Film No 6 (2015) : The Imitation Game

imitation gameAfter all the column inches that have been written about ‘The Imitation Game’, I would not presume to be able to add anything especially enlightening to the dialogue. This is, as everyone has said and the 8 Oscar Nominations confirm, a stunning film.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a brilliant mathematician, portrayed in the film as being on the autistic spectrum, although this interpretation is apparently an inaccurate representation of his character. Turing was a loner at school, bullied by his peers. Flashbacks reveal this aspect of his childhood, together with his infatuation with another boy, Christopher Morcom. Within the context of the film, it is this first love which introduces the fact of Turing’s homosexuality. Turing combined mathematical genius with studies on cryptology and in 1938 began work at Bletchley Park, attempting to de-code messages enciphered by the enemy using Enigma machines. That Turing and his team succeeded makes for compelling viewing in a cinema; that they actually broke the Enigma codes in real life is nothing short of remarkable. However, ‘The Imitation Game’ does not concentrate solely upon Turing’s professional and academic genius; it also paints a sensitive picture of his relationship with fellow code-breaker Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), as well as examining the stigma and vulnerability of a gay man at a time when homosexuality itself was illegal.

I don’t think I have ever been as shocked by the ending of a film as I was at the close of ‘The Imitation Game’, when a short written paragraph explained what happened to Alan Turing after the imposition of chemical castration following his prosecution in 1952 for homosexual acts. I was gobsmacked, expecting a reminder of his Knighthood and receipt of a Nobel Prize. The truth, as many probably know (but I didn’t), is rather different.

Of course Keira Knightley drove me mad with her hideous over-bite and unconvincing accent, but even she fails to eclipse the brilliance of Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Alan Turing. Whilst I was rooting for Eddie to win the Best Actor prize for ‘The Theory of Everything’, I can’t help thinking that in any other year, Cumberbatch would have been holding the golden knight.

Film No 38 (2014) : Love Actually

love actualyChoosing Christmas presents? I love it. Shopping? Love that even more. Parting with the cash is sometimes painful, but  I can cope. Wrapping up all the gifts? I hate it. Absolutely bloody hate it. It’s an annual battle, me against the Clinton roll wrap. So, whilst I barricaded myself in the bedroom and stuck a ‘Keep Out – Elf at Work’ sign on the door, ‘Love Actually’ was a great choice to distract me from the disobedient sticky tape.

The film interweaves twelve love stories, which take place in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas. Written and directed by comic genius Richard Curtis, the film is gentle and thought-provoking, exploring love in its many guises. Watching the film for the first time is probably the best, as the links between the characters are gradually revealed; David the Prime Minister is Karen the Mum’s brother, and Natalie, who is David’s secretary, turns out to live next door to Mia, who is Karen’s husband’s (Harry) secretary and in love with him and so on. It sounds complicated and in some ways it is, but so is modern life; we are all inter-connected by links of romantic love, parental love, friendship, familial love. The film is saved from being corny by its robust script and strong cast, as almost anyone who is everyone in British acting puts in an appearance: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy …..and more. Even Rowan Atkinson pops up as an over-attentive shop assistant. Rodrigo Santoro, one of Brazil’s most talented and famous actors also stars, as Karl, with whom Sarah is in love. Santoro does not have a big role, but deserves a mention simply because he is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, especially when he takes his shirt off!

‘Love Actually’ has probably become part of the UK Christmas viewing landscape, together with ‘Its a Wonderful Life‘, ‘The Snowman‘ and the ‘The Sound of Music‘. The film is showing pretty much back to back on Sky over the Christmas holiday, or the DVD is only £3 on Amazon so would fit into your stocking. I suppose the fact that I could watch the film whilst multi-tasking probably says something about its watchability; it’s mental floss. But that doesn’t make me like it any less!

 

Film No 34 (2014) : Begin Again

begin againKeira Knightley does something really annoying with her jaw. Had I been the girl’s mother, I’d have whipped her off to the orthodontist years ago! Her agent probably thinks the frozen grimaces and wonky teeth add to her authenticity, but the weird mandibular activity bugs the hell out of me. No doubt I am being unforgivably spiteful; Knightley is, after all, a highly acclaimed actor, with many successes to her name.

In ‘Begin Again’, KK plays Gretta, the girlfriend of an up-and-coming rock star, Dave Kohl (yes, as in the eyeliner, only not as black). She accompanies him to New York for a recording session and tour, but his infidelity prompts Gretta to end their relationship. Heartbroken and lonely, Gretta is comforted by fellow ex-pat Steve (James Corden), who persuades her to take to the stage in a local bar’s ‘open mike’ session. There, her rendition of a song she wrote, attracts the attention of record-label executive Dan Mulligan (played by Mark Ruffalo – not to be confused with Gruffalo, although he does look strangely like one). Dan likes Gretta’s composition and he persuades her to record an album. But will her talent and new-found confidence, help win back her man?

Whilst I was supposed to be concentrating on the movie, I confess my mind did wander a bit. I ended up thinking a) music is not very important in my life now, although it was in the past. I prefer silence these days and also b) I miss having male friendships. I mean, I know that I have friends who are men, but they are all attached to my friends who are women. The number of male friends I have ‘of my own’, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Or, more truthfully, on one thumb. Conversations and socialising with men give a different perspective, but my life is very female-orientated. That’s what I was musing about.

‘Begin Again’ was directed by John Carney, who also brought ‘Once’ to the big screen. ‘Once’ is the tale of a vacuum cleaner repairman-cum-musician who falls in love with an odd-job-woman who happens to be a rather excellent pianist. Together the couple make beautiful music. With a few tweaks, I think ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Once’ are the same film!

The soundtrack to ‘Begin Again’ was entertaining at the time, but instantly forgettable. Not a single bar remained in my head the next morning. Actually, the only ear worm I had was –

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He grew fat and then grew thin ag’in
then he died, and had to begin ag’in
Poor old Michael, please don’t begin ag’in

Please don’t begin again, ‘Begin Again’.

It wasn’t awful, but ‘Once’ was enough!