute before those who found him brought him back to life. This leaves him with bandages around his face for most of the film.

Peter is torn over the feelings he has towards a new child entering his life. His wife, Alice is six weeks away from giving birth and Peter has taken off to road trip it with his siblings in a foreign country. His future fatherhood is a secret that Peter keeps from Francis, but of course tells Jack. These two remain allies against Francis throughout the film until each of their secrets spill out into the open. Another large secret is also revealed when Francis tells Peter and Jack that the biggest reason for their trip, aside from their brotherly bonding, is to visit their mother who left long ago and did not attend their father's funeral. She is now a nun living in a convent on the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.

While the brothers remain very different in their states, they are all seemingly the same and one could tell that they were brothers by their banter, wit and characteristics. They all share an affinity for prescription drugs. In one hilarious scene, they all pass back and forth the drugs that they are taking to cure their specific ailments: heartache, anxiety, and in Francis' sake, facial wounds, numbing them to their surroundings.

Interestingly enough, through these drug addictions, sexcapades on board with a stewardess and the purchase of an illegal and very poisonous snake, the three siblings get kicked off the train in the middle of nowhere India with nothing but the clothes on their back and eleven brown leather suitcases with the initial JMW etched into them--their father's. One second the film goes from hilarity to melancholy when the Whitman's attempt to save three small Indian boys whose raft topples over in a river. Peter remains depressed after finding that his child has died. They return the children to their village and are taken in with open arms. What separated the boys to begin with, is what brings them back together in the end: a funeral.

While there are many fights over the secrets that are withheld, the chaos that ensues and the culmination of finally getting in touch with their long lost mother are what ultimately provides for the brothers to once again become bonded.

A large metaphor in the film lies behind the baggage that the boys must carry with them. Of course, each has their own emotional baggage to tend to, but in the final scene, (in the slow motioned Wes Anderson style), the three must run once again to meet their train that has departed without them. They drop their pieces of luggage, one by one, that has been a burden to them. We as the audience are to assume they have also let go of their past baggage as well and their next stop will ultimately be together.

As a big Wes Anderson fan myself, I adored this film. I found myself experiencing every range of emotion I could find in an hour and half and that is what I think Wes Anderson aims for in every film that he has made. The scenery of India was exquisitely and beautifully portrayed. The background of the Himalayan mountains, to the bareness of the open soil to the hectic marketplace atmosphere made me long for a visit. And of course, the witty road trip banter and bonds fulfilled made me want to take the trip with my own dysfunctional friends.

What the film did great, however, was to portray three seemingly different characters and embody them into one. They all had their flaws, but one main goal to attend to, which they achieve in so many different ways. A film about bonding and brotherly love also became a film of finding who each of them was individually.

In the New York Times' review of the film A.O. Scott puts in his two cents:

"Part of the pleasure of watching it comes from never knowing quite what will happen next. Not that everything that happens is pleasant. Wes Anderson’s world may be a place of wonder and caprice, but it is also a realm of melancholy and frustration, as if all the cool, exotic bric-a-brac had been amassed to compensate for a persistent feeling of emptiness. The Whitman boys may seem happy-go-lucky, but on closer inspection they don’t look very happy at all."