Archive for February, 2009

The Class (Entre les Murs), My Review 8/10

February 19, 2009

The Class is what one might call a little movie. With a small budget and a cast of unknowns (indeed the cast are mostly not even actors) it is not a film that aims to break any box office records, but it is the modesty of the film that makes it so incredible. Not needing special effects or big names to draw an audience, “The Class” is a psychological study on the tensions between a well-meaning teacher, and under privileged students.

 

Shot in an almost documentary style, the film showcases a year in the life of this class in suburban Paris, and their French teacher François Begaudeau, who subsequently wrote the original book, and plays himself in the film. In fact the whole class play themselves in the film, which leaves one wondering, are they watching a film? A documentary? Or a bizarre reliving set to a script? Free from any clichés one might expect from such a film, where over time the teacher transforms a class of hoodlums into saints, instead “The Class” has a far more gritty feel to it. What begins as one or two students acting out in class, spirals into a series of events where we see François lose more and more respect and leverage. François himself is not a weak teacher, nor easily intimidated by the class. He truly believes he can teach the students and get through to them. He is challenged by racist and sexist accusations, and of picking on individual students more than others as he strives simply to help them. The film has an air of frustration surrounding it, just as we think François is making progress, he is challenged once more and has to play bad guy. The students themselves are mostly likable on an individual bases and it is only as a pack that they become terrorists. There are times however when we wonder how François managed to keep his cool, especially with a student called Esmerelda, who pushes and pushes him to the extreme and then acts the victim when he retaliates. You will leave the cinema wanting to slap this girl!

“The Class” is an excellent film that examines politics inside the classroom. It will bring back memories for anyone who attended a class in school where their teacher had little control. Possibly not the best film to see for those training to be a teacher themselves, for anyone else, I would highly recommend it.

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Cadillac records-My Review 6/10

February 19, 2009

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Unlike many Biopics that have been made in the past, Cadillac Records does not steadily follow the career of one musical artist, instead it summarizes the rise of a record company and is a jigsaw of 5 mini-biopics of musical legends during the 50’s and 60’s. The film uses Leonard Chess (Brody) as the glue for the film, as he transforms his bar into a recording studio in Chicago with a mind to record Blues music. His first protégé is Muddy Waters, but soon the record company is booming and we see Little Walters, Howlin’ Wolf, rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry and Etta James. (played somewhat shakily by Beyoncé Knowles) The nature of this film; cramming so much story and music into a two hour slot, means that one must allow for poetic license and it is not as true to life as past musical Biopics such as “Walk The Line” or “Ray” but Director Darnell Martin, who also wrote the script clearly has a passion for this era of music, and she brings a brilliant gritty feel to the live music scene, where we can literally see the sweat stains on Muddy’s shirt as he croons away in a smoky bar. The performances are fairly stellar, Beyoncé isn’t half bad, however it’s hard to fully loose yourself when watching her and one is always aware they are watching Beyoncé rather than James. Rather then acting, she looks more like she is pretending when she sings “I’d rather go Blind” at the climax of the movie. Brody and Wright are fine as the protagonists of the story, however it is the secondary characters that really shine. Columbus Short is excellent as the unpredictable Little Walter remaining likable despite his violent and aggressive demeanor, and Gabrielle Union oozes charm as Muddy’s kind but taken for granted wife Geneva. As expected, racism plays a major theme in the film with the artists treading the field between superstars, and second-class citizens. James is rejected by her white father, and Holly is arrested and jailed for having under-age sex with a white girl, despite a blind eye being turned to white men committing the same crime. The film, although not perfect, is a great summarization of the transition of Blues music to Rock and Roll. With an amazing soundtrack and a film with soul, “Cadillac Records” is a film for anyone who loves this genre of music.

Mary Coughlan-Respect

February 18, 2009

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Whenever I tell people I love Mary Coughlan They often give me an odd look, and assume I’ve got the worst taste in music ever. Due to her age and rural Irish background she is often mistakenly pigeonholed into the “Mary/Francis Black” style of singer. Soft ballads about lost love, all that kind of shite, but actually Aul Mary is the edgiest and most underrated singer Ireland has. I always had a soft spot for Mary when I saw her on TV, and I had played some of her CDs that I had gotten free with Sunday papers in the past. But it wasn’t until last October that I really fell in love with her. As I said, I’ve always had a soft spot for her, so when I saw an article in article in Hotpress about her new album, and read the raving review, I went out and bought a copy of “The House of Ill Repute”.  I bought it with it an air of curiosity; I liked the idea of an older woman singing about the gritty things in life. And thats exactly what this album is about; Prostitution, Pimps, Child abuse etc…

However grim that may sound its not a depressing CD. In fact there is an air of sarcasm and wit surrounding the songs. Those of you who know me know I’ve been a fan of Pink for years, and Pink released her newest album exactly a week after Mary. Both albums are post break up albums. Mary had recently ended a 13 year relationship with her ex husband, and Pink had also just come through a divorce. It was interesting to compare the two cds. Pink (and I love Pink) released a very predictable album. Its not bad exactly, but its just so obvious. 80% of the songs are either “God I hate you for breaking my heart” themed, or “Please take me back I’m sorry for being such a bitch” themed. Mary has a far more original approach to her break up. Instead of boring us with generic retellings of arguments, she tells us 13 stories of woe and hardship, all surrounding the theme of “the house of ill repute”. Channeling her emotions from the break up, she injects genuine heartbreak into the songs.  

Were Mary a few years younger, no doubt she would be classified as Ireland’s answer to Amy Winehouse/Adele/Duffy. Not that she’s particularly like any of them, however with the recent surge of white women singing “soul” Mary’s Blues would come close enough. In some ways its a pity she can’t be marketed this way. Many young people simply wouldn’t buy a CD by a woman in her 50s (unless its madonna). Whats’ heart breaking about this is that Mary truly can sing the blues. Has Adele or Duffy really known what its like to suffer? Mary has had 5 kids in 2 marriages. She has survived alcoholism and carved a modestly successful career in music, despite many setbacks. The House of Ill Repute is the best album of the last 12 months, and it is my personal ambition to ensure it gets the attention it deserves. I know like, 3 people will probably read this, but come on, give it a listen,

 

check out her video for the Whore of Babylon, isn’t that the best name for a song ever!

Welcome…

February 11, 2009

…to my blog, One week into my internship with totally dublin magazine I feel I should find somewhere to practice writing, venting, and generally talking about stuff I want to talk about. You know that film wht Nicole Kidman, the one where she gets Joaquin Phoenix to kill her husband. Hang on I’m going to google it____”To die for”. Well theres a great line in that film where Nicole Kidman’s character says something about how everybody should be on TV at least once, and then a girl questions her by saying, if everyone is on TV, well then who is watching TV?? I guess the same thing could be said about blogs, but if everybody is venting online, writing their woes, then who is reading them? does it really matter what we say if no one is there to hear us? Well my blog will undoubtfully be about the things I would want to read, films I’ve seen, albums I’ve discovered etc

So its quite probable no one else will want to read them, no matter, I’m going to do it anyway, comment away…