Archives for posts with tag: bob hoskins

MV5BYWFlY2E3ODQtZWNiNi00ZGU4LTkzNWEtZTQ2ZTViMWRhYjIzL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_We begin in a boy’s youth, as his grandfather teaches him to shoot wolves. He hesitates, and the wolf disembowels their horse.

We then launch in medias res, as Soviet recruits are ferried across the Volga to fight the Nazis in what you can already say is the ruins of Stalingrad. Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law) is among them. He is the boy of the earlier incident, but he is not one of the lucky few to be given a rifle before being sent into the hell between the German guns and those that ensure he will not retreat. Vassily starts out with a convincing expression of terrified panic on his face, but somehow Mr. Law manages to escalate as the film goes on.

After that first abortive offensive, Vassily is avoiding the Nazi mopping-up by hiding in a fountain full of corpses. There he is joined by the young political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), whose car has just blown up, whose glasses are broken, whose competence with a gun is merely nominal, and who is generally having a really bad case of the Mondays. He fumbles with a rifle he finds until Vassily takes it from him and rapidly kills every Nazi he can see. Danilov, in true Soviet style, makes Vassily into a Hero of the Motherland, with a new fancy sniper rifle, fanmail, and slightly exaggerated rustic bona fides. They become fast friends, but Danilov also sells the heroism to a young(ish) Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins).

Two complications emerge. The first is a beautiful woman, Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), who can both read German and shoot, and thus bounces back and forth awkwardly between Danilov’s staff and Vassily’s band of miracle-workers. The second is a Nazi sniper, a Major König (Ed Harris), who has come all the way from Berlin to kill Vassily.

It doesn’t seem as though many saw this film, perhaps because in early 2001 it was still fashionable to imagine that we had solved the problem of war. It was particularly unpalatable at the time to consider a war in which neither side was hunky freedom-loving good guys. To be sure, Enemy at the Gates never for a moment questions that the Nazis must be stopped, but it also pulls no punches about the miseries of Soviet life–the wolf has already taken everything you love, the film tells you, but you must continue to fight.

Overlooking this movie, however, was a collective failure in judgement, because it’s rather good. It is affecting without being emotionally manipulative, unlike the vast majority of WWII movies. Everyone, particularly Hoskins and Harris, is well cast; it is difficult to believe that Ed Harris has only played a Nazi officer in one other film, as far as I can tell. You want to like Fiennes, but political officers are necessarily squirrelly. Weisz and Law are impossibly beautiful, and impossibly young, but they are carefully encrusted in dirt, so it isn’t jarring. They joke adorably about how Vassily’s crisp new uniform will probably be taken back directly after a photo-op.

Heads up, though, an entirely plausible number of people die.

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Rating: R
Length: 131 minutes
Score: 4/5

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There are at least three movies called Sparkle, and this is almost certainly the least well known. And justifiably so. For one thing, there’s absolutely no reason to call it “Sparkle.” For another, it is tripe.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. It’s actually often rather sweet, and it’s quiet enough that you’re not too fussed about the improbabilities. But it is also essentially a light take on The Graduate, and that’s hard to do for a range of excellent reasons.

Sam (Shaun Evans) is a waiter somewhere in the north of England. He has a terrible haircut and prominent ribs. His mother, Jill (Lesley Manville), is a slightly delusional singer of the never-was variety. She’s close enough to real that it’s touchingly sad. Sam does not have a father. One night, Vince (Bob Hoskins) comes into the restaurant where Sam works, and MV5BMTQ5NDg2MDI2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQ0NzkwMzE@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_perhaps because Jill notices his father having a stroke before anyone else does, Jill and Sam end up moving to London and putting up in a flat Vince owns.

So Sam gets to be a waiter in London! And that’s the end.

Haha, no, obviously not. He’s passing out cocktails at some party run by Sheila (Stockard Channing), and sleeps his way into being her personal assistant. Her hair is glorious; her accent is execrable. She has no edibles in her flat besides Cheerios and Moët. Her parties are apparently good, though, and at the next one, Sam meets a politically active young woman whose name is Kate (Amanda Ryan, who slots into this part just as well as she did as Holly Dartie in The Forsyte Saga, which is impressive).

Now, because you’ve seen a movie, you know that Kate is Sheila’s daughter, but Sam doesn’t know he’s in a movie, so he doesn’t realize this. There will be bumps on this road, but on the way you meet Kate’s uncle Tony (Anthony Head) and his boyfriend, Jill finds love, and Sam steals a stuffed dolphin.

Could be worse, and you get to see Anthony Head do dolphin impressions, so.

Director: Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter
Rating: M? ish?
Length: 100 minutes
Score: 2/5

This movie is basically Love Actually but sadder and more French. I had an actual post but managed to hit the backspace in the wrong field and so that’s all you get for now. Maybe I’ll update later.

Edited: Right, okay, I’m now less annoyed, and fortunately I remembered not to close the TextEdit window with my notes in it.

The framework of this movie: each of twenty directors gets five minutes and Paris. You get roughly what you’d expect out of these; in the Coen Brothers’ contribution, Steve Buscemi gets beat up in a métro station. There’s only the most half-hearted attempt to relate the stories to one another, and I think maybe I wish they’d not bothered. Anyway, I’ve seen more irritating love letters to Paris, and at least this one puts it out there with its title.

Since the movie is a bit fragmented, I’ll move straight to the stray observations. I won’t treat each vignette, because some of them are just too predictable and unmemorable (Gus Van Sant, I’m looking at you).

  • Unlike Love Actually, this film has people who are actually poor or desperately unlucky, not just amusingly bohemian Kris Marshall. Unsurprisingly, this is sad. In fact, one of my notes just says: “sad immigrant from Lagos oh my god so sad.”
  • A horrible French child with a pea-shooter annoys Steve Buscemi as well. The horrible French child is the best part of that sketch.
  • Juliet Binoche sure has a face for tragedy.
  • Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer visit Oscar Wilde’s grave in Père Lachaise. She accuses him of being humorless, although this is not true (his offering for that brilliant man’s last words–“Bury me under something ugly”–made me laugh out loud), because what she wants from a man is that he is so hilarious that he quotes Wilde all the time. I submit, honey, that you might be doing it wrong, romance-wise.
  • I hate mimes. And I know everyone hates mimes, but there’s a reason for that.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is appearing in a period drama. I’d laugh, but I saw Hysteria, so it just isn’t funny.
  • When you hear English in a French film, it sounds slow and stilted. Native English speakers sound as though they have some sort of aphasia. It’s not quite as painful as a sudden American in a British movie.
  • I did not expect Olga Kurylenko to be my first doubled actor.

Director: Everybody ever; or: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Length: 120 min.
Rating: R, for not a lot of reason except maybe the swearing in the Coen Brothers bit
Score: 2/5? I found exactly one vignette touching (“Place des Fêtes”), a few pretty, and the Gurinder Chadha one (“Quais de Seine”) cute if fairy-tale. I’m not mad at it.