“Belle” — class and racial politics in the Georgian era

The recently released movie, Belle, is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was raised by her great-uncle in the privileged setting of upper-class Georgian society. It is a costume drama and there are stately homes, pretty dresses and carefully landscaped gardens aplenty. However, it is an unusual costume drama because Dido was a wealthy mixed-race woman at a time when black or mixed-race aristocrats were almost non-existent.

Photo credit: Wikipedia (public domain image)

Photo credit: Wikipedia (public domain image)

The director of Belle, Amma Asante, was inspired by this portrait, which shows Dido and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, painted in 1779. The painting is extraordinary for its time because black or mixed-race subjects in Georgian paintings were rarely portrayed as equal to white subjects. Asante says that “Everything you see in the film, the vision I have created, comes from the painting” (quote source: Ham & High).

I saw the film last week and while I am always a fan of costume dramas, unlike many period drama films this isn’t a typical love story. There is a romance but that is mostly eclipsed by the focus on issues of class, gender and racial politics of the time in which Dido lived. Slavery wasn’t abolished in Britain until 1807 and the film is set in the 1780s, a time of great legal significance in the battle between those who opposed slavery and those who supported it. Belle is a costume drama with a difference!

The Love Punch

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the recently released movie The Love Punch. I love movies like this: British slapstick humour, a stellar cast and a silly but highly entertaining plot.

Kate, played by Emma Thompson, and Richard (Pierce Brosnan) are an amicably divorced couple in their fifties. One morning, Richard arrives at his investment company in London and discovers that it has been defrauded by a French corporate giant, Vincent Kruger, thus, destroying the pension funds of Richard, Kate and the employees of the company. In order to recoup the money, they team up and go to France with the idea of stealing a $10 million diamond that Kruger has just bought for his bride-to-be to wear to their upcoming nuptials. And then they get into all kinds of trouble…

A U.S. release date is still to be announced but according to Movie Box, it will be later this year.

To Rome With Love – movie review


To Rome With Love trailer linked from YouTube. No copyright infringement intended.

To Rome With Love (2012), directed by Woody Allen and starring Woody Allen, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and Alec Baldwin, is a romantic comedy which is filmed and set in Rome. But you probably guessed that from merely reading the title. So, what makes it different from all those other rom-coms out there? Instead of focusing on just two characters like many rom-coms do, this movie involves the viewer in the lives of various people. Some are American tourists and others are Italians, resident in Rome. This means that there is plenty to keep the viewer engaged as we flit from one set of characters to another and then to another. There are plenty of amusing scenes, misunderstandings and humorous predicaments, including a farcical storyline which satirically pokes fun at the nature of fame. It’s not an outstanding movie but it is very funny and has a touch of that Woody Allen uniqueness that makes the film really worth watching.

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This weekend I look forward to watching Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (2012), based on the novel by Julia Strachey, which was published in 1932.


Cheerful Weather for the Wedding trailer linked from YouTube. No copyright infringement intended.

I enjoy costume dramas because they give the viewer a window into another world, one that is so different to our modern lives and yet so similar. Etiquette, manners, social conventions and fashions are far removed from the way we live today but at the core of it, the events and occurrences of human lives remain the same.

Do you enjoy historical dramas? What movies will you be watching this weekend? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

News for fans of The Hunger Games

There’s a lot of excitement going on in the world of Hunger Games fans (of which I am one) at the moment. The first full-length trailer for Catching Fire was released yesterday at the MTV Movie Awards! I don’t know about you but if you’re a fan, I’m sure this trailer has more than whetted your appetite for the movie. Let me know your thoughts on the trailer by leaving a comment below.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire release date – November 22, 2013 (I am so impatient!)

Anna Karenina: a forgettable and tedious adaptation

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” – the opening sentence of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is a stunning classic of Russian literature. However, this latest adaptation of the novel fails to portray the sweeping, epic grandeur and the passionate emotion of the novel. As a fan of Russian literature and costume dramas, I wanted to like it but it was tedious and forgettable, to say the least. Starring Keira Knightley as a pouting Anna and directed by Joe Wright (who has directed Keira Knightley in two previous films – Pride and Prejudice in 2005 and Atonement in 2008), the filmmakers made an interesting choice to set this adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel in a theater.

It is an innovative way of filming a movie and there are certain scenes in which the choreography is very powerful, for example, a scene during a grand ball. When Anna and Count Vronsky are dancing together, the other couples on the dance floor freeze into stillness, motionless in the intricate positions of their dance. This creates a striking effect, with the focus immediately drawn to Anna and Vronsky.

However, Keira Knightley’s performance as Anna trips over its Russian full-skirted dress and falls flat. This is the third Joe Wright film in which she is the star actress and in the previous two, she was very good. Atonement, an adaptation of the novel by Ian McEwan, stands out as one of Knightley’s best performances (arguably, the best) to date. But in this, she lacks genuine emotion, other than a kind of hysterical infatuation for Vronsky. We are meant to truly believe that Anna and Vronsky give up everything to be together and have an all-consuming love but that really doesn’t come across and the film takes away the complexity of Tolstoy’s great work of literature.

The opulent costumes are spectacular and the theatrical sets in the movie are exquisite in their detail. But all that beauty left me feeling a little cold. It is the human stories which interest me and we need to see them portrayed in all their rawness and realism. In many scenes the theatrical device feels gimmicky and contrived, setting the audience apart from the action. For me, it dehumanized the characters and failed to draw me fully into the story. When a film fails to make you care about what happens to its characters, it is not to be recommended.

Movie review: “Rust and Bone”

In Rust and Bone, Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard executes a delicately nuanced performance as Stephanie, a skilled trainer of orca whales who loses her legs in a freak accident during one of her shows with the aforementioned cetaceans. Interwoven with this event is the story of single father Alain (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), who lives with his sister and works as a bouncer at a club. Both characters have problems and undergo adversity. But they grow together in a no-nonsense friendship which gives each of them different perspectives.

The beautiful, award-winning score by Alexandre Desplat adds intensity and, like much of modern French cinema, Rust and Bone does not shy away from presenting scenes with grit and realism. Alain is blunt and sometimes appears uncaring and the relationships between the characters are presented with unsparing plausibility. It is not a sentimental film and yet it culminates in a quietly moving scene.

Photo challenge day 9: Cheeks

Fourtuitous First Thirty-one photo challenge day 9!

Continuing with yesterday’s Jane Austen theme, here is a photo of a scene from one of my favorite movies to watch on a cold winter day: Sense & Sensibility. Kate Winslet plays Marianne Dashwood, who loves brisk romantic walks in the English countryside, leaving her with a muddy hem and rosy cheeks!

Photo challenge day 9: Cheeks

Photo challenge day 9: Cheeks

In the spirit of the season…

…here is a list of 2012’s best movies (IMHO). It’s the end of another year and it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without umpteen lists everywhere you look, reviewing and recapping the year’s news, politics, mindless gaffes by D-list celebrities etc. So here is my list of my top 5 movies of 2012! Happy New Year’s Eve.

#5 – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – a thematic choice, considering the world was supposed to end in 2012 (but I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t end after all).

#4 – Anna Karenina – I didn’t like Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Anna but this movie deserves to win awards for its beautiful costume design and spectacular jewels.

#3 – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – humorous and ultimately very moving. And the cast of actors is fantastic: talent personified.

#2 – Silver Linings Playbook – Talking of talent, this movie isn’t running low on it either. I went to see it a week ago (you can read my review of it here) and it is one of the best movies I have seen all year. It is so much better than the trailer makes it look. In fact, if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, don’t! Just go see the movie. Silver Linings Playbook is a beautifully directed piece of cinema and it deserves to win all four of its Golden Globe nominations.

#1 – The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games official theatrical poster - all rights remain with original owner(s).

The Hunger Games official theatrical poster – all rights remain with original owner(s).


I am a fan of the books and, for the most part, the movie did not disappoint. For a detailed critique, see my review of it here.

Silver Linings Playbook: a movie review

Silver Linings Playbook movie poster -- all rights remain with the originator(s)

Silver Linings Playbook movie poster — all intellectual property rights remain with the originator(s)

A few nights ago, I headed off to see Silver Linings Playbook (2012), based on the d├ębut novel (2008) by Matthew Quick. For the IMDb page for the movie, click here. I watched the trailer and a few publicity clips on YouTube a few weeks ago and it caught my interest, specifically because of the cast. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a former teacher who lost his job after problems caused by undiagnosed bipolar disorder. At the beginning of the movie, we see him move back in with his parents after leaving a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore. The move back home does not come without its problems as Pat attempts to rebuild his life and return to his wife, who has cut off their relationship. The complications increase when he meets young widow, Tiffany Maxwell, played by Jennifer Lawrence, at a friend’s dinner party.

Silver Linings Playbook is punctuated with sharp outbursts and flare-ups between characters; the sudden ups and downs of the drama reflect Pat’s bipolar swings. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence proficiently portray their characters with performances that keep viewers gripped. I had a few doubts about whether Lawrence would be too young to succeed in a competent performance opposite the much older Cooper (she was twenty-one when the movie was filmed and he was more than a decade older) but my doubt dissolved when I watched it. Both actors deliver performances which are believable and emotional to watch.

The IMDb keywords for the genre of the film are “comedy”, “drama” and “romance”. Although it is true that it contains all of these to a certain extent, I am very hesitant to label it as a rom-com, as I have seen many other reviews describe. It is a drama containing many complexities and “rom-com” is too sappy a word to describe it. There are a few laughs in between the bittersweet moments but if you are looking for a movie which is a 100% fluffy feel-good film (as I would personally expect a rom-com to be), this is not it.

It is sensitively directed by David O. Russell and does not exploit the subject matter of bipolar disorder and mental health issues. Although the ending was perhaps not as realistic as I would have liked, that did not detract one bit from my opinion or enjoyment. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.