Category Archives: Film Love

Mrs. ShuGar Reviews: In a World

What makes a movie good? This is such a subjective question.  For me as an indie film lover, the film has to have quality writing and artistry.  On top of all of this, it also has to simply be a compelling story.  By compelling I do not mean a movie has to tell a story about the end of the world and how we will all be abducted by aliens.  There is beauty in simplicity and, many times, these make the best movies.

Lake Bell’s In a World is one of those movies with a simple story, which is heart-warming, funny, and makes you want more.  Not only is this Lake Bell’s directorial debut (impressive), she also wrote it, starred in it and produced it.  Now, that’s one talented lady!

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Mrs. ShuGar Reviews: The Way Way Back

 

Last I checked, it’s still summer (yay!).  Of course, this means a lot of fun things are happening and this is a good thing. It also usually means there are a lot of crappy movies in the theater, which don’t really have much substance. Don’t get me wrong; if you want to see a movie with lots of special effects and explosions, then summer movie season is the best time for you.  Personally, I am an indie film nerd and I am more intrigued with movies that have great writing and strong characters.

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Mrs. ShuGar Reviews: Blue Jasmine

Hello ShuGar sweethearts!  I hope you feel great because it’s Friday!

When Mr. ShuGar and I were getting to know each other, one of our first bonding experiences was our admiration of Woody Allen.  Of course, Mr. ShuGar had seen many more of his films since it is his career, but I shared my passion for Allen’s keen ability to tell a good story.  This is never to be understated, especially in our era of mind-numbing, Hollywood Blockbusters.

So, you can imagine any time Woody Allen makes a film (which seems like every year), we drop all plans and go straight to the movies! Last weekend, we saw Woody Allen’s latest masterpiece, Blue Jasmine staring the gorgeous Cate Blanchett playing Jasmine and funnyman Alec Baldwin as Hal, Jasmine’s conniving, cheating husband.

I’m so excited to share with you my thoughts on the film in the hopes that you will skip the next action flick to see a compelling story about delusion and greed mixed with a tinge of Woody humor.

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Mrs. ShuGar’s Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

If you could go back in time, would you do it? If yes, when would you want to go back? Would you want to shimmy in a flapper dress in the roaring 20’s or would you prefer to have a drink with the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen? The possibilities are endless, if you are so willing to let your imagination go.

As you know, Mr. ShuGar is a filmmaker and I love indie films.  We’re a match made in celluloid heaven! We both love discovering hidden movie gems or (re)appreciating movie classics.

Warning: Nerd alert confession! Mr. ShuGar and I enjoy watching Maltin on Movies on the Reelz Channel on a Friday night.  It’s our weekly dose of what’s hot and what’s not in the movie world.  This is how we discovered this indie rom com Safety Not Guaranteed.  From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed is a film about time travel, but it’s nothing like Back to the Future (one of my childhood obsessions).  It’s a movie about the quirkiness of love – perfect for someone like me!

I want more reading!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind-movie-poster

What if you could erase all your bad memories?

Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant script for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is pure poetry on film as it explores this very question with its two leading characters – Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey). There is nothing that  compares to the artistry of this film; It exists in a global sphere outside of all other films. It defines originality and creativity.

I saw the film for the second time only recently and I grew even more fond of it, with the help of Mr. ShuGar’s guidance. It’s as if you are opening a present and unraveling all the layers to get to the best part. With Kaufman’s words, you are transported into a world where dreams and memories hold so much value and power, yet with one simple decision, they can be eradicated from your brain.

When I first saw this movie, I felt a little lost. As in many of Kaufman’s films, they are not linear, not traditional. However, once I understood this and let go of my preconceived notions of what a film should do, I was immersed in Clementine and Joel’s love story. It’s so relatable – it’s the story of many relationships. When you first meet, everything is great. Passion abounds, all seems fresh and intriguing as you begin to fall in love with your partner. Yet, as time passes, things you used to love about the person may become stale – they no longer capture your attention in a positive way. Instead, you feel annoyed when your partner does that thing s/he does. Worst case scenario, your love rots and the relationship is doomed.

Joel: I don’t see anything I don’t like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will, and I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that’s what happens with me.

Eternal Sunshine begins right at the cusp of the stale-meets-rotten stage of Clementine & Joel’s relationship. The movie intercuts between the “first” time they meet and the current unraveling state of their relationship. Clementine, staying true to her impulsivity, decides to go through with a medical procedure to eradicate all memories of Joel. Joel, in response to Clementine’s drastic behavior, proceeds with the same procedure. This leads to a series of events where you watch Joel’s memories slowly fading away, while Joel and Clementine are desperately trying to cling on to any remnant of their love.

This movie is a visual feast for the eyes – it captures memories in the quirkiest ways. Not to mention I am obsessed with Clementine’s hair! Oh, I just adore the nicknames they each have for each other – to Joel, Clementine is “Clem” and to Clementine, Joel is  “Joely”.  You know you have reached a level of intimacy when you have unique nicknames for each other. As if the movie needed any more greatness, Jon Brion’s music is perfection. “His music also conjures a mix of sentimental memories with surreal qualities.” (Mr. ShuGar’s two cents!) Thanks to my uncle, I discovered the genius of Jon Brion years ago. I believe you can still see him live in LA these days. Brion provides the perfect score to depict the agony and splendor of love.

One of the fundamental issues raised in the film is this idea of loving the good and accepting the bad when it comes to memories. We can’t always have heavenly moments in life; life is filled with those times when you cry, you hurt and you regret, especially when it comes to relationships. Crying, hurting and regretting sort of come with the territory. Yet, they are a part of you. Without them, you would feel empty because these memories have shaped you.

Embrace the eternal sunshine in the life you lead. It’s all yours and you’d miss it if you didn’t have it, even the tiniest memory of your life.

P.S. I am a big fan of minimalist movie posters, like those above! Mrs. ShuGAr Signature1

Scary Good: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Scary Good: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Movie Poster website: geektyrant.com; Movie Poster Art: Viktor Hertz

I don’t like violence; I don’t like gore. I don’t run out to see the next scary movie out in theaters. But, I do watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining every Halloween and every time I catch it playing on TV. To me, The Shining supersedes any horror movie because it’s infused with Kubrick’s quirky genius. Nothing has and, for me, nothing will ever come close to this suspenseful masterpiece. Stanley Kubrick also happens to be Mr. ShuGar’s favorite director of all time.

The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, who is hired to serve as the caretaker of the spooky Overlook Hotel during its offseason. He, along with his family, moves into the resort during the winter and experience a series of supernatural events, which ultimately lead to murder. Even though the movie is based on Stephen King’s novel, Kubrick makes it his own and succeeds in thrilling us in every scene.

A few months ago, Mr. ShuGar and I, along with some friends, explored the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art’s Stanley Kubrick exhibition. We were in Kubrick heaven! They even had Jack Torrance’s typewriter – All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Mr. ShuGar was especially impressed with all the camera lenses Kubrick had in his collection. Kubrick started his career as a photographer before he pursued filmmaking. You can see his photographic eye in every meticulous scene in The Shining.

I love that LA has art exhibits like these. One of the many reasons why I heart LA. Below are some of my favorite pics from the exhibit.

As soon as I heard there would be a documentary coming out about uber-Shining fans, I got so excited. I have so many unanswered questions in the movie that I was looking forward to finally getting some answers. Room 237 interviews several Shining fans and gives them a platform to share their theories behind the hidden meaning(s) of the film.  From claiming The Shining is about the Holocaust to proclaiming it tells the story of Man landing on the moon, the documentary features a range of far-fetched explanations of Kubrick’s chilling film.

I was disappointed, to say the least. Instead of solving The Shining mysteries, I left the documentary more confused about the film. I wanted, and expected more.

I would like to share with you  some of my favorite scenes in The Shining and some questions that continue to gnaw at me.

What is happening to Jack Torrance?

Is he being possessed or is the true Jack Torrance coming out? Up until this scene, you see Jack transforming into a psychopath slowly and subtly. However, in this scene there is no doubt he’s gone to the dark side. The way he snaps at his wife, Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall), sends chills down my spine every time. I feel like Wendy should have taken the hint and taken her son, Danny (played by Danny Lloyd) far, far away from The Overlook Hotel after that confrontation.

Who opens the pantry?

Was it Grady? How? The preceding “bat” scene is actually one of my favorites. I love to see Jack lose it and Wendy finally stand up to him. She takes him to the pantry and clearly locks the room. In this scene, Jack, now confined to the pantry, has a conversation with the old caretaker, Grady, about Jack’s responsibility to “correct” his wife and child. The door somehow mysteriously becomes unlocked and allows Jack to wreak terror to his family.

Why the animal costume?

What are they doing when Wendy sees these two men? Is that a blow job? This is classic Kubrick – weirdly weird. Once Jack is released from the food storage room, all the ghosts of The Overlook are exposed and out in the open. Wendy, in her frantic attempt to find her son Danny somewhere in the hotel, encounters these “ghosts” and a series of other unexplainable events that leave you feeling terrified.

Was Jack always the caretaker?

At the end of the movie, you see a picture of Jack among other hotel guests in the year 1921. How is that possible? Was Jack reincarnated? Was he a ghost? I love that Kubrick ends with this scene – the ultimate unanswered question.

I wish we had more horror movies like The Shining. Kubrick doesn’t feed you everything, but, instead, relies on the audience’s imagination. It’s refreshing to watch a film with so many layers that leaves you with more questions unanswered every time.

I will watch The Shining forever and ever and ever and ever….

Coppola’s Lost in Translation: The Whisper

Coppola's Lost in Translation: The Whisper

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Tanslation

When I love a movie, I can watch it again and again and discover something new each time. It’s like visiting my favorite cities (London, New York, Paris) and finding a new neighborhood off the beaten path that has the cutest boutiques and the tastiest restaurants and cafes. I don’t know how many times I have seen Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation, but I always study the last scene: The Whisper.

The film is about an aging movie star, Bob Harris, played by the formidable Bill Murray, who is reluctantly visiting Tokyo to do a mediocre whiskey commercial and get paid a couple of million for his endorsement of the product. To say that Murray is not happy in Tokyo is an understatement. During his stay, he meets a young and confused woman, Charlotte,  played by Scarlett Johansson, who is recently married and is struggling with her loneliness in Tokyo while her busy husband is off on a photography assignment. Bob and Charlotte first meet unofficially in the hotel elevator, but officially strike up a conversation at the conversation at the hotel bar.

The chemistry between the two is immediately palpable as the unlikely pair develop a bond based on their mutual isolation and sense of inertia in the sea of bustling Tokyo. I would consider Tokyo the third character in the film; its sights and sounds are always either in the background or foreground of every scene. Coppola shows us many scenes where the main characters are gazing through a window at the enormity of the city. It creates a sense of being separated from the entire city. Because of the characterization of Tokyo as the backdrop, you can say that Charlotte and Bob both are Lost In Tokyo, but find in each other friendship, solace and, I believe, love.

This love subtly grows in certain scenes in the movie – one being their first date where they karaoke and appear to serenade to each other. Charlotte flirtatiously sings The Pretenders’ Brass in Pocket and Bob sings a touching rendition of  Roxy Music’s More than This. In this scene, it’s almost as if no one else exists in the moment they both sing these songs because they can’t take their eyes off each other. Oh amor!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLXJhTDVoZQ]

But, that last scene…..the whisper! What does he tell her? Gosh, I would give anything to ask Coppola what she told Bob to whisper in Charlotte’s ear!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgJ3WqCRuKg]

I am not a screenwriter; That’s Mr. ShuGar’s profession and he is very talented at it. I have had many discussions with him about what we think Bob tells Charlotte as he sees her walking through the Tokyo crowds on his way to the airport. He embraces her, whispers in her ear and then gives her the most beautiful kiss – oozing with tenderness and love. Cue the closing song by The Jesus and Mary Chain Just Like Honey.

Allow me a quick tangent. I love Coppola’s soundtracks. They are so rad because they have retro tunes, mixed with really cool indie rock. Lost in Translation is no exception. I especially love the soundtrack for her film Marie Antoinette. This is how I discovered Radio Dept – another music obsession of mine. Her musical taste and mine are very similar so I look forward to her next project partly because of this.

But back to the movie – so what does he tell her?

I think he says they will meet again, possibly in Tokyo, but their story is not over. I like to believe that he confesses his feelings for her and she is overcome with emotion and that’s why you see her eyes filled with tears. My interpretation is that her “ok” in the scene is agreeing with his reassurance that she will find her way in her life, but that their relationship will continue. It’s sad, but it’s life. Call me an optimist, but I like to think that this is just the beginning of their love story. They are no longer lost, but they have found each other.

What do you think he told her? I’m sure there are many websites dedicated to this, like this one. Well, that’s my take on it and I am sticking to it. What can I say? I am a sucker for love.

Mrs. ShuGar’s Best Film of 2012

Movies were made for stories like that of the documentary Searching for Sugarman. Even though it is nominated for Best Documentary of 2012 (which I think it deserves to win), I believe it deserves to win Best Picture.  The film is so compelling and draws you in within the first scene – even more incredible that it is a true story.

Without the need of a spoiler alert, Searching for Sugarman is a story of a musician who, with a sound similar to Bob Dylan, released two albums in the 1970s only to see them never reach success in the United States. Living in Detroit, Michigan, Sixto Rodriguez, otherwise known as Sugarman, continued with his life as a day laborer making minimum wage and forgoing his quest for musical stardom. Unbeknownst to him, his albums somehow made their way to South Africa and were a commercial success.

Maybe it was because his music spoke to a nation grappling with the atrocities of the apartheid or maybe it was because Rodriguez was that good and South Africans appreciated his talent. Whatever it was, in South Africa Rodriguez became more popular that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Elvis. If only Rodriguez had known all these years that passed that he had a huge, loyal fan base on the other side of the world. Before the era of the internet when a mysterious story like this would have been solved by the click of a mouse, Rodriguez lived his life without ever being acknowledged for his musical genius and South Africans assumed Rodriguez committed suicide.

The soundtrack of the documentary is all original Rodriguez songs and provides a beautiful backdrop into this heartfelt story of hope, humility, love and destiny. I saw it three times with Mr. ShuGar and we both think it deserves  to win Best Picture of 2012.

On a more personal note, I loved this film because it told the story of a musical talent that just happens to be Mexican-American. Finally, something from the movie industry that doesn’t cast Mexicans as maids, illegal immigrants, gang bangers or incapable of speaking English without a Spanish accent. It was so refreshing to see a story about a Mexican-American being depicted as a true American talent — his ethnicity was not an issue. Although we are proud of our ethnicity and our Mexican heritage, we also are proud to be part of this country and to just be treated like everyone else. But Rodriguez wasn’t just like anyone else – he is now a true American icon and I am proud to see that his music is finally getting the world attention it has long deserved.

Flashback Wednesdays: I know you are, but what am I?

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

You’re a nerd! 

I know you are, but what am I?

You’re an idiot!

I know you are, but what am I?

I know you are, but what am I – I know you are, but what am I…Infinity!

My sister and I have Pee -Wee’s Big Adventure memorized. We could recite scenes line by line!  Tim Burton’s masterpiece never gets old and I had the pleasure of watching it a few years ago at LACMA’s Tim Burton ‘s retrospective in conjunction with his exhibit.  Watching again after all these years really brought back fun childhood moments, but also I felt a deeper appreciation for Tim Burton’s genius.  Impressive that this was Mr. Burton’s first feature film as a director.

When I think of this movie, I see my family gathered around the TV in our old family room. In particular, I remember my dad enjoying this film each and every time we watched it. He would crack up and then ask my sister to recite lines from the movie and then crack up even louder.  The innocence of those days – a time when movies, daddy and daddy’s girls were enough to bring happiness to a home.  Life was simple back then.

One of my dad’s favorite scenes is the Tequila dancing scene in the bar.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM]

The scene is: Pee-Wee ‘s is in a pickle and has to think quick on his feet. He stumbles upon a sketchy bar with a bunch of thug- looking biker dudes, The Satan Helpers. He went straight to the phone, but couldn’t hear the operator.  He yells, “I am trying to use the phone!” That is enough to get The Satan Helpers’ attention and even more reason to get Pee-wee out of their private club. After kicking him out, Pee-wee clumsily stumbles on their bikes and causes them to fall – domino style. They couldn’t let him get away with it, so they bring him back in to let him have it. But, Pee-Wee asks for one last request  – The Tequila dance.

My dad loves that dance.  My sister and I actually learned to imitate Pee-wee’s Tequila dance per my dad’s request.  For my dad, there was nothing funnier than the Tequila dance.

Now that I am older, I can look back at these moments and smile. It was fun being young and laughing at cheesy movies. It was even more fun spending time with daddy. I am lucky to have these memories.

So, if you want a big laugh, I recommend Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and if anyone asks you – “Be sure and tell ’em Large Marge sent ya! “