Movie Monday: The Hours

By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Three different generations of women are interconnected by the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Best Quotes:

“A woman’s whole life in a single day, and in that day her whole life-” Virginia Woolf, writing Mrs. Dalloway

“Today, sort of like black fire. Sort of light and dark at the same time. There was one like an electrified jellyfish. They were singing. It might have been Greek,”-Richard describing how his guests looked.

“We shall publish no more new authors. I have to tell you I found ten errors in the first proof.”-Leonard, Woolf’s husband.

“Because I wanted to be a writer, that’s all. I wanted to write about it all; everything that happens in a moment, the way the flowers looked when you carried them in your arms in this towel, how it smells, how it feels, this thread. All our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything in the world. Everything all mixed up, like it’s all mixed up now. And I failed–I failed. No matter what you start with, it ends up being so much less-” Richard, explaining why he didn’t want to be honored.

“I think I’m only staying alive to satisfy you-” Richard.

Pause: All right, basically anything said by Richard is quotable gold.

Suicide. That is how the story begins, which immediately pulls its audience in because now we need to know how and why the story ends from this. Set in the 1900s with flashes forward to 2001, this film boasted an all-star cast. I was hoping it would live up to the way I’d already hyped it up in my head.

It did.

Seriously, five seconds into the actors scrolling past, I was thinking in amazement to myself “Who ISN’T in this movie??”

The film continues with the kiss of death for a writer–starting a story where the character is waking in bed. In spite of this, it was interesting. At the beginning, I became confused with the multiple perspectives of the three women: Virginia Woolf in 1923, Laura Brown in the 1951, and Clarissa Vaughn in 2001.

Laura Brown, in 1951, is unhappy with her marriage. You know something is wrong when a man gives a woman flowers on his birthday, and she walks on eggshells like he is an axe murderer.

Vaughn is the energizer bunny book editor, running around and making preparations for her friend, Richard. He is to receive a lifetime achievement award for poetry, and he is very ill from AIDS.

Richard has a dry, self-deprecating humor and refers to Vaughn as “Mrs. Dalloway.” He is fascinating to watch. He has a controlled craziness about him, although I think a writer has to have a little craziness in them if they are touched in the head by the stroke of genius.

Ed Harris played him well–I didn’t know what he was going to do next. Richard wonders if he got the poetry prize because his work was good or because he’s sick.

Woolf is basically put on house arrest by her husband, who runs a publishing company out of their house just to be near her. She has a passive-aggressive show-down with her cooks, which was really impressive, considering the fact that she didn’t look up from the floor.

Meanwhile, Brown is making her husband a birthday cake with her young son, Richie. He asks to sift the flour and tells her that making a cake isn’t difficult. She tells him that they are making the cake to show Daddy they love him. Richie asks–in that sweetly innocent ‘leave-it-to-Beaver voice’ that all movie children have–“Otherwise he won’t know?” And Julianne Moore’s character is undeniably but unintentionally chilling when she answers yes.

The cake failed. Epically.

Apparently the audience needs to know that it’s ridiculously easy to make a cake, and Brown just can’t do it. This probably has more to do with the relationship with her husband and not whether or not she can actually make a cake.

It actually hurt to watch the women in 1951. Exhibit A: “You can’t call yourself a woman until you’re a mother.” I know it was a different time period, with a different set of values, but I had an urge to reach inside the screen and drag those women off to a women’s shelter. It was a cross between the Stepford wives (creepy, fakely bright happiness) and the mentality of a POW.

Kidman (who was barely recognizable as Woolf) spoke in a soft monotone the whole movie. This woman had genius inside her brand of madness. Woolf’s sister visits with her children and they find a dead bird. The sister asks if Woolf is better, if she is listening to her doctors.

The bird funeral, and corresponding conversation between Woolf and her niece is hauntingly beautiful. I got the sense that the suicide scene wasn’t far off, and the stakes started to raise for all of the women.

The film contained many references to reading, the writing craft, and death. Lots of quirky sayings about death. These women all seem trapped in their respective time periods. One by illness, another by convention, and another by fear and denial.

I am definitely watching this movie again, if not solely for Richard’s character. This movie was exactly what a movie about writing should capture. The score was beautiful, cinematography was excellent, the dialogue was amazing, it kept me engaged, and the acting was convincing. And there is a twist!

The film gives the sense that writers are in this world, but barely of it. Both Richard and Woolf seem to be empty of life as they imbue life into their characters, almost as if they are pouring their life force into their work. Brown wants escapism into someone else’s life to hide from her own by reading. And Vaughn doesn’t need a book, she uses Richard and staying busy to hide from her own.

The film also gives a wonderful commentary on why we read and write. I loved the underlying meaning. The only complaint I had is that the beginning sequences seem a little chaotic and rushed. Also, the fact that the women were all depressed and repressed. I don’t want to completely spoil the movie, so you’ll have to watch to see if and how they rise above those issues. I would give this movie a 9/10 for that.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Advertisements

Movie Monday: Man of La Mancha


By Alexandria Harris

Premise: Cervantes and his manservant are imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition and the prisoners put him on trial. His defense is a story.

Best Quotes:

“Reality–a stone prison crushing the human spirit. Poetry demands imagination and with imagination, you may discover a dream.”- Cervantes

“Miguel de Cervantes I charge you with being an idealist, a bad poet, and an honest man how plead you?” Prisoner
“GUILTY!”-Cervantes

“We both select from life”-Cervantes, referring to how poets and madmen are alike.

“Madness most of all is seeing life as it is, not as it should be.”-Cervantes

I know this is a musical, but I thought I stepped into a distorted production of the Wizard of Oz or The Wiz with all of the tin men and straw people jumping around and Catholic monks as the wicked witches in the first scene.

But no, it just happens to be Cervantes putting on the play “Don Quixote” in the square–and gets arrested by Inquisition soldiers five seconds later.

I love when movies dive right in and get to the point.

Cervantes and his manservant look like they’re headed to prison, especially because of a dungeon like structure they are escorted to, but apparently they only wait for their trial in two hours.

Cervantes goes into this hilarious monologue where he tells the prisoners that he’s been to prison many times (how mobster of him), that he finds the world a prison at times, and then gets attacked by the inmates!

Cervantes begs the prisoners to “try” him when they almost put his manuscript in flames and he almost dives in to save it. He tells them he presented an entertainment and is to go before the Inquisition. The prisoners put him on trial.

Cervantes and his servant put on Don Quixote for the prisoners and he transforms into the part (meaning Peter O’ Toole looks like he does presently, only in grey and with a longer beard) and breaks out into song.

Warning: the songs are catchy (and really cheesy) with donkeys and other animals doing some fancy footwork. I found myself singing “I’m Don Quixote, yes Lord of La Mancha” over and over.

The first song apparently has magic powers because suddenly Cervantes/Don Quixote and Sancho/his manservant are in a field and living the scene where Don Quixote sees a giant and it’s actually a windmill.

I think Sancho and Don Quixote are both right and it’s a giant windmill. The windmill fighting scene alone will either have you in stitches, give you a slight case of vertigo, or both.

The movie flashes back to the prison where Cervantes picks prisoners to be in his next scene. He goes among the women and picks his Al Donza, saying she could be a tiger crouching with fire and the scene turns back into Don Quixote land.

Sophia Loren’s Al Donza is FEISTY. I admired her character until she started singing. She was literally attacked by all these horny mean to the point that I was for sure I was going to see a rape scene for a hot second. But she sang her way out of it.

The prisoners wonder if Cervantes is trying to distract them from their purpose instead of mounting a defense. Cervantes affirms that it’s exactly what he’s doing and asks to continue. He chooses more for his cast and the audience delves deeper into the world of Don Quixote, into his family.

His niece is soon to be wedded and wants to hide her uncle’s apparent madness from her fiance or he might break the engagement. Thus the intrigue and plotting begins.

Watching the movie helped me to appreciate how much of a storyteller Cervantes was, how much of a genius he was at setting the scene. I usually enjoy a play within a play. It was a nice twist to have the prisoners perform Don Quixote and have it seem drawn from Cervantes’ life.

The fact that Don Quixote looked like the malnourished, human, and ten years older version of Victor from The Corpse Bride only enhanced the movie for me.

It was too long at a little over two hours, but at least it was interesting. If you cut the songs out you’d probably get rid of thirty minutes. The singing didn’t exactly blow me away, but it did the job. I’m not much for musicals, but this one kept me thoroughly entertained. The dialogue was great, O’Toole makes a very convincing, off-his-rocker Don Quixote.

The story was well put together and it makes a good movie. I give it a 6/10 mainly because it does a great job at connecting the writer/story/and reality but the story would have flowed better if it wasn’t a musical. But what an ending! (in a good way)

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Somewhere in Time


By Alexandria Harris

Normally romantic movies are not my thing, but the allure of seeing Christopher Reeve NOT play Superman was too much. Plus I’m a sucker for time travel. And Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. So Superman plus Dr. Quinn and time travel equal a good time.

Premise: A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose portrait hangs in a hotel

This movie was a mash-up of The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lake house (especially because of the Christopher Plummer link), and a dash of The Phantom of the Opera.

Quote:
“Evening, Ms. McKenna. You don’t know me, but you will.”

Richard Collier is a budding college playwright, and has just finished debuting a successful play. While he’s basking in the glow of his success, an elderly woman moves through the crowd to him, pushes a pocket watch into his hand and whispers “Come back to me.”

Awkward. Especially because he has no idea who she is and everyone becomes silent to watch the awkwardness.

Even more awkward is having to watch the old woman go to the Grand Hotel, shut herself in her room, and cradle the playbill to her chest in a rocking chair because we immediately flash forward eight years.

Richard has now written many plays, but has apparently hit a rut because he decides to go on a vacation after breaking up with his girlfriend and hasn’t finished his newest play.

And of course, he ends up staying at the Grand Hotel. The bell hop Arthur provides a nice example of overly helpful customer service and has a weird case a deja vu where he thinks he might have met Richard before.

Richard settles in and wants to eat something, but apparently he arrives forty minutes before the dining hall opens. As he tries to kill time, he notices something called a Hall of History (which I now wish all hotels had) and goes through it.

After browsing a few things, he’s mesmerized by an unidentified portrait of a gorgeous woman. He tracks down Arthur, the eager to please bellhop, who tells him all about the woman, Elise McKenna.

Then the audience witnesses his not-so-slow descent into obsession when he goes back to mope at the portrait, then ogles the pocket watch in the middle of the night, stares at the portrait more, tosses and turns in bed, then take a wild guess at what he stares at again.

Next (I would consider this modern Facebook stalking but she’s dead so I guess she can’t care about it) he goes to the library to dig deeper into her life because he found out from Arthur that Elise was a famous actress. After more digging into her later years, he comes across a picture from the end of her life. It’s the same woman who gave him the pocket watch.

*gasp* Dun-dun-DUN! Sorry wrong movie genre.

But now we take obsession and stalking up one more notch and he visits the woman who wrote the book about Elise’s last years and who was also with her the night she died, eight years ago, on the opening night of his play.

She has a sharp reaction to seeing the pocket watch and by this point, I really just wanted to know how far we were going to go down the rabbit hole. The more Richard learns about Elise and her life, the more I wanted Jane Seymour to just come out in all her glory.

Richard finds a book about time travel that his philosophy teacher wrote that Elise apparently read non stop. A music box Elise had made plays the soul wrenching musical score evident throughout the movie that is Richard’s “favorite music in the whole world.”

This drives Richard back to his old philosophy teacher, who suggests self-hypnosis and mind suggestion via some scientific yada, yada, yada as a way of time travel.

The most lovely part of this is that during this conversation, you literally see Christopher Reeve snap, disregarding the dangers and entranced by the whole possibility. And afterward you get to see glaring evidence of just HOW hard he snapped.

I have to say, watching the scenes of Reeve trying to hypnotize himself were worth seeing the movie alone. It was like watching Superman fight against the effects of kryptonite. He was truly a fish out of water in a different time, which made for some very funny material.

Also, the manager-actress relationship could have been a prequel to the Christine-Phantom relationship from Phantom of the Opera. Reeve makes a great Raul and Plummer has the stern, “I’ll kill you in your sleep” intimidating demeanor down pat.

You’ve got cryptic dialogue, creepy stalker dialogue, laugh out loud moments, the danger element, a sense of mystery, and the taste of an epic period romance with some modern sprinkled in. All of this made it a little more than your run of the mill romance. And the time travel helped.

Jane Seymour and Reeve had fabulous chemistry, there was a wonderful sense of spontaneity. I really enjoyed that the movie outlined the pressures of being an actress, of having the responsibility of bringing someone’s world to life.

I mean there was an Inception-like moment/inconsistency that I felt was Christopher Nolan worthy and usually happens with many movies trying to tackle time travel. Who had the pocket watch first?

I have to give this movie a 6/10. I wasn’t too fond of the ending because the movie gradually grew unconvincing. Furthermore, it took them about an hour to show Jane Seymour in action. Who does that?

It also didn’t really get into Richard being a playwright-he just happened to be a playwright who was in love. So basically the moving was less about writing and writing processes than I thought it would be. I thought I was really going to like it, but it made for an adequate love story, plot-wise. The good news–the talent and the soundtrack were fabulous.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and former reporter on WSUM 91.7. When she isn’t watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, she tweets regularly as @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Movie Monday: Why Me Instead of Ebert and Roeper?

By Alexandra Harris

There is absolutely no reason why you should take my word over Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Or Wikipedia.

There, that was my reverse psychology for the day. I will say I enjoy movies and pledge to you my undying passion for writing with sarcastic wit, but that’s my final offer. Before we embark on this cinematic journey, I felt I should explain why I think it’s worth doing and assure you the movies are only confined to matters of writing or writers in order to value our time.

Reading books is better than movies. Usually. I make this claim with the utmost regard for our imaginations. Especially with books turned into movies, most of the time the book is mind blowingly better than the drivel the movie manages to portray. The exceptions to this rule are few and far between, but my favorite example is Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy which is cinematic gold that I am unashamedly obsessed with (seriously, I wear my Evenstar with each viewing).

But when we aren’t focusing on books turned into movies or my obsession, I find movies about writers particularly interesting. Did you know there are more than 236 movies about writing? I didn’t put together that list, but that is a lot of cinema devoted to writers block, creative processes, meltdowns, spurts of genius.

This is why on Mondays I’d like to start something new and review movies dedicated to our craft. Some you may have seen already, and on some points we may not agree, but my goal is to provide funny and interesting reviews.

I loved the Avengers (don’t worry, it’s not on our journey) and since I’m from Wisconsin I, by default, have to love the Packers. This is why the following meme brings them together in perfect harmony. If you are not familiar with what a meme is don’t worry, we’ll get to it later. For now, feast your eyes:

I realize I’m not writing to an enthusiastic crowd of Packer fans, but consider the meme as paying homage to one of the best delivered lines in the movie.

I’ll be reviewing the movies in no particular order. Some will be on the list I linked to, some won’t like our topic for next week *cough cough Anonymous cough cough*. Talking about Shakespeare’s authenticity should definitely start us off with a bang.

Also, if you aren’t sure about watching Becoming Jane (I recommend) or if you’ve seen It Happened One Night and Wonder Boys but you’d like another opinion just for curiosity’s sake, feel free to let me know. Or this can be mostly one-way like Twitter, I don’t mind and I’m looking forward to it.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin