Beginners (Film) Review

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Jill picked another Ewan McGregor movie for this week (with a fair amount of encouragement from me), so sue us.

We decided he was infinitely more appealing than Pinhead right now (and honestly, unless we go back to #3 in the series, I’m pretty sure the PH we know and love has been replaced by another actor and I don’t know how I feel about that).

So, Ewan. Here we are again, Sir and might I respectfully say to the room, this is a phase of McGregor I really enjoy. Stripey sweaters, older, slightly more debonair McGregor. Hummina.

Also, no swinging appendage this time which is bittersweet I suppose – like, this is a film that doesn’t need dick to give it worth, yet I kind of like seeing it in all it’s familiarity, you know?

*Spoilers*! As well as added asides from me (in (brackets) AND italics to show the seriousness of the situation).

Beginners (2010)

Director: Mike Mills
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic

IMDB Synopsis: A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.

My Review:

This film is an introspective meander through the recent and historic pasts of an emotionally distant father and son, as well as a glimpse into a future so far unmapped for our boy, Oliver (McG).

(This film is so sad I blubbed throughout, maybe because Christopher Plummer looks so much like my grandfather did. Sadly, our own Grampy never did come out towards the end or experience the joy of real love before he left us (that we know of anyway)).

Oliver is coming to terms with the passing of his absent for the majority of his childhood father, Hal. We flit back and forth on Hal and Oliver’s timelines so we meet Hal after he’s come out at the age of 75, following the passing of his wife Georgia (Mary Page Keller). He has a boyfriend called Andy and doesn’t insist on monogamy. He has a little dog called Arthur and likes parties. He’s also been diagnosed with cancer and things, frankly aren’t looking great.

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An emoji or two wouldn’t have killed ya

In the present, Hal has passed on and Oliver has taken ownership of Arthur, who has separation anxiety. One evening Oliver goes to a house party with his friends (and Arthur), and meets the charming Anna. They share an adorable meet cute and the spark ignites.

(Mélanie Laurent makes me want to be so French it hurts. Everything about her seems so effortless and I’m in love with her.)

Oliver is sad though, mourning a father he only really got to know in the latter part of his life, sometimes with a side of TMI. There is real love between them but Oliver has trouble with his own relationships having witnessed the problems in his parents’ marriage (several decades of living a lie can do that to a couple). He’s scared shitless and seems aimless in other areas, though he’s trying to find his groove creatively.

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“Have you read this one? It’s called Marley & Me…”

Oliver is an illustrator with a unique style which he’s trying to evolve beyond album covers for obscure brands. He creates a series of drawings called The History of Sadness, to give you an idea of where his head’s at but it’s rejected by the band he’s done it for because he’s too much of a damn maverick and they don’t get it.

(I get it Oliver! HOLD ME!)

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The Sads

Meanwhile, back in the past, Hal is finally truly happy and loving his New Gay Life, spearheading gay political letter writing groups, gay film clubs, the gay pride committee. He’s a big hit in the gay community but he’s also in denial as his illness gets worse, telling his friends he’s turned a corner health wise.

Oliver and Anna are slowly getting to know one another in 2003, though she’s an actress who travels from job to job so there are periods of absence (you don’t really notice them within the film). Honestly, not that much happens in this film, it’s very navel-gazey which is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Pretty sure this lady wants to be me too

Eventually Oliver’s fear of not feeling the way ‘he should’ when Anna moves in causes a big fight and Anna leaves. Arthur works on his neediness (kind of), Andy confronts Oliver about his ‘homophobia’ after Hal’s death and Oliver makes some political graffiti (not necessarily in that order).

Questions:

Will Oliver fuck this all up? Will Anna come back? More importantly, will super-cute Arthur the Dog ever get over his grief?

All these questions will be answered by the end of the movie. You’ll also, I predict: cry a lot, hug the next person you see after you’re done and want to call your family immediately.

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Political, innit

My Thoughts: 

I think you can get from the above that, although action is thin on the ground, this is an emotional piece of art that will stay with you long after Ewan has shuffled off the screen in his stripey jumper. It’s a thinker and in places it is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

I found myself tearing up an awful lot and I think it’s okay for me to admit here in my safe place that that’s because losing my remaining parent is the stuff of nightmares. It actually makes me panic if I think about it, so I try not to. Beginners takes you to that place and forces you to stare at it head on, to consider the act of forgiveness and letting go, and taking the person before you for exactly who they are, warty/fucking fabulous bits and all.

GAH!

McGregor is sexy as fuck throughout (good hair and nice eyes) and Melanie is effervescent but the film really belongs to Plummer, whose Hal is a joy to behold in every way. His childlike glee at finally getting to live his best life is making me form a lump in my throat as I type this.

The interspersed illustrations are also dead good.

My Rating: 4/5 – It’s all about the mood this film and it’ll cut you up, like a ferret with a flick knife. I’m telling you.

If this doesn’t get you thinking about your loved ones and your past/present relationships then you’ve a heart of granite. You’ve at least got to agree that Arthur the Jack Russell is one of the sweetest showbiz canines in a long while (that doesn’t get murdered horribly).

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“Do you like my tight sweater?”

So, did my wonderful blog wife get The Sads watching this (in the good way) or did she get the sads (in the bad way)? Only one way to find out, you know the drill by now! ❤

Rickman

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Is it cool with everybody if I head back to bed for the rest of the month?

First Bowie, now Rickman – this month is just incredibly sad so far. It’s also making me think and I don’t have time for that right now! So I’m going to wax lyrical on my top three (four actually because I just thought of one as I was typing that) favourite Rickman moments, then I’m going for a hot bath.

I know I’m not alone in my pain and despite what some naysayers are saying on Twitter about the very public outpouring of grief for both men, I think it’s a beautiful thing. Imagine leaving such a legacy behind you?

I hope Alan’s family are all together. I read that he’s been happily married for 50 years, isn’t that the sweetest? I just can’t imagine how his wife must be feeling.

Disclaimer: I’m not a Potterhead so you won’t find Snape on this list. Not that I didn’t like him in the role or anything, just that it didn’t speak to me in the way the below did. 

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Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply (1990)

Ugh just typing that makes me choke. This film taught me that grief can be very very ugly and snotty – but still beautiful AF. Jamie and Nina (Juliet Stevenson) are very much in love when Jamie passes away. Before Nina even begins to process her absolute heartbreak, Jamie returns in his ghostly form and they are reunited.

I wasn’t that old when I first saw this and I always thought of it as the ‘English Ghost‘ (released in the same year) but sorry, Patrick, this film is so much better in all it’s tear soaked glory. The leads are perfect together in every way as they learn to finally let one another go – and you’ll bawl until you can’t bawl no more. FACT.

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Sheriff George of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

A year later, Rickman stole the show in RH:PoT, one of the most enjoyable films of my adolescence. And you’re damn right I can quote it word for word.

As the naughty naughty Sheriff of Nottingham, our boy was pure delight. I can only imagine that he was having the time of his life in this pantomime-villlian role which is really compelling to watch. One of his best lines, spat out with pure vitriol, will always be one of my favourites: “Locksley, I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!”

See also: “[to a wench] You. My room. 10:30 tonight. [to another wench] You. 10:45… And bring a friend.”

Love-Actually

Harry in Love Actually (2003)

I just saw this a month ago and it got me again, as it does every time: that moment Karen (Emma Thompson) figures out her husband Harry is almost definitely cheating on her. She goes upstairs and has a little cry to Joni, before pulling herself together and getting on with it like a motherfucking boss. Every. Time.

That’s Love Actually to me and what brings me back every single year (I’ve mentioned my annual viewing with my BFF Panda). But that scene could not be without potential love rat Rickman and he’s incredible sexy in this role.

A cheating swine but sexy, nonetheless.

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Super Hot Tangoing Businessman in Texas’ In Demand music video (2000)

Panda and I always reference this as her ‘happy place’ and this is the real kicker. Rickman tangos with beautiful Sharleen Spiteri on a petrol station forecourt and we swooned. Like proper swooned.

(There’s this bit, with this look).

What a gentleman. What charisma.What a fucking waste of one of the greatest actors and voices of his generation. 

View here for yourself here:

Enjoy!

RIP sweet Rickman ❤

The Flawless Mr Hoffman

esq-philip-seymour-hoffman-1112-lgA year ago today the world lost one of the most incredible actors of our generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was 46 when he passed away. When I found out I was numb for a little while (but managed to write this the day after, though I can’t remember doing it). I felt numb in that way that you can only really articulate by saying “I can’t believe it” over and over. It is an odd feeling to grieve for someone you’ve never met, only admired on a big screen, but it is still genuine emotion.

This loss is a massive one. There is nothing more I can add to that. It’s all been said already.

But I wanted to mark this horrible anniversary with a celebration of some kind, rather than dwell on melancholy. There were times in my life when I was blown away by this man. He made me laugh and cry; and sometimes he scared me. I felt like he spoke to me on a personal level and I think that’s the beauty of a greatly talented person.

I believed him always.

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I’m hard pressed really to refine my favourite PSH moments. It would be very hard to narrow down my most loved performances to just a handful.

Well, sort of. I mean, of course he was exceptional as Truman Capote in Capote. He’s been great in nearly every film he put his name to (with a few exceptions), stealing scenes left right and centre.

But by far my favourite PSH turn is in Flawless. As Rusty, PSH took my admiration to a whole new level. This is how I choose to remember him, as the ballsy female impersonator with a whole lot of heart. (I reviewed the film a few years ago, here).

Rusty is the ultimate Groupie for the Underdog. Cheerleader for the brow beaten and the bullied. Fighting for the rights of the LGBT and being fucking fabulous while she does it. Reeling off one liners like rapid machine gun fire, she is exactly the kind of person you need in your life, and on your side.

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Rusty is the person she is because of all the things she’s been/is going through and is the sum of all her own insecurities, all her flaws. And that’s what makes her beautiful and strong.

I used to watch this movie religiously, at least once a month. I watched it not long after PSH died and it was hard to do. I still miss him.

So this year I’ll be respectfully remembering the man I loved for over a decade, who made even the smallest character study a fascinating one, who ruled every scene he was in.

To you, PSH, forever.

Things & Inc

An update post if you will, as boy do we have a lot going right now.

What, it’s Christmas and everybody is buzzing around like bees on ecstasy? You’re right, my bad. How’re you coping?

Here are a few of the things I am thinking about right now.

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  • Lena Dunham

I’m finally on Not That Kind of Girl and haven’t even passed the Introduction yet. But I’m looking forward to it.

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Sadly, the book already has a reputation that proceeds it, given the uproar it has caused over the last few months. People are forming new Dunham shaped opinions all over the shop due to some of the subject matter (and how it has been sculpted by Lena’s choice of language), but I am remaining on the fence until I have a context to relate it to.

I love her style and I can’t see that changing any time soon, but she might allude to stabbing puppies in the final segment, so you never know.

  • Christmas Shopping

I’m done! Did it all in one sitting with the help of the trusty internet. The lovely, lovely internet.

*SMUG FACE*

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  • Christmas Movies That Retell A Christmas Carol (And/Or Feature an Alternative Universe) From the Perspective of a High Flying Business Woman (Always American) Who Has Lost Sight of What Is Important 

See Christmas Cupid (TV Movie 2010), Holidaze (TV Movie 2013) and, from this afternoon, It’s Christmas, Carol! (TV Movie 2012).

All, you might have noticed, straight to television masterpieces. And yes, I do love them more than Coco Pops. Amusing because, of course, no woman can climb the career ladder without transforming into a total bitch of epic proportions!

(If any of you know of any more films of this ilk, please let me know).

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  • Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud

I am obsessed.

  • Family

This week hasn’t been easy and some new news has made it even more difficult and emotional (which I’m not going to go into) but I have been reminded that I have a fucking wonderful family who are strong and incredible people, come rain or shine.

It’s easier to deal with the shit stuff when you have an army of rock stars on your side, that’s for sure.

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  • Jake Gyllenhaal

We recently watched Nightcrawler and I really enjoyed it. Following the last of Jake’s films I absolutely loved, Enemy and Prisoners, he’s now pretty much my favourite. Such a talented (and fit) actor.

Nightcrawler follows creepy Louis Bloom into LA’s underground as he becomes interested, and then really quite good at, the business of crime journalism.

  • Ready Player One (the Movie)ready-player-one

OMG this book is fantastic and so completely up my alleyway, that I #canteven! But if I could, I would tell you that the fact that Christopher Nolan has been offered the film version of it is knicker-wettingly exciting and I squeaked a little when I heard.

Cannot wait.

(Even though the scriptwriter has admitted to have taken ‘liberties’ with the original source material, so you know, boo to that).

So, that’s me. I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the lead up to Christmas. I’m not feeling that merry yet, I have to say but that has to be because I haven’t seen enough Christmas movies yet (I accept non-Dickensian rehashes too). Soon to be rectified, I hope.

Uncle Robin 1951 – 2014

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089824-2798-3916Yesterday most of the world woke up to the news that Robin Williams had passed away.

I was in a decidedly un-glamorous place as I scrolled through Facebook and found out for myself (embarrassing source of all my news). My subsequent scream from the bathroom caused Mr Bee to get very annoyed when he realised I hadn’t just been injured or attacked.

It is always strange when a beloved celebrity passes away. This year we have already been rocked by the passing of another favourite, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and in similarly shocking circumstances (all still alleged). Hoffman from a heroin overdose in his own bathroom and now Williams, who is believed to have taken his own life.

It’s just so very sad. I guess when you think about death at a not even that old age, you hope for something quick and painless. Tragic, of course but natural. To consider the ongoing suffering of somebody famous for making others feel better is a bitter punchline in itself.

This morning as I was stomping around the park thinking about this subject and of what Robin meant to me, I got to thinking about the joke Rorschach tells in Watchmen:

I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

Moral of the story: you never know.

Now, I don’t feel qualified to comment on what sort of torment must lead a person to such a hopeless place. I don’t think it’s the cowards way out though.

I know a few things about mental illness and depression, I know a bit about addiction but all my experience is second hand. I know it’s serious and that we should be able to talk about it openly, without judgment and help should be readily available. It goes further than that though and I understand this.

I just feel incredibly sad. I feel as though the world will genuinely have an empty hole in it now. Robin always felt like an uncle to me and when we spoke about him, Mr Bee and I called him ‘Uncle Robin’.

Had he been my real uncle (and I do love my actual uncles), I imagine Robin would have been able to fix anything with a hairy armed bear hug. Nothing could be bad within that embrace and nothing would ever light up the room like that smile. That laugh.

Now this is my fantasy, of an uncle I’ll never have but I’m sure his own children felt that way about him. I’m sure his friends, his wife, all his loved ones felt that way too. I hope he’s at peace now.

Rest easy, Peter Pan.

Gramps

Definitely not my grandfather
Definitely not my grandfather

Write About A Grandparent (via Writing Exercises)

You know that old adage, “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard”? (To paraphrase the original quote by Frankin D. Roosevelt, made in reference to his Secretary of State).

That’s Gramps.

Bastard is a little strong but I’m being kind when I say he is a difficult man. It’s not like he’s pure evil or anything like that, it’s just he’s so… Gramps.

Growing up there was no closeness. In fact, I found out quite recently that when we moved to England from Canada, my mother was given strict instructions to only bring us grandkids over once a week on a Sunday, for no longer that 20 minutes at a time. Charming, eh? Considering we were so bloody adorable!

This sort of sums up the rest of our relationship with the old timer, though I have some funny memories. When you get to a certain point in life, even the tragic things start to become amusing.

I’m going to say here that these are my thoughts on my grandfather. I could wax lyrical about the ways in which he has hurt his children and how I will always hate him a little bit for that, but that’s not what this post is about, not now.

Gramps is 98. A year or so ago he was finally confused enough to be moved into a care home. He now resides in the care home where I held my first job, aged 13. My old boss, who sacked me for letting another carer pierce my ear at the end of a shift, is still there. Thankfully, she doesn’t recognise me.

She refers to Mum as “Child”.

Gramps loves it. As a young man living and working in India back in the day, he had a household staff and, as he delights in telling anyone he can pin down for long enough, he didn’t even need to dress himself then. He would have two servants to dress him and another to press a glass of whiskey on the rocks into his hand.

*Rolls eyes*

As my brother and I reached work age and became more independent, it became apparent that our grandfather (Cyril) had no interest in what a girl could do. While Nana secretly cheered me on from the sidelines (more that I realised at the time), Gramps assumed I’d marry and it wouldn’t matter much what I did anyway. Tim was the Golden Boy with the Bright Future Ahead.

As a former bank manager, Cyril is delighted Tim ended up in Futures. My brother, and our cousin, Ricky are the favourites. They earn money y’all and are men. Sadly, my Grandfather measures success in monetary terms while my family; Mum, Tim and I measure it in experience, love; richness.

Surprisingly, I once had a job working for a purveyor of filth in my hometown. We sold adult material basically and my mother was horrified. Wishing to shock him, I told Gramps what I did (it was an admin role, relax!) and he was actually supportive. He even went away and researched the company, coming back to say that he was impressed with their profit margins (or something).

My happiest memory is of my grandfather taking us for long walks after Christmas lunch every year. Each of us four grandchildren were allowed to choose a walking stick and take it with us. All these beautiful walking sticks, with carved heads like ducks and stags. I loved that the best about Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone.

When I brought my husband around for the first time to meet Gramps, he walked straight past him and barely mumbled hello. He never explained his behaviour to me but later he told Mum it was because he didn’t like us and we lived in sin.

Who says that about their granddaughter? (We’re not a religious family at all).

Still, Gramps liked my demon ex and I think this an important thing to note. He liked him because he has ‘a strong handshake’. Fabulous judge of character, Grampy, well done.

Over the years I have lost touch with my grandfather, through living away from the UK or just not bothering to see him. I’ve seen him a few times in the home and he barely knows who I am. I can safely say that I have never felt any love emanating from him, for myself or anybody else.

But he’s my grandfather and I love him. I don’t care if he can’t love me back. I’m a better person than he is, so are we all.

This post is actually quite emotional to write now that I’ve started, it was supposed to be more tongue in cheek. I’ve talked myself into feeling bad for him; that he’ll never know the utter joy we could have brought to his life. That when he’s gone we will say things like “He was our bastard though” and we’ll get on with our lives. I will watch my mother be very sad but she will be the only one, I think.

That’s not a successful life, Gramps. Sorry old boy.