Monday, 23 February 2015

Champagne | #ProjectHitch

Project Hitch took a short hiatus last week due to a most unfun sinus infection but I’m back this week, feeling much better and ready to do double duty Hitchcock wise. The first film I’m going to be talking about is the 1928 silent production, Champagne

Staring the very likeable Betty Balfour as our heroine, (also named Betty) we follow what feels like quite a modern story. I can easily see this plot being adapted into a modern romantic comedy. There’s nothing too taxing or indeed, interesting about the story but the affable and exciting Betty coupled with some beautiful, very recognisably Hitchcock shots make for a most enjoyable hour and a half.

The movie starts with the impulsive Betty sinking her father’s plane in the Atlantic so she could meet up with her boyfriend on a luxury cruise liner. Betty’s sense of fun and frivolity aside we are also soon accustomed with her temper in relation to her boyfriend. The two, while clearly in love are also prone to passionate and unnecessary arguments. 

The story kicks off properly once Betty and her boy get engaged on board, only to find themselves arguing yet again. As it turns out, Betty’s rich father is worried that the boy is only after his money and has a friend of his keep an eye on the pair throughout the film but the major conflict arrives when Betty’s father in an attempt to change Betty’s frivolous ways, tells her (falsely) that their fortunes are gone and her partying days are over. This is where the character of Betty becomes much more interesting to me.

Up until this point Betty seemed sweet but quite selfish; however, upon learning that her father’s money has supposedly dried up, she automatically tries to sell her jewels to help out (only to have them stolen but the thought was there). She goes on to attempt to keep house, learning (and failing) to cook her father’s meals, wear much less extravagant clothes and be more self-sufficient in general and when the boyfriend returns and offers to take her away from the paupers life she’s found herself in, she refuses to turn from her father in his time of need and opts instead to join the working world.

Betty doesn’t exactly succeed in any of her ambitious or thoughtful exploits but she becomes a much more likeable character for having tried. The film comes to its conclusions with Betty learning of her father’s deceits in regards to their still intact fortunes and the mysterious man she keeps bumping into. She takes the truth with good humour and continues her engagement with her quarrelling boyfriend. In essence, all is once again right with the world as far as Betty is concerned.

Betty comically going cross-eyed at the news of her father's deceit

Champagne, while obviously not ground-breaking, was a wholly enjoyable romp. Betty Balfour brought a sweetness and likability to her role that could have easily been absent in another’s hands. Hitchcock’s camera tricks, in regards to the ever present champagne bottles and glasses, was a lovely touch, making for a memorable movie experience. As far as I’m concerned, Champagne has been the most enjoyable #ProjectHitch film in weeks. Completely recommend.

Join me later in the week when I talk about the last of Hitchcock’s silent films, The Manxman


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Easy Virtue | #ProjectHitch

This week’s movie, Easy Virtue (1928) is actually an adaption of the Noel Coward play of the same name. I had previously seen the 2008 adaptation and had not loved it so I was interested to see how this film would work for me. And, now, having watched it I still don’t really know where I stand with this story. The two adaptations are utterly different from one another so I think I’m definitely going to have to find myself a copy of the original play to read and see what Coward’s original vision consisted of.

The basic premise of the story is a good ‘virtuous’ woman, Larita, who through a series of uncontrollable events is divorced from her husband and publicly cast in a bad and socially damaging light. The movie begins with the court proceedings surrounding her divorce as well as flashbacks to the events that lead to this moment. We then follow Larita as she attempts to leave her past behind and begin a new life, which of course is not as easy as our hard done by protagonist would like. 

In essence the film is full corrupt characters, outdated morals, inevitable injustices and one of the most hateful mothers in law you’re likely to see. 

The movie is really quite depressing without being able to rely on Noel Coward’s famous wit, what with it being a silent film and all. There are a couple of light hearted moments throughout but overall Larita’s life seemed pretty bleak and hopeless. Those of you that know my tastes will know that normally bleak and hopeless would be draw cards for me since I usually find beauty in the melancholy but something about this film just didn’t sit right with me. Don’t get me wrong, after the long drawn out ordeal of The Farmer’s Wife last week, Easy Virtue was a refreshing romp, especially considering this effort brought back that signature Hitchcock cinematography style that was missing from the previous film but this still sits low on my list of favourites. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about the characters, not even poor unfortunate, Larita.

One of Larita's very few happy moments

Not one I would highly recommend checking out unless you’re a die-hard Coward fan and are wanting to see what a silent film can do with his ideas.

Be sure to check back next week for the second last of Hitchcock’s silent films, Champagne.

- Lesley

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Animated Series Recommendations

This is not something I talk to you guys about often, but I am a huge animation fan. As with literature, film and fashion, I have a soft spot for the ones produced during the first half of the 20th century but I also really like more modern examples.

I think there's always that tendency to disregard cartoons as being only for children but like most things, I think there are always great examples that will appeal to an older audience, so I thought I would recommend a few to you today.

Going from left to right (from the pictures above) we'll start with Bob's Burgers. This wonderfully witty family comedy series has been going since 2011 and currently has 5 seasons with a 6th to be aired later in the year. I wasn't sure what I was going to think of this series going in, worried that it may have been similar to Family Guy or King of the Hill (two shows that don't quite work for me, humour wise) but not only did I end up utterly enjoying the comedy, I also fell in love with the characters. Even at their craziest, there is just something inherently lovable about the Belcher family, the two daughters, Tina and Louise, consistently being my favourites.

The next show, Daria is a somewhat older show, airing from 1997 - 2002, lasting for 5 seasons. Daria is a show I grew up with but one that stays as funny and as relevant to me today as it did in my teens. For those of you unfamiliar, Daria is technically a spin off from the popular 90s series, Beavis and Butt-head but it's the kind of thing that if you didn't know, you would never guess. Daria is blessed with a much smarter and sharper script than its predecessor, as well as visually being a little more appealing in terms of my tastes. Daria is a sarcastic, alternative view to teenage life in comparison to what else was being offered at the time and one that I highly recommend checking out if you missed it the first time around or even giving another try if it's been a while.

The next show is the only one on the list that is specifically marketed towards children but one that I think is perfect for adults looking for a little bit of surreal magic in their lives. Adventure Time first aired in 2010 but is still going strong. The characters are whimsical and interesting. Some of the story lines are bizarre bordering on the obscene while others are beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking. The two main characters Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are a perfect buddy pairing and make for wonderful guides throughout the incredible world of The Candy Kingdom and beyond. The Ice King has become one of my favourite villains (if we can really call him that...) of all time, with his complex back story and bizarre fetishes, he often steals the show for me but to be honest, I love most of the characters and adore that they often get there chance to shine in singular episodes that revolve around them. Definitely a show to give a try if you haven't already but I should probably mention that one episode is never enough.

The last show I want to mention is a favourite of my boyfriends and one that despite its popularity probably still doesn't get enough credit. Futurama is by The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening (but don't let that put you off if you're not a Simpsons fan as they're very different in tone). The show originally aired in 1999 and after being canceled, having movies made and returning to TV it finished it's run in 2013. The main story follows pizza delivery boy, Fry who after getting cryogenically frozen in 1999, wakes up in the year 3000 and has to learn to adjust to a new life. The characters range from the ridiculous, to the psychotic to the eccentric but for the most part always stay likeable. Some of the episodes are action packed and humour filled, while others will have you reaching for the tissues. It can be a bit of a roller-coaster at times but always manages to find that touch of humanity in the end and make you care about these bizarre misfits more than you could have ever thought possible. One to try when you've got plenty of time to kill with it's 140 episodes.

So that's it for now guys, there are a few animated series to check out if you're feeling inclined. They're all utterly different but wonderful in their own ways and ones that I highly recommend.

- Lesley

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Farmer's Wife | #ProjectHitch

It’s week five of #ProjectHitch and we have reached the first film that not only bored me but didn’t at all feel like a Hitchcock production. 

The Farmer’s Wife (1928) is a romantic comedy of errors. It begins with our farmer, Samuel losing his wife and daughter, one to death and the other to marriage, leaving him all alone in the world, you know, apart from his dozens of animals, his handyman and his housekeeper. This movie clocks in at over two hours and the first 25 minutes alone are basically just setting up the fact that this guy is lonely. The beginning, while quite drawn out, wasn’t bad. There were a couple of sweet moments, a couple of funny moments and in all I was getting ready to follow along with this farmer while he tried to fulfil the wishes of his deceased wife and remarry. Our farmer, with the help of his beautiful and charming housekeeper, Minta, make up a list of prospective wives for Samuel to pursue. The list is four women long and Samuel seems a little over confident that all the women in question are his for the taking. This is where I started to get a little bit wary. Over the next hour and a half, Samuel proceeds to make an utter fool of himself with repeated awkward, rude and demeaning proposals, my favourite being the third woman who seems to almost match Samuel in his delusions of grandeur, laughing in his face and calling him old before throwing a literal tantrum after Samuel rudely lets her know that she’s hardly one to be picky. The tantrum (which includes full on yelling and flailing of limbs) lasts for minutes. It was hilarious but I have no idea how the actress managed it. It got to the point where it was tiring to watch, let alone actually perform.

The highlight of the film by way of the tantruming lady

While the majority of the characters were unlikeable and treated each other appallingly I’m sure I could have happily watched the events unfold if every scene didn’t seem to go for at least double the length it needed to. The Farmer’s Wife is possibly the most long winded film I have ever forced myself to sit through. The only character I really liked was Minta but by the time our widowed farmer was done being ridiculous I didn’t even want the inevitable pair to end up together. Every ounce of patience I possessed had been sucked from my body over those two tedious hours and all I wanted was for that glorious end card to pop up letting me know it was finally over. 
Samuel and Minta happy at last after a LONG time

I knew getting in to this that Hitchcock’s films would vary in content and quality and that there would most likely be a few I didn’t care for but The Farmer’s Wife was, to me, unrecognisable as a Hitchcock film. There was nothing interesting, nothing innovative and very little that I found redeemable. I was heartened to learn that Hitch himself didn’t much like this movie but it still doesn’t return to me the time lost on this mind numbing film.

Here’s to next week and Easy Virtue, which I’m positive, has to be better than this.

- Lesley