Archive for Sally Hawkins

Bear Jams

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2018 by dcairns

Since we’re nothing but a pair of abject slugabeds, it’s taken Fiona & I this long to catch up with PADDINGTON and PADDINGTON 2. Had we realized that director Paul King was responsible for directing The Mighty Boosh on TV, we’d have gotten into the swing of things sooner. As it was, our interest took a while to get kindled.

The news that the producer of the HARRY POTTER series was making a CGI Paddington initially sparked revulsion. I have very fond feelings for the BBC series, which had a lo-tech look that seemed more charming and more in keeping with the innocent flavour of the thing. I even made this tribute. And Fiona has a history with Michael Bond’s original books — when she was very small, her teacher would end the class by having Fiona read a bit of Paddington, as she was an advanced reader. This was done for the sadistic pleasure of seeing her try not to crack up at stories she found irresistibly funny, while the rest of the class, dullards to a man, stared on blankly.Anyway, as the world now knows, the PADDINGTON movies are lovable triumphs, true to the spirit of the original while also folding in a lot of hyperkinetic action and gags and quite a bit of the cuddly Britishness of Aardman animation. But a very inclusive Britishness — the Peruvian bear may speak with an English accent (what accent would be more believable to you, smart guy?) but the films have a theme about welcoming immigrants that’s highlighted by the musical choices including a calypso band, D. Lime, who pop up whenever needed, like the troubadors in CAT BALLOU. Too bad such a message doesn’t seem to stick. How many families who enjoyed these movies also buy the Daily Mail?

Director King’s TV work had a beautiful stylised look, but the lifting of budgetary constraints have allowed him to splash out in a joyous and cineliterate way. He knows when to go all THIRD MAN ~

And a Chaplin reference — Paddington drawn through the cogs of a clock tower — ends with him wiping off a sooty mustache that neatly tips the derby to another Londoner, another immigrant ~

Like the Harry Potters, the films are jammed with the cream (or creamed with the jam?) or British and Irish acting talent, with one Aussie, Nicole Kidman. Actually, it’s the villains of the films that pose slight difficulties: the movies are so sunny and good-natured, really investing in the dream that a benevolent bear can turn hostility and suspicion into love and acceptance, that they don’t quite know what to do with their baddies. Kidman’s nasty taxidermist actually comes complete with a heartbreaking backstory — she has simply learned entirely the wrong lesson from her father’s tragic downfall. Great as NK is at playing a hush-voiced, plummy vamp (spoofing her ex’s MISSION IMPOSSIBLE stunts), I wanted to see even her redeemed by the bear’s goodwill. Her comeuppance is fittingly mild for this kind of movie — forced to work in a petting zoo is a modest enough punishment for attempted murder — but she carries in her a bitterness that’s a far darker fate than this kind of movie can bear (sorry).

Hugh Grant — doing a wicked impression of Edward Fox — goes the opposite way in the sequel. He’s not punished at all, in that he enjoys his punishment and turns it into his dream come true. Nor does he learn anything. Being a parody of an actor, other people are irrelevant to him, and he’s never cared one way or the other about our ursine hero. So the pay-off for his character, in a sense, cannot provide 100% narrative satisfaction — but it nevertheless turns into a triumphant end credits sequence that finishes the series on an all-time high.

Additional shout-outs: Ben Whishaw voices the bear with unapologetic sweetness; Hugh Bonneville is gradually establishing himself as the UK’s bestest thing; all of Sally Hawkins films will now be seen through the retrospective fish-eye of THE SHAPE OF WATER so all her swimming and interspecies activities here are hilarious; the kids, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin, sprouting alarmingly from one film to the next; Brendan Gleason, the funniest recipient of a hard stare; national treasure Jim Broadbent; Simon Farnaby, who resurrects the comedy cliché that when men drag up unconvincingly, other straight men suddenly find them irresistible.

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Deep Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by dcairns

Richard Ayoade’s SUBMARINE, adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, could serve as an object lesson in many things — how to make an effective transition from TV and music promos (the director is a star of the sitcom The IT Crowd), how to make a British coming-of-age story, how to make a recent period movie and avoid time-capsule pastiche and nostalgia, how to handle a character who isn’t conventionally sympathetic — i.e. who isn’t RIGHT about a lot of things — and still preserve audience sympathy… but the angle I’d like to lavish most praise on is the absorption of influence.

SUBMARINE (it’s not a 1930 Jack Holt adventure film, the title is merely allusive to the submerged feeling that comes with depression) wears its influences on its sleeve, with a boldness alibi’d by the conceit of protag Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts, with his Bud Cort gimlet eyes) continually imagining himself as the star of a movie. Ayoade throws in Scorsese flashbulb freeze-frames, HAROLD AND MAUDE sidelong glances, a DON’T LOOK NOW red hood mistaken identity, Godardian typography… importantly, the pleasure of the film is enhanced by recognition of the sources — somebody who’d never seen a pre-1980 movie could still enjoy this unhindered, but getting where the ideas are borrowed from is an additional pleasure rather than a source of irritation. At least for me.

Crucial to this is that the devices all perform narrative / dramatic / emotional / poetic functions, rather than just being nods in the direction of classics to whose status the film aspires (as in the cargo cult filmmaking of the Tarantino clone). When Ayoade performs a slow zoom into a bowl of lumpy school custard, he evokes the misery of a British comprehensive school education with Proustian immediacy — but if you recognize it as a riff on Scorsese’s alka-seltzer zoom in TAXI DRIVER, there’s an additional laugh.

(Although, my own school’s custard erred on the side of fluidity, being essentially a yellow milk sealed beneath a viscous, rubbery skin thick enough to support the weight of a 2nd year pupil.)

This movie really gets school — the inescapable universal bullying and homophobia. I mean, I love GREGORY’S GIRL, but neither Fiona or I recognize it as in any major way an accurate depiction of the school system. Everybody’s so nice. As with a good period movie set anytime before the twentieth century, a school movie has to start from the premise, surely, that even the finest people are going to be absolutely ghastly at times by any civilized standard.

Yasmin Paige is both beautiful and real as the protag’s far-from-perfect “love interest” (a weak expression for teenage passion, that) and succeeds in a role at first sight even less overtly sympathetic than the hero’s. The young actors are supported by adults with intense and original comedy chops — Sally Hawkins (sporting a disfiguring hairdo apparently modeled on Wendy Craig’s look in the 70s/80s sitcom Butterflies), Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine (astonishing low-key physical comedy here). Very wisely, the film avoids stuffing the cast with the filmmaker’s famous chums (that actually works in SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, but is generally something to be avoided at all costs). Exec producer Ben Stiller does pop up in heavy disguise on a TV set.

By the way, speaking as one whose response to the trailer for Mike Leigh’s HAPPY GO LUCKY was to wish for access to a red button that would bring human life to a swift and merciful end, the time may have come for me to admit that Sally Hawkins is a welcome and useful addition to the bestiary of British acting talent.

How will the young stars do in future? In particular, how will Craig Roberts cope with the fact that he has already, at aged 19, uttered the line he was born to say?

“My mum gave a hand-job to a mystic.”

Fiona’s favourite shot — “staring at him balefully over a fantastically baroque prawn cocktail. I was the only one laughing at that.”