Tuesday, 28 December 2010

All Rabbit No Laughs

Christmas is over. Again. No matter how old I get, I still find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that Christmas is finished for another year. Today is quite special, actually, because it's exactly in the middle of Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, but I'm sitting here, wondering how long it is going to take for me to consume all of my Christmas confectionary at my current rate of three chocolates a day. I'm listening to all my wonderful new cast recordings (I am now more desperate than ever for "Next to Normal" to transfer to London after finally listening to the recording the whole way through) and pondering what to do next.

I have a whole shelf load of books that I am yet to read, and a stack of DVDs to watch. Actually, I have watched six films during the holidays so far, something which I am quite proud of, because I, rather shamefully, watched only the same number during the last term of school. The topic of films, though, made me remember my last German lesson of 2010.

Anyone who knows me well will know that I absolutely adore German. When I was younger, my family, teachers and fellow pupils all believed English and drama to be my passions. Whilst I was good at these subjects, there was always something inside me which told me that this wasn't what I really wanted. I can liken it to people who work in the city, but their sole motivation is the money they are earning. If they were going to be paid an average wage, they would immediately go and find a job which they actually like. This is exactly what happened with me and my shift from English and drama to French and German.

Another thing which those who know me well will know is that when it comes to films, I have high standards. I can see absolutely no merit in wasting two hours watching an unoriginal romantic comedy, or indeed any type of film, where the acting, script and direction is poor, cringeworthy, uninventive or a combination of all three.

There are some romantic comedies, though, which are fantastic. Take, for instance, the Cohen Brothers' "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003).


George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones both deliver the intelligent yet witty script with passion, and as a viewer one gains a real sense of who they are as characters. The direction is inspiring, lifting something which could be riddled with clich├ęs into a stylish surprise. The film is not depressing or difficult to watch, but at the same time is inventive and interesting. This is what I mean by a "good" romantic comedy. As my father takes great delight in telling me, there are only seven stories in the world. I acknowledge that this is true, because it is therefore the way that that story is told that is important. Why, then, do people flock to poor, unimaginative, repetitive retellings? I feel so sad after sitting in a cinema with only three or four other people at a showing of an arthouse or foreign film, which deserves all the attention that the latest Jennifer Aniston film is garnering.

Another film which I feel is original within a genre normally so restrictive is Drew Barrymore's "Whip It" (2009).

I previously posted about this a few months ago when I first saw it, but just decided to use it as another example of a great cast coming together with an inventive director to deliver a clever script. This is the perfect teenage film (actually, it's a perfect film for anyone) of 2010. It's sad that it had low audience numbers compared to its counterparts, but as long as films like this are still being made then there is hope.

I will now rather cleverly link my love of German to films which I consider to be below-par. In our German lesson we had a choice between watching "Goodbye Lenin!" (2003) and "Keinohrhasen" (2007). Having already seen the former, I supported the choice of the latter. Now, I really wish I hadn't. It was exactly the kind of film I deplore.

It was supposed to be a comedy. The funniest moment was the end of the lesson, when we had to stop watching the film. I always try to watch films the whole way through, so did watch the rest at home. Sadly, it didn't get any better. It achieved the impossible: it got worse.

The jokes in it were really pathetic. Someone stepping on a plank and it then hitting them in the face is overdone, and just not amusing. Similarly, the precocious child reciting lines (because she really wasn't acting, and it sounded so unnatural and forced) about her actress mother's string of boyfriends she meets in the theatre is not funny - it is unbearably stereotypical. Similar attempts at humour were made through child-size toilets and the giving of instructions in Dutch, when the recipient did not speak a word of this language. Seriously, in real life, would you not just go and look for the instructions in German, or refuse to attempt the task?

The acting was another issue. I have already mentioned precocious children, of which there were many. Seriously, there are many talented child actors such as Abigail Breslin, Chloe Moretz and Nicholas Hoult, who can actually act. Why they could not seem to find any for this film is anyone's guess. The day care centre concept actually reminded me of the American film "Daddy Day Care" (2003), which I also found unbearable.

The two leads were played by Til Schweiger and Nora Tschirner. Their chemistry was actually quite good, and their performances would have been excellent were it not for the infantile script they were forced to follow. Everything was so stereotypical. For instance, Anna (Tschirner) wore glasses and dressed as a frump, until magically she wore fashionable clothes and contacts and "became beautiful".

The notion of characterizing the woman in a romantic comedy as almost not good enough for the man really annoys me, especially when it is done through glasses and clothing. It sends out the message that one must look a certain way in order to be with someone considered to be attractive, and that it is not good to not feel the need to flash the flesh at every opportunity. As someone who needs to wear glasses for certain things, it really upsets me the way they are often shown to be unattractive and undesirable by film-makers. Would the film have been better if Anna were not intially dressed this way? It's hard to say, but would it not have been good for her not to change herself once she was with Ludo?

I think I will conclude now, by saying that were it not for the beautiful setting and the good performances from the two leads, I would probably give the film less than 10/100. As it stands, I think I will actually give it 21/100, which is basically one star. I will be inscences if I have to study it next year as part of my A Level, but at least I would have a lot to say about it.

Sadly, there is, of course, the sequel, and also news of a planned Hollwood remake. Not only do American remakes of European films, or any films come to that, annoy me, but do we really need more of this film?

Back to the Moliere for now...

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