Monday, January 02, 2012

MOVIE MONDAY ~ Lost in Translation; Beloved; Still Crazy; Mad Men

Thoughts on movies we watched over the festive period, the first on TV (HBO channel), others on DVD ~~~~

Lost in Translation (2003). We both thought we'd already seen this, but it turned out that we were mixing it up with another of Bill Murray's: Broken Flowers. We hadn't seen Lost in Translation after all, and it was nothing at all like Broken Flowers. Bill Murray in a movie is always a good ingredient, whatever theme, whomsoever he stars alongside.

This was a good, thoughtful movie about a relationship between Murray's character, an older man (50s) and a late teenage young woman (Scarlett Johansson) just out of university. They are "thrown" together, by force of circumstance, in a country and culture foreign to both: Japan. I'll not give away more than that. Just a word about Bill Murray's natal chart: he has Sun, Mercury, Venus and Saturn all in perfectionist's sign Virgo, and Moon in quirky Aquarius. That must be a difficult juggling act to perform! Astrodatabank has no information on his time of birth - perhaps his rising sign is helpful in that juggling act!

Beloved (1998) - a DVD I picked up on our travels, somewhere in Texas. I'd never heard or read about this film, based on a 1987 novel by Toni Morrison, produced by Oprah Winfrey's production company, starring.... Oprah Winfrey (yikes!) and Danny Glover (the reason I bought the DVD). Storyline is set in the area around Cincinnati, Ohio, in the years after the Civil War. Parts of the movie are completly predictable, other parts weirdly unexpected and requiring a definite suspension of disbelief. Good performances all round though, especially from Thandie Newton who skilfully plays a difficult part : a deranged young woman whose moods range from rabidly evil to child-like. Oprah Winfrey (Sun in Aquarius) is so good at everything she does, it's sickening - but all credit for this movie has to be due to her vision.

Still Crazy(1998) - a DVD found on e-bay after having seen a trailer on a VCR tape. This was a British movie, written by Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais, a brilliant pair of writers who've been responsible for a string of TV hits in the UK (for example:The Likely Lads, Porridge, Lovejoy and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, some movies too, including The Commitments, Goal!, Flushed Away, Across the Universe and The Bank Job.

Still Crazy is the tale of a used-to-be rock band from the 1970s trying to get together again for a come-back. Cast includes (among others) wonderful actor Bill Nighy; Jimmy Nail, a favourite of mine from way back; Billy Connolly, always good value; and Timothy Spall, who has, over the years, developed into an excellent character actor, now popping up quite unexpectedly in all maner of movies.

I'm not sure what American audiences would make of this film. British regional accents could cause problems. I loved seeing this cast working together, they seem like old friends of mine. The story was totally predictable, but it didn't matter. I've written a little, astro-wise, about Jimmy Nail and Billy Connolly in the past - see HERE and HERE.

Mad Men, we watched the first half dozen episodes of season 1 (2007) - I had splashed out and bought a used set of DVDs seasons 1 to 3 = 12 DVDs, 3 episodes on each disc. Enough to keep us occupied through the winter months.

I knew nothing about the series, other than that it had won an award or two, and that it depicts a group of characters in the advertising industry. The setting is Madison Avenue, New York, heart of the US advertising industry - if advertising does, in fact, have a heart which is doubtful. "Madison" Men - see? I had assumed the title was just a play on ad-men becoming mad men -it probably is that as well.

It's hard to say from this sampling whether the series will turn out to be in the same league as Boston Legal - I doubt it. The episodes were engaging enough, allowing us to get a handle on the characters and the setting: 1960.
Oh yes, I remember it well! The cigarette smoking, all the time, even at meals, even pregnant women smoked; smoking morning, noon and night; we also see lots of cheating on spouses. The fashions are much as I remember. The female "place" in the home and in the workplace, as depicted, is a wee bit disconcerting, not exactly as I remember from my own experience. But then I wasn't living in the USA, nor did I work in advertising. I can't be sure whether the characterisations presented are clichéd or fairly accurate.

John Hamm was the only vaguely familiar name in the cast list. He plays the lead advertising executive, Don Draper. I look forward to discovering more about this character, presented as a guy having something he'd rather forget in his past (sigh, don't they always?)

I do suspect there's chiché-ness rampant here.

We have to remember that the series was created and written by Matthew Weiner who wasn't even born in 1960 - his birth data: 29 June 1965, in Baltimore Maryland. He's not writing from personal experience then. Interestingly he has Sun in Cancer, John Hamm, his lead character has Sun in Pisces....both Water signs - they probably got along well.

From Wikipedia
(Hamm) went through numerous auditions, and explained each time to the casting directors what he could bring to the character, if given the part. Alan Taylor and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner thought that Hamm was too handsome for the role, but decided that "it was perfect to cast sort of the perfect male in this part"; Weiner also sensed that the actor had not been raised by his parents, similar to Draper's backstory.
Cancerian intuition and sensitivity in action?


Wisewebwoman said...

I loved Mad Men and still do - waiting for the release of Season 4on DVD. I lived that life in Toronto in the sixties, seventies and am gobsmacked with how they captured the rampant sexism and misogyny. And smoking. I can totally relate.
Liked Bill M in Lost in Translation, when he gets something to sink his teeth into he is amazing.
Bill Nighy could read a phonebook and have me riveted. :)

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ I'm glad to have the view of someone with actual experience of the situation depicted by Mad Men. We'll dip into the series a little further this week. :-)

Agree about the Bills - Murray and Nighy.