Sunday, February 7, 2010

Scenes from the movies

It's that time of the year again, when the Oscars are coming up and the awards are given out for the best movies of the year. Despite the bad economic times (the only strongest thing in the economy last year was the recession!) there was a feast for movie buffs and some stunners were on circuit last year, including a few with South African settings and stories. I did not think much of Invictus, personally, although Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman were brilliant and nailed their respective accents. The South African actors on the other hand were very poor and had not put much into their performances. It was a subject which could not miss its mark, though, and of course there was that typical Eastwood ending, very Hollywood and bigged-up, with PJ Powers lustily singing her '95 anthem.

Disgrace on the other hand was quite brilliant ... and I was particularly astonished that an Australian director had the guts to venture into the minefields of race, crime, prejudice, hatred of and violence against women - all the dark places where South Africans are too afraid to go - as well as pulling something positive out of the situation (John Kani and his family's betterment in life and an unexpected forgiveness which was almost Mandela-esque). Casual violence and trauma happen in our homes, on our streets every day and the movie forced me to examine the reasons behind it, as well as my own responses.

I was appalled to find myself shaking from head to toe at the scene when the daughter is raped and the three men laughingly drop a lit match on John Malkovich's petrol-drenched body. Initially I felt it as deliberate violence against my own tribe but began to see a much wider picture as the film progressed. This was for me an Oscar-winning movie. I can watch movies on the Holocaust, Bosnia or the genocide in Rwanda with some degree of detachment because they are not my stories, set in the places where I grew up, but when I watched Disgrace I could not tear my eyes from the screen.

What makes the media of film so powerful is that it can so skilfully manipulate emotions and provoke questions that change the way you think about a situation for months afterwards. It's like having a meal that feeds the soul.

I loved 500 Days of Summer because it made me think about what love really is. For so many people love is really obsession, wanting desperately to make someone else into what you want them to be. When you are young and have strong feelings it's easy to turn love into obsession. People meet, take one look at one another and decide that they are soul mates. Sometimes that way disaster lies, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who seem to have decided that they really don't like each other at all! Sometimes though that soulmate feeling stays with people their entire lifetime, even if they go off on their separate paths. Humans are weird creatures and they can cherish their feelings like little spring blossoms which are not designed to withstand this world. Its survival makes no sense at all to an outsider. The practical would say, how can you say you love someone when you don't really even know them? For them love is spending your life with someone, having children together and making a home. However, there is a romantic inside even the most practical one of us. Who knows? People are so varied and complex that anything goes.

I am a real chick and some of my favourite movies about love are The Piano (so sensual), Gone With The Wind (the ultimate love-become-obsession movie), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a three-hanky movie about young love which doesn't make it, with a sad little soundtrack), Bridget Jones's Diary (sometimes you have to love a bad man before you can love a good 'un), Sophie's Choice (doomed love), Sleepers (about friendship which survives the unthinkable. Yes, friendship is also love), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (sometimes you love your family in spite of yourself), Breakfast at Tiffanys (an unexpected happy ending), The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (how to make a fool of yourself with a younger man), Henry and June (sex, obsession and love), The Graduate (the male fantasy: mother and daughter and lots of obsession), The Great Gatsby (at last, the real thing), Chocolat (most of my love was for the choccy scenes), Sideways (loved the description of Pinot), Gigi (archetypal lovestory), Fried Green Tomatoes, Babette's Feast (everyone got to love each other through food), As It is in Heaven (heavenly music does the same), Barry Lyndon (Brad and Angelina in the 18th century) and certainly not least, Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (now that was the real deal).

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