adaptation (literature) anti hero auteur classic Drama whodunit

From my DVD collection: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon (1941) by John Huston


Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet in John Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same title. It certainly makes for good entertainment but there’s more to it than that:

Sam Spade (Bogart) gets hired by Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Astor) to find her sister who is seeing some shady character named Thursby. Spade’s partner Archer (Jerome Cowan) jumps in to shadow Thursby but by early morning themaltesefalcon2they both turn up dead. As it turns out, Spade was seeing Archer’s wife on the side and thus becomes the police’s no. 1 suspect. But Spade isn’t a killer, he’s clever enough to find out that the whole plot of the damsel in distress is a decoy and everything really revolves around a black statuette of a falcon which is supposed to be of great value. Several parties want it but it turns up on Spade’s doorstep in the hands of a dying man. Plot is spun and the main players – besides Spade and O’Shaughnessy there are Joel Cairo (Lorre) and Gutman (Greenstreet) – finally meet in Spade’s apartment where they’re waiting for the falcon to arrive via Sam’s assistant Effie (Lee Patrick). It turns out the statuette is a fake and the parties part ways. But Spade is not one to be played with – as his new lady love has yet to discover.

themaltesefalcon5This is not exactly film noir. Yes, the plot lends itself to the genre but the finesse of the later murder mysteries is missing here. This is a solid story, the men talk tough, the women lie through their teeth but there’s no playing in the shadows. Bogart’s Spade is almost too upfront a character who does the detective work the old fashioned way: by foot and brain. He’s certainly not fancy but, as Gutman assures him repeatedly, he is a character.

I love old movies, yes, but this one is a rare pearl. It is very fast paced, changes location often and the dialogue is just as fast-paced as the plot. You have to pay attention to what is being said or you miss a point, miss what is happening. The themaltesefalcon3acting is spot on and the direction brings everything together for a surprising but necessary end. Yes, it is a character study of Spade, but the other characters don’t have to hide behind this larger-than-life figure and the plot just helps everything along nicely. It is a truly magnificent film to watch, never boring, never not entertaining. Go, watch.


auteur Comedy coming-of-age great actress horror lesbian subtext people sequel whodunit

Scream 4 – Still standing!

Scream 4 (2011) by Wes Craven

(I will not reveal who is behind the mask, you have to find that out for yourself.)

The first time I heard about Scream 4, I was actually excited. And that is surprising because generally I think that enough is enough already, leave well enough alone, stop while you’re ahead. In other words, sequels don’t give me the thrills. Why is Scream different? Well, for once it’s part of the horror genre and for me that means: there are no rules. I came to the genre at the age of ten (when I read my first Stephen King novel), but didn’t know that I was actually beginning to love a genre. I thought, I just liked that author… so I discovered pretty late that I loved horror movies and Scream was one of the reasons I did. I never watched a Scream-movie at the movies only on dvd, so this was also an opportunity to have the Scream-experience.

I confess that I did not expect much of this movie. I was excited, yes, but I knew it could go either way: awesome or horrible, and the many possibilities in-between. I was not disappointed, though. I liked it. It was like meeting an old friend after a decade has gone by and you find out that you could still talk to one another for hours on end and even if you were never to meet again, the meeting was not for nothing.

 So, Sidney Prescott is back in Woodsboro, and so is Ghost Face. A lot of people get killed, film theory gets another chapter, and we wonder for roughly 111 minutes who is behind the mask – and where Dewey’s pronounced limp has gone.

This is the first time I realized how many female characters inhabit the Scream-series (I might write a blog post just about that but I think I would have to watch the other movies again before I do) and especially this installment. Of course, we have Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox reprising their roles of the classic trilogy. But then we have Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, and Alison Brie. And they are great in their respective roles (though none is as absolutely awesome as Hayden Panettiere as Kirby… and I think Kirby is gay, I don’t care that she almost made out with a Culkin, she was drunk… what, other girls get drunk and kiss girls, she gets drunk and kisses guys, I think that says it all, also she so checked out Sidney!).

I was also thrilled to see Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox again. Of course, Courtney Cox is doing that rather annoying sitcom (surprisingly enough I am not talking about Friends, though I would have used the same terminology for it), but who’s honestly watching that? But what has Neve Campbell been up to since “The Company”? (Nothing worth mentioning, unfortunatelty, I just looked it up.)

You can say now that I am easily pleased and maybe I am, but I am a nostalgic person. And seeing a franchise revived without it being totally ruined is pleasing to me. And I love how Ghost Face always gets smacked around by everyone. I have just read that there are talks about Scream 5 and I already know that I will be totally there, even if just for the fun of having made film theory made cool.

adaptation (literature) auteur coming-of-age Drama fairy tale fantasy great actress horror people whodunit women

Red Riding Hood – she’s not little anymore

Red Riding Hood (2011) by Catherine Hardwicke

That’s what I watched last night and am not even sure why (my movie habits are out of control these days probably because I am waiting for “Scream 4” – which opens today, finally). The trailer looked okay and I am always interested in how old legends/myths/fairy tales are being reproduced in out time and age. I guess that is a good reason.

What almost kept me from watching this was “From the director of Twilight.” I watched it, I didn’t like it. On the other hand, had the poster said “From the director of Thirteen” it would have been another story entirely and Catherine Hardwicke has made both these movies.

The original story has been changed: the wolf is now a werewolf and it terrorizes a whole village. The village in which Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her parents (Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen) and sister. Said sister is promptly the first victim in the movie. Valerie is devastated and the village people set out to kill the wolf. They kill something, too, unfortunately it is not the werewolf they had aimed for but just a common wolf. They are informed of this by Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a self-proclaimed expert who has killed a werewolf who then turned out to have been his wife. He has come to the village to help but turns out to be a despotic nuisance who spreads paranoia among the villagers and finally claims that Valerie is a witch because she can talk to the wolf. The wolf wants Valerie to come with him, which narrows the suspects down to Val’s two suitors – the man she loves, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), and the man she is supposed to marry, Henry (Max Irons).

Solomon sets a trap but things get jumbled and he is bitten by the beast which leads to his death as one of his men kills him, using the same reasoning Solomon has used as he killed the man’s brother, “A man bitten is a man cursed.”

Valerie meanwhile sets out to her grandmother’s (Julie Christie) to find out who the real beast is and kills him in the end. Only, her love is bitten by the werewolf in the final battle and becomes a werewolf. So, no happy ending.

The movie looked a little like The Brothers Grimm meets Twilight but that is not necessarily a bad thing since they are visually quite interesting. Unfortunately, the story did not make it into that realm since Hardwicke gave away the identity of the werewolf too early, at least if you’re observant you find out quite easily. The references to the old fairy tale are amusing and the changes thought through quite well. Yet, what remains of the fairy tale is the partriarchal narrative of men’s angst of female sexuality and thus Valerie remains a virgin. Marriage does not turn out to be all it promised and the killing is set into motion by infidelity. I came out of the movie a little confused and a little disappointed because on the surface it is a good movie, if you look closer the story is quite disturbing in it’s old-fashioned views and thus reminded me of the whole Twilight-franchise. It values the same hidden messages: no sex before marriage, man is beast, woman best remains a virgin, blah blah. I know that this is classic fairy tale narrative but we live in the year 2011. Would it have hurt to put in a little self-empowerment for women? Would it have hurt to not put in any lesbian titillation – that was as that totally out of place AND character? And would it have hurt to integrate people of color and not have them pose as “the other”?

There’s no doubt the movie has some good acting in it. Especially Julie Christie as grandmother is fantastic – a little new age but at that time and place with the underlying promise of witchcraft. Unfortunately, that does not make the underlying messages any less dangerous and old-fashioned.

adaptation (literature) coming-of-age Drama lesbianism Teenager teenager TV whodunit women

Pretty Little Liars – Follow-up

Have you ever noticed how people in TV shows and films always knock, like there was no door bell? What is that all about?

Anyways I though I come back to you on the topic of Pretty Little Liars or short the PLLs. Here is another visual, just so we don’t forget what they look like:

So, they have been back for some weeks on your tv screen and it’s getting weirder and weirder – which is not to say that it’s bad. It isn’t. The girls are likable – though still all suspect -, so are the boys who play their love-interests/suspects-of-the-week/dickless boyfriends (that last one I borrowed from Heather Hogan – I bow to her genius), and, of course, A is still vicious, and glorious at it.

I still like Emily best; but then who wouldn’t, they actually show her more in her swim suit these days than in anything else (I am so glad the actress is old enough so I can say this without perving).

But another part of enjoying the show so much are the recaps on by Heather Hogan. I may not catch each and every reference to American culture but I do get some and think they are hilarious. Heather Hogan is hilarious, sometimes I enjoy her recaps more than the actual show… okay, the visual is better on the show… and did you see Aria in that skimpy little red dress – or Spencer with a tie… I am not saying anything about Emily and swim suits again, no, I won’t.

Read the recaps here.

Okay, I was looking for one of Emily in her swim suit and found one of Shay on a Harley – I get distracted too easily!

What was I gonna say? Oh, yeah, good show, quirky, glammy, with just the right amount of dericulousness to love it… and I do love it. It’s one of my three favorites now… I will tell you about the other two, too. Soon.

P.S.: I must confess that I have a crush on Caleb. I could say that it is because he looks and dresses like a lesbian but I won’t say that. Instead I would suggest it is because he is so wonderfully butch compared to dickless Sean.

As of this weeks episode I figured it out: Caleb IS a lesbian (and I guess, so is Toby…). Maybe I haven’t been paying attention but the only time I read about one person asking another: “Are u sure?” when they were about to have sex was in Xena-fanfiction, and Xena-uber-fanfiction (spreading through all genres, I swear!).

P.P.S.: Regarding A – I figured out there must at least be 4 or 5 As. Think about it, u have to have at least four to stalk each PLL and possibly one who does all the other mischief, keep an eye on parents etc. Anyways, now that Paige kissed Emily A probably already has a picture of it… hmmm… I wonder which parent is gonna get mail these days. Will we have another girl outed by photos sent by mail, a certain redhead, for example?

action movie anti hero Comedy great actress people whodunit

The Tourist

The Tourist (2010) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

I don’t know why it is that I have such problems posting about movies starring Angelina Jolie. I guess, I am starting to ramble much in presence of beautiful women and Angelina is stunning…

That said I may be able to continue, then again, this movie plays on her beauty, to her beauty. There is not a minute in this movie where a man does not look at her, after her. She is object of this movie, all scenes play toward her. It’s in your face! And this is something I do not necessarily like, maybe because it is a heterosexist way to portray her since it’s only man looking at her and the women look rather jealously than lustfully at her (which is ridiculous). It also makes the female viewer (and lesbian viewer) painfully aware of Laura Mulvey’s concept of every perception at movies being male perspectives. Though I don’t necessarily agree with Mulvey this movies seems to do so.

It does not look at Johnny Depp as an object (though some of the female viewers might), that is. But okay, enough of the academic analysis and let me say that I enjoyed the movie. Simply because there was nothing that was not enjoyable. The tone was light, the plot not too difficult to figure out, there were references to movies past (though Johnny Depp is not really a Cary Grant-character).

Maybe the movie treaded too carefully at times but then, I would not know what to do differently (unless maybe to have women ogle Angelina, and her wearing some snug jeans, but that’s just something I would have any attractive woman wear in movies). The movie is harmless, it does not make a deep impression, but it will probably make a lot of money (especially on the European market, we so love to see ourselves represented in American films!).

The reason I watched it was Angelina herself. I had already watched the trailer several times and it did not impress me that much though I would usually watch anything with Angelina in it. Still, I did not plan to watch this one. But I was coincidentally (yeah, this happens to me sometimes) near the movie theater in Berlin where the premiere was on Tuesday, and I happened to see the tip of her hair – twice… there were too many people in between us to really see her but… y’know, just the knowledge that there were only a couple of meters between us… it’s pathetic really but it is also uplifting to be so near someone you have admired so long and usually only see on the screen or staring from tabloid covers… so, yeah, I wanted to see what the fuss was about and went to see it the very next day. I couldn’t help myself but I guess that’s what these premieres are for… I wasn’t prepared, though, for the overindulgence of Angelina Jolie I got from this movie. Sometimes less is more, y’know.

coming-of-age crime teenager TV whodunit

Back to tv: Pretty Little Liars

The “back to”-reference of the title is due to German tv showing the Back to Future-movies at the moment. And I guess, it is also because I sometimes forget how good tv shows can be. Of course, there will never be another Xena but then I thought there could never be another show like Moonlighting. Then again, was I wrong? I still love Cybill Shepherd (there was actually a time when I instinctly knew how her last name is spelled, these days seem to be over).

As a kid and young adult I watched a lot of tv. I was pretty much addicted and watched whatever was on and living with my parents I see how easy it is to fall back into that habit after not having owned a tv set for several years. But I try to distinguish and mainly watch crime shows with hot female leads…

Anywho, I was watching some tv – or rather some illegal internet sources – lately and I came across Pretty Little Liars. Okay, I read there was some girl-on-girl action going on and I was curious. Curious is over in a way but the show has intrigued me. Which should bring me to another question: why do I enjoy watching teenage shows/movies so much? I am over thirty, people… but maybe that is a better question for my faux anthropology blog.

The show is based on teenage girl books (correct me if I am wrong about the teenage girl-part of this statement) and as other people before me, I don’t want to read any spoilers in the comments, y’all. It’s about four teenage girls who have lost a friend when they were sleeping in a barn on the property of one of the girl’s parents. A year later the main character Aria comes back to town, the body is found, everybody is suspicious and suspecting. A whodunit-glamor-teenage-show in the tradition (if there is already one) of Gossip Girl.

So, history seems to repeat itself for the girls. Not only is Allison (the dead girl) again the center of their lives (as she was when she was still alive since she was the queen bee within the clique) but Aria is falling for her teacher (her dad had an affair with a student a year ago), Spencer is again snogging her sisters boyfriend/fiance (as she has already done a year ago), Emily has another girl-crush (the first one having been Allison, and now it is the girl who moved into Allison’s last home), and Hanna is trapped in some sort of limbo where she is not the queen bee anymore (which she has become after Allison died) but again the girl everybody rejects (her boyfriend, her father, but wait, maybe it is just the male characters in her life). And having the wrong kind of posse does not help either.

Needless to say that I like Emily best, not just because she’s into girls (or not, the writers didn’t seem to be clear about it yet) but because she is soooo cute. I know, teenage girls but I looked it up, the actress is actually 23.

What intrigued me most was how the relationships these four enter do not seem real because these new aquaintances are all suspicious (not the least of them being Maya, Emily’s love interest). But, of course, so are the four girls themselves. Then there is Jenna who was blinded by Allison, and her brother, who consequently took the blame because Allison had something on him. And then there is the question who is sending text messages (and other kind of creepy messages) to the four friends and calls him/herself “A.” Is it Zombie-Allison out for revenge because her friends did not safe her? Is it Jenna who may or may not be able to see? Does her brother Toby help her while he is helplessly falling for Emily and may have the potential to cheat his sister out of her petty revenge)? Is it Aril’s dad? Her new boyfriend/teacher? Her dad’s ex-student/now co-worker/ex-lover? Or someone else entirely? Will it still interest me tomorrow or am I going to be hooked on something else? Like Covert Affair?

I keep you posted.

WTF: I just watched yesterday’s episode. Please, somebody tell me that Emily is not dead… then again, don’t tell me. I have an inkling she is not but if not her… who is? And where is Maya? Suspense!!!